Here is the next installment of Codan's story submitted by my buddy, Six-Deucer. Inspired by his penal legionnaires, Six began fleshing out the story of one such unfortunate to wear the exploding collar- Codan. Codan finds himself in the custodianship of strange warrior men that speak a guttural language, and bear few distinguishing features. I have really enjoyed Codan's story to this point, and was elated when I received this latest offering in my email. Read on!
Chapter 4 "Regrets"
Codan awoke, or had he just been thinking? The transition between sleep and wakefulness was always blurred when you were in solitary confinement. The mind operated on it's own, grinding down incoherent paths, forming fragmented plans only to be dashed against the solid rock of a frivolous mental distraction. Pain was a constant though. Four broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder, a possible skull fracture, and a certain concussion. Nothing life threatening or permanent, not that it mattered considering where he was headed. He had thought he had run far enough, hell, almost halfway across Ultima Segmentum, but apparently fate, or the Emperor had a sense of humor. Eleven days ago, he had been perfectly content to have an explosive device strapped to his neck, and go to war against any foe, regardless of odds. Any foe except the bloody bugs. This entire area had been overrun with them, he had gotten away just before the final battle that had killed so many of his fellows , and had put the nail in the coffin for hive fleet Jormungandr.
Sitting there, in the warehouse, looking out across the walking deck, trying to spot a whore, Codan had realized that he had been there before. The Golden Cage was a pompous name for a shithole on the far end of the Imperium. But it was known far and wide as the place to go if you needed to make a deal with those who wanted to avoid imperial scrutiny. The entire station was the personal property of Priyam Blagga, and as a Rogue Trader, he had a Letter of Marque directly from the High Lords of Terra......untouchable. Blagga had once been Lord Blagga, and had been a rising star politically back on Terra. The man had a penchant for gleaning hidden information, and had apparently used his skill on the wrong person. He had been given a "great honor", a hereditary title, that put him in rank with planetary governors, and space marine chapter masters. Of course you cannot refuse such an honor, and it had a mandate from the High Lords. To go out to the far reaches of Imperial Space, and use his skills for the good of the Imperium. He was given a golden cage.
That had all been many, many, years ago, and he had been an aged man when Codan had met him. He had been selected by his Commanding officer to come to Priyam's station, seeking any allies, be they adeptus astartes, pirate, or even xeno, against the impending battle with the tyranids. As the son of a nobleman, trained as a commissar, he had put all of his manipulative oratory skills to work. In the end, Blagga was immune to reason, perhaps he hated the imperium, and welcomed the death that the tyranids would cause. He certainly had nothing but disdain for Codan. At the utmost end of hope, Codan had been offered a bargain, apparently there was something that Blagga hated more than his friends back in Holy Terra. Blagga's station had certain rules, in order to cultivate an environment in which ALL types were welcome. No one, including Blagga and his men, were allowed to kill anyone, with the sole exemptions being public self-defense, and verified chaos-worship. For years a certain mysterious eldar had visited Blagga, always abiding the rules, purchasing merchandise, and spending money on human women. Twice Blagga's men had been forced to kill other eldar who had attacked this one unprovoked, and since that time, very few eldar ever returned. Also each time the eldar left the station, human women would come up missing, with no physical trace as to what had happened to them. Blagga felt the eldar was flaunting the fact that he was abusing his host, while following his rules. The bargain he had offered Codan, was if he could get the eldar to violate his rule, by provoking him to attack, he would render aid to the imperium by calling in debts from the local pirate population, and using them to put out a call for further aid. Blagga said the only other way he would help, is if Codan was able to kill the eldar before his men could intervene, in which case, he would then abide by his law and execute Codan.
Codan had been given a description, and informed of the eldar's usual habits on-station, and had left to prepare. From what little Codan knew of the eldar, they were an extremely ancient, and intellectual race. Blagga had speculated that this particular eldar may likely be part of the fractured branch known in the imperium as "dark eldar", but human logic did not apply in most cases to do with a xeno. In either case it was likely the creature was far more intelligent than he was, and would quickly deduce Codan's purpose if he tried to trick it. It turned out that Codan had almost a month to think on the subject, formulating strategies and dismissing them as insufficient. By the time the xeno arrived Codan had finally resolved on a workable strategy. He had to offend the thing on a raw emotional level. That night, in the lounge at the Golden Cage, Codan had eaten three meals worth of the cheapest, and foulest fish stew he could find, and taken a pill. He then stumbled his way towards the thing. Codan smiled as he remembered the look on the creature's face, as it had turned to observe him with a cold, alien, arrogance. The look of hubris had melted from it's face, replaced by horror, then a rage Codan had never before witnessed, as he vomited rotten fish stew all over the xeno's glittering jet-black and bone-white finery.
Even prepared, Codan could barely get out of the path of the blade that blurred in an arc from the eldar's hip. Codan rocked back as the tip rushed past, inches from his neck, and continued on slicing through the arm of a seated man. Having planned for this moment, Codan pulled the trigger on the pistol-gripped shotgun he had leveled at the eldar's chest. To no effect, the slug seemed to distort as it bounced off some type of refractor-field. Still...the force of the blow had knocked the creature slightly backward, making it miss Codan's head as it's backhand cleaved the barrel of the rifle cleanly off. For a split second Codan knew he was going to die, the eldar's eyes stated it as certainty. Luckily in that moment, the blessed bigotry of humans toward xenos intervened in the form of a mug of beer crashing down from behind on the eldar's head. In what seemed one moment, the eldar was able to redirect his forward chop, into a rightwards stab, puncturing the poor fool's skull through the top, spraying blood and brain-matter all about. The move was so quickly executed, only one man in a thousand could have taken advantage of it. Codan was that man. Stepping forward and grabbing both wrists of the eldar, Codan held the creature's sword in place as he violently crashed all six feet four inches and two hundred forty five pounds of his frame into the smaller creature by way of a headbut. Codan then tore the marvelous blade from the hand of the eldar, along with two of it's fingers, and placed his boot on it's chest. Feeling the effects of his adrenaline, Codan held his new prize in his hand, looking down into the eyes of the defeated creature. Codan had been a younger man then, and had wanted to say something really dramatic. After a couple awkward seconds of drawing a blank, and the entire building hushed and looking at him, Codan's mouth fumbled out "nighty night!" The last look on the eldar's face was one of confusion. A good memory, he had accomplished his mission and gained the reinforcements his men needed. Hell, half the pirates and smugglers who agreed to help, had also tried to marry him off to a sister, or a daughter.....despite the embarrassment of his corny one-line...I mean nighty night? Was he reading the xeno a bedtime story? Too bad about the blade though, they had taken it from him when he had been captured years ago...some fool of a priest was probably admiring it over his fireplace right now.
Hell, good things to ponder while laying in the dark with broken ribs. With a memory like that, it is surprising he hadn't recognized the station the moment he stepped foot aboard. Codan wondered if the little man who sold the collars was one of the people offering to buy him a round those years ago. The thought of going against the bugs definitely had him unnerved, he was not normally this nostalgic. Either the bugs, or the beating that kriegsman had given him, damn. When Codan had realized where he was, he knew without doubt where they were taking him, and by khorne's teats, better to die trying to escape. With strength given by fear, he had snapped his restraints and grabbed the little man tinkering on him by the neck. Without remorse, Codan used the little wretch like a club, knocking down two others who attempted to stop him, simultaneously breaking his neck. Time seemed to slow down as the fleet officer drew his blade and attempted to stab Codan through the heart. The man had some talent, but in the eyes of Codan, it was an artless manuever. Codan simply stepped back, and slapped a jar of some unknown fluid from the worktable beside him towards the face of the fleet officer. The man was able to duck the jar, but was completely out of position as Codan wielded the little man one-handed in an overhand chop. The officer was knocked unconscious before he hit the floor. A heartbeat later, Codan was armed and dangerous with a standard issue imperial fleet blade. Three more workers died in rapid succession, before the rest got the hell out of way between Codan and the door. As Codan moved to exit, he realized the Kriegsman was standing directly in the doorway, head cocked slightly to the side, silent.
Codan wondered for a second what kind of man this was that was about to die, never having shared a word with him. Judging that a second of his time was more than enough for a eulogy, he stepped forward, and drove the blade right into the man. He was stopped so hard, he may as well have tried to tackle a dead marine in a dreadnaught. Looking down he observed that the Kriegsman had actually caught the blade with his gloved right hand. Then, with irresistible force, the kriegsman actually crushed the blade in his hand, pulling it from Codan's grasp and tossing it like junk behind him. What happened next was the singularly most painful ass-kicking that Codan had ever received in his life. His last sight before going unconscious was the sight of metal hidden behind tears in the krieg's uniform. Half of the man's damn body was cybernetic.
Still, better him than the bugs, not that he had a choice.