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Major Kimenth

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  1. Chapter 71 – Epilogue As soon as Bazak stepped foot on Da Worldbreaka, the Ork knew that he was in charge… those few that were foolish enough to challenge such a beast were quickly and savagely dealt with. The Orkish fleet was gathered by Bazak and the Orks were taken off the surface of Svard, to the massive relief of both the Svard Hive and the Command Crew. When the Imperial Fleet turned up, having done dangerous micro jumps through the system, there was almost a disaster as they were about to open fire. A hasty message from both Thelonious, and Bazak, calmed things down enough that the war didn’t flare up again. Sylvia Locke could only shake her head as she sent an unguarded communication… “F***ing Deepstalker!” said with both exasperation and also admiration. Bazak took the Ork fleet and departed back to the Undred Undred Teef, leaving the rest of the Command Crew to see through everything they needed to do in the Svard system. They placed the Yu’vath stasis egg, as well as the Chaos Sword Bane in the orbit of the Xenos tainted Seedworld and, with the rest of the fleet watching on, fired their Cyclonic Torpedo at the planetoid. None of them had ever seen such destructive power as the Seedworld was imploded, ripped apart from the inside, along with the stasis egg and the Chaos Sword. Although, whether Bane was destroyed that easily would be a question that would haunt the Deepstalker line long into the future. Constantine, with the support of High Inquisitors, Space Marines and other luminaries of the Imperium, was declared a Saint within 10 years of his death. The area where he met his end, the Ice Sea on Svard, became a massive site of pilgrimage and one of the holiest temples in the entire Koronus Expanse. The blood stained ice where he had fallen being preserved in a stasis field on its high alter. As per his wish, his body was interred in the new Grand Cathedral on Elerius, the planet that he had brought into the Emperor’s Grace, and Elerius became a shining beacon of faith to the God-Emperor. However, to the Ecclesiarche’s dismay, the faith that Constantine’s followers espoused was very much at odds with their powerbase. However, without much pull in the Koronus Expanse and with the power of the Deepstalker Dynasty behind Constantine’s name, Constantinism (as it was eventually known) became the main source of faith in the Koronus Expanse. A statue of Jonas Constantine, Saint of the Imperium and founder of Constantinism was erected at the entrance of the Grand Cathedral on Elerius, an enduring memory to one of the holiest men the Expanse had ever known. Mistress Valentina was devastated over her friend’s death and, although she continued to serve as the Deepstalker’s prime Astropath Transcendent, she spent quite a lot of time in seclusion, not telling anyone what she was doing with her time. Upon the news of Constantine’s Sainthood becoming official, she emerged, having dedicated her time to learning how to use his Witch Lance and Storm Shield, two holy relics and reminders of their friendship. She petitioned Thelonious to take a leave of absence, as well as a ship and a large army, to honour Constantine’s name by purging heresy and chaos from the Expanse. Thelonious accepted. Mistress Valentina’s crusade, in Constantine’s name, brought numerous worlds into the embrace of the God-Emperor and was one of the leading causes of Constantinism spreading as fast as it did. As a Warrior she was exceptional, as a psyker she was incredible and combining both of them together, she was unstoppable. When she returned to Thelonious’s service, many years later, she was as legendary as Constantine and took great pride in what she had managed to accomplish. Bazak was not seen for many years in the Expanse… Ork raids did not stop, but they were reduced dramatically as Bazak kept them close, growing their numbers once more. The day when Da Worldbreaka appeared at Footfall caused a large degree of panic but Bazak had one demand… the Ork wanted to meet with High Inquisitor Lorric. Whilst what happened at the meeting is shrouded in mystery, scattered reports indicate that Bazak promised the High Inquisitor that he would hold off raiding human worlds if Lorric would take Asha under his wing and look after her. Bazak left and Da Worldbreaka was seen throughout the expanse for a while, including on Damaris where Bazak delivered a bust, made from Elerium, to the couple who would become the grandparents of Asha, who had not even been born by that point. They were grateful for the gift but confused… although the look on their faces in about 50 years was probably something to behold! With these errands complete, Bazak honoured its promise to Lorric and kept the Orks under control. Very few Orkish vessels strayed from the command to ‘leeve the humies alone’. Numerous attempts to oust the Ork were tried… but Bazak was nearly immortal, the foreign material in its bloodstream giving the Ork gifts that were not meant to be given to one of the greenskins. Eventually, when the Orks had multiplied enough, Bazak gathered up his forces and launched the largest Waagh the Expanse had ever seen, or would see again. The focus of his Waagh was not the human worlds of the Expanse, the Ork tended to keep its word, but against the forces of Chaos in the Screaming Vortex! Bazak, and the Orks, were never seen again once they entered that roiling voidstorm but those worlds nearby did report that raids from the forces of the Ruinous Powers were almost stopped, and never again reached the level that they had before… obviously something had given them a right good shoein! Isendark continued to serve the Deepstalker Dynasty with distinction, honing his skills to a razors edge until he was given a Governorship of an Agriworld under the control of the Deepstalkers. Isendark left the management of the world to the Adminstratum members that he had been gifted and piled his fortune into creating a huge complex in a relatively uninhabited area of the planet. In that complex he housed one of every single machine (and biological creature) that allowed you to move… from scout bikes, to Lightning Interceptors to Leman Russ tanks, each gathered by Isendark and then modified to go even faster. The people of the Agriworld became used to the sight of random machines flying, crawling, digging, hovering and all other methods of transportation, around their land and the world as a whole. Whilst Isendark was always available to Thelonious whenever he needed him, the fact that he also put his time into creating an academy on the Agriworld, where the best pilots were sent by the Deepstalker Dynasty to get even better, meant he had more time to himself… exactly as he wanted. Commander Rolaine continued to serve as Thelonious’s second in command, enjoying the responsibility and, many years later, Thelonious gave her a present… a Cruiser that had been built from the keel up (from a prize that Thelonious had taken) to be her ship. It had ALL THE GUNS! The Divine Onslaught, as it was christened, became well known amongst the Expanse and some rebellions were stopped when it was known that the Divine Onslaught was in the system, such was the devastation that Rolaine was able to wreak. The Commander (now Captain) was always willing to help out the Imperial Navy, and Battlefleet Koronus in particular, and whilst this was not always appreciated by Thelonious, he knew that Rolaine’s dedication was to the Deepstalker and he let it slide. Other than that, Rolaine continued her studies of Imperial Tactics and personal combat and became one of the foremost thinkers and Tacticians of the age… her writings and memoirs would be studied at numerous schools through the Calixis sector and, eventually, throughout the entire Imperium. She was always loyal to Thelonious, saving his life with her ships intervention at one stage, driving off the pirate fleet that was so close to swamping the Hope in the Void. Yorke, after a period of flirtation, finally gave in to Jeramiah Blitz’s pursuit of her. To be honest, she knew that he was, at the very least, a match for her in terms of cunning although she knew she had the edge in intelligence and realised that bringing Blitz closer to the Deepstalker Dynasty was very much a good idea. Thelonious also thought this was a good idea, it gave him a person who he could claim plausible deniability when he was trying to further his interests and so put on a massive wedding on the moon of Svard… which also gave a welcome PR boost to that recently benighted place. The wedding was spectacular and will be remembered by the people of Svard forever… but that’s because Hadrek Fel sent assassins to try and kill both Natasha and Blitz! They only succeeded in wounding both of them, but Yorke was not about to take it lying down and sent assassins back after Fel… before being ordered to stop by Thelonious, who had another idea. After their recovery, Yorke and Blitz teamed up to become a devastating team; very few people got the better of them and Yorke managed to pull Blitz deep into the fold of the Deepstalker Dynasty. Thelonious would often complain about the amount of money they needed at times, but they always repaid it threefold… so he mostly did it for show. And what of Thelonious, last heir of the Deepstalker Dynasty? Well, he would become known as a Legend of the Expanse, talked about in the same way as Winterscale, Chorda or Saul… he even had a Realm with Elerius at the centre… Deepstalker’s Realm. Having known Constantine, and been his “brother” meant that the number of pilgrims wanting to become part of the Deepstalker Realm skyrocketed and Thelonious became rich beyond what even some Rogue Traders would desire to be. He ploughed this money and influence into his Realm, bringing the Industrial Revolution to Elerius and surrounding worlds, turning them into wealth creation machines in double quick time. Hadrek Fel, his nemesis, had survived the Ork Waagh and had emerged stronger than ever… however, both Hadrek and Thelonious had seen the folly of an extended House War and, whilst they would never be friends, they both agreed to a certain spheres of influence and mostly stayed out of each other’s business. Some called it a Cold War, after the legend of a period of time on Terra, and there would be attempts at escalation, but it never exploded as it had before. Thelonious even managed to lure Sylvia Locke from the Imperial Navy… after another couple of years of being less appreciated than she should have been, Thelonious was able to offer her the Optimis Nemesis, now renamed as Retribution, as her command. This actually gained Thelonious a lot of pull in the corridors of power of the Imperial Navy as they wanted rid of her as she was too good to get rid of for anything other than trumped up charges. She was to perform amazing feats with a Battlecruiser at her command, earning her the title of “Protector of the Expanse” and providing amazing levels of positive PR to the Deepstalker Dynasty. Thelonious had one further meeting with the Eldar, with Beljalanor informing him that Craftworld Kaelor was going to leave the Expanse as he had seen that there was no further place for them here. However, they did depart as friends, with mutual respect between them only increasing as they thought about it more. Beljalanor left Thelonious with a massive gift… the ability to traverse the Webway in the Expanse but also with a warning… that if they ever met again, it would have to be with the most terrible of circumstances. Thelonious spoke as Beljalanor disappeared… “See you soon!” And what of Thelonious’s relationship with Lady Orleans? What of the Ordo Chronos interest in the girl Ashe? What of the search for a live Rak’Gol, and their general threat to Deepstalkers Realm? What about the schism between the Ecclesiarchy and Constantinism? All of those are stories for a later date… Thank you for reading. It has been an absolute adventure to have written all of these and I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did. Whilst there may be further adventures of scions of the Deepstalker Dynasty, this is the end of these Characters stories. The End.
  2. There will be an Epilogue coming soon Following that we will post up each of the character profiles in their final states.
  3. Chapter 70 – Constantine Ascendent… this is the End As Thelonious’s denial rang out over the ice, it seemed that Svard itself took a breath as the thousands of Orks surrounding them waited for the order. The horrific silence just served to make it even more obvious that they were under the command of some other presence. Yorke, having surveyed the situation, had prepared her “break in case of supreme emergency” kit… which contained 6 vials. These had been created by Yorke and contained the dust of each of the Chaos Infused Iron Men, as well as a concoction she had put together from the “blood” of the Necron God they had dispatched. She had no doubt that this would turn her into a horrific mockery of humanity. The rest of the Officers would probably have to put her down afterwards but it was a sacrifice she was willing to make for the House… if it got serious enough. For now she moved the vials so they would be easy for her to access, and then gathered her weapons to her. Thelonious, taking advantage of Mistress Valentina’s mental communication net, informed the rest of the Command Crew that, as soon as the Orks started their attack, he intended on charging Morgash/the Yu’vath and the Squiggoth. The rest of the Crew did well to keep their looks of surprise off their face, to avoid keying in N’Tingy to their plan. It wasn’t that they didn’t trust him but… actually they didn’t trust him! Yorke had spent some time placing well-concealed explosives around the stasis field, she didn’t think they would stop all the Orks, or even destroy the giant egg, but she was in a frame of mind that spoke more of vengeance than anything else. Thelonious was, by far, the fastest member of the Command Crew and he knew that charging, alone, against a Squiggoth was probable suicide. However, Rolaine had a flip belt which meant she could hover and would be effectively weightless. With a short tether Thelonious could drag her with him… and she would maintain the ability to fire. It was just crazy enough to work and would turn Rolaine into a mobile artillery piece. It would also mean that Thelonious would not be alone for quite so long, which was definitely a bonus in his mind! Then, suddenly, the Orks started their charge, eerily silent other than the thudding of their boots. Thelonious led the charge, pushing Rolaine along in front of him… a sight that would have been ridiculous if it wasn’t so effective. Blast after blast from her conversion beamer cut holes in the Ork ranks. Yet even with that amount of damage the holes were just filled by more and more Orks; their numbers seemed endless. Isendark found that his sniper hole was perfectly concealed as the hordes thundered past, he breathed a sigh of relief and then started scoping out the Ork Warboss. Constantine, Mistress Valentina and Yorke were about as fast as each other so followed the Lord High Captain’s insane charge. However they were soon outpaced and left foundering with the Orks closing in from all sides. Bazak, who had been moving in the opposite direction, suddenly stopped and started spilling all its tech onto the ground and hitting it with a wrench, whilst fiddling with its personal teleporter. The Squiggoth was building up speed, starting slowly but soon outpacing the Orks surrounding it, and a head on collision appeared to be imminent! Thelonious saw the danger, however, and quickly jinked to the left with a speed that the Squiggoth could not hope to match. Yet it had bulk and size on its side and it pulled to the right, swinging its massive body around, hoping to crush Thelonious and Rolaine. Rolaine, acting with lightning speed, deactivating her Flip Belt and used her momentum to roll through the monster’s legs. As she did this, she brought out her secret weapons, something that Bazak had been working on for the last few months and which were guaranteed to cause a large amount of carnage, two twin-linked Inferno Pistols! One Inferno Pistol, on its own, could melt through tank armour and Rolaine was firing both of the twin-linked weapons at the same time. The damage she inflicted was immense. The heat beams ran across one of the Squiggoth’s legs and almost disintegrated all four gigantic toes, leaving a trail of damage going up the entire leg. Thelonious, whose own momentum had almost carried him past the Squiggoth, saw the trail of damage that Rolaine had caused and, in a moment of madness/inspiration, he decided on a course of action that made those watching gasp at the audacity. Relying on his own skills as well as the agility implant he had gained from the Magos on Footfall, he planted one of his Mirrorswords into the damaged leg of the Squiggoth, used it as leverage and then, pulling his swords with him, flew through the air. Thelonious aimed directly for one of the spines on the body of the Squiggoth then drove his swords into the back of the creature to halt his momentum. He stood up, looked up at the 3 metre tall monstrosity, that he knew was controlled by the Yu’vath, and spoke… “We need to talk.” The Ork looked down at this human, this pest, and Thelonious saw the blackness in its eyes… it spoke with a monotone that was more menacing because of this fact. “Submit.” “I will submit if you spare my crew.” Morgash stared down at Thelonious without blinking and then straightened and cracked its knuckles. “You don’t get to make bargains Deepstalker… you get to die!” Meanwhile, Yorke had activated her Eldar Void Suit and was now hovering above the ground, moving at speed. She looked back and saw N’Tingy, who had started to follow them, had now moved back to the stasis egg that housed more Yu’vath, but she was too far away to do anything about it. Mistress Valentina and Constantine continued to run towards the Squiggoth, but they were going too slowly to get there before the Ork Horde found them (and probably consumed them)… they needed to move faster and Mistress Valentina came up with the answer, imparting the suggestion to Constantine. Thelonious was, at that very moment, dodging and parrying with all his speed and might, the Ork was raining heavy blows down on him and only his skill, fortitude, Conversion Field and luck was keeping him in the fight. He was able to turn some of those parries into attacks, his Mirrorswords flicking out against the hyde of Morgash… but the skin was iron hard and Thelonious could see he wasn’t doing much damage at all. Thelonious was also utilising the “terrain” on top of the Squiggoth, making sure to move around the blasted and twisted creature to avoid some of the attacks. Bazak was kneeling down next to some kind of generator that the it had, somehow, made from all the tech in its possession. As the Ork horde came rushing in, Bazak grinned and activated his personal teleporter, having linked it to the generator… and vanished… only to appear 20 feet above Morgash and come crashing down onto the Warboss. Bazak’s plan was to use his momentum to push Morgash off the Squiggoth but the Ork had mistimed his move. Morgash was only caught by a clipped blow, rather than Bazak’s full weight. Bazak stood up well to Morgash’s backhand, however, and suddenly it was a two on one combat. Rolaine, who was keeping close to the Squiggoth, saw the oncoming Ork Horde and realised that the safest place to be was on the Squiggoth… which is not a situation she ever thought she would be in! Whilst lacking some of Thelonious’s enhanced agility, the Commander was still very agile and rather strong. Saying a prayer to the God-Emperor for his benediction, Rolaine ran straight up the pitted, damaged leg of the Squiggoth to join the fray on its back. Whilst her ascent was not as crazy as the Captains’, Rolaine did have to jump from spine to spine, holding herself aloft and utilising the Flip Belt to help her… and even then, she only just managed to make it to the top. A heavy movement by the Squiggoth then almost threw her off but she grimly hung on and started crawling towards the melee. Constantine had been weighing up Mistress Valentina’s idea and, whilst it seemed a slightly sacrilegious use of his holy equipment, the reality of the situation was very evident and so, with a sigh, he acquiesced. As they were running, Mistress Valentina moved behind Constantine, who threw his Storm Shield down onto the ice, and leapt onto it. Mistress Valentina then followed, leant against Constantine and directed a massive blast of Telekinetic power behind her. Yorke was extremely surprised, flying as she was, when a massive spray of ice was created and Mistress Valentina and Constantine went flying ahead, almost ending up at the Squiggoth, such was the power of the blast. As they approached the Squiggoth, Mistress Valentina let them come to a halt and Constantine picked up the Storm Shield as the Ork Horde closed in over them. Thelonious was taunting the Ork/Yu’vath, telling them how useless they were at mind control and to try and force their way inside his head if they dared, all the while continuing his dodging and parrying and counter attacks. By the grace of the God-Emperor he had not been hit yet but he knew it couldn’t last. And, because of that, in a secret compartment, he had primed the last Ork killing grenade. The fact that Bazak was here complicated that dramatically, but it had got to the stage where Thelonious couldn’t do much about that, not without tipping off the Yu’vath to his plan. Below this titanic struggle, Mistress Valentina and Constantine were struggling to stay on their feet, such was the weight of the Ork Horde that had crashed into them… even with the Kinetic Shield of Mistress Valentina and Constantine’s fury in combat, they were taking damage, although they were selling themselves dearly. Gouts of flame from Constantine’s Witch-Lance and Seri’s psychic screams left broken and burning Ork bodies surrounding them. Thelonious found that his skill and luck had run out, one massive strike from Morgash spinning him around, where Morgash then locked Thelonious into a grapple, using its immense strength to hold him steady. Morgash/the Yu’vath dropped its head on Thelonious’s shoulder and sent a massive psychic pulse directly into his brain… a pulse so strong that Mistress Valentina could feel it from her position. Thelonious’s mental defences were probably some of the strongest among humankind, he had trained his mind to be slippery, like a maze and his willpower was immense and he could feel the Yu’vath having to work to overcome them. However, this was a race that was one of the strongest psykers the galaxy had ever seen and Thelonious felt his sanity slipping as he started to lose control. He shouted something inarticulate that was supposed to be a warning to Bazak to vacate the area, but it just came out as a growl… as his control was almost gone, he was able to summon up the will to release the grenade, slipping out of his nerveless fingers and exploding at his feet. The effects were instantaneous; Morgash’s body completely disappeared, engulfed in the deadly cloud. Bazak caught the edge of the blast and half of its body disintegrated, a look of surprise on its face as what remained of the Ork crumpled and then tumbled off the Squiggoth onto the ground. Rolaine had finally managed to scramble up onto her feet, Inferno Pistols in hand, ready to face Morgash only to find herself seeing something out of her nightmares as the Yu’vath form was revealed in its entirety. The Commander was gripped with a terror almost outside her imagination and she turned to run, only to look down and see Constantine fighting, against overwhelming forces alongside Mistress Valentina, with the God-Emperor’s fury leaking out of him and was inspired to hold her ground. This still couldn’t protect her from the psychic scream of rage that emanated from the Yu’vath at having its link to the Orks severed… which Constantine, Seri and Yorke noticed immediately; the Orks slowed down and looked confused, as if they couldn’t remember who they were supposed to be fighting. This gave the three members of the command crew a bit of respite, although they knew it would not last. Rolaine was knocked backwards, although she managed to stay on her feet, by the force of the scream but she was beyond fear and doubt now… she was her Inferno Pistols and she was going to kill this monster. Constantine, now free from the Orks attacks for the moment, looked up at the Yu’vath, on top of the Squiggoth and screamed the Words of Expulsion. However, the Yu’vath was an incredibly powerful being and wasn’t about to be stopped by what Constantine was doing. Despite that, the impact of the words caused the Yu’vath to step back a notch and also brought its attention back to the humans in its midst. Just in time as well, as Rolaine fired her special Inferno Pistols at the Yu’vath, only to have them deflected by some kind of psychic field that surrounded the Xenos. Thelonious spun and launched a scything attack with his Mirrorswords, whilst also utilising his shoulder mounted weapons to try and overwhelm the Yu’vath. Yet whilst the Yu’vath was ungainly on its feet, it could still dodge and deflect and even those attacks that hit felt like he was slicing against glass. Yorke, meanwhile, had come upon Bazak’s body and was filled with a profound sense of regret. Whilst she had never been close to Bazak (that ‘honour’ lay with Isendark), the Ork’s craziness had been the perfect shadow for her to operate in. She thought for a second, looking up at the mighty Yu’vath they faced, and came to a decision… she injected all 6 vials into the Ork’s corpse! The Yu’vath finally brought all of its power to bear on the Command Crew, and it was completely and utterly terrifying. Rolaine found herself lifted up into the air by its psychic power and then flung off the Squiggoth. Although she was able to operate the Flip Belt she still ended up crunching into the ground, seriously injured… but still alive. The Yu’vath then turned its attention to Constantine, reaching out with the power of its mind and lifting him up by the throat, squeezing in a manner that would not be denied. Constantine could feel the Yu’vath’s sense of triumph infusing his very being and knew that he was about to die, the strength being exerted on his throat was too much to resist and so, muttering a silent prayer to the God-Emperor he gave himself to the embrace of death. Mistress Valentina, Rolaine, Yorke and Isendark saw Constantine’s neck snap, and then something amazing happened. Thelonious felt his friend die and turned just as he saw Constantine’s spirit, guided by the God-Emperor of Mankind, rise out from his body and smash into the Yu’vath, knocking it backwards a few steps, taking down its psychic protections and burning it terribly. Inspired by Constantine’s sacrifice, Rolaine leapt up, pulling her Inferno Pistols out and firing a snap shot at the Yu’vath. Sha managed to hit its leg and, without its psychic protection, burnt the limb completely off which caused the Yu’vath to stumble, screaming in pain. Isendark, who had been taking potshots at the Orks surrounding Mistress Valentina and Constantine, changed his aim and nailed the Yu’vath in the shoulder. The force of the shot spinning it almost entirely round. Mistress Valentina then reached out with her own psychic powers and gave Thelonious some of her strengh, which he felt fusing into his very being. Thelonious spun his Mirrorswords back into their scabbards, punched the Yu’vath across the back of the head before dropping to his knees and swepting the creature’s leg from underneath it. As his enemy lost its footing, Thelonious jumped back up and landed a roundhouse kick to the Yu’vath’s chest, sending it flying off the back of the Squiggoth to land, in a crumpled heap, next to the body of Constantine. Thelonious looked over the situation, his brain and cogitator calculating the probabilities and, as he saw the Yu’vath starting to rise, he knew what he needed to do. Taking a run-up, Thelonious unsheathed his Mirrorswords, ran to the edge of the Squiggoth and leapt into the air. He landed directly on Constantine, his Mirrorswords going through his friends body and Thelonious winced that this was necessary. He then pulled himself up, with his Mirrorswords covered in Constantine’s blood and spun around. His swords slashing at the rising Yu’vath, cutting through its chest cavity and its spindly neck. The blades, dripping in the blood of a newly consecrated saint, caused the Yu’vath’s head to go flying through the air, landing on the ground with a thunk. It took the Command Crew a few seconds to realise that they had done it… they had killed the Yu’vath and ended its reign of control over the Orks. Then they realised that they were now stuck in the midst of a massive group of Orks who were starting to revert back to their usual nature… and that nature was to brutally kill anything that wasn’t an Ork. Yorke had been standing guard over Bazaks corpse, killing any Orks that got too close with a Thunder Hammer to the face, but even she was surprised when Bazak stood up, his damaged half of his body already regenerated. The look in Bazak’s eyes was one of confusion, mixed with insanity but Yorke couldn’t tell whether that was any different than it had been before! As the vials took effect, Bazak grew in stature; his skin became as hard as any armour and Mistress Valentina could sense that he has psychically awoken as well… Yorke had created a monster and was unsure as to whether it was the Bazak of old! However, before they could see whether that was a threat they had to deal with, everyone felt another psychic surge coming from the stasis egg… N’Tingy had managed to breach it and was bringing what was inside, out! As the surviving Command Crew looked to the skies to try and think about what they could do, Yorke just turned to all of them and smirked. She pulled her hand up, a hand holding a small box, and laughed as she flicked the switch and the Crew watched as all the mines and explosives that Yorke had placed around the stasis egg were triggered. The minor mushroom cloud that rose from that spot spoke of what had happened to N’Tingy and they all felt the psychic surge reduce and then disappear, with the stasis egg going back to its usual, dormant state. Meanwhile, Bazak had completely reconstituted and was now almost 5 metres tall, towering above everyone and everything other than the Squiggoth and looked around, seeing the Orks about to start to regain their Orkyness, and raised his voice into a shout that shook the ice. “I’M DA BIGGEST! WAAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH!” The effect on the Orks was electrifying, as they saw the new head of their Waagh, because none of them could challenge such an awesome specimen of the Orkish species and when Bazak ordered them to “leave da humies to me!” they were only too happy to comply! As the Orks started to move away, the surviving Command Crew looked to their member who had sacrificed himself to provide them their victory and raised Constantine’s body onto their shoulders and walked, solemnly, towards the nearby Ork base… the invasion was over and they had won… but at such a cost.
  4. Chapter 69 – Is this the End? The Fighta-Bombas were deployed in a triangle formation, one above and two below the Shuttle and they were coming on fast, from the rear. Thelonious knew that they were going to be much faster than the Shuttle, which had been built for stealth, but that meant he had greater manoeuvrability than the Orks… he just didn’t know, exactly, how to utilise that in this case. There was a banging sound from the rear as Bazak, carrying the stasis pod, started headbutting it, trying to widen the gap in the runes but Thelonious had to put that out of his mind and focus on the task at hand. Commander Rolaine took the place of Isendark next to him, ready to utilise the Shuriken Cannon on anything that came into range… the Lord-High Captain and his second in command shared a look and then got down to it. Thelonious decided to utilise the stasis pod, having Bazak push it against one side of the shuttle and then turning into that, losing height and speed but managing to turn the shuttle round in a way that shouldn’t have been possible… and Thelonious started going down lower. The Orks opened up from distance, their autocannons chattering but, with typical Ork accuracy, only a few of them hit the shuttle, pattering against the wing, causing warning runes to light up but not doing much damage at all. Thelonious realised he needed to get the stasis pod out of the shuttle and put it into a steep dive, pulling up at the last minute as Yorke and Bazak opened the back of the shuttle, with Mistress Valentina and N’Tingy pushing it out with their powers. The stasis pod was joined by Bazak (using the Rocket Pack), Yorke (using her Eldar Glid Suit) and Isendark (utilising his Power Board) leaving Thelonious (furious at those who had bailed out without his order), Rolaine, Constantine, Mistress Valentina and N’Tingy on the shuttle. On the way back up, Rolaine had managed to stitch the Shuriken Cannon across one of the Fighta-Bombas but was frustrated by how little damage it did. Routing the controls for firing back to Thelonious, Rolaine made her way to the back of the shuttle, strapped herself in and then reopened the back of the shuttle and readied her Conversion Beamer… the shuttle now had rear firing weaponry! Despite his general inclination towards melee, Constantine knew how bad this situation was and joined Rolaine, taking out an Autocannon that they had stowed aboard and taking up position, whilst praying to the Emperor for guidance. Bazak had already taken up position on the ground beside the fallen ‘Egg’, pulling his Autocannon off his back… he was now the ground to air portion of the “plan” that was coming together, along with Isendark, sighting down his sniper rifle… although the chance of a hit was truly infinitesimal. Thelonious was highly vocal about his annoyance at those three members of the Command Crew… the plan, originally, was to fight in the air, with Isendark doing the same thing as Rolaine, but that was now chaff in the wind. He focussed his thoughts on doing the best he could with the situation he had and pulled the Shuttle around to fly directly at the Orks. Thelonious aimed up at the Orks, firing the Shuriken Cannons at the incoming fliers and then levelling off, knowing that the Orks would fly past, which would give Rolaine and Constantine a chance to hit them. It did not turn out as well as it could! The autocannons of the Ork fliers punched through the top of the shuttle, opening up gaping holes in the canopy and only by a miracle had it not hit Mistress Valentina or N’Tingy. Seri immediately utilising her psychic power to create a kinetic shied over the top of the shuttle, both protecting the shuttle and helping to hold it together. The Astartes bike that Isendark had been given by the Storm Wardens, which had been tied on the top of the shuttle, proved to be their saviour… taking the blow from a lascannon shot that would have obliterated the shuttle… but in this case, destroyed the bike instead. As the flaming wreckage plummeted down to the surface of Svard, Isendark could only look on in horror… but then refocussed himself against the Orks, determined to bring them down! Bazak was firing up at the fliers flitting away and, somehow, managed to hit them with his Autocannon whilst Rolaine utilised her Conversion Beamer to amazing effect, the explosion knocking one of the fliers out of the air… one down, two to go! Thelonious knew that he had to keep it low to the ground, both to take the speed differential out of the equation and to allow Isendark and Bazak the ability to help them out… but it made it more difficult for him to fly in an evasive manner… but some risks were worth taking. The Orks overflew again, autocannons spitting fire and lascannon sending out beams of destruction, but the flying of Thelonious was good enough, with Rolaine and Bazak managing to damage one of the remaining fliers, but not to take it down. As the Ork’s flew back around again, Thelonious zigged when he should have zagged and a rain of Autocannon shells flew through the, nearly open, roof of the shuttle. It was Mistress Valentina that saved the day, pushing with all her power to increase the kinetic shield she had placed up and over the shuttle… the shuttle was horrifically damaged, barely flyable anymore, held together with the power of Mistress Valentina’s mind. Thelonious pushed the shuttle into a dive (not that he had to push it that hard) and knew that this was the last change they had to destroy the Orks. Once again, the Command Crew did not disappoint him, with Rolaine and Bazak, once again, combining to take down an Ork flier, leaving one remaining. The shuttle was so low to the ground that Yorke’s grenade launcher came into play, sending a frag grenade that did very little to the flier itself, but did take out the canopy protecting the Ork pilots. It was thus down to Isendark, with his sniper rifle, to put this combat to bed. Isendark held his breath, pulled the trigger and let fly, following the bullet as his aim managed to take into account all the variables and hit the pilot right between the eyes, splattering the Orks brains onto the co-pilot… the flier crashed into the ground and exploded. With the Ork Fighta-Bombas destroyed, Thelonious realised just how precarious his position was… the shuttle was shuddering and straining against his control, only held together by the will of Mistress Valentina. He shouted “be ready for a bumpy landing!” and then put all his efforts into bringing them down safely……… …… he failed. As Bazak, Yorke and Isendark looked on in horror, the shuttle moved down to land but was hit by a gust of wind that caused the undamaged wing to snap down into the ice, which flipped the shuttle up and over, smashing into the ground again and again. The first smash pulverised the cockpit, before twisting onto the side and then onto the back (where Constantine and Rolaine were located) with one of the engines sheering off to one side and exploding. Metal shards flew out in all directions as the shuttle finally came to a stop on the ice sea… and then the fire started. As they approached the shuttle they could see Constantine, dragging an unconscious (and dead looking) Thelonious away from the wreckage, with Rolaine staggering along and Mistress Valentina and N’Tingy crawling across the ice… all of them wounded and battered and bruised. Isendark quickly went in and put the firre out but the damage had been done and the shuttle was an absolute ruin. Yet, miraculously, everyone was alive, although Thelonious needed help from Constantine to get to his feet again, with Constantine then spending a lot of time seeing to the rest of the Command Crew. On assessing their situation, the crew found themselves in the middle of an ice sea with a ruined shuttle and a stasis pod that was horrifically heavy and pretty much unable to be moved. Not to mention a Yu’vath and his Ork puppets looking for them, and having no way to actually move from this area… things were not looking good. With the group moving back to the stasis pod, Bazak started whaling on the golden shell, shouting that it had got them into this mess... whilst the rest tried to think their way out of this. Thelonious took Yorke and Rolaine to one side, handed them something and gave them specific orders, out of the earshot of everyone else before re-joining the group. Bazak, meanwhile, had moved from whacking the stasis pod to trying to force the Power Klaw through the broken runes… a task that he succeeded at, and then seemed surprised when the Power Klaw became stuck as it touched the stasis field and became trapped by its power. Bazak went berserk, climbing onto the stasis pod and yanking on the Power Klaw, shouting at the pod to let his Klaw go. Thelonious took this time to express his stern… ‘disappointment’ … with the three members of the Command Crew who had bailed out and left them to be shot out of the sky. He had been thinking of expressing his disappointment with a Bolt Pistol, but decided that he needed the members of the Command Crew more than he needed to feed his annoyance with them. It was between a few hours and a couple of days before the fleet would get here, if they had taken the risk and gone through the Warp, and the command crew knew that the Yu’vath would find them before that. They also still had N’Tingy with them and none of them could bring themselves to trust him, other than Bazak, who just didn’t care. Bazak, getting more and more frantic about the Power Klaw, decided to use one piece of technology that the Ork had hidden from the humans, in an attempt to get back its favourite weapon… so the rest of the Command Crew were surprised when he just disappeared. The Ork literally vanished, still leaving the Power Klaw embedded in the stasis pod, and then appeared in mid-air and fell to the floor with a crash. When asked what it was, Bazak responded with “TelliPorta!” and then went back to looking at the Power Klaw, wondering if its intimidating manner would be enough to free it from the stasis field… he really wanted that Power Klaw back! The Ork started looking through its stuff, and then grabbed the Displacer Field generator that it had created and started tinkering with it, before standing up with a huge grin and walking towards the stasis pod. Thelonious didn’t like the look of that grin and asked Bazak what it was up to… only to hear the chilling response of “turnin da stasis fing off!” After being ordered not to, but continuing on its path, Thelonious felt he had no choice but to gesture to Rolaine, who released one of the two remaining poison canisters that Yorke had created above Elerius. Immediately it affected Bazak, who dropped to the ground, dead. However, when they approached, the found the Ork was still breathing, although it was severely damaged and it seems that only the blessings of Gork and Mork had kept Bazak alive, whereas the rest of the Orks had been liquefied by it… and Constantine started providing first aid. With Bazak still unconscious, the Command Crew started discussing what to do. Constantine was of the opinion that they should cut a hole in the ice and push the stasis pod into it… but, that would take a lot of time and leave them exhausted… and they were already battered and bruised. In the end, Constantine realised that the Orks would be able to get it, even from the bottom of the ocean… they would simply find a way. The Crew decided that, if they were going to have visitors soonish, then they should provide a warm welcome. They stripped the wrecked shuttle for as much defensive hull armour as they could and, used blocks of ice cut out of the sea to anchor them to the ground. In the end they had created a relatively good defensive position, facing outwards around the egg. Isendark had carved himself out a sniper hole, a little further away from the rest of the group, to hopefully take pot shots at important members of the Ork hordes coming their way. The Command Crew worked through the evening to complete it and then settled in for a restless night. It was restless because, as soon as Bazak woke up, he went right back to trying to get its Power Klaw out of the stasis field (without trying to turn it off) and even ordering the Ork to stop only delayed it… you could say many things about Bazak, but the Ork was very single minded, especially when it came to weapons. However, they also didn’t mind the passing of the hours, as it meant that potential help was getting, hopefully, closer. Mistress Valentina also sent off an astropathic communication to Svard Prime, asking them to send one of their battered shuttles to them… after all, any shuttle was better than the nothing they had. It seemed to have had no effect but, soon after dawn, Yorke, scanning the horizon with her Magnoculars, spotted the shuttle approaching them. The spirits of the Command Crew were lifted… only to be dashed as a lascannon blast fried it out of the sky and turned it into scrap metal. It was then that they could hear the vibrations rumbling through the ice, the sound of hundreds, if not thousands, of feet. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the Officers of House Deepstalker could see the forces massed against them… uncountable Orks and there, astride a huge Squiggoth, was the Warboss (and Yu’vath). In remarkably clear Low Gothic (for an Ork), Morgash informed them that “if they surrendered the egg, then they would be spared,” which was met by absolute giggling laughter from Mistress Valentina, which she also projected psychicly… letting the Yu’vath know how stupid she thought that offer was. Morgash (or the Yu’vath puppeting the Ork) then sweetened the pot by saying that they would be offered high positions in its new Empire. Thelonious thought this was far too generous and knew that the only hope they had of holding off the Orks lay with the one remaining canister they had… as they had used the other one on Bazak. Knowing how deadly it was to Orks, Thelonious looked to Bazak and told him to run, to get out of there. Bazak looked at Thelonious, confusion plastered on its face, before the dawning of understanding came onto the face of the Ork and Bazak and Thelonious shared one more, probably final, glance before Bazak left the defensive position. Thelonious looked around at the rest of the Command Crew, seeing the resolve and determination on their faces, knowing that this could be the end of them but willing to face that fate with the same devotion that had led them to explode a cyclonic torpedo in their presence… these men and women of the Deepstalker Dynasty would give it all. Thelonious raised his voice with a loud yell. “The Deepstalker Dynasty will never surrender to the likes of you, scum. We will fight you here and we will win… and even if we don’t, you will never get what you desire. For the God-Emperor, for the Deepstalkers!”
  5. Chapter 68 – Desperate Times… Thelonious was actually quite pleased when his Command Crew didn’t immediately start firing at N’Tingy. Obviously those (many) stern lectures he had given about not shooting until the conversation was done, or until he gave the order, was actually paying dividends (finally). He was surprised when Bazak quickly retreated out away from the group (and N’Tingy) but he paid it no mind. Instead he focused on trying to figure out what N’Tingy was doing here and how much he remembered. However, any attempt at conversation was disrupted when Bazak, shouting “CUSTARD!!” at the top of its lungs, charged in and took a couple of swipes at N’Tingy with his lightning claw. N’Tingy, particularly spry for a man who had spent almost a decade trapped, simply moved to the side causing Bazak’s charge to smash into the Yu’vath stasis pod… the crew noticed that, even with Bazak’s strength behind the blows, the pod was barely scratched. N’Tingy, without missing a beat, continued the conversation, stating that one of the reasons he had wanted to get off the station in the first place, all those years ago, was because he felt the presence of this on Svard and had wanted to investigate. Bazak charged in again, but was again unsuccessful, its claw swipes catching thin air and its momentum slamming it into the edge of the Disruption field that surrounded them. It quickly got up, shook its head and charged back in… only to be unsuccessful once again. Tired of this, Bazak reached behind its back and pulled off a Heavy Bolter, aiming it at N’Tingy. Thelonious had been annoyed with Bazak’s actions but, given his command had been “don’t SHOOT anyone I’m talking to unless I give the order,” he had allowed the ork to continue its antics, especially when it proved no real threat. However, once the Heavy Bolter came out, Thelonious ordered him to stand down. With the Ork ‘pacified’ the conversation continued. They discussed what the stasis pod was, what it contained and what they were intending on doing about it… the command crew were not willing to tell the exact truth to N’Tingy due to a rather complete lack of trust, but they did inform him that it wasn’t to be messed with, and that others were looking for it as well. N’Tingy spoke, at length, about his desire for technology to be taken out of the hands of the Adeptus Mechanicus and given to the people as a whole. He was passionate in his belief that humanity was better before the Mechanicus gained absolute control of technology and that Psykers were the future of the human race, made to rule over the lessers (those that didn’t have psychic powers). This made him a double heretic, both against the Imperium and also against the Adeptus Mechanicus. However, in Thelonious’s mind, at least he wasn’t attacking them and it was possible that they needed all the help they can get… although he expected Constantine would not share his opinion! Again, the conversation was interrupted by Bazak, who lobbed both a Stinkbomb and Hallucinogenic grenade into the middle of the group. Everyone was unaffected (being in a sealed environment inside their suits) except Yorke, who had retracted her helmet during the conversation. She was affected by both of the grenades, falling over with vomit spewing from her mouth and then, when that worn off, looking at everyone as if they were going to kill her and skittering behind the Yu’vath stasis pod, occasionally looking out to see if anyone was approaching. In the end, the command crew and N’Tingy came to an uneasy truce. This came about when everyone realised that the metal that made up the stasis pod was incredibly heavy and dense and that even Bazak, by far the strongest member of the group, could barely lift it. Thelonious realised that both N’Tingy and Mistress Valentina were masters of Telekinesis and they could use that power to aid in lifting the stasis pod… something that Mistress Valentina could probably have done herself, but the drain on her and Bazak would have been unacceptably high. They also informed N’Tingy of their plan to lure the Orks to the seedworld and then blow them, and the stasis pod, up with a weapon of immense power, which intrigued N’Tingy enough that he agreed to the truce… now they just needed to figure out how to move it out of the time dilation effect. Thelonious had also been studying the runic writing on the stasis pod and, whilst he couldn’t read it, there was something familiar about the pattern of it… he realised that something put in this stasis pod, with this much protection, was probably very important to the Yu’vath. Thelonious also noticed something strange when he was looking around the stasis pod, in an otherwise very smooth (runes excepted) piece of metal he could see a slight groove. It didn’t seem to signify anything of import, almost as it if was trying to hide. Thelonious reached out and pressed his fingers against the groove, then rotating them in a circular motion and he felt a jolt go through his body. The rest of the Command Crew felt as well and they looked up as the time dilation effect dissipated. Almost immediately, those with the ability to sense psychic powers were almost stunned by a powerful psychic wave that washed over them, which set the stasis pod to humming as if it had replied. N’Tingy asked Thelonious if that was the thing they were trying to kill. Upon receiving the affirmative response he started gathering his power to help lift the stasis pod. He looked at Thelonious and informed the Lord-High Captain that he wanted to be taken from Svard and dropped on another of the Deepstalker planets with enough supplies to get him started and Thelonious told him that he had a few places in mind. With Bazak providing the muscle, and N’Tingy and Mistress Valentina gifting their psychic talents, the Command Crew moved, slowly, from the cavern, up the stairs and into the shuttle, all without the nearby Orks noticing. Thelonious realised that the shuttle would be very hard to fly with such a massive weight on it, but Bazak could keep it from rolling, and the two psykers could hold it off the floor, for a time. The question then became, what to do? They thought that the Yu’vath could figure out where the stasis pod was, now that the time dilation field had been deactivated, but they didn’t think it could do it all the time… the ‘wash’ of psychic power had not been felt more than once. It was decided that they would try and head to Svard Prime, the fact that it was under siege by Orks was a consideration of course! However, from the scans they had received from the Starweaver, they knew that the Orks were not assaulting the hive, just keeping it contained. During the journey, which Thelonious decided to take very steadily, there was another rush of psychic power and it became obvious that the ‘Clive’ could search the entire planet, almost like radar, to get a fix on the location of the stasis pod… but it couldn’t do it that often. This meant that it would be impossible to ever hide from the Yu’vath, but it might be possible to confuse it if they kept on moving… but first, they had to get inside Svard Prime. Approaching from behind the Ork army, Thelonious sent a message to the Hive, using his own personal code, telling them to drop the shield at the top of the hive to allow them to land. The shield dropped almost immediately, the shuttle was quickly landed and the shield hummed back into life. The guards on the external docking bay were nervous, not quite pointing guns at Thelonious, but also not standing down until Speaker Tal arrived and saw that it was actually Thelonious T Deepstalker himself. Tal was, understandably, happy about Thelonious’s arrival but also somewhat concerned as to why they had not made themselves known before now. His face fell, somewhat, when he learned that they were here without any backup although he was cheered when he understood that help was going to be on the way, albeit delayed and slightly under gunned. Bazak, Mistress Valentina and N’Tingy were happy to not have to be holding up the stasis pod, they were feeling quite tired after the journey and needed rest, which they hoped they could get in Svard Prime. As they rested against the side of the shuttle, Speaker Tal spotted N’Tingy and quickly motioned for an aide to come to his side. There was a whispered conversation, noticed by Thelonious, and then the aide disappeared from Tal’s side, obviously sent on some kind of errand. Commander Rolaine decided to use their time here to look over the defence plans and improve them, Constantine and Thelonious both decided to try to increase the morale of the defenders of Svard, with impressive results and Svard Prime was about as ready as they could be for an Ork onslaught. However, whilst this was happening, the Command Crew were wondering whether it was right to stay here. They realised that the psychic searches were coming, roughly, around every hour or so. They also realised that the Ork army outside would probably be sent to attack if the Yu’vath could zero in on the fact that they were holding it in Svard Prime… and they didn’t want to bring that down on the inhabitants of the hive. Thelonious also caught up with Tal regarding his reaction to N’Tingy. Apparently the Svardians had a sketch of N’Tingy, warning that he should be apprehended quickly as he was a traitor to Svard and a danger to wherever he was. Thelonious was well aware of the potential danger of N’Tingy but informed Speaker Tal that he was helping with the Ork problem and that the plan was to exile him afterwards, so that he could not bother Svard anymore… especially given that Thelonious had killed him before and it hadn’t stuck! Back in the conversation regarding what to do with the stasis pod, Thelonious and Constantine had a discussion regarding whether they could keep running for the 7 days it would take the flotilla to reach Svard, given that the Ork and the Psykers would need to rest. Thelonious’s idea was to fly somewhere, stay there for a couple of hours to give people a rest, then fly somewhere else, always keeping it moving, and only stopping again when they were far enough away for another two hour rest… he didn’t know if it would work for the time it needed, but he couldn’t think of a better idea. Given that they were going to be exiting the hive, soon after the next ping, Commander Rolaine opined the idea that they should use the shuttle as a weapon to take out some of the artillery surrounding the hive… both the Shuriken Cannon that was the elder shuttles only weapon, and also Rolaine herself, with her Conversion Beamer, strapped to the top of the shuttle, adding her firepower to it. The attack was nothing more than a pin prick against the vast forces arrayed against them, but it truly was spectacular… the Conversion Beamer lighting up Orks and their weaponry whilst the Shuriken Cannon turned them into giblets… before they had to pull up and make their way around Svard. Constantine had been looking at some of the maps of the planet and suggested that they head to the mountains, because that was some of the most inhospitable terrain on an already relatively inhospitable moon. The weather up there was truly atrocious and the shuttle was battered and bashed around but, due to the piloting skill of Thelonious, who was no slacker when it came to piloting, and they landed in a slight ravine as N’Tingy and Mistress Valentina started to tire rapidly. The next ping, on the hour as before, meant that the Yu’vath knew where they were, but Thelonious was counting on the fact that they wouldn’t be able to reach them just yet. Of more concern to the Command Crew was Yorke’s observation that the ping had set the stasis pod to shivering. Thelonious, rapidly running out of options, asked Mistress Valentina to send a message to the Eldar… he didn’t even know if they were around this area of space but, at that moment he was just sending out requests for help to anyone he had ever met! There was nothing much to do but wait, they were safe here for a while and if they had been in the same place for a few pings then troops might be after them, so they could easily fly away… especially given the terrible weather in these parts. The next ping, on the other hand, altered that algorithm… Yorke was looking very closely at the stasis pod, given the vibrations the last few times, and saw one of the runes on the front crack open… from the inside! Desperate times call for desperate measures. Given that Mistress Valentina was now nicely rested, Thelonious asked her if she could send a message to each of the members of the fleet to order them to enter the Warp to get here faster. Entering the Warp in a system was incredibly risky, especially in a system like Svard with its masses of stellar debris but they realised that they couldn’t wait 7 days… they didn’t even know if they could wait 1 day. They also knew it was time to move… whilst the ground troops might not be able to get to them easily, the Ork’s had fighta-bombas on the planet and with the lack of manoeuvrability caused by the stasis pod, it would be difficult to outrun them. To make matters worse, the stasis pod started to emanate a psychic field… one that Mistress Valentina realised was like the murmurings of someone still asleep, but starting to wake up. Thelonious immediately took off, flying down from the mountains and heading towards one of the large frozen seas that made up a lot of Svard, putting as much distance between their previous location and the next one. However, just as Yorke was seeing some more of the runes break apart on the stasis pod, and Mistress Valentina, Bazak and N’Tingy were struggling to hold is still, Thelonious’s let out a sigh of frustration… the ‘Stealth’ shuttle’s passive sensors had picked up three signals and they were heading right for them… the Ork Fighta-Bombas had found them!
  6. Chapter 67 – A Face from the Past Thelonious reiterated his command that the scout team should not engage… “and I don’t need to be there to know that you are scoping them out with your Sniper Rifle, Isendark… stop that!” Isendark, who was doing exactly that, managed to look sheepish to Yorke and Rolaine and placed the Sniper Rifle on his back. Back at the shuttle, Mistress Valentina was using her mastery of the telekinetic arts to sculpt some snow into a passable camouflage for the bright orange shuttle… and if she was also making some ice sculptures at the same time, who cared? What was life without whimsy? Back out in the snow Yorke took the lead, she was the stealthiest after all, with Rolaine holding back and Isendark holding the rear which, given the range of their weapons, was probably the best idea. Yorke skittered from cover to cover, moving as silently as was possible over the snow drifts, making sure to keep the Orks in her eyeline. She continued to find the same scratch marks on the walls, although she couldn’t as yet see which of the creatures was creating the indentations. As she moved further down the ravine, realising it was quite a steep incline, the visibility began to decrease, however it came about she didn’t think the fog portended anything good. Back at the shuttle, Mistress Valentina had finished the camouflage (and a stunning Aquila of pure ice) and the rest of the Command Crew had started making their way down the ravine. They made sure to keep a fair distance from their scouting party, not wanting to make the Orks aware of their presence. This caution proved to be unnecessary when Yorke, stepping slowly through the mist that was becoming denser by the metre, suddenly found herself in the opening of a cavern. Here the fog thinning out from around her. Weapons leapt into her hand as she looked around and only then realised that she was standing in the middle of the Ork War Party! Yorke found the gorge rising in her throat as she realised every single Ork was dead… and had been ripped to pieces… arms, legs and heads were scattered around, with viscera spread like someone had been painting with their innards. The Seneschal immediately communicated her gruesome discovery to the rest of the Command Crew. Rolaine quickly moved up to take a look at the carnage. She may not have had the same depth of medical training as Constantine, but she wanted to cast her eye over the remains. However, she couldn’t tell much in the jumble of limbs that was all that was left of the Ork War Party. Yorke was utilising her inner Augur array to scan the surroundings but, frustratingly, there seemed to be something in the air, or at least in the general vicinity, that was blocking her scans. Upon searching the area her view was drawn to a crack on the wall of the ravine. There was something about it that just seemed out of place to Yorke, as a well-read individual whose knowledge base was incredible she couldn’t say why it seemed wrong, but it definitely was. She approached the crack and placed her hands on either side, leaning in to get a view, before jerking her head back as the ground started to shake. The shaking did not go on for long, and was very localised, but did lead to Yorke and Rolaine taking a few steps back and regarding the crack, which had widened slightly, with caution. Whilst Yorke and Rolaine were stepping back Isendark, showing his usual lack of restraint that made him such an amazing pilot, ran up to the wall and started smacking it with his Warblade, causing the localised shaking to intensify. This led to a small rumble being felt by the rest of the Command Crew, who were closing on their location. With the crack having widened enough, Yorke reigned in Isendark and sent her servo-skull into the hole, making sure not to touch the walls until the mechanicalised head found itself in a circular cavern… as Yorke order it to scan the cavern she zoomed in on the only occupant of the room… what looked like an elderly man, sitting directly in the centre with his knees against his chest, head resting on them… crying. Yorke began to use the vocalisation abilities of her servo-skull to ask the man if he was in need of assistance, getting no response, whilst also trying to think about why she thought they were somewhat familiar to her. Isendark, with Yorke distracted, decided to hit the wall again, causing the crack to double in width, meaning that people could walk down it, albeit with difficulty. “This is Natasha Yorke, of House Deepstalker… do you require assistance Sir?” boomed out of the servo-skull and that seemed to get a reaction out of the man, who raised his head, looked directly at the skull and started murmuring “Deepstalker” over and over again. With the Lord-High Captain, Mistress Valentina, Bazak and Constantine still about a kilometre away, Yorke decided to enter the crack in the wall and rescue the man inside. This was perhaps not the most sensible course of action, especially given some of the things they had faced in the past, although she didn’t rush in like a crazy person. She made her way along the crack until she stood in the cavern. She tried to communicate with the man but the only words he seemed to be able to say was “Deepstalker” in varying tones and rhythms… leaving Yorke no choice but to approach and help him to his feet, arm draped across her shoulder. As Yorke was pulling the man out of the cavern, Thelonious and the rest of the crew arrived, with Mistress Valentina immediately identifying that there had been a psychic disturbance in the vicinity. Constantine immediately started going to work on the Ork corpses, making a much more thorough, and more knowledgeable, search than Rolaine and quickly identified that it had been something in the proportion of human hands that had done this… without using a weapon. He also discovered that the orks had been dead for several days. This confused everyone, as from their point of view the scouts had only just followed the orks down here, until they theorised that the phychic disturbance Mistress Valentina had identified must have been some form of warp echo. It seemed a reasonable explaination and, as the orks were clearly no longer a threat, they didn’t think any more of it. Yorke, unaware of these findings, was approaching the entrance in the wall and could see the rest of the crew, weapons holstered but obviously ready, waiting for her and their new guest. When Mistress Valentina and Thelonious saw who Yorke had ‘rescued’ they had to bite back a gasp… the last time they had seen this particular person was over 7 years ago, when Thelonious had tricked him onto a shuttle and then blown him to pieces in the cold vacuum of space… it was N’Tingy, the leader of the pyker cult that had been in residence of the Svard space station all those years ago. However, this man did not have the same malevolent presence as N’Tingy had back then and seemed to have lost his mind… so if it was him then he didn’t appear to have the same level of threat. Thelonious spoke to him, asking him how long he had been in that cave to which the man, to the surprise of Yorke, responded with “Time ceases to have all meaning when you can’t measure it!” Mistress Valentina, who had forged a Mindlink with Thelonious during their recent escapade summoning ‘Clive’, was mentally pestering him to just shoot N’Tingy… they both knew how dangerous he could potentially be. However Thelonious was always loathe to just start shooting, always figuring that they can find out more with talking. When N’Tingy asked how they had arrived in the ravine, Mistress Valentina replied with a curt “we walked” and when the Orks, or what was left of them, were pointed out to him he took a hard look at them before looking around in apparent bewilderment. “Did I do that?” The Command Crew could not tell if he was faking, whether he truly believed it or whether he had been conditioned to appear to be telling the truth… the trouble was, they couldn’t know. Mistress Valentina noticed that N’Tingy didn’t really appear to be feeling the cold, despite being in an ice cavern, but could not pick out any psychic readings on or around him… dulled as her senses were by the intensity of the general psychic background noise. However, Thelonious’s policy of not shooting first seemed to pay off when, as part of the conversation, N’Tingy mentioned that he had felt something beneath the surface of Svard. Having heard enough, the crew escorted N’Tingy back to their shuttle, before having a debate about how to camouflage a bright orange Eldar Shuttle once it was back in the air… and whilst many ideas were banded about (Pulp the Orks and paint, Melt Rock and paint, Camo Netting, Snow) none of them really helped… and Thelonious was quite precious about his Eldar Shuttle. In the end, they decided to just stick to travelling at night and to fly as low to the ground as possible, both to avoid any flight patrols and to allow them to find what they are looking for. As the command crew, plus guest, took off, N’Tingy was very interested in the fact that they were flying in an Non-Human piece of technology, commenting that if the Inquisition caught them with it, they would be killed. This led to the obvious question of what N’Tingy knew about the Inquisition… which he was rather evasive. Thelonious, whilst not on the same level as Isendark, was still a very skilled pilot (the previous issue notwithstanding) and used the weather conditions to the best of his ability, dodging into snowstorms and other weather phenomena to avoid detection, until they came upon the area that N’Tingy had described. The first thing their scans picked up were the two large Ork Camps that were nearby. They didn’t have thousands of Orks, but mere hundreds would still be enough to overwhelm them if they were spotted. Thelonious immediately grounded the Shuttle and the Command Crew bounded out to cover it in snow. It would still be obvious that there was a massive growth in the snow when you were closer but, from further away it would do. N’Tingy had fallen asleep by this time and when Isendark decided to wake him up by shouting in his face, an arm shot out, grabbed Isendark by the throat and threw him across the shuttle, all before waking up and looking around in confusion. Unable to do anything about this due to the nearby Orks, the crew hustled out of the shuttle. With N’Tingy in tow they, reluctantly, followed his intuition/psychic signals to the place where he said he felt the ‘presence’. Once they arrived, having utilised the weather to avoid any Ork patrols, they were faced with vast stretches of featureless tundra, although they could tell that they were on ice, rather than earth. Now that they were here, the Command Crew went at the ice with a will… Thunder Hammers, Power Swords and Chainblades cutting into the glacier, with Mistress Valentina bringing her formidable psychic talents to bear as well, causing large cracks to appear in the ice. They then set up some Melta Bombs in a triangle pattern, set them off and then Mistress Valentina smash down again. This time they broke through and found something… odd. It was a set of stairs that seemed to have been carved into the very stone itself. N’Tingy jumped down and the crew quickly followed, knowing that they both wanted the same thing rather than holding any particular trust in each other, especially given that he was showing signs of finding himself again. It was just the odd comment here and there but he was seemingly recovering more of his personality the further they went… Mistress Valentina was convinced they should have killed him by now. As they neared the bottom of the stairs, N’Tingy was off like a shot, bounding down the stairs, quickly followed by Yorke’s servo-skull and, as both entered the cavern that was found at the bottom, the servo-skull suddenly went spinning away and impacted against the wall with a large smack….as if it had been punched out of the air by an incredible force. The Command Crew quickly rushed into the cavern but could see no sign of N’Tingy, with Mistress Valentina reaffirming they should have killed him long before now. Yorke, who was furious that her beloved servo-skull had been taken out (although not destroyed) was frantically scanning the area, trying to find N’Tingy but instead discovreing a large energy signature. This was all the stranger as when Yorke looked in that direction she couldn’t see anything of import, just rock. However, as they approached the area indicated by Yorke’s scans, Thelonious could tell that something was supposed to be there, they all had a strong feeling that they were almost seeing something, but their eyes just couldn’t comprehend it. After numerous scans, shots and various other methods didn’t provoke a response (other than the dirt shifting), Thelonious stepped into the area where there should be something and turned on his Displacer Field… and he disappeared from view. This was not unexpected, it is what a Displacer Field does but, however after a few seconds, when the Captain had not reappeared, the rest of the officers started to get concerned. Mistress Valentina was the most concerned as the psychic link she had established with Thelonious had gone completely dead… it was like he was no longer in that realm of reality anymore. She was half right… Thelonious looked around and could see the rest of the command crew, although they looked rather blurry. As far as he could tell he was in exactly the same location as he had been but was now inside whatever cloaking field was in effect. He turned around and could see a large golden object, with runes that hurt his eyes to read suffused with a blue glow. To Thelonious’ eyes it mos resembled a giant egg. It also seemed to Thelonious that he was moving faster than the rest of his command crew. It was obvious they couldn’t see or hear him and he couldn’t hear Mistress Valentina in his thoughts. He took one last look around but other than the giant golden egg there was nothing of note. Shrugging he activated his Displacer Field and appeared back amongst his crew. Thelonious was then surprised to realise that the others were completing actions that he had already seen them do… but only in the last 10 seconds… it dawned on him that the Yu’vath artefact was actually shifted in time, which is why they couldn’t see it, but were sure something was there. After a discussion with the Command Crew, Thelonious handed over his Displacer Field to Bazak, with a slight wince, and then watched as the Ork disassembled it, removing all sorts of safety pieces and turning it into an area affect Displacement field. The crew gathered together, weapons out and ready and, with that, Thelonious operated it and transported them all Back inside the temporal bubble. As Thelonious was looking around, showing the other what he had seen, N’Tingy stepped out from behind the Yu’vath artefact. “Well, it seems you took your time to figure that one out!”
  7. Chapter 66 – A Beacon of Hope Yorke, and the rest of the Command Crew, were feeling quite happy with how their stealth mission had gone… to their knowledge, they had found out that Cog was tainted by the Yu’vath and escaped unnoticed. There was a lot of back patting until Thelonious stepped forward and informed them that the Yu’vath knew they were here. He told them about the voice he had heard in the back of his consciousness and, based on what they had encountered the last time they had anything to do with the Yu’vath, this punctured the mood quite effectively and they wondered when the mental tendrils would start to infect them. Still, they had a job to do, and Svard to save… again. One advantage they had was that they had spent a lot of time surveying the Svard system when they first reclaimed it for the Dynasty and thus knew more about it than their adversary. This allowed them to determine that whatever the Yu’vath were looking for was on Svard itself and they didn’t have to waste time searching anywhere else. The main plan was to find it before the Yu’vath, place it on the Seedworld and then detonate it with their cyclonic torpedo when the Xenos came to collect it… easy! As for what they would do next, the Crew were somewhat divided. Bazak’s idea was for him to infiltrate the Ork forces and pass information back to the rest of the fleet. It hinted it may be able to rise in the ranks to command one of the ships, allowing them to move through the fleet unseen. Thelonious was the first to admit that this was a good idea (surprisingly) but given the un-Ork-like behaviour these Orks had shown, as if they were controlled by the Yu’vath, he didn’t want to risk one of his best fighters being found out and taken down by superior numbers. Mistress Valentina had a different idea, however. Theorising that Thelonious had a connection with the Yu’vath, potentially going back to his family history and the foundation of Svard, she proposed that she help to increase his psychic signature… turning him into a beacon… which would then attract the Yu’vath. They could then, hopefully, question it in Thelonious’s dream and see what information they could extract from it. Thelonious was, unsurprisingly, not too keen on this idea but even he could see the merits of it, however grudgingly. The final idea, brought up by Isendark and Yorke, was to take the Stealth Shuttle to Svard and find whatever the Yu’vath were looking for, before them. Yet they realised they didn’t really have any idea where to start, which then left them with the first two ideas. Given that he had a personal stake in the decision, and thus couldn’t rely on himself being completely impartial, Thelonious recused himself from the decision making and handed over ultimate power, for this one decision, to Commander Rolaine. The Commander, with her keen tactical and strategic mind, listened to the different plans again, asking probing and useful questions to gain as much knowledge as she could before making her decision. In the end, she made the only decision that she felt she could and gave the order to restrain the Lord-High Captain before giving orders to allow for the process of making him a physic beacon to be as safe as could possibly be. There would be a medical team, led by Constantine and Yorke would prepare a cocktail of drugs to allow them to wake Thelonious up almost immediately, if things went wrong. She also sent word to Lady Orleans about their plan as Mistress Valentina had informed the Commander that it was likely that doing this would reveal their exact location to the Yu’vath but Lady Orleans was confident that the Starweaver’s speed would allow them to move away from the area quickly enough to avoid any conflict. Mistress Valentina also had her personal stash of White Void which she was planning on using, as was Thelonious, to heighten their mental defences and help them resist whatever mental assault the Yu’vath would subject them to. With that, there was nothing else to do other than gather the necessary items and go ahead with the procedure. They took over a main bay in Lady Orlean’s medical facility, carefully quarantining it from the rest of the ship. Thelonious and Mistress Valentina were laid next to each other on medical beds, where they were strapped in and restrained. Both were given White Void before Yorke gave Thelonious drugs that would send him into a deep, dreamlike, stupor, where Mistress Valentina would be able to begin her work. Rolaine and Bazak were there in case things went dreadfully wrong, with Constantine monitoring Thelonious and Seri via some advanced Medicae machines. Mistress Valentina reached out with her mind and melded it with Thelonious’s, which was much more receptive than normal, the drugs having had their intended effect. As she started pouring more and more of her power through the consciousness of Thelonious, she began to merge with his thoughts until they were both moving together through Thelonious’s dream. Thelonious found himself at the time in his life when he was told that his father had died and that he was now the one whom the destiny of the Deepstalker House rested upon. He was naked, in the middle of a gigantic hot-tub, surrounded by sycophants, friends, enemies and general socialites when the news was broken… and then everyone started fading away, one at a time. Thelonious started shaking his head… this is not how he remembered it, until Mistress Valentina, who was present in this version of the dream, began sending soothing thoughts his way… but he could tell that something was wrong. Each person who faded away turned into a mist that flowed into the water surrounding Thelonious. As Mistress Valentina and Thelonious began to reach for each other, the mist in the water became a surging vortex, sucking them down and through the floor of the hot-tub! Thelonious woke up suddenly, finding himself on the floor of an unknown room, Mistress Valentina next to him, also just coming into consciousness, and noticed, to his consternation, that both of them were glowing with an inner light. This light spread out and allowed them to see their surroundings or, more accurately, see that there were none. Then, from the dark, stepped a being out of their deepest nightmares. Almost 3 metres tall with a skeletal structure, the bipedal Xenos had 2 main eyes and 4 secondary eyes on the sides of its head. The four arms that emerged from the impossibly thin torso ended with thin fingers, which ended with needle like claws that seemed to taper to the sharpness of a single molecule. Constantine, back in the ‘real’ wold, was monitoring his patients when he saw them become increasingly agitated… he strode over to them, whispering the benediction of the God-Emperor upon them and placed his hands across their foreheads, burning with Holy Power. Thelonious and Mistress Valentina found themselves, unexpectedly, filled with a courage and purpose to face this horror and so they addressed it as an equal, which definitely surprised the being. Mistress Valentina, one of the foremost Astropaths of the age, was also able to define that the Yu’vath, for that is what it was, was projecting from somewhere in realspace, and she started tracing it back. Thelonious was bullish in the presence of the alien, bamboozling it as he had so many before, protected by both Mistress Valentina and the benedictions of the God-Emperor… or, as he said “In the words of an old Terran Prophet, ‘That don’t impress me much.’” The Yu’vath was becoming more and more frustrated and angry, sending his psychic power against both of them, unaware that Constantine was protecting them from any mental damage, such was the power of faith within the Missionary. Thelonious was keeping much of the focus of the angry, godlike being, on himself, allowing Mistress Valentina to continue and refine her trace, all without the Yu’vath realising that it was being played. It seemed that being addressed solely as ‘Clive’ had somewhat irritated the creature. However, the stress and strain of having to protect Thelonious and search for the Yu’vath was causing havoc in the ‘real’ world, with energy sparking off Mistress Valentina and injuring most of the Command Crew who were in her presence. It was only Yorke’s pleading that stopped Constantine from bringing Thelonious out of his state right there and then. This was good because, at that exact point, Mistress Valentina had just managed to trace back the physical location of the Yu’vath and what she found shocked her. The Yu’vath was literally wearing the Ork Warboss like a puppet suit, its own skeleton fused with Morgash’s and this was what allowed the Yu’vath to control the Orks… tapping into their own psychic field and manipulating it to its own ends. The Yu’vath, who had been distracted by Thelonious, finally realised that it had been tricked and expelled Mistress Valentina and Thelonious from their dream-state. Yet not before Mistress Valentina gleaned information of over half a dozen separate areas where the Orks were searching for signs of the Yu’vath on Svard. This was in addition to pushing back the Svardian PDF, the Ork’s had almost reached the primary hive and the Yu’vath was confident of victory… although the recovery of its main objective was more important so it seemed content to merely besiege the Hive. Thelonious and Mistress Valentina came out of their stupor, thrashing against the restraints, although this soon settled down. Constantine took Rolaine and Yorke aside to discuss whether to let the Captain go or to keep him in for further observation. This conversation was rendered moot by Thelonious being able to distend his body in such a way as to slip the restraints… leading Constantine to try and inject him with sedatives… which the Captain danced away from. Eventually, one of Lady Orleans’s Astropaths was brought down to scan both the Lord High Captain and Mistress Valentina, before pronouncing that they were without Xenos corruption. With that ‘sorted’ and with the Starweaver getting the hell away from its current location, the Command Crew sat down with Lady Orleans to discuss their next plans. Whilst there was a discussion about going back to the Hope in the Void before heading in-system, it was agreed that speed was of the essence and there was no faster ship than the Starweaver. So, with Isendark taking the Helm and Bazak ‘manging’ the engines, the decision was taken to go directly to Svard. Once the Command Crew landed, using their stealth shuttle, the Starweaver was to go back to the fleet and lead them in system. Given the physic nature of the Yu’vath no-one wanted to risk an Astropathic message that could be intercepted or, worse, traced back and give away the fleets location. With the gas giant still disintegrating and filling the space around Svard with particles, the Starweaver was able to flit through the Svard system without attracting the ire of the Ork’s. They did notice a few more strong patrols that they had to avoid, obviously Rolaine’s gambit had annoyed the Yu’vath. As they approached Svard Prime they could see the sheer scale of the Ork invasion. Almost too many ships to count, including Da Worldbreaka, and numerous Roks and other transports surrounded the planet. Svard was definitely in trouble. The plan was to fly past Svard as fast as possible, releasing the Stealth Shuttle whilst at the same time scanning the planet, submit those scans to the shuttle as it descended and then the Starweaver would break orbit and make all speed for the rest of the fleet. The Command Crew would then land on the planet and commence finding the object of the Yu’vath search. All agreed it was as sound a plan as possible under the circumstanes and it was put into action. Isendark utilised his skills to eke as much as possible out of the thrusters whilst Bazak ‘tweeked’ as much out of the engines as was humanly (Orkishly) possible before both ran to get on the Shuttle before it left. However, they had been too successful, the ship was flying FAR too fast… so when Thelonious flew the shuttle out, he wasn’t able to dodge everything. A piece of debris scraped across the shuttle, gouging a deep groove into the hull… luckily, it wasn’t able to penetrate the shuttle but, unfortunately for their plan, the damaged destroyed the stealth integrity of the shuttle. They were now visible and, given the Eldar’s choosen colour scheme, very VERY orange. Thelonious immediately threw the shuttle into a steep dive, driving through the atmosphere of Svard as fast as he could, knowing he needed to get them down before they were detected. The problem with being so orange is it’s probably the least stealthy colour you could ever choose to land on an ice planet so Thelonious knew they had just become a massive target! As they received the scan from the Starweaver, he could see that some of the areas that had been scanned were deep ravines… perfect for them to hide in! He aimed for the one with the least ice and had only just pulled into an underpass, with a skilful piece of flying, before the Ork Fighta-Bomba’s flew over and started pasting the area. Whilst a few of the bombs landed butt-clenchingly close, nothing landed on them and, after a few minutes, the Orks flew on. Wanting to know where they were, Thelonious turned to the stealthier members of the Command Crew… Yorke, Rolaine and Isendark, to go on a scouting mission… his orders were very specific, no engagements unless absolutely necessary! With Yorke leading the way, Rolaine behind her and Isendark the rearguard, the scouting group made their way down the ravine, noticing that someone, or something, had scrawled a symbol onto the walls of the ravine… a symbol that seemed to be repeating in an ordered pattern… one every 15 metres. As they went further down the ravine, they heard the sound of movement and could see, even though there was a heavy level of fog, a group of 30 Orks moving down the ravine in front of them. Yorke radioed this back to the shuttle and the order was repeated, observe and follow, do not engage. It remained to be seen what these Orks were searching for…
  8. Chapter 65 – Back to the Beginning Their planning was interrupted when Mistress Valentina received a short, intense, message from the Astropath they had left on Svard. It was not clear and it was faint, as if the Astropath had been under some level of strain when they had sent the message, but Seri could make out enough to realise that it wasn’t good news. The Ork fleet had arrived in system and was bombarding the moon of Svard from orbit. They had lost communication with Cog and Orks were landing as the Astropath sent the message. Given how long it could have taken for this faint message to make it through, Svard could have already fallen but what was certain was that Svard needed their help. However, whilst they could definitely count on the three ships of the Imperial Navy that were in the Feribundus system, they knew that they would need help to take on the main fleet of an Ork Warboss., especially if their concerns about the Yu’vath interference was proven to be true. Astropathic messages were sent to everyone that the Deepstalker Dynasty felt were reliable and a message was sent across to Admiral Keel, Captain Locke and Commander DuRains. Lady Orleans was the first to reply, as Thelonious had been expecting. She was busy fortifying Damaris as much as possible but was keen to head the Orks off before they reached her system. Damaris had seen more than enough Orkish presence to last a lifetime. Jeremiah Blitz was also in the Damaris system but before committing his forces wanted to know what was in it for him. Thelonious replied with a single word… ‘Yorke’… he didn’t say how he was offering his Seneschal, let Blitz infer that for himself… Blitz accepted immediately. Both Naj Armardi and Krawkin Feckward had already been co-opted by Hadrek Fel, who was also facing an Ork incursion into systems that he controlled, and so were unavailable… which left Tyrone Berenson. Berenson was somewhat loathe to leave his position… the Cold Trade, whilst ‘unexpectedly’ reduced from where it had been, was still active and his contract from the Ecclesiarchy was still active. However, the chance to go into battle with the Imperial Navy, as well as the general respect that Thelonious and Tyrone held for each other, swayed Berenson into accepting the request for help. Given his position, it was only a few days until he, and half his remaining fleet, were at Footfall. It was during a strategy meeting that Thelonious and Yorke realised something… with the Runecaster and Warp Drive that they had, the Hope in the Void travelled through the Warp incredibly fast, as well as the ship being at home in the Warp anyway. This meant that they could send the rest of the fleet ahead to the rendezvous point with Lady Orleans and Blitz whilst spending another few weeks repairing their ship… and Thelonious had managed to clear up another line of credit that the shipyards were willing to accept. This meant that, when all was said and done, the Hope in the Void was mostly repaired… and definitely in a much better state to fight another Ork War Fleet, and they set off. Their journey through the Warp was, as usual, relatively serene, which gave a minor morale boost to the crew; most of the veterans amongst the crew were incredibly proud of being part of the Hope in the Void, a ship that had done amazing things… the serene voage through the Warp was obviously a sign of the God-Emperors favour. The new recruits from Elerius were getting up to speed… the Hope in the Void was ready for whatever the Orks could throw at them! As the ship translated back into realspace, the passive sensors on the Hope in the Void went ballistic, shouting out ship warnings very close by… but these just turned out to be the rest of the fleet that they had sent on ahead. In total there were 8 ships who had only been on the outskirts of the Svard system for a few days before the Hope’s arrival. Admiral Keel had already been briefing the various and sundry peoples about the unique issues they would face in the Svard system, including the fact that their sensors would be almost useless at picking up anything at a medium distance due to the gas clouds. However, given they were awfully outnumbered, they could definitely use this unique aspect to their advantage. They had all received, or intercepted, another Astropathic signal from Svard that indicated that the Orks had already taken the second Hive city and were pushing back the PDF forces, and that the Orks appeared to be looking for something in the frozen wilderness. This made their strategy meeting have an urgent undercurrent… if the Ork’s (and thus the Yu’vath) were looking for something, they had to prevent them from finding it. Lady Orleans and Commander DuRains were given scouting duty, their ships were the fastest in the current fleet and probably much faster than most of the Ork ships they would encounter… although they were not to engage unless they could take out the Ork ship(s) easily… they would get the lay of the land and then report back. Thelonious’s main plan was to lure as much of the Ork War Fleet to the seedworld and then use the Cyclonic Torpedo in the general area to take down both problems with one solution… not that anyone knew that he had such a destructive weapon aboard, but he did make them aware that he had something that could destroy large numbers of Ork Ships. Based on intercepted communications, the Orks didn’t really seem to have focussed on the plasma refinery at all, it was reporting all systems normal… but Cog had gone silent and was not responding to any Adeptus Mechanicus hails. Thelonious decided that they needed to focus on Cog as he suspected that the moon might have something the Orks were looking for… not mentioning that he had left several Yu’vath artefacts on the planet at all! Given that the Starweaver was the fastest ship (at least while in Realspace), Thelonious spoke with Lady Orleans for a while and they decided that the command crew of the Hope in the Void would tag along for a ride to Cog… although this would mean they would have no access to a Teleportarium or any of the other things they had relied upon before. It also meant that Thelonious had to tip his hand to Lady Orleans (although none of the rest) about the fact that he had an Eldar Stealth Shuttle available to him… Thelonious’s plan on Cog required them to be undetected as much as possible as they got the lay of the land and a Stealth Shuttle was the easiest and most efficient way of doing that. During the journey Isendark got to show off some of his flying skills, and he was amazed at just how manoeuvrable the Starweaver was… he felt like he could literally fly this around the universe, into any battle ever, and just not be hit… it was a dream to fly. The fact that he was showing off just how good the Deepstalker Dynasty’s main pilot was, added icing to the cake. As the Starweaver glided through the Svard system, hidden amongst the stellar phenomenon that was the Svard planet, they realised that their communications were also affected, they were having trouble keeping on contact with the rest of the fleet, who were hanging back and waiting for them to return… it wasn’t causing an issue, but it was something for the command crew to keep in mind. As they neared Cog, enough that their sensors could actually function, Yorke and the communications officer on the Starweaver were slightly confused… they couldn’t see any Ork ships in orbit around Cog… and the facility was still on its tracks, and was still moving. Similarly, the Shipyard appeared to be working as well, it was a very odd and concerning scene that they were seeing… especially given what the command crew knew about the Yu’vath. They needed to get some intelligence on what was going on, and so the command crew (minus Bazak) boarded the Stealth Shuttle and took a journey across. The Eldar Tech was as good as ever and they were able to lock against one of the landing bays without being noticed. The command crew, minus Bazak, were all somewhat talented in the use of stealth, which was a massive difference from the last time they had been on Cog… they had managed to take back Cog through luck and ignorance (and some brilliance, it must be said) the last time, but they were massively more skilled now. They wanted to take a prisoner to see if they could see whether the same thing that happened to the Ork (and to Envoy Kaal) was present. However they didn’t want to tip off the Yu’vath that they were here, but if the infection had taken root on Cog then they had to be very careful indeed. Thelonious, Yorke and Rolaine took the lead… gliding silently amongst the noisy corridors that made up this part of the space station and checking out the best targets for their extraction. Everything seemed to be normal… Cog was completely open for business and this made the command crew even more suspicious… something was certainly not right here! Yorke noticed someone who, she knew, was a mid-level official and decided to take the initiative… moving ahead of her target and then tranquilising them as they moved past, she dragging them into a maintenance room. What followed was a debate, conducted over their subvocal communications, about whether to kill the man or not… after all, they only needed his head to do their tests on. Yorke pointed this out as the most efficient solution, given that it would be hard to take the guy out of there, even though they didn’t have too much distance to cover. Thelonious, on the other hand, didn’t want anything to appear to be anything other than normal… and the discovery of a headless corpse, or even the man not turning up to his usual post, was something that could tip the Yu’vath off. Eventually, Thelonious’s idea won out and, using subterfuge, they were able to get the man back onto their shuttle, and then back to the Starweaver, where Constantine utilised their medical equipment to cut open the man’s skull. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turned out that there was an identical, albeit smaller, contusion in the mans’ brain that showed all the hallmarks (that they had discovered anyway) of Yu’vath possession. Mistress Valentina was also able to detect an ‘inky blackness’ in the man’s brain, which she had seen before during the Whisperer War… Cog was definitely once again in the thrall of the Yu’vath. After an insertion where they placed the man back where they had taken him, with a head wound that obviously showed why he couldn’t remember the last hour of his life, the command crew took their Eldar Shuttle and went back to the Starweaver. They had found some good intelligence on the Yu’vath but Cog had fallen. As they were leaving, Thelonious heard a voice in the back of his head… a slithering, ethereal voice that he had heard before, during the first encounter with the Whisperers… it said one simple word; ‘Deepstalker.’
  9. Chapter 64 – Gearing up for WAAGH The near destruction of the Hope in the Void had an amazing effect of concentrating the Command Crew’s minds on the job at hand. It could be said that, due to their overwhelming successes in the past, they had become slightly complacent about space battles and this had led to the current conundrum they found themselves in… and so everyone pulled out all the stops. Isendark continued his amazing movements to stop the Orz Kroozer from being able to either ram or shoot them, Rolaine and Yorke continued to combine to land shots even with the disadvantage of Isendark’s crazy movements and Thelonious’s command of the Bombing runs continued to be incredible. Constantine continued to tend to the wounded (and the ship would have been in a MUCH worse state than they were in), Mistress Valentina continued to use the power of her mind, and her choir, to burn the Ork Kroozer and Bazak continued to teleport over and cause more havoc than anyone could ever think was possible! All of this combined together… Macrocannon Shells, Bombers, Fire and Baza to turn the Kroozer into a drifting hulk… and the command crew breathed a sigh of relief as the final Xenos ship began an aimless drift. Now they had to focus on getting the ship space worthy… whilst the crew compliment had been saved by Constantine’s ministrations, the ship was in a dreadful state, multiple holes and depressurized areas, the bridge was a scene of carnage and parts were falling off the Hope in the Void when they powered up the engines! The problem was that repairs to a ship the size of the Hope in the Void took time, especially in a feudal system like Elerius and they did not really have any to spare. They were sure that the main thrust of the WAAGH was going to Svard however going up against anyone else in the state they were in would be suicidal, let alone another Ork fleet with a ship like the Worldbreaka at its head. So, a hard decision had to be made, and it was decided that Svard would have to wait, the repairs were just that critical. All in all, the Hope in the Void spent 5 weeks in orbit of Elerius, and only just managed to patch up the major areas of damage… the ship was still far from combat worthy, but at least it could move through the Warp, and thus allow them to leave. Bazak and Yorke had been travelling around the wrecks and fully intact Ork ships, searching for any salvage but, unfortunately, these ships had been completely Orkified and thus only Orks could actually make them work and, whilst Bazak’s group of Warboyz had been growing, it was nowhere near the number they would need to crew even one ship. Given the extended time they were spending around the planet, Constantine and Mistress Valentina (both very spiritual individuals) spent a lot of time on the surface of Elerius, strengthening the faith of the people, which was already sky high given how the God-Emperor had now saved Elerius multiple times, and also recruiting people to replace the crew that had been killed… a task that was easy due to the number of volunteers they had to turn away. Thelonious, Rolaine and Marcia Cross were focussed on repairing the ship and getting the new members up to speed, taking the crew through endless drills and increasing their readiness dramatically… helped by the sheer veteran nature of the crew… in previous battles the number of casualties had set them back but, due to Constantine’s efforts, most of them had managed to survive. As well as spreading the word of the Emperor on Elerius, Constantine sent out some of his acolytes to transport the remnants of the Ork Warboss onto the Hope in the Void, he wanted to see whether anything was different about the Ork, given that they assumed it had been taken over by the Yu’vath. The autopsy was attended by the command crew and, other than one specific detail, did not tell them much. Yet that one specific detail was very interesting… the Ork had a gap in its brain, which they hypothesised was caused by the Yu’vath control of the Ork and was something they could look for in the future. Meanwhile, Thelonious had been having many conversations with Primus, the Hope in the Void’s Chief Navigator, and they had discovered an incredibly quick journey that they could make to take them to Footfall, Thelonious having decided that they needed more repairs before they were able to fight for Svard… and they hadn’t received anything from the system that indicated the presence of Orks… yet. The ways of the Warp were many and, normally, it was a lot quicker to go through already discovered Warp ‘lanes’ than to go straight to your destination. So it was that the Hope in the Void went via the Processional of the Damned and then onto Footfall, cutting a large amount of time out of their journey. As soon as they turned up at Footfall, the Hope in the Void commandeared a berth at one of the Shipyards and Thelonious opened the Deepstalker line of Credit to allow as much of the damage to be repaired as was possible, whilst also having his own repair crews carry on their work. Despite the amazing work of his own crew, and the sheer amount of money and influence that was spent, Thelonious judged that the Hope in the Void was about half fixed in terms of Hull Integrity… not brilliant but a far cry from where they had been a month or so ago. During this lull Constantine and Yorke decided to go and visit the ‘known’ Inquisition station on Footfall and given both of them were held in high regard by certain areas of the Inquisition, they were shown in relatively quickly to meet with an Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus. They filled in of the detail of the Ork autopsy making sure not to mention the Yu’vath (because, to the powers of the Imperium, the Deepstalker Dynasty had no knowledge of such beings). The Inquisition, as well as other institutions, had been receiving the Astropathic signals of the Ork WAAGH with a growing sense of alarm, and Yorke and Constantine were quite happy to send over the information they had gathered, especially of their battle with the Orks who really didn’t fight like Orks. Yorke and Constantine were thanked for their efforts and then the command crew were just waiting for the repairs to be completed, whilst trying to figure out how to approach their next move… the inevitable fight for Svard. Just as the repairs were finishing, a few ships came through the Maw. The first ship they recognised, as though it was one of their own, was the Aegis and then, after a little time thinking, they recognised the Adamant, which they had last seen around Damaris during the Ork Wars there… but it was the final ship that came through that had Thelonious smiling… the Hand of Redemption, commanded by Admiral Keel who had helped them to retake Svard, the first step towards the ‘redemption’ of the Deepstalker Dynasty. The Crew’s delight at seeing these particular ships was enhanced when they realised that they were here to help them. Sylvia Locke had received the transmission from Mistress Valentina regarding their ‘against-all-odds’ defence of Elerius and, whilst her superiors saw it as futile boastings from another Rogue Trader, she knew better. Luckily, at that instant, Admiral Keel and the Hand of Redemption had been at Port Wander for an inspection and, having followed the Deepstalker Dynasty since Svard, had no reason to doubt their claims, especially when supported by Sylvia Locke. The Battlefleet that had been stationed at Port Wander, and which had so ably seen to the Orks who passed through the Maw a while ago, had gone onto other things, but the Adamant was still stationed there, so Admiral Keel had requisitioned it and, along with the Aegis, all three of their ships had made the journey to Footfall. They had done some analysis on the main arm of the WAAGH, based on the Astropathic cries they were receiving and it appeared that it was heading towards Damaris, a planet that Sylvia Locke held in high regard. In speaking to both of them, Thelonious could see the level of respect that Sylvia had for Admiral Keel, and that it was reciprocated… and he thought that it would be good to deal with members of the Imperial Navy that appreciated his actions, rather than condemning it without knowledge of why he had made those decisions. He was also interested when he learnt that the Admirals brother, Envoy Kaal, was also on board… Thelonious realised that meant that other institutions in the Imperium were now interested in the Ork WAAGH, and what was potentially behind their attacks. The Admiral invited the command crew, Locke and DuRains across to the Hand of Redemption for a briefing, stating that he felt that Battlefleet Koronus and the Deepstalker Dynasty had an alignment of interest in stopping the Ork WAAGH. After taking over a bottle of the finest Amasec to repay the Admiral for his hospitality all those years ago (which got Thelonious a welcome nod from Keel) and some small talk and catching up, it was Envoy Kaal that stood up and started speaking. He welcomed everyone and informed them that due to their actions in their past they had all been judged worthy of the information he was about to impart. This made Commander DuRains look a little shellshocked, wondering whether he wanted to hear this stuff, but trapped. Envoy Kaal, confirming Thelonious’s suspicions by admitting that he was a member of the Inquisition, started talking about the history of the Calixis Sector, which had been called the Calixis Expanse and about how the Expanse used to be ruled over by a race of powerful psyker Xenos called the Yu’vath and about how they had been purged by the forces of Saint Drusus. He spoke about how he had been possessed by one of the artefacts of these creatures and how his memory of that time was fragmented, despite numerous attempts to recall it, both internal and external. This, of course, was what Thelonious and the command crew knew, but it was nice to be officially able to talk about this to the relevant people without being accused of heresy by people who didn’t want such knowledge being easily available. They learned that the Yu’vath were never a widespread or highly populated race, but that one of their kind could easily control a few planets, such was their prodigious psychic power and ability… it was not known how much direct control they could do in such a situation, but the locked archives did speak of a high degree of discipline in the forces the crusade faced. Given that the Yu’vath artefact had caused Svard a large degree of difficulty, both Thelonious and Kaal hypothesised that to have such great control, over such large distances, it must be a live Yu’vath that was controlling things from behind the scenes… which meant they weren’t as extinct as was assumed. This then led to the unappealing conclusion that they were searching for more of their kind… why else would they split into three fleets? Thelonious informed the group that he knew that the main thrust was heading to Svard, via information he had received from a source he saw as trustworthy, although he couldn’t say what they were looking for on Svard (not mentioning the Yu’vath crystals that were on Cog, of course). Thelonious had a theory, not one that he wanted to be true, but a theory nonetheless. It was that the Yu’vath, given they had found an artefact on Svard, had fled into the Koronus Expanse after their defeat in the Calixis Expanse and had hidden themselves, in some kind of stasis, to await a time when they could re-emerge. Whilst this was a theory that he could not back up, he just had ‘one of those feelings’ that this would be the case… maybe his uncle had been secretly influenced by the Artefact to choose Svard as the place to hide it. He could not know this, but Thelonious had learned to follow his feelings when it came to danger. The Command Crew would comment, afterwards, that they did have the Cyclonic Torpedo warhead that they could use in the Svard system, and whilst it was there for the Magos’s seedworld, it is in the same area of space and so could be used on another planet/moon. With that lovely thought in his head, Thelonious started planning the expedition to Svard… wondering whether the Deepstalker Dynasty would end where it had begun.
  10. Chapter 63 – Green Alert! Incoming Turbulence The command crew faced a dilemma… the Roks needed to die but one of them was too far away for their conventional armaments (Macrocannons and Bombers) to reach in time… or, so they thought. Bazak had a conversation with the Lord High-Captain and then disappeared down into the bowels of the ship. Thelonious was soon inundated with complaints from the Tech Priests that the Ork and his Boyz had turned up and taken control and were doing ALL SORTS of things to their holy engines! Leaving behind the smoking wreckage of a Roks, which had been blown to pieces by Thelonious and Rolaine, the Hope in the Void surged forward towards the final one, Bazak and his Boyz having done something completely unsafe and reckless, but given that the engines didn’t explode Thelonious decided to apologise to the Adeptus Mechanicus at a later date. The fire from the Kill Kroozers intensified as they approached the final Rok, with shells coming within a few feet (or at least, that is what it felt like) of the Bridge… but Isendark’s flying was up to the task, even with the extra oomph he had not been expecting! As the Hope in the Void speared ahead, it came across the final Rok, just as it was starting to make its descent into the atmosphere of Elerius. A combination of Rolaine’s insane accuracy, landing every single shell that the ship fired, with Thelonious’s mastery of the Bombers, who hit all the holes that Rolaine had created and Bazak launching a Hit and Run raid on the inside, supported by their elite Stormtroopers, meant that the people of Elerius got to see an impressive meteor storm, rather than an Ork invasion. The space battle had, until now, been going entirely the way of the Hope in the Void… the Brute Ram Ships had been destroyed and so had the Roks… now it was just time for the clean-up. However, the Orks (or whatever otherworldly intelligence) had noticed the targets that the Hope had chosen, and the movement of their adversary had put them in the firing arcs (and thus ramming arcs) of 3 out of the 4 Kroozers. No matter how good Isendark’s flying, there was no getting away from the fact that he was piloting a 5km long ship and, whilst one of the Kroozers missed, the other two rammed into the Hope in the Void. Alarms blared and the Hope in the Void shuddered under the massive impact of the Kill Kroozers, their armoured prow smashing through the Hope’s armour, causing immense damage. Luckily, the Hope in the Void had two things in its favour… one was a life sustainer that automatically locked down areas of the ship that were in danger of depressurisation and the other was Jonas Constantine. Directing the Medicae teams with a level of skill and ability that was almost unbelievable, he was able to keep most of the casualties alive and, even more impressively, get them back into the fight. However, even this could not disguise that the ship had taken two huge hits and, when combined with the damage they already had, their Hull Integrity was not looking good. Added to that fact was that the Kroozers were on the same trajectory as the Hope in the Void so there was no reason they could not attempt to ram them again and again, until they started suffering major damage. However, the crew couldn’t afford to forgo Evasive Manoeuvres, because otherwise the prow weapons of the Kroozers would rip them to pieces. For the first time, the Hope in the Void seemed to be outclassed. Isendark, scanners giving him a good view of where the Kroozers were, came up with an answer… he hit the retro-thrusters and brought the Hope in the Void to a stop for long enough that the Kroozers zoomed past them, unable to keep up with his movements. A little turn brought the Macrocannons in line with one of the Kroozers and a devastating volley caused massive damage, damage that was further enhanced by the bombers and Bazak’s hit and run attacks. Bazak only just managed to get off before a cascading failure of almost every single system which consigned the Kroozer to the scrapheap… and Mistress Valentina managed to set most of the other Kroozer on fire, at the very least taking them out of the fight until they got them under control, as their scanners indicated, actually taking them out of the fight entirely as fire spread from component to component, overwhelming the Ork’s attempts to save their ship, finally going out the way all Orks would want to, in a big explosion. Thelonious then had an idea… he had Mistress Valentina jam the Astropathic space near the command Kroozer, hoping it would block whatever insinuations the Yu’vath were responsible for. Unfortunately, whilst a good idea in theory, in practice there did not seem to be anything different about how the Orks were performing but at least that gave them information. The other issue was that, although they had managed to take out two of the Kroozers, they had pretty much stopped and that made them an easy target for another or the remaining Ork ships, which slammed into the side of their ancient vessel, sending men and material into the vacuum of space… the Hope in the Void was starting to creak in places, although their internal structural integrity remained solid. There was another Kroozer, but it had turned to avoid being snared by Elerius’s gravity and thus was further away than the Flagship of the Ork fleet, but it was closing fast and the command crew knew they had to do something to the flagship to take it out of the fight. That “something” turned out to be one of the remaining canisters that Yorke had created… whilst they wanted to keep as many of those back as possible, they were down to less than 25% of Hull Integrity and the situation was becoming relatively desperate. The plan was set and carried out in their usual efficient fashion. Rolaine stripped the shields, Bazak teleported over and set the canister on a time release, caused some damage to the ship so as to not tip their hand to the Orks and then teleported back… the Kroozer was coming on fast, aiming for the heart of the Hope in the Void. The command crew started to worry that the canister had not worked when the Kroozer started to behave erratically, lights going off all over the ship and it started listing along… they now only had one Kroozer left to kill… and Bazak and Isendark combined to send the Hope in the Void spearing through space to gain some distance… they wanted to get the Kroozer in a “death spiral” so they could avoid being rammed and avoid its prow weaponry, whilst subjecting it to their own withering fire. However, to get the trajectory needed for this arrangement, the Hope in the Void had to pull two, hard 90 degree turns to bring themselves opposite, but alongside, the last remaining Kill Kroozer. The first 90 degree turn was done to perfection, with Mistress Valentina batting away the shots from the Kill Kroozer. However, this display of power had drained Seri, who had been utilising her choir more and more as the fight increased in intensity and when she tried to bat aside some of the incoming projectiles on the second 90 degree turn, she wasn’t able to stop them all. The first few shells were deflected by the Hope’s Void Shields, but the number of them finding the target overwhelmed the generator and the shells started finding their targets. Even given the fact that the Hope in the Void was currently turning into the fire, it was still bad luck that an offshoot of one of the larger shells smashed directly into the Command Bridge of their ship. Explosions rocked the cogitators and numerous members of the crew were sucked into space, before the automatic bulkheads were deployed. Luckily, none of the command crew (who were all in fully sealed armour anyway) were injured by the scything debris or the explosions but the Hope in the Void had taken critical damage… one more hit like that and the venerable ship wouldn’t be going anywhere… it would be flotsam. Thelonious turned to look at his command crew (those who were on the bridge anyway), who were looking back with a degree of disbelief at the amount of damage the ship had taken, and started giving orders to make sure nothing like that ever happened again. Isendark was to remain doing evasive movements to the exclusion of all else, but to also turn in enough that they could get within range for Bazak to mess up the Kroozer. Yorke and Rolaine were to keep firing on the Kroozer (and had done some significant damage of their own) and Thelonious was also directing one of his bomber wings towards the Kroozer, knowing that would cause serious damage as well. The fact was, whomever could land the next major hit would win this fight and Thelonious was determined that it would be the Hope in the Void that emerged victorious… he had not defeated the Optimus Nemesis and the Eternity of Pain to be brought low by an Ork Kroozer
  11. Chapter 62 – Whack-an-Ork Even though the Hope in the Void was outnumbered 20 to 1, Thelonious and the command crew correctly identified that there were really, if you looked at it a certain way, only two threats to them and Elerius amongst the Ork Armada. Firstly, the Brute Ram Ships would ignore all of Isendark’s fancy movements and cause catastrophic damage if they came into contact with the Hope and secondly, the Roks were the way the Orks would invade Elerius… they thought that the planet could handle one Rok with the weaponry they had been given but two would require their direct intervention (and they didn’t have time for that) and more than that would mean giving the planet up for lost. Whilst the Kill Kroozers, Onslaught Frigates and Terror Ships were numerous, the command crew had taken on a Battlecruiser and a Battleship before, so they didn’t really fear them… between Isendark’s preternatural flying skill and Mistress Valentina’s psychic skill, Thelonious was confident that the ship would manage to deal with any damage that did come through. Some would have called this foolhardiness, but Thelonious actually had absolute faith in his crew when it came to battle situations and for good reason. Isendark, who had been with the Dynasty his entire life, was truly one of the best Spaceship pilots in the Expanse (potentially the entire Segmentum in Thelonious’s mind, although he would never tell Isendark that) and his ability to keep the Hope in the Void avoiding the worst damage was key to this fight. Mistress Valentina was one of the foremost Astropaths that Thelonious had ever known… her ability to deflect hab-sized projectiles with her mind and her ability to set entire components on fire (or even dampen fires on their own ship) just meant that, unless a ship had their Gellar Field active, they were helpless against her… she was scary! Commander Rolaine had a natural aptitude for guns… it didn’t matter whether they were strapped to her waist (or boots, or chest, or back) or were part of a huge warships’ batteries, she seemed to be able to hit anything with them… even with Isendark’s gymnastics spoiling her aim. Natasha Yorke was the Mistress of Electronic Warfare… jamming their opponents communications and utilising the Targeting Matrix’s around the ship to aid Rolaine’s shooting, and her knowledge of the crew was legendary. Jonas Constantine had the crew of the Hope in the Void in the best spirits they could be… he was a trusted presence so when he told them that everything was okay, they believed him. He was also in charge of the Medicae teams that were spread around the ship and his own knowledge of the human form had been disseminated to them… they were as prepared as they could be in this situation. Bazak, the Ork, was one of the most Kunnin’ Orks that Thelonious had ever seen… and when you added that to the Orks ferocity, there literally wasn’t anyone he would rather have leading the Teleportarium teams… the sheer amount of damage that they had caused, in an insignificant amount of time, to some ships was astounding. And then you had Thelonious himself who, modestly as usual, understood that he was always meant to head up this Dynasty… his command of men and material in the Dynasty teetered on the genius and people had learned that even his mistakes were often found to be feints, putting opponents off their guard. This is why Thelonious felt confident about the odds… and it was time to prove that they were the best in the business. As the Hope in the Void jumped forward into the teeth of the Ork Armada, Isendark made sure that hardly any shots hit them and, those few that did, splashed against the Void Shields and caused no damage. Even with this, Commander Rolaine, working in tandem with Yorke, managed to take down a void shield of a Brute Ram Ship, which meant that Bazak was able to teleport over and wreck the ship from this inside, only just teleporting out before the Looted Plasma Drive on board decided to self-destruct. Mistress Valentina focussed her mind on another of the Ram Ships and spread fire and damnation through its components, killing many an Ork and leaving the ship as a drifting hulk, as fire engulfed the entire ship. Thelonious, commanding the Bombing Squadrons, was able to take out another Brute Ram Ship, his pinpoint instructions allowing one of the Bombers to place an explosion directly in the Bridge of the Ork ship, causing a cascading explosion that took the ship out of commission. In the course of 30 minutes, the Hope in the Void had managed to take out 3 of the 4 ships that could have caused them the most trouble, and the last one was not on a collision course. Whilst the sheer amount of flak that was being flung at the Hope in the Void would have caused entire planets to be extinguished from a Nuclear Winter, Isendark kept the ship on course for the backline of the Ork Armada, with the Roks coming into range. Another bombing run had done in the last Brute Ram Ship, so the command crew were feeling rather confident. However, whilst Isendark was almost flawless in his flying, during one intensive manoeuvre he pulled something so hard that the ship fought against him, sending them in the wrong direction… directly into the firing arc of the Ork flagship. In what seemed to be an instant almost a quarter of the entire crew were killed by the multiple explosions that echoed through the ship as huge shells battered against the hull. Thelonious and Isendark turned to look at each other at exactly the same time; Thelonious nodded at his helmsman and uttered four words, “Don’t do that again.” However, the lack of movement afforded an opportunity, and Rolaine was quick to take advantage, sending shell after shell into one of the Roks and, in conjunction with Thelonious’s bombers, completely destroying its structural integrity. It then became a race, with the Hope in the Void turning, whilst Isendark followed the Lord High-Captain’s orders the others sent out psychic assaults, bombing runs and macrocannon broadsides into the nearby Roks. However, Roks are very hard to destroy without a lot of focus and they were still, inexorably, moving towards Elerius, with the rest of the Ork ships seemingly frustrated by their inability to harm the human vessel. The “Terror Ships” also joined the attack, wave after wave of Fighta-Bomerz angling in for an attack run on the Hope in the Void. What the Orks didn’t know, but were about to find out, was that the Hope in the Void not only had multiple turrets all over their hull, but, after the fight with the Optimus Nemesis, they had taken the Defence Grid and implemented it on their own ship. Fighta-Bomerz were either shot out of the sky or obliterated by the Defence Grid, micro-lasers burning the Orks in their cockpits, and not enough made it through to cause any damage to the Hope in the Void. Another Rok was destroyed with a combination of Mistress Valentina and Bazak, she took down the Void Shields with fire (as well as many other areas) and Bazak’s boarding team left explosives that destroyed the rest of the Rok. Isendark continued to expertly fly the Hope in the Void through the eye of the needle, twisting, rolling and taking the ship to the edge and beyond, whilst Rolaine kept up a withering rate of fire to keep some of the ships off them, with Bazak launching hit and run attacks using the Teleportarium and Mistress Valentina just setting EVERYTHING on fire! Jonas had been directing the Medicae troops and out of the heavy of casualties he managed to get half of them to a functioning level, enough to get back into the fight. Due to the craftsmanship of the Hope in the Void, buffed by the disinformation campaign flitting through the corridors, morale was sky high and everyone was completely behind the command crew. Another Macrocannon, Bomber and Bazak attack left another Rok as a smouldering wreck, but the two remaining were accelerating away from their ship and were getting entirely too close to the planet for their comfort. They couldn’t afford the time it would take to free Elerius from the Orks and they were loath to write the planet off, Thelonious from a profit perspective and Constantine from a religious one. Also strange thing, although not entirely unexpected given what the command crew knew, was just how well the Orks had screened the Roks… usually there wasn’t this degree of cooperation between Orks, they all wanted to fight after all, which seemed to further cement their views that this had something to do with the Yu’vath. Their attempts at communication had also been ignored, again not that unexpected, but it was still entirely disturbing, especially those that had fought Orks before. These creatures were acting in a way completely different to how they should. Yet these elements belonged in the realm of the possible, and they could be discussed in earnest after the battle. Thelonious’s thoughts snapped back into the present as he, and the command crew, grappled with what decision(s) they needed to make to ensure that Elerius could fulfil its potential as a planet with great religious significance… both for theological and practical reasons. There were two Roks left, as well as numerous other Ork ships getting in their way, and the distance between them was growing. The next few hours would determine whether their gambit would be a success, or not.
  12. Chapter 61 – The Situation Darkens After greeting each member of the command crew by their full name and title, which only created more confusion, the Inquisitor asked them what had brought them to Tusk. After getting Thelonious’s (half) joking answer of “I was thinking about claiming Tusk for the Imperium” out of the way, a two way discussion was implemented. After asking them what they knew of the Ork Waagghh, she revealed that she had been tasked to stop it before it started but the means that had sent her here were calibrated incorrectly and she had found herself stranded on Tusk after the Waagghh has already departed. When Bazak mentioned that it was here to “talk to” Morgash, the Inquisitor got a faraway look in her eyes and, almost without realising she had said it, posited about what an unusual Ork Morgash was. Mainly about how the tactics he used were unlike anything she had seen from Orks and that they appeared to be able to communicate faster than the Imperium, and used that advantage mercilessly. She seemed to be wrestling with something, internally, before pulling out a canister and presenting it to Yorke. She explained that this was a genetic and biological poison that was deadly to Orks; it had been created to put an end to their menace. She had been sent to Tusk to find a way to disseminate the poison around the world but had arrived too late and now she didn’t have any way to complete her mission… and she couldn’t leave the planet either, although she wasn’t willing to go into the reasons why. The command crew asked more questions about what she knew about the Orks and she did mention that, in one time, Morgash ripped apart the Svard system looking for something, which made Yorke and Thelonious look at each other, worry in their eyes as, in their minds, there was only one reason why you would ransack the Svard system… especially given the Orks that she had seen, displayed none of the infighting that was so usual for their kind. The conversation segued into a discussion about the Svard system, about what they could be looking for, and about the fact that it was a Deepstalker colony that had been rediscovered by Admiral Keel and Envoy Kaal… a name that seemed to create a glimmer of recognition in Inquisitor Amberle… giving heed to Thelonious’s suspicions that he had held onto for a long time. The crew decided to share their star charts with the Inquisitor and, utilising her unique insights, they were able to determine that the three arms of the Waagghh were making great progress… the ‘northern’ arm was heading towards the worlds that Hadrek Fel held dominion over, the ‘western’ arm was heading towards Elerius and the ‘south-eastern’ arm was heading towards the God-Emperors Scourge and then, they assumed, onto Svard. With that, the Inquisitor informed them not to do anything with the canister and that they should probably try and stop the Ork Waagghh… and then she turned to leave and walked back towards the cave that she called home. As she was almost at the cave, Yorke had a flash of insight and shouted to her. Yorke: “Tell me, Inquisitor; When you have seen these Orks fighting, did they have eyes that were either entirely, or tinged with, black?” Amberle [walking into the cave and closing the door as she replies]: “Now that you mention it… yes… that is exactly what they looked like.” Yorke [looking at the rest of the command crew]: “Well, f**k!” They decided that further discussion were best held back on their ship and, after a bumpy ride (although nothing like Krakskull), they spoke about the fact that it appears that “something of the Yu’vath” had, potentially, infected the Orks and might now be pulling their strings. Their knowledge of the Yu’vath was greater than most people in the Imperium, but still incredibly incomplete and they didn’t know if there was an artefact that could have caused something like this, or whether it was something much darker. However, they couldn’t do anything about it now, so Yorke, despite the Inquisitors warning, decided to start to sequence the poison in the canister … and made a disturbing discovery. Whilst they had been in the environs of Elerius, and a certain moon with dust of a heretical nature, Yorke had obtained some and turned it into an injectable liquid. The liquid in the Inquisitors’ canister showed the same kind of strains, but of all 4 that remained, mixed in with Ork blood… which meant the Yorke, with her knowledge of Chymistry would be able to recreate it, with the right facilities. The Light of Elerius had those facilities and the moon of Elerius had the raw materials. The command crew now had a stark choice… the amount of time they had spent pottering around the Undred Undred Teef meant that they could go to Elerius, use the Labratorum to create as much of the poison as they could and then, depending on how long that took, potentially defend against the Ork Waagghh (especially given that their ship would easily get there before the Orks). Or, they could head straight to Svard and try and prepare that system for a potential onslaught, based on a relatively tenuous vision from an Inquisitor… it was a difficult decision. Svard was much more developed than Elerius, with many more people and a higher techbase… so it would probably be able to cope for longer. Elerius had the possibility to become a shining beacon of the Emperor’s might, but an Ork invasion on a feudal world would completely destroy that future. In the end, the chance to create more of the poison, and then have the ability to test it, won out and they decided that Elerius was where they would go. After translating into the warp, during the ‘downtime’ that comes with such travel, especially on the Hope in the Void, it was discovered that Bazak now had 50 Orks and that they had formed a Kult of Speed… Mistress Valentina decided this was too many Orks and decided to do something about it. Luring five of the Orks out with a combination of mental control and promises, she took them to the airlock and, dispassionately, spaced them. Thelonious spent his time convincing Constantine that what they were doing was the best for the Expanse, and whilst it may be using heretical parts, it was created by the Inquisition and thus was innately good and holy. Yorke and Bazak came together to get as much Ork blood out of the Kult of Speed as they could, as Yorke was going to need a lot to be able to synthesise enough of the poison to make a difference. They also made sure to run the combat drills because they didn’t know if they would be jumping into a combat situation, and being prepared had saved them in the past. Mistress Valentina contacted the Astropath on the Light of Elerius to make sure that the Labratorum was ready to be used by Yorke, when they arrived, given that time was of the essence. Bazak had come up with an idea that had the rest of the command crew in agreement, a very rare occasion indeed! Given the Light of Elerius also had a Minelayer bay, Bazak had an idea to create a special kind of mine that they could load with the poison that Yorke was going to develop, which would inject any Ork ship that it hit, which would then allow the poison to spread, killing the Orks inside. It was innovative and a really clever idea, if the Ork could pull it off. All of this was forgotten as they translated back into realspace, wondering whether they would even have a planet left to be able to pull off some of these plans… and the sigh of relief was heard throughout the entirety of the bridge as they couldn’t see any Ork ships anywhere near the planet, or even in the system… their plans could proceed. Yorke’s intelligence network jumped into action, utilising (and disposing of) people to move the chaos dust from the moon back onto the Light of Elerius, where Yorke made the most of the amazing facilities and, within a couple of weeks, had synthesised a sizeable amount of the poison. Bazak, during this time, in the Orks own inimitable way, had managed to change the mines on the same ship. All that was left was to lay the mines and for that they turned to Commander Rolaine, one of the brightest strategic and tactical thinkers in the Expanse who, along with knowledge provided by Bazak, set up a perfect minefield, in both the places that the Orks were likely to translate into. They knew that the mines would not be able to destroy the entire Ork fleet… they were poison deliverers, rather than explosives which limited their area of affect but, one mine could take out an entire Ork ship so, overall, they thought they had a chance. Constantine took to the planet of Elerius during this, rallying the people to the twin flags of the Deepstalker House and the God-Emperor, whilst also helping to oversee training with many of the new weapons that they were arming the population with. Utilising the extensive armoury and Munitorum on the Light of Elerius, they began shipping down Autoguns and Lasguns in large numbers and bringing the outlying people into the cities for training… if the Orks made landfall in large numbers then it was over, but if the numbers were manageable then they wanted the citizenry to have more than just Swords and Spears to deal with them. This massive change had the potential to cause massive upheaval in the social structure of the planet but, at this point, they just had to suck it up and fight for the survival of the planet. They would deal with the issues afterwards. The command crew was grateful that they had been given the time to lay things out as they wanted to and they had Mistress Valentina and Navigator Primus scanning the Warp for any early warning that the Orks were coming… and then, they were. The wake that was being pushed in front of them pointed to a massive Ork fleet, and the decision was made to send the Light of Elerius, which was not a warship, out of the system to Damaris. The Hope in the Void faced the oncoming Ork fleet, with Rolaine quietly happy that her guesses had been correct; the Mines were in the perfect place for the Ork fleet to transition into… they literally wouldn’t know what hit them. One moment, the space above Elerius was empty (other than the minefields, obviously) and then it was filled with a massive Ork fleet, about 40 ships of various sizes and numerous Roks, all filled to the brim with Orks… and then the Mines started their work. The Mines had been amended to no longer explode, but to magnetically attach to the Ork ships and then drill into the hull before unleashing their deadly cargo… and that is exactly what they did. The Orks didn’t seem to care when the mines failed to explode but, they definitely cared when they all started dying horrifically, with one Ork ship after another going dark and lifeless, until only half their fleet remained. Orks being Orks, however (and potentially being driven by another Xenos intelligence), they took it rather well and started arranging into battle formation. Yorke was immediately scanning the attacking fleet, trying to figure out their composition… it did not look good. There were 4 Kill Kroozers, 5 Onslaught Frigates, 4 Brute Ram Ships, 2 Terror Ships and 5 Roks out there in the darkness of space, and they all had one design… to land on Elerius and conquer it and in their way stood one ship, the Hope in the Void, a legendary vessel crewed by some of the most highly trained people in the Expanse… but as Thelonious looked out at what they had to face, he wondered if their skill had reached its zenith and their luck was going to run out…
  13. Chapter 60 – ...But why are the Orks Gone? Thelonious had always wanted to “visit” the Undred Undred Teef and he saw this situation as the perfect time to tick that off his bucket list, as well as being an opportunity to gain some insight, from those left behind, as to how dangerous this new WAAAGGGHHH might end up being. It was also the fastest ways to get to Elerius, where he planned to send the Light of Elerius to reinforce the natives with modern weapons, if they could get there in time. Before the Hope in the Void departed Footfall, Thelonious and Yorke managed to negotiate a contract with the Adeptus Mechanicus to give them a foothold on Elerius, with a 50/50 split of the raw materials that they could extract… Elerium was of interest to the Mechanicus because of its ability to be a greater conductive material than any that they currently used. The relatively even split in the contract was more than Thelonious wanted to give, but he consoled himself with the fact that he had negotiated a monopoly on distribution for anything they made using the metal… all in all, he was satisfied that the Deepstalker House would come out ahead, even if only just. With all business concluded on Footfall, both the Hope in the Void and the Light of Elerius left the confines of the Feribundus system and engaged their Warp Drives, smoothly entering the Warp and away to their quick journey to Lathimons Death. The Hope in the Void, with its Runecaster and special Warp Engine, arrived first, which was part of the plan, and immediately started scanning the environs… they had been told, through various sources, that the Orks often patrolled this system and they did not want to be caught by surprise. However, their first scans brought back nothing… the only things that appeared to be in the system were the planet and its star, and that was it… no asteroids, no space detritus… it appeared to have been completely and utterly swept clean. The complete emptiness was actually quite eerie and it wasn’t just the command crew that started feeling the jitters… in the couple of days they waited for the Light of Elerius to turn up, reports of apparitions and other phenomenon in the lower holds skyrocketed, although morale managed to stay remarkably high, with efforts led by Jonas Constantine. Even the planet, when they scanned it, seemed to have an incredibly low level of anything… hardly any vegetation, hardly any water, no mountains or any other discerning features… it was if the Orks had completely stripped the planet of anything useful, even down to the rocks in the earth. The nothingness, whilst eerie, did give the command crew the opportunity to quiz Bazak on his knowledge of the Undred Undred Teef, which was quite out of date but still had some tidbits of good information. They decided that, after they had seen the Light of Elerius off in the direction of Elerius itself, they would head towards Krakskull, as it was deemed the “safest” of the Ork worlds. When the Light of Elerius arrived, welcomed by the command crew, it was quickly sent on towards its namesake and the Hope in the Void set off on the journey to Krakskull… which turned out to take much longer than they expected! The degree of psychic disruption that the WAAAGGGHHH and the general huge numbers of Orks in the vicinity had caused meant that even their ship, which loved the Warp, ended up being flung around in vicious eddies and the Navigators didn’t get much sleep. However, as soon as they translated back into Realspace, the whole crew could feel that something was wrong and Isendark immediately brought the ship under Silent Running conditions, whilst Yorke and Bazak listened to their passive scanners… and they realised that the sense of wrongness was because they couldn’t actually detect anything moving, other than the space detritus in orbit. As they floated through the void, they decided to risk an Active Scan using their impressive Ultimo Array but, even this revealed nothing more than the passive scanners… there was much confusion on the bridge. Bazak, utilising Lt. Haines, sent down a typically Orkish message to the surface, but when the junior officer informed the Ork that there was only static, Bazak grabbed the messaging equipment and shouted at the static to turn into an Ork… and seemed genuinely surprised when it didn’t! Meanwhile, the Hope in the Void had drifted closer to the planet and Yorke was scanning it intensely but, to her dismay, the pollution in the atmosphere made many sensor readings she received nonsensical. This also meant that the Teleportarium would be a risky proposition… both in the original insertion but also on the return journey. If they wished to explore the surface they would have to utilise alternative means of transport. Krakskull, according to Bazak, has been a place of Ork Industry, with the greatest concentration of Meks in the general population, which explained the level of pollution, not that an Ork would have been affected by it. It was Isendark and Bazak that came up with a solution, informing the Captain that they had a Dropship that would cut through the storms and pollution like a hot knife through butter, tacitly admitting that they were the cause of one of the Assault Boats going missing… but, with a sigh, Thelonious accepted that this was probably the best way of getting down… although it wasn’t going to be pleasant. Unpleasant proved to be an understatement, with Yorke throwing up dramatically on the way down, but even the rest of the command crew, who managed to keep their last meal down, were in much better shape… the Dropship had been designed with Orks in mind, and the G-Forces they were subject to almost made them black out. Just as they thought they couldn’t take any more, the retro-thrusters and Anti-Grav platforms kicked in to bring them to a satisfactory, if abrupt, halt. As the side of the Dropship opened up, to allow for quicker insertion, the command crew, all decked out in fully sealed armour apart from Bazak, could see that the conditions on Krakskull were as bad as feared. The visibility was awful and the atmosphere would sear their lungs if allowed to, yet this didn’t bother Bazak who stepped out and shouted out a loud Orkish greeting. The Ork was slightly perturbed to not receive a reply but the rest of the crew fanned out into the surrounding area… at least until Mistress Valentina and Yorke heard something that sounded like rumbling, approaching them, and informed the rest… with Yorke turning right back around and running to the Dropship. Most of the landing party decided to follow her, more circumspectly, leaving Bazak and Isendark outside, facing into the unknown. As they faced the sound of the rumbling, which was getting louder and louder as it approached them, they only had a few seconds to react when a massive wall of Squigs came storming out of the haze. Isendark, utilising his almost legendary agility, grabbed part of Bazak’s Mega Armour and climbed up onto the top of the Ork, away from the stampede. Bazak, on the other hand, knew that he had enough strength and mass to just stand there, and as the Squigs bounced off the Ork and ran towards the Dropship, it just proved what the Ork always said “Bazak knows Best!” The Ork did open up on the massed squigs with the Heavy Bolters, cleaning a path through to the Dropship, as Thelonious managed to figure out the controls and turned on the engines, roasting some of the Squigs that were trying to climb into the exhaust ports… however, they did need to escape as the Dropship was starting to teeter, such was the mass of Squigs crashing against the side of it. Not all of the command crew was worrying about this though, Mistress Valentina was having a fun time looking out one of the portholes, sending her psychic power into one Squig at a time and then laughing as they exploded… Rolaine looked at her with an element of worry, especially when she started giggling. Meanwhile, Bazak had been making headway towards the Dropship, dropping grenades, until the Ork was close enough to enter. Utilising a piece of tech that even Isendark did not know the Ork had installed, Bazak opened the side of the Dropship and, with a burst of speed that caused immense pain, but was so worth it, Bazak zoomed into the Dropship, Isendark only just jumping off in time, and slammed into the other side of the interior, before the door closed up again. However, during the brief time the side had been opened, a mass of Squigs had managed to enter and the inside of the Dropship turned into a swirling melee, with Tau Pulse ammo, Eldar Shuriken ammo and more being sprayed around the inside to deal with the intruders. During this wild melee, Bazak decided the best way to deal with rampaging squigs was to drop a hallucinogen grenade… and that’s where everything went wrong. Everyone, other than Bazak, was almost immune to the effects of those grenades, sealed as they were in their armour, and Bazak was tough enough to shrug it off but, no-one could have anticipated that Thelonious T Deepstalker, Lord High-Captain of the Deepstalker House would decide to sample the hallucinogenic properties by pulling down his faceplate. The deep breath he took was insanely good, much better than most of the drugs he normally dabbled with but it also gave him a great sense that he could take on anything or anyone, and that he should test that theory....right NOW! The command crew had been taking care of the Squigs with merciless precision but, just as the final Squigs fell, Thelonious took aim with his Bolt Pistol, with Organ Grinder Rounds installed and shot Commander Rolaine in the back. Luckily, for Rolaine and the rest of the crew, she was well protected by her Conversion Field, although even that ancient and venerable piece of technology shorted out in the process and, as the rest of them turned in shock to confront Thelonious, he leapt at Mistress Valentina, his Mirrorswords slicing into her… the Rosarius she wore around her neck deflecting some, but not all, and left her with deep wounds. With the rest of the officers still slow in coming around to their Captains temporary madness, Yorke managed to drop down from the turret, duck underneath a parry attempt and jammed a needle into Thelonious’s face. The fast acting drug had the desired effect, and Thelonious fell, face first, onto the metal floor of the Dropship. Exactly why Natasha had such a sedative at the ready at a moments notice was a topic for another time. With Thelonious sedated and restrained, Isendark leapt into the pilots chair and managed to, deftly, pilot the Dropship back up to the Hope in the Void and, after a period of detoxifying Thelonious, and some intense medical care for Mistress Valentina, the command crew were ready to move again. After a discussion, the decision was made to go to Tusk, which was, according to Bazak, the place where Orks went to prove their might and thus, should be a place where they can find answers. The journey was another slog, with the Navigators having to make numerous course corrections around unpredictable (even for the Warp) events but, eventually, the Hope in the Void translated into the Tusk system… and immediately their passive sensors lit up with threat markings. However, upon further investigation, it was judged that they were all automated defence positions on the outskirts of the asteroid belt and, having an idea, Thelonious took Bazak and Yorke, using the Eldar Stealth Shuttle they had, and managed to land close to the automated defence position. Bazak and Yorke managed to hack into the Orkish machine and found that there was a jamming symbol that the Orks used to turn off the turrets… quite sophisticated for the Orks actually, but then, Bazak had shown that Orks were not necessarily dumb… just alien. Armed with the jamming code, loaded into the Hope in the Void’s communication array, the ship drifted past the defence emplacements… all crews at their stations, ready for an attack… only to find that, again, there did not appear to be any Ork ships in orbit… it was like they had all vanished. After an unfruitful few hours in orbit, and actively scanning the surrounding area (and the planet), Yorke managed to pick up a strange signal that was being sent using a cipher that Yorke had never seen before… but, even though she was adamant she hadn’t seen it before, it still gave her a sense of deja-vu… and when she informed Thelonious, it also felt very familiar to him as well. Replying, using the same cipher, Yorke then received a set of co-ordinates that deep scanning of the planet indicated was a series of cave formations, pushed against one of the seas of Tusk. Knowing that this could be a trap, but still curious as to how they knew this cipher, or thought they knew this cipher, the command crew gathered together in one of their Military Shuttles and made the descent down to the surface. After a trouble free landing, they made their way to the co-ordinates indicated and found a cave that appeared to have a door of some sort… as they were taking in this strange sight, the door opened and Inquisitor Amberle stepped out… a face that was both strange and familiar to the members of the command crew…
  14. Chapter 59 – Interlude, the Second The next few weeks were a period of consolidation for Thelonious and his command crew, with Mistress Valentina contacting the Light of Elerius and learning that it was on course for Footfall, it would be nice to see that ship again, whilst the rest of the officers started using the information they had gained from the Kasabillica leadership to establish their control over the Cold Trade. Thelonious continued, with the help of Yorke, to make Sebastian Berenson burn the candle at both ends, although the scion of the Berenson Dynasty was proving to be more resilient than they had expected… which just meant they had to get Bazak involved! Finally, for Thelonious had wondered whether they would hear from the Magos again, they received word that he was ready to meet with them and Yorke thought she could hear an element of excitement in the words of the Magos, even though it was an electronic monotone. Gathering up the command crew (with the words ‘Load for Magos’) they turned up, without any attempts at killing them, heavily armed and armoured because, after all, they had given the Magos the ‘blood’ of a Necron God… who knows what it might have done! The first thing that the crew noticed was that the metallic voice of the Magos had more of an alien tone, as if the circuits in the voice box had been changed, somehow, and it was made obvious what this was when the Magos turned to face them and half his visage was coated in organic, smooth, metal, with a tinge of green seeping into his eye socket. This was… disturbing… but the Magos seemed very much still in control of his actions and thoughts and he told them that he considered their deal completed, although if they wished to bring him a Rak’Gol and Eldar Farseer then he would be very grateful. With the number of mechadendrites attached to the Magos, he was able to perform surgery on all of them at the same time, with each implant being installed perfectly… the Magos was a true master of his craft. Bazak and Rolaine went with something quite simple, although beautiful, having a Baleful Eye installed, with an added targeting matrix to make them more accurate (or even more accurate in the case of Rolaine) at range. Yorke, who was always looking to surprise her opponents, had Powered, Chain flecked and poisoned knives installed in her wrists, able to be activated with a small muscle movement… a deadly surprise for her enemies! Thelonious, who had sought out the Magos for a very specific purpose, many years ago, finally had his nervous system enhanced, giving him a remarkable boost in Agility… in fact, Thelonious would mention that he believed this is what the Eldar must feel like, making Yorke rather incredibly jealous! Constantine joined his friend Thelonious with having a high quality Cortex Implant… he did have to consult some holy texts about whether this was allowed for members of the faith, and he was quite surprised at just how enthusiastic the Imperial Creed was about cybernetic enhancement! Mistress Valentina had a combination void-skin and respiratory implant, allowing her to survive in the vacuum of deep space for longer than she had any right to. Isendark, in a relatively surprising (to Thelonious) move, decided to get a Locator Matrix installed which, given the problems the command crew had encountered finding their way around, was a remarkably dynasty focused cybernetic for him to go for. Fortified by knowing that she could now take anyone out in close combat, by surprise, Yorke went back to her chambers on the Hope in the Void and took one more crack at the Mechanicus Arm that she had found on the moon of Elerius and, to her surprise, she entered the zone and found herself through all the defences! Unfortunately, the secrets that the arm revealed were nothing earth shattering although it did give Yorke more of an understanding of the history of Elerius and some experiments that the adept of the Mechanicus had performed on the Iron Men… but given the Iron Men were now all dust (literally), it was less useful than it could have been. Still, she had been after the secrets of the arm for a while now and the sense of accomplishment roared through her… she felt like she could do anything! Other than that, however, the command crew rested and trained with their Implants, especially those, like Thelonious, who had been changed remarkably by the procedure… and time passed. During that time, Mistress Valentina ended up taking Isendark, Yorke and Rolaine aside for a few hours of one-on-one counselling, which did make Thelonious curious as to what she was up to but, given it did not appear to be harming the crew or the ship, he was willing to let her continue. Thelonious, himself, had a meeting with the Lord of Footfall to speak about opening a scholam for the orphaned and disenfranchised of Footfall… Thelonious had decided that, if he was to grow his dynasty even faster, he would need those who were loyal and felt a debt of gratitude… plus, you never knew what you might find amongst those that most people would disregard. This would also dovetail nicely into the Deepstalker “guidance” of the Cold Trade, which took up another couple of months, getting contacts, reactivating criminal networks etc, but there was one major difference… the truly vile stuff, that posed a threat to the Imperium, was either met by House Berenson or ambushed by ‘mercenaries’ and the Cold Trade in those major artefacts floundered. This worked brilliantly for Thelonious, who had a true hatred for the Ruinous Powers but, other than those items… anything went! Isendark and Bazak had been meeting in private, in the Orks quarters which meant it was outside of both Thelonious and Yorke’s intelligence networks and then, suddenly, one day, one of the Assault Boats disappeared, to Thelonious’s chagrin. However, given that most of the attacks came from their Teleportarium, and they could replace the Assault Boat, he was more peeved than mad, although he did resolve to keep a close® eye on both of them. The rather sedate passage of time, and the status quo, was shaken up slightly when the Storm Wardens arrived although, after they met with Lady Orleans to regain their property, they were gone as quickly as they had arrived. Sylvia Locke was next to arrive, although she departed quickly as well, she needed to give a report to the Naval Hierarchy on Port Wander about what had happened in the environs of Zayth. In essence, this was a time of putting the Deepstalker Dynasty in order, absorbing their new areas and responsibilities and learning as they did whilst putting out feelers for further opportunities. This came to an end when, suddenly, a large fleet of Ork ships appeared in the vicinity of Footfall! After scrambling to the Bridge from whatever they were doing, the command crew realised that the Hope in the Void was one of the only ‘ships of the line’ in the Feribundus system at that time but, heedless of the insane odds (30 to 1) Thelonious ordered the crew to set an intercept course. The Ork fleet was a ramshackle group (even for Orks), most of them showing some kind of battle damage and ranging from smaller, frigate sized ships to larger, cruiser sized vessels and, Bazak pointed out to Thelonious, they didn’t appear to be angling towards Footfall itself. Hailing the lead Ork ship, Thelonious and Bazak appeared together, presenting a united front, with Thelonious wearing his Ork Teef coat, which he had made after the Ork invasion of Damaris. They learnt that the Orks were doing a “taktikal flankin movee” to get “away from dat Git Morgash!” which set Thelonious back on his heels… he had heard about Morgash and the warning from the Freebooters, to Bazak, about the War Boss having united the Undred Undred Teef seemed to be coming true. It would also explain why the Orks were not that keen on fighting at that time, they were just trying to escape Morgash’s wrath. Knowing that the Hope in the Void would be unable to defeat this entire fleet, Thelonious was forced to yield to the fact that the Orks, who wanted to pass through the Maw and get out of the Expanse, were going to get through whether or not they tried to stop them. However, Mistress Valentina made sure to send a message to Sylvia Locke and Port Wander, warning them what was going to come through the Maw… so they could gather together a “surprise” for the Orks. With Bazak taking the lead, guided by Thelonious, they managed to gain quite a lot of intelligence on Morgash and what the Ork had been doing, and with Bazak’s intimidating manner proving to be enough to cow the Ork they were conversing with, the conversation stayed remarkably civil, especially when it came to Orks! With the Orks ‘safely’ going to Warp through the Maw, Thelonious breathed a sigh of relief… Footfall may have been a hive of scum and villainy but, more and more, it was seeming like HIS hive of scum and villainy and he would have hated to lose the investments that he had made… and, you know, losing an outpost to the Xenos as well… terrible that. Over the next few days, Mistress Valentina hardly slept as astropathic warnings and cries for help and messages of general distress came floating in from across the Expanse… wherever there were civilised worlds, or outposts above feral worlds… including places that the Deepstalker Dynasty had no knowledge of. From the Undred Undred Teef came the forces of WAAAGGGHHH Morgash, which seemed to be spreading outwards in a spiral from their central position. The fact that the forces had been split confused Thelonious somewhat, he was expecting one massive assault but it appeared that Morgash had other ideas. Spending some time utilising Bazak’s knowledge of Orks and mapping the source of the astropathic messages, it appeared that there were three ‘arms’ to the assault, one of which would reach Elerius eventually. However, Thelonious posited, which the command crew agreed with, that Morgash was probably not involved in that arm; he would be in one that was going towards the best fighting. Mistress Valentina also sent a message to the Witch Queen, informing her of the location across the sea and giving her the ciphers to contact them and order them to bring all the Elerium to her, where they could be forged into weapons… Total War was coming to Elerius and they needed to be ready. After spending a couple of days plotting the potential course of the Ork fleets, and trying to think of a coherent strategy to deal with them, Thelonious informed the command crew, they were going to try and confront the Orks, and he had made the decision as to where…
  15. Chapter 58 – Biting the hand that fed you Thelonious was quick to order the rest of the command crew to stand down, he wanted to see what the Eldar were going to do before launching into life or death combat and his patience was rewarded when, a few seconds later, another Warp Spider ported in. This Eldar looked different to the rest, the armour was much more ornate and the Deathspinners were attached to the armour in a way to give the Eldar the appearance of a Spider, it made it look like the Eldar had eight limbs. Both Thelonious and Yorke knew that this was an Exarch, a powerful warrior and also quite rare… that there was an Exarch here either boded well (as it was a measure of respect) or poorly (because they wanted them dead) and they waited to find out which. Thelonious greeted the Exarch with the proper greeting, although his hands, and those of the command crew, did not stray too far away from their weapons. The Exarch pointed at Thelonious and informed him that the Farseer was waiting for him, but him alone. Thelonious thought about it for a few seconds, before indicating his assent and he stayed very still as the Warp Spiders surrounded him and then, as one, activated their Warp Field generators and, to the rest of the command crew, they all vanished. The trip through the Warp was very different than the last time Thelonious had been there, and it was over in what seemed like an instant, and he found himself in a place that he did not recognise, but which was indisputably of human manufacture, which meant he knew they were still on Footfall. The conversation, such as it was, started off quite harsh and clipped on Beljalanor’s side, with Thelonious trying to defend his position by saying that he tried to warn the Eldar for a few hours before the betrayal/attack on them, but learning that they thought he was joking which, given his predilection for off the cuff humour, did make sense! However, Thelonious was truly contrite on the fact that he never meant to harm their friendship, and that it had been playing on his mind since then… he said that he had a gift for the Farseer, the stasis field, and the Warp Spiders left to pick it up and teleport it back. Thelonious also decided to use some of the knowledge he had learnt in the Future, although that was fading fast now, using the Eldar name for the Necrons, mentioning the name that the Farseer had been called in his youth and other things… the Farseer was very confused by this but had learned to treat Thelonious with a degree of respect. The conversation continued until the Warp Spiders came back with the stasis field and then that was all they had to say to each other… they parted on better terms than they had started, but Thelonious was hoping that his gift (the Farseer Caele) would make up for some of his bad decisions in regards to the Eldar… but he would have to wait to learn that. After being teleported back to the command crew, they made their way back to the Deepstalker holdings on Footfall, intending on put a few things in order before House Berenson turned up and all hell broke loose! As they approached their holdings, they could see a minor commotion happening at the front gate and, as they got closer, they could see High Inquisitor Lorric escorting two senior members of the Ecclesiarchy. After greeting the Cardinal and Senior Confessor, and Lorric as well, they took them to one of their more opulent meeting rooms, with a view out of the skylight that occasionally (based on the rotation of Footfall) took in the view of the Maw. Thelonious dismissed everyone but Mistress Valentina and Constantine for the conversation with the Ecclesiarchy and sent for the finest food and wine that they had available, before greeting them formally in the name of the Deepstalker House. Cardinal: “We are here, Lord Deepstalker, because we have been informed by the High Inquisitor that one of our own, the Missionary Jonas Constantine, has performed a miracle by any other name… one that had a lot of members of our conclave wondering whether it was a trick… but the word of the High Inquisitor, backed up by an Astartes Librarian, has convinced us that it was real.” Thelonious: “I would say that this miracle you are talking about so dismissively is the only reason why you are standing here today. If High Cardinal Constantine had not been in the Emperor’s highest favour then he would not have been able to do what he did, and the Expanse would be drowning in the blood and despair of the Ruinous Powers!” Cardinal: “And, on that, the conclave agrees with your hypothesis. We believe that the Koronus Expanse is becoming, slowly, more civilised and that the beacon of hope that is the Ecclesiarchy needs to have a figurehead in this lawless hellhole, to start bringing the masses of humanity into the Emperor’s Grace. In consultation with my superiors, we have decided that this person should be Jonas Constantine!” Thelonious: “Well, that decision should come down to the man himself, but as you may have heard, I have been calling him the High Cardinal for a while now, so it delights me that my interests and the interest of the Ecclesiarchy are so aligned.” Cardinal: “High Cardinal is not a correct designation for any member of the Ecclesiarchy but, nonetheless, the decision has been made, and the documents are here to sign, to make Jonas Constantine the official Cardinal of the Koronus Expanse.” As the Senior Confessor took out the holy documentation and the Cardinal basked in his own importance, Thelonious had a question to ask about how the ‘Cardinal’ was to do his duties whilst also remaining a member of his crew, but that question was rendered moot by Constantine himself, getting out of his seat and walking directly up to the Cardinal. Constantine: “Whilst I am honoured by the decision of the Conclave, it is one that I am going to have to decline. I believe the best way to bring the faith of the Emperor to the masses is to continue to interpret and exert his will the best we can to prove an example for the rest of humanity. I do not need any title, especially given by those who have lost the true essence of their work, to provide that inspiration. I will always be faithful to the God-Emperor of mankind, but in my own way!” The reaction around the room was immediate. Thelonious managed to keep a poker face… just… whilst Lorric let a startled laugh escape. The Cardinal’s face was one of thunder as he stormed out of the room whilst the Senior Confessor had a look of contemplation across his features. Lorric’s face soon turned to astonishment, as did Thelonious’s when Constantine indicated that a future within the Ordo Malleus was something he was very interested in! Lorric promised to fast track Constantine into an Interrogator position when he felt able to join the Inquisition full time and had no doubt that he would make Inquisitor in record time. The Senior Confessor stayed behind and Constantine held a long conversation that seemed to promote greater understanding between them and they appeared to leave as friends… however, Constantine and Thelonious knew that they had made an enemy in the Cardinal, and potentially many of his allies… but, Constantine was always one to follow his morality and conscience. Whilst Thelonious was somewhat distraught with the potential profit that had been thrown away by Constantine, he couldn’t argue with his friend’s moral certainty… after all, it was that certainty that banished a Chaos God! Footfall was alive with rumours, a lot of them spread by the Deepstalker house, of the offer the Ecclesiarchy made and the rejection from the most holy Constantine and so it was that when Constantine went to one of the local shrines to pray and to lead a congregation, word was spread and he ended up giving a sermon to a huge number of people, in one of the central squares of Footfall. His sermon was all about bringing the light of the Emperor into the darkness of the Expanse, about how the light of the God-Emperor would lead humanity into a glorious future, but not until everything dark was purged from the Expanse. He spoke about Damaris, about Svard and about Elerius as places where the Emperor’s light was shining brightly and how it should be nurtured and then exported. Everyone who was in the square felt a shard of divinity amongst them that touched them and many left the sermon with a new sense of purpose and in the next few months Pilgrimages increased a hundred fold. Constantine had left his mark on the assembled people and maybe, just maybe, left an indelible imprint on the Koronus Expanse. With, at the least, another few weeks of repairs and recruiting needed for the Hope in the Void to be fully restored, Thelonious and Yorke put their intelligence networks to work discovering as much as they could about the Kasabillica Mission’s operations on Footfall, knowing that when the hammer blow came, the more they knew about them, the more they could dismantle. Both their networks were extensive and, together, they managed to map out most of the Kasabillica, identifying their high rankers and their safe houses, as well as operational buildings… everything was set up for when Berenson arrived, although Thelonious had another plan that he kept to himself. He was also distracted, somewhat, by reports of other Orks being spotted in his ship and so, with Rolaine for company, he walked into the area of the ship that had been designated as Bazak’s and confronted the Ork. After a relatively heated argument, in which Thelonious pointed out, rather forcefully, that this was his ship and thus everyone on board must answer to him, Bazak brought the Lord-High Captain to the Freebooterz he had ‘recruited’ and then left the room. What went on in the room was not recorded, but Thelonious and Rolaine walked out after a few minutes, still alive and without any of the Orks dead, satisfied that they would follow their orders. Isendark spent more of his time trying to improve his and the Lord High Captain’s weapons, Bazak kept the Orks in line and started working on his own projects, Rolaine spent some time in the Naval Quarters, catching up with some old friends and colleagues until the time came where Tyrone Berenson entered the Feribundus system. The first order of business was for Thelonious to formally take custody of Tyrone’s son, Sebastian, and this was carried out at an official ceremony that was held on the Hope in the Void where Sebastian was appointed a Ward of the Deepstalker Dynasty, as a Junior Lieutenant underneath Isendark, to be trained in the art of Spacecraft. After the ceremony, Thelonious and Tyrone held a conference where Thelonious handed over all the intelligence that they had gathered on the Kasabillica, to give the Berenson forces as much of a chance of winning the fight as they could… although they did leave out one crucial part, a secret escape hatch… Thelonious had his own plans. Sebastian’s first night on the Hope in the Void was one of wanton excess… drink, drugs, the full sensorium experience, nothing was off limits to the only Heir to the Berenson dynasty and he took full advantage. However, he was also a Lieutenant, with responsibilities, so when Marcia Cross woke him up for his boot camp training, he was in a sorry state but the former Naval Officer was not the sort to let anyone off lightly and he ended up hungover for the entire day. When Thelonious knocked on his door that evening, he did come out for another night of debauchery, but Thelonious could see that he was not enjoying it as much… all part of the plan. During that time, Mistress Valentina and Commander Rolaine had been putting the finishing touches to a plan to ‘rescue’ some of the leadership of the Kasabillica Mission, after all, how were House Deepstalker supposed to take over the bulk of the Cold Trade if they didn’t know how the Trade worked? Thelonious planned to stop the trade of the most egregious artefacts, and hand them over to House Berenson, but intended to allow the less dangerous stuff to continue. A handpicked group, along with 500 to 1000 troops that were secreted around the Kasabillica Mission’s buildings were all armed with Capacitor Bolts… they were more likely to knock out than kill and Thelonious wanted to stop any unnecessary deaths on the side of House Berenson. Constantine whipped quite a few crowds into a religious fervour and implanted agents steered the crowds near the Kasabillica buildings, providing more cover and distraction… and then it began, with a massive explosion against the main wall of the compound, as some kind of Anti-tank munitions blasted a huge hole, and Berenson troops stormed in. Berenson had dipped into his considerable resources and had paid off the local enforcers to stay home, as well as paying people nearby to leave the area, so the collateral casualties were going to be lower but, given the attack involved around 30,000 of House Berenson troopers, the attack was overwhelming. Thelonious, the command crew and the handpicked troops were waiting, listening to the carnage going on in the compound, and then Thelonious used an encrypted line to contacted one of the heads of the Kasabillica Mission, Vladaym, and offered to extract them from the assault. The response was predictable, the Kasabillica Mission had no idea of the force arrayed against them and were convinced they could hold their own, which lasted another 20 minutes before the Berenson troops penetrated the inner courtyard… at which point Thelonious got a call! After being given the go-ahead, and with the detailed plans sent over their connection, the go order was given. Thelonious, Constantine and Rolaine lead the three points of the trident, being let through by most of the Kasabillica Mission guards and coming from behind to take the Berenson troops by surprise (but with their suppressed weaponry), which allowed them to punch through the cordon they had set up, with very few casualties, and make their way into the, well appointed, chambers of the Kasabillica Mission. They found that most of the security opened for them, obviously as a result of their agreement with the Kasabillica and so it was that they found themselves in the presence of the leadership of a vast criminal organisation, or at least, the Koronus Expanse office anyway. After convincing them that he was on their side, and that he wanted to help them rebuild the Mission, but better, they lowered the forcefield surrounding their bunker to allow the Hope in the Void to teleport them aboard. It was then that Thelonious ordered all the rest of his troops, who he had secreted around Footfall, to attack and demolish the Kasabillica Mission, after all, he had made a promise to Tyrone Berenson! After the attack, and a public apology from House Berenson to “the Liege of Footfall” for the damage, the main building of the Kasabillica Mission was left empty as a warning… and Berenson stayed around for a while, sending troops in to clear out anyone who decided to move in, or wanted to take over the place… it was to stand as a Monument to the citizens of Footfall, that the Kasabillica Mission was done. However, unbeknownst to House Berenson, House Deepstalker had been subtly interrogating the leadership of the Kasabillica Mission… gambling with them, offering them all the comforts they were used to, drugging them occasionally, cross referencing their findings and, in general, running one of the biggest cons they could, all to get as much information about the Mission’s operations as possible. The heads of the criminal syndicate were no fools but, such was the agility and sheer brazenness of the command crews approach, that, at the end of the two weeks, they had most of what they needed and the leaders were still unaware f their true motivations. When asked why he was helping them, Thelonious merely stated ‘there’s money in it’ and, given their previous dealings, the leadership found this an acceptable answer. The crew were gladdened to see that the Mission operated a cell structure, with very few people knowing where the orders came from and, because they had the access codes and protocols, they could just reassume control without anyone knowing there had been a change of leadership… and take the Koronus Expanse Mission independent! House Berenson was about to find its ability to interdict the worst shipments improve dramatically, whilst its ability to interdict the less dangerous material and information was likely to drop dramatically but Thelonious could look at what they had accomplished and feel quite proud and happy… he had an alliance with one of the powers of the sector, and he now had access to the Kasabillica Mission and, whilst it would take time to filter through everything to find out what they had, it was a set of resources that was not to be sniffed at. All in all, it had been a good year for House Deepstalker.
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