Waiting For Godot: 40k Edition

“HERETIC.”

“What is it now?”

“YOU ARE ON THE EMPEROR’S SIDE OF THE CAVE.”

“What? No, I am not. Look. You are way over there, and I am way over here. Is something wrong with your optics?”

“ALL SIDES ARE THE EMPEROR’S SIDE.”

“If that is how it is, then all sides belong to the exalted Gidrim Dynasty and its glorious ruler, the esteemed Nemesor Zahndrekh!”

“HERETIC.”

Akhentomen stared at the enormous machine across the cave from him. He almost wished one of the injuries he’d sustained in their earlier struggle had been beyond his body’s ability to self-repair. As it stood, the machine now believed him invincible, and thought it should wait for backup. Akhentomen himself was doing something similar. That armor was devilishly hard to penetrate, especially when one was armed solely with a staff of light.

That had been five days ago. The day of the cave-in. The day they’d both been sealed into this forsaken pocket of earth. Since then, they had sat in their respective sides of the cave and stared at each other, rarely speaking except in insults.

Not that the situation wasn’t already insulting enough. Five days. The caved-in rock was too thick. The machine couldn’t punch them out. And so they sat, with their respective retrieval beacon devices activated, each hoping their faction would win the battle that was presumably still raging outside, and would send rescue for the lucky one and death for the other.

“HERETIC.”

“Oh, shut up.”

***

Akhentomen checked his internal chronometer. Eight days now. Eight days, they had been sitting and looking at each other. He couldn’t tell if the machine slept. He suspected not. That was fine. He didn’t sleep either.

He couldn’t tell if the machine knew what boredom was. But Akhentomen knew.

“What are you?”

“SILENCE, HERETIC.”

“It is not like we have anything else to do here. What are you?”

“I AM YOUR DOOM.”

“What are you?”

“THE EMPEROR’S WILL MADE MANIFEST.”

“What are you?”

“I AM A DREADNOUGHT.”

Finally, the machine had stopped simply spouting religious dogma and was answering his questions. Akhentomen was almost shocked.

“And what is a ‘drednaakht’?”

“I WAS ONCE A SPACE MARINE. NOW, IN DEATH, I AM MORE.”

“Explain.”

“MY BODY IS DEVASTATED. I LIVE ON IN THIS MOBILE PLATFORM. IT SUSTAINS ME AND ENABLES ME TO CRUSH EMPEROR’S ENEMIES. LIKE YOU.”

Akhentomen thought about this. So the machine — dreadnought, Akhentomen corrected himself — did know boredom. It was, ultimately, an organic in a sarcophagus.

And that meant he could outlast it, even if it took an eternity.

“WHAT ARE YOU?”

“What?”

“WHAT ARE YOU, HERETIC?”

“I am a Necron.”

“AND WHAT IS A NECRON?”

“I was a Necrontyr.”

“WHAT IS A NECRONTYR?”

Akhentomen would have frowned if his face was still flexible. He was playing the same game the dreadnought had been playing earlier, and quite by accident.

It didn’t matter what he revealed, he concluded. The near-dead organic would be dead before he could reveal anything to his comrades. And even if that wasn’t the case, at least the humans would know to fear the Necrons.

“The Necrontyr are…were…my people. We were flesh and blood once, long before you existed. Long before your kind existed. Before even the eldar.”

“EXPLAIN.”

“We fought a war. A war with the Old Ones.”

“THE OLD ONES?”

Akhentomen was almost taken aback by this. The humans had never heard of the Old Ones. He had thought the eldar or some other race from that time would have preserved the memory of the Old Ones and revealed it. Evidently, they had faded from history.

How fitting that the “immortal” ones were gone without a trace now, and the Necrontyr still endured. The thought was pleasing. Humorous, even.

“The Old Ones were immortal. They were powerful. They could create life. They created the eldar. And now, they are dead. We killed them. It was glorious.”

“AND THE NECRONTYR?”

Akhentomen stared blankly, trying to find the words to explain. Even after all this time, the memories were still vivid. They were painful. They were the only pain he could still feel.

“We…we made a deal. A deal with the C’tan.”

“WHAT IS KETANN?”

“In your tongue, ‘star-gods’. We–”

***

Akhentomen had been out for no more than a few minutes by his internal chronometer. His face was unfolding back into its correct shape.

“I WILL CRUSH YOU AGAIN, FOUL MINION OF CHAOS.”

“Wait.”

“FOR WHAT?”

“They weren’t gods. They weren’t Chaos, and they weren’t gods.”

“EXPLAIN.”

“Get back to your side, and I will.”

The dreadnought stomped back over to its side of the cave. Taking his eyes off the machine for the first time in over a week, Akhentomen looked back towards the cave wall behind him. The machine had punched him into the wall as soon as he had mentioned gods. A touchy subject, it seems.

“The C’tan are aliens. Fully material aliens.”

“THEN WHY CALL THEM GODS?”

“A poetic turn of phrase. We discovered them when they were dispersed energy clouds, eating stars. They were eating the star of our homeworld, the star that cruelly cut our lives short. We–”

“AS YOU DESERVED, XENO.”

“…I am going to let that one go. For now. As I was saying, we found them. Szeras, the head scientist under the Silent King, was the first to communicate with them. Thanks to him, the C’tan were given tangible form, in necrodermis bodies.”

“NECRODERMIS?”

Akhentomen held up an arm and rapped his knuckles against it.

“Necrodermis. With the C’tan in tangible forms, they were able to communicate with all of us. They helped us in the war.”

“AND THAT WAS THE DEAL.”

Akhentomen looked down at his hands. He stared at the cold metal.

“No. This was.”

“EXPLAIN.”

“The war dragged on. Szarekh, the Silent King, was getting old, and old is something Necrontyr hate to be. It means disease and death. The C’tan offered a suggestion: just as we had given them necrodermis bodies, they would help us shed our mortal forms and take on necrodermis bodies of our own.”

“AND THAT WAS THE DEAL.”

“Yes. We did not realize the cost at the time. They stripped our souls. Our minds — my mind — was bound to the will of the Silent King. We could not go against it. Our exploits were glorious. With our new self-repairing bodies, we were able to crush the Old Ones swiftly. But the C’tan controlled us, through the Silent King.”

The dreadnought sounded like it was about to speak for a second. Akhentomen paused. After a long while, the dreadnought droned its response.

“YOU SPEAK OF THESE C’TAN IN THE PAST TENSE. WHAT OF THEM NOW?”

“The Silent King freed us.”

“EXPLAIN.”

“The C’tan now — the Nightbringer we unleashed upon your forces outside — are shards of their former selves. With the Silent King’s help, we broke them. We are their masters now.”

“AND THE SILENT KING?”

“…I don’t know.”

“EXPLAIN.”

“He made us hibernate until he could give us organic bodies again. When we awoke, he was gone. There have been rumors of sightings, whispers of him fighting the…”

“TYRANIDS.”

“What?”

“INSECTOID INVADERS. A COMMANDER FROM THE BLOOD ANGELS CHAPTER SPOKE OF A NECRON FORCE THAT ALLIED WITH HIM FOR A TIME. THEY FOUGHT THE TYRANIDS.”

“…we have heard the same rumor.”

“THE COMMANDER LET YOUR FORCES GO AFTERWARDS.”

“The Silent King lives, then.”

“HE WAS EXECUTED FOR HIS COWARDICE.”

Akhentomen did not know how to react to this.

“The…’Teerahnidds’ are the greatest threat this galaxy has ever faced. Why would he be executed for facing them?”

“HE WAS NOT EXECUTED FOR FACING THEM. HE WAS EXECUTED FOR NOT GRANTING YOUR KING THE EMPEROR’S JUSTICE.”

It was Akhentomen’s turn to ask and listen now, and he willingly rose to the role.

“Explain.”

“YOU ARE XENOS.”

“And?”

“FRATERNIZING WITH XENOS IS HERESY. THE GALAXY SEEKS TO DESTROY HUMANITY. SO SAYS THE EMPEROR.”

“…I am not sure if your barbarism or your megalomania offends me more.”

“HUMANITY WILL CONQUER THE GALAXY. THE EMPEROR WILLS IT SO. ALL ALIENS WILL BE DESTROYED.”

“You will never take our galaxy. We will outlast you, just as we have outlasted everything else.”

“WE WILL SEE.”

“We will.”

Akhentomen was no longer bored.

***

Two weeks.

It had been two weeks since they had been trapped in here, and six days since they had last spoke. Akhentomen did not want to grant the primitive human robot the satisfaction of further conversation.

“HERETIC.”

Akhentomen did not respond. Surprised though he was to hear the dreadnought speak after days of silence, he did not respond.

“HERETIC.”

That word again. That word, so condemning, and yet so empty in its superstition. It grated on him.

“HERETIC.”

Please, shut up, shut up, shut up…

“HERETIC.”

“What is it?!”

“YOU ARE ON THE EMPEROR’S SIDE OF THE CAVE.”

“And what is the corpse going to do about it?”

Akhentomen could see the dreadnought was stunned by that statement. He had half-expected to be punched into the wall again. He had been prepared to welcome the death with open arms.

“You did not think I knew about that, did you? We’ve worked with you kind before. The other human faction. They told us a great deal about your ruler, how he was slain by their hero Horus, how you venerate a maggot-ridden, decaying, emaciated –”

***

With a start, Akhentomen woke again, to feel his ribcage setting back into place. He looked up at the dreadnought, its fist positioned again.

“Do it! Do–”

***

The dreadnought was back in its corner. Its fist hung with a strange limpness at its side, Akhentomen noted, through his only currently-functioning eye. Gradually, the second was coming back online.

It seemed the machine had thrown too much into that hit. Gas leaked from the arm’s piston, and the machine leaned towards it, as if the arm were now simply a dead weight pulling it down.

“YOU KNOW NOTHING OF THE EMPEROR.”

Akhentomen’s other eye finally came back on line, giving him three-dimensional vision again.

“Oh? Then tell me, oh great one, of your idol.”

With a strange sound of inhalation — the first such sound Akhentomen had heard from the dreadnought’s vox, added, he supposed, for dramatic effect — the dreadnought began speaking.

“THE EMPEROR IS THE GREATEST HUMAN TO HAVE EVER EXISTED. HE HAS LIVED FOR FORTY THOUSAND YEARS.”

“Impossible. Your kind dies by a century. We have found medical records in the ruins of scores of your cities.”

“HE IS A GOD.”

“There are no gods.”

“HE IS A GOD.”

“Explain.”

“HE IS THE MOST POWERFUL PSYKER IN THE GALAXY. HE IS IMMORTAL. HE LED HUMANITY OUT OF THE AGE OF STRIFE TEN THOUSAND YEARS AGO, AFTER GUIDING HUMANITY FOR THIRTY MILLENNIA. HE IS A GOD.”

“By that standard, the Silent King is a god.”

“HERETIC.”

“And what, pray tell, does this god of yours do?”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“Explain.”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“No, explain more.”

“THAT IS THE EXPLANATION. THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“How?”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

This was clearly going nowhere. Akhentomen decided to try a different line of questioning.

“Why does the other faction say he is a corpse?”

“HE SITS ON THE GOLDEN THRONE OF TERRA.”

“And?”

“HE HAS SAT FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS.”

“How does that make him a corpse?”

“HE HAS SAT FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS,” the machine repeated, but with a strange emphasis on the word “sat”.

Something clicked into place in Akhentomen’s mind.

“You worship a being that has not moved from one spot in over ten thousand years?”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“Stop saying that.”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“…Why hasn’t he moved?”

“HORUS.”

Ah, the hero of the other faction. Now he was finally getting some answers.

“THERE WAS A WAR.”

“THE GREAT CRUSADE RAGED FOR TWO HUNDRED YEARS.”

“The Great Crusade?”

“THE EMPEROR UNITED HUMANITY ACROSS THE STARS.”

“From his chair?”

“HE COULD WALK, THEN.”

“Go on.”

“THE EMPEROR LEFT HIS FAVORED SON IN CHARGE OF THE WAR.”

“A worthy choice.”

“NO.”

“No?”

“NO. HORUS BETRAYED THE EMPEROR. HE FELL TO CHAOS.”

So Horus was the Emperor’s son…this was a new detail.

“The other faction spoke of chaos a great deal. I understand chaos in one sense, but what do you mean by chaos?”

“CHAOS IS THE WARP.”

“He fell to the Warp?”

“YES.”

“What does that even mean?”

“THE GODS OF THE WARP CORRUPTED HIM.”

“There are no gods.”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

Akhentomen reminded himself to humor the machine from now on, or else hear that again.

“The Warp is just another dimension. How can it corrupt?”

“IT IS NOT. IT IS THE REALM OF CHAOS. IT IS THE HOME OF THE FALSE GODS. IT IS THE HOME OF DAEMONS.”

“They are simply other aliens.”

“THEY ARE DAEMONS.”

Another line of questioning not to pursue. This narrow dogma made understanding difficult.

“So these…’demons’ spoke to Horus?”

“YES.”

“And convinced him to turn on his father.”

“YES.”

“And?”

“HE BROUGHT HALF THE SPACE MARINES DOWN WITH HIM.”

“I see.”

“WE FOUGHT OUR BROTHERS.”

“Wait, you were there?”

“YES.”

“How long have you been in that casing?”

“TEN THOUSAND YEARS.”

Akhentomen had to admit, for a human, that was impressive. It was a fleeting moment for a necron, but for a human, it was notable.

“HORUS FOUGHT THE EMPEROR.”

“Yes, like the other faction said. He killed the Emperor.”

“THE EMPEROR KILLED HIM.”

“What?”

“THE EMPEROR SLEW HORUS, BUT HIS WOUNDS WERE TOO GREAT. HE WAS PLACED ON THE THRONE. HE HAS BEEN THERE EVER SINCE.”

“Why do you keep a corpse around? Why not make way for a new emperor?”

“HERETIC.”

That word again.

“THE THRONE PRESERVES HIM. HIS PSYCHIC INFLUENCE GUIDES THE IMPERIUM. HE CANNOT BE KILLED. HE CANNOT BE DEFEATED. HE IS ETERNAL.”

“It sounds like he was defeated.”

The dreadnought’s arm twitched, but still hung limp.

“HERETIC.”

***

Two weeks and three days, now.

The conversation had ended there. Akhentomen’s attempts to probe further had been met with more calls of “heretic”. Clearly, it was a sore spot for the dreadnought.

A thought occurred to Akhentomen. A strange one, but an interesting one. For a moment, he almost dismissed it as ridiculous. It was absolutely stupid. He would be rescued soon, and none of this would matter anymore, except for what information he could relay to the Vargard for conveyance to the Phaeron. Obviously, Zahndrekh wouldn’t listen to any of this; he had to get this information to Imotekh.

Of course, the dreadnought would have to die first.

“I’m sorry.”

“WHAT?”

“I’m sorry you had to fight your brothers. That must have been difficult.”

Silence was the machine’s answer, for a long while. Then, with a strange, choked sound to his vox, the dreadnought responded.

“WE DIDN’T THINK THE EMPEROR DIVINE THEN. HE ALWAYS SAID HE WAS NOT A GOD. IT WAS NOT UNTIL HE WAS ON THE THRONE THAT I REALIZED IT.”

“…”

“YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN HIM.”

“The Emperor?”

“HORUS. BEFORE HIS FALL. BEFORE THE HERESY. YOU WERE RIGHT. HE WAS THE WORTHY CHOICE FOR WARMASTER. HE COULD CHARM A SYSTEM’S RULERS AS EASILY AS HE COULD CRUSH THEM. HE WAS INSPIRING.”

“I see.”

“THE CEREMONY WAS INCREDIBLE.”

“I bet it was.”

The dreadnought didn’t respond. Akhentomen allowed its silence.

***

An hour had passed. Only an hour.

“I AM SORRY.”

“What?”

“YOUR PEOPLE. SEEING THEM CHANGED, ALL AT ONCE. SEEING YOUR CULTURE DIE. I’M SORRY.”

Akhentomen stared. He had never expected this. A strange sensation stirred in his neck, a sensation he hadn’t felt in millions of years. He felt like he was choking. He didn’t breathe anymore, but he felt like he was choking. His eyes were clear. No moisture. No tears. But he felt like he was crying.

“It…it was magnificent. Our culture. Our monuments. Our poetry, our music, everything. And now it is all gone. All of it, lost to time and memory lapses from the long sleep. I can only barely remember what was once…what I think was once…my favorite song.”

“…”

“We cling to existence. Not even life. Just existence. We wanted to live forever. We died the day we made that choice.”

“I AM SORRY.”

It was Akhentomen’s turn to stop responding.

***

Another day had passed.

“What should I call you?”

“WHAT?”

“I get the feeling we will not be leaving here any time soon. What should I call you?”

“FOKAAL, OF THE IMPERIAL FISTS.”

“Focal?”

“FOKAAL,” the dreadnought replied, with an emphasis on the second syllable.

“Fo-kaaaAAAAAaaaaal.”

“CLOSE ENOUGH.”

“It is a strange name.”

“AND YOURS?”

“I am Lord Akhentomen, under the brilliant Nemesor Zahndrekh, of the Gidrim Dynasty.”

“LORR DAKENENTOBEN.”

“Lord. Akh. Enn. Toe. Men.”

“AKH-EN-TO-MEN.”

“Yes.”

“AND YOU THINK MY NAME IS STRANGE.”

A rasping sound issued from the dreadnought’s vox. It took a few seconds for Akhentomen to realize the dreadnought was laughing. A new wheezing joined the cacophony. It took still longer for Akhentomen to realize that he was laughing too.

They laughed together. As Fokaal laughed, Akhentomen laughed harder. As Akhentomen laughed, Fokaal laughed harder. The solid, unchanging, mechanical rhythms of their laughter grew together, into a sound not unlike the pounding of a hammer on an enormous anvil. Their laughter grew so great that the cave itself began to shake.

As their laughter started to subside, however, Akhentomen noticed the cave was still shaking, in the same pounding rhythm.

Salvation was at hand. For one of them.

As the rocks blocking the entrance of the cave began to crack, light began to shine in. The dreadnought — Fokaal, Akhentomen corrected himself — stood. Akhentomen stood with him. They stood together, gazing at the crack, less than an arm’s length from each other by either of their measurements.

“I AM SORRY,” said Fokaal, as the hole grew.

“I know,” said Akhentomen.

“NO. I AM SORRY FOR THIS.”

“Wh–”

The arm was still barely functional, Akhentomen noted. He could see that clearly, now that its hand was firmly clasped over his face. He felt himself being flung, and light flooded his optics as he flew through the cave mouth.

Landing hard on the ground, he looked up to see who had freed them.

A loud, mechanical shout issued from the cave, from Fokaal, behind him.

“DIE, HERETIC! THIS IS THE JUDGMENT OF THE RIGHTEOUS!”

===

Fokaal burst through the rubble surrounding the cave mouth, charging as only a dreadnought could.

A Gauss flayer shot tore a hole in his front. He did not slow. He did not falter.

Five more.

Ten more.

One hundred more.

By the time Akhentomen had reclaimed his feet, a smoldering crater was all that was left of Fokaal, of the Imperial Fists.

He looked out at the battlefield behind his rescuers, and saw days-old corpses in yellow armor littering the ground. The previously light-violet sand was now stained with the red of human blood. Only a few grains of the original color were still visible.

“Ah, Akhentomen, it is good to see you are still breathing!”

“…my Nemesor.”

“It is always a shame to slay a Necrontyr, even one as mutated as these strange hulks. I will never understand why this ‘Ehmpyryahm’ dynasty can’t use skimmer technology effectively.”

“…nor I, my Nemesor.”

“Obyron will debrief you. Come by my chambers later, Akhentomen. You look like you could use a drink.”

“…yes, my lord.”

Akhentomen ventured one last look toward the cave, and the black mark on the landscape that was Fokaal. Obyron approached.

“As per usual, forgive his lordship for his…eccentricities. Are you ready to give your report?”

“Yes, I am. I learned much from the machine. Much of the Emperor. Our allies were right. These humans worship a corpse. How they have survived this long, I will never know…”

NECRON END

===

Akhentomen looked up. He saw the same yellow in front of him, the yellow of Fokaal’s armor.

Fokaal burst through the rubble surrounding the cave mouth, charging as only a dreadnought could.

A chorus of bolter shots and melta fire rang out, as the dreadnought’s charge slowed. Akhentomen had died on his stomach, face down, in the dust.

Fokaal had heard the reports. A sufficiently damaged Necron phased out, back to its tomb.

Why was Akhentomen’s body still in front of him?

The marines kept pouring fire into the body. A light green haze began to form over it, and then it fizzled out. The metal corpse stayed right there, on the ground.

Whatever it was that made Necrons phase out, it wasn’t working anymore. Lord Akhentomen, under the brilliant Nemesor Zahndrekh, of the Gidrim Dynasty, was well and truly dead, in a way few Necrons would ever be.

“Brother Fokaal. It is good to see you are still well. The Emperor protects.”

“THE EMPEROR PROTECTS.”

“Let’s get that arm fixed. The foul xeno must have broken it.”

“YES. HE DID.”

“At last, back to war!”

“EVEN IN DEATH, I STILL SERVE.”

IMPERIUM END

===

“Dis is a good ‘ead for me bosspole!”

“Right, boss!”

“Youse don’ get metalman ‘eadz very often! Dey do dat whooshy fing and the body goes away!”

“Yeah, boss!”

“An’ we tore down one of the ‘umiez’ big stompy toyz, too! Tie it to da battlewagon! I want to show all da boyz in the WAAAGH what we’z done!”

“Uh, boss?”

“Yeah?”

“SHUDDUP AND LET US WORK!”

ORK END

===

[This ending kicks in BEFORE the rumbling, obviously, because otherwise it just doesn’t work.]

Five. Hundred. Years.

They had been imprisoned for five hundred years, with no end in sight.

For the first century, it had been nice. They had become friends, as the burned-in “A+F BFFS” engraving on the wall now attested. They had scratched and burned pictures into the walls, traded stories, generally talked about their respective lives.

Around the second century, the enthusiasm was gone. They spoke only to avoid insanity.

In the third century, familiarity bred contempt. Contempt bred hatred.

And in the fourth century, hatred bred silence.

For two centuries, they had not spoken a word to each other. Before, they had loathed each other in ignorance. Now, they loathed each other in absolute knowledge. They simply sat and stared, as they had that first day.

“HERETIC.”

“…”

“YOU ARE ON THE EMPEROR’S SIDE OF THE CAVE.”

BAD END

===

Fokaal burst through the rubble surrounding the cave mouth, charging as only a dreadnought could.

Akhentomen looked up and saw a dimly-yellow-armored figure, in hoof-like boots, in front of him.

“FOR THE GREATER GOOD!” a voice yelled, as he felt a rifle press to the top of his skull.

The crumple of metal on armor met Akhentomen’s auditory receptors. The rifle flew away, and its bearer with it. Craning his neck to look up further, he saw the fist of Fokaal’s good arm. Moments later, he felt it lift him up. He readied his Staff for battle as he took his position on top of Fokaal.

“Much appreciated!”

“ANY TIME,” replied Fokaal, punching more of the armored xenos. Rifle fire pinged off of his armor, scoring it, denting it, but never dropping him.

Akhentomen took aim with his Staff and laid down his own killing field.

A sudden, earth-shaking explosion at the cave mouth knocked them both to the ground.

The Tau had a railgun. That was how they’d opened the cave.

And that was what Fokaal was charging directly at now, trampling Tau and Kroot alike as they stood in his way.

***

“CAN YOU OPERATE THIS EQUIPMENT, AKHENTOMEN?”

“I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

“THEN WE ARE STUCK ON THIS PLANET.”

“Incorrect.”

There were a few noteworthy benefits to having a Necrodermis body beyond immortality, Akhentomen thought to himself as he jammed a finger directly into the computer’s interface socket.

The Tau shuttle began to lift off, its cockpit full of Air Caste corpses, its hold stained with Fire Caste blood and full of tools and munitions.

“Once we have left the system, we can see about fixing up those marks and that arm.”

“THANK YOU, AKHENTOMEN.”

Akhentomen felt good. He felt great. He felt absolutely fantastic, as though nothing would ever be wrong again.

“WHERE ARE WE GOING?”

The feeling was gone.

“I…I honestly do not know.”

“YOU CANNOT RETURN TO THE IMPERIUM WITH ME. WE WILL GO TO YOUR DYNASTY.”

“Bad idea. The Vargard would have you destroyed. Can we hide on one of your hive worlds?”

“I CANNOT HIDE.”

“…good point.”

Akhentomen puzzled over this and checked the star map. The Imperium wasn’t safe for them. The Dynasties weren’t safe for them. Neither one would be tolerated — or would tolerate — the eldar. The Tau would not take them, not after this. The Orks were safe for no one, and Fokaal would never be willing to live in Chaos territory. After the Thousand Sons incident, Akhentomen didn’t want to see Chaos again either.

“We have all the time in the universe to find somewhere. Perhaps the universe will calm down by then.”

“PERHAPS.”

Akhentomen felt good again.

“HERETIC.”

Something in Fokaal’s tone sounded soft, as though it was a term of endearment.

“Hmm?”

“…YOU ARE ON THE EMPEROR’S SIDE OF THE SHUTTLE.”

If space could transmit sound, the laughter would have filled the galaxy.

GOOD END

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