The Rainwalkers

Sometimes Scars Can Whisper
Sometimes they are deafening

I find Emir in his quarters on the morning of the last day in the warp. It's always a risk to cover my eye while traveling, but I have to know.

The room has a comforting familiarity – the smell of smoke and alcohol and dust, a feeling of space and emptiness. Not unlike Emir at this moment. As I draw closer I can hear him breathing. Harsh, ragged, like he's been injured.

"What happened, Emir?"

He grunts dismissively. Normally that would be all I would get out of him.

"Since you asked so nicely," he begins, "I had a dream. Except this time I was uh, sleepwalking, I guess you could say. A couple people got shot."

My own breath freezes in my throat. "Was anyone killed?" I manage to choke out.

"Nah." He inhales again as if to say more, then falls silent.

"Does it hurt?"

"Always."

I've always felt a certain kinship with Emir. I can't help but be aware of the soft, pulsing energy his mark gives off, like how my own scars throb when I wake from a nightmare. We are both marked, he with a twisted facsimile of a star, and I with a twisted facsimile of an eye. Then, perhaps…

I inch closer and drop my voice, aware of the guard posted near the door.

"Did you hear the voices?"

A moment of recognition, then, "They weren't saying anything. Just screaming. That's how it is in the trenches."

I return to my room with a mounting sense of loss and loneliness. The ghosts of the past often speak to me in dreams, as I suppose they must for Emir and others. They murmur and they shriek, railing against their senescence, ensuring they aren't forgotten. But the hissing whispers I hear in my waking moments seem to come directly from the warp, and the only one recognizable is the tremulous cadence of my own voice.

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Power
In others we find strength

The galaxy is bathed in conflict and blood. Across the stars, the enemies of the imperium froth and rage at every gate, every wall and window. It is with only through great sacrifice of exceptional lives that the light of the Emperor continues to shine, a beacon in the encroaching dark. They act selflessly, in the service of those who cannot act for themselves; both weak and strong.

 

Others.

 

It is through others we have power. Whether through their service or in it, whether from their oppression or from their liberation, it is both from them and for them that we gather our might. The strength of one is nothing, unless it is added to by many. Bolstered by the calls of honored comrades or hardened by the whispers of the weeping dead. For the untold billions screaming in the cosmos, or the warm smiles of the family at your back. It does not matter from where it comes, but power comes from others.

I find my malaise broken by others; my body clad in the armor of their own faith even when my had faltered. It gleams with our resolve, plain steel in the night. I am no longer a tool of the Ecclesiarchy, and their chains will no longer confine me. I will do their job, with or without their graces. With the armor of others, I shall wade into battle. With the flame of their faith, I shall burn our enemies. With the power of their voice, I shall enact their wrath. I am beholden only to my wandering family. No longer will the rules of entitled bureaucrats and sneering politicians guide my hand. The path will always be soaked in crimson and madness, but now I will walk it so others need not. For shattered houses and broken families. For star bound treasures and twisted relics. For the empire or in defiance of it, I am the keeper of the Titansbane. Guardian to the Rain Walkers. The Crimson punisher of the Merchants Hand. No longer am I Inaja Svetkov, survivor of Skir.

I am Inaja Wrathblood; Butcher of the Titansbane.

 

E pluribus unum

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Kayp Log 34-
Dont call her "Not Janae". Call her by her name.

Her hair used to be short.. Now it looked to be about waist length. The color was the same beautiful silver but it shimmered with the neon green of the liquid around her. Her eyes were closed and she looked to be asleep. Her face was neutral.. Not quite peaceful but not in pain. I had to get her out! But my body wasn't responding. I stood with the concrete block shacked around my feet.

 

“But she is dead!” I heard the shout but didn't register who spoke. More voices joined the chorus… Louder and louder.

 

“Let the dead stay dead!” Emir.

 

“She was born a weapon.. so was I.” Krieger.

 

“Lets take her with us..” Zarko.

 

“Kill it now.” This voice sounded louder than the rest. Their words echoed in my mind, with every echo, a stab from a dagger into my heart.

 

I stared at Nyx with wide eyes unable to move, unable to breathe.

 

“Do it!”

 

I raised my eyebrows and looked around the room trying to see who he was speaking to. No one moved.

 

This was not Janae… But this was still a life.

 

“Why are we killing a little girl?” I looked from face to face demanding an answer.

 

“We are not.” Inaja took hold of his hammer and slammed the butt of it into the panel at the front of the tank. The little girl with Janae’s face slid roughly to the ground, and the chains around me shattered, and I dove forward to lift her up from the ground. Krieger suddenly appeared beside me and gently put the girl over one shoulder.

 

 

“Kill it now.”

 

I shook my head to chase away the rogue thought. I hadn’t been able to look at Nyx since those bone chilling words froze my heart. He didn't mean it. He couldn't have. He was in shock. Nothing more.

 

The girl was crouched on the floor. Her long hair hung tangled and plastered to her face. I resisted the urge to sweep a lock of hair away from her wild, big blue eyes not wanting to frighten her anymore than she was already. She really needed a bath.

 

This isn’t Janae. You don't know her and she doesn't know you…

 

I was needed on the bridge but I couldn't pull myself away. Not yet. I crouched down in front of the girl and offered her a cookie.

 

“She doesn’t know how to do anything. Heavens knows how long she has been in a tank.” One of the infirmary nurses informed me trying to tend to the girl.

 

I barely registered Sigmund’s stern gaze as he stood at a distance, no doubt judging the girl’s fate.

 

“She is no danger to us. She cannot manifest anything in this weakened state.” I heard Nyx inform him quietly.

 

I pretended not hear, and took a bite of cookie for myself, then offered it to the girl again. She stared at the cookie almost unseeing. She didn't look at anyone she didn't look at me.

 

“Kayp, we need you on bridge.” My microbead chirped in my ear. I reluctantly stood to run down the corridor, glancing back at the girl for a moment.

 

I don’t know who you are yet. But I will do anything to protect you.

 

 

*

 

“Kill it now.”

 

I squeezed my eyes shut for a moment to block out the memory. I couldn't get the echo out of my head. It was burned there like a scar that wouldn't heal or fade.

 

It had to heal.

 

Nyx wouldn't really kill an innocent child.

 

 

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And I'll Huff, and I'll Puff...
And I'll mow these hoes down

We made it to the ad-mech outpost near the star. Quizitrax Brom met us shortly after arrival. She informed us that Exter was gone, with no word on how soon he would return, but she gave us coordinates that were related to his current research. We went to the location and emerged in the midst of a battle with a Tyrannid fleet. All included in the battle had been dead for a long time, hundreds of years at least. "Dead" isn't necessarily the right word regarding the Tyrannid forces I guess, but they were all… frozen. They still seemed to respond to external sources, like if we shot or stabbed them, but all the responses were in pain. As we made our way through one of the cruisers, and into the Tyrannid "ship", we discovered the source. A psyker, who looked just barely recognizeable, had enclosed himself and what seems to be the hivemind of that fleet, in a giant crystal. Freeing him would probably have awakened the Tyrannid, not something we felt like dealing with, not that we could had we wanted to. He made his choice, I'm sure he knew what that choice would mean. We left, back to Brom with our findings.

We filled Brom in and she immediately took control of the situation, Exter's station apparently under question. We discovered countless cloning tanks. Everyone started freaking out so I assume that these were similar to the tanks the Titansbane genestealers were in.

And then we saw her. Janae. Inside one of the tanks. She looked like the psyker from the Tyrannid battle, explains why he looked familiar. Distant relative or something I guess. We looked over his logs, and discovered he's trying to build an army of psykers that can stop the Tyrannid. This is huge, and could save countless lives. They obviously have relevancy in fights outside of Tyrannid, if Rain was any indication. Exter had taken to Footfall to secure Janoor, we had to get there to protect her.

But what if we don't save her? What if we let Exter do what needs to be done? It could save billions of lives. We could end galaxy-spanning wars. 

"We'll backup all his research in case there's anything important," Brom said, snapping me out of my thoughts.

Well that solves that. Let's go kill him.

"Kill her," someone said, snapping me back from my thoughts.

"Agreed," said someone else, I can't remember who.

Kayp was starting to get visibly upset at the prospect, and it was obvious she didn't want us to go through with it. Janae looked terrified, it seems she could understand us.

"Let's take her with us. Worst case we can deal with her later," I said. Krieger agreeing shortly after.

After little hesitation, the rest of the group agreed and we released her from the tank. Nyx assured us that in Janae's current state, she was no threat to anyone anyway, let's hope she was right.

We made it to Footfall, and the familiar sight of fire and smoke over Zulfikar's. He always seems to be at the center of all the shit. We busted in to his place, and there was Exter, draining Janoor of her blood, it looked as if he had only just recently started.

From behind his war table Zulfikar screamed, "Zarko! The door!"

I levelled my lascannon, and blasted the door open.

Zulfikar went in. And then he came back out.

In fucking Space Wolf armor. Apparently he's one of Leman Russ' men. I think if it were anyone else I'd be surprised.

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Nemo

Once upon a time, I was the emperor’s enforcer. I laid low his enemies and sang his chants to their corpses. I pulled free from my world and was given purpose in his name. I never wanted anything more, to be honest.

The men of the Ecclesiarchy were always weary of me, a xenos. I was trained none the less, and I wore my grandfathers armor with a growing sense of pride. I had reclaimed it from a sign of tyranny, making it an instrument of vengeance. It was a part of me, and it made me part of something more.  A literal relic of my own past as well as the empire, it was a symbol of my origins and my vision. I always thought I would meet my end in this armor. That I would fall, finally, in a final act in his name. Its purpose, and mine, would be complete.

And now, with no armor, symbol or faith, what have I become? What is my purpose? Is there one, anymore? Do I wander the cosmos, killing for a ship of thieves and outcasts?  The family I have grown to love, and which I laid down my life for? For now, as I look in the mirror and see myself laid bare, I do not know if I can. 

Am I nothing?

The armor was more than its protection, and a missionary was more than a profession. Both were the engine of my strength. As I sit in this room, magnificent even in the darkness, I exhale my spirit with each smoking breath. I feel know the true empty void of space and time around me, with the light of the emperor slowly drowning in each bottle of my sorrows. Merely at the word of a small man in a broken port, my world has collapsed. I embraced it fully, and my heart breaks. One well placed lie in a litany of truths, and so it has ended. I sit here, trembling with my rage and confusion. How can one man decide such a fate? One order undoing a lifetime of service? Do I fight to reclaim this? Do I walk a new path? The future is so uncertain for me, and there are so many directions to go.

 

But for now I am tired, and I am alone.

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Kayp Log 33
Trying to keep all I care about

“No.”

 

“Nyx, please.”

 

“I said NO.”

 

I closed my eyes briefly in frustration and took a breath. “Please just wait for me back in the other room. He wont hurt me.”

 

For a split second, I thought I saw a flash of pain behind that stubborn, strong and beautiful face.

 

“Fine..” he said curtly, spinning on his heel to walk way.

 

Crap.. Id have to fix that later.


*

Large windows loomed ahead floor to ceiling. Outside, a sun caused fiery rays creating long shadows behind the objects in the hallway. A lone figure stood at the window, I wondered if he watched the twinkling stars or only saw void. Stepping out into the hallway, I hesitated for a moment second-guessing if coming here was a good idea.

 

The image of the thrown datapad on her glass case flashed in my memory. The streak from the warm battery wiping away frost from the crystal, clear preserving case, revealing her serene and perfect face and long flowing hair.

 

“You can stop grieving old man; lay her body to rest. You cant control the universe..”


*

Zulfikar stood alone. His hand pressed to the bridge of his nose for a moment before standing straight again standing vigil in front of the window. I approached quietly and stood beside him saying nothing for a moment.

 

“Kayp.” He said, not looking at me.

 

I bit my lip and glanced a quick look at him before also returning my gaze straight ahead willing the stars to guide my words as I tried to console the hurting man beside me. “Is there anything I can do?”

 

He took a deep breath, seemingly caught off guard for a moment. Our eyes slowly following the lazy ships outside, floating along like fish in the ocean. “There is nothing you can do..” he said, gruffly but not unkind.

 

“Who can?” I asked quietly, tilting my head to one side, frowning.

“I have been asking myself the same question.” We both fell in silence for another moment before he continued, “If you want to do something for me, get your brother away from Killian Rage..”

 

The familiar tug inside of me pulled, and I tried to push away the internal battle between the loyalty of Zulfikar and irrational trust of Killian Rage.

 

He turned to face me. “Where is Nyx?”

 

I knotted my fingers awkwardly a tilted my head in the direction of the hallway. “I asked him to wait for me in the other room.”

 

His eyes slowly went to the wall almost as if he could see his daughter and the man I love in the other room. He returned his gaze to me. “The world and scary, Kayp. Keep your loved ones close.” He turned back to the window.

 

Silence returned and Zulfikar drifted away in his thoughts once more. I turned to leave and gently touched his arm trying to take some of the burden of his pain. He returned the gesture with a fatherly pat on the shoulder.

 

I had an odd feeling as I walked down the hallway to Nyx. I had no real reason to trust Killian Rage.. I owed him nothing but felt like I couldn't just shun him away because of the pain and misfortune of the past. I also couldn't bring myself to openly defy Zulfikar. Why did I feel like letting him down would be a huge blow to my heart? I was confused as a whirlwind of emotions cycled around and around my thoughts. I hoped I could hold on to them all. I hoped I wouldn't be torn away from anyone I cared for.

*

“We killed this man!”

 

Inaja was in a rage. Everyone stood in the cargo bay, transports standing by and loud angry voices were bouncing around the high walls.

 

“There is no problem.” Krieger said matter of factly, her gasmask unclipped, and her serious expression speaking louder than her words. I shot her a suspicious look. What does that mean..

 

“Ve cannot sweep this under rug!” Inaja looked like he was about to pounce on the nearest person to breath wrong and Krieger was the closest to the fury..

 

“I will speak.”

 

Her words stirred unease within me. What was she planning? She was our protector but if she took this bullet. We would never see her again. I shifted unsettled as the conversation spun from the demise of Grimwaldus to the slaughter of Yurath.

 

“Who gave the order?” Inaja challenged the room.

 

“We need to tread carefully. If whispers of Yurath were to-“ Sigmund addressed Krieger, ignoring Inaja.

 

WHO GAVE THE ORDER?!” Inaja bellowed his fur on end and his muscles bulging in rage.

 

If I were alone, I would have bolted.

 

“I did!” Krieger and Sigmund said in union defiantly.

 

I looked from one to another with wide eyes, relieved to be standing unnoticed from the circle of soldiers.

 

“I have a plan.” Krieger said coldly.

 

The rest was a blur of shouting, planning, and anger. I couldn't imagine what Nyx was feeling in this fueled fire of emotion packed in a single room. Eventually they came to a breaking point and each man turned about face and stormed off from one another. I guess a plan had been formulated. Inaja would lead, followed with Krieger’s sway with inquisitor resources; last resort, Sigmund had his duel blades close at hand. I hesitated for a moment in fear of my family tearing each other apart or sacrificing themselves and never being seen again. I clenched my fists in determination and frustration and took off after Krieger.

 

Catching up with her at her quarters I exploded in frustration and fear. I punched her chest angrily and shouted, ”I don't know what your plan is but you are NOT sacrificing yourself on our behalf! We cannot do it without you in the void!”

 

Then quickly before she could see my tears I left.

*
 

Everyone departed in different vehicles. I sat in the driver seat anxiously tapping the steering wheel with Zarko in the backseat and Krieger smoking a lowstick leaning against the vehicle. We kept out of view as we watched Inaja enter the building of the Ecclesiarchy. I worried we might have to fight our way in to retrieve him.. or the slight possibility of never seeing him alive again.

 

How much did they know? Was this a trap for information?

 

 

I let out a breath of relief as Inaja emerged after a time. His armor was stripped, as was the fire that seemed to dwell within just hours ago. He seemed like a wounded animal. No pun intended. They must have stripped his Ecclesiarchy status and excommunicated him from the sanction. He took the fall for us and Krieger. If Krieger confessed to her crime… She likely would not have come out with her life.

 

“Having a nice walk?” he said sarcastically to Krieger. I was relieved at his jab. I think he would be okay with time..

*

“What do you know of the tanks?”

 

I stood from my pandai’s food bowl in the technomat and turned quizzically to Sigmund. “What?”

 

“The cloning tanks. What do you know about them?”

 

Genestealers…

 

 I cant move…. Krieger, I’m going to die…

 

I shivered and put the memory out of my mind. Trying to focus on the cloning tanks. I recounted their cold exterior, their foreboding feeling of dread, and their complicated workings.

 

“They were installed and set on a timer to open and release.” I said finally.

 

“How long were they onboard?” He said watching my pandai with unseeing eyes. I could tell he was deeply thinking about something.

 

“They were here about a year.” I said completely confident.

 

“When did our ship become outfitted?”

 

“A year..” I said frowning.

 

“Who did it?”

 

“Zulfikar.” I said frowning, thinking hard. “… OH!”

 

He nodded and retreated seeming ly gotten all the information I needed.

 

“Fuck!” I looked around me horrified. The technomat was installed at the same time. Could it be? Was someone spying on us, using my technomat as a source of information?

 

I looked around in despair and quickly started disassembling everything I could get my hands on. The same marking from the outside of the cloning tanks was etched inside the technomat. Every piece bare the same markings. I felt as though everything I thought was safe was ripped away. The carpet firmly beneath my feet getting pulled out and throwing me into a pit of spikes. Wide eyes I gazed around the mess I had made of my technomat. There was so much I needed to check and inspect. My eyes moved from object to object around the room and my pandai batted at a piece of control panel in the corner.. I stared at him in horror… He had arrived with the technomat….

 

“No…” I whispered, my heart splintering off and my stomach twisting into a knot.

 

Wrestling with my alarmed pandai I crammed him into a backpack and snuck him into the infirmary.

 

“Please God, no…” I whispered barely audible as I ran the x-ray machine with the pandai inside. My heart hammered in my chest as I checked for my biggest fear.. Was he microchipped? Had he been sent to spy on us from our emeies?

 

The machine whirred to a stop….

 

I breathed a sigh of relief and hugged him tightly. He was clean..

 

But what about my technomat?…

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Home Sweet Home

I need to find the Archivist.

As I lay here on the floor of the cargo bay, staring up into the gold reflection of a man lying down looking straight back at me, I can't help but be amazed at the work these mechanicus have done. It seemed unreasonably fast at first, how quickly they were able to reverse-engineer and produce four full 12-man squads of these for me. That is, until I heard that they were the same group who outfitted the Titansbane originally, which is right around when I got the Outlaw.  Rumors abound that they were also responsible for releasing a batch of genestealers on our ship. While Footfall has sucked major ass these last few months, I'm glad I wasn't on the Titansbane for that.

I finally have Zulfikar's map now, and it has been deciphered. The mechanicus tell me I need to find a man named the Archivist. My only hope is that it isn't too late. I may have been better off keeping that vial from Rain as a contingency. The man staring at me through the reflection doesn't look capable of unleashing such horror on so many unsuspecting civilians. But maybe I do, if the end justifies the means…

I originally came down here because I heard the mechanicus were aboard, I figured they were upset at me taking the Shangri La from one of the squads. I figured I'd go tell them to suck it, but when I came down they didn't even pay me any heed, they were here for Emir. 12 large crates were getting shipped off the Titansbane for them. Looks like they got back those tanks that caused all the problems. The rest of the gang wants to see archmagos Praed Exter. 

My thoughts go back to this Archivist. I stare at the man in my reflection, can he do what needs to be done?

I'm not sure I want him to.

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Kayp Log 32
Who to trust

<s>Hello,</s>     <strike>Dear Kass,</strike>

Hey Kassius,

 

<s>I know stuff really sucks right now..</s>

<s>I am still thinking about your offer. I hope</s>

I miss you..

“It was your choice to leave him!” I shouted in the empty technomat, slamming my fists down on my bench in frustration. I winced as a splinter lodged itself in the side of my hand. My now startled, and awake, Pandai growled at me and swiped my keyboard off the counter with a fuzzy, black paw in retribution.

“Sorry..” I muttered, ruffling his ears apologetically. He gave me a wary look as if not convinced and slid off the bench into my lap. Barely managing to curl up in my lap, and with his head and back foot hanging off my legs, he somehow managed to fall back asleep snoring softly. Retrieving my keyboard, careful to not disturb “The Sweet Prince”, I exited the messaging software and opted not to save my draft. I loaded up my log program-

Kayp Log 33

I didn't expect much of a homey reunion from Sigmund. In fact, when we were finally able to speak with him, the moment Nyx ran over, he asked to see his son. But I can’t really blame him. Zarko seemed in good health besides maybe a few new scars, he stared at my hands for the longest time. I still haven’t been able to get the purple off… “They were consequences” Inaja told him. Yeah, you just wait for yours, Inaja.

We got a new ship! I’m not sure what kind of deal went down, while we were out in the void, but it appears we came out pretty well. The Wandering Gallows; the name sounds badass, but I cant help but wonder if we have somehow managed to acquire another retired pirate ship. I’m just one step closer to becoming just like my brother, aye? Too soon?

Kassius… what am I to do?   I stared at the few sentences on my screen, my fingers hovering over the matte keys. I reread the few lines over and over but just like the letter to Kassius. It was going nowhere… I sighed heavily and put my head in my hands and stared at the wall remembering Zulfikar’s and my conversation earlier that day.

*

“Why did you lie to me about knowing my brother?”

“What do you mean?”

“You gave us a job and I asked for one thing in return.. I asked for you to help me locate my brother. Little did I know, you already knew who I was talking about!”

“..I discovered that the man with brown hair, working with Killian Rage, was your brother.. I withheld the information from you, because I didn't want you anywhere near Killian Rage.”

Anger boiled inside me, threatening to spark a fire within… How long did you know? How long have you been keeping us apart! I paused trying to form my words carefully. Everything was going okay so far. I honestly expected him to start bellowing at the slightest mention of Killian Rage. I appreciated his calm and didn't want to break it. He continued before I could speak.

“You are unlike the others here-“

I looked up to meet his gaze.

“You still have that spark, that wonder, glittering in your eyes.. I didn't want Killian Rage to snuff it out.” He said this matter of factly but not unkind. I looked away, surprised of the lack rage he himself, seemed to always have hidden behind his eyes.

Is this a warning for me or a warning for your daughter?..

The anger, that threatened to overtake me moments before, dissipated and I held out my hand to the large weathered man in front of me.

“I understand why you did what you did.”

He shook my hand and said nothing but stared off for a moment as if remembering.

Zarko got his treasure map. Hopefully this one doesn’t lead us straight to death… He asked me for assistance with it but I wasn't of much help. It isn’t on paper.. The map, contained within a sphere, consisted of electric pulses that was accompanied by an encoded message. It gave warning of a Navigator….

Inaja is pissed at everyone. He was summoned by the Ecclesiarchy and given a mission to discover the murders of Brother Grimwaldus. Whoops.

I suggested blaming Hodor but Sigmund doesn't want an investigation lest they discover Yurath. Double whoops.

Also apparently Inaja was still in the dark about our involvement with Yurath. Triple whoops.

A soft tap tap at the door snapped me out of my thoughts. Nyx popped his head in the door.

“I have been summoned my Zulfikar would you drive me?”

*

The drive was uneventful and the guards didn't give us any hassle entering Zulfikar’s new establishment. As we walked by the giant gold columns, I couldn't help but feeling so small.. I didn't have long to wonder why we were summoned.

“Did you know what HE sent?” Zulfikar barked at Nyx.

I curiously peeked my head around Nyx glancing the box on the ground behind Zulfikar. A small gathering of people stood around the box. I furrowed my brow, unable to get a clear look from this distance. Zulfikar turned to glance at the box as we slowly approached and a man carefully removed the lid of the crate…

A large case rested inside the box. Frosted glass revealed a young girl, possibly in her teens/ early 20s. Long dark, silky hair tumbled down her shoulders and lay neatly around her head. She wore a sundress of the purest white I had ever seen.. Even though I had never seen her before, I knew exactly who she was…

Nyx gasped. I froze.

THIS IS WHY YOU DON'T TRUST KILLIAN RAGE!!!"

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Of Words Both Strange and Forgotten

"You have no right—"

"I have every right. Where would he be without this ship? Without me? Any other rogue trader would've left a defective navigator to the void."

"You do not own him."

A mirthless laugh. "Oh, but I do. I own you as well, unless you've forgotten. I saved you, just like I saved him."

Trivius told me the story once while he drank and I listened, how Sildus had found him bleeding out in an alley behind some shitty bar on some shitty mining colony. So fucked up he didn't even remember who shot him. Seemed like a pretty easy decision at the time. Didn't have much to lose then. He trailed off, regret edging into carefully crafted apathy. His hand found my knee under the table and didn't let go.

"You gave me a choice, Sildus," Trivius spits, voice wavering in fury. "Nyx didn't get that luxury."

"Navigators don't get to choose their own destiny, least of all broken ones."

"You broke him."

Something cracks, and the training dummy crashes to the floor in pieces. I hold my stance, breathing, and listening to the low hum of the witch lance. I can sense Kayp and her brother in her technomat nearby, she radiating excitement and he interest.

Love. Not the reverent adoration I feel from Kayp while I drift into unconsciousness with my head on her chest, or the shy, reticent affection I feel when she kisses me before I shut myself in the navigation chamber for a long journey. This is different. This is the easy, comfortable love of two people who are always connected even when separated by a million lightyears of void.

Family.

I finally lower the lance until the point rests on the floor, but my pulse hasn't slowed. What if he asks her to stay with him? What if he wants his sister back? What if she wants to go? My throat tightens as I return the lance to its rack on the wall. If it comes to that, it will be her decision, not mine.


Kayp catches up with me on the command deck, brother in tow. I stand up from her pilot chair when she calls for me.

"Nyx, I want you to meet my brother, Kassius," she says proudly, as if presenting him to a panel of judges.

"Pleased to meet you," Kassius says. There's a pause, then, "Why are his eyes black?"

The rage from earlier bubbles up again, and I suppress it, keeping my face relaxed and neutral as I turn back toward Kayp. "Oh," I say, forcing my voice to stay light, friendly, "are they?"

Another pause, and there's a slight breeze, presumably from Kassius waving his hand in front of my face like so many have done before him.

"Wait, you're blind?"

Kayp is mildly outraged, and inhales to speak, but I point to the blindfold covering my forehead and say "This one works," and hope he takes it as a threat.

"Well," Kassius says after an uncomfortable silence, "ready to go?"

I snap my head toward him. "And where are you taking her exactly?"

Kayp steps in this time. "Kassius was going to show me his ship. Do you…want to come?"

How clever of him. I keep my eyes on Kassius and nod. "You are not going alone."


"Well, here we are," Kassius says as we step off the transport. "The Ardata."

The Ardata. How fucking dare you. "How did it get that name, I wonder?"

"I suppose you wouldn't know—"

"I know who Ardata is."

Kassius rounds on me, an inscrutable emotion darting across his mind. "How do you know? Killian never tells that story."

"I didn't hear it from Killian."

He seems to deflate, takes a step back. "The old man must like you, then."

"What happened?" Kayp asks in a small voice.

"Ardata was Killian's first love," Kassius explains. "She was murdered by a navigator."

I stare at him, and say nothing.

We eventually come to a large plaza with doors leading off to the officers' quarters. Kassius circles the perimeter, naming off his officers at each door, until we come to the last.

"And this is where you'll stay, Kayp."

I almost choke. "What?"

Kayp shrinks back under my scrutiny as well as her brother's. "Nothing has been decided yet," she murmurs.

Kassius flashes with anger. "What do you mean, 'nothing has been decided'? We're together now. You're coming to live on the Ardata with me." It sounds too much like a command.

"I'm not going to just leave Nyx—"

My heart skips a beat. What if she chooses me?

"Nyx can come too," Kassius interrupts. "Although I already have a navigator who can actually see."

I narrow my eyes at him, but remain silent. I'll let him dig his own grave.

Kayp is stammering now. She is confused, torn. "But the Titansbane is my home now…" she trails off, gathering her thoughts. "You could come with me," she says hopefully.

Kassius draws back from her, betrayed, incredulous. "And leave my ship? I'm the captain here. I'm free."

She is angry now. Angry that he thinks so little of the ship she calls home, and the people she calls family. "Are you saying I'm not free?" she asks, her voice dropping an octave.

"You're the property of a Rogue Trader."

I cross my arms. "Sigmund," I pronounce the word precisely so that Kassius remembers that our captain has a name as well, "is a good man."

I know what it's like to be property, and it isn't this.

"He can be a butthead," Kayp begins, and I almost laugh because the phrase is so Kayp, "but he has no say in what I do or say." She is gaining confidence now. Good. "I make my own decisions."

Something snaps in Kassius. "I have just found you!" he bellows, taking a step forward. "You are my sister and we will not be separated again!"

Kayp's confidence withers, and she shrinks back from him, toward me. She is afraid of him.

Kassius storms away, leaving Kayp and I in stunned silence. I reach out for her and find she's shaking. I pull her into my arms until her breathing slows and her fear turns to dull apprehension.


Kayp paces as we wait in the cargo bay for a transport to arrive from the Titansbane. She exhales in time with each footstep, trying to keep herself calm. She doesn't want to worry me.

I wanted to trust Kassius. I wanted to believe that someone raised by the same people who raised Kayp would be just as quietly generous and loving as she could be. It's clear that he cares for her, but this…possessiveness. I've seen it before. I also know that it's possible to love someone and at the same time take away everything they hold dear. But what I don't know is what Kayp will do now. Or what I will do if she decides to leave.

The transport arrives then, and Krieger and Inaja step out. Kayp's pacing ceases and she starts toward Kreiger, relieved.

"She is not leaving!"

Kassius is armed now. His weapon sizzles and smells of raw promethium. Krieger and Inaja snap to attention, and I move in front of Kayp. I want to think that Kassius won't hurt her, but something is wrong with him. This anger is unnatural.

"Krieger, please don't hurt him!" Kayp shouts, then darts to my side. "Nyx, calm down." Her hand finds my shoulder.

In front of us the inferno of Kassius's rage blazes. "She is my sister! She is not leaving me again!" He continues forward, and Kayp takes a step ahead of me. She wants to fix this, but I think she is beginning to realize that she cannot have it both ways. I have no qualms about cutting Kassius down if he hurts her.

A crowd has gathered in the cargo bay, mostly apathetic. Killian Rage stumbles from the transport, yelling a few incoherent words before he finds his footing.

"Kassius! That's enough!"

"You're not leaving!" Kassius is still shrieking, seemingly unaware of Killian's existence. "We are going to be together! No one is taking you away from me!"

Killian moves to stop Kassius's advance, but Kassius easily shoves him to the side and continues toward his sister. He's going to hurt her.

I place myself between the two Washburnes and tear off my blindfold. "You will not point a weapon at her." I keep my voice low and dangerous.

"And who are you to stop me?"

I plant my feet, keeping Kayp behind me with an outstretched arm. "I love her," I begin, and she goes still, "and I will not let you touch her."

Kassius laughs, the sound eerily similar to the way Vult had laughed back on Anteris after I'd boiled his mind with the warp. "I'm not afraid of you."

Oh, but he is afraid.

The voices begin to rise in my mind again, kill him, fry his eyes, Kayp will never forgive me, boil him like you boiled that heretic, Emperor help me, I don't want to hurt him.

Suddenly Inaja is in front of me, charging at Kassius and roaring. Kassius moves to strike, but Inaja strikes first and almost effortlessly disarms him and pins his arms. Kassius struggles futilely, but then goes limp when Inaja's arms won't give. I blow out a sigh of relief and replace the blindfold over my forehead.

"You're not taking my sister away…" Kassius has given up fighting, but the desperation lingers.

"You don't own her," I tell him as if I were speaking to a child.

Half-hearted anger. "What do you know of loss?"

I can't stop the mirthless laughter that escapes me.


Inaja comes to me in the cargo bay on the Titansbane. Kayp separated herself from me as soon as we arrived back on the ship, and I let her go. I sit leaning against a wall, my knees drawn up to my chest, keeping watch over the transports. I trust Kayp, but love and desperation can drive a person to make terrible mistakes.

"Listen," Inaja begins in his warbly baritone. "I know you are being caring for Kayp and not want to make her sad, but—" he cuts off, and only begins speaking again when I look at him. "Next time her brother is being trying to hurt her, I will not being holding back."

I nod. Inaja is a strange combination of anxious and sentimental, and I can hear him shifting his weight from one foot to another.

"Next time," he continues, "there will be no quarter."

"I'll do what I have to," I agree.


"Nyx."

Krieger's voice comes through the microbead and startles me out of meditation.

"Yes, Krieger?"

"There is…something for you to pick up from my quarters."

I sigh, reluctantly leave the cargo bay, and catch a ride up to the cathedrals. There is a soft off-key plinking sound coming from Krieger's room, and when I enter she is at her piano. Kayp is balled up in the corner, asleep.

I incline my head toward Krieger in gratitude. I'm glad that Kayp will have someone else to go to for comfort when the warp inevitably drives me insane. I can only hope that the name of a ship won't be her epitaph.

I gather Kayp up in my arms, and she mumbles something in her sleep and wraps her arms around my neck. I spend the rest of the night keeping vigil by the door of her quarters.


The next day we are hailed by the Ardata. "Permission to come aboard?" Killian's gruff voice echoes across the vox channel. "Someone wants to apologize."

We gather in the bay after Killian's transport arrives, and I'm relieved to know that I'm not the only one who brought a weapon. Kassius emerges from the small ship. Something in him has broken. He is sorry, yes, but as he shuffles forward I get the sense that he has realized he's out of his league. He may be related to Kayp by blood, but every one of us here would be willing to fight and kill for her. The Titansbane is her home.

She chose me. The thought fills me with triumph and pride. Despite the circumstances, I feel full, rooted, whole.

"Kayp," he says solemnly, "will you come live with me?"

Kayp's breathing hitches, and her energy is ragged and torn, but her voice doesn't waver. "I don't have an answer for you, Kassius."

She pleads with him to come with us, but he refuses. He is resigned to defeat.

I approach him then, close enough to discomfort him. "I will watch over her."

He doesn't answer. He doesn't trust me. I've given him no reason to do so. I take another step forward.

"If she ultimately chooses to stay here," I pause pointedly, "I promise you'll see her again."

He turns silently to walk back to the transport, but there is a weak strand of relief amongst the cables of heartbreak that are holding him together.

Later, Kayp kisses me before I shut myself in the navigation chamber, and I pull her to me and whisper "I love you" for the first time.

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What are we called?

A maelstrom of doubt and fire. That has been life for many weeks now. In such a short time, I have never been beset by such a concoction of terror and mirth. Fallen friends, glorious planetfall, esteemed honors, foul xenos monstrosities, a cyclone of macro cannons…the list goes on and on. I remember the hard times of my birth and youth, but it was much the same every day. Imbibe the chemicals, carve a crimson streak across the horizon. Eat, sleep. The morning comes and the same began. But this? All of this is what I embarked across the stars to see. What I never found in the blasted landscape of my planet.

 

Home.

 

And a house is only a home when there is family to fill it. And lo, full has become my house of late. The red path has always come easy for me, it’s scarlet fever constantly simmering, held by the grace of our Lord’s teachings. But it is only now, with a permanency to my companions, that I feel I fully understand the righteous wrath I have been taught to revere. Such a fire I have never felt but in the face of many arms dragging my pilot into the dark. Or my navigator standing before a knife dripping with promethium and madness. My inquisitor hurling their body into shredding teeth or pounding death to let another gasp one more breath. It is here I know a rage tinged with fear, and a heart pounding with desperation. My life, long ago, was given to service. That service, I know, is always to the Emperor. But, perhaps, in his ways he moves me here; to be the shield and the sword of this emerging house of noble lords, masquerading as crooks and vagabonds. But I see beneath the masks, and what I see glows.

 

This is a good place, I think, for me. To this sector, we have brought the light of the Emperor to bear, and we scatter the darkness. Like wolves in the night, their strength is only in numbers. However, I find that this means less to me than it once did. I feel the pride and the duty fulfilled, to be certain. But now, my mind lingers closer. I wonder, as I drink with friends, if our allies survived their battles on footfall? I pull back my shield, worried about the young man I have just broken. Not for him, but rather for what his sister will think of me? I threaten him, not in the name of law or the Imperium, but for the safety of the ones at my back.

 

Perhaps I am growing sentimental. I spoke today, for the first time, of one of my fallen brothers. I gave her the sash I kept so long, but my mind is elsewhere. It is years away, breaking the body of an exhausted mutant, driven to insanity by the abuse of chemicals and a lifetime of screaming raids. I bury him with my hands around a pulsing throat before my progenitor, blood pooling in my mouth as I bite down on my hate for him. I make my brother a grave in the night, away from a howling camp. Samael…I think that was his name.

 

I finish my story, the words having fallen from my mouth before I could think to stop. I do not feel shame, but I do not know how to do this. I only hope it helps, for I know no other way. Her brother is dangerous, like mine became. He was seized with a madness that I know too well. It is only a matter of time before we see it again, and may I be forgiven for what comes after.

 

I have become sentimental, I believe. And perhaps it is time. I have already been most everything else after I was nothing. To my grandfather, I was enforcer. To the ecclesiarch, I was known as xenos, and eventually “disposable”. Eventually, I was known as Inaja, and my name meant that the Emperors will would be done. These people around me also have many names and titles. Inquisitor, void master, captain, navigator, rain walkers, merchants hand, brother, slave. Emir, Kayp, Sigmund, Zarko, Krieger, Nyx. I know them as family. This ship also has many names and titles. In the black, she is called the Titansbane. In the warp, we call her a beacon. Our enemies call her oblivion, and our allies call her salvation.

 

I call her home.

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