No More Hiding
An unofficial Warhammer 40,000 Short Story
Written by Delio Pera
Reading Time: 5 minutes
In the darkness of his office, Father Henry clicked on the vid-feed screen. Staticky images and shadows battled across his walls. For the past month his city had been a riot epicenter. Fires raged, guns fired, people screamed and yelled around the clock, but more at night. The small chapel where he preached had, so far, been spared but he worried every day .
The riots had begun as peaceful protests four weeks earlier, when a single video sparked outrage across the planet. In the video, a family was seen dragged from their home and shot in the street by two Adeptus Arbites. The Arbites said the family worshiped a false god.
Father Henry steepled his fingers, rested his elbows on his desk, and held his face in his hands. They worshiped the same god I do, just not in the same way. He was torn. As a respected member of his community he knew he could speak up and be listened to, but still he worried.
As he sat in silence, the city burned.
Off-screen a woman’s voice came through the vid-feed. ‘New information has come to light in the case of the heretic family. Imperial inspectors have found icons and written works that suggest the family’s heresy has roots going back many generations. Inspectors say that the family’s ability to keep their secret for so long is only further proof of their heresy.’
Father Henry thumped his fist against his desk. ‘That’s not true.’ And still they refuse to say their names. He’d had lunch with Byron Cole two days before he was killed. He’d given Susan a hug and tussled little Kevin’s hair. His insides twisted at the thought that the memory of his friends was being warped in real time; the truth turned inside out.
Had he and Byron said the same prayers? Sung the same songs? Owned the same relics? No. But what did that matter? It was why Henry enjoyed Byron’s company. There had been times that their deep discussions had gone on for hours. Different views of the same thing. One god seen by different eyes. Father Henry smiled, thinking of the line Byron had said many times.
The aged preacher went to his cabinet and picked up the tele-vox. His heart raced at the thought of what he was about to do. You’ve waited long enough.
After a half dozen calls, a day of waiting, a message delivered to a hidden location in an alley, and a quiet meeting, Father Henry was given the contact information for Isla Faston.
Henry pulled his hood a little tighter as he headed down the alley, flickering lumens pushed the night’s darkness back with each flash. He knocked on an unmarked door and, after a moment, an unseen hand pulled open a thin slat.
‘What do you want?’ Isla’s voice was dark wine poured in a smoke filled music club.
‘It’s Father Henry.’
‘I’ve been expecting you ever since that video hit the vid-feeds. What took you so long?’
Henry closed his eyes in shame. ‘Fear.’
‘We’re all afraid, Father.’ Isla pulled her door open, ‘Come in.’
Isla’s single-room home was strewn with pamphlets and books.
‘What is it you wanted to talk to about?’
‘I knew the Coles. Byron and I were good friends. I know for a fact he worshiped the Emperor of Mankind. He was no heretic.’
‘That’s what I’ve heard from others that knew him,’ said Isla. What I don’t understand is why the Arbites are saying otherwise. Do you know where that dreadful lie that the Coles were heretics is coming from?’
Father Henry drew a deep breath. Now is the moment of truth, now is when you speak up. ‘Yes,’ he said, and with that single word felt himself dive into the unknown. The freedom that came from that one word spoken aloud gave him wings.
‘Many years ago Byron’s great-great grandparents came here from another planet. They too worshiped the Emperor, but not in a way you or I would recognize.’
‘How’s that?’ Isla asked.
‘They believed that He on Terra was the soul of all living things. They called him Unaska Kiawlo—The Great Soul. Not of only you and I but of the plants, animals, fish, worms, even the stars. They believed that all good came from Him. They reasoned that if vile chaos spilled from the Immaterium, then holy order must have a source as well. They said that source could only be He on Terra. A being—a conduit—through which all good flowed.’
‘And the two Arbites that killed the Coles found out about their beliefs?’
‘It seems so.’
‘This is all one big misunderstanding then.’ Frustration and anger laced Isla’s voice.
‘How can I help?’ Henry asked.
Isla sighed. ‘I’m not sure there’s anything to be done at this point, Father. A hundred cities across the planet burn because the Arbites won’t listen, but this outpouring of anger comes from a thousand small fissures. The killing of the Coles was just the crack that broke the dam. I think we have to sit back and watch the flood at this point.’
No, Father Henry thought. He jabbed a finger, pointing outside, ‘They’re not watching. My people need me.’
Candles filled the chapel with golden light. Father Henry pulled the last strap on his gauntlet snug and cracked his forearms together. The underhive dealer had charged a year’s worth of tithes for the armor. Henry grabbed the electro-maul next to his door then headed outside to his balcony where ten thousand people waited below in the streets.
His vox-amplified voice carried over the crowd with ease. ‘Tonight we march against those that refuse to listen to the truth. If they won’t listen to our words then maybe they’ll listen to these!’ Father Henry punched the air and held his fist aloft as the crowd roared.