4.5/5 (1)

The clouds burned as God forced its way through the atmosphere. He watched with awe, she watched with fear. He was Quinnus, Magus of the Congregation of the Exalted Sun, and she was Arbites Helena, of Cambridge Hive, 3rd Precinct. 

Moments ago they’d been at one another’s throats, Helena’s lasgun blasting a chunky, dripping hole in Quinnus’ side, and Quinnus’ bone blade hurried deep in her shoulder. Corpses of their seconds lay strewn around them. Cultists and troopers alike fell in a fever dream of a battle that had lasted weeks. Quinnus and Helena had spent most of their lives plotting one another’s downfall. Starting small with arrests and investigations, slowly gaining momentum and becoming assassination attempts, bombings, poisonings and any number of other underhanded tactics. 

Helena had risen through the ranks of the Arbites by exposing the Exalted Sun as a power-hungry criminal empire. Their true nature always eluded her; she’d never heard the word Tyranid, and had no comprehension of what terrible secret lay beyond the cult. For that matter neither did Quinnus. He only knew he served a greater purpose. Driven by God’s imminent arrival, he upped his cat-and-mouse game with the Arbites into a full blown war. Helena welcomed the violence. If the Congregation wanted war, it only meant she’d be able to kill them more openly. 

The final gambit of the Arbites drew the bulk of the cultists to an abandoned enclave overlooking the hive city. Thinking this to be an emergency governance bunker, they were greeted with the full force of the Arbites’ hardened soldier-police. Far from the hive, this battleground gave the rivals a perfect view of the Tyranid arrival. Here they both stood, weapons now hanging at their sides. The righteous fury that once drove them both shrank before the vision of a bio-ship blanketing the cityscape in shadow and fire. 

‘So you’ve won?’ Helena wondered aloud.

‘Apparently,’ said Quinnus, who couldn’t take his eyes off the arrival. 

Her helmet weighed heavy. Her displays blinked crimson and amber warning runes, updated casualty lists, and inscribed reports of horrors as the things from the sky began to consume her world. She reached to her jawline and unclipped her support strap, allowing the helm of office to slide from her brow and casually drop to the blood-strewn ground. It landed softly, mud loosely splashing over her Adeptus Arbites badge. 

‘Would you – would you like to sit?’ she asked in all sincerity. ‘Can we just talk?’ 

The oddity of the request was startling. Quinnus assumed it was a ploy. Humans did so love to struggle in the face of hopelessness. He turned, tensed and ready for combat, only to be greeted by her sad, smiling face. Matted sweat stained hair flowing in the wind. Her eyes were dark. He’d never seen them before, never seen her without her helm. There was a vulnerability he never could have expected. Most of all, maybe the strangest offer in a galaxy, whose engine runs on the eternal wheel of blood – peace

‘I want to understand you before I die,’ she said. 

‘Of course,’ he acquiesced. 


The stim injection hissed, her skin sizzled as the med-spray sealed her wound with superheated foam. She offered her medical kit to Quinnus, who waved it away. 

‘Hell of a wound to just walk off. What are you? Mutant? Xenos?’ she asked.

‘Xenos I assume. I am just one small part of the godhead.’ 

‘Never took you for a true believer, thought you were a conman.’ She watched him flinch – that seemed to wound Quinnus. He paused, considering how best to respond. 

‘How were you selected for your position, Arbites?’ he wondered.

‘I was genebred for traits that favoured law and order. Then proved myself through deed and devotion to the Lex Imperialis.’ She tried to take pride in that statement. She failed. 

‘Ah, we’re alike. I was designed to love the godhead and spirit this world to ascension.’ He saw the defeat in her eyes and tried to cheer her up. ‘I do find it beautiful that even the non-believer will be rewarded. All the fighting we did over the years, you’ll ascend right along with me.’

‘When you say… ascend. You mean?’

‘We will be rendered down to base matter and absorbed into the godhead to be reconstituted as other more perfect beings.’ The joy in his voice shook her to her core.

‘What about free will? Even you have to understand that not everyone wants… this.’ She waved her hand at the violence playing out before them. 

‘Enlightenment is… compulsory. But don’t tell me your Imperium is any freer. You’re a lawgiver, an enforcer. Your office is proof that you don’t believe in free will, you bully and butcher others to follow your Lex Imperialis. The godhead does the same but in a cleaner, more peaceful way.’

‘I can hear the screams from here, Quinnus.’ 

‘Oh yes, there’s violence now. Your way would see terror spread across generations without end. Your children and their children would all suffer and die in darkness. With ascension, you and I will become part of beings that know harmony, and peace. We’ll work together, our children will sing with a single voice. In time the entirety of this galaxy will sing with them. And then, it will be saved… Does that help you understand the gift we bring?’

‘You’ve just found fancy words to explain to me that I’ll be eaten and die.’

His lip quivered. Her hatred cut him deep. Quinnus reached out, gently touching her hand, taking it as a preacher would in prayer with a congregant. 

‘I know you don’t believe, Arbites, but we’re the heroes of this story. We’re the saviours of this galaxy… And we love you.’

The world darkened above them as a swarm of white acidic grubs descended. They tore the Arbites apart from the inside out. Quinnus never let go of her hand, he truly hoped she’d find peace in the godhead. 

About the Author

Noah Miller is a writer/director/animator from Los Angeles, CA. You can see more of their work, on including the short film, Alien: Alone from the 40th Anniversary Alien Celebration.