The hydraulic cylinders hissed and wheezed as the pistons relaxed causing the metal plates of the transport's cargo hold to ring with piercing, earsplitting noises. Two masked men in Krieg's Death Korps uniform stood silently as the cargo hatch lowered letting in the rays of Novares' two suns filtered through the planet's atmosphere. Sael had kept his uniform, at least some part of it, just to keep track of his painfully disarrayed memories. The dunes of the desert world reflected in the eye-glasses of their masks as the door lowered further. The hold quickly started to fill up with sand. The clamor of the sand grains against the hull generated a sense of hostility; it felt as if the world itself was screaming at the invading vessel to leave. A brew of odors infiltrated the cargo hold carrying with them the smell of death, desolation and pure emptiness.
This was the first planetfall they had made since the Sword of Damnation
had set out six months ago. The cargo bay crew gathered near the sides of the opening and stared at the empty desert with thirsty eyes. Sael could tell that these men would give up a good part of their pay just to feel that silver sand under their feet.
"These are our orders men: Adherent Sael Thas and his aide are to be dropped off near Outpost XIX without a landing. We return to the docking bay immediately afterwards." Technical Officer Blaic repeated the orders for the last time. The announcement was barely concluded that a serf hurriedly walked over to Officer Blaic with a vox communicator and handed it to him. Sael observed Blaic's demeanor change as soon as he put the receiver to his ear. He nodded several times and then gestured for Sael to come over, "The Inquisitor wishes to talk with you" Sael gave a firm nod and took the communicator from the officer.
"Lieutenant 696, Inquisitor."
"You will never use that rank and serial number again. You are Adherent Sael Thas under my
authority. Do not make me repeat myself." Inquisitor Friia's threats carried weight but they were not really necessary in this case. Sael had started calling himself by that name as well. Even though it was a horrid reminder of the sundering of his humanity, it was also gave him the realization that his worth was no more than a corpse to begin with. He saw this new name as a beginning rather than an end.
"Understood, Inquisitor." Sael affirmed while looking at Blaic. "Your orders will be provided to you by Officer Blaic as soon as you are deployed...", a slight static in the vox channel interrupted the transmission before it cleared up again, "...tay inside the outpost perimeter and avoid engagement with locals. They are hostile." This was news to Sael. He was genuinely surprised that this forsaken ball of sand actually housed life. Not only that, there were people living on it.Two men against Emperor knows how many of those "hostile" natives?
"Inquisitor, if I may?" Sael asked and waited anxiously for the reply.
"If you could possibly spare a few men of this transport crew, Inquisitor, I think the outpost could be operated much more efficiently not to...", before Sael could finish Friia interrupted speaking loud enough that even Blaic and Ignitus could overhear her, "Your objective
, Adherent Sael, is to follow the orders and remain here until I return. Do not over-estimate your importance. The only reason you are down there and not in my laboratory is because I do not want to raise any unnecessary questions where I am going next. I cannot let something as insignificant as you to ruin my plans." By now, Officer Blaic had moved away from him and Ignitus pretended that he could not hear what was being said. "Embrace this identity I have given you and pray to the Emperor that the xenos have left something behind in you that is worth keeping you alive."
Sael had been considering his plight ever since the incident. He weighed his options carefully throughout the six month journey. He would ask himself every single cycle if he should quietly follow the Inquisitor's instructions to the end and hope for mercy? Or should he make a run for his freedom after she leaves him on Novares.
While the Sword of Damnation
held Novares' orbit, Sael would stare at the ashen world for hours from the observation deck. Questions surging through his mind. Every escape scenario lead to a certain capture or death courtesy the homing beacon Friia had had inserted in his body. Out of the plethora of feelings Sael had discovered after his bout with the Kabal, by far the most potent of them was 'Fear'. The fear of death. Until this point fear had forced Sael to lean towards the former option. Hope and mercy. But listening to the Inquisitor's words and the pure execrable contempt in her voice for him had awoken a feeling in Sael that was more terrifying to him than any death. The fear of pain, torture and complete helplessness. He would gladly die before he feels so helpless again.
Having absorbed the rebuke, Sael gently replied as he gazed onto a flock of birds disappearing over the horizon "Understood, Inquisitor."