"You're in my chair"
The bar went deadly still. The voice hadn't been particularly loud, but it still drew the attention of every one of the men and women in the room. Every head turned to look at the speaker, as though under the grip of some magnetic force. The nearest drinkers picked themselves up and moved away, not even the most inebriated of them making the slightest sound. The bouncers, standing up against the walls, let their hands drift close to their weapons. They wouldn't get involved though. They weren't paid nearly enough to involve themselves in this sort of trouble, and from the wary look on his face the bartender knew it.
The only people who didn't react to the announcement were the two men being addressed. They were an odd pair, but up until this moment they hadn't drawn more than cursory attention. Now though, every facet of their appearance was scrutinised in intense detail. They were both wearing relatively nice clothes, dignified outfits that spoke of understated wealth. Only the fair-haired one seemed to be armed, a gleaming pistol sticking out of a holster on his waist. The other, a pale-skinned man with hair that was starting to grey around the temples, looked totally unarmed, but there was still something about him that incited a sense of profound wariness in everyone who looked at him. Still, that was nothing compared to the man that was looming over them at the moment.
His name was Vincent Charon, and virtually everyone in this bar knew him on sight. It was common knowledge that he ran the vast majority of the organised crime that occurred throughout the city, and that he had a significant involvement in the rest of the planet as well. He was obscenely rich, almost as wealthy as the governor himself, and he had contacts in every level of the planetary infrastructure. People who displeased him didn't tend to last very long, either disappearing from their homes in the middle of the night or bleeding to death at his feet. Several bodyguards were hovering nearby, but it was common knowledge that they were more for show than any actual protection. Charon was reputedly one of the best swordsmen in the sector, and he liked to dispatch his enemies personally with the gleaming blade that was holstered at his side. You didn't annoy Vincent Charon, every fool knew that.
Except, apparently, the two men that he was now addressing. The fair-haired one tilted his head back slowly and met the icy gaze of the mobster without the slightest trace of fear. His voice was smooth and cultured, with a distinct accent that no one present had ever heard of before.
"Really? Well, I can see why you like it. I certainly do. It has a nice view of the stage which, I might add, you are currently blocking. Would you please move aside?"
Everyone froze. If the two men had gotten up and left, then they might have gotten away with their lives intact. They were obviously off-worlders, come to one of the most exclusive establishments on Eris to spend some money and enjoy themselves. Their ignorance could have been forgiven, assuming that Charon was in a good mood, but there was no chance of that now. You didn't face down Vincent Charon and live, it was as simple as that. The mobster would have to make an example of the pair now, and many of the present customers knew that they had no desire to see such a thing. A few of them slipped out of the door and went home; not wanting to see what they knew was going to come next.
Charon smiled tightly, but his eyes were still cold and hard. He was not used to being treated with genuine indifference, and he found that he did not like the sensation very much. "Friend, you are clearly new around here. In light of that, I think I'll give you one more chance." He looked between the fair-haired man and his companion, who had yet to even look up from his drink. "Move."
The blond man smiled, revealing teeth that were perfectly straight and white. "You know, I really don't think that I want to. There are plenty of other seats, why not take one of them."
"Very well. I did try to warn you." Charon said, drawing his sword. It caught the light as he raised it high, and then swung it directly at the smiling man in front of him. There was a sudden ringing noise. Charon blinked and looked around. The other man, the quiet one, was now standing up beside him. There was a blade in his hand, long and slender, and it was blocking the gangster's own sword. None of the patrons had seen him move, much less draw a weapon and parry a killing strike that had been aimed at his companion.
The Blond man nodded to himself and spoke a single sentence, almost under his breath. "Non-lethal please, Tzu."
With blurring speed, the grey-haired man stepped forwards and smashed one hand into the side of Charon's neck. The gangster staggered backwards in shock, choking and clutching at his throat, his sword forgotten on the ground. Without pausing, Tzu spun on one leg and launched himself at the stunned bodyguards. The entire bar exploded into pandemonium, patrons running for the doors as fast as they could as the silent man went into action. The first guard, a good foot taller than and almost twice as heavy as his assailant, collapsed to the floor, the fingers of his right hand severed by the flickering blade. The second suddenly found his expensive suit ruined by his own blood as the sword slashed backwards and left a long cut down the front of his chest.
The third man tried to attack, making a wild swing with a heavy cosh that he'd drawn from inside his jacket. The blow missed, his foe dodging with inhuman speed. He didn't get a chance to try again as Tzu broke his arm in two places with a pair of swift strikes. The fourth drew a chrome pistol, but before he could fire it the blond man drew his own weapon and shot him once through the kneecap. The last two men fell with a second of each other as Tzu swung his sword around and neatly sliced through their legs. They collapsed, screaming and bleeding, as their attacker straightened up and spun around. He found himself staring into the barrels of half a dozen riot shotguns. Apparently, the enforcers on this world never went around unarmed, even when they were supposed to be off-duty and having a quiet drink.
"Drop the weapons! Now!" The head lawman demanded, keeping his shotgun trained on the lethally quick killer in front of him. Tzu glanced at his companion, noting with some amusement that only one of the eight shotguns was aimed at the one with the gun. With a soft smile, Cyd nodded at Tzu and placed his pistol on the table. Tzu nodded back and dropped his sword, letting it fall to the ground with a clatter. He didn't need it anyway.
Spluttering, Charon hauled himself to his feet and dusted himself off. There was a murderous look in his eyes as he addressed the lawman. "I would very much appreciate it if these fools were severely punished for their crimes, officer. In fact, I would be willing to make a substantial donation to your retirement fund if they didn't live to regret this incident."
The lawman nodded, smiling coldly. "As you wish, sir." He racked his shotgun.
"Now wait just a minute..." Cyd began to say, before the lawmen fired and the world disappeared in a flash of light.
"Do you have a name?"
Tzu opened his eyes. For a brief moment he was disorientated, but then his training kicked in and he began automatically assessing the situation. He was still alive; therefore the enforcers in the bar had to have used non-lethal ammunition. But they had obviously been in the pay of that local gangster, who would have been more than happy to see him and Cyd shot through the head. Therefore, they had some value alive. The most likely assumption was that they were going to have an example made of them. They'd snubbed the gangster, and the only way for him to save face would be for him to have them killed in an extremely public fashion.
"Several. Generally, I tend to go by Cyd Taeron. How are you doing?"
The voices barely registered, automatically noted and filed away by his mind as it efficiently analysed the surroundings. He was tied to a chair, each arm secured by at least four sets of police cuffs. There was a pair on each of his legs as well, keeping them affixed to the chair. Apparently the enforcers weren't taking any chances. The room that they were in was a cube of bare rockcrete, the only distinguishing features being three metal chairs. Cyd was tied to one of the others in a similar manner, and in the third was a hard-faced man in the blue uniform of the local law enforcers.
"I ask the questions here." He said, glaring at the restrained prisoner in front of him. "Now, at the insistence of certain... concerned citizens, we traced your movements over the last few days. We know that you arrived in the city by way of land-train from Vask city to the southeast, and that once you arrived you went straight to that establishment. What we don't know is how you got onto that train, since there is no record of you boarding and the train didn't stop between the two stations. Care to explain?"
Cyd leaned backwards, as much as he was able to do with all of the manacles attached to his limbs, and smiled at the enforcer. "We teleported in from an orbiting starship. It was rather uncomfortable, but better than leaving one of our shuttles somewhere."
The enforcer stood up, his face creased into an angry frown. "Let me explain something to you. You and your accomplice are going to die within the next twenty four hours. Currently, the plan is to have you both electrocuted, cooked slowly on a grid. Your only way of avoiding that, and getting something approaching a dignified end, is by telling me everything there is to know about you. Your choice."
Cyd was still smiling, although it had become a little forced now. "You make a compelling case, officer. I won't tell you everything about myself, because that would take a lot longer than twenty four hours and you likely wouldn't believe it if I did. So, I'll tell you about my companion here. His name, or at least the one that I refer to him by, is Tzu Shan. I have no idea how old he is, what his actual name might be or even what his original appearance was."
The officer was looking at Tzu in curiosity now, studying his motionless form. He'd read the reports, of course, the first-hand accounts of the arresting officers, but he found himself hard-pressed to believe them. The prisoner looked like a dignified civilian of middle age, scarcely more dangerous than any of the millions like him that inhabited any Imperial world. And yet, according to the accounts, this man had taken on and beaten seven large and well-trained men inside of ten seconds. It was a mystery, and he paid a bit more attention to what the blond prisoner was saying.
"In any event, he's been working with me and my associates for several years now, and I'm fairly sure that he is perhaps the most dangerous person on this planet at the moment." He paused, and smirked slightly. "That is apart from me, of course. In return for his services, I've been teaching him how to live like a normal human being. It hasn't been easy. Apparently, the Imperium doesn't feel that its assassins need a true personality, so they mind-scrubbed him and turned him into a spectacularly lethal machine."
The officer sighed and stood up. "You know, you had me going for a while there. I actually thought that you were going to give me some useful information, rather than feed me more fantasy stories. It seems that I was wrong. See you on the execution rack."
Cyd frowned slightly. "Why officer, you wound me. Whatever gave you the impression that I was not telling the truth?"
"Because if he was an Imperial Assassin, he wouldn't be sitting tied to that chair right now."
Cyd nodded sagely, pleased at the observation. "He wouldn't, would he? Unless, of course, he'd already untied his bonds whilst I was distracting you with meaningless chatter. Tzu?"
The assassin leapt up out of the chair, the manacles shattering into pieces and falling from his arms. He'd only managed to untie the ones closest to his hands, and even that had required him to dislocate several joints, but it was enough. An Imperial Assassin was far more than just a well-trained individual. Over the years Tzu had been surgically altered and upgraded by the Temple's technicians, until he could break such flimsy bonds with a swift tug.
Before the law officer had a chance to appreciate the full magnitude of the situation, Tzu was upon him, punching one fist into the soft flesh of his throat. He'd done much the same when confronting Charon in the bar, but then he'd been under orders to use non-lethal methods. Now he was under no such constraint, and as a result the punch crushed the target's trachea and broke his spine. The officer collapsed twitching to the floor of the cell, and Tzu turned back to his companion. Swiftly he removed the metal bindings, until Cyd was free.
"Remind me to have Darvius killed, will you? I'm sure there had to be a way to do this without getting ourselves arrested."
Tzu considered the request. "5000 credits and you'll have his head by morning." He paused, noting that Cyd was staring at him in shock. "That was a joke," he clarified, "I have noticed that it seems to be a typical response when you are facing a dangerous situation."
Cyd shook his head in wonder. Tzu is telling jokes now? Oh, Darvius is going to skin me alive.
The bridge of the Saviour was relatively quiet, the only sound being the slow, measured breaths of the four figures occupying it. Only two or three of them really needed to be there, but it was common for members of the group to converge in this location whenever their comrades were on a mission. The Watchman in particular could always be found here at such times, studying the tactical readouts projected in the air above the bridge. Once, long ago, he had been the Imperial Inquisitor Darvius, scourge of heretic, xeno and daemon alike. Now he was an abomination, a human soul trapped in the body of a genestealer by the technology of his deceased masters. The unnatural fusion often caused him crippling pain, but he'd learnt to live with it.
"Shouldn't they have reported in by now?"
The Watchman looked over at Tio, his violet eyes shining in the gloom. The Tau was the group's medic, and she had saved each of their lives many times over. Well, except for Cyd, of course. As a result she was easily the most caring of the Saviours, and often the first to worry whenever anything seemed to be going wrong. Of course, that was only one side of her story. Darvius knew that she could be as fearless as any of them when needed, and he'd personally seen her display a ruthless professionalism that put others to shame. The razor-sharp claw on her third arm didn't hurt either. He had no idea how she'd acquired the graft, or where she'd learned to remain unaffected by the worst horrors of her profession, but he wasn't about to ask. Tio had earned her privacy.
"I'm sure they're fine. Tzu has got to be far more dangerous than anything down there, and Cyd... well, Cyd is Cyd."
That was Tax, the mutated human that Tio had brought along with her. He wasn't particularly smart or deadly, but he had a sense of selfless loyalty that you couldn't help but respect. He seemed to have taken it as some sort of life-mission to follow Tio around and protect her while she cared for her wounded comrades. He'd also turned out to be a mean shot with a wide variety of firearms, which was also an asset.
Darvius was about to reply when Hobern, their Vespid pilot, began feverishly tapping away at his control panel. He made several shrill chirping noises, and a moment later the archaic communication helm that he wore translated them into Gothic.
"There's a transmission coming in from the surface. It's Cyd."
The vox system crackled into life and Cyd's smooth voice filled the bridge.
"Cyd to Saviour, mission accomplished. We've retrieved the data. I sure hope that it's worth it."
The Watchman stepped forwards, even though the vox would pick up his voice from any point on the bridge. When he spoke, his voice was rough and bestial, like a controlled growl.
"Acknowledged, Cyd. Do you require extraction?"
"That would be wonderful, Darvius" Cyd said, before pausing. There was the sound of several shotgun blasts in the background, which cut off with a pained grunt. "We appear to have annoyed the locals somewhat."
'Annoyed' was something of an understatement. It hadn't taken long for the enforcers to discover that the two prisoners had somehow escaped from maximum security, killing their interrogator on the way, and when they did they immediately alerted the whole building. Vincent Charon had expressed a personal interest in seeing these two men dead, and he would not be best pleased if they slipped the net.
Tzu leapt at the enforcer team coming down the staircase, wielding a stun-baton that he'd taken off of the first Enforcer to respond to the alert. The team was in full riot gear, with carapace armour and shotguns, but Tzu didn't hesitate. He jabbed the baton into the exposed throat of the first enforcer, dropping him with a surge of electrical energy that left him shuddering wildly. The second one he punched square in his reflective visor, shattering it and obscuring vision, before tapping him lightly on the chest and leaping backwards. The enforcer had just enough time to glance at his grenade belt before it detonated, blowing him apart and smashing his comrades back against the wall in a surge of fire.
Down the other end of the corridor, Cyd was using a purloined lasgun to discourage any pursuit by the enforcers that they'd picked up during their violent progress towards the roof. He was steadily making his way back down the corridor, sending brilliant beams of las-fire down the corridor whenever one of the enforcers stuck his head out of cover. It was working for the moment, but it wouldn't be long before they brought up a storm shield and advanced straight into his fire. Yes, extraction really would be wonderful right about now, which was why they were headed for the roof.
Tzu made his way up the fire-blasted staircase, pausing only to finish off the wounded enforcers, and broke down the door at the top. Wind howled through the open door as he emerged onto the roof, grateful that the Enforcer team that he'd just eliminated seemed to be the only defenders up here. As soon as Cyd reached him he slammed the door shut. Both men leaned against the door to hold it shut as the Enforcers began to slam against the other side.
"Now would be a good time, Darvius..." Cyd grunted, straining to hold the door shut. Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, the sleek form of an Enforcer gunship rose up above the lip of the roof, engines howling. The ominous barrels of a twin-linked assault cannon tracked around to aim at the fugitives with a menacing whine.
Cyd had just enough time to swear once before the world disappeared in a flash of light.
He was still swearing when the teleport beam deposited them back on the Saviour, collapsing to the ground and breathing heavily. Tzu was significantly more composed, merely inclining his head in thanks towards the elegant form of Arel, the Eldar who had operated the teleport beam. The precision required to teleport two specific lifeforms next to several others and at short notice was beyond most humans, but Arel had managed it.
The door to the teleport chamber hissed open and the Watchman prowled in, his alien eyes fixed on Cyd. "Did you get it?" he asked, his voice a rough growl.
Cyd nodded, holding up a small data-crystal. "Yeah. This contains the details of everyone on Eris that is known or suspected to be a part of a Chaos-related cult."
The Watchman took the crystal with a pleased grunt. He was just about to leave the room when Cyd spoke again. "You realise, of course, that when we start targeting them the other cults will be forced into action? They'll have to bring in the Guard to restore order, and I wouldn't be surprised if millions of people end up dying as a result."
The Watchman sighed to himself. "I know, Cyd, and I don't like it any more than you do. But this has to be done. We have to trigger the uprising before the cults are truly ready, or the whole world could fall to Chaos. This will kill millions, but if we don't act then we only condemn billions a few years down the line."
Cyd nodded to himself. "That's what I thought you'd say." He paused, thinking. "So, which one first?"