4.5/5 (1)

‘Come on,’ Jakob whispered. ‘Come on. Come on.’

It was all he could do to stop himself screaming. To stop himself from throwing down his tools. To stop himself from getting started. 

His grip, slick with nervous sweat, slipped as he fought to tighten a particularly stubborn bolt, sending his spanner clattering to the ground. The sound was deafening, despite the hum and thud of industry that surrounded him. He cursed his clumsiness as he bent to pick it up, then let out a dry snort of laughter. It was ridiculous that he still wanted to be productive, to meet his quota, considering what was about to happen.

‘What’s got into you today, Jakob?’

His heart leapt as he turned and saw one of the Overseers approaching. It was Zarya. One of the good ones, he thought. He didn’t hate Zarya. He didn’t hate any of the Overseers if he was honest with himself, but he hated what they represented. What she represented. 

‘It’s nothing,’ he answered, keeping his eyes downcast and clenching his fists to stop himself lashing out. Not until the signal is given, he reminded himself. Patience. You’ve waited a lifetime for this. 

A lifetime of choking on factory fumes. Of soul-crushing shifts, day-in-day-out. His life and ambitions stolen by an uncaring conveyor belt of time and human lives that did nothing but uphold the rich and powerful. How is that fair?

He was constantly told by those fat pigs in the Ecclesiarchy to give thanks to the God-Emperor, but what did he have to be thankful for?  That he spent his life shuffling between work and his cramped hab-block? That he spooned mouthfuls of tasteless nutrient paste into his mouth just to stay alive? That the blast from a factory forge had blinded his best friend at the age of twelve? That he’d seen his brother lose an arm to one of the ever-hungry machines? Bile rose in Jakob’s throat as he remembered the screams and the sound of his brother’s socket being ripped open by the remorseless cogs.

‘Have a break,’ said Zarya. ‘You’re a good worker. I’ll cover you for five minutes. Go get a lho-stick or some recaf.’

Jakob felt tears in the corners of his eyes. Yes, he’d feel sorry for Zarya. She didn’t deserve what was about to happen. But a long overdue change was on its way.

The lights went out, pitching the room into complete darkness. Just for a second. Then the emergency generators kicked in and bathed the world in a deep red.  To Jakob’s eyes, the colour gave everything a promise of violence.

‘What’s going on?’ Zarya asked, looking up towards their level’s office.

‘The Truth!’

Jakob smiled as he heard the words. That was the symbol. He looked into Zarya’s confused eyes and tightened his grip on his spanner. He truly felt sorry for her, but some part of him, some part deep inside, was looking forward to this.

Zarya stepped back, hands reaching for her baton. The baton Jakob had never seen her use. But it was too late. He swung his spanner.

It connected with her jaw, throwing her to the floor. Jakob felt blood splatter against his skin, as well as something harder. Teeth, maybe. Panting with barely suppressed rage, Jakob stared down at the stricken Overseer. Her hands clasped her broken jaw, eyes wide with shock, pain and fear.

‘The Truth!’ he screamed. His blood sang at the release of action. The Truth would come to their world now. The Brotherhood would make sure of it. He raised the spanner above his head, then brought it down again. 

And again. And again. And again. 




Nihla stared at the carnage below. In a few seconds, the manufactorum floor – her manufactorum floor – had gone from quiet, efficient order to utter madness. Where she should have felt her chest fill with quiet pride at the worker’s productivity, she felt nothing but horror. Everywhere she looked, her eyes took in nothing but acts of sickening violence as they jumped from bloody story to bloody story.

An Overseer fighting tooth-and-nail as he was dragged towards a piece of giant machinery. His protests turned to a high-pitched scream as a hand was caught between two cogs. Blood splattered his panicked face as his arm disappeared within the grinding mechanisms.

A guard being hung from a chain, legs kicking wildly, face a peculiar shade of purple as a dark patch spread from his crotch. A group of workers danced below, jeering and laughing as they took it in turns to haul on the chain that strangled the guard. 

A woman in welding overalls cackled as she fired a guard’s gun into the air, the rubber pellets ricocheting from the metal rafters. The previous owner lay limply at her feet, blood pooling around his head, hair matted and thick. 

Yet for all the horror in these acts, Nihla’s eyes kept returning to one particular scene. Her beloved Zarya. Tears trickled down her cheeks as she watched the giant brute beat her to a bloody mess. He was still beating away at her, even now as she lay lifeless, bellowing like a bull. 

She’d had plans with Zarya. They’d had plans. They’d moved in together. She’d gotten Zarya the promotion to Overseer. They’d been building a future. Now that was all gone. Her heart screamed at the realisation. She hadn’t thought a heart could physically hurt from sadness, but she’d been wrong. God-Emperor, she’d been wrong. 

‘There she is!’ The words snatched her mind from drowning in a sea of misery. She looked towards the sound of boots ringing on the metal walkway that led to her office. Half a dozen men stalked towards her. She couldn’t make out any of their words, their hatred had turned them into little more than howls of rage. They reminded her of the packs of rabid dogs that ran amok in the more dilapidated neighbourhoods of the hive. What have I done to deserve such hatred? 

Slamming the lockdown button by the door, Nihla ducked and crawled towards her desk. She knew it was a stupid response, they’d seen her already, but she didn’t know what else to do. This can’t be happening. This can’t be happening. That single thought ran endlessly through her mind as she curled up beneath her desk.

Fists thumped against the glass window of her office door. They’d reached her quicker than she’d expected. They must have started running as soon as I ducked down, she realised. She knew she had to escape. God-Emperor, she had to escape. Her breaths were loud now. Snatched and panicked like some hunted animal. 

‘Let us in, Darlin’,’ called one of the men. He sounded surprisingly calm to Nihla. Unlike the others and their wordless bellows. ‘You make this easy,’ came the voice again, ‘and we’ll be gentle with you. Promise.’ Howls of laughter followed.

Nihla peeked out from her desk, eyes desperately searching for a way out. Any way out. Her eyes settled briefly on the office windows before a heavy, repeated thud caused her to look back at the door. A sea of faces, each twisted into a mask of rage, greeted her. 

What have I done to deserve such hate?

One man, a giant with a tattooed fist crossed by twin lightning bolts at his shaved temple and muscles bulging from beneath a black shirt, smashed a two-handed hammer into the glass. Again, and again, and again. Yet no crack appeared. Another joined him, their twin hammers beating out a staccato rhythm, but to no avail. 

Reinforced glass. The thought came to Nihla, giving her the briefest glimmer of hope. But it died as soon as she looked back towards her planned escape route. The office windows were likely made from the same material, she realised. Her stomach sank. She’d never have the strength to break out that way.

Tears streamed. Ragged sobs erupted from her chest as she hugged her knees tight. How will I die? she wondered. Will the rioters break through eventually? Will my death be like Zarya’s? Quick, but brutal. Or will the doorway hold? Will I starve, even as my anguish and nerves gnaw away my sanity? 

She stopped rocking. Her eyes settled on something new. An air vent. Could I crawl through that? She was only a few storeys up. It would hurt to fall to the ground, but she knew she should survive. Maybe with a broken rib or a twisted ankle. 

Nihla took a deep breath, feeling the sense of helplessness wash away. I can do something. I can at least try to escape. She pushed herself out from under the desk and stepped towards the air vent.

‘You givin’ up?’ came that same voice again.

Nihla ignored it, ignored everything behind her. She could hear that the hammering had stopped as she grabbed her chair and propped it against the wall.

‘Where you goin’?’ The voice sounded angry now. ‘You better open this door, right fuckin’ now!’ it screamed, as Nihla stepped onto her chair. The hammering started again, more frantic this time. Lacking the rhythm of earlier.

Nihla almost cried as her fingers wrapped around the vent’s metal grille and felt it shift in her grip. With a single hard tug, it fell away. 

Howls of rage followed her as she dragged herself up into the air vent. To safety.




Mika clutched her rusted knife as she watched the woman scramble to her feet. It was one of the Overseers, or even someone more senior, perhaps. That’s strange, Mika thought. No one came into her alleyway. That was why she liked it. That was why she’d made her home there. Sure, she suffered from constant headaches now, but the exhaust fumes keep people away.

Just a few more years. That was what she kept reminding herself. Just a few more years of life on the streets. That was what Father Adolphus said. The old priest was a kind soul. The Ministorum Orphanage he ran was full, but he still made sure there was food for her if she turned up. Just a few more years until she could join the PDF. Get proper food. Wear a uniform. Have a roof over her head. 

Mika could see the woman was limping badly now as she hobbled towards the end of the alleyway. She clasped a hand to her ribs as sobs echoed between the narrow walls of the alley.

‘Please be quiet,’ Mika whispered to herself. The woman’s cries would attract others, those that preyed on weakness. And they were the last people she wanted in her alley. 

The Overseer paused for a second, leaning heavily against the wall, and glanced back. Her face briefly caught the light of a flickering lumen and a spark of recognition hit Mika. She’d seen this lady before, holding one of the other Overseer’s hands. How had she ended up down here? Mika wondered. How had she been injured?

Mika clambered to her feet and crept after the wounded Overseer, keeping to the shadows. Staying unseen, staying away from trouble, had always been her best weapon on streets Hive Accus. Yet, this time, she knew her curiosity had gotten the better of her.

The woman set off again, her limp became more pronounced with each step. Should I help her? Mika asked herself, compassion warring with hard-earned lessons from years on the streets.

Yet it was what Father Adolphus would want. He always said charity for your fellow man is the best service to the Emperor. It was what her mother and father would have wanted too. She was sure of it, even as tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and she fought to suppress those long-buried memories. She tried not to think of her old life, of what she’d lost.

Mika tucked her knife back away beneath the thread-bare folds of her cloak and ran forward. ‘I can help,’ she called. The Overseer flinched at the sound of her voice, her hands lashing out as Mika tried to take some of her weight. ‘I can help,’ she repeated, even as the Overseer stumbled into the street and fell. 

Mika followed her out of her alleyway, but kept her distance now. ‘I can help. There’s a medicae centre not far from here.’

The woman looked up at her, meeting Mika’s gaze. Her eyes were wide with fear and rimmed red from crying. ‘Please… leave me… alone,’ she sobbed. ‘It’s not… safe… to help me.’

Mika took a step back, her guts twisting at the woman’s words. What have I got myself into? she chided herself. Stay silent. Stay unseen. Those were your rules, you fool. 

Shouting broke out further down the street. Workers began to spill out from the Manufactorum. Despite her promise to help, Mika shrank further away from the Overseer, back into the shadows of her alley. Rage twisted the worker’s faces and most carried tools gripped tightly in clenched fists. Mika saw wrenches and hammers splattered with blood, and she realised they’d become weapons. One worker even carried a welding torch. Mika flinched at the thought of what that could do.

‘Please… No… No’ sobbed the Overseer, tears streaming, chest violently jerking as ragged sobs flooded from her lips. Laughter was her only reply as the workers surrounded her. Mika pressed herself against the wall of her alleyway, making herself as small as possible, unable to tear her eyes from the drama unfolding before her.

A man, dressed all in black and lacking the protective clothing meant to keep workers safe, pushed his way through the crowd. He stopped where Mika guessed the Overseer would be. 

Mika saw he bore a strange tattoo on his temple: a black fist crossed by lightning bolts. She recognised the symbol. The Brotherhood of the Truth.

They’d approached her months ago, talking of corruption in the Ecclesiarchy and how the Emperor would be sickened to witness the modern Imperium. They spoke of how he cared for all of humanity, not just the rich and powerful.

They’d asked her to spy for them, to use her connection with Father Adolphus to learn more about the cathedral layout. It had seemed like easy money, but she hadn’t been able to do it. She owed too much, too Father Adolphus’ kindness.  

She’d feared they would be angry, but they’d only smiled sadly and left her with parcels of food and drink anyway. She’d prayed for their souls that night, asking the Emperor to forgive their heresy. 

But now they scared her. Now they seemed dangerous.

 The member of the Brotherhood held a small autopistol in the air and fired. The crowd fell silent. Mika flinched at the violent shock of the sound. The Overseer’s terrified pleas, desperate prayers to the Emperor for mercy, were all she could hear now. 

‘Let her go,’ she whispered, joining her prayers with the doomed Overseer’s. ‘Please, God-Emperor, just let her go.’

A second crack of the autopistol shattered her hopes. Mika wanted to cry, wanted to shout, but instead bit down on her lip to stop herself. Stay silent. Stay unseen, she reminded herself. 

Then the crowd cheered. More gunshots rang out. Workers stamped their feet and raucous cries filled the air. Mika screwed her eyes shut, wishing it would all stop. Praying this was nothing but a nightmare.

‘Bring out the Governor!’

‘Down with the Ecclesiarchy!’  

‘The Truth!’

Their cries melted together to form a single, savage chorus. It mixed with the sound of a thousand footsteps and seemed to echo in Mika’s ears for an eternity until, eventually, it began to fade. Only then did she open her eyes. Only then did she crawl out from the shadows and peer into the now deserted street.

The woman she’d seen in her alley lay in the centre. Her body was trampled, crushed beneath the boots of hundreds – maybe thousands – but Mika knew that wasn’t what had killed her. She’d heard the gunshot. Now, she saw the evidence. A neat, bloody circle in the centre of her forehead.

A necklace peeked out from the woman’s robes. Mika bent down and yanked it off with a single tug. It was a simple metal Aquila, inscribed with three words – Nihla & Zarya.

Mika folded the pendant into the Overseer’s hands, wrapping her broken fingers around its edges. Whoever Nihla was, whoever Zarya was, the amulet had meant something to them. She wouldn’t take that from them, not now. 

She looked down the street towards the last stragglers of the riot. Flames flickered from windows. Cries of pain and fear could be heard, mingling with the increasingly faint chanting.

Someone has to stop this madness, Mika thought. Someone has to warn the Arbities. Or even the PDF. 

She smiled as she realised that she could be the one to do it. She could be the hero that saved Hive Accus. That saved the Hive’s soul.




Sergeant Detlaf Weer swallowed nervously as he watched the crowd approach. By the Emperor, he thought, there are a lot of them. A lot more than he had expected. They filled the wide avenue that ran through the centre of the Hive, running back as far as the eye could see. 

Detlaf pulled at the immaculately ironed collar of his uniform, desperate to get some air as his mind raced through all the possibilities of what was about to happen. 

He glanced at the hastily erected sandbag barrier that lay between the rioters and the holy Ecclesiarchal grounds behind. He watched the nervous faces of the soldiers huddled behind them. All so young. Half are barely old enough to shave, he thought as he scratched at the stubble on his chin.

He looked back at the approaching crowd. Their platoon, rushed down here when the first reports of unrest had come through, didn’t seem like enough to stop this. What can thirty men do against all those?

A single figure, wearing all black and branded by a tattoo on their temple, stepped forward from the mass of bodies and raised a hand. The rioters came to a slow halt, barely more than a couple of hundred metres from the thin line of soldiers. Silence settled across the scene.

A member of The Brotherhood of The Truth. Detlaf held his breath at the sight of one of the revolt’s leaders. He knew far too much about their cause. Far more than he should.

In truth, he felt like he had more in common with these people, ordinary workers and citizens of the Imperium, than those he protected. He could sympathise with their frustrations. He had even been to a few of the Brotherhood’s secret meetings.

In all honesty, he’d never been quite sure what to make of what was said at those gatherings. How could the Emperor not be a god? How could he be just a man? But he was sure the Emperor would hate the way the Ecclesiarchy suppressed the masses here on Sanctura – any god who cared for his followers would. 

‘Soldiers of Sanctura.’ The Brother’s voice carried easily across the distance between the two forces. ‘You are our fellow citizens. Our families. Our friends.’ He paused and took two more steps forward, arms spread wide. ‘I ask you to stand aside and let The Truth enlighten you. Our quarrel is with that nest of rats in the Ecclesiarchy.’

The platoon’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Johaan van Glokk, stepped forward from beside Detlaf in response. Detlaf forced himself to suppress a sneer of contempt. Throughout his twenty plus years of service, he’d know plenty of officers. Good and bad. Lieutenant van Glokk was about as bad as they came. 

He perfectly represented the corruption and decadence of Sanctura’s and Hive Accus’ ruling classes. Born to the right family, van Glokk was a hopeless officer, yet he would inevitably rise to the very top of society. While Detlaf knew he, despite a lifetime of service, sweat and blood, would never see even a fraction of his commanding officer’s wealth and success. 

‘Guardsmen!’ screamed the young noble, his voice almost stereotypically thin and weedy. ‘Ready!’

Detlaf heard a thin rustle as the other soldiers raised their lasrifles tentatively. Their training and instincts overriding their fear. He felt proud of them then, despite the stupidity of what was about to happen.

This is the moment, he thought. I’ve got to make my choice now. He wasn’t a true believer in The Truth, but he knew things couldn’t carry on the way they were – and here could make a difference, here and now. 

Van Glokk raised his sabre, apparently oblivious to what was going on behind him. Detlef stared at his commanding officer in disbelief. That bastard’s about to get us all killed.

‘Guardsmen!’ Van Glokk paused for a second. Detlaf swore he could feel the tension in the air. The Lieutenant’s raised arm dropped, his sabre slicing the air. ‘Fire!’

Nothing happened. 

Sergeant Detlef Weer let out a heavy sigh of relief and closed his eyes for a second, thanking the Emperor that no one had been fool enough to actually shoot. 

Lieutenant van Glokk turned to look back at the line of soldiers. His confusion was clear in his gaze as it wandered from soldier to soldier before finally settling on Detlef. ‘Sergeant?’ he said, the young noble’s typically weak jaw practically flapping as he spoke. ‘I said fire’. 

Detlef despised him then. Who is this pampered prick with his fine voice and impeccable manners to order these men and women killed? To order good citizens of the Imperium shot for wanting nothing more than a better life? 

He’d never disobeyed a order before, but he figured there had to be a first time for everything.

‘No,’ he said and raised his lasrifle. He squeezed the trigger and watched van Glokk fall to the floor, his jawline a bloody ruin. The Lieutenant’s sabre, which likely cost more than he’d earn in a lifetime, clattered against the hard ground.

Fat lot of good that fancy sword did you, Detlef thought. Still, it wouldn’t do to waste such a fine blade. He marvelled at its balance as he picked it up. It’s likely worth more than I’d earn in a lifetime, he realised, and it’s mine now.

He stared down at van Glokk’s unconscious body for a second as a wave of light-headedness washed through him. He’d be able to tell his grandchildren how he’d help Sanctura shake off the heel of the Ecclesiarchy in years to come. He’d show the sword as proof. A slight smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. He might not be a true believer in The Truth, but it was a nice fantasy.

Turning back to face the rest of the platoon – his platoon now – he saw they were all staring at him. Eyes wide with shock, fear, panic and disbelief. They’re good lads, all of them, he thought. Guess they’ll be looking to me for guidance now.

He looked back to the crowd on the other side of the bridge, already stalking towards them. ‘I guess we’d better let them through.’ 




‘Quickly children, this way.’

Father Adolphus glanced over his shoulders to make sure none of his charges had fallen behind. Not that he could have done much if any had. There would be no time to go looking for stragglers now. He had thirty children, thirty personal angels, relying on him to guide them to safety as the world fell apart. 

He mouthed a quick prayer of thanks as he saw they were all following him up the steps towards the cathedral’s main doors. The sound of gunfire echoed across the plaza behind, telling him the rebels were close. His stomach churned at the thought of failing these children. Emperor forgive me this blasphemy, he prayed, but these children are my true vocation, my true passion.

Little Sofya, with her golden hair like blessed Sanguinius, was at the front. Despite being only four Terran-standard years, she seemed remarkably calm. Perhaps, he thought, she simply doesn’t understand what is happening. In contrast, Matthias stumbled along at the back, jumping at every sound and shadow. A painfully thin and studious boy of nine, he had ignored the instruction to leave his text books in the classroom when the alarms had started to ring. Now, having carried them through endless streets and corridors, he was flagging under their weight as they scurried towards the promised safety of the main cathedral hall.

‘How many times do I have to tell you to drop those, Matthias?’ he shouted as he resumed his own brisk pace. He completely expected to be ignored, yet again.

Not far to go now. Father Adolphus whispered a prayer of thanks for that as he staggered up the last few steps and leant heavily against the walls of the cathedral. He waved for the children to hurry as he struggled to catch his breath. They’ll be safe soon, he told himself. Safe once they’re in the cathedral. Once they’re in the catacombs. 

He knew the children weren’t looking forward to hiding in those labyrinthine depths below ground, surrounded by the dead saints and lords of Hive Accus and Sanctura. He wasn’t looking forward to it either. But it was the safest place he could get them, sealed away and hidden from the carnage above.

As they entered the cathedral, Father Adolphus paused for a second. The sheer scale and majesty of the setting took his breath away. It always did. Even now. Even with all that was going on.

Golden light from countless stain glass murals bathed the scene as row upon row of pews, capable of housing over a thousand citizens – over a thousand of the wealthiest citizens, at least – stretched out across the hall. Between them, pillars reached up towards the cavernous roof, forcing him to crane his neck to glimpse the exquisite murals painted there: each section devoted to painstakingly telling the miraculous lives of one of the Emperor’s nine holy sons, his Primarchs.

At the far end of the hall stood the true masterpiece: a statue of the God-Emperor on His Throne, rendered from solid gold. As always, it had been polished to a dazzling finish.

As the last of the children scurried past him, Father Adolphus turned and thumped the button to close the cathedral doors. They groaned as they began to move, glacial but surely and inevitably, causing dust to scatter from the ceiling onto his dark Priest’s habit.

‘Come on, come on,’ he whispered as he saw rioters spill into the square below like an angry, boiling sea. Their bellows and chants formed an incomprehensible wall of noise, punctuated by the crack of gunshots. Adolphus let out a heavy sigh of relief as the doors finally closed, and he heard the locking bars slam into place.

‘Are we going to die, Father?’

Adolphus looked down to see Sofya hugging the hem of his robes. The other children were huddled together in prayer, their faces pale as hands fumbled clumsily to make the sign of the Aquila. Matthias had even dropped his books. He wasn’t sure if he was a little disappointed at that, in a strange way. 

Adolphus smiled, trying to bury his own fear. ‘No, child,’ he said. ‘These sacred walls will protect us. Don’t worry.’ He pointed to the golden depiction of the Emperor at the far end of the hall. ‘His gaze watches over us.’

Gently prizing Sofya’s fingers from the hem of his robes, he led the children towards the statue of the Emperor. His palms were slick with sweat, his brow damp as they weaved through the pews. It had been a long march for a man of his age, but he knew his job wasn’t done yet. Not quite.

Their quiet footsteps echoed through the silence of the hall like the patter of raindrops. A silence Adolphus knew wouldn’t last long. A storm is coming, he thought. He prayed that it would not break upon these innocent children.

They came to a stop at the foot of the Emperor’s statue. Easily the height of four men, and just as wide, it seemed almost obscene – especially when he thought of the good those resources could have done.

To provide shelter and food to the homeless urchins that filled the Hive’s streets. To provide education for those in the lowest levels of the city, where everything but the law of the gangs had been forgotten. To repair the sanitation system that had caused generations of children to grow up surrounded by the stench of their own waste in many of the city’s slums. 

But Father Adolphus knew that wouldn’t happen. Too much of the Ecclesiarchy’s power rested in imagery, in how it projected the favour of Him on Terra onto themselves. 

A sharp crack behind caused him to look back. The doors of the cathedral, metres thick of gold-plated steel, began to glow. A beam of light punched through the door a second later. Adolphus’ stomach sunk at the sight.

A meltagun. Where have they got one of those from? It had been years – almost a lifetime ago – since he had served in a warzone, but he would never forget the sight of what such a weapon could do to the human body. Nor the stench of incinerated flesh that went with it. 

Spinning back to the statue, he pressed his hand to a small aquila at its base. He felt a sharp prick as a needle drew blood, verifying his access to the catacombs.

 A marble slab, one of many hundreds of identical pieces that stretched across the entire floor of the cathedral, slid back. A stairway led down into the black depths of the earth, dimly lit by a row of faint lumens. He could feel the cold radiating from the chasm, but he knew it was their only choice.

Another crack sounded behind them. The children cried out. Looking behind, Adolphus saw the cathedral doors begin to lurch forward. Another hole, higher up than the last one, had burnt through. The locking bars. They’re burning through those, he thought as an icy dread crept through him. Someone knows what they’re doing.

‘In you go, children,’ he said, ushering them forward and into the catacombs. ‘It’s dark, I know, but you must keep going. Let your faith guide you to the end. You’ll find Cardinal Ishmael and the other Priests at the end.’ He glanced towards what was left of the doors. ‘I hope.’

A third lance of flame punched through the cathedral doors, and they began to open. A deafening creak, as tonnes of metal strained to move, filled the air. Bodies began to force their way into the hall, several heaving to move the doors as more barged their way past. Each crudely armed. Many covered in blood. 

I must lead them away, he thought as the last of the children entered the tunnel. Adolphus pressed his bloody palm to the Aquila again and the slab slid back into place, sealing his charges beneath the ground. Safe, he told himself. They’re safe. A tear rolled down his cheek.

He shuffled towards a nearby passageway, hidden away at the back of the hall. It led up into one of the spires that gave such stunning views of the Hive, but that didn’t really matter. Not now. As long as it was away from the children. He felt himself hunch over, trying to make himself as small as possible. Perhaps, he thought, if the Emperor wishes it, they won’t notice me

‘There’s one of them!’

The crowd froze for a second, staring at him, as if they were almost surprised he was there. Adolphus stared back. He saw the anger in their eyes and knew his death wouldn’t be pleasant. Just let it be quick, he prayed.

‘Get him!’

‘Cut his fuckin’ head off!’

‘String him from the rafters!’

The crowd moved as one, surging towards him. A gun fired. Glass shattered. A masterpiece of stained-glass, possibly centuries or even millennia old, destroyed in a single moment. More guns fired. More glass rained down.

Adolphus wanted to run. He really did. He wanted to live, even if for only a few more fleeting moments, but his legs felt like leaden weights. He simply didn’t have the strength to move. To run. To even walk. 

The storm has broken, Adolphus thought as they reached him. As fists bore him to the ground. As his ribs broke under a barrage of kicks. As his collarbone shattered beneath the blow of a crowbar. As a knife pierced a feeble, arthritic hand raised in futile defence. 

The iron taste of blood filled his mouth. He tried to cry out. To pray to the Emperor. To ask for deliverance. A deliverance he knew would not come. The storm had broken on him.




Inquisitor Katerina Balk listened, the ghost of a smile on her lips. Over a dozen of her agents, her Brotherhood, filled the screen, reporting successful uprisings across the entire planet. Everything had gone to plan. Sanctura had finally revealed itself.

She’d known for years that corruption was rampant on the planet. It had wormed its way through every layer of the Sanctura’s society. But the proof hadn’t been there.

Her stomach tightened with a familiar sense of anger at the memory of that first investigation. At the remembered frustration in failure. At the way her fellow Inquisitors had sniggered behind her back. 

Now though, following over a decade’s work, her plan – her uprising – had drawn their treachery out like poison from a wound. An apt metaphor, she thought. Heresy, corruption, and negligence are insidious weaknesses the Imperium can ill afford to tolerate.

In truth, Sanctura had fallen faster than she’d expected. Carnage and disorder had washed over the planet in a matter of hours as the PDF collapsed. Most guardsmen had thrown down their arms at the first sight of the rebels, turning on their own officers and sergeants – if they hadn’t shown their own treacherous colours first. 

Katerina pondered if the speed of the planet’s fall was yet more vindication of Sanctura’s corruption? Or a sign of her brilliance? Not that it truly matters, she reminded herself. The end result is very much the same.

She’d scoured Sanctura’s prisons and criminal records for her Brotherhood, picking only those most suitable to her needs. From there, it had been a simple matter of binding them together with a shared purpose.

The Truth had been the perfect answer. A heresy from the earliest days of the Imperium, its denial of the Emperor’s divinity was enough to condemn the planet, whilst avoiding the corrupting touch of the Great Enemy. Chaos was a weapon she was loathe to use, knowing full well how it twisted even the most noble ideals. No, she thought, those radical inquisitors who seek to use Chaos against itself are truly only one step from madness.

Her heart raced at the possibility of corruption within even the Inquisition. What a challenge that would be, she thought. To hunt down another Inquisitor. And after all, is it not my sacred duty, as a member of the Ordo Hereticus, to watch for corruption from within?

The soft whirring of power armour and the fall of heavy footsteps drew Katerina’s mind back to the present, alerting her to an approaching presence. The final piece of her plan’s puzzle. The final solution to Sanctura’s heresy.

‘Canoness,’ Katerina said as she turned off the monitors and began to walk towards the Eternal Vigilance’s viewing port. ‘I assume everything is ready?’

‘The Order of the Ebon Chalice stands ready to do the Emperor’s work, Inquisitor.’ 

‘Very good.’ Katerina looked out over Sanctura. Even from space she could pick out the great pillars of smoke rising from the planet’s hive cities. A fleet of black ships, each proudly bearing the heraldry of the Sororitas’ most ancient Order, hung in the void at the edge of her vision. ‘You may proceed then. Ave Imperator.’

‘Ave Imperator,’ replied the Canoness, her clipped tones typical of the Sol System’s nobility. Her family could even be from Holy Terra itself. Katarina made a mental note to have someone find out from which noble house she was descended. You can never know too much about someone, she told herself, even your allies. Especially your allies

As the Canoness’s departing footsteps echoed through the silence of the Command Deck, Katerina lamented that hers was a thankless task. She knew she could only truly trust herself. Only my purity of purpose is assured in this galaxy of horrors.

Despite this, she allowed herself a single moment of triumph as scores of Dominica Pattern Drop Pods and Thunderhawks descended towards Sanctura. Everything had come to fruition.

Sanctura would finally be cleansed.

About the Author

J.S. Savage is a teacher in the UK and has been an avid of all things 40k and Warhammer Fantasy since he accidently found his way into a Games Workshop store as a young boy. When he was younger, he was a keen writer but has only just started up again recently. Between work and being a parent, he doesn’t get nearly enough time to paint, read and write as much as he would like – or as much sleep as he needs!