I28: Lines Blur

“What? Dead?” Soloman Rourke’s brow furrowed as he listened to the reply. The amiable chatter on the bridge ceased immediately as the crew present strained to eaves drop on the captain’s conversation.
“Huh, well if that’s not a turd in yer ration pack.” Rourke glanced up from the com set and the crew leaped back into whatever they were engaged in moments before. He swept the bridge with a baleful glare before returning his attention to the link.
“So how did that happen?” Rourke stroked his red beard thoughtfully.
“Huh Really? Now that is a turn up, he always seemed so… resilient. Yeah? And they just turned on you? Get on wi’ yerself. The churchies too? Just you and the girl? That it?” He let out a low whistle.
“They got Guard-boy too eh? What? And the dog? Oh the Tall Feller’ll not be taking kindly to that so he won’t” Rourke glanced over at his First Mate and sure enough, the Kroot was staring at him, small dark eyes unblinking. Rourke gave the tall alien a sympathetic shrug.
“Aye, he was powerful fond o’ that beastie so he was.” This was unwelcome news, Rourke enjoyed the pay that working with Lockhart provided but if the Ordos had started turning on each other then it was time to get out. He was of a mind to prep the ship and fly as soon as he was able, but then Frayne had given him the heeds up on the job turning sour so he probably did owe him, creepy as he was. And then there was the girl Quinn, she was a sweet kid and definitely deserved better than being abandoned on a Throne forsaken rock like this. No, he would pull these two out of the fire, who knows perhaps Lockhart’s people would provide a reward.
“Ethan m’boy, I’m starting prep now so you’ve got ten hours. Where are ye? I’m sending me people now. What? No not him, discreet ones. Heh, yeah real subtle like.” Rourke looked across the bridge to a shadowy corner where a lean figure loitered.
“Stay safe lad, and remember, there’s a special hell reserved for betrayers. Rourke out.” With that he hung up the receiver with a sigh and beckoned to the shadowy figure in the corner.
“Zaheria, I have a wee job for ye m’lovely.” She came to him then, silent as a shadow, she was dressed in a skin-tight bodyglove, iridescent black green, her long hair oil-dark hung lose covering her face, a matched pair of wickedly curved daggers glinting at her slender hips, she was a thing of beauty, deadly like none other of Rourke’s crew, an apex predator, Zaheria was terrifying.
“I am to retrieve the soulless one for you my sweet love?” Her voice like poisoned mist, whispered from her beautiful, cruel mouth. As she neared, Rourke noted the fine black lines which had begun to creep from the corners of that perfect mouth, marring her perfect alabaster skin, he could just make out the same tell tail lines creeping out from the neckline of her bodyglove and up her throat.
“Ye’re only to safeguard our friends now. Don’t go introducin’ yer’self less’en there’s a need on ye te do so. Ye hear? She looked him in the eye then and Rourke could see the hunger lurking there, clear as clear.
“Ye’ve not fed for some time, have ye?” She looked away at that. “See that you do while ye’re about yer business.”
“If you think that wise my sweet love”
“Wise or not it breaks me heart te see ye so diminished.” He reached up and tenderly brushed her hair off her face, ticking it behind a delicately pointed ear.
“And take Lahariel with ye, it may be that ye’ll be needin’ more than yer blades”
“The Exodite does not approve of my needs”
“His approval’s not a requirement o his service, he knows this.” Zaheria nodded and reaching out to lightly touch his cheek for an instant, turned and strode from the bridge, pausing only long enough to retrieve her Nightcloak from the corner where she had been lurking. Rourke watched her leave then returned his attention back to his bridge crew.
“Right ye lazy bunch o Warp-rats, lets get this beauty prepped then, shall we!?” The crew leapt into action.

The club was up-scale for this part of town, even from across the street he could feel the bass vibrating through the soles of his feet. Quintus spied the heavies on the door and missed the reassuring weight of his long sword. The last he had held it, it had hissed with the blood of a fallen warrior of the Emperor. Mortlocke’s visage in that final moment had been written on Quintus’ mind since the blade fell. He had known something was wrong with Tenenbaum, with Leviticus, but he had been following orders- he was a life ward, nothing more.
The smell of the place assaulted his senses as he made the first step. It stank of sweat, desperation, stale alcohol and piss. There was something else, a faint undertone of black pepper and something sweeter- he tasted their gene codes, they had to be here.
‘Grund, check out this piece of shit.’ Quintus knew he looked like shit, it felt like a year since he had slept or bathed. Quintus knew he would have to play his wildcard; they would never let him in dressed like this.
‘What is the name of your headman?’ Grund looked at the weary, battered life-ward and his face split in a slobbering grin.
‘Radul aint got no need for a sack of old bones like you. Best be moving on – don’t want to get hurt.’
Quintus was touched by the sentiment, where he grew up vat-bred scum like this wouldn’t so much as talk to you. He leaned close to the hired meat and pulled the small marble rosette from his pocket.
‘Radul, now.’
***
Quintus was escorted through the press of bodies as bass thrummed the air all around him. The vat-bred meatheads had searched him for weapons and almost dragged him towards the private back rooms.
‘So, you are Ordos?’ A greasy pig of a man smiled at the men around the table, he said something in a language Quintus didn’t understand and the men roared with laughter.
‘I am here for Frayne.’ Quintus could sense the menace in the air all around him. He could taste the black pepper of Frayne and cinnamon- that must be the girl. They were upstairs.
‘Frayne is a valued friend of mine. I would be loath to lose such a friend without compensation.’
Quintus had nothing to offer, nothing but empty promises.
‘I am an interrogator of the Ordos- name your price and see it doubled.’ Radul’s eyes fogged with greed.
‘Take him upstairs.’
***
Their tastes almost overwhelmed him now. The pheromone augment making him taste them as if his tongue were running along their skin. The meatheads had walked him up the three flights of stairs with more respect- Radul was nowhere to be seen. The coward didn’t want to risk getting caught in the cross fire.
Quintus slipped the door open a crack- Ethan was sat facing the door, an empty bottle of liq in his hands, eyes closed. Quintus stepped in and closed the door with a soft click. The meatheads stood guard. He had to do this quickly. He slipped the small knife from his belt buckle and took a step forward. The floor board made a loud creak as he leant his weight on it. Frayne was up, gun in hand pointing it steadily at the life ward.
‘Oh, frak you churchman.’
Quintus raised his hands showing the small knife. Frayne thumbed the hammer of his piece.
‘You’ve got three seconds before I splatter your brains across the wall.’ Quintus was unafraid; he stared at the Pariah’s tired eyes and knew that this was the real gamble.
‘I’m here to save you.’
Frayne laughed. He laughed so hard he started coughing, a wretched cough from years of smoking tabac and drinking heavily.
‘You’re here to save me? You frakking piece of shit! ‘The Headsman’ is here to save me… Well I surely must be damned. Tell me; were you this altruistic as you lopped Mortlocke’s head from his frakking body?’ I had no choice. He fired on Tenenbaum- an Inquisitor.’
‘A son of a whore!’ Frayne spat, ‘goodbye, old man.’ His finger squeezed down on the trigger as he heard a hammering at the window. ‘What the frak is that?’
‘I am too late. I came to remove the tracking device sewn into your coat. They’re here. We need to run.’ Frayne laughed, hysterical with anger.
‘Let them come. You show me how you meant to save me, how you meant to atone.’ Frayne called to the girl in the other room as the window burst in. Wind howled through the gaping wound in the building as Udo and Sanctus lumbered through.
‘We. Need. To. Run.’ Quintus was making for the door as Udo’s massive form bellowed at Frayne.
‘Frak.’

The neura-chem was already singing from Quintus’s unexpected arrival, every nerve in my body stretched taut like piano-wire. It turned the shards of shattered window flying through the air around Udo and Sanctus into a kaleidoscope of scintillating brilliance. I wasn’t even thinking at this point, acting on pure impulse and guided by the neura-chem threaded through out my body. I twisted, Quintus forgotten, and the Jackal barked, putting three rounds into the bloated bulk of Udo. Neura-chem and a pervasive nasty streak put the first round into his mouth, choking off that roar in a gout of thick blood and shattered teeth. The freak rocked back, animal roar turned to a gargling howl of pain, and the next two rounds tore bloody craters from the swollen meat of his right arm. Elbow a gory mess, the huge axe Udo carried fell to the carpeted floor and thick ropes of dark blood and other fluids painted the walls. The Jackal packed a clip of heavy sabot rounds, intended for use against armoured targets. Against flesh and bone, the effect was no less impressive and organic damage on the scale of civilian bolt rounds was fairly normal. On the downside, it kicked like a mule and weighed a frakking ton. On the plus side, it seriously fraked up whatever it hit and right now it was saving my life.

Quintus was already bellowing for help, the three Paralts that lurked outside bursting into the room brandishing a variety of shock-knuckles and heavy revolvers. Fair play to Radul, his boys knew their business. One look round and they surged in, a solid mass of vat-bred muscle and stimmed-up aggression ready to do damage to the intruders. They circled Sanctus, the big combat Servitor already winding up that hammer of his, green targeting lasers springing out from the unsettling beatific golden mask implanted on its comically undersized head. Hardened gangers they might be, but I didn’t give much for the Paralts chances.

“Quinn!” I bellowed over the booming roar of the Jackal, “Move! Now!”

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