Space marines do not require sleep as normal humans do, but they are not bereft of it entirely. After extended hours awake, simply shutting down certain parts of their brain ceases to work and true sleep is required. Evius dreaded this while aboard the inquisitors' vessel, as twin flames plagued his dreams. He would drift through the stygian of his mind, unprotected and exposed to the void, and at the center of his dreams he felt it: An Ark.

He cast his gaze through the haze of his mind and would spot it- far off in the middle distance, yet growing closer, every imagined heartbeat pulsing in time with its waves. As it washed out with its invisible pull and dragged him closer. The heat would grow and his skin would redden, then blister and flake, until it would erupt into flames as he gathered his will to keep away from the roiling inferno that now sat at the center of his consciousness.

As his eyes melted and his muscles fried on charcoal bones, he would finally scream.

He awoke on his simple cot with a slow start, his mind still pulsing with the fading echo of that infernal fire that now dominated his minds eye when he lapsed into slumber. It was not restful sleep, but it served its purpose regardless, the mental exhaustion still pervaded his mind but he banished it to the back of his head.

"The Servants of the Inquisitor will ready themselves, and make to the bridge." A servitors hollow voice rolled out of the ships loudspeakers, the Vox system giving the otherwise lifeless voice a sense of emotion that was only gifted by the nature of the ships mighty machine spirit. "Realspace Translation, in thirty-nine minutes. The Emperor Protects."

Evius rolled his shoulders, stretching slightly before dawning a robe left to him by the ships menials. Stepping out of his quarters he walked down the length of hallway lined with similar doors. He entered what amounted to the locker room where the others stowed their miscellaneous equipment and where he first encountered who would amount to being his 'comrades'. He found the Rouge Trader Arto, and the Guardsman Gyalt as its current occupants.

He stopped for a moment, studying the Guardsman who now wore armor and weaponry as well as a wide brimmed grox-leather hat that he thought would be more at home upon the head of an agriworld farmer. His sandy brown uniform was now overlain by light a light flak vest with webbing strung over its surface, several smoke grenades were clipped to it, while on his belt he wore several packs along with Frag and Krak grenades. The Guardsman was just about to sling several bandoliers loaded with what seemed to be scattershot shells over his shoulder when Evius stepped into the room. Arto paid him no attention, fixated with his own apparel, but Gyalt stopped his perpetrations and eyed Evius with that same mistrustful glare from when he first met him.

"Hail, Guardsman." Evius decided that cordiality was the best route despite the obvious hostilities, and was rewarded with Gyalt lessening in his apparent tension. "Hail, Marine." He replied, but offered nothing more. For a moment silence passed between marine and guardsman.

The number of various guard regiments and planetary defense forces scattered about the Imperium were neigh uncountable, but Evius had made it a priority of his to remember each and every one he came across in his battles against the Daemonic spawn of Chaos. He could recall a great number of them and their distinct warrior cultures- pedigrees of their home world. Despite this nearly encyclopedic knowledge Evius could not place the Guardsman standing before him among any of those he had encountered. It was an easy enough conversation-starter.

"Your trappings are unknown to me, guardsman." Evius remarked, staring at the bronzed regimental pin on the guardsman's shoulder- two parallel thunderbolts piercing a mountain, "Might I ask from which Regiment you herald from?"

"Fendoras Finest, eight-hundred and thirty-sixth Mobile Infantry." Gyalt replied, he closed a fist and thumped it against his chest in salute to the name of his old regiment, "Blessed on the sands, and in the eyes of the Emperor. Honored saviors of Caltix, Hedoraz, Atrimus, and victors of the Caladith crusade."

"Best not to get him started," The Rouge Trader made his presence known, idly inspecting some piece of metal and polishing it with a silken handkerchief until it gleamed. "He'll go on for hours about shiny medals and stuffed heroism."

Gyalt bristled at this remark. "What would you know about glory? Your but a pirate and swindler." It did not take an adept to see that these two shared history. The Guardsman glared down at the Trader who returned the withering stare with a look of contempt. Evius took a minor step backwards, and let the storm in front of him brew. He had no desire in becoming part of this, but he felt compelled to watch all the same.

"Oh, I know a great many things. I know that there is more to warfare than just smashing in the head of some lowlife cultist or disreputable Xeno, resorting to violence may cut out an infection but it is in cunning that you avoid the infestation from sprouting in the first place."

"You have experience in such matters?" Evius found himself asking.

"I have two lifetimes worth." Arto stood up from the bench, buckling the straps to his boots and stowing the bauble. "I've run interference for seven different Inquisitors, two Lord Generals, three separate Astartes Chapters, and more Knightly houses then I care to remember. I've provided them all with information on backroom dealings between warlords, ferried their troops and munitions, made it so trading houses suffered minor setbacks to their shipping lanes and lacked the required funds to expedite wars in the name of their false prophets. The Imperium has wasted uncountable lives and resources in quelling minor conflicts that could have been prevented by the deft placement and reallocation of men and money, I have seen entire sectors embroiled in conflicts do to the stipulations of trade agreements and once I've even seen an entire planet suffer Exterminatus due to some uppity noble falling short on his shipment of grain to segmentum command and consequently summoning forth a chaos warband." He eyed Gyalt speculatively. "Even a simple lineman should know that to engage in war pursued without a reason is folly."

"Enough of this," The Guardsman scoffed, promptly turning on his heel and storming out of the room. Evius found himself alone with the Trader.

"Is it necessary to antagonize him?" Evius asked the Rouge Trader. "More likely than not his crosshairs will find your back if you continue with your belittling."

Alto shook his head, removing a studded belt with a scabbard and holster from his trunk. "Gyalt may be a simpleton but his moral code is unbreakable. He may hate me more then he rages at Abbadon himself, yet so long as I stand for the Imperium he would die for me and any other upon this team." He looped the belt around his waist, and fastened it tight. "And, I suppose I would do the same if it came to such." He sighed. "I pray that I am wrong, of course. Death is rarely profitable."

The bridge was similar to the many he has seen before on the chapters' battlebarges and cruisers; although this one was significantly smaller. It was very much the same in function, with the captain standing at a raised dais at the center of the bridge, various screens and adepts surrounding them. Mind scrubbed serfs flitted about beneath, tending to their duties along sided red robed acolytes of mars.

He saw that the Sister, the Psyker and the Guardsman were already there alongside the Inquisitor; he nodded to Shieda in greeting. He was hesitantly surprised when he also noticed The Eater, now unwillingly titled Arumot-, though everything to do with it required none-too-gentle persuasion- standing aside, dressed in the same plain clothing bequeathed to her upon arrival. The Culexus charged with the enforcement of the Eaters Compliance was present, though Evius assumed only he, the Inquisitor, and the Eater were fully aware of it. It hid in plain sight, at the back of the bridge, watching patiently for any way-ward attack by the Eater, any attempt on the Inquisitors life would be halted in less than an instant.

Evius did not know how long the Assassin would remain in the inquisitors arsenal, he guessed it would remain until Sheida believed the Eater to be no longer a threat and fully acclimated.

Arto stepped out from behind him and waved a casual salute to the Guardsman in jest, and one more formal to Shieda. The Inquisitor ran augmetic eyes over the assembled and Evius could tell she was inwardly amused. He did not belive that he would be so amused to find himself leading such a motley crew into hells-waters and then be expected to row himself out again. He would be enraged.

"Now that we are all gathered, I suppose its time that we begin our sojourn." She turned and flicked her hand towards the bridges currently unshielded windows, showing a dark cluster of stars, and slowly coming into view from behind the blinding penumbra of the systems sun; a cluster of planets and attending stations. "Welcome to the Harkuul Cascade."

"…twenty-six billion five-hundred and thirty six million eighty hundred and eighty six thousand three hundred and four point oh four human lives call the Harkuul prime home. Of these we can account for a thirtieth being of the mutant population, as annual under hive purges monitored by the Adeptus Arbites have declined by forty percent in the past seven Terran years…"

Evius did not enjoy briefings. He stood silent and attentively enough, but he felt his ire boiling upwards as he continued to listen to the relatively young logician adept drone on about the smallest and seemingly pointless facets of Harkuul.

He was not used to pre-deployment monologues that were not grandiose prayers or oaths of vengeance. As a grey knight, all relevant information was quickly dissimulated into their minds via hypnotherapy and subliminal implantation, a process that took a matter of minutes and left the marine with time to tend to his wargear, and pray.

He had honestly always assumed that normal humans were given their information in a similar- though perhaps not as refined- manner. To be expected to sit through such drivel and remember it…

He had been callus in the remembrance of the battlefield tales of common line infantry forgetting crucial orders, in misinterpreting their mission priorities- no longer. It already took a superhuman effort to remain cognizant on his part- and he was Astartes. He could no longer burden the mortal guardians of the imperium with his scorn if they were to fall to sloth during such occasions as these, much like Arumot had done almost fifteen minutes after the briefings start. Ruddy hair falling over her eyes as her head slumped forwards. Evius measured her breathing, shallow and fitful, not fully asleep, ready to snap into awareness at the slightest provocation.

He looked at Gyalt, the Guardsman of the eight hundred and thirty-sixth Mobile Infantry Regiment, colloquially known as 'Fendoras Finest.' He was amazed by the mortals' tenacity. He had sat through the briefing so far without so much as an impatient muttering or disgruntled roll of the shoulders. The Sister did not share his patience it would seem, and the boy clearly did not- his peat blonde head slumped over and leaning against the armored form of the sororitas. Arto was no less affected and made no attempts to hide his ennui either, an ornate knife drawn from his boot and used to pick his nails clean of any accrual of dirt.

Evius was certain the rouge trader would not find any, he had already watched the man methodically pick under each and every nail at least five times in the past three hours, and was well on his way to watching the progress of his sixth when he realized that he had been watching a man pick his fingernails clean for the past one and a half hours.

"Is this at all relevant to our mission, honored adept?" Evius rumbled from the back of the small holorium, the superimposed live holo-feed of Harkuul Prime slowly rotating above the projector module at the front of the room. At the sound of his voice, Arumot snapped her head up, snorting slightly in waking surprise, she looked around, irritated, and it then promptly slumped forwards again once she deemed them to still be in the same room as before, with nothing to kill.

'Yet…' Evius added internally, if this briefing continued, the Adept might find himself with a subsequent loss of limbs. Gyalt looked back over his shoulder at the Grey Knight in obvious disapproval, the Guardsman took briefings fairly seriously it would seem, a quick glance at the others ennui showed that Gyalt was alone in this regard.

Although the others seem keen on voicing their own qualms of such a lengthy briefing, the adept does not cease, sending a withering glare across the assembled, and turning back to the hololith. Evius begins debating internally the pros and cons of uprooting the archaic machine and hurling across the room in a fit of frustration. His reason speaking harshly against such actions, and quickly losing to the contempt that began to further deluge his mind with every useless kernel of errata that the adept spewed forth from that abomination he calls a mouth-

"That will be enough, Caldrious." Sheida speaks for the first time from her secluded corner, twin red orbs peering out from behind her mask and under her cowl. "Time is running short, and we must be off within the next hour. Please, skip to the essentials."

There is an audible sigh in relief from Arto as the still scowling logician adept swipes his hand over the control panel to the hololith and Harkuul is replaced by the face of an aging man whose features still remain noble and patriarchal even in his later years. "Lord Governor Maltoris Skayvus Verus Ildora the three hundred and thirty sixth, Master of House Ildora. He is the man who first sent contact to the agents left behind on Harkuul after the first scouring, telling them of a deep corruption that had begun in the lowest depths of the outer hives of Kaxius- the capital Hive of Harkuul Primus."

"What of his Loyalty? Such politikers as he can never be fully trusted." Arto questions, speaking for the first time since the briefing began, he too seemed to be relived at the more paced turn the meeting had taken on.

"His loyalty is without question, and has been verified personally." Sheida answered. "His actions in stalling the planetary governor and supporting Nobel's have kept the Harkuul cascade from further collapse- actions and politicking that I shall spare you the details of. All you need be privy to is that he can be trusted- for now. No man is without his price." Arto nodded at this.

"It will be a rather simple procedure, God-Emperor willing," Sheida continued, "Maltoris will help us find the rot within the nobility of Kaxius, and from there we shall trace it back to the core. If at all possible, the Arbites can expunge what we are not required for." Sheida deactivated the Hololith, the ambient lights of the room coming online shortly after with a dull flicker. "We shall enter orbit of Harkuul Primus in another three hours, I suggest you make yourselves ready."

The inquisitors' armory was nowhere near extensive as the grand armoriums of Titan, but it did not need to be and reach the same level of effectiveness. Inquisitor's waged war mostly in secret, weaving their way through houses and courtyards, sniffing out corruption and dissent with a refined skill known by the name of subtlety. Inquisitors did not take to the field of open battle unless absolutely necessary; they had pawns to do that for them.

There was a variety of lasguns available; most of them were the mass-produced Cadian pattern though there was no small number of the Elysian pattern burst carbines. There were also the heavier backpack powered las rifle variants- Hotshot Lasguns, they were called, he was familiar with the bulky heavy rifles normally used by the Elite of the Imperial Guard; he had lost several Brothers to their supercharged crimson red beams when he and a strike squad were sent to put down a chaos cult that had taken hold in a scholeum. The chaos corrupted Stormtroopers had made a dark pact with the daemons of Tzeentch, and in doing so had foreseen the grey-knights arrival, the deadly crossfire scythed down half of the strike squad when they had disembarked from the drop pod, the las shots cut through ceramite with disgusting ease. Only he in his terminator armor remained immune to the punishing red rays.

He stepped past the 'flashlights,' a term coined long ago by an executed guardsman if the stories are to be believed. The next racks of weapons were solid-shot armaments, the oldest and widespread mechanical weapon of man. It is not known when the first gun was invented, that history was lost to time, nor was it known what the first guns looked like, though there are many mechanists and planets that claim to have the knowledge of the first weapons of man.

Simple in design and remarkably rugged, no Autogun was ever the same. Almost every planet in the Imperium manufactured their own types of Autogun and Stub weapons with varying levels of sophistication. The Autogun was perhaps one of the very few mechanical devices that the Adeptus Mechanicus didn't oversee the sanction of, and in truth it is theorized impossible for the Machine men of Mars to do so.

The Imperium is a vast and violent Empire, weapons are in constant demand, the Lasrifle is universal, but even it is only so numerous. Autoguns are often the last line of defense for primitive worlds. If their creation was to be taken from the planets that spawned them, and given solely to the Mechanicus, it is incalculable how many planets would fall.

Much like the chop-shop vehicles modified on the front lines by the Imperial Guard, the Adeptus Mechanicus sanctioned the countless Autogun designs with a wave of incense and roll of purity seals.

The Mechanicus of course has its own variety of Autoguns, but like most things made by the Mechanicum they are relics of the past. While phenomenally powerful and esoteric, they do not understand- or try to understand- how they function. This leaves only a paltry few remaining, never to be seen again. But for coinsures of stub weapons within the Imperium, it is not these that they desire, for they are not Velshin Autoguns.

Velsha is an old world, with a lofty pedigree, for it is one of the first worlds to bend knee to the Emperor in the earliest days of the Great Crusade. It has changed little since those days; its surface is covered by hives, while orbital platforms and stations block out the sky. It is of little value to the wider Imperium by itself, for it is its many moons swathed in farmland and algae seas that deliver tribute to the Administratum. There is only one thing that Velsha itself provides, and for a select few:

Guns. For the Inquisition.

Worth more than a fleet of warships, Velshin made Auto weapons are prized treasures for they reflect a fragment of the lost knowledge of the Dark Age of Technology, and much like that lost science of the Ancients, Velsha is secretive and dangerous.

The Imperium has exiled the Mechanicus from the Velshin system, not a single tech-acolyte of Mars can be found there. The Red Priests nearly destroyed the Ancient world in a fit of hysterical mania when they learned that an unsanctioned planet was producing such high-grade weaponry. The secret war over the fate of Velsha nearly caused the Mechanicus to schism from the Imperium after an inquisitorial kill-team destroyed an Ark Mechanicus sent to annihilate Velsha. The grand ship was broken irreparably and its attendant fleet faced the full might of the powerful Velshin system defense fleet.

The Mechanicus was enraged by this loss, but their wrath was to come to no fruition as the Echlisiarchy was just as equally enraged by the thought of Velsha being destroyed- a holy world that The God Emperor of Mankind Himself set foot on- the Mechanicus found itself facing an equally large and perhaps even more powerful and influential institution. If the Mechanicus were to separate from the Imperium, there would be no High Lords there to protect Mars from the wrath of the Echlisiarchy and its trillion upon trillion followers.

Evius removed the sleek pistol from the rack- a Velshin manufactured stub-pistol, deceptively light and compact, it possessed no visible ejection port and the black surface reflected no light. The weapon unfolded further in his grip, expanding to match the way he held it so it felt entirely natural. It reminded him of the weapons of the Vindicare, and it came to no surprise that Velsha had ties to that particular temple after the Mechanicus Incident. It bore no ornamentation. That was how he knew it to be Velshin made, it was also the only Velshin weapon on this ship- even the Inquisition had difficulty procuring such guns.

He didn't like it.

It was one of the only weapons that he could fit in his massive grip, and only because of the strange techno-arcana that made up the machine spirit of the weapon. That was not enough for him to be fond of the weapon however, not when he could only procure three sickle shaped magazines of matte-black caseless bullets. It had limited effective ammunition; the rounds it used were supposedly able to pierce through force fields and heavy armor all while remaining entirely silent. The other munitions it had at its disposal were mundane auto-pistol rounds; the simple squash headed forty-five caliber, cased rounds that the more prolific of Auto-pistols used, the techno arcana of the stub-pistol made it so they could be used as well. This versatility surely would win the favor of any warrior, but to Evius it was not enough.

It was not a selective fire twin barreled mag-launched armor mounted platform firing gyro stabilized self propelled mass-reactive diamantine tipped sanctified forty-millimeter explosive rounds.

It was not a storm bolter.

He placed the pistol back within its case.

Walking further down the isle he removed a heavy stubber from a rack, the mundane and bulky thing was usually fitted onto Leman Russ cupolas or tripods, he did not notice the weight. He fumbled with several boxy magazines of belt ammunition before moving on, he didn't bother looking at the Guard-issue bolter weapons; they were not astartes grade things. So he went with the Heavy Stubber, crude, blunt, reliable, just under a bolter in terms of raw firepower, it was an acceptable enough weapon for him.

But it still was not a storm bolter. His, storm bolter.

A sling had been fitted to the heavy stubber, the tough woven strap allowed him to sling it over his shoulder as he continued along the armory, eyes cast over the walls of weapons- each one more unsatisfying than the last. It came now to the most painful part however, as he gripped a chainsword, the weight unfamiliar in his hands and all the more painful for it.

It was more like a dagger in comparison to him, three feet of serrated chain mockingly small in his grip. He set the thing back and removed a simplistic power-sword, one of the mass produced things seen on every battlefield by Guard sergeants and Commissars. The inquisitorial variant was slightly more balanced, but still just as alien to him, he couldn't wield this effectively, he was more apt to hack one of his own limbs off.

The power maul was too weighted and brash, holding it was more like holding a lengthy brick.

The whip he laughed at, scoffing at the thought of such a thing ever being considered a weapon.

The chain axe reminded him bitterly of Khornate berserkers, he passed the polished silver-black weapons without looking back.

It went on like this for nearly an hour before Sheida found him standing with an Eviscerator chain-blade in one hand, a look of weary concentration across his brow, while in the other hand he held a crusader great sword, usually reserved for the personal bodyguards of the inquisition.

"Finding everything favorable?" She asked regardless, already knowing his answer.

Evius glanced up at her, setting down the crusader blade. "Need I truly answer?" He replied, thumbing the activation rune of the heavy chainsword and listening to the whine of the weapons engine for a moment before cutting it. "You expect me to fight with such toys?" He motioned to his current gathered utilities of war, the hulking heavy stubber and a selection of grenades.

"I know it is equipment you are not used to," Sheida began, "but you must make do for now with what I can supply." She held up a bundled parcel roughly five feet in length, it was wrapped in what Evius recognized as prayer vellum. "Although when it comes to your desire for a perfect blade, I may have the answer." She held out the wrapped object, and let the wrapping fall away. "For I believe this belongs to you?"

Nearly five feet of molecularly straightened pure adamantium polished to a reflective finish with a monomolecular edge never looked so beautiful in all of his life. He recognized the runic high gothic engravings almost at once, each one perfectly inlayed; an entire catechism wrapped the length of the pommel. With a reverence usually reserved for holding aloft the idols of the God Emperor, Evius reached out and grasped the handle of a blade he had known since his ascension to the rank of Justicar. The Psycoreactive gems along the hilt fit snugly into the palm of his hand as he ran a finger along the edge, careful not to cut himself. "How in the name of the Throne did you…" He breathed, not wholly expecting an answer.

"A brother of yours pulled me aside before we left. He made it very clear that this went to you."


"Your Brothers have abandoned you as you think they have." Sheida nodded, seemingly pleased as Evius turned his familiar blade over in his hands, the balance, the temper, it was all there. He could even feel the spark of his soul within the sword calling out to him and he answered it with a surge of psychic power that ignited the engravings of the blade. A shower of gold and blue light illuminated the armory before dying back down into a pale resonance that flickered about the sword. "Yes," He nodded, a quiet, content smile on his lips. "This will do nicely…"

He was ready.