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    Re: Secret War (Warhammer 40,000)

    Chapter 4

    I left Taryst's quarters, trying hard to mask my haste. On the way out, I had almost forgotten to retrieve my Lhos. Lucky for the guard I didn't.

    I caught the elevator and twitched in impatience the whole ride down, tapping the tip of my boot on the floor.

    I had told Taryst, no.

    The rogue trader had taken the answer in due course and did not try to convince me otherwise again. Perhaps he had known that he could not change my mind, or he didn't care. The look in his eyes almost exclaimed the former, seemingly accusing me of foolishness and cowardice all at once.

    Perhaps I was a coward and a fool. But I was not about to risk my life for what could easily be a lie. There was no guarantee that Taryst would keep his end of the bargain; the odds would not at all be in my favour.

    Afterwards, I had tried to levy some information of Vex's fate from the Rogue Trader, but to no avail. Taryst was too smart to be coerced into slipping on his words.

    As much as I hated to admit it, I liked the little nerd; I did not wish to see him dead over such a trivial matter.

    Actually, why I was still alive was a wonder in itself. Taryst had more than enough reason for shooting me, just on the grounds of trying to infiltrate his systems and even more for flat out refusing his request. Letting me live would make sense if I found Vex dead, it would send the message: "do not cross me again young Attelus, or this will be your fate."

    It would indeed, I would not be crossing him ever again.

    Despite myself, I could not help smile my evil smile; the sentence went through my thoughts as a perfect recording of Taryst's voice, everything from tone to demeanour.

    When the elevator reached my intended level, I slipped out the sliding double doors and ran down the corridor, heading to the northern side of the building that was where Vex's office was. Nimbly I dodged and weaved my way through the many of Taryst's employees in the road.

    It took me only five minutes to reach the cogitator workers section. I had earlier learnt the layout of the lower floors (the ones I had access to anyway) The quickest way to get here or there, just in case.

    I fast-walked through the lines upon lines of cogitator banks, each having a thin, decrepit serf sitting, typing madly. The clicking sound turned into a crashing as thousands upon thousands of fingers pressed keys. The noise enveloped the entire two hundred by three hundred metre cavern in its near-deafening cacophony.

    I fought the need to cover my ears and started to approach the entrance to Vex's office.

    I paused near the door. I was cool, calm my face set in determination, if Vex were dead in there, it would make little difference, just another death and one more did not matter in a galaxy this vast. It was not my fault; Vex had accepted the bribe; it was his fault for going through with it. If he were truly as smart as he claimed he was, he would have told me to shove it.

    But maybe it was my fault, how old was Vex? Fourteen? And if so, perhaps it was his youthful ignorance that had made him take the job, and then it would indeed be my fault.

    I sighed and reached for the door, but again hesitated as I realised something that made my guts churn. I wasn't armed! Who was not to say that someone wasn't standing over poor Vex's corpse, a silenced gun trained at the doorway, waiting for me to enter? I glanced about. They would not need to silence the weapon; I doubted that even the roar of a bolter could be heard over that racket.

    "Oh, this is depressing, really!" I exclaimed in frustration, so loud that even a few of the nearer serfs looked up from their work and glared at me in disapproval.

    I grinned as an idea hit me.

    "Hey everybody! You know who is a damnable **** wipe!" I yelled even louder and with even more looks of anger. "Oh, come on! Can nobody can guess!"

    "Shut up!" said one as he got off his stool.

    "Shut up, huh?" I grinned at the man. "Huh! Shut up really? He must be a really big **** wipe if he beats Taryst!"

    Now that got more attention, and that was exactly what I was looking for, so I stepped through the door and found.

    Vex was standing alone, utterly unharmed, inspecting one of his many Cogitator units with an intense expression. His attention snapped to me as I intruded space and his eyes widened with surprise.

    "Hey, Attelus I didn't- Gak!"

    Bang!

    The "Gak!" was him getting cut off mid-sentence by me, grabbing him by the collar of his tunic and the "bang!", me slamming his back against the wall.

    "Wh-what did I do?" he whined in his pitiful way, well as whiny and as pitiful as one could be when being suffocated. But Vex achieved it better than most would.

    "You little bastard! You ******** little bastard!" I snarled, accompanied by another violent slam. "You told them!"

    "I don't know what you are talking about," he gurgled back. "Told them, what?"

    My anger turned in on itself as I pulled him from the wall, spun him about and smashed him hard against the nearest Cogitator.

    "Were you born an idiot or did you lose the brain cells along the damn way!" I snarled. "Our agreement, remember? The one where I paid you one thousand throne gelts, and you would check the systems to look into Taryst's past, remember? Remember!"

    Each 'remember' was accompanied by a violent shake, which threw around Vex's head like whiplash.

    Vex could only gurgle back, his face almost turning blue.

    I let off a little pressure, a little.

    "I don't know!" he hoarsely managed, and then tears started to well in his eyes. "An agreement that I look into the system? I don't remember it, by the Emperor I swear! I swear!"

    Then the tears started to flow freely down his face. "I swear!"

    It was then when the realisation hit me. Then guilt followed, and I let go of Vex's collar. Still crying the young hacker slumped onto the floor and curled up in a fetal ball, whimpering pitifully.

    I stumbled back; Vex's mind was messed with his memories of the whole incident erased by some warp touched freak! I should have realised it, damn it! Taryst had psykers place the blocks on our minds! Of course, he would have them for other uses!

    And I had just strangled an innocent person who did not know why. Even if Vex had remembered our agreement, it would have been plucked from his memories without any knowledge.

    I cursed, this was all my idiocy, my fault. I should have remembered that Taryst had psykers, how stupid was I to forget-

    I cut myself short as my eyes widened in epiphany. But one reason why I had done it was because of the blocks! Vex had told me that they had done it to him as well! I was no expert on those warp-touched. Perhaps, with their knowledge of how they had placed, the block knew they could have bypassed it. That is, assuming Vex had even been blocked at all.

    I looked down at the whimpering and shuddering form. My brow furrowed heavily. I started to feel a potent and almost intoxicating mix of contempt and rage begin to well at the pit of my gut. How pathetic! I felt the overpowering urge to kick the kid while he was down.

    Teach him to toughen the hell up.

    Don't make this any worse than it is if Glaitis finds out, I thought, forcing down the rage, the contempt.

    Then I turned and stormed out the door, leaving the pathetic foetal form of Vex to writhe in its self-pity.

    It would also explain how Taryst knew I was having second thoughts.

    I was right, the damnable Rogue Trader had left me a warning and through Vex also! An even worse one than if I found him dead. I winced as the words echoed through my thoughts, "do not cross me again young Attelus, or that will be your fate."

    But this time the ominously similar sounding voice of Taryst laughed.



    I sighed. I stood in my shower, the high pressured water crashing against my thin, pale, but solid body.

    My usually rigorous, daily training lasted five hours with a fifteen-minute break between each hour. It was disciplined and harsh like my father had taught me. It seemed my daily regime was the only thing I kept consistently disciplined.

    The schedule was; the first two hours were dedicated to swordsmanship, the next two on unarmed combat and if I had the time I went to Taryst's shooting range, spending the last hour practising firing drills, both Garrakson and Torris would almost always be there. So I would go to for the company as well.

    That was before poor Torris got maimed of course.

    I winced as I remembered. Again I had forgotten to visit my comrade in arms at the medicae! That would be, what, the fifth day in a row? I couldn't even recall that either.

    Throne did my limbs ache! Today was certainly not the first, but hopefully, the last where I would neglect my regime, not saying I didn't train, I did, but way too hard, and had ignored to stretch before also. After I had retreated from my crime scene, I had retrieved my weapons from security and went straight home to my hab block. Immediately, my sword was out, and I was slashing the air in a blind and rusty rage. My years of training and discipline were thrown out the window. I barely lasted half an hour before I was gasping for breath and weak from exertion.

    But my anger was all but spent.

    I was an idiot, a complete and utter idiot! I had no excuse to beat up on Vex, even if he had willingly told, I should have seen his treachery coming and planned for it in advance. 'Trust nothing, suspect everything" those words could not ring any more accurate right now!

    No, I had to lose myself in my anger. I've had that problem ever since I was a child, something would happen that would anger me, and I would hurt people, badly.

    'A blind rage' I heard it called once, I could not recall who had said it exactly.

    It was as if something had taken over me. I would lose control, and all I would do is hurt the one who had done me wrong, no matter what.

    My father had taught me how to control that side of myself, how to curb it if it occurred, and I had learnt it well. But with Vex I slipped and fallen into that abyss, that was the first time in a long time, going on six years now.

    That I did remember and that I remembered well.

    Poor Vex Carpompter, he did not deserve my wrath. All of my repressed anger from the last six months was almost taken out on the kid; he was lucky I didn't kill him.

    No, I thought. I was lucky that I didn't kill him.

    I shuddered at the thought, and the soothing feeling of the constant stream of hot water disappeared entirely as a horrible sensation of sickening guilt welled in my guts.

    Taryst was right! Sudden rage overtook me, and I punched the tiled wall. Blood intermingled with water and pain erupted through my hand.

    I am a coward! A bully who takes out his anger on those weaker than him because he is too scared to take it out on those over him!

    That is the very definition of cowardice.

    Sighing, I turned off the faucet. I tried to ignore the agony of my left hand and my dullened, aching limbs. But I could not ignore that both were of my own volition, of my idiocy.

    It was quite depressing, really.

    I walked out of the bathroom, a towel wrapped around my waist, my face foul.

    I caught a glimpse of the form standing in my room, and that was all I needed to see. In the blink of an eye, I snatched up a nearby knife, about to let it fly.

    But stopped mid-movement, and felt my face flush as I saw that the form was Elandria, who was also aiming an Auto pistol at me.

    "Drop it," she said.

    I immediately did as told.

    "Now kick it over to me."

    I looked at her with hooded eyes; I had bare feet damn it! But gingerly I kicked the knife to her, which bounced and rolled over the carpet.

    "Mistress Glaitis wishes to speak to you," she informed in her emotionless voice. Her mask was off so that I could see her just as emotionless, pale, attractive heart-shaped face. The gun still pointed at me.

    My embarrassment disappeared as my eyes widened in fear. My palms were suddenly wet with sweat. I had guessed that my teacher would want to talk to me, but I was not at all prepared for it.

    "J-just let me get changed," I stammered as I scrambled to gather some clothes from that of the many that lay about, and could not help be embarrassed at the messy state of my living quarters.

    "You have three minutes," she stated.

    "Okay, but, uhm, can I, uhm, have some privacy, please?"

    "No."

    I sighed, then the sudden and impatient twitch of the Auto pistol made me jump and search all the faster. She had me, hook line and sinker, or for want of better cliché, I was caught out in the cold. Never in my life had I felt so exposed, that was why Elandria was a real assassin, and I was not. Though she lacked my training of deception and espionage, she knew how to catch those at their most vulnerable, and she certainly had succeeded with me.

    Though, I could not help but wonder what would happen if I had actually thrown the knife? I may have got her; she had not reacted to me until a full second after I had stopped the throw.

    If it were anyone else besides her and Glaitis, I would have let it fly, without hesitation. Perhaps that was why Glaitis had sent Elandria; she knew I had a weakness for the fairer sex, a weakness that she could exploit, a weakness I needed to eliminate.

    It took me two minutes to hurriedly slip on my clothes from the floor, smelling, day-old tunic. I had tried hard to hide as I put it on and had succeeded with admirable grace.

    I nodded to Elandria and walked out the door, but she followed me down the apartment building's corridor.

    "Where are you going?" I asked over my shoulder.

    "With you."

    My jaw set. "To escort me, right?"

    'Yeah.'

    Barely, I kept the fear from my face, if Glaitis was having Elandria guard me, the master assassin was meaning business.

    I swallowed, really meaning business.


    It took us twenty long minutes to arrive back at Glaitis' base of operations and all the way I had Elandria holding her auto pistol in my back. Every single step made me dread more and more whatever Glaitis had in store for me. I struggled to hide the fear even with my back to her. The stress of suspense was almost overwhelming as my heart thudded in my chest. I had never bothered to try garner any information from Elandria knowing full well it was futile. I doubted that Glaitis would have told her anything and everything I tried to say to Elandria she answered with mindless monosyllables. For her, it was not entirely out of character, but it was doing nothing to help my nerves.

    We rode the elevator up to Glaitis' office. Taryst had given the master assassin the top floor of one of the rogue traders many separate buildings that surrounded his main tower. Naturally, she is the leader of a very professional and well-off company of mercenaries; she only got the best for her living quarters.

    The elevator arrived, and the doors slid open. Immediately I was prompted out with a shove of Elandria's pistol. My teeth on edge I hesitantly complied, and we entered into the foyer beyond. It was no more than six metres wide, a corridor. At each side and lining the stark white walls were long, black leather couches and our boots echoed over the polished back marble tiles. The contrast between hers and Taryst's quarters could not have been much more apparent.

    Glaitis never kept any guards, which showed her arrogance in her abilities, and arrogance that was entirely justified. She has survived for this long, and I also have seen her skills first hand, and they are quite breathtaking. I gritted my teeth as Taryst's words echoed through my thoughts. I was not in love with Glaitis! And he was a fool for ever thinking so.

    A woman sat at the end of one of the couches, her smooth, long legs crossed together as she reclined back. Her high boned, youthful and attractive heart-shaped face was on the profile as her large eyes studied a data slate intently. Her long, violet coloured hair was pulled back into a ponytail and relief washed over me as I saw who she was.

    Castella Lethe didn't look up as Elandria, and I approached her, "tsk, tsk Attelus what have you done now?" she sighed with a smile as she bounced her crossed leg.

    Despite my anxiety, I could not help but grin. I liked Castella, she was always charismatic, always friendly and she had a fun, dry sense of humour I could appreciate. If any woman I would be accused of being in love with, I rather her than Glaitis. She was also confirmed to be Glaitis' successor if ever the master fell and I agreed. Castella was an excellent choice; she was extremely extroverted, confident and held almost everyone's respect in the company. Except for Elandria who seemed to despise Castella for the reason that I could not, or cared not enough to comprehend.

    "Completed yet another assignment, I see," I said, trying to slow my advance but Elandria was intent on not letting me.

    Castella snorted. "Of course, Attelus, would I be here if I hadn't?"

    I shrugged. "Goes, without doubt, Castella. I was actually making sure that you were not some fear-induced mirage."

    "Wow, Attelus. If you are that scared, shall I say a little prayer for you?"

    I frowned and furrowed my brow. "I was actually hoping for a more, proactive form of help."

    She shrugged, pouting her full lips. "What could be any more proactive than the divine intervention of the Emperor of Mankind himself? Ohh, wait you don't believe in that thing, do you? Oh well, never mind you're screwed then. Bye!"

    Before I could make a coherent reply, I got shoved through the glass double doors, and I could not help wonder. Why the hell she was just sitting out there?
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