'How many men,' Jurnal Hoyt, Chemoran Military Intelligence, always
drank. He had offered Ptolemy a finger of amasec, and sighed when the young man declined. He was tapping away at a leaf of notes, looking up at the tall, blonde soldier. 'Does this report condemn?'
Ptolemy straightened, palms pressed flat against his hips. Hoyt was a right bastard - An overweight, lumbering giant of a man with too many chins and a taste for too-young girls. 'Two-thousand and fifty-three,' Ptolemy replied, corners of his mouth twitching into a sneer. After a moment, he regained his composure and added - 'Sir.'
'Don't be a bleeding heart, Ptolemy,' Hoyt growled, necking another glass of amasec. 'These men are cowards, traitors and malingerers,' Hoyt's eyes narrowed. 'You are doing the Emperor's
That wasn't necessarily true, Ptolemy knew. He had written up the report himself - Read the files and service records of each individual, examining the data with an eagle's eye. Most of the men, and even a few women, were not cowards, traitors or malingerers. They were afraid
. The true mutinous elements, like those that Ptolemy had dealt with, were long gone - Executed by their Commissars, gunned down by the Archenemy forces, or having slipped between the floorboards during the hectic aftermath of the War. Just last week, twelve former PDFers had raped and murdered an elderly woman in Sparrowtown - Ptolemy had led the retribution team, rounded them up, and shot them all. Dogs.
That was the true problem; the deserters, the former gangers. Even now, in Ashsmear - That terrible and poisonous wasteland - Operations were underway to destroy the remaining Archenemy foot-soldiers. The War was far from over. Insurgencies would continue, Military Intelligence knew, for weeks, maybe months. The Chemorans were stretched thin, the draftees having been discharged, the career-soldiers mauled during the War's opening stages. Ptolemy's fingernails dug into the soft flesh of his palms.
'So,' Hoyt grunted, knuckling his eyes. 'Is there anything you would like to say?'
You're a fugging idiot
, Ptolemy wanted to say. He anted to scream, to ram his fist into Hoyt's round, ugly face. You're a fat fug, sir, and a bastard. The men hate you. One of these days, someone is going to-
'Well?' Hoyt pressed.
'No, sir,' Ptolemy said, with an half-smile. 'Absolutely nothing. Emperor's work, sir. Those men, those boys and girls and greybeards, deserve everything
Ptolemy did not wait for a dismissal. He buttoned up his knee-length trenchcoat - Not dissimilar to those issued to the Commissariat - Spun on his heel, and left. He emerged into an empty lobby, the marble pillars and floor scoured clean, though they still failed to hide the pockmarks and chips. This entire building, this entire sector, had been ravaged by brutal combat.
At the end of the lobby, in jerkins of carapace and bowl-helmets, were three men. Lean, hungry-looking men, armed with las-guns and bayonets. Their uniforms were grey, unmarked. They caught sight of Ptolemy and began to advance, wearily. Oh fug.
Ptolemy wrapped a hand around his bolt-pistol, caressing the trigger with his finger.
'Who the fug
are you?' Ptolemy challenged. The men halted.
'Ptolemy Kraas?' The tallest called. His accent was strange - An off-worlder, perhaps. 'Are you Ptolemy Kraas?'
'Depends on who is asking,' Ptolemy shot back, all venom.
The man saluted. Ptolemy must have looked shocked, because one of the men grinned cheerfully. 'We are Lord Phlintte's men, sir,' The tallest said, once more. 'You have been reassigned. Welcome to Project: Saviour.'
What the fug was Project: Saviour?
Long, tough weeks passed. He went through countless evaluations, both physical and mental - Live firing exercises, hand-to-hand combat, too many blood tests. There was a long, red line down his ribs - Where one of the Mechanicus had made an incision, for whatever reason, and it itched.
He was now sat in a room with seven others, all in featureless uniforms with numbers stitched onto them. 051 was an ugly, one-eyed bastard - Scarred and angry-looking. 272 and 013 were both unremarkable - Boring. 111 was interesting, with his bionic hand and hard, cold eyes. I know you
, Ptolemy thought. He couldn't remember where, or when or how, but that bionic hand.. Hm
. Such an odd collection of ranks. Claw-Hand and Ptolemy held command, as far as he could tell.
Three others were sat further along, their numbers hidden from view. One was completely hairless and had curious, unsettling eyes - Another was handsome, his mouth set in a firm line. Serious bastard. The other was asleep, curled up. Lazy bastard.
Everyone was talking. Ptolemy wasn't paying attention - Drumming his fingers incessantly against the cold, hard, metal bench. Ptolemy missed women. Before being seconded to Project: Saviour - Whatever that was - Ptolemy had been seeing a noblewoman, far younger than him. He missed her touch, her scent, her warmth. He missed being-
One of the men, 013 - Alaric, as he named himself - Hunched over and emptied his stomach. Ptolemy laughed, loudly and mockingly. He couldn't help it - It was comical, the man's bile splattering over his boots and trousers. For a moment, Ptolemy considered helping, and then smirked. Fug that. He wasn't going to get messy for him.
'Well,' Ptolemy said, eventually. 'I'm fugging