By the Emperor I am so scared right now…

The fallen sergeant's sword is in my trembling hands, and the two xenos are facing me down now.

The larger of the two steps forward. His suit of powered armor whines as he brings the broken fusion gun up like a club. Behind him the other xeno grasps his golden staff in two hands.

I steady the sword with both hands.

He makes the first move.

The jetpacks on his back propel him forward towards me, and he tries to bash my head with the gun.

I barely dodge in time, and thrust the sword into him.

His suit deflects the blow from his stomach into his shoulder.

Blue blood splashes onto me as he yells in pain.

He swings his arm up and cracks me in the head.

The blow knocks my helmet off and I retaliate by pulling the sword from him, and bringing it over my head and down onto his.

His helmet deflects the blow again, but it does him no good. His head hang by the seals on his helmet.

His body thumps to the ground and I look at the other xeno.

His face is calm… Understanding…

He drops the staff and falls to his knees.

"It is okay Gue'la," he says to me "You have won, and now my life is yours,"

He bows his head in silence.

Waiting… For a blow that won't come…

The whining of Valkyrie turbines causes me to drop the sword and clutch me ears in pain. I turn my head and watch reinforcements slide down zip lines and train their weapons on the Ethereal.

They are bearded and bulky…


They came to aid in our counterattack a month ago. A squad of them fought with us as we took this last city. One died with me after he disabled the Tau leader's gun-arm…

The troopers circle around the Tau and keep their lasguns pointed at him.

He looks up at me…

I expect anger… Despair… Something…

He smiles and nods… Understanding…

A tear runs down my dirt-caked face as I turn away from him and board a now landed Valkyrie.

Emperor save me…

I sleep on the flight back to the mustering field. The pilot wakes me and I gather my kit before stepping onto the muddy ground. Before I can think I am assaulted by troopers. They are all in a cheerful fit about the last battle. I killed the Tau leader and captured the Ethereal. Apparently, the Ethereal is instrumental in pushing the xenos off the planet. Troopers are hailing me as the "Hero of Irra". I'm too tired to smile or even to respond. A sergeant pushes his way towards me and orders me to report to the command center. I can only nod as I turn to walk away.

I stumble into the warehouse that has been repurposed as battlefield HQ and again I am assaulted by officers this time. A lot of them offer pats on the back and approving looks. Again, I am too tired to verbally respond, but manage a smile and salute for them all.

"Private Halcyon?" a voice asks.

I turn to see who is asking for me.

The voice originates from a young adept carrying a data-slate. He wears traditional robes, and he smells like ink. Unsurprising really, you rarely meet an adept that doesn't REEK of ink or parchment.

I nod toward him. He smiles. A big goofy ass grin that would have me rolling was I rested.

"I need you to come with me," he says.

I shuffle after him as he works his way deeper into the building. He leads me into a room a few floors underground. In the room are my two worst fears: my grandfather and an Inquisitor. Reflexively I snap to attention and give a sharp salute. My grandfather waves his hand at me and clasps his hands behind his back.

"You are the "Hero of Irra"?" The Inquisitor asks.

I nod.

"Don't be afraid to speak boy," he says to me.

"That is the title they have given me," I say "I was just doing my job sir,"

The Inquisitor laughs. It's deep and loud in the small room.

"I find myself in need of a hero," he says to me.

"May I ask what for sir?" I say back.

"For anything and everything I want," he replies.

"And I'm the one you want?" I say.

He simply nods.

Emperor save me…