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Red and Black (Audio Book)

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Red & Black
Red-and-black.JPG
Cover art by Slawomir Maniak
Author James Swallow
Performer Beth Chalmers, Lisa Bowerman
Publisher Black Library
Series Sisters of Battle
Followed by Faith and Fire
Released 2011
Length 71 minutes

Red and Black is an audio book written by James Swallow and performed by Beth Chalmers and Lisa Bowerman. The story is a prequel to Faith and Fire, depicting one of Sister Miriya's earlier adventures with her squad of Celestians as they are tasked with rooting out heresy on Hollos, a world which has been cut off by warp storms for two thousand years. It was published in October 2011.

Plot Summary

Celestian Miriya is summoned by Prioress Lydia to be tasked with an important mission. The Hollos system has been cut off from the Imperium by warp storms for two thousand years, and only recently has regained contact, but in a disturbing manner. A ship from the planet was encountered by a warship of the Imperium crewed only by one person, a Replicae, a genetically engineered cloned human bred only for service and combat. This one, however, shuns violence and demonstrates free will. The Replicae, named Rho, describes Hollos originally as a research colony for Replicae technology, which survived daemon incursions because her people, the Replicae, fought and repelled them and built a new society from the ruins dedicated to peace and veneration of the Emperor. It will be Miriya's task to determine if the planet may be returned to the fold or destroyed by Exterminatus for heresy. She takes her squad of Celestians with her and, due to the presence of the Replicae, a technology lost to the Imperium, Adept Nolan of the Adeptus Mechanicus who specializes in biology.

They are delivered to Hollos by an Arvus Lighter, and upon landing they are welcomed by a cheering crowd grateful to see that the Imperium survives. They discover that the Replicae have fully integrated into society and are treated as equal citizens, although it is noted that they appear to have been more successful in life than their normal human counterparts. While Miriya meets with the council who rules Hollos, there is a sudden attack outside by a faction known as Reds, red-skinned Replicae who still hold to service and combat. The friendly Replicae refuse to fight, having embraced the ways of pacifism. The Sisters of Battle are only just able to repel the attack after Miriya equips herself with a Heavy Flamer from the shuttle. Displeased by the attempt on her's and her Sisters' lives in a supposedly peaceful society, Miriya later seeks Rho for further explanation, only to be tranquilized and briefly captured by a human councilors, Arvin, who tries to convince Miriya to help her overthrow the Replicae, who have over the years taken over control of Hollos. Miriya leaves, stating that she will consider her request.

Miriya learns from Nolan that the red-skinned Replicae are as the Replicae were originally, the reddening of the skin being a side effect of a neurological agent which makes them subservient and without free will. The peaceful Replicae on Hollos do not have red skin, the area which produces this chemical has somehow been made dormant, and each of them were born that way. Miriya confronts the council one more time and issues a holy edict. In order to avoid bloodshed, she decrees that the Adeptus Ministorum will arrive to assume control of government functions on the planet while the Replicae will be turned over to the Adeptus Mechanicus, as they do not carry citizenship within the Imperium. As Rho objects, Arvin immediately seizes the opportunity, believing that the Replicae will not accept the edict and that Miriya is on her side, and issues the command to begin the revolution. Elated, Arvin tears off part of her tunic to reveal her true sign: the Mark of Tzeentch branded into her flesh. Miriya draws her Plasma Pistol on the councilor, who is shocked that Miriya would pull a gun on a fellow human, but Miriya summarily executes her with a bolt of plasma.

Hollos now being on the verge of being overrun by a cult of Tzeentch, Miriya tries to convince Rho to take up arms and defend their planet, but Rho refuses in fear, even after Miriya tells her she will be forced to order an orbital bombardment in order to stop the revolution, which will kill millions of innocent civilians. Adept Nolan offers another option, noting that the part of the Replicae's brain which turns them into subservient warriors is only dormant, and that he has fashioned a chemical agent from his own body which will reactivate this part. The agent will be almost instantaneously effective, and will spread quickly to the other Replicae, but will be irreversible and will deny them of free will. Rho begs them not to do it, but Miriya sees no other option and orders the Adept to release the agent. Rho's skin turns red and Miriya orders her to lead the other Replicae and put down the revolt. Rho does this unquestioningly. Miriya then orders her Sisters to join the Replicae and help.

In the aftermath, Miriya and Nolan contemplate their actions and if they were justified. Miriya soothes her conscience by stating that the Replicae wanted to serve the Emperor, and now they will.

Other Information

Miriya and her squad were also the main characters in Faith and Fire, also by James Swallow, though this is the only relation to that story. While not stated explicitly as a prequel, there are several clues which suggest this came before, most notably in that Sister Lethe Catena, who was killed early in Faith and Fire, is alive here.

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