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For Whose Greater Good?

Submitted By: Date: September 21, 2005, 08:51:07 PM Views: 3969
Summary: <p class="italic">A Tau-related Short Story by Fishy<br /></p> <p class="body">The drawn-out, grating pneumatic hiss of the sliding door signaled Scribe Six-Bravo’s entrance to the chamber. His slow, melancholic footsteps echoed about the ancient stones of the underground room, a room deep in the bosom of this war-pocked world, where only the most secretive and zealous of the Imperium’s most secretive and zealous organization resided.<br /><br />

The walls, three times as tall as Six-Bravo (who, before his ‘induction’ into his current role, had known himself to be at least a good six feet) were lined with leather-bound texts from a long ago age, or so his master told him. Whatever they were, their musty aroma could be smelt almost as a bitter tang, as if even without reading them one could sense the dark heresies that Six-Bravo was told lay within. The scribe strode in silence beneath the arched ceiling, without pause to even glance at the litanies of adoration to the almighty Emperor of mankind that some artisan’s chisel had penned onto the gleaming stone eons ago.<br /><br />
Six-Bravo came to the far end of the chamber and halted before the desktop in front of him. The stocky occupant of the chair behind it took a second to remove a pair of half-rimmed bioptics before turning his head up to see his visitor. Tilting his head to the side to visually examine the scribe, a glimmer of recognition finally sparked. Pushing his previous ledgers and other parchments aside, one hand cuffed a patch of ink from his age-ravaged face before he eventually spoke.<br /><br />
<i>“The delivery has arrived?”</i><br /><br />
As the rasping words escaped his lips, the figure rose. The chair was pushed back as his large frame stood, still encased in rune-encrusted carapace armor in this time of apparent fragile peace. An ornate bolt pistol (with a casing carved from what could have been ivory or even human bone) hung at one hip, a marble cane at his other side which he now leant on as he got up. Six-Bravo responded in his usual monotone voice:<br /><br />
<i>“Affirmative Inquisitor Lamox.”</i><br /><br />
Lamox’s wiry face with its etched-in frown lines, which a braver man might have said looked rather odd atop such a bulky body, was framed with curled locks of jet black hair, clipped short but still adorned with clots of ink and dirt. He nodded just once, and paced round to the other side of the desk, leading Six-Bravo to the far corner of the room.<br /><br />
The pair reached a section of wall lined with books like any other. But then Lomax stretched out a single palm from beneath his enclosing red cloak, and exerted all his force on Damascus’s Heresies of the Xenos Vol. XV. The text rocked back and, with a mighty roar of machinery, an entire section of the wall moved back and to the side, revealing a dark shaft and an old wooden cart with a pulley system dating back from the Age of Apostasy. Six-Bravo moved forwards and took hold of the rope as Lomax deftly leapt on board.<br /><br />
As the elevation-cart descended deeper into the earth, Lomax spat over the edge to avert the evils of the depths below. It was an old superstition he knew, but even some of the most fanatical followers of the Emperor used whatever methods they could to do their duty. Lomax felt a chill in his heart as he recollected the actions of some his fellow Radicals, most now in the ground as a consequence of both their deviant acts and Lomax’s resultant deeds.<br /><br />
<i>“Sometimes I wonder why ever we let these things live,”</i> he uttered into the darkest of the cart.<br /><br />
Six-Bravo knew better than to reply and kept quiet, staring forwards blankly. Soon the cart came to an abrupt halt, and they dismounted, walking along another dank hallway to ultimately come to a rustic cell.<br /><br />
Lomax’s hands tightened at the sight of the abomination within. Whispering a keyword, the cell opened for just long enough for Lomax and the scribe to enter, before closing again with that horrid clang that its inhabitant feared so.<br /><br />
The Inquisitor’s stare was laden with hatred. Usually Lomax dealt with the Xenos species on the frontiers of the Imperium, yet this thing before him was a child of Holy Terra itself. He stepped towards the bundle of rags, and in tandem it scurried back into the far corner, a puddle of dirt and urine.<br /><br />
<i>“What do they call you?”</i> Lomax demanded, gesturing to Six-Bravo to begin recording the… examination.<br /><br />
<i>“Osseous, Milord,”</i> the bundle stuttered. Its human head protruded now above the cloth, a ragged beard playing home to lice and other stuff filth. Osseous repeated his words, more clearly, and sat up.<br /><br />
It was as if he had not even spoken, for Lomax simply continued with his questions, his frown further deepened with his bitter anger.<br /><br />
<i>“Tell us of them. And no lies, you know there will be no antidote should you fail to be entirely truthful.”</i><br /><br />
Osseous hawked a spit ball onto the floor before him, and inhaled deeply. Then he answered, clutching at his chest.<br /><br />
<i>“They are… gentle, perhaps I could say. Compared to the pleasantries of this new accommodation, I should say.”</i> He chuckled to himself, but this only resulted in another coughing fit. <i>“Nor did they poison me to enforce my cooperation, but that is neither here nor there. Down on Ulysses X, we were fighting for our very survival against a race we knew fairly little about!”</i><br /><br />
<i>“That is why you are here, is it not? To repent by giving us information on this race,”</i> stated Lomax. <i>“Now, about the others. Tell me, or…”</i> Lomax drew a short glass vial that hung on a silver chain from his cloak, and dangled it from his left hand. Osseous reached out limply for the vial, then grudgingly sat back and continued.<br /><br />
<i>“Well, there must be fifty, maybe seventy of us there now. Men, that is, not including the women and children. They let us live in peace, away from the rest of their kind, such is the nature of the Tau. We aren’t even the only race there, you know. All sorts act as their auxiliaries, so many races that have rightfully decided to join their Empire.”</i><br /><br />
Lomax held a hand up to signal a pause whilst Six-Bravo recorded the verbal data, then nodded for Osseous to carry on.<br /><br />
<i>“To see such lands again! Green pastures on which we live free, and their technology is of such a par that ours seems pale as dawn in comparison. We were fortunate enough to see them at war once, when our former commanders came to our settlement to claim us. They were led by one of their kind dressed in ornate robes, who we were told later was one of their spiritual leaders. Then out came their big guns, and big they were! Giant suits armed with guns that tore armor asunder, and protected by hovering machines that spat fire and death at our old comrades!”<br /><br />
“Their arts and literature, they rival even Damascus and their cities are simple, yet mass utopias of curving white domes on a huge scale. Grav-trains that take you from dome to dome, a land without the poverty and destruction that we see here. And yet,”</i> Osseous said sadly, <i>“so much is at risk. They represent our possible bright future, but are assailed on all sides by Orks, bugs, and of course our little crusades. Why cause such unnecessary death? Surely it is not to the best intentions, the greater good, for any of us?”</i><br /><br />
Six-Bravo was sure he had heard that term before but did not interject. Perhaps later during evening prayer he would contemplate it. The fugitive Guardsman shivered and continued.<br /><br />
<i>“They would have me give you a message, Lord Inquisitor. They bid you and all your kind welcome, and concede that the Imperium is indeed mighty. However, they do not wish for callous loss of life on either side, and will protect any of us who join them. They train constantly you know, for their lives are short by our measurements but their devotion to their cause great. Teams of armored Fire Warriors bonded to one cause, grav-trains that spit slugs that can punch through any armor, this we should stand alongside, not against! Hand to hand combat may be anathema to their kind, but as I have learnt these last years it is crude and unneeded.”<br /><br /></i>
He cast a trembling hand around the cell, sweat running in rivulets down the fingers. <i>“Compare this life, of so many of us, to a life there. Each day more join them Milord…”</i><br /><br />
Osseous was getting feverous now, shaking slightly with spittle being cast form his lips as he spoke.<br /><br />
<i>“They let us worship the Emperor still you know? You know that don’t you? All they ask is that we fight with them in times of need, under the flag of their Empire. Why we haven’t joined together as one I can not tell, for surely together we could reclaim this galaxy from its horrors?”</i><br /><br />
Lomax looked down in disgust. <i>“I think, that we are done here Scribe.”</i><br /><br />
Six-Bravo followed his master from the cell. As Lomax turned back, Osseous suddenly leapt with a new reserve of strength at the antidote vial. Although he was fast, the Inquisitor moved with supernatural reactions and snatched it away.<br /><br />
Osseous was anxious now, nearly pleading. His hand was tensed up, clutching the cell door open.<br /><br />
<i>“Lord! Please! An offer such as theirs, peace in which to worship the Emperor, anyone would have taken it!”</i><br /><br />
Lomax growled at the thought, and his boot caught Osseous across the chin. The fugitive fell back against the wall, murky waters soaking what clothes he had left.<br /><br />
<i>“I would not,”</i> was all the Inquisitor would say, firmly.<br /><br />
<i>“But you promised me! If I helped you… that…”</i> Osseous sobbed into his rags.<br /><br />
Lomax faced him for the last time, and his voice dropped to grating, harsh tone. <i>“Such is the way our Emperor, Osseous. Much as you and your kind run as a toxin in the veins of the great Imperium, so does… well. I think that you can guess the rest.”</i><br /><br />
His sinewy fingers tossed the vial towards Osseous, but just far enough behind him so that the fugitive’s dive to catch it failed miserably and his last glimmer of hope shattered on the cold stone floor. Lomax’s last sight of Osseous was of the pathetic figure screaming as he vainly attempted to lap up the liquid, shards of glass tearing into his tongue. Six-Bravo, with what limited humane emotions he now had, could have sworn a scant smile flickered, just for a second, across Lomax’s lips as a drawn-out, grating hiss signaled the final closure of the cell door.<br /><br />

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