Author: The Lord J
She didn't want to believe it, but the evidence of the sky Krel had shown her made it impossible not to. Everything was too real to be a dream - although she still held out some hope she would awake slumped on her homework - especially the encounter with the monster bare seconds after she had been mysteriously transported into this nightmare world.
Monsters she was aware of; it was difficult to live in Sunnydale and not encounter at least one or two in your lifetime; however, most of those appeared in some way humanoid. The beast she had encountered in this world looked like something out of a sci-fi horror movie - but worse. It was a horrifying creature.
That past, at least she seemed to be somewhere safe and warm now with someone who looked like he cared about her problem.
Krel was an enigma. This huge, now scrawny man with the strange demeanour and obviously high intellect. Who was he? Why was he helping her? What did he have to gain from all this? Tara's mind felt a little guilty for thinking that, but having been passed by by so many people back in that alley, why had Krel stopped? Why had he - without understanding a word she had said - offered her shelter and coffee? Why was he now researching her situation in a mass of both very ancient-looking books and more modern-looking data slates?
Krel stopped his reading, rubbed his eyes, and looked at Tara, noticing that she was staring at him.
Tara quickly averted her eyes. "I...I w-was just wondering, um...why? Why are you helping me?"
Krel's face broke into a grin. "My life, it is spent helping people. Always. Since I was...since I became Space Marine." His face distorted into a sort of grimace at the memory. He paused. "But it is long story. Maybe one day I tell you." He seemed reluctant to say any more.
"You could tell me now." Tara pushed.
He sighed, and close the massive tome he was working through.
"It is long time since I...wait. You will not know what I talk of. You know not Space Marine, huh?"
"Um...no...what's a space marine? I mean, duh, obviously a marine in space, but..."
"Space Marine is The Emperor's finest warrior. Space Marine is frontline troop, elite force, genetically engineered to be better, faster, smarter, stronger, more powerful than normal human."
"Y-you used to be one? B-but you retired?" Tara guessed.
"I...I was Space Marine. But not retired. Escaped." He clarified. "The chapter I joined, at first seemed the real thing, yes? Big, powerful warriors from the heavens, massive suits of power armour, huge guns, highly trained, almost invincible, and religiously perfect in worship of The Emperor. But, there was problem. Is problem. Chapter is tainted. Chaos works from within; nobody sees or admits it, but the Ruinous Powers are at work deep within foundations. They say they worship The Emperor, but there are signs inside, I know, that most work for Chaos. They brainwash new recruits just after initiation, but I escape before that."
"So...you army kinda turned evil?" Tara guessed.
"Yes. Chaos, the filth and scum the Imperium fights against. It is like a rot. It starts with a small core and spreads, unseen, until at last minute you realise - you are corrupted, one of the damned, permanently removed from the Emperor's light. This, I have seen. My own battle brothers, tainted. At first, yes, loyal, but then this insidious force turns them against the Emperor. Those who do not agree with Chapter teachings, they burn, they torture, they kill. When Inquisition demands explanation, they claim the dead were heretics! Can you believe? They claim that true brothers are heretics! It is the OPPOSITE!" Krel's fist pounded down on the table. He seemed to regain his composure. "Excuse me. I...I feel strongly about this. The Executioners chapter, it was my life, my calling, my destiny...until I saw the rot. I tried to fight it for some time, but no. It was too strong, too...ah...ah...engrained in the chapter's history, yes? Since the Badab uprising, I think. That is where it began. And so, since I escape, I try to bring justice, to bring down the chapter...but I cannot do it. There remain good marines in the Executioners chapter. I cannot condemn them to the full destructive force of the Inquisition. So I search for other ways to bring out the heretics without causing my loyal brothers pain. It is difficult." He sighed.
Tara was somewhat taken aback. The man - if he could still be called that - was obviously a torn soul. There was a deep rooted loyalty there, but also a burning hatred of what his chapter had become. Tara guessed that the loyalty thing was something genetic.
"W-when you said genetically engineered...you mean all Space Marines? Including yourself, I mean?"
"Yes. I am no longer 'human' as you understand it. I have extra organs, extra bones, extra implants...lots of things normal human does not have. I have much augmented strength and size, as you can see. But my mind is still human. I resisted a lot of the hypnotherapy and psycho-chemical treatment. I am not blindly loyal to the chapter - the Emperor always comes above that. Always. It is the only way."
That explains a lot.
"S-so what, y-you're on the run? A fugitive?"
"Fugitive? Ah, you mean I am being pursued, yes? Then I would agree. Perhaps. Perhaps the chapter think I am dead. Perhaps they do not. Certainly they used to pursue me, with kill squads. Even an Inquisitor, they sent after me, with a Deathwatch retinue. They fear me, Tara. They understand that I know the truth, the truth of the foul chaos rot which impregnates the once noble chapter. They know that I, the one in a thousand marines who knew, escaped. They know that I evaded them for years. But I ah...what is word...I 'faked' my death, yes? I tried to make them believe I am dead. But whether it worked, I do not know. Certainly, I have seen no kill teams for months, and no sign of the Inquisitor either. But perhaps there are more pressing matters for their attention. I have seen recently a selection of unholy creatures on this planet; I am hoping the Inquisitor is busy with them, and not me."
Tara considered this. Was she to take Krel's word at all of this? It seemed a far-fetched story...but if indeed she was now thirty-nine millennia into the future...nothing seemed far fetched anymore. But she knew that there were two sides to every story. Perhaps Krel was the 'heretic' here. Perhaps the Executioner space marines were after him because he was actually evil...but she doubted it. He seemed genuine enough and there seemed to be no sign of evil in him.
She studied his aura. It was strange, granted, but more than likely that was because of the changes his body and mind were put through during his initiation as a space marine. But there was no trace of dishonesty there, no trace of evil. In fact, his aura was purer than most humans she had ever seen. So more than likely he was telling the truth, which made his story all the more saddening. A thousand, he had said, of the Emperor's finest warriors succumbing to the effects of Chaos, and the administration not even being aware of it. Quite what he meant by the 'effects of Chaos' was lost on her in this context. Obviously Chaos was evil to some extent by its nature, but she wondered if there was more to it than that. She questioned him to that effect. His reply was not quite what she was expecting.
"Tara, Chaos - it is not just theory anymore. It is foul...religion, almost. There are four abominable Chaos gods; they seek to infect and ruin mankind from within. There is entire realm of Chaos - the Immaterium. Chaos is evil, through and through. It is powerful, strong force that exists as a manifestation of base human - and some say alien - thoughts, fears, and emotions. Chaos gods are manifestation of that. It is not just mathematical theory, as was thought in your time. It is most evil, abhorrent thing we face today."
With that, Krel went back to his book, feeling that today's 'Welcome To The Forty-First Millenium' lessons were over.
Tara looked around uneasily. What now? At least she and Krel now knew who each other were, but what the hell was she supposed to do now?
She flopped backwards onto Krel's bed and curled up in a ball.
"Willow." Alizabeth Bequin closed the cargo bay door behind her.
"Hey." Willow replied distractedly.
"What are you looking at?" She wandered closer to where Willow stood eyeing the Orkstealer's corpse.
"I dunno, there's something...something's not right. I mean, duh, it's an Ork-Genestealer hybrid, but...there's something else.
Bequin peered over her shoulder. "Uh-huh."
Willow moved away from her a little.
"Sorry." Bequin smiled apologetically. She was still getting used to her status as an untouchable; both Eisenhorn and Willow didn't like getting close to her - there was a natural repulsion between her and them. It was merely a subconscious reaction that made them feel uneasy - there was no personal dislike there.
"No, it's fine, really, I was just trying to see if I could see anything Uber missed." Uber Aemos had spent a great deal of time with the corpse, trying to understand it's physiology and how it had come to be; however, Aemos was no psyker and couldn't always see things that were not obvious to the eye. "Um, could you give me a bit of space, you're too close. Please?" Willow asked.
"Sure." Alizabeth backed off to the far wall. Her area of influence was expanding by the day; now she had realised her 'gift', she was starting to get a vague idea of what she could do with it, and as a result it had started to expand - without her wanting it to.
"Thanks." Willow peered at the corpse again and opened her mind to see if there was anything else. Something caught her eye. She moved around a little. There. Obscured by the decaying alien aura, there was a small oily black hole in the middle of its dead mind. She probed it gently with her senses. "I can see this little th-" She was thrown backwards hard against the wall behind her by a shockwave of energy, smacking her head on the plasteel of the cargo bay wall. She fell to the floor in a crumpled heap.
"Willow!" Alizabeth ran across the room and picked her up off the floor. "Willow!" She shook the unconscious girl to try and wake her up. "Gregor! Uber!" She shouted at the vox comms plate on the wall. Seconds later the Inquisitor burst in through the door with the old savant hot on his heels.
"Rosenberg...Bequin what happened?" Eisenhorn was straight down to business.
"I don't know, she was just looking at the corpse and then this shockwave threw her against the wall." Bequin explained as best she could. Thankfully Willow had started to come around.
"Ow." She screwed her eyes up and put her hand to the back of her head. It came away bloody. "Ow a lot."
"Are you alright? Eisenhorn asked as she righted herself and stood up.
"Yeah, just...ow." She looked up to the carcass and shivered. "Gregor, there's more to this than meets the eye. Chaos is involved."