- 1 -
The man looked up, and I realised I knew him. This was a Mister Imus, a man who had been involved a matter of minor import some years earlier. Without the aid of Juvenat treatments, he had aged considerably since then; by the look of the premises, he still wasn’t doing too well for himself. Judging by his countenance, he had managed to place who I was, dredged from his memory; he confirmed this for me as he raised a trembling arm to point at me.
“You!? Again!? You took my life from me last time and left me with nothing! Is this your plot, your scheme? I won’t have it, Inquisitor, I will not have it!” Mister Imus moved to rise from his chair.
I gathered my Will. “Sit,” I commanded, and the aging man sat back down, almost surprised that he was still in his chair. “You called us, Mister Imus. Again. I suggest you tell me what is going on.”
The gentleman sighed. “I was left with nothing, Inquisitor. You left me with nothing. I had to beg a favour off an old acquaintance to gain passage to this world, somewhere with work a trained accountant could do, even though it isn’t accounting, strictly-“
I cut him off. “Mister Imus, what is going on. The Inquisition waits for no man.”
He sighed. “I work as a copyeditor now. The pay isn’t as good, but it keeps a roof over my head and food on the table. Something I couldn’t do after you-“
“Yes, I ruined your life, I’m aware, thank you, what is going on!” I threw the Will at him, hard and blunt this time, compelling him to get to the point. He whimpered slightly under the assault, and behind me, Von Baigg opened his mouth to speak, caught in the blast, before he controlled himself and his jaw snapped shut. The elderly copyeditor continued.
“I was working through the slush pile. It’s where work that is submitted for publication from those without a contract ends up. The dataslate at the top of the pile had a notice attached, indicating it had already been accepted for publishing. Most unusual.”
“Is there a point, Mister Imus?”
“Yes,” and here he looked up at me steadily. “It was written by the Anagram of Ruin.”
- 2 -
I stared at the elderly copyeditor in stunned silence for a moment, a rare event for an Inquisitor such as myself. “The…. Anagram of Ruin?” I asked.
Mister Imus nodded. “The Anagram of Ruin. It was written by someone using the name Tia Venture, and –“
I help up a hand. “Stop. Please, Mister Imus. The Anagram of Ruin?” I could hear Von Baigg muttering behind me. “The number of Ruin, the Anagram of Ruin, the morning coffee of Ruin…” I glared backwards at my Interrogator, and he quickly cut off. Looking back to the elderly man, I continued. “Mister Imus. I am not a copyeditor, though the education of an Inquisitor is vast. Tia does not have an R. It does not have a U. It-“
“It has an I!” he exclaimed. I turned my glare on him.
“It admittedly has an I, but it lacks significantly in Ns. Last time I looked, this isn’t an anagram. Not of Ruin. Not of anything. And the Anagram of Ruin? Really?”
“Morning Coffee,” Von Baigg muttered behind me, not really too soft to carry at all, and I scowled.
“The Anagram of Ruin,” Mister Imus cried triumphantly. “And it was why he got publishing approval, I’m certain of it. Patterns. The patterns give it away, and I…”
I waved my hand, somewhat dismissively “…and you can see patterns, yes, I know. The Anagram of Ruin, really?” I felt silly just saying it.
The copyeditor nodded seriously. “The Anagram of Ruin. You need to investigate! He could be publishing anything!”
“The collected anthology of Ruin, perhaps,” I said sardonically, in part to say it before Von Baigg could.
Master Imus didn’t seem to notice. “Exactly!” he said triumphantly. “I thought the Inquisition should investigate at once. Despite what happened to me last time. Although I didn’t expect it to be you who would arrive,” he trailed off.
I stared at the copyeditor for a few long moments, the only sound that of a clock ticking, considering. “Very well, Mister Imus,” I finally said, reaching out to tap on the frame of a dataslate on his desk and ignoring the choking noises coming from behind me. “Is this the manuscript in question?”
“Oh, Yes, Yes, most definitely.” He seemed almost relieved as I took the slate. “Do be careful. The Ana-“
“The Anagram of Ruin, yes. Inquisitors are trained in handling such things,” I said loftily, trying to discourage his concern
“Do you… Do you think it may have affected me?” Mister Imus asked in a small voice. Before I could answer, Von Baigg spoke up. “Oh, probably. But the Inquisition can deal with that if necessary, right?” The copyeditor looked up at me nervously. “Indeed,” I added reassuringly. “The Inquisition will deal with you if you’ve become tainted, never fear.” I nodded, and spun on the spot, heading for the door. “Rest assured we will investigate most thoroughly. Thank you, Mister Imus” I said as I walked out the door, Imus trembling as we left, no doubt impressed and daunted by the efficiency of the Inquisition.
- 3 -
“Seriously? We’re really doing this?” Von Baigg asked me from across the table.
We’d adjourned to a nearby café. I was sipping at some caffeine, and Von Baigg was devouring a sandwich like it was his first time out of the underhive.
“Yes, we are,” I said forcefully. “Mister Imus may be a little…”
“Crazy? Cukoo? Bent? Heretical?”
“Eccentric, Von Baigg,” I insisted, spicing it with a little Will to make him shut up, hoping it might work this time. “But he was right about the Number of Ruin. I may doubt…”
“I do doubt, and so do you, Eisenhorn.”
I sighed. No luck this time, but why would it, when it hasn’t before? “We doubt he’s right, but it bears cursory investigation. It’s what the Inquisition does.”
“I rather thought the Inquisition burnt hereti-“
“Shut up, Von Baigg.” I sipped at my drink. “Eat your damned sandwich.”
- 4 -
“Most perterbatory,” Aemos said.
Aemos has received my summons, and met us in the café. I had transferred the contents of the Dataslate – presumably, the Dataslate of Ruin – to him, and he had read it on the way here.
“You mean it’s actually a heretical text?” asked Von Baigg incredulously.
“No, the grammar is terrible,” Aemos said off-handedly, his nose buried in the slate with the manuscript and two others at the same time. Aemos had contracted a meme-virus some years ago, leaving him with the insatiable need to consume information the way I consume oxygen. “And the metaphors. And the central theme. And the sentence fragments. And the syntax! If this word choice isn’t heretical then I need to have a word with Lord Rorken about expanding the-“
“Aemos,” I chided, seeding a little will to make the point. He immediately cut off, and glanced at me. “Sorry. But this work is terrible! No way is this getting published without heresy being involved.”
“Seriously?” asked Von Baigg “Because it’s poorly written, you think it’s heretical? He went to finish his sandwich, but that was when a bullet shot through his head and he collapsed backwards, his sandwich now splashed with his blood.
- 5 -
“Down!” I commanded with the Will, and my small party dived under the table before they realised what they were doing. The fire was coming through the wall from the cooking area. The few civilians in the café had panicked, and were running for the doors, on the other side of the eating area from us. Fortunate for them, as clearly I was the target. I pulled on Von Baigg’s legs, getting him under the table, and Aemos examined him quickly. “He’ll live, if we can get him out of here. Most interes-“
“Not the time,” I said sharply. Aemos had a way of letting his fascination with data get the better of him, distracting him from what was really important. Namely, that we were under attack from forces unknown, though presumably, given the timing, they had a connection with this Anagram of Ruin business. Ironically, by attacking now they had provided all the evidence needed that there was indeed something sinister at the core of this matter, and that Mister Imus was indeed both astute and correct in bring the matter to the attention of the Inquisition. Once we were out of here and Von Baigg could receive proper treatment – a small matter of convincing a local medicae to provide some off-the-books treatment, an easy matter with my Inquisitorial Rosette – I was certain he’d feel most foolish for writing off the entire matter as a flight of fancy. He was a solid Interrogator, but I wasn’t ready yet to sign off on him becoming an Inquisitor. He needed to have a more open mind, be more accepting that heresy can come in unexpected ways, for what is Chaos if not unexpected?
As I expected, there was not yet any fire other than the initial bullet that took Von Baigg down. I had not heard the telltale sound of a bolter firing, so I suspected the presence of a telekine, using their powers to propulsively move the projectile. I gathered my will and projected it towards the kitchen. “Stop!” I yelled in an authoritive voice, hoping to catch who was in there before they could bring more conventional fire to bear.
There was a brief sensation of suspended action from through the wall, and then a few dozen bullets burst through the wall, and began flying back and forth through the room, our tabletop scant protection against the fire. I glanced around, looking for a way out of the situation, when I felt a sudden, slight revulsion approaching.
A loud bang and the sound of someone coming through the roof could be heard, then a cry of alarm and a muffled thud. I strained to discern what was going on in the next room, when I heard a voice cry out “Distant seeks Thorn, eager party silenced!”
- 6 -
I pulled myself out from under the table and strode to the kitchen door as the others came out from our hiding place. Looking in, I could see our assailant knocked out and pinned to the ground by a another woman clad in a functional bodyglove, her dark eyes looking towards me.
Alizabeth Bequin was a recent acquisition of mine, having recently joined my small coterie. She was an Untouchable, one of those rare human souls who disrupt Psykers and drive people away due to their lack of psionic signature. By falling on the enemy Psyker, she had effectively ended the assault. Her handsome face broke into a small grin as she saw it was me at the door.
“Your arrival was timely. Von Baigg’s been shot. Can you get him to a medicae?” I asked of her. Alizabeth got up, and nodded. “Of course.” She headed through the door, took Von Baigg’s body from Aemos and strode purposefully toward the door. I could never touch an Untouchable – look at the name – but as she strode away, I considered it a perverse kind of shame that it was so.
As I took in the state of things in the kitchen, Aemos walked up, and when his eyes fell on the knocked out telekine, he gasped. “Gregor… that woman… that’s Tai!”
- 7 -
“Are you sure?” I asked Aemos.
“Positive. Please. Her picture was attached in the ‘About the Author’ section. It’s been significantly touched up, but it’s her.”
I looked down at the woman, at Tai, and grimaced. She’d just tried to kill us for investigating her manuscript. “Take her in for interrogation, Aemos. I’ll settle things with the local authorities here.”
- 8 -
“So, as I was saying, you were indeed right about the Anagram of Ruin,” I told Mister Imus, as he stood aghast in his room once more.
“You did it again! My workplace is boarded up! Again! I have no job! Again!” he wailed.
“Indeed not. Tai, as it turns out, was actually the owner of the publishing house,” said Von Baigg, mostly recovered from his ordeal. The medicae staff had insisted on him staying a few more days, but my Interrogator refused to stay out of the ongoing investigation any longer. Strong stuff, he was made of. He’d make a fine Inquisitor someday. Not yet, but some day.
“And was using her position to approve the publication of heretical texts,” I added, nodding. “Your assistance to the Inquisition is appreciated.”
“But what will I do? Will you do nothing, again? My life is ruined!” he cried. “I did my duty for the Imperium, and the Inquisition destroyed my life, for the second time! Will you, at long last, still do nothing for me?”
I hesitated a moment, then reached out with a hand to awkwardly clasp his shoulder in a small gesture. “The Inquisition thanks you for your assistance, Mister Imus.” I turned and walked to the door, already planning how I would finalise the report on this matter.