[Vacation's over! At least, for me. This was actually a greatly shortened session. The rest is fluff the GM had sent to us and I rewrote.]
I recognize now that I’ve been indulged. It’s a comfortable trap, to be cared for and looked after to a point where you’re dull to the dangers. I have seen too much, done things in the name of dynasty and empire, that I failed to see how brittle I had become. How thin my mind was. The last two months I had spent uselessly gallivanting, on some foolish quest to stave off starvation and death, would have been better spent assaulting the foes while strength remained.
I knew that. I had seen more bloody conflicts than anyone else at Svard. I knew it and I turned away. The madness of the Stroms lurks within me too; I was fracturing like the others before me. It is my hope that by admitting it I have taken the first step to mend my own mind and spirit, for if I am lost to madness then the dynasty goes with me, and you, my dear scion, will never be.
Mostly, I’m afraid. I have always taken charge, relied on discipline that I’ve spent decades cultivating, and it is all crumbling. Writing helps. It sets my mind clear and focuses it. The Eldar, Juna, has spoken to me--quietly--since my return. She sees the wound and has begun teaching me exercises to cleanse my mind and spirit. In my desperation I agreed to it, and the trembling has stopped and the nightmares have lost their bite.
I write this as a warning, scion. You too will face these pressures. I pray you are honest enough to see the cracks within and wise enough to seek to mend them.
As for me, I’m writing this on the command throne of a ship that I’ve just claimed, trying very hard not to stain the pages with the blood I’ve just spilled.
The messengers were waiting for me as soon as the Vivat docked. Alpha Station, in geosynchronous orbit around Svard, barely had the room for us to berth. A gaggle of transports crowded the station’s docks, shifting cargo with the frenetic care of lifelong voidsmen, and I was gladdened by the sight even if the merchantmen bore sigils or flew colours I’d rather not see.
Svard was already at war, it did not need to become a battlefield for a larger one. That seemed out of my hands; the Winterscale ship Praexitium had arrived almost as soon as I had left for Dripwater. With the grand cruiser came a flotilla of lighter escorts and freighters eager to sample Svard’s war materiel.
Captain Sandre Vaunt--dreadfully under-ranked for such a force--was most gracious and contrite for the disturbance. His ship, Before Destruction I assume it’s meant to be called, was an ancient one, a hero ship of the Angevin Crusade. Somehow, the Blessed Enterprise sensed this about the Praexitium, and the two were somehow more alive when their orbits drew them close to each other.
The Chorda ships preceded my return and the Blessed Enterprise coiled with wariness every time we neared one of those deadly and sleek vessels. While Captain Vaunt had taken Alpha Station, the nearby Beta Station became the Chorda’s base. I had effectively lost control of either, and Commodore Fera Blake had all of the charm of a bird of prey.
Not that it didn’t benefit us. Thraves had taken it upon himself to negotiate for trade and resupply privileges, wrangling with the Winterscale or Chorda traders just enough to remain respectful. It was in the dynasty’s best interests that both Winterscale and Chorda had access to Svard just as it was in everyone’s best interests that neither had too much control over it.
I would have been thankful if only those two dynasties were present.
ENTER THE ARMENGARDE
In fact, I had another more pressing concern. Aoife Armengarde had arrived soon after my return, confused at the armada now gathering around Svard. To call us old acquaintances would be too much of an exaggeration; we had drifted in the same circles as nobles of the Calixis Sector. I knew of her resistance against the formal upbringing that her dynasty insisted on. Yet she was always fated to be her dynasty’s Warrant Holder while I was a scion of a then-massive and capable House.
I envied her much, the least of which was her functioning dynasty.
I say all of this to contrast how she greeted me: like a long-lost old friend and lover. I was thankful for her keen intervention, and it forced the other dynasties to take us Stroms a bit more seriously. If I have my way, scion, you will find the concept to be belittled and ignored alien and ridiculous in your time. One impudent twit asked me how to spell my last name. No, I didn’t kill him.
We spoke for hours, as old friends did, in public so as not to tongues flapping unnecessarily. She had renewed interest in the Cauldron and simply needed a base of operations. Footfall was too public, too rife with competitors, but Svard could provide some discretion. It was a thin excuse, but I couldn't do much to push it.
I agreed, of course, but before we went into the details I asked if she could request the presence of her Chief Navigator to speak with mine. Idris escorted the veiled individual a short while later, and she bore charts and maps.
Commander Bodaker will, in the very near future, be dispatched to circumnavigate the Cauldron. Tempestor Three, the frigate we will recover, participated in this and had full astrogation logs stored in her main cogitator. I offered this. Even concealed, her Navigator was clearly excited by the data we were showing.
The dynasty has no capacity to explore everything Tempestor Squadron scouted, much less exploit them. A share in the profits was more than enough for us, as did an understand that Svard would soon require raw resources.
Lady Aoife had the good grace to ignore the missing time coordinates that had been scrubbed from the logs.
She was my guest for that evening’s gala; Lt. Commander Tuch’s confirmation ceremony had ballooned into a fleet-wide then a system-wide event. All the dynasties represented had to be invited, as did a few merchant factors operating aboard free traders. The heavy traffic to Svard was visible in the Empyrean and curious opportunists wanted to know what was what.
We occupied Fort Shard, a military complex carved by some of the same sculptors whose works we found (and looted) on Silence. A cathedral of ice, with Earthshaker cannon and Hydra turrets ensconced in fluted spires and gargoyled towers, it was so Imperial Gothic and yet so frontier chic, I was told repeatedly throughout the night.
I ordered it broadcast to the rest of the system. Those that had power to receive the signal had food aplenty thanks to the dynasty’s efforts, and I wanted them to see how we Stroms operated.
That we were blindsided was my fault entirely.
The ceremonies went well enough. I had everyone in the chain of command who would be promoted along with Tuch on the mustering stage. Never has a Bosun’s Mate been feted like this before, I will tell you that!
Lady Aoife, uncomfortable enough in formal wear, did speak of our newfound joint ventures. Exploratory in nature, they would rely greatly on Svard for its supplies. I could hear the gelt flowing already and I’m told that several factories on the capital moon re-opened the very next morning with just that declaration to go by.
Then it was time to introduce our other honoured guests. Captain Vaunt and Commodore Blake were already well-known and not very well-liked. The growing hostilities between the Winterscale and Chorda dynasties had unsettled everyone. I had but one advantage: I was a rogue trader, a Peer of the Imperium, and owner of the system. They belonged to more powerful dynasties, sure, but they had to smile at the picters as I lead a toast to each of their Warrant Holders.
I’m not sure if anyone bought the lie that I was selling, that the two wouldn’t rend each other apart if given the chance. But the Svardi commoners and nobles alike saw that they bowed to my pressure. That was enough.
Finally, the other rogue traders were to be introduced. Lord-Colonel Haught, Founder of his own dynasty, had entered the gala with the maximum number of armsmen allowed. I saw his eyes twitch at the sight of my Stromgard, hefting bolters and more than a few sporting power weapons. He rose as I introduced him, a gregarious smile on his face, and bowed to a corner of the terraces.
Lord-Captain Bel Dasser, another Founder, marched into the gala with an army of courtesans. If the man knew what excess meant he disbelieved its existence. Conway Tor, another rogue trader but with fewer airs, followed Dasser and seemed the more competent and dangerous. Of course, I was not willing to write either off. Their cruisers and frigates were dangerous combatants.
Lord-Captain Alsbeth Tay, of the Lurio Dynasty, was next and she was gorgeous and proper. In my experience, only one of those tended to be true upon closer inspection. The Lurio were from Calixis as well, their dynasty rarely stepping through the Maw to fatten their fortunes further. Apart from her warships she had brought along two heavy transports as well and played merry hell with the system’s markets for the last few weeks.
The last was Madam Charlabelle, of the Armelan Dynasty, newcome to the Expanse. I knew of the Armelans of course, our dynasty had dealings with them. But the Stroms’ fall began long before the Armelans’ sudden crash, and they had distanced themselves from us. Madam Charlabelle had been cordial and polite, perhaps wary of any bitterness I might feel for her dynasty’s abandonment of ours. Mostly, I was curious as to what she would do with one transport.
All five had been gracious and all five had bowed to a distant corner of the terraces that ringed the mustering field. When the introductions were over, Speaker Tal rose to take centre stage. I should’ve stopped him, perhaps ordered the monstrously large musical band play over him, yet I allowed him the chance to speak.
That twisted old man! He prattled on about needless expenses--yet the Council had wasted Svard’s funds for their personal luxuries--and went on and on about the war. Then, he thanked the Svardi for their loyalty to him and the Council, which was met with barely restrained ridicule, and then thanked the distant corner as well.
Finally, light shone on those mysterious worthies. The board members of the prometheum corporations rose and bowed in turn.
I should explain that my conquest of Svard was pretty much complete: the Strom dynasty owned every moon listed originally in the Writ filed by Antonil Strom (the Deranged) and the amendments added by the various Crystal Council over the years. The outlying moons, the ones General Brigen had spent the last few months liberating under Bain and Trelany’s guidance, were not listed.
Even though the system belonged to us, they had independent charters. Neither Thraves or myself were above using gratitude and the threat of starvation to force these settlements to sign over their moons, just to cover all aspects.
The one sector we couldn’t make a dent into were the prometheum stations. Owned by merchants that had all the wealth of nobles and none of the responsibilities, they privately owned the void stations that refined prometheum for mass use on the forge moon and for export. The Crystal Council’s members received a portion of the revenues--for the system’s infrastructure and development--yet most of the funds found their way into the Councillors’ coffers.
We had managed to buy three void stations, out of the three dozen in operation, before the corporations met together and stifled any further acquisitions.
Trelany believes the first Whisperers came from those stations, and that the corporations silenced it and maintained operations for profit. Those Whisperers then boarded tankers meant for Cog--Binar insists I call it “Vail” and so I shall from this moment onwards--and began to infiltrate the forge moon’s workers. General Brigen had found crystal artefacts in many of the strongholds of the Whisperers on Svard, seemingly amplifying the incessant whisperings of the xenos.
Vail’s siege could be laid entirely on their feet.
Once the Whisperers began attacking openly, on Svard and the rest of the moons, they had withdrawn their tankers from the stations and retreated to other moons, much like the mining concerns did on Hopp. They abandoned hundreds of thousands of workers; the core of the Whisperer army.
They had not been invited yet the PDF allowed them entrance.
Their puppets then spent the evening speaking about our dynasty’s failures and the need to retake the refineries to fuel the eventual war for Cog--Vail.
To my shame, my guests agreed.
The next day, under Speaker Tal’s authority, a grand planning session was announced. The forces of the three puppet dynasties would retake the stations in brazen open assaults meant to spread out the xenos ships.
I stood there, given a perfunctory seat, as the fools ridiculed our claims of the crystalline ships being Yu’Vath vessels. The Blessed Enterprise took part in the Angevin Crusade, did you know that? Not on the frontlines, but the Strom’s foundations were laid by the ship as it mapped routes and surveyed systems. It had faced Yu’Vath ships.
Captain Vaunt had excused himself after his own warnings went unheeded. Commodore Blake didn’t even make an appearance.
Before the meeting Juna had made a very simple proposal: I would politely attend, point out the basic lack of reconnaissance and other finer points of a professional military operation, decline to approve it, and publicly make my way from the meeting to the nearest cathedral to pray for the operation’s success regardless.
Such understated cynicism.
I do not mean just the Eldar woman, I meant us all. Bain had taken several deep scouting runs into the Cloud and had identified a large and mobile force of Yu’Vath ships quite by accident. There were many moons closer to the gas giant and we had not seen nor heard from any there since. Mr. Iosef found the moons xenoformed into crystal, with craters and entire chunks of the landscape missing.
The monstrosity deep within the gas giant had been seeding these moons for centuries, creating its own fleet from the raw materials it had access to. That was Binar’s guess, though he backed it up with convincing charts.
Regardless of when the assault took place, the Yu’Vath patrol would quickly respond.
My estimates are that there are over half a million voidsmen, armsmen, and soldiers in the attacking force. I would condemn them all to death to weaken the prometheum corporations and take over, use the outrage to justifiably remove the Crystal Council from power.
I could not do it.
I asked for a private meeting, just between us rogue traders and my staff. They all attended, and we all presented the information. Only Madam Charlabelle listened. She had been given command of the reserve forces; I then realized that she had shaped the planning session specifically for that force’s creation and securing her command of it.
A delay, a miscommunication, that was all we needed to justify saving the bulk of the assault force. We would only send two dynasties and their flagships to their deaths.
I am still uncertain if it was my idea or Belle’s.
I toured the Blessed Enterprise extensively, absorbing all the minor and major changes. Magos Binar had not been idle these last months. Unsaid to anyone else were the Mr. Iosef’s and the Magos’ trips to the forge moon. They had made contact and run several cargoes full of that besieged moon’s needs, even transferring PDF troopers to aid in its defense.
I was humbled by their efforts, especially that of Trelany and Idris who ensured the space around Vail was kept safe and clear. It seems our time in the Heathen Storm had not entirely left the two, and they cooperated to guide the ships using the Psyker’s Citadel as a lightpost and navigational guide.
Most of the forge moon’s manufactoria were offline, but its storehouses had been crammed with its output. The Geijer captains seemed well-versed in blockade running and had made out like the bandits they were, and Binar had bargained well for our sake. Along with mundane voidship spare parts,. plasma conduits, generatoria, even turrets and a few batteries were smuggled off the forge moon.
It’s the paradox of modern plasma artifice, I’m told, that in order to craft a rare piece of plasma technology it must already exist in some form or another to help bring it into existence. There are ways around this, of course, a gradual upgrading of capabilities to produce ever more refined examples, but it is fraught with danger and one mistake along the path often means generations of work can be undone.
A simple, brute-force way is possible. Only that required an enormous amount of gaseous prometheum.
Vail was perfectly situated for such research and manufacture. The dynasty would be granted access, in perpetuity, to these plasma technologies if we could bring about its salvation. Trelany had established contact with some of the astropaths left on the forge moon--at least those that were still sane--and she had just received urgent requests for help.
It seems we would be launching our own attack.
The five kilometre long cruiser yawed in the void, rolling and twisting under inertia and thrusters, as the main engines fired. A retro-burn maneuver was routine; for frigates and destroyers. To attempt it with the Blessed Enterprise was a damnably foolish thing to do--we could have easily split apart under the strain, broken in two, if one of the thrusters misfired.
I could not help but swell with pride as the ship eased into the waiting dock-arms of the orbital spire, though I did have to correct the helmsman’s planned burst: gravity is something all helmsmen must figure into their calculations, but rarely do they need to account for atmospheric drag. It was substantial, enough for me to feel through the soles of my power armour boots, but we made seal smoothly and laid anchor with nonchalant efficiency.
My staff, apart from Idris and Bain, were less appreciative of the voidsmanship at display.
It would have made all the sense in the galaxy for us to dock at one of the few orbital spires the Adeptus Mechanicus controlled still. Even one that was still in contention would have been a sane choice.
Instead, we had docked in the middle of five orbital spires the Whisperers controlled, the first one to fall. Massive on a scale that must be seen to be appreciated, the spires were like teeth on a cog, which is where I suppose the forge moon acquired its name from. The spires ringed the equator, separating the moon into two hemispheres with specific, and arcane, purposes.
Our assault was swift. It had been preceded by waves of cutters filled with armsmen striking the lower parts of the orbital spire. A diversion, of course, because what madman would assault from the docks?
The Whisperers we encountered were fighting bravely and spiritedly, even if they showed obvious signs of malnutrition, void burns, and injuries. I am struck yet again of their fierce devotion, a level of fanaticism that most priests only dream of, and by the horror of it. No crystalline monsters barred our way, merely hungry men and women that fell quickly.
We seized control under the guidance of Magos Tevla who dispatched trusted minions to control the spire. Though we had just been reunited, my senior staff and I split up to lead teams to assault the nearby two spires on either side. These were still the “rear” but the Whisperers here were better supplied and had xenos reinforcements. The crystal monsters took a lot of killing, brought down only by combining the firepower from several squads.
I had my own mission. My dear cousin Lyza was somewhere in this mess and I owed her--or will owe her--my life and that of my crew. I descended deeper into middle spire, fighting through ghoulish Whisperers now with glowing cankers on their bodies, as if they too were turning into crystal.
Juna did not leave my side, taking the place of a great many sergeants before her to lead my armsmen. I do not know where she acquired that Eldar rifle, only that she seemed well versed with its use. Trelany guided me deeper in, even as she herself lead a daring assault on a nearby spire through “combat drops” inspired by my own misadventure on Hopp. It was the fastest way to insert troops at key locations, or so she claimed.
It was there that I encountered the Avatar.
I know not what the Inquisitorial lackeys will name it. I only know that the grating voice at the back of my mind and the man-shaped, but much larger, crystal in front of me spoke with the same voice. Its first attack tore half my Stromgard apart, shivered into broken glass and burnt meat. My own attacks were nothing but annoyances to it, the power field of my twinblade kept its own energies away from the whirring teeth that cracked and splintered the thing’s skin.
I called out for help as the Avatar struck me. Juna’s attacks forced the creature away while I rallied, wheezing from the furious onslaught against my defense. I could not parry all its blows, my protective field could not absorb all the attacks that slipped by, and my armour barely kept the attacks from killing me, but I staggered away alive.
Idris was the first to respond to my call. She arrived and set the immolated thing aflame. Binar arrived next, attacking from behind and taking down the constructs the Avatar had shaped from its own detritus. Bain had flown Trelany over and had fought through waves of Whisperers before they could reach us.
There was no mistake: I was near death. My plasma pistol was cooling, discarded at my feet, while my ancient laspistol spat useless light at the thing as it came for me.
My helmet was ripped free and I looked at the thing with my naked eyes for the first time and I wept at it the horror before me.
And then it became very, very still.
Trelany, on her knees, begged us to hurry but screamed out as well all drew our heaviest weapons. The light within the Avatar pulsed, and I saw the faintest outline of someone in there.
I hacked away at the flameless limbs and Binar wade in, cracking chunks whole as we dug Lyza Strom out from inside the Avatar. It was only after we pulled her out that the Avatar succumbed to the terrible wounds we inflicted on its form. It disintegrated into powder and ash and Lyza woke.
She ripped the laspistol out from my holster and fired at me point blank--the power field absorbing the blasts quickly enough.
Later she would claim she was still under the influence of the Whisperer. But I knew the truth. She saw an opportunity and took it.
Let that be a lesson to you, scion, should you ever think to rescue one of our family.
It seems that despite our victory the tremendous amount of firepower we brought to bear against the Avatar was not acceptable. Magos Tevla made this point again and again until I, still being seen to by Stromgard medicae, silenced the tech-priest by offering to ship in more Whisperers and leave them in peace.
I was lying, of course. I was more willing to kill the tech-priests and their dwindled servants at that point.
Madam Charlabelle sent one message to us. She was retreating to protect Svard after the failure to retake the refineries. A wise move, one that will allow her to influence the now masterless ships in her flotilla. Perhaps one or three could be convinced to join the Armelan Fleet.
Captain Keel, feeling it his duty to observe and lend support, dealt with the splinter force that broke away from the Yu’Vath flotilla. He expected to be re-supplied, and I had to factor that with my negotiations with Magos Tevla. Torpedoes do not come cheap.
So how did I come to sit on the command throne of another rogue trader’s ship?
SINS AGAINST THE FATHER
Conway Tor, son of Jeremiah Blitz, came for me.
I did not know Blitz had children. Nor that he had long ago smuggled his Warrant out to his son. Dasser had been nothing but a screen, one that I appreciated in its callousness.
He had received word just a month ago of his father’s death in Damaris. It didn’t take much for him to conclude I was behind that. Fortune must have smiled on him when word of our activity near Footfall reached his ears. More and more I’ve begun to regret that assassination, but Tor, or rather Blitz, would make me do so.
The Blessed Enterprise was struck several times with its void shields down. The Ordained Destiny was a flamboyant flagship for an equally flamboyant rogue trader. His son’s flagship was a brutal killer; the Murder-class heavy cruiser was equipped with the best plasma batteries that Mars had ever produced and discontinued because of the class’ treason. My flagship was wreathed in plasma flames.
Our attack craft, standing ready in case of a Void Wasp strike, launched immediately and tore gashes on the heavy cruiser’s hull. I broke off from negotiations even as the tech-priests swore they could bring the ship down with their own defenses. Lances flicked out and batteries fired at the heavy cruiser, but it only brought its own lance to bear and tore out the Blessed Enterprise’s spine.
I loaded troops I had no command over into cutters that weren’t mine and launched at the killer. Its stray shots had set numerous fires aboard the middle orbital spire, already weakened from war and our assault.
I lost one entire Fury squadron as they escorted us through the heavy cruiser’s defensive fire. We clanged onto the True Fate’s and I was the first aboard, slaying even the crewmen that were surrendering to our rampage up to the bridge. My behaviour was abhorrent, and it lead my staff to commit their own atrocities.
Our dear Idris had always been so restrained with her abilities, using them only against our toughest foes. She seared alive many armsmen and crewmen, consigning the vestiges of their souls to the Warp, simply for not moving out of her way quickly enough.
Binar ordered his servitors to begin harvesting, taking unlucky survivors away to be repurposed even as we fought. Trelany corrupted officers and footsoldiers alike, causing them to kill their own comrades. Bain was at my side, at the forefront, cutting and hewing through the human tide with blade and bolter.
Only the Eldar, that massacrer of humans, showed restraint. She killed quickly and without emotion. In the end, Conway Blitz died at her hands as we tore apart the rest of the bridge crew in our madness.
The weapons have stopped firing. I am covered in the blood of both the father and the son, and I write this to make sense of it all.
This is not over.
The gratitude of a forge moon is no small thing.
Work on the Blessed Enterprise has begun in full just one day after the assault. While we worked to cleanse the forge moon of the Whisperers and the constructs that support them, enginseers and other tech-priests have swarmed over the ship.
Its spine was missing--again. We had devoted considerable resources in repairing that section--knowing that we’d need a true shipyard to finalize it--but it had been torn apart by plasma strikes. The gunners aboard the True Fate wasted many shots firing into the empty caverns of the Blessed Enterprise’s broadsides. We had spare equipment there, some supplies, and nothing else.
Not that the damage was insubstantial. Thankfully, most of my crew had debarked, leaving only half to suffer under a withering barrage until the spire’s void shields could be raised.
The Mechanicus delegation aboard the ship, greatly denuded from their original numbers, engaged in a conference with Vail’s senior Magi. I was not invited, of course, though I reminded the tech-priests of their various promises that were never originally realized.
Magos Binar later told me that the delegation told Tevla of our time travel escapades and what they knew of our involvement with the Inquisition. It didn’t seem to matter much to them. What did make an impression was our apparent successes in securing archeotech, and xenotech for that matter. Samples of Nadueshi technology were still secreted away in the deep vaults, and these were highly cherished by Magos Tevla.
That, and the turning over of the xenocana excavation on Hopp seemed to entice these Vail tech-priests.
Some other mundane business was attended to, but in the end there was the granting of my requests.
In my time in the Navy, I had served with several ships from the Lathes. Sometimes they fielded ships that were unique and most likely experimental, but when it came to defend a forge world or face a dire threat they would field common hulls. Lunars made up most of the fighting strength of “Battlefleet Lathe” as we had called it, though the Secutors were a close second.
Those Lunars, however, had a modified dorsal spine. One that often housed a dorsal lance system. Magos Tevla had agreed to rebuild the Blessed Enterprise’s spine to the same specifications and move the prow-mounted lance there.
He also agreed with the second refit. I had always wanted a nova cannon to call my own. One would have to be shipped from the Lathes, but the hull could be prepared in the meantime. It would mean removing the laser cores and redundant power relays for the Sunsears I had spent so long acquiring years before, but the siege weapon would be necessary in the years to come. I know it.
My third request, by comparison, seemed to me to be the most reasonable. Yet it encountered the fiercest resistance. I wanted the Mars-pattern plasma batteries from the True Fate to be installed in the gaping holes where my las-batteries used to be. Magos Binar had agreed on a compromise: half would be given to us, half to the forge world, in exchange for the services of several artificers and plasma-wrights to maintain the batteries.
Could Vail truly produce these plasma cannon in the future? That surely was the intent.
Finally, there was the matter of the Mechanicus' gratitude. Our bridge had suffered heavy damage in the last few years, and the recent battering the Blessed Enterprise received did not help matters. Older cogitators, circa M36, would be installed and the bridge's other systems would be upgraded as well. I agreed on the condition that Magos Binar oversaw it all.
Our damaged void shields and augury vanes would be replaced with more efficient Navy-grade models. Along with the refits to our damaged landing bays, our flagship would be in drydock for months even without the other modifications.
But there was one last gift. In my morosity I had shared with Magos Tevla of the Blessed Enterprise's history, how it was originally rebuilt on Mars, then much later the Jovian yards. I lamented, somewhat drunkenly, of the ship's lost grace.
A year, Magos Tevla said. If I were to give the Blessed Enterprise to their care for a year, they would rework the thrusters, refurbish the engines, and reinforce our hull. It would take that long anyway to work on my requests, and this could be folded in.
I may have promised a permanent Vail delegation presence aboard the ship in gratitude. For now, however, I needed the Blessed Enterprise repaired and re-armed with the ancient plasma batteries, and the Magos agreed. We spent a few hours in silence, walking the ancient vessel's passageways.
Afterwards, a great many things were negotiated. Priority access, preferred trader status, and a close working relationship with the forge world’s acquisitions legion. It was everything we had hoped for.
Yet the threat to Svard remained.
We returned to the capital aboard the Vivat. General Brigen had quelled the rioting quickly enough, but not fast enough to save Speaker Tal. A shame, truly.
The other Councillors had been moved for their own safety. In light of the crisis, and Brigen’s own measured response, I decided to make it official and grant her the planet’s governorship. Imperial Commander Brigen decided to postpone the ceremony until after the crisis had passed; wise, as it would be seen as frivolous at the moment and her ascension would be tied with the end of the war.
Of course, the Administratum had to be convinced to accept this. A registered Imperial Colony, while not a full Imperial World, had hoops to jump through.
In our absence, the Winterscale and Chorda ships saw fit to engage in their own actions. Both were licking their wounds and I imposed heavy fines on both for their behaviour. It was steep, but neither were willing to give Svard up to the other.
But I did not come for them. Nor for the Crystal Council. I came for the prometheum corporations. They had returned to Svard from their private holdfasts among the Hollow Worlds a month ago, and already they were hated again. They had promised considerable wealth to the now-dead or dying dynasties.
Their survivors were in an uproar. When we showed them hololiths of Tor’s flagship, with a delegation of Adeptus Mechanicus aboard as well as the Imperial Envoy, all testifying at the brazen and destructive attack by the corporations’ hirelings--especially that of Conway Tor--the executives panicked. They gave Brigen all the excuse she needed to seize their assets when they began arming their security forces with heavy weaponry.
Those refinery stations, those Whisperer nests, now belong to the dynasty as did a great deal of other physical assets. The security forces were quickly drafted into the PDF, and those that couldn’t stomach it signed on with Captain Thaar who I had left behind on Geijer to “see to things”.
It was time to end this.
Edited by Marwynn, 12 August 2014 - 08:11 AM.