Thinly Veiled Dagger

Aloysio Vysterian slipped inside the palace undetected. Formerly it was simply an Imperial Bastion, before then-governor Marcala had renounced Terra’s authority, proclaimed himself Supreme Regent and declared Edoran’s secession from the Imperium. Now, Aloysio was here to pass down the holy Emperor’s divine judgement.

To be HIS will, HIS arm, HIS weapon – it was exhilarating. Five years ago Aloysio had joined the Astra Militarum, as was expected from a scion of Terra’s ancient nobility. By right of his father’s name, he entered as a lieutenant and was given command of a platoon attached to one of the many fleets patrolling the Segmentum Solar. His youth had been filled with lectures on military history and combat strategy; largely boring sermons for Aloysio, who always felt he had a natural knack for matters of war and preferred honing his tactical acumen in games of regicide. Regardless, in the eyes of the military bureaucracy, his education was impeccable and ensured he did not have to mingle with the ordinary conscripts in the trenches.

Bunch of oafs, anyway! Aloysio snorted thinking about his time with the 173rd, while he snuck along the final corridor leading to a small antechamber to the throne room. They did not even appreciate to be commanded by him! Men two or three times his age did not show him the proper respect, not even after decades of service at the front lines; they really should have known better by then. Aloysio did not hesitate to order his Commissars to make examples of as many as necessary, but the troops continued to exhibit a combat effectiveness way below his capabilities. Salvation came in form of a rather inconspicuous Administratum official who approached him with a mission. The High Council itself had deemed the renegade governor of Edoran to be executed and Aloysio had been chosen as the hangman. Finally somebody had recognized how his talents were wasted merely commanding lesser men!

Infiltrating the capitol was uneventful enough. Edoran was a mid-tier trading port in the outer part of the sub-sector, each day several ships requesting docking permits. Aloysio arrived with a fake name on a cargo freighter, blending in with dozens of people looking for a brighter future in the newly declared Edoran Sovereignty. 

The Administratum had supplied him with a host of intelligence – various schematics, layouts and access-codes – on the palace. Even renamed, it still was an Imperial Bastion at heart. Aloysio had spent two days surveilling the compound and was not impressed with security. Multiple times blast doors were left opened, allowing Aloysio easy access to sensible areas. Once he turned a corner and stumbled upon a patrol, finding them all knocked-out after, what appeared to be, a game of dice turned awry.

Tomorrow was the anniversary of Edoran’s secession, and Aloysio keyed in the last access-code at the final door, arming his high-energy las-pistol. The door opened silently and Aloysio ghosted into the dimly lit room, looking down two bolter barrels before taking a second step. ‘We finally meet, Agent Vysterian,’ said Supreme Regent Marcala.

Aloysio froze in shock. Marcala was supposed to be in seclusion at this time, alone in ritual meditation. Yet here he was, waiting for Aloysio behind a translucent blast shield with his adjutant and two heavily armed guards, bolters at the ready.

‘Did you really think your intrusion into my domain would go unnoticed? You’d have me as some megalomaniac simpleton from a fringe world with a God-complex?’ A smug grin crept on Marcala’s face. ‘I’ve been privy to Terra’s inner workings for decades! I know how the high council likes to deal with separatists; I knew they would send one of your kind before even they did.’ By now, Marcala has talked himself into a frenzy. ‘Predictable fools, the fabled Imperium is nothing more than an obsolete bureaucracy, a lumbering behemoth tumbling headless through history. I have informants in every circle of the Adeptus Administratum, I knew which cabin you had on the cargo freighter you arrived on; my agents have shadowed you every second you were on Edoran; you never had the chance to harm me, nobody has, here I am untouchable, I’m like a God, I’m like the Emper…’

His frothing rant was cut short by a flickering, green blade suddenly protruding from his chest. Aloysio had not even realized that Marcala’s adjutant was gone. In his place was only a spectre, clad in a tight black bodysuit, vaulting the blast shield and bisecting both guards with one swift strike of that ominous blade. The spectacle took only a few heartbeats, and Aloysio’s mind simply skipped comprehending what just had happened.

‘Another agent? Also sent here to kill Marcala? Why wasn’t I informed? This threatened the whole mission! It was probably your involvement which tipped him off!’ Aloysio was shaking, suddenly feeling cheated out of completing his mission.

‘We are all merely subjects of the Emperor’s providence, Aloysio,’ said the assassin with a voice neither male nor female while the featureless face began morphing into the Administratum official who recruited him. ‘Marcala indeed kept a vigilant gaze upon Edoran. At every corner he was expecting an ambush, every shadow concealed a hidden enemy. He could have made even my life difficult. But with all paranoiacs, once they think they’ve found what they were looking for, they stop searching.’

‘I’m the thinly veiled dagger,’ Aloysio said in resignation, ‘a poorly concealed feint, blinding your opponent’s eye for the scorpion strike in his back.’

The Callidus nodded. ‘A regicide gambit not often played anymore. Although it took more lucky coincidences on your surveillance tour than I would have hoped to make sure you would reach your target. Thankfully, this won’t be much of an issue the next time.’

The Callidus once again morphed back into the Marcala’s adjutant and casually picked up a bolter.

‘Marcala’s guards will be looking for something as well: An assassin.’

‘The Emperor protects,’ he stuttered, as his fate dawned on him.

‘Billions. Not one.’

About the Author

Justus Ackermann is from Germany and 36 years old. He was introduced into the Warhammer universe back in 1996. A geneticist by training, he left the sciences and started writing science fiction / fantasy / horror last year.