The Orientation of Tomas Annin

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

The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Tue May 21, 2013 4:03 am


After the passage of Hive Fleet Eyrines through the eastern reaches of the Pelegron Cluster (circa 900.M38) the Administratum declared a quarantine on systems directly damaged by the xenos plague. To facilitate enforcement, the quarantine was also extended to a number of non-strategic surrounding systems on the recommendation of REDACTED.

Those systems claiming to suffer "severe economic hardship" as a result of the quarantine were accordingly designated as priority candidates for Guard recruitment as a precautionary measure. Between 300.M40 and 900.M40 records show that five hundred and thirty two Foundings were raised from Mur Ollova, Gherria, Fareval, Third Ossia and Wasserholt, ending with the 101st Gherrian Rifles in 900.M40. Successive thirty-year surveys conducted through 200.M41 revealed these worlds unfit for further recruitment.

Based on the results of a comprehensive sub-sector gene study initiated in 865.M39 and concluded in 130.M41, the quarantine is scheduled to be lifted beginning in 230.M41 and ending no later than 240.M41.


--extract from Administratum Briefing PR0443.332bis
--keywords: 'Third Ossia' | Pelegron | quarantine


_____


"Father, it is dark."

"Yes, my lord. The night-cycle is upon us, and the ship's lights have been dimmed."

"Of course. Be a good man, Father, and light my cell for me, please."

"Best we leave the lights off for now, I think. The apothecary's instructions were quite specific."

"Very well. Where are you, father, your voice seems distant."

"Near, my lord. I am near. You may be at ease."

"Damn but I can't see a thing, must be flash-damage. . . Old Claud would have me scrubbing stables for a month if he knew I went into battle without my helmet."

"What do you remember, my lord?"

"Ah, yes, you weren't there, father. It was. . .a reconnaissance in force with the Orpheum. I was seconded by Sister Adria's Seraphim. A simple affair to assay the keep perimeter before the crusade left Third Ossia. I approached the fourth beacon when. . ."

"Go on."

"That's all. Just light, a flash. Some pain, but not much. Then I woke up here, on the Verloren Hoop. Blind, it seems. Or kept in the dark. Damnable timing. Fleet Captain Foyle must be seething."

"For now, my lord, be at peace. . . I beg your leave, my lord, but I must attend to the company."

"Do so. Tell them I am well, and I will rejoin them soon. As soon as these damned apothecaries release. . ."

A mechanical voice snapped into the vox channel.

COMMAND SLEEP

". . .release. . ."

Father-Chaplain Donnellan Po lifted his armored gauntlet from the brass sensorium actuator, and the hiss of the vox channel vanished. Soft ceiling lights snapped on, revealing rows of hooded servitors to his left and right, each one mounted on a wheeled cart and hunched over glowing panels of flickering pale light set into the wall. The chamber smelled of acetone and ozone, the floor slick with disinfectant. He made a mental note to remember to wear his helmet next time he came.

He turned to glance at the white robed apothecary standing patiently behind him next to the door. Another serf he didn't recognize, one of the hundreds to join the crew in the last month.

"Truly, when no one speaks to him, he sleeps?"

The apothecary nodded. "He sleeps, he dreams, and we wait. It's too early to know when we can begin his orientation. If you please, let me re-install the monitor. The Mechanicus protocols are very specific. Unless you'd prefer they manage this, my lord."

"No, no," he said, stepping back. The apothecary rolled another servitor into place where Father Po had stood; thin cables snaked from the servitor's withered hands into sockets on either side of the panel. There were the wet sounds of gaskets sealing, then the stream of bio-telemetry strings restarted. Father Po thought he heard the servitor cluck contentedly before it started to hum.

"How long will it take before you know?"

"Hard to say. They sleep, they dream, and when they are ready, we begin our work. Or we don't. It's important to be patient. . .historically, the waiting has gone on for quite a while. Or so the logs report. They go back quite a number of years. Centuries, actually."

Father Po paused by the door to retrieve his Crozius and look back along the long row of servitors and blinking monitors.

"The crusade cannot wait years or months for one Castellan, doctor. Find a way to make him ready."

_____


239.M41
dncreche
verloren hoop
on station third ossia
pelegron cluster

authenticate | go

READY

access log | go

READY

load sub 14223 | go

READY

append | 0400 completed corpus callosum shunt at splenium and rostrum. apraxia tests to begin at 1200 with simulated ideomotor failure followed by limb-kinetic activation. oculomotor tests to follow | end

READY
Last edited by bobcorrigan on Thu May 23, 2013 6:58 pm, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Wed May 22, 2013 12:35 am

"Well met, Sister."

"My lord Annin."

"I take it you were not injured in the explosion."

"No, my lord. We were not, thank the Emperor."

"A blessing indeed. I cannot seem to access my vox-log in this. . .wherever this is. Brief me, if you please."

"My lord, that is really the place of the Chaplain, or of one of your Templar brothers."

"Are any of them with you at the moment?"

"No. . .no, my lord. I am alone."

"You're new to my command, Sister, but you should know your order and my company are vow-bound by oath and deed these last hundred years since the final years of the Paxus Crusade. Speak freely."

"My lord. We were southwest of the fourth beacon, inbound to the Third Ossian Black Templar keep. The auspex was clear, vox sweeps negative. It was quiet, as the briefing said it would be. We saw nothing unusual."

"You do not have to make excuses, Sister. I was there, I know what we saw. Continue."

"You touched down with your four assault brethren, your Orpheum, in a two-one-two dispersal, approaching the southwest pillar. My Sisters and I were still airborne and beginning to inspect the wire arrays connecting the southwest to the northwest pillar, when there was an explosion."

"Go on."

"The concussion was. . .the pressure wave drove me and two of my Sisters into the wires, entangling us, and I saw. . .you were near the pillar when it blew. It just seemed to evaporate, one hundred meters of rockrete and wire, gone in an instant. Two of your brethren were gone, the other two down. You. . .you were down."

"Steady, Sister. I expect you have given post-battle briefings before, this is no different. What was your assessment?"

"Either you tripped something or someone triggered a detonation when you were within ten meters of it. From the spectra of the blast it looked like multiple melta charges. If the two brethren weren't between you and the blast. . ."

"Which two."

"Brother Timony and Brother Foss. Brothers Allanby and Tollan were injured, they are in their quarters."

"What else did you see?"

"That is all, my Lord. We detached ourselves from the wires and administered what aid we could while we waited for the Thunderhawks to arrive. There were no further contacts."

"Very well. By the by, have they any water in this dark place? They seem content to deprive me of all comforts, food and drink included."

"One moment. Yes. Here it is."

"I can't see you, Sister."

"Reach out your hand. The apothecary. . .he says to reach out your hand. It's right in front of you."

"Very well, I. . .strange, I can't seem to. . .how curious. I can't move my arm."

"What do you feel, my lord?"

"Damn odd, that's what I feel."

"Try. . .please, do try again."

"There. There. I have it now. Thank you. Now, let's talk about your assessment of my injuries, you've told me everything but that."

"My lord. As soon as we were able to reach you we saw that you. . .were. . ."

"Yes, please. . .

A mechanical voice snapped into the vox channel.

COMMAND SLEEP

". . .continue. . ."

Sister-Seraphim Adria Ke'lanka pulled her hand from the brass sensorium actuator as if stung by it, then wheeled on the white-robed doctor by the door.

"This is wrong what you ask of me, apothecary," she snarled. Her long white hair was matted with sweat. "This is work for the Mechanicus. Not men. Not me."

"We work with what we have, Sister," the apothecary replied, his hands resting lightly on the leather-cased shoulders of the servitor he stood behind. The servitor's pale head lolled back, a whiff of steam slipping from between the slats of the oval metal grating sewn over its mouth, nose and eyes. Its single articulated mechanical arm still clutched the small metal cylinder that Sister Adria had held out moments before.

She shuddered at the memory of the servitor's arm jerking about randomly before settling down and gently, slowly, opening its claws as one would open fingers before it calmly took the cylinder from her.

"Does he know?"

"I cannot say. Every man experiences this transition differently. There are many steps, many opportunities to fail. But as many to succeed. We must be patient. The protocols are clear."

Sister Adria turned back to the console and looked down at another servitor hunched over a flickering screen, its hands hard-wired into the panel on either side. She reached out and wiped condensation away from the dark viewport set into the wall and stared into the murky dark fluids seething behind it.

"I would have told him of what I saw, apothecary. Why did you stop me?"

The apothecary looked up from the dataslate in his hands and smiled.

"The test was over, there was no need for him to stay awake."

_____


239.M41
dncreche
verloren hoop
on station third ossia
pelegron cluster
authenticate | go

READY

access log | go

READY

load sub 14223 | go

READY

append | 2200 oculomotor tests inconclusive, successive attempts to test resulted in evidence of dysphoria and labile affect accompanied by abnormally high epinephrine levels. extended shunt to adrenal medulla which produced an immediate drop in adrenocorticotropic hormone with subsequent drops in dopa and norepinephrine to pre-test nominal levels. progenoidal ganglia undamaged and progenocorticotropic hormone levels are consistent with pre-insult nominal levels. subject fitted with near-field auspex adaptor through the corpus collosum shunt with associated far-field hardware-based auspex link adaptor logic. immediate testing recommended | end

READY
Last edited by bobcorrigan on Thu May 23, 2013 6:58 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Wed May 22, 2013 3:27 am

"So, Tomas. It comes to this."

"You've come to gloat, haven't you, Paolo. For the first time since you joined us, you finally found a way to make me bow to you."

"Hardly. And Tomas, you should know Inquisitors don't gloat. We observe."

"I can see you now, you know. Dimly, but directly. You look perfectly satisfied with yourself, Interrogator, no forgive me, Inquisitor diBenedetti."

"I am satisfied. I'm satisfied that you are not dead."

"Not dead. . .practically so. I've been consigned. I put the pieces together soon after it became clear that no one was putting my pieces back together. Seven hours ago. No, seven hours and thirty minutes ago."

"Now, now, Tomas, you're hardly one to indulge in self-pity. There must be something more to your bad mood than waking up to find yourself floating in sus-fluids, your brain hard-wired to a test servitor. That said, it is a rather fine-looking test servitor, this Roon-Seven-Four-Five. Let me lean in and look it, and you, in the eye. There, is that better? I've disabled its arm to prevent it from striking anything. . .accidentally."

"Do not toy with me. What do you want."

"I want what I've always wanted. What my master always wanted. Wasserholt. I want to sail for Wasserholt."

"Impossible. We depart with the Crusade in four cycles. And I've never believed in that. . .fairy tale. . .your master used to speak of. There is nothing there but the burnt-out ends of a dead world bled dry of anything of value to the Emperor. Let it be."

"Come now, Tomas. . .the Crusade is ready to move on, all of the Strike Cruisers on station in this sector are stirring. Without you to lead your company, the Verloren Hoop will be left behind, tasked to some secondary action until a new Castellan is named. This, at least, I know of the Black Templars. You're all utterly mad for honor and little details like the chain of command. I think that's why you all wear so many chains. They bind you without as they do within."

"You know nothing of the Templars, Inquisitor. Once the keep at Third Ossia is reconsecrated, we will be away."

"Ahhh. . .but I do know something of you, Tomas. And how you lead. And the little faith you place in anyone but yourself. No, I think you will sail for Wasserholt for me. And I won't even have to use my Rosette to make it so."

"And I know something of you, Paolo. You arranged for that explosion. And you arranged for me to be taken here, instead of allowing me to recover. . .normally."

"Are you accusing me of a crime, Templar?"

"I am suggesting that you are not the only one here with leverage. Inquisitor."

"Good night, Tomas Annin."

"Damn you. . ."

A mechanical voice snapped into the vox channel.

COMMAND SLEEP

". . .Paolo. . ."

Inquisitor Paolo diBenedetti lingered over the brass sensorium actuator, cradling it in his brown, soft-gloved hand for a brief moment before releasing it.

"He's an odd one," the apothecary said, working his way down the row of servitors, reactivating each one in turn.

Paolo watched the man work, studying him carefully. "You've become quite good at this, Nicolo. Very convincing."

The man paused, giggled, then turned a pirouette with his arms in the air. His white robe bloomed around his full waist and legs.

"It's not that hard of a job, to be fair. This entire facility is automated. All I do is rotate the servitors and keep the log. But keeping the shape of that tubby apothecary and all his extra mass on-board is really starting to give me trouble. How much longer do I have to play at this? I've only got so much polymorphine on this mission, and I'll start to bleed off in a few days, a week at most."

The young Inquisitor turned his chair and leaned back against the moisture-covered viewport, then lazily lifted his hand to thrum the back of his gloved fingers against it, tap-tap-tap-tap.

"Not much longer," he sighed. "What's the status of the valiant Castellan Tomas Annin?"

Nicolo lifted a small data-slate from the console and turned it around so Paolo could read it. "It looks like he's been successfully shunted. If everything else runs like this part of the operation does, there should be a sarcophagus ready to receive him in place. According to the flow diagram, this facility will release him, install him, and route him into the Armory where his Brethren will take over. My estimate is that he could last here for a week, but realistically he could go any day. Best case, he'll be ready for service in three days. Two if he's lucky. They're an efficient lot, these Black Templars, when they're motivated. They've been running this operation for centuries. The logs go back quite a ways, even if they don't give up a lot of details. It's what this ship is known for. Probably has something to do with its name."

"Ah, yes. My master once told me it means 'lost hope' in some obscure pre-Unity Terran dialect, referring to groups of soldiers committed to especially dangerous enterprises. What better group to send than those already lost. Charming."

Paolo stood and began to pace the length of the small chamber. He sighed deeply, pulling his long black frock coat tightly around his torso. "Return to our ship at your convenience. I have successfully placed the seed of doubt in his mind. Let's see what comes of it. I suspect he'll find a way to contact the other Castellans, and they will no doubt present options to the Marshall."

He took one last look into the dark depths of the creche, squinting into the fluids that roiled just beyond the barrier of the viewport.

"He will not easily yield. It's not their way. Forward, or death. But the others will see him as something less than he was. I think it best to trust the Templars to be their own worst enemy in this case, which serves me quite nicely."
____

239.M41
dncreche
verloren hoop
on station third ossia
pelegron cluster

authenticate | go

READY

access log | go

READY

load sub 14223 | go

READY

append | 0230 pre-transfer protocol initiated. 0530 shunt removed and transfer initiated. 0630 elevated catalepseanoid and neurotransmitter levels detected during transfer, specifically norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin. GABA prophylaxis initiated, retrograde amnesia probable. 0700 subsequent testing showed normal catalepseanoid and neurotransmitter levels. transfer re-initiated. 1100 transfer complete, subject telemetry verified stable. 1200 post-transfer creche purification initiated. 2100 post-transfer purification complete | end

READY

close log 14223 | go

READY

seal log 14223 | go

READY
Last edited by bobcorrigan on Thu May 23, 2013 6:59 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Wed May 22, 2013 7:04 pm

In the dark heart of the Verloren Hoop, as close to the core of the vessel as could be arranged by its builders, was an unusually large rectangular structure of black metal that spanned multiple decks and a meaningful portion of each one. Octavio Well, who as the ship's Navigator imagined himself to be a student of the unusual, had traced its dimensions over the years during those rare hours he spent away from his suite. He knew of two doors into the structure, a smaller one fore, a much larger one aft. He had only ever found one energy and utility conduit into the structure. And he knew it was made of a metal entirely unlike the rest of the inside of the ship. Or, based on his knowledge of shipcraft, the outside either.

As mysteries go, it was a rather good one, as it did not appear on the ship's plan or manifest. Also as none of the crew would speak of it. And especially as both doors were guarded, day and night, by pairs of inscrutable Black Templars in full armor, armed with massive boltguns and bad attitudes.

Ever sanguine, Octavio interpreted the Templar's lack of regard as a professional courtesy towards members of the Navis Nobilite, who were regarded as a necessary evil (at best) and a curse on creation (at worst). And yet, he always offered them a smile and a bow in greeting whenever their paths crossed. In his heart, Octavio was a peaceful man who dreamed of a peaceful life, and his occasional flights of whimsy were a salve against an existence that was anything but peaceful. He cultivated this whimsy by affecting the attire and mannerisms of a high-caste, refined Gudrun hive dandy, wearing the best suits he could find with seasonally-appropriate scents and accessories, and cultivating the gentle arts where possible. He even had a cat, or something that resembled a cat. On a ship as dour as the Verloren Hoop, he was a rare splash of color in a world dominated by black on black with black accents.

The mystery, however, proved too much, and he sought out other sources of potential intelligence to divine its nature and purpose. During one of his excursions, years before, he struck up a conversation with a junior member of the small Adeptus Mechanicus cadre on the ship, and quite by accident, mentioned the structure.

The young man, a red-robed and cog-marked junior adept named Botham, spat on the deck and growled unpleasantly as he gestured with his cog-marked mug of recaff. "It's a treasure, and they'll not have us inside. Damnable thick-necked, low-browed, pig-headed, scrap-souled creatures. The Deus Mechanicus will see them pay, and pay they will."

Octavio chalked his colorful words up to youthful exuberance, but then when the young adept turned up dead the next day, he began to wonder. He decided it was best to stop asking questions and get on with the business of leading the Verloren Hoop in and out of harm's way. He put the mystery down, and gave it no more thought.

So it was that the day the ship's astropath, Elsa Mannich - an ancient, withered scrap of a woman also known as The Crone and That Damnable Witch by members of the crew - came to him and begged his help to find the Castellan that he found his slim esoteric knowledge of the mysterious structure to finally be of use.

She crept up on him outside his suite and clutched at his arm as he tapped out the entry code to his suite, nearly causing him to drop the basket of local apples and large pannier of caffeine balanced in his arms.

"Heavenly Emperor, woman, what do you want?" he sputtered, recoiling.

She crooked her head and pressed her wrinkled, eyeless face close to his. The unique combined scents of sanctifying ointments and onions assaulted him, and he did his best to recoil a bit more.

"The Castellan, he is lost to us," she said, flecking his face with warm spittle. "But the Conclave comes, and he must join, do you hear? Do? You? Hear?"

"I hear, I hear, but I don't understand," he said. He was genuinely confused, the Castellan was lost? The Conclave comes? Onions? Where did the woman get onions? I'd trade apples for onions, he mused.

She grasped his arm even harder, long nails cutting into his flesh. "I must reach him, must reach, and bring him into the Conclave! Must!"

Then she tilted her head once again, and smiled a gap-toothed, knowing smile, as the temperature in the hallway began to sink.

"Dear, dearest Octavio," she said, releasing his arm and smoothing the fabric of his sleeve with her knobby fingers. "You know where he is. You can get to the Castellan. You. You know of the Great Creche and the Armory, the dark heart of lost hope. You can bring the Castellan into the Conclave. They will let you inside. Inside!"

"You've ruined my caffeine with your witchery, witch," Octavio said. "I have no idea where the Castellan is, that's a matter of the Templars. Now if you would please, I have a ship to, to guide around. To navigate. Good day?"

But he did know. Somehow, he knew. With a cackle, the astropath pressed hands to his cheeks and squeezed tightly before stepping back to rub her hands and pace.

"There's my good boy, good Octavio, son of Mercer, son of Samuel! Let me just get you the device, don't go away, don't go," she said, wagging a finger at him as she hopped down the corridor.

He was left standing at the door to his suite with cold caffeine and thawing apples, wondering just how he was going to make it past the Templars and what he would find inside .
Last edited by bobcorrigan on Thu May 23, 2013 7:07 pm, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Thu May 23, 2013 5:43 pm

The device the astropath pressed into his hands was, in both his professional and personal opinion, a huge disappointment. He had expected something grand, an artifact of cryptic xenos origin or perhaps some proscribed Mechanicus treasure. Anything but what he was handed.

"This? This is the device? This is what you want me to give to the Castellan?" he grumbled, holding it up and turning it in the rose-colored light of his sitting room as if it were a suspicious box of nails. Because in all truth, that is what it looked (and sounded) like - a rusted, sealed square of pitted ceramite with a stylized flame icon stenciled on the top, covered all over with flakes of chipped black wax and what appeared to be machine oil. It rattled as he turned it, something inside shifting and clattering from one side to the other.

Elsa Mannich nearly fell over her ramshackle self in her attempt to stop him from moving it around, clutching at his hands with gap-mouthed horror. "Damn your three eyes, be still! It's not to be trifled with! Bring it to him, make it close, it will do what it will do. The Conclave cannot pass without the Castellan! Can! Not! Once in place, my girls will know, we will know, and we will make fast the connection when called. Go!"

She tottered out of his suite, but not before turning twice to shake an urgent fist of either encouragement or warning in his direction. He let her go then sat down on his antique red floral divan, upsetting his cat; when he brought the device close to his lap the cat hissed spasmodically and shot off into the next room.

"That's what I think," he said. Not for the first time, he considered the merits of a new career as a merchant or dirt-farmer or perhaps a cook. Octavio lay back into the cushions and slowly ran through the five mantras of dimensional calm, hoping it would free his mind to discover some path to success. By the time he finished the third, the outlines of a plan had taken shape. At the end of the fifth, the outline had form, and he smiled knowingly.

It was an awful plan, an embarrassingly simple plan. It could work.
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Re: The Orientation of Tomas Annin

Postby bobcorrigan » Tue May 28, 2013 10:08 pm

Octavio stepped out of the lift into a churning mass of crewmen running to and from their posts. They pressed past him on all sides, their chattering chorus of clipped low Gothic and underhive cants echoing off of the bare walls as the ship's bell rang out dolefully from everywhere at once. Touched by a spasm of agoraphobia, he clutched his satchel bag to his chest and willed himself to calm. He was sure to succeed. Definitely sure.

Mostly sure.

Stepping gingerly through a fire door, he found himself in a large hangar dominated by a wall of black metal opposite him. Set in the middle of the wall underneath an ornate half-moon arch of white stone, a simple Templar cross at its apex, was a huge double blast door on massive geared rollers. The floor of the hanger itself was a ruin of scratches, scorch marks and las-blast craters, and what appeared to be a round lift in the center of the floor. Templar pennants hung about the vast chamber, some of them so old and faded they were barely recognizable, not that Octavio would know one from any other. The entire room had the feeling of a place of great ceremony, complete with the faint tang of incense and promethium and the echo of years.

These sights were all familiar to him, having visited the hangar once on his early explorations of the strange facility. Right now, he only had eyes for the two Templars standing sentry on either side of the portal.

He straightened himself to his full, unimpressive height, smoothed his purple robes, adjusted the black silken bandana he kept tied tightly across his forehead, and strode out across the floor directly towards them.

The sentries looked at each other, then stood to attention.

"My lords, gentlemen," Octavio said, nodding to each one. "Good day, good day indeed."

"Navigator," replied the sentry to the left. The one to the right shifted slightly, his bolter dipping ever-so-slightly in Octavio's direction.

"I am here on official business," Octavio continued, working hard to avoid looking at the blackness inside the muzzle of the massive weapon. "Very official. Ship's business. I must. . .I must be admitted to the Castellan."

The whir of tensing servos and autosense targeters snapping on filled the air, but neither sentry moved even the slightest amount.

Octavio pressed on, folding his hands across the golden sigil of his House emblazoned on the front of his robes. "As you are both no doubt very aware, I. . .your Navigator. . .guide the Verloren Hoop through the Void at the behest of the Castellan, keeping faith with my House's centuries of service to the Black Templars. Your Castellan, my master, he and he alone bears the authority to direct my eye, my most sensitive eye," he added, leaning forward for effect, "And as my seeing eye, that is, I, your Navigator, must communicate with the Castellan on the matter of our pending travel and its attendant navigatory activities, er, that is, I must see him. It. . .is. . .necessary," he intoned, using the deepest voice he could muster, rather pleased with himself.

Seconds passed.

He heard what he thought was a brief vox exchange between the two sentries. Perhaps he imagined it. His eyes flickered back and forth between the sentry before him and the bolt gun and was-he-tightening-his-grip-on-the-trigger-holy-emperor-

Then the floor trembled and ground rumbled and the gears began to turn and the doors began to slide apart. Orange light poured out into the hangar with the sounds of hammers and rivet guns and chanting. And heat. A wash of unbearable, unimaginable heat that stole Octavio's voice from his throat.

"I'll take him in," came a booming voice from just inside the doors. From out of the haze walked a Space Marine, assuredly a Space Marine, because that's the only sort of creature Octavio had ever seen of his height and musculature, but dressed in the plain garb of a smith, a battered brown leather apron over a dirty shirt and an impossibly large wrench resting on his shoulder.

"And who are you, little man?" he said, frowning, stepping directly in front of Octavio to look down at his head. The wrench on his shoulder moved fractionally.

"I am. . .am. . .I'm. . ." Octavio stammered, unconsciously stepping back as he wrapped his arms around his chest.

"Ship's navigator, yes, I know, I know, well met, Sir Well," he laughed, and he slapped Octavio on the arm, nearly spilling him onto the floor. "I'm Brother Julian. You're a lucky one, Navigator. But then your kind always are, right? Come. Let's reacquaint you and the Castellan."

He nodded at each of the guards, then turned to walk back into the orange furnace, motioning Octavio to follow.

"You are a brave one too, that's for sure as gold, Navigator," Brother Julian said with a smile. Octavio had never seen a Templar smile. For that matter, he had never seen a Templar face-to-face before.
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