Saviors of Chemorus
Lord Governor Rogal Phlintte, in an ostentatious gold and red velvet chair, sits staring at the eight remaining documents on his desk. Just under two months ago, a perfectly neat pile of almost two hundred candidate profiles lay upon the dark, polished wood surface. Now the eight that remain, are scattered in a seemingly unorganized fashion.
His fingertips dance on the edges of his drinking glass, as he contemplates this turn of events, musing over the eight individuals who beat out the rest and would be receiving the final stages of transformation.
His tired eyes dart over the information again and again, soaking it all in. He whispers to himself,
“Ptolemy… medic core… underhandedness… cartels… 26… brilliant….sociopathic tendencies…. winged skull….monster.”
Phlintte takes a deep breath, leans back with his glass in hand looking toward the vaulted, painted ceiling above him. Before rising to his feet, he takes a final sip of his liquor, setting down the glass, the ice tapping against the sides.
Leaving the documents open on his desk, he walks away from them without a second thought. As he walks through the large room toward the massive set of doors, the echoes of his footsteps echo loudly off the walls.
The five of you sit in a bright white room. There are no windows, but a sealed door to either side of you and cameras in the high corners. Nothing is bound, not your hands, or your feet. You can move freely, but all of you are exhausted and sore beyond words.
Several weeks ago, the same thing happened to each of you. Whether you were by yourself or with your military groups, you were each taken aside by a group of men you had never met before. They had no insignia upon their person that could be recognized, but they showed you insane looking documents with the Lord Governor’s seal. They said you had been selected, and did not need to say that you had no choice in the matter.
Since then you have gone through all manner of physical and psychiatric evaluations, tests, and experiments. You have been pushed to your limits countless times. You have gathered only bits of information such as the words ‘savior project’ and that you will be changed, your past lost and forgotten. Some of the examiners have suggested forgetting your past here and now, others have suggested thinking on it as much as possible because it will be gone soon and to use it to help you get through these trials. Not knowing the end means to these tests have made them all the more difficult for you to complete. The only other thing you know is your number, and the fact that at least a hundred others had been in this place at the start of it all.
Your numbers… each of you have it on the chest and shoulders of your white clothes. Jackson Ayers with 051. Ptolemy Kraas with 128. Nicholas Jozwik with 272. Alaric Tiranus with 013. And finally, Eisen Strab Von kerg with 111.
You sit on blank metal benches. There are three others here with you. One of them is asleep, hunched over with his shoulder pressed into the wall. The other two sit furthest from the group, and seem to have some kind of connection with each other. One of them has bright red hair, and is similar in design to Ptolemy, except for his face which seems to hold something much more serious. The other has no hair on his head whatsoever, not even eyebrows. His eyes are a deep, disconcerting yellow.
This is the first time you have been in a room with eachother. You have all been told you are ready for the final stages of the project. For all you know, this may be the last time you get to talk to someone.
(For those of you newer to rpthreads, feel free to describe any of the events I mention above. I think creating the scene of the men coming to you and telling you of your selection would be a good one, for example. Other than that, it is of course up to you whether or not your character decides to speak to anyone. Remember, you may PM each other as usual if you want to hash out a dialogue or anything.)
The storm clouds had finally split at the first crack of thunder. Alaric remained sitting in his seat, watching the deluge come down onto the Achilles' Spear's windshield. He didn't want to disturb the moment, to acknowledge what the Command Squad and the entirety of the third platoon, fourth Company, had just been through. Pelting rains washed away the flames of war, blood off the streets, and quenched all that smoldered and blazed until only drifting columns of smoke choked the skies. In this moment, there was nothing he could have wished for more than the feeling of bliss the rain brought with it.
"Tiranus. Can I have word, in private?" All of the Command Squad sat in the dim crimson light within the Chimera's interior. Alaric glanced over his shoulder to see nearly a half dozen battle-scarred men all hunched over and sucking in stale oxygen. They were all painted in splattered blood, lending them the look of vengeful wraiths. The frightening look a wraith had in it's eyes felt manifested in Sergeant Mikhail's own. His shadow fell over Alaric all of a sudden, his stony expression far more regrettable than bleak. "Come on. Let's go for a stroll, Corporal."
"What do you need? Sir." Alaric climbed out of his seat and followed his commanding officer down the rampart and into the damp and chilly ruins of a desolated city.
The last vehicles of the entire fourth company were still rumbling in the streets filled with corpses of black robed cultists and storm grey geared Guardsmen. Techmarines and a legion of servitors were on the sidewalks and other crossroads leading to routes that wouldn't be used. Mikhail looked towards the lobotomized machines working tirelessly to create barricades of debris to shield them from further attack. He pointed at them and smirked very wearily.
"You know, if it hadn't been for me... you'd be one of those things by now. Just standing there from sun up to sun down, building barricades and repairing vehicles. You ever realize that, Corporal?"
"All the time, sir."
"Call me Mikhail, Alaric."
"Right, Mikhail." Alaric didn't have to repress a shudder because of the rain, so did so freely. He didn't like to think about these kinds of things or have these conversations. Especially with his superiors, it's even worse knowing his Sergeant had been his only lifeline that day. The day he ended up blowing up something quite spectacularly. "How did you convince them to let me fight again? You still haven't told me."
Mikhail gripped his shoulder with a firm hand. "Because I couldn’t convince the Mechanicus to make you a preist. Listen, you don't need to know. You just need to listen to me: you play by your strengths, understand? It's the only way you'll survive in this horrible galaxy. It's the only way you'll outlive the war. Do an old man a favor and remember what I've said, okay?"
Alaric's brow couldn't have risen any higher. He gripped his Sergeant in a bear hug before bothering to ask, "Why are you telling me this, Mikhail?"
An Imperial officer -female & high ranking, by the look of her medals and uniform- suddenly pushed through a small throng of tech-priests. A pair of heavily armed men, geared out in carapace equipment and hell-guns followed from a three foot distance. Mikhail gestured to the rapidly approaching group without another word and pulled him towards themselves. His Sergeant offered a crisp salute and Alaric followed his example.
"Colonel Landi, at your service. At ease, gentlemen." Landi didn't return their salutes, instead extending a very strange looking folder filled with documents. It had a very important looking seal imprinted on the surface. "Alaric Tiranus. Congratulations, you've been handpicked for a top-secret project. I can't tell you what that is, exactly, but these files I'm giving you should tell you enough to know that we've been watching you. Don't try to refuse the offer. Once you're selected, there's no backing out."
Mikhail wrapped an arm around Alaric's neck. "They've come to take you away, Alaric. It's a damn shame, too. You're a damn good Corporal. Just take care of yourself, Alaric. This is goodbye."
The order to move out had finally reached the fourth company and the armored column bellowed restlessly. Colonel Landi took Alaric aside the moment the convoy began rolling through to some unforeseen objective. Battered vehicle by vehicle grounded through the obliterated streets until after a couple of minutes, there were none that remained. Her two bodyguards immediately took him into a relocating medical base where a swift Valkyrie descended from the clouds to pick them up.
Elsen was not accustomed to being issued orders that he could not anticipate. Over the past two decade he'd spent every ounce of effort in collecting a network of informants within the PDF who owed him enough favors to allow him foreknowledge of what his platoon would be expected to do, where they'd be expected to do it, when, and how. Turning a blind eye to the occasional narca or lo-stick snuck through the quartermaster's office often meant the difference between surviving a conflict in tact and dying on the front lines. He prided himself on knowing what the brass was going to have him doing before they did and doing it before they asked.
Yet here he was, stuck in a room with eight men he did not recognize on the orders of the Lord Governor. Phlintte's men had shown up unannounced with papers immediately taking him from his current assignment – from his men – and transferring him to duties 'more pressing for the needs of the Empire.' He'd barely had enough time to put his men in the hands of Sgt. Ames before they'd hurried him to a transport and head to Throne alone knew where.
And now he sat, here, in a bright, white room surrounded by faces he did not recognize. The PDF were irrelevant to his current situation, their rank chevrons identified them as a Trooper, a Corporal, a Sergeant – though the PDF member without rank sewn on his uniform was an oddity – no it was the three men obviously not members of the PDF who merited his attention. They were the ones who likely knew why the group had been formed.
So he sits, he waits, he listens, and he plans for the inevitable fallout, looking at those around the room and deciding what the best way to kill each of them would be, should the need arise.
Alaric was tapping his leg impatiently and focusing with all of his might not to heave up a day's worth of rations. His amber eyes dart around the room, taking in the image of four others all dressed in white. There are a few others scattered about the place: some freak with no hair or eyebrows even, another guy who could fit in as... 128's brother. That one seemed a deal more threatening looking than 128 by a good margin. Judging by first impressions alone never meant much to himself, though, Alaric had been cast aside far too many times in the past to do so.
Alaric slumps onto the bench before immediately glancing sideways to the man on his left. He's a chiseled rock compared to his lanky self, but that doesn't deter him in the least. He reaches out and taps the man on the shoulder.
He attempts to lighten the mood. “Hey. Number 111, right? Don't happen to have any Iho on you, huh? Because if you're going die from exhaustion, be a good man and pass me one before you keel.”
Elsen looked down upon the fidgety little man who'd touched him, the Amber eyed twit. His rank pins marked him as a Corporal, his wide grin marked him as a fool. "I'm curious Corporal. You are sitting in secret base after being spirited away by unmarked transports under orders of dubious intent. You haven't the remotest clue what damn fool errand the Administratum has seen fit to assign to us. The only fact that even I know for certain about our current purpose is that we are dealing with a highly connected and obviously covert operation - and in light of all of that, your first course of action is to sidle up to a superior officer and ask him if he's carrying any spare narcotics. Are you completely insane? Even as a joke that was a dumb-ass move."
Elsen punctuated the remark by pointing to his rank pins with the razor taloned augmentic hand, flexing his fingers in a way that intentionally ground the servos loudly. It was the subtlest of threats, a reminder that he could crush solid stone with his fingers.
The boy meant well, but Throne alone knew who could be listening. Covert operations were often overseen by a Commissar or Intelligence operative - either of which would be fond of hidden cameras or surveillance devices. The wrong word or joke could end a man's career, or his life.
Nicholas stood in the entrance to the mess tent, the smoke from one of his best lho-stick’s coiling steadily in the moonlight. About an hour ago the tent had been a roaring den of frivolity. His squad had been having a poker night with a unit which one of his men’s cousin was in. It had been his 10 man unit against the other unit which was over twice their size. The rules were the same as always, but the unit which lost all of its members first lost the pot. Everyone had agreed that it was not fair, but they had played anyway; the other unit because they had thought they would win with almost twice the number and his men because they knew they would definitely win. Amasec had flowed constantly from the start and the noise in the tent had been extraordinary. The night and hands had worn on and Nicholas had counted every card with his usual skill. At one point he had been almost caught out when the other unit’s Corporal had hidden two aces up his sleeve and thought he had Nicholas. In many ways, Nicholas was pleased the man had cheated. It made the game more than just a simple numerical exercise and actually one he had to focus on. For all the man’s cheating, his poker face was not good enough to hide from Nicholas and he had won, as he always did in cards.
Now such noise and laughter had died away and been replaced by the noise of men and women sleeping, the soft voice of the wind and the slow crackle from the burning end of the lho-stick between Nicholas’s first two fingers on his right hand. Nicholas looked up and stared for a moment at the sky. It was clear tonight, one of the first times in many months that he had not looked up into a sky and seen stars obscured by dust and smoke from battlefield fires. The lho-stick came up to Nicholas’s mouth and he sucked in the narcotic smoke. The tip flared angrily and it brushed Nicholas’s face in a light shade of orange colour. Nicholas let his hand drift to his side again, holding the smoke in his lungs for a moment before forcing it gently out with a soft breath. The narcotic smoke coiled and dispersed in front of Nicholas as his eyes continued to watch the constant sky. Nicholas knew it wasn’t really constant and that everything he saw was in constant motion, but from here it looked it and it was nice to just be able to enjoy that cosmic illusion.
Nicholas noticed something in his bottom peripheral vision and his eyes snapped from the sky and its blazing stars to the darkness between the rows of tents where men and women he knew to various degrees slept. Out of this obscurity walked two men, their weapons holstered or hung loosely at their sides. The both seemed fixed on Nicholas and walked swiftly towards him. As they drew closer Nicholas could see that the darkness of their armour was not a result of the darkness around them but because their armour was black and devoid of any insignia. Nicholas didn’t know of a secret police which any organisation held, but it wouldn’t surprise him if one existed. At this point there were only a few possibilities; he was about to be very fortunate and awarded, very unfortunate and arrested or asked for directions and he doubted that the men who towards him with such purpose did so to ask him where they might find someone or something else. Whatever their purpose was, these men would not have come alone, although he suspected that they would be hidden from him behind the endless rows of buildings and tents.
Nicholas took another draw from his lho-stick at the two men approached.
“Nicholas Jozwik?” one of them asked as the lho-stick in Nicholas’s mouth dimmed and dropped once more to his side. He waited a moment and let the smoke escape from his nostrils.
“Who’s asking?” he replied, taking a much shorter draw on the lho-stick at one of the men reached into his pockets and produced orders. More importantly, they were orders sealed with governor Phlintte's seal. The smoke once again exited from Nicholas’s nostrils before he spoke. “I see. Then, yes I am he.” His left hand extended to take the orders as his right also extended to offer the lho-stick to the two men. One refused, but the one with the orders took his lho-stick and gave him the sealed envelope. Nicholas broke the wax seal and read what it said and what it said was not a lot. It was mostly high class jargon basically saying he had been selected for something called Project: Saviour and that he was to accompany the bearers of the orders without question or incident. Nicholas folded the orders along the pre-existing fold lines and then once more down the middle before stuffing them into his pocket. “Seems I’m to follow you two.” The two men simply nodded in agreement and turned to walk the way they had just come. Nicholas walked in between the two of them and reached into his pocket and took his packet of lho-sticks out, putting one in between his lips and then lighting it. He usually had a rule against having more than one at a time, but with such shady orders, he wagered he would not be having one for quite some time. Then, the three of them walked into the darkness and Nicholas’s journey began.
Nicholas opened his eyes, his mind rapidly closing the door on the memory he had just entered and returning to the featureless room he found himself in. With an eidetic memory Nicholas did not need to compartmentalise his memories to retain them, his mind did it on its own. But he found it made for faster recall, like keeping an organised filing cabinet rather than a general morass of papers. The instructors who had pushed his body to near exhaustion had often suggested that it would be good for him to forget his past, focus on the present. Such things were not a possibility for Nicholas, not that he would wish it was. He could not imagine a life where he had gaps in his memory. The idea itself seemed rather horrifying.
The room was a white that was brighter than any shade of white had a right to be. After sitting in this room for so long, Nicholas retreated into his memories for a break in the blinding, sterile monotony of this place. For the first time since the evening he had just recalled, he was actually grouped together with other members of this project. One in the corner was rather disconcerting with his lack of hair and unnatural eyes, but Nicholas didn’t let his discomfort show. He guessed than the man may we have some form of radiation sickness, judging from the external signs, but without blood tests, no evidence of vomiting or nausea, and the fact that he could safely assume that his man had gone through the same trials as him with such an illness made him suppose not. Still, he had not encountered anyone who looked like that man and so radiation poisoning was still his best bet.
Others were rather un-remarkable. The one talking with the man looked like number 128’s more serious brother. One was asleep, exhaustion surely enabling him to sleep in such an unnatural and surely uncomfortable position as he was in. Nicholas watched number 111 eye up each of them and by his glare he could tell he was sizing them up, trying to determine weaknesses. He’s seen the look of men who were trying to learn how to defeat potential foes before and he saw the same look now. Perhaps it wasn’t so obvious to the others, but Nicholas stored that information away in another room. Number 13 was tapping his foot impatiently. Nicholas didn’t mind, it broke the silence which had long since grown past the stage of uncomfortable, but he suspected it would annoy others. Tapping always annoyed someone in a room.
Nicholas sat on the floor, his back against the bench behind him and Number 13 slumped noisily onto one of the one’s opposite him. He tapped Number 111, the man with the killer’s gaze, and asked “Hey. Number 111, right? Don't happen to have any Iho on you, huh? Because if you're going die from exhaustion, be a good man and pass me one before you keel.” Nicholas couldn’t help but chuckle. They had been stripped butt-naked, all their possessions taken from them and Number 13 thought to ask for lho. Where did he think Number 111 was keeping it? Clearly, Number 111 did not find it as amusing as Nicholas. "I'm curious Corporal. You are sitting in secret base after being spirited away by unmarked transports under orders of dubious intent. You haven't the remotest clue what damn fool errand the Administratum has seen fit to assign to us. The only fact that even I know for certain about our current purpose is that we are dealing with a highly connected and obviously covert operation - and in light of all of that, your first course of action is to sidle up to a superior officer and ask him if he's carrying any spare narcotics. Are you completely insane? Even as a joke that was a dumb-ass move."
The ‘superior officer’ Number 111 made the servos in his hand grind audibly as he tapped the badge that marked his rank. “You know that’s not good for the bionics right?” Nicholas spoke for the first time, with a grin on his face. Both men looked at him. “Grinding the servos like that. You’ll wear them out. Besides, if they’ll kill him for asking for lho, they’ll definitely kill you if you break his pretty face with that hand of yours.” Nicholas lent his head back against the bench and continued to speak. “The thing you have to realise is that our rank doesn’t mean shit here. Otherwise why would they have picked such a wide variety of them. If they are trying to erase our names by assigning them numbers, what makes you think they give a damn about your rank or who you commanded before now.” Nicholas breathed deeply as he stretched his aching shoulders and brought his head back up to look at the two men. “They won’t kill him for asking for lho. Hell, I was smoking a stick when they found me. Plus, they won’t have put us through all this just to kill us over something that everyone does anyway, we just aren’t supposed to admit we do. Although, it was a pretty stupid question. Unless I’m the only one who had the delight of being striped to my bare arse and being given nothing but this…” Nicholas gestured to the clothes he wore which were identical in every way apart from the number embroidered on them to everyone else’s “…, where exactly did you think he was keeping it. Because where ever you thought, I’m not sure I’d want any if it had been there!” Nicholas chuckled and let the conversation continue. Talk, even from these men around him, was much better than the boring emptiness of silence…
The Sergeant laughed at his own joke, apparently pleased with himself as he smiled past his bent nose. His eyes were tinted with the meagerest suggestion of contempt for Elsen, a dislike of those who placed themselves above others. There was an edge to the Sergreant – the hint of menace and cruelty that only another monster could see. The man would be trouble.
Elsen didn't give a damn about the Iho. The insubordination, however, was not acceptable.
“Sergeant, until I am informed otherwise I am a Lieutenant in the Emperor's most Holy Armies and will act as such.” Elsen tapped his Adam's apple surreptitiously with his finger. It was a common sign in the ranks of enlisted men that a Commissar was listening and he was not free to speak as freely as he would wish. “We are bound by rank and duty even here. Who knows what goal they have in mind for us or what the price of victory might be. It is foolish to abandon protocol when put into a new command – especially one where we know nothing of our commanding officer. ”
He tapped his throat again as he turned to the Corporal, “Trust me, a man gains nothing by volunteering compromising information without cause. We are all here for a reason – a secret purpose – and if they've brought me into this I can guarantee you their purpose is long, bloody and near-fatal to all of us.”
Alaric was trying not to laugh in the face of a superior officer, but number 272's remarks on their conversation was too much to pass up. His breathing had gone ragged with his acting up funny bone. "Fatal to all us, huh? Well if you don't have any Iho on you, then sorry for bothering you. Hell, you can keep it all after 272's astute observation over there. I can clearly see it now, it's all stuffed up your ass. I knew Lieutenants acted funny for some reason, guess they have to hide it all from the Commissariat somehow."
Alaric's gaze fell down onto the Lieutenant's flexing bionic arm and hid the chill running down his spine like an expert. He honestly prayed that 272's hypothesis for the project's outlook on rank proved correct. If he had to be led anywhere by this epitome of good Imperial leadership, he knew 111 would probably throw him a couple of leagues out in front of him as human meat shield. No doubt that the Lieutenant was probably used to pulling off stunts like that. And taking all the credit.
He spoke a little more respectfully, filled with a grim sense of curiosity. "Where'd you earn that arm? Lost your original one punching through a Tyranid's spikey backside?"
The word's left Alaric's mouth after some thought of the potential consequences, but the inquisitive comment remained about as serious as he could with someone he didn't know. In the back of his thoughts, he considered 272 and his position in all of this. He glanced over the Sergeant -he could tell by his rank pins, and saw that he was a little shorter than most others in the room. Yet there could be no doubt about it, the man had more than just the thousand mile stare. Like he had been in wars across the galaxy, had seen more than his fare share of horrific xeno species and filthy mutants. And had killed them all at some point in his life. It gave Alaric the creeps.
Elsen's voice grew quiet, quivering with barely controlled rage. "No Corporal. It was not. The men who kept me as a prisoner for most of my childhood cut off my arm as a punishment for trying to stop them from harvesting the organs of the other slaves. "
His remaining biological eye twitched briefly as he shuddered, momentarily lost in memory. His voice was bathed in past agonies as he spoke, a decade and a half of torture in every word. "I made the mistake of trying to shove their doctor off a girl who they were vivisecting. It was foolish - I was a quarter his size. I paid the consequences of my hasty action. I lost my arm - and found myself in the next batch of children whose organs were harvested by vivisection."
"I was lucky - the governor's forces assaulted their outpost and managed to keep me from dying. I was given life and purpose after the suffering - service to the Emperor was my salvation." He tilted his head, smiling in a cheshire parody of camaraderie, allowing his augmentic left eye to glow with a dull red light. "Does that satisfy your curiosity, Corporal? Perhaps you'd care to hear about the hot poker they used to take my eye?"
Alaric shrunk away from 111's furious glare, raising his hands in his own defense. "Whoah there, Lieutenant! I can tell now, you're not a fan of jokes. Right, I guess I'll the leave the hot poker story alone. Sorry about that. I suppose being a little more professional couldn't hurt, now would it? Here..."
Alaric quickly slipped out of his chair, clambering to his feet and formerly snapped up a salute. He smirked back at the Lieutenant, uncertain if he was going to look stupid or not. "Corporal Alaric Tiranus, first squad, fourth company of the Eleventh "Consetum Mechanized" P.D.F. Regiment. Believe it or not, I'm not here just to raise pulses, Lieutenant. So now you kn...
"One moment, gentlemen." In the same moment of lowering his hand, Alaric sprinted towards the closest corner inside the sterile room and heaved up today's breakfast.
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