The Valkyrie gunship was over-crowded. The squad of Inquisition Stormtroopers carrying out Inquisitor Lord Glaub’s will would have fit comfortably, but with the four-and-a-half Acolytes who had been herded (and wheeled) aboard, it was quite cozy. Or might have been, but the medical table on which #4 was being held took up more than his share of the space, thus Daret’s disabled medical Mechadendrite was poking into Cantor Remski’s shoulder, and the Stormtroopers were squished in to give Callidon a wide berth. Also, the Acolytes were on their way to a swift execution of convenience.
“Gentlemen, our straights may seem dire, but I assure you, resolving this situation without bloodshed is well within my capabilities,” Callidon whispered with his usual subtlety to his compatriots.
“Guardsmen, friends, fellow Servants of the Emperor! I am well acquainted with the Imperial Guard, and I know that your distinguished veteran squad must be busy with your Imperial Guard duties. Surely, you can see fit to overlook this tiny misunderstanding on our great journey to serve the Emperor! After all, you must all have tanks to drive, do you no-”
The blow caught Callidon across the jaw, and he fell silent for a moment before turning to Remski, blood running down his face. Again, in a ‘whisper,’ he said indignantly, “Well! I see that diplomacy is not an option. I think our best plan is to mu-” Remski’s sharp elbow cut the psyker off. Remski was working on a plan, but for better or for worse, all plans required that Callidon to be in one piece. More or less, anyway.
Daret seemed to be lost in thought, looking at #4. He had managed to stop the blood loss, and, Omnissiah be praised, the delusional young man might live. Long enough to be shot and have his body dumped somewhere, anyway. Well, this was how Groxboys always ended it, wasn’t it? Caught on the wrong side of the law because of a promise, or their outdated but endearing sense of honor? It was either this or being shot by outlaws, masked alien bandits trying to steal a herd of Grox or a posse of Heretics sacrifice a farmer’s wife to their dark gods, and then carrying on just long enough to finish the job before passing the gun to the next generation. Daret supposed he preferred the traditional hanging to being shot to death with the hot-shot lasguns carried by the Troopers. After all, he had a 12.3% chance of surviving being hung by the neck due to the internal reinforcement of his spine granted by his cybermantle. The shooting treatment was almost assuredly fatal, if applied liberally enough.
The Linear coldly considered his options. He had been stripped of his Bolter, and about this, he was not pleased. One of the Stormtroopers was holding it, but had not figured out how to make it work. The Linear smiled inwardly. His justice was his alone. If he could wrest it from the man, he was sure he could fire it, even cuffed… but to do that without being shot full of holes would be more difficult.
Suddenly, in the distance, Daret noticed something flying towards the Valkyrie. It was a hovercar – a very fast one, at that. And it seemed to be on a course perpendicular with the gunship. A few mental calculations confirmed this. The two would be occupying the same space in roughly half a minute, assuming neither turned. As it drew closer, he noticed another oddity – the lights were flashing. His pattern-seeking brain homed in on it quickly. On for .542 seconds. On for 1.22 seconds. On for .541 seconds. On for .542 seconds. It went on. Callidon, sitting just past Remski, also seemed to notice it. Actually, he seemed to be staring at it intently, without seeing, whispering something.
Suddenly, it clicked. How obvious! Morys Cypher, a simple strain of numeric cant! Daret turned to the Cantor, asking without tact: “What do you suppose it means, ‘Down Get Down Get Down Get Down Get’…?”
Eyes suddenly wide, Remski grabbed the Tech Priest and the Psyker and pulled both of them under the table containing #4. The Linear, acting on instinct, mirrored the move. Even as the nearest Stormtrooper turned, shaking himself from an apparent stupor, and shouted “No touching!”, the world exploded around the Acolytes.
The hovercar had gone straight into the left engine, ripping through the wing and denting the passenger bay. The pilot, going into emergency response mode, fought to control the damaged gunship and bring it down before its condition worsened. Inside the cabin, there was a sudden crack of air being forcibly pushed aside by a Displacer Field, followed by a quiet thump. The Stormtroopers had been tossed about the cockpit by the impact, and were disoriented, but not too much so to fail to notice the new occupant of the cabin. Crouched over #4’s broken body was Inquisitor Schuld. With a fluid motion, he drew a needle-gun from his coat and emptied the clip in a blinding burst. Five of the ten Stormtroopers were caught by the piercing rounds, and four immediately began spasming and collapsed. In the cramped cockpit, it was difficult for any of the men to draw a bead on the Inquisitor, who had already dropped the pistol and moved into the fray with his shock maul, incapacitating two more men before they could react. One of the standing Troopers moved towards the intruder only to find Remski crouching before him. Before he could push the priest aside, the intractable Cantor had delivered a brutal headbutt to the underside of his jaw, and he slumped. The Linear was already wrapped around another Stormtrooper, choking him out with his cuffed arms and shouting something partially incoherent about taking “Sense and Sensibility.”
The two remain Stormtroopers fell back upon their deadly professionalism, regrouping away from the mess of combatants tangled with foes and taking aim with the Inquisitor. Even as they did, something exploded forth from Daret’s cloak, and a pair of grapnels shot towards the one of the two men, one sticking shallowly in his carapace armor and harrying his aim. Before Daret could put his convoluted “hook-pull-electrify” plan into action, the Stormtrooper sergeant’s power sword flicked to life and cut his compatriot free. Daret’s impromptu lasso returned empty, but by this time, the Inquisitor was barreling into melee range, electro-flail and shock maul screaming.
Apparently, Daret thought, he was unnecessary for the “electrify” part of the plan.
With the last two men dispatched, the Inquisitor turned to the weary, wounded Acolytes. “Well, that was exciting, don’t you think? Hurry, we must leave this place before more of Inquisitor Glaub’s men show themselves to make sure that the job is finished.”
Remski turned to Callidon, and grudgingly offered him a bit of unexpected praise: “That was good work, hiding the car from the Stormtroopers’ sight. Did you know that it was the Inquisitor?”
“Of course, Cantor! I most definitely was not doing it merely because I wished to see if my powers could be extended that far, nor out of a desire to get some petty revenge on the gentleman who introduced me to the back of his fist. No, I had a plan, you see-“
“Acolytes, we have no time!” Schuld shouted even as one of the pilots pushed his way into the cabin and the Inquisitor casually shot him with his now reloaded Needle Pistol. “My cleanup team is on the way, but neither you nor I must be here when they arrive!”
With that, the motley crew who had nearly doomed the Imperium, and then saved it by accident rushed off of the gunship to nearby, where an Aquilla transport was waiting, engine already warmed. They ran up the landing ramp, Inquisitor Strom following closely behind, carrying the wounded #4. As he reached the bottom of the ramp, he stopped, and a hovercar slid up next to him, door opening.
“Wait, aren’t you coming with us?”
“I’m afraid I cannot. I must stay here to resolve the situation according to our interest – and this one would not survive the trip you will be undertaking. And you must all be gone. I will not let you be killed for the convenience of the High Lords, but I cannot offer much protection once we part ways, either. Lie low for some time. I have given you over to the service of another Inquisitor – you will assume new identities. Officially, you will all be dead, though I suspect the execution order will never be known to any but Inquisitor Lord Glaub, and a few others of the powers that be - all of the Stormtroopers will attest to your deaths, a routine execution, when my Psyker finishes with them. You have served the Emperor well - continue to serve Him as you have until we meet again! Do nothing to draw attention to yourselves,” he finished pointedly. With that, the Inquisitor slipped into the new hovercar, which quickly pulled away. Through the back window, despite the tint, Daret thought he saw #4’s stumped arm waving, and could almost hear a drug-addled voice saying “goodbye, robot-guy!”
“Do nothing to draw attention to yourselves? Why, we are the very model of subtlety!” Callidon exclaimed indignantly, and Remski glared at the psyker. The Linear was already stripping his bolter, defiled by the touch of hands not his own.
“Cantor,” Daret said in a low voice, just audible above the lander’s surging engines, “perhaps you might play an end to this adventure? I am, for no quantifiable reason I can determine, experiencing a melancholy as we brush off the trail dust and end our journey.”
And so the good Cantor launched into the soulful “Emprah Train ‘A Comin’.”