142. Talkative and Reticent

“It’s good to see you, Titus!”, the legate started as soon as they had left the room. He eyed the insignia on the Space Marine’s shoulder for a moment.
“It is good to see you too, legate Solomon.”
“You’re not a sergeant anymore?”, the man inquired.
“No”, Titus confirmed. “I have been promoted to Watch Captain and now I serve as aegis, Vox’s right hand and shield.”
“What became of Kill Team Aegis?”, Solomon wanted to know.
“They’re still with us”, Titus informed him. “We acquired a few new Space Wolves and followed Vox to her home planet.”
“So, now there’s a rank and a squad called Aegis?”
“We have faced astonishingly little confusion up until now”, Titus confirmed with a smile.
“Emperor!”, Solomon burst out. “I’m still blown away by Vox! What happened to her, Titus? May I even call you Titus?”
“Yes, call me Titus.”
“Then please, call me Killian!”, the legate said. “I owe you two so much! I won a war with your help.”
Titus’ smile deepened of its own accord.
“Rather with her help”, he corrected him. “What happened on Implicit by the way?”
“Didn’t she tell you?”, Killian asked in surprise.
“She couldn’t as long as she wore the black shield and then, we got rather caught up in events.” Titus shrugged, concealing the true reason why Vox was unable to tell him what she had done on Implicit. “From the moment she went to talk to you after we had interrogated Aurea Sterdizian, I don’t know what happened. Since you’re here, I thought I might just as well ask you.”
Killian threw a glance around the bridge as they left it.
“After you had interrogated that girl… That was the strangest moment I had with Vox – ever!”, he confided. “He…”, the legate broke off to snigger. “It’s so crazy that she should be a woman!”, he declared while Titus led him to the elevator that would take them down to the hangars. “Suddenly, everything about her makes so much more sense! Anyway! Vox came up to me and asked to speak to me privately. You have to imagine this from my perspective”, Killian said. “This warrior in black armour, seemingly twice as tall as me follows me into the small room Lady Shilder could provide for us and as soon as we are alone, she turns to me with this expression she can have. The one that makes you think you’ve walked into a block of steel, you know?”
Titus smiled melancholically.
“Yes, I know that one.”
“She looks down on me – and I mean that”, the man clarified. “Vox and I have always had our difficulties but for the first time, she really looked down on me while I was looking back. ‘We have failed, Killian’, she said. ‘This war will start and you don’t have the means to win it’.”
“And?”, Titus prompted. The door of the elevator opened.
“Wait, wait”, the legate said with an impish expression as they stepped inside. “I’m making the dramatic pause she made. ‘You don’t have the means’”, he repeated her words and paused again. “’I do. Do you want them?’” Killian shook his head and laughed. “Of course, I knew that we had been too late to begin with and I wanted any means to still turn this but if Vox offered me something like that, there had to be a catch, right? I tried to haggle and she got annoyed. Oh, Emperor! I remember her bending down to me and saying: ‘I didn’t screw up, Killian. I’m merely here to help out. I will leave you a failure or a war hero. Which do you want?’”
Titus stared at nothing. That was so much like Vox, it hurt. Telling Solomon the exact truth and still managing to imply that the failure had not been Titus’ to get the most out of the deal she was about to make… She had been a rather devious snake sometimes, Titus had to admit. And he loved her even more for the fact that she had never been without dire need.
“Well, you might imagine that I didn’t struggle much after this”, Killian said with a sheepish laugh.
“Oh, yes”, Titus confirmed.
“We made the deal that Aegis was to be set free within three days. In exchange Vox would get military help for Implicit and help sort out a few things beforehand. Well, and then, she wanted to write my report and offered to reveal her true identity to me in exchange.”
Titus hesitated for a moment and tried to remember details.
“She didn’t write the report”, he stated, frowning. “I clearly remember talking about it with her on our way to Zenith. She said that Ferone would receive a copy of your report.”
“Which Vox wrote before you left”, the legate confirmed with a regal nod. “Up to your departure at least.”
“And she exchanged her identity for that?”, Titus asked in bafflement.
“She did and I walked right into it”, Killian admitted with another laugh. “I only reasoned that the troops she had promised would probably know who she was when it was too late. But since double checking the hell out of the report she gave me turned up nothing suspicious, I stuck to the deal.”
Titus stared at the elevator door.
“Mistress Elaine seemed unusually satisfied when we took up communication again. So, I’m more than happy about it”, Solomon added.
“You turned the tide”, Titus said, waking from this strange daydream of a time and person so long gone. Oh, how he missed his old Vox. “If that doesn’t satisfy her, what will?”, he added hoarsely.
“Well, I didn’t do so much after the Wings of War arrived.” Killian grinned and conspiratorially leaned towards Titus. He was obviously impervious to the warrior’s emotional struggle. “Titus, I have no idea how to get off this rush of power!”, he confided in the larger man. “An entire Space Marine company at my bidding? How will I continue my work?”, he laughed. “I just had to point in a direction and things started to explode! And captain Maulbeer has been so polite and courteous towards me, I don’t know how to live without her!”
“I’m glad to see that you had a good time”, Titus said, allowing himself a soulful grin.
The legate laughed at himself.
“I’ll miss the Wings, I don’t mind telling you!”
“I certainly feel privileged that I won’t have to”, Titus had to admit.
“Be assured of my eternal envy”, Killian said. “Will you bathe me in your fortune a little more and tell me how it came to this?”, he asked casually.
“Gladly”, Titus said while the elevator door opened. “But maybe not now”, he added.
The hangars of the ‘Primarch’s Bride’ were huge. They took up about half the space in the whole, roughly twenty kilometre long ship. The flagship of a chapter had so many tenders and support vessels that it could deploy the whole chapter by itself if necessary and although a normal chapter had only five active companies, no flagship had ever been built to size. The ‘Primarch’s Bride’ would be able to deploy every single Wing of War Vox intended to pick up on her journey to Terra and she had ruled that they would travel this way. Due to the uncertainty of warp travel, troops were usually split between ships to maximise the chance that anyone reached their destination and could carry out the initial objective. Since the chapter would be rather useless on Terra, should their saint get lost, but said saint needed maximum protection if the ship was boarded by daemons, this was the prudent choice.
The section of the hangars Titus and Solomon reached now, was the part of the ship from where important persons could be transported swiftly and without complication. Troop movement was always a logistical challenge but if someone high enough in the chain of command wanted to get off board in a hurry, nobody asked questions.
It was the work of a few minutes to entrust Killian Solomon to the respectful hands of the overseer and initiate his transfer to the ‘Hammer of Destiny’.
When Titus had promised that they would find time to speak more during their travels, he returned to the bridge.
The meeting there was already breaking up when he arrived. He had come in time to see the visitors leave. Captain Destun and Captain Maulbeer had this certain glow in their eyes, Titus had come to associate with all the sanguine blooded who spent time in Vox’s company. They had seen their saint and smiled as if seeing the world for the first time.
Vox, on the other hand, looked tired. The later hour to which she had forced herself had taken its toll. She granted Titus a few quiet words and then went off to sleep before they would move to the ‘Hammer’. Since they were in real space, Titus was not required to watch over her and could partake in the rest of the training tonight. Somehow, it bothered him that his beloved angel lost not a single word about this. She merely wished him a good night and left him standing.
As he looked at her retreating back, the moment Solomon had stepped forward came back to him. There had been this expression in her features. One of anger, hatred even. It had come and gone in an instant but it had been there. And then she had smiled.
The door of the audience chamber fell shut behind Vox just when Titus thought this. She had smiled. He had not seen her smile for anything ever since she had found Sanguinius. In the silence of the abandoned audience chamber, Titus felt the uneasiness rise. There was no way to explain it. He had longed to see her smile again. He had longed to see her recover and now he stood here and tried to remember when she had last merged her mind with him.
When she had awoken, was the answer. It had been more than two weeks since he had gotten an update on her inner life.
He told himself that the connection to her was nothing she owed him. She was exhausted to a degree that she fell asleep during the day if she paid too little attention. She could certainly not trouble herself with him on top of everything else. But he suddenly noticed how far the world had pushed them apart.
Titus took a deep breath and forced himself to relax and be patient. All he could do was to keep an eye on things but the uneasiness that had gotten hold of him did not subside again.

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Guide Me Through the Darkness by Julia M. V. Warren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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