Big Game VI – Chapter Twenty: A Cloud of Fireflies
“Thank you, Talyn” Kalmsan said as he took the steaming towel from his stormtrooper bodyguard. Reclining into the plush comfort of the ancient mahogany chair, he let the warmth of the towel simply waft into the freshly-shaved skin of his face, opening the pores. Truly, he thought, some pleasures were meant to be enjoyed slowly.
Without warning, the Rocinante shook violently. The towel flew from Kalmsan’s hands and hit the deck with a devastating plop.
“Sorry, sir.” Sergeant Talyn Pickman replied as he bent to retrieve the soiled cloth. Kalmsan had to weave his head to avoid being smacked by the obscene hilt of the Astartes power sword Pickman had been gifted.
“Oh, don’t bother.” Kalmsan growled. “Dade! Do something about those traitors, if you could please.”
“Would that I could, Voltman,” Dadaelus Copernicus said from within the swarming cloud of the ship’s officers and bridge crew that surrounded him, “but they’re a stubborn bunch.” Beyond them, a massive flotilla of traitor vessels advanced towards them on the forward viewscreen, weapons firing.
The ship’s primary communications officer, a slender and severe woman whose name Kalmsan hadn’t bothered to learn, shuffled past his chair, nearly knocking him from his perch. She fixed the Inquisitor with a glare of undisguised contempt as she swept by. Kalmsan sighed. Would these indignities never end?
“Inquisitor! Inquisitor!” shouted a pinched, nasal voice, approaching rapidly over the arrhythmic sound of a man running while limping.
Apparently not, thought Kalmsan as he beheld the advancing form of Adeptus Mechanicus adept Tukmehn Kelhar. “Magos,” Kalmsan said. “What a delightful surprise. Could this possibly wait until the next Millennium? As you can see, I’m very busy.”
“Oh, you’ll want to make time for this, I promise!” The hawk-nosed man said as he adjusted his archaic spectacles. Two mechandrite tendrils snaked out of his voluminous red robes. One lowered his hood, revealing the metallic dome that replaced the man’s skull. The other reached into his robes and retrieved a holo-slate. Kelhar offered the slate to Kalmsan, who stared at it blank.
“What is this?” Kalmsan said, gingerly prying the slate away from Kelhar’s tendril.
“Possibly the key to this whole mess.” Kelhar answered like a child showing off his favorite marble.
“Possibly.” Kalmsan said with undisguised doubt. He activated the slate, which showed a diagram of fleet movements of the engagements of the enemy. Each ship had been reduced to a single colored point, and the speed had been increased so that the fleet battles appeared as buzzing swarms of fireflies against a black background.
“Do you see it?” Kelhar squealed.
“Magos, I don’t have time for your…” Kalmsan cut off as Kelhar firmly clasped the hand he was using to hold the slate.
“Look harder.” Kelhar said with such fervor that Kalmsan couldn’t bring himself to yell at the aging tech-priest. Kalmsan stared at the slate as the battles replayed in fast motion over and over again.
There. One dot had been insulated from enemy attack and kept from the main lines.
“This ship. What is it?” Kalmsan asked, pointing to the suspicious dot.
“You saw it! Excellent, Inquisitor!” Kelhar retrieved the slate and punched a few digits, revealing a readout of the ship. The battleship dubbed B-2, a Retribution class ship, designed for linebreaking and high-powered salvoes. Only a fool would fail to utilize such a ship in an engagement such as this, unless…
“It must be important to them…” Kalmsan whispered to himself.
“More than that.” Kelhar replied, startling Kalmsan who was unaware that he had spoken. “I decrypted these transmissions to and from that ship.” Kelhar brought up gibberish sentences, all of which had one word highlighted.
“Oh, they couldn’t be that stupid…” Kalmsan said, his mouth agape in shock.
“You’ll have to remember, my Lord, these are not Imperial Navy, they’re cultists. They lack experience. Of course they’d put him on their biggest battleship. But, fearing the worst, keep it from the lines in case of an attack.” The Magos said with unrestrained glee. The fingers of Kelhar’s two human hands drummed together excitedly.
Kalmsan broke into laughter so thunderously that Kelhar stepped back, terrified for an instant. The jaws of all three of his bodyguards dropped.
“Dade!” Kalmsan shouted, waving the slate at Copernicus. “I just won us this war! Get me an encrypted channel to the Honor and Admiral Kolten! I have a target for them…”