John Proctor tread quickly down the corridors of Government House, not wanting to appear hasty, but concious that haste was needed. His acolytes, accustomed to a more measured gate, had difficulty keeping up but dared not lag behind an eighty-four year old man. A bell tolled nine times, the sun was disapearing behind the lower hive spires. His shadow grew long in front of him as he passed the administrative offices towards the Official Residences. A brief staircase and then a frescoed hall led to the lift that would take him to the private chambers of the Governor. A pair of Guardsmen in brilliant red tunics acknowledged Proctor with a brisk salute as he and his entourage entered the lift. From the lift, surrounded by glass, the Hive could be seen sprawling in every direction, half in shadow with myriad pinpoints of light, half still bathed in the last rays of sunset. Word was likely spreading now to billions of people who, like Proctor, had thought this day was still many years off.
He had always enjoyed the this short trip, but now wished it could be over more quickly. When the lift finally reached the summit of the spire, it slowed to a stately halt and then the doors drew open. Proctor stepped out impatiently. Glancing around, Proctor noted several senior advisors, some political hangers-on, and Guido Ruthus, Kitchener's personal physician, who nodded, and stepped forward.
" I wish I could give you better news, but he has not improved. In fact," he paused, "He has declined more quickly than I anticipated." He gave Proctor a moment to digest the situation. "You should go in now, there is nothing more I can do for him. He needs your prayers."
Proctor nodded. He turned to his acolytes, who in turn drew sacred texts and artifacts from their robes, before accompanying him towards two gothic doors in the north end of the room. Guardsmen opened the doors as they drew near, followed by the physician at a respectful distance. Through the open doors, Proctor could now see the bedchamber. The curtains were drawn back. Medical servitors crowded the bed, monitoring sensors and administering fluids, so he could not yet see Governor Kitchener himself. As he drew nearer, his heart sank further. He could see Kitchener's eyes were closed, he seemed scarecly to be breathing. He would have guessed that Kitcherner might be dead already except that he knew the servators would have ceased their labour if that were true.
Proctor motioned to his acolytes to remain where they were and moved close to Kitchener's bedside. Only 2 months ago, when He had turned 90, Kitchener had been healthy and vigourous. Now his features were sunken and pale. When Proctor had set out the previous day on learning Kitchener was suddenly ill, he had been under the impression that there was still hope. Now he could see three was not. He leaned forward. "I'm here, friend."
Kitcheners eyes darted open, they scanned quickly in every direction, searching for the source of the voice, clearly confused. "Here I am." Proctor repeated. Kitcheners expression settled and he turned his head slowly to Proctor. His eyes widened briefly when they met. He took in a gasping breath. "John." He coughed.
"The Emperor will not forsake you. Soon you will be with him."
"I.." Kitchener struggled for a moment to get air. " don't understand." He choughed again. "They...can't tell me...."
Proctor waited for Kitchener to continue, but Kitchener shook his head.
" I can hear your confession. If you are ready."
Kitchener nodded. "I... sometimes doubted..." he closed his eyes. A servitor gave Kitchener an injection. His eyes opened again, and for a moment he seemed to have some strength back. "I hoped the warpstorm would end." there was a long pause. "But it won't in my life time. It made me doubt. I did not act, I have a fleet that I no longer use. The Regiments are idle. I lost hope, may the Emperor forgive me."
"Do you trust in the Emperor still?" Proctor said.
"You are absolved of all guilt. You have served the emperor for 90 years, and never failed to safeguard the citizens of Agrippa. Don't be afraid to rest, others will carry on."
Kitchener nodded. Proctor began humming The Machine is Turning the Wheel, an old Hibernian hymn. Kitchener's eyes closed again. Guido Rithus motioned to the servitors, who stepped away. The monitors darkened, and Kitchener slipped into the Emperor's care.
Not so far away, in the cloisters of the Officio Navigatus, in the 3rd spire of Hibernia, Luto Hieronymous sat in the meditation of the 21st watch. He had once held a post in the Cathedral Bastion, before it was over-run. He was old, and this was considered a largely cerimonial position, since Navigation from the Cathedral line had long since been cut off. The Warp storm that inaugurated the 13th Crusade had all but blotted out the Beacon.
And then there was a beautifull light in his mind. Luto peered through the cosmos, his naked mind could barely withstand the bright presence. He concentrated, stiffening his resolve, and looked directly at it with his inner eye. At first he did not recognize it. But with increasing joy, he shouted to the void. " You are the Astropath of Terra!"