The Ordos Majoris - Roleplay > In Character

A Love Letter to Terran Politics

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Dosdamt:
The Battle of St Vhogart’s Rest


The Most Sacred Birthworld of Mankind; Seat of All Human Power; Throneworld of the Immortal God-Emperor; Most Holiest Terra, M42

=][=
+++ Message Begins +++
+++ Encryption: Mar.Inf.Q-f424 +++
+++ Priority : Omega/Red +++
+++ From : Mother +++
+++ To : Revelation +++

Beatification must *not* occur of codename Frother

Indulge any means. Attached is the evidence you need.

If the event horizon has been crossed, initiate havoc protocol. Contact the Ultramanians. They will know what to do.

Mother cannot attend. Tiresias is close.

+++ Message Ends +++

=][=
Raijner Oebels re-read the message. In his dingey quarters in a squalid corner of the Throneworld, he sighed. He’d been fostering relationships for a decade on behalf of DuBois. He was one of the few who knew of the full extent - at least, he thought it was the full extent - of her networks. Grixos. Fanham. Even the sleeper identities. It was rare she would act with her own hand which meant this was important.

The light flickered as he began to read through the attachments. The latest interrogation of Grixos played on his screen. He watched as revelation after revelation stuttered out of the old man. Raijner grabbed a glass and poured himself a long amasec. It glistened an ugly purple in the ruined light. He downed the drink.

He continued through the attachments. Analysis of the evidence of the assault on Delan’s Point. The vid - apparently fabricated - of the death of First Inquisitor Junious. He watched over and over again as the white eyed Inquisitor fell under a hail of bolt rounds. Reprieve falling over and over from his hand. A small girl by his side disappearing in a mist of blood, guts, bolt rounds and ground human flesh.

Fabricated.

The pictures of Stryde, carved open from hip to sternum, arm-pit to neck, a 30cm gap between left hip and left leg. The gore was intense. Weapons were strewn around her. Empty bolt shells. A discarded power sword. Broken teeth from a chain sword. Her arms were bent unnaturally, indicating they’d been broken - possibly posthumously.

Fake.

Sargoth had faced down Muundus. Eye to eye, blade to blade, blow by blow they rocked the asteroid monastery. They joined in single combat, each of them viewing the other as a hated foe, glowering at each other. Sargoth had been beaten, and on his knees, Vhogart beheaded him. The vid of Lord-Inquisitor holding the still bleeding head of the arch-traitor aloft was iconic in monodominant circles.

Forgery.

The after action report. All of the details! All of it. Each of the reports of epic conflicts between the towering legends of the Puritan Council and the nefarious misanthropes of the Mentirians. Artefact weapon clashing with daemon tool. Faith versus witch fire. Ideological orthodoxy pitted against dissentient radicalism.

Lies. Lies. Lies.

Everything was a lie.

He’d been through the Schola on Terra and then into the employ of the Inquisition. He’d been trained on these stories. He had revered them until he found himself in the employ of DuBois. She had righted him, moderated his outlook with a tour of the galaxy.

He remembered the sunsets out in the ghost worlds. DuBois had shown him the treatise after treatise by the deepest thinkers in the Inquisition’s storied history. He didn’t hate Vhogart, or any of the Puritan Council. He’d come to accept their usefulness in the context of their limitations.

This had changed everything.

He opened his own slate, preparing to write back. He rattled the keys with clarity of purpose before realizing the futility. What use was it? Inquisitor DuBois had given him his marching orders.

Oebels glanced back to the glass on his desk. The message had been sent well over a year ago - the cicatrix maledictum be damned! Vhogart had long since passed into the canonization process. The beatification couldn’t be stopped. Muundus, the fraud, the frother, the raging monodominant lunatic. Muundus the liar.

He was now Saint Muundus Vhogart.

It didn’t matter if the canonization was cut short - the beatification was the process which allowed deeds to be claimed as falsehoods. All that mattered now was making a statement.

Oebels slammed his fist into the desk. All they were working for - the continued destabilization of the Puritan Council, marginalizing the Monodominants through easing out the old guard. Reforming the Inquisition - throne, reforming around the ideals of Ultramar and bringing forth real progress! It was so close!

They’d infiltrated the Inquisition’s own halls of interrogation and began to subtly change the curriculum to focus on recongregation. Since Guilliman’s return, it made sense, Emperor bless their action. The Inquisition needed to align behind him.

All of it was going to run short because of this mess. They had to act - they had to make a statement. The canonization of Vhogart meant the star of the Puritan Council was rising again - and they’d had the evidence to stop it all along.

The Inquisition - he; DuBois; all of her network; even with all of their power - simply failed to join the dots.

=][=

Dosdamt:
6 months previously

“What a grotesque.”

Oebels stood over the stasis bound corpse of Muundus Vhogart. Next to him, on his left, Inquisitor Lyssa Qi - to his right, Interrogator Yun Garrel. Faint choral chanting hummed all around them, serenading the deceased Lord-Inquisitor. There were few places in the galaxy where a human could be declared a saint, and of course the Throneworld was prime amongst them.

Vhogart had died in some impetuous action on a throne-forgotten backwater. As impressive as the beast of a man had been in combat, not even he could stand against the combined arms of Traitor Astartes and the cult horrificus. He’d been found in a pool of gore, virtually dismembered with a massacre of corpses around him. The hair from his body had been singed away by witch fire. His organs had been pulped by grav guns. He was cut to the bone in so many places he was close to being filleted. Still he’d apparently fought on.

As he lay dying a coterie of his most loyal followers had whisked his body away before it could be further examined. The virtually invincible old monster had died in the efforts to save him.

Lying here, back on the Throneworld, the mutilated corpse of Vhogart had been painstakingly put back together. Up close he was enormous. Not just large for a human - abnormally so, he swallowed the casket he barely fit in. His arms were thick pistons, his legs oak trees. The musculature of his torso looked sculpted. A befitting love letter to this lunatic from the mortician’s hand. No human, even with the best juvenants, at Vhogart’s age looked like this. Gravity alone would’ve sapped the vitality out of his skin.

The Chapel Inquisitoris was virtually empty - not a regular occurrence - leaving him to lie in peaceful repose. All around Muundus’ casket Cherubs floated whispering catechisms and hymnals praising the Emperor. In the dais stood one of Vhogart’s flunkies, reciting the official roll of deeds attributed to Muundus and relevant for canonisation.

“... 14 heretics slain in single combat, in compliance with His Most Holy Ecclesiarchy on Hanoth Primus…..”

Oebels tuned out the noise. He didn’t need to hear anymore of Vhogart’s imprecise path of slaughter. He looked down at the casket. It was in-laid with a fresco of the same deeds being recanted. Kneeling, Raijner could see the same slaughter at Hanoth. The artwork was detailed and intricate, Vhogart represented at the Hand of the Emperor in golden plate and with flaming sword. The flames were vibrant and the crystal used shifted subtlety in the light to appear burning. Fleeing him was Sargoth the Betrayer, anointed with horns, a hunch, and deformed fingers in a traditional Imperial style. He was carved from jet, or an approximate of Jet which abhorred light and made everything around him dimmer for it. If he had time, Oebels reckoned he could follow their path to the infamous - glorious? destructive? divisive?- slaughter at Delan’s Point.

The real crux of Vhogart’s sainthood. The lobbying from the Puritan Council since Guilliman’s return had been ceaseless and the Ministorum, struggling for primacy and relevance, were all too keen to oblige not least because the deaths of several high profile Aeldari happened at the Point. Flicking mud in the eye of a Primarch was usually ill advised but the Ministorum has its own agenda.

“Not long left until Saint Muundus Vhogart,” sniffed Qi. She bore a disapproving look into the monodominant’s brow. She shook her head, rattling her not so subtle Ultramar-U earrings. If he was still alive, he might well have wished he was dead. Vhogart was lying with his armour and his weapons. Oversized all of them. Rumours swirled, of course, about him. Mutant. Abhuman. Post human. Whisper it - Astartes. Nothing was ever proven. Nothing would ever be proven now.

The Puritan Council had their leader, their hero, then their scapegoat, their bloodletter and now, finally, their martyr and saint. Muundus had given them everything.

“Did they say what he’ll be canonized for?”

“Saint Vhogart of the Bleeding Martyr, of the Grand Crusader, and of the Eternal Light,” mused Garrel, “A more and less deserving bastard I’m sure has never existed.”

He tapped the top of the casket, raising the ire of nearly by guard-servitor. It whirred manically as the flock of Cherubim hissed at him. Garrel quickly shifted his hands up, feigning ignorance.

“What have you done!” one of the winged mutants hissed from a mouth-mounted vox speaker. A fat, flapping bishop of the high Terran synod came running out of the sacristy.

“No no no no! What have you done! Did you leave a mark? Did you? Did you?”

The squat man huffed with the exertion of running. Sweat already trickled down his brow. In the baking heat and oppressive musk of the chapel the exertion must have been severe. His tiny limbs contorted with rage as he reached the casket.

“Have you left a mark? Are you stupid, boy? Did you not hear me?”

Garrel turned to face the bishop. He could, of course, have simply had the bishop taken away never to be seen again. A whisper of heresy from the mouth of the Inquisition and he could leave this wretch flayed and reflayed and flayed again for a century. He could’ve hacked him in half with the concealed sword at his back. He pictured himself crushing the windpipe of the stupid Ecclesiarch over the casket, choking the life out of him. The priests spittle would leave a mark. He imagined the bishop goggle-eyed breathing his last before he would repeatedly brain his head against the casket until all that was left was a neck stump. Yes, Yun licked his lips, I will leave a mark.

His daydream ended as the bishop pushed past him.

“Dear Throne, my boy, dear Throne. You’ve left a damned mark. He who must be praised save me! Do you know how long the rite of cleansing takes during the beatification? Do you have any idea?”

Garrel decided his daydream was best left as an idle fiction. The Terran synod had a reputation for making the life of the Inquisition very, very difficult.

“Ah, no, your Grace.”

“A bloody long time, that’s how long. Are you up to date with your confessor?”

“Ah…. Last month your Grace?”

“Confounded Inquisition, always above your dues with He-on-Terra. You always have something better to do, eh? A month! That makes this even worse!”

The Bishop’s face had turned beet red. He turned to one of the cherubs.

“Fetch the unguents, and the priests. All of them! Get me the sanctified vials of Throne blessed water and bring me the catechism of absolution.”

He turned back to Garrel, poking him squarely in the chest.

“You” he poked “Have cost me” he poked, “Several of my own days!” he finished, leaving his finger on Yun’s chest.

Garrel looked down at the offending digit. His eyes locked with the bishops.

“And, for that, I apologise pastor,” Yun began, “But might I humbly request you remove your finger. Before I have to.”

Tension ratcheted noticeably in the room. Qi touched the shoulder of her angered Interrogator. The bishop’s face went from beet red to a very cold pale white. His pupils widened in fear.

“Come on, both of you. Sorry, your Grace, may the Emperor forgive his-our stupid transgression. I apologise for the naivety of my Interrogator. He forgets himself.”

They left the chapel quickly. Behind them the activity of cleansing the casket had already begun.

=][=
3 Days Ago, Most Holy Terra

“We must take action! Heresy! Heresy!”

It wasn’t often that Oebels had heard the passionate declaration of heresy in this room, but it has been a week where norms were being broken. Why not monodominant style rantings in a forum meant for the progressive discussion of the Imperial Reformation under Guilliman. Why not?

“It’s a falsehood, a blasphemy, a damned…. An indulgent devotion to the stupidity of the Puritan Council! This conspiracy must be ended!”

Spittle hung from the lips of the ranting speaker, one Inquisitor Kleeton. A Terran native, elevated to Inquisitor for his work on the throneworld, was an avian faced bureaucrat. Sure, he’d done his time in the field. He’d even been effective for a time. But Terra was - relatively - a small beat and to be frank little happened on the homeworld.

Terra did shape the broader Inquisition. The Lord-Terran was virtually the most important seat in the Inquisition, as with the Lord Solar they were often called to perform as High Lord. And that’s why this debate was important and urgent.

“Jarrod Hal didn’t die for this. Brothers and sisters, I beseech you - the short lived Lord Terran was making meaningful progress and change. He supported the mass removal of several cartas against several notable Inquisitors. He maintained the Terran Privy Council against the wishes of the Puritan Council. He was reforming several of our institutions to be more relevant in this era under Guilliman’s oversight. They killed him - be under no illusions - they killed their own man because he wouldn’t toe their line.”

Qi touched her ear lobe, finding one of her Ultramar-U earrings. They had stolen a pair, or they’d recreated them and placed them at the scene with a page from the Book of Mefisto on stoking conflict. No biological evidence was found from either. Hal himself had been garrotted. The marks on his arms, his neck, and his bulging eyes spoke of a hard death. It was not an ending Qi envied. Of course they worked to pin it on several Inquisitors, notable or otherwise - Qi included.  Of course there wasn’t enough evidence but if their trials on Terra had been the same as in some of the backwater holes the Puritan Council stalked, she suspected she would have burned. Thank goodness for civil Terra she smiled.

“We can’t stand for this! Several decade’s worth of work lost - more for some of you! We can’t let these fools take a step back up the ladder. It’s taken us this long to force them nearly back in their box.”

Rowdy assent echoed around the chamber.

“Agreed.”

Everyone knew who’d spoken and they became silent immediately.

Qi took the floor. She stood as a regal warrior, proud in her thin carapace armour. A coterie of weapons adorned her - a sharp pair of axes across her back; a gilded bolt pistol at her left hip; a rugged autopistol at her right hip. She had sharp features, dyed blonde hair, and a charismatic burning intensity. She paused for dramatic effect - she wasn’t beyond the vain art of dramatic oration.

“Be under no illusions brothers and sisters. This is a dangerous moment. For years - decades, as brother Kleeton rightly mentions, we have worked tirelessly to remake the Imperium to Lord Guilliman’s philosophies. We are reforming all institutions, supporting his proclamations, coming out of the shadows of we had to live in to make real our dreams of recongregation.”

Her face turned to a snarl.

“And where are we now? Hmmm? The Ecclesiarchy in a desperate move to keep themselves relevant have sought fit to lionise a lunatic! They would choose madness over reform, just to reinforce their rotten platform. From the solar  core, from the root, to the branch, to the segmentum extremis their version of the Imperial truth is dead!”

Her hands moved to calm the screeches and cheers.

“No, brothers and sisters,” she moved, “We will not abide this.”

She began prowling the room.

“This. Will. Not. Pass.”

She drew a dagger.

“The time for words and philosophy is over.”

She moved her arms frenziedly, waving the dagger.

“The time for the unseen hand is over.”

She began pointing the dagger at the assembled Inquisitors, Interrogators and Acolytes.

“No longer are we simply going to discuss the future. We’re not going to… pontificate. We are not going to dull our senses with endless debate. We are not going to work through the tutelage required to elucidate the masses on the reformation required under Guilliman.”

She fumed. Her chest rose and fell in time with the deeper breathing required to fuel her rant. Her face grimaced for a moment with barely restrained rage. Her hair had already fallen out of the neat bun it had been tied in, perched on top of her head.

“What are you prepared to do? Not what are you prepared to disclose or debate, or discuss, or any of that drollery. What are you prepared to do?”

She slowed her breathing and kept command of the room. She knew she had them - she could hear their breathing slowing to match hers.

“Now is the time. Now is the time we come out of the shadows. Grab your weapons. Grab your interrogators, your acolytes, grab your colleagues and your subordinates. Show me your hands - show me hands ready to grasp the future!”

She threw the dagger into the floor, where it thunk’d into the plascrete and vibrated steadily.

“It is time. Time to rise up! No more the unseen hand! No more the silent majority! No more shall we, the Ultramanians, hide in the shadows! We have done the theoretical. Now is time for the practical!”

That got a cheer, and some hearty whooping. Now, she thought, now I’ll really drive the point home.

“Death!” she called.

“Death!” they responded.

“Death to the Puritan Council!” she howled.

“Death to the Puritan Council!” they chorused their bloodlust.

The chant took itself up.

“Death to the Puritan Council!”
“Death to the Puritan Council!”
“Death to the Puritan Council!”
“Death to the Puritan Council!”

Dosdamt:
=][=
+++ Message Begins +++
+++ Encryption:Mar.Inf.Q-e433 +++
+++ Priority :Omega/Red +++
+++ From : Ampulex +++
+++ To : Phantom +++

Ampulex cannot attend the throne world.

Havoc protocol has been initiated.

End Oebels in the afters. The Configuration has spoken.

+++ Message Ends +++

=][=
Present Day, Most Holy Terra

Lyssa Qi looked over those who had assembled. It had to be said - it was a disappointment. Of course they chanted - of course they did. The mild psychotropic incense saw to that. Their bloodlust had been up. It wouldn’t have taken much to tip them over the edge and into conflict with each other. She could have had them gnawing each other’s bones.

Her loyal Interrogator, Yun, was present. Yun was finishing his final checks, going through his catechisms of engagement - she made a mental note of that. He was learning the power of will and thought, and of the written word being vocalised. It would serve him well in his future career.

If he survived today. If any of them did.

They all understood the power of symbolism. A faction of the Inquisition fighting another in the open, on the Throneworld, over a canonization? That would send a message. The Synod would sit up and take notice, as would a dozen other branches of the Administratum. The evidence Oebels had brought forward had been presented at the Ultramanian Caucus. It was what prompted them to accelerate their timeline and resort to this desperate act.

Raijner Oebels had also shown up. He had brought the key evidence to the Conclave and been very clear about why action was required. He was busy checking racks of ammunition in his shotgun and in belts over both shoulders.

There were scant few more. For all his words and cries of heresy Kleeton was nowhere to be seen. His close allies who had also spoken, Rittsen and Adris were also absent. The idle work, thought Qi, as she checked the ammunition in her own weapons was easy. As ever, pontification, debate, moving paper around - those were the priorities! Politics! They’d been given a mandate from Guilliman, damn them! They had the right to strike and set the now radical element back a decade or two by killing a few senior elements.

The Puritan Council had clung on, slinking away in the shadows, leveraging the desperate Terran Synod and their network of allies across the various arms of the Administratum. Always enough resources to get by. Always a whisper ahead of Guilliman’s purges. So it had been until he’d been called away from Terra. Chameleons that they were, they adapted to slink between philosophies and between factions and thus out of sight.

The same undercurrent that drowned the Inquisition in internecine violence, bound the Puritan Council together. Fealty to the old way. Fealty to their self interest. Fealty to the throne, the idealised golden throne. They had maneuvered pieces around the board - the politically adept ones had anyway - and now the Puritan Council once again had candidates lined up for the Lords Solar and Terra. The Ecclesiarchy was battered and bruised but it still had heft and it’s spines dug deep into every institution, the Inquisition included. The Arbites continued their tradition of messing in matters not truly in their remit. It was no coincidence that Chief Justice Macfarlane was also up for canonisation. A lesser priority, Qi mused, but perhaps they could nudge that out of kilter too. Maybe she would swing her seal and demand she be allowed to add to his record of deeds. She chuckled at the thought.

17 minutes until they set out for the chapel. St Methusela’s Mass, an important confirmatory celebration as part of canonization, would attract enough of the Puritan Council to send a message. She knew it was unlikely they were unaware of the action, and while it was uncommon for throne agents to openly carry weapons, it was not illegal or taboo even to bring them to chapel services. Which meant, no matter what their intention - admittedly the initial intention being violence - it would inevitably turn to violence. The only point of narrative importance was which side started it.

“Inquisitor Qi,” an unfamiliar voice called to her.

She looked to the voice, leaving behind her daydreams on the politics of the day.

Kleeton really is a coward, she thought as she approached his band of acolytes and troops. Kleeton wasn’t stupid, which meant these were disposable.

“Name, acolyte?”

“Codenames Volcano and Octet reporting. We brought 12 good fighting persons from Inquisitor Kleeton’s personal reserves.”

Qi glanced at the assembled rabble. No uniform. A mixture of weapons, from decently maintained auto guns to scavenged lasguns. A patchwork of tattoos- ex Guardsmen, gangers and pilgrims. Personal reserve indeed - just enough credits to get them hired and just enough acolyte presence to be in - no personal presence and certainly no Interrogators. That was enough to manoeuvre out if necessary.

Ito ay ano ito, as they’d say in the island forts of her home world. They’d committed now. It is what it is.

“Thank you, Volcano. All hands are valued. Send my thanks to your master. Wear his colours openly - he will be proud of you today.”

Volcano nodded. Well briefed, then, she thought. No colours, no links, get out alive. She would remember that.

14 minutes.

Oebels has started gathering the assembled mob into some semblance of order. Once they were corralled, and approximately together bar some Inquisitorial outliers, Oebels began to speak.

“..... not yielding to their tyranny again! We have an idea….”

Qi approached the outliers, Inquisitors all.

Gleeson was a staunch Terran revivalist, dedicated to the resurrection of the Imperium through Guilliman’s light. A tall man, thickly set, a hard face set over a rectangular neck. A curling keloid scar wrapped around his cheek up to his left eye. He nodded to Qi as they locked eyes. It was no surprise he had come - he was itching for a fight.

Odion offered a hand as Qi finished her approach to the three outliers. Odion enjoyed the patronage of several Lord Inquisitors in the Ultima and Solar sector - that gave him clear license to do whatever he wanted. Somewhat reckless, but known for unerring precision and lethality with the heavy rifle slung over his right shoulder. He was not thickset like Gleeson, instead slight and sleek. His hair was shaved into a tight mohawk, as was traditional with his home world.

Qi shook his hand vigorously.

“Inquisitors, Odion, Gleeson, Ymaar.”

She nodded to each.

Ymaar was an outspoken critic of the Puritan Council. Not strictly a Recongregator, the ever masked Ymaar had fallen in with the Ultramanians out of their hatred for the Council, not out of the ideals. The mask was a distorted mirror, reflecting back the viewer as if through a filthy lens. It was rumoured Ymaar wasn’t one person - they were several, perhaps even clones of the same person. They didn’t speak much - that didn’t matter. Ymaar had come in a suit of power armour and a chainfist. That was enough - and Ymaar couldn’t turn down this opportunity to exact their vengeance, their grudge - whatever the motivation. They had invested too much in their hatred. If the mask could’ve moved, it would have bristled with barely contained impatience.

8 minutes.

“Let’s get this moving, Lyssa. Time to murder some irrational zealots.” Gleeson said, pointing to the waiting rhinos.

“Their engines are running, Inquisitor.”

Qi theatrically glanced at her chronometer.

“7 minutes and counting.” she stated, “Plenty of time for more to arrive.”

Behind them Oebels was wrapping up his rant.

“.... break the chains of orthodoxy! Death to the Puritan Council!”

Some half hearted responses came back.

Maybe it was the way she said it.

Maybe it was the Agit in the incense.

=][=

Dosdamt:
2 Days Ago, A dark room, the Fortress of the Inquisition, Most Holy Terra

“They will move against us. A couple of days time. At the chapel. Kleeton let me know.”

“Kleeton. That predictably spineless fool. Back in my day-”

“Back before Guilliman, you mean.”

“Yes, throne dammit, before that filthy xeno consor-”

“Careful. The walls have ears. Eyes, I suspect, and mouths too. Let us be clear, about Lord Guilliman’s…. Allies. They have value. For now.”

Despite the dark, the incredibly angry face of the second speaker glowed a heated red.

“Yes,” came the response, clearly through the most gritted of gritted teeth, “Temporary allies that Lord Guilliman has… chosen. Back before him, we’d have rounded these idiots up and flamed them.”

“Times change. We’ve changed with them. We’ve never had to retreat to these locales, to hide in these kinds of places. Worry not, brother. We will rise again.”

“With the help of the damn leech?”

“Careful. Brother Amaurn has every right to a trial and restitution. We’ll… help that along the way, depending on what Amaurn saw at Delan’s Point. There are… narratives that need maintenance. Grixos’ so called confession that the Ultramanian’s are flaunting around needs to be… corrected.”

“And you want the le-, Brother Amaurn to … clarify.”

“Yes, brother. Amaurn has much clarification to provide. Contact him directly. Discreetly. Use intermediaries. Tell him we’ll have a skiff ready for him at the Ganymede Hub-Fortress. It will be busy with another round of supplies, troops, and Mechanicus to send out to follow our Lord Guilliman. Easy for him to ghost through with our help. From there, smuggle him down here to Terra.”

“What about the Ultramanians?”

“Let them have their victory. We’ve already got ours - St Muundus Vhogart. A shining victory for us, and the Ecclesiarchy. Chief Justice Macfarlane is due any time soon too. Cardinal Gan too. What are a few Interrogators and drab, defeated, done members of the Council. About time things were freshened up.”

“I don’t agree. We can’t let them just gun down our brothers and sisters. It’s a crime against the Throne! We are preserving the God-Emperor’s grand plan for Mankind!”

“Then go and save them, if you feel that strongly. Know that you’ll be by yourself.”

“So be it.”

=][=
1 Day Ago, Hive Malliax, Most Holy Terra


Tallus read the message. It was preserved perfectly in stasis on a ream of perfectly white parchment. The parchment itself curved gently in the stasis field where it was held perfectly still. Not even an atom stirred.

Tallus read the writing again, and finished it a third time. So it was true. The instructions were explicit about the conditions and the trigger. Rubbing his eyes, he logged back into his terminal.

His family had been provided with a perpetuity, a stipend for the rent on their small hab-block, and one simple set of tasks. Login to a terminal.

In the terminal, select ‘Search’. 

Press execute.

Wait for the result. When - if perhaps? - when the result comes back as true, press the second login.

Wait for further instructions. Do this daily.

And so, two hundred and twelve years, eight months, and nineteen days since the task was released he logged into the terminal. He executed the command.

Every previous time - all 77,639 days - the result had said “null”.

Today, the result came back “True”.

Tallus had sat back in his seat and breathed out deeply.

No one had ever accessed the second login. He suspected at some point, someone must have tried to access it - but even with his miniscule knowledge of technology, he figured it wouldn’t activate without the first condition being true.

He breathed in deeply and rubbed his eyes, down his face, and down his neck as he let an extended breath blow out and rattle his cheeks.

He brought his hands together, entwining his fingers and cracking his knuckles. It had been made clear to him as a child, and from his father, and the 14 generations previous that had lived in this hab-block - this task had to happen every day. Live your life, enjoy it even! They didn’t have to slave away in the administratum. They were comfortable. The task must happen.

Every day.

He had no clue of the significance of ‘Search’. He had no clue why it had to be executed from his hab-block, and only here, or why it required manual effort to do it.

His wife and children were out, and would be for several days. His parents had recently died, his grandparents long dead. He was the lineal inheritor of this solemn duty, as would, he assumed, his children.

But today… today had been the day.

He hit the second login.

+++ Validating …. +++

He waited patiently. Several minutes passed with his heart racing.

+++ Accepted. Activating. +++

+++ The Emperor Protects +++

The terminal blinked off. A short hiss sounded, followed by thick, black smoke leaving the back of the terminal.

Tallus stared catatonically at the dead screen for several hours.

=][=

Dosdamt:
Now, the Throneworld, Most Holy Terra

Interrogator Garrus Setraakian stood between Oebels and his objective. In a bristling, obsidian line flanking each side of the young interrogator were two lots of five Stormtroopers with las guns primed, hot, and aimed.

“I can’t let you go any further Inquisitors.”

Well, Oebels mused, he’s a brave one. Hal trained him well, he’s got a spine and he’s got courage.

“Let me through little Setty,” said Qi, “I don’t want to kill you as well as the rest of them. You can still follow Jarrod’s path.”

“Inquisitors, I’m not going to ask again. Don’t do this.”

Qi snapped.

“What good do you think eleven more deaths are going to do, Garrus? I’ll kill you all before you move. Ymaar could kill you all single handed. We outnumber you nearly three to one.”

“It’s not about numbers, Qi. We can’t keep killing each other.”

Setraakian held his ground, though he adjusted his feet and his grip on a wonderfully blue power sword. As if on cue, the power field crackled like the tension in the air.

“You’re right! You’re right! Setty, look at me. I didn’t kill your master. We both know that. And we both know that, if that rat Zjiivek is in there that Hal died by his hand. Directly, on the basis of an order of his… it doesn’t matter.” Qi pointed the the chapel, then at the group assembled at her back while she continued.

“No one is right here, but this message - this symbol is important. The Puritan Council cannot be allowed to get away with more murder and more division just because one of theirs got sainted.”

Qi pointed at her force again, then back to Garrus.

“You can try and stop me, but you won’t. You can try and Carta me but it won’t hold. I’ll scalp every single one of them in there and you can try and stop it but you can’t and you won’t and you shouldn’t.”

Qi smiled. She had a decidedly sinister smile. Her two canine teeth were enlarged by a few millimeters, and all her teeth had been sharpened. Her teeth were also artificial and covered in tiny crystalline wire, that ran up through her gums and no doubt up through her skull. Lyssa was a known biochemical expert and everyone assumed that she had various subtle delivery systems.

They had assumed correctly.

With a thought impulse, microneedle pulses of chemicals from her canine teeth flicked invisibly from her open mouth into the neck of Setraakian. The psychotropic was designed to encourage compliance with direct requests. She waited three heartbeats to let it rush around his body.

“Garrus, listen to me. I’m going in there, and I’m going to kill all of them. Every single one. And I’m going to send a message that another member of the Puritan Council as the Lord Terran is not the will of the Inquisition. Garrus, you need to stand down. Now.”

For a moment, Setraakian’s pupils wobbled, then contracted and warped.

“Stand down.”

For a second the Stormtroopers looked at each other, unsure as to whether the order was correct.

“I’m going to repeat his words for you, troopers. Stand. Down. There won’t be a further request.”

It didn’t take more than a few seconds for the troopers to power down and to begin opening the way to the Chapel Inquisitoris. Qi kept walking forward with an air of invincibility.

If Oebels was honest with himself, he was absolutely in awe of her. She came from an aquatic world out on the harsh frontier of the Imperium. The world was riddled with poisonous and venomous sea life of all kinds. Each of the toxins had been meticulously catalogued over time such that each of the compounds had been mastered and manipulated. It was strange how many different variants there had been, but the Emperor had seen in his infinite wisdom to send mankind to every corner of the galaxy to collect such data. He suspected Qi’s obsession with xenobiology and organic chemistry came from her upbringing.

She had come into the Inquisition the hard way - she had been picked up as a specialist in one of Inquisitor-General Tyran’s undercover operations. Her keen eye and sharp mind had allowed her to show her value and Tyran whisked her off world. It didn’t take much for her to transition into the formal ranks of the Inquisition and to work her way up through there. She didn’t speak much of Tyran - they had parted ways as she moved from Acolyte to Interrogator, into the employ of various Inquisitors across the Halo and Ghost worlds. Her work in uncovering and stopping a Drukhari incursion on Galantis IV, a hive world, had been the feather in her cap that saw her receive a seal. Ever since then, she’d operated in the Segmentum Solar.

As Oebels left his daydreaming behind, the front of the Chapel came into view. Inside the Inquisitorial fortress it took on a different hue today. The obsidian stone seemed darker than usual, as if it had tightened itself in anticipation of coming violence. The Inquisitorial I was a repeated motif on the gargoyles and holy haemonculi that adorned the exterior. The motif of I’s glinted in the light like a thudding heartbeat.

Small glints of gold gilt accented the extreme dark. Several celebratory motifs decorated the upper reaches of the Chapel, depicting ancient events ranging from the Heresy through the age of apostasy and up to Guilliman’s return. Oebels couldn’t avert his eyes from the stern visage of the Primarch, sculpted in obsidian, staring down at them as they approached.

Roboute himself had launched significant purges on Terra. They were right - dammit, this was right! He shook off the doubt. His nagging habit to check his weapon was loaded twinged again and he obeyed without thinking. Clunk, click, the satisfying view of a bullet in chamber. The flick, clack of re-racking a full magazine. A quick sighter down the barrel.

Cherubim and anointed servo skulls drifted around the spires of the chapel, each of them repeating the service happening within. The rattling high gothic prose was given a slightly different pitch and timbre by the swarm of creatures, leaving a quite disturbing discordant wall of sound echoing around the chapel and the vast holy grounds surrounding it. On the very pinnacle of the chapel sat a two headed cyber eagle - one blind, one not - as was fitting to celebrate He-On-Terra. Oebels made the sign of the Aquila over his chest, as did many around him, at the sight of the eagle. Someone was obviously very interested in what was about to happen.

Qi approached the chapel doors, and with one great heft pushed them both wide open. They cracked onto their stays, rattling somewhat as they came to a halt.

Each face in the congregation turned to face her. Oebels couldn’t help be impressed by the sheer gumption of it, even as his order to surround the chapel was being carried out. Ymaar stepped forward to be off Qi’s shoulder, a couple of steps back to her left. Oebels occupied the same position to her right.

“What is the mean-“

“Assembled members of the so called Puritan Council. I am Inquisitor Lyssa Qi, Inquisitrix-Primus of the Ultramanian Conclave, Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus,  Saviour of Balmortis, Hero of Galantis IV, Adept-Honorific of the Temple Venenum, and as of this very second Master of the Chapel Inquisitoris.”

She took a step forward.

Her bootstep echoed right up to and through the high ceiling. The chapel wasn’t as full as they’d predicted or, perhaps hoped. Still she spied some very notable faces. These were the disposables, then.

Oebels took a quieter step behind her, as did Ymaar, keeping their distance relative. Behind them came their portion of the force. Oebels sized up their opposition - a few Inquisitors, and a coterie of henchmen and interrogators. They were ready for the fight.

“You come here to celebrate a lie. A fiction. A lunatic and a frothing gurning caricature.”

Qi took a nearly rolled scroll from her hip, letting it unfurl.

“I hereby declare this service null and vacant-“ the rabble began to stand up and turn, shouting their dissent, “-, that this canonization be abandoned-“ her words had really stoked a furious response now, but she persevered “-improper use of the Synod’s authority and holy mission.”

She paused to allow the heckling and the abuse trickle out.

“We know what you want Qi. Screech the rest of your words, so we can start…. the conclave.”

The words came from Inquisitor-General Draavic Grejchev, a hulk of a man in full power armour. He held his disturbingly effective weapon, Liquefactor. A simple looking hammer, the weapon actually housed a complex grav-system that allowed an incredibly powerful pneumatic firing system in the head of the hammer. Upon impact the grav system fired behind the face, leaving the head of the hammer with a potent platform to fire from. The head would then accelerate so fast it created a sonic boom usually liquefying the victim in the process. Grejchev knew what was coming.

“So be it - by the power invested in me, and with the blessings of 8 Inquisitors in good name, good standing and moral certitude, that I execute on this day the 16th day of Tertius, in the year of He-On-Terra M42.120 a carta extremis on all those present for the canonization of the false saint, Muundus Vhogart. In the name of the Emperor I demand you all immediately repent and report for summary sentencing, and where appropriate execution for acts most heretical and vile. Surrender, brothers and sisters.”

She let slip her whip-crack vicious smile.

“And if we don’t,” responded Grejchev, who had become the de-facto spokesman for those assembled.

“Then, Draavic, my associates and I will serve the carta and enforce it with force extremis.”

The chapel was eerily silent. Fingers made micro movements nervously towards weapons. A bead of sweat came down Oebel’s brow and down his cheek. He could feel his back prickling with anticipation expressing as ice cold perspiration. His fight or flight response was pounding adrenaline through his body. The demand was unclear. His breathing became slower, and deeper. His ears rang with rushing blood.

In that moment, he would later reflect, it was clear that the Puritan Council had moved first. A young firebrand acolyte, Rutherford, was the nervous unfortunate. His features were twisted somewhere between horror, hatred and fear. His shaking hands brought up his autopistol and, as quickly as that was brought up, everyone in the room began to move.

Bullets spilled out from every direction. Qi dived forward into cover behind a pew. Oebels scuttled behind a statue of St Thor. Ymaar simply didn’t care as bullets, bolts and lasbolts pinged and pocked off their power armour. The rest of the Ultramanians poured in through the sacristy and through a discreet side door off the back of the shrine.

Odion began to scale the chapel wall heading for the eagle eye view of the gallery above. Hefting over the gallery balcony, Odion found himself instinctively blocking a vicious chainsword slash at his head from a furious chapel attendee in a red, fire and brimstone robe. He used his rifle as a makeshift baton to keep the zealot at bay, watching chunks of his rifles casing being torn away by whirring chain teeth. The broken flow of air from the chain weapon rippled over his face with an oddly refreshing sensation.

Ymaar floated forward, cracking shots off from their bulky autopistol. They simply didn’t care about the fire, or didn’t fear it in the slightest. The nonchalance was fascinating to Oebels. They took down a plucky Interrogator who was trying to flank them with an accurate snap shot, followed with a pair of priests from the choir who were sprinting down to the main chapel door. A full auto burst ended both. Cases from the bullets tinkled as they tickled the stone floor. Oebels locked his sights on a panicked acolyte and emptied his brains with an accurate blast from his laspistol. As the last last chunk of Sebastian Thor splintered around him, Raijner slipped into cover behind a statue of Saint Brannicus the Thrice-Maimed.

“Qi, we need to advance,” Raijner yelled, the likeness of Saint Brannicus offering him refuge disappearing in clumps of rubble around him. Qi nodded.

“Cover me!”

Qi rolled out of cover behind Ymaar’s armoured legs.

Oebels stepped out to greet a hailstorm of fire, returning the best he could with several volleys of his own. Ymaar kept walking forwards as Qi rolled into the shadow of Ymaar, then stood up behind them, letting swarms of bullets bounce ineffectually off the armoured monster.

Oebels flung himself back towards cover finding himself prone. He leapt back at the sound of a body thudding in front of him from above. Without hesitation he shot several rounds into the groaning then dead victim of Odion above. The robe caught fire from the las fire, filling Oebels nose first with the acrid smell of cheap synthetic cloth then the rich, disturbing aroma of burning human fat.

Lyssa glanced at the carnage. Behind the shrine, several Bishops of the Terran Synod were cowering trying to avoid death. She flinched as splinters of stone fell all around her from a stray shot into the ceiling. Several hunched, cloaked figures were emerging from a hidden alcove below the shrine. The lead Bishop was trying to run into the sacristy and out of the chapel.

Gleeson grabbed the Bishop and dragged him into the sacristy. Gleeson shoved the Bishop against a wall, mangling him through a coat hangar and across a table sending a collection of relics across the room.

“Death comes for everyone, priest.”

“The Emperor will not absolve you of this.”

Gleeson nodded at the corpse of Muundus lying in repose.

“You think he’ll forgive you for that?”

He repeatedly stabbed the bishop, knifing him over and over and over again. Blood spattered everywhere. The bishop started to cough up blood. Desperation filled his eye. He brought his hands to his tattered torso as he tried to stop his innards leaking everywhere.

Gleeson dropped the preacher and ran out into the main body of the chapel. He clumsily deflected a downward stroke from a power sword with his knife. The knife splintered in his hand, forcing him to jump back. His assailant, presumably a bounty hunter from the accoutrements Gleeson quickly appraised, was well armed and not interested in savouring his death. The bounty hunter pressed his attack, forcing Gleeson to scramble back. Gunfire was raging all around him rattling his balance with the wall of sound smashing his ears. He fell backwards as he failed to find a weapon he could wield. Fearing the worst he prepared for death as the stroke came down.

Ymaar rudely interrupted this with a clumsy backstroke from their whirring chainfist, laying their intended victim into the bounty hunter in a spray of effluence and vital fluids. Gleeson saw the bounty was as covered as him in the mess but was more disoriented - they had taken more of the spray in bigger chunks than he had. Gleeson swept his leg, clearing the bounty hunter into the air. The bounty hunter screamed as he slammed onto the floor. Odion saw the prone victim and with a grin pierced the bounty hunter’s chest cavity from lung to lung. The bounty hunter choked as his lungs rapidly filled with his own blood.

In front of the shrine, Grejchev was a whirling fury. Several of Kleeton’s irregulars, lead by Volcano and Octet, had converged on him trying to make a name for themselves. Volcano struck first, swinging a vicious sickle. Grejchev blocked with his forearm, letting the sickle run down and harmlessly flow off his elbow. Grejchev stepped through Octet, using the bulk of his power armour to bull him to the floor. An irregular, a Terran ganger wielding a chainsword and a snub nosed pistol, jumped from a pew straight at Grejchev. The Inquisitor-General used his momentum to pivot through with the Liquefier.

The hammer arced upwards connecting with the ganger in mid flight. The grav-barrier ignited at the same instant as the pneumatics driving the face fired, squarely into the chest of the jumping ganger. For a split second, the air crackled with friction and anticipation. A moment later, a gout of blood and splintering bone, chunks of spinal cord and cooking intestine exploded in a full half sphere above the impact point.

Oebels felt himself fighting to stay focused on the carnage. The sonic boom rocked him back on his heels and his mind reeled with the shock of witnessing a human change from corporeal to liquid form in an instant. The odour of flash fried human remains made him immediately retch, even as a frenzied priest armed with a lasgun and bayonet snuck up on him. Caught unaware, he barely managed to dodge the clumsy thrust. Oebels screamed as the bayonet went through his shoulder.

It barely registered above the rat-tat-tat and revving growls of combat. Blood began leaking all over Raijner as he pitched backwards. He ducked a second lunge for his face and managed to catch the lasgun in both hands on the back stroke. Though the two of them grappled, Oebels knew his shoulder was about to give out. Gleeson saved his blushes - and likely death, by using the stub of his knife to stab the priest repeatedly in his neck, severing the spinal column with some effort. Oebels felt the grip on the weapon go slack.

The chapel, previously a serene picture of sacred praise for the Most Holy Emperor above was now a gore soaked charnel house. Qi ran at a stern looking woman with a seal barking out the catechism to drive back the wych. The woman - Qi recognized her as Witch-Hunter Sireena Lechalle - moved like a battleship, breaking an irregular in front of her with a swing of her shock maul, and blast from her hand flamer. Qi dodged Sireena’s opening clumsy swing, twisting close to Lechalle’s body.

Lechalle tensed her quads and drove a vicious knee, trying to separate herself from Lyssa. She was desperate to use the shocking end of the maul. Qi felt her leg go dead immediately and fail below her. She went with the momentum, spinning to grab the shock maul by the stem and half disarming the Witch-Hunter. Lechalle let the weapon go and the maul skittered down the chapel with a metallic klink-clack. She brought her hand flamer to bear, bringing it about to point at the prone Qi. Lyssa braced for the heat until she saw Ymaar, rocked back by an attempted blow from the Liquefier knock into Lechalle and distract her momentarily.

In that moment, with the hand flamer squarely in her face, she could see the pilot flame and the raw chemical smell of promethium hurt her sinuses.  Without hesitation, Qi lunged upwards grabbing at the hand of the witch hunter.

Exposed flesh.

She bit in immediately. Lechalle turned pale in a heartbeat, frothing bloodied spittle flecking on both cheeks. Her eyes went bloodshot, then began to leak blood from the rapidly expanding blood vessels. The same happened with her nose, ears, and tear ducts. Even the veins below her nails began to explode. Lyssa yanked herself up, pulling the rapidly exsanguinating Witch-Hunter to the floor behind her.

With Ymaar staggered across the room, Grejchev moved to stamp down on Octet who hadn’t been able to re-find her feet. Her rib cage was mangled immediately, leaving her crippled and unable to breathe. She rasped for air, trying desperately to live. She wouldn’t last long before the blood loss and oxygen deprivation would kill her.

Volcano sprang off a column, trying to save his colleague. He collided with another acolyte, Davvys Theo. The two locked on each other, sliding through the remains of the irregular recently turned into liquid. They rolled in the filth, trying to get purchase on each other through the blood slick and human waste. Desperation drove both of them, neither gaining the upper hand.

Odion tried to find a clear shot through the splatters of blood and body parts, and the tangle of limbs and weapons. Volcano thrashed his leg, finding the slimmest advantage. For just a moment he had a lever, but it was all he needed. He pulled Davvys off balance, then pushed Davvys away. Oebels saw his opportunity as Odion hesitated. Raijner fired his laspistol repeatedly ending Theo with three neatly placed shots.

Volcano screamed in pain as he saw Octet fade and black out. He knew his sister acolyte wouldn’t come round again.

Behind them, Grejchev swung his hammer again, exploding the final irregular in a shower of human detritus. Sulphurous smoke mixed with the incense in the air to create a noxious mix that set a strong overtone above the reek of . Around the chapel, fighting slowed to a crawl as everyone looked towards the middle of the room.

The obvious conflict between the two titans in the room had now come into full focus.

Inquisitor Lyssa Qi against Inquisitor-General Draavic Grejchev. A battle of philosophy and burning hatred. A battle for Inquisitorial supremacy.

A battle for the Emperor’s soul.

“I’ve killed stronger fools than you Grejchev.”

“And I’ve burnt every wych like you I’ve encountered Qi.”

“No quarter asked,” Qi smiled.

“No quarter given.”

Grejchev ran at her, cleaving pews, prayer rolls and hymnal pads asunder. Splintered wood and vapourised electronics ran as waves at the prow of the monstrous valiant in powered armour. His armour was engraved with devotional cant and ecclesiastic pronouncements that were carved deep in the ceramite painted in purest white. The white was speckled with deep crimson from the various victims of the Liquefier. He roared as he reached Qi, swinging wildly for her head.

She ducked like a dancing cobra, feeling the air above her crackle as the terrifying weapon barely missed her neatly tied bun on the crown of her head. Lyssa drove forward, driving a thin power knife between a gap in Grejchev’s armour between his thigh and knee. Grejchev felt the ligament in his left knee give way and even with the supports in his suit, his leg felt heavy.

Warm blood leaked down his calf and pooled in his greave and boot. Roaring in pain, Grejchev left his hammer in his left hand and clocked Qi with a swift right hand jab. With the power of his armour it burst her nose and broke her cheekbone. Her vision swam as the Inquisitor-General tried to press his advantage by dropping his shoulder to match his crippled left knee, then springing with his right foot to push Lyssa back.

She felt herself lifted off her feet, incapable of stopping herself being bullied back into a pillar. Her back cracked and her breath emptied from her chest even as Grejchev tried to stand on his buckling knee. He stumbled, falling prone and crushing a statue of St Agamemnon the Just on his way down.

Qi tried to breathe through the blood. Her vision swam and blurred dangerously. Grejchev was still trying to rise to strike the death blow, unable to gain traction with his weakened leg. Lyssa let her mind reel for an infinitesimal quantum of time before using sheer force of will to force herself round. Her vision sharpened. Two familiar scars, neat puncture wounds on her hand, begged to be used again.

She drove her fangs into herself, feeling the rush of Slaught and Brut. Her bleeding slowed, her muscles twitched with chemical steel and power. Her brain rushed with thoughts of violence and the animal snarl of adrenaline. She grabbed her power whip, flicking it out to full length. It crackled as it contacted the chapel floor leaving burn marks and boiling the pools of blood that were forming from the slaughter. Ahead of her, Grejchev had levered himself back to his feet opposite her using the Liquefier. He turned to face her, his breathing laboured from the effort.

“Let’s have it, then, traitor.”

Language was lost on Qi. She snarled, cracking the whip out to its full length. The lash cleaved off a vent from the Draavic’s power pack. The final irregular was running at the stricken Inquisitor-General as the vent was sliced away. The ganger was consumed in a plume of thermal waste that melted skin and flesh away revealing bleached bone. He screamed even as Grejchev forced himself forward in a clumsy swing of his hammer. Qi cracked her whip again, flaying a chunk of ceramite off his shoulder, then from his chest. The Aquila on his chest lost both its heads and a portion of wing. The impact of the whip forced Draavic back who failed to find a stable footing between his useless knee and the increasingly slick gore.

Qi began to close in for the kill when the shrouded interlopers around the shrine revealed themselves.

“Purgator,” hissed one of the Bishops.

“Arcoflagellants!” shouted Ymaar.

They set themself in a firm defensive stance, chainfist revving and autopistol emptying. The three flagellants bounded forward, hefting their integrated weaponry as the bloodlust suppressed their slaved remaining humanity drilling home one remaining, repeating thought - kill.

Kill. Kill. Kill.

Kill everything.

Ymaar remained aloof and distant to the danger. The first flagellant flung itself forward, trying to split the Inquisitor in half with an oversized circular saw. Ymaar parried it with the chainfist, it’s powerfield disintegrating the disc. The flagellant fell off balance, allowing Ymaar to slice off a leg with a burst of automatic fire from their pistol. The second and third flagellants - OX-57 and PRG-21 - came on without a care for their fallen cousin.

Grejchev used the few seconds distraction to come again at Qi, this time holding his hammer in both hands and en-garde. He was more wary now, conscious of the dimming power in his suit and the blood that had drained into his armour. He saw the dark tendrils of blood loss pulling at the edges of his vision beckoning him to black out. His hair was singeing from the heat uncontrollably leaving the broken sink on his suit.

“Come on wych!” he screamed at Qi in defiance.

Qi set her feet, watching Grejchev with reptilian patience. Her head stayed perfectly still while she stalked him, keeping her feet precisely shoulder width apart and her knees bent into a lowered stance. She flicked a button on the handle of her whip, revealing fangs all the way down the whip. The powerfield sparked as it adjusted to the new surface area of the weapon.

Both Qi and Grejchev set themselves even as Ymaar and the flagellants tangled.

Tentacular electro flails from OX-57 gripped Ymaar even as he plunged his chainfist through the chest of PRG-21. The flagellant blurted screams of defiance from an oversized vox-unit in its chest which mixed with a distorted wall of static. The death rattle of the flagellant burst Ymaar’s eardrums, sending them off balance. OX-57 gripped tighter, the arcing electricity escaping in bursts through Ymaar’s power armour, frying the flesh within. Ymaar flailed in agony, their chainfist finishing pulping PRG-21 before desperately scrabbling at OX-57. The three of them, locked in death throes became one bio-mechanical chimaera gibbering and screaming in unending pain.

Odion, still high above the chapel in the gallery, lined up his sights on Ymaar’s masked face. Without a second though, he sent a bullet through Ymaar’s head. The screaming stopped. Odion executed OX-57 and PRG-21 in the seconds after.

Qi, settled low as a coiled viper, struck first. She flailed her arm, lifting the whip into an arc above her head before striking forwards, letting it coil and unleash. The barbs caught in the Liquefier and wrapped the whip around it, sparking the powerfield as the barbs cut into the stem and head of the weapon. Grejchev pulled hard, trying to draw her in. She used her steady footing to resist, not accounting for the slick of gore below her. She skidded forwards, off kilter.

Above, Odion re-targeted, landing a bullet into Grejchev’s cheek. He roared as his face was half ripped away, leaving the entire left part of his skull and jaw completely exposed and raw. Qi sensed her opportunity and drove forward, unsteady through the reservoir of spatter but driven by the haze of Slaught. She hurled herself, leaving the whip behind and letting her body weight connect with the chest of the Inquisitor-General. His stricken knee and failing suit couldn’t cope with the weight and momentum sent him onto his back.

The thermal waste leaked into her face and burnt her skin as to charcoal black she knelt over him panting her fury. She was sweating with the exertion, her nose still leaking blood.

She plunged her thumbs into his eyes, raking deep and immediate, shrieking as she made paste of his eyes and drove on into his skull. Qi felt her digits meet bone. Her shoulders locked as she found grip. With a final surge of inhuman strength, she tore Grejchev’s head in half showering her face with meninge and brain.

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