As Ollanius Persson takes a moment to admire his surroundings, he sits down on the soft field and takes a deep breathe. It’s been a good season for him and his crew. A combination of ample rainfall with just the right level of humidity resulted in an above average yield for his crops. He takes a drink of water, and relishes in its sweetness. “You’re one lucky bastard,” he said softly to himself. Life has been good ever since Oll settled down in one of the recent planetary systems to be discovered and assimilated into the ever expanding Imperium of Man. As a primary agricultural world, Joro Secondus quickly became a valuable resource given the nutrient rich landscape, accommodating climate, abundance supply in precious minerals and a biosphere that resembled ancient Terra.
When news had travelled back to the Adeptus Administratum on the discovery of the Joro System, standard protocols were initiated by the division responsible for the directing/assigning of new denizens for initial planetary colonization. Oll had always considered himself an old-fashioned man, a man who should have belonged on a farm toiling in the fields. For this reason alone Joro Secondus was a perfect job for Oll. A chance to experience once again how simple life can be. An uneventful, dull and routine-filled life in a time of inter-galactic adventures, discoveries and conflicts was something of a paradise to him. He had high hopes that this will be a chance for him to put away the horrendous images that has haunted him in his dreams over the last 10,000 years. He remembers them in his nightmares exactly as they were on Calth. The abhorrent parody of men, with their wide-gaping mouths filled with yellowish-brown jagged teeth, pallid flesh, decaying stench and diseased infested stomachs. And then there were those lithely, to the point of almost being considered sensual daemonic fiends with their ghoulish moans and their sickle-shaped claws. As a Perpetual, Oll Persson has lived through many seemingly impossible ordeals. Some he didn’t even make it through but he always re-incarnated. Such was the gift as well as curse of his kind, to serve the Imperium willingly, or otherwise.
Oll takes out a small, circular tin from his back pocket and removes the lid. He takes a pinch of tobacco leaves from the container and methodically begins to roll himself a cigarette. Throughout his countless re-incarnations, Oll have seen and experienced a great deal and have tried many vices but he still prefers his tobacco smoke over the more common Lho-sticks. As John Grammaticus had said to Oll before, it was a sign of Oll’s reluctance to let go of the old days and an emotional glitch that needs to be resolved. Then again, John did have a tendency to remind Oll of his shortcomings.
As he lights up his cigarette, he catches Isaac and Isabella outside the front porch tossing and kicking hay at servitor Graft as it diligently carried out its tasks of packing, scanning, cataloguing and filling the week’s harvest to the loader for delivery to the central shipyard for delivery. He smile, takes a deep drag and skilfully exhales donut-shaped smoke that ascended until it blended in with the clouds. The two young children were twins and natives, birthed and raised on Joro Secondus soil eight months after their father had gone missing. Oll knew both their parents well. They were engineers and had travelled together with him as a group during the early settlement stage. Given their common expertise and profession, many of the assignments related to the development of a sustainable energy source were allotted to them and the resulting time spent together gradually evolved from a working relationship into romance. Five years ago (Terran standard time) during what should have been a routine inspection of the central power station, Brinson van der Veltz disappeared. At about the same time, contact with the Administratum started to become unstable. Communication was frequently broken up by static or even the occasional blitz of white noise.
The task was assigned to both Brinson and his wife Torin. Strangely, it was Torin who came forward to report that her husband had gone missing. When reminded that she should have been at the power station with him the previous night, she seemed surprised. She claimed that she had been sound asleep in her chambers with no recollection of conducting the inspection with her husband at the scheduled time. A search party was formed and continued until Torin gave birth to the twins at which point some began to postulate that perhaps when Brinson found out Torin was pregnant, he couldn’t handle the responsibility of being a father so decided to disappear for good. Those who knew him, and most of the settlers did, knew that he was a resourceful individual and chances of him being lost was unlikely. The inhabitants have not had to fear for their safety during their time spent on Joro Secondus, so a fatal encounter with a hostile local life form seemed remote. Or was it?
Ever since Brinson had gone missing, something about Torin changed. The change took place gradually, barely noticeable at first. However, recently she seemed more and more distant. She continued her engineering research diligently, but was no longer the cheerful and optimistic woman that Oll as well as the rest of the settlers knew her to be. As the twins aged, people around the colony helped out wherever they can, knowing how difficult it must be for Torin to raised two young children up by herself.
In the middle of the night, Torin can be found outside her chambers staring up into the sky with glassy eyes as if waiting patiently for the return of Brinson. Or was she waiting for the arrival of something else?
“Everything is almost good to go over on my end,” Torin voxed Brinson as she recorded the last of the outputs from the pressure gauge and made recalibration adjustments to the thermal conductors. “The auxiliary power source is stable and at the current output level we shouldn’t experience any outage. What about the ion accelerators, darling? Did you manage to figure out what caused the spike in radiation?”
All the feedback Torin received was static.
“Brinson, do you copy?” Torin tried again.
Once again she was answered with static and silence.
As Torin was about to vox him again, she was grabbed by the waist from behind and pulled into Brinson’s arms as he gently kissed her on the cheek and whispered in her ear, “Gets you every time, love. Oh, and the spike was just a glitch, nothing more to worry about.”
“One of these days, you just wait. It’ll get you back. Let’s get out of here so we can have a little rest before the sun is up,” said Torin as she gave Brinson a playful shove.
“I’m too alert to ever get snuck up on like that, sweetheart! Legionary senses!” retorted Brinson as he pointed his finger to his temple. They both laughed. Brinson helped Torin grabbed the rest of their equipment while she finished up with the diagnostic testing.
“Meet you at the front gate. Don’t make me wait for you until sunrise again!” shouted Brinson as he whistled an ancient tune from Terra, La Cucaracha on his way out. As he approached their civilian speeder to load up their equipment, he felt himself being pulled by the waist lightly. What Brinson made out as arms slithered underneath his shirt and wrapped around him completely into an embrace and he caught a very distinctive smell, musky but not pungent. “O my, guess my Astartes superpowers are of no use to me after all. I didn’t know you were so stealthy dar-arrghhhh-urrggghh!”
As Brinson laid on his back, hands clutching the multiple stab wounds suffered, he felt his entire body heating up as if a nuclear reactor has been placed within his chest cavity and was about to overheat. All was a blur, as the toxins injected travelled rapidly throughout his body and finally up to his brain impairing his vision. In his last moments, all he made out was a dark, cloudy haze surrounding his assailant. It was huge, even in its slightly hunched posture it was easily two to three times the height of an Astartes in full battle plates. Tentacles whipped from every direction and it seemed to be slithering away from him and towards the direction of the reactor plant. Brinson made a last desperate attempt to shout a warning to Torin, but all that came out from his mouth was a bloody froth-like mixture, liquefied innards vomited forward as the alien chemicals digested the engineer from the inside out.
Satisfied that her work had been completed, Torin turned to leave but caught something moving from the corner of her eye. She looked into the direction of the reservoir tankers, blinked twice, rubbed her eyes and sighed. “Got to take it easy with these mid-night shifts girl,” she muttered to herself. Just as she continued to walk towards the exit, she saw it again. Whatever it was, if it was anything at all, moved with a swiftness and agility that didn’t seem natural.
“Hello? Is anyone there? This better not be you Brinson! Stop messing around and let’s get going,” said Torin out loud. She tried to remain calm but suddenly had a strange foreboding that something has gone awry. Instantly her mind was consumed by thoughts of misery and hopelessness. Images of total annihilation of all the effort they have put into building Joro Secondus into a habitable place for mankind flashed before her. Something was here to destroy them, and Torin felt an aura of despair looming over her very spirit. She crumbled to the floor, the psychic assault too much for her feeble mind to bear. She crawled into a foetal position and wept.
Through her tear-soaked eyes, she saw it: humanoid in form, with sinewy arms and legs that ended with either a sharp blade or talons that looked equally lethal. Its head was bulbous, with eyes exerting a great sense of intelligence and cunning coupled with a maw lined with rows of razor-edged teeth and a tongue that was continuously flicking, probing, judging and sensing.
With lightning reflex, it was instantly face-to-face with Torin. She tried to scream, but already its tongue was deep inside her throat. Then everything went dark…..