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Day of Judgement by Jacob Stow 

Walk among them.
Become as they are.
Deliver judgement,
For the Lion and for the Emperor.

Sapphon, Master of Chaplains.

The dust swirled, whipped into miniature tornadoes by the stifling desert wind.  The heat of the day had long since reached its peak and it would be only an hour or so before the numbing cold of the night descended.  Hart hated the desert.  He stood, eyes fixed on the distant township of Arat that appeared infrequently through his window only to disappear without warning behind the dust storms and the encroaching gloom.  With a sigh of resignation he turned away and returned to the spartan living area of the shack that had been his home for the past two months.  Morton sat at the wooden table that dominated the centre of the building.  He was carefully oiling his knife, as he had every night since they’d arrived.  He looked up as Hart approached.  “Did you see anything?” he queried. 

Hart lowered himself onto the remaining chair.  “It would be impossible to see them arrive if we were one hundred yards away with these accursed storms,” he spat in annoyance.  “Are you certain they will keep to their schedule?” 

Morton lowered his blade, “Omega said they would be here today.  That is all we need to know.”

Hart lowered his head briefly.  “Perhaps we should go to the town and wait for them?  With the night here they could slip in undetected and be gone before we can react.  What if Omega cannot reach us?  We cannot afford to lose them again.” 

Morton stood and moved towards the bunks propped against one wall of the shack.  “He will find a way to let us know in good time.”  He gestured to the beds, “We should sleep.” 

Hart nodded his head slowly, “Alright.  You sleep now.  I will keep watch and wake you later.”  Nodding, Morton lay down on the lower of the cramped bunks, and Hart pulled his chair over to the Comm unit in the corner of the shack.  He wrapped his cloak about him as the wind rushed through the gaps in the shack’s corrugated sides.  It was going to be a long night. 


The sky spat lightning down on the interrogator from the blood red sky.  Beside him a bolt struck, exploding into a rocky outcrop and sending jagged splinters of stone outwards.  Reflexively, he shielded his eyes from the glare and continued his climb.  Sulphurous rain tore into his face, certain death had he not been enclosed within his armour, and streamed in torrents down the path he had just climbed.  Above him a sleek shape shot forwards, the sign of a talon on its side and the deadly form of an assault cannon slung beneath it.  They were hunting.   

The lightning flashed again, and he saw through his visor the shape of a man a few metres ahead.  He was desperately scrabbling up the mountain, unaware of his pursuers’ presence.  Tightening his grip around the power sword he carried, the interrogator increased his pace.  The footing was unsteady, and more than once he stumbled as the loose rock was washed away by the deluge.  Where was he running?  The interrogator could not understand.  He could not hope to escape and yet he moved ever upwards.  He pushed the questions from his mind and redoubled his efforts.  Again the figure of his prey flashed before him.  He was gaining now, there was no doubt.  He reached the top of a small rise and stopped to catch his breath.  The figure before him had slowed.  “Varas!” the interrogator screamed over the din of the weather.  The figure turned.  An expression of terror crossed his face, but almost instantly was replaced by one of determination.  He shouted something back, but it was lost in the wind.  

The interrogator leapt forward and the figure shot away.  Almost instantly the terrain steepened and he was forced to use his free hand to pull himself up.  The man was just above him now, his movements frantic as he fought to stay ahead of the chaplain.  Abruptly the path levelled, and the figure burst into a run once more.  As the interrogator reached the top he saw that they were on a plateau.  Judging by the clouds surrounding them he guessed that it was the summit.  The chase would end here.  He pulled an ornate bolt pistol from his side, and spoke across the Comm net  “This is Lexus.  I have him.  Squads Delta one and two form up on my position.”   

Sighting carefully he aimed a shot at his prey’s leg.  A single bolt speared forth, but ricocheted from the man’s crude environment suit.  Cursing silently, the interrogator continued his pursuit.  A dark spire of rock loomed skywards on his left, and the figure before him ducked around it.  The chaplain increased his pace once more and turned the corner at a dead run.  Ahead of him, framed against the lightning storm, sat a transport craft.  The man had reached it and was clambering up the boarding ramp into its armoured hull.  Already the chaplain could hear the low whine of the pilot gunning the craft’s plasma engines.  “Echo group, require immediate intercept in sector 3!  Respond!” he yelled.  The Comm net was broadcasting static.  The lightning must have hit the relays.  The transport’s landing jets flared into life, lifting the craft up from the plateau and out of his reach.  In desperation he emptied his bolt pistol into its side, but it was too late.  The transport rose from the mountain, manoeuvred clumsily and shot skywards, heading for space.  In anger and frustration, the chaplain lashed out at the rock around him with his power sword, sending sparks high into the dark skies...                      

The jolt of the transport moving over a dune jerked Caines awake.  He sat up, instantly alert.  In the front of the vehicle, silhouetted by the rising sun, he could see the muscular figure of Haden.  He was hunched over the transport’s controls.  Through the cracked view screen Caines could see a collection of buildings drawing steadily closer, a grey stain on the horizon.  Forcibly burying his contempt for the man, Caines moved forwards.  “Morning,” Haden said in a tone that was failing to disguise its owner’s suspicion. 

“Morning,” replied Caines, “We’re nearly there I see.”

“Right,” said Haden, ending the conversation.  He was powerfully built man, but his face wore a trapped expression.  His eyes darted from side to side, as if constantly expecting ambush and his hand repeatedly strayed to the holster at his waste.  Caines had met Haden and his employees two months ago and after several days of drinking and talking, had finally persuaded the merchant to carry him to the township of Arat.  Haden journeyed to Arat regularly in order to refuel the fleet of fuel haulers he operated, but in the meantime Caines had had to endure weeks of desert travel, as the merchant went about his business.  He was thankful it was finally coming to an end. 

 He turned and walked to the back of the transport.  It would not be long now, he thought.    Discreetly, he touched the amulet that he wore clasped around his right wrist, and a tiny rune lit up on the hidden display that was projected in front of his left eye.  This task complete, he sat back down and waited for the journey to end, his hand reflexively rubbing the black pearl that hung hidden around his neck. 

A low chime swung Hart’s head around swiftly to the Comm unit.  A small rune flashed up on the display, bathing his face in green light.  Morton moved to his side studying the screen intently.  “That’s Omega’s signal,” he confirmed.  “They must be approaching Arat now.” 

Hart looked up at him, “The time has arrived then.”  He rose and moved to the small locker stood by the door. 

Morton bent over the Comm and manipulated the control panel.  “I’m issuing the signal,” he reported.  “We have three hours.”  Hart returned from the locker holding his knife and bolt pistol.  He handed Morton his weapons and strapped his own beneath his cloak.  The two exchanged glances, gave a final look to their home, and left for Arat across the desert.

  With a shudder the transport stopped.  The rear hatch swung open and Caines shielded his eyes as the glare of the sun hit his face.  Haden stomped past him, “Well we’re here,” he growled.  “Time for you to be on your way.  We’ve got business to take care of.” 

Caines jumped down from the transport.  “You have been most kind,” he said taking Haden’s hand.  “I would like to repay you if I may?” 

Haden’s eyes narrowed, “I told you. I don’t expect payment.” 

Caines nodded, “Of course, but I would like to treat you and your men to one last drink before we part company – it’s the least I can do, considering the trouble you have saved me.”

For an instant Haden’s eyes locked with Caines as though he was searching for some deceit in the man’s face.  Caines stood, expression blank, letting the merchant assess his motives.  The wind rustled their clothing and blew sand into their faces.  Finally Haden dropped his eyes.  “I’ve got to get these vehicles refuelled.  We’ll meet you in the bar on the main street in two hours.”

Caines smiled disarmingly, “Good.  I’ll see you there.”  As he watched Haden, and the ten men that worked with him, depart, he allowed the sneering smile that he’d been harbouring, onto his face.  As the haulers disappeared he turned and stalked into the town, he had work to do.

Hart and Morton arrived at the gates of Arat an hour and half after they left the shack.  The sun had beat down on them for the whole distance, but neither had noticed the discomfort.  They continued through the gates to the small customs checkpoint.  The official manning the post, a short, balding man, looked over the data pad he was reading.  “Good morning Mr Morton, Mr Hart,” he greeted them.

“Greetings customs official Tanner,” Morton replied, hastening through the checkpoint.  He had no desire to become embroiled in an argument over Arat’s firearm restrictions today.  Thankfully, the official seemed unconcerned with performing his job.  “The Emperor has certainly given us a fine day today,” he remarked conversationally.

Hart stopped, and turned a stern gaze upon the official.  “The Emperor has given us everything Mr Tanner.”

“I suppose he has,” laughed Tanner.  Morton took Hart’s arm and propelled him forwards, before he could respond again. 

Arat, it seemed, was the same as always.  The township was essentially one long street, flanked on either side by pre-fab buildings that looked, rather disconcertingly, more like sheds for livestock, than houses and places of business.  Tired, shabby people walked up and down ignoring each other, desperate to gain shade from the heat.  The two men walked forward, passing a small market, ignoring the pleading cries of the merchants to purchase their wares.  “There’s the place,” Hart said softly, pointing to a low building further up the street.  “What time did Omega tell us to be there?”

Morton glanced at his chrono; “We have half an hour.  Let us go and prepare.”

The inside of the bar was if anything less attractive than its battered exterior.  Several round tables filled the majority of the box like room, and a selection of bottles was located behind a counter at the far end.  Tired eyes swung slowly to the door as the two men entered, and then swung slowly back to their drinks.  Hart and Morton had made sure that they’d been seen around town in the previous weeks, and the locals were normally too hot to be curious anyway.  Morton strode forward, his long legs covering the distance to the bar quickly.  “Yes?” the barman inquired, as Morton approached.

“My friend and I will have two of those,” Morton replied, gesturing to the nearest bottle. 

A hint of a smile played across the barman’s face, but it died on his lips as he caught Morton’s fierce glare.  “Here you are,” he mumbled.  Morton tossed a few credits to him and returned to the table that Hart had chosen.  He dumped the bottles on the table and sat down.

“What is this?” questioned Hart. 

“I have no idea,” replied Morton.

It was a little over an hour later that Caines entered the bar.  He walked past Hart and Morton without noticing them and made for a table in the far corner.  Behind him a tall man entered, followed by ten others of a similar height.  Hart noted the muscular bodies of all of the new arrivals.  They were in stark contrast to the malnourished locals.  He glanced over at Morton.  His face had hardened to stone and his eyes glinted wickedly.  Caines had reached the table now and had motioned his companions into the seats surrounding it.  Hart started to move, but felt Morton’s restraining hand on his arm.  “Patience brother!” he hissed.

The door swung open and two more men wrapped in similar cloaks to Hart and Morton entered the bar.  One moved to a group of locals sitting nearby.  Words passed between them, and Hart caught the dull flash of adamantium as the newcomer gestured with his arm.  The locals got up hurriedly and left the bar, leaving the two new arrivals to take their place.  The two men leant back in their seats in an effort to appear relaxed, but their eyes were intense.

In the far corner Caines had returned with the drinks for his companions, and sat down with them.  Morton rose slowly, gesturing to Hart to follow him.  The newcomers, at a nod from Morton, stood also and moved swiftly to the doorway.  The bar had suddenly become deathly silent.  Morton crossed the floor on cat’s feet until he stood behind the figure of Haden.  “Greetings brother Varas,” Morton growled with undisguised hatred, “It has been a long time.”

Haden spun around, his hand straying to his holster, “Who the hell are you!” he began, rising to his feet.  Hart lashed out and sent the man sprawling into another table.

“I am vengeance!” Morton hissed.

Varas, stumbling to his feet, turned to Caines.  His eyes narrowed on the man’s face as they had before, searching for something - “You!” he gasped. 

Caines stood, his cloak drawn back to reveal the cross that hung around his neck, and his hand clasping a set of finely honed blades.  “You escaped me once Varas,” he intoned, “This time I win. You cannot hide from the judgement of the Emperor.”

Varas backed away.  “Chaos damn the Emperor!” he screamed, and pulled his bolt pistol free.  The fallen Dark Angel was fast.  Before the marines could react he squeezed the trigger and the gloomy interior of the bar was lit up with fire.  Morton hurled himself into Hart, knocking him clear of the explosive rounds that were lancing towards him.  Varas moved swiftly to the door followed by his squad.  The two Dark Angels stationed there stepped forward to cut off their escape, but were knocked to floor as the greater numbers of the fallen assaulted them. 

Hart scrambled to his feet and leapt after them.  “Brother Zaltys!” Morton shouted, “Hold your position.  The trap has been sprung.” 

Hart puled back reluctantly from the open door, “Yes master,” he replied, disappointment evident in his voice.

Caines stepped forward, “Varas is more skilled than even I had believed brother Adonai.”

The Dark Angel master turned to his chaplain, “The assets of the fallen are not of this world brother Lexus.  This time however, not even the gods of chaos will allow him to escape.”

Varas sprinted toward the main gates of Arat, followed by his fellow marines.  The dust blew into his face, stinging his eyes, but he ran on.  To stop was to die.  How could he have been so stupid!?  To fail to recognise an interrogator chaplain!  The years must have taken their toll, he thought.  They passed through the gates unchallenged, out onto the desert plain.  He skidded to a halt.  They had to move fast.  “Should have gone for the transports!” he muttered to himself.  He turned east.  Low town was only ten miles.  If they kept moving...

A blur on the horizon caught his attention.  It was large, black and moving fast towards them.  Dust swirled around it as it powered onwards.  As it got closer, what had been a single entity separated into smaller specks.  The sun glinted evilly off exposed metal surfaces.  “Hell’s teeth!” he cursed, “The Ravenwing!”

Beside him Sergio pulled at his arm, “Varas!  Look!”  The marine was pointing to the west, where a huge white bird was descending from the heavens.  Varas sank to his knees.  Already the roar of engines could be heard bearing down upon them.  This was the end.

Six of the other marines seeing their leader give up, bolted for the desert.  Behind them a number of the black specks moved to intercept.  Sergio struggled to pull Varas up.  “Move!” he screamed, “You know what happens if they take us!”

Blue lightning arced in front of them, and the nightmare forms of five terminators materialised from the warp.  The sun gleamed blindingly off their white armour and their weapons were levelled at the remaining fallen.  “Yes,” said Varas in a low voice, “I do.”

As the first Ravenwing bikes ground to a standstill behind them, Varas raised the bolt pistol to his head.  “I got away once.  I won’t let him have me now.”

“Halt!” a voice barked, “In the name of the Emperor!” 

Varas fired.  His limp body toppled forward into Sergio’s arms. 

 “Drop him!” the voice commanded.

Sergio lowered the body of Varas to the ground and turned.  A marine in black power armour stood before him, bolt pistol in hand, the mark of the winged sword upon his shoulder. “You don’t even know who I am.” Sergio said mockingly, despair gripping his heart.

Another bike pulled up besides them.  Sergio felt a chill surge through him, as its rider approached.  He was clad in bone white robes now, and seemed taller than he had done only a few minutes before.  “Hello Caines,” Sergio managed, injecting as much venom as he could into the greeting.

“Silence!” roared Lexus.  The chaplain prodded at the prone form of Varas lying in a widening pool of blood on the ground, and then returned his gaze to Sergio.  “You should be thankful that you are still alive heretic!” he goaded, “Varas will burn eternally in the fires of chaos.  But I will do everything I can to save your soul!”  The chaplain’s eyes burnt into the fallen Dark Angels mind, forcing Sergio to avert his gaze.  Finally, Lexus turned away, disgust evident on his face.  “Brother Pluvius,” he addressed the Ravenwing sergeant, “take these men to the transport.  And assemble your men.  Our work here is done.”  


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Copyright 2000 by Doug Wolfe Last Updated Monday, July 2, 2001
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