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.

-Inquisitor Tallonius

"Hey, Tal!"

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?"

"No army."

"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 "neighbor".

I didn't bother to knock. Instead I just opened the door and stepped in. Mandius was standing at a large window, his back to me.

"So you found out I was here, Tal," he said flatly, without turning around. I was too surprised to say anything. He turned around and looked at me. "You are wondering how I knew it was you."

I nodded, unable or unwilling to speak.

"Every man has his own psychic signature. Did you forget I have psychic abilities? No, of course not." He stared at me, and his cold slate eyes almost seemed to penetrate my soul.

Finally I found my voice. "Why are you here? What are you doing, spying on me? Afraid I cannot take care of myself? I am two years removed from your tutelage, Mandius. I know what I am doing."

"I do not believe that you are incapable of bringing down the Eagles by yourself, Tal. However, I was ordered here for a mission I cannot explain to you. Your being here was a surprise even to me."

I walked closer to him, then lowered my voice. "You are a member of the Ordo Xenos. This world and its problems are a matter for the Ordo Hereticus to solve. What are you doing here?"

Mandius stepped closer to me and whispered, "I told you, I cannot say right now. Suffice it to say that it will not compromise your mission." I looked to the side to escape my teacher's stare. His being here could only mean that aliens or an alien artifact were involved somehow.

I looked around the suite for a place to sit. The only furnishings in the main room were a couch, a holo-entertainment unit, and a small desk holding a computer terminal with a chair sitting in front of it. I chose to sit on the couch. Mandius decided to make himself more comfortable as well and sat down on the chair at the desk.

Once we were both seated, I asked him, "Did you send out for reinforcements? Briggs mentioned something about aid coming."

"I tried, but I'm not sure if I was able to get a message out."

I nodded. That was understandable, considering the problems Denvus was having. "So we're it? Aside from Briggs and Gallifrey and their troops?"


"This is going to be ugly, isn't it?"

"That's a given."

"Will you be out there, fighting with me?"

"I will. But like I said, I have another mission to fulfill here."

"I understand. It would be nice to have a unit or two of Marines, but I cannot realistically expect them."

"A Kill Team alone would be a great help for my own mission. But your mission is finished, for the most part. The Eagles will be destroyed between the Guardsmen and the Arbites. They're finished." Mandius turned his eyes toward me. I could see the concern in them. "You should get some rest. You've got a busy day ahead of you tomorrow."

I nodded, then stood up. "I'll be going then." I turned and began walking toward the door.

"Tal," Mandius said behind me.

I didn't bother to turn around. "Yes?"

"Take care of yourself."

"I will." And will those words, I walked out of his suite.

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.

Denvus greeted me with a prepared meal for breakfast. One of the more surprising talents he had was the ability to cook like a top line chef. This was good; I had a feeling I would be needing all the energy I could muster.

After eating, I gathered my equipment. I wanted the protection of my power armour, so I chose to wear a large black trenchcoat. I grabbed both of my laspistols, making sure the charge on both pistols was full. A few power packs for each were stuffed quickly into my pockets. I thought for a moment about taking my webber, but felt it was too dangerous. I could web someone in such a manner that they still present a threat. No, better that I fire a killing or disarming shot with one of my pistols. Two pairs of hand binders were a must-have, since I was certain I'd get the chance to capture a couple of the top criminals in the Bloodied Eagles.

I needed to look the part of a half-crazed, half-sinister criminal, so I chose to go with a dark, brooding look that suggested controlled rage while still showing an air of professionalism. This I achieved by attaching a pair of long, skinny chains to my sleeves and a long-bladed pair of knives in sheaths on my belt. The chains could be used to catch a weapon swung at me, so they had a practical purpose as well as an aesthetic one.

I decided to use some hair spray to position my hair in short spikes that flowed backward along my head, giving an extra touch to the look of a mad killer. To top off the look, I slipped a pair of dark reflective sunglasses on my face, which doubled as night vision glasses. For a little extra offensive ability, I slipped a handful of small explosive 'marbles' into my pocket. They weren't large, but they had the power of a standard frag grenade.

With my outfit together and the equipment I needed on my person, I began to leave my suite. As I got to the door, Denvus shouted from behind me. "Hey, Tal! You forgot something!"

I turned to see what he was referring to. He tossed a small bronze object to me. My hand reached up and grabbed it from the air. I opened my hand and saw in my palm the most important item I had in my possession: my Inquisitorial seal. I laughed a short, ironic laugh. The seal symbolized everything I was. By leaving it behind, it almost seemed as if I were leaving my true self behind.

"Thanks," I said to Denvus, tossing him a casual salute.

I walked out of the suite then, and down out of the apartment complex. With the crime that passed through the building and surrounding neighborhood, no one seemed to notice my outfit and blatant weapons. I strolled out onto the street, confidence swelling my chest and a look of pure professional hatred on my face.

I stopped for a moment and looked around. Everywhere, life was going on as normal. Cars buzzed the streets, hovercraft floated through the air, the noise of traffic and a million lost souls complaining about lives too hard to live filled the air. I breathed it all in, then let it out with a sigh.

After today, nothing would ever be the same on this world.

It was going to be a hell of a day.

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.

I finally arrived in the meeting location around midday. It was an old sports arena, unused for many years by anyone legitimate. Literally thousands of violent criminals and 'revolutionaries' were there, many more than the three thousand I was led to believe Harvick had. I was a bit surprised at it all.

"Impressive gathering, isn't it?" I turned and saw Harvick walking toward me. He was dressed in a dark grey suit of carapace armour, and carried both a bolt pistol at his hip and a long power sword in his sheath on his back. His long hair, which was beginning to grey, hung down to the middle of his back.

I gave him a look of of admiration. "It's really quite awesome," I said. "Where did you find all these guys?"

Harvick turned his head from side to side, taking in the view of the criminals around us. "Oh, here and there. You'd be amazed at the underground of this world."

"Good work, if I may say so. Did you really need the extra help?"

"No, but I figured I might as well use them while they were lying around. Make them happy, let them feel they're useful to you, and they'll work all the harder, just to impress you."  He turned back to me and brought his gloved hands together in a loud clap. "I'm ready for a good scrap. How about you?"

I nodded. "When do we go to work?"

"As soon as I can get things in gear. Speaking of which, I have to find someone very important."

"Well, then, don't let me stop you," I said, and stepped aside.  Harvick walked by me and began moving rapidly toward the arena exit.

I wandered around the arena, making small talk with some of the criminals, trying to stay in character and hide the disgust I had for these scum. After an hour I came upon Karvill, standing aside and drinking a small glass of beer.

"Looking forward to today's happenings?" I asked him.

Karvill looked up and smiled. "You bet, Tal. I'm hoping to nail a few Arbites myself, grab some badges for souvenirs."

I laughed at his comment, then said, "Maybe I can bag me some helmets. Or even the heads inside!"

Karvill shook his head. "You know, Tal, sometimes I think you really are mad." He leaned his head back and took a long drink from his glass.

"Maybe I am," I said, flashing him a grin.

"Well," he said, putting his glass down on a table by his side, "I have to get prepared. Grab my gear and all that."

"Sure," I said. "I've got some things to do too."

I wandered around for another hour, mentally noting several things that were going on around me, memorizing faces. During that time Harvick returned, looking pleased and carrying a large metal briefcase. He set it down and opened it up, retrieving from it a long metal staff with an unrecognizable rune at the top and a long green crystal running along its length. Harvick held it in his hands, swinging it in a wide arc. As he did so, it left a bright streak of light in its wake.

My fascination at this object was broken by what happened next.  As shocked as Harvick and his men were, I cannot say I was any less shocked.

Loud explosions sounded across the arena from where I was standing. The east and north walls both blew inward, their remains collapsing among hundreds of Harvick's men.

Two armies, Imperial Guardsmen and Adeptus Arbites, and a squad of five heavily armed and armoured Space Marines, burst through the holes in the walls. Within seconds they opened fire, and the arena became filled with the sounds of weapons fire and screams of the dying.

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 decided to dive for a little bit of cover myself, mainly to give myself a reason for not joining in the counterattack against my own allies. A large section of bleachers that had not been removed when the arena was shut down provided good cover, and kept me out of anyone's line of sight.

I heard the fight going on around me, and felt several rounds hit the bleachers. After a couple of minutes, I took a look around, trying to find out what was going on. And then I saw him.

Harvick was making his escape.

He was running for the rear entrance to the arena, no one noticing him. With everyone else occupied with the fight raging around them, I was the only person to see him. I quickly sprinted out of my cover and went after him.

Harvick ran to the doors, but didn't slow down when he reached them. With what had to be bionically enhanced strength, he knocked the doors from their hinges with his right arm as he ran through them, his left hand still clutching the strange staff. I leapt over the badly dented remains of the doors as I pursued him.

When I reached the lot behind the arena, I found him waiting for me. Harvick stood there, watching me with a superior smile on his face.

"Mad Tal. I trusted you to be smart enough to escape the ambush. There is at least one person I can still trust to be intelligent and loyal."

I held up both of my laspistols and aimed them at Harvick. His smile faltered for a minute, but did not disappear from his face.

"What's this, Tal? Trying to take over for yourself? Or," he said, his voice becoming menacingly low, "are you just an agent planted to take me out?"

With my left elbow I pushed aside my trenchcoat, just enough to show my Inquisitorial seal attached to my shirt. "I'm here to take you in, not take you out."

"Oh? And how do you propose to do that?" Suddenly he threw down the staff he was holding and jumped at me, an amazingly long jump that I would have never guessed he could make. His body slammed into mine, and I lost my grip on my laspistols.

I rolled to the side, pushing Harvick from me. He continued his roll away from me and leapt to his feet, bracing as if for another leap. I managed to scramble to my feet and tried to assume a fighting stance. I was surprised to feel a bruise across my chest. I didn't believe anyone could hurt me, unaided, through my power armour.

Suddenly Harvick straightened. "I don't have time for this," he said. He turned to walk back toward his staff.

I couldn't let him escape, not after all of this! I ran toward him and jumped on his back, trying to pull him to the ground.

Instead I was shook off his back. While I was trying to stabilize myself and not fall, Harvick turned, blindingly fast, and smacked my face with the back of his hand. The force of the blow knocked me to the ground, my nose broken and bleeding profusely, my cheek split as well.

"I said I have no time for this, and I meant it. Don't bother me again, Tal, or I won't be so easy on you." Harvick turned and picked up his staff, then began jogging away from me.

I looked around, desperate for anything I could use to stop him. One of my pistols was laying beside me. I picked it up, then shook my head to clear my sight and the ringing in my ears. I aimed carefully at Harvick, pushed the power up to full, and fired a shot.

The shot was beautiful. It caught Harvick high in his back.

But instead of falling like I expected him to, he merely stumbled for an instant and then kept on moving, now running. I thought I glimpsed bare metal underneath burnt flesh, but I wasn't really sure; my eyesight was still somewhat off from the hit to my head.

As I watched Harvick escape in the distance, knowing I couldn't stop him, I heard someone running out of the back of the arena. The footsteps suddenly stopped, mere feet away from me.

I spun to face the person, my laspistol coming up to aim at them. I relaxed slightly when I saw who it was. It was Karvill.

"Tal, what happened...?" Karvill began. Then I saw his face change from concern to pure anger, and he lifted his lasgun to aim at my head.

I was about to ask him what he was doing. Then I remembered, my trenchcoat was drawn back. My Inquisitorial seal was in full sight of Karvill.

And his finger was mere seconds from pulling the trigger.

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.

I jumped up, then spun and fired a couple of shots, just close enough to make Karvill duck. "Kar, stop this! You don't want to kill me."

Karvill came up with his lasgun again and fired a series of shots across my midsection. "I trusted you, Tal. You lied, you said you were one of us!"

I began running toward an abandoned automobile that had been left in the arena's lot. Karvill's lasgun blasts followed me.

Once I was behind the cover of the vehicle, I shouted back out at Karvill, "I was doing my job! I have to protect the Imperium at all costs, through any means."

His shots stopped. Then I heard him yell, "But what about all those things you said, all we did together man? You acted like you cared."

"I do care, Kar."

"So why are you trying to destroy the Eagles, man? They're the only family I have!"

I leaned back against the automobile. This was not going well. "I'm sorry, Kar. I can help you, though. The Eagles were scum, criminals. They were trying to destroy the order of the Imperium. I can't let that happen."

"They were my family!" Again the lasgun fired upon my position, this time from a closer location.

"I can help you find another, Kar. You can join the Imperial Guard, maybe even the Space Marines, or the Inquisition. You can be somebody."

"I am somebody," he shouted, firing yet more shots into the automobile.

"You can be somebody big, someone important," I said. "You don't have to spend the rest of your life rotting in jail, or be executed as a traitor."

That seemed to have an effect. Karvill stopped firing. "I never betrayed anyone," he said, his voice sounding a bit shaky.

"I know, Kar," I said. "Like I said, I can help you, protect you..."

Before I had a chance to finish, I heard a number of heavy footsteps, men clambering out of the arena. I didn't get a chance to stand up and investigate before I heard someone shout, "Halt, scum!"

My eyes widened as I realized what was going to happen next. I jumped to my feet and spun around, just in time to see Karvill spinning around, surprised by the Imperial troops now standing mere yards from him.

I saw what was in the troopers' minds, knew what was about to happen. I began to shout. "No, don't fire!"

But it was too late.

Twelve different troopers opened fire on Karvill. Lasguns, shotguns, and a pair of bolters let loose on him, tearing his torso apart in a spray of blood, muscle, organ, and bone. I ducked back behind the automobile, which was also riddled by shots as misses came perilously close to hitting me.

After a moment it was over. I slowly got up, holding my Inquisitorial seal in my hand so the troopers could see it. I walked out from behind the vehicle, then jogged the few steps over to Karvill's position and kneeled over his body. He was clearly dead, his body torn in half by the furious discharge of weapons.

I stood up, my eyes beginning to well up with tears. I turned so no one could see my face, then threw my laspistol on the ground in disgust. With anger and sadness both, I turned my face to the sky and screamed out, "Damn it! Damn it all!"

I turned back around to face the troopers, who were surprised by my outburst. I didn't care that there were tears streaming down my face.

"What were you thinking?" I yelled. "He wasn't a threat! I had him covered. Damn it..." I mumbled, sliding down to my knees. I looked down at Karvill's remains, my eyesight blurry, and my mind reeled at the thought of all that wasted effort. I could have saved him, if only I'd been a little faster.

I heard heavy footsteps approach and a familiar voice say, "Excuse me." I knew who it was, but I didn't look up.

Mandius walked over to me and crouched down by my side.

"Is this Karvill, the one you befriended?" he asked me.

My voice was thick with emotion. "Yes. I could have saved him, Mandius." I looked up at Mandius' face. "I failed him. I let him die."

Mandius placed his left hand on my shoulder. "No, Tal. You did what you could. You tried your best. If anyone is to blame, it isn't you. Karvill chose a life as a criminal. Those troopers chose to killehim like they would any other criminal, as is their duty. And Harvick was the one who set the whole criminal organization up. If you want to assign the blame to anyone, he should get it."

"Harvick..." I said, remembering my brief one-sided fight with him. "I let him get away."

"He escaped?" Mandius asked, his voice suddenly showing a great deal of interest.

"Yes," I said. "He was carrying some kind of..." I stopped. "Wait. That staff Harvick was carrying. That's the reason you're here."

Mandius closed his eyes and was silent for a moment, as if he was trying to think of whether to answer or not. "Yes, and no. It was the staff that gave him away, but Harvick was the reason I'm here."

"Harvick? Why? He's a heretic, not an alien," I said, confused.

"I likely shouldn't say this, but you I trust, Tal. Harvick, we suspect, is not truly human. It is my belief that he is an agent of the Necrontyr, working to study the Imperium. Many other members of the Ordo Xenos also had their suspicions, so I came here to investigate."

My mind flashed back to the moment after I shot Harvick, the brief glimpse of metal.

Mandius stood up then. "I believe I may have said too much. But I trust you will keep it silent."

I stood up as well, giving one last look to the remains of Karvill.

Mandius put his right arm around my shoulders, then tried to pull me along with him as he walked back toward the arena. "He's not your fault, Tal."

"I know, Mandius," I said, shaking my head slowly. "It doesn't help the way I feel inside, though."

Mandius stopped, pulled his arm from my shoulders, then turned to look at me face to face. "Tal, what happened here today is a prime example of why an Inquisitor should follow the unwritten rule of undercover operations."

And that would be...?" I asked.

He looked back at Karvill, only for an instant, then turned back to me.

"Never get close."