The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-03-21 11:59pm

The resounding alarm in Sáclair's ears as warning of an incoming assault from Epsilon III. A beam of light large enough to engulf the Endless Bounty shot from the depths of the planet. Sáclair's ears rang with ambient tinnitus as his mind tried to comprehend weapon that had just been fired.

Space rippled in a long wave of distortion the largest enemy battle cruiser disappeared. Not exploded, not destroyed, simply gone, vanished as though it had never been. A wash of radioactive micro-debris blossomed from where the ship had been. A great warship turned to dust. Whatever that weapon was it could have crushed the Endless Bounty like an insect.

Sheridan's boast of destroying the Endless Bounty if necessary had more merit to it than he'd given it credit. Just getting caught in the wake of that weapon was terrifying. The first shot caused system damage just by being near its wake.

"Sir we've received a report from Medicus Nor," A nervous serving boy approached him with a handwritten note, "The Inquisitor made it back to the ship."

"He did?" Sáclair accepted the note with hesitant fingers, as though touching the paper would make the message fake. Vertigo struck him as he made the mistake of trying to manipulate the ship at the opposite motion from his own body. Dizzy eyes roved the short note in a doctor's messy scrawl, "How? When?"

The Inquisitor managed to make it back, though an exactly headcount still needed to be done. The demon was dealt with. "Throne of Terra," Sáclair blinked at the note in shock, "We could leave at any time."

"We should do that then,"Navigator Illrich's snuff box dropped from his hand with a clatter, the long digits of his hands quaking with unease, "Quite fast!"

The idea sounded particularly appealing as the remaining bio-ships redoubled their efforts, doing their best to put the combined fleet between themselves and the combined fleet. Sáclair issued the recall order for their fighters and started the preflight check for entering the warp, checking that they Hexegrammic wards and airlocks were in place.

Donat, ever practical, turned to an Ensign, "Send a message to the fleet to fall back to the station, we don't want any of their ships getting caught in the rift."

Sáclair shuddered at the thought, sending a ship into the warp without wards was a fate he wouldn't wish upon his worst foe. Those onboard would be wholly at the mercy of whatever entities took notice of a ship full of moral souls and manflesh. No one survived that, even if they lived. Demons could do worse things to a man than kill him.

He turned his ship in the opposite direction of the combined fleet's path of retreat, all too aware that he was isolating himself from his allies. The risk that a ship might be damaged and unaware of the danger was too great. Even xenos deserved some consideration.

Predictably when the Endless Bounty headed in one direction and the combined fleet in another the Vorlon ships chose to follow the Endless Bounty. Sáclair struggled to reach the clarity of purpose necessary for breaking the veil between worlds while resisting the sense of vertigo that came with rapid course corrections.

No longer harried by the Endless Bounty's fighters, the enemy fighters followed her mercilessly. Dartships swarmed her hull, punching holes in the armor and causing small fires in the outer decks. Sáclair's flesh burned as though it were being stabbed with a thousand daggers, the sensation of phantom punctures omnipresent.

"We've calculated the initial window," Hissed Illirch. His milky white center eye glowed with the third sight, the Navigator's natural talents coming into play, "Opening in three, two, one, mark."

A circle of space ripped inward, a swirling purple and black Maelstrom of malice forcing its way into the real world. Malevolent and eager, the warp energies crackled against the matter of the real world guiding the Endless Bounty's path. Unreality and physics combated violently, lighting shooting out in screaming arcs for miles in every direction.

The dart ships careened away from the bounty in terror, struggling to avoid the rift. An unfortunate handful plunged into the rift, unable to correct their course. Tendrils of the wormhole eagerly reached out, grabbing them and dragging them to Throne knows where.

Sáclair dove into the rift, past the tendrils of warp energy. They reached out for the ship, pawing over the ships wards without success. He shot past them and collapsed the entrance, sealing it with an additional rune. The binding would only last for minutes, but that could be hours or days in the real world.

"By the throne," Sáclair snarled, "Disgraced in battle by hertic forces twice."

With the Emperor as his witness Faust would not get the better of him a third time.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-03-21 11:59pm

This was not part of prophecy, not part of the plan. She'd hoped Draal could reason with Kosh, do something to slow the Vorlon ships or protect the Imperial ship. But attacking the Vorlons? It hadn't ever occurred to her. Captain Sheridan was as taken aback by Draals violent attack as she was, his eye's near bulging with confusion.

The crucial elements of the future coming to fruition required that the Great Machine, the Vorlons, the Humans, and Minbari work in concert. It was not simply a product of what could happen, it was a function of what must happen.

Yet for all her assurances of the inevitability of the future she was stuck in the impossible morass of the present. Captain Sheridan and Draal stood in front of Kosh in open defiance.

"Why," Kosh's voice was not angry, only confused. He examined at Draal as one might examine a horse that'd just kicked his groom and crippled him, "Why?"

"The pattern has changed, and new possibilities arise," Draal responded immediately.

"And the circle?"

"It abides," Draal spoke in Vorlon riddles, intentionally keeping the humans in ignorance. Delenn knew enough to realize that the circle was the Vorlon plan for combating the Shadows, though the specifics of it were lost on her. Obedience did not require understanding.

"Then we are finished," Kosh let go of Mr. Garibaldi, dropping the man to the floor. The Vorlon turned and left the room, ignoring Garibaldi's furious string of expletives. Captain Sheridan helped the man to his feet, staring at the door in disgust.

"Finished? Does he really expect to just walk away after everything he's done?" the Captain tapped his communicator twice to issue an arrest order then froze as though someone had slapped him, "Of course he does. He has diplomatic immunity, and even if he didn't what are we supposed to do to him? We can't even declare him without persona non grata without a unanimous vote of the Babylon 5 advisory council." That such a vote was near impossible went without saying.

Draal shrugged, "Very little I suspect. And there is less I can do. My treaty with the Vorlons prevents interference in their guiding of the younger races."

"That's it? They kill hundreds and it goes under the category of 'it happens sometimes," Garibaldi croaked hoarsely, "Just whoops and move on? Like hell."

"I was not caretaker at the time the deal was forged," the hologram flickered slightly, "I would not have agreed to an eternal contract if I had been. But it is what it is. And I am what I am." He turned to the Captain, "I will contact you soon. Do not try to contact me till then, I have exhausted the limits of what I can do in the name of justice."

"I haven't," Garibaldi croaked, "Not by a long shot. I'm isolating Kosh in his quarters till we get diplomatic authority to boot him off the station. We have five ships worth of Gropos we should be able to keep him in a room."

"If you must," Draal shimmered into nothingness, his hologram receding into the floor, "Good luck."

A tinny whistle twittered on the operations consul, whirring in time with a flashing red indicator light. The Captain shook his head in consternation and pressed the button, "Garibaldi please escort Delenn back to her quarters and find accommodations for Father Al'Ashir," Captain Sheridan's face looked stretched, giving him the impression of distinct agedness. He tapped the operations screen, "It would seem that General Hague has finally decided to grace us with his presence."

Delenn looked back at the Captain though the closing door, a distinct feeling of loss running through her. She didn't know why but it seemed like she was unlikely to ever see him again. Things were not going as they should have.

Delenn's world was collapsing in around her and she no longer felt like she could breathe. None of this was supposed to happen, the Vorlons were supposed to guide the younger races in secret, helping them on their path to eventual war with the shadows. It had been foreseen. It was fact. Part of the prophecy that she'd given her life to fulfilling.

She'd entered into the pact, changing her body in the chrysalis willingly knowing that the future would come to pass. Now that prophecy was breaking down in front of her eyes she could not help but feel naked in the face of the future.

She ran her fingers through her hair and tightened her resolve. If the future would not come on its own she would force it to happen.

Even destiny needed help on occasion.

A/N: Well this update was substantially delayed. I ruptured my eardrum badly and didn't much feel like writing for about a month while my ear healed. Something about constant tinnitus and vertigo rather caused writers block. Now that I'm back in fighting fit regular monthly (ish) updates will resume.

Cheers and as always reviews are greatly appreciated.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Whirlwind21 » 2012-03-23 12:07am

Glad to see the story continued and I hope your ear is doing ok. Wonder what is up with Commander Ivanova?

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-13 07:40pm

If you're interested I've started a blog of making my army themed off of the "Circle Must be Broken." ---> ... ost1218240

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:44pm

Hague was late. Well... he was later than John would have preferred. One never made the mistake of implying a General was late. But a delay was par the course.

General Hague's fleet arrived around an hour after the fighting ceased. However a meeting with the general was all but impossible in light of the pressing concerns of the moment. Half the station was inaccessible due to fires, decompression and collapsed bulkheads. It had taken a full ten hours for station security to complete their full sweep before John had even considered letting the repair crews at anything other than the critical damage to the station.

It was harrowing, wandering the deathly silence of the station in the damaged areas. Black as a shrouded tomb each corridor held unspoken menace. The Babylon station's recent violation blistering and boiling in the hearts of all his men. Soldiers, robust and vigorous only a week prior dropped to cover at the slightest echo or unexplained whisper, clearly expecting the worst.

However, for all his precautions and desires for vengeance, the threat seemed to have passed. Not even the slightest trace of the Inquisitor's demon remained, only the consequences of it's mayhem. His own office was in a terrible state. Lt. Corwin, unsure what to do with the tech Priest's adepts in the fighting, had tossed them into John's office and sealed the door. Whatever else might be said about the adepts of the machine god, it cannot be said that they were not ready in a crisis.

The neophyte Tech-priests had seen to fortifying the office in the hopes that they might be able to last a prolonged siege. After sealing the air vents with a type of epoxy maintenance assured him would require ten hours with a laser saw to remove they'd painted every wall in the entire room. Odd runes and curious symbols of eagles and weapons spiraled across the ceiling around a crude image of a cog emblazoned with a skull half covered in bionic implants, supposedly for the purpose of repelling demons. Ghastly and hideous though they were, John was loath to have them painted over on the offhand chance that they actually functioned.

He was less inclined, however, to keep his overturned desk where they'd placed it. The long metal slab which had formerly been his table-top stood welded to the floor at an angle so that the adepts might crouch behind it and fire with the small firearms they'd apparently smuggled with them into the station. However the pistols weren't what bothered him. It was the grenade they'd been planning to kill themselves with rather than let the demon eat them.

What sort of place was this empire that children were immediately willing to commit suicide rather than risk capture?

John sat in his comfortable chair, staring at his gutted half desk in contemplation when the General and his entourage of GROPOS entered John's office, accompanied by Lt. Corwin. The Lieutenant, attentive to his duties as always, saluted John and stood at attention, "General Hague to see you sir."

John stood and saluted the general, trying to maintain as much dignity as was possible under the circumstances. He felt oddly small under the gaze of the skull on his ceiling, "Welcome Aboard General."

"Glad to be here Captain, though I wish it were under better circumstances." The General walked around the welded table top, deliberately not mentioning the disarray of John's office. He shot his GROPO bodyguard a look, "Leave us."

"Sir," the stern looking marine elongated the title a bit longer than was necessary, not overtly making it a question but broadly implying his unease.

"Sergeant, there is no immediate danger to me in the Captains office that you won't be able to protect me from on the other side of that door," The general raised an eyebrow sternly, "Am I understood?"

"Yes sir," Lt. Corwin saluted affirmatively, "Of course sir."

The officers watched the enlisted men leave before the General pulled a long sliver device from his pocket, twisting it with a twittering whine and placing it on the husk of John's desk. Neither man spoke till the machine, an electronic surveillance jamming device, chirruped twice. With an exhausted sigh the General clapped John on the back in sympathy, "John I'm sorry. I don't even begin to imagine how you're feeling right now."

"How I'm feeling?" John sputtered, "General it's been over a weeks since I took command of Babylon Five and I haven't heard a word from you... or anyone else for that matter. If you... if anyone had been here just a bit faster... Sir, I'm sorry doesn't cut it."

"John you know how important secrecy is to our goal. I couldn't risk contacting you till I was sure that Clark's people were convinced that you were their man," The General paced the office in preoccupation, "I'd hoped to stay out of contact longer to be frank, but circumstances are against us."

"Hundreds, maybe thousands of people dead sir. Was the secrecy worth it?" John's voice was as much a growl as a whisper.

"Pull yourself together soldier," General Hague's placid reprimand held an icy tinge of danger in his calmness. Had John been any other man, had he not just suffered so resounding a loss, General Hague would have given him the thrashing he deserved for such insubordination, rank be damned, "There is nothing that breaking silence would have achieved other than ending our investigation. Wanting to be here more doesn't make quantium-40 move the ship faster. We are making headway to finding out who killed Santiago but don't be a fool."

"I don't like spying on my own people," John pulled the list of casualties and missing in action from his desk. Some of whom, perhaps all of whom, were dead or dying, "I don't like lying to the men and women that I'm asking to fight for me, treating them like common criminals."

"You know as well as I do that if there was a coup that it would require the assistance of the military," the General sighed empathetically, "We have to assume that some of the Babylon staff was involved in order to get the bombs onto Earth Force 1."

"I don't think any of the command staff was involved," Garibaldi was too rigid, Franklin was too idealistic, Corwin was too unimaginative, and Ivanova was too stubborn to commit treason, "They don't feel right for it."

"John, I trust your judgement. If you think you can trust your people, then trust them. Bring them in on your suspicions," General Hague continued in his infuriatingly reasonable tone, "Discretely."

"Yes, sir. Once things have settled down I'll see to it," John rubbed the back of his neck, "Any word on the Narn-Centauri fleet?"

"It's still strange to hear that said out loud," The General smiled, "A year ago I would have said it was impossible. They left heading to somewhere along their border. The Ambassadors assured me that there was no issue for either of their governments."

"I'm still not convinced they won't start blowing each other up just out of habit," John looked up, startling himself by making eye contact with the skull, "Jesus I hate that thing."

The General followed his gaze, "Have you dealt with the Imperial survivors yet?"

"We've set them up in temporary housing in red sector. The few ships that managed to survive the battle have docked in bay fifteen. There are less than a hundred of them, but they seem more or less willing to keep to themselves," John pulled a printout from the manila folder on his desk, passing the crisp sheet of paper to the general, "The apartments are the size of a postage stamp and the pilots are bunking two men to a room but the accommodations are well received by all accounts."

"I'm surprised they haven't requested to contact the Endless Bounty," the General chewed his lip, "We haven't detected any... but they wouldn't would they? They use psychic communications."

"We believe they may have some of the psychic servitors on board their ships in docking bay fifteen, but to be honest sir that's been a pretty low priority so far. And I'm not about to start invading their privacy while they're helping us with repairs," John raised his hand at the general's outraged expression in gentle mollification, "Nothing critical sir, but we haven't been able to stop them from trying to repair things. I think it has to do with growing up on a starship, fixing things makes them more comfortable. We've got them fixing the hydroponics bays. They really like the hydroponics bays."

John wasn't sure if he'd ever be able to get the Imperials to leave the hydroponics bays. The Imperial pilots treated the stations gardens with a reverence and amazement primitive man must have felt for fire. They spoke a dialect unfamiliar to the translation computers but if Galut was to be trusted, and Garibaldi seemed to believe there was no reason to doubt him; The Imperial pilots had likely never seen a park that large before outside of a picture book or from miles in the air.

"That's fine I suppose, but what's this note about the Imperial... Galut? He has been appointed to station security?" The General shook his head, "I'm not sure about that."

"The Imperials are going to be here for an indefinite length of time. They need to have at least somebody in station security who can speak their languages. Garibaldi trusts him enough to give him entry level security clearance. That's good enough for me," John sighed, "If it doesn't work out we can revoke the clearance."

"I suppose, this is all so strange..." The General blinked in shock and looked up from the page he'd been perusing, "Magos Kerrigan? Isn't she some sort of royalty in the Empire?"

"She's a... Well I don't really know what she is in English. She's something between a shaman and tech support really. The "cult of the Omnissiah," are apparently the keepers of all technological and biological information in the Empire," John grimaced, "She's also a class A liability, a cyborg with more built in weapons than I can shake a stick at. But I couldn't exactly turn her away could I?"

"She's been given diplomatic quarters I trust," The General said in a "please tell me you didn't forget to do this" voice.

"She refused them. Said they were "too ostentatious for the disgraced," John shrugged, "She's living out of a scuttled cargo ship that she's repairing. I offered the same to Al'Ashir, the Imperial Priest but he insists that he shouldn't live cloistered from the common people. He used some sort of parable to describe it that I didn't really understand, 'I do not walk with Vandire. But he wants to start a church on the station, a permanent one."

"Yes," the General nodded, chewing his lip, "Yes I think it's a good idea."


"Sheridan, you are in very hot water right now. There will be an inquest into what has happened so far, and I can't help you when it comes. You need to have some measurable progress to show how helping the Empire has ended up being a net benefit," Hague pointed to the symbols on the ceiling, "You need an easy "win" to point to."

"The Narn and Centauri united to try and do something people had previously believed impossible. We protected an ally with weapons to harm the Vorlons. ISN is haling it as a victory." It was all too unfair, "What more could they possibly want?"

"The Earth, the stars, and more. John you've only seen the beginnings of the media storm that's coming. Pretty soon someone is going to start asking how this could have been avoided, and 'not aiding the Empire' is going to be pretty high on the list of retroactive solutions," The General shrugged, "It isn't your fault. You haven't done anything wrong but unless Clark's administration can point to this as a win somehow heads are going to roll. Getting some sort of technology from this Kerrigan woman or some sort of cultural outreach like the church, or both, would go a long way to securing yourself politically."

"Unbelievable," John realized that he'd balled the folder in his hands into a ball in anger, throwing it to the ground in disgust, "General I'm not even done burying the dead. I'm not about to dance around playing nice for these short sighted morons."

The General was having none of John's self pity, "Don't you dare make this about you. This isn't about you or what you want, this is about what could happen if we end up with some jingoistic human's first whack-a-mole taking your place. Don't dishonor the memory of the people you lost by making their sacrifices in vain. "

"Yes sir," John massaged his temples, "Of course sir... I think... I think I'm just tired."

"John when was the last time you slept?" General Hague looked at the dark circles under John's eyes in genuine concern, "You... you have slept?"

"Well..." John hedged, not willing to outright lie to his superior, "A nap here and there..."

"Get some rest." The General said in a gentle voice he'd never heard before, "Call your parents to let them know you're still alive. I can handle co-ordinating repairs for the next shift."

"Sir I don't know..."

"That was an order John."

"Of course sir," John sighed, the prospect of laying down to sleep more appealing than any other proposal he'd heard that day, "Thank you sir."

"And John."

"Yes sir?"

"It really wasn't your fault."

"I know sir." John sighed, "I just have to start myself to start believing."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:44pm

On reflex Daul reached to seize the larynx of the man before him, flailing in confusion when nothing happened. It took him a moment to re-orient himself and see that a fleshy nub of flesh sat where an arm should have been.

The hazy shape of Faest Nor towered above him, figure drawing better into focus as the miraculous anit-agapics flowed into his system. Servo skulls knitted synthetic flesh into his missing skin and osteopathic binding gel into his cracked and fractured limbs.

He winced as he felt binding gel hardening against an exposed nerve, "How long have I been out for?"

"Days," Nor's voice managed to convey a clinically disinterested dispassion for the Inquisitor without implying anything unprofessional, odd considering how much Nor hated him, "We've moved from the Epsilon System to somewhere in Narn territory, the Centari Ambassador has scheduled a rendezvous with our ship a week from now. We should be safe for the moment. Well, as safe as a ship in the warp ever can be."

"Cairn?" Daul clicked his jaw back and forth experimentally. Wet and squelching, an unpleasant popping noise greeted his manipulations accompanied by shooting pain. Agitated by his yelp of discomfort, a servo skull with an odd vice-like protrusion wrenched his dislocated socket back into place with an ear popping squelch.

He wouldn't try that again soon.

"Alive to the best of my knowledge. Tuul implied that he would be fully functioning by the week's end, though without Kerrigan's assistance I don't know if that's simply idle talk," Nor pressed a button on the side of Daul's cot and released the bindings. Daul gingerly lifted himself to a sitting position, the overwhelming feel of pins and needles warring with sore bones to take the brunt of his attention.

"Without Kerrigan? Has something happened to her?" Daul flexed his legs, biting his lip as his right thigh contracted in agony. A knotted mass of muscle contracted, paralyzingly him in pain, "Throne above!"

"Hurt your body and it will gladly return the favor," Nor snapped, rubbing a salve that reeked of menthol into his naked thigh, "The Magos committed mutiny. I don't know the specifics of how exactly but she sabotaged the main guns when Sáclair gave the order to fire."

"The Magos? Kerrigan?" So it hadn't been Sáclair's desire to protect his son after all, a prospect Daul found bizarrely disappointing, "What on Earth possessed her to do that?"

"You'd have to talk with the Captain about that," Nor shrugged, "Kerrigan kept her mind to herself and did what she pleased."

Daul raised an eyebrow, "I'm to return to my home then, am I?"

"We kept you sedated for the more serious surgeries, once we're done here you'll be stable enough to return to your quarters under supervision. I've re-assigned a dozen medi-skulls to your personal use," Nor examined the intricate latticework of augmentics honeycombed into the pale scarred flesh of Daul's missing arm. The stump now ended in a round narrow socket covered in the fine sigils of the adeptus mechancius, engraved in golden filagree on the dull sheen of adamantium, "Yes, that's healing quite nicely. You're a lucky man Hilder. This should have bled out. Whoever gave you triage saved your life."

"Did they?" Daul grunted in annoyance. There was no way the Kroot would ever let him live this down if he ever discovered it. Oh Throne, there was no way the Kroot didn't already know. Daul ground his teeth, the indignity of it might well kill him anyway.

Oblivious to Daul's irritation Nor blazed on, "Damn good job, these Alliance know their medicine. I'll have to have a word with Medicus Franklin once we've re-established communications," he twisted something in the electronics and Daul gagged in pain, his left eye twitching as Nor pulled three spindly bundles of cable from the socket. Synthetic nerves might not be as sensitive as the real thing, but having them so callously jerked about wasn't pleasant, "I need to start looking into alternative methods for some of my more hard case patients."

Daul followed the man's eyes across the row of beds in the room, most of who's occupants were lying in blissful comatose slumber. A young man dressed in the crimson and gold of house Sáclair sat slumped over in one of the uncomfortable metal chairs, snoring contentedly. His fingers were interlocked with those of the girl in the bed next to him, holding her as though she might slip away at any moment, "David Sáclair."

"Yes. And Bonafila Enzo, the boy hasn't left her side except for when I kick him out to make sure he keeps eating. He'd sleep here too if I let him," Nor sighed sympathetically his fingers ceasing their weave, "She's been improving lately, even a couple lucid moments, but I don't know if it will last in the long run. The poor dear."

"Her father doesn't approve of them," Daul smiled slightly, "But you do."

"I haven't a clue what you're on about," Nor was so startled by the accusation that he stopped weaving the nerves, "I abide by her father's wishes to the letter."

"It's a bit late for visiting hours. I see no chaperone." Daul smiled, "And I'd wager when you kick him out to grab a bite to eat coincides with when her parents come to visit."

Nor ignored Dauls chain of logic with a deliberate sniff that only served to convice Daul he was correct, "Your apprentice refused her medical checkup. She nearly tore my head off when I tried to examine her injuries. I admit Gazan is a competent medic but she really ought to be properly looked over by a qualified Medicus."

"I'll be in your quarters later on tomorrow to check on you," Nor untwisted a knotted bit of synthetic nerves in a single deft motion that set Daul's body into a rictus jerk as the sensation of burning rushed across his body, "Do try to convince your apprentice to permit a medical check when I arrive."

"I'm not surprised by her reticence. Her apprenticeship is... more complicated than the average one," In the hustle and bustle of the events on station the Lieutenant Commander had genuinely slipped from his memory. Kidnapping a foreign military official seemed trite and pedestrian by comparison to exorcising a demon but it could be no less dangerous to him in the long run, "She is a special case."

"She's a firebrand," Nor's lip quirked at the side as he untwisted another gut wrenching bundle of synthetic nerves, "And she doesn't much care for you."

"You disapprove of my choice of apprentice," Daul glared imperiously at the Medicus, doing his best to convey his absence of interest in the Nor's' opinion.

"Absolutely not," Nor pulled a long cedar box from a cabinet, "She's a wonderful judge of character."

Daul made an uncooth gesture with his remaining hand, too exhausted to waste energy on wit. Nor eyed his fingers in disapproval, "I will be glad to amputate those fingers you if you don't put them down this instant, Inquisitor or not you will be civil in my surgery."

"I believe you were casting aspersions about my character not even a minute ago," Daul huffed.

"It's a perk of being the Medicus," Nor set the box on the cot next to Daul and opened it, revealing a sleek prosthetic. Covered in filagree and the sort of ivory ornamentation favored by the nobility of the bounty it seemed more like a set piece from a holo-drama than a functional augmentic. No expense had been spared, even the individual fingers were set with patterns of ivory carved into the holy symbols of Imperial faith, "You get to tell people the truth about themselves. Now are you going to continue being obstreperous or am shall I replace your arm?"

"You are a supremely irritating man," Daul said, lifting his hand in surrender. Nor attached the artificial nerves with a jaw gnashingly painful deftness, calloused hands weaving the nerves into the connectors in an elaborate lacework of circuitry.

"That should do it," Nor weaved the last of the fibers together and pressed a red button on the inside of the socket in Daul's shoulder, sucking the interconnected fibers into the arm and pulling the arm into place. The magnetic bindings in the shoulder snapped into place, tinny clicking servos grinding as the arm bound itself to the Inquisitior's body. Daul clenched his new fist on reflex, gaudy augmentic digits denting the metal railing on the bed. Daul's vision swam as his brain struggled to cope with the regained sensation of his new appendage.

"Throne above that hurts worse than losing it," Daul snarled, furious at Nor's apparent and unconcealed enjoyment of his discomfort.

"It will take you a while to regain your reflexes and be able to safely use your new arm," Nor tapped the digits with a small hammer, testing the augmentic arm's reflexes and ignoring Daul entirely, "The arm I fitted you with is a permanent prosthesis, no need to take it off before bathing or swimming. If you get any adverse reactions to the implant or it doesn't function properly contact me immediately. Once you've managed to get back into the change of clothes Jak brought from your quarters I'll call one of the Lionhearts to take you to the Captain. He wants to debrief you on what has happened so far."

The doctor jabbed Daul's bare chest with a bony digit, "Normally after a medically induced coma and attaching a prosthesis I demand that my patients get a month's bed rest and two months of physical therapy, but we both know you're just going to ignore my advice and do your best to work yourself to an early grave so I'm going to save myself the time and effort of lecturing you on the stupidity of lying to your Medicus. Just try not to lose any more parts of yourself in the immediate future."

"I'll do my best," Daul sighed, "But it's probably best I see to something before going to the Sáclair. Where is my apprentice? My quarters or has she had to be placed in a holding cell to stop her from trying to escape?"

"The Lady Sáclair has been seeing to your apprentice's education while you've been indisposed. She's taken quite a liking to her," Nor's voice brimmed with approval, "Taking her under her wing."

"Throne help me." Daul shuddered as an ominous cold shot of sensation washed over his spine. Nothing good could come of this, the Lady Sáclair held no love for him, "Very well then. To Sáclair's it is then."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:45pm

The security Guard motioned for Abbas and Orr to follow him as he strode towards docking bay fifteen, leading the way around the repair teams. Abbas liked Lou.

Near as Abbas could tell, the man's job was to make sure that the Imperials were fitting in to station life. He patrolled the corridors of the station that had been designated as Imperial apartments, aided by a particularly vicious looking Ogryn. Rumor had it that the Inquisitor left the Ogryn on the station to take out anyone who stepped out of line. There was even supposed to be a crazed Arco-flagellant in the brig gifted to the Captain of the station in case of emergencies.

But nobody had any sort of rumors or suspicions about Lou, he was about as devious as a pigmy grox. The portly security officer wasn't stern or severe at he'd expected a station security officer to be so soon after an attack, not suspicious or combative as one would expect. He'd, in his own clumsy way, become like a friendly uncle. He couldn't speak a word of gothic, so his communication with Abbas and Orr had been limited to pantomime and occasional drawings, but his genuine enthusiasm needed no translation.

He'd even cooked for the Apprentices on their first night. His cooking, though far from elegant, was hearty and satisfying. The exotic thick flatbread cakes drizzled with some sort of brown sugary syrup and yellow yolked eggs were much to Abbas' liking, though Orr seemed hesitant to trust them.

It wasn't Orr's fault really. Having grown up in the slums, the boy had practically grown up on reconstituted nutrient supplements and gruel. His pallet was simply unprepared for the more rich flavors of the food. He was a funny child really, educated in the manner of the common people of the Endless Bounty he occasional had queer ideas about the way the world was supposed to work.

The boy had swooned when he'd realized that the modest room Lou led them two was intended for the two of them. "Throne above," he's sighed as he flung himself onto one of the bunks, flipping the lights on and off, "This must have been what it was like to live in the Captain's palace eh' Abbas."

He hadn't had the heart to tell the boy that the room would have barely been the size of his closet and not even close to as large as his bathroom. He regularly found himself in baffling position of trying to downplay his former good fortune, something that as the bastard son of Sáclair hadn't ever come up before. But that largely had to do with Orr not even particularly understand the concept of children being born out of wedlock.

"Abbas, I don't know what you're on about," he'd said, "Your ma' and da' are the ones who raise you. Who gives a tinker's toss if they were married or not?" The boy just didn't understand the way the world actually worked. Still... he couldn't hold it against the boy, it wasn't Orr's fault that he was uneducated.

It was as they rounded the bend and walked past another cluster of xenos that he had another one of his more unique musings, "Hey Abbas. Have you ever noticed how most xenos look a bit like us."

Abbas followed his gaze, sighing exasperatedly, "I don't recall ever having seen an orange human with black spots."

"No I mean like five fingers, one head, two legs, that sort of thing. Think about the races we worry about, Orks, Eldar, and Tau." He counted them down on his fingers, "They've all got the same sort of shape."

"The Tau have three fingers don't they?" Where did these thoughts come from... honestly, "And hooves?"

"Yeah but they have the whole two arms, two legs situation," Orr shrugged, "It's just weird to me that all the races that can talk look alike. Almost like it was planned or summut."

"Orr, there are tons of races that don't look like us or move like us," Abbas pointed at a group of insectoid things in black suits right outside the wide doors to the docking bay, "And what about the Tyranids? I think people just tend to only talk about the ones that are easier for us to understand."

"You understand the Orks?" Orr looked at the imperial ships, "Maybe you should be an Inquisitor."

"I... I don't think there's a whole lot to understand when it comes to Orks Orr," Abbas laughed, "All the books I've read seem to indicate that 'pointy thing goes in the other guy' is about as complex as they get."

They didn't talk much as they made their way through the bay, it was too loud. The space echoed with the deep grinding and throbbing of heavy machinery, sounding from all corners of the room. An wave of servitors and pilots wandered the room carrying tools and talking in loud voices. An occasional xenos would wander in to the bay, only to quickly turn around and leave as the collective glares of the pilots made it abundantly clear that they didn't belong, except of course the Alliance officers who were simply ignored.

The comforting sight of hundreds of servo skulls pleased Abbas greatly. The chipper craniums floated about the room, completing their repairs and gibbering in binary with each other. He knew that they were sharing technical data and tasks with other mono-tasked devices but there was something pleasantly conversational about them. They flew in circles around the room, forming a funnel down to an unassuming ship and it's familiar crewman.

Abbas pushed his way past Lou, sprinting the ten yards to the ship and tossing himself at the midriff of a woman he feared he might never see again. He grunted as Orr collided into him from behind, trying to hug them both. His eyes full of tears of joy he laughed uproariously, "Magos Frist. I can't believe its you. This is just too wonderful!"

"Mistress how did you get here? How can we help?" Orr's face lit up with excitement as Abbas knew his own had. They both looked expectantly at the Magos, thrilled to finally know that they were back where they belonged.

The Magos, doubtless choked with the her own emotions at their reunion, warbled in a mechanical morose keen, "I... I'm glad to see the both of you as well. Orr," her voice hitched and she looked at them with sad eyes set into burned and ragged flesh, "Abbas."

Lou said a few words in the Alliance language and nodded in polite greeting to the Magos. She returned the gesture as best she could around her apprentices, waving in goodbye as the man walked away across the bay in the direction of the beginnings of a fist fight between two pilots.

Abbas brimmed with pride at the extra attention she'd paid to his own name, "Magos why are you here? We thought that you'd left with everyone else."

"Your father...your father sent me here," She said it deliberately, as though unsure of her words, "I... I'm here because I tried to create an escape route for you. It did not work out as I had planned."

Abbas practically beamed with confidence. His father loved him. For the first time in his life he was sure of it. He would be able to be taught by the Magos and it was because his father had made sure that he would not be trapped with the demon. He might not be with his father any more but he would make him proud.

Orr bounced on his heels and held up his sachel of tools, "Mistress what can we do to help."

The Magos, ever eager for a project, clapped her hands and summoned a servo skull. The servitor device hovered in front of her, projecting an image of the cargo ship, "Come on then boys, we have much to do, so much to do."

As Abbas listened to her talk about containment fields and relay patterns he smiled and listened to the shouts, laughter and chatter of pilots. Even if it wasn't the Endless Bounty he was finally back where he belonged.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:46pm

The Imperial treatment of prisoners was astonishing in it's grimness. The day to day needs of the prisoners were attended to by glassy eyed servitors, none of whom seemed to be gifted with an over-abundance of cleverness. Each servitor apparently served a single role in eternal repetition, his body augmented to compliment the needs of that role.

A particularly unhygienic servitor with a canister built into his spinal column came to the cell twice a day after the call to prayers and poured a congealed mess that might once have been food into a long trough in the cell from which the prisoners were to serve themselves. There was no shortage of the stew, none of the prisoners seemed in any particular rush to consume large portions of it.

Vir half heartedly poked at the brownish slop in his bowl with his finger, agitating the viscous skin of congealed rancid meat in an effort to determine if it was edible. It was a sign of how truly vile the food was that in his starvation he'd only been able to convince himself to sniff the bowl once before giving up on the matter entirely.

His whole body ached from the beating the guards had given him for resisting being tossed into his cell. Chubby fingers massaged the thick red and purple welt across his face marking where security smashed him in the face. It was unlikely his nose would ever heal properly after being dislocated and untreated for hours.

His cell mates, a gaggle of Imperial prisoners, spent most of the first day either glaring at him with their unnerving stares or pointedly excluding him from their conversations. Every once and a while they bickered in their native language, speaking too fast for Vir to understand more than their general distaste for incarceration and mistrust of him. His own elaborate costume had not escaped the attention of his cell mates, the bright purple and gold of his jacket clashed glaringly with the brown and red woolen sack cloth of the Imperial prisoners.

They were as alien to Vir as any species he'd ever met. This sweaty, swarthy, and obviously malnourished collection of miscreants stood out in stark contrast to the immaculately dressed and physically stunning Imperial citizens in the Inquisitor's retinue.

Realizing the worth of the Vir's jewelry, a brutish excuse for a human being shambled over to him and pinned him to the wall by the throat. Air seemed a distant luxury as the sharp jagged edge of his prison shiv gleamed in the hellish half dark of their cell, reflecting the faces of the men now intently ignoring them both. With stiff anticipation four deft swipes liberated the buttons of his coat.

He'd kicked Vir for good measure after dropping him to the floor, relishing Vir's whimpers of fear and disbelief. The man liberated him of his shoes as he gasped for air, hearts thundering in his ears in irregular terrified bursts of panic. It wasn't fair. What had he done to deserve this? What wrong had he visited upon these men that entitled them to what was his? Nothing, nothing other than their own greed.

Filled furious iniquity and blessed with the atrophied hereditary strength of his pre-historic carnivorous forefathers, Vir bit down hard on the hand of a man to tear the broach from his breast, filthy man flesh tearing beneath his sharp canines. Coppery flesh wrapped bundles of bone and gristle cracked beneath his bite with satisfying aplomb, shredding the flesh as the man reflexively recoiled.

Wiping the sticky mess from his lower lip Vir stood and faced his attacker, watching the formidable man cradle his useless mauled paw. The man swung at Vir with a clumsy haymaker, abruptly falling to the floor as his head burst in a shower of superheated meat. Horrified and confused, Vir screamed in shock, looking around the cell for some plausible explanation for the man's spontaneous combustion.

His eyes fell upon the supremely welcome sight of a guard garbed in the familiar livery of the Endless bounty leaning in through the now open door of Vir's cell. A jaunty gold leaf lion perched upon the crimson armor of his breastplate grinning in parody of the man's own dark frown. Maker be blessed, an officer of the law.

Eager to express his gratitude to his savior, Vir smiled placatingly and raised his hands palm up in a sign of surrender before crossing them before himself in the symbol he'd seen the Inquisitor use as a symbol of greeting a dozen times and spoke the words of greeting he'd memorized just in case.

It was a mistake.

The big man lifted him off the ground by his hair and frog marched him out of the cell, cruelly twisting and flexing his wrist to force Vir to dance on tip toe as he slammed the cell door shut. The big man's face contorted into a rictus of hatred, "Sitzen spumae!"

Vir swallowed trying to dislodge the thick lump of fear wedged in his neck. The man couldn't realistically expect Vir to understand him, it would be insane. The Gothic language hadn't been in known space for more than a month.

The man howled, "Xenos spumare," then punched him in the gut with the full force of his gauntleted fist, the soft flesh of his belly reverberating with the popping squelch of cracked ribs as the big man swept Vir's feet out from under him with a kick behind the ankles. The screams and shouts of prisoners up and down the cell block echoed ominously, catcalling, cheering, and protesting incoherently in a disharmonious cacophony of sound and horror.

Vir whimpered in pained confusion as the man pressed an armored boot into his neck, slowly cutting off the airflow, "Quam usudujete vobis! Me te umbrigen huis aqui."

"I don't understand," Vir coughed and scrambled his chubby fingers over the man's feet, trying to remove him, yelping as his fingers cut on barbed scraps of metal jutting out from the mail shirt beneath the silk tabard of his armor, "Please, I don't understand."

Vir's eyes bulged as the man drew the gun from his belt and forced it between his lips, the smooth metal of it's deathly cold barrel menacing in it's immaculate purpose. He tried to protest tried to explain but the man couldn't have cared less. He continued his furious rant, snarling and growling in the Imperial language. Flecks of spittle came from the man's near foaming mouth, splattering over his long braided beard.

"I'm sorry," Vir mumbled through the mouth full of gun, though it came out more like "muh-mummy," "I'm so sorry." Apologies didn't matter, the fact that he didn't understand what the man was saying didn't matter, it never had mattered. The man hadn't brought him out of the cell to have any questions answered, not really.

Every Centauri knew that look, it was the same expression the old guard wore when talking about the "good old days" of the Republic, back when the subjugation and wholesale slavery of worlds and nations was commonplace. Bloodthirsty morbid self righteousness as dangerous as the greatest madness to forsake the senses, Vir was just there to be his punching bag. The man would shoot Vir without provocation just because he could, because it would make him feel superior.

The man's finger drew in, taught on the pistol's trigger, before a chamber pot sailed out from nowhere, colliding with squarely with the man's face and covering his front in a disgusting mess of excrement. The man backed away from Vir in confused shock, wiping the filth from his face and firing blindly in the direction the chamber pot came from.

A scarred and grime covered human fell to the ground in his cell in an agonized heap, stone dead and clutching a fist sized hole the man's pistol made in his chest. He died staring into Vir's eyes, a look of great satisfaction plastered across his skeletal face, gaunt from decades of incarceration and starvation.

Vir scrambled backwards across the floor, getting as much space between himself and the man. His heart pounded with every slippery, scrambling crawl of his furious crab-walk. He had no idea where he was going and he didn't care. Just away would be enough for him.

He rounded a corner and came face to face with the startled visage of Jak, who at that moment might have been the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen in his entire life. The Inquisitor's translator stopped mid stride, his convulsing body awkwardly pulsing with confusion, "What in the Throne's name?"

Vir's answer came in the form of a furious downward stomp from the excrement covered man's heavy boot to his groin, knocking the wind out of him as it depressed his secondary bladder. Not as painful to a Centauri as to a human, but unpleasant enough to silence him, Vir crawled into a ball and wrapped his arms around his sides to protect his organs.

Jak held out an arm between the man and Vir in a gesture of mild rebuke, altogether too relaxed for vir's liking. He wanted Jak to yell, to scream, to chastize, to do something to stop this lunatic but Jak continued his pleasant chat, "Quid facens Rasha? Xenos sunt geschützt."

"Geschützt, sict inferno sie sind," With deliberate menace the large man raised his pistol, still smoking slightly from it's recent discharge, clear in his malevolent intentions. Jak neither moved nor gave sign that he'd even particularly noticed the imminent threat upon his person other than to look down at Vir, "Mister Cotto, I apologize for my lateness. I only had a chance to debrief Vira'capac this morning in the rush to see to other matters. I will see to Section leader Rasha and then we can deal with the necessary paperwork."

The diminutive scribe reached into his robes, rummaging lackadaisically through it's inner pockets and muttering to himself as though he'd misplaced something mid errand. With a screech of indignity at being ignored the filthy man fired his weapon at Jack. Terrified for Jak's safety but too terrified to move Vir watched in wonderment as the beam of light curved away from Jak, sliding across a thin skin of translucent energy and into a harmless flash.

Jak looked at the man in outright bewilderment, apparently realizing only now that the security officer Rasha was a possible threat to his safety. His fingers, surprisingly deft for a man who suffered from regular seizures, stowed the scroll and pulled out an icon intimately familiar to Vir. One just like it was chained to his neck by a thin length of twine he'd liberated from the bottom of his bunk. The icon given to him by Vira'capac.

Realizing it's importance at Rahsa's expression of horror Vir pulled his own icon out and stood up nervously, staying close to Jak in case the man decided to start shooting again. He didn't know of Jak's shield would protect them both but it was worth the gamble.

Rasha looked as though he'd just bitten into rancid meat, his lips puckered inward in horror and the gun fell from his hands to the floor nearly as fast as he he dropped to his knees to plead for forgiveness. Covered in filth and sobbing the man kissed the ground in front of Jack, pleading.

Jak flicked his hand in a wave of errant dismissal, apparently already bored of the distraction. The security officer fled as fast as his legs would carry him, eager to be away from the two of them and his newly granted sense of shame. Watching the guard's retreating back with mild curiosity he pulled out a scroll from his robes and tapped in on the palm of his right hand, "What did you do to incense him?"

"What did I do? Maker's teeth, I didn't do anything. I greeted him and he went berserk," Vir replicated the Imperial bow and phrase twice waving his arms in a hurried mess of awkward gesticulation, "He's nuts! Totally whacko."

Jak covered his lips to stifle a fit of giggles, struggling to keep his composure as he picked the pistol off the ground, "You greeted Rasha with the sign of the Aquilla and said 'I bring you blessings of the Emperor, may you one day find his light?"

"Yes," Vir pulled at his unkempt mess of hair, tugging at the disarray from two days without bathing. Jak did not have to be so insufferably blasé about his near murder, "I did the exact pronunciation and gestures the Inquisitor did!"

"That was... unwise," Jak's giggles were under control but his lip still twitched as though he would very much like to start again as he walked back in the direction of Vir's cell, "It is a religious greeting missionaries give to... heretics and those who have not been taken into the creed who aren't beyond redemption... generally while they're still slaves."

"The Inquisitor has been greeting Ambassador Mollari that way all month... he added it to our official documents on how to greed members of the Empire," Ducking to avoid a passing servitor skull Vir massaged his temples in frustration, more than slightly insulted at the implication. Londo might not have been the best man in the universe but he deserved more respect than that, especially from someone who he'd gone great, even insane, lengths to assist.

Jak sighed clearly reading the Vir's mood, unsurprising really. Vir had never been particularly skilled at concealing his emotions, "Mr. Cotto, it is only insulting to refer to an Imperial Citizen in that way. It is the socially formal greeting for someone someone who is not in the Imperial faith. As a non-human it is the highest socially acceptable greeting he could give Ambassador Mollari. A sign of respect."

"But not to the Imperials," Vir swallowed, "He shot a man in cold blood who tried to defend me, the one who tossed the chamber pot at him."

"Yes," Jak nodded unconcernedly, "That is oft...often the preferred solution for unruly prisoners."

"He was going to kill me." Vir nodded to the pistol in Jak's hand.

"Yes," Jak put the pistol into a pocket of his robes, distaste etched in his features for the weapon and it's owner, "Though I suspect he would have t...tortured you first. He's an executioner from a who has been executioners for five hundred years. He isn't k...known for his c...charming demeanor."

"Why? What could I possibly have done to deserve that," Vir didn't realize he was shouting till Jak backed away from him in shock, "I have done nothing that deserved more than a reprimand, perhaps a punch if he was really annoyed... but death for a poor choice of words? It's wrong!"

"At least he didn't realize you were xenos," Jak sighed, "He wouldn't have wasted the time beating you."


"It's dogma to abhor the alien," Jak waved dismissively, "There is a reason that we've been somewhat elusive about the specifics of the Imperial creed... it is... more... severe than that to which you are accustomed... more forceful."

"Care to run that by me again?" Vir squawked.

Jak considered the matter, his stutter more pronounced with every syllable as his concentration shifted from enunciation, "The vast majority of the races b...bordering the Empire are more... unreasonable than those we've encountered here. Our p...policies in foreign relations are... c...colored by millenia of c...conflict. I have l...little doubt the Ecclesiarchy will g...grant the C...Centauri some special dispensation for services rendered, there is precedent for it and Daul is fond of you b...but more aggressive policies are generally preferred by the Empire."

"Dispensation to do what exactly?"

"Exist," Jak said, as though the answer ought to have been obvious to anyone paying attention, "Now are you going to follow me back to your place in the Inquisitor's apartments? We're on a rather tight schedule."

"No," Vir stopped midway down the corridor. Looking the a cell full of hard eyed men, "We're not."

"No?" Jak's displeasure oozed off of every syllable as he turned in a slow, fidgeting circle to face Vir, "And why not?"

"Because I'm not leaving people to just rot in some cell while the jailers look for excuse to shove a gun in their mouth," Vir pulled the icon out from his shirt, "If this is what they need to protect them then this is what I want them to get."

"Mr. Cotto you are exhausted and no doubt starving. I... appreciate that, our j...justice system is none of your You will not change f...fifty thousand years of our culture in an afternoon." Jak pressed his hand to a biometric sensor on the exit from the prison, "But if you really do w...want to commit them to a lifetime of s...service to the Inquisitor I would s...suggest learning about your own obligations before committing others to your c...cause. I suspect they w...would prefer to finish their incarceration or servitude if g...given the choice."

"This isn't just an identification badge is it?" Vir sighed, already knowing the answer wasn't going to sit well with him.

"No it isn't" Jak confirmed, "C...congratulations Mr. Cotto. You are the newest acolyte of Inquisitor Hilder until such time as he has no use for you or you die in his service. And he will find a use for you Mr. Cotto. Inquisitor Hilder does not waste resources as useful as yourself."

"I'm not feeling especially inclined to be useful," Vir crossed his arms and thumbed the frayed fabric where his buttons had been cut off.

"Then I s...suppose you'd prefer that we put an Imperial agent in c...charge of facilitating between the hundred Narn and C...centauri survivors of our recent conflict with the Vorlons," Jak's sarcasm splattered out with each hiccuped word, "Mr. C...cotto. As of right now you are your nations A...ambassador. I'm here to extend full diplomatic status to you on b...behalf of your empire. "

Annoyed, furious, embarrassed and hungry Vir gave up arguing and followed the man out of the cell block, trying not to remember the horrible sight of the man's head exploding. Years later he would look back on the incident and realize that he'd gone numb from the trauma of what had happened to him, regressing to a distant part of his mind in shock. But as he followed the seizing gait of Jak, annoyed that his jacket no longer fit him properly without its buttons and would need to be tailored at the earliest possible moment.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:47pm

Hexathelidae lay naked across a settee, back arched in pleasure as a lithe serving girl massaged scented oils into the curves of her body with practiced dexterity. She cooed with great satisfaction, "I must visit you more often Latrodectus. Your hospitality is entirely adequate."

"I'm glad to be of service," Sørian's servants were well suited to their tasks, and tailored to their master's unique predilictions. Blinded, bound, gagged, and tied to the wall with a length of chain she'd spent the better part of the past fifteen years attached to that wall and learning the proper way to entertain her betters. He'd keep her that way till she died or he grew bored of her.

Sørian disliked permitting Hexathelidae access to his house and toys, but all pretense of anonymity was long past the point of practicality and he'd gone too long without indulging in the services of a serving girl. He had to assume that the Amon Sui knew his identity, as well as that of his co-conspirator. And, much to his dislike, he knew that Hexathelidae had confirmation of his identity as well.

The daughter of Sáclair had seen to that quite nicely. What had possessed the girl to go by herself into the back alleys of the slums by herself was beyond him, ignorance perhaps. The girl was so accustomed to the world being safe and manageable in her daily life that it was greatly unlikely that she knew her role in life, what was expected of a lesser woman. Low born women kicked, they screamed, they fought back but eventually they learned their place in spite of their mewling.

The serving girl kneeling between his legs was a fantastic example. Grabbed off the streets for having piqued his interest it had only taken a matter of weeks for his mistress of the house to force the Belzafester girl into a pliably amusing diversion. She still sobbed and lamented her fate in private, but that only made her submission all the sweeter.

Ami's soft curves and pale flesh had been obvious, tantalizing, even beneath the thick veils. Her innocence and modesty all the more begging for corruption. When he first noticed the security officer indulging in some well earned recreation he'd stopped, afraid to draw attention to himself. Hexathilidae was in no state for combat, her ragged and ripped flesh was only being held together by synthaskin and her own brand of sorceries. If they stayed in the shadows they might be able to tap into the lust and suffering of the girl to heal Hexathilidae further. How could he blame the security officer for indulging in that most human of passions?

All thoughts of staying out of it were silenced when he'd seen her face more clearly. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Emanuelle Sáclair, by the gods she was. The violation of a daughter heir would be enough to have anyone who's DNA was found in the sector summarily executed just to make a point. The last thing he needed was for Sáclair and Daul to become united purpose.

There were enough ambient sorcerous energies leaking off of him for the blasted Inquisitor to put two and two together, blaming Sørian for the girls violation. That would not do at all.

So he'd saved her, cradling her in his arms till they'd reached the estates of the Lord and Lady Sáclair. Hexathilidae shot murderous looks at the young girl all the while, hate burning in the back of her eyes. Not out of love, to be certain her capacity for so human a feeling burned out long ago but out of pure selfish jealousy. They woman could not have cared less about Sørian, except in so far as she was certain his affections should not go to another woman.

"We should have killed her," Hexathelidae purred and walked over to him, taking care not to interrupt the girl between his legs. The sharp edges of the claw-like tips of her jewel encrusted velvet gloves scraped his chest invitingly combining the slight hitch in her voice that always accompanied discussions of violence in a poorly concealed effort to distract him from reason. Her ample bosom heaved suggestively as she whispered, "We still could."

"Hexathelidae you truly have no imagination," Sørian sighed, brushing the warm and welcoming hands away from his chest, not deceived by Hexathelidae's feigned romantic attentions, "Ami is a resource better kept breathing than dead. As she ripens into maturity we can ensure that she is properly educated to our way of thinking. "

"She knows you were there," Hexathelidae growled, "She knows who you are."

"And you as well Lady Huin," Sørian stated, amused by the woman's frustration. Hexathelidae had been terrified when Ami called her by name, "As do our enemies, at least those who know us to be enemies. However with her we have the bonus of gratitude. She will keep us secret because she feels loyal to us, we can use that to great effect my Lady. Of that I assure you. "

"I dislike this," Hexathelidae bristled at the use of her name. For courtesies' sake they'd continued using their code names with each other so far, it felt unnatural to use their naked appellations, "The Amon Sui will not settle for just letting us escape. They will come for us again."

"Of course they will," Sørian smiled and reclined in his, "But I wouldn't worry about it greatly."

"I find death is often worth worrying about when it is not for the glory of the dark gods," she said with a pre-occupied expression on her face that spoke more of Lady Huin's fears than Hexathelidae's, "They take a grim view of those who die foolishly."

"They take a grim view of those who die at all," Sørian's body heaved in completion and he slapped the servant girl with the back of his hand, flinging her to the floor where she sobbed in confusion. Unworthy of his continued attention he kicked her across the face, knocking her unconscious and silencing her, "Which is why I intend to avoid it entirely. No, we are going to remove the threat of the Amon Sui before it comes to that."

"And how do you intend to do that?" Aroused by the show of force Hexathelidae pinned Sørian to the chair, pulling a knife from the God's alone knew where, and proceeded to rub the flat of the blade across his chest and shoulders. The implied threat, innuendo and the closeness of flesh to flesh left his breathing ragged as he struggled to keep his mind in tact.

Gods had it been that hard to concentrate moments ago? "Why my dear Hexathelidae. We tell the Terrier where there are rats."

Hexathelidae looked back at him blankly. Apparently the metaphor had been lost on her. Sørian's wit was wasted on the cultist, "Hex. We help the Inquisitor find them."

"We... What!" The cultist screamed in fury, leaping back from Sørian's lap as though she'd trodden on an adder. The servant chained to the wall, long trained in often capricious moods of her master's associates, retreated into a recessed section of wall behind a tapestry, "I will not help that blind servant of the corpse god!"

"Hex, I'm not talking about biting the bullet and riding beneath the banner of the Aquilla into hellfire and glory. We only need to toss him pieces of information to get him looking for our betrayers and not us. Inquisitor Hilder," Sørian growled the name like it was the name of something foul beneath his boots, "Is a fool who worships the god of fools, but he has the resources and the tenacity we need to uproot the Amon Sui."

"And if he finds us?" Hexathelidae's white knuckled fingers crept round the hilt of her blade. Sørian, realizing the very real danger he was in, surreptitiously pressed the button beneath the handle of his chair, not enough to activate it but enough that he could do so in less than a heart beat. He hadn't been so foolish as to enter a room with Hexathelidae unarmed and unprotected. Her blade would not do much against a repulsion field and a dozen pistol mounted servo skulls.

"He won't. He won't be looking for us. He won't even know that we're remotely connected to anything," Sørian chuckled and waved his left arm in absurd pantomime, " And even if he does, what does he have on us? That we're afraid of the Amon Sui and handing him tips on how to catch them? How horrible. Get out the gallows, somebody is helping! Guards! Seize him."

Hexathelidae didn't stop glaring at him but she relaxed her hold on the knife, the muscles in her arms and back relaxing to their normal delicious taughtness, "And how do you propose we go about collecting information? My own spies have revealed little that I did not already know. Any leads I had to the leadership of the Amon Sui died in the explosion, there are other cells but I haven't the remotest clue where to try and find them."

"We're going to look to an extraplanar source," Sørian stood from his chair, walked over to a tapestry of the Emperor and pulled it aside. Jars and boxes of spell components hissed, spat, growled, shone, glimmered and glowed in the intimate candle-light of his study, "If you'd be so kind as to move that?"

Hexathelidae pulled aside the carpet he motioned to, revealing a six foot wide circle of hexegrammic and demonic runes carved into the stone of his floor and inset with cold iron and silver. The death cultist scratched the symbols before giving an approving nod, "You've been busy since we parted."

"I have," Sørian pulled a jar of maggot larvae from the shelf and started smashing them into paste with his mortar and pedestal, adding a pinch of sulfur with every seventh smash, "Though not with that circle. It was put there by my father I believe. Perhaps it was my grandfather. Not for demonic summoning mind you, in case the station got boarded by demons. It was a sort of panic room."

"It would never have worked for that," Hexathelida pointed to the fifth inverted "ang" rune, "It directs energies inward. It would have trapped the demon inside with whoever activated the circe."

"I doubt they knew, they were probably too ashamed to admit they had it to ever check that it worked," Sørian added a generous measure of grox tooth and the gall bladder of a Nxy Fiend to the paste, smashing it to a foul smelling milky white green that resembled spoiled custard, "But it will suit our needs quite nicely. "

Hexalthelidae gagged as he walked past with the paste, "By the Gods what is that?"

"An offering," Sørian sighed, she really had an astonishing lack of knowledge of the alternate divinities, "You'll want to grab some of the oil of hessal from my desk and rub it under your nose. This will be... unpleasant."

Sørian placed the bowl in the center of his summoning circle and cut his palm, dripping seven drops into the bowl then placed three circles of seven stars on each of the rings of containment, rubbing each with his own blood. It was not a ritual he'd completed in a long time, having long since passed the point of praying to the other divinities, but he was more than competent in its completion.

He growled the words of prayer, speaking the true name of the creature he wished to summon, whispering the last part of the name to himself to guard its secret from his co-conspirator. He chanted the name for seven counts of seven before the room began to smell of foetid meat and bile, all things acrid and dying, "Come to me Nuf'da'gul'ge'ke'goosh'kran. We seek your wisdom bearer of the twelfth order of final sorrows."

The paste of maggots stirred and shifted, full grown flies crawling from it in droves. First ten, then a hundred, then a thousand flies buzzed within the confines of the circle, bouncing off each other and the walls, hissing and howling in their tiny confused buzzes. The constant hum of their wings echoed like the screams of those suffering and dead, howling laughter and lament.

They coalesced and spun, weaving the paste into a vaugely human form, knitting and kneading the paste into a pustules and boils. The figure of the demon, malformed and misshapen, shambled and hopped as half full mouths and glassy eyes opened and closed in places no mortal creature would have either. Purplish black intestines dangled from a perforated belly and trailed jauntily along the ground, squelching beneath the monster's feet.

A single gargantuan eye clouded by a millennia-old cataract hung loosely from the inverted and pus filled eye socket in the dead center of the creature's face. It rounded it's unseeing eye on Sørian, opened its garish beak and droned in hideous monotony, "You do not belong."

"Yes, that does seem to be the consensus," Sørian sighed a breath of relief. It didn't seem that the creature could break his barriers, else the flies would have been buzzing about the room. They weren't really insects, merely aspects of the demon, "I have questions for you creature. I wish to know of the Amon Sui who attacked me. Where the are, how they meet. Everything I need to know to destroy them."

"And what do you offer for this boon?" The creature droned in boredom, his voice buzzing with the sound of flies nestling beneath his flesh. The creature pulled a maggot ridden boil from its chest and popped it between its lips, chewing with relish.

"For your promise of non-violence to anyone on this ship, leaving no diseases to harry us, answering my questions and departing when I bid you to do so I offer you this," Sørian lifted the unconscious serving girl from the floor, her face blissful in its loveliness, hale of cheek and pure of spirit. Innocent, young, and luscious, a perfect offering. She was far from untouched, though followers of Nurgle were interested in purity of a different sort.

The creature nodded in satisfaction, "Adequate.'"

Sørian heaved the girl across the circle and into the creature's waiting arms. The creature embraced her paternally, as one might greet long parted niece or cousin. She woke with a start, screaming as the demon's flies burrowed beneath her skin, chewing their way to the bone. Howling as her flesh sloughed away, exposing the now rotting muscle beneath the serving girl struggled with her increasingly brittle limbs.

Hexathelida vomited on the floor in disgust, which only seemed to increase the creature's enjoyment of his meal. It was that knowledge, and that alone, that allowed Sørian to keep his own lunch down.

It was when the servant girl's now gangrenous muscle and rotting black bone turned as spongy and supple like fresh moss that the demon's jaw dislocated and he swallowed her slippery form in one squelching gulp. The piteous screams of the girl gurgled from the creature's perforated belly as his hellish digestives dissolved what was left of her into more filth to spill from its chest. It pooled within the confines of the protective magics, sloshing at the creature's ankles.

"I would know what I seek spirit," Sørian growled, eager to be rid of the creature, "Tell me of the Amon Sui's secrets. Tell me of Dex."

The demon smiled toothily and spoke in droll monotony, "The one you call Dex is protected from all forms of scrying and eavesdropping, either sorcerous or technological. He has been very skilled in protecting his stronghold. He has not, however, considered that the absolute absence of it is an obvious sign."

"Where is it?" Sørian licked his lips, "How can I find it."

"Look for a ship that isn't there," The demon laughed, "You'll find it where it is not."

"How in the sphincter of hell do we do that," Hexathelidae groused.

"I neither know, nor do I care mortal," The demon groaned in satisfaction as the liquid at his feet seeped up into his body and formed a series of angry boils along his legs and belly, "I will say no more on Dex."

"And of the Amon," Sørian probed, "Any more on them?"

"The Amon are more numerous and more powerful that you predict," the demon pulled a beetle from between his teeth and bit off its head, "Even now they prepare for their final strike."

"What is their final strike?" The death cultist cocked her head in confusion, "We're months from being able to enact our plan."

"Time is more fluid than you think," The demon chuckled, "It never moves as mortals plan. Plans adapt to conform."

"You didn't answer her question," Sørian continued in a conversational tone even as he realized with horror that the flies were flying to the barrier of the second circle. The bindings were not holding.

"Yes. I did," the creature laughed and took a step past the first protective circle, "But mortals never listen. They never ask the right questions. They questions they fear. The truths they do not understand."

Sørian pulled a glass jar from his belt and rubbed it between his hands, focusing an effort of will into it, "And what are the questions I ought to be asking?"

"What do I know about your missing God? Why has Tzeench offered his servants greater demonhood for your capture? Why can the demons ignore your barriers as though they weren't there?" The demon crossed the second barrier to emphasize his point, "Why can you summon us past a ship's wardings? Why do heralds and greater demons answer the summons of Nurglings and Horrors?"

"Enough spirit," Sørian growled in disgust and tossed the jar at the demon. It burst and covered the howling creature in golden dust, "Back to the shadow with you." The creature, undone by the ashes of a holy man and it's own promise to leave when ordered, dissolved into a puddle of rapidly evaporating ectoplasm and the smell of rot.

The two servants of tzeench stood together in the near dark of candle-light for ten minutes before either of them dared speak out loud. Sørian swore, "By the blood of the Gods... he allowed himself to be bound. He allowed himself to be banished. He pretended to be obeying the laws so that we would listen."

"What?" Hexathelida's confusion was understandable, demons were not motivated by altrusim, "Why could he possibly want to gain by it?"

"It's a power play... whatever I know... whatever Tzeench wants to know, Nurgle doesn't want him to know. They're ancient enemies after all. The balance of power between the Gods must depend upon it. That's why they're walking past my wardings... it's probably why we haven't been able to summon even a daemonette. The warp isn't placid... this is the eye of the storm," Sørian's eye's bugged out in horror, "What could I possibly know that is worth greater demonic conversion?"

"I do not know," Hexathelida cupped his groin in her hand and nuzzled up to his chest, seeking comfort in the closeness, "But your proposition of allying ourselves with the Inquisitor's interests seems more appealing by the moment."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:48pm

In the aftermath of the battle it had been readily apparent that the Med bay simply didn't have the capacity to render aid to everyone who needed it, resulting in the sequestration of several blocks formerly devoted to the station's gambling establishments. The owners, all too aware of the imminent dip in tourism, had been all too eager to lend their facilities back to the station in exchange for considerations on their rental fees.

Michael hoped they'd replace the carpet before re-opening for business. The floor was stained with the blood of the wounded, messy red splotches highlighted by the discoloration around them where some hurried nurse had doused them with bleach before rushing to help another patient.

He ducked between white surgical sheets marked the barrier between one patients room and the next, the semi-translucent walls only partially protecting the modesty of their occupants and doing little to deaden the groaning din of a thousands of voices in pain. Doctors of all shapes, sizes and species wandered through the area of red sector cordoned off for triage and doing their best to sooth and heal the wounded bumping past him not bothering with greetings or platitudes. They were too busy to worry about such minor social niceties. Every medic, witch doctor, healer, and quack with a licensee to heal the sick who stepped on the station had been pressed into service.

Dr. Franklin stood in the center of the largest cluster of doctors and nurses, conductor to the seemingly never ending orchestra of suffering. The station's chief of medicine was in as bad of a state as Michael had ever seen him, wandering from cloth flap to cloth flap, barking orders to nurses, orderlies, and unfortunate family members drafted to be surgical aides. He was fighting a battle just as violent as the one that ended against the seemingly impossible task of staving off infection. Bleary eyed from lack of sleep and as sour tempered as a jackal, the doctor prowled his domain.

Michael probably didn't look much whole station was operating on a mix of fear and stimulants, no one daring to sleep for more than four hours at a time. How could they? Nobody, Sheridan included, had a good grasp of what had happened or how to avoid it in future. Everyone felt like they were balancing on egg shells, terrified to move and even more terrified to stay.

A security team had been dispatched to weld the doors to Kosh's chambers but Michael wasn't under any illusion that any precautions he took were anything other than a formality. If the Vorlon wanted to leave the could stroll by with impunity. That a murderer could wander his station with carte blanche made his blood boil. Had Michael not been called by Dr. Franklin he'd still be sitting sitting in his office, brooding and plotting a means to Kosh's arrest.

He wedged his way past a haggard nurse and tapped Dr. Franklin on the shoulder, recoiling as the doctor rounded him with a look of fury on his face second to none. Franklin opened his mouth as though to reprimand him then stopped, relaxing into a slightly less murderous expression, "I called you two hours ago."

"I know," Michael's placating tone grated, more sarcastic than was probably best for everyone's collective tempers, "We had a decompression issue in docking bay six, I got stuck in a transport tube till one of the repair teams could get me out."

Dr. Franklin swore and rifled through the pile of status updates on his desk, a three foot high stack of pages he obviously hadn't had the time to go through. He pulled out a missive a few sheets down, scattering a heap of pink and blue carbon copies in the process, "Was anyone injured? No... no thank God, just a few scrapes and bruises..."

"The repair teams are taking extra care Stephen, and they've got more hands working on this than they know what to do with," Michael patted the doctor's shoulder reassuringly, "Everyone on the station is working together to get the station back in working order."There was nothing quite like a shared near-death experience to bring people together.

"God help me Michael but I'm at the end of my rope. We're going to lose people Michael, we're going to lose them because I simply don't have enough medicine for them all. Even with my call for aid, even with the collective governments of the Non-Alligned Worlds scrambling to ship them to us, even with all the supplies we've taken from the fleet we do not have enough," Stephen sighed, "I need your help."

"Doc, I don't know if you've noticed but I'm not exactly a doctor, much less a miracle worker," Michael shook his head, "I'm not sure what I can do."

"It's not so much about what you can do as it is about who you know," Stephen rubbed his hands over a mess of stubble, caressing the dark bristles, "I need you to talk with your contacts about getting me more supplies."

"Stephen, it won't do any good," Michel sighed.

"People are dying Michael. I don't care if it's distasteful I need those supplies," Dr. Franklin swatted the stack of status reports, casting the multicolored sheets to the floor.

"It won't do any good," Michael repeated, "Because smugglers are afraid to come near the station. We haven't had any incoming traffic in two days that wasn't stopping for fuel or unable to redirect. It's been less than a week since a Vorlon ship got killed on our doorstep, nobody wants to be within lightyears of that."

"Damn," Stephen tugged at the back of his hair in frustration. The man agonized over every patient he lost, and he was loosing them by the hundreds, "Can one thing go right on this station just once today!"

"Sir," a nurse approached Dr. Franklin from behind, obviously dreading his sour mood, "They need you in the primary surgery. Miss Chen is ready for you to operate on her leg."

"Of course. I'll be there in a moment Nurse Faye," Stephen took the chart, shaking his head dejectedly as he flipped through the pages of her chart, "Yes we'll have remove the necrotic tissue. Have doctor Bertrand start the procedure. "

Not eager to hear the gory details Michael pointed his thumb over his shoulder and started backing away. Doctors never really seemed to have a good hang of what constituted disgusting, "So I'll be heading out then."

"Not just quite Mr. Garibaldi," Stephen handed the chart back to the nurse, "I have something else I need you to do. Follow me please."

The Doctor ducked through the cloth barrier behind him, leading Michael past a heartbreaking assortment of pitiful figures in makeshift cots. Bandaged and beaten, the survivors of the battle stared at the passing duo with mixed levels of interest. Guilt swelled in his throat for not having been able to protect these people, his people. They trusted him to keep them safe from harm and he'd failed entirely.

What, exactly, he could have done was beyond him but he damn well wouldn't be caught with his pants down around his ankles ever again. "Never again," he whispered to himself, "If I have to beat the secret out of the Imperials with my bare hands this will never happen on this station again."

"What was that?" Dr. Franklin turned around, half ducked beneath another sheet.

"Nothing," Michael cleared his throat, embarrassed to have his thoughts said out loud. Eager to change the subject he ducked under the sheet past the doctor, "So what is it that you need me for?"

The area of the makeshift triage they'd entered was a small corner of the casino usually used for exotic dance. A heavily bandaged man stood in front of a small raised stage with three long poles sat in the center of the room. In the center of the raised stage a Blonde woman stood, straining against the pole she'd been handcuffed to and screaming threats through a thick gag.

Zack Allan, half of his face covered with thick purple bruises looked away from the woman, smiled and waved in greeting, "Hey chief."

"Zack," Michael nodded back, "Do you want to explain exactly why you've chained Talia to a dancer's pole? "

"Because I told him to," Dr. Franklin stared at the woman in pity, "Michael... Talia isn't well. Whatever happened in that battle, it broke something in her." He nodded to Zack, "Show him."

"You sure about that Doc," Zack looked up at the bound woman nervously, "She nearly bit off my fingers the last time I had to put it back in."

"He needs to know," Stephen sighed, "I don't like seeing her his way either Zack. Just do it."

Zack approached her hesitantly, reaching behind her and untying her gag before pulling the wadded gauze roll out from between her teeth. The snarling woman spat a thick glob of phlegm into his eye, hissing in fury, "Let me go you useless blip. I'll see you all bleed for this you scum."

"Talia," Michael blinked in confusion, "Talia what's wrong."

"Talia is dead. Talia is weak," She crowed in ecstasy, "You don't know how long I sat in here, listening to her simper and moan just waiting for my time."

"That's enough," Dr. Franklin cut his hand across his throat and nodded to Zack. Officer Allan gladly shoved the gauze back into Talia's mouth and the doctor continued, "She's been like this since she woke up. She claims her name is "control" and demands to speak to her superior officer. She remembers everything but it's like she's a different person."

"Jesus," Michael swore, "She collided with the Inquisitor's anti-demon weapon in the hangar bay. Delenn called it a 'soul-stone.' Said it had some mystical ability to steal the soul of whoever touches it. "

"Is that possible," Zack looked at Talia in horror, "I mean... losing a soul?"

"We were just attacked by a demon and his horde of undead minions," Planning for every eventuality was taking on a whole new meaning this month, "At this point I'm just taking everything at face value. I had a hazmat team put it into a radioactive materials locker just in case. It's under lock and key with the stations nuclear waste."

"Good," Stephen nodded in agreement, "Did she say anything about reversing it's effects?"

"She seemed more terrified that anyone would consider using one. I doubt she knows," Michael sighed and stared at Talia, "God Talia I am so sorry. We're going to help you. You don't want us to but we are going to get you through this."

Zack nodded supportively, "Of course we are Chief. Delenn must know something..."

"No," Garibaldi shivered with disgust as he realized the path before him, "No... we aren't going to see Delenn."

"But you just said."

"I know what I said," Michael turned to Dr. Franklin, "Come on we're talking Talia to the one person on this station I'm sure knows how to fix her. We're going to see Ambassador Kosh."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:48pm

Susan's kidnapping would have been substantially easier to stomach had the Lady Sáclair been easier to dislike. Had the woman been cruel, or short tempered, or unreasonable, or any number of any equally unpleasant things Susan would have been able to just grab a gun and shoot her way out. However the Lady Sáclair was none of these. Vivacious and funny, the Lady was equal parts ruler and matriarch.

Susan had been trained to resist torture and avoid interrogations. Everyone broke eventually but she could be sure to make they work for what they took. She had not, however, been trained to resist the constant mothering of an extremely pregnant noblewoman insisting she have another helping of soup because "she really was much too thin." Kindness was potent weapon to which Susan lacked a prepared defense.

Susan had spent the past two days in the Lady Sáclair's decadently opulent household being educated in the art of acting like a lady in the imperial nobility. It was a job that involved substantially fewer curtseys and a great deal more concealed weapons that Susan expected. The lavish silk garment the Lady's servants brought to her, a flattering dress with more jewelery sewn into it than Susan had ever owned in her entire lifetime, was full of so many places for concealed weapons it was as much an armory as an evening dress. The Lady Sáclair had gone over every pocket in detail, suggesting the ideal weapon to spirit into each of them.

She hadn't wanted to wear the dress but there seemed no way to do it without offending the Lady Sáclair. It was befuddling to be simultaneously treated as prisoner and royalty. She'd been expecting torture and death, not caviar and pampering. Susan had servants, though slaves was probably the more accurate term for them. A girl of twenty, Tsubune Nebu Tus, who saw to her wardrobe and a boy of twelve, Ivan, who's job seemed to largely consist of declaring the titles of anyone who entered her room.

She'd tried to escape of course. Three attempts, each attempt ending more disastrous than the first. Each time she'd managed to get out the front doors the swarthy skinned Lionhearts brought her back in handcuffs, took her to her room and let her go. The Lady Sáclair found it highly amusing, telling her in passing as she forced yet another helping of stew upon her that the Lionhearts were betting on who would be the next one to bring her back.

It was several days gilded incarceration later that the Lady Sáclair presented her with a set of knives and a small but elaborately worked pistol, much to Susan's confusion. Especially so as the Lady Sáclair had chosen to forgo her usual cadre of Ogryn, "Why on earth are you arming me?"

"My dear Ivanova, we are in the warp. Simply put there isn't anywhere for you to escape to," The Lady smiled, "It could be days, even weeks before we get back to realspace."

"You aren't worried that I'll harm you or your family?" Susan picked up the pistol, feeling its weight. The weapon, one of the laser pistols favored by the Empire, was heavier than her PPG had been. It felt wrong in her hand.

"When home was only a heartbeat away? Possibly," The Lady Sáclair rolled her eyes a glibly imperious gesture of maternity, rubbing the elaborate golden lion over her belly, "But you aren't dumb enough to think you can fight your way past the entire crew, all of whom would kill you for looking at me crossly."

"That's a hell of a gamble," Susan pocketed the pistol in her dress. It did, in fact, fit perfectly in the pouch under the fur ruff.

"I'm a month from delivery, irrational leaps of faith are entirely within my perrogative." The Lady laughed as she sashayed out of the room, the skin tight fabric of her tunic clinging to her curves invitingly, "Speaking of my children I'm in need of your talents."

"My talents?"

"You are a psychic are you not?" Susan blushed crimson. There was something deeply unnerving about having her deepest secret stated so openly. The Lady Sáclair was matter of fact about it, her only interests in it practical ones, however she couldn't help but feel a shudder of fear at other people knowing her unspoken shame.

"I'm... I'm barely a P1," Susan gulped, following the Lady Sáclair down the corridor and up a stairwell "I get flashes... sometimes bursts of emotion."

"Perfect, you'll have a step up from me," the Lady Sáclair stopped in front of a bright yellow door with 'Ami's room' painted on it in careful gothic calligraphy, "I can never even begin to figure out what this girl is thinking."

Susan eyed the pile of obviously untouched food trays in front of the door with a quizzical eye, "How long has it been since she's eaten?"

"I couldn't say. She has a personal icebox in her quarters, though none of the food in there is fit for a growing girl to eat in excess. Sweets and the like," The lady Sáclair pulled back her veil, looking exhausted, "She's refusing to talk to anyone. She went absolutely mental when Preston, who changed her swaddling clothes mind you, woke her from a nightmare. Tossed things at him till he left. Screaming not to touch her."

"It was when she refused to let Danzig into the room that I knew something was really seriously wrong," the Lady Sáclair sighed, "She loves him like an uncle. She won't tell me anything other than 'everything is ok', which is a teenage code word for "the world is ending."

"And you want me to talk to her," There was no way she was going to be able to turn this down, even if she'd wanted to. To hell with it, apparently this would be her mitzvah for the year.

"It is that or I have to bring in a Medicus who will declare her to be hysterical and have her sedated." The Lady Sáclair spat the word 'hysterical', clearly disgusted at the very thought of it.

"Yeah," Susan snarled at the sheer chauvinism, "I'll talk to her."

"Good," The Lady Sáclair pressed a button on the wall, opening the door.

A single figure on the four poster bed in the center of the room had enough time to screech a disgusted "Moooom" before the Lady Sáclair all but tossed Susan into the room, shouting "I have someone for you to meet dear," over Susan's confused, "Woah...Wait a second!"

The door shut with a noise that sounded suspiciously like a lock fixing into place as a furious teenage girl leapt off the bed and started jabbing Susan in the chest. Her bony digit prodded the jewlery of her dress, poking her with the sharp pins of the various golden ornaments, "Who in the Eye are you?"

"If you poke me one more time I will be the woman breaking your finger," Susan batted the girl's hand away, "But my name is Susan Ivanova."

The girl gaped at her in astonishment, "You're the Inquisitor's apprentice. The one from the Alliance."

"I'm the Inquisitor's prisoner," Susan corrected.

The girl cocked her head in confusion, "But I thought you'd been entered into the ship's logs as his apprentice."

"He kidnapped me," Susan massaged her arms, remembering the broken bones, "Brutalized me, shamed me, and harmed my friends. But yes, for some reason both he and your mother are convinced I'm going to become his apprentice."

"That... that makes no sense at all," Ami shook her head.

"Trust me I've been trying to convince your mother of that for days now," Susan sat down in an overstuffed chair next to Ami's bed, idly picking up a copy of Troubled Crossroads: A tale of the Manchurian Crusade. The book's gaudy cover promised tales of the fabled Sable Swords chapter of the Adeptus Astates, whoever the heck they were, "No sense at all."

"No I mean turning it down," Ami sat down on the bed, "You do realize what an Inquisitor is right? What they do? The opportunity he gave you?"

Susan massaged her temples, trying to massage the tick out of her forehead. After everything she'd been through the thought of just winging the snot nosed brat with a bit of laser fire for actually having the audacity to suggest she should be grateful. But she bit it down, gathering some intelligence couldn't hurt, "Ok Ami. Why?"

"Miss Ivanova... it's one of the highest positions of authority in the Imperial government. They're basically royalty," Ami shook her head at Susan's incredulous expression, "No seriously, an Inquisitor is given all sorts of stuff. Armies, private estates, some of them rule star systems. Pretty much anything you could ever want."

"The world has gone insane," Susan waved her arms in disgust, "I've been kidnapped and made into a noble by a race of nutjobs."

"It's not all bad," Ami balled her skirts in her hands, "I mean we're not all bad."

Susan gritted her teeth, realizing her gaff, "Ami, your mother is very worried about you. Worried enough that she'd asking her...guest... prisoner... whatever I am... to talk to you."

"Why you?" Ami squinted in confusion, "A servant I get, my sisters I get, but... this is just weird."

"I'm a psychic," the words hit the Ami like a ton of bricks, filling her eyes with tears as she started blubbering out of control.

The little girl buried her head in the pillows and started screaming, "It's not my fault."

Groaning in disgust, Susan realized why the girl's mother had wanted her to be the one to talk to her daughter. Given the apparent presumptions of psychic might associated with an Inquisitor, as well as their absence of psychic privacy laws, the girl assumed that Susan already knew her secret. She rubbed the girl's shoulder comfortingly, "Honey, it's ok. It's ok. Let it all out."

Ami looked up at Susan with her tearstreaked face and hiccupped, "I didn't know it would happen. I didn't want it to happen."

"Ok," Susan wiped the girl's face with the sleeve of her dress, "Lets start from the top. What happened."

"I... I was looking for clues about the man murdering teenage girls in the Belzafest sector," Ami hugged herself not daring to make eye contact with Susan, "I wore a disguise to sneak into the space security cordoned off."

"You snuck into an active crime scene by yourself trying to find a serial killer," Susan couldn't keep the bemusement out of her voice, "I assume your mother told you not to, which is why you aren't telling her."

Ami nodded, another tittering sob coming out, "It was stupid, I know. But I couldn't do nothing I'm good at things! I can help."

"Ami, I wouldn't go by myself to a dangerous crime scene and I'm a professional soldier. There's being brave and there's being stupid," Ami's face fell, "It's the truth. That was stupid."

"Yeah," Ami shuddered, "I know that now."

Susan recongized the tone, knowing all too well where Ami's story was heading to a dark place, "What happened next?"

"He was there," the pronoun rolled off her tongue like a vile swear, like the last bit of bile in your throat, "He found me... he wanted to... It wasn't ok. I didn't want to." Susan just listened, not daring to interrupt her.

"I pretended to be interested, let him get in close, and kicked him in where it hurts," Susan couldn't help herself, she snorted with laughter. Ami laughed with her for a good three minutes. They laughed so hard it hurt, "Yeah... But it wasn't enough. I wasn't fast enough. He caught me."

"Oh sweetheart," Susan's heart broke for the girl. She brushed the hair out of Ami's eyes, patting the firearm beneath her dress with deliberate intent. Considering the old testament style justice the Empire seemed to favor she might actually get to shoot the bastard, "Who was he? Where is he?"

"Dead... he's dead..." She crawled into a ball on the bed, hugging her knees to her chest. The girl hesitated, emanating the slightest of shuddering psychic impressions. It must have been an overwhelming feeling for Susan to have sensed it.

Ami didn't want to talk about how he'd died. Nor was Susan inclined to force the matter. She muttered inaudibly, "Good. It saves me the trouble of killing the bastard."

Ami bit her lip, "Are... are you going to tell my mom?"

"That you had to kill a man who assaulted you in a dark alley in self defense and feel guilty about it? Yes, I have to. But it's up to you how much or little you chose to share with her," Susan hugged the girl comfortingly, a gesture she wasn't generally comfortable with, "But you need to share with someone you trust. And for god's sake eat a meal."

"Ok," Ami smiled, "It's a shame you don't want to be an Inquisitor."


"I don't think there are a whole lot of nice ones," The girl sniffled, resting her head on her knees, "You're nice... even if you are a bit blunt."

"I'm not blunt. I'm Russian," Susan shrugged, "We're just more practical about these things."

"What's Russia?" The girl crossed her legs, "Is that your planet?"

"Well... its certainly a world apart, but no it's on Earth..." She stopped mid sentence as a chill ran up her spine, vague tendrils of psychic familiarity echoing through her mind. The overwhelming sense that a predator was stalking her hummed in the back of her mind as she reached in to her dress for the pistol, all too cognizant of its meaning.

The yellow door swung inward, unveiling the nightmare beyond. Hobbling forward with the aid of a long ebony cane, Inquisitor Daul entered the room. Terrifying fluttering skulls hovered around him, their tiny tendril mounted surgical tools and complex instruments dangling from glowing antigravity harnesses. His face was one giant purplish discoloration, giving his already tired face the distinct impression of purification.

Heedless of the danger Susan pulled out her pistol and fired, clicking the trigger several times before realizing that nothing was happening, "Oh no..."

"Oh honestly," the Inquisitor beaconed with a single finger, tearing the gun from her grip and summoning it in a single fluid motion. He examined the firearm idly, turning it to its side and tapping one of the gems, "You need to disable the safety first." He depressed the jewel and brandished the firearm, "Like this."

"I'll try to remember that for next time," Susan's eyes flitted around the room, searching for an escape, a weapon, anything really, "What are you going to do now?"

"Nothing, if you mean what am I going to do to you. We are going to walk to the Captain's library and have a conversation like civilized adults," The implication that Susan had somehow betrayed the Inquisitor's hospitality was not lost on her. Susan considered the merits of stabbing him in his fat hypocritical face like the condescending bastard deserved, a wildly impractical if greatly satisfying fantasy.

"And if I refuse?" She wasn't about to make this easy for the self entitled jerk, "You strip me naked, break every bone in my body and parade me past everyone I know? Oh wait, you already did that!"

"Miss Ivanova, perhaps these matters are best discussed elsewhere," He gave a significant look at Ami, "Away from the impressionable and obviously terrified?"

Susan swallowed guiltily. Ami, who only moments ago had been bursting with curiosity about Susan's homeland, had balled herself into a ball and hidden beneath the covers. An entirely reasonable reaction to someone trying to start a gunfight in your bedroom. Oye vey, the last thing that girl needed was to lose her safe place in her own house, "Ok, I'll come with you. But it isn't for you understand."

"Miss Ivanova if you had been anything other than your stubborn self I would have been greatly disappointed," The Inquisitor cracked a smile, "Now, if you please." So it was that Susan found herself being led at gunpoint to the Captain's library, only a yard from the most evil man she had ever known.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:49pm

David arrived with his package at the appointed time, taking special care not to drop it or disturb the contents for fear that they might be as dangerous as the man he delivered them to. He walked in to fight deck D-225 and found hangar R-2, a nondescript place short range transports sat in storage. Most of them were either outdated transports replaced long ago and kept for parts or the disused transports of layabout nobles too disinterested with life outside the ship to see to their hereditary transports.

At the end of the row behind a boxy Rodan make transport under a thick tarp was a sleek ship strategically covered in grease and spare parts to give the illusion of disuse. The sleek engines of a mark-3 Kor interceptor were welded to the body of a ZV series six transport, rounded bulky nose sporting what looked suspiciously like retractable gun ports he was positive did not come on the standard model.

No special effort seemed to have been made to either conceal the transport or prevent entry, the door to its cargo hold yawed open without needing identification. David crossed the threshold, taking care not to present himself as too open of a target. Stenatoda was fond of clubbing him from behind when he made deliveries, her hatred of his father vented upon him by proxy.

His caution proved excessive, the cargo bay was entirely bereft of crew or cargo. A few confused moments of further examination of the ship revealed signs of habituation but no inhabitants. Discarded playing cards, a still smoking cigar in the ash tray of the necessary, and even the still warm cup of tea abandoned in the cockpit with the remnants of toasted bread all indicated someone was supposed to be in the ship.

It was alarming, Dex had never given David a delivery date or location that hadn't had someone to pick up the package, apparently mistrusting dead drops. If Dex's intended recipient had yet to arrive it meant that something had gone wrong, which in the case of Amon Sui mutiny might mean his own undoing. Fearful that Osma's enforcers might drop in at any moment David stowed the package in his rucksack and made a beeline for the door.

Stuttering to a stop as the sheer wall of the cargo bay receded, David jerked in astonishment as Dex poked his head into view. The saboteur looked at his chronometer in astonishment, blinking in surprise. He tapped it twice, shaking it next to his ear before sighing in disgust, "Damned magnets botched the internals."

"Sir," David probed, unsure what to call Dex. The Amon Sui were impossibly strict with their titles, "I have your package."

"I'm sure ye do boy," He waved in to the concealed compartment with an oil-stained rag, idly pocketing his broken chronometer in the pocket of his velvet jacket beneath his thick smock, "Put it on the yellow table next to my tools."

The cramped workshop housed within the secret compartment of an otherwise nondescript cargo ship was not exactly the base of operations that David would have expected from Dex. Immaculately clean and uncluttered it was more reminiscent of an operating room in a surgery than the lair of a dangerous and unrepentant techo-heretic. Tools of all descriptions lined the walls, hanging from pegs and marked by an outline of each tool drawn in permanent marker. A place for everything and everything was in its place.

Dex flopped down into a well worn looking chair, pushing snub faced and wheezing dog to the ground with a mild reproof, "This be' my chair boy. Not for doggies." He continued to wipe the grease from his fingers and stared at David intently, "Stenatoda told me that you're causing her a whole mess of trouble, that you're unruly and unusable."

David bristled at the comment, his thoughts straying to the pistol he'd stowed in his rucksack as he slammed the package on the table next to the tool box, "I am not!"

"Says the boy who just smashed a box of pressure trigger grenades on the table," Dex's voice hitched in horror.

"I... but... what..." David gulped, staring at the indentations in the package his fingers made.

Just as David was contemplating if it was more economical to use his last moments fleeing for his life or making his peace with the Emperor, Dex burst into uproarious laughter. He laughed till he had to wipe tears of mirth from his eyes.

"Lad. Stenatoday is a complete hag. If she'd liked you I'd worry. If she suspected you of betraying us you'd be dead. Consider yourself employed by the Amon Sui. You just manhandled some tools used for engine repair. Not delicate and most certainly not explosive," Dex reached into a metal pail on his shelf and tossed a foil wrapped package to David, "Relax boy."

On reflex David caught the package, opening it to discover a pocket of flatbread filled with savory meat and cheeses. Unsure what he was supposed to do with it, he sat on the stool of the work bench. Dex's flat-faced dog woofed hopefully at David's flatbread, hoping for something to drop.

Dex sighed and pulled another pocket out of the bucket, "Lad it works better if you put it in your mouth and chew."

David tentatively took a bite and swallowed, surprised by the meat's leanness, "This isn't grox."

"Nay, it's one of the devil birds they imported. Ostriches or whatever they're called. Vile creatures but they taste a damn sight better than they look," He snorted, "Some damned fools are actually trying to ride the psychotic things, getting hurt good and proper for their stupidity too."

"Riding them?" David couldn't imagine looking at the oblong figured angry creatures and thinking that mounting them was anything other than a fools errand. Then he was hardly one to make judgement calls on fools, "How would you do that?"

"They've made these saddles they're trying to fit the birds with. It aint bein' especially well received I assure you. Ye' canna believe how damned funny it is," Dex sighed, "But that isn't why I brung' you here."

"Why am I here?"

"Ta listen boy," He smiled sadly and rain his fingers through his thick beard, stroking the chin of his dog absentmindedly. It's leg scratched the floor rhythmically in satisfaction, "You've heard half a story. It has to have been... by the saints boy has it been fifteen years? Aye it has. Fifteen years and you've been only given half stories and platitudes about what has happened."

"And you're going to tell me the whole truth?" David's sarcasm slipped past his teeth before he could consider the danger in mouthing off.

"Lad, truth is all I do," Dex crossed his arms across his wide chest, "Have I lied to you about anything yet boy? Told you any half truths? Hell have I ever not answered a question you've asked?"

Much to David's frustration nothing came to mind, "I suppose that's true so far..."

Dex slapped him on his knee with bone jarring joviality, "Of course it is lad. Old Dex is a teller of truth. Now you're going to sit back and listen to Dex's story, and you're going to listen. Now Dex is a traitor you say? A saboteur? Nay lad. Dex is a patriot. You only know the Amon Sui as bogeymen, the devils who haunt you and your family. But it were not always so."

He chewed pensively, apparently considering where to start David's education, "I started me path to the Amon as a boy not much younger than you are. I started tinkering. Machines interested me, and though I caught the eye of the Enginseers, who allowed me to observe them in the machine shops in exchange for completing errands. They thought it harmless, I was too young and uneducated for them to worry I would learn their secrets. But learn I did."

He paused dramatically, clearly deeply satisfied to have outsmarted the Tech-priests, "After a while I stopped just learning. I realized that with some slight differences I could not just do the same repairs as the tech priests, I was better. With my bare hands and some tools I could fix machines they condemned to the scrap heap."

He held up his hands, examining the fingers fondly, "It were as though I had found my calling in life. I showed the priests what I'd learned, hoping for praise, only to receive their disgust. They called me heretic, arrested me, gave me to the Amon Sui representative visiting the colony and demanded my extradition to a Ad-mech world to await execution."

"You look surprisingly healthy for a dead man," David said through a mouthful of ostrich.

"Aye, I do at that," The technopagan snorted, "Nay he did not kill me. He protected me, gave me a job, gave me a purpose. For years I discovered and re-discovered Dark Age technologies, replicating what I could not invent through the use of xenotech. Lad, I saved lives, I improved the quality of life on dozens of worlds and ships, including the Endless Bounty. If doing that makes me a heretic then I'm damned proud to be one no matter what your father says to the contrary."

"I notice you not mentioning all the people you killed. How you tried to sacrifice my father to achieve your goals," David's blood boiled, "How your group tried to murder me in my sleep."

"After your father turned us in for a sin that was his lad. You'll pardon us for being a bit miffed that he'd gone and had anyone in the entire bleeding nation slapped with a death sentence because he couldn't manage to smuggle a single parcel of grain five systems without tipping off an Imperial patrol," He sighed, "They tossed your father under so that billions, trillions of well meaning men like me could avoid persecution for our beliefs."

"Beliefs like the coven of Skova?" Dex flinched at the name, caught off guard. David tossed the foil to the ground and crossed his arms, "I saw the pict slates Inquisitor Hilder left in my father's care. They still give me nightmares. Men, women, and children were all sacrificed to feed the hunger of the dark beast in belly of the Amon Sui flagship. All done for boons of power."

"I seem to recall a couple hundred xenos relaxing in the relative comfort of the Endless Bounty after the last battle, do I not? Perhaps ye' recall the bleeding planet full of people, the Belzafesters, who the Inquisitor was willing to slaughter to capture a single man," Dex pulled a clay pipe out from a pocket and began to pack it with a thick wad of mixed talbac and spices, "But you're right, they were wrong to do that."

He lit the talbac and inhaled deeply, thin trails of smoke whispering their way out the edge of his lips, "They were also forced into it."

"Forced into it," David repeated incredulously, "The Inquisitor suggested that the Amon Sui had been making use of cultist groups for centuries, perhaps longer."

"Lad, exactly how many of your father's conversations have you been privy to?" Dex puffed on his pipe in amusement, "I can't see Hilder exactly wanting a strapping lad like you knowing more than you ought to."

The Inquisitor hadn't even remotely wanted it, nor had his father, however when a Sáclair got it into their head to do a deed there wasn't anything on heaven or earth to stop them. There was an old, disused servant's entrance to the room behind a book shelf. It was from there that he'd eves dropped on a number of the Inquisitor's conversations with his father, "Not... not that many... well not that many before they caught me."

Dex pulled out his pipe and waved it in a lazy circle, prompting him to continue. David sighed, "It was after my father came back from prison. I was thirteen and it had been so long since I'd seen him that I couldn't remember what he looked like. I just wanted to... I don't know... understand why he'd left, what he'd done to deserve the disgrace. I snuck into his papers, learned all that I could stomach. It.. it didn't make a lot of sense to me," he rubbed his right elbow in reflexive pain at the memory, "The Inquisitor's man caught me doing it... the Skitarii... he switched me ragged then brought me to the Inquisitor... who sat me down and forced me to look at the pictures of the massacres... the chaos massacres. He looked at me with those dead eyes of his and said, 'there are things boys should not seek out. There are things no man should know.' Then he let me go. I never eavesdropped again... It... he scared me... he still does."

"He's supposed to kill someone who does that you know. Children... Hilder has a special fondness for children," Dex sighed, "Evil men try to find a way to make themselves feel morally justified for the things they do. I suppose sparing you was his way of being able to sleep at night."

He stood up and clapped David's side paternally, "I understand your need to learn lad. I feel the same way. It's why I do what I do. It's why I fight the Inquisitor. I want the right to learn without fear."

A fit of melancholy overtook him and he lifted the dog into his arms, snuggling the great lumbering beast against his beard, "Lad there are greater and lesser levels of evil, even with respect to Chaos. Aye there are horrible monstrous beasts who serve chaos, but there are monsters who claim the Emperor as their savior as well. Did the Amon Sui use sorceries banned by the dogma of the Eccelsiarchy? Aye, but they did not turn to blood sacrifice and true horrors till the Inquisitor launched the first attack on them. He brought the fragging Space Marines to attack and subdue entire settlements, razing habitats with hundreds of thousands of innocents. What were we to do? We defended ourselves."

"Better to die," David hissed, disgusted at the thought of turning to the demon gods, "Far better than to fall."

"Aye?" Dex smiled a sad half smile, "And shall I be stopping with the serum for your lady love then?"

"That's... that's different!" David had endured enough of the heretic's double talk. It was time to tell him what-for, "I am saving her life."

"And the sacrifices to the Beast of Skova were to appease the will of a warp beast dwelling in the space between worlds. It attacked the Inquisitor's fleet, scattering it and giving the Amon Sui fleet time to recover and regroup elsewhere," Dex sighed and deposited his dog back in the chair, "Lad, no man is the villain of his own story. I have no doubt that Horus himself truly believed it was the best thing for the universe to usurp the Emperor and take control."

David's mouth hung slack in horror at the perverse suggestion. It was ludicrous to the point of impossible but the man said it as though it were the most positively ordinary thing to say. Men had been hung on gibbets for suggesting less heretical things... but then Dex had no fear of being branded a heretic. He reveled in his heresy.

Dex pressed three vials of pale liquid into David's hands, cupping them with his own, "Lad, you don't need to believe me. You don't need to believe in my cause. I don' expect you to and I don' need you to. But when the time comes I need you to remember that this was your choice, just like it was the choice for the Amon Sui to sacrifice themselves, just like it was your father's choice to trade with the xenos, and just like it was the Inquisitor's choice to seek the aid of xenos."

"Like I chose to accept your offer... chose to inject Bona with the serum," David hesistated. The click of glass vial on glass vial punctuated the silence, stressing the avoided truth, "I am a heretic too aren't I."

"Aye lad," Dex puffed his pipe, "And we all pay for our choices. One way or another."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:50pm

Zack strained to see through the reflections on his visor. Hazy clouds of semi translucent noxious gasses swirled around the corridors of the so called "Alien Sector" bursting with every footstep he took. Miss Winters, bound and sedated, muttered insults in her sleep as Zack and Michael hefted her between them. Fragmented mutters of "get you," "fool," and "obey" worked their way past her mask in a distinctly less than congratulatory manner.

The small section of apartments between Red and Green sectors catered to the living needs of non-oxygen breathing races, though few enough of those remained. Inconvenient though wearing an encounter suit was, none of them were in any hurry to live too close to what was now referred to as the "Vorlon Quarantine." Other than a contingent of heavily armed and armored Marines, armed with weapons generally banned on B5 for their tendency to breach the hull of ships, there wasn't a soul within a hundred yards of the Ambassador's apartment.

A small repulsion platform carried a hazardous materials container, hovering ten paces behind them at all times. More than once he'd leapt in horror as the rim of the device bumped the back of his knees. Marines, concealed by the smoke and their own barricades, yelled confirmation signs out of seemingly nowhere, only revealing themselves once Garibaldi successfully replied with the password.

He wasn't sure what the Chief hoped to accomplish by going to the Vorlon but the Chief had never led him wrong so far. He wasn't about to start doubting him now, even if he really, really wanted to. Complaining however, was another matter entirely, "Chief this is... just... creepy."

"Don't I know it," Garibaldi's voice crackled through the speaker on his mask, distorted and elongated, "But we don't have a choice."

"Why the Vorlon Chief? Kosh hasn't exactly been in a 'sharing mood' lately," Zack managed not to jump out of his own skin when a Marine appeared out of the mist from his hiding place , but just barely. Was there actually any point in doing that? The Vorlons must have been able to see through the mist. They were freaking telepaths.

"He's going to give me what I'm asking for," Garibaldi swiped his ID chip past the outer pressure doors of the Vorlon's apartment, "Because I'm going to ask nicely."

Well, the plan certainly had the benefit of simplicity. However, in Zack's opinion, however inexpert it may have been, there seemed to be certain flaws therein. Specifically being totally nuts, "And if that doesn't work?"

"I end him," There was something truly terrifying in the way Garibaldi stated it. There was no hesitation, no doubt, no consideration for the consequences, "I figure he's worn out his welcome."

"Chief," Zack wasn't sure what scared him more, the prospect of threatening to kill a Vorlon or the consequences of not being able to follow through, "You do have a plan right?"

Garibaldi waggled his eyebrows and entered the Vorlon's chambers, "What can I say. I'm a wascly wabbit."

"He's completely insane," Zack muttered to Talia under his breath, "I can't tell who's gone more bonkers, him or you... or me for going with you... we're all freaking insane."

Having never been in the Vorlon's chambers before Zack couldn't say what they looked like before, but it seemed deeply unlikely that the shattered glass and torn curtains had always been part of the décor. Anything with a reflective surface had been shattered into tiny pieces and thrown to the ground where in lay in multifaceted spirals of regret. Deep gouges were torn intermittently into in the walls, presumably where the Vorlon Ambassador had lashed out telepathically. A shattered room for a shattered man.

The Ambassador himself hovered listlessly in front of a holographic display of ISN. The dour faced Newscaster sat in front of a picture of the Ambassador's glowing eye, before the image switched to a series of shaky image stills of the battle. Confusing pictures of zombies, demons, and the Vorlon fighting security other painted a nightmarish picture of the Vorlon. The two minute report finished, then started from the beginning, showing the whole terrible thing over again.

God only knew how long the Vorlon had been sitting here, watching it on a loop.

"Ambassador Kosh," Garibaldi pulled out his side arm, a more powerful version of the PPG generally issued to station security. He approached the Ambassador slowly, taking care to not step on a protruding shard of glass, "Ambassador Kosh I need to speak with you."

"They cannot see," The Ambassador moaned despondently.

"Ambassador," Garbaldi was in no mood for the creature's self pity, "Now."

The Vorlon swiveled its head to face Garibaldi, observing him with its single eye, "The Circle. It was for the Circle."

"Ambassador I'm not here to discuss your crimes," Garibaldi backed up two paces, covering the alien with his firearm.

"Crimes!" Screeched the Vorlon. It's shimmering cloak billowed round it fluttering with incandescent plumes of psychic lightning.

"Ambassador, right now I am here to talk," Garbaldi pulled a remote detonator from his pocket and held it into the air, "If I start thinking you don't want to play nice any more I press the red button and 'boom' this section of the station goes into space. It probably won't kill you but captian Xingjang was surprisingly agreeable to the idea of blowing the excised section to little bits with laser fire. I figure a weapon capable of killing a ship should be able to kill you."

"You killed people Ambassador. Without provocation," Zack was astonished to discover that it was, in fact, himself speaking to the agitated Vorlon in this manner. And even more astonished when he followed it up with, "So yeah. Crimes."

"Protection," Hissed Kosh, his eye focused on the metal box in Garibaldi's hand, "Those who consort with the third are destroyed utterly. Men and ships alike. It is law. None of the third, no danger."

"Protection... what are you," Garibaldi lowered his pistol, "You didn't tell the fleet to come."

A pregnant moment passed before the Ambassador seemed to deflate, his cloaks ceasing their psychically enhanced motion, "No."

"I don't get it," Zack eased Talia into one of the few remaining pieces of furniture in the room, "What does that have to do with anything?"

"I'll explain it later Zack," Garibaldi groaned, his face scrunched in thought "Damn. This complicates... damn. You actually though you were saving us... they were going to destroy the station."

"A man who sees with both eyes is also blind," The Vorlon trilled morosely, eyeing the Chief, "If he does not look."

"Then perhaps you can look at something for me," Garibaldi waved towards the hovering canister, clearly intending for Zack to open it. Feeling distinctly like the rough nomex gloves were not even close to sufficient protection for what he was about to do, Zack reached into the container and pulled out the egg sized gem. The swirling black mist in the crystal undulated and crackled with some dark and sinister power, intoxicating in it's disgusting beauty.

The Vorlon made a sound like boiling water whistling from the kettle, furious and confused, "How?"

The Chief scratched the back of his neck, "The Inquisitor had a trap set up for the demon. Said he was going to trap it in the stone."

"It would not have worked," The Vorlon chided matter-of-factly.

"He assured us it would."

"Fool," Kosh growled, clearly unimpressed with Hilder's assessment, "She stepped in."

"Yes," Zack affirmed, staring at Talia, "Can you make her the way she was?"

Kosh sighed.

Garibaldi sighed, "Can you do it?"

The Vorlon considered it, "No."

"Care to repeat that?" Garibaldi's voice was a deadly calm, a broiling storm beneath still waters. For a second Zack feared he would detonate the explosives on principal.

"The Animus can not be unmade once forged, only harnessed." The stone lifted from Zack's hands where it hovered in the air, "Two souls cannot live in one body."

"Hold up," Zack swallowed, "Are you telling me that the reason you can't put Talia back to normal is because there is a soul already in her body?" It was just... too... weird to even contemplate, "How does that happen?"

"A fragment remains. Twisted, evil. It has claimed her," the glass fragments from the floor collected around the crystal, melting and molding into each other as the Vorlon manipulated them into a glass bracelet, into which he set the stone, "The fragment must be excised."

"Will it... harm her?" Garibaldi relaxed the arm carrying his pistol.

"The fragment must be excised," the Vorlon repeated, though the implication that it would indeed hurt very badly hung in the air.

"Do it," Garibaldi nodded.

The bracelet elongated and reformed, snaking its way around Talia winter's neck, shimmering and metamorphosing into a choker, the oblong stone nestled in the nape of the Telepath's neck. With a shifting of servos the Vorlon's eye narrowed and a thin beam of blue light shot from his eye into the stone, agitating the black smoke. Multicolored bursts of lighting shot from the stone into Miss Winter's body, waking her from her drug induced stupor.

With an unholy screech of, "No!" she stood up and tried to flee, only to fall back into the chair when a shard of glass sliced her exposed ankle. Her body spasmed erratically, every muscle contorting and contracting in resistance to soul-stone's power. Billowing green jets of smoke hissed from the pores in her skin, collecting into a ball of telekinetic lightning where they dissolved into oblivion.

After what felt like days but likely was only seconds she collapsed, breathing easily behind her mask. The Vorlon nodded once and looked at Garibaldi, "It is done."

"Ok," Zack reached for the soul-stone, "I'll just get rid of this..."

"No," The Vorlon rapped his knuckles with telekinetic whip, "Do not. What has been done cannot be undone. What you see before you is only the meat. The soul is forever bound."

"She has to wear the soul stone... forever," Garibaldi sighed sympathetically, "She is not going to like that.

"What happens if she looses the necklace?" Zack made a disgusted face, trying not to linger too much on the thought of Talia just being 'meat' in the Vorlon's estimation.

"The soul is bound to the stone, not the flesh," Kosh turned away from Talia and looked back to his holographic display, "We are finished."

"Kosh," Garibaldi closed his eyes as though tasting something foul, "Thank you."

The Vorlon said nothing, as was his custom.

Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, Garibaldi lifted Talia into a side carry, "Come on Zack. Let's get her back to the Doc. I want to check and see if anyone's found Susan before I get some shut eye."

A hazy film seemed to cover Zack's eyes as he felt himself speaking words that were no his, but he somehow knew to be true. He didn't remember where the inclination came from, or why it came, but he spoke them all the same, "I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo."

Garibaldi shot him a furious glare, "That's not funny Zack. Susan is your friend too."

In spite of trying to articulate his apology for having said something so clearly offensive, he was sleep deprived and obviously not thinking properly, the warm film went over his eye again and his lips moved without consulting him, "I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo."

"Zack..." Garibaldi's face took on a look of genuine concern, "What's wrong with you man."

"I just saw her a minute ago Chief! I'm sure she's just walking around the Zoccalo." Zack struggled to fight the film away from his eyes, clawing at his face as the words came out again and again, " I just saw her... I just saw her... I just saw her... I just saw her."

"No," The Vorlon replied from the other side of the room, "But you believe."

"Oh... son of a Bitch!" Garibaldi carried Talia towards the exit, rushing to some thing though Zack was at a complete loss as to why.

"Sir. I just saw her."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:50pm

Sáclair watched in amusement as the plasma turrets in the ceiling of the great hall swayed back and forth in time with Tuul's incessant strides along the narrow length of marble hovering three yards from the great throne, his furious motions conveying the anger and betrayal his monotone drone could not, "I will do no such thing."

Zorn Calven sneered across the gap, a perversely giddy expression across his face as he snorted a generous pinch out of his snuff box into one of his pronounced nostrils. His milky third eye swiveled with amusement as he chuckled in reply, "Yes you will Magos adept Tuul. The navigators have deemed it necessary."

"It is madness! My knowledge of how warp propulsion functions isn't anywhere near sophisticated enough for me to consider modifying an existing design without the supervision of a high Magos, let alone activate a dark age piece of archeotech which we presume to be an alternate faster than light drive," The Magos rubbed his augmentic hand over the stubble of his recently shaved scalp, "It is madness to do it."

"The Navigators disagree," Sáclair reclined in his throne, savoring Tuul's discomfort. He'd been greatly displeased that Danzig had marooned rather than murdered the Magos, but considering Tuul's substantial authority over the Enginseers of the Endless Bounty it was likely for the best. He needed Tuul, but for now it was best to keep the Machine Priest in his place, "As do I."

"My lord Sáclair... this is insane..." Tull trailed off, cowed by the hateful look on Sáclair's face, "The Inquisitor cannot possibly..."

"This is none of his affair," Sáclair smashed his fist on the arm of his throne, accidentally activating the ship wide vox cast, unintentionally broadcasting his shout of "I am to be obeyed" shipwide over the loudspeaker. The cacophonous bellow had the desired effect, even Zorn Calven flinched in fear at his rage. He deactivated the speakers and continued, "I trust I do not need to repeat myself?"

"Do not make me do this sir," Tuul said in a barely audible whisper, "It is a violation of the code of the Omnissiah... this will not end well."

"Tuul I tolerated the eccentricities of your mistress out of respect for her talents," Sáclair growled, "I am not making you do anything. You are welcome to participate or not participate as you will. But the Enginseers will be activating the system while we are en-route to the rendezvous."

Tuul did not have a chance to reply as his marble plinth descended to the ground, commanded by an idle whim of Sáclair's mind. He was the master of his ship, Sáclair and no other. If Sáclair said that he wanted a system activated then what business was it of Tuuls to disagree with him. Tuul was an insignificant ant scurrying about in the belly of the Endless Bounty, hardly worthy of his notice.

"I am pleased that you've come around to seeing things my way," As the platform became little more than a speck on the distant ground Zorn bowed deeply, perhaps a bit too deeply to be interpreted as respectful, "This will be a life changing boon if we are correct."

"You're sure about this," Sáclair grunted, "We've had a way of traveling faster than light without entering the warp this close without ever knowing it?"

"The Endless Bounty was built from the husk of a ship recovered from the depths of space my lord Sáclair, born from the ashes of the distant past," Zorn shrugged, "One presumes that there are many such technologies on different ships who's true functions have been lost to the ravages of time."

"But so great a boon," Sáclair sighed, reason overtaking him, "Tuul and Kerrigan were overcautious perhaps, but never foolish."

"We would be greater fools for not trying to recover so glorious a thing," The Navigator waved to the half repaired great hall, motioning to the cracked marble and shattered ornamentation, "Look at this ship, all that she has survived. Beyond the wildest expectation of its makers this ship has been reforged, reborn, repaired and re-invented so many times in human history that her first name has been lost to us. Endless Bounty is her appellation and Endless Bounty is her destiny Captain. Of that I have no doubt. Captain we live in fear of our own former greatness, of the unspoken times when we quenched the stars at a whim. We rightly fear the darkness it brought down upon us but to ignore the possibility that one of the greatest feats of mankind's distant past might be in our very midst is foolish."

"And if he protests to the Inquisitor?" Sáclair grimaced. Galling though it was, the Inquisitor was well within his rights to order Sáclair to stop. Even as the captain of the ship he was not entitled to defy inquisitorial edict, "Tuul is within his rights to do so."

"It might have been... implied, by certain members of the Nobility that you intend to allow Kerrigan to return to the ship. Provided, of course, that a certain Magos Adept tows the line till we next make port at Babylon Five," Calven carefully examined his cuticles, rubbing at them with a singe bony finger, "Implied in strong enough tones and with enough... "evidence" to convince even a skeptic."

"I dislike subterfuge Navigator Calven," To indifferently discuss subterfuge of that manner, as though Zorn were his co-conspirator and equal, set his hackles on end. The Navigator was taking more liberties than was his right, "And those I am assumed to support even less."

"Captain I'm offended," Zorn put his hands to his heart in an insincere gesture of hurt, "I am but a humble messenger. What the nobility chooses to say to the Enginseers is their own affair."

"Navigator you are either bold or foolish," Sáclair chuckled.

"I am neither Captain," the Navigator bowed again, "I am, as always, your humble servant."

"Begone," Sáclair waved imperiously, dismissing Zorn with a wave. It would not be till the Navigator stepped on to a marble platform and descended to the ground that Sáclair's own nagging frustration with the man's tone manifested into a coherent thought. Zorn used the same tone with Sáclair that the Captian used when talking with the Inquisitor.

"I'll be keeping a closer eye on you Navigator," Sáclair muttered to himself, "A much closer eye indeed."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:51pm

Mr. Garibaldi was madder than hell and seemed damn sure someone was going to pay for it. The head of security didn't walk into John's office so much as he rolled into it like an oncoming storm. Knowing he would regret asking before the words even formed in his head he motioned to the seat across from his half-desk, "Take a seat Mr. Garibaldi."

"No offense Captain but if I sit down for more than a minute I'm afraid my head might explode because I'm too angry at myself for not doing something," He waved his arms skyward, "If anyone should have noticed it it was me, but no."

"Garibaldi, slow down," John had no idea what he was talking about, "What is going on?"

Garibaldi collapsed into the chair, sinking his face into his cupped hands, "John, they took Susan. She's been kidnapped."

John's face fell, he should have expected this. Susan hadn't been found yet, and it seemed unlikely she would ever be found. Hundreds of people just disappeared in the battle, consumed by the demon. He'd hoped that Garibaldi would have dealt with it better than this though.

Something of his thoughts must have been written on his face, "I'm not in denial Captain. She was kidnapped."

"Garibaldi... we've all lost more friends than I care to count. I know that I haven't been on this station as long as you have but I don't think that she'd want you to torture yourself over this," John braced himself for the inevitable backlash.

Garibaldi scrunched his eyes in concentration and took a couple of deep breaths, apparently resisting the urge to punch his superior officer in the face, "Sir. I'm not in denial. Susan Ivanova has been kidnapped."

Ok, fine. John could play along for the moment, "By whom? How?"

"Someone implanted a fake memory of Susan Ivanova into at least three members of a ten man security team," Garibaldi rubbed at the stubble on his chin, scraggly and unkept from days of not shaving, "I can't check them all, two of them are in medical comas and five died, but I suspect the whole team had their memories modified."

Ok so it wasn't playing at anything. John sighed, "How do you know?"

"Sir. Grown men do not repeat 'I just saw her a minute ago. She must be on the Zocalo' in endless sing-song naturally. I've seen it before, rogue telepaths can force the mind to believe something for a while but it doesn't last forever. The mind rejects the fake memories," Garibaldi pulled a thick stack of papers from his bag, flipping through them to a dog eared page with a highlighted section of text.

He tapped the page and handed it to John, "See, Susan hasn't used her link since the fifteenth. Susan. That woman hasn't been more than an inch from her link since birth. And look here," he pulled out a second sheet of paper, "The same day that link went out of commission look who they were assigned to guard."

"Bester," John blanched in horror looking at the name. Not only were Garibaldi's suspicions justified, they were all but confirmed, "Have you checked the security footage."

"Funny thing," Garibaldi said in a jovial tone that indicated it was anything but, "The security recordings of that section of the station seem to have erased themselves. Funny about that."

John shook his head in confusion, "But he left on a prison transport! How could he possibly have kidnapped her?"

"So was Jack," Garibaldi gnashed his teeth at the name of his betrayer. It hadn't been that long ago that his most trusted officer shot him in the back. Collecting himself he tapped his right temple with the side of his finger, "So I got to thinking, what happened to Bester's ship?"

"Don't tell me," John swore, "It disappeared two jumps in."

"Got it in one," Garibaldi nodded, "But I did find something out. There were two occupied cryo pods on that prison ship. One is listed as a 'prisoner for transport' but but the other is listed as a 'medical cadaver.'

"Susan," It wasn't really a question.

"Susan," Garibaldi confirmed, "The dock workers remember them loading a woman into a cryo pod, though none of them can quite remember why they didn't think that was odd."

"More memory modification," This didn't bode well. If the PsiCorps weren't obeying the most basic of laws for psychic conduct who knew what else they'd done on his station.

"That's what I thought too," Garibaldi nodded, "So I looked for reports of memory loss on that day one jump away from the one where we lost the transport, and I think I figured out where it was heading. There is a single ship that logged a flight to mars under a false ID code."

It was a pity Garibaldi didn't have anything more solid, "You know I can't officially authorize you to go to mars with what you've given me. It's convincing but it's all circumstantial."

"Captain! You've got to be kidding me. This is Susan we're talking about," Garibaldi's temper flared brilliantly, turning the bald patch in his forehead bright red.

"I can, however, authorize you for up to three months of leave for personal reasons in light of the traumatic events of the past week," John cleared his throat, "I hear Mars is a lovely place to go this time of year."

Garibaldi smiled, "Well if it's for my health."

"Good luck Garibaldi," John smiled, "And God's speed."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:51pm

"I do not understand. How can one creature do this much violence?"

"Lennier," Delenn sighed, staring out at the morbid sight before her, "There are mysteries to the universe beyond my understanding. The compulsion to cruelty is among them."

Organized by species a thousand sheet covered bodies lay on the floor of the baseball diamond of the Babylon station laid end to end in long rows from one end of the pitch to the other, dead. Families of those who'd gone missing in the battle wandered the rows, looking for their loved ones. Those lucky few fell to their knees before a body, sobbing and hugging the cold form as though it would bring their beloved back from the cold embrace and death. The vast majority, however, just wandered the lines, hoping for closure that would likely never come.

They would never know what happened to their children, their spouses, their cousins, their friends. Delenn knew. Delenn knew all too well but telling them the truth would accomplish nothing. What comfort would they gain knowing that a demon consumed them, body and soul?

None. So she prayed for those who passed. She prayed and prayed and hoped for answers that never seemed to come willingly. Not that she was unique in her search to satisfy the unquiet dead. Babylon 5 was home to many species and many faiths. All came to pray and all seemed willing to accept the aid of their fellow divinities. The edge of the stadium was lined with candles, golden idols, prayer books, rosaries, stars, icons, incense, and the discarded organs of sacrificed animals.

However it was the diminutive man with a slight limp who caught her attention, the Imperial preacher Al'Ashir. With deliberate care not to disturb the icons already in place the man took a small pot of black grease paint out from his pocket and painted a crude image of a double headed eagle on the bleachers, praying in his native language. It was beautiful, almost musical, and seemed to encompass the man's sorrow and loss.

On a whim she walked over to the kneeling man and sat next to him. Her attendant followed her closely, his own curiosity just as piqued as hers was, "May I join you Father Al'Ashir."

The imperial clergyman stared at her in silence, his face a blank mask. Delenn's cheeks colored as she wondered if interrupting the man at prayer was taboo in the Imperial culture. Or at least she wondered right up to the moment that the clergyman burst into laughter, "I have been on station for days and it is Minbari who first seek blessings of the Emperor. Of irony there is much havings!"

"The Minbari seek to understand how all races find peace," Delenn chuckled politely, pretending to understand the joke. Any positive reaction was good, even if it was amusement at her expense, "It is how we find the wisdom in ourselves."

"The Emperor teaches to beware the honeyed words of Xenos, for they can lead to ruin. But he also teaches to teach all those who seek his wisdom," Al'Ashir shrugged, "So you see my problem. I cannot trust a word you say and must teach you what you seek."

"We are strangers to each other Father Al'Ashir," Delenn chuckled, "Trust is earned, not freely given. And a teacher must always question the words of his students. So it is that you will teach and I will listen."

"Wisdom wasted on wise," It seemed to be a joke so Delenn laughed politely, by his smile she'd guessed correctly. He crossed his legs and turned to face her, swiveling on the bleacher, "I am ready for the askings."

"If I may be so bold," Lennier stood next to the preacher's painting, "What does the Eagle stand for?"

"It is Aquilla, the symbol of the Emperor. Savior of mankind," He pulled open his book to a lovingly inscribed page with an elaborate illustration of a dark skinned and long haired man in golden armor. His naked blade pierced the neck of some foul beast as his clawed fist cradled a golden haired child, heroic and menacing, "Savior of humans."

"Only the humans?" Delenn probed politely, it was not uncommon for religions to have a distinct ethnocentricity to them. It was not usually born of malevolence, races tended to create the core principals of their religious beliefs prior to contact with other races.

"Al'Ashir heard of part humans and abhumans accepted into the bosom of the Emperor... but the truth of such conversions of great controversy. Not popular... not common... most end badly," Father Al'Ashir shrugged, "But pure xenos... Al'Ashir could not say. The afterlife of men not for others. "

"I am not pure... xenos. Though Minbari by birth I now have human blood running through my veins," She chewed her lip "Would he consider me one of his?"

"Minbari can make a Minbari into a human," Al'Ashir stroked his beard, looking distinctly ill at the prospect, "Not sure... it is not for me to say. Some might say heresy, some might do harm. Al'Ashir not say. Only He can judge what is in soul. Only He can speak. Only you can listen."

"Does the Emperor speak to you," Lenneir probed politely.

"Al'Ashir had heard his voice," the priest nodded, "His will. It is His will that Al'Ashir is here, to teach, to learn. There is much confusion, many people who need his word. I will bring his word and his love to those who need it."

"I wish you luck father Al'Ashir," Lenneir bowed, "I would be honored to learn from you."

"And I would be honored to pray with both of you," Al'Ashir waved to the mass of bodies, "I do not know which of them the Emperor bring to paradise but I would appreciate your aid in praying for those who cannot. It not their fault for being xenos. We do not pick birth."

"Yes," Delenn coughed, only slightly insulted by the implication of "xenos inferiority." It was to be expected.

So the three sat, spoke, and prayed for hours. Delenn sunk deeper into meditative calm, seeking the wisdom of the universe and the salvation of the dead, listening to the sonorous words of the preacher and watching as he prostrated himself before the prayerbook. A curious mood overtook her as she stared into the eyes of the illustration and she could almost have sworn that the eyes turned to stare back at her, observing her with paternal interest.

But only for a moment before returning to prayers as Al'Ashir's furious ritual reached its climax.

"Ave Imperator," He whispered in reverence, "To your greatness we pray, Amen."

"Amen," Delenn repeated under her breath reflexively in the heat of the moment, thinking of piercing eyes and ominous providence. There was much to learn indeed. And, Valen willing, much to teach.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:52pm

The Library was impressive. Leather bound tomes and oilskin wrapped scrolls were shoved into every nook and cranny of the shelves, only hinting at the knowledge therein. It was the sort of place that didn't simply hold records of history, in a very real way it was intrinsically part of it. The furnishings, far apart from the sort of excessive opulence Captain Sáclair was prone too, were of the more subdued earthy skins of some leathery beast, perhaps a grox. Never one for spending too much time in libraries it seemed that the room had been saved from the excessive ornamentation the rest of the household suffered.

Daul stared across the low coffee table to the glaring redhead, more convinced that ever that he'd made the correct decision in apprenticing her. Her spirit would have been wasted rotting away in some dark cell. He pulled the power cell out of the handgun and tossed the now harmless weapon back to her, "Now, Miss Ivanova. You are going to listen to me."

"Why? Because you're some all powerful Inquisitor?" She said by way of scathing retort, "You're just an angry drunk who beats his slaves to feel better about himself."

"I was not at my best, that I admit," Daul sighed. It had been unnecessarily cruel to admonish Galut in the way he'd chosen too, "Liquor was a reason, but but no excuse for my behavior."

"Oh so 'I'm sorry' makes up for it?" Susan punched the table, scattering scrolls to the floor, "You crippled me for a better disguise."

"They did repair you to your full health did they not?" Daul considered the matter, "If I don't miss my guess you're an inch taller for your troubles."

Incensed, the woman screeched at the top of her lungs, balling her fists. It was only through sheer power of will that she did not leap across the table and attempt to throttle the Inquisitor.

"Now, we are going to have to discuss your training as an Inquisitor. There are many talents I'm sure your career in professional soldiery has given you, but you are woefully uneducated in so many other matters," Daul sighed. He would only be giving her a slipshod education at best but it was better than the alternative.

"We are not discussing anything. There is no we. There is no apprenticeship. There is no training," Susan stood up and walked to the center of the library, "I want nothing to do with this you lunatic."

Daul sighed and looked at her sympathetically, "Have the dreams started yet?"

Susan stiffened, her back still turned to him, "I haven't got a clue what you're talking about."

"You hear voices. Tempting voices. They offer you what you lack in life. Love, power, safety, health, or lost loved ones, promising you everything. But they feel wrong to you somehow," Susan turned around, looking at him in horror, "You reject them, so they show you terrible things that will happen to you for defying them. Every night you have the dreams and every night denying them is harder."

Susan clutched the six pointed star necklace hanging from her neck, "How do you know that?"

"Because they are mine... or they were before my master trained me to block them from my mind," Daul stood and walked over to Susan, placing his flesh and blood hand on her shoulder, "They lie to you Susan. Do not trust them."

"What are they?" Susan's voice was not friendly, but there was less bile.

"They are... demons," She shot him an incredulous glance but he was in no mood for her skepticism, "Do you doubt them when they claw at your dreams and boil your flesh for your defiance? No, you sit in bed afraid to sleep for fear that they will return."

She frowned, "Why do they want me?"

"Frankly they don't. You are only a means to an end," He shrugged, "They require a mortal to be complicit to enter our realm. To that end they gnaw at the minds of all psychics, though their ministrations are more transparent while we travel through the warp. As to why they are as insistent to get into your mind, it is because you have been in mine."

"But... I don't know anything important," the Alliance soldier assured him, "Nothing that would help them or harm you!"

"They don't know or care. You have something, which is enough for them to desire you," Daul shrugged, "Having any glimpse into my mind makes you dangerous. Too dangerous to allow you to run free without protection."

"Why do you want me to be your apprentice? Why..." She swallowed uncomfortably, "Why not just kill me?"

"Have you done anything to make me want you dead?" Daul sighed, "In truth, it is because of what I suspect you know. What you will feel, as I feel. Because the burden of it is too much for me to bear alone."

"But I don't..." Susan protested.

Daul snapped his fingers, silencing her with an effort of will, "What did I find in Gaal's fortress."

Susan's eyes bugged in her head as she associated visceral images with memory, the horrible truth of it coming to the forefront of her mind. She fell to her knees, and vomited, "What was that?"

"One of my memories," Daul sighed, "The one that occupies the forefront of my mind. You know it for the same reason I know that you have serious feelings for Miss Winters. We have a measure of each other's thoughts. I do not begin to guess how many of mine you have Miss Ivanova but any is too many, provided that I cannot ensure you can be trusted with them."

"How... I'm barely a P1, barely a psychic at all," Susan shivered as she stood up, wiping the sick from her lips with the back of her hand, "And those... god... what was that..."

"Miss Ivanova, psychic talent must be cultivated and practiced in order to reach its potential. If starved ones talents can atrophy. When your mother," He nodded at her look of shock, "Yes I know about your mother. When your mother disappeared I suspect you sabotaged your own gift. But it can be fixed, healed, improved."

"And you plan on keeping me as your apprentice till you're sure I can be trusted? What I'm supposed to just follow you around because you say so?" Susan ground her teeth together in fury, "Inquisitor I hate you."

Daul snapped his fingers and servo skull whipped from the ceiling down to Susan's rear, injecting her with a syringe at the base of her skull. Furious, Susan grabbed the machine and slammed it to the floor, shattering it into a thousand tiny pieces, "What the hell was that?"

"That was the implantation of an explosive at the base of your skull. Should you go farther than fifty yards away from me at any time or should I deem it necessary it will explode with sufficient force to ensure that none of my secrets are spread to anyone else," Daul waved to the seats, "Now, let us continue your education."

"You're a son of a bitch," Susan growled.

"It's been said before Miss Ivanova. It will be said again." He didn't want to have to resort to this but needs were musts, "But I doubt it will be necessary. In time you will even come to enjoy your position."

The woman stared daggers at him, "I will kill you one day. I will have my revenge."

"We will have our revenge," An afterimage of piles of broken bodies flashed in his mind, temporarily dragging him back in time, but only for a moment, "Martin did not deserve to die. My servants... my friends... Help me in getting Faust, Miss Ivanova and I will not hesitate to allow you to kill me."

Susan's eyes bugged as the name associate itself with the memory, a face to the mangled corpse. The love of a child for his parent and a parent for his child, of holiday mornings and bedtime stories. A lifetime of love gone in an instant. She stared at him a mix of pity and hatred in her eyes, "Fine, but not for you. For him... but I have a price."

Daul couldn't help but laugh at the audacity of it. She truly was perfect for the job, tenacious and brash, "You're in no place to bargain."

"Funny how I don't see it that way," The woman crossed her arms, refusing to budge, "I demand that you help me find the serial killer murdering Belzafester children. Ami doesn't seem to think its being dealt with properly."

Of all the request she could have made, this was possibly the least expected he could have imagined. He'd thought perhaps she'd request to wear her uniform or contact her government, or any number of other things he would have to deny. But finding a murderer of children, "Why miss Ivanova, it would be my absolute pleasure to comply."

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:52pm

Senator Hidoshi rubbed at the sleep in his eyes frustratedly, the danish he'd grabbed on the way to the Geneva complex nowhere near sufficient to silence the rumbles his stomach was making. Hopefully someone would have remembered to tell an intern to fetch something more substantial than coffee and pastries but with all the secrecy associated with the most recent defense meeting it seemed unlikely any food would be allowed at all for fear of listening devices.

He reached out and pressed the down button on the elevator, smiling exhaustedly at the man who was leaning against the wall and tapping a food impatiently, "Good morning Senator Lechner."

"Good morning," Lechner replied, looking down at his watch in confusion, "Good grief man, you called my office thirty minutes ago saying you were in the parking lot. How long does it take you to walk fifty feet?"

"ISN ambushed me outside asking questions, I couldn't get away from them without making it look like I had something to hide," Senator Hidoshi massaged his temples, "Which we can't afford at the moment."

"Blood suckers," Lechner sighed, "Do they know?"

"Haven't you watched the news today?" Hidoshi slipped into the already crowded elevator, nodding in acknowledgement of Senator Joyce and Senator Franken and exchanging greetings.

"No," Lechner rolled his neck, popping the bones of it and massaging the nape of it with his left hand, "I've been stuck in a closed meeting with the CdC. They've been planning contingency plans for if a disease crosses over from the Imperials."

"I though we cleared the Imperials?" Senator Joyce interjected between sips of coffee, looking up in genuine interest.

"No," Lechner sighed, "Their first contact party was wearing encounter suits at first, but since then it's just become a nightmare. We have truly no idea what new microbes have been introduced to the environment, till we do new quarantine procedures are going to have to be put in place for people who've been in contact with the Imperials."

"The trade unions won't like that, Babylon 5 is a major port," Franken winced. A large portion of his campaign funds came from commercial interests in that area, "It's going to be a problem."

"Not as big as a plague," Lechner turned back to Hidoshi, eager to change the conversation, "So what is it on the news that I'm supposed to have seen?"

"They have recordings of the battle on ISN," Senator Joyce supplied, swearing in frustration as his coffee burned the inside of his mouth, "Damn it! Just once I want them to serve coffee to me at a temperature normal human beings can drink."

"It's part of the charm of the cafeteria," Lechner provided sarcastically, "How bad of a PR situation is it?"

"Worse than you think," Franken patted the pocked of his jacket, his fingers tapping a box of cigarettes wistfully through the tweed of his jacket, "We've been able to convince ISN up till now to wait to air more than rumors till Earth manages to arrange a more permanent diplomatic situation but we've lost control of this. They've been talking about nothing else for the past six hours."

Hidoshi shrugged, "It's a recording of Earth Allaince Ships defending Babylon Five from a Vorlon attack, can you blame them? It's the first time I've ever heard of a Vorlon ship losing." How the recording survived the battle so wholly in tact and unaffected by the Vorlon electronic countermeasures was a matter of great debate but the recording was unquestionably genuine.

Hidoshi scrunched his eyes as a layer of green light swept across the occupants of the elevator, checking them for weapons. After a friendly affirmative chime the elevator slowed to a halt, opening into a long corridor sloping downwards.

Blinking the stars out of his eyes Franken led the way down the hallway, "I just wish we'd had some space between the public discovering that apparently humans evolved in more than one place in the universe before we have them punch the Vorlons in the schnoz right on our doorstep. People aren't dealing with it well."

"I admit, the more conservative base is... struggling to cope with the new revelation..." Lechner pushed open the wide door at the end of the hall, nodding to the guards and smiling pleasantly.

It was a gross understatement. The Earth centrists were eating each other alive. Some people were crying that the Imperials being human was an elaborate hoax, others were demanding answers for why they hadn't assisted against the Minbari and still others were claiming that the Earth Allaince ought to annex the Empire as soon as possible, never mind that the Earth Alliance didn't have the remotest clue where Imperial territory actually was. But arguing with Lechner over the semantics of it wouldn't be productive.

For the first time in his recent memory Senator Lechner was quite possibly the most valuable political ally in the room. It wouldn't do to antagonize him when he needed his support so badly in the immediate future, "I'm sure cool heads will prevail Senator."

Lechner's eyes roved around the room, assessing the defense sub-committee with critical unease, "We can only hope."

"No time like the present then lads," Senator Joyce flopped down into an open chair, "Lets get this bloody mess over with."

The Vice President looked up from the other side of the table, crossing his arms and scowling, "Ah, good of you to join us Senators, we were just finishing up discussing the issue at hand and we're about to put it to a vote."

"Which issue is that?" Senator Hidoshi sat in his chair and poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on the table.

"Don't be cute Hidoshi, stalling isn't going to make this any easier on your pet project," The Vice President blithely rejoined, "Our only agenda is obvious; the court martial of Captain John Sheridan."
Last edited by Todeswind on 2012-06-03 04:49am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-05-30 08:53pm

A/N: Another cell phone chapter, so please point out any errors you find.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by tortieconspiracy » 2012-06-02 03:35pm

Well, obvious mistake at the end of the last post: It's court martial.

Interesting use of Talia's secondary personality there. Kosh seemed less cryptic than usual. I wonder what Garibaldi is going to do with the revelation that Kosh was trying to protect the station from his own people?

As for Ivanova's kidnapping, did the Inquisitor plant false leads pointing at Bester, or was Bester up to something that just happened play out at the same time as the kidnapping and provided its own false leads?

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Robo Jesus » 2012-06-03 01:24pm

tortieconspiracy wrote:As for Ivanova's kidnapping, did the Inquisitor plant false leads pointing at Bester, or was Bester up to something that just happened play out at the same time as the kidnapping and provided its own false leads?

Anyways, getting back on track, the most common mistake I've seen is a lack of "quotation marks" at the start of almost all the speech portions in the text. Beyond that, there's also a lot of minor technical problems as well. For example, "Homo" is generally used to denote the "Human" Genus, ""Homo Sapiens" is used to describe "Humans in general", and "Homo Sapiens Sapiens" is the term used to descripe the current modern-day subspecies of humans. Additionally, 30,000 to 40,000 years is far too short a time for most populations to show radical genetic divergence from the human norm. Oh, there would definitely be differences, but not enough to say "You're another sub-species entirely." Of course, you can get around that issue in a lot of places with "Genetic Engineering", but even that will have limits on it.

Beyond that though, I'm enjoying this immensely. :mrgreen:
This is sickening... You sound like chapters from a self-help booklet! Prepare yourselves!

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-06-03 09:10pm

Yeah the lack of quotations is some sort of weird auto-formatting thing that happens does when you copy large sections of text. I keep meaning to go back and fix it but I never get around to it. Once the whole story is finished I intend to republish an edited copy of it that fixes the errors I've missed, but as at the moment my primary method of typing is via cell phone it isn't entirely practical for me to edit as much as I really ought to.
As to the second thing, the Dark Age of Technology marked a period of genetic manipulation and Eugenics. It isn't unreasonable to assume that there would be some notable differences.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Rycon67 » 2012-06-04 01:00pm

Nice update and good to see this story moving along nicely.

I must confess I have little knowledge of the 40k verse aside from token information I've read on the internet, so a lot of that I can't really offer any critisism one way or the other.

Overall though, you've got quite a story here, and I'm enjoying it so far.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-07-19 10:38am

A lot of people have been asking me questions about the Circle Must be Broken on various forums via review or PM and I just thought I'd clarify some answers to them here, rather than on FFN as I find long authors notes to be in bad taste.

1) Is the Captain of the Endless Bounty's name Sánclair or Sálclair?

Sáclair. Most of my typing is done on my cell phone and apparently my Autocorrect has a preset for the name Sánclair. I didn't notice the error in my chapter till after the fact and I've not had a free moment to correct the spelling error on a computer not beholden to Autoccorect.

2) Are the Imperials in the Past or in another Dimension?


3) 2 Meters seems short for an Ogryn. Shouldn't Galut be 2.5-3 meters tall?

Galut's growth was stunted by improper nutrition and the various environmental hazards natural to spaceship life, compared to other Ogryn he is a bit of a runt. As are all the Ogryn onboard the Endless Bounty.

4) Wait... you really typed that on a Cell Phone?

Yes I did. My chapters are written and edited to and from my apartment on my hour long bus ride between my place of residence and my work in Rural Japan. Thus the very common spelling and grammar errors that I'm deeply embarrassed to see in my own "published" product.

5) What type of ship is the Endless Bounty / how powerful is it?

The Endless Bounty is, though roughly the same size as a lunar class cruiser, only sightly more combat capable than two cobra class escorts. It's a merchant ship not a warship. Daul chose it because he'd lost all his other military holdings and it was the fastest ship he could take to Belzafast.

6) BS how the hell did the Endless Bounty beat a shadow battle crab and Vorlon Waships?

By cheating and luck essentially. The Shadow ship was not at peak efficiency for reasons that will be explained later in the plot and the Vorlon Ship was shot with some retrofitted missiles used for destroying entire cities, smaller scale versions used by the Military for preforming the destruction of planets.

And remember they only destroyed the Vorlon's ships. You can't actually kill a Vorlon, only piss them off.

7) Vorlons don't bleed.

Funny isn't it? It's almost like I was hinting at something later in the plot.

8) Why wasn't Kerrigan disgusted when she discovered the AI onboard B5? Shouldn't she hate it as an Admech?

It isn't as though she'd seen a whole bunch of Ai's prior in her career to make that judgment off of, as far as she knew at that moment she was just dealing with a complex VI. And frankly, the Magos exiled as a heretic is perhaps not the most "standard" of thinkers with respect to their rules.

9) Why didn't the Void shields on the bounty just shunt the damage inflicted into the warp?

Kerrigan made some non standard modifications the the Endless Bounty's shields to make them more dynamic in order to integrate the tele porter into the systems of the Endless Bounty.

10) Is Kosh insane? Why would he try to kill Daul?

To save him, of course.

11) Is the warp thirdspace?

Yes it is.

12) Why were the Starfury fighters able to keep up with Jumbo Jet sized fighters?

Because they weren't Jumbo Jet sized fighters. The Endless Bounty was only commissioned as the Inquisitors personal ship relatively recently, up till that point it's contingent of fighters was substantially below military grade. The Endless bounty's fighters were only around the size of valkaries or marauder bombers.

13) Why did Daul fall prey to Mr. Morden's suggestions when the Narn Ambassador was able to ignore them?

Because Daul Hilder is a deeply flawed person and prone to bouts of barely controlled anger. He's surprisingly easy to goad, which is partly why Sáclair enjoys doing it so damn much.

14) Is English your first language?

Yes and no. German was the first language I learned, but living in the States essentially purged it from my mind. I can fluently speak English and Spanish, passably speak Japanese, and I can understand German, French, Italian, and Portugese though I don't trust in my ability to speak the latter four.

15) Wait... did you actually write up a Gothic Language or are you just writing gibberish when the Imperials speak?

One? Why settle for one? And no I'm not joking.

I generated three separate Gothic languages for "High", "Low" and "Middle" Gothic but they're all variations on latin grammar interposed with European vocabulary substations (mostly german and eastern european languages). Everything the Imperials say is entirely relevant to the plot and some of it actually gives away major plot information.

16) So what is Bast Hilder? A Ghost? A demon? The Emperor? What?

Bast Hilder is not a dream and not Daul going insane.

17) How do the Eldar and Lorien fit in to your storyline?

I have plans. Big plans, for both.

18) Isn't Daul's retinue a bit small?

Most of them were either killed by the Tyranids or slaughtered defending the fortress of his mentor Martin Gaal. Cairn, Dorn, and the Kroot were only with Daul by pure co-incidence when he met up with Sáclair after the Endless Bounty to pick up some specialized gear he'd commissioned Kerrigan to make. By all accounts he should have died with them, but he chose to finish the task himself rather then send Cairn alone on a whim.

19) Why did you wait six chapters for the actual crossover?

I didn't. Trust me, there is a big reveal coming that will blow your mind, even by the standards of what I usually toss you in terms of plot twists. I've been hinting at it since the second chapter.

20) When is the next update coming?

When it's finished. And not a second before.

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Re: The Circle Must Be Broken (40k / B5)

Post by Todeswind » 2012-08-03 07:19pm

The nightmares came, as they always did. Memories of the worst moments imaginable: a single fragment of Susan's many borrowed nightmares. She dreamed in terrifying episodes of stolen horror and sound, ruptured echoes only half-remembered in their malformed splendor. It was not her fear, her unease - it was his, the Inquisitor’s. Daul's fear, and Daul's terror.

Daul had trained her to guard her mind against the predations of warp creatures as she slept, but protecting herself from demons of one sort only brought about demons of another. Daul's past echoed in her mind,her mental defenses useless against her stolen memories.

Aliens and eldritch monstrosities snickered and snapped at her heels, fighting her at every turn. The dreams had made sleep a battle as terrible as the one she fought while awake. It was not wading through the muck and mire of war trenches in some long gone battle, not the darkest of demons nor the charnel house of a an alien's monstrous appetites.

But it kept coming back to the house and the man.

The dream was always the same, the same place with the same victims. The house, the smells, Metzik. Susan hadn't ever been to Metzik, but she knew that the homely woodsman's house was larger than it strictly needed to be for Daul's family. Nor had she witnessed the Skur'nek birds that used to roost beneath the wide window boxes of flowers that Daul's mother arranged, but she knew it all the same. Its familiarity only served to make its deep homeliness more alien to her, aided and abetted by the creeping horror which she knew Daul felt every time he laid eyes on the building.

Other dreams passed as whispering and easily-forgotten bursts of terror, but not this one. She would sit for what felt like hours just staring at the door, too terrified to enter. Something terrible lived in that house now, something wrong and evil: a monster beyond contempt, and beyond hatred. Susan didn't know what it was or why it was there, only the creeping and unformed fear that a child had for what she knew lay in the shadows.

She knew what came next, but continued through the motions as she had every time before. Her body floated across the dreamscape like through some sort of fluid, not walking so much as gliding. As the high pitched howls of the women inside hit a crescendo, she willed her body to go faster, urging her phantom limbs forward to little effect. She could only hover forwards as first the mother, then the eldest daughter, then the middle daughter screamed in betrayed disbelief as the life was cut out of them.

It was only after the sound of the youngest daughter's squeals, high pitched and uncomprehending like the squeals of a piglet, squelched into silence with the crash of snapping jaws that her body responded as she knew it ought to. She bashed in the door with a kick she doubted her physical body could have managed, reflexively grabbing the wide woodsman's axe from where she knew it had been left next to the door.

The creature had to die.

The first time that she'd walked in, she'd been so furious she hadn't thought to bring a weapon. The beast had slaughtered her, waking her up from the dream terrified and sobbing. She hadn't made that mistake again. Every time the dream came, she fought the beast. Every time, the beast killed her. But she would be damned before she gave up and let herself give up because of a bad dream.

Susan inched her way forward with slow and careful steps, keeping to the shadows and taking care not to step on the creaky floor board as she crept up the back step. Susan took care not to look at the photos or paintings on the wall for fear of being crippled by an errant memory. Too much of Daul was wrapped up in this house.

Too much was bound to the last place he'd ever felt safe.

In the distance, she knew a little boy would be crying down skinny cheeks and doing his best to hide himself behind his own knobbly knees. It had taken her a few trips through the dream to realize who he was. The memory of Daul as a child was unrecognizable from what he'd become, especially after melting in her cradled arms as she tried in vain to cary the sobbing child to safety.

She hated the Inquisitor, but she couldn't bring herself to hate this little boy enough to let the monster have him.

But she couldn't put herself between him and it, not yet. Facing the creature head on hadn't worked. Running hadn't worked. A dozen plans so far had ended in bloody failure. It was time to use the creature's own ego against it. So Susan bit her lip and ignored every instinct in her body as she listened to the disgusting creature prowl forwards on its lanky legs, dragging its protruding belly along the ground behind it with loping jerks of its skeletally elongated fingers.

Unhindered by Susan's intervention, the creature stuck its head into the boy's room, cackling with barely restrained ecstasy. It slapped hands on the white paint of the walls, still dripping red from the slaughter below, defiling the symbols of worship on either side of the door with incalculable spite. “Daul.... are we playing games now, Daul? Daddy likes games.”

Susan's breath caught in her throat, rushing up with the taste of bile and regret. No, it wasn't time yet. She needed to be sure it wouldn't be able to strike back at her with those taloned fingers. The boy would have to endure a little longer. She knew he wasn't real, but somehow that didn't seem to matter to her as she endured a tiny, keening sob from where she knew the boy hid.

"Why don't we play a game Daddy likes? Do you want to play the game Daddy and Mommy just played? I promise we'll only do it once," it cackled to itself as it tore the clothes in Daul's closet to shreds. Susan swooned as she made the mistake of staring at a ruined sweater and was briefly overpowered with a warm memory of the woman who'd knitted it. The smiling apple cheeked woman whose entrails now decorated the downstairs landing hit her in the heart like a sledgehammer, mingling with her own dull memories of having a mother.

"Or do you want to play a game of hide and seek? Oh, what a naughty child you are for hiding from daddy,” The creature continued its pretense of searching, apparently oblivious to Susan, "Remember... Daddy loves you, doesn't he?" More laughter followed.

Oh yeah. It needed to die.

Susan crept behind the creature as it began its final speech, making her way to the door's narrow opening. She slowly took one step, then another, not daring to even breathe for fear that the noise might alert the beast to her presence. The creature was strong, but dull witted and easily distracted despite its agile ferocity. She'd nearly escaped it once by doubling back to the cottage five miles into the dense forrest of Metzik until the boy had whimpered loudly in fear.

First one step, then two: she crept closer and closer as the beast continued its cruel game of cat and mouse, “Here's some new rules to the game. Daddy finds you, and we play a game he likes. Daddy doesn't find you and you get to leave?”

A small voice hiccuped in fear just behind the creature, the softand heartbreaking whimper of a horrified child. “Only a few more seconds,” Susan reminded herself silently, “You only need to keep him busy for a few more seconds.”

Seconds passed as the creature stood in the center of the room, raving incoherently till it grew bored of its own speeches. Susan ducked behind the door frame, clutching the axe to her breast as the creature turned to face her, only missing her by moments. She held her breath and listened as it came closer to her.

Drag-thump, drag-thump, drag-thump: inch by inch, moment by moment till the creature's flaring nostrils just poked past the door, spraying a thin mist of caustic smoke as the creature hissed in snorting laughter in its moment of victory. Its triumph turned to disbelief as Susan spun on her heel, driving the axe's cold iron blade between the creature's nostrils, splitting the creature's head with a gratifying splatter of thick blood upon the floor.

It howled piteously and hissed a sibilant plea: “Mercy.”

But there would be none, not for this thing. Bellowing furious staccato screams of fury, she beat the creature till her body refused to continue, covering herself with the creature's entrails with each collision of the blade. She swung till the axe fell from her tired fingers, cold iron blade still sizzling with unnatural flashes of breaking ether.

She collapsed to the floor, sobbing with exhaustion and pent-up emotions, staring at the blood coating her fingers and willing her petrified hands to relax. It was over. She'd won. Fear and adrenaline twisted into glorious hysteria as she rocked on her knees whooping in victory, “First rule of Babylon 5, do not mess with Susan-fragging-Ivanova!”

Brushing the bigger bits of monster from her chest, Susan called out to the huddled boy behind the bed, “It's're safe.”

She stood up and took a tentative step in the boy's direction, wobbling uneasily on tired legs. It was only a dream, and she could control a dream. She told herself to forget how her legs would operate in normal life: just will them to work and they should work. She rambled semi-coherently to herself, “Come on Ivanova, you just killed the monster. Walking between here and the bed should be child's play.”

She did, and they didn't. Her imagination, suffering from the unfortunate fate of the pragmatist, was apparently hopelessly bound to reality. Her feet stayed fixed in place as she called out again, “Come on Daul. It's over, you're safe.”

A sad little boy with a tear-stained face stood up from behind the bed,a stuffed animal clutched to his chest. With a sad little sigh and a shake of his head, the child stared at her with eyes, piercing and sad like those of the Daul she knew. “Miss Ivanova. It's never over.”

And with that simple pronouncement, the world shifted. Tentacles erupted from the blood and gore around her. Malodorous hunks of sinew, tooth, and bone formed manacles, binding her arms and legs before she could reach for the axe. Horrified, Susan yelled, “Daul! Daul, what are you doing?”

The child scrunched his eyes and tore the stuffed creature in half. He screamed in agony, “It. Is. Never. Over.”

Tiny hands dropped the ripped animal and reached out for her, pleading, begging, but never reaching. The child's body fell apart at the seams, breaking into bits and pieces of charnel. Hot, sticky blood seeped from the pile of meat, covering the room in a thick wave of red, an ocean of blood full of floating bodies.

A sea of bodies drifted in endless stacks around her. Pretty, ugly, rich, poor, human, alien: all were equal in death. They all stared at her with glassy-eyed expressions of betrayal, demanding that she explain why she hadn't saved them. Bodies piled out for eternity centered around the ruined pile of a broken little boy, laid beneath the crucified remains of an old man.

Names, places, wars, conflicts, betrayals, mistakes, victories, joys, sorrows: all were soaked in the blood of a billion victims crying for justice. A billion names screamed in pain and fear, and Susan scrunched her eyes shut so she didn't have to see the child's detached lips still howling, “It never ends! Why will it never end? Throne, let it finish! Please save me.”

Susan struggled with her manacles, whispering incoherent platitudes. “I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. I tried to save you, I tried. I just can't.”

"A man has to save himself,” whispered an earthy voice in her ear as a firm hand grasped her around the waist, “You can't force a man to be another man, though I'll be damned if you women don't try.”

Before Susan could so much as blurt out a “Who are you?” the strong arm had yanked her backwards through a hole in space, jerking her from the endless charnel piles and into a rather homey-looking kitchen. Dizziness overtook her, forcing her into one of the chairs next to the hearth.

An old man in coveralls walked out from the tear in space, zipping it shut and shoving the glowing ball of energy into a thick sack-cloth bag. Deft fingers tied the shimmering string into an impossible knot, trapping the nightmare inside. With a final grunt of satisfaction the man pitched the parcel into the fireplace, burning it to cinders before shooting Susan a disgusted look. “Dreams were never meant to be borrowed.”

"I didn't mean to,” Susan whispered, trying not to drip blood on the white linen tablecloth, “It wasn't really...”

"It never is,” The old man stretched out his hands, lacing the fingers together with a fleshy popping of joints, “But meaning to do right and doing right aren't the same, and they aren't always obvious. What were you thinking in there?”

"I was going to save him,” Susan coughed, spitting up someone else's blood on the clean floor. The red liquid sizzled and spat on hard-wood surface, scarring it black. “I wanted to save him.”

"Doesn't seem to me that he's given you much of a reason to want to save him,” The man patted his breast pocket, grumbling in a language she vaguely recognized as the language of the northern continent. “Odd choice, really.”

"It was the right thing to do,” Susan shrugged. She could no more have left a child to suffer than cut off her own foot. “So I did it.”

"The right thing to do,” The old man chortled, though if it were in approval or incredulity she couldn't say. He barked out a quick laugh. “Yes, you'll do nicely.”

Before Susan could ask exactly what he expected her to “do nicely” the man fished a long wooden something out of his pocket and waved vaguely behind Susan, “I swear, a pipe always hides when I need it,” he announced to the tiny kitchen. He sniffed the air twice, before wrinkling his nose and asking, “You mind washing up in the basin? I'm not one for bad manners, and it's terribly rude to imply a lady isn't at her best, but I believe that shade of ichor doesn't suit your complexion.”

Before she could rationalize the futility of washing up to look nicer in a dream, Susan realized that she'd already started walking to the basin, wiping the mess from her face and hair with an embroidered white dish towel. And crazy though it was, doing so helped her feel cleaner. More than simple physical grime, she felt the guilt, the stress and the worry of the past week washing away as she scrubbed.

She scraped away the last of the mess and looked down at the basin,expecting to see foul water and a dirty rag, only to discover a spotless basin of clear water and a cloth just as white and clean as she'd started with. The old man ruffled her hair playfully, “Child, you're in a dream. Belief guides reality. You can achieve anything you believe in your own dreams.”

"I couldn't beat it,” Susan growled. There was no need to elaborate what “it” was; the glow of the nightmare still pulsed in the old man's pocket. “How does belief figure into that?”

"Think,” the man said, tapping his forehead with his middle and index finger, “Why is it that none of you think before you act.”

"I did think. I thought of every way that creature could be killed. I tried every absurd, outrageous and exaggerated plan to kill it. None of them worked,” Susan blinked as an absurdly simple thought occurred to her, “But it didn't matter, did it?”

"No,” the old man shook his head sympathetically, comfortingly patting her on the shoulder, “It wasn't your demon to face. Wasn't your past to overcome.”

"But the nightmares will come back?” Susan sighed, “I know it will.”

"If you finish your training, without a doubt,” sighed the old man. He grinned fondly and whispered into her ear, “But not for a while. Not 'till you have demons enough of your own for this one to seem like a blessing.”

And then, as fast as the dream came, it disappeared into an incoherent mess of darkness and shadows. The nightmare of bodies and the simple, homely kitchen shimmered into fleeting dreams without consequence or comprehension, devoid of importance. They spirited her along for hours of confused dreaming until her servant, deeming her tardy for her morning ablution, startled her into action with the weight of a silver tea tray and an Inquisitorial summons.

Hilder, it always came back to Hilder.


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