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    Re: Secret War (Warhammer 40,000)

    Chapter 3

    I sighed while watching Taryst disappear between the curtains. I needed a drag of Lho almost as much as I did not want to follow that literal embodiment of psychotic paranoia.

    I slipped out my ceramic box of Lho sticks from my flak jacket pocket and eyed the two guards while slowly beginning to open it.

    They just stood there silent, deathly still.

    I carried on, attention fixed on the guards, more interested as what they would do than the smoking itself. I opened the case, tugged out one lho: put it in my mouth then pulled out my igniter.

    I hesitated halfway through the movement, expecting the guards to do something.

    No, still motionless.

    I shrugged and lit the Lho.

    I inhaled the smoke and sighed it out, gladdened my stupidity did not cause my torso to be bisected by laser fire and that, perhaps paranoia had not entirely taken Taryst's mind...Yet.

    I did not understand why Taryst had those two standing there. I had only seen such ostentatious bodyguards accompany planetary Governors or Lord Generals; perhaps he wanted to state that he too was deserving of such charges as those great and mighty servants of the Imperium? Being a great and almighty Rogue Trader and all.

    Well actually, perhaps so. At least unlike many Lord Generals and Lord Governors out there (and especially the latter), Taryst had earned this power, this prestige. This was according to the research I had garnered, but I would not put it past Taryst to have that doctored.

    I took another inhale and blew out the sweet smoke. Why do you want to talk to me, Taryst? So many reasons flew through my thoughts then, each more obvious than the last and even more dodgy than the one before.

    I pulled out the Lho in between index finger and thumb, eyeing those still guards once more and found I envied them. Life for those two idiots seemed so simple, you stand and guard. Did they have to worry about political intrigue? No. Did they have to worry about their master's constant berating at even the slightest of mistakes? Somehow I doubted it.

    Alright, enough loitering, I thought putting the Lho back between clenched teeth. Let's get this over and damn well done with.



    I walked toward the curtains, slowly, casually. Hands in the pockets of my flak jacket and the lit Lho, hanging out the corner of my mouth.

    I was almost there when a massive, golden gloved paw was suddenly held right in my face, making me stop.

    "Excuse me, sir," said the left side guard with forced politeness, the voice vox enhanced. "Would you be so kind as to dispose of the contraband?"

    My brow furrowed heavily and I sighed, annoyed but unsurprised. I took the Lho stick by thumb and index finger and handed it to the guard.

    "And the container as well, sir?"

    Barely containing a groan, I snapped it out of my pocket, the movement so swift, so smooth that the guard took a few seconds to notice it was right in his face.

    And why don't you chop off my balls while you're at it, huh? I thought sorely.

    "I-I thank you, sir, now you may pass through, you will have your Lhos returned when you leave."

    I glared up at the much taller guard. I ******** well better, I thought as I passed through the curtains. Or you may be waking up a eunuch.

    That is, if you are not already, a eunuch.



    I emerged into the living quarters and quickly took in my surroundings. It was a much smaller area than I at first thought, ten metres in width, fifteen in length. The crimson red walls lined with gold. Placed nicely in the room's epicentre was a tasteful beautiful, white (with gold lining) marble water fountain with three wide, red couches around it. A small side table set at each armrest, all covered with expensive liquor bottles. The couches arranged three metres away from the fountain, but otherwise, the room was completely and strangely, empty.

    Most prominent was the door at the opposite end of the room. The adamantium door was a contrast to the rest of the decor; it was hard not to note. It was quite interesting that Taryst did not seem even to bother hiding it, a fake door, perhaps? Or perhaps I was looking into it a bit too much.

    "My friend!" yelled out Taryst as he leaned back on one of the couches, "come! Take a seat I have amasec of the highest quality and cigars! Relax, we have much to discuss!"

    I didn't move an inch. "No. But I would castrate someone for a smoke of Lho."

    "Sorry?" Taryst's eyes widened.

    The corner of my mouth twitched, idiot!

    "Hmm, sorry do you have any Lho to smoke?" I rephrased as smoothly as possible.

    Taryst's look of shock disappeared. "Yes, young Attelus come, sit I have plenty."

    I sighed and hunched in defeat, beginning to approach. I really didn't want to move an inch but saw little choice in the matter, Taryst's over-friendliness was getting on my nerves.

    Taryst leaned over his couch, opened one of the draws on his table and took out a rather fanciful box.

    "Here, take as many as you want young Attelus," he said, sliding the box open and holding it out to me.

    My jaw set. Why did he have to continually call me 'young Attelus'? Attelus would just do, I knew that I was young, I did not need to be constantly reminded by someone else besides Glaitis. She still called me 'child,' a rather dated title seen as though I was twenty-three ******** years old.

    Keeping my annoyance again silent, I nodded thanks and drew out two, meanwhile pulling out the igniter.

    I smiled, finding it funny that the guards outside would make me give up my lhos but forget my igniter which I could potentially do more damage. I was skilled in that aspect; my father had taught me how to turn anything into a potentially lethal weapon, even lighters, especially lighters, he was an equally avid smoker of Lho as well.

    "You still stand young Attelus, come and sit."

    "Thank you, sir, but I would rather stand," I said, trying for the soft yet forceful tone that Glaitis had taught me.

    Taryst shrugged. "If you wish it rather."

    I slid one of the Lhos into my mouth and lit it, drawing the smoke deep. "Yes, thanks, but now might I ask why you called me here?"

    "Ahh yes, my young friend," said Taryst as he suddenly got off of his seat and moved to another table, opening a drawer. "I have been studying into your records, your curriculum vitae."

    My eyes turned into suspicious slits. 'And how exactly did you get your hands on my "curriculum vitae"?'

    "I had a young friend of yours look into it for me; you know the one, the young friend under my employ, the young friend who you had secretly hired to look into my past for you."

    I winced. "Vex-"

    'Vex Carpompter' confirmed Taryst as he pulled out a data slate from the table's draw, "the ingenious young hacker. How very audacious of you young Attelus to try such a trick under my very nose. You would have gotten away with it as well, but for-."

    My jaw set yet again. "Reasons you will not divulge?" I finished.

    "Exactly!" he grinned. "You are smart young Attelus, too smart for your own good it seems, using the very person who inspects the system to check the information."

    I was not sure what to do, was Taryst going to kill me?

    Vex, he even had almost unlimited access to the cogitator systems of Taryst's whole corporation. Actually, I had forgotten entirely about my under the table agreement with the infamous hacker. It had seemed like such a small request and seemed even smaller after the pathetic results.

    "No young Attelus I am not going to kill you if that is what you are thinking," then his eyes turned into evil slits. "I was tempted to before, though. Very tempted."

    My brow furrowed, I was beginning to dislike where the hell this was going. "You were tempted to until you saw into my files, right?"

    "Answer me this young Attelus," said Taryst. "Did you act on the volition of your teacher, or your own?"

    I hissed through my gritted teeth. I hesitated in my reply, seeing that my very life may be depending on my next sentence and so I chose my words very carefully and told the truth.

    "No, Glaitis did not ask me to do it, not directly anyway, I was acting under her teachings."

    "And does she know of your attempt at espionage?"

    "Again, no, not that I know of anyway."

    Taryst smiled and fiddled his data slate with a large thumb. "I see young Attelus; your answers confirm what your records state. I can see that you are nothing like your ally, young Elandria, she is a blunt instrument, she knows very little besides how to kill people in a very gory, all be it, very pretty fashion. You, on the other hand, are a far more subtle instrument, infiltration, espionage, assassination in your very, very short career you have done it all have you not?"

    All I have done very well, I shrugged, trying very hard to sound nonchalant and keep the welling pride from my tone. "Yes and no, I have been on many missions but mostly the more menial stuff. I have done some infiltration but most of what I know Glaitis has taught in the theoretical, not the practical."

    "She doesn't believe you ready yet?"

    "Yes," I answered, knowing I should not be divulging such information, but my instinct for self-preservation was overwhelming my instinct for keeping secrets. Also, Taryst probably knew this already. "I did not start my training of the 'finer arts' of the Assassin's trade until my employ into mamzel Glaitis' mercenaries."

    "I see, how about a test young Attelus, the ultimate test to see if you are finally ready. I want to employ you."

    I raised an eyebrow, this I actually saw coming. "Tch! You want me to spy on Glaitis you?"

    Taryst raised his own eyebrow. "You seem surprised despite your forward guessing."

    I'm surprised that you're so damn predictable, I wisely refrained from saying.

    "Young Attelus, do you truly want the life of an assassin? One living always in the shadows? One of death and thanklessness? Or would you rather a life of meaning, a life of profit, a life of happiness? I can get you that, a way to escape, a way to get away."

    I glared up at Taryst. Was this coincidence? Just as I am beginning to have doubts, Taryst here comes to me with this request and giving me such an incentive.

    I did not believe in coincidence.

    Also, I could not help remember my conversation with Glaitis' before, 'trust nothing, suspect everything.'

    Did she guess that Taryst would pull such a stunt? Or did she already know that he would?

    If either were the truth, there would be no way in hell I could hope to keep it a secret.

    Was it again, potentially a coincidence?

    I genuinely hoped that it was.

    Taryst looked at me with an almost sympathetic expression. "I know what it was like to be your age, not to know who or what you are. It's hard young Attelus, take your time in your decision, but I have to ask that you make up your mind before you leave. Though my indecisiveness was of a completely different subject, the struggle is the same."

    I sighed, could I betray her? The woman, who had saved my life, took me in, cared for me and taught me everything she knew—potentially destroying six years of hard work and struggle?

    It was for freedom. Which I was not sure would be worth it; this was a harsh universe. I was beginning to believe that the term 'freedom' was a word that could only use with irony, that it ever being literal of use, was forever lost.

    "No."

    "Excuse me?" asked Taryst, seeming, almost bemused.

    "No I can't do it, I-I just can't."

    "Why?" carried on Taryst, beginning to sound forceful.

    "I have my reasons," I said, sounding timider that intended, not expecting such a change in Taryst he seemed almost childish, almost sulky.

    "No! I know why!" he snarled. "I have heard of how you act around her, like some little, pathetic, love-struck puppy! Can't you see that she is using you like some mindless pawn! Like a slave!"

    "What?"

    "You have two ears and are smart. Apparently, you know exactly what I said."

    "You- you think I am in love with her?"

    He just glared at me.

    I scoffed. "Don't be ridiculous! She's three times my age! And Like a mother to me, that -that's disgusting."

    He grinned. "To be honest, I don't blame you young Attelus; I would be head over heels for her as well. If she was my type, of course, beautiful, intelligent, confident, deadly."

    "Sh-shut up!" I meant to snarl, but rather whined and I felt my face flush.

    He shook his head. "So, can't you see this is unhealthy? That it is all the more reason to do what I ask?"

    I swallowed. "I-I can't I just can't Taryst, do you know what you exactly ask? What the consequences will be if I'm found?"

    Taryst nodded. "I do, I researched your employer before I hired her services and your death would be...Very painful indeed, but if you succeeded, the reward would be worth it!"

    "How?"

    "I would make you rich! And you could go back to your home planet, live an easy life of luxury and wealth. A life of freedom and meaning."

    I gritted my teeth. 'Trust nothing, suspect everything' the meaning of that motto was double-jointed to say the ******** least, Glaitis I knew meant herself as well, she could in all truth never be trusted, ever.

    I knew why Taryst would ask me to spy on her. He was a paranoid, psychotic, but from time to time, I could not help suspect that Glaitis had some hidden agenda that was far, far bigger than me, bigger than even Taryst's corporation.

    I could only hazard a guess how large that goal indeed was. I was some pawn in that plan, yet every time a strange, powerful feeling in me had made me deny it, some feeling that was foreign and strange to me.

    Was that feeling love?

    "Take your time young Attelus," said Taryst, "it is a hard favour to ask, I understand completely."

    "No!" I stepped forward. "I have made up my mind!"

    'And?'

    And I answered without hesitation and with the truth. It felt good to be real, to be genuine for the first time, in a damn long time.
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