Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 72, final update done)

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:54 pm

I think your logic is sound. If Malistrum is somewhere between 150 and 200, he would have been around for long enough to see the worst the galaxy had to offer, and enough to get disillusioned, but not yet completely broken. He would be about average age for an Astartes Captain at that point, and while it is known that Astartes could be functionally immortal (as per off-hand remark in "The Gildar Rift" made by a former Apothecary who clearly knows what he is talking about), I would imagine very few survive past the age of 400 due to battlefield attrition and whatnot.

It could also serve to make another point - in this dark age, there are very few long-lived Space Marines, as constant combat and attrition result in drastically shortened life expectancies. While in M41 the 170 year old Captain would have been run of the mill, in the Time of Ending he would be considered "ancient" due to much higher attrition. This would be doubly so considering the intense nature of Fatemakers' patrols and the number of missions they undertake on constant basis. A warrior that survives a thousand-plus battles must be very good, or very lucky indeed, especially if he is continuously endangered. After all, it does not take superior military might to bring him down - it could be a lucky round, a stray shot, a routine mistake. Perhaps, it is also the reason why the Fatemakers would generally have lower life expectancies than more entrenched Chapters, not because of any gene-seed issues, but simply because they see a lot of combat even by Astartes standards, and have higher than average attrition.

What do you think?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Wed Mar 28, 2012 10:07 pm

You have actually given me a good idea. I have to include in one of the updates that the average Fatemaker Space Marine will not live long enough to get his first stud, and all the veteran officers are still under 100.

I also think that Malistrum only took active part in about a third of the missions as he needed to coordinate the manoeuvres of his forces from the bridge, and the extra space battles would only push this number up to 50%. It is rare that main commander gets involved because then he could not find the time to see the big picture. He will still get to do badass things by the end, but young lads tend to reckless, so what the hell :)

I will change the previous update with the new numbers
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Gaius Marius » Thu Mar 29, 2012 2:20 am

Very nice update Meaneye. Can see the captain's sense of frustration palpably.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:16 pm

Hello everyone!

I have some good news and some bad news for you :)

The good news is that all hell will break lose now, not on Sunday because I have some time to check and upload the next part today, and tomorrow I probably won't. I hope you will like this part; I think I managed to make it fit into the original 50K scene without much shoehorning.

The bad news is that the updates have finally managed to catch up with how much I have already written of the story. I had originally finished the Belandon siege before I uploaded the first part, and I have managed to stay ahead of the updates with the story so far, but now I will have to write the parts as I update, which will take about a week per update.

I would also like to mention that I am having a great time with this story. Sometimes it seems that some characters just write themselves, and they have taken me to some really surprising places. I am also grateful for all the positive comments (especially from Midgard and Gaius Marius :mrgreen: ).

So it is time for part ten and the end of Chapter Two.

Part Ten

Imperial Palace, Terra, Solar System, Segmentum Solar

Seven hours before the Emperor’s death

The Imperial Palace was a marvel of the Galaxy. Carved out of the ancient Himalayas, it was bigger than any super-hive mankind had ever produced. The saying went that its night lights could have been seen from Mars itself, and although it was a slight exaggeration – thirty-nine millennia of industrial pollution rendered the planet’s surface invisible beyond the orbit of Luna – it was a good analogy to express the magnitude and importance of this one mega-building.

The Palace was everything. It housed the centres of all Imperial organisations, from the council chambers of the Lords of Terra to the high towers of the Navigator Houses. A staggering amount of power was concentrated into this place. The fate of all human-inhabited worlds (still well beyond half a million systems) and of countless quadrillions of people were decided. Every day, hundreds of crusades and thousands of wars were discussed, analysed, reinforced or abandoned as the situation dictated. At a single order from this place, alien species were extinguished, worlds were cleansed of all life or terraformed and populated by a billion people. There was no single place in the Galaxy with more potential and fate-changing possibilities than this single place.

Yet this was not the reason why the Palace was so important. There was a presence behind the adamantium walls: an ancient being of awe-inspiring might and endless suffering. He was known to the uncountable throng of mankind as the Emperor, but He was more than just a name. He was Mankind itself. The fate of all those countless quadrillions was tied inseparably to this one cosmic being. He had been guiding the human species since the dawn of time, and even though His beloved son, Horus, betrayed and mortally wounded Him, He remained in control. His body may have been mangled and His mind shattered by the thousand duties of guiding His people, but He was still the one and only light for men in this dark and unforgivable existence.

Like a symbiosis, the Emperor and all humans were linked forever Mankind was powerless without its great leader, which also meant, unfortunately, that it was no longer able to function normally on its own. Woe to the species should anything happen to its ruler.

There was a shadow in the Imperial Palace.

It was clearly a human, or at least something resembling a human. It was picking its way among the many corridors and chambers of the palace. Nobody saw it. Most of the corridors this deep in the Palace were deserted anyway, which did not mean that they were not protected, of course. Every corner, every seemingly empty room, all corridors had their own sentry devices, and regular human patrols made sure that nobody and nothing passed here without their knowledge. Still, this shadow remained undetected.

If somebody had seen it and the shadowy figure on Librarian Akichi’s Discordia card, he would have seen a perfect match immediately. The shadowy distortion haze around this person was not natural. Any kind of Warp-based device which could have been responsible for such cloaking would have been detected in this place. The best Mechanicus-based devices would have detected any kind of artificial or mechanical interference within the very centre of Imperial power. The same measures would have been effective against xeno influence of any kind. The fact that somebody still managed to penetrate the palace’s defences suggested that he was supported by all three means and even by something beyond the other three.

Two simple factors were still working against the figure. The first was the fact that the Palace was crawling with human sentries who would have been alerted to his presence; well-protected as he may have been, he was certainly not undetectable. The other factor was the huge size of the place. The Imperial Palace had been built out of the biggest mountain of the planet, and the place that the shadow wished to reach was somewhere in the deepest vaults, well below what used to be the see level.

There were no maps made of the region where the shadow was walking. The human and transhuman defenders of this section of the Palace made sure that any possible intruder could not have information about the place. They patrolled randomly and checked all systems vigorously and continuously. This place had absolutely no weak points. It truly didn’t.

However, the Palace still had a pattern.

The figure knew very well that everything in creation and beyond had patterns. He knew enough to at least suspect that even Chaos had some deep, underlying pattern too big and terrible for any mere mortal to truly see it. Perhaps not even the immortal being locked into the palace knew the whole truth about those threads and strands of fate. Compared to the secrets of the Universe – which mostly remained unfathomable to the shadowy figure – the complexity of the Palace defences was almost laughably easy.

Of course, the figure being what he was, the defences were almost too much. He had been on the planet for a long time, and every single level, every section in the Palace took him moths, sometimes even years to overcome. He knew about the final defence line of the place: the infamous and mythical Adeptus Custodes, nephews to the amazing Primarchs of the original twenty Astartes Legions. They were the most difficult to overcome, especially because the shadow did not have proper knowledge about the layout; still, he had supporters in this endeavour, and he was a being of considerable knowledge himself. It should be enough.

He devoted more than ten millennia to get so far. His plan was vast and comprised every shred of knowledge about the Palace, its defenders, even about the transhuman Custodes warriors of the inner circle. He knew their names, their deeds, the minuscule differences in their characters. His experience, his equipment and his knowledge of this place gave him a pattern of the Palace, and this pattern opened a way for him almost to the very door of the vault where the Golden Throne, the Emperor’s life-support system and eternal cage, was kept.

The shadow was hiding behind a corner leading to a greater corridor. He was physically near the vault now, yet he still needed days to get there. The pattern was complex: sometimes the path before him turned back or even crossed a section which he had previously left behind. The shadow did not mind this because he knew that getting to the final vault was perhaps the most difficult task he had ever undertaken, and timing was just as important as choosing the right physical way. This section was a crucial point because a Custodes was near. The shadow knew the guardian’s pattern well enough to know how he would sweep this area, and he knew that he will only have a few seconds to move through it without drawing attention. A few seconds too soon or too late, and he was revealed.

It was time to move. The figure’s muscles tensed. He made a step towards the corner.

He froze.

What he felt at that moment was the closest thing to raw, unmasked panic he had experienced for millennia. The Custodes was not where he should have been. The shadow’s supernatural senses could take out the barest presence of an intelligent being, and now they warned him that the Custodes was still on that corridor, moving towards the his location. His senses and his knowledge of this particular guardian also told him that he had roughly seven seconds before the guardian will also be aware of his presence.

Near-panic robbed him of two of those precious seven seconds. How did the Custodes get there? The pattern accounted for random variations of opportunity, but this was not among them. Was it mere chance that the Custodes altered his routine right now, right here? Was there some other variable he did not know of? Is this event influenced by some outside power?

Another second passed, and the figure calmed down. The why was irrelevant at this point; the what next was more important. There were only two real options: he could have fought or he could have fled.

Neither of these options was viable. If he fought, the Palace would be made aware of his presence. Perhaps not right away, perhaps he would be able to kill this Custodes without raising alarm, but he would not be able to finish his original pattern. That would require at least two more days, and the other Custodes would start to miss their brother by then. The figure’s plans contained emergency measures exactly for this situation, and there was an alternative pattern, but it was more dangerous, with tighter schedules. It also ultimately contained the possibility of failure.

The other option was to flee. If he did so, the window of opportunity would be lost for sure. Perhaps he would be able to leave the Palace unnoticed the way he came, but even that was unlikely. He would probably trigger some alert, and even if he could escape, the Palace guard would re-organize the defences. He would have to start everything again from the beginning, except now the defenders would know that there was somebody out there trying to get in. The Custodes could see things in the long run. They would be alert for him even after a century.

The figure did not have a century. The main question was whether he could do this here and now, with all the preparation he had made. The question was whether he was the kind of confident being who would take such a great risk, trusting his abilities to this insane degree.

The shadow smiled. Here he was, in the middle of the Imperial Palace, with such a plan in his mind, and he should start to question his confidence now?

There were still three seconds left before the Custodes would sense him, but the figure now deliberately waited until the very last one. He needed to surprise his adversary, but he also needed to get as near to him as possible.

The muscles tensed in his leg again.

The figure jumped.

Astropathicus Base, Cephola System, Subsector Echydra

Twenty-two minutes before the Emperor’s death

The great divination took place in the central meditation chamber. The three Fatemaker Librarians, Maartoch, Sathori and Akichi were assisted by no less than forty of the most talented Astropaths the Base had. It was an impressive display of psychic power, but this was all well because the ritual required serious preparations and precautions.

The chamber’s walls were covered by the protective names of Imperial guardian saints. The forty-three psykers had undergone ritual cleansing and meditated before they started the ritual. The middle of the chamber contained a psycurium-stone the size of a human head. It was the perfect focusing device which was supposed to multiply the clarity of the vision.

The psycurium-stone had been given to the Cephola Astropaths by a Fatemaker team forty-seven years ago. It seemed today that the stone was a wise investment.

There was a circle drawn all around the chamber, dividing it into two separate areas. The inner circle was clearly designed for meditation: there were incense burners with exotic aromas which helped meditation, and focusing lines were etched into the floor, pointing to the centre of the chamber. The outside of the circle had no ornamentation, and it contained forty vitifiers, three battle-brothers, Chief Cvert and Chaplain Uskovich. The battle-brothers were the result of a necessary compromise between Cvert and Uskovich. The Chaplain would have never allowed vitifiers to stand behind his brothers from the Chapter, ready to kill Fatemaker psykers at the slightest provocation, while Cvert made it explicitly clear that he will not allow any psyker activity without a means to ‘disrupt’ it. The compromise was the three battle-brothers, ready to kill their own Librarians if anything went wrong.

Uskovich used the squad vox-line to overwrite the last command before the ritual began. If it comes to killing, his brothers would only kill at his word, not at that of a human outsider.

Librarian Akichi was kneeling in front of the psycurium-stone. He had made a Focus cast with his Tarot, with the now familiar result. The Emperor’s card was accompanied by the shadowy Discordia, the Adeptio with the Warp-rift, Navigator Yasmilda’s dead body in the Creatio and the ominously empty Mandatio card. He could feel the other forty-two psykers giving him extra strength. He was literally radiating psychic energy, ready to be unleashed.

He had to be careful with the next step. The combined power of more than three dozen psykers would have been enough to blow a large chunk out of the base – or blow a hole in the physical word just as easily.

The Astropaths started to chant. It was a slow, soothing rhythm, combining the individual voices into one monotonous tone. Akichi felt lighter and lighter, as if slowly leaving his body. It seemed to him that the lights in the chamber were getting dim and hazy. This was the side-effect of a trueseeing event as part of his spirit was about to flow out of his body and project itself to another place.

The location of the trueseeing event was in the middle of Segmentum Solar, but distances had no real meaning when it came to divinations. It was all about the power necessary to clear Akichi’s vision and reveal the true nature of the threat which his Tarot indicated. The threat was protected by… something… some form of power which the Librarian with his formidable psychic strength could not overcome. The Astropathic choir behind him, the psycurium-stone, the meditative fragrance and chanting merely served to tip the balance in his favour.

Akichi’s breathing became slow and regular. Chief Cvet saw this and signalled to Chaplain Uskovich.

It is beginning.

Uskovich nodded. He had not seen Librarian Akichi conducting such a powerful ritual before, but he knew the symptoms. The choir will start the trueseeing event in a matter of seconds.

The Fatemaker Librarian and the Astropaths were breathing to the same rhythm now. Akichi slowly reached out with his hand, and touched the focus card: the one depicting the immortal Emperor.

Uskovich immediately knew that something was really, really wrong.

The Librarian’s senses did not work during the trueseeing event the way they were supposed to. His vision was selective: he could see things, but only if they were relevant for the vision. The rest was just a blur of colours and meaningless half-shaped images. For this reason, the only thing he could see with absolute clarity was the corpse lying on the floor in front of him.

The Space Marine Librarian could not measure the dead body against anything, but it seemed to be huge, even Astartes huge. The corpse was wearing a helmet, so Akichi could not see his face. Nor was he able to find out much against the place, but this was not even necessary. He knew the armour and the helmet that the dead man was wearing. There was only one group of transhuman soldiers with this kind or equipment, and once he had identified the dead, it was also painfully obvious where he was.

The dead was a member of the Adeptus Custodes, and the place was the Imperial Palace.

This one image swept away any doubt as to whether the Tarot’s warning was symbolic or real. Somebody will manage to get inside the centre human civilization and kill one of the strongest, most evolved human form in existence.

Could the Emperor really be threatened by this unknown force?

Uskovics was watching his fellow Fatemaker’s face with growing concern. He did not like the way his features contorted, and he especially disliked the way all other Astropaths and the other two Librarians mimicked Akichi. He looked over to the other side of the chamber and saw that Chief Cvet and his team of vitifiers were not worried about the way the divination was turning out. Obviously they did not see such a thing for the first time, so the Chaplain could do nothing else but wait and watch.

Perhaps it will be all right in the end.

Akichi’s spirit was moving now; or, rather, his perception was shifting. After the initial shock of finding the Custodes, he tried to clear the vision using the strength of the Astropathic choir. He failed. Apparently, the powers protecting the unknown menace were too strong for the choir. However, as he was concentrating on the scene, he caught a glimpse of some… pattern. It was more like a thread with a physical representation: the movement of an individual through the Palace’s many levels and corridors. The pattern was too huge for Akichi to analyse, but he could see that its current thread was about to end somewhere in the bowels of this place.

The thread could be followed, so Akichi’s mind shifted along it. The unknown threat was moving slower than his psychic presence, so he had a decent chance of catching up with it. The Librarian somehow felt that the figure’s presence would be virtually undetectable for outsiders now. The act of violence against the Custdes should have left its psychic imprint on the vision, yet there was nothing remarkable to observe. Akichi knew that a well-concealed intruder could still be identified by the empty zone he projects around himself: shut-down technology in the real world and muffled Warp presence in the immaterial world could and would reveal anyone for those who knew what to look for. This was different. The intruder managed to create an aura of normality around him: a zone which projected exactly the same characteristics as the environment would have without his presence. Akichi could not even begin to imagine how this could have been possible.

The Librarian’s mind was accelerating along the thread of fate linked to the unknown threat. He had to act faster because he was afraid now. He was afraid of what he had already been suspecting but did not have the will to form into words: that this vision is not symbolic, a possibility or some event yet to happen. He was experiencing the intruder’s advance into the Palace real-time.

The Astropathic choir started to act agitated. Some of them murmured incoherently or jerked their head without control. Uskovich cast another glance at the Chief opposite him.

Trouble?’ he signed.

The chief’s fingers moved.

Patience,’ he signalled back.

Akichi’s spirit was dashing through the Palace. He was no longer able to distinguish any features around him, except for the path his opponent was walking on. Sometimes he could have sworn that he was passing other bodies, the proof of the deadly nature of his chosen prey. He felt somewhere deep in his psyche that the Palace was getting aware of the intruder –perhaps it was the Fatemaker’s unconcealed probing which alerted them? He did not know. All he knew was that this individual was approaching his destination fast, and when he had got there, he was going to commit something so terrible that the Librarian’s mind refused to ponder upon it. Akichi felt that he could follow the thread the other way too, and he might have a chance to find the source of this threat’s plans; however, this would have meant that he would be forced to abandon the intruder and leave him to the mercy of the now awakening Palace.

He could not make himself to it. Whatever this other presence was up to, he had to see it.

And so his mind raced through the lower levels of the Imperial Palace. He way rushing and dashing, and finally, when he thought he would never catch up with the unknown menace, when he was beginning to believe that he had been tricked, and the thread he was following would lead nowhere, he arrived at the gate.

The gate was already open, and raw psychic energy was emanating from the other side. Akichi’s presence slowed down. He was afraid to enter. He was afraid in the sense as mortals felt fear, and there was no Astartes conditioning which could have made him go through the gate. There was a nagging feeling, however, a pull coming from the other side. Perhaps this was the equivalent of a bonfire which draws certain insect species into its flaming embrace while the insect is completely powerless to withstand its attraction. Whatever the reason was, Akichi’s mind slowly drifted in.

What he saw on the other side was at the same time terrible and unexplainable.

It was difficult to estimate the size of the chamber. Akichi saw strange technical devices and there was an atmosphere inside which was difficult to put into words, but which suggested the melding of Warp and reality in some way. All the light was focused on the contraption in the middle of the chamber: a huge seat made of gold and other exotic materials. Cables, tubes and wires linked the seat into some unseen energy source, and the whole chamber was humming with the activity of the machines.

The figure that the Librarian had been following was standing in front of the seat. He was a big man, wearing a white cape, being completely hooded, but a dark green gauntlet was protruding from the cape, and that gauntlet was gripping a sword. The weapon was so bright for Akichi’s psychic senses that he could not define its nature. He had the feeling that the sword had the possibility to cut not only material, but also fate itself; that it was about to alter the course of history and sweep the Galaxy into some unforeseen new course filled with suffering and uncertainty.

Somebody was sitting in the seat.

He was more than ancient: He was history itself. He was the most powerful human being in existence, and possibly even the most powerful creature which had existed in the last few million years. He was terribly wrinkled, even more than the mummified corpses some cultures created to venerate some important member or ancestor. There were terrible wounds on Him, psychic and material alike. He was not supposed to live, and yet He lived: He was kept alive by the machines and by His own terrible will. In this chamber, however, as the unknown intruder was approaching Him, He seemed powerless to protect Himself.

Or perhaps He was unwilling to act?

The terrible living corpse’s head moved. He looked up.

‘Emperor,’ the Librarian whispered.


Uskovich frowned. Why did Akichi say this? Was he about to find some key information? Why did he speak like this? Normally, people said ‘By the Emperor’ or ‘Emperor protect us.’ Why did the Fatemaker Librarian use this word in such a way?

The Chaplain was positively on edge now.

‘No,’ whispered Akichi’s spirit form. He wanted to shout, to cry, to raise alarm, to stop the intruder, anything to end this madness, but he was powerless. The same force that led him here also paralysed him, making him a mere onlooker as the galactic drama’s final scene unfolded.

‘NO!’ yelled the Librarian, using the power of the choir to break the spell. The power surged through him and evaporated harmlessly in the chamber. The being in the chair, who had so far been watching the intruder, moved his head, and his hollow eye sockets fixated upon the Librarian.

For a fraction of a soul-obliterating second, Librarian Akichi of the Fatemaker Chapter had the Emperor’s complete, undivided attention.

Then the Emperor’s head turned back to the intruder and he said only two words:


Akichi yelled. He did not know that the was yelling in the real world as well; he did not know that the whole Astropathic choir was yelling, screaming at the same time; he did not see his Chaplain jumping to his spasming body, he did not see the vitifiers drawing their weapons: all he saw was the blade in the intruder’s hand, raised high, ready to make a new, terrible fate for the Galaxy.

And then the blade struck.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Mar 31, 2012 11:46 pm

Oh snap. Things have definetly hit the fan here.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Mon Apr 02, 2012 7:35 pm

Beautiful writing. I don't really have much to say other than that I love it, and can't wait for the next step on the Fatemakers' journey!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Apr 06, 2012 3:44 pm

Time for the next update. Enjoy and have a pleasant Easter :)

Cephola Astropathicus Base, Subsector Echydra.

Seven minutes after the Emperor’s death.

There was a dull, throbbing noise.

He did not know what it was as the sensation of voice was accompanied by utter darkness. Conversely, there was also a curious taste in his mouth as if his senses had somehow got messed up and were now conveying false information. His Astartes system had already started to compensate and clear out the incoming impulses, but it still took him three full seconds to collect himself to some degree.

His transhuman senses finally kicked in. The throbbing noise was actually the sound of sirens screaming at the top of their voice; the strange taste in his mouth was blood.

His blood.

Chaplain Uskovich opened his eyes.

He did not see much, even through the sensors of his helmets. There was a straight line bisecting the image in front of him vertically. The colour of the two sections were slightly different, and the Chaplain’s hazy mind was wondering if he was looking at a wall or something similar. There was a motionless kneeling figure in front of him too. What was interesting was that it was kneeling on the wall in a horizontal way.

Another figure came into view. It was a Fatemaker battle-brother, moving slowly towards the Chaplain. He was staggering on the wall’s surface as well. He had lost his helmet, his face was covered in blood and apparently, he was in considerable pain. He made another uncertain step towards Uskovich, and then he stumbled and fell on the wall.

The Chaplain groaned as his mind slowly pulled him out of the aftershock.

The aftershock.

The Chaplain realized that he was lying on the ground with his helmet crushed against the floor: hence his distorted spatial sense. He slowly climbed on his two arms, and looked up. Sideways became down, and down was again sideways. The battle-brother way lying now on the floor, moaning and trashing mildly with his limbs.

There was still a taste of blood in his mouth and warmth around his face. Slowly, he managed to take off his helmet.

Blood was pouring on the floor in copious amount. Whatever happened to him and the other Astartes, it made them bleed from their mouth, ears and tear-ducts.

The sirens did not stop wailing. The Chaplain helped himself and the other Space Marine on their feet, and took a look around.

The divination chamber was in ruins. The charred remains of Chief Cvert and his vitifiers were burnt onto the walls around the room. The protective wards were scorched black, and the floor looked like a house after a great fire, when only the metal frame – in this case, the blackened runes on the floor – remains. The forty Astropaths were still kneeling in a circle; however, the Chaplain needed only a glance to see that they were all dead. Their torsos were distorted, sometimes even dislocated: their spines arched backwards and their arms held in front of their silently screaming faces indicated just what kind of horrors they had seen a split second before their deaths.

There was some movement on the other side of the chamber. Two other Astartes were kneeling next to the prone figure of the third. The Chaplain’s vision was clouded again for a second, and when it cleared out, he saw that they were examining Librarian Sathori.

The way he way lying on the ground indicated that he was also dead.

The Chaplain’s gaze swept across the room. He was still nauseous a little, but he had regained his senses well enough to see how badly the séance went. Librarian Maartoch was lying against the wall where the psychic backlash had thrown him. The huge bloodstain behind his head was all the information Uskovich needed about his fate. The Chaplain somehow managed to make a few steps on his own; his arms still holding his battle-brother, he was now looking for the last Fatemaker Librarian.

Librarian Akichi was still kneeling in front of the cracked psycurium-stone in the middle of the chamber. He was bent forward, but surprisingly, his hands were still feebly twitching. Apparently, the psychic shock radiated from the middle of the chamber, but not from the stone itself, and so Akichi was protected from the worst of its efforts, like a man standing in the eye of the storm.

‘Chaplain!’ one of the Astartes pair on the other side of the room shouted.
The Chaplain opened his mouth and tried to speak, but only some faint rasp came out. He tried to clear his throat, spat a phlegm of bile and blood onto the ground and responded.

‘We are both battle-ready, Orichton.’ Or at least alive, he added in himself. ‘What of Librarian Sathori?’

‘Dead,’ came the answer. ‘And so is Librarian Maartoch.’

Uskovich suspected as much, but the news was nonetheless shocking. The loss of two powerful Librarians was a greater blow to the Chapter than a protracted military campaign and all the losses it involved.

‘Can you stand?’ he asked from the battle-brother he was supported. The other nodded weakly, to which he let him go and went over to Akichi.

The last Librarian of Strike Force Four was in a terrible shape. As Uskovich kneeled down to him, he could see no physical marks on him, except the telltale welts on his face and the almost grey colour of his skin. Akichi was in a considerable shock his eyes were wide open, and he was murmuring something unintelligible under his breath as he was reaching for the cards in front of him.

‘Librarian,’ the Chaplain called.

There was no answer.

‘Librarian. Brother.’

Akichi slowly raised his head and looked at his brother Astartes. Uskovich had never seen a similar expression on the face of another battle-brother, although he had seen it enough on his enemies.

Akichi’s face was distorted by sheer terror.

The Chaplain was not able to speak for a moment.

‘What happened?’ he managed to ask.

‘I saw it,’ whispered the Librarian.

‘What did you see?’

Akichi did not answer. His eyes started to close and his head was falling on his shoulder. Uskovich knew that he could not allow him to fall unconscious now. The Librarian was a brother and a friend, but he was much more now: he was the only source of information about something truly terrible. He shook him gently.

‘Akichi. What did you see?’

‘I saw it…’ groaned the other.

Uskovich tightened his lips. This was not good. Akichi clearly needed the kind of help which was only available aboard the Opportunity. They needed to get back to the ship fast and get him out of this state. The Chaplain’s instincts told him that their situation was not simply important but vital to make sense of.

‘Help me with Brother Akichi!’ he shouted, and two battle-brothers limped back to him. The three of them raised the Librarian from the ground. Akichi made a feeble attempt to resist.

‘My Tarot…’

‘What?’ asked Uskovich.

‘The Tarot…’

Akichi’s Tarot deck and the five cards were still on the ground. The Chaplain let the other two carry Akichi and leaned down to collect the cards from the ground.

He frowned as he looked at them. All cards were completely empty: they were just simple cold and dead psy-reactive sheets now.

He collected them nevertheless and went for his helmet. The inside of it still smelled of blood, but he could not be distracted by it now. He activated his vox link.

‘Squad 4.2 report.’

‘Gorski here,’ came the answer from the vox. The Chaplain heard the same faint sound of sirens in the voxline as in the chamber.


‘We’ve been attacked from unknown source. All Thunderhawk serfs are dead. One of us is guarding the vessel, the rest is moving towards your position on Route 2.’

‘Wait for us at rally point beta. We will be there in…’

The Captain looked at his three Marines supporting the Librarian and one another and appraised their condition.

‘…seventeen minutes.’

‘We will be there. Gorski out.’

The Captain nodded to the others. As the small group stumbled out of the room, he stayed behind a few steps, and cast a last look at the remains of the failed ritual.

Everything smelled of death. The sirens were still wailing, and the remains of forty dead Astropaths and dozens of incinerated vitifiers were still arranged in two neat concentric circles. Uskovich was wearing a helmet which stank of his own blood, he was still somewhat sick of a strong psychic strike and he was looking at two dead Fatemaker Librarians, two of his brothers.

We will have to come back for the gene-seed, he thought. Not right now, though. He felt that what Akichi had to tell the Chapter was even more important than the legacy of the Librarian cadre.

As he was going out, he passed one of the kneeling Astropath corpses with the petrified expression of terror on his face. He did not know how the idea got into his head, but he reached out anyway to grab the shoulder of the dead man.

The Astropath crumbled into dust at the merest touch of his finger.

The Chaplain backed to the door and ran out of the room.

The wailing was unnerving. Normally, the Astartes would have been able to ignore it, but they were busy with the psychic aftershock, and it showed. Their movement was slow and uncertain, and they had to be extra careful not to stumble all the time.

The only reason Uskovich’s head was not full of the events in the chamber was because he was busy reciting the Chapter mantras and litanies. The Astartes were not only different from normal humans in terms of their altered physiology but also in their mental capabilities. All of them were hypno-conditioned – some say brainwashed – during their training as initiates. As a result, they were able to do remarkable things not only with their bodies, but also within their minds. They did not require sleep as normal humans did, and they recovered much faster from any trauma. They could learn faster, recall visual, vocal or even olfactory information which they experienced decades ago, and – perhaps the thing which separated them from mortals the most – they could willingly cast out or imprint thoughts, ideas or even complex notions in their brain. The Chaplain used this latter ability to separate himself from the events unfolding mere minutes ago and concentrate on healing and regenerating his kinetic reflexes.

He was getting better. His movement was more coordinated, and his head started to clear. The nature of this mental exercise made it mostly impossible for him to analyse the situation at hand, but he was still able to plan the next steps ahead. The small Astartes team had to climb two sets of stairs and pass four corridors until they reached rally point beta. At that point, they would be halfway to the Thunderhawk and the much-needed extraction.

The first dead were lying at the end of the first corridor. They were an Astropath and her vitifier; as far as Uskovich could see, they suffered massive strokes and bled out through every orifice of their body. Judging from the pool of red gore around them and their marble-white faces, there could not have been a cup of blood left in the two of them.

There were other bodies, too. Lying on their own or in bigger groups, it seemed that the people in this section of Cephola Base had died a quick, agonising death. The Space Marines were sloshing through pools of blood and had to navigate through piles of human corpses. It was a slaughterhouse. The Captain imagined that this was the situation in the whole base, otherwise they would have already shown up to investigate. In an Astropathicus base, psyker incidents had priority over everything else. If nobody came, this meant that there was nobody left to come.

The shockwave was truly great if it engulfed the whole base and even killed the Fatemaker serfs in the hangar bays near the outer hull. If it was so strong there…

The Chaplain slowed down and broke his concentration. His head started to hurt again, but pain was the least of his worries. He turned his head a little and he called the Thunderhawk again.

‘Thunderhawk Three, have you got vox contact with the Opportunity?’

‘The ship contacted us immediately after the accident,’ came the answer. ‘There is a message lag, but the line is still intact.’

At least that was all right.

‘Ask the Captain what losses we suffered aboard the ship.’

There was some pause. The Chaplain was alone with his worst thought: the suspicion that the same situation happened aboard the Fatemaker ship, and the human contingent died to the last man.

‘The Captain is not available, Brother-Chaplain,’ the Astartes in the Thunderhawk answered. ‘He is making a staff check around the ship. The bridge crew is alive, and they claim there were three reported casualties altogether.’

Though the Chaplain did not show it, he was greatly relieved. Three people out of eight thousand are virtually nothing. It seemed that the Fatemaker’s inherent paranoia had saved Strike Force Four.

There was a reason why the Opportunity refused to dock next to the base. It was not politeness or impatience, merely a state of distrust which was characteristics of the whole Chapter. At the Borshak Massacre, the two original chapters had been ambushed and decimated by Space Marines who used to be their close allies scant years earlier. The remains of the loyalist Astartes had tried to petition to the highest Imperial authorities in their hour of need, receiving no answer whatsoever. The lesson was a painful but clear one: nobody would help the Chapter. Everybody could become a potential enemy.

If the Opportunity had trusted the Astropathicus Base (which was not a threatening factor in itself, so the precaution was merely an instinctive response), the ship would have been anchored to the docking bay with its human crew now dead. The Opportunity would be grounded or risk external damage by breaking away from the base. Similarly, if the Fatemakers had not insisted on studying the internal layout of the base, if they had not planned two separate extraction routes through it, if they had not sent a full squad of Astartes as cover force, the Chaplain and the only remaining Librarian would be much more exposed and vulnerable as they were heading towards the Thunderhawk.

The Chaplain stepped over another corpse and turned his head slightly to the corridor behind him.

The two of them alone would have to worry more about the figure who had been following them for the last two minutes.

‘Unknown movement behind us. Prepare to cover me.’

After a series of short ‘acknowledged’-answers, the vox-lines went silent again. The Chaplain went through the door at the end of the last corridor and arrived at rally-point beta.

There was an at least two-storey high room ahead. There were several corridors leading in and out of it, but this was not the reason why it was an ideal rallying point for the Fatemakers. There was an exit point on the wall about three metre from the ground, and a row of stairs led up to it along the side of the wall. Gorski and his five Space Marines were already crouching behind the railings on the second floor, while Orichton and his two brothers were dragging Librarian Akichi up the first few stairs.

The Librarian was still not moving, and this was not good news. However, the Chaplain could not spare time for his brother.

Uskovich backed away from the entry point. He did not know who was coming after them, but something told him that he was in danger. If a Space Marine wanted to survive his first decade in this new age, he had to learn to listen to his gut instincts.

He almost reached the bottom of the stairs when the figure stepped out into the open.

He used to be an Astropath, that much was sure. He was wearing the robes, and his eyes were tied by a piece of cloth, which was a common practice among his universally blind colleagues. He was covered in blood, and it certainly seemed by his cadaverous skin that the blood was in fact his. He was moving in a weird, uncertain was, as if he was not used to moving his body. This was a tell-tale sign by itself, but the truth only became painfully obvious when the newcomer sensed the Space Marines in front and above him. He jerked his head left and right, then he made an unsettling smile, which became wider and wider – far wider than the average human anatomy would have allowed it.

The he showed a set of razor-sharp teeth.

‘Moral threat Malleus,’ voxed Uskovich. The Chaplain was not in a very good position. He had not yet started to climb the stairs, nor was he able to do so as the way up was blocked by the rest of his team. The stairs were not designed for Astartes size, so there was no way he could force his way up next to his brothers even if he wanted to. This was not a practical consideration, by the way: as the rearguard of the small team, it was his duty to protect his brothers until they managed to get into safety.

The Chaplain drew his crozius, the symbol of his office in a wide, theatrical way. It was a deliberate movement, and it worked: the thing which possessed the body of the dead Astropath turned its attention exclusively to him. A mere soldier, even an Astartes, was ordinarily no match for a denizen of the Warp, but the Chaplain had several advantages which would prove fatal even for a demon like this.

Te first advantage was half a dozen bolters at his disposal.

‘Kill it,’ he voxed.

The opening salvo hit the possessed Astropath in the chest. The special explosive rounds should have torn it apart, which did not happen: the Warp-thing was merely thrown back a few steps. It fell on the ground hard, but it was up to its feet again, and it made an inhuman scream which was amplified by the sound of the Base’s emergency sirens. The next salvo zeroed on the demon again who weathered it on his feet – he was still shaken by the incoming projectiles, but it was no longer pushed back, as if its feet had been anchored into the ground – then its shape started to blur and it shifted.

If there had ever been a doubt that the body was possessed, this was clear evidence. The body moved at a fantastic speed, as if it was out of synch with the rest of reality. Accelerated almost ten times the normal movement, it was difficult to see where it went even for the modified eyes of the Astartes warriors. These bursts of sudden movement were short: the thing dashed from end of the room to the other, occasionally freezing on the spot. As it was dodging the bullets of Fatemaker Squad 4.2, it seemed that it was looking solely at the Chaplain with the blind and tied eyes of its unfortunate victim.

Finally, it blurred again and rushed forward. Another burst of bolter rounds tried to catch up with it in vain as it was approaching the Chaplain at the base of the stairs. It stopped right in front of the Astartes; its jaws dislocated and opened impossibly huge, it snapped forward with them to bite into the helmeted head of its foe.

The place where the head of Chaplain Uskovich used to be a fraction of a second earlier was now occupied by his crozius. The demon managed to headbutt right into the blunt end of the mace and smashed its face to pieces on it. The thing mewled and stumbled back from the Chaplain. It turned and leaned down, clawing at its strangely smoking features.

The next swing of the crozius hit it on the spine just under the neck. It broke – not even the sirens could muffle that crunching sound – and the demon fell on the ground. The Chaplain went round the body with his weapon firmly held in his hand.

By the time the demon managed to turn on its back, the Chaplain was already standing at its head. The thing looked up to him. It was not a pretty sight: whatever power the crozius had, it scorched the flesh off the face almost to the bone. The Chaplain raised his weapon.

In nomine Imperatoris humanorum, I cast thee back to the Abyss,’ he chanted. ‘Look upon the face of the Emperor’s judgement and suffer the wrath of His chosen warriors.’

The demon seemed to understand what Uskovich said. It could not get up from the ground; its face was a mess of burnt flesh, but it made a rasping, coughing sound. It took the Chaplain a few seconds to realize what it was doing.

The demon bound in the Astropath’s body was laughing. It made no attempt to stop the Chaplain strike; it merely continued to laugh as if Uskovich had said something funny.

It stopped laughing at the fifth strike of the crozius; by that time, nothing remained of its head.

The team of Astartes managed to reach the Tunderhawk in the docking bay with no further incident. The lone Astartes guardian had already ignited the engines of the plane, and as Squad 4.2 embarked, the vessel rose immediately and left the shield-protected hangar.

Nobody tried to stop them, and this would have been further proof of the destruction of the entire base, but the Chaplain did not need any more evidence for it; besides, he was busy with Librarian Akichi.

The Librarian was lying on the floor in the passenger compartment of the Thunderhawk. The corpses of the two pilot-serfs were pulled in the corner. They bled the last drop of fluid from their bodies into the cockpit, which was now reeking with the smell of death. Even the two battle-brothers who were now piloting the plane must have had difficulties blocking that smell out, but being what they were, they still managed to move the plane towards the Opportunity. The rest of the team, the Chaplain included, surrounded Akichi and the squad’s Apothecary kneeling beside him. The white-armoured Astartes was slowly injecting stimulants into the Librarian’s system while monitoring his vital signs on the instrument built into his gauntlet.

‘He is stabilizing,’ he informed the others, ‘but I don’t know how long he is going to stay with us.’

Akichi opened his bloodshot eyes. He blinked and slowly glanced over all the helmeted heads hovering above him. Finally, his gaze settled on the skull-faced helmet of the chaplain.

‘Uskovich,’ he breathed.

‘I am here, brother,’ the Chaplain answered.

‘Do you know what happened at the Base?’

The Librarian swallowed painfully, then managed to make a weak nod.

‘The backlash… it killed everybody, didn’t it?’

Now the Chaplain nodded.

‘All humans at the base and even some aboard the Opportunity.’

‘Maartoch… and Sathori?’

Uskovich shook his head. The Librarian closed his eyes.

‘I was in the centre of the blast wave… it came out behind me… that’s why I survived.’ He took a deeper breath. ‘Uskovich, we are in trouble. A very big trouble.’

‘The strike force?’ the Chaplain asked. Akichi opened his eyes again.

‘Mankind,’ he answered. ‘Uskovich, we have lost… we have lost the war. Mankind has just lost everything.’

The other Astartes exchanged silent looks. The Chaplain went down to one of his knees to have a better look at his Librarian brother.

‘What are you talking about?’

The Librarian breathed deeply again. ‘He is having another shock,’ the Apothecary warned the Chaplain. ‘Hurry up if you want to make any sense out of him.’

‘In the vision, I was on Terra,’ Akichi started. ‘It was no… no vision of the future. I saw the present. There was… there was an intruder. He killed Custodes… he went into the throne room…’ The Librarian’s body spasmed for a second before calming down again. ‘I saw the Emperor, Uskovich. I saw him as the intruder attacked Him with a sword.’ Akichi’s eyes filled with tear. ‘I saw Him die. Uskovich, the Emperor is dead. He was killed a few minutes ago. He is gone.’

Uskovich rose from his knee. Akichi’s eyes slowly rolled up, and his eyelids closed again.

‘He has fainted again,’ the Apothecary announced.

There was no voice in the passenger compartment. Uskovich lost count of time as he was staring at the unconscious form of the Librarian. He did not move. He could have been a statue made of rock-crete grey metal. When he finally looked up, he was facing the nine silent helmets of his Asatrtes brothers.

The Chaplain activated his vox.

‘Pilots, did you hear this?’

‘We did, Brother-Chaplain,’ came the answer.

The Chaplain nodded. ‘Contact the Opportunity. Tell them only that Cephola Base is likely to be corrupted with a demonic intrusion, and then tell them to issue an Interdictus-warning about the base to the Navy. Tell the Captain nothing about what you have heard. I will make the report to him myself. Understood?’

‘Yes, Brother-Chaplain.’

‘Good. Also, inform the ship that the team may be compromised, so we will be quarantined in the containment section. Have them prepare it by the time we get there, and then head for the external docking bay on the containment level. Understood?’

‘Yes, Brother-captain.’

The vox went silent, and the Chaplain nodded to the other Astartes.

‘As for you…’

He explained to them what he had on mind. The kneeling Apothecary looked up.

‘Are you sure about this?’

‘You have heard what he has just said,’ the Chaplain answered without emotion. ‘What do you think will happen if he announces it in front of the whole strike force?’

The Apothecary seemed unconvinced, but the Chaplain had no more time to persuade him.

‘This is my jurisdiction!’ he snapped.

The Apothecary cast his head down.

‘I obey.’

‘Do it,’ Uskovich answered.

The Apothecary gave a dose of strong sedative to Librarian Akichi, then he adjusted something on his injector and pumped that dose into his patient as well.

‘He will not wake up,’ he said flatly. ‘His blood will not knot either.’

‘Remove his chestplate,’ the Chaplain answered.

Once the rock-crete armour came off the chest of the Librarian, the black carapace – a virtual second armour made from the fused ribcage and hardened skin of the Space Marines – showed up. The Chaplain kneeled down next to Akichi and held out his hand.


One of the battle-brothers placed a knife the size of a sword onto his palm. Uskovich took it and held it above Akichi’s chest. The others did not move. Their Astartes conditioning made them obedient beyond mortal imagination, so they did not even flinch when the Chaplain plunged the knife into the Librarian’s chest.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Gaius Marius » Fri Apr 06, 2012 8:52 pm

Seeing the fatemakers deal with the end of time shenanigans is going to be rather interesting.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Tue Apr 10, 2012 4:07 pm

This has elements of horror in it, and I love it! Great storytelling, and I can't wait for more!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Apr 10, 2012 8:48 pm

Thanks a lot, guys. By the way, I read you blog, Midgard, and I am going to try and keep the minimum 1000 word per day recommendation for a whole week. The first day was successful... :D
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:14 pm

It's update time again.

Also, it is day four of my 1000 words per day experiment, and 3500 words have been done so far. Not bad.

Part Twelve

Space Marine Vessel Opportunity

Four hours after the Emperor’s death

‘… and that was the last time we contacted them, my lord. As soon as they entered the containment level, Brother-Chaplain Uskovich made these requests and instructed me to report everything to you when you arrive.’

‘Thank you. You may return to your duties.’

‘As you wish, my lord.’

Captain Malistrum could not afford to allow the human – or, for that matter, even the Astartes – crew around him to see how worried he was, so he just kept all the bad news inside. The problem was much bigger than he first imagined. He thought that the psychic attack had been bad enough, but now…

When the psy-blast reached the Astartes strike cruiser, every single member aboard felt sick and nauseous. The Space Marines could handle it better than the ordinary mortals, but it took some time even for them to regain their senses, and the effect on the human crew was even more profound. The Apothecarium was full of injured and shocked patients with various physical or mental injuries. The weapon loader clan was too dumb to be affected by this attack, but they still reacted to it in their own aggressive way, and started to wreak havoc in the corridors leading to the ammunitions store. The Captain had so far been busy negating the effects of the blast among the crew, the loaders and the ship itself. Countless smaller injuries and the general panic among the crew all weakened the battle-readiness of Strike Force Four, and if there was one thing the Fatemakers hated, it was vulnerability. There was also the case of the three dead, none of whom could be dismissed as mere casualty. Coupled with the fact that the strike force, nay, the whole Chapter had just lost two of its best Librarians, with the third possibly on the verge of death, this mission turned out to be the most catastrophic one for the past two whole decades.

The news which the Captain received during his inspection round had just made this situation the biggest crisis of the Imperium for the last century.

‘Contact the Brother-Chaplain,’ the Captain ordered.

‘At once, my lord.’

The serf’s fingers were dancing on the keys on the control panel, which gave Malistrum a few seconds of respite. He found no real solution to the problems he was facing. He sighed inwardly and stood next to the vox operator as the speakers crackled, and the voice of Chaplain Uskovich filled the bridge.

‘This is Chaplain Uskovich.’

‘Captain Malistrum,’ the Captain answered. He would have continued, but the Chaplain did not let him finish.

‘I need a secure audiovisual line, and you need to hear me in privacy, Captain.’

Malistrum frowned. Secrecy was not Chapter policy, at least not in front of their own human serfs. On the other hand, if the present situation did not require absolute carefulness, nothing did.

‘We shall continue in my private chamber,’ he said and signalled the vox handler to break contact. The serf obeyed, and the Captain went to the door at the back of the cruiser’s command bridge.

Malistrum had a rather Spartan room adjacent to the bridge. It had the usual furniture which all full-fledged battle-brothers were entitled to. A metal bed with a mattress on it, which also served as his chair; an armour and weapon rack for his equipment; a chest for his personal belongings; finally, as the commander of the strike force, he could also afford to have an Astartes-sized desk and a cogitator-unit with a display screen and speakers. He activated the cogitator, and the screen came alive.

The face of Chaplain Uskovich was looking at him from the other side of the screen. The Chaplain was not wearing his helmet, and his face was strangely tense: the otherwise calm and balanced features now showed a feverish determination which was completely out of character. Malistrum steeled himself further, and then he looked at the data in the corner of the screen.

‘The line is secure, Uskovich. We can speak freely.’ The tone of the Captain was more rigid than usually. ‘First of all, I will have a full report from you about the Cephalo Base mission. What happened exactly, why it failed, why I lost two Librarians and why you returned so quickly without taking the gene-seed of two of our fallen brothers with you.’ Malistrum raised a finger. ‘And when you have finished with your report, you will tell me why you took Librarian Akichi to the containment level and why you placed him under custody.’

The Chaplain’s face shifted a little on the screen; no doubt he was using a floating cyber-skull as a communication device. Uskovich cast his head down a hair’s breadth.

‘I apologize for this unusual arrangement. I had a good reason for it, my lord.’

Malistrum frowned and took a better look at his Chaplain. There was definitely something in his eyes, and the Captain suddenly had the feeling that the other Astartes was in possession of the other half of the story which was unfolding around Strike Force Four.

‘Start with the mission,’ he commanded.

The Chaplain took a deep breath.

‘The Cephola Mission is now officially a failure. The Astropathic choir started to conduct a séance approximately two hundred minutes ago. The choir never came out of the trance. They started to go epileptic at about the eighteenth minute. I wasn’t allowed to record the séance, but my instruments have all the data about the event; I will transmit everything to the cogitators of the Opportunity after this crisis is resolved. The point is clear anyway. They found something big and dangerous, and the knowledge started to damage their mind.’

‘This would not have been enough to kill the Base,’ the captain interjected.

‘No, it would not, Captain. In the twentieth minute, a huge psychic blast erupted from the middle of the Astropathic circle. There was a physical effect inside the chamber and a mental one outside. The other brothers and I were knocked out by it for about seven minutes.’

The Captain folded his arms.

‘What was the source of the blast?’

‘There was no single source. Librarian Akichi survived because the blast concentrated around the area where he was kneeling, and did not come from a point in front of him. This means that the source was not the psycurium stone which was used as a focus. Also, it was not the Tarot deck in front of him. He would have been destroyed so completely that not even his body would have remained.’ Uskovich shook his head. ‘No, the source of the blast was the combination of Librarian Akichi, his Tarot, which he used to cast the focus and the stone which amplified the power of the choir. I can only guess, but I think that he actually opened a channel to some … event… and something happened there. Something devastating. Some of it even came through the psychic conduit. Even a weakened backlash of it was able to kill everyone in Cephola Base and disturb the ship.’

‘It probably killed the whole system,’ the Captain answered. The Chaplain’s resolve seemed to waver for a second.

‘What do you mean, my lord?’

Malistrum sighed. ‘That psychic blast… its power was unbelievable. Your Astartes body could withstand the physical blast, and your mind is conditioned to switch off in such an emergency, so you came out alive and in sound mind. The crew of the Opportunity did not die because of…’

‘The Geller field,’ the Chaplain finished his lord’s sentence.

Indeed, the Geller field. Normally, it only operated during Warp transit; the field’s reality bubble meant to protect the people on board from the influence of the Immaterium. Psyker attacks belonged to this category too, but it was thankfully rare for a spaceship to encounter such effects in normal space, so captains had no reason to keep the field on for prolonged lengths of real-space travels. The Geller field used up a lot of energy as well, and for some reason, it was more difficult to erect it in normal space. Who would use the field all the time if it meant severe maintenance problems and temporary energy shortages? Nobody. Not even the paranoid Fatemakers went that far. A mission which involved a critical mass of psyker force, however, certainly belonged to the ‘dangerous’ category in the Chapter’s book. For this reason, there had been a minimal five percent output in the Geller field’s generators when the accident happened.

‘It saved most people on board,’ Malistrum said, ‘but the wave seems to have been a lot bigger than what we could detect. We tried to contact the outer defence ring of the Navy, and we failed to reach any of the ships. There was one vessel which gave an automatic response; apparently, the vox operator there is a servitor. It reported that all human personal on the bridge was dead, and that ship is at least two light minutes away from us. I have no reason to think that the situation is not the same everywhere else. The Cephola Imperial Navy has been killed.’

‘Did we report this to the capital planet?’ asked Uskovich. ‘What is their response?’

Malistrum looked at the Chaplain knowingly. For a moment, Uskovich seemed to lose his calmness.

‘The inner planets too?’

‘Certainly Cephola III.’ There was a hard edge in Malistrum’s voice. ‘We have been receiving fragments of Imperial vox broadcasts from the planet’s surface and also from vessels on orbit. A lot of people seem to have been killed there. Not everyone because then there would be no communication at all, but we are certainly talking about hundreds of millions of people. The orbital defences have been sending out messages claiming that the governor’s seat is completely destroyed, and there is also talk about demonic infestation.’ Malistrum shrugged. ‘Of course, that latter part can go down to mere panic. We know how these things work. We have some information, however, which confirms the worst possibility.’

The Captain adjusted the cogitator, and a smaller picture appeared in a new corner of the screen. The Chaplain raised his head slightly, looking at the equivalent of the picture on his side of the screen.

‘This is a pict recording of Cephola Base which the Opportunity’s sensors made about twenty minutes ago,’ the Captain explained. ‘The Opportunity aligned its hull parallel to the Base, and we are keeping the same distance. Technically speaking, that protrusion on the base’s hull is the closest part to our vessel. I am going to magnify it now.’

Malistrum typed a command into the cogitator. The Chaplain hissed. The magnified image clearly showed human figures standing on the outer part of the base’s hull. The image was still not perfect, but it was clear that the figures were not wearing any space-suit or similar protective devices. There were eight human shapes standing in hard vacuum stretching their arms upwards.

‘It seems as if they were looking right into the recorder,’ said the Chaplain.

‘It seems that way,’ the Captain agreed. ‘They somehow sense that we are here.’

This was very bad news for Cephola Base. Eight clearly possessed people – nine if we count the one Uskovich destroyed on his way out – in one place meant the whole place was completely tainted. Special Inquisitorial forces may have been able to cleanse it (there had always been rumours about a secret Grey Knight base operating somewhere in the Malachias Sector, although this assumption had never been proven), but Strike Force Four had just lost its only means to do so with the death of its Librarian cadre. The only other options now were quarantine or a localised Exterminatus.

‘Do you think it is the same on the planet?’

The Captain shook his head.

‘I have no idea. I believe that Cephola III is similarly tainted, although perhaps to a lesser degree because of the distance. At the very least, communication is broken with the capital planet, and what we can intercept hints at massive death toll and the collapse of the whole society anyway.’

‘Can we make sure about the situation through our psykers?’ asked Uskovich.

‘No.’ the answer was curt, but Malistrum continued. ‘If you think our Astropaths could perhaps contact some of their person Cephola III, I have to disappoint you. Two of our losses were Astropaths Walter and Iljuno.’

‘The Geller field could not protect them?’

‘Actually, it did. We didn’t have a single casualty due to the psychic blast. The Astropaths started to feel sick approximately two minutes after the accident. It could be a delayed effect, but I think it is more than that. They were raving and yelling about ‘the end of everything’, and they died within a minute. They seem to have aged too. Both of their bodies look as if they were a hundred years old.’

‘The end of everything…’ murmured the Chaplain. ‘And only the soul-bound psykers…’

‘Have you got something on your mind, Uskovich?’

‘I have, lord.’ The Chaplain hesitated for a second. ‘I think it also explains what we are doing here on the containment level.’

‘Oh yes, that particular question.’ The Captain chided himself for his wandering thoughts. Were it not for the gravity of the situation, he would never have let it slipped from his mind like that. ‘I know from the reports that Maartoch and Sathori are dead. I heard about your fight with a possessed Astropath.’ The Captain looked into the Chaplain’s eyes. ‘Uskovich, is Akichi possessed?’

Uskovich considered the answer for a heartbeat, then answered.

‘I hope so.’

‘You hope so,’ the Captain repeated in a flat voice.

‘Yes, Captain, I do.’

There was silence following this answer. The two Space Marines were looking at each other with unreadable eyes. Both of them were eyeing each other with cold, uncompromising stares.

‘I do understand that I owe you an explanation for my actions, Captain,’ said Uskovich. He did not show any emotions, but there was no defeat in his voice either. It was completely unusual from him to behave in front of his commander like this. What could have happened at the Base to drive him into such a defiant mood?

‘You owe me, the Chapter and Akichi for this claim.’ The Captain was careful, but he could not back down in front of a subordinate; not even such a respected one as Uskovich. ‘I suggest you start from the beginning and explain to me everything.’

‘Very well.’ The Chaplain’s face remained impassive. ‘After our team recovered from the shock, we found that only Librarian Akichi remained from the Librarian cadre; all the others died. He was in the epicentre of the accident, and he still lived. At that moment, I did not think anything about it except to take him out of the Base as soon as possible.’

The Captain listened intently.

‘We were attacked by a possessed Astropath on our way out, it was undoubtedly a Warp denizen. A demon. We managed to destroy it, but it became obvious that the psychic accident tore up the veil between warp and reality. The image you have just shown me proves this even further.’

‘There is still not enough evidence that Akichi was possessed by a demon,’ the Captain interjected. ‘He is one of the most talented Librarian in his generation, you know that. You reported before the beginning of the séance that the chamber was protected by the most potent runes and psy-devices that Cephola Base had at its disposal. He was sitting in the middle of the strongest anti-warp circle in the whole Base. Even if the blast originated from the chamber, he could have survived on his own with so much help.’

‘I know, Captain,’ the Chaplain answered.

‘If, however, there was any hint that Akichi got somehow tainted, it would have been your responsibility as Chaplain to kill him as a possible moral threat. It has happened before in the history of the Chapter, and all cases are well-documented.’ Malistrum leaned forward towards the screen, and the Chaplain unconsciously leaned back a little. ‘We can lock up and investigate brothers in the containment level, but not when there is a clear evidence of other demonic infestations in the same area, not when there is no way for us to scan them right away, and certainly not when we cannot make sure that our brothers are still capable of withstanding their possible infestation to any degree. Which an unconscious Librarian is unlikely to do, and there were no others of his kind around any more to check up on him. Am I right so far?’

‘Absolutely, my lord.’

‘Uskovich, I am going to ask again: is Akichi possessed?’

‘I don’t know that. It is possible.’

‘Did you begin to suspect this at the Base?’

‘Only aboard the Thunderhawk.’

‘You had no way to make sure that he is not possessed, but you did not grant him the Emperor’s Peace?’

‘No, lord. He is still alive at this very moment.’

‘But he is still a possible threat.’


There was a moment of silence. Finally, Malistrum lost his patience.

‘Well?’ he asked. Uskovich continued a little hesitantly.

‘He managed to speak with me aboard the Thunderhawk. He tried to tell me what he saw during the séance. He said…’ the Chaplain’s voice finally faltered. ‘I am sorry, Captain. He said that the Focus event was taking place as he attempted to divine it. He saw the Emperor’s Palace, and he saw an intruder, who managed to penetrate the defences of that place. He said that the Emperor was killed as he was watching, and now the Emperor, our Emperor is…’

He stopped again for a second.

‘… dead.’

Malistrum opened his mouth and then closed it. The two Space Marines looked at each other as if nothing else existed in the world around them.

‘I first thought that he was simply mad,’ Uskovich continued. ‘I thought that the accident damaged his brain. After all, this thing, this is so utterly ridiculous…’

Malistrum broke in.

‘There is a possibility that he is right, Uskovich.’

The Chaplain froze.

‘What are you saying, my lord?’

‘There were three reported deaths aboard the Opportunity,’ Malistrum started, ‘but none of them due to the psychic blast. The Geller field protected us, Uskovich. It worked perfectly, and the teachings of our Chapter were proved again. However, the two Astropaths died on their own shortly thereafter, as if the life had simply been sucked out of them. They are soul-bound to the Emperor, Uskovich. This is what protects their kind from the Warp and its denizens. They are linked to Him on Earth stronger than any of us, and they died.’

The Captain sighed heavily.

‘The third death was Navigator Uliantor.’

Uliantor was not a Navigator in the strict sense of the word, but a young initiate from the same House as Yasmilda. He was learning his profession here aboard the Opportunity, and he also served as a replacement for the real Navigator should anything have happened to her. Naklonjenost or not, replacement-policy or not, even the Fatemaker Chapter had to settle for one fully capable Navigator per vessels.

‘He was not killed in the accident either,’ the Captain continued. ‘Navigator Yasmilda reported that he had a panic attack, he ran out of his quarters and he fell off a stair. He broke his neck immediately.’

‘A panic attack?’ asked Uskovich.

‘The same panic attack got Navigator Yasmilda as well, but she was more disciplined,’ the Captain answered. ‘She reported to me that the Astronomicon has gone out.’

The Chaplain let out some air through his teeth.

‘She said that the Astronomicon has been erratic before. She said that a few hundred years ago, it was a continuous beam as opposed to the flicker we have… used to have nowadays. She said that the greatest amount of time that the Astronomicon went out in the past was thirty-two minutes. Uskovich, the Astronomicon has been out for two hundred and twenty minutes.’

The Chaplain raised a hand.

‘Out as disappeared… or went out of sight?’

‘This was the first thing that I asked from her,’ said Malistrum. ‘She claimed that when the Astronomicon is blocked by a Warp-storm, the storm itself is very much visible. There are no Warp-storms in this region. Like a clear weather, the guiding light of the Emperor should be visible now. It is not. It is not there, it is gone, it has been gone for seven times longer than any similar recorded instances.’

Uskovich closed his eyes and there was a minute of silence again. Finally, the Chaplain started to speak, his eyes still closed.

‘When I attacked that demon at Cephola Base, I used my crozius.’ He opened his eyes, reached down to his belt and raised the weapon higher so the Captain could see it. ‘This is the holy instrument of the Chaplain cadre of the Astartes Chapters all over the Galaxy. There is a symbolism there that resonates even in the Warp. This weapon was blessed by the priests of the Malachias Inquisition when I was working for them as an Astartes escort. The crozius has killed twelve demonic entities before and banished them back to the Warp. In one instance, I think I managed to destroy the very essence of that demon with this weapon. When I attacked the demon at the base, I should have killed it with the first hit. It didn’t seem strong. Limited intelligence, some Warp power, certainly a minor entity. Yet, I needed seven strikes to finally banish it.’ He lowered the weapon. ‘The crozius still worked, but it wasn’t nearly as effective as it should have. As if…’

‘As if the blessing has lost its power,’ Malistrum finished his sentence.


‘By the Throne,’ Malistrum murmured. The Chaplain did not let him think over what he had just heard.

‘Captain, I know that there is a lot of evidence that…’

He could not make himself finish the sentence. Malistrum nodded.

‘Just continue.’

‘Captain, we cannot afford to jump to conclusions. Not in this case. Do you remember our meeting at Novgarrod? You said that this was too big for us. I agree. This is too big, and this can potentially destroy the whole Chapter. We are talking about the Emperor! That He is….’

He was struggling again, then he suddenly burst out.

‘That He is DEAD! Can you imagine how the people out there will react if we try to explain this to them? To say that they would not believe it? I don’t believe it! The Chapter Master will not believe it! They will take Strike Force Four apart piece by piece until there is nothing left of us!’

‘Would you rather not say a word about this?’ Malistrum’s voice was dangerously low. ‘People will realize it on their own soon enough? Is that what you are trying to tell me?’

‘If this had been my plan, I would have killed Akichi aboard the Thunderhawk instead of just carving protective runes into his chest,’ the Chaplain retorted. ‘No, we need to tell them about this. It is our duty, and I am not afraid to do my duty. But there will be questions. What do we have for an answer? There is an Astropathicus base with a demonic infestation, the Astronomicon is gone – and mark my word, Captain, it may still come back – and we have a Librarian who suffered a psychic shock and is now saying he saw the Emperor being killed.’

The Chaplain made a theatrical sweeping movement.

‘What can be the explanation? There was an accident at the Base? Who could have caused it? The Librarian, of course. Can we believe him about the Emperor? No, not any more, not after the accident. Is the Astronomicon gone? It will come back. If not now, then later, then in a week, a month, a year. Or do the Fatemakers believe that the Emperor is truly dead? Now that is heresy! Destroy them! Excommunicate Tratoris, all of them!’

The two officers were staring at each other.

‘And Captain, I was only talking about our own Chapter now.’ The Chaplain was calmer now, but his resolution showed again. ‘They will take our report apart to find the smallest mistake, the smallest inconsistency there, and they will take apart Akichi. Literally. He will not survive it. We will probably not survive it, the Chapter may not survive it. Unless…’

Malistrum raised an eyebrow.

‘Unless we can cover every single detail, every weak point in the report in advance. The first thing that they will think of when they hear all this is that our Librarian was possessed, mentally damaged, or he could be lying or,’ he raised a finger, ‘he could be wrong. There is nothing we can do about the last possibility; in fact, we want it to be true. However, we have the means to find out if the first two options are true or not.’

The Captain slowly nodded.

‘You want to perform a standard exorcism and psychic scan on Akichi.’

The Chaplain nodded too. ‘I do, Captain.’

Malistrum shook his head and made a few paces up and down in front of the displayer screen.

‘That scan is unofficial, and nobody uses it outside our Chapter.’

‘We don’t want to persuade the outside world with it,’ Uskovich answered. ‘We need to persuade the Chapter so they can persuade the Imperium in turn.’

Malistrum was still unconvinced.

‘If Akichi is as wounded as you claim, he may die of the procedure.’

‘I know Captain.’ The Chaplain rubbed his forehead, but he still looked determined. ‘If he dies, he dies. This is still a better option for him than going even to the Chapter Master with this story and nothing to support it. He needs at lest enough credibility for Chapter Master Fiffito to actually listen to him. A fighting chance, Captain. Is this not what we do? Give others a fighting chance?’

‘A fighting chance,’ Malistrum repeated in a soft voice.

A fighting chance.

Damn it.

‘Prepare the ritual as best you can,’ Malistrum ordered after what seemed to be a small eternity. ‘Tell Akichi what will happen to him, and why it will happen. Do what you can to help him without compromising the ritual in the slightest way. Collect all the evidence you can, and report everything – everything – to me. If necessary, do what you must, and yes, if this mean killing Librarian Akichi, then you will kill him. Is that understood?’

The Chaplain bowed his head. ‘Yes, Captain.’

Malistrum nodded back. Actually, he did not give an order to Uskovich, merely stated his support. The Chaplain had the authority to deal with moral threats and handle possible Warp and demonic interferences in any way he saw it fit. He even had the authority to override the Captain’s decisions in these issues, although such a case would have involved a tribunal from the Chapter, and the final consequences would have been severe enough to discourage very extreme actions. In this case, however, there was an accordance between Malistrum and Uskovich. It seemed that the Chaplain was still concerned about Akichi to an acceptable degree, and Malistrum had to accept that Uskovich had been saying nothing but the truth. The implications of this crisis were so severe that this much information was not even enough to assess it. Strike Force Four, and by association, the Fatemaker Chapter, was perhaps the only reliable witness, and consequently, they had got themselves in a very delicate and dangerous situation. Akichi had very little chance of coming out of this alive, to be honest. If this ritual gave him a small respite, even if the respite did not extend beyond the jurisdiction of the Chapter, it should be done. Still…

‘Uskovich, I want you to be completely honest with me,’ said Malistrum. ‘Do you think that Librarian Akichi was right and the Emperor… is dead?’

The Chaplain took a deep breath, then exhaled.

‘Captain, I am the spiritual leader of this strike force. I have been preaching that the Emperor is the only saviour for Mankind for five decades. I believe that He is actively helping us in our daily endeavours, and I don’t believe that a mere assassin would be enough to destroy a being such as He. Still,’ he added, ‘I cannot deny the facts. The primary tenet of the Fatemaker Chapter is that anything can happen, anyone can become our enemy, and we cannot deny hard facts even if they directly oppose our beliefs. This is such a situation. I believe that something awful happened in Terra, and I don’t believe that the Astronomicon would return in a while. I don’t believe that Librarian Akichi could have caused such a catastrophe on his own or with the support of the other psykers. It was the side-effect of a huge tragedy which happened in Terra. Some evidences point towards a catastrophe directly involving the Emperor Himself. In any other case, I would say yes, this is exactly what happened. But I cannot make myself say it about the Emperor.’ He looked at his Captain with what seemed to be pleading eyes. ‘Captain, we literally have nothing else but Him. What would we become without Him?’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:45 pm

I don't really have much to add other than that I am still reading and enjoying this story. The Chapter's paranoia is well played on, and the story has the feel of apocalypse as it is happening, and as the characters are attempting to survive it.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Sardaukar » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:52 am

Promising. Interesting narrative presented. Suitably played and shows the effects of the Emperor's Death. Let there be more!
"People who are rooted in the here and now, who are not defeated by their limitations, who don’t compare themselves to others, who confidently advance along their chosen path—such people are happy, such people are truly great." -Daisuke Ikeda

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Apr 20, 2012 9:01 pm

Thanks a lot, guys. Sardaukar, your story is also great, and you go back to the sources further than I did(although this can be expected from a Dune-fan :D ). It will be interesting to see where that will lead .

Next update. Medieval logic, an element of horror and hard men staring at each other with bloodshot eyes.

Part Thirteen

Containment level aboard the Opportunity

Seven hours after the Emperor’s death

He started to hear voices.

‘He is coming back.’

The voices slowly became words.

‘Monitor his status. Are the servitors ready?’

The words formed sentences.

‘They are only awaiting your word, Brother-Chaplain.’

‘Set them to activate and destroy at the slightest anomaly.’

The sentences finally made sense.

Librarian Akichi opened his eyes.

He was kneeling in a small room in the middle of an elaborate protective ward. The lines of the ward were carved in the floor, and they were filled with a bluish, shiny metallic material. One of the walls was covered in a mirror. Akichi knew that there was an observation room behind the mirror. He also knew that the bluish metal channelled along the runes was a special psycurium alloy, an extremely psy-recative material with potent amplifying and psy-sensitive qualities.

He knew all this because he had planned this room with his Librarian brothers twenty-three years ago.

He was not alone in the room. There were four weaponized servitors in the four corners, pointing the tip of their guns at the Librarian. The guns were a mix of plasma, melta and bolter types complete with flamers, which meant the four of them were capable of hitting him with all kinds of ammunition at the same time. His body would be atomized in an instant, beyond any hope of having even a few cells remaining intact.

Chaplain Uskovich was standing in front of the kneeling Librarian. He had a huge tome open in his hands, and he was wearing his helmet. The skull-shaped faceplate showed no emotion, no hint as to what was about to happen next. The Chaplain simply looked on as two cyber-skulls equipped with what seemed to be medical instruments were hovering around Akichi’s head.

The Librarian was completely naked. He was still weak, and his head kept bowing down, which gave him the chance to have a good look at his body. He was covered in scars all over. While he was unconscious, somebody carved familiar-looking runes into his flesh. His Astartes physiology would normally have healed such injuries without much trace, but these cuts were deep, and whoever did it also rubbed some foreign material into the fresh wounds. The scars were black and the lines were surprisingly complete, which meant the perpetrator did a very thorough and careful work.

As if the scars had not been bad enough, he was also shackled. There were manacles on his wrist and on his neck, and the chains attached to these manacles forced him to kneel upright, with his arms stretched out sideways on his shoulder’s level. He could not see it properly from this position, but he could feel that his legs were similarly shackled to the ground. He had been rendered helpless in a very expert way indeed.

‘He is stable, Brother-Chaplain.’ The voice came from the speakers hidden in the wall of the chamber, but it was obvious to Akichi that whoever spoke was standing behind the mirror in the small observation chamber. He was probably the one who was operating the servo-skulls too. An Apothecary, obviously. Squad 4.2 perhaps? Yes, definitely. After all, they were the ones with whom he went to Cephola Base to conduct…

… the ritual.

It came back in an instant. Akichi’s body tensed as he tried to spring up on his feet – in vain, of course, as the shackles held him firmly down. The Librarian tried to pull on the two chains on his manacled arms – again, a futile attempt. He heaved and then he growled, which slowly became a loud, strong roar. There was anger, pain and frustration in his voice with a hint of what would have been panic in a normal, un-augmented human being.

Nothing helped. The two skulls hovered a little back as they detected active movement from the subject in front of them, but that was all. The Chaplain did not move an inch from where he was standing. The helmet covered his features, and any thought he might have had about his fellow Astartes was kept to himself.

The roar went soft first, then stopped altogether. Akichi was breathing heavily, but he was now able to focus his attention on the Fatemaker Chaplain.

‘What is this?’ he demanded.

‘Necessity,’ came the answer.

Akichi took a better look at the runes under his heels and on his torso.

‘Exorcism?’ he demanded.

He received no answer.

‘What is the meaning of this? Uskovich, what are you doing?’

The Chaplain’s head cocked on one side a little.

‘Do you need to ask when you know the answer?’

Akichi’s breathing stopped for a brief instant. His eyes broke away from the Librarian and slowly swept around the chamber once more. He opened his mouth a little, and his lips formed a little ‘o’.

‘You don’t believe what I said,’ he claimed with growing certainty. ‘You heard what I said aboard the Thunderhawk, but you decided not to believe me.’

‘It is not as simple as that,’ the Chaplain said.

‘How can you do that? Uskovich, you saw what happened at the base. Terra, we went there exactly to find out about this kind of catastrophe! Uskovich, I…’


This word; a single word which the Chaplain did not choose without reason, made the shackled Librarian pause. This in turn allowed the Chaplain to give an explanation.

There is a demonic infestation at Cephola Base. Minor entities appeared all over the place. Do you remember the one which attacked us at rally point beta?

Akichi frowned.

‘I remember… something,’ he admitted. ‘I was very weak… not quite myself…’

He suddenly jerked his head up.

‘Possessed?’ He pulled at his chains again. ‘No! NO!’ He was roaring again. ‘I am not! I am myself! It’s me, only me! Do you believe this? Do you believe that I am a Warp-thing’s puppet now?’

‘No, brother, I do not,’ the Chaplain said quietly but firmly.

Akichi stopped again. The Chaplain started to move with the open book in his hand. Akichi pulled at his chains again as Uskovich slowly approached him, paying special attention not to step on the lines which made up the runes on the floor.

‘If you were possessed, you would either not know about it, or you would be lost so much that you would deny it just as vehemently as you do now.’ The Chaplain stopped an arm’s length from Akichi. ‘However, I think that in this case, you are right, and nobody possessed you.’

‘Then why?’ asked the Librarian. ‘Do you perhaps not believe me what has just happened? Uskovich, the Emperor is…’

He stopped and raised his head so he could have a better look at Uskovich.

‘… dead.’

‘I thought you would stop me from saying it,’ he added a few seconds later.

‘I will do no such thing.’

‘How so?’

Uskovich made a sound which reminded Akichi a heavy sigh, and slowly closed the book in his hand. There was a small metal chain attached to the spine; he used it to tie the book to his belt, and then lowered the tome reverently. When his hands had become free, he reached for his helmet, and took it off. His noble face was tense and pale under it.

‘I am the Chaplain of the Fatemaker Chapter and Strike Force Four,’ he declared. ‘I am about to conduct one of the most severe rituals at my disposal to find out the truth about a brother who is under scrutiny at the moment. The skull-shaped faceplate is the only thing you are supposed to see while the ritual is being done, and it should also be the last thing you look upon were you to be found guilty. The fact that I lowered it suggests the degree of trust I have in you as well as the gravity of the situation we are in at the moment. Only an event which is so serious, with consequences of this magnitude, could make me break the traditions of the Astartes, the teachings of the Chapter and the Inquisition as well as my personal convictions.’

Akichi’s eyes narrowed.

‘Carry on,’ he said.

‘Akichi, we have every reason to believe that you are right. I had a discussion with the Captain, and I advised him to wait until we draw any final conclusions, but we are Fatemakers, and we survived so far only because we accept facts no matter how painful they are. Cephola Base is dead and tainted, and this suggests a serious psychic accident. The same psychic blast reached the inner planets within the system, and it killed at least a quarter billion people there to the best of our knowledge. This suggests a psy-force of unimaginable magnitude’

The Librarian’s face darkened.

‘The Astropaths aboard the opportunity died as well,’ the Chaplain continued. ‘They dried out as if the force which gave them power had been cut off. The Astronomicon is gone: not covered or hidden, but disappeared altogether. This suggests at the very least that Terra itself suffered a fatal catastrophe. The final piece, the only factor which we could not handle as a cold, hard fact, is you and your report about the death of the Emperor Himself.’

Uskovich shook his head. ‘If we treated your report as a fact, it would support all the other events which are happening around us. However, if you are true, then it also means that you are in fact the one and sole witness to this tragedy in the whole sector, no, the whole Segmentum. Have you got any idea how the Imperium would handle this? I don’t wish to silence you, and I won’t keep this to ourselves either. I have told the Captain as well: duty comes first. And yet, before we even stand in front of the Chapter-Master, we need absolute, definite proof, from a person who is without a doubt pure and reliable.’

Akichi’s face showed only shock during his fellow Astartes’s speech; by now, however, understanding began to dawn on him. He slowly and reluctantly nodded.

‘You need reinforcement,’ he said.

‘And I need to cut all possible loose ends,’ the Chaplain added. ‘I need to exclude all other possibilities before I can completely believe you. You can be possessed, and the ritual would reveal it; you can be damaged mentally, and the psycurium-runes would show it too. Better we do this than the Inquisition or the Grey Knights. You would not survive that.’

After a brief hesitation, Akichi closed his eyes. ‘I will cooperate with you.’ He opened his eyes again. ‘Brother, do you wish that I was broken or taken instead of being sound?’

‘I do,’ came the answer. ‘Woe to our species should you be right.’

‘But if I am right,’ Akichi insisted, ‘would you accept the responsibility?’

‘You know I would.’

Akichi nodded again with a slight movement of his head. Uskovich turned back and went to his original position.

‘I hope you know that even if this ritual is successful, the Inquisition will not accept our scan,’ the Librarian called after him. ‘They will do their own scan on me, no matter what.’

And kill me in the process.

Uskovich turned towards him, and the two men looked at each other with diamond-hard stares.

‘I know, brother. I am sorry.’ The Chaplain put his helmet back on, and unclasped the tome from his belt. ‘Are you ready?’

The Librarian did not flinch. He was not even trying his shackles any more.

‘I am.’

Uskovich opened the book, and started to read. The sentences of High Gothic came fluently from his lips, as was expected from a man who had already done such things in the past.

Imperator qui nobis protegit …

Akichi closed his eyes and repeated the words. He had done this before as well, although he had never been on the receiving end before. His familiarity was vital, however: in his weakened mental and physical state, he could easily make a mistake, which the ritual would sense and retaliate. Too much was at risk for him to simply fail at this.

The runes on the floor started to glow.

There were eleven bodies on the outer hull now.

Captain Malistrum was watching the screen on the command bridge with impassive eyes. Since Chaplain Uskovich had started the exorcism ritual two hours earlier, three more figures had joined the eight already standing in the cold vacuum of space, looking up and stretching their arms towards the Fatemaker vessel. There was no sound accompanying the picture, which was not magnified enough to allow the watchers make out individual features and faces. This, however, did not make the situation any easier. If anything, it added a silent horror to the view. They were obviously not humans any more, but this was not shown in any distorted limb or weird body language. Everything seemed all right on them. Yet, they existed without an atmosphere, and for some reason, they were able to sense that a couple of thousand miles from the Base, there was a space vessel full of living people. Living people who they seemingly wanted to reach.

The crew was positively nervous seeing the image on the screen. The Captain was not because he was an Astartes whose mind was trained and conditioned rigorously exactly against such dangers. It was then indeed ironic that he was perhaps the only one on the bridge who knew exactly that the things inside those poor dead wretches did not, could not see the vessel from that distance.

They, in fact, could only see all the souls-lights on the ship, and they were reaching for those.

The Captain had a difficult decision to make. The taint at the Base had started to grow out of what could be safely ignored. It did not seem that the psy-blast had actually torn a hole in the material universe – he had seen it happen before, and the signs of that were much more… well, spectacular. Still, the Base could not be left here on its own. There were a lot of psy-sensitive material and objects, there. The Base did not collect dangerous psychic objects – that was the prerogative of the Inquisition – but the Astropaths occasionally used certain means to enhance their power, and it was not sensible to leave these means in a place which was now under the influence of Chaos. Also, there were vessels docked at the Base which could allow anyone there to reach at least the inner planets. Malistrum doubted that the situation could be made any worse with these dozen or so possessed things getting there, but there was a clear protocol for such events, and he had seen on several occasions just what unobserved protocols could lead to. Chaos cannot be handled half-heartedly.

An effective quarantine in this case was not really possible. There was no ship which could do this job properly. The Opportunity had survived the accident only by virtue of its running Geller field, and, as such, had also appointed herself the only Imperial Navy presence in the system. It would fall to this ship to guard the Base against further damage or a possible break-out, and she undoubtedly had the means to do so, but it would still not be done.

The Fatemakers were not watchdogs. They were enforcers, and they were what the names of their companies indicated: strike forces which reduced local crisis situations to a level where other forces could handle them, then they moved on to the next danger to cut it up into manageable size too. With the inner planets in turmoil and the navy presence gone, it would be up to Strike Force Four to solve the issue of the fallen worlds, close this installation and maintain Imperial rule in the system in general.

It could be done. It had been done before by other strike forces. However, those companies and vessels did not have a much bigger, Galaxy-wide crisis to solve at the same time.

Transmitting the information the Fatemakers had learnt about the Emperor was out of question. The only two psykers alive in the system were probably the ones on the Opportunity, and neither Yasmilda nor Akichi was able to send astropathic messages. If Malistrum wanted to warn the Imperium, he had to deliver the message personally.

The Astronomicon was still missing. Travel would be difficult now; not only was the Opportunity facing dangers leaving the system, but with no communication and no fast way to return here, the Cephola system could not reasonably expect any relief force to arrive in the next years, perhaps even decades. The Captain had experience in this respect too. If the Opportunity leaves, and she would leave within a day, the Base would be left back unprotected. Perhaps it would lead to nothing. In a catastrophe like this, with millions of people already dead, what difference would these demons make?

Perhaps a lot. The risk was too great in any case. The Base could not be cleansed, it could not be ignored, so it had to be destroyed.

There were two problems with this decision. The first was almost insignificant in the light of the events unfolding, but it mattered a lot to the Fatemakers. The two dead Librarians, Maartoch and Sathori, were left behind in the Astrophatic chamber, their gene-seed unharvested and unattended. There was a great emotional factor involved in the gene-seed at every Astartes Chapter, and the Fatemakers were no exception, but there was also the practical consideration of robbing the Chapter of four new battle-brothers in the next generation of warriors. The chapter could grow gene-seed in specially selected humans, but the loss of mature, original gene-material meant a temporary invulnerability even besides the indignity of having to abandon senior Astartes officers in this manner.

The second problem was much bigger. Whatever happened at the séance, whether Librarian Akichi was right or not, the Base and the chamber itself was a piece of possible physical evidence. If Malistrum destroyed it, the evidence would be gone forever, and only the Librarian would remain. The recollection of the events in Terra would be gone forever, and the Malachias Sector would probably never get the chance to assess and prepare for the oncoming crisis.

Also, it seemed like a coward’s retreat; an attempt to make possible evidences disappear in case they were used against Strike Force Four. Malistrum had a strong sense of duty, perhaps stronger than even his fellow Space Marines, but his duty was now telling him two different things. Should he destroy the Base as was his duty as an Astartes Captain, and, in doing so, destroy the evidence of an event that potentially changed Imperial life forever? Would it be an escape from possible consequences? Should he leave the Base as it is to allow others study what happened here later? Would he this way condemn this system and who knows what else to a slow and painful death? What was the right choice?

‘Captain,’ the voice of a crewman called.

The Captain looked at the screen and saw yet another figure slowly joining those already at the outer hull. It was a much larger one than the rest with broader shoulder and a hulking, menacing appearance. Even the imperfect image showed just how much bigger this one was compared to the others.

Astartes-big even.

Malistrum straightened. The image did not show much colour; after all, this was space, and a faraway place in space as well. Still, the rock-crete grey armour was unmistakeable. The captain was slowly gripped by cold, silent rage as the figure reached the small group already on the hull, then looked up and slowly stretched out his hands towards the display.

Towards the Captain.

‘Sathori,’ breathed Malistrum.

This had actually decided it. The Fatemakers had to put a smiling face to a lot of indignities: incompetent leaders, lack of sufficient reaction time, the kind of independence other chapters were said to enjoy, but this was just one step over the line. Nobody did this to a fellow Astartes. Nobody and nothing. No demon took the body of a Fatemaker Librarian and got away with it.

‘Move closer to the base and arm the main weapons,’ he said. The crew did not need any explanation or encouragement. They all saw the possessed body of Librarian Sathori, and they did not have to look upon their captain’s face to know what kind of mood he was in.

This one was not just for the sake of the Imperium and the Librarian. This was retribution for themselves.

Chaplain Uskovich knew it for a fact that the man who suffered the most in the history of Mankind was a person called Carl Tonius. He read it in an Inquisition book, so he had no reason to doubt it; however, he also knew that the ritual that Librarian Akichi was undergoing made him a close second.

Akichi’s sweat-covered face was illuminated by the ghastly blue lights of the runes on the floor. He himself seemed to be alight as well: his eyes shone, and his pores on his naked torso seemed to emit a dull light on their own. This was actually a good sign, one intended by Uskovich from the very beginning.

Chaplain Uskovich was not originally a member of Strike Force Four. He had started his service in Strike Force Three, and Malistrum’s company received him after he had returned to his Chapter from the service of the Inquisition at the beginning of the Opportunity’s last patrol round. The Chaplain had worked together with some of the brightest minds within that organization: some of them were puritans, some radicals, but they were all shrewd and resourceful, as befitting to people who had to preserve peace in the 42nd millennium. He had learned a lot from them about the Warp, the Arch-Enemy and the means to defend against them. The whole chamber and indeed, the ritual was a culmination of his knowledge and experience. It had taken him years of preparation and extensive help from the Librarian cadre, Akichi included, to create a fool-proof way to conduct decent exorcist rituals. Since then, he had managed to complete dozens of scans and five exorcisms. Granted, the Inquisition had taken all five of his subjects for further examination, but they also reported back that three of them had been judged pure and untainted and consequently, were allowed to live. A more than 50% success rate was enough for Uskovich to believe that today’s ritual would be successful too.

The task could not have been done without Akichi’s contribution. The Chaplain had no psychic abilities, and the runes needed to be powered by the shackled Librarian. As he was the subject of the exorcist ritual, this made things a little more complicated than usual.

The first task was to make sure that Akichi was not somehow possessed by an alien entity. Normally, a Librarian could have made a psychic scan, and the psycurium runes’ enhancing abilities would have made sure that no Warp-dweller remained undetected. The actual banishment ceremony was dangerous and uncertain, and there was always a chance that the subject would not remain alive, still a success by inquisitorial standards. The banishment part could not be done by the subject himself. All Uskovich could do on his own was to find out whether there was an actual possession.

The runes, charged as they were by psychic energy, were protective devices and indicators, but they had no intrusive qualities. They were glowing with a healthy blue light, which was normal when the energy they used was not influenced by any Warp-entity. That Akichi’s mind was not influenced by a demon was clear after the very first second, but this was not enough. Some entities have been known to use the host’s body as a kind of anchor, binding it to reality and allowing it to be undetected by the host, whose mind was not even touched in this phase of the possession. The runes were able to reveal such things as well, but if total success was to be guaranteed, virtually every cell in the subject’s body had to be checked one after the other by washing cleansing energy through them.

Stimulation of such a degree could be achieved, of course, by Imperial medical science, and the servo-skulls which were guided remotely by the Apothecary of squad 4.2 were doing exactly that to the Librarian. The problem was that the cells had to be virtually overcharged with electric impulses and then had to remain that way – after all, a demon could simply move over from one part of the body to another, already checked part.

All this was clear, logical, scientific thinking worthy of the 42nd millennium. The problem was, however, also obvious. One of the human body’s greatest stimulation was the feeling of pain, which the servo-skulls were very apt to inflict. And so, by the end of the second hour, Librarian Akichi’s every single body cell was charged by blindingly painful impulses.

An ordinary man would have passed out in the first minute, and he would have gone mad around the twentieth. Uskovich knew about the traditions within the Imperial Fist Space Marines, and he also heard about the neuro-gloves which they used to chastise and cleanse themselves through pain. Akichi was undergoing a much similar experience, but he did so for a dangerously long time. There was a chance that his nerves would be wrecked, rendered completely useless because of all the stimuli; pain could even be permanently burnt into his receptors, making the Librarian incapable of feeling or experiencing anything else. Yet, there was no other way for him but to take part and suffer.

Akichi did not emit a single cry of pain during the whole ritual. There was no time for it. Chaplain Uskovich had been reading from the codex in his hand prayers and holy litanies, and he had been repeating them without missing a word. This was more of a mental exercise than an act of devotion: the Space Marines were trained and conditioned in such a way that these texts triggered automatic mental reactions in them, erasing all stray thoughts and making them all focussed on their tasks.

He had to be utterly focussed. His part was only to maintain the flow of psychic energy in the runes, but his very life depended on it. If the runes had gone out, there would simply have been no way for a non-psyker to tell the difference between the subject passing out and so losing control over the psychic flow and a demon about to burst out of the subject in an attempt to taint everyone aboard the ship.

It was ironic in a way: so much preparation, so much exotic material, two hours of pain, misery, psychic exertion to the limit of his abilities, and the basic rule of the ritual was so childishly simple: if the runes had started flickering, the Chaplain would have uttered a command or the Apothecary would have pushed a button in the observation room, and the servitors in the four corner of the chamber would have pulled the triggers on their weapons, never to lift their fingers from them again.

Akichi was visibly shaking. The servo-skulls were hovering around his head now, poking at his skull with their mechadendrites. The Librarian’s eyes bulged. There was suffering in them the chaplain had not believed he would ever see even in mortal humans, and yet the ritual could not end. As long as the runes pulsed with blue light, the Librarian was pure and of sound mind, and in the present situation, nothing else really mattered.

The Chaplain had the luxury of having a mask in front of his face, so nobody could see what he was thinking. His voice did not falter as he read out the necessary texts and quotes, mentally strengthening Akichi as best as he could. He was really worried now. A psychic scan would have been so much simpler! Not less painful, actually, but it would have taken a tenth of the time. It seemed more and more that the Librarian would prove to be pure only to fall into madness or go catatonic altogether.

Come on, Akichi. We need you badly. Don’t die on me just yet.

‘Full physical stimulation in thirty seconds’, the voice of the Apothecary warned him on the vox. The scan is about to finish then. It was time too; in retrospect, the Chaplain did not understand how the Librarian could have withstood so much pain. Even Astartes had their limits. This was one of the credos of the chapter, one which had been proven right several times since Borshak. The point of this ritual was exactly to push the Astartes to the limit of his endurance and then a little further.

The bluish light engulfed the Librarian completely. He literally emanated his psychic energy through his eyes, his open mouth, his skin, his cells. He was shaking like an epileptic, he was frothing at the mouth, but his voice did not falter as he repeated the final words of a prayer mantra. His pupils were so wide his iris was not visible at all, and the veins in the white of his eyes were coloured with the blue of his psychic power. He never took his eyes off the Chaplain. His life depended on it, but it was more than just that, Uskovich guessed. It was his sense of duty, the unfinished business of warning whoever he could about what he had seen during that cursed Astropathic séance.

The Chaplain was afraid. He was afraid, not because he had any doubt now that the Fatemaker Librarian was tainted or unsound, but because he was more and more convinced that he was saying the truth. This kind of truth had the potential to destroy everything Uskovich had: the Imperium, his Chapter, his faith, any hope for the future. The Imperium knew how to handle news like this, and so did the Chaplain. Uskovich had the means to silence his fellow Astartes once and for all.

The fact that the thought occurred at all to him indicated just how desperate the situation really was. Uskovich had his own sense of duty which he never failed to follow, and he had no intention to change just now. He had faced Warp creatures, the destruction of worlds and completely hopeless situations. He would face this situation too.

‘Physical scan complete,’ the Apothecary voxed.

The prayer came to and end. The Chaplain looked at the half-conscious face of the Librarian, then his eyes moved over to the runes on the floor. He looked at them one by one: every holy word applied in a symbolic form, every line, every circle as well as all the astrological signs were alive with a strong, unwavering light.

The Chaplain closed the book.

‘Enough,’ he said.

The lights went out. The servo-skulls floated away from the kneeling Librarian. Akichi’s head bowed down.

The Fatemaker librarian took a deep breath, and slowly straightened. He cast his head back, and emitted a high-pitched scream. He cried not from the throat, not from the vocal cords, but seemingly from his lungs, from his guts, from somewhere deep inside him. It seemed that his scream would never end: he pressed all the air from his three lungs into this one cry of pain. Finally, as his voice started to falter, he fell forward – as much as his chains let him – and cast his head down again. His cry slowly became a sob-like whimper. His body spasmed periodically as it was still wrecked by the memory of the painful stimulation he had just received.

Neither the Chaplain nor the Apothecary on the other side of the observation window said anything. It was Akichi’s task to collect himself after a torture like that. Physically, he had no injury, and there was not much they could do about the damage his nervous system received. He had to come out of it on his own.

After a few minutes, the sobs finished. The Librarian shook a last time. He sniffed shortly, then he took another breath, and he looked up. His blood-shot eyes linked with the skull-faced helmet of the Chaplain.

Akichi tried to speak, but no voice came out of his open mouth. He moved his tongue uncertainly, then he made another try.

‘Whe… well?’

The Chaplain clasped the book back to his belt, and took off his helmet. His eyes met the gaze of his fellow Astartes.

‘You are pure, and your mind is undamaged, brother,’ he said.

The Librarian made a strange face. Perhaps he was trying to smile, but the muscles in his body were reluctant to receive orders from his central nervous system; a side-effect of the ritual which would only go away in time.

‘Yye…you ahen’t… happy about iht…’

Uskovich shook his head.

‘This means that you are right, and what you saw was true.’

‘Eiyyh… could be… misthaken…’

‘You are too good to make mistakes,’ Uskovich said. ‘Especially a mistake this big.’

The two Astartes looked at each other, their eyes showing the horrible realization of the end of everything. They were busy with their own thoughts when they started to feel a faint tremor in the floor under them. They were both experienced enough to know what it was: the Opportunity had just opened fire at something.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Mon Apr 23, 2012 5:25 pm

I am continuously impressed by the quality of your writing, and am looking forward to more!
My Amazon writer page - check out my novel and short stories!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Apr 27, 2012 5:51 pm

New Friday, new update.

I would like to thank everybody for the 1000 views; it felt really good :D .

Part Fourteen

As soon as the vessel of Strike Force Four got into range, it started to bomb the hull of the Base with its bombardment cannons. A lance strike would have been just as efficient, and it would have certainly been more accurate, but Malistrum was Fatemaker enough to decide against connecting the group of possessed psykers and the Opportunity with a continuous energy beam. The salvo from the ship’s cannons would make the group of figures disappear from the outer hull, and then the lances could do their job as well.

Normally, the base would have been protected by its shields and its weapon batteries. An engagement between a Space Marine Strike Cruiser and a modified Ramillies star-fort would have ended in the defeat of the Space Marines. However, Cephalo Base was dead now: its shield were not erected, and there was nobody aboard to man the weapon systems. The task of the Opportunity was not an engage an enemy, but to destroy an inanimate object.

The lances bore a deep hole in the side of the base. The Opportunity’s well-trained gun crew was careful to guide the beams so that they carve into the hull as much as possible. They would not have been enough to destroy it completely; certainly not in a reasonable time. The base had a reactor core, however: in the middle of the whole installation, there was enough energy contained to tear the base apart in no time. All the Fatemakers had to do was reach it.

There was no readable expression on Captain Malistrum’s face as he was standing in the middle of the command bridge, watching as the Opportunity slowly burned away the armour plates and the outer decks of Cephola Base. His murderous rage was controlled now, replaced by a cold determination to erase the whole Base out of existence. Sathori’s possessed body had given the captain the final push to end this matter once and for all, and face the consequences of his actions as required. Space Marines were created to act, not to ponder, and so he did what he was best at. The analysis of the crisis would now have to wait.

‘The lance has burned through the mid-decks, Captain,’ one of the serf-crew said. ‘We are ready for the next phase.’

‘Move away from the Base,’ Malistrum answered. ‘re-position the ship to mid-range of the cannons.’

‘Yes, Brother-Captain.’

Malistrum watched as the ship slowly distanced itself from the already wrecked space station. There was a visible hole gaping in the side of the Base. The hole was glowing hot, and it was spewing forth chunks of debris into cold vacuum. The small cloud of wreckage provided some visual cover, and the distance was also getting greater, but the Opportunity’s instruments could still calculate the necessary adjustments and target data for cannon shots.

‘We are in position, Brother-Captain,’ the gunmaster of the crew said.

‘Single shots from the bombardment cannons, starting from Primus, with ten seconds breaks,’ the captain ordered. ‘You may start firing when you are ready.’

‘Yes, Brother-Captain,’ the officer said. ‘Starting to fire now.’

The Fatemaker vessel shuddered again. This tremor was slightly different than what was normal during weapons discharge. The Imperial tactical guides favoured overwhelming firepower in most forms of naval engagements, which meant that most captains fired with all available guns at the same time. Now, however, the Opportunity only fired its cannons one at a time. The goal now was a single, precise shot, impacting within the hole burned by the lances of the ship. That one shot would have torn through the inner decks, reaching the reactor core and detonating it in an instant. The bombardment cannons were not extremely accurate, but with the necessary preparation and a well-trained crew, a few shots were more than enough to do the job.

Primus, Secundus, Tertius and Quartus Cannons all hurled their projectiles within thirty seconds of one another. There was more than a minute of silence as the shells were racing towards the target.

‘Primus projectile has reached target. No visible effect,’ the officer observing the shells’ course reported.

‘Secundus projectile has reached target. No visible effect,’ he added a few seconds later.

‘Tertius projectile has reached target. Significant rise in radiation emission,’ came the next report.

‘Quartus projectile…’

The officer had no time to finish his sentence. The faraway Base was reduced to a great fireball, which shone so brightly that even the people on the observation deck squinted for a second. The light did not last long; soon, it gave way to the darkness of space again. The Base was no longer visible from the viewport.

‘The destruction of Cephola Base is confirmed. I detect no larger piece of debris remaining in the area,’ the officer reported.

So the fourth shot was an overkill, Malistrum thought. The Captain made a quick prayer to the souls of his two Librarians, one of whom was defiled by the Archenemy. They were good Space Marines, and they were good men too. The two of them had saved a countless number of mortals, even worlds in their long years of service. Astartes in this new age rarely survived their first decade, which made veterans all the more irreplaceable. Strike Force Four and the Chapter in general would have to struggle to train new Librarians, especially now that their gene-seed could not be retrieved.

Malistrum frowned. These few seconds were all he could afford to mourn his trusted comrades. New challenges were waiting for him, the report of Librarian Akichi being one of them. If Akichi survived the ordeal which Chaplain Uskovich had set for him, he would have an awfully lot to explain. May the Emperor give that he had some kind of explanation.

‘Give me a general vox link to the ship,’ he ordered, and then he leaned forward so the communications board could receive his voice properly.

‘This is Brother-Captain Malistrum. I am convening a general meeting of all Astartes officers in twenty minutes. Brother-Sergeant Gorski, Brother-Chaplain Uskovich and Brother-Librarian Akichi are going to contact us through audio-visual link in the conference room. That is all.’

Malistrum nodded to his voxmen, and once the line was cut off, he gave a set of orders.

‘Inform Cephola III that the Cephola Astropathicus Base was infested with Warp-intruders, and Strike Force Four was forced to issue a localised Exterminatus against the base. Attach all the recordings we have of the incident, except,’ he raised a finger, ‘for any vox-communication of Squad 4.2 or Brother-Chaplain Uskovich. Also attach the inquisitorial mandate with all the code words which enables us to issue Exterminatus orders. Transmit the message on all military lines and repeat it for twenty-five times.’

As he continued to speak, the Captain straightened and went for the door.

‘Report to the conference room as soon as the Cephola Navy answers our message in any form or if anything happens which requires my attention.’ He turned to the highest ranking human on the bridge ‘You are in command for my absence. Keep a sharp eye out, and consider our situation to be in enemy territory. The Emperor protects.’

‘The Emperor protects, Brother-Captain.’

Malistrum went to the door. As it opened, the Captain had a moment of uncertainty. He had just invoked the name of the Emperor; however, for the first time of his life, he could no longer tell whether there was still an actual being who could have answered his call.

‘Miklas, we are afraid.’

The warrior-serf sighed and sat back in his chair. He and the other humans around him were sitting in one of the public diners in the middle decks. There was no activity here outside mealtimes, and so it was ideal for a private meeting. It was not meant to be a secret. The serfs would never have done anything which might have seemed to be conspiracy against their Fatemaker masters. It was not in their nature. The Astartes were their leaders and protectors, and although it was difficult to handle some of their more inexperienced, sometimes even childish behaviour concerning some basic human issues, the crew of the Opportunity admired the Space Marines too much to lose their trust.

This situation, however, went beyond the normal routine of the ship. The psychic accident attacked the serfs in a way which they had not experienced before. The Chapter kept the mortals out of Warp-based engagements whenever it was possible. Even for the few veterans who had felt any similar effects before, this was something new and frightful.

The humans did not dare approach the Space Marines with questions, so naturally they went to the two people who spent the most time with the transhuman warriors: Miklas and his son, Dmitrija. After they had found them, they went straight to a familiar place where they could speak.

‘You should have some faith in the Astartes, Savik.’ Miklas was facing the man he was addressing in a seemingly casual way. ‘I have seen a psychic attack before, and this was exactly the same. A rather strong one, granted, but still, a simple attack.’

The man seemed unconvinced.

‘Every man on board felt it. Even the Astartes felt it. Miklas, I saw Battle-Brother Pelidor on deck thirteen. He saw on all fours, and he was shaking his head like he was punched in the face. Miklas, a Fatemaker was knocked out flat by… whatever it was.’

‘So it was a big attack. Savik, I was unconscious for almost fifteen minutes. I fell like a log, and I woke up at the bottom of the stairs on the very same deck you found Battle-Brother Pelidor. If I had managed to climb the stairs before the attack, I would have fallen down and broken my neck.’

‘Sometimes even the Fatemakers find something which is stronger than them,’ Dmitrija’s arm had got hurt during the attack, and was in a sling. The young serf did not seem to be bothered much by it. ‘When it happens, they suffer too. They always tell us that they are not gods. They feel pain, they can be hurt, they can die. Even so, they hold their ground and strike back, this is the reason why they are called superhuman.’

Miklas pointed at his son as he was speaking. ‘Exactly. I have seen quite a few of them die, but I have never seen their killer get away with it. The rest of the Fatemakers always hit back, and hit back hard.’

‘That must have been the cannon fire earlier,’ Dmitrija added. ‘The Opportunity has enough firepower to level even a space station. I think that whatever was there attacked us, and our answer killed them.’

‘I heard that Librarian Akichi was half dead when they came back with him,’ Savik continued nervously. ‘Our Astropaths died. And nobody saw what happened with the other two Librarians.’

‘Brother-Librarian,’ Miklas said.


‘To us, he is Brother-Librarian, not just Librarian. And if this is all true, then yes, the attack hurt us more than anything I can remember. Still,’ he continued, ‘there is one reason why I am so calm now.’

‘What is it?’ Savik asked, to which Miklas merely smiled.

‘We are still alive. If someone attacks with whichcraft, it is always over very quickly, one way or another. Either we die or we survive because they die, and we survived. This means that the enemy is dead, and the Fatemakers won. As they always do,’ he added.

‘I agree with father,’ Dmitrija said. ‘Brother-Captain Malistrum has called for a general meeting. This only happens after a crisis, not during it. There is no time for it while there is still fighting to do. Whatever happened is now over.’

‘Why did they not invite the serfs to the meeting?’ another man asked. ‘They never keep secrets from us. Why now?’

Miklas wanted to answer, but his son was faster.

‘This is not true. They never invite us humans when it is about whichcraft. You see,’ he explained, ‘all such things have to be reported to the Inquisition, and they don’t want us to get in their business. There was a psyker in Belandon too, but they did not discuss that at the meeting after the battle either. Or would you like to know every details of their missions and then make regular reports to the Inquisitors?’

He raised an eyebrow to Savik, and he paled.

‘By the Throne, no!’

Miklas stretched his arms. ‘So there you go. There was a fight, they hurt us and we hurt them back. We had losses. Astropaths, Librarians. People who use psycraft. We, normal humans are alive, and this means that the Fatemakers won again. We will learn what we must, and our masters will deal with the Inquisition without us.’ He looked at Savik too. ‘Does this make sense?’

Savik scratched his head. ‘I suppose it does,’ he admitted.

‘Right.’ Miklas grinned and watched as his son said more reassuring things to his fellow serfs.

His grin was fake. He felt none of confidence he was trying to show towards the others.

First of all, the losses were too high for his taste. He had absolute confidence in his masters, but even if he believed that they were strong, this only meant that they had now been attacked really hard.

The other thing was less tangible. He had a strange feeling in his guts. It was not nervousness or fear: he was not immune to those feelings, and he knew what they were like. This was something else, something deep within his mind, within his soul. It was difficult to put his finger on it because this was a completely new experience, but he could tell from the faces his friends were making that the others were feeling the same way.

It was as if something important had been taken away from them.

Some facts were hard to accept, even for a Fatemaker.

The Chapter philosophy was crystal clear on most issues. Life was unfair. The universe was uncaring. Mankind was essentially weak. The few strong and brave had to work as hard as possible and then even harder than that to make up for the deficiency of the others. The one charitable act the Space Marines were able to perform was to give others a chance so even the weaker could fight their battles. In this, the Chapter was absolutely alone. They could accept help, in fact, they could not survive without help, but the very nature of the Universe meant that everything and everyone was a potential threat. Nothing was above these simple rules: not the Lords of Terra, not the Imperial Army, not even other Astartes. It was a gloomy outlook on life, but it was also one that suited the sad reality that was the 42nd millennium.

There were only two things which were exempted from the above rules. The Fatemakers formed a close-knit family, if not on a Chapter-level, then certainly in the individual strike forces. This loyalty was not taken for granted, and the Space Marine Chaplains took pains to monitor and form the bond between the Astartes and human contingent in every company.

The other exception was the Emperor. All Fatemakers worshipped the lonely figure on the Golden Throne out of genuine religious devotion. On the one hand, this worked in accordance with Chapter policies; on the other hand, however, this was also a much-needed safety net for the Fatemakers’ otherwise bleak and hopeless views. The Universe, the Galaxy, the Imperium may be against them, but the Emperor would never betray them in any possible way. He literally protected, he personified everything which the Chapter found good in humanity: the willingness to make sacrifices, a long-term view, an unshakable fighting spirit and the lack of any compromise in any issue no matter how trivial. He was eternal and He was unbeatable. He was the only constant, the only exception, the only hope for a better future. Only Him and noone else.

This constant had just been taken from Strike Force Four. The Fatemaker officer cadre was sitting in the briefing room which had last been occupied after the Belandon Incident. Almost two dozen Astartes were sitting around the round conference table: Sergeants, Techmarines, Apothecaries and Malistrum, their Captain were listening intently as Librarian Akichi was explaining to them the nature of the nightmare they were in.

The human contingent was not invited. There were only two non-Astartes personnel present: Adept Brakk 83/AF and the shivering, miserable form of Navigator Yasmilda. The conference room was linked with the containment level via display, and the screen showed the three ranking officers: Librarian Akichi, Sergeant Gorski and Chaplain Uskovich. Although Akichi had been acquitted of all charges after the exorcist ritual, he had a task which bound him to that section of the ship: now that he proved to be pure and true, he had to scan his fellow Space Marines, Uskovich included. He was weak from his ordeals; his movements were uncertain and there was a numbness in his voice as if his tongue had still been stiff. It would take days for him to recover, not to mention attempt any serious psychic activity, which meant the whole squad and the two officers were tied to the containment level indefinitely.

Perhaps this was better so. Perhaps a direct physical confrontation with the rest of the officer cadre would have caused more troubles.

Akichi was about to finish his speech. He had spent considerable time explaining the details of the mission and the vision he had received at Cephola Base. He was frank and professional, showing none of the symptoms and psychological trauma he had displayed earlier. The ritual weakened him but also strengthened his resolve, as if he had been justified in some way. He answered all questions, explained details over and over again, and he did so without forcing his own opinion upon his audience. There were a lot of questions he had to answer, but surprisingly little interruption and reaction. To an inexperienced outsider, the whole room seemed to be disciplined, almost calm.

Captain Malistrum was not a casual observer. He had been serving with these people for years, even decades. He knew how each of them behaved and thought, and he also knew what the typical behaviour of his Space Marines were. He could tell at a glance that they were positively edgy.

Sergeant Essen wiped his mouth every five minutes, only to place his palm at the back of his neck and rub it for a few seconds. The mouth of Sergeant Andorias was a straight, paper-thin line. One of the Apothecaries was slowly circling his index finger on the surface of the smooth conference table. None of these things were normal. One of the subtle differences between Space Marines and humans was that the former were too disciplined (and, let’s face it, too many emotions and mental features which normal people had were missing in them) to show these physical signs of anxiety. Zeal, hate, belligerence; these things were encouraged among the various Astartes chapters, but the Fatemakers could rarely afford even these feelings. Now it seemed the blow they suffered was too much for them to block out.

The last question came from Techmarine Guztav. He had implants in his brain, and this probably prevented him from venting his shock and disbelief through his body language. He leaned forward, and asked that one, perhaps most important question.

‘Librarian Akichi, you have told us all about the incident and his vision. I have no doubt in your abilities or the means of your profession. Still, I have to ask you if you believe that the Emperor, beloved by all, is dead.’

It was a brutally honest question, and the body language of all present showed this: everybody tensed, and they listened to the Librarian attentively. Akichi merely nodded.

‘I have no doubt about the clarity of my vision. We have the data confirming it. There is no Astronomicon, our psykers soul-bound to the Emperor are dead, my Tarot shows nothing. All physical signs of the Emperor disappeared. I saw the sword which stroke Him in my vision. It was not symbolic, it was the real thing which the real intruder in the Imperial Palace was wielding. The power that weapon was emanating was enough even for such a terrible task. Yes, Techmarine Guztav. I believe that the Emperor is dead.’

There was more noise now: hisses, chairs creaking as the Fatemakers started to move, muttering. Nobody started to shout, cry or even speak. The Astartes warriors were struggling now to accept the unacceptable.

‘I find it difficult to believe this,’ Sergeant Andorias stated. He was not moving, but the tension was clearly visible on his face.

Chaplain Uskovich did not speak much during Akichi’s report, but now he did not remain silent.

‘I vouch for the credibility of Brother-Librarian Akichi. I checked him thoroughly, and there is no taint or mental disorder in him. I have known him long enough to place my trust in his words.’

‘I am not doubting his person or his experience at the Base,’ Andorias answered, ‘but I can’t make myself believe it. Not this. Not the death of…’

He took a deep breath.

‘Not the death of the Emperor. No. Not Him. Not…’

His voice faltered again.

‘It is hard to believe this when the heavens are still in place, Chaos did not swallow down the whole universe and there are no cackling demons hovering over our head,’ mentioned Sergeant Essen. He was massaging his forehead now, and there was a tiredness in his voice.

‘There is, however, a whole planetary system wrecked by the psychic side-effect of a terrible catastrophe, and the Emperor’s power left altogether.’

This last remark came from Adept Brakk 83/AF. The two sergeants glared him angrily, but a new voice followed immediately.

‘He is dead.’ Navigator Yasmilda was crouching in her chair, pulling her legs up and folding her arms over her knees. ‘Our saviour is dead. His guiding light is extinguished just like Him.’ She looked up. ‘Can’t you feel it? Don’t you feel that something is wrong?’

The Fatemakers had no answer because they felt it. There was a feeling in them which was difficult to define but which was unnerving nonetheless. Something was missing, which had previously been there, but nobody had bothered to think of it because it seemed to be so natural, so characteristically part of the soul of every living human in the Galaxy.

Later ages called the months following the Emperor’s death the period of Withdrawal. Almost ten millennia of worshipping an immense psychic being had its imprint on the human soul. People may not have known of the Emperor of Mankind, but the species’ collective mind was so absorbed in the power of its saviour that His disappearance left an empty hole in people. This was the fear Savik was talking about to Miklas and his son, and this was the strange feeling the Fatemaker Space Marines were experiencing.

The Captain looked at the faces of his men, and knew it was time to interfere.

‘We cannot deny the facts, but we cannot deny our convictions either.’ He looked around the audience who went quiet just as soon as his soothing voice started to fill the room. ‘The signs are there, and this suggests at the very least that something awful has befallen Terra and the Emperor. At the same time,’ he added, ‘Sergeant Essen and Andorian are right. The Emperor is the one constant in our life. Without Him, Mankind will lose, if not today, then in a year, a decade, a century. This is an awful prospect, and this is something which we, Fatemakers are completely helpless against.’

The Captain stood up from his chair and started to walk in the room. Two dozen eyes in the room and on the display were following him as he went on.

‘We are a chapter of eight separate strike forces and a trio of warships in reserve. Our duty is to guard the safety of a sector which is a whole Segmentum away from the present crisis. There is absolutely no way to receive confirmation from Terra. Not with our Astropaths down. Whatever is happening in the centre of the Imperium, the Fatemakers will play no part in it.’

Malistrum waited until his words sank in, then continued.

‘We have lost our Astropaths, we may have lost the Astronomicon for good, we might even have lost the Emperor, but we have not lost our duty. Our duty is to react, to strike and eliminate, or, if this is not possible, to contain or reduce the effects of military crises of the Malachias Sector. This, and no more. We are still Fatemakers, and as Fatemakers, we still have duty and the means to react even to a crisis as big as the one we are facing.’

‘Are you suggesting we should make emergency plans for the death…’ one of the sergeants asked, but he could not make himself say those words.

‘Plans for the already present danger of the Malachias Sector falling apart,’ the Captain answered. ‘As a strike force, we are only able to react to one crisis at a given time. We need reinforcement, we need backup, we need numbers. For this reason, I have made some unusual decisions.’

He looked around the assembly.

‘We are not going to the Ablathea system. We will not take part in that war, nor in any other military conflict currently in our view. We are heading for the reserve fleet of our Chapter; firstly to give them all information we have and secondly, to unite with them. There will be conflicts in this sector the likes of which we have not seen since the Neodevourer Wars. The Chapter will need every soldier, every vessel, all the help it can get. Mark my words, there will be a time when Strike Force Four will decide the fate of dozens of worlds and millions of people.’

‘We are not created to judge the nature of the Emperor or the extent of catastrophes like this. We are weapons, and a weapon needs a goal. We still have a goal. We fight because we can, we protect others because we are strong, we give others the chance to survive because we have that power. We are Fatemakers, and we are going to make fate. As long as we have each other, we still have enough.’

Malistrum could see that this helped a little. His brothers sat straighter, and the unconscious reactions: facial expressions, tapping, moving in the chair all disappeared. Whatever happened in the world, the Fatemakers were still the conditioned, transhuman defenders of Mankind. They were a weapon which did not slip in a firm grip, and he was firm and strong enough to lead them.

‘Still,’ he added, ‘we need extra information as we head for our brothers. We are going to need to stop and re-supply every now and then, so I have decided that the first waypoint for us will be the shrineworld Saint Menthas.’

The Space Marines in the room exchanged uncertain looks. A shrineworld? The seats of the Ecclesiarchy were not popular with the Fatemakers. The rulers of these religious worlds tended to interpret the laws of the Imperium according to their own political agendas, and they always felt that they had superiority over all secular civilian and military branches. The Fatemakers whose reaction to such attempts was always blunt and outright refusal were not welcome in such places.

‘I know that a shrineworld is not an ideal place for us, especially not during a crisis like this,’ Malistrum said. ‘However, all such worlds have the presence of another organization which may help us in several ways.’

Chaplain Uskovich understood it first.

‘The Inquisition. There is always a standard Inquisitorial branch in all shrineworlds.’

Malistrum nodded.

‘Strong enough to check the actions of the local clergy, but not strong enough to provoke a direct confrontation. Which means the local Inquisitors will have additional information perhaps even about this crisis, but they will not be strong enough to force us into anything that we don’t want to do ourselves.’

The Captain slowly nodded to himself.

‘Warp travel will not be easy without the Astronomicon, but I think we can manage. This area of space is relatively calm. We will be able to reach Saint Menthas, we will gather all the information we can and we move on to meet the Chapter and Chapter-Master Fiffito.’

He put his arms behind his back and turned to his soldiers.

‘It appears that we have an objective again, brothers.’

On any other day, it would have been enough for a Fatemaker; today, it worked, but only barely. Malistrum saw no doubt in the eyes any more, but he could still feel the emptiness which was yawning even in his soul. The meeting changed now: there were talks about logistical problems, possible routes and safety measures which had to be initiated in this new situation. The professional nature of the Astartes was taking over, which was as good a sign as he could get.

The Captain was looking at his battle-brothers and found that he was distracted by a strange feeling. He realized, with growing concern, that his fingers were moving behind his back, even though he did not intend to move them. He was unconsciously twiddling with his fingers.

Why was his body reacting with these strange, involuntary movements?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Fri Apr 27, 2012 7:07 pm

The characterizations are done really well, and I loved the small details of involuntary movements and anxiety in the Fatemakers and their serfs. Your writing is compelling, and while there were a few small things, grammar-wise, they were barely noticeable. I am still really enjoying this story.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Tue May 01, 2012 9:00 am

Thanks a lot, Midgard. Could you tell me what the grammar problems are? I am not a native speaker, and this story should be a chance for me to further improve my English.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Midgard » Tue May 01, 2012 3:34 pm

Meaneye wrote:Thanks a lot, Midgard. Could you tell me what the grammar problems are? I am not a native speaker, and this story should be a chance for me to further improve my English.

I'll try to get to it when I have a few minutes - sorry, I'm really slammed at work, and may not have time for the next few days to give more detailed feedback. From your writing though, I would not be able to tell you are not a native speaker (then, I am also not a native speaker, so take that as you will ;)).
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K)

Postby Meaneye » Thu May 03, 2012 9:09 pm

I will not have time to log in tomorrow for a reular Friday update, but the next part is ready, so enjoy it.

Part Fifteen

Warp entry point, Saint Menthas system.

Thirteen days after the Emperor’s death.

Heavens split asunder.

A hole appeared in the black carpet of space: a hole of strange, weird colours, voiceless whispers and raw energy. The Opportunity tore through this hole, pulling streaks of non-matter on her hull. The churning stuff of the Warp could not exist in the material universe for long; the streaks, which looked uncomfortably similar to the pseudo-tentacles of some impossible creature, folded off the ship and faded into nothing. The Space Marine vessel left the Warp-hole behind and headed for the inner planets of the system, the gate slowly closing behind her.

There was a remote, well-reinforced chamber protruding from the command tower’s side. The chamber housed Navigator Yasmilda, the psyker-woman who was bound to Strike Force Four of the Fatemaker Chapter through a naklonjenost-treaty made between his House and the Chapter. As a Navigator, it was her sole responsibility to guide her vessel through the many dangers of the Warp, a realm where conventional physics and logical thoughts did not exist, which in turn allowed the ships of the material universe to travel through faster than light speed. The Warp, which was also home to an infinite number of immaterial beings comprised only of negative emotions, provided Mankind in the early ages of space colonization with the possibility of forming and operating an interstellar empire which by the 42nd millennium stretched over the entire Galaxy. Despite the many dangers of the Warp, despite the things which existed there and which the common people referred to as demons, it remained the only reason why the Imperium of Man could come into being and survive through countless ages.

Navigator Yasmilda was as familiar with the dangers of the Warp as any of her peers. She had been forking for the Fatemakers for most of her adult life. The Space Marines were demanding but fair masters, and the vessel of Strike Force Four was a capable spacecraft. Yasmilda’s kind rarely lived a peaceful life, but she had always considered herself lucky: she had awe-inspiring protectors, status within her House and the satisfaction of knowing her place in the world.

That place had been shattered two weeks ago. The Astronomicon, the guiding light of the Emperor, which was the only stable point of reference in a dimension where no such things as ‘reference’ had any place, went out thirteen days ago, and it had not come back ever since.

The Navigator knew the facts and rumours which her House had access to about the Astronomicon. She knew that a force which could pierce the twisted non-material of the Warp required the life energy of a thousand untrained psykers every single day. She also knew that the Emperor Himself suffused the Asronomicon with His own power, making it anathema for the demonic powers which called the realm their home. She knew, or at least heard that there had been a time when the Astronomicon was just a continuous beam of light, not the irregular flicker which the Navigators had to use in the new millennium.

Unfortunately, all this knowledge also made her know perfectly well that such a marvel of human tenacity existed as long as Terra and the Emperor existed, but only as long. The disappearance of the Astronomicon could mean only one thing for her, and the certainty sent shivers down her spine even weeks after the shocking discovery.

She did not know if she would find peace ever again. The flight to Saint Menthas, her first flight into the Warp without guidance, was a prospect so frightening that almost overwhelmed her mind. It was never easy and the Warp was always a hostile area, but now it was just as dark and unknown as during her first flight. She felt she had been flying blind for most of the journey, and the mental challenge of planning a course through the utter darkness was extraordinary.

The art of the Navigators had gone back further than Mankind could remember. They had to watch out for the countless dangers of the demonic realm as well as the ever-shifting currents and flows which hurled forward or slowed a vessel in ways nobody could understand. The ship – any ship – was from the moment of leaving to the moment of returning to the real world in the hand of her Navigator. In the Warp, Yasmilda was responsible for the life, even soul, of every single living creature aboard: the Space Marines, the Mechanicus contingent, the mortal serf-crew and herself included. She had spent two weeks in suspended animation: her body sedated and strapped into a special chair, her skin interlaced with wires which stimulated her muscles with subtle electric impulses to prevent muscle atrophy, her organs fed the necessary nutrition to keep her physical form alive so her mind could work undisturbed of material needs. She had the training and experience to exist in this state for as much as a whole month without the need to be waken up. Now she felt she had reached her limits in just under two weeks.

The navigator slowly rose from suspension. She had difficulties remembering how to use her limbs first, but memory soon kicked in, and she was able to raise a hand uncertainly and push a button in front of her, creating a vox-link to the command bridge.

‘The Opportunity has safely left the Empyrian, Brother-Captain,’ she said. ‘The Warp-gate has closed behind us. The vessel is out of danger.’

‘Thank you, Navigator,’ Malistrum’s voice answered in just a second. ‘You have guided us well and protected Strike Force Four with your craft. Now it is our turn to do the same for you.’

Yasmilda switched off the vox and made a weak smile. The Captain was referring to a conversation they had been having before making the jump towards Saint Menthas.

The Navigator was shifting forward and back in her chair, her legs pulled up and her arms folded protectively around them.

‘It is pointless,’ she whispered.


‘We are damned. The Emperor has left us.’

‘Navigator, look at me.’

‘We are doomed. Without him, what could we…’


The captain’s voice was soft but firm; the voice of a man who led other men to their death and brought them back, victoriously. The voice of someone who had absolute certainty in the world and its many events. If such a voice addressed you, you obeyed.

Yasmilda looked up and faced the captain who was kneeling in front of her so their eyes met on the same level.

‘I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like for you,’ the Captain started. ‘I have no third eye or psychic vision. I know what you want to say when you talk about His death. I share the same feelings, believe me. However, we still have a duty to observe. We are still alive, and our lives still have a purpose. You are still alive, and your life has a purpose, too. We can still make sense of our existence. I don’t know anything about ultimate doom, but neither do you. That is for a later date to consider. Here and now you are not powerless.’

Yasmilda looked at the Captain for a while.

‘The Warp is going to get us all,’ she said in a frail voice. ‘What can you do against such a terrible foe?’

Malistrum did not hesitate.

‘We are Fatemakers, Yasmilda. We do not endure fate, we make it. We have overcome foes before, and we will do it again.’

‘Not like this one,’ she objected.

‘We are able to overcome even the Warp. Yasmilda, here is my promise: in life or in death, in this world or the other, as long as there is a single Fatemaker left, we will protect you with our hand, our mind, our spirit, our soul.’

The Captain’s quiet conviction could not be ignored. Yasmilda sobbed, but she obeyed and returned to her navigation chamber to prepare the ship for warp transit.

Two weeks later, she brought the ship out of the Warp, and so she had fulfilled her part of the bargain. Would the Captain keep to his word and honour this unwritten naklonjenost between the two of them?

The question was not even worth asking. Yasmilda leant back to her chair.

‘He has protected us so far; now it’s your time to protect us,’ she whispered before her mind drifted into a dreamless, genuine sleep.

‘You have guided us well and protected Strike Force Four with your craft,’ said Captain Malistrum. ‘Now it is our turn to do the same for you.’

Malistrum nodded to the serf, and he obediently broke vox contact. The Captain addressed the crew on the bridge.

‘We are heading for the Shrineworld of Saint Menthas, a holy place of the Imperium. In any other time, this place would be a sanctuary for us; now, however, we cannot be certain about the reception that is awaiting us. As of now, Strike Force Four considers itself to be on unknown territory. Carry out the appropriate command protocols.’

Malistrum received a dozen affirmative ‘Yes, Lord’, which pleased him somewhat. It was good to know that the crew of his ship was as dutiful and alert as they always were even in spite of all which had happened in the last two weeks.

There was no way to keep the information about the extent of the catastrophe from the human contingent aboard the ship. Firstly, this went against the Fatemaker policy of open, rational situation appraisal and information sharing. The Chapter may have been paranoid about outsiders, but this paranoia had to be balanced out by the trust the Astartes reserved for their own mortal servants. Secondly, the signs and the damage that the fall of the Emperor caused were too great to simply ignore or hush up. The bridge crew knew about the massive death toll the psychic blast caused among the inhabitants of the Cephola system, and they also heard navigator Yasmilda’s initial report about the disappearance of the Astronomicon.

Malistrum had a difficult choice to make, but, as it was so often in the case of difficult choices, it was not the choice itself which was difficult but the consequences of this action. He had to say something to the crew, and his rational mind, as well as his instincts, warned him against any lie which may have repercussions at a later date. As so many of his subordinates had said it before: this was too big for them. His speech prior to the Warp jump to Saint Menthas contained the essence of the truth that Mankind had to face in the future.

Yes, there was a terrible catastrophe on Terra while the Fatemakers were orbiting Cephola Base. The Astropaths in the Base and the Fatemaker Librarians were trying to find out the nature of a threat by using their psychic craft, but they were not able to prevent it. Yes, something terrible happened on the home planet of Mankind, and this was what killed most psykers on the Opportunity. It was even strong enough to taint the Astropathicus base, destroy half the system and extinguish the light of the Emperor which used to guide the ships in the Warp. Such a powerful force could only mean that Terra itself was attacked. No, the Fatemakers did not know anything the Emperor’s fate, glory be His name (he did not mention this specifically, but he managed to make the impression that the Emperor was still fighting somewhere with the forces of darkness. After all, what could kill such a powerful being?). Strike Force Four was too small to do anything about the situation, so they must do the only logical thing: unite with the rest of the Chapter and seek the Chapter-Master’s counsel (this last remark made the impression that Chapter-Master Fiffito actually had a plan for such an emergency). Yes, the Opportunity was forced to destroy the tainted base, and was now heading home to find the other Astartes battle-groups. Together, they would find out what the next course of action should be; until then, the crew of the strike cruiser had one extra task beyond their regular duties: praying and attending the masses which Chaplain Uskovich ordered among the mortal clergy of the ship.

The speech was a good one, and the Chaptain had to admit that it contained almost the whole truth. Not even Akichi could claim to have actually witnessed the moment the sword of the mysterious attacker penetrated the Emperor’s body. He had blacked out a second earlier, although the Librarian’s quiet certainty in the death of the Lord of Mankind was unnerving. The Opportunity was indeed making a journey to the hiding place of the Fatemakers’ reserve fleet, and Malistrum was sure that theirs was not the only strike force which had made the same decision. The crew, who had always looked upon the Space Marines as demi-gods, was comforted by the idea that their masters not only continued to protect them, but their numbers were also about to increase tenfold. If a hundred battle-brothers could achieve such impressive victories, what could a thousand of them do?

Malistrum knew that the answer to this question was, unfortunately, that they could achieve quite little. He knew his forces, and, most importantly, he knew enough about the vastness and inertness of the Imperium. A thousand warriors, even a thousand superhumans, could do little to keep together the numerous systems of the sector under such conditions. The Chapter could win wars, but it could not win over anarchy, crises of faith and the logistical problems of a thousand worlds. The simple fact that the journey to their designated destination took more than six times as much as it should have was itself a grim testimony of the difficulties that the Imperium could look forward to. Hive-worlds would starve, forgeworlds would have to shut down their facilities, the main population areas would have to face the many dangers of the Galaxy without the support of the Imperial Army. The Captain had the feeling that the Cephola System was only the merest shape of nightmares to come.

Still, the situation could have been worse for his ship, and he knew that his speech had managed to prevent general panic among the serfs. The strangely disturbing feeling of emptiness which was also plaguing the Astartes was clearly present in the mortal crewmen as well. The Captain did not know it, but the Withdrawal had already started to test the nerve of the population of the Imperium, and in some places – mostly in worlds already besieged by some form of unrest or violence – the general bleak feeling got so strong that it ended in planet-wide violence. The Opportunity had none of this. The crew had a rigorous routine to adhere to in the first place, and this, coupled with the attention and counselling which the already religious serfs were receiving from the ship’s clergy was enough to occupy and calm the minds of the people. The tension was palpable, but remained only this: mere tension. Strike Force Four remained operational, and while the crew had a purpose they could follow, the minds of the people were safe. Captain Malistrum had managed to do the one thing which was his duty: he had given a fighting chance to those people he was responsible for.

The Opportunity was heading towards the core world of the system. Saint Menthas was a civilized bastion of Mankind with a constant flow of commercial and pilgrim ships. Traffic was always high, and at any given time, at least a thousand ships were present somewhere in space or orbiting one of the habitable words.

Theoretically, a ship could translate into a system at almost any point in space, but common sense, practicability and physics dictated that the best entry points were almost exclusively the ones outside the last elliptic orbit of the outermost planet. Also, ships entered a system most of the time because the planets, so whether merchants or an enemy warfleet, space vessels normally approached the inner worlds in the shortest route possible. For some reason, Warp translation was also easier from locations parallel with the main elliptic plane of the system, which was why the Opportunity chose a traditional entry location too. After all, this was supposed to be a friendly system.

Although this friendly system was also supposed to have more activity than this.

Like Cephola, Saint Menthas had a tight ring of patrol boats, space vessels incapable of Warp-jump, monitoring the system edge, especially around the jump points. The ships should have been detected the moment the Fatemakers left the Warp. In fact, the system ships were supposed to make their presence known to the Opportunity, challenging the heavily armed warship to find out her true intention.

Nothing like this happened. No ship was detected, and nobody was trying to contact them. The shrineworld and its system greeted the Fatemakers with cold, silent indifference.

Could it be? Malistrum thought. Could this system be destroyed, just like Cephola?

‘Scan for energy signatures and vox communication,’ he ordered.

‘Yes, Brother-Captain,’ one of the serfs answered, and he started to adjust the instruments in front of him. The Captain waited. He knew that in the vastness of space, time, just like distance, had a different meaning than what people normally associated it with. In some cases, a fraction of a second could make a difference between life and death, while in other cases, days, even weeks passed before something broke the monotony of space travel. In this particular instance, the serf needed approximately twelve minutes to pick up the first meaningful signals.

‘I receive vox transmissions, Brother-Captain,’ he said. ‘Multiple sources packed in the same location. Something is disturbing the signals… I also receive energy signatures.’ The serf turned in his seat, and looked at his leader. ‘The sensors are detecting possible plasma emission signs.’

The Captain’s eyes narrowed.


‘Three hours at our present speed, Brother-Captain.’

Which meant a lot of distance. Energy signatures which were still recognisable at a distance like that had to be strong or very much concentrated if the Opportunity could pick them up. Concentrated… like the vox sources themselves. A lot of ship ejecting plasma in a small part of space.

It appeared that the Opportunity had translated into a war zone.

‘Orders, Brother-Captain?’ the senior serf asked.

The Captain did not hesitate. ‘Head for the source of the energy emission, as fast as we can,’ he ordered. ‘Maintain full speed, arm all weaponry and sound the general silent alarm. I want our fighter wing ready, alert the loader clan, have the Astartes contingent prepare for possible hostile boarding and issue my order to squads 4.3 and 4.4 to put on terminator armour and report in the port and starboard hangar bay respectively.’

‘Yes, lord.’

The Captain watched the display built into his command throne as the silent alarm sounded and red right engulfed the inside of the command deck. His ship accelerated and approached the mysterious energy signatures, which had already got stronger and more solid on his screen. A military activity in a shrineworld’s home system raised an awful lot of questions, and Malistrum was here because he had questions of his own. Still, he had his duty, and the nature of the enemy threat may actually be able to give him usable answers. Also, Strike Force Four may have been clueless of the present state of the Imperium, but they were more than capable of handling an engagement in space.

Whoever was shooting out there will soon have to face a company’s worth of frustrated Astartes.

It took the Opportunity sixty minutes to reach the space battle. Normally, an engagement did not take so much time, and Malistrum fully expected to reach the battle only to find the remains of the losing side. In this, he was wrong.

The battle took place between three Imperial cruisers, a handful of escorts and a veritable swarm of system boats. It seemed that one of the warring sides consisted of two of the cruisers and the escorts, while the third big vessel – a Dictator-class hull with numerous fighter bays and batteries attached to her side – was attacking them in concert with the system boats. The engagement had apparently been going on for a while. As the Astartes vessel approached them, her instruments showed intensive battle damage on all ships with some of the system boats and one of the escorts blown up even as the Space Marines were watching. The Dictator, the energy signatures of which were positively identified as the Pandora, seemed to be spent. She was falling behind, a clear sign of engine damage, and she was obviously out of available fighter and bomber squadrons as well. The other two cruisers – identified as the Blood of Martyrs and Faith’s Reward – did not turn back to finish their enemy. Instead, they seemed to be accelerating, leaving behind their pursuer while destroying the remaining system boats still desperate enough to try to slow them down.

Neither of the two sides kept vox silence. The Opportunity had no problem picking up their transmissions; however, what they heard did not help the Astartes to understand just what was going on. The Blood of Martyrs and the Faith’s Reward were apparently trying to leave the system, while the Pandora and the smaller vessels were trying to stop them. Both sides repeated the same messages over and over again. Stop, and turn back. Leave us alone. Return to Saint Menthas. Continue to follow us and we will destroy you. What was strange (unnerving was a better term) was that both sides were invoking the Emperor’s name during their transmissions on ample occasions.

Captain Malistrum did not have enough information to decide what the situation was. Did the Fatemakers arrive in the middle of a civil war? It has happened before. Greedy or simply militant planetary governors often attacked other Imperial systems referring to some real of imagined provocation or simply for economic or political gains. Malistrum hated it. The Imperium was already besieged by enough hostile outsiders without the interference of its own subjects. The Opportunity’s databanks claimed that all three ships were property of the Ecclesiarchy, and they all belonged to the Saint Menthas Navy, so this could not be about the squabble of neighbouring systems. Was this perhaps the sign of a religious schism? This had happened before too. Religious wars were perhaps the ugliest of them all, especially because they tended to blur the distinction between the various sides. They were also about emotion and conviction, and the Fatemakers were reluctant to fight without well-established rational objectives.

The ships were very close now in astrological terms. With only thirty minutes separating them from the Opportunity, there was no way they did not realize that she was coming. Still, they had yet to make any sign of acknowledging the Astartes vessel, which simply wouldn’t do. Nobody ignored the Space Marines when they arrived, and besides, Malistrum could not go on without knowing which side – if any – was the friendly and which was the hostile one.

Nor could he simply go on and let the two fleets destroy each other on their own. The Captain stepped next to the communications officer.

‘Open general vox frequencies,’ he ordered, and leaned forward so the microphones would catch his voice.

‘This is Space Marine vessel Opportunity, designated Strike Force Four. We have detected the energy signatures of your battle at the outer edge of the system. Our databanks show that all the warring vessels belong to the defence force of Saint Menthas, yet you initiated a military action within the borders of an Imperial shrineworld. In the name of the Emperor, cease hostilities immediately, and explain your actions.’

There was no answer for a few seconds, during which, another system ship was destroyed by the two cruisers’ escorts. It seemed that the pair of vessels had finally gained the upper hand, and they would leave the other ships behind without the Opportunity’s interference.

The Captain did not have time to get impatient. The voxline came alive with a strong female voice.

‘This is Sister Auralia from the Sororitas ship Faith’s Reward. We are under strict order to leave the system, and these ships were trying to stop us. You have no jurisdiction over us, Opportunity. Do not interfere…’

Another voice cut in, this time a frantic male one. The voices of the two captain intermingled immediately.

‘This is captain Savirez from the Saint Menthas cruiser Pandora. Opportunity, these Sororitas ships are renegades. They are attempting to leave the system…’

‘… with our actions, or face the consequences. We are not renegades. We are following the order of Pius Guia, the Ecclesiarch of the Holy Imperial Church of Man. We no longer take orders from…’

‘… without permission. Opportunity, the Bishop himself tried to stop them, and they opened fire on his entourage on the planet just to get to the ships. Believe me, they are renegades and…’

‘… any secular or ecclesiarchical organisations. Stand down Astartes, I repeat, stand down or…’

Malistrum’s lips tightened.

‘Imperial vessels, this makes no sense. You engaged with each other in Imperial space. Sororitas ships, you claim that you have orders from the Grand Ecclesiarch Himself. You must be aware that this is no excuse from disobeying all military and ecclesiarchical protocols. You are under the command of the local bishop, Paulino CXII. I have no knowledge of any order or emergency protocol which can overwrite his orders in the system. Explain yourself, please.’

‘I have nothing to explain to you, Astartes,’ Sister Auralia answered. There was a dangerous tone in her voice, which worried Malistrum. Even with his limited knowledge of human behavioural patterns, he could tell that the Sister – a Battle-Sister of one of the Ordos Militant, obviously – was angry and aggressive, ready to jump at anybody who gave her a reason to do so. ‘Are you blind? Did you not see what is happening here? Can’t you see that we are living the final hours?’

The Captain’s eyes narrowed.

‘Explain yourself, Faith’s Reward.’

‘I have nothing to explain!’ Auralia yelled. She obviously lost control of herself, finally snapping at the person she happened to be talking to. ‘We did not make any mistake! We are right! We are pure! We are faithful! We deserve Him, and yet he left us because of people like that heretic Paulino, like these faithless cowards who are still standing in our way, who are still trying to stop us in our holy work! You will stand aside and let us go, or I swear upon His name that we will destroy you and your ship!’

This sudden outburst left the Captain speechless for a second. His mind was working furiously. These Sisters knew something. These Sisters knew. Whatever they were doing, whatever their plan was, they knew what happened on Terra. They knew something that the Fatemakers, who witnessed the death of the Emperor, did not.

‘Sister Auralia,’ Malistrum started, but he had no time to explain himself.

‘You still defy me?’ the Battle-Sister hissed, and the vox went quiet.

‘Brother-Captain,’ one of the serfs called out. ‘Two of the escort ships are rising to the Opportunity’s relative level on an attack course. They have targeted us.’

This actually settled the matter. Clergy or not, knowledge or not, the Fatemakers did not yield to such a direct threat. ‘Open channel to the Pandora,’ the Captain said.

The voice of captain Savirez came back immediately.

‘Now you see it yourself, Captain. The Sisters have gone mad! They broke out of the shrineworld two days ago, and they blew up the rest of the fleet on high anchor so we could not follow them. They issued a declaration just before they left with their ships. They said that Saint Menthas was guilty, their inhabitants sinners, and because of our sins, the Emperor…’

He could not make himself to finish the sentence. Malistrum froze in his place.

‘What are your orders?’ he asked cautiously.

‘To escort the ships back to the shrineworld,’ Savirez answered. ‘The world is completely defenceless now. There are barely any orbital platforms left, and I had to bring all the remaining military vessels with me to pursue the Sisters. If anyone attacked Saint Menthas now…’

‘I see.’ Malistrum was thinking hard. ‘Captain, I believe we can neutralize their vessels, but there will be sacrifices to make.’

‘The Pandora is damaged, but we are still capable of fighting,’ the other captain said. ‘If you can herd them back into our range, we can assist you to…’

‘This is not the sacrifice I was talking about,’ Malistrum cut in. ‘Try to reach us as fast as you can, and leave the rest to us.’

Savirez’s answer came in a few seconds.

‘I understand, Captain. We will get to you as soon as we can. The Emperor protects.’

Malistrum did not react immediately. He went back to the command throne, and sat down.

‘The Emperor protects,’ he finally said.
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