NEVER GET CLOSE
For years I've been trying to knock down the Bloodied Eagles crime organization on Jhanna. They were a tough group to get rid, being almost as secret as the Inquisition. But finally I managed to gain access into the group by passing myself off as an anti-Imperialist and getting recruited. Afterwards, I was able to collect a lot of information that could later be used against them. The beginning of the end for the Bloodied Eagles came one day in 998.M41, while I was sitting in the One Eyed Marine tavern.
My contact with the group was named Karvill Frist. He was a young man, about 28 years of age, who seemed to enjoy the excitement of crime. It was he who gave me all of the important messages that I received from the Eagles.
I slowly turned around and looked at the source of the voice, my hand held close to one of my laspistols. I eased up when I saw that it was Karvill Frist.
"Come on, Kar, have a drink," I called out, waving him over.
He quickly walked to the stool beside me and sat down. "Maldavhian Rum," he said as the bartender walked up. Karvill turned back toward me as the bartender went off to get his drink.
"What's the rush? Something going on?" I asked him.
Running a hand through his dark red hair, Karvill looked at me with weary eyes. "The deal's going down day after tomorrow. Gallifrey is going down."
"You're kidding me, right?" I couldn't believe what I was hearing. For weeks I'd been hearing of a planned assault on Judge Gallifrey and the Arbitrators precinct on Jhanna, but I never imagined that the Eagles could get together enough firepower, or that they would ever much such a bold move against the Imperium.
"No, no. It's for real. I wanted to let you know so you could be there with us when we plug that sanctimonious bastard."
"I'm honoured," I said, feeling sick as I said the words. Though I'd never had the best impression of the Arbitrators, I certainly had no wish to participate in the slaughter of an entire precinct.
"I'm glad you feel that way. Harvick was pretty impressed with the way you handled yourself against the Raptors."
"Where are you going to get enough men and weapons to take down the precinct?" I asked. Hopefully he would give me the information I needed to brief the Inquisition.
"The local Guard Commander is sympathetic to our 'cause'. He's giving us the needed muscle to oust the Arbies."
This was certainly interesting news. When I had come to Jhanna, I was unaware that there was any form of corruption in the Imperial Guardsmen stationed on the planet. This would be much needed information for the soldiers that would be sent to cleanse the corruption from this planet.
The bartender returned with Karvill's drink. He took a long drink from it, downing half of the cup.
He then turned and looked at me. "Will you be there?" he asked.
"Oh yeah, I said. I'll be there. Just gotta' do some preparations first. Get my gear together and all that."
"Yeah, that'd be good," he said. "Remember, two days. It's gonna be on the steps of the precinct house, around midday. Don't be late."
"Am I ever?" I smiled at him, then got up out of the stool and began walking back to my apartment. I had some very important news to share.
After I left the tavern, I returned to my apartment. It was only a twenty-minute walk away, but as I walked I found myself watching over my shoulder constantly, ever wary of the possibility I was being followed. When I was completely certain that no one had tracked me, I entered the building my apartment was in, then quickly walked up a flight of steps, down a hall, and finally through my door.
Denvus Corning was there, as he always was. He was an Astropath assigned to me by the Inquisition, giving me a means to contact them to report on my findings. He was an odd sight, one of the very few Astropaths that did not have their eyes destroyed by the Binding, though he was left with no pupils. He could not wear his green robes, for fear of someone noticing and realizing just what he was.
"You look awful," he said.
"Likewise yourself," I said. "And just what kind of a greeting is that?"
Denvus smiled at me. "Sorry, friend. I trust you have a report to send?"
Now it was my turn to smile. "Yes. They're planning their big move in a couple nights, an assault on the Court House itself."
"How will they do that with only three thousand men?"
"They have more. Somehow they got Captain Briggs on their side."
Denvus sighed, then lowered his head. "You want me to send a message informing Mandius?"
"If possible, yes." For I moment I was a bit surprised to see Denvus looking so depressed at the thought of having to send such a message, as he had done so many a time in the past. But no, that was not it. There was a sense of something else wrong with him.
"What is it?" I asked.
He looked up at me, sorrow evident on his face. "The warp storms are getting stronger. I cannot send a message without a great deal of pain," he said.
"I understand. But what does that mean about our chances of receiving help? The storms might break up the message or cause a problem for the fleet."
"That, too, is a problem we are faced with, Tallonius. If they cannot get here, then I fear that Judge Gallifrey will fall to these scum."
I walked away from him and looked out the apartment's main window. The buildings outside reflecting the starlight as they stretched to the sky. To anyone else, I believe it would have been a beautiful sight, but at that time I could not afford to concentrate on beauty.
"Those bloody fools," I said, my voice barely above a whisper. "Don't they realize that once they murder Gallifrey they'll be hunted down and destroyed by the Imperial forces?"
Denvus walked up behind me and put his hand on shoulder. "I'm sure they do. But you've seen how some of these criminals think. They believe they can take on the might of the Imperium and come out on top."
"But in the end, we'll still destroy them, just like any other pest."
Denvus let his hand fall from my shoulder and stepped forward to stand by my side. "You sound regretful. Is it because you know that by destroying the entire organization we will destroy the one you befriended, the young man, Kar-something?"
"Karvill," I said. I looked over at him and could see his concern. "He's just so young and eager to prove himself, but he's doing it the wrong way. I'm certain that if I could talk to him I could convince him to join the Imperium. Maybe the Guard, maybe the Administratum, or maybe even as an Inquisitor... though that would take some time and training."
"You're afraid you can't save him."
"Yes. It almost feels like I'm betraying his trust in me."
"Nonsense," Denvus snapped. "You didn't make his life's decisions. Don't tear yourself apart worrying over his mistakes."
"I should just let him be swept up in this mess?" I asked.
"If you can help him, do so. But remember, no matter how much your emotions help you they should not be allowed to get in the way of your work. Mandius taught you that. Your father would want you to remember such a valuable lesson."
"My father? I never knew the man. You speak to me so often of him and what he'd expect me to do, yet where is he when I need him?"
Denvus stabbed at my chest with his finger. "Right here, Tal, in your heart. Remember that."
I looked down, feeling somewhat ashamed.
Denvus looked at me and saw that his point had gotten across. "If you'll excuse me," he said, "I have to go send a message to Mandius." With that he turned and walked to the other room, where specially prepared items had been set up to help him meditate and project his messages.
And with that, I was left alone with my thoughts, and found myself feeling disturbed by what I had just said.
Denvus was able to send the message, but could not tell if it reached its destination. When he broke out of his trance he held his head, his face contorted with pain. I knew it was best to leave him alone after what he'd just put himself through. However, I was worried about the message. I had no way to tell if it was received, and with the pain Denvus was feeling it appeared the warp storms had gotten that much stronger. There was no guarantee I would have help.
I sat down at my desk and quickly went through my options. I could not inform Judge Gallifrey, as to do so would compromise my mission. I could not stop an army by myself, much less the two armies there would be when the traitor commander joined forces with the Bloodied Eagles.
I found myself lacking a viable means of stopping these criminals. But I had predicted such an event would happen, and so I'd inserted my servant Justov Romano into this planet's shadows before I'd arrived. He would know the street's gossip and could help me out by giving me some useful information. I knew I could count on him for something. He was a great aid to me on Ghemys, giving me vital clues to the location of a cult temple I could never have located otherwise.
In the late night darkness, I began looking for Justov. I wore a long dark trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat to hide my features. Since I'd told Justov where to hang out for the best information, I knew where I could find him. It wasn't long before we encountered each other in a most awkward manner, in a darkened alley between an abandoned warehouse and a weapons shop.
Justov's arm reached out from the darkness and yanked me into the alley. I almost fell when we released me, and, not knowing for certain who it was, I pulled one of my laspistols from my coat and aimed it at my assailant.
"Careful where you point that thing," Justov said, stepping closer so that I could see his features. "It's been a while since you last came to see me. Your manners haven't improved much since then." I snorted in disgust at his comment. He then reached out and grabbed my cloak, pulling it out away from the dark grey flak vest I wore underneath. "Neither, I see, has your sense of covert clothing."
"Really?" I asked. "How so?"
Justov stepped back and looked me over. "It's the coat and hat. Hide too much around here, and people will get suspicious. They might start thinking you're an Inquisitor or something"
I looked at Justov, amused by his comment. "I am an Inquisitor."
"Not out here on the streets, you aren't." He pulled a cigarette out of a package in his shirt pocket, lit it, and then began to smoke it. "Out here, you're Mad Tal, the man who sliced up Demark's best thug real bad. You have to remember that, before you get yourself killed."
"Well," I began, my voice thick with sarcasm, "I'm glad I have you around to teach me that. It's obvious that I lacked such important knowledge."
Justov leaned against the warehouse and blew a smoke ring. "And don't you forget it," he said, smiling.
I walked to the other side of the alley and leaned against the store, looking across at Justov. "I need some information."
"And here I thought this was a social call. Anything in particular?"
"I was told the Bloodied Eagles are going to make their move in a couple days. They're going to take out Gallifrey."
"And how do they propose to do that with a few thousand men?"
"They're getting help from Briggs."
Justov cocked his head to the side. I had seen this look before; he was remembering something he'd heard.
"What is it?" I asked.
He looked at me and smiled. "Something a little birdy told me as I was sitting in a cafe on Bismarck."
"What would that be?"
"Briggs' little revolution may not be much of a revolution at all. Or it might, depending on your point of view."
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not so certain he's going to do it. But he might. Do you trust your source?"
"With anything other than this, no. But I sensed no deception."
"Well, then, I think your best course of action is to investigate these claims. If Briggs is a traitor, you've got a big fight on your hands... if you don't eliminate him first. If he isn't, then you'll need to coordinate an assault on the Eagles with him."
"Thanks," I said. "I think I'll have a little chat with the captain tomorrow, find out where his true allegiances lie."
"Good idea," Justov said. He began to walk away down the alley toward the street opposite the one he'd pulled me off of. When he reached the end of the alley, he turned around shouted to me. "Take care of yourself out there, Tal. And try not to look so conspicuous." And with that he walked onto the other street and out of sight.
I let out a sigh, then walked back out of the alley myself. Tomorrow was going to be a long day.
Justov's information had given me more questions to answer, and I wished to answer them as soon as possible. That would mean a trip to the Captain Briggs' office to have a special discussion with him about his loyalties. However, I could not just walk into his office and speak to him plainly. If he was a traitor, then I would give away myself for certain, if I had not already been followed to his office.
I had to get into his office and talk to him without revealing my true identity. This would take both stealth and some disguising. Thankfully I had studied the methods and dress of members of the Officio Assassinorum whom I had worked with while under the tutelage of Mandius. While not being quite as talented as they are at the art of concealing my identity, I wasn't very bad at it.
I formed a simple plan for entry. I would use a black bodysuit to hide my features. I returned to my apartment to get the equipment I would need. Without my armour I would be vulnerable, so I attached my refractor field generator to my belt. I strapped on both of my laspistols and prayed they would be enough to carry me through any trouble I encountered. This would be all the protection I had. I also took my webber and a few assorted items that would be useful, remembering the many uses of a webber that I had been taught.
In the early hours of the morning, while it was still dark, I made my way to the Jhanna XI Imperial Guard base, which was located just west of the capital of Jhanna, Durint. I made certain that I had not been followed, and I presumed that no one had seen me as I had kept to the alleys and the less populous areas of town. Once at the base, I was presented with my first problem. I had to find some way to get over the walls without alerting the guards stationed in towers around the perimeter of the small base.
I remembered my webber just then. With the dial set to produce a stream of webbing, I could create a rope that would hold my weight. Then I would be able to scale the walls.
This I did, and within minutes I dropped down on the other side of the wall, landing softly on my padded boots. I looked around to make sure I had not been seen. Satisfied that I had gotten in unnoticed, I began to make my way toward Briggs' office.
It took almost an hour to move through the base. I had to move silently, cautiously, and slowly, hiding amidst the shadows of the many buildings. When I found the small building containing the office, I began searching for a way inside. I found a small window on the east side. I looked inside and saw no one. I then pulled out a laser scalpel. Slowly and with much precision I cut a hole in the window, giving myself a means of getting inside. Once again I had to employ my webber, using a small amount of webbing to create a handle which I used to pull out the cut glass. I gently placed the glass on the ground, making no sound as I did so.
I made my way through the hole in the window, trying hard not to break the glass or make any unnecessary noise. Unfortunately I managed to fall after getting inside, landing with a soft thud. This was a dangerous sound, little as it was, and within seconds I was looking up from a kneeling position at two Guardsmen aiming lasguns at my head.
I quickly rolled to the side, avoiding two deadly accurate shots that would have likely vaporized my head. I came out of the roll holding my webber. I aimed it between the two Guardsmen, set it for maximum area of effect, and fired. A large mass of webbing was spat from the end of the weapon, catching my two assailants in a tangle of adhesive materials. They fell together, crashing to the floor. Their lasguns were pinned to their chests, and so thankfully they could not fire. With their mouths webbed shut, they could not scream either. But their fall had made too much noise, and so I had to move quickly.
I made my way through the halls of the building, quickly finding the captain's office without further opposition. I threw the door open, then raised my webber and prepared to fire at any threats inside. The only person in the office was the captain, staring at me with surprise evident on his face.
"What is the meaning of this?" he asked, sounding rather brave for a man facing what should have appeared to be an assassin. I moved quickly to his desk, closing the office door behind me. I then looked down at him, gathering as much menace into my voice as I could, and growled out a question of my own.
"Captain Briggs, whom do you serve?"
He sat back quickly, his eyes quickly forming a look of shock mixed with confusion. After a long moment of silence, he spoke.
"I serve my Emperor." His voice was clear and composed. He placed his arms on his desk, then leaned forward. "And you?"
I wasn't sure how to answer without giving myself away. Finally, I said, "I serve the Immortal Emperor. I am his right hand."
To my surprise, the captain showed relief. He leaned back in his chair and smiled. "You are the Inquisition, then?"
I could only answer, "Yes."
Briggs gave me a cold look. "I was wondering when you would arrive. I sent a message out to Helios a week ago. I take it you have come to help me cleanse this world of its scum?"
This wasn't quite what I was expecting. Justov's earlier comments were beginning to confuse me. "Yes."
"Good. I am wondering, have you brought any aid? Or are you alone?"
"I am alone, but I am aided."
Briggs gave me a quizzical look. I decided to answer the obvious question.
"The Emperor is ever by my side."
"Ah, yes. Quite right." Briggs stood up and walked to a small window, looking toward the distant sunrise. "No army, then?"
"Then it will be up to my men and Gallifrey's."
"You know of the attack."
"Yes. For a while now."
"You told the Bloodied Eagles you would give them aid,"
Briggs turned around and looked at me. "I told them what they wanted to hear. I was able to glean more information and put myself in a valuable position."
"What position is that?"
"Behind them on the day of the attack. Gallifrey's men will be in front of them, naturally. Between us they will be crushed."
"So you lied to the Eagles, then?"
"A promise made to scum is a promise not worth keeping. Yes, I lied. I had to. I needed their trust in order to get my men close enough to destroy them. Surely you of all people should understand the need for deception sometimes."
"Yes. But tell me this, Captain. How do I know I can trust you?"
Briggs walked to his desk and opened it. I readied my webber in case he was reaching for a weapon. Instead he pulled out a bronze coin. He tossed it to me casually. "Look at the insignia."
I caught the coin and examined it. It was bronze and plain, except for the top. There it bore the mark of the Inquisition, a scarlet insignia on a bronze background. "Where did you get this from?"
"Another Inquisitor. One named Mandius."
Despite my best efforts, I failed to keep a look of surprise from reaching my face. Luckily my face was covered, and so Briggs could not see my surprise. "This Inquisitor, where is he?"
Briggs looked to the side, then answered. "Corrha Apartments, Suite 79A."
This time I knew the surprise was clearly evident on my face, even through the mask I wore. My own apartment was suite 79B. Mandius had been right beside me the whole time! "Thank you for that information," I said. "I shall get back to you later." I tossed the coin back to him, then turned to walk out.
Before leaving, I said to Briggs over my shoulder. "You've got a couple of men out here in trouble. You might want to do something about them."
I could hear his sigh clearly as I walked down the hall.
I made my way back to the apartment building. After
changing back to my normal clothes in my own suite, I decided to pay a visit to my
My meeting with Mandius had left me a little shaken,
so I decided to turn in for the night. The next morning, I awoke with a mixed group of
emotions in my heart. Fear for what was coming, loathing for the scum that were going to
be destroyed, regret for what might happen to Karvill, exhilaration at having been a
success with my first major assignment.
As I made my way through Jhanna Prime, moving along
backroads and dark alleys, I noticed a number of people watching me. My face was a
mask of pride mixed with controlled anger, a show for those who might be employed by Trell
Harvick. Some of the scum in the shadows cheered as I walked by, or whistled. It was
likely they'd heard of my reputation and the day's upcoming events.
All around me was chaos. The Bloodied Eagles were
scrambling to get to their weapons, all the while being cut down by the combined Imperial
forces. Some of the Eagles already had their weapons at hand and were firing at the
Imperial troops, killing dozens of them each minute. Still others were diving for cover,
making it harder for them to be hit while they fired upon the Imperials.
I quickly rolled to the side. I heard the distinctive
whine of a lasgun firing, and then felt heat across my back as several shots tore through
my trenchcoat and impacted against my power armour.