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Children of the Star: Chapter 2 (Rough Draft)

In the southern outskirts of the settlement, a trio of farmers celebrated their plentiful harvest. Once again, the nine-month long spring on the planet had made them rich. On top of that, their recreational crop had also produced a high yield. Sporting a massive grin, the oldest man gave the rough paper another lick, and finished rolling the Iho stick. “After lunch, we got to get harvesting,” He commented as he gazed out into the vest grain fields.

“Gee, Mardri, you stuffed that sucker good,” the shortest, scrawniest of the group commented as the big man lit up the smoke as wide as an adult thumb and took a long deliberate draft, before passing it along. A casual hit of the Iho gave the little man a choking fit, much to the delight of his friends.

“Wuss,” The lone woman in the group commented before taking her turn. With a controlled exhale, a circular puff of smoke floated upward for several feet before dispersing in a gentle breeze. “This is good stuff, Mardri,” she complimented, before blowing out another ring.

The three watched in content silence as the halo began its ascent. This was, after all, another great year.

A thunderous boom spread out in the distant behind them, and a violent tremor shook the very ground below. Luckily, all three kept their balance.

"An escape pod?" The little one asked.

“What in the Emperor's name?” Mardri spat out as he pushed his vox. Whatever just landed had caused a fire to break out among his precious crops. “Send some of those metal heads over to stop that fire. I ain't losing my crops.”

“MARDRI!” The little man cried out, his voice quivering in awe.

“What!?” Mardri whipped his head around, annoyed at the outburst. “Get some men over to my greenhouse too! I'll have everyone's neck for this if something happens to my-” He stopped short as he followed the little man's gaze. Something the size of a village broke through the clouds in a rapid descend, stopping short only hundreds of feet above ground. Before anyone had the chance to react, hundreds of pods snapped open under the ship. A barrage of missiles poured down over the field, centering on the origin of the fire.

Mardri attempted in vain to finish his prayer to the God Emperor as the pods shifted, and explosions engulfed the entire valley.

In the origin of this devastation

“Inquisitor Saw, the missiles have completed their trajectory. The area coverage is complete, with 231% effective overlap. The targeting systems have followed my algorithm admirably. We erred on the side of caution and purged the entire valley.” Somehow conveying a great amount of excitement through his mono-tuned voice modules, the savant made his report while swaying back and forth on the bridge of battlecruiser Impetus. “The chance of the heretic's survival is less than 3.141526-”

“Enough, thank you Demicus,” Saw commanded, knowing that without interruption, her trusty savant would simply continue to fire off decimals well into the next millennia for the sake of accuracy. She didn't fault him for his excitement, however. His recent encounter with this particular prey had left him in need of many replacement parts, his vocal systems included. Unfortunately, Demicus had taken the change in stride and relished the fact that he no longer needed pauses to breath between syllables.

She wanted to believe him, to think that hunt is finally over, but after what had happened to her old master...

“Commence the second volley. We mustn't take any chances.”

“Yes, inquisitor.” The captain acknowledged, and carried out the order. Dozens of lights blinked in unison as the second barrage rained down on the planet. Though Impetus hovered well above ground, the sheer force of the explosions sent vibrations throughout the ship. Even without looking at the sensors, Saw knew the entire valley was flattened under the bombardment from her mighty vessel.

Demicus scribbled frantically on his datapad, indulging in a fresh round of calculations. He began mumbling to himself, and upon realizing the voice module was projecting his voice clearly around the room, turned a small knot tucked behind his right ear. From the still quite audible mutterings, it would appear the savant judged their chance of success at 98.231-

The crew on the bridge remained in grim silence even as the string of decimals continued. The inquisitor rested her hand gently on her savant's shoulder, and immediately the room fell silent apart from the humming of the machines.

“I require my interrogators on the bridge at once,” She commanded over the com, then turned to the others. “Inspect the psi-blockers of those around you. Should anyone appear to be compromised, neutralize them.”

The order might have sounded cruel to the crew who had never battled powerful psykers before, but it only takes watching one friend mind controlled into a murderous frenzy to make the inquisitor paranoid.

After a few tense seconds, when no one got shot, Saw nodded in approval. She couldn't afford many casualties onboard, not with the ship running on a skeleton crew. The Imperial navy had offered her more men, but she simply didn't have enough psi-blockers to gear all of them. Hell, In order to requisition the dozens now protecting her crew, Saw had to strike a bargain with Archmagus Ragos. A bargain she would undoubtedly come to regret.

The inquisitor reached up and found her own psi-blocker unit humming with power. She wasn’t going to take any chances, not when dealing with a possibly beta-level heretic.

“Our motion scanners aren’t picking up any movements,” The captain reported. “And thermal scans are impossible while what remains of the fields are burning.”

“Acknowledged, captain. Put the ship on standby, and update our guests in the transport bay,” Saw instructed before turning toward the door.

As if on cue, the thick metal slabs began to slide open. Henriq and Mara, the only surviving interrogators in her entourage, walked inside. Despite entering the most secure section of the ship, Mara’s eyes scanned the room restlessly. Sensing his comrade’s unrest, Henriq reached out a hand, only to have her flinch away at the last second. A few moments later, a look of recognition appeared on her face, and she relaxed slightly.

“Inquisitor,” Mara whispered with a bow, her cloth missing the tidily pressed perfection that Saw had came to know over the past nine years. The heretic psyker had left many scars upon the interrogator’s mind, damages that would take years to undo, Saw noted with sorrow. Next to Mara, Henriq straightened his posture and saluted.

“Time is of the essence. We must confirm the heretic’s demise,” declared the inquisitor.

Ever the faithful agent, Mara raised her trembling right hand and began reaching behind her neck. Pain flashed across her face, as she prepared herself for what was to come.

“Are you unarmed?” Saw interrupted.

“Yes, master. As you instructed.”

“We both are,” Henriq confirmed.

The inquisitor nodded, and drew her Bolter. Saw then beckoned to Henriq, who quickly fell in next to her. “Continue.”

With an audible click, the power from Mara’s Psi-blocker faded away. She closed her eyes in concentration and projected her psychic presence toward the planet below. An unnatural silence washed over the room as the crew began to wait with bated breath.

One minute. Demicus signaled with his hands, as droplets of sweat began forming on Mara’s forehead.

Two minutes. “Steady,” Saw said to her nervous crew, even as her own finger tapped gently against the bolter trigger.

A weak, triumphant smile appeared across Mara’s face. “No trace of any psykers below.”

Few of the crewmen, including the pilot, lowered their weapons while letting out sighs of relief.

“Thank the Emperor.” Hendrig muttered.

“Turn o-” Saw began.

Mara’s knees seemed to give out in fatigue, and she barely slowed her own fall.

Instinctively, Henriq began moving to assist, but the Inquisitor kept him back with a firm hand on his chest.

“Turn on your blocker, Mara,” Saw finished.

“Wha- what?.” Mara replied weakly. “The scrying… It took too much out… o-”

“NOW!” The inquisitor commanded, and raised her bolter. All around, the crew followed her example.

“Too much out of me.” Mara whimpered pitifully. “I just… need a”

“Three.” Saw warned.

“Master, she’s been pushed to her limit, projecting across this distance,” Henriq pleaded.

“Two.” Saw continued, and took a small step forward. “Do it!”

Mara looked down, and reached her hand behind her head slowly.

Too slowly…

Before anyone had the chance to react, the interrogator threw her weight downward and smashed her head violently against the floor. A sickening crack of the skull echoed as Mara drew her final breath.

The crew froze, dumbstruck at what had transpired.

“The heretic lives!” Saw cried out in anger. “Patch me through to the shuttle bay!”

“Yes, Inquisitor,” The pilot replied as he regained his composure.

“Henriq, grab yourself a weapon,” Saw commanded as she broke into a run. “We’re going on the hunt.” Her vox came to life as she left the bridge, and a deep voice came through from the other end.

“The Grey Knights are ready to launch on your command, inquisitor.”

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