This is my first time writing non-fiction. I'm trying to write a piece that might be suitable for the warhammer crime line of books about a Dark Angel investigating another Dark Angel. I'm open to all constructive criticism.
Astartes has never killed astartes. Even the scantiest knowledge of our history will tell you that this is not true. Accidents happen and honour duels are fought, but murder has never been committed. This, at least is what I am told. The body of brother Baruchas tells a different story, it still lies on his cot with his prognoids unharvested. But for the combat knife jammed into his mouth he could almost be asleep. Two things are certain. Whoever killed our second lieutenant must surely have come whilst he slept or they would be the ones lying dead. That and whoever killed him was astartes- no-one else on the Sword of Repudiation could have had the strength to drive a blade that far through the omophagea into the spine.
Although I am not long full brother of the Dark Angels, I am no stranger to death. All those born on Styx soon become inured to it. Being born on a deathworld taught me to kill long before hypno-indoctrination and scout instructor Lemonidas drilled what was left of my humanity out me. I know how to calculate trajectories, analyse tactics and how to determine my enemies weaknesses. None of this taught me how to find who had killed our lieutenant or why. All that was known was that our second lieutenant had died at some point shortly before I had flown first lieutenant Dantanian back from his rendez-vous with the Deathwing. My only qualification to investigate this murder was that I was one of only two astartes onboard the Acceptance who was not when it was committed. Our first lieutenant was bound in “chapter business” which he claimed it could not wait. It was to be prioritised even above the murder of a brother lieutenant. As such, he appointed me his substitute before sequestering himself in his chambers.
The combat knife could have belonged to any of the brothers onboard. As it happens, it belonged to brother Baruchas himself. There was a clear gap where it had been taken from his weapons rack, which was otherwise undisturbed. His blood had clotted hard around it, but this meant nothing. Our blood clots in seconds. His trophies were likewise undisturbed. An Ork’s tooth from Piscina IV, a reliquary said to contain Sgt Naaman’s coccyx, his power sword vindicta. None had been touched. His Tacticus armour stood silent watch over his body, dead eyes staring down at dead eyes. Unlike Dantanian, whose helm and gauntlets were post heresy mark VII design, Baruchas’s armour incorporated no honour parts. Theft would not be a motive here. There was a trencher of nutrient gruel spilt on the floor, with cutlery scattered underfoot. Doubtless if I was librarian or an apothecary I could have learnt more from the room, but any clues left behind were beyond my ability to tell. I cannot read souls or find forensic signs. I signalled my assent and brother Vapulath entered the room to remove his prognoids.
“Brother Procel” he said, leaning over our lieutenant’s chest, “I estimate time of death as being 18 hours ago, ship time.” This was pronounced over the sound of his drill cutting through the rib cage. “I should have been permitted to remove these long before now. The risk of deterioration to the gene seed is unacceptable”. This last point was emphasised with the meaty thunk as the first of the prognoids was extracted into his reductor. “Cause of death, is of course obvious. Intravertebral trauma just below the atlas vertebra. A little lower and I’d only have one prognoid to work with.” Vapulath placed a hand over Baruchas mouth and used it as leverage when he pulled the blade out.
“Whoever did this did not fancy a fight”
“Where were you when Brother Baruchas was murdered?” I asked.
“I was in here, murdering him” he replied. Seeing my reaction he added “I was in the apothecarian working on files.”
“Will your armour logs attest to that?”
There was a second thunk as the second prognoid was extracted from the neck.
“They will. This line of questioning will be of little assistance to you. Few enough other brothers would have worn their armour whilst in transit on a stable route”.
“Will you permit your armour to be tested?”
“If you wish to test my armour for genetic evidence, I fear you have picked a very bad time for it brother. I’m covered in the stuff now”.
This was true, his tabard was splattered in blood and bone matter from the extraction process and his hands were stained red like a murderer. The extraction operation is not a delicate one.
“Is there anyone who was with you in the apothecarion”
“The Apothecarion is as short staffed as the rest of the company. At the moment I am the sole member. We need more than just a locum primaris- a demi-chirugen at least. In any event only second sergeant Aron was with me.
“Would he have reason to murder the lieutenant”.
“There was little love lost there, but the number of brothers who loved the lieutenant can be counted on one hand with room for some amputations. I can guarantee you that the sergeant had no part in the murder”.
“You’ll know when you see him”.
Brother Vapulath straightened up from over the body and held up two tubes to the light for inspection. The gene seed inside looked to me like large bloodied slugs. “No outward signs of degeneration. Acceptable”. He then slotted them one by one into a frosted container. In the brief seconds it was open a thin mist rose out. He resealed the top.
“Unless you have any further use for the body the chapter thralls will attend to his mortis-rites. I suspect few brothers will attend beyond those who honour dictates.”
Vapulath left the room. I thought about stopping him but I was not sure what more I could ask him, or even if I had the right. I did not wish to remain in the presence of the body much longer. The extraction wounds perturbed me far more than something as mundane as a stab wound. Even an Angel of Death does not like to stay beside such a stark reminder of his own mortality.
Not knowing what further to do in the room I left it. Brother Vapulath’s operation had provided me with information but little by way of insight. I thought perhaps to obtain a list of all brothers on board the Acceptance. Perhaps then I could start working my way down the chapter hierarchy. As it turned out I could slay both beasts with the same swing. Following the seclusion of Dantanian and the death of Baruchas the highest officer on the Repudation was first sergeant Simeon. My sergeant. As ranking officer he would be found on the bridge.
“Brother on the Bridge!”
My presence was announced by the purser, a grim woman whose name I didn’t care to obtain. Thralls and armsmen stood to attention as I crossed the threshold. Simeon remained sitting. The bridge was quiet, or at least as quiet as the bridge of a hunter class destroyer can be. If action stations were called this would be a hive of activity, but in the quiet of a stable transit it was down to a skeleton crew. There was only the background hum of engines in motion overlay-ed with the occasional beep of sensor stations. It is not done to interrupt the officer on deck, save in emergencies. The murder of a lieutenant is not classified as an emergency. The veteran sergeant made me wait a full minute before acknowledging my presence. Sergeant Simeon stood out of his chair “Helmsman, maintain course”. This was said without even deigning to look in my direction. “Aye Sergeant”. A mortal took the wheel. He was not permitted to sit at the command throne. Even if he could he wouldn’t reach the controls, instead he stood. It was then the sergeant approached me. “Attend to me”. He was no more than 6 feet away from me but chose to communicate over the vox-link. I followed him off the bridge. He didn’t speak again until we reached the cloister designated as Squad Simeon’s.
Even though I towered over Sergeant Simeon even though most casual bystander could have told who the true authority was. He radiated control. Simeon was one of the firstborn astartes. He had no fear of death but was reputed to have said he would “rather die on the enemies blades than the surgeon’s”. I saw no reason to doubt it. It has long been said that Sergeants are the ones who make all the armies of the Imperium run. Speaking to Simeone I saw no reason to doubt that either. His armour was covered in the robes of the inducted and he carries a plasma pistol on his hip- signs of his standing within the ranks of the unforgiven.
“Dantanian’s death is not for outsiders. Not even the mortals”. There was no beating around the bush with the sergeant. .”
“Where were you when it happened?”
“Where were you when it happened, Sergeant”
“Where were you when it happened Sergeant?”
“I was on the bridge, running this craft as usual. Our dear Lieutenant didn’t deign to trouble himself with something as mundane as command”. I decided to drop this line of questioning. I could clarify with the purser if he was on the bridge, but as always with Sergeant Simeon, there was no reason to doubt him.
“Why do you think would anyone seek to murder him Sergeant?”
“I have never known any astartes to kill another astartes. Not even when I fought alongside the savages of Fenris. But with Baruchas I can well see why one might be tempted.”
“Who would want to do such a thing Sergeant?”
“Just about anyone who met him I imagine. If there was one soul on this ship with love for the late lieutenant I would be surprised. He had enough for himself to make up for everyone else. Were it not for his skill at arms he would not have progressed beyond brother. Even still he would never have been inducted to even the outer mysteries. He was not truly one of us”
“He was not remade like Dantanian or created like yourself. He was one of the originals.”
“Gifted to us by the Primarch?”
“Not the Primarch, a Primarch. By Gulliman.”
“Will you authorise me to see the ships logs, sergeant? I need to see the names of all brothers onboard at the time of death”.
Simeon turned and strode away. He said nothing to me but even as his back was turned names started to appear on my auto-display in rank order.
Second Lieutenant Perceval Baruchas;
First Sergeant Godfrey Simeon;
Second Sergeant Geraint Aron;
Locum Primaris Amon Vapulath;
Frater Astrotechnicus Bedivere Astatoth;
All flashed up and were blink clicked away in under a second, but one name that made me stop.
Brother Melchior Procel;
Edited by grailkeeper, 24 November 2019 - 10:40 PM.