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Risk/Reward

Lysimachus

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#1
Lysimachus

Lysimachus

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Hello all!

It's been a little while since I've posted anything for C+C but I've just finished a new story about Talek Varn and his pirate crew, aaarr mat... ahem, excuse me. tongue.gif

Anyway, the story began in my head with me wondering 'what would happen if one of the Fallen came to Talek Varn's door?' and then 'what would happen if the Unforgiven came knocking on Talek Varn's door?'. It was also an opportunity to try and take another subtle look at the character and motivations of the big bad himself. This story is the result.

C+C would be very welcome, hope you enjoy it!

 

Risk/Reward



Chapter 1

The servo-skull moved deftly in and out of the high shadowy alcoves of the darkened chamber, weaving around pillars and through arching supports. Far below it sat a figure clad in grey armour with a long staff resting across his knees. A curving ceramic hood rose above his head, his eyes were shut and an expression of intense concentration twisted his features.

Without warning, a loud klaxon shattered the silence. At the sudden interruption, the servo-skull jerked sideways, crashing into a buttress and dropped to the floor. After a few moments the pained electronic wail ceased and a disembodied voice blasted from the ornately carved vox unit sculpted into the wall, the harsh and hurried tone of the speaker clashing with the unit’s angelic finery.

“All officers to the command deck! All officers to the command deck! This is not a drill!”

Brother Degier, sorcerer of the Iron Gods, sighed in irritation. The servo-skull was a gift from Talek Varn’s technical advisor, Magos Octavius, and was apparently attuned to Degier’s own psychic imprint. However, simply controlling the device was proving difficult and though Octavius had assured him that all that was required was practice, Degier was still unsure of it’s worth. Whatever the case, it seemed that this would not be the opportunity to learn he had hoped.

He stretched, servos in his ancient MK VI power armour mimicking his movements, and stood. He walked quickly to the door and out into a high, broad hallway. At the end was a wide portal that led into the command centre of the Iron Gods asteroid base. As Talek Varn’s personal ‘witch’, Degier needed to be close at all times and only Varn’s own inner sanctum was closer than his chamber to the hub of the fortress. Two Iron Gods, warriors of Varn’s own retinue, stood on either side of the heavy door and nodded respectfully as Degier passed through the portal.

The command deck was a hive of activity, with nearly a score of scurrying serfs and non-Astartes junior officers scrambling from console to console, all overlaid with a tumult of voices declaring weapons readiness, void shield status and a multitude of other information. While at first glance the bridge appeared to be in utter chaos, Degier knew that Talek Varn kept his support staff as well drilled as his Marine combat forces.

Another door, protected by two more members of Talek Varn’s personal guard, hissed open and the lord and master of the Solios Nebula stalked grimly onto the command deck clad in his massive Terminator armour. His very presence in the room brought with it an aura of authority and fear that must have been palpable to all, yet none of the officers stood or saluted. Egocentric as he was, Varn knew that in a crisis there was no time for bowing and scraping, and he made sure that those who served him knew it too. He strode quickly to the great command throne at the heart of the chamber and sat, before speaking just two words in a calm tone that nevertheless cut through the chatter immediately.

“Lechtus, report!”

A short, scrawny man dressed in simple grey tunic and trousers looked up from beside a servitor monitoring one of the long range augur displays. While Lechtus was no Astartes, he had served as Talek Varn’s aide and command deck primary officer for many years. Despite the alert, his voice was calm, efficient.

“A fleet of vessels has just passed the outer sensor perimeter and is taking up position along the edge of the minefield, my Lord. Augurs indicate they are Astartes ships; a Battle Barge, Strike Cruiser and several escort squadrons.”

“Designation?” Varn asked tightly. Degier could feel his master’s well hidden concern and shared it. He could immediately picture the familiar shapes of the mighty ships approaching the asteroid base from the blackness of deep space; with their long, angular hulls, powerful bombardment cannons and myriad launch bays. These were potent vessels in their own right, but of greater worry was the possibility that they might be carrying up to four codex companies of Astartes plus their support vehicles – a serious threat to the Iron Gods, even in their fortress home.

Lechtus nodded hurriedly and looked back at the display.

“Coming up now, Lord Varn. Their Imperial transponders identify them as… the Battle Barge ‘Spear of Absolution’ and the Strike Cruiser ‘Lion’s Hunter’, both of the Angels of Absolution Chapter.

Degier frowned, now even more concerned. The Dark Angels Chapter and their successors were notorious for their intolerance of any less than ideal citizens of the Imperium, let alone renegade Astartes. He looked over to see Varn’s reaction. Oddly, the only thing he could feel was a momentary sense of relief, followed by cold amusement. Varn caught Degier’s stare and must have noted the confused look on the young psyker’s face for he grinned and gave him a conspiratorial wink.

“Hail them. Invite their commander aboard to enjoy our finest hospitality.” Talek Varn waved his hand floridly, seemingly totally at ease.

Lechtus looked equally nonplussed but nodded and gestured to another man seated at the comm. station, a bearded serf with an aural augment that covered most of the left side of his head. After a few moments, the second officer swallowed uncomfortably and nervously swivelled in his chair to face his master.

“Captain Admiel of the Angels 3rd Company refuses your most generous offer, my Lord. He says… he says that he does not consort with renegades, he kills them.”

Varn nodded as though this was to have been expected, but his predatory smile only widened.

“Transmit my exact words. Advise Captain Admiel that though we may be renegades, we have not fallen so far as some. Further, tell him that I have information that should be of interest to any inheritor of the true legacy of the Lion.” He paused as the message was transmitted, then continued. “When he agrees to meet, allow him an honour guard of three, but suggest to him that it would be for the best if they were members of the Inner Circle.”

Degier frowned, trying to puzzle out his master’s cryptic comments but Varn suddenly stood, his interest focussed elsewhere.

“Degier?”

“My Lord?”

“Find Ghoran. Take his and Sargas’ squads, prepare a reception for Captain Admiel and his men in the docking bay. Make sure there are no unpleasant surprises aboard his transport, and then bring them to me in the Auditorium.”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Have Brother Zachariah attend me there too.”

Degier nodded and Talek Varn turned to leave the command deck. Though the psyker had no idea what it was, the tyrant of the Solios Nebula clearly had a plan.


***********

I'll post the next Chapter soon! Thanks for looking!

Lysimachus


Edited by Strike Captain Lysimachus, 24 February 2013 - 08:27 PM.


#2
Captain Juan Juarez

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You make me angry, what with being better than me.

My only concern is the total lack of preamble.. There's no build up, just straight into the action in terms of the AoA.
" They made you to be untouched by God or mortal. As I cannot kill you, so I curse you, not with death but with life.

I curse you - with the pain of ten thousand days in the Dark Place, with the life's blood of a mage's sacrifice, with Death's authority held in my hands.

I curse you, and I strike your name from history, stripped of arrogance and pride, empty of the self you once knew, gutted of all you are. I take your name and all you have won by the strength of your hand. I curse you for eternity, to find only darkness where once you knew your own face.

And I dub you the Ragged Man."

#3
Lysimachus

Lysimachus

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Thanks CJJ, yep, the 'straight into the action' was kind of deliberate as a contrast to the slower build up of the first story, I'm not completely sure about it but...

anyway, might as well put the next chapter in...



Chapter 2

The docking bay was a vast space, carved into the very rock of the Iron Gods asteroid home. As Degier, along with the twenty warriors of Ghoran and Sargas’ squads, waited for the arrival of the Angels of Absolution commander, he pondered what cunning plan Talek Varn’s machiavellian mind had created to protect his little empire.

Brother Zachariah had been of little or no help. Degier had found him in the armoury, carefully repairing his power armour. While the sorcerer appreciated the beauty of the full suit of MK IV ‘Maximus’ plate Zachariah wore, he found his brother renegade’s endless maintenance regime both obsessive and highly irritating. In truth, Degier found most things about Zachariah irritating. The other man’s attitude, blatantly obvious even to those without psychic abilities, was one of cold superiority. His condescension and disdain for his fellow outcasts were infamous. Degier could picture him now, resplendent in his ancient armour, his hand resting lightly on the grip of the equally ancient plasma pistol that he always carried, looking down his nose at all around him. Degier wondered where Zachariah could have come by such potent relics. He had probably looted them from a more worthy corpse.

Degier let out a derisive snort of laughter, earning a quizzically raised eyebrow from Ghoran, who waited beside him.

“Never mind.” Degier grinned and shook his head. Ghoran shrugged and grinned back. Degier wished that all of the Iron Gods were as easy to get along with as Varn’s Master Sergeant. He was about to explain the cause of his amusement when a voice spoke quietly into his comm. link.

“Thunderhawk gunship approaching the main blast doors, sir.”

“Understood. Open the doors, allow them access. Keep an eye on them though,” Degier replied to the pirate officer overseeing the docking bay control room. He switched his comm. link to an open band that allowed him to speak to all the Astartes present.

“They’re here, brothers. Be ready, but remember, we are here to welcome them aboard, not start a war.”

Degier watched edgily as the blast doors slid slowly open and the Thunderhawk in the bone and black livery of the Angels of Absolution swept gracefully into the docking bay. Half a dozen servitor-controlled twin-linked lascannon turrets tracked it as it moved into position and dropped lightly to the plascrete floor. Several of Ghoran’s men warily half raised their weapons as the automated heavy bolters mounted across the transport tracked quickly around the bay, but Degier motioned them to be calm.

Like the maw of some great beast, the Thunderhawks assault ramp dropped open with a loud clang and cautiously a pair of Marines, clad in bone coloured armour and robed in thick black cloth, descended. One carried a storm bolter, the other a plasma gun; by the numerous battle honours covering their armour, Degier could see that both must surely be veterans. Another Marine followed them down the ramp, similarly clad but armed with a bolt pistol and power fist. After looking around contemptuously at the gathered renegades, he turned to face the darkness of the hold and nodded quickly.

From behind him, another figure moved out of the darkness. He was tall and broad-shouldered and the armour he wore was exquisitely carved with dozens of angelic figures. His face was proud, stern and weather-beaten and he carried an air of cold lethality. Though his weapons, a pistol and long sword, were sheathed, Degier found himself instinctively tightening his grip on his force staff.

“I am Admiel,” the Captain intoned coldly. “Where is the leader of this traitorous nest?”

Degier stepped forwards.

“Welcome, Captain. I am Brother Degier, Lord Varn’s… advisor. I am to convey you to him, but first, regrettably, I am ordered to search your transport to ensure that my Lord’s requests have been met.”

Admiel’s lip curled contemptuously.

“I am a man of my word. However, it does not surprise me that those without honour should fear its absence in all they encounter. Come aboard then.”

“Thank you sir, but that will not be necessary.”

Degier calmly opened his mind, allowing his consciousness to roam free from his body. He could feel Admiel’s distaste for psykers, but ignored it and sent his thoughts towards the Thunderhawk. Quickly he searched the ship but found it empty except for the pilots. Satisfied, he turned back to the Angels Captain.

“Sargas’ squad will guard your ship. You have my word that as long as your pilots take no action to compromise the security of this bay or this station, it will not even be touched.” Degier smiled thoughtfully. “I too am a man of my word. Come, my master wishes to receive you in the Auditorium.”


***********

Edited by Strike Captain Lysimachus, 25 September 2012 - 11:51 AM.


#4
Nacho Wolf

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Arrrrrrr Matey, tis a fine day that we see a story about some yellow-bellied landlubbers being out-brained by us contemptable curs!
Ahem, very good story.
QUOTE (Steingrimr)
*Strokes big viking beard* Girl? What is girl?


#5
Lysimachus

Lysimachus

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:tu: Thanks NW!


Chapter 3

From the first time Brother Degier had ever entered the Iron God’s primary meeting point, he had immediately recognized how the grand space would have appealed to his master’s over-developed sense of the theatrical. The Auditorium was a colossal semi-circular arena, fashioned from a natural void in the rock of the asteroid base and large enough to gather all of Talek Varn’s troops twice over.

Now, he led the bone coloured warriors down from the arched entrance towards the central podium. The vast majority of the arena was in darkness, the steps lit only by ghostly green markers. Below, in the centre of the room, a single, more powerful spotlight showed a lone figure standing over a tactical display. As the small party descended closer, the harsh light revealed and identified the man, reflecting from Talek Varn’s hairless head and sharp, aquiline features.

What surprised Degier was the fact that Varn wore no armour, but rather a finely made robe of plain dark grey cloth. However, after a moment Degier came to realize that Varn’s unprotected state did nothing to lessen his imposing stature and sheer force of presence. If anything, it rather spoke volumes as to both his fearlessness and his utter confidence in the strength of his position. Degier suspected that this was probably exactly the effect the Lord of the Solios Nebula had been aiming for.

Talek Varn looked up from the display.

“You are most welcome, Captain Admiel. To what do I owe the honour of the presence of four companies of the Angels of Absolution here in my little corner of the galaxy?”

While Varn’s words were respectful, Degier could sense the playful mockery hidden behind them. He hoped that Admiel could not. However, from the Captain’s grim frown, it seemed that either he could not or at least that he had no time or inclination for playing games. His words were cold and hard.

“You cannot have failed to understand, renegade, that the message you transmitted to me has incurred the penalty of death upon every man, woman and child aboard this station.”

Varn smiled thoughtfully.

“You are very confident of the abilities of your forces, Captain. Personally, I have always taken a more pragmatic viewpoint. To my eye, taking into account both your greater numbers and the defensive strengths of this facility, any battle between us would be evenly matched, very costly to both sides, and its outcome would be very much a matter of luck.”

“You underestimate the danger you have placed yourself in, renegade. If necessary, I can call down the wrath of the first and greatest Legion Astartes in its entirety. The Unforgiven will crush your little empire under its boot heel without so much as a passing thought.”

“I have no doubt, Captain. But such a decision would be truly unwise,” Varn’s smile became a savage grin. “In any case, I know that you will not act on your threat. You have too many questions that must be answered first, my brother. Who am I? Which of your Chapter’s and your Legion’s secrets do I know, and how have I learned them? Perhaps most importantly, who have I told? No Admiel, the very fact that you came here, that you stand before me now means that you understand you cannot act against me this day. Thankfully for you Captain, I am in a gregarious mood and feel inclined to answer those questions. To be clear, let me answer your second question first. I am fully aware of all your shameful little secrets. I know of the schism within the 1st Legion during the Horus Heresy, I know of Lion El’ Jonson’s betrayal at the hands of Luther and his followers, and I know of the death of Caliban and the Unforgiven’s hunt to make their fallen brothers repent.”

Captain Admiel bristled, his hand almost imperceptibly reaching for the hilt of his long blade, but after a moment, he let out a calming breath and dropped his hand to his side. Varn, noticing the tiny movement, nodded and continued.

“Just so. Too many questions still unanswered. To continue, who am I?”

Admiel’s frown deepened and his next words were half statement, half question.

“You are not Fallen.”

Varn threw back his head and let out a bark of harsh laughter.

“You certainly know your brothers, Admiel, even when they are vile traitors! No Captain, you are entirely correct. I am not Fallen; and that is all you need know in answer to your first question. However, you must then be wondering how do I know what I know? The answer is simple. In my time here in the Solios Nebula, I have found myself acting as a patron and benefactor to those, both men and Astartes, who have been so unfortunate to have lost the favour of the great and merciful Imperium.”

“More traitors and heretics!” Admiel snarled.

The Lord of the Solios Nebula waved his hand airily.

“I have never judged my warriors on their pasts, Captain. Joining the Iron Gods means an opportunity for a man to start afresh, to build a new legacy; a man such as Brother Zachariah.”

Degier turned to see Zachariah step from the shadows beside Varn’s podium, an arrogant smirk clear on his face. The reaction among the four Angels of Absolution was immediate. Faster than a typical human could have seen, they raised their weapons and moved apart to better cover their quarry. Just as quickly, Zachariah had drawn his plasma pistol and pointed it at Admiel. A wave of pure hatred passed between the opposing warriors, buffeting against Degier’s psychic wards. With a frown, he tightened his grip on his force staff, ready to fight.

Talek Varn’s voice was a commanding roar, an absolute authority that could not be ignored.

“Zachariah! Holster that weapon! Captain Admiel, have your men stand down! Remember, there is far more at stake for you this day than the fate of one lone Fallen!”

The last was delivered as a harsh whisper and after a tense moment, Admiel nodded and gestured to his bodyguard. Half a second later, Zachariah also replaced his gun at his side. Looking at the two men, Degier suddenly noticed the similarities in their features and in the way they carried themselves; that same attitude of prideful arrogance and disdain.

“Good,” Varn almost purred, utterly in control of the situation, and as far as Degier could tell, perversely enjoying himself. “Now, as you have correctly surmised, Zachariah is a former member of the Dark Angels Legion. He came to me nearly forty years ago, seeking a place of refuge, which I provided. However, as master of this realm, I insist on knowing the history of those serving me, to protect myself from retribution. After a certain amount of… persuasion, Zachariah told me the truth. There is the answer to your third question, Captain, now comes the fourth. Who have I told?”

Admiel frowned angrily, but Degier could detect the underlying worry in his mind. Varn smiled again.

“As yet, I have told no-one.”

Suddenly, Admiel smiled too. He nodded thoughtfully, as though weighing something in his mind and then spoke coldly.

“I was right. You and all your men will die here, renegade, and all your vaunted knowledge and… evidence,” he looked loathingly at Zachariah, “will die with you. You will send no messages, transmit no information. The Astropaths aboard my ships will intercept and destroy anything you attempt to send out. We will blockade this station until our brothers can arrive in sufficient numbers to wipe out this vile insult to the honour of all the Astartes.”

The Captain turned, about to leave, but Varn spoke again.

“As I said before Admiel, that decision would be truly unwise. You see, I have already sent my ‘message’.”

Admiel spun back, a horrified look on his face, but Varn raised a conciliatory hand.

“Perhaps I should explain. When I ‘interview’ my new recruits, I always secretly document our conversations via pict-recorder. In Zachariah’s case, I quickly realized the inherent risk of having such knowledge, and the danger of harbouring such a zealously hunted fugitive. I began to look for ways to protect myself and all that I have built here. In the end, my technical advisor found a solution. He… well, perhaps I should allow him to explain it to you. He is a man who takes much pride in his work.”


**************

#6
Lysimachus

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Chapter 4

Varn looked down at the display before him and pressed several icons. A holographic projector built into the console suddenly came to life, bathing the heart of the vast chamber in thin, green light. It showed another chamber, a laboratory by its appearance, where a single figure stood over an examination table. He was wizened and thin, covered only by a plain black robe. Numerous mechandrites snaked to and from his frail body and one of his eyes had been replaced with an antennae-like telescoping optical implant. Other, less clearly defined shapes moved jerkily in the shadows around him.

“Magos Octavius,” Varn introduced the man simply. “Octavius, the visitors I mentioned to you earlier are here. Perhaps you could explain to them your work creating the ‘Wheel’?”

“Must you really bother me for this, Varn?” replied the Magos spitefully, moving closer to the pict-recorder so that his hideously altered features filled the holographic projection. “I am extremely busy as you well know. The Wheel was a masterpiece of design and implementation, like any of my work, but it is the past! My focus must be on the future and the current assignment you have given me! This,” he cried excitedly, pointing at the examination table and a large humanoid shape that lay across it. “This project will make my mark on the galaxy! Even a mindless thug such as you must understand…”

“Octavius.”

Varn’s voice was mild, but there was a hint of steel in it, steel and the certainty of blood and pain and anguish if he were not to be obeyed. Octavius quailed back from the recorder in momentary fear, then regained his composure and sniffed peevishly.

“Very well, very well,” he hissed, turning his attention from Varn to Admiel. “Whoever you are and whatever he knows about you, I neither know nor care. ‘Lord’ Varn,” Octavius sneered, “did not see fit to take me into his confidence as to the details of the information he holds. I was simply required to provide a means to protect and if necessary release said data. The Wheel is that means. As I said, it is a masterpiece of technology, in fields such as astropathic communications, viral engineering and synaptic data storage, and high level ciphering. If I may…?”

Octavius looked to Talek Varn, who nodded and pressed another icon on the display. As he did, control of the holo-projector was transferred to the Magos. Almost immediately, half of the emitters within the ancient device began to whirr and move. The image projected in the air above suddenly split into two, becoming less solid but still clearly visible. The first remained an image of Octavius’ augmented features but the second quickly resolved itself into a star map, one that Degier recognized immediately.

“As I assume you are aware, this is a map showing the northern end of the boundary separating the Segmenta Ultima and Tempestus,” Octavius continued. “Highlighted are the borders of the Solios Nebula and the dots that you see are the hundreds of inhabited Imperial worlds that lay along its perimeter. Talek Varn and his barbarians have visited most of them over the last thirty years. Each of those worlds maintains an astropathic Choir, a means of communicating with other planets across the breadth of the Imperium. More importantly for you, the minds of the Astropaths who make up each of those Choirs have been infected with a synaptic virus, carrying a tiny amount of data encrypted within it. I am unaware of its contents, but…” he paused, glancing slyly at Varn, “I would estimate that the file size and type would relate to around an hour of pict-footage.”

Varn frowned coldly at Octavius and the Magos hurried on.

“In any case, the virus also prepares the Choir to automatically receive and relay a signal, hidden in the warp’s chatter and encrypted using multiple advanced xeno technologies. The signal is transmitted intermittently according to a cipher of my own design from this location and from Choir to Choir. As you can see, this explains the somewhat inaccurate ‘Wheel’ moniker.”

As Octavius spoke, Degier noticed pulsating dots of green light beginning to move on the star map from planet to planet around the borders of the Solios Nebula, forming a loose circuit. At the same time, similar pulses began moving from each of the worlds to a point near the centre of the Nebula, creating what he imagined were the ‘spokes’ of the Wheel.

“The destruction of, or any kind of tampering with, this station or with any of the Choirs; or any attempt to uncover, decipher or replicate the astropathic signal, will have the same effect. The link between the entire network will be compromised and will shut down.”

At this point the green pulses vanished and lights representing the astropathic Choirs turned bright red. New pulses of the same scarlet hue suddenly began to be sent out in all directions, lighting up countless other red dots which then also began sending out identical pulses.

“With the link broken, the virus will fulfil its secondary function. It will decrypt and transmit the hidden data file via all available astropathic ducts. The virus itself is also self-replicating and therefore any Choirs that receive the message will also be infected and will begin to transmit. The message will cross the breadth of the Imperium in a matter of months.”

As the star map panned out to reveal a galaxy made up of pulsing red dots, Talek Varn smiled and gestured expansively.

“As you can undoubtedly well imagine Captain, that would be a very bad day to be a Dark Angel.”

Captain Admiel did not answer, still staring at the hatefully glowing star chart. Varn nodded as the Angels commander took in the scale of the threat his Legion faced.

“Not a good outcome for anyone, Admiel. Not for you or for me. But it can be avoided.”

Admiel looked down suddenly, staring now at Talek Varn as though only having just noticed him. Degier could feel the sinking dread, the fear of utter failure, emanating from him.

“I have no interest in uncovering your secrets, Captain, or in damaging the honour and reputation of the 1st Legion. I simply wish to be left in peace, to be allowed to protect what I have built here.”

Varn moved around the display, closer to where Admiel stood, as though offering his enemy a chance for reconciliation. He held an arm out and pointed to where Zachariah stood smugly.

“In the interests of a pact between us, brother, I offer you a gift. Take this traitor with you when you leave and do with him as you will. Perhaps he may find repentance at your hands.”

At his master’s words, Zachariah’s eyes widened and he shouted aloud in rage at his betrayal.

“Varn, you treacherous pirate scum!”

Talek Varn ignored him and continued to move closer to Admiel.

“Remember Captain, that this place I have created draws renegades to me like moths to an open flame. If there can be a lasting truce between us, then I give you my word that should any more of your fallen brothers pass through my gates, I will deliver them to you. I will aid your Legion in its greatest endeavour.” He paused, and then continued softly “Are the risks of making me your enemy truly worthwhile when you consider the potential rewards of making me your friend?”

By this point, Zachariah, choking on his fury, had wildly grabbed at his pistol and raised it to fire.

“You are scum, Varn. They will not ‘receive’ me as any kind of gift. I will kill you and take this place for my own, safe from my brothers’ retribution for all time!”

A burst of plasma energy glowing as brightly as a star hurtled across the chamber as Zachariah opened fire. Varn and the Angels scattered and Degier gathered himself, ready to lash out with all his mental strength.

He need not have worried, for Zachariah would only get his first, missed shot. Something big, more than double the height of any of the Astartes present and massively bulky, barrelled out of the darkness behind Zachariah. Pistons hissed, armour plates clanked and a subsonic growl of sheer rage emanated from the mechanical monster. Before Zachariah could turn and bring his weapon to bear, a gargantuan claw descended and grabbed both gun and hand, casually hoisting the Fallen Marine from his feet.

“Mharkad…” Degier whispered, impressed. Even unarmoured, Talek Varn had never been in any danger with his Dreadnought bodyguard waiting statue-like in the shadows. Zachariah punched and kicked ineffectually against Mharkad’s thick armour, but the beast ignored him and looked enquiringly towards Varn. The voice that came from the Dreadnought’s voxcaster was as deep and cold as death itself.

“Boss?”

“Disarm him, Mharkad.”

Mharkad nodded and held Zachariah out to one side, away from his mechanical form. Even as the renegade continued to struggle, Mharkad’s massive fist closed tight. Zachariah let out a yell of pain as his hand was crushed but worse was to come. Subjected to the massive pressure exerted by the Dreadnought’s mighty servos, the power coils of the plasma pistol crumpled and failed. For a second time the entire room was brightly lit as the weapon exploded. Several metres away, Degier felt the heat of the explosion wash over him, and then there was a moment’s silence.

Calm and utterly undamaged, Mharkad released his grip. Zachariah fell to the floor and slumped, unconscious. Both his weapon and his arm up to his elbow were mangled, burned and ruined. His face was also badly burned and his precious MK IV armour was scorched and battered. Talek Varn looked down at him contemptuously, and then looked back to Admiel.

“Well, Captain Admiel? What is your decision?”

Admiel stood for a moment, glowering at the tyrant of the Solios Nebula. Finally, without uttering any words, he gestured for his men to take Zachariah and turned to walk back up the stone steps.

“Give my regards to Supreme Grand Master Azrael when you speak to him, Captain, and be sure to make clear to him the terms of our… arrangement.”

Admiel paused mid-step, but did not look back or answer Varn’s taunting comment. With a self control Degier had to admire, the Captain continued up the steps, reached the portal and disappeared. Moments later, his sergeant and veterans followed, dragging the unconscious Zachariah between them.

“Should I go with them?” Degier asked quietly.

“Don’t worry, lad,” Varn answered thoughtfully, staring at the portal. “They’ll cause no more trouble this day.”

Degier frowned.

“What about tomorrow?” he wondered aloud. “They won’t stick to any agreement, my Lord. They’ll turn all their resources towards finding and breaking Magos Octavius’ warp signal, and then they’ll come back. All of them.”

Talek Varn looked at Degier with a wide grin on his angular features and winked.

“Good luck to them finding it.”

Degier paused, thinking furiously and then suddenly understood. His mouth dropped open.

“It was… a… bluff?” he asked incredulously.

Varn’s grin widened even further, and then he laughed out loud. With a friendly pat on Mharkad’s armoured leg, he sent the Dreadnought away towards another portal and then continued.

“There are better ways of passing along information, Degier. I have contacts on worlds in dozens of Sectors around our home, all of whom have encrypted data files and strict instructions as to what to do with them should this station be destroyed. In the meantime, however, I have protected us completely from perhaps the most determined renegade hunters the Imperium has ever known. The Dark Angel’s agents will waste decades, perhaps even centuries, searching for something that does not exist, by which time it will not matter. The Iron Gods will be beyond their ability to censure or tear down.”

“What if they decide not to wait?”

“The Dark Angels were ever a cautious Legion, Degier. They take not a single step without thinking and planning and more thinking and more planning. Moreover, doubt is a powerful tool. Azrael will recognize that the risk, the very possibility, of their secret being uncovered is too great for him to act against me; not to mention the rewards that I can offer him.”

Varn paused, his smile fading. Degier could sense his mood change slowly from one of self-satisfied and cruel glee into one of introspective gloom and even… guilt?

“It is a terrible thing, lad, to be the one responsible for giving an order that may or may not damn your entire Chapter, tarnishing its memory and legacy, and that will see your brothers hounded one by one across the galaxy until not a soul remains. Few men could give such an order.”

Degier nodded uncomfortably, wondering once more at the hidden past of the man before him. So infamous was he for what he was now, the tyrant Lord of the Iron Gods, brutal pirate and pitiless master of the Solios Nebula, that one might easily forget the life Talek Varn might once have led.

Varn stirred suddenly, his reverie forgotten. He looked at Degier and gave him a comradely grin.

“Let’s go find my armour, lad, feel bloody naked without it! Then, I want to show you something. It’s time you saw and understood Octavius’ current ‘project’. With it and given enough time, I will build this ragtag bunch of outlaws into a force that will make the Imperium itself tremble in its very boots, and give us all the glory that we richly deserve!”

Degier nodded and grinned back at his charismatic commander. Whatever his past might have been, Talek Varn lived totally in the present and focussed on making his future whatever he desired it to be. Whether this made him a bloody-handed despot in the eyes of most, it certainly made him an interesting man to follow. With a bow and a florid wave, the young psyker gestured for his lord and master to lead on.



************

Edited by Strike Captain Lysimachus, 25 September 2012 - 11:56 AM.


#7
Nacho Wolf

Nacho Wolf

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Very Good! Wonderfully written and, more to the point, you made the dark angels look bad :(
QUOTE (Steingrimr)
*Strokes big viking beard* Girl? What is girl?


#8
Brother Argent

Brother Argent

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WEll I finally got off my butt and read this and I must say I'm impresed. Hearing about the whole 'Wheel' thing I was all like, come on, thats pushing it a bit to far. Then comes the, oh by the way, IK made the whole thing up and I was ;) . Masterfully written, I must say. And it was nice to have another story from Dieger's point of view. Look forward to more if you happen to write it.