Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Interminable Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #4)

Emperor on Earth, Inquisitor Tiraske mused to herself, did this Eldar ever shut up?  Their kind were known for being wordy, but Ba Luith Ath seemed incapable of using one word when a paragraph would do.  She would execute an acolyte for writing such a roundabout field report.  Not that she wouldn't like to execute Ba Luith Ath, if he gave her the chance...

She opened the third scroll.

"Everything seemed to be going well for the acolytes.  Until they heard an explosion from outside, and felt pieces of their beloved ground-dragger vehicle hitting the side of the building.  When Lepidoptera reached for his trusty Pandora’s Ear, he realized that he had left it, along with another of the Pandora artifacts, the Box entrusted to Han, outside in the (late) vehicle.

As Dario tried to stealthily slip outside, he noticed that Marcus had apparently been waiting with the ground-dragger until it exploded beneath him, driving considerably beyond fatal amounts of sharp metal into his squishy back.  Still, he had apparently fought valiantly enough for a Mon-keigh, as a number of dead insect-like creatures littered the ground around him, their six-inch frames torn apart by gunfire and the explosion.  A damaged data-slate lay near the vehicle, active and blaring some kind of warning in the typical  fashion of panicked Mon-keigh technology.

As Aristide ran out to investigate, he was rewarded for his reckless curiosity with a Lasgun shot to the chest, which glanced harmlessly off of his Carapace armor as he rolled into cover.  Aristide then turned to suppress the incoming enemies, one “Shambler” and one armed enemy of unknown origin.  Dario then ran for the data-slate, only to be confronted by more of the insects that had attacked Marcus rushing for the slate.  Dario and Han engaged the creatures as Charyl and Aristide continued to fire upon the Shambler and its cohort and Lepidoptera began (unsuccessfully at first) to construct a simple device that would later prove very interesting.  Dario retrieved the slate, and passed it to Aristide, who in a wisdom born of ignorance passed it to Lepidoptera for examination.  The Shamber rushed at Charyl, but it was rent asunder by the deadly warrior.   Lepidoptera made an… explosive…. Breakthrough on his device, though Aristide still did not understand what the simple mechanism connecting a series of high-impact explosives to the tinkerer’s body was meant to do.

Suddenly, an unmarked vehicle armed with a brutish but effective Mon-keigh weapon called a “Heavy Stubber” rolled onto the battlefield, and quickly attempted to run down the remaining insects.  After a brief conversation with one of its passengers, a mortifyingly verbose man named Ansbach Wilhelm, everyone then rushed to the relative safety of the new vehicle, which pulled alongside the burning heap of the old ground-dragger just long enough for Aristide to use his pitiful psychic senses to retrieve the Pandora artifacts by tracking their psychic auras.

Ansbach, who was a member of the first investigative team under your esteemed colleague Howitzer, then explained in far too many words that the rebels were not the heretics, and the source of the heresy lay in the government of Candor 5.  The far more taciturn driver of the new ground-dragger, Mori, also introduced himself.  Dario then convinced the pair that the acolytes needed to meet with Tsuji before the assassination of Bitlee was to be carried out, and both agreed, although again Ansbach chose to do so in an extremely circuitous fashion, which was not met with outright hostility by all members of the group.  Lepidoptera then offered not to use his “suicide belt” to destroy the vehicle and everyone in it in exchange for the safe return of blessed silence, who had been conspicuously absent ever since Ansbach made his rendezvous with the other acolytes.  Han offered Ansbach a sip of something he called an “energizing beverage,” but the flask looked suspiciously like the backwards laser weapon that he and so many other warriors of the Imperium carry.
Suddently, Lepidoptera’s fiddling with the data-slate paid off, and the group received the dying message of Marcus, that “the whole goddam planet is covered in bugs,” and that they should “make sure you don’t do [something, but of course the transmition failed here].”  The party also received a message from one Taw Senox, a member of the first Acolyte team and an old ally of Han Uno, that the rebellion was not responsible for the heresy on this world, and that a group named “The Shadows,” were the real power threatening Candor 5.

The group arrived at the rebel base and entered a meeting with Tsuji when Aristide’s Chronometer, which obviously fails to take a number of important universal factors into account when attempting to “tell time,” claimed that it was 3:15, a mere hour before the assassination was meant to occur.  Ansbach was again silenced by popular vote, and the meeting began.  Tsuji attempted to convince the Acolytes that their investigation was leveled at the wrong organization, and that they should instead be sticking their Inquisitorial noses into the affairs of the government of Candor 5, particularly Senator Bitlee, who Tsuji claimed was capturing denizens of the forested regions for experiments to create enhanced soldiers.  Tsuji offered his own grotesque, mismatched body of machine and Mon-keigh as proof of this conspiracy, and while most of the acolytes kept their cool, Lepidoptera was apparently ignited by this unsanctioned creation before him.  Rushing forward, his furious, foolish zeal blazing even as he detonated himself, Lepidoptera suddenly went up in a gout of fire and shrapnel, declaring Tsuji an abomination before the so-called “Machine God” with his last fiery rhetoric, even as Aristide and Dario attempted to intervene.

At this moment, back in the peaceful gardens of my ship, I, Spirit-Seer Ba Luith Ath, felt the plaintive cry of Aristide for salvation, and in my nigh-infinite mercy offered him shelter from what would otherwise have been his pyre, and likely that of Candor 5.  The Talisman I had given him allowed him to teleport 5 individuals through the webway, and he attempted to send Dario, Han, Tsuji, Klistine, and Charyl into my open arms.  Apparently, he had chosen to save Tsuji instead of himself because he believed that he was key to rooting out the heresy, though in truth I believe he simply wanted to die in a self-indulgently heroic fashion.  Additionally, I felt him send a psychic message with all of his might to Dario, to explain the situation to me – no that such an act would have been necessary, given the ease of reading the shallow human mind.  While he probed around in Dario’s mind, I think he even stumbled upon what makes that seemingly likeable man interesting – the teeming darkness behind his understanding eyes – but he was somewhat distracted by Charyl shoving him through in her place.

In any case, the message was doubly unnecessary, as Charyl proved as stubborn as any Space Marine, trusting her reflexes to carry her out of the explosion and her armor to protect her.  Of her fate, I cannot say, but I severely doubt that such a pitiful conflagration could kill her.  Aristide had no doubt that she had survived, and for once I agree with his assessment.

After receiving Aristide and his friends as guests for as the full duration that I could tolerate them aboard my ship, I returned them safely to the planet – to the inside of their ugly ground-dragging vehicle, in fact.  And that is where the tale ends, save for one small detail.  When I sent them back through the webway, I felt something emerge from the Warp near Candor 5.  A shadow, if you will, and one I have not felt in a long time.  A shadow whose presence darkens the whole sector.  But, despite my near-impeccable memory, I cannot seem to place why this shadow is familiar.  Ah well, I’m sure it isn’t important.  The answer will become clear with a few centuries.  But you are an Inquisitor.  You will Inquisit, I have no doubt.  I hear the weather on Candor is miserable, however, so it would be best to pack a coat.

-Ba Luith Ath, Spirit-Seer, He Whose Sight Can Pick Even the Tiniest Spot from the Hea-

At this point, Inquisitor Tiraske tired of Ba Luith Ath’s self-aggrandizing titles.  The Eldar had no hound in this fight, so far as she knew, and yet this message was troubling.  Ba Luith Ath had indeed ruined her day, but this was hardly the time to consider returning the favor with another “visit” to his ship.  She had work to do.


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