In common with almost all of my colleagues, I maintain an organisation of hired followers, informants and various professionals; it is referred to as The Firm amongst my followers. Within this organisation exists an operations team which follows me from case to case. Furthermore, within this operational team there are people who are beyond followers, beyond employees. They are comrades in arms. Some are even friends. This may seem cold to be surprised that some have become my friends, but Inquisitors are lonely by calling and nature. Our work and necessary suspicion keeps people at arm’s reach. I tend to refer to this small group as my Inner Circle. They are confidants, sounding boards and trusted right arms in combat. They are essential. In order to prevent arguments I will introduce them in the order that they joined my service.
Dolus Andraste has been with me since before I earned my rosette. She had been in the service of my master for three years when he took me on. No-one but my master knows what she did before she joined his service but her skill with a blade is terrifying to behold and she possesses a fierce, single-minded devotion. Over the course of my training we formed an excellent team. I discovered and encouraged a talent for acting and impersonation and encouraged her to develop it. Before long her ability to mimic others became uncanny. Realising that her talents would never be fully utilised under Inquisitor Valens, Andraste requested permission to be released to my service. Valens agreed and she has been under my supervision ever since.
Today she serves as an infiltration and assassination specialist. Frequently she spends months in the field in deep cover to gather the initial evidence required to begin my investigation. She can be anything from the lowest gang fighter to a noble lady with nothing more than a costume and a few minutes listening to the local accent. To protect her identity she wears a mask or full helm wherever possible. Prevents problems of recognition spoiling a covert investigation. In combat she is a demon with the blade and a shield given to her by Valens as a leaving present. She also rides outrider for us when we travel, her keen eyes detecting potential problems long before they happen. If she has a problem, then it is her devotion. This may seem strange to complain about but in all the decades she has served me, she has never once questioned an order or request. She has never hesitated to carry out any command I might issue. I genuinely believe she would take her own life if I asked it. This means that I cannot rely on her to check my actions, to spot a problem in my own methods. She seems genuinely to be an amoral creature, her morality defined by whom she serves. Mercifully, as long as I remain a moral servant of the Emperor. So shall she.
Next to join my Inner Circle was a man cruelly used by the Imperium that I adore and serve. I found Wenchang Mimir working as a lowly scribe within the administratum of Darsalom. It was during one of my master’s investigations. By this point I was a senior Interrogator and was on the verge of receiving my rosette. I had been tasked with the job of following one heretical family tree wherever its branches lay. Immediately upon starting my quest I was struck by the astonishing precision, ease of use and efficiency of the record keeping. Intrigued, and frankly in need of diversion while the data sniffers did their work, I enquired and was told that some three hundred years previously a young, devoted scribe had presented to his masters a proposed brand new system architecture to reform and improve the archaic systems in place. He had worked on it for years on his own time. His masters were delighted, awarded him a medal for exemplary service and charged him with implementing the system planet-wide. Thus did he spend the next seventy years of his life. Single handily implementing the fruits of his organisational genius.
Finally, old and tired beyond all endurance he was once more approached by his masters. They wished to reward him and extend his lifespan. As a loyal servant he agreed, unaware of the horror that was to befall him. Hundreds of bionic modifications replaced all organic components but his mind and his face. Cogitator arrays supplemented his memory and allowed him to make computations far beyond his previous capacity. Then they implanted him in a socket. Gave him a terminal and ignored him once more. For two hundred years he has maintained the system architecture having never received or asked for any reward. I decided that it was time that this dedicated servant saw more of the world than a scrivener’s cell and drafted him into my service. I had my master’s techpriest fit him with legs and brought him into my confidence and service. Since then he has been invaluable. His ability to sort and sift data, craft magnificent database architecture and follow trails of information whosesoever it leads has been central to breaking dozens of my cases and I dare say he is even happy.
Wenchang does not join us “in the field” very often. His frame is not built for the rigours of combat and his disposition is not suited to the rage and fury of open warfare. When he does it is usually to get past a particularly tricky encryption system or to help us cripple an enemy’s system architecture. He has a malevolent glee for exploiting flaws left by lesser programmers. However such instances are rare and necessitate a tactical plan where some of my forces have to be left to defend him. Wenchang’s value is far and away the knowledge he can gift me. The irrefutable evidence trails. I consider him indispensable. Just as his former masters did. I only hope I can always act more honourably toward him.
Shortly after I was elevated to full Inquisitorial rank, I was despatched to oversee the purification operations in place on Hellmawe Tertius. There I met one Corporal Bard Nobel. Cpl Nobel just loves it when things explode. He trained as a bombardier in the Divine Emperor’s Imperial Guard and served well with a specialisation in setting and disarming set-piece explosives. Sadly for him he got caught up in a wave of puritanical fervour when a new commissar general took power over his regiment. Anyone associated with those under accusation of heresy were suspect and Cpl Nobel’s sergeant was tried and convicted of unsanctioned medalling with sacrosanct technologies and his entire unit were tarred with the same brush.
Bard was fortunate that I was charged with reviewing and advising the new security and purity arrangements. Though it was one of the most frustrating assignments of my career I did manage to save some of the truly innocent. Some of my colleagues reading this will be sighing heavily at my weakness and naivety but I believe that true Imperial souls are far too valuable to sacrifice on the altar of conspicuous zeal. Wenchang Mimir’s data mining turned up several exemplary soldiers convicted and held for execution on no charge other than association. The only way I could save them without causing a major incident was to trump up charges of my own and have them transferred temporarily to an inquisitional holding facility. Bard and his kin endured weeks of incarceration amongst the true scum of the galaxy in the harshest possible regime while I worked to clear them of my own false charges.
Once cleared I arranged for them to find appropriate employ within the warbands of fellow inquisitors, other imperial agencies and the like. Bard was one of the few who seemed to bear me no ill will for my part in his suffering and indeed had weathered the conditions better than most. I took him into my employ and granted him a place in my operational warband primarily to keep an eye on him. I was concerned that his time amongst the heretics might have damaged or corrupted him. I need not have been concerned. He served ably as a breaching and booby-trap removal specialist. His grim, graveyard humour has fitted in well with my core band and indeed his remembrances of conversations in Inquisitorial holding have proved very useful in identifying cult members or likely targets.
Finally, from the Inner Circle, we have Herodotus Lothston. Mr Lothston serves as my Interrogator and I am grooming him for eventual acceptance within the Ordos. I encountered Lothston during the Kvarium Alpha campaign against the Tau. I had noted a tendency for “progressive” movements to arise ahead of Tau campaigns and was determined to root out the corruption within the military so as to avoid tactical problems. While the Space Wolves battled in the cold depths of the sea, I was moving through the various regiments deployed there. Lothston was serving as a young lieutenant in the PDF and was assigned as my ADC through the campaign. He had been horribly wounded early on in the conflict, a rail rifle round had torn his arm off and he was awaiting the stump healing to be fitted with a bionic. His regiment – the Serpentis 35th– were an insufferably stuffy bunch and relied heavily on aristocratic officers. I had inwardly winced when General Maygyr assigned one of them too me. I was mercifully surprised. Here was a young man of dedication and drive, rapidly adjusting to a heinous injury with every wish to return to the fight as fast as possible.
I made some discrete enquiries and discovered that he was the second son of one of the most powerful mercantile families. He could have bought a senior commission but elected to earn it through merit and effort under a pseudonym (His real surname is Trakaris). Over the course of our time together on Kvarium, he demonstrated a knack for the kind of patient questioning and unravelling of lies that I believe to be the mark of a true interrogator. Anyone can sear flesh and break bones to extract information. It requires an artist to dissect a mind and sift loose the truth using speech alone. I saw extraordinary potential in the young officer, so at the conflicts end and with his surgeries complete. I offered him a chance to serve the Emperor beyond the narrow confines of his world. He has served as my interrogator for six years now and is gradually making progress. He still has too much of the stiff, courteous nobleman about him but those smooth edges are gradually being worn rough. I only wish he would lose the ridiculous wig. When he joined my team he took to wearing the formal magistrate’s robes that denote an agent of the Throne on his Serpentis. Mercifully he gradually realised that the robes were impractical and shed them until only the ceremonial headdress is left. He is only 31 for goodness sake. That thing makes him look ancient.
Truthfully, I think he has many years of effort ahead of him before he can become an Inquisitor but his work ethic is commendable. He is eager to learn everything. He spends time with all of my team, learning their crafts and fighting techniques. He carries Talon, a relic weapon of Naucratis, which once belonged to a close ally of mine. The sadly deceased Amenemhat had taken it upon himself to teach Lothston a faster, more brawling style of close combat than the fencing he had studied in his youth. The two became fast friends until the Affair of the Corvid Maze cost Amenemhat his life. The ambush that took his friend hardened Lothston and I honestly believe that I may have been aided more by the loss of Amenemhat than I would have been by his continued service. I do miss his ready smile and feral glee for the fray though.
So there you have it. The small group who make up my trusted advisors, confidents and student. All that remains is to mention the rest of the operational warband to prevent confusion later on and we can start to record the actual events of the Cetus Scrutiny.
The introduction to the warband will conclude in Episode III.