I was dying, this I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt. I was very, very old. Almost all my long life had been dedicated to the Golden Throne as one of His holy agents, and such a life had taken its toll. I reclined not in a hospice bed nor was I tended by a medicae as there was precious little flesh left of my organic body to be healed and comforted. I was jacked into a vertical reliquary not unlike a coffin, hundreds of wires and leads threaded from my uncountable bionics into the humming data looms and cogitators that filled the dark mausoleum.
Hunched and robed, Magos Jegdreth the Heretek buzzed a low binary chant, like myself he was more machine than man.
'You are dying.' He says to me for the hundredth time in a blurt of machine sound. I don't respond, I don't need to we both know it. I sigh, or my automated respiratory filters go through the approximation of a sigh as I allow my mind to float free of my mortal shell.
It's a ghastly thing I can see myself from my new perspective, my head is a jumble of wires, lenses and vox speakers set in a facial plate molded to resemble a silver skull perched on a neck of hoses and armored panels. I am vaguely embarrassed by how tarnished it had become. Of my arms and legs there is no sign, at least not about my person they're detached and sitting on Jegdreth's desk, all six of them.
My naked torso is an unsightly collection of interfaces, spooled wires and blinking lights. It would usually be covered by a segmented armor plate, but it, along with many critical components that had taken the place of my real organs over the years had been destroyed.
I watched my body twitch, watched the silvery spinal column arch as if in pain, frost flowers bloomed around the dark sockets that replaced my eyes.
I am not a powerful psyker, but I am capable enough. Like a ghost, I move through the bulkhead before me and find my way to the observation deck where my team waits for me.
They are without a doubt the most hopeless collection of misfits I have ever laid eyes on, but I would have them no other way. There is Sergeant Jessik still in her old blue schemed camo sitting on an overturned ammo crate staring vacantly down at her feet chain-smoking her ever-present Iho sticks. She could do that for hours until someone gave her something to do and when given a task she carried it out with an implacable will. Such behavior made most believe her to be slow, or downright stupid but I knew better.
Playing cards together on the bare steel table in the middle of the room is Horst and Sid, hive gangers, thugs of the worst kind with acid tats and piercings, they're good at killing things, they call me boss.
Standing off to one side medicae Horki leaned against the bulkhead reading from a dataslate. Horki was a gifted doctor if not an unassuming one and a convicted murderer.
Moving on I find Rolf sitting alone in his quarters. He's huge, monstrous in his power armor, inscrutable, unmovable, a perfect killing machine. His armor is grey unpainted without sign or sigil, Chapterless, brotherless Rolf is a cast off, a fluke, a failed Astartes bitter and full of hate. As minor a psyker as I am I can taste the poisonous taint of self-loathing and despair that hangs about him like a dark cloud.
Ghosting through the darkened corridors, I find my interrogator sitting in an alcove reading the data streams cycled throughout the ship from the command deck. As weak as I am, I still feel a pang of regret; Vesh has been my interrogator for a long time…too long. Loyal and immensely capable he still displays too much of the radical for my liking. I had hoped he would have learned restraint and control under my tutelage but alas…
As extra aware of my surroundings as I am in my disembodied state Faust still makes me start with surprise. Perched in the ductwork overhead he is motionless and all but invisible. Albino in the extreme the mutant stares straight at me with inhumanly wide blind pink eyes; his enormous ribbed ears are standing on end vibrating almost imperceptibly. Long lank white hair partially obscures his lean ratty face. He sees me, or he's at least aware of my presence, I can tell by the way the quills slowly extend from his knobby spine.
+Faust+ I project suddenly feeling weak and more insubstantial than ever. He cocks his head and slowly blinks; I can see veins in his ears fill with blood and his emaciated thin chest swell with the first breath he'd taken since I'd noticed him. +Tell the others to come to me+
Retreating back into myself, I experience a wave of pain gnawing into my brain as I sink into my ruined body but it subsides quickly enough.
"Magos, my limbs." I say through my vox speakers, the damaged casters turn the words into a toneless growl. Jegdreth knew better than to argue as he reconnected my arms and legs allowing me to pull myself sluggishly to my feet. I hurt all over, old, old ghost pains, warning icons flash before my artificial eyes, I felt myself shutting down one system, one component at a time.
Jessik was the first in the room; she'd stubbed the end of her Iho stick out and tucked it behind her ear. She gave me a smart salute before moving aside to allow the others inside, all of them nodded or grunted a greeting save for Rolf who simply stood in the doorway with his arms crossed. Only Faust was not present, but I knew he would be able to hear everything said whether he was in the room or not.
"It's not been an easy year." I croak tonelessly, mechanically. Chasing radical heretic Claudia Dolkova and her followers across the terrible darkness of the Ghoul Stars had taken its toll on all of us and there was more than one face absent from the gathering, Throne curse that vile woman. I wanted very much to give my brave band of misfits some hope, but unfortunately as is all too often the case I had very little to offer.
"I know you all have fought hard and we've lost some friends along the way but…" I hesitate over my words as my own bitterness chokes me. "I feel it is time we turned back for civilization to refit and rearm."
"No!" shouted Vesh suddenly and violently startling even me "Master Amida no!" he cries standing up straight from where he'd leaned against the rust streaked bulkhead. "There is too much left undone! We are hot on the heels of our quarry we need only press on!"
"The boss is right boy, we're all done in." grunts Horst, Sid beside him nods in agreement.
"Master!" says Vesh imploringly ignoring the two muscle bound gangsters. I shake my head and again feel the phantom pains of regret in my soul.
"No, Vesh, we are far, far and away from the Emperors Light out here, our navigator is hard pressed to find the way back, much less the way forward, the ship is damaged badly and we've less than half the compliment of men we'd started with. Claudia Emperor damn her empty soul might be within our grasp but at this point…" I trail off with a helpless shrug, my damaged metal body moving with the clicks and whirrs of servos and gears. Vesh struggled to contain himself, his face was florid and his fists were clenched tight at his sides.
"Master!" he hissed through clenched teeth. I cut him off with a gesture and a shake of my head.
"It is my decision to make; I have already ordered Captain Fargew to make for the closest imperial world." I don't want to tell them that my decision is so that I might contact the Ordos and debrief them on all that has transpired before I expire. It's galling, but I am forced to admit it will not be my team and I who finally brings Claudia to justice, but I can insure that those who do are as well informed as possible.
Vesh stormed out of the room snarling curses under his breath and I dismissed the others in kind not wanting to feel their disappointment or relief either was just as unwelcome to me.
"Jegdreth let me sleep." I say aloud to the heritek who had never ceased his work upon the machines around me keeping me alive.
"Yes. Sleep." Says the Magos in a rare use of spoken gothic. I nearly thank him, I nearly relax, preparing myself for the cold comfort of iron sleep but then Jegdreths iron clawed servo arm is plunging through my torso. Pain screams through my body but I am now too damaged to speak, my mind cries out anyway, shocked and betrayed, reaching out desperately my mind bushes against the chill of the hereitks consciousness and all is made clear to me.
+Vesh…you poor fool….+ I whisper into the void as death rises up to claim me at last.