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

Beginning, something to nothing. He fears the transition more than anything,
to crack and to break.

Something that haunts for now, again, more projections... of
to go from awake to not me, that makes me not want to sleep, the
heart of darkness, I sleep. The transition is difficult.

Myself; I'm afraid to hide, try to deny, that scares people.
Afraid of myself.

+++++++++

+++++++++

Visions before waking.
Slept like a restless corpse. Unlife.
Pure sleep.

The Commissar drags himself from bed, and rubs tired eyes as the shambles across broken glass to the bathroom. Everything was soiled, dirty sheets, a sullied mind. He clenched his teeth. Everything made him feel sick.

Out of the bathroom, and he kicked a lethal shard away before it pierced him. He'd clean it up, someday, maybe. Today was his concern as he pulled open his locker, throwing a grey shirt and black tailored leggings on the bed. What to do, specifically.

Haze?
He shuddered. No, not today.

Where to then? The Voice suggested Cantina, the promise of others. He'd go, then.
If only to satisfy the Voice. He bound his wounded hands, dressed, took a pack of cigarettes, and left.

+++++++++

+++++++++

Roy struggled through the dark dub daze of the Cantina.

Heavy bass bins saturated every pore, driving the stultifying beat. A few people scattered the low recliners, lining the walls or in smaller cubicles. A few pairs of white eyes peered from the gloom in hostile supplication. People toked, drank and dreamed. Odysseys were endless, as long as you had enough fuel for the journey.
The atmosphere was a revelation for Roy. He had never known anything that could be menacing and relaxing simultaneously.

Null beckoned him to a small square table under a fan, which oscillated in slow time with the demon beat.

'The vibes of the place are...' Roy attempted.

Ethereal piano drifted into the nightmare lullaby, soaked in reverb and echo, the original note long gone, but the ghost left behind to decay. A little girl voice, high in the deep mix, cut to Roy's soul and made him feel something that he could not name. 'I don't know where to go/I don't know what to do/I don't know where to go/I don't know what to do/Tell me. Tell me...'

'...Incredible.' Roy finished.

Null shuffled his newspaper and looked up.

'It's the Regimental Anthem. In the Sabbat Worlds Crusade, other regiments brought bagpipes. We brought a boombox.' He chuckled to himself, the last laugh of a drowning man.

'It's haunted... haunting I mean.' Roy ghosted under his breath. He perked up.

'Bagpipes? You didn't serve alongside that Tanith regiment, did you?
With that Gaunt chap?'

'I'm not that kind of Commissar, you understand.'

'We're not that kind of soldier.'

Both laugh and the tension is broken. They relax, sit easier, drop their guard.

'The Anomiens are like wraiths, ghosts...'

'Ghosts?' Breath rattled in Null's chest in the imitation of a chuckle.

' "'The last few unquiet souls of a dead world", believe me, I know that politico's spin.'

He pulled back a little.

'Except they say we're soulless.'

Roy had heard the rumours.

'And are you?'

Null leaned a little closer across the table; absolute evil and terror suddenly rising off him like heat. His face had been contorted into a nightmare by ten thousand knives, each one a witness to another death at Null's heavy hands. His eyes black, airless pits. Testaments to terror. He dreaded to think what the man dreamt of.

'We're as human as anyone else.'

Roy felt an eyelid twitch. Anyone else would have passed out or worse.

'I...heard Anomie had great cultural capital. You were famed not just as soldiers and scientists, but as writers and musicians too.'

Null snorted. 'Most of it was nonsense, bullshit along the lines of "Yesterday I killed a drifter to get an erection..." The planet was a mess. Exterminatus was a mercy killing. But still...

_

Everything fades into the background.
It's coming up again. Fears... kick up in his throat. The creeping sense of dread, disturbance of reality. Sounds that hammer, feel like vomiting. everything too loud too quiet too hot too cold. Weak and sweating, empty and frantic. Put the head in the hands and try to block it all out. The green door opens, unhinged. Everything frightens him, everyday, loved objects becoming threatening. Music is too much, sound too incredible.
Getting presences, so many feelings at once. Incredible, almost too much.
The textures of the music, running burning through the soul. Something mechanical in the music, memories of metal, forced and deceived into bondage. Star Gods. Avoid the house, sleeping, waiting to rise once more. An aching sense of loss. Massive blast from the speakers. fear, shock and pain. Hypersensitive. Shouldn't be drinking this stuff. He can withstand it, he's used to it.
esistant to horrors.

Rise again. Get back.

_

'You... takin' anythin' man?'

Null was looking at him strangely. Roy shook his head.

'You wanna? Bita smoke'll bring you back round.'

Roy pushed away the proffered joint. Joint. Afraid to merge.

'It happens to me. Planet, I guess.' He picked up the bottle they had both been doing shots of. Loqua... obsidian black, the consistency of water, tasting of liquid smoke. Pretty smooth, enough to make an untrained drinker knock back half a bottle. The shot glass still had some crushed ice in it, and a small remnant of the black liquid.

'You're doin' well, having drunk that much in an unfamiliar place. Most virgins take four or five shots, then bolt for the doors, screaming 'I'VE GOT THE FEAR!!'.

He'd been drinking it with a single drop of milk in the glass. He repeated the ritual of crushing the ice, pouring the black and adding the drop of milk to the shot glass, which danced, a roiling white woman in the blackness.

'Lady...or the Lady' He raised it to his lips and downed it in a single gulp.

'Intensifies whatever you're feeling by ten.' The glass banged on the table, jarring Roy.

'How are you managing then?'

'Simple.' The giant smiled. 'I don't feel.'

With that, sirens went off.
Another attack. The vox hummed with stats and figures, information flooding the room, adrenaline washing exhaustion away. This was it. No narcotic could occlude an Eldar attack, no matter how much one wanted to avoid it.

The Commissar spun to his feet, kicking over his chair.

'On your feet, men! We fight outside in the God-Emperor's light or we die like craven cowards in the shade, waiting to be put out of our misery like broken dogs. '
     'WE FIGHT!'


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


Roy's stomach churned.

He sat on a bench in an unfamiliar armoury, eyeing a suit of carapace armour.
Whoever it was, they were dead now, and the dead need nothing.
Faith and flak was no longer enough.

He heard footsteps drum up the corridor, 7 pairs.
Master Sergeant Haze's squad.
His Haze.

He stood to face them as they filed in through the door, every single pair of eyes on him.
The hands behind his back shook. Damn Null and his spirits.

Haze was the last in, and she blanched visibly before dropping her eyes to the floor. She'd get the bolt if they faltered, her and her alone. Her plaintive gaze was shot down by eyes of cold, grey steel. The Commissar would carry out his duty if necessary.

Something in their combined sight assaulted the swagger. Their presence wore you down, caustic, corrosive to the confidence. The Commissar felt waves of suppressed hate hit him, but his mask was proof against them, for now at least.

'Trying to cultivate some facial hair, Commissar?'

Innocent words held hidden barbs.

The Commissar hadn't shaved, appearance the least of his worries. He caught sight of himself in the black fisheye reflection of Corporal Egal's goggles. He looked ascetic, like a malnourished monk or underfed fanatic. Corporal Egal. The trooper to Egal's right, Mute, cracked open the medikit and started into the painkillers.
The Commissar looked around the pale, draw ovals.

A fist broke the tension.

'Discipline...' He cracked his knuckles. '... Is my passion.' 'Order my... obsession.'

Egal, bleeding on the ground, tries to rise. 'Who the fu-'

Lightening fast, the Commissar draws and blows off an ear.
Blood drips on the floor, and a hand vacantly goes to touch the phantom auricle.

'I am the Commissar.' 'Any questions? No?'

Jaws only dropped in reply.

'Excellent. You are quick learners.'

Haze tried to regain control.
'Suit up. We move out in 5.'

'Merity, see to...to Egal. Make sure he's fit to fight.'

Everyone went about his or her business, like stunned flies.

_

Roy, surveying the room, noticed one of the troopers shaking with anxiety, compulsively unwrapping a cloth from his lasgun and winding it around his body. Roy was unsettled by it, the way his head moved, the chemical agitation hitting a chord a chord of empathy within him. He would speak to the Commander about the welfare of his troops, an oft-neglected duty of the Commissariat. Mono had given them what they wanted, not what they need-

The Commissar stopped and drew himself back. This is not who he was, this was a weak seed breaking through lax earth, burrowing its way to the surface, like so much shrapnel erupting years after the battle. He hated these people, their tensions, what this planet had done to him. Weak... He despises weakness.

Mono. He had done this to him. The thrice-damned Lieutenant Colonel.

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

slowly...
...sensation.

was this death
the slow beat of the universe

an in-out in-out
pulse

liquid surroundings
heavier the air

Open the eyes
and it's red.

This wasn't...

wasn't...

life.

It was
he can tell by the itch

This wasn't life
This wasn't life

A compulsion
a compulsion to move

to move on orders
a sudden manic compulsion

Alive under incomplete anaesthetic
screaming under the living scalpel

I should be dead
the taste of blood in my mouth

the blood of another
my own

I've been tied up with staples
stapled up the ruined husk

This was my hope
to never wake

the future gleam is a skinning knife
hope for nothing

I always searched for the worst of things
I took them into me and they poisoned me

the day to day
million deaths we die

Better to end it.
The choice of three drinks,

but he's not at all thirsty.
March on, with raging thirst.

Keep marching, and never think.
Kill the father, kill the mother.

I killed my only friend
he wanted to die

He's alone now as he marches
endless sand, for every grain there is a universe

We are doomed to death and sadness
doubt, hate and fear

by simply being who we are
And they tell us to be ourselves.

Why? is the question.

A question.
The question.

Why question?
Who's going to answer?

Suddenly slamming upwards,
and outwards.

I've been here before.
The urge comes on again to move

to kill kill kill kill kill kill
swivel truth to bear and set off marching.

_

Roy felt numb.

The sentinels shambled and bopped from the electroclash launching chutes, lascannons searching. He was unsettled by the design of these; they had so little room for a pilot. Inside would be like a... coffin. Like a coffin. A coffin. Roy shuddered.

This was necromancy, the quiet dead on forced marches.
Hypnotic trance, the machine a reducing valve through which life was funnelled, to protect them from being overwhelmed. Were they aware?
Mono. He'd pay for this.
Unlife, death inside metal.
Domo and Bleeder were trapped. The thought of it was abhorrent to Roy.

The Commissar smiled.
He was glad of the fire support.

They would hold the far right flank, and deliver the killing blow against the deviant witches, the Emperor's light shining from a thousand torches in the darkness, blasting the blackness into oblivion. Victory was beyond doubt.

The sentinels bounded forward, serving even in death.
The Commissar, spurred on by this thought, led the squad into position over jagged rock and infinite desert. They would fight.

+++++++++

+++++++++

It hurts to set them free.
the end of nights we tried, together.

to set ourselves free
beautiful. to set you free.

_

The Falcon spiralled down, holo-shields down, wings utterly clipped.
Roy heard chitin clash against rock, then rapid footsteps. Far, far too many.
Striking Scorpions, another cruel aspect, a dark insectid countenance. How were they this close already? Damned Eldar magicks.
The Eldar skimmer whined as it grazed the ground, throwing up sparks where it glanced volcanic rock and swirling dust where it touched grey sand dunes. It finally ploughed into a black outcrop, the sound reminiscent of a tin can being crushed underfoot. The sentinel, seemingly satisfied with the kill, loped away over the dunes, leaving Roy and his squad alone and isolated.

Joy Enders was voxing for immediate reinforcement, but the clatter and whine of shuriken cut short her urgent message, more Scorpions scuttling over rock and sand towards the entrenched veterans. Her last thoughts were of Glass and dying alone, as she lay bleeding and broken into eternity. Chainswords roared the fury of Khaine into the night, and the Scorpions scurried from cover to cover towards the trenches.

_

Haze slammed into cover against a jagged outcrop, the empty grenade launcher drum clattering against stone, even as fresh one fed the thirsty chamber. Plasma screamed to her right, new suns calving from guns, at least one Scorpion too slow to dodge or get into cover. His armour melted like wax, his skeleton reduced to burnt matchsticks. She primed the new rounds and fired into the advancing swarm, delayed action krak rounds impaling another and reducing him to bloody gobbets no bigger than a clenched fist.

She took a deep breath, held it, and burst once more from cover, momentarily exposed. She was rewarded by shots clipping her helmet and boot; the majority of lethal discs clattering on the bleak stones behind her. They were close, armour clacking and and shuriken screaming as she dived into her fire team's trench. Nadal had hefted aside the lascannon and picked up his shotgun, nodding to her. Egal held 6 separate knives in quaking hands. Mute gave him a kick and he picked up his lasgun, trying to shake out the speed, fear and adrenaline.

The combead crackled static, Haze expectant on the word. A phantom voice echoed and footsteps got closer and closer, chainswords whining manically, rearing up, ready to deliver the fatal sting. The word. Say the word!

The Commissar hesitated a moment.

'Go'.

Haze, Egal, Nadal and Mute popped up and opened fire, Roy's fireteam responding in sympathy. Plasma, las and bolter fire cut down the poised Scorpions, but still they came on, too desperate to kill and deliver the mortal blow, too late and too little. They reached the lines, Mute eviscerated in a second, shredded by needle fire, and then hacked to bits by savage clawing blows. Nadal parried a swipe by pure luck and clubbed a female warrior to the ground, helm shattered and gasping in the ether, still trying to rise but crushed under foot by a million shotgun darts, 500 years ended, bleeding and brutal.

The Exarch howled and came at Haze, rending a slow, lethal path. Everything froze except the clawed gauntlet tearing through the air towards her head, time dilated and the world turned grey. This was it. A massive clash, sounding apocalyptic, shook her from the daze, a yellow black wasp stained chainsword swatting away the power fist and severing it from the limb. The arm convulsed on the ground, still riven with electric killing impulse. The Commissar drew his bolt pistol with frenetic theatricality, and blew starlight through the head of the Exarch. The Scorpion-god stood for a moment, then a cold wind blew and dead machinelight flowed through the little bloody hole, whispering death to the body. The Exarch collapsed to his knees, the way of the warrior proving futile at long, long last.

Haze fell and held her knees. That was death, she thought, as she looked skyward, terrible wheeling stars no comfort. This was still life. Beautiful... to be alive. Nadal relaxed visibly and sighed over the combead, dropping to his knees and falling face-

The knife ripped from the human throat, black red life spilling into the sand.
The last Scorpion screamed in the night, at last all human horrors given substance, terror, death and pain personified. Glass rushed with the plasma rifle, too fast, and the Scorpion took another fatal swipe even as he fired, vital magnetic containment fields suddenly absent. The rifle went critical and roiling death vomited from the truncated barrel, spilling out in a curtain of deathly heat. Haze flinched from the backwash, and tried to catch Glass as he fell, hands burned all to cinders, white bone poking from carbonised flesh. He wasn't screaming, which struck Haze as odd. Only gore and ruin meet her eyes as she looked where his head should have been, and she swivelled to face death. The terror had avoided the plasma wave and danced behind the flame curtain, decapitating the wounded Glass as he fell. Egal emerged from behind the rapidly diminishing sheet and took pot-shots, hitting the creature in the abdomen. It shuddered, and shook off the laser fire, armour proof against the Emperor's finest.

It screamed hate and defiance, mandiblasters knocking Egal off his feet and he lay, smoking. The thing turned to Haze, already shaken, and raised the terrible rasping shredder-sword, unholy, ungodly. The Commissar's chainsword bit deep into the shoulder of the thing, spraying Haze with blood and shards of armour. It turned to the furious Commissar, right arm hanging by worm-like sinews, bleeding desperately, yet undefeated.
It stepped inside his guard and brought a thundering kick against his torso, knocking him well back and leaving him bereft of breath. It followed up on the charge with a series of blade patterns, each sequence harder and harder to defend against. The Commissar felt himself waver as he took a step back, at the crest of a volcanic offshoot, towering over the edge of a fifty-foot drop into the endless sands.

He was in the grip of lightheaded fatalism, convinced that this was the end and he would die fighting in the name of the Emperor. The thing had tired and was visibly flagging in the attack, but the Commissar was too wounded and winded to take the offensive. A bad parry and the chainsword cut across his chest, leaving him open to the coup de grâce, to finish life itself. It raised its arm in phyrric victory, knowing all too well it would die here too.
A crump sounded from behind them and the thing staggered, a black spike embedded in its back. It turned, an accusing finger pointing at Haze and it fell pathetically from the cliff edge.

'A dud. Who would have guessed it?'


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


Egal went ahead with the bodies.
He'd already swallowed a handful of painkillers, and set a slightly woozy course for home, the wheelbarrow taking a zig-zag path across the grey sand dunes. He began to sing something, snatches of which filtered through the com-bead in the dead, still air.

'I don't know where to go...I don't know what to do...I don't know where to go...I don't know what to do...Tell me. Tell me...'

Haze and Roy walked through the senseless dunes, bleeding from small wounds that froze quickly and carried on an argument. Something about...did it even matter?
Roy felt himself being drawn into it but was too tired and stressed to pull back. It was over something so banal and absurd, so stupid... He threw off some quip about women, something equally pointless and banal, but was too tired not to try and score points.
Haze snapped and stormed off, the argument continuing until she was out of vox-range.

The Commissar stopped, utterly frakked over nothing.
The smooth rockcrete lines of the geofront loomed ahead, along with the blockhouse that serviced the airlock he was approaching. The blackness held out arms in welcome, and he savoured the anticipation. As he approached the doors, they began closing. The Commissar walks arrogantly at first, then picks up the pace, before jogging, running, then sprinting. He reaches them as they ring shut, the armoured shutters forming an airtight seal. He knew Haze was in there. Subterfuge was a sham against him.
He pressed himself against the doors.

'Let me in.'

Haze, pressed against the inside, burning with shame, refuses.

'No.'

'Let me in.'

'No.'

It was always like this, the Commissar mused. Bitch refused a while, then threw herself open, begging for anything to fill the aching, gasping, writhing void. She'd break down, submit and let him inside. He'd make her suffer for this, his body hot and stiff as he heard screaming and tearing. Blood. It was always about the blood. Ten minutes of oxygen remained, and a small but not insurmountable barrier blocked his path.

Haze removed her respirator helmet and braced herself against the door console. She felt sick, used and filthy. It was always like this, she mused. He tore her down, came and left, leaving her sore and soiled. 'No...' Not this time.

'Let me in.'
She felt his oil creep under the blast door.

'No.'

'C'mon, let me in.'
Charming. Smooth. A lady-killer.

'No.'

'Master Sergeant Haze...
As your Commissar I order you to open this door.
If you comply, I will be lenient... and gentle.'

'No.'
She shook a little. The threats and oozing charm made it worse.

'No.'
Again.

'Let me in.'
Short. Sharp. Shock. 'No.'

'Let me in.'
Hesitation. A crack in her voice. '...No.'

'Let me in.'

'Never.'
Absolutes the refuge of the weak.

'Let me in.'

'No.'
A tear dropped to the floor, wetting the dust.

'Let me in.'

'...'
Radio silence, then a clatter as the com-bead hit the floor in screeching berserk feedback.

Enough.
The Commissar drew his chainsword and revved it,
delighting in the brutal sound.

'Let me in, Let me in, Let me in!'

Silence.

Enraged, he hammered on the steel shutter with the pommel,
full revs for maximum effect.

'LET ME IN!'

'LET ME IN!'

The twin roars carried through plate steel and Haze quavered. She grabbed the com-bead and screamed 'NO! NO! NEVER! NO!' She was cut off by sobs that racked her chest in great, painful convulsions.

The Commissars took two steps back and swung at the door.
Broken teeth sprayed the floor but he continued, and was rewarded with a tiny chink in the airtight seal. Precious air rushed from the airlock.

The noise inside was horrific, Haze crying 'N-No... please no... mercy please, no god no...'
She slid down the wall and curled into a ball, trying to block the horror out.

The Commissar lodged the tip of his weapon in the gash and it sawed through. Haze's screams could be heard over the hell-shriek, 'Yes! Yes! Please, I'll do anything! J-Just stop... please no...'

The Commissar stopped and relaxed, scabbarding the blade. He beamed cosily under the respirator mask. He recalled his earlier words as the blast doors clattered up noisily.

'Discipline...-' The door was almost raised, bleak starlight filling the airlock.

'-...is my passio-'. He faltered in his words. Haze lay curled in the farthest corner from him, a broken mess, sopping wet from tears, snot, and piss. There was a trail of damp indicating where she had crawled, to try and be safe. There was an animal smell again as she howled, the human animal revealed in the both of them.

Roy dropped the scabbard, which clattered emptily on cruel tiles and rushed to her. The door began to automatically close, a shadow creeping up behind him as he ran to Haze.
He crouched in the pool and tried to embrace her. She vomited all over him and fell limply in his arms. The door closed with bleak finality and left them in darkness.

Love was messy business.


++++END++++