"Do sit down, Alice, you're making the place look untidy," Fabian jokes, flopping down into a high-backed leather armchair and motioning at another seat just opposite. He's conveniently positioned a large decanter of amasec nearby, sitting on a circular brass-rimmed table with a surface of polished black crysteel.
Without a word I sit down, contriving to make the motion appear more elegant than Fabian practically throwing himself into his chair, but the end result is all the same as I'm suddenly aware of how comfortable this chair actually is. I make a note that whoever makes his furniture, I'll have to pay them a visit if I want my own suite to be even half as nice as his.
"You'll have heard about the Conclave's decision, then?" Fabian -- Inquisitor Filipowski, Ordinis Mallei -- asks me as he pours a generous measure of amasec for each of us. I nod quickly.
"They approve of your intent to investigate the Arch Worlds," I answer, taking my glass as Fabian offers it to me.
"Oh, it's more than that," Fabian grins. "You actually get to show off for me."
"I'm sorry, what?"
Fabian grins, his expression seeming almost avuncular. "Perhaps 'show off' isn't the right term. I won't actually be there."
"I guessed that much, Inquisitor," I remark. "There's that team we met on Port Alcis that you sent out to the Atrean Gulf, and aren't you still waiting for news from Canderous Prime?"
"Canderous Prime is more the Ordo Xenos' thing than mine," Fabian answers. The most contact I've had with them was a brief chat with a Xenos man in chapel a few months ago, so I shrug.
I take a sip of the amasec; it's nothing special, but at the same time I doubt Fabian would get out the good stuff for what is essentially a mission briefing.
"The Warp's a strange place at the best of times," Fabian explains. "Time and distance flow like water there. Seconds turn into years, years turn into hours, hours turn into centimetres, centimetres turn into walruses. It's a realm of no fixed rules, and as many or as few dimensions as it likes."
I stare blankly, although I recall that Inquisitor Skoll told me the exact same thing when I left Kurabata. Sadly, that piece of wisdom made just as much sense to me then as it does now, though it must mean enough to psykers that they feel at liberty to quote whichever ancient scholar first said so.
"The thing is, though, that crossing the galaxy should still take years," Fabian continues, "even if space-time does take a detour around the madhouse. But that's not the case with the Arch Worlds. A galaxy apart, and yet for some reason going between the two is like going through that door into the hallway."
"I read the briefing documents, Inquisitor," I remind him. Fabian pauses, then sips at his amasec. He does that, I've noticed, whenever someone's given him reason to pause. Not wishing to appear rude, I take a sip of my own.
"Then you'll know that I want to find out more about them," he answers. "One of the Arch Worlds -- Kharybdis -- is quite close by. I wouldn't be surprised if half the Inquisitors in the sector decide to jump in as well, but they'll have their own agendas. I just want information. Which brings me to my next point: I don't actually want you to go through to the other side."
I can't say that isn't a relief. The idea of winding up on the other side of the galaxy isn't especially thrilling, but nonetheless I can't help but wonder how Fabian intends to gather information on the Arch Worlds if he wants me to stay on one side of them.
"The other part of the Conclave's decision revolves around a cell without a master," he reveals, and that's got me intrigued.
"Though I'm guessing they were attached to an Inquisitor at some point?" I ask.
Fabian nods, turning his attention back to his drink for a brief moment. "We've recently had confirmation through that Inquisitor Osmond Johm was killed in action two years ago."
"That's not a name I've heard before," I admit.
"To be honest, Alice, I wouldn't have expected you to. The Inquisitors you know by name can probably be counted on one hand."
I recognise that Fabian has a point. Discounting Kalle Hjert for obvious reasons, I can count only Fabian, Skoll, Lady Rhodes and Lord Hesh.
"Nonetheless, Johm had a cell that, for a time, was operating under the assumption that he was still alive, though that belief wasn't held universally," Fabian continues. "Courtesy of the Conclave, they found out the truth of the matter, and in the absence of the Inquisitor that recruited them, the cell's currently operating under the direction of the Conclave. I'm sure you can guess what their assignment is."
"Investigating the Arch Worlds?" I venture.
Fabian nods. "They're being sent through to Scylla, on the other side."
"If they'll be on the other side of the Arches, what exactly do they have to do with me?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
"I've managed to get one of them to relay any information they find out to you through Viljo," he explains. "His name's Willem Cals. I'll forward you the cell's dossiers."
"So while I'm on Kharybdis, they're working from Scylla," I observe. "That's certainly one way to solve the problem."
"Exactly, although I'll stress again that I don't want you going through the Arches yourself under any circumstances," Fabian warns me. "That's their job, and I have no intention of seeing you stuck out there on the other side."
"I'll be careful," I reply.
"I'll arrange transport for you," Fabian offers, "and you'll have those dossiers by this evening."