The pict screen video cleared, revealing a warm, rustic room in what appeared to be a log cabin. In the hearth a rogue psyker's body burned with a pleasant crackle. Two large chairs dominated the center of the room, both black leather and very comfortable looking. In one sats a thin woman with light red hair pulled up into a fashionable bun. She wore a pair of pince nez glasses and was dressed in a simple black dress and robe with a white sash around her waist. She smiled pleasantly and raised a teacup in salute, "Hello friends, and happy Emperor's Day from the Cleansing Fire Commandery. As you no doubt know, this is something of a tradition of the commandery, bringing the light of The Emperor to everyone on this, the day of His birth. Isn't that right, Angelica?"
In the other chair slouched a more severe woman in battle worn power armor, her white hair cropped very close. Her face was almost pretty, except for the scar across her left eye and the look of tedious boredom on her features. "You got me on the fucking camera Kora. Don't expect me to fucking play along. I'll rip out your fucking windpipe and use it as a straw to suck your brains out through your eye sockets." Angelica picked up a flamer from beside her chair and shot it over her shoulder into the fire, catching most of the hearth alight and sending flames licking up along the walls. A moment later a trio of battle sisters rushed by, tossing buckets of water on the blaze.
"Right," Kora said, completely unflappable. "And what a wonderful Emperor's Day it is. It almost makes me want to break into song."
"Or not!" Kora said with a bright, if somewhat nervous smile. "As our Cannoness has rightly pointed out, this is no time for singing. There's a war on!"
"There's always a war on," Angelica said as she kicked her feet up onto the small table in front of them, splintering the wood. "Think I'd be doing this if there wasn't a fucking war on? God damned morale boosting piece of-"
"Oh look," Kora interjected suddenly, rising to her feet. "There's someone at the door!"
"There is?" Angelica craned her head around to look, and for a few awkward moments there was dead silence, then finally came a knocking.
"Oh look, there's someone at the door!" Kora said again in the exact same tone.
"You said that already," Angelica said, and Kora made several quick hand motions, as if trying to signal someone to change a cue card.
"Who is it?" She finally called out.
"By jove, it's bloody cold outside," came a deep, cultured voice from the other side of the door. "I say, might I take shelter in your humble cabin here?"
Kora skipped over to the door, her robe flying out behind her, and she swung open the door. A giant of a man in highly ornate tan and white ceramite power armor stepped through the door way, and had to turn sideways to squeeze his massive bulk through, only to have his jump pack get caught in the door frame and rip out half the wall. He wore no helmet, and sported a large brown handlebar mustache and a bionic monocle. “Praise the Emperor,” Kora cried out melodramatically. “It’s Chapter Master Gregorious Chase of the Burning Sands chapter of the Adeptus Astartes!”
There came the distinctive sound of power armored gauntlets applauding from somewhere off camera while Chase bowed in response. When it quieted down he straightened, “I say, is that Palatine Halquin, of the Cleansing Fire Commandery? What brings you out here?”
“Only some Emperor’s Day cheer,” Kora said with a giggle in her voice which caused Angelica to sink lower into her chair and groan. “What about you, Chapter Master?”
“I’m out hunting Orks,” Chase said, and put his hands on his hips. “The foul beasties infest these woods right proper. It’s a bloody farce.”
“Not just any Orks!” Kora and Chase looked around suddenly, shocked at the new voice, but Angelica simply put her hand on her forehead and sighed. A woman in a black body glove suddenly leapt out from behind Angelica’s chair. She was of average height and middling build, with nondescript gray hair the exact color everyone eventually gets as they age. Her features were plain, her posture unremarkable and her voice entirely forgettable.
Kora and Chase chimed in at exactly the same time, “Inquisitor Seren Null of the Ordo Xenos?! Where did you come from?”
There was more applause, and a polite curtsey from the Inquisitor. “The Inquisition is everywhere,” she said with a smile. “Everyone knows that!”
“Of course,” Kora said. “In fact, I know a song all about it!”
“I swear upon every sanctified thing in this entire fucking vessel,” Angelica growled. “If any one of you sings a single fucking note I’m putting all of you to the torch, then I’m putting a bolter round through the forehead of everyone you’ve ever loved and I’ll collect all of your pets and send them out the airlock. You fucking test me. Fucking do it.”
Another awkward silence followed that, then Chase cleared his throat. “I say, I do believe that she’s upon her female time. Quite vexing.”
A moment later Angelica had leapt over the chair she was sitting in and was slamming the butt of her flamer into Chase’s monocole while he protested with indignant words and polite requests to stop.
++Static erupted across the pict screen, and a commercial cut in. A thin, grave, bald man stared at the screen through a pair of dark glasses. “Need something delivered? Need someone killed? Just got business you don’t want anyone else knowing about? My name is Malazan Praxis, and I know the solution to all of your problems. Me.” The camera zoomed out to reveal the man standing in the center of a group. To his right were a striking woman with close cropped black hair in a beautifully expensive dress who stood in the shadow of a towering blonde woman in a black greatcoat and commissarial cap. To his left was a tech-priest holding a massive cog-wheel axe, a tittering servo-skull bobbing at his shoulder. Praxis spoke again, “With my crack crew there’s nothing we can’t get done.”
At that moment the tech-priest hissed out through his respirator, “Is that a Tran fundamental wave distributor?!” The pretty woman shouted, “Oh look, shoes!” The commissar screamed, “Heretic!” The crew scattered and bolter fire and screaming followed, leaving Praxis standing alone in front of the camera, “Hey! HEY! This is live! We only have one shot at- For the love of… Send an Astropathic message to the Rogue Trader vessel Acta Sanctorum. And know this,” he stepped forward, grabbing the camera. “I know who you are, where you live, and if you don’t hire us I will find you.”++
The picture returned with half the set fallen down, Chase’s armor blackened with scorch marks and Angelica sitting across the room, unarmed, her armored dented in several places from what looked to be bolter fire. Kora sat in between them, and Inquisitor Null was standing behind Angelica with a storm bolter trained on Angelica’s head.
“So,” Kora started, still powering through with a nervous smile. “You were saying, Inquisitor?”
Null glared at Angelica, “I was saying that if she starts attacking one of The Emperor’s own Space Marines again I’m going to exterminatus her brains all over the wall with this bolter.” Angelica rolled her eyes as if she’d heard that line a dozen times.
“Actually,” Kora pushed her glasses up her nose and picked up her tea cup in a shaking hand. “I meant about the Orks?”
“Jolly good tea,” Chase interjected for no apparent reason. “Reminds me of safari on Catachan. Bloody Devils romping about eating all of the native guides. Damned fine tea they had there, if I do say so.”
Null seemed very confused, but when Kora pointed emphatically at somewhere behind the camera Null seemed to get the point and leaned forward, squinting and speaking in the halting manner of someone reading aloud. “That’s right Palatine. These aren’t just any Orks, these are the Inquisitorks.”
“The Inquisitorks?!” Kora put her tea down, then slapped her palms to her cheeks in shock. “You mean the Orks supposedly lead by the renegade Inquisitor Isimbard Kane?!”
“The very same, Palatine,” Null said, resting her storm bolter over her shoulder.
“Inquisitor Kane,” Chase said, looking up. “You mean that bright chap who was bisected on Messia? Bloody Warboss got him with a power klaw, didn’t he? God awful mess. Saw it happen to one of my Captains once, the brave bugger. Took me a week to get his entrails out of my mustache. Rather impolite, all in all.”
There was yet more awkward silence as Kora and Null looked at him in confusion, then Kora finally spoke up. “Wasn’t Inquisitor Kane killed, bravely fighting Greenskins on Messia?”
Null stayed silent, then asked, “Are we still on the cue cards? I’m lost. What page of the- Oh. Okay. Right.” She nodded to someone off screen, “Why yes, Kora. Rumor has it that an Ork pain boy, that’s their foul, xenos doctors, placed the Inquisitor’s brain into the head of the Warboss he’d just bravely defeated. The xenos taint ruined his brain, and he has since been running rampant throughout the sector!”
“It’s true!” A gutteral, bellowing voice echoed through the cabin, and everyone looked stunned, except for Chase who kept sipping his tea. The remaining wall of the set fell over as a massive boot collided into it from the other side, and a towering green monster in a tall, wide brimmed hat stepped forward. “It’s me, Inquisitork Lord Isimbard Kane, Boss of da Inquisitork Horde!”
“Bloody hell,” Chase said.
“Oh my Emperor!” Kora shouted.
“How did that get on board?” Null questioned.
“Fucking shit cock!” Angelica cursed.
The Ork Warboss stepped fully into view. He was over nine feet tall, and wore a long brown coat to match his hat. One of his arms ended in a vicious power klaw that snicked together like a giant pair of scissors. In his other hand was a glimmering silver power sword emblazoned with the Imperial Eagle and the I of the Inquisition. Half of the Ork’s head was replaced with bionics. “I’m here at dispel any bad rumors about me to da good people of da Imperium.” He turned to the camera and pointed his klaw at the audience, “Nows lissen ‘ere loyal servants of da Emprah. I’m da-”
“Attack,” Null shouted, and unleaded a torrent of bolter shells at the beast. It blocked with one arm, most of the bolt shells impacting on thick muscle ineffectually as it screamed in outrage.
Chase charged forward, socking the Ork in the jaw with a gauntleted fist. “Have at thee, scoundrel! I’ll give you what for!” before the Ork could recover he was being beaten soundly about the head and shoulders by the flaming corpse of the rogue psyker that had once been in the hearth, but was now being wielded as a blunt instrument by Cannoness Angelica Cross. Sisters of Battle began to swarm the stage, and the Ork bellowed one last time before hurling one of the sisters at Chase and backhanding Angelica across the room. It turned and ran, Null’s storm bolter chewing up its backside as it did so. The entire group gave chase, except for Kora, who sat in the center of the burning, collapsed set, her bun unwound and tumbled about her shoulders, her robe stained with tea.
“Every bloody year!” She shouted, and slammed her fist into the overturned coffee table. The camera, jarred by the blow, tilted, then fell onto the floor, and the picture went blank.