As a bounty hunter, Jason Scarn had fought many large, dangerous men. Yet, as he tugged at the restraints on his wrists, he had to admit: The bruisers who work for the Inquisition were in a class of their own.
He’d not even seen the man approach—a tough thing to accomplish, particularly since Scarn’s line of work required him to have eyes in the back of his head.
The man shouldn’t have gotten within 20 meters of him without being noticed. That he knocked Scarn out without warning was downright scary.
More frightening was where he was. When he’d regained consciousness, he’d found himself blindfolded and restrained, so Scarn figured he was the target of someone he’d crossed in the past—and he was likely a dead man.
It turned out to be far worse than he’d imagined. When the blindfold finally was removed, and he’d seen the Inquisitorial Seal on the hatch before him, a cold chill had settled on his shoulders.
So, here he was. In a room empty but for two chairs, a table between them, and a black-uniformed Inquistitorial stormtrooper standing behind him.
To his right, a heavy security door suddenly opened, and Scarn got a glimpse of two more stormtroopers outside. Then a woman entered.
She was an older woman, her white hair woven into a crown braid, and she was wearing a deep crimson gown of archaic fashion. On her shoulder was a black-onyx brooch, with a white ivory “I” at its center.
Although he’d faced misery, hardship, and the threat of death throughout his life, Scarn learned what fear really felt like for the first time. This was no subordinate, no Imperial flunky. This was an Inquisitor.
The woman walked up to the chair opposite him and sat down without comment. She put her elbows on the table, interlocked her fingers, and just stared at him for what seemed like minutes.
Scarn weighed the effect of speaking first, perhaps offering an off-color remark to unsettle the woman’s careful demeanor. He decided against it. Any attempt at confidence would ring false, so he just waited.
“I have been following your exploits for some time,” she said. “You captured the slaver Marcius Orios, helped bring down the Alkylarn Stim Syndicate, and, at our request, brought us the criminal Eramus Kim.”
Now I understand, Scarn thought. I knew I was going to have a problem when those mysterious Space Marines had showed up to take possession of Kim. You were testing my abilities. But that means you’ve a use for me.
That thought gave him a modicum of hope that his life wasn’t over. But Scarn knew his life was going to change. If he was useful to this women, he might not end up on the torturer’s rack. But, to be noticed by the Inquisition never ends well.
The woman was watching him, studying him, and Scarn had the impression that she knew her words had taken some of the tension out of him.
“I am the Lady Georgene Serillian, Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos, and, under the authority granted to me by the Emperor’s will, I am recruiting you for a mission that will serve the Imperium.”
Scarn sat still. I’m not going to give you the satisfaction, he thought. I’m not going to agree meekly. I’m not going to object. I’m not going to beg. I’m not going to react at all.
A faint smile played at the corner of the woman’s mouth.
“Ah, arrogant and proud . . . not willing to concede anything,” she said. “I’m not entirely surprised. Your psych evaluation indicated you are a functional sociopath. No empathy for others. Violent, but with exceptional control. A man who thinks … a sadly rare talent in these troubled times.
Get on with it, bitch, he thought. What deal will you offer me—and where’s the flaw that I can exploit?
Her gaze never wavered from his face. She was neither tense nor relaxed—just like a spider on its web, waiting patiently to strike.
She placed a data disk on the table. “In exchange for your cooperation, this collection of evidence—more than sufficient to see you executed by the Arbites—will stay in my possession, locked away for safekeeping.”
There it was, Scarn thought. The bargain offered—and no real choice in it for me.
It was tempting to act defeated, agree to what she wanted and then run like hell. The galaxy was a big place—plenty of places to hide.
She’ll see right through that—and I’ll never see open sky again.
For one of the few times in Scarn’s life, it was time for honesty.
“So I do some work for you. I’m not happy about it, but I don’t see refusing the Inquisition as a viable alternative,” he said.
She said nothing. She was waiting, watching him through cold gray eyes. Alarm bells were ringing in Scarn’s mind.
“But I’m not going to be your slave,” he added. “I’d rather be dead than lose my freedom. You need my skills on occasion, fine. I’ll pay the price to live . . . but I’m not a servant that bows and scrapes. I’ve my own interests to attend to—my own life to live. I help when you need me . . . but otherwise I go my own way.”
Neither smile nor frown showed on the Inquisitor’s face.
“Hold the reins too tightly, and the steed will buck,” she said quietly. “You are useful, but not someone I would trust to be a part of my retinue.”
She picked up the data disk and stood.
“There is someone I want you to find for me. Do this, and you are free to go your way . . . until I need you again.”
Scarn stiffened. “That’s a plague planet,” he snarled. “You’re insane.”
The woman looked down at him. “Hardly—and you’ve no say in the matter. However, if it eases your mind, you’ll be given an antibiotic serum, properly blessed to deal with the Warp taint of the disease. This should protect you long enough to acquire the man I want. Your odds won’t be too bad . . . certainly better than they’ll be if you refuse to go.”
“In other words, I don’t have much choice,” Scarn said.
“The Inquisition always gets its way,” the Inquisitor said. She turned and walked out without looking back, leaving Scarn to ponder how his life would never be the same again.
Top artwork: The “Danse macabre” by Michael Wolgemut, published in 1493.
TheGM: This story is essentially a prologue to a Shadow Wars: Armageddon fight that I’ll soon post.
My local Games Workshop store has a wonderful Shadow Wars/Necromunda terrain table, covered with the incredible industrial terrain that Games Workshop has released. I needed an excuse to put this table to the test, so I decided to come up with a narrative story that provide a setting for a game.
I pondered sending Lady Serillian to raid the Tau-occupied Decora Mining Base or pitting my Knights of Altair against orks in an embattled manufactorum on Hegira. But, as I’d recently introduced Scarn to the Corvus Cluster—and I had a hankering to see some action on plague-inflicted Dozaria—I came up with the idea of a rescue operation.
The scenario, which I’m calling “The Reluctant Rescue,” will be fought soon—and I’ll share that battle report soon. (It’s now up. Click here.)
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our wargaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.