Chapter 06 - Zero Dark

Date: 295.815 M41
System: Tanstar 88
Present Location: Warehouse in Tanstar Prime

Devalt checks his wrist chrono as the two-man patrol passes beneath him, part of the small Tanstar PDF security detail assigned to this particular warehouse. Apparently there is little concern for people breaking into one of their agricultural storage facilities, a fact that made the seneschal’s job that much easier.

Thanks to Janus, they learned exactly where Drake and his corrupt PDF soldiers leave their shipments for pick-up. From his perch in the shadowed rafters, Devalt keeps an eye on the only crate that matters, waiting patiently for someone of interest to approach. With Drake in custody and his men dead, this will be the only opportunity for the seneschal to discover who their contact is.

He cringes slightly at the memory of the sergeant as the arbites removed the shell of a man from the interrogation room. Though he’s seen what Aldos is capable of before, it is no less horrifying to witness each time. There are rumors that Malakai, the telepath who mentored Janus, was much less gentle with his methods. The seneschal whispers a prayer to the God Emperor, thankful that he never had to meet Malakai in the flesh.

His cameleoline cloak keeps him completely concealed, but it’s an unnecessary precaution. The guards seem completely at ease, usually talking to one another as they make their rounds rather than actually looking around for intruders. Still, whoever is interested in this crate has access to xenos artifacts, so it seems sensible to err on the side of caution.

Ops run in the zero dark hours are nothing new to Devalt. The Lord Captain has sent him on many such missions during his five years of service to the dynasty. He’s the man Shilwulf comes to for a more delicate approach to matters.

Not like that behemoth bodyguard, he thinks to himself while rolling his shoulders. Crashing through the underbrush like a Catachan ape. All brawn, no finesse.

Stretching out his legs, he’s about to settle in for the last few hours of his recon before something piques his interest.

A man dressed in long grey administratum robes comes in, comparing the information on a dataslate to the crates. As Devalt’s cybernetic eye zooms in on the man’s features, he instantly recognizes Quartermaster General Peskin.

Bit late for bookkeeping, the seneschal muses. Somehow he finds himself unsurprised when Peskin stops at the xenos crate. Glancing around warily, the quartermaster finally pries open the top of the box, picks a few artifacts off the top, and places them in a bag. He replaces the lid and throws one more cautious glance around before leaving.

Showtime.

Devalt exits the way he came in, through one of the levered windows that run along the top of the warehouse. Once outside he easily catches sight of the robed man. Sure-footed, he quietly descends to the ground, sticking to the shadows as he begins following his target.

While showing caution in the warehouse, once outside Peskin seems much less concerned with being seen. Soon they make their way out of the warehouse district, heading for a residential habitation area. The late hour leaves Devalt no options for blending in with the crowd, but his cloak combined with his expert stealth assures he won’t be seen by anyone less than another trained professional.

The man eventually arrives at his single-family dwelling in Prime-B, a fair indicator of his status of wealth and position.

‘Enjoy your evening, Mr. Peskin,’ Devalt mutters. ‘Soon you will answer for your crimes.’


‘Ow!’ Anna yelps as her weapon falls to the floor. She throws an angry glare at her instructor. ‘You did that on purpose.’

A deceptively warm and inviting light spills from the open and brightly lit dojo into the dark corridor. Its walls however, lined with all manner of weaponry ranging from primitive to exotic, give a more revealing clue to the nature of what goes on in this chamber. Dark stains punctuate the thick woven padding covering the floor, the pervasive tang of copper hangs in the cold air.

‘Told you to focus,’ Hob shrugs, tapping the the dull blade of his practice sword against the side of her neck for emphasis. Confident his point has been made he turns away, effortlessly twirling the weapon in his hand.

Drenched in sweat and her muscles screaming, Anna has to admit this training session isn’t one of her best moments. Yesterday’s events in the forest on Tanstar 88 led to a restless night, leaving her absolutely exhausted this morning. This seems to matter little to her opponent, however, as he’s shown no mercy over the past forty-five minutes.

Only fifteen more to go, hang in there, she thinks to herself.

‘I don’t think you’re being fair, Hob.’

He turns to face her, his brow creasing in a scowl. ‘No rules when fightin’ for your life, Doc. Need to remember that.’

‘Oh? I wasn’t aware my life would be in danger today. Perhaps I should-’

Focus!’

‘Fine,’ she replies exasperatedly.

Long moments pass with neither moving a muscle until Hob suddenly lunges forward. The solid thunk of his practice sword whacking into her side echoes throughout the training room. Anna winces in pain, deciding she’s had quite enough of this beating.

‘Where you goin’? We ain’t done here.’

’Time’s up,’ she says flatly, heading for the bench where her pack sits. ‘Go beat up your mercs, I have work to do.’

She throws her sword down, frowning at the unsatisfactory quiet thump it makes on the padded floor of the training room.

‘Pick that up,’ Hob growls.

Anna rolls her eyes, leaving the discarded weapon where it lies.

‘All right, Doc. Have it your way,’ he nods, pausing a few seconds. ‘You know, I wish I could meet whoever taught you how to fight.’

‘Oh, why’s that?’ she asks, fully expecting the assured sarcastic remark coming her way.

’I’d enjoy guttin’ the worthless cur.’

Having only been half-listening for his reply Anna stiffens at his serious tone, slowly turning to face him.

‘What did you say?’

He senses the atmosphere abruptly shift. Usually he says something snappy and she rolls her eyes and huffs off, but not this time. A new scent drifts across the room to his nostrils, something unfamiliar. At least as far as Doc is concerned.

Without a word she scoops up her practice sword from the floor and meets him at the center of the room. She firmly grips the hilt just as he taught her during their first lessons, her feet positioned in a defensive stance.

The rage radiating off her grows by the second, and he finds it impossible to suppress the wicked grin that spreads across his face. It took longer than expected, but it would appear he has finally succeeded in striking a nerve. Now he has her right where he wants her.

‘Who was he, Doc?’ He pretends to casually inspect his weapon for a moment, drawing his thumb down the flat-edged wooden blade. ‘Teacher at your scholam?’

Anna remains silent as they begin circling each other, her sword poised to strike while Hob lowers his to his side. For all his show of nonchalance, however, his eyes never leave hers.

‘Doubt they teach combat to spoiled med students, though. A lover?’ He raises his eyebrow suggestively, the grin on his face widening at her obvious discomfort at such a notion.

His thick, chiseled jaw sets as his expression once again becomes serious, his knuckles growing white as his grip tightens on his sword. The smile now replaced by a nasty sneer, Hob prepares to deliver his verbal coup de grace.

‘Like I said, whoever he was I’d enjoy cuttin’ him down where he stands.’

A thrill surges through him as Anna falls over the edge, surrendering to her anger. The usual kindness found in her eyes is replaced by intense fury a moment before she rushes at him.

With little effort he readies for her amateur attack, intending to strike the tender spot below her left ribs. Though she’s favored that side since they started training together over six months ago, he’s always avoided hitting it. Not today, however. Today the young doctor needs to learn a valuable lesson.

Just as he begins his perfectly-timed swing, Anna drops to her knees and leans back, sliding under his attack. With a loud whoosh, the surprised bodyguard’s weapon cuts through nothing but air just before she rams the hilt of her sword into his upper thigh.

Hob grunts in pain as his muscle spasms and his leg gives way underneath him, bringing him to one knee. Though by no means completely disabled, in his eyes her victory is no less complete.

Bringing his sword in front of him defensively, he expects his student to take advantage of his vulnerable position. Instead of finishing him, however, Anna simply stands in front of him with her weapon at rest. He meets her eyes, finding her face surprisingly serene considering the intense anger she just directed at him.

Even kneeling Hob is almost as tall as she is, his heavily muscled frame dwarfing her slight body. Yet for all his physical dominance, the Mortressan is the one on his knees this time.

‘He was my brother,’ she responds in a calm voice, lifting her chin proudly. ‘And if you insult his memory again I will not hesitate to cripple you.’

Hob stands, wincing imperceptibly at the dull throbbing in his leg. He stares down at her, his face devoid of emotion. When her deep green eyes look up to meet his, he can see that any fear she may have held for him before is gone. This pleases him greatly.

’Ka’le omra,’ she says with a respectful bow, the usual gesture indicating the closure of their session.

‘I hope I’m not interrupting,’ Octavius says as he enters the room. His face is the usual facade of professional indifference, save for the sharp look of concern in his eyes.

‘Naw, Cap’n, we were just finishin’. You need me for somethin’?’

‘Actually I needed to speak with Doctor Marastraza but I’m happy you’re here as well, Hob.’

The Lord Captain sets a cloth-wrapped bundle down on the bench next to Anna’s pack.

‘What is it?’ she asks.

‘Open it,’ Octavius smiles.

She tentatively pulls back the carefully folded cloth, tears welling in her eyes as the object held within is revealed. An ages old chainsword, worn but still maintained, lies on the fabric.

The vintage weapon has been cleaned and restored with meticulous care, its recently sharpened razor-like teeth glinting in the light. She reaches out, letting her fingers trail over the familiar high gothic words engraved along the thick metal blade housing.

‘Fiat justitia ruat caelum,’ she whispers the words aloud with reverence.

‘What?’ Hob asks, scratching his head.

‘Though the heavens fall, let justice be done.’

Her brother had etched the words himself shortly after he had received his promotion to Chastener. She smiles at the memory of how proud he had been to give her the news, insisting that she be by his side aboard Octavius’s ship.

A shudder passes through her as she recalls the last time he wielded this very sword, trying so desperately to protect her from something neither of them could have ever expected. In the end his efforts proved to be in vain and Heinrich had paid with his life, though it cost Anna so very much more.

‘I had Ethan fix it up a bit,’ Octavius says. ‘I hope you don’t mind.’

‘Thank you,’ she says as she wraps her arms around him. ‘But I don’t know how to wield a weapon like this.’

‘Well, that’s where Hob comes in.’ Octavius holds up his hand in answer to the look of shock on her face. ’You’ll continue to use practice swords until he feels you are ready. However, I believe we both feel it would be best if you kept it on you at all times regardless.’

Anna doesn’t miss the look that passes between the two men. She understands their concern, they simply don’t know what to do with someone without their level of combat experience. Where her skills fail, however, is where her faith prevails.

The Emperor protects, she smiles to herself.

‘Now, get yourselves cleaned up. I’m calling a staff meeting in one hour. The seneschal has returned with some interesting information.


‘It would seem we’ve stumbled upon quite the heretical operation.’ The Lord Captain sips his recaf sitting at the head of the meeting table in his spacious private study. ‘Thanks to Janus and Seneschal Devalt we now know who seems to be in charge.’

Joined by his retinue, the mention of the word ‘heretical’ causes a silence to fall over the room.

‘However,’ he continues, ‘I believe we can turn this situation to our advantage. Seneschal Devalt has provided us with the name of a local administratum official who oversees the operation. He and I will be going to speak with him today with the intention of taking him into custody.’

’Shouldn’t Hob go with you?’ Anna asks, a hint of concern in her tone. ‘This man is responsible for the deaths of our crew and possibly others.’

‘Sure Cap’n, I’ll be happy to go snap some slate pushers in half for you,’ Hob says, cracking his knuckles for effect..

‘That won’t be necessary,’ Octavius smiles reassuringly. ‘Charles Peskin is an administratum employee, I will be armed and Janus will be by my side. It is doubtful he poses much threat in person. Seneschal, it is my understanding that you’ve turned up additional information of interest?’

Devalt nods. ‘It may or may not be linked to this Xenos trade, but it is worth noting.’ He pushes a data-slate across the table to Octavius. ‘Apparently the planetary governor, Lord Tolvos Dunkirk, has been living far above his means for quite some time. From his estate, to personal staff, to private properties he’s purchased, the numbers simply don’t add up.’

‘Embezzlement?’ Octavius asks.

The seneschal shakes his head. ‘The exports of this planet wouldn’t allow his extravagant expenditures, at least not without detrimentally affecting infrastructure, which it hasn’t. I’ve also ruled out hereditary fortune, so wherever the money is coming from there’s no official record.’

Octavius nods. ‘At my request the seneschal extended an invitation to Lord Dunkirk to join me aboard the Hymn for dinner, which he has already politely declined. However, he has asked us to be his most honored guests at his home for a private celebration of their Founder’s Day.’

‘The governor may not be involved,’ Devalt explains, ‘But while Peskin might have the means to export the illegal artifacts he wouldn’t have the clout or contacts to broker a deal on his own. I strongly urge us to proceed with caution, Lord Captain. Corrupt officials have been known to do rash things when backed into a corner, and they may not think twice about trying something on a backwater planet such as this one.’

‘I will keep your concerns in mind, seneschal. We will be attending the Founder’s Day ball tomorrow night, so everyone keep your schedules clear. Dismissed.’


‘Where you headin’, Doc?’ Hob asks as he catches up with Annatolla as they leave the study.

‘My quarters. I’d like to change before I meet up with Ethan. I don’t want to get grease stains on my good clothes.’

‘Been seein’ a lot of him lately.’

She glances up at him a bit suspiciously. ‘How would you know that?’

Hob shrugs. ‘I hear things.’

She studies his face for a few moments, trying to discern whether or not he’s telling the truth. His well-practiced stonewall expression remains thoroughly intact however.

’We’re discussing maintenance and possible upgrades for my servitors. Was there something else you needed?’ she asks with a tired smile. Not sleeping well coupled with her late hours working in the medicae ward have left her exhausted and the day is not yet over.

‘Actually, there’s somethin’ I’ve been meanin’ to talk to you about. Been hearin’ rumors on the low decks ‘bout some mutants on the crew detail.’ His expression grows serious as he looks her dead in the eye. ‘Know anythin’ ‘bout that?’

Completely caught off guard by the unexpected question Anna pauses, carefully considering her response.

‘I thought Thurman was in charge of interrogations,’ she laughs nervously. ‘I don’t know what you’re referring to. The laws of the Imperium are quite clear in regards to dealing with mutants.’

She moves to turns to open the door to her quarters before Hob reaches forward and grips her shoulder firmly, turning her around to face him again. He leans in so close she is forced to take a small step backward, her back thumping into the cold, unyielding metal wall. He places his left hand against the doorway next to her shoulder, making it clear he has no intention of letting her off that easily.

He simply stands there and, as she knows all too well, has the stubborn patience to wait as long as it takes.

‘What do you want from me?’

‘I want a damn answer.’

‘Fine,’ she hisses through clenched teeth. ‘Yes, I spared the prisoner from the brig. I performed corrective surgery and placed her with a crew detail on the lower decks where she would have some hope of a normal life. I monitor her myself to check for any further mutation.’

‘Why would you do that?’

‘Are you questioning my medical expertise?’

‘Just wonderin’ if you thought releasin’ a mutant into the general population of the ship might be dangerous is all.’

‘No, Hob, I decided I’d just take a gamble,’ she replies sarcastically.

‘Why didn’t you just put it down?’ A distinct edge creeps into his voice, belying the giant’s calm exterior.

‘It?’ she yells incredulously. ‘Well, I’ll certainly keep your sentiment in mind in the event you ever have the misfortune of a mutation, Hob. I’m a doctor, I care about people, especially members of my own crew. I suppose after everything that happened in the brig I just wanted some good to come of it all.’

Is it possible he’s afraid of mutants? she wonders to herself, though it seems unlikely. She is well aware that the fear of the taint of Chaos is very powerful. The act of allowing a mutant to live isn’t just frowned upon, it is viewed just as heretical as being one. That being said, many worlds exploit or even enslave them for the undesirable and dangerous tasks untainted citizens are unwilling to perform. Whatever the case, Hob seems unwilling to simply let the matter go.

‘Look, the crime she committed to be tossed in the brig was minor and I check on her frequently. At least give me a chance to get her off the ship before you turn me in.’

’Didn’t say I was turnin’ you in,’ he says as he steps back, finally releasing her from confinement.

‘I don’t understand,’ Anna replies, shaking her head in confusion.

‘Known a few twists in my time. They ain’t all bad,’ he grins before turning to leave. ‘Like I said, just wanted an answer.’


Janus watches the swiftly passing scenery outside of the ground car. Though his physical eyes were boiled away during the ritual of soul binding, he can still see the world around him. In fact, no longer hindered by the limitations of simple human sight, he perceives so very much more.

The telepath’s eyeless gaze shifts to the lock of his door, focusing on it with intensity. He leans forward as if examining the mechanism before waving a bony forefinger back and forth above it, as if playing with strings only he can see.

‘Kick down the front door and drag his scrawny, slate-pushing ass out and be done with it,’ he says out loud with a chuckle. The Lord Captain smiles at the advice of Hob given just before they departed the Hymn.

Being a voidborn, Janus has spent nearly his entire life on ships travelling the vastness of space. Trips planetside often make him uncomfortable, so Octavius tries to keep such visits to a minimum. In this case, however, he is certain the psyker’s assistance will prove to be invaluable.

’I’d rather not upset the local administratum too much,’ Octavius explains. He gazes absently out of the ground car’s tinted windows at the passing people going about their daily lives. ‘If Peskin is well-liked by his peers, they could complicate our planetary departure. Or if they are well-connected enough, they could throw a combitool into Dynasty business affairs.’

Janus snorts derisively. ‘Maybe in twenty or thirty years when the complaint reached somewhere that mattered. That’s if it isn’t buried under more pressing matters of bureaucratic minutia and forgotten entirely.’

The telepath doesn’t look at Octavius as he speaks, but the rogue trader takes no offense. Eye contact is a social convention Janus has never seen fit to bother himself with. Those closest to him realize he instead relies upon his mental perception of the individual mind he is focusing on.

‘True, though it would take twice as long to clear up. I’d prefer to use the proper channels as much as possible to navigate the bureaucracy, but to do that I need your help,’ Octavius explains.

‘We should establish the mindlink now, Lord Captain,’ Janus suggests. ‘Are you ready?’

Octavius nods just before he feels a slight pressure in his forehead, like an oncoming headache. In a second the feeling passes, the well-practised act of linking their minds coming as almost second-nature to the two men.

+There we go+ Janus confirms telepathically. +Quick and painless+

Soon the car stops and they step out in front of the Tanstar Prime Department of Agriculture and Urban Development. Clearly the ruling council strove to capture and preserve the true essence of Adeptus Administratum architecture when they designed the building that stands in front of the Rogue Trader. Ten stories tall and at least a city block around, the bland light grey rockrete structure rivals only the local cathedral in size.

Elegant gothic windows adorn the building from top to bottom, but that does surprisingly little to remedy the extreme sense of dullness that the building exudes. It’s as if the exterior’s sole purpose is to extinguish any hopes one might possess prior to passing through its doors.

The long line of people extending out of the front entrance and around the long side of the building gives the impression that extra ration bars are being given away. Unfortunately these poor souls are merely waiting patiently for their turn, sometimes days at a time. In all likelihood they’ll only find out that they forgot to fill out some obscure form and have to begin the entire process again.

‘Take it easy on the lower echelons here, Janus,’ Octavius advises. ‘Save your strength in case you need it for Peskin.’

‘I assure you, Lord Captain, that it would take more effort to read a book than it will to sift through the memories of these menial drones.’

With no time for bureaucratic nonsense, the rogue trader strides up the steps and through the door, much to the disdain of several people standing in line.

To the Captain’s dismay, it would seem the interior of the building was designed as a backup plan in the event that the exterior failed in its purpose. It’s not certain whether it can be attributed to the abysmal lighting or just some established Administratum protocol, but everything inside is a shade of grey. From the uniforms of the employees, to the walls, to the floor, every color is muted to the point of near monochrome. Like a malicious plague, it would seem the greyness has spread even to those standing in line, melding them into a giant crowd of blandness.

The Lord Captain catches himself releasing a deep sigh and is fairly confident that is the intended effect wished by the architects. His heavy footsteps resound loudly against the smooth, impeccably polished stone floor. With disdain, he notices the floor itself is made from the same completely featureless grey rockrete as the outside.

He begins toward the front of the first line, oblivious to the incredulous or amazed stares on the faces of the line of patrons. Walking briskly, his floor length greatcoat billows behind him like a cape.

Suddenly a line overseer appears beside him, the man’s stubby legs struggling to keep pace with Octavius’s long strides.

‘Excuse me, Sir,’ the overseer pants, his nasally voice echoing throughout the chamber, ‘You can’t just walk to the front of an administratum line.’ The short, pigly man chuckles at the obvious ignorance of the two newcomers. ‘Certain protocols must be witnessed. You may file a request for the manual on proper line etiquette with requisition form-’

Octavius holds up his hand and smiles politely to halt the man’s well-practiced speech. ‘Obviously not, Sir,’ the Lord Captain nods in agreement. ‘Of course one cannot simply walk to the front of an administratum line. One would be foolish to think otherwise.’ The line overseer stops, dumbly nodding his head as he watches Octavius continue walking.

+I’d say you were a psyker if I didn’t know you any better. That poor bastard is trying to figure out what to do when someone agrees but doesn’t comply+ The telepath shakes his head in dismay. +He’ll likely be stuck there for hours+

Leaving the perplexed overseer in his wake, Octavius finally reaches the counter at the front of the line. An extremely frustrated Imperial citizen appears to be fighting a losing battle with the clerk assigned to this line. The man’s simple, dirty clothing identifies him as one of the innumerable agricultural workers on this planet.

‘Sir,’ the clerk drones in a voice so monotone that if Octavius weren’t staring straight at her he’d swear she was a servitor. ‘All I can tell you is that there was an error in your requisition form. I can’t tell you what the specific error was. If you’re interested in what the error is, you’ll need to file form 3748066-Agriculture PGB-7018. Of course you’ll also need your original 459743-AGR-8524c requisition submission identification number.’

‘But I won’t receive that submission identification number for another 45 days! By then it will be too late,’ the frustrated man pleads.

‘Please forgive my rudeness for interrupting,’ the Lord Captain says nodding politely to both the chronically disinterested clerk and the aggravated man. ‘But I have extremely urgent business that must be conducted.’

Before either the man or clerk can protest, Octavius reaches into an inner pocket of his greatcoat and extracts a velvet drawstring pouch. As he offers the pouch to the man, the quiet jingle of Imperial thrones can be heard.

‘I am uncertain of the nature of your requisition, good sir, but I trust this should make it right.’

The surprised man peeks inside the pouch and can hardly believe his eyes. His frustration suddenly replaced with extreme gratitude, he looks at the rogue trader excitedly.

‘Thank you so much, sir! You have no idea what this means to me. Emperor bless you!’ the man says giddily before hurrying off with his newfound fortune.

Octavius reaches into his coat once again, offering a similar pouch to the citizen who is next in line.

‘I am most grateful for you holding my place in line, madame. Please accept this as payment for your service.’

The woman looks inside the pouch and closes it quickly, looking up at Octavius with complete disbelief. She actually hugs the Lord Captain before wordlessly heading for the exit.

+Well at least someone in this place is happy+ Janus muses dryly.

+Just don’t tell Harzon+ Octavius responds. +I believe he knows every throne in the dynasty by name+

The rogue trader turns his full attention to the clerk who, unsurprisingly, is as nondescript as her surroundings. Her baggy, long-sleeved grey robe completely obscures the woman’s outline, except when it comes to a taper at her thick forearm and wrist.

Emperor forbid their uniforms hinder their administratum duties, he thinks to himself.

She wears no makeup and her hair is pulled back into a tight bun. If the inside of this building were a war-zone, the clerk would be a perfectly camouflaged soldier. Judging by the expression on her face, she is utterly unimpressed by the rogue trader’s show and doesn’t even bother to acknowledge Janus’s presence.

‘How can I help you, Sir or Madame?’ she intones.

‘Yes, of course, my dear,’ Octavius begins. ‘I am afraid that I am missing some supplies that were to be delivered to my ship three days ago.’

‘I see. Did you file-’

+7713-DA requisition addendum+ Janus prompts.

‘My 7713-DA requisition addendum?’ Octavius interrupts. ‘I assure you I most certainly did.’

‘Well, I will require you to also file-’

+Form JSX-459-Section A+

’I’ve already filed my Form JSX-459-Section A two days ago,’ the Lord Captain replies calmly.

‘In that case, Sir, I will need you to also file-’

+An extension form for J7TSP-agricultural produce, non-standard, Sections T and Z+

‘My extension form for J7TSP-agricultural produce, non-standard, Sections T and Z? Also filed, I assure you,’ Octavius sighs, giving the clerk a pleading look. ‘Is there someone else I can speak to regarding this matter? I am to leave port the day after tomorrow and I must have those crates in my hold.’

The clerk blinks at the rogue trader, momentarily baffled at his seemingly intimate knowledge of obscure administratum forms.

+Jeanri Vaudem, second floor+

‘Perhaps Mr. Vaudem on the second floor?’ Octavius asks. ‘Really, I’d hate to take up much more of your time with this matter.’

+Congratulations, Captain. You just became someone else’s problem+

The clerk simply nods and points to a door labeled ‘Stairs’. Janus and the Lord Captain proceed through three more employees in this fashion with no problem. However, on the fourth Janus encounters some resistance to his heretofore gentle psychic intrusions.

‘Sir, I don’t know how you made it to my personal office but I assure you I cannot assist you,’ the disgruntled manager tells Octavius sternly. ‘You will have to leave before-’

+Janus+ the Captain prompts.

In an instant the man’s eyes widen as his body becomes rigid. At the same time, Octavius catches Janus as he collapses. The Captain moves the telepath’s limp form behind the man’s desk, laying him gently on the floor. If anyone should happen by it will appear the employee has stepped out.

’He’s trying to put up a fight, Octavius,’ the man says out loud. ’Let’s get this over with quickly.’

Though the Lord Captain has witnessed Janus possess people before, it is still disconcerting to observe. Completely in control of the man, the psyker’s speech patterns and mannerisms remain the same, just in a voice and body that are not his own. It would seem Malakai taught him well.

‘One floor up, Captain,’ Janus says. ‘We can use his key card to access the door at the top of the stairs.’

The telepath reaches into his new coat pocket and retrieves a grey key card and hands it to Octavius.

‘See what you can do with his memory,’ the rogue trader instructs once they reach the top floor. ‘He lead us here of his own volition for reasons of planetary security and the good of the Imperium.’

The telepath nods, turning to return to the man’s office.

‘You can also put something in there about how witty and charming he thought I was,’ Octavius adds with a grin.

Janus shakes his head to himself as he heads down the stairs, mumbling something about parlor tricks. Octavius walks up to the door at the end of the hall. ‘Quartermaster General, Charles A. Peskin,’ confirms the official placard on the wall to the right side of the office door. He opens the door swiftly, allowing it to swing open freely and thump loudly against the wall.

The man at the desk jumps at the unexpected intrusion and quickly opens the top drawer of his desk. With his arm, he sweeps the assortment of objects covering the desktop into the drawer before slamming it shut. He does his best to look completely nonchalant about what he was just doing, actually managing a slightly incredulous look at the Lord Captain for barging into his office unannounced.

Some of the best advice Octavius’s predecessor had given him was to never, under any circumstances, look surprised. Once you remove the element of surprise from your opponent’s arsenal, you gain much more control over your situation. As a rogue trader, he has called upon this wisdom many times in past dealings, and it is this same advice that the Lord Captain finds the most useful at this very moment.

Here and now on this fringe planet of the Imperium, he has just witnessed the head of the Tanstar administratum tinkering with xenos artifacts. Yet in the face of such an atrocious act of heresy, the only thing the Lord Captain does is casually close the door.

‘You can’t be in here, Lord Shilwulf!’ Peskin yells, although he seems to lack the confidence to back up his statement.

The pale, slight of build man does his best to glower accusingly at Octavius with his beady eyes. Certainly he doesn’t have the appearance of someone capable of mass murder, but as the rogue trader knows well not to underestimate a man on appearance alone.

‘That is a false assertion, Quartermaster Peskin,’ Octavius says calmly. ‘My time is quite valuable, so I’ll cut right to the chase. Your actions of engaging in the illegal trade of xenos artifacts has resulted in the deaths of several of my crew members. We have your soldiers in custody and they’ve revealed your entire operation. It’s over for you, Mr. Peskin.’

‘You take the word of some simple menial soldiers seriously, Captain?’ Peskin asks. ‘No one will take your accusations seriously.’

‘That is why my intention is to arrest you myself, Quartermaster,’ the Lord Captain explains. ‘There is little justice to be had in a legal system you most likely have great influence over.’

Though Devalt’s investigations did not reveal how far the tendrils of Peskin’s corruption extend, he isn’t going to take any chances.

‘We can do this the easy way or the hard way, Mr. Peskin,’ Octavius says as he levels a hard gaze at the quartermaster. ‘Whichever you choose, your corruption ends today.’

Peskin slowly stands and turns toward the window behind his desk, looking out at the city.

‘I see, Captain Shilwulf,’ he says quietly. ’That’s it then?’

Octavius detects the dark undercurrent in Peskin’s tone. That finality in a man’s voice that tells you he’s backed into a corner and is about to do something incredibly desperate and unwise. The Lord Captain draws his bolt pistol, but keeps the large weapon lowered at his side. The distinct caclick of the hammer being drawn back cuts through the thick silence in the room.

’Don’t do anything stupid, Mr. Peskin,’ he warns.

The quartermaster leans his forehead on the cool glass of the window, slowly raising his arms and pressing his fingertips against the window pane.

‘I won’t,’ Peskin replies with a deep sigh.

As Octavius takes a step forward, the glass window Peskin is leaning against instantly turns to liquid. The quartermaster falls through the sheet of shimmering fluid and down out of sight. The once-glass window sloshes over the rockrete floor, swirling around the thick soles of the Lord Captain’s boots.

Completely shocked, Octavius stands there for a moment before stepping over to the gaping smooth-edged hole in the wall. Fully expecting to see a corpse crumpled onto the stone lot below, he is even more stunned as he watches the robed form of Charles Peskin fly off into the distance.

Octavius Shilwulf, veteran war hero of the Imperial Navy, respected and feared by many, and current rogue trader of the Shilwulf Dynasty, finds himself staring in open-mouthed amazement at what he’s just witnessed.

Suddenly, Janus hurries through the door. ‘What in the Warp just happened?’

Quickly recalling his predecessor’s advice, the Lord Captain composes himself. Holstering his bolt pistol he turns to the telepath, casually motioning with one hand towards the man-sized hole in the wall behind him.

‘Quartermaster General Charles Peskin melted the window and flew away.’

GM Note:

This chapter is still covering the same first session at the table. Back in those days, we were gaming for 8 hour marathon sessions. Not much is different here than the events at the table. At the table, Janus was a little more forceful with his probing and Peskin escaped from a moving car in much the same fashion.

I love how Snowmoon turned a couple of paragraphs in a session summary into a complete chapter.

Session Summary: 01-01 Trouble on the Surface (second half)
Previous Chapter: Personal Log: Octavius Shilwulf
Next Chapter: Dinner with the Governor


Chapter 06 - Zero Dark

The Shilwulf Dynasty Eck Eck