Time heals all wounds.
That was what people said anyway, but Solomon Hart wasn’t so sure. He looked over at his sister, huddled in one over-crowded corner of their hab-block. Her skin was sallow and grey, and damp with sweat that meant strands of lank, unwashed hair clung to her face. Her chest rose and fell slowly, her breathing laboured and painful.
It won’t heal Rosa.
He knew that. He knew she was dying. She had been dying for years. For two long years. Two long years since the biting cogs of a manufactorum machine had fed on her arm.
She coughed, blood dribbling from her lips. He reached over and touched her forehead, gently, tenderly. She flinched away, but he still felt the fire in her skin.
Medicine. She needs medicine. She’s burning up.
‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered. ‘I’ll get you the medicine. I’ll be back soon. Hold on.’
He strode towards the door, kicking half-eaten ration cans over as he hurried. The door slid open and he paused on the threshold. He looked back at Rosa. Or what was left of her. He didn’t want to remember her this way. He wanted to remember the cheerful girl she had been. The sister who had made him laugh every day. The sister that had kept his spirits up when the Bloody Flux had washed through the hive. When their parents had died. The sister who had kept his faith in the Emperor’s mercy.
Fighting tears, he stepped out the door and headed into the dimly lit maze of Hive Testus.
‘Open up! For Throne’s sake, Gerhaart! Open Up!’
Solomon slammed his fists on the door. He fought to catch his breath. It wasn’t far from his hab-block to the Apothecarium. No more than a couple of blocks, still in District V, but he’d run the whole way. Desperate to be quick, to save his sister.
The door creaked open. Gerhaart stared out, bleary eyed and half-asleep, a day’s stubble crowning his weak jaw.
‘Solomon?’ he slurred. ‘It’s the middle of the night.’
‘It’s Rosa, Ger. Rosa. She needs medicine. She’s burning up.’
Sad eyes returned and met Solomon’s gaze. He’s exhausted, thought Solomon. He looks as if he’s had enough. I’ll check on him tomorrow. When Rosa’s better.
Gerhaart nodded, blinking away tears. He reached into a bag at his feet, sat beside the door, and pulled out a syringe filled with clear liquid.
‘This should help.’
‘Thanks,’ called Solomon, already running. ‘I owe you!’
Sweat stung Solomon’s eyes as he burst through his hab-block door. His chest heaved. Each breath a titanic effort, as if a vice was clamped across his chest.
But I made it.
‘I’ve got it! Rosa, I’ve got it!’
He stared at the corner of his hab-block. At where Rosa should have laid. At where he had last seen her.
Yet it sat empty.
‘Rosa?’ he asked, voice a hushed whisper. ‘Rosa? Where are you?’
He exploded in a flurry of movement. He tore their hab-block apart. He tore their life apart in search of her. Each room empty.
I’ve lost her. The words ran through his mind as he fell to his knees, eyes closing against the pain. I promised father. I promised mother. I would look after her. He imagined her, sanity burnt out with fever, stumbling through the streets: lost and afraid. Alone and dying.
‘Emperor, please,’ he begged. ‘Help me. Help Rosa.’
After long minutes of prayer, of broken pleas, he opened his eyes. The image of the Emperor stared back at him from their small shrine, set beside Rosa’s sick bed. A faint halo rimmed it. From the candles, Solomon told himself. Yet somehow the light seemed different tonight. Purer. Brighter.
Then the realisation hit him. Memories flooded his mind.
‘No,’ he sobbed. ‘Please, no. It can’t be true.’
Broken in body and mind, he stumbled up from the floor and ran into the streets. Towards the bridge that connected Districts V and VII.
Gerhaart watched the Arbites Officer enter his Apothacarium.
‘Fuck,’ he whispered. ‘Fuck.’
‘Gerhaart Ryke?’ asked the officer, stopping at the counter.
Gerhaart nodded, clammy hands fumbling at the hem of his robe. His eyes flickered to his customers, already leaving, casting suspicious glances at him. It wasn’t good to have attracted the Arbites’ attention. Not in this part of the Hive. Not in District V.
‘That’s me,’ he said. ‘How can I help?’
‘I am Arbites Citizen Protection Officer Aldhoff.’ The officer’s voice was deep and gruff. It spoke of too many lho-sticks, late nights and strong drinks. ‘I’m investigating a suicide case from last night. Happened near here. A man jumped from Connection Bridge #327.’
‘Oh, indeed, Mr Ryke,’ said Aldhoff, meeting Gerhaart’s gaze. The arbites officer seemed almost a caricature. He was every stereotype rolled into one. A brute’s face. A closely shaved buzz cut. A square jaw on a thickset neck. The strong arm of the law. ‘You know a Soloman Hart? He is our victim, and I have it on good authority that you two spoke mere minutes before the incident.’
‘Oh,’ said Gerhaart again.
‘Oh, indeed,’ said Aldhoff. ‘Oh, indeed. What did you speak about?’
Gerhaart swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. ‘He came for medicine.’
‘In the middle of the night?’
‘Yes,’ nodded Gerhaart. ‘We’re old friends. Grew up together. Late night visits aren’t uncommon.’
The Arbites frowned. ‘Was he sick?’
Gerhaart hesitated. ‘Not… physically, no. But the medicine wasn’t for him. It was for his sister.’
Aldhoff pulled out a dataslate, beginning to make notes.
‘A sister? There were no signs of a second occupant in his hab-block. Did you give him the medicine?’
Gerhaart nodded. ‘I do every week. Not always the same night, or time. But without fail, every week.’
Aldhoff grunted. ‘And can you give me the address of this sister?’
Gerhart smiled sadly, and shook his head.
‘No, officer. Rosa died years ago.’
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!