+ inload: Who is Sho? +


+ Killing Quarters +

Closing her eyes, Kills tipped her head back, easing the strain in her neck. She breathed out. Eyes still closed, she took a sip of water from the tumbler in her hand. Never tasted the same planetside, she thought, no matter the planet, no matter the sector. Finishing the water, she stood, grimacing. Nor the segmentum, for that matter. She suddenly felt very small, very isolated. Drawing herself up, she shook off the feeling.

Restlessly, she paced across her quarters. There was nothing for it. It was time to consult the Rogue Trader. Taiwo might be a supercilious bastard, but he was too canny not to have deployed an agent or two in amongst the work crews the Gatebreakers had requested. That in itself was unusual. Two years into the deployment, and this was the first request the Chapter had made of the expedition.

In that time, the Primaris of Chapter 333 had seemingly been integrated into the Gatebreakers. From Haim and Brunski's reports, the two groups operated together very successfully. Kills knew of thirteen primary engagements that the 9th had made; and that was just in the Strikeforces to which she had attached her acolytes. Throne alone knew how many of them there were – the Gatebreakers certainly weren't forthcoming on that.

Kills peered out of the viewport for some time, brooding over her lack of knowledge of the Chapter, before finally throwing her mantle around her shoulders and setting out. 

Setting a smart pace down the corridors of the flagship, ratings and servants saluted or genuflected as she passed. She barely acknowledged them. Both of her principal aides had been injured during the sortie with the Sabact, so she keyed in an order to Castaway to meet with her. That would require shuttle time.

How had things changed? After the initial wariness, the Chapter had seemed to welcome the intake of Primaris, directing all contact with the Rogue Trader's fleet through them – as a mark of respect, the mysterious Master Sho had reportedly said, and to avoid unintended cultural misunderstandings. Within weeks, Scipius had begun to demur requests for audiences, claiming his warrior-monks required a period of solitude alongside their new brethren, in order better to integrate.

Kills brooded as she marched. On the surface, the integration was a success. Chapter 333 was no more; the Primaris and Astartes of the Gatebreakers Chapter were as one. Their activity across the region was huge – wherever the Rogue Trader's vessels travelled, Gatebreaker ships accompanied them. Seemingly long-lost worlds were being recovered; alien forces pushed back.

On the other hand, the Inquisitor brooded, the gifting of a thousand battle brothers of the Adeptus Astartes to so insular a group, under the mastership of such an enigmatic figure as Sho, set her mind on edge. It was infuriating. She knew so much about the individual Gatebreakers she'd met – virtually every one had submitted willingly to the most trival minutiae in her acolyte's interviews – and yet so little about the Chapter's workings. Most pressing of all: Where were the rest of them?

The return of the Rogue Trader's fleet from their exploration of the region to anchorage around Andocrine was an opportunity to find out.

+++

The Rogue Trader's ready room was as lavish as the rest of his ship, but Kills had no patience for the luxury, nor the staff. At Taiwo's nod, they dispersed. Kills watched until the last of the staff had left, and the doors had closed. He gestured to a seat, but she demurred. Smiling, the Rogue Trader stood up, his manner easy, but radiating confidence. He began to walk around the large room, and Kills fell in beside him.

"You rarely attend me for pleasure, Barbari; so let us dispense with pleasantries." There was a grin in his dark eyes which took any sting from the words. Supercilious he might be, but he had that easy charm common to all the Rogue Traders Kills had met. "There is much to prepare," he went on, gesturing to one of the many large boards covered with slips of paper and notes, "and my time is, regrettably, the resource of which I never seem to have enough."

Kills began. "The Gatebreakers, then." Taiwo gave a small nod, as though he had foreseen the subject.
"You want to know how repairing their fortress goes?" he asked.
"I know how it progresses, Taiwo. The specifics are coded, but not beyond my sight – nor, I suspect, yours." She took a glance at the Rogue Trader, who remained looking forward. His handsome face hinted only at mild amusement.
"I couldn't say, Inquisitor, of course." The two continued their stately progress, and Kills tried another tack at the corner.
"You have deployed twenty thousand ratings; indentured thirteen construction enginseers, and marked two adepts of the Mechanicus to the support of the Chapter's reconstruction efforts."
"I have."
"I have not spoken with Scipius for some time now."
"Nor I, Barbari. Do you know they call him the Unworthy now?" Master Scipius was tall, and honourable, and straightforward; a paragon of the Adeptus Astartes. He all but radiated virtue and honour – but he had hardly been cordial company during the long voyage to the rim. He didn't deserve the nickname, of course, but neither the Rogue Trader nor Inquisitor quite resisted their urge to grin.
"Yes, Castaway is still getting to the bottom of the reason for that. Captain Scipius now, of course."
"Not quite a demotion, Kills. The Gatebreakers seem to have a very unusual command structure – insofar as I understand things." The Inquisitor arched an eyebrow, but if Taiwo noticed, he made no reaction. "Very dispersed. Scipius retains Commandery of the Primaris."
"Is that so? I had been given to understand the two forces were fully integrated; serving alongside one another in all ways."
"No; not completely. Some Strikeforces remain purely Astartes – and before you ask, no, I don't know why. I can only say that because my forces have deployed alongside them."
Kills hid her eagerness poorly. "Where?" 
"The Kua Fu Cluster worlds. We found three Gatebreaker micro-fleets during our operations there. Frigates; nothing greater in displacement. They nearly fired on us, until the Gatebreaker's Sanctity of Man hove into view around the planet."
"A shield of green and gold, eh?" remarked the Inquisitor, quoting Scipius' declared intentions for his Chapter during the Chapter's honorary welcome to the Rogue Trader's fleet. Both the Inquisitor and Rogue Trader were silent for a moment. It seemed a long time since then. 

As they passed the great doors, redolent in gold, Taiwo broke the silence.
"I'm pleased the Space Marine escort was there, that's all I'm saying. I have no desire to squander my resources fighting Imperial servants – that is, fighting our allies." Taiwo had caught the Inquisitor's eye. He may have leeway as a Rogue Trader, but even suggesting to an Inquisitor that his fleet did not, ultimately, belong to the Imperium, was a dangerous path to tread. Kills waved it off. She was no radical; but the equally she held few puritanical views. Her flexibility and adaptability had been why the Ordo Propter had deployed her to the operation, after all. 

The door chimed; and Kills' communicator buzzed silently. Castaway had arrived.

Before Taiwo could order the door opened, she stopped. The Rogue Trader turned to face her, his broad-cheeked face for once unguarded.
"I'm not going to sanction you, Rogue Trader. To be candid, you and I are mutually dependent. Neither of us is overburdened with friends to hand out here. With the Gatebreakers deployed to Andocrine, my work here is done; as is yours. You are free to explore and exploit this region as you see fit – expanding the borders of Imperium, boosting trade, and all the other worthy acts of which your kind do best. Equally, I am free to return to the workings of the inner galaxy; to retreat from this barren region..." She trailed off, looking once more to the great viewport. It remained blank, and Kills could not tell whether this was because it was switched off, or whether it was simply showing the endless, starless sweep of the end of the galaxy.

"And yet?" Taiwo prompted, as the door chimed a second time. Kills looked straight at him.
"And yet we have both returned here. Of all the places in this cast region, we have returned to a ruined Chapter Fortress, to make it right. We are linked to them, you and I; to the Gatebreakers. And before this Master Sho slips the leash, I would know to whom we have handed over a Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes."

+++

+ Reinforcements inbound +

+ More building, more painting. Three further bodies – this time from the Hellblaster kit – have been added to bring the new intake to ten. I've also cracked on with the painting, using the same batch approach as before. First the grey undercoat, then a few layers of yellow. +


+ After that, the green. It's a relief after the yellow, which is a real slog. Green has much better coverage, so it takes less than half the time than the yellow. It's also a satisfying stage, as you make the lines nice and crisp. +


+ After that, the black went on for the soft armour – further tidying the scheme. Once dry, the squad and Dreadnought (below) were ready to be sprayed with matt picture varnish. +


+ Next up is the oils stage. I've got some arms and heads complete, left over from the first batch, so the Gatebreakers reinforcements won't be too long now, touch wood. +

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