I'm working on the 2nd novel about a space marine (pretty peculiar one) and an inquisitor's crew.
The 1st named "What I fight for" you might see here. It was reviewed and grammar mistakes had been fixed (the ones I found). You are welcome to download it for free here: https://www.patreon....ht-for-42323296
The 2nd named "Hope", I'm finishing it and started posting chapter by chapter at my Patreon page above.
If it's ok with the forum's rules I'd like to post here fragments time to time in case somebody would like it.
I Comrades-in-arms (fragments)
- Only the Emperor shows us the way, friend, - now Thomas winced and almost dropped the note from the wave of disgust: it was written in blood on something very similar to human skin, - you came to the right place, the Ecclesiarchy will help you in your grief. They are waiting for you tomorrow night and demand twenty. Twenty of what, my friend?
- They want twenty bodies, - whispered the man, searching his pockets for the bottle, - this time alive.
- This time? - asked preacher Thomas in vain, feeling how the drunk face made him sick.
Stark eyes, ice gaze - they talk this rubbish about his look. Cornelius saw no such thing in the mirror, in the army he has met much harder sets of two than others give him credit for. After the retirement the veteran saw not so many and of different sort. The men from his regiment had steel in their eyes, the readiness to go to the end and survive or just stay strong till the bloody outcome among those, who didn’t believe in surviving. You don’t need to be an optimist to be a damn good guardsman. And they all were, no cowards in the 104th. Commissars and they themselves looked to it. In peaceful civilian life such eyes were rare. May be Cornelius met the wrong people, but almost everybody whom he looked at got fear inside. Outside they could seem tough and usually they really were, but the worms of terror in them made him look at others down on. His skills and experience combined with the attitude made him superior in the Ministorum militia, where he came not of big piety to the Ecclesiarchy, which he kept to himself, but just of reluctance to the peaceful life. In Terran terms, he was almost fifty either slightly over fifty, speaking shortly, he has passed his prime time and wasn’t going to change his routine for the last twenty years or how many would the Emperor grant him. Cornelius still had enough lungs for a short chase, fired his las-gun better than any of those costumed blockheads, and his fist still could crush somebody’s jaw before his own would say goodbye. So, the Ministorum militia was his idea of peaceful retirement, paid by the Ecclesiarchy, who also found him enemies to flex old muscles. Cornelius tightened boot-laces, checked the belt buckle with the holster, knocked on the old flak cuirass (what respected guardsman would separate with the sacred thing) and tried the sharpen bayonet on the las-gun with dirty finger.
- Make this blood the only one I bleed tonight, - he sent the usual prayer to the Emperor and left his den to meet the “costumed blockheads”, - attention!
Almost thirty holes shut up immediately. They were called militia but looked like tramps with las-guns and torches. These fanatics liked fire in all forms: lamps, flashlights, candles and burning wood of course. They wore robes similar to the lesser Ministorum menials, civilian cloth or even the guard uniform, but it all were rags and excessively decorated: chains with aquila and other sacred tokens; medals, most of which were handmade and worth nothing; scrolls with prayers and invocation pinned to the dirty cloth or sealed with wax; bones and skulls, supposed to represent saints or destroyed witches, but generally were gathered on the dump. These people were lost in life and found by the Ministorum. They were so full with fear that could bring it in others, marching on parades, guarding preachers and temples. And time to time kill those whom the almighty Ecclesiarchy pointed at. Cornelius led such raids few times and felt good afterwards - those bastards were even worse and deserved the punishment. The bunch of halfwits who were partly mad, the militia constantly lose people even without battle actions and gathered new short-lived members, who needed firm guiding hand. The Ministorum put him in charge after his first brawl at the new place: some miserable idiots attacked a preacher in the poor district and Cornelius got him out not safe but alive. The militiamen respected his army look and attitude, though in the fight he never knew when his command would be ignored. But even among this rabble there were couple of decent fighters, mad as the rest of course.
- The cult has been found, - declared Cornelius and gave the militia time to express their disgust and anger. After the last shriek “Burn them down!” he continued, - the Ecclesiarchy sends us to discover the sinners and punish them. Grab your weapons, we are going to the witch-hunt!
- Let the corpse be, - Cornelius said to Viggo, who as he knew was always trying to burn something, - it is just a mutant-rat, save the promethium for real monsters.
- Get ready to fight! - yelled Cornelius, sitting on one knee and searching the darkness for the targets. He wasn’t sure if it was an ambush, but the unit needed to hear any command.
One man knelt to his right, stretching out the las-gun without flashlight, instead the warrior had a thick candle atop his hard hat, which only blinded his subordinate and highlighted the head for the enemy to shoot. Two more militiamen stood to his left, their flashlights jumped from one corner to another. The others crowded behind, franticly looking for the invisible attackers, - easy guys, stay firm! One mine will not stop you! - those bastards could, - Cornelius pushed the trigger, seeing the glimpse of somebody running to them, - the enemy ahead, fire!
Two rows of shooters opened fire, he heard the battle cries ended with shrieks and moans. The flashlights spotted people with oddly long hands, who charged them. Both men to his left dropped dead: one fell into the brown river and the other tumbled on him, almost knocking down.
- On the other bank! - he heard the crackling of the las-guns and saw a bright jet of fire Viggo sent across the running filth.
But the enemies on this side were still here and getting closer.
- For the Emperor! See His might! - the militiaman with the candle stood up and stepped forward, screaming and shooting. Doing so, he almost got hit by his comrade behind blocking the view.
- Idiot! - Cornelius pushed aside the dead body and returned to the position, feeling again the familiar pain in the knee, - come back!
He couldn’t be everywhere at the same time. Since the las-beams didn’t fly to him from the side, then the blockheads managed to keep those bastards busy. So, he would deal with this direction. Cornelius shot frenzy cultist in the head, which took four attempts, and saw the end of the man in the hard hat. The candle illuminated an ordinary looking woman with dirty face and tangled hair who slapped the militiaman on the face, knocking him down, and turned to him. Cornelius shot her in the chest and she fell on the face right before him, still grabbing her strange melee weapon. He stabbed the laying enemy in the head, to make sure she was dead.
They did find them: behind the dead cultists he saw a closed door. Instead of energized bars, that path was guarded by a talisman: a crucified skinless body was attached over the low arc; the legs were chopped off and nailed to the lower corners, surrounding the entrance in gruesome way. Cornelius licked the lips and activated the vox, - we found the enemy’s nest.
- Ready! - Cornelius warned the militia, squinting one eye, - fire!
The dark crowd just showed up over the corner, as the bright fire surrounded them. Smell of promethium and burned flesh for a moment suppressed the stink of sewers.
- Burn! Burn, heretics! - Viggo yelled firmly holding the flamer, which heat warmed Cornelius’s cheek. His scream and bright fire ceased abruptly - the cultists managed to shot the arsonist. But the las-beams replaced the promethium jet. Eight muzzles spat energy as fast as the mechanism allowed, pinning the racing enemies to the spot.
- Hold the line! - urged Cornelius, hearing how more and more bodies fell in the water, not knowing how many cultists were there, - keep fire! Their attack will bog down!
But the bastards kept coming. Three warriors have fallen around him already and the bodies dropped dead closer and closer.
- Bayonets! - commanded Cornelius, standing up, though besides him and Ramon the rest of the militia used all kind of melee weapons. - Charge!
He stubbed the first enemy in the chest, pulled the blade out and hit the next in the head with the riflee butt. Ramon was by his side, as always protecting him, striking with his own las-gun. Cornelius saw how two women clashed and then one ran further. The dead one got the torch. He blocked something dark coming to his face and saw the other flank - two militiamen fired their las-guns so close, that they almost touched the enemies with their muzzles. The standard bearer used the shaft as a spear and nailed one cultist to the ground, next moment blood poured out his torn neck, black in the scarce light. Cornelius stroke the attacker, and looked like he hit him, for when he parried next one, no lethal punch came from that direction. There was no cracking of las-shots, everybody fought for their lives in close combat. Cornelius was sure that the rest of the unit joined the brawl, but it was impossible to look how many were alive. The darkness sent him one long-armed bastard after another. He only got to stub and parry, covering the bayonet with blood and noticing how small scraps turned his cloth is shredded rags. If not for Ramon, who wheeled around him, killing the cultists and turning his own back to their sharp blades, Cornelius would have already laid dead.
Strange man that shorty was - almost mute, didn’t look in the eyes, but was always there covering his back, though between tasks Ramon didn’t try to communicate or get closer. And all this just because he saved his life once in some small fight? The brown devil took it too seriously, but the Emperor, thank you for such guardian!
The cultist took a swing, dropped the weapon and fell himself - a skinny figure darted further. Cornelius knew the body was slim, because he recognized the storm of hair. Good, Tabitha was alive. He couldn’t find the las-gun immediately and draw the knife from the boot and jumped on the feet. Ramon was under the cultist, holding back long arms stretching to his face. Cornelius stub the bastard in the back of the head. There was no time to offer hand and he ran to the sound of combat. Tabitha stood still in front of two cultists, her thin body was highlighted by the lamp of a slain militiaman. Noticing him, the enemies darted on the woman, waving their long hands, but she sneaked under one limb and left her knife between the ribs, turning to the last opponent with a hair flip. The cultist turned back to her facing him - fool, he didn’t make three steps, when fearless Tabitha jumped to the bastard and pulled him down on his back, putting her fingers in the eye sockets. Cornelius finished this one and swung the knife to the next - it was Ramon, blooded and out of breath.
- I’m ready to risk, those guys looked solid to go with, - he quickly whispered to the rest.
- I’ll follow you, captain, - Ramon stepped closer like an always ready servitor. Tabitha just raised her riflee.
- We will gladly join you, comrades-in-arms, - stated Cornelius, before the stranger took his silence for the doubt or fear.
- Glad to hear it, friends! Jump here, give them light! - the man sounded genuinely pleased. Jumping to the boat surrounded with the light, Cornelius imagined the speaker as some major, of his age with different fortune but with the same attitude to the war and men. He froze in astonishment, when he came to the other bank. Over fifty storm-troopers looked at them in mighty lines of armour and gloving optic. They bowed to three wretched militiamen and the speaker straightened up with the rest.
- I greet His loyal servants, - there were no such men in the Guard, not to his knowledge. The dark power armour was the most precious thing Cornelius has ever seen: it was highly decorated resembling the scale of a giant lizard; rimmed with golden spikes and fangs; the visor was made into a snout of some beast; heavy crimson cloak rimmed with dark fur looked out of place in the sewers, but damn it was magnificent; high leather boots with golden spurs covered the mighty legs; yellow gloves with sparkling rings held a long power sword. He was staring at the most bizarre looking man and had no intention to giggle. - My name is Jacob the Dragon Slayer, third heir to the Obrecht family. I will cover your back in this fight.
But the cultists mixed with the guardsmen before he fired for the second time, - charge!
He ran to the melee, gripping the trusty las-gun. Ramon was by his side, lowered the bayonet as in a combat exercise. The woman put her riflee behind the back and drew the broad knife. Cornelius lost her out of sight immediately. The loyal man was close during the initial attack - they both pierced one fat enemy, thrashing the knocked down trooper with the ugly weapons. Then the clutter of the fight separated them. Cornelius ducked from attack, but not fast enough, and already red bones scratched his eyebrows. He blinked from the dripping blood, blindly poking with his rifle hitting no one. Right shoulder brought scream of pain out of him, and he clumsily waved the weapon that direction missing again. But the next strike hasn’t come - Cornelius has been saved. He thought it was Ramon, but when he finally cleaned his eyes, he saw the back of running away guardsman, who was charging the next enemy. The veteran followed him to pay back, but he saw another trooper, parrying the attacks of two cultists, and changed the direction. Those two finished the poor guy before Cornelius came to rescue, so he shot one of them in the chest and attacked the other.
- Improve yourselves! - a loud call thundered over the fighting crowd and nasty screams announced the arriving of the enemies’ reinforcement.
- The martyrs’ blood! - he raised the las-gun at the approaching monster: on the right flank the guardsmen were being tossed aside by a tall bogeyman. The armoured warriors were pushed aside as children.
- Captain Cornelius! - Ramon, covered in blood, hobbled to him, ready to protect his leader from the new enemy, - it is coming our way.
- Of course it is, the beast must sense our purest souls, - Cornelius chuckled nervously and fired at the tall bugger, - shoot it, Ramon, shoot!
Their las-beams hit the monster, but didn’t slow down. For their luck, though at expense of other poor guys, the cultists ignored them so far and fired at the guardsmen, so he could take a closer look at the bastard.
- That little beast, - Cornelius cursed and pointed his rifle from the tall madmen to the ordinary bastards, Ramon read his move and followed the lead. They distracted several cultists behind their leader, receiving few shots in response, but gave her a chance to sneak on the enemy. Tabitha cherished her rifle, so used somebody’s else. The woman knocked down three opponents with wide swings of the las-gun and then stubbed the fourth, being surrendered with the cultists. Cornelius was racing to rescue her, cursing the idiocy of the little woman. Ramon was trotting after him, silent as a dog, unlikely he was that much agitated. Another idiot. They charged the small crowd around Tabitha and pulled her out, scratched and beaten, but alive. And now? Now they were going to die.
II The message (fragments)
- Is everything ready for the precious guest? - asked governor looking in a long mirror in gilded frame, turning from side to side.
- Yes, master, - Drus bowed deeply, - we are ready to proceed as soon as you wish to begin.
- Splendid, - the pale man stretched bright lips in a smile, - today is a good day for every loyal servant, don’t you think?
- The loyalty brought joy every day, master, - he bowed again, listening to the legs, stopped to pat around.
- Well said, Drus! - the governor clapped his palms heavy with rings and bracelets, - do you mind if I take credit for these words and cut it in stone or cast in metal? Everybody must know it and find comfort in it. Too many like to complain these days.
Leaving the bright and aromatic residence, the governor padded the Emperor's relief bust familiarly. Four vehicles awaited them, they sat in one and drove to the Palace of Council through the city so different to those rooms behind.
- Lords and ladies, I ask you to comply with the needs of our world and satisfy the request for manpower. Due to various reasons during the last years we have lost many workers and specialists on all levels. And accidents, - the man’s voice didn’t flinch, - keep happening. We can send the Imperial Tithe now. It is hard, and I mean it. But possible, though not for long.
- What do you mean?! - Gaius twitched and splashed his robe, - the ships must go by the schedule!
- And they will, governor, - the master-fabricator replied calmly and raised his voice, - if I have enough men to produce the cargo. Warn the Council, I need not only menials, but educated and smart people too replace the higher vacancies. Don’t send me servitors-material only.
- They will send you their sons and daughters and go by themselves if your request will not be heard, - the master glanced around the gathering, powerful people bowed resignedly, and pointed up the index finger, - I said.
- I don’t care for that mountain! - began the master, - therefore nobody does! To hell with that pimple! You’ve been playing the rulers of your lands for too long. Antium is my domain! Your mountains, forests, lands and people on it are mine. You think you sabotage each other’s mines? No, you sabotage my mines! Polio! When your mercenaries abduct women from Ahala’s settlements - you steal my citizens, my serfs! When your agents, Ahala, mess with the trade goods on the border - my merchants, my buyers suffer! Do you hear me? My people! You think I’m that stupid? Do you take me for blind drunkard? - Gaius grabbed the bottle and broke it on the augmented man. He put the forelock from his forehead, revealing a bulging memory implant and knocking on it with the fingers, wet with wine, - here are all your secrets, right here. I know everything. I see everything! So, - the master snatched the handkerchief out of serf’s hands while the hit man was standing up, - let’s look at the situation once again, objectively and impartially. I left you in charge of parts of my beloved Antium, let you rule it on my behalf. Any loyal servant would embrace such opportunity. And what are you doing? Ruining it, - Gaius returned to the chair, filled two glasses from the new bottle and gave one to the servitor: one-armed boy gulped the wine and bowed.
- It is clear, master. - creaked the machine and backed away.
- Ruining it, - repeated the king inhaling the expensive drink, - so why should I keep such bad intermediaries between me and my land. The time, Drus!
- It’s been seven hours, - he checked the chronometer.
- It’s been seven hours as Polio and Ahala families lost their status and their lands and servants came to the crown. Those, who would survive the purge, of course.
- Mad bastard! - Polio’s members darted to the chair, so Drus involuntarily stepped back. Loud bangs stopped both men, and three guards came out the darkness behind the throne.
- How rude, - the master kicked the corpse.
- Stop this nonsense, shut up! I’m sick with your Terra, the Imperium and the Emperor! I spit on him, I piss on him, he is no one to me, - his pale face reddened and he looked at the quiet guests, - forget the Imperium! Don’t you dare to even think, that Terra, that globe of :cuss, would save you. I am here, fear my wrath, not the mythical emperor. He means less that this dead whore, - the shaken finger pointed at the woman, - I have new gods to lead me, to look after all of us, - Gaius looked around and smile salaciously, - lust and gluttony, pleasure and excitement!
At these dinners Drus always felt something vile in the air something more than mere spirits and stimulants. He looked around, changed the setting of his optic but saw nothing new. But the archivarius knew that something or somebody unspeakable evil and inhuman was watching them. The very soul wore thin as the dark corners of the hot hall sucked it in. Part by part, one filthy evening after another. Soon there will be no way back.
There was still a hope for his soul and for entire Antium. One right message would save this world. And he would be the messenger.
III Pinta (fragments)
- Mentor, I banished the evil spirit, the Inquisition defeated the enemy in this world.
- You did well on your own, Jacob, - he nodded reading the battle's psychic print off the battered power armour, - it was a lesser demon after all.
- Thank you, master. We’ve fought the possessed stronger than this one, - even Obrecht’s modesty reminded boasting, - and I wasn’t completely alone. I brought several warriors, skilled and spiritually strong to serve you, mentor.
- On your knees before inquisitor! - Jacob barked at the confused and timid group of people, stopping behind him and bowed himself. The psyker wore nor armour nor insignia of his highest authority. He didn’t need to aboard Ataraxis.
- My name is inquisitor Silver, - he looked at the men and women trembling in the face of his title. They will learn to fear himself and be ready to die by his word, - acolyte Obrecht found you ready and willing to join my tools and I welcome his decision and your bravery. For the horror you’ve seen today will be your daily duty. I am His hand and you may become my fingers ripping out the warp infection from the Imperium. The God-Emperor made me His shield against the darkness of the galaxy and gave you the invincible armour - the faith. Stay righteous and strong and you will live, show moment of weakness and you will die. - Sebastian used his powers and pressed on their minds, looking for the traces of corruption on the surface of their consciousnesses and testing their stability at the same time. Jacob chose good people; the acolyte’s scent didn’t fail him. The skinny woman was a bit too sensitive to the psychic emanations, the rest showed solid minds. Maybe after few operations Tapio would get a new partner.
The psyker pushed harder - what was he doing there? Has he dipped the tips of his toes in the waters of the Empyrean? If so - he had no use to Sebastian and neither right to live. The cult gave false promises to the light-headed fools, who then ruined their own lives and risked the existence of the entire city. Has this man received the fake visions or Jacob distracted his first doze of lethal lie?
A laughing woman? No, she never laughed, only smiled faintly. The life of a rogue trader could look amusing only to those who believe in the cockamamie stories of unbounded travels, exciting worlds and unlimited wealth. Every warp-jump promised horrific death, every landing could be the last - a buyer might become greedy, a long-time tested partner could decide to take your ship, the very world could succumb to anarchy or heresy, since the order has been placed. There was wealth, pretty countable, but what the use, when he didn't even hear about the retirement. Not finishing one route, he was calculating several others. And not every world would welcome them, they need his goods, ship and knowledge, may be money, but not a new rich citizen who used to be by himself and had no master for so long. No, the adventures were not easy and merry. And for her, being a mother, it was worse. The kids had the time of their lives, playing across vast Pinta, not bothering that some compartments were locked. Not noticing how people disappeared around them and got replaced with new ones, usually for shorter period of time. They loved his stories and looked at him in his cabin as at the Emperor Himself. They confidently chirped of time when they would have their own Warrants of Trade. And she trembled imagining that day, fearing for three of them. Because for herself she has stopped to worry long ago.
- I’d like to return to my question, - coughed the first man, - my name is Cornelius, - the stout veteran looked at the couple of his companions askew, - the mute one is Ramon, the mute and hairy sometimes responds to Tabitha, - Tapio’s optic met calm, almost indifferent, eyes of the thin man in the rags. The faded yellow strip of fabric was the brightest part of his look. The woman snorted at Cornelius’s words and glared at him through the dirty locks. The sniper felt the evaluating look. - So, what kind of job shall we do? Finding and burning heretics and bloody cultists, right?
- When we come, usually the enemy has already been found. So, it more about killing. Mortal enemies are our duty, the masters deal with immortal ones.
- Who is that giant? - asked the veteran.
- Titus, - answered Tapio, who wore a worn cloak and used his long rifle as a walking stick, - he is the Adeptus Astartes, so watch your tongue.
- A space marine? We’ve seen them once. They looked different, - said Irkan and his presumed spouse nodded in agreement.
- Follow me, - Tapio didn’t stop for a chat, - he is different. Titus is above you all, don’t hesitate taking orders from him.
- As one could, - murmured Cornelius.
He wondered why he got so scared of the marine. He has just encountered the enemy so strange and horrific, the very existence of which seemed unreal despite his fresh experience. The veteran knew about the space marines - the glorious defenders of mankind, the best weapon and hope. Cornelius never saw one before, but had his own image of the enhanced humans. This brute bore no resemblance to it. The Astartes was so similar to him and that scared, because he felt absolute another being. A xenos. If he worried about the fellow-militiamen got mad and stub him during sleepwalking, how could he live and fight next to the inhuman?
- Try here! - the squad stopped at the illuminated intersection. The letters and numbers were printed on the walls, but it meant zero to him. Same figures stamped on the breasts of thousands of men, marching as one - that Cornelius understood. In this narrow labyrinth he would get lost on the way from the privy.
- Yes, master, - the servitor stretched out few limbs to a data panel on the wall. Segmented arms put the lid away letting chords and cables inside. Almost immediately the automate creaked, - the whole ship knows who has sent us, the system recognized the code of the Inquisition, master Tapio.
- Good, find the shortest way to the command bridge.
- It is ready to fly, master Tapio, - announced the emotionless voice.
- What?! - and Cornelius repeated after the leader to himself, - are you saying that they are going to leave the orbit without permission? The status is anchored, and her captain on Ataraxis.
- The have been preparing the ship, master Tapio, - replied the automate.
- Inform the master! - lenses turned to them, - you’ve heard all. The mutiny if not the treason in going on. We will split into squads. Find anybody, make them lead you to the command bridge or the engine compartment. The Emperor wishes this ship, make His will true.
The thin crack suddenly grew to the size of the path - the hatch opened outwards! Two men pushed it hard, separating him from the woman. The third charged Cornelius despite the smoking head - the veteran shot off one ear. His got swiped off the feet - the bastard crashed in him below the cuirass, pushing out all air. He ended up on the back, disarmed and not able to draw the knife from the boot. Cornelius could only cover his face from the enemy’s fists, heavy but soft and pretty clumsy. But there were two others.
- Get off him! - screamed Parlamanta aiming at them. The muzzle didn’t shake.
- Get her! - those two didn’t listen and darted on the woman. He heard the click of the las-gun and the sound of struggle.
Whatever the senior hired gun said, Irkan regarded him as their officer. And he used to trust officers in the Guard. They knew better for real and could save you from danger. Just listen to them and do your best. In their regiment it was like this. There were saying: promotion is like death, it takes the best. It was true in both ways. The officers didn't hide in trenches or in some distant bunkers, they were right there with the rest of them in the middle of action. Just a step ahead, just slightly more distinguished for enemy to identify. Alas, promotion was like a repetition. A mortal honor, which he tried to avoid since he'd met Parlamanta. Hiding and hesitating was out of question. She would scorn him first for that. He kept fought as always, they both did. Just didn't pop up. And risked their lives with the similar chance to die. For the guardsmen the dream of dying on the same day was a usual nightmare. They have survived that hell - not a unique, but a rare thing. The real curiosity was that their love has survived it too. And he wasn't going to lose Parlamanta at the first day of their new service, which split them.
The first turned out to be wounded and was crawling on the floor, not making an attempt to fight back anymore.
- He will point the way! - said Irkan, when they two hurried to the stranger. - Surrender! Where's the rest of you?
The wounded only moaned in response. Ramon used more laconic approach.
- Engine. Command bridge, - the old boot turned the wounded man and the gleaming bayonet plunged in the thigh. Irkan watched uneasily the calm face of his new companion, while he turned the blade in the wound making the sailor scream. The steel left the flesh. - Engine. Command bridge.
- There! Down this corridor to the elevator, - the terrified man breathed heavily, the puddle of blood was spreading under him. Irkan thought that his face has whitened already.