Chapter Twenty-four: Corruption
She sat comfortably in an advanced wheel chair with integrated monitoring equipment and IV lines, wrapped up snugly in warm blankets and a nurse at her side at all times. Under most circumstances this would be considered sumptuous treatment, but a tiny part of her mind noted that this was all to keep her controlled. That the chair was a cage as much as transport, the nurse a jailer as much as healer, and the chemicals in her blood chained her as well as healed her.
Unfortunately that little voice got smaller and smaller each day, not just as the pharmaceuticals wore away her will to resist, but as the desire to resist these people faded with all the things they did for her. They cared for her, honestly and truly, and it was hard to hate someone who did that. And hate was the only emotion she could use in warding against them.
Sure, they had been the ones who had shot her in the first place, but technically she supposed that she and… and… someone… had kind of attacked first. But once they had her in their captivity they had treated her fairly and given her excellent medical treatment, including the replacement of all the organs blown out of her abdomen by the bolter shell. They had explained everything they had done to her, even the psychological tricks they were using to subvert her will.
For example, her ‘nurse’ combined the modern medical term and the original term, a pun that had been somewhat lost on her until it had been explained. They had then explained that aside from the fact that it was fairly standard for female nurses to actually breastfeed patients, the act when combined with some of the pharmaceutical agents in her blood, some of them manufactured within the nurse’s body, they would regress her mind into a more child-like state where it would be easier to shape her opinions.
They were such insidious bastards, but when she was half asleep on hypnotics and had a touch of hallucinogens in her blood and she was being held up against a warm bosom like a babe, it was really hard to think ill about her captors. Or to even feel that what was being done to her was a bad thing.
Or, as her nurse said while Vita was suckling away, “We learned our lessons quite well from those who came before. Machiavelli was wrong, it is better to be loved than feared. It is harder to make someone love you than fear you, but it is also harder to break those bonds. Chaos will shower you in gifts and love, and all we ask is that you love us back.”
And as narcotic laced human milk flowed over her tongue, Vita found it hard to disagree. These Chaos people were sick, twisted psychopaths who got a kick out of dismembering their enemies, but they were also lovely, gentle people towards their friends and family. They were also perverted to the extreme and other such lovely things, but they expressed those sorts of things differently depending on who you were, so that patients got breast fed by large bosomed women and enemies in the midst of battle got… tentacles. That was all they had explained to her, smiling too broadly about it, letting her fill in the blanks.
Somehow, after getting to know them, she actually doubted it was as bad as the let on. They seemed to enjoy letting people think the worst of them so that they could pleasantly surprise them later.
For example, in most cultures, large numbers of heavily armed and armoured soldiers wearing way too many skulls invading a children’s hospital would be cause for concern, but here it was a way to cheer up the patients.
Of course, the patients needed cheering up, considering how many of them were here. A few days ago, if she had counted the rise and fall of the sun properly, there had been a sudden massive influx of wounded and sick children to the hospital, something the nurses had been commenting on. Aside from the noise and crowding level suddenly jumping up, it had also affected Vita’s treatment schedule, meaning that she was significantly more lucid than before.
Then again, they probably wanted her lucid for this demonstration. Those that safely could be moved had all been brought out to the bright, green, well maintained front lawn where a number of terrifying looking soldiers were waiting, along with a strange batch of other people. Set with her wheelchair to one side, Vita was afforded a front row seat and a good view of the crowd of children.
About half to two-thirds of them weren’t actually human, although it was hard to tell with some of them because except for a few cosmetic differences they didn’t look very alien. For some, it was just some pointed ears or funny looking foreheads, although there were also a large number of stranger children. That species seemed like humanoid birds/reptiles, with tough, leathery skin and a crest of feathers on the head instead of hair. They also seemed to be suffering from the most diverse collection of ailments, from broken bones to amputations to nasty looking diseases, where the others seemed to all be suffering from burns for the most part.
Once everyone was there, one of the doctors came forward and said, “Now I know you’re all scared, it has been a trying time for most of you, especially the last few days since you were transferred here. Many of you want to know where your parents are, and we are trying to get into contact with them if possible, but that is rather difficult at the moment. So for today we’ve decided to put on a little show for you to let you all know what you can expect in the future. Call it a ‘career day’ if you will, as some of you are already reaching the age where you will start making decisions about your life.”
Glancing over, the doctor gestured for a semi-familiar face to step forward. It was one of the men often seen patrolling the grounds, a formidable young man with an extensive network of scars across his face, dressed in gear that would be better suited to quelling a riot with extreme prejudice than patrolling the grounds of a children’s hospital, but that was just how Chaos ran: overkill was not just a word, it was a way of life.
“Hey kids! My name is Officer Bradley, and you might have seen me making sure no bad people try and get in here. What you might not know however is that I’m not just a guard here, I’m actually a police officer and in the army reserves. Now, a lot of you are new here, so you might have been hearing all sorts of rumours about the army, and the military in general. Well, I’m here to dispel them and set the record straight. You are not, repeat, not required to join the army. That is volunteer only. As a citizen, what you are required to do is be part of the reserves. Now, some of you might be asking what that means. Being part of the reserves means is that you are taught how to help the regular army if we ever need to defend our homes. Isn’t that great?” Officer Bradley explained to the kids.
It was interesting seeing the reactions among the children. Some responded with fear and trepidation, while others nodded sagely or even looked eager, and it seemed to be mostly divided along species, and thus most likely cultural, lines. One girl held up her hand and asked, “What about girls? I hear that they don’t have to go into the reserves.”
Just by her attitude alone Vita could tell that she was local. Most of the other humans were still cowering from the whole affair.
Chuckling, Officer Bradley replied, “Well little lady, that’s depends on what exactly you want to do with your life. The gods have mandated a large population increase, so any woman who has three or more children by her twentieth birthday can opt not to join the reserves to instead concentrate on raising her kids.”
“Does that make us ‘walking baby making machines beholden to a husband’?” The girl asked, obviously quoting an adult at the end there.
Laughing, Bradley said, “Well now maybe I should pass it over to Sister Roxanne here.”
Taking a step back, Bradley let a woman take centre stage, one who was decked out in a wide degree of religious iconography and carrying a very large sword strapped to her back. Smiling, she said, “As the good officer said, I am Sister Roxanne, a priestess to the Female Trinity, and I was asked to come here to dispel any misgivings the girls in the audience might have about their futures. The gods ask that we be fruitful and multiply, and they back up their request with many tax breaks and social programs for women who have large families, but they do not force pregnancy and marriage upon women. Three of the four gods are female, and they would not tolerate a male dominated society like that. If they so choose, women like me can become leaders, both spiritual and material, or technicians or engineers or soldiers or any of the careers a man can do. Yes, it’s a little bit harder than if you take a more traditional path, but then again, men don’t have to join the reserves either if they wish to pursue a few of the special careers open to both sexes.”
A smallish man with glasses and extensive cybernetic work coughed lightly in the back. Turning, Roxanne offered the stage to him, and he stepped forward. Grinning broadly at the crowd of children, the man said, “I guess this makes it a good time to step in. My name is Dr. Walberg, although I’m not a medical doctor like the fine ladies and gentlemen that are taking care of you here. No children, I’m a researcher who uses knowledge of the universe, either granted directly by the gods or obtained through experimentation, to help create a new and better tomorrow. In the past twenty-five years since Third Impact we have made incredible strides forward in all areas of science and technology. Improvements in surgery and cybernetics are what will make sure that many of you will be able to run and play with your friends instead of being crippled for life. Extensive factory and farm automation is what will allows so many to live lives of luxury, pursuing arts and even greater sciences for the glory of the gods. Of course, getting the doctor title takes a great deal of work, and in their wisdom, the gods grant any who wish to pursue such schooling a reprieve from serving in the reserves or starting a family. Not all people who take up such paths will make it, but they are not punished, just asked to pick a new path for their life.”
One of the alien children finally had the temerity to raise a hand, and Dr. Walberg immediately acknowledged him. Stuttering a bit, the feathered boy asked, “What of us who are new to the might of your gods and magic?”
Grinning, Dr. Walberg said, “You will of course be caught up as best you can, and allowed to choose your path in life as if you were any other citizen. We need all the people we can get, be they human, penguin, or…” Pausing, Dr. Walberg looked over to one of the doctors, who whispered something in his ear. Continuing, the scientist said, “Or Syracusan. Although I should note that most of what we do isn’t magic.”
“That would be where I should step in,” said one of the large, armoured men in the back. Bowing out, Dr. Walberg let the blue and gold giant step forward for his turn.
“Now as I understand it, some of you might have already seen some of my brothers, so I understand if you are scared by my appearance, but you really have nothing to fear. I am a Space Marine, favoured of the gods, and some of their highest, most sacred laws forbid the harming of children. No, you should know that I or any of my brothers, from any of the chapters would gladly die to protect you. That out of the way, I was asked to come here to speak not just for the Heralds of Tzintchi, but for psykers in general. Psychic powers are one of the crown jewels for humanity since the ascension of the gods, and those of you who demonstrate a capacity with such things will be greatly rewarded in whatever career you follow, for while the training to control your powers is more difficult, the benefits speak for themselves,” the marine said before casually flicking out a hand and causing a sword lunge aimed at the back of his head to stop dead. “Precognition and telekinesis are but two of the many benefits. In the case of the Heralds of Tzintchi, our psychic powers grow to the point where… well…”
The Herald then let the telekinesis holding the other Marine back drop, causing the sword to plunge through his helmet, emerging out the other side. There were numerous cries of fear from the assembled children, but the Herald just held up a hand and said, “Don’t worry kids, I’m alright.”
This actually caused a segment of the audience to start crying more.
Sliding his sword out of the Herald’s head, the man who did it said, “Don’t fear children. That was just a show, so you could see what Tzintchi’s might can do. Brother, if you would remove your helmet?”
Removing his helmet, the Herald allowed everyone to see what was beneath his armour. Or rather, what wasn’t. Instead of flesh and blood, there was a collection of faintly glowing sand assembled into a shifting facsimile of a human head. The marine with the sword passed his weapon through the Herald’s head a few times to show that it did no damage.
Sheathing his weapon, the marine said, “That was just a demonstration of some of the things the Heralds of Tzintchi are capable of. Vast psychic power and physical immortality are but a few of the abilities they gain. However, if you are a human male, sorry aliens and girls, it has to do with simple genetics, and you think you are good enough to challenge the entry tests for the Marines, there are other chapters to consider. As a member of the Sons of Kensuke, I represent the ‘armoured fist’ of the marine chapters. Our Primarch has long sought to ensure that we acquire the best equipment, and by far we have the most armoured vehicles around. Tanks, skimmers, gunships, you name it, we’ve got it. Our personal forges were in fact the ones that designed the World Raider assault tank, which I understand saw use by Primarch Kensuke in the Defence of Bloodhaven. So if you are interested in getting to use the best, most powerful tanks available in the service of the gods, the Sons of Kensuke are the ones to talk to.”
Stepping aside, the Son of Kensuke allowed a garishly decorated marine carrying what looked like a cross between a chainsaw and a guitar with enormous amplifiers on his shoulders to step forward. His helmet off, the children could see the broad grin permanently carved into the marine’s face. Looking over the crowd, the marine asked, “How many of you here like to have fun?” The marine waited for a few in the audience to timidly raise their hand before saying, “Well, in the Whips of Mislaato, we have fun all the time. Every day is a party, even when fighting… actually, especially when fighting, because we’ve figured out how to turn music into a weapon, so every fight rocks! Not only that, but how many of you wish you weren’t hurt? A lot I bet. Well, Mislaato teaches us how to turn pain into pleasure. For a Whip of Mislaato, getting scratched is like being tickled! Doesn’t that sound great? Actually, doesn’t this sound great?”
The Whip then began to work on the guitar, producing an impressively fast and complex number that quickly had all of the kids watching in rapt awe as he worked his armoured fingers up and down the massive guitar, producing a song of inhuman power and emotion before he turned to the group behind him and hit a power chord that caused one of the other marines to more or less explode, causing all of the children to squeal in fear.
Picking himself up off the ground, the marine so struck said, “I’m okay! I’m okay!” This time, unlike when the Herald took the sword through the head, there was actually a smattering of applause. The kids were starting to get into the show, starting to understand that no one was going to get hurt.
The marine who was downed by the Whip looked like a complete and utter mess, like he had been shot repeatedly and then left in a septic tank for a month, certainly not the sort of guy to be let near a children’s hospital, but the doctors were utterly unconcerned by his unsanitary appearance. Clearing his throat of some serious phlegm build up, the marine said, “For a Bearer of Reigle, wounds like that don’t hurt at all, and they don’t slow us down. Reigle’s gifts are many, and she above all of the other gods will love you no matter what you do. The world is changing rapidly, as many of you know far too well, and some people can’t keep up with that much change.”
The Herald of Tzintchi coughed smugly.
Making a small, annoyed hum, the Bearer continued, “But if you ever feel like you’re falling behind, don’t fret, for Reigle will be there to catch you when you fall. Not only that, but as a follower of Reigle, especially as a Bearer, you will be helping out everyone on the planet. Reigle controls all of the disease on this world, and so long as she has followers who can serve as repositories of all the sickness in the world, no one else has to get sick. Ever. Isn’t that amazing kids? For those of you born off world, that means that you and those you love will never catch a cold or get cancer or suffer from a plague as long as Reigle is around… unless of course you choose to follow her, in which case you will not suffer or die for all the little things you carry in her name. Their life will become your life, and visa versa. It’s great!”
Another marine shoved a chainsword through the Bearer’s gut and activated it, sending rotting meat flying everywhere, but the Bearer just gave the thumbs up and said, “No pain! Don’t try this at home of course, but if you join the Bearers, or Reigle in general, this sort of thing isn’t even that inconveniencing.”
Taking his sword out the Bearer, the marine flicked it clean before giving the Bearer a high five and taking his turn at centre stage. “Hey kids! I’m a Son of Toji, the do everything chapter. Unlike all of the other chapters, we emphasize elite, physical prowess in all things. So where our fellow First Founding chapter the Sons of Kensuke like to drive around in tanks a lot, we prefer to just run as fast as tanks. We might not be as tough as the Bearers, as psychic as the Heralds, as quick as the Whips, or as ferocious as the Reavers, but we also have none of their weaknesses. We can run, we can jump, we can shoot, and we can most definitely score, where the other chapters might only be able to do one or two of those things really well but not the others very good. For example, the Bearers and the Heralds are both really slow; the Whips are by far the most fragile chapter-”
“Says you,” the representative from the Whips interrupted, sticking out his tongue, which got a few smattered giggles from the kids.
“…And the Reavers are the worst long distance shots in existence,” the Son of Toji finished.
“Who needs long distance accuracy when you can close with the enemy faster than Tzintchi did against Ramiel?” The final marine to speak, decked out in red and bronze armour and wielding a massive chainsaw axe, said. The Son of Toji gestured, and the man shrugged before coming forward.
“I am a Reaver of Asukhon, as some of you who know the chapters might have already guessed. That means that I am very, very angry. All the time. No exceptions. Even now I am furious; although I should note that I am not angry at any of you, so don’t be scared. No, I look out at you, and I see the wounds on you, and I want to fly into frenzy. Kids should not suffer plasma burns. Kids should not be in hospitals. Kids should be out and about playing in the sunshine with their friends and family. When I see you, it makes me want to beg the gods for a chance to go back through the portal and start tearing apart Borg until there are none left. That is what it means to be a Reaver of Asukhon.”
The Whip snorted in disbelief.
“Okay. Being a Reaver also means that we have to get creative with the psychic powers that keep popping up in our ranks despite having very little to do with them. We do things like this,” the Reaver then vanished with the sound of air imploding inward to fill the vacancy left behind before reappearing next to the Whip and punching the marine in the face, then leaping impossibly through the air in defiance of gravity to land next to the Herald and try to head butt the psychic in the face, only to get a wave of telekinesis for his trouble.
Very quickly it all descended into a brawl between the various marines, each apparently trying in earnest to kill the others, but as the children watched it soon became obvious that it was all one big play fight as no one ever got hit by any weapons unless they could take it like the Herald or the Bearer, and even then those two only got hit in non-essential areas.
After a few spectacular minutes of whirring saws, humming blades, teleportation, flipping, jumping, and really good if destructive music that left everyone in awe, all of the marines spontaneously turned such that they were all in a line and bowed, eliciting cheers and applause from the audience.
They had made their sale. Now every little boy would want to be a Space Marine when he grew up, and everyone was now thinking about how they wanted to worship the gods. Tzintchi with his psychic powers, Mislaato with her fun loving attitude, Reigle with her self sacrificing endurance, Asukhon with her righteous wrath, or some mixture of the four.
As Vita was wheeled back to her private room, she could not help but be impressed by how comprehensive their society was. Everyone had their place, had a path to follow, and everything worked. It might be some sort of twisted version of a regular society, but it worked. It might be called Chaos, but while individual members were allowed freedom overall it was very orderly.
“Wasn’t that a nice presentation Vita?” The nurse taking care of her asked.
“Nice,” Vita said groggily, the chemicals in her blood keeping her from saying much else. She then added on rather sadly, “Too bad it doesn’t matter to me.”
“Oh now, just because you opposed us at one point doesn’t mean you can’t become a citizen and enjoy all the rights and benefits as well as bear the responsibilities that come with such a lofty position,” the nurse said reassuringly.
“No. I mean grow up. I’m stuck like this… forever,” Vita said morosely.
“Oh. You mean that weird stasis effect, the one that let you live through getting shot in the gut with a bolter. The gods are suppressing it right now, so you will indeed grow up,” the nurse said happily.
“What?” Vita cried out, trying to stand up but finding that her muscles and bones had not knit enough to allow her such freedom of action.
“You’re going to grow up Vita. I don’t know how long you’ve been in a body that young, but already you’re aging. In a few years you’ll be an adult, able to do all of the things adults do,” the nurse explained.
Vita fainted, partially from shock, but mostly because her system was so doped up she did not have the strength to stay conscious after such a world shaking revelation.
This changed everything.
I love learning. Teach me. I will listen.
You know, if Christian dogma included a ten-foot tall Jesus walking around in battle armor and smashing retarded cultists with a gaint mace, I might just convert - Noble Ire on Jesus smashing Scientologists