Big Game VI – Chapter Forty Four: Ruminations
Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 Epilogue
Jann Kolten was looking at the stars when Voltman Kalmsan found her, a flute of sparkling held delicately in each of his hands. The Inquisitor stepped into the observation chamber, looking to the full wall of armored glass, and the view beyond it. He first saw the still-smoldering wreckage of the Omega Station, looming large among the cold stars, and then Kolten’s small figure silhouetted against infinity.
“There you are,” he said, making his way across the room. “Your presence is missed, Admiral Kolten. That party might as well be entirely in your honor, to hear Commissar Corlett tell it.”
“Thank you, Inquisitor,” Kolten said curtly. “But I’d like to be alone right now, if you don’t mind”
Kalmsan appeared at her side, offering her one of the glasses. Kolten gave a disgusted look to the glass and then the Inquisitor, then turned back to the stars.
“Something I said?” Kalmsan asked.
“This may surprise you to learn, but there at least a few things in this galaxy that have nothing to do with you.”
“As it just so happens,” Kalmsan said, staring contemplatively into one of what were now, apparently, his drinks, “I’ve led a long and storied career based on the assumption that any situation can be improved by making it about me.”
The glare Jann Kolten gave him in return was just short of murder.
“Just my perspective,” Kalmsan said, rolling his eyes innocently. “So. What’s on your mind, Admiral?”
Kolten sighed. “The future, if you must know.”
“How much of it I might have left, anyway,” Kolten said, with a touch of something - fear or resentment - flavoring her voice. “They didn’t tell us much on the Station. They trained us to sell our lives in the Imperium’s defense without so much as a thought, but we’re not supposed to know much about the place. Keeps us from getting ideas, I suppose. Still, I’ve done enough duty in near-comms monitoring to get a picture. Enough to know that we’re the definition of a loose end.” She shook her head. “All those people who gave everything to keep the Imperium secure, and then fought to defend it from the weapon they spent their lives servicing. All of us will be extinguished for the sake of security. I am not, at the moment, feeling much warmth towards the Imperial machine. Or its devoted servants.”
Kalmsan swirled one of the glasses absently. “What you’ve heard isn’t entirely wrong. The Imperium is, indeed, rotten with zealous, paranoid madmen who would see the lot of you reduced to a chemical slag for even catching a whiff of what happened here. In fact, as soon as word of the Station’s fate got out among the ranks of the Administratum, quite a few of them demanded just that.”
Kolten’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not surprising.”
“Fortunately,” Kalmsan continued, “the Imperium is also possessed of individuals who are inclined to disappoint, enrage and thwart those madmen. On very lucky occasions, those plucky few hold in their hands the power of the Holy Ordos.”
“Like you,” Kolten said, her skepticism entirely unvarnished.
Kalmsan gave a self-satisfied nod. “Precisely like me.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t find that to be too comforting, Inquisitor,” Kolten said. “I doubt you’ll have much influence over what happens to us from the jail cell you’ll be thrown back into once the briefings are finished.”
Kalmsan frowned and looked at her with a perturbed curiosity. “You’re not supposed to know about that.”
“Like I said. I was in near-comms. That was my first position before being put onto the Command track. Interception. Monitoring. Decoding. Been listening in to the chatter between a few of the ships that arrived after all the fighting was done. Very interesting conversations. Just who was this ‘Inquisitor Logan’? Did you really gun him down in cold blood?”
“Ridiculous!” he spat. “Those smug bastards! ‘Cold blood’? It was self-defense! Entirely justified!” Kalmsan closed his eyes and exhaled, calming himself. “Logan. Damn him, that glory-grubbing ass. He was another one of those paranoid madmen, seeing heresy in every corner. Tried to execute me, which by the way was completely improper procedure. I don’t see why they’re blaming me for managing to do it first.”
“Well, if the best plan you have is for us to simply shoot our way out of this situation,” Kolten said, “I’d rather just submit to liquefaction. Seems less exhausting, and I’d rather not waste the ammunition.”
Kalmsan grunted irritably. “I’m hardly the only one speaking in your defense, you know. There’s Copernicus, too, of course. And that Cadian, Octavius. He raised a spot of pure hell at the suggestion that any of you would be granted anything less than full heroic honors for your actions. Threatened to take you all in as Cadians and have you guard the Gate, security be damned. Even the Administratum backed down from his fury, eventually. Though I suppose the Astartes expressing their commitment to your safety in rather... stark terms was likely helpful in brokering the peace as well.”
Kolten’s eyes went wide. “I... hadn’t expected that kind of support.”
“Don’t worry, Admiral. You and the rest of the brave defenders of the Omega Station are safe. There will be suspicion. There will be tests. Hopefully, nothing too invasive. In the end, however, you’ll all be kept safe and relocated to positions that suit your particular talents. You have my word on that, whatever that’s worth to you. Which, by the way, should be quite a bit. I’m an Inquisitor, you know. That means something to most people.”
For the first time in what seemed like months, Kolten smiled. “Thank you, Inquisitor.”
“All in a day’s work for the Imperium’s finest,” Kalmsan said, offering her a glass once more. Kolten accepted gingerly and, in the same movement, swiped the flute from his other hand as well, then downed them both before Kalmsan could even respond.
“Now,” she said. “I believe you said something about a party? It seems I have a few people to thank.”