It was the stench that stuck with her.
Even as she made her way through the corridors of the Shield of Animus, Sarina Silvoria could still smell the rancid scent of unclean flesh and burning machinery of that warehouse. The underhive of Temitope itself had been a terrible sight; underfed, desperate people glaring at them with hungry eyes, and gangers shadowing the procession of Inquisitor Gault’s mind-scrubbed soldiers in the hopes of picking them off one by one.
The woman paused at the entrance of the confessional chamber, shaking herself from her memories. She took a fortifying breath, and then opened the door.
Communications Officer Gorvan, formally of the Urathian, waited in an excruciator chair; squirming, and occasionally yelping and sobbing. His skin, already sagging from sudden loss of weight, had melted into something that was barely recognizable as the holy human form, and glazed eyes spun in their sockets as frothy drool pooled in the corners of his too wide mouth.
Before the heretic loomed a man clad in dark blue robes. Inquisitor Gault turned as his neophyte entered and, not for the first time, Silvoria forced down a shudder. Though appearing barely middle-aged, the pallid skin of his faced and shaven head loaned him a wizened air of someone grown old before their time. But in the sunken sockets of his skull, a pair of dark eyes glittered with a vibrant light that burned with an intensity that made it almost impossible to look at him for long. His thin lips pulled back into a small, kind smile that did not fit upon his otherwise forbidding features.
‘Interrogator Silvoria. Excellent work on hunting down and retrieving Gorvan,’ Gault said. His voice was quiet, almost uncomfortably soft. ‘Uncovering one person in a hive of eleven billion souls is no mean feat.’
‘The credit mostly belongs to Benedict, my lord,’ Silvoria replied. ‘Without him shifting through the data, we would still be searching all over Temitope.’
The Inquisitor gave a hum of acknowledgement before turning back to the restrained heretic.
‘Regardless, our task is not yet complete. It is time for you to determine what exactly caused this man to abandon his post, and his loyalty to the Emperor.’ Gault stepped back, gesturing towards Gorvan with a spindly arm.
Extracting a confession was not an unfamiliar task to Silvoria. When she was still a member of the Adeptus Arbites, she had been trained to break criminals in interrogation. But looking at Gorvan’s twitching face, she knew that a unique task of separating madness from relevance awaited her.
It did not take much to get the heretic to start talking; it was gaining any semblance of meaning from his words that was onerous. Between the screams and incoherent babbling, a picture formed: while stationed on the Urathian, Gorvan had caught a signal. A sound that had burned into his brain and sent a promising naval officer spiralling into insanity.
The route of his escape from the fate of his stationed vessel confirmed what Benedict’s data had projected, and led Gault to the hive world of Thessalus. In his madness, Gorvan had begun building an apparatus designed to capture signals from across space. Silvoria grimaced as she recalled how he had kidnapped and fed Imperial citizens to the abominable machine in the hopes of capturing that sound again.
That warehouse. Her mind was forced to revisit that scene. The piles of dismembered corpses. The screeching machine, writhing with foul, indefatigable purpose. And that smell. That putrid smell that hovered in the air and clung to the skin. Even now, Silvoria could feel the bile rising in her throat as she contemplated the horror of the thing that sat in the spacious interior of the building.
Like a blasphemous mockery of the Emperor himself, the creature that was once Gorvan was seated on that throne of metal and flesh, the greasy smoke that curled around him thankfully shielding his warped aspect from closer inspection. The ex-Navy officer had flailed weakly as dark energies crackled around him, his reedy voice wailing. His words, bolstered in equal parts fear and fervour, had sent a chill through Silvoria.
‘The sound is alive,’ he had cried. That one phrase, over and over.
Silvoria took a step back from the whimpering heretic. Her attention returned to the man behind her, watching the interrogation with an impassive expression.
‘You already knew everything, didn’t you, my lord?’ she enquired. The Inquisitor once again offered that smile, stepping slowly forward towards the broken Gorvan.
‘Perceptive, as always, Interrogator,’ Gault replied. He stopped in front of the heretic, his long fingers uncurling and stroking the deformed skin of their quarry.
‘The human mind is remarkably malleable, and will shape itself accordingly to survive. Which makes it wonderfully receptive for examination,’ the Inquisitor stated. ‘Gorvan’s mind moulded to the outline of his intruder and, as such, began to shape itself as a chalice to hold the form of some sinister design.’
As he spoke, Gault’s voice began to change, reverberating throughout the chamber, echoing with power. Silvoria’s mouth went dry, and Gorvan grunted as his blank eyes widened.
‘Then we should ensure that he does not fulfil that purpose,’ she responded firmly, her hand grasping at the pistol holstered at her side.
That simple declaration caused Silvoria’s body to freeze. Her head snapped towards Gault, her eyes blinking in shock.
‘But the Lord Inquisitor-‘
‘Has been informed of the target’s capture, interrogation, and disposal,’ Gault said, cutting her short. The air grew heavier, and Silvoria bit down her response as the Inquisitor pierced her with his gaze.
‘I understand your desire to destroy this heretic, now that we have our answers. But I am of a different mind; an empty vessel need not be broken for the origins of its creator, after all,’ he said. That small smile never left his face, his eyes burning brighter as if to swallow her whole.
‘And a mind is such a terrible thing to waste.’