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

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 21 up)

Postby Meaneye » Mon Jul 16, 2012 10:47 pm

I am back with a new update. Not much action in this one, but it sets the heroes on the new path, and all this will be significant later.

Part 22

Big things do not die easily.

The Orks had known this simple fact very well, perhaps even on a deeper level than the humans of the Imperium. The Orks no longer existed in this new age; however, facts remained facts, and although the final days had arrived for the whole Galaxy, death was anything but fast for most of its inhabitants.

First came the dying.

Individuals, nations, even entire planets withered in the last few days of human supremacy. The Emperor was dead, and the soul-draining effect which came to be known as the Withdrawal ate the entirety of Mankind for almost over a year.

Most people did not know what it was. With the death of the Astronomicon and the decimation of Astropaths, true knowledge of the wider galactic events disappeared, leaving only dark suspicion and a lingering panic that something was basically, fundamentally, wrong. People looked at the sky and asked themselves: What is happening? What is wrong? Has something terrible happened to Him? Why do we feel He is no longer with us?

Terra no longer responded. This was not unusual in an empire where news from one end to the other arrived in decades, if ever. Terra’s presence, however, always remained with the worlds. There were the Astropaths, of course, who could at least ensure the illusion that the individual planets were not completely alone. The Imperial Tarot worked: maybe not well, maybe it was deceiving, but it always showed something. Saints, sanctioned psykers, mad prophets: they all looked into the Warp, and among the unspeakable horrors, they saw the distant, guiding light which was the Emperor. All this disappeared. Empty, unresponsive, Tarot cards, dead Astropaths, extinguished guiding light: this was all that remained of the Emperor’s comforting presence.

Worlds died because of their inability to make sense of it all. Civil unrest became the most commonplace situation on every single human-inhabited system. Civil wars, religious schisms and localized wars between neighbouring systems started to decimate the population even without the interference of Mankind’s traditional enemies. In other places, these enemies came down upon Men with shocking force. Xenos nations which had been declared exterminated suddenly appeared again, and started their bloody revenge upon the species which sentenced them to death. Chaos was on the ascendance. Abbadon had never been able to make such quick progress among Imperial planets than in the first year following His death. Cults sprung up everywhere, and even if they were destroyed by what remained of Imperial authority, they managed to cause irreparable damage. Without the ability to send quick reinforcements, the mighty Imperium was just a huge helpless animal which was slowly torn apart by a billion insects. There was no estimation, not a single attempt to guess how much of Mankind died in that first terrible year.

All worlds were on their own, and, curiously, this was the one factor that gave Mankind the necessary extension it needed. Nobody knew exactly how bad things really were, except the ones who were already being destroyed by dissidents or some invading force. Fear and uncertainty was one thing: it could last for a little while. Death had been a constant for humans for so long that even the worlds suffering the worst alien aggression considered their predicament a temporary situation. The shocking realization that this would be the norm from now on would set in very soon, and then, Mankind would truly start to burn. Until then, the various human worlds found themselves at different levels of panic and desperation: from hushed whispers among the ruling elite, through curfews and sporadic civil unrest to mass riots and wars; in a few cases, to the collapse of the whole civilization.

The Fatemakers saw none of this. While the Imperium started its slow collapse, Strike Force Four was making its best speed to reach the designated rendezvous point with the rest of the Chapter.

CXC395F system.

Six months after the Emperor’s death.

The system was uninhabited, unremarkable and completely devoid of anything worthy for the Imperium. It did not even deserve a name, only a designation code, which almost certainly ensured that no sane man would ever want to go there. It was this quality which made the system ideal for the Fatemaker Chapter to make it their permanent headquarters and rendezvous point.

Ever since the Borshak massacre, the Space Marines had been obsessed with security and safety measures. When the Chapter broke up into separate strike forces, the first Chapter Master wanted to keep a small force in reserve, just in case all other forces get destroyed at the same time. It may have been an unnecessary precaution, but for a freshly created chapter which had been struggling for the better part of a century just to stay alive, it was the most prudent course of action. Bringing back the Chapter from the brink of annihilation was not something anybody wanted to do again.

Other safety measures had been introduced to ensure that the reserve force would not be attacked. As there was usually no reason for any attacking force to enter the system anywhere else than at the elliptic plane of the major planets, the reserve fleet made sure to stay well under the elliptic, allowing itself enough time to react, and, if necessary, escape from would-be invaders. At a minimal stand-by energy emission, the ships were hard to detect, which meant newcomers had to introduce with their own energy and vox emissions if they wanted to actually meet the Space Marines.

There had never been any incident in the history of the Fatemakers where outsiders were invited into the system. The paranoid nature of the Chapter made sure that any business with non-Chapter personnel – be they mighty Inquisitors or planetary governors – was conducted in other, more neutral, territory. If a ship entered, it had to be Fatemaker: this had been standard Chapter policy from day one.

The Opportunity and Strike Force Four arrived in the system on the 177th day of post-Imperial age with the secure knowledge that they would only find Chapter fleet elements there.

‘Send a general hail on all frequencies, and wait for the response.’

‘Yes, Brother-Captain.’

To say that Captain Malistrum was relieved was an understatement. The Opportunity had been travelling through the Warp for almost half a year, and the long journey had taken its toll on the ship’s commander. It was good to finally arrive, and it was good to know that his duty would end in a matter of hours.

Curiously, the tension which the Captain had been feeling was mostly missing from the rest of the crew. Following the warning of Inquisitor Cathrin about the soul-draining effect of the Emperor’s death, Malistrum made the task of countering this threat the main priority of the Astartes officer cadre. Neither Chaplain Uskovich nor Librarian Akichi was able to effectively solve the phenomenon, but they had managed to gain valuable insight into the Withdrawal, and they could advise the crew accordingly. Uskovich had been holding regular sermons to the crew irrespective of their origins; his personal appearance and balanced attitude was a boon in these dark times. Akichi worked out mental exercises aimed at cleaning the mind of conscious thoughts; the result was a meditative state which was not dissimilar to the effects of the Astartes Catalepsean Node. Following the duo’s help, the side-effects of the Withdrawal had been slowly pushed back.

The Captain added to all this by keeping everyone busy. The mortal contingent had spent the last six months rebuilding any piece of equipment which had been previously damaged in some of the missions. The artisans managed to rebuild the two Aquilas lost at Novgarrod (no small task when considered that they had to manufacture almost all missing parts one by one) and many other things besides. Constant drills had been introduced to everyone aboard the cruiser to ensure peak physical and mental condition. The last batch of initiates had received their major Astartes organs, and, surprisingly, none of them had died so far.

All things considered, Strike Force Four had managed to use the last half a year to achieve optimal fighting capacity, which was normally only possible when a strike force actually withdrew from active missions for a while. The Opportunity had not been in such a good shape in decades, and the same could be told about her crew. Every soul aboard was as ready to face the new challenges as possible.

Perhaps this was the problem. Strike Force Four was ready, but nobody knew what to be ready for. Not even Malistrum could estimate the grandiosity of the task which lay ahead. The pacification of the Imperium! To start everything from the beginning, this time without the guiding hand of the Emperor: could such a thing be done? He did not know. By the Throne, he did not even know whether there was still an Imperium out there! The Opportunity could not risk further encounters on her way to safety. They only stopped occasionally, allowing Navigator Yasmilda to rest for one or two days before entering the Warp again, and even then, in deep space, far from any planetary system. For all he knew, Mankind could have already died out among the stars.

The Captain knew almost nothing of the future, and it frustrated him to no end. Still, he had a duty to fulfil and a mission to accomplish, and it had to be enough. He kept his silent doubts for himself as there was nobody to share them with. This was the one thing he was hoping for after arriving at the CXC395F system: relief from the burden. Chapter-Master Fiffito would take control over his strike force and judge his deeds as he sees fit. Whatever his final verdict would be, Malistrum could finally rest.

In two hours’ time, he would be in a much better mood.

In two hours’ time, Malistrum was in a much worse mood.

He was sitting in his command chair, looking into the blackness through the viewport. The crew was listening intently to every sound or incoming message the auspices on the ship might pick up. Apart from the normal signatures pure vacuum provided, they could hear nothing.

The reserve fleet did not answer. It was no surprise that they could not detect the Fatemaker vessels as standard practice required them to run on low stand-by power anyway. What was curious was that they did not answer to the Opportunity’s hailing signals. Strike Force Four transmitted all the identification codes, together with the special protocol-directed expressions which had to be included in the hailing text for extra safety; the answer was absolute silence.

Malistrum knew that he had to be especially careful now. He had been feeling the urge to stand up and start walking up and down, to ask the auspex handler if there was any new development every five minutes, but he did neither of these. He was reserved and calm on the outside even if he was getting more and more concerned inside. Something was very, very wrong.

‘Still no sign of the reserve fleet, Brother-Captain,’ the auspex handler reported.

Malistrum frowned. ‘I did not ask you for a report, crewman.’

The other’s face went red. ‘I know, Brother-Captain… I mean, I was just… I didn’t mean to…’

Malistrum sighed inwardly. Of course. He was just, and he didn’t mean to. The crew was just as nervous as him, and as captain of the vessel, it was his responsibility to give them direction. Fortunately, he was able to do so.

‘Head for the second planet of the system,’ he ordered.

A few decades earlier, a senior member of the Inquisition had called the Fatemakers a ‘delightfully paranoid Chapter’. It was no small feat to impress such a man in his own field of expertise, but the Fatemakers certainly deserved this title.

The first Chapter Master wanted to make sure. Perhaps the reserve fleet would be ambushed one day, or perhaps a conflict would force it to move on without prior warning. Perhaps the nature of its departure would make Astropathic messages a risk. In this case, the reserve fleet would leave a small satellite orbiting the second planet of the system: a gas giant of no remarkable value whatsoever. The satellite would contain the actual coordinates of the fleet, provided an incoming ship could transmit the correct identification codes first. All strike force commanders knew the code, although none of them had ever had to use them before. It appeared that Strike Force Four would be the first one.

The Opportunity was heading for the gas giant. Malistrum was immensely grateful for the over-complicating nature of his Chapter. Without this precaution, he would be absolutely clueless now. The satellite was his last remaining resort.

Twenty-nine hours later, he knew that things were no longer wrong. This word was not strong enough to describe just how big the trouble was.

‘Take the ship around the planet, and send out the transmission again,’ he said, looking at the red and yellow spots on the gas giant’s atmosphere. ‘Then alter the course, and go under the planet. I want every square inch of the planet covered by our radio waves. Alert Adept Brakk, the Techmarines and ask Librarian Akichi to come and consult me. I am having a general officer briefing in exactly four hours.’

‘I can conclude with sufficient certainty that the reserve fleet has left the system,’ Adept Brakk said.

The others in the briefing room leaned back in their chairs almost simultaneously. The room was full: the last time so many people had conveyed there had been during the post-mission briefing orbiting New Novgarrod. There had been another such meeting after the catastrophe at Cephola Base, but the nature of that crisis automatically excluded any mortal representative. This time, Mediator Dmitrija was present. The last crisis was about the death of the Emperor and the possible destruction of Mankind, and Malistrum wanted to keep it away from the ordinary humans, but this was different. This was Chapter business, and all members of the Chapter, human or Astartes, had the right to participate.

Malistrum found himself circling on the table’ surface with his index finger again. Was he still suffering from the Withdrawal?

‘It could have been a naval engagement,’ Sergeant Andorias interjected. He had healed well enough since the battle with the Sororitas. He had an ugly augmetic eye built into the empty socket on his face. It came as no surprise when he refused any cosmetic surgery to make the eye more human.

‘It would explain why they didn’t leave us clues where they went,’ added Essen. ‘It is still a better explanation than that they simply left without leaving a message.’

Did these two just agree on something?

‘Any kind of space battle would leave energy signatures behind,’ countered Techmarine Guztav. His other two brothers, Skarin and Askarin, nodded.

‘If there had been a battle…’ Skarin said.

‘…which we would have registered…’ continued his brother.

‘… they would still be here to answer our signals, unless they were all destroyed…’

‘…which would have left even more energy signatures behind.’

‘Could you detect any Warp signatures, Adept?’ Malistrum asked.

Brakk shook his head with a faint mechanic whirr.

‘There is no Warp signature within decipherable parameters. This does not mean, however,’ he continued, ‘that they did not leave. I studied the data about the two original ships of the reserve fleet during the Opportunity’s last overhaul. I am not completely familiar with the third one, but if all three vessels open a Warp-gate at the same time, my estimate is that the required energy would dissipate to an undetectable level within approximately seventy days.’

‘Which means that the reserve fleet probably left, but not within the last two and a half months,’ Malistrum concluded.

‘Yes, Brother-Captain.’

‘Why did they leave?’ Gorski asked.

There was no answer for that for a while.

‘Definitely a crisis,’ Andorias stated. ‘The main reserve would not even move without very good reasons.’

‘Our present situation is a good enough reason, I guess,’ Essen remarked. Andorias cast a cold look at him.

And this is how long their accord lasted.

‘I studied the captains of the two escort vessels of the reserve fleet,’ Akichi started. ‘I needed no such thing with Chapter Master Fiffito. He is the Chapter Master because he would never risk exposing our reserves without a direct threat to the Chapter itself. This crisis would not be enough in itself to make him act. It had to be something more personal.’

He nodded to himself.

‘The captain of the other reserve ship is Zenion Pollast. A perfect trainer, but no strategist. He has trained some of us as initiates…’

‘Me,’ Guztav raised a hand. ‘At least until I was sent to Mars.’

‘Then you can confirm that he had no say in whether to stay or go. It was not even his duty. The Chapter Master gave the word, and he simply obeyed, of this, I am sure.’

‘Which leaves us with the strike force currently having an overhaul,’ Akichi continued. ‘Strike Force Eight. Its captain was killed at Duchalastra, and the last time I heard about them, they were led by my Librarian brother, Berzevicz. I don’t know if Chapter Master Fiffito appointed anyone else in his stead…’

‘He didn’t,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Berzevicz was extremely popular with the strike force, and he was the one who actually saved them during the final phase of that campaign. He is the commander.’

‘Be that as it may, I know him personally too. He is a rare personality who is analytical and practical at the same time. He could be convinced that the reserve fleet needed to move, but he would not initiate it on his own.’

‘It comes down to the Chapter Master, however angle we look at it,’ said Essen. ‘And since we know that he needs a damn good reason to move, we have to ask ourselves why he did so?’

There was silence again. For the last few months, the Fatemakers had found too many answers with no questions.

‘Could the satellite malfunction?’ asked Sergeant Hemethor.

‘Unlikely,’ Guztav answered. ‘Every single part is thrice-checked before launch. It is too important to risk malfunction. Besides, it would suggest that this is all a simple accident or coincidence. There is no such thing as coincidence.’

The other Fatemakers silently agreed. This was no malfunctioning piece of equipment. This was a mystery with an unpleasant explanation.

Essen held up his hands in defeat.

‘I am out of ideas.’

So were the other Astartes in the room. Things were double-secured in their lives so they did not have to think beyond their own duties and limitations.

‘If I may…’

Every head turned. Malistrum nodded to the speaker politely.

‘Mediator Dmitrija?’

The young human made a slight cough.

‘I just wanted to say, Brother-Captain that maybe we do not even have to think about what happened here.’

Most Astartes frowned.

‘What do you mean?’ Essen asked.

‘I mean that we… you… are thinking of a piece of mystery which cannot be solved. We don’t know enough of the Chapter Master’s decision to judge his actions. If they left, and we don’t know why they did so, we can still go after them and ask.’

He waved his hand over the room.

‘You have been protecting us humans for as long as I there were Astartes,’ he continued. ‘You are Fatemakers. You make fate. If our fate is uncertain, you find it out or make a new one for us. You act. You can still do that. Go after the reserve fleet, and contact them. They did not leave a message to state where they were going, but I think you can find it out. It is a question of situation assessment and analysis. You don’t even need the Warp signatures for it, just gathering information about the neighbouring systems in the traditional way. I mean… I meant no disrespect, Adept Brakk…’

Dmitrija stopped as he started to feel the weight of a dozen Astartes’ look. He looked around, and then something unexpected happened.

Malistrum made a genuine smile.

‘You are right, Mediator,’ he said. The tension in the room visibly dissipated. ‘Thank you for your advice.’

Sometimes it was difficult to say which group affected the other’s way of thinking more: the humans or the Space Marines. The Captain knew he owed now to Dmitrija, who actually set the Astartes officers on the right path.

‘He is absolutely right,’ he addressed the others around the table. ‘We don’t have to think why they did so. It is enough to know that they did, and so we have to find them. Especially,’ he continued, ‘because we know exactly where they must have gone first.’

This was new information for Dmitrija, who was not privy to all the secrets of the Chapter. The Astartes did not need any more explanation, though. They slowly started to nod, as much to themselves as to the others. They also opened their mouths almost at the same time.

‘Vault Double-Oh-Three.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 22 up)

Postby Midgard » Wed Jul 18, 2012 3:35 pm

A very nice cliffhanger there. I am as impressed as always, and am looking forward to another update whenever it comes.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 22 up)

Postby Meaneye » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:19 pm

It will come today, Midgard :) . Tomorrow I will be busy, and it is done anyway, so here it is.

One thing to say here and two other after the update (they would be spoilers here). I kept using the term Adept Brakk for the Warp-expert aboard, but I guess, he should be Magos Brakk, shouldn't he? I could change the rank in this update, but it would take time in the previous ones, so I will either do it or not (it is not such a big issue anyway). From the nex update on, he will be promoted to Magos.

Part 23

Rock has no concept of time.

The small planetoid consisted of rock and so small amounts of valuable minerals that it almost seemed unnatural. It knew nothing of the wider events of the Galaxy, so it was not concerned with the death of the almighty Emperor either. Species may have died out there, but the planetoid remained silent and unchanged.

Only twice had sentient life treaded on its surface before. First, at an undetermined time in the past, metal-clad giants arrived, and bore great vaults into the small planet’s surface. The planet knew nothing of the things the giants had filled its belly, and so it was not concerned with the possible implications of all the devices it now concealed. A sentient being would have recognised most of the content immediately, and would have been awed by the destructive potential the nameless planetoid had. Nuclear weaponry, ammunition from regular artillery to spaceship cannon size, enough small arms to equip a veritable army and fuel reserves and energy cells for various devices were stored there. It was no treasure, and its goal was purely military-oriented, but the great vault represented power which shadowed the wealth of old noble houses and rich planetary governments.

The entry of the vault was secured by a huge adamantium door. It had no ornamentation, save a single inversed ‘Q’-letter on the outside. The planet knew nothing of adamantium, and it remained ignorant of the significance of the symbol too. The rock simply was.

An indeterminable amount of time passed when something new happened. A ship landed on the planet’s surface. It bore the same metal-clad giants as the ones who had built the great vault. The new creatures did not waste a lot of time: they landed close to the concealed cave which contained the door, and they went in immediately.

A gauntleted hand opened a panel next to the door and typed in a code on the console which appeared. The door had never opened before, but its builders knew their trade well: it slid aside as smoothly as if no centuries had passed since it had been sealed.

The planet saw nothing of this, and soon the intruders left, taking some of the treasures with them. Silence descended on the cave again, and another indeterminable period of time had passed.

Then, later, rock-crete grey armours treaded the surface for the third time.

There was no air in the cave or in the vault, but there was not supposed to be either. For this reason, Librarian Akichi was wearing a closed helmet just like the rest of his squad. It bothered him to no end because he was not able to expand his full psychic might this way, but this was unavoidable. If everything went well, he would not need to use his full talent in here anyway.

He took a look around. There was another console inside: judging from its size, it was responsible for some of the inner controls and possibly the defence mechanisms as well. Vault Double-Oh-Three did not give its contents for free, not even to a Fatemaker strike force, and since the Chapter’s desire for security excluded any detailed description of the vault, any Space Marine who wanted to use the supplies stored here had to work his way around the defences on his own.

This should not have been a problem for the Techmarines of Strike Force Four, who more or less knew what to expect from their brother ancestors anyway. All three of them were standing behind the Librarian, ready to go in and start working on the console. None of them could move, however, until the Librarian gave them the signal.

Akichi looked back at the corner of the entrance ceiling and pointed up.

‘There is a security camera there,’ he voxed. ‘We will need its contents.’

‘No problem,’ answered Askarin. ‘We can download everything it recorded from the central databank.’

‘Which will be two floors lower,’ his twin brother added.

‘And we won’t be able to access it until the defence grid is alive.’

‘Indeed,’ Guztav, the third Techmarine, agreed. ‘Also, we can only access the first level defence systems from here. We will have to work our way down to level six one by one. I estimate it would take at least two days to do all that.’

‘Then you should start right away,’ Akichi answered. ‘Two things to remember. First, I want to see the recordings of the camera as soon as possible. Second, you cannot physically touch anything in the vaults, only what I allow. Use a servitor and a controller.’


Guztav took a portable panel, and set in a few instructions. The rest of the Fatemaker squad parted to let a hunched figure forward. Somebody had given the figure an environment suit, which made it functional in vacuum, but rather ungainly and distorted. The servitor was vat-grown, and technically, it never really lived, which meant it had no soul aura. This was important. While the Techmarines got all audiovisual and electronic data from the vault’s systems, The Librarian’s task was to find a psychic imprint of any of the battle-brothers from the reserve fleet. Only he could find out what those brothers were thinking while visiting the vault, and with all the time passed, any imprint must have been very weak. Any interference with a fresh aura may block out the original psychic residue forever.

Guztav directed the servitor to the console, and the hunched figure typed in a set of codes as instructed by its Techmarine master. There was no visible sign, but a few minutes passed, and Guztav looked at his peers.

‘The first level’s main defence grid is deactivated,’ he said. ‘There was interference four hundred meters forward on the corridor: possibly some automated gun sentry which operates independently of the main grid. Proceed with caution.’

‘Right. I’ll take the small arms store at the far end,’ said Skarin.

‘And I will start working on the databank as soon as we get there,’ added Askarin.

‘Move on,’ Akichi ordered. The small team went down the corridor, and they soon disappeared from sight.

The Librarian crouched down at the console. Guztav took the servitor with him, but the Astartes psyker was pleased to see that it did not leave any imprint on the machine at any rate. Unfortunately, neither could he detect any previous imprint.

Akichi frowned inside his helmet. He needed some object which one of his brothers had touched while concentrating on the mission parameters. The rest would be a simple divination process, but it would all be pointless without a focus object. It would require a lot of senior psykers to perform a blind divination, and he was completely alone – besides, he was still shivery sometimes from the experience of the last such séance.

I saw the Emperor die.

Akichi knew that he was one of the three beings who were present at that terrible event, the other two being Him on Earth and His murderer. It took him a lot of time to recover from that trauma, and the Withdrawal did not make it easier for him to forget about those events.

He had managed to overcome the soul-bleeding by sheer willpower alone, and he often wondered how it could be that he was still alive and of sound mind after all that. The Withdrawal was one thing; but to see Him die… for a terrible second, he had felt that his soul immolated at the moment of His death, and he had absolutely no explanation how and why he could survive it.

It was not for his formidable psychic powers, he knew. For all his might, his soul should have been extinguished then and there. Was he perhaps spared by Him? This thought had occurred to him quite regularly. It was a nagging thought which never left him alone, especially because whenever he tried to analyse what happened in the Throne chamber on Terra, either in meditation or in his conscious state of mind, he always had to come to the same conclusion.

He felt His gaze upon him for a second. The Emperor was aware of his psychic presence, and he knew, he felt that for an infinitively short fraction of a second, the Emperor was weighing in His mind just what his presence meant for Him and whether he could be allowed some greater part in the grand scheme of things.

Then the Emperor turned away from him. He considered the Librarian, and He decided that he was not relevant in what was about to happen.

Why was he still alive then? It was hubris to think that he had survived on his own alone. Nor was he protected by the circumstances. The psycurium crystal, the Astropathic choir, the Tarot as a focus: all this should have amplified the destructive effect of the psychic backlash, not mitigate it. He had got to be spared. But for what purpose? He received no final message, no quest from Him, not even a plea for help. His person did not matter.

Why do I still exist?


There were sounds of gunfire coming from the other end of the corridor. The Fatemakers must have found the sentry which Guztav had warned them about. They did not report back any further problem, which meant that they could handle it on their own. As it did not directly concern Akichi, he turned back to the console, and extended his powers once again.

Nothing. The console had no discernible imprint on it.

The Librarian stood up without any emotion. Six levels of long corridors, countless consoles, handles and keypads to examine. It would be a very long two days.

Aboard the Opportunity

Orbiting Vault Double-Oh-Three

185 days after the Emperor’s death

‘We can positively establish now that Vault Double-Oh-Three was visited by the Fatemaker reserve fleet, exactly one hundred and twenty days ago.’

The meeting was opened by Adept Brakk 83/AF’s statement. The Adept said nothing new, of course. The Astartes contingent was sure that their brothers would come here.

Vault Double-Oh-Three was the main supply depot of the Fatemaker Chapter. It had been established quite early in the Chapter’s life (not unsurprisingly) that supplies had to be set up in case of a long, protracted campaign. There was no Vault Double-Oh-One (another precaution to distract the Chapter’s enemies), and Vault Double-Oh-Two had to be opened during the Neodevourer Wars (vindicating the original idea of stockpiling war material). Double-Oh-Three was the last and biggest Fatemaker stash of military-grade equipment, and if the reserve fleet moved because of a great crisis, they simply had to pass by it.

‘We have also established that the reserve fleet teams did not move beyond level four,’ the Adept continued.

This was an interesting piece of news. Both the human and the Astartes representatives of the contingent were on edge now, some of them silently cursing the Adept’s unintentional theatrics.

‘The inventory shows that the reserve team only took specific items,’ Techmarine Askarin took over the conversation. ‘They took some raw materials from level two…’

‘And over a third of the Warp cartridges from level four,’ his brother finished the sentence. ‘They only spent enough time down there to break the defence grid and carry out the cartridges.’

‘They were on a hurry,’ Andorias stated.

‘And yet they found the time to turn on the grid again,’ Essen added. Andorias looked back, and the officers in the room prepared for another session of silent enmity, but it seemed Andorias understood what the Scout-Sergeant was trying to say immediately.

‘They were expecting other strike forces to come here,’ he said.

‘Which is strange because they did not seem to do anything to put us on the right track at system CXC395F.’ Malistrum frowned. There was some inconsistency here which he could not quite put his finger on.

‘May I ask what the Warp cartridges are for?’ Mediator Dmitrija asked politely. This question was Adept Brakk’s field of expertise, so he gave the answer too.

‘The Warp cartridges contain the necessary energy source to fuel the Warp reactors. Suffice to say that the… source of the energy is quite unique, and there is no known substitute for it. The Warp reactor needs refuelling only very rarely. A third of the supplies would keep the three vessels Warp-capable for more than two decades, even if they had been on low reserves previously.’

‘Which they were not,’ Malistrum stated. ‘The reserve fleet is always 100% operational. This is the point of its existence.’

‘And yet they stocked up.’ Chaplain Uskovich stated. The Chaplain had been uncharacteristically silent in the last few months outside his regular duties and sermons. Whenever he did make a remark, it was short and to-the-point. ‘How far would those supplies take them?’

‘To the other end of the Galaxy, if necessary,’ Brakk answered. ‘They have excess energy to reach any point of Imperial space.’

‘Luckily,’ Techmarine Guztav took over, ‘we have a video recording which gave us further clue.’ He nodded to the Adept, who activated a holoprojector.

‘I display the recording on the wall. I am sorry, but it is not three-dimensional.’

The wall came alive with sounds and light. The quality was not very good: obviously that camera was installed only to detect basic movement on that part of the corridor.

‘This is the entrance of the Warp cartridge vault,’ the Adept said. He turned down the volume of his voice because the recording had an audio-part as well.

There was a Techmarine at the entrance. He was leaning heavily on the console at the door, watching as his team of Astartes direct a trolley car into the darkness of the vault.

‘Move on, brothers,’ he said in a surprisingly clear voice. ‘It is a long way to Nydhoya.’

The picture froze.

‘This was the important part,’ Guztav said. ‘Nydhoya is their next destination.’

The Space Marines looked at each other. This explained why they needed extra Warp-fuel. This made no sense in general.

Nydhoya was the name of the neighbouring sector. Not the next system, not the nest subsector, but the next sector.

The Imperium was divided into sectors for a good reason. Space was huge, and human presence was scarce among the stars. Subsectors represented the largest body of systems which could be handled locally without outside interference. Travel time between adjacent subsectors used to take weeks or months, and in these chaotic times, only the E… nobody knew how long it would have taken. How much time would it take to pass several subsectors and the nominal sector border which was usually a huge, dark, uninhabited zone of space?

Years. This was the only correct answer. It would take the reserve fleet years to get to the next sector, and then they would still have to deal with the question of what to do there.

The Fatemakers had never had any business in Sector Nydhoya. Nor had their ancestor chapters for sure. It had never been the mandate of the Malachias Sector’s defenders to pass the borders and do anything in the sector next door. It was too far away. Even Imperial campaigns of a magnitude like the famous Sabbath Crusade had tried to avoid reinforcing from neighbouring sectors as by the time they got there, the campaign may have ended.

‘Why do they want to go there?’

Well, somebody had to say this out loud. Not that anyone could answer it, though.

This time, the silence was broken by Uskovich.

‘This is still excess Warp cartridge restock.’ He turned to Adept Brakk. ‘Adept, you said that they have enough fuel now to move anywhere in the Galaxy.’

The Adept nodded.

‘Theoretically, of course.’

‘Then Nydhoya is not the final destination, just the general direction. They want to reach it, and then they will move on.’

‘Hmm.’ Malistrum stood up. ‘Adept, could you display a three-dimensional holographic map of the Galaxy?’

‘I could,’ came the answer, ‘but the resolution in this size would be barely appropriate.’

‘Just the sector markings would be enough. And please leave out the Galactic North and East. Chapter Master Fiffito had clearly no interest in them, so neither shall we.’

The air above the table came alive with the black-and-white map of the Galaxy. It showed only the left spiral arm and the middle, but it was still very big. A small yellow zone appeared on one end of it.

‘Sector Malachias,’ the Adept stated. The Astartes watched it intently. Most of them had never seen their sector in relation to the rest of the Imperium. The reason for this was perhaps because the result would have made them feel small and insignificant.

Malistrum took a control rod from the holoprojector’s side.

‘Fix a point at our current location, please,’ he told the Adept, ‘then fix another point at the tip of the control rod. I am going to pull a line from our present location. Can you name the sectors as I point at them with the rod?’

‘It is not my field of expertise,’ the Adept admitted, ‘but it is just basic lexical data. I can collect it from the projector’s memory bank.’

‘Do it, please,’ Malistrum said. He was looking at the map with narrowed eyes. He was beginning to have a suspicion about Chapter Master Fiffito’s destination, but he needed confirmation.

Hopefully, he would not get it. The consequences of him being right…

A red dot appeared in the zone indicating Sector Malachias. Malistrum reached into the holomap with the command rod, and saw that the tip of the rod also went red, with a red line connecting the two dots. He directed the rod in a way that the line bisected Sector Nydhoya, then he moved the tip of the rod further away. A new sector was lit up.

‘Sector Koshata,’ the Adept claimed. ‘We have very little information about it, but I see no special Fatemaker connection.’

Let’s try this further out. Malistrum moved the rod again.

‘Sector Bauhaus. Almost completely destroyed by the New Devourer. There have been no serious attempts to repopulate it.’

The Captain had not studied the Galactic map before, so he was struggling. Still, he was getting close. He just had to be careful to keep the line on Sector Nydhoya.

‘Sector Elias.’

‘Sector of Saint Drinidiad. Very seclusive with hardly any data.’

Just a little more.

‘Sector Mohaje. All sectors in this region are heavily populated because of their relative closeness to…’

The rod reached its destination.


The last zone lit up. Even on the holomap, it was marked by a slightly different shade of yellow.

The Adept struggled to find the words for a second. Finally, he said it.

‘Sector Primus. Subsector Terra.’

All people present looked back at the origin point. The red line arrived at Terra while still touching Sector Nydhoya.

Malistrum turned the control rod off.

‘They are going to Terra,’ he said.

Essen inhaled sharply. This was the only audible response from the assembled.

There could be no doubt about it. Even though it raised even more questions, this was the only possible answer as to why the reserve fleet had left under such mysterious circumstances. Terra was the source of the present crisis, and it corresponded with the fleet’s course. But the distance… this was one of the things which made sense in one moment and made no sense in the next.

‘Why?’ Guztav asked. Uskovich answered in his newfound curtness.

‘Maybe they know something we don’t.’

‘But what?’

Malistrum put down the control rod with a deliberate knock. Everyone looked at him.

‘I can only refer to Mediator Dmitrija here.’ He nodded to the young human. ‘We don’t have enough information to find out their true intention. All we can do is go after them and ask.’

He looked at the others.

‘And this is exactly what we are going to do. We stock up on supplies, especially with Warp cartridges. We reseal Vault Double-Oh-Three, although we are going to leave a message for our other brothers in case they arrive here. Then we move out. Librarian Akichi, did you find any object with a suitable psychic imprint?’

‘I did, captain,’ Akichi answered. ‘Although getting information out of it will be difficult.’

‘Explain,’ the Captain ordered.

Akichi waved back at the holoprojector.

‘Our Techmarine brother was leaning on the console, and on the wall while he was giving instructions to his men,’ he explained. ‘He was agitated, and he was thinking of the possible route of the reserve fleet, so it was a perfect sampling place.’

He raised his hands in apology.

‘I used a servitor to cut out a chunk of the wall there, and I placed t in a psy-inert casket. The sample is readable, but the imprint is very weak.’ He shook his head. ‘I could scan it, but my psychic probing would definitely erase all previous traces.’

‘Which means you will only have one chance, and it would probably fail anyway,’ the Captain concluded.

‘Unless I get help,’ Akichi agreed. ‘However, since I am the only psyker alive on the ship, any help would have to come from an outside source. We are going to need at least an Astropath-level psyker, and an untainted one at that.’

‘All Astropathy died with the Emperor,’ Andorias mentioned coldly.

‘Not quite,’ Uskovich countered. ‘Inquisitor Cathrin mentioned that three Astropaths survived the catastrophe on Saint Menthas.’

‘Out of three hundred.’ Malistrum frowned. ‘There are usually only a dozen Astropaths on an average Imperial world, which means now only every tenth of them has one who is still alive.’

‘And quite a few of them will or have already died in the chaos out there,’ Essen finished the sentence.

‘It matters not. Finding an Astropath will be our number two priority in the future right next to catching up with the reserve fleet. I have made my mind on this, brothers.’ Malistrum faced his officers. ‘We used to be the Angels of Death and the saviours of Mankind. We can no longer be that. We cannot save the human race or even this sector alone. We are only one strike group. Together with the rest of the Chapter… perhaps we can do something. Perhaps not. Our options would be greater anyway, and it would give us a fighting chance. The Fatemaker credo claims that this is all we can do for any living human, and this would have to be enough for us Astartes too.’

He put his hand on the table.

‘Make an oath for me, brothers. Swear that you will do everything within your power to find our brethren. Swear that we will rejoin them to continue the Emperor’s fight. Swear to me that you will follow a cause even in this new dark age, and that cause will be the saving of Mankind. Swear it to me that we will make new fate for ourselves and the Imperium.’

This was not part of Chapter traditions. The Fatemakers rarely made an oath. They knew their duties, and it was always enough. Still, they all knew that these new times required different approaches, and the symbolism of an oath was something they all understood.

Techmarine Guztav stood up and put his hand on the table.

‘On my soul, I swear it.’

Sergeant Andorias followed suit.

‘We will find our brethren, no matter the cost. On this, I swear.’

Scout-Sergeant Essen was next.

‘We will fight for Mankind and save it. You have my oath, Captain.’

As the others stood up one by one to take their oaths, the two Sergeants kept standing opposing each other, their open palms pointing to the other.

Rock has no concept of time.

The nameless planetoid continued its course in the abandoned system as it had since the beginning of creation. The vaults in its belly were re-sealed, although the some of the contents of its chambers had been taken again. The defence grid was activated to welcome the next visitors, be they friend or foe.

The planet knew nothing of this.

The entry gate was shut. The only thing which changed was two metal spikes bored deep into the rock next to the inner gate console with an iron plate resting on them. Words and an Imperial date were written on the plate, although the planet had no concept for either.

[Brothers. The reserve fleet left to travel to Holy Terra one hundred ad twenty-one days ago. We do not know why, but we are going to try to join them. All we know is they will travel through Sector Nydhoya on their way. Take from the supplies what you need. Join us if you can.

Captain Androsh Malistrum, Strike Force Four

An indeterminable amount of time passed, while the rock was resting. Then something happened, which was no longer new or unusual.

New ships arrived. The entry gate was opened again, and metal-clad giants marched in. A gauntleted hand reached for the plate, although the gauntlet was painted jet-black instead of the rock-crete grey of the earlier intruders.

The figure took the plate in its hands for a minute. A slow, hissing sound followed. The fists clenched, and the plate buckled and crumbled in the hands before it fell on the ground next to the giant’s legs.

The rock still knew nothing of this.

And now the two other things.

I have no idea what is the name of the subsector and sector where Terra is located. If somebody knows it, please tell me, and I re-write the names.

The idea of the Warp-cartridges come from Andy Hoare's book Star of Damocles. The way that trilogy handles Warp travel is just chilling. I recommend it to everyone (I hope it is not illegal advertising here :D ).
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 23 up)

Postby Midgard » Fri Jul 20, 2012 4:30 pm

The tension is palpable, and I love how it carries through in the writing. You were able to create a great edge-of-your-seat narrative, and the cliffhanger in the end is brilliant. I am looking forward to finding out where the Fatemakers' path takes them, and who the Astartes with jet-black gauntlets are. I suspect they are not friendly...
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 23 up)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:55 pm

Huhh... I had a busy week, and my next week will also be busy. So, what I did was I wrote a teaser tohint at what is going to happen in part 24. I believe that after all the doom and gloom the Fatemakers had to undergo, they really deserve to work out their frustration in the most badass way possible.

The rest of the update will come... well, I hope I can do it by next Friday.

Ongoliant Triangle

197 days after the Emperor’s death

‘Chaplain Uskovich and Librarian Akichi come to the bridge.’

The intervox of the Opportunity relayed the Captain’s message. The crew went about their business: everyone to their own console. They knew what would come next, but they had no part to play in it for the time being. Being busy was the right course of action now; the Captain was not known for angry rages, but there was always a first time.

If the Captain did not start raging now, he would never do.

The two officers arrived at the same time. Normally, the Captain gave them detailed instructions when their expertise was needed, but there are some situations where no explanation is required. The two of them knew everything the moment the door leading to the bridge opened, and they managed to have a look through the viewport.

The Ongoliant Triangle was a collection of three systems arranged in a more or less triangle-shape. All three suns had habitable planets revolving around them while being surrounded by systems with only gas giants and dead rocks. Imperial presence was the strongest in these three systems in the area, and, conveniently enough, the Triangle was also located on the imaginary line which connected Vault Double-Oh-Three and Holy Terra.

Of course, there was no guarantee that the reserve fleet had come this way. Space travel or even Warp travel did not work based on the straightest route possible between two locations. Even if they had passed the system, they had probably not stopped so early on their journey, with all the supplies they had collected from the Vault.

Still, where could have Strike Force Four started? It was the first inhabited system on the way, so they stopped there.

Now they also knew that the reserve fleet had not been here. They would have bombed the whole planet into oblivion if they had.

The viewport showed the surface of Ongoliant Beta III, the main inhabited planet in the second system. This part of the globe was dominated by a great central plain with no hills or mountains to mention. No forests, no thick plantation to cover the surface in any meaningful way. The three Astartes saw exactly what the inhabitants were doing with the ground of their planet.

There was a huge circle carved into the ground. It had a radius of several hundred miles, and if it was visible from the orbit, the line had to be very deep and wide. Somebody had invested huge amounts of energy and labour into it, but it paid off: the circle was perfect. So were the six arrowed lines starting from the centre of the circle and reaching over it. A seventh line had already half-way done, and no fine-tuned instrument was needed to state that there was room for an eighth one. The whole symbol was surrounded by other, smaller, runes, which made the eyes water even from orbital distance.

The three Astartes reacted the way they were supposed to. Akichi snarled silently, making a step towards the viewport as if to try to jump out of the ship and attack immediately. Uskovich was simply glaring at the rune with cold, murderous eyes. Malistrum was also silent: his lips made a thin line, then curled downwards in distaste.

No, there was no need for long briefings.

‘You will take four squads,’ he told his two officers.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (small teaser of part 24)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Aug 03, 2012 3:02 pm

Update time, update time, time to up the dates.

I am slowly beginning to catch up with my life, and I will have more time for writing too.

Chaos is sometimes overrated.

The usual way Chaos lured masses into its fold was to show them dark wonders and the awesome might of the denizens of the Warp, to which the Imperium did not have sufficient counter-arguments. Even so, if the Warp had been infallible or omnipotent, it would have defeated Mankind even before the nightmares of the 42nd Millennium.

The truth was that the Warp needed real-world agents and a staging point to enter into the Materium. Even if it found the agents, they basically remained humans, and humans were definitely not infallible.

The Chaos cult on Ongoliant Beta III had to learn this the hard way. A planetary insurrection was being devised as soon as the Emperor died and the Imperium seemingly collapsed overnight. The cultists, drunk on power and their presumed victory, played their hand immediately, attacking the main spaceport and all major population centres, while performing the usual Chaos acts of cavorting, murdering and pillaging.

By the time the cavorting, murdering and pillaging had been done, the spaceport and most cities burnt out. Their aggressive attacks were not in vain, though: they successfully managed to unite the rest of the planetary population against them, effectively countering the inertia which would have set in with the arrival of the Withdrawal effect.

The cultists were pushed back to the plains around the former capital in less than a month, where they faced another dilemma. The population was scarce on the planet to begin with as it was basically an agri- and mining world with low outputs of ores and grox flesh. No new ship arrived, and even if she had, she would not have been able to land effectively, what with the spaceport ruined and such. With no population to sacrifice and no chance of reinforcement, the cultists were basically stranded.

The cult had psykers among them, who managed to devise a new plan. The remaining members ceased all attacks against the loyalist forces who, in their own ignorance, were content to simply contain them. The cult took all the mining equipment and all available vehicles and started to carve a great symbol into the very flesh of the planet. In lack of enough human sacrifice, they reasoned that they could conduct a serious summoning ritual if they managed to amplify their power enough.

And so the cult had been digging and digging for the last five months, and they were making really good progress. They were not bothered by the loyalists, who had no means to look at the trenches they made from the orbit, and, consequently, did not even know of the danger they were in. Some of the cult leaders even argued that the symbol in its might would serve as a beacon and it would attract other followers of Chaos eventually, summoning notwithstanding.

They were certainly right that it would serve as a sign for any ship arriving on orbit.

The Opportunity flew above the ruins of the planetary capital, and she torched it.

There was no warning. They did not address the cult who made the city the focus point of the eight-pointed Chaos symbol. The ship simply aimed at the ruins with her biggest lance, and burnt it up.

The first attack of the Fatemakers lasted seventeen minutes: this is how much time they needed to make an entire city physically disappear. Every living person on that hemisphere was alerted immediately, and thousands of cultists were watching, dazed and disoriented as a beaming pole of light reached down from the heavens and killed the power centre of their brotherhood.

The Fatemakers were angry. This open display of Chaos was an affront to all of them, and they got sick of the merest thought that the situation could get this bad, this desperate for Imperium-held systems. Emperor or not, Chaos had never been allowed to get a foothold in the Malachias Sector this way, and the fact that they moved in such an insolent way made the blood of the Space Marines boil. Every single Astartes volunteered for the mission, and so the Captain had to make the Sergeants draw lots to be fair. Even though he understood his men, he could not risk the whole strike force in one single mission.

The four lucky squads got into Thunderhawk gunships, and they descended onto the planet while the Opportunity was firing with her lances. They had an escort of fighter planes just in case, but the Astartes knew that this would essentially be an infantry-based mission. Even is the planes could kill all the dig sites alone, it would still be an infantry mission because they would make it so.

The strike force needed to shed blood to get some much-needed vindication.

There were two main attack sites for the Fatemakers: the dig site on the half-finished Chaos arrow and one of the finished sites where the Space Marines hoped to get some information of the Chaos cult. While the former site was meant to be a simple eradication mission, the latter contained more possible moral threats, and so Akichi and Uskovich were both assigned to it.

The finished site was a concentric circle of defensive walls and a huge central dome, the main target of the Fatemaker attack. The Astartes did not try any subtlety here: the bombed the entrance of the complex and went in to kill everyone who was still alive.

Akichi was running along the inside of the wall. Two brothers were running on the top of the wall, gunning down everyone who moved. The Librarian did not know if the cultists had any psykers among them, so he decided against using his powers just yet. He was holding his force staff in his right hand, while he was shooting with a bolt pistol in his left.

He was not used to handling actual sidearms. He had the basic training, of course, and he followed the chapter credo of regular weapon drills, but he was painfully aware just how less effective he was compared to a mere battle-Brother. The others ran, aimed and fired with smooth, natural movements, while he was forced to halt for a fraction of a second to aim and shoot whenever a human shape appeared in front of him. Still, he made decent hits, and at least he felt that he was doing something he was trained for.

He missed being openly useful.

The trio almost made the half circle along the wall to reach the main entry point on the dome. Uskovich and some other Battle-Brothers were closing in from the other direction, clearing the way before forcing themselves into the dome itself.

Three men jumped out from behind the building, and opened fire. All three las-shots hit Akichi, who did not even flinch from the impact. Two of the cultists fell back with bloody craters opened in their torsos as the Astartes on the wall’s top killed them. Akichi sped up, and bumped into the remaining one, knocking the man on the ground.

He span the force staff in his hand, and stabbed downwards with the spiked lower end of it. He impaled the cultist, and ran on, turning into the area directly in front of the entrance.


The shout was loud and firm, cutting through the dim of battle without difficulty. There was only one man in the strike force with a voice this clear and dedicated.

Chaplain Uskovich and his men were busy clearing the dome’s entrance. This was the one point which offered any meaningful resistance during the attack. The entrance was surrounded by sandbags and cultists were still crouching behind them, shooting at the Astartes in front of them. The fact that the same Astartes were busy engaging in hand-to-hand combat with their cultist brothers did not seem to disturb them in the least. The other Chaos warriors were being killed systematically by the Space Marines as well as their own brethren from behind. With their typical crazy mindset, the cultists did not care about their own lives on either side of the sandbags. They might even have broken regular Imperial forces with this kind of reckless abandon, but not the Fatemakers.

Uskovich was in the thick of it. He was moving fast, and in a pattern which was irregular enough for the cultist gunners to miss him continuously. They killed their own comrades with the las-shots, although by the time the shot reached its target, he might have already got his head caved in by the chaplain’s crozius. The Chaplain was in his element now. He was focussed and firm, killing in short, economic sweeps while urging his brothers to fight even harder. Akichi was pleased to see him this way after what had happened at Saint Menthas and earlier. He was sure that the loss of the Emperor would break the Chaplain, and yet here he was, fighting against the enemies of the Imperium with the same courage and zeal as before.

The Librarian was still disturbed, though. Whenever he looked at Uskovich with his psy-senses, he was almost surprised to see how his aura hardened and discoloured. He was still effective and he held the flock together, but…

The Librarian focussed. This was no time to think about the spiritual health of the Chaplain. He used the few seconds he had left before the entrance guards would see him to extend his senses into the dome behind the defenders.

His eyes opened wide.

The Chaplain and his squad finished the last of the defenders over the barricades. Uskovich himself smashed the face of a cultist; two of his men shot the remaining enemies with point-blank shots while the rest of them lined up and opened fire at the gate’s barricades. The cultists there ducked, except one who was shot in the chest and died immediately. This was the moment when the Fatemakers should have attacked and run down the remaining defences in a few seconds. Uskovich was about to give the order when he heard Akichi’s shout.

‘Duck, brothers!’

The squad members hurled themselves to different directions immediately, and just in time, too. Several huge bolts of lightning darted forward from the darkness behind the entrance, barely missing the fats-moving Fatemakers by inches. The blue lightning remained: electric sparks were jumping around the area, coiling on the ground like snakes.

The tide of battle turned. Just as the Space Marines had been ready to break through the entrance a moment earlier, the squad was now broken up, its members chased by the energy sparks and the las-volley of the defenders.

One of the Marines let off a single bolt round towards the barricades. Another defender fell, but the response was another series of electric sparks. In order to fire with his bolter, the Marine had to slow down, even if for a second. The sparks jumped at him immediately.

The Marine fell on his knees while the blue energy-snakes were dancing around his armour. A new figure appeared at the entrance. It was a wiry, thin woman with intricate tattoos on her face. She was holding more energy-snakes in her hand, ready to throw them at the intruders who came to defile her sacred refuge.

‘Go away!’ she shouted, and threw the snakes away.

They went straight for the trapped Marine. They would have reached their target too, if it had not been for one of the other Battle-Brothers, who rushed into his brother and pushed him away from the incoming projectiles. They both fell on the ground, the new Astartes crying out in pain as the snakes writhed onto his armour too.

‘Go away, fools!’ the woman shouted, and started hurling her snakes like a maniac. ‘Go home! We have no time for you!’

The whole courtyard was full of her energy creatures now. The Astartes started firing at her, but she seemed to have some psychic defences as the bolt rounds exploded harmlessly an arm’s length from her.

‘We will get you soon enough! Now scram!’ the woman yelled. She raised both her hands, and blue energy started coiling in both of them.

Then the energy suddenly faded. The woman looked around, surprised.


The two bolt rounds blasted both her hands from her arm. The woman shrieked, and fell on her knees.

All the energy snakes vanished. By some instinct, the cultists behind the barricade all looked to the right at the same time. All they saw was another Astartes in blue power armour and a staff stabbed to the ground next to him, who was slowly lowering his bolt pistol. The cultists raised their weapons.

The Librarian shouted. It sounded like CHA!

The kinetic wave which he created was actually invisible, but it kicked up a lot of dust as it was hurled towards the barricades, so everyone could see it. The cultists had a last second to scream, and then their defensive position was blown away. Bags of sand and human bodies flew in every direction; the unluckiest ones were slammed against the dome wall and died at once, while the others, the lucky ones actually survived landing, only to be killed by headshots coming from the other Astartes. The defensive position ceased to exist in a second.

The two wings of the entrance slid shut. The voice of battle suddenly ceased, only the wailing of the psyker woman was audible. Miraculously – or rather thanks to her Warp-born abilities – she remained where she had been before the kinetic wave hit her. Still, she probably broke every single bone in her body, and with her two hands being a mess of blood and bone fragments, it was obvious that she was finished.

The wailing stopped when Akichi went to her and stomped on her skull. The Librarian had principles, and although the world was falling apart around him, this was one habit he insisted on. The only reward for Chaos-witches was the sole of his boot.

The rest of the two squads consolidated around the dome entrance. Akichi raised a hand.

‘There is another one inside,’ he said. Uskvich made a step towards him, but he was already backing away from the entrance.

‘Brother Thimorr,’ he voxed. Guiding his brothers through telepathy would have been easier, but with another enemy psyker in the battlefield, that method was no longer reliable. At least the Fatemaker voxlines were still uncompromised.

Thimorr was carrying a missile launcher with him. He had already used two of his projectiles to bring down a defence tower, but he still had enough to cause some damage.

‘Brother-Librarian?’ he answered on the voxline. He was standing on the parapet of the wall behind and above Akichi.

The Librarian stabbed his staff into the ground again. ‘On my mark, shoot a missile right at the line where the two door wings meet.’

The wording of the order was strange, but Thimorr had no objection. ‘Affirmative.’

Akichi raised his two arms in front of him, turned his hands outside, and made a grabbing movement. None of the other Space Marines had the training to sense the kinetic energies forming around the door wings, but the movement looked obvious in itself. The others readied themselves.

Akichi did not show it, but he was angry. No, it was even more than that. He was furious. He was used to all the foul language the Archenemy had for them in reserve, and he knew enough of their methods, their tactical thinking (if they had any to begin with), but this had been the first time that he was greeted with these words.

Go away!

The door wings groaned as the librarian grabbed them harder.

Go away? Go away?! He had been an Astartes warrior for more than a century! He had killed mutants, psykers, he fended off the very last Ork Waaagh! in the sector, he even survived an attack from the Neo-Devourer, and this thrice-cursed psykerling dared to treat him, nay, the whole Fatemaker Space Marines, as if they were just a nuisance? Did she believe they would go away? Did she think that the best soldiers of the Imperium were already beaten and broken?



‘Shoot,’ he voxed. Any other soldier would have argued that the doors were still shut, and the explosion would probably fail to do any harm on it, but Thimorr trusted his superiors with a conviction that only blood-relatives can feel. He shot the missile, which leaped towards the closed entrance.

Akichi was literally suffused with kinetic energy. In this state, he was more aware of his surroundings, too. He knew exactly how many fractions of a second he needed to open the door and how much time the missile needed to strike home. He also sensed the other, the second enemy psyker standing behind the door. He was more potent than the first one, and Akichi would have a harder time with him; all the while, the witch would have the chance to hurt some of the other Astartes.

This would never be allowed to happen.

The Librarian yanked his hands apart. The door’s two wings slid back, although not much. The small gap was not enough for the enemy psyker to see anything of the outside world. It was not even enough to allow effective shooting for the Astartes, although they would have used the opportunity if it had been necessary. The gap was just wide enough for the missile to flew through it and detonate inside.

The narrow space increased the destruction nicely. It put a dent into the two wings, which were now warped outside. This effectively ruined the opening mechanism, but the Librarian was not finished yet. He pulled his fists back aggressively, and his kinetic field folded the wings outwards permanently. The entry to the dome was opened up like a can of meat rations.

‘Onward, brothers!’ Uskovich yelled, and the two squads attacked with a thundering roar. Akichi took his staff back, and ran in after the others. He felt no more psykers presence in the building, although there was considerable psychic force gathered within. He did not need to warn his brothers about any possible moral threat: they all knew this, and Uskovich was guaranty enough to handle any similar danger. Nevertheless, he was in a hurry.

He was not murderous in nature, but now he felt that someone had to pay for this insult.

While Librarian Akichi was working out his anger on the remaining Chaos worshippers, a hundred miles away Scout-Sergeant Essen was busy checking his gear in the compartment of a Thunderhawk gunship.

His men did not need any more instructions, and, to be honest, his gear was immaculate too, but he had a habit and he did not wish to break it. He was carrying his modified Exitus rifle with a standard bolter strapped on his back; also, his chest was strapped with bolt and sniper rounds all over. He and his squad were all wearing carapace armour to ensure swift movement. The Emperor knows when had used his own power armour regularly the last time.

Come to think of it, not even He knew it any more.

The thought made him sad. He was still missing this one constant point in his life. The Emperor was dead, and he no longer protected. Essen was not an expert in psycraft, but he understood all too well when Librarian Akichi was talking about the ‘soul-bleeding’ effect of the Withdrawal. He felt it, and he had to fight hard to overcome it, using his own willpower and the meditative formulas the Librarian prescribed for the other Astartes. His soul healed, but the scar remained on it: whenever he thought of Him, Essen felt a dull, throbbing ache inside him, a reminder of what had been lost forever.

He looked at the other four men in the compartment. The Thunderhawk could have carried three squads if necessary, but the Fatemakers were going down without any intelligence report about the enemy forces, and so it was only prudent to divide them a little more evenly. The attack force consisted of four Thunderhawks and two escorts with two squads of Space Marines on them. Even with only five Astartes and no bulky power armour, the compartment was crammed. Barrels of explosive liquid were strapped to the ground: certain death for Essen and his men if the plane gets hit, certain death for the enemy if they manage to throw them out over the target.

He would kill again soon. This thought also made him sad, not because he resented the death of his enemies, but because the simple act of killing did not make him feel satisfied any more. Something was still missing in his life, and although his soul had healed, he knew that the emptiness had to be filled somehow if he wanted to be whole again. Being an effective killing machine was no longer enough. He wanted more, something else.

He needed time to find out what it was. In the last few months, he had had surprisingly much time to consider his options, but he had still not managed to think of anything. In this new age, people needed killing talent even more than before. Why was this no longer enough for him?

‘Sixty seconds,’ the pilot voxed on the intercom. Well, this is all the time you had for yourself, Essen, he thought.

‘Crtvek, the ramp,’ he commanded. The scout obediently opened the ramp which normally allowed debarkation from the gunship. All the scouts saw was the ground running quickly under them, but they trusted the human pilots well enough. They would get the signal in a few seconds.

‘Bombs away,’ the human voice came back. Essen and two more scouts cut the straps which tied the barrels down onto the floor. The Thunderhawk raised her nose a little, and the barrels rolled down to the back of the compartment and over the ramp. The Scout-Sergeant could not help but make a grim smile.

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 24)

Postby Midgard » Fri Aug 03, 2012 5:24 pm

As always, a highly impressive story! I always look forward to your updates, and wonder what Essen will do to fill the void. It could be something almost... human, but it could also be the cause of his downfall... I wonder what it will be?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 24)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Aug 10, 2012 9:53 pm

Part 25 is up. Enjoy :)

Part 25

Whenever the Fatemakers lacked certain military assets, they improvised.

Strike Force Four had no bombers at their disposal. They rarely needed them as they did not suit their tactical style of rapid infantry-based deployment. If they did want something levelled to the ground, they could always combine the two forms of warfare, like they did on Ongoliant Beta III. There were risks involved, but if one of their planes got a direct hit at her usual speed, it did not really matter if it had incendiaries aboard or not anyway.

The enemy camp was big. It looked like a huge construction or an Adeptus Mechanicus excavation site with all the ditches and digging machines. The enemy was obviously planning for the long term because they erected fortifications along all the major trenchlines which constituted the great Chaos symbol. The last such fortification was the main target which the two squads had to take before they could fan out and clear the whole digsite.

The two escorts were modified Aquilas with rockets attached under their wings. They used them to kill two towers on top of the fort, and then veered off to give way to the four Thunderhawks. If the enemy had got any kind of serious anti-aircraft weaponry, both of them would have probably died, but they knew the risks and they knew their trade too. There was no flak attack, however. This was a poor planet, and besides, the Opportunity also destroyed the capital with battleship weapons to provide distraction. The Thunderhawks could now fly in on low altitude without too much risk.

With all the incendiary thrown out above the fort, the enemy suffered heavy losses in a very spectacular way. The swirling inferno virtually sucked everything which was not nailed down on the ground into the fireballs which erupted as the exploding barrels hit the ground. Most of the Chaos forces, especially those who were outside when the bombs hit were vaporised in an instant. Return fire from small arms was scarce and disorganized, even though two of the Thunderhawks slowed down slightly, and so they provided better targets.

Some of the remaining Chaos cultists were handling a heavy bolter, and as the faster Thunderhawks darted by, they managed to let off a salvo after them. The crew started to cheer as tiny figures fell out of both planes, but their cheering soon stopped as tiny fires lit up at the back of the figures.

This planet was backwater enough so its inhabitants had never seen a single Astartes. The battle would soon turn into something they had never experienced before.

Even though the Emperor had died, fate must have survived, and it still had a twisted sense of humour. Why else would he have won the deployment, but got assigned with Essen?

Andorias did not have time to ponder on this; not when he was falling at less than a hundred meters. He activated his jump-pack, and he turned left and down, going as low as possible to avoid enemy fire.

He was especially focused that day. This was his first battle since he had fought that Sororitas commander aboard the Blood of Martyrs. He had a new bionic eye now, but this was not the reason why he was careful.

The last time he had fought, he had also lost it. His rage among all those battle Sisters may have won the day, but it had also opened a door to a dangerous path which only led downwards. The Fatemakers always tried to prepare for the worst, so they did not hide certain dangerous information from their own kin. Andorias knew that sometimes Space Marines had deserted from the Imperium, and, among other things, the reason for it was a loss of self-control. Astartes were not designed to be complete human beings. They sacrificed some aspects of their humanity in order to be better at fighting, and there was always the danger that the balance would tip further and they would end up in madness.

Andorias was proud of his self-control. This was the main reason he became expert in two different sets of warfare, and this was how he fought his way up to the rank of Sergeant. This was also the reason why he managed to cure himself of the Withdrawal: he concentrated on his routines, and his mind did the rest of the trick. He did this only partially out of duty: he was not afraid of anyone or anything in the Galaxy or beyond, but even he had one secret fear. Giving way to his rage… becoming a feral thing… losing everything he had…

No. never. He will guard every moment of his life with the same diligence. He will never, never lose control again: not in battle, not outside it. He will be the living personification of calmness as he cuts, shoots and mangles the enemies of the Imperium. He will bring unimaginable suffering to all who oppose him or his Chapter; but all the while, he will stay calm.

A shot hit his shoulder-pad, and he span in mid-air.

I will be calm. I will kill him, but I will stay calm.

Andorias crushed into the parapet with deadly force. An Astartes with jump pack could land with earth-shattering force, and Andorias was an expert at this kind of warfare. There was a small concentration of people where he arrived, but not for long, as the impact swept them off the wall immediately. The Sergeant activated his chainsword, took his bolt-pistol in his left hand, and looked around.

He was alone. His men dispersed all over the fort to cause as much mayhem as possible. Their plan was to herd the enemy into the courtyard, where the sniper-scouts could kill them at their leisure. Fighting in pairs on the wall would have given the Space Marines extra safety, but it would have also increased the time it took to break up and confuse the enemy. Every Astartes was on his own, and Andorias had no problem with that.

The parapet ended in a door on the side of the north-eastern tower. The door now opened, and a group of screaming fanatics swept forward with all kinds of close-combat weapons.

Andorias ignited his jump packs for a full second. The blast hurled him forward right into the cultists. They were not prepared for this sudden change of pace, and the first three of them fell on the floor. Andorias ignored the first two – he was experienced enough to know that the impact broke everything inside them anyway – and kicked the third one off the parapet with his leg.

The fourth cultist had a power maul. Andorias waited for half a second to allow his enemy to raise the weapon, then he stepped forward, and cut upwards with his sword. He split the cultist’s jaw and face in two, then made a half-step forward again, while turning backwards with the upper part of his body. The fifth cultist could not slow down in time, and he stumbled on the Space Marine’s leg. Andorias hit his head with the handle of his chainsword – with enough force to kill him, of course – and he stabbed forward. He caught the next man right in the stomach, and the chains bit into his guts hungrily.

The cultist screamed in pain, especially because the Sergeant did not kill him quickly, as opposed to the others. The cultists behind him were equipped with autoguns, and they already opened up on the Astartes. The body of their impaled fellow cultist took the brunt of the salvo, and he finally stopped screaming; all the while, Andorias could aim and shoot with his bolt pistol unopposed.

The cultist who was further back fired until his gun ran empty. He suddenly realized that he was not only unarmed, but also alone now. There was a metallic, rasping sound, and the twitching body of his brother who was acting as a living shield fell apart. The giant in grey power armour stepped forward.

The cultist did not even try to snatch another weapon from the blood-soaked floor. Instead, he fell on his knees, and stretched out his arms pleadingly.

Andorias pointed the bolt-pistol at his forehead, and shot him. Then he looked around and acknowledged, somewhat satisfied, that all enemies were dead on this section of the wall.

Not only this, but he felt no anger of bloodlust as he killed these people. It seemed he had not lost it after all.

A little further away from the north-eastern tower, Sergeant Essen deployed with his scouts, and started to kill the enemy.

His squad kept formation, unlike Andorias and his men. The scouts merely formed a four- and a five-man team, and they started to sweep across the courtyard. It was a big space, but by no means open: some of the excavators and heavy digging machinery were kept there, providing excellent cover for any kind of firefight. For this reason, Essen did not go with his men: they knew their trade and he trusted them, but he was still in an entirely different league, and he could thrive in this environment better alone.

He had already gunned down two enemy fireteams who were building a chokepoint among the machines. He had also shot two gunners who were lying on their stomachs on two tractors, trying to play the sniper game. This was a mistake. That day, Scout-Sergeant Essen was the only one who was allowed to play the sniper game.

He climbed the tractor of his last victim, and looked down. There was a big group of cultists lying in ambush on the other side, but he reckoned he had at least six seconds before they saw him. He subvocalized in his voxpiece, and called one of his men.

‘Bogumil, vector six minus four, dark blue tractor. How far are you?’

‘Fifteen seconds max,’ came the silent answer.

‘Do it,’ said Essen, and he opened fire. His attack surprised the ambushers who suddenly became ambushed themselves. His burst decimated the enemy, and the survivors dispersed with panicked cries on their lips.

There was gunfire behind Essen, but not bolt explosions. This was the sound of the enemy’s autoguns. Essen hissed into his vox.


‘Enemy force cutting in from the right,’ Bogumil answered. ‘We can break through, but…’

‘Forget it. I’ll manage,’ Essen grunted, and he jumped off the tractor. He killed the two people lying at his feet, and he started to shoot the ones who had survived his first attack.

There were still four of them standing when his gun clicked empty.

The four cultists stopped, and turned back. Essen slowly straightened, and lowered his bolter.

The ranking cultist looked at the enemy I front of him. All he saw was a tall and muscular man in simple carapace armour and an empty gun, with another rifle strapped on his back. It would take too much time for him to reach back and take it.

The four cultists raised their autoguns. The leader started to grin.

‘You are out of ammo and luck, big guy.’

It was difficult to say what happened next. All the cultists saw was Essen reaching down to his side, and the next moment, a sword-sized knife embedded itself into the leader’s head.

‘I still had a knife.’

The Chaos leader fell. The other three looked at his corpse, and then back at the Astartes. Essen pulled out a full magazine for his bolter, and showed it to the cultists.

‘I also have a spare clip.’

His cold, matter-of-fact style was overwhelming. None of the cultists could move as he pushed the clip in place, and triggered his gun.

‘I can still kill.’

He shot the three men in front of him. There was still fighting behind him, but that was not his immediate concern. There were people approaching in front of him, and he killed the first one who came out of cover.

‘I am still a Space Marine.’

The new group of cultists had not seen his earlier performance, so they were not afraid of him either. They ran at him as one.

‘And you…’

Essen switched over to full auto, and stepped forward. He only slowed down for a second to tear his knife out of the dead cult leader’s head.

‘You little scum…’

Holding his knife in his left and his barking bolter in his right, he ran into the middle of the cultist ranks.


The battle was going well.

The Fatemakers cleared most of the walls, and now even the Assault Marines were hunting the rest of the enemy among the machines in the courtyard. Andorias felt nothing of this: he had found perhaps the one remaining resistance on the western parapet, and he was struggling to overcome it.

It seemed that everyone on the walls had decided to attack him, and him only. Did they decide to take at least one Space Marine with them? It mattered little in the end. He was killing them in a steady rate, and so far, he felt none of the battle-lust which had overcome him aboard the Blood of Martyrs.

Upper cut, diagonal slash, one step back, parry, trap the blade… shoot the man, shoulder into the next, sweep…

Battle lust or not, Andorias was in combat mode, and his senses were much sharper than usually. Still, it was more down to his instincts that he could heard that distinct, whining noise.

He ducked. The rocket hit the parapet from the outside, throwing debris all over him. His next assailant fell off the wall with a scream, which obviously did not bother the missile crew that much. The next shot would come in a few seconds.

‘Heavy weapons outside the western wall,’ Andorias barked into his vox. ‘Four Assault Marines engage them now!’

So this was the time they were allowed to concentrate on the fort only. There was not much fighting inside anyway, so they might as well have moved out and started to decimate the outside Chaos forces too.

Somebody tore up the door behind Andorias, and cultists poured out from that direction as well. The Sergeant could have jumped off the wall and left them there, but this meant giving up a position. Andorias was not in the mood of giving anything up that day.

He shot the remaining two bolts into the new mob, while still kneeling. He was listening intently for the sound of the next incoming missile. He could have stood up and taken a look, but he would have also made a target of himself. It was all about timing now.

The first enemies were almost on him from both sides when a new voice cut into the melee. Grey shades darted upwards, and slammed into the two cultists. The Assault Marines pushed the two men off the wall as they jumped over the parapet to attack the outside forces. They gifted Andorias with a few seconds of time, and he had to use it well. He waited for another heartbeat, and he activated his jump packs.

He soared into the air. The missile hit and pulverized the spot where he had been standing a second ago, and he was rewarded for his effort by seeing the small Chaos fire-team attacked and cut down by his incoming Assault Marines. He arrived back exactly at the same spot, and he looked around. People were running at him from two directions, and he was preparing for a fighting style involving spins and wide sweeps, when the first cultist on his left had his head blown clean off.

Andorias turned his head just enough to see the spot where the fire came from. It was unnecessary: he had hardly spotted the kneeling figure in the courtyard when a familiar voice cut in on his voxline.

‘Cobalt Manoeuvre, Andorias. Kill them on one side, and leave the rest to me.’

Andorias stroke downwards with his chainsword, and cut a cultist on the forehead. He pulled the sword free by twisting it back, and then he beheaded the other one with an upper cut. He turned his back to the enemies on his left. He knew he was in good hands.

He was right. None of the cultists on the left even managed to get near him. Both Essen and Andorias killed on their side with clean, economic and swift hits: the Scout-Sergeant with precise headshots and his brother with strikes which might as well have been used in woodcutting, except that every single swing meant the death of an enemy.

Andorias activated his jump packs for the last time. He somersaulted high up in the air, making a perfect arch with the fumes of his turbo-engines. The last two cultists stopped at the spot where he used to be, and looked up: they could not have made an easier target for Essen even if they had tried. The Sergeant made his last two kill-shots, and he stood up to welcome his brother as he landed in front of him with an acrobatic knee-bending.

‘Spectacular,’ Essen said dryly, and reached up to turn on his vox. Andorias did likewise with a slight nod of his head, and they listened to the report from their squad.

The report was basically a victory. The Fatemakers had cleaned the courtyard and the walls, and they had bottled up the remaining Chaos forces at the gate of the fort. Essen nodded to himself, and he looked at Andorias with raised eyebrows.

‘So how did it feel to fight again?’

Andorias took off his helmet. His half-mechanic face was not really able to convey emotions, even if he wanted to. Nevertheless, he considered Essen’s questions for a second.

‘It was… liberating to do what we were created for.’

‘Liberating, eh?’ Essen looked at the other for a little more, then he shook his head. ‘You know, I sometimes feel that I could almost like you, Andorias. At least, until the moment I realize that you have no soul whatsoever left inside you.’

Andorias focussed on Essen’s face – his augmetic eye whirred – and he answered.

‘You know, I sometimes feel that I could almost respect you, Essen. At least, until I realize that you are too weak to do what is expected from the likes of us.’

Essen made a face, and strapped the semi-Exitus on his back.

‘How we didn’t kill each other while we were children, I will never know,’ he said, and left for the gate.

Andorias waited until he got out of earshot.

‘Such was the power of our friendship, Tobias’ he said to himself. For a moment, his half-machine face showed genuine sorrow.

The joined the Scout-Sergeant on his way to the gate. Their men could mop up the remaining cultists, so they did not hurry – they had trust in their squadmates. They walked at a leisurely pace next to each other: two people of similar size and similar strides.

There was some movement behind a heavy tractor. A pair of legs protruded from behind the machine, and, as it turned out, they belonged to a wounded Chaos cultist. He was dying from a shot in the belly, but the two Space Marines stopped nevertheless. It was not Chapter policy to leave an enemy behind while he was alive.

The cultist was some kind of leader, judging from the tattoos on his face. He looked at the Astartes.

‘Why?’ he asked weakly.

Essen took out his bolter and triggered it, frowning.

‘Why what?’

‘Why did you… come here? Why did you… attack us?’

Essen couldn’t help laughing.

‘You cannot be serious,’ he said, and aimed.

‘We have won, didn’t you… know?’ the cultist panted.

Essen lowered his gun.

‘We have… truly won…’ the wounded man had at mot seconds left, but he was genuinely puzzled by something. ‘The Emperor… is dead… Chaos won. Why fight… when the war is lost? I don’t… I don’t understand you… beaten… and you came here… why bother any more? You can no longer… win…’

The two Sergeants looked at each other; they had never looked more similar than now. The way they aimed their guns at the cultist and shot him was also no less similar.

‘What do you think?’ Uskovich asked.

Akichi did not respond immediately. They were standing in the final, innermost chamber of the dome, and they did not like what they saw at all.

The inside of the chamber was covered in glowing runes. Symbols of Chaos were there, and more arcane, more alien ones too, which hurt the eye just by looking them. There were runes on all four walls, on the ceiling, and even the floor was full of it. Akichi was standing in the middle of the chamber, looking around himself, careful not to step on any of the glowing lines.

Uskovich did not enter. He was standing at the door, careful not to touch it (even the door had a set of disturbing runes). He had made sure that the lesser battle-brothers could not even get this far, but Akichi and him had the training to withstand any ill effects, and they were obliged to know what manner of danger the runes represented.

‘Summoning runes,’ Akichi finally said. ‘Among other things.’

‘Among other things?’

‘Warp-symbols too. Not linked to the Four Powers directly. I have felt this type of energy before. And those symbols are also familiar,’ he nodded to a set of runes on the left wall.

Uskovich cocked his head.

‘Where from?’

Akichi turned back. His face was tense.

‘At New Novgarrod. The Chaos sorcerer had the same runes tattooed on his face. The witch outside the dome had them, too.’ He gestured around the chamber. ‘The Warp-resonance I feel here is almost identical to the feeling I had when I cast the Tarot which warned us about the Emperor’s death. This is the resonance I felt in the Adeptio card with that strange warp phenomenon.’

Akichi headed for the door, avoiding the runes on the ground.

‘Take all the brothers out, and call the Opportunity,’ he asked Uskovich. ‘We will have to destroy this place. And then the other domes, too. Everything’.

The Chaplain looked into his eyes, and he merely nodded. He needed no more persuasion.

Aboard the Opportunity

204 days after the Emperor’s death

‘We can determine two facts from this mission,’ Malistrum said. ‘First, there is a new Chaos cult in the Malachias Sector, which we previously knew nothing about.’

He looked around the conference table. As so often in the past few months, there were only Astartes present at the post-mission briefing. Moral threat was being discussed, and mere mortals were not invited to it.

It seemed that there was only moral threat waiting for Strike Force Four from now on.

‘The second thing is that the Great Enemy is painfully aware that our Emperor has perished.’

These words still hurt the Astartes, the Captain knew. Still, there was no way he could avoid the topic.

‘These cultists were confident. They were not the usual fresh recidivist scum that we generally find in these places. They remind me of the campaign I fought as a scout more then a century ago. The cultists had been holding that system for almost seventy years by then, and they managed to convert every world their in their image. It felt that we were the intruders and they were fighting on home ground.’

Malistrum shook his head.

‘Of course, the difference is that there they were really at home there, and here, they were merely isolated enough to believe they were safe. This catastrophe caught Chaos by surprise as well. They are aware of it, but they cannot take the advantage.’

‘No wonder,’ Uskovich interrupted. ‘Chaos needed the Imperium to spread. The cultists travelled from planet to planet by ships, and now that Warp-travel is almost impossible, they are stranded just like the Imperial forces.’

‘In the long run, this could work to our advantages,’ Essen said. ‘With a core of solid Imperial force, we could travel from world to world. We just need a small fleet…’

‘Like the reserve fleet and our brother strike forces,’ Malistrum finished the sentence.

Essen faltered.

‘This is our aim, remember?’ Malistrum asked. ‘We have to unite with our brothers so we can begin to rebuild. There are too few of us otherwise. It took us a week just to destroy all targets on the surface. Chaos will not get a foothold on this planet any more, at least, not if the locals are careful enough. I managed to contact one of the remaining big cities, and I found an Imperial mayor there who seemed to understand their situation.’

‘Didn’t he ask us to stay and help them?’ Andorias asked.

‘Of course he did,’ Malistrum answered with a grim face. ‘I explained to him that the Chaos forces are broken, and once the dust settles in a few months, they would do well to send people into the plains and check if there were any survivors. They gave us the usual answer.’

‘We have done what we could, mayor.’ Malistrum’s voice was firm but somewhat tired. ‘We are on a mission, and we cannot remain here longer.’

‘I understand that, Brother-Captain.’ The voice on the other side was distorted and worrying. ‘I just hoped that…’

‘Yes, mayor?’

‘Well… you are the Emperor’s chosen warriors, and it is your duty to protect us, isn’t it?’

‘We are, and we have done our duty. What else do you wish from us? There is no more viable Chaos force left on your planet.’

‘It’s not about that, Captain,’ the voice said. ‘It’s just… well, you are here, and we hoped that you would stay here to…’


‘To stay here. To help us… to… you know…’

Malistrum shook his head at the memory.

‘They never understand that we cannot tie ourselves to a single world. What could we do here? At most we could fortify the system, and that’s it. We are not strong enough to start tidying up on our own.’

‘We need the others, my brothers,’ he addressed the other Fatemakers in the room. ‘We have to catch up with them, and this pacification cost us a full week. Who knows where the reserve fleet could be now? They can choose their own pace, but we have to be faster than them, and we have no idea how fast that has to be. We cannot afford to stop, and we cannot afford to delay ourselves. Even at the cost of Imperial lives, we have to move on.’

‘It pains me to give this order, but I have made up my mind on this. The Ongoliant Triangle is the last Imperial system where we stop for a while. From this moment on, we will avoid inhabited systems, and we will not answer distress calls. We will have two duties: to travel as fast towards the Nydhoya Sector as possible, and to find an Astropath to conduct the scanning ritual on Librarian Akichi’s psychic sample. The Librarian has informed me,’ he nodded towards Akichi, ‘that he would be able to locate Astropathic communication from parsecs away, especially now that there are so few of them left, and there will be no interference. We don’t have to stop anywhere; it is enough to just pass by. If we hear an Astropath, we will stop – but we will stop for the Astropath, and not because he might be sending distress calls. Sector Malachias will have to get on without our help for a while.’

There was no objection, although Malistrum saw that quite a few people would have gladly objected. Finally, Akichi raised his head, and asked:

‘What about the cult?’

‘We will have to leave them be for the time being,’ came the answer. ‘Stranded and isolated, they could not cause much damage – and we will not stop to hunt them down anyway. They are on their own, too.’

There was no question left open. The Astartes officers left one by one until only two people remained: the Captain and Scout-Sergeant Essen.

Essen waited until all the others left, then he looked at Malistrum.

‘We killed an army’s worth of cultists in the last week, we purged them from the face of the planet, we even managed to leave the ecosystem relatively intact, so the Imperialists could continue with their lives, and I still feel that we lost the battle here.’

Malistrum returned the gaze.

‘You feel correctly, Scout-Sergeant. We have been on the losing end of the battle for more than six months now, and we may remain on that side forever. And still, we will fight on, even if it means making the most unpleasant decisions imaginable.’

Essen looked on for a while, then he nodded, stood up and left.

It was only a few hours later that Malistrum realized what his problem was with the conversation with the Scout-Sergeant. The briefings were usually over when those involved showed the Aquila and said the infamous sentence. Now that He no longer protected, neither the sentence nor the Aquila was necessary, so the Astartes slowly dropped them altogether.

What came to Malistrum’s mind was that ‘The Emperor protects’ used to mean for an Astartes: ‘I hear and obey.’ He had to wonder what Essen’s nod at the end of the conversation really meant.

Did the Scout-Sergeant nodded to him in obedience, or to himself as if reaching a decision?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 25)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:40 pm

Time for another update. The next one is going to be longer, and it will take me more time to write it - a lot of dialogues, tension-filled reminiscing and perhaps even flashbacks - so I think I will update again in two weeks, just to allow me enough time.

Anyway, enjoy this.

Part 26

Aboard the Opportunity

224 days after the Emperor’s death

Intruder alert on deck fourteen. Intruder alert on deck fourteen. Intruder alert…

This was not an alarm that Strike Force Four was used to. They were not a Chapter primarily specialized in space battles, and most enemies were not foolish enough to actually try to board an Astartes vessel anyway. The alarm had sounded only three times since Malistrum had become Captain, and the Fatemakers had made the enemy pay dearly for their insolence on all three occasions.

This was different, though. In order for the general intruder alert to sound, there had to be some intruders, and there were none now. The Opportunity was travelling in the Warp, and there was no signal that the hull was actually breached anywhere. One of the secondary conditions had been met, and the ship’s automatic systems did their job: alerted the crew based on their pre-programmed instructions.

The secondary condition in this case was weapon discharge on deck fourteen. Weapons may be shot, of course, but deck fourteen housed five of the strike force’s Astartes squads, and nothing else. Even Astartes could make mistakes, and they could fire their guns accidentally, but this had not happened in the recorded history of the strike force. The credo of the Chapter was clear: there were no accidents and no coincidences.

Besides, the ship was in the Warp; anything could happen there, even more so than usually.

The intruder alert signal automatically shut off after fifteen repeats. By that time, the five Astartes squads on that deck had already made themselves battle-ready. Three squads always had to wear their battle-gear as Chapter regulations dictated, and the other two joined them in their mundane clothes, carrying their bolters nonetheless. They were not a lot less dangerous without power armour. Woe to any foe who may have managed to infiltrate the ship.

Brother Pelidor, a veteran member of Squad 4.4, also known as Squad Hemethor, was missing: he did not show up at the sound of the alarm, even though his squad was one of the ones on guard duty. Hemethor himself had contacted the bridge, and found out that the weapon discharge actually came from the missing brother’s room.

The corridor was designed for Astartes size, but it was still not big enough for more than twenty of them to surround a door. Hemethor and another squad-mate were standing on the two sides, with the rest of the squad standing further away and the others securing the corridor at length. The Sergeant looked at his man, who nodded back.

Me first, Hemethor signed, and reached for the console on the wall. As the door slid open, he jumped in, throwing himself on the left, sweeping his bolter over the room all the while. His partner followed just late enough so they would not hinder each other at the door, but still close enough to cover him if there was any enemy inside. He landed on the other side of the room, and aimed with his weapon right away.

There was no enemy. The room was simple like all personal quarters of the Space Marines. An armour and a weapon rack, a chest for personal possessions and a huge bed: this was all.

The armour rack was occupied. Every single piece of Pelidor’s Astartes power armour was placed on it, arranged properly and cleaned thoroughly beforehand. His weapon rack had all the personal weapons which a Space Marine was issued: every single one, save the bolter.

That weapon was still in the hands of Brother Pelidor. Clearly, he had taken all his armour and his weapons, cleaned them and put them on the rack like a man who knew he would no longer need them again. He had also taken off his clothes and arranged them neatly on the bed. Hemethor’s keen senses also told him that the chest was locked, and the key was put on top of it. No doubt his personal belongings had been arranged inside too.

After he had put his belongings in order, Brother Pelidor sat down, cross-legged, in the middle of the room, and shot himself in the head with his own bolter. That one shot was what triggered the intruder alert.

To say that Captain Malistrum’s mind was reeling at the news was an understatement.

‘Inform me of anything new, Brother-Sergeant,’ he ordered, and turned off the vox-link.

He was alone in his personal chamber. When Hemethor had asked him for a private channel, he obliged because there was something warning in the Sergeant’s voice. He was right.

Suicide? Suicide? An Astartes, a veteran Space Marine killed himself without any previous signs of… madness? What was happening on his ship?

Space Marines did not commit suicide. Ever. They were mentally conditioned in a way which actually prevented them to develop the usual mental symptoms (stress, depression, sorrow) which caused ordinary humans to take their lives. They sacrificed themselves if the tactical situation required it on the battlefield. Malistrum knew some who willingly threw their lives away in the name of victory. Cyromal, his own former Scout-Sergeant, who blew himself up with a melta-bomb to take a large group of cultists with him… Brenno from his old squad, who grabbed a Hyper-Fiend and hurled both of them off the top of a cliff… Boratino, an Apothecary, who willingly revealed his position to the enemy to keep the gene-seed he had harvested from his fallen brothers hidden and safe…

Those had been worthy sacrifices in the name of Mankind and the Emperor; the acts of soldiers who knew their duty to the very end. This was no such sacrifice. This was more like the thing some of the weaker mortals might do when they see no options before themselves, and their limited mind is not able to cope with a seemingly hopeless situation.

How could Brother Pelidor do this? Had he got mad? Had he completely lost his mind? Had he become a traitor? A traitor of what? How could he abandon… how could he leave his squad, his duty… an Astartes… How? Why? How could…

He restrained himself. This event stripped him of his usual self-control, and he needed that self-control now, more than ever before. His ship had not left the chaos and crisis behind. Madness, failure and the possibility of extinction was still an option for Strike Force Four.

He cleared his mind with a quick mental exercise, and as soon as he had calmed down, he reached for the vox system again. He needed an Apothecary to examine Brother Pelidor’s body, and he needed someone to track his movement and his actions in the last few days. Or even from the very beginning of the present crisis, if necessary. He would need Chaplain Uskovich with his investigatory experience and Librarian Akichi, who was also the strike-force’s remaining archivist. He needed a procedure for this situation, a precedence… most of all, he needed an explanation.

‘Apothecary Ruffar?’

‘Captain!’ the Apothecary’s voice was uncharacteristically tense. ‘I was about to call you…’

He wanted to continue, but Malistrum cut in.

‘I need your help in a serious matter, Apothecary. I am… not sure how to inform you about this, but battle-Brother Pelidor from Squad 4.4…’

‘So you know about it already,’ Ruffar broke in.

Malistrum paused.

‘The question is how you know it, Apothecary.’

Ruffar’s voice was surprised now.

‘Captain, it happened here at the Apothecarion.’

‘That’s not…’ Malistrum changed his mind. ‘Apothecary, we don’t seem to be talking about the same thing. I wanted to ask you something, but now I would like you to explain now what happened at the Apothecarion.’

‘Captain, I… I don’t know how to say this… just like you, in fact… Brother-Captain, I wanted to report that Battle-Brother Pelidor has murdered a fellow Fatemaker Astartes.’

Malistrum closed his eyes, and he swallowed hard.

‘Who did he kill?’ he asked.

‘Brother Changrapopulos.’

Brother Changrapopulos had been injured in the Belandon Incident even before the Emperor had died. He had been in a coma ever since, and there had been a serious debate on whether he should have been allowed to die or continue in this state. Captain Malistrum had made the decision to keep him alive based on the credo of his Chapter: everyone deserved a fighting chance, and if the Fatemakers were able to give that chance, they should do so.

Brother Changrapopulos had been the occupant of the Apothecarion for two hundred and forty-five days. He had slept through the catastrophe at Cephola Base, the crisis at Saint Menthas, the mystery of Vault Double-Oh-Three and the pacification of the Ongoliant Triangle alike. He had been given exactly 250 days to regain consciousness, but this did not mean that he had been forgotten.

People sometimes said that Space Marines were more machines than true men, and there was a lot of truth in this, but the Astartes conditioning had several long-term advantages as well. Astartes mind could be programmed within certain limitations, and so Malistrum knew that his brain would alert him in the right time when he had to make a decision about the fate of his dieing brother. Brother Changrapopulos had five more days to come back from the coma; however, another brother had evidently decided to steal his fate.

The four officers: Malistrum, Uskovich, Akichi and Hemethor were standing in the Apothecarion next to the bed of Changrapopulos. Apothecary Ruffar was also with them: his face showed a series of emotions he was clearly not familiar with: concern, shock and confusion. He had never lost a patient this way before.

Malistrum reached out for the head of Changrapopulos, put his hand below the chin, and gently pushed his head up. The wound became visible, and the mood became even gloomier.

‘A standard combat knife stabbed under the chin,’ Uskovich said.

‘Clean and quick, but also thorough,’ Akichi added. ‘A steady and slow stroke. This was deliberate and planned.’

Uskovich said nothing. His face was completely unreadable as he was looking at the body on the plain medical bed.

Hemethor was in a terrible shape. Both men were in his squad, and the enormity of what had happened here made him numb and powerless. His mind was still trying to make sense of this.

‘Show us the recordings, Apothecary,’ Malistrum ordered.

The Apothecarion had security cameras, of course. It was a Fatemaker ship; why would they have not installed cameras right there?

Of course, paranoia had to end somewhere, and so the recording was a simple silent playback of what had happened there about an hour earlier. The film showed Brother Pelidor in his off-duty cloths going in and taking a look around. Brother Ruffar was not there: that time of the day was always devoted to the gene-seed chamber and the organ planting wards, as prescribed. Brother Pelidor must have known it because he only glanced around once, and he moved right to the bed where Changrapopulos was laid out. He looked at him for about thirty seconds, and then he leaned forward.

Malistrum leaned forward likewise. It was difficult to see what happened, but it seemed that Pelidor put something into Changrapopulos’s hand and closed his fingers on it. Then he stepped back. His lips were moving now, although nobody could hear what he was saying. When he finished, he pulled out his knife from under his cloth, and placed it under his brother’s chin.

Then he pushed, almost gently. The officers watching the recording did not react as Pelidor buried the blade into his victim’s skull as deep as he could, then he pulled out, even slower than he had pushed it in. He wrapped the blade into a piece of rag and put it away; then he cast a final look at Changrapopulos, and left without any further ceremony.

‘Turn it off,’ Malistrum ordered.

The display went blank. The five Space Marines looked at one another.

‘Do we have the object Brother Pelidor gave to Brother Changrapopulos?’ Malistrum asked.

‘We do, Brother-Captain.’

Ruffar gave the Captain a small drilled pebble with runes scratched on its surface. The stone was designed to be worn on a string around the neck, at least seemingly. Malistrum could not make much more sense of it.

‘Sergeant Hemethor?’ he turned to the other officer. They were his men, and he must have known more about them than anyone else. He did.

‘A tribal charm,’ Hemethor answered. He looked not only shocked, but also shaken to the core. With the recent losses, his squad was now officially decimated, and to lose men this way…

Nevertheless, he was a well-drilled and conditioned man, and so he could continue.

‘Brother Changrapopulos was recruited on Caligula Minor. A feral world. Initiates are allowed to keep such talismans, provided they did not oppose the general teachings of the Imperial Cult.’

Malistrum nodded. Such allowances were made as a given during the adaptation and training process. It made the transition smoother, and it also allowed the recruits to develop their new personality more gradually and with less mental pain. By the end of the training, the novices usually got rid of these items on their own, although most strike forces were not bothered if they continued to wear them.

‘These were the signs his old tribes used to mark the borders of their territory,’ Hemethor continued. ‘He used to wear one of these for a while even after he was assigned to my squad. He showed it to me once. His tribe believed that their spirits lose the memories of their mortal life after their death, and they would find their place in the afterlife easier if they had a personal item which can guide them.’

Akichi looked sharply at Hemethor, but said nothing.

‘You said he “used to” wear it,’ Uskovich said. He still showed no emotion whatsoever.

‘He gave it up after a while.’ Hemethor shook his head. ‘You see the Universe for what it is, and suddenly your old beliefs from your childhood lose their validity.’

‘And yet Brother Pelidor knew about the charm, and used it before committing murder,’ Malistrum murmured.

‘That is no surprise,’ Hemethor answered. ‘The two of them were close friends. Actually, they made a separate fighting duo within the squad. They could compliment each other’s fighting style quite effectively.’

‘I see.’ Malistrum sighed. ‘So we have too friends, one of them in a coma and towards the end of his allotted time, and another who decides to kill himself, but he also wants to take his friend with him.’

‘A mercy kill,’ Uskovich murmured. The others looked him, which made him continue.

‘On enemy territory. The situation is hopeless, and your battle-brother is wounded. You cannot carry him, you cannot save him, but you cannot abandon him either. So you shoot him before the enemy could capture him.’

‘This would make sense on the battlefield, but not here,’ Malistrum replied. ‘There was no danger of Brother Changrapopulos getting captured or tortured. Nor could he compromise any mission in his state.’

‘But he had only five days to live,’ Akichi pointed out. ‘In five days, the deadline would have expired, and we would have taken him off the life support system.’

‘At which point he would have perished anyway. So why did Brother Pelidor kill him? And more importantly, why did he kill himself?’ Malistrum gestured towards Changrapopulos. ‘I understand that he wanted to set his friend on the last journey. If he had waited, we would probably have allowed him to give his brother his tribal charm. It has happened before. Why did he not wait, and why did he just give up like that?’

‘Like mortals,’ Ruffar whispered.

‘It sometimes happens with my mortal patients,’ he explained, seeing the look on the others’ face. ‘If they are seriously wounded, they end up in the Apothecarion, not in one of the human infirmaries. I sometimes see them break if they believe they are injured beyond repair, and they would not be able to continue with their lives. One of them even begged me to kill him and not let him continue like that.’ He shrugged. ‘He lost an arm. He got a replacement, of course, but for some time, I know that he was actively contemplating suicide.’

‘There was no such problem with Brother Pelidor,’ Sergeant Hemethor pointed out.

‘Except there was,’ Malistrum said.

He made a few steps in the room and turned towards the others.

‘There is one problem which makes us consider whether we can continue with our lives or not. A problem that won’t go away, something that we will not solve, no matter how we try. Something which suggests that even with our best intentions, we are likely to fail.’

The others did not need a lot of time to figure out what he meant.

‘The Emperor is dead. He was our protector, and the ten thousand years old Imperium was built upon the assumption that we are completely helpless without Him. Who knows, it may even be true. I have not seen much of the Imperium lately, but the few signs we have indicate that the human species has started to fall apart.’

Even more so than before, Malistrum thought, but he had no intention of telling the others about this. He growled – a rare display of emotion.

‘As much as it pains me to say it, Brother Pelidor may have thought it all over and decided that his life was meaningless now. With no Emperor, and a slow decline for humanity, what could we Astartes do?’ The Captain turned to Hemethor. ‘Did Brother Pelidor have any close friend besides Brother Changrapopulos?’

Hemethor shook his head.

‘He was alone and his one close friend was about to die anyway,’ Akichi added. ‘It makes a twisted sense. The world is over, you are about to go, you have made your decision, but you have one last commitment towards your friend, so you set him out on his last journey in a way you know he would approve.’

Hemethor slammed his palm on the side of the infirmary bed.

‘What about his duty and commitment towards the Chapter?’ he hissed angrily. ‘Towards his squad? Did this not mean anything to him?’

‘Besides, we are conditioned,’ the Chaplain added. ‘We are not able to give up. Our brain does not work like this.’

‘Part of the Astartes conditioning – a huge part, in fact – was our devotion to the God-Emperor of Mankind,’ Akichi reminded him. ‘Take that away, and the mind will wander, who knows where. The conditioning doesn’t work very well without the devotional prayers and rituals, and we no longer use those. It is difficult to say how this affects our mind.’

‘Do you think this would happen again?’ Malistrum asked.

‘No. Maybe. I don’t know. We have stopped the effects of the Withdrawal, and this is good. But we now have a hundred Space Marines who have no idea what to do with themselves and their future. There is no longer a supreme and almighty being who is the very reason for our existence. I wonder…’


Akichi looked worried. ‘I wonder how other Astartes Chapters deal with this. I wonder how our brother strike groups deal with this. We had an early warning, and we reacted in time, and we still ended up like this. What is happening with the others, I wonder?’

This was a worrisome thought. For a moment, Malistrum imagined the proverbial one million Astartes warriors in the galaxy, scattered around the stars, possibly unable to make it home. Remorseless killing machines who were bound by their mental conditioning to an objective, immobile concept: The Emperor Who Protects. People who were not really human to begin with, with the potential to destroy worlds, restrained by the unseen presence of their master.

A master who had just disappeared, forever.

‘We need to address the issue,’ he said, as much to himself as to the others. ‘We need to pay more attention to one another. We will need more spiritual counselling…’ he looked at the Chaplain, who merely nodded, ‘…and we need to prevent others from losing faith.’

‘The object of our faith is no longer there,’ Akichi pointed out.

‘Then we need to find something else in his stead. More responsibility, commitment for the community and successes. In the long run, we need to find our brothers in the reserve fleet. In the short run, we need to gather and speak our mind more often, and we also need to listen. We will need some forum for our brothers to talk to each other, regardless of rank and affiliation.’

‘Like a warrior lodge?’

‘Warrior lodge? It could be. It could not cause any bigger trouble, could it?’ Malistrum’s voice was now firmer. ‘We have two immediate duties. Brother Changarpopulos must have a proper funeral rite with all Astartes personnel attending. He was our brother, and I know his military records: he was brave and loyal to the end, and there is nothing more we Fatemakers can expect from our brothers.’

‘The same does not apply to Brother Pelidor,’ he continued. ‘He made a conscious decision to take his life, take the life of his battle-brother and abandon the Chapter and all his responsibilities. Given the current situation, I will not use the term “betrayal”. Still, when he killed Changrapopulos, when he pulled the trigger of his bolter, he ceased to be a Fatemaker. He is done with us, and we are done with him. He will be incinerated in the plasma chambers like we would dispose of the body of any dead person who wasn’t part of the Chapter. We will record his demise and it will be the last time his name will be mentioned.’

He looked at Hemethor, who cast his head down and slowly nodded.

‘Good. Also, we will have to re-examine all current protocols and routines. I’ve had the feeling during this meeting that something is not right with this double-death, and I now know what my problem was.’

He looked at the others meaningfully.

‘Tell me, brothers, this: why did the first suicide case happen among us, Astartes, and not among the human crew?’

This paused everyone.

‘There was no suicide case, attempted or successful,’ said Uskovich. He had to know it; he was also the nominal head of the human clergy aboard the ship. ‘However,’ he added, ‘the… Emperor’s fate… has been bothering them for a while.’

‘In what way?’ Malistrum asked.

‘They ask questions. Not from me, of course. They would never question an Astartes. But they feel that something is not right. They ask questions from the other priests, and they also talk among themselves. There is no talk of sedition or heresy, so we don’t stop them. although…’

‘Although we probably should now,’ Malistrum finished his sentence. ‘This will not do. This tragedy has just revealed a potential problem on this ship, and all we can do is prevent an even bigger catastrophe.’

He sighed.

‘It is not in our nature to lie, brothers. We also tend to the humans under the same principles. We will speak with them, and we will tell them what happened with the world and the Emperor. They may suspect the truth, but they must know it for sure, and we must explain it to them in words that can’t be misunderstood. We can let them find it out on their own and then deal with it somehow, and we will have more of these “accidents”, or we can tell them ourselves when we are prepared, on our terms, and face the crisis together.’

‘We need your help on this. Librarian, Chaplain: prepare what you want to say and go to the crew. Sergeant, inform your peers. I don’t want anti-mutiny measures, but I am issuing a general stand-by order all over the ship. Techmarine Guztav will go to the Mechanicus-contingent, although I’m sure they have already drawn all their conclusions. I will seek out the Ogryns. The Opportunity will jump out of the Warp until we settle this. I want to take no risk, and there will be considerable emotional disturbance aboard, so Warp-travel is out of question. And Apothecary…’

He looked at Ruffar now.

‘Prepare all infirmaries on the ship. We will be dealing with the naked truth here; and nothing in creation can be more dangerous than the truth.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 26)

Postby Midgard » Fri Aug 17, 2012 8:43 pm

As good as ever - just caught up with part 25, and will read through 26 shortly. Really good stuff here!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 26)

Postby Gaius Marius » Sun Aug 19, 2012 4:57 am

A warrior lodge? No way that's a problem

Also, I like rock.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 26)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Aug 31, 2012 12:45 pm

Again, thanks for the comment, guys.

A new update is up. It seems that this segment of the story will be three updates long after all, so it's all talk, no shooting (not even themselves this time).


Malistrum sighed inwardly. He knew this would happen. He had regularly come down here, and it had always played out like this. He did not expect anything else today, but still…


He was standing on a platform overseeing the loading bay of Primus Cannon, and he was looking down on the crowd of gigantic abhumans of the loader clan. The ogryns were chanting and stomping with their feet as soon as he appeared above them. He had informed Pastor Yeverick, the clan’s human priest, of his speech in advance, and so the ogryns had got their time to prepare for him with their greeting ritual.

In a way, it was heart-warming to see such raw display of affection. When Malistrum had recruited the ogryns into his crew, he should have foreseen this. He insisted on regular personal contact, and the ogryns did not only accept him as their leader but also adopted the ship as their homeworld. The clan now lived and died for the Opportunity and its Chieftain-Who-Has-No-Age, the one who had saved them from the demons of Metragon and brought them here to wage the Allfather’s eternal wars. The adoration came quite naturally, and the real surprise would have been if the ogryns had not come up with some ritual of their own about the Captain.



The ogryns stomped one last time, and with a final ‘STRUM!’, they stood to attention. The Captain patiently waited for the ritual to end, even though he was unusually nervous about the news he was about to tell them. He consulted with Pastor Yeverick about the best way to bring the bad news, and both of them agreed that the best course of action would be to be up-front about it. But how can someone be up-front about something like that?

Malistrum made one step forward, and put his hands on the railing.

‘Who will speak for the loader clan?’ he shouted.

There was some movement in the crowd below, and an older-looking ogryn came forward.

‘I am Thokk!’ he shouted back. He was not angry, but most ogryns had hearing problems after spending some time with the macro-cannons. ‘I’m gonna speak for the loader clan.’

Malistrum nodded. Thokk had been their speaker for some time now after his uncle had died in a space battle.

‘I have bad news for you, Thokk. Bad news for the clan, bad news for the ship and bad news for the world.’

That set up the mood for sure. The Captain did not use to say such dramatic things. The clan looked at him attentively.

‘We had a great catastrophe. It was months ago, but you all remember it. Pastor Yeverick told me that you called it the Attack Which Cannot Be Seen.’

There was some murmur now. The crowd seemed to remember all too well. When the Emperor died, and the psychic backlash burst out of Cephola Base, it affected people in different ways. The ogryns felt fear and danger, and for almost two hours, the whole clan had been panicking uncontrollably. They completely smashed their quarters, and when some of the Astartes went to their decks to investigate them, they found them huddled together in one of the biggest chamber they could find, women and children in the middle, the males forming a protective circle around them. They almost cried in relief when the help arrived.

‘Then we didn’t know what it was, so we couldn’t tell you. But now we know, and I think you should all know about it.’ Malistrum waited for a moment – or perhaps he was hesitating? ‘The Allfather, the leader of humanity, was attacked in his keep. We don’t know who attacked him or how he could get in, but we believe that the attacker wounded Him. We think that the Allfather, beloved by all, was killed.’

One could hear the drop of a pin in the bay. The Captain looked into the burning eyes of the abhumans under him, and continued.

‘The soul of the Emperor is in the Otherworld now. He no longer responds to our prayers. We no longer see His guiding light in space. The Emperor no longer protects us.’

The ogryns started to shout. It was expected, and the most crucial part of the conversation was just coming on. A lonely small figure elbowed his way out of the crowd. Even in their agitated state, the ogryns gave way to him when they saw him.

Pastor Yeverick came out of the crowd, and faced his people. ‘We all know what happens when someone dies!’ He shouted. He caught their attention immediately. ‘His soul will travel to the Otherworld. This is not different with the Emperor. He is on the other side now.’

‘Your stories tell us what happen when us, ordinary people travel to the Otherworld!’ Malistrum took over from the pastor. This was all part of the choreography which they had previously agreed upon, but they were not playing it out to emotionally stable people, and they had to lead them to the desired conclusions. ‘Tell us, Thokk, what is our fate when we die?’

The ogryn looked up at the tiny Astartes figure.

‘When we die, our soul goes over, and there the demons of Hell are gonna try to eat it,’ he answered. ‘If the Allfather don’t protect us.’

‘This is why the Allfather could not kill all the demons, and this is why we had to fight for Him,’ Yeverick cried. ‘He could fight against the demons all the time, or He could try to help us in this world, and then fight them half the time. He couldn't d it both.’

As far as Malistrum and Yeverick knew, this was exactly how the Emperor as a deity worked. There were countless libraries filled with huge tomes about the divine nature of the Emperor (there would have been more, but religious groups tended to excommunicate and burn each other’s writings in the subject); however, the naked, plain truth of it was this. The Emperor protected, but He had many duties, and not even He could be everywhere.

Life was tough, and you had to deal with it. This was the Fatemaker credo, and the ogryns had no problem accepting this truth.

‘But now the Allfather is over there,’ Thokk started. ‘Like… totally in the Otherworld. Right?’

‘This is correct,’ Malistrum answered. He could only hope at this point that the loader clan will come to the right conclusions.

‘So he is fighting with the demons of Hell all day long,’ Thokk concluded.


‘Then he is still there. He still protects us, Chieftain-Captain.’

There were shouts of agreement. Yeverick raised his hand.

‘He still protects us over there, yes! But in this world, we are on our own. We could pray to Him, and He listened to us, but now He is too busy to listen to us.’

One of the ogryns stepped behind Thokk, and whispered something into his ear. He nodded, and turned to the Captain.

‘How long is he gonna fight?’

Forever was the right answer. Instead, Malistrum answered with a question.

‘How long does it take to kill all the demons in the Otherworld?’

‘Arhh!’ Thokk grunted. The others were nodding sagely. It would take a long time.

‘So what is the problem?’ Thokk asked. ‘Can we help the Allfather?’

Malistrum shook his head.

‘No, we cannot. He is over there, and we are here. I came here now to warn you. He no longer protects us here, and so we will have to fight more, and we will have more enemies. If we don’t work harder, maybe we even lose a battle, and we all die – because we can lose now. We don’t have our protector.’

This the ogryns understood. Thokk scratched his head, and asked again.

‘Are you gonna protect us?’

Malistrum did not completely understand.


‘Okay, the Allfather is busy. But you are here. Are you gonna protect us, like before?’

Malistrum was not sure how to answer this. ‘We, the Fatemakers will protect you, just like we have been protecting you for all these years.’

Thokk’s eyes brightened.

‘Good!’ he shouted back. ‘Don’t worry, Chieftain-Captain. We are gonna fight harder, we are gonna load the cannons, and we are gonna kill every jerk who attack us! You tell us what to do, and we do. Right, boys?’ he looked behind him.

The ogryns roared their approval. Well, this was easy, Malistrum thought as he watched his loaders starting to chant again. Their loyalty was touching, and Yeverick had given him the right advice to approach them this way, but still…

This was too easy, he thought again. The ogryns were not very bright, but even they should have understood the gravity of the situation. He did not lie to them: as far as he knew, the Emperor’s soul was indeed in the Warp, and death or no death, He would not have been an easy prey there. But he had expected more resistance, more panic, more shock. From them, and from Pastor Yeverick as well.

Yes, they all took the bad news surprisingly well. Uskovich and Akichi would not have such an easy time with the human crew.

‘This is all that we know. We haven’t told you anything because we needed more information, and we didn’t want to tell you half-truths. After the battle in the Ongoliant Triangle, there was no doubt. The Emperor was killed on Terra, and the Great Enemy is on the move. Maybe He will return one day. We don’t know. I don’t believe that He could be destroyed that easily. But the facts will not change. He doesn’t protect us any more, and we have to go on without His guidance.’

There was neither movement nor sound in the hall. The people were summoned into the great bay where the Fatemakers practices armour manoeuvres; this was a message which the Astartes only intended to say once.

Uskovich and Akichi were standing on a raised observation platform. They were looking down on the assembled throng of people. Apart from those on duty, the few sick and infirm and most of the children, every human aboard the Opportunity had come to hear the revelation of their Space Marine lords.

The speech was given by Uskovich. He was the head of the local church, and he had always been the one holding sermons for them. The people trusted him, and he had done an admirable job in keeping morale on a functional level. Akichi was not supposed to play any role in all this, but questions may have arisen which he could have answered better than the Chaplain. He was the other ranking officer besides Uskovich anyway.

Right now he had nothing to do, so he was standing next to the Chaplain, and he was looking at the faces of the humans below them. He was not happy with what he saw, but this was expected. Most faces showed the same range of emotions: shock, fear, disbelief, grief. This was nothing the Fatemakers could not handle. The real question was how the crew would react once the initial shock expires and the people starts thinking deeper into it.

Uskovich looked around the assembled. He was a perfect orator, and his calm, confident gaze seemed to take in the entire hall and every individual person in it.

‘I know that you are afraid now,’ he boomed. He was not wearing his helmet, and his handsome features radiated the kind of strength and grace that the Librarian just knew he could not have been feeling. ‘You will have questions, and, of course, we will answer you as best as we can. You can turn to your priests for consolation, and we have given them all the information we have about the present situation. Still, if you have any question that you feel we can answer better, you may ask anything from us. Anything. This is the greatest crisis in the history of the Chapter, and we can only overcome the obstacles we are facing if we trust each other. There will be no secrets today.’

This, of course, was a lie in itself. The Fatemakers had always been willing to share information with their serfs and vassals, but neither Akichi nor Uskovich was ready to tell them the one piece of information which really mattered: the fact that without the protection of the Emperor, Mankind was doomed to a slow and agonizing death. The hard facts of the Galaxy were pointing towards it, of course, but admitting this, even if it was the one logical outcome of the present crisis, was to admit defeat and give up. The Fatemakers were realists, but all their objective, calculating realism served to enable them to fight on and, eventually, ignore the final chances.

A hand was raised in the crowd. The two Astartes turned towards the man.

‘Speak,’ Uskovich said.

The man was nervous to speak with the Astartes, but he was evidently afraid enough to actually address them.

‘What you have just said, my lord,’ he started cautiously, ‘does this mean… that we have lost the war with the Great Enemy?’

The two Astartes did not answer for a second, and he got scared. ‘Forgive me, my lord,’ he bowed deeply. ‘I didn’t mean to…’

Uskovich raised a hand.

‘No,’ he said firmly. ‘I said there would be no secrets today, and so you may ask anything. This was a good question anyway. The Emperor is our great protector, and what are we without Him? Still, my answer is a firm no. No, we have not lost the battle with the Arch-Enemy.’

He gestured towards the crowd.

‘Ever since the beginning of this catastrophe, we have taken part in three military engagements. We purged the Astropathicus Base in the Cephola System of demonic intrusion, and although it cost us two librarians, Maartosh and Sathori, we successfully destroyed the Base afterwards. We intercepted a small renegade Sororitas fleet in the Saint Menthas system: we destroyed one ship, boarded the other and chased away the rest of them. Finally, just a few days ago, we destroyed a Chaos cult in the Ongoliant Triangle, and we prevented them from turning their planet into a demonworld.’

There was an audible gasp from the crowd. The Fatemakers did not talk about their mission if it involved demonic forces, and the crew was glad of it. The fact that Chaplain Uskovich mentioned this at all only served to underline how dire the situation was – and how the Fatemakers were still in control.

Which was the whole point of the gathering, of course. Akichi was surprised to see how Uskovich started to handle the whole issue. He knew that the Chaplain had spent considerable time with the Inquisition, and he must have picked up some of their scheming and manipulative methods, but he had never actually seen him apply these techniques. Up until now.

The man who was asking the question was personally selected by the Chaplain. After he had consulted with the human priesthood, he had chosen several people whom he had considered useful enough, and he had sat down with them. Only the Emperor… well, nobody knew how he managed to convince them or how he knew that they could be trusted, but he seemed to have pulled it through. Nothing in this gathering would be left up to blind chance. Everyone with a question would be Uskovich’s man, and the two of them would give answers according to a well-established choreography.

The choreography said that it was Akichi’s turn now to speak. He stepped forward and took over the conversation smoothly and efficiently.

‘We are still winning our wars,’ he said in a loud voice. ‘Strike Force Four is still doing its job, and we have no reason that our Fatemaker brothers or the Space Marine Chapters in the other sectors of the Imperium are in any different position. What our problem is that we used to maintain peace in a stable Imperium, which was working well enough – and now our enemies have come out of the shadow and we have to fight to keep the Imperium together.’

‘And we cannot do this alone,’ Uskovich continued. ‘We are winning the battles, but there are too few of us to win the war. This is why we are travelling in space to link up with our Astartes brothers. There is strength in numbers. If we can join our forces, we can start stabilizing the sector instead of just reacting to individual threats.’

‘We should also remember that the reserve fleet of our Chapter has left our base for Holy Terra,’ Akichi burst in. ‘We have no idea what their plan is, but we do know that this is their destination. We believe they are in possession of some vital information, most likely concerning the tragedy that befell the Emperor. There can be no other explanation than that. Nothing else can explain why our reserve fleet suddenly decided to travel to another Segmentum which is almost a year away unless they know something we don’t. They have a purpose, and we intend to find out what it is so we can assist them.’

‘This is our mission now: no more and no less. We cannot save the Imperium alone, and even with our brothers, we can only keep together so much. But tell me this, crew of the Opportunity: is it not our duty to fight on and do whatever we can even if we have to do without the Emperor’s guidance? His physical body may have been destroyed, He may be fighting with the horrors of the Warp at the moment, He may be too far away to offer us any help, but none of this matters to us, Fatemakers. Astartes, humans, even the ogryn loaders in the lower deck: we have been living according to the tents of His revelations, and although Revelation may return to our world or not, as long as we have each other and our brothers from the other strike forces, we can follow His example and do exactly what our names indicate: make new fate for us and for the Galaxy. Is this still not a worthy cause to fight for?’

There was some murmur of agreement. Akichi had to fight not to shake his head in wonder. The Chaplain’s speech was tailored to the needs of the human crew. It gave them security, it showed that their transhuman masters were still in firm control of the situation and it even gave them long-term goals to follow. Looking at the faces of their listeners, the Librarian had to admit that gathering the crew and being up-front with them really was the right decision. It was only possible with the help of subtle manipulation and the already established close link between Space Marines and humans, but it worked, and if this would prevent mortals from killing themselves or each other, so be it.

Another hand was raised, just in line with the previously determined pace. What happens now that the Astronomicon is gone, and ships can only travel at tenth of their usual speed? Well, Akichi answered, ships slowing down is just as much a problem for the enemy as for the Imperium. The Ongoliant Triangle showed that lack of transport and communication caused just as much trouble for the Chaos cultists as for the loyalists (at least in that one instance – but this was not to be discussed with the mortals). The second hand asked about requesting help from other imperial forces. This was addressed to Chaplain Uskovich, as planned, so Akichi could afford to let his mind wander off and consider some of the problems he had been thinking of lately. He had opened and reviewed some very disturbing files about very disturbing topics lately. Even more disturbing was the feeling he had every single time he looked at his fellow Chaplain officer with his witch-sight. It was almost as if…

The silence only lasted for a second, but it was enough to force him out of his thoughts. He looked up and saw immediately what was wrong.

There was a final hand raised where it was not supposed to be raised. Somebody apparently had a question of his own. An independent mind.

‘What is your name?’ Uskovich asked while the Librarian’s mind raced. This was not supposed to be a great problem. Apart from some questions, which the mortals could not have asked anyway because they did not even know those questions existed, the Astartes had nothing to hide from them. Otherwise they would not have been able to cooperate.

The man did not only seem nervous: he really was nervous. ‘My name is Savik, my lord. Umm… my question is… well, my question is now that the Emperor…’

He stopped. So far quite typical, Akichi thought.

‘We understand you. Please continue,’ the Chaplain said.

‘Yes. So the question is what will happen now… to our souls?’

Your WHAT?

‘Your souls,’ Uskovich repeated.

‘Yes, my lord.’ Savik was shifting uncomfortably. ‘The Emperor… blessed be His name… has been providing and guiding us in the afterlife, and He has been protecting our souls from the dangers of the Warp. Now that He no longer… protects… what will happen to us? Who shall take care of us?’

Akichi’s blood ran cold. This was exactly the kind of question that he was afraid of because he had no answer whatsoever for it. He knew that he had to come up with something – he doubted that Uskovich was competent in the actual topic besides what his sermons required of him. But what could he answer to this question that would calm down this Savik and the rest of the people?

He made two steps forward; this gave him two seconds to think. Nothing came to his mind. However, when he stopped, he saw in the corner of his eyes that Chaplain Uskovich was still standing next to him. The Chaplain had similarly stepped forward, and it seemed that he also had an answer to the human.

‘The Emperor is no longer with us, but His legacy still lives on,’ he said with great conviction. ‘We were chosen by Him, and we will continue His work. No matter the cost, we will protect you, in this world or the next. Captain Malistrum, Librarian Akichi, me and all the other Astartes will work towards this goal. We will protect you physically and we will find a way to protect your soul even after you leave your physical body. You have my word on it, and the word of the entire strike force.’

Akichi was speechless. What was just happening? Had Chaplain Uskovich, the trusted advisor of Strike Force Four, just made a promise that the Fatemakers would never be able to fulfil? What was this man thinking? Was he out of his mind? In a second, the crowd would start asking even more questions, they would start asking questions from him, Librarian Akichi because everyone knew that he was the psyker in the strike force and so he would obviously have a plan for this ridiculous promise, and then…

The Librarian looked at the faces of the people below them, and he realized that the situation was even worse than he had imagined. One look at those faces told him everything he needed to know about the mortals’ reaction, and he suddenly felt a sick, nauseating feeling in his stomach. He had not experienced anything similar since his recruitment, but he was quite sure he knew what it was.

He was experiencing fear.

'No matter the cost, we will protect you.'

'This is the Fatemaker tenet, my lord.'

'In this world or the next.'

'Yes, my lord.'

'Have you got any idea just what kind of a burden you have placed on us?'

The conversation took place in Captain Malistrum's private chamber. It was not an official meeting. Mediator Dmitrija, Magos Brakk or any of the other Astartes officers were not invited.

Sooner or later, of course, the problem had to be addressed and presented to the wider public. In a way, it had already been presented to it by Chaplain Uskovich himself, together with an impossible promise. No Fatemaker in the history of the Chapter had ever even considered to speak about this subject due to the fact that they did not feel competent in this field in the least.

'Protecting the soul after death? Taking over the most sacred duty of the Emperor Himself? We are His chosen warriors, Uskovich!' Akichi was much less calm than the Captain: in fact, he was positively fuming. 'We used to be the physical extension of His will! We still are, I suppose. His symbolic right arm in the material world. The material world! We do not cater for the dead!'

The Librarian made a wide gesture.

'Not even I have any idea how to do that. I can protect people's souls from the dangers of the Warp in this world, yes! I can attempt to cast out a demon or I can destroy the host body of a possessed so the soul could go free, but that's it! What do we know about protecting and guiding the dead? Is it our duty? Are we competent, are we supposed to do anything about it at all?'

Chaplain Uskovich was calm and confident, just like he usually was. His classic features betrayed no emotion in the subject; he reacted neither to the silent accusation of the Captain nor the angry outbreak of the Librarian.

'I said what the people needed to hear.'

'Did you look into the eyes of the people when you told them that we can help them?' Akichi asked. 'I did. They showed only one thing, and that one thing was trust. They are so used to us telling them what to do, they are so confident with us protecting them that they believe anything we tell them. We have just told them... no, not we!' He pointed at the Chaplain with an accusatory finger. 'You have told them something which was not true, and they blindly accepted it! You lied to our own people! Why?'

Uskovich looked from one face to the other: the angry, shaken face of Akichi and the immobile, cold face of Malistrum.

'Permission to speak, Captain,' he said finally.

Malistrum nodded. 'Speak, and speak your mind openly, Chaplain. I have to warn you, though: everything Librarian Akichi has said so far is absolutely true, and I will need a very good explanation from you to justify such a rush and irresponsible promise.'

'The gathering in the hall was a situation almost as dangerous as a real battlefield,' Uskovich started. 'We were about to confront them with the most awful thing they feared in life. A world with no leader, no authority, no promise for final victory, and no final salvation. I was afraid this would come up, and it did. There was no other way for me. I had to say something reassuring as their Chaplain and as a warrior of the Emperor.'

‘Uskovich, this was not your jurisdiction!’ Akichi snapped. ‘You are not going to be asked about this later! I will be asked about this because only I could be the one who solves such a problem! What if…’

‘Can you?’ Uskovich asked.

Akichi stopped.

‘Can I what?’

‘Can you solve it?’

Malistrum looked at Akichi.

‘An interesting question. Can you do it?’

Akichi stood immobile.

'Do you mean if I could somehow use my psyker powers to protect the dead?'

The two others nodded.

'Well... maybe.' Akichi frowned. 'I could probably do it if I'm in physical contact with the deceased from the moment of their death. But this is really unrealistic, Captain. I can attend death-bed vigils, but even my protection would be temporary, and I would never be able to do this in the battlefield. We are talking about some permanent protective method, which works independent of any other condition. Something you can carry with you all the time, like a charm, like a...'

'Soulstone?' Uskovich asked.

Akichi stopped talking. Now it was Malistrum's turn to look at the two other faces: the silent and emotionless Chaplain and the Librarian with a surprised expression.

'It appears that Chaplain Uskovich has given you an idea,' Malistrum said calmly.

Akichi pulled himself together. 'More like a theoretical concept, Captain. There have been attempts to do this. The Adeptus Mechaicus is able to preserve the intellect, even the soul of an individual, but it is a huge investment of time and resources, and it is entirely impractical. Some other races are known to have been more successful, but...' He stretched his hands out incompetently.

'But they are xenos,' the Captain finished his sentence.

Akichi nodded. 'And by studying xenos technology, we would commit heresy.'

Heresy definitely belonged to the jurisdiction of Uskovich. The others turned their heads towards him.

'Heresy is decided by the Imperial Church, and the Imperial Church acts through the interpretation of the Emperor's word,' he started. 'The principles of the Emperor survive, even if He is no longer with us. However,' he continued, 'all these principles are based on the assumption that He provides for us, and we don't have to bother ourselves with certain issues. I believe that the rules of Humanity have changed drastically, and we have to revise some of our principles – including our attitude towards xenos.'

The others exchanged curious looks.

'This kind of thinking sounds rather... innovative,' Akichi said.

You mean heretic, the tone said. Uskovich did not take the bait.

'You wanted to hear my opinion, and here it is: as a priest, as a ranking officer and as a Fatmaker in general, I think we have to take our chances and consider the option of studying ways to protect our flock – even if it means studying xenos technology. Our responsibility to our flock and Mankind in general overwrites the rules of a time when we still have a living god to look after us.'

As answers go, this one could not be any straightforward. 'Captain?' Akichi asked.

Malistrum did not answer for a while: he cast down his head and thought over the words of his Chaplain. Finally, he raised his head.

'Librarian, you will look into the matter more thoroughly. If you need any special access to any prohibited file, ask me or the Chaplain to provide you with additional passwords. Start with this “theoretical concept” you were talking about. In two days, I expect you to provide us with a preliminary report. We cannot delay any longer now that people are expecting answers from us.'

Akichi's opinion on the hole matter was visible on his face. However, he was given a task which he admitted he could at least try to do. There was no longer any room for arguments.

'As you wish,' he said. He cast a last look at Uskovich, then he turned and left the two alone.

Malistrum waited until the Librarian went out of the room before turning to Uskovich.

'I did not press the issue in front of the Librarian, but you were reckless at the gathering,' he said calmly. 'What if Akichi had no idea how to keep your promise? He may start examining the problem only to find that there is no solution. What do we do then?'

'I am sorry to say, Captain, but this question was irrelevant at that moment,' Uskovich answered. 'This is what I was trying to explain to you. The people needed an immediate answer and the one proper answer was to say that we still can help them.'

'Even if we may not be able to?'

'Even then. The one thing we Fatemakers can offer the world is a fighting chance, no matter how slim. Akichi has admitted that there is a slight chance, so we have to present that slight chance to the mortal crew.'

'Chances are good, but the answer was rushed,' Malistrum said sternly. 'The people trust us, and this is good. However, “trust” is a finite resource, just like plasma fuel for the engines or ammunition or the cannons. We have been building up this resource among the crew for a while, but now we have started to use that resource in great quantities. I know how much time the plasma engines can work, and I know how many shots the cannons can fire, but can we be just as exact with the trust of our servants?'

'Fighting chances, Captain,' Uskovich replied. 'Sometimes the ability to go on fighting is an objective in itself. Engines need fuel and cannons need ammunition, but people need hope too.'

'This hope may very well turn out to be false,' the Captain warned.

'Then we will lie and give them false hope'.

Malistrum frowned.

'This is an unusually cynical point of view.'

'I learned at the Inquisition that sometimes this is the only valid point of view.'

'And this answer is fitting to a radical Inquisitor.'

The expression on the face of the Chaplain did not change.

'I am at your mercy, my Captain. Strike me down if you believe I have strayed and I no longer serve the Chapter or Mankind.'

Malistrum sighed. 'I will do no such thing, Chaplain.' he stepped closer, and looked at Uskovich directly in the face. 'Nor will I tell you that I will be watching you or that you are using my finite resources of patience as well. Between us, there is no room for such talk. However, I hope you understand when I say that by making these promises, you have taken on a huge burden; burden which you cannot pass on to others. Will you be able to carry this extra burden?

The muscles in Uskovich's face moved for a moment, as if he was about to express emotions. It lasted only for a second, though; the next moment, he showed his regular, unreadable face again.

'I have no choice but to live with my decisions, Captain.'
Posts: 122
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:47 pm

Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 27)

Postby Chh » Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:01 pm

*posts outside of the Age of Dusk thread for the first time on this forum* I like this update in particular. Raises the whole issues of the afterlife in 40k (50k...whatever), which doesn't seem to be covered much in any if the literature (which, for me, is mostly what I've gathered from Lexicanum et al.). The soulstone thing goes rather well wither the Fatemaker idea.

And yay the Ogryns!

*note to self: de-lurking encourages writers to post more often*
Currently writing: http://www.thebolthole.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=19&t=2138 (Sanguinian Heresy)

Please read some of it, and give feedback. Please?
Posts: 81
Joined: Wed Feb 22, 2012 12:59 am

Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 27)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Sep 07, 2012 7:50 pm

Thanks a lot, Chh. The update is here as usual, but to show that you are right, there will be an extra one perhaps around Sunday. I wanted to finish this part of the story, but it turned out to be too long, so I cut it in half at the most dramatic moment. The rest will come in two days, and then a new story arc will start.

Librarian quarters aboard the Opportunity

227 days after the Emperor’s death

By the God-Emperor, may He rest in peace, he was tired.

Librarian Akichi had been sitting in front of the cogitator display in his personal quarter for almost a day now. Initially, he had been angry with Uskovich: he was angry like never before, including the time when the Chaplain made a forced exorcism on him. This time, he was mad, but his madness had soon gave room to challenge, anxiety and, finally, tiredness.

The Librarian had already opened a lot of proscribed files since the Emperor’s death. He had been forced to look into Warp-related texts because he had to find a cure for the Withdrawal. Now he had to study even more dangerous material, and the topics were even more variable: souls, death, the divine nature of the Emperor and the blasphemous nature of demons. He had to admit that even his considerable knowledge in these topics was just a drop in the ocean compared to what the Inquisition amassed.

Then he had to realize that the Opportunity probably only possessed a fracture of the Inquisition’s vast knowledge in her databanks. Why did he not know about this? How come he did not know about these awful truths when he was a veteran Librarian? The answer, of course, was that the Fatemakers were first and foremost warriors: they were not interested in scholarly work at all. Uskovich, with his Inquisitorial experience, must have known at least some of what Akichi had learnt in the last few months, and if that was true, he had the Librarian’s utmost respect for retaining his sanity.

When Akichi had opened the first such file after the Fatemakers had left Saint Menthas, he had to stop after every twenty minutes or so to meditate and calm his mind. Now he had been speed-reading these impossible texts for almost twenty-four hours without a break. When he really thought into it, it was worrisome just how much he was so used to these godless, questioning, unholy files. The only reason why he was no longer worried was that he had no time for it.

He had souls to save.

The files he had recently acquired from the archive belonged to three categories: the nature of the Emperor, human souls and anything related to the Eldar race. The first topic had, unsurprisingly, the most material, although it was perhaps the vaguest of the three. It seemed that every single cult, local church and prophet had their own opinion of the matter, and most of what they said was actually just the condemnation of the various other religious fractions.

This was to be expected, of course. The Fatemakers were well aware of the dangers of religion, which is why they avoided the topic if they could help it. Akichi was eventually forced to concentrate on what common ground the various texts had, and he tried to build up a hypothesis based on it.

He could not find a lot of common points, but he did find a few. The one universal topic in the texts was the beginning of the Imperium, when the Emperor started His Great Crusade to unite Mankind. All texts agreed that the pre-Crusade Galaxy was dominated by the pagan beliefs of secularism. The materialist views of the various human cultures seemed to be commonplace, and the texts claimed that it was the Emperor who, in His wisdom, freed people from the shackles of atheism and brought compliance and the Imperial Truth to them in the form of the Lectio Divinitatus. The fact that every single holy text agreed on this eventually persuaded Akichi to use this notion as the foundation of his further researches.

The Lectio Divinitatus had countless canonized and apocryphal versions, but Akichi here only concentrated on the earliest, most basic form. Whoever wrote the first copy seemed to be only vaguely aware of the nature of the Universe, or else he would not have used eloquent language instead of writing down hard facts. The text contained information solely on the Emperor himself, not on the other powers of the Warp, which suggested that the Lectio Divinitatus was not written by the all-knowing Emperor, but rather by someone else. Some of the holy texts hinted at the work of the Primarchs, and some even claimed that the text was created by the collaboration of all His children. This notion was ridiculous, of course. Akichi studied all Primarchs to some degree, and he doubted that one such as Leman Russ would have bothered writing books, or that a Chaos-worshipping maniac like Lorgar would have willingly praised the Emperor in his works.

At any rate, the text showed great familiarity with the Emperor, and it was enough for Akichi. The most important part was where the unknown author described the all-familiar sentence: ‘The Emperor protects.’ The Lectio Divinitatus used elaborate language to explain how this worked, and Akichi was not used to symbolism, but the basic idea seemed to be a kind of bargain.

In return to your worship, He will protect you.

The naklonjenost-treaties of the Fatemakers worked more or less the same business-like way: give me something, and I will give you something in return. The nature of the protection was not explained clearly enough, but the Librarian thought he could make sense of it.

Join Him in the afterlife, and become one with His luminescence.

For someone who was not Warp-expert, this was as close as he could get to the truth, especially if he lived in the threshold between the age of materialism and enlightened piety. Akichi lived in a modern age, and he had enough experience to understand that the author was trying to explain soul-melding. It seemed that the souls of the dead actually united with the soul of the Emperor, receiving protection while giving strength to their deity at the same time.

The futile cycle is broken: no predator shall harm you.

The reference to ‘predators’ was easy enough to interpret; the first part of the sentence was a little more difficult. Did this refer to reincarnation? There was a possibility: the unconscious psychic gestalt of the human race must have tried to find a way to exist in the dangers of the Warp even before the Emperor came. Perhaps this was even the natural order of things: who can say? The reality of the 42th millennium was that the one thing that could stand between the demons and the human souls was the Emperor. Period.

He may have been lost in the Warp, but the divine power was inherent in every single soul, human or – and Akichi had some difficulty to admit – xenos alike. A strong soul can survive in the Warp for a while, although sooner or later, it would face a Warp-predator which is too strong for it. A soul with enough willpower or conviction could also find the Emperor there. It came from the very nature of the Warp that thoughts could meld and shape it, and it was only natural that if a soul wills it, it can still meld with the Emperor. In a way, He still protected.

Could this be the solution? Greater piety and some form of mental training which prepared the human crew of the Opportunity to try and meld with the Emperor after their deaths? This advice had some truth in it, even mortals could do it, and Akichi would have had the full support of the human priesthood in such an endeavour. Yet…

The Librarian had no idea of the true nature of the Emperor, but he was used to dealing with souls and the Warp. He knew that souls change greatly once they enter the Immaterium. The mundane, ordinary humans gradually lose their personality and memories until only the basic core remains, with perhaps the strongest emotions and impressions remaining of their former lives. They only remain more or less recognisable or distinguishable as long as they are bound to the physical world in some way: ghosts which appear in the house they died, spirits who communicate with their relatives, voices whispering from the other side to the ears of those who would listen. Whatever the case, once the souls lose connection with the Materium, they slowly fade away.

The Emperor had, in the strictest sense of the word, a human soul. He may have been the incarnation of the most perfect human being, He may even have been divine, but eventually, he had human characteristics, and so Akichi had to presume that the normal rules of human souls would apply to Him in the end. The Librarian knew nothing about the original state of Mankind and its souls. All he knew is that if the Emperor had shared anything in common with His human protégés, his human part would start to fade away in time… while being continuously filled with the worship of a species which spread over half a million worlds.

In fact, He had been filled with the hopes, emotions and suffering of Mankind in the last ten thousand years. Who knows what state of mind he was in when he was attacked? Akichi remembered the impression he had got of Him in his psyker-dream: He seemed wasted and tired beyond anything imaginable. Add to this the shock of death and the loss of connection with the physical world where He had existed for ten thousand years… the way he may have reacted to full exposure to the Warp… the fact that in spite of His fading human memories, He was possibly still being energized by the worship of Mankind…

Akichi wiped his forehead with his trembling hand. The final conclusion would be obvious if it had been for anyone else but Him. Anyone else would have been declared tainted beyond any hope of recovery. However, the Emperor was different. Even though Akichi had seen Him die, even though he had to accept the end of Mankind, he could not accept this truth. That He may have been corrupted… that He may have been tainted by the very people who adored him… that He may end up as another Warp-g…


The Librarian closed his eyes. He would not say it. He would not say it, but he would not ignore it either. The solution for the crew of the Opportunity, in fact, the solution for the whole Chapter may be greater piety, but this path had a possible consequence which was too terrible to risk. Akichi’s solution will not incorporate the worship of the Emperor. This had been blasphemy a year ago, but this word no longer had any meaning in this new age. Final doom may await them, but the Fatemakers would have to make do without any possible redemption from the one they used to worship. He had to find another answer to Savik’s question.


The idea given by Chaplain Uskovich had no real merit in itself, but in desperation, even the slightest chance was better than nothing. Most of the Eldar files contained the personal insignia of Inquisitor Ysma, a famously paranoid grand master of Ordo Xenos. Every ninety seconds, Akichi had to type in the password code into the cogitator or the file would release a virus into it which would wipe it clean of all stored information. In spite of all precautions, the Librarian had the feeling that compared to the content of the previous files, the Eldar material was positively refreshing.

The Eldar race had been on the decline for millennia; in fact, their fall had started somewhere at the beginning of the Great Crusade (Akichi could not help but feel some connection here, but he decided not to ponder too much over it). The race was aloof, haughty and hypocritical: they looked down on the younger, more aggressive species, but they had no problem exterminating a million non-Eldars just in order to save one of their own. Also, the Eldar were deeply bound by fate and relied heavily on visions and portents. They had an air of doom on them which hinted at something beyond the notion of physical decline. This was a race which did not only remember how mighty they had been and how low they fell, but was also expecting, even awaiting, its total and complete damnation.

There were few Imperial records concerning the relationship between the Eldar and the Warp. Apparently, the species was pushed to the brink of extinction by one of the four Chaos-Gods, Slaanesh. Some earlier Inquisitorial reports, mostly from the works of Inquisitor Czevak, also suggested that the birth of this terrible Chaos-entity was caused by the Eldar (if this was the case, and a species is capable to create a Chaos-god, it was all the more reason for Akichi not to suggest greater piety towards the Warp-bound Emperor). Slaanesh, or She-Who-Thirsts, as the Eldar knew it, seemed to have a deadly effect on their souls, and since dyeing involved being fully immersed in the Warp, this also meant that death was complete obliteration for every Eldar soul.

The race did not think in ways humans understood. Some Eldar, mostly the darker, more violent clans, did not seem to be bothered by their eventual, terrible fates, but quite a few fractions were generally more concerned. Inquisitor Ysma listed their known methods of cheating death, and the one common thing these methods had was the way the Eldar tried to avoid contact with the Warp –even at the cost of eternal imprisonment.

The Eldar soulstones were, according to Ysma, sophisticated soul-preserving devices which absorbed the spirit of their owners once they were dead. This effect came into being immediately, and the Eldar did not have to spend even a millisecond in the Warp where their arch-nemesis was patiently waiting for them. Ysma experimented with captured soulstones, and she recorded every rune, every circuit built into the tiny bauble which all Eldar wore around their neck until the moment of their death. The concept was fascinating, and the implications for further use of the souls – soulstone-controlled artificial bodies, ships and farseeing devices – were also inspiring.

However, the Inquisitor’s examinations eventually failed: Ysma, with all her knowledge and available resources, could not explore all the secrets of the soulstones, including their creation method. The files explained how she broke dozens of these stones to find out how they were made, but the delicacies of Eldar technology eluded her. Finally, she admitted defeat and closed the files with the findings she had made during her research.

Inquisitor Ysma’s further career was not recorded in the files, so Akichi had no idea if anyone else had ever continued her work. She herself had only managed to map out the microscopic runes on the surface of the stones as well as two of the outer layers of the device. At that point, no matter how hard the research-team tried, the stone broke and the soul contained within was invariably released to the Warp.

According to the personal remarks of Inquisitor Ysma, this lack of progress was rather frustrating and made her sad.

Akichi went through the runes and the technical details of the outer layers and saw immediately why Ysma and her team had no success. The patterns and symbols were not only alien and highly advanced, but also highly individual. The Librarian suspected that the stones reacted to the personalities of their owners and changed accordingly, to facilitate easier storage. Their ultimate success depended on the mental discipline of the wearer just as much as the advanced technology integrated into them, and this was something which the Fatemakers could not hope to achieve with their own crew.

Especially the instantaneous transfer of the soul. Even expert scientists used the term ‘instantaneous,’ but Akichi knew that there was no such thing. ‘Instantaneous’ actually meant ‘very fast’, even ‘nanosecond-fast,’ but he also knew that these expressions did not mean the same in the Warp than in the Materium. ‘Very fast’ was not enough when it came down to one of the four Ruinous Powers.

The soulstones solved this problem by introducing a secondary defence system. Akichi was well aware that human souls faded gradually into the Warp. With humans, the eloped time varied between a few seconds to even years, if the individual’s connection to the material world was strong enough. The Eldar apparently possessed the mental fortitude to make this process as short as possible, but it was still obviously not ‘instantaneous.’ The Eldar most likely translated into their soulstones in a matter of seconds, during which time they flared just like human ones.

‘Flare’ was a psyker-term, and it referred to the phenomenon when a dyeing soul emitted a kind of psychic shriek into the Warp. This was inevitable as the soul severed its connection with the body and ejected a huge wave of basic emotions into the Warp. It was an instinctive and seemingly natural process: those who died peacefully flared less while those dyeing violently literally burst into psychic flames for a few seconds. In the dangerous, predator-infested environment of the immaterium, this kind of signal-fire was the worst which could happen to the deceased, and the fact that most of the Galaxy was eventually a huge battlefield meant that such Warp-predators were usually nearby when an individual passed away. In the case of Eldar soulstones, special psy-active runes were introduced, at least, in the second shell-layer, which emitted short-term resonating waves which effectively neutralized the initial flare effect, allowing the soul to translate into the safety of the stone itself.

Neutralizing the flare effect of death.

Akichi leaned forward in his chair.

‘Is this the best you can do, Librarian?’

The question came from Sergeant Andorias, but it was obvious that others would have liked to ask the same thing. Librarian Akichi was standing at the round table in the conference room, with the officer cadre of Strike Force Four staring at him. The mortals were, unsurprisingly, not invited, except for Magos Brakk. However, the meeting itself was no secret, and the crew knew that this session would be devoted to protecting their souls and dealing with the afterlife. Results had to be made at the meeting, but the Librarian’s idea did not seem substantial enough; hence the disappointment.

Most faces around the table were neutral, but a few showed incredulity and dissatisfaction, even disdain. Akichi could not blame them, but he was also determined to play this along as best as he could.

‘This is the best we can do for the crew and ourselves under the circumstances,’ he said levelly. ‘The findings of Inquisitor Ysma suggest that it is possible to conceal soul-emissions with psy-craft. The Eldar’s soul-storing technology is too sophisticated for us, but I believe we are capable of reducing the Warp-flaring effect of death, especially if the individuals have time to prepare for their passing. Even in case of a battle, the soul would be dimmed in the crucial initial moments so it would be of little interest to Warp-predators. I believe that this method would be a reasonably good answer to our present problems.’

The officers exchanged doubtful looks. Malistrum looked pensive, and he was surprisingly calm under the present conditions. Uskovich showed no emotion. There was concentration on his face, but that was all.

‘If I may, Captain?’ Akichi asked, and pointed at the holo-projector on the table. Malistrum nodded, and the Librarian inserted a data-dick into the device. He took the control in his hand, looked at it for a second, and then threw it to Uskovich, who caught it neatly.

‘Project the first file on the wall, and the second one right next to it,’ Akichi said. ‘You will have to verify my theory anyway.’

Uskovich obeyed, and the assembled officers were soon looking at two sets of symbols arranged in two different columns. The first set had an air of strangeness in it, although this was not the nauseating effect of Chaos.

‘The first set of runes belongs to the Eldar,’ Akichi said, and Uskovich nodded in agreement. This confirmation was actually needed as the last sighting of that race had been more than a century ago, and some Imperial strategists were considering the species to be completely destroyed. Nobody in the room had personal experience with them – except Malistrum and perhaps the Chaplain.

‘I had to make do with the data from Inquisitor Ysma’s files, and it is unlikely that we will encounter the race ever again,’ the Librarian continued. ‘These runes indicate a set of psyker mental exercises, keyed to certain psy-emissions at various wavelengths. We don’t know enough of the Eldar to test these runes, but I’m sure the Inquisition knew what they were doing, and I tend to trust their judgement in this case. My opinion is that the runes work the way Inquisitor Ysma believed they would.’

Akichi stepped next to the other column. ‘It is easier to deal with these symbols because these are regular Imperium-sanctioned runes, most of which were used when we created the containment chamber.’ Again, the Chaplain, who took part in creating those runes, nodded. ‘I collected analogues to match their Eldar counterpart, and I paid special attention to the order and sequencing. I believe that this set matches the Eldar one close enough for our purposes.’

‘However, this is not enough in itself,’ the Librarian continued. ‘Control.’

The projector control flew out of Uskovich’s hand into Akichi’s, who activated a third holopicture.

‘This is mostly for Magos Brakk’s eyes,’ he explained as a series of equations and figures flow down the display. ‘This is a list of all the information of the materials used in the creation of the stones, with a set of instructions how the Eldar built them into the outermost layers of their devices. With the psycurium resources we have, I believe we can create enough stones for the whole crew of the Opportunity – including ourselves.’

The officers leaned back to reflect upon this. Sergeant Hemethor was the first to speak.

‘This is not much.’

‘No, it is not,’ the Librarian answered. ‘This is a compromise and a chance for us to defend our people even beyond death.’

‘For a few minutes.’

‘More like a few seconds,’ Akichi answered. He knew what kind of response he could expect to this, but this was no time to lie. ‘If the soul is in a stable and calm state of mind, the translation into the Warp takes approximately thirty seconds. If our people die a violent death, the translation is actually quicker. It is more like a fall instead of sliding there gradually, but the soul also sheds its emotions and memories in one big psychic explosion. With the help of these devices, we can save them in their most critical moments.’

‘And after that?’ Andorias asked.

Akichi sighed. ‘After that, they are on their own. They will be dulled, nullified soul-sparks, and while they would not receive any kind of protection in the Warp, they would not call much attention to themselves either.’ The Librarian’s distaste was visible on his face for having to say something like that, but he said it anyway. ‘Forgive me for saying this, but while there are tastier, shinier morsels around them, nobody will pay attention to them.’

The remark was callous, and a few faces darkened, but the Astartes were trained to see reality for what it was. After a few moments of silence, Akichi continued.

‘The same does not apply to us Space Marines, although the stones would protect us for a few seconds too. However, our minds are more disciplined than that of the mortals. Personally, I believe that with the right mental exercises, we can reach Eldar-level consciousness, and we may even be able to maintain it in the Warp.’


‘Meaning that we would retain some of our memories and experience even after our death. The Warp being what it is, I think we can also shape it to some degree – enough to resist some of the weaker predators out there. I think our duty and the war we wage against the enemies of Mankind would even continue in the afterlife.’

This was not something which the people present would have objected to. After a while, Essen opened his mouth.

‘Wouldn’t it be easier to just try and guide our dead to the Emperor somehow? With more sermons, stricter prayers? Something like that?’

Akichi forced himself not to stiffen. Now was the time to lie. To say one of those big, terrible, soul-saving lies which Uskovich had seemed to prefer lately.

‘I have no idea how it would work,’ he said. ‘We simply have no solid information on the Emperor. The Lectio Divinitatus is not clear enough, and this is a situation which nobody had thought before. There is absolutely nothing which I could use, while the soulstones would actually offer an alternative opportunity.’

Hemethor shook his head.

‘A false opportunity. This reminds me of a huge open field with snipers all around and minefields hidden in the ground, and we are telling our people to run through, but we would give them ten feet lead.’

‘A lot can happen in ten feet,’ Essen said. He was an expert at sniping, so he was qualified to speak.

Silence ensued again.

‘Neither zero point four two nor two pint six six are chances I would take. However, I would always choose the second option over the first.’

This was the voice of Magos Brakk, and everyone was suitably startled. The Magos looked around, and seeing the others faces, he continued.

‘This is a saying on Corinthe.’ Of course it is, the other faces said. ‘It was first used by Magos Enoklitas, and the figures refer to the chance of surviving a Corinthian sandstorm with or without protective suit.’

There was not much to say after that. The officers all looked to Malistrum, who had so far been looking at the table in front of him, thinking over what he had heard. Finally, he raised his eyes to meet Akichi’s.

‘Do it,’ he said.

The process of creating the human semi-soulstones took days, and that was only the time necessary for the prototype to be ready. The crew and the ogryns were waiting patiently: they had a promise, and this was enough for them. Malistrum had to admit that the trust resource he had been mentioning to Uskovich earlier was greater than he had imagined, and he managed to calm down in the end. The Astartes contingent was waiting as well. The Opportunity became more silent and somehow slower: as if time had been suspended to wait for the outcome of the endeavour.

Akichi, Uskovich and Magos Brakk spent a lot of time together; in fact, they literally moved into the interrogation chamber on the containment level, and they crammed the room with cogitators, datafiles, and micro-tools. They only left the chamber for the experiments Magos Brakk was conducting near the Warp-core of the ship: the one place which could stimulate Warp-based conditions to an acceptable degree.

One such occasion happened towards the end of the third day. Akichi was too busy with a particularly obscure data on Inquisitor Ysma’s files, so only the Magos and the Chaplain left. The Librarian waited until they disappeared, then logged out of the display, and opened another file.

The file contained the recordings of the meeting where Captain Malistrum gave them permission to start the experiment. Akichi had instructed the central cogitator to download the recording even before it had started. He had a very good reason for it, but he also hoped that this act was unnecessary.

He looked intently at the screen.

‘If I may, Captain?’ Akichi asked on the screen, and pointed at the holo-projector on the table.

Akichi slowed down the recording. The control flew out of his hand, and flew spinning towards Chaplain Uskovich. Akichi slowed the video further, almost to frame-by-frame speed.

Uskovich reached out with his hand in a slow, jerky movement, and the control landed in his fist.

‘Oh no,’ Akichi said quietly.

He fast-forwarded a little.

‘Control,’ he said on the display.

Akichi went back a little, paused and stepped the video forward by the frames again. He looked intently.

His mouth moved slowly in the pictures. The Librarian was concentrating on his own lips, following the sounds he emitted in the meeting room.

Uskovich on the display slowly flicked his hand. The control left his fingers.

Akichi looked at himself. His mouth was still open.

He looked at the Chaplain’s hand and the control.

‘Damnation,’ he said sadly.
Posts: 122
Joined: Fri Mar 02, 2012 8:47 pm

Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 28)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Sep 09, 2012 8:15 pm

So this is an early update, but I think nobody will complain. I really wanted to get over this story arc: I originally intended only two updates for it, but this is the fourth one. Still, this arc has further implications, and some of what happened will come back in later updates.

Next week there will be a new arc with some brand-new elements added to the story. You will not be disappointed (or maybe you will. who knows? :D ).

By the way, LordLucan, I would like to ask for some feedback on the story so far. Chh was right: attention feeds the updater, but this is basicaly your world we use, so I would especially like to hear you opinion. :oops:

Containment level aboard the Opportunity

238 days after the Emperor’s death

‘You wanted to see me,’ Chaplain Uskovich said.

He was alone in the research room with Librarian Akichi. He looked around, frowning.

‘Magos Brakk is back at the Warp engines,’ the Librarian said as if he had guessed his thoughts. The expression on Uskovich’s face did not change.

‘Another set of experiments? I thought we are already in the production phase.’

‘We are ready with the production phase,’ Akichi said, and pointed towards a small closed box on the table next to him. The Chaplain made a step towards it, but stopped when Akichi stepped forward too, and covered the box with his body.

Uskovich’s eyes narrowed. ‘What is the meaning of all this, Akichi? You have called me from my sermon. You know I had to take care of the flock.’

‘The flock can wait,’ Akichi retorted. ‘And I wanted to talk to you in private.’

Uskovich looked at his fellow officer with cold eyes.

‘Speak to me,’ he said.

‘I have been watching you for a while, Uskovich,’ the Librarian started. ‘You have been acting weird lately. You have changed, you speak differently, your body language has changed. I have an eye for this, you know.’

‘You are not making much sense,’ the Chaplain answered.

‘I recorded our last meeting with the Captain.’

The Chaplain raised his head.


Akichi looked determined. ‘You were catching and throwing that holoprojector-control a little too fast, Uskovich. I had the main cogitator analyse your movement, and you know what? The final result said that your reflexes were a full seventy per cent quicker than you would normally be capable of.’

He smiled, although there was no friendly warmth in it.

‘You act quicker, you talk in short sentences, you use battlefield-language. “Permission to speak?” Really? Uskovich, you were battle-conditioned on that day, weren’t you?’

The Chaplain slowly blinked. ‘I have no time for this right now,’ he said. ‘I have to go back to my work.’ He turned and headed for the door.

‘Chaplain!’ Akichi snapped. Uskovich span on his heels as if ready to strike somebody.

‘This is not a joke, this is not insignificant, this cannot wait any more!’ The Librarian’s voice rose gradually. ‘I waited until we finish the first prototype, but now we are ready, and it is time to address your problem! I am not only a fellow Fatemaker, I am also a ranking officer of Strike Force Four! It is my duty to bring potential problems to your and the Captain’s attention, and it is your duty as Chaplain to take my warnings seriously and listen what I have to say to you!’

Uskovich looked on, but at least, he was no longer leaving. Akichi sighed.

‘Uskovich. Brother. Were you battle-conditioned at the meeting?’

‘Yes,’ Uskovich answered curtly.

Akichi looked at him. ‘Uskovich. Are you battle-conditioned right now?’

This time, the answer did not come right away. ‘Yes,’ he finally said.

‘Ah, Uskovich,’ Akichi sighed. ‘There is a reason we call it battle-condition. You know that you are eating up your physical and mental reserves whenever you are in this mode, don’t you? I mean, it makes you more focussed and faster, but it literally drains you. When was the last time an Apothecary checked you?’

He waited, but he received no answer.

‘Why? Why was it necessary? There was no crisis situation, not that I knew of. Why did you do this to your body and mind?’

‘The Emperor died, Akichi,’ came the answer. ‘He was our saviour, and left us. The only reason Mankind went on was because He protected. You saw what happened on Saint Menthas after that.’

Uskovich reached up and touched his forehead.

‘I was afraid that I would end up the same. I am the highest spiritual leader in the strike force. If I cannot handle this, I will fall, and the priesthood will fall, and the crew will fall and…’

‘Uskovich!’ Akichi hissed. He was disturbed to hear the Chaplain saying those words. Even more disturbing was the lack emotion on the Chaplain’s face while he was talking.

‘I felt I couldn’t do it. How can I ignore facts? The Emperor is dead. But how can I go on without Him? He is dead. But I have to move on. But He is dead. But I have to move on.’

He blinked. ‘Then I remembered Battle-Brother Xhiao-Müller. He was about to be killed by the crowd. He should have died. But I gave him an order, activated his battle-conditioning, and he broke through the people. He killed at least a dozen of them and he went against the Fatemaker credo, but he survived. I didn’t think much of it first. Then I met Inquisitor Cathrin.’

‘The one who claimed she had changed personality.’ Akichi shook his head. ‘You could have asked me about her. I have no idea what technique she used, but I doubt that she would get away with a personality change for long. There are all kinds of long-term implications…’

‘HE GOT THE JOB DONE!’ Uskovich snapped. Akichi involuntarily stepped back at this sudden emotional outburst. ‘She had to deal with an impossible situation, and she managed to stay functional. She paid the price for it! Yes, she paid her personal naklonjenost, but who cares? Ho cares when she no longer had to think of the Emperor and how He is gone and how we will all die without Him?’

Akichi was speechless. The difference between the Chaplain’s flat face and angry ranting was so obvious that even one without psychic powers could feel that there was some serious problem with Uskovich. The Librarian did not dare to use his powers to scan his fellow officer, at least not yet.

‘This is how you dealt with the Withdrawal, didn’t you?’ he asked. The other was looking at him with cold, dead eyes. ‘You did not heal yourself. You simply decided to suppress it, like putting a field bandage on an injury. Uskovich, you cannot do this to your mind! You cannot switch on and off your battle-conditioning whenever you feel desperate!’

Uskovich made a hissing sound.

‘Switching off?’ he asked.

The Librarian’s jaw dropped.

‘By the Throne and everything which is holy in this world. Uskovich, you have been in battle-conditioning for more than nine months! Nine months! You do not go beyond three weeks! You fight under battle-conditions for three weeks, then you find a ditch somewhere, you cover yourself with mud and you switch off and sleep for bloody thirty hours! Three weeks, Uskovich! Three bloody weeks, you damn idiot! Switch off now before you get a god-damn stroke!’

‘I have tried it. I can’t,’ came the answer.

‘Do it! Now!’

‘I AM TRYING TO DO IT!’ Uskovich yelled back. For the first time during their conversation, he showed emotions, and it Akichi felt scared for the second time in his life as an Astartes. Chaplain Uskovich was sweating: there was a snarl on his face, and his eyes were visibly rolling.

Then his eyes looked up and disappeared behind his eyelids.

Akichi gasped as he realized what he was seeing. These were the last moments his fellow Space Marine could hold himself together before a total mental collapse.

He darted forward, but it was too late. Uskovich fell, as if he had lost control over his entire body: he did not trip over, he literally collapsed onto the floor. The Librarian jumped after him. He grabbed the chestplate of the Chaplain, and pulled his upper body up so he could have a better look at him.

The Chaplain’s body spasmed periodically, and he could only open his eyes with great difficulty. He managed to look up somehow, and his blood-shot eyes locked into that of the Librarian. He only managed to utter two words.

‘Help. Me.’

The air around the two visibly shimmered as Akichi concentrated his psychic energies and went down into Uskovich’s mind.

He was standing on an endless plane of stone tiles.

The Librarian knew that what he saw was mostly symbolic and was as much a product of his own imagination as the personality of the scanned individual. The uniformly regular tiles themselves were not as important as their message: the character he was scanning valued order and discipline above all else, and the simple nature of the scene hinted at secrecy and aloofness. This was Captain Uskovich in his basic form, and the sight did not surprise Akichi at all. He was expecting this: what he did not expect, however, was just how badly this disciplined mind was faring.

The rows of tiles were rumbling and waving, as if they were just the surface of some physical ocean, and some underwater monster were swimming underneath them, ready to break out of the water any second. The rows themselves were coming apart at the edges of the tiles: wherever a rippling wave passed by, it pushed the tiles up, and the although some of them were slowly returning to their place, most of them just stayed up there, disorganized and disjointed.

This was the sight of a man’s mind destroying itself.

Akichi knew he had to hurry. Battle-condition was a powerful tool in the Astartes arsenal: rigorous mental training allowed the Space Marines to enhance their senses and reflexes, flood their bodies with adrenalin, becoming faster, stronger and more focussed. The method was dangerous: it narrowed down the perception of the individual to certain pre-programmed stimuli and responses, and it eventually exerted him to the point of total collapse. No Space Marine was supposed to exist in this mode for more than a few weeks without serious consequences, and the fact that they could go on even that long was a testament to the genius of the Emperor’s genetic engineering skills.

Uskovich had literally ruined himself with his decision. He was not even falling into a coma: he was actually dying. Akichi was not sure that he could even be saved, but he had to try anyway.

The first thing to do was to deactivate the battle-condition, then send him into sleep with psychic stimulation. The problem was that battle-conditioning was not supposed to be deactivated from outside. Every Marine had to create during their training as initiates a set of code-words and mental commands which regulated their conditioning. They were not supposed to give out the code-words to anyone, not even to a fellow Fatemaker. Akichi had to find the code-words in the crumbling mind of the Chaplain, and he had to find them fast.

There was only one advantage he had, and he did not hesitate to use it. If Uskovich had been trying to come out of his battle-stance, the code-word had to be on the surface of his mind, revolving in his head all the while he slowly had a stroke. Obviously, the code no longer worked, but the right psychic assistance could fix this problem. The Librarian slowly looked around the plane of tiles, looking for the one piece which was somehow more prominent than the others.

There it was. There was a low humming noise coming from a direction. Akichi new that distance was meaningless in a psychic scanning, so he willed himself forward, and he arrived at the source of the noise immediately. He leaned down and reached for the tile in front of him.

Then he froze. The noise did not come from one tile, but at least a dozen. This was not right. The code-words should have been contained in one tile – the symbolic equivalent of an information package. The scene was symbolic, but it had its own laws, and those laws dictated that the dozen tiles represented a dozen different thought at once.

The Librarian tentatively touched one tile. It blinked for a second, and Akichi pulled his hand back as if he had touched something red-hot. That tile had Warp-taint inside! It was no doubt a memory of some mission with a demonic encounter – Akichi knew that his mind contained enough similar memories of his own.

He tried another one. This was had a cold feeling on it, and as soon as his fingers touched it, a stylized ‘I’-symbol appeared on the surface. This memory contained some great secret of the Chaplain’s former masters; a secret which, by the way it felt, stole some illusion from Uskovich. The Librarian could not even imagine what kind of illusion the Chaplain could have had left by the time he had got into the Inquisition, let alone how he could actually lose it.

The ground under the Librarian shook and rumbled. There was definitely not a lot more time now.

Uskovich had his mind full of terrible secrets; perhaps they had a part in his present state of mind. The real memory was one of these symbolic tiles, and to find it, Akichi had to activate it with something linked to the Chaplain’s training or his association with the Fatemaker Chapter.

Akichi emitted a psychic whisper.


Nothing happened. The Librarian had to think quickly or he would lose the Chaplain – with his own mind if he had stayed inside when Uskovich died.

Strike Force…

He did not even finish the psychic thought. The code had to be burnt into him at his novice training. What was the first lesson the Fatemakers could use as a basis for wrapping and storing their code-word? Or, to turn thing around: what was first things which Akichi had been taught?

Of course. Akichi sighed and emitted a third sentence.

Life is unfair.

Deal with it, one of the tiles whispered back.

The Librarian grabbed the tile with his symbolic hand and crushed it.

Akichi opened his eyes.

‘Sleep,’ he commanded, and Uskovich’s body slackened in his arms.

‘Oh hell,’ the Librarian whispered, and he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. He panted a little, and he activated his vox-link.

‘Librarian Akichi to the Apothecarion. I need medical help in the containment chamber. Chaplain Uskovich has a… psychic shock.’

‘We are on our way,’ the answer came a moment later. Akichi turned off his vox, and he looked down at the limp form of Uskovich.

‘Oh hell,’ he repeated.

Apothecarion aboard the Opportunity

242 days after the Emperor’s death

There was a familiar darkness around him. He had only felt it once before, but it left a deep impact on his soul, and the same situation slowly brought back the strange, unpleasant emotions he had felt back then. Confusion, fear, loneliness: the feelings came back, but in a cold, sluggish way, as if his mind was not sure how to remember them.

‘Open your eyes, Uskovich.’

Uskovich opened his eyes. The light hurt them a little, but he adapted quickly, and he saw that he was lying on a bed in the Apothecarion. His head hurt, and even the small movement of turning his head caused him pain, but he looked aside nevertheless. Besides Apothecary Ruffar, there were two other Astartes next to him.

‘You scared us all over there,’ Librarian Akichi said. There was reproach in his voice, with a measure of relief.

‘How do you feel?’ Captain Malistrum asked.

Uskovich swallowed.

‘Weak. Slow.’ He winced as he tried to raise his head from the bed. ‘How long was it?’

‘Four days.’

Uskovich managed to elbow his upper body up. ‘did I… recover?’

‘Yes,’ the Captain answered. ‘Apothecary Ruffar had to use nano-surgery on you, and Librarian Akichi claimed that your soul has started to bleed again. You will need time to heal completely – but you will heal if you have the will.’

‘You will have to start meditating with me regularly,’ Akichi added. ‘The Withdrawal came out on you again, as if those eight months hadn’t passed at all. Even before starting to meditate, we will have a long discussion about abusing your mental reserves like that. You are perhaps the most idiotic…’

‘There will be plenty of time for this later, Librarian,’ Malistrum interrupted. ‘For now, I would like you to leave the two of us alone for a while. You too, Apothecary, if you may.’

The two Space Marines nodded, and left. Malistrum and Uskovich looked at each other for a while. Finally, Malistrum started to speak.

‘Akichi is right.’

Uskovich dropped his head back on the bed.

‘I know, Captain.’

‘You will start meditating with him as soon as you leave this bed, and whatever he has to tell you, you will smile and listen.’ Malistrum’s face was stern, even though his voice was unusually soft. ‘We cannot afford to lose you, especially like this. You should have come to me or even Akichi when you felt you could not do it alone.’

‘A Chaplain is always aloof. He never shows weakness, and he never talks about doubt to his flock,’ Uskovich replied.

‘This was the law of the old times, and those times are gone,’ Malistrum retorted. Uskovich made a slight nod.

‘I think you are right, Captain.’

Malistrum leaned closer.

‘Gone… just like the Emperor.’

The two of them locked eyes again. Finally, Uskovich closed his eyes.

‘It hurts me,’ he whispered. ‘It hurts more than any weapon would.’

‘I know.’

A single tear rolled down the Chaplain’s face.

‘I’m not sure I can deal with it.’

‘You won’t be alone in this. Not now. You need to be strong, and you cannot speak about doubt with the rank and file Astartes, but you have me, and you have Akichi. Trust us, Uskovich.’ Malistrum reached down and grabbed the Chaplain’s shoulder. ‘The one way to survive the nightmares to come is to get hold of one another and drag ourselves forward.’

Uskovich looked up.

‘I have failed you, Captain. What use could I be to you any more?’

‘How did you fail me?’

The Chaplain made an uncertain gesture with his hand. ‘I have burnt myself out. I almost died in vain. I neglected my duty. I failed.’

Malistrum shook his head.

‘Reach into your shirt.’

Instead of his regular black armour, Uskovich was wearing a grey patient’s outfit. He reached to his chest, and his eyes opened slightly wider. He reached into the shirt and pulled out a chain and a small black pebble in an intricate metal frame.

‘Your personal soulstone,’ Malistrum explained. ‘You were in danger of dying, so you got the first stone. By now, half the mortal crew has them, ogryns and humans alike. One more week, and everybody will have it, including us Astartes.’ He smiled. ‘You, Akichi and Magos Brakk probably saved the souls of Strike Force Four. I don’t want to hear about how this is not a permanent and final solution. You did your job, you suggested a practical solution which we were able to implement. This was a small victory because in the grand scheme of things, we are small people. You did serve us well, even if your chosen method was foolish.’

Uskovich seemed to struggle with words. Finally, he simply nodded.

‘Good. Do whatever is necessary and safe to recover because we need you more than ever. I have set up an informal lodge among the Astartes warriors. A meeting ground to deal with personal or emotional problems. Squad-level solutions no longer work. We had a murder and a suicide aboard, and I intent them to be the last. We will come out of this mess together, and you will be standing next to me, leading the others, Uskovich.’

Malistrum waited for final reassuring nod, and when he got it, he turned to leave the room.

‘Captain,’ Uskovich called for him. Malistrum stopped.

‘There was one thing which has been bothering me lately,’ the Chaplain started. ‘I think this is the reason why my mind finally gave up. I couldn’t handle it, not even in battle condition. But if I really want to make things right, I have to burden someone else with it – and as you have said, you are one of the two people I can turn to.’

The Captain turned back.

‘I never understood how come the rest of the crew did not feel the same pain and hopelessness as I did, Captain.’ Uskovich had his eyes closed, but there was pain in his voice. ‘The Emperor died. I knew it. I accepted it, but it hurt. It hurt the other brothers too, but we were strong and I knew that eventually, we would overcome it. Then I saw the others, the mortals, the Ogryns, and it was almost business as usual for them. We did not shout the truth into their face, but still, they had to feel it… and then I made that speech in the main hangar.’

He sighed. ‘They should have been broken by the news. They should have collapsed, they should have rioted. I was prepared to use my weapon that day. Nothing happened. That was when I realized what the problem was. It was business as usual for them because they didn’t lose anything important.’

Malistrum frowned.

‘What do you mean?’

‘They still had us,’ Uskovich explained. ‘We are the ones who protect them, we live among them, we lead them into battle. It is a Fatemaker policy to spend time with our serfs. They don’t even see themselves as serfs anyway. They are our protégés. Our flock. They were not worried about the Emperor so much because he was not their real god. We were.’ Uskovich opened his eyes and looked at the Captain, who was now listening with a tension-filled expression. ‘I am sorry to say this, but for Strike Force Four, and quite possible, the whole Fatemaker Chapter has been a heretic Chapter from the very beginning.’

Malistrum was speechless for a few moments. Finally, he opened his mouth.

‘Thank you for telling me, Uskovich.’ Then he turned and left with hurried, almost panicked steps.

Miklas span the soulstone on the chain in his hand.

‘Are you sure you don’t want it?’ he asked his son. ‘The Astartes say once you put it on, you shouldn’t pass it on because you need to be…’

‘Attuned to it,’ Dmitrija finished his sentence with a smile. ‘And no, just keep it, dad. In a few days, I will get my own.’

‘I spoke to someone at the engineering section,’ Mikals said. ‘Not a tech-priest, but one of the laymen. He said he was given one, and he looked at it through their strongest microscopes. He just couldn’t get over it. He said it was full of small runes.’ He leaned forward and looked at the black surface of the stone. He could perhaps make out the barest of lines, but this was enough for him.

He put the stone in his neck and grinned at Dmitrija.

‘See?’ he asked. ‘The Fatemakers protect.’

Sergeant Essen received his stone almost a week later, but the way he was spinning and examining the stone mirrored Miklas’s reaction.

He was standing in a small corridor with one of his veteran scouts, Nikomaus.

‘Well?’ his man asked.

Essen put on the chain and shook his head. ‘This changes nothing,’ he said.

Nikomaus frowned. ‘So when are we going to make our move?’

‘Certainly not in a while. We need more information, and we need the right opportunity,’ the Scout-Sergeant answered. ‘We will start with the warrior lodge. Go to the meetings and mix with the other squads. Talk to them, ask them questions. But say no word about our plans. Tell the others the same.’

Nikomaus nodded. Essen turned to face the other, and placed his hand on his shoulder.

‘We are Fatemakers, Nikomaus. So let’s go and make fate for ourselves.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Tandrax218 » Mon Sep 10, 2012 9:59 pm

Ok thats it

Meaneye i want the color scheme for the Fatemakers A.S.A.P

Going to buy some models and paint....
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue Sep 11, 2012 2:44 am

Oh sweet. And Battle Conditioned for 9 months? Damn Uskovitch is a hard ass.
Space Cowboy, Spartan II, Specter, Reclusiarch

'I see the fear you have inside.'
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Gaius Marius
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Meaneye » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:26 pm

Wow. Thanks a lot, guys. :D

Tandrax218: I had a colour scheme in my head when I imagined the Fatemakers, but I'm not sure how I would start painting it. I had no idea what "rock-crete grey" looks like, but I had just bought a Bio-Toxin Plant Sett from Urban Mammoth before I started to write the story. I looked at the naked sprue colour, and I said that this was the right grey. It had a dull shine to it, and there was some slight marble effect on the surface (it looks like there are cracks on the surface... I cannot explain it better). So basically it is just one light-grey colour, with the deeper parts a little darker, and there is dull varnish on it.

Of course, the main characters are officers and specialists, and they have the regular Codex colours (Chaplain: black, Librarian: blue, Techpriest: red, Apothecary: white) with the shoulder-pad remaining the original Chapter colour. The symbol is an inverted "Q", that is, the slash is on the bottom left side of the circle: this represents the ability of the Fatemakers to change their own ultimate fate (they believe that they were destined to die out after Borshak, and they managed to change their destiny on their own and, of course, with the help of the Emperor*).

Akichi is Asian and bald, Magos Brakk is African; Malistrum is Eastern European and has close-cropped brown hair, both Essen and Andorias are slightly tanned Mediterranians (they had been born in the same community before they were recruited), and Uskovich is a blonde WASP. At least this is how I see them im my head. I imagined the Malachias Sector to be populated by the descendants of Mediterraneans, Eastern Europeans and Asians with a touch of Germanic, so the people would look something like them.

*which, as it has just turned out, they did not really believe in as they have been heretic from the very beginning, even if they didn't realize it.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Tandrax218 » Tue Sep 11, 2012 9:32 pm

since i'm not a native speaker of english i googled " rock-crete gray" and got NOThing and a big ? in my mind. then i realized rock-crete is the fictional material that power armour is made of.

but i did find this gray rock....
is this what you had in mind??
http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-1106633 ... color.html
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Meaneye » Wed Sep 12, 2012 10:37 pm

The round one in the top left corner seems right. A basecoat of darker grey, drybush with lighter grey and paint the edges of the shoulderguard, other hard edges on the armour the and squad markings with the same darker basecoat grey. When it is ready, put on some dull varnish, and that's it. The weapons are all gunmetal.

I think the one place where there could be some extra colour are the eye-lenses (the redder, the better :D ).
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