Sorry for the delay in the posting of our last session but its all here now in its full glory!!! Enjoy!!!
Note - We will not be playing another session until the start of the new year.
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, TRANSITION FROM SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++
Once the crew of The Revenge, and the Iron Men had dealt with the remains of the incursion, I asked the Iron Men to return to the Furnace of Redemption taking their casualties with them. As they left I thanked them for their assistance, and promised that I would do my utmost to reactivate their fallen comrades, in the same way that we were attempting to "reactivate" the damaged humans, and then began to repair the systems that had been damaged during the battle.
Captain Perez had moved to the secondary bridge in the enginorium chamber, and so it was that I heard him begin to curse to himself, as I was completing the replacement of damaged power couplings.
"How dare they! The fools! The ungrateful curs! I'll have their hides for this!"
I snapped the last restraining bolt in place and looked up. "Is there a problem Captain?"
Obviously agitated, Perez nodded; "The ungrateful blackguards have decided that they don't want to work anymore. It's a damn mutiny!"
"Really? What do you propose to do about it?" I asked.
"Huuurrmppph..." he grunted. "A firm hand is needed! Give these people an inch, and they'll take a mile - and a nautical mile at that!"
"Where are the mutineers?" I asked.
"Well, you know those safe containment areas I went to the trouble of setting up for the crew? A few of those are refusing to return to their duty stations, damn their eyes!"
"Captain Perez, would you give me a few minutes to attempt to speak to them before acting?" I asked, "We have lost a lot of crew today, and if possible I would like to avoid the further wasting of resources... By all means, put your plans into action, but hold off until I've spoken to them..."
The good Captain looked dubious, and I can't really blame him, but credit to the man he agreed to let me try.
I opened a vox-link to the ringleaders of the mutiny, and asked to speak to their spokesman. One was quickly appointed, and a new, aggressive voice came onto the vox.
"This is Petty Officer Theon. What do you want?"
"That was what I was about to ask you!" I replied calmly.
"We've had enough I tell you!" he shouted.
I knew then as the man listed perceived slights and minor grudges that the negotiations wouldn't end well. I offered a number of incentives, and promises of bonuses, which Hartek and I had already agreed would be paid to the members of our Dynasty on our return to Footfall, and completion of our first great endeavour, as a thank-you for loyal service. However, he obviously was not really listening, and he continued to shout about minor problems, and then began to criticise the decisions of the Rogue Trader Regent, whipping those around him up into a storm of disloyalty. I cut the link.
"Captain Perez" I looked at him, and he nodded, "You were right. We will do it your way..."
Again, the Captain nodded and ordered his armsmen in. I noted that although he had every right to say that he told me so, he chose not to, and my respect for the man increased. He led the armsmen himself, seizing control of vital areas, and storming the containment areas, managing to quickly ****** the ringleaders, applying the letter of ship-law, and executing the traitors. I was able to prevail on him to leave the skulls of several of the mutineers intact, as I had plans to create a number of additional servo-skulls. Once again, Perez was happy to comply, and I thanked him for his understanding.
The crew were informed that the unrest had been dealt with, and they quickly made the sensible decision to return to their posts, to prevent any further loss of life. I made a mental note at this point, much to Calldia's amusement, that I should stop trying to be reasonable with people, as they really do not appreciate the effort... I really should stick to dealing with the machine spirits of the wonders of the Omnissiah, at least they are logical unlike the clearly deranged flesh-bags I'm forced to associate with.
I left Perez dealing with his recalcitrant crew and headed up to the bridge, and spent some time repairing as much of the battle damage as possible, allowing the Captain to return to his rightful place on The Revenge, realising that it would be far easier for him to command the ship from his primary bridge. He thanked me for my efforts, and I returned to the Furnace of Redemption.
On my return, I headed straight to the medicae bay, and began to look at the long term care of Hartek, and take measurements so I could start to construct a replacement cybernetic arm for him. It was fortunate that I was able to make a difference to his recovery, and promoted speedier healing. The most worrying aspect was that in his delirium, he kept crying out for more of his "special" fruit, which I took to mean the fruit named after him that we were transporting from Dropas. It appears that an addiction has well and truly taken hold.
As I was tending to Hartek, the proximity alarm sounded, and a ship-wide announcement to "Brace! Brace! Brace!" was made. I attempted to clamp myself to the deck with my utility mechadendrite, however, had not managed to anchor myself properly when the impact occurred, throwing me off my feet, and into the far bulkhead. Once I had cleared my head, I attempted to contact the bridge to enquire as to the nature of our latest emergency, but aside from making out the word "impact", was unable to decipher anything else through the static.
After thirty-seven seconds of shaking and shuddering, the ship finally calmed, and as I was about to vox the bridge once again, the device crackled to life, and I heard the voice of Mister Dray calling for me.
"Mister Dray. What has happened?" I replied.
"We have had an impact to the stern of the ship. The asteroid shifted in its tether, and we have reports of three decks open to the void."
I sighed. "Seal them, and I will see what I can do."
As it turned out, there was little I could do other than ensure that the bulkheads would hold, check on the tether holding the asteroid, and mutter a brief prayer of passing to the unfortunates who had been caught in the damaged sections.
Later in the day we actually received some good news! The Navigator informed me that we were in a position to back into real-space, so Mister Dray made the announcement, and we made the transition, appearing right on the cusp of the transfer point of the Footfall system. I congratulated the Navigator on a well judged jump, and headed back to the medicae bay to see if there was any more I could do for Hartek.
Fortunately there was, and shortly after the judicious application of various chem substances, he regained consciousness, and although slightly surprised by the fact he was missing an arm, he shortly afterwards returned to the bridge.
As an aside, I used this opportunity to test a theory. I had noticed that the chirurgeons and medicae staff tended to use exaggerated facial expressions to reassure those remanded to their care, and so in an attempt to duplicate this, and make myself seem more approachable and friendly, I had constructed a series of mesh grills that simply clipped to the front of my respirator unit. Each of these grills replicated an expression that could be made by a human mouth, and as Hartek regained consciousness, I attached the one that represented a wide smile. I am not sure that it had the desired effect, as the Rogue Trader Regent looked more surprised and confused than anything else. I realised that perhaps I had not painted the smile with enough teeth. I resolved to experiment further and judge different reactions.
We began to prepare for all the work that would be required once we reached our destination, arranging for more ship repairs at Magos Julien's dry-dock, Hartek contacted the Black Dragon Society to arrange for the work to start on the new asteroid base, and then began to notify the relevant guilds that we would be recruiting more crew once we had docked. The astropaths were ordered to send messages back to Inquisitor Attalus and the Adeptus Mechanicus back in the Calixis Sector, notifying Attalus of the recovery of his team's equipment, and that we needed to speak to him with regard to a pressing matter. That matter was that of the corrupted world in the Saphirus System; however we decided not to mention that in the message because of the risk of a security breach. The message to the Mechanicus included the details of the strange terra-formed world that we had also found in the Saphirus System.
The vital messages sent, I returned to my workshop and turned my attention to attempting to re-activate the damaged Iron Men. It quickly became clear that the Iron Men contained an emergency download module to which they could send their consciousness if they were physically damaged to a sufficient extent and had enough time to enact the relevant protocols. However, I would only have chance to attempt to reactivate Xerxes, as his comrades had either not had the time to enact the protocols before critical damage shut them down, or as in one occasion, the module was too damaged to recover anything from.
As I was working, I reflected that I had not seen anything of the other Iron Men since our return, so contacted them to explain that I was attempting to reactivated Xerxes, or XX1V1 as they knew him. Although I was surprised by the lack of interest this information elicited from them, I returned my focus to the job at hand. Xerxes was in a bad way, although his head was undamaged, his torso was severely crushed, and his limbs were either broken or had be removed by the force of the impact, however, it appeared that his vital systems were intact.
I connected to one of the standard data-ports in the cracked chest cavity of Xerxes and replaced his damaged power-unit with a prototype I had been working on with Iron Man XX1V2 over the previous few weeks. I quickly invoked the proper rituals and litanies, and almost instantly Xerxes core systems hummed with power once more.
I could see the start-up routine and data compilation running through his neuro-sphere, and was able to guide the data-flow through the correct channels. I had just started to greet him, when Calldia spoke up;
"Oh! Oh! That's strange!" And then with increased consternation, "What's that? That's not right!"
I paused, "What have you seen Calldia?"
"Look... There! Have you seen that before?"
Suddenly, I could see what he was talking about; coded data was flowing, coded in a way I had never seen used by the Iron Men before, and in a style that did not make sense. I could feel an icy cold spreading through where I had connected to the data-port, and suddenly a panicky Calldia was shouting for me to break the connection. I quickly shut Xerxes back down again, and then disconnected myself.
"That was scrap-code!" Calldia was still panicking "It did not make sense! It was... it was Heresy! It was describing things that cannot exist! Things that break all the laws of the machine! Heresy! Heresy!"
"Corrupted code... Hmmm" I muttered to myself. "We need to strip the corruption away to give Xerxes a chance..."
I retrieved a stand-alone cogitator from storage, and rigged it to capture the data output from Xerxes. "We need to restart the process Calldia, it is important..."
"No, we cannot! It's far too dangerous! Please do not plug back in - it is not Holy information!" Calldia wailed
I nodded; "In that case we need to purge it..."
"I feel like it is changing me... I feel different..." Calldia's voiced trailed away.
"In that case I am relying on you Calldia. You must drag me back to myself if you feel it again, we must do this for the good of the Mechanicus and in the name of the Omnissiah!"
There was a brief pause before he replied. He sounded stronger; "For the Omnissiah. Yes. For the Omnissiah!"
I re-plugged into Xerxes port and began to transfer to the cogitator, keeping an eye on the strange code, and suddenly realised that although the code was corrupted, it was putting forward theories that were impossible, the mathematics did not add up, and the data relating to the tech-use made no sense... Unless, of course an additional variable was added; the fluctuations and power of the Warp. If included as the unknown element of the calculations, then the theories made sense... Stunned, I realised Calldia was right, Heresy indeed!
I checked through Xerxes' systems to attempt to work out whether it was him projecting the data, or whether he was infected, and although the theories were enticing I did my utmost to reject the heresy and focus on my search for Xerxes core data.
I heard a binary call from one of my Tech-Priests, "Enginseer! Look at subject Alpha!"
I turned towards Xerxes and saw that his physical body had rapidly rusted and decayed, and that his eye had changed colour to a sickly green colour. I rapidly enacted his shut-down protocols and disconnected. I realised that Xerxes core was indeed infected as a result of his contact with the warp creature onboard The Revenge.
The next logical step, as far as I could see was to remove the corrupted code from the copy I had made of Xerxes core on the cogitator, and to do that I knew I would need a healthy Iron Man to compare the coding with. I called XX1V2 over, explaining my intention, however, he ignored me, and after a few seconds simply walked away. I knew I had no hope of preventing this, so, shocked I let him go.
I destroyed the cogitator I had used to store the corrupted code, and sadly did the same with Xerxes emergency module, knowing that there was nothing more I could do to retrieve him. I did, however feel concerned by the response of the other Iron Men to my attempt to rescue Xerxes' personality. I would have been far, far more concerned if I had realised what was actually going on.
I reported the events of the previous hours to Rogue Trader Regent Hartek, and he was as worried by the reaction as I was, and equally at a loss to explain it. I confess that I was also slightly distracted by the new ways of using the technology that had been indicated by the corrupted coding that was being spewed from Xerxes. Calldia did his job in keeping me focussed, but I did feel a change in my body, no matter how much I tried to fight it, and eventually I noticed that my eyes became very sensitive to light. I resolved then to remove the fleshy orbs and replace them with sanctified cybernetics to rid me of this reminder of my fleshy weakness... As an interim measure I constructed a set of shielded goggles to wear to protect my vision.
The day after this uncomfortable occurrence we arrived in the settled core of the Footfall System.
++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++
We towed the asteroid into the location we had selected for our new base of operations; it was nicely high profile and close to the centre of Footfall, and quickly, the teams from the Black Dragon Society began their work. The asteroid itself was twelve kilometres in diameter and after the initial shaping was almost spherical.
We had arranged for a dry-dock area in the centre of the base to be created, and above the opening a huge Dureen Dynasty crest was laser etched; Asteroid Base Alpha, as we had named our home, was taking shape in a most impressive manner. Hartek paid a social visit to Mistress Chu Leng, the head of the Black Dragons, to thank her for her prompt work, and to finalise the plans. On completion, as well as the dry dock, capable of servicing a cruiser sized vessel, there would be external docking spines, and a docks area offering everything a crew on a run-ashore would need. We had arranged for specialist meeting places, stores, and services, hotels, a garden area of similar quality to that within the base of the Black Dragons, and, of course the private offices and accommodations for members of the Dureen Dynasty.
All these services would keep Thrones pouring into the Dynasty coffers, particularly when the Rogue Trader was busy elsewhere, allowing the base to be more than self sufficient. The asteroid would be protected by its own void shield generators, and have point defence weapons systems. All in all, it would provide an excellent and imposing front for the up and coming new Dynasty, projecting an image of wealth, power, and quality.
I took a step back, continuing to look towards our technological needs, with my immediate attention being focussed on building a cybernetic arm for Hartek. I focused on good quality components, and decided, as a little bonus to conceal a compact hand flamer within the construction. The Rogue Trader Regent was delighted with the results, and found that he was able to wield his Squat war axe one handed! It had been several weeks since I had seen him smile quite so widely. On a more selfish note, while searching for the components for constructing the arm, I stumbled across a suit of Dragon Scale armour, which, having listened to the pleas of Calldia who seemed inordinately concerned about my physical wellbeing for some reason, I managed to acquire for myself.
Even as the new base was being constructed, the work on our damaged ships was continuing apace, and within two standard months all three vessels were fully repaired, and ready for action. Hartek and Seneschal Cassandra Salvatore had recruited a number of Chartist captains to run the trade route to and from Dropas, and they now turned their attention to the recruitment of new crew. Hartek had notified the Guilds of his intention to do so on arrival in the System, and this prior notice, along with some generous sign-on bonuses, was quickly able to gather some high quality and experienced void farers. The Furnace of Redemption and The Revenge were brought up to full complement, and we were able to provide a permanent crew for Asteroid Base Alpha, however, The Great Fortune was still only crewed by a skeleton crew, which although not able to effectively fly her, would allow her to operate safely while docked in system. Once we had brought everyone into the Dynasty, and allocated them their respective roles, we then gave them rotating shore leave so that all of them could get to know one another, and those who had been with us previously could get chance to clear some of the star-dust from their hair.
Hartek began to source the basic weaponry that he had promised the Dropas leader, Word Bringer Korvek, and made sure that amongst the vessels selected to accompany us, was one suited to heavy lift as we would need to relocate the miners and their equipment from Saphirus 1-101 to Dropas, and the preparations continued apace.
Throughout this time, we had heard nothing more from Inquisitor Attalus, so we resent the astropathic message. Fortunately, the Adeptus Mechanicus had responded with a simple acknowledgement to the message sent to them, so that was one less thing to concern us. Perhaps the lack of response from the Inquisitor should have worried us more than it did, but hindsight is a wonderful thing...
Eventually, we did get a reply from the Inquisition, but not from the expected source. The reply came from a Witchfinder Rykehuss who informed us that we were to have no further contact with Inquisitor Attalus as he had been declared Excommunicatus! Rykehuss sternly questioned us, asking whether we could inform him of the current whereabouts of Attalus, which we were truthfully able to inform him that regretfully we were unable to do so. We also informed Rykehuss that we had replaced Attalus man, Rico Dureen, who had also mysteriously disappeared... We decided not to mention the corrupted world to the Witchfinder, as it was entirely possible that he would purge the Dynasty for simply possessing the knowledge of such corruption, and began to attempt to make contact with the Inquisitorial presence in Footfall, using some of Hartek's back channel contacts in the system, however we had little initial success.
The construction of Asteroid Base Alpha had progressed well since our return to Footfall; there were now areas which were inhabitable, and it was from one of these which Hartek had claimed as his personal office that I received a vox-call summoning me. I quickly made my way there, and found Hartek relaxed in a large chair behind his desk, enjoying a glass of amasec, with a slice of the Hartek fruit added for additional flavour; I noticed with satisfaction that he was using his new cybernetic arm, and seemed to have gained perfect control of the limb. I was, however, slightly worried by the noise I could hear; it sounded like the failed transmission of a cargo lifter from the docks, and I was considering how the delicate cybernetics could be making such a din, when I noticed that there was a music playback device in the room, and realised that the noise was emanating from that, and worse, Hartek had chosen to listen to it! This must be the traditional Squat music I had heard some of the crew talk of, and it probably explained why the Squats as a race were prone to flashes of temper; it certainly was giving me a headache. I tuned as much of it out of my hearing as I could and crossed the threshold.
Hartek looked up and noticed me, and then grunted; "I've had visitors..."
I paused, and realised that the Hartek had had lots of visitors over the preceding weeks, and surmised that the visitors he was referring to were unexpected. I know of Hartek’s penchant for telling a story though, so simply replied "Really? What happened Kilgrim?"
He smiled, obviously relishing the story he was about to tell, so I found a large, low, couch and settled into it.
Apparently he was relaxing in the chamber, and going over some of the status reports, when the lights in the chamber flickered; that caught his attention, but he was not too worried as construction was still ongoing. Then, from behind him he had heard a cough, obviously made to get his attention...
Hartek pivoted round in his seat, and saw leaning on the wall at the far side of the chamber a reasonable tall and muscled figure, wearing a long greatcoat, sturdy boots, and a tri-corn hat which left his face in shadow. The man was in the process of lighting a lho-stick, and seemed completely at ease.
Hartek poured another glass of amasec, and offered it to the man; "Alright, I'm impressed. You have my attention."
The man looked up, showing a thin, rakish face, and walked over to the desk with long, measured fluid strides, giving the impression that he could be a dancer or acrobat. There were definite shapes underneath his coat indicating weapons.
He smiled slightly at Hartek, taking the drink and nodding his thanks. "A toast, Rogue Trader Regent, to our future working relationship!"
"I am quite choosy who I go into business with..." Hartek smiled.
The man sipped his drink, and sighed. "It would be uncouth of me to say, but it is you who have been looking for me..."
"I have been looking for a lot of things, friend!" Hartek said, raising an eyebrow, "Which particular object of my intentions are you?"
"I heard from... mutual contacts... that you were asking for, shall we say, a certain service from the authorities..."
"Ah! Yes!" Hartek smiled. "And you have come to ply your trade?"
The man smiled, showing a perfect set of teeth. "As much as I enjoy the verbal sparring, we are both busy. Shall we get to the point?"
Hartek agreed, and switched on the holo-projector built into his desk. He quickly displayed the chart of the Saphirus system, and recapped the story of our adventures there, focussing on Saphirus 1-1S2M3, the world with the corrupted population. He showed the man the pict-captures and video recordings that we had made there, and the data-slate documenting the progress of the illness that so nearly killed me.
The man looked at Hartek; "This is very dangerous information you have here. I know people who would kill for far less; even knowing such information is grounds for termination."
Hartek shrugged, and the man continued to check through the information the Rogue Trader Regent had passed him; "But then, that would be counter-productive, as no-one would ever tell us anything would they?" He indicated the data-slates, "Can I keep these?"
"I'll have copies made for you..."
The man nodded his thanks, and asked "What now? What do you plan on doing with this place?"
Hartek smiled; "Never going back and forgetting I've ever heard of it. After reporting it to the proper authorities, of course! Some of my ships will be returning to the system however. Should someone wish to hitch a ride to discretely visit the area, they are welcome to do so..."
"Hmmm..." the mysterious man mused, "From what you say, this sounds like a significant threat, and certainly not one we should allow to grow. Valuable time could be wasted if action is not taken soon..."
The Rogue Trader Regent nodded. "I agree, however, I am no longer the military man I once was... I now have the concerns of a Rogue Trader House to consider... I cannot simply head off on a mad crusade at the of a hat... However, if a certain revenue stream was guaranteed, I am sure such an expedition would be approved by the house!"
"These dealings with the xenos, how go they?" The stranger asked pointedly.
"Well, thank you for asking! We have a trade agreement setup, and we have even seeded their world with humans, so the future looks good there!"
"Good..." the man replied, "Having the ear of... certain parties... would also prove beneficial for you, would it not? I hear of many things, and many of those are profitable. It would be to everyone’s benefit if those profitable opportunities were given to those who had proven their loyalty to the Throne..."
The Rogue Trader Regent paused before answering; "I would be more than happy to take on the task of purging this world, however, I'm not sure that my meagre forces are up to the task..."
"You would not have to purge the target yourself. Your role would be to get me and my associates close enough..."
"We can do that!" Hartek nodded.
"A joint venture then?" the man smiled.
"Agreed. How many associates?" asked Hartek.
"Myself, my travelling companion" he indicated the space behind the Rogue Trader Regent, who smiled, but did not look, "A few additional companions, and a small number of guests... No more than a dozen in total..."
"We can handle that!" Hartek smiled. "I assume you need our troops to support you?"
"Of course. We will deal with the major threat, you will keep the other threats off our backs."
Hartek considered the network would be available to the man via the Inquisition, and the offer he had made. He held out his hand, "I believe that this could be the start of a beautiful friendship!" and the two men shook hands.
Smiling, the stranger said, "We will meet again in a week" and left the office.
Hartek leaned back in his chair, and waited for a few seconds, and then spoke again without looking; "And you can go too!" He heard the door open, and then close softly again, and permitted himself a wry smile.
Hartek leaned back in his chair having relayed his story to me. I reflected that he was right, that the Inquisition has a far better intelligence network than we could ever hope for, but hoped that we would not have to pay too high a price for their favours. We both sat in silence for a few moments, after I had voiced my thoughts, before I got up and returned to my workshop on the Furnace of Redemption.
I had been working in the workshop for several hours, stripping down the remains of the deactivated Iron Men, when suddenly the ship-wide alarms sounded, and the lights and artificial gravity failed. I quickly clamped myself to the deck using my utility mechadendrite, successfully this time, and waited for a few seconds until the emergency systems activated, before moving to the master cogitator terminal in the workshop. The terminal was locked out, so I moved on to another, to find the same there. I did a little a digging into the code, and saw that it was a command override lockdown, and, had an immediate thought that this was the doing of the Iron Men.
All vox-traffic was being blocked, and the door to my workshop was sealed, so I stepped to the manual override, and ordered my servitors to open the door. It took them a few minutes to force a gap wide enough for me to squeeze through, and I headed towards the bridge, sending another Tech-Priest to notify the Rogue Trader Regent of the events.
It took forty-two standard minutes for me to reach the bridge as I had to manually open every door I came to, but as I moved and opened each one, I was able to release trapped members of the crew that had been caught by the lockdown. As I freed them, they followed me to the bridge, aiding me with the opening of further sealed doors that blocked our path.
As I stepped through the bridge door, I could see Officer of the Watch Dray attempting, and failing to get the systems back online.
"By the Throne Enginseer! What's going on?" he asked.
"I was about to ask you the same thing Mister Dray! Status report please." I replied
"We have no idea! Everything is locked out, it's as though the Rogue Trader Regent had removed that!" he indicated the control rod, locked into the command pulpit. "And one of the crew noticed that!" Dray continued, pointing so a metallic arachnid shaped creature, attached to the ceiling. Later, after reviewing the events that had led to this, I was able to recognise this construct from the recording made by the translation servitor in the chamber of the Iron Men...
At the time, I simply recognised the device of being of similar build to the Iron Men, and it appeared to be running a program of corrupted code. I firewalled and isolated my systems in preparation of interfacing with the device in an attempt to over-ride its actions, and finally ready, I steeled myself and made the connection, despite the protestations of Tech-Priest Calldia.
I made the connection, and was quickly able to overwhelm the arachnid's sub-routines and logic loops, shutting it down, and the ship's systems began to restore themselves. Immediately, I made a vox-call to Hartek, outlining the situation, and was about to attempt to contact the Iron Men, when Dray called out "Enginseer! The Great Fortune is heading out of system!"
"Hail them!" I ordered, and to my surprise, received a response, however, I recognised it as the corrupted scrap-code and killed the connection straight away.
"How long before we can be underway?" I demanded, however, even as I asked I knew it would not be quick enough as we were effectively coming from a cold start, and would take us several hours before the Furnace of Redemption would be active.
Suddenly we were hailed by The Revenge. Captain Perez came on the vox reporting that a number of mechanical creatures had teleported onto the vessel and started to interfere with the systems. They were quickly removed, and the vessel could be underway within two standard hours, I ordered him to do so, and Hartek and I transferred to The Revenge, meeting on the bridge.
Although The Great Fortune had the head start, I was confident that the familiarity of our crews with their own vessels would give us an advantage, particularly while commanded by the Rogue Trader Regent. I spent my time micro-managing the engines and tracking of the escaping ship, attempting to gain as much power as possible, making us more efficient in the chase. We closed down on our quarry quickly, and had got within weapons range in twenty standard hours, However, as soon as we closed to range the Sensorium Void Master called out; "They're bringing their warp engines online Sir!"
"This close to the gravity well?" I asked, incredulous "That's insane!"
The Void Master nodded, but confirmed that they were doing so anyway.
"Power-up the weapons systems, and prepare to fire!" Hartek fired off a number of orders, "Wait until they their shields just before they try to jump! Send out a vox-alert into Footfall warning that a rogue vessel is about to make a warp-jump so close in!"
At this, I quickly moved to the gunnery systems, and began to lock The Great Fortune into our targeting cogitators, and, at Hartek's command fired both the Sunsear Laser Battery and Mars Pattern Macrocannon at her. The lasers hit, scoring the armour from our target, but the vessel still began her jump; however, we had obviously distracted them as they began the transition, as the ship twisted at an angle, before the hole into the warp flashed with its strange light, and The Great Fortune disappeared.
Hartek shouted at the helmsman to turn us away, and although the void shield collapsed, we were able to ride the shockwave from the reckless transition, suffering only minor damage. The Furnace of Redemption which had got underway in pursuit of us was unscathed, as was our new base, but despite our warning, others within Footfall were not so lucky; fully ten percent of the structures in the system were destroyed, and an additional forty percent damaged to one extent or another.
Hartek and I sequestered ourselves into the command meeting room to discuss the events. Captain Bully Hayes, the erstwhile commander of The Great Fortune, had been onboard when she was taken, and given his past record, we decided that he would take the blame. The story that would be passed to the authorities was one of a man who had decided to return to his old life of piracy, and steal our ship in the process. We, of course, had pursued, and reverting to reckless type, he chose to make the near-suicidal jump in an under-crewed vessel when we challenged him, with catastrophic consequences for the system.
I destroyed every single record and all physical evidence that I had pertaining to the Iron Men, with the exception of this highly encrypted journal. Our story clarified, we turned back towards Footfall, and joined up with the Furnace of Redemption.
We began to offer tows back to the dockyards for any damaged ships that we came across, for the correct towage fees, of course, and made our services available to the authorities in Footfall, which were gratefully accepted. Strangely, the catastrophic events had left us virtually untouched, whilst many of the other Houses and Guilds were in poor shape, so we were much stronger, relatively, than we had been. Truly, the will of the Omnissiah is strong, and works in unimaginable ways.
As we journeyed back, Hartek and I transferred back to the Furnace of Redemption to begin the purge of all evidence, and I visited the chamber that had been used by the Iron Men. The walls had rusted, and there were strange symbols and sigils on the walls, so I cleansed the room with fire, and then an acid wash, before asking the Archbishop to re-sanctify the space. Once done, it reverted to a tech storage area.
In the aftermath, I was shocked to find out that twenty-seven of my junior Tech-Priests, and twenty-four of my Tech-Guard were missing. I checked the logs of the teleportarium, and found that they had fled to The Great Fortune with the Iron Men, Omnissiah damn them!
We spent the remainder of the week doing what we could throughout Footfall, and the name of House Dureen was spoken with much favour in the system, largely because of our selfless acts. We left The Revenge in Footfall, to help with the reconstruction efforts, and took the Furnace of Redemption to our rendezvous with our new Inquisitorial ally. He and his retinue came aboard with very little fanfare, and Hartek conducted them to their private quarters, effectively an area of the crew quarters more remote than the rest, and we headed out to the edge of the system, followed by the merchant fleet that would be making the trade runs to and from Dropas on our behalf.
As we approached the jump point, our new passenger made his way to the bridge meeting room. Finally we learned his name, Helbrech, and his rank, Interrogator, and he told us that his additional guests would be with us momentarily.
Within the hour, there was a flash of light, and another vessel exited the empyrean, several hundred thousands of kilometres off our bow. Our scans reported a destroyer sized craft, massively armoured and shielded, and if we thought that the Furnace of Redemption was overpowered for her size, then this ancient ship was a magnitude again more powerful. Her hull was covered with religious statues and huge, embossed texts from a holy book which I did not recognise. Truly she was a temple to both the Emperor and the Omnissiah.
"Our guests have arrived!" I looked over my shoulder to see who had spoken, and saw Interrogator Helbrech, with a small smile on his face.
Our holo-screen sprang to life and the head and shoulders a stern looking, huge, grey armoured figure appeared. His face has covered in the traceries of fine scars, and he had three gold studs embedded in his forehead. I recognised him immediately for what he was, after all, I had met an Astartes previously, and I could tell by the intakes of breath that the bridge crew recognised him as such too. I glanced at Hartek, if the Angels of Death were joining us, just how bad was this mission going to be?
The Space Marine spoke; "This is Justicar Poscar of The Light of Purity, we are here at the request of Interrogator Helbrech. Identify yourselves."
++ End of record ++