‘All he said was, “Don’t look, I’ve seen them before. If you see it, you’re already damned. If you hear it, run. Ignorance is your only salvation.” Then he ate the barrel of his sidearm.’
The lady across from me cut in primly, ‘For the purpose of the record, state context and about whom you are speaking.’
‘Okay, so here’s the picture, I’m bivvied up against the remains of a wall. We’ve orders to hold position while sweeping patrols were coming through. We just had to sit with our mark ones active.’
‘The vernacular does not assist. I can permit a certain amount for expedience, but speak plainly.’
‘Excuse me. The mark one, unaugmented, human eyeball.’ I risked a smile and looked to see if the soldiers’ joke from time immemorial would tease a wisp of humanity from her. She stared, leaving the silence for me to fill. ‘We were in four-person teams, three on watch for more… incursions. I was on sack-time,’ she looked up from her notes sharply, not a strand of hair slipping from its bun.
‘Sorry, I was resting. I just wanted to sleep—unbroken dreamless sleep. We rotated every three hours. The others were active.’ My voice started to break. ‘They did a good job too, right, they did their duty.’ I brought myself under control. ‘We all got pinged. I opened my channel, there he was on everyone’s dataslates feeding a visual, Sergeant Fulforth, that is.
‘He’s shaking and weeping, like he’s seen some pale reaper. Says his final words. Then buys-’ I stop and correct myself. ‘Then he killed himself.
‘Fulforth was never scared in any way that mattered. We’ve been in the bitterest slices of mud the fringes can offer, and he acted like he didn’t notice. No matter what, he’d just get us to strap up and march on like it was a stroll. He was always steady. It kept us steady.
‘In this fight, we’d already seen clawed beasts pulling people apart. We took losses like I’ve never seen, but even then, he held us steady. Ranks of fire stripping away at the things. Lines were getting broken, but we held. At that moment, I only wanted to put holes in those things. But after he broke, we all cracked a little.’ I was starting to shake.
‘We waited an age. Something called out in a distorted parody of a voice. I was up, but I stayed against the wall. The sound of the Sergeant eating a round echoed in my head. I didn’t look. Someone, not my squad, approached. I don’t know what they said, but I heard the start of a scream cut off, so I began to move. I stayed low, but it was coming. The weight of its feet smashing into the ground didn’t match its speed. It was too fast. I saw flashes off to my left. Squads had opened fire. I ducked to the right to put more stone between it and myself. The sound died out quickly, and I could hear a wail rising to screams of agony. I heard its voice again, calling out our names. Telling us to submit. Allow the pain of our fellow Guard to end. That we had a duty. I wanted to give in. It called out my name among them. I think I pissed myself as I ran.’
‘I’m told I was picked up two days later, three days’ march away, still crawling. I guess I just wanted distance between myself and where my friends were massacred.’
I tried to breathe steadily.
‘Anything else to add?’
‘I want to go home.’
‘You will be dismissed once I have completed the notes.’ She made no attempt to conceal her writing.
Conclusion: Guardsman Trooper Gyltan Scynner recounted events consistent with other narratives, within the bounds of error and external stressors. This record is the narrative account, as spoken by the above-identified subject, without the questioning of the previous sessions. Throughout the enquiry he has maintained, without wavering, that he did not, at any time, during or since his detachment, directly or indirectly visually witness the assailant that killed the majority of his detachment’s remnants.
In the absence of tangible corroboration, one must assume that he is lying.
Charge: That the accused, by direct or indirect mistruth or through the withholding of information material to an enquiry, impeded the righteous execution of duties by an Agent of the Imperium.
Penalty: Summary execution.
Charge: That the accused, an active, on-duty Guard of the Astra Militarum, did quit their post without being duly relieved.
Penalty: Summary execution.
Charge: That the accused, by withdrawing from their duty without intent to return, did commit an act of desertion and cowardice.
Penalty: Summary execution.
With these charges, the Law of Materiality is exercised; thus, further charges are not material to the outcome and, as such, will not be listed. In addition, the subject is to be considered dishonourably discharged for ignominious conduct, their name stricken from the regiment and given no mention in the rolls of Honoured Dead.
This subject, alongside others up to this point, has not been able to clarify how Sergeant Fulforth had apparent knowledge of the assailant. The enquiry continues.
I heard three distinct clicks beneath the table.
‘The record is closed. The outcome is sealed. Be honest. You looked.’
‘Yes. Straight away.’
‘Tell me what you saw.’
‘An Astartes, tearing through my friends.’
‘A Brother of the Grey Knights. A secret you are not permitted to bear.’
‘I was damned from that moment.’ Keeping herself distant, she withdrew her hand from under the table, and I stared at her gun.
‘Not quite. It was from the moment of broadcast. Are you prepared for sentencing?’
I decided to look upon an angel. I saw the wrath of our most sacred protectors turned upon us, and it ruined me. I could only nod in gratitude through the convulsions of my sobbing. I want this.
About the Author
A. Brimble uses sensible solutions to fix stupid problems. This can be by writing very boring things, in a way that is compelling. Writing something that is purely for entertainment is a refreshing change.