The Princess and the Plague

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Sun Sep 07, 2014 3:24 am

Haven't tried 40k fanfiction in a while, but had some inspiration. Let me know what you think:

It was the week before Crusaders’ Day that Alyssandra, the governor’s youngest daughter, fell ill. At first, her family barely even noticed.

“It’s only a cough,” said the Governor, “Drink plenty of fluids and get a good night’s sleep.” Then he went back to preparing for the festivities. He couldn’t afford to be distracted now. Decorations had to be hung, charitable donations to the ecclesiarchy had to be made to prove his piety, and every noble in the Spire had to receive a personal invitation, lest a family feel slighted and plot revenge. Imperial politics was a delicate, perilous, and time consuming thing.

Alyssandra followed her father’s advice, but it didn’t help. The cough grew worse. She started vomiting everything she drank or ate. Her head throbbed and she felt dizzy every time she stood up. Still everything continued as normal. But when the girl collapsed at the Crusaders’ Day opening ceremony, spewing blood all over her fitted, eagle embroidered silk robes that had been tailor made to match the rest of the family’s, the problem could no longer be ignored.

The best physicians in the Hive were called in. Then the best physicians from the other Hives. No treatment had any effect. The disease was like nothing any doctor had seen before. The Governor began to worry. Rumors began spreading all through the Spire. The Governor’s family had a mutation in their blood that had caused this illness. The Governor’s youngest daughter had been cursed because of her family’s wickedness. The Governor was hiding his own sickness and would soon be unable to rule. The other noble houses stirred the pot as much as they could, hoping to weaken the Governor’s position while strengthening their own.

So the Governor had Alyssandra placed in a heavily secured private room at the very tip of the Spire. There she stayed, spending day after day and month after month alone, except for the three times each day that servants brought her meals, and the occasional times when her mother came to talk to her and give her some new toy (but never to touch her or get too close, she might be infectious after all). The Governor himself never visited. He was far too busy running planetary affairs, making public appearances and proving to the nobles that he wasn’t dying. Her older brother and sister didn’t visit either. Neither had been very close to her. They blamed her for ruining their Crusaders’ Day celebration, and for the subsequent rumors they had to put up with.

Alyssandra prayed hard every day for the Emperor to heal her. She wasn’t healed. In time, even her mother began to visit less and less frequently. The girl’s condition wasn’t improving, and there were so many other things to do. It was a perilous time for the family after all, and it wouldn’t do for the Governor’s wife to look weak.

Alyssandra’s long blond hair began to fall out in clumps. Her skin broke out in raw, red sores. She bled frequently from the mouth and nose. Soon she was so weak that she could hardly leave her bed. Now Alyssandra prayed that she could simply die, so that her suffering would end. It was then, wracked with pain and abandoned by everyone, that Alyssandra had another visitor.

It was night, and pitch black in Alyssandra’s windowless cell of a room when the visitor arrived. It wasn’t a sound, so much as a sense that woke her, a feeling of a presence. The first things she noticed when she opened her eyes was the glow. The windowless room was pitch black in the evening hours, when the servants shut the lamps off from outside, but now everything was bathed in a faint red light. The light was coming from the foot of her bed…
Slowly, Alyssandra lifted her head and looked. Down past her feet, by the bedpost, a monster was looming over her. It least it seemed to Alyssandra that it must have been a monster. It was far too big to be human, and had glowing red eyes that were the source of the light. It’s body was completely covered with plates of armour that were stained red in the light of its eyes, but with some kind of liquid running down them and seeping out of the cracks that appeared black in the crimson glow. Puffs of steam rose from a grate over the monster’s mouth.

Alyssanda’s first instinct was to scream, but she no longer had the lungs or the energy for it. Instead she gave a low groan, followed by another hacking cough that tore its way out of her chest. Looking up blearily at the huge figure at the foot of her bed, she suddenly realized that she had no reason to be afraid. Nothing that could happen to her was worse than what she was already going through.

After moment of silence, save for the faint whirring of servos and distant machinery, Alyssandra cleared her throat and managed to speak.

“Are you… are you here to end my suffering?” This figure could only be an angel of death, come for her soul.
The giant tilted its head to one side. She could hear its raspy breathing. Rasp in. Rasp out. In. Out. It seemed to be pondering her words.”

“End your suffering? A flawed way of thinking. Only you can end your suffering.” The voice was deep and booming, but had an odd burbling quality to it, as though the speaker were talking through half a mouthful of juice.

Alyssandra was surprised. She hadn’t really expected the giant to answer her. She hadn't expected it to speak. She propped herself against the bedpost with her pillow, so she could look at her visitor without holding her head up.

“How did you get in here?” she asked.

“Walked,” came the reply.

Alyssandra snorted in disbelief, an action that caused a painful stinging in the back of her nose. “Impossible. The guards would have seen you and raised the alarm. You would have had to break through the door. I would have heard.”

The giant shook its head. “I didn’t say I walked through the door.”

“But there’s no other way,” Alyssandra replied, confused.

“Oh, there are other ways,” the intruder answered cryptically, “More ways than you could imagine.”

Alyssandra sighed. Her head was starting to pound again, and this conversation with her visitor was going nowhere. “What are you?” she asked, “And if not to kill me, why have you come to my bedchamber and disturbed my sleep?

The giant laughed; a low, gurgling laugh, like the sound of a waterfall from a holotube movie. There was genuine joy and mirth in that laugh, and it was oddly pleasant to listen to. “Once I was a man. Now I am many things more and less than that. You may call me Brother Eseus. I am sorry for disturbing your slumber, but something called to me, and I was compelled to answer.”

Alyssandra frowned. Her headache had seemed to ease for a moment as the giant… as Brother Eseus spoke, but it quickly returned in force. “Called you? Nobody called… unless… I said many prayers, but nobody answered.”
Eseus chuckled again. “Well perhaps I am the answer, little one.”
Alyssandra sighed and settled back against her pillow. “Well if you’re the answer to my prayer, cure me. Cure me of this cursed disease.”

Now it was Brother Eseus who sighed, a wet, wheezing sound filtering through his helmet. “And if I did that, what good would it do you?”

“What do you mean what good would it do me?” Alyssandra gasped in disbelief, “I wouldn’t be sick! I wouldn’t be in pain! I wouldn’t be dying!”

“Wait a moment,” Eseus raised a hand, cutting off her outburst. “You’ve just said something very interesting. You said you wouldn’t be in pain. Is that really the truth?”

Alyssandra paused. “Well...,” her mouth was dry. “I…”

“Is this sickness the only pain in your life?” Eseus asked calmly. “Without it, would you be happy?”

Alyssandra swallowed. She was quiet for a very long time. “…No,” she said at last. Her eyes and nose stung. Tears began to run down her face. She tried to wipe them on her shoulder.

“Just as I thought,” Eseus said gently, circling around the bed until he was standing right beside her. “I cannot take away your pain, but I can listen. Perhaps sharing your troubles will ease the pain. So tell me, what in your life causes you the most pain?”
Last edited by fallen inquistor on Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Wed Sep 17, 2014 5:27 am

It was a question that Alyssandra thought about for a long time. What hurt the most? It wasn’t her head, her stomach, or her bones, it was…

“My family doesn’t love me,” she replied. As she said the words, she knew they were true. It felt terrible, but at the same time, somehow, relieving. It was as if a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders. The secret was in the open, if only to this strange armored giant. “Sometimes Mama and Papa pretend they love me,” she continued, “But they don’t really mean it. When I got sick, they left me alone up here and forgot about me. My brother and sister don’t even pretend. Everyone treats me as an inconvenience more than anything.”

Eseus nodded solemnly. “Sickness and death cause simple pains. Family is more complicated.”

“Family is the worst,” Alyssandra said bitterly, “but that’s not all. I don’t really have any friends. The other children of the noble houses have to treat me different because I’m the governor’s daughter. They act respectful, but they hate me. I can tell. Being the governor’s daughter is the worst thing in the world.”

Eseus laughed again, a deep belly laugh this time. He laughed longer and harder than he had at anything before.

Alyssandra glared, hurt and embarrassed to have shared so much. “What’s so…” A cough tore from her lungs. A tiny bit of blood trickled down her lip. “…funny? I shared my deepest secrets and you laughed at me. Go away, Brother Eseus, whoever you are. I didn’t invite you here. I want to go back to sleep.”

“My deepest apologies,” Eseus replied, bowing in contrition. “I did not mean to offend. However, if you could only see things from my point of view, you would see that it IS quite amusing. You have what hundreds of millions on this world wish they had. You’re a princess, living in a silver tower. Isn’t that every little girl’s dream? And yet you call it the worst thing in the world. It only proves my point.”

Alyssandra frowned. “Your point?” she rasped, before gulping down the fluid she had just coughed up. “What is your point?”

“Pain…” Eseus traced his hand idly through the air, “Pain is inescapable. So many people claim that if they could only have this trifling thing, they would be happy. Then they get it. And they have other problems. Other pains. So they move on to the next thing they want. It’s the great lie of life.”

“So you’re saying that nobody is ever really happy? Everyone chases happiness while staying miserable?” asked Alyssandra, wiping her lip. “In that case, everyone would be better off dead.”

“Many would be!” Eseus said, sounding quite pleased. “But I never said that happiness was impossible, merely that people pursue it in the wrong manner. I personally am extremely happy with my life. And you can be as well.”

“How?” Alyssandra asked, “How can I be happy if good things are meaningless and bad things are always causing me pain?” She lifted her arm up to scratch her head, but a sharp twinge ran through her shoulder and she let it fall back down. Then a thought struck her. “Wait, does this have something to do with the Emperor? The priests always talk about him bringing salvation.”

A low rumbling noise seemed to come from deep within Brother Eseus. He began to shudder, armored plates rattling together. The noise built and grew louder. Alyssandra, feeling frightened again for a moment, grasped her blankets and leaned as far back on her pillow as she could. Then Eseus doubled over and burst into loud, raucous laughter that echoed around the bedchamber.

“The Emperor?! The Emperor! Now there’s a thought that makes me smile more than any in a long time!” Eseus placed a hand on the bedpost and straightened himself. He didn’t seem to put much of his weight on the post, but the entire bed still creaked and groaned with the strain. “No, little one,” Eseus said, still sounding highly amused, “The Emperor will not show you the way to happiness. Here’s a question for you. What does the Emperor actually do? I’m not talking about ‘grants salvation’ or ‘passes judgement’ or some other vague, amorphous concept. How does the Emperor spend his days? What observable action does he take to help the people who devote so much time and energy to worshipping him?”

“Well…,” Alyssandra paused. She couldn’t think of a thing.”He… has a golden throne… that he… sits on, I guess.”

Eseus laughed loudly again. The noise echoed through the room. “He sits! That is a fitting description, if ever I’ve heard one! It’s amazing how children are often wiser than ancient sages!” Then, more seriously, he leaned in and asked, “Does he answer prayers?”

Alyssandra thought again for a moment. “He certainly hasn’t answered any of mine,” she replied bitterly.

Eseus nodded in agreement. “Of course not. The Emperor sits on his throne day and night, unable to move, see, or speak. Servants stick a tube down him and pump his food in. I actually feel sorry for him. It’s quite sad and pathetic, really. Right now, you are living considerably better than the so called God Emperor. If he were really a god, why would he live such a life?”

There was silence between the two for another stretch. Alyssandra seemed to be thinking very hard, her face scrunched together in concentration.

Then she broke into a wicked grin and asked, “What happens when the Emperor has to poop?”

There was another pause, and when Eseus started laughing, this time Alyssandra was laughing with him.

“I mean,” she said, struggling to talk through her laughter, “it must happen, right?”

“Why… don’t you know?” Eseus gasped, struggling to catch his breath, “The Emperor’s Holy Dung Cleaner is one the greatest positions a man can aspire to! Every one of the Emperor’s glorious droppings, cleaned from his golden bedpan, is stamped with the Imperial Aquilla and kept in a glass case on the mantel of one of the Imperium’s highest government officials, who opens it once a year to the public so that they may, for a price, deeply inhale the sweet sent of the Emperor’s glorious blessing!”

At this the girl and the giant burst into laughter again for several minutes. Alyssandra’s side and gut ached terribly. She gasped for breath, and still couldn’t quite stop giggling. Overall though, she felt better than she could ever remember feeling. Having a friend to laugh with was quite wonderful.

Brother Eseus suddenly stepped backwards and took a dramatic bow. “I regret to inform you that day, or what passes for day on this planet, has arrived and I must end our little nighttime chat. One of your servers is coming with the morning meal, and if I were here when she arrived, things would become rather messy.”

“What?” Alyssandra said, suddenly feeling a cold wave of fear wash over her. “You can’t leave now! You can’t leave me alone! You still have to teach me the secret to being happy!”

“Shhh,” Eseus raised a finger to her lips, silencing her. Then he patted her on the head. His massive armoured gauntlet was surprisingly gentle. “Fear not, little one. I will return in the night hours. We’re having far too much fun for me to abandon things here. In fact, you’re one of my favorites in a long time. And don’t worry about the path to happiness. You are already farther along it than you know.”

“Wait…,” Alyssandra protested, “How… when…?”

“Hush,” Eseus said, stepping back into the shadows, “Sleep now, little one.”

Alyssandra was suddenly overcome with a wave of drowsiness. She struggled to say more, but could barely open her mouth. Her eyelids drooped, her head fell back, and the world went dark.

She woke up to the sound of gears grinding and clicking as the heavy double doors to the room opened. She opened her eyes and squinted at the light that poured in. She felt that she had only fallen asleep for a few minutes, but Brother Eseus was nowhere to be seen and someone had turned on the light.

“Good morning, Mistress!” a serving lady whose name Alyssandra couldn’t remember said, as she strolled through the door with a food tray in her hand and a phony, overly cheerful smile on her lips. The serving lady got three steps into the room when she stopped suddenly and looked down. She stumbled backwards. The smile vanished and her lip curled in disgust.

“Eugh! What… what did you do to the carpet?”

“Nothing,” Alyssandra replied honestly, “I haven’t left my bed.”

The servant glanced around the floor of the room. Alyssandra couldn’t see the ground from her bed, so she couldn’t see what the woman was looking at, but she looked confused and fearful. “It’s all… wet. And there’s some kind of… stain. Did… did a pipe break? Did something seep up from below?”

Alyssandra shrugged.

“And that smell! It smells like a corpse in here! Like… like a whole pile of corpses!”

Alyssandra shrugged again. “I can’t smell a thing.” It was true. Her nose was almost completely blocked by her illness.

“I’ll send in a servitor to clean it up,” the woman said, turning and nearly scrambling out the door.

“Wait,” Alyssandra said, her voice stronger and more firm than it had been in months. The woman froze in the middle of her retreat. “I want my meal.”

The serving lady turned and looked back at Alyssandra. Alyssandra stared right back, her face expressionless. They were always the same, these servants. Spending as little time in the room as possible, faking smiles, pretending they didn't hate this job, didn't hate her. And when they left, she was quite sure they gossiped, gossiped, gossiped. Servants loved their gossip.

The servant plastered another fake smile on her face, this time a good deal more pained. “Of course, milady.”

With that, she made her way over to Alyssandra’s bed, struggling and failing to avoid whatever was on the carpet. There was a squishing noise and the woman would flinch each time she missed a step. Finally she was at Alyssandra’s bedside, where she laid the tray down before turning and making an awkward dash for the door.

When she was gone, Alyssandra carefully pulled the tray onto her lap and began to eat. She almost never had an appetite anymore, but suddenly she was ravenously hungry. As she tore into her meal, the look on the serving woman’s face as she’d walked across the carpet kept popping into her head. Each time it did, she giggled. In a few minutes, she had cleaned her plate. Setting it off to one side, she leaned back and nestled down in her pillow. Soon, Alyssandra had fallen asleep again; a wide, content smile on her face.
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby GreaterGoodIreland » Sun Sep 21, 2014 5:00 am

I see Nurgle works in mysterious ways...
User avatar
GreaterGoodIreland
 
Posts: 4
Joined: Tue Jul 19, 2011 4:48 pm
Location: Dublin, Ireland


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby kurisawa » Wed Sep 24, 2014 8:04 am

Hey Mr. Fallen. An interesting anecdote. It was nice while it lasted but I feel it is somehow unfinished; what is to be the fate of this wavering subject? I feel like I missed the punchline.

You write in nice, clear language, not artificially inserting flowery words, and the simplicity of the narrative was refreshing.

However, I do feel that the intoductory section was a little too long - it felt like a third-hand tale, the events decided so far by you, the author, being related to me through another narrator, who himself is summarising from a news report. It got interesting at "Slowly, Alyssandra lifted her head and looked." From this point on I felt I was in the story as it happened. It would take quite an edit, but if you started at this point and filled in the backstory through her conversation with the plague marine, it might have good results for you. Might. Up to you. Just a suggestion.

Otherwise, when the plague marine asks her what the Emperor does all day the answer flashed across my mind; "Concentrates on projecting the astronomican, which is needed for the entire Imperium to navigate and function and hold Chaos back in check behind the veil of the warp!" - but it's true the girl might not yet have learned this in school haha...

Thanks for sharing.


K.
My short stories:
1. Extraction = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2127
2. Intoxication = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2188
3. Desecration = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2294
4. Indoctrination = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3172

My novel:
BLACK SHIELDS: INCOGNITUS = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1901
kurisawa
 
Posts: 352
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:39 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Mon Oct 06, 2014 4:38 am

Hi Kurisawa. Er... it is unfinished. :lol: I'm really busy right now, so I'm writing this story out in chunks and I'm updating gradually as I write. You didn't miss the punchline, the punchline hasn't been posted yet! That was just the end of part 2. The next update will be coming soon. The whole plot is already in my head, it just takes time to get it written and get the details ironed out. Don't worry, when the end comes, you'll know it. :twisted:

As for the rest of your criticism, thank you and I pretty much agree. The hardest part is to start, as they say. I wasn't sure how to introduce the story, so I wanted to go with an almost morbid fairy tale like introduction, but it isn't great and does make the reader feel removed from the story. Thanks for your suggestion. There's a good chance I'll go back and edit the beginning (and maybe some other bits as well) but I want to finish the whole story first.

As far as what the Emperor does all day; yeah, Alyssandra doesn't know much about the Astronomican, and Eseus, being a follower of Chaos who Warp travels wherever his god wills instead of following the Emperor's great extra dimensional lighthouse, doesn't view it as particularly useful or necessary. It's also quite ambiguous whether the Emperor is consciously projecting the Astronomican, or if he's just been turned into a giant rechargeable battery to keep it glowing. If the second is true, the view of the Emperor in the story is perfectly valid. You don't worship the Duracell in your flashlight, after all. ;)
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby kurisawa » Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:26 am

Hi Kurisawa. Er... it is unfinished.


Haha, well that explains a lot. You can ignore that part of my reply then, except to note that the story did draw me in and create interest in seeing the ending! :D

The hardest part is to start, as they say.


Yes. There are all sorts of theories and I know there are those who disagree with me on how much infodumping at the start is "too much". The opening "fairy-tale" style was not terrible at all - I kept on reading after all, if that is anything to go by. I guess my own personal guide is when I write and I find myself needing to use past perfect a lot, or to make characters explain things-that-occurred-previously to the reader with extended dialogues, I probably need to start further back in time, or just cut to the chase and fill in the background at opportune moments, drips at a time, as I go.

It's also quite ambiguous whether the Emperor is consciously projecting the Astronomican, or if he's just been turned into a giant rechargeable battery to keep it glowing. If the second is true, the view of the Emperor in the story is perfectly valid. You don't worship the Duracell in your flashlight, after all.


Well, that's also something I see a lot from fanboys of the Chaos faction - which is fair enough, everyone has an opinion and the Horus Heresy books, with their ongoing theme of "Everything you have been told is a lie", is certainly muddying what we are presented as fact in the WH40K rulebooks, but the important thing is what Alyssandra and those in-universe believe and take as fact. Your take could quite well be what Brother Esseus believes. I suggested the alternative more as something you can use to create conflict/arguments between her and the Chaos warrior, something that Imperial citizens are taught as doctrine will be difficult to break down.

The prayers of the Grey Knights do actually work. We are presented that as factual events happening in stories (and on tabletops haha), regardless of opinions. There must be something in the religion of the Imperium that burns Chaos.

But anyway, the Astronomican is described as being focused and directed by the Emperor, so in your analogy, the Emperor would rather be the bulb, while the casing and mechanism perhaps would be the throne, and the choir that exhausts hundreds of psykers every day would be the battery. ;)

Glad you took on the suggestions - and remember that's all they are. It's your story and totally your choices in the end. Hope you have time to return the favour. My latest short is number 4 in my sig. I'd love to know your feelings, if you have time.


K.
My short stories:
1. Extraction = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2127
2. Intoxication = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2188
3. Desecration = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2294
4. Indoctrination = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3172

My novel:
BLACK SHIELDS: INCOGNITUS = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1901
kurisawa
 
Posts: 352
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:39 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:35 am

Continued

“Brother Eseus!” Alyssandra cried, overjoyed, “You came back!” She reached over to hug him, only able to reach a little above his knee. The movement caused a sharp pain in her stomach and she laid back down, grimacing.

Eseus, looming up beside her bedpost once again, chuckled. “I told you I would return, Little One. I always keep a promise.” He sat down cross-legged next to the bed. Even sitting on the floor, his head rose a good foot above her own. “Let’s begin, shall we?”

“Begin what?” Alyssandra asked, puzzled.

“You wanted to learn to be happy, correct?” Eseus replied. “Well happiness isn’t a grox, you can catch and put in a cage. It’s a process. You have to work for it.”

“Alright,” Alyssandra said with determination, “Tell me what to do.”

“It’s simple, really,” Eseus said, tapping on the floor idly. “First, you have to get up out of that bed.”

“I… I can’t do that,” Alyssandra protested.

“Oh?” Eseus tilted his head to one side quizzically. “Why not?”

“My strength is gone. I’m very si…”

“Yes, yes, your illness,” Eseus cut her off, sounding a good deal colder than he normally did. “You have an obstacle, so you do what? Give up? Stay in bed till you die? There will always be obstacles, and if that is your response then you will always be miserable. You disappoint me, Alyssandra. Perhaps my time spent here is wasted.”

“Wait! No…,” Alyssandra pleaded, “I can… I think I can…” She gripped the bedpost and started to left herself up. The pain in her gut kicked in again. Her head spun. Wordlessly, Eseus sat back and watched. Alyssandra put one foot gently on the ground. Then she put her other foot on the ground and tried to shift her weight from the bed to her legs, while still clutching the bedpost. Her legs refused to hold her up, and as her weight shifted to her arms, a horrible pain shot through them. Her vision swam. She let go of the post and collapsed.

As she fell, Alyssandra felt a strong, massive hand catch her and lift her back up onto her bed. The motion was too much for her and she vomited on the bedsheets. Blood trickled out of her nose.
Eseus cleared his throat; a wet, gurgling sound. “Better,” he said, “but not good enough.”

“But I tried my hardest,” Alyssandra groaned. She coughed and spat something foul over the edge of the bed onto the carpet. Her throat felt like it was on fire. “I… I can’t do any more.”

“No?” Eseus asked, amused, “Once again you are all mixed up, little one. Trying harder and doing more aren’t always the answers. Some obstacles are simply beyond us.”

“Us?,” Alyssandra asked, incredulously, “Do you really mean beyond me, or are some things beyond you?” She had a hard time believing that there was any obstacle that someone so mighty and wise as Brother Eseus couldn’t overcome it.

“Some things are definitely beyond me,” Eseus replied sincerely, “In my thousand years of existence I have been shot, stabbed, flayed, burned, and mutilated a hundred of times over. I have been betrayed time and time again. I have fought in bloody combat against foes ten times stronger than myself, and lost. And like you, I have an illness that causes great pain. Yet I live on, while my foes’ bones rot. I have given every traitor his due and slain every stronger foe. Because I always survive the bullets, the blades, and the fire. Because I grow stronger with each defeat. Because I never give up. Because I always come back, until I win. And I am able to do all of this, not because of my own strength, but because I am a part of something far greater than myself. And through that, I know joy.”

This new comment took a minute for Alyssandra to take in. A thousand years of existence? Bloody combat? She had no idea what he was talking about. But there was one thing….
“Something greater than yourself? What is that?”

“Ah,” Eseus said, sounding quite pleased, “Now we’re getting to the heart of everything! You see, we are all a part of something much grander than ourselves, whether we know it or not. There are a billion worlds in the galaxy, and each one is home to billions of large organisms. Organisms like you and me. And within each one of those billions of large organisms there are billions upon billions of microorganisms, like the ones causing you pain, or on the other hand, like the ones that help you digest the food you eat. All these organisms struggle in an endless cycle of life and death. And watching over this endless struggle of life and death, is Papa Nurgle.”

“Papa Nurgle?” Alyssandra scratched her head. “Never heard of him. And I still don’t see what any of that has to do with me being too sick to leave my bed.”

Eseus was positively gleeful now. “Nurgle has everything to do with everything! Nurgle is a god. I’m talking about a real god, not one who sits in a chair all day and ignores your prayers. Nurgle is god of decay, disease, and death. He is also god of renewal, joy, and life. The reason so many go wrong in life is that they view these things as opposing forces. That’s where you are right now. When you tried to leave your bed, you fought your illness. But in reality, life and death, corruption and renewal, joy and suffering, are all two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. The key to success is to fully embrace Nurgle. To have life, death, corruption, renewal, joy, and suffering within you all at once. Don’t fight the disease. Embrace it.”

“But that’s crazy!” Alyssandra protested, “I can’t embrace a disease! How can that help me walk?! And if you’re saying that this ‘Papa Nurgle’ is the one who got me sick, then he should heal me, otherwise I hate him!”

Eseus sighed heavily. “Once again, fighting against what would set you free. Human nature, I suppose.” He leaned forward until his metal covered face was just inches from Alyssandra’s. She felt a strange warmth and smelled an odor so pungent that her blocked nose didn’t keep it out. Alyssandra leaned back uncomfortably.

“I don’t understand,” she whined pitifully. “You keep telling me all these crazy things, and I don’t understand any of it! I don’t know anything about gods of life and death and I don’t know how to walk, even though I want to more than anything! What do you want me to do?!” Then she started to cry.

Eseus leaned back and raised his hands in a conciliatory gesture. “I’ve upset you. I’m sorry. I’m not used to dealing with children.”

“I am not a child!” Alyssandra shouted angrily through her sobs. She knew she was, but she hated being treated like a child, like she couldn’t handle things. It was even more humiliating now. She hated crying in front of others.

“Listen, it’s very simple,” Eseus said, his tone still apologetic, “When you fell sick, you prayed to the Emperor to heal you, but he did nothing. Why not pray to Nurgle for his blessing? Not to remove the disease, but to make all those millions of little microorganisms in your blood support you and move for you. Pray and you shall walk. Then you will know that Nurgle is a god who answers prayers.”

Alyssandra pondered this for a moment. Just a prayer? Well it certainly couldn’t hurt her any worse. She bowed her head and folded her hands in front of her.

It was awkward, praying to an unknown deity. Prayers to the Emperor had lots of set phrases and scriptures that everyone used, but none of those seemed appropriate now. She decided to keep it simple. “Papa Nurgle, I don’t know or understand much about you. I’ve only just learned your name. But Brother Eseus says that you can help me walk again. Please help me walk. If you do that, I’ll do whatever I can to repay you. Thank you.”

As she finished the prayer, a strange feeling of comfort came over her. Her body still hurt, but it didn’t bother her as much. She felt… relaxed.

Eseus cleared his throat with a wet, hacking sound. “Well,” he said softly, “You won’t know if it worked until you try.”

Alyssandra paused, bracing herself. She still felt the pain and nausea from when she’d tried to stand just moments ago. He was right though. If she didn’t try walking, there was no way she could know if it worked. Slowly, carefully, she slid to one side so that her feet were dangling over the edge. Gripping the bedpost once more, she slid down from the bed, wincing as her feet touched the floor. She expect to feel an intense pain and for her legs to crumple beneath her, but it didn’t happen. Instead she felt… nothing at all. There was the feeling of the soft, plush carpet against her feet, yes, but there was no pain, not even an increase in pressure as she shifted her bodyweight down. It was as though something was holding her up, supporting her. Cautiously, she took a step. Her leg felt stiff and sore from all the time spent in bed, but it moved and when she shifted her weight to it, it held. She took another step. Then she laughed and threw her hands up in the air. Throwing her hands up in the air, she flung caution aside and lifted up her left foot, balancing on one leg.

“Look! Look!” she cried excitedly, “I’m doing it! It really works! I can walk! I can WALK! Thank you Eseus!” She paused, bowed her head, and clasped her hands together. “Thank you, Papa Nurgle,” she whispered with great sincerity.

Beside her, there was a faint clinking sound is Brother Eseus tapped his own gauntleted hands together in quiet applause. “Marvelous,” he said happily, “I knew I made the right choice coming here.”

...

The Chirurgeon’s face was emotionless as he stripped out of the heavy body glove, pulled the industrial rebreather from his face, and stood while a pair of servitors hosed him off with sterilizing chemicals. His skin was red and raw when the procedure was complete, but still not a murmur or grimace came to his lips. He was a short, bald man with watery grey eyes, the pasty skin common among sunless Hive Worlders, and a smooth shaven head that clearly showed the pair of parallel scars across the dome, marking him as a surgically altered savant.

After he’d been scrubbed clean, he put on his usual grey jumpsuit and long white medical coat. The doors to the room opened with a pneumonic hiss and he strode out into the Governor’s throne room.

“Dr. Malone.” The Governor was leaning forward in his throne, his elbow resting on the armrest, chin resting in his hand. His handsome face was marred by dark circles around his eyes. He had a deep scowl on his face. “What is the verdict on the patient?”

“Diagnosis negative,” the Doctor replied flatly.

The Governor sighed in exasperation. “What does that mean?! Did she get the disease from my daughter or not?”

The Doctor shrugged, “It’s difficult to say. She fell ill shortly after contact with the girl, and like the girl, the disease is unlike anything I’ve encountered before. This makes the possibility that she contracted the disease from the girl seem likely. But the symptoms are entirely different. The girl took several weeks to fully exhibit symptoms, while the new patient began to exhibit symptoms twenty hours, at most, after initial exposure. The girl, I’ll refer to her as Patient One, has had symptoms that include vomiting, fever, fainting spells, lungs filling with fluid, mange, muscular dystrophy and inflammation on the skin. The serving woman, I’ll call her Patient Two, has different and more extreme symptoms. She is suffering from some kind of inflammation of the brain, causing complete catatonia save for a foaming at the mouth, as well as a kind of devouring eating bacteria causing the flesh to rot, and an outbreak of boils beneath the skin causing…”

“Enough!” the Governor snapped, cutting him short. “First you give me a two word answer, and then you won’t shut up! All I want to know is; can you cure it?”

Dr. Malone shook his head. “Not presently. I do not believe that either of these diseases originated on our world. For this reason, all known treatments are completely ineffective.”

“I see,” the Governor said angrily. He tore one of his medallions from his neck and threw it across the room, breaking vase. “Useless, as always. Get out of my sight!”

Wordlessly, Dr. Malone turned to leave.

“Wait!”

The Doctor stopped and turned back at the Governor’s command. The Governor rubbed his temple nervously, not speaking for a moment. He seemed to be pondering something.

“The woman, Patient Two. I want you to get rid of her.

“You wish for me to terminate her, Sir?” Malone asked.

The Governor shook his head, furiously. “No. The other servants already know something is wrong. Killing her would just add fuel to the fire. We’d have servants fleeing left and right, spreading all sorts of stories. Have her moved to a hospital below the Spire. I don’t care where. We’ll say she had a nervous breakdown, or was in an accident, whichever is easier for people to swallow. Then bribe the doctors to keep her away from everyone. There will still be rumors, but nothing concrete. Once the uproar has died down, then we’ll have her quietly disposed of.”

“My Liege, that isn’t wise,” Malone replied, still showing little emotion, though a trace of nervousness showed through, “If the contagion were to spread…”

“Then you will have to deal with it,” the Governor interrupted. “So when you move her, I suggest you do it in such a way that she comes in as little contact with anyone as possible. But don’t overdo it. I can’t afford undue attention. This is all going to be strictly low key. No airtight body gloves or vacuum sealed chambers. Now go and make yourself useful for a change. I have things on my own plate to deal with.”

The Chirurgeon turned to exit again before turning back. “Um, there is one more thing, My Liege,” he said hesitantly.

“What.” the Governor replied, clearly annoyed.

“The servitor,” Malone said hurriedly, “Patient Three. The flesh portion has been infected in a manner very similar to Patient Two and the bionics are malfunctioning. In light of how you want to deal with Patient Two, I thought…”

“Destroy it,” the Governor said, “Nobody is going to miss a servitor.”

Dr. Malone nodded, turned, and walked through the double doors and out of the Governor’s chambers. Now he’d have no more test cases to study. He hadn’t broached the issue with the Governor; it would have done no good. Besides, it wasn’t his place to question, merely to obey. Still, he couldn’t help but feel a bit bitter. Move Patient Two in a way that prevented her from contaminating others while making it seem like a routine transfer? Impossible. And he doubted that the type of low level medics who pumped factory workers full of pain medication to keep them working until they keeled over would perform satisfactory quarantine measures.

“If the contagion were to spread… it could kill every human in the Hive,” Malone finished the statement he had been trying to make earlier in the Governor’s presence. His voice kept an emotionless tone, but his lip quivered when he said it, and his eyes misted over for a moment. Then he smothered the moment of humanity and continued down the hallway. He had a lethal injection and incineration to administer, and a catatonic patient to ship out. It wasn’t his place to question, merely to obey.

To be continued Just so there's no confusion. ;)
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby kurisawa » Wed Oct 29, 2014 3:15 am

Hi again, Fallen.

I read the next part. The dialogue continues and the girl turns!

I thought you handled the difference in speaking styles between the child and the marine quite well, and the conversation itself followed the conventional Nurgle sell pitch. Maybe there were a few too many exclamation marks; it seemed she was shouting a bit too much.

I always feel sorry for Nurgle. It seems to me that the other Chaos gods get to embrace their followers willingly, but that Nurgle is always reduced to the same trick: Infect someone against their will, then tell them they will die painfully unless they worship him to lose the pain (and not die).

I tend to think of the Chaos gods as aspects of the Biblical Satan (wrongly, some believe), and they are about tempting people by working on their sins. If Khorne gets to appeal to Wrath and Pride (follow me and you will get great power to kill your enemies and become a mighty warrior!), Tzeentch appeals to Greed and Envy (follow me and I will gift you with the knowledge to unlock great secrets and create Change – IE change the situation to get that which you envy!), and Slaanesh appeals to Vanity and Lust (follow me and get to look fabulous and sate all your desires!), that leaves Nurgle with Sloth. He gets to attract the slobs haha.

But while the other Chaos gods can tempt those who have these chinks in their moral armour, Nurgle must always infect them first, without their consent or knowledge. Even Horus goes that way. It’s about creating Despair in the face of Death: Praying out of desperation, not because one is evil or corrupted, and without really knowing what they are letting themselves in for. It's a trick, not a bargain.

So I suppose I was slightly disappointed that your story went the same path (so far). The part about embracing death as an aspect of life looked promising, perhaps unlocking some aspects of Nurgle that I don’t know about, but it seemed to fade away. I was looking forward to what might have been a fresh take on old Papa’s cunning arguments.

That all said, the change of POV was well-timed and needed to progress the story outside the bedroom. The implications of the disease spreading through the Hive are quite exciting!

Looking forward to the next part.

K.
My short stories:
1. Extraction = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2127
2. Intoxication = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2188
3. Desecration = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=2294
4. Indoctrination = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3172

My novel:
BLACK SHIELDS: INCOGNITUS = viewtopic.php?f=17&t=1901
kurisawa
 
Posts: 352
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:39 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Tue Nov 11, 2014 10:00 pm

I wouldn't say Nurgle 'tricks' his followers any more than the other gods. Slaanesh offers pleasure, Khorne offers vengeance, Tzeentch offers achievement, and Nurgle offers survival. They all off their wares at a terrible price. If anything, Nurgle is more honest, because he infects you up front and then let's you choose rather than showing you the good parts first and the bad stuff when it's too late, and actually cares for his followers so he isn't going to rescind on the good parts of the deal later and leave them screwed over on a whim (unlike Slaanesh or Tzeentch.) Just my thoughts. Anyway here's the continuation.

There was a new servant bringing her food today. At first, Alyssandra wasn’t sure whether the figure was a man or a woman, due to the bulky rubbery bodysuit and face mask.

“What happened to the other lady?” she asked.

“She’s gone away,” the new servant responded, “She hasn’t been feeling well, so she’s gone somewhere where she can rest.”

The voice was muffled, but Alyssandra was pretty sure it was a man. She thought over the words. Then a realization struck her. “I got her sick.”

“Possibly,” the servant said hesitantly, “We don’t know for certain.”

“No, I got her sick,” Alyssandra replied. She thought back to when she’d made the serving woman walk across whatever Brother Eseus had leaked out onto the carpet. “One way or another.”

“Or another?” the servant asked curiously, “What other way might there be, besides exposure?”

Alyssandra ignored his question. “I got her sick,” she said again, with a kind of stunned wonder, “I’m not sure how I feel about that. I didn’t like her, but she didn’t deserve… but then again… she might be better off this way.”

“Better off this way?” the masked servant asked, sounding quite perplexed, “How so?” He placed the tray of food on Alyssandra’s lap as he spoke.

Alyssandra began to tear into the food ravenously. “Well,” she said between bites, “I don’t think she was a very happy person before. Maybe now she can learn to be. Or she’ll die, and then she won’t be unhappy anymore. Either one.”

“Death is certainly possible,” the servant said, “But disease generally doesn’t help people learn to be happy. Generally people have the opposite reaction.”

Alyssandra grinned, “That’s what I thought! But now…” she paused and coughed up a mouthful of phlegm, “But now I’ve learned to look at it differently. There’s just one more thing I have to figure out.”

“Oh?” the servant asked, curiously, “and what is that?”

“I have to figure out whether, if I had the choice, I’d want to be completely cured, or stay like this.”

Despite being completely covered from head to toe, the servant somehow managed to look baffled. “I… see,” he said, in a way that indicated he actually didn’t see at all, “And why would you wish to remain in your current condition?”

Alyssandra shrugged. “Well it has its advantages,” she replied vaguely, “Although it still hurts quite a lot. Anyway, that’s the final test or lesson, or whatever. It’s pretty obvious that Brother Eseus wants me to choose not to be cured, but I still have to choose for myself, and he’s not going to push me about it this time either. I guess I have to really want it.”

“Brother Eseus?” the servant said, sounding suspicious and slightly alarmed now, “Who is that?”

“My imaginary friend,” Alyssandra replied, restraining herself from giggling as she said it.

“I… see,” said the servant, once again in a way that showed he didn’t see at all. “Well I hope you make your decision wisely,” he added, still sounding uneasy but a little more self assured, “Anyway, I’ve failed to properly introduce myself. Please forgive me. I am Doctor Malone.”

Alyssandra was slightly regretful about having spoken so freely. She shouldn’t have mentioned Brother Eseus. He’d never told her not to, but somehow it seemed to go without saying that his nightly visits were a secret. She’d been chatting to help herself think, and had figured that if a servant talked about it, the only people who would listen were other servants. But a doctor might be different. Oh well. It was too late to take her words back now. Besides, what was he going to do about it?

“Everyone’s really worked up about the serving woman getting sick, aren’t they?” she asked the doctor, setting her now empty food tray aside, “That’s why you’re here, and you’re wearing that big bulky suit, even though no one did before.”

“Yes, people are concerned about the new infection,” Dr. Malone admitted, “But our primary concern is your own health and wellbeing. That is why I wanted to run a few tests.”

Alyssandra wondered briefly if this doctor was one of the ones who had looked at her earlier, when she’d first fallen ill. She couldn’t match his voice to a face, but there had been so many of them, drawing blood, poking her with weird metal instruments, and giving her pills that didn’t work. She doubted that anything new would happen with this test. She also doubted that suit was because he was concerned with her health and well being. Everyone certainly had been content to forget about her and let her waste away until they'd seen that the sickness was spreading...

“Alright,” she said, “Would it be easier if I were standing?”

“Well in your current condition you won’t be able to…” Dr. Malone began. Before he was able to finish the sentence, Alyssandra had thrown off her covers and dropped out of her bed, landing effortlessly on her feet next to him.

Dr. Malone stared wordlessly.

“I can do this too,” Alyssandra added.

She bent over backwards at the waist and neck as though they were on hinges. Stretching her arms as far back as they would go, she snagged the corner of her meal tray from the side of the bed. Pulling the metal tray into her grasp, she then lifted it up over her head and pulled herself up into a more natural looking standing position. Her body made numerous snapping sounds as she did so.

Then, with only a slight sign of strain, she bent the tray. The metal groaned as it buckled inward and the dishes rattled and clattered as they slid together to the center. The dishes still rattled as they became trapped in the tray. She brought the two sides together, folding it completely in half.

When she was done, she held the tray out to Dr. Malone. He still stood staring, without a word. She shook the tray, rattling the dishes that were trapped within. Hesitantly, he took the tray in his gloved hands. It wasn’t Ceramite grade metal, but it was solid. Many grown men would have had trouble doing what this sickly girl had just done.

"Now the dishes will be easier to carry back," she said nonchalantly, "I told you my 'condition' had it's advantages."

“I think…,” he said, his voice sounding high pitched and raspy. He stopped to clear his throat. “I think I’d better run those tests immediately.”

This time, Alyssandra couldn’t restrain herself from giggling. His reaction was perfect. She just wished she could see the look on his face behind that mask. She’d given him something to think about besides Brother Eseus, anyways. And maybe he’d also think twice about talking down to her or making her angry…



“Log number three in the examination of Alyssandra Delanacht, daughter of Governor Heinrich Delanacht III, hereafter referred to as Patient One, from the desk of Doctor Heratio Malone,” Malone spoke softly, yet clearly into the transcorder.

“The virus infecting the patient shows signs of considerable and unusual mutation. Patient One’s body temperature has changed from high fever to extremely low, similar to a sufferer of severe hypothermia. Despite this, as well as signs of severe muscle atrophy, the patient no longer exhibits inhibited physical movement. In fact, the patient’s flexibility and physical strength seem to have, paradoxically, increased exponentially, although reaction time remains somewhat sluggish. Patient One is able to perform physical feats beyond what her body should be capable of in its present condition. How this is possible, I have been unable to ascertain.

Further examination revealed that Patient One is suffering from severely decreased blood flow. This could account for the low body temperature, as well as the pallid color of the patient’s skin, but the root cause is still unknown, as is how the patient is able to move and function without severe debilitation.

The patient’s body is covered with lesions, which originally appeared to be some kind of skin rash, but have now split open and turned black. Some of these lesions leak a black fluid at various intervals. A vial of this fluid has been collected to be processed in order to ascertain its nature.”

Malone signaled for the red-robed menial adept to cut the recording. He sighed heavily and took a deep breath. “The following addendum is off the record.”

The adept leaned forward, showing signs of increased interest. Malone was a creature of habit and protocol. Making an addendum to a medical report without keeping a record of it was something he’d never done before.

“Patient One’s mind seems to be remarkably intact given the destruction the virus has wrought on the rest of her body, however…,” Malone paused for a moment, thinking of how to proceed. He was a man far more comfortable interacting with medical instruments and internal organs than fully conscious humans. He was stepping outside his bounds now. He’d decided to instruct his adept through an addendum because it felt more natural. “She has expressed some very… odd sentiments. There were also references to a so called ‘imaginary friend,’ a ‘Brother Eseus’. What does this mean? Is the patient delusional? Or is something else going on? We just don’t know…” Malone sighed again and buried his head in his hands.

The menial adept shifted uncomfortably. She wasn’t used to seeing Dr. Malone in such a nervous, uncertain state.

“We can no longer simply report to the Governor,” he continued at last, grimly determined now. “His obsession with his public image has led him to brush every complication under the rug and cause an unknown, possibly tremendous, amount of damage. No more ‘routine transfers’. We have to be more… proactive now.”

He bit his lip and his pulse raced. Malone had done nothing but follow orders his whole life. Now he was the one giving the orders, making the decisions, bearing the responsibility. It was terrifying. He wished desperately that he could hand the burden off to someone else, but there was no one.

“I need a camera in the patient’s room. And it needs to be placed without her knowing. Servitors changing a light fixture. That should be a good enough excuse. We will watch and wait. We will find out what is really going on here. And then…” he paused again. And then what? Truth be told, he had no idea. “We will deal with it,” he ended vaguely.

His adept nodded, smiling encouragingly, and made the sign of the Aquila. She was with him.

“The Emperor protects,” Malone said, returning the sign. The words had left his lips a thousand times, but it had never really meant anything to him. He’d never been a very pious man. Now, for the first time, he found himself wondering if the Emperor really did.

To be continued
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Mon Nov 24, 2014 8:40 am

Continued

“Did Patient HC286D just die?”

Doctor Brunner fixed his bloodshot glare on the orderly in front of him. “Define ‘just died’. Lots of patients ‘just died’ within the past twenty minutes or so. You can’t expect me to remember all of them.”

The orderly held up his hands defensively. “I’m asking because a servitor that was sent to that room to incinerate the body reported that the bed was empty. I figured you ought to know.”

Brunner sighed heavily, “And?! Someone double booked the incineration by accident. Or it was organ thieves again. Either way, I’ve been on duty eighteen hours, I’m still overloaded, and I don’t have the time or patience for this…” He paused in the middle of waving the many files he was juggling in his arms at the orderly. “Did you say Patient HC286D?” That sounded very familiar. Why did that sound familiar?

The orderly, who had been preparing to make a hasty retreat, stopped in surprise and looked down at his own data slate. “Um… yes Sir. That was the one. Is that significant?”

Brunner rifled wearily through the pages in his arms, searching for the file. Why did a lowly orderly have a data slate while he was working with reams of paper? Organization at this hospital was a complete mess. Finally he found the paper confirming the reason the patient number had sounded familiar.

“Patient HC286D. That was the case that was brought down from the Spire. The so called ‘low profile’ case, which naturally the whole hospital knows about. That was a nasty one. Possible organ harvesting or processing for corpse starch was nixed immediately, and they’ve used some very questionable specimens before. The body was just so obviously no good. Not surprising she died. But the bed is empty? Couldn’t have been organ thieves. Nobody dumb enough to try transplanting that. Could still have been a double booked incineration. Still, those Spire goons gave a pretty big payout to watch that patient. Maybe I better check after all…”

Still mumbling to himself, Brunner brushed past the orderly and made his way down to the HC hall. It wasn’t an easy trip. The hallway was choked with orderlies hauling gurneys full of the dead and dying. There were eight million people in this block of the hive, and this hospital was the only one to service them. This was the result. Most cases that would result in fatality or required complex surgery to prevent fatality were rushed to processing. It was much a meat grinder as a hospital.

At last, Brunner managed to push his way through to the already overstuffed lift. Jamming himself in and trying not to push up against anyone who might bleed or vomit on him, he pushed the button for HC hall. Getting there took several minutes, as the lift stopped on every level along the way.

He’d just stepped off the lift and was starting to walk towards room 286 when he heard the shrieking.

The screams were coming from the other end of the hall. Scores of people were trying to run in the other direction, knocking over gurneys and jostling patients as they did so. People were tripping and getting trampled. It was complete chaos. An orderly ran right into Brunner as she fled. Brunner grabbed her by the arm before she could get away and yanked her back. The papers he’d been carrying scattered everywhere, but he ignored them.

“What the frak is going on over there?” he shouted over the pandemonium.

“It… we… something…,” the orderly jabbered, struggling to break free and keep running.

Brunner slapped her across the face, hoping it would bring her to her senses. “As your superior, I demand to know what’s going on here. That's an order! Tell me!”

“Something in there…” the orderly gasped, “stumbling around… some of the workers thought it was just a patient in bad shape… approached it and it… Oh, Emperor…” She squirmed free and ran right into a gurney, nearly toppling over before stumbling away down the hall. Brunner didn’t try to stop her again.

He still didn’t really understand what was happening, but someone obviously needed to put a stop to it. Where the frak was security? He began fumbling his way in the direction everyone had been running from. If he were fully awake, Brunner might have realized it wasn’t a smart thing to do, but as it was, he was far too exhausted and angry to think clearly.

A hallway was almost empty for once, having been mostly cleared of objects and bodies by all the people who had fled down it. Some of the light panels had gone out or were flickering, making it hard to focus as the dim lights danced to and fro. Brunner struck something soft with his toe and heard a low moan. Some poor unfortunate soul had been knocked down in the rush to escape and trampled half to death. Brunner stepped over the injured man and pressed on.

There was a crunching sound under his feet. Glass. Light panels had been smashed, making it even harder to see. Farther down the hall he could just make out the outline of the door to a room hanging open at an odd angle. He couldn’t make anything out in the dark, but there were strange noises coming from that direction. Moaning, whimpering, thumping, and a loud sort of slurping noise. As he took his next step, his foot slid slightly on something wet and slick.

Brunner squinted down at the floor. His eyes were starting to adjust to the darkness. He could see dark shapes on the floor around him, and just barely make out the dark stains streaked across the plascrete tile. The same stains were smeared across the walls as well. Now at last, a cold feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach broke through his drowsy haze, and he realized that he shouldn’t have come here.

Brunner turned and looked behind him, back towards where the lights still on. No one was there. Where were the guards?

“Security?” he said in a choked voice that was a doomed attempt to whisper and yell at the same time. No response.

He turned back to the darkness in front and looked down at the nearest shape lying on the floor. It was a body. The shape was still mostly just a black lump to him, but he could make out the human shape of the limbs. Those dark stains on the floor were running from it and the other lumps on the floor. There were also stringy threads running from the torso, arms, and face across the floor in jagged lines…

They hadn’t been stabbed, crushed, infected, or killed in any other of the numerous ways Brunner was used to seeing in a dead body. The corpses were half chewed up. They’d been GNAWED to death. Gnawed by something with a jaw to small and teeth too blunt to be a natural predator of man sized animals. It must have taken time. That’s why the blood was smeared all around on the floor and the walls. These people had tried to escape but had been unable too. They’d been chewed and bit and ripped and until they’d lost enough blood to fall mercifully unconscious and die. For all that he’d seen as a doctor, the realization made him feel slightly sick.

Footsteps in front of him. Slow, heavy footsteps. Brunner looked up to see a figure lurching out of the doorway in front of him. It was a person. Wasn’t it? The outline was about the size and shape of a person, but the way it moved… the shape… the sounds were a little off. It had an odd, loping gate. Its arms and head hung limply, swaying and flopping as it moved. And all the time there was that awful slurping noise.

Brunner took a step backward. The person… or thing, turned towards him and he could see the glint of its eyes in the darkness. Brunner was hit by a wave of stink. It smelled like feces and rotting meat, with a sour and coppery undertone. Another man might have gotten sick to his stomach at its intensity, but the doctor had built up a high tolerance for foul smells during his career.

Brunner took another step back, raising his hands in the air and showing that he meant no harm. “It’s okay now, I’m a doctor,” he said in the most calm and comforting voice he could muster, “There’s been an incident here, but we’re taking care of it. You’re safe now. Just remain calm.” He’d told many such lies in his career. Even to his own ears, he sounded very convincing. Maybe this time it really would be okay…

The figure took a step towards him, its whole body swaying with the movement. Brunner flinched and stepped backwards involuntarily; a nervous reaction.

The figure suddenly threw back its whole body, bending over at an impossible angle and let out a loud, wet, inhuman moan. Then it charged at him. In a panic, Brunner tried to scramble away, but the thing was far too fast now. Brunner was slammed down on the blood slick tiles, as the thing sat on top of him.

Screaming, Brunner threw his arms over his face and neck, vainly trying to protect himself. A pair of bumpy, cold, wet hands clamped down on his forearms, pressing them down against his throat. They were inhumanly strong. He couldn’t move and could barely breath. And the stench. Oh Emperor, the stench. Then he felt the teeth sinking into his forearms, shoulders, and side. The teeth were damp, warm, and burned as they tore into him. He tried to squirm away, but his attacker was too strong. All he could do was scream in pain and terror. He was going to die, he was quite certain of that now. He tried to remember the prayer to commend his soul to the Emperor, but the words wouldn't come to his mind.

A blinding light suddenly shined down, washing him and his attacker in eye searing whiteness.

“Step away from him and put your hands in the air!” A gruff voice echoed off the walls.

The thing on top of Brunner released its grip on his arms and stood up with another hellishly loud slurping sound. Now that his arms were no longer being smashed into his face, Brunner could move them and finally see what had attacked him in good light. The thing was, he didn’t want to. He brought his arms down, gasping for breath and feeling the cool, recycled air on his face. He didn’t open his eyes.

There was a slight rush of air across his torso and a soft, wet thump at his side, and he knew that his attacker had stepped over him to face the new arrivals. Security. Took them long enough.

“I said put your hands in the air and stay where you are!” the gruff voice rang out again.

His attacker moaned loudly, and by the rush of heavy footsteps away from him, he knew it was charging the security officers. Now, compelled by both survival instinct and curiosity, he opened his eyes and looked. As his eyes adjusted to the light, he heard the krak krak krak of laspistols superheating the air as they fired. Looking to his right, he saw a macabre scene unfolding.

The thing had attacked him looked human, at least vaguely so. A mess of filthy, matted hair hung limply around its shoulders. Its skin was patches of coal black and translucent white with veins showing below. Boils were all over its body, many of them burst and leaking some kind of black liquid. Blood was caked over most of its body, especially the hands. It’s back was turned, so he couldn’t see the face, but he did recognize the tattered remains of a dull gray patient’s gown.

The security officers in their dark blue jumpsuits kept shooting, pumping lasbolts into the thing, but somehow, despite being riddled with smoking black holes, it didn’t go down.
Within seconds, it had reached the men and was on one of them, biting down on his neck. He screamed and tried to throw it off, but he didn’t seem to have any better luck than Brunner had had. The officer next to the poor sap spun around and shot the thing point blank in the side of its face.

Now at last the it went down, and as it fell it turned around, looking right at Brunner. It was probably just the force of the lasbolt to the side of its head that spun it around, but in the moment, he swore the movement was deliberate. It turned, looked at him, and time seemed to freeze. The top right side of its head was blown completely off. The left eye, its one remaining eye, was wide, milky white, and gleamed with feverish intensity. Blood was smeared all over its face and spilling from its mouth. Then its lips moved silently, forming a single word, as more blood and other foul fluids poured from its mouth.

Then it collapsed to the ground. The security officers opened fire with their laspistols again, not stopping until there was nothing left but an unrecognizable mound of charred flesh. It was done. Finally, the strange terror of H block was dead.

“Doc!” A man with a thick mustache and a gruff sounding voice shouted in alarm, running up to Doctor Brunner, who lay on the floor, still staring at the smoking mound that had been his attacker. He was shaking all over.

No. It hadn’t mouthed a word. That was just the nerve endings firing as the Emperor blighted monster finally died. This thing was a mindless animal. It hadn’t tried to speak. It hadn’t mouthed a word.

“You alright, Doc?” The mustached security man leaned down, shining his light in Brunner’s face. Brunner continued to stare vacantly, not responding.

“Frak, that thing messed you up a bit, didn’t it Doc?” the man said, eyeing Brunner’s arms and torso with an expression of concern.

Brunner looked down. His arms, still folded stiffly over his chest, had multiple small chunks missing. His sleeves were torn and stringy. They were covered in blood and that black fluid the creature had been leaking. Brunner closed his eyes and looked away.

“Course, you were the lucky one,” the security officer added, “Frak. What was that, Doc?” Brunner knew that he was eyeing the other bodies in the hall as he spoke.

Finally, with great effort, the doctor managed to slip one thing out of his trembling jaw, “E… R.”

“Of course, Doc. Of course!” the officer replied. Then, turning to his men, he barked, “Are you blind, you frakking idiots?! Get this man to the E.R.! Can’t you see he needs to be patched up! If a doctor winds up crippled on our watch and can’t do his job anymore, believe me, heads are gonna roll! He’s worth more than all of us!”

Heavy boots stomping on the floor as two security guards moved to Brunner and lifted him, as gently as they could, to a sitting position. Then they began to pull him up until he was standing, supporting him on either side. He still didn’t open his eyes.

“What about me, sir?” another voice rang out, sounding worried and more than a little drained.

“What about you?” the officer barked again, contemptuously this time, “It’s just a flesh wound, Jenkins! Put a bandage on it and get back to work!”

The voices of the other security personnel faded into the distance as the two guards at Brunners side half led, half carried him to the lift. He kept his eyes shut tight the whole way.

“You’ll be alright, Doc,” one of them said in an awkward attempt to be comforting. “I ain’t no doctor, but I’ve been in some bad scraps back when I was a juve. I know a fatal wound when I see one, and these ain’t fatal. No way. We got there in the nick of time. The other docs’ll patch you up and you’ll be shipshape in no time.”

The man, ignorant though he no doubt was, was right. The wounds on Brunner’s arms were relatively minor. He’d patched up much worse with little effort. Security had saved him. He’d make a full recovery. He’d be just fine. Everything would be fine.

The face of the thing that had attacked him kept flashing in his mind. That final instant when he’d looked at it and it had looked back at him.

Everything would be fine.

The face, mutilated and deformed though it had been, had still been recognizable as that of a young woman.

Everything would be fine.

The features had been contorted with emotion. Not with rage, as might be expected from something that had attacked so savagely, but with surprise, pain, and fear.

Everything would be fine.

And the lips moving, silently mouthing a word.

Everything would be fine.

It hadn’t really been a word, just his mind playing tricks on him, finding meaning where there was none. Just random movement. Nerves twitching.

Everything would be fine.

It burned and itched horribly where he’d been bitten. He’d barely felt anything earlier, with all the adrenaline pumping through his body, but now it was hitting him full force. And it felt like it was getting worse…

Everything would be fine.

How many times had he told that to patients? How many times had he been lying?

Everything would be fine.

As that milky white eye gazed at him feverishly, desperately, the blood covered lips, silently parted to mouth one word.

Help.

EVERYTHING WOULD BE FINE.

EVERYTHING WOULD BE FINE.

EVERYTHING WOULD BE FINE.

To be continued
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Re: The Princess and the Plague

Postby fallen inquistor » Mon Dec 22, 2014 11:34 pm

Continued

Malone made sure the rebreather was clamped tight to his face before pulling the thick rubber gloves up past his elbows, picking up the screwdriver, and seating himself in front of the video camera that was lying on the cold metal counter in front of him. One by one, he began to remove the screws from the camera. He had barely loosened the casing when black fluid began leaking out of the device and pooling on the counter.

Leaning back and keeping his face as far as possible from the device, he pried the casing completely off. A burst of hot steam poured into the air. More black fluid poured out and began to spill over the table edge. Malone leapt backwards, knocking over the stool he’d been sitting on and narrowly avoiding the substance spilling onto his lap. Bits of copper wire, microchip fragments, and unidentified brownish lumps were floating in the black puddle. What was left of the mechanical components looked like they’d been mostly eaten away by acid.

“Well,” he said grimly, “that explains why the recording cut out. And at the same time, it explains nothing at all. How?” He flung the screwdriver, contaminated with black liquid, into the puddle and waved his arms in the air helplessly, an uncharacteristic tinge of panic in his voice, “How did this happen? How is something like this even possible?”

“Um, Sir,” his assistant said, hesitantly. She stood back in the corner of the room, eyeing the oozing mess of the camera wearily. She also wore a rebreather and gloves. “Maybe there’s a clue in the footage it took before it died? Did Patient One tamper with it in some way?”

Malone actually laughed at that. It was a bitter, hollow laugh, made more disturbing by the fact that Malone never laughed.

“Would you like to review the footage with me?” he asked, “I’ve watched it ten times, but maybe a new perspective will provide new insight. I doubt it though. When you see the footage, you’ll understand.”

Malone’s assistant nodded, still looking confused. After exiting the room, they both removed their gloves, rebreathers, and the rest of their clothing and flung them into a small incinerator they had brought here for precisely this purpose. After redressing, Malone immediately called in a Servitor, who doused the entire room where the camera had been dismantled in Promethium and set it ablaze. Since the room was completely metal, this was the most efficient way to sterilize it.

Once this was done, Malone and his assistant made their way to another room, with monitors and much more comfortable, padded chairs. Malone pulled down a monitor, switched it on, and logged into his private files. He opened the security footage and it grew to fill the monitor.

In the bed on the screen, lay Alyssandra Delanacht, Patient One, the governor’s daughter. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be asleep. Puckered, black wounds were spread all over the exposed flesh on her arms and face, weeping dark puss onto the bed sheets. Her breathing looked shallow, and sweat glistened on her pale, emaciated features. She looked like the embodiment of death’s door, and yet her chapped lips wore a contented smile.

“She looks to be in about the same condition she was the last time you examined her,” Malone’s assistant said.

“Yes,” Malone replied.

“That means her condition has stabilized,” his assistant continued, “Maybe that’s a good sign.” The optimism was more than a bit forced.

“Possibly,” Malone said, sounding doubtful.

“Well she’s just sleeping for the moment,” his assistant added.

If he’d possessed more of a sense of humor, Malone probably would have replied sarcastically to this very obvious statement. Instead, he just nodded and said, “I think skipping ahead a few hours will be appropriate, for our purposes.”

He typed in a command, the video blurred for a moment, and when it came back into focus, The girl was throwing off her covers and getting out of the bed.

“I still can’t believe she can stand in that condition,” Malone’s assistant whispered, shaking her head in disbelief.

If his assistant had trouble with the girl standing, what happened next must have been all the more shocking. Once she was out of bed, the patient began dancing around the room. Not slow, gentle dancing either, but rapid, wild, elaborate movements that caused her body to contort weirdly as she practically flew from one side of the room to the other.

“The patient apparently always liked dancing,” Malone said flatly, “She took classes before she fell ill.”

His assistant just kept staring, wide eyed. There was something very off about the girl’s movements, as she leaped and spun around the room. There was a jerkiness that looked unnatural. At was almost like a how a marionette moved when it danced on strings.

“She can’t do that!” Malone’s assistant suddenly yelped in protest, looking horrified and pointing at the screen, “The human body isn’t made to bend like that! Especially not in her condition! She’s hurting herself! Dislocating joints! And you can see that she feels it! Look at her face! Why is she doing that?!”

Malone peered in closer. Sure enough, Patient One’s face was contorted in pain as her movements became faster and more manic. Finely, the dance reached a crescendo and she catapulted through the air in a sort of back flip that didn’t use her arms. But instead of landing on her hands or feet, the girl landed on her head. Malone’s assistant flinched, as the girls head bent at an angle it wasn’t meant to. Patient One, Alyssandra Delanacht, collapsed in a heap.

“She… she broke her neck,” Malones assistant gasped, trembling at what she’d just witnessed.

“Watch,” Malone replied, continuing to stare grimly at the screen.

Sure enough, after only a minute or so of lying prone, the girl pulled herself up, took her head in both hands, and snapped her neck into place. Then she turned and, smiling triumphantly, looked straight up at the camera. At Malone and his assistant, watching her. She curtsied.

“She knew about the camera,” Malone’s assistant said, still trembling, but for a different reason, “It was all for us. That whole… performance…”

Malone nodded. “I suppose 'servitor changing a light panel' excuse didn’t deceive her. Clever girl.”

And then Patient One climbed back into bed, pulled the covers over her, and fell asleep once more.

“That’s it?!” Malone’s assistant asked, “She left the camera alone and went back to bed?”

Malone nodded. “I suppose all that dancing exhausted her after all. At any rate, she doesn’t touch the camera, at least as far as can be seen on this recording. In fact, she does nothing else but sleep in this footage. But if I move the film forward one hour…”

He typed in another command. Once again the video blurred before coming back into focus. At first Malone’s assistant didn’t see anything different in the footage. It had taken him a moment to notice the first time he’d watched as well. There was a dark spot on the corner of the screen. Something had landed on the camera lens, and that something was moving.

“What…” Malone’s assistant began, as she noticed the multiple legs and partially translucent wings of the little silhouette as it shuffled and fluttered about in the screen corner.

“It’s a species of insect,” Malone said, “Of the order Diptera, infraorder Muscomorpha as near as I can tell from researching the shape. Usually called ‘flies’ in the vernacular, they are extremely common on many worlds. Decomposers that feed on dead plants and animals. Vital to the ecosystems of many worlds. But, Hive Worlds are much less conducive to their life cycle, and…” he paused, turning meaningfully to his assistant, “they aren’t native to our world at all.”

“So how in the Emperor’s holy name did one get into the sealed bedroom of a quarantine patient in the tip of the Spire?” his assistant asked, as much to herself as him.

“Not just one,” Malone replied, “look.”

Another fly fluttered into view, and folded its wings, settling down next to the first one on the camera lens. A minute later, another did the same. Then another. And another. Soon the entire camera was completely covered in a mass of squirming, struggling flies that blotted out any view of the room.

“They are the only things that can be seen for the next hour and twenty six minutes,” Malone told his assistant, “And then…” He punched in another command, fast forwarding the video once more. The video came to a stop, showing the squirming mass of flies crawling over the lens, with only the faintest light from the room breaking through the cracks. Then the feed cut to static. “The camera stopped recording,” Malone finished.

There was a long moment of silence. Malone had watched the video again and again, hungrily devouring each moment, desperately searching for something, anything, that made sense. But nothing did. He could see that his assistant was just as much at a loss as he was.

Finally, his assistant cleared her throat. “Did you obtain the insects for study when you removed the camera?” she asked, meekly, “They might hold some answers.”

Malone shook his head, laughing bitterly again. “I had the servitors scour the room. I had them strip down the paneling. I was thorough. They weren’t there. Nothing was there. There was no way for them to get in or out either. The room is airtight, as it’s supposed to be.”

He sighed heavily. “I’m a man of science. I work with natural laws. But whatever is causing these… manifestations… is not natural. It’s all unnatural and I…” he buried his head in his hands, “I don’t know how to deal with it.”

“So we’re just… giving up?” his assistant asked.

Malone shook his head. “Not yet. There’s one last thing.” He reached into his lab coat pocket and pulled out a small leather case. Unzipping the case, he took out a syringe and a small vial of purple liquid. “Patient One is the only one who has some idea what’s really going on. She may not wish to share what she knows, but anyone will talk under the right drugs.”

His assistant stared at him, aghast. “But… but that would be assaulting a member of the royal family! If you’re discovered… the penalty is execution!”

Malone shrugged. “What choice do we have? There’s far more at stake here than one man.” He turned to his assistant with a mirthless smile. “Haven’t you heard? The whole hive below the Spire is in an uproar. Outbreaks. Riots. Rebellion. Whatever started in that bedroom with Patient One…” he sighed, “is reaching its peak. Unless we can stop it. Likely, we’re too late already. But we have to try.”

“And if she shrugs off the serum as easily as she did a broken neck?” his assistant asked.

Malone shrugged again. “We have to try. I have to try.”



Captain Dehorst bobbed his head happily to the steady thrumming of the multilasers and heavy stubbers as they mowed down the mass of shrieking, mutilated attackers.

“You see, Mulligan?” he said smugly, turning to the PDF lieutenant at his side, “I told them. I told everyone. The thing to do is cordon off the whole area where these uprisings are happening, set up heavy caliber guns around the perimeter with an ammo supply line, and turn anything that tries to get out into a fine, red paste. These infected rebels are all too messed in the head to use even basic firearms, so there’s no danger at all this way. Nice and neat. But no, everyone else wanted to run in with foot troops and lasguns, trying to save civilians and infrastructure.”

He spat on the ground contemptuously. “And what happens? Soldiers go in, get killed or infected, and don’t come back out. The unrest grows and grows, until it covers an area over a hundred times bigger than when we first learned about it. Then finally, finally, they’re ready to listen, and of course, it works perfectly.”

“It does mean we have to write off the entire block as a loss,” Lieutenant Mulligan said, looking a bit less thrilled than his commanding officer, “That’s millions of people and hundreds of factories.”

“Well it would’ve been a lot less if they’d listened to me to begin with, wouldn’t it?” Dehorst replied, still gloating. He wasn’t a very graceful winner, but then, he’d earned this. He knew how they’d all talked behind his back when he’d first become a Captain. Everyone had called him a useless, blue-eyed pretty boy from the Spire, who had only gotten this command because of his bloodline.

Now he’d not only proven that he had both the brains AND balls for the job, but he was the hero of the hour. It was his plan and his implementation of it that had saved the hive, and based on what he’d heard through the rumor mill, a big promotion and shiny medal were on the way. So he felt just fine basking in the glory.

As for the wretches dying in droves down below, he really couldn’t care less. Life was hard and fate was fickle. Not everyone trying to get out of the block showed signs of being infected with whatever this freakish disease was that made people go berserk, but he wasn’t taking chances.

Dehorst continued bobbing his head to the rhythm of the big guns, a song only he could hear playing along to their beat in his head. Then he noticed that the lieutenant was staring at him oddly.

“What’s got you, Mulligan?” he asked.

“You’re bleeding, Sir,” Mulligan replied, still giving him that weird look.

It was then that Dehorst noticed the sensation of something wet tickling him under his nose. He reached his hand up to wipe it away, and sure enough, the hand came away covered in blood. Due to the low lighting in the room, the blood looked very dark. Almost black.

“Just a bloody nose,” Dehorst said, looking back up at Mulligan, “Probably a combination of stress and air pollution. I’ll see the medic…”

Mulligan, who had kept staring at Dehorst the whole time with that weird look that Dehorst really didn’t like, suddenly started swinging his lasgun up to firing position.

Dehorst was ready. Mulligan odd behavior had already put him off, and his free hand was resting on the handle of his laspistol. As soon as Mulligan’s gun moved, Dehorst drew and fired, putting a bolt square in the other man’s face. Mulligan collapsed.

“Too slow, traitor,” Dehorst snarled holstering his weapon and putting his other hand back up to his nose. It was leaking more heavily now, gushing everywhere. Everyone was going insane. First sick people going berserk and attack everyone within arm’s reach and now PDF troopers getting so paranoid they were trying to murder their superiors over a nose bleed.

And it was just a nose bleed. Dehorst hadn’t been anywhere near those… things. He was clean. That was the whole point of bringing in the big guns. To stay at a distance and keep everything clean.

He looked around for a rag to wipe himself off with and, unable to find one, knelt next to Mulligan’s corpse and cleaned his hand and face off on the dead man’s jacket. He pinched his nose off at the bridge, trying to stem the flow. It seemed to work for a moment, but then he felt the fluid pouring down his nasal cavity into his mouth. The taste was incredibly bitter and foul.

Dehorst scrambled to his feet and spat up a mouthful of pitch black liquid that he was still sure was just blood. Light headed and dizzy, he stumbled down the hallway. He needed to find that medic immediately.

To be continued
fallen inquistor
 
Posts: 42
Joined: Tue Dec 04, 2012 2:35 am


Return to Board index

Return to Warhammer 40,000

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest