"I've got the cure for what ails ya!"

>Unmarked Storage Facility of Inquisitor Gramen Sand
>>Deep beneath Scintilla commons

The silence of the metallic catacombs was broken by the sharp grinding of steel as the twin lift doors slowly slid open. A short veil of light pushed forward into the dimly lit tunnel, but the only slightly more illuminated lift could only pierce the shadowy passage so far. Three men stood alone, facing the hall through the now open doors. The first man strode silently, yet confidently, forward, the only sound being the feint beat of his footsteps upon the cold steel floor.

As Sand pushed on through the tunnel, his companions drew upon his heels. Only a step behind him marched his faithful bodyguard, ever vigilant even within Sand’s own private facility. Rylak fell a few steps behind the pair, vigilant in his own way. He had only been in service to the inquisitor for a short time and this was the first time he had been summoned alone to one of Sand’s compounds. Such a new and forbidding territory set his senses on edge. He allowed his eyes to adjust to the low light while taking in his surroundings.

“As I was saying,” Sand’s voice cut through the silence like a knife as he continued their conversation from the lift. “Inquisitors from all walks keep a few decent assassin’s in close proximity. An acolyte cell is invaluable for getting the job done, but sometimes matters dictate the use of a more Subtle hand?” He stopped for a second to glance back at Rylak before quickly turning back and continuing onward through the passage.

“A trait you managed to prove with your actions on Hilarion. You did an excellent job with that false trail leading away from Karrik. If the planet does fall under any Inquisition scrutiny, I’m confident your actions will lead it astray.” Rylak didn’t speak. It was true that praise from his Inquisitor was fulfilling but it was hard for him to relax in such a strange new environment. He felt a certain amount of unease traversing along the long narrow passage to destination unknown. A soft sound from overhead managed to capture his attention and his eyes flung upward.

A small security camera built into the ceiling tracked the trio’s progress with it’s cold lifeless eye. Rylak casually glanced behind to notice a second camera closer to the elevator he had missed. Perhaps it was the darkness, or just his nerves failing him that had caused him to miss it as they first passed. In his defense, whoever had installed the cameras had done a good job in placement. As they continued cutting a path through the darkness, Rylak fought hard to suppress the thought that his unease came from a mistrust of his master. After all, Inquisitors had been known to ‘dispose’ of resources when no longer needed, and if Sand truly wanted the actions on Karrik kept a secret, Rylak could be considered a loose end.

“It is a refreshing air to once again have a reliable man such as yourself in my fold. Recently, it seems I have been having some trouble with my chosen assassins.” Rylak allowed his nerves to settle momentarily as Sand spoke to him.

“You won’t get any failure from me, sir.” With Rylak’s words still echoing on the walls Sand stopped and spun around with his hand held up.

“I said trouble, not failure!” Sand paused with a stern look on his face. Rylak could feel Sand’s bodyguard’s eyes glaring down at him and allowed his own eyes to drop to the floor.

“I meant no disrespect” Sand stood there for a few moments with a curious look on his face, as if lost in thought. With a shrug he half turned back around.

“You’re fine. You witnessed some of that very trouble while in Erenvor, A shortcoming that will need to be addressed later. But that’s for another time.” Sand continued with his bodyguard hot on his heels. Rylak hung back another few steps before slowly following them. He found it hard to judge Sand’s mood, the man was able to keep most of his feelings well hidden. But Rylak couldn’t help but be impressed at the regal authority the Inquisitor dictated even whilst so far deep below the planet’s surface. It was an impressive trait, and one which Rylak assumed first drew him into Sand’s employment.

“This,” They neared another set of large steel doors, obviously well locked and barred, and Sand slowed to a stop. “Is about preventing such shortcomings in our future endeavors.” With a nod from Sand, the other man stepped to the door’s control panel and began punching in the codes to open the locks. Rylak took a moment to study the man who he had only met a few hours ago.

He was large, not nearly as big as Jak, but his physical prowess dominated both Rylak and Sand in such a confined space. Red, he had been introduced as, although records Rylak had studied before sometimes had him listed with a different alias. The information in those records was not needed for Rylak to understand just how much this man had been through. The scars of past missions, both physical and mental, hung clearly on Red’s face even in such poor lighting. As the doors began to open, Sand began to quickly move forward through them.

As Rylak began to follow, he was stopped short by Red who proceeded to block his passage. Nothing was said by either man, Rylak was quick to realize this was Sand’s private vault and did not question his lack of admittance. With the man standing immediately before him, Rylak did not have to wonder why Sand had chosen him to be his foremost protector. Rylak was clearly outmatched in anything resembling close quarters combat. He made a mental note to himself that should the need ever somehow arise, he would make sure to put a few hundred meters distance between the two before taking him on in combat.

Staring past Red’s frame, Rylak could see fragmentary glimpses of the objects contained within. Being so close to home, and so moderately unguarded, it was unlikely that the vault contained anything of real value or importance. But, he supposed a man such as Sand would want to keep a few items close at hand should he have urgent need of them. It took only a few moments for Sand to return, and the large steel doors closed quickly behind him. Red backed away from Rylak allowed Sand to approach. In his hands he carried a large rifle. He slowly lifted the weapon up in presentation as he began to speak.

“This rifle is known as ‘Surgeon’. Until recently, it was in the hands of a trusted acolyte of mine who died honorably in service during events on the planet Solomon. In his hands this weapon was as a scalpel, cutting out the cancerous malignancies which threatened the Imperium one by one. Legend has it, that in addition to curing the ills which plague the land, this weapon carries with it the very blessing of the Emperor himself, and shall ensure that no wounds suffering upon it’s wielder shall hinder them from carrying out the Emperor’s will.”

Sand carefully handed the weapon to Red, who began to systematically check the rifle’s components. As Rylak watched him expertly handle the weapon, ensuring the lever was unjammed, the barrel clear, and the sights correct, it became evident that even stored down here in the darkness this rifle had been kept well maintained. After giving Red the rifle, Sand quickly turned to Rylak.

“It is important to note that faith in the Emperor is what guides this superstition. I have heard talk from some of your compatriots from Karrik. You do have faith in the Emperor, don’t you?” Rylak nodded, not taken aback by his Inquisitors question in the slightest.

“My faith in the Emperor is eternal. I just don’t get along with the Ecclesiarchy.” Sand smiled as he began to walk away.

“Good. There’s nothing in the legend that says you have to care about them. I’m not sure how much stock I’d put in mere superstitions, but I can’t help but think Rasar would still be with us if he hadn’t left this behind.” As Sand walked a few paces back down the hall, Red approached Rylak with the weapon outstretched. Carefully, Rylak pulled the gun from Red’s grasp and cradled it securely in the crook of his elbow. His right hand closed around the weapons grip and he felt a surge of excitement wash over him.

He pulled the sights up to his eye and aimed the gun down the hallway. Cradled steadily in his arms, he held it straight and lined up his shot. Even through the misty dimness of the passage, Rylak could see the closed doors of the lift ahead as clearly as if he were standing directly in front of them. With his head buried in so fine a weapon, his thoughts drifted to memories of the only other weapon he had held which could match this one, that of his mentor.

Rylak could feel Red’s breath upon his neck as the bodyguard carefully watched the angle of the weapon. Rylak allowed it to lower and quickly became aware of Sand standing down the hall staring at him, just inches to the right of his sights. As Rylak stood there, worried about how his actions may have looked, Sand merely broke into a grin.

“Now you look like one of my Acolytes.” Red backed away from Rylak and proceeded to join his master down the hall. Sand allowed his red robes to fall back along his arm as he studied a chronos on his wrist. Letting his arm fall, he addressed Rylak one last time.

“Obviously, we are lacking the usual pomp and circumstance involved in the passing of such grand an artifact, but I’m afraid I’m running late for a meeting with members of the Bruner family. I believe you may have done some work for them in the past?”

“The name does sound familiar.” There it was again, his unease. Here he was standing before his Inquisitor falling back on his procedure to protect his clients. It may take some more time before he could ever truly give Sand a straight answer.

“Likely a distant cousin, or some minor branch of the family. Unlikely to come into play here” Sand trailed off as he stared at Rylak. Perhaps his mind was on other things, or perhaps he was weighing his acolytes response, as if sensing Rylaks unease. Regardless, he quickly turned and began the long march back to the lift.

“No matter. Take some time to get used to the weapon, I’m sure I’ll be in contact soon. Around here you’ll find it doesn’t take very long for something new to spring up. Oh, and one more thing.” Sand didn’t even stop walking as he raised his hand back toward the standing assassin. “I’m sure I don’t have to remind you, I know you’re still a favorite in this sector for the occasional private contract but that weapon was given to you for the sole purpose of upholding your duties owed to me, and me alone. You may pull the trigger but I’m the one aiming the sights, not some fat aristocrat looking to increase his holdings. Are we clear on that?”

“Crystal.” Rylak’s voice echoed around the halls until it bled into silence. He stood alone near the vault as his two companions vanished into the veil of shadows stretching before him. In the silence, Rylak suddenly got the feeling he wasn’t alone and tossed his glance from side to side. He saw no one other than the overhead camera who’s eye was beating down on him relentlessly. With one final glance back at the locked vault doors, Rylak shouldered the weapon and began to move quickly forward, hoping to catch the lift before it left and forced him to spend any more time down here than he had to.

"I've got the cure for what ails ya!"

Faith and Betrayal taddow Gunsmith