In which we conclude Vandemar's introductions with the outer circle of his operational unit. As before, links under the pictures lead to painting articles. Follow these links for Episodes one and two.
While my Inner Circle are the solid foundations that prop up The Firm there is more to my operational unit than my close colleagues. The operational unit requires skilled individuals to perform its role. However these people may not display the deeper talents or easy group cohesion that will grant them a place in the Inner Circle. It may be as simple as being a poor fit for the rest of the team. Some, I will confess, I deliberately hold at arm’s length. I feel I should start by introducing those who are close to being part of my closest colleagues.
I do believe that what the Emperor takes with one hand he may return with the other. I mentioned the Affair of the Corvid Maze earlier in this chronicle. That unhappy affair cost me a long term ally in my poor Amenemhat but granted me a new cohort in the form of Enforcer Calleghan. The Corvid Maze was the name given to the tangle of slum dwellings and abandoned industry at the heart of the capital of Centuarii. New dwellings had been built on top of each other, covering alleyways and making them into tunnels. Hatches cut vertically through floors and ceilings and occasional collapses made the area a treacherous warren of tangled pathways, blind tunnels, festering squats and vicious gang strongpoints. I was tracking a known recidivist – Keiden the Reviled – on Centuarii and it was only when he disappeared into the Corvid Maze that I knew his intent. An estimated third of a million people dwelt within, cults germinated in such fertile soil would have roots that would be almost impossible to eradicate. Sadly, I know that many of my Ordos would have ordered the Maze to be levelled by orbital fire rather than take any chances. I, once more, let my weakness for seeing innocence within the most festering sinks of humanity get in the way. I would try to flush my quarry before he had a chance to seed heresy.
To aid me I was assigned a full regiment of enforcers. These would start a crime sweep from the eastern edge of the Corvid Maze while my band entered from the west and tried to capture Keiden as he fled ahead of the advancing enforcers. I had samples of Keiden’s blood from previous engagements and I had requested a tracking detail from amongst the enforcer regiment. Calleghan was the result. His faithful cyborg-mastiff – Atemis – was equipped with astonishing bio-spoor sensors and could follow the scent trace of a suspect across a hundred thousand crisscrossing trails. Calleghan loosed Artemis into the maze and we followed eagerly. Several skirmishes against the scum that claimed the various territories within rather announced our presence though. By the time we caught up with Keiden he was ready for us. The ambush was savage, the surprise, total. Not one of us escaped without grievous injury of some form. Through it all Calleghan was like a force of nature. This was his natural battleground, close quarters, righteousness and a shotgun his allies, criminal scum his opponents. What really sold me was that wherever possible throughout the operation he sought to take his foes alive to face the Emperor’s justice. That sort of tenacity and honest adherence to the law appealed to me greatly.
I’m still not sure whether or not I retained him to fill a tactical or emotional hole at Amenemhat’s passing. Regardless, I made him the offer to perform the Emperor’s work on a grander scale and he accepted. I think he felt that he had risen as far as he was able within the Magistratum and seeing the sort of villain that we pursue gave him hope for greater exploits. He is increasingly valuable and on the verge of being accepted into the Inner Circle. His hound is capable of tracking in a bewildering variety of environments and has been more than useful on countless occasions. Calleghan himself throws himself into the work with a glee and enthusiasm that is most gratifying. He works well with Herodotus in interrogation, the two forming a double act. One, the erudite, eloquent web of logic, the other playing to the stereotype of the callous, brutal enforcer. Truthfully though, he is of most use to me as a bridge between the Inquisition and the local Magistratum. He speaks their language and opens many doors of cooperation that they might try to conceal from me. As I say, a valuable man and well on his way to Inner Circle status.
And then there is Mung. Mung will never be a part of the Inner Circle I am afraid, although I am extremely fond of him. He simply lacks the cognitive functions to appreciate anything but the simplest concepts. Mung’s early life is very much an enigma. He certainly is not from one of the Ogryn homeworlds, he lacks any Imperial Guard markings or implants so could not have travelled offworld. I am inclined to believe that he was the child of serving Ogryns left behind when the regiment moved on. Who can tell? However he came to be, I found him on Enix Major. Enix is a cancerous lump of a world, run down and forgotten, hopeless and heartless. There really is no functioning government to speak of, a local lord serves as governor but he is little better than a mob boss. It is my intention one day to return to Enix and carry out a thorough purge of the so called leadership. Try to install some genuine Imperial order there. Regardless, I am sending myself on a tangent.
Mung was working as a bouncer in a low-sink dive that had become the focus of my investigations on Enix. I was following the trail of warp-polluted erotica that was being exported from Enix. The pages contained hidden details in the background of the images, sigils and circles of power for the conjuration and communication with daemons. Ritual incantations, symbols of the dark powers, you name it. Wenchang Mimir had tracked the supply lines back to an establishment called The Decadence Lounge. Mung was its fearsome guard dog, growling at those who entered and beating senseless any who contravened the fairly lax rules. During our reconnaissance I had tricked my way past Mung with the simplest of telepathic illusions. Touching his mind, I detected no genuine malice, he was a gentle, innocent soul who had been trained to look ferocious. The presence of a genuinely civilian Ogryn piqued my curiosity and when the time came to raid the Decadence Lounge I ensured that Mung was non-lethally neutralised.
After I had dealt with the cultist owners of the club – a tale for another time – I questioned Mung. He was adamant that we were the bad guys, that we had attacked a legitimate business, he’d seen papers that proved it. It turned out that his simple brain had been fooled into believing that this den of filth was a typical Imperial business, taxes paid, permissions granted and all above board. When I finally finished explaining his error, this huge creature crumpled. Mung wept for a day and a half, gasping for forgiveness between sobs. Have you ever seen an Ogryn cry? It torments the soul. I fully believe that without the brutal indoctrination of his own people he represents the true state of the Ogryn soul. Gentle innocence in a murderously powerful frame.
Eventually I had to concoct a means by which he could pay penance to the Emperor and earn his forgiveness. He had to serve me as faithfully and completely as he had his false masters. From that moment on – the sight of hope re-entering his eyes has stayed with me – he has served me utterly. He remembers his training to be ferocious well and makes an excellent intimidation tool. Combine that with his ability to haul a full-size multilaser – he calls it Princess – we liberated from a wrecked sentinel on Casterus and you have a formidable presence on the field of battle. Between investigations he spends most of his time either obsessively cleaning – he sees it as part of his penance – or listening to the dreadful Pound music that the club used to play all the time. He’ll never be Inner Circle material, but I wouldn’t be without the big guy these days.
|Friar Dominic Augustine|
Now we move into slightly more uncomfortable territory for me. I have mentioned before that I am a strict Amalathean and dislike and mistrust factionalism within the Imperium. Sadly, the Imperium is riven by factions far more divisive and powerful than those within my own order. I truly believe that the Imperium will never be saved until it is whole, one people, one purpose. This will never happen as long as potent factions such as the Ecclesiarchy continue to meddle with government. They should concern themselves purely with the promulgation of the Imperial faith and with the worship of His Divine Majesty, all other activities should be forbidden and curtailed. With this in mind it may be surprising to see a member of the Ecclesiarcy within my operational band, Friar Dominic Augustine.
Frankly, with my experience identifying heretics and deviants I know better than to shun the Ecclesiarchy. To shut them out would invite undue attention to my views on their practices. Instead, I prefer to play the role of the dutiful servant and hide my opinions under cover of acceptance. Indeed, Friar Augustine is not so bad. He is not so hidebound as many of his ilk and was a private in his world’s PDF before taking holy orders so has some of that practicality, he even keeps his issued chainsword as a keepsake. He was little more than a scribe in his abbey and jumped at the chance to serve the Emperor as part of my band. He rarely sees combat unless we are facing foes who are vulnerable to faith. Instead, I use him much as I do Calleghan to be a bridge between my band and the Ecclesiarchy. Having an ambassador of the cloth opens doors for me and prevents irksome suspicion.
Then we come to the Mechanicum. I fear I will have to redact these comments if I ever publish them for in the eyes of most of my peers I would be a heretic for my views. My job is to hunt deviant cults, including heretical Imperial cults. What, might I ask, is the most deviant of all of the Imperial cults? That of the Machine God. For Throne’s sake they even schism over whether or not the Emperor IS the Omnisiah. They are the ultimate expression of deviant worship. Why did we ever tolerate them? Nothing more than political expediency. It was easier to swallow their perversion – indeed I believe pretence – of worship than to challenge them and bring them to heel. Sadly though, I need enginseers to keep my machines and tech working. I have made it my policy only ever to recruit relatively junior ranks within the Mechanicum and to keep them at arm’s reach.
Hephaistos is the latest in a string of Mechanicum servants. He joined us shortly after Herodotus was elevated to Interrogator. He’s a tolerable example of their kind. Mercifully obsessed with the machines he serves and forever tinkering with that oversized gravitron rifle of his. He seemed enthusiastic to be our enginseer at first but – as always – he is starting to grow dissatisfied. You can’t blame them, they join an Inquisitor’s retinue, excited at the thought of making a substantive contribution and are reduced to mechanics and occasional translators. I fear Hephaistos will soon reach the point where boredom and dissatisfaction will overwhelm duty and he’ll make his excuses. It will be a shame, it is hard to look for the right combination of duty and lack of ambition in their kind.
|Captain Aleksandr Pokryshkin|
And finally we come to Captain Aleksandr Pokryshkin. He is the first member of the Operational band that I have not chosen personally. I gave Herodotus the task of choosing a new pilot when our previous incumbent – a woman called Graia who had been with me for half a decade – was killed by explosive decompression in a fire fight at low orbit. I wanted to test his judgement in assessing people. Frankly, I think he needs work in this area. There is no doubt that Pokryshkin is a superb pilot, I’ve seen him do things in bulk transporters that I would have blanched at the thought of in a void fighter. Unfortunately he is a terrible fit for the team. He is brash, blunt to the point of rudeness, boastful and has developed a rather dangerous – for him – obsession with Dolus Andraste that I foresee ending with blood. Only Bard can tolerate him for lengthy periods and that is only because he sees making up stories to outdo Pokryshkin’s as a source of endless entertainment. I only hope that whatever well hidden depths there are to his personality come to the surface before I am forced to dismiss him.
So we come to the end of our introductions. These are the people with me aboard the trader vessel Horizon Yearning as we enter Cetus. Whether they all leave with me will depend on the danger of this scrutiny. Time will tell…