Killer Carlin

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Max led Amon, Padraic, Acid and Sera Jentiva on a mission to Baeten to infiltrate the local gladiator scene and find out why top ranking fighters were disappearing.

Contents

Report from Agent Sigma Niner Benediction

+++Report from Agent Sigma Niner Benediction:

The Baeten Blood Ring evolved out of the disorganised bare knuckle fighting that sprang up in the manufactora and other artisanal trades of the Prospekts of Baeten.

It is a loose federation of fighting rings that hire fighters, organise regular events and make profits from the gambling of and selling refreshments to the audience. Curiously charging and entry fee has not caught on. Third party bookmakers not affiliated with the local ring are strongly oppressed and although the locals do not realise it fights are occasionally rigged by the organisers when they stand to make a particularly big profit or avert a potentially costly loss.

Whilst many of the fighters are ammeters drawn from the local workers, almost as many are professionals, often working with a manager and trainer, touring the various fighting rings. The mix of "homegrown hero" and "foreign professional" makes a successful and marketable narrative. Deaths amongst fighters are not uncommon as the fights are encouraged to be violent and bloody. The fights are in theory unarmed but there aren't many rules and sometimes improvised weapons find their way into the pit (particularly into the hands of an underdog the punters are betting against).

Legally the Blood Ring exists in a grey area. There are no explicit laws against it, but whenever the authorities have chosen to act against a given fighting pit the charges of civil unrest, enciting violence, assault and sometimes murder can be brought to bear. In general, the local government seems to permit the Blood Ring to exist, but occasionally clamp down on a given fighting pit if it becomes problematic, or even just to remind the citizenry about who is ultimately in charge.

In the last few months a new pattern has emerged. Agents of an unknown group have been acquiring successful fighters. Interrogation of the managers of fighters thus acquired reveal that they have received a large payoff from the agents. The managers have been told that the fighters are going into an elite private fighting ring for the enjoyment of interplanetary nobility, however a condition of accepting the payoff is that they do not share this knowledge.

Investigation into this alleged private fighting ring has so far revealed nothing. If it exists, it's not happening amongst the nobles of Baeten. It seems likely this is simply a plausible cover story.

The Agents themselves, and the organisation behind them, have proven to be very adept at counter-espionage. It has not been possible to capture or follow one without giving away the existence of the investigation. When fighters are collected the transport methods have varied and always included measures to defeat surveillance (changing vehicles and transit methods, use of tunnels, double back routes...).

The best option for infiltration seems to be to insert a fighter of our own into the Blood Ring, get them selected and find out where they go. I recommend the Obelisk sends in a team.

+++End

Agent Sigma Niner Benediction gives no indication of how he can be contacted.

Preliminaries

Amon

+++TO: Amon Carlin;
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael;

Dear Amon,

Please see me in my office ASAP.

Yours faithfully,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


Amon arrives looking apprehensive. His back is straight and his chin up, but there’s a distinctly wary look in his dark eyes, and he knocks softly before entering the room.

“Inquisitor Michael,” he clears his throat. Dani is out of the room, off on some errand or another, he supposes, so he takes the opportunity of being alone with Michael to blurt out: “Is this about Winnie? I promise I’m gonna be nice to her. You don’t have to warn me or anything, Ash didn’t even have to say it but I know she’ll kill me in my sleep with that needle gun if I upset her. Winnie, that is. Not Ash. Um.”


After a few uncomfortable moments of silence, Michael decided Amon had finished and leant back in his chair.  "Please, have a seat Amon," he said, gesturing to the seat opposite him at his desk.  "I admit Winnie and I are close but I am not her father and neither of you require my approval for whatever you choose to do in your personal lives. Winnie is a tough girl, I'm sure you know her background. Who have you lined up to commit violence upon Winnie if she hurts you?" He says this last part with a smile to show he's joking.

"I actually asked you here for a different reason. I'm aware that you have withdrawn your active status, and why, but I'm also aware that you have been on a mission since then; that little mess down in pigtown."

Glancing down at a datapad, Michael continued.  "I need to send a team to investigate an underground gladiatorial ring. We need a gladiator to enter, and win. There are other people we could use, but naturally I thought of you first as the best choice.

"It's worth pointing out that whilst we have no proof yet, we are investigating this group as a possible Khornate cult. There may well be some unpleasantness at the end of this mission. If it is Khornate, then we are probabaly looking at fairly straighfirward violence and bloodshed, but...  well the whole point is that we don't know what's going on.

"Will you do it? This isn't an order, I don't want you on the mission unless you're fully committed and willing."


Amon relaxed, by degrees, as Michael spoke - though he went very still as the topic of the conversation changed. 

His mind often worked more slowly than other people's - Amon was well aware of that. It took him longer to think things through. This was one such moment. He frowned down at his hands, brow creased in thought, only looking back up at Michael after a few moments had passed.

He could say no. It was tempting. But Padraig's words had been ringing in his ears for days now: /we have a responsibility./ He'd been given these abilities. Maybe the older man was right. Maybe he should use them.

"Undercover?" He asked, hesitant. "Just me? By myself?"


"Undercover yes, but not just you. I'll be sending a team."


"Would Winnie be part of the team?"


Michael raised and eyebrow. "She could be. She doesn't have another assignment at the moment. Would that change your decision?"


"I'd feel better if she was," Amon admitted. "She's got those skulls, and all." He gave a rueful smile. "Always need people cleverer than me."

Amon paused again, clearly thinking. After a long moment, he gave a slow nod. 

"You're right, Inquisitor. I know how it works. If anyone's gonna do it, it should be me. Sarge could do it. Ash maybe could. But I'm the one who's actually done it before. So - yeah. I'll do it. Thank you for asking."


"Very well, then I will assign Winnie to the mission. Thank you Amon. I'll be sending you a summons to the breifing later this afternoon."

Max

+++TO: Max Drent;
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael;

Max,

Please see me in my office ASAP.

Sincerely,
Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


Max arrives exactly 15 mins (the time taken to walk from his room to Michael's office) after the message.

He is dressed, smelling of clean soap but with bags under his eyes. He does not make eye contact.

After politely knocking twice he says "You asked to see me? Sir?"


Michael took in Max's appearance and looked a little surprised. "Max, come in, have a seat. You look tired, is everything ok?"


He gives Michael a stiff smile and sits. "I'm fine. Is everything OK with you?"


Michael quirked an eyebrow. "Few people would ask me such a question these days. Fewer still would receive an honest answer." He paused as he gathered his thoughts. "I am… hurting but functional. Rosa’s loss hurt me, perhaps not as much as it might because I didn't know her all that well, but with a bitter aftertaste of the knowledge that now I never will. Nikolai's loss is more like a sucking hollow. He was my mentor and later friend and losing him has revealed to me just how much I was still depending upon him without realising it. This one is particularly jagged because I later discovered something of a rift between us that I hadn't know about and can now never resolve. That taints my memory of him and makes it more painful to think about."

Michael took a swig of his recaf and continued. "I take all that hurt, and I put it away. It goes and joins the one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight men and women of Thoratis who died under my command, and the other pain I've collected over the years. Sometimes in combat, when it gets really desperate, I let the pain out." Michael gets up and walks over to tend the somewhat ignored pot plant on the filing cabinet behind his desk, his back to Max.

"All those old ghosts I carry around give me a bit more anger and bitterness to power my swing…" He mutters something so quietly Max can't make it out.

After a moment if pottering about he settles back into his chair. "A job like this will break you. It's inevitable. The human soul can only take so much. It's just a question of when you break, and how you break. Some people just crack, when they break the first time they shatter like glass and are utterly ruined. Some people slowly crumble. They wear away over time and the job gradually uses them up. They get used up gradually then you have to retire them when there's not enough left to carry on. Those of us who last, me, Eidan, probably Nikolai too bless his soul, we have a place inside that gets broken up, but the rest stays whole and strong." He sighed and Max could tell that Michael was closing up again, back to his normal self.

"So yes, I'm fine. Truly. I'm far from being unaffected, but I've had a lot of practice at this sort of thing and I can carry on regardless. What about you?" He steepled his fingers and looked Max firmly in the eye. "What flavour of fine are you?"


“The last one”. He gave a rueful laugh, “Or at least, that’s the plan”.

“Ko… Nic… He, he took a chance on me when he really he didn’t have to, and it felt like he was the first person who saw something, I don’t know, worth anything? And Her… I know we’re all supposed to be colleagues, but she really did feel like one of my own. I was supposed to look after her, to save her and… I know I’m sad. I know that’s it. But it just keeps coming out as angry that they’re not here anymore”.

Max ran a hand through his hair self consciously, willing himself to relax.

“Everyone says I need to toughen up. I know I do. Ko… Kovach said it a few times. I just didn’t think it would be… this…” He closed his eyes. “I’ve never lost anyone before, not like this. I’ve had people leave, but this was different, they didn’t want to go, and I just keep wracking my brain to see if I could have done something differently, if I could have stopped it and… I can’t always sleep, so I’m just reading, a lot, but I don’t think it’s helping. Everything I read about them , the things in the corridor, just makes me feel angrier, but I don’t want to stop in case I miss something, some answer or trick that means this doesn’t happen again.”

He sighed, rubbing at his eyes. “I kind of fell apart right after it happened and just left everyone else to deal with the fallout,” He grimaces “Which I am sorry about. Seeing Ash kind of snapped me out of it. It doesn’t matter if I’m sad. Shit carries on. I can keep throwing temper tantrums and smashing stuff like some big misery ogryn, or I can try and make it a bit less awful for everyone else. Like you”.

“So, I’m trying. I’m really trying to be the last one”.

“Sorry for swearing”.


Michael raised his eyebrow at this final comment, but let it pass. "It sounds like you're doing the right thing. No," he stopped himself, "it sounds like you're doing what has worked for me. I can't promise it'll work for an one else. Talking about feelings it not exactly my strong suit but… I'm always happy to listen, and at the least I can share my own experiences. If and how you can apply them is up to you. My anger is a weapon, and I try to make sure I always keep it firmly pointed at the enemies of humanity. Not at myself, and where possible, not at my allies."

Michael took a cleansing breath, and stretched his shoulders, his body language indicating the closing of one topic of conversation and the opening of another. "You've been doing excellent work here Max. I read Ash's report from your last mission and she commended your actions in particular. It seems that you're settling back into the saddle. I'd like to push that further. I'm putting together a mission to Baeten to investigate an underground fighting circuit amongst the manufactorum workers. I'd like you to be the lead agent. What do you think?"


The smile that had begun to creep onto Max’s face at the mention of Ash’s report immediately dropped. He stared at Michael with wide eyes for a few seconds. His thoughts whirred until Drake's words floated into his mind.

I imagine it would have been something about spreading your wings...

He sat up a little straighter, his decision apparently made.

“I think… I’ll give it everything I’ve got. Thank you. But, I also think it’s a bit below the Inquisition’s pay grade to be looking into budget gladiators. That’s maj jurisdiction. What’s going on?”

Michael can almost hear the cogs turning in Max’s head as he frowns.


Michael smiled the smile of a proud parent. "Straight to the most important question Max." He slid a data pad across the desk. "As you say, fighting rings and bloodsports aren't normally an issue for the Inquisition. In some places they're legal and where they're not they are the purview of the local Governor and his enforcers. The reason we're interested in this one is because the winners keep disappearing. If a gladiator does well in the so called 'Baeten Blood Ring', they dissappear. One of Nikolai's agents has managed to get close enough to discover that they are being invited to participate in an elite fighting ring. Security is tight, tighter than we'd expect for an underground fighting ring, and the agent hasn't been able to get any further.

"It could all be innocent, hence sending a fairly light team, but there are enough red flags being raised to be worth looking into. I'd recommend doing some research on Khornate cults before you head out.

"I've asked Amon to join this mission. Get him in the competition. Win it. Then find out what happens next. Obviously I'm expecting you to cheat at the competition to keep Amon safe and make sure he wins.

"Amon has requested Winnie come on the mission, and I'm hoping to send Padraic along, I think it would be good for Amon to have his guidance and assistance. Other than that, I'd suggest asking Agent Jentiva if she can spare one of Drake's lot, he's keen on espionage so they have a lot of useful skills for infiltration; and indeed cheating."

Michael leaned back from his desk.

"Read the materials then when you're ready call everyone to the briefing room.  You'll give the briefing but I'll come along to answer any further questions you have."


Max nodded along with each sentence, listening intently. His face darkens at the word Khornate, but he stays focused. He looked relieved at the mention of Michael being part of the briefing.

He took the pack, went to shake Michael's hand, bottled it half way through and heads for the exit, promising to read every word.

Just as he went to open the door, Max hesitated.

"I've already had a bit of a... disagreement, with your psykana man. Does that affect anything? Or who you want in charge?"


Michael quirked his eyebrow at this comment. "He's not my man Max, and that makes two of us. I'm sure you'll persevere regardless.  Incidentally I did also have a bit of a 'disagreement' with the Planetary Governor of Baeten. Just FYI. See you at the briefing." 


+++TO: Ash Lear
+++FROM: Max Drent
+++SUBJECT: Whatever you said in that Samalut report

Michael made me lead on a mission.

You're the best.

How do I not fuck it up?

Love, Max x

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Sera Jentiva
+++FROM: Max Drent
+++SUBJECT: Personnel Request

Hey Sera,

Michael's putting together a team to look into an underground fighting ring on Baetan, with possible ties to a Chaos cult.

The rough plan is to enter our own competitor, win and see what happens as the victors keep disappearing off to some "elite fighting ring", with no sign of return. Security is pretty tight and we don't know anymore than that.

I was hoping you might be able to spare one of Drake's agents for it? Someone with some infiltration skills would be pretty handy. Or anyone who might have some ideas on how we could cheat our way to victory? (Amon is our competitor, and Acid might kill me if he doesn't come back in one piece).

I also wondered how you might feel about lending us Mira? She's a local, and she might help us slip through a little easier, but I'll leave it up to you to decide if this is her wheelhouse. You know her better than me.

How's life as a secretary? How's Drake?

Sincerely, Max

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Max Drent
+++FROM: Ash Lear
+++SUBJECT: Re: Whatever you said in that Samalut report

Mate I just told the truth. You did well. 

AMAZING news! Go Maxie! Is that the gladiator thing? Can't believe you're going back to Baeten without me. 

Um advice...listen to suggestions? And try and pick the one which will result in a) succeeding and b) nobody in the team dying. Don't let the power go to that red head of yours :p

You'll rock it. I'm off planet tonight, sniffing something out as part of the Kovach wrap-up. Looking forward to hearing about how it goes!

Thanks for the whole crying thing, by the way. I'll try not to do it again.

Ash x

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Max Drent
+++FROM: Sera Jentiva
+++SUBJECT: re: Personnel Request

Max,

“Michael’s putting together a team”? Sounds more like you’re doing it. Congrats.

Míra’s the obvious choice. I can see that might be awkward, but you’re both professionals. Well... you are.

She’s got no infiltration skills at all, but if it’s an underground fight ring she won’t need to put on an accent or pretend to be anything much different to her true self, and she’s an effective sleeper asset.

The other option is for me to come. I won’t be able to fit in as well as her, but she won’t move as quietly. Depends on what you want most, really. She’s for sounding local and handling the fights you don’t expect, I’m for getting into places you’re not meant to get into and quiet kills.

Jentiva

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Ash Lear
+++FROM: Max Drent
+++SUBJECT: Re: Whatever you said in that Samalut report

Fucking Baetan, eh? But suggestions. I can do suggestions. And they won't be coming from me, which can only increase our chances!

I'll tell you all about it when we're back, but don't say sorry. Or thank you. And definitely let it happen again. You got me, I got you.

Love, Maxie x
(P.S. My ego is only slightly bigger than normal, thank you very much)

+++MESSAGE ENDS


Max’s door chime rang several times with impatience, then a moment later it rang once more for good measure. When he answered it, Acid was standing in the doorway; with Esme and Inara floating closely behind her. She had one arm tucked tightly across her torso, clutching the opposite elbow, and her weight kept shifting uncomfortably.

“Max,” she began without preamble, “look, you remember the Dammerung, and Techpriest Sematin…” she paused and tucked some loose hair behind her ear and started again. “Michael says Amon wants me to come on your mission. That’s… I’ll be there, no question. But if Amon… If we have to… I’m not…” She looked Max in the eye, searching for understanding. "Just… if it has to happen, don’t ask me to do it."


Max stared at her blankly and it was an uncomfortable few moments before he realised what she meant.

The implication weighed heavily in his chest.

"I hadn't..." The sentenced trailed off. Max sighed, lent against the door frame and looked down to meet Acid's eyes.

"I think there's been enough of that to last us all a lifetime. But just so's you know Acid: I'm an idiot, not a monster. IF it came to something that, I wouldn't ask you to do it. It's on me." He offered her a reassuring smile as he spoke.


Acid took this in, then nodded to herself. She plastered a smile on top of her pale face. "Good, now make sure it doesn't come to that!" She raised a fist to punch him in the arm, but realising the height difference would make that impossible she opted instead to kick him in the foot, intentionally scraping her own foot so low to the floor that the impact hit the front of the sole of his boot and was harmlessly absorbed.

"You're the boss now so don't fuck it up!" She cast over her shoulder as she scampered away down the corridor. The screen on Esme flickered to life and showed a graphic of a tongue being stuck out, before the skulls too drifted off down the corridor.

Padraic

+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael

Mr Larnock,

Please see me in my office as soon as possible.

Yours in faith,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


It does not take long for Padraic to arrive at Michael's office. He politely knocks and waits to be called in. He is not wearing his usual scholar robes but is looking very smart in black trousers, black boots, a black shirt covered with a dark green jumper.

He stands confidently with his arms crossed, nods a greeting at you and waits for you to speak first.


The door is open when Padraic arrives, and Dani (who has not yet had a one-to-one session with Padraic) calls him in. She leaves, shutting the door behind her. Michael was working on some paperwork when Padraic entered but he puts down his stylus immediately and stands. "Mr Larnock, please, have a seat." Michael gestures at the seat at his desk in front of him and sits heavily back into his own chair.

Whilst Amon and Max will not have taken any note of it, Padraic perhaps finds it odd that even here in his office, deep within the fortress of the feared Inquisition, Michael has a bolt pistol and power sword hanging from his hips. He is wearing a black shirt with the sleeves rolled up, black fatigues and black boots, a remarkably similar outfit to Padraic's own. A wooden man-shaped rack behind Michael's desk is adorned with the battered black carapace armour he was wearing when Padraic first met him. Michael catches Padraic looking at it. “Dani insisted I take it off when doing extended deskwork, the vambraces were wearing out the desk. I’m forced to admit that with the sheer quantity of bloody paperwork landing on my desk these days it was starting to get awkward anyway.

“Speaking of work, previously we discussed the possibility of you going on a field mission. If you’re still open to it, I’ve got one coming up that I think you could be very useful for. It involves infiltrating a fighting ring on Baeten. We’re using Amon as our gladiator, and we need him to win. I’ll be leaving the hows and whys for the team to work through, but knowing the people we have available I suspect some undercover use of psychic powers may be a good option. Further to that, Amon isn’t exactly comfortable in the field at the moment and I’m keen to support him in any way I can.

“From your perspective this would be an opportunity to break down some barriers between you and your students, a little bit of shared adversity and covering each other’s backs does wonders for interpersonal relationships between the ranks. Still, it’s your choice. I can’t make you. Well... I won’t make you. But if you choose to go along, you’re in for the whole mission. If the Psykana suddenly want you back they’ll have to wait for the end of the mission. For the duration of the mission you’ll be an Inquisitorial Field Agent and nothing else. Interested?”


Padraic sits and listens to what you have to say. He takes a few moments to consider the proposal.

‘Amon is to return to the field and as a gladiator no less. That is excellent news. It will allow him to revisit a difficult past and to find some much needed closure. He is a strong fighter of that there is no doubt. However, what he will be battling here is control of his emotions. Therein lies his greatest challenge. Emperor willing, it will be the making of him as an agent.

He will definitely need guidance in this.’

He pauses, deep in thought.

‘I will accept your offer. As you say it will be an excellent opportunity to break down some barriers between myself and my students. I have already made a start in this but progress is slower than I had hoped. It is a different dynamic to what I am used too. It is clear to me that I have been a bit stuck in my ways and must adapt to this new challenge. Like yourself, I have had to shed my own personal armour, my pysanka robes, to allow me to get to the task at hand.

I have already made my intentions clear to the Psykana. They are aware that for the time being my focus is here. I will send a further message to inform them of my current status as an Inquisitorial Field Agent on a mission. My allegiance will be to the Inquisition and my fellow agents of that you have my word.

If there is time I would like to review any briefing documents. Might I enquire as to who the lead agent is for this particular mission? I would like to introduce myself to them before our briefing meeting and to discuss how best to guide Amon in this particular task. I assume that they will have been informed of my particular talents in telekinesis?‘


"Agent Drent will be lead agent on this, although he's going to be a bit busy between now and the breifing getting things organised, he only recently found out about this mission himself. I'd suggest you save your conversation until later. You'll have plenty of time during the transit to speak with him and discuss. Where possible these things are best done as a team anyway, although I'm sure you'll be able to get some private time with him during the trip if you find it necessary.

"I should also like to stress that this is a mission, not a training excercise for Amon. He's going to need to focus on not getting his head caved in by highly competant and motivated warriors through whatever means necessary. Practicing form and footwork is for the dojo; out in the field you do whatever it takes in the heat of the moment.

"For now I suggest you pack your kit and put your affairs in order. If you have any last minute requests for equipment let Fabricator Acetae know, although he has limited experience with the instruments of your particular craft."


‘Agent Drent, the young red-haired fellow who was a friend of Rosa’s? He is the lead agent of this particular mission. Interesting.’

Padraic looks surprised and then thoughtful.

‘We have already met. In all transparency our first meeting was not a pleasant one. He is in the midst of grief for his friend I unintentionally upset him. I faced the full brunt of his anger, pain and loss. Those feelings are causing him to find someone or something to blame when the true perpetrator of this dark event has already been dealt with. In that moment I represented all of the anger he felt towards himself and towards the situation at hand. I do not blame him and will not hold him to account for the words uttered in rage. There is no greater pain then the loss of a loved one and he is dealing with it in the only way he can.

I assume that as I am in your office and being told of this mission that he has knows that I may be part of the team and has accepted this. This speaks volumes of his professional nature.

I will reflect the same professionalism. I will follow his instructions and will do all that I can to be a good agent of the Inquisition. I may not understand what it is like to be on a mission like this but I do understand the importance of team work and following command.

I will also take your advice and speak to Fabricator Acetate. When I was in active service I had a telekinesis kit that I found quite useful. It should be easy enough to replicate.

Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of a team again.’

Padriac goes to leave.

‘Oh. I realise that you are struggling with the amount of paperwork but I was hoping that when I return I may be able to have a few hours with Dani.’


Michael dismisses Padraic with a wave. "I'm sure we can work something out when there's time."


+++TO: Max Drent;
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael;
+++SUBJECT: Padraic Larnock

Max,

Larnock is on board. I can't quite work out what he's playing at, seems to be some kind of alpha dominance thing and I don't have the time or patience to work it out. I've made it clear that you're in charge and this is a mission not a training excercise for Amon. Don't let him give you any stick.  Just think WWAD. What Would Ash Do. 

I told him you'd be busy ahead of the breifing but he may come and see you anyway. Do let me know if for some reason he turns up wearing stripey trousers.

Sincerely,
Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS

Dr Barra

+++TO: Inquisitor Gregory Michael
+++FROM: Dr Martya Barra
+++SUBJECT: Appointment 

Dear Inquisitor, 

I notice your appointment date has moved three times in the last four weeks, always further away from the present. A most remarkable phenomenon. 

Best wishes for a speedy re-booking,

Dr Barra

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Dr Martya Barra
+++FROM: Inquisitor Gregory Michael
+++SUBJECT: Re: Appointment

Dr Barra,

Of course I appreciate this appointment is very important, however unfortunately there is little I do here days that isn't very important. I assure you that I will get to it just as soon as I am able to spare the time.

Speaking of, I'm afraid I must cancel our current appointment. Pressing business Rimward. I'll ask Dani or Ade to find a new date in the diary just as soon as I'm back from this breifing.

Best,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Inquisitor Gregory Michael
+++FROM: Dr Martya Barra
+++SUBJECT: Re: Appointment 

Dear Inquisitor,

How kind. Luckily Agent Gorski has unfettered access to your diary, so I have taken the liberty of pencilling in a few appointments over the coming weeks. Let us see if one of them will remain.

Much as my wife and children would value my speedy return to Kaprun, I never leave a job undone. And as my task is to work with all personnel involved in the incident, I'm sure you understand my predicament: the job is not yet done. 

Best wishes for a swift resolution, 

Dr Barra

+++MESSAGE ENDS

The Mission

Max led the team to Beaten where they quickly infiltrated the Baeten Blood Ring with Amon as their gladiator. He fought several bouts, including Sannick the Viper and Fat Frampton, before Max, acting as his manager, was approached by a mysterious agent. They agreed to sell Amon on the understanding that he would be working for an exclusive and secret fighting ring for elite nobles, although there was no evidence that such a thing existed.

They tracked Amon via a sub-dermal chip to a warehouse on the other side of the planet where they found the fighters were assembled. A Heretic Astartes, of the Iron Warriors legion, appeared and it was revealed that the warriors were being recruited as Iron Warrior aspirants (although they were all adults in their early twenties, somewhat older than Adeptus Astartes recruits who were typically adolescent).

Sera Jentiva assassinated the Heretic Astartes and Max's team, assisted by the local PDF, rounded up the agents who had been running the operation.

Aftermath

Interrogation of the surviving agents revealed little concrete evidence but some alarming implications. The agents appeared to have been recruited from around Baeten and well trained in matters of covert operations and espionage. The two leaders of the group who had been responsible for the hiring and training of the cell were dead, one killed resisting arrest and the other dead from suicide when capture seemed inevitable. None of the survivors interrogated knew who they worked for, only that orders and funding came from someone the leaders were in contact with. The Heretic Astartes was not part of the cell and inference from the survivors was that he was a client of the organisation the cell was part of.

Max found his first taste of command difficult, and he hesitated badly when he had to decide if Sera should risk her life on a solo assassination mission against the Astartes and had to be prompted by Padraic for an answer.

Amon was very comfortable on this mission, reliving his glory days prior to the discovery of his psychic gifts and recruitment into the Inquisition.

This was Padraic's first mission, and he was not entirely comfortable undercover, but he did get to use his psychic skills to secretly enhance Amon's strength and help him win a difficult fight, which made him feel useful.

Communications

+++TO: Ash Lear
+++FROM: Max Drent
+++SUBJECT: Nobody died!

\_^-^_/

It was awful. And terrifying. And stressful as fuck. But I did it.

Deets when you get back. Take care BM.

Love, Maxie x

P.S. Jentiva is a boss who does not stand for heretics and/or flavour.

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Sera Jentiva
+++FROM: Max Drent
+++SUBJECT: Training Request

Hey Sera,

It's a couple of things.

First one feels a bit weird, but I just wanted to say good job? You were beyond great and we couldn't have done it without you.

Second, I'm sorry about the restaurant. I just chucked money at it, I didn't know it was gonna' be bad for you.

Third, everything you did on this mission is something I can definitely not do (I can't do any of things anyone did, but the two psykers don't count and I'm convinced Acid is a cogitator whisperer).

I'm not too bad at keeping quiet, but I can't track or hide to save my life. Would you willing to help me train?

Sincerely,
Max.

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Max Drent
+++FROM: Sera Jentiva
+++SUBJECT: Training Request

Max,

You could've done it without me, it just would've been louder.

Felt good to get off the ship and do something. Focused the mind. Scary, too, but that's good for people. Every traitor Astartes slain is worth a lot.

Happy to train you in some stealth, it's lacking in our staff as a whole.

No need to apologise about the food, it was good food. My decisions about how I consume it are spiritual, not physiological. I was taught that the road to weakness is paved with pleasure, and it's taken me decades to unlearn what I was taught in the Family. Perhaps my preference for plain food is an unexamined indulgence in its own way. A comfort. I will pray for guidance on the matter.

Sincerely,
Sera

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Max Drent
+++FROM: Ash Lear
+++SUBJECT: Re: Nobody died

YEAH GO MAXIE!

Just read the report, you rocked it.

You all rocked it. Jentiva especially, I’m not sure anyone has ever rocked anything as much as she rocked killing that dude. That woman. I tell you. Had such a crush on her but I’m pretty sure she doesn’t swing that way, I got over it. Prob shouldn’t have put that in writing seeing as we’re about to be on the same team and all, but she’s chill. Ah well.

Seriously - well done. You did a really, really good job. I’m really proud of you, Max. You knocked it out of the park.

Ash xxx

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Agent Jentiva
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: A job well done

Agent Jentiva,

I am not usually a man who is lost for words. Yet, I have been sitting here for a good half hour trying to think of a way to express my gratitude.

Thank you does not seem enough to express how grateful I am for your bravery in facing down the heretical astartes. If you had not done so I fear we would have been in an entirely different situation and there would have been many more casualties.

Yet you faced your foe and defeated him with ease. A testament to your skill and courageous nature.

I am thankful. I look forward to working with you again. If ever you are in need of my help you only need to ask.

Yours humbly,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Agent Drent
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: Report

Agent Drent,

Please find attached my report for the Bateon Fighting Ring Mission. I will also be sending a copy to Inquisitor Michael.

I would also like to commend you on your first mission as lead agent. A good leader listens to the advice of those around them and uses the skill set of their team. Each team member was well placed. I was particularly impressed with Agent Jentiva and she was an inspired addition to the team. Without her bravery we would have faced a difficult foe and there would have been countless casualties.

Now, I am going to give some unwarranted advice, I do this as I can not idly stand by when I think there are areas for improvements. It’s the teacher in me.

Taking a position of authority is not easy. I was younger than yourself when I was enlisted to be a battle psyker. I know what it is like to be a part of a team, as well as a leader, and how the decisions you make directly impact on those you care about. I have seen many of my team mates killed. Their deaths, well, they stay with you always.

However, when you enter a battle field you know the risk you take. You are willing to lay down your life for the mission to serve the Emperor. As I see it being an Inquisition Field Agent is no different. Your team mates know the risks.

Agent Jentiva saw an opportunity to assassinate a heretical astartes. She was willing to put her life on the line in order to save those around her. She chose the good of the mission over her own safety. I admire her greatly for this.

I understand why you would not want to lose another team mate. An emotional compass is useful. It shows that you are human and compassionate. Yet, I fear if I had not challenged your decision you would not have said yes and we would have been faced with an entirely difficult and more dangerous situation. A decision that could have put us all at risk.

As a leader you sometimes have to make the decision to put the lives of your team mates at risk for the good of the mission and to save more lives. Jentiva was willing to risk all to save us.

You chose well and the mission was a success. Learn to trust those in your team and allow them to take the risks. Keep making the difficult decisions. If you can do this I have no doubt you will make an excellent leader and one I would be happy to follow.

Yours in good faith,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Inquisitor Michael
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: Report

Inquisitor Michael,

As requested please find attached my report for the Bateon Fighting Ring Mission. I hope it is to your satisfaction.

As my first mission as a field agent I have to say I was incredibly impressed by Agent Carlin and Agent Jentiva. It was a calculated risk sending Agent Carlin back into the field. Whilst there is no doubt he is an excellent fight I had concerns about his emotional well being and his ability to cope in the field. However, this was the perfect mission which allowed him to shine. He was able to prove to himself and his team mates that he can be an asset in the field. It is a big step in the right direction. As for Agent Jentiva who took on an heretical astartes single handily, well, she should be highly commended for her bravery in the field.

Agent Drent, for someone so young, did well for his first mission as a leader. As my report shows he listened to the advice of his team mates and used their skill sets wisely. Each member was well placed and the mission was a success.

However, there is one shadow of concern, which I will also raise with Agent Drent directly and which is reflected in my report. Agent Drent is a compassionate young man. He has a strong moral compass which takes hold in his decision making. His priority is the safety of his team members. This is an admirable quality but not at the risk of the mission or the safety of others.

Agent Drent had a difficult decision to make. It was the choice of sending a single team mate to assassinate the heretical astartes or to keep them safe. Agent Drent’s preferred choice was the latter. If we had followed that course we would have lost the element of surprise and we would have had to go in all guns blazing. This would have put the whole team at risk and would have no doubt resulted in casualties. As an experienced warrior, leader and Inquisitor you will know that sometimes risking the life of one is worth it if it means saving all. If I had not stepped in and convinced Agent Drent to send Agent Jentiva onwards we may have had a very different outcome.

I see great potential in Agent Drent. He has all the makings of a great leader. Yet he needs to learn to make the difficult decisions which may put his team mates at risk. Being an agent of the Inquisition is not a safe career. If he does not learn to trust his team mates to do their job and tries to keep them safe he will only endanger them future and at the potential costs of the mission.

I realise that my opinion is unwarranted. However I say all of this as it is important. Lessons can be learnt from this mission and improvements can be made.

He made the right choice this time. Let’s hope he continues to do so.

Yours in good faith,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Sera Jentiva
+++SUBJECT: A job well done

Dear Padraic,

Thanks. Kind of you to say.

Dunno what it'll take to have you at an actual loss for words.

Sincerely,
Sera

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Sera Jentiva
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: A job well done

Dear Sera,

You are welcome. A job well done deserves praise.

Quite. Your comment brings to mind a short poem I was taught as a child.

Be careful of the words you say,
Keep them short and sweet,
You never know, from day to day,
Which ones you’ll have to eat.

A crude but fun poem. It lesson I fear I have not yet quite mastered. The taste of the lost for words comment served back to me is an interesting one.

You are quite correct. I also do not know what it will take. I have even been known to talk in my sleep. I may be a lost cause on that front.

Sincerely,

Padriac

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Sera Jentiva
+++SUBJECT: A job well done

Padraic,

Been thinking about your last message. Talking a lot is fine. Max talks a lot. It's the way you talk. Do you know how much you talk like a teacher? Seems like you've been explaining stuff to scared teenagers so long you forgot how to talk to adults. Talking's never been my thing, so this is me being a hypocrite. Probably being rude when I'm trying to be useful. Eidan says I come off more combative than intended.

I meant what I said about being glad you were on the last mission.

Sincerely,
Sera

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Dear Mr Larnock,

Your report is very prompt and gratefully received. Your feedback on the agents is also well received, and as I expected from and instructor appears even handed with criticism and praise.

I note that you have reported back on every agent that accompanied you with the exception of Winnifred. Should I take from this absence that her performance was perfectly adequate but unexceptional? Or were you hesitant to give me feedback because she is one of "my" agents?

The other teacherly trait of your report is that you have avoided any kind of self reflection. This was your first field mission as an Agent of the Inquisition. Consider yourself objectively for a moment; as the most junior and inexperienced member of the team, how do you feel Agent Larnock performed?  More subjectively, how did you feel about the experience?

Yours faithfully,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Inquisitor Michael
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Inquisitor Michael,

Thank you. I am grateful to you and pleased that my observations have been well received.

Winnifred’s performance was perfectly adequate. Her command of the servo skulls was invaluable in following our suspected opponents. Other than that, I do not have much to add. I have no doubt she has an extremely useful skill set, she is extremely bright, but for this mission she did not have an opportunity to use them. I suspect, please correct me if this observation is incorrect, that her main purpose for that mission was as a support for Agent Carlin. It certainly helped him to have her there in that respect. If I am honest her skills can be put to better use. It may be worth checking in with her to see if she also felt this or if she felt surplus to requirements.

How did I feel Agent Larnock performed? An interesting exercise. If I was his trainer I would reflect the same sentiments as Winnifred. Agent Larnock performed perfectly adequately. His main duties were to be part of a team, support Agent Carlin, obey the commands of his lead agent and complete the mission. All tasks he performed with due diligence. He excelled in protecting Agent Carlin during a particularly difficult fight by lending him unnatural strength. He offered advice when he felt it was needed and followed the command of his leading officer. If there is an area that needs improvement it is being accepted as part of the team. He is aware that he makes them feel uncomfortable. He has been informed by a fellow agent that his manner and conversation is that of a teacher and not a colleague. This will need further work.

How did I feel about the experience? I have spent the last 12 years teaching at the Psykana. It was refreshing to get back into the field and use my talents for a different purpose. I had not realised that I had missed being in the field. It is a different and more dangerous line of work to teaching at the Psykana. It was also an honour to be working alongside some extremely talented team mates. I realise that I have a lot to learn and hope that I will be given another opportunity to attend another mission.

Yours faithfully,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Dear Mr Larnock,

If you do not mind further feedback, I would suggest that "teacher" is an over simplification.  Spend some time in the company of Gaius Umberto or Enu Keyode and you will witness some very teacherly mannerisms. I would guess, although this is only a guess as I do not know you or your background well, that you are too used to a very unequal divide between the teachers and the students of your scholam.  Here in the Inquisition you will find that everyone has something they can teach you, and everyone has more to learn.

Yours faithfully,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Inquisitor Michael
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Inquisitor Michael, I always welcome further feedback despite it sometimes being difficult to hear criticism.

It’s true. You know nothing of my background, the years as a battle psyker spent in the Emperor’s service, nor the pressures and demands of being a teacher at the Psykana. I have spent many years earning the respect of my fellow soldiers, colleagues and students. I have grown accustomed to a certain level of respect.

You are an Inquisitor. A title such as that holds power, evokes fear and demands respect. That cannot be denied I have witness this for myself within and outside of the walls of this building. Though there may not be as clear an imbalance as at the Psykana between student and teacher, there are still hierarchies and power dynamics at play within the Inquisition.

Imagine, yourself now in a position similar to mine, where the title no longer holds weight. The struggle, hard work and devotion that you have put into earning such a title and respect no longer means anything. That you have returned to square one and have to start all over again faced with a certain level of suspicion and mistrust. Would you not feel aggrieved?

That is the situation I find myself in.

It would appear that yourself and many of your colleagues have a negative view of the Psykana and by association myself. I hope that with time that I can provide a more rounded view of the Psykana. Time will tell whether I will be able to earn my place and the level of respect I am used too.

Yours in good faith,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Padraic Larnock
+++FROM: Inquisitor Michael
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Mr Larnock,

I need not imagine. Before I joined the Inquisition I was a Colonel of the Imperial Guard. Twenty years of combat, blood, death and deprivation earned me that rank. I commanded a literal army of soldier who would fight and die at my command. Then I joined the Inquisition as an Agent.

Early on I was thoroughly reprimanded by a common enforcer in service to Inquisitor Vandemar. What cared he that my command had once utterly destroyed the city of Virixodin, when my blunder had interrupted months of careful investigation?

That I had once accepted the surrender of the planet Anaphet IX did not prevent Kovach from lecturing me on diplomacy when I was curt to a Planetary Governor during the course of saving his own damn planet for him.

Respect is not a universal currency. Respect earned in one place cannot be spent in another. Rank and title can buy you obedience and often fear, but respect is earned, or not, on an individual basis with each and every person you meet. 

You know me as an Inquisitor, a cold and distant authority, and I trust that you will obey my commands either through obedience to my office or fear of the power I wield, but I would be very surprised if you could honestly say that you respect me personally. I hope in time as we get to know each other that a mutual respect will develop.

I offer this feedback honestly in the hope of helping you, I meant no offence.

Your comment about the Psykanna honestly surprises me. I wonder what I have done to give you this impression? If this is an attitude I am giving off; and if this is, as you say, being echoed by others here then this is something I will need to address as I may be setting a bad example.

Yours faithfully,
Inquisitor Michael

+++MESSAGE ENDS


+++TO: Inquisitor Michael
+++FROM: Padraic Larnock
+++SUBJECT: Re: Report

Inquisitor Michael, I am humbled by your response. It would appear that you were correct and that you will find that everyone in the Inquisition has something they can teach you, and everyone has more to learn. I think respect is not a universal currency may be the first in a long line of lessons.

Daunting as it may be to earn the respect, on an individual basis, with everyone I met it is the approach I must adopt this approach if I am to succeed here.

I am grateful for your feedback and do not take offence. Only look to learn and find my place during my time here.

Whilst all agents have been professional I have felt a general negative attitude towards the Psykana from nearly every agent I have met so far. There have been several negative remarks about the Psykana and the treatment of our students. On one occasion a serious accusation was raised which I have decided not to pursue. In the light of Rosa’s and Kovach’s demise I can understand the mistrust around Psykers and by association the Scholastica Psykana. Like I said in time I hope that this feeling will dissipate.

Again I appreciate that you have taken the time to offer honest feedback. I also hope in time we will get to know each other and that a mutual respect will develop.

Yours in good faith,

Padraic Larnock

+++MESSAGE ENDS

Acid and Amon

Acid sat on the counter licking the cookie dough off the wooden spoon. She was either going to have to stop “cleaning” the utensils or, Emperor forbid, start joining Ash and Max in their daily self-flagellatory running regime. Holding the spoon in her mouth briefly, she pulled the flimsiplast glove off her left hand, having determined some time ago that covering it up was far easier than trying to clean it, particularly if ingredients managed to get into the joints. “How do you feel about augmetics Amon?” she asked, flexing the metal hand in front of her and observing the smooth, and ingredient free, action of the knuckles.


Amon looked up from the bowl he was stirring, his gaze following Acid’s to the hand held out in front of her. “What, yours?” he asked with a shrug. “You know I don’t really notice them, I told you.”


“What if I had more, would you find that weird?” Her body language was still relaxed, but attentive. Clearly this was not a deadly serious conversation, but she cared about what he had to say. “I don’t mean intentionally replacing my other limbs, even Max can see how bad an idea that is, but I was wondering about a mechadendrite. I was thinking about getting a secondary port anyway to increase my performance in Salty, she’s pretty clunky at the moment, there’s still a lot of manual control, but if I had a mechadendrite it could act as a versatile data tether as well as a spare hand. Would you find that weird?”


There was a pause while Amon thought - the kind of pause Acid would be used to by now. He looked at her thoughtfully. She hadn't put on as much weight as she thought she had, and privately he thought it suited her; lines rounding into curves. He gave a thoughtful frown. "Why are you asking me?" Amon looked honestly puzzled. "It's your body, right?"


“Sure it is, I'm not asking permission, I just… value your opinion." She twisted her left forearm and pulled, disconnecting the augmetic limb from the stump below and exposing the neural shunt below, a smaller and simpler version of the one on the back of her neck. "I don't want people to think I'm going Ad Mech crazy and trying to turn myself into a servitor, but, you know, I'm good at my job and there are things I can do that would make me even better. Ash didn't think I should get the port in my neck but it's been really helpful…" She rubbed at it absently. "I guess I'm just worried about how I would know if I was going Ad Mech crazy. I've been thinking of joining you know. Not that I want to be a member of their cult, but it could be helpful to be an official member. That mission in pigtown would have been easier." She reattached her arm, the stiff lifeless fingers suddenly relaxing into natural motion as the nerves reconnected. "It is my body but, it's always good to talk about things with someone you trust and get another perspective." She quirked a half smile at him. "You have flour on your cheek by the way."


"So you don't want to be a cult member," Amon said slowly, a spark of mischief in his eyes. "But you want to join, and you want to get more bionics?" He grinned. "Are you sure you don't want to be one?"

He watched her arm click back into place, smiling at her use of the word 'trust'. "And who's fault is that?" Amon asked with a chuckle, reaching up to rub at the floury thumbprint Acid had left on his cheek. Then he took a step closer to where she sat on the counter, reached out and took her metal hand in one of his, running his fingers over the complex machinery. "I think," he said at length, still slow and thoughtful, concentrating hard on the words. "If you know it's not a good idea to replace healthy limbs, you're not Ad Mech crazy. But I also think, is being Ad Mech crazy a bad thing? If it's what you want? Like...why not?"


"What I mean," Acid replied, "is that their cult believes so really wierd stuff. Spend some hours with Acetae and you'll see what I mean. He's not very devout but it's deeply seated in his language and habits. They beleive that machines are an expression of purity and that 'motive force' is holy. They think the more you replace yourself with bionics, the closer you are to the Emperor; or the Omnissiah as they call him. But they also know more about machines and technology than anyone else in the Imperium. Acetae is pretty cool about teaching me whatever, but he's also under explicit instructions from the Mechanicus not to share any of the 'secret mysteries' without explicit instructions from an Inquisitor, and even then to try to avoid it.

"If all I have to do to join is start calling the Emperor the Omnissiah and learn some more prayers, I figure I can get access to a lot of useful knowledge and when we meet other tech priests on missions they will be a lot more open to giving me access to stuff. Replacing healthy body parts is more for higher ranking members, as long as I've got a data port and cognition buffer, which I already do," She added, pointing at her neck, "I can be an acolyte."

She rubber her dangling feet togther and stared at them. "I guess I'm just worried I'd get suckered in and carried away. I was way at the back of the queue when the Emperor was handing out bodies, so I've been upgrading it for as long as I've been able to just to be more normal.  It's not surprising that I'm more open to some additional upgrades. Whereas Ash was born with a great body," She smirked at Amon at this comment, "so whilst she's been willing to replace the bits she lost in combat I can see her not really wanting her body to change from the original. I just...  I dunno. I don't want to be a robot you know? People are made of meat and some extra bits is all fine but I think if you replace most of your brain with machinery you're also replacing your humanity.  Acetae is wierd, and he's fun and all but I sometimes wonder how much of it is because of how he was raised and how much is because of his cybernetics?  What if I get sucked in to the cult thing and I start changing and decide I'd be better off if I cut my head off and replaced it with a cogitator stack?"


Amon leaned against the counter next to her, picking up the bowl of cake batter and stirring idly. His exposure to Ad Mecs had been limited - he was very, very aware that he was not the most qualified person to be having this conversation with. She should be talking to Michael, or Ash, or Padraic, or someone who knew about all that. But for some reason, she had decided to have it with him, so he had to do his best. His mouth twisted at one corner.

“They’d probably try and talk you into more stuff, right? Oh, all this would be so much easier if you got something in your brain. And it probably would be easier, but then - like you said, you’d be putting stuff in your brain.” He shrugged. “I think…”

He took a breath and then released it. A few weeks in a relationship with Acid had already been enough to show him that he needed to get better at this whole ‘honest conversation’ thing. He gave her a sheepish smile. “Nobody’s ever really been interested in what I think, before,” he admitted, then cleared his throat.

“I think, you shouldn’t make a vow, or join anything, unless you mean it. It doesn’t sound like you really want to. So I…” It felt quite exposing, giving advice like this. He wasn’t used to it. “I’m not sure it’s the right thing. For you.”


"See, thoughts like that are exactly why I'm interested in what you think. I've got plenty of brains in my head but I need your heart." She illustrated this point by poking him in the chest.  She pondered for just a moment, but as usual quickly came to a conclusion.  "If I make a false vow then really I'm giving up a bit of my soul, I'd be living a lie. Joining the Ad Mech just because it's convenient and helpful is really no different to replacing a bit of my brain with a machine."  She jumped off the counter and tossed the thoroughly licked spoon into the sink. "Guess that means I can't walk around in a red robe and nothing else on underneath," she added with a cheeky grin as she headed towards the door.




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