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/tg/ - Traditional Games

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Well, folks, this is it. The end of ROAD TRIP!

It's been four months. A friend has come and gone, our fanbase has dwindled to nearly nothing, and the spammer on sup/tg/ has sent some of our threads into the negative ratings, but it's just about over.

Over the next few days, Ahriman and DarkMage will be contributing their own stories, Trip Into Hell and Ghosts of Rage, as well.

Someone else.'s past contributions:








Ahriman's Aide's past contributions:




DarkMage's past contributions:


4chan writefag channel on Rizon: #writescribbles
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We start off with a short recap.

Last time, Remilia and the rest of the Road Trippers were planning logistics for their journey to Earth and college.
Holy crap.
Friday the 19th it is.
Well met, gentlemen!
“I have so little stuff to bring, I would be happy to help you out,” Jake offered.
“That’s sweet of you, but I should do this,” Remilia said. “I need to talk to Mom alone anyway,” she reflected.
The pretty blond soccer player finished her water and wandered over to the bar. Kines spotted her coming and refilled the glass. “All ready to head out when the time comes, ma’a…Remilia?” he asked for the public’s benefit. He certainly had no problem remembering not to call her by a formal title when it mattered by this point.
“Nope, few last-minute hiccups here and there,” Remilia said. She sipped at her water and discreetly glanced around to see if anyone was watching. Determining that there wasn’t, she offered him the sly little wink that had become their password, and he eagerly returned it as he would have be insane not to do. She set the glass down and sat on the stool, allowing normal conversation to replace innuendo. “So, Lieutenant, if you don’t mind me asking. What do you see yourself doing after your tour ends?”
“Well, Remilia, I’m thinking I may get out as soon as I legally can, like I must have told you,” Kines said. His light brown hair bobbed over the counter as he reached down to turn on the ice maker. “But after that? Open a bar. Maybe in the spaceport back home on Totnis. Start a family, if I can.”
Remilia smiled. “I suspect you’ll find that an easy prospect, Chuck.”
Kines blushed faintly. “Thanks.” He fiddled with a glass, wiping it down. “I think the fighting over Seadelant got to me a bit. I just want to get out. I never asked to join up, anyway. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intend to jump ship, and I do like this job, but it’s certainly not my life.”
I can't articulate why, but someone this is the worst thing that /tg/ refuses to let go of.
“I’m glad you get to make that choice, even when conscripted,” Remilia said.
“Me too,” Kines said emphatically. “But, it is considered something of a breach of protocol to discuss that while on duty, so I’ll just ask: what can I get you?”
Remilia smiled behind her glass. “I’m fine. Thanks.”
shh don't read if you don't like it
That evening, as Kines secreted himself into her cabin, Remilia asked him a question she had wanted to ask before. “Chuck, are you going to be on Mars long?”
He sat on the edge of her bed. “At least two months.”
“Do you think I could come and see you while you’re up there?” Remilia asked.
Kines wistfully shook his head. “I don’t think so. What if you got caught? You’d be crucified in the press. Plus, Haarlan would lose his patience after that long.”
“Yeah, but I’m gonna miss you,” Remilia admitted.
Kines smiled. “I’ll miss you too, but I think it would be better if we kept this a summer fling. You know.”
She sighed. “I guess I understand.” She curled up on the bed behind him. “It’s been worth it, though, hasn’t it? So far?”
“Absolutely,” Kines said. He leaned back on his elbows so he could make eye contact with her. “It’s been great. Seriously, this is the best thing that’s happened to me since I got conscripted,” he said cheerfully.
Remilia giggled. “That’s kind of you.” She uncurled and scooted over to him, as he rested his head in her lap to stare at the cabin overhead. “Can I ask you something that just occurred to me?” she inquired.
“How come you’ve started to treat the others like just normal passengers? I mean, more than just not using titles,” she said.
Kines shrugged. “Shouldn’t I? You specifically asked me to call you by your given name. Venus doesn’t even have a last name, that I know of.”
“No, she doesn’t, and it gave her a headache every time she had to fill out a multiple-choice test with those answer bubble sheets,” Remilia said with a laugh. “I remember she just started putting ‘Venus Na.’”
“Yeah, N A, for Not Applicable,” Remilia said, remembering. “We called her Na for like a month after that.”
Kines chuckled. “To answer your question, though, I just call you that because that’s what you wanted.”
“Right, but I mean in conversation,” Remilia said. “Just you and me.”
Kines blinked. “I guess I don’t understand. Shouldn’t I?”
“Oh, no, I like it,” she said. “Even at school, most of us were referred to with such…formal language by so many faculty. Like they were afraid of us, or our parents, or something. Which was dumb since so many of the other students were crazy rich and powerful too,” she said. “I like it.”
“Yeah, now you’re slumming it,” Kines said drily.
“Slumming it, in a VIP cabin on an interplanetary road trip, ayuk yuk, listen to you,” Remilia said. She flicked his ear for his temerity.
“What? It’s true! Living in a suite with only two rooms, deigning to grant the occasional dirty fuck to an O-2 Lieutenant, having a servitor do your laundry instead of an OW!” he said as she flicked his ear again, harder.
“You, shut the fuck up,” she said sternly.
He sighed. “You never let me have any fun.”
Remilia sniffed. “I let you have my virginity instead, that has to count for something,” she said haughtily. She reached down to run her hands through his hair. “Really, though, Chuck, I only ask because I appreciate it. It’s really nice to have someone to talk to outside of the family and school people. It makes a difference.”
He smiled as she stroked his hair in her lap. “I enjoy it. Around here, the guys feel like they all have something to prove. I mean, there are guys on the crew I feel I can talk to as friends, but it’s nice to have someone from outside the military, too.”
“Which is hilarious, given my parentage,” Remilia observed.
“True, I should really be saluting every time you open your mouth,” Kines quipped. He looked up at her from her lap. “Can I ask you about that stuff? How people treat you, what it feels like to be transhuman…that kind of stuff?”
“I guess,” Remilia said. “What, specifically?”
Kines thought for a moment. “Well…did your super-senses manifest at birth, or what?”
“Yeah, always been there. It’s got its benefits,” she said. “Nobody thinks to block things they think other people can’t sense. So if someone’s whispering in the same room as me, they’re only going to be as quiet as they think they need to be so a room full of normal people can’t hear them, but I could probably hear them just fine.”
“That’s really interesting,” Kines said. “I bet living in a world built for people with lower sensory thresholds must get annoying after a while, though.”
“Annoying?” Remilia wondered about that. “No, it’s not annoying. It’s just more noticeable at some times than others.”
“Does it hurt to have people talk to you at conversational levels when you can hear things so quiet?” Kines asked.
“Not at all. It’s more like…like I can pick up a wider range of sounds than just increased sensitivity,” she said.
He digested that. “Are your other senses super-powerful?”
“Kind of. Touch and taste, not really, but smell and vision, yeah,” she said. “But really, it’s not like I have anything else to compare it to.”
“Yeah.” He raised his head as she sat up against the headboard and beckoned him over. He obligingly shifted to rest his head on her crossed legs again, and she slid her hands over to rest on his shoulders. He couldn’t feel the warmth of her hands through his evening uniform he had worn to the bar, but he was sure she felt as good as she always did. “You know, some of the guys are starting to wonder what exactly I’m doing when I come over here and don’t wind up back in my bunk,” he said. “If we were docked over a planet, I’d be worried.”
“But you aren’t here?” she asked.
“Nope. When we’re in the Warp, the higher-ups sort of let it slide. They know if they don’t allow fraternization between grades and genders on a mixed-sex ship, there’ll be trouble,” Kines said.
Remilia nodded. “But in port?”
Kines sighed. “Well, I could be a cynical twat and say that in port we’re more likely to be entertaining visiting officers, but in reality, we’re just so much busier that the difference in time between how long it takes to get from your woman’s bay to your own really can make a difference, so they actually check to see where we are.”
“But you’re not a cynical twat,” Remilia deadpanned.
“Exactly,” Kines said. He smiled up at her, upside down. “I dunno. It’s just that on a warship, EVERYBODY needs to be able to rely on EVERYBODY,” he said. “If the fourth-battery fire response squad doesn’t have the total confidence that the corridor is secure during a boarding, or if the flight deck controllers don’t have every single one of their emergency fuel dump crew in place at ALL TIMES, we could lose the entire ship, because of one little distraction. Nobody really minds the restriction when we’re actually at risk.”
Her light brown eyes met his much darker ones, and she smiled back. “It’s good that you can be objective about it.”
“Nobody coddles the conscripts. Shit, the volunteers do have it worse, I admit, because they’re expected to have perfect morale right off the bat, but the conscripts get it on day one: no warship is a ground crew, no warship officer is an island, and every man needs to know where you are without looking. We need to be able to come out of the Warp with every single cannon and torp-tube and lance and fighter catapult ready to vent and lock, in under four seconds. We can’t get that done if the fire control team leader is of getting laid,” Kines chuckled. “The one advantage to being an officer in a position where I have absolutely zero subordinates: I get to be the last one to die in case of an actual fire because the team leader stands at the back of the row of guys in the corridor.”
“Unless the fire is behind you,” Remilia pointed out.
“You ruin all my fun, like a wheat thresher, cutting down a field of my idle fantasies,” Kines accused. Remilia smirked, recalling his passionately informing her how many of his idle fantasies, exactly, she’d managed to fulfill on the trip so far.
It must have sounded lame, even to him, because he coughed and hastily redirected his line of inquiry. “So, how about your pretty self? Looking forward to college now that you’ve had some time to think about it?”
“I really am,” Remilia said. “It’s scary, but I want the challenge. Right away they throw us in the dorm, although I got a single room. Not by request, so either someone saw my name and wanted to do me a favor, or I lucked out.”
“Do you want to live alone?” Kines asked.
“I think I do, really. Privacy when I want it, more storage space…I like that,” she said.
“I had a double, but my roommate slept at the fraternity house, so it wasn’t crowded,” Kines said. “Just get to know your RA. Become her best friend. It will come in so handy when it’s time to vacuum your room or to assign exit paths during a fire drill or something.”
“Hah! Friends in high places, I like that,” Remilia laughed.
He reached up to rest his hands over hers on his chest. “Yeah, it’s something I’m good at,” he said. “Bartender’s gotta be everyone’s friend. Gotta remember all the brassholes’ favorite drinks, so when they come in and ask for ‘the usual,’ you don’t give them a vodka martini when they wanted a lager or something.”
She smiled. “Yeah, I imagine that would be…wait, ‘brassholes?’”
“What? It works. Not all the brass forget about the little guys, but some of them do. I think there’s a conditional amnesia illness that kicks in when a person’s pay grade goes above Lieutenant Commander,” Kines groused. “They forget where they came from.”
“What about those guys, the…what are they called…Warrant Officers? Do they forget their enlisted roots?” Remilia asked.
“Hell no, a good Warrant Officer is your best friend, your father, your guardian spirit, and your own personal daemon, all at once,” Kines said. “Being a good friend to a Warrant Officer is the best possible way to make yourself useful on long tours, those guys are indispensable. A Chief Warrant Officer Fifth can tell a Commander to fuck himself and get away with it, in the context of actually doing something involving the operations of the ship.”
“Yeah, the lifers, the ones who get juvenats and re-enlist, those guys are better than techpriests when it comes to making the ship keep flying.” Kines smiled at some un-elaborated memory. “Which makes it super-awkward, let me tell you. Technically, I outrank guys a hundred and ten years older than me and with a full, uninterrupted century more experience. I feel absolutely awful when I have to order them to do something.”
“When do you even need to do that?” Remilia asked.
“Fire drills, boarding drills…any place where chain of command is more important than experience when we’re being timed.” Kines shook his head in her lap. “Well. Enough about that.”
“Yeah…I’m tired,” Remilia said. “When do you need to be up?”
“Mid-shift tomorrow…I need to be at the bar by 1000 hours,” Kines said.
“Oh, you’ve got all night,” she said. “Stay with me, huh? I love just talking with you,” she said.
Kines smiled up at her. “Love to.” He looked aside as what he had just said registered. “‘Love.’ Hmm.”
She cocked her head. “What?”
“How many men get to say that to a Lady Primarch in the flesh?” he asked happily, beaming up at her.
Remilia sighed with an air of patently false strained patience. “You’d be amazed. When I transferred in to Imperator from the private school I started in, half of the freshman class was proclaiming their undying love for me, in the most passive-aggressive, hormonally-fueled ways you can imagine.”
“The male half,” Kines guessed.
“Not…entirely, actually, I remember a few lustful glances from the girls too,” Remilia admitted. Kines’ eyebrows rose.
“Say, that’s…fun to think about,” he said upon reflection.
“Sure, except then you’d have to split your attention between me and…well, someone else,” Remilia sniffed, all airs and class.
Kines rolled his eyes. “My poor heart.”
“Besides, I’m not into girls.” Remilia looked down at her. “You know…I’ve had boyfriends before, but all broke up over the dumbest shit. Makes me wonder if I’ve ever really been in true love. I think to myself I’d know it if I saw it…and I have seen it, too. Jake and Venus are forever, I bet…I know Angela and Michael are, too. But would I know it if I wasn’t seeing it from a distance?”
“You know something, sweetheart? I bet if you peel back the skin on those ‘perfect’ relationships, you’d see stress lines,” Kines asserted. “Nobody’s really perfect.”
now you just need to expand on which girls...

lust aside good story so far SE, nice to see happy remilia instead of sad remilia
I WAS going to write "read it in the morning, too tired nao" but I read through it anyway.
I like your dialouge, it seems genuine in the context I think. Not an easy thing to pull off correctly.
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She's not being lusted after by her own cousins, believe me.

Thanks. It helps to read it aloud.
Remilia shrugged. “I guess, though I’d argue it for Angela and Michael. I just want to know I’ll not, you know…screw it up when I find it for myself, if I ever do.”
Kines sighed. “Why would you do that?”
“Well, I don’t always take the most…reasonable approach to hard choices,” Remilia muttered.
“No, I mean why would you beat yourself up over it?” Kines asked. “Come on. That’s not helping anything.”
“I suppose, it’s just hard to avoid some times,” she sighed.
He sat up and turned to face her. “Come on. You’re a brilliant, beautiful girl. If you forget that you’re maybe not all that confident in social situations, you’ll master them easy. You think I don’t get a bit nervous when a guy with oak leaves walks into the bar?”
“I guess I just don’t like thinking about it.”
“Who does?” Kines asked. He half-rose and shucked his uniform for bed. “But you know, I’m serious. Just don’t worry about it. Look forward to it.”
She shook her head again. “How do you seem so much smarter than me when you’re less than two years older than I am?”
“I’m a gifted liar,” he deadpanned.
Remilia laughed. “Gee, how reassuring.”
“It can get you out of anything,” Kines remarked.
As the final day of flight arrived, the group assembled in the Captain’s Hall one last time. Roemer and a few of the ship’s senior officers and serfs assembled for a dinner, inviting Venus and the others to join them.
As they sat and ate, Roemer took the occasion to ask a question. “Lady Venus, how do you think your trip has been so far, with regards to the Tide?”
Venus paused, sensing a trap. “Well…Captain, I don’t know how to phrase this, but I feel a bit guilty, overall.”
“Guilty?” Roemer blinked in surprise. Clearly, he hadn’t expected that. “How do you mean?”
“Well, you were just in combat. In the face of that, and the loss of several crew, surely carrying five seventeen-year-olds around would be a pain in the ass,” she said.
Roemer backpedaled, trying to come off as modest. “Not at all, your Highness, this is technically your ship, after all.”
Venus nodded. “In that case, I think it’s been surprisingly fun. I haven’t had any problems to speak of with crew or accommodations, and the gym has been perfect for our routines.”
“Excellent,” Roemer said. “I’m glad to hear it.” He took another bite of his dinner and looked down the table to where Remilia was animatedly chatting with one of the ship’s fighter group commanders. “What are your plans after you reach Terra, if I may so bold as to ask?”
“Well, we’re having a quick welcome home/goodbye party,” Venus said. “Several of my cousins are coming or going from vacations or planetary tours and what have you. Then it’s straight off to school after some furniture shopping. Computer table doesn’t fit in my new dorm room,” she sighed.
“You’re moving into a dormitory?” Roemer asked. “I would think they would provide more comfortable housing if you asked.”
“I won’t ask. Not until I’m out of freshman year,” Venus said. “I want Kouthry to be a chance to live independently for a while. Take nothing for granted.” She smiled to herself. “I know having my boyfriend live with me kind of defeats that, but why pay for two dorms when you can pay for one?”
“Indeed,” Roemer said. “Would you be willing to share a bit of what you’ve seen on your venture with us?” he asked.
Venus gestured down the table. “Absolutely. Going home to Nocturne after so long was fantastic, as you’d expect…though things got rough near the end. The opportunity to visit the city where I was born, and the other six Sanctuaries, was breath-taking. The Nocturneans are a hard people, but they retain the unbreakable bond of community that the Salamanders admire so much. It’s a world in the grip of a crime wave, though.” She sat back in her seat. “Fenris…Fenris is different. Its people are just as hard, but they turn that hardness on each other. They’re content with their world not being a part of the greater Imperium, for the most part, and the Wolves are a strong but just group to rule a planet that is so rough.”
Roemer nodded solemnly. “The Astartes are a far more varied and world-wise people than the average Imperial citizen need ever know, or ever will know.”
“They certainly are,” Remilia piped up from Roemer’s other side. “Tell you one thing we weren’t expecting, though, was to hear that Julius Pius of all people was aboard.”
“Ah. A friend of yours?” Roemer asked.
“Yes, he was on Seadelant during the invasion,” Remilia said. “We were very relieved to hear of his survival.”
“Beyond that, Captain, it was an eventful and largely enjoyable trip, and I thank you for your cooperation,” Venus said.
“It’s been an honor, Princess,” Roemer said. “May I ask if you ever intend to join the military yourself?”
Venus shook her head. “I’ve been bred and trained to be a leader and an artist, first and foremost, Captain. I can fight, sure, but I’m not a soldier. I don’t have the patience.”
“A shame. I think you’d take to the life of a career Navy officer well,” Roemer said.
“Perhaps, but it doesn’t appeal to me. I look forward to living on Nocturne,” Venus said, “where the most martial thing I’ll be doing is firing off a few rounds at the range every so often.”
“May I ask what your father would want?” Roemer inquired.
She shrugged. “He doesn’t want me to join the military. My place is at the homestead, as a leader. I’d do it even if he didn’t want me to.”
The Captain nodded. “Thanks for indulging my curiosity,” Roemer said.
At last, the day came. Trailing behind their luggage, Venus directed the carrying servitors down to the cargo bay. The other four, feeling the need to go full circle, stopped in the O-Club one last time before the ship docked over Mars. As they drew up stools, Kines put out their now-well-remembered favorite drinks and leaned back against the rear counter. “Thanks for flying, my friends,” he said.
“It’s been real,” Jake said. “On the tiny chance you have the opportunity, definitely check up on us.”
“I should,” Kines said. “You go have fun at school, your Lordships,” he said to Alex and Jake.
“I’ll certainly try,” Alex said, shaking his hand. “Stay safe, Lieutenant.”
When Freya and Jake were done shaking hands too, Remilia walked up to him and paused. The others made for the couches to prepare for deceleration, and to give them a moment.
Remilia smiled over the counter at him. “Thanks, Chuck. It’s been a lot of fun. I feel…a lot better than I did when I came aboard. It was wonderful to have someone to talk to.”
Kines’ face fell. “THAT was why you kept coming back?” he asked, crestfallen.
Remilia blinked, then buried her face in her hands. “No offense to your technique or anything,” she said through her hands, holding back a laugh.
Kines beamed. “Better.” He reached under the counter. “Here, I was saving this.”
She peered through her fingers. “Huh?”
“When your friend Julius was aboard, he bought this and told me to save it for you,” Kines said. He extracted a bottle of orange soda and handed it to her. “Last one aboard, actually.”
Pretty sure your fan base is larger than you think, they may just read the archive or not bother posting.
That was a fast half an hour.

Please don't feel that you're interrupting us if you post mid-thread!
“Aww, that was nice of him,” Remilia said, accepting it. She twisted the cap off and sipped. “Mmm. Want some?”
“No thanks, Remilia,” Kines said.
She downed a bit more and made to throw out the bottlecap, then hesitated and put it in her pocket instead. “Think I’ll hang on to it,” she said with a faint smile.
Kines grinned. “A memento of the trip?”
“Sure.” She paused as the ship lurched a bit. They were decelerating into orbit over Mars. “Well…time to go,” she said.
Kines nodded and started to salute, but she grabbed his hand before he could finish and pulled him into a quick kiss. “Thanks, Chuck. I won’t forget you,” she said softly. “You were exactly what I hoped I would find on this trip.”
He pulled back, blushing a bit. “Thank you, Princess,” he said. “That’s very kind. I’ll remember you too.”
“Eternal youth plus eidetic memory…and they say you never forget your first,” Remilia said, grinning mischievously. “You keep yourself safe and go open that bar of yours, hear me?”
“Count on it,” Kines said happily. “Farewell, your Highness.”
The four teens made their way down to the cargo bay, to find Isaac and a few of the other Salamander serfs awaiting them in their green and gold day uniforms. “Your Ladyship Venus, it was wonderful to see you again,” he was saying as the others arrived. “If I ever get reassigned to Terra, I will make a point of seeing if you’ve kept up your routine while you were off learning,” he said slyly.
Venus chuckled. “Sure you will.” The others walked up as the last cargo box was loaded aboard. “All right, everybody here?” she asked.
“Yep, we’re ready to go,” Remilia said, finishing her drink. “How long is the flight?”
“Mars is right next to Terra right now, in its orbit, so basically no time at all. An hour, max,” Venus said.
“Great! Where do we put down and what’s the local time?” Alex asked.
“The Palace, actually, Grandpa must have pulled a string,” Venus said. “And it’ll be about 0800.”
“Bleh, it’s shipboard 1600. This’ll be a long day,” Remilia said.
“It’ll just help with sleeping tonight,” Venus said. “Take a few days to get back on planetary time zones.”
Isaac inclined his head as the pilot powered up the rear engines. “Princess, pass along my well-wishes to Queen Misja, would you?”
“Happily,” Venus said. “Goodbye, Isaac. Benevas Vitam Corod,” she said in Nocturnean.
“Benevas,” Isaac said, stepping back. Venus shook his hand and bowed her head as the other serfs stepped back.
Remilia kicked back in her chair and crossed her hands behind her head, listening as Venus said her farewells. The ship’s ambient noise picked up as the pilot brought more and more of the flight systems online. The cells that fuelled both engines spun up as Venus walked inside and sealed the ramp.
“All right…everyone ready to go home?” she asked.
Remilia nodded. “Yep.”
“Can’t wait,” Jake said. “So much buying to do! Remilia, I seriously owe you one,” he said.
“What?” Remilia asked.
“The gift card. Remember? Keller’s?” Jake reminded her.
“Ah, yeah.” Remilia looked up to the lights overhead. “I think I’ll join you, actually. I feel like upgrading before I head out.”
“Thinking of implants?” Jake asked.
“Hells of no, that shit is creepy,” Remilia said. “I mean, good on Cora for stomaching it, but I couldn’t do that. I’m just gonna buy a new storage drive.” She went quiet as the others found seats, with Venus and Freya already debating who they thought would be at the party. She found herself uninterested in joining in, as her thoughts turned to her own impending discussion with her mother.
What could she say? Between the time she had come home from Freya’s and when she left for the road trip, they had barely spoken. Would she feel compelled to apologize to her mother? Would she resent her?
Remilia rolled onto her side in the heavily cushioned seat. She hadn’t talked about this with Chuck. Should he have? It was new to her. Clearly Chuck had gotten along very well with his parents, too.
As the hull started to buck a bit as they entered the atmosphere of the planet, nearly an hour later, Remilia realized that all she was accomplishing was making her stomach upset. She sat up in the chair, looking over at where the others were busily reconfiguring their slates and watches to local time.
“All right, we’re clear and descending,” Venus said, glancing over her slate one last time. She switched it off as they bumped about in the upper atmosphere.
“I’m actually nervous,” Freya confessed. “I really want to see Morticia! I hope she’s all better,” she said.
“Oh, is she back from Albiona?” Venus asked.
“She should be, and I want to read Angela’s story,” Freya said. She was practically bouncing in her seat. “Do you think Julius will be back?”
“Doubtful,” Venus said. She squeezed her armrests as the shuttle dropped through the stratopause. “I’m looking forward to spending some time in the forge. Or hell, the pool. I haven’t gone swimming in forever.”
“Can I take a dip with you?” Jake asked.
“Of course,” Venus said. “You guys are all invited, if you want.”
“I’ll be gone,” Remilia said wistfully.
“I’ll be there,” Freya said. “I love your pool.”
“I’m in,” Alex said. “I think I should check in on Mom as soon as we’re off the shuttle, though,” he said quietly.
Jake cleared his throat. “Well, I have a question for everybody,” he said. “What’s everyone’s favorite part of the trip been?”
Venus paged through her memories of the journey, smiling at a few choice moments. “Tough call…but I’d have to say either smithing in Deathfire on your watch or the thing in the hot spring on Fenris.”
“I’ll say the hot spring too,” Alex admitted, as Freya hid a smile.
“I think meeting Chuck, really,” Remilia said. “That was a lot of fun.”
“He was a cool dude,” Jake said.
“I think…the trip to Hosanger,” Freya said. “How about you?” she asked Jake.
He thought it over. “I think the fishing trip, up until the kraken happened,” he said. “Nocturne was fun, but it was just so hot.”
Alex passed him his vox. “Remember this?”
Jake looked at the screen and smiled. “Hah…yeah,” he said. “Me and my harem.”
“You have a harem? Why haven’t I been invited?” Venus asked.
“You kind of were, actually,” Jake said, passing her the vox.
Venus took it and laughed. “Oh yeah…that was the night of the hot spring, wasn’t it?” she asked. The screen showed the three of them lying with Jake on the bed. “Man, you could sell this picture to any tabloid and make a bundle,” she said, giving the vox to Alex.
“Yeah, some random fucking hiver and his three Lady Primarchs,” Jake said cheerfully.
Remilia snorted. “Dad would be so goddamned confused. I’m almost tempted to have you really do it.”
The shuttle lurched. “Your Highnesses, we’re four minutes from skids-down,” the pilot reported.
Alex sat down and buckled in. “I hate this part. No part of a space flight can go wrong in more ways,” he said under his breath.
“I trust my father’s pilots,” Venus said, settling back into her chair. “And then…home.”
The ship settled on the pad on the Palace, clicking as it cooled. After a few minutes of checklists, the hatches swung open, and a pair of Palace troops entered, providing an escort for the five teens as they disembarked. At the bottom, two men in Navy colors stood, checking over the ship, and they parted in respect as the Primarch girls emerged. “Your Highnesses, welcome home,” one said. “If you will, your luggage is being transported to the security checkpoint.”
“Sure,” Remilia said, following the Navy personnel with the others in tow. “Anything big in the news while we were gone? Locally, I mean?”
“Lady Angela got published,” one of the sailors said.
“We saw. We’re all really proud,” Freya said.
“Ah. Well, Lady Morticia returned from her vacation…one of the members of the Senate had a heart attack and died,” the sailor. “The representative of the Chartist Captains. He’s been replaced.”
“That’s a shame,” Venus remarked.
“Indeed…Lord Primarch Perturabo and Lord Primarch Guilliman are both on planet at once for the first time in four years,” the sailor said. “Aside from that, little major news until the election in four weeks. Campaigns are reaching new lows in terms of turnout,” he said drily. “The position of Grand Provost Marshal is open for the first time in twenty years.”
“That a fact? Cornelius retired?” Freya asked.
“Sure did, ma’am.” The group fell silent as the doors to the security station creaked open. Beyond were the simple scanners used for the VIP checkpoints, with a small lounge beyond where people could wait for the scanners to spit their readings out.
Awwwwww yissssss, I loves me these threads.
As the group filed through, one by one, the machine beeped and whirled, and pronounced them all free of various diseases. After an abbreviated search, they emerged into the tiny luggage claim and into the waiting area beyond.
Gairwyn Russ was sitting on a seat in the corner of the room, reading a holozine, when her daughter appeared. “Mom!” Freya said happily. Gairwyn looked up and beamed.
“Freya! Welcome home!” she said in Juvjk, sweeping her daughter into a vice-like hug. “Oh, you’re a foot taller, I swear,” she fussed.
“Mom, I wasn’t even gone three months,” Freya giggled, returning the bear hug. The others filed in more sedately, separating to meet their own parents.
“Hey, Jake, good to see you intact,” George managed before Sandra cut him off.
“Where was it? Let me see!” she exclaimed. Jake obligingly turned to show here where the bottle had broken his skull, and sure enough, the spot had healed over entirely, and his hair was regrowing.
“I’m fine, Mom, I promise,” Jake said. “Really, I’m completely okay.”
Remilia hugged her own mother, stepping back after a moment to look up at the intimidatingly tall businesswoman. “Hi, Mom.”
“Hello, Remilia. How was the journey?” Olivia Dorn asked.
“Incredible,” Remilia said. “Do you have time to hear it all?”
“I suspect so, yes,” Olivia said. “I took time off from the Foundation, until you can get off to Alanaster anyway.”
Remilia smiled to herself. “Good.”
Venus hugged her mother tight, accepting a peck on the cheek. “Venus, sweetheart, we saw the recording of your speech in Hesiod,” Misja said. “You looked magnificent. Your father couldn’t have been more proud.”
“Thanks, Mom,” Venus said happily, brushing a tear away. “It feels really good to be home. Can I just go throw myself in the pool after the party?”
“Of course, baby girl,” Misja said softly. “And I want to hear all about Nocturne.”
Alex stood at the back of the room, watching the reunions with a fading smile. Even before, he was sure neither parent would have been there to greet him, but now that he didn’t have one and the other was losing everything she had, the fact that neither COULD be there was wearing at him. He tried not to look obtrusive as he made his way over to the door.
“The hell are you going?” Gairwyn’s voice asked. She clamped one hand on his shoulder to arrest his progress. “Come here,” she instructed, dragging him and her daughter into another hug. “You’ve been away from home too long not to come back to a hug,” she said.
Alex’s shoulders shifted a bit as he held back a sudden sob, but he managed a smile. “Thank you, Queen Gairwyn,” he said.
Freya nipped his ear as she was released from her mother’s iron grip. “Let’s go,” she said softly.
Jake managed to disentangle from his mother and took a quick step back. “You guys have to see the stuff I bought on Nocturne,” he said. “I should change when I get the chance…oh shit, hey, Venus, we need to show them the…you know,” he said, tapping his head and gesturing as if he was running his hand over the contours of her crown.
She grinned. “Hell yeah we do.” She turned back to her own mother. “Is Dad around?”
“He’s home, working on something, but he’ll have time to hear the whole story when you get there, don’t worry,” Misja reported. “Have you had breakfast?”
“It’s actually around 1700 by shipboard time,” Venus said. “Have you had breakfast?”
“Yeah, before we arrived, we all went out for a bite,” Misja said.
Gairwyn followed her daughter and Alex out of the room, watching them go with a proud smile. “It’s quite something, isn’t it, Misja?” she asked.
“Sure is,” Misja said, as Venus hefted her carry-on and walked out after them. “Shame we only get them back for a few days before they leave, eh?” she asked.
Dawww. I bet Alex needed that hug.
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>It's been four months. A friend has come and gone, our fanbase has dwindled to nearly nothing, and the spammer on sup/tg/ has sent some of our threads into the negative ratings, but it's just about over.
Why does this amuse me so fucking much? Especially
>the spammer on sup/tg/ has sent some of our threads into the negative ratings
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Dont worry, people are looking to replace it with a thing about turning Gilgamesh into an underaged magical little girl lesbian.
Alex piled his things in the back of the small truck Gairwyn had brought with her to the Palace garage, then sat inside as Freya filled it up with her own. The truck shifted as the cargo servitors deposited the rest of the luggage and returned to their charging slots, and Gairwyn sat down beside him. “Alex, lad, did you have a good time on Fenris?” she asked brightly.
“It was pretty fun,” Alex said. “It’s an amazing planet.”
“It certainly is,” Gairwyn said. “I look forward to hearing all the details.”
In the air limo beside them, Olivia watched her daughter settle into the cushions and decompress. “Phew…feels good to be back in the old love-wagon,” Remilia sighed.
“Why do you call the limo the love-wagon? Really, that makes no sense to me,” Olivia said.
“A girl has to have some quirks, doesn’t she?” Remilia yawned.
Jake paused to look over the new aircar his parents had bought in his absence. “So this is the new ride?”
“Sure is,” George said. “We bought it from a headhunter, and it’s great.”
“What happened to the old one you guys had?” Jake asked.
“We sold that one and yours and consolidated to buy this one,” George explained. “Stack your stuff, we’re going to follow Lady Misja to the party.”
“Cool.” Jake hefted his things into the aircar and sat inside. “So, what have you guys been up to?” he asked.
“Not a whole lot, but it’s been busy,” George said. “We set up a new heater at long last, but really the only major news is Hajime and Alice,” he said.
This is the anon who pitched the story with Kelly last time. I have a start/preview I can post.
“Yeah! Are they nearby? I want to see them before we leave!” Jake exclaimed.
“Sure, they’ll be in town tomorrow,” George said. He looked over at Jake as the aircars lifted. “How are things with you?”
“Awesome, Dad,” Jake said happily. “Kouthry is gonna be awesome.”
George smiled. “They’re gonna work your ass off.”
“I can take it,” Jake said confidently. “Trust me.”
“I hope you took tons of holos while you were out and traveling,” Sandra put in.
“Shloads,” Jake reported. “We’ll have time to view them all, I assure you.”
They flew in silence for a moment longer before Sandra’s maternal instincts got the better of her. “How are you and Venus, with regards to moving in with each other?” she asked.
“Subtle,” Jake said drily. “And we’re looking forward to it,” he said. “Oh wait, hang on,” he said, digging his new vox out.
“Hey, is that yours?” George asked.
“Birthday present from Alex,” Jake said. “That and the hat, which I’m not wearing…ah hah,” he said. He sent off a text to Alex. Within minutes, the response came: the picture of the four of them watching the movie.
“Here, check this out,” Jake said, showing the picture to his parents as the autopilot drove them to the hotel.
Sandra’s eyes widened. “What was the context here?” she asked.
“Heh. We were watching a movie after we were done with the day,” Jake said, as his father’s eyebrows rose at the sight. “Good times.”
“That’s quite a thing,” Sandra said. “I’m glad you’re so comfortable around them, now. I still feel a bit nervous around the Royal Daughters, even still.”
“Well…I guess it’s just context,” Jake said. “Besides, I don’t think I could have picked a nicer combination of them to go with on the trip.”
Knock yourself out.
Just checking something
I'm going to use shloads in everyday conversation now.
“I don’t think I really ever had a chance to meet Remilia,” George said.
“You guys are coming to the party, aren’t you?” Jake asked.
“If you want your parents hanging around, sure,” Sandra said.
“It’ll be the last chance to see people before we all leave,” Jake remarked. “I have a ton of stuff to buy afterwards, too. Oh, and Dad,” he said, pawing at his pockets. “Here, you have to see this.”
He extracted the watch Venus had forged for him and passed it over, with the clip and chain in its box. He had set it aside on the flight to show his father when he had the chance. George took them and stared.
“Wow. This is…this is beautiful,” George said, turning the gold watch over in his hands. “Where did you get this?”
“Venus gave it to me as a birthday present,” Jake said. “She built it in one of the Legionary forges on Nocturne.” George slowly looked up at him. “I know, she just does that stuff. It’s nice, though, isn’t it?” Jake asked. “She didn’t make the actual mechanism, but the rest was her.”
“It’s gorgeous,” Sandra said. “She’s special, isn’t she?”
“She is,” Jake said, putting the watch away.
Is this... Twilight or something?
Just about.
The convoy pulled up outside the small hotel that Roberta had booked for the morning, and the group piled out, as a few paparazzi near the entrance were shooed away. The five travelers filed in, and were immediately beset by the Royal Daughters who had remained on (or recently returned to) Earth.
Venus lurched backwards as she was nearly tackled by Farah. “Venus! Great to see you again!” Farah proclaimed, wrapping her cousin tight.
Venus hugged her back. “Farah, I’m so glad we caught you!” she said, pecking the ever-tousled blonde on the cheek. “We have so much to show you from the trip!”
“I bet! Come on up to the ballroom Roberta rented, we got a projector,” Farah said.
Gairwyn paused Freya as she walked in. “Do you want me to be here, or do you want to see your cousins alone?” she asked quietly, in Juvjk.
“Be here!” Freya replied in the same tone. “We’ll get little enough time to see each other before we take off.”
“True. Very well,” she said, following her boisterous daughter in. Freya promptly pounced on Miranda for a ferocious bear hug, nearly lifting the diminutive psyker off the ground.
“Miranda! You’re back too! This is great!” Freya squealed.
Miranda shook herself loose, breathless. “Yeah, Carshim was fun…I brought holos too,” she managed. She turned to offer a hug to Remilia too, and broke into a beaming smile. “Remilia, welcome back,” she said, squeezing her cousin around the shoulders. “You’re faring much better. You can rest easy again,” she said in the faintest whisper, regarding the spiritual matter to which her father had attended prior to Remilia’s departure. Her eye glowed faintly behind its bandana as she said it.
Remilia felt a weight lift as she heard the news. “Thanks,” she said under her breath. Louder, she continued. “So how was the resort?”
“Manufactured, but very comfortable,” Miranda said. “I’ll show you upstairs.”
Alex and Jake wandered around, being welcomed by the Royal Daughters who knew them, until Roberta poked her head out of a stairwell and spotted them. “Guys, the room is ready,” she said.
Upstairs, the last of the caterers were making their exits as the girls emerged from the stairs. “Oh, awesome,” Venus said, taking in the vaulted room. “Where do we set up?”
Roberta pointed at the little table where a projector was sitting. “Just get all the pictures on the same vox and pipe them in there,” she said.
“Here, I’ll do it,” Remilia said. “Pass me your voxes, people.” Those of the Daughters who had something to show handed their voxes over as Freya and Venus made discreet exits to change.
Jake and Alex drifted over to the table where a small buffet had been set up, both taking a headcount as they did. Miranda was there, as was Roberta, Farah, both of the Twins, Isis, Faith, Victoria, and Venus, Freya and Remilia of course. Angela was also there, as were Morticia and Kelly, but Cora, Petra, Hana, Furia, and Lyra weren’t. Most of those girls whose parents could attend had them there, as well, though it was mothers-only for all of them, which suited the boys fine: the Seagers especially were looking somewhat overwhelmed.
Isis ambled up to where Jake was standing. “Hey, Jake, glad you’re back,” she said. “How was military food?” she asked drily.
Jake shook his head. “I’d tell you if we had any. We ate with the Captain nearly every day on the ship, except for breakfasts, and we just ate out on Nocturne.”
“And the Fang?” she asked, her curious orange eyes shining with good humor. “No restaurants on Fenris.”
“Heh. We ate in the Fang, so that I’ll grant you was pretty good,” Jake admitted. He smiled back at Isis. “Glad Julius is okay.”
“Me too!” Isis said. emphatically. “He wanted to go see his mother’s resting place before he came home, though, so I won’t see him for a long while.”
“So I hear.” Jake coughed lightly. “Forgive me, hmm?” he asked. Before she could say anything, he leaned forward and hugged the much shorter girl. “I’m glad you didn’t have to say goodbye to him, after what happened,” he said quietly.
“Thanks, man,” Isis said, stepping back with a bashful look. “So…pics. Show me. Nocturne, the Tide, all of it.”
>he leaned forward and hugged the much shorter girl.

Her father is like the third tallest Primarch after Magnus and Mortarion. She wouldn't be short.
She's fairly compact, he's quite tall for his age.
A few minutes later, the projector wheezed to life as the girls and the few boyfriends and parents who wanted to stay found their seats. Remilia picked up the remote for the projector.
Morticia glanced around. “Are we not waiting for Freya and Venus?” she asked.
“They’re around,” Remilia said. She brought up the first one. “’Kay, here we are in front of the bar in the O-Club on the Iron Tide, the Salamander patrol ship we took. That guy back there serving the fighter pilot is my new best friend, Chuck Kines,” she said, deciding to omit the details. “Pro tip for when you find yourself on a warship: befriend the bartender, if you can find one.”
They moved on to the later trip, including a still from the sparring match with Isaac and Venus, to which the other cousins made the appropriate catcalls and sounds of appreciation. Jake snorted as Farah gave him a playful nudge. “Does she wear that around the house?” she teased.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Jake shot back smoothly.
The pictures advanced to Nocturne, and Venus in her formal uniform giving the speech. Just as the image came on, she emerged from the restroom with the folded uniform in hands, having grabbed it when she had ducked into the head to change into civvies, and Remilia paused the show to let her display it.
“Nice outfit, Venus,” Roberta said, running a hand over the thick leather sleeves. “Is that real drake?”
“Of course,” she said. She showed where the weapons would holster on the hips with a gesture. “Couldn’t really be asked to unpack the hardware or the crown, though,” she said.
“Oh, yeah,” Freya said, emerging from the bathroom in her Fenrisian robes. “It’s shiny, sure, but if you want that rustic feel, well…”
The others looked up to see her in the full outfit, dagger and all. “Wow, that’s really pretty,” Morticia said, fingering the pelt on the hem of the hood.
“Thanks, Morticia!” Freya said happily. “Can’t get this on a store rack, either, this is real wolf pelt,” she said. “And check the gloves. Bjorn got them for me,” she said, holding her hands out.
“Bjorn…the Eldest? Your father’s lieutenant?” Farah asked. “Too cool.”
“Yeah, it’s great,” Freya said. She put her hands up. “But I don’t want to stop the show.”
Alex coughed lightly. “Want me to drive for a spell, Remilia?” he asked.
“Would you?” she asked. “Thanks.” She ducked into the head to strip out of her travelling clothes into everyday wear as Alex picked up the remote.
“All right…here we are on…oh yeah, that was your birthday party, wasn’t it?” he asked Jake.
Jake nodded, a tiny bit uncomfortable being the center of attention from the Royal mothers. “Yeah, that was the party,” he said. “That poker set got broken in at record speed, too.”
“Hell yeah it did, much to my immediate profit,” Freya snarked.
“Dream on,” he Jake shot back.
The trip images took them over the remainder of the Nocturne excursion, until the last Nocturne picture appeared on the screen: the five of them standing in front of the Skarokk castle. “And that was Nocturne,” Alex finished. “Man, that was a wild trip.”
“So, Jake, show us your honorable war wounds,” Farah said. Jake stood to show the shaggy part of the back of his head.
“Not very honorable, but hey,” he said. “I mean, can you even see it?”
“Nope,” Farah said. “Oh well.”
The door at the back of the room opened, and a few more people filed in, but Alex picked right back up with the trip to Fenris. “So once we got there, we didn’t take as many pictures since we were staying in the Fang for the most part, but we got a few cool ones,” he said, showing them Venus’ pictures from the top of the basalt pillars.
They paged through several more, including one of Jake and the girls at the firing range, and one Alex had taken of the other four outside the hot spring. When they got to the pic of Jake and the three Daughters watching the holo, Jake very deliberately crossed his hands behind his head and leaned back, to the laughter of most of the girls in the room.
The last few pictures of the Fenris trip were of the Fang’s interior, those parts that Freya thought the Wolves wouldn’t mind being photographed. One was the inside of the rooftop hangar bay. “I don’t get agoraphobia, but man…if I did, that room would have ruined me,” Jake remarked. “You could park a Cobra in there, easy.”
“Really? Wow,” Roberta said. “Think they’ll build a ship in there someday?”
“Someday?” Freya asked. “They HAVE. One of the system patrol boats. Never again, though. What a mess it left.”
“Too cool,” Roberta said.
The slide show ended with a brief video clip of the five of them out in the wilds of the planet with Leman Russ, showing the boys how to construct a lean-to. When the clip ended, Alex snapped his fingers and the lights rose. “Man, what a trip,” he said.
“I know. Can I show mine?” Morticia asked.
“Oh, of course,” Alex said, stepping aside.
One by one, the other Daughters who had taken trips showed their own images and videos. As they did, Jake noted the people who had just arrived: the small group of friends from the Hive he had invited. He discreetly got up and walked over, sitting down beside them. “Hey, hey, what’s up, guys?” he asked as he sat down.
The three other boys looked over at him, astonished. “You…didn’t say they’d actually BE here,” one whispered.
Jake blinked. “What?”
“I thought you were just going to show pictures of the trip you took to their homeworlds,” the boy whispered urgently. “They’re actually HERE?”
Jake sat back in his seat. “Yeah, they are…don’t worry, I asked if they minded if you were here, and they wanted to meet you.”
Angela rose last, holding up her pamphlet. “Well, this is it…not much to look at, but it’s ready and done,” she said. She held it up to the crowd, who applauded politely. “I’ve already ordered a single print run for distribution. If schools like it, they can order more.”
“Very cool. Can I read it?” Freya asked.
“Sure! I’ll leave it up here,” Angela said, setting it down by the projector control.
Roberta stood as she sat. “All right, we don’t have much time before Remilia, Farah, and I have to bolt, so let’s eat, huh?”
“Yay, Terran food,” Venus said. “No offense to Roemer’s larder, but I suspect that when you can requisition any food you want, you just get the same few things over and over again without meaning to.”
“How was food in the Fang?” Miranda asked.
“Amazingly good, actually. Spicy, though. And more or less everything is cooked in its own blood. Very heavy food,” Venus said, walking over to the plates.
Jake intercepted her as she made for the food with the others. “Hey, Venus, I said I was gonna invite a few friends?”
She looked them over. They flinched at her eyes. “Oh, yeah, right! Well, hi, guys,” she said.
“Dieter, Abram, and Will,” Jake said, pointing each out in turn. He held them up as each started to kneel. “Guys, come on, we’re having lunch,” he said, walking over to the food.
Venus grabbed Abram’s shoulder and hauled him up as he sank anyway, a look of total awe on his face. “Glad you all could make it,” she said, as if nothing had happened. “I understand you went to middle school with Jake?”
All three were nearly dumbstruck, but one finally managed to speak. “Uh…y-yes, your Highness,” Abram said. “It…I mean, it’s been a while, you know, but still…”
“Are you guys hungry or what?” Jake asked from the buffet line.
One by one, almost gingerly, the three boys made their way over to the food and stared. “I don’t even…what is half of this?” Dieter asked.
“Just take a spoonful of each item, it’s all good,” Jake said.
Farther behind them, Angela lingered at the tail end of the line for Remilia. As the other blond passed her, Angela halted her with a faint remark. “When you left, I was really worried for you.”
Remilia shrugged. “That was a dark part of my life, I’m not gonna lie…but come on. Kelly and Morticia were worse off and they’re fine now.”
“Morticia took it on the chin and came out stronger, and Kelly’s been in intensive psychotherapy for three months,” Angela said softly. “You’ve been stuck on a warship and two Death Worlds. So…what did you do to make your soul heal so much, so quickly?”
Remilia looked down and blushed faintly, checking to make sure her mother wasn’t within earshot. “I met a really, really nice guy on the ship…he took very good care of me. Mentally, I mean.”
“A doctor?”
“Bartender on the O-Club, actually,” Remilia admitted.
A smile played around the edges of Angela’s lips as she made the obvious leap of logic. Remilia wondered if she had been a bit too unsubtle, but then Angela wrapped her arms around her taller cousin’s torso and slid her wings around her too, drawing her into a gentle hug. “I’m really happy that you’re feeling that much better,” she said softly.
Remilia hugged her back. “Miranda said the same thing…was it that obvious that I was fucked in the head before?” she asked under her breath.
Angela opened her wings again and snugged them against her back with a rush of air. “Blindingly. Once I knew what to look for. But…don’t worry. You’re in vastly better shape now.”
“Good.” Remilia shifted from one foot to the other, somewhat self-conscious. “Can I just grab something and go eat? I have to run after.”
“Sure, sure, let’s,” Angela said, grabbing a plate.
Kelly and Morticia reached the head of the line with their food and walked over to the huge table down the middle of the room’s left side, sitting down at the end. Freya immediately dropped into the seat at Morticia’s side. “Hey, Morticia, how’s your ticker?” she asked.
“Good as new, and it was the lung that got hit, not my heart,” Morticia said. “Doctor says I’m up to 97%, and I’ll be healed to full by the end of August.”
“Great!” Freya proclaimed. “It’s fantastic to see you better, you still had a crutch when we left.”
“Progenitor physiology, gotta love it,” Morticia remarked.
“How about you, Kelly?” Freya asked.
Kelly paused her chewing for a moment, not meeting her cousin’s eyes. “I’m…better. The guy at the hospital is really nice, and he’s helped a lot.”
“I’m glad,” Freya said. “Have you decided whether or not to go to school?”
“I’ve had enough school,” Kelly said. “I’m taking a year off to just relax and get my shit together.”
“That’s cool too,” Freya said, digging in to her biscuits and gravy. “Breakfast buffets are the best thing in the world.”
“Aren’t they?” Morticia asked. She turned her pale eyes on her lupine cousin, brushing lank grey hair out of her eyes as she did. “Did you enjoy the trip home?”
“So much!” Freya said excitedly. “It always feels so, so good to go home to the pack.”
Morticia smiled. “That’s good. Albiona was wild. It’s a bit…artificial, in places, but fun. It feels more tourist-y than Startseite, like they feel the need to conform to stereotypes to attract rich tourists, but it was still pretty cool.”
“I got the same feel from Carshim,” Miranda said, sitting beside Kelly. “The whole planet is a beach resort, except a few floating towns over the jungles and a cabin getaway or two. It felt very manufactured, and the casinos were gaudy as hell, but the water…wow.”
“The ocean was nice?” Kelly asked.
“Glorious. I went swimming every day,” she said. “Took in a few shows at the casino, but always with a falsehood on. People just stared at my eye when I went without one. Thought I was a Navigator or something,” Miranda grumbled.
“Really? Wow. Dicks,” Freya said.
“Eh. I’m used to it by now.” Miranda munched on some pancakes as the others marched up one by one.
>Okay here's what's ready so far. Sorry for the delay, forgot to edit prior to now.
>This takes place as Kelly goes into therapy after Bleeding Out.
The waiting room was a light sky blue, a failed attempt to promote a calming effect, with about 30 chairs lining the walls and three tables with magazine slates piled semi-neatly on each of them, the door to the therapist‘s office was shut. It was empty except for Kelly sitting, patiently, dressed in a deep red button up blouse and black knee-length skirt, flipping through one of the data slates provided. It wasn’t interesting, a bunch of gossip about her cousins going on a road trip of some kind, pictures of Morticia at one of the stops in her tour of the Terran Hives. She was about to grab a new one when the front entrance opened and a young man about a year older and half a head taller than her came in. He was wearing a brown leather duster and riding gloves, jeans and a plain white shirt. The riding gloves had solid red I’s bisected by three lines on the backs. He was tall and well built with short, marshaled black hair, blue eyes, and a faint scar going from the corner of his right eye to his temple and along his jaw line. He went opposite of Kelly and sat, producing a personal slate from his jacket and began reading it. As he read it, his face turned critical and he focused on something. He placed his finger on it and produced a second, smaller, slate from another pocket, activating it, he started to compare the 2 slates, studying them, as the office door swung open.
So which one gets raped.

Cmon, dont act like you havent already planned it.
“Kelly please come in,” the doctor said as he came out “Dominic! What did I say about working while you’re in my office?”
“To not to sir,” the boy, Dominic, said not looking up from the slates, “Doesn’t mean I won’t.”
“And if I informed your father?” the therapist warned.
“I would be very sad,” he said unconvincingly.
“Then you should stop.”
“Fine,” Dominic said putting up the slates and picking one up off the table.
“Good. Now Kelly if you would.”
They entered his office and shut the door. It was a large but simple room, a nalwood desk with 3 chairs around it, a stereotypical couch, and a comfy looking chair next to it.
“Please make yourself comfortable”
Kelly went to the couch and sat on it, crossing her legs. He sat on the chair facing the couch and pulled out a note pad.
“So, Kelly, how can I help you today?”
“I don’t know,” she replied, “Everyone else is coping, even Morticia. But I’m still…”
“Well. Maybe what Morticia and the others are doing is just their way of doing what you’re doing now. Nothing more.”
“Are suggesting I should go on some kind of trip therapy?”
“If you think it would help you get through this? Yes.”
“Do you have any suggestions as to where I might go?”
Freaking field limits.

“I’ve heard the Maiden Worlds are nice, if you can get permission. I doubt you’d want to go to your father’s homeworld like your cousins, Venus and Freya, are doing. There are countless Pleasure Worlds, the retreat on the planet Cubasa in the Caribbean planetary chain is a frequent for most people.”
“What’s it like?”
“It’s a tropical water world with 5 main islands and over 200 smaller ones. Nice beaches, fishing, and beautiful sunsets.”
“Sounds nice.”
“Do you want me to pose it to your parents at this month’s conference? There’s a trip to a retreat there leaving next month if you want it.”
“Yes I‘d like that.”
“Very well. Till next week then?”
“Good, please send in the young man in the front when you leave.”
They shook hands, and she got up to leave. She went into the waiting room to see Dominic with the 2 slates from before laid out on the table, his face was one of brooding disbelief.
“What’s wrong?” Kelly asks as she walks over.
“Nothing.” He replied turning the slates off before she got close enough to see. Or so he thought. Her super-human eyes had already seen the faces on them. They were the almost identical, with the exception of hair and skin color.
“Uh-huh. He said you could go in now.”
“Thanks.” he says as he collects his things, “Did you just start coming here?”
“No. Why?”
“I’ve been coming here for three months and I haven’t see you here before.”
“I usually come tomorrow, but my dad is leaving on business so I’m seeing him off.”
“That’s nice. You coming back same day next week?”
“Yeah, why?”
“No reason,” he said getting up, “See you next week.”
Goodbyes said, he walked into the therapist’s office.
“Take a seat Dominic.” the psychologist said “Would you like to tell me why you were working?”
“I wasn’t originally. I was reading and something popped up. One thing led to another.”
“Do you know why you’re seeing me?”
“Work related paranoia and my father‘s insistence.”
“Exactly. The case ended 5 months ago, but you insist that it didn‘t. This is the third month of you seeing me,. You are bordering on being a conspiracy theorist, and I want to know have you really given up on the case?”
“Why not?”
“Something just seems wrong.”
“Dom. I've read the parts of the case file allowed. It’s cut and dry. You were even there.”
“I know.”
“‘A man by the name of Castro Augustus was suspected of homicide, assisted homicide, drug production, drug trafficking, drug distribution, human trafficking, illegal arms dealing, illegal arms manufacturing, theft, racketeering, insurrection, inciting civil unrest, funding Anti-Imperial militias, If you are reading this you are being monitored by the Imperial Intelligence Agency' Case closed.”
“I know.”
“Then why do you continue to pursue this?”
“I don’t know.”
Spoilers why.
Damn it. Insert "Entered an aircar and frantically fled when his hideout was raided. The aircar collided with a sky barge and exploded, reconstruction of remains matched suspect.’”
Before "Case closed."
Supposed to be like censorship bars.
>Sorry computer hiccup there. Going on then.
“Must be you father’s side at work. Phlebas was never one drop something he thought was wrong.”
“I think I need trip therapy.”
The therapist raised a cautious eye at this remark “Where to exactly?”
“I’ve heard Cubasa is very nice.”
“And what brought this on?
“Nothing. A friend of mine said I need to get out some. He sent me some footage and I‘d like to go there.”
“I’m sure he did. It just so happens there is a trip planned for a retreat there next month, I take it you want to me to take it up with your Father at the conference.”
The therapist sighed deeply, “Fine.”
“Thank you. Will that be all?”
“Is it? You tell me.”
“I am a little irritated”
“By what?”
“No one else, not even my dad, has this problem, why am I the only one?”
“Maybe you can’t accept that it’s over. Maybe you think there‘s something deeper.”
“That‘s ridiculous.”
“Perhaps, but can you tell me that I’m wrong?”
“Think about it. Tell me what you think is the problem when you come back next week.”
Dominic got up and left the room. As he entered the waiting room he saw Kelly was still there, patiently reading another slate.
He was reading a report. So yeah. I suck at this tonight.
“You’re still here?”
“Yes,” she replied, “But my ride just arrived actually.”
“Alright, walk you out?”
“Sure” she smiled.
He smiled back and opened the front door for her. He walked to his jet bike, a jet black vehicle with tail lights altered to look like the I’s on his gloves. She went to a dark blue grav-limo with a stylized winged skull on the doors idling next to the bike. The symbol side gave Dominic pause, he‘d seen that somewhere before.
“See you next week.” Kelly called as she opened to door.
“Huh? Oh, same to you.” Dominic called back as he pressed the activation rune of his bike and opened the throttle, taking off. Kelly got into the Limo and retrieved a bottle of water from the cooler in the middle of the cab.
“Who was that?” Lady Curze asked, sipping on a glass of wine from the cooler as well.
“Just someone I met in the lobby today.” Kelly replied.
“Does this ‘someone’ have a name?”
“He said his name was Dominic.”
“He looks cute,” Lady Curze looked over at her daughter with a little grin.
“What? Just making an observation.”
“Not cool!”
“Don’t worry dear… I’ll leave him to you.”
“So, how did it go?” Lady Curze giggled slightly, Kelly was smiling as well.
“Well enough. He suggested trip therapy, like what Morticia and the others are doing.”
“Sounds wonderful.”
“He’s pitching it to you at the meeting next week.”
“Well. I’m sure you’ll have fun.”
Dominic landed on the entrance landing pad of a Upper-Spire office building and was greeted by the familiar figure of his godfather and mentor Gregor Eisenhorn, head of the Xenological Investigation branch of the Imperial Intelligence Agency, “Hey. Your father is in his office, and wants you to meet him there.”
“Alright,” they started to walk together towards the pad’s elevator “How have you been? I haven’t seen you in weeks.”
“I’ve been well. There’s been situations about unsanctioned, meaning stolen, alien objects being shipped via rouge traders and assorted syndicates popping up all over the Galaxy.”
“Anything in particular?” Dominic said as he pushed the button for the elevator.
“Well, mostly museums and nobles wanting artifacts they couldn’t have, a couple of gangs wanting Xeno plasma or las tech, one instance where a noblewoman wanted a wraithbone ring with a diamond on top as an engagement present.”
“How’d that work out?”
The elevator doors opened and they stepped in.
“The Wraithsinger the suitor stole it from had quite a few words to say.”
“Ha. Why didn’t he pay for it?”
“Pfft, he’s a nobleman, he expected his ‘patronage’ to be payment enough.”
They both laughed at the man’s misfortune on the ride up.
“So why didn’t my father come and meet me himself?”
“Well it wouldn’t look good for the head of the Agency to leave his work just to see a junior agent return from a routine doctors visit. Even if you are his son.”
Dominic sighed and looked up at the floor counter on the wall. As it reached level 40 it stopped and a biometric scanner with a small red light appeared next to the elevator floor selector. Eisenhorn placed his hand on it until the light turned green and the elevator continued its ascent. “I wish they’d make a faster elevator.” Dominic complained as the 4th minute of the ride up neared.
“Or your father to put his office on a lower level.”
“Heh, or that.”
They fell into silence that lasted the rest of the 10 minute rid up. Level 400, the office of Phlebas Alessandro Rorken, head of the IIA Dominic’s father,
The doors opened to the view of a surprisingly sparse corner office. A couch, a desk with a built-in holopad and computer, a worn, leather chair behind the desk. The chair was occupied by a older version of Dominic, but shaved with a trimmed goatee.
“Hey Dad.” Dominic said as he entered.
“Anything new to report.” asked his father with the commanding voice that went with one of his position.
“I was suggested trip therapy.”
“I’d like to go.”
“Where is it?”
“Very well. Anything else?”
“Well, there was something troubling.”
“A symbol. A stylized horned skull with red batwings on it. It looked familiar, but I couldn’t place it.”
Phlebas’ face changed to one of mild concern “Where did you see it?”
“On the side of a grav-limo that a fellow patient got in, a girl about a year younger than me. Why?”
“That was the symbol of the Night Lords Astartes legion, I think you just met the young Lady Curze, without realizing it, my boy.”
“Wait…what?” Dominic’s face was one near comical disbelief.
Eisenhorn snickered to himself, then started laughing openly, followed by Phlebas, then by Dominic himself as they laughed at the encounter.
“You…heh. You…heh. You met a member of the royal family…ha. with…without…realizing it? Heheh!” Eisenhorn managed through the gasps of his laughter.
“I guess I did.” Dominic smiled.
“Was she a looker?” Eisenhorn inquired.
“Yeah, she was pretty good looking. We should be seeing each other next week at the psych’s office.”
“Phlebas,” announced Eisenhorn, “I believe your boy’s struck lucky.”
“I should think so Gregor. I say we celebrate!”
“Why are we celebrating?” Dominic questioned.
“You’ve got a chance to be a little knight and get to a princess, son. What‘s not to celebrate?”
“So you decided I’m going to get the girl.”
“You’d be a fool not to try.” Gregor piped up.
Dominic just sighed as they half dragged him into the elevator and pressed lobby.
>So what do you think.
I think everyone's got to start somewhere, but your dialogue is so chaotic that it's downright impossible to tell who's talking half the time.
Well, I for one welcome you to the ranks of the WHH Writefags, and request that you come see us at the 4chan writefag channel on Rizon: #writescribbles
That bad huh? I can't find a balance between too much and too little, and I've had an off week.
Thanks. I just took a look at Rizon, looks good I'll set something up in the morning.
Gairwyn’s somewhat rakish outfit of Fenrisian leathers and light blue tunic were positively outlandish compared to the simple denims and t-shirts of the children, but she wore it with the confidence of a career fighter. Then, she was a child of the Navigators’ Household guards. The Terran-born Fenrisian sat across from Alex at the far end of the table as the others found chairs. “So Alex, what’s this I hear about you and Freya going to college together now?” she asked.
Alex looked up at her. “Well…did she tell you about what my father did?”
“Then there you go. Freya and I are going to go to college together since I can’t rely on Dad covering it, and I got a scholarship to one of the places where Freya got accepted,” Alex explained.
“And you’re moving in together?” she asked innocently.
Alex smiled weakly. “The scholarship didn’t cover room and board…I won’t be able to afford it if I don’t. Not that I, you know, didn’t want to, but,” he backpedaled. She smiled at his floundering.
“When do you move?” she asked.
“Uh, five days,” Alex said.
She nodded. “Good to hear. You two are good together,” she said.
“I think so, yeah,” Alex said, chowing down to avoid further embarrassment.
Down the table, Jake sat with the three guys he knew from school, noting the way they seemed almost fearful of the their surroundings. “Guys, if you’re uncomfortable, you don’t have to stay,” he said.
“Yeah, but how often do we get a chance like this?” Dieter asked. He quickly shut up as Angela sat beside him, with Remilia sitting across from her.
“So, you guys are the ones who taught Jake how to play cards, are you?” Remilia asked.
Abram swallowed. “Uh, yes, ma’am, we did.”
“Really, dude? ‘Ma’am?’” asked, pained. “Remilia. Please. I just spent three months instructing every sailor on that ship not to call me ma’am.”
“Sorry…we were just told that that was how you address royalty,” Abram said, looking away.
Jake cut through the tension. “Speaking of cards, guys, hold on,” he said, rising from his seat. “Dad, toss me the keys,” he said to his father as he stood.
George blinked, but tossed him the keys to the new aircar from his chair as instructed. Jake jogged outside to grab the poker set from the trunk, and returned to the room in a rush.
The three other boys were still sitting there, studiously not talking, when Jake returned. “Gents, after the food, I’m picking you clean,” he said.
Abram blinked. “Say what?”
“Freya got me a poker set for my birthday, and we’re reverting to bad habits after the food,” Jake proclaimed, setting the case down beside himself on the floor.
“Uh huh.” Dieter eyed the box. “Well, I don’t know how much you had the chance to play at Imperator, but we kept up our daily game for four years after you went upstairs. You can’t be very good, by this point.”
Jake raised his eyebrows at the challenge. “Really. Interesting.” He looked over to where Freya and Farah were sitting. “Hey, you two…want to play after you’re done eating? I want to show you the guys who taught me,” he said.
Freya’s eyes lit up. “Hell yeah, this will be an epic clash.”
Dieter’s eyes, however, narrowed. “You need a Royal handicap to win? You trying to intimidate us?”
Jake grinned. “You haven’t played until you’ve played someone who can see tells like she can.”
Freya flashed her fangs down the table to where the boys were sitting. All three recoiled, but remained resolute in their defiance of Jake’s sudden confidence. “All right, fine,” Will said. “I’m in too.”
“Fantastic. We’ll show them Hive poker, then,” Jake said.
“What else have you taught them?” Will asked.
“Basic stuff. Slapper, Ratscrew, Euchre, Blackjack, Double Hands,” Jake listed. “A few other simpler games.”
“Hmph. Introducing vice to the Royal Family,” Angela said with faux haughtiness. “Such a tawdry display.” Will paled, but Jake laughed.
“Funny, Angela, funny. Who spent their spring break in one of the Merican hive-casinos that one time?” he asked.
“That was me, actually,” Isis said from down the row.
“Oh.” Jake shrugged. “Sorry.”
“Yeah, you know how we look so much alike, it happens all the time,” Isis deadpanned.
Freya pushed back her empty plate and bounded up to Jake. “Here, I’ll set up.” Jake handed her the case and she brought it to an empty place on the table to unpack the chips and cards.
“She’s nearly as good as I am,” Jake said. He raised his voice a fraction. “Nearly.”
“Just don’t tell me not to remind your friends about your humiliating record at Horse Darts,” Freya shot back. “I might forget.”
“Touché,” Jake conceded.
Freya spread out the chips as Farah wandered over. “You have not seen people play poker until you’ve seen Freya and Jake play poker,” Remilia said. “It’s mesmerizing. They get so in the zone, you don’t even know. You wish you had their level of concentration.”
“I’ve been holding back all summer, you see,” Freya said cheerfully.
“Uh huh, sure you have, Freya,” Jake said drily. He turned to the others. “Come on, let’s school them.”
At the far end of the table, Victoria and Faith were speaking with Venus. “Your trip sounds pretty wild, Venus,” Victoria said over her food.
“It was pretty great, except for the thing at the end of the Nocturne leg,” Venus said. “I know I shouldn’t, but I feel a little responsible for it.”
“Your people’s behavior aside, I mean,” Victoria pressed.
“I think so, yeah. It was definitely fun.” Venus sipped her water. “How about you, Vicky?”
“Well, I was going to go on that little tour of the Foundation’s facilities across the system,” Victoria started, “but after the riots damaged one of the offices a few weeks ago, we called it off partway and I just came home. Security concerns, you know. And it let me have a chance to say goodbye to Ben on my own time,” she said coyly.
Venus smiled behind her glass. “Left an impression, did you?”
“I think so,” she said with an airy flick of her hair over the shoulder of her skin-tight halter top. Faith rolled her eyes.
“Tell me about it,” Venus said. “Can you imagine spending a month in the Fang...within sensory range of all those Marines? No fun.”
“Ooh, sounds like you’ll have a lot to make up over the time between now and college,” Victoria teased.
Venus shook her head. “Actually, I think Jake and I are going to spend most of the next few days cutting ties, you know. Jake wants to go and say farewell to some of his friends from the hive and family he won’t see for a while, and go see his aunt and uncle before they leave on their honeymoon. Me, I’m gonna throw myself in the pool and not come out, I suspect. Haven’t gone swimming in three months.”
“You guys on the rocks?” Victoria asked idly, picking at her food.
“Not at all,” Venus said contentedly. “We’re moving in at Kouthry together, after all.”
Victoria glanced down to where Jake was dealing his cards. “Really.”
“Yes, really,” Venus said. “Coulda sworn I’d told you that.”
“I thought he was just going to work there,” Faith said.
“Nope. Living with me and taking night classes while he works days,” Venus said.
“That’s a big jump,” Victoria said. “I couldn’t live with the same boy for four years. I’d get bored.”
“Well, we won’t see each other much once his schedule starts up,” Venus said regretfully. “But I’m still looking forward to it.”
Victoria shook her head minutely. “Must have been a hard adjustment for him, living with you for three months, straight out of the hive.”
Venus cocked her head. “I didn’t ask. But it was fun.”
“Me, I had to say goodbye to Pietro,” Faith said sadly. “It was rough, too, he really thought we could make this happen over college, but we’re just not going to be able to see each other.”
“That’s a shame,” Venus said. “Where was he going?”
“Alanaster, like Remilia,” Faith said.
“Oh, cool.” Venus sipped at her water again as the sounds from the part of the table where the cards were being played died down. “I want to see this,” she said, standing up.
Jake and his friends were already neck-deep, and even Freya was looking a little sandbagged. Farah had clearly already backed out, and was watching with awe. The four hive boys were playing in almost complete silence. With a speed that that a professional poker player could have met, Abram ditched two cards and picked two up, and before he had even seen them, or so it looked, had dropped a chip into the pot. Jake flipped a few of his own into the pot and set his cards down simultaneously with the others. Will won, and scooped up the chips as Jake shuffled and re-dealt, again in silence.
“It’s like watching a deaf person paint,” Farah said, staring at the display. “Art in silence.”
“How profound,” Venus observed. Dieter chucked in his hand as the others dropped bets into the middle so quickly it was hard to tell the exact amounts. Their eyes were darting from face to face, barely even looking at the cards. Freya folded too, and Jake dealt out replacement cards. Will had barely taken his cards when Abram and Jake both flinched at some unseen sign and folded immediately.
“Wait, what happened?” Freya asked, bewildered.
“He made the flush,” Jake said in disgust.
“But…how could you tell what he had? He only ditched one card, and you didn’t see what his hand was!” Farah exclaimed.
“I just kinda know,” Jake said. “Will’s tells are kinda obvious,” he sighed.
“Screw you,” Will said, scooping up the pot again.
“I can’t even tell what they are!” Freya said. “How much were you holding back when we were playing all summer?” she demanded.
“Not much, actually,” Jake said. He sipped his water as Abram dealt. “I can only really do this with guys I know. But keep in mind, we played an hour and a half per day, for money, for four or five years.”
“Are you winning?” Venus asked, sitting beside him.
“I’m being bodied,” Jake sighed.
“My body is being destroyed,” Jake said glumly. “I’m so bad at this game.”
“Oh, you’re a martyr,” Alex said.
“Eh, you’ve only eroded somewhat,” Will allowed him.
“You guys are crazy good at this,” Farah said. She suddenly grinned cheekily, drumming her metal hands on the table so they could hear them. “I bet I could kick you all raw at Ratscrew, though.”
The hive boys stared at her hands awkwardly until she sighed. “It was a joke. You’re allowed to laugh.”
“Well, it’s also true,” Jake chuckled. “Your reflexes are insane.”
“Well, yeah,” she said with a sniff of false vanity. The loose bandana over her head and tie-dye shirt she had on were specked with tiny burns, no doubt from recent work in the forges.
“What have you been up to before your trip out, Farah?” Jake asked as he took his cards.
“Just tooling around in the shop, really,” she said. “Bit of writing, just having fun. I’m looking forward to going home, though. I want to see Mom’s new digs.”
“She has a new house?” Jake asked, pitching his cards in and sitting back as Freya finally won a hand.
“Well, remodeled.” Farah stood and stretched, lifting her shirt over her toned stomach for a moment. “Must acquire further sustenance,” she mumbled, walking back to the buffet.
Jake won some of his losses back with an inside straight before she returned with a second plate of sausages and biscuit. “So, you three, where are you from?” she asked brightly.
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Night, folks.
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Not yet. It's the Kiwi's turn, and what I have lined up is as far from what you seem to think of as 'Twilight' as it's possible to get. Think the latter parts of 'Born on the Fourth of July' and you won't be far wrong.

Last time on Trip Into Hell, Summer martyred herself to kill the Changeling, breaking Julius's heart in the process. And here..we..go.
He didn’t remember them taking her off of him; he didn’t remember them taking him out of that hell-space. He didn’t remember how the others learnt about what had happened in there, how they learnt about Summer’s martyrdom. He didn’t remember anything about that next day, when victory was finally won and the last of the Orks were hunted down and exterminated by the vengeful Legions. He sank into a black void where nothing could reach or touch him, and for a while he floated there, suspended in nothingness.

When he finally emerged from it he found himself in his old Hab, the one where he had been staying before the Hulk had arrived, before the world changed. The pict of her was there staring over at him, and after enduring her serene stare for a few minutes he bodily grabbed it and threw it under his bed. He couldn’t face her. Too much had happened.

There was a loud knocking on the door, and Julius pulled some clothes on and shambled out to answer it. It was Scvott, Flynn and Dyllion. It was hard to recognise them in civilian gear. For a few seconds Julius stared at them dully.

“Julius, you look like shit.” Dyllion finally said.

“I feel like shit.” Julius managed to force a smile though. “Thank god you guys survived though.”

Scvott quirked an eyebrow, before swiftly adding, “Forgot you and your father had those sorts of beliefs. No offense?”

“None taken, I’m used to it. What happened to you? Su...We left you guys to hold off those Daemons while we went to help Lord Ahriman.” He couldn’t say her name, the hurt was too raw. Even thinking it felt like a jab into an open wound. Scvott knew what he meant, and he began.
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But this isn't /lit/ or else I already would have.
Well, I for one do not care for trolls and haters. We Kiwis have a way of dealing with them which involves having a Kakapo hump their heads.
“Those Daemons came at us time and time again; I swear we were bloody lucky to survive at all. Dyllion killed a fair few with that heavy stubber of his, before it was melted by this creature covered in mouths which spat flame. Finally we ran out of ammo, and we drew our bayonets and prepared to sell our lives as dearly as possible. And then suddenly the Daemons winked out, as if whatever was keeping them connected to the world had just been cut off. No sooner had that happened then a Thunderhawk landed in front of the bunker, and you wouldn’t believe who disembarked from it. Lord Mortarion of the Death Guard, a fugging Primarch.”

Flynn took over. “He came up to us, those bodyguards of his right behind him, and he asked us where Lord Ahriman was. Poor Scvott lost his tongue, and I had to answer him.” Scvott shot him a glare. “Hardly surprising, they don’t call him the death lord for nothing. Looks like the Reaper, personified. The last person I’d want to see in a dark alleyway.”

“You’ve never seen Lord Kurze then I take it.” Julius said. Flynn shook his head.

“From what I hear, you never see Lord Kurze until you’re nearly dead from fright.”

“That’s true. He and Ahriman saved my arse when we went down into the Petitioner’s City, and nearly got killed.” More bad memories flooded in. How could he ever tell Isis about Summer, now that she was dead?
That is an excellent idea.
Fill the mind of the hater with love.
Liquid, mucus-like love.
Scvott saw the change, and swiftly he added. “He went in, and about ten minutes later came out with Lord Ahriman and you. Ahriman was carrying…her, and we knew she was dead. I know how much she meant to you Julius, and I am deeply sorry. She meant a lot to all of us.”

Flynn now took the initiative, went over and hugged Julius before he could say or do anything. Scvott followed suit, and after a second so did Dyllion. The simple earnestness of their move banished the back cloud to the edge of Julius’s mind, and he felt like he could function again.

“Before anything else happens, I went down to the bunker to clean up yesterday. I brought these for you.” Julius’s bodyglove, his last letters, and something else. Her last letter, the one she had written to her brother.

“I think you can find a way of getting that to where it belongs.” Scvott said, more than a small hint of sadness in his eyes. “You of all people have the connections to ensure they take you seriously and receive it.”

“On a different note, Lord Ahriman has summoned us. He wants to debrief us personally. We’re to meet him on board some legion frigate. Apparently it’s docked in the spaceport.” He looked over Julius, a smile plying at the edge of his lips. “I think you may want to get properly dressed before we go.”

Only then did Julius notice his trousers were on the wrong way around. He retreated from the good natured laughing of his comrades, his friends, and readied himself for what was next. Gently he set her last letter down inside his kitbag, along with his stained bodyglove. He would get that letter to where it belonged, one way or another.
Ahzek Ahriman stood on the bridge of the Iron Tide, lost in thought. His armour was being repaired by several Techmarines from Prospero, and his heqa staff was being cleansed of any lingering daemonic taint. He had fully inspected the ship, and was confident there was nothing left of the foul touch of the Warpspawn who had attacked it during the incursion. It could carry the Daughters and their consorts from Fenris back to Terra. It would carry more than just them, if Julius decided so.

Thinking of Julius brought back the memories of what had happened down there, and how the woman he had been with had done what she had done. She had channelled something, tapped into something more powerful than Ahriman had seen before and using it banished the Daemon.

The first figure to reach them down in the core afther the Daemon had died was surprisingly Lord Mortarion, who had been informed of the source of the taint by Captain Ir’sem. He had been debriefed by the Lord Primarch inside that fane, a singularly unpleasant experience he had no wish to repeat. He had then gently prised the dead woman off of Julius, who was holding her cooling corpse and sobbing like a child. Poor Julius, he doubted that the boy would be able to face Lady Lupercal now. He felt sorry, the boy was only seventeen and though he was very much his father’s son, he had been wounded in mind and soul by this war, a wound Ahriman had no ability to heal.
His Legion brothers had helped him identity the Daemon, one which personified Chaos as the meddler, the deceiver, the trickster. It could take the form of other beings, and that doubtless was how it had deployed the Deathstrike. It had probably manipulated the whole sequence of events which had brought the Hulk to Seadelant, and deep down in his mind Ahriman thought it might have been the one who had stirred up all that trouble after the Keiter shooting. He would have to inform Lord Magnus about that as soon as he had a chance. If the ‘Changeling’ could roam around Terra unopposed then nowhere would truly be safe from the malign touch of Chaos, not even at the heart of the Emperor’s realm.

Now that the Daemon was gone, his powers had returned. The doubts he had once held had been washed away, and for the first time in years he felt in control. He felt whole. Fractured visions of timelines yet to come shone through the veil of the empyrean, and Ahriman could once again see the echoes of futures yet to come. Right now they were in flux as the doom of Seadelant receded and the warp returned to normal. His future was assured, he had no worries now.

A Salamander fleet serf came up to him, and announced, “The people you wished to see, my Lord.”
Ahriman dismissed him as the others came in.

“Welcome,” said Ahriman, modulating his accent to a more natural, fluid tone. Last time they had heard him was in the throes of anger, and he had doubtless left a mark he now had to erase. “Please, sit.”

Gratefully the four of them sat down.

“Now, you know why you are here. Doubtless Julius would have mentioned how these things work on the way here. Though last time he was ‘debriefed’, it was the Emperor himself who imposed the verdict, not me.” They all turned to stare at Julius, who shrank from their collective gaze. The memory was still too harsh for him, and Ahriman could hardly blame him. Even he was still stinging from the Emperor’s fury, unleashed that day.

“I’ll make it simple. Only you know about the Daemon which was pulling the strings, and it must stay with you. You must all swear to silence about what the Daemon was really up too, how it wanted to turn this planet into a hell-world. If you break this oath, then your lives will be forfeit. Do you understand?” Ahriman projected a small measure of fire into his aura, just enough to reinforce his words. They all got the message.

“Hold your right hands up, and repeat after me: ‘In the name of the Emperor of Mankind, the guardian against the fell powers of the Warp, I swear that what secrets I know will stay with me forever more.”

They repeated the words, Julius only reluctantly, and they were done.
“We’re finished. The bar downstairs is open if you’d like, and I happen to know they have some Tanith Whiskey.” Flynn’s eyes lit up at the mention, and eagerly he gestured at the door.

“Before you go though, I have something for you.” Ahriman reached down for something Lord Mortation had given him at the awards ceremony.

He reached out and opened his fist. In the palm of his massive hand were five medals stamped in silver.

“By your actions was Seadelant saved, and I’m sorry no-one will ever know the truth of how you alerted us to the Daemonic presence. But you can show these to your children, and say you did your part to save your homeworld. I’m proud of all of you for willingly risking death every day to try and help us from behind enemy lines. I’m sorry that one of these has to be posthumous, which one of you will take it?”

Julius all but reached over and snatched it. It would be Julius.

As they all got up to go, Ahriman added. “Julius, stay. I need to speak with you alone.”

Julius sat back down.
“Julius, I know how much this must be hurting you, but what your friend did, it must never leave Seadelant, ever. Only you, I and Lord Mortarion know what she did, and it must remain between us. If news of how she banished a Daemon got out, it would invigorate those who believe in her…falsities.” Julius could barely hide his scowl.

“She saved you ser. She saved me, she saved this entire planet. Her beliefs shouldn’t be taken into account, do you take mine?”

“Your beliefs don’t violate the Imperial Creed. Hers did.”
“The Imperial Creed is full of shite ser. It’s flawed from top to bottom. People like her are just loyal as the average citizen, even more. There are none more devoted to the Imperium…”

“Julius, stop. I don’t want to have to force you to keep quiet, but I will if necessary. Lord Mortarion has charged me with ensuring that this never gets out, and I obey. Do you want me to have to mindlock you?” Ahriman knew that the Emperor had been displeased with him tampering with the mind of any of his citizens, but Lord Mortarion had promised he would explain to the Emperor the situation when they returned to Terra. Julius glared angrily, but he held his tongue. Ahriman changed the subject.

“Now that all of this is done, we need to discuss what you’re going to do next. Obviously the recent events have upset your plans. You now have two options open. First, you can travel on the Iron Tide, its returning straight to Terra via Fenris. You’ll be able to travel with friends of yours and see everyone off before they go to College.
“On the other hand, the Ultramarine Frigate Sanctity of Saramanth is returning to Ultramar, and its first stop is Calth. If you want to head there as per your original travel plans, it leaves tomorrow. Note by the time you return to Terra, everyone will be gone to College. You won’t see anyone you know for the short time you will be on Terra. You won’t see her.”

He didn’t have to mention her name. He was hurting enough, and Ahriman could clearly sense that he was about to face a major decision regarding her in the near future.

“I understand ser. I don’t think I can face any of them. Not yet.”

Ahriman nodded. The Sanctity of Saramanth it is then.

“And what are you doing ser?” Julius asked.

“Returning to Terra. My mind and soul are cleansed, and I can see that Lord Curze wants to see me. We still have unfinished business with the Babu Dhakal.”

Julius nodded, still unhappy and took his leave. As he went, Ahriman idly searched the strings of fate to see his future, but as he probed deeper he found they were dark and tangled. His own future might be clear now, but Julius was now sliding down a slippery slope to darkness and Ahriman could do little to help. Julius would have to rise or fall on his own.
The bar of the Iron Tide was full fit to burst. Troopers from the Perdix Hunters rubbed shoulders with the Byzant Janizars in their ornate white uniforms, and clusters of Tanith troopers loudly sang drunken songs from their homeworld beside navy personnel from the other ships docked in the port. Flynn smiled at the antics of his kin, humming the tunes they were singing. Julius was already regretting taking Flynn up on his offer of drinks for their little band, but it was too late to back out now. Fortunately there were several seats free at the Bar, and one by one they sat down.

Flynn gestured to the man behind the bar, who had a Lieutenant’s bars on his shoulders. “Four shots of Tanith Whiskey. I know you have some, my kin wouldn’t be quite so happy if you didn’t. And make it the strong type.”

The Lieutenant smiled ruefully and poured four glasses, handing them to Flynn, who passed them along.

“For Summer.” Scvott intoned, lifting his glass.

“For Summer!” they replied, and downed their drinks. Julius felt the Tanith whiskey burn his throat as it ran down, and he nearly choked. But a solid whack on the back by Dyllion saved him further embarrassment.
Flynn turned to see Julius morosely staring into the bottom of his glass. “She won’t be forgotten Oll. We won’t forget her.” Flynn said.


“Sorry, old habits die hard. Julius. Dammit, thirty days of calling you Oll and you’re bloody false name is stuck in my mind.”

“Julius? Are you Pius by any chance? Julius Pius?” the Lieutenant at the bar suddenly asked.

“What’s that to you?” Julius snapped. The last thing he needed now were people recognising him.

The youthful bartender nodded his head once, as if in confirmation. "Because I suspect you went to school with five of my best customers." Julius stared.

"You're kidding. Venus, Remilia Dorn, Jacob Seager, Alex Carlin, and Freya Russ?" Kines grinned. "They get around. Is this not the smallest galaxy, or what?" he asked, neatly diverting Julius' building sulk.

Sulky and morose though he might be, Julius immediately felt bad at his outburst. “My apologies for my tone of voice ser. I did not know what ship they were travelling on, save that it was from the XVIII Legion.”

"I'm just a Junior Lieutenant; nobody calls me Sir unless they want a discount,"

“You’re a commissioned officer in the Legion Fleets, whereas I am a civilian. You are ser to me. Now, can I have another drink?”
The Lieutenant smiled as he poured another drink for the four of them. By the time they reached their third, Julius knew the Lieutenant’s name: Charles Kines. He seemed an easygoing person, and he laughed loudly at some of Flynn’s more bawdy jokes. Scvott and Dyllion joined in, and soon Flynn was relating a famed Tanith folk-take about a bear and a maiden which had the others in stitches.

Julius wanted to enjoy himself and share in the fun, but he couldn’t shake off the black cloud which still hung over him. He felt like the only one there who couldn’t erase his bad mood. He needed a distraction, he needed to know that someone somewhere was having a good time, and as he sipped his latest drink, he had lost count of how many he had consumed, an idea slowly began to form.

“Off duty?” Julius asked the Lieutenant as he pulled his navy-issue coat over his shoulders.

“Short break, letting the other guy take over. I’ve been on duty for the last nine hours, and I have sold over half the ship’s total alcohol store.”

“Care to have one on me ser?” Julius asked, trying to add extra meaning to his voice.

“I don’t drink on duty, and you can stop calling me sir. I’m not the captain.”

“You still outrank me, so you are ser.”

“Jake never called me sir.”

“Well, Jake’s never had the proper respect for military authority. Next time you see him, tell him that I call you ser, and if I do then he should as well.”

Kines stifled a laugh, and got up, making a subtle gesture to Julius. Julius excused himself, and followed the Lieutenant to a nearby empty stall.
“What do you want Julius?” Kines asked once they had sat down.

“Frankly ser, I need something to cheer me up. I’ve been through hell, spent most of the war hiding underground as a partisan in the Ork infested outer city, and now I can’t shake this infernal gloom. I want to know about what everyone has been doing. Remilia, Venus, Jake, Freya, even Alex. Tell me everything ser.”

Kines obliged, and began with their first visit to the bar on the first day of their trip. Julius listened intently, slowly sipping on his latest glass of amasec. The Lieutenant was a good storyteller, and Julius found himself entranced by his tales.

When Kines reached the second leg of the journey, from Nocturne to Fenris, Julius began to notice the mini-pause and the small catch in his voice every time he was talking about Remilia. Julius might have been somewhat tipsy, but his ‘sight’ still worked, and slowly he put the pieces together.

Finally he decided to confirm his suspicions. "You'll never guess who my chemistry lab partner was?


“She’s someone very close to me, a sister in all but name. Here's a hint for you: she prefers orange soda.”
His eyes widened, and Julius smiled at him. “Don’t worry Lieutenant, my lips are sealed. They obviously never told you about my ‘sight’; how I see things people try to hide. No, I'm no psyker, it's just a little talent I have.
"I’m glad you’re making Remilia happy; she needs it after what she’s been through. That’s all I’m going to say on the matter.” He let the matter slide, and he knew Kines understood.
Aaaw :(
Aaaw :)
“I have to go back on duty now, but thank you for the drink.” Kines carefully said. They both returned to the bar, where Julius could see the other three were inebriated. For that matter, Julius felt his head swimming and his sense of balance was slightly off. He had never drunk this much before, and it told.

“Is there any Orange Soda left?” he asked Kines.

“One bottle.”

“Right then.” Julius handed over several thrones, and then stopped Kines as he reached to hand it over. “No, hide it away. It’s a gift for a certain someone, I think you know who.”

Kines smiled as he stowed the bottle away.

The night blurred after that, and Julius could no longer remember any concrete details until they went to leave, close to midnight. As they trooped out, Julius turned back to Kines and managed to force out, “Thank you very much ser, for the first time in weeks I feel almost human again.” He didn’t know if it was him or the alcohol talking, but the farewell salute from Kines made him feel better for his slurred words.

They dropped him back off at his hab, and the first thing Julius did was race for the bathroom as his stomach heaved. He had drunk far too much; he never wanted to do that again.

That night the nightmares began.
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>All alone feel

Calth. A beautiful world, one of the jewels of the thousand worlds of Ultramar. One of the master worlds of the Ultramar sector. One of the anchor points of the new civilisation. An embodiment of the reward that the millennia of warfare waged by man had finally lead to.


Julius stood on the rockcrete landing platform of Numinus City Starport and sniffed the air. It smelled good, it smelled pure. Nothing like the ever-present whiff of the pollutants which permeate Terra’s air, something Terrans never noticed until they went offworld and realised what a shithole the Throneworld truly is. Julius was surprised at his own attitude towards the world he had called home for over sixteen years. But then, the circumstances of his leaving may have had something to do with it.

Calth’s sun, Veridia, sat like a blue-white pearl in the pale sky. Off to one side, rising like a moon was Calth’s projected superorbital plate, a symbol of its importance. Only the master worlds of the Imperium have plates. Terra of course has them, so too does Macragge, Inwit, Chemos and Cadia.

In the distance, huge semi-auto hoists and cranes, some of them looking like quadruped Titans, busily transferred cargo stacks to giant bulk lifters on the field as the fruit of Calth’s industrial output was shipped across Ultima Segmentum. Once Julius would have been fascinated by what was going on all around him, but times change. People change.
From afar, Julius still looked the same as he had before Seadelant, but once you got close to him you saw the haunted look in his eyes, the empty stare and the rings around his eyes which denoted sleeplessness. The Nightmare which had first come after his bout of drinking on the Iron Tide had come again, and again, and again. Nine times he had woken up screaming bloody murder during the trip from Seadelant to Calth. Nine times she had died again in his arms, and he had been powerless to save her. The dreams were so real it was living the whole experience time and time again, each time knowing the outcome but being helpless to change it, for it had already happened. He was glad he had foregone returning straight to Terra on the Iron Tide, he wouldn’t want to explain his nightmares to his friends, how he now feared to sleep for the fear of those nightmares, how he was thinking of drastic measures to stop them from happening.

He had dozens of messages from Terra, from his friends, and he hadn’t looked at a single one. He wanted time alone, to get away from them. He needed to be ready before he could face any of them. He only wished he knew what he needed to be ready for.

Around him the crew of the Sanctity of Saramanth chattered and laughed as they departed for some well earned shore leave. It was a strange experience, hearing people speaking on Calth. Though he had lived on Terra all his life, his voice had stubbornly maintained a Calthite lit, and now instead of being the only person who spoke it, almost everyone did. Hearing it spoken by everyone was a novel experience, one he wished he could feel more at ease with.
There was plenty he had wanted to squeeze into the ten days he had originally planned to spend on Calth. Visiting the Holophusikon, touring Numinus City and seeing medicae block IF-01 where he had been born and the rugged wilds of the southern hemisphere of Calth. Now he only had two days planetside before he was to board a transport back to Terra, two days to try and find the answers he had left Terra to seek.

In truth, he did not want to go back to Terra. After what he had just gone through, how could he return to Terra, as if none of it had happened? How could he face anyone? How could he tell them about what had happened to him? How could he tell her about the woman he met, the woman who made him shatter his oaths, and who died to save him? He didn’t want to think about it. He didn’t want to face it. All he wanted was for his problems to just go away.

It was 09:51 local time, and he had all day free. There was one reason he had wanted to come to Calth in the first place, and despite the external hell he had gone through on Seadelant and the personal hell he now found himself in, he would do this one thing, he would go home.

The estuary at Neride was one of the most fertile places on the planet, the stink of beets and cabbage strong in the humid air. His father had chosen his land well. Forty acres of good land to farm, to grow Swartgrass, flowers and vegetables for Ultramar. But then Lord Guilliman had come with his offer, and Oll had accepted it. Now his house was rented out to a migrant family from Praetoria. They paid the rent on time, and had offered to let Julius stay with them for his time on Calth. Julius had politely declined. He needed to be alone.

Julius paid the Taxaiman and waved him off. He would be back in four hours to pick Julius up, easily enough time to get everything done.
Argh, must sleep.
Power on, my kiwi companion!
The Little Chapel sat mournfully on the edge of the Swartgrass fields. Julius had seen plenty of pictures of it, but his breath caught when he saw it in person. It was there that his parents were married, where he was christened, and where his mother now lay.

The doors creaked open as Julius went in, the strip of light from outside illuminating the insides. Once Julius would have crossed himself before entering, but this time he just shambled in and made a beeline straight for an alcove in the western wall. Set in the alcove was a stone, words carved into it. Quietly he repeated them to himself.

‘In loving memory of Julia Persson Pius, wife to Ollanius and mother to Julius. Taken before her time, sadly missed.’ Behind that stone was his mother’s ashes. He couldn’t remember her, but he had seen the picts and heard his father’s soft-spoken stories. Julia Persson was an exotic beauty from the Talian peninsula who claimed she could trace her lineage to the Romanii Emperors of old. Her great grandfather, also named Julius had died fighting against Mad King Peshkein of Tali, one of the many barbarian warlords who had despoiled Terra before the coming of the Emperor. She had been a remembrancer during the Crusade, and like so many of them she had sought the ultimate prize, becoming the personal documentarist to the greatest mortal hero in the Galaxy, Ollanius Pius. And not only had she succeeded, but she had stolen his heart as well. She was a pious Catheric like he was, and they had bonded over their shared faith and his stories, and they began to lay plans for what they would do once the Crusade ended.

Sleep on, the juicy parts will be waiting for you tomorrow.
It was at that point in the story that his father’s voice started to crack up. During the last days of the crusade an attack by Ork fungus gas on a nameless world had ravaged her lungs and nearly killed her. His father had carried her off the battlefield. She had missed the Angelus Triumph, recovering in a hospital bed while Ollanius took part in the official end to millennia of warfare. They had chosen Calth to be their new home in part because the rich air was good for her, but she had wilted in the toxic atmosphere of Terra and died two years after they had moved there.

He stared at that stone plaque for what seemed like an age. He had expected to be overwhelmed with a flood of emotion the moment he saw his mother’s resting place, but he couldn’t feel anything. Seadelant had burned everything out of him.

“She would be proud of you, the poor love.”

He looked over. A man stood in the doorway, backlit by the sun so Julius couldn’t see his face for shadow.

“Last time I saw you, you were still in diapers. How things change.”

The man entered the chapel. Now he could see him Julius saw a well-built man strong in the back and arms, with a very handsome face and grey hair. He wore his age like a regal cloak. Julius remembered his father talking about him.

“Are you John Grammaticus?”

“Yes, though you’d better call me John. My last name is a mouthful.” He sat down on one of the old wooden benches, facing Julius.
“My father told me you might be here.”

John smiled. “Your father and I were tight, back in the day. Anatol Hive. The Panpacific. We had some adventures, Oll and I. That was before he joined the army and went off on the Crusade. I’ve kept an eye on him since, and on you once you came on the scene. You don’t know how much of a fuss you caused just by being born. The first second generation.”

Julius stared at him. John continued, his words making no sense to Julius.

“We’re sterile. He gave us our gifts, but we could never pass them on. And then you came along. They’re still debating what role you’ll play, but regardless it will be huge. Your fate is forever entwined with theirs, like it or not.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about ser.” John didn’t seem to hear him.

“But of course, after our first big failure, we don’t know what to think anymore. We thought the Acuity never lied, the first son would turn against his father and drown the stars in blood; undo all the seer strived to achieve.”

“What the bloody hell are you talking about?” Julius was getting tired of his senseless words.
“A future, dear boy. A future which never came to pass, and thank all under the heavens that it never did come to pass, else you, I, this place, hell almost nothing would remain. A grim dark future loomed, but never arrived, thanks to some quick witted individuals.” He gave a nervous laugh. “The problem is that we think too slowly, we take the long view, so when other individuals react fast we are left in the lurch. And no sooner did that happen then you came around, and the others. The heirs to the empire not tainted with the touch. And now we can’t make sense of it, what is supposed to happen now, what the great enemy will do now. We have been knocked off our bearings…”

Julius interrupted him. “Ser, I have no idea what any of that shite is supposed to mean, and frankly it sounds like a load of fug. Now what are you here for?”

John smiled bashfully. “Sorry, I have a habit of getting on a tangent, and it would be good for you if you remember at least some of that in the future. You will need it, eventually. No, I’m here for you.”

“For me? I don’t need your help ser.”

“Yes you bloody well do. It’s plain enough to see that you’re hurting badly. I know about Seadelant, you were caught up in a war not of your making, faced daily horrors and tribulations, and during the last hours saw monsters from the blackest depths of the Warp. Very few can come out of an experience like that unchanged, and it’s plain to see you are not one of those lucky few. For example, I noticed you didn’t cross yourself when you entered. Your father would never do that, he has always been pious and devoted. Did you forget? Or have you lost your faith?”
Keep up the good work all :)

You know AA, I like your approach to haters, now whenever I see a negative post, all I can see is a Kakapo humping the fella's head.

So true.
Julius glared at him, though he spoke the truth. He hadn’t prayed once since Summer had died, and Summer’s Aquila had replaced his Catheric Crux around his neck. His god hadn’t saved her, he had ignored Julius’s desires for his nightmares to end, and now he no longer felt he could believe in Him anymore. He was cast adrift in an uncaring universe.

“My faith or lack of it is none of your concern ser.” He snapped. “More importantly, how the hell do you know about what happened on Seadelant? They’ve ordered the details suppressed so no-one knows about the hell-spawn.” His suspicions about John Grammaticus were growing by the minute.

“I know a lot of things Julius, and don’t think you can worm your way out of this. Why are there bags under your eyes? Are you afraid of sleeping?”

Julius scowled at John; he was reading him like a book. “You really want to know how I feel? You really want to know how fucked up I am? Fine. Shell Shock, Combat Fatigue, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, call it what you want, I have all the signs. Nightmares which feel so real it’s like I’m reliving the event all over again. Nightmares which leave me screaming. I fear to sleep because of those nightmares.”

“And what event is it you keep on seeing?”

Julius didn’t want to think about it, didn’t want to say her name for fear it would all come rushing back to him. But under John’s piercing stare, he finally admitted, “There was someone. Someone who I came to care very deeply for. And she died.”
You gotta love the animals of my native land.
“She? That’s interesting. Did you come to have an emotional bond with this woman, and is that why she haunts you now?”

His words were uncomfortably close to the mark, but the lack of reverence stung Julius. How could he speak of her like that?

“She was more than just that, ser. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have survived that hell. She died to save me, to save the entire fucking planet, and what did they do? They suppressed it. No-one will ever know of her sacrifice, no-one will ever know how she banished a daemon with nothing but her faith and saved Seadelant. Her parents disowned her, they don’t care that she’s dead. Only I care, only I still bear her memory. She changed my attitude towards those who worship the God-Emperor. Summer taught me that they are no less citizens of this Imperium than anyone else, and their faith can kill daemons.”

“Summer, that was her name?”

“Yes. Summer Lantsfalle.” It was the first time he had said her name aloud since the Iron Tide, forty days ago.

“Lantsfalle,” He mused. He let the name pass without comment. “She must have been very special, and I’m sorry for your loss. You know the Emperor will not take too kindly to you standing up for those who deify Him. Are you willing to accept the consequences of that?”

“Yes. He will never stop people from worshipping Him, even if he purges the Galaxy from one side to the other. It’s high time he accepts that fact, and accepts that he has an obligation to all his subjects, including those who see him as a living god.”
“But you still hurt. There’s something else, isn’t there?” John’s words pierced Julius.

“Yes, I still hurt. And it’s bloody unfair.” He finally snapped, glaring at John.

“I know that look; that sod you look. Your father often wore it when he got aggravated with me. You truly are your father’s son.” said Grammaticus with a grin.

“No I’m not. My father would not feel the way I feel. He fought in the Great Crusade from beginning to end and he survived it perfectly intact. I fight in a war for one month and I end up broken in mind and soul. How fair is that? How can he go for centuries without a spot on his mind, and I go for thirty days and become torn and haunted?”

“Have you ever talked with your father about this? About PTSD? He may surprise you. He’s been through hell more times than you or I can count, seen things which would rob a normal man of his sanity, and he’s not always walked away from it without a scratch.”

“That’s not all. During the fighting, Summer and I…we became close.” The other matter, the matter which he didn’t want to confront at all. He didn’t even know why he was mentioning it to John, but he couldn’t stop himself. His father had always said that John had an ability to charm his way into or out of anything, and it seemed he had worked his majic on Julius. He peered intently at the worn teenager, his gaze almost hypnotic. “And by that, do you mean you…?”

“Yes, bloody yes!” it felt good to get it out there, to just let it all go.

“Did you lose your faith even before you came here? I though as a Catheric you would be sworn to celibacy like your father was before he was married?”
“No, my faith was intact when I did it. That makes it all the more worse. Ever since the shooting on Terra, my life has gone to hell in a handbasket. First I nearly got the girl I love killed in a stupid move, then I broke my religious oaths. Not because I’m undisciplined, but because twice I allowed myself to replace oaths with emotion, something I swore never to do. Emotion gets you killed in battle, and it’s nearly done with me.”

“Julius, you cannot blame yourself for all this. Everyone makes mistakes, your father, me, hell even the Emperor. The emotional avalanche you had been buried under since all this began has lead one thing to another and eventually the dam burst.”

“That’s not the problem John. You know what the real problem is? I’ve seen what PTSD has done to veterans, I’ve grown up alongside them all my life, and I don’t want go through that dark tunnel. I don’t want to end up a drunken wreck. I don’t want to force away everyone who I care for, and who cares for me. I don’t want to find drastic solutions to stop the pain, but I can see no way out of this.” It came rushing out like a flood, a flood of grief and pain.

“You know what my last nightmare was? It was the day I broke my vows with her, when my oaths were overcome by my emotions. I dreamed that she died as we lay together, that she grew cold upon me, and I felt the fire go out of her while still inside her. Do you know what that’s like? Do you?”
John’s unwavering stare, betraying no emotion filled Julius with fury. He wanted to be done with this. “Now if you’ll excuse me ser, I’m leaving.”

As he opened the door to leave, John called out. “You’re don’t want to return to Terra, do you?” Julius stopped dead and stared at him.

“How the hell do you know? Are you a psyker, John Grammaticus? Can you see inside my bloody head?”

John shook his head. “No more than anyone else can. I can see things, just like your father can, just like you can. I know you’ve seen inside the Emperor; you like me know what a bloodthirsty bastard he really is. It’s a skill some of us have. All I’m doing is seeing the pain you’re bearing and trying to make you confront it. You will never be free of it if you run away from it forever. You have to return to Terra, you have to confront it, if you are ever to move on."

“I appreciate your sentiment ser, but how the hell would you know?”

“I spent eighteen years in an asylum because I tried to explain something which only I knew. I was locked away because people couldn’t see what I saw. That experience left scars for a long time, even now I still get uncontrollable shivers each time I see a barred window.” This time there was bitterness in John’s voice, the first taste of emotion. “But your father helped me escape, and he helped me overcome the trauma. If I can survive it, then you can as well. Go home and tell your father everything. Even if you see no-one else, you owe that much to him. It’s what your mother would have wanted.”

“You met my mother?”
“Once, before your parents met, when she was covering the one hundred fortieth expeditionary fleet. She was a beauty, olive skinned and stylish. All the men fawned over her. She was bragging how she would be the first to cover the famed Ollanius Pius, the first to get his stories. Your father hated the remembrancers, he claimed they ignored the common soldiers and their sacrifice. What struck me most about your mother was how much she was hiding, how her public face was so different from her private one. It took your father to uncover her hidden depths. You may be your father’s son, but there is plenty of your mother in you too.”

Julius could see the sense in his words, but he was still reluctant to go back, and he had other things to worry about as well.

“I have one obligation left before I can go to Terra. Before she died, Summer wrote a letter to her younger brother. I will see it delivered, I owe that much to her and more. I will ensure her last letter and her medal gets to him no matter how far I have to go, though I don’t know where to start looking.”

“I don’t know where the Lantsfalle’s are now, but I know where they’ll be in a month or so. Terra.”
“Terra? How do you know?” Julius demanded.

“Haven’t you been paying attention to the news boy? The representative of the Chartist Captains had a heart attack and died. He has been replaced. The Lantsfalle’s will damn well do anything to ensure the new representative is their man and amenable to their interests, so they will head to Terra with all speed.”
Julius’s back stiffened as the way forward became clear. He now knew that no matter his own personal misgivings, he had to return to Terra. For Summer’s sake, if no-one else’s.

“Julius, for your father’s sake and yours, don’t try to solve this on your own. Get help, real help, while you’re on Terra. They have organisations which cater for PTSD on Terra, get the best treatment you can. Don’t let yourself be overcome, don’t surrender to the pain.”

Before he left, he turned back towards John. “Thank you ser, for making me feel better. My father was right about you, you do have a good heart.”

As Julius disappeared, John breathed “I wish he were right Julius. For both your sakes.”

That night, Julius realised what he was about to do, where he was going, and he drank the minibar in his hotel room dry. The Nightmares still came.
And I'm done. Keep her going for SE and DM. And Drawfags, where are they? I want some for my story.

What do you all think of Julius's PTSD? Too grimdark?
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>Pic related
>but then Angela wrapped her arms around her taller cousin’s torso and slid her wings around her too, drawing her into a gentle hug.
Hey, I missed the last thread or the thread before it so I missed a lot of the story but I can't find AA's story on 1d4chan. Is he waiting to finish or is it not going on 1d4 at all?
>“I couldn’t live with the same boy for four years. I’d get bored.”
And I am having less and less trouble imagining Victoria participating in gangbangs with the school [insert future muscle related team sport here] team.
Night SE, always nice reading your stuff! I'm sad that the Road Trip show will end though, it has been fun!
Bump for the Bump God
Stories for Story Time
Excellent stuff.
Mein gott, the hugboxing in here is off the charts!
All three hesitated before answering. “Uh…well, we’re from Tetra too, your Highness,” Will said on their behalf. We went to middle school with Jake at 19889.”
Farah cocked her head. “What’s that?”
“It’s just the number of the hab block our school was in,” Jake supplied, dropping a fifty credit chip into pot.
The pretty cyborg nodded. “Ah. So when did you get time to practice?”
“At cards, ma’am?” Dieter asked. He shrugged at her nod. “Well, most kids in the habs don’t have personal voxes or anything like that, so we just entertain ourselves the old fashioned way.”
“Jake had a vox when he came to Imperator,” Farah remembered.
“Well, Dad got a discount on them because of where he worked at the time,” Jake said. “It’s more about age than anything. Most hivers have them by graduation.” He pulled his new one out. “Alex got me this for my birthday. I guarantee the range on it is a thousand times the range on my old one. You don’t need long range in the hives, there’s antennae in every structure.”
“Can I look at that, man?” Will asked.
Jake passed him the vox and Will flipped it open. “Wow. No kidding. I can’t even tell what it is…” he said, trailing off. “Who’s that on the background?” he asked.
Jake took the vox back and checked. “Oh, that’s just a picture of me as a kid with my grandfather Eric,” Jake said. “Hell, he probably hasn’t worn that uniform shirt in ten years.”
Will nodded. “My dad was in the Praetors. Field recon.”
“So was one of my uncles,” Dieter put in.
Farah smiled. “Good on them. Any of you considering military life?”
“No thanks, ma’am,” Will said, shaking his head. “No offense, but the war’s over. Life in the hive is dangerous enough, I just want to keep my head down and get a real job.”
“Why would that offend me? I’m hardly a soldier,” Farah said.
Will hesitated, looking at the tiny Iron Hands embossing on her bionics. “Well…er…”
“Your father’s Ferrus Manus,” Venus said drily.
“Oh, right, that part,” Farah said with a laugh. “Eh. All the Primarchs understand that half of the reason we were fighting in the first place was to give humans a place to live without having to worry about alien invasions.”
Dieter grimaced, but all three boys looked down to their cards. Farah cocked an eyebrow, surprised by their sudden hostility. “Did I say something?” she asked.
“Forget it, ma’am,” Will said.
“Please stop calling me that,” Farah said. “I know it’s knee-jerk, but some of us don’t like it.”
“You say so,” Will said, dropping a chip into the pot.
Venus suddenly snapped her fingers. “Hell. Jake, do you remember if we brought the spare towels out of the cabin? Or did we leave them in the dresser on the ship?”
Jake slapped his forehead. “Nuts. We left them behind.”
“Damn,” Venus grumbled. “Well, the Navy gets free towels. I’ll shop for more before we go.”
“Gonna need them, Kouthry’s pool looks pretty damn big from the holos,” Jake chuckled.
Morticia dropped into the seat beside Dieter and stared at the game as Miranda took Angela’s other side. “Wow. You guys do this a lot, don’t you?” she asked.
“Eight years running,” Will mumbled, staring at his cards.
“Yikes.” Morticia caught his eye as he looked up to place his bet. “Hi. I’m Morticia,” she said.
Will started slightly. “Oh! Oh, yes, you were…right. Hi, I’m Will,” he said.
Morticia half-smiled. “Seen me in the news of late, huh?” she asked drily.
“Few times, ma’am,” Will admitted nervously. “Glad you’re feeling better,” he said.
“Me too.” She watched another few lightning-fast hands in silence. “I didn’t see you on the basalt pillars with the others,” she said to Jake.
Jake shook his head. “Like I told Hunter Hasskald, I don’t like fighting gravity.”
“What’s it like seeing actual snow?” Dieter asked.
“Unbelievable,” Jake said. “I’ll never forget that.” He shook his head at the memory. “Man, you guys think the glare off the walls is bad, an entire horizon of snow…it was nearly blinding.”
“I can’t even picture it,” Abram said wistfully. “But man…I didn’t even understand what was happening in the picture of the castle in the middle.”
Jake blinked. “The castle in…oh, the Skarokk castle. It was just us standing there.”
“I meant the sky. Was it red?” Abram asked.
“Yeah, on Nocturne the sun is red and the clouds are blue,” Jake said.
“Wild,” Abram said.
“It was pretty disorienting, yeah,” Jake said.
“You’ll get used to it,” Venus said confidently. “If nothing else, you’re used to the heat.”
Jake shook his head, picking up the next hand. “That’s debatable. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to handle the heat. It was like sleeping in a furnace every night.”
Venus giggled. Jake squeezed his eyes shut for a moment, grinning. “Moreso than usual, that is.”
Remilia finished her own food and glanced at her watch. “Ah, blast,” she muttered. “Hey, Venus, can you give me a sec? I want to ask you something,” she said, rising to her feet.
Venus followed her into a corner. “Can you do something with this for me?” she asked her obsidian cousin, holding out the bottle cap from the drink Kines had given her.
Venus stared. “A bottle cap?” she asked.
“Yeah, a keepsake from Chuck,” Remilia said. “Can you forge it into a little pendant for me? Just a little heart shape or something?” she asked.
Venus grinned, taking the tiny piece of metal. “You bet. Won’t get it done before you have to make tracks, though. I’ll mail it to you.”
Remilia hugged her quickly, before walking back to the table. “Well, folks, it’s been fun to see everyone, but I have a flight to catch to Alanaster,” she announced. “See you all around, eh?”
Several of the other girls scrambled to their feet to offer up farewell hugs or advice as soon as she made the announcement. Remilia accepted them all in turn, sadly exchanging her own farewells.
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>moar updates
“Good luck out there,” Kelly said next.
“Thanks, Kelly. You too,” Remilia said.
Angela hugged her cousin briefly. “You’re in good hands,” she said softly. “I’m glad you’re not scared of the future any more.”
Remilia hugged back. “Good luck with your writing,” she said. “I’ll keep in touch.”
After she had received farewells from each Daughter in turn, Freya walked with her to the door of the ballroom. They paused at the top of the stairs, and Remilia turned to her. “Freya…thanks,” she said.
Freya nodded. “Of course.”
“I think…I think this has been probably the best summer of my life,” Remilia said. “And if you hadn’t invited me…”
Freya stepped up to her and hugged her tight. “It was my pleasure, Remilia,” she said happily. “You take care now, okay?”
Remilia closed her eyes and squeezed back. Both girls just stood there for a moment before Freya nipped her ear one last time and pulled away. “Now you go pack,” she said sternly.
The lanky soccer player smiled. “You got it. Write when you get to school, huh?”
“Of course.” Freya stepped aside for Olivia to pass. “Goodbye, Remilia.”
Venus sat back down beside Jake and slid the bottle cap into her pocket. “Do you wanna head out too, baby?” Jake asked.
“Actually, I sort of do,” Venus said. “I have so much packing and unpacking to do…and I promised I’d make something at the forge for Remilia.”
“Oh, okay,” Jake said. He set his cards down as the hand he was playing ended. “Gents,” he said, standing up.
“You’re leaving?” Abram asked.
“’Fraid so,” Jake said. “Got a lot of unpacking to do.”
“Then I guess we’re leaving too,” Abram said, sliding his chips over to the case.
“All right. You guys gonna be around later so we can get online? I’m in town another nine days.”
“Uh, sure,” Dieter said. “I will be, anyway.” The other two nodded assent.
“Awesome. Just like old times,” Jake said, packing up the chips and cards.
Misja walked over to them and held out her arms. “Jake, I’m glad you had a fun time. Make sure to call me before moving day so we can coordinate the mail situation.”
“Oh, right, the address,” Jake said, referring to the shared postal code he would have with Venus. “I will.” He accepted a quick hug from her as the other three boys stared. “It was good seeing you too.”
“Actually, this is goodbye for now, isn’t it?” Venus asked.
Jake nodded. “Yeah, I was going to go and see Alice and Hajime after we get unpacked, then go hit Keller’s.”
“Right.” Venus pushed her plate away and stood up, stretching tiredly. “So I guess I’ll see you in a few days?”
“Yep.” Jake packed up the rest of the cards and chips. “And then…Kouthry.”
“Hell yeah,” Venus said.
Jake picked up the hefty leather case and slung it. Venus paused him with a parting hug and a quick kiss. “I’m really glad you had fun,” she said quietly. Her eyes sparkled. “We should do it again sometime.”
Jake chuckled. “Count on it. Maybe some summer break when they don’t need me in the labs?”
“Call it a plan,” Venus said. Jake set the case back down long enough for her to rest her head on his shoulder for a moment. “Thanks for inviting me, baby,” he said softly.
“I wouldn’t have enjoyed it much if you hadn’t been there,” she said in the same tone. She withdrew to the corner to say goodbye to Morticia and Kelly, who were still chatting with Miranda.
The three hiver boys gaped at Jake, in varying states of disbelief. Jake shrugged sheepishly. “Are you serious?” Abram asked.
“Would she have invited me along otherwise?” Jake asked.
“No, I mean…you are the luckiest guy,” Abram said, shaking his head.
Jake quirked a grin. “Come on. You guys need a ride back home?”
“No, we took Will’s car,” Dieter said. He bumped fists with Jake as he walked by. “Man, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous, but still…it was good seeing you again.”
“Yeah, we should get together and play again before I head out,” Jake said, hefting the case on its metal handle.
Alex rose as well, sensing the party breaking up. “Queen Russ, I want to thank you,” he said. “I was a bit worried I’d come home to nobody,” he admitted.
Gairwyn shook her head. “I wouldn’t allow that, now,” she said. “Do you want a ride to your mother’s new apartment?”
“I don’t know. Where did she take all my stuff from the old place?” Alex asked.
“No clue. I’m sure she wouldn’t just pitch it, though,” Gairwyn said.
Freya bounded up. “Do you have your Mom’s vox number on you?” she asked.
“Uh, yeah,” Alex said, paging through his own vox. “Here.”
“All right. Call her now and ask what you should do, I can just drive you if you need a lift.”
Alex clicked her number and held up the vox, walking over to the corner of the room for quiet. His mother answered on the first ring. “Hello?”
“Mom, it’s Alex. How are you?” he asked awkwardly, suddenly aware that he should have called the moment he was earth-side.
“Alex! Baby, are you okay?” his mother demanded. “I only got your message a day or two ago, I’ve been worried sick!”
Alex sighed in relief. “I’ll be alright. Can I drop by and pick up my stuff from the old place?”
“Of course! Come on to my new address. You have it, right?”
“Sure do. Love you, Mom. Gotta run,” he said.
“Yes, I love you too, Alex. Please come over as soon as you can,” she said.
“I will.” Alex hung up and puffed out a breath. “Okay.”
“Is she okay?” Freya asked as he walked back over.
Alex slid his vox into his pocket. “I think so. She just didn’t get the message until we were most of the way home already, that’s all.”
“That’s good,” Freya said. “Are you going to see her?”
Alex grimaced. “Well, I will need a means of traveling over there, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Gairwyn spoke up.
“Great. Thank you, Queen Russ,” Alex said.
Victoria unfurled from her seat with a shake of her hair. “Mmm…second breakfast is a glorious thing,” she said idly.
“It is,” Faith confirmed. “When are you heading back out to the Foundation tour, Vicky?”
“Tomorrow,” she said with a yawn. “When’s orientation?”
“September seventh, actually,” Faith remarked. “Of those of us who are leaving, I think I leave last.”
“Plenty of time to pack, at least,” Victoria commented. She broke off as Jake and Venus walked up with Farah.
“Well, you two, this is it,” Farah said. “I’m Medusa-bound in fifteen hours.” She hugged each in turn. “Have a good year, all right? I’ll be home when I’m home,” she said.
“I’ll try,” Faith said. “I’m already nervous. Just wanna speed up and start classes, you know?”
“Nope!” Farah said happily. She turned to Victoria. “You have fun, okay? Say Hi to your folks for me.”
“I will,” Victoria promised.
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>mfw Road Trip is coming to an end, and this is the beginning of that end.
Freya and Miranda watched as the five parted ways, heading for their parents if they had brought them – Victoria hadn’t – and walked out one-by-one. “Are you looking forward to working with your Dad?” Freya asked.
The other redhead nodded eagerly. “I have so much to learn. Dad’s starting me off at the Scholastica Isolatorium, the place where the Scryers’ College is. Learning the ropes there, you know. I’m really excited,” she said.
Freya smiled. “I’m glad.”
“And you’re comfortable living with Alex? I don’t know if I could trust myself to live with someone like that,” Miranda confessed. “I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from giving my little insights.”
Her cousin chuckled. “Oh, I suspect you will. That’s my little insight.”
“Mhmm.” Miranda shrugged modestly. “Well, that’s kind of you to say.” She blushed a bit as Freya pondered the benefits of her shared living space. “I’m, er…glad you two are so happy with each other.”
Freya leaned in closer to her cousin. “Little secret for you, Miranda: a good relationship is one where you’re just as happy spending time away from your guy as you are with him. When Alex goes off to play rugby, he doesn’t mind that I don’t go with, or when I go off to the range for a few hours he doesn’t feel obligated to come along.”
Miranda shrugged awkwardly. “I wouldn’t know.”
“Trust me, Miranda, you’re going to work out just fine in that regard,” Freya said confidently. “You be sure to write when you can, all right?”
“Bet on it,” Miranda said, “but I’m staying in town another week, you’ll get to speak to me before we go.”
“Of course,” Freya said.
As the girls and their families wandered outside, leaving the caterers to clean up, Farah and Remilia nearly raced off to their own homes to do last-minute packing and shopping, while the others left more sedately. As they flew, Remilia and her mother avoided serious talk, just catching up on things. It wasn’t until they were already in the Dorn manor and Remilia was unpacking her things that they finally broached the hardest subject.
Olivia mentioned it first. “Sweetheart, I don’t want to ask this and I know you don’t want to answer, but…your arms,” she said hesitantly. “Are you feeling better?”
“I am,” Remilia said resolutely. She chucked a shirt in the laundry servitor’s bin before turning to face her mother. “I’ve stopped. Probably for good.”
“That’s reassuring,” Olivia sighed. “Can I ask why?”
“Why…I did it, or why I stopped?” Remilia asked.
“Both. Either.”
Remilia thought that one over. She sat on the top of an unopened suitcase and pondered. “Well, I guess…I did it because I just hurt that much,” she said softly. “When Dad…hit me, when I was on the verge of failing that Collegiate Product Physics course…Morticia getting shot.”
Olivia looked away as Remilia recited the list. Her daughter continued. “As for why I stopped…Uncle Magnus helped a lot, Freya helped a lot, Jake helped a little…but I also got a new perspective.”
“What do you mean?” Olivia asked.
“I met a guy on the trip. A really sweet guy,” Remilia said, half-smiling to herself. “He was so smart…we just sat and talked for hours. Turns out…well, it’s his business, but his little sister cut too. She died, in fact,” Remilia said sadly.
“That’s horrible,” Olivia said with a wince.
what is this shit
“Yeah. When he saw my arms…he got tense, yeah, but we just talked after that,” Remilia said. “We sat in my room and talked, for hours. I mean, we had to wait until he was off-shift, but we talked as much as we could. Just…life. His growing up on a farm, my growing up on Terra…it felt so good to just bare my soul to someone,” she said. “And without psychics involved.”
Olivia nodded sagely. “Well, as long as that’s all you bared to him,” she said.
Remilia struggled to hide an inappropriate giggle. Her mother started. “Remilia, you didn’t.”
She giggled. “I didn’t say anything.”
“Tell me you didn’t have sex with some random crewer on the ship!” Olivia demanded, faint.
“Hey!” Remilia barked. “He wasn’t some random crewer, he was some random officer!”
“Remilia! I can’t believe you did that!” Olivia said, aghast.
“Why not? He was sweet as candy,” Remilia said primly. “Besides, four hours talking with him, seven times over the course of two months, did more for getting my head un-scrambled than a year in therapy could have.” She smiled broadly at her mother’s horror.
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“Remilia…oh, sweetheart, I thought you were going to choose better than that,” Olivia said. “I know you were hurting, baby, but turning to sex for a passing relief doesn’t accomplish anything.”
“Mom, I already felt better,” Remilia said patiently. “Shit, after seeing Jake bounce back from getting that badly hurt by a random asshole, I would have felt hollow if I just jumped in this guy’s bunk. I made my choice and I’m better for it,” she said. Her eyes narrowed. “And here I thought you’d be proud of me for that.”
“Remilia, I’m…I mean, did you even know this man’s history? You could have gotten sick with something, or pregnant!” Olivia said.
Remilia sighed. “Give me some credit, Mom. I wouldn’t have even considered it if we weren’t being safe.” She crossed her legs on the suitcase and played with the hem of her fleece jacket. “Besides, he needed someone to talk to as much as I did. We spent hours just loafing around in my room, talking about school, about the news, about my trip…he was more than a pretty face, though he had that going too,” she added coyly. “He was a friend. Someone I could confide in.”
Olivia stared. “Confide in? Remilia, what if he tells someone?!”
Remilia shrugged. “Who would notice, with all of Vicky’s tabloid dramabombs? Besides, I never asked him to keep his mouth shut, and he was hardly the type to kiss and tell.”
“You didn’t even ask him not to tell anyone?” Olivia gaped.
Remilia finally let some of her mounting anger peek through. “What exactly is the problem here, Mom? That I had sex with a guy? Or someone who wasn’t a noble? Because I guarantee that he was better for my head than anything else that could have happened. Is my mental health not more important than the family’s sacrosanct public image?”
Olivia snapped her mouth shut, fuming. “Discretion is important, Remilia,” she said.
“And I was discreet. Aside from him, the other four of us, the ship’s LO who was outright ordered to keep a lid on it by Venus, you, and Angela, not a soul knows,” Remilia said coldly. “As for discretion being important, Mom, I think you should reflect on the fact that I felt that I had to leave in the first place because I couldn’t trust myself to stay here until Alanaster.”
“What has that got to do with anything?” Olivia asked.
“Forget it,” Remilia said in disgust, climbing off the suitcase and starting to unpack it. She turned her back on her mother and pulled assorted clothes out of the container.
>“And I was discreet. Aside from him, the other four of us, the ship’s LO who was outright ordered to keep a lid on it by Venus, you, and Angela, not a soul knows,”

I think there might be one other...
After a hundred and thirty four days, Terra once again loomed large before Julius. The grey dead hulk of a world had never looked more unwelcoming then it did now. He wouldn’t be here long, just long enough to ensure the letter got to whom it was written for, long enough to see the woman he loved, and then he would leave for the IMA and the next stage of his life. If he could still go there without having a breakdown every time they mentioned the cost of war.

He stood on the observation deck of the Renald, a medium sized trader which regularly made the run between Calth and Terra. His journey had been unpleasant, but that was not the fault of the ship, or its crew. No, his descent into despair had not been stopped by his talk with John Grammaticus, only slowed, and the Nightmares assailed him time and time again. The crew stared at him every time he went past; though he had a cabin all of his own unlike the Sanctity of Saramanth it wasn’t soundproofed, and his nightly screaming matches were heard by all aboard.

As he watched the ship manoeuvre into docking position, he rubbed his forehead. His head throbbed dully; the legacy of the previous night’s drinking. Julius had never been one for alcohol before, but now he was drinking heavily, anything to numb the pain and stop the nightmares. The crew had turned a blind eye to his age, when he was plastered he didn’t wake half the crew with his screaming. A morning with a roaring hangover was infinitely preferable to a night of blood and death. He hated himself for succumbing to the drink, but then he hated himself for a lot now. What was one more thing to the tally? One thing he did worry about was that the moment he landed Terra-firma he would no longer have quite so easy access to drink, as a seventeen year old minor. How would he get his fix and keep the nightmares at bay?
Low-orbit traffic above Terra, as always was lousy with hundreds of ships jostling for space. Endless queues of lifter-boats, heavy-duty bulk tenders and system monitors held station in the wash of augur-fogging electromagnetics and engine flare from the heavier vessels as system pilots manoeuvred them towards the superorbital plates for refuelling, re-arming and supply.

Julius felt even worse now that he had returned, and received the news. Furia had run away, cut and run from Terra into the wider Galaxy. Isis had taken Furia under her wing during those last few weeks, she would be devastated. After that, how could he make things even worse for her by revealing his sundered oaths and PTSD? No, it would be better for the both of them if he just stayed away.

“Update: berthing docket inloading,” the tinny, mechanical voice came over the ships’ PA. “One hundred minutes until our allotted berth is available.”

Every one of those hundred minutes felt like agony as they passed at a snail’s pace. Finally the ship shuddered as it docked with the Gondavana, one of Terra’s Superorbital Plates and Julius went to collect his things. After fifty days on this ship, he was glad to be getting off, even if he would have to face hell and worse down on Terra.

The trip from Gondavana to Lion’s Gate Spaceport outside the palace came and went in a flash, and the hoverbus trip from there to Startseite went bye even quicker. He hadn’t contacted or spoken with anyone since Seadelant, so no-one knew he was back. Even if they did know, they were all busy elsewhere, so he wouldn’t have been given a warm reception the way he expected Venus, Freya and Remilia were greeted when they returned to Terra. But then, they weren’t shell shocked veterans who had become raging alcoholics.
Finally he was standing outside a modest hab in the uptown area of Startseite. Home, though it didn’t feel much like home anymore.

For a few minutes he did nothing but stare at the door, his mind blank. Finally he reached over and opened the door. Ollanius was in the kitchen, and he turned to see his son standing in the doorway.

“Father.” Julius said as he took a step inside.

“Son.” Oll replied. For a few seconds they just stared at one another, until Oll suddenly walked over and embraced Julius. “I’m so glad you’re safe. When the news came through that you were trapped on that world…”

“I survived.” And I wish I had survived intact like you would have, but there we go. I’m now a drunken wreck who’s been scarred for life by a single bloody month of combat. Julius was tempted to say that, to let spill some of his bitterness, but he didn’t. He just stood there, meekly accepting his father’s warm greeting. He broke it off and ushered Julius inside.

“Are you going to let her know you’re back?” his first question to him, hardly surprising. Julius slowly nodded. He would have to; there was no escaping it now. Even if he didn’t, someone else would tell her he was back before long. He sincerely hoped she couldn’t or wouldn’t want to see him, that her college workload would preclude her from leaving.

Briefly he glanced over that the mag-calender hanging on the wall. The date on the calendar read 0 3410 347 M34. The daughters and their boyfriends had all gone to College over a month and a half ago, and by now would be well into their first year of study. They were gone from his life. Was Isis gone as well? For her sake, he hoped so. He would not to saddle her with his problems, not when she had enough of her own.
Briefly Oll summarised what had happened on Terra since he had gone. Their Priest, Pulandio had gone to Hy Brasil to rest and recuperate from the near fatal beating he had suffered at the height of the Keiter affair and Oll had taken over, though he freely admitted he was no orator and his rather awkward delivery of the sermons left a lot to be desired. Something about elections and the death of the representative of the Chartist Captains, and of course the fact that all the daughters had gone off. Julius half-listened without paying attention, wondering how he would be able to stop the nightmares that would inevitably come tonight. His father’s drinks cabinet was locked tight, and Julius didn’t know where the key was. He would have to go tonight without drinking, which did not make Julius’s mood any better.

He picked at his food and ate little, and he went to bed as fast as he could. He tried to stay up and read for as long as possible, but the jaws of sleep eventually claimed him.

The Nightmare came again that night, and the evening was torn by Julius’s desperate yells. He was jarred awake, and for a second he lay there, staring into space. Another night dominated by dreams of hell and death, of her last words to him and the feeling of her warm body going cold as he held it and screamed to the heavens. He dearly wanted a drink at that moment, something to take the edge off.

There was a knocking on the door, soft but firm. A crack of light striped across the bed, and Julius turned to see his father silhouetted in the doorway.

“Julius is everything alright?” he asked.

Julius wanted to yell out, ‘yes father, everything’s fucking alright. I’m just a nut-case who can’t get over the death of the woman who stole my heart and shattered my vows. No father, I’m fucking fine’, but reality prevailed. He just said. “It was just a bad dream. These things happen.”
Oll didn’t leave. He stood there, veiled in shadow. “It wasn’t the first time, was it?” he asked. “You’ve been having nightmares ever since you left Seadelant, haven’t you?”

His words rammed home, and Julius groggily pulled himself upright to face his father. “So what if I have?” his words were more bitter then he’d intended.

Oll nodded. “Julius, come with me. I think we need to have a little talk.”

Julius pulled himself up and followed his father out to the living room. Oll sat down, and beckoned for Julius to sit beside him. For a few seconds they didn’t say anything, a vast gulf between them. Finally Oll broke the silence.

“You’re hurting. Don’t deny it; I’ve seen it happen too many times before. A piece of your soul has been torn out.” Julius did not reply. The tense silence filled the room before Oll added. “You’ve been drinking. I smelt it on your breath from the moment you walked in the door.”

His blunt statement felt like a condemnation, and Julius scrambled to defend himself.

“Why do you care? I know you don’t approve, but…”

“Of course I disapprove. Drinking doesn’t solve the problem; it doesn’t even make it better. No, it only masks it for a short time. I’ve seen it a thousand times before.”

“It’s the only thing which lets me sleep without the nightmares!”

“I’ve heard that one before as well, and you know as well as I do that that’s a lie. Not a single drop of alcohol will pass your lips while you’re under this roof. Understood?”

Julius scowled at his father. How the hell would he know? He wasn’t the one whose world was coming apart at the seams. He wasn’t the one who was hurting every single day.
“Julius, what happened on Seadelant to leave you so angry and despondent?”

Julius didn’t reply. He just stared into space. Oll pressed him.

“You’re going to have to tell me son, if I am to help you. I know it will hurt, but that hurt will only get worse if you keep it bottled up like that. It will get worse and worse, until all you can do is try to end it all, and that is a sin. Let it out now, just let it go.”

His father spoke the truth. The whole time he had spoken the truth, no matter how much it hurt. Julius slowly began with when the Hulk first appeared in the skies over Seadelant, and how he had signed up for the CDA. He left nothing out, he spoke of how he had unmasked Summer as a follower of the God-Emperor, how he had sworn to keep her secret. He spoke of the fall of the walls and living underground where they lived in fear of discovery and death. He spoke of how he had gotten close to Summer, and how he had finally betrayed his oaths and sundered his vows with her. As he did he looked at his father, expecting anger or disappointment, but his father’s expression didn’t change one bit, it remained kindly but piercing, his eyes the same vivid blue as Julius’s own. Julius spoke of the Daemon, of his last night with Summer, of their suicide mission to send warning to the Inner City.
Julius found the story consuming him like fire consumes paper, swallowing him up. No matter how much it hurt, he couldn’t stop now. The arrival of the Legions, the Ork assault, the Daemonic Incursion and the Brass scorpion, all of it tumbled out in a wave of emotion. Finally his voice choked up as he forced himself to confront the final chapter of the story, the Bunker. Not caring about what he had told Ahriman, he told his father of the fight, of how Summer had banished the Daemon with her faith, and how she had died in his arms. He could barely speak by the time he was done, but he had to finish, had to get the last of it out.

“My shame is complete father. God has abandoned me and rightly so. I betrayed the woman I love, and then the other woman I came to love died in my arms. After that I don’t deserve a happy ending. After that I deserve everything that has happened to me. I am a mess and I will never be free of this, I will never erase this stain on my character.”

Not a word passed Oll’s lips, not a single comment at the tale Julius had just told, and he felt his ire rising. “How did you ever survive this hell father? The whole Crusade and you never broke once. One month and I shattered like glass. Why?!” He all but spat out.

Oll fingered the onyx-and-gold Ullanor Triumph Bar he always wore, a legacy of his glorious service.

"My son, there’s a saying as old as war itself. ‘In war, there are no unwounded soldiers,’ and I am no exception. I’ve been through what you’re going through before. I’ve had shell-shock before.”

His revelation stunned Julius. “What? When?”
“It was on the planet designated seventeen-nine early in the Crusade. We were fighting heathens allied with the darker powers who had enslaved that world. There was a close friend of mine, his name was Petch. He was a Merican from Nouva Yourk, he never quit and he was almost insanely brave. He wanted to serve his term, head home and start a family. He saved my arse more times than I could count on that forsaken world. Then came the day where he shielded me from an artillery shell and was nearly torn in two. He lay there in front of me; just a torso with his legs and one of his arms gone and half his face torn off and he asked me to give him mercy. I had nightmares after that, nightmares about what I’d done. I felt guilty he had died and I had survived. I stopped praying, I felt God had abandoned me, if we weren’t in the front line continuously I would have started drinking. As it turned out I drank illegal moonshine every chance I got and hated myself for doing so.” Julius’s eyes widened.

“We had an abhuman auxiliary unit attached at the time, the Barakak third, and I ended up paired with one of their Ogryn warriors. I had one of my nightmares one night while we were on patrol, and he asked me why I was screaming. I rather nastily told him the whole thing, and he said that he’d lost his best friend as well, on the same day it turned out. Hell-Spawn killed him, burned him alive. And yet the Ogryn was not sad, did not feel crushed the way I did. When I asked him why, he said that his friend ‘was a good soldier for the Emperor, and now he's with the Emperor.’ He told me he did not weep for his friend because he was with the Emperor now. He wept for himself because he had been left behind.”
“His faith opened my eyes, made me realise what true faith looked like. His simple devotion was more real than any scripture or verse I’d ever read. After that I re-connected with my faith, went and sought counselling help to deal with my nightmares. The Campaign ended soon afterwards, and the Barakak third were sent elsewhere to help some other Imperial force. I never saw that Ogryn again, though I prayed heavily for him and have never forgotten what he did for me. I hope he survived and got to go home again.”

“Who was this Ogryn?” Julius asked.

“Gav.” Oll said softly. “His name was Gav.” Oll smiled. “I wanted to name you after him, but Julia refused. She was adamant you would be named for that atavus of hers who fought the Mad King of Tali, and no-one could ever win an argument with her. Your mother was stubborn as a mule.”

Julius held back a laugh.

“You’re not flawed for feeling the way you do Julius. We are after all only human, not demigods made flesh like the Astartes and the Primarchs, or the daughters for that matter. We can’t survive such trauma untouched. You saw death and were reminded of your own mortality, and you needed to cope with that horrific fact. What happened with you and this lady you met, it was natural. You coped with the horror of an alien invasion and the death which surrounded you by finding a little peace and warmth. She needed you, and you responded to that need. You should not be ashamed that your oaths fell by the wayside, stronger men than you or I have tried and failed to keep to their oaths in similar situations before. God had not abandoned you, He will be waiting for you when you return to Him with open arms.”
does Faith have her own story yet?
Julius still hadn’t asked the big question. “How can I face her after all this? I’m not the same person who fled Terra over four months ago. And I’ve heard the news about Lady Furia; I can’t dump my troubles on her as well. The cousin she took under her wing cuts and flees from Terra, and then her boyfriend returns a shattered wreck that happened to cheat on her despite his vows? I can’t do that to her, I can’t be that callous.”

Oll shook his head. “You owe it to her to tell her the truth, no matter the situation. Would you leave her in the lurch, wondering why you didn’t try to see her while you were here? Would you make her feel even worse, when her companion refused to even try and see her after what she’s been through? I raised you to be better than that my son. What happened with Lady Furia will be hurting her, and she’s been worried about you the entire time you were on that planet and afterwards when you refused to contact her. She spoke with me just before she went to Kourtney, asking me to contact her the moment you returned planetside. I haven’t done so yet, but I will tomorrow. Even if it is over between you two, you owe her the truth, you owe her an explanation. Would you deny her that?”
Julius shook his head slowly and took a deep breath. “You remember that old song father, about that ancient war? It had that line ‘god help me, I was only nineteen’. I understand it now. God help me, I’m only seventeen.”

Oll laughed.

“I can’t fight your battles for you son. I can get you the help you need, but you will need the will to go through this, the will to want to be cured. You can’t change the past, you can’t wish all this away, but you can leave the past behind and get on with your life. You’re only seventeen; you have a whole life yet to live. It will be hell, reliving your experiences all over again in therapy but the pain will go away. It always goes away. We can delay your intake to the IMA if necessary until you feel fit enough to go. But we will worry about all this in the morning. Now go back to bed and try and get some sleep. Remember I am always here for you, no matter what.”

Oll led Julius back to bed, and for the first time since Seadelant Julius murmured a prayer to his god. The Nightmare lurked at the fringes of his mind, but it didn’t return that night.
Julius peered up at the Primus Gate, a colossal portal as high as a Warlord Titan and clad in damascened silver and lapis lazuli. The front entrance to the Imperial Palace, the gateway to the Emperor’s continental domain. Around him thousands of petitioners and supplicants gathered before the gate, patiently waiting their turn to pass through its towering magnificence. Not all would reach the lofty heart of the palace, and Julius hoped that he would be one of those who would get to pass. A Custodian armoured in all-encasing gold plate stood at the gate checking each and every person before they could be allowed to enter, his halberd always held at the ready. He had never entered the palace by the front entrance before, but surprisingly the simple act of standing among the milling crowd and waiting for his name to be called felt almost soothing. For a moment he could forget about his hurting and focus on the task at hand.

Once inside he would head for the guest wing and seek out the Lantsfalle family. He had it on good authority that they had arrived on Terra six days before he did, and they were involved in a series of high-level meetings with senior members of the Chartists, those who had the most to lose with the appointment of the new representative. This was the only chance he would get to ensure that they knew of their daughter’s sacrifice and of how much she meant to him.

Finally his name was called, and ignoring the ripples of shock from the crowd he made his way to the gate, where his genetic markers were verified by the Unified Biometric Verification System which all Custodes possessed. Passing beneath the shadow of the Primus Gate took many hours of travel on foot, and once beyond the gate the magnificence of the palace proper began. The palace had been described as a continental landmass of unrivalled architectural brilliance, and the greatest work of man, and it was all that and much more.
Boarding one of the inner Palace monos, Julius sat down and idly peered out of the window as it set off for the guest wing. Their route took them over the Brahmaputra Plateau and the many sights which lay within, but Julius was too wrapped in his own thoughts about what he had set out to do to take much notice of his surroundings. He passed the Gallery of Winter, Upanizad’s Tomb, the Petitioner’s Hall, the Crystal Observatory and hundreds more of the wonders of the palace. He had seen most of them before; it didn’t bother him that he wouldn’t see them again. No, the only thing that mattered was his mission. As long as he had that to concentrate on, he could forget about his alcohol craving and his nightmares, forget about his uncertainty over the future, of the confrontation he knew was speeding towards him as fast as the mono he was travelling in. He shook his head, trying to shake away all those thoughts. No, he had to forget all that and do this, for Summer.

Finally after nearly two hours, a smooth voice came over the PA. “The Imperial Palace High-Security Guest Wing. Make sure all verification is in order before proceeding.” Julius checked the ident card his father had provided for him before stepping off the mono.

Straight away he could see how tight the security was around here. A phalanx of soldiers in gleaming breastplates of ivory and jade kept watch on everyone who disembarked from the mono and another Custodian stood before the entrance way glaring over the new arrivals beneath his helm’s horsehair plume.

Julius was frisked before he would be allowed past, and he could barely conceal a scowl as he made his way into the depths of the guest wing. At the end of the hallway a massive grav-lift speared up to the uppermost levels of the guest wing, where the richest and most important people in the entire Imperium stayed. The Lantsfalle’s would be up there.
Without hesitation Julius stepped into the lift and listened to the silent hiss as it began to ride the grav-field up to the roof of the world.

The corridors in the upper guest wing were panelled with off-world wood from the broadleaf forests of Yolaeu, the metallic surfaces of the ceiling edged with chased platinum and the walls inserted with smooth pict slates that displayed a rolling series of serene alien landscapes. The seats dotted here and there for weary travellers to rest in were plush amethyst velveteen. Everything screamed the absolute peak of luxury, and Julius felt like he was soiling them just by walking down them.

Finally he reached the wing where his father had informed him they would be staying. There were only a few residences here, and from what Summer had told him, they would doubtless pick the biggest.

He knew instantly when he reached the one they had chosen for their own. Maybe it was the gilded L which had been hung on the door, or the banner which hung above the door, or more likely it was the pair of bodyguard Servitors waiting outside.

For a while he just stood there, wondering what he was supposed to do. Wait for someone to show up? There was no buzzer or messaging system that he could see. The Servitors just stood there, staring blankly ahead behind black metal masks. Finally, frustrated he walked over to the door.

The instant he approached them the Servitor’s weapons snapped up and trained upon him, humming with activation. He had to say something before they shot him.

“My, uh, my name is Julius Pius, and I need to speak with Mr. and Mrs. Lantsfalle as soon as possible. It’s about their daughter, Summer.”

The Servitors didn’t move or acknowledge his words, and as several minutes passed he felt more and more foolish at speaking to the servitors, and was about to turn to go when the door hissed open.
i forgot, what do the primarchs do now?
iirc, Horus commands the military, A&O are the head of the imperial equivalent to the CIA/secret service etc, i believe Curze controls the assassinorium and either keeps Nostromo in line/ trains a Night Lord to take his place as the Night Haunter, Corax is in charge of counter terrorism, and Mortarion commands the navy
A man in an impossibly neat suit stood there, a completely blank expression on his face.

“Your biometrics verify you as the son of Ollanius Pius. Can you confirm?” his voice was utterly neutral with no accent or inflection at all.

Julius held back a rather nasty curse. Was his entire life all about whose son he was? He answered as civilly as he could, “Yes, Ollanius Pius is my father. I was recently involved in the conflict on Seadelant as well. Now can I please come in?”

“Follow me.” The man said, and he turned and went inside, Julius following at a short distance. He didn’t want to be too close to the man, there was something about him which frightened Julius.

They emerged into a vast space, an entrance hall coloured in gold, silver and purple. A staircase led off to the second level, and several doors sat recessed into the walls. Julius stood there, warily eyeing the strange man. Again they were there for several minutes; the Lantsfalle’s appeared to love torturing their guests by forcing them to wait. He wished Summer had told him more about them. He continued to stare at the man, who did not even seem to be breathing. What was he?

“One of Lukas Chrom’s automatons. With skin added, its form is utterly indistinguishable from that of a human. It was a gift after we found that STC design for him buried beneath Neiopara. A wonder is it not?”

The voice was clear and full of authority. Julius whipped around to see in a man and a woman in almost matching grey suits. He could almost immediately see the family resemblance to Summer in the woman’s blonde hair and brown eyes and the man’s round face. However neither of them had her warmth, they appeared cold as ice and aloof. They looked at him like he was an unusual type of insect, something they’d rather squish underfoot but wouldn’t…yet.
“Well met, Sieur Pius. I am Gregor Lantsfalle, and this is my wife Alezibeth.” He said, though his voice said anything but. “Now why are you here?”

Straight to business. Julius cleared his throat. “I’m here about your daughter ser.”

“We have no daughter.” They said in unison, as if they had been practising for this very occasion. Julius had expected that reply, but to hear it was still painful.

“Yes you do. Summer Lantsfalle, once heir to the Lantsfalle trade network.”

“She’s no daughter of ours, not anymore. What of her? If she thinks she can worm her way back into favour…”

“She’s dead ser. She served with me on Seadelant, and gave her life for the liberation of that world.”

If he expected a reaction, he was sorely disappointed. Their faces were as blank as their automaton. Julius stewed for a few second, before he let out, “Do you not have a heart? Your daughter is dead. Surely you should say something?”

“She’s no daughter of ours. She violated the Imperial Creed. She willingly gave up her rights to be called a Lantsfalle that day, and her death does not concern us now. If that’s all you’ve come here for, then you should go now.”

Julius was not about to leave just yet. He had expected this reaction from them, but there was one other thing. His task was not done.

“Is her brother here? I have something I need to give to him.”

“Give it to us, and we will ensure he gets it.”

Julius shook his head. “No, I wish to give it to him in person. I will not go until I see with my own two eyes that he’s received this.”

“He’s at lessons at the moment, and is not to be disturbed.”

“Not even to learn of the death of his sister? How can you be so heartless?”
“There is a difference between heartlessness and pragmatism Sieur Pius. We did not become one of the fifty richest businesses in the entire Imperium without some actions which those among you might see as unseemly. My father left me with a trade consortium that was falling to pieces, and he himself was a weak man who dragged our family name through the mud with his actions. We spent decades rebuilding and building up the family business from that, and my former daughter was willing to drag our name back into the mud with her actions on Dagonet. Surely you knew about her ‘aberration’?”

“She was a devout follower of the Lectio Divinitatus, yes I know. And why should that matter? Does it matter that I am a Catheric? Should one’s beliefs determine who they are and how they should be treated?”

“Her beliefs violate the Imperial Creed, yours do not. Do you know what happens to Emperor-worshippers when the Imperium finds them? Hulks, re-education camps, servitorising and worse. What we did was for her own good.”

“No, what you did was cut your daughter off when she needed you most. I know the rumours, that there are plenty among the aristocracy who worship the God-Emperor and use their money to hide the fact. You were never there for her, and when she finally found something which filled the void in her soul you never noticed, you threw her out, discarded her. Summer was a beautiful woman, smart, educated and strong willed. She saved my life more times than I can count, if it wasn’t for her I’d be dead by now. You never saw her the way I did, for if you had you would never have thrown her aside.”

“You are fast outstaying your welcome Sieur Pius.” Gregor Lantsfalle growled. “I would ask that you go now.”
Julius defiantly continued. “I will not go ser until you’ve heard all I have to say. Your daughter died for me. She gave her life to save me, to save that whole world from a menace you cannot imagine. I loved her ser, I loved her and I lost her, and the least I can do is ensure her last wishes are kept. My father knows people, and I will get this message to whom it belongs even if it means I have to go on my knees before the God-Emperor Himself.”

They blanched at his choice of words, and for a moment Julius wondered if they would get the automaton to forcibly drag him out. But after a few whispered words between them, Alezibeth Lantsfalle said. “Fine. Deliver your message and go. Narthan is in his room, upstairs and fifth door on the right. Make it quick.”

Julius nodded and set off as quickly as he dared. He found a boy hunched over a data-slab in the room with a teaching Servitor standing beside him, and he turned it off at the sound of someone at the door.
Narthan Lantsfalle shared his sister’s blonde hair and round face, though he was at least two years younger than Julius. His eyes widened as he recognised who was standing before him.

“You’re Julius Pius aren’t you? Your father is the greatest mortal war hero!” he said excitedly. He was closer to his sister in temperament then he was to either of his parents. There was some hope for the future of the Lantsfalle’s after all.

“Yes I am. I have some bad news for you I’m afraid, do we have somewhere private?”

“Here’s about as private as I get around here I’m afraid. The ‘tor is off though, we won’t be overheard.”
Julius sat down beside Narthan. “You remember your sister, right?”
“Summer? How could I ever forget her? Mum and dad sent her away for some reason, they never told me why. Do you have news from her?” His eager expression felt like a dagger in Julius’s heart, but at least he wasn’t the only one who still cared for her. He hated the news he was about to break to him, but he had to.

“Narthan, do you mind if I call you that?” Narthan shook his head. He could see the expression on Julius’s face. Julius struggled to hold his voice steady as he said the terrible words, “Your sister is dead. She died in my arms on Seadelant at the height of the battle. She gave her life to save me, to save the whole planet.”

Narthan‘s reaction was to stare at Julius for a few seconds, before denying it. “She can’t be dead! She swore she would come back and see me one day! She swore!”

“No one is sorrier than I am Narthan, believe me. We served together for the entire war, and I got to know your sister well during that time. She was a good person, and the Imperium is poorer for her loss.”

Narthan started softly sobbing, trying and failing to hold his composure in front of Julius, and as he did so he looked just like Summer had when she had done the same all those weeks ago. Once again Julius went over and embraced the crying party, and Narthan gladly accepted Julius’s offer of a shoulder to cry on. Julius felt tears streaking down his own cheeks which surprised him, he thought he had cried out every tear he had ever had or would ever have over Summer already.

“How did she die?” Narthan forced through the sobs.
Julius wanted to tell him the truth, but he had sworn not too, and how could he tell this boy that a Daemon had killed his sister? Julius carefully chose his next words.
i assume Lorgar is kept ignorant of how Summer defeated the daemon? if he found out...
AA, you must do this!
“She died standing firm against the foe during the last big push. She killed their leader and was felled by its last blow. If she hadn’t done that I would be dead now. If she hadn’t been there at all I probably wouldn’t be here now. Your sister was very special to me.”

“Here. Your sister wrote this before we went off on our last mission. It’s for you. And this.” He carefully pulled out the sealed letter and the medal box from his coat pocket and handed them to Narthan. He reverently took them, opened the medal box and stared at it.
“I won one as well, though I’d rather have your sister back then a billion medals. Its scant comfort, but take it anyway.” A thought came to mind. “Do you know why your sister was sent away?”

Narthan shook his head. “They wouldn’t tell me. Said it was a monstrous crime against the very tenants of the Imperium, and if they hadn’t done so she would have dragged the family name through the mud.”

“I’ll tell you, because you should know. Your sister believed in something bigger then herself, and it gave her purpose and a sense of place. There’s no easy way to put this, but she found faith in the God-Emperor and became an adherent of the Lectio Divinitatus.”

“She would never do that! She knows it’s against the Imperial Creed!” he recoiled in horror. Julius patiently waited for him to stop. “Is it any different from what I believe? Does it immediately make her into a psychopath like Keiter? No. She was a better person because of her faith; it gave her purpose and motivated all she did. She was a strong, fiery woman who was sharp as a whip and sweet as an angel. Was your sister any different when you bade her goodbye, did you think she was suddenly someone else?”

“No. No she wasn’t.” Narthan admitted. He just sat there, digesting all this information. He then changed the subject.
“My parents want me to stay on Terra for the foreseeable future; they plan to enrol me at Imperator. You went there, what’s it like?”

Julius thought for a moment. “It’s a strange place, where the past and the future meet. The best of the best studying for their futures as the next generation to run the Imperium. There’s good people and bad people there, and I was fortunate enough to know more of the former. The teachers are interesting; many are former Astartes who now help to train up the next wave. Let me give you a few hints, the History teacher is an old bore, the Warp Studies teacher can be scary but is incredibly knowledgeable and loves to teach and the less said about the Biology teacher, the better.”

Narthan smiled. Julius continued.
“It’s a big step up, but you will cherish your time there, even if there won’t be quite so many ‘interesting’ people there as there were when I went there. Study hard, find love, do all that you can while you’re there and you’ll come out a better person for it. The Lantsfalle Trade consortium will one day be yours, and I hope you run it better than your parents.”

Narthan nodded. “My sister said the same thing before she left. Thank you Julius, for letting me know. I will make her proud of me.”

Julius felt a weight on his soul lift. After a final hug, he turned and left.

“Are you done?” Gregor Lantsfalle demanded as he came down the stairs.

“Yes ser, your son’s received his sister’s last words. I hope he takes them in. by your leave, I shall go now.” As he paused at the door; he shot back, “Good luck, I think you’re going to need it. I hear the new Chartist representative is less willing to turn a blind eye to the things people like you do.”

The journey home was uneventful, but Julius had done what he had come here to do, he had lain Summer to rest.

The Nightmares still came.
Horus is still Warmaster, Vulkan works for the Munitorum as one of its higher-ups, Curze and Mortarion lead pacification and patrol forces of the Navy, A&O are intelligence bosses, Ferrus is a liason between the Skitarii and the Astartes, Lorgar is Minister of Intelligence, Fulgrim runs a charitable foundation, El'Jonson is a Financial officer, Perturabo and Guilliman administrate regions of Imperial space, Sanguinius and Magnus run the Scholastica Psykana and the Blackships and the Adeptus Astra Telepathica between them, Russ and Angron are still primarily Legion leaders so they lead pacification and reprisal forces, Dorn helps the Emperor with the day-to-day running of the Imperium, Jaghatai commands the military of the systems within ten lightyears of Terra (so, the Praetors, the Centauri cluster colonies, etc), and Corax oversees recruitment for every branch of the military except the War Psychics and Skitarii.
For a few minutes, Olivia was quiet. When she spoke again, however, her voice was softer. “Remilia, I’m sorry. I just don’t want you to be hurt again.”
“I’m not expecting to see him again, Mom, if that’s what you mean. He’s on Mars, right now, I could go see him. But I won’t. That’s what we wanted,” Remilia said, unpacking her jewelry.
“I mean…” Remilia heard her mother struggle to find words, before finally sighing. “Remilia, I just don’t understand.”
“What part?” Remilia asked.
“All of it,” Olivia said heavily, dropping onto the bed next to her daughter. Remilia looked at her in surprise. “I just don’t get it, baby.”
“Like…like cutting. Why do it at all? And why did you go straight to Magnus instead of asking me first? And why did you need to leave the house for three months? And why turn to sex with a total stranger? Isn’t that as bad as cutting?” Olivia asked, tears gathering in her eyes.
Remilia looked into her mother’s face and found her anger shrinking. “Mom, I don’t know why hurting myself felt like a good idea at the time. I can quote Magnus and half a dozen other people as to why they think people do it, but what the fuck do they know? If there were a right answer, all of them would have said the same thing.” She set her jewelry box down.
“Magnus…I didn’t go to him first. I didn’t do anything of the sort, actually,” she said. “I tried to hide it. Dad confronted me and tried to scare me into stopping,” she said with a trace of old bitterness. “When that didn’t work, I just kept hiding it until Freya figured out what had happened and outright ordered me to stop. When I realized that the others were figuring it out, I went to Miranda.”
“Because I trust her, Mom, so deeply,” Remilia said quietly. “My god, she can see into people so deeply that they literally can’t lie without her knowing…and yet she’s so sweet, so innocent, so kind…I thought if anyone could help me figure it out, it would be her. She said her father had solved problems like mine before with people, so I went to him to figure things out.”
She sat down next to her mother, pushing the suitcase aside. “Magnus said that I was hurting myself metaphysically, badly enough that my soul was in real danger. That alone would have scared me straight, I bet, but he helped me a little.”
Remilia ran her hands over each other and looked down at her scars. “He went into my mind and helped me remember all the things that had ever made me hurt myself, but all the things that I couldn’t think about when I was doing it too. Like when I won that,” she said, jerking her head at one of the many trophies and certificates on the wall over her bed.
“He also did some stuff with my spirit…I don’t even begin to understand it, but I felt better within an hour,” she said. “That stuff scares me, but it worked, whatever it was. So I got all fired up and went to confront Dad about…everything. And Dad…confessed that he was a bad father, and that he thought he was making me stronger, and all those things he said…” she trailed off, hugging her ravaged arms to her breasts as the painful memories came back. Olivia stared, saddened but unable to help.
“And when he said he was trying to make me see for myself why it wasn’t a good idea in the long run, I just lost it. I said he should have helped a little, like a father should, and I went straight to Freya.”
“Why Freya?” Olivia asked tremulously.
“Because she’s the one who figured it out on her own, but also…” Remilia sniffed through her budding smile. “Because she’s a sister to me, Mom, she’s been there whether or not I wanted her to be, every single time I was hurt or sad or lonely.” She hung her head, closing her eyes as a tear worked its way free. “Where would I be without her?” she whispered.
Olivia squeezed her daughter’s shoulder as Remilia wiped her tears away. “Well, she set me up for a few days and talked to me for a bit…and she invited me on the road trip, too,” she remembered. “And then there was a little get-together, at her place. Venus, Faith, Freya, and their boyfriends, and me. And I asked Jake, Venus’ boyfriend, to help me figure shit out. Before you ask,” she said, anticipating her mother’s question, “it’s because I…well. I sort of envied Venus her relationship with him. She used to hate going to school sometimes, you know,” Remilia said. “People made fun of her, or got scared of her, because of how she looks, and the fact that she likes to spend time alone in her basement all the time.”
“And Jake changed that somehow?” Olivia asked.
“What? No, no,” Remilia said, shaking her head. “But she started to look forward to coming to school when she met him, and they’re practically joined at the hip now. So, I asked him to give me a new perspective.” She screwed her face up. “And I came off like a complete bitch, too, but hey. He explained some stuff, and he helped me figure out why I felt like I needed to get away from home for a while.”
“And why was that?” Olivia asked.
Remilia turned to look at her. Her mother looked a lot like her, coincidentally enough. She was tall, too, only where Remilia was lanky but trim, her mother was just thin. At that moment, Olivia’s narrow face was pinched further yet, by sadness and regret that Remilia didn’t like seeing.
“Because, Mom, Dad loves me but has no clue how to show it, and you love me but you’re never home,” Remilia said simply. “And neither of you ever stopped to explain to me why Dad hurt himself too…or why he stopped.”
Olivia just stared at her daughter, before she emitted a single sob. “I’m sorry, Remilia, I was wrong,” she said, wiping her eyes.
Remilia nodded and reached out to hug her mother around the shoulders. Olivia sobbed again, holding her daughter tight. “I can’t remember the last time I actually told you I love you,” Olivia wept.
Remilia closed her eyes. Her eidetic memory could provide her with an exact answer, and it did. It had been a long time. “Well…I know it’s true, so we’ll go from there,” she mumbled.
At length, she let go of her mother and leaned back. “Can I keep going?” she asked.
“Sure, baby, go on,” Olivia said, wiping her eyes.
“Anyway…when it was time to go, I immediately looked for things to do on the ship, as you might expect,” Remilia said. She peered over at her mother. “Mom, I want you to swear something to me, okay?”
“What is it?” Olivia asked, drying her eyes on her hankie.
Remilia straightened up on the bed. “Swear to me that you won’t go after the guy I was with on the ship. I mean it.”
Olivia blinked, but she nodded. “I promise.”
“Good.” Remilia lay flat on the bed and looked up at the ceiling, where the faint outlines of little plastic stars could be seen, before she had been too ‘mature’ to want them there any longer and had had them scraped off.
Time for dinner. Critique!
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M-more. For the love God(Emperor). MORE
Much sad, many d'aawwwws.

>>faint outlines of little plastic stars
Heh. I know that feel.
Horus, Angron, Russ, A&O, Magnus, and Sanguinius don't suprise me; Dorn is doing what i thought had been Malcador's job; i don't remember who the skitarii are, so i can't say anything about Mannus; i'-expected Gulliman to be head of Ulramar; i wasn't sure what Perturabo and Khan would be doing, but i do not think those jobs fit their personalities; Fulgrim's position does not seem as high as would be expected of him; no opinion either way for Morty or the lion; not much else Lorgar and Vulkan could do, so meh; for Corax and Curze, i think my idea is more likely. what exactly does the Emprah do that's not done by someone else? is he writing a book series about the history of Terra?
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More Julius and Isis please.
He does everything else he can't delegate. He commands the Legions just like he did during the Crusade, he meets with the Senate, he appoints Rogue Traders, he directs the Officio Assassinorum now that Malcador is dying, he soul-binds psykers, he does some tech research he can't entrust to the Mechanicum, he beams the Astronomican, he meets with the (very) few aliens the Imperium allies with instead of exterminates, he appoints new Imperial Segmentum Overlords, he does all kinds of shit.

Does the Emperor know Malcador is a Perpetual, and most liklely one of his biological sons?
Whether or not Malcador is a Perpetual or even related to the Emperor is one of the things I don't really elaborate on, because A) it's not his story and B) I don't really care.

He is in Ahriman's story, I believe, but he's not in mine. Just another way the WHH stories are all sort of parallel universes, rather than existing in the same continuity.
repost? be careful you don't repost it to 1d4chan like that. also this so far is a very fitting end to the story, though i'll admit im looking forward to alex's talk
Well, I'd like to think my story exists in the same continuity.
I've gone to a lot of trouble to make sure of that.
Yep, got it.

And fear not, each of the five Road Trippers get a chance to wrap things up.

I HATE it when stories this long don't have closure.
“After we came back from Nocturne, which I’ll describe later, I decided I wanted to get to know the funny, mouth-wateringly cute bartender, Chuck, from the ship’s O-Club, and, well…that happened.” She smiled at the ceiling. “He was a balm. I don’t think I’ve ever really had a friend I could just unload on like that, not outside the family or the football team.”
Olivia winced, displaying an entirely understandable dislike of discussing her daughter’s sex life, but Remilia plowed on. “He was so adorable, too…and he was always smiling when he was around me. It was so rewarding,” she said dreamily. “Just to be acknowledged like that. He told me flat-out that I was the best thing that had happened to him since he got conscripted.”
“Well, that’s good…I guess…” Olivia said. “And…just to be sure, you were safe, weren’t you?”
“Naturally,” Remilia sighed.
“Good…” Olivia trailed off, looking away. “You were saying?”
“Well, that was it, really. He told me a lot about life as a conscript, what he was going to do after his tour…that’s it.” Remilia sat up and resumed her unpacking. “I did get these on Nocturne, though, for…oh shit!” she said, extracting the jewelry she had picked for Alpharia and Omegan. “I meant to hand these off to the Twins at the party. Damn. I’ll have to have someone send them,” she chided herself.
“On Nocturne, you say?” Olivia said. “Those are pretty.”
“Yeah, I bought them in a market in Skarokk,” Remilia said. She dropped them onto a side table for later. “Well…I guess that’s it about Chuck, really,” she said. She looked up at her mother. “Want to stay and listen to some of the other stuff that happened?”
Olivia hesitated and sat back down. “Sure, I’d love to.”
>I HATE it when stories this long don't have closure.

You're going to hate my story then...
so your not putting it on 1d4chan and your doing an ME3 on it? -.-
Been out drinking, too tired to critique. This time you will have to wait for 8 hours until you get any from me.
Alex stood at the door of his mother’s new home in the hive spire and tried to calm down.
The new place was dark. So incredibly dark, compared to the house where they had lived in the surface city. There wasn’t a sky overhead at all, either. Just a metal dome, strung with lights. Some of the individual homes backed up to the outside, so the people could look out of the hive when they wanted, but there wasn’t blue overhead any more.
He drew in a breath and slowly exhaled, steeling his nerves. “Nothing for it,” he muttered, knocking on the door.
After a moment, it creaked open. Veronica was standing there, dressed in her business clothes, seemingly no worse for wear, except for dark bags under her eyes. As soon as she saw her son, her mouth flew open. “Alex!”
“Hi, Mom,” he managed to say, before he was buried in a hug.
“Baby, welcome home!” his mother said, holding him at arm’s length after a moment. “Look at you…you turned into a man when I wasn’t looking,” she said wistfully.
Alex scoffed and casually flexed his arms. “Well, I don’t like to brag,” he said airily.
“Come on in, see the new place,” Veronica said, stepping back. Alex walked in and craned his head back. The new apartment was surprisingly roomy, moreso than their old home had been. A narrow staircase cut across from the very middle of the room to an upper level, which circled the central main room like a balcony. The whole outer wall was a window on one side, over the undulating sea of silvery hive metal. The polarized window was sealed tight against the ravaging winds over the hive skin.
There was a small, sunken conversation area in front of the window, and a little kitchenette in one corner of the large room. All in all, Alex decided, it was a pretty nice place…for a hive apartment.
“Interesting new digs,” Alex said.
“It’s pretty comfortable,” Veronica said, following her son into the conversation area. “But tell me how your trip went!”
“It was pretty wild, I gotta say,” Alex admitted, sitting in one overstuffed chair. “Traveling with three Ladies Primarch is unforgettable. Oh, before I forget,” he said, leaning forward, “what happened to my stuff in the old house?”
“It’s just in storage until you have the chance to root through it,” Veronica said. “Don’t worry. We can go get it before you move out with Freya.” She sighed impatiently. “When do I get to meet her? A Lady Primarch! I have so much to ask her!”
Alex felt relief loosen his tensed shoulders. Clearly, his and his mother’s misfortunes hadn’t dampened her spirits overmuch. “Well, actually,” he said, standing up. He turned to the door and walked over, pushing it open. “Come on in,” he said.
Freya, who had been lounging against the side of her car the entire time, waiting for Alex to decide if his mother was in any state for company at her own suggestion, straightened up and walked in. Veronica’s eyes widened at the sight, and she shot to her feet.
“Mom, this is Freya,” Alex said by means of introduction. “Freya, this is my mother, Veronica.”
Freya walked straight up to her and inclined her head. “Nice to meet you at long last, ma’am,” she said.
“An honor, your Ladyship,” Veronica said, kneeling.
“Please get up,” Freya said as Alex walked back over. As soon as she could make eye contact again, she smiled broadly, her fangs glinting in the artificial light. “It’s a bit incongruous to meet you just as I’m taking your son away for four or so years, but it’s still a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” she said happily, shaking the astonished woman’s hand.
“L-likewise, Lady Russ,” Veronica said. Whether it was surprise alone or shame from having a Primarch have to enter a hive to speak to her, Freya couldn’t tell, but her cheeks suddenly colored, and she stepped back as soon as she could withdraw her hand.
Freya had none of it. “Oh, you needn’t call me that, Veronica, titles are for strangers,” she said. “Call me Freya.”
“Freya, yes, thank you,” Veronica said. “So, er…welcome,” she said, awkwardly gesturing to the room around them as a servitor appeared at the door with the first of Alex’s belongings.
“Mom, where do I put my shit?” Alex asked, pointing at the idling servitor.
“Oh, uh, guest room upstairs for now,” Veronica said, stepping over to the servitor to direct them to the larger stairs in the back.
Freya leaned over to Alex as his mother moved out of earshot. “She seems nice,” she said quietly.
“I’m relieved. Can you stay a while to discuss the trip and where I go from here?” he asked under his breath.
“Not for too long, I have unpacking to do too,” Freya reminded him. “But yeah, I can for a while.”
“Good,” Alex whispered as his mother returned.
“Well…Alex, Freya, tell me everything, please!” Veronica said, gesturing to chairs for them both.
The two sank into a love seat as Veronica sat across from them. “Well, the ship was a bit…samey, but it’s a warship, not a cruise liner, so that’s to be expected,” Alex began.
Over the next few hours, as the servitor unloaded all of Alex’s things, Freya and Alex retold their tale, leaving out only the most salacious of details. When Alex reached his argument with his father, however, he couldn’t stop himself from clenching his hands into fists. Freya’s eyes turned down in remorse as Alex recalled his father’s ultimatum, and his passive-aggressive dismissal of Alex’s college career.
“Oh, baby,” Veronica said softly, closing her eyes and sinking back into her chair. “I’m sorry he hurt you.”
Freya leaned against his shoulder, and he looped an arm around her back, letting her presence soothe his anger. “Yeah. Yeah, I was pretty far gone,” he said quietly. “The others were great, though…I changed my college enrollment to stay with Freya until…well, until the future happens. You know.”
“Yeah.” Alex’s mother shook her head, thinking that one over. “Well…thank you, Freya, for giving Alex a place to stay and keep learning,” she said.
“It was my pleasure,” Freya said, smiling faintly.
“So…what did you do next?” Veronica asked.
Alex bit back an inappropriate smile. “Well…I just stayed in the suite for a while until I felt better, then we just went on a tour of a gallery on Skarokk…”
Finally, they reached the part where Alex and Leman Russ had come to a tentative truce. “Wow.” Veronica shook her head, looking overwhelmed. “Alex, that just…I mean, I know, intellectually, that you’ve met him before, but that still just blows my mind.”
“What?” Alex asked.
“Meeting a Lord Primarch like that…shaking his hand,” Veronica said. “I suppose going to school with his daughter must have made it seem commonplace, but still.”
Alex tilted his head to the side, looking a bit distracted. “Well…no, it’s still pretty intimidating. He’s a scary man.”
“He also tried to intimidate you directly, Alex,” Freya said drily. “He doesn’t show his teeth around the house as much as he does around you.”
“When you show me your teeth it doesn’t scare me,” Alex said.
Freya grinned coyly. “Context is important, though,” she said playfully.
Alex chuckled. His mother looked from one to the other, uncomprehending. “Aaaanyway, Mom, we came home a day or two after that,” Alex said. “The flight back was a bit rougher since the ship had been in combat, but that’s the way it goes,” he finished.
“Well, it sounds like apart from Joseph’s arrogance and your friend’s injury, it was a pretty fun trip,” Veronica said.
“It really was,” Alex said. “I just wish I hadn’t spent all of my discretionary budget before I left.”
“Have you actually tried to reach your old accounts?” Veronica asked.
“I have. Only the two that were under my name and sealed to my ID code are still active, and they’re tiny compared to the ones Dad cut off,” Alex said heavily. “Enough to finance housing for a few years, but not enough to live off of.”
“That’s too bad,” Veronica said. “Then, I guess I owe you doubly, Freya,” she said.
Freya shrugged awkwardly. “I haven’t given Alex any money, Veronica, and I’m not going to unless something even worse happens. I’m just happy to room with him. To be honest, Mom and Dad keep my own accounts on a pretty short leash, and Dad would blow a circuit if I just up and gave one to Alex.”
“I don’t mind, really, either,” Alex spoke up. “I’m just grateful for what I’m getting, and this way I can earn my degree.”
Veronica rose to her feet. “Well, baby, I’m glad you managed to have fun anyway,” she said. “Want to go get your stuff from the lock-up?”
“Let’s,” Alex said. He turned to Freya as she stood too. “Thanks for everything, Freya,” he said.
She took his hand and lifted it to her lips. “It was fun meeting your Mom. I’ll see you again in a few days, when we have to consolidate out luggage for the move, okay?”
“Sure.” Alex released her hand and drew her into a quick hug. “See you then.”
Jake’s parents’ new ride settled on the roof of their little apartment. Jake stood and breathed in the cycled air. “Home, sweet home,” he said, peering up into the endless maze of aircar lights.
“It sure is,” George said, opening the trunk. “Grab a few suitcases.”
Jake and his mother grabbed some bags and cases and followed George into the apartment. Jake paused at the threshold as he looked around. “Man, I know I should know better, but I can’t help but compare this to the hotel room in Clymene. Venus got us into the Imperial suite,” Jake said.
“Really?” Sandra asked.
“Yeah, it was bigger than the whole apartment here,” Jake said. “Here, let me take that,” he said, hefting the massive case his mother had taken.
“Say, someone’s been working out,” George said.
“Yep! Alex gave me a workout routine to do on the ship, since there was basically nothing else to do,” Jake said. “I’ve gained ten pounds since I left, all muscle.”
George nodded his approval. “Good for you,” he said. “And I understand Nocturne was Terra-plus on gravity and pressure?”
“It was,” Jake confirmed, setting a case on his bed. “First few days were hell. I just dealt with it after a while.”
Sandra opened one case to help expedite unpacking, and her eyes widened. “Jake, what in the world is this?” she asked, withdrawing the suit he had purchased on Nocturne.
“Oh, that was a present from Remilia,” Jake said. “That formal dinner I talked about, where Alex’s dad was a dick, I didn’t have anything suitable, so Remilia bought that for me. Don’t worry, I felt bad afterwards, that’s what matters, right?”
Sorry, I got sucked into the IRC.

“Jake, this is…this is a seven thousand credit suit,” Sandra said.
“And Remilia’s a generous girl,” Jake said. “She swore before we left that she’d buy all my clothes for me for the trip. The thermoreflective outfit, this, all of it.”
“I hope you thanked her,” Sandra said.
“Profusely,” Jake said. “She’s a sweet girl, though, she was happy to do it without even being asked.”
“Which one is your girlfriend? I can’t tell,” George quipped, feeling the fabric.
“The one who made me that watch,” Jake laughed. He walked out to the car and returned with yet more suitcases. “I washed most of this on the ship, so I can just put it away,” he said.
“Oh, good,” Sandra said. She closed the suitcase. “You know, Jake, your friends are really generous to you,” she said. “I’m sure you’re smart enough to thank them for everything, but does it ever feel like they’re just trying to buy favor?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Jake asked, sliding the gift card into his wallet. “Favor from who? Some hiver they went to school with?”
“Well, I just…I know that a few of the Lords Primarch set up charities or private companies or what have you after the Crusade, and some of them are basically used as tax sinks by the rich to dodge paying full taxes,” Sandra said.
Jake stared. “And you want to know…”
“If you ever get the feeling that they’re being generous to you out of pity instead of genuine friendship, yes,” Sandra said carefully. “Obviously I don’t think Venus is, but still.”
Jake sank into a chair, staring at his mother. “Wow. Holy shit, Mom, that…wow. That’s fucking mean,” Jake said, feeling anger stir in his stomach.
“Jake, don’t talk like that to me,” she said defensively.
“Do you honestly think I’m either stupid enough or pathetic enough not to tell the difference?” Jake asked, gripping the armrests of the chair. “Sure, there are Royal Family members who look down on me, but I don’t hang out with them!”
“Jake, it’s not just that,” Sandra said. George looked back and forth between his wife and son, silent. “After the Crusade ended, the Royal Family-operated charities and so forth, like Lord Primarch Fulgrim’s Foundation, they had people flock to them. Not the recipients, either, but the people who just wanted to have some of his glamor rub off on them,” she said disgustedly. “Jake, all I’m saying is that when I see you come home with these gifts, I feel like maybe they’re just giving you these things because they feel that it absolved them of some…moral problem, or something. You see it all the time in the business and political worlds.”
Jake stared at her as she finished her recitation. “Mom, do you know why Remilia gave me all that stuff? I doubt I’ve told you,” he said coldly. “She gave it to me,” he said, cutting his mother off, “because she was horribly depressed by an act of abuse in her household, and you may not, under any circumstances, repeat that,” he said, pointing at both of his parents, who recoiled, stunned. “She was broken, sad, confused, and when she asked me to help, I did. It made her feel better, and she wanted repay me. I said she didn’t have to, and she said she did, so I let her pay for something I could never have bought on my own and thanked her for it anyway,” Jake said, trying to rein in his temper. “They’re PEOPLE, Mom.”
“There are good people and bad people, Jake, and some of them are rich and some are poor,” Sandra said flatly.
“Yeah, and I don’t treat any of the Daughters interchangeably, and I certainly don’t spend time with the ones who pity or dislike me,” Jake said. “Now are you done questioning my judgment? I have a gift card to spend before we leave.”
“To where?” George asked, speaking at last.
“Remilia gave me a gift card for my birthday, for Keller’s Electronics,” Jake said, tapping his wallet. “I want to build a new gaming rig.”
“That was nice of her,” George said before Sandra could say anything.
“It was,” Jake said, putting the last cases in his room. “See you guys later,” he added, swiping the keys for the car off of the table on the way out.
Venus felt her feet leave the floor as her father swept her into a hug. “Forgedaughter, welcome home,” he murmured.
“Hello, Dad,” Venus said softly. “It’s good to be back.”
“Tell me of your venture,” Vulkan said, allowing his daughter to sink back to the ground.
“It was amazing,” Venus said excitedly. “I have all these holos and videos to show you.”
“I bet you do,” Vulkan replied, sitting in one of the reinforced chairs in the spacious living room. “Before anything, though, I want you to tell me some of the things you’ve mentioned in passing in your messages.”
Venus sat down, bursting with excitement. “Well, Captain Roemer did a commendable job adapting to our weirdness,” she began, drawing a chuckle from both parents. “He was a good host. And Isaac! I ran into Isaac while we were there, and I kicked the shit out of him,” she said proudly.
“So you mentioned,” Vulkan chuckled.
“As for the planet itself, well…it was beautiful. I had to work really hard to look like I knew what I was doing, too,” Venus said drily. “I think I came off as being as much a tourist as they did.”
“That’s to be expected, really,” Misja said. “It was your first time there, too.”
Venus pulled off the ring she had bought from the market in Hesiod and showed it to her father. “Here, check this out,” she said.
Vulkan took the ring and examined it. “Hmm. A heliotrope…one of yours? No, it isn’t, that’s not your setting…it’s passable, though.”
“I bought it in Hesiod.” Venus took the ring back. “Heliotrope is my birthstone, right? Well, I got that, and a cymophane for Jake, I used it as a clasp on a watch I made for him.”
“That was sweet of you,” Misja said. “Did he like it?”
“He loved it! And he said his paternal grandfather made watches in the seminary in his free time, so that was cool too,” Venus said happily. “And the best thing, oh man…I got to make it in the Hall of Deathfire!”
Vulkan nodded solemnly. “How was that?”
“Awe-inspiring,” Venus said. “I felt so at home, though. And the other Salamanders were very respectful, although one did get a bit nosy,” she mumbled as an aside.
One black brow peaked. “Oh?” Vulkan asked.
“Yeah, he said I would be better off with a Nocturnean partner,” Venus sniffed.
“Hmph. He should have minded his own business. Still, I’m glad you went,” Vulkan said. “Do you understand why we hold that place in such reverence?”
“Absolutely,” Venus said emphatically. “The entire place felt…what’s the word I’m looking for? Historical?”
“Atavistic?” Misja suggested.
“Purposeful, I think,” Venus said. “Like the entire experience was as much a goal as it was a means. Like going there was something I should have done whether I was actually making something or not.”
“Good answer, my daughter,” Vulkan said, smiling faintly.
Venus looked down, pleased by her father’s praise. “Well, all the cities had their cool bits,” she said. “The Hall of Initiation in Themis – I didn’t invite the others to that one, though. The Aerie in Heliosa, the Walls! Oh, the walls in Epithemus!” she exclaimed. “Magnificent! Walls a half-mile high on three sides and an open port on the fourth. We just climbed up there and watched the waves one day, it was breathtaking!”
Vulkan grinned again, sitting back in his seat. “Did you make it to Ignea?” he asked, referring to the subterranean cave networks where the Ignean nomads made their homes.
“Of course!” Venus said. “I saw all my people. Including the worst one of all,” she said darkly.
“Yes…the man who maimed Jake,” Vulkan said. He closed his brilliantly glowing eyes for a moment. “I feel I should see to that when I go home next.”
“You’re going to Nocturne?” Venus asked.
“After you leave for school,” Vulkan said. “Clearly, they need me to hold their hands while this crime wave receeds.”
“What else do you guys want to know?” Venus asked sheepishly.
Vulkan crossed his arms over his chest and sat back in his seat. “I want to hear more of what happened between Alex and his father,” he said,
“Do I have to?” Venus asked hesitantly. “That’s kind of private.”
“I understand he confronted his son at a formal banquet in your honor at the Castle in Skarokk,” Vulkan pressed.
“Dad, he’s a spoiled and self-entitled asshole who treats his son like an employee he can’t fire,” Venus said coldly. She didn’t hesitate to say it for a moment, knowing full well that even in his darkest anger, Vulkan loved her with all his heart. Her opinion was never unwelcome.
The Primarch shook his head slowly. “And Freya will try to make it better?”
“She will. She has.” Venus nodded. “She’s a sweetheart, isn’t she? She changed her college plans to help Alex get back on his feet.”
“You think they have a future together beyond college?” Misja asked.
Venus paused. “You mean marriage? I don’t know. I don’t think so. But they treat each other very well, and I think she really loves him back, so for now, I think they’re on the right course.”
Misja smiled faintly. “You know…after that message where you described your arrival in Skarrok, and then the thing with Alex, I wondered aloud if Jake was going to propose to you,” she gently teased.
Venus’ eyes widened. “You did what?”
Her mother grinned. “He didn’t, did he?” Misja asked.
Venus let her gaze drop to the heliotrope ring on her finger.
Her parents stared. “…Please tell me you’re kidding,” Misja said.
Venus grinned. “I’m just kidding. He didn’t propose. But I don’t mind saying…when I thought I lost him, and he came back unchanged…I considered it.”
“Well, don’t tell him that,” Misja said gravely. “Nothing’s more insulting than telling someone you were going to propose and then changed your mind.”
Venus thought of the words Jake had spoken to that effect on the Observation Deck of the Fang. For a moment, she considered telling her parents of Jake’s own abortive plan, and decided against it. They really were too young by Terran law, anyway.
“I don’t think he’d interpret it that way at all,” Venus said instead. “But yeah. It’s not a topic we’re going to discuss for a while.”
“Well, you’re going to be living with him for a good long while,” Misja pointed out.
Venus cracked a smile. “Suggesting I should use the time as a test bed for something more long-term?” she asked innocently.
“No, but I bet he will be,” Misja said. “I would.”
Her daughter rolled her eyes. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She stood up. “Well. Mind if I go throw myself in the pool?”
“Only if you stop by the changing room first,” Misja said.
Venus cocked her head. “Oh?”
“You’ll see,” Misja said.
Minutes later, Venus stepped into the changing room of the little sunken pool in their back yard – well behind the house and holo-shielded, so as to not be visible to passing paparazzi – and beamed at the sight of what was sitting on the bench. “Awesome!” she reached down and grabbed the little bundle of cloth off of the bench and unfolded it into a new swimsuit. “Excellent, Mom,” she said.
“Go ahead,” Misja said from the other side of the acid-scoured concrete wall.
Venus hurriedly shucked her clothes and slid on the new suit, then launched herself clean from the little structure into the pool with a massive splash. Misja skipped back from the edge as some of the water lapped out of the depression.
Venus surfaced blowing chlorinated water out of her nose. She grinned broadly up at her mother from the pool. “Hah! I haven’t gone swimming in three months!”
“Well, you can now,” Misja said, walking up to the edge of the water and crouching. “Don’t stay in too long, though, we need to unpack. Remember?”
“Right, I know,” Venus said distractedly, kicking off of the wall. “I’m just going to indulge first.”
Jake set his parent’s aircar down at the edge of the little shopping block in the residential zone of the hab, locking it up. He glanced up at the sign on the side of the structure towering overhead and beamed. Keller’s Electronics, it said, underlined with running neon lights.
“Remilia must have funded them pretty well when she bought the card,” Jake said to himself. “Time to lighten their inventory a bit.”
As he reached the broad walkway between the parking block and the stores, however, he paused. He glanced down the row to the tiny store on the corner. He ambled up to the front door and glanced through, noting the broad shelves of random crap he had himself stocked, three months before. “Why not,” he muttered. He pushed the door open and walked in.
The store’s noisy fans rattled in their plastic cages as Jake walked up to the magazine racks by the door. “Heh. I stacked some of these,” he said to himself.
“Jake!” the man behind the counter said. “Well, hello there! Back from vacation?”
Jake looked over to where the elderly proprietor was standing. “Yep. For a while. Then off to school.”
“Well, that’s good,” the old shopkeeper said. He straightened up behind the counter, nearly invisible over the racks of recycled protein candy and flavored wafers. “How was it?”
“Wonderful, except the part where I went to the hospital,” Jake said.
The old man stared. “What?”
“I got hit with a beer bottle in a bar on Nocturne,” Jake said. “Nearly put me in a box, that did.”
“Shit, Jake, that’s a damn shame,” the old man said. His crusty ID tag was so faded that Jake had to wonder why he even wore it, but it said ‘Jeff’ under many decades of stains.
“Yeah, that sucked,” Jake said. “How about you? Find a new guy?”
“I did,” Jeff said, jerking a thumb in the back. “And he didn’t run off to bone royalty, either,” he added snidely.
Jake glared at him in disgust. “Wow, dude, mind your own business.”
“I am, by the way,” Jeff said. “Think you could get her Highness to get those pushers outside to fuck off?”
Jake nearly snapped at the old man until he remembered just how much those swine had frightened them both. “If you want me to, I bet I could,” he said instead.
Jeff blinked. “Really?”
“Why not?” Jake asked.
“Well…thanks,” Jeff said.
“Yeah.” Jake turned for the door. “I’ll see you around, Jeff.”
“Yeah. Thanks for swinging by,” Jeff said, somewhat wrong-footed.
Jake emerged to glare at the back of Slide dealer on the corner before walking down to the electronics shop. “Count your blessings,” he muttered under his breath.
Freya dropped the last of her clothes onto her bed for later sorting. “Mission accomplished,” she declared.
Her mother’s scent at the door, and the faint sound of her breath, announced her company. “Freya, dearest. Have a moment?” she asked, in Juvjk. Despite never having set foot on the planet Fenris until the age of twenty eight, she had learned the language from her father and husband. Freya liked that she spoke it around the house. Certainly it had eased her own time on Fenris.
“Sure, what’s up?” she asked.
“Just checking in,” Gairwyn said. “Warp Travel’s never safe.”
Freya shrugged red locks over bare shoulders. “I’m fine. Thanks for checking, though.” She held her new gloves aloft. “Look at what Bjorn gave me!”
“I saw at the party,” Gairwyn said, sitting down on the gargantuan bed. “They’re really pretty. Doeskin?”
“Yep,” Freya said, sliding them on. “They’re a tiny bit loose, but they’re still really comfy.”
“That was nice of him.” Gairwyn smiled down at her daughter. “And I wanted to say before you vanish into the laundry room…I’m proud of you.”
“What for?” Freya asked.
“Going out to see the people on their own level,” Gairwyn said. “That was brave of you.”
Freya looked down in modesty. “It was educational, certainly,” she said.
Gairwyn leaned over and wrapped her arm around her daughter’s shoulder to pull her into a maternal hug. “And despite what your father thinks, I’m very proud of how maturely you handled Alex’s difficulty.”
Freya felt her cheeks warm a bit at her mother’s remark. “I just did what I thought would help,” she said.
“And that’s why I’m proud of you,” Gairwyn said softly, mindful of her daughter’s hypersensitive hearing. She kissed the top of Freya’s tangled red mass. “You’re growing into a responsible woman of the pack, and your father and I are both very pleased to see that.”
Freya leaned her head against her mother’s shoulder and grinned contentedly, eyes shut. “Thanks, Mom.”
Gairwyn let the moment continue for a moment before rising to lean against the dresser across from the bed. “Do you know how your classes at New Cyprine are going to work, regarding your career choice?” she asked, apropos of nothing. “Their athletic and political science departments aren’t exactly their star roles, yet that’s what you’re both interested in.”
“Yep! I’m pretty much railroaded into the first few classes,” Freya said, folding her hands in her lap. “But starting with year two, you can take any of about thirty classes in whatever order you want, then write a seventy-page paper at the end of the last year.”
“That’s intense,” Gairwyn said. “I will admit, though, Freya, that as proud of your choice as I am, I didn’t think you be the Political Science type.”
Freya rolled her eyes. “Yes, well. I’m strange like that,” she said.
Gairwyn chuckled, shaking her head. Though there wasn’t a single one of her genes on her daughter’s body, their hair was so similar one could be forgiven for thinking they were related. “Freya, you wouldn’t happen to be cruising for an easy degree, would you?”
“Seventy page graduation paper,” Freya said flatly.
Jake pushed the door of his apartment open backwards, and shuffled in, arms laden with swag. “Behold, for it is the electronics fairy, and I bear stuff,” he said.
George looked up from his holomag and blinked. “Wow.”
“Aww yeah, buildin’ me a rig,” Jake said, laboriously hauling his goods to his room to set up.
“Uh, maybe you should leave that stuff in its packing until you move, so it doesn’t break in transit,” George pointed out.
Jake looked down at the pile of hardware in his arms. “You’re ruining my entire life here, Dad,” he grumped, setting the parts down gently and wrapping them up in a blanket.
George stood and walked over to the entrance of his son’s tiny room. Jake was gingerly packing the electronics into bath towels for transport, looking longingly at them as he did. “Jake, about what your mother said before…”
Jake’s shoulders tensed, and he sighed in rising anger. “What?”
“I don’t want you to think we don’t like that you’re spending time with the Royal family,” George said.
“Okay.” Jake straightened up. “Well, Mom sure wasn’t convincing me not to.”
His father set his teeth and tried to rein in his own irritation. “Look, I don’t agree with Sandra about your friends using you as a morality pet.”
“Great, because it was really not what I wanted to hear, coming home after three months,” Jake said. “I mean, she didn’t even stop to ask me if I had fun. She just jumped straight to questioning my perception and judgment.” He glanced over at his father and narrowed his eyes. “Did you guys come to some conclusion about me and the Royal girls while I was gone?”
George hesitated. “We discussed what your college plans would mean for us, in terms of you being out of the shop. I’ll have to hire an assistant, since I was assuming that you were going to help me.”
“Sorry about that,” Jake said, packing up the last of the electronics and starting on his Nocturne purchases. “That doesn’t explain Mom’s unexpected truculence,” he noted.
“Don’t talk about your mother like that,” George warned.
“Don’t give me this ‘united front’ crap,” Jake shot back. “You know as well as I do that she was way out of line with that little accusation. What brought it on?” he asked, crossing his arms over his chest as he stood from his suitcases.
George glared at his son, but he relented. “Your mother thinks that you’re going to get so attached to the Royal Daughters that if something goes wrong between you and Venus like it did with you and Hana, you’ll be emotionally demolished by it,” he said.
“Great. And she should have said that outright instead of passive-aggressively accusing me of poor perception,” Jake said. “Where is she, anyway?”
“She’s picking up our ration card,” George said.
“Good. Did you guys add me back on for the nine days that I’ll be here?” Jake asked, abandoning his posture and rooting through his souvenirs.
“No, we left you off from the day you left to the mid-year break of your first year at Kouthry,” George said.
“Cool. Venus’ parents are loaning her a car, so we’ll be able to get around on campus if we need to,” Jake said. He dug a pair of little boxes out of the bag and held them up. “Here, this one was from Alex to me, but this one is from me to you. I said I’d get you something,” he said.
George took the proffered box and opened it. Inside was a small storage card. “What’s on it?” he asked.
“An explorable holo of Heliosa,” Jake said. “One of the Sanctuaries of Nocturne.”
“Wow. Thanks,” George said. “This will work on our ancient projector?”
“Yes.” Jake extracted the watch and set it on his bedside table, putting the chain and other accoutrements in as well. “All right. I need to do paperwork and start getting winter clothes ready to pack.”
“Did you wash your clothes before coming home?” George asked.
“On the ship, yeah.” Jake cricked his neck. “All right, I better get to it.”
That evening, Remilia packed the last of her bags into the aircar for shipping to Alanaster’s dorm. She closed the trunk as the autopilot accepted the coordinates the driver was punching in, and stepped back from the car to look at the Dorn manor one more time. “All right…this is it,” she said to herself.
Her mother stood next to the car, looking down at her daughter with worry on her face. “Now…you stay safe and write when you get there, all right?” she asked.
“Sure will,” Remilia said. The driver stepped out of the vehicle, since, at Remilia’s specific request, she would be keeping the car for a time upon arrival. As he nodded his farewells, Olivia leaned down to hug her daughter.
“I love you, Remilia,” she said quietly. “You go have fun.”
“Thanks, Mom.” Remilia hugged her back. “Say Hi to Dad when he gets back, okay?”
“I will,” Olivia promised.
“All right.” Remilia grabbed her slate from the butler. “Thanks, Warren.” She checked the charge – full. “Welp. I gotta seven hour flight ahead of me. I’ll head out now. Bye, Mom.”
Olivia waved as Remilia started the aircar and sat down behind the controls with the chair all the way back for comfort. She watched as the yellow car rose into the sky and took off into the sunset.
Remilia settled into the chair and braced herself as the car accelerated, rising to its cruising altitude. The car took off for Alanaster like a shot, as Remilia switched on her slate to watch a movie on the flight.
has the Emperor published his book series chronicling the history of Terra yet?
Within minutes, she had switched it off. As she raced over the hives of Terra, she looked down at the shimmering metal skins below, and her mind wandered.
She thought about the way she had spiraled down after Morticia had been shot. She thought about lying in bed at Freya’s, shattered, and how a stranger and a cousin – sister – had helped her out. She thought about a trip to a planet of volcanoes and dragons, and how crime could turn even the hardiest people against each other.
Remilia leaned back in her seat, staring through the skylight. She couldn’t see Mars, and couldn’t see the Iron Tide docked in orbit around it, but she could imagine it well. She thought about the grit and ash of Nocturne, and the snows of Fenris melting in her boots, and the feeling of basalt grinding in her hands.
The blond soccer player flattened her seat out and lay down, snuggled under a jacket she had draped over herself. She thought about how inspired she had been at the boys, Alex and Jake, both mere mortals, bouncing back so thoroughly from things that could have ruined them. She made a point of not thinking in what Miranda called ‘The Eternal Mindset,’ that ever-present knowledge that she and her cousins were genetically-engineered superwomen, with the kinds of lifespans and sex appeal that no mortal womb could birth. It was still there, though, at the back of every day and every thought, quiet and half-forgotten, until something brought it up.
She closed her eyes and tried to relax. She thought of Chuck Kines, and the way his professional smile of greeting gave way to a bashful but honest smile of attraction. She remembered the way he had never forgotten her favorite drink, even once, and the soft feeling of his hair against her cheek when he fell asleep on her shoulder.
Remilia smiled to herself as the lights of the day faded under cloud, then came back brighter as she flew into the sun faster than the earth could hide it. She remembered the way Chuck had looked at her arms and her pale skin and her freckles and her uneven haircut as they lay down to make love, and the way he had run his hands over her body and called her beautiful. She remembered the way she had shivered with nerves and anticipation as he replied in the affirmative to her clumsy attempts to invite him to her room, and the funny feeling of pressure in her stomach as he had appeared at her door.
She remembered the looks her cousins had given her the next morning, and the sudden fear when Haarlan had decided to interfere, and the sorrow she had suppressed when she had said goodbye for the last time.
Remilia lifted her slate to capture a picture of the hive skins for Jake, then lay back down, her mind wandering. She thought about the way it had surprised her to see her mother admit she loved her, and the way it felt to hear Miranda give her a clean bill of soul health. She reflected on how much fishing on Fenris had made her long for Inwit’s frozen oceans and twilight-shrouded hills, and the jealousy she had felt when she saw Freya reduced to tears by the strength of her feeling of belonging in the Fang.
She switched the slate off after sending her message to Jake. What, she wondered, would she have to do to make herself as comfortable at Alanaster as she had become on the trip? At Imperator, she had been one of the Royal Daughters that were least reliant on her status to get what she wanted, but would she have a chance to change that? Or even a reason?
She thought of Michael, who had just been born next to Angela. She remembered how Alex had introduced himself to Freya by noting that she had a cute butt after a wrestling match, and how Jake had been the shy kid in the corner until Hana and Farah had taken pity on him.
No, she decided, she didn’t need to change her approach. Remilia straightened up her seatback and watched as she flew into the west, over trillions of people who would never know her privilege or influence. This had to be her story, not her father’s story. Maybe there was something to his philosophy of strength through pain…but he had abandoned it for a reason. The only chance she would have to write her own story, she knew at that moment, would be to go and find out who and what she could be, on her own…and if another person became a part of that, more’s the better.
Remilia settled back into her seat and switched her slate back on. She had a seven-hour flight ahead of her. Philosophy and discovery could wait. For now, she had a season’s backlogged holos to watch.
As the final days of summer wound by, Freya and Alex reassembled their belongings for transport in Freya’s father’s truck. Alex had retrieved his belongings from his mother, but had, on reflection, decided that since the would moving in with – and staying with – Freya for so long, he would try to bring as much of it as he could to their apartment on the New Cyprine campus.
Freya herself, however, took off as soon as she could after unpacking the things she had brought home from the trip. The very next morning, she made her way to the hospital in the relatively isolated Navigator’s Quarter where her grandmother was staying. After a talk with her ailing matriarch, Freya had returned home to her own manor to collect the last few things she wanted to bring with her to the hive school.
As she carefully packed away the subdued jewelry she preferred into boxes, Freya felt the soft sounds of one of the manor serfs approaching from down the hall and straightened up to view the door. The serf walked in and bowed.
“Lady Freya, the transport vehicle is prepared,” he said.
“Thanks, Lanc,” Freya said, lifting her jewelry box. “What will you do, now that only Mom is in the house?”
“Oh, we keep busy, ma’am,” Lanc said, glancing outside. “Groundskeeping and such. And of course the house still needs maintenance, just less indoor cleaning.”
“Right.” Freya grabbed the last few items and walked out. “See you in a few months.”
“Have fun, ma’am,” the serf said.
Alex leaned against the side of the door to the Russ manor, waiting for her. Gairwyn sidled up to him as he waited, a sly little grin playing over her lips. “Now, Alex, just to be sure, you and she aren’t going to disappear into the old college trap, right?” she asked in Juvjk.
Alex blinked.
“Sorry. You and Freya aren’t going to fall into the college trap, are you?” she asked in Gothic.
“What trap might that be, Queen Russ?” Alex asked.
“I know you’re going together, which is great, but don’t think you can’t go out and meet new people too,” she said. “College is supposed to be a place where you make new friends.”
“Of course, ma’am, and I plan to.” Alex peered up at her. “Did you go to college?”
“I did, a two-year degree in Military History. But, really, it was only so that if I felt the need, I could join the Household Guard myself,” she said. “There was no chance of me going private sector once I met Leman.”
Alex nodded hesitantly. “He made his dislike of me clear on Fenris.”
“I think you don’t know how ‘dislike’ looks from my husband if you think his cold shoulder treatment was dislike,” Gairwyn said drily. “But yes, he’s made his ambivalence clear. Still, from what Freya tells me, you handled it quite well. He was impressed, I’m sure.”
“I suppose.” Alex shuffled a bit nervously under the Royal Mother’s keen eye. “Thanks, by the way.”
“For what?”
“For supporting me even as much as you have since I got back,” Alex said. “I never really felt like I had a lot to lose with Dad, but Freya…she’s been amazing to me. And your being there to help…” He grimaced. “I’m terrible at this.”
Gairwyn chuckled and shook her head. “It’s not easy for anyone to thank others for providing something they didn’t ask for. Regardless, you’re quire welcome.”
“Your daughter is a hell of a girl,” Alex said. He heard Freya’s laden steps from inside the house and straightened up. “Thanks for trusting me with her for four whole years.”
“Just keep her happy and we’re square,” Gairwyn said, stepping back to let Freya pass.
Freya dumped the rest of her things in the rear sets of the truck and spun about. “All right! We’re set to go!”
Her mother walked up to her to give her a parting hug. “All right, little pup…you go have a fantastic time, all right?” she asked in Juvjk.
“Mom! That’s what Bjorn calls me!” Freya huffed.
“Well, it works.” She held her daughter close for another moment, before gently directing her to the truck. “All right. When you’re done writing, send the truck home.”
“I will.” Freya pecked Alex on the cheek as he stepped into the truck. “Bye, Mom.”
“Goodbye, Freya,” Gairwyn said. She stepped back and shielded her eyes as the airtruck lifted and swopped off to Cypriene, and watched as the vehicle shrank into the distant sky.
Venus was hard at work in the forge at that moment. The rivulets of sweat down her bare back were testament to just how much time she had spent there that day. She was in the same outfit she had been in while in the Hall of Deathfire; a simple metalworker’s apron over shorts. The bottlecap had been stripped of its rubber component, and was melting in one tiny crucible, but she had spent the majority of her efforts that day on something else entirely. The small metal bauble that was growing on the work surfaces in front of her at that moment was the centerpiece of an anklet, the slender metal lines beside them were a pair of stands for the slate she was loaning Jake until he had saved enough to buy it from her, and the little gold coil she was making at that moment was the beginning of a tiara she didn’t plan on wearing.
Farah saw forging as a means of expressing herself, certainly, and for passing time and working with her unusual abilities, and Hana liked it for the simple pleasure of making something, but for Venus and her family, there was a spiritual element to it that she doubted anything else could replace. This was meditation, this was prayer, this was sacrifice and supplication, and she loved it.
A light from the other side of the room flickered as her father moved in front of it. He was taking the opportunity to work with his beloved daughter, though he was making a Power Glaive and she was making tiara, but the effort was well appreciated. The beaming grin on her face when he bothered to look pleased him to no end.
A shadow fell over her forge as she slid her gloves on to lift the tiny mold the anklet bauble was in, and she glanced up to see her mother walking by to deposit a small platter of cookies on the table in the middle of the massive workshop. Venus flicked sweat out of her eyes and nodded her thanks as Misja walked past.
Her mother had to raise her voice to be heard. “Are you having fun?” she asked.
“Hell yeah,” Venus said. “Can’t do this on a patrol ship.”
“Excellent. Don’t forget to snack when you get the chance, you’ve been down here a while,” Misja said.
“Yep, thanks.” Venus slid her goggles on and gingerly moved the mold, examining the cooling silver. “Damn, it’s asymmetrical,” she muttered. She grabbed one of her shaping tools and gingerly tapped at the metal, trying to reshape it.
Misja wandered over to where Vulkan was threading the power conduit down the haft of the weapon. She stood beside her husband and watched him work for a moment. “Kind of makes you proud, doesn’t it?” she asked quietly.
He flashed her a smile sidelong as he worked. “Hah. It does. I wonder if there’s a metals shop on the Kouthry campus. I’d hate to see her have to give it up for school.”
“Oh, I bet there is,” Misja said. “I just hope it isn’t for majors only.”
“Mmm.” Vulkan finished threading the cable and cinched it at one end. “What is it?”
“Are you going to leave when she does?” Misja asked.
Vulkan looked at her again, his face blank. “No. Not at first. Give it a few years. I’ll make sure she has time to be sure about Kouthry being the right call.”
“Good,” Misja said. She looked up at him, towering over her. His physique, size, and utterly alien appearance hadn’t intimidated her much when they had met, given that he had been, from nearly the word ‘hello,’ the kindest soul she had ever seen, and now she barely noticed them…but the news that the Salamanders would be amongst those Legions participating in the Solar Expansion, still formally classified, had been an unpleasant reminder of his role.
“You won’t just leave, right?” she asked softly.
Vulkan turned his eyes to her again, hurt. “Of course not.”
“Good.” She looked down at the floor for a moment. “Perhaps…perhaps Venus had the right idea. I think I may go back to Prometheus for a time. Just long enough to get the Residence ready and check in with No’dan.”
“Do you want to make the journey now?” Vulkan asked.
“No. I think I’ll wait for a while, too.” Misja gestured for his hand as he reached for the bolt cutters to slice the armored power cable at the spool. “You know…I have to wonder. Do you think Venus will ever join you and your brothers on the Expansion?”
This time, Vulkan’s gaze was one of complete denial. “Absolutely not. Misja, I am endlessly proud of her, but she is not a killer. Her hands will sculpt wonders and guide the people, not soak with blood.”
“Is that your will, or hers?”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said coldly. “She will be a princess and a mother, I hope, but never…EVER a warrior. I have not fought for so long, watched so many brothers die, so that innocent souls like hers could be drawn into the fires of war. I fought to prevent that,” he said, squeezing the haft of the glaive.
“You fought so that people would not fight…or would have the option not to fight?” Misja asked. “They’re not the same.”
Vulkan’s massive shoulders bunched as he fought his impatience down. She was right. “No. No, they aren’t,” he said. “But it would horrify me. It would sadden me. And even if she didn’t care about those things…I think she loves the civilian life too much to risk it in war. I don’t have that luxury.” He turned to regard his wife, his stance softening. “I’m glad she does.”
Misja remained silent for a few more seconds, until Vulkan turned back to his weaponsmithing again. “I suppose.” She looked over to where their daughter was still working. “I think she’d take to it.”
“Naturally. Like she and the other Progenitors take to all tasks, given time.” Vulkan grabbed a pair of wire cappers and gingerly snipped one errant feed cable. “Have you asked her to give her own opinion?”
“No.” Misja looked over the weapon her husband was crafting. “What are you even making, here?”
“Just something I wish to present one of my battle-brothers from the Liberation of Seadelant task force who distinguished himself,” Vulkan said. “Polearm users are rare in the Assault ranks, but he’s gifted.”
“Mmm. Well, don’t go hungry,” she said, gesturing to the food she had brought down.
Vulkan smiled as he hefted the unfinished weapon and balanced it on one finger. “You take good care of me, Misja.”
“Oh, I know,” Misja said drily. She walked back to where Venus was now setting the tiara aside to cool.
“I don’t plan on joining the military at all, Mom, fear not,” Venus said without preamble, crouching to stare at the tiara at eye level on her work station. “Blasted gem settings are so damn fragile…”
Misja closed her eyes for a moment, chastising herself for forgetting her daughter’s highly refined hearing. “Okay, good.” She placed her hands on her daughter’s bare shoulders as Venus rose to fix the tiara. “Venus, sweetheart…I just can’t stomach the thought of losing you to the Emperor’s wars. It’s hard enough knowing what Vulkan’s gone through.”
Venus relaxed and let her eyes slip shut as she felt the cool weights of her mother’s hands. “I know, Mom. Believe me, I know. I may be able to put on the uniform and fire off a few rounds at the range, but I’m not a warrior.” She reached up with one un-gloved hand to rest it over her mother’s. “I like being able to choose.”
“All right.” Misja let go and stepped back. “What are you working on?”
“Just some stuff for Remilia and a thing for Jake’s slate that I loaned him,” Venus said. “The crown’s just for kicks.”
“Why don’t you ever wear a bra when you’re working down here?” Misja asked, glancing at her daughter’s scarred back. Aside from the ties at her neck and waist, there was nothing obscuring the view.
“Flammable underwear is never a good idea around an exposed element,” Venus chuckled. “I’ve got something on under the boots and shorts, rest assured.”
Misja rolled her eyes as her daughter heated the crown back up. “Good to know.” She stepped back as Venus got back to work, and snagged a cookie for herself as she walked back to the stairs.
Several hundred meters below, and nearly five klicks south, Jake brushed his hands as he rose. “Moment of truth,” he muttered, sliding the power switch on his old computer on.
It started up with the quiet hum of electronics turning over, and a muted buzz of fans.
“Superb,” he chuckled proudly. His old computer now contained a new, massive hard drive, and his old drives were tucked away for transport to college. “Now I can use this as a server when I’m home,” he said.
“Did you blow it up?” his father asked from the door.
“Not yet,” Jake replied idly, turning the computer back off. “Hey, check this out,” he said.
George appeared at the door. “What?”
Jake gestured to a custom case mod he had installed earlier that day. A small metal switch, with a safety cover over it, now decorated the top of the black box. “What is that?” George asked.
“Watch,” Jake said, flipping the cover off. He flicked the metal switch, and an audible *clank* resulted.
George blinked. “I think you just launched all the missiles.”
“No, it’s an emergency hard drive formatter,” Jake said. “Hit it while the computer’s on and it blanks the drive, flushes the memory, and resets the BIOs to factory.”
“Uh.” George looked at it askance. “And…what happens when someone just flicks it idly?”
“Nothing, since the cover is biometrically linked to me,” Jake said slyly. “Remilia gave me a lot.”
George raised an eyebrow. “How much, exactly?”
“Enough that I could build two or three more computers’ worth of parts like the ones I brought home, switch included,” Jake said.
i wonder if they would be mandatory reading for history classes on Terra
George shook his head. “She’s a generous girl.” He shut the door and sat on the tiny bed as Jake assembled his machine on the floor. “You understand that they’re going to work your ass off at Kouthry, I’m sure,” he said.
Jake suppressed a sigh. “Sure. I can handle it. I doubt Vulkan would have made it conditional if he thought I couldn’t.”
“Right.” George hesitated for a moment before waving it away. “Right, of course, sorry.”
Jake set his old computer on its table and booted it as soon as it was plugged in. “You want my old power strip? I bought a better one for myself.”
“Absolutely, we can always use more at the shop,” George said. “You know, Jake, I gotta admit, you sure got used to having met Vulkan quick.”
“I lucked out,” Jake remarked, rooting around under his desk for the power strip. “Vulkan’s probably the nicest one to mortals. Can’t imagine dating Kelly or Morticia. Nice girls, if distant…but man. The Night Haunter and the Reaper.”
George flinched. “Yeah.” His son rose and started coiling the power cable around the strip, dusting it off with his hands. “Well, I guess I still can’t quite get used to it,” he said. “I mean, I grew up during the end of the Crusade. Day in and day out, we would get word of how the Primarchs and their Legions were ‘over there,’ were cleaning house at the edge of the Compliance zones, all of it.”
He leaned back against the bare wall and remembered. “You’d think you would get used to it, but the old-timers, my grandparents and co-workers, they were so excited over it. Apparently the whole galaxy was getting tense and anticipatory, the Crusade was going to end within their lifetimes.”
“Yeah?” Jake looked back at his father as he groped about in the pile of packing material for a twist-tie. “What was it like?”
“Scary. Nobody knew what would come next,” George said. “We all wondered if the Legions were going to be forced into peacekeeping duty, you know. That intimidated some people.”
“I can only imagine,” Jake said, tying up the cord.
“Don’t. We didn’t like it.” George shook his head. “When the Primarchs came home…started families, like your mother and I were doing…we wondered what they would even be doing.”
“I bet the image of nineteen strategically adorable, squealing babies probably kicked off a baby boom like nothing the galaxy had seen,” Jake said drily.
“Oh my goodness, you have no idea,” George chuckled. “Half of the Terran Praetors coming home at the same time didn’t help things. Hell, we probably wouldn’t have rationing as harsh as we do if the planet’s population hadn’t gone up by a full third in the span of ten years.”
“That much? Yikes,” Jake said.
“Yeah, it was quite a thing,” George said. “Well. You grasp the concept, I think.”
Jake shrugged. “I think so.” He dropped the power strip in his father’s lap and sat in his computer chair, swiveling it to face his dad from across the tiny room. “So, what brought this on?” he asked.
“Well, it’s just that I don’t quite know how to react,” George admitted. “The Primarchs were always, even during the Crusade, supposed to be the epitomes of humanity and accomplishment.”
“Dad, Vulkan can intimidate the hell out of me,” Jake said. “Don’t think I don’t respect him or anything. It’s just that he’s a deeply humanist guy, too, and he finds worship and fear distasteful. Really.”
George nodded, accepting his son’s wisdom. “Now…I suppose I have to give you the birds and bees talk,” he said heavily, hiding a smirk with serious effort.
Jake rolled his eyes. “Let me save you the trouble. Venus isn’t baseline. I physically can’t get her pregnant.”
George stared. “She isn’t.”
“Nope. Which has its upsides, of course, but still,” Jake said. “We’re good.”
His father turned that over in his mind for a moment. “Well. That’s a shame, really.”
“Yeah, but she says there’s ‘options.’ She also gave that to me in confidence, so lips sealed, m’kay?” Jake said pointedly.
“Sure,” George said. He rose to his feet and opened the door. “All right, I’ll let you pack.”
The day before the final pair of travelers departed, Jake flew up to Venus’ house for a final exchange of things to be packed, and to pick up his new slate legs. Breezing past the single, token Treasury guard, Jake walked into the house, glancing about for anyone.
“Oh, hello,” Misja said from the far side of the huge sitting room. She rose from her seat and walked over as Jake closed the door. “Venus is in her room, packing up stuff.”
“Great, thanks,” Jake said, making for the stairs.
As he poked his head into her room, he spotted her lying on the bed, staring at the holo over her head. “Hey, baby,” Jake said.
The door lit as she looked over. “Hey, Jake, come on in,” she said.
Jake shut the door and walked over to the bed, kicking off his shoes and flopping down next to her. “How are you?” he asked her.
By way of response, she held out one arm, and he rested his head on her shoulder, joining her in watching the holo overhead.
“Where are the Cities?” Jake asked.
Venus’ arm rose from the far side of her head and pointed at a nearly invisible silver dot on the black ash wastes. “There’s Heliosa. There’s Clymene…and in the ocean there is Aethonion.”
Jake gripped her other hand and clasped it to his side. “Hard to believe we were actually there.”
“It is,” Venus chuckled. “I’ve been staring at it for so long, then I was there.”
“We’re lucky the deserts were so dark, or I could have burned my eyes out on the glare,” Jake said ruefully.
Venus narrowed her own eyes to slits and smiled, letting her hand fall onto her bare stomach. Her halter top was decorated with a new necklace, Jake noted.
“Like it?” she asked, spotting his gaze. She lifted the little pendant to reveal the tiny silver bauble she had created a few days before. “I’ve been spending six or seven hours at the forge ever day since I got back.”
Jake leaned closer and looked at the tiny spiral pattern in the middle, as if it had been made by filling a seashell with silver. “Cool.” He sniffed the air from an inch above her. She smelled like flowers, at that moment. “You don’t smell like you’ve been at the forge,” he observed.
She rolled her brilliant eyes and let the pendant fall back to her breast. “What am soap?” she drawled.
Jake leaned back, smirking. “Is that new too?” he asked, pointing at the tiara on the nightstand.
“Oh, yeah,” she said, flopping over and crawling to the stand to grab up the circlet. “Check this,” she said, setting it on her head. The single tiny diamond she had set in the middle was from the small supply her father maintained for just that purpose.
Jake rose to his knees and looked at her. She settled against the headboard and drew her knees up to her chest, gazing over her legs. “Do you like it?”
He felt a slow smile spread across his face. The shimmering light from her eyes brightened as he leaned forward and lifted the gold circlet from her hair, setting it aside as he leaned in to kiss her. “It’s beautiful,” he said quietly, running a hand across her cheek and leaning in for another, slower kiss.
When he finally pulled back, she was grinning a bit. “You didn’t even look at the tiara, did you?” she asked.
Jake blinked. “Tiara?”
Venus sighed and took the pendant off. “Boys.”
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>She's not being lusted after by her own cousins.
Why am I even reading this, then?
On the morning of moving day, Jake packed up the last of his things, and tucked them into the back of his parent’s car for the trip to the manor.
Sandra and George rode with him to bring the car home. They were quiet on the way, for the most part, with only the occasional bout of actual talking. Once they were nearly there, however, Sandra turned to her son, who was practically bouncing in his seat. “Jake, honey, calm down.”
“Sorry, I’m just so fired up!” Jake exclaimed. “Kouthry! This is awesome!”
“As staff, yes.” Sandra looked up at the looming buildings all around her. “I really hope you enjoy working there.”
“I hope so too,” Jake said eagerly. The car slid to a halt outside the Vulkan estate, and nearly ran up the steps. Venus met him at the top of the flight, her arms already laden with stuff.
“Hey, baby, just drop your stuff in the back of the truck,” she grunted, lifting a massive container of clothes into the back of an airtruck.
“Sure,” Jake said, carrying a bag over. Sandra and George emerged from the car with bags of toiletries and other detritus, as Venus walked back for another armful of junk.
“Venus, do you need any help?” George asked.
She shook her head, scattering black hair everywhere. “No, thanks, Sieur Seager,” she said.
Vulkan himself emerged with a computer chair in one hand. “All right, that’s it,” he said.
“Excellent,” Venus said, checking her watch. “We are way ahead of schedule.”
“It’s a four-hour flight,” Jake reminded her.
“A pittance,” Venus scoffed, “with ten unwatched LaffTrax movies on my slate.”
Jake laughed. “Outstanding,” he said.
Vulkan held the side panel of the airtruck open as Geroge deposited Jake’s own computer chair. George raised an eyebrow upon observing just how little was in there.
“How…restrained, Venus,” he said.
Venus peeked into the truck. “Heh. I don’t want to drag along a ton of shit I don’t need,” she said. “I can always send home for stuff if I really want it.”
George nodded as Jake started depositing his computer components with the greatest of care. As he stepped back to give Jake some room, he caught Vulkan’s attention and looked meaningfully at the door to the house.
Intrigued, Vulkan followed George into the manor, and crossed his arms as George nervously licked his lips. “Vulkan, sir, I want to thank you for giving my son this opportunity,” he started. “He’s over the moon.”
Vulkan half-smiled. “A good choice of words.”
“‘Opportunity,’ you said,” Vulkan observed. “George, I like your son and Venus likes your son, but I wouldn’t have helped them out if this was all there was to it,” he said. “I think your son is a brilliant young man, denied a chance for greatness by poverty, and there’s no waste like wasted potential.” He slid his hands into his pockets and watched the much shorter man with a critical eye. “May I ask why you – and subsequently, he – didn’t enter the Mechanicum?”
George bristled as his line of profuse thanks became a line of uncomfortable questions, but he answered. “I find the mandatory augmentations of the Mechanicum disgusting.”
“The augs themselves, or the fact that they’re mandatory?” Vulkan asked mildly.
Vulkan sighed lightly. That hadn’t been the answer he wanted. Despite that, he inclined his head with a gracious nod. “All right. Then you’re most welcome, George, and congratulations. I know how momentous it can feel to send them off, now,” he chuckled. “It’s unforgettable, isn’t it?”
“Unforgettable and slightly depressing,” George sighed. “I remember being his age. I miss the Seminary’s environment of learning and exploration.”
“I attended Kouthry myself, incognito and online, for the most part,” Vulkan remembered. “The look on the Dean’s face when I showed up to receive my degree in person was the funniest thing I had seen in years,” he laughed.
George cracked a smile. “I imagine.”
Vulkan opened the door back up. “Now, go say farewell to your son as I do the same for my daughter, eh?”
Outside, Misja was tearfully hugging her daughter farewell. “Mom, I’ll be calling home tonight,” Venus managed.
“I know, I know,” Misja said sadly, squeezing her daughter’s shoulders once more. “It’ll be really late, though, so just turn in early and be sure to get up in time for the convocation address!”
“Mom, the convocation is three DAYS from now!” Venus said exasperatedly. “Really, move-in today, a day of Orientation, day of Faculty meetings, then the Convocation day, then the weekend before classes is more Orientation, then classes start. I’m fine.”
Sandra pecked her son on the cheek as he sat down in the truck. “You stay safe out there, Jake. Don’t feel pressured to take a high classload,” she advised. “You’ve got time.”
Jake grinned with anticipation. “I know. I’m looking forward to it.”
George shook his son’s hand as he walked back up to him. “You have fun at Kouthry, Jake,” he said.
“I will, count on it,” Jake said.
Venus climbed into the driver’s seat and began the autopilot’s sequence. “All right…bye Mom, Dad!” she said happily, as the gravlift engine lifted the truck off the ground.
“See you at semester break,” Vulkan said, waving as they lifted.
Venus leaned back in the driver’s seat, eyeing the autopiloted car of hers which was following behind in their wake. “It took off fine,” she said.
“Cool.” Jake leaned his seat back and settled down on the padded cushion. “I wonder when I start,” he said idly.
“Chat with your new supervisor,” Venus suggested.
“Yeah. Think he knows Vulkan got me the job?” Jake asked.
“Probably,” Venus said wryly. “The smartest thing you could do is just build your class schedule around your works hours and then kiss up to your boss for optimal shifts.”
Jake snorted. “How cynical.” He crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back in the bucket seat, eyes half-shut. “You know…I didn’t tell my parents about our mutual realization.”
“On the Observation Deck of the Fang,” he reminded her.
Venus half-smiled, crossing her arms over her stomach. “I implied it to my parents when they specifically said they were wondering if you were going to propose.”
“Mmm.” Jake sighed at the ceiling of the airtruck. “I don’t think they’d trust me to make that kind of commitment. My mother actually had the stones to ask me if I ever felt you and your cousins were being nice to me because they thought it made them better people, or absolved them of moral burdens, or some shit.”
Venus shrugged uncomfortably. “What did you say?”
“I said ‘of course not,’” Jake said. “But the fact that she even asked…I mean, the context was Remilia giving me all those clothes and gifts and stuff.”
“Well, I guess to someone who doesn’t know just how grateful to you she was, I suppose that could look like graft or condescension,” Venus said. “But do you think it was?”
“Of course not, my mother’s just stubborn,” Jake said, waving his hand.
Venus twisted in her seat to look her boyfriend over. He was idly rubbing one finger across his chin, thinking. “So…do you think we should talk more about this?”
“About what?” he asked.
“About getting married.”
Jake’s stomach tightened up a bit. “Well…honestly, no,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong…I think we should, someday…but hell, I bet every seventeen-year-old thinks that at some point. And what’s the odds? Something like seventy-five percent of high school marriages end in divorce?”
“So you think we should wait?” Venus asked. “But not rule it out?”
Jake smiled ruefully. “I actually considered buying a ring with the money Remilia gave me, on Nocturne, but then I remembered. You’re a jeweler. You’d make a ring nicer than anything I could buy.”
Venus shook her head. “You’re incorrigible.”
“I have my moments.” Jake reached over and caressed her hand. “But if you want to think about something longer-term…”
She caught his hand in hers. “Mom specifically asked me if we were going to be using this as a test bed for something more permanent.”
“Well, of course we are,” Jake said. “We’re living together.”
“Yeah, but –”
“Also, ‘test bed’ sounds like a great idea,” Jake mused.
Venus sighed through her grin. “Jake, baby, come on.”
“Sure,” he said, pulling his hand back. “So…where are we going with this?”
Venus shrugged against her seat. “Who knows? I don’t.”
“Well,” Jake said, pushing his seat back as far as it went, “as long as the air conditioner in our room lets us do the ‘fire in the freezer’ thing, I’m good for now,” he said innocently.
Venus laughed, slapping her hand over her mouth. “Is that what we’re calling it?”
“If you have a better idea,” Jake said, sounding so very hurt.
“Nope, I like it,” she admitted.
He grinned happily as she fought down her giggles. She was beautiful. She was funny. She was, as far as he could tell, the ideal woman for him. And for the next four years, they’d bea growing and learning together.
Jake leaned sideways to stare out the window at the hundreds of tiny fluctuation in the surface of the hive skin below. Life, he decided, was good for him, right then, and he was looking forward to it.
Venus stood up in the cab to grab her slate from its bag on the floor of the truck behind her. She started it up and paged through it to the movies directory, and sat down to watch one. As she did, she glanced over at where Jake was looking out the window, and smiled to herself. Kouthry would be demanding, she hoped, and she had no idea how her relationship with Jake was going to end, but she knew it would be fun finding out.
The truck and the pilotless car behind it sailed over the hives towards the school, unmarked and unremarkable. Inside, two seventeen-year-olds thought about the future, about school and love, and about how life was better for the other’s presence. The truck and car soared east, to where their desires had drawn them, and to lives they could enjoy together.

The End.
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Thank you.
>499 pages
Someone Else has gone to bed. It's 3am for him.

200,000 words, he is mad. But he is the greatest, and I am proud and honoured he let me write in the setting he almost single-handedly made.

Feedback for him, and lots of it. He deserves it after all that. And a Drawfag, he wants that picture of the three girls and Jake on the bed watching shitty movies. Someone give it to him.
What is this counting, exactly? Just your posts, or whole threads? Either way, that's pretty crazy.

Road Trip. The whole story, end to end, all eight threads. All I have is the 90,000 words of Trip into Hell. SE outproduces all the rest of us put together.
is this the end? or will you guys write a fourth book in the whh continuity? also, AA, was that the end of trip into hell?

There may well be a sequel to Road Trip, however Emprasque will come first.

And as for Trip into Hell, I seriously thought I'd never finish it, but SE in between finishing Road Trip was helping me write a proper end to Trip Into Hell, which starts now.
This was it. The moment Julius had dreaded ever since he had returned to Terra, the moment he knew he would have to face from the very moment his vows were sundered. The arrangements had been made by his father, and the final piece of the puzzle was falling into place. It was a Friday; she had the day off anyway for study and had flown out from Kourtney to see him. He had let her choose the meeting place, and she had chosen one of the gardens in Startseite Public Park, out of the way, a place where no-one would overhear them talking.

As he made his way down to the park, he regretted the half-bottle of amasec he had sculled just before leaving in a fit of nerves. He knew his father would be enraged, but not a drop of it had passed his lips while inside the hab, he’s drunk it outside. Still, his head was swimming and he could almost see the fumes on his breath.

The park was almost deserted, a few scattered people dotted here and there, but nothing like the usual bustling crowds which converged on it when the weather was good. Anything was preferable to thinking about what was about to happen, what he was about to tell her.

He turned a corner and there she was, resting on the same park bench in front of the war memorial where he had sat with Andrew over a year ago when they had gone on that double-date with Isis and Hana. She hadn’t changed a bit. She turned to see his hesitant approach, smiled brightly, and got up to greet him.
The moment he saw her, a flood of memories assailed his mind. Shining memories of all the good times they had together, swiftly followed by darker ones of the Petitioner’s City and how his weakness had nearly killed her. And then Summer, the woman who he had broken his vows with, the woman he had come to love, the woman who had died to save him. In the face of all this, he was surprised he didn’t just give out there and then.

“Hey,” was all he could force out. Even his voice sounded weak, worn out.

“Julius! It’s so good to see you!” She exclaimed as she hurried over, arms out. Julius knew she wanted to hug him, but he recoiled from that.

“Don’t touch me!” He said, too harshly as it turned out. How could he let her touch him, now that he had ruined himself?

Isis took a step back, her smile turning to an expression of concern.

“Is everything alright?”

‘No Isis, I cheated on you and fucked someone else who ended up dying in my arms at the hands of a fucking Daemon.’ That thought immediately sprang to mind, but he just gave a hollow nod.
She took him over to the bench and he just sat there in dead silence for a few seconds, staring at the words carved into the monument.

‘In remembrance of all who in the service of the Emperor and in defence of Humanity gave their lives for the dream of the future. We will remember them.’ Julius had read those words countless times, but he had never truly understood them until now. Summer had died so that Seadelant and its inhabitants would live on, so that he would live on. Lost in his thoughts he almost forgot Isis was sitting beside him, but when he heard her shift her weight on the seat he was snapped back to reality.

“How’s Kourtney?” He finally asked, trying to be conversational and break the void. He let Isis speak about her early experiences for several minutes, blankly taking in her talk of lectures, tutorials and readings. He wished he could show more interest in what she was saying, that he could appreciate her excitement at the opportunities she was taking, but all it did was feel like it was reinforcing the different directions they appeared to be taking. She was moving forward, but now he was stuck in the past and unable to move on from his war experience.

He noticed she had stopped talking, and he scrambled for something else to mention.

“Look, I’m very sorry about Furia. I honestly thought that she was getting better, and to hear that she cut and run must be hard for you. You invested a lot of time helping her after she began taking those pills.”
Yep, I can relate to parents always going for and fussing over the irrelevant. Who can't really?
>“I can’t remember the last time I actually told you I love you,”
Right in the feels... I've heard it so seldomly that I don't believe my mother anymore when she tells me she does.
Isis nodded, regret spilling over her face. “I honestly thought she had turned over a new leaf, she had left her violent side behind forever. But no, she couldn’t change her spots after all.”

Even now in the depths of his funk hole, his ‘sight’ still picked up something. The set of her head, the position of her feet. Isis was hiding something, something to do with Furia’s disappearance. Once Julius would have tried probing deeper, but now all he could do was file that nugget away for later, if there would be a later.

Isis then turned to him. “And what about you? You haven’t said more than a few words. You were in a war Julius. Has your father talked to you about what happens when you come home from that?”

“My father has said a thing or two yes, but I’m fine. I survived it didn’t I? Plenty of others didn’t. Plenty of people died…” Julius stopped as he saw Isis staring at him.

“Is that alcohol on your breath?” her disapproving tone and the visible disgust on her face reinforced Julius’s shame at how far he’d fallen.

“Yes. What does it matter?”

“The Julius I know would never drink.”

“The Julius you knew died on Seadelant.” He said bluntly.

The air between them was laden with Julius' building shame. Isis didn't feel the need to speak up. “The Julius I knew was a man of honour, someone who wasn't afraid of commitment, in either sense of the term. More than that, he kept his promises.” She narrowed her eyes as his lips twisted in bitter regret. “Are you carrying out a promise by talking to me about this?”
Summer. Her words as she died, ‘Tell Isis about me, she deserves to know’, echoed through his mind. “Yes.” He finally admitted. “I swore to someone that I would tell you everything, though I don’t want to. Hell is real Isis, I went there. A Trip into Hell.”

There was no avoiding or denying it now. He started at the beginning, the same place he had started two nights ago when he had told his father. But this wasn’t his father. This was Isis Lupercal, the first daughter of the first son, the prime one of the royal daughters, the apple of her father’s eye. His father understood what he had gone through, he had been there himself. Isis could never understand the same way his father did.

He stumbled over several facts, the memories harsh and grating. The first time he saw a dead man, the first time he’d killed an Ork, hiding from the Grots in the sewers beneath Port Huron, each and every one agonising, torturous. It was pure hell, second by second, minute by minute as he relived his experiences before her, the blood, the screams, the death. Isis stayed largely silent, with only some small questions for specific details.

He left nothing out, every little thing he told her no matter how hard. He wondered how long it would take for her to find his greatest failure, how long before she connected the dots regarding Summer Lantsfalle.

Finally he reached his greatest shame, and though he stumbled time and time again he forced himself to tell all, to tell how Julius Pius had ended up sleeping with Summer Lantsfalle. He couldn’t look at Isis as he said these things; but he knew he had betrayed her, spat on the oaths he had sworn, and she had every right to hate him.
He half expected her to react, but nothing. She let him continue without comment, talk about the Daemon and their last ditch effort to get warning of the Daemon to Ahriman. The Liberation Fleet, the Ork assault, the Daemonic Incursion and killing the Brass Scorpion, all tumbled from his lips. He felt like he was bleeding, he was hurting all over and the only thing keeping him from shattering like glass was the knowledge that it all had to come out, every last bit of it.

The final part, the worst part, the part which he knew best, because it had never left him, it haunted him day and night. He had sworn never to tell a living soul about what Summer had done, and he had even lied about it to his father, but not to her. Never to her.
That hell-space, the Daemon's infernal power, his helplessness as it tried to kill him, Summer standing there, Aquilia in hand as her faith met the Daemon head on. The white light which tore the Daemon apart, the last ball of pink fire, the agony of watching her fall. His desperate words and her soft-spoken ones, her last words as soft as silk, her fire going out.

Julius could barely continue after that, he had no idea how he had ever got that far, but finally he spoke of Calth and the journey home, of his nightmares and how he had turned to the drink to try and keep them at bay. His story concluded with his coming home, and completing his mission to ensure Summer’s last words got to her brother.

He was done, and he fell apart as thoroughly as a house of cards. He couldn’t see her anymore, he couldn’t see anything though the veil covering his eyes. But he had one more thing he had to say.
"Icy.” He began, using the nickname Furia used for her. “I’m broken, and I don’t know if I can be fixed. I can’t sleep, every night it’s replayed in my mind. The howl of the Daemon, the sound of Ahriman fighting it, the sight of her standing before it with only her faith as a weapon, the sight of her falling, falling. I can still feel her body as it dies in my arms; still hear her last words to me. She haunts me Isis, she’s like a ghost. I will never be free of her.”

The void reached for him, threatened to drag him back into its dark embrace. He wanted nothing more than to go back there and never come out.

“I told you this once before, and I’m telling you again. Forget about me, find someone who will always be true to you and who isn’t a fucking headcase. There should be someone at Kourtney for you, someone who doesn’t hold to silly superstitions like mine, and who isn’t a shell-shocked loon fit for the asylum. And even if you took pity on me and we stayed together, what kind of future could I give you? I’ve seen so much death; I know how suddenly it can happen. As a soldier I’d be guaranteeing you nothing but pain and misery. Andrew wants to be a warrant officer, so Hana won’t have to worry about him getting his face shot off in a firefight on some nameless world. That’s exactly what I’d be condemning you to if we stay together. I know you must hate me for what I’ve done to you, but I hate myself more than you ever could. I will never be free of this; I will be hounded to my grave by what I have done. Now leave me. Just go, just bloody go!” his voice fell apart with his last words.

He bowed his head, closed his eyes and hoped that when he opened them again she would be gone, never to return. He felt drained and scared after all that; he had no idea what to do next. He couldn’t hear anything over the pounding in his head, and the howl of the dark void which still hungered for him.
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I'm tired and washed out. I need to sleep. If the thread survives until tomorrow, I'll write up and post the real end, if not then consider this the end.

Trip into Hell was always the Grimdark counter to Road Trip. In Road Trip, the teens returned to Terra happy despite the trials and tribulations they experienced along the way. In Trip into Hell, the main character returned a PTSD afflicted Alcoholic. Just as Planned.

Pic is my first ever piece of drawfaggotry inspired by my writing (Though I'd like to think Julius sounded like this http://nooooooooooooooo.com/) I hope I get another at some point, something with Julius and Isis. Motivation to finish this story off.

This is AA, signing off for the night.
God, what an insufferable angsty teen protagonist.
thread survives till tomorow? challenge accepted

Which story are you talking about?

Also a Kakapo is now humping your head.
I got no critique to add at this point, but I just wanted you to know that I enjoy it.
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>Freya being cute
Aaw :3
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>“Aww yeah, buildin’ me a rig,”
Remilia really has had a lot happen to her.
wow you saved that pic. sorry for the crappy quality. ill draw sumfin after i eat
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>a simple metalworker’s apron over shorts
>Vulkan being a good father
Color me jelly, wished I had a dad who cared.
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It's over...
It is finally, sadly over...

Thank you Someone else, it has been a great ride! All the ups and downs, all the reletable things that happened that made the characters more human and believable, the attention to details in many of your descriptions and... everything!

Thank you! Your +1 internets will be shipped to you as soon as possible.
bumping it to keep it alive for more good AA writing XD

and I lol'd out loud when i saw the 'A kakapo is now humping your head' comment. We should really use that as a warcry when we see haters now :P
bumping for great justice
Glad some people liked it.

I think that's the longest /tg/ project ever, really.

The wiki is updated.
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Here's julius and Isis. being tender an shit

>His erec
who wouldn't be captcha. Who wouldn't be erec
Haha time for feedback!

SE: Your work is a true /tg/ epic, producing many a >knowthatfeelbro.jpg and HHHGGGG moment. Sometimes i wonder how on earth you manage to keep churning out the pure amount of word you do.

AA: Great work on Julius and giving us a glimpse into how there is still grimdark in this noblebright saga. It really puts things into perspective. That end with Julius spilling everything to Isis felt... well real in a sense. Like it could have been taken from a veteran's diary or something.

In short, awesome work everyone!
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here. I have really enjoyed your WHH stories and have followed them since I knew they existed. What is your next project? Will you write more WHH (do want) or write something else?
I'm just thinking aloud here, but I think you should work one something other than WHH for a while. Why I'm saying is that the response for RT seems to have died down in the recent threads, and you might be best served working on something else (Empraesque (or however you spell it) perhaps?) and then come back to the WHH 'verse at a later time, so as not to overstay your welcome (so to speak).

And with that written it feels like I'm shooting myself in the foot because I lurvs your WHH stories! In any case, you are awesome and should feel awesome!
Going back to Emperasque after ROAD TRIP! was always the plan.
are DM and AA going to continue with WHH or will they help you with emperaesque?
Ah, I didn't know that for srs. I haven't followed that tale though. I will however await next story in the WHH 'verse eagerly, no matter how long it takes till you get back to it.
So, who shall we name Steward of the WHH Throne while SE is off doing Emperasque stuff?

I nominate Ahriman's Aide since he is next in line going by amount of writefaggotry churned out.
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Ehh heheheheh.

The SECRET PROJECT FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE on the far right here is Warhammer High too, may as well reveal that now.

I just don't want to release it until I'm done with Emperasque.
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>The SECRET PROJECT FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE on the far right here is Warhammer High too, may as well reveal that now.
Oh, and before I forget, DarkMage has asked me to tell you all that since he has received essentially zero feedback on his stories, he's just going to post them straight to the wiki, since nobody comments there either, and he won't have to deal with4chan's poorly coded wordfilters.
>DarkMage has asked me to tell you all that since he has received essentially zero feedback on his stories
Aw, I was looking forward to his updates. I really liked his story and commented on it as I read it in previous threads.
When he did open his eyes, Isis was still there. She was hurting as well, but she was keeping her hurt under control. Her words were slow and deliberate.
“If I left right now, if I just went like you want, what would you do?”

“I’d manage.” Julius croaked. He wouldn’t manage, but it for her sake, not his own that he wanted her gone. He was deadweight to her; she didn’t need to be saddled with him.

“You say the old Julius has died, but you’re acting like him right now.” Despite the pain he had put her through there was a sad smile on her face. “The old Julius would always try to make others happy at his own expense. If he’s still around, there's hope for you yet.”

He heard her words, but the meaning vanished. Then she said something else. “There’s no old or new you, there’s only Julius. There’s only the boy who impressed me with his stubborn willingness to stand up for others. There’s only the boy who would do anything for other people, even at his own expense. There’s only the boy I fell in love with. Julius, you are only human, and no human can go through that amount of shit without something giving. You are not weak for falling apart like this. For what it’s worth, I’m truly sorry about Summer. She must have been someone special.”

The dawning comprehension that she wasn’t about to reject or abandon him finally pushed him off the edge. He started bawling like a little baby, his body wracked with deep sobs and more tears then he thought he was capable of producing pouring out of him. Dimly, he felt Isis embrace him, holding him tight, pulling him against her. He tried to shrug her off but she was stronger then he and he surrendered to her grip.
though DM might not have gotten as many reviews as he should, his stories were definitely worthwhile and i hope at least he will hang around these threads. while SE and AA tend to do much longer stories in which a lot of shit happens to a small group of characters, DM's are smaller but more insightful into his protagonists character, to the extent that what SE acomplished with a novel and a bit (venus's Burn and bleeding out) he managed a similar depth with the lioness, AA just wrote a war novel with an impressive amount of grimdark in it without breaking the canon (term used loosely). Write on.
A small part in the back of his head noted how warm her body felt. Like Summer’s did.

“We’ll get you the help you need.” She whispered into his ear as she cradled him. “Uncle Magnus helped Remilia when she hurt, he’ll help you as well. I have the weekend off; I’ll stay with you. Furia’s gone; I can’t lose both of you.”

Julius gave himself over to her, and for a long time he just sat there in her arms, the knowledge that he wasn’t alone filling him with unlooked for hope. With her help, he would get over this, he would move on. The pain would go away.

Eventually she took him by the hand, led him to her car and drove him home. He wanted to say something, but he couldn’t hold onto a single thought, his mind was a whirlwind of memories and emotions, the pain lurking at the surface ready to spring out again.

“Hello Sieur Pius.” She called as she came in the door.
Oll turned to see the pair of them coming in. “Please, call me Oll,” was his reply. “Will you be staying for tea?”

Isis nodded as she breezed through, leading Julius to his room, sitting him down and a few seconds later brought out his chess board.

“Fancy a game?”

Julius couldn’t say no, so she set up the board and took white. 1. g3. Benko's Opening. The cogs and wheels in Julius’s mind began to turn again. Chess always did that for him, chess was a game of war where strategy and tactics were paramount. He went 2. c6, for King's Indoin Attack. She ended up winning that one, and straight away she set up for another, swapping sides. For the entire afternoon they pitted their wits against each other in game after game, the simple act soothing Julius. The Void faded away.
if this is still here in a few hours i might try writing a semi-sequel to that with isis going to tell julius/introduce julius to a little baby girl called summer. would that be okay Ahriman?
Tea was a jovial affair, Isis really liked Oll and he the same. Their good natured banter eventually sucked Julius in as they talked about how the Merican pattern Colleges differed from the Universities found in Alba and Diemenslandt.

Oll passed no comment when the two finally retired for the night. Julius had half-expected her to stay in the guest room, but instead she came to Julius’s room and after standing in the doorway for a few seconds Julius nodded.

The bedsprings creaked as she joined him. His bed here was a double, far larger than the cramped cot he had shared with Summer that night. He could barely even tell Isis was in it as well. He closed his eyes shut and prayed for a fitful night's sleep.

The Nightmare still came. The fireball was sailing towards her, she was about to die and no matter how hard he screamed at her to look out, she couldn’t. Suddenly the nightmare collapsed as he was dragged back to reality.

Isis was holding him tight, her hand gently but firmly clamped over his mouth, drowning out his screams. She whispered soothingly into his ear.

“It’s ok Julius, its ok. It’s just another nightmare. Everything will be fine, I’m here now, I’m here for you.”

Abruptly he noticed her breasts were pressed tight against his back, and he felt himself stirring. His sex drive had been fired up, and he couldn’t turn it off again. He wanted her, wanted her so badly. But he was soiled goods now. Nevertheless, he had to say it.
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“Isis, I never told you this, but I was going to give myself to you at graduation, have us sleep together. I felt like it was the right time, that my god wanted you to be my first. But I fucked up.”

“Julius, I love you but this is not the right time for this. You still hurt too much, I could never do anything until I know you’ve been cured. There’s the mid-year break of our first year though. We’ll go on a road trip of our own together, might see if we can drag a couple of the others along with us. I saw how much fun Venus, Freya and Remilia had, I’d like to try that myself.”

“I’d like that.” Julius replied, before reaching over and pulling Isis towards him. Julius pressed himself into her, moulding their bodies together and burying his face in her hair, and together they drifted off to sleep.

The End.
Thank you all for coming along for the ride. A happy ending after all.

We've passed autosage, so the thread will fade away in time, but before it does all of us WHH Writefags would like some comments and feedback.

Go right ahead. Hell, someone should write Isis and Julius's road trip with a couple of the other lesser known daughters like Faith and Petra. That would be fun to read.

I have several WHH Projects I'm working on, but it will be at least a month before any of them are fit to post and I'll probably wait for SE. Misery/Genius loves company

In the meantime, Emprasque. I's so looking forward to it. I want a War Room Scene with the Daemon Primarchs lifted from Dr Strangelove.
AA, I really like A Trip Into Hell. It's a very good counterpoint to the cheerful tone of Road Trip. Without the darker edge of A Trip Into Hell, the WHH universe would seem flatter, not to deride the works or SE and DM. Itd be hard to imagine a galaxy without some major conflict happening, and the invasion of Seadelant helped remind us that while it's a more idealized version, this is still the universe of 40K. As someone who's known people suffering from combat stress, I have to say you've definitely done your homework and you presented it remarkably well. One criticism I have to make is the title drop you pulled when Julius was talking to Isis in the park. Just felt a little B Movie corny to me. Otherwise, you've all done fantastic work here and are exemplary models of /tg/ writefags.
One thing I'm surprised about is that no-one got any of my shout-outs. For example, the entire of Julius’s squad come from Power Rangers RPM, which I was in as an extra. There’s plenty of others as well.

Oh well, the next story will be something completely different, set far into the future of WHH and following a new character as he races against time to uncover an insidious plot involving the daughters.

AA Signing Out.

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