Sergeant Caleb gazed out into the inky abyss. Frore, the world he stood on only days ago, was now just a puncture wound of shimmering blue light. He held a stub round up against the window and watched the planet shrink into nothingness. A bullet bigger than a planet – he thought to himself – why Caleb, that almost sounds profound.
He looked over his shoulder at the entrance to the command bridge. Great bronze doors loomed over him, vault-like in construction and lavishly decorated. A grand mural engraved into it depicts a scene of copper-coloured warriors laying waste to warlocks and sorcerers. The voidship’s name is carved into marble – the Bronze Harvest.
Caleb hated void travel. The constant noise and alarms, having to suck down someone’s recycled stink breath and the terrifyingly thin skin that separates twenty thousand souls from a horrifying, unnatural end. He found himself tapping on the plas-glass with the bullet. Just how hard would he have to hit it to break it?
“Missing home already, Sergeant?” An impossibly calm, soft voice cut through the chaff of noise from the great voidship. It chilled Caleb to his core.
He span on his heels. Down the corridor strode a tall, cloaked figure, moving effortlessly and silently. His face was skull-like – his skin pale and sallow, his eyes sunken and his head completely hairless. He was the visage of death. Not the violent, bloodthirsty, screaming death that all guardsmen knew. No, this was the death they all feared – the one that came swiftly and silently in the night.
The figure wiped a bead of sweat from his brow with a long, bony finger, producing a tall peaked cap from the recesses of his cloak and placing it carefully on his head.
Caleb mustered a salute and pushed out the bare minimum of respectful greetings through gritted teeth. “Commissar.”
By now the Commissar had glided gracefully next to the Sergeant and stared out the window alongside him. His eyes were as dark as the void, but with no glimmer of light in the distance.
“So good of you to join us to keep us updated on your failures,” The Commissar spoke in deafeningly hushed tones. “It’s always better to soften the blow in person, mm?”
“Powers damn it Jeremiah, it was a trap and you know it!” Caleb snapped, “You’ve read the reports!
“Aahh yes.” The Commissar began tapping on the window with his forefinger. It made the same noise as the bullet. “The reports that say you were surprised not once, but twice by the same acolytes, and while they were wearing their Sunday Best, no less.”
“By the Saints, do you think I don’t know what’s at stake here?” Caleb was seething. “Don’t you think that if I’d had even just a handful of my Ultraviolet cell instead of those Borzoi Hiver cretins I’d have cleared house and secured the Pattern? Why, if I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought someone was setting me up to fai-”
A deep boom issues from behind them, drowning the Sergeant out. They both turn to watch the elaborate series of locks and bolts disengage with the percussive tempo of a marching band. With a shudder, one of the doors opens a sliver.
A young girl steps out, barely in her twenties, dressed in an immaculately pressed Navy Officer’s uniform. She holds herself like a woman twice her age and four times her experience and addresses them both.
“Sergeant Caleb, Commissar Krell, the Inquisitor will see you now.”