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

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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Midgard » Fri Sep 14, 2012 7:12 pm

Just caught up with the updates. The way you write the poignant and emotional scenes, especially in the recent chapters, is very engrossing. This is one of my favorite stories to follow on the Bolthole, and an inspiration to eventually go back to my tale of the Lamenters (if I ever find time to do it)...
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 29)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Sep 14, 2012 9:36 pm

Thaks a lot, Midgard. I think you will like this update too :D

Unfortunately, I will probably not be able to keeep up with the regular updates (September is always a pressure). Instead I update whenever I am done with a part.

Anyway, enjoy part 30; I would also like to give special thanks to Sardaukar for... well, read the whole update :D

Part 30

Borealis-67/C system

502 days after the Emperor’s death

It was time for another meeting with the Fatemaker Navigator.

The strike cruiser was resting in neutral space, at a safe distance from the sun of the Borealis-67/C system. There was nothing here; at least, there was no indigenous life on the planets and no alien or Imperial presence anywhere near the system itself. This was good; with all the recent turmoil, Strike Force Four could not afford to get bogged down in some local conflict or crisis. The ship had supplies, and the Space Marines had a mission which preferred minimal human contact with the rest of the Galaxy. The only reason they stopped here was the still shocking truth: they had no guidance any more.

The Astronomican was no more. It is said that men only appreciated things when they had lost them, and now the old saying was certainly true. Flickering or not, obscured by warp storms or clearly visible, the guiding psychic light of the Emperor was always there for navigators to see and use it as a point of reference. Space travel was never fast, and the Fatemakers always spent long weeks or even months in the Warp, but now what used to be days became weeks, weeks became months and months…

The Fatemaker ship had not had any outside contact for half a year now.

After the incident with the heretics of the Ongoliant Triangle, Brother-Captain Malistrum had decided to veer the ship away from the inhabited systems of the Imperium, and avoid everyone else entirely. This was a seriously dangerous gamble not because of the physical consequences, but because there was a good chance that Strike Force Four would lose the track of their Fatemaker brethren for good. All they had was the general direction and that was simply not enough in three-dimensional space. Strike Force Four would need human contact and new clues to follow the main fleet very soon.

They could afford one last jump into uninhabited space, however. From where the reserve fleet launched, there was a great obstacle in the shortest, straightest way towards Segmentum Solar: the Xomnalia Nebula. Surprisingly enough, the nebula was not particularly dangerous: it was merely difficult to navigate through it, and so the fleet would most likely go around it in the next shortest route. Strike Force Four had been imitating this route for the last six months, and was about to come out on the other side. Just one more jump before having to make a decision which way to continue, and that would no doubt require contact with the Imperium again.

This last jump would prove to be problematic, however.

‘You see, Brother-Captain,’ said Yesmilda in a nervous tone, ‘I have been using our old navigational charts. I mean, old in the sense that since the Astronomican…’

Her voice faltered. Captain Malistrum looked at her for a few moments, then nodded.

‘I understand, navigator. Please continue.’

Yasmilda looked grateful.

‘Well, what I wanted to say is that the Warp has changed significantly in the last few years. Routes which used to be safe are hazardous now, and previously unapproachable areas have opened up to warp travel. I had to use the routes which are the most stable, and so I was forced…’

She stopped again. Captain Malistrum frowned.

‘Navigator, I understand that you are going to have a problem with the next optimal destination point. The best course of action would be to be up front about it, and tell me about this problem. Is the location dangerous?’

‘No, Brother-Captain. It is completely deserted, the route there is actually calm, and that place is an ideal point for the next warp jump. It is just…’

She cleared her throat and looked in Malistrum’s eyes.

‘My lord, there is no other way to say it, so I tell you that the ideal and only acceptable destination point for us is the Borshak system.’

Malistrum continued to look back at the Navigator; his face unchanged for a few seconds. Then something strange happened.

Yasmilda was not used to talking to people, so she was not very good at reading faces, especially Astartes faces. She had some basic contact with humans, however, and she had spent enough time with the Captain to actually experience some of his moods. Worry, contentedness, anger, disappointment; Malistrum showed all these emotions, and she had even seen him smile on no less than three separate occasions.

This facial expression was something completely different. It seemed that the captain simply switched off: his features became completely unreadable, and the glint of intelligence which was always present in his eyes disappeared entirely. He did not faint. That would have been accompanied by the slackening of his facial muscles, which did not happen. In fact, his face hardened, with every muscle in it flexed slightly, but still not making any pattern which she could have associated with any sort of emotion.

Yasmilda knew the old saying about the Space Marines, one that was attributed to the Emperor Himself: And they shall know no fear. Most people who heard it could accept it as the truth, especially after seeing a real Astartes in action; the saying, however, was not particularly true. The human mind was partially based on instincts rooted in the species’ past when men were still fur-covered animals. These instincts (fleeing, fighting, feeding and reproduction) were mostly regulated by a specific part of the human brain, the hypothalamus. For obvious reasons, one of those four instincts were totally counter-productive for a Space Marine, while two others were merely distractive; yet, the Emperor did not completely erase them from the Astartes psyche. Perhaps He felt that the complete removal of those instincts would utterly alienate His warriors from the mundane humans. In a way, the Horus Heresy proved Him right in just how dangerous the Astartes would become if they felt they did not belong to the human race any more. At any rate, He did not simply cut out or replace the physical part of the brain responsible for these urges and emotions: He merely suppressed them and conditioned the first Astartes specimens to trigger these suppressive means if necessary.

What Yasmilda saw on Captain Malistrum’s face was a temporary shut-down. Ordinarily, his reaction to the Navigator’s choice of destination should have been apocalyptic. There was no Fatemaker Astartes in the sector who would not have flown into an indiscriminate rage at the mere mention of this name. What the Captain felt in the first fraction of a second on hearing these words was an almost uncontrollable urge to grab the frail Navigator and smash her against the wall, break her bones and erase her from existence itself.

Most Biologis Magos at the Adeptus Mechanicus would have gladly given away their life to observe what chemical reactions started in the Captain’s brain. The terrible amount of adrenalin which his glands created was soaked up in his body in almost an instant. The effect was not visible under the armour, but if somebody had got the chance to monitor his systems they would have registered a body temperature rise of two degrees on him. Thanks to his different physiology and his mental control, this did not show on his face, not even in the form of blushing. The conditioning that he received during his training as a novitiate helped him to hide all physical reactions from an outsider: his hands did not tremble, his posture did not change and his eyes became completely expressionless. He did everything he could to keep the Navigator alive for the few seconds he needed to cool down.

Malistrum blinked, then made a faint smile to Yasmilda.

‘Borshak system it is,’ he said, then stood up and left.

Borshak System jump point

506 days after the Emperor’s death

What does it feel like to visit the graves of your murdered ancestors?

The question was rhetorical, of course. The psycho-indoctrination of Space Marines made sure that they virtually forgot about their family and previous life; decades of warfare in unimaginable places against unimaginable foes ensured that any remaining vague memory got buried deep in the unconscious part of the brain.

However, Space Marines or not, these superhuman warriors remained human enough to have some attachments remaining in them. All Astartes, even the cruellest ones, revered their Chapter and those who came before their time. Customs and traditions bound them together, forming a comradeship which shaped and channelled their aggressive nature in the way where they were able to function for the best interest of the Imperium.

The Fatemakers had no ancient customs or traditions. They had shed them when their new Chapter was born, and the reason why they were forced to do so was here in this wretched system.

There was no Fatemaker in the entire Chapter who had been alive when the two founding chapters, the Blue Avengers and the Silver Halberds were decimated by their traitor brethren, the Twilight Monks. The Battle of Borshak and its aftermath was a tough lesson. It taught the survivors a lot about treachery, negligence and helplessness. The original two chapters, with their limiting traditions, were not able to handle the shock of being decimated to the point of extinction. Their warrior culture dictated that they had to follow their brethren the way they lived, sword raised, charging after the retreating Twilight Monks, trying to end their life in dignity and prowess.

Whoever their three remaining Captains were, they had decided against this idea. Survival was more important than honour because a dead Astartes, a dead chapter would be useless, and the wider Imperium, in its ignorance, would not be able to appreciate their sacrifices anyway. The last remnants of the original two thousand warriors had made serious pledges to follow a different path, one that focussed on being useful and effective instead of being merely heroic. Hard sacrifices had to be made for the new chapter to survive. They had to forget everything which used to be important for them: their history, their identity, their revenge, perhaps even their innocent trust in Mankind. They made those sacrifices anyway. The Fatemakers were tempered, pragmatic and utterly self-dependent, prepared to avoid the mistakes of their ancestors.

Still, all this did not mean that the past did not hurt. The Astartes were human enough to carry their symbolic wounds with them. It took a lot of effort to ignore the one time in their history where the mighty Space Marines were defeated so much that they had to take on a new identity to survive. Arriving into the Borshak system managed to tear up some of those old wounds.

The Opportunity broke out of the warp without any incident. Navigator Yasmilda waited until the Warp-gate had closed behind them, then leaned back on her chair. The life support system which fed her during the voyage injected relaxants into her system, and she noticed, somewhat relieved that the dose the devices used was smaller than the ones she had been receiving since the Emperor’s death.

She was getting used to the new world. The Warp was more tumultuous than it used to be, and the lack of the Astronomican still hurt, but at least she had by now become familiar with the way the Immaterium was now working. She was also more confident than at the beginning. Things were still grim and dark, but the end of the world seemed to be postponed, and it looked now as if Mankind – and her by extension – had actually got a small chance of survival.

She touched the soulstone in her neck, then called the bridge.

‘We have left the Immaterium, Captain,’ she said. ‘The gate closed behind us.’

‘An excellent job, Navigator,’ came the answer.

She nodded to herself, and leaned back again. She deserved some rest now.

She was lying in the chair with her eyes closed, and listened to the humming of the machines around her.

She opened her eyes.

She leaned forward and concentrated on the area of space in front of her

Then she activated the vox to the bridge.

‘An excellent job, Navigator.’

Captain Malistrum deactivated his own vox system, and went back to fixating the space beyond the viewport.

There was nothing extraordinary about the sight: black nothingness, with occasional sparks of light in the background. What else did he hope to see? This system was uninhabited, and it was also unremarkable in any other ways, except for the fact that the predecessor chapters of the Fatemakers had almost died out here about seven hundred years ago.

Logically seeing, this fact should not have made any impact of the pragmatic Fatemakers. Malistrum himself had agreed to come here on the grounds that this position in space would help them to catch up with the rest of the Chapter’s fleet. Emotions were irrelevant. Attachment to a seven hundred years old event was even less important. The Fatemakers had simple principles and achievable goals by necessity, which usually translated into lines of short statements.

Mankind had to survive. The Chapter had to remain strong. Strike force Four had to find the reserve fleet.

That was it. Malistrum should have had no concern beyond this, especially now that there was no more problem to distract him. There was no longer any doubt that the Emperor was gone. The crew’s loyalty and cooperation had been secured, and the warrior lodge was working well. There had been no murder, violence or suicide in the past few months, and the frequent meetings among the Astartes squads formed new bonds and friendships, which was a good sign. Chaplain Uskovich had made a full recovery, and although he visited the Captain more often to discuss things, to the crew, he was still the solid and competent officer he had always been. All in all, Strike Force Four was still an effective fighting organization.

Everybody seemed a little more optimistic now than six months earlier; everybody except for the Captain.

Malistrum knew that the people were content because they still had a purpose, and they were more or less taken care of. The mortals still had their heroes, their idols, and the Astartes accepted their new routine and transition into a closer, more informal hierarchical structure. Malistrum had neither comfort. He could no longer worship anyone the way the crew apparently still could. As he was the top commander, there was nobody above him either. The Chapter Master was gone, the Emperor was dead, the Imperium was falling apart, and so he could not even refer to any higher authority or justification of his actions. Nor could he share his burden with anyone. Uskovich was supposed to provide spiritual guidance, but in the last few months, it had seemed that the Chaplain had received more support from the Captain than the other way around. The Captain accepted this because the alternative would have been the eventual disintegration of the strike force’s high command, but he was not happy with this change in roles. Also, he felt that the Chaplain’s trust (perhaps even faith?) was misplaced in him. He no longer felt competent or confident.

How could he not realize that the Fatemaker Space Marines had become objects of worship for the human crew? This was more than a mistake, more than negligence. Uskovich was completely right. The Fatemakers were heretics of the worst kind: the type of heretics who were sucking spiritual devotion away from the one true master of Mankind, all the while pretending that they were acting in His name. Their ignorance was no excuse. If it had turned out earlier, the Imperium would have declared them Excommunicate Traitoris, and they would have become hunted Astartes, outcasts and pariahs among their own species. Only the Chapter’s insular nature prevented this awful truth from turning out, and Malistrum still felt a shiver crawling through his spine whenever he thought how often the Chapter had almost been exposed if fate and blind luck had not intervened on their behalf.

None of the other Captains or any of the Chapter Masters had found this out, of course, and so the blame was not exclusively Strike Force Four’s. This thought did not comfort him at all. He had got great plans for the Fatemakers, and he used to be convinced that he saw the situation of the Galaxy clearer than even his own brothers. He had been ready to confront the Chapter Master about the way they were conducting their businesses, and it turned out that he was not even observant enough to see the problems on his own ship. What kind of a Captain makes a god of himself without even realizing it?

Malistrum doubted his own leadership abilities now. He knew he had to pull himself together fast, before the Galaxy forced him to make life-or-death command decisions. He was trying, but his doubts did not pass away. Although he could conceal it from the others, he had become suspicious and needlessly paranoid, and he needed every iota of his inner strength to fight these feelings before they overwhelmed him.

Which was why he decided not to act against Scout-Sergeant Essen.

The Sergeant had been behaving strangely in the last few months. He frequented the lodge meetings far more often then the other officers, and it seemed to the Captain that he was asking a lot more questions than he answered. Malistrum’s experience told him that the Sergeant used classic information gathering techniques, which, in the case of an outsider, would have meant a potential threat. In the case of a fellow Space Marine, however…

When Malistrum had realized this, he had spent three days to do an extensive investigation of the security cameras, the ship’s inventory and accesses to the datafiles in the ship’s cogitators. He had to do this all alone: this was not something he could have trusted to anyone else. The results came back negative. Essen was not stockpiling weapons or materials; he was not trying to brake into the central databank; he did not have clandestine meetings with other crewmembers, except for the training sessions with his own squad-members and his conversations with his fellow battle-brothers. He was just a man who spent a lot of time in the company of others. Malistrum had got a choice to make there and then: he could have dropped the issue or he could have asked Librarian Akichi to scan the Sergeant and make sure that he had no hidden agenda after all.

He never told Akichi anything about this. How could he? He, the Captain had spent three days to check upon a man who had done nothing out of the ordinary. The Captain had a Librarian who claimed to have witnessed the murder of the Emperor, a Chaplain who had almost killed himself like a novice who does not understand his own strength, a subordinate who mercy-killed his own best friend and then committed suicide and a crew who had been worshipping him as a god for the Throne knows how long. There was no problem with Essen: there was a problem with the whole strike force. Malistrum could condemn Essen no sooner than he could condemn himself.

The Captain saw the glint of a distant star through the viewport, possibly the central sun of the system. His mood darkened further.

This was like adding insult to injury. Why here? He knew the answer, and he agreed that this course was logical and useful, but why here? It seemed that fate had been playing with Strike Force Four recently, slowly stripping away their confidence, their self-awareness, all the solid points in their life. They no longer had their god; their Chapter had seemingly abandoned them; the Imperium was fading away; some of the cornerstones of their beliefs had been smashed. What will this system, this dark shadow from their past, take away from them this time?

Malistrum forced himself out of these gloomy thoughts, and stepped forward. The sooner they finish here, the better.

‘Navigator Yasmilda to Captain Malistrum,’ the central vox-unit of the bridge crackled.

‘Navigator?’ Malistrum responded. There was something strange in Yasmilda’s voice, and he had to concentrate to push his paranoid thoughts back.

‘Captain, I sense something strange in the Warp in this system,’ Yasmilda said. ‘I sense something… approaching.’

Malitrum frowned. ‘Explain yourself, Navigator,’ he commanded.

‘Captain, I… I cannot. I have never felt anything like it. It is… the Warp is about to open.’

The Captain straightened, and leaned onto the vox console. The serf operating that board leaned out of the way, now being nervous himself.

‘Enemy ships?’

‘No. No, this is different. The Warp is present here, but there is something else. Something deeper…’ the Navigator’s voice faltered, then she almost cried into the vox.

‘Captain, we are in danger here!’

‘Battle alert,’ Malistrum commanded. He felt cold certainty taking over his actions now as he finally had to act as a leader again. ‘Arm all weapons, prepare the fighter squadrons, raise the shields and transfer full power to the Gellar field.’

The alert sounded, and the crew hurried to comply with their master’s orders. Malistrum was tense, and his mind was working in the same battle-mode which had nearly ruined Chaplain Uskovich. He saw the work of his men, he looked into his own heart, and for the first time for months, he felt a measure of peace, knowing that whatever had happened, the Fatemakers still excelled in the one thing they had originally been created for.

Then the threat appeared.

It looked like a huge explosion blossoming in front of the Opportunity. The purple-red flare effect of the Warp-gate opening was huge, perhaps as big as a moon. It filled the viewport for a brief moment, and this fraction of a second was enough for the bridge crew to glimpse into something… completely incomprehensible. The human serfs cried in fear in unison, and Mlaistrum himself had to fight the urge to join them. To look into the Warp was to invite madness, and the Captain saw that the Navigator was right: this phenomenon was even more alien than the sight of a regular Warp-exit.

Then it was gone. It lasted long enough to scare and startle the crew, but not long enough to actually strip them of their sanity. Space became black and silent again.

Except for a small red light in front of the Astartes vessel.

‘There is a ship ahead of us, Captain,’ a serf consulted his instruments. ‘It is fast… very fast. My lord, he is in direct collision course with us!’

‘Is she sending any hailing signals?’ the Captain asked.

‘No, my lord.’

Malistrum looked at the serf’s instruments, and he needed no more information. ‘Divert all power to the engines and veer to port, but leave the Gellar field at full capacity!’

The instruments showed that the ship was inhumanly fast. No Imperial ship was capable of such speed, and she was indeed heading directly for the Opportunity. As if she had known that the Fatemakers would be here, her course was directly intersecting that of the Astartes ship.

The Space Marines would not survive a collision with that vessel. Nothing would remain of either of the ships, even if the shields had been raised. The one chance was to try evading and worry about consequences and answers later.

The Opportunity was turning slow. She not moving fast after exiting the Warp, and she needed time to gain momentum. The stars outside the bridge moved as the relative position of the bridge and the crew changed, but the gleaming red dot was still growing and coming towards them.

Then it turned out that the other ship was not gleaming. She was burning, her every single square meter immolated by red and purple witch-fire. By the Throne, she was moving fast! It was difficult to make out any details, but it seemed that she was spinning at a crazy speed, too. It appeared that some great force grabbed the ship by the middle of her hull and hurled her across the Warp and the Materium, like primitive warriors throwing their axes at the enemy. The burning, spinning ship was a projectile, a gigantic war-axe, which was heading for the vessel of Strike Force Four.

Malistrum waited. There was nothing else he could do at this point. As so many times before, he had to rely on his ship and the ability of her crew.

The vessel was so close now. Her sight was rapidly filling out the view, which gave a hint just how fast she was moving. The crew did not even dare to move. The Opportunity was moving faster now, and the burning ship was definitely shifted to the starboard, but it remained to be seen whether it would be enough.

Malistrum had some strange feeling about that ship, even apart from the fact that she was about to atomize him. The sight was strangely familiar to him, and he was feeling a knot in his stomach which had nothing to do with the fear of death.

The ship grew so big the blackness of space disappeared behind her entirely. Every single human on the bridge flexed and gasped.

Then the ship whizzed past the Opportunity and span onwards on her course towards the outer edge of the system.

The faintest tremor shook the ship, showing just how close the passing vessel had got to the Astartes ship. There was a moment of stillness on the bridge as the people were pondering over their near death. Malistrum was immune to such feelings, but even he had to rein in his thoughts and all the countless questions which this encounter had raised.

Those question had to wait, however.

‘Damage report,’ he ordered in a soft voice.

His calm manners eased the shock in the crew, just like it usually did. ‘No damage on the outer hull, my lord,’ one of the crewmen said, consulting his instruments. ‘It seemed the ship missed us…’ his eyes opened wide as he was reading the figures, ‘by seven metres.’

Everyone hissed. In astronomical terms, seven metres were less than nothing. ‘Raise shields again and follow the course of that vessel,’ he said. ‘Somebody or something has just thrown a ship at us, people, and until I say otherwise, this is considered to be a hostile act.’

His mind had just started to work on what had really happened. This really was a hostile act. The Fatemakers did not believe in coincidences, especially not in a coincidence which turns a ship into a projectile and happens to throw her right at an approaching Astartes ship. Right on the edge of the Borshak system.

This is going to be one of those crazy times again, his inner voice told him. Just wait. This is not over yet. The vox will go live, and somebody will give you some news which will turn your world upside down again. Just wait and…

‘Brother-Captain?’ a crewmember addressed Malistrum. ‘Magos Brakk is calling for you from the Warp-reactor. He claims it’s urgent.’

The crewman frowned as he saw that his Captain froze for a second. Then Malistrum turned towards him.

‘Put the Magos through.’

The vox came alive with a crackle. ‘Brother-Captain Malistrum?’

The voice of the Magos was carrying no emotion – it never did – but it still filled the Captain with some great foreboding.

‘Speak, Magos.’

‘One of my adepts who was charged with monitoring the outer sensors of the ship alerted me a few minutes ago,’ the Magos started without any more delay. ‘The sensors showed that the Opportunity was about to be hit by another approaching vessel.’

‘This is correct, Magos,’ Malistrum answered with a nod.

‘Brother-Captain, the vessel was displaying strange, yet familiar Warp-engine signatures and identification codes, so we ran the through the computers to analyse them. This is only a preliminary report, and further confirmation is needed, but what I am about to say is supported with my experience as a Warp-engine expert who has been with this vessel for six decades.’

‘I understand, Magos,’ Malistrum said with growing concern. Had he just heard an emotionless tech-priest hesitating and playing for time before saying something unpleasant?

‘Brother-Captain Malistrum, I have to report to you that the identification codes, the emitted Warp-signatures and the preliminary examinations of the pict-recordings of the vessel all show that this ship is identical to our own vessel.’

‘Another Astartes strike cruiser?’ Malistrum asked, incredulous. The crewmen exchanged looks behind his back.

‘No. I am afraid that you have misunderstood me, Brother-Captain. As an expert on Warp-engineering, I can tell you that every single ship’s Warp-core is individually adjusted and their background resonances set them apart from one another just as well as humans are set apart by their different gene-codes. There is no statistical chance of finding two individuals with matching genes, except for twins, and ships do not have twin copies. The automatic identification codes were still transmitted from the ship, and they are used specifically to differentiate one vessel from another. That ship was the same class as ours, she had the same identification code, and the exact same Warp signatures. The only logical explanation for this is that all the outer sensors are malfunctioning at the same time – but if this is not the case, then the vessel which has just passed by us was our own ship, the Opportunity.’

Total silence descended on the bridge. After what seemed to be an eternity, Malistrum finally spoke.

‘Thank you, Magos. Please check your data and the outer sensors, and examine the data you have to see if there is any alternative conclusion.’

‘Naturally, Brother-Captain Malistrum. Magos Brakk out.’

The vox got silent. Malistrum turned to address the crew, but he was immediately interrupted.

‘Captain, our readings show critical mass building in the other ship’s engines. She will be…’

The serf had no time to finish his sentence either. The Opportunity was already turning back to follow the mysterious ship, and so the destructive red-purple ball of fire and Warp-residue was visible through the viewport. The other ship (Malistrum refused to refer to her as the Opportunity) was already several light-seconds away, and so the explosion did not hurt them. Even if she had blown up closer, Malistrum was thinking, the shields and the Gellar-field would have been able to contain the damage, which meant that the only effect of this explosion was the eradication of possible traces and explanation.

Very convenient, his inner voice said.

‘Did anything survive?’ he asked from his crew.

‘No, my lord,’ one of them answered after consulting his instruments. ‘It appears that… wait a second, my lord. Hanchi, can you confirm me on seven-four-seven?’

The other serf adjusted his own equipment, and nodded after a moment of hesitation.

‘Solid returns and a faint identification code. It seems that the ship had ejected something before it blew up.’

‘Bring us within weapon’s reach, and then stop,’ Malistrum commanded.

The crew obeyed. It was not easy to scan a small energy source right after an area suffered a Warp-explosion, and so it took several minutes for the crew to identify the craft.

‘My lord… we are receiving a signal from the other vessel. I’m sorry, but… the signals indicate that the craft is our own. Thunderhawk Three.’

Malistrum’s face could have been made of stone. ‘Check the hangar and see if Thunderhawk Three is still there.’

‘Yes, my lord.’ The serf called the hangar bay, and exchanged a low-voiced dialogue with someone there. Finally, he turned to the Captain.

‘The hangar bay reports that Thunderhawk Three is still there, ready to be deployed, my lord.’

‘Is the signal automatic?’

‘No, my lord,’ another serf shook his head. ‘It is a simple hailing transmission, no real message, but somebody had to activate the vox.’

Nobody dared to speak. Everyone was looking at the Captain, superstitious fear and awe on their face. Malistrum was dispassionate. He did not move, he did not react: the only sign that he was still alive was his regular breathing.

‘Bring her in,’ he said finally.

Half an hour later, a horribly burnt Thunderhawk landed in the hangar bay on the containment level. A squad of warriors was already waiting for it.

Five minutes later, Gorski, the squad leader, sent a tense and coded message to his Captain. Ten seconds later, the Captain addressed the crew through the general voxline.

‘Chaplain Uskovich and librarian Akichi come to the containment level immediately.’

Akich was walking on the containment level for the first time since the creation of the soulstones. He had already heard the news of the other ship, which indicated… he did not what this news indicated. Apparently the Captain found something which was a moral threat and a promise for an answer at the same time. This task would probably test his abilities to their limit, but he felt was ready for anything the Universe would throw at him.

The corridor on the containment chamber was locked down by squad Gorski. ‘The Captain is waiting for you in the observation room, Librarian,’ a helmeted warrior informed Akichi, who nodded, went past the void-door of the rune-encrusted containment chamber and opened the door next to it.

The Captain and the Chaplain turned from the window-wall and looked at him.

‘Do you require my assistance, Captain?’ Akichi asked.

‘I would settle for some simple answers for the time being,’ the Captain said quietly, and stepped away from the window so Akichi could have a look at the containment chamber.

There was a large man kneeling in the middle of the room. The runes were glowing around him, and the weapon servitors were in place, but he did not seem harmless at first sight, even though he was clearly an Astartes in a scorched power armour. As Akichi went to the window and took a look, the figure looked up himself, as if he knew that the Librarian had arrived. He was wearing no helmet, and so Akichi could have a good look at his face.

He knew what he saw. It was older than he remembered, it showed great tiredness and there were unfamiliar scars and wrinkles on it, but he knew exactly whose image he was looking at. He had little opportunity to actually see it with his own eyes aboard the ship, but there was still no mistaking.

He was staring at his own tortured face; and the face in the other room was staring back at him.


It did not look like a human, but it had been created by them.

It was not made of flesh, but it was alive.

Its brain was positronic, but it was thinking along cognitive paths designed by humans.

It lacked human emotions, but it had its presence in the Warp, and it shared the concerns of Mankind.

It had no gender, but it was the child and the parent of Mankind at the same time.

It had no name, only a serial number, but its kind possessed a designation in human languages as well.

It was Machina.

The probe unit was drifting in deep space. Its basic form resembled the squids of certain planetary oceans, with a large number of multi-functional eyes dotting its conical head, and eight thick mechadendrites slowly rotating under its torso. It was actually invisible for the eyes of the Materium and the Immaterium alike: shields were protecting its physical body, cloaking fields were hiding it in space, and a constant Gellar-field was wrapped around it to prevent any kind of demonic attack.

The probe was scanning a rather insignificant area of space of the Galaxy. The time was relevant, but the place was not. Adam Kadmon, the one the humans of the Milky Way referred to as the Emperor, was dead, and the facets of His personality were finally and irretrievably scattered into various locations. The Warp was gaining momentum, threatening to break the stalemate of the last eleven millennia and shift the balance of power in favour of Disorder. The Magellan Reich, as well as the Machina, would be heavily involved in the events to come, and so various concealed probes had been sent to the cradle galaxy to observe and calculate the unfolding drama. The final stage would not begin in a while, but by the time it did, the plans for the Last War had to be made and potential resources and allies had to be assessed. Just because the area this probe had received was not important did not mean that its mission was irrelevant too.

The probe which had been patiently waiting for more than a year suddenly reacted to an incoming signal. It did not move, but its positronic brain changed into a higher perceptive stance as information began to flow from a certain point of space.

The signal indicated a sudden time anomaly erupting several parsecs away from the probe’s current destination. Time anomalies were rare occurrences, and they usually erased themselves – or rather, the Universe erased them as if it had been a sentient being who disliked such irregularities. This anomaly was different, however: it was strong, purposeful, and it threw out a shard of foreign Materium into the current timeline. The probe had information of such events in its memory, and they were always linked to the machinations of the Deep Warp, the impossible realm where not even the basic – and negative – human emotions and instincts had any place or acceptance.

The Machina and the probe did not completely understand the Deep Warp, not even as they understood the Four Powers of Chaos. Nevertheless, one does not have to understand danger to realize it when it arrives. The probe could not leave this potential threat unexamined.

There was no sign in the blackness of space that the probe activated its engines and started to move towards the source: an unremarkable system which was stored in its data-bank under the designation ‘Borshak.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 30)

Postby Chh » Sat Sep 15, 2012 12:21 am

Well well well, time travel. Wonder if this is intentional or accidental (if indeed the former is possible), assuming things are what they appear to be...

A very good update Meaneye; I shall patiently await the next one.
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Please read some of it, and give feedback. Please?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 30)

Postby Sardaukar » Sat Sep 15, 2012 11:16 am

Very interesting. Good flow and grammatical structure throughout. Nice narrative and good use of literature devices. Positronic brains? Pseudoscience explanation of the positronic brain for the Machina?

A positronic brain uses a platinum-iridium alloy laced with carbon nanotubes throughout its structure to aid in processing, wrapped in a shell of diamondoid-corundumoid-quartzoid, an extremely tough covering laced with ceramic boron nitride nanotubes and buckminsterfullerene. On a microelectronic scale, much of the processing is done via transistors and logic gates using a combination of induced gamma emission focused into gamma-ray lasers that shoot on nanosecond pulses, channeled via optical fibres and powered by positron annihilation nodes. Carbon-silicon microgears and transistors form an electromechanical aspect of this integrated system, serving as additional processing where needed, as well as primary and secondary memory storage.

Hope that sounds passable. Planning to finish my psychology degree and then might end up doing a second degree part-time in biotech, computer science or law while working. Oddly enough, doing and failing a year of Comp. Science before switching to psychology made me a better writer.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 30)

Postby qah » Sat Sep 15, 2012 8:13 pm

Bro i'm talking about some Machina/Fatemaker crossover. Thats what im talking about.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 30)

Postby Midgard » Mon Sep 17, 2012 5:51 pm

Very well done indeed, and a massive cliffhanger at the end. I wonder what the "other" Akichi has to tell the "current" Fatemakers... can't wait for the next update!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 30)

Postby Meaneye » Wed Sep 19, 2012 8:43 pm

I knew people would be interested in time travel :D

This update may not be as long as the others, because I cut part 31 in two. I found that this half has a different tone than the second half, so I put this up on its own. At least this way, I could update this week too.

Part 31

‘What do you make of this, Librarian?’

Akichi did not answer immediately. He slowly placed his palm on the flat surface of the window and leaned forward. His psychic hood almost touched the glass as he was concentrating on the man in the containment chamber who was wearing his face.

‘Is he really supposed to be me?’ he asked.

‘Most evidences point to it,’ Uskovich answered. The Chaplain had changed a lot in the last few months. His emotions were now visible on him, and his body language hinted at suspicion.

‘Forgive me. I was not really informed about the nature of this… this moral threat.’ He knocked the window with his index finger to indicate what he was talking about. ‘What evidence do we have?’

‘I contacted Magos Brakk again as soon as I had heard who was in that Thunderhawk,’ Malistrum said. The Captain showed no emotion towards Akichi or in general. ‘The Magos still claims that the energy output of the ship which almost hit us was identical to that of the Opportunity, and that is a statistical impossibility. He still needs to examine the Thunderhawk which brought… him… here, but he claims that Thunderhawk Three could be identified as firmly as our strike cruiser. I trust the Magos. If he says that it is virtually impossible to perfectly copy any of the two vessels, then we have to examine the other impossible option and accept that that man inside is somehow you.’

The trio looked at the kneeling figure again. He was no longer looking back, but his presence was no less ominous. The face was definitely was Akichi’s, although of an older, more weather-beaten version. The armour also matched: burnt as it was, it was the same type, and the psychic hood’s remains were still visible in the collar built around the man’s neck. With a little imagination, it was possible that it was the same armour which Akichi was wearing at that very moment.

‘We will need to take a blood test from him,’ Uskovich mused. ‘We could also check his gear. The psychic hood is just as individual and unique as a ship’s Warp-engine. The problem is…’

‘Even if all results come back positive, we would still have to be working with the impossible,’ Malistrum finished his sentence. The two had probably had a discussion about this before the Librarian’s arrival. ‘We will have to scan him and find the answers in his mind.’

Akichi turned away from the mirror-window, and looked left and right at the two other officers.

‘Would you trust my word in this matter?’ His voice was slightly incredulous. ‘I am supposed to scan myself. How could you trust my judgement in this case?’

‘We have no doubt in you, Akichi,’ Uskovich said. ‘You haven’t given us any reason to mistrust you.’

‘On the contrary, we trust you even regarding him. Actually, we would even choose you for this task if there had been other Librarians with us.’

Akichi looked at the two again, but he saw no sarcasm on their faces. His own face brightened up a little.

‘Thank you for your trust.’ He turned back towards the containment chamber. ‘However, my scan would probably not work on him.’

‘Why not?’ Malistrum asked.

‘If we assume that he is really me, I am the one who can identify him, that’s true. I know myself very well. But if he is me, than he knows me too.’ Akichi shook his head. ‘He would know how my talent works, and he would be able to mislead me. Besides, he looks older than me, which means that he’s probably stronger in his Warp-powers. I wouldn’t be his equal.’

You could not argue with this statement. Malistrum pressed his lips together as he was thinking of another solution.

‘However,’ Akichi said, ‘I could find out if he is really me without a scan.’

The other two raised their heads.

‘You can?’

The Librarian nodded. ‘However, you are not going to like my method, and you will have questions after that.’

‘As long as you don’t use prohibited powers, I see no reason why I wouldn’t trust this issue on you.’ Malistrum gestured towards Akichi. ‘You have my support in this’.

‘Thank you, my lord.’ Akichi closed his eyes. His lips seemed to be moving: was he perhaps praying? Finally, he turned, and went towards the door. The other two looked on as he left the room and closed the door behind him.

A few seconds later, the void-door’s locks disengaged as the guards let Akichi into the containment chamber. He entered, and went to the blind spot in the room: the spot where Uskovich had been standing when he had tried to exorcise the Librarian.

The kneeling figure looked up, and the two Akichis – one in blue, the other in burnt metallic power armour – locked eyes. Neither of them spoke for a few seconds.

‘Give me the password,’ the standing Akichi finally ordered.

‘Kappa-Delta-twenty-four,’ the other answered immediately.

The blue-armoured Akichi was completely immobile for a few heartbeats. Then he turned, and left without a further word.

Malistrum and Uskovich looked at each other in the other room. Then the Captain went out of his own room. He had barely made it outside when the void-door opened, and Akichi came out from the chamber. The Librarian waited until the door closed behind him, which gave Uskovich time to come to the corridor too. Then he nodded to the others.

‘There is no doubt about it, my lord. That person inside is my future self from an alternate timeline.’

The guards in the corridor looked at each other, while the Captain gave his Librarian the longest gaze in the history of the Chapter. Then he blinked, and spoke, with evident self-restraint in his voice.

‘I was wrong inside. I do have questions for you now.’

‘I understand you perfectly, Captain,’ Akichi said. ‘Perhaps you and the Chaplain would like to consult me in privacy?’

‘That would be good,’ the Captain said.

‘In the meeting room perhaps? Right now?’


Fifteen minutes later, once all three of them had gone to the meeting room and closed the door behind them, Akichi could finally get on with his explanation.

‘I was trained as a novice by Librarian Yedi-bicak,’ he started.

The others nodded. There was no need for other explanation for that statement. Yedi-bicak had been a legendary Librarian in the previous generation of the Fatemaker chapter. Actually, he had been more than the best Librarian. He had been the Librarian. He had been strong, shrewd and ruthless, but more importantly, he had possessed experience like nobody in the Chapter. For some reason, he had never received standard missions, only unusual ones: scanning alien warlords, fighting unusual Warp intrusions, completing exotic psychic tasks for Imperial organizations. One time, the Inquisition had offered the Fatemakers a lucrative permanent naklonjenost-treaty if he had decided to leave his Chapter and join their ranks; however, he had remained faithful to his people and refused the offer. It said a lot about his fame that the infamous Malachias Inquisition had accepted the refusal without further retaliation.

When Yedi-bicak had finally been bested during the Battle of Pentaluke, he had made fate for himself a last time, and petitioned his Chapter to temporarily entomb him in a Dreadnought, which the Fatemakers normally refused to do. An exception had been made in his case, and the Librarian had spent ten more years among the living by personally training the next generation of Fatemaker Librarians.

‘His knowledge was like a bottomless well. You could never empty it: you could only drink your fill and hope that you will get by on that much,’ Akichi mused. Nostalgia about the old days caused his features to soften, and he was more relaxed now than ever before since the Emperor’s death. ‘Quite often, I couldn’t understand his lessons because I didn’t have the experience to make sense of them. Then, years later, I would find myself in a situation where I could apply his teachings, and I had to realize that he had just saved my life yet again.’ He smiled. ‘He used to say that there are three types of enemies. There are the ones who are weaker than us, and we can defeat them before they get too strong. There are the ones who are stronger than us; we cannot beat them in their own game, so we have to find their weakness and excel in that. Either way, them and us are never going to be evenly matched. Our only worthy enemy is ourselves because we will never overcome that one foe, but in our attempt to best him, we develop, and we become stronger.’

The Librarian shook his head. ‘Of course, when I was hearing these words, I believed that they were a simple philosophical guidance, nothing else, so I let it at that for quite a while. Later, during the training, we were receiving mental training for unforeseen situations. Day after day, we had to ponder over impossible scenarios like having to fight against Imperial organizations, renegade Inquisitors, xenos with a completely incomprehensible mindset and so on. It was only later that I realized that Yedi-bicak didn’t use fake or imaginary examples. Every single scenario he gave us had been one of his missions, and not even the really exotic or classified ones.’

‘All this was calculated. He wanted to fill us with doubt in our abilities and the great truths we had about the Imperium so we could overcome our doubts and come out on the other side stronger and more determined. In the interim period, however, we suffered. We became paranoid, we didn’t understand what he wanted to achieve, it was terrible. This was the time when I received a case study from him about an Imperial Navy incident near the Calixis Sector.’

Malistrum listened intently. He was not angry; he had not been angry even in the observation room, but he was feeling that things were getting out of his hand again. Not for the first time in the last year, he had to ponder over whether he was still capable of reacting to the world around him.

‘A Navy vessel entered the Materium in the Calixis Sector. She had the right identification codes, the right Warp-engine signatures, everything. The Navy could identify it easily only to find that the very same vessel was sitting in one of the Navy ports at that time. The chronometers aboard the new ship all showed a date more than a hundred years into that year’s future. There was little scandal about it because the Navy wanted to close the case quickly. They executed the captain and decimated the crew by the time the Inquisition arrived there, which caused no small friction between the two institutions. The Inquisition would have loved to have access to the information stored in the mind of the entire crew about those future years, even if they had proven to be false.’

Nobody bothered to give voice to the thought that given the Inquisition’s methods of information gathering, execution may have been a better option for those people.

‘Anyway,’ Akichi continued, ‘the case was well-documented, and so I knew that such things existed in the Galaxy. I found the idea ridiculous, of course. Travelling in time? That’s impossible. Then I remembered Yedi-bicak and what he said about preparing for the impossible. I was still undecided. Did this mean that I could go back in time and meet myself? Now that was an impossible idea. But then I asked myself: was it? I remember I had not been sleeping for almost a week by that time, and all those mental exercises made it a challenge to think clear. And so finally I decided to prepare for that possibility just so I can go back to my studies. I created a password, and I closed it into a thought-bubble, which prevented me from forming the actual code in my mind unless I unlock it with a special mental exercise.’

‘That was when you seemed to be meditating in the observation room,’ Uskovich concluded.

The Librarian nodded. Malistrum scratched his forehead, and made a step forward.

‘Let me see I understood it right, Librarian. At one point in your training, you actually devoted time and energy to prepare for a possible situation where you meet your future self?’

Akichi nodded.

‘I understand if this seems a little over-exaggerated…’

‘This is not over-exaggeration!’ Malistrum snapped. ‘This is crazy! We are Fatemakers, we prepare for every opportunity and possibility, but this is beyond normal thinking! Is this what our Librarians are taught at the reserve fleet?’

‘This is more like the Inquisition’s way of thinking than ours,’ Uskovich mentioned casually behind the Captain. ‘Yedi-bicak spent a lot of time with them, and he brought back to us most of their methods.’

‘Even still!’ Mlaistrum retorted.

Then he froze. He turned very slowly to face his Chaplain, with an expression which bordered on the painful.

‘Chaplain. Do you want to tell me that you have a similar code in your head too?’

Uskovich cast down his head, almost in shame.

‘Unbelievable.’ The Captain massaged his forehead, then held up a hand. ‘All right. Forget about this conversation. Let’s pretend for a moment that it did not happen at all, right? Librarian, is your final conclusion that that person in the containment chamber is actually you?’

‘It is, my lord,’ Akichi nodded.

Maistrum looked at him for a second. ‘Then that’s the end of it.’ He sighed. ‘I have a new assignment for the two of you. The protective runes on the floor of the containment chamber are regularly charged, so they should work at forty per cent efficiency at least.’

‘But no more than that, my lord,’ Akichi said. ‘I would need more time to charge them completely, and with me in that same chamber…’ he shrugged.

‘And this is why you will not even attempt it,’ Malistrum said. ‘Instead, you will create portable personal protection for me. Use all the runes, all the psy-active material, all the skill at your disposal.’

‘Do you want to go in and talk to her?’ Uskovich asked with some concern.

‘I will have to.’ Malistrum waved towards the door. ‘After he had arrived, Squad Gorski reported me that he wanted to meet me, only me because the two of us needed to talk.’

Now it was the other two’s turn to exchange looks.

‘Was this the reason the… the future Opportunity appeared here? Only to give us a message?’

‘That was all he said, but this is the only thing that makes sense in this whole case.’ The Captain shook his head. ‘Otherwise… what would this be if not completely intentional? Our own ship appearing in front of us? In this system? In Borshak? There is no such coincidence. Not even with time travel.’

‘If this was… well, will be… intentional, then we will all make this decision together,’ Uskovich risked. ‘The whole ship came over to the present. We all had to… we will all be part of this.’

‘And we will all die in the attempt,’ Akichi added. ‘Whoever was on that ship: me, you, Captain, the crew, any of our brothers… nobody survived that explosion. Strike Force Four had to… will have to die to the last man to give us this message.’

‘Which doesn’t make much sense either.’ Malistrum took a deep breath. ‘I will go in. I will prepare, and whatever Akichi… your future self,’ he pointed at the Librarian, ‘has to say, I will listen to it. For good or bad, the future Strike Force Four will give us their message.’

‘I’m sure it will be optimistic and uplifting,’ Uskovich added dryly.

‘Quite,’ Malistrum agreed.

The three of them looked at one another for a second. Then Uskovich started to smile, which turned into a grin. The others followed suit, as if the smile was catching, and soon all three of them started chuckling. It was difficult to say why they were doing it, other than to laugh at their own misery.

They eventually stopped laughing, and Akichi bowed slightly.

‘It will be as you say, my lord.’
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 31)

Postby Midgard » Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:32 pm

As good as always, and you have managed to keep the suspense high. Good stuff!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 31)

Postby Meaneye » Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:41 pm

Next update. I'm still not done with the story arc, but I will not have any more time to read for a few days.

Part 32

I can’t believe I am doing this.

This sentence had been circling in Captain Malistrum’s head for a while as he was walking the corridors of the Opportunity’s containment level with brisk, purposeful steps.

His confidence was for show only: he felt nothing of it. Not for the first time in the last year, he was supposed to do something which he had not been trained for. In less than a minute, he would enter the containment chamber and talk to someone who was, impossible though the concept may have been, the future version of his Librarian.

Which part of the Astartes training had ever required him to deal with a situation like this? He was a soldier; the best and brightest of the warrior culture of Mankind, but, eventually, a weapon to be used against a physical foe. Such missions should have been dealt with by the inquisition, not Space Marines. He hated situations where he was competent enough to make a difference.

The thought of the Inquisition reminded him of the conversation with his two senior officers, and he suddenly felt bitter and confused. He had just realized that in all his dealings with that particular Imperial organization, he had never actually understood just what kind of work they were doing. He had always thought of them as information gatherers, interrogators and wielders of occult knowledge: warriors with different tools, but warriors nonetheless. Now he had to revise that picture in his head.

Apparently the Inquisition was a force which felt it necessary to prepare for the eventuality of a time travel. Apparently, there were forces and crises in the Galaxy which required them to find code-words so they can identify themselves. Apparently, they took this so seriously that they also influenced outsiders and temporary allies to develop similar protective measures. This suggested a degree of paranoia which not even the Fatemakers could completely match, and although there had been an Inquisitor once who called the Chapter ‘delightfully paranoid,’ now that expression suggested something different than what Malistrum had originally understood. It now meant that no matter how hard the Fatemakers tried, their efforts for security would always remain amateurish, even childish.

This was a sobering thought for an Astartes whose Chapter had sworn to achieve maximum safety. Malistrum felt that he was no longer safe, no longer secure even in his knowledge in the basic laws of the Universe itself. He had already lost some of his illusions in the way: his trust in the Imperium, his faith in the Emperor, partly even the righteous nature of his Chapter. There was not much left he could hold on to now: the comradeship of his brothers and his ongoing mission itself.

He wandered if he would be disappointed in those secure points as well.

There were guards at the void-door of the containment chamber. At the Captain’s nod, they lowered their weapons, and one of them typed in the opening code into the door panel. The future Akichi had not been trying to come out or do anything suspicious (in fact, he had not even moved much since he had been led there), but this mattered little under the circumstances.

Malistrum was wearing his ceremonial off-duty robes. Akichi – his Akichi – had explained to him that his power armour could not be modified with psychic protection at such short notice, and while ceramite armour usually meant extra safety, everybody knew that any kind of conflict in there would not threaten the Captain’s physical body. His clothes were covered with psycurium runes laces into the fabric by thin metallic alloy threads. The runes were designed by Uskovich and Akichi together, while the Librarian inserted small, microscopic psy-crystals into the critical nodes of the laced patterns; crystals which he had personally charged with psychic energy. Malistrum knew that for a person with which-sight, he was positively glowing with energy.

There was a series of clicks, sizzles and sucking noises as the miniature void shield around the door deactivated. The Captain remembered the last part of his conversation with his two officers.

‘Will it be necessary to exorcise me when I come out of the chamber? Like you after the Cephola Base, Librarian?’

Neither Akichi’s nor Uskovich’s face showed any emotion at the mention of that incident. Instead, the two shook their heads thoughtfully.

‘It would be pointless, Captain,’ Akichi answered. ‘My case was special. I was attacked by a suspicious psychic force outside the containment chamber. You will be inside the chamber all the time, and the means which we could use to define whether you have been affected there are the same tools which protect you inside.’

‘The runes can withstand even a Greater Damon for a while,’ Uskovich added, his face slightly darkening at the memory. ‘It has been done before. Nothing could happen to you inside – or if it does, we would be in no position to prevent or see it anyway.’

Meaning that there is a point where paranoia has to stop, Malistrum thought. Maybe this was the difference between the Inquisition and the Fatemakers. Inquisitors would never stop searching for enemies and weak points in their defences. An Inquisitor would have prepared for such an incident in advance.

An Inquisitor would enter the chamber with greater confidence than the Captain.

The void-door opened. Malistrum strengthened himself and stepped inside.

He had to step through an extra airlock to get in the room. It was installed for biohazard purposes only, and in this case, it was a mere formality anyway.

The runes in the containment chamber were glowing faintly. This did not indicate any hostile act from the prisoner’s part, at least not according to the Librarian. It seemed that the future Akichi’s body was releasing a constant weak energy surge into his surroundings. It was speculated by Magos Brakk that it was some residual Warp-radiation, the same radiation which the future Opportunity had emitted before the explosion. It was possibly the side effect of whatever means was used for a time travel, although the Imperium had a more specific expression for any similar Warp-residue.

They called it a taint.

The kneeling figure looked up as the Captain entered. Malistrum was privately shocked to see just how similar he looked to the Akichi he had spent decades with. This one was older and more weather-beaten, granted, and there was something in his eyes which suggested he had probably seen things which not even a Space Marine should have. Even so, he was Akichi. The signs were all there: in the microscopic movement of his facial muscles, the way he was resting his arms on his thighs and the way he slightly cocked his head on one side when he experienced something interesting or challenging. An ordinary man may not have noticed these small details, but Malistrum had the perception of an Astartes, and he had spent countless decades with his chief Librarian. There could be no doubt that this man was him.

‘Captain,’ Akichi said. ‘It is good to see you again.’

‘I cannot say the same about you, Librarian,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Certainly not under these circumstances.’

‘An understandable point of view, my lord,’ came the reply. ‘At least I know that you acknowledge me as Akichi Kavan, your Librarian.’

‘I have to trust my eyes, the instruments of the Opportunity, the word of Magos Brakk and the judgement of my own Librarian,’ Malistrum said.

Akichi nodded. There was strong concentration in his eyes now, as if he had been trying to keep his body and his mind under strict control. This reminded the Captain of a psychic operation, but the runes on the floor, glowing as they were, indicated no such attempt.

‘You said you had to speak to me, Librarian,’ the Captain continued. ‘There was a note of urgency in your message, which could not be ignored. If it not had been for the trust I feel towards my Akichi, I would not be here, and you would be having a different conversation with Chaplain Uskovich.’

‘I know that. I also know how much you have risked to come and speak to me, Captain. For this, I am grateful, and it makes my presence here all the more painful. But it had to be done.’

The Captain slowly nodded.

‘Then it is time to give me your message.’

‘I brought no message with me, my lord.’

A moment of silence followed: the Captain’s face was impassive, but his mind was working furiously on every word of this conversation. The Librarian’s face was also impassive; although what exactly was going on in his mind, nobody could have told.

‘The Opportunity did not come back from the future then to warn us of something?’ he finally asked.

‘The Opportunity’s arrival here had nothing to do with any message, warning or otherwise. I am truly sorry, Captain.’

‘Yet you came here nonetheless, and the ship was destroyed. Or rather, from my point of view, the ship will be destroyed, and the crew will most likely be all killed.’

‘This much is true, Captain. Although there will not be many of us remaining by the time the ship travels back to this era. From my point of view, I am the last Fatemaker alive from Strike Force Four.’

Malistrum felt slow, numbing coldness gripping his heart at this point, but there was no time for such weakness now. He steeled himself again.

‘Then why did you come here?’

‘To close the circle,’ the answer came.

The Captain frowned. ‘Explain,’ he ordered.

‘This conversation is being recorded by a security camera placed in the neighbouring observation room,’ the Librarian started his explanation. ‘You are going to show the content of this recording to the rest of the officer cadre, as our Chapter traditions dictate. I, your chief and only remaining Librarian, am going to see it during the briefing after this conversation. After this event is settled, the Opportunity is going to continue her journey, and there is going to be a point in time when she makes the jump back to this point of time. The circle is going to be closed then.’

Malistrum’s eyes opened slightly wider.

‘You have experienced this conversation before, only from the point of view of my Librarian,’ he stated.’

‘And I am going to experience it again when the Akichi from your timeline becomes the Akichi of me.’ Akichi’s eyes were not moving away from the Captain’s. ‘I remember looking at my kneeling self from the other side of that mirror on your left, and I remember how I asked myself to give me the code I created after my training with Yedi-bicak. I remember having a conversation with you and Uskovich about how to protect you when you enter this room to interrogate me, and I remember laughing with you two at the absurdity of this situation. It has happened, and it is going to happen again. Fate will make a full circle.’

Akichi stopped, and his features seemed to relax a little. The Captain hesitated for a second, then he leaned forward.

‘Why?’ he asked.

There was no answer.

‘Why the circle?’

‘There is no other option,’ Akichi said.

‘We are Fatemakers. We always have another option,’ Malistrum insisted.

‘Not in this case, my lord. Sometimes you can only choose between smaller and greater catastrophes.’

‘What could be any greater catastrophe than the destruction of the entire strike force?’ Malistrum asked with an incredulous tone in his voice.

Again, he received no answer. However, for a fleeting second, he thought he could see an emotion appearing on the face of the Librarian. It disappeared instantly, but the captain recognised it, and realized with a shock that that the Astartes kneeling in front of him was scared to the core.

This was an answer of a sort. The Captain, now nervous himself, cleared his throat, and raised a new question.

‘Are you acting out your role the circle now?’

‘I do, my lord.’

The Captain was careful with his next word.

‘Am I acting the way you remember from your younger self? Am I saying those exact words again?’

‘You do, my lord.’

‘Including this last question?’


Malistrum straightened up. The coldness returned, stronger than before. It felt like fate, thought to be tamed by his Chapter, now weighed so heavily on his shoulders that the slightest movement, act or even lack of action from his part could cause untold horror and destruction. He began to understand why Akichi was so tense and focussed now.

‘Is there any more to this encounter?’

‘Yes. My lord. The final part to play – and the most painful. I am truly sorry for what I am going to say.’

‘What are you going to tell me?’ the Captain asked.

‘We will fail, Captain.’

Malistrum’s throat dried out, but he did not dare to swallow. He had to fight hard to utter the next few words.

‘Who will fail, Akichi?’

‘Everybody will fail. Strike Force Four and the Chapter; our brothers on the Opportunity and other ships. They will all fail.’

‘It cannot be,’ the Captain whispered. ‘The reserve fleet…’

‘The reserve fleet will fail, just like us.’

‘Then our brothers in the other strike forces. They are coming after us…’

‘They will fail too.’

There was nothing left to answer to that. Malistrum was standing in one place, stunned at the revelation he had just received.

‘I remember how I felt when I heard these very words from the recording,’ Akichi continued. ‘I remember how I wanted to deny it – and I did deny it for a while. I can no longer deny anything. From my point of view, I am the last Fatemaker alive: whoever else survived can no longer bear the Chapter’s name. This is not a message because you cannot act upon it. This is merely the circle forming around us. It has happened before. It is happening now. It is going to happen again. I will not say anything more to you Captain, but this, and only because I have already told you and I will tell you again.’ Akichi looked at his Captain with a face of pity. ‘The Fatemakers will fail completely and shamefully.’

A whole eternity passed before either of the two people in the room did anything again. Finally, Malistrum made a step backwards. He the stepped back again, then again, without breaking eye contact with the Librarian. He jerked when his back hit the door, then he reached back and slammed on it hard. He kept looking at Akichi while the door opened, and he was still looking at him when he finally backed out of the room, but he did not say a word; not until the inner door closed again, leaving the Librarian alone.

After his Captain had disappeared, Akichi simply closed his eyes again. He knew Malistrum would have nothing else to say to him.

After all, he had seen this conversation on film before.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 32)

Postby Gaius Marius » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:36 am

Well... that was hopeful.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 32)

Postby Midgard » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:13 pm

But they are the Fatemakers - by their very definition, they make their own fate! This creates a very nice storyline that may, perhaps, provide for a struggle against inevitability. Plus, there is a possibility that the other Akichi was not telling the truth in order to close the circle.

I have grown really attached to Strike Force Four this far, and hope they manage to live up to the name of their Chapter. This latest update gives the story almost a Greek tragedy feel, and I love it. Great work, please keep it up! :)
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 32)

Postby Meaneye » Fri Oct 05, 2012 8:31 pm

The date is up again :roll:

Enjoy the conclusion of this story arc.

Borshak system Warp anomaly

509 days after the Emperor’s death

The Machina probe arrived into the Borshak system only to find it deserted.

The system was inhabited by default, of course, but the probe’s instruments showed that there had been a human vessel just a few days earlier there. The energy signatures hinted at a cruiser-sized Imperial ship, which had apparently exited and then re-entered the Warp at this point, arriving roughly at the time the time-anomaly started. The probe knew nothing of the Fatemakers, but it would have agreed to their main credo: there are no coincidences.

The more important question here was not whether the vessel was involved with the anomaly, but rather how she interacted with it. The probe had fully expected the time-loop to erase itself by the time it arrived, but this was not the case. In fact, the anomaly itself was visibly present in the system: a purplish pulsating light emitting a series of regular energy-waves.

The regularity was a great problem. Normally, time-loops did not repeat themselves infinitely, especially not when there was some sort of a sentient mind involved. These loops leeched energy from the Universe itself, and, in return, the Universe found a way to dissolve them after they played out their circle a couple of thousand times. This anomaly was different in that it was neither expanding nor shrinking. The probe’s unbelievably accurate sensors could not pick any change in the energy output of the anomaly.

The probe was young, but not inexperienced: the Machina never sent out one of its kind on a mission without all the relevant information. Still, the probe’s databanks could not help it in interpreting the data, so it did the second most reasonable thing, and activated its creative circuits.

Still nothing, except for a few unlikely options, all of them below the minimal required percentage threshold to be held probable. The greatest chance which came up, expressed at least in a one-digit number, was the effect of human tinkering. Theoretically, the crew of the vessel could percept the first occasion the time-loop came into effect, and then did something which created a perfect, unchanging, truly infinite circle – trapping themselves forever in it. This was unlikely, after all, what kind of action could create such a loop? Anyone responsible for it must have either been the greatest mind of the human race or the most unlucky and most miserable wretch of human history for damning himself this way.

The next question rose naturally: should the probe do something about it? It was not in its programming to do so, although it was free to interpret its mission within certain limits. The danger which a perfect time-loop represented could not be ignored – after all, it had the theoretical potential to drain the entire Universe of all its energy, and the same theory suggested the drain would occur instantaneously from the point of view of everyone outside of the loop. That the probe still existed with matter and energy around it was proof that the loop did not bring about dissolution: although it was perfect, there was still an unknown element in it which had not been accounted for.

The probe did not know what it could have been, but its creative circuits gave him an idea. By sensing the formation of the time-loop, it was in a position where it could become part of the circle. This was a dangerous assumption because tampering with time could involve countless changes in history. The Machina probe switched off for a few long minutes while it was pondering over its next course of action.

After minutes of inertia, the probe activated its engines, and went after the human vessel. Dangerous or not, its prime directive was and had always been the fight against dissolution, whether in the form of passive information gathering or active participation in the Milky Way’s events. Like it or not, the crew of that ship would not follow the fate they had created for themselves without the Machina.

Briefly, the probe sensed a secondary algorithm in its programming. It focused on it and found that its decision was helped by a strange wish to meet the human who could create a perfect time distortion event on his own.

Whether it would see a fool or a genius, it remained to be seen.

Three days earlier

Briefing room aboard the Opportunity

The recording ended, and the officers were allowed some time to think about what they had just seen. They really needed those few seconds to collect their thoughts.

Malistrum had managed to calm down a little by the time the meeting started, but as he looked at the faces of his battle-brothers, he also understood just what he had looked like after his meeting with the future Akichi. Everybody’s face was pale; some of them were glaring at the empty screen with eyes and mouths wide open, while at least two of the officers were snarling visibly. This was the kind of tension which could turn into either shock and despair or anger and violent outburst.

It was as if the Fatemakers had set off on that road to damnation again, Malistrum thought. In a way, they already had; after all, Akichi’s prophecy had already started to fulfil itself. The Captain did show the others the recording, as it was the Fatemaker way. The in the present Akichi did manage to have a look at it, and now he knew how the whole conversation would play out. In a way, he was being prepared for what he would have to do again in his future timeline.

Of course, the Librarian had other problems at the moment: his own fellow Astartes. As the Akichi on the recording had started to speak, heads had been turning towards their Akichi, and as his future version had gone into the more serious and despairing part, the faces had been changing from incredulous and surprised to suspicious, accusing and even hostile. Malistrum had barely started to recover from his own personal shock, and he already had to worry about his men. Not that it would come to actual fighting, but still…

You do not get a message from the future predicting your unavoidable doom and hope that it will not affect you.

Malistrum looked at Akichi, only to find him looking back at him. There was no real emotion in the Librarian’s eyes: he was certainly not asking for an apology, he was not trying to explain or deny anything. He was merely waiting for his Captain’s judgement.

‘Before I speak my mind on this matter,’ Malistrum said in a calm voice, ‘I would have you say whatever you want. We will need to discuss this with a cool head, and if you need to vent a little before that, than so be it.’

It seemed that nobody wanted to be the first one to speak. Finally, Essen sighed, and leaned forward.

‘Can we tie up all loose ends? Can we say that it was really our Akichi?’

‘There can be no doubt about it,’ said Magos Brakk, who had to be included in this meeting because of his field of expertise. ‘The energy signatures of the ship were identical to those of our own, while the Thunderhawk in the containment hangar is identical to Thunderhawk Three. Copying those two machines to a point where not even our finest instruments can distinguish them is so impossible that time travel is actually an alternative explanation.’

‘Are you sure that it is you in the containment room?’ Andorias asked.

‘He knew the code,’ Akichi simply said.

Oh yes. The code. It was obvious that the rest of the officers were quite disturbed by that fact, too. Librarians always stood away from their brothers a little, just like all the specialists: the Techmarines, the Apothecaries, obviously the Chaplains. Still, if your training includes creating passwords just in case you travel in time…

‘Even if he did not know the code, it is still Akichi,’ Malistrum said. ‘I had a servitor take a blood-sample from him, and I sent it to Apothecary Ruffar without giving him any instructions. What did you answer me, Apothecary?’

‘I asked back why you had sent me a sample of our Librarian’s blood,’ Ruffar answered with a sour face. ‘It really was his. It could have come right from the sample storage we keep of every one of our crewmembers, for similar reasons, I might add. To find any irregularity in suspiciously behaving people.’

‘It has to be him,’ Malistrum concluded. ‘The Warp portal confirms this, Magos Brakk confirms the two vessels, our Librarian and Apothecary can vouch for this. We have to treat this as a fact.’

The officers leaned back almost as one.

‘The problem with this,’ Essen said, almost casually, ‘that if we take this as a fact, then we also have to believe that Strike Force Four is going to be destroyed.’

‘Together with the entire Fatemaker Chapter,’ Techmarine Guztav added. ‘According to him, we will all die shamefully.’

‘That’s not what he said,’ Akichi corrected him. Then he made a wry smile. ‘I mean, that’s not what I said. The Akichi in that room said that we will fail completely and shamefully. He also said that he is the last Fatemaker alive in his time, but he did not say the Chapter will “die”. He said the Chapter will “fail.” There is some difference there.

‘Would the wording count so much?’ Sergeant Andorias interjected, to which the Librarian nodded gravely.

‘It would if my future self had really been trying to usher Fate itself towards some unknown course. It would if any alteration from the dialogue he knew had altered time itself.’ He looked around the table. ‘I know myself enough to know that my wording would carry great significance in any similar instance. Make no mistake, brothers, my appearance from the future was a message itself, even if I did not, will not intend it to be. The dialogue is significant, Borshak is significant, the manner in which the ship arrived is significant. Thunderhawk Three has her own significance as well.’

‘How so?’ Malistrum asked.

‘While you were talking to my future self, Uskovich and I examined the craft.’ Akichi waved towards the Chaplain, who nodded in agreement. ‘The inside of the ship was curiously devoid of any Warp-residue which the future Opportunity was oozing out from every pore of her hull. She was too clean.’

Uskovich took over. ‘It wasn’t difficult to find the traces. Akichi – the other Akichi – took great care to erase it with a flamer, but he apparently didn’t have enough time. Thunderhawk Three had protective runes written on every flat surface inside. Walls, the ceiling, the instruments: as far as we could see, the whole place was covered by them. As far as I could see, they were also the strangest Warp-runes I have ever seen.’

‘Chaos?’ somebody asked.

Both officers shook their head.

‘No,’ Uskovich answered. ‘Not Chaos-runes, at least not in the sense we understand Chaos. They were Warp-runes. Every symbol which is created as a ward against the Warp is a Warp-rune per se. The Eldar used them, we use them in the containment level, most races who are aware of Chaos use them. These runes were… different. More advanced, perhaps. It was as if someone had taken some basic symbols, symbols which the Inquisition uses nowadays and altered them. There is no other way to put it, but it was most uncomfortable to look on them.’

‘Whatever happens in the future, I will gain additional occult knowledge – or I will meet someone who has enough occult knowledge to draw the symbols all over the Thunderhawk for me,’ Akichi said.

The people in the room exchanged dark looks.

‘So where does this leave us?’ Hemethor asked. Nobody had a good answer to that question.

‘I mean, we cannot just ignore all this and move on with our mission, can we?’ Hemethor insisted. ‘And if we react to all this, how?’

‘We have to scan him,’ Andorias stated. ‘Take his secrets out of him, by any means necessary. If he refuses to cooperate,’ at this point, he looked directly at Akichi, ‘he will have to be made to.’

There were at least some who seemed uncomfortable with this idea, and this was a good sign. However, the Librarian was saved from any further comment not by those people but by the most unlikely source.

‘Both scanning and physical torture would be pointless,’ Uskovich stated. ‘Torture would not work, Akichi had explained o us why his future self could avoid scanning from his younger self, and drugs are out of question. We need his secrets from his conscious mind, not from a hazy, useless fog which any truth-serum would cause. In this case, if he refuses to cooperate, there is no point in forcing the issue.’

The others nodded reluctantly, not only because what Uskovich said was true, but also because of the respect the Chaplain was still enjoying among them. After his mental breakdown, Malistrum had decided not to share every aspect of the accident with the crew. Officially, Uskovich’s mind was damaged during the rituals which required the creation of the soulstones, which was true in a way; nothing was said about the Chaplain’s weakness which had made him enter into battle-condition in the first place. It was a necessary distortion of the facts which allowed the Chaplain to go on in his original function: the function which allowed him to defend his friend with his authority.

At least, until his next few words.

‘There is also another problem here,’ the Chaplin added, and looked directly at Akichi. His eyes were sad, but also determined. ‘Akichi is our only psyker aboard. Not so long ago, I told him that I had enough trust in his abilities and his character, and so I would accept his word even if he had been forced to scan his future self. I still believe this, but, and I am sorry to say this, the others around this table do not.’ Uskovich now kept his gaze on the other officers, only to see that they stood their ground, and returned his gaze; perhaps a little paler, but firmly nonetheless.’ This is a great problem because this means that there is a crack in the foundation of our brotherhood. And that crack worries me more than the mystery were have been presented here.

Malistrum slowly stood up, and everybody looked at him.

‘I was afraid of this the first moment I heard who the passenger of the Thunderhawk was,’ he started. ‘The Chaplain confirms this, and I see it with my own eyes. I can understand your feelings too: after all, your suspicion is actually reinforced by the very person you are suspicious about. But this is a very dangerous road.’

The Captain looked around at the assembled officers.

‘We have a word for similar situations. When we feel that we need to change what we believe in or we see that the world has changed around us, and we want to move with it. That word is “temptation.” We are being tempted to cast one of our own out: we are tempted to accuse our brother of a fatal deed which he had not even committed yet. We are tempted to accept that what we had heard was inevitable. We are tempted to give up hope that we can change all this.’

‘And change we will, brothers,’ he continued. ‘We will not ride the current but swim against it. We will not reach the point where our Chapter dies out around us, and we will face fate like we have done before. And we will do it together. Akichi,’ he pointed at the Librarian, ‘is one of us. He stood by us when the Emperor died and we felt vulnerable. He helped us to overcome the Withdrawal. He created soulstones for Strike Force four to protect us even after death. He is still our Akichi, and our Akichi he will remain. We owe him much, but we mostly owe him our trust.’

The tension in the room thawed out a little by the end of the Captain’s speech. Akichi took a deep breath, and stood up himself.

‘Thank you for your trust, Captain.’ He turned towards the other officers. ‘And my thanks go to all who still believes in me. However,’ he turned back to the Captain, ‘I feel that in this case, those with mistrust are right.’

The Captain’s eyes narrowed.

‘I know exactly whet you all think because I am thinking exactly the same,’ Akichi continued. ‘We are all thinking: Why am I the only survivor of the future? What will I have to do with the destruction of the Chapter? Will I make a mistake? Will I give up? Will I make a pact? We don’t know. I don’t know. All I know that I am compromised’

‘I don’t like to be compromised, and I like that future no more than you. I will not let it happen. I will deny it. I will deny that other man in the containment room. In fact, I am already doing it. That… thing… said that I would first deny the truth, but eventually accept it. I will do it the other way round. I do not deny that would be our eventual fate; I will simply fight against it.’

He sighed, and started to walk around the table.

‘I will eventually deny that future: I will fight against it with deeds and action. And since I need your help in this, I will prove to you my dedication and my willingness to fight back in a way which neither you nor Fate itself can ignore.’

‘How?’ Andorias asked incredulously as the Librarian reached next to the Captain in his circle.

He turned towards the others and told them.

The inner door opened with a pneumatic hiss. Akichi stepped inside, while Akichi opened his eyes and looked up. Neither of them showed any emotion towards the other.

Akichi stepped away from the door, and slowly went to the blind spot in the runes’ protective field. His eyes never wavered away from those other sets of eyes; then again, neither did those eyes from his.

They were facing each other again. The first occasion lasted only for a few seconds, and both of them only said a few words to each other. Now they had nothing to say to the other at all.

Akichi raised his right arm towards his kneeing self. The other did not move. He was merely watching like an emotionless, spent servitor which had finished its allotted task and was not shut down. The only sign that he was alive were his eyes looking at his younger self.

Akichi felt a sudden temptation to speak. To ask. Had this happened before? Was he still playing out the circle? He had no wish to know it. He had learnt that too much knowledge can be dangerous, but he realized he had not completely understood what that lesson meant up until his moment. There was no sure way to know. He did not trust the other to ask.

He realized he no longer trusted himself.

His arm reached its final position: the bolt pistol was aimed exactly between the kneeling Akichi’s eyes. None of them moved for a second.

He shot himself in the head, and, as his lifeless corpse slowly fell back on the ground, he turned, and went out of the containment room for the final time.

He did not look back.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 33)

Postby Chh » Sat Oct 06, 2012 10:54 pm

Interesting. And troubling...

A nostalgic probe, wanting to meet its makers. Nice touch.

Are these "advanced" runes going to turn out to be Grey Knight in origin, or am I going in completely the wrong direction?
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 33)

Postby Meaneye » Sun Oct 07, 2012 4:30 pm

Chh: not Grey Knight runes. Uskovich used to work for the inquisition, and he would have recognised GK symbols. They are more complex than the ones the various Imperial organizations use in M42. Eventually, it will be explained in more detail.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 33)

Postby Meaneye » Sat Oct 13, 2012 10:11 pm

This will be the last update for a while: I will travel abroad next week, and and I am unsure about my timetable for the week after. Anyway, enjoy this one.

Aboard the Opportunity

534 days after the Emperor’s death

It was dark in the chamber. The lights were off, and there was no window which would let in even the tiniest starlight. This was intentional, of course: the room was situated just behind the prow section of the ship, and there was nothing else in front if it but the frontal plating. The view would have been just as spectacular here as on the bridge, but the same view would have been fatal during Warp travel, hence the lack of visibility. The place was ideal for meditation, though: it was located the furthest away from the Warp reactors and their interference, which was why it was frequented by the last remaining Librarian of Strike Force Four.

Akichi had taken up the habit of coming here after his ominous encounter with his own future self about a month earlier. Perhaps ‘ominous’ was not the right word to describe what happened there. You do not get a doomsday message from yourself from the future every day, especially not one which clearly states that you are destined to complete and irrecoverable failure. Akichi killed himself for that message, and the irony of even the wording of his act was not lost upon him. All actions have consequences, and his action of destroying his own future was no exception.

The Librarian knew that his defiant act could backfire in the most horrible way imaginable. He was bound to alter his own fate and carve out a new path for history itself. If he failed, everything his future self had talked about would come into being. If he failed, his strike force, his Chapter, everything which remained of his life, would be destroyed. If he failed…

The Librarian was mentally incapable of normal human fear. However, he could dread. He dreaded the day when he would look up only to find the muzzle of a bolt pistol against his forehead – and find his younger self standing behind that gun. To reach that point would be the complete, perfect destruction of everything he had fought in his long life. It would be damnation itself.

Akichi was determined not to let things deteriorate that far. Shooting his future self was a challenge made to the whole Universe, and he intended to live up to it. He had been looking for a way to beat the future, so far, with no success. The one thing he could do was to work harder and see to his regular duties; to observe and gather information; to strengthen the psychic defences of the ship and its crew. Praying to the Emperor for guidance would have been one of his tasks too, but this option was no longer available; so he paid even more attention to his other duties.

Staying in this meditation chamber was one of the things he could do. He did not meditate for himself: his own quarters would have been enough for that. However, this quiet room was ideal for long-range psychic scanning. Normally, an Astropath would have been sitting here, listening to the myriad voices of his peers whispering the messages of the Imperium. The Astropaths were now all dead, killed by the shockwave of the Emperor’s death, but Akichi remained, and he had a very good reason to take over an Astropath’s duty.

He had not been trained for this, and it showed at first. The ship’s prow cast waves in the Immaterium during Warp-travel, and it used to disturb him to no end, but by now, he had got used to it, and he managed to ignore the interference. The Warp was tumultuous, and a lot of insidious voices were heard, even more so than before the Extinction, as they started to refer to the death of the Emperor. However, he was trained to cast those voices out, and he was safe behind the Geller field of the ship. The Warp was curiously devoid of human voices nowadays, but this only made his work easier.

One living Astropath. This was all the Librarian needed to find. One human soul with enough psychic strength and training; young or old, man or woman, it mattered not. One Astropath would be enough for Strike Force Four to set a new course of fate for themselves.

It would have been easy to pick a voice from the Warp if there had been any voices at all. Te Astropaths were soul-bound to the Emperor, and when He had died, they followed Him almost to the last man. Some of them lingered on, this was a fact; however, almost two years have passed since that fateful day, and by now, even the most resilient had surely perished.

Akichi’s attempt to find a living Astropath was doomed to fail, but he was determined to make the impossible possible, so he came to the meditation chamber time and time again, and listened to the Warp: he was looking for human voices among all the bestial snarls and insidious whispers. He had already been here for 106 occasions, only to find nothing.

The one hundred and seventh time was different, however: because this time, he found what he was looking for.

That and more besides.

The room was poorly lit. The lights were off, and the only source of illumination came from the cogitator display on the desk. This was the way the Captain liked it: as little disturbance as possible. He needed to be focussed.

Malistrum had an easier time dealing with the ominous message his crew received from the future; after all, he had not been forced to meet himself like his Librarian. Still, he was affected by it, especially because he had talked to the future Akichi, and he was the one to whom the dark prophecy was revealed. Even after a month, he could remember the chill in his spine he felt when that familiar face turned towards him and told him that he and his crew were to fail miserably. The weight of that revelation would have crushed most ordinary humans, and even the mentally conditioned Astartes had a difficult time dealing with it, their leader included.

Under pressure, the Space Marine mind reverts to familiar routines and use those routines to overcome obstacles. Malistrum knew this, and he consciously worked on it, too. The cogitator in front of him was displaying all the information they had about the events one month earlier. The data about the Warp-portal which threw out the future Opportunity; the explosion of the ship; all the recordings of the conversations with Librarian Akichi, including his execution. It was all there, and the Captain’s daily routine had incorporated the examination of it on a daily basis.

There was really not much else Malistrum could do at this point. There was not enough information about the exact nature of the threat which would apparently destroy his entire Chapter, if there was only one reason to begin with. All he could do was prepare for it as much as he could, and so for the last 28 days, he had sat down in front of his cogitator every day and went through all the data he had. He had been dismantling it piece by piece, going through every single pict recording, checking figures and comparing them against each other, listening for every recorded conversation for hidden meaning. He had been examining all the available information from as many different angles as possible to find some clue, some inconsistency which may help him avert the catastrophe.

So far he had only found one.

At the end of the daily examination, he had always left that picture last. It was not much: the display was showing the best, clearest picture of the future Opportunity as she had been spinning past Malistrum’s own ship at the beginning of the crisis. The Captain had had the tech-priests clear and enlarge the image as best they could, and he had spent countless hours simply looking at it. So far this had been the only thing which did not quite add up with the story of the future Akichi. It was not much, and it could be explained, but it was… at odds with the rest of the information. Malistrum kept it a secret, even though he did not know if it was a secret at all. Still…

The voxlink on his desk came alive.

‘Brother-Librarian Akichi wishes to speak with you on a private channel, Brother-Captain,’ the serf on duty addressed him.

Malistrum looked up.

‘Put him through the private channel,’ he ordered.

He listened to the report of the Librarian, and his face brightened a little. Then he listened some more, and his face darkened a little.

‘Officer meeting in twenty minutes,’ he ordered, and broke the link. He stood up and went to the bridge to address his crew.

Halfway to the door, he stopped, and went back to the cogitator. He turned it off, and the picture – an enlarged image of the Warp-flame-wrought side of the Opportunity – disappeared.

The chamber was brightly lit. It was a huge training room, and it was crammed with equipment, but there were no shadows anywhere. The lights could have been turned off, of course, but Andorias did not mind them on. There was a time for night practice, and there was a time for daylight; this one, he preferred with light.

The Sergeant had already done target practice under poor visual conditions that day. He had also done a training session in his jump pack assault armour, and he had drilled with his squad practicing group manoeuvres. This session – the fifth in line – had been only for himself.

He was in his Terminator armour, wielding his dual lightning claws. His movements were slow compared to how quickly he changed position with jump packs. Terminators were not about speed or even finesse. They were lethal living tanks, as much able to soak up punishment as they were at dishing it out.

A lot of Astartes wondered how the Sergeant could become expert in two types of fighting style which were so different in nature. What they did not understand was that both jump packs and Terminator armours relied on precise timing in the wielder’s strikes: the former because it was too fast and the latter because it was not fast enough. The wearer had to think quickly when and how he wanted to attack, and this – patience and observation – was the key which Andorias understood and improved to perfection.

Before striking, both fighting styles relied on the fighter’s ability to survive the enemy’s attacks. Andorias never used stealth when wearing assault armour. He had no talent for it. Instead, he used his speed to avoid bullets and melee weapons because this was the one thing he was good at. Terminator armour was different. There was no way he could avoid an attack in that armour, so he became good at the one thing Terminators could do: take the brunt of an enemy strike and shake it off.

The Sergeant’s slow movements were deceiving to the casual observer. He was moving along straight lines, forward and backward, with occasional side-steps and quarter-turns. It took almost half a minute for him to turn 360 degrees, but an expert eye could actually see that during his slow movements, his hands were moving faster than his body; almost twice as fast, in fact. A very talented observer would have even realized that his arms and his gigantic fists were always in a position where they covered the most vulnerable areas of his body: the head and the hip joints. If he had been under continuous small arms fire, the Sergeant would have been able to cover all the different sections of his armour for exactly the same amount of time, effectively doubling the reinforced plating the enemy fire would have had to chew through before a killing strike.

While moving continuously, the two hands occasionally stroke forward in quick, punching movements. In a real fight, the energised claws of the gauntlet would have eviscerated enemies with every such strike. The Sergeant stepped back again, leaned on his back leg and turned, much quicker than his previous movement suggested he was capable. He used his left leg to spin around it, effectively raising the bulk of his armour around, while his right hand cut forward. The movement ended in a clanking noise as he slammed his right leg back on the ground. He stepped back and turned again, to return to his original facing – any enemy who would have followed him would have also found itself on the receiving end of the two sets of claws which he used to make wide upper slashes.

Move and strike, wait and strike, move again and strike again. This routine was also calming his mind, serving as meditation instead the regular prayers he had made to the Emperor. Not even his men knew about it, but he had prayed a lot; not really for guidance but because the very act made him block out his thoughts and any doubt he had.

The Emperor was no longer with them, but he still had doubts, so he escaped into training. However, it was barely enough to block out his thought this time.

Sergeant Andorias was a haunted man. He had barely gained some reassurance that he could keep himself focussed and under control than the next crisis came, this time in the face of a message from the future. He was there at the briefing with the others, and his analytical mind could not ignore it. The Opportunity, the crew, the whole Chapter was destined to fail.

On a personal level, this also meant that Andorias would fail in the future too. The Sergeant was unable to cope with that, and every fibre of his being revolted even against the very idea. He had to fight back, and he had to change the course of history. He had wholeheartedly agreed when he had heard what Librarian Akichi had done with his future self. He would have done it the same, and at least Akichi had been able to act in some way. Andorias also knew that the Captain was spending massive amounts of time with the data of that encounter, and he had been consulting with the tech-priests, Techmarines and Chaplain Uskovich on the issue to find a solution. Andorias agreed with that too, and he dearly wished that he could have helped them in some way.

But what could he have done? He was no psyker, he received no training in data analysis or even information gathering. He was just a simple soldier, although a very gifted one, and all his skills, all his long decades of experience suddenly seemed useless and needless.

Space Marines did not sleep very often, but sometimes they did, and Andorias had learned to avoid it as much as he was able. In the last month, he had been dreaming only one thing: he was looming over a kneeling figure, and he raised his hand to strike him down, only to realize that he suddenly became the kneeling man, looking up at himself as he was just about to make the killing blow.

The Sergeant knew that he should have asked for the Chaplain for spiritual guidance, but his pride did not let him do so. Dreams were only dreams, and he was an Astartes: he should have been strong enough to deal with his own personal fears. For lack of a better action, he turned towards physical training to chase away his gloomy thoughts.

It did not really work, though.

The intervox unit screeched above the Sergeant’s head.

‘Captain Malistrum requests an officer meeting in twenty minutes with technical and crew delegation invited,’ the voice boomed from the loudspeaker. ‘I repeat, officer meeting in twenty minutes with technical and crew delegation invited.’

The Sergeant lowered his power claws, and looked up at the speaker for a few seconds. Then he turned towards the door to leave the training chamber.

Whatever the new was, it broke the routine of the ship, which meant the Astartes would probably have to do something new for a change. It would soon turn out whether he was still useful in this new dark age.

Andorias had to take off his Terminator armour, and so he was the last to arrive at the meeting. The Captain greeted him with a nod, and waited until he sat down.

‘This will be a short briefing,’ he started his speech. ‘Librarian Akichi,’ he pointed at the Astartes standing next to him, ‘has reported to me that he found a living Imperial Astropath during his regular scans today. If the Astropath is strong enough to survive this long after the Extinction, he must be strong enough to assist him in scanning the psychic sample which we collected at Vault Double-Oh-Three.’

This meant that Strike Force Four finally had a chance of finding out where and why the reserve fleet of the Chapter had left. For the first time since the beginning of the last mission, there was suddenly a small sliver of hope.

‘I sensed a general Astropathic message coming from a nearby system,’ the Librarian took over. His face seemed tense, indicating that all was not well. ‘There is absolutely no communication in the Warp nowadays, so it was not hard to pinpoint it. I have given the coordinates to the Captain, and the Opportunity has already changed course.’

‘What is the message?’ Sergeant Essen asked.

‘This is where our problems start,’ the Librarian answered. ‘The message was not aimed anywhere, and there was no actual word, just an image sent out into the Warp. I drew it as soon as I had received it.’

He took a piece of paper, and handed it to the nearest present, Mediator Dmitrija. He looked at it, then he looked up. The Librarian’s face betrayed no emotion.

Dmitrija took a deep breath, and he passed the paper on. It went through the table. The Captain and the Librarian waited patiently until it went fully around into the hand of the last officer, Apotheracy Ruffar, who gave the paper back to Akichi with an expression very similar to the human mediator.

The people present exchanged silent looks.

‘Do we want to go there?’ Sergeant Gorski asked.

Malistrum held up the paper. There was only one symbol on it: a circle with a line breaking it at the bottom left section. Nothing ominous: not a Chaos symbol, not anything with a greater significance: merely a simple inversed ‘Q’.

‘Can we ignore it?’ the Captain asked quietly.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 34)

Postby Midgard » Mon Oct 15, 2012 7:00 pm

And the plot thickens once again. I will be waiting very anxiously for the next update - have a good trip abroad, and stay safe!
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 34)

Postby librisrouge » Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:07 pm

This is inspired work! Writing like this makes me glad that I stumbled upon the bolthole. Please keep it up, I wait in anticipation of the next chapter.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 34)

Postby Meaneye » Wed Oct 31, 2012 11:55 am

Well, I'm backfrom exotic abroad with tales of great adventures (mostly about how I was tarvelling for 15 hours on a bus only to realize I would have to take the whole yourney again backwards :D ).

Librisrouge: thanks for the support. I hope you will not be disappointed.

So It is time for another update. I wanted to cut it at another part, but it is already long enough, so here is what I have got so far. Not much action here, granted, but these encounters will develop into their own plots eventually.

Warp entry point at the edge of Faramuntibus System

548 days after the Emperor’s death

The Opportunity broke out of the Warp at the designated location; another flawless translation to the credit of Navigator Yasmilda.

The ship was in battle condition. The shields were raised, the guns were loaded; every fireteam, every specialist repelling team was in position, waiting for orders. This awareness was not usual even in a paranoid Chapter like the Fatemakers, but recent events, especially the ones concerning the ship’s current destination, were reasons good enough for such caution.

It took a while to find the system on the Galactic map, not because it was scarcely populated, but because there was not a lot of notes available of it. Apparently, it was a moderately advanced collection of three planets and a couple of mining colonies, under a surprisingly long and uneventful Imperial rule. Space Marines usually had nothing to do with such places, which did not require their military expertise; and yet, the strike force was here, with a hundred Battle-Brothers aboard.

The Astartes abandoned their own mission and came here for two reasons, both of them linked together. There was an Astropath alive somewhere in the system: an Astropath who may have been able to help Strike Force four to find their lost brethren and start to rebuild this part of the Imperium. An Astropath who was potentially the last of his kind, at least in this region of space. An Astropath who could give a new destination, a new goal and a meaning for the continued existence of the Fatemakers; an Astropath who might offer salvation in a world which no longer knew the meaning of this term.

The Space Marines knew of the existence of this person because they intercepted his psychic message. It was not difficult to trace it back to this system, mainly because the sender did not make a secret of his location. In fact, he wanted his message to be heard, and it was also clear that he wanted the Fatemakers to hear it.

The Astropath addressed Strike Force Four directly. He called for them. He knew their symbol, he knew where to find them with the message. He knew that the Opportunity would pass by in his vicinity at the specified time frame, even though not even the Fatemakers themselves had known in advance that they would be there to receive the call. This was no coincidence. The call could not be ignored.

It could not be taken lightly either. There were several possible explanations what the real meaning of the message was, but none of them were reassuring enough. At best, it was part of some string of events outside the control of the Fatemakers; possibly, it was a trap and, perhaps at worst, it was all part of the circle which would eventually ruin the entire Chapter and send its last surviving member back in time only to be executed by his younger self.

The risk was too high and the gains were too tempting. The Fatemakers would go in with open eyes and cold determination. The Emperor was dead; not even He could have had mercy on the soul of those who would seek to harm Strike Force Four.

Captain Malistrum had complimented Navigator Yasmilda for her guidance, and was now standing in the middle of the Opportunity’s bridge. There was furious activity around him, the kind which was only experienced in battle. He was calm and observant, as if the rest of the crew’s nervous readiness had not managed to touch him. His men knew better, of course: this was the façade he used to turn to when he actually had time to mentally prepare before an engagement. He was ready. He was in a killer mood.

‘Scan the area,’ he ordered in a soft voice. The serf on duty obeyed, while the others were slowly checking all systems of the ship. Weapons, shields, hull integrity, crew readiness: everything was in green condition, which was reassuring.

‘I am picking up multiple signals, my lord,’ the serf reported.

That was to be expected. After all, if there was actually an Astropath alive in this system, Faramuntibus itself could not have been completely ruined. Still, in a state of battle condition, the presence of spacecraft did not necessarily mean good news.

‘We are being hailed, my lord,’ the serf continued. ‘Multiple frequencies… Imperial codes… my lord, we are receiving message from the Faramuntibus System navy. They demand standard identification codes and require us to state our business in the system.’

Now this was a new development. Malistrum made a step forward.

‘Are they displaying Imperial codes?’ he asked.

‘Yes, my lord,’ the answer came. The serf seemed just as surprised as the Captain. ‘I can detect the source of the transmissions. It is… it comes from a standard border satellite. The other signals indicate a system patrol, a merchant convoy… I can also reach the intra-system communications network. Captain, this place is…’

‘Intact,’ Malistrum finished his sentence. ‘Hail them, serf, then give them the codes they want and ask them to contact the local authorities. Strike Force Four of the Fatemaker Astartes Chapter is officially requesting an audience with their leaders.’

‘Yes, Brother-Captain.’

Malistrum went back to his seat, sat down and leaned back as he was considering his new options. His face was still expressionless, but his mind was working furiously now.

An unravaged Imperial system. One with functional infrastructure, standing military and – apparently – a centralized government which had not been destroyed by the recent Galactic events. What were the chances?

He did really not know. The last time the Opportunity encountered the Imperium in any functional way had been at Saint Menthas, and that system had been on the verge of collapse. Since then and the Ongoliant Triangle, Strike Force Four had not contacted any living human at all. By his estimate, the lack of the Emperor, the Withdrawal, the collapse of interstellar travel together should have wracked the whole species. Yet, this one small corner of the Imperium survived, and now the Captain did not know how to relate to this. Should he be insulted that mere humans could overcome the loss of the Emperor better than the Astartes? Should he be frank and open with these people? Would they understand the situation they were in? Did they know at all?

All these questions, and no usable answer to them. Malistrum could still not feel fear, but he could be worried. Going into unknown territory with such a lack of reliable information could potentially cripple even Space Marines. For an outside observer, the situation was harmless, but Malistrum knew that he had to treat Faramuntibus like a hazardous environment. Perhaps even as a moral threat.

Malistrum listened to the exchange between the communications officer and his peer on the other side of the channel. He frowned. The normalcy of these people was just unnatural in this new age.

‘We are transmitting the course you have to follow to the inner system, Opportunity,’ the voice of the unknown Faramuntibus officer crackled through the vox-speaker. ‘We will keep in contact with you until we can pass you over to the inner patrol. The Emperor protects.’

The Fatemaker serf hesitated for a moment before he answered. ‘The Emperor protects,’ he said, and he turned off the vox.

Malistrum looked down. He was not sure why, but the moment he heard the last words, his hands moved involuntarily. Apparently, he was still conditioned enough to react in a way which had until just a year earlier, was his second nature. He had instinctively tried to show the sign of the Aquila.

He took a quick look around. Nobody in the bridge was showing any sign to even try to do the same. The Captain frowned again.

Faramuntibus may have belonged to the Imperium, but he was not so sure he could have said the same about his own crew.

Government Headquarters

Faramuntibus IV, Faramuntibus System

551 days after the Emperor’s death

This planet is free of war, Sergeant Andorias thought the moment the Thunderhawk’s hatches opened and he could take the first sip of the world’s atmosphere.

Faramuntibus smelled peaceful. For a Space Marine’s enhanced senses, every piece of information counted, no matter where it came from. A world’s air carried all kinds of chemical components, which was in turn an indicator of the chemical output of the planet itself. Faramuntibus’ air showed traces of heavy industry, with a decent amount of pollution. It also contained smells attached to human inhabitation: small fires, food, sweat, exhaust gas.

What the air did not contain was the unmistakable aroma of war. There was no burning promethium, no burned flesh, no blood. The people of this world were not murdering one another in any greater amount than what was associated with any Imperial planet in general.

Yet, Andorias mused as he stepped out of the Astartes plane and set out for the stairs in front of the Faramundibus Headquarters building, this planet is undoubtedly at war.

This was also evident for his trained eyes. Space Marines did not have a lot of experience with humans in general, but they understood mortal behaviour when it came to Mankind’s most favourite pursuit, warfare. War changed people. It made some weak and it made some strong and determined. Those not broken by it were altered, their character gained a hard edge which did simply not appear in peaceful times.

The honour guard in front of them consisted of war veterans. It was unmistakable, although the Sergeant was not sure how he knew it. There was something professional about the way they were holding their weapons, the way they sized up the group of Astartes representatives who came to this world to negotiate with the local authorities. They kept a formation which was practical rather than aesthetic: leaving each other room to move, creating slight overlapping firing zones. Andorias was quietly impressed as he usually was when he saw humans with a disciplined martial character. Of course, his Astartes squad could have destroyed these people with ease, but still… credit had to be given when it was due.

Although obviously not professional soldiers, the governmental officer who came out of the building to greet them also seemed hardened. The presence of Space Marines usually cowed people, but these were more worried and curious than actually frightened. Interesting.

Briefly, Andorias wondered what the Faramundibus people would see on their faces. The Captain ordered all his men to disembark with their helmets off, so the inhabitants would be less intimidated by their presence. It was mediator Dmitrija’s advice, and, after some consideration, the Astartes took it, even though this meant making themselves vulnerable. The Sergeant did not agree with this, but the Captain’s word was law, and Malistrum needed to get some initial trust from these people.

After all, the Fatemakers came here to bargain; besides, removing the helmet opened up new possibilities for them as well.

Squad Andorias came to a halt a few paces from the delegation. The Space Marines formed a loose-looking semi-circled formation behind the officers. The senior Faramundibus official stepped forward and looked up at what he considered to be the Astartes leader.

‘In the name of the Faramundibus Directorate and Director Kosvalik, I welcome you on our planet,’ he said.

‘We are happy to be here,’ the Space Marine towering above him answered. ‘My name is Andros Malistrum, Captain of Strike Force Four of the Fatemaker Astartes Chapter. This is Sergeant Andorias Mortan.’

‘I am Bordiak Ollin, Secretary of Foreign Affairs. Welcome. Director Kosvalik is awaiting you, sir, with your…’

The Secretary’s voice faltered for a second as he took a good look at the Space Marines in front of him. Malistrum cast a curious look behind his back, then he turned to the officer.

‘Is there a problem, Secretary?’

Ollin coughed. ‘Well, no. Of course, there is no problem. It is just your…’

He made an uncertain hand movement towards the rest of the squad. Malistrum looked him with empty eyes for a second, then he nodded.

‘I understand. We Astartes have this effect on people. Please forgive me. It was rude of me to bring a whole squad of warriors to a formal meeting. How about my men staying here, and I enter with my Sergeant and one of our Battle-Brothers? This would be enough for protocol considerations.’

‘Perfect.’ The Secretary seemed relieved. ‘Thank you for your understanding. If you may?’

He gestured towards the building. Malistrum nodded courteously, and he looked at Andorias.

‘Sergeant.’ Malistrum then looked back and addressed one of his rock-crete grey warriors, a bald man with Eastern-looking face. ‘Akichi.’

‘Sir.’ The Battle-Brother nodded back and followed his leaders to the building.

The rest of the squad waited until they disappeared, then turned and went back to the Thunderhawk.

This one is a decision-maker too, Andorias thought as he looked at Director Kosvalik.

The Astartes trio was standing in a conference room with an oval table. The chairs were too big for them to sit on, so they stood, which the people on the other side of the table followed after some hesitation. The atmosphere was business-like, although there seemed to be some tension between the humans and the transhumans.

Director Kosvalik did not seem to be intimidated. He had been regarding the Astartes from the very first moment with a hint of curiosity and cold, calculating intelligence. Andorias was not used to this; but again, he was not used to being sent on diplomatic missions either.

‘If I understand correctly,’ the Director started, ‘your strike force arrived at this system by accident.’

‘This is not entirely true, Director,’ Malistrum answered politely. ‘The Opportunity was coming this way because we had good reasons to believe that the rest of the Fatemaker fleet can be found in this area.’

‘We have heard nothing of a similar force in the area,’ the Director said. ‘Of course,’ he added, ‘we have not heard a lot from the outside world during the last year.’

‘Of course,’ Malistrum nodded.

Andorias was only watching. The conversation seemed a little dragged out, but this was to the Fatemakers’ advantage this time. The Sergeant was glad that he did not have to speak, though. Let the Captain handle this issue. He was more experienced, and he was used to dealing with humans outside the combat zone. Andorias would have never thought of a trick like the one they had just pulled off with Librarian Akichi.

After the first exchange of messages between the Opportunity and the local government, it had become obvious to Strike force Four that the Faramundibus people did not expect them to arrive to the system at all. After it had dawned on Malistrum that the government had not sent the Astropathic message, he decided not to make any mention of it to the locals. To Director Kosvalic and his officials, the Opportunity was just a ship looking for her peers in space with no particular agenda in their territory. Malistrum had still come here to talk to the locals, but he had decided the Fatemakers would do this on their own term. There would be no more leniency towards an Imperial planet just because they had authority. Not after Saint Menthas. Strike Force Four would take what it needed and then it would move on.

Akichi was part of this strategy. The Space Marines could not make sure that the locals would recognise a Librarian’s outfit or even know what a Librarian was, but they had no intention of taking chances. Akichi was wearing an ordinary power armour which betrayed nothing of his abilities.

Brother Pelidor’s power armour, in fact. If he was disturbed by it, he showed no sign of it.

To an outsider, he was just a simple rank-and-file soldier who had to accompany his commander for the sake of protocol. He obediently stayed in the background, took no part in the conversation and even looked unfocussed a little. A bored soldier who was staring in front of him, recalling none of the conversation which was taking place; completely harmless and unremarkable.

Librarian Akichi was anything but bored and unfocussed.

He switched off the conversation as much as he could, so he could concentrate on his real mission. After analysing all the available information, it had been assumed that the Directorate was not the sender of the mysterious message, even though it had originated from this system. The next logical step was to contact the messenger without provoking undue attention; in other words, they had to scan the planet without alarming the authorities. The deception was necessary and nobody objected: not the Astartes, not the human contingent. The Imperium was a war zone, and there were no clear allies any more. The message could be anything from a call for help to a no so sophisticated trap.

If this was a trap, somebody was going to pay for it. The Opportunity above the capital was in full combat readiness, with the Teleportarium charged and adjusted to the homing beacon placed aboard the Thunderhawk which took the Captain to the surface of the planet. An extra squad of Astartes with heavy weapons was waiting in that plane, ready to join their brethren outside the building and storm the whole headquarters. The cruiser’s weapons were primed and aimed at key points of the city below with drop-pods and landing craft prepared to put down the whole strike force and their armour on the surface if necessary.

If anything went wrong, Strike Force Four would take the planet apart piece by piece.

Whether this option was necessary remained to be seen, however. The Librarian or the delegation had to first confirm any hostile intentions. The Captain was doing his job admirably: he was playing for time, waiting for any hint that the Directorate was actually expecting them. It was now time for the Librarian to do his job.

Akichi started with passive scanning: he opened his witch-sight to take in any psychic background activity. He found none, which confirmed that this place had suffered the same psyker extinction after the Emperor’s death as the rest of the Galaxy. This was good because this meant that the governmental headquarters were just as undefended against his further probes.

He looked at the Faramundibus officers. They had the now familiar marks on their auras indicating that they had been the victims of the Withdrawal, just like anyone else. The scars were healing well. He briefly wondered how they achieved it.

Still, he was making no progress. He had been holding his arms loosely along his torso: now he moved one of his fingers and slightly scratched the side of his armour. The noise he made was so small that an unaugmented human eye would not even notice, and even if it did, there was nothing harmful in this movement. His brothers heard it, though, and they knew what it meant. There was no break in the Captain’s conversation, but Akichi knew he and Andorias both braced themselves for what might come next.

Akichi focussed his powers and released a psychic energy wave, which resonated throughout the entire building.

Captain Malistrum slowly blinked as he was listening to Director Kosvalik’s report on the situation on Faramundibus.

‘The catastrophe which occurred seventeen months ago took us completely by surprise,’ the Director explained. ‘The Astroniomicon was gone, or at least this is what the local Navigator families told us. Whatever it was that caused it also killed the psykers in the entire system. There were not many, actually. A Black Ship had arrived and took away the last intake of unsanctioned psykers about two weeks before the accident. What was the name? Tarkis?’ he turned to one of his officials. ‘Tersis? Tersis it is. Anyway,’ he continued, ‘That was the time our troubles started Outer Faramundibus, and we have been stuck in that crisis ever since.’

‘Are you having a local problem?’ Malistrum cocked his head aside.

Kosvalik sighed. ‘The usual problem, I’m afraid. Outer Faramundibus is the second biggest planet in the system. They used to govern everything until Faramundibus IV grew large enough to take over control over the system. It was a legal imperial administrative decision, but they never managed to get over it. Now that they sense a crisis, they are attempting to secede from us. A clearly heretic move, if you ask me,’ he added, and cast a meaningful look at the trio.

Andorias frowned. He was not sure, but this last sentence strongly suggested that the Director wanted them to get involved. He wondered for a second if the Captain had understood the message, then he looked at Malistrum from the corner of his eye and scolded himself. Of course he had. The Captain’s expression suddenly became unreadable, which was a clear indication of his displeasure. The Sergeant could not help but remember what had happened the last time an Imperial authority had asked for the help of the Fatemakers.

That time, the Captain had been shot at. This time, Andorias vowed, the Fatemakers would do the shooting.

‘It saddens me to hear that you have such grave problems, Director,’ Malistrum answered. ‘Under normal circumstances, I would pledge my force to solving this conflict right away, but at the moment, my obligations lie elsewhere. It is our utmost priority to find the rest of our fleet so we may start pacification of the sector. It is a huge task, and we are nowhere near starting it without an Astropath to help us locate our brothers. Anything else is of secondary concern to us now. We would do anything for that goal.’

‘I see,’ the Director said pensively. ‘An Astropath so you can continue your mission.’

‘Indeed,’ Malistrum nodded.

‘Indeed,’ Kosvalik nodded back.

The two leaders locked eyes.

Akichi waited patiently for an answer, which did not come. He was too experienced to frown or make any physical expression which might have given him away, but he was still disappointed. He was here because he received an invitation; the least he expected was an answer. Although…

Of course, he reminded himself.

He released another psychic wave, this time interlaced with the symbol of the Fatemaker Chapter. The one symbol which the original message contained should persuade the other to reveal himself.

Akichi was not disappointed.


The signal was weak but consistent with a capable human mind behind it. It carried little emotion as the sender was obviously trying to compose himself. The one feeling the message was carrying was a small amount of hope, the rarest commodity these days.

Who are you? Akichi sent. The answer came immediately.

My name if Lucas Mortimer, licensed Astropath of Gamma level. I welcome you on Faramuntibus, Librarian.

You know who I am? Akichi asked without words.

I knew that our paths may cross. I have known it for a while.

Explain yourself, please.

I apologize if I am cryptic.
Lukas was emitting though patterns at a slow pace like old people talk. I have foreseen your coming here, and I also foresaw that my fate would be linked to your Chapter.

Foreseen it, Akichi repeated. A terrible suspicion started to dawn on him. How did you foresee it?

The old Astropath seemed to smile with his mind. Forgive me again. I meant talking about the Imperial Tarot and the last cast I could make before this catastrophe.

I see. Do continue, please.

About one and a half years ago, I attempted to make a Tarot reading. I was concerned about a trade dispute between the capital planet and Outer Faramundibus. There was nothing serious about the issue, just the good old game these two had been playing with each other. The result was…

The Astropath’s thoughts faltered for a second.

The result was terrible. The cards showed me the death of the Emperor. I did not know when and how He would perish, but the cards indicated a time in the future when He would no longer be with us, and that I would be powerless to do anything about it.

Akichi was shocked. He had just heard something which he had never given any though to.

Someone else had foreseen the death of the Emperor! So he, or the Fatemakers for that matter, were not the only ones to receive any previous warning. This Astropath from a weightless system had a vision as well. Who else may have known? Other Space Marine Chapters? The Inquisition? Why had nobody acted? And if…

If the death of the Emperor was not meant solely for Akichi to experience, than this means that he, Akichi was not meant to…

You can imagine my anguish and fear, Librarian, Lucas continued, snapping Akichi out of his gloomy thoughts. For a while, I thought I would go mad. I was casting the Tarot day after day to find something – anything – that might help me do something. Finally, after two full weeks, the cards stopped showing me anything. The one image which they came up with was an Astartes Librarian wearing a symbol like the one I sent out for you. The Tarot also told me when that Astartes would be near enough for me to reach him.

Lucas hesitated for a moment.

Then the cards went silent, and I didn’t know what to do. So when the time came… when I knew that He would die… I went into meditation to save myself. This is how I survived while all my peers died around me in minutes. Is it true, Librarian? Is He really dead?

Akichi saw no reason to deny what should have been obvious for the other psyker. Yes.

There was endless sorrow in the next psychic message. I knew, of course. I just cannot believe it. I still can’t believe it. Without Him…

His voice trailed off, and Akichi let his mind wander. He had things to consider himself.

Are we done here? Andorias asked himself. What are we doing now?

The Captain and the Director had been watching each other with unblinking eyes for five full minutes. Neither of them moved, neither of them reacted to the other. The Sergeant didn’t understand. They knew that Faramundibus had a living Astropath, which was the whole point of coming here, so why did they not start asking for him? The Director clearly wanted the Fatemakers to get involved in their local conflict, so why not press the issue? Is this what Mediator Dmitrija referred to as ‘negotiating?’ Then why do they not negotiate?

Director Kosvalik suddenly made a weak smile, and nodded.

‘Captain, we could go on and beat about the bush for a while,’ he started. ‘But you and me, we both know where this would end.’

‘I suppose we do, Director,’ Malistrum noted.

Andorias flinched. What did he miss?

‘I had no intention of keeping it from you. I hope you understand me.’

‘I completely understand you, Director. These are troubling times, and rare resources are to be guarded.’

‘Yes.’ The Director looked at Malistrum straight in the eyes. ‘Nevertheless, we are in a position now where we could help out each other. Can we make an agreement, Captain?’

‘I need information about the conflict before I make my decision. Could you transfer the necessary data to my ship?’

‘That can be arranged,’ Kosvalik nodded.

Malistrum stood immobile for a while.

‘I will contact you again in six hours,’ he said. The Director bowed slightly.

‘All right. Is there anything else for the time being?’

‘We have discussed everything that needed to be discussed,’ Malistrum said and bowed likewise.

‘Our guests would like to leave, Ollin,’ he told his subordinate in a quiet voice.

Ollin coughed, and stepped forward.

‘If you may, gentlemen? Lords?’ he asked nervously. For a Secretary of Foreign Affairs, he is a weaker diplomat than the Director, Andorias thought.

Although the Secretary was the least of his worries now. He did not understand what was going on. He waited until they got out of the meeting room, then, as they were leaving the building, he took the time to whisper his worries to the Captain.

‘Brother-Captain, why is the meeting over? What have we just done here?’

Malistrum did not look at him. He was walking on with an expression that betrayed none of his thoughts.

‘What we did here?’ he whispered back. ‘I have the feeling that we have just made a deal with the devil, Sergeant.’ He was disciplined enough not to look back to Librarian Akichi who was walking behind them as was fitting to a simple soldier. ‘I just hope we get something which will make all this worth the effort.’

I have to leave now, Akichi sent another message to the Astropath. Say no word to your masters about me or this conversation.

This goes without saying, the answer came.

Good, Akichi continued. I have one final question for you before I’m gone. You have not told me why you called us to this place.

I have already told you, Librarian, Lucas said. The Tarot told me when you would arrive. I only had to wait and address you at the right time.

And we are here, Astropath. But what was the purpose of your call?

To continue to serve the Imperium. Now you are here, and you will tell me how to continue.

Akichi needed to focus not to betray himself.

Goodbye, Astropath Lucas, he set out the final message, and he broke contact.

The old man had no plan whatsoever. None. He simply had a glimpse of the future and the Fatemakers’ role in it, and he decided that the Chapter must have had a plan, so he just decided to call in and report for duty. Akichi had originally presumed that the message had some purpose, but now it turned out that the message was sent out because the sender thought they had a purpose.

The Librarian blinked in the real world as well.

All this meant that Strike Force Four and the people involved with its affairs had started to walk the circle.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 35)

Postby librisrouge » Sat Nov 03, 2012 8:04 pm

Prophecy, done right, makes for lively and interesting stories. I like how you've gone with a self-fulfilling prophecy angle here. I imagine that, should it go long enough, it would lead to a kind of despair that might crush even a space marine's mind.
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Re: Fatemakers' Odyssey (50K) (part 35)

Postby Midgard » Tue Nov 06, 2012 8:32 pm

A quick attaboy to let you know I am still reading this, and this is just as enjoyable as before (I think I might be saying this a lot in this thread). Very ominous end of the chapter, and you are writing the impending doom very well.
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