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+++DOWNLOADING+++ AGRIPPA SECTOR M.42 BLODSBURG CHRONOS +++ 3rd MOON 45th ROTATION 0105 NEAREST SYSTEM +++ FORT GOETHE SUBSECTOR +++ SCYLLA SITUATION +++ RG SCOUT PRINCIPES ++ RED GUARD ++

The scoutship shook violently, the warp storm tearing at the hull. Then, like a boat propelled from a raging river into a wide lake, the broke free of the warp and fell back into the calm depths of space. Korvus relaxed the iron grip that had held him pinned in the jump seat at the rear of the bridge. Before him the crew of the scout visibly relaxed, and the Imperial navigator sighed audibly.

But Korvus could better be described as disappointed than relieved, having been denied once again the vision of his goal, which had eluded him so long. Forward scouts had reported sighting the Valiant, and he had commandeered the scout to intercept. Instead all they had found was the warp squall. Nevertheless, duty required he hide his true feelings. “Well done, navigator. The Emperor is surely proud that you are so skilled.” “Thank you, Legate.” The navigator’s voice was weak and strained, but steady nonetheless. “Have you any orders?”

“Not for now, hold your position and await the arrival of the rest of the fleet.” And rest, he thought. No use holding mere humans to the standards a Marine was expected to keep. It tended to break them, and he smiled at the thought. He hooked into the ships net and scanned the frequencies, waiting for word from the other ships of the fleet. “What do you make our position, navigator?”

There was a pause as the navigator calculated silently, then, “Impossible!” burst from his lips. He stabbed at the calculator furiously, brow furrowing at the results.

“Well?”

“It’s not possible…”

“Humour me, navigator.”

“Well, I make it Agrippa sector, most likely the Scylla subsector, but it can’t be right, it’s too far.”

“The warp storm was quite violent, was it not?”

“Yes, its possible we were thrown off course, but so far?”

“The Emperor works in mysterious ways.”

“True enough, Legate.”

Signals started to come in from new arrivals, scouts and pickets first, then slower ships. The navigators chatter held damage reports, strange sightings in the eddies and whorls of the warp, and the usual conversations of those who had just endured a great trial.

Then the attack cruisers began to arrive, each holding a company of marines in their barracks holds, and he silently voiced a word of prayer to the Emperor as he counted off their numbers, one, two, three, four. Korvus held his breath, and then the massive shape of the chapter ship, followed shortly by two more attack cruisers. He said quiet thanks to the Emperor, which one of the bridge crew echoed with an, “Amen.”

Ships continued to straggle in for the next hour, but by then the Legate was too busy to notice, immersed in absorbing reports from his subordinates and company commanders. Six company commanders reported in, then Korvus’ deputy for the first company, and finally he himself reporting back that the twelfth company was all present and accounted for. Add the four training and reserve companies back on the chapterworld of Priory, and all was in order.

He stepped to a porthole and looked out at the fleet gathered around. Kol Korvus, Legatus Miles Rufus, beheld the awesome power at his disposal, and was humbled. “Only in the Emperor’s name.” He said aloud.

“Amen,” sounded again. Then a throat was cleared, interrupting his thoughts. “Legate, your presence is requested by the Inquisitor on the chaptership.”

“Thank you. Navigator, could you arrange the rendezvous.”

“Immediately.” Korvus once again held on as the engines fired, and the nimble ship sprang into motion relative to the ships around her.

The scout quickly rendezvoused with the chaptership, berthing in one of the many massive docking bays. Korvus thanked the crew and disembarked, to be met by Secundus, his chaplain and confidant.

There was no pause as Korvus descended the ramp and headed for the lifts, Secundus falling into step with him as if they had trained to do so. The chaplain was dressed in the dark robes of his office, seeming at ease despite the weight of his Crozius and Rosarius, which never left his person. “Any luck, brother?” were the first words out the old man’s mouth.

“None. What does the inquisitor want now?”

Secundus’ blue eyes flashed, and wrinkles appeared at the corners of his mouth and eyes as he smiled. “The most loyal inquisitor was… peeved… that you abandoned her so abruptly and rushed off in the middle of a warp storm. She found such behaviour in an Imperial officer, oh what was the word she used… ah, yes, curious.”

Korvus smiled at the chaplain’s easy humour. Sometimes it was hard to remember that the chaplain was one of the most powerful and influential men in the chapter, and most likely responsible for Korvus taking the laurel over Brother Brion and Brother Moran. Perhaps that was their mistake, he thought, and why Korvus was now Legate. “I suppose the usual explanations won’t do?”

“Not this time, our new Inquisitor seems to be more subtle and insightful than her predecessors.”

“How fortunate for us, is it not?”

“Indeed, Emperor be praised.”

Korvus repeated the sentiment. “Any other news?”

“Brother Vitus dreamed of being hip deep in blood and fire again.”

“Again?”

“Yes, Brother Aurelius spoke to him personally, and said it was time for us to stand ready.”

Korvus was glad that someone else had taken the responsibility, he found speaking to the ancient marines entombed in the dreadnoughts disturbing, as they no longer thought the way men did. Though it might be heresy to think so, he hoped he died a clean death rather than suffer such a fate.

Marines and ship crew saluted the pair as they made their way through the labyrinthine corridors and lifts to the bridge, finally arriving to find the Inquisitor Asheron ensconced in the command chair, a grim look on her face.

The Inquisitor rose as they approached, standing tall and foreboding on the command dias. Rumour had it that the Inquisitor had once been a member of the Sisters of Battle called by the Emperor to serve the Inquisition, and her bearing, size, and strength seemed to bear that out. “Inquisitor, you called?”

“Legate Korvus, perhaps we could speak privately?”

“Of course.” Korvus nodded in dismissal to Secundus.

He said, “The Emperor’s blessings on both of you.” In way of a farewell, and made himself scarce as the two headed for the Master’s chapel.

Sealing the door, the Inquisitor continued, “Legate, what took you away so suddenly?” She spoke quietly, no doubt out of respect for their location.

Korvus saluted the icon of the Golden Throne before answering in kind. “Our scouts reported seeing a ship ahead in the warp, and I wished to see what was out there with my own eyes.”

“A ship, you say?”

“Don’t be coy, Inquisitor, you know the stories as well as I do.”

“And do you believe them, Legate?”

“A man should believe what he has seen with his own eyes and held with his own hands, until then it is nothing but a story to amuse.”

“So the Emperor is a story to amuse?”

“Don’t twist my words Inquisitor, I have seen the Emperor’s word, and read it with my eyes, and touched the Golden Throne with my own hands. I believe in them.”

“And your legendary ship?”

“A story, or tricks of men’s eyes or minds, seeing things in the warp that they wish to.”

“But you had to see for yourself. Has your mind perhaps been tricked?”

Korvus laughed loudly, shattering the quiet aura that had settled over the candlelit room.

“I think you look for heresy where there is none Inquisitor. I go to look so I can put an end to this ridiculous story once and for all.”

The Inquisitor nodded, “Thank you Legate, you have given me much to think about. Begging your leave.” Asheron executed a small bow, and turned and left.

Once the door had closed behind him, Secundus’ voice sounded from an alcove at the side of the chapel, “Do you think she believed you, brother?”

Korvus knelt and bowed his head before the altar, “I’m not sure. I wish I didn’t had to give a damn either.”

“That is not a luxury afforded to us.”

Korvus was silent, thoughtful.

“We have made contact with the Imperial forces in this sector, and they are deeply involved in a crusade against the enemies of the Empire.”

“A holy deed.”

“It goes poorly for them, may the Emperor have mercy.”

“Would that he could lead us in battle again, for we need never expect defeat.”

“One day, brother, one day.” Secundus touched the phoenix rising from the summit of the Golden Throne. “For now, it is an opportunity.”

“The Inquisitor will find it difficult to probe further if we become involved.”

“Precisely. And risk is endemic to the prosecution of a war. There will be casualties.”

“The only sure wages of war. Hopefully the Inquisitor will be cautious.”

“May the Emperor look over her.”

“Amen.”

The rose, and saluted once more, departing the quiet chapel for the bridge. Korvus took the command dias, and spoke clearly, “All channels.”

“Aye Aye, sir.”

He spoke softly, his voice transmitted throughout the fleet. “Brothers, our Emperor has need of us once again.”

Korvus 20:59, 9 February 2008 (UTC) Nicholas Cioran

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