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Justice and Fate

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The first night on board the Anomaly, I chose a soft black linen suit to wear to dinner, and pulled on my polished suchus-skin boots. Adjusting my collar in the mirror, I fancied I saw a glow of the chase in my scarred face. Even at the ripe age of 130, my work still thrilled me. Fixing my Inquisitor's rosette to my chest, neither out of pomp nor insecurity, I made my way to the ship's dining room.

I met Nick Cutter on the way. My ancient Savant greeted me with a grunt and a nod, sweeping his blue cloak behind him.

“Good evening, Cutter. I trust your quarters are comfortable?”

The workings of his augmetic eye hissed and spat as he aimed it at me. “They suit me well enough, Ryan. Where did you find this rust pail? The arse end of Nabritus?”

I ignored him. He never liked any of the ships I procured. He preferred to have his feet firmly on the surface of a planet. Preferably poking around in the dirt as he investigated xenos with me. I do not know what I would do without him.

“You will approve of the food on board, Cutter, old friend. I secured the services of Anderson.”

We would have need of excellent sustenance on our journey. The Tau we were chasing, Oliver Leek, was reputed to be hiding on Helichrys, near the outer edge of the galaxy. He and his clone marines had terrorised the sub-sector, looting and burning wherever they went. I had been on my homeworld of Tanacetum, restocking my library and interviewing for a new Interrogator, when I had received the call from my Ordo, requesting that I chase down Leek and bring him to justice for crimes against Humankind.

I had left with all haste.

Cutter paused in his steps, fixing me with both eyes at once. “Matt Anderson?”

I smiled. “The very same. His therium steaks are legendary, are they not?”

Cutter looked positively gleeful at the news of the ship's chef. He grinned as we made our way to the dining room, giving me a sideways glance. “That's why you wear your rosette, young Ryan? As a reminder to the man?”

I shrugged. “Perhaps.”

Anderson's father had been put on trial by the Ordo Malleus, but was found not guilty of daemonic power. I had read the transcripts myself, and had no fear that Matt Anderson was a danger to myself, my retinue, or my investigation, but it did not hurt to remind everyone on board why we were here. If I was concerned, I could will Anderson to reveal his intent, but I found it tiresome to invoke my Psyker skills unnecessarily. The man was a chef, not an agent of Chaos, I was sure. Besides, he was in Captain Lester's employ, not mine.

All thoughts of possible treachery were banished from my mind as we entered the dining room and found six of my retinue already seated around the table. At one end, my four warriors were talking, laughing, and sipping a rather fine vintage, and opposite them, Danny Quinn and Hilary Becker were talking quietly.

My Pilot and new Interrogator were physically near-opposites. Danny was tall and broader with red-blond hair, his features craggy and scarred from more than a century of fighting in the badland wars. Becker was a mere pup, in his mid-thirties and fresh from the academy, keen to learn and serve the God-Emperor by my side.

“Good evening, all. Welcome on board the Anomaly.”

“Inquisitor,” Becker acknowledged primly. He'd stood as we'd entered, and waited until I had sat down before he followed suit. The man was wearing a high-necked silver jacket of the finest silk, and looked more like a nobleman than an Interrogator, with his shiny black hair and fine features.

But I had seen him shoot a boltpistol.

Danny elbowed Becker in the ribs. “He prefers Ryan, when we are alone.” He winked at the young Interrogator.

I rolled my eyes. “Leave the man be, Danny. Hilary, you may address me however you wish, but it is true. I do not normally stand on ceremony at dinner with only the retinue in attendance.”

Becker nodded, a faint blush suffusing his cheeks. It reminded me of someone, and made me scan the room. “Is the new Astropath not joining us? And Jenny? Where is she?”

Cutter looked perplexed, and I got no reply from any of my staff. I threw my napkin on the table and stood up abruptly.

“Wait for us,” I commanded, and left the dining room. It had been hard to control my desire to compel them by my will. There was no need of it, but my emotions were heightened by concern. That in itself unsettled me.

The metal grilles in the walkways echoed under my boots as I headed swiftly for the communications room. I opened my mind and spoke to Jenny. Jennifer Lewis, why are you late for dinner?”

I couldn't sense her presence, of course. She was a psychic blank, essential to my work to protect me and my retinue from dangerous Psykers. She was one of the Distaff, the order of blanks re-founded by my old teacher Inquisitor Eisenhorn, may the God-Emperor bless him in his retirement.

But she could hear me. I knew that.

I flung open the door of the communications room to find Connor Temple hunched over his console. With the hood of his green robe down I could see his skull implants flashing rhythmically. Desk space nearby was strewn with untidy papers.

“Connor,” I said gently, “you must eat.”

The young man made no move. I sighed. I had feared that the Astropath would not only be a dedicated and talented man, but also a distracted one.

I reached out gently with my mind and pushed at his whirl of thoughts. Connor.

Startled, he sat upright, spinning around in his chair and knocking a dataslab to the ground. “Inquisitor! Forgive me!”

I smiled, and my fingers brushed a lock of hair from his face. He did not start at my touch, his blindness no barrier to his senses.

“No apology necessary. We are about to eat dinner. Will you join us?”

“Oh!” He waved a hand at his console, and I could see scars and tattoos on his arm. “I forgot the time. I was listening to communications from the Arbites on Helichrys.”

Local law enforcement had its uses. I grunted in appreciation. “Good work. But we have 12 days of travel left. Come. Eat with us. This can wait.”

He nodded, grabbed his omni-present sling bag, and left his room to walk with me.

“How are you finding us? And the ship?” It could be hard for an Astropath to adjust to new surroundings.

Connor beamed. “Good. Great! The Anomaly has all the latest kit, you know? I'm really enjoying myself. Er... Sir. Inquisitor, sir.”

I laughed. “Ryan is fine, Connor. I'm glad the ship is to your satisfaction.”

Astropaths were sensitive beasts, their ability to send and receive messages across the galaxy tended to make them tire easily. It pained me to think the young man might only serve me for a few years. My last but one Astropath, Claudia, had been with me since 485.M41, one of the longest serving Astropaths I'd known, until the Tyranid witch Helen of Doom snatched her from existence.

I still missed Claudia from time to time.

Jenny approached us as we neared the dining room, careful not to touch me. “Sorry I'm late. I was talking to the captain. He was showing me the astrocharts.” She smiled, her red lips conveying amusement.

I snorted. “Is that so? James Lester continually surprises me.”

Jenny would dearly love to swat me with one of her fine hands, but she knew it would hurt me. Hurt me physically. Her lack of psychic output actually caused me pain. I could stand to be near her, I had learned to accept that as necessary, but physical touch was out of the question.

“Bastard,” she muttered, then smiled sweetly. “What's for dinner?”

“Steamed arandas with salt urchin foam, followed by red calpberry tart.”

She glided to her chair. “Wonderful.”

The wine was excellent, and the food perfection. Matt Anderson had appeared with the servitors at the beginning of the meal to announce the menu and wish us bon appetit. His eyes caught sight of my rosette and I noticed a hardness to his eyes, but he made no scene. My lesson was over.

~

After dinner, I retired with Danny and Becker to my ready room to have a glass of amasec before bed, the others politely refusing the invitation and retiring to their quarters. I watched the amber liquid swirl in the beaker as I voiced my question.

“What do you make of the Astropath, Temple?”

Becker looked at Danny, then saw me watching him. He focussed his attention on me, and I nodded, acknowledging his desire to show confidence in his thoughts and actions.

“He's skittish, but trustworthy.”

Danny grinned. “Agreed. You don't trust him, Ryan?” he queried.

“It's not that, I...” It was hard to voice my feelings. I felt a connection to the man, but that seemed impossible. Astropaths were linked to the God-Emperor himself.

Danny chuckled. “Ryan. You old dog. He's a bit young for you, is he not?”

Becker blushed and stared into his amasec.

I growled. “Careful, Quinn. I have no intentions towards Connor. But there is something about him...”

Becker surprised me. “I feel it too,” he said quietly.

I turned to the young Interrogator with interest. “Tell me.”

Becker concentrated. “When I first met him, I felt as though we had met before. Call it déjà vu, if you like. Though it is impossible, for I had never been on Tanacetum before I came to you for my interview, and I have never set foot on Terra, so I cannot possibly have met Connor before. And yet... He felt familiar. That is all.”

Those were very similar to the feelings I was experiencing. When I had sought a new Astropath, I knew at once that Connor Temple was the one I was looking for. I had put it down to intuition, but now I was not so sure. There was a greater intention in the Imperium at work here.

“That is how I feel also.”

What I dared not say was that I had felt the same way when I appointed Becker as my Interrogator.

Danny sipped his amasec. “Just be careful, Ryan. Perhaps it has something to do with this Leek fella. I hear he's bad news and we need to be on guard.”

I raised my glass to him. “We are always on guard.”

~

Only a day from Helichrys, we made our plans for the assault. Danny would fly us down to the planet in Rex, my raptor craft, with Connor on board for communications. Jenny, Becker and I would make reconnaissance on the ground, until we had located Leek and his clone marines.

Lester would hold the ship in orbit, ready to send down the rest of my staff in a shuttle if we called for back-up. I had brought with me the ex-bounty hunters Joe Wilder and Adam Ross, as well as Abby Maitland, an Ice Warrior from Valhallan, and Lorraine Wickes, an ex-assassin from Cypra Mundi. I trusted them all with my life, and they were very handy in a fight. And xenos liked to fight.

The days of travel had left me anxious and ready for the chase. Hours of training with Hilary Becker – both in combat and the coded language of my retinue - had kept my nerves at bay and focussed my mind, but the presence of Connor Temple had continued to plague my thoughts.

I had asked Jenny to have breakfast with me on the morning we were due to drop into orbit around Helichrys. I found her presence to be calming and helpful, despite the ache it caused.

“I do not know what we will find down there,” I admitted, spreading butter on my sterculia bread.

Jenny leaned back in her chair, sipping her tea. She smiled benevolently. “When do we ever? What truly troubles you, Ryan?”

I sighed. Perhaps breakfast with Jenny had not been such a good idea. I could never lie to her. “The new members of my retinue. Connor Temple makes me feel unsettled, in as much as I can barely control my emotions regarding the man. And Hilary Becker might be one of the most talented Interrogators I will ever train, not to mention the most handsome. I feel they are connected in some way, and connected to me, and I haven't the slightest idea how to handle it.”

She took her time, studying me in that calm way of hers, making me even more uncomfortable. Then she spoke. “You like them. More than like them. Becker is your pupil, and so you put aside those feelings. But Connor is an Astropath, and under the control of no one but himself and the God-Emperor. You must be careful, Inquisitor. Hunting down Oliver Leek will test your emotions and strengths to the limit. I can help you, but there may be moments when you stand alone with your desires.”

I sipped my own tea, and contemplated her words. She and Danny had been with me for a long time, and knew me well. I feared that their understanding of my personal life was colouring their judgement of my current predicament. I had no desire to bed either Temple or Becker. At least, that was not my primary concern.

Our connection went far deeper, and I couldn't even explain it myself.

After Jenny had left, I changed into an olive-drab bodyglove, fixed my armour on top and a black cloak around my shoulders. I slipped my rosette into a pocket and checked my weapons.

A boltpistol, made for me by Iridos of Mars. Inlaid with pearl and platinum, it had the power I needed in close combat, and looked damn good in my augmetic hand. For now, I tucked it into my chest rig. A small knife on my left calf completed the necessary ensemble of visible weapons.

I felt the Anomaly judder a little as it came out of Warp. I made my way to the hangar deck, where Danny was running through pre-checks on my light assault craft, Rex. The raptor could fly low and fast and provide air cover if needed, but could only carry a few passengers.

The other passengers were already there, and waiting to go. I climbed aboard and checked that Connor was too. I could feel him at the edge of my mind, his presence touching me gently. I sat down next to Jenny and strapped in, nodding to Becker.

“Ready for your first chase, Hilary?” I asked him.

He looked calm and composed in his charcoal bodyglove that outlined his musculature perfectly, light flak armour in strategic positions. “Yes, Inquisitor.”

I smiled, and swallowed. “Good.”

As I attached my throat mic and pressle, Danny lifted Rex into the air and flew the craft out into the blue atmosphere of Helichrys.

“We use Dictare from now if we are using the radio,” I told everyone. My coded language was brief and simple to learn, but impossible for xenos or other enemies to crack. Becker had picked it up admirably on the journey here. I'd inherited it from Gregor Eisenhorn when he retired, taking his Glossia and making it my own.

Through the window I could see the surface of the planet rushing up to meet us. Danny wasted no time in taking us to our agreed drop off point, a busy trade port to the south of the main city, Chrysos.

Within minutes he had secured our safe passage and landed at a tired-looking dock with only one working halocandle.

“Thank you for flying Air Eros,” Danny quipped, shutting down the engines.

I gritted my teeth. “Eros to gather clouds until the rain comes,” I said, making eye contact with Danny. “Eros must watch Peritus unriven.”

“The Hammer speaks and it is done,” Danny replied, giving me a wink.

I bit back a curse and followed Jenny and Becker out of the craft. Bloody Danny always had a smart remark for me. If he didn't save my hide on a regular basis sometimes I felt as though I should send him back to the Chaos hole I found him in. And if he let anything happen to Connor, after such implicit instruction to take care of him, I might have to kill him.

Jenny gave me a sympathetic look as we strode through the bustling port terminal. I ignored her.

Becker walked close to me, keying off his radio before he said quietly, “Are we sure we have the right information? What if Connor was tricked by the Arbites messages?”

“Don't worry. We'll be watching to see if it is a trap. But the Arbites claim to have checked every possible location. I fear their oversight of the warehouse was a deliberate one. We shall have to tread carefully.”

Normally I liked to check into a local hostelry and blend into the populace before making my move. But something about Oliver Leek told me we had to move swiftly. The Tau was cornered and desperate.

The local Arbites had done a visibly decent job of attempting to apprehend Leek and his clone marines, but claimed the trail had gone cold. Their intelligence had been shared, their leads laid open. But they made the mistake of assuming that no-one would double-check their work. Nick Cutter had pored over the information Connor had provided him with, and concluded that Oliver Leek was hiding in an old cannab warehouse on the waterfront. The Savant had begged to be able to come with me, but I persuaded him to stay aboard the Anomaly.

I was worried for my old friend.

We crossed the street to avoid the attentions of a patrolling Arbites sergeant. Something was rotten in their ranks, and we had no wish to taste it.

“Ryan,” Jenny warned sharply.

I led them around the nearest corner. “Thank you.”

To make the approach on the building we were interested in without being seen, we needed to skirt our way through the streets, unnoticed among the traders and fishermen. I'd nearly missed our first scheduled turn.

I focussed my mind and the maps we'd studied morphed into what I was seeing before me. Cutter had furnished us with detailed blueprints of the surrounding buildings. A few minutes later, we slipped inside an ischyosteus factory. Our plan was to go up on the roof and determine if Leek was really in the warehouse next door.

Becker went ahead, checking the stairwell, his laspistol drawn. I was sending out weak pulses of psychic pressure to keep any workers inside the factory away from the stairs. Jenny was a few steps behind me, letting me use my ability as a Psyker.

I was relieved when we reached the roof without mishap, and I indicated to Becker to take the north face, keeping Jenny with me as we crawled to the south edge of the building.

Through a skylight I could see movement. The warehouse was certainly occupied. I had been cautious not to use my psychic power strongly in case it alerted our enemy, but Leek was a Tau and not a Psyker or human, and his clone marines were likewise. I did not want to underestimate our prey, but I could not sense any Psyker close by. Leek's Arbites ally was not home.

I motioned silently to Jenny to stay where she was, and I moved closer to the skylight. I could see down into the warehouse. Oliver Leek was an oily deformed character, shuffling around his workbench while huge clone marines sat around the space, cleaning their autoguns.

I raised a hand and gestured to Becker, and he nodded, gripping his laspistol tightly. I fixed my rosette to my cloak.

I knelt over the skylight and punched it, hard. I dropped down through the skylight, glass falling around me, and landed on a metal walkway above the open warehouse floor. Becker jumped down at the other end of the gantry.

“This is the Imperial Inquisition. Throw down any weapons and show yourselves.”

Several clone marines looked up at me, and hurriedly raised their weapons in anger. A grenade rolled at their feet and they looked down. It exploded, showering the nearest clones with cryo gel. They cried out, falling to the floor, rolling in agony. I picked off the remaining clones with my hastily drawn boltpistol.

“Don't move!” Becker yelled.

I realised he was screaming at Oliver Leek. The deformed Tau had something in his hand, but I could not see what it was. Did he have a grenade too?

Leek's eyes rested on me. “Inquisitor Ryan? Is that you?” His hands twitched around the object in his hand.

I had never met the oily xenos in my life. I wrinkled my nose.

He waved his other hand airily. “You don't remember me? No matter. I am flattered that the Ordo Xenos has sent their finest to apprehend me. I was beginning to worry they would send Inquisitor Kunz. That would have been embarrassing.

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Becker had climbed down from the gantry and was approaching the blithering Tau. I held my breath.

“Ah uh,” Leek sing-songed. “Your little pet shouldn't have done that.”

Becker raised his laspistol, but Oliver opened his hand, and something that did look like a grenade dropped from his fingers. My eyes widened, waiting for the explosion.

What happened was something I had never seen before.

A large ball of... light appeared from the grenade. A spinning, glistening vortex of mirrored fragments hanging in the air. It swallowed Becker and he disappeared.

“Nooooo!” I yelled, and launched myself over the balcony, landing on Leek, his body crumpling beneath me as we slammed to the floor. “What have you done?” My head was spinning with anger.

Leek coughed and grinned up at me. “Fuck you!”

I headbutted him, and blood spurted everywhere. By the time I'd yanked him to his feet Jenny was by my side.

“Ryan, it's a vortex grenade,” she said urgently. “Get Connor.”

I forced myself to focus through the blur of grief and anger. No one takes my Interrogator from me and lives! My hands closed around Leek's neck.

“Ryan!” Jenny yelled.

I pushed Leek back down to the floor and quickly tied his hands and feet. He was snivelling and choking, blood and snot everywhere.

“Shut the fuck up, Leek.”

He did as he was told. Psyker or not, he knew when to obey me.

I stood back, and keyed my throat mic. “Hammer wishes Peritus. Wings imperative. Novus enveloped. Hammer wishes Knight to release Blade and all her sharpness.” I knew that not only did I need Connor, but I needed my warriors beside me.

My radio gave a squelch, and I knew Danny would be with us momentarily. Another two squelches, and I knew that Lester had heard me. He would send the shuttle down with my warriors at once.

I turned to Jenny. “What's a vortex grenade?”

She walked around the beautiful, deadly light. “It is the Warp. Can you feel it?”

My thoughts were still filled with darkness and fury. I took a deep breath, and let my mind touch the ball of light. I staggered back, feeling the fullness of the universe rushing to overwhelm me.

“By the Emperor-God. You are right.”

She rolled her eyes. “Of course. It is space. It is time. The grenade creates a vortex of Warp itself, and whoever is trapped by it is taken across the Warp to a place and era unknown.”

It did not take me long to process what she was saying, and I strode towards it. “Becker's alive.”

“Ryan! Stop!” Jenny cried, but I was no longer heeding her.

“You need Connor!” she screamed, and I hesitated for a second, giving her time to grab hold of me and pull me back.

I cried out, the agony of a psychic void piercing my brain like a hot lance. “Arrghhhh!” I dropped to the ground, and she let go, panting, watching me writhe on the ground.

“Sorry,” she mumbled.

“S'okay,” I groaned, rolling over and crawling to my hands and knees.

Above us, I heard the thwap-thwap of the raptor's engines, then Connor was spinning down towards us on a line and harness, his blank eyes like saucers.

Jenny and I unhooked Connor from his harness and Danny winched it back up, his voice in my earpiece.

“Play nice with Peritus.” He could sense my pain, his tone lacking all of its usual amusement.

Connor trembled in my arms.

I held him firm. “Connor. We have a Warp vortex. Becker was dragged into it. Can you contact him?”

Connor took a deep breath and I could feel him reaching out with his thoughts and into the ball of Warp light cautiously. He gasped. “Ryan...” he breathed, staring with his unseeing eyes at the spinning ball of light. It was obvious he had never felt anything like it, but I needed him to focus.

“Connor. Can you sense him? Please...”

Connor was nodding, his face contorted in pain. “He's there. He's in trouble... There are many creatures. Ryan, you cannot help him alone.”

I frowned. “Creatures? What kind of creatures?”

Connor shook his head. “He's not sure. Archosaurs. Suchids.”

I felt relief. “You can actually hear him? Is he hurt?”

“Not badly. But we need to get him out of there. We need everyone.”

“They are on their way.” It pained me to wait any longer to enter the ball of light, and I keyed my radio pressle. “Hammer must travel darkness with all haste.”

Jenny hugged herself and looked afraid. Connor whimpered in my arms.

I checked my boltpistol and knife, then switched the radio pressle off to talk privately to Connor and Jenny. “Both of you stay here. I'll leave Ross with you to guard Leek.”

Jenny protested. “I want to come with you! What if you need me?”

“I'm not letting you cross the Warp! It's too dangerous.”

In my earpiece, I heard Wilder's voice. “Ferus nears the lair.”

I held up my hand to Jenny to silence any further argument, and crossed quickly to the large doors of the warehouse and threw them open. I was met by the barrels of two heavy bolters.

Wilder and Ross lowered their weapons and all four of my warriors looked puzzled. “Area secure, Ryan?”

I marched back towards the Warp vortex, knowing they would all follow. I switched off my radio. “In a manner of speaking. We are going into that to rescue Becker. This Tau sent him through.” I nudged Leek with one boot. Not enough to even break anything, but it felt good. “We might encounter wild creatures on the other side.”

Lorraine stared at the ball of light, her curved blade glinting in the glow from it. “What evil is this?”

Jenny shook her head. “It is the Warp itself.”

I turned to Ross. “Stay here and guard this xenos, Ross. And take care of Jenny and Connor while we are gone.”

He nodded once.

“Connor, let me know if Becker communicates with you. The rest of you – with me.” I turned and walked into the vortex.

~

The air was dry and hot, the sandy ground rough under our feet. I kept my boltpistol ready as we moved forward into the shelter of some scrubby bushes.

Behind me, Abby followed silently, her handbow raised and her eyes scanning the landscape warily. We were in a broad valley, with crags rising on either side. The sun beat down on us.

Lorraine brandished her curved paragon sword, the weapon that gave her her callsign, Blade. “Where are we?”

Wilder brought up the rear, his heavy bolter covering our escape route. “Fuck knows.”

“There!” called Abby, and I could see the creatures in the distance. Dust was being ploughed up around a herd of animals as they attacked a cave in the hillside.

“Let's go!” I began to run towards the action. The creatures did look like archosaurs, the kind that were often kept as guard beasts, with heavy claws and sharp teeth. These ones had no collar.

“I'll cut them off at this end. Joe, go around and keep them busy when they flee,” Lorraine called to Wilder, peeling off to my left.

It was pointless waving my rosette at a bunch of overgrown lizards, so I just started firing.

The creatures started howling as they were hit, panic scattering them, if they were able to run. Lorraine slashed at one with her long blade, and Wilder took down two more with his heavy bolter.

Abby hurried with me to the mouth of the cave. “Hilary!”

I backed towards the cave entrance, but no more creatures advanced on us. Lorraine poked at the body of a beast that lay nearby, but we had killed it. She caught my eye, and shrugged.

“Hilary! Thank the God-Emperor.”

I turned to see Abby launch herself at my Interrogator. For an ice warrior, she was looking quite emotional. We had all grown to like and respect the young man, and I was more than relieved that we had found him.

“Are you hurt, Becker?” I asked, clasping the hand he held out to me as he came over.

“No, Inquisitor,” he panted, his face streaked with dust and blood. “I am fine.”

To my surprise, he pulled me into a close hug, and I wrapped my arm around him.

“I am glad,” I murmured.

We walked out of the cave, my hand still resting on the small of Becker's back. I saw a flicker of movement on top of the hill opposite, and shielded my eyes from the sunlight. I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It was Leek, standing there, watching us.

“Sons of Tarthia. Oliver fucking Leek.”

At that moment, a wave of agony flooded my mind. I might have fallen to my knees if Becker had not grabbed hold of me. I could feel Connor in my head, screaming at me, calling for help. I could hardly shield my thoughts, and Wilder staggered back as he was hit by the edge of my fear.

“The fuck, Ryan? What's happened?”

“We must get back,” I growled, forcing myself upright. “The others are in trouble.” Looking up, Leek had disappeared. No matter. We had to get back to the warehouse.

I took off towards the Warp vortex at a run. Without question, the others followed me, though Abby first let off a shot towards Leek and then he disappeared from view.

Connor? I opened my mind, seeking more from the Astropath. His mind was now weak through the Warp, and I wondered just how far across time and space we were.

She is here. He was in pain, and I felt sick. I knew exactly who 'she' was.

Helen.

His flash of pain threw me to the ground mid-stride. I spat out sand as I crawled to my knees, Becker helping me up.

“Ryan?”

I grasped his shoulder. “It is the Tyranid witch. She's got Connor.”

He stared into the Warp vortex, just ahead. “Helen of Doom? She must be working with Leek.”

I was impressed. He'd done his homework on my household and past investigations.

Lorraine, somewhere behind my left shoulder, growled. “I've been waiting a long time to kill that witch.” She strode straight into the Warp vortex.

At a run, we all followed her.

The sight that greeted us on the other side of the Warp made my blood run cold and my mind was confounded. Adam Ross lay sprawled on the floor of the warehouse, blood leaking from his ears and mouth. Jenny was nowhere to be seen. I was mad with fury as I watched Oliver Leek hold down Connor while Helen of Doom stood over him. How was Leek here, and also through the Warp? Two clone marines appeared, and Wilder and Becker ran at them.

I could feel Helen driving a Warp lance into Connor's mind. He was screaming in pain inside, though his body was already limp.

“No!” I yelled, and advanced upon the witch.

Lorraine had reached Leek and swept her blade around. It sliced off his head, and his body hit the ground too. She turned to Helen and slashed at her.

Lorraine was suddenly thrown back by a burst of psychic power, her eyes startled as she landed against the wall and passed out. Helen focussed her attention on me.

“Let him go,” I commanded, my will slamming into her as hard as I could send it.

She reeled slightly.

“Release him!” I snarled, taking a step forward.

I caught Becker's eye. He had never felt me use my force like this, and it had taken his breath away. Wilder merely grimaced as he dropped the last clone marine with another bolt - the man had seen it all before.

Helen shook her head, attempting to resist my psychic power. She took a deep breath and raised herself up, lifting her hand towards me.

“Leave him alone!” yelled Becker, diving at her just as she launched a Warp blast at me.

I could feel it coming, could almost taste the darkness of the Warp as it raced towards me. And I could not move. Never had I felt such power.

Becker crashed into her, crying out as his whole body seemed to convulse. He had pushed her away from Connor, and he fell with her to the ground.

The direction of her psychic blast was knocked off course, but I could sense it was still enough to kill me outright.

Take care of each other, I said to Becker, dipping into his mind without warning. I could feel the burning pain he was experiencing.

In another moment, I was on my knees, with Jenny wrapped around me. Her presence deflected the blast, and it washed around us like a gentle wave. I cried out, the pain of her touch too much to handle, though it saved my life. Then I passed out.

I remembered nothing of what happened in the next few hours.

~

When I awoke, I was in my bed on the Anomaly, with Becker sitting in a chair by my bed, and Connor perched on a stool in the corner. The Astropath's implants flashed weakly, his face downcast and glum.

I stared at Becker. As my memory began to return, I recalled seeing him lying next to the witch. I'd thought he was dead.

“Hey,” I croaked. I tried to move, but it hurt too much.

They noticed I was awake, and Connor hurried over to kneel by my bed.

Becker leaned forward. “Inquisitor. You must rest.”

I waved him off and struggled to sit up. “What happened?”

Connor and Becker looked at each other.

Becker cleared his throat. “Wilder dispatched Helen with Lorraine's paragon blade. Jenny saved you from the witch but knocked you out cold.”

“And you are both all right?”

Becker rubbed the back of his neck. His hair was mussed and he had dark smudges under his eyes. “We are as good as can be expected, given the circumstances.”

Connor smiled, not as bright as he had before, but I was happy to see it. “We are well. Joe took care of us all. Adam was in surgery for a few hours, but he will recover also.”

“I am glad,” I said truthfully. I had been more than certain that I had lost Adam Ross.

My retinue, as ever, was the most important weapon I could wield. I owed much to Jenny, and Joe Wilder. And to all my staff. Again.

Connor grinned, not at full wattage, but nearly. “Jenny says she's sorry.”

I smiled, and shook my head. “Helen would have killed me.”

Becker looked uncomfortable. “Her power was great, and caused us much pain.”

I frowned, and reached out my hand to hold Becker's, turning his wrist. I could see scorch marks, where he'd touched Helen, perhaps?

“I am fine, Inquisitor,” he insisted.

“And you did as I asked?” I looked intently at him, wondering if he forgave me for my intrusion into his mind. I refused to feel guilty about it.

Becker glanced at Connor, who was staring at him. My Interrogator moved over a little and Connor got up from his knees, perching on the side of the chair beside Becker, his hand resting gently on Becker's knee, and he nodded.

“I knew you meant Connor,” Becker said quietly. “You wanted us to be here for you, also. So we are here.”

I was astounded. What mystery in the Imperium had brought the three of us together? Was there somewhere in the Warp that Becker and Connor and I were linked for all of time?

Becker rested his hand over mine, and Connor laid his on top. They covered my real hand, and I could feel their touch not only by my skin but inside my head.

I instinctively wanted to pull my hand away, to distance myself from my pupil and Astropath.

Don't. Becker's voice was sharp in my head. It doesn't have to be like that.

I wasn't entirely sure what he meant, but I left my hand where it was. Becker nodded.

After a moment, Connor and Becker moved away, standing up and leaving me feeling strangely content, if a little confused.

“We have all of time,” Connor shrugged. “We'll go now, let you rest.”

“Don't be late for dinner, Inquisitor,” Becker teased, sharing a smile with Connor. “Anderson is serving therium steaks.”

“Piss off, both of you,” I growled half-heartedly. “I'm never late for dinner.”

They chuckled, and left my quarters, closing the door quietly behind them. I could feel the hum of the engines, sense the whisper of Warp as we headed home. I did not know what the future held for me, nor what the past had added, but I had a feeling it was going to be all right.

In time.

~

FIN