It's been a few weeks… month, maybe 2 tops… since I last posted, so here is a HUGE update. Sorry intended to post these one at a time, I had it all prepared but went on a business trip. Sessions 8, 9, 10 are breifly summarized, thier was a lot of back and forth with players including my new Arbitrator. The last section though is what happened in this weeks session (11).
THE SEARCH FOR VICTORY
Chapter 2: By Tooth and Nail
Session 8, 9, 10, 11: Calixis Sector, Malfi, Hive Malfi, Holding Precinct 28-A to Under-level Sy-R33-Nu 233.799.M41
Arbitrator Quintis finished filling in the paperwork on his captives, consigning them to immediate transfer to Hive Malfi’s primary precinct courthouse, satisfied that the local judges would soon determine the full guilt of the parties he had arrested. Despite the obvious recidivist nature of the dark skinned man, the fact that the other captive seemed to legitimately belong to the Adeptus Sororitas greatly concerned him. After some discrete questioning and placing the Sister into a less confrontational holding cell, the Arbitrator left to try and figure out just who the people he had arrested were.
The news of several off-world prisoners filtered through the bureaucracy of the Arbitrators with surprising alacrity, but is was a short vox-call that brought the arrest to the attention of Intelligencer Giovanna. The dark haired woman was quietly monitoring the Hives local information-net keeping an eye out for her contacts, sensing their relative inexperience with clandestine operations and knowing that the men she had introduced them too where likely to consider turning against them. Her brown eyes glowed as they red streams of intercepted communications as she waited to disguise any information that might lead to their presence becoming public.
Sealing the data-reports with a private cipher, Giovanna responded quickly to the vox-call authorizing a transfer order and quickly retrieving the prisoners from the holding location before the interrogators could set to their blessed work. Once it was clear that there was little permanent damage sustained by the captives, Giovanna returned the Acolytes at their safe-house encouraging them to pack up and move out, it would only be a few short hours before someone noticed her tampering with the feeds and the change of orders. While that change was not outside of her authority, the authorization in itself would create questions and demand answers.
Having easily slipped his pursuers Ashram had taken the time to return to the safe-hab assigned to the group in order to rearm for his next errand, the severed head of the factory-foreman and revolutionary sitting silently in the complex’s rickety fridge. Despite his professionalism the Assassin was concerned enough about his companions to send a quick message to Giovanna alerting her to the chase through the under-streets. While Giovanna employed her authority, Ashram spent the time gearing preparing rendezvous with Nader Al-effendi while making sure that there was little evidence of the group left in the apartment.
Late in the evening Arl, Ashram and Narla slipped out of their temporary refuge, reunited once more to head into the streets of Hive Malfi, picking their way across the city towards their contact and hopefully the next part of their investigation.
Within the monolithic halls of the Judiciary House, Arbitrator Quintis confronted the woman who had commandeered his prisoners. Giovanna paced before the massive black-oak doors of the Conclave de Veritas, the inner court of the Arbites where lesser Judges and Enforcers were called to report on their Sentencing and explain any rulings that the High Justice and the tribunal deemed concerning for the laws of Malfi. The waiting was always the worst part, for while the tribunal was expedient in their ruling, it was in this place that all members of the Arbites could face the justice they in turn handed out to the masses.
Quintis was his usually gruff self, demanding answers from his senior on why the prisoners had been released, but no matter how he asked, and denied of the opportunity to properly interrogate his subject, Giovanna met his questions with a seemingly endless stream of stern rebuffs citing superior rank and insufficient clearance levels.
The disgruntled Investigator’s questions were cut short as the Praetor Justicar drew open the massive doors leading into the shadowy inner sanctum, beckoning Giovanna inside while denying Quintis entry. With a glare at the black-clad guards Quintis spun on his heels and stalked away, if Giovanna would not answer his questions, perhaps her office would.
Nader gleefully accepted the bloody severed head as proof that the Acolytes had done the favour he had asked, the grisly display doing little to upset the big man’s appetite as he feasted amid the turbulence of the crowded storehouse around them. True to his word the Stevedore-Cime-Lord provided the trio with the agreed upon fee, an address to a rundown hab as well as a letter of introduction and payment to it’s “lord” a man called Anaton.
Sticking to the back roads and under-ways meant the journey through the streets of Malfi to their destination ate up all the day, the group arrived just as sundown peeked through the ever-present clouds above the Hive, joining the throng of workers returning home, blending in thanks to the concealing local garments they had organized the previous night.
The bab-block was like most, it stank of unwashed bodies and ruptured sewerage conduits, graffiti covered every flat and accessible surface, wiring lay exposed where semi-illegal tech-hackers tapped into vox-lines and power-feed. Slowly the Acolytes made their way up through the multi-level building, ascending a dozen floors till they arrived at an unassuming doorway. It looked like ever other hatch into the homes on that level, its exterior pitted, chipped and rusting.
Arl knocked first and a muffled voice called out from the otherside. For severa moments the Acolytes conversed through the door with the irritated voice, exchanging threats and pleasantries while Narla and Ashram kept a watch to see if any of the locals strayed too close. Finally, as the group began to feel nervous at such an exposed position, the door to the habitat opened revealing the stuble covered face of a sneering ratling guard who ushered hem inside briskly
Behind a heavy door reinforced with ablative blast tamping material the hab belonging to “Anaton” was clean and well maintained, though a stain here and there in the foyer suggested a terrible end to something daring to breach the outer limit and confront the emplaced weapon-servitor within.
With a grunt and a shove the ratling slammed home the door and guided the others into a central room lit in drab colours. A pair of unshaven men lounged about the room sampling narcotics and looking glassy eyed at the newcomers. Through a beaded curtain in another room the sound of an accountant at work his abacus clattering away.
Leading the group into the kitchen area, the ratling ushered out the bookie and demanded to know just why the group had come looking for Anaton. Apparently satisfied with their answer the guard was about to respond when an angry voice echoed through the closed blast-hatch into the hab. Cursing his neighbours the ratling chivvied the group into another room with the accountant as the two stoners suddenly produced a pair of well-used assault rifles, discarding their inattentive air for that of professional soldiers in a heartbeat.
Two Enforcers stood outside the entrance of Intelligencer Arico’s office, they chattered to each other distractedly as Quintis walked up to loom over them demanding to know why their attitude was so lax. The Enforcers quickly smartened up and replied to Arbitrator, indicating their services had been dismissed by the rooms current occupants.
Intrigued Quintis walked into the room, stopping in the doorway as two pair of eyes suddenly transfixed him. The first pair belonged to a man ransacking the draws of a mahogany desk. The man dressed in a white shirt, black vest and well-worn pats grinned lopsidedly and went back to work. The second where a startling blue pair belonging to a lithe woman, clad from the neck down in a black armoured bodysuit worked with an intricate design of swirling glyphs, a low-riding Bolt Pistol sat holster to her shapely right thigh. The woman’s gaze was unsurprised piecing out from a fringe of pale blonde hair as she demanded the Arbitrator’s identity.
Quintis replied, his gaze appraising the final figure n the room, man or woman the figure was indistinct clad in a floor length dark navy cloak and hood with a featureless polished metal mask covering the face.
When the arbiter in turn demanded identification the woman looked at him quizzically for a moment, the robed figure turning to regard the floor to ceiling stack of law-books dominating the western wall of the room, before answering that her authority was of the absolute tugging free a fine length of chain from her bodysuit, the light from the Pict-window on the far side of the room glinting off the delicate Inquisitorial Rosette facsimile hanging from it.
As quickly as he entered Quintis was dismissed, assured that all was as the Agents needed and that the guards loitering outside would provide any assistance the Throne Agents needed.
Just as he left Quintis shuddered, feeling the expressionless mask turning to regard him, a strange odour sitting on the air.
When the ratling returned he quickly made it clear that me was Anaton and that he knew ways through Malfi that neither Arbitrator nor Slum-lord did, explaining that he was once a sapper for the Imperial Guard and that there were thousands of miles of tunnels, abandoned hab-levels and other stranger ways beneath the Hive, most from whatever had existed before the Angevin crusade had ever approached this sector and made Malfi their initial staging ground.
Quickly the Acolytes explained their needs. The ratling listened intently before agreeing to show them into House Syreen’s territory unnoticed. After some last minute assurances and perpetrations Anaton ushered the group from his residence, unwilling to wait before making the journey necessary, nightfall would aid them in their initial foray.
The first step of their journey took the group to an abandoned cathedral on the outskirts of the rain-soaked hive district Anaton lived in, the shrine to the God-Emperor was ancient, its roof crumbling and windows shattered with neglect, the holy-site hidden at the base of a massive pair of Sky-habs.
Anaton lead the group up to a boarded up side entrance, while Arl worked to pry the boards loose the ratling quickly briefed the group on what lay ahead. The immediate danger was from the locals, a vicious sub-human group that used the cathedral as a home. Motioning for silence the ex-sapper slipped through the wing of the cathedral and slunk along the wall of the main basilica.
Arl stood guard, an easy job given the limited paths from their current location. Nearby a pool of fluids cast scant illumination around the tunnel from where the mag-rail that had once born a rocket-tram was buckled and severed. Anaton had been right to warn the group that the path was dangerous. The first thing they had encountered were flesh eating mutants, an incautious movement by Narla had alerted the sub-humans to intruders sneaking through there lair. The fight that followed had only been stopped by a barrage of covering fire from Anaton, the heavy protection worn by the Hospitaller and the hunger of the mutants outweighing a desire to continue fighting as they dragged their fallen back to the cook pot.
Narla had done her best to patch up Ashram who was still breathing heavily with cracked ribs one of the mutants had landed an unnaturally strong blow. They had fled into a storm-water system and then down into a strange generatorium chamber, braving the pulses of discharging energies running down the cylindrical room which threatening to knock them off a thin walkway and into the spinning water-propelled turbine a dozen meters below. Finally they had entered a massive labyrinth of tunnels, each a four meter wide conduit dominated by a single slightly raised railing on which in ages past strange elongated trams had run propelled by exotic forces at sound-breaking speeds.
The Hospitaller finished checking the group’s fresh injuries, moments before they had been assaulted by a wave of iridescent rats, sightless creatures which had been living off the luminous-blue liquid spurting from the damaged rail. The creatures had been twisted to unnatural proportions in the dark but judicious automatic fire had run them off, though Arl could still smell and hear them in the dark.
Thankfully Anaton had called an overnight rest in the tunnel, feeling a break might help to alleviate some of the Acolytes suffering and now they were again ready to press on. By the sappers estimate they needed another half a day of marching to see them out of the tunnel with its unnaturally smooth lines and strangely spacious terminal and back into the familiar gothic territory of a collapsed hab-level.
As promised the unnatural surroundings fell away and the familiar smells reached the group. Anaton quietly informed the acolytes that his guidance would soon end, but after some pressuring by ashram and Arl, the ratling agreed to introduce them to a local who might be willing to assist them in blending in to the indentured workforce of Syreen,
Pressing on they passed into abandoned rooms, the floors buckled and offset at random with the forces from above or below. In places they crawled or squeezed through gaps but in others they marched quickly down corridors that seemed cleans and well repaired where it not for doors closed tight with pressure of shifting walls. Despite the fatigue that pressed at his injuries Ashram kept glancing over his shoulder, a niggling feeling causing him to examine their path, something familiar was dogging their steps.
Again and again Ashram kept catching glimpses of their pursuer, a figure in white, female, familiar. But each time the Acolytes and their guide stopped there was only stillness. Anaton spoke quietly warning the group that he had seen things on past forays down here but would not clarify what that was. Just as he turned away Arl shouted in surprise spotting a woman in a white medicae-gown racing across the passage ahead of them. Ashram had been right, the figure was the image of Solaria, the psyker who had accompanied them while on Scintilla investigating the over-hive of Tarsus, though the similarities ended as the newcomer was much younger, possibly Solaria’s sister.
Before the group could pursue, the woman vanished. While Ashram suggested following the figure, Arl cautioned that they had a mission to which Anaton motioned they should continue.
Their path was slow going and as they travelled Anaton called back to Narla as he scrambled over a wedge of collapsed ceiling asking if the Sister knew any good marching Hymnals, the ratling voice carrying a hint of nervousness. For a moment the Sister considered the question before launching into an elegant song, startling her companions with her trained voice. Anaton recognized the Hymn and carried the tune as best he could, Arl and Ashram soon mumbling along as they moved.
About to step around a corner Anaton snapped his las-carbine up, bracing it to his shoulder in caution. Swiftly the group stepped around the corner with weapons at the ready, before them a pair of men dressed in matt-black Carapace armour and mirrored helms dragged away a barely moving woman dressed in white. Arl glanced at his companions searching for recognition, the woman indeed looked like a younger version of Solaria, but Narla cautioned the group indicating the warriors as members of the Adeptus Telepathica, specifically soldiers of the Blackguard, men whom worked aboard the Black Ships of the Inquisition collecting the Emperor’s harvest and returning them to Terra.
The men dragged the unconscious woman out of sight, paying no heed to the newcomers for which they in-turn were thankful. They turned back to their journey as Anaton suggested they disable the limited lights they carried, the corridors they walked down possessing a flick of remnant energy, enough for long abandoned emergency lighting to still feed off.
Passing up a short flight of crooked stpes Arl called out noticing a small breach in one of the walls of the corridor a flicked of harsh white light spilling from the hole. Kneeling down the Duskborn Guardsman took a quick peek into the gap, beyond the wall was a room filled with all manner of machinery that put him in mind of a Medicae-station he had once convalesced in during his soldiering days. Waving Narla over the Soriritas checked through the gap and confirmed the appearance of the room, noting the equipment looked especially well-maintained.
As they spied into the room a man clad in a crimson doublet and a dark coloured cape moved around the dimly lit area, a small golden insignia of the Holy Ordos hanging from his neck. The figure was diligently monitoring various pieces of equipment as he fetched a large gage-needle, filling it with a viscous green liquid. As he worked he rattled off medical observations to the air an auto-scribe chattering away somewhere unseen from the Acolytes limited perspective. What held their attention was the sight of the young woman they had previously witnessed. She lay strapped in the centre of the laboratory to a metal crucifix. Clearly sedated her cries of denial were barely more than a mumble as she flopped uselessly against leather restraints, the woman’s white robes had been cut open signs of recent medical experimentation across her body.
Ashram sat back from the opening and looked at his companions, the figure in the room had mentioned the words Project: Ra, for a moment the others looked blindly at the assassins words before it clicked, Rah was the surname of their Inquisitor. First a woman who looked like a young version of a past companion, then Blackguard who are normally never encountered off the ships they serve aboard and now a coincidental reference to their missing Inquisitor, at the very least the area appeared like it may possess supplies they could use to speed along their recovery. All in agreement the Acolytes quickly renegotiated a deal with their guide to delay the journey while they investigated the laboratory.
Half an hour later (and 100 thrones poorer) the Acolytes stormed into the medicae-facility, barging into a scene of utter destruction. The crucifix was a nearly unrecognizable mess, its twisted spars lying in a heap on the floor. Cogitators and medicae-equipment lay scattered everywhere, beakers were strewn about the floor and a portion of the roof had tumbled down across the far side of the room, a gaping hole in the ceiling pointing to where the weight of the hab-above had shifted. Of the restrained woman there was no sign. Arl looked at his companions wondering if this was the same location or a different part of the facility.
While Arl scratched his head pondering how they could have missed hearing the level of destruction needed to reduce the room to rubble, Narla searched for anything salvageable. Poking through the room at his own pace Ashram broke Arl from his reverie, calling him over to where the rubble from the collapse roof lay, indicating a skeleton lying crushed by the debris but still held somewhat intact by its once-fine cloths, now tatters left by rats. The guardsman knelt to check the corpse for anything of interest pulling free a golden pendant from around its desiccated neck, holding it up to the light of their lumen-globes the illumination winked off a twisted gold rosette.
Slowly the ugly truth dawned on the group, the ratlings words about seeing things, the apparently younger appearance of their ex-companion and the advanced age of destruction in the lab all pointing to a strange warping of time. The room they were in was what they had witnessed, though they had not witnessed its current state but some point of the rooms past…