Old Friends Anew
By MrCJ (aka Guessmyname)
Blah blah blah I do not own Games Workshop or 40K blah blah copyrights and trademarks belong to their respective owners (obviously) blah blah legal jargon blah threatening of puppies blah...
She had us pinned. There wasn't a lot we could do.
Tranden was trapped and, for probably the first time in her life apart from when she was born, weaponless: her guns now floated in front of her in various states of disassembly, and -because if anything could thoroughly piss her off, it would be doing just that- she'd had to gag her too. Not using a rag of course. That would be much too low for her. Tranden could only glare at her, her voicebox refusing to it's job just like her arms.
I, meanwhile, was equally trapped. She'd slammed be through a window. Twice. It hurt. Thankfully, body armour is useful against more than just autogun rounds, and as an Inquisitor, where would I be if I couldn't ignore a few shards of glass burrowing into the joints of my spine?
Oh, yeah, pinned against a wall by invisible forces and looking down on a smirking psyker. Oh well.
"You can't win." The grinning psyker-girl said in an utterly flat monotone despite her expression. "I am in control here. Lucias will deal with you shortly."
My bolt pistol is prodding me in the side of the head barrel first. My powersword (deactivated, thankfully) is jabbing me in the side. The glass shards from the Grand Cathedral Imperialis' stained glass windows are starting to penetrate the flak vest I'm wearing under my Imperial Navy flightjacket. I've had enough of this.
Before we ended up in this precarious little position, we – Tranden and I – had been paying our respects. Not here, in the Grand Cathedral, but in a smaller shrine further down Principa Major's web of spires and hab-blocks. We'd been working undercover: Tranden had been posing as an arms dealer, naturally, and I as her pilot, hence the jacket. Then most of the main spire spontaneously set itself on fire and the burning body of an Imperialist monk landed on our weapons cart, setting off one of the melta bombs. Things went downhill from there.
Now, we were stuck in the Grand Cathedral itself, surrounded by dead monks dressed in black rather than white because they're on fire and fire does that to things, whilst a creepy grinning psyker-girl who's around 12 and has metal studs poking out from under her hair is floating us through shards of glass to pass the time until someone infinitely worse shows up.
On the plus side, we were actually here for Ser Lucias in the first place. We just never really thought to look for him in one of the most warded, sacred, holy places bar most of Terra this side of the galaxy. I guess things balance out in the end.
The psyker-girl finally tired of breaking off the Emperor's heads from the stained glass dioramas and stabbing me in the back with them out of a perverse sense of irony and floated back down to the Cathedral floor. She didn't let her feet touch the floor of course: such a thing would (often literally) be below her, so she just floated over the cracked and bubbling flagstones.
I hate warpfire, I think idly. It's always green and no-one knows why.
"We have the Cathedral." The girl continued in the same flat tone whilst her face and mouth looked utterly delighted, like a child receiving her first toy Leman Russ from a doting parent.
"We will perform the ritual." She said. "We will bind them and destroy them. The daemons of St. Arcutta cannot interfere."
I have no idea what's she's babbling about. I don't really care.
"The warp will be shut. The galaxy shall be reborn."
What matters is that she's a psyker, she's powerful and most importantly she's not siding with us.
"Chaos will die. The Hive Mind will burn. The Eldar will wail."
The only cure for her is a bullet in the brain. Preferably one travelling at speed and about to explode.
"And Ser Lucias and I shall be reborn, as" +GODS!+
That last word got my attention by virtue of her bluntly forcing it into my brain –and probably Tranden's too judging from her expression- rather than using her vocal chords like a normal person. Now my brain hurts. Thanks for that.
"You could help us, you know." The girl has stopped floating forwards. Instead, she's invading my personal space by floating a few millimetres away from my nose. She needs to practise that smile of hers more: she can't control her own drooling. Now I'm getting spittle on this jacket along with my own blood. The friend I borrowed it off is going to kill me.
Then again, so is she, so he'll probably never get the chance. Gotta find the bright sides, right?
"You could help us." The girl repeats, smiling like a woman on the alter with someone rich, handsome and high up in life. Shame her eyes and tone aren't matching up with it. She'd be pretty in a 'cute kid' sort of way otherwise, with her scraggly black hair framing her face. Shame about the studs in her head. Absentmindedly, I wonder what they're for.
"Help us destroy the warp. Help us benefit humanity and toss our foes into turmoil! Chaos would simply disappear!".
She still said that in monotone, by the way. I'm just picking up her emotions because, well, she's a psyker. Kind of hard not to.
Now, I'm not too stupid to not pay attention to the ramblings of crazy people. After all, everyone in this crapsack galaxy is crazy: shutting them out would be equally insane, so why not embrace it and run with it as far as you can? I'm no radical though. I just think it helps.
Everyone has a reason, even warp-addled lunatics. Those reasons might not make sense, of course, but they're there. Find them, and you might be able to figure out what they'll do next.
Besides, the idea of a warp-fuelled psyker about ten times younger than me wanting to destroy the warp does intrigue me a bit. They usually go power mad by now and try to kill everyone who ever hurt them. Especially if they grew up in an orphanage.
Still, I can come up with a few reasons why this would go in the bad idea category that a little girl could be forgiven for not knowing.
"What about the Necrons? The Orks? They'd benefit, if nothing else." I reply calmly. Not 'creepy-monotone' calmly, just… calmly.
"Who cares?" The girl retorts, slobbering unknowingly onto my borrowed flight badges. "We'd knock out almost all our foes in a single blow! We could easily crush what remains now that the majority of our forces were free to join the fray."
"And what of the Emperor? What of the Light of the Astronomican? What of the astropaths and warpflight? You'd cut humanity off from humanity."
The girl blinks, surprised that I even raised the point. "It doesn't matter. The Emperor is long since dead on his ironic throne anyway. Humanity is all that matters."
And this is what separates me from her, asides from gender, age and five millimetres. She has no care for the Emperor of Man, even if she isn't a chaotic little warpspawn. I do. Sure he's probably got enough troubles without trying to watch over little old me, but he is still holding us all together and he is still fighting. Gotta thank him for that, surely?
Someone knocks on the door to the chapel, the one that didn't break in half when psyker-girl threw Tranden through them to keep her from shoving an psyk-out grenade down her throat. Incidentally, that grenade is now resting under a statue of St. Amber the Eternal. I think psyker-girl is keeping it from going off.
Someone knocks again. Doesn't he realise the door is on fire?
Psyker-girl grins. Finally, I hear a trace of emotion creep into her voice, whilst paradoxically her face begins to go flat and lifeless. "Lord Lucias is here." She's pleased. I don't need her emotional backwash to tell that. Even Tranden can spot it.
"Enter, my Lord!" the girl says gleefully with a face of stone.
The door tries to open majestically, fails, and crumbles into ash instead. Well, it was on fire. A man, a very, very tall man with white hair trailing behind him along the floor walks in. The flames part to let him pass as the girl drifts back out of my personal space to greet him without a smile.
The elfin-like man smiles back. He would actually look like an Eldar if it weren't for the ornate brass armour. It's one of the reasons I have a perfectly rational urge to kill him so much.
+Thank you, milady.+ he replies, with a polite bow. Then he turns to me.
+Ah, my good Inquisitor!+
"Use your voice you avant-garde prick." I spit at him. It doesn't reach him though. It just vaporises in mid-air. The man just smiles.
"I forgot that always annoyed you, old friend."
No you didn't. You do the same thing every time we have the misfortune to meet. And don't call me your friend. The various times I've tried to kill you pretty much scratches me off that list. The man just smiles some more.
"I hope you haven't forgotten me."
How could I?
"I am Lord-"
"Ser." I interrupt suddenly.
"Lord Lucias." He finishes, irritated. It shows in how the girl flinches slightly and one of the conflagrating monks spontaneously explodes. I love pissing this bastard off. He knows it too. It's probably why he has an irrational urge to kill me so much.
"Nice doll." I say with a knowing smile. The girl flinches again.
"Same to you." Lucias retorts, looking at Tranden. Tranden spits. It evaporates.
"Still making up nonsense titles for yourself to fuel an illusion of grandeur?" I ask innocently.
"Still serving a totalitarian pile of horseshit for a boss?"
"Totalitarian horsehit beats pointy ears any day."
Lucias's pointy elfin face turns various shades of colour before finally settling on red.
"I am NOT an Eldar!" he bellows. I love pressing that button.
The girl slams me through a window showing Rogal Dorn punch a Bloodthirster in the face. I like pressing that button a bit less. Also, I start coughing up blood. Lucias speaks a word and the girl reels me back into place. Tranden looks even more pissed. Is that girl ever not angry?
"LOOK AT ME!" Lucias bellows again, fist outstretched and waggling below my nose. "I AM HUMAN! HUMAN IS ALL THAT MATTERS!"
"Tell that to your psyker doll." I retort with a wry smile. I made the bastard angry: I deserve a smile. "I noticed the cat eyes." I add, my smile broadening.
The girl flinches again. For once, her face matches her voice as she growls, yellow eyes glinting under the coloured contacts Tranden knocked out of place whilst ramming a grenade down her throat.
"Ignore him, milady!" Lucias barks, trying to sound gentle. He sucks at it. "He's just provoking you!" A ironically catlike smile spreads across his pointy face. "It's all he ever manages to do."
Now it's my turn to burst out a long stream of expletives. Psyker-girl gags my throat with a wave of her hand. Lucias looks pleased. I guess he knows my buttons too. We've been doing this too long.
Lucias smiles once at me, and bows at each of us. Tranden tries to spit again.
+Good day, Inquisitor.+ he blunts, smirking. +I'd say 'See you in Hell!', but very shortly, there won't be one. So good day.+
He bows again, looked at psyker-girl and mind-speaks to her for a few moments before leaving the same way he came in. The girl sighs passionately as he leaves. There's longing in her eyes. I have a sudden idea.
"Did you know he's a psyker too?" I ask suddenly. The girl looks up, surprised.
"Yes." She replies, back in the old monotone as a perfect visage of confusion passes over her face. +He did just mindspeak just know, you know+ she points out, bluntly.
"Prrth." I respond. "Any psyker capable of hearing voices in his head can do that." I pause. "Can you hear them?"
"The voices! You're connected to the warp aren't you?" I blurt exasperatedly.
The girl smirks. She fell for it. "Nope." She responds. I can feel waves of giddiness bleed off her as her psyker-brain shits it out into the surroundings rather than to her vocal chords. "Not anymore. He fixed me." She taps one of the studs set into her skull. I understand. Or rather, I confirm my earlier theory. This is going well.
"He shut them out?"
"I see…" I pause, and attempt a pose of dramatic contemplation whilst my arms are pinned outwards at ninety degree angles. The girl falls for it, again.
"What?" She asks, her face a picture of innocence and her voice drier than gravel.
"…are you sure he hasn't snuck in anything else along the way?" I ask slowly.
The girl flinches. "I don't know what you mean!". She's lying.
"Can you tell if I'm lying?" I ask suddenly.
"Can I… what?"
"Tell if I'm lying? Right here? Right now?" She can't obviously, otherwise she wouldn't have fallen for it. But she doesn't know this, and I can build on it…
"I… I…" her confusion spills out from her and makes the irritatingly green warpfire flicker. Tranden's weapons bob slightly infront of her. Tranden catches on.
"I.. I can't!" The girl blurts, her voice and face suddenly switching back into synch. She looks at me in sudden fear. Maybe she suspects I'm another warp-freak or something.
For the curious, I'm just that good a liar. It's why no-one ever plays cards with me. I drive our astropaths nuts. All you have to do is think about something else. Tranden's struggling against her invisible bonds and thus doing interesting things to her bodyglove was providing ample distraction. I focus back on the psyker-girl.
"Well I guess that makes sense, don't it?" I respond dejectedly.
"I… it does?" The girl asks, uncertain and beginning to cry. She is only 12 after all.
"Something in those implants of yours is shutting down your truth detectors." I say simply, calmly. I need her to hear and understand every word. She even turns the warpfire down to hear me better. I've baited her in. "You know why, don't you?" I ask, looking her in her catlike eyes. "If you can't tell when someone's lying to you-"
"STOP IT!" The girls half shouts, half sobs as the Cathedral rattles in sympathy and the warpfire around the walls reaches the ceiling, though thankfully not us.
On some level, I think the girl knows Lucias is using her for whatever insane scheme he's come up with this time. But, she's only 12, and what do all 12 year-olds, female or no, want? If you asked, they'd probably say something like 'Toys!' or 'Food!', but where do such things stem from? Love and attention. Parents. A 12 year old psyker with cateyes would probably be abandoned at birth. So, in her desperate want and need, she suppresses this knowledge and pretends Lucias loves her. I've seen it before.
The knowledge doesn't go away though. It stays there, like a wiggling splinter in the back of her mind. I'm drawing it out into the open. It hurts.
"You heard him, didn't you?" I ask, sympathetically. The girl flinches, hard, nearly loosing her airborne footing. The little girl beneath the crazy psyker begins to emerge.
"'Human is all that matters.'" I say, echoing Lucias. Then I start adding my own. "Pure, pure human…"
The girl begins to shake. Then she begins to cry. "He's certainly got you wrapped around his finger…" I say, speaking in a slow, depressing tone dripping with inevitability. I'm pumping the waterworks.
It's working. The warpfire is dying down. My powersword has stopped poking me and the glass shards with the Emperor's face on them have stopped burrowing into my back. I feel my psychic restraints begin to weaken.
Then, at about the same time as the girl, they break down entirely. I land on my feet. Tranden lands on her head but manages not to curse and remind the girl that she still exists and still wants to kill her.
Psyker-girl hasn't quite stopped yet though. Warpfire is still eating the altar. One of the monks is still spinning. Tranden's guns are still floating. I can rectify that. I walk over to her, quietly, comfortingly, put a hand on her shoulder and crouch down beside her. She cuddles up like the child she is, reaching desperately for protection. It's probably what lead her to Lucias. If only the Black Ships had gotten there first…
I lean down a little further and stroke her head, my fingers bouncing off the bumpy studs. I can feel the grease and dirt through my flight gloves.
I whisper something in her ear.
The girl freezes. Stops entirely. Frozen in shock, her entire brain focusing on those few words at the expense of everything else. The warpfire just stops, like it wasn't even there. The monk goes splat on the floor and is finally left to rest.
She's focusing. She's not paying attention to anything else.
Like how the rest of Tranden's guns clatter to the floor. How one of them lands in her hand.
How the Psyk-Out grenade beneath St. Amber's watchful eye beeps.
After the flash recedes, I discover I am now covered head to toe in steaming blood. My flying buddy really is going to kill me.
We find Lucias outside. He has his arms outstretched, standing on the main steps overlooking the entirety of Principa Major, like he's trying to embrace the world.
Incidentally, most of that world that we can see is now on fire. It's green fire too. See why I hate him now?
Tranden shoots him in the back of the head with an autogun. It doesn't work.
Lucias turns around, surprised. 'Milady, wha-'
He sees Tranden. Looks surprised. He sees me. Looks angry.
+What are you fools DOING?!+ He screams mentally. Tranden buckles, her ears beginning to bleed. I turn on my powersword, grip it with both hands, feel the resonant hum of power. Feel ready to dance the deadly dance once again.
+WHERE IS SEL!?+
I have no idea who that is, I think back.
+WHERE IS SHE?!+
The image of a young girl with black hair and studs in her head forces its way to front of my brain. I understand, and tug at my blood-soaked flight jacket. Lucias understands, and tugs out a golden chainsword. He advances slowly, furiously, like he's going to enjoy what's about to happen.
Then Tranden shoots him with a plasma gun and takes off his lower leg. I love that woman.
Lucias screams. Tranden fires again, using my boltpistol, and sends the chainsword spinning away, broken in half. I walk over and place a slick boot on his chest, watching as the blood spills through all the channels in the wrought gold metal.
It's not gold plated titanium armour, it's actual gold. Lucias really is that stupid. I tell him as much and he spits at my face. It doesn't work because I just move my head to one side and let the little glob arc onto the floor with a splat.
"You dumb bastard!" Lucias gasps as bright red blood, the sort you get out from veins and major arteries, pours out of his stump of a leg. "We could have destroyed the warp! Destroyed Chaos!"
I look at his face, contorted with pain and realise he's actually being sincere. How this idiot managed to become an Inquisitor, I will never know. How he wandered off into radicalism I probably won't know either. What I do know is that he is most definitely an idiot.
"Do that and humanity falls." I state simply. Simple words for simple people. Well, actually simple words because I know less blood is going to his brain and thinking will be getting harder. "You'd kill the Emperor. You'd strand the entire Navy. Imperial rule would collapse."
"Humanity would have prevailed!" He chokes.
"I doubt that." I say bluntly, thinking of all the warlords and succeedists I've had to put down over the decades, along most members of the Ecclesiarchy. "Besides, how could two-bit nonce like you destroy the warp?"
Lucias gurgled, and managed a smile. Not one of those cocky 'I'm smiling because you're going to be in a lot of pain very soon' ones we'd been exchanging before. A warm one. A fond one, thinking back at the past and in no way directed at me.
"Sel." He says, simply. Simple is all he can manage. "Sel. Strong girl. Mentally strong… Blocked her off from the daemons. Brought her here, most sacred place we could… sacrifices work for all rituals, not just unholy ones… could have destroyed them… "
I actually let out a slight smile. Sure I hate the bastard's guts and because he's a useless smarmy ponce, but you have to admire the balls of his plans. Before you toss a wrench in them for being utterly misguided. And he did have humanity's best interests at heart, I suppose.
I decide to show mercy. We have known one another for a while after all, even if through opposing gunsights. I take my bolt pistol from Tranden and point it at his head.
"You're going to… shoot me?" He croaks.
I nod. "If the Ecclesiarchy gets hold of you," -and looking at the Cathedral, they most certainly will- "you won't be dying quickly. This is the best thing I can do for you."
"You could…" gasp, "let me go."
"Lucias, you just set a city with a population of millions on fire. You aren't going anywhere."
Lucias grunts. "I thought as much." He manages, before he passes out and falls slowly back to the flagstones. I pull the trigger.
Tranden and I stood there for a while. Partly out of respect, partly to make sure he is most definitely dead. Sure most people stay down when you detonate their heads, but as an Inquisitor, I don't tend to deal with 'most people' so it pays to be cautious.
I sigh, and stagger back, wincing at the wounds in my back. I need a medicae, a laundrette and a very long shower.
Then, because I have the Worst Luck Ever, the cavalry we called in when the spire first caught light finally arrives. Picture this: a man with a glowing, cackly sword drenched completely in blood is standing over a dead Inquisitor, smoking bolt-pistol in his red, red hands. Now picture this: Two Vulture Gunships filled with angry Stormtroopers in black carapace armour and a lot of hellguns.
I hate my life.
This one-shot came out of nowhere. No really. I was reading the pokemon special manga (of all things) when the idea came along, and I just started writing. This is the result. Snazzy isn't it?
This fic was a bit of an experiment for me: asides from writing in the first person (I normally work in the third, though Flipswitch is going a long way to change this) and the style, especially the sardonic narrator, is heavily inspired by Midnight Cereal's own one-shot from nowhere, "One Out of Two Ain't Bad" for Dungeons and Dragons (which, by the way, is awesome and you should all read it. Along with everything else that literary genius has written). I'm not sure where the present tense thing came from, it just did and seemed to work so I ran with it.
Enjoy! - MrCJ / GMN