The Ordos Majoris - Roleplay > In Character

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Macabre:
Names.

Why is it that some names echo across the millennia, whilst countless billions of others are forgotten as motes of dust upon a temporal tempest? Spread before me, like the major arcana of an astropath’s tarot, are just such names of legend, that spiral and conjoin into a harrowing epic:

Mentirius, Nexus, Junious, Drazh Marazel, Vaith Osis, Maltheus, Alundirel, Ludvos Arkhan, Trachtenberg, Rex, Taren, Amaurn, Raphael…

I was too tired. I set aside my autoquill and sighed heavily. With a cramped hand I reached for the bottle of Vino Imperias and shook off a vellum page that had adhered to the bottom with a burgundy ouroboros of runoff. The distant throb of the engineerium two floors down added to my annoyance of finding the bottle empty and myself absent of wine. Normally I would choose somewhere far quieter to work, but this planet was far too cold, and the central column was the warmest place in the complex.

I rubbed my temples, trying in vain to preemptively shift an oncoming migraine. I needed air. Dragging myself away from the Munitorum-issue plasteel desk, I grabbed my fur-lined arctic robes, pulled down the bulkhead release crank and with a hiss of pneumatic pistons, swept through the yawning portal.

I blinked myopically as the sterile-white phosphor rods seared through my eyes. My breath had already started to mist, and a thin film of permafrost covered the surfaces of the corridor. As per usual, the temperature of the complex away from the central core was somewhere beneath five degrees, which was nothing compared to the outside. Crossing the tertiary gantry, the five hundred cells and the commissary some hundred feet below me were unsurprisingly deserted: with a standing crew of only five Inquisitorial functionaries, a handful of enginseers and mech-wrights to keep the complex running and about twenty or so servitors, all dwelling in a kilometer-wide site designed to house over five thousand, I rarely saw anyone unless I went looking for them.

I reached the heatlock, pulled my robe tighter to my chest and bracing myself for the cold. The locking wheel was uncooperative and screeched in protest as it turned before the door opened onto a silent vista of blue-white icy tundra and clear lavender sky, broken only by the sporadic, grey void-shield coils in the distance. I whispered a short prayer of gratitude that the normally hurricane-wracked landscape was still. I retrieved a groxhide and brass carton from the pocket of my robe, flipped the lip and plucked a tabacstick to my lips. Replacing the carton with a flintwheel lighter, I savoured the acrid stench of kerosene as I struck a flame and lit the end of the tabacstick. The coals blazed as I drew in a heavy draught, shivering as the weighted narco-vapour settled in my lungs. Exhaling blue-gray smoke I mused on my current situation: This was Rura Penthe, a minor Inquisitorial listening post, a very minor listening post in the Segmentum Pacificus, largely forgotten by the very institution it serves. Once this was a penal establishment until it was sequestered by the Ordo Xenos sometime in M38 as a staging post for an offensive against an alien threat now long since passed. With the inmates either drafted or sent to other prisonworlds, Rura Penthe was left as a listening post in the unlikely event it would be needed again and became a short string of numbers on an Administratum audit exclusion form.

“You shouldn’t remain out here too long, Sister Ellis, another blizzard is due soon” said a voice suddenly at my side.

“Rebekah, please” I murmured in insistence through another drag of smoke, “and be damned, how is it someone of your stature move so silently?”

“Sometimes stealth is the only weapon you have” came the reply as a massive bicep tattooed with a shield livery of a blue winged skull in profile on a field of white hoved into view to my right.

“I haven’t seen you for a while, Librarian Phaldor” I sighed curling vapour.

“Morael, please” he smirked “and I’ve been meditating, but I find the stillness of this moon spiritually soothing when the storms have abated”

The vivid purple glow of the jotunnium gas-giant Violet-Theta-Twelve had just begun its crescent rise upon the horizon and already the wind had picked up as a prelude to the predicted meteorological wrath.

“Why are we here, Morael?”

“My father trusted you.” He replied after a moment’s pause.

“I never really knew your father.” I refuted quickly. In truth, I had worked for a decade with Inquisitor Danyael Rephexis and returned to my Order a scant few years before his reported death and the disappearance of his ship: the Zankantō. I could see much of Danyael in Morael, the same patrician features, the same high forehead and wise but tormented eyes.

Morael looked down at me with a sad smile, “I only met my father once, and only by the sheer coincidence that I was tenured to the Deathwatch at the time.”

“He was a good man” I nodded solemnly, “but I meant; why are we here?”

“Catherine told me that my father recovered here for the nine years that followed the events of Secrets Hold.”

Danyael rarely spoke of his past and many of his retinue at the time of my secondment to his service hadn’t been with him them. Catherine D’Harquebus was his personal chirugeon and had been with him since his ascension to full inquisitor status. She had designed and aided in his physiotherapy regime following the betrayal of Inquisitor Lorenco di Valdi that left him paralyzed from the waist down and left for dead aboard the hulk: The Invisible Dragon. She must be at least some three-hundred Terran standard by now.

She was also the one that gave Danyael’s archive to Morael along with instructions that led him to recruit me and bring us to this desolate, nigh-deserted and freezing rock. It also struck me at the superhuman tolerances of the astartes at my side: barefoot and wearing naught but a sleeveless, white-linen recreation robe despite the snow and ice.

I flicked the spent tabacstick into a nearby snowdrift and turned towards the heatlock.

“Some of the archive is either corrupted or incomplete, Morael, are you sure it should be made accessible to the Inquisition?” I asked.

The Librarian’s gaze remained firmly fixed in the distance and silent moments passed before he gave his answer;

“Catherine told me that my father had maintained extensive records of related inquisitorial activities since Secrets Hold and that his final request was that his brothers and sisters in the Ordos needed to know the truth.”

“Truth is subjective….” I began and then instantly realised why Catherine had suggested Rura Penthe: The moment Danyael’s archive was uploaded to the Inquisition’s gateway database there would be elements within that would see it removed. The Puritan Council and Ordo Malleus would see it destroyed simply because of the names it contained (the names of: Amon Dull, Landen Dosdamt, Charax came unbidden to my mind). With the core archive held deep within the datastacks of Rura Penthe, it would take years, maybe decades, to break the complex encryptions and trace it origins to this lonely moon. By which time copies will have circulated too widely to control.

“It will cause anarchy, Morael, rifts will divide the Ordos, a schism of interests and new philosophies will break the Inquisition: a new internal war of secrets and lies. This truth will be buried under the avalanche of further misinformation.”

“I know,” he replied. “The next supply ship arrives in seventy-two hours, Sister Ellis, if you are finished by then we will arrange passage away from here and then part company. I recommend from there that you find yourself a remote convent somewhere the fallout cannot reach you.”

“I’ve been finished for two days. I just wanted to speak with you, to be sure that this is necessary.” I say, sighing with resignation.

“It is,” he whispered.

I nod, retreating through the heatlock into the complex and back to my chamber.


+++ Accessing database +++
>>> User access code:_
>>> *
+++ Authorising +++
[ACCESS GRANTED]
://<query=central+inquisition+gateway?>
- accessing inquisition gateway:_
[ACCESS DENIED]
://<search=tertiary+route?>
_No Pathway Found:_
://<cmd=search?maintenance+lock>
_searching.
_lock0:_
_lock1:_
_lock2:_
_lock3:_
://<cmd=access_lock0?>
+++[ACCESS RESTRICTED]+++
- insufficient clearance:_
://<cmd=show?restriction+protocol>
-protocol=key1657774839900506874773
://<cmd=bypass+protocol>
_
_
_
_protocol disengaged:_
://<cmd=access_lock0>
- insufficient clearance:_
://<passkey=yarrick+beta+oboe>
://<cmd=new+logon>
- please enter authorisation:_
>>>user access code:_system+overide
>>>passkey:_=][=
[ACCESS GRANTED]
#uploadfile=107684Φ4666Θ76Ψ
_UPLOADING:_
_
_
_
[UPLOAD COMPLETE]
://<cmd=new+file+dir>
_1 new file found:_
://<cmd=access_file?>
_REPHEXIS_ARCHIVE:_

Dosdamt:
“Who will read this?”

“Does it matter? The old man said it was important. He wanted this doing, especially if his era came up on the channels. Especially if something this big came up.”

He shuffled at the terminal.

“Are you uncomfortable with this?”

“No. No, listen, no. The old man.... This was his last request. He wanted his death, Aithol. He wanted it all to mean something. With Junious gone.. Throne knows where, the rest of the Mentirians have gone to ground - well, those who weren't dead in the purges anyway. What is there left? Maltheus, Stryde, lost to the warp. Even that lunatic Muundus hasn't been heard from. There's a new generation now.”

He keyed his access codes, cycling the channels.

“Not a single name I know. Mefisto, that old goat, even he is gone and he was one for stirri-”

“-the pot for the sake of stirring the pot.”

Both of the figures chuckled.
“This feels hollow.”

The words echoed around the librarium. It was dark, cold, drafty. Many a message was sent from places like this. Dusty reliquariums that had been accumulated by the various bibliophiles in the Inquisition. They'd pick an outpost on the fringe, and drop their collections leaving them accessible to all. All who had a ship, and a navigator, and the will to get to the edge of the known galaxy. And that was the draw, the edge of the galaxy. It would take months to get here, and even those places with barely one route in had that advantage – barely one. There was always another way, usually much riskier, but worth it to evade capture. Some, like this rocky outcrop, had multiple safe routes in and out.

Perhaps that explained the few other souls in the place, going about their business. The surroundings and the virtually inaudible murmur suggested that everyone in the place had no interest in the machinations of anyone else.

“What does it matter, seriously? Why did we hump our forsaken hides all the way out here just to pour some petrol on this bonfire? Why bother?”

The seated man sighed. He thumbed his temples, and straightened his spine.

“Because of the idea.”

“Idea? Is that what we are now? Idealogues? Fanatics? Messengers?”

“No,” the seated man snapped, “None of that. We are active agents-”

“Without an Inquisitor.”

“Aye, but we do the good work. We keep working against the great enemy. We aren't just idealogues, or messengers. This is important, Karon, this is really important. Look, you saw the archive with your own eyes. You know what they've published. This... This is the start of something. Dangerous, stupid, important, whatever. This event...”

He sighed, and slumped into his chair. His partner waved her hands.

“If you think this is right.....” she said, her words faltering off.

++++ Communications.=I=.TheConclave:Open ++++
++++ <CMD:AllFreqBrdCast> ++++
++++ CMD – ACCEPTED ++++
++++ <CMD:Auth//Black-47\\Action:POST.ANONYMOUS> ++++
++++ Subject: The Last Confession of Jaydred Taren ++++

History will not treat us kindly, if it remembers us at all.

I said that to Mentirius, in one of our final conversations before Aithol. We sat in the Warp for some time. I suppose everyone on that vessel, and on route to that planet, knew the same. It wasn’t a fool’s errand – it was a traitor’s run.

If this has been published, then I am long dead and there is a demand for something new in the Inquisition. Specific parameters I specified have been met, and as a result, this is to be published.
A review of the past, and perhaps to provide some lessons for the future.
 
Legacy was one of my many vanities – a vanity most Inquisitors have – and thus when Mentirius and I spoke, we spoke of a many great things, not least his book, our personas, our ideals – our legacy and that of all those heading out for Aithol.

We all knew that, one way or another, we’d all end up fixing gazes with an executioner as a result of our actions.

I do not fear that day, and it is closer than I suspect.

We had all been proscribed. We had all risked everything to get to that world. This was our opportunity to create a legacy though, a true legacy, one forged of bravery and conviction. The galaxy potentially hanging by a thread – isn’t that what we signed up for? Isn’t that our task? Didn’t that make it our opportunity?

It did, and it was, and perhaps a great many things, ideas and men died as a result of our vanity. But the galaxy was saved.

I suppose I would like to remember the names and faces with a rose tint, not the way we ended on that world. Not the way our legacy will be recorded, infamy and riddled with heresy. Not the way things actually happened, but the way I remember them.

This little vanity, then, will be preserved. It will be kept safe. This will be published at a time I have specified to hands, hearts and minds I trust completely. It is to be released at a time when it is needed; when the Inquisition bloats with the narrow radical and the fiery rhetoric of puritanical conflict.

Redemption sits in this room tragically dimmed. Since Aithol, I’ve not taken up a blade again. My mind is weary, and there is too much to document for me to waste any more of my lifetime on conflict. Ah but the name of the damned blade, and what it meant.

It all started with Alessandro Nexus – the dratted fool, the naïve imbecile; that confounded martyr! He started something and it stirred the Inquisition to its core. His actions were brutal and heartless. His collaboration with the Eternal was nothing short of abominable and resulted in the deaths of far too many. I don’t suppose things would ever have progressed without him, the incomparable fool.

And then Mentirius. A shining wit, his rally call echoed loudly through the Inquisition. A brilliant mind, no doubt but perhaps he would have been an incomparable font of wisdom in a more enlightened time. Instead he cast a shadow across the Inquisition and inevitably we all became embroiled in a conflict with a god in waiting. Amon-Dull, Nine Eyes, GreenEyes, the Spider – a myriad of other names, some more forgettable than others.

And to you, my friend – rest well. I do not know what transpired on Aithol after you left, and above on the Eye. Perhaps it is better I never know. But, for a shining moment, we knew – absolutely – what we were doing and that explosion will live on in my memory forever.

To Maltheus, Stryde, Nexus, and more besides – thank you for standing with us through those dark days. Reputations, lives, and more were risked to down that beast. I hoped you escaped with your lives, and more importantly with your sanity. Take courage and conviction in that your actions were bold... beautiful. Take hope in your future, for it will be bright and more important that you know.

Alundirel, I will never understand you or your kind, nor do I wish to. I am sure you will still monitor these channels. Alliances fold as easily as they slip together. Remember Aithol. Remember our sacrifice.

To Chief Justice Bob MacFarlane – I know it is you who comes for me. I know it is you who orchestrated the downfall of the Mentirius and Nexus. It was you who sought to apply justice – a narrow minded, bureaucratic form of justice – to the Inquisition. I hope this message finds you dying of old age, MacFarlane. I hope this finds you rotting on the Throne-world, in some forsaken hole where some Inquisitor has tossed you to be forgotten as the wretched relic that you are. Terran roaches such as yourself should only ever be exterminated for messing in the business of the Inquisition.

Mefisto – the outsider, ever the watcher, but ever the wisest of us all. I am sure you've evaded your critics, as ever. I hope you realise everything you plotted for. And Ludvos Arkhan, may you find peace brave Captain. I came to see your wisdom in the end.

To Rex, Muundus, and the rest of you fringe lunatics – keep counsel with the open minded. Unity, not conflict, not internal strife, will keep the Imperium safe. Do not go after your brothers and sisters. Do not seek to slaughter our own. Look to the lessons of the Nexus Schism, and a horde of other names. Take those lessons and broaden your view. Wars do not prove who is right, only who is left.
But I suppose those are dusty names, dead names now. But the lessons should ring truer now than ever before.

Unity in preference to ideology.

Hope ahead of fear.

Truth over lies.

The Inquisition can be – should be – more. We should achieve something greater, while the Imperium rots. The grotesque face of the Inquisition must remain – but we can be the torch bearers of humanity. The Emperor granted the Inquisitorial charter for one purpose – for men and women of true minds and hearts, with clarity of vision and will of forged steel, to take the fight to the enemies of the Imperium, Within, Without, Beyond – and to fight them tooth and nail; red claw and savage mind; black hand and white heart. For any inch the Inquisition might give, billions of lives are lost and the consequences of our negligence, inaction and factional nonsense are beyond those of the majority of menials across the Imperium.

Take your responsibility on, blast it! Use your seal for what it was for, for Throne's sake!

I regret nothing of what I did in the past. I know the Emperor will absolve anything He can understand. When I stand before Him, I hope to be eloquent.

They say there is nothing more powerful than an idea who's time has come.

What better place than here, what better time than now?

Macabre:
It was more humid than he remembered; an oppressive heat and stench of foetid vegetation that assaulted the olfactory senses and obliged the skin to perspire. He was somewhat gladdened to be standing within a clearing that stretched several kilometers in any direction, a single pockmark upon the verdant surface of this arboreal deathworld, rather than trudging through the carnivorous vines and winding around the gigantic boles and titanic tubers that he recalled with a disgusted nostalgia. However the decayed tableaux before him left an ambivalent, hollow melancholy: Rhiannon had died here, he had died here, and all for the vanity of a single man.

Of course he hadn’t died ‘here’, but several million miles elsewhere in this system, left to perish and scream defiantly into the soundless vacuum amongst the wreckage of naivety. He was much younger then, and he had changed (evolved?) in the passing centuries, but it had all begun here.

The clearing was a grandiose homage to the perils of hubris: even time had failed to inspire the semi-sentient jungle to recapture it, leaving the vines and small brightly coloured fungi to cling upon the precipices marking the land’s end before the sunken architecture below. Anyone standing upon the edge looking down would probably feel the dizzying sensation of vertigo when confronted by the shattered archways and collapsed walkways that descended deeply into shrouded darkness that even the sun at its zenith could not penetrate.

“What is this place?” piped a smooth feminine voice from behind him.

“If this world ever had a name, I have long forgotten it, but this,” replied the old man gesturing to the devastated vista before him with an outstretched, steel hand, “is all that remains of Secrets Hold.”

He tore his gaze away from the ruins and turned with difficultly, a metallic squeak of calipers accompanying every step, leaning heavily on his cane. His augmetic spine was always less compliant in extremes of temperature, and it was times like this that he truly felt his age.

The pale woman looked insultingly untouched by the infernal swelter as she gracefully perched upon monolithic slab of black stone, torn from the ceiling of the upper corridors of the Hold and cast aside when the secret at its heart burst from its prison in a cataclysmic orgasm. Her alabaster skin was free from flush, her bone-white hair bone dry and pink eyes absent of film-sweat. He instantly envied her youth.

“Is this about the archive, Lord Iscariot?” She enquired.

“Not here, Lilith, here I am Danyael again, “he sighed, almost pleadingly, “and yes, this is about my archive.”

“You haven’t been Danyael for a long time,” she chided, “and this is not in our remit.”

“Then allow the indulgence of an old man his memories?” he grimaced, head bowed and ran a sweat-streak through his thinning hair with his flesh hand. “Besides…” he began before a gunshot crack, like lightning striking a tree, sounded in the distance, “at least Beckett seems at home here.”

“This cannot be linked back to us. We cannot indulge in a personal vendetta.” She stated resolutely.

“It won’t be,” the old man countered, “and this isn’t a personal vendetta, this is…..necessary.”

She pushed herself off the stone and landed spryly, crushing vegetation underfoot.

“Why?” she asked.

“I cannot answer that with any certainty,” he replied shaking his head, “but the Inquisition has become jaded, its purpose marginalised and degraded into fanciful pantomime. The puritanical firebrands now yawn silently and the machiavellian radicals have become prosaic. If anything, they need to know the truth.”

“Truth is subjective,” She smiled derisively in that way only the young manage when confronting the old and senile, “and you cannot get involved.”

“I cannot,” he agreed, “the Imperium and the Inquisition believes that I am dead. That cannot change. Jezebel has been instructed as to the next steps to take.”

“Then why is she not here in our place?” she frowned.

“The young never understand the gravity of nostalgia until they become old themselves. I wanted, I needed, to do this personally.” He turned away from her as grunts of exertion echoed from the ruins nearby, closely followed by gloved hands appearing on the lip of the closest archway and a synthsuit clad man hauled himself back onto ground level.
 
“Many of the traps are no longer functioning, but those I could repair have been reset,” called out the newcomer.

The old man turned back to Lilith, “you know what to do: upload the geographical sector of this site and the navigational star-coordinates for this world onto the Conclave database. Use the Inquisition Gateway and flag the file under Omega-Red Urgent, I want them to notice. I want the location of Secrets Hold to fail in its namesake.”

She opened her mouth to protest, but instead walked away with a resigned murmur.

The newcomer drew closer, his breathing slightly labored and beads of perspiration pearlescent upon his brow. The blue light of his bionic eye flickered as though in irritation.

“How was it down there, Kobayashi?” the old man asked wryly.

“Labyrinthine,” he answered honestly with a shrug, “the upper levels match the map, but the deeper I went, the less it correlated. It would have been better to take a geological resonant scan.”

“The map is a copy and an old one at that,” the old man nodded, unsurprised by the report, “I was told that the Hold was impervious to scans, both technological and psychic, because of this;” he punctuated by kicking at a fist-sized chunk of the black stone at his feet.

“I also saw….ghosts,” Kobayashi muttered with an embarrassed uncertainty, “they seemed oblivious to my presence though.”

“That’s not unexpected. They are not ghosts per se, more like corrupted vid-logs that continually loop: a negative image imprinted upon realspace by the mass-flash of a warp event. Individuals damned to non-sentient purgatory, repeating a singular, and in some cases final, action.”

“What happened here?” the younger man whispered in awe, drinking in his surroundings with new eyes.

“Titans of fallen gods and lesser mortals all risking life, soul or essence for a coveted and dubious truth. The warp spilled from this place like an unnatural geyser, trapped for untold millennia beneath black stone.” The old man gestured across the clearing with his steel hand, “why do you think nature has not reclaimed this place and subsumed it under burgeoning jungle even after all these centuries? The maya of realspace is thinner here and the taint of the warp still saturates this accursed ground. A salted earth wherein nothing will grow.”

“Huh,” was all Kobayashi exclaimed.

“Recall Beckett and get back to the lander, make sure you report to Gediman for a health check and we’ll leave once Lilith is done.” The younger man gave a sharp nod of affirmation and followed in the direction Lilith had taken, leaving the older man with his thoughts.

He worried that Inquisitress Jezebel Magdalene would have too much to handle after this irretractable gambit: first the release of the archive and now revealing the location of Secrets Hold. Still, he had absolute faith in her, she knew her part well. This world would become the center of a new pilgrimage for the radical and a new crusade for the puritan, now that they knew its significance. They will create a sainted martyr from the apostate and an invisible enemy from the paranoia. They would come, they would search, and they would find nothing but each other.

Secrets Hold maybe devoid of its secrets, but its tragedies endure. Once it all began in this place, now it would begin again.

Dosdamt:
The Warp, Early M42

"Interesting."

The data slate illuminated the room with a bright white haze, casting a shadow on the wall. The engine of the Black Hand hummed distantly, filling the room with an ambient low din. A cooling cup of coffee steamed into the room which was kept deliberately cool to suit its primary occupant, a figure sat in a high backed leather chair, and the other denizens of the large room - books. A veritable horde of them, neatly arranged on ancient looking book shelves.

"I brought you the daily reports."

A second voice in the room. Another data slate illuminated the room - the entrance to the room.

"Thank you. Please leave it on the side."

"There's a pile growing, you know."

The seated figured waved a hand.

"That's why I have a Captain."

"It's him who's writing them."

"That's why I have you?" she hazarded.

They both laughed.

"A word, if I might..." hesitated the figure in the doorway

"Speak."

"What do you think it means? Why now? Why these long dead ideas from men as dust in their graves? Traitors too."

The seated figure sighed.

"Honestly, Paal, I have no idea. I have no idea who would want to publish these chronicles. The interesting thing is that they conflict - sometimes quite fundamentally, with my own records. That interests me."

She took a sip of her coffee.

"That is what I'd wager a significant portion of all who read these chronicles will be interested in. The inconsistencies. Junious was hung during the Vampiris purges on Terra. Maltheus died in action on Aithol. Charax was banished. I have the after action reports from the Puritan Council. And on."

She thumbed onwards through the data.

".Other reports from this period conflict with these directly. I have enough conflicts cross referenced to fill three pages already. I spend a lot of effort and time verifying my data. And my data from this period is solid."

She stood up, tossing aside the data slate.

"Here," she said, touching the spine of a book, "The Tale of the Puritan Council. Here, a memoir of Titus Sargoth. Karius Prelune wrote about that period under a pseudonym. It would appear to be nothing but exceedingly clever forgery."

She paused, lingering in silence.

"And so, what of this inconsistency? What do we make of this? How many of these books are forgeries? Is that repository a fake, and if so, why?"

She turned sharply on her heel.

"And to the meat of the issue. Why now? There's an agenda here, but blast it if I can't grasp it yet. Ideology is one thing. I suppose there will be an opportunity here too and I intend to grasp that. But I need to get to the bottom of this."

She stepped to a large thickset table, grabbed her quill, stabbed a pot of ink on the table and moved to a luxurious looking sheet of vellum.

"Send this," she said, scratching furiously "To the Lords Cadia, Solar, and Terran."

She paused in mid thought, chewing the end of her quill.

“Is Jarrod Hal still the Lord Terran?”

“I think he's a few years dead ma'am. They're still in election on Terra. A few candidates are still in caucus.”

“Ah. And I suppose the Lord Cadia will likely be knee deep in filth still. Who are the major candidates on Terra? Do we know any of them?”

“A few ma'am. We had the list of names and have been keeping tabs as they've been crossed off.”

“Send this missive to the more moderate elements,” she said, passing a finished vellum, “And for the more volatile heads...”

She scratched frantically, finishing the note.

“Who should I indicate they are from?”

“Grixos and Fanham respectively. Use the official seals. And their encryption codes as well. Ensure the Lords Cadia at least get a courtesy note on this from Grixos as well. Send the Lord Solar a message from me personally. I also want word sending to Hound, Havoc, Rapture, Taurus and Vanquish. I want to meet with them and their cells within the month.”

“Very good. I'll make all the preparations for the meetings. In person?”

“No. Send the cripple.”

“You'll need to speak to him.”

=I=[/b]

The old man stood up. His back was bent, to the point of nearly being broken. His body creaked with age, virtually audibly – his face was mostly bionics, including a glowing blue eye that whirred as it focused and refocused. He stretched to his full height – little more than five and a half feet of crushed savant – allowing his to move his previously mantid like arms to stretch. His face and cheeks were cratered with liver spots, deep wrinkles and a scattering of shrapnel scars that ran down his cheek and neck. His room was illuminated by a single bared bulb that ensured a dim light was dragged throughout the room that exaggerated his features, running the shadows deeper into his flesh.

“I suppose you've come to ask me for a favour, Jacqueline.”

The room flooded from a new source of light. Scant furniture could be seen. It was larger than a cell, but only to the point where it made the barest of differences. A token gesture. From behind the caustically bright light, she nodded.

“I have.”

“What do you have to negotiate with?”

She raised her eyebrow, smiling. She swung into the room, taking a perch on the edge of a desk.

“You're still negotiating, Grix?”

The old man wheezed indignantly, his eye screeching as he eyeballed the Inquisitor.

“You need my face more than I need your damned books, girl, and don't forget that.”

She smiled, and handed across a data slate.

“You'll be interested in this.”

Grixos scrolled down a few pages, his eyebrows raising as he saw some of the titles. Jacqueline indulged him for a few minutes, noting in the reflection of a monocle on his non-bionic eye the pictures and titles he paused on.

“Is this genuine? Is this all of it?”

Jacqueline shrugged.

“It isn't even one tenth of it.”

Grixos raised an eyebrow that creased his entire face.

“It is passing our tests for veracity. Each of the photos is being reviewed and they're passing blush. Each of the documentary accounts is being analysed for patterns of language and word usage that seem inconsistent with known works by the supposed author. That's working fine. The seals pass too. Video is being broken down frame by frame to see if we can spot any edits. We're doing all we can. Everything seems optimistic so far.”

“And that leaves other questions though, girl.”

“It does. But that can wait. For now, I have requirements that I need you to talk to my agents about. I need to go back in the chain where you got these-” she palmed him a second slate, “-books from. I need you to review these records and confirm these are the sources you acquired each of these books from.”

“Fine. I can do that.”

“I also want to discuss Terra. Three centuries ago. I need to discuss that period with you.”

Grixos looked over the top of the data slate.

“I told you everything I remember from then, Inquisitor, and in great detail.”

She nodded and waved.

“I had hoped so, Grixos, I just thought access to this new material might prompt your memory. A few thoughts lost on old dusty shelves.”

Grixos sighed, putting the data slate onto an old table beside furniture that looked as ancient and as ramshackle as the man himself. He wandered to a chair, lowering himself slowly and with a grimace into a chair by the table. He sat upright, and stared straight at the Inquisitor opposite him.

“It's been a long time since I recanted those days, Inquisitor, and a long time since I basically renounced my badge of office. A man can forget many things.”

“You swore the information you provided to me to be the truth.”

He sighed again.

“Truth, Inquisitor, is a fragile and sadly relative thing. In our world, we pretend to trade in relatives and dodge absolutes, but the fact is we deal only in absolutes, and certainly the way we document things. You know I served with a few of the Puritan Council as scribe, savant, and then Interrogator, before they fell apart as those things are wont to do. There were secrets there I was sworn to protect.”

He took a few moments, swigging from a chord near his chin. He pulled a pallid yellow fluid from the end, gulping it.

“This filth is still basically inedible. Can't you... Bah, never mind. There are perhaps some things I left out from that period that would be of use. Sit a while, and listen. Forgive an old man his folly in honouring the ghosts and oaths of a time long dead. Let me tell you my truth. We may be some time.”

Van Helser:
'Is it possible to purge The Conclave of these broadcasts? Or simply kill The Conclave? That would be the most efficient solution.'  Lorne said between mouthfuls before he paused to rub sauce from his chin with the back of his hand.  'If the broadcasts are so dangerous, I say go for the throat.'

Maritsau saw Delavier and Aldana share a look.  'I will let your colleagues field that one.'

'The Conclave is not something that can simply be turned off,' Aldana sighed.  'It is a vast system supported by innumerable techpriests on hundreds of worlds.  It was designed such that even if all but one Inquisitorial station were to fall, The Conclave would be available for the Inquisition to access.'  She looked squarely at Lorne.  'Even you can surely see we can't "simply kill The Conclave".'

'I'm sorry I came up with a suggestion,' Lorne said, raising his hands.  'It's not like you two have had much to offer.'

'We trace the source of the broadcasts, travel there, and put in place a pogrom, like Inquisitor Weidzer on Belasco.  We leave none alive.'  Delavier sat back in his chair, arms folded.  'Problem solved.'

'What about all who've read the archive?  Do we track them down and kill them too?  Impossible.' Aldana looked to Maritsau. 'What do we do, Inquisitor?'

Maritsau turned away from the acolytes and looked out through the suite's window and across the grand plaza.  Guardsmen marched in phalanxes below, parading past thousands of cheering spectators towards transport ships that loomed over the city despite being some miles distant.  He didn't know their destination, but he knew their fate.  Martyrdom in the name of the Throne.  It was what all true servants of the Emperor craved.

'Have any of you read the archive?  Listened to Taren's confession?  It always fascinates me that the heretics are portrayed as the protagonists of these tales, and the names of the good and the just are trodden in the dirt.  Great men and women whose names should be upon the lips of every praying pilgrim who instead are lost to the anonymity of time.  It is names like Nexus, Mentirius, Junious and Taren that resound within the annals of the Inquisition.  Their names should act as warnings of the fate that unorthodoxy will bring, but instead they are quietly celebrated as visionaries and prophets.'

Maritsau left the window and faced the room once more.  'There was a time when the Inquisition sought to work as one.  After the Conclave of Mount Amalath the Ordos saw what could be achieved in unity, but it came to naught.  There were too many egos that could not be reined in, but by and large there was tolerance.  It may shock you that mere centuries ago the Inquisition was at war with itself in a schism that claimed the lives of hundreds of Inquisitors.  We have Nexus to thank for that.  Since his execution the Conclave network slowly stopped being a sparring ground for the differing philosophies, and Inquisitors simply started doing the Emperor's work. 

'Conflicts between Inquisitors became small and short-lived and the Imperium continued despite the horrors of the last two centuries.  I know that true unity is an impossible pipe dream, but the relative silence of recent times allowed for focus.  Now these broadcasts threaten to bring it all crashing down: extremists both orthodox and not will take this as a clarion call to come to blows again.'

Maritsau ran a hand across the smooth half of his scalp and closed his eye for a second.  He sat himself upon his armchair and beckoned his cherubim down from the rafters.  The chubby constructs swooped down lazily and settled upon the arms of the chair, seeking out the affection of their master.  He obliged each of them with a tickle under the chin.  They cooed and gurgled at his touch.

'We cannot hope to stop these broadcasts,' Maritsau continued, 'nor can we hunt down the perpetrators.  Once information like this is out there it cannot be suppressed.'

'Then what do we do?' Delavier asked.

'We try to stop the Inquisition tearing itself apart again.'

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