“…and after that…” Veptus chuckled loudly as he paused in his story. The youth whose insides he was fiddling about with was unconscious and could not hear a word he was saying, but it didn’t stop Veptus’s speaking. He always had a habit of talking during his ‘procedures’. But that was to be expected of a master of the torturing arts. “…we splayed their bodies across the city’s entrance. Oh their moaning went on for days! It was a beautiful symphony and it was the tune to our victory march as we declared another world compliant. But, you’ll know about that soon enough my young boy.”
A fresh wave of the scent of blood wafted up into Veptus’s nostrils, and he savoured it like the scent of a fine wine. He loved that smell. It was like home to him and it made his work so much easier. He had been in a few of the other legions Apocatherion. They had them all clean and sterile. It smelt of alcohol and disinfectant and Veptus couldn’t stand it. Many of them would have washed and scrubbed their aprons by now. They would have made them all nice and tidy and clean. Veptus however let the white apron become discoloured and stained with the blood of his patient.
Veptus finished implanting the omophagea into this initiate. Now it was just the multi-lung left and he would stitch this young boy up and send him to rest for a while, allow the implants to take hold fully. Veptus gently moved aside the original lungs of his patient and noticing a collection of scar tissues on the lungs. From the width and length of the scars Veptus hypothesised that they were sharp force trauma wounds from a gang fight. It wouldn’t be unusual. Veptus reckoned he had several of the same on his lungs, although he had never opened himself up to check.
He worked efficiently, his mind occupied on the battles to come. They were en-route to Isstvan V. Their deluded cousins thought they were being reinforced, but they were so wrong. They would be crushed and massacred, but that was not what occupied Veptus’s mind. With three less legions, the Imperium would be on the back-foot in the coming civil war, but that wasn’t what occupied Veptus’s mind either. Neither was it finally being able to “throw off the shackles of the False Emperor” as Jaekal preached at length about. Veptus never had much time for sermons. He was a practical man and empty words meant naught to him. No, what occupied Veptus’s thoughts was being able to ‘acquire’ members of the deluded legions and bring them to his Apocatherion to practice his art on. Perhaps, if he could be craft enough about it and the Lord of Lies let him, perhaps members of the other legions might find their way there too.
As he finished up his procedure, Veptus started to acknowledge the groans coming from the end of the row of slabs. “I’ll be with you in a minute my friend!” Veptus called in a jovial tone which was totally at odds with the mental and physical anguish he was about to put the Astartes through. “Some people are just so impatient.” He remarked humorously to the initiate as he sewed the boy’s torso up. With a click of his fingers, two heavily augmented servitors lifted the prone frame of the boy who would be a Night Lord, put him on a stretcher and moved him to the waiting room to heal up and be returned to the other young bloods.
Veptus picked up a data-slate as he walked over to the marine one the end table. His bloodied medical gloves left red finger-prints as he read the memo from Xandrek. Apparently, this brother, Shen as he was known, had committed a betrayal against Xandrek. On the field of battle, he had usurped his sergeant’s command, gone against Xandrek’s orders and managed to get seven members of his squad killed and caused Xandrek to lose face in front of the other members of the legions command echelons. For that, he wore the red gauntlets of shame, and for that he was to be interred in a Dreadnought instead of given the peaceful cold embrace of death. There was a small note at the bottom from Xandrek himself; Make him suffer. Veptus smiled and put the data-slate down. Oh, he would make sure Shen suffered indeed. His last memory of flesh would be of pain and suffering and that would turn him into a wild warmachine that could serve the legion better than he did in life.
As Veptus turned to loom over the Night Lord, Shen stopped his writhing. It was obvious he was in great pain, but he did not want to seem weak before the Primus Medicae of Fourth Company. Perhaps Shen thought that if he showed strength now he might be granted death. He would not, but it was always going to have been a forlorn hope. “Do you know why you’re here?” Veptus asked, his voice calm and controlled. Shen avoided eye contact and remained mute. Suddenly Veptus’s face contorted into one of mad rage as he drove his nails into one of the burnt stumps of Shen’s legs and brought his face mere inches from Shen’s. “I SAID…” Veptus roared as Shen cried out in anguish “…DO YOU KNOW WHY YOU ARE HERE?!”
“YES! YES!” Shen cried in between his moans of pain.
“LOOK AT ME WHEN I’M TALKING TO YOU!” Veptus commanded
“YES I KNOW! IN THE NAME OF THE PRIMARCH STOP!” Shen screamed as Veptus twisted and pulled at the nerve endings in his legs and blood pooled as Veptus opened up the charred scabs afresh.
Veptus let go of the Astartes leg and drew back. “Good.” Veptus voice became jovial and light again and he continued as if nothing had happened. Such wild swings in mood were disconcerting to most victims and it was a routine Veptus liked very much. It allowed him to indulge other artistic areas. Let the pompous Emperor’s Children have their paintings and sculptures, Veptus preferred this theatre to act in. He chose to make his canvas out of the skin of those on his operating tables. “So, you’re aware then…” Veptus picked up a scalpel and began to walk around Shen. As he spoke the scalpel twirled it’s way around his fingers. “…that you are here because you disobeyed orders?” Now Shen looked at the Corpse-Master with what might be confused with fear in his eyes. It was more the look of hope that if he obeyed Veptus’ commands that he would suffer less. That had more to do with Veptus’ mood than with the way Shen acted.
“That you are here because you shirked your oaths to Xandrek and the Primarch? That you are here because you cost the legion seven Astartes?”
“They were idiots and fools.” Shen muttered. Veptus spun on his heels and instantly Shen regretted his words.
“What was that, boy?” Veptus said with venom thick in his voice. Shen held Veptus’s serpentine glare for several long moments before he couldn’t stand it any longer. In an instant the Corpse Master had his scalpel imbedded into Shen’s good shoulder. The sharp blade was driven into the Night Lords ball socket and again the anguish of the Night Lord filled the Apocatherion. Instead of yelling, Veptus drew next to Shen’s ear and whispered “Go on, speak up son. A veteran like me can sometimes be hard of hearing.”
“I said they were idiots and fools!” Shen stammered in between ragged breaths, trying to hold back the pain tremors. Veptus nodded.
“That’s what I thought you said.”
Veptus pulled the scalpel down and severed most of the tendons and muscles in the arm as Shen’s Astartes physique started to stem the flow of blood. Veptus knew he had just about paralyzed Shen’s arm when he pulled the scalpel out, covered in viscera. Shen screwed his eyes shut and clenched his jaw, trying to stop himself from yelling out again. “Do you know your punishment?” Shen swallowed but didn’t answer. The smile of a mad-man crept across Veptus facial features. Shen had heard of the Corpse Master’s reputation, but only now was he realising that the stories he had heard were the censored tales; the ones Veptus had allowed to circulate so that, when he exceeded them, his victims were even more terrified.
“Xandrek has decreed that you should suffer the rest of your miserable existence in the cold coffin of a metal sarcophagus. Now, I am fair minded man I think…” Veptus stood above Shen’s head and held the blade of the scalpel against the soft flesh of Shen’s throat. A droplet of blood welled up where the sharp blade bit into the skin. “…and I think that you should be given the chance to die. So, all I need you to do, is grab this scalpel and slit your own throat. Can you do that?”
For a moment Shen looked relieved. He would not have to live in eternal torment. All he had to do was grab the blade and end his suffering himself. He could do that. He would gladly do it than endure which was to come. Shen went to move his arm and his joy soured into grief. His brain sent the message to his one good arm to move, but only the forearm twitched and came a few centimetres off the tables before it slammed back down. Veptus lip curled into a cruel smirk as Shen tried twice more, each time his arm failed him and his pupils grew wider in horror. “Come on Shen, just grab it and this can all be over” Veptus spoke in a fatherly tone, as if he were genuinely trying to help Shen. This was false of course, and both men knew it. Shen tried again. He stared at his arm, willing it to rise and grab hold of the blade already pressed to his throat. But again, it failed him and Shen knew he was doomed.
Shen looked up at the Corpse Master’s pale face which hovered above him like a wraith. His eyes grew misty. Their inky depths spoke of the knowledge of the fate he was doomed to suffer and begged for such a terrible cup to be taken from him. “Please…”
“Do you desire the Emperor’s peace my brother?” Veptus said as he had to many other brothers in Shen’s position.
“Yes.” Shen’s voice came, slightly pitched and quivering. Veptus smile a warm smile, as if he were about to grant his brother’s dying wish. There was a long pause where Shen could do nothing by stare at Veptus marble white teeth and jet black eyes.
“No.” And with that, Shen’s last hope died.
Veptus stood upright, the blade of the scalpel still to Shen’s throat. “Well, this has been fun and I believe that Xandrek will be satisfied, or he will be when he sees the pict-recording of this…” He said pointing to the camera which was above Shen’s head, embedded in the ceiling. “…but now we have to prep you for you incarceration. But first, a souvenir. For me.” Veptus’s smile was no longer warm, but had turned into one of a professional killer and one who enjoyed his work at that. The sharp blade slid around Shen’s face and then underneath as Veptus peeled off Shen’s face. When he was done, Veptus dangled the dripping patch of flesh over Shen’s permanently open eyes. “You wanted to see the command echelons, and now you will.” Veptus’ jovial tone taunted the prone figure on the medical slab. Veptus clicked his fingers and two more servitors, it may have been the same as before but he hadn’t really been paying attention enough to confirm that, appeared with ammonic fluid bath. “Unfortunately, I am unable to complete the process right now, as I have more pressing matters to attend to. But, this will be your home for, well, as long as you suffer for. I hope you find it…comfortable.” Veptus smirked as he said the last word.
Veptus injected a powerful sedative which would keep Shen asleep until Veptus could complete the process of melding Shen to the MIU at which point he would turn him over to the tech-marine Var. If he still had eye-lids they would have closed. As it was, his body simply went limp and the two servitors lowered him into the ammonic fluid and carried the casket away. Veptus however had other work to do. He stripped the underside of the face of all unnecessary scraps of muscle. There wasn’t much as it was a very clean flaying. It was a shame really. It was much more satisfying when they hadn’t given up already. Then he put it in preservative fluid, so it would be ready to sew into his cloak soon enough. He was sure that would irritate Azrael to a satisfactory degree. He rolled off the medical gloves and tore off his bloody apron. He tapped the vox-caster in the corner of the room and keyed it to broadcast to Xandrek’s personal line. “My Captain, the preparations have been made for Shen to be interred. I think…” Veptus smiled to himself again as he looked at Shen’s flayed face suspended in the preservative fluid in front of him. “…you will be very pleased with the results. Is there anything else you require?” Veptus waited for the response, if there was any. Xandrek had been a bit reclusive of late. Still, even if Xandrek had no tasks for him, Veptus could find ways to amuse himself…