Just Below the Surface
An Adeptus Arbites Story
Tercius, a hive world in the Segmentum Tempestus, in the Oreidium Sector of the galaxy and under the holy watch of the Adeptus Terra and the mighty Immortal Emperor of Man. Tercius is like most other Hive Worlds in the Imperium of Man. High habitation spires stab into the smog choked skies and The Adeptus Mechanicus manufactoriam churn out the war machines for the Imperial Guard and the many, varied and lethal arms of the Departmento Munitorum.
Billions upon billions reside in the mighty hives that dot the continents. Upon the surface of Tercius there are eighteen such hives, the primary export is like any Hive-World, man-power, bodies for the eternal war machine of mankind, workers to mine the deep pits, to stoke the fires and the like. Some of these people will go on to be great soldiers in the Imperial Guard or the Planetary Defence force. They could become numbered among the great Magos of the Adeptus Mechanicus, they could even be governors of their own planets should they work hard enough for it. Even one may be chosen to serve in the most elite order of warriors, the Adeptus Astartes, the Emperor’s Angels of Death. But to think of the probability of such a thing is ludicrous.
But this is not to say that the universe is their oyster, it is a harsh, cold time to be alive, it is the Forty-First Millennium, forget the promise of science and the understanding of your fellow man, in these times only the strong survive and the weak are either slaves or worse. Mankind is beset by aliens, traitors and heretics. The armies of man wage an unwinnable war against a myriad number of foes that would pillage and burn the worlds of the Emperor, to whom a single human life is nothing but a number to be erased in a tide of fire and death. To be alive in such times is be one among unnumbered trillions. Your passing won’t be remembered or mourned, for the tides of blood rise and fall with each passing day washing away thousands of lives. For each enemy without there are a hundred within, cruel, cold organisations mercilessly purge thousands to kill a single man, all in the name of faith.
It is up to the men and women of the Adeptus Arbites to ensure peace and law is maintained among the general populace. They decide the guilty, they determine the punishment.
In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war.
- - - - CHAPTER ONE - Quiet Beginnings- - - -
“Patrol Two-Three entering area six mid-level five.” Arbitrator Thall spoke into his armour’s vox as he and his partner indeed moved into the new area. He and Cairn walked through the hive as they had on their route for the past three months. The great mid-level of the Hive Lucius was almost as large as an old terran city, effectively that was what it was, a city within a greater city. The ceiling of the level was more than enough for a scout titan to stand without kneeling. The hab-blocks were sandwiched together to create the normal living conditions for the normal people of this level, they were not the unruly scum of the underhive nor where they highborn of the upper spires. Thall liked these people, they got up, they ate, they worked, they prayed, they paid their tithes and above all, they obeyed the law.
The Arbites patrol team walked the pavements of the hive; watching the people and ensuring the lawfulness of the hive.
Cairn waved a simple salute to the oncoming patrol team. They returned the gesture as they approached, the two looked bored, a good sign.
“Much to report?” Thall asked hopefully. The opposite two shrugged “Eleven to twelve youths on 13th and Main, possible cause of a minor civil nuisance, none look over six and ten years.” Cadet Davis sighed. “Anything from your end?”
Thall sighed heavily “Rush hour, lotta’ people in a hurry to get home tonight”
Davis’ partner and observer during his training, Arbitrator Farrell turned to the two with a lit Iho-stick in his mouth. “Can’t say I blame them, big game tonight, I would love to see how the season ends.”
Cairn laughed with his fellow Arbitrator, “Maybe Provost Krael will let us record the pict-cast”
This sent the other Arbitrator in further laughter. “He’s too busy organising a marching band for our visitor”
Thall sighed, it was true the big-wig from the Segmentum Solar had sent a wave of near-hysteria throughout the entire planet’s government and of course the locals had absolutely no idea what was going on.
Thall began moving forward with Cairn in tow. “Keep a lookout” he waved over his shoulder. The other patrol returned their route.
The two moved on by foot, usually not a problem on the mid-levels for the Arbites as it helped with their image as law-enforcers, it presented a clean, strong face of Imperial authority.
In the lower levels then it was considered dangerous to your health to go down there in anything short of a Repressor. The upper-levels didn’t like the image of the dark armoured figures wandering their pristine streets and therefore the Arbites remained in their squad vehicles while on patrol. But Thall and Cairn didn’t mind the walk on the mid-level, the air was clean, the people where nice and the lack of crime was change of pace after pulling underhive duty.
They made their way down the main road of the area, of the entire level even. The same beat they had walked for three months, past the same hab-blocks, the same shrine manned by the same smiling priest who delivers the same blessing on the two. The same groceries store...
Thall sighed; he loved being on mid-level patrol but sometimes the sheer monotony sometimes got to him. Most Arbites were taught not to get too attached to the people they policed, but the Tercius Arbites could expect to be here for the next ten millenniums at least. While they still didn’t recruit from the general populace, the recruits that were drafted into the Tercius Arbites soon began to think of the place as their home. Taking a page from the book of the Imperial Guard, staying in the precinct and aloof only worked when you were moving every few decades but due to the permanent nature, soon even the marshal grew bored and allowed his footmen to wander the nearby grounds on their free time. Over the intervening centuries and eventual millennia this spread to the entirety of the hives. The Council of Judges had allowed the practise to continue as it seemed to lower the average crime rate of the planet.
“You read this morning’s clips?” Cairn asked as the two sauntered on. The clips referred to the newsfeeds and headlines along with reports from the patrol units that gave the Adeptus Arbites and the Planetary governing council an overview of the current situation of the hive.
“I took a glance, didn’t you?” Thall returned as he watched a couple moving along the opposite road with an eye honed by years of experience.
Cairn chuckled innocently “I maybe got up a little late and had to rush to meet you.” He received a disapproving glance from his partner. Thall shook his head and continued his walk.
“Things are getting worse in the underhive; the Governor has asked the PDF commanders to stand ready for suppression actions.” Thall muttered with almost disgust. While gang violence was indeed terrible, if the PDF rolled in then thousands of innocents would be slaughtered in the crossfire.
Cairn hummed his distaste. “Anything nice today?” he asked.
Thall looked to him with a look that told Cairn everything he needed to know for that question.
Thall continued as they walked “The Bowl planetary finals are tonight, not that we get to see it.” He semi-moaned, “If the Provost is feeling rather nice, we may get to hob-nob with some big-wigs.” The Arbitrator shrugged “Like that gonna-“
The Arbitrator stopped as something caught his eye.
Thall groaned “Youths, there” he pointed a finger further down the street. Two large groups facing towards each other, and the two biggest going at it to the sounds of their friends cheering, the fight was spilling out into the main road, luckily there were no ground-cars coming. The two looked like they were really going at it, even at this distance Thall could make out the red markings on their faces.
Thall began to sprint towards them, the pistol stayed in its holster for the time being, Cairn followed, the smirk from earlier lost as a wave of seriousness fell across the two.
As Thall approached he started to make out individual marks, each boy and girl had a ribbon, cloth or some sort of clothing that set them apart from the other group. One group wore purple or blue predominately while the others had red.
Thall broke through the outer perimeter of the children and got right to the two fighting. The carapace armour alone was enough to ensure that no one tried to stop him. The Arbites helmet struck fear and obedience into those who got a good look at the two.
“Break it up!” Thall roared as he gripped both combatants and pulled the two apart. With a deft gesture the Arbite threw both to the ground away from each other.
“Now that’s over” Cairn subvocalised as he pulled his Illuminator from his waist, “Hands!” He bellowed and the youths obeyed, showing the Arbitrator the backs of their hands. Cairn swung the illuminator over the small forest of hands; it was shaped like a standard torchlight but gave of no visible light when activated.
“No previous crimes” Cairn said as he finished his sweep. It was standard practice on Tercius to brand all criminals with special tattoos that only showed up under an illuminator beam. It made on-the-spot judgements a lot simpler, primarily it found use in the underhive but it helped on all levels equally.
Thall hoisted both of the two fighting boys to their feet where they looked suitably upset and shy. Thall noted that the boy with a purple headband also had incredibly pale skin, not unusual for hive-children but compared to the others in the group he was definitely in need of sometime in the UV areas.
Thall looked the two boys over slowly and carefully, accentuating every action in order to scare the two more. “No previous crimes” he repeated slowly and loudly. He locked each boy with a glare that froze most perps dead in their tracks. Thall grumbled something as he made an obvious gesture to rest his hand on his marker, a glorified spray gun that applied the crime-tattoo. He had no intention of booking the boys when clearly this was nothing more than an argument that got out of hand.
“You want this to your first?” Thall asked menacingly, modulating his voice to be like gravel, Cairn couldn’t help but smile; it was his Sergeant Bale impression. The two youths shook visibly, the severity of the situation started overwhelming the adrenaline from the fight.
“No sir” the two whimpered. Thall stood tall with his fists on his hips with a frown he had practised for his impression. “I thought so” Thall grimaced.
Thall looked over his shoulder to his partner, Cairn shrugged, neither one of them really wanted to haul two dozen kids down to the precinct nor did they think that they deserved it.
Thall looked to the two each in turn, he pointed to the pale one. “You and your friends will walk that way” he pointed behind them after which he turned to the other boy “You and your friends will go that way” He pointed the opposite direction to the purples. The reds nodded.
“Either of you take a step back towards each other and I will personally haul you down to precinct for inciting civil violence. You understand?” Thall said plainly, the two boys’ nodded “Yes sir” they uttered. “Yes what?” Thall voiced with an air of authority. “Yes Arbitrator” they said louder. Thall nodded and waved both groups on their way.
As ordered the groups went their separate ways with the two brawlers walking away with their tails between their legs. Thall smiled, he liked solving crime without having to brutalise someone.
Cairn moved to Thall’s side as he watched the youths go. “Inciting civil violence?” He asked as he patted his comrade on the shoulder. “You weren’t really gonna’ arrest them were ya?” Cairn asked incredulously. Thall shook his head “Nah, they’re just kids”
Cairn turned to his partner “You see those colours? They aren’t the bowl team colours” Thall nodded solemnly. “Ya, but I don’t remember seeing any hive-gang using those colours.”
Cairn snorted “Let’s just hope it’s a fad those kids are going through.” Thall nodded again.
Cairn lightly punched Thall on his arm “Come on, we have another two areas to patrol”
As Thall moved alongside the main road he started thinking. Red and purple, what could it mean.
They wandered on through the heart of the level. Each hive level was roughly divided into eight sections radiating around a central tower which doubled as a mass-elevator. It was also the primary way of transport between the three mid-levels. Levels one and two were loading docks that lead to and from the myriad foundries and factoriums. The nearby area around the hive was filled with such areas.
Thall and Cairn moved in silence, Thall pondering the implications of children in gangs on the mid-level. The two stood at a junction. Waiting for the signals to alternate to allow the passage of the two, not that the ground-cars wouldn’t stop if the Arbites merely walked over the road, but is was advised the obey the road-laws as to limit accidents and waste of Arbite time.
The armour’s vox crackled into life “All units all units, Section 22A on Namkain block, mid-level 5, all nearby units respond, multiple suspects, they are armed and dangerous, Cadet and Arbite wounded, proceed with caution.”
Cairn turned “That’s us, let’s go!” He tapped the transmit button on his armour. “Patrol Two-three responding, ETA five minutes”