The Final Compliance of Sixty-Three Fourteen by Guy Haley. A Warhammer 40K Horus Heresy short story, Day 1 of the 2014 Advent Calendar. Originally published by The Black Library, December 2014. Approx. 6 pages.
Season's Greetings everyone! One of the best things about the holiday season, The Black Library is once again conducting their annual "Advent Calendar", offering a new short story everyday from yesterday up until the jolly fat man squeezes down the chimney. Now, like I've stated before, many readers either love or hate these micro-shorts. I really enjoy them, even though they usually run only 4 to 10 pages (mostly closer to 4). But, you are getting stories from the best writers in the stable as well, and sometimes you get a real gem in your stocking. Like this story from master wordsmith Guy Haley.
The moment of compliance has arrived for Planetary Governor Mayder Oquin. For many years he has served as steward over the planet Goughen, formerly designated as Sixty-Three Fourteen. In all the years of his service, from foot slogger in the Guard up until his tenure as governor, he has loyally served the Truth. The Imperial Truth. Now, however, the Emperor's own favored son, the Warmaster Horus, has challenged the legitimacy of the Emperor's reign. He is crafting a new Imperium, and the compliance of Oquin, as well as that of Goughen, is demanded.
These micro-shorts often fall into two types, emotional character studies or quick action pieces. Final Compliance is in the former category. This quick read is a potent examination of what is truly important to a man. We watch as Oquin studies a collection of artifacts; all the remains of many cultures he has helped subjugate in the process of bringing these planets to their compliance. There is a grim irony at work here as we prepare to watch a former operator of the war machine be consumed by it.
What works here is that Haley gives us an extremely sympathetic (and tragic) protagonist within a economical wordcount. Oquin is stoic and proud, never pompous. He treasures fond memories, and he looks on the faces of those he did battle with with a proper modicum of respect. These were warriors that willingly died for something they knew to be more important than conscription to a dogmatic tyranny. Warriors who donned their finest livery to go die for a higher truth. Entire cultures reduced to novelties in a trophy case. In a powerful climax, Oquin must choose compliance or a spot on someone's shelf.
One other aspect of Final Compliance that works very well is how Haley integrates core concepts of human nature into it. What makes good sci-fi is the vision of the creator; how technology and society advance or regress over the passage of time, and the scope of the author's imagination. What makes great sci-fi is when we can naturally see that the core tenets human nature, the spectrum of moral values (or lack thereof), remain constant, even in quite distant times.
There is one line in Final Compliance which really stands out to me. It occurs while Oquin is making his final decision, as gunships hover outside, like enemies at the gates. It reads:
"The threat to go with the promise. Always the way."
Such a simple observation, and so prophetic. Hasn't it always been this way, where ultimatums are concerned, from the first recorded history, up to the present day and into the far off future of genetically enhanced super soldiers? The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Final Compliance is peppered with other nice, small touches as well. The vivid details of the artifacts on Oquin's shelves, the constant broadcast of Horus' "message" in a very Big Brother manner, all contribute to setting a palpable tone.
The Final Compliance of Sixty-Three Fourteen is a great way to kick off this year's Advent Calendar. Highly recommended.
The logo of the Sons of Horus in a rich blue. Doesn't look shabby, but the story is the prize here.
Cover Final Score: