Author Topic: After Hours  (Read 5130 times)

Offline Koval

  • Grand Lord Inquisitor
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After Hours
« on: October 03, 2009, 01:29:58 PM »

I'm haunted by my fear.

Hunted too, perhaps.

Wherever I go, it's there, right behind me, all around me, hanging over my shoulder.

And yet I fear nothing.

I have stared into the darkness and seen the horrors that dwell in its hidden vaults. I have watched whole worlds die, ten billion lives snuffed out in seconds, and I have witnessed the ones I love stolen away from me by the creatures that stalk in the night.

There is nothing left.

So it is that I am followed by nothing.

Behind me, nothing, all around me, nothing.

Within me, nothing.

That is what haunts me.

-- unknown author, c. 008.M42


"Haunted, you say?"

I look witheringly at Cedric Grigerian as he wipes a decidedly skeletal palm across his sweating, pallid brow and brushes a lock of silvery hair out of his eyes. In a show of mock defiance, or perhaps even making his best effort to appear serious, he looks back along his prominent nose at me. I can tell he is trying his best to appear unfazed, but he succeeds only in looking totally daft.

"Commissar Fenn, I wouldn't have called for the PDF's presence if I weren't being entirely serious in the matter. And as I've told you already, my residence has suddenly become haunted! I don't know what it is but I always see these wonderfully handwritten notes lying around at two minutes to midnight, to the exact second, every evening without fail, wherever in the house I happen to be. And if you think I'm lying, I invite you to see this phenomenon for yourself."

"So why the military and not Enforcers?"

Grigerian swallows hard and clears his throat before answering. I notice that one of his eyes is bloodshot.

"Because these notes are always affixed to the wall with knives," he answers. "As the son of the Governer's own brother, I believe - although the content of the messages rather plainly suggests otherwise - that whoever's writing these messages and sending them to me plans to assassinate either myself or Uncle Avedis, or both."

"I see."

I visibly relax and take the opportunity to straighten my cap. Cedric doesn't know where to put himself, bless him.

"You two, front door," I snap, motioning to the two soldiers in the foyer, the ones who had been chosen to accompany me instead of perform whatever menial task the disciplinary officers could be bothered to come up with next. They salute stiffly and head over to the front door, slamming it shut behind them. I've already had Cedric's own staff make sure that all other entrances to the Governer's nephew's manor, from the back door to the windows on the top floor, are all tight and secure.

Nobody can get in or out without express permission from either myself or Cedric Grigerian. If they try the front door they'll be shot, simple as that.

"Let me tell you something now, Mr. Grigerian," I begin. "In truth, this isn't the first time I've heard of haunted buildings, nor is this an isolated incident."

He looks at me dumbly, his jaw hanging slack.

I continue before he gets a chance to recover.

"You see, your uncle Avedis - rather, Governer Avedis Grigerian II - also voiced a similar complaint not two nights ago, also involving notes pinned with knives, although his mystery messenger focuses not on the time, but the place of his delivery. Specifically, the Governer's own drawing-room is pockmarked with knife cuts typical of the weapons issued to the PDF."

"Are you suggesting, Commissar, that your own soldiers might be to blame?" Cedric asks.

"I'm not apportioning blame to the PDF. This is rather too organised to originate in their ranks. Colonel Virkkunen's a different man off the battlefield; let me assure you, he's a genius when there are troops under him, but he's surprisingly dense when it comes to civilian affairs and matters of state. And I don't think Captain Relander's much better either. But this isn't the time to conduct a critical analysis of the PDF officers' collective intellect."

"Quite right."

"We have, however, had reports of rather a large number of standard-issue Breck-22 combat knives going missing. I'd say that around one-tenth of our soldiers have lost their weapons. We can't exactly decimate our own PDF for losing knives, although I've made sure that the soldiers in question have received disciplinary action. At least we know where the knives are coming from. But why use the knives at all?"

"Scare tactics?" Cedric suggests.

"It wouldn't be that. As well as you and the Governer, we've had reports of a phantom Hermes leaving knives and notes in Archbishop Jakob Sevryn's villa, and in the Arbites precinct where my cousin held court up until the incident with Eugene Edmundson. But although it took a while, I managed to work something out."

"What's that?"

"Yours is the only case where the factor is time," I note. "For the Governer it's the place. For Sevryn it's based around an event, namely when he goes to pray, although there's no fixed pattern apart from that. As for the Arbites precinct, that seems to be based around the changing of shifts among Enforcers. And all of these happen when nobody's around to watch. Moreover, you could drive from one crime scene to the next on a civilian ground-bike in about a quarter of an hour, give or take a couple of minutes either way. So far, all of the reported events have taken place within two hours of each other; that's ample time for the messenger to install himself and leave his note before moving on."

Cedric swallows hard.

"This is just a hunch, Commissar, but do you think that... well, with the military presence... I mean... do you think it's...?"

I snort, interrupting him.

"Show me a note."

Cedric clears his throat nervously.

"This way, Commissar," he beckons, leading me through his residence decorated lavishly with marble statues and portraits of long-dead Grigerians. I pause to look at one; it's a fine image, almost like a pict-recording in clarity but for the barely visible brushstrokes and the aesthete's signature in the bottom corner. I don't recognise the name; of course I wouldn't, though, the portrait's well over four centuries old, and the Grigerians weren't exactly a prominent noble family until well after the portrait was made.

Cedric leads me through a long corridor and eventually under a staircase. There's a landing halfway up the stairs, curling around the inside corner of the stairwell, with a suit of antique carapace armour standing in a little niche. I note that it's helmetless, and that it's holding a great axe upright, the base resting at its feet.

I have to pause to make sure it's not moving.

We pass into the room under the stairs and I'm surprised to see the walls taken up entirely by bookcases and flat wooden panels, with not even a single window to let in light from outside; I have to remind myself that there isn't anywhere to put a window in the first place, bookcases or no bookcases. At the centre of the room, there is a large pedestal desk made of polished wood and ornamented with ivory. The panel facing the door, and the voluminous rug on which the desk sits, are decorated with the symbol of the Aquila surrounded by a giant laurel wreath. On the desk, this is done as a brass plaque framed with yet more ivory; on the rug, it is picked out in yellow and silver.

This must be Cedric's study.

"I started cross-shredding the notes in here," Cedric tells me, pulling a hidden door open in the wall and feeding a blank piece of paper into what looks like an old-fashioned plebeian letterbox. I hear a fast, high-pitched whirring noise and tiny scraps of paper, like confetti, fall out into another box beneath it.

"Then I noticed that the notes were getting longer and longer. Whoever's been writing these has apparently added new content to the original message."

"Show me."

"Here's the most recent one," Cedric answers, unfolding a long sheet of paper and holding it out for me. There are two knife marks; it had been folded first, then fixed to the wall afterwards.

"Now, this is interesting," I remark, reading the top line.

"What do you mean? Didn't you take the notes down from the other... shall we say, crime scenes?"

"Only from the Arbites precinct. The Governer and the Cardinal both burned the notes they found, but from what I can tell from the evidence at the Arbites precinct, it seems that everyone's been receiving the same notes. I only managed to read a couple of the other notes, which is why I didn't notice the similarity until just now, but it confirms something I've suspected since I started hearing about this phenomenon."

"Which is?"

"This is definitely originating from a single source, and that single source is extremely well-organised to pull off something like this in multiple secure locations. I'm a bit surprised that it only reached the PDF barracks in the form of knife theft, but that doesn't mean an awful lot."

The two of us sit in Cedric's study and talk for a while, before a thought occurs to me.

"Mr. Grigerian, have you seen the time?" I ask, after a long, awkward and decidedly inconclusive discussion about why he might warrant the attention of this phantom Hermes.

Cedric checks his chronometer and goes pale with fright.

"Ten minutes until he strikes again," he notes. I nod.

"Get all of your staff together, all of your family, everyone in the house," I order him, and not thinking to protest, he complies instantly, shouting orders into an intercom on his desk.

By the time he turns back to me, I'm already out of the room, rushing to the front door to give new orders to the soldiers under my command.

Except, by the time I get there, both appear to be dead, a Breck-22 buried in each man's chin up to the hilt.

No time to react; locking the door again swiftly to ensure nobody gets in or out, I'm already rushing back into the house, through the main foyer, through the Grigerians' music room, and into the crowded dining hall. It seems that the only place left to stand is on the table, so that's where I stand.

Cedric, in the corner, is visibly pale and holding his wife for support. The Grigerians' three sons are all wide-eyed with apprehension, and the staff are panicking like chickens.

The only unfazed member of the household staff is Colbert the butler, which I find a bit strange. I'll have to talk to him later.

Two minutes to midnight draws closer and suddenly the panicking reaches fever pitch, not least because they know I'm here, and any idiot knows that a Commissar generally means trouble.

I think it's better to keep it that way, though, if they knew my real vocation then the panic would be ten times worse.

I look over at Colbert and he looks back, more confused than anything else. He's not moved a muscle since I last flicked my eyes over to the big clock on the wall, which theoretically rules him out as a suspect, but I can never be too sure after some of the things I've seen.

The clock suddenly hits midnight and every head turns, even Colbert's, as it makes a funny musical melody that I recognise as The Bells Of Ophelia. I'm still looking at him out of the corner of my eye.

"No sign of the phantom Hermes?" I ask Cedric. He suddenly looks round and appears to shrug, although I can't tell too clearly.

"I think that rules out the household staff," he remarks, doing a quick head-count as the clock chimes once, twice, three times.

"Everyone's here?"

"Everyone," Cedric answers. Ten, eleven, twelve.

"Every single member of your household staff?"

"Yes! I've checked. What about the soldiers you left at the door?"

"They're dead," I answer. "They were murdered before I came into the room. They're still outside, which means that someone managed to force entry, but that's odd because the door was still locked. He must've come in another way."

"I see."

"But hold on a second," I continue.


"Everyone in the house is here."

"As I said."

I pause.

The clock's stopped chiming, and that music definitely isn't The Bells Of Ophelia.

"Then who's playing the piano in the music room?"

People rush for the door but I get there first, jumping off the table and landing a flying kick on the door. It bursts open and I land, nearly losing my balance but recovering and rushing into the music room, hand on my bolt pistol.

I discover that I don't need it.

"Must you?" I ask a familiar face accusingly, as his rendition of Two Men From Old Earth halts abruptly.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 11:51:38 AM by Koval »

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2009, 01:31:01 PM »


There was a resounding crash that echoed along the corridors of the freighter Ynys Mon.
As the sound passed the door, Inquisitor Skoll glanced up from the sheets of paper strewn across his desk.

Looking back down again, he read down the papers he was holding, the casualty report from the battle at the Anzio bridgehead. They had held, but at the price of hundreds of lives, a cost that had only risen when the enemy had brought forwards tanks.
Marco murmured a prayer to the Emperor for the men, then opened a drawer and pushed the sheaf in at the back. He wasn't a military commander, and although he was a decent strategist, had been given no time and no choice. Sometimes the only way to stop oneself from being dragged into depression over the loss of life was to just treat it as numbers, and shove it into a file.

He pulled across another collection of papers as another crash resounded past, reverberating backwards and forwards along the corridor outside, combining and cancelling with itself as it faded.
Ignoring the noise, Marco pulled the pict-captures out from under the clasp at the top of the page. The first showed what appeared to be a mess of stab marks in the wall of a room, the following images singular, but similar, blade marks - even one that appeared that it might have been in a ceiling, but he wasn't quite sure about the image's perspective.

He had noted Kurabata Prime after Governor Zautho Tarabangian had been assassinated, itself a matter that was worthy of an Inquisitor's attention, as the Governor had been popular enough with most of his people.
Disliked politicians that get killed are no surprise. Well liked ones are, and that causes panic. Both amongst other politicians and nobles, who are then robbed - by example - of the safety blanket of the belief that being nice was protecting them; and amongst the population, who have lost a leader they trusted.

However, one of Marco's contacts had fed him more information. Someone was leaving messages for the ruling caste, messages pinned to the wall with a seemingly endless supply of blades. One does not have to know what a message says to know that delivery by dagger meant it was to be taken seriously.
It implied threat, danger, and peril, not to mention a plan. This was what had grabbed him.
Whether the plan was the deliverer's, that of a separate sender, or that of someone else entirely of whom the sender had knowledge by some manner or means - that was completely available for guessing.

He didn't like guessing. It was a very poor substitute for fact.

This time, there were three crashes in rapid succession. Marco stared at the open doorway, and cocked an eyebrow, where it hovered for a second while he tried to figure out what the noise was from. His face split into a wide grin as he heard the sound of a woman's energetic yell, immediately answering the who.
It took another few seconds, and another loud smash before he finally consented to his curiosity and stood up. Throwing the collection of images down on the corner of his desk as he went, he strode towards the room's exit. Pulling the sliding door shut as he passed through it, he pounded a code into the keypad next to the door, prompting a loud electric buzz and the click of the door lock.

Turning around, he looked both ways, taking a moment to decide which way the sounds were coming from. Settling on it being the left, the Inquisitor made his way through the maze of passages that made up the former smuggling ship, until he finally found the doorway from which the noises were coming, which was evidently the ship's exercise room.

Poking his head in through the door, he could see several punching dummies, some laid across the floor, but some still stood upright. As he watched, the tall woman stood amongst them smashed a heavy bionic fist into the right-hand mannequin, sending it toppling onto the deck plates with very resounding smash.

Marco ambled in to the room as he waited for the noise to settle down.
"The fitness facility is for the exercise of your natural muscles, dear. That means you should throw the punches with your other hand."

The woman turned round, embracing Marco in a hug that was just slightly too tight. Letting go, she looked over her shoulder for the towel slung over one of the machines. Reaching for it, she let it fall out of its folds, then started to dry off the sweat around her neck.

"I thought I felt you coming down here. Did I disturb you?"
"Silva, I think you got the attention of people on other ships with that din, impossible though that's supposed to be."
"Sorry. I forget how the far sound carries aboard here."

Marco knelt down, grabbing one of the fallen dummies under what would have been its armpits if it had had more than just stumps for arms. Straightening up onto his feet again, he hefted it upright with him. Setting a hand on it to steady it as it teetered, he looked over its shoulder.

"Forget about it. I wouldn't have had these dummies brought aboard if it was going to be a problem."
"Good. I wouldn't want to think you were favouring my needs over any other crew members.", she laughed, slinging the towel around her shoulders.

Fixing her bionic hand around another dummy's neck, she pulled it violently off the floor, holding it in a form of choke, then shrugged and lowered it back onto its base.
Marco continued the conversation as he righted another of the dummies, albeit in his more mundane fashion.

"As we been together longer than many a married couple, I think they understand when I put you first. Besides, some of them still can't quite think around my rank, so they don't even think to argue. Giovanna is too accustomed to authority to be prepared to disregard it, Alpine is often too outright intimidated to be engaged in a meaningful conversation, and Arden still keeps calling me 'Mister Skoll' every time."

Silva looked around, with the look she had for when she thought Marco was being daft - head tilted down slightly, looking up at him from under her vaguely raised eyebrows.

"That's because you're fifteen years his junior, not because of your rank. If it troubles you, then bring it up with him."
"I have, more than once - he keeps forgetting. Even then, he still interacts with me as his wage payer, not an associate. It's two years since I hired him and his crew - four since I hired Gio - and of all of them, only Jax interacts with me on a deeper level. Almost no-one who I have met since I got my seal ever just disregards my rank as being a part of who I am. "
"Marie doesn't seem concerned about your rank."
"Yes, but she's an exception, not the rule - and she doesn't seem to care about anyone's seniority. I think she likes me because I can bring her challenging work and a competent partner. Anyway, she's not with us, which makes it a moot point."
"Don't worry. The crew will come round to the real you with more time. I get along with them alright, and they seem the type that'll warm towards you more personally."

She grunted loudly as she slammed her natural fist into the flank of one of the erected mannequins, then brought round her bionic, smashing an uppercut into the dummy's abdomen which knocked up it off the floor, sending it arcing backwards and then crashing down. Her head flicked sideways, choosing another dummy. She brought her bionic leg around in a violent roundhouse levelled at the figure's head. With a violent thud, that one tumbled onto the deck as well.

She span round to throw a punch into another dummy, channelling the momentum left over from her kick into a powerful hook. She connected with its chest, sending it hinging backward over the edge of its base. Bringing her metal foot out ahead of her with a soft clink to bring her to a stop, she looked over her shoulder at the collapsed dummies, then turned back to Marco.
"Surely these things aren't meant to fall over this often."

The Inquisitor had thrown off his brown leather trenchcoat, and was sat down on one of the various machines that were set around the room, changing his shirt for something looser.
"Not normally, no. But generally, they don't have to stand up to over a hundred kilos of over-energetic bionic woman."

As he moved the pin through the machine's loading system, she rolled her eyes - this was Marco teasing her again. Her weight wasn't anything she had much control over, nor did the number actually mean much either. A bionic arm, leg, and other assorted metal pieces meant that regardless of what the rest of her weighed, she was always going to be considerably heavier than anyone else of her physique. The side effect was that because of the constant weight and load of her bionics, the rest of her had become very muscular in its own right to compensate. When combined with all the time she spent in the training room, it wasn't just her bionics that were up to making a show of strength.
What this meant was she was without a doubt the single best person the Inquisitor could ask to cover his back. Strong, skilled, experienced and bringing a whole new level of meaning to fiercely loyal.

Marco laid back on the machine and grasped the hand holds as Silva reset the dummies again.

"So, you're staying down here then?"
"I could certainly do with the exercise and a break from reading reports."
"That'll be nice. I trust everything is sorted for Kurabata Prime though?"
"Everything will be sorted by the time we're there."

Silva shot him a sideways glance.
"That sounds evasive."
"Yes, it was. I was looking it over, and it looks almost too simple. That concerns me - the things that look simple are always the ones that deteriorate into insanity, and that's a game I don't even know if I can play."
"I've seen you play with madness before."

Silva knew it was probably best to try and get Marco's mind off the job, divert his attention elsewhere. Moving to stand in front of his feet, she tried her best polite request.
"I don't suppose I can talk you into sparring?"

She already knew the first answer she'd get. Although he was competent in combat, she had practised more than one martial art, and had quicker reflexes, more weight, and more strength. However, nothing focuses the mind like fighting a superior opponent.

The Inquisitor looked down over his chest and snorted.
"You must be kidding. I'd end up a mass of nothing but bruises."

She tilted her head sideways slightly, fixing him with wide eyes. It took a couple of seconds before he released the machine's load bar and resigned with a groan.
"Fine. But if I end up with a black eye this time, Emperor help you."

Jack battled with the controls of the Arvus (they'd never bothered to name it yet. They hadn't come up with a good one). He'd had to argue for half an hour with an uppity flight control officer before being able to gain access to a landing point.

They'd come in on personal business, officially, which hopefully meant they were under the radar. Some far off part of him was hoping that somebody would be stupid enough to give him reason to test out the heavy bolter they'd modified onto the front of the little ship, but the reasoned part of him didn't want to find out if it was still working properly. It was a transport shuttle, not a combat craft.

Finally they touched down at a landing pad. As he stepped into what was once the cargo bay, and now worked as armoury, storeroom, library and sleeping quarters all in one, he nodded to the only other occupant.

"As you no doubt noticed, we've landed, Inquisitor. I've already discovered the local authority could do with some streamlining."

He still wasn't happy with the man he'd had to deal with, and it showed.

*I would imagine so, Jack. I could hear your grousing, even back here.*

The monotone voice of the vox unit in the Inquisitor's helmet, as ever, held no inflection, pitch, or tonal quality of any kind, perfectly disguising the voice behind it.

"My apologies, Inquisitor. So, what brings us here?"

The not so formal query belied a certain amount of familiarity between the two, not that many would ever notice it or realise it.

*Normally I would pay little heed to the political standings of a planet such as this one, Interrogator. However, I believe there is more going on than we might first understand. Rumours, and shadows. And besides, the aforementioned political status of this planet is reason enough for us to investigate. It shows that this planet is not being run well enough, which is cause for concern, as you well know.*

The Inquisitor stood up wearing full armour and helmet, as always. One never saw the Inquisitor out of the armour.
Well, almost never, Jack thought with a well hidden smile.
He looked down at his own armour as the small smile left his face, before looking back at the faceplate of the Inquisitor. He only saw his reflection there.

Brown eyes, long brown hair put back in a ponytail, with a face typical of anyone born of Mcragge stock, stared right back at him.

"So, what's the plan?"

*Same as always Jack. We start digging for information.*

The Aquila lander had been cycling down for five minutes now, plenty of time for the exhausts to cool and prevent him from being burnt to a crisp or his fine clothing singed.

Slowly he picked himself up from the passenger seat straightening out his fine dark blue tunic with black embroidery he checked the ceremonial sword at his hip, a mark of his position within the trade guild and turned striding from the lander into the ozone rich air of one of Kurabata Prime's many landing pads, following in his wake strode a woman a data slate held in her hands a long flowing dress of green whipping around her firm figure as the wind caught it.

"Selena, if your be so kind as to direct the deck crew in unloading our effects."

He said brushing his hair from his face as it snapped around in the wind, she nodded silently and turned towards the approaching crew while he continued into the landing pads operation terminal, inside he was greeted by a small patrol of local PDF.

"Welcome to Kurabata Prime sir, is your visit business or pleasure?"

He smiled at the man as he pulled his papers from a document wallet on his waist.

"Business I'm afraid, I hardly ever get time for pleasure these days."

The trooper snatched the papers opening them out on the desk behind him he looked over them as the other four stood ready serious looks on their faces.

"You are Peitri Deminov trade representative,"

"For the Unified Markevian Trade Guild, yes that is correct."

"It says here that you are looking for goods for export."

"Again that is correct I'm looking for new clients for...."

"Everything seems in order sir."

He frowned somewhat, he was not used to being interrupted.

"Thank you, though I must say Planetary Defence troopers are somewhat unexpected at a customs post."

"Civil unrest sir, shouldn't cause you any trouble though."

"Oh I hope not trooper."

He strode on past them as Selena and a group of the deck crew entered the terminal with their belongings one of the deck hands caught one of his cases against the door frame an he turned in a flash.

"Please be careful with those, some of the contents are quite precious."

The deck hand nodded dismissively and continued on his way while Selena joined him her silky voice clipped and to the point.

"We have a vehicle waiting to carry us to our residence."

"Very good lets go."

They exited the terminal together where a large hire car was waiting for them, he went to the passenger door as Selena opened the drivers, the deck hands busied themselves loading their belongings into the boot before one of them came to the passenger window.

"There you go sir all packed for you."

He passed a small credit chip to the man who smiled gratefully and took a step back as Selena pulled the vehicle away and into the street, Selena spoke as she pulled the car onto a busy street.

"So what's the plan?"

He turned in his seat looking at her.

"We're here to observe this worlds new governor, should he prove unable to return this world to order we'll have to find someone who can."

"What about the messages?"

"We will look into them, I think I'll start with Cardinal Sevryn, his will be the easiest to enter undetected."

The sat in silence for the rest of the journey as she turned the car from the main road onto a series of side roads, taking them to their designated residence a holding in a guild trade complex, making their arrivals they were shown to their suite by the complex supervisor. Once with their belongings in their suite he pulled the sword of his waist tossing it onto one of the beds and went to one of his cases, Aduro slid from her dress letting it fall to the ground underneath she was already dressed in her bodyglove her swords strapped to her body ready. He peeled his clothing off pulling out his more functional and practical clothing pulling them on he opened the second level on the case and looked at the weapons held within, a fine needle pistol which he pulled from the foam casing holding it sliding it into it's waiting holster, his fingers brushed the surface of the next weapon a mysterious neural shredder he considered drawing it from the case as well but instead left it where it lay, he'd almost exhausted his ammunition for it and he doubted he's have much need of it on this world. A collection of knives and blades followed then finally he turned and collected a second case opening it a drawing the only thing contained within, a long and elegent powersword he hung this from his left hip and then turned to a final case within this on the top of a heavy black cloak say a dull silvered mask fitting it over the lower part of his face he pulled the cloak over his shoulders drawing the hood over his head he turned to Aduro.

"I'll be back before dawn, get some rest our work beings in full tomorrow."

Drawing the power of the warp around himself he vanished teleporting from the room.


"And how long have you been here?"

For most people, being heckled by a Commissar, never mind a female Commissar, would be a fairly unnerving experience. The pianist takes it all in his stride, however.

"Since about... twenty minutes before you gave the order to shut all the windows," he answers matter-of-factly, looking at me quite blankly.

He's wearing a maroon shirt with a close-fitting brown and black leather jerkin, embroidered with white and gold and finished off with a white necktie. It works surprisingly well, I must admit. His trousers are embroidered with a diamond pattern around the hem, and his hands are covered with gloves and leather bracers. A mop of auburn hair hides the dark glasses that shield his eyes.

"Is... is that him?" Cedric asks from behind me, so close behind me I can feel his panicked breaths on my neck. It's not a pleasant feeling.

"No, rather the opposite," the pianist states. "I'm hunting your phantom Hermes."

"Come out and say it in front of everybody just like that, why don't you," I mutter under my breath. "But if that's true, then why are you making yourself comfortable in front of the piano?"

"Because it's now gone midnight and therefore well past the time the phantom's due to strike," he answers. "Incidentally, were you all in that room just now before you burst out?"

I look at him oddly but it's Cedric who answers, nodding in confusion.

"I suggest you take a look under the table."

I turn away as everybody rushes into the dining hall, over to the only thing in the room that could really conceal anything at all well: the massive table in the centre of the room.

It's Colbert the butler who gets there first, lifting up the overly vast tablecloth from scarcely six inches above floor level. True to the pianist's word, there's a Breck-22 embedded in the underside of the table, pinning a folded sheet of paper precisely where nobody would ever have noticed it.

Colbert retrieves it silently, but I swipe the note out of his hands. Cedric looks like he's about to protest.

"I'll need this one for further analysis," I tell him.

"But, Commissar, how did he know it was there?" Cedric asks, as confused and bewildered as everybody else.

"Well, perhaps it was the only place it could possibly have been put, given the sheer number of people in the room at the appointed time," the pianist notes, adjusting his glasses as he enters the room. "But moreover, all the windows are locked, correct?"

"Yes," Colbert answers. It's the first time I've heard him speak.

"And the front door?"

"It is, but both of my sentries are dead and there's rather a lot of blood on the ground," I admit. "Although he'd have to unlock the door, then vault the sentries at a run to avoid leaving prints."

"I think that would entail rather a lot of noise," Cedric observes. "You can hear someone a mile off in the entrance hall, and as you're aware we've just had a new pathway done outside the house."

"And all the other doors?" the pianist asks.

"All accounted for."

"Which means that since the messenger always strikes at a specific time, we've locked him in with us."

The thought visibly chills practically everybody in the room.

"Commissar," the pianist begins, turning to me, "when you found your sentries had been killed--"

"I had to unlock the door to find out," I answer, cutting him off. "I was going to issue them new orders."

"That's fine, and it fits what I expected, although it's not what I wanted to hear," he sighs, turning to Cedric.

"Why not?" Cedric asks, perhaps feeling prompted.

"Mr. Grigerian, I don't want to startle you, but I have reason to believe this phantom Hermes isn't acting alone," the pianist states. "Rather, that there's at least two of them, or perhaps a whole network of them."

Stunned silence for a few seconds as Cedric blanches, realising the implication.

"Who exactly are you?" he asks at last. "Trespass aside, you know so much that I'm beginning to suspect you have some involvement."

"Ah, of course, do excuse me," the pianist chuckles weakly, fishing in a pocket for a second before withdrawing a distinct badge and holding it up for Cedric to see.

Apparently it isn't possible for Cedric to go even paler, and he faints dead away. It falls to me to stop him from hitting the ground.

Nobody else notices what the pianist is holding, except for myself. And I must say, I hadn't expected that.

"I think we'll say no more on the matter," the pianist concludes. "You, the butler, what's your name?"

"Edgar Colbert," Colbert replies almost instantly.

"You're just about the only person other than Commissar Fenn and myself who's not terrified of what this phantom Hermes has to say; I think that makes you a prime suspect."

People start backing away from Colbert as he looks around, slightly stunned by this development.

"Come with me. Commissar?"

I look round at the pianist.

"Go round the house with a patrol, and lock all the doors after you examine each room. I think our knifeman is on the loose."

"That'll take too long."

"Well it's better than nothing, and if our phantom's escaped then at least we'll know from where," the pianist explains. "And when I'm done with Colbert I'll do the same. Now get to it!"

I'm only too happy to oblige.

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2009, 01:32:10 PM »
He folded from a shadow within the Grand Cathedral, instantly he see that the place was all but deserted save for a few devout giving prayer even at this late hour, striding across the floor he headed for the nape pausing as a priest moved towards him.

"Is there anything I can help you with son?"

His eyes turned towards the aged man narrow and angry his voice hissed though the rebreather at hardly a whisper.

"I am not your son, I am here on Inquisition business, now stand aside lest my gaze fall upon you with more scrutiny."

The priest paled and backed away bowing his forgiveness he strode beyond the nape into the belly of the cathedral itself moving through the corridors with a quickened pace, the priest would have be alerting someone soon, even with the threat he's implied the man wouldn't dare not report his presence.

He went upwards heading for the residence of the Cardinal himself stopping dead he ducked into a shadowed alcove as a group of militia came the opposite way.

"Father Jocklyne said he'd entered the private wing, find him and stop him, he must not be allowed to disturb the Cardinal."

He could have reached out and snapped the neck of the big man giving the orders could have carved his way through them all before they' even realised he was there, but he waited till they had passed then stepped from the shadows keeping low he went into a run moving from shadow to shadow like a ghost he made his way through the cathedral until finally he stood at the doors of the Cardinals be chamber, flexing his powers he vanished before the door only to appear on the other side in the darkened room he could hear the man sleeping, turning from the bed he pressed an object into the doors locking mechanism and allowed himself a moment of triumph as the red light on the digital lock went dead, pulling it free he tucked it back into his clothing knowing that if his location was discovered they'd have to break the door down to get into the room.

"Cardinal Sevryn, it is time to wake up."

He strode to the end of the bed standing over it his hand resting on his sword.

Akuse was asleep with his neck back, as he sat in his modest leather chair in the Grand library aboard his ship. The Grand library was the most prominent feature of his escort, cylindrical in shape and absolutely enormous, it spanned 1km up and was 300 meters in diameter.

His large antique desk, from which he read, would easily fit 10 open books, while his wall fitted hundreds of thousands. Across the wall you would see the odd movement of a mechanical hand rearranging a book or two, bringing one down to Akuse’s desk when he desired.

The room was dimly lit except for the desk, which was slightly offset from the centre of the room. The library was eerily quite until there was a beep over the intercom in the desk, however Akuse did not wake until the forth beep. Flopping his head forward so his chin landed his chest. It brought a cool touch as his cold metal mask laid against his clothes, removing him from that bliss you feel when you first wake up and think about nothing.

Pressing the appropriate button, he answered yes, with a fatigued voice. His captain reported that they were only 1 hour away from arriving at Kurabata Prime, Akuse did not respond.

Flopping his head back again, he could not see the ceiling of the library, he sat there another five minutes opening and closing his eyes slowing. Forcing his body to stand up with the help of his chair, he strolled towards the exit.

He made his way to the Grand observation deck, a room similar to the library, a metal box with glass windows as it is called by the crew. A four hundred meter square room, one hundred meters tall. A metal floor and ceiling, with glass walls, it allowed Akuse a three sixty degree view from his ship. The only feature of the room the elevation at the centre. Akuse made his way to the wall facing the front of the ship and stood with his armed crossed, overlooking Kurabata Prime. He thought of the radical inquisitor Harmax, and was immediately filled with anger; he put a hand up to his face feeling the cold metal against his fingertips. “I know there is something here this time” he thought to himself with disgust.

As they approached the planet Akuse made his way down to the exit ramp of his vessel, on the way down releasing just how under staffed he is he had many officers multi-positioned.

As he walked down the ramp, he was caught by a usual migraine, he heard a voice hiss, the “the governor…” Not unordinary, Akuse had begun to hear a word or two in his head every now and then; he prayed to the emperor that it was not the Purifier weakening or the infection growing, however he knew that it would not hold the infection forever.

His ship simply looked like a large escort, not unusual. As he reached the surface he pulled his hood over his head so you could not see his face and made way through the public. Leaving his captain the duties of docking the ship, he passed Akuse and his crew off as wealthy intersystem merchants. Trying to recall the ideologies of Vestarvus, as he walked through the main streets he over heard the gossip of the public, often the greatest source of information for an inquisitor;

“Did you hear a clerk in the taxation office was embezzling millions of credits?”

“No really, that’s appalling, and to think we are honest tax paying citizens.”

“I was told that the PDF lost nearly half of its knives recently, perhaps the soldiers are selling them to pick up a few extra credits I heard they get paid absolute chicken feed”

“Shut up, why would they sell the knives, there worth nothing, and the chance of getting caught doing so is so great?”

“Hey I am just saying that I heard they lost about half of their knives”

“Hey, guess what, I was told by my mate in the PDF that there have been threats against some very high officials recently, even as high as the Archbishop.”

“No, who would want let along dare threaten the Archbishop, it must be someone else.”

Akuse found a small Inn down an alleyway and decided that it was suitable for residence for awhile. There was no-one in the Inn except the keeper, offering triple what was normally asked, Akuse didn’t answer any questions and took his key to his room.

The Inn keeper knew what it meant and what the repercussions would be, even though Akuse would not actually kill the man, it proved an effective persona.

The Inquisitor stepped down from the ramp of the Arvus, with Jack a pace or two behind.

A group of what looked to be local PDF was approaching from the direction of a berth much further down from where their little craft was.

Behind the duo, the ramp closed with a loud hiss and a dull clanging noise. At least it was secure, for now.

They waited as the men got closer before speaking out.

*I take it you are here on official business?*

The flat tonal quality of the Inquisitor's vox piece made a few of the men jump. The man in the lead replied, visibly shaking at the sight of the Inquisitorial symbol that was part of the breastplate the Inquisitor wore.

"Are you here on business ma'am?"

The faceplate of the Inquisitor's helmet continued to provide reflections of all that stood before it.

*I am. What of it?*

The terse reply more reminiscent of a Mechanicus official rather than a normal human was the usual method of communication that the Inquisitor used outside of trusted parties, of which there were very few. It often, as in this case, put others on the back foot.

"Understood ma'am. Have you brought any cargo that we would be required to look over or defend."

*No. Is that all?*

The combination of faceplate, armour, stature, and equipment allowed the Inquisitor to loom over people, even if they might be a shade taller. While height can help in intimidation, it is not always a requirement.

In this case it didn't matter. The soldiers were visibly shaken as it was.

"Indeed." He stepped back and nodded to his men, attempting to seem as if he was in control of the situation.

Jack would have found it somewhat amusing if he hadn't been recalling a similar version of events when he was first introduced to and taken on by the Inquisitor.

*Then I have questions of my own. You will take me and my follower to the person in charge of you. Accord this man the same treatment you will give me. Which is due deference and respect for the stations we hold.*

The man gulped before responding. It really wasn't his day.

"Yes ma'am."

He spun to face his men, and steeled himself, obviously attempting to regain some measure of self control.

"Right you lot. You heard the lady. Escort duty! Now!"

The soldiers formed up around the duo, and the small group moved off towards what had obviously become a local barracks.

Jack studied his surroundings as they moved, listening to dockhands as they talked to each other, and trying to read their body language. He avoided using his talents as he was not sure how many other psykers were nearby if any, and whether or not they would notice him drawing upon his own powers.

The Inquisitor had mentioned a tension on this planet, but it was easy to see that it wasn't just reserved for higher ups within the planetary politics and goverment. It seemed to be widespread, although in the case of the PDF group escorting them, it could just have been the Inquisitor's intimidating nature.

It's the crash of breaking glass above us that gets my attention.

At first I want to rush upstairs and check, but I hold myself back, realising that it would simply take too long.

Shards of glass, twinkling faintly in the light from the Grigerians' master bedroom and from the grounds, fall straight past the window, and something large plummets with them.

Large and black.

From the second storey, where we are, it's roughly a five-metre drop to the ground, practically fatal; from the next floor up it is eight, although I would bet on this thing having some way to cheat us out of finding its corpse broken and bloodied on the ground below.

With very little time to think I grab the nearest heavy object I can find, which turns out to be a lamp stand, and ignoring the protests of Cedric's wife I hurl it at the window as well as I can. The glass smashes easily and I follow the lamp stand out of the window and outside into the cold night, at the last second twisting my body and grabbing onto the large windowsill two-handed.

Something pulls violently in my right shoulder and I wince before swiftly deciding that I haven't broken or dislocated anything. Pushing off to my left I catch hold of a gargoyle head about half a metre away from my knee before dropping to the ground.

In all, the drop takes about five seconds, but I'm not exactly counting.

The Grigerians' grounds are dimly lit by orange lamps mounted on the walls of the mansion, and in their glow I see the crumpled form of a hastily discarded black cloak, tossed off by whatever had left dusty tracks in the gravel path, separated from the gardens by a row of bricks on each side.

The cloak's owner had apparently been in rather a hurry to get away before we'd locked it in, although even in the dim conditions I can see the tracks and where they lead, following them into the gardens. Judging by the fact that the tracks are surprisingly deeper in a gravel path than they should be, I decide that whatever I'm chasing must be considerably heavier than anticipated for one so swift and silent.

It soon becomes evident that my quarry is actually rather slow. Perhaps it is injured. I can see it limping through the grounds, directly away from the mansion and towards a side gate.

I run forwards, fully adopting the role of a Commissar as I draw my sword, straight-bladed and slender but no less deadly for its lighter blade. A fine chain hangs from the pommel, with the Crux Kurabatan at the end of it.

"In the name of the Emperor I order you to face me, worm!" I shout, catching the thing's attention as it realises I'll catch up with it easily before it can escape.

The thing is clad in a loose-fitting hooded tunic and baggy ankle-length trousers, and its hands and feet are covered in what looks like some kind of feral bone armour. For a moment I find it hard to believe that the messenger is such a scruffy wretch, but I soon remember how deceiving appearances are when my enemy punches me in the stomach, winding me and knocking me back a step.

It's deceptively powerful and I realise that I should expect a livid bruise across my stomach come the morning.

The thing doesn't get a second blow in, however, and I recover swiftly from its first attack. I smash the pommel of my sword into its temple and it staggers, dropping its guard for long enough for me to stab its arm just below the shoulder.

I'm not looking to kill, but to incapacitate this thing and question it.

With a strangled cry the thing crumples up and keels over like a sack of sand, and I withdraw my sword quickly, wiping it clean on the thing's tunic before sheathing it. Grabbing my enemy in both hands I half-carry, half-drag it back towards the house as someone else finds me.

Spinning around to deliver a backwards kick with the heel of my boot I find I can't stop and catch the pianist in the throat, knocking him on his backside.


"I'm so sorry," I apologise swiftly, dragging my enemy closer so that I don't have to let go of it. "If I'd known you were there--"

"Commissar, please, you've not done anything wrong," he gasps, coughing fitfully. "And I suppose if I had been hostile your reflexes would have served you well."

The pianist picks himself up and adjusts his glasses. At first I'm amazed that he can see properly with them on, but apparently they're photochromic and have gone almost completely transparent.

"Now let's get this one inside and see what it has to say for itself."

Between us we carry the spitting phantom inside easily and I notice the front door's open, the dead sentries have been cleared away and one of Cedric's cleaning staff is wiping the blood off the stairs with a wet mop.

In the entrance I see Colbert the butler, his legs bound and his hands tied behind his back. He's lying on the stairs and can't go anywhere.

"He's a positive then?" I ask.

"Tried to go for me as soon as we were alone. And by feq he's a fast one," the pianist grumbles, rubbing his shoulder. "Kicked him in the guts and went down, though, felt like he was wearing body armour. From what I gather, he came out and killed the sentries rather a while before you started getting people into the dining room earlier. Stabbed them, then threw them face-first down the stairs without letting go of the knives. And then he just left them there, locking the door again once he'd come back in."

Colbert squirmed and tried to protest, but apparently he was tied too tightly to move.

"Now let's have a look at this one, you've given him a rather nasty wound if I might say so," the pianist proposes, pulling my enemy's tunic off and then wishing he hadn't.

"Oh, feq," he swears, and the sight makes me want to swear too. "Not another one."

This thing is trying its hardest to be human, but it's been altered beyond humanity and, if I might be allowed a moment of fantasy, looks more like a second-stage Genestealer hybrid. It's covered in a hard exoskeleton, though its face is still decidedly human, apart from its eyes which are little more than black orbs. Its abdomen is protected by tough, bony spurs, almost like an extended ribcage stretching down to its hips. Whatever isn't covered in exoskeleton is tough and firm, almost leathery. Its forearms and shins appear to be reinforced, something that no doubt helped it to survive an eight-metre fall, and what I originally took to be bone armour are actually its original hands and feet, hardened almost to the point of petrification.

Looking across at its shoulder I can see that I managed to score an extremely good hit in a gap between two plates, a strike that one might attribute to sheer dumb luck.

I, of course, don't believe in luck.

"You've seen this before?" I ask, alarmed.

"Colbert over there's not quite as far gone as him but I'm just glad I kicked him instead of throwing a punch."

The thing is still trying to move. I stamp on one of its legs and feel both its exoskeleton and something more solid yield; apparently it still has its original human skeleton underneath all that plating. It whines and goes still, breathing heavily.

"What are you?" the pianist asks forcefully.

"Jusht shimple meshenger," the thing answers through rigid jaws. "Shent here on ordersh of great leadersh."

"Well, yes, I know you're a messenger, but a messenger for what?"

I consider breaking something else in case it becomes reticent, but I find I don't need to.

"Kaamosh awaitsh," it snarls. "Shlumbering outshide in cold shpashes between shtarsh and planetsh. Great leadersh shay, day of ending hash arrived, and Mankind hash been found wanting."

The pianist punches it in the chin and it grunts. Blood trickles from its lips and I notice it's bitten its own tongue.

"That's really all I needed to know, but he didn't have to add that bit at the end," the pianist sighs.

"Not going to ask him about the knives, the messages, the haunting business?" I query.

"No, I'll leave that for the next one I find. I'm not naïve enough to try and ask where he came from, either, but at least I know he's no longer working alone."

"Aside from the fact that Colbert's an accomplice, you mean?" I ask.

"Well, yes," he states, tying up the mutant thing with a cord I never saw him take out. "I mean, whoever these Great Leaders are..."

He pauses and I look at him quizzically.


He finishes and takes me off to one side.

"I know I can count on you but I have to stress, this isn't for ordinary ears," he begins, murmuring darkly. "You've seen the notes but I haven't, though having just heard it from the thing's own mouth I have to make sure this doesn't get too far out of hand."

"What's wrong?"

"Well, let me see the note and I'll tell you."

I hand it over and he unfolds it. Behind him the mutant snarls and gnashes his teeth but we ignore him.

"Thought so," the pianist remarks, folding the note back up and pocketing it. If he didn't know exactly what he was doing, I'd have protested by now, but I know better than that.

"Thought so, what?"

The pianist looks at me darkly.

"Looks like my hunch was right after all," he notes. "And it's just about the worst possible outcome there is."

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2009, 01:33:09 PM »
The man awoke with a start and his sword flashed out resting up his throat.

"Listen very carefully Cardinal, My name is Vepres I am here to ask you questions you will answer them or this world will be looking for a new Cardinal, am I making myself clear?"

He swallowed hard looking at the blade for a long while nodding before his righteous indignation boiled over and anger flooded from his lips.

"Do you have any idea who you're threatening, the Emperor will see you burn in the warp for this!"

He pressed the blade closer pushing the cardinals head back into his pillars.

"If you had any idea, now shut up and and answer what I have to ask, you have been receiving notes correct?"

He paled and nodded.

"Ones delivered with a combat knife."

"How do you know about those?"

"Just answer my questions Cardinal."

"Yes, yes of course."

"What was on them?"

"I don't know."

He pulled the blade away an reached forward pulling the man from the bed and tossing him across the room, he was on him in an instant blade igniting in it's cold blue glow.

"What was written on them!"

"I don't know, I can't remember I glanced over them an burned with without a second thought."

"You burned them!"

Again he tossed the Cardinal across the room, he rolled to a stop against a wall panic stricken he held his arms up as he approached sword held threatening.

"I swear I don't know anything, I have my manservant burn them before I read them, I get threats everyday, most are nothing this I though was one of them, I moved here for the time being from my Villa to get away from their arrival. Maybe one of the others have kept them."

He stopped in his tracks and straightened.


"Yes the Governor confided in me apparently he has received similar messages."

"I am aware of the Governor's messages who else?"

"He mentioned that his Nephew Cedric Grigerian and the Arbites precinct had received them, some female commissar was assigned the case."

"Interesting, You've spared your life with that information Cardinal,"

He slowly de-energised his sword and slid it away.

"Remember though Jakob Sevryn I'll be watching you, watching you very closely from now on."

His voice hung in the air as he vanished from sight before the Cardinal who sat sweating on the floor where he'd been thrown.

Vepres reappeared beyond the cathedral high up on one of the buildings roofs, he turned looking over his shoulder then lifted a hand up to his rebreather keying the inbuilt vox link.

"Aduro, I have need of you."

He waited for a long than usual before she answered.

"I'm on my way."

"What took you so long?"

"I was meditating."

"Just get her as quickly as you can."


He smiled as he walked to the edge of the roof swinging his legs over the lip before folding them under himself, resting his hands on his knees he closed his eyes taking a deep breath, that last jump had been hard work he needed to clear his mind.

We're alone, outside the Grigerian residence. I've given Cedric a slip of paper with a code on it, and told him to hit the panic button and quote it to the Arbites if he's still receiving notes after a week.

If nothing else it frees me up for a few days to continue somewhere else.

"So what's got you so worked up, then?" I ask the pianist.

"Kaamos," he replies. "It's how I know there's a lot of them, and that they're well-organised. Kaamos isn't just something anybody knows about, you'd have to be extremely well-travelled to have heard of it."

Silently I wonder exactly how well-travelled, but the pianist answers my question for me.

"Alice, have you ever heard of the Calixis Sector?" he inquires. We start walking away from the estate, not too quickly but not exactly at a sedate pace either.

I'm rather relieved that we're finally back into the realm of first names.

"Come on, Friedrich, you know I haven't," I laugh. "Why would I?"

"I'm just wondering is all. But like I said, I've not read the notes, but I've spoken to people who have."

"The mutants?" I ask dubiously.

"No," Friedrich retorts almost too quickly, "of course not. I mean the Arbites."

"I doubt the Arbites would know anything."

"You'd be right, seeing as they had to send me to somebody else. A scholar, they said, who specialises in occult lore."

"Always one of them," I mutter to myself. "And then they assigned you to me."

"Not quite. This scholar working with the Arbites, they assigned him this case as well. Said he might know something."

"And does he?"

"As a matter of fact, no, I don't."

I jump, startled, as a third voice joins in, and I see a tall, cheerful man in the robes of the Administratum standing next to a tree. His hair appears to be cut the same way as Friedrich's, but I don't say anything. It's a popular style nowadays.

Personally I'm more surprised that this adept of the Administratum even has hair to begin with. Usually they shave them bald and tattoo their scalps. Maybe he's simply never bothered to have it cut again.

"Sorry, was I interrupting anything?" he asks. "What's a lovely Commissar like yourself doing, chatting with an Arbites-sanctioned bounty hunter?"

"Just taking a stroll," Friedrich answers nonchalantly. "And what are you doing then, Kalle? Stalking us?"

Kalle laughs. "Nothing of the sort, I'm afraid. Do you have any leads?"

"Two positives," Friedrich answers, "the Enforcers are heading over to pick them up now and take them in. Looks like Grigerian's going to need a new butler."

"But what's the Calixis Sector got to do with this?" I ask. "It's a place I never knew existed."

"I'm happy to explain," Kalle responds, looking at me and falling into step beside me as we walk away from the Grigerian grounds. "But preferably not in the open. Friedrich, where did you park?"

"About a mile away just on the other side of the Jarlsbridge. Is that a problem?"

"You drove here?"

"By armoured car," Friedrich confirms. "In a convoy. There was a riot earlier and I was ordered to fall in and blend in. One armoured car on its own looks suspicious. Half a dozen of them, on the other hand, means the Arbites mean business."

It doesn't take us long to reach the Jarlsbridge and cross the River Jarlsvegg. Three armoured cars are waiting at the other end.

"I thought you said half a dozen," I note.

"I did," Friedrich nods. "One's mine, the other two here are on patrol, and the other three went back to the precinct."

We reach the armoured cars and Friedrich gets into one of them. I could be forgiven for thinking it's a Rhino APC, but it's smaller and less boxy. The front has a bonnet like a more conventional ground-car, and there are six fat, heavy tyres lifting the car off the ground; two at the front and four towards the back. On the top is a cupola supporting a pintle-mounted heavy stubber, equipped with a heavy plasteel shield to protect the gunner from shots and thrown objects from within his front arc. The ground-car is black and emblazoned with the insignia of the Adeptus Arbites, a mailed fist clasping a balance. The cup on one side is filled in; the other is represented only in outline.

"So," I ask Kalle once we're seated in the passenger compartment. "What is Kaamos?"

"I had a feeling you'd ask that as soon as you could," he smiles. "Very well. Kaamos is a very unsubtle nod to a legend in the Calixis Sector; Kaamos, or more accurately Komus, is the name of the fabled Tyrant Star, and its mere appearance is enough to throw worlds into a state of turmoil."

I look at him blankly. None of this means a great deal to me.

"Hardly anyone really knows more than hearsay even within the sector itself, so you can imagine that someone's gotten their hands on some forbidden lore," Kalle continues.

"But you know about it," I observe quite rightly.

"I specialise in this sort of thing," Kalle retorts, almost affronted. "I've got Inquisitorial backing and all."

That doesn't surprise me as much as it should, but I do my best to appear rather bewildered by this.

"You're not fooling me, my dear," Kalle grins.

"You got me," I laugh. "A few years ago I assisted an Inquisitor by the name of Yuri Ageryn. He was hunting a Denialist cult that was burning down chapels wherever it went."

"Ah, Inquisitor Ageryn!" Kalle remarks, his eyes lighting up with recognition. "I've heard of him. They say he stopped the Furnace Keeper in this very system, on Kurabata V's primary moon. A pity he's dead now, Emperor bless him. As for myself I've currently got the backing of a lady called Daniella Delgardo. You remind me of her, actually."

"I see. And in what way do I remind you of Inquisitor Daniella Delgardo?" I inquire, genuinely interested.

"It's your eyes. Call me vain, but Delgardo had the most wonderful eyes. Beautiful like diamonds, and she displayed astonishing attention to detail. Now! Kaamos. There are records of a "Spectral Star" appearing all over the Calixis Sector, typically heralded by strife and madness, among other things, and leaving discord in its wake. The Inquisition believes this is none other than the Tyrant Star."

"Why are you telling me all this?" I ask suddenly. "You said yourself this is forbidden lore."

Kalle gives me a withering look. "It does help if you know what you're fighting. And in extremis there are ways to make you forget."

"Are you threatening me, Kalle?"

"Not in the slightest, I'm just saying that if it got out of hand then it's not beyond our power to correct. Truth be told, I'm still in Delgardo's service."

Kalle pulls out an amulet and I take a look at it, recognising the familiar design easily. I smile.

"That certainly makes things easier. And Friedrich?"

"Also with me."

"How convenient."

"He's only on the same level as you. Further down the chain, even, he's never worked for the Inquisition before in his life," Kalle explains. "Back to Kaamos. If this is all in the Calixis Sector, what's it got to do with us, countless thousands of light years distant as we are?"

I pause. Kalle leans forward and looks straight at me.

"Somebody, Alice Fenn, is playing a game with dark forces, and Kurabata is their regicide table," he states, "and our real target's just made the first move."

Dodging left, Marco threw a punch, which managed to connect with Silva's shoulder. Twisting after the attack, he was almost too slow in blocking the right hook that came in return. It was only too late he realised he'd left an opening when her other hand darted through the opening he left. While barely breaking motion, she placed the bionic hand flat on his chest and then pushed firmly, sending him stumbling backwards.

He kept his footing, but it still took him a second to recover, time Silva used to close the gap.
"Now, you're just playing, aren't you?"
"Perhaps I am. Perhaps I'm not."

He ducked under a jab, then countered with a side kick. She twisted away from his foot, stepping sideways to deliver a punch that knocked him to the ground for yet another time.
"You know you're too good for me."
"Then that means you need the practise even more."
"I know. But, regardless of that, I think we need to call it a day. I don't want to have to meet with the nobility of Kurabata aching like I've been trampled by a herd of Jamolic."

Silva held out a hand for Marco to pull himself up. Straightening up, he cracked his neck each side, twisting his head around to try and loosen the muscles.

"So, what is a Jamolic?"
"The singular is actually Jamoli."
He got shot a sharp look for the comment.
"I'm not asking for a grammar lesson."
"Sorry... Well, it's a large Mapian herbivore. Tough grey skin, pretty robustly built, and two horns from their brows. They're not aggressive beasts, but they startle easily. As they weigh about five tonnes, they can kill people that are too close if they're panicked."
"I see. It's a bit like a Herope then."

Marco shrugged as he took off his sparring gloves, throwing them into the box placed outside the sparring circle as he passed it.
"I have absolutely no idea. But it's a bit like a Yerin Fourth Owurpye."
"...aaaand I've never heard of those either. Pan-planetary biology is not my strong point."
"Nor mine. We should really stop using animal related metaphors. We get into this conversation every time anyone tries."

Dumped his sweat drenched shirt over the table in the corner of the room, he reached for a towel, and started mopping off his torso.
"You'd probably get a better challenge out of sparring with Gio. "
"I do occasionally. She's good, and that's the problem."
"Don't like losing?" , he smiled.
"No, I have to start throwing my weight around to keep up with her, which gets me worried I'm about to do her injury. She's not a big girl, Marco."

He nodded in response, reaching for his more formal shirt. It made sense - Gio was good, but it was all through her technique.
Finishing buttoning his shirt, he set his hand on his pistol holster. He extracted the pistol, and checked it was as he had left it. No-one else had entered the room, but Inquisitors don't last long without at least some paranoia. He set the pistol down on the table, and picked up the holster. Strapping it back to his leg, he turned to Silva.
"I take it you'll be down here for a while?"
"I imagine so."
"Well, if you get worn out, feel free to join me in my office. I wouldn't mind your input on some issues."
"Will do."

Marco took up the pistol and pushed it back into its holster, snapping the strap in place to stop it coming loose. Giving Silva a kiss, he disappeared back to his office.
Around an hour and a quarter later, she appeared in his office, and promptly found an oversight in his planning. She was like that.

After a few further hours of brainstorming with Silva, a light snack and trying to make sense of the little information they had, Marco was called to the cockpit by Arden. As the Inquisitor entered, the aging pilot was engrossed by his control systems or instrument panels, and spoke without turning to the Inquisitor.
"Mister Skoll. I've taken the liberty of assuming we shall be taking the Vesuvius to the surface rather than the Ynys Mon, and such I'm taking the final steps in stabilising our orbit."
"That's not a problem. We have absolutely no need for the freighter being planet-side."

The Vesuvius was a much smaller ship than the Ynys Mon, and acted as a drop shuttle to the freighter. It was still large enough to inhabit and live aboard when the situation called for it, but more crucially, it was small enough to able to land at most well equipped landing ports.

Arden threw a couple of overlarge levers, spun what looked suspiciously like it had been liberated from being a steering wheel through about two and a half turns, then hit a button which had just turned blue. He flipped a couple of small switches, then turned around.
"That should be us in a steady orbit, Mister Skoll."
"Good. Jax, can you secure us landing co-ordinates?"
"Sure. Can do, boss."

He turned to the vox systems, and started conversing with ground control as Marco ambled over to the wide window. He staring out at Kurabata Prime, a sphere flecked in colours from the grey of cities, green of vegetation and the soft blue of expanses of water, even a soft streak of the rust red of an iron-rich desert to the South. Or at least what appeared to be south. He didn't know which way up he was relative to the planet's mapping convention, so it might have been north. He made a mental note to check later.

He was snapped out of his daydreaming a moment later by Jax's deep brogue.
"Yes? Did you sort that?"
"That I did. We've got ourselves some landing co-ordinates, and a flight allocation."

Marco nodded. Jax was an efficient worker, and could be relied upon. He was a fair fighter too, having been a bodyguard to Arden for many years. He wasn't the "throw himself in the way of bullets" type, as that was just fiction - in reality, bullets are a bit too fast to intercept. However, he could put up a serious fight. In the last few months, given Arden's tendency to forget his age and attempt the unwise, he had started to take Jax into combat situations instead.

"Fantastic. Chuck me the ship's comm. Time to get the crew together."


After giving the orders, Marco made his own way down to the Ynys Mon's internal hangar. Pulling open the port door to the access corridor way, he felt the chill of the air within pass over him.
Setting off down the corridor, one of the observation windows he passed presented him with a view of the Vesuvius hanging in the cold vacuum. It was too wasteful to bring the entire drop-ship inside a pressurized hold, so when they were in the black, they accessed it via an extending passage that fixed around the ship's main doors.

As he entered the ship, his entourage were already there, loading themselves and no small amount of equipment. He looked around the cargo bay, then turned to address the person nearest to him, a female Arbite festooned with no shortage of kit herself.
"Gio, can you get a space cleared in this area? I'm going to go and get the Garor-Prij, and I need somewhere to park it."
He gestured at a pile of crates. Gio followed the line of his finger, took a second to count up the boxes, drawing lines through the air with her finger as she worked out where she could move the boxes. She was an organised person, and liked to keep things with some arrangement to them.
"Yes, that can be done Inquisitor." Her voice was a little clipped and formal, saying nothing that wasn't necessary for her to do her work.
"That's fantastic, I'll guess I'll be back in about five minutes."

Marco's Garor-Prij was a vehicle designed for serious off-road use. In addition to being able to make it across the most gnarled terrain, due to it a sizeable internal combustion engine it was capable of serious speeds at the same time. Where some Inquisitors had skimmer craft for the same job, Marco's childhood had been amongst much more basic technology, and he preferred to stick with what he knew best.
He had no expectation that he would using it for anything more than the most basic transport, but it did pay to have a vehicle.

Passing into the Ynys Mon's main hold, he angled for the sizeable car, fishing a set of keys from the pocket of his brown trenchcoat. Finding the largest key on the ring, he unlocked the door, climbing in to it's sizeable driving seat. Pushing the key into a space on the dashboard, he twisted it until the engine growled into life. Taking off the parking brake, he put the car into gear and drove it back out of the vast expanse that made up most of the freighter.


It was around an hour later when they started the process of entering Kurabuta's atmosphere. Their drop was relatively slow, because Jax was in charge of the descent, and he was a somewhat less audacious pilot than Arden, although inarguably still highly competent, something he proved when he managed to set down at the landing port without disturbing more than the slightest ripple on the surface of his Itroian coffee.

The Vesuvius' front ramp descended, and a port official came stamping up towards them.
"Name?" , he demanded in a gruff tone.

Marco hefted his old seal from the left inner pocket of his trenchcoat, and held it in front of the man.
"Inquisitor Marco Robert Skoll."

The man achieved an effect somewhat like his brain had tripped over his tongue, and took a second before he continued in a more official and civil tone.
"And what is the purpose of your visit, sir?"
"Business, I'm afraid."
"You here to sort out all this political unrest then?"

Marco deliberately avoided giving the true answer to this - after all, it would do no good to fuel rumour.
"If I can, I will."
"There's all kinds of things going on. Last I heard, there was a rumour going round that it was all part of some heathen cult's work."

Marco's eyes flicked to the badge on the official's shirt, reading the name off it.
"Just between you and me, Mr Adams, I very much hope not."
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 11:52:46 AM by Koval »

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2009, 01:34:04 PM »
Akuse noticed the chronometer on the mantelpiece in his room, unfazed by the time; as he had just read a book for 25 hrs. The inquisitor was not a fast reader, he preferred to enjoy his texts going at a leisurely pace; glancing back at his current page, he finished his current sentence, closing the unnamed codex delicately as if it were to mean a great deal to him. Placing the codex in a large pocket under his jacket, he stood, stretching all his joints in one fluid movement. Pulling the hood over his head and buttoning up his trench coat and jacket, he dusting himself off.

Akuse always made it important to present himself respectfully, waring similar attire everyday, extremely formal and decorous, giving up manoeuvrability and functionality. His appearance was less expressive compared to other inquisitors, a red and white trim trench coat covered his dark red and faded gold trim jacket. With a grey vest and shirt, khaki pants, and a patch of long curly white hair that was exposed at the top of the back of his neck, which was placed under his jacket.

The Inquisitor made his way through the Inn’s foyer nodding to the keeper, who again was the only one present, the keeper giving a nervous nod back. As Akuse made his way to the Grand Cathedral he took note of a group or arbites roaming the streets, he assumed that these rumours may be true as the group took a more tactical stance and movement.

Akuse stood before the Cathedral admiring the intricate art work carved into the main doors. As he entered it seemed odd, as there was more commotion than usual in a cathedral. He made his way to the main hall which was weirdly empty, and was approached by a weary priest, although not noticeable to the normal eye, a trained inquisitor could easily tell he was somewhat shook-up.

“How may the church help you today” the priest responded with more vigour than his stance let on.

“I must say you have a fine church here, however to the point I was hoping to see the Archbishop today on important business.” Akuse responded with a heartily tone.

The priest hesitated for a minute, replying in a slightly shaky voice, “I am afraid to inform you sir that the Archbishop does to not usually see citizens on request, and today in particular he is not to be disturbed.”

“Why today?”

“I afraid I am not able to tell you that, however our church’s high priest will quite willingly see you”

Akuse removed the hood covering his face, his golden mask quite imposing as he leaned in closer to the priest returning, “Unfortunately that will not do. As I can plainly see I am not a citizen, I need to speak with the Archbishop on inquisitorial business.”

The priest was in awe as this figure with a featureless mask of gold leaned in towards his face, speaking of Inquisitorial business, he simply responded “Ahhh… ahh…”

A smile came to Akuse’s face although no-one could notice, he took the priest’s right hand, “Relax, perhaps you can show me your church’s library before I go to speak to the Archbishop?” releasing the priests hand.

The priest felt somewhat in shock, as to why this inquisitor was so calm and courteous, thinking to him self
‘Did an inquisitor just ask me to see the library?’ He regained his normality responding firmly, “Yes, of course, right this way.”

After looking through the library for about half an hour, Akuse had selected thirteen texts with whom he asked if he could take. The books related to the history on Kurabata Prime, the church’s history here and a collected omnibus of various works done by scholars’ and the likes from Kurabata Prime, to name a few.

The priest excitedly responded, “Yes take them, and take what ever you like.”

“Come now, just because I am an inquisitor doesn’t mean you have to act like that.”

The priest calmed down, “Ok, however either way you may take as you like.”

“Thank You dear priest, a member of my staff will arrive here soon to collect the texts. I am now off to see the Archbishop, good-bye.” Akuse shaking the priest’s hand before moving off.

‘Goody-bye ... Thank you?’ The priest thought in amassment.

Akuse arrived at the Archbishop’s room entrance, and knocked, and was responded with, “I am not to be disturbed today!”

“I understand that, however I am here on important business, and must speak with you. If you don’t open the door, I will have to”

“Excuse me! How dare you say that, I will have the arbites called-“

The archbishop was cut off as Akuse shot at the handle with his pistol Miz’ Liz opening the door, “I don’t think that would be appropriate,”

“- in….” looking gawk-eyed.

Closing the doors behind him Akuse addressed the archbishop formally, “Archbishop Jakob Sevryn I am an Inquisitor here to investigate supposed treats against you, I hope you will co-operate.”

“Oh dear,” rubbing his forehead the bishop responded, “I have already had an encounter with someone, regarding those notes, supposedly under inquisitorial business.”

“Notes what notes?”

Raising one eye-brow for a moment, “I and the Governor have been receiving notes put in place by knives recently.”

“I would suppose you would not, have a copy of one of the notes Archbishop?”

“No, I burned them all, however as I told the other inquisitor, perhaps the governor has kept his, or his Nephew Cedric Grigerian or the Arbites precinct, as they too have received such notes.”

“And what’s this about the other person before?”

“I was attacked yesterday by a person claiming to be by the name of Vepres and on inquisitorial business, whom was searching for information about those notes?”

“Hmmm attacked, foul beast. Ok then the Governor it is.” Akuse made his way to the door, “You have a fine church here Jakob, and I hope you plan to keep it that way?”

“Yes, Yes of course.

“Also if that other person comes back you message my ship, I will give the information to that priest you have in the main hall. Also I do apologise for shooting your door lock, but you did not want to open your door.” A small chuckle coming to Akuse.

The Archbishop fell into a chair and let out a breath of air, screwing his eyebrows he thought ‘did he just apologise?’

Jack followed the Inquisitor into a comfortably furnished office, the leader of the squad having announced them before returning to his patrol of the Spaceport with his men.

In truth, Jack could sense that the man just wanted to get away from the pair of them as quickly as possible. It wasn't surprising really. It's rare that an Inquisitor is actually wanted.

The man behind the desk was already eyeing the raised symbol on the Inquisitor's breastplate. Personally Jack wasn't so sure that walking around with a target on one's chest is the best of ideas, but for the Inquisitor, it seemed to work well enough.

"What can I do for you... Inquisitor..?"

The officer seemed a little pale. Jack supposed they didn't get many Imperial officials of the style of the Inquisitor on this planet.

*Inquisitor will do fine. I'm here for information. Which you will provide me."

"Of course Inquisitor."

The reply seemed almost a little too fast. Were all PDF troopers this nervous around officials? Or was it just the Inquisition in particular that caused it?

To be honest, Jack already knew the answer to that, as he had been through similar scenes many times before. On the other hand he had also been through some interviews where the interviewee wasn't quite so intimidated. Or intimidated at all. Some had been so comfortable that they thought they could use bullets as a conversation method. The fact that Jack and the Inquisitor were still breathing (or in the Inquisitor's case, assumed to be breathing) spoke volumes about how well that actually worked.

*It has come to my attention that the local political standings are somewhat precarious. Further, I will also note that instead of law enforcement patrolling the spaceport, there are groups of your PDF troopers performing checks on the various landings and such. Explain.*

Blunt and to the point. In cases like this one it usually worked. Similarly here.

"My troopers have been requested to provide manpower for this spaceport due to the planetary law enforcement being overworked and undermanned. Merely extra warm bodies to fill the roles required. Nothing more Inquisitor."

Jack nodded imperceptibly, letting the Inquisitor know that the man was speaking the truth. As far as he could tell. It was possible that memory engrams had been placed into this man's brain to cover such information. Alternately, perhaps the man was a capable dissembler and was merely play acting. Possibly Jack's senses weren't digging far enough, although actively trying to sense the man's thoughts would alert nearby psykers, which Jack was trying to avoid still. Of course, the final possibility was that the man actually was speaking the truth. He certainly seemed intimidated enough to do so, based on his body language and so on.

*You have not answered my first question.*

He was evasive now.

"Nothing serious Inquisitor."

Jack's lack of a nod was enough.

*The truth soldier!*

Even through the vox-speaker the Inquisitor's voice was sharp.

"There have been... murmurings Inquisitor. Some citizens are not entirely comfortable with the recent change in governor."

This had been known already, but at least the man was admitting it.

"Anything else?" Jack asked, his first comment.

"Well there have been rumours...?"

"You may call me Interrogator Jack Jomar."

"Very well Interrogator. The rumour I have recieved are such that apparently higher ups, including the arbites, the arch bishop, and the governor have all recieved messages. Messages stuck to their walls with knives, sir."

"What sort of messages?"

"I don't know, sir, honestly I don't. But sir, there's one thing worrying me."

*What's that?*

The Inquisitor's blunt voice drove the question home rather well, Jack thought.

"Many PDF soldiers are missing their combat knives."

Marco liked to work with people rather than against them, so he spent a while filling out the port official's form rather than insisting it was waived. Passing back the clip board, the gentleman read down it. Reaching the bottom, he commented on the final point.
"You'll be staying on your vessel?"
"That's our normal procedure. We maintain equipment aboard the vessel that would be unnecessarily time consuming to move into rented accommodation."

Marco gestured at the numerous boxes strewn around the hold as he said this. Although deliberately marked in ways that their contents were not obvious, the number of them spoke for itself.
"I see sir."
"Is that all you need of us?"
"Yes sir, I have no further need of your time."

The official, although no longer as unnerved as earlier, still had little desire to hang around when he wasn't required to, so he made his exit reasonably promptly.
Marco turned his head upwards as Silva called down from one of the walkways that criss-crossed above the cargo hold.
"So, are we ready to go call on the Arbites then?"
"We should be, if Gio's ready"

They had agreed earlier that it was probably simplest to consult with the Arbites first. Aside from the fact that the other parties were likely to have contacted the courthouses, Marco was also looking for information about Governor Tarabangian's assassination, which the Arbites should have collated. Gio was a natural choice to accompany them, given her former role as one of their number - although not on this particular planet, of course. Just as Marco turned to look for her, she appeared out of the ground level door, equipped and ready.
"I'm ready. I wouldn't have you delayed on my behalf, Inquisitor."
"Then that sounds like our cue to exit."

The ex-Guardswoman began to descend the stairs, with the dull sounds of her boot contrasting with the higher sharper sound of her unshod bionic foot as each stepped across the metal of the walkways. Turning away to look at one of the larger crates, Marco punched in the code for its key pad.

It was locked for good reason. Marco stepped back slightly as the box unfolded like a vast metal flower, exposing a swathe of weapons hidden within its innards. He reached for the pump action shotgun towards the back left, fished a box of shells out of the base of the crate, then hit the close button, watching it all fold back together into one solid cube again.
As he passed the open door of the Garor-Prij he handed the shotgun to Silva, who was busy strapping herself into the passenger seat. She was an able driver, but although she didn't have a lead foot, she did have an alloy one to make up for it, so generally, Marco tended to prefer to drive himself.
Getting into the front, he did up the harness and started the engine, the snarl of the power it could generate quickly calming to a much more modest grumbling.

The trip to the court house was reasonably prompt, and their entrance, aside from a slightly lengthy scan of Marco's seal to confirm his identity, was similarly unhindered.
The group were assigned a relatively new recruit as a guide - numbers were so short, that anyone with experience was tied up with more serious work.
Marco wasn't overly bothered. Although he would want to speak with a higher up later on, for now, he was perfectly happy to just spend a while in the archive. For one thing, it meant that he would be better informed when he did.

They had been in there a while when Gio spoke up, pulling a grey folder out of a filing drawer.
"Is this something we need, Inquisitor?"
Marco looked up at her. "Pass it here, I'll take a look."

She put the folder on the table, and pushed it across towards where Marco was sat.
He glanced at the cover, then flipped it open, somewhat surprised by the near-lack of contents. Although identified as information on Tarabangian's assassination, the information that should have been within the file was largely not there.
"Surely this isn't right."

Gio turned back to him, then glanced at the open file on the table.
"What do you mean, sir?"
"This is nearly empty. Look, take this set of records. Fight between two patrons at a bar last week."

He pulled the other folder towards him and flipped it open, exposing a wad of papers that dwarfed those of the first folder.
"A relatively minor event. It has perhaps three times the paperwork in it as the assassination."
Gio stepped forwards to look more closely. "If I might take a look, sir?"
"Of course."

Marco nudged the folder back across the table, where the ex-Arbite took it up, and flipped through the few sheets that were in there, her brown eyes narrowing slightly as she surveyed it. "You're quite right, sir. Several official forms are missing, as well as the coroner's autopsy and scene reports. This is grossly incomplete."

Moving back through the few pages that were in there, she paused on each one checking the code printed in the corner, then went on to the next, repeating until she reached the front page, which she read briefly, then took it out and slid across the table.
"But what strikes me most is that the index sheet has the missing items marked as done to official regulations. That means that this file was complete at some point."

Looking down the sheet in front of him, Marco could see she was right. There was more was marked as present in the file than was actually still in there. There were many reasons why this could be, but there was one that seemed far more likely.

"So someone has tampered with the file?", he said, half stating it, half asking it.
"Perhaps sir. I suppose it's possible that someone may have disregarded official protocol and taken just parts of the file that they needed to refer to rather than the whole."
"If I were to ask for your opinion on whether this is malice or accident, what would you say?"
"I would guess at the former. There are items still in here that would be needed for most official purposes. As it is, this file has been split in two. Each half would be essentially useless for any work the Arbites might need it for."
"Well, given what it's missing, that makes it useless to us as well. No reports and no autopsy, so we've got nothing to work on. Other courthouses should have copies of such important records, so it looks like we've got another call to make today. It probably would be wise talk to the coroner as well..."

He glanced at the signatures on the sheet he held to find the name. "... Dr J Lenkins."
Spending a second copying down the coroner's name and details into a notepad, he then folded the pad back into his pocket and started to reassemble what parts of the file were still available.
"And of course, what we definitely need to do is identify who it was that took this file apart."
"Obviously sir."

At this moment, Silva came back with another file, which she set heavily on the table. It's title identified it as the details of the arson at another courthouse.
"Accelerants.", she stated.
Marco took up the response, knowing what Silva meant immediately, "Fire accelerants. Common in arson attacks. They'd be needed in a building like this - it's all stone and metal, and not a lot of fuel."
Cutting in as he finished, Silva pressed on, "And that's what struck me. It's an Arbites courthouse with people passing through it every hour of every day. How do you lace an entire large and busy building with accelerants without a single person noticing?"

Marco paused for a second. She had a very real point, but his train of thought was interrupted as Gio leant forwards on to the table, looking across at Silva.
"You're assuming the attack was done by mundane means."
Marco groaned, then asked a question he wasn't sure if he wanted answered. "You think we've got a pyromancer on the loose?"
Her eyes flitted round towards him instead. "It's a possibility, sir. It's one of the most common forms of aethyric ability, so it wouldn't be beyond probable likelihood that one is involved somewhere. They may not be our main antagonists in this, but if you were orchestrating something like this, it wouldn't be particularly hard to convince one to join you."

She was worth listening to on the matter, as she had been the second in command of an Arbites anti-psyker strike team before Marco had hired her - she had studied them at such a length that it was part of why he had asked her to accompany him.
"I'm not particularly liking the size you're implying the problem to be."
"Like it or not sir, this is far too big to be the work of just a few people."

She tossed a file across the table, open to a report on thefts within the PDF. She continued speaking as Marco looked down it.
"A full tenth of the PDF's combat knives have been stolen, the same knives being used to deliver the messages. No-one working alone would have been able to steal many thousands of knives."
"So what you're saying is this is going to be a right nightmare."
"Like that's a surprise." came a sarcastic response from Silva. "When has it ever gone smoothly?"

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2009, 01:34:50 PM »

Darkness and nobody cares.

The sun's turned black, a corona of magenta light playing around its edges but its main body discoloured and shrouding the world in shadow.

I'm standing in the old Arbites court house, in Court Room B where cousin Lucinda perished.

I was there.

Saw it all.

And now the sky itself is looking down on me.

The stars are looking down like they always do, peering through the clouds that hide them. They're keeping themselves tucked away and yet, at the same time, they're staring at me, ten thousand pinpricks of radiance glaring down at me. The new moon cowers but I can see a tiny sliver of light at its edge, the reflection from a grim sun that burns black with its shining magenta halo, its judgmental glare shining through the clouds and the falling ash. I shield my eyes. I cannot meet its gaze.

But what right does it have to judge me?

I hear a voice.

Your voice.

And yours.

And yours, too.

A host of hundreds, all risen up to relive their last moments.

Dead souls, burnt and scattered, falling from the sky all around me, surrounding me.

To the observer it appears to be snowing, but now I can see the dead flying out of the black sun, flooding back into the world.

But it's the world of a dreamer.

Nothing more.

And yet through the gloom and the haze of the dead, all basking in the hellish glow of the black sun, I can see a familiar face.

One who, like me, is still part of the world of the living.

But at the same time it seems like he's also a ghost.

A ghost trapped in time.

And sentencing him to death is another ghost, also trapped in time.

And there's nothing to save him this time.

His ghost is dragged away, screaming, and I follow it out of Court Room B, through the corridor to the execution grounds at the back.

I freeze on the threshold and watch as the second frozen ghost walks up beside me.

She gives the order to fire and ten shadows send the condemned screaming into the darkness.

She looks at me and I look back at her.

She used to be me, trying ever so hard to adapt to me, but she ultimately failed, though not for want of trying.

She died here on that day.

She is my shadow no longer.

Behind me stands my compatriot in the land of the dead, the familiar face dragged here from the world of the living.

He's staring at me, accusingly.

His eyes are burning black like the sun overhead, still bathing the world in its diabolic half-light.

"It would have been a kindness."

His voice, joined by the host of dead souls, resonates in my mind and I stumble and fall, landing in the execution grounds.

"So many souls consigned to oblivion in one terrifying act."

"It was justice!" I shout back.

But I'm not aware of saying anything.

It's the ghost of me standing defiantly in the doorway.

"Heresy begets retribution, and condemning an innocent man is heresy enough!"

Inside, I sigh and shake a phantom head.

Lucinda Alice Fenn, that's not you at all.

"We suffer! We have suffered! We shall always suffer! By your hand!"

Lucinda pulls out a phantom gun from a phantom holster and opens fire. One of the ghosts spirals inwards as it is shot, condensing into a tiny speck of light that fades to nothingness.

"Kaamos awaits!"

I falter. Did I really just hear that?

"It waits for you, craving your soul and the very spark of your existence!"

Palpable waves of darkness fall down around me, at first like wisps of smoke but soon falling thicker, and I look up to see the black sun beating like a diseased heart.

"Beyond the realm of Death itself, Kaamos awakens and casts its light across all worlds! It shines out from the spaces between the stars and the planets, raising a beacon between realities! The black sun rises!"

I freeze.

They're reading back a part of the note to me; not a mere message, but a prophetic vision of...

What is it?

I can't think.

Thoughts come into my mind but refuse to go any further. Words to describe them just don't come.

And they are still flooding in as the message continues. I can no longer hear the words, only the images they describe, and they refuse to gain meaning.

They're beginning to burst out and I can no longer contain the pressure.

With a scream I lose my grip and fall into the darkness.


"Bloody hell, Alice, a scream like that could bring back Governer Tarabangian from his grave," Kalle remarks.

We're still in the back of the armoured car, abandoned somewhere on the city outskirts, and both Kalle and Friedrich had elected to spend the night away from civilisation to plan our next stage of the investigation.

That, apparently, hadn't gone too well.

Despite the thermoblanket over me, I'm absolutely freezing. I can't feel my feet, and my hands feel like icicles.

"How are you awake?" I ask Kalle dimly.

"I don't think he ever sleeps," Friedrich grumbles from the driver's seat, somewhat groggy. Apparently he's also just been woken up. "Typical, you can't even stay on the job for three days without getting nightmares about it."

I seize up, feeling a sudden twinge in my shoulder as I realise just how bloody sore it is. I blame the fact that I've been sleeping on the floor of an armoured car.

"Nightmares?" Kalle asks, a sort of dark curiosity in his voice. "Now that's interesting. Go on."

"There was a black sun," Friedrich begins. "I was standing in the ruins of a court house. They--"

"Wait," I order, sitting upright. "Was it a trial?"

"How'd you--"

"Just answer her question," Kalle tells him calmly.

Friedrich swallows audibly before continuing. I think he's swigging from a water canteen, his voice sounded dry and cracked just a second ago.

"It was an arson trial," he states at last. "There was a ghost there standing trial. The judge, the jury, the audience, all ghosts too, and all baying for my blood. No. No!"

"Yours?" I ask dubiously.

"The ghost standing trial... this is what terrified me most, he was my double. My ghost, if you will, my own likeness standing in the dock being sentenced to death. Sentenced by your own likeness."

I pause.

"And then they dragged you outside and shot you?" I ask.

"After that the rest just became a blur of white noise and near-blindness. Do you remember any more?"

"More than I'd like," I remark, not entirely thrilled by what this means.

"Let's go back to the beginning for a second," Kalle suggests, "because it's really quite interesting with all this talk of Kaamos that you two were both in a shared dream. A dream with a black sun, and the ghosts of the dead."

A sudden chill grips me; that, or I'm suddenly becoming aware of just how cold the car is.

"Begin," Kalle prompts me.

Marco gestured at Silva for the arson folder, which was considerably better filled than the assassination report. Flipping it open as he got it, he read parts of the first page, then looked up again.
"Have you read this yet?"
"No, I'd only just found it. I'll assume that everything I just said is rendered useless."
"More or less. Firstly, it seems like we're in luck on the pyromancer front. This alludes to incendiary explosives."
"Well, I'd call that a bombing, not arson."
"I know you would, dear. Now, if you'll give me a moment, I need to read this."

The report was fairly in-depth, so Marco sent the girls off to try and find out what had happened with the assassination report to give him some time to work.

The attacked courthouse was rather smaller than the one they currently inhabited, partly because it was one of many in the area of the city which it had served. However, in spite of its small size, casualties stretched into the hundreds, partly due to the fact that a trial had been in session in the second of the courthouse's three court rooms. The investigation following the event seemed to imply the same courtroom had also been the epicentre of the fire, although dozens of remotely triggered incendiary devices had also been scattered throughout the offices, storage rooms, and armoury.

Unfortunately, the information on the source of the fire wasn't entirely solid, as the recording devices present in the courtroom had been damaged as a result of the flames, and no pict-captures remained.

He turned to the eyewitness statements.
They mostly said the same thing as each other, just in different words. More than one of the accounts referred to the possibility of an Inquisitor having been present, although infuriatingly, there was no name given. Another part of the report referenced this, then dismissed the possibility as the words of a fantasist.
Marco wasn't quite so quick to dismiss it, but with no real name, trying to verify it would be like trying to catch smoke.

There was no mention of the Inquisitor amongst the list of the dead, although the other names were lining up to be read, notable only because they had lost their owners.
The list was little but a morbid aftertaste of the lives the people had once had - Judge Lucinda Alice Fenn; Arbitrator Anthony McShafry; Proctor Robert Whalen; the accused, Eugene Edmundson, ironically on trial for arson; seemingly the entire jury and witnesses to the case; many dozens of other Arbites and civilians too.

Marco reached for his notepad again, and made several notes. In light of the Governor's assassination, it was feasible that the arson, rather than being intended as a terror attack, was intended to kill one of the people in the courthouse. The obvious choice was the Inquisitor, but it was also too early to rule out the Judge or defendant. If nothing else, a full name was easier to research than a stray letter.

Alternately, the Inquisitor mused, rather than the arson being a well disguised assassination, both events might have been to cause panic. He then chided himself for assuming the two linked, but didn't outright dismiss the possibility.

He stood up and headed for another section of the archives, looking for information on the judge and defendant. The defendant's file, although brief, was fairly easily found. Other than the arson attack against the Cathedral of Saint Drusus, his record spoke of nothing more than you might expect of a petty criminal. Nothing that anyone but the most insane of people would have bombed the courthouse to rid the galaxy of.

Judge Fenn's file seemed to defy any and all attempts to find it. It should have sat between Judges Felton and Fessar, but it plainly wasn't there.
"Great. More tampered files.", Marco muttered, then he went in search of the Index log.

However, that too failed to turn up any reference to Judge Fenn either. He scrutinised the page with the Fe- names closely. It all appeared to be in the same handwriting as the page before. If there was a mystery file editor, they were evidently an calligraphic artisan - which begged the question of why they had done such a crude job on the assassination file.

Familiar footsteps caused him to look up, and sure enough, a moment later, Silva came around the end of the row of shelves. She didn't even have to speak for Marco to know why she was back.
"No luck on the missing files then."

She shook her head, her auburn hair flicking around as she did so. Marco nodded in return.
"Don't worry about it. We'll be able to find them somewhere."
"I'm not worried we don't have them. What worries me is why they're gone."
"These things usually reveal themselves eventually."
"Right. I'm sure that will work as a plan."

Marco looked up at her, but before he had a chance to respond to her sarcasm, she suddenly jerked her head to look sideways.
"Who else is in here?"
"No one."
"Then whose smell is that?"

Marco sniffed, but couldn't smell anything. He was hardly surprised that he couldn't, but less so that Silva could. Her nose had been replaced with a more efficient bionic sense when she had been injured, so she could identify things he couldn't.
Instead, he paused to listen, but aside from the breathing of the pair and some insect buzzing around above, there was nothing.
"I can't hear anything."
"That's what worries me. If I could hear them, I wouldn't give it a second thought, but I can't."
"Perhaps it was someone who was in here earlier?"
"It's far too strong for that - it's not a lingering scent. They're in here now."


Akuse woke up with the bang of his forehead striking the tomb on his desk; he was reading the new texts he received from the church. Particularly interested in the Church’s history on the planet, he had nearly finished the enormous tomb after two days of reading. There was no chronometer in the Grand Library so Akuse drew Miz’ Liz out with his right hand and looked at the ivory grip to the small in-built chronometer, it read eleven o’clock at night local time. Believing it to be a good time to visit the Governor he made his way through the vessel to the exit docks. On his way there, there was few staff even by Akuse’s standards, only really noticing his ship’s Keeper of the Peace and Chief Physician, a requisitioned Death Korps of Krieg quartermaster who was trained at Akuse’s expense to his inquisitorial needs. Although on good relations he had little to do with him outside of ship related issues.

As Akuse reached the city, again he noticed the increased arbite presence, although now more intrigued than suspicious, he knew it was directly related to the threat he was investigating. He approached the arbites as a citizen, to see there reaction, they immediately hustled he away, spouting this and that, nothing of value.

Stoping by his Inn, he was somewhat shocked to see it being the victim of a robbery, as there was such a strong arbite presence. The keeper was already wounded and laid strew across the lobby. Akuse with out hesitation drew his pistol and knee-capped the ringleader, quickly drawing the other three’s attention. They assumed he was a vigilante as he was not in any lawful uniform, attempting to somewhat talk there way out of a full blow gun fight, Akuse ignored them, and popped another two in the head before having to reload again. The final bandit knew as that happened he was not going to fair well and started fire on Akuse, though most shots were simply stoped by his armour one round hit his face, making a sharp pinging sound, a slight grimace came to Akuse’s face before he shot the last idiot, removing his face.

He did not feel like questioning the knee-capped bandit and simply shot him in the head as he pleaded for this and that. Very unlike Akuse his choice of actions were, however Akuse has started to realise that the methods and ideals taught be Vestarvus demand vast amounts of patience and diligence, and are proving to never seem to be the best course of action.

Akuse bent down to pick up the keeper, he was breathing, but would bleed out or go into shock if not attended to soon. Putting the old man over his shoulder he slugged him across the city back to his ship. Laying the man out in the docking bay, Akuse himself was exhausted. His chief physician was immediately called upon to treat the man.

“Don’t you dare let him pass” Akuse ordered.

Making his way back to the Library, he collapsed in his chair, placing his forehead in-between his thumb and fingers, he closed his eyes, and a smile of ease came to his face.

Tomorrow he told himself he will see the Governor.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2012, 05:45:17 PM by Koval »

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2009, 01:35:54 PM »
"Well, that's all very interesting," Kalle sighs as he sits back down, apparently not quite addressing anybody, but still almost expecting myself and Friedrich to have something to say.

The back door of the armoured car is wide open and light is streaming through from outside. I check my chronometer and notice with alarm that it's just coming up to midday.

"What is?" I ask groggily as I sit up slowly. Something clunks in my shoulder and I wince, but the pain subsides as soon as it had appeared.

"I went over to check on the Governer," Kalle tells me. "Seems he's been booked in for a televised speech. Don't mind the door, by the way, I figured I'd let some fresh air in."

"I doubt anyone's going to be turning on their televisors to watch the Governer make a few half-hearted assurances. And that's all that's keeping us from our investigation?"

"Could say that, but it's not entirely accurate. You see, after he's made that speech he's supposed to be meeting a rather special VIP from offworld."

I look at Kalle rather dubiously, pulling off the thermo blanket and getting up.

"That's not exactly something I'd expected to hear from an erudite scholar like yourself," I remark, shuffling over to where I'd left my boots.

"I'm quoting the dross hound who decided it was great fun to fob me off despite my Arbites papers. I doubt he'll be troubling anybody else in the near future."

"A fight?"

"Not unless there was one between him and his supervisor after I'd left the building."

"I see. And any idea who this supposed VIP might be?"

Kalle shrugs. "Someone called Akuse, if I remember rightly. Apparently he'd booked himself a meeting with Grigerian not ten minutes before I'd arrived."

"An offworld dignitary who comes to have a meeting with the Governer," I summarise, "and gets one arranged almost instantly... Kalle, I don't suppose this Akuse fellow might be an Inquisitor?"

I half-expect Kalle to either freeze up or look at me like I'm totally stupid; predictably, however, he does neither, instead fiddling with something around his collar. I take a closer look and see that he's crushed a tiny insect.

"Bleedin' things," he grumbles. "Well, I suppose it's possible that Akuse is an Inquisitor, or at least working for one, if he's managed to get himself an audience so swiftly. The moron working behind the reception desk seemed quite certain he wouldn't be seeing anyone else for a few days, even after I'd brought up the investigation."

I suddenly notice there's only two of us in the car.

"Where's Friedrich?" I ask.

"That... is a good question, my only assumption is that he's been a bit delayed reporting back to the Arbites."

"He walked there? When we have an armoured car?"

"You were still asleep," Kalle reminds me, "and there's a court house only three miles from here that can get him in touch with Old Lowbrow. If nothing else it means we don't have to go through that massive snarl-up around Sigilite Square."

"Old Lowbrow?"

"Arbitrator Wallace Gutterell, they're calling him that because--"

"I get the picture," I interject, the connection forming swiftly. "Mind in the gutter, I know."


I pause momentarily.

"Hold on. If we're risking the chances of one Inquisitor being here, why not more?"

"Why not indeed?" Kalle points out. "Nova Calcaria's a big enough city. Seat of the government. Planetary capital. Epicentre of all the social and political tension. And now the messages."

"In that case--"

"Good morning, slug-a-bed," a cheery voice interrupts, and Friedrich climbs through into the back of the armoured car.

"That's Commissar to you," I remind him. By way of response he tosses me a paper package marked with blue and white stripes, before handing a second one to Kalle.

The contents are hot and I almost drop the package. Opening it swiftly I see the reason for Friedrich's delay.

"Lunch?" I ask, gazing at a battered grox saveloy that appears to be sitting in a nest of what I take to be bean fritters.

"More like breakfast," Friedrich answers blankly, popping something golden and thumb-sized into his mouth. "All got the same, I'm afraid. I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

"How'd the Arbites react to your report?" Kalle inquires. He takes a bite of his saveloy, instantly taking another while chewing the first. I'm grateful he's looking at Friedrich and not me, although Friedrich is quite clearly the messier eater of the two of them.

This meal actually tastes better than it looks.

"Old Lowbrow wasn't surprised when I told him about that... thing we found. He said he's had to take another one of those boney bastards into custody."


Friedrich swallows a mouthful of fritter. "Strange thing was, it was absolutely nowhere near any of the crime scenes. It seemed to have been rooting through scrap yards."

"I'm surprised it wasn't picked up by the reclamators," I note, chewing on the heavily seasoned saveloy.

"You'd think so," Friedrich admitted, "but apparently this one was really careful too, like the one last night. Lowbrow said something else too, which I think both of you are really going to want to hear."

"Well?" Kalle prompts, almost immediately, even though he's more engaged in devouring the end of his saveloy.

"He's got Inquisition personnel on-site at the central court house."

This doesn't surprise me one bit, but Kalle almost drops the rest of his bean fritters in what I think is surprise.

"Well, Commissar, you've got a good head on your shoulders after all," he mutters in my direction, before turning back to Friedrich. "Did Gutterell say anything about them?"

"Well, they apparently had to assign them a new guy rather than risk dragging Gutterell away from his porno slates or whatever it is that's more important than real work, but I've got one name at the very least."

"Whose is it?"

"The Inquisitor, his name's something like Skoll," Friedrich answers, wolfing down the remains of his saveloy. "Funny old lot, the Inquisition, but do you think we should make the central court house our next point of call?"

An invisible lead weight jerks sharply on an imaginary chain in my stomach.

"Seeing as the Governer's already being seen and the Cardinal's probably busy with Ecclesiarchal matters, I don't see any reason why not," I respond. "The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the better."

Jack followed the Inquisitor towards a groundcar that they'd requisitioned from the officer.
By local standards it was a choice piece of machinery, but it wasn't exceptional.

The driver had been ordered to take them to the regional quartermaster's office, where they would begin checking records to see where the knives were produced, where they were sent, how, and so on.
The idea was to check on every single intermediary, and see whether there were breaks in the cain there. If not, the next stop was to check with the nearest barracks, ad put the fear of the Emperor into the officer in command, whatever his rank might be.

The driver didn't seem to notice or care that he had members of the Inqisition in his car as he drove off.
Of course some people really don't care, are good actors, or are just plain foolish. Sometimes a combination of all three.
As Jack leaned forwards to ask something of the man, he realised it was actually a servitor, hard-wired into the controls, and unable to speak. It didn't even have a vox unit.

Internally he shrugged and sat back, watching the scenery roll by.
There was the sound of a gunfight somewhere in the distance, but it stopped shortly after it started and Jack assumed the local law enforcement must have been doing something right.

The Inquisitor was as mysterious as ever behind the helmet.

Jack sighed internally. It seemed the Inquisitor felt that silence was a good idea. Probably true, but Jack had wanted to talk, maybe bounce some ideas around.
He shrugged mentally, and returned to watching the city as the groundcar drove on towards their destination.


It was dark, the streets were empty. The area was dimly lit by the escaping light of glowstrips from nearby windows casting a eerie luminescence to everything, changing the few groups of PDF peacekeepers into strange ghosts from wars long ago still on patrol. Staring out from his window, Lucius admired the capital of Kurabata Prime, it was old and classical but the late governor had brought new life in the forms of culture and off-world traders. The surging bustle of the markets was something he had particurarily enjoyed walking through.

It was a far cry from his own home-world with the spewing industrial flues, toxin sumps and metalyards. There literally was no comparison, this world was a haven. He had been to many a similar world with Malekeith but it wasn't the same. There had been no time to stop for even for a second, Malekeith had been tireless, he had never stopped for anything. Ironic that that the trait he admired would be the one that haunted him.

But somewhere on this world lay the possible key to his salvation, somewhere hiding was ...

"and how do you plan on finding him?" interrupted Ezekiel. Lucius stared at Ezekiel and cold dead eyes stared back. It was worrying, either Ezekiel was breaking through the null collar (impossible?) or he was falling into such a pattern that he was easy to predict. Ezekiel smirked a little but it quickly faded. Lucius ignored him and turned back to the window.

"There are two ways to locate someone, either you find them or make them find you, fortunately i have made contact with a liaison who claims to know or know of some information about the one we are looking for. There is plenty of unrest at the moment so we best be careful but if we are lucky it could provide some cover for us to move around unnoticed."

"Fine, when are we meeting this 'liason'?"

"Tomorrow afternoon"

The next day at around miday, Lucius and Ezekiel were nearing the contact point that Lucius had agreed with the Liason. There had been a number of dis-quietening events during the day, robberies and shootings, talks of riots and assassinations, things were getting worse by the day. Never-the-less the city was still vibrant and bustling even if punctuated with the occasional complaint. In the main forum in front of the Govenor's offices, many a political group had formed to garner both News and new recruits to the cause. Passing through the forum, they entered the market place.

Lucius and Ezekiel had adopted the garb of the adamantium miners from one of the neighbouring desert planets. It was common for them to come in to Kurabata prime to trade the occasional gemstones they found in the rocks with the artisans, so he wouldn't be noticed too much. They favoured wide-brimmed hats and flowing ponchos that protected the body from the bite of the sand-bearing desert winds but did well to obscure their appearance and figures.

Passing easily through the crowds they arrived at the meeting point of a tree next to a large shop selling jewellery to the upper classes. Coming out of the shop to meet them came a small rather rumpled scribe. He was holding a data slate, presumably with pictures and descriptions.

When they got close enough after checking several times with the data slate, he spoke.

"eh...Hello?" he asked nervously.
"Hello, I am Mr Grey and this is my associate Mr White"
"ah...yes we have been expecting you sirs, please come right this way"
The scribe indicated the door to his left which he rapped his knuckles on five times. It swung open with an automated hiss.
"Please go in the master is expecting you."
Lucius and Ezekiel stepped through the doorway.


Marco nodded at Silva. The two shared an undeniable trust due to their bond - if Silva was worried about it, then it needed attention.

"Okay, we'll look around."

Standing up, he didn't need to tell her which way to start looking - she knew it without words, and took the right, while he took the left. Drawing his pistol as he went, he disengaged the safety - no sense in having it anything less than ready to fire, even if it turned out they were just stalking a very quiet arbitrator.

Looking around the end of the aisle, he peered both ways, then took the left. He casting around with the spatial awareness his telekinetic power gave him. Few people realised it, but telekinesis required a sense for one's surroundings, at least slightly, much like an ordinary person knows where his arm is without looking, a telekinetic can do much the same with nearby objects. Someone with enough skill can focus more widely, and feel all the mass in their immediate area - as long as they can keep focused. It was hard for someone with even Marco's level of innate control to keep their concentration simultaneously on everything within the region, and grey areas flashed around his awareness.

He could feel the presence of no more than paperwork and the metal shelving for a couple of dozen yards in any direction, and that was no threat. He shrunk his mental scanning range to a much tighter circle - focusing that widely meant he was unable to spare any concentration for anything else. Even now, he was seriously pressing his limits of attention. In spite of his failure to detect anything, there was no reason to be lax though. Things could escape his spatial awareness.

Passing along an aisle at a time, and peering past the files across the shelves, he could see nothing. Knowing that Silva had found nothing either both through instinct and her failure to vox him, he pressed on, only to be have his eye caught by a file, marked Fenn. Looking more closely, he groaned inwardly - it was a perpetrator's file, not the judge's.

At the end of the aisle, buzzing insects swarmed around a glow bulb in the room, catching Marco's attention for a brief moment. While telepaths could be distracted by people's flitting thoughts or emotions, it was possible for his mass awareness to be distracted by intricate or wild movements. The time he'd tried using it near a Techpriest's entirely mechanical cogitator, the vague auditory equivalent would have been walking into a packed hall where everyone was holding conversations at volume eleven. The mind tried to make sense of every word it heard, but couldn't keep track of them all.

He was snapped out of it by a much larger and sudden stab of awareness which broke his focus entirely. He swung his pistol round to the side, bringing it to bear on a cowled figure which had evidently not expected him to be there. Before he had time to decide who the hell it was, it bolted back along the aisle it had appeared from.

Marco immediately made chase, crashing along the flooring after it. He shouted into his vox as he ran.

"Silva! Escaping bugger at aisle..."
His eyes caught a passing sign.
"... aisle R 61! Try and keep it alive."

If it was dead, he'd just get a corpse. He might find out who or what, but not why. Catching another glimpse, he turned after it. Following the glances, he could hear Silva's run approaching, and as he rounded the next set of shelving, he turned to see her at the other end of the aisle - and more importantly, between them, their quarry. Marco brought up his pistol, aiming it at the figure.

"Don't move! You're surrounded by armed bastards!"

It ignored Silva's warning, and judging her the easier way out of the aisle, ran and leapt at her, drawing back a bone encrusted hand for a blow. His strike lashed loose. A flurry of movement, a metallic grating, flash of silver - and then a spray of blood.
The bony hand rolled across the floor, severed clean from its wrist.

"Never fought anyone with their own claws, have you?"

Jutting out from between the knuckles of Silva's bionic were three metal blades, each a full foot in length, and each slick with fresh red blood.
Before the creature could react to its injury, she kicked out, her heavy metal foot hitting the beast in the chest, and a splintering made it plain something had given way under the impact.
The figure swung again. She sidestepped, drawing her elbow around. As she did so, a fourth blade sprung from the elbow's tip, it's point tearing a deep gouge in the figure's flank.

Unfortunately, sidestepping had left the way past her clear. The thing wasn't dumb, and had no desire to take more injury, and kept going past her, spurred on by panic and what would have been pure adrenaline - that is, if it were still human enough for its biochemistry to react to such a thing.

The blades flashed back into her bionic, and spinning around to face the figure, she snapped open the catch on her shotgun sling. Bringing the weapon up and round, she flicked off the safety, and brought it to bear on the fleeing thing. Already prepared, she had swapped her shotgun's load with bean-bag rounds as she had run across the archive - she had the potential to subdue the thing.

But it proved she'd prepared for nothing. It was at a full sprint now, but just as it passed another side aisle, there was a sickeningly violent crunch, and it collapsed backwards into a dead stop and crumpled heap.

Silva lowered the weapon as someone stepped around the end of the shelving. Shock maul clenched in hand, Gio kicked at the pile of thing, then looked up at them.

"Need a hand?"

Marco was over the figure in seconds, and held out his hand towards Gio.

"Give me some binders. Silva, is this our smell?"

She paused to sniff as he discovered the problem with his plan - the figure's right hand was a bleeding stump. He snapped the other half of the binders on to the nearest shelving unit, and drew out the medical supplies he carried in an attempt to staunch the bleeding from the wrist and torso.

"Yes, this is it. He's exuding a very strange smell - quite repulsive, if you're asking. But it's distinctive."

Marco's hands were already drenched in blood, and as he worked, he took his trenchcoat off, and threw it aside. It had formerly been his father's, and he had no desire to see it blood stained.

"Blast it. He'll be dead in minutes. Silva, what part of 'alive' was missed?"
"What was I supposed to do then? Let him attack me?"
"You didn't need to use the blades."

Marco sounded somewhat exasperated as he said this. He hadn't come all this way to throw away leads. Binding around the figure's forearm with a strap within the kit, he smeared a thick coagulant gel across the stump, then tied bandages around it as tightly as he could. Doing much the same with the flank wound, he clipped a cartridge into an injector, and fired the dose into the figure's neck.

Convincing himself that the wounds were all bound, he straightened up.

"I think that'll hold. He'll still need to see a proper medic to make it to next week, but he'll live for long enough to get him there. Gio, could you go and inform the medic they'll be needed, and get us some way of moving this thing out of here?"

The ex-arbite nodded and ran off at some pace. Marco took the opportunity to study the figure more closely, taking in its bony appearance and anatomy, contemplating what exactly it could be, up until the moment when it stirred out of its brief unconsciousness.

Opening its eyes, the first thing it saw was a pistol muzzle pointing into its face.

"You have two alternatives. The easy way, or the hard way. The easy way is you can give me answers here. The hard way involves a lot more pain. Why are you here?"

It took the thing a second to answer, faintly and breathlessly due to its injury, and slightly slurred by the warped nature of its anatomy.

"I was sent on the orders of great leaders, men who say the day of ending has arisen. Kaamos, slumbering between the stars, awakens, and it craves your soul. Humanity has been tested and found wanting."

The thing passed out again as it finished it's sentence, a combination of loss of blood and pain. It took a moment for the quiet to be broken again. Marco was still crouched in front of the seated figure, paused in thought, and it was Silva that spoke first.

"Great, what does that mean?"
"It's cryptic nonsense to me. Kamos, with a shorter A sound, means something in the Mapian language, but I can see no reason why any of that would apply out here."
"And that meaning would be?"
"It's the concept of day length changing throughout the year. Aside from the language not being valid here, the meaning itself is useless. We're going to need to talk to people to identify any possible meaning, and Gutterell upstairs isn't a bad start. If we need, perhaps Byssus or an Order conclave will be able to shed some light on the matter."
"If we're talking with Gutterell, perhaps we should also address his security issues."

His response was pushed out of his mind by the return of Gio, who had brought several other Arbites in her wake. Marshalling them through binding the figure more properly, then loading it on to a stretcher, the intruder was quickly moved and bound within the medical section of the cells.

Although he would have been quite within his power to burst in on the Chief Arbitrator there and then, Marco instead sat himself down on a chair within a set of offices which were vaguely near the main entrance, and instead took the time to return to his notebook while his memory was still fresh, making notes of the event, as well as a brief sketch of the mystery figure's appearance.

Taking back in the rest of his notes, he had to concede that it didn't seem to want to match up. Was the arson bombing the work of the same group as the messages? What about the assassination? And where had those files gone?

He was distracted by Silva sitting down opposite, cleaning the blood off her arm blades with a rag that he wasn't quite sure where she'd pilfered it from. She got a few odd looks from passing Arbites, but no-one really wanted anything to do with the Inquisitor's entourage, and equally few people hung around to ask questions.

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2009, 01:36:36 PM »
Aduro arrived as dawn was cracking the sky she slid from a shadow approaching her master who was sat legs folded under him eyes closed facing the grand cathedral.


"Nothing of use, the cardinal could give me little information."

"So where next?"

"The arbiters precinct."

He folded his legs from under him standing he turned on her and strode past her.

"I take it you have your weapons?"


He passes his sword and pistol to her, she instantly folded them over her shoulder and tucked them into her webbing, slowly he removed his rebreather and passed it to her as well. finally pulling his cloak off he passed that to her too, once she ha pulled it over her shoulders he nodded his own clothing no a simple two piece suit of hardened mesh fibers. They both left the building heading down into the streets. They went through the city seeing the chaos that was bubbling under the surface Aduro always a good distance behind two individuals on the same path. At some point though she wasn't sure when he'd picked up a bottle of liqueur and was every now and again sipped upon it.

Slowly he weaved his way through the city until he stood before the precinct house, when Aduro slid up behind him he spoke, then strode off.

"Wait an hour."

She turned and headed off as he staggered towards one of the two arbiters stood at the door, security had been stepped up since the arson attack and as he approached they strode out to stop him.

"This is a restricted area, turn around and go back the way you came."

He spoke his voice slurred as he staggered up to them

"Ah but I only nee to gets to the udder shide."

One of them grabbed his shoulder and tugged at his harshly.

"Go round you drunken grox."

He twisted from the grip staggering round he smashed the bottle into the arbiters face sending him staggering as blood poured from his broken nose, he stepped back his hands in the air as the other swung his shotgun round and took aim.

"Eyes didn't means it you know."

"Come here!"

He stepped forward turning him round he bound his arms and shoved him in the direction of the precinct.

"You need time to sober up, then we'll address the issue of you assaulting an arbiter. You ok?"

He partner looked up at him blood streaming down his face.

"Bastard broke my dammed nose."

They took him to the cells passing the entrance where he noticed a man sat as if waiting for a meeting with a heavily bionic woman cleaning a set of wrist mounted combat blades, thrown into a cell they left him for processing until he'd sobered up, as soon as the cell door was locked shut and the arbiters returning to their posts his shackles fell to the floor as he appeared on the other side of the door moving through the precinct in the same way he moved from shadow to shadow like a ghost pausing in one or another and using his powers to blend in with the darkness to let officers pass him by unnoticed, he was heading for the archive chamber folding into the room he spotted a pair of medics clean the area where a conflict had taken place he stepped back into the shadows drawing a scarf from one of his pockets he pulled it up round his face and then descended on them, his first strike dropped the first medic and he twisted the second into a painful hold almost tearing his arm from his socket.

"What happened here?"

Panicked and in pain the medic answered without hesitation.

"A fight, the Inquisitor captured some sort of mutant."

"What Inquisitor?"

"His name was Skoll, he was investigating something the Mutant attacked them."

"Where is the mutant?"

"Medical wing."

He pushed the medic forward into one of the shelves cracking his skull, letting the body drop he dragged the clothing from the first and pulling it on over his own clothing taking the scarf from his face he left the archive and headed for the medical wing once inside it was a simple matter to find the mutant in a secure ward he teleported the distance needed to avoid the guards and stood over the creature drawing the scarf back over his face again. They had stabilized it an had it sedated yet it seemed to be having little effect.

He stepped in close his hand clamping round the stump it moaned and stirred it's eyes flashing open,

"Tell me everything you told the other man."

"I was sent on the orders of great leaders, men who say the day of ending has arisen. Kaamos, slumbering between the stars, awakens, and it craves your soul. Humanity has been tested and found wanting."

"Kaamos, How many of you are there?"



The thing stirred and remained silent


It jerked and fought in his grip as he applied more pressure reopening the wound, letting out painted growls, he released it as he heard the guards outside.

"You hear that?"

"Check it."

The door started to open and he dropped to the ground behind the bed, coiling up like a spring he waited to pounce on the arbiter as he came into to check.

"That dammed thing has just opened it's wound again, leave it."

He stood once the door was closed again going to the instrument table he picked up a syringe taking a small vial concealed within his belt he slid the needle into it and drew back the injector as he turned.

"In the name of the Immortal Emperor I just thee an abomination, I sentence you to death and may his eternal flames consume your foul soul to burn for eternity."

He moved to the side of the bed and sat upon it.

"I would tell you that this won't hurt a bit, but that would be a lie, this will hurt unlike anything you've felt before, your last minutes of this life will be the most exquisite pain you've ever felt."

He slid the needle into a soft piece of flesh and injected the fluid immediately the mutant started to fight and pull against it's restraints as he stood laying the needle carefully on the side he noticed how the tip was starting to melt away from the toxin he'd just used, he closed his eyes focusing, which was becoming more difficult a sign that his suspicions could be coming true an faded from the room as the door burst open again.

He reappeared in the entrance hall, coming from a shadow and still in his medics uniform scarf pulled up over his face he strode from the building passing the man he suspected to be Skoll as he waited for his meeting. Once outside he made his way across the wide street to where Aduro waited for him.


We pull up just outside the central court house, and I make sure our papers are still where they should be. We've already passed a security checkpoint but there is every reason to be careful.

The ramp lowers and I get out, nodding at Kalle to follow me, and it's then that total chaos erupts.

Enforcers left, right and centre are rushing out of the front doors en masse, apparently not armed but I'm not going to take any chances. Roughly a dozen black-armoured figures are rushing at the armoured car and I almost trip as I scramble back inside, out of their way. Kalle is quicker and has thrown himself flat against the side of the passenger compartment.

The first of the Enforcers reaches the car and throws his arm up behind him, gesturing for the others to stop. He beckons one of his colleagues forward.

"ID please, madam?" he asks, his voice gruff and gravelly. I can barely see his face beneath his black beetle-helmet, his visor lowered across his eyes and nose.

He can clearly deduce that I'm a Commissar, but like me, he's not taking chances. I fish out my papers and hand them over. Kalle pokes his head out and I hand over the scholar's identification too.

"They're with me," Friedrich explains, jumping out from the back of the driver's cabin and moving through the passenger compartment. "Why the welcoming committee, Jyrki?"

The Enforcer's head snaps around, his anger rising, before seeing Friedrich and visibly calming down.

"Skirmish in the cell blocks," he states. "Chief says this is the third one on site. He thinks you might know something, but I don't want to speculate. We could do with your car, the medicae adepts at the Moskuvaara Institute are already expecting us."

"You have wounded personnel?" I ask, trying to get closer to the other Enforcers. Jyrki holds his arm in front of me and I stop.

"I wouldn't exactly say personnel, Commissar. I don't know what we're talking about here. Could be a mutant, even an alien. I've never seen anything like it. There's one in the medical wing right now but the chief thinks it's a bad idea to put this one in too. And there's one stinking up the cell block as it is."

I suddenly realise I don't particularly want or need to hear much else. If these things are as organised as I think they are, they may have been planning a jailbreak, which would lead to a riot. The Arbites are so overstretched at the moment that violence in their own court house would seriously injure them.

"Where is Arbitrator Gutterell?" I ask.

"Currently indisposed," Jyrki answers immediately. "Tell the truth, he's in the archives trying to sort another mess out. He's got company. A riot squad, and a couple of investigators who just got back from the slums. And... I suppose it's alright to tell you, ma'am, there's Inquisition types in there too. Been grubbin' round the place for days, dunno what for."

I hear an apprehensive grunt from Kalle behind me. I ignore him.

"Do you mind if I get a look at whoever it is you need to get to the medicae adepts?" Friedrich asks.

Jyrki nodds and lets Friedrich jump down.

"Suppose you can see it too," Jyrki adds almost sheepishly.

I go round to where Friedrich and ten Enforcers are standing. Two of them are carrying a stretcher with another one of the bony mutants on it. For a second I think it's the same one as before, but there are some rather subtle differences. It's rather hard to explain, but the bone structure looks different. The creature's also smaller, and it's got a different sort of smell to it. Powerful and rather vile, reminiscent of burnt food.

"How disgusting," Kalle notes. "And it's wounded? How badly?"

I can see it's lost a hand, but the thing's too heavily clad in hastily applied bandages and even strips of its own tatty clothing for me to deduce anything else.

"Best ask the folks inside," Jyrki suggests. "Mauno, in the cab. You two with the stretcher, get the perp inside. The rest of you, dismissed."

The Enforcer standing with Jyrki runs into the car and starts the engine. Once the two men with the stretcher get the mutant into the passenger compartment, the ramp folds back up and the car drives off.

"Well then, I suppose you're best off coming with me," Jyrki tells us. "Lowbrow should still be in the archives. I'll take you there."

Akuse stood across the street from the Governor’s Manor examining the guards surrounding the main gate. He pondered how to approach the situation, ‘should I approach with force or peace?’ he thought. Looking at the Manor again it looked suspiciously out of place, not quite placing his finger on it.

Taking the appropriate measures to ensure everything runs smoothly, he closed he eyes, to attempt to scan the local area for all those present. Almost like a dream it felt, as though hundreds of eyes had opened all over his head, showing the landscape now devoid of obstructions, shown in the forms of various grey and blue outlines; the sky withered as though alive with black and white swirls. He could see white light illustrating the form and movement of personal from his perspective of floating in-between the ground which now moved as though a carpet of insects, and the sky. Akuse quickly picked out the governor, the guards and other staff.

The Sky seemed to become fuelled by rage as claws stretched out from under its withering surface, the sky now fading into a deep blue. The ground too thrashed out, as if in rage, a shark like jaw pulling at the bounds of the crawling floor. Suddenly the sky shattered, bolts of ethereal lightning cracking the air, the ground fell into an abyss. However almost immediately the madness stopped, almost all senses faded and the only noticeable feature was a pinkish blob bouncing around the again distinguishable Governor’s Manor. The blob made it way to a room, making eccentric movements indicating to Akuse the position of an important event, another such indication by a window.

Then the unnatural event finished, and Akuse immediately stopped tapping into the daemonic infection. Never having such an event happen before, he knew it was a bad omen, having only ever experienced extreme demonic scenarios when unprotected, or the usual grey blue landscape while protected.

Opening his eyes to reality, he found himself exactly as he was before, as though only 1 second had passed. He shook his head.

Approaching the guards he immediately presented himself as an inquisitor,

“I am here to speak with the Governor Avedis Grigerian II; I am an Inquisitor, here to speak to him on such business,” Pulling his hood down and pulling out an “I” attached to chain from inside his coat.

The guards stood still none reacting for a second or two, before one bold guard responds, “Of course right this way Inquisitor,”

Akuse could tell he was the head guard, the only one that was not showing some sign of discomfort. The guard leaded him to the Manor’s main door and directed him that an interior assistant will take him directly to the Governor, before quickly returning to his post.

As Akuse walked up the short staircase past two more guards, and the door opened, showing a well presented man, “So you are the Inquisitor who had an appointment with the Governor, he has been expecting you please follow me Sir.”

The floors were covered in exquisite mats, the walls detailed with the finest portraits and marble busts. One such portrait in the main vestibule was of the Governor himself, showing him in a chair sitting with his arms lightly crossed and him looking up at an angle. Akuse’s eye was immediately caught by the governor’s library, which consisted of antique codices, tombs and encyclopaedias, of all sizes and shapes.

He reached the Governor’s main study, his guide leaving him simply with “right through there inquisitor,” before disappearing. As Akuse walked through the archway, the Governor was seated behind his enormous desk.

“I assume you are Inquisitor Akuse, here about the letters?” The governor asked somewhat too directly.

“Yes, Governor Avedis Grigerian, I am sorry for not making the appointment yesterday. However I was pulled away, by the fact you have failed to correctly coordinate civil protection. You have arbites patrolling the streets, yet ‘I’ had to go and meet such civil needs.”

The meeting did not seem to have started on the right foot.


Marco was distracted from his notes by an odd sensation, something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Silva had noticed his agitation before he had even had the time to voice it.

"Is something up?"
"Bizarre movements in the aethyr."
"Right then, let's cut to the part where you tell me if they're serious."

Thinking for a second, he beckoned over a mildly worried looking Arbite, a woman of around average height, but other than the modest height increase, reminded him very much of Frost, especially because of her long plait - the only big difference was that it was a dark brown rather than the dyed black of the mercenary's.

"What's your name?"
"Kaisa Niiranen, sir"
"Not met any Kaisas in a while. Kaisa, are there any psychics attached to the staff here?"
"A couple of sanctioned telepaths, sir."
"What about the prisoners?"
"None. At least, that we know of, sir."
"Thank you Kaisa. That's all I needed to know. Don't let me keep you from what you were doing."

Marco always preferred to keep a polite tone in conversation, there was no need to antagonise anyone because of his rank. Watching Kaisa return to her work, he paused a second before turning back to Silva, whose blades snapped back into her arm, satisfied with their cleaning.

"That doesn't really shed any light on it. I suppose it could just be natural, everything's felt a bit off since we got to this planet. But this felt different - it was flitting around the area."
"At times, I really wish I had half an idea as to what you were on about."
"Oh, be serious. You're far more privileged within insight into such things than most people are."
"You mean my wonderful insights in to your warped mind?"
"Partly. But I was also thinking about senses more in general. In this case, your enhanced sense of smell, which is the reason we have ourselves another lead to follow. We are each privy to things the other can't quite conceive."
"Talking of things I can't conceive, why is it taking Gutterell so long? The time he's taking is inconceivable."

Silva's impatience stabbed at a deep corner of Marco's mind, a niggling mirror of her emotions. She was quite right, the arbitrator had been messing them around quite long enough. His normal tolerance consented to give in, and he turned back around to his right.

"Kaisa? Do you know if Gutterell is still in the archives?"
"I believe so, sir."

The arbitrator nodded, and turned back to her paperwork, something no doubt tedious after hours on end. But it was these things that made it possible to track things back through time. Without the archives, their research would have been greatly hampered.
Marco turned back to Silva, who was already standing up.

"Well then, dear. Shall we go and ask him in person?"
"I've been waiting for you to say that for half an hour."
"Good. So, where's Giovanna?"
"Ladies' room, I think."
"Right... Kaisa, sorry to keep bothering you, but if Arbitrator Ciris comes back here, could you direct her up to the archives?"
"Of course, sir."

The couple set off down the offices back towards the archives. It was plainly clear that the Arbites were stretched almost to breaking point. The piles of forms piling up on desks which people were too occupied elsewhere to be able to return to were nigh on uncountable.

Sometimes, Marco felt like he had the easy job.

This place is surprisingly large. It stretches back a long way, and most of the archives go down into the basement. After the maze of corridors that got us here, the archive chamber is simply dizzying in scale.

The archives themselves are also badly arranged; or maybe it's just the numbering system. I don't recognise it, but on second thought I suppose you have to be an Enforcer to understand this (frankly) eclectic organisational system. The numbers plainly follow on quite naturally, but here I can see security tapes from a murder scene two years ago next to what looks like a case file on the Derrinplatz scholars' riots from back in 977.

There's got to be some sense in it but I haven't got the time to sit down and work it all out; besides which, I seriously doubt the Arbites have anything documented on this case.

Turning a corner I find a workstation, about three metres long by one wide, with a collection of files strewn across it almost at random. My curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to take a look, sitting down in the nearest chair and noting that it's unpleasantly warm.

Whoever was sitting here before, it's obvious that they've not gone far, so I get back up again and take a look at what this person's been researching from a standing position.

It appears that although there about half a dozen files on the desk, there are only two proper themes. Closest to me is a pathetically tiny file on Governer Tarabangian's assassination, which should have been far larger than it is. It contains disturbingly little information in itself, although it could be that the researcher's gone to find the rest.

I realise this can't be the case, however. All official paperwork around here has a cover sheet on the front, with boxes for each section of the report, and a set of signatures marking each part as done. As carefully as I can, I locate the cover sheet in the ring binder, and notice that the whole report is marked as complete. And yet there's no accounts from witnesses, no record of any proper criminal investigation, and no actual conclusion. All I can see is a preliminary report, and on the other side of the workstation, some press cuttings from when the Herald got their hands on the only bit of important news they've had in years. There's a coroner's report somewhere in the scattered papers, but I don't need to look at it.

Someone's evidently been tampering with the file.

Next to the assassination file is what looks like a report on the infamous arson trial at another courthouse. An arson trial that turned into a bloodbath. Thankfully it's larger and more complete than the file on Tarabangian's death, although at the same time, this is one report I don't need to see.

I already know what happened. I was there. I watched the courthouse burn, I saw men and women die in the flames. Casualties spiralled into the hundreds and only a handful escaped, most of whom were shellshocked and in dire need of medical attention.

Lucinda wasn't one of the lucky ones.

Apparently, an Inquisitor was there in the court room. And in fairness, there was a mysterious fellow lurking at the back, but quite what that has to do with anything is beyond me.

Somebody taps me on the shoulder and I whirl around in surprise.

"Thought I'd find you grubbing around here," Kalle grins. "Gutterell's getting friendly with Friedrich. It sounded to me like a debriefing on last night."

"You couldn't tell?"

"Arbites matters, not for me to overhear," the scholar huffs rather rapidly. He's plainly making a big show of this in an attempt to make me laugh.

I ignore him; something's caught my ear. Someone's voice, but it's neither Gutterell's voice nor Friedrich's.

It's a man, sounding rather jovial, but I get the impression there's a level of authority behind it, even though -- from what I can tell -- he's not exactly ordering anyone around.

The answering voice is female and I realise that two people, possibly more, are heading into the archive, possibly my way. There's a funny sort of echo in this place, and I don't like it.

My hand strays towards my sword as the footsteps get closer but I find I don't need it after all.

"Oh!" the first speaker exclaims, slightly surprised by my presence. "It looks like we're not the only ones here."

"Is this...?" the woman begins, but the man cuts her off with a wave of his hand.

"I doubt it," he answers, before offering me a friendly hand. "Good afternoon, Commissar. I'm Marco Robert Skoll and this is Silva Bergen."

I shake his hand. At the very least he seems friendly. The woman, less so, although I suspect that this is in part down to excessive, and fairly obvious, cybernetic augmentation. She's about as tall as me, but her bionics make her very imposing.

I notice her eyes are differently coloured.

"Alice Fenn," I reply.

"Kalle Hjert," Kalle adds, introducing himself with a slight bow. "I must say, it's a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Hra. Skoll."

"Herra...?" Skoll inquires, slightly bemused.

"A local honorific," I explain swiftly. "Might I ask you exactly what brings such a man as yourself here, Mr. Skoll?"

"I could ask you the same thing, my dear Commissar," Skoll grins. "Interesting you have her name, by the way."

"Who...?" I ask, doing my best to appear confused.

"Let's come back to that one later."

I notice the bionic woman hasn't really said anything yet, but I suppose I'm glad for this.

Am I?

"I don't suppose you know where Arbitrator Gutterell is, do you?" Skoll inquires cheerily.

"I think he's still talking to a colleague of ours," Kalle states, and I realise I've been staring. "If you'd like to follow me?"

Suddenly, I'm aware that we seem to have attracted two nobodies with no apparent agenda, who just happen to be in the archive looking for Old Lowbrow, and if by chance they're on the same case as us, then neither Skoll nor the two of us are doing a very good job of saying so.

I find the urge to punch Kalle in the face almost irrepressible.

Offline Koval

  • Grand Lord Inquisitor
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  • Well, that was unexpected...
Re: After Hours
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2009, 01:39:43 PM »

It was at this moment that Gio reappeared, distracting Marco from Alice and Kalle.

"Looks like we're going to need the medics again, Inquisitor. Two personnel are down in here."
"Where we met the creature earlier, sir."
"Sorry, Kalle, I'm going to have to ask you to wait briefly. This needs my attention."

Getting a nod from Kalle, Marco followed after Gio, with everyone else evidently deciding to follow in his wake.
Turning the corner, there was a quite unpleasant sight, two figures strewn across the floor in fairly contorted positions. Although the Inquisitor had seen much more repulsive scenes, even some he had been the perpetrator of, the sight obviously didn't sit quite as well with Kalle, who seemed slightly off ease with it. Marco wasn't completely surprised, given the man was dressed in the robes of the Administratum, and was probably not particularly accustomed to such sights.

However, at least he was courteous enough not to vomit, unlike some people that the Inquisitor had met in the past. Distracted from his line of thought by Silva pushing past him, Marco looked around as Gio started to speak.

"Only just found them, sir. I haven't had a chance to inspect them."
"Great. Is there another one of these bastards loose?"

Already crouched over the figures, Silva was inspecting them. Taking a few moments with her inspection, she looked up from the strewn mess.

"No. These wounds were inflicted by blunt objects. I would be looking at puncture wounds, possibly with a ragged edge if we were dealing with another of the same. This is the handiwork of someone else - a skilled someone."
"I'll go and get the medics."
"It'll be a waste of effort - it's too late for these two. They shuffled off this mortal coil some time ago. I'm not sure that their deaths were intended, but this one appears to have a serious head injury, and the other appears to have suffocated through inhalation of the blood that's still across the floor from earlier."

Kalle looked around Marco to get a better view of what was going on.

"Pardon my intrusion on this, but how can you tell that?"
"Her mother was a trained medicae doctor. For someone who pretends that she had no interest in these things, Silva appears to have picked up quite a lot. Not that she never makes mistakes, do you dear?"

Ignoring the slightly odd look from the Commissar at the concept that the two of them could be a couple because he had seen it so many times before, he turned back to Silva, and gestured her over from the bodies.

"You'll need to leave that. I want a proper report on what happened here, and any further inference only risks affecting the evidence. Gio, I'm sorry to keep having you running around on errands, but this needs someone here to assess this situation."
Turning back to Kalle, he continued: "Now, Kalle, although I am loathe to leave this mess, I gain nothing from standing over it, and you said you knew where Arbitrator Gutterell was. "
"Of course, Inquisitor."

Following the scholar through the many aisles and rows, it was a moment before the Commissar said something that had evidently been concerning her for a while.

"If I may ask, what exactly brought you to Kurabata Prime?"
"A big spaceship, flown by a drunk."

The Commissar smirked. Unseen behind both of them, Silva rolled her eyes - she had heard the joke before. Knowing what she was up to, Marco looked back at her over his shoulder before looking forwards again and continuing.

"Humour aside - right now, Alice, I'm an observer."
"Observing what?"
"Anything - then whatever demands my attention gets it. I was personally drawn here by Governor Tarabangian's assassination."
"Is that it?", came the querying reply. Alice was evidently doubtful of it being that simple.
"Not really. I imagine you've already heard that I was engaged in a fight with something in here earlier. Bony little bugger, whatever it was."

Ducking under something that had for some inexplicable reason been straddled across shelves on opposite sides of the aisle, he glanced at Alice before looking forwards again.

"You know, this is just a wild guess, Alice, but judging by your failed attempt at trying to appear bewildered, I take it you know something more about these creatures..."

"Well, Inquisitor -- may I call you Marco? It's just easier."

He shrugs nonchalantly, not displaying any outward signs of annoyance. This fazes me slightly. Most Inquisitors are nowhere near this nice.

Interestingly this isn't an answer either way, and for safety's sake I don't take it as one.

"In that case, do excuse the noise."

Reaching for the inside pocket on my coat, I unholster my autopistol and turn to face the thing under which we'd just ducked. It's moved, and I get a good look at it.

Snapping off a shot, I'm surprised to see that it doesn't dodge. I'm rewarded with a sharply curtailed rasping cry and a thud as my target loses its perch and flops to the ground. Taking a closer look I see I've managed a rather unfortunate head shot.

A pity. I'd really have liked to question another one of them.

"I'm really glad you shot that thing, and not myself," Silva remarks dryly from behind me. "Don't tell me there's more of them."

"How many does that make now?" Skoll asks me, genuinely curious.

"Four here, and there were another two yesterday at the estate of the Governor's nephew."

"I see. Interesting, and I'm sure you understand why."

"I'm afraid not, but I can make a guess," I offer tentatively, silently hoping he doesn't cut me off and superimpose his own opinions over whatever I have to say. I've been the acquaintance of other Inquisitors who have done that.

Let me tell you, it's not a pleasant experience, and the most frustrating bit about it is that you can't say anything because they don't have to answer to anyone.

To Skoll's credit, he doesn't.

He looks deceptively young for an Inquisitor, maybe just a little older than me, and I gather that his interest in my opinions means one of two things: either he's not had the seal for all that long, or he's had it for long enough to appreciate that you can't always expect things to happen for you.

It may not be anything to do with that, though. I've not met many Inquisitors but they've all had distinctly different personalities. Less so among the Commissariat, but I'd like to think I don't fit the description of some hardline pot of stress. Cain wasn't, and look at what became of him. And if the rumours are true, neither were Geist or Ahl Karif.


I realise I've been daydreaming. Skoll notices and grins.

I can't see Silva but she's probably looking daggers at me with those heterochromic eyes of hers.

Or maybe not. I don't care.

I'm already spoken for.

"Well, my guess is that whichever clandestine body's sending out these fellows isn't willing to take any chances that the delivery ritual will be disrupted."

"A ritual? What makes you say that?"

"Because of these," I answer, pulling out a well-folded sheet of paper and opening it. I hold it out for Skoll to see, and he takes it from me.

I can hear a rather frustrated sigh from Kalle. I can rather tell he'd like to move on.

"Is something the matter, Kalle?" Skoll asks politely.

"Oh, don't mind me. It's just my chronometer, it's gone dead again."

"Well, I'd suggest getting a new one, but I'm not sure that's such a great suggestion at this point in time," states a new voice. I turn and suddenly realise my autopistol's still in my hand.

"No need to go pointing a gun at me," Friedrich grumbles in mock disgust, before seeing two new faces behind me.

He seizes up and Skoll looks round, folding up the note quickly and handing it back to me. I pocket it along with my pistol.

"Ah, hello there," he begins amiably. "Don't suppose you've seen Arbitrator Gutterell around here?"

No response.

"This isn't like you, Friedrich," Kalle observes, folding his arms in thought. "I take it you recognise the Inquisitor? Or is my mind playing tricks on me?"

"Inquisitor?" Friedrich repeats, not sure where to put himself. "I don't suppose you're Inquisitor Skoll by any chance?"

"The same. Is something the matter, my friend?"

"It's Gutterell, Inquisitor, he..."

"Spit it out," Kalle mutters under his breath. I don't think Friedrich has heard anything.

"He's been murdered, my lord," Friedrich announces at last. "Probably best if you take a look for yourself."

"I see. A murder in the archives and the alarms haven't gone off."

"I don't have clearance," Friedrich admits.

"Clearance to activate the alarms?" Skoll asks dubiously.

"I suppose with these things crawling around all over the place it's just an extra security measure," I propose, pointing at the dead mutant behind me. "Don't suppose you could contact Jyrki?"

"Let's have a look at the murder scene before we do anything else," Skoll suggests. "This doesn't sound particularly promising with all the social and political tension, but we're not exactly getting anything done, just standing here, making a noise like a flock of jan'kan."

"A flock of what?" I ask.

"It... oh, never mind, I'll explain later," Skoll huffs. "Can someone lead the way for me?"



Having spent a few hours looking through the quartermaster's records, and personnel manifests, Jack was beginning to develop a small headache.

This was the easy part of the job, relatively speaking. At least it didn't require gunplay, any form of close quarters madness, or any form of exertion at all in fact. Beyond mental exertion, and the testing of one's patience.

It didn't help that the Inquisitor didn't show a single sign of boredom, tiredness, or laxity of any sort in fact. Another affectation.

Internally Jack sighed. The list of people handling the transportation and delivery of equipment was long enough to cause trouble, and Jack had the general feeling that the Inquisitor didn't actually *have* the patience to spare for such a long investigation. There had to be some form of discrepancy.

Simple fact is, many cults, or hidden groups are usually betrayed by some manner of mistake. Sometimes within the paperwork, other times within the actions of the people involved.

Of course, occaisionally, some cults are highly organised and maintained. Or are on worlds where they're easily hidden. In these cases, it becomes that much harder. Of course it's surprising how many of these organised groups there are sometimes.

With all that said though, Jack could vaguely sense a wrongness at the edge of his awareness. He was still refraining from utilising his powers for the time being, but eventually he'd have to use them, whether or not he was noticed.

Also, on the drive up, he'd noticed a few people scurrying around, hunched up under cloaks and the like. He wasn't sure whether they had been mutants, or something else.

On arrival, they'd also intimidated another guard into spilling a few more rumours, including exactly who had recieved the death threats, or messages. Apparently it wasn't just the governor who had been targeted. The arch bishop was one, and the commander of the arbites presence on planet was another.

If these records didn't turn up some information soon, Jack was of the opinion that perhaps the arbites might have some form of useful records on this.

The ecclesiarchy was an unlikely source of information, (not least because rumour also had it that the arch bishop had burned all the messages), but the governor was a possible choice. Or at least preferable to the ecclesiarchy. Jack and the Inquisitor didn't really get along awfully well with the ecclesiarchy as a general rule.

"I was under the impression that Gutterell had been heavily occupied. Surely someone must have been in the vicinity when this happened?"
"I had just finished speaking with him Inquisitor, and was just making my way back. I heard some form of struggle, turned back to see what had happened, and... well, you can see for yourself."

Marco certainly could see. The mess was hardly identifiable as the man from the pict-captures, and it was far from possible to work out exactly had happened to him. Marco wasn't even entirely sure which pieces were still attached to each other, and crouched down to look more closely.

"Pleasant. Silva, any ideas?"
"Well, I can safely tell you that he's definitely dead."
"Thank you. Anything more helpful?"
"My guess, it was something very powerful, but it certainly knew what it was doing."
"I thought so too. It would have to be to kill him as fast as Friedrich says."

There was a pause as the Inquisitor stood up from the floor and stepped back from the Arbitrator's body.

"Unless of course Friedrich's account is false." He turned to the man, "I'm sorry - I doubt you had any involvement, but I don't know you, and I wouldn't be doing my job properly if I just disregarded the possibility out of hand."
Addressing the group more generally, he continued: "There's more bad news. There appears to be no link between this event and the two medics back that way. That almost certainly means that we've got, at minimum, two killers on site, and we've encountered more than one... thing... since we got here."
"So, what do we do now Inquisitor?", the Commissar enquired.
"The only sensible thing we can do. Sound the alarm, seal the entire courthouse off, then have every single arbitrator in the place that can be spared armed, armoured, put in to teams of at least three men and sweeping this entire building from top to bottom for anyone or anything that isn't supposed to be here. Intruders, impostors, devices, explosives - whatever or whoever it is, I want it found, dealt with, then reported. This situation is unacceptable."

"Caution's the word here," I stress, suddenly regretting saying what I did in case the Inquisitor supposes I've just wrong-footed him.

"Indeed, but I suppose that given the circumstances we have to take that for granted," Skoll answers.

The alarm goes off almost on cue and we're suddenly plunged into obscurity. The emergency lights come on and bathe us in their strong yellow glare.

"Don't they usually use red?" Silva queries, bemused.

"More importantly, it's helpful to know that someone's on the ball, and at least if there's anything in here, it can't go anywhere."

This feels like last night repeating itself, but on a far larger scale.

"So effectively it's locked in with us," I remark.

"Or they," Skoll reminds me. "However many of these things there are."

An Enforcer runs over to us and I reach for my gun, only to see it's Jyrki. We'd left him with Friedrich, and he must have run off to activate the alarms.

"Level one lockdown's underway, we're escalating straight to level three once the medical wing is clear," he announces, ignoring Skoll and Silva completely and mistakenly identifying me as the highest ranking individual in the immediate vicinity.

"Smart thinking. What's your name, my friend?" Skoll asks, and Jyrki turns to face him as if only just becoming aware that he's there.

"Jyrki Pekkala, sir."

"Well met, Hra. Pekkala."

"Sergeant," Jyrki corrects him meekly.

"Inquisitor, with all due respect we don't have an awful lot of time on our hands," I remind him.

"I know, but I just need to work out something first. Friedrich, was he with you?"

"He was," Friedrich confirms.

Jyrki, like Friedrich before him, doesn't know where to put himself.

"So, Jyrki, I presume that means you were with Friedrich and didn't know about the attack on Arbitrator Gutterell until after the event."

"That's correct, Inquisitor."

"Then that means when Friedrich came over here to alert us, you went over to trigger the alarms and put in a report?"

"Yes, sir."

"What is it about the alarms that takes them so long to come on, anyway?" Skoll asks, genuinely confused.

"Security measure, sir, we need to put in a request with the systems adminstrators and give a full explanation," Jyrki admits. "Gets on my bloody nerves, it does."

He suddenly realises his slip of the tongue and retreats a little. Skoll doesn't seem all that bothered.

"In that case... Silva, would you mind going with Kalle and Friedrich? It strikes me that we're not exactly doing anything productive."

"But of course," the bionic woman nods.

"And do you suppose you could get Gio to relay my instructions?" Skoll asks, adopting a calmer, more conversational tone. "I gather she's still with a group of Enforcers."

"Already done it. I suspect every Enforcer on site's been mobilised by now."

"As on-the-ball as ever, I see," Skoll observes with admiration. "Which leaves myself, Sergeant Pekkala, and the good Commissar. Let's go!"

He's definitely professional, I note. Almost too professional, although I expected nothing less from the Inquisition. It means that while we're trying to scour the building, Skoll can keep an eye on Jyrki and myself, while Silva watches Kalle and Friedrich for anything suspicious. They've obviously got a means of communicating at a distance, so if any problems arise, both of them are going to know about it.

It's hardly as if Kalle or Friedrich are going to arouse any suspicion, but I'm more concerned for myself, under Skoll's gaze.

For example, what if Jyrki turns out to be an impostor?

I dismiss the thought and follow Skoll at a run through the archives, my autopistol already in my hand.


"Jyrki, Alice - Although I'd dearly love to question these things, don't go to any effort to ensure captures. If we should happen to bring one down and it lives, bind it to something, we'll deal with it later."

Marco reached around for the sword slung across his back. The catches holding it in place disengaged, and he brought it round in front of him, inert - for now.

"But right now, if they want to be sneaking around in here, that's enough reason for us to not want them to be."
"You mentioned explosives, Inquisitor."
"Indeed I did - like at the other courthouse. As I'm sure you can tell..."

He gestured at the files all over the walls, a vast collection of paperwork, pict recordings, and just about every form of media you could imagine, all compiled into one vast room.

"...this would make a very large bonfire", Alice finished.
"Not to mention that it's all the Arbites' main records for more years than I've been alive. Behind you."

Marco pointed up over the Commissar's head. Alice twisted around, firing her autopistol twice into a figure that was trying to use the shelving to sneak up over them. It clung on to the shelving, trying to climb away again until Jyrki fired his shotgun into its back, when it suddenly went limp and fell several feet into a heap. Reaching slightly awkwardly across with his left hand for the pistol on his right hip, Marco pulled it free and disengaged the safety.

"Jyrki, would you check it?"

The sergeant kicked the figure over, then felt for its pulse. Jyrki shook his head, to which Marco nodded in return - in spite of its initial tenacity, it was dead.
As they advanced slowly, there was suddenly a loud crash behind them. Marco held up a reassuring hand, already knowing what it was.

"Don't worry. It's the others. They're fine."

The expressions on the faces of the other two showed they didn't necessarily believe him, but Marco knew that Silva and the others were coping quite adequately. It was the sergeant who decided to question further.

"If you don't mind my asking Inquisitor... what if we run into Gutterell's killer? If it could lay him low that fast, it's got to be dangerous."
"We know it's out there. He didn't.", the Commissar gave part of the answer Marco was about to.
"Very well put, Alice. I'll be quite honest, Jyrki - I don't have a the faintest idea who or what it is. If I did, I would have told you."

Jyrki nodded meekly in response, evidently not reassured at all by Marco's honesty. Marco pushed on, trying to drive for a more positive point.

"Bear in mind, if it were truly undefeatable, it would have no need to be skulking around unseen. The mere fact that it uses stealth is a clear indicator that it can be stopped. It fears us."
"Up ahead!"

Something flitted through the light, but it was gone as fast as it had appeared. It appeared much more heavily built, but somehow also faster than its companions.

"But... whatever that was, that might have been it."

In the hope of picking it up before it escaped his mental range, Marco cast out with his psychic senses to try to find it before it found an opportunity to get the jump on them. Closing his eyes to make it easier to focus, he took a couple of seconds before he gave up, unable to find anything. It was either fast enough to escape, or had some way of blocking him - it wasn't immediately obvious which option was worse.

Another noise distracted him. He thrust his pistol in the direction it had come from, but there was nothing, and he lowered his arm.
He wasn't sure how much use guns would be if Gutterell's killer found them on its terms - it would probably be upon the group so fast that there wouldn't be time to shoot. As he contemplated this, he tightened his grip around the long hilt of Lævateinn, a sword somewhat unusual in its design, but no less lethal for it. He had carried the sword for around 15 years now, and although he wasn't quite sure of its initial origins, it had certainly proven itself.

His concerns over the creature were part of why he had sent Silva with the others. If it did descend into close quarters, she was fast, strong and skilled enough that she should be able to cope.

At least, he hoped she was.

One he was redressed in his chosen attire the pair of them made to leave he took one step and then turned looking back at the courthouse, Aduro stopped turned to regard him.

"What is it? did you forget something?"

"Something is happening in the courthouse."

"Are you certain?"

He half turned looking at her with one of his looks that boded no questions, she sighed and nodded.

"Of course you are I sometimes forget the extent of your talents, you do not use them to their fullest Altus always said so."


He turned fully to regard the courthouse

"They've locked it down, something is occurring inside, I feel the death inside their final moments echoing like tiny cried in the night."

There were a pair of hisses behind him as Aduro drew her blades.

"No we wait for now see what the outcome is before we act, getting into that place would be much to great a challenge now."

He turned again looking upwards pointing out a good vantage point.

"There we will watch from there then act when this is finished."

He drew an item from his cloak pointing the pistol shaped weapon at the roof he fired the coiled wire upwards using it to scale the wall, rapidly followed by Aduro the two of the made their way to the edge of the roof, Vepres sat folding his legs under him he closed his eyes Aduro paced behind him, he could feel the tension rolling from her, she longed for violence her life before him had been one of violence and she always fell back onto it when in times of action.

Offline Koval

  • Grand Lord Inquisitor
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  • Well, that was unexpected...
Re: After Hours
« Reply #9 on: October 03, 2009, 01:41:15 PM »
“Well Governor I will be as direct as possible, let me start with the letters, do you still have a copy?” Akuse asked as he pulled up a seat to sit opposite the governor.

Tension was removed from the governor’s face, as the inquisitor spoke direct and calmly, “Unfortunately, no, I cross shredded them the instant I got them, they would religiously appear in my drawing-room affixed with a knife.”

“You were not unfazed by this?”

“No, I receive threats all the time; I suppose that’s what comes with being a governor.” The governor attempting to hide his extreme dislike in the populace.

“I agree that you are particularly disliked governor, you do not have to hide that from me. Assuming the way you would hence act, you would have barely read the letters correct?”

“That is true. I am not one for threats Inquisitor they do get tiresome.”

“Ok well, take me to your drawing-room, I would like to examine the room.”

“Of course right this way,” The governor now acting as if routinely, escorted Akuse to the drawing room, however at 3 doors down from the room, Akuse halted from a moment.

“That wouldn’t be it over there would it,” distinctively pointing out the room the pinkish blob indicated in his oddity of a detection he experienced earlier.

“Why yes,” as the governor and inquisitor entered the room.

Before Avedis could explain anything, Aksue had quickly examined the room, a millisecond flash of a pink blob, now assured it was a horror, was pointing at various places around the room with many limbs. As Avedis began to explain the situation, Akuse did not listen, instead walked around the room, indicating to the governor the places the noted were affixed, the governor somewhat taken back as to how the inquisitor so instinctively notced such things.

“The knives I assume you would have given them back to the PDF?”

“Yes, how did you know that?”

“I hear rumours about the PDF losing large amounts of knives, and from the way you disposed of the notes it corresponds to your character.”

“Yes. Hmmm” The governor a little uncomfortable with the notion of being profiled so easily.

“So what is being done about the knife losses?”

“The current situation with the PDF is simply to share combat knives for knife practice. However loss of equipment in their own ranks wouldn't exactly help the situation any. I need every last man I can get just to keep the social unrest under control.”

“So you assume an outside source?” Akuse trying to keep himself from commenting on the governor’s attempts to control unrest.

“I cannot really say.”

“Alright, so who is assigned to this case of the notes and knives?”

“I don’t’ know of an investigation, but I have heard of a bounty hunter and a scholar looking into the phenomenon due to how thinly I have stretched the Arbites. And unfortunately with my nephews similar cases, it appears to me that the Commissariat are getting involved, which cannot possibly be positive.” The governor responded annoyed.

“I see, and of other inquisitors, and the like?”

“You are the first I have seen, however I would assume with the high tension in the recent times and gravity of recent events I would assume there are others.”

“Yes, the gravity of recent events, the disappearance of the previous governor, what of it?”

Avedis winced and cleaned up quickly, “Well he was injured and passed away, I attended Tarabangian's funeral but didn't see the body. Which was un-nerving to me, as to why it was missing.” He shook his head in pity, “It's something I would like to know more about, but I doubt I'll live to see anything come of it.” Shaking his head again.

“It would seem more of an assassination, I hoped you would have admitted at least that. What of his belongings, and the like?”

“Well I assume the Arbites would have them.”

“Yes, the Arbites have had similar notes haven’t they?”

“Yes, they have, well that’s what I have been told.”

“Hmm, On the Ar-“ Akuse was cut off by rambunctious sounds coming from outside the palace.

“Oh, not again,” the governor remarked annoyed, “Another rally.”

“It would seem you are truly not liked,” a grin coming to Akuse’s face, “Is there a good window to observe this?”

“Yes, just two doors to your left, I would not particularly like to see another rally,” indicating that he was staying put.

Akuse already knew which window to go to, looking out the window he saw scores of people of all ages and classes marching together against the new governor, brandishing large banners, claiming for more security and health care, and various other services. Although not necessarily violent the Palace guards insisted on pushing them a far distance away from the gates. Akuse could tell that with a bit of abuse that rally would turn into a riot; the city was closer to anarchy than he originally thought.

Returning to the study, “You truly are struggling to control the civil unrest aren’t you?”

“Every day is a struggle.” The governor sighed.

“Hmm, well I seem to have gotten almost everything governor. I will however need a letter with your seal allowing me to meet with your nephew.”

“Unfortunately Inquisitor, he is under house arrest for his own safety at the moment, he won’t be available for about a week.”

“Well, assign the letter to the first possible time I can legally see him.”

“Ok, however I doubt my nephew would be able to give you much more information.”

“I’ll be the judge of that. Also before I leave, I would like to know why the Archbishop was able to be attacked in his own chambers by a mad man?” still keeping a calm tone.

“He is the Archbishop, as much people dislike him as they dislike me. However I think it may have been one of the messengers trying to reinforce the seriousness of the situation.”

“Hm, well governor I request another thing, I want the protection on the Archbishop tripled, I do not wish to hear that he has been attacked again. The Church is an important organ it must be preserved.”

“But, yes of course.” The governor reluctantly agreed.

Although it pained Akuse not to bring up the incident of yesterday, he did not wish to annoy the governor anymore.

“Well, Avedis, on a lighter note, my I be gifted so much as to inspect your personal library?”

Rising one eyebrow, “Ok, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t escort you there.”

“No, not at all, I suppose this is it then Avedis, I do appreciate that you have giving up your time to help me, I really do. Now you keep this Planet in order governor.” A chuckle coming to Akuse’s mouth, “well at least try.”

“No, thank you inquisitor, I do hope you bring me information about these events, they have begun to worry me.”

“Good bye governor.”

Jack sighed, and motioned at the Inquisitor to come over.

"I'm not entirely sure this is going anywhere. I can't find one single discrepancy in the transport logs. The transport personnel are always the same, but every single one of them seems to be fully accounted for. Same goes for all the people who file these records too. Granted, we could look into that, as records can be falsified, but frankly it'll take a while to track down the personnel involved."

*For now we'll operate under the assumption that the PDF is compromised, Interrogator. However, we could start at the top and work down, instead of at the bottom going up. Who's in charge?*

"Firstly there's Colonel Martti Virkkunen. Doesn't seem to be anything other than a battlefield commander though. I see his personal seal on various documents, with a signature, but the rest of the documents that have handwriting use entirely different styles. He's probably kept busy commanding actions to quell the populace if you ask me."

*So who does he have underneath him dealing with the paperwork?*

"There's three PDF Captains stationed in the capital; Viljo Relander, Antero Paasikivi and Vilhelmiina Sorsa. Relander's currently in charge of PDF-Arbites liaisons by the looks of it. Sorsa's covering recruitment, but seems to be tied up with "internal" matters. Paasikivi is currently unassigned. Rather odd that one, but he's just left one assingment, or so it says here, so I guess they've yet to provide him with a new one."

*I think we can ignore Paasikivi for the time being. But I would like to know what he was up to on his last assignment. Otherwise Relander or Sorsa seem like our best bets right now. Can you find out any details on what exactly these internal matters are?*

"On it."

After more searching through various reports that had been stored these, Jack found the information he was after.

"Looks like there's been morale and discipline issues amongst the troops. I suppose we can put part of the blame for that on the fact that there's only one commissar available for the planet. Standard practice for PDF regiments I believe. Sometimes they can even be assigned at sector level, so that a single commissar deals with all the PDF regiments."

*Perhaps we should look into altering that state of affairs around here when we get chance.*

"Considering what we've heard so far, and the fact that the security around the upper echelons on planet is seriously compromised, I'd have to agree."

*Sorsa might be worth talking to then. On the other hand if Relander has been dealing with the arbites, he might have access to additional records that we may need. They've been targeted as well after all, and if they've been kept so busy that the PDF has been called in to provide additional manpower to secure the populace, then something is wrong.*

"That's my reading too Inquisitor. Sorsa then?"

*Yes, Sorsa. If that leads nowhere, we proceed on to deal with Relander. Let's go.*

Jack stood up and followed the Inquisitor out to the groundcar. For the time being it was permanently under their command, and considering the way it was decked out, that certainly wasn't unpleasant.

Jack sat back in the seats of the groundcar as the Inquisitor provided the servitor with the next destination. Sorsa's offices.

Spluttering bursts of autogun fire, punctuated by the loud coughs from shotguns, echo in the archive and I groan inwardly. Over the past fifteen minutes, four more of the mutant abominations have been put down just in the archive, and I gather by Jyrki's frantic and somehow excited barking of orders into his mic that Enforcer kill-squads have located others elsewhere in the court house.

We haven't found anything else yet but I'm on my guard, watching the end of the corridor for any signs of movement. Twice I thought I'd caught a glimpse of the mystery figure we'd seen before, but both times I dismissed it as a figment of my imagination.

But that can't possibly have been a trick of the eye just now.

I look up, craning my neck to stare at the ceiling, and so does Jyrki. Nothing immediately strikes either of us as unusual, and I swiftly move on, taking up a position next to Skoll, who -- conveniently -- is standing near a corner.

Jyrki doesn't seem to be having such an easy time of it, though.

"I think there's something up on top of one of the stacks," he announces rather slowly.

"I think we'd know if there was," Inquisitor Skoll announces, almost as if he knows what's happening next.

Maybe he does. The more I think about it, it's entirely possible.

I know enough about Inquisitors to know that a fair number of them are psychic. Ageryn wasn't, but enough of his contacts were. And I shouldn't imagine that anyone in the service of the Inquisition hasn't heard of the Draco files, and all the headaches he's given the Malleus.

"Unless..." Skoll begins, distracting me for just long enough to turn around.

Skoll grabs my wrist suddenly and pulls me towards him, dropping to the ground as he does so, so that I land on top of him, my face barely an inch away from his. I drop my autopistol and it skitters across the floor towards Jyrki, who is now aiming his shotgun at the ceiling.

Something crashes to the ground where I'd been standing just a split-second before, and I turn my head to face it, compromised as my position is.

"Now is probably not the time for this, Inquisitor," I remark sarcastically, rolling off of him and scrabbling around for my autopistol as Jyrki opens fire at the thing behind me.

My fingers close around the grip of my gun and I snap it round, firing a short burst at a giant black shape that apparently ignores me, heading straight for Jyrki, leaping over the Inquisitor like a hound and pouncing on him at the same moment that he fires a second shot, and misses by a country mile.

Whatever the thing is, it is on top of Jyrki, its outline blurring slightly as its black shroud billows out behind it as if caught in a hurricane.

Oddly, Jyrki doesn't scream, but as the thing leaps away I can see why; his head and most of his chest have been shredded beyond recognition, even through his armour. Bits of him look like mincemeat.

I must admit, the sight and smell of it are absolutely sickening, but I recover for long enough to see where exactly the killer's gone.

It's landed right on top of Skoll, but it's spitted itself upon his sword. I can see it's still moving, trying to get off of Skoll, but it's left itself vulnerable, and I raise my pistol at what I hope is the creature's head.

"I'm not entirely sure whether that's a great idea, Commissar," Skoll notes, and I freeze.

"You mean you want it alive?"

"Well, if you can help me restrain it then that would probably be a good place to start."

Skoll kicks one of the creature's legs out from underneath it, clearly desperate to keep it at arm's length if at all possible. An arm flashes out and I shoot it, the offending limb centimetres from Skoll's face, and the thing recoils for just long enough for me to get it in an arm-lock. I can feel it struggling, but I kick it and although I hit something extremely hard, it pauses for the briefest of moments and I get it on the ground.

I notice Skoll isn't exactly rushing to help.

"Tie it up if you can, Alice, that thing's trouble. Look at its face if you don't believe me."

I realise for the first time that the creature has a face, and as I peel back its hood, a face from a nightmare howls out at me.

As human as this thing may once have been, it's changed beyond recognition and more closely resembles a daemon than anything else. Four sharp horns adorn its face; two upon its brow, and two protruding from its cheeks as if its very facial structure has turned itself into a weapon. Sharpened spikes jut from its chin and from behind its jaw, and the base of its skull has also sprouted a set of cruel barbs that curl around its neck and under its ears.

I shudder to think what's become of the rest of its body. Perhaps every rounded or protruding piece of bone on its body has grown into a spike or blade, fusing with its exoskeleton and transforming the mutant into a living ball of spikes. I can't tell, nor do I particularly want to.

"Won't it bleed to death?" I inquire, looking down at the wound in its belly, before noticing that it's not bleeding.

"I doubt it somehow," Skoll responds, visibly relieved to be away from that thing. Perhaps it's affecting him in ways I can't perceive. There's definitely something unsettling about the mutant, something gnawing away inside me, but I can barely notice anything.

It's staring at us, spitting, hissing, cursing in a language I don't recognise, if it's even a language at all.

"Do you want to do anything with this, or kill it?" I ask Skoll tentatively.


Lucius and Ezekiel were led into a small room directly under the shop, it could have been a cellar or storeroom. It was mildly warm but as they walked down the steps the air began to smell more and more of moisture and damp.

Inside there are two figures, a large hunk of hairy man and a small sylph of a woman. A definite little and large. As they came down Lucius began to feel a sudden chill, abnormally so, it seemed much colder than it should do for how deep underground it was. He turned to Ezekiel, he was pale and had a haunted look to him.

"Good evening, Mr Gray and Mr White, it's nice to be able to meet you here" said the small teen, the large man merely grunted.

"Thank you very much and likewise." There wasn't a great deal of light and Lucius could barely see their faces. Lucius offered his hand but as he leant forward the larger man turned to stare at him and he felt a sudden wave of nausea rolled over him. The girl leaned forward into the light to shake his hand, she has a small round face with sharp and attentive green eyes. She took his grip, it was strong but supple mildly betraying her youth. Never-the-less Lucius estimated that while young she had been trained relatively well.

The other seemed a simple brute, but there was something more than that. The aura that he seemed to be giving was strangely familiar, it seemed vaguely like that of several potent anti-psyker devices he had experienced. Although he had also heard of certain devices used to demoralise and weaken the morale of negotiators making it easier to bargain with.

"My associate and I have come to ask for a favour from you're master, Our master is coming to this system, we're not sure when as is using the warp tunnels but it is imminent, and we need to be properly hidden so that he is unable to locate us."

The girl smirked.
"How do you know that he is not She? But no, I am M and this is Porphyrion. Ok, what you're asking is easily manageable, what kind of skills do you both have?"

"I am a trained and skilled wytch-hunter and Mr White is..." Lucius was interrupted because Ezekiel had started to thrash on the floor and beat against the psy-matter tanks of his null collar. Strangely despite his thrashing, his coal black eyes never left Porphyrion, it then suddenly clicked for Lucius, the unnatural aura, Ezekiel's behaviour and his own unease. Porphyrion was a untouchable, he didn't know a great deal about them other that they were occasionally used by other inquisitors and the few scraps he had read in the Lexicanium mutanis.

"...well when you untouchable isn't flaying his mind, he is a powerful telepathatic psyker" Porphyrion grunted.

"Ok then, we will contact you within the next few days, until that time you will be working for us."
"But we can't wait that long, we barely missed him last time."
M shrugged her shoulders.
"Well I suggest you work hard and fast then and I will do my best to expedite things providing your good conduct. We need you to investigate the recent disquiet, we think that there is someone working behind the scenes to stir a uprising."

"Surely you your own teams to deal with things like that."
"True, but it is also a test of your abilities but then again don't mock free labor." She smiled and both M and Porphyion left through a small door behind them which locked afterwards with a metallic click.

It was several minutes before Ezekiel stopped convulsing, and they were able to leave the basement of the jewellers into the still bustling street.


"I really don't know. If its... words... are indicative of its skill to convey information, I doubt it has much to say itself. But knowledge is a weapon, Alice - if we can... ugh. I don't know."

His thoughts broken, Marco shook his head wildly in an attempt to clear it. He wasn't quite sure what the problem was, but except that it was to do with the creature. It was wrong, there was no other word for it.
It's presence felt almost like a pariah's blankness in its nature, but he knew what stood in front of him was no psychic blank. Even for a low powered psyker like himself, the abyss that a untouchable painted its surroundings with was unmistakeable.

No, rather than the unsettling void, it was what was still there that was insult to the natural order of things. More likely, the being carried the gaze or touch of something. Kaamos, no doubt. Although tempted, he didn't dare tap into his psychic senses to try and scry the creature's nature - even with his degree of control, it had the potential to sunder his mind.

He had seen many similar-looking beasts in his years, and had he seen only a pict-image of it, he could have easily convinced himself it was born of the warp. However, in person, he was sure it wasn't.
For one, Laevateinn was psycho-conductive, its touch poison to a daemon's form. For two, if it were truly a daemon, it would have unleashed the most dreadful of warp power upon them by now, and he wouldn't be standing to contemplate its nature. For three, its aura, although wrong, was not the malevolence that it would have exuded were it of the warp.

Marco turned back to Alice. The Commissar was evidently quite bemused at his wild twitching and muttering. Marco shrugged.

"Indecisiveness in an Inquisitor. Not a trait we tend to play up... How old are you, Alice?"

He paused, before changing tack.

"Actually... forgive me my impertinence. It's not my place to ask a lady her age. But, I however, am forty-two. I've had the seal for five of those."
Alice nodded politely before responding: "Not to be rude, Inquisitor, but why are you telling me all this?"
"Because Alice, I'm not about to pretend I can tell you what this is. I've never seen its like."
"That's... not exactly reassuring."
"I know, and for that I apologise. I can't come in and wave a magic wand, thus magically fixing everything you see. I am not, however, short of friends amongst the Inquisition. I know that Inquisitor Rhodes dealt with a matter of a similar outward nature to this some years back."
"I see. And you think he'll be able to help?"
"She, actually. Lyra's a good friend. I know she's rather occupied of late, but it would do this matter no harm to at least contact her."
"That's more comforting to hear. But that still doesn't tell me what is to be done with that."

She pointed at the squirming heap of spike and muscle on the ground. Marco pondered for a second.

"That depends on you. If you think you can ensure it can stay bound, and not escape or subject anyone else to the fate of Hra. Gutterell or Pekkala, I want it alive. If you think there's any but the faintest of convoluted chances it might make it's escape, I would rather it dead. At least then I can be sure of having its remains for study."

Alice hesitated, the pressure put on her somewhat. To one side, the creature squirmed, but whether it understood the conversation was beyond either of them to guess.

"Ah. Right. Do you know if... uh, Jyrki had a set of binders left?"
"Good thinking. I'll check."

Marco went over to the arbitrator, looking to relieve Alice of having to search remained of Jyrki. He didn't know if the two had known one another, which obviously would have worsened it, but even so, he suspected that, even as a Commissar, dealing with such a gruesome corpse was nowhere near as common for her as it was for him.

He was briefly distracted by his subconscious reminding him he'd need to talk to the Commissar about Justice Fenn. It could have been chance, but judging by the names, and Alice's reaction when it was mentioned earlier, she knew more than she was telling.
Marco had no telepathic skill whatsoever, save for the bond he shared with Silva - although that talent was useful, it was limited in its extent, and worked only between the pair.
This meant he had had to learn other ways of extracting information. He hadn't the talent of Frost at cold reading, but he could generally spot the mark of a forced emotion or expression, a useful talent to have.

Contemplating this as he patted down Jyrki's remaining kit, Marco finally found some binders. Whistling to get Alice's attention, he casually threw them to her, and she responded by making a decent catch. Turning back down to look at the Arbitrator, what the creature had done was less ugly than what had happened to Gutterell, but it was still unpleasant. He briefly wondered if the man had had a family, or a partner. He was one of the Arbites, so it wasn't particularly likely, but then again, Marco himself was an Inquisitor with a partner, and that was rare enough, so he never wrote off much as impossible.

Unsurprisingly, his thoughts flitted to Silva. Theirs was a dangerous line of work. Marco himself had only just avoided Jyrki's fate by the skin of his teeth. They were both good, but was it good enough? Could either cope without the other if it did come to it?


Silva scanned her view around, sniffing at the air. It was an almost animal habit that obviously sat ill with the others. She wasn't entirely sure why she kept it up any more, she could hardly make out anything over the smell of the other two. It wasn't the smell of fear, they were surprisingly disciplined - but the tang of hormones they were exuding was certainly heavily complicating matters.

Still, there was some kind of smell underlaid under everything. It had the odour of organic hydrocarbon compounds, but what it actually was, she didn't know. She was no chemical expert, but it was definitely there though.

"It's... quiet. Rather too quiet."

Kalle was somewhat right, they hadn't seen anything that wasn't in the slightest inhuman in several minutes, save Silva's own hulking cybernetic form, but she rolled her eyes at the statement anyway. Uttering the words was a reliable way of ensuring that it suddenly became too loud. This time however, the universe didn't rise to the bait, and left the three of them in the middle of lonely shelving, eyes passing over ill-ordered files. This place was host to a million things. And that odd smell.

She tried to ignore the odour. There were many things she smelt each day that meant nothing. Sometimes, the nose was a curse, smelling a thousand things no-one else could, and many of them meaningless. However, humans seldom realised how much information could be had through smell. Words and actions could lie, but scents seldom did.

She was distracted by a voice from behind, and turned to look back over her shoulder.

"So, what now?"
"I say we head that way."

She gestured over to the left with a metallic finger, and the bounty hunter nodded in response. Silva had largely found herself leading the group. She wasn't overly surprised. She might only have possessed the rank of Staff Sergeant, but being the partner to an Inquisitor tended to intimidate people into deferring to what she said - even disregarding the fact that Marco entrusted her with completely unrestricted use of his Inquisitorial authority.
At the same time, the hundred and fifty pounds of bionics helped in a way, as it meant that people took it for granted she had combat experience.


Some distance away, Gio was having a similar situation. With nothing to be seen, she was beginning to question the logic of their hunting method, not unlike trying to find a needle in a haystack by plunging your hand in wildly until it stabbed you through the thumb. Inefficient and dangerous.

Nonetheless, she was excelling herself, having captured one of the freaks beaten but perfectly alive already, something that would no doubt please the Inquisitor, as it gave him someone else to tap for information.

Right now, she was acting on the Inquisitor's voxed transmission about his theory that the building might have been rigged, a role which she was very able at, having studied explosives very extensively at the Scholam. It had been a speciality of hers for some years, knowing where to place explosives for maximum effect, and thus, she was searching everywhere she would have placed explosives herself. Thus far, nothing had been turned up.

This meant one of four things. One - there were no explosives. Two - they hadn't placed explosives here yet. Three - the people who had hidden them were total amateurs, and had placed the charges with no thought to their use. Four - the explosives were where she was looking, but somehow so well concealed that she was unable to find them.

That was four options. She only liked one of them. Those were not great odds.

"We'll have to stay here to guard this thing until we can move it," I observe, pulling the mutant's arms behind its back and clamping the binders shut around its wrists. I'm a little surprised that all it did was sit there spewing incomprehensible vitriol at us. Perhaps being impaled rather subdued it, even though I have to double-check to ensure it's not bleeding.

I'm still rather put off by this monster's constitution if being run through by Inquisitor Skoll's sword doesn't put it down. It's not dying, I can tell that now.

Strands of bony material are growing from the inside of the wound, large enough to accommodate most of my hand, and I notice that the thing's trying to knit itself back together. These strands are growing slowly, though, and are barely above the microscopic level. It'll take days to heal, especially considering that the wound runs right through the body.

I notice at last, and with no small measure of disgust, that its spine appears to have been severed, explaining its apparent reticence to flee before I bound it. I'm suddenly overcome by nausea. It's been a very long time since I last saw anything like this, or what became of Jyrki. Watching half of a man being turned into mincemeat is understandably a disgusting experience, and I've seen such things terrify sterner men and women than myself.

Once again, I'm distracted by Skoll muttering something, and I turn around to see him looking at me totally deadpan.

"Not exactly encouraging news," he informs me.

"I wasn't aware any news an Inquisitor had to give was ever encouraging," I answer, in an attempt to defuse the gravitas of the situation. It naturally doesn't work.

"Gio's found explosive charges, and I have to admit they weren't in the most obvious of places. I have absolutely no idea how many of them there are."

I freeze, reminded ever so slightly of the court house arson attack all too recently.

"If there are enough, then with the lockdown..."

"I know," Skoll nods. "The archive's sealed."

"Whereabouts are they?"

"The charges, or Gio?"

"Both, if possible. I've received some demolitions training, maybe I can defuse some of the charges and at least create some kind of safe region. If nothing else it means we have a chance of survival."

"Well, Gio's probably down the other end of the building, and I have no idea if we'll make it there in time. As for the charges, would you mind taking out that red folder behind you? The one marked with the Administratum logo."

I turn and find the right folder, pulling it out, only to find that it's not containing any documents. Nonetheless, it's too heavy and too bulky to contain anything else.

"Disguised demolition charge," I note, staring at the boxy apparatus within the folder's panels. I've seen these before. It should have gone into a satchel or a case, and armed by tearing a strap or flipping a latch before being hurled at its target. The impact would set off a timer, and five seconds later the charge would explode with a blast stronger than a battlecannon shell.

This one has been modified, with its arming mechanism replaced by an infrared pickup.

"How did you know?" I ask.

"Gio found three in things you don't expect anyone to read. Mostly bureaucratical records, and evidence folders for fifty-year-old cases that have otherwise been gathering dust. Once she'd told me that's where they were, I just had to look for one, and that folder's rather the wrong size for an Administratum report," Skoll replies quite correctly. "I mean, I know they can write until they're blue in the face, but even that's a little large for a tax record."

"I'm just trying to work out where this came from and why it's here," I mutter, recognising the pattern of the demo charge but not quite able to pinpoint its origin. The PDF and Arbites train with them, and they're sometimes used to level derelict hab-blocks or raze dens of rebels or criminals. I've seen one used as a bargaining chip before.

"Well, I don't imagine it's come from the PDF, they'd have wised up to such a prank by now after the knives. They're also fairly heavy. No, I'd say they came from this building."

"Haven't you already spent rather a while in the archives?" I ask, gently putting the folder down on the floor. I don't like the feeling of holding a dangerous and unpredictable weapon of mass destruction in my hands, or anywhere about my person.

"Yes, and on that subject, I imagine now's as good a time as any to ask you something, if we're in a position of almost certain death," Skoll proposes.

Given how serious the situation is, and how recently I've met Skoll -- not to mention that he's an Inquisitor, and that difficult questions are his stock in trade -- I find it's surprisingly easy to suppress a tasteless and inappropriate fantasy.

Although a sudden motion behind Skoll might perhaps have encouraged this decision.

"I think it might be best to save it for later, Inquisitor," I answer as something clatters to the floor next to the bound mutant. I dive for what's ostensibly a detonator as the mutant wriggles on the floor, trying to get on top of it and use either its good hand or its head to hit the large black button on the top of the palm-sized oblong device. The creature snaps and gnashes its teeth as I gingerly lift the device out of harm's way.

"I don't suppose you can bind its legs in any way?" Skoll suggests. I shake my head.

"It wouldn't help. Its spine's severed where you impaled it, so it's paralysed from the waist down."

"I see. Well, once the lockdown lifts, I suggest we send for someone to help us get that thing out of here. If nothing else it would be helpful to study what looks like one of their leaders."

"And the demo charges?"

"Obviously we need to disarm that detonator," Skoll responds. "It looks basic enough, but looks can be very deceiving. I imagine we find someone to take a look at it. Just don't hit it by accident. I have no idea if it's active, or if it is, how to disarm it."

"Not particularly encouraging."

Skoll looks at me and then laughs quietly.

"Alice, you just said yourself that nothing an Inquisitor has to say is particularly encouraging," he remarks. "Come on."

Offline Koval

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #10 on: October 03, 2009, 01:42:14 PM »

Marco activated his vox again, waiting briefly for a response to come back.

"I hear you sir."
"Gio. It seems the mutant we have here had a detonator. Neither I nor Alice have..."
"Alice? Is she the commissar you were with earlier?"
"Yes, she is. We have the detonator, but neither of us have the talent to deal with it ourselves."
"So you want bring it to me, sir?"
"I can think of no-one better to bring it to."
"As you wish, Inquisitor. I'm in the North end of the building. Sector 8F."

Marco switched off his vox. It was time to move again. He started reaching for the sword across his back, but he thought better of it. It would be better to stick to his pistol now. Extracting it from its holster, he turned around to the commissar.

"We should go quickly, Alice. Arbitrator Ciris is north of us, and she should be able to deal with that remote."
"That's all very well, Inquisitor, but what about the mutant?", the commissar asked. Marco was about to answer when she corrected herself.
"No, ignore that. I'm putting priorities in the wrong order. Explosives first."
"Good. Let's go."


Several miles away in the Vesuvius, and completely unaware of the troubles his employer was suffering, Jax shuffled a deck of cards. Neatening up the pack as he finished, he dealt out cards around the table.

"Everyone's cards reasonable? I've not dealt anyone too few or too many, have I?"

Waiting a few seconds for a response from everyone, he set the rest of the deck down in the middle of the table, then picked up his own hand, sorting them into some kind of order. A pair of tens, and double Primarchs. He could work with those, even if the other cards weren't great.

"So, Arden. It's your turn first, old mucker."
"As I am quite aware, thank you. Now, let's see..."

The aged smuggler reached for the deck in the middle of the table.


Marco glanced up at the sign, checking his bearings. Spending a moment to consider if he needed to make a turning, he decided against it and kept going forwards.

"Anyway, where was I?"
"You were talking about the Governor's assassination."
"So I was. Now, I can't figure out who wanted him dead. He was..."

There was a sudden whirlwind of activity. Completely unforeseen, a mutant leapt down from above, using the shelving as a form of climbing frame and swung both its feet solidly into Alice. Caught off guard, she was knocked forwards, fumbling and losing her grip on the detonator, which flew wildly forwards.

Spinning around, Marco brought around his right hand and fired his pistol at the mutant. The supersonic 9mm semi-magnum rounds cracked sharply, even with the pistol's suppressor. At such short range, the three bullets tore ragged holes in the creature's chest, killing it almost instantly. Dead, it collapsed, toppling over backwards.

To her credit, the commissar had recovered very fast, her concerns immediately voiced.

"Inquisitor! The detonator!"
"Don't worry. It's fine. Are you alright?"

As Alice pushed the dead mutant away and she stood up, she could start to see past Marco. His left hand was stretched out behind him, splayed but at the same time seemingly grasping at the air. Following the line of his arm, she could see the detonator.
Pinned in mid-air by an invisible force, it was about six inches from falling face flat onto the floor. It wasn't obvious whether it would have been triggered, but it wasn't something that anyone would have wanted to speculate on.

Looking back over his shoulder, Marco waved his hand somewhat nonchalantly at the small box, which equally casually flew up into his hand. Passing it back to the Commissar, he raised an eyebrow.

"We need to keep our eyes open. I'm certain that we could do without that happening again, don't you agree?"
"I take it you're a telekine, then?"
"It can be found amongst my talents. I'm not all that powerful, but... well, it's enough."

The Commissar nodded in response to this. Marco didn't go any further on the point - he'd been around a few commissars before, and a number had turned their nose up at him once they had known he was psychic. Alice seemed reasonable enough, but it was still no point to press.


Having been told what the unpleasant smell was, Silva was nearly kicking herself for not working it out sooner. It was the fyceline in the explosive charges, and she knew she should have known it - it was a common smell in armouries.
Through a combination of smell and Gio's hints, she had one of charges sat in front of her. Kneeling over it, she pushed her bionic hand through its wiring, trying to figure it out.

"Can you defuse it?", Friedrich asked from somewhere to her left.
She looked around at him, deliberately fixing him with her mismatched eyes.
"Afraid not. This is rather beyond my talents, and I'm not inclined to take the risk, given that my track record with explosives is... not exactly exemplary - if you get what I'm saying."

He certainly did.

Aduro was getting bored this endless waiting always irked her calm she paced behind him huffing and muttering in her native language, he'd never taken the time to learn it so it meant nothing too him though he could guess that it was complaining.

His mind however was on other things inside the precinct was a riot of activity people in pain or dying at an increasing rate and a underlying feeling of fear and panic it wasn't difficult for him to work out that the place was under attack.

His eyes flashed open shining green for a moment as his hand flashed up finger extended.


Aduro turned following his finger across the great courtyard before the precinct to a figure clinging to the shadows and the darkness moving away from the building.

"Bring me it. alive Ensis."

"As you command."

She went to the edge of the wall fitting a tool to her hand and leapt over the edge running the tool down the length of the wall to slow her decent she sprang off it's surface some fifteen feet up landing in a roll that allowed her to come up fully into a sprint. She crossed the courtyard keeping low like a swooping bird of prey her arms our stretched as she closed the thing turned to regard her before it could react though he arms had folded in behind her andd two blades appeared as she drew them back out, ducking under the creatures open clawed fists her blades first raked across the back of it's legs to hamstring it then up the underside of it's arms the four blows landed within an second of one another sent the thing reeling forwards where it broke into a run in flight of her.

She dipped to give chase when his voice over her vox stopped her dead.

"He's mine."

She stood up right as she watched her master stride out towards the creature it ducked low to charge into him as it came on he drew his pistol and fired into it's face stepping to the side as it roared past him, he fired twice more then slid the pistol back into his robes following the slowing assailant, it took a dozen steps before dropping and twisting up contorting into a painful position it moaned and struggled but gradually it stopped.

"I thought that was loaded with copper basilisk venom."

"I changed the vial for venom from a Black Warp Spider."

"What does that do?"

"Causes the muscles to tighten to the point they paralyse the infected area for a few hours, if used too much it can be quite fatal as it can quite literally cause the muscles to tighten up so much that they crush the area affected."

He rolled the mutant over looking at it for a second.

"Go and acquire us as vehicle one with a boot or load space."

She vanished from his side as he knelt to look at it's face, he'd shot it in the throat so carefully he pulled the needle from it's neck before rolling it over and binding it's arms.

"You and I are going to talk."

A few moments later a car skidded onto the courtyard and together they lifted the mutant into the boot Aduro removed the car as he turned to face the precinct.

"What were you running from?"

If he's allowed to reveal a secret the size of telekinesis, then I would imagine I'm allowed to keep something slightly smaller, but at the same time I'm on my guard in case Skoll tries to bring up Lucinda.

At any rate, though, we travel down to the other end of the archives without incident. I think we've seen off the last of them, but I don't want to really pass judgment either way after the lockdown brought them all out of hiding.

We turn a corner and I see a female Arbitrator with her helmet off, casually examining one of the modified demo charges. Skoll picks up the pace and the woman inclines her head towards him, her eyes lighting up with recognition.

"You've been busy," Giovanna remarks matter-of-factly as Skoll strides over.

"Well, it's not exactly a pleasure cruise," Skoll jests, before turning to me. "Alice, I'd like to introduce you to Arbitrator Ciris; Gio, this is Commissar Fenn, my latest acquaintance."

"She's not going to be happy, you know," Giovanna states, and Skoll chuckles, divining the joke immediately as the Arbitrator turns to face me. "A pleasure, Commissar."


"We found the detonator for the explosive charges," Skoll explains, gesturing at the thing in my hands. "It was carried by what I can only assume was the mutants' leader. I don't suppose you'd mind taking a look?"

"I can tell from here it's child's play," Gio responds immediately.

Skoll and I share a worried glance, before the Inquisitor turns his attention back to Gio.

"What?" he asks simply, his voice a low, almost dangerous growl.

"See how big the detonator switch is? I wouldn't say there's room in there for more than a very small transmitter. Low power, short range."

"That doesn't have to mean anything," I remind Gio. "I've seen small things like that level a bunker from half a kilometre away."

"This doesn't look like military equipment, so whoever made these modifications obviously did so using only civilian resources. And, of course, the charges themselves," Gio answers. "The parts themselves look fairly low-grade, possibly purchased at a slum-district bazaar or salvaged from a junk yard. I've been rooting around inside this one for about fifteen minutes now after disconnecting the arming mechanism, and apart from what's supposed to be there normally, I can't find anything that looks even remotely better than civilian standard."

"We're dealing with thieves as well as terrorists and rebels?" Skoll proposes.

Dimly, I recall something Friedrich said only this morning about the Enforcers picking up a looter from a scrap yard. I'm obscurely glad he mentioned that now, but I don't say anything; equally, I wouldn't have envied the mutant had the reclamators actually found him before the Enforcers did. Anything they can't reclaim, they pulverise and convert into fuel, or building material for the poorer districts. I've seen them at work before, and they're brutally efficient. It's almost frightening.

"It's quite possible," Gio responds, "but let's deal with this detonator first. Give it here, I'll make it safe."

I'm a little reluctant to do so at first, but I slowly become aware of Skoll looking at me.

"She knows what she's doing," he prompts me.

Somehow I doubt it, but I hand it over anyway. Quick as a flash Gio's popping it open and disconnecting a small circular cell, the size of a human thumbnail, from the back of the rather simple device.

"What's that box thing at the end?" I ask, feigning unfamiliarity with explosives. Admittedly I'm not an expert, but I've used detonators before, usually in conjunction with failsafe mines and fortified positions.

"Infrared transmitter. Sends out a low-wavelength signal to the pickups on the demo charges. If I'd done this..."

Gio presses the big black button, and judging by how he's frozen, Skoll's found himself somewhere between fright and curiosity. She laughs.

"The battery's out, so it's harmless. But if I'd done that, the demo charges would've gone off and we'd all be dead. So just be glad they didn't."

"Indeed," Skoll observes, relaxing. "How long's this lockdown got left to clear?"

"I've maintained contact with a couple of the Enforcers elsewhere in the complex, I think they should be lifting it in about half an hour's time."

"Convenient," Skoll notes. "Alice, do you recall in which aisle we left our captive?"

"Aisle H-19, back in Sector 8C."

"You were all the way over there?" Gio asks. "Never mind. Ignore me. I guess to you I was all the way up here."

I leave them to it and lead them back towards where I hope our prisoner's still lurking.

Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: After Hours
« Reply #11 on: October 03, 2009, 08:21:29 PM »
Reaching for the detonator in Gio's hand, Marco flipped it over a few times between his fingers looking it over.
Able to view it really closely for the first time, several details about it seemed a little off. It took a while for him to make out what these things were, but the thing that eventually sat most ill with him was the neatness in its construction.
He looked away from the device in his hands and turned back to Giovanna,  who was studying the charges again. Noticing his attention, she opened conversation first.

   "I think we can find and remove these quite easily. They're not very well sealed, so any decent explosives sniffer should find them without too much challenge."
   "...I thought you had a sniffer. Could that not find them?"
   "It could - if I had brought it with me. It's no small thing to carry around. I never bring it unless I know I need it."
Marco nodded in answer to this point. It was quite obvious now he thought of it, but he was so used to Gio carrying almost everything  that it was more of a surprise when she didn't have something.
He held up the detonator to ask his question before it slipped his mind.

   "You told me this is made of civilian parts. What can you tell me about the maker?"
   "They've got limited resources, like I've already said - but they know the subject reasonably well. It's likely they've got some former experience, so there's a chance they may be ex-military. But it almost certainly isn't the work of one of the regular mutants we're encountering."
   "That's a major suggestion to make. How can you tell?"

The Arbitrator raised an eyebrow at the Inquisitor's question, as if it was obvious.

   "You couldn't do work like this with those hardened fingers."

The Inquisitor briefly smiled. Gio had the habit of dropping much of her normal formality from her speech when she was talking about one of her subjects of expertise. It was a side of her that he liked to see, that more casual mood - even if it did mean she occasionally messed around with detonators.
He didn't bring it up the fact he had noticed though, for doing so might excise the quirk from her.

   "That makes sense. Do you think it's willing or unwilling help?"
   "The former, at a guess. The systems should all work. Unwilling helpers are known to subtly sabotage this kind of thing."
   "In that case... well, judging by the mutants we've captured, my guess is they undergo a progressive advancement. They start human, and become... less so with time."
   "... which might make this the effort of an initiate into their cult", Gio finished.

Marco was mildly thrown by the Enforcer finishing up his train of thought, a habit he was used to seeing in Silva rather than anyone else. But Gio was an intelligent woman who had been trained for law enforcement work and had 10 years of experience under her belt, so he was perhaps more surprised than he should have been.
It was part of her value that she was as sharp as she was. While many of the other members of his entourage had relatively little concern for the events they were part of, Gio had in her the potential to be a respectable Inquisitor in her own right, save for her strictly regimented nature.

It took him a moment to realise that she was still waiting for a response.

   "More or less. If I had to guess, that is.", he responded, leaving the point more vague than he had intended because of a niggling doubt on the edge of his mind that was drawing in his attention greedily.

He turned to face the direction the Commissar had left in a couple of minutes back.

   "Alice... she's out there alone."
   "She'll be fine, Inquisitor. We've swept the archives fairly thoroughly now, and I doubt she's incompetent."

It took him a few seconds to decide not to chase after her. Gio, as always, was talking sense - the Commissar could handle herself.
He looked back at the cluster of Enforcers before it dawned on him that once again Alice had managed to escape without being asked about her namesake. The thought that she was deliberately avoiding him and the question passed through his mind - he had seen a number of people do the same when they had something to hide. It was an odd habit of humans, preferring to dodge the question rather than simply lie about it.
He discarded the idea for now. She was after all supposed to be returning shortly.
« Last Edit: October 04, 2009, 11:16:13 PM by MarcoSkoll »
S.Sgt Silva Birgen: "Good evening, we're here from the Adeptus Defenestratus."
Captain L. Rollin: "Nonsense. Never heard of it."
Birgen: "Pick a window. I'll demonstrate".

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