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Traveller of Both
Time and Space: Episode 2
Let us pause for a moment and witness what set these events into motion….
Inquisitor Varman Kumar had materialized aboard the bridge of Indra’s Chariot, Raja Khandar Madu’s battle barge, as the Fighting Tiger fleet hurtled through warp space. Not an hour later, the rest of the chapter’s leaders—Raja Shamshir Talatra; his advisor, Great Chaplain Talwar Chakram; and Chief Librarian Zaghnal Maratha, advisor to Raja Khandar Madu—arrived aboard Indra’s Chariot to convene with Kumar, who had often aided the Fighting Tigers in the past.
“Please join us at the table, old friend,” red-haired Raja Khandar Madu said to Kumar. “Help yourself to refreshments, as is the custom of our people.”
“Thank you, no, Memsahib,” Kumar said, bowing. “My time here is short and I prefer to stand. It is easier on my back, which is not so young as it used to be.
“It is ever the task of Inquisitors to ask questions, so please indulge me,” he said, smiling. “Am I to understand that you are have abandoned your crusade to take Auros IX from the Orks and are returning to your home world, Veda? ”
“Yes,” replied Raja Khandar Madu. “While we have been away, the Dark Eldar have struck against our people. My protégé, Jirbu Ghosh, has been captured. A detachment of Space Wolves under Lord Ferin Ironhammer is resisting the Dark Eldar. Yet we must return to save our planet and avenge Jirbu Ghosh.”
“Yes, it is as I had heard,” Kumar told her. “Do not fear. The Space Wolves shall bring Jirbu Ghosh to you alive and, at least, physically unharmed.”
“You have precognition?” Zaghnal Maratha asked. “Mine gives me no hint of Jirbu Ghosh’s fate.”
“My knowledge of the future is not gained through psychic ability,” Kumar said, smiling faintly as he stroked his short, graying goatee. “But trust me on this.”
“The Fighting Tigers do, Inquisitor,” replied Raja Khandar Madu. “Ever have your predictions come true.”
“So what do you want with us today?” said Raja Shamshir Talatra, crossing his arms.
“Such impertinence, Shamshir Talatra,” hissed Talwar Chakram. Though Shamshir was nominally her superior, she had never hidden her belief that he was ill-suited to command half the Fighting Tigers.
“Peace, good Talwar,” said Kumar. “I took no offense. I came here today, Raja Shamshir, to warn you. The strength of your chapter shall soon be sorely tested. In the years you have spent travelling to and battling for Auros IX, the Imperium has come under serious attack, first by the Ork Warlord Ghazhkull Thraka, and now by Abaddon the Despoiler.”
“A Black Crusade?” asked Khandar Madu.
“One greater than all previous Black Crusades combined,” Kumar replied. “Already the war has claimed millions on many worlds. The Space Wolves have set aside their ancient feud with the Dark Angels and committed all their forces to resist the tides of Chaos. And they are not the only ones who stand against Abaddon. But they will not be enough.”
“We must send Marines to assist the Space Wolves,” said Talwar Chakram. “The ancient Pacts of Friendship demand it.”
“Of course we shall,” Raja Khandar Madu replied.
“There is more,” Varman Kumar told them. “Hive Fleet Ravana has abruptly changed course and is now on a direct path to your home world’s star system. If the charts are correct, the Tyranids shall first reach the outermost planet.”
“RS 19,” Talwar Chakram said. “An icy world so remote that from it, Veda’s sun is but another star. RS 19 has a subterranean mining camp, with a few hundred Ogryn and their overseers.”
“We should fight the Tyranids there,” said Shamshir Talatra, “before they penetrate deeper into the system.”
“Let us not delay the Inquisitor while we discuss how best to respond to this news,” Khandar Madu suggested. “Instead, let us reconvene an hour after Varman Kumar leaves. We have known for years that Hive Fleet Ravana would someday threaten our system. It seems that day has come sooner that we anticipated. What else, old friend?”
“When the Badab War ended, your predecessors tasked me with locating the surviving members of your sister chapter, the Astral Claws, who had renamed themselves the Red Corsairs,” he reminded them. “I have not yet discovered their main base,” he continued, “but I have found a camp with a sizable number of them. This band has left the Maelstrom and is carrying out raids against Imperial outposts.”
“The Red Corsairs have eluded us for many, many years,” Zaghnal Maratha said. “Though other concerns weigh on us, we should seize this opportunity. It may be many more years before we again have the chance to engage them.”
“Every time they draw breath, they dishonor our chapter,” added Talwar Chakram.
“I agree wholeheartedly,” said Raja Khandar Madu. “Whatever else comes, we must carry out the sacred Honor Killings sworn by our predecessors. The Red Corsairs must die for what they did as the Astral Claws, when they shared our geneseed.”
“Be rational,” Raja Shamshir Talatra said. “There aren’t many Astral Claws still in the Red Corsairs. The Corsairs’ numbers are mostly made of deserters from other chapters. Every Tiger we send against them is one less to defend our home from the Dark Eldar or the Tyranids. Or one less to send to aid the Space Wolves. Forget the Corsairs. Alert some Imperial Guard regiment—perhaps the Kenteans? We can’t stretch ourselves too thin.”
“How can you ignore our sworn duty?” demanded Talwar Chakram. “Sabeer Ansari, your predecessor, swore an oath—”
“Sabeer swore that oath: I didn’t,” he replied. “And that oath has waited many years to be fulfilled. It can wait a few more. We have more important concerns.”
“Never more so than now do I regret that Sabeer chose you to succeed him as Raja,” said Talwar Chakram.
“You disappoint me, Raja Shamshir,” Khandar Madu added. Turning to the others, she said, “We must split our forces into four detachments. I shall return to Veda with one and resolve the battle against the Ozone Scorpions. Zaghnal Maratha?”
“I have interacted with the Space Wolves before. My detachment shall go to Fenris, and from there, to battle Abaddon.”
“I will lead my forces against the Red Corsairs,” growled Talwar Chakram, “and then—”
“No,” said Shamshir Talatra, “you won’t.” He held up a hand before she could protest. “As Raja, I have final say over your deployment,” he reminded her. “You may accompany Raja Khandar, or you may accompany Zaghnal Maratha, or you may face Hive Fleet Ravana. But I’ll lead the attack on the Red Corsairs.”
“I thought you did not approve,” said Khandar Madu.
“I don’t,” he replied. “But if the rest of you are determined to see this foolishness done, I’ll get it done. Quickly.”
For a moment, no one said anything. Then Khandar Madu turned to Kumar. “Is that all, Inquisitor?”
“It is,” he said, bowing. “Would that I could be of more service to you.”
“We thank you for your information,” Khandar Madu told him. “Will you not rest at all before you leave again?”
“Thank you, no, Memsahib. I must go now.”
As the Inquisitor moved for the door, his deep black gaze caught Shamshir Talatra’s strange, red eyes. Suddenly, his voice, full of concern, was inside Shamshir’s head.
Be careful, oh Raja. I have travelled
the future. I do not think that you shall ever see Veda again.
Posted January 2004. Photo collage by Carl Menconi
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