Planetary Governor’s Residence, Encara Tertius, Segmentum Auxa

‘Four manufactorums silent. Four!’

His raised voice was muffled by the opulence of the chamber, with most surfaces finished with cushioned material. Lapis lazuli wall coverings clashed with vibrant red floor tiles arranged in diamond patterns, all trimmed with gold amidst mahogany frames and skirting. The door slammed behind the Lord of the Tithe and a flake of cerulean blue from a mural of flying cherubs dropped to the ground.

‘Penal officers massacred,’ he raged on while covering the distance to the man behind the desk. ‘And now we’ve lost contact with Gillean’s Reach. This falls on the highest levels, you hear? Or have you forgotten? That lackey you send in your stead might have the ruling caste hanging on his words but you are responsible. You, Planetary Governor.’

The tirade met silence. Facing away from the intruder towards a tall archway that led to a balcony, the Planetary Governor sagged in his carved throne. His blue and white ceremonial uniform had even more gold trim than the chamber though it was creased and grimy as though worn for days.

‘No,’ the Planetary Governor whispered and turned towards the politician. His face went ashen and his lips trembled. He buried his head in his hands, hiding the dark circles that ringed his eyes and revealing veins forked across his bare cranium which gave it a violet hue. ‘Not any more.’

Before the Lord of the Tithe could voice his question, the door clicked shut again behind him. He whirled around and saw the long, black coat of the figure standing there. The blood drained from his face.

‘Emperor save us…’

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