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    Secret War (Warhammer 40,000)

    After his organisation is hired to hunt down an influential gang leader on the Hive world, Omnartus. Attelus Kaltos is embroiled deeper into the complex world of the Assassin. This is the job which will change him, for better or for worse. Forevermore.

    Chapter 1
    Gunfire. Las and solid projectile alike ripped down the corridor, stray rounds punching holes through the wooden walls, showering us in pouts of exploding dust, which engulfed much of the hallway in a thick, white haze—forcing my colleagues and me into cover. Two of whom, Jarvus and Callague, never made it. A las round burned through the side of Jarvus' skull as the ex-guardsman desperately dived. Callague was dead before he could even move, the poor bastard almost cut apart by the intense fire.

    Cursing, I blindly fired my autogun from the corner, Into the dust-obscured corridor. 'Spray and pray' is the technical term and wondered for the hundredth time why I had joined this line of work. No way in hell could I get a clean shot; my only hope was to pin the assailants.

    With a quick-fire signal to Garrakson behind me, I slipped back, and the ex-guardsman took my position.

    "Fire in the hole!" he sang out in his oddly melodic voice, and with a grunt, the middle-aged man hefted a tube-charge down the hall.

    The explosion's deafening roar preceded by the hefty clatter of falling debris.

    Without hesitation, Elandria and I slid into the corridor. Side by side, we sprinted through the dust and debris, firing our auto guns from the hip. Two unfortunate gangers buckled and collapsed under our withering fire—a pair of darkened figures stunned by the grenade's force.

    At the last moment, we dropped our weapons and fell upon our enemies—Elandria drawing twin monomolecular enhanced blades from the sheaths on her back. I drew my mono-sword from its hip scabbard. Elandria let out a spine-chilling cackle and dodged a ganger's clumsy blow then countered with a deft slice, relieving him of his head.

    Not in such humour. I parried a ganger's stabbing knife and kicked my boot's knife into his shin. The man's agonised scream became gurgling as I stabbed through his chest and I kicked the convulsing idiot off my blade. Immediately, I was forced to duck the next Hammer's wild swing of the butt of his Lasgun. My blade arced into his left hip and through to his right shoulder. The man gurgled blood then fell onto his back.

    Beside me, Elandria finished the last ganger, disembowelling him with a quick slice of Setsukia then decapitated him with Katrina.

    She and I worked well together, but our combat styles could not have been more different. I was taught the way of the combat pragmatist: to do anything and everything to win, to fight with quick, brutal and practical techniques.

    She fought like a gymnast, with acrobatic and fanciful techniques I found at first contemptuous. But I could not deny that she was skilled, very skilled.

    She had yet to reveal what school of assassins she was taught in, but I could hazard a guess.

    Elandria enjoyed killing. To such heights, it disturbed me and her obsession with decapitating her victims, unnatural. Hence why she wielded twin blades: Setsukia, for blocking and wounding. Katrina, specifically to decapitate. She fought while amped on combat drugs, which I was taught to do too, but detested. If you relied on enhancements, what good would you be without them? I supposed that was why her fanciful style was so effective.

    I do not enjoy killing; I do it because needs must, in a professional manner and pride in my work. I am Attelus Xanthis Kaltos, I am a mercenary, and that is that.

    Despite her ruthless, bloodthirsty nature, Elandria was an attractive young woman. At times her beauty held me in awe. Her skin, deathly pale and her straight brunette hair, jaw length. But I was wise enough to know a girl like her was only to be looked at, not chased being so indoctrinated by her cult, all she would ever know was the mindless urge to kill. It was quite depressing, really.

    The four that fell to our blades were the last; another three had taken the brunt of the blast.

    'Good work, you two' said Garrakson, his heavy boots crunching on the debris as he approached our backs.

    Elandria and I turned to our colleague. Elandria was tense, shaking and as she spun, she almost toppled over. Fortunately, Garrakson was smart enough to stand out of range of Elandria's blades; she was hugely unpredictable when in such a state.

    I shrugged. "All in a day's work," I said, trying to sound nonchalant. "We must be getting back before the local Magistratum arrive."

    Garrakson grimaced slightly. "Or the damnable Arbites."

    "C-cut the chit chat s-shall we?" said Elandria her voice was painful, needy. "Our master will be wanting to hear of our exploits.' She was twitching madly now, another reason I kept off stimms; the withdrawal was intense.

    "What?" said Garrakson. "Our exploits being that we lost even more good men chasing yet another dead end?"

    I sighed; Garrakson's words rang true. I had been part of Taryst's army for half a year now, and so far this had to be the most horrible, thankless job I've ever had.

    Taryst, a famous Rogue Trader, well known throughout the Calixis sector as a master of trade and business. Who, for an unknown reason, was waging war against the gangs of this Hive world: Omnartus. So secret this struggle was any mercenary who joined had their mind blocked from psyker intrusion. That was over two thousand men and women. Emperor only knows how even he could afford it.

    "What are we to do about Callague and Jarvus?" I said; starting down the corridor and past Garrakson, although already knowing the answer.

    Garrakson sniffed, causing his scarred, square-jawed face to contort. "Do what we always do," he said, shaking his head. "Leave 'em; we don't have the time, kid."

    "Just for a change, huh?" I sighed. "Poor bastards. I hope that the Magistratum treat them well."

    "Why does it matter?" asked Elandria, despite a drug-induced withdrawal approached she with such feline grace she seemed to float. "The dead are dead; it does not matter how well you treat them."

    I sighed again. No matter how many times I explained it, she still didn't understand.

    Garrakson sniffed again, but this time he hawked up a wad of phlegm he unceremoniously spat to the floor. "Okay kiddies, we split up," he said. "Elandria go south-west-"

    "Yeah, yeah," I sneered. "We know the drill: I go south-east, and you go south, meet at the base at eighteen hundred, we know."

    Garrakson shook his head with a bemused smile. "How long has it been now?"

    "One hellish half of one hellish year," I answered, though I was not sure either.

    "Hellish? Hellish?" said Garrakson. "Now that's the damned understatement of the damned century. Alright then, just move out now, if you know the bloody drill so ******** well."

    And we did it, yet again.

    I ran out of the building and into the polluted, darkened streets. My black flak jacket whipped and snapped in my wake.

    I did not need to check my wrist chronometre's compass to know I ran south-east. Ever since I was a child, I had an innate sense of direction. I could find my way through the thickest of bush on my homeworld, Elbyra with only my wits.

    As I silently moved, my thoughts wandered. Half a year ago our squad numbered ten, but with the losses of Callague and Jarvus, now we're reduced to four.

    The fourth was Torris, an ex-Arbitrator. He was wounded in our last incursion; the poor bastard lost an eye then got knifed in the guts. His condition was still uncertain. I was not into praying, but I was tempted to for Torris.

    It was quite depressing really; seeing your colleagues killed off, one by one. Was it like this to serve in the Imperial Guard? Perhaps I should ask Garrakson one day if I ever remember to.

    Better do it sooner rather than later, Garrakson maybe the next. Or perhaps me.

    I shook away the morbid thought. The morale of Taryst's army was on an all-time low. We may be mercenaries; throne gelt was a good incentive for us. But Taryst expected us to give up our lives without ever telling us why.

    We were human as well if we had a cause, a meaning! It could make us fight all the harder.

    Anger started to well, my jaw clenched. What was the point of implanting us with psychic blocks if you don't give us any of any information to protect?

    But I was no stranger to secrets and sabotage. Everyone has an ulterior motive. I had learnt my of lesson 'trust' from my dear old dad, my dear old ******** father.

    I sighed, too many memories suddenly flooded back. I shook it away, now was not the time for sentiment.

    There was never any time for sentiment.

    I turned a sharp corner, out of the alleyways and into the main streets.

    We were meant to meet at the base at 1800 hours, but I intended to get there sooner. I felt I needed to speak with the employer; a mother-figure to us and was more of a mother than my own ever was. Her name was Glaitis; she saved me after my first, futile, assassination attempt. Glaitis taught me the way of the assassin in more detail than my father ever would. And she knew my father, my real father.

    My brow furrowed and I sped up my already fast pace.

    She never looked up, and she never seemed to need to as I entered her office.

    "Ah! Attelus Xanthis Kaltos. What is it that brings you to my humble abode, my apprentice?" said Glaitis. She was a tall, harshly beautiful woman, and I couldn't help my gaze gliding over her. Glaitis sat at her desk, long legs crossed. Her cold blue eyes studied a data slate intently.

    My jaw clenched. I hated it when Glaitis used my last name, and she was well aware of it. It was part of her constant testing, which drove me nuts. It was to anger me so I could learn to control my anger- I almost always failed.

    I swallowed the anger, and nervousness replaced it. A nervousness that overtook me when in her presence.

    "I-I am here to advise you of-."

    The sharp snap of the data slate suddenly shutting interrupted me, and she fixed me with her piercing gaze.

    "No stuttering young one, unless it is an act! You are to be confident! Precise in your words and your demeanour and stand up straight! Your posture is utterly horrendous!"

    I did as told, holding back an annoyed sigh.

    "Now, Young Attelus, you may start again."

    "I am here to advise you that we have lost two more members of our squad."

    "And who were they?" she said, her gaze falling to her data slate, uninterested.

    "Callague and Javus."

    "They are of Taryst's ilk," she stated.

    I nodded, already knowing what she was about to say.

    "If they are not part of our own organisation. I do not care, and you know this as well as I. come out with it then. I know you, child, tell me the actual reason you are here."

    I let out a heavy sigh, hoping that it didn't sound too fake, right now I was testing myself to see if I could hide the exact reason why I was here. "The men are losing morale-"

    "I am well aware of the state of the morale, my apprentice," she interrupted. "You are just here to seek guidance for your own melancholy. Am I correct in my assumption?"

    I hissed air through clenched teeth, hesitating my response. Damn it, outwitted yet again!


    She smiled a steady and starkly rare expression.

    "At least you have learnt from my teachings the value of deception young Attelus but yet not the proper technique. As I told you when we first began your training, your father had taught you well in the basics; close-quarters combat, swordsmanship, ranged weaponry. But he had neglected the more subtle arts of an assassin's trade."

    My jaw set at the mention of my father.

    "Do not do that!' she hissed. "That is one of your many tells young one. You do when you are annoyed or angered. Remember, I have taught you time and time again: 'give nothing to your enemies or your allies.' That proverb was handed down to me by my master, and now I hand it down to you. Do you understand what it means, child?"

    "Yes." I barely said rather than sighed. I started regretting coming here.

    "Good!" she sat back in her chair. "Now, tell me. What troubles you young Attelus."

    Her voice softened; she seemed legitimately interested. That had always taken me back, how she could change from harsh, berating teacher, to tender and kind-hearted motherly figure in the blink of an eye.

    My heart skipped and suddenly found words hard to form; when she changed like that, it would always give me a strange tightness in my chest. I had no idea why.

    "I- I hate this!" I managed to blurt. "We have been here for six months, and we have nothing! Nothing! Just more corpses and questions! It's hard every ******** day is the same! A new lead we are sent to track down and- and! We are only to find a new dead end!"

    "I know," she said softly. "I know it is hard."

    "But you know what else?" I snarled. "I get the suspicion that frigger Taryst knows more than he lets on! That he could give us information that would allow us to do our jobs, but for some, idiotic, selfish reason, he holds it back! I don't know why, but I have my ideas!"

    Glaitis placed her elbow on her desk and cupped her jaw in her smooth, tender hand. A slight smile played over her full purple lips. "Really, young one?' she cooed. "And pray tell, what are these 'ideas'?"

    I stiffened, I said more than I should have. But I did not stutter. I looked Glaitis straight in the eye and said, "That the information would damn him, that he is desperate to keep it secret so much, that if it were even slightly leaked out, his life would be jeopardised. That he could be branded as a heretic and a traitor." I sighed. "That's why."

    My attention dropped to the carpet and waited for her response.

    After what seemed an eternity, she finally said, "I have to say my young one, I am impressed."

    "What?" I said, looking back up. Of all the responses that were the last, I had guessed.

    "Yes, that you would have at least a little tact to figure out makes me believe that finally, my lessons seem to be getting through to you. I, myself, had come to suspect Taryst for quite some time but for you to figure it out all alone," she laughed.

    I stood, seemingly frozen to the floor. Never had Glaitis complimented me like that before.


    "That, young one. Is the true key to survival in our...line of work," she said. "The first rule, 'know your enemy'. It is a simple and obvious statement, but you have learnt its true meaning."

    I winced with a curse, finally realising...

    "You have it, child."

    Her smile turned cruel.

    "Everyone is your enemy."

    I Leant on the wall of the dirty, smoggy alleyway and smoked a lho stick. My colleagues were yet to arrive, but I did not mind. I was early, and it allowed me time to do what I do best; think.

    It was ******** typical of Glaitis to retract a compliment. After her words filtered through my numbed mind, pride started to well within me. My posture straightened, so straight, I stood taller than ever before, but then she said.

    "But do not let it go to your head young Attelus, Xanthis Kaltos. For though I am not sure when you began to suspect Taryst. In all likelihood, it would be far too late."

    "What?" and I was back to being hunched again.

    She stood and approached me from around her desk; I could not help my eyes running up her lithe, full-figured body.

    Glaitis shook her head, she knew, she always ******** knew. "By now Attelus if you were alone, working out in the field and it took you this long to suspect your employer? You would be dead; you did well young one in this endeavour but next time..."

    "****!" I snarled and sighed: "Try doing it a little quicker.".

    "Indeed, and remember this piece of advice, young one and remember it well: 'trust nothing, suspect everything.'"

    I nodded wide-eyed.

    "I will," was all I could manage.

    "And Attelus, as much as I try to encourage you to try...think a little less. Do think on my words now," her face turned dark. "Think on them long and hard, now leave. I have much work to do."

    I took the Lho stick with index finger and thumb.

    "Trust nothing, suspect everything," I said. The irony was Glaitis meant herself too.

    Is this what it meant to be an assassin? Being some paranoid, psychotic, schizophrenic, trusting no one; not even yourself?

    I sighed out smoke; it reminded me of my father how he would act when some slightly suspicious stranger walked past our home, how he reacted when anyone but me came close. For the first time in a long time; I felt something other than anger at my father. I felt sorry for Serghar Kaltos.

    Was he the product of this 'training'? No, I was beginning to think it was brainwashing. Was this why my father neglected to teach me the 'subtle arts?' He did not want me to be a lonesome monster like him?

    I took the Lho stick and eyed it; I used to be a chain smoker. They helped me in my darker days. At Glaitis' instruction, I had quit (which seemed hypocritical as she encouraged the use of potentially deadly combat drugs). Still, since we came under Taryst's employ, I drifted back to the dirty habit, a coping mechanism indeed.

    Was the life of an assassin what I truly wanted?

    I tapped the ash off the Lho stick and put it back in my mouth.

    I didn't know what I wanted anymore.

    I inhaled the sweet smoke, took the dying smoke between index finger and thumb. Exhaled and flicked the stub onto the rockcrete ground.

    I kept leaning against the wall, not moving to step it out. Elandria did it as she emerged from the shadows.

    "Lost in your little world once more, eh?" she said.

    "Not lost enough to miss your clumsy approach."

    I could not see the expression on her face behind that cold, featureless mask, but I could hazard a guess.

    Elandria was many things, but socially intelligent was not one of them.

    She stood for a few seconds; trying to make a coherent comeback and the best she came up with was, "why is the son of Serghar Kaltos smoking Lho? Does he think himself too good for the rules?"

    My jaw set. I tried to keep my father's identity a secret, but Glaitis had to go and tell Elandria. Perhaps it was yet another 'test' but what that bloody woman wanted to test exactly was a mystery; was it my patience? Or my skill at combat when I lost my patience?

    I sighed contemptuously, and that riled her up.

    "What does that mean?"

    "It means what it means," my tone insultingly melancholic.

    "Yeah!" she snarled. "Well, let us see what it truly 'means' when I separate your head from your shoulders!"

    And she reached for her blades.

    I grinned then in a blink, slid into a combat stance and drew my sword.

    Then Garrakson suddenly seemed to appear between us.

    Elandria and I yelped in fright and leapt back.

    "That's enough, kiddies," he said. "I think that we've had enough violence for today."

    Then he turned to me. "And kid if you want to sheath your blade in her may I suggest using your 'other' blade instead."

    I felt my face go hot.

    "What?" demanded Elandria, her wide, beautiful green eyes switching back and forth between Garrakson and I. "What is this 'other blade' you speak of, Garrakson? Attelus Kaltos only wields one. Is-is it the knife in his boot?"

    "Try a little higher missy," said Garrakson and I blushed even worse.

    But she still didn't get it.

    Garrackson sighed. "Alright, let's get moving, kiddies. We've got exploits to report.'
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