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It's with fair trepidation that I offer you guys the small warm area of my brain that's been a part of keeping me upbeat over the past few months... This is a long-form story about guardsmen, commissars, heretics and psykers. If you see me post around Dakka, you're possibly going to expect something spurious or odd... I can promise you other than the occasional hand-drawn pictures and anecdotes on Sundays, it's actually me taking a sincere crack at storytelling.
As of today, Only Heresy has four distinct books, over two hundred and fifty individual diary entries, four very different characters writing for it… It has an ending, and finite span.
You do not need to know anything about RPGs to read this story. All you need is a good mood.
It started off as a single page character diary - for Commissar Yorke an NPC - from Only Heresy, a crossover of two RPG systems. It wandered off path and took a life of its own.
The first book, Only Heresy, follows that investigation. You are reading the order of events that the players experienced. See the Q&A for an in-depth explanation, and why I ditched that idea.
So take a seat, leave your fine tooth comb by the door. Exits are here, here and here. Drinks will not be served whilst the story is in motion. Please remember to turn off your phones, and suspend your disbelief.
Please be gentle, and if you wish to be a proofreader, bang me a message. The ones I had are now busy with their Summer jobs.
I will hand over this topic to someone better qualified, now.
[I was originally going to title this series Moral Officers, but I would have rapidly grown tired of people wondering if it were a typographical error…]
Q&A: - [Last Update 27th July]
[Mostly things asked by proof-readers - Will also update in line with the story]
Q: What is Only Heresy? A: "Hey, you know what'd be cool, and needlessly-complicated? If you combined two Warhammer 40KRPGs and allowed the player actions to affect their own characters."
"That does sound cool and needlessly-complicated. But how could I maximise consumption of all of this pesky spare time I have laying around?"
"Well, how about combining Only War and Dark Heresy, in a non-chronological arrangement?"
"Yes of course, I warmly embrace the mental equivalent of punching myself in the face repeatedly!"
Basically over a few nights, we threw together the bones of our Only / Heresy game where the unfortunate Inquisition player characters would be sent off to a transport vessel, where they would interview their own unfortunate Imperial Guard player characters’ squad-mate. By doing so, they could play through the memories they uncovered. I started writing a character diary for the NPC they were brutalising interviewing. Then I found it was surprisingly entertaining, and started writing it out to be a far longer story.
Q: I'm confused, is this a story or a play-log? A: Yes. No.
After we threw the rough, silly RPG plot together, and I was staring down the dirty barrel of first edition Dark Heresy character creation, I put some time into creating the materials that the Inquisition would have access to. Past interviews. Character diaries. An NPC started complaining about how he was being neglected. Someone found crayons and an old green book. Arts and crafts started.
Backstory and future story happened. From one back story, there even appeared a character that wasn’t in the game itself, but I have a great deal of fun writing for.
I would now loosely describe this as a trilogy: The Only Heresy core storyline, Commissar Cat’s various ridiculous backstories (some of which are true), and then further adventures of the guard where Only Heresy ends off. I will be dipping in and out of strange little pieces as we explore the main storyline, and then there’s a few longer stories to come after.
Q: What's the name of the Regiment/Squad? A: The Mordian 183rd Regiment - AKA "The Boom Hollies" (“Hollies”/“Moonies”).
Because I'm both incredibly childish and enjoy out-dated satirical bottom jokes.
Their colours are white, ice blues, and they are consequently terrible at keeping their uniforms clean.
Yorke’s coat is black-blue, his shirt is ice blue, his sash is red, and his hat is blue/ridiculous/missing.
Q: How do you pronounce Siobhan? A: “Shuh vorn”, hence people occasionally calling her "Shev".
Q: Does the scenario exist as a file? / Can I have the original scenario? A: Ehhhh. If you absolutely want to reverse engineer this story into a playable Only War game, I highly recommend you punch yourself a few times and see how that sits with you.
To be far less rude: I didn't write most of the game down, the paperwork consists of a rough timeline, character names so I don't keep calling people "the guy", a few stats, pencil maps and a table for various side-effects of overdoing various inquisitional technique. It would take me a week or two minimum, to rework into a viable scenario.
If you give me a cookie, a real one, I will put it together, or run it for you. I like the ones with raisins and chocolate in. No nuts. Chocolate with biscuit and raisins in is also acceptable (ironically, “Yorkies”).
Q: Yorke is a terrible Commissar! A: That’s not a question.
Also! He’s actually a pretty good Commissar, in that he motivates the troops surrounding him, and gets the job done and doesn’t die. He just doesn’t follow it up by being a total bastard. His motivation is truly to make other people better. Because of who I based the character on, I pictured him more of a hard-line teacher than a cold hearted murder-machine. The first scene I ever pictured him in, was when he was sat cross legged teaching Mouse to write. I couldn’t reverse-engineer that concept to a mean character.
Unfortunately in the Only Heresy storyline he does take a lot of crap, and there’s a reason for this. We were still using player characters in the RPG. I couldn’t have Yorke just win all the time. It would have been a right turd to play through, if this super NPC just walked in and beat everybody. That’s why he spends so much time elsewhere. In later stories, he does get to dish it out a little more, and the other guard get to come into play a lot more often.
Yorke is not an exceptional fighter, just a well rounded one. He’s not a hero, just a devoted commissar in the Imperial Guard. He has RPG stats, they’re just focused on getting out of the way… and then negotiating his way out of anything he can't dodge. There’s 50% likelihood he would fail to slap you in the face at close-range, but would talk you out of reciprocating (and your shirt).
Q: No really, he’s awful! A: Witty, convoluted answers aside, remember that we are meeting Yorke a good while into his career as a commissar. He spent several years serving with a previous regiment where he did tow the Commissariat line, throw down thunder and raise all Hell in the name of the Imperium. At one point even earning awards for being a vicious bastard in the face of adversity, and turning troops around in the tried and tested way.
However at a point between there, and the Cat we meet today, something happened to cause him to reconsider his approach. In time we'll touch on this a little more.
What is commonly known, is that he was forcibly removed from his first posting when his true character surfaced, and perhaps the second chance he was awarded caused him to make a conscious effort to change.
Q: It can't actually be that long. A: 27th July:
This message was edited 42 times. Last update was at 2015/11/04 21:48:12
Character profiles: [Will update and add as story progresses]
Vox Officer Daniel Ahde (“Ahde”, “V”)
Appearance: Late thirties, 5’ 8” stacked short. Dark skinned, black-brown eyes, black hair worn short, starting to grey at the back ever so slightly. Small beard, also kept short. No visible scars. Very unlikely to be seen without his vox headset, even when off duty. Feels naked without it.
Wears standard regiment uniform, plus coloured cap, vox earpiece or headset, wears a small brass circular medal on his cap or chest.
"In fact the only one amongst the four of you showing any real promise is your Vox Officer." He gestured to Ahde who had the forethought to appear startled, or probably was, "An impeccable service record, including an award for keeping channels up, and highly maintained during a two month long siege. We can always use reliable men such as you."
Bio: Relatively little is known about his life before joining the guard, other than he volunteered. In fact Ahde has far more interest in learning about those around him. Very inquisitive, often to the point of irritating his friends through relentless questioning.
As a member of the 183rd, Ahde is an exceptional vox operator. Despite not being much of an engineer, he is almost peerless in his abilities, even in the most adverse situations. He is humble about his talents, and enjoys the work as a deep passion. Despite this, it’s not an obsession that drives his life, he is simply an exceptionally dedicated signal officer.
Captain Gaskell often jokes about Ahde listening to vox static for fun, but in truth he has trained his ear to recognise many different vox sounds and frequencies. At points even recognising subtle differences such as when a shielded transmission is being used nearby.
Philosophy / Rumours: Optimist on the outside. Mercilessly teases and questions his friends.
Medical: Nothing out of the ordinary.
Habits: Enjoys sleight of hand games and playing cards. Drinks in moderation.
Relationships: All mouth, very little action.
Captain Francis Gaskell (Gaz, Frank)
Appearance: Late forties. 6’ 2”, moderate build. Grey eyes. Short pale blonde hair fading to grey. Permanent dark stubble. Old, straight scar from his hairline to the cheek beneath his right eye (does not affect eye itself).
Standard Mordian Iron Guard uniform with Captain insignia and a couple of awards for long term service. Very tidy uniform, keeps it neat and clean, as to show respect for the Imperium. Not naturally a tidy man, but looks natural in his clothing.
[Cat’s Diary - recalling their first meeting]: “Look, lad. Do you not understand why we are here? What this is?" the officer frowned as he regarded me. He was a young man, I guessed in his mid twenties, but I had little point of reference. His uniform was sharp and fitted him well, but he himself looked worn. His grey eyes, shaded under a peaked cap gave him an especially tired appearance. Across one eye was a long, raised scar, marring what would probably have been a handsome face but for the sour expression he wore.
Bio: Gaskell has served most of his life as part of the Mordian Iron Guard. Promoted to Captain four years ago. Before this, he was part of the Mordian PDF; the problematic promotion after being seen as proficient in your position.
Had a wife and daughter on Mordian, hopes some day to return to them, not unrealistic about the chances of it happening. Most of his earnings are channelled back to them.
Warped sense of humour, beneath a dry exterior, often disarming those around him. Greatly frustrates the chain of command by both not appearing to take things totally seriously, whilst being very good at his job. Hates paperwork. Hates meetings. Hates most formality. Greatly enjoys practical jokes and subtle teasing.
Very accurate with his rifle and pistol. Efficient, doesn't waste time or energy when one shot would do the job.
Philosophy/Rumours: Upholding traditional values and showing respect (especially to those who earn it) are important to him. Calls a spade a spade, but is not simple in himself. Has a way of speaking that can be perceived as abrasive, but is actually his way of being amicable. Views the troops as a teacher would regard a class of rowdy teenagers: Affectionately, irritably… and responsible for their actions. Raises his voice on occasion, but scarcely in anger (frequently in exasperation). Seldom openly criticises command in public, and very rarely in company of others.
His priority is keeping the squad together and safe, not seeking glory. No coward, but extremely unlikely to make a push that would waste lives needlessly, where observation and precision would suffice. Can be frustratingly calm under pressure.
Tactically efficient, as far as Mordians go. Appreciates that uniforms get muddy in war, and it’s a sign of having done a hard day’s grind. Still, clean your boots, soldier.
Basically he’s abusive but it’s very good natured. Generally, the ruder he is to someone, the more comfortable he is in their company.
[Cat’s Diary] Gaskell sighed, “Feels a long time ago.” he took a drag on his roll-up and leaned back on the scrubby rail of the bar’s balcony, “You’re still a mouthy pain in the arse.”
Smoke and the dim lamps of the balcony emphasised the lines in his face. He hadn’t visibly changed much in the intervening decades, if anything he just looked slightly more worn.
“And you’re still a grim-faced feth.” I grinned as he mimed taking a wound to the heart at my comment.
Misses his family deeply but is under wild no illusion he’ll necessarily get to see them again. Remains faithful anyway.
Has a soft spot for Vox Officer Ahde, sharing many of the same plain-spoken viewpoints on life, and has a love-hate relationship with the man. Mostly camaraderie with the occasional desire to leave him stranded in a ditch.
Feels personally responsible for looking out for Commissar Yorke, despite being only ten years older than him. Mostly due to having met Yorke as a precocious (pain in the arse) child and set him on the path to his career, before encountering him again nearly 15 years later. It may seem like high coincidence that they ended up in the same regiment, but many uncanny coincidences happen around them both, and Gaskell has begun to suspect exterior involvement.
Someone with extremely long reach has an eye on them. For better or for worse, is yet to be seen.
Gaskell’s relatively recent promotion to Captain took place after the death of the previous Captain Creer.
A deeply disliked man, Creer died after an apparent mugging during leave on Valse. The same “mugging” left Commissar Yorke near death and two of Creer’s closest officers hospitalised. Upon his recovery, Yorke immediately privately executed the two officers involved. This has cast a shadow over Gaskell’s promotion, and though those close to him know the truth, it’s easy to speculate that this “cleaning house” has made life much easier for Gaskell.
The reality is [redacted]
Medical: Absolutely fine. Bouncy. Does not yet use rejuvenate treatments despite encouragement.
Habits: Drinks caffeine throughout the day, can be irritable without. Drinks alcohol in moderation. Smokes socially.
Relationships: Loyal to his wife/family and easily ruffled.
Appearance: Early to mid thirties. 6’ 10”, broad shouldered but lean, pale complexion, black-brown eyes, dark salt and pepper hair, worn short but shaggy, down to his shirt collar. No visible scars or augmentations.
Typical Imperial commissar attire, but vastly understated. Simple black-blue greatcoat without braiding, piping or epaulets, Commissar hat, standard crimson sash, boots. Typically carries slim power sword and antique hell-pistol.
The greatcoat he wears shows a jagged hole in the lower back, displaying colour of the sash worn underneath. Understood that this is to remind guardsmen that he has survived at least one attempt on his life. [Possibly that he is also terrible at repair.]
Does not wear any medals, despite surviving nearly a decade of active duty. [It’s not clear whether he has never earned any, had some but lost them, or just doesn’t turn up when they’re being awarded. All are very real possibilities.]
Bio: Stationed with the Mordian 183rd regiment, Yorke's silent step and uncanny ability to survive combat without apparent injury have earned him the affectionate nickname "Cat" amongst many of the guardsmen he watches over. [Some less favourable ones as well]
As a dedicated commissar, his first loyalty is to the Imperium, leading and inspiring guardsmen to better themselves in combat. A close second are the wellbeing and improvement of the men in his care, and preservation of civilian life. Reasonably well respected [but not entirely trusted] by his regiment, he is generally professional about his duties, and as far as possible, easy to get along with.
Despite being unnaturally optimistic about the company he keeps, it’s worth noting that he does not take great pains to enamour himself to those around or above him. Long realising that being affable conflicts with his duties as a commissar, it’s a perpetual struggle that can lead to quite sombre moods when alone.
No great skill with a blade, relying almost entirely on reactionary defence. Ballistic skill is nothing to write home about either, but reasonably well trained. His survival in the battlefield is mostly credited to moving like butter off a hot grill plate, exceptional defense, and taking careful advantage of opportune strikes. No coward, but not one to throw himself and his men into a suicidal charge to prove a point either.
A very motivational commissar, capable of convincing troops that all of their efforts are of great importance. Is able to work out how to get troopers up and going, after only a short while in their company; be it by coercion, flattery or platonic abuse. Deeply self-depreciating sense of humour. Excellent at getting a rise out of people whilst keeping a straight face.
Hangs around with Vox officer Ahde and Captain Gaskell, the three seem to be genuine friends.
Philosophy & Rumours: Yorke's motivation is a genuine concern for improving those around him. Determined to see the best in people, even if it kills him. [And nearly has on several occasions] Despite his calling, death does not sit easily with Yorke, his apparent outlook is that life is a gift, and the ending of it a last resort.
After five years alongside the current regiment, he is yet to use capital punishment as a motivational tool. Instead he chooses to remind those with him that they fight for those who cannot. [And what may happen should they fail.] He is no stranger to execution in the line of duty, however, attending and performing those of traitors and those who have endangered the lives of fellow guard. It is so far mostly unknown about his actions with his previous regiment by those around him, and whether this has always been his modus operandi [No].
His respect for life leads to a great dislike of servitors and servo skulls, despite possessing a great poker face, he is noticeably unsettled in their presence. [Having them serve food is a great way to put him on the spot.] Senior members of the Adeptus Mechanicus are similarly not his favourite company due to their predilection for augmentation, but are considerably less common encounters. He is unusually tolerant of Psykers for a member of the Imperial Guard.
[“There will always be bastards. And people will always make mistakes. But if I close myself off for the sake of saving myself from bastards and foolishness, I do everyone else a disservice by not giving them a chance!”]
Yorke was presented a different calling in early life but turned this down, wishing to learn instead how to improve his fellow man as a member of the Commissariat. [Due to his ‘uncanny luck’ this wish was accommodated, despite him being a child at the time.]
Widely spread regimental rumour is that he was thrown out of his previous regiment for being caught sleeping in his tank. Or having an illicit affair with the captain. Or that he punched the captain. Or that he rode his tank through the mess tent whilst having an affair with the captain.
What actually transpired, is that [Redacted]
Medical: Yorke sustained a serious stab wound in an attempt on his life. It caused significant damage. He refused any bionic replacements, making him slightly more susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol. Otherwise unremarkable.
Habits: Does not drink alcohol or caffeine. [Misses them terribly.] Chain-smokes given the opportunity.
This message was edited 5 times. Last update was at 2018/04/23 00:01:40
[Private records concerning the Mordian 183rd Regiment]
Compiled in part by Renan, Ordos Malleus during initial investigation [732.M41] [Denoted by *]
Supplemented and consolidated by Commissar Lewis Cathery, Mordian 183rd [748.M41] Denoted by *]
Captain Francis Gaskell - Mordian 183rd // Captain Creer - Mordian 183rd // Miscellaneous Imperial Guard personnel
[Commissar Cathery's Notes]:
- If you notice numerous grammar errors in one of Captain Gaskell logs: Captain Gaskell's grammar was generally appalling, because his logs were servo-recorded from speech. There was only so much regional dialect the servo-recorder could accommodate.
- "Mouse" was not entirely consistent with his drawings, either. Sometimes pieces of uniform disappear and reappear, change colour, etc. One might almost think that the illustrations were done out of sequence.
- “It doesn't work that way.”: All accounts as written, are from the viewpoints of the individual involved. Sometimes their views or understandings were just plain wrong. For example, the reported circumstances of Commissar Yorke's recruitment to the Mordian 183rd are adorably implausible. It's as though someone might just have been protecting his feelings...
Suppose that I should really start at the beginning, but I can't. Don’t know where the definite point of descent began. All I can offer is the day that I realised there was no turning back, that we could no longer pretend things could ever return to normalcy. The day that, for the first time, I wondered if I'd be better off dead for the sake of those around me.
Not through cowardice, you understand; nor through self-pitying destructive wishing. But because my continued existence brought pain to those who had only sought to assist me, and at the same time very nearly allowed evil to succeed. But I am getting ahead of myself, or perhaps even behind, it's difficult to tell these days.
It started in a room; plain, and small, like millions around the universe. A neatly laid bunk, aboard a great imperial vessel. The Caput Inter Nubilia, our home for the 183rd Mordian “Holly” regiment.
My two closest friends, Captain Gaskell and Vox Officer Ahde were returning a battered tan folder. It had been one of my few possessions, taken and stowed when they first assumed me dead during a recent deployment. For better or for worse, I had later proved them wrong.
“We looked through it, just to see if there was any details of who we could contact.” Gaskell sighed. His face was tired, extremely tired. I felt responsible. The artificial light deepened the aged lines on his face, and the prominent scar that dipped across his right eye. I felt responsible for that, too.
I raised an eyebrow, “And did you?”
“You know we didn’t. Bunch of random crap and a few picts, but no identity.”
It was my turn to sigh, “Do you not remember how you met me, Gaz? Besides, you both know commissars come from the bloody Schola. What were you expecting, letters from my loving family with a home address?”
“Friends, maybe. Some signs of a life outside of all this.” Gaz smiled sadly.
Having no answer to this, I picked up the folder, causing a worn pict to slide out. I caught it lazily in mid-air as it span toward the floor.
“May I?” Ahde interrupted my thoughts, tilting his head at the dirty pict I was now holding. I passed it to him. He handled the picture with surprising care, his own face concentrating as he raised it to get a better view, “So this is you, but who are these folks?”
“First regiment I was assigned to. That’s Captain Dalton, Sergeant Crichton, and the rest. You can just about make out Flint and Siobhan... There.” I pointed to a couple of blurred faces in the front line, “It’s not a very good picture.”
He squinted, “It isn’t. You look very… Unlike yourself.”
“It was a different time.” I said simply.
Ahde reached the pass the pict back, but paused, retracting his arm and examining where his hand had moved on the image, “Wait…” he muttered, rubbing his thumb gently on an area, dislodging a thick dark smudge onto his pale thumb-tip.
“Don’t-“ I held out my hand gesturing for him to return the image.
“Hold the phone, these looks like medals. I thought you didn’t own any medals.” he eyed me, highly amused.
Gaz peered over, his eyebrows raised, but catching sight of the uncovered imagery, his smile fell and he murmured, “Drop it, fella.”
Ahde chose not to hear, and tilted his head, “Now that’s a Skull, but the other? I don’t recognise it.”
“Pray you never have to. That’s a Saint Kark.” I sighed again, still holding out my hand. He finally returned the pict, I stuffed it hastily back in the small folder on the bed, and cast it aside, “Commissariat award. It means that- It means, I turned our squad back towards the enemy and then, well we took them down. Several- Several summary executions in the line of duty” I stared at the folder. Through it, to an unmeasured distance in both time and dimension.
For once, Ahde stayed silent, but Gaskell spoke quietly. I hadn’t expected it, “How many?”
Prickled by the intrusion, I answered testily, “That day? Five. That week? Ten, a dozen perhaps. That month? Maybe twice that. You want a headcount each year, or the accrued total?” speaking low, in a growl barely above a whisper. I turned back, wearily. Upon glimpsing their horrified faces, the fuse on my temper ignited, and I snapped, “Don’t you remember who I am?”
Gaskell raised his hands, signalling for pause, “Do you? You’ve always been more than fair with us. We don’t know this Commissar Ramirez Yorke.” he pointed to the tattered folder, “We know you, Cat. Our Cat who listens. Cat who encourages rather than grinds down. Cat who can even get men out of the trenches without drawing his pistol.”
I spat at the floor, “The same Cat who killed four of our own guard the week you got promoted, Captain. One of them simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
“You-“ Ahde began, but Gaskell put out a hand and stopped him.
“Our Cat. Who doesn’t buy into self pity.” he said calmly, before walking out with Ahde in tow.
The fire stolen from me, I threw the folder under my bunk and inhaled deeply to calm myself, feeling ashamed. It wasn’t their fault that I was on edge. We all were, the Inquisition’s invisible cage was driving us all to distraction. Since our return, the regiment had been confined to barracks, awaiting the arrival of whichever sinister bastards the Ordos Malleus had seen fit to send. Ahde and Gaskell were both were suffering the same confinement on my behalf, and yet they’d had the good grace to keep me company. I removed my hat and ran my hand through my hair, the gesture I’d come to associate with Gaz. Leaving that blasted cap on the bunk, and taking another breath, I stepped out of the room to track my friends down and apologise.
I didn't have to go far. In fact, just to the doorway. As I opened the door, Gaskell was waiting, paler and visibly shaken.
The Inquisition had arrived. Three of them.
Beside my friend two robed figures, I suspected one in deep purples to be a psyker due to his bowed stance, and the other clad in deep blues, possibly an Assassin. Both were overshadowed by the unmistakable form of-
“Nope.” I quickly closed the door again. They probably hadn’t expected that, and it bought me a moment.Oh feth from above, that’s an Adeptus Arbites out there. “…Ramirez Yorke, you open this door right now!" with the tone of an exasperated parent, Gaskell shouted at me and slammed on it with the flat of his hand.
Using the brief confusion, I moved faster than I have in my life before or since, and whipped a small bundle of black cloth out of my coat pocket. I stuffed it unceremoniously into the side pocket of Gaskell's satchel that he'd left on the floor in his haste to leave.
Pressing my ever fluffy hair down and fixing my hat on my head, I stepped back toward the door. I hadn’t locked it, but the assumption that I had was enough to buy that time.
“So sorry. Forgot my-"
The door nearly burst off its hinges, and I found myself face-to-top-of-head with the Arbitor. He fixed me with a steel glare, despite the heigh difference, “I am Judge Aaric Boorman, working on behalf of Inquisitor Cape, of the Ordos Malleus. My associate is Celena.” he gestured to a cloaked female form, but didn’t expand on her profession, he didn’t need to. I recognised the presence of an Assassin now I could see her fluid step forward. He continued, “And this is Renan.” the robed psyker nodded politely. “You are requested to come with us." finished the judge. There was no request to his tone.
We had known they would come, we just hadn't expected it so soon. I caught sight of Gaskell’s face, his body language was as ever, still and calm. His grey eyes were telling another story entirely.
Trying my luck, not for the last time, I nodded, “Understood. Please, allow me to speak briefly with our Captain, for the sake of easy relations, and… safety.” ours or theirs, I wasn't yet sure.
"You have five minutes." Boorman stepped back, but remained close by in the corridor, with the door held open.
Gaskell stepped past him uneasily, and into my room. He picked his small satchel up off the floor, being habitually tidy, and slung it on to his shoulder, "Cat-"
Cutting across him, I looked straight into his eyes, "Gaz, you have to promise me that you'll do whatever they ask of you. Tell them the truth. You can't have my back on this one. Be honest in that none of you knew what I was doing. Whatever- Whatever happens to me, you have everyone else here to consider."
With a pained expression, he nodded, “You’re right. I know." His usually warm face was now tired beyond reason, and I hated myself for being part of the cause.
"Make sure Ahde doesn't say anything stupid either. I spend enough time worrying about both of you already. Don't need him making inane jokes that land you all in the gak." I forced a smile.
"Soft-hearted feth-wit.” I finished for him, and he gave a smile. I saluted him, doing my best to return it, "See you later, Gaz."
"You fething better." he replied.
I stepped out of my room.
You grow accustomed to the reactions of people once they realise or discover your position as a member of the Inquisition. Fear, hatred, cowering, unease. Even attempts at currying favour.
Opening the door, loudly declaring, "Nope!" and closing it again our faces was a new one. I think that rather caught us all off guard. I was quite glad for the hood of my robe allowing me to conceal the fact I was trying very hard not to laugh.
Poor Captain Gaskell was left standing beside us, very much wishing a breach in the hull would open up and swallow him. Which is a pleasant change from the usual wishing it would swallow us instead. Beside me, I felt his concern on an almost paternal level for the man we were to collect, and deep frustration at his antics.
After hammering on the door, he sighed, “What is he doing in there?"
"He's putting his hat on." I replied, still amused but carefully containing it.
He didn't ask how I knew, “Oh for- Sounds about right."
I found myself intrigued by the captain’s attitude to the commissar. It is my understanding that quite often these two roles are at odds, or uneasy truce, watching one another like circling cats. Yet here the two men were quite clearly friends, with Yorke emitting an almost palpable sense of loyalty to the regiment.
Captain Gaskell I already knew some details about, having read his file on the trip over. At almost fifty years old, surprising longevity didn’t quite cover it, especially considering the Mordian predilection for bold, uncompromising methods on the battlefield. I came to the conclusion that for all his rough edges, he was a man who considered every action and repercussion. Right now he was considering strangling his comrade.
I very rarely consider outward appearance, but it bears mentioning that the 183rd uniform is especially luminous. White and ice blue, amongst some of the least subtle ever witnessed. It made their continued survival even more impressive, if not perplexing.
Commissar Yorke himself was a curious character, my first thought being that he didn't exactly strike me as true Commissariat material. But then I accept that perhaps my view is skewed by the typical company we encounter. Very rarely, in fact never, are we called upon to intervene or investigate pleasant circumstances. The men and women we encounter match the situations in which we find them.
Instead of the expected trained, rigidly tempered structure, I sensed at Yorke’s core, a malleable adaptability and willingness to compromise. Not entirely unusual in itself, but the additional exclusion of most unpleasant qualities was. He was finely tuned to care for those around him, and lacked any sense of self importance, but other than that, I was unsure of his motives.
Upon drawing close to us, fear poured from him in waves, but uncharacteristically for those caught in these moments, it was not fear for himself. The man was terrified beyond reason that he may have condemned his companions and troops by his actions. I wished I could be of some reassurance, but for all I knew, he may well have done.
Of course this was only my first reading of his presence, and I am certainly not beyond being proven wrong, so I held off my initial temptation to consider him an upstanding gentleman just yet. Either way, my opinion of his character was not important, it only served to reflect upon how the two acolytes’ investigation and handling of the unfortunate fellow proceeded.
Sent there by Inquisitor Cape to follow his newest recruits, I was purely to observe, and if possible, reign my charges in to avoid total public catastrophe. This was intended to be a small scale, low key-investigation into 'a person of interest' aboard the Caput Inter Nubilia. One the journey over, Celena and Boorman had concluded it must be Commissar Yorke, as he had recently mysteriously vanished during a deployment, only to resurface a month later with rather unusual company.
Two as yet unproven acolytes amidst a large amount of greatly frustrated soldiers, in a small area. A dropped flare in a room full of det packs would be less lethal than mishandling of the current situation. They did their damnedest anyway.
Prior to his escort, I had politely reminded them that their proposed method of shackling and dragging the commissar across the middle of his own barracks was definitely not the best way to proceed. And so I observed, and silently prayed to the Emperor that we made it through the day without serious incident.
The strange trio led me down several long corridors, all of which became less familiar as we travelled. My senses were frantically feeding me information on all possible bolt holes and exits along the route, but it was pointless. I walked with my head held up, smiling and attempting to be civil, but other than the psyker, Renan, nobody was paying me much attention, the Arbiter and Assassin were muttering into their internal vox and left us to walk.
"Long trip out this way?" I had the self preservation instinct to attempt to be friendly, for all the good it would do.
Renan shook his head but kept pace, "Surprisingly no, for once. We have been monitoring this area for some time." he sensed my surprise, "The planet you encountered was included, but not the focus of our interest, I'll admit."
His judge companions glared hard at us, and I'm sure if it were possible, Renan would have rolled his eyes.
Finally we reached what I'll kindly refer to as the interview room. It was bare apart from four chairs, a short desk and scant pre-assembled recording equipment. A servo-skull, a monitor, some files. I started to experience some trepidation to say the least. The Nubila had been our home for a few years now, and whilst I'd never regarded it as particularly comforting, I'd never felt afraid aboard it either. Fear amidst familiarity was deeply unsettling. Pausing in the doorway to glance back down the corridor, I didn't know who I was hoping might arrive. There was no higher power or eleventh-hour escape. Then again, for all I knew, the Inquisition were just going to ask me some questions. I could handle that. I just had to be honest.
And then hope that act in itself wasn’t damning enough to have everyone else I knew shot as well…
"I'd really rather not." I was not restrained to the seat in any form, but leaned back slightly from the proffered beaker. The contents were clear like water, and moved similarly, but something about the fluid was causing me to feel deeply uneasy.
"If you have nothing to hide, commissar, I don't see your objection." Boorman said coolly, his arm holding the drink still extended.
To my left, the Assassin flexed her hands slightly.
"Because I don't know what it'll do." I started to panic internally. Ever since the incident on Valse, I'd been warned by medics to steer away from drugs due to my diminished ability to process them. The offered liquid was a cocktail of various substances that I didn't understand, but would allow for ‘verifiable truth’, as it'd been put to me. Sounded like crap in my opinion, but I was more bewildered than wary.
Renan sighed quietly, “It’s in your best interests, Ramirez. You would not prefer the alternative."
I looked to him in confusion, "Alternative?"
To my left, the Assassin gave a grin that I have trouble forgetting for all the wrong reasons, "We take you next door."
Closing my eyes, I gripped the beaker and drank. It tasted of nothing, and had a slight silty texture. The three of them watched me silently. I wondered what was supposed to happen, or how immediate they'd expected the result to be.
Feeling petulant amidst the danger, I muttered, "No personal questions, though."
Under his hood, I thought I saw Renan conceal an amused smile. He struck me as the more personable of the three, despite being a psyker, and so forced to restrain his emotions. It reassured me slightly to have someone human in the room.
I looked up, remembering, "And the edict still stands? No matter what?"
"You have my word." Renan replied, raising his hand.
I felt relief. In exchange for my cooperation, a set of Gaskell’s logs, and a discrete investigation, Inquisitor Cape, the power behind the incursion, had granted the Holly platoon protection from all investigative activity, and permission to carry on in their duties. I sensed there was something bigger afoot than my personal misadventures recently, especially with the block seeming counter-productive to the groups' own investigation.
But still the sense of relief permeated. In fact I started to feel quite good. Upbeat.Hang on. It was fairly cool in the room, but my palms started sweating slightly. I didn't greatly care. These were very nice people, after all, and they'd look after me. Nothing bad could happen with them here, I was sure of it.
The gnawing sense of something being amiss had gradually subsided, and I found myself distracted by the enchanting servo-skull recorder that was rigged up to the desk in front of us. It was very pretty. The green lights were glowing in a sparkling array over its surface, and it bobbed up and down slowly. I bopped it gently with a finger and it flashed several different, equally beautiful colours. I did it again, it chittered at me in a most adorable electronic voice, and tiny red lamps appeared. I hoped I hadn't upset it-
"Yorke. Please leave that alone."
"Hm?" I turned my attention back to my new friends.
"We need to ask you some questions." the Assassin lady said patiently.
"I can help with that." I smiled, it's always good to be useful to such nice people.
[Mouse's Journal Entry] [ ???? - 732.M41 ] *
~ ♬ Now I believe in unity, and I am willing to compromise, but I'm not gonna lie or sell my soul.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/07/17 05:43:17
that is indeed finite. Our esteemed card playing friend perhaps wishes otherwise.
It's like watching the man in the sweetie shop filling a little paper bag with butterballs and knowing that sooner or later the lid will go back on his huge sweetie jar which must inevitably return to the shelf because there's only so much buttery goodness a little paper bag can hold.
I was just surprised at the initial length at it right from the start, and in hindsight a nice would have been good after that question. Curse you Internet and reading text for communication, it really can make it tricky to get the right tone across.
Irishpeacockz-Blackjack needs a pay raise for being the welcomer to the crusade
Palleus-Write a school essay about Kroot! Pride. Prejudice. And Cannibalsim.
Subject: "A long one, this." - Book I: Only Heresy
Oh! Heh. Well, I started writing this in March, on and off. I needed at distraction from some heavy things going on. It sort of spiralled from there and is now standing at 114,000 words. The stats in the intro were more to justify me using three posts to set up the topic than anything else. If all goes to plan, I'll need them to basically index the entries and keep it manageable.
Because if the diary entry system, I just tap out scenes as they come to me and fit them into the structure. Most of this is written on my iPhone, then grammar-checked and compiled on the computer. I still find odd corrections that the phone made on occasion. Ahde being the regiment's Box Officer for example.
I'm going to struggle more with early entries as they aren't completed fully. Friday's for example is categorical nonsense that I'm considering dropping entirely: When I first ran this as a campaign, there was a small rules shakedown onboard the ship. Cat was supposed to be peripherally aware of the player activity and Gaskell was also. However the group I ran it with straight up trashed the game, literally tortured the command staff for giving them a hard day, and ended up shot. The only part I have written is the lead-in, which is a strange character building night out (read: whining) from the commissar and Gaskell's thoughts on the mission briefing.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/14 07:57:59
Just started working through this. I love the line "I should start at the beginning but I can't" -- that raises so many questions, and is so contrary to expectations, that it makes a hell of an opening hook.
Upcoming work for 2022: * Calgar's Barmy Pandemic Special
* Battle Sisters story (untitled)
* T'au story: Full Metal Fury
* 20K: On Eagles' Wings
* 20K: Gods and Daemons
Subject: Re:"A long one, this." - Book I: Only Heresy
Hah, I actually feel ambivalent toward that intro. It's a poke at myself for the inability to write this in a straight line. I've had the ending written since June, but haven't got today's entry finalised.
The first thing I ever wrote was the assault mentioned at the start of the interview. In my defence, at that point it was never supposed to be part of a greater whole.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/14 07:58:16
For fear of the side effects of our drug having a damaging effect before we could collect any pertinent information, I monitored Commissar Yorke's body language and pulse, letting the two acolytes attend to the interview. I would not have let them extract the information forcibly from the poor commissar, as it would have been unnecessary and dangerous, but he wasn’t to know that.
Deception through lack of clarification is not my fondest technique, I preferred transparency, especially considering what we were asking of him in turn.
But as I remind myself daily, the universe isn’t fair in that way.
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [5 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
They told me that I have f't start keeping a log f't sake of posterity. I'm not that keen on the old hand-writing, so’m using one of these servo-recorders. Putting my brain int ‘nother eyd, eh. Then some poor bastard likely hast f’t read it. My mithering int’ their brain! Rather jus tell someone t’ their face.
[Coughing] Don’t rightly care f’t all t’ record keeping, but ever since Valse, they had me tek over as Captain. Dan think Creer ever cared for this crap. Pretty sure he had someone else t’ do t’ writing, that’s certain.
We're off overt Jallen reet soon, there's been a camp gone and got itself disconnected. No word f't well over a fortnight.
Jes' gonna be a small squad, me, Ronson and some of't new lads, first real air they'll get. Ahde too, can't get away from t'prick. That’s unfair, we need him if I’m honest. And Cat of course. Get t'mardy bastard doing sommat aht than sooking.
So how do I see what’s been writ so far then?
[Sound of items being lifted] Let’s see. Ah strewth, is that really how it’s been taking this down? I thought these bloody things had accounting f’t regional speech. F’ feth's sake. Githi.
Right. Now the fething thing ought to write me up less like some kind of fethwit green-skin. Whole point of speaking aloud was so nobody has to deal with my handwriting, or have to dictate to someone like Cat. He’s all trained in fancy cursive, he can whip up a page and have time to do something useful after. Schola will do that for you. Me, it'd take all week to get a day written down. And then nobody would understand what it said!
"What's this scrawling, Captain? Did you uncover and slaughter a foul Xeno camp, or did you attend a school production in the local town?" Ha.
When I get time, I’m supposed to go through some of Creer’s old logs, see if I can make use of them. Can’t imagine that prick wrote anything worth reading either, but I won’t skip on the work I’ve been set.
Anyway, we got our orders. Mostly. We are going to Jallen to recover comms with the 57ths down there. They were supposed to be scouting and securing. No real record of what they discovered. One small Ork scout ship that they laid waste to, then their lines were dead. Probably equipment failure and they don't have anyone down there with half a mind to sort it out. They've missed reporting back for quite a while now. We're taking Ahde down, he's a fine hand at mending comms. Probably the best I've ever known, not that I'd tell him.
We had a good night tonight, but I noticed Cat weren’t with us. I’m not sure where he went, Michelle says she thinks he saw him head off to another deck. Guess he wanted some peace. I’m going to talk to him when he gets back, make sure there’s nothing I’m missing here.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [5 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
As I swigged my drink, a small voice inside me decided that I also needed a smoke, and I made to stand up. Or attempted to. Things weren't cooperating as they rightly should, and I was already fairly foggy headed. In honesty, I hadn't meant to stay at the bar quite so late, or drink so much. With each moment's consideration, the long walk back to bed seemed to extend further into the night. The seat however, was here. Settling back down, I stretched in an attempt to compose myself.
A shadow drew across me and I looked up fuzzily. Not someone I knew.
“On your own then, Commissar?”
"Mm." I replied eloquently.
"Feel like company?"
I shrugged, or mostly managed to, "Your choice. M'not great company myself, though.”
"Oh, I don't know. Even if you're not up to talking, as your lot go… You’re quite easy on the eyes." There’s that double-edged sensation of being half-damned, that I’ve been fielding most of my life… Amused, I snorted and put back more of my whisky, "Whatever floats your boat." I shifted to allow space behind the table.
Deliberately, I wasn’t on the same deck at the rest of the squad. Tonight I’d sought out a common room that was far enough away to avoid bumping into any of the Hollies. I didn’t know what I was looking for, but I knew what I wanted to avoid. Questions. Looks. Folks like Ahde who knew that usually I didn’t drink, and would silently watch every mouthful, killing any slight enjoyment. But most of all, avoiding the reminder that despite my priorities proven time and time again, the majority still saw me as a predatory figure, on the prowl for any sign of weakness. I had no desire to be liked, but I also needed the occasional break.
This bar offered cold indifference and privacy. It also offered the gritty, low grade liquor that I was greatly fond of. Some folk would regard this choice of drink for an officer as purposefully slumming it. But in some strange manner, I found it reminded me of home, the way others may be reminded by the scent of fresh baking, or the sound of rain on glass. It was absolute filth, in better times I had kept a flask of it in my desk, and it was almost universally guaranteed to still be there at the end of the day, compared to any other alcohol left laying around.
After another hour, I really was ready to leave. Standing up carefully, I excused myself, "I better go, before I can't find my own way back." Before? I’d be lucky to get halfway. Stifling a yawn with one hand, despite the fuzzy head, I still tried to remember my manners.
"Allow me. My place is nearer."
“Oh? Sure, sure. Fine.” I mumbled. Sleep was calling to me, over the myriad jumble of everything else.
A steady hand guided me gently by the shoulders across the room and down a few twisting corridors. Despite the brevity of the trip, I was already lost. But a bed was a bed, and that part I understood well enough. Tomorrow's Yorke can deal with geography, I decided. Tonight’s Yorke wants a sleep, a smoke, and not necessarily in that order. Passing through the doorway into the proffered bunk, the door slid shut behind us both. I found myself pressed firmly against the plain metal wall, by two hands on my chest, the brushed surface cold against the back of my neck.
“Still sleepy, Commissar?”
I blinked, groggily realising that at times I am not a clever man. This was undoubtedly one of them. Grinning, I started to shake my head and reply, but was cut off by a mouth claiming my own.
Ah, what the Hell. ‘…for tomorrow we die.’
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [4 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
Morning now. Calling it a night waiting up for Cat. Like his namesake, I’m sure he’ll come back when he’s ready. Made a start on Creer’s old logs. Strewth, he had his thumb in everything. Explains a lot.
Jallen? Looking over this dataslate, I don't think we're being given the full picture, and I don't like it. It’s a drop and run. No tanks, no transports. After they peg us down there, they're leaving for a month. Something nearby they need to attend to? I thought we would be done in a day, two tops.
If they've got to jet off, why is it so urgent that they throw us down there just to sort a broken comm set? Ahde could sort that out with his eyes closed. Probably will!
Ah. Ours is not to question command. We'll do a good job and hopefully make use of the rest of the time. Get those new lads training out in the fresh air. It's a jungle planet they reckon, lot of mileage for learning a few things. Turning in for the night.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [4 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
Despite my mouth tasting like fermented crap, I woke up mostly unhindered by the expected hangover. Rubbing my eyes lazily, and checking my chrono, with a jolt I discovered that was likely because it was mid afternoon. Fething Hell. I rolled out of the bunk, scrambling to get dressed. Feth. I could find my shirt and coat but not my cap. Feth feth feth. Casting my eyes around, and under the bed, the tiny room held no clues. Not hide nor hair of whoever usually stayed here either, I suspected it was actually a spare room. Listening outside, I could hear a little foot traffic and general sounds of folk milling about their barracks. Ah feth.
My head pulsed slightly as I held it in my hands and swore. Yesterday’s Yorke was a self-destructive cretin, I decided. He isn’t getting any more input on things. Flicking open my timepiece again, I used the reflective surface to check myself over. Relaxing slightly, as I could still pass for tidy, I flattened my hair best I could, for once banishing the curse of it being fluffy enough to stick up at odd angles. I rummaged in my coat, beneath my smokes and found mint gum, grateful for the one small foresight of a chain-smoker. After a few moments of clearing my breath, I stuck my expended gum on the headboard in defiance.
There was only really one way to play this, smiling pleasantly as I could, I braced myself and stepped out of the room. In doing so, I think I frightened the crap out of the young trooper strolling in the other direction, not looking ahead, and colliding with my chest. I helped him back to his feet, and he stared at me in startled confusion. A Charlen trooper, in pale grey uniform. Not a Holly, I realised with some building horror. I’m in another part of the ship. “You okay?” I asked.
“Er. Y-yes sir.”
“Piss off, then.” I kept my smile up and tilted my head in the direction he was heading, he scarpered.
Immediately after, I realised that I should have asked the poor lad how to get back to my own deck. The corridor was mostly bunks, thankfully now empty. There were no signs fitted on the grim walls, and I was woefully lost.
Nobody else around, I decided to try my luck. I pulled my earpiece out of a pocket, “Ahde, can you hear me?” I stood still, hoping he was available.
After a moment, my ear buzzed, “Cat? Where are you? This signal’s awful.”
“I know! I mean, I don’t. In all honesty Ahde, I’m lost, and I need y- I need you to not make a big thing of this and help me get back.” I put my hand to my head and hoped for once I’d not made a mistake in trusting his discretion.
The earpiece fizzed briefly, “Alright. What can you see?” Ahde replied calmly.
I silently thanked my luck, “I’m lost in another barrack, I went up to G deck’s common room last night-“
“Ah, no wonder you’re so fuzzy! Okay let me find a map.”
I leaned patiently against the wall, fervently willing nobody else to come down the corridor.
After a few minutes, I started to hear footsteps behind me, just as the tiny earpiece crackled again, “Okay, it’s easier if I come up to find you. Can you get out of there and wait near the exit?”
I started walking, “I’ll do my best.”
A voice behind me asked, “Looking for someone, Commissar?”
Turning, and maintaining my smile, “I think I’ve been sent up here on a wild goose chase, actually.” I found myself looking down a foot or so at a young male officer, dressed in pale cream fatigues. His red-blonde hair and pleasantly bright eyes giving him the overall the effect of a very small candle.
He cocked his head curiously, “Then can I be of assistance, sir?”
No point hiding it, “Truth be told, I’ve got lost trying to leave.” He raised his eyebrows, and I shrugged, “Corridors. I’m far happier outdoors, you know what it’s like.”
He nodded politely, and gestured down the way he’d come, starting to walk. I followed him, gently falling into step, hoping Ahde wouldn’t be too long. It only took a few minutes, we didn’t cross paths with anyone else, and reaching the end of the barracks, only a handful of troopers were loitering around, leaning on the walls and sharing smokes. I thanked the officer and shook his hand. Smiling, he departed sharply, off on his errand again.
I made for the door, glad to be on the home-stretch.
“Where’s your hat, Commissar?” I froze as I passed the group. Fu- I made the mistake of stopping, barely covering the sensation of being both puzzled, and mortified, “Sorry, what?”
The trooper grinned, his face a picture of innocence, “Just askin’. It seems odd that’s all.” The men around him sniggered. If a chaos-driven missile had hit the ship right at this moment, sucking us into the vacuum of space, I’d have thanked the reaver that fired it with my last breath.
“You-“ I stopped, forcing myself to stay calm, I put my hand to my forehead and stared at the ceiling briefly, before striding to the door. As I passed through, wolf-whistles and cheering followed.
Somehow, Ahde was waiting outside, leaning against another wall. I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see the bastard. If he heard the commotion, he pretended not to. He caught sight of my face, and said nothing.
“Thank you.” I murmured for more than one reason.
Ahde chuckled pleasantly, “Thank me later, we have to get past Gaz yet.” looking sideways, he asked, “Are you okay? I’m surprised you even voxed me, honestly. ”
“I think so.” we reached the lift, and I stopped, genuinely unsure.
He gently steered me through the entrance, “Maybe you just need sleep.”
“Yeah, I guess.” I smiled weakly and made very small-talk on the way back.
We returned to our own barracks without any interruption, and despite Captain Gaskell clearly seeing us both through his office doorway, avoided any questions. I didn’t meet his eye, but I was sure Gaz had just rolled them. I did hear him sigh disappointedly. Ahde departed without a word, and I nodded my thanks.
Kicking off my boots, I fell onto my bed, and lay flat on my back staring at the ceiling.
“Hope you don’t plan on sleeping like that.” Gaskell had followed me in.
“No, mother.” I growled, not looking at him.
“Oh don’t you dare. Don’t you fething dare, Cat. It’s not me you let down with this gak. You’re supposed to be setting an example.” He pushed the door shut, and sounded ready to have at out with me.
“I’m sorry… That, that was… That was a horrible thing to say. You didn’t deserve it.” feeling terrible, I apologised sincerely.
He stood there, totally disarmed, “Are you taking the piss?”
Still staring at the ceiling, I answered, “No.”
“What the Hell is going on with you, Cat? Is this depression? What?” I felt a weight on the bed as he sat heavily by my feet.
I shook my head, “No. I’m not depressed. I’m not losing faith, either. If I had doubts, I’d admit to them. I just have this… sensation of foreboding, and every damn day it intensifies. I don’t know what the cause is. I’ve felt like this for a week or more, almost like… Like living on borrowed time.”
I saw his eyebrows raise, and before he could speak, I continued, “Folks say that everyone has a set span on this plane. Perhaps if you skip your chance to check out - and Emperor knows we have scraped past so, so many times - you start to live on time that isn’t your own. If it’s the case, maybe I should be grateful, and view it as a gift. Enjoy it. But all I feel is this intense feeling of something terrible about to happen.”
After a long pause, Gaskell murmured, “Get some sleep, Cat.” He stood up and put his hand to the door, “Actually, have a shower and eat something first.”
I looked up, “Is that an order?”
“No, it’s advice.” he smiled sadly, “You look like death, and you smell like an ashtray emptied into a cologne bottle.” The door clicked shut gently as he left.
Cologne? I sniffed the front of what I’d assumed was my own shirt. Huh?
[Mouse's Journal Entry] [ ???? - 732.M41 ] *
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [4 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41]
Astartes? I don't know if I can trust what I'm hearing. Some of the lads have word that the last lot went down with a fist full of Space Wolves. Space Wolves! What in the Emperor's name do they need us for if that's true? This stinks worse than I ever thought possible.
Cat, he came back with Ahde, mid-afternoon. Either he thought I wouldn't notice, or he didn't care if I did. Went to kick his arse over it. Couldn’t. He’s chewing himself up about something, even he’s not sure what it is. “Has a bad feeling.” he says.
He reeked of last night’s bad decisions. I had him take a shower and eat before crashing. Didn't ask where he spent the night, don't want to know. Probably drank through and didn’t sleep.
Hoping something snaps him out of this fugue, I can't be having with it. Says he feels like he’s on borrowed time. He is if he doesn’t buck his fething ideas up, and anyone notices. But he’s still good with the lads, they don't see it. That's what counts I suppose. That's what makes me worry. Nobody can wear two faces for long.
Tomorrow we’re getting a full briefing on what’s to happen down below. I’m getting a funny feeling about it. Ahde says the time on board is making folk restless and daft. Reckons we'll start hearing wilder tales the longer we're up here. Reckon he's right, but still. A month, something is-
[Outside noise] Okay, coming over. Give me a moment.
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [ 3 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41]
Hell’s teeth. New info. They’ve shafted us right and proper. We're not going to mend a fething broken vox and hand out lunches. We're being thrown down to scout while those in charge fetch the real big guns. That's the urgency. Find out what they're dropping the next lot into so they can make informed decision from up here. I knew this stank. Half a dozen Astartes are down there, it's true. Nothing from them either.
I've not told the lads yet. Need to work out how to put a positive shine on this. We're walking into the gak, blind.
Cat. Where's that bloody commissar? He's supposed to raise morale, see if he can't fething spin this to look half decent. I don’t care if he’s got a hangover the size of a Chimera, he’s pulling his weight, or else.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [3 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
Feth from above, yesterday's hangover wasn't missing at all, I was just still fairly drunk when I'd woken up. This however, is the real deal. Gaz made me attend the meeting this morning regardless. I had to grin and bear it, but I'm fairly sure I looked like death warmed up. I’m also fairly sure most everybody noticed.
Those that were there, anyway. It was mandatory attendance, yet we were still missing a good half dozen. Ahde and I couldn’t find them, no idea what’s going on there. Suppose I better try to find out before anything occurs.
Still can't find my hat. Have a horrifying suspicion that my host from the night before has taken it. And not by accident either.
I can't go back to that bar now! I don't know what to do about the whole thing. Add in the sense of underlying dread, and it's a magnificent way to sweat years off your life.
Had to babysit the new recruits. We've got a new psyker too. Athenia. Funny one, but I think she'll fit in. We're supposed to pin multiple armed troops on the poor bastards, but I find they get along much better if you just set them one dedicated companion and leave them to it. Lowers the tension dramatically and certainly allows the troops to view them more as a person than a walking weapon.
She's got a strange choice in companions, I’ll say that. Randolph, heavy weapons specialist. He seems solid. From the get-go, he volunteered to look after her. Nobody’s going to argue with the pair of them, I’ll imagine. Good to see.
I knew they’d notice. Randolph and Athenia came up to me this evening. Turns out they’d been talking to Ahde, wondering what was up with me, and why half a squad were missing from the briefing. These sort of questions would be liable to get you shot anywhere else. Part of me felt like playing that card to convey they should leave me alone, but my heart really wasn’t in it. Besides which, Athenia really is quite charming once she starts talking.
They wanted me to go back to the other deck and check out the bar with them in tow. They were fairly certain that something off is occurring up there. I told them, well, I didn’t tell them what happened. I told them that I couldn’t go back there. That someone played a prank on me and it would be potentially very embarrassing and damaging to our regiment’s reputation.
But they kept on at me until I agreed to accompany them tomorrow night. I warned them to go out of uniform. They went alone tonight to catch the lie of the land. Hopefully by tomorrow I can think of a good excuse to avoid going. They’ve roped Ahde in for tomorrow as well.
Caught up with Ahde and restrained myself from strangling him for his indiscretion.
“I just wanted to help, Cat.” he looked at me sadly, “Besides I trust Athenia’s intuition. She reckons that there’s something amiss. I still haven’t seen Stevenson or Patricks around since yesterday.”
Crap. I should have picked up on that too, “You think they’re missing?”
He nodded, “I do. I tried telling Gaz about it but he says he doesn’t want any part of, “…your fething tomfoolery right now.”” Ahde did a startlingly accurate impression of our friend.
“gak. I let Athenia and Morn go up there alone.” I hung my head, “It’s too late to catch up now, damnit.”
My friend chuckled, “You’re so soft on the psykers, Cat, that you forget they can handle themselves in a pinch. They’ll be fine. Besides they’re both new, nobody will link them back here.”
“I hope you’re right.” I rubbed my neck.
The odd pair returned a little worse for wear, but intact. I was relieved, but stuck to asking what they’d uncovered. Randolph had managed to infiltrate a card game, and learn a few things about his gracious hosts. Unfortunately he’d also managed to completely blow his cover to half a dozen Charlen, and had to spend the rest of the evening buying drinks to ease tensions.
Athenia on the other hand had sat quietly and listened. I can admire that skill, it’s not often seen around here. She’d managed to pick up a time for some kind of meeting tomorrow night at the bar. And there went any valid reason I had for getting out of going. My only consolation was Ahde was coming too, and Sergeant Ronson.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [2 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
Randolph nudged me, "See if you can talk them down before we open up."
It was always worth a try. Nestled behind a palette of crates, Ahde and Randolph lined up their shots carefully, and Athenia started mumbling quietly to herself.
Stepping up the crates, into the open of the cargo storage area, I called out in the voice I usually reserve for motivating troops above the roar of tank engines and cannon, hoping to scare the bastards crapless, "You are surrounded! Surrender now and face your punishment like men, or-"
Unfortunately the shock of my outburst caused one of the colonists we’d been watching to twitch, loosing a bolt from the lasgun he was inspecting. Searing heat flashed past my face. I could smell singed hair as a steel crate only a few metres behind us neatly exploded. It somewhat diminished the effect I was aiming for, despite me being too stunned to flinch.
In seconds the Charlen thieves had readied their guns, and I dropped immediately back behind the scant cover the cargo had afforded us.
"You tried." Ahde grinned as I scrambled to my feet and took aim myself.
Beside us there was a building high-pitched scream, culminating in a cracking boom, as the psyker opened her mouth, rising past the cover. The effect was dramatic, a swirling vortex of searing flame channeled out of her, catching two of the nearest troopers before it ended. One was reduced to just greasy ash in merciful seconds, too brief to scream. The second fell to the floor, writhing as his clothing and flesh burned, flames still spreading, his arms and face already lost.
Dropping my aim from the lead thief, I span and put a shot through the poor wretch's skull, blasting his brains in a sad, dark patten across the metal decking, ending his torment. Randolph shot me a curious look over his raised pistol. I pretended not to notice.
Whilst it could have given us a psychological advantage against the remaining thieves, nobody deserves to burn to death in such a way.
That left half a dozen troopers with lasguns, facing three of us with our previously concealed pistols. And Athenia, who was mumbling to herself again. Ahde was firing almost blind, crouched safely behind cover, but he managed to clip one of the troopers, causing the man to spin and fumble his own weapon to the decking. Randolph was in his element, and quickly tore through another of the men, sending him crashing to the floor with the top of his skull simply missing, scattered across the trooper behind him.
Above all duties and eventualities in life, I hated shooting guard, but they seemed to have no concerns about returning the favour.
Randolph at least had the foresight to wear some flak under his head coat, but the rest of us weren’t so lucky.
Athenia let loose with a further blast of hideous flames, incinerating another of the thieves and boiling the lasgun he had reclaimed from the colonist buyer. it exploded in his arms, sending his charred remains everywhere.
Nothing about this fight was dignified or clean.
In the end we rounded up three surviving troopers, and the eight colonists who had been cut off at the exit by Sergeant Ronson.
The disgraced Charlens been selling their weaponry to the civilians, and claiming them lost.
We handed the whole lot over to the Charlen captain, Sibley. I was glad to be free of having to deal with that crap.
I sat in his office, along with Randolph and Athena. Ahde and Ronson had headed back to explain our absence to Gaskell. I was grateful that I’d have less to worry about upon returning.
Despite clearly having woken him up, Sibley was incredibly gracious, “I appreciate your discretion in dealing with these reprobates, Commissar.”
I nodded, “It does nobody any good taking it further, I feel. These men were a minority amongst your ranks.”
“Exactly.” a hint of fear underlined his smile. I wasn’t sure if it was me, or the attentive look that Athenia was giving him.
“Goodnight Captain, I should be going.” I stood, and gestured for my two companions to accompany me.
Athenia coughed quietly, “Commissar, I think the Captain has something further to say.”
Puzzled, I turned back. Sibley met my gaze with similar bafflement, but that soon turned to alarm when he realised she was staring fixedly at his nearby storage cabinet. I pretended not to notice.
“Ah, I almost forgot to ask,” he pulled open a door, “one of our men… found this… on our deck. I believe it may be yours?” turning back around, he was holding my hat.
We locked eyes, and a brief moment of understanding passed between us. I nodded silently, and he held the battered thing out to me. I slung it under my arm, “Thank you, Captain.”
“Goodnight, Commissar.” he smiled politely.
We bid him farewell and headed to our respective beds. Found this. Suspicion prickled in my mind, and I was wondering if handing his own men back to him had been such a good idea. Yet the man seemed sincere enough.
Athenia seemed similarly troubled.
“He’s full of crap, isn’t he.” I whispered as we left the Charlen barracks.
“Yes, sir.” she replied quietly, “I think he knew all along.”
“Well, at least it can’t continue now.” Randolph said, simply.
“Yes,“ I sighed, rubbing my head, “we really need to focus on the next few days, not this gak.”
“Cat.” I smiled tiredly, “I don’t much like formalities.”
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [ 2 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41]
Ahde came to me with this story about arms-dealing and Charlen and psykers, and bars, and quite honestly I don’t want to know right now.
He said it’s over, Cat sorted it, and I’m happy with that. As much grief as I give him, he is good at his job.
[Audio Transcript: Captain Gaskell] [ 1 day before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41]
Tomorrow’s the drop. Emperor watch over us. Ahde has cottoned on. Ronson and his mates, too I think. The rest of them are bouncing to get down there. Cat? I can't even tell. He did a great job at spinning this to the lads, made it sound far better than I imagined. Even had me feeling we can get through it. Maybe we can. No point even trying if we don’t believe we can make a difference. But they don't see his face after. There’s something not right. Something to deal with when we're done playing hide and seek in the woods.
For what it's worth, these recording logs haven't been as awful to do as I thought. Been keeping me from whittering on in front of anyone, even if I do feel like an idiot talking to myself. If I start enjoying this and spouting poetry, I might get my head examined, though.
Watching the commissar's body language, I noticed that his leg was twitching, along with one of his lower eyelids. He didn't seem to have realised, nor had either of my colleagues. I started to pay more careful attention. The nervous tics were par for the course for the drug, but I hadn't expected them to be prevalent this early on.
Boorman handed the beaker over again, and Yorke swigged from it amicably. Celena held up her fingers to me. Two doses, now. From the scant data I had, Yorke really shouldn't have been showing visible side effects after just one. Something was amiss, and I leafed through the paperwork we had on the commissar whilst keeping an eye on his progress.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/07/20 01:14:48
Don't feel bad about that. Take some time off if you need to. I feel lucky getting what I did out of this, it makes me feel bad that I haven't been working necessarily as hard on my own story as I could.
I especially like the extra bits of accent and wording the characters use, it gives them a lot more life than they would have speaking normally.
Irishpeacockz-Blackjack needs a pay raise for being the welcomer to the crusade
Palleus-Write a school essay about Kroot! Pride. Prejudice. And Cannibalsim.
Subject: "A long one, this." - Book I: Only Heresy
Gods, don't feel bad about that either. The amount of work I put into this was relative to the amount of distraction I needed at the time. I won't claim it was healthy by any stretch, but it was at least productive. I really want to read your Kroot story, but I'm going to have to paste it out into my Kobo reader to do so - I am a lazy bugger not having done that yet. It's nobody's fault - I have an eye problem where I need to wear green glass to read anything particularly long, and for whatever reason the lenses really don't work on the monitor I have. Weirdly they do work on my iPhone so that's where I pretty much exclusively do my writing.
Yes, I wrote 110k words on an old iPhone.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/14 07:59:01
Wow, impressive work. Any story on my phone starts to lag up while scrolling through it all, and none have passed the 20k word mark. 110k words is beyond my comprehension, I wonder how many pages you'll fill up on this thread.
Irishpeacockz-Blackjack needs a pay raise for being the welcomer to the crusade
Palleus-Write a school essay about Kroot! Pride. Prejudice. And Cannibalsim.
Subject: "A long one, this." - Book I: Only Heresy
I email the pieces to myself at the end of each log, and grammar check and format on the computer properly. I have a mild panic every time I send an email because the first 3 letters are the same as a friend's email address who is a lovely lady, but likely does not want to read my weird Imperial Guard story about dancing or shooting cowards.
And um.. I genuinely don't know. Maybe 10? This is the amount I've actually formatted.
This message was edited 4 times. Last update was at 2015/08/14 07:59:51
Okay, right. Terrible Decisions is now completed properly. I basically had to fudge the rest of it because of what my players did the first time, I never wanted to think about it again. I liked what I wrote for Yorke's reason for drinking and return, but unfortunately without any other context it just makes him look really irresponsible.
Here's a fun bonus insight into what happened when I ran this with my first (now disbanded) Roll20 group.
Long time player but pretty new to GMing, this was intended to be a 30-45 minute real-time romp through the Only War basics with two guys . It was silly, it was short, and it was purely a slightly less boring segue to get the players planet-side and up to speed.
They had three objectives: - Collect basic command issued info on their next drop. - Collect any additional info/rumours on the drop that would allow them to prepare. (optional - let's try out social interaction checks) - Small investigation with a couple of lead-ins, a small skirmish and some silly quest-style progression. (optional - investigative skills, combat skills, basic shake-down for the system)
They roll the squad Sergeant and a Psyker. Day starts. The players completely ignore the prompt/instruction to go and get their marching orders and Comrades. This also loses at least two major opportunities to notice something is amiss. Instead they decide to snoop around the barracks whilst everyone else is at the briefing. Genius. Throwing them a line, I send the Commissar to go and find them, in his part-time occupation as a high-school truancy officer. It is politely explained that perhaps as the fething squad sergeant it might be expected that at least one of them attend. Finally finding the plot line with both hands, they notice the Commissar's hat is missing on the way back to the meeting.
Okay, folks. Upon noticing this Slightly Unusual Thing, do you: A) Politely enquire as to where his hat is. Perhaps you could be of assistance in fetching it for him quickly so he doesn't have to attend said meeting without it. B) Make a note to find out later. Walk to meeting in silence, and try not to make yourself look any less competent. C) Attend briefing. Ask someone else why he isn't wearing his hat. Pay attention to the proceedings.
BONUS: D) Try and Charm, then failing that, Intimidate the fething Commissar into telling you where his hat is. Fail hard. The Commissar slaps them both around the back of the head, not taking them seriously because they failed so very badly. He then forces them to attend their briefing, and sends them to go and clean the barracks for the rest of the day.
At this point there are a number of ways to recover from the minor setback of offending an NPC withholding pertinent info. There are other NPCs who know what went on around the ship last night. There is an abundance of gak they could pick up on. There were several people missing from the briefing they just attended. A veritable Supermarket Sweep of information if they'd only care to look for it.
No, let's ignore all that and fixate on getting back at the NPC that made you scrub toilets. How best to do that? A) That evening try to apologise, pay for drinks, and get him buzzed enough to ask about the previous night. B) Socialise. Maybe try another NPC out to try and find out what happened. C) Follow the Commissar stealthily.
BONUS: D) Fail to speak to any other NPC on the ship that wasn't mandatory to do so, and instead get the poor NPC extremely drunk, and secretly use your freaky Psyker powers to find out what he's acutely afraid of.
Blindsided. Pulling it out of my ass, flipping the rulebook at random, I picked servitors, feeling pretty sure they can't do anything with that. "He has the general reaction to servitors that many people have to spiders (Ew, gross: "No please stay over there, that's fine...", and doesn't like looking at them very much because they move weird." I made this up assuming the players could do feth all with that information, and might go back to actually chasing plotline. The thing is, in getting him drunk enough to do this, the Sergeant scores obscenely good Charm roll, even using a Fate Point to ensure success. The guy would have been up for *anything* at this point. Even the weird stuff. Did they ask him anything? No. They just left his confused, drunk ass and went to bed.
I should have realised at this point something weird was going on. In hindsight, yes, it seems remarkably stupid to allow the players to escalate to the final outcome. Bear in mind they didn't exactly broadcast their intentions from step one. I thought they were setting up a prank.
They skip ahead in game-time to the next morning, after discussing a little between themselves what they were going to do. I thought they had started what was going to be an amicable exploration to get the truth out of the NPCs. That would have been nice. The Sergeant visits their squad's geared and successfully persuades him to lend out a Servitor, tweaked to his specifications (You're not going to damage it, are you? Nothing of the sort, no.) He then stashes the Servitor, nicknamed Clicky, in a maintenance room and returns. They skip again to the evening.The Psyker starts the Commissar off drinking, and sensing they're up to something, I have the Captain sit with them to try and damage control.
At this point I'm thinking, "Oh, we're going to have ourselves a little 'Peekaboo!' moment, fine." No.
Using their now-familiarised social skills, players get both the NPCs staggeringly drunk, but manage to stay pretty much sober, especially the Psyker. They suggest retreating somewhere quieter to continue, and perhaps play dice. Wanting this charade over and done with, I see no problem with it and have the C&C follow to a part of the deck where nobody's around and use a spare room. I expect the trap to spring and possible resulting shenanigans. But the Sergeant doesn't spring the Servitor pop-up book, and I start to wonder what is going on. They carry on drinking, playing dice, not asking questions, until both NPCs are pretty much at their limits and want to go to bed.
"Okay, step out for a moment. Send in Clickybot, and bolt the door from the outside." "What?" "Lock them in." "What." "How long for?" "An hour or two I guess." "Yeah." "You're locking the door. Hokay. Make an unskilled Security roll." "One degree of Success! We'll check back after that. I'll guard the corridor to make sure nobody else comes down here." "I'll go and see what I can find in their rooms."
Let's recap: After ascertaining he has an aversion to servitors, two PCs have locked an extremely drunken, but quite friendly Commissar (unarmed), and their almost comatose squad Captain (also unarmed) in a small room, after sending in spare servitor. One that they had manipulated their local gearhead into modifying ever-so-slightly. Clicky was programmed by request to "move erratically", which upon questioning the players means "very helpful, but with lots of weird jerky movements and no personal space boundaries".
The servitor shambles into the middle of the room, and they lock the door behind him. The PCs then move out of sight (and more importantly sound) of the room. I check again that they are not coming back down the corridor. And they agree a time (ninety minutes). One of them goes to see if he can find track down anything in the personal quarters of the two NPCs. The sole area of this scenario that doesn't contain any readily relevant information. After exhausting this avenue at great length and still not speaking to any other NPCs, he returns empty-handed. I sigh and start flipping a book open to look for the consequences of their prank (Rogue Trader Fear chart), expecting mild disturbance and a cooperative NPC outcome.
I get the players to take over their servitor and Captain briefly.
Shortly after, I start to wonder why I let this happen.
To break it down: Firstly the Commissar doesn't need to take a fear test to know he wants to leave, due to being mega-drunk, and Clicky being particularly unpleasant to watch. He starts to walk past the servitor, out of the room, and finds it locked. The Captain sees this, and tries to stand up. Fails. Clicky the servitor sees this and tries to be helpful by approaching to unlock the door.
Commissar tries to break the door down, and fails. Due to, again, being mega-drunk. Captain succeeds in standing up. Shambles forward to get between the Commissar and the servitor. Doesn't manage to manoeuvre past the servitor, or to pull it out of the way, instead ends up sort of gently leaning on it ineffectively. Clicky moves closer to try and assist the Commissar with the door. Can't get to the door because the Commissar is there, and the Captain now using him as a support. Stands still.
Commissar now has Clicky the servitor in his personal space, apparently buddying up with the Captain. Bangs on door and shouts. Captain tries to quietly calm down the Commissar, having failed to move past Clicky, fails to do so. Clicky, being the only uninhibited NPCs in the room, flicks through his available arm attachments to try and find a tool to open the door with. Finds a small welding torch and ignites it, offering it up to the Commissar.
Already shaken, drunken Commissar sees a twitchy servitor now brandishing a lit welding torch in close proximity. Fails his Fear test. Loses his gak entirely. The Captain tries to restrain the Commissar to calm him down. Fails and ends up leaning on him instead to stay upright. Clicky is still brandishing his little welding torch, like a good boy.
This is roughly two of the ninety minutes they were locked in the room. For brevity's sake from then on: Snap-out of it check, Fear test if something dramatically changed, or nothing, depending on previous round, relevancy, etc. Do a thing. For every 10 minutes in-game time.
The Captain and Clicky didn't consider backing the feth up at any point, or didn't care to. At 30 mins in-game I upped the effect from Disturbing to Frightening due to the poor bastard probably being mentally exhausted. Before rolling I decided not to stack any possible Insanity gains, just pick one if it happened. Being a Commissar the NPC did get Unshakeable Faith - Willpower re-rolls. Unfortunately one of his re-rolls went from a simple 2 degree fail to the resulting roll taking him off the bottom of the fear table, earning Insanity and flying the flag into Unsettled, and a Trauma roll. At this point I skip the last 30 minutes, and call it, because short of actively vomiting on himself, there's very little left to go wrong.
The PCs return to find the Captain sat on a chair, calmly staring into space, the servitor sitting in the corner facing the wall, and the Commissar curled up in a ball under a nearby desk with his hands over his head, unresponsive.
I suspend play whilst trying to work out how to salvage the situation.
The Captain very calmly sends the two players to the brig, and the next morning he has them both shot for tampering with valuable Imperial property.
The players roll new characters, and I patiently explain they now have three days until they arrive at the planet for deployment. I calm down the Captain. The Vox Officer comes in and loudly says: Hello I am here, in case you forgot. The Commissar is given the week off in a quiet room. We start to actually play the game roughly as intended, and make it through in under an hour.
The actual potential progression is as follows, if we are following the line the players originally took: Briefing > Get Comrade > Oh look, the Commissar's Hat is missing > Talk to NPCs > Being anti-social, of a night the guy often just went to drink alone in a rec-room on another deck and somehow his hat ended up in the possession of another regiment > Other regiment then used it as leverage to keep him away from the deck due to his embarrassment, a cover for whatever shifty bs they're currently pulling > Players go to investigate the bar and surrounding deck > Players find out that some members of the other regiment are selling weaponry to colonists > Find out date/time of next meeting > Very simple shooty bang bang rules shake down, and an arrest or whatever.
That is literally all there was to it - the hat was a humorous clue, the other clues were: Missing squad members from meetings, verbal rumours from NPCs, and a variety of small things to notice. Lots of booze passing freely for once, a few folks with unusually large winnings from cards. etc etc.
I'll get the Sunday Interlude up shortly.
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2015/09/20 19:24:42
Interlude: What I did on my Hollies-Days: Diary of a Commissar: First Meetings
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [732.M41] •
I remember as a child, that my home world was cold. Before the great Imperium intervened, after prolonged xeno attack, it was also dying. A world filled with children, academics, those too old or infirm to have fought and died. We had no real industry left to offer. Our towns were crumbling, with nobody left to repair them. Our factories stood silent most of the time. During the day, the only prevailing sound came from the school houses and orphanages. Of an evening the world lay silent, as though in mourning.
I remember the day the great Imperial recruitment came to our town. Recruitment. As if we had any choice in the matter. Our loyalty to the Imperium was paid out in the only currency we still had.
I remember a single silent Astartes warrior, his icy plate shining under the white sky, striding alongside half a dozen uniformed Imperial officers dressed in white and cold blue. A grand show, to remind us of our debt. They fielded no weapons, any they had, small and holstered by their sides, but people scattered in fear just the same. I remember how my class was lined up in the yard to meet them, how we bowed low and averted our eyes, adults and children alike.
I was ten, maybe eleven. That I can’t remember. What I can I remember, is my anger.
These soldiers existed to protect their fellow man, and fellow man was cowed to them. I understood respect, but this terror was wrong on such a level my young mind couldn't articulate.
As the lead officer started to read aloud from a data-slate, the others stood alongside, inspecting us. My anger pushed me upright and I glared at these men descended from above, deigning to stand amongst us. Around me, the other boys stiffened at my sudden movement. Our poor tutor hissed at me to back down, barely raising her head to do so.
"You." a junior officer pointed to me, "Show your respect."
I shook my head, staring at him fiercely, "This is not respect, sir." I pointed to those around me. They ducked from my hand as though it were loaded gun, "This is fear."
The man stepped quickly, to close the distance between us, pulled me from the line, and threw me down to the dirt in one motion.
Shaking with anger, I stood up again and turned to face him, keeping my hands low by my sides, meeting his furious face with my own barely concealed disdain.
"Enough." the lead officer motioned and his man stepped back, "Assess the rest, we will take this one. See if we can temper that anger to something useful." he gestured to me. His men moved past us and started their work, "Your name."
"No." I spoke quietly as I turned to face him.
“Look, lad. Do you not understand why we are here? What this is?" the officer frowned as he regarded me. He was a young man, I guessed in his mid twenties, but I had little point of reference. His uniform was sharp and fitted him well, but he himself looked worn. His grey eyes, shaded under a peaked cap gave him an especially tired appearance. Above one eye was a long, raised scar, marring what would probably have been a handsome face but for the expression he wore.
"I understand exactly, and that is why I refuse." I replied, expecting another sharp knock to the ground.
He sighed, "You have no say in the matter, lad. Do not make this more difficult than it need be. Do as you are requested."
"No, sir." We stared at each other, the stubborn-ness of youth versus tired, well-contained irritation.
"Why?" a voice from behind us broke the silence. I span, the towering Astartes regarded me, his expressionless helmet very slightly cocked to indicate he was listening.
"Sir, the boy is-" started the officer.
A raised gauntlet dismissed him gently, “Gaskell, I was asking the boy." the arm lowered, "Why, child?"
I considered my reply carefully, "Well sir," I tried my best to explain, "You take the best of us away. Then others drag down the worst of us, and in time we remove them. Who remains here?"
"Yes." I swallowed, "If I am found to be good, I would be good around the people who need me. I would hope to make those around me good, help them be better. Raise them up in turn."
A strange noise came from the faceless warrior, and his shoulders shook slightly. It dawned on me slowly that he was laughing. I bristled, not understanding. Sensing my frustration, he raised his giant hand again, palm outward, signalling for pause.
With surprisingly delicate motions, he unclasped and removed his helmet. I found myself scowling up into the calm, brown eyes of an elder Astartes. His face was lightly lined from age, his grey, short-cropped hair framing a broad, similarly scarred brow. He winked at me, and for the first time since my outburst I felt both reassured, and ashamed.
"Such straight views, child. Did your parents teach you this way?" he asked, his voice now natural, deep and worn with age like its owner.
I shook my head again, "They fell when I was just born. Barely-trained militia, lost in the defence of our city. When the xeno attacked, the people here held them off for three days, while nobody came." I pointed to the sky, "The Astartes, the guard, just waited up there, making decisions. By the time they came, we’d lost almost a generation of our people."
"You feel that we failed you." the warrior frowned, "Understandable."
"No! I feel that if there were better-trained men down here to begin with, they could have held the line longer." I kicked the ground, impetuous, "If we'd had good men amongst us, good leaders."
"From the mouths of infants.” half-smiled the giant, looking upwards as he considered something. I didn't understand him, but he didn't seem angry with me. He gently rested his hand on my shoulder and spoke past me, "Not this one, Gaskell."
"I will make a recommendation, from there it's up to him." the warrior lifted his hand from my arm, "If he has the aptitude." Looking down to me again, his face solemn, he spoke quietly, “I will put in a word with the Schola on your behalf.” He made to replace his helmet, and I understood that I had been granted a favour.
“Thank you, sir.”
“Thank me by proving I was not mistaken.” he nodded a last time before those patient eyes disappeared beneath the unreadable helm.
I bowed my head, feeling a surge of pride and worry in my gut, and stepped away, back to my classmates. They parted around me as though I was on fire. Even our teacher would not look at me. I rested against the scrubby wall as the officers worked through the class. I mulled over what had just happened. A chance to be of use! Not only to those around me, but through the Imperium many more. I felt true fear for the first time since the men had arrived, but also a yearning to do the best that I could.
As the group made to leave, the officer named Gaskell paused, "What is your name, lad?"
Gaskell sighed and rubbed his hand through his short pale hair, “I should have known. Any relation to Ramirez Yorke?"
My heart sank, my namesake, "My Grandfather. You've heard of him?"
"Heard of him! The rat-bastard still owes me a drink and cost me this." he pointed to the deep line across his eyebrow.
"I'm sorry." of all the luck. "Don't be, it would be the entire eye if he'd not been there. Ask him about it some time, if you can pin him down long enough." he laughed, I was surprised to see the change in expression.
"I- I think he's dead, sir." I slowly shrugged, "Last I heard, he was running with a Rogue Trader vessel, answering a suicidal planetary defence call."
Gaskell grinned, "I'm not surprised. Though I would be if he didn't make it out of there alive. It's hard to keep some folks down."
"You mean, 'scum floats', sir?" I couldn't stop myself.
He laughed again, shaking his head, "You're sharp one. If you could just keep a handle on that mouth, you'd go far. Learn to distinguish truth and tact, Yorke."
"I'll try." I nodded. For the first time in my life, I wasn't entirely sure if I was being slighted or praised.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [3 days before regimental deployment to Jallen - 732M41] *
Gaskell sighed, “Feels a long time ago.” he took a drag on his roll-up and leaned back on the scrubby rail of the bar’s balcony, “You’re still a mouthy pain in the arse.” Smoke and the dim lamps of the balcony emphasised the lines in his face. He hadn’t visibly changed much in the intervening decades, if anything he just looked slightly more worn.
“And you’re still a grim-faced feth.” I grinned as he mimed taking a wound to the heart at my comment.
Over twenty years had passed since that day. Having served alongside him for the past five of them, I counted Gaskell amongst one of the few close friends I had. We spoke openly and without reservation, but there was still quiet respect between us. He had saved my hide at least once, and in return I did my best for him and the men in our charge.
It had been mere chance that reunited us. Their own commissar had gone missing in action, and as Sergeant, Gaskell had advised Captain Creer to put in a request upon seeing my name listed for reassignment. He had been obliged without question. I’d never asked what had happened, filling a dead man’s boots was hard enough already. He made a point in turn to never to ask about why I’d been on the shelf.
“Your luck is still uncanny, Cat.” Gaskell looked away, smiling.
I held up the back of my hand, using his smoke to light my own, “Luck, Gaz? How many years, and we’re still kicking? Younger, better men lost. We raised them, and we watched them passing through this grinder. You call this luck? Ask yourself how- why we’re still here. It’s our punishment for something. feth knows what.”
“Lighten up.” He said sternly, concern in his cold eyes, “I don’t like it when you get maudlin. You’re supposed to be raising morale.”
“Mm.” I bent and leaned my arms against the rail, looking outwards. Not that there was anything much to see in the dark. A few lights waved in the distance on the deck far below us.
“You’re wearing that coat.” Gaskell poked me in the ribs through the ragged hole in the back, “I told you to get it mended.”
“Gettoff.” I waved my arm ineffectively, “Wasn’t thinking.”
He snorted, “My arse you weren’t. That thing’s as good as a bullet for motivating the men. I just worry when I see you wear it.” he lowered his head, and his voice, “You are okay, Cat?”
I exhaled into the black, watching the smoke vanish on the edge of the light, “Yeh, fella. As okay as –“
The door behind us opened, letting out a wave of hot air as Vox Officer Ahde stepped through, “Sorry sir! I didn’t realise you were out here with your girlfriend.” I couldn’t see him, but knowing Ahde, he was miming something obscene.
“Feth off, bollock-brain.” as eloquent as ever, Gaskell.
“Now-now.” jabbed Ahde, “Such language in front of a delicate lady.”
I straightened and turned to face the nuisance. Ahde’s dark complexion and the glow of light behind him masked his face too well for me to read him, but the half-pace back he took tickled me. He hadn’t realised who Gaskell was out here with. I smiled and waved a hand, dismissing his mistake, “What is it, Ahde?”
“Well. We’ve been given our marching orders, Cat. We’re headed to some bog planet, it seems nobody can raise the first men sent there.” A sliver of concern crept under his calm voice, “There’s word that it was more than just guard gone missing.”
Gaskell ran his hand through his hair, a movement I’d become used seeing over the years, as he considered things, “I suppose any more context isn’t forthcoming?” Ahde shook his head, “Marvellous.”
“So, hide and seek? I’m game.” I caught Gaskell’s eye and grinned. He returned it.
“There’s the Cat I’m used to.” he laughed and slapped my shoulder, following Ahde back inside and flicked away his smoke, “See you inside, then.”
“Yeah.” I nodded, leaning back on the rail again, watching the door close behind them.
Emperor preserve us. You hear me, fella? We do this in His name, and I’ve never worked with better lads… But I’ll be damned if I don’t feel like we’re being thrown away to buy time. Best foot forward. We just have to last a month. We’ve done that before under much worse conditions. At least this time we know it’s coming.
I hate flying. It’s not fething natural. it’s falling, sideways, at ridiculous speed. Falling downwards makes sense. Falling sideways is nonsense, and I hate it. How do they train people for this? “How good are you at falling, mate? Want to try falling really fething fast?” Gaz calls me a giant daft besom for it, but he’s one to talk. Bloody Mordians. It’s always the same, we’re going to spend the day walking into the back of the new recruits whilst they stare upwards wondering what the sky is. It’s a little better now that they wear those caps, and can’t see up there all the time. I was supposed to be taking this as an opportunity to reflect upon today. feth today, I hate flying.
So, day one. Nearly over. We got down fine. Always do, I suppose I wouldn’t be here to say this if we didn’t. Ha! Dropped us on a plateaux, they called it. Big feth off rock, to the rest of us. The lads took the ride down pretty well, I was impressed. Took the best part of the day, but went without a hitch. They didn’t even mind how hot it is down here. They’re bouncing to get going. Though I wish command would let me sedate Cat for the drop. He never says anything, but he sits there looking like a startled furry animal the entire time we’re in the shuttle. If you talk to him he looks at you like you’re cracked, and goes back to staring into space. Daft as a brush that one. Can never get a fix on how his head works. Seen him stare down green skins, yet flying terrifies him. We took him on a mag lev train once, he liked that. Made everyone else nearly vomit and fall over, and he’s just stood there grinning like it’s the best thing he’s ever done.
We’re heaving towards the nearest guard camp. Can't get there in one day though. Ahde’s tried to make contact but there’s no response. He says there’s an active vox set down there, but nobody is picking up. That’s never a good thing. I told him to stop trying. it might be a mistake, or it might be a way to track down incoming fools like us.
Weird place this. It’s hot, like I said, but it’s also claggy. There’s so much greenery down below us. I’ll be glad when we’re down into it. Call it my roots speaking to me, but I hate being out in the open for long. Self preservation, more like.
We’re having to camp up here overnight, and the first guard camp is up here too, about half a day’s trek away. That’s not reassuring right now though.
Alright, I’ll admit it… It’s not so bad seeing the lads experience the outdoors for the first time. it’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing kids excited by something. it’s nearly as difficult to get any sense out of them on the first day, but it’s sort of endearing. They keep stopping to look at clouds and trees. Perhaps that’s one of the things life is about, still being able to find wonder out here. Despite the circumstances and impending uncertain death. Warms my blackened heart to see someone smiling at wind and birdsong.
Of course I can’t say that. I still take the piss out of them mercilessly. Patricks threw a rock at me when I wasn’t looking. Made him pick up another thirty and carry them all afternoon. It’s nice to see them getting in touch with nature.
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2015/07/27 04:43:51
This week is going to be a little shorter than the big intro posts because I'm basically working my ass off at work and any spare time I have is sunk into painting 2000pts of 40K, airbrushing 40 bags for a friend and trying to sleep.
Annoyingly this is the least-pre-written part of the entire story. Go figure.
[Edit] Friday's update will go up along with Sunday's. I bit off more than I could chew with work, and decided to cut my losses on writing.
This message was edited 2 times. Last update was at 2015/08/14 08:01:00
Rain. Should have seen it coming, the rising humidity and plain old luck.
It's absolutely hammering down, a real wall of water. Leaves us in an awful position; we're blind up here. Have had to haul at least two new recruits back by their packs to stop them going over an unseen drop.
Going off the map, it's not far to the first camp, but we're slowing the approach until this eases off.
At least on bare rock, it's not so muddy. Just red dust and loose stone to contend with. Plus the downfall is easily masking any sound we're making on approach.
We found the camp quite soon after the weather died down. We're readying an approach from two sides, just to be careful. I've got Ahde, the new psyker lass, Talsen, half the squad. Ronson's around the other side with Cat, Morn and the others. One medic with each of us.
Can't see anyone posted outside. Haven't come across anyone on perimeter. Bloody weird. Not a sound from the entire area. Over a dozen tents laid out and not a sign of life.
Time to stop mithering and get in there, I suppose.
Protect us, fella. Protect them, too.
I prepped my Hellpistol, feeling the weight of the ancient weapon, physically and mentally. Ahead I could see Morn readying his las carbine rifle with a fluid expertise. I suspected he spent a lot of time practising the motion. Around us, the gathered Hollies were shouldering their lasguns and quietly murmuring litanies of true-aim, protection and haste. The quiet pause in the afternoon daylight was almost free of concern. A strange contrast against the mounting tension.
In my ear, and many more, Gaz's voice crackled through the vox, "In position?"
"Yes sir." Ronson responded neatly.
"In." Gaz was never one for mincing words.
"Emperor be with you all." I murmured.
"You too, fella." and then the vox was dead, leaving us to the task at hand.
With as little sound and movement to betray us as possible, we approached the camp. The dark, weathered tents stood silent, the damp ground had no prints or signs of disturbance. Carefully we swept the outer tents, finding nothing. No signs of struggle. No signs of life. Everything lay untouched by human or wildlife. As though as one, the camp had just up and left.
Crates were still sealed or undisturbed, bunks were neatly made, ready for the day.
We exchanged puzzled glances with the squad, and Ronson broke vox silence, "Ghost town, Captain?"
"Aye," came the reply, "move to the centre. Keep checking each."
Continuing, we cleared another half dozen, careful to not allow for complacency in the face of apparent abandonment.
"I don't understand, Cat." whispered Ronson, "No sign of a fight? No raid?"
I put my hand up signalling for pause, "We need to think why this could have happened. What it means."
Morn looked across, "Either everyone is still here, somewhere, or they left as an entire unit," he scanned around us, uneasily, "and not recently."
"Excursions aren't impossible to rule out. What could cause them to fail to return entirely though?" I mused aloud, "And how often do you hear of a guard camp emptying entirely?"
"Never." murmured Ronson, his young face betraying his concern.
I could start to feel the unease of troops around us, their eyes flicking back and forth, the grips on their lasguns visibly tighter, and their shoulders tensing. They were becoming spooked. Deep down I could also feel that something wasn't sitting right. I nudged the sergeant, unseen.
He took the signal, "Onwards."
As Morn and two men checked the next tent, expecting yet more deserted facilities, I followed warily. I found myself suddenly colliding with trooper Warrick as he backed out again rapidly. Inside I heard the distinctive sound of someone losing his lunch, and Morn burst out, his rifle stowed, dragging a blanched Luthar by his shoulder. We exchanged glances, and Morn shook his head.
I carefully leaned inside, and then withdrew back into the daylight. The stench had hit me in the eyes before it reached my nose and mouth. The symbols-
"Seal it; burn it." I choked back the urge to vomit myself, my eyes streaming as I stepped away.
"Now?" Morn gently released the pale guard to the care of his comrades. His own eyes red-raw from the sight and smell.
As I nodded, Gaz came through on the vox. His voice was unusually shaken, "Cat! We've found-"
"I know, we did here as well. Put it to flames." I winced, this wasn't how we'd expected it to go.
"No Cat, we found the guard. We need both medics."
Interlude: What I did on my Hollies-Days: Diary of a Commissar: Tea & Cushion
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [725.M41] •
I held it in my hands, and turned it over a few times. It was mostly blue with areas of red. My brains scattered across the earth would no doubt compliment it very well, some day. Today? I stared at the hat, suddenly deeply uncertain.
Many commissars, priests and even soldiers speak of the Emperor’s righteous fury. How His spirit pushes us onwards and protects us from doubt. Nothing is absolute. You show me a man who claims to be completely free from fear and doubt, that man is either cracked or a complete idiot. At this point I was neither.
I felt the white heat of fear start to burn the back of my neck and flood across my senses, I swallowed, fighting to flush it away. Casting my eyes around me, I saw similarly concealed nerves paling the faces of the men stood alongside, and realised that they dearly needed a rallying point. And that was where I drew my strength from that day. Where I still do, if ever I am uncertain - the requirement of others.
That isn't to say I have no faith, I simply put most of my faith into those men that need me. That if I do my best, as will they. It may well not be a direct translation of what we are taught, but we are a long way from school rooms and shrines now. A very, very long way.
I replaced my hat, pulled up my posture and grinned fiercely, turning to the squad, “Right! We can do this. Let's show those pricks what we're capable of."
A small chorus of agreement passed through the men, and they similarly straightened up.
I sighed theatrically and raised one hand, "Don't waste my fething time. I said: We can do this! Remember those we leave behind! Remember who we fight for!”
The resounding cheer was markedly more enthusiastic, and I saw some colour return to their faces.
"Unless that is, you want to stay in here with me and hold hands. In which case, tea is at nine. Wear a tie.” I growled, as the transport rocked to a halt. I'm not sure how often troops hit the ground laughing, but this was one of those times.
[Journal Entry: Commissar Yorke] [726.M41] •
The wind whipped around, stealing all other sound from the battlefield. But thankfully I saw the crude stick grenade as it hit the earth beside me. Saw the red painted markings.
I had seconds, half a minute at best. Sprinting full tilt and diving clear into a nearby trench, I landed on my arse in the mud. Or I would have, but there was already a man cowering in there, and I landed instead on him.
“Hello-” I looked down, as I rolled away, “-Alexys. Should you be out there doing something?” I asked rather pointedly as I righted myself.
He looked up at me, stammering and horrified at his discovery, “C-Commissar Yorke? Please, don’t shoot. I- I don’t-“
“Relax, I’m not going to shoot you.” I hauled him up to his feet, and dusted him down. his uniform was caked in drying mud, he’d evidently been hiding here quite a while.
Alexys looked at me, fear, confusion and flaking mud coating his face in equal measure.
“I am however, going to kick your arse seven ways till Sunday unless you get back out there.” I slapped him hard around the back of his head, knocking his helmet slightly askew.
“Yes sir.” he scaled the side of the ditch in split seconds, and ran hell for leather in the direction I’d arrived from.
“Fething idiot.” shaking my head, I crouched in the dry groove that he had left, taking shelter from the wind and impending mess. I flicked a crumpled smoke into my mouth and lit it, staring at the sky, as the ground shook and debris scattered past, “Waste of a bolt-shell.”
Hey guys. Sorry for seemingly ditching this. I've not apologised earlier because to be honest I don't know if anyone's actually reading the story or not (Dakka Fiction is a quiet section, it's impossible to tell).
basically I'm off work because I have pretty bad glandular fever/mono (that recurs about once a year). It leaves me absolutely rung out. So whilst I've written most of the book, my proof-reading attention span is a few minutes at most.
What I can do is put up a long "mini story" that has absolutely no bearing on the Only Heresy storyline. It's the first stuff I ever wrote, so that's ready to roll, I was just saving it for weekends. It's a strange section explaining how Gaskell became Captain, and some of the strange luck that follows the regiment.
Unfortunately it also has another Commissar-Yorke-fails-to-score sequence which is why I wasn't keen on sharing it shortly after the first. It makes me look like I have some kind of fixation with commissariat-nookie. I don't, I just find his complete failures in that department very very amusing to write (I guess I'm mean).
By all my reckoning, this camp was totally empty. Across the way, Ronson's lot had come to the same idea. We were about to call it and pack in for the day, when Athenia sensed life in one of the tents. Fading she said, but there.
Strewth, when we found them... About two dozen guard just chained up to a hammered metal post and left. Men and women. One long chain through all of their restraints so not one of them could run. No supplies left, even though there were plenty in other tents. A couple had died, poor bastards. Fatigue and dehydration I can only guess. Maybe head wounds, medics will check later, our first thought were for the living. The rest were left chained to their dead squad mates, for days. I can't imagine what they went through. I really can't.
Michelle did her best for them, mostly advanced dehydration and heat stroke. They were very quiet, as you'd imagine. All troopers and one female sergeant. She were familiar and I couldn't place why. A couple of our lads recognised the odd face or name amongst them, what're the odds? Hopefully that means we can help them get over what's happened. Familiar faces and that.
I voxed Cat, should have really voxed Ronson as he's sergeant, but sometimes he does come across as so terribly young. This was so damned dark I just wanted to hear from Cat that they hadn't found more of the same. They'd found worse, some kind of shrine or sacrifice! Strewth.
The guard we rescued are just about talking, they clam up whenever Athenia comes near, which is a mite unfair on the lass. She found them after all. They said that the majority of the platoon just went missing one day whilst out travelling between camps. When they came back, days later, they'd changed. Insane. Fallen. They took the majority of those who were left, killed those who resisted hardest. Some of the men who fought back were sacrificed back over in the hellhole Ronson's group found. It had been the chapel. Desecrated. Made a point.
Then the bastards up and left, saying they'd return for this lot. But that were just over a week ago, and nothing. I can't picture how that must have been. Waiting here. They've survived mostly because there was a tear in the roof of the tent, they could get water of a sort from the condensation at night. There were a few supplies in there as well, but there's only so far things can stretch. All things considered, they're in good shape. For folk who've done a week on next to nothing, they look well. I can't imagine that they're prone to exaggeration given the circumstances, but I'm surprised how healthy a couple are. The sergeant, West, she looks tired but in decent condition, the others are a mix. Just waiting on Ronson and Cat to come across with their lot. We'll be able to contact the Nubila for one more day at most before its out of range, so Ahde is setting that up for this evening when the air is coolest.
We picked up the pace as soon as Captain Gaskell voxed across. It took us half an hour to clear the remaining tents, and we found no more unpleasant surprises. We couldn't rush too much however. The medic who had accompanied the other squad, Michelle, had set up the survivors an impromptu medical tent, not too hard as the camp was only deserted, not trashed. Beds laid out and hydration set up for the worst affected. Timothy rushed to assist, and soon they were a blur, caring for the quiet rescued guard. They were kitted out in spare Holly uniforms, we didn’t have anything else to give them, and their own had been beyond redemption.
Gaskell filled me in on their ordeal, his voice low, and I felt sick for them. The tent was almost silent, like a mortuary. I understood why, the mood was fairly somber. "You said some of the lads recognised a couple of them?” I thought aloud. "Aye." Gaz replied. "Call them in." I nodded. He gave me a curious look, “Sure. What’s your game, fella?”
After a short while, three troopers came in, as well as some of their friends. They sat down amongst the recovering guard, and shortly the tent was filled with quiet conversation, and a healthier atmosphere. A couple more wandered in and produced a deck of cards. Eventually the mood was almost cheerful. "You're an odd one." smiled Gaskell. "As good as medicine." I shrugged. "I'll give you that."
As we crossed the tent to leave, a hand caught my sleeve. "Cat?" the voice cut through the years and had far more of a stopping effect than the hand. I froze, unable to turn. "Cat, I thought you were dead. We thought- Well we thought that they’d executed you."
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/10 19:15:38
I'm sorry to hear about the sickness. Take a couple days off if you need to, we understand. Also, I couldn't agree more with the silence the Fiction section gets. Pretty much, the first installations get comments, then they go silent for indefinite amounts of time, which cam be pretty annoying for writers.
Hope you feel better soon
Irishpeacockz-Blackjack needs a pay raise for being the welcomer to the crusade
Palleus-Write a school essay about Kroot! Pride. Prejudice. And Cannibalsim.
I'm not annoyed, but because I'm really new at this, and so far it's been a low-combat, talky story, it sort of feels like an embarrassed silence by people. The sensation's like I stepped into a room and yelled something weird out and people are trying to politely ignore it. Especially the crayon drawings being so off-piste.
I've been resting but I'm having to yield and go to bed at 8pm like a child at the moment. Think I'll have to suck it up and see a doc.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/14 08:01:26
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Cat space out like that. It was astounding. He just froze and his eyes went blank for a moment. I’ve seen it happen to servitors occasionally, but I never knew it could happen to a person. He knew her, he knew the sergeant, Siobhan. I’m not pressed him about it, there’s not been a great time to bring it up. She said they’d assumed he was dead… Of all things, executed?
I’ve never asked Cat about his history, but it makes me seriously wonder if I should have. There’s only so many things a commissar could have done to earn that kind of reckoning, if she’s right. Days like this make me question if we should have taken him on at all. Cat… He still thinks we requested him... Truth is we were sent him by the Commissariat as our captain’s track were not exactly stellar, and at a guess, neither were Cat’s. Makes me ache now to think that they had just thrown someone so … I don’t know… friendly? …to bait such a bastard, but back then I didn’t know. I’d have tried harder to keep him safe. I should have noticed what was going on, and I blame myself.
What’s done is done, tomorrow we need to find out where the rest of this regiment vanished to. We’ve posted lookouts around the camp, and some further out. there’s nothing going to get in here unseen. Hopefully that means those poor bastards can get some sleep. I’m ready for it as well, when this shift ends.
“Shev?” I turned in a daze. I was nearly taken off my feet as she stood up and threw her arms around me. Which is saying something, considering that she only came up to my collar bone. “It is you!” she exclaimed into my chest. “If it weren’t, you’d be in some considerable gak right now.” I looked down. I gingerly put an arm around her shoulders, and stared down into the top of the fair-haired head, buried in the front of my coat. "Don't be stupid," the voice by my chest replied, "they don't mass-produce people like you." Through the fog, I wondered if I'd just been praised or half-damned yet again. My brain finally caught up with what was currently happening, "I can't believe you're here." I mumbled.
She drew back, and I was able to see Siobhan for the first time in many years. Soft brown eyes framed by a grinning, tanned face and hair that despite her recent mistreatment was pale and shining in the light afforded by the makeshift medical tent. Despite the years, she looked no different to when we last parted ways, except she was smiling. Something inside me felt at peace, soothed to finally see that smile, after the conditions we’d parted under. A weight had lifted that I’d not even been aware of. I smiled back, almost sheepish.
Beside me, Gaskell coughed, "I can assume you two have met before? Or is this how you greet all women, Cat?" he winked and I couldn't muster up enough annoyance to jab back at him. I grinned, "Gaz, I served with Shev in my last regiment. She was- she is, one of very few people who spoke to me like a person." Gaz looked at us both, and chuckled softly, “What’re the odds? It's an honour to meet you, Sergeant. Any guard who has earned Cat's respect must be doing a fine job." He extended his hand, and she shook it, beaming broadly. He winked, "So tell me, was he always this sweet young lady we know and love?" I shot him a look, but he ignored it entirely. Siobhan snorted, "Emperor on Terra, no. He was a total bastard. Nobody could stand him outside of command. I was astounded he never got shot at night in the dark." Gaz stared back and forth between us, trying to suss if we were pulling some kind of prank. "Of course a couple of us knew," she patted my arm gently, "it's hard to keep the act up all the time." I tilted my head, Siobhan was looking quite drained after only the short conversation. I steered her by the shoulder, back towards her bed, “You should rest, Shev. There'll be plenty time for catch-ups later. Get some sleep, it's not like you get that offer very often." She laughed, "True! I haven't had so little responsibility in months." waving, she cheerfully stepped back to her bunk and relaxed.
I stepped out of the tent, and Gaz stared at me, "So, lover-boy. Spill." he nudged my side. "We were just friends, Gaz." I rubbed my eyes in the fading light. "Oh?" he looked unconvinced. Shaking my head, I sighed, "Seriously. She was involved with our captain. As his friend, I was never in the running, and-" "You'd never act on it if you were." Gaz smiled, "I know, Cat. I just like winding your key some days. You want to talk?" he looked up at me, concern riding his features. "Not right now. It's... well, it's a large reminder of a part of my life I moved away from." I stared up at the sky, watching as clouds scuttered past. He nodded, "Sounds like it."
We woke to screams in the night, and gunshots. Cat's tent were the nearest, I heard the first shots from in there, half a dozen I think. By the time I made it out of bed and over there, he were outside, bringing his guts up. Didn't try and ask him, in the tent was most of a guard, and Randolph, plus the psyker. They'd just arrived to find Cat had blown the guard’s chest apart with that old hell pistol, but he’d kept firing long past the point of death. Very unlike him, don't know what went on, and he won't tell me. Kept mumbling something about memories. Better keep an eye on him. Checked the corpse, wasn’t a guard. Cultist. gak. Sent those two to help with the disturbance, tried to get some sense out of Cat.
He were of no use. I gave up and ran to help Morn and Athenia. Turns out the captives we rescued were planted. They were all guard, sure. At one point even loyal, I imagine. But they were traitors, cultists, mostly in disguise. Several had snuck into various tents to try and... Either kill or coerce the men there. Some even used the faces of people they'd known, respected or loved. Like some sort of illusion to throw off their defenses. None had succeeded much after Cat started firing, it seemed to break the trance. I'm bloody glad none got as far as my tent. Like to think I'd be strong, but seeing someone take on the face of my family, my wife? I couldn't bear that, even knowing it were false.
We rounded up the survivors and executed them. Some were protesting their innocence to the end. Those that had stayed in the medical tent, sleeping, especially. I have my doubts they were all traitor. We all do. Ahde, Cat? Their faces said the same. What were we to do, though? We couldn't post guard on them for the rest of the month, we couldn't trust them, and we couldn't leave them here. They're all at peace now, though some certainly aren't having a good time of it. I'm not sure what happens when cultists die, but I reckon they have some dues to pay wherever they end up.
See if we all can get a few hours sleep before the morning. I doubt anyone will sleep easy though. Cat's dragged his bed in here with me now, rather than spend all night scouring gore out of that other tent. He's fast-on, but the man could sleep through a hurricane. They say commissars don't sleep easy. They haven't tried to get between this one and his kip.
I wish we could take tomorrow lightly, but we've got work to do. Repair the comms, scout the start of the track from here, make sure the areas clear - doubly so now that this happened. Morn reckons he saw a grot in the trees, but it vanished before he could get a shot off. Doesn't sound right. Greenskins don't usually care for stealth. Time to try and get some rest myself, I suppose. Don't imagine I will.
I looked up. How could we all have missed this? Internal injuries from assault. Liver compromised. Refusal to take a bionic replacement organ. That'd do it. Yorke had started to shake visibly, it was not yet affecting his speech, but it was alarming. Even the two acolytes had now noticed. He was entirely calm about it, as was the nature of the drug he'd taken. He regarded us quizzically as I expressed my concern to Celena quietly. Tremors were not unheard of, but I was starting to worry about long term effect on his heart, if it were indeed beating as fast as I suspected. Boorman dismissed my concern and offered the beaker a third time to the drugged man, who accepted it, having no reason to distrust us. I gritted my teeth and felt torn. We had to find out the truth, and efficiently. But likewise harming someone who had offered only cooperation and faithful service was going against the grain.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/24 21:39:32
I don't have anything to say about last night. Even Ahde is leaving me be about it, and I was left to wake up by my own devices. Mid morning, they’d already disposed of the dead. Asked me to take a cursory look over it to ensure the job was done right. I declined. I trust them.
The one thing to remember is that none of it was real. None of them were who they pretended to be. That I can ever sleep again, I have to keep telling myself that.
Gaz says we are to proceed as planned today. Can't say I'm surprised. There's very little will change course of upper command once they're in motion. The loss of a few guard and abandonment of a camp is nothing to them. Not even a footnote. Keeping us in the dark is par for the course, now that they know there's ruinous power at work down here. I thought losing the Astartes might have got them to pay attention, though.
Walking past the medical tent feels strange. It's silent again. I've been walking the long way around camp to avoid it.
“Sir. There’s something wrong with Talsen.” Sergeant Ronson had sidled up to me during a perimeter check. Alright, it was a smoke-break. I was deliberately finding reasons to avoid going back to the middle of the camp. I shrugged, “Can’t Michelle check him over? Or is it’s a gentleman’s problem? You know that’s not part of my job either, despite what Captain Gaskell keeps saying.” Despite me telling him not to. “No Cat, it’s your area. He’s, you know… He won’t get up.” Ronson murmured without meeting my eye, “Last night he was one of the lads that the traitors targeted. He’s shaken.” Nodding, I sighed, “Okay. Give me ten minutes.” Watching Ronson retreat back to the centre, I leaned on a tent wall and stared out into the distance. We were incredibly isolated up here, I could see for miles, down into the valleys below. The forest canopy prevented us seeing down into it, like a thick layer of protection for whatever lurked down there. whatever it was hiding, I wanted to be down there as well, as soon as possible.
Poking my head into Talsen’s shared tent, I found him alone, and unresponsive, curled on his bunk. gak. Sergeant Ronson, Ahde and his squadmate were waiting outside, nearby. "He's in some distress with his stomach. We should give him some space." I waved them away from the door way, “…Plus it might be transferable." “Should I call for the medic, Cat?" Ahde caught my eye with a knowing expression. "I'll see to it. Go on, bugger off." I nodded, and stepped back into the tent. I listened for their footsteps to die away before sitting down on Talsen's bunk beside him. He remained curled in a ball, his eyes open but unfocused.
"Fella," I put my hand to his shoulder, gently, "Talsen. I need you to sit up for me." Starting small, I hoped. The young man's eyes finally moved at the sound of my voice. He blinked, and slowly turned his head, "You're going to have me shot." It was my turn to blink, "Hm? Why for?" "For this. For being weak." he whispered. Ah. "Can you sit up?" I asked again, calmly. He nodded, and did so, shakily righting himself. I smiled, "See, there's a start." I patted his shoulder. He watched me with dull eyes. "I'm not going to execute you, Talsen,” I sighed, “but you need to tell me what's going on up here." I pointed to his forehead. "You're not? But I can’t face this!” he gripped his head in his hands, frustrated at himself. It was his first deployment, I recalled. Before this, he’d neither seen nature in close proximity, and despite his home-world being Mordian, had no combat experience.
I closed my eyes, "We all get scared, Talsen. You think I didn't near crap myself last night? I put more holes in that corpse than there are in one of Ahdes stories.” I opened my eyes again, "We just learn to deal. Find something that gives us strength." Talsen half rolled his eyes, "The Emperor, glory to Terra." he said, his voice dull. I flicked his ear hard, causing him to flinch and swear. "Not necessarily. I do find strength in that, but I find more in those around me." He raised his head, "In us?" I nodded, "In you, in the folks we protect. In those who went before." "It's different for you." Talsen muttered. "How?" He raised his gaze, "You're a commissar. You're supposed to be better at this than us. I'm just a guardsman." I tilted my head, considering what was to me, a strange thought, “Just a guardsman? I’m not above any of you; I just have to shout louder. I have to watch for everyone at once. There’s no magic wand comes with the hat, fella. I was born nothing; I will die nothing. What we achieve in between as a combined effort… I have to believe that in time it’ll make enough of a difference. That some day folk like us won't be needed." Talsen regarded me curiously, "You think so? There could be a future without war?" "There will be." One way or the other. "You know, I think that's the first thing you've said that I actually understood. I can get behind that." Talsen smiled. A familiar sensation of being half-damned floated past, but I ignored it. "Did it help?" I watched him. He looked up, considering the idea, "I think so. It may take a little getting used to."
We sat for a short while, just talking. He told me about his life before the guard. I told him a bit about what it’d been like growing up in the Schola. He missed his home life. It goes without saying how I felt about mine. Noticing the time, I stood up, "I should get going. You try and stay positive, okay?" Talsen nodded, "Thank you." "Oh, right." as I remembered, I rubbed my neck, "I said that you have the gaks. You may want to play along. It’ll give you the afternoon to yourself anyway. He laughed, "You couldn't have thought of something more, I don't know, glamorous?" I grinned, "Probably could’ve. Gotta get my giggles somewhere." and exited the tent.
As I strolled back towards the command tent, Ahde caught up to me, "How's he coping?" I mused, "Better than most of us."
"What you reading?" I jumped, I had no idea how long Gaskell had been in the tent. I looked up, from my bunk slightly embarrassed, "Story. It's a short one about a detective. He's got to try and catch an art thief." He sat down and stretched on his own bed, "You mind reading it aloud for a bit?" "Sure. Or I could lend it to you?" "Life's too short for that, Cat. Besides, your reading voice is better than my reading eyes." he smiled tiredly.
It was true, I respected Gaskell greatly, and I knew full well he was very intelligent, but under it all he struggled greatly with his reading and writing. For all his ability to plan, visualise and coordinate, that small area was his one pitfall. I'd trust him to get us out of the tightest mess in battle, but I wouldn't trust him to write a legible account of it afterward. In quieter times, I had wondered if we were civilians and the war had ceased to be, quite what his profession would have been. Something like an architect or a designer, I thought. Creating and organising. The idea of anyone finding him stupid often made me quite aggravated.
"Where from? Want me to start over?" I thumbed the pages. Gaz tilted his head, "How far did you get?" "Not far, the detective, Aaron, he's just been assigned the case. The art thief has started planning a heist of a very valuable sculpture from a cathedral. They want to lay a trap for her." "That sounds good a place as any," my friend smiled and leaned back, closing his eyes, "go for it."
From then on, if I was reading and he was around, I'd ask if Gaz wanted to listen. Quite often he did. Sometimes others would sit in on it if they were passing. We did so without comment, and I suppose it just became one of those habits we got into. Looking back at it, it was a strange reversal, a younger man reading to his senior, but it never felt strange. He’d saved our hides so many times, that offering him a small amount of help with his literacy hardly seemed an unfair trade. Gaskell often jokingly claimed it was a time saver, that two of us could enjoy a story at once. "Life's just too short for short stories."
This weeks listening: ♬ The book of love is long and boring. No one can lift the damn thing. It's full of charts and facts, some figures, and instructions for dancing. But I, I love it when you read to me. And you, you can read me anything.
This message was edited 1 time. Last update was at 2015/08/07 22:02:29
Alright stop vomiting, I know that one was saccharine beyond defense... Sometimes I just feel so bad about the things that I put the characters through, that I give them a nice afternoon, okay?
We're ramping up to a fairly unpleasant few days for the guard.
I'm updating the Q&A and I'm wondering - should I remove the character profiles for the folks we haven't met yet?
I've taken a while to finally get caught up with this but I'm enjoying every entry. I'm already quite fond of Gaz and Cat and even Ahde has a certain dependable charm.
I wonder could we get more from Ahde? Excerpts from his vox blackbox recorder. Morning camp announcments or whatever he happens to be recording... the Dudes a lone agent sometimes, he has a unique take on things. Just another angle to tell the story from.