Warhammer 40K Dark Heresy - Agents of the Inquisition
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  1. #1
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    Dark Heresy - Agents of the Inquisition

    The air was thick on this level, thought the cloaked man. Then again, when had he ever been to a hive that smelled good? In any case, this was no time to reflect on the atmosphere, not when he was being pursued. His retinue had remained behind to buy him some time, but the sounds of gunfire had ceased some time and two levels ago, and he could sense his foes were in pursuit once again. He had voxed for backup, but they would not arrive for some minutes yet, and he needed to find a public place to await them. Up ahead, a garishly lit façade signified a lower-hive bar. Never the safest place, at least there was the possibility of help there. The wound in his side throbbed, and he headed toward the light.

    Approaching the building, the man took note of some of the more esoteric details of his chosen destination. The exterior seemed to have been constantly repaired and replaced, most likely with castoffs from manufactorums, or stolen supplies from the everpresent construction sites that defined a growing hive. Currently, a kind of corrugated metal was bolted in overlapping style, causing the walls to appear almost scaled. Gang graffiti decorated all available surfaces of the building, sometimes multiple signs overlapping, and several obvious bullet holes denoted where someone had taken offence to some of the unlicensed artistry. The name of the bar, the Rusty Rivet, had been creatively altered by some enterprising soul, so that the man was now headed toward the front door of the Dusty Privet. This was good for a chuckle, causing the wound in his side to spasm and a trickle of blood to leak from his mouth. Wiping his mouth on his sleeve, the man pushed open the door and entered the well-lighted interior.

    Taking a moment for his eyes to adjust to the light, the cloaked man took a look around the interior of the Dusty Privet. To the immediate left of the door, sitting alone at a table in a corner granting a view of the entire interior of the building, sat a man clad in Guard-issue jungle-pattern flak armor, a mug of beer in front of him, a canvas-shrouded shape on the floor next to him. At the bar itself, a dozen patrons sipped from various drinks. Various hivers, Imperial citizens all, were joined by a red-robed techpriest, a lithe woman in clinging bodysuit, and another man in Guard flak armor bearing the emblems of a new recruit from Scintilla awaiting assignment. A couple of dozen other hivers were scattered about at various tables throughout the bar, waitresses working their way through the crowd. Another female also wended through the tables, and the cloaked man smiled as he noticed her relieving one particularly intoxicated patron of his excess coin. In the northwestern corner of the bar a small fire crackled in a closed fireplace, a bored-looking girl dancing in front, her movements and the fire behind her causing flickering shadows to dance sinuously on the wall. In fact, the shadows were more enticing than the actual dancer. A man in a flak jacket leaned against the back wall, the imposing barrel of a pump-action shotgun protruding from over one shoulder and a look of vague disapproval on his face. The cloaked man recognized the outline of a badge under a flap on the front of his vest, and began moving through the bar toward him. The pickpocket gave him the once-over, her eyes widening as they lingered briefly in the area of his left shoulder. Could she have seen what was under his cloak? Perhaps.

    Just as the cloaked man reached the back wall, the door to the bar opened again, five men entering, covered in gang signs. One man, cloaked and cowled, made brief peremptory hand gestures, and three of the men with him peeled off, one taking up position to the right of the door and the other two spreading out throughout the crowd. The leader, as he obviously was, and one heavy moved toward the fireplace, eyes locked on the first cloaked man. As they reached the dancer, the heavy picking her up and moving her bodily to the bar behind them, the cloaked man stepped up to the man leaning on the back wall, who finally noticed him. The cloaked man dropped something into the other man’s pocket, displaying the icon under his cloak and whispering “Keep this safe.”

    The gang leader pointed to the cloaked man and said “This man is a heretic, and must be purged! Bring him with us!”

    The man with the shotgun stepped forward at this, opening the flap on front of his vest, displaying a badge for all to see. “If this man is truly a heretic as you claim, this is rightly a matter for the Adeptus Arbites. I’ll take it from here.”

    Jeers erupted from the crowd at the presence of an Imperial Arbitrator in their midst, who scowled back at them briefly and then returned his attention to the gangers confronting him. The pickpocket used the distraction to relieve yet another patron of some unneeded coin, as the Guardsman at the bar looked up from his drink to evaluate the situation.

    The gang leader and his cronies drew weapons, mainly stub pistols, but one with a shotgun, as the leader smiled at the Arbitrator. “This is none of your concern, lawman, but if you insist on interfering with my business I will be more than happy to accommodate you! This man is coming with us, whether you like it or not.” The guardsman in the corner began slowly reaching for his canvas-covered bundle.

    The Arbitrator calmly replied “Threatening an Arbitrator with violence is a violation of Imperial statue 349.687 section gamma subsection 4b. Punishable by death. Summary execution authorized.”

    The gang leader laughed. “Take them!”

    The heavy accompanying the leader fired his pistol at the Arbitrator, missing from point-blank range and blowing a small hole in the back wall. The lithe woman at the bar turned, drew a laspistol from a holster at her side, and fired at the leader, dropping him with a shot to the back, scanning the crowd for another target. The guardsmen at the back drew the canvas from the floor, raising his weapon and sighting on the ganger flanking the door. The techpriest at the bar, hearing gunfire, drew a laspistol and scanned the crowd for the source of the commotion, while the guardsman at the bar fumbled for his lasrifle, the bulky weapon becoming tangled on his barstool. The cloaked man fired a shot at the heavy in front of him, grazing his leg. Dozens of patrons screamed and dove for cover, exposing the gang members and other participants in the gunfight to unobstructed fire, while the pickpocket plied her trade once again. The Arbitrator’s shotgun appeared in his hands as though by magic. The massive gun roared, splattering the heavy’s entrails across the wall as the weapon’s shot blasted through him at less than two meters’ range.

    Two more gang members came in from behind the bar, blasting wildly with stub pistols, while the other gangers moved throughout the bar, angling for shots on those patrons returning fire. The shotgun-armed ganger moved next to the woman who shot the leader. For some reason, although standing back-to-back with her, he fired at the cloaked man, hitting him in the leg and causing him to fall to the ground. The lithe woman, equally oblivious, turned and fired at one of the new arrivals, her laspistol boring a hole through his chest. The Guardsman at the bar moved to the gang leader. Seeing plenty of blood, he assumed the leader was dead and snapped off a shot toward one of the gangers in the main room. The leader, not quite dead after all, fired straight up at the Guardsman standing over him, missing as his hand could not hold the gun steady. The Guardsman did not compound his mistake, and ended the leader with a las round to the head.

    Another ganger moved toward the back of the bar, firing at the Arbitrator and missing. The cloaked man spoke to the Arbitrator “We have to get out of here. Go through the back room.” Suddenly, everyone ducked involuntarily as the distinctive snap-CRACK of a long las sounded through the room. The Guardsman in the corner had set up his rifle on the table top and put a shot through the guts of the ganger flanking the door, who fell, firing back and hitting the sniper. The second long las round finished the twitching ganger once and for all. The pickpocket, finally getting her blood up, vaulted over the bar with a knife, causing the remaining newly-arrived ganger to flee. She caught him in the kitchen, and emerged some time later with her knife covered in blood.

    The Arbitrator grabbed the cloaked man’s collar and began dragging him toward the back door, firing his shotgun one-handed and eviscerating another gang member. Only one ganger remained, armed with a shotgun, and four weapons spoke simultaneously, vaporizing the lowlife. Seeing no more immediate threats, the Arbitrator ceased dragging the cloaked man, instead covering the bar with his shotgun and calling the nearest Guardsman to see to the wounded stranger. The disparate half dozen who participated began gathering weapons and ammo from the dead, before congregating around the stranger, who smiled up at them.

    “My retinue was killed by this gang, and I will need to replace them. My backup will be here soon and you will accompany us to a secure location where medical attention will be available for those who are wounded and we may talk of your future in the service of the Emperor.”

    The techpriest spoke up, “My services are not to be commanded by some random individual. The priesthood of the Machine God are not servitors, to be used by all and sundry. I demand recompense.”

    The cloaked man smiled as a squad of soldiers burst in through the door, their uniforms a red and grey with specific insignia on their shoulders. To reinforce this, the man opened his cloak, displaying the rosette in the shape of a Gothic ‘I’, a symbol known to all gathered.

    “You will be compensated. You will all be compensated. However, I do not ask for your assistance. You are all now agents of His Imperial Majesty’s Inqusition.”
    Last edited by Lothred; Tuesday, 1st April, 2008 at 08:06 PM.

  2. #2
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    Who are you?

    The assembled group looked around, eyeing each other askance. Which of them could each one trust? Which would bolt at the first opportunity? The Arbitrator and Tech-Priest seemed eager to accompany the agent and his squad, while the two women seemed to be looking for escape routes. The two Guardsmen had already fallen in with the storm squad, ingrained obedience to authority taking hold involuntarily. The agent, who had made no other introduction than the display of his Inquisitorial rosette, having had his injuries bandaged, led off, supported by two of the storm troopers. As the group wound their way through the lower hive avenue, all could feel thousands of eyes upon them. Unaccustomed to such visibility, the small pickpocket attempted to slip away unseen. The Arbitrator, however, firmly grasped her arm, whispering fiercely to her.

    “Stand fast in your faith in the Emperor, and in his holy Inquisition. Else be executed as a traitor and seditionist. I suggest the former.”

    The girl stared up at him, open-mouthed, before a rictus grin graced her face.

    “When you put it thus, lawman, who could say no?”

    The Arbitrator smiled back. “Who indeed? If we are to work together, we should at least know each others’ names. I am Lazerus Cole, Adeptus Arbites Trooper First Class.”

    The girl was quiet for some time before finally responding. “Call me Ave’. That will do for now.”

    “Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ave’. Ah, look, we are arrived.”

    Looking ahead, the group was approaching a section house of the Adeptus Arbites, an imposing structure designed to hold some hundred or so Arbitrators and their assorted staff. Part barracks, part fortress, a sector house was the last place most Imperial citizens wanted to end up, as the Adeptus Arbites did not concern themselves for the most part with local crime. Rather, to be interviewed by the Arbites and their Judges was to be suspected of heresy, sedition, and crimes against the Imperium. Judges were not known for their leniency, instead preferring to execute a possible innocent rather than let a clever heretic go free. Rare was the prisoner who was freed from the detention cells of the Adeptus Arbites.

    As the group passed inside, Ave’ noticed Lazerus frowning.

    “What is wrong, lawman?” she hissed.

    Lazerus’ brow wrinkled in thought. “I’m not sure, but something does not sit right here.”

    “If you do not hear a hiss, leave the seal alone.”

    The trooper quirked an interrogative eyebrow in her direction.

    Ave’ grinned more naturally. “It is a saying from my people. It means do not borrow trouble.”

    “Ah, I see. Hopefully you are right. Let’s meet the rest of our motley crew, shall we?”

    The group proceeded to a suite of offices several floors up, obviously the chambers of a Proctor which the agent had commandeered. A medicae waited, tut-tutting over the agent’s wounds. Glancing over to the sniper, he brusquely ordered the Guardsman into the next room, to disrobe and await his ministrations. The agent dismissed his escort and followed, still supported by storm troopers and fussed over by the medicae. Over his shoulder, he called out to the five remaining individuals to make themselves at ease and get to know each other.

    As they eyed each other once again, the sniper returned to the main room, wincing with each step, a bandage covering his right side just below the ribs. Looking about the room, he glowered.

    “Nuthin’, it’s nuthin’. Jes a scratch. Ah’ve had wurs.”

    Indeed he had. The Guardsman’s ruddy skin was a veritable patchwork quilt of scars, some nearly faded completely, others appearing relatively new.

    Lazerus spoke up. “Well, our new superior has asked that we get to know each other. I also believe that, if we are to work together effectively, we should know at least each others’ names! I will begin, if no one else would care to.”

    One by one, the former strangers introduced themselves, divulging what information they felt comfortable with, while sizing up the others.

    Lazerus Cole, Adeptus Arbites, Trooper First Class. Tall and lanky, 188cm tall and 80 kilos with light brown skin, light brown hair, and grey eyes, a native of the hive world Malfi, cleaning his pump-action shotgun as he relates a brief tale. Based out of the Sector Precinct House on Scintilla, Lazerus was in Sibellus Hive on a brief assignment. Some trouble had ensued, and he had been ordered to remain in the hive and pursue some leads that he had uncovered. That assignment, it seemed, would have to wait.

    Ishmael, adept of the Cult Mechanicus, devotee of the Machine God. Swathed in red robes, the only visible flesh is his hands, inlaid with delicate circuitry, and his face, vox-grille covering the area of his mouth. Grasping a long metal staff, adorned with icons of the Machine God and topped with the skull-and-cog symbol of the Adeptus Mechanicus, he seemed indifferent to his surroundings. He had been hired by a hive maintenance supervisor to anoint some ventilation gargoyles in the lower hive. Now, his task complete, he had fallen in with this group during the unfortunate incident in the Rusty Rivet.

    Eli Lupus, the youngest member of the group and a freshly-minted Guardsman. Tall and muscular at 185 cm and 85 kilos, fair-skinned and dark-haired, with piercing light grey eyes, a native of the pleasure world Siren’s Den. He says little of his past, other than that he joined the Imperial Guard on his 18th birthday, was shipped to Scintilla for training, and has been killing time in Sibellus while awaiting assignment to an Imperial Guard regiment. He is outfitted in brand-new standard Guard issue, with lasgun, full flak armor, and all the standard accoutrements.

    Ophelia, devotee of the Bveryn Kley death cult, assassin-in-training. Born on an orbital station, she has spent every waking moment learning the trade of death. Lithe and deadly, clad in a black bodystocking, she keeps her blue hair short to deny an enemy any grip, framing a pale face and space-black eyes. As she begins explaining that her novitiate training ended when she killed the master of her temple, the others look at each other skeptically. Finally, after a couple of minutes of obvious grox-dung, Eli speaks up.


    Ave’, another child of space, is reticent to reveal more than her name. Short and scrawny, standing 165 cm and a slight 58 kilos, her short brown hair and pale skin melt into whatever crowd she finds herself in, her utterly unremarkable appearance is one of her greatest attributes. Every expression seems to say that she has seen the worst the universe has to offer, and she doesn’t care. She is dressed in the remnants of a shipboard skinsuit, little more than sleeves and leggings, covered by tattered canvas breeches and a homespun vest. She is well-armed, however, with scrounged shotgun and autopistol evident, and a long-bladed knife in a sheath at her side.

    Finally, it is the wounded sniper’s turn. He is another large man, standing 178cm and weighing in at 90 kilos. Grudgingly, he reveals his name as Tauron Cortez, born on Valos Krin, a feral world in an outlying region of this sector. He says nothing of his past, instead referring to himself as a hunter and tracker. When Eli asks him what regiment he belonged to, referring to the sniper’s Guard-standard armor and other equipment, Cortez becomes visibly upset.

    “Ah ain’t a part o’ no grox-dun’ reg’mint, snotty! Yer can go an’ flenk yerself iffen yer thinks otherways! Nun, yer hearin’ me? Nun!”

    Eli and Lazerus share a look, both thinking the same thing. Deserter. However, if the Inquisition would use such a man, so be it.

    Presently, the Inquisition agent emerges from the other room, bandaged and smelling of antiseptics, but smiling.

    “Well, now that you all know each other, I should introduce myself. I am Miocanthus, acolyte of one of His Imperial Majesty’s Inquisitors. Which one is not important at this time. However, I have a test for you now. Pass, and you shall perhaps meet my master, and begin your true service to the Throne.”

  3. #3
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    The first mission

    Miocanthus sat behind the desk, keying a holo terminal to life. A man’s face, pudgy and pockmarked, floated in the center of the room, accompanied by a running list of pertinent information and petty convictions. Lazerus recognized a standard Sibellus Hive criminal record header.

    “This is Harris Glout. As you can see, up until now he has been a small-time player in the criminal underworld. Lately, however, Mr. Glout’s fortunes have turned. In the last few months, Harris’ name has come up more and more often in certain investigations. Most recently, information has been acquired that links Glout to the manufacture of a new drug. Now, normally, the Inquistion, and indeed the Adeptus Arbites, are content to leave the pursuit and prosecution of a minor drug king to the local authorities. In this case, though, the particular drug that Glout is manufacturing, known locally as P’rellian Passion, has been increasingly among the possessions of known and suspected pleasure cult members. We suspect warp influence in this drug’s manufacture and therefore it falls within our sphere of inquest.

    “It has been decided that the time has come to move against Glout. He believes himself clever, disguising his laboratory as a transshipment warehouse. We have identified the operation, however. I will lead a strike force against the warehouse and destroy this vile menace to the good citizens of Sibellus Hive. You will not accompany me, as I have another mission for you.”

    The holo image shifted, becoming a three-dimensional schematic of a small one-story building.

    “Glout does not personally oversee the manufacture of his drug. Apparently, he doesn’t like to get his own hands too dirty. Instead, he maintains a secure office at a restaurant two levels below here, known as The Rat Pit. Charming, I know. I want you to take Glout down. Alive, if possible, as we would relish the opportunity to put another heretic to the question, but in no case must Glout escape the Emperor’s justice. If you cannot take him, at the very least you must keep him at the restaurant until I can bring my men and take over. Is that understood?”

    Miocanthus looked around the room, staring hard into each individual’s eyes. Lazerus, the Arbitrator, nodded sharply, eyes focused on the holo of the building. Eli, the fresh-minted Guardsman, made a show of checking his weapons as he nodded his assent. Ave’ simply shrugged and nodded, seemingly indifferent to the briefing. Ophelia, the blue-haired assassin, had laid her laspistol in her lap and seemed to be whispering to it. She looked up and indicated her concurrence. Tauron, the burly hunter, wiped a vizzy-cloth over his long-las’ optics as he grunted affirmation. Ishmael, the robed Tech-Priest, predictably spoke up.

    “We must discuss compensation. If you require my assistance in your endeavor, proper remuneration must be made.”

    Miocanthus’ face hardened. “You are here to do the work of the Emperor and his Holy Inquisition. Such labor should be reward enough in itself! Yet, fear not, you shall all be suitably rewarded. I trust that you will accept that the Inquisition will suitably compensated you?”

    Ishmael bobbed his head. “As you say, sir. I mean no disrespect, yet neither will I allow myself nor my sacred knowledge to be used without recompense. Of course, I will trust that proper payment will be received. And, given your guarantee, you may indeed count on my full cooperation in this endeavor.”

    The Arbitrator and the two Guardsmen had gathered around the holo of the building, and were discussing options for entrance. There seemed to be three doors in the building: the main entrance and a smaller door on either side, opening into small alleys that flank the restaurant. As the men discussed possible personnel dispersions, Ophelia strolled up and spoke.

    “I believe that a sudden storm action should suffice in this instance. Obviously, this is another cover operation, so anyone inside is fair game. I say that we weld shut one of these side doors. Then, I and those other two,” indicating Ave’ and Ishmael with a toss of her head, “and you, too, lawman, burst through the front door, laying down heavy fire. You other two come through the side door and take down anyone who tries to get out. Then, we identify this Harris character and collect our earnings.”

    The three men stared at her, open-mouthed. Finally, Tauron gathered enough sense to ask her, “Wha’ kin’ o’ ‘ssassin did yer say yer wuz agin? Din’t yer say yer liked the shay-does an’ sneakin’?”

    Ophelia gazed back blankly. “Sometimes I prefer the direct method. No subtlety seems to be called for here.”

    Just as it appeared that the ex-Guardsman was about to explain, in painstaking detail, what he thought of the woman’s plan, Lazerus cleared his throat.

    “Perhaps I might offer an alternative suggestion?” Turning to Miocanthus, he asked “Would we be able to draw microbeads from the blockhouse here?” Upon receiving an affirmative nod, he returned his attention to the group.

    “In that case, this will be easier to coordinate. Ophelia, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but we cannot be sure that the restaurant is not in fact operating as it appears. I will not be party to the wholesale slaughter of innocent Imperial citizens on the hope that the one we are after will be among the dead. In this case, I believe that subtlety and subterfuge is indeed called for, if not in exactly the way you are used to. I do like your idea of covering entrances, but I do not see the feasibility of sealing one entrance, when it apparently offers a wonderful sightline for our friend with the long-las.”

    Tauron nodded, apparently satisfied at the nod to his abilities.

    “All right then, here is the outline. Tauron and Ishmael, take the eastern side door. Ophelia and Eli, the western. Try not to draw too much attention to yourselves, but stay near. I will go inside and try to determine if Glout is there and, if so, where. My microbead will be open the whole while, so keep your ears on to gain an idea of the situation. If things go badly, I will give the ‘go’ phrase. In that case, come through the doors and take down any hostiles with maximum force. Also, if anyone attempts to bolt through the sides, stop them. Take prisoners if possible, but, as our patron has said, do not allow any of them to get away. The ‘go’ phrase is: ‘the walls are falling.’ Any questions?”

    Ave’ spoke up. “Yeah, what am I to do, lawman?”

    Lazerus grinned at her. “How’s your acting?”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Tauron and Ishmael, draped in shabby robes to cover their weapons and body armor, quickly darted out of the crowd moving down the cramped street, and moved down the alley on the eastern side of The Rat Pit. Surprisingly, there were no other humans down this particular alley, indicating a consistent patrol of some kind to keep people away. The two men flanked the door, Tauron covering the side nearest the road, while Ishmael examined the door’s lock.

    “Most interesting” the Tech-Priest mused.

    “Wassat?” responded the hunter, unwrapping and prepping his long-las, though not exposing it from its usual canvas covering.

    “Normally, one would expect a simple tumbler lock in an area such as this. And indeed, there are indications that one previously graced this particular portal. But this, this is no tumbler lock.” The Tech-Priest indicated a small panel of rune-marked keys set just above the door’s handle. “Fortunately, whoever made the decision to change this lock did not feel like spending too much. The Veswerks 42a-7R2.11 digital keypad…” Ishmael’s mutterings tailed off into an incomprehensible murmur as he felt Tauron’s eyes on him.

    “Yes, what is it?”

    “Kin yer open it?”

    “Of course I can open it, I was simply noting the…”

    “Tha’s fine then. Do yer thing an’ keep yer trap shut, willya? I kin’t heer iff’n ennyone’s tryin’ to sneak up on us like.”

    “Oh, of course.” The Tech-Priest produced a multi-tool and began prying at the face of the keypad, which soon popped off, exposing wires and circuits. “So crude, so simple…”

    Soon enough, the door unlocked with a quiet *click*. Ishmael cracked open the door, inserting a splinter of wood between the lock and the striker plate to prevent it relocking, and replaced the facing on the keypad, keying his microbead.

    “Hunter and Circuit in position, entry assured.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    On the other side of the building, Eli and Ophelia headed toward the western alley. Entering the space, the two operatives passed a two corner-girls and a mann, apparently haggling over the price of the services the man desired. Ophelia’s ear twitched as they passed, her enhanced hearing picking up the three apparent bystanders’ conversation.

    “That’s two of ‘em, girls. Just like we were told. Get ready for trouble.”

    As the duo continued down the alley toward the door, Ophelia whispered to Eli.

    *those people we just passed, they know we’re here*


    “I meant they knew we were coming, and they recognized us.”

    “Oh, why didn’t you say so? Well, let’s get into position and just keep an eye on them.”

    Ophelia slipped her laspistol from its holster underneath her grubby overcloak and held it close to her left thigh. As the pair reached the door, they flanked it, similar to Ishmael and Tauron on the other side. Ophelia kept an eye on the trio at the mouth of the alley, while Eli examined the door.


    Ophelia glanced to her left, asking a question of Eli.

    “We’re humped. See for yourself.”

    The assassin suppressed a sigh and turned to the door. Some people just shouldn’t be allowed near locks, she thought to herself. Then she saw the door. The blank door. The blank steel door.

    There was no way in from this side. No handle. No lock. Nothing.

    The assassin keyed her microbead. “Shadow and Gunner in position. Entry denied.”

    She turned to Eli. “We’re humped.”

    Eli was looking over her shoulder as a voice from behind her called out. “Get-a get-a ‘way from-a door, slags. Whatchoo doin’ here, anyways? Huh?”

    Ophelia turned slowly, keeping her laspistol out of sight behind her. One of the corner-girls had advanced halfway from the mouth of the alley toward they pair, covering them with a stub revolver. The other corner-girl and their supposed john had taken partial cover behind the corners of the alley-mouth, also pointing stub revolvers at the operatives.

    The assassin quickly slipped the safety off her laspistol. The last thing she wanted at this point was to set things off too early. Perhaps they could distract the guards, as they apparently were, and keep them occupied until the time came to take them out. She and Eli raised their hands, both in his case but the right only in hers, in a universally non-threatening gesture and began backing slowly down the alley.

    “Whatchoos doin’ here, I sayed? Huh?”

    Ophelia opened her mouth to respond, but before she could speak Eli’s voice called out from behind her.

    “We’re looking for Steve. Does Steve live around here?”

    Ophelia looked over her shoulder at Eli. Steve? she mouthed. The young Guardsman shrugged.

    “Sounded good to me.” His right hand slowly started moving to his waist, reaching inside his overcloak.

    “Youse slags keep-a keep-a walkin’. Youse hears? Elsein youse bein’ dead-dead.”

    Eli keyed his microbead. “Shadow and Gunner, displaced. Hostiles present, under cover.”

  4. #4
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    Bringing down the house

    Mikel and Donne were bored. There was just no other way to describe it. After all, Glout used this restaurant as a cover for his business because it was a little hole-in-the-wall nothing. The only people who came here were low-lifes looking for a lukewarm meal, something to take their minds off of their meaningless lives, or both. Usually both. The front door opened on an infrequent basis, the occasional hiver or three entering and taking a table, spending their hard-earned scrapings for some reheated (and often recycled) synthcaf and the stew of the day (usually some form of reclaimed near-meat). As each patron entered, the two protection experts, as they liked to style themselves, would eye them for obvious weapons or other signs of someone likely to make trouble. They were paid, and paid well by low-hive standards, to keep trouble away, and they wanted to keep their jobs. Neither of them was a stranger to violence, as each one had delivered some fearful beatings in their time. That was the extent of Mikel’s experience, but Donne had frequently made reference to some problems that he had “retired” for a previous employer.

    The door opened, allowing a brief burst of noise from the passing pedestrians along with a tall man in a battered storm coat. A pump-action shotgun carried over one shoulder drew a raised eyebrow from Mikel, but Donne shook his head. While long guns were uncommon, most patrons of The Rat Pit carried, and this guy didn’t have the look of a troublemaker. He looked around briefly, then took a seat at an unoccupied table, his back to the door. Obviously not a pro, then. Everyone knew you always put you back to a wall, preferably in a corner. Probably he had lucked into the gun, maybe it didn’t even work. Yeah, that was most likely. This guy had just found the gun, probably in a wreck or junk heap, and carried it to look serious, but he was just a low-hive scum poser. As they turned to scan the crowd again, they missed his left hand moving to his ear.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “Hunter and Circuit in position, entry assured.”

    Lazerus heard the affirmation through his microbead, and tapped his ear twice in acknowledgement. He spoke lowly, nearly subvocalizing.

    “Badge in place. Two dozen friendlies, two thugs. Go for Void.”

    Prior to the mission, each of the team members had been assigned a code name, something to instantly identify them to each other without using names. Tauron, the sniper, was Hunter, while the Tech-Priest Ishmael was Circuit. Lazerus, appropriately, was Badge, the young Guardsman Eli took Gunner, while the assassin Ophelia was known as Shadow. Ave’, the space-born pickpocket with utterly unremarkable features that allowed her to blend into any crowd, was Void.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The door to the restaurant opened again. A mousy-looking girl entered, right shoulder twitching spasmodically while her left hand scratched her right forearm compulsively. She looked around the room in spastic jerks, a wild look in her eyes. This was trouble. Mikel and Donne looked at each other for a moment, then Mikel rolled his eyes and stood up, heading toward the new arrival.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “Shadow and Gunner, displaced. Hostiles present, under cover.”

    Lazerus frowned as the next report came over his microbead. It wasn’t critical that all exits be perfectly covered, but it appeared that at least one part of the team had had their cover blown. From the sounds of things, Eli and Ophelia needed backup. He turned, as though to see the source of commotion that had just entered, and caught Ave’s eye. He motioned quickly to the approaching thug, and then outside, brushing his ear. She twitched, managing to hide a nod as a random muscle movement, then looked up as Mikel drew near.

    “Can I’s help you, mizz? Youse lost?”

    The girl jerked back as he reached for her arm, then managed a crooked smile. “I, uh, I, uh, I, uh, need something need something badIneedsomethingbadrightnowIneeditneeditnowrightn ow…” Her words came faster and faster the more she talked, before Mikel stopped her talking with a raised hand.

    “What’s makes youse think youse can get-get somethin’ here, huh?”

    “I-a I-a heard this is the place for good stuff. Harris here, right? I heard Harris here, has good-good-good-g-g-g-good stuff.”

    Mikel stepped close, right up to her, and whispered. “I don’t know what youse hear, but ain’t no Harris here. Now why’s don’ we step outside, like?”

    He firmly grabbed the girl’s arm and steered her out the door. As he did so, Lazerus turned back away from the door, taking the opportunity to key his microbead.

    “Void en route to Shadow and Gunner, one hostile in tow. Delay until go-word.”

    He waited half a minute, then stood up and headed for the door leading to the kitchen.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “Youse slags keep-a keep-a walkin’. Youse hears? Elsein youse bein’ dead-dead.”

    It was the third time the notional corner-girl had repeated the phrase, and Eli was fast becoming tired of it. Perhaps she had some near-parrot in her genes somewhere he thought, smothering a chuckle. More likely she had one up her skirt. He and Ophelia had backed down the alley about a dozen meters or so from the door they were meant to cover, well within firing range, but out of position to physically intercept anyone who came out and headed for the streets. Ophelia still held her laspistol in her left hand, kept behind her body. Apparently, the girl, or more likely the guy at the corner, finally noticed her hidden hand, and she called out.

    “Hey, slag, whatchoos got-a got-a ‘hind there, huhs? Shows us yousa hands! Bot’ of ‘em!. Now!”

    Ophelia looked over her shoulder at Eli, who shrugged, then turned back to face the girl, bringing her left hand up and pointing the laspistol at the surprised girl.

    “Let’s not get crazy, here, okay? We’re here peacefully. Can’t we all just get along?”

    Eli gaped at the assassin, openmouthed. “And you were complaining about Steve?”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Mikel walked the girl outside, giving her a gentle shove as they reached the dingy sidewalk.

    “Go on, now, get. And don’ come back.”

    As he turned to walk back inside, the girl grabbed his arm and began speaking quickly. Mikel quickly lost track of the thread of the conversation, swept along blindly in her stream of blather.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Donne jumped up as the man with the shotgun walked toward the opening separating the dining area from the kitchens.

    “Hey, there, fella, where’s youse goin’? Ain’t nutttin’ back there for youse.”

    The man didn’t turn as he replied.

    “Just gotta take a piss, don’t mind me.”

    Donne pulled his stub automatic, the man stopping and slowly raising his hands at the sound of the hammer being cocked. The man began turning slowly, then a noise from the dining area caused Donne’s head to turn. Before he could look back, his ears registered the unmistakable noise of a shotgun’s action working. As his eyes returned to the other man, they were drawn inexorably to the gaping barrel of the shotgun held just under his nose, angled upward. Donne prided himself on being a tough man, but his left pant leg became warm and wet as he finally wrenched his gaze from the barrel to the man’s suddenly hard grey eyes.

    “Drop the pistol, scum.” Donne quickly complied. “Now, down on the floor, face down, hands behind your head. I’ve got some questions for you, sonny. First, what’s your name?”

    Right cheek pressed firmly to the floor, the thug stammered out his reply.

    “D-d-d-d- Donne!”

    “All right, Donne, where’s Harris?”

    “Right behind you!” came a voice from that direction, along with the sound of guns cocking. Lazerus rose slowly, shotgun held in his left hand away from his body. As he stepped off of Donne and turned to face the doorway, the Arbitrator saw Harris Glout, instantly recognizable from the holo they had examined during the briefing, a woman in a business suit, and four more bodyguards. The one in the doorway held a crudely sawed-off double-barreled shotgun, friend to criminals everywhere, while the others held stub autos, as did Harris himself.

    “Harris, nice place you’ve got here. I might call a contractor, though.”

    Glout smirked. “Oh yeah, why’s that.”

    Lazerus smiled back. “Can’t you tell? The walls are falling.”

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “The walls are falling.”

    Ishmael and Tauron looked at each other. Then the Tech Priest kicked open the door, iron staff held at the ready, as Tauron sighted through his long-las, taking in the scene within.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “The walls are falling.”

    The mousy girl’s chatter took on another note, and some words finally began to pierce the haze that had surrounded Mikel since she began talking.

    “…said, isn’t that a cop over there?”

    As Mikel turned to look in the direction that she was pointing, something registered in the back of his mind. The girl was pointing. Steadily. The junkie was pointing. The twitchy junkie was pointing. Her hand was steady. Her hand wasn’t shaking.

    Her hand wasn’t shaking!

    Mikel spun back to face her, grabbing for the stub auto in his belt.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “The walls are falling.”

    Ophelia dropped to one knee, sighting on the corner-girl, as Eli drew his hand from inside his overcloak, holding an object the size of a medium-sized can. The young Guardsman brought his hands together, assuming a throwing stance.

    “Hey, guys. CATCH!”

    The object sailed over the corner-girl’s head, landing directly in the middle of the triangle formed by her and her two comrades. All three stared at it, trying to make sense of the round metal ball with a grip or handle of some kind coming out of the top. They were still staring when the grenade exploded. The man, stationed on the right side of the alley, screamed as his left arm was shredded, arterial blood painting the opposite alley wall like some demented impressionist. The second corner girl passed out briefly and collapsed as the grenade buried red-hot metal fragments deep in her right leg, shattering bone and lacerating flesh. The point girl nearly escaped unscathed. Indeed, at first glance, the grenade seemed to have no effect other than to blow her half a dozen meters toward the assassin and Guardsman, landing on her back limply. There was no blood on her front, but a small hole directly in the center of her forehead belied her peaceful appearance. A spreading pool of crimson framed her head like a gory halo.

    Eli dropped the pin and unslung his lasrifle, grinning like a fool.

    “I’ve got to get more of those.”

    Ophelia’s shot silenced the man’s screams.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The explosion startled and distracted everyone inside The Rat Pit, causing them to flinch and involuntarily look toward the sound. Except Lazerus. As the thug in the doorway turned his head, the Arbitrator dropped into a crouch, bringing his own shotgun into line with the unsuspecting man’s center of mass. The thundergun spoke twice, and the man collapsed as all of the muscle supporting his torso vaporized, spraying those behind him with a fine red mist.

    Lazerus stood back up as he racked the slide, voice nearly as loud as his weapon.


    Harris darted for the door as his muscle moved to intersect the Arbitrator. The door on the opposite side of the restaurant banged open at that time, and a long-las’ snap-CRACK sounded as Tauron put a las round through one of the thug’s throat. Donne somehow dredged up the intestinal fortitude to try and redeem himself, and scooped up his pistol from where he had dropped it. Firing wildly from his back, he had the satisfaction of seeing one round crease the side of the Arbitrator, who had his back turned to him. Grunting with the sudden pain, the lawman glanced back at Donne, the up at something behind the bouncer, grinning. Lazerus turned back to the remaining thug interposed between himself and Harris.

    Donne was confused. He had just shot this guy in the back and fully expected the guy to turn on him with his big gauge, but the guy was ignoring him. Why would he do that, unless… At that moment, an iron staff stabbed down, pinning his thigh to the wooden floor, briefly, before being wrenched back out, the pain causing Donne to lose his grip on the stub auto. Ishmael pulled his staff back, aiming another swing at the downed thug’s head.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Mikel cursed himself as he spun to face the mousy girl. How could he have been so stupid? Falling for such a basic ploy! He would show her. He’d show everyone that he was not someone to…

    His thought process was cut off by the foot-long knife blade entering his stomach. His hand clawed the pistol from his belt, his finger jerking and firing a round into the sidewalk as the girl pulled the knife out and rammed it home again, piercing his liver. As Mikel slipped to the ground, blood pouring from his stomach, the girl reached down and picked up his pistol.

    “Huh, I don’t have one of these. Well, at least I didn’t.”

    She darted away to the left, following a blur that was the last thing Mikel saw.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Harris and the woman, preceded by one of his two remaining bodyguards, burst out of the door into the alley. The bodyguard slipped on a spreading pool of liquid. As he stood back up, he brought his hand up to his face. It was red and sticky, and still warm. His glance quickly took in the situation, and he turned to face the two figures further down the alley. He screamed at Harris and the woman to head for the streets, to get away, as he fired at the woman with the laspistol, missing as his footing remained unsure.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    Lazerus advanced on the remaining bodyguard, who wavered between loyalty to his employer and loyalty to his life. Harris and some woman were getting away! He screamed to Tauron.

    “Hunter, the other side! Harris is leaving!”

    The bodyguard’s resolve hardened, but too late as the advancing Arbitrator splattered the wall with more human salsa as he headed toward the door, picking his way carefully through the bodies and gore.

    Tauron, seeing that the restaurant seemed secure, kicked in his high gear. Raised on a world where only the fastest ate and avoided being eaten, the former Guardsman could sprint at need. He tore up the alley, around the front of the restaurant, where Ave’ was looting a dying man, past a gasping, crawling, bloody wreck of a corner-girl, and down the other alley, pulling up just in time to put the barrel of his long-las into Harris Glout’s eye socket.

    “Going somewhere?”

    The woman accompanying Glout kept running, looking over at her business associate and his captor, not seeing the girl coming around the corner at high speed, blood already dripping off her blade. Ave’ sprung into the air, gripping the knife with both hands above her head and plunging it down into and through the woman’s neck as she descended. Ave’ did not land standing upright, instead allowing her momentum and weight to act on the lever that her knife had become, the woman’s head coming off with a sickening schluuuurp-POP. The head, still bearing a look of surprise, described a perfect arc as it flew backwards, beyond Ophelia and Eli, who had just cut down the bodyguard in a hail of las fire. Lazerus stormed out of the door, putting his shotgun at the base of Glout’s skull, as Ave’ and Ophelia moved up to completely surround the criminal. Eli headed inside the restaurant at Lazerus’ head-jerk, helping Ishmael subdue the cowed and concussed Donne.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    “Where’s your office, Harris? I don’t believe you were working out of the kitchen, so where is it?”

    Glout just glared at the Arbitrator. He, Donne, and the girl with the shredded leg were tied up, hands behind their backs, and set along the wall down the western alley.

    “Okay, I guess we’ll just have to go find it ourselves.”

    Ophelia and Ishmael entered the kitchen as the other four covered their prisoners, keeping an eye out for anyone expressing too much interest in the proceedings. Eventually, the assassin returned.

    “We found it. An office and small laboratorium. Ishmael is checking the machinery for stolen tech. And for spare parts.”

    Just then, the crowd in the street became agitated, as Miocanthus and his Inquisitorial guard muscled their way through. The acolyte smiled, seeing Glout’s sour expression. "Well done, people. We took down his main manufactorum, and it looks like you caught the man himself. Well done. Let’s get this scum back to the blockhouse and turned over to the proper authorities. I’ll leave a guard force here to secure the scene. Let’s go.”
    Last edited by Lothred; Friday, 30th May, 2008 at 04:29 PM.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Lothred
    As the duo continued down the alley toward the door, Ophelia whispered to Eli.

    *those people we just passed, they know we’re here*

    I love that. I know I was there, but I still get a good laugh everytime I think about it. Really enjoying the write-up, and can't wait for more.

  6. #6
    Novice (Lvl 1)

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    Bad part of town

    As the rickety rail car slowed in an ear-piercing squeal of poorly-maintained brakes, the five occupants pulled themselves to their feet, shouldering packs and weapons. The car shuddered to a stop at a wide raised platform, devoid of life but for a single rag-shrouded figure. As the party exits the rail car, to a man grateful that the journey had finally ended without incident, the waiting figure darts quickly onto the car, flashing a pass at the door sensor. The doors closed once again, more jerking than sliding, the car emitting a mournful shriek as the tortured brakes released and its eternal journey continued. The four men and one woman stretched, relieving cramped muscles and restoring circulation to tingling extremities. Finally, each removed the earplugs that had protected their hearing up to this point, working their jaws to restore normal fluid levels to their inner ears.

    “By the Throne I’m glad to be off of that, that, that DEATHTRAP!” exclaimed Ophelia.

    “I don’t know,” Lazerus replied, “I’ve been on worse. You should see some of the rail cars on Malfi. At least this one had a solid floor.”

    Ishmael watched the car pull off with a saddened look. “Yet another gift of the Machine God left to fall into decay. The local priesthood should be censured for failing so in their duty.”

    “Tha loc’ls oughta be shot’s whatcha mean,” opined Tauron. “Mebbe drawn ‘n quart’rd.”

    Eli looked vaguely troubled. “Does anyone know why Ave’ isn’t here? I thought she would be joining us, but I haven’t seen her since Miocanthus separated us to begin our initiations.”

    Three negative replies quickly followed the young Guardsman’s question, but Lazerus remained silent.

    “Lazerus? Do you know something?”

    The Arbitrator stared into the younger man’s face. “Ave’ is otherwise occupied right now. I have faith that we will see her again, but not on this mission. Speaking of this mission, I’d like to make sure everyone remembers it.”

    The group moved to a corner of the rail car platform, sitting in a circle on the filthy permacrete. The Arbitrator pointed to Eli. “Why are we here?”

    Eli thought back, remembering the events of the past several weeks. First, after the capture of Harris Glaut and his tainted drug business, the party had been separated, housed in anonymous hab-blocks under false names. Daily indoctrination and training had followed, seemingly interminably, until he could no longer remember what day it was without referencing his wrist chrono. Day after day after day of lectures given in vast, empty auditoriums by lecture servitors, hypno-doctriation, and reams of codes and ciphers that were memorized and then erased. Finally, a note had been slipped under his door, giving a time and place, and signed “The Emperor Protects.”

    At the appointed time, Eli had presented himself to a door servitor at a small door set into the side of an enormously imposing structure in the Administratum district. The building was covered in carvings of skulls, urns, and other symbols of death. A ten-meter high statue of a weeping saint crowned the edifice. As the servitor allowed the Guardsman to pass, he entered a room where he was met by the other four now seated on this platform with him. No sooner had greetings been exchanged, then another servitor had led the group through a thoroughly confusing labyrinth of corridors and chambers, until finally they had been deposited in a small room with dusty metal crates along one wall. The upper half of the wall opposite the door was one huge mirror, which had slowly cleared to transparency, revealing another chamber, this one of gleaming steel, beyond.

    Within this other chamber stood a tall man, thin of face, wearing white medicae robes covered with a red leather coat. Two medicae servo-skulls hovered behind the man, while a frame held what was obviously some sort of body under a sheet. The man gestured for the Acolytes to approach the glass, then his voice had sounded from a grill in the ceiling. The man had introduced himself as Medicae-Interrogator Sand, Miocanthus’ superior in the retinue of their Inquisitor. Then Sand had begun the briefing.

    “Eli? Why are we here?” Lazerus’ voice intruded on Eli’s memory.

    “According to Sand…” began the young man, only to be cut off by the Arbitrator.

    “Medicae-Interrogator Sand, you mean. The man has earned the right to his title.”

    “Very well, Medicae-Interrogator Sand showed the corpse to us, identifying it as one Saul Arbest, resident of chamber 6/23 stack 7-17 in Coscarla, Hive Sibellus. This,” he indicated the area surrounding the platform with a wave of his hand, “is, I presume, Coscarla. And a lovely area it is, I am sure. At any rate. Saul had been found dead on a transit rail, apparently of an overdose of some kind. Further investigation revealed, however, that he had been…altered. I believe the phrase he used was ‘total system failure due to rejection of tissue graft’ or something like that. Heretical and forbidden implants had been inserted into his body, and had, in a nutshell, killed him. We are to find out why he had these implants, who put them in him, and how they got them. I think that about covers it.”

    Lazerus nodded, satisfied, then turned to Ishmael. “And of the gear we were given?”

    The Tech-Priest opened his pack and began identifying items, lifting each as it was referenced. “First, tokens to allow us free passage to and within Coscarla. Next, cognomen identifying us as agents of a mercantile firm and allowing us to carry arms for self-defense. Hand vox sets, short range, encrypted. Overcoats and chem lamps, apparently to allow us to blend in and to work at night. A data-slate containing our basic mission and some miscellaneous data on the area. It is capable of short-range audio and visual recording and playback. A bio-sample kit, in case we encounter any other…anomalous tissue. Finally, a money pouch for, as the Interrogator put it, ‘sundries and bribes’.”

    Next the Arbitrator turned to Tauron. “What’s our course of action?”

    “Fuhst, we go to th’ boy’s stack ‘n check it fer ennythin’ serspicious-like. Then we talk to his sistah, Lili.”

    “Right. And after that?” Lazerus asked Ophelia.

    The assassin thought for a moment then replied “We investigate. Quietly.”

    “Right. In that case, let’s get to it.”

    With that, the party left the rail car platform and entered Coscarla. The first impression that each acolyte received was one of hopeless depression. Taking in the buildings nearest the railhead, it was obvious that most were burned-out hulks, with the occasional intact building still showing signs of life. The alleys between buildings were choked with refuse, indeterminate shapes moving in the darkness. The few locals in sight moved quickly, heads down, trying to appear as inconspicuous as possible, as though trying to avoid someone’s attention. Lazerus frowned, some feeling tickling the back of his mind.

    Consulting the data-slate, Ishmael pointed ahead. “Come, the hab-stack is this way.”

    Ishmael led the way through the streets, the rest of the party separating and following from a distance, each within sight of at least two others. Several minutes later, they arrived at yet another anonymous blank-faced building, identified by the data-slate as Stack 7-17. The main entrance doors were open, the left-hand door hanging by one hinge and the right-hand door lying on the floor within. The lobby was obviously once cheerfully decorated, but everything of value has been either vandalized or stolen. Across the lobby, the doors to the hab lift stand open, a gaping entrance to a black void. Tauron looked over to Eli, the two Guardsmen bringing up the rear of the party.

    “Ah guess we take th’ steers, huh?”

    “I guess so. Six floors up. Great.”

    The party quickly sorted out their order of advance, Ophelia silently stalking up the stairs ahead of the others, Ishmael sandwiched between Lazerus and Tauron, and Eli bringing up the rear. Upon reaching the landing for the sixth floor, the party entered the hallway cautiously, working their way to chamber 6/23. The chamber’s door stood ajar, the lock broken. Ophelia and Lazerus drew their weapons and entered, sweeping the interior. The chamber was a simple low-hab dwelling, approximately an 8x8 meter square with a water closet off to one side and a single window looking out over the main street in front of the hab stack. A noise behind the bed caught Ophelia’s ear and she leapt over the frame, grabbing the person hiding behind the bed, whose scream was quickly stifled when the assassin shoved the bedsheet in their mouth. Ophelia pulled the struggling figure out from behind the bed and shoved the, now apparent, woman to the middle of the room. She quickly scrambled back across the floor until her back was against the wall, looking at the assassin fearfully, spitting the sheet from her mouth. Lazerus quickly slung his shotgun and knelt down next to the woman.

    “Shhh, quiet now. It’s all right. Calm down.” Mumering quietly to try to calm the panicked woman, Lazerus turned and glared daggers at the assassin, who simply shrugged in return. Lazerus nodded his head toward the door. Ophelia shrugged again, spun in place and walked out, only to be replaced by Tauron, poking his head in. Lazerus motioned the Feral Worlder to approach, all the while continuing to try and calm down the woman. As he returned his gaze to her, he noticed a couple of things about her. First, she looked positively haggard, as though she had not slept in weeks. Next, she was clutching an overcoat at least two sizes too big around her. Finally, she held a rucksack pressed against her chest. Eventually, the Arbitrator’s soothing words calmed the woman down, and she managed a weak smile.

    Lazerus smiled back. “I apologize for the rude entrance. Our companion is occasionally less than patient in stressful situations. Can you tell us your name?”

    “Lili Arbest,” the woman replied.

    “Saul’s sister?” Tauron asked.

    “Yes, do you know my brother? Is he all right? Who are you?”

    The two men looked at each other, then the Guardsman nodded to Lazerus, who turned back to Lili. “Well, I would have said that we were friends of his, but I guess that won’t work now.” A wry grin crossed his face. “We’re actually looking for Saul. He’s not in any trouble, at least from us, but he may be in danger. Caught up in something too big for him, you know. Could you tell us where he may…Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve completely forgotten my manners. Allow me to introduce us. I am Ranald, and my friend here is Cort. Our impetuous ally in the hall is Leefe. It’s a great pleasure to meet you, Lili.”

    The Arbitrator’s pleasant manner, combined with the release of weeks of pent-up stress and sleepless nights led to the woman opening up quickly, divulging much of what she knew to the kind man. Unfortunately for the Acolytes, she knew little of use. After several minutes of talking, Lili mentioned that she was on her way out of Coscarla. When asked where she was going and why, Lili grew sad again.

    “Saul’s gone. I’ve been holding out hope, but in my heart I know he’s gone. Dead or just gone, I don’t know, but I feel that I’ll never see my brother again. So, I’m going too. I’ve got a friend in the Porphyry district, a scrivener. Not much, sure, but better than waiting around here to be taken too.”

    After a few more minutes of talk, Lazerus and Tauron felt that they had received as much useful information as they would be able to glean from the poor girl. Tauron headed out to the hall to get the others out of sight, while Lazerus took down the contact information for the friends’ hab, promising to contact Lili if they found any information about Saul. Finally, he escorted Lili to the front of the building, wishing her luck in her future. As she walked in the direction of the rail car platform, Tauron asked Ophelia to trail the girl discreetly to ensure that she made it onto the rail car safely. Ophelia smiled nastily and quickly moved off.

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