"Captain Aramus, I am here on the orders of Blood Ravens Chapter Master and Chief Librarian Azariah Kyras. You have been accused of heresy. I intend to ascertain the validity of this accusation."
Aramus opened his eyes, his prayers interrupted. He was alone, somewhere within an Imperial outpost in the desert wastelands of planet Calderis. The robed figure of an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus stood before him, his face obscured beneath the hood of his dark cloak which seemed to blend with the shadows of the room. Aramus remained silent.
"You are Captain Aramus of the Blood Ravens Fourth Company, are you not?"
The Inquisitor drew nearer. "Let us start from the beginning. You were born on Meridian to wealthy parents?"
Aramus tried, but failed, to move. His entire body, save for his head, was immobilized. A weak stasis field chained his power armour to the spot. Aramus was trapped behind his own cage of ceramite. He had no choice but to play this Inquisitor's game.
Aramus followed the sounds of the Inquisitor's footsteps as he paced around him, in and out of his line of sight.
"And you fought valiantly on Prosperon, protecting one of the Emperor's holy seals from xenos. For your actions, you were awarded the title of Force Commander and transferred to the Blood Ravens Fourth Company, under Captain Davian Thule."
"Yes, you know this to be true."
The Inquisitor moved swiftly, bringing his mouth close to Aramus' right ear. "Of course, Captain Aramus, I know almost everything about you."
"Then you know that I serve the Emperor."
The Inquisitor roamed out of sight. "I know only that you served the Emperor. On Prospero, on Typhon… on Aurelia, you proved yourself the most loyal of subjects."
"But to whom? To whom are you loyal, Captain?"
"I am one of the Emperor's own Space Marines. You know where my loyalty lies."
"Do I?" the Inquisitor probed, "How do I not know you serve the traitor Captain Gabriel Angelos?"
Aramus bared his teeth. "Gabriel Angelos is no traitor."
The Inquisitor did not respond immediately, but his pacing halted momentarily. "You doubt the veracity of my words… of the words of your Chapter Master, who declared Captain Angelos a traitor and a heretic?"
"I am certain of my faith," he said, calmly, "Your crusade against heresy would be better directed towards the Omnis Arcanum, towards Kyras."
"You reflect blame towards your accuser: a tool of the guilty." The Inquisitor stepped back into sight, but faced away, refusing to reveal his face. "I know that you disobeyed a direct order from Master Kyras to leave Aurelia and to avoid confrontation with the Black Legion."
"No. I obeyed Captain Angelos' order to purge Aurelia of the Black Legion."
The Inquisitor turned suddenly, his voice rising. "So you willingly betrayed your Chapter Master alongside Captain Angelos. And in so doing, you corrupted yourself and your men. You followed Eliphas the Inheritor and the Black Legion into a trap he had set for you and your precious Angelos… you followed blindly and fell away from the light of the Emperor!"
"No, my brothers and I defeated the Black Legion. We bested Eliphas and imprisoned the daemon Ulkair. Kyras would have had us flee from our sworn enemy. He is your traitor."
The Inquisitor pondered this for a moment, his back visible in Aramus' limited view. "You are certain of your claim. How?"
"I have evidence."
"Evidence… what evidence?"
"My brothers and I recovered a dataslate on the space hulk Judgment of Carrion, once lost to the Warp. It contains irrefutable evidence that Kyras turned to Chaos long ago."
The Inquisitor twisted around abruptly. "Where is this dataslate?"
"It is hidden; safe from those who would seek its destruction."
"I must see it for myself. Where is it?"
"I cannot tell you. That dataslate is the only thing that gives legitimacy to my claims. If it were found, Kyras would have it destroyed."
The Inquisitor's fists clenched. He was growing impatient. "I am an Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus. If what you say is true, that evidence exists which proves Kyras to be a heretic, then I will direct the full wrath of the Inquisition towards him. But I must have this evidence."
Aramus considered this for only a short moment. "I will not trust anyone with the dataslate's location, not even an Inquisitor… especially an Inquisitor who refuses to give me his name."
"Enough!" the dark figure roared, "Where is it?"
Aramus said nothing.
Minutes passed as the Inquisitor paced. Finally, he ceased and from underneath his cloak, the Inquisitor revealed a small black cube. "Do you know what this is?"
He knew. It was the most feared weapon of the Inquisition, the excruciator. "Yes."
"Then you know its purpose. By bridging your nervous system this device can inflict pain like you have never known… not even a Space Marine's augmentations, training, or indoctrination can protect you."
Aramus smiled. "The Emperor protects."
The Inquisitor sneered. "Not from…" In the palm of his gloved hand, the box opened and a small sphere extended upwards. "This."
"I have answered all of your questions truthfully, Inquisitor, but I will not give you the dataslate. A Space Marine knows no fear. You cannot force me."
The Inquisitor cocked his head to the side. "Are you familiar with the nine actions, Captain?"
"The process by which an Inquisitor gleans information from a suspect? I have heard stories."
"Yes, I am sure you have. The nine actions are quite rigid. Perhaps they are too rigid to be applicable to one such as you. You see, I have only now reached the second action, the threatening of physical harm, and I fear things are progressing too slowly. Captain Apollo Diomedes is on his way here, right now. His arrival is imminent and his orders are to transport you – unharmed – to the Omnis Arcanum."
No member of the Ordo Hereticus would allow a Space Marine, even a Chapter Master, to claim jurisdiction over a suspected heretic, Aramus thought. "You wish to speed things along, then?"
"Exactly! Let us skip to action nine, shall we?"
The Inquisitor approached, bringing the excrutiator closer to Aramus' face. The device opened further, revealing thousands of miniscule fibers. The tendrils grew closer until, one by one, they lashed out at Aramus' face and implanted themselves deep within his skin.
Almost immediately, Aramus felt sharp pains in his chest. The pain spread everywhere, from his face to each of his fingers and toes. Aramus clenched his teeth; the Inquisitor had been right, not even the scything claws of a Tyranid Hive Tyrant sawing through one's flesh could create this sensation.
The Inquisitor snickered as Aramus' face twisted in agony. "I can make it all stop, Captain. Just tell me where you hid the dataslate."
Aramus remained silent. Every minute that passed served only to further enrage his torturer.
"Your resistance proves nothing! Where is the dataslate? Where is it? Where?" the Inquisitor bellowed.
Aramus willed himself to speak. "Knowledge… is… power…"
The Inquisitor roared, tearing the excrutiator's tendrils away from Aramus' face and smashing the dark box against the far wall.
When he recovered from his fury, the Inquisitor spoke again, slowly and deliberately. "If pain will not make you talk, Captain, then perhaps power will."
Without warning, lightning erupted from his hands and arced chaotically around the room before finding Aramus as its target.
Aramus could do nothing. His pain was gone, but the current flowing through his body threatened to stop both of his hearts or, worse, to cook him within his armour if maintained for long enough.
The Inquisitor halted his attack. "Tell me where the dataslate is or I will kill you."
Through the enhanced aural senses of his Lyman's Ear, Aramus could hear his interrogator's breathing: heavy and erratic. "Regardless of your light show, you are no trained psyker," he said.
The Inquisitor laughed maniacally. "Could one untrained do this?"
Lightning once again burned through the air to strike Aramus. Frozen in place, the Captain could only wait and pray.
After minutes, the Inquisitor let up once more. Aramus could smell the flesh within his armour burn. More importantly, he could hear his foe's low chants. "You may be right. You were trained."
This was met with more laughter.
Aramus continued, "You were trained, but not by the Imperium. I was mistaken before, too. If you want to root out heresy, you need not look so far as the Omnis Arcanum. You should look within yourself."
The Inquisitor was no longer laughing. "Very well," he said, as he pushed back his hood to reveal his face, a face which had gazed into the Eye of Terror and had embraced the Chaos seen within. Pale, twisted, and covered by ragged scars and still-oozing sores, this Inquisitor was a traitor to the God-Emperor and a sworn enemy of the Imperium of Man. "The ruse is up. I will take pleasure in killing you, Captain Aramus, just as my master, the great Eliphas the Inheritor, shall enjoy slowly draining the life from your cherished Angelos."
Aramus' Lyman's Ear detected what the traitorous Inquisitor, in his rage, could not: nearly silent footsteps coming ever closer. "You are insane, heretic."
"Sanity," he spat, "is for the weak!" Lightning arced between his hands.
Aramus heard a distinct sound over the crackling of the lightning. It was the sound of a finger closing around the trigger of an Astartes MK IIs Pattern Sniper Rifle. With a sudden low thump, the Inquisitor's impure head exploded in a shower of blood, gore, and brain matter. The lightning at his fingertips dissipated and the decapitated body fell to reveal a Space Marine wearing the ruddy light armour of a Blood Ravens Scout Sergeant.
"Cyrus," Aramus called out, "Not a moment too late, brother."
"The Emperor guides my hand, Captain," he replied, lowering his rifle. "And besides, this…" He kicked at the body of the Inquisitor. "…heretic… let me come too close."
"His arrogance was his undoing," Aramus said.
Cyrus nodded his head in agreement. "The House Vandis guardsmen who accompanied him died in much the same way."
Two troopers bearing the colors of the Meridian Planetary Defence Forces appeared behind Cyrus, wielding lasguns. Aramus gave a slight smile. "I see I have Governor Derosa to thank for that."
"Yes," Cyrus said, "but thanks will have to wait. You must leave the sector for now. Captain Diomedes' Thunderhawk is close. I will direct him here, so that he may see the evidence for himself."
Aramus looked from the dataslate clipped to the veteran scout's utility belt to the headless corpse of Eliphas' neophyte. "More evidence than we had expected."
Cyrus deactivated the stasis field, letting his battle brother free.
"We can only pray that Apollo Diomedes is the man you believe him to be," Aramus said as he stretched his arms, pleased to see his armour functioning normally.
Cyrus set his rifle against his shoulder. "Emperor willing, he is."