From Official Recordings of the Inquisition

            Back in the offices of Inquisitor Lord Gable, Inquisitor Musgrave continues with his report. “As I understand it, Inquisitor Torchwood had managed to secure an interview with the leader of this cult in his own headquarters. Why he didn’t simply end it all there and put this monster down on the spot is beyond me.” The pudgy man sputtered indignantly, “I demanded access to his personal journals, but the underling who answered my call instructed me to…” he leafs through his notes and squints through his spectacles, “Ah yes, take my summons, ‘roll it up real tight’, and I’m quoting here, ‘stick it and swivel,’ whatever that means.”

            Lord Gable snorts, choking back a laugh and coughing to cover it up, “Yes, quite rude…but an inquisitor’s personal files, much like his personal staff, are his to relinquish or withhold as he sees fit, unless formal charges are raised.”

            “Yes, do I’ve been told…” Musgrave mutters sulkily, before pressing on.

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-

From the Journals of Augustus Torchwood

            Thanks to Bolt’s footwork, we managed to score a meeting with Reverend Blak. I had Cypher pull up scans of that section of the underhive and put in a call to Lamont to have some of his boys hit a couple hab-units nearby, make it look like a random enforcer sweep sort of thing.

            I passed on a couple of instructions of my own in that regard. Custodian Cranston was only too happy to oblige me, but at a terrible price… Maddie and I have to go over to his place for dinner this week. His wife is making something she calls ‘Hiverat Stew’… the man drives a hard bargain.

            Explaining the plan to the boys took some doing. Bolt didn’t understand why we don’t just take him out there and then, especially after I told Otto what he would be doing. But I explained that taking Blak out now would just make rounding up the rest more difficult, and he seemed to understand. We need a chance to get them all together.

            With a little luck the whole plan will go to hell and we’ll all be dead well before ‘Hiverat Stew’ night with the Cranstons…

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-

            Dirty and dangerous was the theme as Torchwood’s crew assembled and strode off to their meeting. Bolt kept to the street-lethal look he sported earlier. Sister Madeline wore her stripped-down armor, mostly form-fitting armor plates from her old power armor, worn over a skintight energy-dispersing bodysuit. She also wore a pair of sleek, high-powered lasers, of ancient make, strapped to her hips. For Otto it was hard-wearing chameleon fatigues, currently set to black, worn over a lightweight set of kasarkin plate, his matte black hellgun carried casually over one shoulder, one arm hooked lazily around the butt, the other free for smoking.

            Augustus took the lead, wearing a log black coat of a different, more antiquated style and era than Bolt’s, and a broad-brimmed hat. He walked with an antique skull-topped cane; runes and stones glittered and glowed in the dim light. Under his coat lurked an ancient and baroque looking plasma pistol, and a dented and well worn breastplate in dull red. No Aquila or inquisitorial seals, no forms of identification on any of them.

            The intense, primal beat of Bolt’s music seeped out into the air around them, like an action movie soundtrack…an effect with Gus immediately shattered when he began whistling a rather up-beat tune and tapping his cane to keep time. The others grinned, they knew the ancient tune well, had heard him sing it many times. ‘Hear me now, o’ thou bleak and unbearable world,’ it went, ‘thou art base and debauched as can be. But a knight, with his banners all bravely unfurled, now hurls down his gauntlet to thee…’ he always sang it when he had a good feeling about the way things were going to go…or whenever he was in the shower.

            By the time they reached the ruined imperial cathedral that Malthus Blak was using as his headquarters, Gus was all business again, his jaunty swagger and the spring in his step were replaced by a purposeful stride and a steady gaze.

            They were stopped at the doors by a pair of goons holding pistols and waving primitive weapon scanners. “Gotta disarm.” One of them grunted, “Father’s orders.”

            None of them made a move until Gus nodded, at which point they began removing their various weapons, grenades, extra ammunition and other such devices. One of the thugs pointed to the cane Augustus was carrying. The inquisitor followed his gaze and shook his head. He tapped the cane against his shin with a ‘clonk’ as it hit a hidden greave under his trouser leg, “Medically necessary.” He lied smoothly, shofting his weight off of that leg and pretending the sound came from a prosthetic.

            The guard shrugged and moved on, waving them through in turns with his scanner. He held up his hand to stop Otto when the little device began to click and squeal. Otto gave an innocent yellow grin and opened his fatigue jacket to reveal a bandolier of grenades. A brace of pistols and a cutlery drawer’s worth of knives. “Medically necessary?” he said with optimistic innocence. Gus sighed and shook his head.

            “Well, blow this for a lark.” Otto muttered and spat, “Can’t abide one crippled ole man, wh? Well to the warp with it, I’m havin’ a smoke!” he declared, reaching back into his coat. The guards took a step back and leveled their weapons, but relaxed when he withdrew a battered pack of thin cigars and a box of wooden matches. “You go on and talk to Pater Paranoia, I’ll jus’ go an’ have a stroll so’s these boys can calm down a bit.”

            Gus nodded and watched the ‘crippled old man’ stump off across the littered churchyard, then he turned to the guards, “He means well,” he said, with a hint of a smile, “Just a bit overprotective is all…Shall we?”

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-

            The guards made sure Otto was out of sight before turning back to the others and leading them in. The broken down old church was long since abandoned when the hive rose higher and the once middle-class zone was absorbed by the slowly expanding underhive. Now it stank of fresh sex and old blood. Madeline visibly bristled at the atmosphere, but Gus laid a calming hand on her shoulder and she found herself relaxing, but with a determined look in her sapphire eyes.

            Guards and dazed looking cultists were slumped in every nook and alcove of the old imperial church. Some staring into space, others busily fornicating, some just passed out. In the chancel, under a broken and defiled stained glass depiction of the Emperor casting Horus into oblivion, lay the altar—warped and defiled, crusted in the residue of indescribable fluids. Augustus suppressed a shudder as the eyes of his skull-topped cane flared briefly. Madeline’s eyes grew intense and cold, but she moved closer to Gus, keeping his hand on her shoulder. Bolt took it in, but nothing changed the intense, predatory look on his face.

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-

            Their guides led them to one side and into the rectory. After the defiled and run-down church-proper, this immaculate and baroque inner sanctum came as a shock to Torchwood and company. Warm candlelight and soft orchestral music filled the air, while sweet incense wafted from an ivory and gold burner, elaborately sculpted in the form of a beautiful, androgynous young child kneeling in supplication and holding the tray of incense up as an offering. All around them were hard wood shelves and desks, stacked high with books and tomes. And on every flat surface there were sculptures of beatific young children and cherubs, like a massive choir of smooth, sexless young forms, carved from ivory, marble and alabaster.

            “I can tell you like the décor,” said a kindly old voice. As one they turned from eerie silent chorus to observe as a pleasant and harmless looking old friar tottered into the room, “You must be the nice young man I talked to earlier,” he said, peering curiously at Gus, “I must confess, I was not expecting someone as impressive looking as yourself, master Torchwood.”

            Augustus flashed a disarming smile, “Please, call me Gus, Reverend Blak.” He drawled, doffing his cap with a bow.

            The old man gave him a toothy smile, though his eyes had drifted to Bolt and Madeline. “Just ‘Father’ will do, son,” he said, gesturing for them to sit, “And who are your beautiful young companions?” he asked, eyeing them both with all too much interest.

            Bolt returned the old man’s hungry look with a hard, unfriendly stare. His left eye did one of its erratic rotations. Maddie, who was a bit quicker on the uptake, flashed a shy smile and looked down demurely as Augustus made the introductions, claiming them as his nephew and adopted ward. “I raised them both myself, since they were children.” Gus said with unusual and unsettling emphasis. The old man smiled knowingly and lowered himself gingerly into the ornate chair behind his ancient hardwood desk. Gus petted Madeline’s hair possessively, and she lifted submissively into his touch like an eager puppy.

            The old man smiled and steepled his fingers, sensing a kindred spirit and letting some of his guard down, “Are you a religious man, Gus?” he asked, old blue eyes drinking in the subtly perverted façade.

            Augustus managed to look slightly abashed, “I’m afraid not, Father,” he admitted, “I never held much truck with the imperial cult, and, of course, they don’t allow much else for alternatives. But I’ve always felt that the sense of discipline and obedience it instills is important for the raising of children, so I made my own attempts to impress those values on my little foundlings here.”

            The heretical preacher smiled and nodded, seeing a meaty target, “Well, blessed are we to be so far from the prying eyes of the Emperor and his…minions.” Father Malthus said reverently, “Perhaps when you’ve helped me rid the underhive of the last of the heathens and the godless, you and your fine family would consider joining our little congregation.”

            Gus rubbed his chin, “It’s a tempting offer, one I’ll have to consider while we sort out this problem you’ve got,” he said, gently guiding things back to business.

            Malthus Blak smiled, he liked this man…polite, pragmatic, perverted. He would do nicely, “Yes, of course,” he grinned, “You’re here to discuss your business, not mine,” he said with a little laugh, “The main source of our woes are a nihilistic gang of street scum who call themselves the ‘Red Chrome Legion.’” Malthus spat contemptuously, “A pack of mutants and mutilated semi-human cyborg slime.
"They claim to worship the machine spirit of the hive itself, or some such pagan nonsense. Because they seem to identify themselves with the tech-cult of Mars they see our challenging of the Imperial Creed as some sort of threat to their interests and have begun persecuting our followers,” he pulled a folder from his desk, “This is what information I have on them. Sadly, we are a peaceful group and lack the warrior spirit needed to take the fight to these oppressive freaks.”

            Gus smiled as he scooped up the file, leafing through it briefly before he passed it off to Bolt, who tucked it into his long coat. “Fortunately, Father, we have warrior spirit to spare,” Gus said, as he rose to his feet and offered his hand, “We’ll handle this lot for you, for the terms we discussed on the phone,” he smiled as the old man stood and shook his hand, “And if all things work out, we’ll talk about a more lasting and less professional association…” he said with a pedophile smile.

            Father Malthus laughed and was about to say something when Gus noticed the red glow in the old man’s silver hair. “Get down! Augustus shouted, using their handshake to pull the old heretic over his desk and onto the hard marble tiles…with just a wee bit too much force. Gus let out a pained cry as a lance of red light stabbed through the smoky air and struck him in the shoulder with a meaty hiss. A molten hole appeared in one of the high vaulted windows. Ignoring the pain, he dived atop the old priest, crushing him into the floor for a moment, until he could move to cover behind the desk.

The laser cut through the room briefly, setting books to smolder and cutting candles in half before it sputtered out. Bolt and Maddie rolled for cover as a pair of Malthus’ guards stormed on, only to be cut down by the sniper’s baleful ruby glare. Bolt grabbed up a fallen lasgun and returned fire through the half-melted window while Madeline hurried to fuss over Gus’ wound.

            “Otto, were under fire!” Augustus groaned into a comlink that he pulled from his belt.

            “Sniper, from one of the hab-blocks behind the church,” Otto’s voice confirmed, crackling over the airwaves, “I’m on it. Sit tight,” a burst of static signified the end of the conversation.

            Father Malthus Blak sat dumbfounded as the las-shots cracked around him. He babbled incantations, but nothing happened. After a couple of long minutes the incoming fire ceased and Otto Maddox came back on the link, “Cheeky little bugged pulled a runner when I located his nest. Left his shooter though…looks like a piece of hiver shit, not enforcer spec for sure.”

            Gus nodded, “Looks like our unbelievers,” he said, then into the link he added, “Alright, Otto, come on back then…we’ll have to go hunting.”

            The reverend got carefully to his feet when he was sure the danger had passed. “You saved my life, mister Torchwood, and it won’t be forgotten. Bring me the man who did this and I’ll not just double your pay but I’ll make you head of my guard, chief inquisitor, anything.”

            Gus grinned, “Inquisitor, eh? Cheeky…I like it,” he patted the old man on the back and shook his hand, “You’ve got a deal, Father. I won’t fail you,” he picked up his cane and ushered his ‘wards’ to the door.

            “I like that one…” Blak said, seemingly to himself once they were gone, “What do you think, my children?”

            At first there was silence, then slowly his statues began to move, coming to a gross parody of life. They scampered to him, embracing and climbing onto the old priest, covering him in cold, stone kisses, “They all have potential, Master.” One of them said in an adoring, child-like voice, “The boy has much anger in him, and little to restrain it besides his loyalty and respect for his uncle. The girl has been touched by corruption in the past. The stain on her soul is clear for us to see.”

            Blak smiled, surely these tainted people were no servants of the Emperor, “And Torchwood?” he asked, caressing the frigid marble flesh where he could.

            “It’s hard to tell, Master.” A second cherub admitted with a pout in its voice, as if it were afraid of being scolded, “His presence was too strong, we were almost afraid to think with him looking at us,” it shivered and pressed against him, seeking affection and comfort, “he could have gifts and blessings of his own, or perhaps a powerful latent talent or some item of power,” the unsettling little creature lifted happily into his touches and cooed.

            “Humm…” Malthus pondered, petting the stone mockery lovingly, “That complicates matters… He could be an asset and a valuable ally, or he could be a threat…damn!” he sighed and smiled as his grotesque little ‘children’ moved closer, kissing and caressing to lift his spirits, “Mmmm…well, we’ll just have to invite them to our next ceremony once this nastiness is sorted out, see how he reacts when our Lord arrives for his gifts. He will judge our friend Gus, and he will be there to lend us the power to carry out his decision.”

            His eerie stone harem giggled and tittered excitedly at the news, “Father is coming!” they chorused, before swarming their master under with their perverse affections.

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-

            On their way back to base the group met back up with Full Auto Otto, who was grinning happily, “I think that went well,” he declared, giving Gus an over-friendly pat on the shoulder, relishing in the wince and groan it elicited in the younger man.

            “You would,” Gus muttered accusingly, “What happened to ‘minimal power, just for show’?”

            Sergeant Maddox shrugged blithely, “Thick glass,” he explained, “Absorbs lots of low-end infra-red…had to tune up to punch through. I’ve seen you take worse an’ keep on wise-arsein', so quit yer bawlin'.” He said with a miscreant’s grin, “So how’d it go in there?”

            Gus shrugged, wincing again, “I think he bought it.”

            Bolt shuddered, “That whole thing creeped me right the frell out,” he said fervently, “I feel like I need a shower.”

            “to the warp with showers.” Maddie said as they entered the lift, “I need a change of skin. That place, those smells…that man, like a harmless old granddad…and those horrible little sculptured…I could swear they were watching me.”

            “They were.” Gus said, keying in their floor. He took in their shocked and horrified expressions and explained, “They were possessed. Some kind of familiars maybe, or totems. Certainly qualified as a fetish, in every sense of the word,” the doors closed and they began their ascent, “They were trying to read us, maybe pushing a little influence on us too, so we would buy into all that cult crap,” he explained, the waggled his cane meaningfully, “I only let through what I wanted them to see in us.”

            “That’s not entirely comforting…” Maddie said as they entered their suite.

            Gus shrugged and walked over to the well stocked liquor cabenet, “Best I can do at the moment,” he said, pouring himself a drink as Bolt headed for the shower and the others began stripping off their gear.

-===========]xxxo =][= oxxx[===========-


Part One
Part Two 

Hot On The Wire.

Tutorial: Painting Warlord's Plastic Roman Legionaries

My friend Scott got very excited by my 28mm Roman project. So excited he's been amassing an army of his own. I have to paint them though...