testament, part four

It should be my moment of triumph, but as I stand above him I know that it is not yet time to finish what he began all those years ago when he left me for dead in those damn caves on Corfun III; it is not yet time to kill him. There would be no revenge in this, no satisfaction in snuffing out this pathetic life of his. I see him laid there — Colbert — all wrapped up in tubes and wires, placid and lost to the world. I see him, and as my hand closes around his throat I feel… I feel nothing.

To kill him now, what would that achieve? Would my great victory be to release him from his bed-ridden comatose existence? A victory for whom I wonder. I release his throat and snort in frustration, my vocoders translating the sound as a harsh atonal chirp of noise. All these years focussing only on killing him, just to find death itself may have beaten me to the punch.

A nurse enters the room. I continue the pretence which secured my entrance into the hospital facility – a maintenance technician, here to check the equipment. I shoo her away with repurposed irritation, griping that her presence will offend the machine spirit of the ventilator. She leaves, unaware of how close she had come to my simply killing her. It would be a complication, however, that I can ill-afford.

Events on this planet several years ago led to a full Inquisitorial blockade, which has only been degrading bit by bit as vessels from the flotilla are gradually released of their obligation. Arriving here was difficult. I did not wish the deaths that occured, but they were necessary and I do not regret them. It has been so long since I felt regret that I wonder whether that emotion is still within my capacity. Perhaps it is a weakness of the flesh I have cast away and replaced with the cold hard steel of logic and reason.

Such ruminations are a waste of my time. I must decide what to do. I know only one thing: destroying this pathetic creature would be no vengeance at all. If only he were alive, if only he were in his prime… then I could triumph. To reduce him from what he once was, to smash his potential as he did mine, that is my goal. And it is not yet beyond my reach.

I have always had experience in the ways of the flesh. Since I went rogue I have worked alongside many of the Magos Biologis, or extracted their knowledge through other means; I am a skilled physician should I choose to be. If these incompetent and fleshy medicae here in this hospital have failed to heal him, that is no discouragement to me. I will save him. I will save him so that  I can destroy him.

I examine his charts. Multiple gunshot wounds. Three bullets entered his chest, two of them exiting neatly after puncturing his right lung. The third fragmented, spraying his chest cavity with shrapnel. I run a quick scan with my auspex. This was a grave wound and has had a lasting impact unlike the previous two. His heart is scarred and beats limply. If I had an upper lip, it would be curling now in a derisive sneer at the weakness of biological constructs.

That it beats at all is thanks wholly to the actions of the medicae who directed Colbert’s care and restarted his damaged heart. Too late. I direct my auspex scanner up and run its cool blue beam over his face, his eyes taped shut to protect them from drying out. I see cellular death in the brainstem. His coma will never end; his damaged brain unable to keep him conscious, his damaged heart keeping him bed-bound forever even if he were somehow to awaken. It is beyond Imperial medical skill to heal him.

Beyond Imperial medical skill. Yet not beyond the capabilities of medicine. So much of our knowledge has been lost, and so much has been put aside, ruled unacceptable by quill-pushing know-nothings who value inky-fingered superstition above quantifiable benefit. However that which has been lost can be found, and the edicts which stand in the way of progress can be ignored, defied, destroyed.

Xenobactia novavitauctus is an interesting organism. I take the phial containing it from within a secure compartment inside my chest plate and tilt the cloudly purple liquid from one side to the other, watching as the agitation and heat from my fingers awakens the dormant bacteria within the suspension. The fluid turns clear as they consume the nutrients. An interesting organism. It mimics the tissue surrounding  it, in every way appearing identical. If placed on scratched skin they will become as skin cells, a liver will yield liver cells, and so on.

However much of a miracle it may seem, there is a down side. The novavitauctus organism will only mimic the surrounding tissue. In fact it is an alien which enjoys a symbiotic relationship with its host. Once introduced, the organism will remain there until its host dies, always appearing and functioning as ordinary tissue, but never losing its identity as an alien organism. And this minor drawback caused led to its use being denounced as a sacriledge against the Imperium, a defilement of the image of the God-Emperor. How petty.

I extend a filament mechadendrite, first drawing up half the phial into an injector chamber, then guiding the mechadendrite into Colbert’s face. I enter behind his eye, being careful to avoid damaging his eye, and micro-scourges activate as I burrow through his eye socket to access his brain. Snaking around important structures, and ploughing through unimportant ones, I direct the mechadendrite to his brain stem. Using my auspex to pinpoint the appropriate location, I again use the filament to oblate the damaged brain tissue, before I release a cloud of the novavitauctus suspension onto the site of the injury.

I need to work quickly. In approximately ten minutes, the organism will have bonded with the surrounding tissue well enough for Colbert to regain consciousness. Before he does, I must repair his heart; there will be no joy in hunting a cripple. I remove the filament from his head, knowing the vague ache in his eye socket will most likely simply be dismissed as a headache. Even if it isn’t, the organism itself is invisible to scans.

I lift his arm and detach an IV line, silencing the monitoring machine’s alarms with a whispered command in binary. Its machine spirit cowers before my will. Using the catheter in his arm, I again extend the filament and run it down his vein, towards his heart. A quick application there too of the organism and I know that he will recover, in time, to full health. As my mechadendrite retreats from his body, I use it to nick the inside of his vein and I catalogue the tissue sample. Undoubtedly this will come in useful some day.

“Time to wake up now, Bradly Colbert,” I tell his sleeping form as I walk around his bed and place something on his nightstand so that it will be the first thing he sees on awakening. “Time for you to wake up. The game has started.”

I place on the nightstand a gold sovereign coin I acquired on Corfun III. It is blackened and scorched by the flames which almost crippled me. I glance at him again as I leave. I will enjoy this. He will awaken tainted, just the thing he turned against me for… and he won’t know it. I can almost taste the irony. I open the door and walk out.

“And, Colbert, it is your move.”


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February 2011
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