Dhakkans Cell #2 “Old Acquaintance”

Three arbiters walk into a bar... (Tom)

Lug sat down on the bar stool with a creak...

"Lug, this is the new rookie, Jarvis," Mathris said.

"Hey, rook."

"Hey, Lug. So, Mathris here was telling me about a crazy raid on an Obscura den you guys were on about 5 years ago. I was pressing him for details, but he said you tell it best."

"Well, Hell, I don't know about that. Where did he leave off?"

"Just tell it from the beginning, Lug. You tell it great," said Mathris.

"OK. But the next two rounds are on you guys," Lug said with a smirk.

"Fair enough."

"So, anyway, it was one of the first raids we ever went on, Mathris and I. We were no more than rooks ourselves, then. Hardly knew our asses from a hole in the ground...no offense kid."

"None taken."

"All right, so we're lining up to breach the door. Castus was with us, then. He was just a lowly arbiter back in the day. Now he's running around shoving an Inquisitor rosette down people's throats, I hear. You talk to him lately, Mathris?"

"No, I haven't. Last time I saw him was a couple of years ago before he left. Never was straight about that Inquisitor business. I'd keep
quiet about that kind of stuff, though, Lug. I hear the Inquisition has been known to punish people just for revealing idents and all."

"Ah, screw em. Castus can come back here and try to shove that Rosette in me himself, if he likes. I could always drink that boy under the table."

"Yeah, yeah, right, Lug. Whatever you say," Mathris said in playful disbelief.

"So, where was I? Oh, yeah. So we're lining up on the front door. Me, Castus, and this absolutely psycho arbiter named Athena. I'll tell you about her in a minute. Anyway, we've got this wiry girl named Seythia down one alley, watching the windows and such...funny how fast those damned junkies can bail out when they have a mind to, you'll see for yourself rook...and Mathris here is around the corner on another window and the back door.

One...two...three...and the ram goes through the door, busting it open. We were green as grass, all cocks over elbows. Hell, we didn't even follow protocol back then. We just ran in without throwing in the flash bangs first. Man, it's a wonder we all made it out OK, huh?" Lug said, turning to Mathris.

"It is, it is..." Mathris said, staring down blankly.

"So there was your usual Obscura heads in there. Guy wandering the halls with a bottle a' rotgut in his hand, people lying on couches that stink worse than you can imagine em stinking. The muscle is there, too. Couple of perps with shotguns, one guy even had a chopper, sprayed the whole room down trying to nail Castus. They were tough bastards. Guy took a blast in the head and kept going. One was half-naked, screaming and rushing Seythia as she came in the back window. That guy was on something more than Obscura, I tell ya. Rib busted from a shotgun blast pierced his own heart, the clean up crew figured...didn't have the good sense to stop with the beserker rage and just sit the hell down."

"Wow," Jarvis added.

"Yeah. Anyway, Castus and I are mixing it up with one of the heavies at one end of the hallway when genius there misses another one of em who was charging at us from the other end of the hall. Missed him at 2 feet and perforated the wall with the blast. You've never been able to shoot worth crap have you, Mathris?!"

"Yeah, yeah...it's called 'Telling a story', not 'Busting Mathris's balls'. Get on with it!!"

"All right. I suppose I *have* hassled you enough about that by now. So, as Athena tells it, she can see this guy charging us down the hallway through the holes that genius here punched in the wall. Now, you know those obscura shacks, paper thin walls? All sheet rock and stuff?..."

"Yeah?," Jarvis interjected.

"Well, Athena charges right through the damned wall and tackles the guy!!! I've never seen a crazier move in my life! Right through the frickin wall and blindsides him!!!! A couple of seconds later, Seythia jumps through the same hole onto the poor bastard, too!! They're kicking and scratching and biting him and Mathris there is bashing any part of the perp that peeks out of the middle of the scrum. Took the bastard down after a heck of a tussle. But I'll never forget the sight of Athena, her brown skin all turned white from the sheet rock, diving through the wall on that guy. Looked like a damned ghost had come for him!!" Lug said, shaking his head and chuckling.

A long while after the laughter had died down, Mathris said almost in a whisper, "Tell him about the other ghost, Lug."

Lug stopped laughing, put his drink down and stared hard at Mathris.

"Um, I don't like telling that part. Gives me the willies," Lug said with an undertone of anger.

After a long pause, Jarvis finally broke the silence "How about the next *three* rounds on us? Besides, a big tough guy like you... with the willies??!"

Lug almost came off his stool, Mathris having to place his hand hard on Lug's shoulder. "Watch it, rook!" Lug said, teeth clenched, eyes bulging.

"Sorry, sorry!"

After a few tense moments, Lug plopped back on the stool, gathered himself, lifted his drink, and downed it in one big gulp.

"OK. So, there was this one junkie...at least we thought she was a junkie...lying on a couch near the entrance. Had this shocking pink hair and these eyes as bright and blue as a holocomic. Thought it was a dye job and special contacts on first glance. But later, thinking about it, I wasn't so sure."

"Why?," asked Jarvis

"Well, Athena is trying to cuff her, you know, just get her out of our way, and the chick screams and just disappears! Poof! She's gone! Weird shimmering light and there's no more her.

Never seen nothing like it. Course, no time to get all philosophical when the bullets are flying so we just carried on. But I'm at the door, blocking the way out a couple of seconds later...or so I *thought* I was blocking the door.

And I swear something brushes up against me while I'm standing there. I think I even got a whiff of her perfume...but there was another odor, too, underneath...something strange and downright disturbing. Damn near made me useless for the rest of the fight...Hell, damn near made me useless for a couple of years..." Lug trailed off, with a slight shiver.

They just sat there, looking at one another for a long while, until Mathris broke the silence:

"Ah, so *that's* your lame excuse for why you couldn't put that heavy down that day, huh, Lug??"

"Shut the hell up," Lug responded, with a laugh that finally chased the tension away for good.

"So, rook, the lesson of the story is just remember to be prepared for anything out there. Because I've come to believe anything and everything *is* out there," Lug said, pointing emphatically at Jarvis.

"Great, a story *and* sage advice. Priceless." Mathris said, rolling his eyes.

"Shove it, Mathris. Now lets get those next three rounds lined up..."

Dhakkans Cell #2 “Old Acquaintance” (Matt)

A room, cavernous and dimly lit, its edges fade into darkness. Hundreds of small figures hunch over control panels, their faces lit up and made ghastly by the green glow of status lights and monochrome vid screens. Some move from workstation to workstation, others are immobile, sealed to their duty stations by permanent wiring and cables. On a huge throne set on a towering pedestal in the rooms center, perches a bulky, shadowy form. The far wall in front of this form appears to be transparent, and on the other side of that wall are stars, thousands upon thousands of stars.

A small red light begins blinking in the lower right of the star field.

A servo arm snaps out of the form and plugs into one of the many control panels that surround the throne. The star field dissolves and is replaced by video feed from a surveillance camera. Instead of stars, huge blurred figures loom on the far wall. The surveillance camera zooms out, focuses, and we see an exterior view of a door. Near the door five figures crouch stealthily. Superimposed on the figures we see their name, rank, and a 10 digit serial number. Their names are; Praetus, Silon Quintos, Victus, Kaarl, and Castus Zane. On the lower right hand of the screen we see the location and date; Hive Tarsus, Scintillus, 966.M41. The five acolytes move silently to either side of the door. Kaarl and Castus Zane, closest to the door, prepare a two man breaching ram. The faces of the five acolytes betray their emotions, some are tense, some nervous, all determined. Castus signals the group of acolytes and begins counting down from three on the fingers of one hand. The count reaches one, zero, the ram is lifted and the door violently smashed open.

Castus Zane’s name begins to blink rapidly, the video of the five acolytes dissolves and is replaced by streams of data. The data is followed by more, very similar looking, surveillance video. Again a group of figures are preparing to breach a door, again we see Castus counting down to the breach, but everything else is different, there are only three figures at the door, Castus’ companions are arbites, the location is Junos, Fydae System, Malfian Sub-Sector, the date is 961.M41, five years earlier.

Multiple surveillance cameras are trained on the group of three arbites and the video feed begins to sequence from camera to camera showing different views of the group. Then it moves to views of the rear of the building, two more arbites are stationed there. Then to views of the interior of the building cycling rapidly through all of the rooms, we see the occupants of the building in quick flashes, all are dirty and in various stages of obscura induced hallucinations. The number of surveillance cameras begins to grow astonishing as the screen flashes from camera to camera and from view to view. Distorted views through fish eye lenses, point of view images through pinhole cameras. Some of the arbites even seem to have multiple cameras mounted on pieces of equipment, helmets, and weapons. No-one seems to be aware of any of them.

Events begin to happen rapidly. The door is breached and the three arbites enter. The two arbites in the back of the building break through doors and windows and enter there. Gunfire erupts quickly, the obscura addicts are better armed and prepared than the arbites expected. The camera views click from room to room so rapidly the different images begin to blur and we only catch glimpses of individual actions. Click! We catch a flash of Castus in a fish eye lens as he takes weapon fire from three different addicts. His body jerks as the rounds impact on his body armor. He returns fire striking one of the addicts in the face with a shotgun blast. Amazingly, the addict shrugs it off and continues blazing away with an automatic rifle. Click! We see a frenzied addict nearly cut in half by a shotgun blast. Despite the horrible wound he continues to attack until he collapses. Click! We see one of the arbites swing a club at a small blue eyed, pink haired woman, she screams and disappears in a flash of light. The arbite stumbles, looking around in confusion. The video repeats this image several times from different angles, once in slow motion, then switches to feed of the exterior of the structure, sequencing rapidly from camera to camera circling the building. The woman does not reappear. Surveillance resumes of the buildings interior. The combat is hand to hand now as the arbites struggle to disarm and subdue the remaining addicts. One addict breaks free and tries to escape the building but is halted by one of the arbites who smashes through an interior wall, tackling him. The remaining two addicts are defeated only because they are outnumbered two, three to one by the arbites. The arbites savagely beat them into unconsciousness, there is no surrender.

The images dissolve once more and are replaced by images of another fight on another planet. We see a smoke filled hallway. Kaarl appears in the hallway running goggle eyed as strange looking energy bolts flash by. The time and location stamp on the lower right hand of the screen has returned to Hive Tarsus, present day. An explosion is heard…*

Aftermath…

Kaarl sat, stripped to the waist, on a neatly folded pile of his gear. Smoke from several smoldering fires filled the air and energy weapon burns scored the wall against which he leaned. Bayonet in hand he worked carefully, cutting an intricate design into the bicep of his left arm*. Blood streamed down his arm and dripped from his fingers joining other, larger, bloodstains on the ruined floor. From behind a closed door to the right he could hear the interrogation, low menacing voices, voices not quit loud enough to make out until they rose to shouts, followed by harsh laughter, and a string of curses which could all too plainly be understood. The door slammed open and Castus Zane stalked out, a frustrated snarl on his face. His body armor scarred and dented by the recent combat and blood from untended wounds stained his uniform. He spoke quickly and quietly with the psyker, Silon Quintos, gesturing back towards the room.

Kaarl watched Silon out of the corner of his eye as he brushed past him and entered the room. Void born Silon had a way of moving that somehow suggested floating more than walking. As if the zero gravity into which he was born followed him everywhere he went, even the surface of a planet. Kaarl had at first dismissed both the psykers Silon and Victus as worthless freaks, but continued contact with them had made him increasingly uneasy. Now he tried to never be alone in a room with either of them.

As soon Silon closed the door silently behind him the screaming started. The two captives in that room had been tough men, scared of nothing. They had fought the five acolytes to the very end, but now, raw fear was in that room and the captives high pitched, hopeless screams filled the small apartment with horror. The wave of psychically induced fear reached out of the room and down the hallway. Castus’ face tightened and paled and a wide eyed Kaarl lifted the point of the bayonet from his arm.

The bayonets point trembled. “He squealed when I slid you into his belly didn’t he?” Kaarl spoke softly, almost soothingly to his bayonet, “But listen to him scream now.”

As quickly as it came, the fear ended.

Then the real interrogation started. The sobbing captives babbled out answers to Castus’ questions as fast as he could pose them. The weapons and Xenos tech had come from the “Cartage Capitol Holding Company,” unloaded from the Freighter “Children of the March,” and held by them until a truck from the holding company came for them. Kaarl skewered a bit of paperwork from a nearby weapon crate on the point of his bayonet and brought it up close to his eyes. Squinting in the dim light he studied it. “Cartage Capitol Holding Company” he spoke solemnly to the bit of paperwork, which unknowingly he held upside down. Flicking the paper away, he examined the bayonet, “That’s where we’ll be going next. That’s where we’ll find out where those nasty little Xenos boxes come from with their evil blasts.” Kaarl resumed cutting the design into his bleeding arm. “Looks like they’ll be more work for you an me,” Kaarl said grimly.

Kaarl frowned as he concentrated.

* The Surveillance Cameras and the Mysterious Observer are all invented by me as a way to fit Castus’ flashback into the story line. I also wanted to get the arbites on camera as if it was a television show. If you hum the theme to the show “Cops” as you read the bit about the arbites experiences you’ll get an idea of the spirit in which the game was played.

* Kaarl has the feral world quirk “Living Record” Kaarl carves his victories into his skin so that when he dies, his skin and a record of his service can be sent to the Emperor. Here it looks like Kaarl had a good day.