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-   -   Twin Traitors (http://forums.tauonline.org/tau-online-grand-summer-story-competition-2007/42727-twin-traitors.html)

42 15 Aug 2007 09:28

Twin Traitors
The Sisters of Battle marched down the wide, white marbled pathed road towards Judwart, the Planetary Capital city of Tarsiss III. Standing five abreast as they marched behind their Canoness. Every Sister was armed for battle, each carrying an ornately crafted bolter, flamer or melta weapon within their hands.
Marching in perfect unison, the Sisters sung hymns as they marched, hundreds of voices filling the air with righteous praise for Him on Terra, each tone of their song complimenting the sounds of hundreds of armoured feet hitting the flagstones.
Tall fluted banners were held aloft by the white armoured warrior women. The light from the twin suns of the Tariss system cast reflected off their white armour, filling the valley with reflect radiance.
At the head of the column were the Celestians, and amongst their number, marched Alica and Gemiel. Both were stern looking women, and whereas Alice had fair hair, Gemiel’s had a deep brown lustre.
Gemiel was the older of the two by virtue of a few minutes; they had been virtually inseparable from birth. Known amongst the Order simply as ‘the twins,’ they were direct opposites in their attitudes towards life. However, their personalities complimented each other so that when both were together, they served as a counterbalance to the other, ensuring a balance between Gemiel’s emotional fits of rage and Alica’s almost over cautious and methodical approach to problems.
As the column neared the final stretch of flagged road leading up towards Eternity Gate, the advance was halted by a sudden whoosh of a fighter passing overhead.
Craning her neck around to see what had caused the sudden sonic boom, Alica saw the hard-edged form of a fighter slip overhead with breathtaking speed.
Alica felt her had slip onto the safety catch on her bolter as she saw the fighter was leaking oily smoke and flames licked the grey mottled surface on its left side as it swept on over the Sororitas column.
Less then a second later, the Imperial fighter blossomed into fire and then exploded, sending deadly shrapnel in all directions and raining broke fuselage and ordnance onto the column of Sisters. Alica and
As quickly as the first fighter had appeared and exploded, two more fighters slipped into view overhead against the blue green sky.
Two black dart-like fighters, their very appearance looking menacing.
“Traitors” breathed Alica as the realisation hit her like a bolt shell.
“Sororitas! Double march!” thundered the Canoness next to the Celestian, and before Alica could snap around to move, the dark fighters darted around and begun their attack.
Those Sisters that were injured by the blast and the shrapnel of the first downed fighter were shredded as the two traitorous ones went over them. Alica could only hope that the majority could reach the only building to offer a measure of protection, Eternity Gate.
As Alica ran towards the white marbled monument to the Emperor, which also served as a gatehouse to the city of Judwart, she was thrown aside. Gathering her wits quickly, saw that her sister Gemiel had saved her life by throwing her aside to avoid a strafing run which was lined up and would of killed Alica if she had of continued to run.
“Thank you” she breathed as she got up and sprinted harder after the Canoness who had already made it to the safety of the Gate.
The scale of Eternity Gate wasn’t lost on Alica as she crossed the threshold and slipped into a narrow alcove beside the Canoness. White marble with red and blue veins had been sculpted with skill into a structure consisting of two massive columns supporting a domed roof. Around each column were twenty feet tall statures, constructed into the images of the various Primarches of the Astartes Legions.
Under the watchful gaze of the one known simply as “the Lion,” Primarch of the Dark Angels, the Celestians formed a tight circle around their immediate superior, the Canoness, as she stepped out onto the large space between the columns.
“We must punish them for desecrating our world!” thundered the Canoness as yet more Sisters made it to the relative safety of the Gate.
Alica forced herself to look out as the fighters pressed their attacks repeatedly, killing yet more of Alica’s sisterhood.
“Retributors! Form a gun line!” ordered the Canoness whilst she surged through the press of Celestians. Catching a hard frown from Alica, the Canoness merely ignored her subordinate’s concerns. “I will not be held hostage by my own guards” Alica heard the Canoness mutter as she took a prominent place amongst the Sororitas.
“More fool her if she gets killed” Alica heard Gemiel muttered beneath her breath and Alica turned to her sister with a look of disapproval eminent on her face. “The Canoness deserves our respect” Alica uttered, ignoring the Sisters all around her taking up positions around them and hefting heavy weaponry into the air.
“Aren’t you even going to watch the pride of our Order take out the fighters?” asked Gemiel, her gazing snapping around to face Alica.
“Not if you’re going to make another comment like that!” Alica snapped as the first of the heavy bolters opened up.
“Go count your rosary beads, Alica” Gemiel retorted back, her tone brokering no reply. Alica had learned from hard experience that to press her now would only end in blood.
Contenting herself with the fact that she would have a hand in the downfall of the fighters, Alica’s gaze turned towards the fighters outside. A tear ran down her cheek as she watched another group of Sororitas cut down by strafing fire that were still out in the open.
She continued to watch the fighter’s movements, and as soon as she saw one of the chaos fighter’s bank and turn towards the Gate, she shouted “fire!”
The fighter could sweep in, under the gate. Caught between melta beams and tracer fire from the heavy bolters, the fighter tried to avoid the incoming fire but it was just too fast. Two streams of bolter fire ripped the nose cone and its right wing, sending the fighter into a sharp right bank.
Alica cursed to herself as she whipped around to see the fighter career into one of the marble status, reducing the statue to rubble in an instant. “Damned penitent oath!” cursed Gemiel.
The twins shared a brief glance at each other before their attentions were caught by the roar of more heavy weapons fire. They watched the second chaos fighter bank as sharply as the first had, but this pilot learned quickly and instead of sweeping in and under the arch, it swept over and then became lost in the cloud cover above the Gate.
“We’ll report this incident,” stated the Canoness whilst she toyed with a few strands of her black hair that had fallen out of place.
The Dawn of Justice was a small but capable craft, and had served Inquisitor Holt handsomely over the course of his travels since becoming a fully-fledged Inquisitor. It was no more then a small personal launch, having had been refitted with improved void shielding, up gunned and armoured shortly before it’s contractual of service to Inquisitor Holt.
Its bridge was a light, airy affair, with amble room. It was clear from the simple and easily worked control consoles and the abundance of servitors dotted around the bridge that it was intended to be operated by a single individual. Holt was no stranger to her controls and he often relished the prospect of guiding the vessel. It was such a time when Cilia, a woman dressed in a plain green, knee high frock, strode onto the bridge.
“Yes, Cilia?” Holt asked the women without looking as he plotted another course correction into a nearby console.
Holt had hated her eyes, they always seemed to see straight through a person’s outward expression and expose their baser personality. Holt was also pretty sure she was completely blind too, but at times, he couldn’t even be sure of that.
“My eyes are of no concern, Inquisitor,” snapped the women suddenly.
“Stop reading my thoughts, how would you like it if I went through your personal effects?” asked Holt calmly despite the mild annoyance at his privacy being invaded so casually.
“That would be improper of you, Inquisitor” spat the women.
“It amounts to the same thing!” said Holt, unwilling to let it go that easily.
“No it doesn't ” hissed the women, “I only do it passively. At times, I’m not even aware I’m doing it.”
“Well, you could always keep it to yourself” shot back Holt, a small smile forming as the irony hit him.
“Leave Cilia alone. Besides she’s harmless” interjected another voice. Holt shot the owner of the other voice a look of quiet bemusement as Dyrin entered the bridge from behind Cilia.
He was dressed in a black clothe robe and a lacquered, shiny black breastplate was visible beneath the loosing fitting robe. At his side was a pair of black chased bolt pistols in their holsters, and behind them were a pair of custom plasma pistols. The bolt pistols were the weapons that Dyrin had before he had met the Inquisitor, and the former were a gift upon Holt’s ascension to the rank of Inquisitor.
It was a vain hope that he’ll at least stop using his bolt weapons and use the more powerful pair, one that hadn’t worked out to Holt’s liking.
“Just why on Terra are you doing up?” Holt said, giving him a dry look.
“She got me up” Dyrin said, pointing to Cilia.
“She did, did she?” Holt gazed turned to Cilia suddenly, a smile beginning to form.
“You need to be well rested for the coming tide of filth spewing from the Eye again” Cilia began. “Tarsiss III is under attack. They are asking for aid.”
Before Holt could answer, Dyrin interjected again “There’s more. Bandoss Primarius is also under attack, by Eldar pirates.”
Holt’s gaze lowered for a few seconds as he thought about where his duty lay.
“Dyrin, awake the Navigator. We’re going to Tarsiss III” Holt settled on suddenly.
“Are you sure, Inquisitor. Early reports suggest it’s a Cult rebellion on Tarsiss III, whilst Bandoss is a fully fledged xenos attack.”
“The Inquisition is not there to help defend worlds from full scale wars, we have Astartes for that. We are tasked with routing out the heretic, mutant and the psyker.” Out of the corner of his eye, Holt saw Cilia’s eyes widen at the use of the word ‘psyker’.
“Don’t worry Cilia, your safe…” Holt stated and a wide smile crossed his face as he uttered “for now.”
“Chaos cultists you say?” asked the Governess as she stood, gazing out of the large ornamental, dark tinted windows, which flanked her large and imposing desk.
“Yes madam” said the junior clerk as he put down a data slate on her desk, amongst a haphazard pile of others such slates.
“How bad is the infection?”
“Impossible to tell at this stage, the Arbites are looking in it, but their report can take weeks to prepare and it may take months to resolve.”
“You’ve updated me, junior. Now I wish to be alone so I can digest the information,” said the Governess.
‘Where is an Inquisitor when you need one?’ asked the Governess to herself as she slowly turned to look over the numerous reports left on her desk. Many of them would undoubtedly be dry, boring reads. The missives penned to Adeptus Ministorum often were.
As she sorted through the various slates, she glanced a note briefly and something caught her eye. The words ‘Tibius Holt’ had jumped out at her on one of the lines of a report filed less then two hours ago. As she scanned the report’s top lines, she smiled warmly to herself as she sat down and leaned back in her chair as she read the slate in greater depth.
When she was done reading, she sat forward again, and checked her desk chronograph. 1705 it read. Checking the report again, the Governess smiled and reached out to activate the intercommunications network to her private secretary “Byron, get me transport to the star port. I want to be there for eighteen hundred hours.”
“You’re cutting it a little close, ma’dam, but I can arrange it,” cackled back over the system.
Canoness Dominica burst into the Governor’s Palace, throwing open the large double doors as she did so. Behind her was her Celestians, Dominica stormed up towards the desk clerk who had turned a decidedly paler tone of white as the imposing figure of the Canoness moved rapidly towards him.
Dominica was stopped short of the desk as two ranks of armed Guardsmen snapped forward, blocking off the route to the desk with their hellguns raised.
“I am Canoness Dominica of the Order of the Raped Virgin, move aside or face our wrath!” shouted the Canoness whilst her Celestians formed up behind her, their bolters poised and trained on the armed Guardsmen.
The stalemate lasted for several minutes, in silence, until a cleric broke it.
“Sergeant Harloon! They are Sororitas! I can vouch for their authority!” brokered the priest as he slid into the space between the two lines of armed warriors. It was his simple brown attire and twin lines of rosary beads making him out from the rest of the low ranking Ministorum officials who were gathering around to watch.
The Canoness stepped forwards, ignoring the Guardsmen completely and stood beside the Priest.
“Priest Gurrow, you know these men?” Dominica stated coldly.
“I do, Canoness, they are good men” replied the Priest.
“Sisters, lower your weapons!” Dominica ordered abruptly. In a rush of practised martial precision, the Sisters dropped their aim and toggled their weapon’s safeties back on.
“Squad, lower your weapons!” ordered the Sergeant after a moment’s silence.
“Canoness, may I seek forgiveness for their sins? They are only following orders given the cultist activity.”
“You may, Priest, but whether He does forgive them is another matter,” Dominica said whilst making the sign of the holy aquila. “But there is one thing I must attend to” Dominica quickly added, to which the Priest only nodded.
She marched up to the Sergeant and immediately, the size difference became increasingly apparent. Dominica was half a head’s height above the Guardsmen when she came to stop before him.
Taking off one of armoured gauntlets, she struck the Guardsmen across the face with the armoured gauntlet and the Guardsmen fell to the floor from the sudden attack.
Dominica hissed, “you ever dare to insult my honour again like that and you’ll be facing a firing squad of my Sisters!”
As the sergeant recovered from the Canoness’ attack, Alica reached for and drew her bolter in one fluid motion, aiming directly at the Sergeant as he rose to attack the Canoness but thought better of it as he saw the Celestian training her bolter on him.
“I should think so” smiled Alica as she let her weapon drop onto its restraining straps again. Alica then heard the priest rush over to the sergeant “It only serves you right for pointing your weapons at the Sororitas” the Priest ushered in hushed tones whilst the Canoness walked calmly over to the desk clerk which she had before being interrupted by the Guardsmen.
“Where is the Governess?” she asked the clerk.
“She has left… about an hour ago” he uttered back with a worried expression playing on his face, and Alica could see he was quite flustered from the events which had just unfolded.
“Where did she go?” pressed the Canoness.
“To… to… the star port” the clerk managed. Alica appeared at the Canoness’ side as the clerk replied. After Dominica had strode away, the Celestian slid a small parcel across the clerk’s desk. “In this, you’ll find some bitter sweet tartlets, eat them and the shock you’re facing will be gone by morning” smiled Alica.
The clerk only responded with another worried look but nodded his agreement anyway and Alica turned away to follow her Canoness out the door of the Palace.

42 15 Aug 2007 09:29

Re: Entry D - Untitled
The room was cold, ice had formed on the windows and despite the near blinding whiteness outside, Maximus Adual couldn’t help but stare out into the bleak landscape outside.
He had often loathed this posting but today had a special relevance to him. The first stages of his plan had been put in motion.
Maximus Adual was a wry and scrawny man, even for an Astartes, and despite the silver plate armour he wore, he was amongst the smallest of the Chapter, with blond hair and a kind face. What his features portrayed as an innocent and foolish example of humanity was in of itself an illusion. Adual had one of the sharpest minds and had a cunning will.
“Enter,” he shouted before a visitor at the door could knock.
When the door had opened fully, Adual turned to note the silver armoured warrior standing there. Flame motifs adorned his leg greaves and shoulder pads, and an opened book was applied over the top of the stylised flame motif.
“What can I do for you, Librarian?” asked Adual softly.
“I have been sent to tell you that our Chapter has been called. Back to our home world.”
“I am already prepared, Mars Aran,” replied Adual.
“You shall not speak to me like we are equals, Librarian!” hissed Mars Aran with venom in every word. Something about the way Adual carried himself, his self confidence had always put Aran’s back up, always made him distrust his brother Librarian’s motives.
Mars Aran had always suspected it was also to do with the ability Adual had of hiding his thoughts behind a shield of pure will.
“Is that all you have to tell me?” asked Adual.
“That is all I have been ordered to tell you, Librarian,” said Mars Aran, turning to leave. But before he could do so, Adual spoke again. “I detect a changing in the winds, Librarian, make sure your prepared for anything” warned Adual as he turned his attention back to the bleak snow covered landscape outside.

The engines of the Aquila were already round down to a halt on the landing pad when the armoured limousine slowed to a halt a respectable distance away. The ramp was already down and waiting in the shade of the Imperial war craft were a knot of three.
At the head of the group of Imperials was Holt himself, dressed in full battle armour. A finely crafted suit of carapace armour with blue dyed cloth mid sections and blackened mail acting as additional protection. The stylised double-headed eagle was resplendent upon his chest, and at his sides were his trusty powered blade and his white chased plasma pistol safely within their protective holsters.
To Holt’s left was Wellin, a lean looking man with toned arms and chiselled features. Resting in his hands was a finely crafted bolt pistol which ended in a bulky silencer and a small power blade. Dyrin was also present, dressed in the same clothes he had worn during the seventeen-hour flight to Tarsiss III.
With royal decorum, the driver’s door opened, a pale faced man dressed in deep brown and white formal uniform walked around the large car and opened one of the doors nearest the Aquila.
Holt’s eyes widened as the occupant stepped out onto the landing pad. The women was a tall build, but also muscular. She wore the navy blue uniform of a local Guard trooper but lacked the rank pins and the usual medals of which adorned field commanders. She had long flowing, red hair and an equally pale complexion, matching her attendant who had taken up silent vigil beside the limo door.
Recovering quickly from the mild shock, Holt framed a smile before turning to Wellin.
“Governess Madam Chantelle Chevion, I presume?” Holt started as the women strolled across from the limo to where Holt was standing.
“You would be correct, Inquisitor” she replied in a self-assured voice and smiled. “I’m surprised you don’t recognise me?” she asked.
“I do, but our past doesn’t concern ourselves here” Holt replied, his smile disappearing for a few seconds before returning quickly.
He had known the Governess by a different name in his youth, and they had grown up together before Holt was picked to train under his Inquisitorial mentor and taken off world.
“So Chaos Cultists are plaguing the world?” Holt asked, pre-empting the Governess’ next obvious remark.
“It appears that way” she smiled.
“Any riots?” enquired Holt.
“A few, mainly in the southern continents.”
“Have you forgot to pay your tithes?” asked Holt, his smile widening.
“We have paid up in full, and on time” she replied. She wasn’t taken aback by strange question, and she was more then aware of his strange brand of humour.
“Ah, so we can’t blame those Ministorum clerks for revolting then. We all know how they get if you forget to carry the two” Holt joked.
She laughed. It was a kind laugh, one that Holt had heard many times in his youth.
“I don’t suppose you’ve kicked any machines recently?” Holt asked.
She shook her head with a broad smile.
“We can count the cogboys out then…. Astartes?”
“You’re the same old joker you always were” smiled the Governess
“I hope you have space for three in that limo,” Holt stated suddenly.
“We do and I take it your itching to get cultist hunting?” asked the Governess, not really expecting an answer.
Holt just nodded.

42 15 Aug 2007 09:29

Re: Entry D - Untitled
“Brother Librarians, we have been ordered to Gallorway Point to assemble the Chapter before the mass transit to Tarsiss III” reported the Astropath in a cold tone, his features hidden beneath the shadow cast by his light blue robe.
“We will proceed straight to Tarsiss III, with no delays” Adual instructed as he turned to the Captain of the Bloodied Warrior. The Captain was a humble man, with a hunched back and a pale complexion like much of the majority of the crew, who had been drawn from Tarsiss III two centuries before.
“That would go against the orders of the Chapter Master” spat Mars Aran, who had heard the exchange between the Captain and Adual, but had chosen to stay out of the discussion up until that point.
“He wants to amass the Chapter as a show of unnecessary force for a mere civilian uprising. He is too sentimental. Such a task would take weeks if not months to complete. The uprising requires swift action” Adual shot back.
For the first time since Mars Aran had met Maximus Adual, he actually agreed on his assessment of the situation and curtly nodded his agreement.
Seeing that Mars Aran was in agreement with his counterpart, the Captain begun to bark orders to the crew in quick succession.
“And be sure to inform the Governor’s Palace of who we are and our intensions.” Adual chipped in when the Captain had given the bulk of his orders.

By nightfall, the temperature had plummeted to a few degrees above freezing and Holt was glad to have been given a bed to sleep in the Palace itself instead of having to venture out into the cold. Despite the warmth of the room he was in, Holt couldn’t get off to sleep and sat up in his bed for a few minutes before getting dressed and then taking a seat by the window.
It was only then that Holt fully appreciate the room he had been given, as it was located on the seventh floor of the Palace. From his window, he could see wild fires where houses had been set alight, fires out in the street and shadowy shapes moving about in the streets. Holt frowned to himself whilst he cast a watchful eye on the proceedings, aided by many of the street lamps that had stayed functional despite the crisis. He noted a number of groups who had banded together despite the chaos of the world and were busy singing songs of praise to the Emperor by the light several large pyres.
Something caught the Inquisitor’s eye as it crossed the sky, the flare of its exhausts making the object look like a small meteor. As suddenly as it appeared, two columns of light flashed into existence and it took a few seconds for the two searchlights to get a fix on the object.
Something about the shape was oddly familiar to Holt and then it struck him like a power fist.
Leaping up of his chair, Holt ran across to the door after stopping off briefly at the table to collect his weaponry his vox unit and his Inquisitorial seal. Finding himself out in the corridor with red carpeting and white washed walls, Holt turned down the corridor towards the lift.
Keying his vox with one hand whilst activating the lift controls with the other, Holt spoke into his vox pickup as he stepped into the lift. “This is Inquisitor Holt. I’m requesting the location of the Governess.”
“She’s in the meeting rooms, south east quadrant of the Palace, 8th floor… Inquisitor” cackled back over his vox unit.
“Thank you” Holt voxed back as he pressed the lift rune for the eighth floor.
With renewed sense of purpose, keyed the activation stud for the eighth floor.

Epistolary Mars Aran stepped out onto the rock hard streets. Taking a deep breadth of the air, he exhaled a sigh of relief at being on his home world once again. Before he could even begin to appreciate the exquisitely ornamented street that was Unity Plaza, the Librarian felt the light hail of thrown projectiles patter harmlessly off his armoured build.
Aran looked up the street where a group of several hundred citizens had gathered in the street, many of them still in the process of looting from shops, or fighting amongst themselves in their bitter struggles over what remained of the foodstuffs. Each wore a ragtag collection of clothes, items and from the smell, Aran could tell many hadn’t bathed in weeks.
“Drop your weapons or prepare to die!” Mars Aran boomed after activating his suits vocaliser.
Despite the Librarian’s stern words, the crowd just begin to pelt the small group of Astartes with more even stones.
After a few more seconds of the stone bombardment, Mars Aran nodded and Tactical Squad Tretan opened up with their bolters. The closest group of rioters fell within seconds, whilst the vast surging mass of Imperial citizenry surged forwards to get to grips with the new emergent threat.
It was with a heavy heart that Mars Aran surged forwards himself, backed by his Sergeant Tretan and his Astartes.
As he closed the distance, the Librarian’s armour erupted into fire as it finally hit the closest mob of citizenry. The crowd was taken aback by the sudden flash of psychically powered flames but pressed on seconds later but for those closest to Mars Aran, it was already too late. Their bodies had been utterly ruined by the psychic attack.
Aran’s force axe flashed left and right, cutting cleanly through the rioters as they pressed in, cutting down vast swathes of citizens with each passing stroke. From behind him, bolters barked death at the crowd.
Within minutes of the melee breaking out, Aran noticed a thinning of the numbers of those willing to attack the Astartes and he was thankful.
“Stop” Aran boomed. As quickly as the order had been given, the firing of bolters halted.
“Be gone” Aran commanded to the crowd, and he noted the look of sadness in many of the faces as they slowly turned to go elsewhere.
The first battle back on Tarsiss III was a resounding failure. Aran felt utter sorrow at the events that had just unfolded, but he also knew that it was a necessary measure.
Glancing back at the Thunderhawk which he had left only minutes before, Aran saw the shape of Adual, swathed in a deep blue robe marking his office as an Librarian of Epistolary. Marching up at once, Aran stopped short of Adual, “Just where you have been?” Aran demanded.
“On the vox” smiled Adual. Aran wasn’t sure if he was choosing to be blissfully ignorant of the massacre that had just taken place or that he actually enjoyed seeing innocent Imperial servants being killed.
“On the vox doing what?” Aran pressed.
“Getting you a hearing with the Governor. We need intelligence before we can fight this war properly.”
Mars Aran shook his head before turning to face the scene of devastation. Just under a hundred lay dead, and not a single Astartes had fallen, although a few were walking wounded.
“Identify the dead, and then set them to the torch” Aran instructed the Apothecary as he filed past to attend to the wounded Astartes.
“If you are to make it there on time, you need to get going now” Adual voiced from behind Aran.
“I’ll take the Rhino” Aran retorted, not even bothering to turn around to face the other Librarian.

Knocking loudly, Holt was entered the room after a forceful “Enter” came from within.
The meeting room as a large space, with a sizeable table taking centre stage with enough chairs to seat around thirty delegates at a pinch. The table itself was made from a dark wood, and was stained even darker still to a matt, black finish. The chairs matched the table with their dark finish and intricate woodwork.
Clustered near the door were six Sororitas, the Governess and one of her closest aides. Holt had long forgotten the attendant’s name as Holt’s rank ensued he could always deal with the Governess directly and not have to work through middle-men like him.
“Inquisitor Holt, I would like you to meet Canoness Dominica and her Celestians” ushered the Governess as the Inquisitor drew nearer.
“Inquisitor Holt, Ordo Hereticus” the Inquisitor said as he took a seat nearer the Sororitas then the Governess had. It was a clear move on Holt’s part by sitting next to the esteemed planetary ruler. In all his dealings with the Sisters of Battle in the past, he had learned that they could be over zealous and prone to fits of holy vengeance if they didn’t get their way. The Inquisitor had placed himself closer to the Sororitas for that very reason after noting that Sisters of Battle were still fully armoured and had their bolters close by.
Before the Inquisitor uttered a word, “so you’re the one that stopped us from plying the Governess with our latest bit of news?” chimed the Canoness. Holt knew she had to be the lead Sister with her long brown fur cloak draped across the back of the chair she sat on and the ornate white sabre held across her lap.
“I am?” Holt looked puzzled but was quickly put out of his misery. “Yes you are!” pressed the Canoness, “we had vital information to deliver and your arrival could not have been timed worse!”
“And what news would that be? No doubt you’ve found a long lost prayer to the Emperor in your library” Holt jested. He caught a glimpse of Madam Chevion, the Governess, force back a smile.
“You think to mock me, Inquisitor?” fumed the Canoness.
“Of course not!” Holt spat sarcastically.
“Damn you Inquisitor!” said Madam Chevion, but Holt knew it wasn’t because he was being improper, but rather because she was on the verge of laughing and had too many manners to let herself laugh, at least not in front of the Sororitas.
“Only the Emperor can truly make that call, Governess” chimed Canoness, clearly oblivious to the undercurrent of the Governess’ statement.
“Just what is this news then?” asked Holt at last.
“Our enemies are gathering...” the lead Sister began.
‘Tell us something we don’t know’ the Governess heard Holt say under his breadth. Holt could only smile at the Governess’ self-control, but it soured as she glanced across at one of the Celestians. She had a dark crown of hair and her expression was grim.
“And today we got attacked” continued the Canoness, obvious to the Inquisitor’s changing expressions.
“In your convent?” Holt snapped.
“Certainly not! Our enemies would not dare attack us in our Convent!” said the Canoness.
‘Wanna bet, if you don’t get to the point soon, I’m come and attack your Convent’ Holt breathed, his frustration at dealing with the Sororitas blossoming finally. Such was another reason he disliked the Sororitas. Holt caught a glimpse of Madam Chevion as she stood up quickly and spun around to face the door, hiding the huge smile playing upon her face from the Sisters.
“Did you say something Inquisitor?” asked the only fair-haired Celestian.
“Nope, is it your turn to get the refreshments, Madam?” Holt asked, giving her the perfect reason to leave the room.
She took it. “What are you having?” the Governess asked without turning around.
“We will have nothing” chimed Canoness, indicating the Sororitas with implied emphasis.
“I’ll have a glass of Windrow, thank you” replied Holt.
“So where were we? Where did you get attacked?” Holt turned back the Canoness, all serious again as the Governess ushered herself out of the room.
“Just outside the capital, by an enemy attack craft” said the Canoness.
“Hellbore” the fair-haired Celestian corrected.
“Can you back this up?” Holt asked.
“Yes we can! As it also shot down an Imperial flyer too” another of the Celestians chimed in.
“That is not important” shot down the Canoness.
“It is, since we can now cross check it against the records” Holt interjected.
“It is not for our hands to do such work” stated the Canoness flatly.
“Indeed it is not, for such work requires a sharp mind” chased back Holt.
“YOU DARE INSULT US?” boomed the Canoness as she rose to her feat.
“The Imperium of Man needs many servants and we all serve in our own ways” Holt soothed calmly, choosing his words carefully.
It was at that moment that the Governess chose to make her entrance, complete with a tray full of cups and a rather large glass of deep red liquid in a glass goblet. Holt stood up immediately and offered to help the Governess with the tray, ignoring the still standing Canoness.
With a short nod, Holt took off the heaviest items he could see, namely the pot of recaf and a large beaker of locally produced milk, and he placed the items on the large central table in easy reach of everyone.
“Thank you” breathed the Governess as she laid the tray flat on the table awkwardly.
“It’s the Emperor’s pleasure” Holt said whilst sitting down and then reaching for his glass of locally produced wine.
“So are you going to sit down Canoness?” Holt asked, ignoring the real reason why she was still standing.
“If you make one more remark, Inquisitor, Emperor be…” she stopped herself in her tracks after the realisation hit her of what she was actually saying. Holt only smiled.
“So…” the Governess offered after pouring herself a cup of recaf.
“Can you take me to the crash site?” Holt asked directly to the nearest Celestian, completely ignoring the Canoness for the time being.
“How’d you know we brought one down?” she asked suddenly.
“Well, my records suggest you were doing a march in memory of Alica, the 1st, and my records also tell me that you march with full battle gear…” Holt trailed off.
“You’re sharp, I’ll give you that” smiled the fair-haired Celestian despite the glaring looks of the Canoness.
“May we go in the morning?” Holt asked.
“Yes we may” the Celestian said.
“But before we retire for the night, I have a request to make of you” said Holt to which the Sister of Battle nodded.
“What is your name?”
“It’s…Alica” she replied.

42 15 Aug 2007 09:29

Re: Entry D - Untitled
The Governor’s Palace was an intimidating place from the outside. A large, granite facade set against a sweeping vista of pretty gardens in mid blossom. White columns supported the large doomed roof common of much Tarsissian architecture, and the sheer scale of it was breathtaking. Each column itself was broader then most battle tanks and a row of twenty stood along the front of the Palace.
Around the outside of the gardens stood a curtain wall, with only a single entrance way and around that lay yet more cultivated garden plots.
Blocking off the road leading up towards the gate of the Palace were two score lines of Guardsmen dressed in light blue and grey fatigues and beside them were their Chimeras, now immobile with their engines off.
Mars Aran studied the line of Guardsmen as he approached, alone and on foot.
His transport had stopped some fifty metres behind him and he had decided to go in on foot as to stop the Guardsmen from being spooked by the sudden appearance of an Astartes Rhino.
As he approached the last few metres before finally reaching the line of men, a bold Guardsman wearing the scarlet sash of a Commissar stepped forward and held his hand out, his palm open and shouted “halt in the name of the Emperor.”
“Epistolary Mars Aran to see the Governess” Aran said levelly after removing his helmet.
“I’m not aware of your appointment” stated the Commissar.
“Well, that is not important, as long as the Governess knows about it, that’s all that matters” Aran stated coldly. His gaze shifted from side to side as he spoke sizing up the Guardsmen around him should things come to a blood bath as it had done when he had first arrived.
“Do you know who I am?” spat the Guard officer.
“You’re the guy that’s making me late” smiled Aran back.
“I am Commissar Judas Andrews of the Imperial Guard!”
“That may well be, but I don’t fall under your jurisdiction” Aran chimed back, feeling his anger rise at this bold little man.
“If you’re attempting to get past me, you’re going to have to answer to me” retorted Andrews.
“I’ve had enough of your games, Commissar, move aside now or face an Astartes!” hissed Aran.
“You don’t scare me!” shouted the Commissar, drawing his laspistol as he spoke.
Before even the Commissar could raise his weapon, Aran had broken the Commissar’s neck with a back handed blow. Looking around grimly, Aran allowed himself a brief frown as the Guardsmen who had stood and watched the exchange parted and the gates begin to swing open on oiled pistons.
“Thank you” utter Aran as he stepped past the lines of Guardsmen.
The gardens were alive with plants and insects. Hover flies buzzed about, moths and other winged insects flittered about brightly colour flowers as Aran strolled up to the doors of the Palace.
Pushing the large doors apart easily thanks to his enhanced strength, Aran was greeted with a large room. The Librarian caught sight of a smartly dressed woman who stood talking to two white armoured Adeptus Sororitas with blue trim and a man dressed in a cream robe with a black armoured bodysuit beneath.
Stepping closer, the Epistolary saw their gazes turn his way.
“I am Epistolary Mars Aran, Fists of Flame Chapter” reported the Librarian, snapping the sign of the aquila as he spoke.
“I am Inquisitor Holt” the man stated, and as he gestured towards the Governess, “Governess Chevion.” “Celestian Alica and Gemiel” Holt said, gesturing towards the two Sororitas as he spoke.
“I already know” stated the Librarian with a meek smile.
“Fore sight?” asked Holt.
“I have the makings of that gift, but still needs… refinement” the Librarian stated behind a shroud of a smile.
“Inquisitorial files are great things” Holt smiled.
“Well, we must get going, nice to of met you, Librarian. Perhaps we can get together sometime?” Holt said, ushering the Sisters off to the side.
“Indeed, I feel we may have future dealings” stated the Librarian as he followed the Governess into a nearby side office to talk privately with her.

“I want that relay station destroyed” Adual stated flatly whilst he looked out of the small window at the front of the Thunderhawk. Adual could clearly see the raised antenna and large auspex dish on the rapidly approaching relay station whilst the Thunderhawk he flew in roared towards it.
“Are you sure, it is a vital part of the communications network” chimed the Techmarine who was busy manipulating the controls of the Thunderhawk with all four of his upper limbs.
“I have reports of it been overrun with traitors, and we cannot let them hold onto it.”
“All reports suggest it’s still operational” replied the pilot.
“They are probably using it covertly to control and direct their twisted brethren. It is better it be destroyed now to stop them coordinating their attacks any more” stated Adual in a grim tone.
“The targeting computers are plotting firing solution, and I’ll see to it that it is destroyed completely” resigned the Techmarine.

The crush site was unremarkable, and the charred body of the pilot had been broken in hundreds of pieces, which littered the site liberally. From the shattered fragments left, Holt could surmise it was indeed a Hellbore, as Alica had stated. A full wing segment had survived and the telltale configuration of leading edges, gun mountings and engine ducting on the wings gave it away to Holt.
It was one of only a twelve examples ever produced on Tarsiss III, Holt read as he flicked from page to page of information which were displayed on a data slate he had brought with him. It also stated they were an old pattern of fighter, which were only in service for twenty years in the Tarsiss system before the Horus Heresy. And due to their unique design, only a few were skilled enough to pilot them.
“We’ll need to get back to the Palace” Holt said, turning to Alica at last.
Casting a puzzled look, Holt continued “my records haven’t been updated in a few years but they indicate only three Hellbore pilots are currently alive. I need to run it through the cognitors at the Palace to confirm my conclusions.”
And then Holt shuddered after realising that he would have to ride in a Rhino, again. The ride over was bone jarring enough, but to do it again so soon was enough to make the Inquisitor uneasy.
It was only then that Holt became fully aware of the glaring eyes of another, Gemiel. Something about her made Holt equally uneasy. She had been silent the entire time since he had met her, never chipping in the odd nod nor showing any signs of interest in any particular discussion.
“Do you have a tongue in your head?” he stated flatly, his gaze still firmly on Gemiel.
She didn’t respond and instead her sister, Alica, did. “She sees all outside the Order as insignificant of her attention.”
“Does she know that the Adeptus Sororitas are the Chamber Militant of the Ordo Hereticus?”
“She does, but just because she reframes from communication with you doesn’t mean she won’t act” Alica replied, grimly.
“I see” Holt mused before continuing “shall we return to the Palace?”

Mars Aran was busy discussing the tactical situation with the Governess and a number of her aids when the report came in.
Conventional long-range vox broadcasts were rendered useless when the main relay station had been destroyed and it had taken over an hour for the report to filter back to the Governess’ Palace over the shorter ranged vox networks.
“Is that true?” asked the Madam Chevion to the Ministorum clerk who had filed into the room and given the report to her personally.
“It is, madam” he replied.
“Well, what a way to render us blind and deaf” chimed the Astartes Librarian.
His statement had been correct and everyone knew it.
“Can we get a message out to the orbital defences?” asked Madam Chevion.
“We can, but it’ll involve taking a shutter or small craft up there” chimed another clerk.
“Was it the work of cultists?” Governess enquired.
“Unlikely since the Tech Adepts there are eternally vigilant of such things” said the clerk.
Another clerk piped up “and a formal investigation could take months, time we don’t have.”
After a minutes thought, Madam Chevion turned to the Librarian “can you contact your Chapter and get some more troops here?”
“I can, but it’s risky.”
“Do it” she ordered.

When the Inquisitor had returned to the Palace, accompanied by the two Sororitas Celestians, the news that awaited him had grown dire.
“So we’re open for an attack from orbit and we can’t do a thing about it?” asked the Inquisitor after the Governess had briefed him.
“It appears that way” replied the Canoness.
“Where’s the Librarian?” Holt asked.
“In his quarters, trying to communicate with his Chapter” Madam Chevion replied.
“That is the last thing we need… Which room is he in?” Holt asked. After receiving his answer from one of the aides, he ran to the door and surged out into the corridor beyond.
Holt found the quarters he sought and withdrew his plasma pistol. Checking the plasma canisters were full, Holt pushed the door open slowly and slid into the room as silently as he could.
The Librarian was sat bolt upright in the middle of the room, his gaze was fixed in open space. The smell of incense hung heavily in the air and Holt could taste the smell of ozone at the back of his mouth.
‘Why are you here, Inquisitor’ slipped into Holt’s mind.
“I am here to ensure the safety of the world” the Inquisitor shot back, raising his pistol at the Librarian’s head.
‘You are correct to assume I may become possessed’ ran through the Inquisitor’s mind.
For a few tense minutes, Holt watched the Librarian for any sign of the daemonic as the Librarian’s mind connected with the Astropaths back on the Scourge of the Damned.
Each time he attempted contact, the Astropaths refused the link from the Librarian.
“Bastard Astropaths” hissed the Librarian suddenly as he gave up altogether.
Glancing sideways towards Holt, “it is safe to holster your weapon Inquisitor.”
He saw Holt consider it for a few seconds before replying. “I need your… services.”
“If it’s the Emperor’s work, consider my powers your tool” the Librarian replied.
“I want you to do a psychic reading of the relay station site.”
“A psychic reading, eh?” mused the Librarian as he pushed his mind out again.
After a few seconds, visions of the destroyed site flooded through Holt’s mind. Various angles cycled through the Inquisitor’s mind, showing the devastation wrought there.
“Do you think this is the work of cultists?” Holt asked over the mind link.
‘I’m not detecting the stink of Chaos, and judging from the damage, I’d say it was an aerial attack.’
Before Holt could ask another question, Mars Aran pushed another thought impulse into his mind. ‘I detect the aura of Chaos in this very building!’
“Who?” asked the Inquisitor before the Librarian could fed the Inquisitor the information. Holt’s vision darkened and then returned to be replaced with a vision of Gemiel as she stood in the room with the Governess.
Without even realising it, Holt had turned to face the door, weapon still in hand.
“I may need your help Librarian” ushered Holt as he put his hand out to open the door.

The Governess was in the process of pouring herself another cup of recaf when the Inquisitor burst in, his weapon held out before him. He scanned the room for the pair Sororitas and stormed across the room, ignoring all the clerks and the Governess herself as he did so.
“What in the name of the Emperor…” Madam Chevion started but quickly stopped herself as Holt produced his seal with his free hand and casually waved it about for all to see, whilst keeping the gun pointing at squarely at Gemiel.
“You are under arrest in the name of the Inquisition” Holt boomed at the Sister after noting the presence of Mars Aran beside him.
Gemiel bolted for the Inquisitor, lightning fast.
He barely had the time to fire his pistol as the Sororitas barrowed him over, knocking him flat. His shot went wide, gorging a deep rivet into the wall where Gemiel had been seconds before.
Before the Inquisitor could get gather his wits, Gemiel had sprang to her feet and pushed through the gaggle of onlookers.
“Damn she’s fast” Holt heard Aran stay as he scrambled to his feet, helped in part to the Governess who offered her hand to steady him.
Shooting a glance to Alica before running after Gemiel, Holt was pleased to note that she, as well as Mars Aran, were following hot on his heels.
The trio of warriors followed in the wake of Gemiel, leaving shocked Palace workers in the wayside as they ran past. When they had reached the front gates, Holt slowed to a stop and asked the sergeant on station there which way she had gone. He gestured that she had gone down the street as large knot of rioters crossed the street. Without means to get past safely, their pursuit had effectively been stopped.
“Perfect, that’s all we need” Holt cursed before turning back towards the Palace.

42 15 Aug 2007 09:29

Re: Entry D - Untitled
Timing was on Gemiel’s side, and she glanced back to see a large group of citizens slip in behind her. Slowing to a walk, she turned left into a back alley, and then took a right into another. She continued to walk, keeping to back alleys and only venturing out into the public streets to cross them and enter the network of back alleys at the other side.
After what seemed hours, Gemiel allowed herself the time to cool down, regain her wits and to ponder her next actions.
Returning to the Palace or her Convent was a death warrant, she knew that much. She was alone now, in hostile world without aid.
“Why have I been forsaken?” Gemiel asked herself.
‘You haven’t been forsaken Gemiel’ seeped into her mind in a warm and inviting voice. She smiled to herself at the comforting nature of the voice and allowed herself to remember the sweet promises it had made to her and the many rewards she would reap. It had grown to be a part of her since childhood, and it had used her deep-rooted hatred of her life as a Sororitas to take a hold of her. It had always known what had made her join the Convent and had turned the memories of her mother into a thing of loathing. Where she had once venerated her mother as a saintly figure, she now saw she for what she was, a pawn to a dead corpse. The memory of her mother on her deathbed when she had made both Alica and Gemiel promise to join the convent was now a thing of detestation.
A shadow crept across her vision, breaking her from her reverie.
Snapping her head to face the creature casting the long shadow, she knew it was an Astartes from the sheer bulk and the rounded outline but the livery was hard to make out due to the harsh contrast between the stranger and the two suns flanking it.
She tried to move, but just couldn’t. Something unseen had a hold of her body.
“Gemiel” said the stranger.
“Yesss” she managed despite her muscles fighting the movement.
“It is time” the voice came again and with it, the muscle lock that had affected her seconds before dropped away. “Time for me to die?” asked Gemiel, flexing her muscles as if she hadn’t used them for days.
“To begin your destiny” the voice came again.
“Are you a servant of Slaanesh?” she asked.
“I am not a servant of She Who Thirsts, but I am as damned as you” the stranger voiced.

“I want all the transports locking down! No one leaves this world!“ Holt boomed, glaring at the line of serfs he had sequestered to act on his behalf. “I also want the ALL communications recorded and filtered!”
With row of nods, the Inquisitor nodded himself and the serfs filed out to do their assigned tasks and carry out his commands. The Librarian had was silent during the entire exchange.
When everyone had gone, he turned to the Librarian, “something’s up, even I can see that and I’ve known you for, what an hour?”
“I’ve lost contact with Adual” he muttered in a low voice.
“Who in the name of the Emperor is Adual?” Holt asked.
“He’s a brother Librarian I came here with” Aran replied.
“And the significance of that would be?”
“I don’t like it… It is a matter of honour within our Chapter to keep brothers abreast of all developments in a war zone He’s been shutting out my psychic communications for the last two hours” Aran said, unsure of whether he should be voicing it in present company.
Something snapped into place for Holt “How did you get here, Librarian?”
“Thunderhawk, of course” replied Aran.
“Where is this Thunderhawk now?”
“It should be holding station at Unity Plaza.”

The ride over to Unity Plaza was a rougher one then any Holt had taken before. The silver armoured Astartes Rhino made every rock and pothole that went beneath the track jolt Holt’s spine.
When they had arrived, the Rhino slid to a halt and the rear ramp swung open. Aran and Holt were the first to disembark, followed by the Sororitas Alica.
Holt withdrew his powered blade and his pistol whilst Mars Aran unclipped his force axe and plasma pistol. The Inquisitor glanced out of the safety of cover provided by the Rhino at the scene playing out before him.
A line of silver armoured Astartes stood at ease as a Librarian dressed in the same livery as Mars Aran marched across the Plaza with a white armoured Sororitas in tow. Behind the line of Astartes, a silvered Thunderhawk sat waiting with its front ramp lowered.
“Stop in the name of the Inquisition” Holt boomed again as he rushed forward towards the Thunderhawk. He saw the traitor Librarian turn his gaze towards the Inquisitor and with a force of will, stopped the Inquisitor dead in his tracks. Holding the Inquisitor immobile felt the bonds holding him aloft strain as Aran tried to counter act Adual’s psychic will.
Despite the battle of wills going on, Alica wasn’t effected, her faith in the Emperor holding her true whilst she ran forwards with her bolter in hand. Drawing within range, she sprayed the traitorous Librarian with fire, breaking his concentration long enough for Mars Aran to break the shroud holding Holt.
“Tretan! stop Adual!” Aran ordered.
Before they could snap around, “Fire upon the Inquisitor and his traitors” Adual shouted whilst making more progress towards the awaiting Thunderhawk.
“Stop them boarding the Thunderhawk!” Holt thundered whilst rushing forward himself.
Sergeant Tretan acted as he moved to block the access ramp to the Thunderhawk. It was the only order that wouldn’t have him firing upon his own battle brothers.
Using his psychic might, Adual lifted the entire eight-man strong squad and threw them clear of the ramp.
With the Tactical squad effectively out of the situation, Holt raised his pistol and fired, missing his mark by a narrow margin.
Gemiel was simply too quick.
She had simply leapt over the burning bolt of plasma that Holt had aimed at her legs.
Mar Aran aimed his own plasma pistol at the traitorous Librarian and fired. Adual didn’t even need to see the explosive bolts to effectively stop them dead with his psychic abilities. Both loyalists cursed as his projectiles hung there, motionless in space before exploding in a white wash of light as bright as a small sun.
Holt was blinded momentarily by the explosion. Adual and Gemiel made good their escape as their backs had been towards the explosion and they scurry up the Thunderhawk’s ramp.
As Holt’s vision returned, the ramp was already closing and the Thunderhawk’s engines were already lifting the massive armoured behemoth into the sky.
The Inquisitor saw his chance and took it. Leaping forward, he felt his fingers catch at the edge of the ramp and he hung there, trying desperately to stop himself falling and to haul himself up.
He was too late as the ramp finally reached the top of its incline and with it, his grip on the ramp slipped away and Holt fell.
He hit the ground. Hard.
Cursing, his vision blacked out.

Holt heard hushed voices around him. He lay there for several minutes, listening intently to the whispered conversation going on around him before deciding the get up.
Blinking his eyes clear from sleep, Holt glanced around. He was surrounded by friends. Amongst them were Mars Aran and Alica, and he was surprised to see the Governess there too. Cilia and Dyrin were stood in the background and he gave them a meek smile.
“What in His name happened?” Holt asked, directing his question to the group rather then a specific person.
“You fell from the Thunderhawk” said Alica.
“That much I remember” Holt mused.
“You broke your legs and nearly severed your spine” Aran chimed in.
“Is that all?” Holt mused.
“Not really. The Thunderhawk did a pretty good job of cutting you up” Alica interjected chipped in.
“The Thunderhawk shot you a few times with its heavy bolters as it climbed off” Aran continued.
“And I thought being hit by heavy bolters was dangerous” Holt jested.
“You’ll be in a wheel chair for the rest of your life” stated the Governess with a broad smile plastered across her face.
For once, Holt’s smile was fake. It was something he had always hoped wouldn’t happen. He would rather be eaten by a Tyranid or run through by an Ork before having to be wheeled around for the rest of his life.
“It was always my ambition to be a servitor” Holt joked after a minute’s silence.
“Lucky thing then that she’s joking, and are you sure about the Ork thing, I know a few worlds that are plagued by them?” Aran chimed in.
Before Holt could shoot back Aran’s remark, Cilia cut in “first thing you should know about Holt is that he hates having his mind read.”
Holt saw the rest of the group turn towards Aran and Cilia and the Governess was the first to break the silence
“I’m sure he’ll be able to make a note of it somewhere in his Librarium.”
“What about the riots?” Holt asked the Governess.
“All the cultists are dead and the rioting has stopped, thanks to the Astartes and to Inquisitor Mintus.”
“Where the hell did Mintus come from?”
“He came after the Astartes arrived… helped clear out all the cultist dens.”
“Well, sorry I was unconscious for the entire clean up operation. So where is this Mintus now? I wish to call him a heretic for not coming sooner” Holt joked.
“He’s off world, we have no idea where is” said Aran.
“He needs his rest, he’ll be awake tomorrow” came a new voice, and Holt saw a new face appear beside the large form of the Librarian and was dressed in the white dress robes of a local medic.
Holt nodded before lying back down into his cot. He ignored the sounds of his friends filing away, and closed his eyes.
“Don’t you have to go pray, Alica?” Holt stated after the noise of friends leaving had died away.
“Still as sharp as ever” he heard Alica say before he fell asleep.

derfderf 21 Aug 2007 17:54

Re: Twin Traitors
Bump for great justice!

I can tell that this was a pretty ambitious undertaking, and I feel that this was both a good and bad thing. On the plus side, I liked having all the different subplots and their respective characters all being woven together at the end; it shows that you have a good sense of pacing and structure. On the not-so-plus side, I think you tried to do too much with too little space. I definitely would have liked more background on some of the more interesting characters such as Holt and the twins - the way you introduced them, I was really hoping to find out more about them.

I also think it was a bit rushed because of some grammatical lapses. Quotes ending with "he/she said" should always be followed by a comma instead of nothing. There were also a few plural/singular lapses and a couple other things, but the comma thing was the most frequent, and it kind of took my attention away from the story.

All in all, I was fairly impressed with this piece, with the caveat that I'd be infinitely more impressed with a more polished version. I can see this becoming a series (if it isn't already), and I hope you expand on it because I was particularly drawn to some of the characters - but I also hope that you keep my comments in mind, and put a bit more time into editing (for a work of this length, I know it's hard to do consistently).

Nice work :)

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