‘Follow,’ was all the servo-skull blurted out of the small vox protruding from its mouth and started to hover away. Venk told as he was bid. A set of large, unadorned doors opened with a pneumatic hiss. Prefectorium level 07, similar to the Ordinatorium sub level where Venk was stationed, was honeycombed with rows and rows of walled-off compartments, at four by four metres, they were just slightly bigger.
Adepts were continuously brought to and taken from the compartments where the prefecti passed their sanctions. Some were taken away by armed guards, many crying, some with futile attempts to escape their captors. Venk’s guiding servo-skull stopped before the ninth compartment in the seventh row.
Venk didn’t know the prefectus. The man behind the desk was scrawny, with a hawkish face, and he didn’t look up from his cogitator as Venk was ushered in by the servo-skull.
‘Sit.’ The prefectus waved to the only chair in the middle of the compartment. The servo-skull drifted on and hovered above his right shoulder, facing Venk.
‘State your name and designation.’
‘Hanlon Venk, Sir. Ordinatus senioris, Octa Departmento, Officio Assassinorum.’ It was quite warm here, wasn’t it? Venk felt a pearl of sweat slowly running down his face.
The servo-skull’s oculus refocussed and clicked twice; in affirmation, Venk assumed. The prefectus made a note.
‘State your function within Octa Departmento.’
‘I’m, uh, I’m relaying orders, the Officio’s orders, to…’
‘The Emperor’s orders, Ordinatus,’ interrupted the prefectus, making another note.
‘Yes, yes, of course, I’m relaying the Emperor’s orders to our, I mean His operatives stationed in the segmentum tempestus,’ Venk quickly corrected himself. Definitely too warm, hot even. Oddly enough, the prefectus seemed undisturbed.
Another double click by the servo-skull. The prefectus pulled up a new file on his cogitator.
‘On 0258013.M42, you sent a missive to the cryo-ship EX-145/2 in the Nabataar system. The Holy Emperor had decreed the Governor of nearby Elladax Secundus excommunicate traitoris. With support by renegade elements of the planetary garrison, local forces of the Adeptus Arbites were either incapacitated or had defected, the Ecclesiarchy replaced by a heretic cult, installing the Governor in a position of worship. In order to both eradicate the apostate with his cabal and quell any future separatist thoughts in the system, the fist of the Emperor’s wrath was to be an agent of clade Eversor. The Emperor expected you to provide the EX-145/2 with the target coordinates.’ The prefectus was facing Venk now. ‘Your calculations were flawed, and the EX-145/2 launched a cryo-crypt on Elladax Prime instead. The fist strikes where the arm guides it, Ordinatus.’
At this point, Venk was surprised there was even any perspiration left in him. The servo-skull switched from its clicking noises to more of a buzzing sound. The prefectus consulted his cogitator again.
‘The asset made planetfall at a mining complex on Elladax Prime at four-thirty-six terran standard. Bastion Elladax received a distress call about a ‘monster from the deep’ at five-o-four terran standard and dispatched a squad of enforcers. Contact was lost shortly after they entered the mining complex. Four additional enforcer squads supported by sanctioner-pattern automatons were sent as reinforcements. Another three squads were eradicated, but the survivors report how they ‘wounded the monster, until it suddenly exploded.’ In addition to the 42 imperial enforcers, it had eradicated the entire night shift. 837 miners, 62 watchmen, 319 class III industrial servitors, 41 class II industrial servitors and 3 macro servitors.’
Venk’s mouth was dry like it was filled with ash. The compartment around him began to spin.
‘No interjections, Ordinatus. 941 imperial citizens dead, the destruction of valuable material supplied by the Adeptus Mechanicus and the loss of a major industrial operation on Elladax Prime, terror sown among its wider population and, more importantly, the administrative cadres and merchant houses. Your actions have cost the Imperium dearly. The apostate on Elladax Secundus, however remains, of course, unscathed.’
Venk shivered. Had it always been this cold here?
‘Ordinatus Venk, the Holy Emperor decrees that for your inaptitude, you are to be demoted to Ordinatus junioris, Theta Departmento.’
Venk’s heart skipped a beat. He had seen his life flash before his eyes. But he knew he might only have delayed the inevitable. Working in Theta Departmento was infamous within the Officio Assassinorum as particularly unforgiving, and Venk would be under intense scrutiny from now on.
‘Yes, Sir. I understand, Sir.’ Venk was eager to leave the prefectorium and shifted uncomfortably on his chair.
‘Coming to your second transgression, Ordinatus.’
‘My… my second transgression?’ Venk’s face had lost all colour. At this point, two armed guards entered the compartment and took position on either side.
‘You have wasted one of the blessed agents of the Officio Assassinorum, thereby depriving the Holy Emperor of a tool of his wrath. Taking what belongs to the Holy Emperor accounts to the highest treason. Sadly your talents are not nearly sufficient to replace the servant you have taken from Him, but you shall serve as best you can instead. The Holy Emperor hereby sentences you to Servitude Imperpituis.’
Having only waited to hear this, the guards stepped forward, each gripping one arm, carrying Venk away.
He was one of the ones who wept.
About the Author
Justus Ackermann fell in love with the Warhammer universe in 1996. A geneticist by training, he left research and started writing science fiction / fantasy / horror in 2019. He lives in Cologne, Germany.