A Bitter Meal

From this close, the Cicatrix Maledictum took up the entirety of the viewport. Gilroy Heinrichs could not bear to look upon it for more than a moment. He turned his back to the armorglass window examining the figure slouched on the throne in front of him. It was no use, the crimson light drenched every surface in the same hue as the blood oozing from the figure’s third eye.

“How long has he been like this?” The rogue trader asked his adjutant.

“Not sure,” Angelina replied. “Possibly a day or more.”

“How about how this happened?”

“Couldn’t say. But…”

“But what?”

“Well, it’s more of my personal theory…”

Gilroy sighed audibly and gestured for her to hurry her statement.

“But one cannot stare into madness as long as the navigator has without it ravaging the soul.”

Gilroy rolled his eyes, “Well that doesn’t help me any. That Warrant of Trade clearly states we need to cross this rift. So, get someone to clean this up. We need to chart a course to the nearest port to find a suitable… replacement.”

“That would be Elysia, which is close to three months’; travel if we could still travel the Immaterium,” Angelina exclaimed. “Without it… it could take hundreds of years!”

Gilroy pursed his lips and drummed his fingers along the top of the navigator’s throne.

“There may be an alternative. I’ll be back.” The rogue trader rushed out of the navigator’s chamber.

Angelina waited grinding her teeth as she oversaw the servitors’ removal of the body. The swirling, menacing Warp storm blared through the viewport scratching at the adjutant’s nerves.

Gilroy returned a half hour later clutching a small canvas parcel and a distressed look on his face. He stumbled to the navigator’s throne and sat down hard. Unlike before, he stared out at the maddening warp rift.

“What are you doing?” Angelina barked.

“I’ll be fine,” Gilroy murmured, breathing heavily. “Go back to the bridge and take the helm. Fire up the warp engines.”

“The hell we are,” she cried. “If you intend to kill yourself please do us the curtesy of not taking the ship down with you.”

“No,” Gilroy closed his eyes and swayed slightly. “I can take us through.”
He held out the pouch for his adjutant. Inside were a dozen dehydrated long, dark brown bean pods. Angelina pulled one out, “What is this?”

“Do you remember the Hektelids?”

“The grox looking xenos we traded with at the Omicron Spaceport?”

Gilroy nodded, “Did you know they can travel through the Warp despite not having any mutant variants with a warp eye? Millenia ago, when the Hektelids first started expanding outside their home system, they discovered that a psychoactive plant endemic to their home world gave them the ability to see the warp tides, like our navigators. They even discovered the light of the Astronomican, almost completely by accident, and were able to use it to orient their travel. And, I mean, they seemed to be doing fine despite the giant scar across the galaxy.”

“So you’re planning on taking-”

“Took.”

Angelina furrowed her brow confused.

“I took about two and half on my way back.”

“Are you insane?! You took a completely alien substance that we don’t know what it will do to you!”

“Of course not,” Gilroy scoffed. “I’ve been experimenting with its effects for a long time. Although, for purely recreational purposes.”

Angelina stared at him dumbfounded. “How do you know that looking into the abyss won’t do irreversible damage to you, even if you are using this thing?”

Gilroy covered his mouth and swallowed painfully. Sweat poured down his face. “I don’t but I also don’t have two hundred years to limp back to Elysia either. So, power the warp engines.”

The adjutant hesitated before leaving for the bridge. Outside of herself, Gilroy, and the rating who was initially sent to check on the navigator, no one on board knew what had happened. She decided to act as though nothing was amiss. If Gilroy’s latest impulsive decision worked, which they miraculously often did, then the crew need not know. She did not want to
think about what the consequences would be if it didn’t.

Angelina settled into Gilroy’s throne on the bridge, one deck below where he currently sat. The bridge crew watched her anxiously out of the corner of their eyes. Accustomed to assuming bridge command while Gilroy was off ship or resting, Angelina took the crew through the normal Warp translation procedures. She clenched her eyes shut as the old ship rattled
while the warp engines powered up.

Entering the Immaterium filled her with an uncanny unease and a chill shivered up her spine, not unlike any other translation. At least we’ve gotten this far, she thought. She tried to raise Gilroy through the vox but there was no answer. Angelina ground her teeth and tried again. Again no answer.

Unable to enter the navigator’s quarters without endangering her own life, she continued to call him every hour for weeks. Each time she only received silence. Despite everything, the ship traveled smoothly. Angelina couldn’t help from worrying that something horrible had happened to him. The rest of the crew was anxious too, although they would never tell her, having not seen or heard from Gilroy in months.

Eventually, the ship dropped out of the Warp on the outskirts of the Elysian System. Angelina raced to the navigator’s quarters. The stale scent of body odor poured out causing her to gag as she made her way to Gilroy. The skin of his emaciated body stuck to the throne. His hair and beard had grown much longer than she would have expected for the months long journey. He wheezed weakly. His sunken eyes stared up pleadingly at his adjutant. It was then she noticed how old Gilroy looked.

“You haven’t aged a day,” Gilroy’s weak voice sighed. “Did we make it?”

Angelina frowned and held the frail man’s head against her own. “Yes, it worked.”

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