Fast Fiction

Exhibit 6

Exhibit 6

An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Andy Clark
Reading Time: 5 minutes

‘Don’t open it for Throne’s sake!’ Remia snapped. ‘Just leave it on the table and get out.’

If they were offended, they didn’t show it, just unceremoniously dumped the plastek bundle onto the scuffed metal surface and left with a grunted ‘Ma’am’. The portal shut with a scrape of steel on rockcrete, the frame warped by years of neglect, letting the door carve a crescent furrow on the floor. A yellowed repair order was pasted to the frame, forgotten like its author. 

Remia snapped the seal on the evidence bag, cross-checking the reference number with the file on her dataslate as she did so, and carefully tipped the contents into the harsh pool of light in front of her. She visually examined it, noting the features as listed in the report. A knife, approximately 25 centimetres long from the base of the handle to the tip of the worn blade. A simple hilt of cheap fibre pulp wound in leather, no guard or quillon. The edge straight and serrated along the spine. No ornamentation or inscription. A pair of rough nicks marred the otherwise perfect cutting surface roughly a third of the way down the length. It was these blemishes that had given this otherwise unremarkable weapon its unique forensic signature. Creating a fingerprint of sorts in the many cuts it had performed. Tracking its progress through time and violence. 

It had been cleaned inexpertly. The scoops of the serration and the crevasse where steel met wood harboured dried viscera and grime, the groxhide bindings discoloured by sweat and gore.  A history written in layers of blood. A history Remia was here to read. 

She reached out tentatively and laid her hand across the grip. A gentle tap and retreat at first, brushing her fingertips across it as if checking the temperature. It did not react, but she did not expect it to. She grasped it firmly and lifted it to her face, cool grey eyes reflecting in cold blue steel. Close up she could make out the crystalline structure of the metal, facets and edges giving lie to the illusion of uniformity. She concentrated, listening for the whispers of the past. She reached out and grasped the first echo.

 

She stood in a hall. No, a dormitory. Rows of cots stretched away from her, separated by pools of moonlight that shone through high, slit windows. A low susurrus pervaded, made by many bodies breathing slowly. The calm was broken momentarily as a small figure rolled onto their side, then the hush descended once more. She approached the nearest bed, sidestepping the tiny shoes neatly lined up against the trunk that was acting as a table. She leaned over, gently brushing hair from a face untouched by age. The knife was heavy in her hand. She began to open throats…

 

Remia gasped and sat back in the chair, the plastek creaking as her weight shifted. Centring herself again, she raised the knife once more and reached for a deeper thread. 

 

Remia crept down the corridor, the flickering of electrosconses made shadows dance on the wall. A cool draft entered from an open window, carrying the scent of the hive and the distant rumble of unceasing industry. A door opened, ushering an unwelcome intruder into thought and space. The Sister reacted swiftly to her presence, but time had taken its due; reflexes faded as muscle had atrophied. She was still fast, just not fast enough, and she sighed as air was punched from her lungs by the blade plunged into her chest. She sank to the floor, her back propped against unyielding stone. Blood slowly spread across her scapular, black in the silvered light…

 

Remia placed the blade on the table and closed her eyes. She could feel the tension in her back and rolled her neck to loosen her muscles. She opened her eyes again letting them drift once more to the knife, she rested her hand on the worn hilt and felt for another memory. There. Buried deeper than the rest, an ephemeral whisper. She cocked her head, willing it into focus. 

 

She woke with a start; a cry escaped her lips. Cold sweat sheened her body, making her stick to the sheets she’d tangled about herself and she struggled to get free. The dream began to fade, action withdrawing to image, thought to emotion until all that remained was tooth, claw, and insatiable hunger. She looked over at her partner, watching the gentle rise and fall of their chest as they slumbered. She got up, the metal of the hab floor cold beneath her feet as she padded to the tiny kitchen unit. The old knife was on the side of the basin, the cheap pressed steel blade nicked where it had caught on the table’s edge. She picked it up and turned back towards her sleeping chamber. It would be a kindness…

 

+++

 

Remia stepped out of the hall onto the landing platform, squinting as her eyes adjusted to the bright sunlight. The pressure in her head felt worse out here. As if a few layers of rockcrete and plasteel were adequate protection. She looked skywards. Somewhere out there, past the spires and contrails; past the moons, defence platforms and fleets; past the Oort cloud and the heliopause; they were coming. Unstoppable. Voracious. 

She looked back down as Valien approached, her savant was ancient, past the point where juvenat would make a difference, and walked slowly. Remia increased her stride to close the distance. 

‘Was the report accurate, my lady?’ he asked. ‘Was the object corrupted?’

‘No,’ said Remia. ‘It was just a knife, no indication of taint.’

‘Then our time was wasted, apologies Inquisitor,’ said Valien.

Remia reached out, feeling the weight of the world, the countless souls struggling and striving in service of the Imperium. Billions of citizens oblivious to the peril they faced. 

‘Signal Admiral Lanctanius to prepare Exterminatus,’ said Remia.

‘My Lady?’ said Valien.

‘It is a kindness,’ said Remia.

About the Author

Andy Clark is an avid reader of all things Warhammer having rediscovered the setting with the Horus Heresy series. He’s recently got back into painting models after a two-decade gap and wonders why he ever stopped.

Contact