Legions Maxximus is a local miniatures and table top games convention that happens annually and is run by several of the local game shops working together. Those are Legions IV Hire, Maxx Collectibles and the local manager for the Games Workshop retail outlet. They do a terrific job. This past year, a fellow from Brandon named Jordan ran a great narrative event. In keeping with the theme, I did some narrative writing for it.
Somewhere in the desert waste near Callax IV
Senekal cursed and finally put his haversack atop his head, wedging it between the top of his skull and the hard metal of the compartment roof. While he was no giant of a man, in the low ceilinged troop box of a Buffalo transport, even his own six feet was enough to cause a headache if one didn’t slouch or sit bent over. Piling in and out of the rear doors of the compartment was equally challenging, requiring a hunched stance but helped by a few welded handles on the roof. Handles which also caused a certain amount of ‘noggin’ knocking’.
Across from him, Father Joaquim Halpern slumped very low in his chair, reading from one of his codices by the wan light the armorglass windows allowed in. “If you sat lower, Colonel, it wouldn’t be quite so hard on your head.”
“I know, Father, I know,” he grumbled. “We both know these things were built for troop units where everyone wore helmets.”
“Unlike the Bloodcoats,” Halpern grinned.
“We used to, you know.” Wulfgang von den Loewen chimed in. “Wear helmets I mean. I still have mine somewhere.” He grinned as the Buffalo bounced again, compressing the Colonel’s spine a bit although the pack saved him from another lump. Wulf’s balding pate simply bounced harmlessly off the thick roll of the Regimental standard which he’d secured to tie downs keeping it behind and above his head. The fact that he was a fair bit shorter than Senekal and Halpern also helped.
“Think I can get one Wulfy?” The higher pitched voice once would have annoyed the Danikans but they had grown used to it over the last couple of years. Pyra – formerly a ganger from the hive world of Lodi – was the only woman who had ever served in the Bloodcoats. Senekal had originally thought of her as ‘that annoying girl’ but her skill, dedication and talent with the huge flamethrower she toted around had long since dispelled his Danikan tendencies of misogyny masquerading as chivalry. Pyra had earned her place in the Bloodcoats and if you could make it in the Colonel’s elite bodyguard, you had everyone’s respect in the regiment.
Wulf winced. He hated ‘Wulfy’ and only Pyra could get away with it. “I suppose if you can find one for your tiny head off someone who got capped, maybe. We haven’t gotten new helmets from Danika in years and you’re not exactly a standard size.” The two continued in that vein, ribbing each other in that way that only those who had saved each other’s lives countless times could. Senekal tuned them out as he flipped on the map slate on his lap. Noting that they were near their goal he took hold of a grab rail and swung through the tight quarters to the back of the compartment, throwing open the top hatch. He had to grab his hat in the blast of wind, dust and ash that was the lovely atmosphere here near the Callax IV mining hive.
Planetary winds, in this case, weren’t the reason for the huge gust that caused the canvas cover on the autocannon mount to snap like a whip. That came from the huge Aquila transport setting down less than 20 meters away. As the ventral jets spooled down, the passenger compartment of the aircraft lowered to rest on the rocky ground. The Colonel did his level best to look bored as a handful of people disembarked and walked toward the Buffalo.
“Milord Inquisitor” he said with a casualness he didn’t feel. Arcturan Senekal didn’t actually mind this particular Inquisitor. They’d worked together before and, while he could be a bit of a martinet and a stickler for some things he wasn’t murderous and his heart seemed generally in the proper place. Even so, anyone who had the authority to extinguish all life on a planet with a word was not someone most would feel overly comfortable around. Anton Coriolis had a far higher calling than the safety of any one individual or even any one city or planet full of individuals. In the hell days of the Cicatrix Maladictum the importance of that job was even greater.
The Inquisitor looked serious and purposeful. The Guard colonel had literally never seen any other expression on his face. Not in the heat of battle, not when eating, not even while grievously wounded on the field. His faced moved just fine – it was like he wasn’t capable of any other emotion.
Or so Senekal thought – the flash of hatred across those implacable features was vanishingly quick, but unmistakable. Keeping his own cool a bit better, the guardsman let his right eyebrow climb toward the visor of his officer’s cap. That’s new, he thought.
“He is here.”
“Based on the distress call we were re-routed because of – I expect a lot of people are here. Including a great many very bad people. And some things that aren’t even people.”
“Accursed Xenos” one of the Inquisitor’s acolytes, a man in deep blue Arbites armor spat.
“Well yeah, those too. I was more thinking of the Death Guard and the daemons. As deadly as the Aeldari can be, they are nothing to the corruption of raw chaos. There is clearly something in that vault under Callax IV that the pus pocked scum want. We were in the neighborhood and asked nicely – well ordered really – to come and tell them to go play in a warp rift. Not that I expect them to listen if we ask nicely or anything.”
The flash of hate crossed the Inquisitor Lord’s face again. “I would be here, with the archenemy presence regardless – this is more than that.
“Heft is here.”
That did take the Colonel aback a bit. “Edvardus Heft? Your fellow member of the Emperor’s Holy Order of the Inquisition?”
The hate came back and this time it stayed for a bit. “Do NOT call him that? He is filth! Excommunicate Traitorus! He consorts with the powers of the warp!”
Senekal snorted, not liking at all where this was going. “Umm, yeah. Did you bother to mention that to the Grey Knight Daemon Hunters that were hanging around with him last time?” He didn’t wait for a reply but went straight on, “Look milord, I don’t like the slippery bastard either and we both know he is not a nice man. I’ve punched a couple of his daemon buddy things in the face a few times as you well know. But if the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Malleus is running around supporting him – well that’s starting to get into Inquisitorial infighting and I’d prefer to have no part of that.”
“I have my own contacts with the Grey Knights, Colonel. These things are more – complex – than you know.” Despite the cold tone Senekal could tell he’d hit a nerve. This wasn’t something that sat well with Coriolis either.
As he was wont to do when feeling pressured or taking risks, the guardsman went for cheeky.
“Yeah? So where are they? Picnic on Io? I don’t see any here.”
He could almost hear the Inquisitor grind his teeth in frustration. It actually took twenty seconds for the normally implacable Inquisitor to get control of himself. When he finally spoke his voice was not his usual imperious tone but something a bit more sincere. Senekal even wondered for a moment if he’d suddenly remembered that he was technically a member of the human race.
“Colonel, we both know I could simply order you to serve, I have that authority.”
Senekal sighed. “True, milord.”
“We also know two other things.”
Curious now he replied, “And those are?”
“First, we both know you would never work for or consort with Edvardus Heft.”
“Well – mostly true I guess. I wouldn’t mind introducing him to my power fist though. Turned on. And the second thing?”
“We also both know that whatever Heft is up to here, it’s no good. It’s bad for the Imperium. That’s my concern. Probably very bad if I am to be honest with you. But in addition to that, it’s bad for the people – those ordinary, everyday members of Imperial society who live out their lives here, trying raise their children, provide food and clothing for their families, look after their loved ones and the like.
“I know you think me cold. Uncaring. You think ‘What right has a man to condemn billions of souls – a whole world – to a harsh violent death. What you do not understand, cannot understand – is that such action is not something I or any decent member of the Ordos relishes. For us the truth is simple. It is not what right have we to condemn those souls to their terrible end – the question to us is – ‘what right have we NOT to?
He sighed and again his face twisted into unfamiliar planes. He looked sad, wistful. “You cannot know what we see, Colonel. What we of the Ordos face. We are the Guardians at the Gates of Hell. Sometimes, quite literally. When we condemn it is because we have no other choice. Billions must die that untold trillions may live. And, every day, we live with those choices that we make. The souls of those whose worlds burned at your command never leave you. They hate you. They despise you but, more than anything else they tell you – make my death mean something!
“You, sir, have the luxury of thinking of the little people. So I ask you Colonel – I do not order, I ask – help me save this world. Help me save these people so that the souls who await me at the Emperor’s table in the warp are not added to.
“I do not order. But I must ask.”
Senekal was silent. This was new – unexpected. Not at all the man he had worked with before. Changed in meaningful and tragic ways. The Colonel didn’t know what had happened – but something had.
“Well, shit milord.”
The Inquisitor didn’t register the comment at all but those in his retinue looked taken aback. “When you ask like that – well we both know I cannot really say no, can I?
“I’ve commitments from Sector Command. I expect you want me to break those?”
“No. It’s quite possible Heft will know that I am here if you break those commitments. This must be done carefully and quietly or he will perform his evil and slip away yet again. That cannot happen.
“No,” he continued, clearly thinking hard. “No this will have to be smaller than that. Careful. You and your men here will have to stay with me. There’s a chance Heft’s agents could discover me if they were to say or even think the wrong thing without shielding. We need a small group. A platoon or two and some support. Not enough of your regiment that their absence will be noted. Perhaps some infantry, artillery and a few tanks?”
Senekal nodded, thinking hard on how best to handle this. Finally he answered. “Yes, milord. I think I can manage that. Maybe even a bit of psychic shielding for those we bring along, would that be wise?”
“I think so. What have you got in mind?”
“One of our Adepts. Primaris Psyker Ackles. If I assign him the Blood Rats he may be able to keep them shielded. Might even prevent them from knowing what’s actually going on. Can’t be a bad thing. As to the rest, Miguel Castillo and Merry Thanos. You’ve worked with both of them before.”
“I have, good men.”
“Very well, milord. You’ve got yourself a crew.” Senekal had to pause as the Aquila lifted off with a thundering roar and raced upward, quickly disappearing into the darkening sky. Pyra opened the rear doors for the tall Inquisitor who lead the way for his staff – and promptly banged his head on the low ceiling of the Buffalo troop compartment.
“See, Outie?” Pyra chimed in from her seat, using the slang her old gang applied those who had not grown up in the Underhive. She had no particular fear or respect for the Inquisition. “Helmets – they’re a thing!”