This article is part of the Nihil Rifles Cycle

The Commissar stopped writing, put down his pen and ached. 50 signatures, his hands washed clean.

Death notes.

He sat back in his chair, letting exhaustion take him in to the leather folds. He huddled in his greatcoat, haunted by smiling, trusting, placid faces. Repeated conversations. ' Did I tell you about my mother, my family, my childhood?'

All dead now, worthless, senseless things. Non-borns, the Anomiens called them. The Commissar thought on this; the manner of their birth is unimportant to the natives, they live and then they die. Empty vessels break just as easily.

He reached out to his imported teak desk, took hold of a bottle and poured himself another glass of Amsec.

The Commissar was alone now, the only off-worlder in this senseless place. An alien among the alienated. He stood up and paced the four walls, his domed ceiling proof against the vacuum outside. Here in this pressurised capsule there was life, his life. The walls were reinforced against outside attack, against decay and corruption. Penumbral stains marked the walls as of late, some foretaste perhaps, some sigil. A pict-slate displayed the radiation forecast. Surviveable levels in a few hours.

The Eldar attack bit hard into the Commissarat-led squads, whether by design or by fortune. The design of the witches or of the enigmatic One, this great man, this Mono they all spoke of. The Commissar found himself attached to a large contingent of Non-born conscripts. They had names, he remembered.

They all had names.

One nominated himself as leader of Platoon 'Triumph'. He was voted in by the remaining 49. 'Mark', one of 5 in the platoon, looked to the hollow-eyed Commissar.

'I will lead us to victory.'

He turned to his 49 comrades.

'We fight for hope!'

The Commissar fitted a pair of dark glasses over his eyes. With his back turned he whispered:

'I have utmost faith that you will.'

The Commissar smiled and turned.

'You will make a fine leader.'

They were like children, infants.

They wept like children on first contact. Flak was insufficient against Shruiken, let alone the mind-agony the Eldar witches unleashed. They tenderly cradled the bodies of the fallen, weeping in the hope that bitter water would bring back the dead. The Commissar was almost moved. Almost.

He neckshotted the agreed leader and ordered an advance on where the coven held council. The Commissar would maintain order.

He felt presences as he charged, chainsword moaning in anticipation. A scratching at the edges. Of his psyche. Things seemed to bleach. Out. Slow. A sensation of being here

Then somewhere else.

And then,

Nowhere.

He repeats in his mind: 'The Emperor protects protects protects protects...' but the filth rises against it, some unbearable unbelievable understanding, like shards of pure glass truth filth slashing everything real to shreds. Repeats, gabbling now; 'Protects protects protects protects protects protects protects protects' red foaming brain worms devour, blood, sufferance, severed eyes, noses, lips, ears, bleeding down, bleeding for miles around, don't they know?! 'Protects protects protects protects protects protects' scratches, they look like hands, don't they? Little hands... SWEET TERRA BABIES HANDS!

He's here.

Sudden feet first ejection from the cnut of the Void, flat on his back, eyes locked on the terrible wheeling stars above. The silence was immense.

The Commissar found himself crying behind dark lenses, then laughing, then crying. He sat up on corroded volcanic rock and hugged his knees, glad for the comfort auto-contact brings. All the horrors he had known faded, all pain and suffering banished. He felt in the presence of a great ocean of peace, at last his being was filled with love and hope. He walked to the blasted copse and was filled with joy at the sight of 8 corpses, clad in ornate Rune armour. They bled from the eyes. A helmetless Warlock lay dessicated on the ground, frozen, twisted over bleak rock, forever in the grip of abject terror. He wept when he saw their Waystones stolen, a smile splitting his cracked lips. He knew he was in the presence of pure Void, absolute anti-soul.

He spun around, taking in the Culexus Temple, the fire, the smoke, the unending horror. He was lost in death, he ate it, he drank it, he grew strong on it. At last, he had found peace.

The Commissar drifted back from his reverie. The planet was evil, the people were evil, no, something beyond evil. He shuddered from the very seat of his soul, a newfound compassion and sensitivity being infected by the filth that stained his walls. The fluorescent lighting above him hummed oppressively.

The Commissar poured himself another glass of Amsec.

+++++END PART ONE++++++

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Staring at a ceiling for eternity, corrugated concrete the new deathscape. The bedroom the modern coffin. Metabolism slows to nothing, no release of energy from destruction.

Heart beats. Exhale.

Shadows that flicker on the edge of vision, fearing the real. Soft bed no comfort now, a padded box that reduces all sensation to nothing. Sleeping eternal.

Heart beats. Exhale.

Returning seemingly to nothing, black hive spikes that blossom across his ceiling, spiderlines in black ink connecting, erasing, destroying; endless distance, some impassive, impassible barrier between the individual and the world.

Heart beats. Exhale.

The deathscape, in between nothing and everything. There was life here, he remembered. His life, his past, his future. Surfacing, the lone survivor from Innerspace.

Heart beats. Exhale.

The body brought him back.

Heart beats... and sharp, painful inhalation.

__________________________________

Paralysed.

The Commissar lay on his back.

Ventilation pulses, lights hum, heart beats.

Waking in spirit only from dreams filled with screaming static and white noise. Body rigid with tensions. Dreams that point nowhere, filled with senseless architecture and blankness.

He gritted his teeth and swung his legs over the side of the bed. The Commissar felt like vomiting, but was so empty he decided it would be a futile task. He steeled himself against a wash of nausea from standing up, and kicked an empty bottle across the room where it smashed, spraying crystal shards into his legs, harsh fluorescent lighting making lazy refractions throughout the room.

He was unsteady on his feet, and toppled to his knees when he tried to walk forward, a thousand shards of broken glass piercing his knees, eager roses bleeding into the floor. In anger, in pain or out of sheer machochistic joy, the Commissar scraped himself low against the jagged floor, taking handfulls of broken glass. He rocked back on his knees and squeezed. The pain brought him back, confirmed that he still suffered, that suffering confirmation of existence.

He stood.

Artificial light pierced his skull, hammering into his brain. His mouth was diseased and dry from recycled air and alcohol. He guided himself to the desk where the bottle lay. The Commissar almost knocked the glass over, he was so uncoordinated. He held steady, waiting for two false images to combine to the one reality and the spirit began to leave the vessel, as the glass filled and the Commissar drank deeply.

He was possessed by the need to make an exit of this place. He crawled to the bathroom, barely feeling the thorns of glass, and emptied himself of everything. He fell once more into poisoned sleep, hoping he would not dream.

++++++++++++++++++++++

++++++++++++++++++++++++

The tiles were cold on his face. Back again.

He stood up. Better now.

'Terror's the certainty', the Commissar whispered to himself, 'Evil the putrid excess of self-conscious and self-justifying goodness'. He removed the glass from his hands with a tweezers and washed them in Amsec, watching red blood swirl down a white porcelain bowl. He bound his hands in bandages and resolved to escape the room that he had made his prison.

_____________________________________

The Commissar poked his head out of the door. The quarters were empty, 200 people employed elsewhere. By design? The Anomiens were insubstantial and could seemingly dissapear at will. The pressure of unseen eyes weighed down on the Commissar as he walked up the corridor, up and out to the surface. Ventilation pulses, lights hum, heart beats. Anxiety crept into his mind, doubts a Commissar should not have. Fragments of unwarranted dreams surfaced, with accompanying text from the Uplifting Primer:

'...more likely to crack...feel unwell...visions...'

The Taint. Warp psychosis. Unsanctioned psyker.

Bile rose as he increased pace, taking steps two at a time, like a man starved of oxygen struggling towards light from dark depths, less control, more frantic now '...a grave risk to those around them...mindless killers'. He laughed as the images intensified, the same horrible screaming blankness. 'If you note any strange behaviour, inform your Commissar immediately.' The Commissar, the cold, unthinking, killing machine. That was someone else, not the man who tripped on a step, but continued scrambling to the surface, for release, to respire, to see something beyond grey concrete and antithesis.

The images changed quality. An agri-world. Oceans of grass. A pale boy, son of a military man. Two soldier boys, who grew up together, mirror images of each other. Words he would never forget, promises that he broke, shattered into ten million pieces, that he smashed and threw up into the sky where they came to rest as stars. The Commissar broke through the final door at the top of the stairs, tears washing away blood.

He broke through to the balcony, out to the very edge and felt the embrace of cold, dead stars.

He had thrown it all away. There was nothing here. Endless brutal rock reflected who he had become and what he had lost. No life here, it was madness to try to live like this. The Commander had gone insane, it was absurd to make life here on a dead, hopeless planet. Children needed green. They needed green. He broke down and hung from the rail, everything at last too much, 10 years of conditioning and atrocity washed away in bitter drops.

Footsteps.

The Commissar raised his head, breathing raggedly, his breath catching in his throat. Unshaven, in tears and bleeding, he was a mess.

Mono walked to the rail, clean and inhuman.

They stood.

'You're beginning to understand.'

He stared over the planets' surface, it's mysteries known only to him.

Mono, a name of monumental etched glass, clear, clean, brilliant.

Mono, the One, this great man.

How he hated him.

Before the Commissar could rail against the Lieutenant-Colonel, he was gone, leaving the Commissar bereft and standing on the edge. Everything fell inwards, despair filling the vacuum. Astropath contact with the outside was impossible, some quirk of the planet. He had been unconscious, slumped from excess and pain while the last shuttle for 3 months had left. There was no escape. Rage turned against the self, the Commissar fingering the trigger of his bolt pistol. He was filthy and corrupt. He would give himself absolution, self-administer the Emperor's Justice to one corrupted by the Ruinous Powers.

Another crate of Amsec waited in his quarters, and a suicide pact with himself.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

+++++++++++++++++++++++

The door creaked open, the final cry for help. It fell on deaf ears, too numb to care. The Commissar stepped into the room, at the end of the death march. Calmer, colder now. So quickly beyond tears it astounded him. The room was dark, mausoleum still. He stood in the black pool, at the end of it all. He felt...at peace.

Suicide. He gnawed at his gums. The cause: suffering this condition. The expression: grief, disgust, hate, yearning, anguish, anxiety, horror. He was dissolving into nothing, the ego disintegrating. His mind was quiet.

'Absolute Terror...' he chuckled to himself.

The Death note. The Commissar sat at the table. His hands ached, everything ached, psychic pain. He put down the Vox-recorder, composing himself. The Last Testament, perhaps. His living will. Gospel truth. The bottle was there when he reached for it, the divine numbing spirit, with the bolt pistol in easy reach. He set it to automatic. Mercy was a full magazine. He hit 'Record' and drew breath.

Wait.

Brown paper package lies on the table. Open it. Small, black rectangle. Vox-tape! From who?? Agitated, he scrambled to click it into place. He hit play and twitched in his chair, waiting for the tape to run.

Static. Then a hiss.

The empty noise subsided and he heard a throat being cleared.

++++++++++++++

'Hey Roy...

...It's been a while.'

_______________________

Empty agony replaced by a different pain.

He was alive. They were both alive. He played through it again in his head '...Armageddon War... Medusa V... attached to 40th Corps... doing well...decorated...gallantry.' The Commissars' stomach tightened; '...injured...returned to service'. A jumble of names assaulted him, people he'd never know and couldn't care about. But still...

The Commissar would make a reply without filling in details, things better left unsaid. He clung to hope like a drowning man. He would survive 3 months, find an excuse to execute Mono (he remained a Commissar) and get off the planet. He took his head out of his hands, sat up and huddled in the leather chair. The Commissar poured himself another glass of Amsec, and wondered if he was going mad.

One final fragment of the tape surfaced, and the Commissar held it close for warmth in the Void:

'He said that he loved me'.

++++++++END PART TWO+++++++++