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Major Kimenth

Revenge and Retribution - A Rogue Trader Campaign

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Hi All, 

 

This is a write up of the current Rogue Trader Campaign being run by Grothgar (who may post here occasionally).

 

We play once a  week and the Command Crew consists of the following:

 

Rogue Trader Thelonious T Deepstalker - Rogue Trader (Duh)

Commander Myrin Rolaine - Arch Militant

Natasha Yorke - Senescha

Isendark Trodegeu - Void Master

Seri Valentina - Astropath

Cleric Jonos Constantine - Missionary

Bazark  Nazdrek - Orc Freebooter

 

Happy reading.

 

Prologue

 

Now hear the story of House Deepstalker, once an ancient Rogue Trader dynasty of great renown.

 

And so it was that House Deepstalker came into a trade dispute with House Fel and that dispute did erupt into full blown war. It was this conflict that stripped both of almost all their holdings, possessions, ships and influence they held in the Calixis Sector. Over time the war ended, not through any peaceful negotiations but through the simple exhaustion of both parties. The leftovers of House Fel are unrecorded, however what remained for House Deepstalker was a single Dictator class Cruiser, ironically named Hope in the Void.

 

Onto this ship the new Rogue Trader, Thelonious T Deepstalker, who had taken command of the failing dynasty after his father fell in the war, gathered all remaining resources and sold off anything he deemed unnecessary. The situation was such that he was forced to order the sale of the lance batteries and macro cannons in order to afford to fuel the ship. It was indeed a desperate time for the House and many scavengers and lesser houses, not that there were many remaining below them, were circling like vultures to take them down. Thelonious saw the predicament they were in and he deemed the best course of action to rebuild the House was to head out into the Koronus Expanse in the hopes of finding profit or plunder that would allow him to rebuild his dynasty's footing away from the opportunists who would strive to pick over the bones of his House.

 

He nurtured the desire to one day return and crush those who had reduced his House to its current state. To this end he built his new command crew:

As his second in command he took Myrin Rolaine. The former mercenary had led many of the successful attacks against House Fel in the war, even duelling with the rival Rogue Trader himself. With her uncanny accuracy with a gun many knew not to cross her and all other soon learnt she was not to be messed with.

 

As his Seneschal he appointed Natasha Yorke as she had proven not only resourceful but capable of ‘profiting from both sides’ as she put it. Everyone knew the day that she joined the dynasty. When the Captain entered the ghost ship with 50 of his personal guard they found only Natasha and a priest hiding from something neither of them cared to name. Rumours still fly to this day at to what really happened but the fact of the matter is that only the Rogue Trader, Natasha and the Priest walked off that ship. None of them proved very forthcoming about events but it forged a trust between them that has never been broken and Natasha served the Captain with great dedication from that day forward.

 

For having the balls to stand up to his father, Mistress Sari Valentina, leader of the remaining Astropaths, was granted a position of higher authority. Her experience in not only the House War but an Imperial Crusade gave her a wealth of knowledge to which her kind was normally ignorant. Her ability to look into the minds of men was also deemed useful to the Rogue Trader although even he would admit that her presence was disturbing.

 

Isendark Trodegeu, veteran pilot of the trade war and child of the Dynasty, became the new Void Master. Born on a ship owned by the Dynasty he rose through the ranks from piloting shuttles and support craft to piloting the Flag ship itself.

 

In the hope that the Emperor hadn’t forgotten them he called on Cleric Jonos Constantine as ships confessor. As the only other survivor of the ghost ship he was one of the few people Thelonious seemed to truly trust. Despite his weak constitution he had proven himself popular with the faithful and more than capable of purging heretics when the need arose.

 

The most shocking of the Rogue Traders new staff was the Ork Freebooter, Bazak Nazdrek. Shortly after the war, with the remnants of the House seemed in danger of shattering, Thelonious found the alien trying to sell a map. As disparate as he was the Rogue Trader took a gamble and hired the Ork to lead them to the ‘shiny treeezure’. What could have been his last folly turned into a saving grace as the map did indeed lead to riches. It was not enough to rebuild the dynasty but it was sufficient to prevent it collapsing before Thelonious could consolidate everything onto the Hope in the Void. Many had heard the Rogue Trader state that he would be keeping the Xenos around until he had repaid the debt, or until it no longer proved useful…. whichever came first.

 

Even though it was stripped down, the Hope in the Void boasted a crack crew, the survivors from the war who have been amalgamated onto the last ship. Along with these was a rag tag collection of support craft, fighters, bombers, aeronautical planes and gunboats that together formed a formidable collection of squadrons. The ship itself, despite being depleted of its personal weaponry, was still a mighty sight to behold. The Dictator class Cruiser boasted a large drive system and a surprisingly stable warp engine, in fact many of the Navigators commented that the ship sometimes seemed happier in the Warp than the Material Plane. Each flight bay held its own repair station and a central arboretum provided both fresh food and recreation to the crew in equal measure. Yet it was the presence of Archeotech that truly made the Hope in the Void stand out amongst its peers. Deep in the centre of the ship, constantly tended by its own dedicated tech-priests, sat a fully functioning Teleportarium. This, along with the highly trained boarding parties, was the true weapon at the ships disposal.

 

It was with this contingent aboard that the Hope in the Void left Footfall and strove to make its way Damarris in the hope of finding profit. Yet fate would have its own say in the matter

En-route, after over 100 days of travel, the chief Navigator informed the Void Master of a strange wake in the warp that appeared to be following them. Knowing well the dangers of the warp, Isendark called the High Lord Captain to the bridge and informed him of the anomaly. The Rogue Trader immediately ordered the alert fighters to prepare to launch before instructing the Navigator to translate them into normal space.

Upon re-entering the Material Plane the squadrons were launched and the augury picked up the ship they had discovered on their tail translating amazingly close to their location. It was with some surprise that the Void Master was able to identify the ship as the Imperial Navy Lunar Class Cruiser Hand of Redemption. The surprise was short lived as they immediately received a vox message instructing them to heave to and prepare to be boarded. Not to be swayed by such an abrupt request the Lord High Captain activated the holo-tank and, glass of amasec in hand, requested an introduction. The Navy commander identified himself as Admiral Keel and repeated his request. Thelonious was rather nonplussed about the idea and offered to go to the Hand of Redemption instead to save them the trouble of heading over to his own. Sometime after these events, and in confidence, the Captain admitted this was a strategic move as he disliked the idea of heavily armed strangers stepping foot on his own bridge in an unknown situation.

 

Once aboard the Hand of Retribution they were introduced to Admiral Keel. Along the way there were several shocked responses to the presence of an ork as part of the command contingent however previous relations with the Imperial Navy gave the House a trustworthy reputation that held off gunfire long enough for the Seneschal to explain that the Ork was ‘tame’.  After a fine meal the Admiral took the command crew to his quarters and informed them of the true reason of their meeting. An Imperial Envoy had gone missing whilst re-establishing contact with a system that had gone dark almost 20 years ago.

The reason he had chosen to follow the last ship of House Deepstalker was because the colony was originally founded 200 years ago by a scion of the Dynasty and, by involving them, he believed he would have a greater chance of success finding the missing envoy. In exchange the House could re-claim the system and reap the benefits of any profit to be had. As the crew had been receptive to the idea, the Admiral explained that the envoy was his brother and he would be grateful for any assistance in recovering him. Yorke checked the House records on her dataslate and seemed surprised that the records had not appeared on her previous searches of House resources however the information seemed to match what the Admiral was telling them.

 

The Lord Captain considered the situation before agreeing that his ship would accompany the Hand of Redemption to the system and would assist in discovery the whereabouts of the envoy. And so the crew returned to the Hope in the Void and the course was set for the Svard system.

Edited by Major Kimenth

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Chapter One - The Beginning of the Ascent?

 

Upon arrival in the Svard system, the Hope in the Void scanned the system and discovered a single blue star and only one planet, a gas giant, on the edge of the habitable zone. Their records stated that the gas giant had many moons that had been fitted out to support human life however they detected no ships orbiting the system on defence patrol. Also, the main planet appeared to be slowly being depleted by the gravity of the sun. The upper most layers of gas being pulled away into the void, forming a great cloud like layer that shrouded all but one of the moons from the augury scans.

 

Moving in further over the coming days they picked up several vessels but they all appeared to be stationary and without power. It was not until they approached the main moon directly, the only one outside the cloud layer, that they were detected and contacted by those dwelling planetside. The voice seemed relieved when they were informed that the ship had come from House Deepstalker and asked if they were there to help them. Instantly aware that the situation was perhaps not as simple as they first thought the Rogue Trader stated that they had come to check up on the colony after a long absence and inquired as to the nature of their problem. The representative stated they would explain the situation in person if the Rogue Trader would honour them with his presence as he did not wish to speak of it on an unsecured Vox channel.

 

To this end the Rogue Trader advised Admiral Keel to remain on patrol in case of surprise attack or other danger and took his command crew down to meet the elders of the main Hive, leaving Rolaine in command of the Hope. From the view ports they could clearly see there was an abundance of ice on the planet. Some had even been used as building blocks for parts of the small Hive that was the capital. All agreed that, if it was close enough to drinkable, it would be a worthwhile resource for them to extract.

 

As they landed they were greeted with all due respect but everyone constantly noted the lack of power to many of the buildings, the starving state of the citizens and general dilapidation of the hab area. The elders were still reluctant to speak in the open and insisted they go to the council chamber and led the way through the hive. En-route Natasha attempted to speak to one of the local guards to get an idea of the situation. The man seemed uneasy and stated that whisperers were everywhere. Intrigued, Yorke asked if he could explain and the guardsman responded by pulled his pistol and shooting the Seneschal in the leg, his suddenly black eyes showing no more emotion than a servitor.

 

Natasha’s response to this was to draw his own hell pistol and shoot the man in the face, instantly incinerating him. With shock the rest of the guards assumed an attack from outside, taking up defensive stances, and some of the crew noticed that the surrounding civilians had all paused and at least half of them had eyes that had turned fully black. These individuals were staring with intent at the group and suddenly arrays of weapons were drawn. One of the assailants, in cold calm and silence threw off his coat to reveal a bomb vest and silently ran towards the group. Shocked by this event the only one to act was Cleric Constantine who stepped forward and released a jet of flame from his own weapon that engulfed the man, killing him instantly. The cries of dismay the others gave at his action seemed to confuse him until a moment later the explosives strapped to the man detonated.

 

The Missionary was thrown back by the blast and any unarmoured individuals surrounding the suicidal miscreant were killed. Several of the household guard were injured and the Choir Master was also severely injured. The benefit, however, was the explosion more than decimated the remaining assailants and the house guards were able to escort the command crew and the hive elders to the council chamber without further incident. Once safely behind it’s stout doors their elder, Speaker Tal was finally able to explain the situation.

 

He explained that over the last 20 years those that they had come to call The Whisperers had engaged on a campaign of sabotage throughout the system. Installation 23, a void station and refinery for Promethium and Plasma had stopped delivering fuel. Cog, their main Forge moon, had gone silent some years before. There was a Citadel of Psykers who had their own space station but with the decrease in mass of the gas giant their orbit had become erratic. No-one knew if their lack of communication was due to the Whisperers or to the shifting of their orbit. There was apparently a Seedworld, visited and terraformed by a Magus many years again, that was covered in tropical vegetation. The moon of Silence was explained to be a holy place and archive for the system. There were also many Hollow Worlds, remnants of extensive mining on both moons and large asteroids, which had been converted to support human life but even these had stopped communicating with the primary moon. The settlement of Svard was all that remained and all other regions were assumed to be under the control of the Whisperers.

 

The Whisperers were explained to be normal citizens who, for unknown reasons, would have their eyes turn black and would commit sabotage, murders, destruction or alike. Afterwards those who were captured and questions would remember their actions but speak of them in an emotionless manner. They seemed to have no regrets over what they had done however until such time as they acted it was impossible to distinguish them from normal citizens. This had led to a break in communication with all other sections of the system.

 

When asked about the Envoy the Speaker stated that over a year ago he had left the main Hive to go to Silence, the holy planetoid that was the main archive for the system. It was pointed out to the Rogue Trader that any proof of ownership or charter stating House Deepstalker had a legitimate claim to the system would likely be stored there. The command crew took a moment to themselves to discuss the options as they had been presented to them and invited Admiral Keel to join the discussions as it appeared that his brother was no longer on the main planet and all others were apparently in hostile hands. The Rogue Trader himself seemed torn between the options of gaining profit from the situation or simply purging it and selling off the remains to gain something from the journey.

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Chapter Two - Dinner and a Show

 

Informing Admiral Keel that a banquet was to be held, the officer was sceptical that his presence was required until it was mentioned that the Elders potentially had information on his brother. He came down to join the command crew as the guests of honour at the feast. The banquet, while not overly extravagant, was still adequately opulent given the limited resources the nobles had at their disposal. After the main meal, Speaker Tal invited the Rogue Trader to speak and Thelonious gave a slightly inebriated speech about rekindling the Svard system to its former glory and reversing its current fortunes under the mighty wing of House Deepstalker. This got a rousing round of applause from the nobles.

 

After the meal Speaker Tal introduced everyone to the main counsellors;

 

Astrid was the Chief Treasurer and seemed a competent woman who had managed to reinvent the economic structure of the hive to keep things functioning despite the lack of resources and interference from the whisperers.

 

Ygritte was introduced and immediately proved herself to be a more typical Noblewoman, short tempered and pampered. Went noticing the Orc she referred to him as a filthy Xenos to which the Freebooter only smiled.

Tor appeared to be a small man, weedy in stature with a large chin.

 

Magnus seemed to encapsulate the average look. Average height, average weight with medium coloured hair and everyday eyes. The only exception was a scar that ran down his face. He would only refer to it as a ‘present from the whisperers’ and would not elaborate further. The Void Master made a note to the Astropath that she should keep an eye on him. However, Mistress Valantina’s only response was to state that she kept an eye on everyone.

 

During the evening Natasha Yorke asked to speak privately to Councillor Astrid and the two stepped into a secluded chamber as the rest of the crew continued to question the nobles on recent event involving the Whisperers. The most obvious or apparent was that on Svard the whisperers had been increasing slowly over the last 20 years whilst all other sections of the system were taken over nearly instantly.

Installation 23, for example, was the 1st to fall and Cog followed less than a year later. Cog had been run by a Magos with additional servitors and some labourers and it was surmised it fell so quickly as they were so few individuals to defend it. When asked why the main industrial centre was not contained on the central planet it was explained that the heavy industry had been moved to Cog as it was feared that the machinery would actually melt the ice that formed a large section of Svard.

 

Spatial locations were known for Cog, Silence, Seedworld 6385 and the majority of the hollow worlds. Unknown was the location of Installation 23 as the Void Station had manoeuvring thrusters and it was suspected that the Whisperers had moved it.  The Citadel of Psykers, with its erratic orbit, was difficult to predict where it would be at any one time.

 

Constantine and Valentina were to head back to the ship to rest after the injuries they had received from the earlier excitement. As they made to leave the party early, Thelonious asked the Choir Master to send a message to try and reach the Psykers Citadel. Once back aboard ship she called 2 of her fellow Astropaths to assist and sent a message system wide and announced to any with the ability to hear that House Deepstalker had returned to reclaim their sovereignty of the Svard system and all loyal citizens of the Emperor should stand ready to serve.

 

After the banquet was over the remaining command crew were shown to their rooms. Yorke took the opportunity to calculate the value of everything. She discovered that, though faded, the noble quarter was satisfactory. Remembering the earlier discussion about the abundance of water, she took a sample from the ice of the wall and made a note for the House Magos to analyse it. Sometime later the report came in that with the exception of minor arsenic it was mostly drinkable.

 

The next day the crew returned to the Hope and the Admiral made his way back to the Redemption. Thelonious called a staff briefing to discuss what had been discovered and how they could proceed. The first question he asked was straight to the point “How can we profit from this?”

 

Yorke stated that in during the party she had been approached by ‘distribution specialists’ about an enterprise for the future and, assuming they could get the system running again there was definite profit for the House. She also stated that the analysis of the planets water was complete and, with the exception of a mild arsenic content, it was drinkable. She suggested that with a little work they could turn the world into a Nobles retreat out of the way and restful for rich Imperials in need of some relaxation…for a price. Thelonious had to remind her not to get ahead of herself as there were still the Whisperers to deal with.

 

After much discussion it was decided to head to Silence in an attempt to find out information on the system and to see if they could pick up the trail of the envoy. On the way back they would travel to Cog and see if they could get an idea on the situation there. The Rogue Trader informed Admiral Keel of the decision, hastily remembering to mention the Envoy to keep the on the Admirals good side. To maintain fair relations with the planet, Thelonious also informed Speaker Tal that the Hope would be leaving for a short time but would expect to be back in around 2 weeks after they has ‘surveyed the system’. The Elder, eager to offer assistance, gave the Rogue Trader 500 PDF troopers as a sign of his good faith and these were taken aboard. Mistress Valentina asked Tal if any of the troops could be Whisperers and the old man simple shrugged and stated ‘who knows’. The Choir Master did not seem impressed with his answer.

 

As a Hope in the Void headed into the endless storm Isendark personally took the controls for the mighty ship. Over the next few days he demonstrated why he had been made Void Master as he manoeuvred the Cruiser through the ever shifting winds and anomalies surrounding the planet.

 

For some reason known only to himself, during the week or so it took to traverse the system the Ork took to eating soap. When asked he stated that the next time someone called him ‘Fithyz’ he could correct them. Not wanting to argue with the Xenos who was already beginning to froth at the mouth, the quartermaster handed over the rest of the crate and wisely backed away.

 

Eventually, Silence came into range of the ships augury and it was reported to be a large asteroid with a Spiral tower protruding from the centre that was contained within an atmospheric field. Once scans had confirmed the tower still had power, a shuttle was launched holding the command crew and a contingent of household troops. Rather disappointed to be missing out on another potential fight, Rolaine was once again ordered to take command of the Hope as the Rogue Trader boarded the shuttle with a grin.

 

Upon landing within the atmospheric shell all noted a selection of statues leading to the main door. Many were of human sized or larger and a great number were broken.  Ever eager for profit, Yorke inspected those closest to their landing point and found that, regardless of the damage, many of them were of Imperial Saints and would be valuable to the right collector. Despite twitchy trigger fingers Natasha encouraged there to be as little additional damage as possible. However this became a difficult promise to keep as, a moment later, a dark swirling energy flowed up into the statues and many of them came alive in a jerking fashion and began to approach the landing party.

 

The Ork gave a roar at the new challenge and swung widely at the nearest statue. Yet the creatures moved in suck an unstable, jerking fashion that the attack failed to connect. Shocked as the statue next to him came to life Isendark instinctively slashed at it with his power sword but the unholy automaton didn’t even react.

 

Rolling his eyes at the others ineffectual attacks, Thelonious raised his Las Gauntlet and unleased multiple beams of searing light which blew sizable chunks off the nearest lumbering form. He gave the simple order of “Get them!” and the Missionary charged with his chainsword. The biting teeth screeched as they cut through the stone and, screaming to the God Emperor, Constantine ripped his sword free. The statue shattered as it fell to the ground and the two men smiled at each other. However their victory was short lived as over a dozen more of the statues were approaching their position.

 

The household guard opened fire as the command crew led them into the fray. The priest continued his rampage and even Mistress Valentina added to the guards covering fire. However it was not enough and the statues slammed into the house guard and half of them were down in shockingly short order.  Yet they had done their duty and weakened the creatures enough that the combined effects of the command crew reduced all but one of the remaining statues to rubble.

 

Constantine fought the last stone figure with a burning rage, screaming about the desecration of holy images. Despite the obvious stalemate no-one seemed willing to interfere and so Thelonious, once again rolling his eyes in frustration, raised his gauntlet.

 

“Leave this to me” He stated with a cocky smile and opened fire. Later reports would vary on how close the Rogue Trader came to shooting his own Missionary. Some said a hair, others an eyelash but the ending of the tale is always the same. The corrupted statue fell into dust and the universe was cleansed of another evil... at least according to the story.

 

As the last of the statues was dealt with the crackle of black energy that had animated them sprang up from their fallen remains and shot to the top of the tower. Leaving the wounded House Guards to protect the shuttle, the command crew approached the door. They not only found it to be open but an optical illusion was all that made it seem closed.

 

Bazak gave an immediate combat roll through the doorway and then swung wildly to clear the entrance. All agreed it would have been a very impressive move had there actually been anything there. Inside was found to be living quarters scattered with desiccated corpses, scrolls and papers. Constantine glanced through some of the manuscripts and was happy to report that they seemed to be Ecclesiarchal in nature, however it would take time to look through them with more detail. It was deemed best to keep moving, yet whilst walking around the tower odd things began to occur. Books fell off the shelves, tables tipped over and hit people and there was the prevailing feeling of being watched. Eyeing Constantine and his ever present flamer, the Rogue Trader gave strict orders that no burning was to take place as they found the stairs to move up to the next level.

 

This turned out to be an extensive hall covered in more bookshelves stretching from floor to ceiling. Yorke managed to find an input terminal and discovered it was called the Hall of Names and was the main library. She searched the archive for any mention of the Deeds for the system and was happy to report that they were apparently held on the top floor in a gene-coded vault. Knowing that securing the Deed was their top priority Thelonious led the way towards the stairs. Suddenly, from far above them, a random statue fell from its mounting and crushed one of the surviving troopers. Everyone was immediately on alert in case the carving got up again but it did nothing other than lie there in the slowly expanding pool of blood from the man it had killed.

 

Heading to the stairs, books were falling off the walls and suddenly many shelves tumbled out to form a colossal column that started flinging great tomes with deadly velocity. The Rogue Trader drew his power sword and both he and Bazak stepped to the front. The fight was short but brutal as the two of them, aided by the remaining troops, slashed and hacked at the great paper monstrosity. As the scraps and cutting fluttered through the air the Ork looked around happily and stated “I made Paper Mache”. The Rogue Traders only response was to state “that's not how you do origami”

 

With the way now clear the command crew made their way to the topmost room of the tower. They came out into another hall, this one with multiple pillars sculpted with Saint’s faces. It appeared that the people who had created these had been unable to escape the attack of the whisperers as there were now corpses scattered around the room. Yet there were more recent corpses, less desiccated, all with black eyes which were similar to the effect the whisperers showed. At the end of the room was a grand altar to the Emperor with at 7 meter high statue presiding over it. Visible on the altar, even from across the room, was the unmistakable sign of a stasis lock. Knowing this was what they had come for some of the crew eagerly moved forward however at that moment the same swirling dark energy from outside flowed into the room and filled the statue of the Emperor with disturbing light.

 

As it began to move the Rogue Trader gave the solid order to protect the altar and purge the heresy. Almost as if it heard his words the statue raised its head and screamed. Everyone found themselves momentarily overcome by the piercing sound. The Rogue Trader managed to rally everyone enough to fire a volley as the thing broke free of its mounting but the solid bullets seemed to bounce off and the energy bolts barely made a dent. Valentina stepped up and attempted to compel the statue to withdraw yet it seemed to have no mind to affect and the feedback caused her great pain.

 

“Um, Rolaine, might need a little assistance on this one” Thelonious called into his Vox as the room shook with the force of the goliath dropping down from the altar onto the ground. It was then that everyone looked on with dismay as the gigantic statue began to run across the room towards them.

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Chapter Three – History Lessons

 

As it reached the tightly packed group, the screaming effigy swung its massive sword. The blunt stone caught the Lord High Captain across the chest and he staggered back under the blow. The rest of the party scattered and sought cover behind the pillars, firing as they went. The mix of bullets and beams seemed to do little actual damage until Isendark managed a solid hit on the creatures face. The now shattered visage turned to glare at the Void Master and moved towards him. The Rogue Trader took the opportunity to pull himself up and cut at its Achilles as it passed him but the solid stone did not give way under his blow.

 

At that moment a mechanical whine cut through the screams of the lumbering statue. All those who knew the signs were aware that the Teleportarium had been activated and a fraction of a second later Myrin Rolaine appeared. She materialised on the altar the pseudo Emperor has so recently vacated, with her Melta Pistol raised and ready to fire. Taking instant stock of the situation she swore as she realised she was out of range. She jumped down and sprinted across the room to close the gap between herself and her target.

 

Meanwhile Bazak charged at the giant, swinging his great hammer in a wild arc and knocking off a chunk of the statues leg. In response the creature swung its mighty sword in a massive sweep that hit both the Freebooter and the Captain. Both of them fell below the mighty blow and attempted to roll out of harms way. Myrin gritted her teeth in determination as she ran and put on an extra burst of speed to close the gap that prevented her from aiding her commander. 

 

Natasha fired her inferno pistol and tried to draw the creatures attention away from the fallen Captain. Constantine aimed his flamer high to avoid hitting friends, this time, and let loose a jet of purifying fire. Unfortunately the creature was already moving and the flames missed their target but several of the inferno shots left sizable holes in the things torso.

 

Seeing the monster was distracted, Bazak took the opportunity to swing at the other leg. Multiple cracks ran up from the impact as far as the creatures knee. So great was the damage that the giant actually looked down as a large section of its perfectly sculpted thigh crumbled away and smashed into the ground. It once again glared at the individuals attacking it and its black glowing eyes settle on the thunder hammer in the Orks green hands.

 

The constant fire from the remaining guards seemed to do nothing to slow the titan as it brought down a massive attack on the greenskin that had dared to damage it. Bazaks leg crumpled under the blow and he was thrown across the room in an unmoving heap. The statue roared in triumph.

 

However the things victory was short lived as Myrin was finally within range. She took aim with the first of her Melta pistols and fired a searing beam of plasma through the creatures back. The giant once again turned with frightening speed and advanced on the Arch Militant. Isendark managed several more solid hits but as he pulled the trigger for another volley there was the depressing ‘click’ of an empty magazine. 

 

At the other side of the hall the nearest troops were shocked as the ork started moving. Not only wasn’t he dead but he was trying to get up to rejoin the fight. Seeing that his leg was unable to support him he had given up on his hammer and was trying to draw his gun.

 

Focusing more on the immediate problem in front of him the Missionary stepped out from behind his pillar and blasted the creature with fire once again, hoping to stop it before it reached Commander Rolaine. This time the creature was bathed in promethium and the stone itself began to burn. From where the Rogue Trader once again dragged himself up there came the sharp demand “who gave it a flaming sword?!” All joking aside, he was right as the burning statue now held a flaming brand in its hand and all backed away to cover as the creature advanced on the Commander who was stranded in the centre of the hall.

 

With a massive sweep of the flaming sword Myrin went down and skidded across the room, coming to a stop as her limp body hit one the far wall. Thelonious rolled out of the way as the creatures back hand swung towards him and slashed at the its ankle, gouging a deep cut with his power sword. From where she lay, Myrin raised herself up on one knee and shakily aimed her pistol at the creatures back. She opened fire at the same time as the Ork let loose from where he lay at the other end of the hall. 

 

The shots from each side slammed into the statue. The creature rocked from the combined attack and, as the plasma reduced its shoulder to molten stone, the arm holding the sword fell to the ground. The monster swayed drunkenly as the solid bullets hit it before falling backwards and slamming into the floor with a final deep boom that resonated around the room.

 

As Yorke approached to make sure the creature was definitely dead, Thelonious ordered that no more damage was to be dealt to either the head or the sword as he wanted them for trophies. The Priest insisted that they should not desecrate the statue any further as it was still a statue of the God Emperor. However Myrins only response was to pull out her next Melta Pistol and begin impromptu surgery on the remains of the sculpture to prevent it from ever standing up again. 

 

As the High Captain did not object as long as the remains of the head was left intact Constantine took the only distraction open to him and, after giving thanks to the true Emperor, went to tend the Ork’s injuries. However he was obviously distracted by current events and the added confusion over Bazark's xenos anatomy lead to more damage rather than resetting the bone.

 

Having seen how the priest treated the Ork, Myrin was reluctant to be seen for her own injuries despite her discomfort. Instead she opted to wait until they were back on the ship where the Chirugeon could treat her. As they were waiting for the teleportarium to recharge the remaining soldiers were stationed in a defensive perimeter and everyone decided it was now a good time to take a closer look around the tower, assuming that the dark energy had been vanquished. Stating that he wished to open the stasis vault alone, all others, except for a cursory guard, left the Rogue Trader in the main hall and went to search elsewhere. 

 

As Thelonious approached the stasis vault he saw that along one side the gene lock was the Crest of House Deepstalker. Wary of possible contact poisons he carefully wiped down the interface with a cloth before opening it. Inside the vault he discovered a roll of vellum and an ornate dataslate. 

 

Upon unrolling the parchment it proved to be the Imperial deed for the system clearly naming House Deepstalker as the original founders and granting them the rights to any profit from the system. Interestingly it was countersigned on behalf of the Imperium by an Admiral Keel. Given the date of the Deed Thelonious guessed it was a potential ancestor of the current Imperial officer who had asked for their assistance in this matter. Looking around to see if anyone was watching him the Rogue Trader picked up the data slate. 

 

Meanwhile York had returned to the terminal and was attempting to search for any evidence that the envoy had been present. She was also under orders from Thelonious to go through the listings to see if there was any prescribed material stored in the library that could be sold to an 'interested collector'. As luck would have it there was a section listed as containing restricted documents. Making sure the missionary had not seen her she began to list the books so that they could be removed at a later time before returning to her initial search for the missing envoy.

 

She eventually managed to link into the security footage for the keep that displayed images of everyone who had entered the tower. The most recent ones were of the command crew and accompanying soldiers, including a rather interesting shot of the orks rear. Going back further she discovered there was an image of a man who looked very much like the Admiral. Checking the date stamp she found that he had walked into the castle over a year and a half ago. Unfortunately the records did not cover exit from the keep.

 

Now in a more private alcove with the dataslate, Thelonious cleaned the pad as he had the stasis lock and activated it. As the screen lit up he found that this too had a gene coded lock and he continued on with the knowledge that whatever was contained within was of great importance. It turned out to be a journal written by Euron Thelonious Deepstalker, his Uncle, and the man he was named after. 

 

The first entry that came up either congratulated the reader on their resources for being able to break a gene lock or welcomed a family member to his personal diary. Following on from this he explained the there was a great secret hidden within the Sward system that was known only to himself. However, to explain the reason for this secret he would first have to explain part of the history of the sector itself. Thelonious rolled his eyes but continued to read:

 

Before the sector was formed it was known as the expanse. It was ruled over by Xenos and filled with people who did not know the light of the Emperor. This was why the High Lords of Terra decided that a crusade was in order. This crusade, led by the man who would become Saint Drusus, eventually took back the expense and pushed out the Xenos. In the end the sector was born.

 

What is not known by many, because it is in the highest security levels of the Inquisition, is that the main force the crusade battled was called the Yu’vath. A Xenos race who melded warp and technology in an unholy union that sometimes led to sentient machines.

 

Another thing that the Yu’vath were frighteningly good at was mind control. One single construct could control millions of weak willed humans. Despite this, eventually the Crusade managed to destroy the entire race and so the Calixis sector was deemed safe. 

 

About 20 years ago, (Thelonious instinctively looked at his chrono before deciding that it was 220 years ago that his uncle was referencing) I found out through my contacts in the Battlefleet and Administratum that Yu’vath had been discovered in the Halo Margin Stars. So, seeing an opportunity for plunder and profit, I got myself included on the Task Force.

 

To cut a long story short we were successful and the remaining Xenos were eradicated. However during the closing stages of the war I founded the artefact. A glorious black sphere of Xenos technology worth an absolute fortune to the right people. Now obviously I couldn't sell it straight after the war, the Inquisition were looking for these types of things. So I did what any Trader of note would do and I signed a contract to form a colony so I would have a place to hide it.

 

So we were on the way to Damaris with the ships and the escort and we discovered the system that would become Svard. It was in a slightly out of the way place but still quite close and suitable but one of the best things about it was the gas giant. The gas cloud that has already started to form around it that blocked almost all scans. I couldn't imagine a better place to hide the artefact. So I told the colonists to pick a moon and left them to their own devices. They were after all merely the excuse for being here.

 

I personally took a shuttle and hid the artefact deep within the gas giant. I then turned my attention to actually making the system a profitable venture for the House and it turned out quite well. I have been here for five years now and whilst it is still a fledgling colony it is on the up and up. If this goes well perhaps father will name me heir instead of the scrawny know it all.  (if that’s you reading this brother, no hard feelings)

 

Addendum: It is a shame that on the journey here I had to do away with the Enginseer and the Tech Priests but they were asking too many questions about when I was to destroy the artefact.

 

Thelonious had to admit that he’d always thought his father had been a little bit on the skinny side. As he turned to the next page he noted a gap in the dates between the entries. It seems that almost 5 years had gone by between his Uncles writings and he couldn’t help but detect a down trodden and weary edge to his words as he once again took up the narrative.

 

I need to leave, the council is in place and is governing well. It will be fine. I am suffering from the worst nightmares. There is a black energy all through my dreams and I see of people with black eyes and emotionless faces. I have spoken to my advisors and they have had the same, in fact a few of them have even seen crewmembers with black eyes during the day. Unfortunately that could have been hallucinogens as we have a lot of drugs on board. 

 

We need to leave the system because it is affecting the morale of the crew. We will head back to the main sector. Unfortunately we are not able to take the artefact with us because the Inquisition is still searching for these types of things. They are more vigilant then I thought they would be and so I will leave it here in the gas giant and come back later to collect it. This is Yuri Thelonious Deepstalker signing off.

 

The Rogue Trader turned off the dataslate and mused over what it had revealed, other than the fact that his Uncle was an idiot. Thelonious was beginning to understand why his father was chosen to lead the dynasty instead. After all, any Rogue Trader worth their salt should know how to conduct an illegal sale without the Inquisition finding out. Bloody amateur.

 

Gathering his command crew he shared the information with them and asked their advice on the matter. All voiced concern over what was happening now and how it was obviously linked to this artefact. Commander Rolaine stated that it was obvious someone had found the device but this was countered by Mistress Valentina who theorised that it could merely have taken 200 years for the artefact to gather enough power to be able to reach out from within the gas giant and it was possible it was still in its original hiding place. 

 

Without further investigation there was no way to know for sure but it was possible that the artefact would have established itself on a stable rotation within the gas giant. If they could determine this it would make it easier to find. Knowing that it was taken to its hiding place in a shuttle they were able to estimate its potential maximum size, knowing it would fit within the shuttle cargo bay. Valentina’s main concern was that the artefact was the thing controlling the Whisperers and it may have instructed some of them to come collect it from its hiding place. 

 

It was stated that it was very important that this information not move any further as it would be possible to blame the house for the struggles the system was currently going through as it was a Deepstalker who first brought the artefact to the system. The Rogue Trader insisted it would go no further and stroked the hilt of his sword in a very meaningful way. All were highly aware that it was a promise, rather than a threat, and the meeting broke up in stony silence.

 

Once the teleportarium was recharged the injured were shifted off back to the ship and other shuttles were called down to load the trophies onto the Hope. The Rogue Trader ordered a cutting crew to come in to carefully remove the altar containing the stasis vault so it could be installed in his private quarters. 

 

Whilst reviewing the final information on the data slates that she had downloaded, Yorke discovered that the sculptor who had resided here before it was destroyed had been quite famous and prolific in his skill. He has dedicated his life to crafting the perfect sculpture of the Emperor and all of the field of sculptures outside were what he deemed his failures. She suggested that if they could have the life of the man highlighted and brought to potential sainthood this could become a place of pilgrimage. 

 

Combined with the potential Nobles retreat she had already suggested on Svard they could stand to make a tidy income once the situation with the Whisperers was resolved. It was up to Rolaine to remind the Seneschal that future planning was only beneficial when they knew there would be an actual future for the system. It was still undecided if they would simply purge the existing remnants and start again. Yorke was rather downcast at the suggestion but smiled when she realised that at the very least the remaining statues could be sold to chapels and cathedrals throughout the sector to gain favour. 

 

As the shuttles were loaded and returned to the ship it was decided that the Hope in the Void would push back towards the main system before moving on to Cog. To allow the injured time to recover, himself included, Thelonious ordered a slower pace so that the crew could take leave in shifts and allow enough time for all to recover before returning to the centre of the system.

 

En-route Isendark once again displayed his uncanny skill with the augury and picked up an anomaly amongst all the sensor ghosts being kicked out by the storm. The strange craft appeared to be heading directly towards them and had closed to within 15 void units. He immediately alerted the senior crew and the order was given to launch the alert fighters. However the Rogue Trader belayed the order, stating that the ship was unlikely to have become aware of them in the storm and so they may gain the element of surprise if they continued forward. This way they could close the gap so the bombers would be within range.

 

Master Trodegeu reported that the scanners seem to be depicting a giant insect like craft. The only thing he could compare it to was a giant wasp or hornet he had once seen in a picture book. Valentina enquired with the High Captain if the account of the Xenos his uncle had fought had any description as to what they look like. Thelonious said that he did not have any images and so could not confirm if this was the same species.

 

The Astropath only stated that an entity capable of taking over multiple individuals did suggest a hive mind could be behind it. Also as the whisperers had taken command of the manufactorums in the system it was highly likely they could have taken some of the abandoned ships and reconfigured them to their own desires. However all of this would be an intellectual discussion that was agreed to be taken up later as the crews were called to battle stations and all prepared for the coming attack.

 

As the klaxon blared Thelonious found himself thinking of the good old days when the ship had long-range weapons and wondered if any of the patrol ships they had seen abandoned in the area around the main planet had guns that they could remove to re-equip the cruiser. He shook himself out of his musings as Rolaine reported that the first squadron of bombers were ready to launch at his command. However, rather than launching, the Commander suggested that they ramp up speed and attempt to ram the approaching ship.

 

The Rogue Trader was dismayed that the void born would suggest ramming the last ship of the dynasty into an unknown vessel in the hope that they would come off better from the impact. Instead he ordered a more detailed scan of the oncoming vessel so they would know what they were up against whilst maintaining course. Refocusing the scanners Isendark was able to detect two weapon signatures but they did not match anything they had encountered before. They appeared to be mounted above and below the main hull with the ability to swivel in any direction. There was also some type of sail that flowing behind the craft but its purpose was impossible to determine given the interference. 

 

Scanning for possible interior locations to teleport a boarding party, the void master was surprised to find no such space existed. The ship appeared to be a completely solid construction with no passages, corridors, empty spaces or atmosphere inside of any kind.

As the enemy ship approached it turned sharply at surprising speed and fired is cannons. Reports from the scans showed that the shells appeared to be skipping in and out of the warp in a constant state of flux. As the first two shells slammed into the shields there was an electrical dispersal over the viewing ports as the void shields absorbed the strikes. However the third shell slammed into the hull with a resounding clank that echoed down the ship.

 

Yet the mighty armour of the vessel deflected the strange, warp tainted block and it bounced off into the void causing no real damage to the ship. The Lord Captain gave the order to launch the readied squadrons as the ship adjusted bearing to attempt to circle the enemy vessel. 

 

As the ship grew closer Mistress Valentina led her choir in an attempt to shroud the enemy ship in confusion to make them less able to target the Hope. However such was the nature of the enemy vessel and the difficulty of finding a clear path through the storm they were unable to focus their energies. After several attempts the Choir Master was exhausted and they were forced to abandon their efforts.

 

Meanwhile, on the bridge Yorke used the specialised cogitators to guide the squadrons to their targets. Noting the lack of defensive turrets another wave of bombers was prepared, doing away with the protective fighters. The first Squadron of bombers reached their target and released they're deadly cargo.

 

The crack crews did their jobs to perfection, hitting vital joins and weak spots within the hull and the enemy ship disintegrated in a silent display of destruction that was captured by the ships scans. The bombers and fighters were recalled and Thelonious ordered drinks all round for the successful crews. The battle had been brief, they had dispatched the enemy in less than two hours, but it had proven to Thelonious that he had made the right decision when he chose to preserve the launch bays rather than sell them off.

 

Scanning the wreckage revealed no further power readings and also, unfortunately, no sign of the artefact which was suggested may have been powering the strange ship. Over the next few days Yorke took it upon herself to celebrate the victory by assigning a work crew to paint a kill symbol on the front of the Hope. Whereas Constantine, being more pious, led a ceremony in the main chapel to celebrate their victory in the eyes of the Emperor. Everyone, officers and crew alike, expressed a desire for the rest of the journey back to Svard to be uneventful.

 

After the exhaustion of the battle, Mistress Valentina sought the solitude of her quarters. She lay down to rest. When she looked up it was with actual eyes and so she knew she was in a dream. She stood in the corridor on Holy Terra, outside the Throne Room and knew it was the day she was given over to the Emperor. The ceremony was as she remembered, they all walked into his presence with their eyes down. One hundred strong knowing that few, if any, of them would survive what was to come next. And then when she looked up instead of the Emperors magnificence she saw a black pool crackling with the energy. 

 

“I am your God” it intoned in cold, heartless words. Seri glared at it with disgust as it filled the space where the Emperor should have sat and replied in her own sharp, clipped words.

 

“F*ck off” As the words echoed in her head she woke in a sudden cold sweat in her bed. 

 

During the remaining days Constantine took a tour of the small chapels he had over seen installed throughout the ship. At one such chapel he found a service taking place. He moved to the front of the crowd and gave his own devotion and prayer to the Emperor at the altar. Upon finishing his prayer he couldn’t help but notice that the crowd behind him had fallen eerily silent. He turned to see that each of them had twisted into a grotesque form and their eyes were black. 

 

His initial disgust was short lived as an electric hum from behind made him turn once again to the altar. In place of the emperor now hung a giant black orb that pulsed with dark energy. A deep mechanical voice spilt forth. 

 

“I am your god. Worship me” 

 

Calling to the Emperor to help him cast out this heresy, Constantine took a step back and tried to summon help on his vox only to find that the signal was somehow being jammed. He attempted to push through the crowd to leave but they began to grab and claw his clothes. Instinctively he pulled his flamer and began to set fire to all of those around him and they screamed in agony as they burnt. The nearest flaming monstrosity jumped towards his head and with a start the priest woke in his own bed panting for breath.

 

Natasha was used to the nightmare, it had haunted her constantly since she escaped the ghost ship. But this time it felt so real. She could feel the unnamed seeking her, roaming the ship attempting to devourer her as it had all the others. She ran and found the same hiding place she had before. Silence reigned but then a tiny sound made her turn and once again she met the Elder.

 

They talked as they did before but there was something off about the memory. The Xenos has no accent to her speech and was almost robotic in her delivery. She turned to leave and that is not how it happened. Natasha tried to call her back but when she turns it is to reveal black eyes and a shining orb behind her.

 

“Worship me or die” The statement is cold as the elder stepped forward and stabbed Natasha in the gut only for her to awake with a start.

 

Worried over the implications of her dream, Yorke dressed quickly and made her way to the Captains quarters. Upon arrival she was surprised to find Constantine already there and even more concerned when the preacher revealed the reason for his visit was shockingly similar to her own. After telling the High Lord of their dreams, Constantine voiced his concerns for the crew and suggested that they deal with the issue by jettisoning those involved …. or napalm if they have any. Natasha was more moderate in her suggestion that they should perhaps distance themselves from anything the Xenos had affected in case proximity affected the extent of the things influence.

 

Taking the suggestions on board the Rogue Trader ordered the head and sword from the mighty statue they had fought in the tower to be placed in a cargo container, fixed with the locator beacon, and jettisoned off the ship to be collected at a later date. However not wanting to lose his new trophies to scavengers he also ordered the crate to be rigged to explode if anyone else tried to open it. 

 

The remainder of the journey seemed to occur without incident and they arrived back on Sward after a little over two week’s absence.

 

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Chapter Four – A Show of Power

 

And so it was that the Hope in the Void was once again greeted by the Elders of Svard. Speaker Tal seemed most relieved that they had returned and invited them to another banquet in celebration. However, reminding him that you should never have too many banquets in times of peril, Thelonious instead invited Speaker Tal and the rest of the council to a celebration aboard the Hope.

 

The Rogue Trader then handed over organisation of the event to Yorke, expressing his desire to impress the council with the might of the ship. Yet he also gave strict orders that under no circumstances were the guests to be shown any vital components or the stripped out sections.

 

To this end Natasha scheduled a brief tour of the more opulent levels before the banquet and entertainment which would be held in the main Arboretum. It took several days to get everything ready and many of the crew had to be given a crash course in holding a canapes tray rather than a gun. Yorke wasn’t entirely convinced that they needed that many ‘honour guard’ lining the hall but Rolaine insisted, stating that if any of the councillors or their entourage revealed themselves to be Whisperers they would have to be put down quickly.

 

Thelonious paid little attention to these preparations. Instead he spent his time conferring with Admiral Keel on the current situation. He warned him of the strange Xenos ship that the Hope had faced on the way back from Silence. The Admiral admitted that their scans had detected some ships at long range but they had not exchanged fire. He was rather impressed with the after action report of the Hope’s skirmish, even going so far as to praise the bomber crews for their accuracy.

 

Thelonious then passed the Admiral a dataslate that displayed the security footage from the Temple of Silence. The Admiral was slightly taken by at the image of his brother. The Rogue Trader enquired if there were any other Admirals in the Keel family.

 

“Yes, I am the 5th generation to obtain the rank. The Keel family has a long tradition of producing fine Voidsman stock.” The Admiral was obviously proud of his lineage.

 

“Indeed, I think one of your family may have been here previously” Thelonious said and held up a pic-capture of the System Deed with the clear signatures of Yuri Deepstalker and ‘Admiral Keel’.

 

“I wondered why they gave me this assignment” The Admiral muttered, obviously unaware that Thelonious could hear him. The Rogue Trader smiled but gave no other indication that he had noticed.

“Well, it seems our two families were entwined in the past and perhaps will be again in the future” Keel said as he recovered from his surprise. “How do you plan to proceed?”

 

Thelonious listed his desire to check on the other moons of the system, predominantly Cog, to see if they could be liberated from the Whisperers. He made sure to mention that in order to track the movements of the Envoy they would need clear access to the whole system. Keel agreed to send over details and files on his brother in the hopes that it could help the crew to locate him however he did state that the files were several decades out of date.

 

By the of the meeting the two had agreed that the Hand of Redemption would remain in close proximity to Sward to offer protection from potential Void Wasp attack and the Hope in the Void would travel to Cog to assess the situation there….after the party of course.

 

The night finally arrived and the Crystal Council of Sward was welcomed about the Hope in the Void with an impressive level of ceremony.

Through careful questioning, Rolaine learnt that the priesthood of the Emperor and those particularly devout were amongst the first to fall to the whisperers. Constantine was dismayed that it seemed the more devout the individual the faster they would be over taken by the mind sickness that was controlling the whispers.

 

All in attendance were suitable impressed on the greenery and sheer scale of the Rogue Traders resources. They were particularly entertained by the green skinned jester who spent the evening waving around a large red hat and stuffing whole apples in his mouth.

 

Natasha took the opportunity to discuss the future of the system with Councillor Astrid. She expressed her desire to reclaim trade routes and restart the open market. The Seneschal shared her idea for turning Sward into a Nobles health retreat and the potential for a site of pilgrimage to be established on Silence. Astrid seemed taken with the idea, stating that there were many nobles estates on the outer fringes of the Hive but they were currently inaccessible.

 

Isendark sort out the few piolets in attendance and gathered a small crowd of admirers with tales of his exploits during the House War. Commander Rolaine spoke with the head of the PDF as she had been impressed with the discipline of the troops she had seen so far. The General lamented over the lack of transport vehicles available to his men due to the fuel shortages but had managed to retrain as pure infantry. If House Deepstalker could provide a shuttle then the General would be happy to show Commander Rolaine the facilities under his command.

 

Shortly after dinner Yorke found herself wandering under the canopy of the trees at the same time as Councillor Magnus and Tor just so happened to be heading in the same direction…completely coincidentally. The three smiled at each other and the Seneschal casually enquired if they were still interested in discussing business as they had before.

 

“Why of course” They replied and Natasha took from her bag some of smaller tomes she had liberated from the restricted section of the Library of Silence.

 

“I have come across a selection of items that, while not technological, may be of interest to the right collector. These are a small example” She handed the Councillor a book each and the two men inspected them.

 

“And are these items likely to cause trouble if they were inspected by the authorities, such as they are?” asked Magnus

 

“Off course. That was to be the nature of our arrangement was it not?”

 

After Natasha assured the men that the items in question were not inherently tainted they confirmed that they could assist in evaluating the books. They added that if the House could get the collection to Footfall, and through there to the Calixis Sector, then they could sell for a satisfactory profit.

 

Meanwhile Thelonious had been spending the majority of the evening regaling the Nobles of Sward with tales of his family’s power. Specifically all the balls and parties they used to hold for powerful people in the Calixis Sector. He was careful not to mention the current state of the House and all the councillors seemed impressed and promised to instruct their underlings to trade more favourable with the House whilst the Hope was here.

 

The next day the command crew gathered to discuss their next course of action. All were concerned that the Rogue Trader would not be up in time for the meeting given the state he was in at the end of the banquet. However it seemed Thelonious solved this problem by continuing the festivities through the night right up until the briefing.

 

Natasha produced a tactical report on Cog, provided by the General of the Sward PDF. It stated that Cog had had a heavy Adeptus Mechanicus presence, as was to be expected from a manafactorums, with a high level Magos overseeing the operations and between 5 to 10 thousand people working in the various factories and forges. It was a well-run facility with a steady output of all heavy industry.

 

The one interesting point was that the factories on Cog would move. Effectively the waste produced by the main facility was so extreme that the entire complex was mounted on tracks and would be relocated every few years to a less desiccated area. The tactical report was accompanied by an environmental assessment which stated that the atmosphere of Cog was so corrosive that anything outside of a power field or void shield would be destroyed within minutes.

 

This revelation led to a problem. None of the assault boats or landing craft aboard the Hope was fitted with an independent shielding system. This would make a full assault impossible as the ships would corrode and fall out of the sky long before they could land. However assuming that the facilities on Cog had the aforementioned shielding it would mean the Teleportarium would be unable to penetrate the area. This presented an interesting dilemma of how they were to take the facility without damaging too much of the vital machinery.

 

Over the coming days several options were discussed and the only real consensus was that they would have to wait until they arrived before finalising any plans.

 

Based on the information they had received, the command crew of the Hope in the Void knew they were coming upon Cog, and thus knew that they had to be careful… from what they knew, Cog was fully under the control of the Whisperers and they would not be welcoming to their approach. They were forced to turn off the X-470 Ultimo Array in order to enact Silent Running in an attempt to drift through the void to get as close to Cog as they could before they were detected.

 

Thanks to the superlative flying skills of Master Trodegeu, the ship glided through the Void, its silent movements very much at odds with its large profile. However, all good things have to come to an end and the ship was detected by a squadron of Void Wasps. Even without the Ultimo Array, the Void Master was able to make out the Xenos ships on the scanners and the sound of running feet and shouted orders were heard through the vessel, and the Ultimo Array came back online.

 

Commander Rolaine headed down to the Launch Bays; Yorke was soon on the Vox, giving the crew confidence based on their last victory against one of the Void Wasps (whilst forgetting to inform them of the greater challenge). Mistress Valentina cloistered herself away with her Choir; Missionary Constantine started exhorting the crew to greater efforts and, through it all, the Lord High Captain used all the tools at his disposal to keep everything under control. The order was given, “close to bomber range!”

 

This command was helped by the Void Wasps, eager to close with their quarry, moved with incredible speed and let fire with their awful warp weapons. However, their aim was poor, and the few shots that did hit the Hope were either deflected by the Void Shields, or absorbed by the Armour… a Dictator class Cruiser is not something to be messed with, as the Void Wasps were about to discover. Taking advantage of the Wasps proximity, 4 squadrons of bombers (2 in each group) were launched against 2 of the void wasps, and Rolaine started organising the crews to get the rest ready.

 

One set of bombers did not reach their target, and returned to the Carrier a little later, but the other set closed in on their target, and launched their payload at close range. Unfortunately, due to some very poor ordinance repairs, the bombs did not cause as much damage as they could… and the directions from the bridge were also lacking. Knowing that the previous lack of damage from the Void Wasps was more luck than anything, Isendark started throwing the ship into an elaborate series of Evasive Manoeuvres, designed to prevent any shells from landing.

 

Due to his almost preternatural understanding of the Hope, these manoeuvres were so intensely successful that, for the rest of the combat, barely a single warp shell landed on the immaculate Armour Plating of the Hope. With their inability to hit the Carrier, the Void Wasps slowly started getting worn down by the Bombers… and with no turrets to protect them, the Bombers were able to strike with impunity. One of the Wasps was caught in a turn, and the Bombers damaged the manoeuvring thrusters so badly, that it could not turn, and ended up smashing into the surface of Cog.

 

Another Void Wasp literally ceased to be, 4 bomber squadrons pummelling its armour with penetrating ordinance, ably directed from the bridge to strike the most vulnerable areas, and the incredible damage made the Void Wasp break apart… if it had been a person, it would have been turned to mist… that is how much damage was caused. During this attack, a couple of System Ships, crewed by Whisperers, had approached from behind, and the Hope in the Void turned, slowly, to face them.

 

It was at this point that the discussion between the crew switched from “how do we take these ships down” to “oooh, Macrocannons… let’s board them.” With this, they called back their bombers, readied their Assault Boats (and their fighter escort) and put all speed to the engines. They decided to focus on one ship with their Board Action, whilst sending the Assault Boats against the other, hoping to take down the Void Shields so they could use the Teleportarium to launch Hit and Run attacks.

 

As Master Trodegeu was forced to stabilise the ships trajectory for the boarding action, the System Ships were able to get a few shots off, but they did no damage at all, the Void Shields and Armour just proving too much a barrier. And, because of the System Ships slow speed, they were not able to get away from the Carrier, which crashed into one of them, its prow ripping through the Armour of the System Ship like it was made of tissue paper. The Boarding action was almost a formality, the sheer number of crew on the Hope overrunning and capturing the ship.

 

The Assault Boat strategy did not prove as successful an approach, both the Ork and Arch Militant were leading the troops and were confident that their Fighter Escort would protect them from the Turret Fire. Unfortunately, the crew of the one remaining System Ship had their eye in, and frighteningly accurate Turret fire took down 10 Fighters (with 6 fully destroyed) and 3 Assault Boats, which meant they had to turn back, no damage done. The Lord High Captain was not best pleased by this turn of events.

 

That was about the only success the System Ships had though, as the last one was soon boarded after another ramming action, although the Hit and Run attacks before were almost crippling, with hardly anything working on the ship… it was pretty much a hulk, but it was their hulk… and it still had useable Macrocannons, which was the main reason for not destroying them utterly, and another reason for taking Cog… they would need the Industry at Cog to remove these weapons and install them on the Hope. 

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Chapter Five – The Birth of a Strategist

 

After destroying/boarding the ships that were in orbit around Cog, without raising the alarm based on what they could see through their scanners, the High Command of the Hope gathered together to decide what their next action should be. That they were going to take Cog was obvious to all, but it still remained to be decided just what needed to be done to achieve that goal. It was quickly decided that Isendarks idea of flying a shuttle down through the Void Shield surrounding the main manufactorum would not work, due to the corrosive atmosphere.

 

Bazark raised the opinion that, in his experience, if you could match the frequency of the Void Shields then they could pass right through. This disturbed the rest of the crew, because something like that should not be possible, and there was a discussion on the psychic power that might allow that to happen, or maybe even warp power given what they had seen from the Yu’vath Void Wasps. Whatever might have caused it, the rest of the crew decided it was decidedly Orky!

 

Given that they were in contact with someone purporting to be the Magos of Cog, albeit by binary bursts of data, the crew decided to get some sense of the main manufactorum. Based on what they could decipher, and what their own passive scans could pick up, the main facility on Cog was divided into 4 main sections… the outer habs, the outer forge, the inner forge and the command tower. Also dotted around were supplementary habs, one of which housed the Magos and his cadre of Tech Priests.

 

The crew realised, after another data burst, that they would be heavily outnumbered… their 500 house guard and 500 Svard PDF troops were somewhat outnumbered by the estimated 7000 whisperers who were in attendance. This meant that an all-out assault was off the table… they would have to employ some subterfuge in this attack… although how that was going to be done was subject to very intense debate. It was, eventually, decided that it should be a two pronged attack, using the teleportarium to transfer the troops to both sides of the facilities.

 

To do this, they would use the Magos’s limited control to flex the power going to the Void Shields. This would allow the teleportarium to send 500 troops to one side, and then, later on, they would do the same thing to send the rest of the troops to the other side. Hopefully, by then, the crew would have managed to infiltrate the central tower, and they could then use the controls there to lock off certain areas and take the factory piecemeal, given that it was unlikely that a frontal assault would work.

 

It was at this point in the discussion that Commander Rolaine realised that no-one in the High Command had any level of stealth ability and, through some torturous attempts at communication, learned that there did not appear to be a uniform or any particular way of dressing for the workers who toiled in the forges. With this in mind, the group decided to interrogate a few of the whisperers that they had captured on the system ships they had boarded… the fortunate few who had not been spaced to make room for the crew of the Hope in the Void who had taken their places.

 

One of the first things that the Arch Militant wanted to find out was whether the whisperers had some way of realising whether one was a whisperer or not. In this vein, they grabbed a whisperer from each ship, drugged them, placed them in the same room together, and then watched the results. From what they could see, there was no recognition if they didn’t already know each other already… something that was confirmed when they dressed a member of their crew up in the same garb and repeated the experiment. This surprised the crew, who had thought that the whisperers were some sort of Hive Mind, but this did not appear to be the case.

 

The Rogue Trader, who until this moment had been silent, letting the rest of the crew figure things out, raised the idea that this meant they could, potentially, bluff their way through, given that there was not a uniform and no hive mind. It would just require them to go undercover, which would mean no Eldar Void Suit for the Seneschal, because that was obviously far too high tech for anyone on Cog to figure out. The High Captain also mentioned that it was not like time was against them, and so requested Mistress Valentina send a message to the Hand of Redemption, asking if they could meet them at Cog… the Rogue Trader had a question for the Admiral.

 

After gaining confirmation from the Astropaths on the Hand of Redemption, the crew settled into a holding pattern near Cog, relying on the storm to hide them from any passive scanning… they also shut down a lot of the ship and pretty much drifted in the void. The return message had indicated a potential journey time of only 4 days for the Imperial Navy Vessel. The crew spent the intervening time drilling the Svard PDF, and going over the plans, editing and implementing it in theory… it was decided that the Ork would come with them, as would all their guns and hardware, and all of them would be carried in a cart, which would help their disguises as well.

 

They also decided to do some repairs to the core systems of the system ships that they had boarded and captured. The Ork void suited up and managed to repair most of the systems on both of the ships, although some of the crew reported a few random events happening in the next few days, but then, that is what you get when you allow an Ork to fix ships. The Seneschal also managed to get her hands on a female skull, which she took to the Enginseers and asked them to make a Servo Skull… when they had the time of course.

 

Eventually, the Hand of Redemption strode majestically through the void, emerging from a particularly dense part of the storm. After closing to within vox range, communication was enabled and the first thing that Admiral Keel informed them of was that his ship had run into one of a the Void Wasps, but that a few well-placed lance strikes were enough to send it back to whatever pit it came from… the crew were pleased by this piece of news, they had not known how a more “traditionally” armed cruiser would fare.

 

Yorke decided to ask the Admiral what his way of taking Cog would be… to which the response was “Macrocannons and Lances from Orbit, it’s the Imperial Navy way… and the only way to be sure!”

After being informed that the Deepstalker Dynasty would be very grateful if that didn’t happen, after all they wanted it back in as much as one piece as they could get, the Admiral asked them what they wanted from him and his ship, and also what was in it for the Imperial Navy. The crew managed to bring him round by informing him that it was possible that the Magos on Cog may have knowledge of the Envoy (being careful not to call him “his brother” on the vox).

 

After a little more discussion, where the Admiral was keyed more into their plan, the Admiral agreed to gift them 500 Imperial Marines and that they would keep watch in orbit for any Void Wasps or system ships. This was very much agreeable to the Rogue Trader, and they amended the plan to have 250 PDF and 250 Marines in each teleportarium wave, figuring that the rivalry between them would drive them both to increased heights of combat effectiveness. With this agreed, there was not much else to do than get within range of the factorum and contact the Magos, after the Marines were transported across, of course.

 

The operation started in promising fashion, the PDF and Marines spreading out amongst the hab blocks after the teleportation and locking it down hard, taking some prisoners but, more importantly, doing it as quietly as possible. They now had their fallback position sorted, so the Rogue Trader led his command crew out into the streets, now looking like a group of workers carrying a heavy load… a heavy load that included most of their basic weapons, and a rather miffed Ork.

 

The plan was working perfectly. They drew very little notice from the other workers and they were able to stride through the habs unimpeded until they came up to the entry to the Outer Forge where, to their dismay they saw that each entrance into the Forge had a group of 5 whisperers guarding the entrance, and questioning anyone who wanted to enter. Without breaking stride, for that would have looked odd, Thelonious solicited ideas from his command crew, and the Astropath was very confident that she could manage to compel the group leader to let them pass. Without any other option to keep their secret, the Rogue Trader agreed.

 

Seri, wearing a snazzy pair of goggles to disguise her lack of eyes, walked confidently up to the foreman of the guard group and gestured for him to come closer. When he leaned in, she locked “eyes” with him and put the idea in his head that this group was definitely clear to go through, in fact, that he had been expecting this group all morning. The foreman stood back, looking at them with a different view, raised his finger to his microbead, and informed the outer forge that they had 4 people and a cart coming through. As they passed through the doors to the outer forge, everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

 

One of the first things that the group noticed when they were roaming through the Outer Forge was the relatively heavy guard presence, with roaming packs of guards, all moderately to heavily armed, spaced throughout the Outer Forge. This led the group to theorise that maybe not every single person in the Manufactorum was a whisperer, maybe some of them were just workers who were either coerced, or simply not knowledgeable about the change in “ownership.” Maybe they just thought they were doing their duty for the God Emperor.

 

The group chose a relatively direct route through the Outer Forges, mostly trying to stay out of the way of the guard patrols. Of course, the Rogue Trader was a man who was used to being obeyed, and no matter how much you tried to hide that, it would always seep through. This proved to be a bit of a boon to the group, as his presence was enough to dissuade a lot of the guards from approaching, because they recognised someone who knew where they were going, and were used to being obeyed, and the guards didn’t want to get in trouble with their superiors for stopping someone with an, obviously, very important purpose. Even with this, it took the group a long time to get through the Outer Forge, due to the size.

 

When they came into view of the entrances to the Inner Forges, they could see that it was somewhat like the previous entrance, but much more heavily guarded… they could make out a manned Heavy Bolter emplacement, and a group of well trained and disciplined guards, with Melta’s and Shotguns… a force to be reckoned with. Hanging back, the group were able to see that, to enter, they would have to be patted down, and that a code needed to be entered on both sides of the door… this was not going to be easy.

 

This time, Thelonious realised that to rely entirely on the Astropath to extricate them from this situation would be to invite disaster, so he decided that would be the backup plan… and the main plan? Pure bluffing and deceit! Approaching, bold as brass, the Rogue Trader walked up to the obvious leader of the group and demanded to be let through, that they had a very important cargo and were not to be delayed, otherwise they would be made to be very uncomfortable. However, the Rogue Trader seemed to have overplayed his hand, and the man looked at his list and looked up, and seemed to be about to say something.

 

Knowing this was their last chance, Valentina hit the guard with a powerful compel, trying to convince him that their name was on the list and, with immense effort, she managed to do so. The man looked slightly confused for a second, but then indicated that, yes, they were expected, but they would still need to be searched, and the same with the cart. The group had already divested themselves of all their weaponry, so they would pass the pat down… but they knew that they could not allow the cart to be searched, it would undo all of their good work.

 

The Rogue Trader immediately tried to convince the guard that there was something incredibly dangerous in the cart, and it would be foolish to search it. The thing was, with an Ork with a Thunder Hammer waiting to leap out and murder everyone, Thelonious was not even lying… and this earnestness came through to the Guard, who stepped back with an alarmed look on his face and, obviously wanting to be rid of these people, gestured for the codes to be entered and the group passed through into the Inner Forge.

 

They realised there were a lot less people in the Inner Forge and, more importantly, that there were also fewer guards, which tends to happen as you penetrate layers of security… the security on the outside is supposed to keep them out. They could also see, right away, the central command tower, although not the top, but an adamantine and ceramite circular structure that went up the entirety of the Inner Forge, the group knew that they were nearing their destination, the crux that all their plans hinged on.

 

The group reached the central tower with little effort, but realised that no-one else was going anywhere near it, in fact they were circling it and leaving quite a bit of distance. They realised why when one of the workers accidently passed over some kind of invisible line, and the turrets started targeting him, until he quickly moved out and away from the tower, and the turrets became idle again. The Rogue Trader realised that this could mean that the whisperers had not managed to infiltrate the inner tower, given that the response seemed to be automated.

 

Rolaine wondered if the turrets were only set up to target whisperers, so she “accidently” stepped into the exclusion zone, only to be immediately targeted by the turrets, so she quickly moved backwards, having had that theory punctured quickly! The crew regrouped slightly, talking in hushed tones to the Ork, wondering if he could survive a barrage of bolter shells, such that the rest would be able to get close to the door. However, the fact that the Ork was their technician, and the general fact that it would blow their cover, nixed that plan almost immediately.

 

As if the Forge was watching them, and thus showing them the folly of their plans, a group of guards came by, dragging a piteous, screaming man, shouting at him that he had not reached his work quotas for the last time. They walked up to the edge of the exclusion zone, and then threw him over. The turrets, as soon as they locked on, fired and the poor man exploded in a vast cloud of blood, as his body was turned to pulp by the exploding bolt shells. It was at this point that the Rolaine recalled that the Magos had said there were sewage tunnels underneath the manufactorum… and a cunning plan was born.

 

The crew found a Sewage Disposal Outlet (a toilet) and barricaded the door with their cart. They quickly stripped it bare of anything of use (including the Ork) and then ripped open the toilet and smashed a hole in the floor, the noise of the inner Forge helping them to cover their actions. When they saw the fate that awaited them, a very smelly, incredibly dirty fate, Seri quipped that at least she had not brought her fancy dresses on this expedition but, steeling themselves (and their stomachs) they descended into the sewage tunnels below the manufactorum. For one of the group, the Ork, he had smelled far worse… this was like a nice bath for it, this was better than some of his hygiene standards.

 

Only once the group began to wander the labyrinthine tunnels did they realise that no-one really had any idea where they were going and that, even though they were relatively close to the command tower, there were no markings to indicate as such… they realised that they stood a great chance of being lost. And this is exactly what happened, the group stumbling around in the dark and the stench (somewhat made bearable by their rebreathers) until, by sheer chance and luck, they came on a wider tunnel that, based on their last known location, appeared to be leading in the direction of the command tower.

 

They found a shaft leading all the way up and decided to climb, the Arch Militant leading the way. When she came upon a steel grate, she called down to the rest of the group to lean into the wall, as she unholstered one of her Melta Pistols and burned her way through the grate, molten metal raining down, and hissing, into the filth below. With the way open, the group climbed into the command tower, which was, in fact, unoccupied, their theory that the automated turrets had prevented the whisperers accessing it proving to be accurate. What they found, was a four floor computer room, with rows upon rows of cogitators and generators and other things that they did not recognise.

 

The Rogue Trader turned to the Ork, the only one of them with any knowledge of machine spirits, and, with great reluctance, told him to go nuts. The Ork quickly found that most of the cogitators did not have any power, and theorised that there would be one central console that would allow power to flow to everything, and set about looking for that… which the Ork found on the third floor, next to a powerful generator. It looked at the screen and could see a blinking green cursor, with the keyboard attached to the cogitator… the Ork got right to “communing with the Machine Spirit” although the group winced at the “enthusiastic” way it hit all the keys.

 

Bazark must have done something very wrong at first, because it was jolted by a massive electric shock, although the toughness of the Ork meant that he smiled, smoke coming from the top of his head, and commented that it was “Bracin.” With a little bit more caution (although not much) the Ork got back to work, and this time managed to puzzle out which codes were needed to power up the command tower, and the hum of cogitators soon became a nice background noise. Knowing that communication was vital, the Rogue Trader searched for what he thought would be a communication array and, when he found it, hesitantly pressed the red button, and then covered his ears as the feedback had a hearty whine.

 

However, before he could start broadcasting to the entire base (as that was the current setting) Valentina quietly pointed out that they probably wanted the Ork to look at changing the location or the frequency to allow them to communicate only with the Magos. It was after saying this that they looked at each other and wondered how their lives had led them to the point where they had to rely on an Ork to do something like that. Once this had been sorted, Thelonius started communicating with the Magi in the secondary areas, noting that their voices were so mechanical they had to start saying what type of phrasing it was, just so he could understand the intent.

 

The Magos appeared to be surprised that they had managed to infiltrate the tower without setting off the alarms, at which point the group realised that, yes, they had managed to do that, and it seemed to surprise them as well. The team reviewed the plan with the Magos, and realised that, even with control of the inner bulkheads and the outer doors, a frontal attack would still cause too much damage to Cog… damage that could be replaced, but money and resources that would not be filling the coffers of the Dynasty. It was at this point that the group realised they had access to the schematics of the sewage system, and a new plan began to form.

 

During this conversation, unnoticed by all, Bazark had been punching in commands into the main console, but everyone’s attention was on the conversation with the Magos. So, both the Magos and the Rogue Trader were surprised when the alarm systems throughout the complex were shut off, the Magos commenting on how close to the Omnissiah their Tech Priest obviously was, as his command of the system was quite impressive. The Rogue Trader looked at the Ork with a sense of frustration, but could not argue with the results that the Xenos was creating.

 

The new plan, when they outlined it to the troops, who they now had Vox contact with, was not exactly unanimously approved, but from sides of the factorums hab blocks, the Marines and the PDF began descending into the sewage tunnels, using the blueprints and schematics that the group had gained, to find their way through the crap and the smell and the effluent to the central tower… the attack would come from the inside to the outside, rather than the outside to the inside… and this would allow them even more of an element of surprise, and stop too much damage happening to the Forges, especially the Munitorium area, which was of critical importance.

 

The next few hours were tense ones for the group. Whilst they were pretty certain that the whisperers would not be able to figure out the danger that was approaching from below them, there was always the chance that a stray noise would carry up into the Forges, and then the troops would be caught in a very unfortunate place indeed. However, this proved to be unfounded, and within a couple of hours, the troops were in place and, most of them were ready and eager to invite the Imperium’s vengeance on cultists who had made them walk through effluent for a few hours… it was a very motivated, albeit smelly, group who were ready to take back Cog from the whisperers.

 

Both Thelonious and Rolaine took control of half of the forces and, after a strategy session, everything was in place and, with their commands ringing in their troops ears, the Battle for Cog began. With the Rogue Trader and the Arch Militant leading from the front, the first assault was comprehensively deadly, the guards and troops in the inner forge completely unprepared for the fury of the attack. Both Commanders inspired their troops to new heights with their impassioned orders, their skill and tenaciousness, helped by a furious Ork smashing through any tightly packed ranks, his Thunder Hammer sending crushed bodies flying.

 

On the edges of the main combat Yorke, Constantine, Isendark and Valentina formed a roving assassination squad, picking off stragglers and people of presumed importance. Whether melted by a Melta Pistol, set aflame by holy Promethium, Mind Controlled into shooting your friend or impaled by the Harpoons of the Void Master, this roving squad was devastatingly effective. With the combination of these two things, adding in the automatic turrets and the fact that the doors to the Inner Forge had been sealed by the Magos, the Inner Forge was scoured clean, with incredibly few casualties due to incredible leadership.

 

With the Inner Forge cleared, the Command Crew knew that they had a little bit of time to regroup, but not much as the guards on the outside would eventually become concerned as to why they could not access the Inner Forge, but they used the moment of respite well. Realising there were three main areas to take in the Outer Forge, the troops were divided into three, with the Rogue Trader, Arch Militant and Marine Captain taking charge in securing the three objectives, which would then split off in both directions, thus attacking from each side. The bulkheads would be used to cut off retreat and reinforcements, and to hopefully prevent too much damage from being done to the Infrastructure of Cog.

 

It was at this time that Thelonius Deepstalker, last remaining Scion of House Deepstalker, cemented his position as an incredibly Battlefield Strategic and Tactician, reacting so quickly to the moving events, and with such consummate skill, that one of his epitaphs would always be “Glorious Strategist of the Battle of Cog.” Under his enlightened leadership, and helped by the skill of his subordinates, the scouring of the Outer Forge was a campaign of such ferocity, speed and intelligence that it would be studied by future historians as the epitome of how to take an industrial facility. But that is for the future, not the present.

 

Over the course of the battle, which lasted a few hours before the whisperers were either purged or captured (mostly purged), the overall losses to the troops under the command of the Rogue Trader were around 150, whereas the overall losses to the Whisperers were around 6000, a casualty ratio that is almost unbelievable, if it weren’t for so many Naval Marines or Svard PDF troops owing their lives to that casualty ration, and the presence of the Hand of Redemption, a neutral observer, helped greatly. Even more absurd was the fact that the wing of the attack that the Rogue Trader personally commanded only had, at most, 20 casualties… it almost defies belief how amazing the combat turned out to be.

 

When the dust settled, the Whisperers were a spent force, completely and utterly crushed and, whilst the annex factories would probably not be recoverable, they could be rebuilt easily and, other than slight damage to the munitorium area, Cog was pretty much undamaged. It truly was an epic victory for House Deepstalker, and one that would be celebrated for all time… if they managed to take the entire Svard system back for the Dynasty, otherwise only their names would live on.

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Chapter Six - New Friends and the next plan

 

After the dust had settled and all prisoners had been secured, the Commander of the Imperial troops, Captain Marcia Cross, informed the Hand of Redemption of the victory. She was informed that the Hand had seen off a pair of Void Wasps in the interim but the situation in orbit was secure and the surviving troops were clear to come back aboard.

 

Meanwhile the Rogue Trader took the opportunity to speak with the Grand Magos. The tech priest turned out to have an impressive level of augmentation and was impatient to start on repairs to the factory. Although he did mention that as soon as they were at full power they would be able to send an override code to the orbital station that would release a deadly gas throughout.

 

Thelonious asked if the Magos needed any other assistance to get Cog back in full working order. Whilst he admitted that more people would be needed to get the machinery up and running, the Tech Priest was reluctant to admit any more individuals until they were sure the spread of the whisperers had been stopped.

 

Natasha enquired how long it would take for the macro cannons from the damaged vessel they had captured to be fitted onto the Hope. The Magos stated that without a steady supply of promethium they would be unable to undertake a task of that magnitude. However, if fuel and skilled manpower could be provided then the refit could be completed within 2 weeks. Yet he had to reiterate that until the whisperers were dealt with he would be unwilling to perform such a task for fear of sabotage.

 

The Magos stated that repairing the main manafactorums had to take priority before any large scale work could be undertaken. Specifically, the tracks that allowed the factory to move had fallen into disrepair over the years as the Whisperers neglected to service them. This would mean the structure would be unable to relocate in a few years’ time and could hamper production. When asked he gave a basic description of the maintenance that would be required to be carried out in a shielded shuttle in order to get the tracks back to full working condition.

 

The Magos also mentioned a desire to have a complete survey of the system so he could better determine the position of all the moons and asteroids. Natasha replied that the Hope had been running constant scans during its travels around the system and they would be happy to provide this information as a starting point. Speaking of travel, Thelonious enquired if the Tech Priest had seen an Imperial Envoy pass through in the last few years?

 

After consulting his memory banks the tech priest told of a ship that came in a little over a year ago and recounted a conversation he had overheard through the facilities security feeds. It seems that there was mention of the envoy and the whisperers said they were taking him to see ‘master’. He was able to discern the trajectory of the ship as it left and it seems to be heading deeper into the system. Thelonious thanked him for his precious time and allowed him to re-join his underlings as they went about repairing the manafactorums.

 

As the Grand Magos left two of his junior tech priests approached the Rogue Trader

 

“Can you tell us what you know of the Artefacts?” As he has told no-one beyond the command crew of his Uncles revelations Thelonious was immediately on alert.

 

“The what now?”

 

“Ah, so you are unaware. Strange devices have been appearing over the years. We have an interest in these machines that have been touched by this energy”

 

The tech priest went onto say that they has detected a void wasp that crashed on the planet that very morning and they would be very interested in getting their hands on any intact components that remained. Seeing that the Rogue Trader was unmoved by their requested he added that such components would be very valuable.

 

“To better understand the enemy, of course?” Thelonious asked slyly

 

“Oh, of course.” The tech priest agreed and gave the impression that if he was still capable of winking he would.

 

Thelonious did point out that they would be using a shielded shuttle to inspect the Manafactorums tracks and if they just so happened to come across a downed void wasp then they might be able to pick up a few bits while there were out there.

 

After the Tech Priests has departed, Thelonious took the opportunity to open a secure Vox channel to Admiral Keel and informed him that they had additional information regarding the Envoy but would need to follow the lead before getting any hopes up.

 

Keel thanked him for the information before mentioning that the Rogue Trader had apparently made a great impression on Captain Cross.

 

“Of course. She is a fine officer” Thelonious replied

 

“She has asked me to retire her from the Navy. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that would you?” The Admiral asked.

 

“I have absolutely no knowledge of that whatsoever” was the Rogue Traders earnest reply. “Maybe she likes Ice Worlds?”

 

“She has requested to meet with you but has been very tight lipped about her reasoning”

 

“Well I’m afraid I can’t enlighten you as I was unaware of her intentions”

 

“Would you agree to meet with her?”

 

“I would yes”

 

The Admiral agreed to send the Captain over to the Hope on the Rogue Trader had returned. After the Void Master and his team returned from surveying the damaged tracks, and totally not recovering part of the void wasp and delivering it to a pair of Tech Priests, the command crew took their leave of Cog.

 

Shortly after he had returned to his quarters Thelonious was informed that the transport containing Captain Cross had arrived. He met the officer in the main arboretum and he was immediately impressed with how striking she looked in her full uniform rather than combat armour. Yorke had arranged for a meal to be laid out for the Rogue Trader and his guest however despite Thelonious stating it was a business meeting the Seneschal appeared to have ordered flower arrangements, candlelight and gentle background music. Thelonious got the impression that his crew were trying to tell him something.

 

“I was very impressed with how well you commanded your troops, and in fact my own, in the battle for Cog. It is obvious that you care greatly for the men you command.” Captain Cross said after the meal was finished

 

“I find that it is the best way. Loyalty is a two way street.” He replied as he poured himself a generous glass of amasec. “They will give more if they know that you are willing to go through the same as them” Marcia tilted her head in surprise at his response.

 

“No offence to others of your kind but you are the first Rogue Trader I have ever hear say that” Thelonious took no offence at her comment and poured another helping for himself before filled a second glass that he pushed down the table towards her. The amber liquid sloshed in its crystal container and she looked at it but did not pick it up.

 

“As much as I admire Admiral Keel, he is part of a larger environment and thus rather set in his ways. I would like to protect a man such as you. I am willing to volunteer my services as Head of your Household Guard if you will have me?”

 

The Rogue Trader seemed taken off guard by the brazen request and the Captain seemed to take that as a negative and continued with her case.

 

“I am a very good trainer of troops as well as a fine commander, as you saw, and it would be my honour to serve the scion of House Deepstalker” Thelonious knocked back his drink and thought it over while refilling his glass.

 

“Well, I am deeply flattered by your request and providing you can get permission from Admiral Keel I would be honoured to have you as Captain of my Household guard” He held up his latest drink.

 

“I was thinking Lt Commander” she said as she finally picked up her glass and Thelonious couldn’t help but smile.

 

“Lt Commander is fine by me” he replied and the two of them drank.

 

After the meeting, Thelonious hailed Admiral Keel and informed him of Cross’s request. The Admiral was not overly surprised, stating that the Captain had always been too idealistic for the Imperial Navy. The Rogue Trader requested her background, that which would not need to be redacted, be transmitted for his review. The Admiral did mention that losing one of his offices to the Deepstalkers was not what he expected when he took on his mission. Thelonious smiled and jokingly offered one of his officers in return. The Admiral stated that while rank was more a material status on board the Rogue Traders ship in the Imperial Navy it was more rigid and promoting a stranger to the vacancy would not go down well with his other officers. However, he was willing to release Captain Cross to the Hope and authorise her retirement from the Navy. Thelonious and Keel also agreed that the Admiral would keep the Hand on station above Cog to offer any assistance they could and be ready to defend it if the Whisperers should attempt to reclaim it.

 

As the Hope made its’ way back to Svard, the newly appointed Lt Commander Cross took the time to review the household guard. She very quickly tightened the shifts and rotations until even the paranoid Rogue Trader seemed happy with the improved level of discipline. However, not to be swayed into a false sense of security, Thelonious still instructed Commander Rolaine to have her watched.

 

Noting that the retaking of Installation 23 looked to be their next logical venture the command crew gathered to discuss options. The most obvious question was ‘how to find the station’ as with its manoeuvring thrusters it could be anywhere within the storm that surrounded the gas giant. It was theorised that this proximity to the gas giant, and therefore the artefact hidden within, was the most likely reason for Installation 23 being the first to fall to the Whisperers. However given the purpose of the station it would have to be close to the surface of the gas giant in order to gather the raw material needed to process into fuel.

 

Given that their current intelligence put the inhabitants of the station at around 20,000 the Rogue Trader stated a preference to deal with all other sections in the system first. It definitely looked to require a frontal assault and Yorke took the opportunity to lay down the rule of ‘no flame based weapons on Installation 23’ and repeated it until Constantine grudgingly acknowledged it. The course was set to return to Svard and restock on certain items before attempting to locate the station.

 

However as the ship began its final approach to Svard, Crewman Haines, Chief of Communications, announced that they were picking up a distress signal from the main hive. The messages contained no further details and the High Captain immediately called the crew to battle stations and ordered a focused augury scan of the planet. Yorke took over from Haines and attempted to contact the Crystal Council but the signal was apparently being jammed from the surface. Yet the might of the ultimo array was not to be swayed by such interference and was able to detect half a dozen ships in orbit that had not been present when the Hope was last present.

 

Refocusing the array on these new ships found them to be rather low in the planets orbit. In fact, their orbit was already starting to decay and it was estimated that they would likely crash into the planet within the next few days. Attempting to determine if there was anyone aboard they found the vessels to be empty but with a stable atmosphere. As Rolaine began formulating the best way to board the ships, Thelonious countered that they were likely to be booby trapped. Yet they were both interrupted by Mistress Valentina who stated that the empty ships were likely left over from an invasion force and they would be better served attempting to ascertain the fate of the Hive.

 

As there appeared to be several days before the ships were due to smash into the planet, Thelonious decided the best course of action was to take a shuttle down to the planet and get a read on the situation. Yorke made sure to pack a Teleportarium beacon with her as the command crew all boarded the shuttle and Isendark took them down.

 

As they approached the main Hive it became evident that the lower levels appeared to be on fire, rather impressive for an ice world. As they approached their chosen landing zone the High Lord Captain gave the order that if anyone armed attempted to stop them they were to shoot first. With their primary landing zone also in flames Yorke made the suggestion that they divert to Councillor Ygritte’s residence on the upper levels. The guards present on the landing pad seemed competent and held their fire until they were able to confirm the new comers’ identity. Only then did they call for their mistress.

 

 Ygritte seemed relieved at their arrival and elated as Thelonious declared that he was there to rescue her.

 

“Now tell me what is going on here?” He asked before she had a chance to recover her normal demeanour.

 

“About 2 days ago we were attacked. Large numbers of the PDF turned on their own which allowed those in orbit to make numerous unopposed landings. The troops have been giving up group to stay alive. The Whisperers seem intent on destroying everything in their path. The council is convinced that something much have riled them up. Based on their approach we think something about a week ago given the time it would have taken them to reach us.”

 

“Speaker Tal still lives?” Thelonious asked and Ygritte confirmed that he did and the council was currently meeting at his residence as it was one of the few remaining secure locations, albeit still under the constant threat of Whisperer sabotage. After a brief discussion, the crew realised that there was very little they could do to influence the current battle. Their own troops were better suited to ship to ship combat than street to street warfare. They arranged to see Speaker Tal and the rest of the council as quickly as possible to see if there were other areas they could lend assistance.

 

The ballroom of the Speakers residence had been turned into a war room, with curtains drawn to deter snipers. Speaking to the General, Yorke asked how long his men could hold. The general theorised that they could hold their position for at least a month. The problem was they lacked the resources to go on the offensive and so were effectively only slowing the attackers’ progress. Everyone present seemed grimly determined in this course of action.

 

 “On a brighter note, we have Cog” Thelonious broke the tension and many gave a sudden exclamation of joy over the announcement. “Unfortunately that good news may be the cause of your bad news” The Rogue Trader added but it seemed to do little to dull the hopeful mood he had created. The General agreed that the retaking of Cog was likely to have caused the current predicament but suspected the whisperers may have been planning this attack for some time. This only forced their hand.

 

Informing them of the system ships and their decaying orbit, Thelonious asked if they had a preference on them being destroyed before they struck or let them fall where they may. The General seemed unconcerned, stating that they were unlikely to cause mass amounts of damage however if they could be reduced in mass they would cause even less.

 

Theorising that Installation 23 was the only remaining stronghold of the Whispers and that was the likely destination of the ship carrying the Envoy, the command crew sequestered themselves to discuss their options. The most prominent point raised was the possibility that the system ships currently in orbit may have been sent from the Installation and so could have valuable navigation data aboard that could help them locate the station. It was suggested that a small team could be inserted via assault boat and, as long as they carried a beacon with them, could be teleported off if they ran into trouble. Once they had downloaded the relevant data they could then be taken off and the ships safely destroyed before they fell on the Hive.

 

All agreed that this was the most efficient use of their resources and they informed the council of their plan to destroy the descending ships before returning to the Hope to implement their plan.

As they approached the vessel Isendark manoeuvred the assault boat to match its rotation and the crew cut through the hull. Wanting to first check if the ship had been sabotaged they made their insertion point close to the plasma drive as the area most likely to have been tampered with. Once the way was clear the High Captain, Commander Rolaine, York and Bazark climbed aboard and the crew sealed the hole before Isendark disengaged and moving away to a safe distance. Moving carefully down the corridor Rolaine kept a wary eye out for trip wires and the like. On the way to the engine room the team couldn’t help but notice several of the wall panels appeared to have been recently removed and reattached. Thelonious drew his power sword and carefully sliced around the bolts to remove one of the panels. Rolaine caught the sheet before it could fall and the pair gently tipped it back so they could look behind without disturbing anything.

 

What they saw was disturbing. The entire section appeared to be packed with explosives with cables connecting all of them in sequence. Thelonious quickly realised that the force of a plasma drive detonating near the hive would be significantly more deadly that the ship simple crashing into it. However, as the suspected sabotage was now confirmed he also saw no point in continuing onto the engine room. Instead he gave the order to move to the bridge so they could interrogate the machine spirits in the navigational cogitators. Bazark simply shrugged and turned towards the door, reaching for the control panel.

 

“NO!” Natasha, Rolaine and Thelonious all cried at once and the two women tackled the Ork before he could touch anything. Thelonious caught up to them a few seconds later.

 

“We get the assault boat to pick us up from the exact same place we came in and carry us round to the bridge. In the meantime touch nothing

 

Bazark grunted and the four of them made their way back to the entry point as Thelonious called Isendark for pick up. The Void Master was as equally adept at the second coupling as he had been at the first and the assault boat drew quickly re-opened the hole to allow the Officers to return.

 

Once aboard they manoeuvred to the front of the ship and scanned for a clear section of hull they could cut through to gain entry. Isendark once again proved his worth as a pilot by keeping the two ships close enough for the short range scanner to give an accurate reading without the hulls touching. The scan results showed a shocking amount of explosives laced throughout the bridge and Rolaine commented on the length of time it would have taken to lay out the volume they were picking up. Clearly the whisperers had been planning this for a long time. Once they had identified a clear area on the hull the cutter crew made a new entrance. The High Captain and the Ork stepped onto the bridge with the full knowledge that any action could trip the explosives and detonate the entire ship.

 

Looking at the circuitry to see if he could disarm it, Bazark announced that the explosives were ‘very blowy up ones’ and gave up in favour of finding ‘da best’ of the cogitators that could contain the information they were seeking. Once he had identified the most likely console there was then the problem of how to isolate it from the rest of the explosives. The best way Bazark could describe it was to ‘Attach the clippy thing at this bit and cut this bit so the zappy stuff goes round without going boom”. The down side being that it would require two people to act together with perfect timing.

 

Thelonious gave the order for the assault boat to pull back to avoid any potential shock wave before double checking the teleport beacon was close to hand. Bazark grunted that he was ready and the Rogue Trader prepared to cut the wire.

 

The Ork diverted the power.

 

Thelonious cut the wires.

 

A spark arched between them….

 

…and grounded in Thelonious’ finger.

 

All was silent and, more importantly, intact.

 

Breathing a deep sigh of relief Thelonious then downloaded all the ships navigation logs onto a dataslate and activated the teleport beacon. Only once he and Bazark were safely back on the ship did he inform the assault boat of the success and recall them back to the Hope. Bazark looked at Thelonious with “respekt” informing Thelonious that he was “quik and kunnin’ to cut the wires so fast, and Thelonious was horrified to realise just how close he had come to being, as the Ork put it, “boom boom exploded!”

 

Once back aboard Rolaine and Isendark set about investigating the data they had recovered to confirm it held what they were after. Noting the charts seemed to be encoded they requested Yorke’s assistant in deciphering them. Eventually the trio was able to discern 3 positions where the ship had docked with Installation 23 on multiple occasions. They presented the information to the Captain who seemed very happy. In fact he ordered drinks and offered all off duty crew the option of viewing the ‘fireworks’ as he finally gave the order to blow the descending ships out of their orbit.

 

With the likely locations of the Installation now in their possession the High Captain gave the order for all speed to Cog to meet up with the Hand. After a short conversation with Admiral Keel, in which Thelonious stated that the Installation was the most likely place for the captured Envoy to have been taken, the Imperial Officer agreed to lend the strength of his ship to the mission to retake the station. Together the two cruisers broke orbit and headed out into the storm.

Edited by Major Kimenth

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Chapter Seven - The Saving of Svard

 

The crew, having decided that Installation 23 was where they needed to be, were investigating all the information that the Magi of Cog had given them on the station, and were surprised, but pleased, to learn that the station was one of the few areas in the Koronus Expanse (that they knew about) that produced high quality heavy plasma from its refineries. Once again, it was reiterated that the station was to be taken without destroying it, although how that was going to happen, soon was the subject of discussion from the high command, with various ideas being thrown around.

 

Most of the discussion revolved around using the advantages that the Hope in the Void had, that being the Teleportarium, with many stratagems revolving around this. There was a slight disagreement between the Rogue Trader and his Seneschal, with Yorke wanting the Hand of Redemption to lance the Command and Primary Biospheres, to take them out completely, so that the rest of the station would suffocate and be completely useless. This was countered by the fact that it was assumed that the Envoy would be on the station, and that the Admiral would probably look quite dimly on this course of events.

 

It was decided that, whatever they decided upon, they could both talk about it on the way and that they would need the Hand of Redemption if they were to stand any chance of success so, the group retired to a conference centre to cement their plan and position. During one of these meetings, which seemed to stretch out for eternity, Isendark left to go and fly the ship for a while, to clear his mind. He sat down at the main pilots station and started to relax.

 

As he was flying, he looked down at one of the augur arrays that was by his station and, after sifting through the sensor ghosts that were so prevalent in the storm, he spotted something very odd… normally the returns are white, but this one was black. As he kept looking, another appeared, then another, then another, until the entire screen was covered in black. The Void Master, cursing the vagueness of technology, started tapping the screen gently, trying to clear the computer when, to his surprise, the blackness came off on his fingers and started slowly moving around his hand, covering it slowly, before starting to move up his arm.

 

Fighting a wave of panic, the Void Master carefully inspected the blackness, wondering if it was anything that he knew, or had heard off, but all his thinking seemed to do was make the blackness move faster, moving up his arm and starting to engulf his shoulder. He looked around for help and was startled to discover that no-one else was on the bridge, so he took out his Power Sword and pressed it against his arm, to see what would happen. The sound of pain that reverberated through his mind was an awful keening, but then it reformed and continued its inexorable rise up his neck.

 

Using the hand that was covered in the blackness, Isendark reached up to try and pull it off his neck, only to find that his hand, and forearm, passing through his neck. He went to shout for help, but the blackness took the opportunity to leap into his mouth. As he tried to breathe he started repeating the mantra in his mind, that this was not real, the Emperor protects his own and that this, please Emperor, was a dream. He felt himself choking, running out of breath, he couldn’t do anything… he was going to die! And then he woke up, screaming, in the middle of yet another planning meeting!

 

Isendark just started gibbering, at least that is how it seemed to the rest of the group, about green screens going black, choking, death and much more besides. It was the Rogue Trader, who had been privy to the other dreams of his crew, that calmed down to the Void Master and allowed him to inform the rest of them that the Whisperer was just trying to mess with them. With that being sorted, the talk came back to the final stages of the plan, with Mistress Valentina raising the idea of both the Hand and the Hope being very close together, so that they only looked like one sensor reading, which might keep the Whisperers in the dark as to their intention for as long as possible.

 

Eventually, it was decided to keep things simple; after all, that had been their watchword since they got to Svard and it had given them great success. The Hope would board the station, and they would teleport to the command centre to stop the station firing on them or their allies, although, if they could gain control over the station guns then they would be able to defend themselves. They could then cleanse the station at their leisure. Yorke, who had been looking at some of the blueprints, realised that, unlike Cog, Installation 23 was the true crown in the Whisperer dominance, and that they would probably be very unlikely to destroy it as they had tried to do on Cog… this was yet another thing they needed to compute.

 

So, when they were close, they were hailed by the Hand of Redemption and invited Admiral Keel and his officers aboard, an offer that was quickly taken up, and they all found themselves in the very same conference centre they had spent the last few days in. After informing the Admiral that the Envoy (they avoided calling him, his brother) was most likely on Installation 23, they laid out how they planned to take the station, and the fact that the Hand of Redemption was to cover the Hope in the Void and shoot down any Void Wasps/System ships that were threatening them, and also to keep them busy… something that Admiral Keel agreed to, his thoughts on rescuing his brother.

 

Before leaving Cog, the Rogue Trader had sought out the two Tech Priests who had already part-paid them for the section of the Void Wasp that they had recovered, and informed them that they were going directly into the Sanctum of the Whisperers and, well, would they like to come along to see if there is anything else that sparked their interest. They accepted. With their help the Hope was able to narrow down the 3 vague locations to near pin-point co-ordinates and the two ships set in a search pattern.

 

The first set of co-ordinates proved to be a bust… there was nothing there except the storm. During the journey, Thelonious availed himself of some of the proscribed works that they had picked up on Silence.

It was when they were approaching the second set of co-ordinates that the auguries picked up what their sensors recognised as a Void Wasp, although the distance was extreme, and there was no sensor readings coming from the Hand to corroborate. However, having learned to trust his crew, Thelonious signalled for the assumption of Battle Stations, and the next few minutes were characterised by the flurry of movement, on both ships. The Hand advanced slowly and carefully in the void, its own sensors not having the sensitivity of the Hope’s Ultimo array, and so were taking their word for it.

 

However, because the Hand of Redemption was now closer than the Hope in the Void, their crews firing up the engines first, they could detect a large mass behind the Void Wasps, and everyone realised that this was it, Installation 23. It did not take long for the intruders to be detected and Void Wasps started flying out of the storm to launch their Warp energies at the Hand. Luckily, the Hand’s void shields and armour was enough to withstand the first barrage and they started coming about to show the Void Wasps what firepower really meant. During this manoeuvring, the Hope decided to carry out its mission. The Ork was down in the Enginarium, poking and prodding the Tech Priests into firing up the engines even more, and Isendark was able to coax a little bit more out of them as well.

 

As a result of this tinkering, the Hope shot forward, faster than the crew had ever seen it move before, and the Bombers were almost not launched in time, and they had to do some pretty acrobatic manoeuvres to avoid being smashed to pieces. However, they managed to line up their bombing run on one of the Void Wasps, and everything was launched… but most of the ordinance did not find its target, and the Void Wasps were mostly unscathed. Because they had gone so far forward, in such a small amount of time, their augurs managed to pick out the Installation and, somewhat more importantly, the four System Ships that were currently undocking next to it. Another movement like this, and they would be directly on the Installation.

 

Further back (although back being a nebulous concept in space), the Hand of Redemption did a sharp turn, sharper than the attacking Void Wasps expected, and flew between them. Their broadsides were devastating, Macrocannons pummelling the void shields and armour of the Void Wasps and the Lance Batteries delivering the coup-de-grace, completely destroying one and disabling the other. The other Void Wasps, seeing the Hope closing on Installation 23, did an about turn and closed, firing their Warp energy at them… which, again, were either deflected by the void shields, or absorbed by the armour… once again the Hope in the Void had weathered the attack without harm and were closing in on their target.

 

The remaining two bomber squadrons were launched to see off at least one of the Void Wasps and, being expertly commanded from their Flight Bridge, the bombers found their target with pinpoint accuracy, sending the Void Wasp spinning off into the Void, severely damaged. The Ork managed to get more out of the engines and the Void Master kept up the speed from the previous manoeuvre, sending the Hope in the Void careening through space, ending right next to Installation 23, smashing into it and sending the boarding parties across. But, before that happened, the System Ships and the station itself got to vent their fury on the Hope, Macrobatteries knocking down their Void Shields, and Lances cutting through their armour and Hull.

 

All in all, the Hope lost around 20,000 crew from the combined attacks, and the ship took more damage in those moments than since they arrived in the Koronus Expanse, and even that could have been worse if Mistress Valentina and her Choir had not managed to shroud the minds of the gunners on the space station, driving herself into unconsciousness but helping to prevent damage to the ship. However, all this damage drove the boarding parties into a rage, and Marcia Cross, who was leading the assault, made best use of this, and the crew of the Hope entered into brutal combat with the Whisperers, and carried all before them, taking great pleasure in inflicting as much pain and death as possible.

 

Whilst this was going on, the command crew utilised the teleportarium to send themselves, and some handpicked guards, into the Command Centre, ready to take control of the station back from the Whisperers… or at least, command of the Void Shields and weapons. However, what they saw when the teleported was someone who looked very much like Admiral Keel, floating in the air, with blackness oozing out of his eyes and through his very pores. The blackness reached intensity and expanded outwards, knocking most of the group out, including all the guards and every Whisperer who had been working in the Command Centre, the members of the command crew who had managed to resist this quickly got the rest of them on their feet, as they faced Envoy Kaal.

 

The Envoy (or the whisperer talking through him) made reference to the fact that he knew it was the Deepstalker family that was in his presence, it realised the family resemblance and recognised the crest on the ship, which was somewhat disturbing to the Rogue Trader. Valentina’s reply, on the other hand, was somewhat predictable… no-one impersonates the Emperor in her dreams, just no-one, and she pulled up her Stub Automatic, aimed at the Head and fired. The shot, into the sudden silence, was jarring and the Envoy went flying backwards into the wall, blood gushing from a wound to his head, and then Thelonious, aware that they needed the Envoy alive, started ordering no-one else to fire.

 

Bazark, on the other hand, quickly gathered the Envoy in a bear hug, and held him immobile for the rest of the group to question, although the Envoy was also not seeming to struggle either, it was just happy to converse. They learnt, through questioning, that the Yu’vath artefact did not hate humanity, it was just carrying out its purpose, which is to control humanity, and destroy any who resist. There was no fear, no malice, no hatred, it just was… which was a profoundly disturbing way of looking at the world for the command crew... even the Ork knew how to hate.

 

Meanwhile, whilst the rest of the crew were questioning the Envoy, Commander Rolaine had gained control of the stations weapons, and turned them on the System Ships outside, wreaking a devastating toll on them, the Macrobatteries and Lance Batteries destroying two of them, and crippling another one… the last remaining System Ship was obliterated by the Hand of Redemption that had finished taking out the Void Wasps and was closing quickly. It was during the questioning of the Envoy that the Astropath mentioned to it that “It is not possible for you to go anywhere else in this system, because you will not have anyone to carry you.” And, it was at that point that Yorke picked up something on the Station auguries, that proved how wrong that statement was.

 

Something was rising out of the gas giant, something huge, black and seething energy around it, crystalline structures reaching out to unfathomable lengths and widths, a nightmare in reality. The command crew, realising that this was the Whisperer, made a quick decision to split the group, with Rolaine, Bazark and Yorke staying on the station to fire the Installations weapons, whilst the rest of the group teleported back onto the Hope. They quickly gave the order for their crew to break off combat and return ASAP and the Hope in the Void, Hand of Redemption and Installation 23 all came about to face the scourge of the system.

 

The Whisperer was quick to act, firing the same sort of weapons as the Void Wasps had, but also introducing another nightmare inducing weapon, a lance amalgam that spat the same sort of energy as the other Warp weapons, but in a much more concentrated level. Installation 23 took the brunt of the first attack, the Whisperer trying to deny the prize of the Svard System as its first act of revenge on those who had dared to challenge it. The station took some terrific punishment, with the augur arrays being knocked out of commission, although not destroyed, and various holes appearing throughout the super structure, but there were no fires on board, which would have been catastrophic, although the Primary Biosphere was also depressurised… all in all, it was a devastating salvo and gave notice that this would be a hard combat.

 

Knowing that the station could not take much more punishment, both the Hand of Redemption and the Hope in the Void interspaced themselves between the Whisperer and the station, ready to take the damage instead, although both ships were somewhat damaged from earlier. Their first Macrocannon broadside was devastating effective, taking down all three of the Whisperers Void Shields, and leaving it open for a Lance strike. However, the Lance strike went slightly wide and only singed the Whisperer, leading to groans of disappointment on both bridges, they knew they had to damage this, and quick. During this titanic battle, the Ork was outside the station, randomly hammering on the augur array in the typical Orkish “let’s fix it up” way. Amazingly, it worked!

 

With their targeting displays lit up like a Christmas tree, the Station fired at the Whisperer, its erstwhile master. The Macrocannons inflicted a few glancing blows on the Whisperer, whose armour was something that neither crew had encountered outside of a Grand Cruiser, and the Lance, unfortunately, missed. During this time, the crew had been scanning the Whisperer and were delighted, and surprised, to realise that there were no Turrets on the ship, so the order was given to launch the 4 squadrons of Bombers that were currently being readied in their launch bays. Isendark, knowing how much damage could be caused, started throwing the ship into a series of evasive manoeuvres, much like he had in the previous battles, and once again proved his worth.

 

The bombers, for the first time in this combat, lived up to their potential, bombing run after bombing run finding their targets, blowing large chunks off the Whisperer and emerging unscathed. The Whisperer, more damaged than it had been in the last 200 years, started spinning on its axis and firing 4 cannons at the Hope and 4 cannons at the Hand. The 4 cannons aimed at the Hope missed by literal miles, with the Void Master earning his keep and keeping the ship safe… the Hand was not so lucky. It took grievous damage from the Rupture Cannons and then devastating damage from the Immaterium Arcs, with fires breaking out all over the ship and massive casualties being reported… but they were still in the fight!

 

And, what a blow they struck on the Whisperer, Lance blows driving directly through the sub structure and causing fires to break out on board, the Whisperer was teetering on the brink of annihilation, but then so was the station and the Hand. The station managed to do some more damage with its cannons and lances, hurting the Whisperers manoeuvrability and driving it into a spin, although it was still a threat and probably would have been able to destroy the station… but it was not to get that chance. The final wave of two bomber squadrons were launched and closed on their target, their Captains exhortations in their ears, and being guided in by the Astropath… the fate of Svard hung in the balance.

 

Striking with consummate skill and potent accuracy, the bombers launched their ordinance at point blank range, targeting the damaged engines of the Whisperer and then turning for home. Most of them would not make it back, as their sacrifice meant that the Whisperers space drives went critical and they were caught up in the explosion that engulfed all combatants in a searing inferno of plasma. However, the God-Emperor was with them, and both ships and the station emerged unscathed, their Void Shields having held up well under the strain, and their sensors, and reports, indicated that the Void Wasps had all broken apart, and that all people who were under the control of the Whisperers had fallen unconscious.

 

Due to the amount of damage and loss that both the Hope and the Hand had suffered, they both had to deal with potential mutinous members of the crew, although the Lord High Captain managed to use his authority to talk them down, whereas the Admiral did what the Navy does with mutineers and voided them out of the airlocks, which the Rogue Trader was happy to point out to the crew on his ship. Both cruisers took stock of the situation before they realised… they had won!

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Well, I suppose the part that it isn't Fan Fiction, it's more an "Actual Play" writeup of the Rogue Trader Campaign that I am running.

Don't know if that means it should be in the Fan Fiction area, but seems a slight mislabelling :D

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Chapter Eight - The Aftermath

 

 

As the last remaining shards of the Whisperer spiralled through the storm, the High Captain received a personal vox from the Hand of Redemption. Knowing what it would be about Thelonious took the call in his private quarters and the holo-tank lit up with the face of Admiral Keel

 

“Thelonious, does my brother live?”

 

“We are ascertaining if he is still possessed at the moment”

 

“Well, given that my scanners show a lot of unconscious people on the station and the fact that an attempted rebellion caused by the whisperer has ended with all those involved unconscious, or out the airlock, I suspect that he is fine. So I will be coming across to take custody of him.”

 

“You are requesting a visit Admiral?”

 

“I’m not requesting a visit, I’m requesting you have my brother ready for transportation in your launch bay where we will take him and leave”

 

“Admiral, are you sure you wouldn’t want to spend some time with him outside your official duties”

 

“There will be plenty of time for that on the way back to Footfall. Something I wish to get underway sooner than not”

 

“I understand. Do you know the nature of your brothers mission here? Perhaps it would be better to wait until he has regained consciousness so you may ask him if he was successful”

 

“I don’t care what his mission was. My mission was to find him and bring him back”

 

“But a few more days, or weeks, would not make that much difference”

 

“I want my brother back. I want him now”

 

“We are merely trying to ascertain if he is a threat”

 

“Is he alive?” Thelonious recalled the image of his Astropath shooting the Envoy in the head, a strangely accurate shot for a blind woman.

 

“Yeeeeees”

 

“Then have him ready in 3 hours” and the Admiral cut the link. Thelonious stared at the blank screen for a few seconds before getting up and pouring himself a drink. He tried to think how the Admiral would react when he saw his brother in his current state. He knew from experience that it would be impossible to patch him up in 3 hours. Yet that was all they had as after that he and any information he held would be out of their hands.

 

“Sod it, forget patching him up. We need to talk to him” and with that Thelonious made his way to the medical bay.

 

Meanwhile, on board Installation 23, Yorke was compiling a list of damage sustained from the attack and totalling the cost for repairs. Her ever present dataslate was quickly filling up with items, yet it could have been a lot worse. The main bulk of the station was intact and the remaining system ship was deemed salvageable. There was also a sizable amount of processed fuel aboard the station and Natasha eagerly ordered it to be taken to the Hope to fill their reserves.

 

Back on board the ship Thelonious gave the order for the Chief Chirosurgeon to wake up the Envoy. He also requested Mistress Valentina to be present, valuing her insight. Although the Astropath did point out that she was unlikely to be any help if the Envoy happened to remember that she was the one who shot him.

 

Even with the amount of stimulants the surgeon gave the Envoy the man was still woozy when he came round. Thelonious was once again struck with the similarity between the Envoy and the Admiral as the injured man tried to focus on the people standing in from of his bed.

 

“Where am I?”

 

“You are aboard Hope in the Void in the Svard system. We are a cruiser” Thelonious answered. “We have been part of a flotilla sent to recover you”

 

“Where is your naval uniform?” the Envoy squinted at Thelonious and tilted his head slightly.

 

“I’m a Rogue Trader”

 

“Oh God” was his only reply and Thelonious couldn’t help but smile. “You said the Svard System?....I was there to do something….important”

 

“Oh well, did you complete what you were there to do?”

 

“I can’t remember… What date is it?” When Thelonious told him the date the Envoy seemed surprised. “Have I been unconscious for 2 years?”

 

“Um, in a manner of speaking yes. It would seem so”

 

“Oh…that’s a long time” The Envoy said dreamily.

 

“Yes, it is a long time. If you remember anything about your sleep, your dreams for example, I’d advise you to keep it to yourself because by ‘sleep’ we mean ‘you were possessed’”

 

“By what”

 

“Some strange Xenos artefact.”

 

“Oh wonderful”

 

“Luckily we are able to get it out of your head without causing any damage to your psyche” Mistress Valentina said and the Envoy looked confused for a moment before reaching up to touch the bandages around his head.

 

“Ow! Did someone shoot me?”

 

“You were possessed. Now you are not” Mistress Valentina stated coldly. The Envoy seemed to take a long time to consider what she had said.

 

“True”

 

“You’re welcome” Thelonious grimaced as Sari insisted on getting the last word before taking command of the conversation again.

 

“I have some good news for you, well some more good news. Your brother will be here shortly to see you. He is the Admiral in charge of the flotilla.”

 

“My brother? I haven’t seen him in years….how do I look?”

 

“Under the circumstances, surprisingly well” Thelonious said, ever tactful.

 

“Oh, it’ll be nice to see him…is that why you got me up?”

 

“Yes” This time the Rogue Trader didn’t even pause in his answer.

 

The chief chirosurgeon advised that they should allow the Envoy to rest before the Admiral arrived to claim him.

 

Exactly 3 hours from the Vox call a shuttle arrived in the landing bay containing Admiral Keel and his guards and was met by Thelonious and his command crew. After a brief exchange, in which the Admiral apologised for his earlier bluntness, the two shook hands. The Admiral stated that he now understood why his family had taken up with the Deepstalkers all those years ago and he looked forward to their future dealing together.

 

He also said that he would be taking his ship on a direct course for Footfall as if they could find a way through the uncharted warp it would be much quicker than the way they had arrived. If they were successful in mapping a route, and as a parting gift, he promised to leave a copy of the chart for them at the Naval Contingent on Footfall before they returned to the Calixis Sector.

 

Thelonious thanked him and asked a favour. If he was heading for the Calixis sector would the Admiral be able to file their claim of ownership of Svard with the Administratum? The Admiral agreed that if he should find himself on Scintilla he would put his weight behind the claim on behalf of the House.

 

The Rogue Trader and the Admiral then agreed to travel together to Svard before the Hand of Redemption headed off. So, leaving the station in the hands of the few ex-whisperers who appeared the least traumatised by their enslavement, the two damaged cruisers made their way back through the storm to see how the Hive had faired during their battle.

 

En-route reports started to filter through from several sections of the ship. It seemed that small items were going missing, always accompanied by skittering sounds from the nearest vent or air shaft. Strangely, these reports always seemed to be centred around where Bazak had stationed himself. After a few days the crew confronted the Ork who pulled out a wriggling, miniature version of himself that happily introduced itself as ‘Grommit’ before sticking its foot in its mouth and giggling.

 

Lt Commander Cross, present as the Captains body guard, informed Thelonious that she would increase the regularity of the flamer cleansing of the orks quarters. Mistress Valentina however, declared that the thing was ‘cute’ and took to throwing it *** bits which at the very least distracted it from chewing on the furniture.

 

As they approached Crewman Haines reported that the automatic distress beacon had been deactivated. A message was sent to the Council informing them that the Hope had returned and Yorke ordered the ceremonial shuttle to be prepared. They made a grand entrance onto the central landing port of the Hive to a cheering crowd. Speaker Tal greeted them as the saviours of Svard and thanked them for rescuing them from the grip of the whisperers. As a show of their status, in case anyone still doubted House Deepstalkers claim to the system, Yorke organised a large portion of the fuel they had collected from Installation 23 to be brought down and gifted to the Hive.

 

Noting that the Council seemed to be a little smaller than the last time they have seen them Thelonious asked where Ygritte was. Speaker Tal informed him that sadly the Councilwoman had revealed herself to be a Whisperer and attempted to kill him. No being overly attached to the snotty noblewoman Yorke immediately asked what was to be done with her holdings and possessions.

 

The General was able to fill them in on the events following their departure. He reported that there were very few survivors on the whisperers side, less than 250,000, as once they started to fall unconscious his men had opened fire indiscriminately. Thelonious suggested that if there were continued problems with the survivors they could be moved off world to work on either Cog or Installation 23. Although he did state that he would like the pick of the skilled individuals to replace the loses they had sustained on the Hope.

 

Discussing what was to be done with the rest of the system, Mistress Valentina suggested it may be advisable to conduct a loop through the remaining Hollow worlds and asteroids that they had listed as inhabited. This would also allow them to conduct the survey that the Grand Magos of Cog had requested.

 

On a side note, she enquired to the Captain if the remains of the Whisperer had been collected. He confirmed and mentioned that there were a few tech priests currently on board who would be very interested in them. Valentina countered that they had no way to know if the main device could regenerate itself and strongly advised that they shoot the remains into the sun. Thelonious’ only response was that he would ‘take her suggestion under advisement’ to which Valentina was not overly happy about but she acceded to the Captains authority.

 

During the aftermath of the battle, Thelonious sought out a jewel smith and placed an order for elaborate campaign medals for all those who had taken part in the battle for Cog and a standard medal for anyone who had been involved with what was now being called the Svard campaign.

 

After resupplying, the decision was made to travel to Cog to see if any repairs could be made to the ship. The Crystal Council of Svard gave a fine banquet in celebration and the command crew were offered the use of former Councillor Egrits personal mansion. All indulged in some well-deserved recreation and the following morning was a later start than initially planned.

 

As Thelonious staggered out of his room he nodded to the bodyguards propped up on either side of the door. He was glad to see that his crew had been enjoying themselves too. However the moment was shattered by two crackling shots of energy that hit the guards and dropped them to the ground twitching. Four men in black masks sprang from around the pillars in the corridor and charged.

 

“I knew this would happen eventually!” Thelonious shouted before stepping back into the doorway for cover. He pulled his bolt pistol and fired as the first of the attackers reached him. The shot took a massive block out of the nearest pillar as the man dodged but the other three all raised their shock truncations and swung at the Rogue Trader. The first went wide as Thelonious ducked but the next two thumped into his sides and his back arched as the electricity coursed through his body. He slumped to the ground in a daze and was unable to defend himself as the men tied his hands and quickly began bundling him into a sack.

 

As the kidnappers tried to lift the Rogue Trader up there was a sudden shout. Thelonious, still in the sack, could do nothing as he heard weapons fire and he was unceremoniously dropped to the ground. The sounds of blades over his head made him roll to the side only for someone to fall on top of him. Whether it was friend or foe he couldn’t tell and he tried to free his hands.

 

There was a final thump and all was silent. Then Thelonious heard footsteps and the sack was pulled off his head. He blinked in the sudden light and looked up to see Marcia Cross leaning over him and, behind her, the entire command crew running down the corridor, obviously awoken by the commotion.

 

With the arrival of the senior officers it was quickly explained that the kidnappers were in fact under the command of Lt Commander Cross and she was merely testing the aptitude of the guards stationed to protect the Rogue Trader. Thelonious in particular did not seem overly happy with this and, given how fast they had gone down, demanded that the guards be flogged for incompetence.

 

It was during this outburst that Mistress Valentina confronted Marcia and stated that this was not what she had intended when she suggested ‘kidnap drills’. She had intended for the Captain to be aware of the drill and for it to be a way for him to learn how to move in formation with his bodyguards. Lt Commander Cross’ only reply was to state that Mistress Valentina should have been more specific with her request because to her a ‘kidnap drill’ means you **** well try to kidnap someone. Thelonious still did not seem impressed and shortly gave the order for the Hope to make way to Cog.

 

Given the status they had obtained as the saviours of the system, by the time the Hope left orbit of Svard it was will a full compliment. Volunteers and long stranded voidsmen had jumped at the chance to serve on the mighty vessel and the celebrations had gone a long way to restoring ship morale. There was also the addition of thousands of ex-whisperers who had been the centre of such discord on Svard. They were to be delivered to the factories of Cog to work and get production up and running again. However, the damage to the hull was not so easily repaired and all prayed to the Emperor that there were to be no further encounters with hostile forces.

 

 After dropping of the new workers Thelonious spoke with the Magos about anything further he required. He stated that additional support from the Adeptus Mechanicus would be beneficial but other than that all that was required was time.

 

Considering their next course of action it was decided that if they completed a survey of the system, as the Magos had requested, they would have a better understanding of what the system had to offer. An elliptical circuit of the system was laid in and the Hope once again pulled out into the storm.

 

Several uneventful days went by before the augury began to pick up anything. Isendark sorted through the false signals with ease, given how many times they had traversed the cloud barrier, and identified several large asteroids coming into range. All were reading as hollow but there was no indication of internal atmosphere or any kind of power reading.

 

As they moved closer the scans became clearer and began to distinguish hab-blocks and mining equipment. A search party was launched, fully armed just in case, to investigate and reported that each of the locations was open to the void. It appeared that the facilities ran out of power and the atmospherics shut down. All the residents were dead and had been for some time. Further investigation showed that they were refuges from Svard, possible attempting to flee the influence of the whisperers, who had become trapped.

 

The mining equipment appeared to be intact and was deemed serviceable. However, its presences suggested there were still worthwhile minerals to be extracted from the asteroids and so the decision was made to leave it in place for the time being and see if any new workers could be brought out to get things running again, after the corpses had been cleared out.

 

Each of the large asteroid they came to told the same story and after half a dozen they stopped sending search parties and simple recorded them as part of the survey. It was whilst cruising between two of the larger facilities that they discovered how the refugees had made it all the way out there. Two system ships hung in the void, on minimal power but still intact. Obviously they had been thrown free of their mooring and drifted away from the hollow worlds after the people had disembarked.

 

The crew boarded the vessels and found them to have low fuel but no real damage. After a short debate it was decided to send the ships to Installation 23 for refuelling and then employ them in completing the survey of the system. A few thousand crew were reassigned and dispatch while the Hope continued on its trajectory, hoping to find the Seed world.

 

A week later another return from the augury proved to be a much larger planetoid that appeared to match the specific dimensions they had been given of the Seed world. Moving in for a closer look, the scans came back clearly stating that the surface of the world was covered in ice. Mistress Valentina was confused as the descriptions they had described a tropical planet. Thelonious ordered a deep scan of the planet to try and determine if this was indeed what they were looking for.

 

Isendark and Yorke combined their efforts and were able to pick out giant vents in the planet’s surface that appeared to be spewing heated gas. Realising that the planet may in fact be another hollow world Thelonious ordered one of the enginseers to prepare a message in binary announcing their arrival. The enginseers stated that they could detect some form of machine spirit that had received their message but did not receive a response.

 

Shrugging, Thelonious ordered a shuttle prepared and smiled at Isendark when he asked if the void master was up to the challenge. Looking at the augury read out Isendark noted how narrow the vents were in comparison to the shuttle however, looking at the junior officers staring at him as the Rogue Trader awaited his answer, all he could do was smile back and state that he was born ready.

It was a tight fit. The rising gasses made for a bumpy ride but Isendark showed his metal and eventually the scanners showed that there was solid ground beneath them. The landing was relatively smooth and the rear door opened onto a lush jungle a wash with blue and purple plants.

 

“Myrim, you’re on point” The Rogue Trader called as the slightly spongey ground flexed under his feet. Bazak took the more direct approach of kicking his Grot out the door and seeing if anything happened to it as it bounced over the ground. As nothing happened immediately the rest of the crew stepped into the jungle. Yorke pulled out her personal scanner and tried to get a reading on their surroundings.

 

As she and the ork argued on what the device was trying to tell them there was a rustling in the undergrowth. Everyone was immediately alert. Everyone, that is, except for Mistress Valentina and Chaplin Constantine. When the twisting vines struck like lightning out of the trees they were the only two who failed to dive out of the way and the pair were quickly entangled. The sharp thorns drew blood as they scrapped across exposed flesh

 

Both Mistress Valentina and Chaplain Constantine realised that the small amount of damage caused was the least of their worries, as their blood detonated with the poison rushing through them. They fell to the ground screaming in pain, whilst the rest of the group started fighting back. Natasha Yorke picked up the Missionary’s flamer and started spraying flame around, only to find out that these plants were resistant to promethium, and thus the vines were now flaming, poisonous vines!

 

Realising the melee weapons were the thing to use, the air sang with the humming of power swords, the grinding of chainswords, the roaring of an Ork swinging wildly with his “Big Choppa” as they fought back against the vines, sending tendrils flying everywhere. Soon, everyone was free and fighting back, but the vines kept coming, until Thelonious gave the order to charge forward, having noticed that the vines appeared to be coming from a specific direction, and soon the group left that danger behind, and the group realised they would have to be much more careful than they had been.

 

Being careful did not mean they could not appreciate the beauty, and complete impossibility of this place… ice cold on the surface but a steaming jungle inside, it was definitely a very impressive feat of engineering. It was during this time that the Rogue Trader, curiosity getting the better of him, chopped a piece off a random plant and stuffed it in his mouth. The sensation that filled his mouth was one that he was very much used to, from his decadent upbringing, the taste of blood… it was almost as if the plant was more alive than he would have thought… he quickly spat it out!

 

Realising that randomly wandering around, whilst pretty, would not get them anywhere, both the Ork and the Seneschal started cycling through the auspexes settings until they zeroed in on something of interest, a large electromagnetic disturbance in the distance, as well as a large disturbance of “something” that was in the way. Having nothing better to go on, the group started out in that general direction, keeping to their cautious ways. Before long, they managed to pick out a slight buzzing noise although as they got closer, they realised it was only slight due to distance and the humming increased in sound and intensity.

 

As they broke through the treeline they saw an amazing sight, millions and millions of small insects, gathered together in a swarm, above a purple and blue coloured lake. Knowing that they had to go through this, the group did not waste any time in attacking, with the Flamer of Constantine setting vast swathes of them on fire, to which the death cries of so many creatures almost blew out their ear drums… and then they attacked. Yorke was fine, in her finely sealed Eldar Void Armour, although even she was almost knocked down by the sheer force of millions of insects, acting in concert.

 

The Rogue Trader, in his fully sealed Storm Trooper carapace was similarly protected, but the rest of the group was not so lucky to be ignored. The Ork shrugged off the stingers of the swarm, chomping down on them and swinging his Thunder Hammer in great arcs, the shocking arcs causing more damage than the hammer itself. It was Mistress Valentia who took the worst of it, being stung multiple times and revealing the type of poison that these insects carried… hallucinogenic poison. The rest of the group realised this when Mistress Valentia, completely out of character, ran through the swarm, flapping her arms, and leaped into the air and then, unsurprisingly, came crashing down into the lake.

 

With the arcs of electricity and the holy promethium, the swarm was soon dissipated, realising that this was not something they could win… a sign of intelligence and instinct that worried the group. Yorke had, in her safety, gathered a few specimens in the glass jars she brought with her everywhere, wanting to figure out what these things were. Unfortunately, no-one assembled could actually figure out what genus of insect these were, or what they could be descended from. Yorke shrugged and put the insects in her pack, hoping that the Magos who had created this world, wherever they were, would be able to provide better answers.

 

Following the auspex, the group managed to find the source of the electromagnetic disturbance that was, by now, filling the entire screen… it was a Cave. As they entered the cave, in combat formation, an intense light shone from in front of them… if they were not all wearing photo-contacts or, in the case of Mistress Valentia, “blind” then they would have been temporarily blinded, although all bar the Astropath still had a hard time seeing behind where the lights were shining.

 

What they could see, as they got closer, confounded them. Buried, halfway up their body, was someone/thing that was obvious a member of the Adeptus Mechanicus, with numerous fuel lines and various other appendages falling by their side. The groups eyes followed some of the fuel lines to a stasis chamber that seemed to have something inside it, and they realised that “something” was also being siphoned off whatever was in there, and being filtered through the Magos before being pumped into the earth. As the light faded somewhat, the group were faced with an alien monstrosity… six limbed, scythed talons, coloured purple and blue and utter hatred in its eyes, but safely in the Stasis Chamber.

 

The Rogue Trader realised what the taste of blood had been in his mouth and almost fell to the floor retching. Whilst he was down there, he noticed a plant that he had done business with, but which was only available on Iocanthos, the plant that produced the Ghostfire Pollen, used to turn the Penal Legions of the Imperial Guard into frothing lunatics. His mind started, immediately, trying to figure out how he could us this to turn a profit. However, his ruminations were spoiled by Isendark, who turned and pointed at the stasis chamber, his eyes widening and stated “That, is a Genestealer… That is a Tyranid!”

 

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Chapter Nine – What the Hell is wrong with Svard?

 

After the group, mentally, staggered back as Isendark quietly discussed what he knew about the Tyranids (not much, but **** they are bad), the group realised that the Magos had not made a single move since they arrived in the Cave… the Ork took it upon itself to initiate first contact, by just wandering up to the Magos and prodding him. The Magos’s eyes flickered open, with a nice mechanical whirr, and focussed on the Ork, and then on each of the members of the command crew. Each time the Magos focussed on a member, it analysed them and greeted them correctly.

 

“Observation: Green, Ork. Designation: Xenos Scum. Pertinent Greeting: Prepare to Die”

 

“Observation: Blind, Regal Bearing. Designation: Astropath. Pertinent Greeting: May you see what others do not”

 

“Observation: Weapons, Sturdy Bearing. Designation: Warrior. Pertinent Greeting: How are your guns?”

 

“Observation: Flamer, Religious Icons. Designation: Missionary. Pertinent Greeting: Blessings of the God Emperor on thee.”

 

“Observation: Agile, Void Born. Designation: Pilot. Pertinent Greeting: How is your Ship?”

 

“Observation: Eldar Void Suit, Concealed Weaponry. Designation: Thief. Pertinent Greeting: Keep your hands where I can see them.”

 

“Observation: Rogue Trader. Pertinent Greeting: Hail to the King Baby”

 

As the command crew was having a chuckle at this randomness, the Magos continued.

 

“Greetings, I am Magos-Biologis 137 and I welcome you to my Seed World. How may I help you? I am currently in the middle of an experiment to see what Tyranid Genes, and terraforming, does to a human type world. I have created this Seed World to allow me to observe what changes this may bring, and what I have discovered could change the view of this Xenos for all time!”

 

The Rogue Trader, thinking internally that this Tech Priest was a few cogs short of a watch, started asking probing questions regarding how he had achieved this, what his ultimate goals were and how he had found himself in the Svard system. They found that the Magos had fled from his brothers in the Adeptus, who had “disagreed” with his proposed field of study, and had found himself in Svard with the opportunity to carry on his work undisturbed. When asked about the results of his experimentation, they learned that introducing the spliced Genestealer genes into plants and insects had increased evolutionary speeds by a massive factor, in a mere 30 years there had been evolution of many tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of years.

 

After informing the Magos of the troubles the Svard system had been encountering, which explained why his deliveries had stopped, Mistress Valentina realised that there was a slight fuzzy feeling around the back of her head, that was stronger the longer she was in the cave… feeling irritable, she moved a bit further away from the group. The group were being informed by the Magos that, within a few years, he expected the emergence of a larger insect form. This was not met with much rejoicing by the command crew, who were all thinking that this was an abomination that had to be stopped.

 

However, they realised that this was not the place to discuss those worries, so they followed the Rogue Traders lead, who was conversing freely with the Magos, although even Thelonious was somewhat put off when the Magos referred to the trapped Genestealer as “he” rather than “it.” During this conversation, and denied the all-seeing eyes of Mistress Valentina, the group missed the fact that Isendark seemed to be having a crisis about what to do with the Xenos so close, but he eventually came to a conclusion, brought up his Sniper Rifle and, before anyone could do anything about it, fired at the Stasis Chamber. Unluckily, or luckily depending on your viewpoint, the shot bounced off.

 

The Magos’s reaction was quick and instantaneous, a few mechadendrites moved up from around his back, wielding Inferno Pistols which blazed away at Isendark, burning him terribly, even through his dodges and Conversion Field, and leaving him for dead. The Rogue Trader, after shouting “Will people stop shooting things when I am TALKING!” realised that the Magos was perfectly within his rights to retaliate, and so, after looking down at Isendark, started talking to the Magos again. The Arch Militant moved around Thelonious and dragged Isendark to the back of the cave, where he began administering First Aid and was relieved when he realised that Isendark’s injuries were not as severe as first thought… although she did give him a slap around the head for his stupidity.

 

Back with the Magos, Thelonious and his Seneschal were starting to barter with the Magos, understanding that even if the research was heretical, the way the Magos had managed to turn an ice moon into a jungle “paradise” was surely worth investigating. Frustratingly, however, the Magos was quite single minded in his desire to further jump start the Genestealer driven evolution and demanded livestock and sea creatures for him to tinker with… surprisingly (for the rest of the group) the Rogue Trader agreed. Warming to this group of interlopers, the Magos started explaining some of the interesting things about the jungle and its inhabitants.

 

One of the first things they learnt was that the reason for the large electromagnetic interference was to stop the insects, and the vines and whatever else the Magos had created in the jungle, from coming inside. This also had the side effect of making any negotiations over vox impossible, meaning that the Command Crew (or their proxies) would have to come down here, through the death jungle, each time they wanted to converse with the Magos… just another problem to solve… although Mistress Valentina did broach the subject of a hardline from the jungle to the surface, but that was nixed due to time and resource constraints.

 

After a relatively satisfactory negotiating session, in which the Magos and the Rogue Trader spoke about a wide variety of interesting proposals, the Magos informed the Seneschal that, as a token of his appreciation, he had a gift further back in the cave that he would like the Rogue Trader to have. Yorke moved into the back room, taking care to scope the place for anything interesting, but her attention was immediately brought back to a gold and ruby box, which was pretty enough, but the glowing blue stone that the box held was completely enchanting. Yorke gathered it up in her arms and brought it out to the Lord High Captain, who complimented the Magos on his choice of gifts.

 

After some remaining pleasantries (as much as there can be with a Magos anyway) the command crew realised that they would have to pass through the jungle on the way back but, inspired by the electromagnetic storm in the cave, Thelonious suggested that when Bazak repaired Isendark’s conversion field, whether he could reverse the usage and potentially create a more localised electromagnetic interference, which would allow them to pass unmolested… or that was the idea. After a few minutes with a hammer and some inarticulate grunts, the Ork passed the conversion field back and, when Isendark turned it on, whilst looking at it oddly, it actually worked… Bazak grinned widely.

 

The command crew, led by Bazak and Yorke utilising their auspexes to lead them back to the shuttle, made quite good time in moving through the jungle, their portable electromagnetic unit making most of the denizens of the Seed World back off. However, about halfway through the journey Bazak, who was staring at the beeping screen of the auspex, failed to notice something was in his way, and his foot smashed into the side of what appeared to be a fluffy rabbit like creature. Bazak was surprised (quite hard for an Ork) because his foot was the thing that bounced off, it felt like kicking a Rhino, but much less enjoyable!

 

The rabbit like creature, all fluffy and adorable, turned to look at Bazak and the rest of the group got a look at its adorable looking eyes and fluffy body and then their eyes went wide when the creature opened its mouth, and kept opening and growing and opening, until its mouth was open wide enough to swallow a shuttle. Long tendril like extrusions shot out of its mouth and grabbed Bazak, before dragging him back inside, which allowed the fluffy creature to close its mouth (somehow) and sat back down. They could almost taste the sense of shock that seeped into their very bones but, after a few seconds of inaction, they sprang to their task, weapons unsheathed or unholstered as they launched into the attack.

 

Yorke was the first to act, her Inferno Pistol burning a hole in one of the mouth flaps of the creature as it reared up again, transforming in such a way that was obviously not natural, especially when the group could still see Bazak, struggling, against the wall of the mouth. Roliane decided to aim at one of the things eyes, but it turned just as she fired and hit against the solid (yet fluffy) flank, seemingly doing no damage. It was at this point that Isendark had the idea to use his Harpoon Gun to harpoon the Ork and allow them to pull it out, which the Rogue Trader and Void Master went at with abandon.

 

Unfortunately, the tentacle things holding Bazak in place were too strong, and because the Harpoon had not actually breached the Orks flesh, all it did was to inconvenience him by having his armour tugged until the fluffy created moved back and ripped the rope off the Harpoon gun. Mistress Valentina and the Grot dived for the rope, gripping on for dear life, but all they managed to do was to be pulled into the Maw of the creature, which again shrunk back down into a fluffy, adorable creature, leaving the group 2.5 people down and in a state of shock at what they were witnessing.

 

Mistress Valentina, on the other hand, was in an odd situation, being engulfed in the maw of a warp/xenos creature, but also being free to act. The first thing that she saw was Bazak, being doused in some kind of digestive acid, although the Ork was just grunting with the pain. Taking a quick situation view, Mistress Valentina knew that she had to do something to get out, and so she focused her psychic powers and pushed it as hard as she dared, and then a little over, trying to Compel the creature to vomit out her, the Grot and Bazak. She felt, at first, a block as she tried to worm her way into the creatures mind, but it soon gave way to her willpower, and she walked out of the newly extended Maw, grabbing Gromit with her and ducking to allow the Ork to fly out over her head.

 

As the rest of the group readied for the continuation of battle, the fluffy creature settled back down, its biology having told itself that something had been digested so it settled down to sleep, with a foggy head as well. The group made a careful circuit around the creature, not wanting to startle it again, although there was a discussion about how useful these could be if they were dropped behind enemy lines, but the risks somewhat outweighed the rewards. With this final threat dealt with (if you can call anything in the jungle a final threat) the command crew were able to get back to the shuttle and, with some more fine flying by Isendark despite his injuries, find their way back to the ship.

 

The first thing that the Rogue Trader did was to request the presence of Constantine and Yorke in his quarters, a request that puzzled them until the Rogue Trader start talking to them in the House Deepstalker cant, instructing Yorke to scan the gift for any listening devices, something which Yorke was able to find there were none, even though the box itself seemed to deflect the scans to a certain degree. After being made sure that he could not be overheard by the Magos, the rest of the command crew was let into the room, with Commander Roliane asking whether it was wise to accept a deal with the Magos.

 

Thelonious, who had seemed so for the deal on the moon, and in the presence of the Magos turned around and said, in a serious voice, “Oh no, I think we should bloody nuke it from orbit, preferably after harvesting the Ghostfire Pollen but even without… that Magos is Insane!” The surprise that greeted that pronouncement indicated to the Rogue Trader that his skills of deception were definitely good. The discussion soon moved onto the item that had been gifted, with Mistress Valentina commenting that it was very loud, and that it had only started “singing” once they had left the atmosphere of the Seed World, indicating there was something on there that was blocking it.

 

Meanwhile, in other earth shattering news, the Ork had a bath. When it turned up to the next crew meeting, all the other members started viewing it suspiciously, asking it what it had done, and if it had broken anyway… it’s argument that it just wanted to have a bath to see what they were like was not really believed. Mistress Valentina, on the other hand, had been focussing on the singing coming from the artefact, and it was most definitely sending a signal along the astropathic wavelengths but, not wanting to let go of his prize, the Rogue Trader refused to get rid of it, although there was a very intense argument before he got his way.

 

Having put that matter to bed (in his own mind) Thelonious stated that their new course would be to find the fabled “Citadel of Psykers” that he had been told about on Cog… he rationalised it away that they could be potential sources for profit, but the rest of the crew just thought his completionist streak was overwhelming him. Given that they did not know where the Citadel was, but were also sure that they were the only starship in the sector, they just went around blasting the storm with their Ultimo array, until, a few weeks of dreary travel later, Yorke noticed something on the scanners. Directing Isendark, with the help of Lt Hains, Yorke was able to guide the ship through the, surprisingly intense, storm.

 

Not wanting to surprise a Citadel of Psykers, the Rogue Trader tried to hail the station, but the only answer was the silence of the void, which didn’t exactly give Thelonious a good vibe about what was on the station. As they left the ship and circled the station with a shuttle, this vibe got even worse, most of the station was unpowered and some of it was open to the void! Isendark identified a few areas that did seem to have power, and he manoeuvred the shuttle to one of the docking bays. As soon as Thelonious stepped off the shuttle he was hit by a strong feeling, a feeling that he had not felt since his ill-fated mission aboard the Ghost Ship, that had almost cost him his life. Still, armoured by his faith in the Emperor, he stepped onto the station, leading out his command crew.

 

Natasha and Constantine were also having some flashbacks to a certain ship, and they started having a discussion with the rest of the crew about what they had sensed. Mistress Valentina was very much aware, the psychic weight on her mind was nearly overwhelming and very oppressive, although she found that the psychic song from Thelonious’s gift actually helped to ward this off… which made her even more grumpy. Meanwhile, whilst the rest of the group had been discussing this, the Ork had walked over to one of the doors leading out of the shuttle bay and had opened it. A rush of stale air filled the room and everyone could hear the slight sound of a giggling child… with that, Mistress Valentina raised the idea of maybe not trudging through the Citadel.

 

After hearing her idea… get on an Assault Boat, cut their way in above the Hexagramic warding (so as not to damage it) and then find their way into an area that is fully warded… Thelonious was very much taken with it and so, an hour or so later, the command crew were cutting their way into a powered section, before sealing the way behind them. Almost immediately, most of the group started crying, a massive pervading sense of sadness filling their minds… which made Bazak look round in confusion as everyone else had tears streaming from their eyes. Despite this, the command crew kept moving and eventually reached an area that was obviously under the Hexagramic wards, given that the sense of sadness was very much diminished.

 

About this time the group encountered a small, female, child with a lovely mop of curly hair, who took one look at the group, screamed and turned around and ran. Mistress Valentina was quick to warn anyone who looked like they might attempt pursuit, that this could be a trap although this suspicion was somewhat lessened when another voice came out from around the corner and asked who was there. There then followed the below exchange…

 

“Tis me, Bazak!”

 

“What’s a Bazak?”

 

“Me beez an Ork and is ere to give you a big, sloppy, kiss.”

 

“………… is there anyone else out there?”

 

At this point, the Rogue Trader took control of the conversation and invited the fellow to come out and talk to them. An elderly man, around his mid 60’s but seemingly in rather rude health, came round the corner and, under the guns of the party, moved closer to the Rogue Trader. Rolaine commanded him to halt when he came within 10 metres of Thelonious and the man asked them if they were here to give them a new delivery, a delivery of Psykers.

 

The gentleman asked about the current state of Svard, given that they had not had a delivery in the last 20 odd years, which lined up with the Whisperer threat that the group knew about, but they were curious as to how the Psykers had managed to survive. The gentleman, introducing himself as Ntingy, started talking eloquently about how this station was the dumping ground for all Psykers in the system, about how they could feed themselves, but about how this was mostly an injustice that the rulers of Svard had forced upon them, and that they deserved the issues that they had faced. As Ntingy continued, his speech got more and more rapid, his tone more and more dark and passionate and the command crew began to get a feeling that maybe there was more to him than met the eye.

 

This was further compounded when Ntingy suddenly stopped in the middle of his rant and looked at Thelonious with a rather critical eye, before asking him whether he was a scion of House Deepstalker, “because he looked somewhat like a member of the family that he had seen before.” When Thelonious challenged him on this, Ntingy smoothly said that he had a few books on the station and one of them dealt with the History of Svard, and that he would be delighted to show the Rogue Trader later, in private. Thelonious also pointed out that his uncle would probably not have cared enough to lock the Psykers away, and that it was probably the Crystal Council that did that, earning him the benefit of the doubt from Ntingy.

 

As they walked through the corridors of the station, the Rogue Trader started talking about how, as the Emperors representative in this blasted place, that he could provide a temporary right of sanction for any Psykers who would be willing, although they would have to be questioned to make sure that they were safe to those without such powers. Ntingy looked at Thelonious with a slightly arched brow and informed him that there would probably be quite a lot of interest in such an offer… if he could deliver it. Eventually they all reached the main living quarter, where they could see that most of the people that lived here were somewhat malnourished, although Ntingy didn’t show any of those signs at all.

 

It was immediately obvious that Ntingy was a very important part of this group, everyone seemed to demur to his judgement, wisdom and intelligence. He also asked them about a noise that he could hear in the back of his head, but the Astropath was able to direct him away from that line of questioning. The group gathered in the “council chamber” and noticed that a lot of the people who were here were men, and that more than half were adults, the rest being children. Ntingy stood up, the entire room becoming silent almost immediately.

 

“This man, here, is the power in the Svard System and has the ability to grant a limited degree of freedom to everyone here, who is willing to undergo testing. I will now hand over to this man so he can explain for himself.”

 

Thelonious looked at the expectant group of people, looking at him with hope in their eyes and judged his words carefully. He suspected that something was going on here and did not plan to take any onto his ship that might prove a danger.

 

“Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. I understand that you have been abandoned here for some time.” Thelonious was cut off by an angry sounding cheer from most of the people in the room and waited for them to calm down before continuing. “I apologise for the excesses of the people of Svard but it looks like things need to get better. I was expecting to find a fully functioning group of Psykers when I first heard of it… I am appalled at the state I currently find it in.”

 

“Obviously, I need to fully understand your story before we can decide what action needs to be taken, and you will need to be processed by Mistress Valentina here, to decide how we can best use you in the Dynasty.” Thelonious then stepped back and said that testing would take place in a one on one basis… so as to give them all their attention, but also so they could test the truth of their stories. As Mistress Valentina began to delve deeply into the minds of the denizens of the station, a rather disturbing story began to emerge. It seems that, in recent years, the areas of the station that had been unpowered had greatly increased, with a disparate group of people having to band together in the few powered areas. Whether this was intentional, however, was not apparent.

 

Another thing that Mistress Valentina picked up was that the first person that everyone remembered greeting, whether they were born or arrived on the station, was Ntingy. Similarly, whenever they were asked questions about him, they were always glowing in their praise for him, he was the one who always kept things together. However, further mind proving indicated a disturbing undercurrent… everyone was thinking of escape and all the women appeared to be “betrothed” to Ntingy, and most people here were more corrupt than you would expect of even psykers. A bad picture was beginning to come into focus for the command crew… had they walked into the lair of the beast?

 

After having scanned and mind probed everyone but Ntingy, Mistress Valentina was all for destroying the entire station which, after she enunciated what she had seen, the rest of the crew was well up for as well. However, they also did not want to destroy something as valuable as a Hexagramic warded station, but as long as Ntingy was on board, it would not be safe. Especially seeing as, after a few hours in the station they could almost feel their skin crawl, which affected some more than others, with Mistress Valentina more affected than others, tired as she was from using mind probe so much in a short time period. The Rogue Trader gathered everyone together and said that he was VERY angry about what had happened here, and he wanted to break some heads.

 

He also, after consultation with the high command, agreed to take everyone with him, giving them an hour to gather their belongings, whilst he went back across to the ship to make sure they were giving a fitting welcome. The Rogue Trader and Ntingy shook hands to seal the deal, and Thelonious felt a prickly feeling against the back of his mind, but he focussed and managed to push it aside. He saw a degree of respect in Ntingy’s eyes, as well as a bit of anger as well, as he turned and went back to his shuttle, before having Isendark take them back to the ship. Once he was there, he asked the Seneschal to pick a shuttle pilot with the worst disciplinary record and for him to meet with the Rogue Trader, as he had a special mission for him.

 

Eventually, it was all sorted, the shuttle went across to the station, well piloted as it was, and picked up all 30 of the denizens before voxing across to say that he had everyone on board. The Rogue Trader gave the order for the journey to commence and stood on the bridge, waiting to give another order. As the shuttle passed the halfway point to the ship, Thelonious, whilst looking at the other members of the command crew, gave the order. The turrets on that side of the ship opened up on the shuttle, battering it around with their fire, and then a few fighters flew on a strafing run and blew the shuttle to pieces, with the screams of the dying reverberating around the bridge.

 

Thelonious had been holding his breath throughout the attack, and he breathed a sigh of relief at the explosion, but he was startled when he received a communication through the bridges vox.

 

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Chapter Ten – The Long Goodbye

 

The voice that came through the vox sounded somewhat human, but it had a lyrical and musical tone about it that any human would be hard pressed to replicate, a tone that Natasha Yorke had heard before. “Captain, I have seen many things but I don’t think I have ever seen anyone wilfully destroy parts of their vessel before.” Thelonious was somewhat unsure of how to respond so the voice continued, “I have seen man mon-keighs before but those in power with much wealth always act slightly differently to how I expect them to.” It was the mon-keigh reference that confirmed to Yorke that the person they were speaking to was a member of the Eldar, with the derogatory tone well intact.

 

Thelonious quietly ordered a scan to pick up where the Eldar Vessel was but, unfortunately, the scanners on the ship could not pick anything up and efforts to narrow down the frequency by Yorke and Isendark failed. With no other recourse, Thelonious asked who he was speaking to and the Eldar responded with his name, Captain Opwith of the ship Hellebore. The Rogue Trader was starting to get an uneasy feeling about what the Eldar might be seeking, which was confirmed as Opwith continued. “It has come to our attention, Captain, that you have something that belongs to us and, well, we would very much like it back.” When Thelonious replied back that it was very unlikely due to the fact that he had never met an Eldar before, he could sense a slight chuckle.

 

“Captain, please stop being coy. I am sure your astropaths on board have sensed something coming from a gold and ruby box that you have in your possession, and anything the mon-keigh can sense, we can sense also. Whilst I can understand that the purity of the call might be too much for such primitive minds to encompass, it is something that belongs back with its people. Also, from what I understand of your culture, it is customary for those who are giving the gift to come to the place where it is to be received. We will expect a shuttle soon.” Before the Eldar could cut off the communication, Thelonious managed to bargain that a neutral ground was probably more appropriate at the moment, until some trust had been built up.

 

Amazingly, his argument managed to sway the Eldar, who responded with the affirmative and set a time for an hour in the future for the meeting, in the nearest shuttle bay on the station. With the time set, the command crew retired to a conference room to discuss who would be going. Mistress Valentina opined that she often had trouble keeping her words to herself, especially in the face of arrogance and that she should probably stay behind, to which the Rogue Trader gave her the box to look after… no mention had been made of bringing the box after all! Other than that, it was decided that everyone else would come along, partly as a show of force, but also to show the Eldar that it was not just their rules they needed to play along to… they were bringing an Ork!

 

As the time approached, the group went across early to set themselves up and then waited. Almost to the second at the appointed time, the group could see a slight disturbance in their field of view as the Eldar shuttle, utilising some kind of cloaking field, landed. Thelonious leaned back to Yorke and said, simply, “I want one of those.” An exit appeared in the Eldar ship and a person appeared at the head of the ramp, the manner of dress and bearing marking them out as the Captain. Following him were a couple of Eldar in what looked like power armour, wielding some sort of Melta weapon. It was then that their eye was drawn to a heavily shrouded Eldar who followed a little distance behind with a few more Eldar carrying some kind of weapon rounding out the group.

 

As the Eldar approached, the Captain looked back at the shrouded figure and some sort of communication seemed to pass between them. He then turned and looked at Thelonious, his face twisting somewhat into a stern expression.

 

“It is not wise to play with us Captain… I have just been informed that the gift you are to give us is not even here, explain.” Thelonious pointed out that this was just a meeting to talk, which only seemed to annoy the Captain more.

 

“What is it that you think that I have of yours? I am interested to know.”

 

“That is not for you to know Captain, it is enough to know that what you have belongs to us. Speak then, but make it good… we were here for our gift.”

 

“I don’t believe I have a gift for you, after all, until recently I had never met you. It also appears that this ‘gift’ has been mislaid otherwise you would have had it and I wouldn’t.”

 

The Captain expounded on the fact that the Eldar race had once owned most of the galaxy and thus there were always things coming to light in the far flung expanses but, the fact remained that it was still Eldar and thus belonged to them. Thelonious’s tried to infer that he would give it back in a couple of centuries because, that would be nothing to the lifespan of an Eldar, if what he had heard was true. Opwith was not amused, just looking at Thelonious with a pitying look, the look that you give a really stupid person. It was at that point that Opwith noticed that Yorke was wearing her Eldar Void Suit, albeit without the wings extended and his eyes went wide, he signalled and the power armoured Eldar brought up their weapons.

 

In this tense standoff, Opwith asked a question of Yorke, biting out each word with barely controlled fury. “Where. Did. You. Get. That?” Given a platform and introduction like that, what could Yorke do that use her storytelling gifts to the fullest, weaving the story of how she had been trapped on a ship with a potential Daemon, avoiding it for a while until suddenly he was face to face with a member of the Eldar. They worked well together, each saving the others life numerous times before she sacrificed her life to save Yorke, at which point the Void Suit, by dint of necessity, became her property. The Eldar Captain gave a relative compliment when he pointed out that Yorke would have been a passable storyteller in the Eldar, to which Yorke inclined her head.

 

At this point the Shrouded Eldar suddenly started to move, walking between the two groups and in the direction of Yorke. Not really knowing what to make of this, both sides kept their weapons trained on each other but let the Eldar walk freely. As it came up to Natasha, it raised its hand and the shroud fell off its face, revealing an ancient looking Eldar with intense, piercing, blue eyes. Yorke waited as the Eldars’ hand came up and gripped the side of his head and, with that, everything suddenly became internal. Yorke felt herself reliving her memories of the event but, this time, she had a silent visitor who was observing everything. What seemed like an age to Yorke was actually less than a minute to any outside observers and the Eldar stepped away, letting its hand drop.

 

“Did Elanassora succeed?” The voice that came out of the Eldar was exceedingly old, although it still retained the musical and lyrical quality that the group had come to see as their “trademark.” Yorke started slightly at this, finally being able to put a name to someone who had helped shape who she had become, as the Eldar informed the group that he had send Elanassora on the mission, but that he had not foreseen that they would meet in any of the threads he had seen. The Eldar then looked at both Thelonious and Constantine, before looking back at Natasha and told them, in a low voice, that they had been bound together by destiny, and that he would need some more time to discern what that could be. The Eldar Captain looked a little put out at this interruption and decided to direct his ire towards the group.

 

“Is there something wrong with your Pet?” Knowing that he meant the Ork, Thelonious responded with a hearty chuckle, “Undoubtedly, anything in particular?” Opwith scowled slightly at the levity before pointing out that the Ork was frothing at the mouth… not being aware of his propensity for eating soap. However, the Captain did state that they would still require the gift to be given to them, batting aside any questions from the group about what it was, how it worked and everything else. Natasha tried to blindside the Eldar by informing him of all the various bylaws and rights of salvage that are in place in the Imperium, conveniently forgetting that the Koronus Expanse was not actually part of the Imperium. However, Thelonious could tell that the Eldar was rapidly losing patience so decided to skip to the end.

 

The Rogue Trader declared that he would rather keep the item, but could see that was not going to happen, and that if the Eldar would come across to his ship in a few hours they could potentially trade. Tiring of the conversation, but also wanting to claim the artefact for his people, the Captain agreed and, with that, the meeting was adjourned and each side went back to their shuttles and then went back to their ships. The Hope in the Void was a hive of activity, with the crew cleaning and blocking off certain areas of the ship, whilst the command crew moved through the ship planning what route they would take the Eldar through. The decision was made to hold the meeting in one of the Arboretums, which did seem to be their go-to place for important meetings.

 

The Rogue Trader and his command crew (sans Mistress Valentina) met the Eldar Captain, Mystic and the Power Armoured guards in the shuttle bay, before escorting them to the closest Arboretum, the Rogue Trader ordering Marcia to lock down the route to and from the Shuttle Bay. As the Eldar entered the Arboretum, they saw the Astropath holding the gold and ruby box before her, as the rest of the command crew took up flanking positions to the Rogue Trader. The Captain was pleased that he had not been deceived and looked at Thelonious with a more appraising look, which was then a look of hidden disgust as Thelonious took out the blue stone from the box and put it to one side.

 

The Eldar Mystic stepped forward and gestured silently, and Thelonious put the stone back into the box, before handing it over. There seemed to be a pleasurable sigh from the Eldar and he stood completely stationary, meditating whilst holding the box. The song at the back of Mistress Valentina’s head began to swell at this action and so she started chanting prayers to the Emperor to drown out the xenos filth in her psyche. Yorke stepped forward and presented the Captain with a bottle of the finest wine that they could scrounge up on the Hope. The Captain mentioned that he was glad that they had not had to come to blows and that he had been convinced by some of his crew to offer a token of thanks for that, at the very least.

 

One of the power armoured Eldar had a trunk on his back, which he then took down and laid at the feet of Thelonious, who inclined his head at the Captain and stuck out his hand which, after a moment’s hesitation, the Captain took and they shook heartily. It was obvious to all in the room that there was a lot more respect on offer now than there had been even a short period before and nothing could say this more than the Eldar Captain’s quote, “If we should ever see each other again, Thelonious, I don’t think we would ignore you.” Thelonious rolled his eyes at the unceasing arrogance of the Eldar but gave his thanks for such a “high compliment of a simple mon-keigh.” The Eldar Mystic came out of his trance and Mistress Valentina could barely hear the song in her head anymore and, with that, the meeting broke up.

 

After escorting the Eldar back to their shuttle the crew gathered around the trunk with undisguised curiosity, especially Yorke who had a bit of an infatuation with anything Eldar. It was only when they opened the trunk that they realised just how much the box must have meant to the Eldar. What greeted them were a pair of gleaming swords, their surfaces polished so hard that they were reflective like a mirror. Below the swords was a fine version of the Melta weapons the Eldar had been carrying and the final thing in the trunk was a smallish Grav Platform, which Thelonious immediately began to think about how to make a floating throne. They also spotted a few clips of ammunition for the Melta Weapon, which made it somewhat less than useless.

 

With that, the command crew decided that they couldn’t really do much more in terms of exploring the Svard system, they had enough information to give to the Magos on Cog but the list of things that they could do to get Svard back on its feet was very limited, without leaving the system that is. It was time to map out a plan that would give the Deepstalker Dynasty a base to be proud of, as well as something that would be profitable for many years to come. One of the first things that Svard was going to need was an influx of food because otherwise it was going to keep on shrinking at a high rate, and that would not do. Given that the nearest system was Damaris, and that happened to be a thriving Imperial style world with a couple of Agri-Worlds nearby, that seemed to be the best place to go.

 

It was not all about what they needed though, they were also listing the assets that they had in Svard with number 1, by far, being the Heavy Plasma and Promethium refining on Installation 23… with that, they definitely had an edge in any negotiations due to the rarity of Heavy Plasma in the Koronus Expanse. The only downside to this was that Svard had a reputation as being cursed, given that anyone who had gone there in the last 25 years had not returned, so this somewhat balanced their positives and negatives. There were plans to turn some of the hollow “worlds” into Noble holiday resorts and to turn Silence into some kind of religious pilgrimage location… but those were for the future.

 

On the way out of the system, the Hope in the Void stopped off at Cog to offload it’s survey data to the Magos and also to offload its selection of Yu’vath artefacts to two very curious tech priests. Thelonious headed the negotiations, ably supported by Natasha, and ended up getting a very good deal for the information and artefacts from the Adeptus Mechanicus and, with that, the Hope in the Void moved out of the system, towards the main, and stable, warp route to Damaris and then, 10 days later, translated into the Warp and started their journey. As usual, the Hope in the Void was very much at home in the Warp and the journey was relatively smooth and dull… which is about all you can hope for whenever you are travelling through that realm of madness.

 

Coming along for the journey were the circa 500 PDF troopers that had been gifted to Thelonious by the Crystal Council, who had made the decision to throw their lot in with the Deepstalker House. Most of this was based on Thelonious’s conduct and brilliance in the taking of Cog but, in all honesty, most of the PDF troopers had never seen anywhere outside of the Svard system and a sense of adventure was on their mind… also, the families of the troopers were made to feel welcome and were absorbed as members of the crew.

 

As the Hope in the Void translated out of the Warp into the Damaris system the first thing the crew noticed was that they had translated into the middle of the system, rather than towards the edge. As their scanners started picking up everything in the system, they understood why. Damaris, apart from an area towards the edge of the system, was remarkably stable in that there were no anomalies of any kind and space was completely still and calm, a very rare combination to find in the Koronous Expanse; Thelonious could immediately see why it had become a trading hub for nearby worlds, he couldn’t have picked a better place if he had tried, although he did wish his Uncle had founded this place rather than Svard.

 

There was also much more space traffic in Damaris than Thelonious could even think there had ever been in Svard, even during the good times. Mass Conveyors shifting large amounts of minerals and agricultural good, chartist ships taking trade to and from nearby systems a few vessels that they could not immediately identify and even an Imperial Light Cruiser, the Aegis. Their scanners also picked up what appeared to be a hollowed out moon, which was thriving with activity and it was not long before they were hailed by some of the system defence ships. After stating their name, the fact that they were here for trade and also that they needed to put in for repairs, they were directed to a docking port inside the moon, called “The Bulwark” by the locals.

 

As they were docking, the crew could see another ship in the moorings, with the name Starweaver emblazoned on the side. A quick check of his internal cogitators and the Rogue Trader remembered that this ship belonged to a Rogue Trader by the name of Lady Elizabeth Orleans, although he could not remember much of its history. Still, he figured that it would make this trip much more interesting, and that was never a bad thing in his mind. After docking they were met, as due for their station, by the Commander of the Bulwark, Orran Reynolds who greeted them with a severe salute, as well as a group of naval guardsmen to provide them with a more martial greeting. Getting right to the point, Thelonious asked about the Hull Repairs and to be given a bit more information about the Bulwark.

 

So, with Commander Rolaine, Mistress Valentina and Seneschal Yorke, Thelonious retired to the offices of the Commander to bicker and converse about how much it would cost and to get to know each other, leaving the rest of the crew to their own diversions. Constantine, glad to be on (or near) an Imperial World where the worship of the God Emperor was as he remembered it to be, rather than the rather blasé interpretation on Svard, started a tour of the temples on the Bulwark, although he did put a request in with the Captain to go down to the surface soon. Isendark and Bazak, on the other hand, decided to just go for a walkabout, with the Void Master having memorised the statement he was to give if anyone challenged the presence of an Ork on the station. “We Serve House Deepstalker under the Emperors Holy Writ. So, suck it up!”

 

Thelonious and Commander Reynolds were having a fine time, a good mix of storytelling (helped by Yorke) and some Military humour (helped by Rolaine), made the Commander much more pliable to their requests and they managed to, after a few hours of conversation and drinking and flattery, get half the damage they had suffered repaired, although it would take a couple of weeks of work. Thelonious was confident that, whilst this work was going on, Bazak would be able to fix the rest… for an Ork, he was frightfully intelligent and definitely had a way with machines. At that very moment, however, Bazak had just barged in through the door of the nearest bar/tavern as he was in the mood for a drink. Isendark shook his head, sure that this would not end well but that it would also be hilarious.

 

As Bazak entered the rather dimly lit bar he encountered a large crowd of people. Not really knowing what subtlety meant, he started pushing his way through them to get to the bar. Isendark, who was following behind him stopped as he saw the crowd turn around and then, in shock, start parting before Bazak. It gave him the strangest memory of a story he had heard once in a temple, the story was about a Saint of the Emperor, called Moses, who on the Terra of pre-history had led his people through the desert for… something… and had parted the sea at… some point… in a way that very much reminded Isendark of what was happening here. Bazak reached the bar where he slammed his fist down on the bar (a typical Orkish greeting) and demanded a beer.

 

Bazak slamming his hand on the bar seemed to break whatever spell the crowd was under, and everyone started screaming and running out of the doors, with people being thrown to the floor and crushed as well, complete and utter panic. The owner of the bar, seeing his profits vanishing and wanting to get the Ork out of there as soon as possible, indicated to the barman (who was rather terrified himself) that the Ork was to be served for free, the better to get him out of there. Something as obvious as an Ork in a bar was sure to get the attention of the local enforcement which, in this case, turned out to be a patrol of four naval guardsmen, armed with flak armour and shock mauls.

 

Isendark tried to act as a go-between, informing the leader of the patrol that they were here under the auspices of House Deepstalker but, to a hard bitten guardsman, this meant less than nothing, stating that something like that was above his pay grade and that he had a duty to enforce the Emperor’s law on this station, and the Emperor’s law did not “encourage” filthy Xenos to be drinking in law-abiding, tax paying establishments. Isendark, slightly annoyed at the attitude of the guardsmen, just laughed at them and indicated they should go ahead and talk to the Ork, before stepping out of the way. Bazak downed his drink before turning to the patrol and, in a very cheerful voice said “Oi, youze can eifer join me for a Boozee, or I’ll smash youze ugly face in,” which, for Bazak, was exceedingly polite.

 

Bazak had also raised himself to his full height (rather than the hunched posture he normally used) and had taken his Thunder Hammer off his back… the effect was definitely unsettling to the members of the patrol, but the leader was unphased, calling on Bazak to put down the weapon and come to the Enforcer station with them for due processing. And then they charged. Isendark quickly used his microbead to contact the Lord High Captain, who was just finishing up the last round of negotiations. Quickly ending the meeting, the Rogue Trader and his group moved outside and then requested to be teleported back to the ship. Once they were on the ship they realised it would take another 30 minutes before they could teleport to the bar… but they did like to make an entrance.

 

The naval guardsmen slammed their shock mauls into the body, head, arms and legs of Bazak but, lacking the strength to get past his tough hide, all it did was make Bazak shout about how they were tickling him, and if that was what they wanted, he could play too! Reversing his grip on the Thunder Hammer, he brought it round with a massive golf swing connecting with the lead guardsman’s chest. The strength of the blow was such that the chest caved in but, carried on with the strength of the hit, flew away from his body to slam into the wall opposite. This would have been deadly anyway, but his arms and legs stayed where they were, hanging in the air for a second, spurting arterial blood on his fellow guardsmen before dropping. The other three guardsmen looked at each other and, with silent communication borne of panic, got the hell out of there!

 

Bazak turned back to the bar, where the barman had curled up in a ball and demanded another drink, so Isendark became the barman and poured him a strong drink from the top shelf of the bar. After half an hour, Bazak became bored and started to move towards the exit, but Isendark looked out the window and saw a lot of naval guardsmen, shotguns at the ready, as well as a few APC’s with heavy stubbers in a defensive formation and then someone, with a loudspeaker, shouted for the Ork to come out and face the full force of the law. It was at this point that the Rogue Trader teleported in, slightly out of the line of sight. Mistress Valentina just started walking through the guardsmen, raising her finger to her lips and saying “shhhh” if anyone got in her way, her psychic powers compelling them to let her pass.

 

The Rogue Trader marched into the middle, between the Bar and the Naval Guardsmen, bold as brass and started to speak…

Edited by Major Kimenth

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Chapter 11 – How the Mighty Fel

 

Before he could truly begin his speech though, Thelonious was hailed by a woman identifying herself as Marshal Solaria Thrace, head of the Enforcer Cadre on Damaris. “This Ork has committed the crime of murder and will be interred until such time as its trial. If you have anything to say about that, then speak your piece but otherwise, get out of our way.” Solaria obviously had a little inkling that the person in front of her was no normal person, but was about to get the shock of her life when Thelonious unravelled a holographic version of his Warrant of Trade. Marshall Thrace’s eyes rolled back in her head as she invited Thelonious into a more private place where they could continue their conversation. The Rogue Trader indicated to Commander Rolaine that, if the Ork tried to leave, it was to be killed.

 

Meanwhile, Isendark was taking advantage of the distraction outside, and the fact that the Barman was in a horrible state, to snoop around. He could see that there were cameras and wondered if they would be recording at all and resolved to find out. It did not take him long to notice that there was a centrally located room that made sense to be some kind of video bank and, lacking any specific tools, aimed a kick at the door. Whether by luck or judgement, the lock broke and Isendark found his way into the room where, using knowledge gained from watching the Ork work with Tech, he was able to discern where all the videos would be located, managed to pull it out of the cogitators and destroy it with a few well aimed kicks.

 

Inside an appropriated APC, Marshall Thrace and Thelonious were bickering around about what was going to be done about the Ork. Solaria was aware she was on the back foot here, but was gladdened to hear that Thelonious would not stand in the way of her men arresting the Ork and taking it back to the Enforcer HQ. Thelonious was not really doing this for any other reason than he was getting a little fed up of random deaths being ascribed to him, and wanted to teach Bazak a lesson. The both exited the APC, to a very tense (and flatulent) situation, with Thelonious striding over to Bazak and telling the Ork that he was going to be arrested and that he was not to do anything to earn their ire… or anymore of their ire. The Guardsmen were very happy when they put manacles over and around the Ork and they led him off.

 

Thelonious then had a conversation with Isendark, asking him what happened and, after he had heard that, asked Yorke to go and have a look around, to see if she could find anything that might prove what happened… like a video bank, perhaps? Yorke, realising that the Naval Guardsmen would be locking the place down hard, managed to find a side entrance and sent her, newly minted, servo skull inside. It managed to avoid discovery, although there were a few close calls, and eventually found its way into the video room, only to find the destroyed remnants of that specific cogitator. Manoeuvring the skull out again, Yorke had to report to the Rogue Trader that it had been destroyed… this gave the Rogue Trader an idea.

 

He approached the guardsmen on the entrance to the bar, saying that something had been left behind and that he wanted to pop in and get it. The Guardsmen were unmoved until they heard a direct order from Marshall Thrace over their comlinks, who had decided that the best thing to do was to get the Rogue Trader out of her hair. With a pair of Guardsmen in tow, Thelonious moved through the wreckage of what used to be a human being, comforted the barman a little bit and then “found” the destroyed camera video bank, before proclaiming that someone did not want the truth to be found and turned his stare on his escorts… after all, being the person to “find” this somewhat made him less suspicious.

 

With that bit of bother dealt with, Thelonious had agreed to meet with Solaria the next day, the command crew split apart to cover more ground, as each of them had something they wanted to do… including shopping. Yorke, applying a slight disguise and hiding her features under a long hood, started moving around the seedier areas and bars, trying to get a fix on any rumours or any information of note that would help the Dynasty. Whilst Mistress Valentina and Commander Rolaine tried to contact the Navy Cruiser they had seen, asking for a meeting to… well, not do much but more to try and build bridges. Isendark and the Rogue Trader went back to the ship where Isendark was very much debriefed fully by Thelonious, as well as chastised for not keeping the Ork under greater control.

 

Yorke found out quite a lot of interesting information, including the fact that Lady Elizabeth Orleans had a great deal of investments on Damaris, the fact that a few Rogue Traders had left recently, including Jeremiah Blitz who had been here to trade with the Governor and Lady Orleans and, more startling, the fact that Hadrek Fel had been on Damaris not two weeks ago… they had only missed him by inches. Yorke felt this information would be very interesting to the Lord High Captain and so quickly returned to the ship to report this. On the way, she made sure to spread some low level rumours about the retaking of Svard and that it, being close to Damaris was a sign for much rejoicing, as well as stating that there was a possibility of a new Saint being anointed after the retaking of Svard.

 

Thelonious, meanwhile, was on the ship talking to the head Enginseer, asking him to send an encoded, binary machine code, message down to the Shard Forge on Damaris, asking if the Magos had any time for a discussion, and telling him about the moon of Cog, now owned and operated by the Adeptus Mechanicus again. After a quick and efficient negotiation, Thelonious agreed to teleport down the day after tomorrow, citing “legal concerns” for not being able to meet the next day, although he could tell how excited the Magos was at the prospect of a holy Teleportarium being so close. After giving Thelonious her report, Yorke decided that this was a perfect time to go and visit some of the book sellers that her contacts on Svard had told her about… she did have some interesting books to get rid of, after all.

 

Natasha decided the best time to make the approach was to wander into the store just as the owner was starting to close up… as this definitely got her noticed and, after a quick conversation, Yorke was ushered into a back room, and then ushered even further into a secret room slightly off to one side. There the woman, a relatively healthy looking 50 something, started looking through some of the books that had been presented to her and she became more and more excited. However, her excitement was somewhat tempered that the amount of money these books would fetch would be very hard to hide, to which Yorke told her not to worry and that her Master, who she would be introduced to tomorrow, would be able to handle that issue. Yorke left some of the books with the owner and promised to pop back the next day.

 

On her way back to the ship, Yorke met up with Thelonious and, together, they went to the premier auction house on the Bulwark… after all, they had a lot of premium grade heavy plasma to sell and they didn’t have anything specific they wanted. The plan was to put half of it up for auction and see who buys it from them, and then approach the buyer to see what they could offer for the other half. Plus, it would flush out the great and the good (and the interested) on the station which would be very useful for any future endeavours. Meanwhile, Isendark was on the lookout for anybody who might be interested in Xenos beasts, a passion and calling that he did not often get to follow, being the main pilot for the Dynasty.

 

The Bulwark, as well as being a defence outpost, was also a melting pot of intrigue and commerce so it did not take long for Isendark’s surreptitious inquiries to get the right sort of attention. The fact that he told this contact that there was nothing he would not hunt if the price was not right meant that a lot of interested ears were sent his way. However, based on what the Beast House wanted, it would take quite a long journey and, with the Dynasty’s eyes being on this sector of space, it was something that Isendark would keep an eye out for. However, his contact did also ask after the Ork that seemed to be a member of the Dynasty and whether he would be available for any kind of fighting. Isendark promised to ask and then left, his mission accomplished.

 

The next day dawned and with it, an onerous task for Thelonious, he had to get the release of one of his command crew, Bazak, without either himself or the Damaris Navy losing face. Thelonious was, at heart, a bit of a showman so when he turned up to the Enforcer Headquarters with a few dozen Household Guard, a couple of hundred Svardian PDF troops and the rest of his command crew, it shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise… he even had a trumpeter signal their arrival, before walking in without a word to the guards on station. He was quickly shown to the office of the Marshal (who had requisitioned the Naval Captain’s office), although he did notice that most of the Guardsmen were looking quite tired and seemed to have bloody knuckles.

 

After being shown in, Thelonious took a seat, his command crew arrayed behind him. Marshal Thrace did point out in an exasperated tone that the Rogue Trader did not have to turn up with so many guardsmen; it looked like more of an invasion than a guard of honour. Thelonious just smirked her way. His smirk got even wider when she informed him that, having spoken to the Governor, she was to release the Ork back into their care… the trade opportunities and respect that would come from such a renowned Warrant of Trade was too much to risk. With that, Bazak was brought out, covered head to toe in chains and manacles, although he was grinning his toothy grin all the same.

 

It was then that Bazak showed the Naval Guardsmen just how restrained it could be. The Ork started flexing his muscles slowly, causing the chains to push against his corded arms and, as the flexing got more violent, the chains started to give way. As the Ork was given more and more freedom of movement, the chains started snapping and twisting, sending shards of metal pinging off the walls and windows of the station. In not too much time at all, the chains were at his feet and the manacles were snapped… Thelonious took great pleasure in the looks of horror that were on the faces of everyone not of his crew but decided on a magnanimous gesture of making sure the family of the Guardsman who had been killed was well provided for, which Solaria was very much appreciative of.

 

Knowing that parading the Ork around would sour any relationship he might ever have with the Marshal, Thelonious marched Bazak into the staging area, ordering everyone else to leave and then had the Ork teleported back up onto the ship, knowing that the potential slight of appearing to leave without his property would be wiped out when the Ork was seen around, free… in fact, he would be lauded for such a clever move. With that dealt with, Thelonious took his leave, with Seneschal Yorke leaving a small flask of Heavy Plasma with them, informing them of the upcoming auction. As the Rogue Trader and his ridiculous entourage made their way back onto the ship, a man detached himself from a nearby railing and walked over to the Rogue Trader, his clothing revealing him to be one of Lady Orleans men.

 

The man introduced himself and invited Thelonious over to the Starweaver tonight, to share a dinner with Lady Orleans. Intrigued, Thelonious accepted at once, inquiring after the time and then giving his best wishes to the Lady before turning and entering his ship. With the ship being in a civilised system that wasn’t currently in danger of being overwhelmed by some kind of Xenos, the Rogue Trader gave the command to allow the crew to take some shore leave on the Bulwark, including the Command Crew. Isendark had informed Bazak that he had found someone who would be willing to pay them for the Ork to fight. Given that Bazak had been reigning in his natural instincts for a while, he was quite happy to grab a chance to inflict some pain that wouldn’t result in his arrest and interrogation!

 

Thelonious and Yorke went round to the Booksellers, Commander Rolain and Mistress Valentina met with their naval contacts for a drink and dinner and Isendark and Bazak went to meet with the rather shady contact, with Bazak hiding in a cart that the Void Master pulled behind him. Everything seemed to be going fine… the Rogue Trader and Seneschal were shown into the back room, the Dinner seemed to be going very well with lots of stories passed between the Arch Militant and Astropath and the Void Master managed to convince the Shady Man to come into a nearby alleyway where he would “show him what he wanted to see.” It was then that the assailants struck.

 

Isendark was in the middle of negotiating the price for the Ork’s participation in a fighting ring when his Conversion Field suddenly went off, sending a blinding light into the eyes of his contact, who immediately started thinking that this was an ambush and that they were trying to kill him. Mistress Valentina spotted a few strange people who were passing close to their table and thus saw the Power Knife as it was drawn and thrust towards the unaware back of Rolaine. Quick as the assailant was, her mind powers were quicker and the attack was defeated by the assailant falling to the floor. Thelonious and Natasha, on the other hand, were perfectly protected in the back room of the bookshop, but even they heard and felt the large explosions hitting the front of the shop. They knew someone was after them.

 

Thelonious and Yorke were quick to take out their weapons but they motioned for the store owner to remain quiet, they didn’t think whoever was attacking knew about this room and they wanted to take them by surprise, to which Yorke slid open the door slowly and sent out her Servo Skull into the smoke. Bazak leaped out of the cart, looking around wildly to see where the shot came from but could not see anything and neither could Isendark, the shot seemed to come from the middle of nowhere, although this did not stop the Ork from picking up their contact and start to carry them towards the front door of the building. Mistress Valentina had managed to stop the first attack but they reacted before Commander Rolaine and jammed a Power Knife into her shoulder, whilst the one who had fallen, picked themselves up and advanced on the Astropath.

 

The Servo Skull, using both thermographic and sonar sensors, could see that a large explosion had hit the front of the shop, there were bodies all over the floor and some of the books were starting to burn, it only just made out a few silhouettes approaching the shop. Bazak, whilst carrying their contact was hit in the chest by a high powered rifle, although the damage only slightly registered on his tough form, it was obvious there was only one person attacking them. Isendark used the angle of the hit on Bazak, and the fact that it passed in front of his eyes allowed him to gain a bead on their attacker. He quickly pulled up his own sniper rifle, aimed through the sights and fired, although the attacker managed to roll out of the way, which ruined their sniping position.

 

Mistress Valentina, trusting in good old fashioned bleeder rounds planted on in the left leg of her assailant, although it was slightly deflected by their armour so, whilst it had hurt them, it had not stopped them. Commander Rolaine, staggering upwards out of her seat, swung around whilst drawing one of her signature inferno pistols and, at the end of her spin, fired. The insanely hot melta blast hit the assailants leg and the results were… extreme, with him dying immediately from the shock and pain as his leg was immolated and, in fact, so hot was the attack that it ignited the blood in that leg, sending a shockwave of fire around his entire body. Rolaine took this all in her stride and looked at the other assailant who was approaching her… who wisely decided to turn tail and run, muttering that “no Contract was worth this.”

 

Yorke, through the Servo Skull, could see three people approaching. One held a Plasma Gun, an ancient artefact of incredible power whilst the other two held a Grenade Launcher and a Heavy Stubber, pulling it into position to cover the street outside the shop. Yorke and Thelonious made the decision that grenades in such an enclosed location were more dangerous than anything else and so they both leaned out of the door and fired, Yorke with a Hellgun and Thelonious with his Bolt Pistol. Both fired on Semi-Auto mode and the chain of Laser and Bolt shots slammed into the assailant with the Grenade Launcher, sending him backwards at a rate of knots, his weapon falling from his cold, lifeless hands.

 

Back in the alley way the fightback from their assailants came instantly, with one shot hitting Bazak square in his large torso, an incredibly accurate shot that knocked the wind out of him and actually caused him some serious damage… although not serious enough that he could not continue moving… one of the advantages of being an Ork. In the shop, the professional with the Plasma gun took cover behind one of the destroyed bookshelves and fired; his shot was true and slammed into the shoulder of the Seneschal, one of the few areas of her body that was not covered by the Rockcrete walls of the secret room. The coruscating blast seemed to travel all the way down Yorke’s arm, sending it into spasms and making her drop her Hellgun to the floor with a flood of curses…

 

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Chapter 12 – Lady Orleans, I presume?

 

Thelonious knew that he needed to provide some covering fire for Yorke, who was somewhat slumped against the wall of the room, looking down at her hand like it had betrayed her. He leaned out, cautiously but quickly and sent a couple of Bolt rounds slamming into the person who had inflicted the wound, with the bolt shells sending them staggering back but, importantly, not yet down. Yorke, coming back to her senses, grabbed her chainsword, a relic from a long ago crusade, turned it on and held it across the doorway, waiting for their assailants to run in, not realising that the sound of the chainsword would make such an idea moot, these were obviously well trained assassins and would not be fooled by such a simple move. Thelonious jerked his head and arm back to avoid a shot from the Plasma Gun.

 

Back in the alleyway Isendark admitted, just to himself, that he was enjoying this sniper duel… he just didn’t get much time to have long ranged duels that often as he raised his rifle, sighted down the line and fired, only to grunt in annoyance as his target rolled to the side and fired back, although Isendark smiled and simple stepped to the side, ice cold. Bazak had run into the nearby club, bashing through the door to get out of the line of sight of the sniper and brought out his Shoota, aimed it at the ceiling and started firing whilst shouting at everyone to GET OUT, not realising that it was in the way of the main entrance/exit so everyone ran the opposite way and huddled against the back wall, screaming… it brought back very recent memories to Bazak, who grinned like a loon.

 

Mistress Valentina, knowing that if she was to be hit, in the same way as Commander Rolaine, that she would not take it so well, so she stepped back and unloaded a shot into the stomach of her assailant which, though it did not kill him, did cause him to step back, bending over almost double before recovering. Rolaine was in a bit of a quandary. If she used her inferno pistol then she would undoubtedly kill this assailant and they would not be able to question them, plus she might hit the Astropath. An idea came into her mind as she drew her Bolt Pistol, aimed and fired with the bolt not having time to arm before it skipped across the ear of the assailant, sending his head arching back in pain. When he regained his senses he had both Rolaine and Valentina staring him down, guns pointed at him… he dropped the Power Knife.

 

After side stepping the shot, Isendark calmed his breathing, sighted down his rifle and exhaled just as he let fly, with the bullet pirouetting through the air, almost in slow motion, as he almost saw the surprised look on his adversary’s face as his pinpoint perfect shot slammed into him and the assailant slumped down on the rooftop. To further add to the scenes surreal nature, almost as soon as he made that shot he was surrounded by hordes of screaming people as they ran out of the doorway, with Bazak having moved far enough from the doorway, continuing to shoot at random, for the patrons to make a run for it… it had just been one of those weeks, thought Isendark.

 

Yorke pulled herself to her feet, a slightly feral look in her eyes… this was the first time she had been gravely wounded in a long time and she did not like it. She brought her chainsword up, using her remaining good hand, looked at Thelonious, nodded and then charged out of the door into their assailants, swinging her chainsword wildly. Unfortunately, she was using her off hand and was also suffering from a little bit of concussion and fatigue so her attempts were in vain, as she missed by a mile. Her target, surprised at the ferocity of the attack, still managed to drop their Plasma Gun and pull out a Chain Knife, which they then took great pleasure in driving into Yorke’s stomach, blood and viscera flying against the armour and faceplate of the assassin as Yorke stumbled backwards, a look of disbelief on her face… and then she dropped.

 

Seeing this done to a member of his crew, a crew that he cared deeply about, even if he did not let them know that, made a Red mist descend on Thelonious and he strode out of the doorway without a care in the world, pulling up his Bolt Pistol and firing directly into the faceplate of the assassin. Their armour held off the worst of the blow but, by the time they had recovered, the Rogue Trader was close enough that the armour did nothing when a mass reactive bolt round slammed into their shoulder, ripping off their arm and dropped them where they stood. The last remaining assailant, looking on with shock, turned his Heavy Stubber and fired at Thelonious, who just kept walking towards them… only through the grace of the God Emperor did no rounds hit.

 

Thelonious continued his remorseless pacing, moving towards the last assassin at a steady pace, firing as he went. This display of contempt of his own safety, only vengeance, so unnerved the last remaining assailant that his shots went wide again and he turned to run from this avenging angel. He did not get far before he felt something enter his back and then he felt nothing when his chest completely exploded, with Thelonious standing there, Bolt Pistol smoking, looking around at his handiwork, before going to check on Natasha. To his great relief, it turned out that the damage was not as terminal as he had feared, although the Seneschal was going to need some time to recover from this so Thelonious started gathering up all the equipment and bodies that he wanted to look at later.

 

Rolaine and Mistress Valentina, now with a prisoner in tow, apologised to the Naval personnel they were with, saying they would have to do this again (although, not with the attacks) and moved into a relatively clear area in the bar they were sitting in and signalled for a teleportation. The feeling of moving through the teleportarium was never one they were going to get used to, but they were whisked onto the ship and, soon after, their attempted assassin was locked up in the Brig. Meanwhile, Thelonious had gathered up everything he needed and signalled for the very same teleportation… and then sat there for a few minutes with nothing happening, before signalling his ship and asking what the hell was going on.

 

When he learned that it would take time to recharge, he insisted, strenuously, that the Tech Priests better have him out of here before any Naval Guardsmen showed up, because he would rather not have to explain himself… again. Utilising not often seen techniques, the Tech Priests managed to complete the recharge and prayers in record time and so Thelonious just saw some Guardsmen coming around the corner of the street as he was teleported away, to which he inclined his head towards the Priests for their good work. He also quickly asked Lt Commander Cross to call in everyone who was off the ship as they were officially on a war footing until they learnt the cause of their attack. Natasha was quickly sent to the Medicae for emergency surgery.

 

Bazak and Isendark, however, were currently at the base of a prefab home, which had been used as the sniper post and were thinking about how to climb it. Bazak tried but his weight was too much and he slipped back down, so he had the “bright” idea to use his Big Choppa to cut some holes in the wall so that he could use it as a foothold. Unfortunately, Bazak did not understand the flimsiness of a prefab house on a space station, nor his own strength in relation to it, so was quite surprised when his slash took down the entire wall… not as surprised as the occupant, who was boiling up some water whilst looking after her kids, though. As she started screaming as the Ork entered the room and started moving towards the stairs, Isendark was left to realise just what an Imperial world was like for Orks.

 

The woman, who had flung a pot of hot water at Bazak had pushed them up the stairs quickly, stood in the way of the Xenos foe and started laying about his head and shoulders with the hot pan, getting in his way of movement up the stairs. Despite Bazak’s protestations of “I’m just after somefing on da Roof ya stoopid hoomie!” it didn’t really make much of a difference. Isendark, having had enough of this, scaled the outside of the house and picked up the Sniper Rifle, before scaling back down and shouting to Bazak that he had what they came for. Bazak looked at the human woman and went “See, I is kunnin’ I distract you for stealin!” and then he left, got back under the tarp in this cart and left Isendark to lead them back to the ship, having received the summons from the Lord High Captain.

 

With everyone back on the ship, Natasha stabilised and the rest of them patched up and relatively healthy, the command crew, minus the Seneschal, gathered together to discuss what their next action should be. Their ponderings were somewhat disrupted by the news reports that were filtered into the conference room, reporting the “Green Menace” who had shot up another bar and then invaded the home of pious, Emperor fearing folk and asked what would be done to solve this issue. Thelonious sighed and excused himself from the meeting, walking down the ramp from the Ship to the station and waited there for the inevitable arrival and did not have to wait long before Marshal Thrace, accompanied by a squad of 20 guardsmen, turned up.

 

Thelonious decided to put Solaria on the back foot, greeting her with “I am so glad you could get here so soon in regards to the attack on my person and my crew… I appreciate you giving it your highest priority.” Marshall Thrace almost stepped back, she was so shocked at the greeting and could be visibly seen trying to get her composure back, stating that she was unaware of any attack on the Hope in the Void and that she was here to ask questions about certain reports she had been receiving. She was surprised to learn that the fracas at the Bookstore, that she had her men investigating, had involved Thelonious and also the brawl in a bar on the other side of the station was also implicated in the same plot… Thelonious could see from the look on her face that this was going to be a bad day for her.

 

Thelonious, helped in the conversation by Missionary Constantine, managed to placate the Marshall enough that she willingly removed her men from a threatening position and led them back into the station, commenting that she would, of course, do everything in her power to investigate the attacks on their lives, but to please keep a closer watch on the Ork, as it was doing morale the world of harm. Although, she did provide a clue as to the identity of those who attacked them… when Thelonious mentioned the scar from a removed tattoo on their cheeks she managed to name them as the Free Talons mercenary company, a very professional and quasi-religious cult/mercenary company that could be found all the way through the Koronus Expanse.

 

Having rid himself of that potential issue, Thelonious then turned his attention to another… the Ork, Bazak.

 

“So, Mr Nazdrek, tell me why you have stayed on this ship?”

“Wellz Kaptin, Iz alwaze lookin for a fite see, da teef iz gud too.”

“And, well, why have you stayed with me and this ship, specifically? We are not Orks but yet, here you are… why?”

“Iz alwaze wanted to see da rest of da space see, youze has a ship and Iz wanderlust see. Hoomies do fings different to da Boyz, Iz interest in seein.”

“Well, you normally follow my instructions, correct? In Human society, he who has the most money is, as you say, Da Biggest? So, why have you disobeyed my direct orders and caused yet more trouble for me?”

“Wellz Kaptin, dey made me angry, so Iz smooshed deir faces, da Orky way.”

“Let me make this clear… on human, Imperial worlds I would ‘prefer’ you not to go around just killing whomever you want… unless I tell you to. Do we understand each other?”

 

Bazak nodded his head in an overly fun way, especially after being informed that the fight they had already organised was fine… in fact, Thelonious insisted on coming along to view his prowess. With his Orkish pride somewhat recovered, Bazak loped off whilst singing an Orkish marching song, to the detriment of everyone else’s eardrums, although Thelonious counted that as a win.

 

With the rest of the command crew, sans Natasha, getting ready for the evening’s entertainment on the Starweaver, at the invitation of Lady Orleans, Constantine was reading up on the information regarding Religious sites on Damaris and was shocked, and excited, to learn that the “Hand of St Drusus himself” was apparently held in the main shrine/cathedral in Damaris City. Using the power of the Warrant of Trade allowed Constantine to get in contact with the ranking Bishop in charge and after a very smooth and charming talk, Constantine was invited down to see where the Relic was held and also invited to give the main, mid-morning sermon. Given that Thelonious had dealings in the city as well, with the Tech Priests, he decided to come along and actually view his Missionary doing something related to the Creed.

 

During the preparations, Mistress Valentina and Commander Rolaine informed Thelonious about their captive and Thelonious decided that interrogating the man was more important than getting his eyebrows “just right” and so marched off down to the Brig. It was decided to see what lies he would tell them, before unleashing the Astropath on them but Constantine said that they should let him talk with them first… he had a method of extracting information from religious pilgrims and he wanted to see how it worked on hardened mercenaries. His method included just sitting in the corner, praying for the mercenaries soul on his eventual trip to see the Emperor, asking whether he wanted to be buried or cremated and, in general just being a freaky Missionary that really did thoroughly unnerve the mercenary, such that when Thelonious and Rolaine entered the room, he was in a very co-operative mood.

 

AM: “So, why don’t we start with the easy questions… who hired you to attempt to kill us?”

FT: “That was not for me to know, it was only for the Leader to know”

AM: “And who was that?”

FT: “Based on the fact that you have captured me, I am going to assume that my Leader is dead, and we do not speak the names of the dead.”

AM: “And this leader… there were only three of you? The three that attacked me?”

FT: “No, the leader of my cell, he was tasked to assassinate him.” (pointing to the Rogue Trader)

AM: “And the leader is the only one who knew about other cells? What was their specialty?”

FT: (Looking confused) “What do you mean, specialty?”

 

There then followed a rather long dialogue between the two sides as to what each member of the group did, until the Arch Militant realised that the reason he knew that his leader would be dead was because the Rogue Trader was still alive. They decided to switch tact.

 

AM: “Where was your base of operations?”

FT: “We were based all over Damaris, we lived together as a group and were a family, and each cell was like an extended family, bound together by loyalty and trust.”

AM: “Who recruited you, and how?”

FT: “The leader recruited everyone… I was a lost wastrel; he got me out of prison as he obviously saw something in me, and then I was trained by everyone to be the best I could be.”

AM: “And your name is…?”

FT: “Dante.”

 

The conversation continued to flow… they learnt that they group had not been informed that they would be attacking a Rogue Trader house, just that there were some merchants that the client wished taken care of… which is somewhat true and thus why they did not question the orders. The Rogue Trader and Arch Militant retired for a little while to converse, with Thelonious keen to understand what would happen if they just released him as they were both thinking he would be a useful convert for House Deepstalker to have.

 

AM: “So, what happens if others of your company spot you out and free, after being captured by us?”

FT: “I don’t know, it has not really happened in my lifetime, but I have been out of contact for long enough that they would assume I was dead, so they would assume I would have been turned.”

AM: “Yes, I can imagine that you would not be seen as trustworthy by them anymore, which puts you in a bit of a bad position, doesn’t it… so, what are your skills?”

 

As expected, they learnt that the skills of an assassin were this man’s stock in trade, although the reason for his poor performance in attacking them was more to do with the presence of a psyker, which is not something he had ever encountered. Based on what he said, there was a general consensus that he would make a good, and relatively deniable asset to the House, if his loyalty could be assured. Thelonious finally decided to speak to the man, although as he had been striding around the Brig like a caged animal, in his finery, he had no doubt that the assassin would know who he was.

 

RT: “Based on the conversation you have been having with the Commander, I have been impressed by your loyalty and commitment to your cause. However, as you have said yourself, the cause would now see you as a traitor. I would be willing to offer someone of your specific skillset an employment opportunity in House Deepstalker, if I can rely on the same level of loyalty.

FT: “Why would you offer me a job? What is in it for you?”

RT: “As you have mentioned, you have a specific set of abilities, a set of abilities that we, on the whole, lack. It is just good business sense and survival instinct to enhance the areas that one is weakest in.”

FT: “That is an exceedingly generous offer for someone that tried to kill members of your crew. The fact that my cell is dead does not leave me with much of a choice, you could have made it much more difficult for me. If you treat all your crew with this level then I would be happy to accept.”

 

With this agreement, it was decided to bring in Mistress Valentina to sort through his memories to decipher if he was actually telling the truth, which she did with aplomb. After rooting around his memories for a minute, a minute that felt a lot longer to both parties involved in the process, she gave him a relatively impressive recommendation, although it was obvious that he would be treated with a short leash to start with. With that diversion finished, they left him in the Brig whilst detailing someone to sort out quarters and supplies for their newest recruit… once they left the vicinity of Damaris.

 

The crew gathered in their finest appointed shuttle, the Diplomatic shuttle, for their trip over to the Starweaver. For once, Isendark was not piloting the shuttle as it would have messed up his Formal Gear and it would not do to be anything other than respectful in front of another Rogue Trader… however, he did still spend more of the journey being a backseat driver, issuing small corrections to their course to the, still very qualified, pilot. On their arrival they were greeted by the same man who had issued them with the invitation in the first place and were then escorted through the interior of the Star Weaver, where Thelonious noticed that there had been a lot of internal renovation on this ship over the course of its life, he tried to remember the story of the Starweaver but nothing came immediately to mind.

 

Lady Elizabeth Orleans rose to greet them as they entered the dining chamber, guards posted at intervals along the walls, wearing what could best be described as “Pirate chic,” which caught some of the crew off-guard, with them expecting her to be wearing something more demure, but they quickly recovered their poise as the greetings were exchanged. The command crew had noticed that the chairs they were sitting in were slightly oversized, but were perfect for an Ork… the Lady had put a lot of thought into this meeting.

 

LO: “My dear Thelonious, I can call you Thelonious correct? Thank you for accepting my invitation for dinner.”

RT: “Well, my lady, given your reputation around these parts, it would have been rude to refuse… besides, meeting new acquaintances is one of the more fun parts of the Warrant of Trade.”

LO: (looking over the crew) “Yes, I can see that you like to have fun with your Warrant.” (Indicating the Ork) Is it my understanding that you have quite the altercation with a band of mercenaries earlier today? I am pleased to see that you could still make my dinner if so.”

RT: “I would not call it an altercation as such… although it was quite entertaining.”

LO: “Indeed, the Free Talons are such an interesting organisation, wouldn’t you agree?”

RT: (looking at Lady Orleans with a quizzical eye) “You… wouldn’t have happened to hire said organisation to make the conversation at this dinner much more interesting would you?”

LO: (Laughing) “That would have been gauche of me wouldn’t it. No, Thelonious, I did not hire them for this particular task, although I do keep them on retainer so that I understand what is going on and who has been hired to do what… my way of keeping myself informed.”

LO: (Serious again) “I knew that the Free Talons would target you, it was a prime opportunity to see how you would react. I see that some of you still bear wounds from today’s play… is your Seneschal okay, I heard she took quite the blow earlier today?”

RT: “She is fine, she is overseeing some vital matters of House Business at the moment, and she does send her apologies though… consider the gift basket we sent earlier as such.”

 

The conversation was somewhat interrupted by the starters arriving, a succulent fish course from the planet below that was eagerly tucked into by all present.

 

LO: “Thelonious, I understand that you will be auctioning off a vast quantity of Heavy Grade Plasma, like the sort that was gifted to me earlier, but in much larger quantities?”

RT: “Elizabeth, I have to commend your network in the Damaris System… that there is an auction planned in just under a week is common knowledge, but I suspect very few know that it originates from House Deepstalker.”

LO: “I make it my point to be informed about everything that happens in the Damaris System, I have large investments here and, besides, one of my crew almost died because they thought the flask of Heavy Plasma was some other fluid… you should never drink Heavy Plasma on an empty stomach!”

 

After this exchange, until the next course was brought out, Lady Orleans mostly made small talk with the rest of the command crew, showing no small amount of social grace, although that would be expected. One thing that everyone noticed, however, was that anytime she was addressing the Missionary, Constantine, her voice and demeanour took on a much frostier tone… something which surprised Bazak.

 

LO: “So, Thelonious, based on the amount of Heavy Plasma you seem to have, am I to assume that you have been engaging in the fun pursuit called Piracy?”

RT: “My lady, how could you ask such a thing… you know that Piracy is illegal. Privateering on the other hand, that is most certainly within my remit.”

LO: (chuckling) “I see I am not going to get a response out of you at the moment. Maybe once the auction goes my way, we can talk about something a bit more formal.”

RT: “I actually wanted to ask you a favour regarding that, Elizabeth. If you could hold off your bid until most of the other auction goers have bid… I am looking to see who is interested in my merchandise for future opportunities and I think that, once you put a bid in, the rest of them will curl up and die.”

LO: (nodding) “This is certainly something I can do… I had a similar thought process in mind as well… it is always good to know who your rivals are.”

 

The conversation stopped for a while as a Dairy course was brought out. All sorts of cheeses from across the length and breadth of the Calixis Sector, as well as some pasteurised milk product called “Yog-hurt” was also well received, before the conversation moved back to House Interests again.

 

RT: “My lady, I have heard through rumours that a certain Mr Fel was seen on Damaris a few weeks before my arrival. Do you happen to know whether he met with anyone from the Free Talons?”

LO: “That he did indeed, as I assume you had already figured out, Thelonious. He is obviously not a fan of yours, based on what he told me in our private dinner… although I did come out of that meeting feeling quite dirty… there is something wrong with Rogue Trader Fel.”

RT: “Indeed, he seems to have a death wish… our conflict was, I thought, if not over then definitely at an impasse but he has followed us into the Koronus Expanse and it seems likely that he wishes the complete destruction of my House… let him come.”

 

Lady Orleans’ visage suddenly turned thoughtful and then serious as she looked at the Missionary and asked him to leave the room for a while, indicating that he could go and explore the ship around this area, but not to go too far. After receiving permission from the Rogue Trader, Constantine got up and left the room.

 

LO: “Thelonious… what is your view on the Administratum and Ecclesiarchy?”

RT: “I see them as somewhat necessary unfortunately. They are vast, behemoth like organisations that I have to, occasionally, do business with them. I actually have an endeavour in mind that will require the Ecclesiarchy for the future… why do you ask?”

LO: “I suspect as much… most Rogue Traders tend to have a more interesting view of those organisations than most Imperial Citizens… they tend to have more flexible morals.”

RT: (Mock Outrage) “Lady, I will have you know that my morals are pretty inflexible actually! I just don’t have that many to be inflexible about.”

LO: “It is my view that the twin organisations that we are talking about are made up of groups of squabbling children, and that squabbling is heedless of any harm it does to anyone else… and that they are leaching Damaris of what could make it special, turning it into just another Imperial Colony.”

LO: “My grandfather was a very Pious person who threw in the family with the Ecclesiarchy.  However, one of the factions who did not like the Orleans House that much arranged for an ambush, and both my Grandfather and this ship were taken by pirates who were ‘suddenly’ there in a relatively safe space lane.”

LO: “The loss of my grandfather and this ship broke my Father and he was not the same man afterwards. Upon his untimely death, shot through the heart, I came into possession of the warrant and set about getting our ship back. As you can see, I was successful but I have never forgiven the organisation that allowed their petty squabbles to rise above their service to Mankind.”

 

Thelonious could only nod in agreement to this… the Deepstalker family had a much better history with the Administratum and other Imperial organisations but he could understand the depth of betrayal and feeling that Lady Orleans must have been brought up on.

 

LO: “The reason I tell you this, Thelonious, is that I believe that Damaris would be a better place without the tendrils of the Administratum and Ecclesiarchy reaching into every pore. It would be better outside of Imperial Control… I would like you to keep that in mind when doing business in the Damaris system.”

RT: “I would say, Lady Orleans, that as Damaris is known as somewhat of a jewel in the Expanse, a forerunner of what other Imperial Colonies in the Expanse should look like, that you are going to have a hard time uncoupling those two organisations from Damaris. Not that I would stand in your way, of course.”

LO: “Of course, and I know that this is not a plan for the next few years, or even the next few decades… but it is something that I have dedicated my life to and I would appreciate your support… there are many benefits to supporting the Orleans Dynasty, Thelonious.”

 

At this point, the Missionary was allowed back into the room and the conversations took on a more genial tone, with Lady Orleans mostly happy to answer any questions thrown at her by the command crew.

 

BN: “Wat doz yooz fink of our fair Kaptin?”

LO: (Chuckling) “I have only just met him in person, I would be a fool to make a judgement so soon into any relationship, business or otherwise. However, based on the reports of how you drove off your assailants and the fact that you have a rather large… ship.”

BN: (Interrupting) “Would yooz fink he iz gud match?”

LO: (Laughing) “Thelonious, I have to say that I have never been propositioned in such a way before, I have to give you credit for that. Also, Mr Ork, a match such as this would require many, many negotiations.”

BN: “So, not rite ere then?”

LO: (Shaking her Head) “When there is so much fine food to be had, why spoil it with acrobatics on the dinner table?”

 

After this the conversation mostly moved back to talking about the Heavy Plasma, about how pure it was and if a trade route could be created from wherever the Rogue Trader got this from, to Damaris, then it would probably usher in a very profitable period for both Houses.

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Chapter 13 – The DUEL!

 

The dinner and conversation with Lady Orleans went on for a little bit longer, with the Lady sharing stories of her daring adventures and journeys throughout the expanse for the last 50 years, after she got the Starweaver back. They also managed to steer the conversation towards other Rogue Traders, specifically Jeremiah Blitz, given his obvious interest in Damaris to which they actually got a relatively glowing recommendation from Lady Orleans, although she did say not to trust him at first, as he will expect nothing less. After you get to know him, on the other hand, he had managed to impress her and she viewed him as someone she might even be able to count on if necessary, although she would keep a lot of money on hand for such an occasion.

 

Thelonious also managed to get some more information regarding “people to meet” on the planet, with Governor Kalpak and General Remi the two who she put at the top of the list and when she pointed out that Kalpak was very much a drug abuser, Thelonious just smiled, whilst thinking that he could be quite a lot of fun. Lady Orleans definitely seemed to hold the General in high esteem, although she was relatively coy as to the nature of their relationship, and just advised Thelonious to set up a meeting to see for himself. Captain Sylvia Locke was also mentioned as a point of contact, with Lady Orleans mentioning that she had never seen a crew as good as those that served on the Aegis which definitely interested Rolaine. With this, the dinner was ended.

 

As the majority of the Command Crew, slightly worse for wear in some instances, arrived back on the Hope in the Void they were startled to see Natasha Yorke, the Seneschal out of surgery and actually on her own two feet, ably supported by a crew member and a walking stick, of course. That her recovery was nothing short of miraculous was a common reaction, although closer inspection would have noticed that she was barely standing, and only really through her strong willpower… it was still going to take a long period of time until Yorke was able to contribute physically. With this “excitement” dealt with, the crew turned in for the night, allowing the relief staff to take over, although not before sending a message to the Adeptus Mechanicus informing them that they would be bringing their Xenos pet with them.

 

The next morning, after a rather lovely breakfast, the crew gathered in the Teleportarium before sending the message to Tech Magos Hadron Shard, waited for the binary code indicating that their Force Fields were down, before teleporting to the assigned location. As they materialised, Yorke in a wheelchair being pushed, quite enthusiastically, by Bazak and the rest with their usual accoutrements, the first thing that Thelonious saw was a Tech Priest, with multiple mechadendrites, approaching towards him. As the Priest got closer, Thelonious could see that at the end of most of them were various scraping tools and brushes, which did not seem to be that bad, but he still backed off, asking just what the Tech Priest thought he/she/it was doing.

 

Almost as if he was coming out of a fugue state, the Tech Priest shook his head and then apologised but stated that there was not much time to collect skin cells and dust particles that had been teleported… and then he got back to work collecting specimens that he put in jars, before thanking the crew and then he turned away and marched into the Forge. It was about then that the crew noticed that there were a lot of Skitari Tech-Guard in position around their teleportation location, most of them pointing high powered Bolt Guns at the Ork, including the heavily augmented human that approached them. He quickly asked for their designations and then instructed them to follow him to the meeting with Magos Shard and that any deviation from their path would result in destruction, especially for the Xenos.

 

On the way through the crew could not help but notice that this was a very advanced facility, much more so than on Cog and some of the crews brains started whirring (although not literally) about what they might be able to purchase/barter for on this world. They were shown to the base of a large piece of machinery, although the use of the device was lost on them, and they could see a four armed, 12 mechadendrite Tech Priest, operating a large proportion of the machine, all at once. As the Magos became aware of their approach behind him, his head turned a full 180 degrees so that he could see and address them, but his arms and mechadendrites kept working independently.

 

HS: “Greetings Thelonious, I hope that the work of Magos Oliver did not overly worry you.”

RT: “Yes, well, he did start taking samples before he started speaking, so there was a possibility of an overreaction, especially given recent events.”

HS: “Ahh yes, I could see the problem there. Oliver is very much into the effects of teleportation on biological entities and, as you might understand, he very rarely gets to conduct his research on an actual live being.”

RT: “Well, it would have been nice to have been informed about that before it happened, but no harm, no foul.”

 

Magos Shard then started turning more of his attention to his guests, with his head turning back, before his entire body pivoted around with fewer of his mechadendrites and arms being used to operate the machinery, leading to a bit of a scuffle as other Tech Priests rushed to pick up the slack in their systems. Thelonious then managed to move the discussion around to Svard, stating that the system was producing again and that they had charged him to ask at any Mechanicus facility he passed about whether they could afford to send any Priests to get the factories on Cog back up and running. He also mentioned the need for specific composite metals to send back to Cog to allow them to fix the tracks that move the great factories around. He also managed to fit some bragging about bringing Svard back online into the conversation as well.

 

The crew learnt some more information about the spreading of Damaris and how that has kept the Magos occupied for the last 20 years, which also explained why they did not bother to send anyone to investigate the Svard system… well, after the first expedition did not return. Magos Shard was happy, or an approximation of happy, that the system had been cleared, stating that the trade between the two colonies had once accelerated both of their systems growth and was looking forward to that happening again. They quickly got down to negotiating with the Magos, informing him of the Heavy Plasma auction that was coming up and also asking about what both sides could do for each other, given the obvious benefits to both the Mechanicus and the Deepstalker house. The Magos seemed very interested.

 

Thelonious did learn that for any agility/grace enhancing cybernetics, which are very rare and potentially damaging, he would have to find and convince a Magos on Footfall to perform the surgery and installation, one who did not really have a name, having changed it so many times over the years. Also, given the facilities on Footfall were not as advanced as they are here, they would have to talk him into coming to Damaris to perform the procedures, to which Magos Shard wished him luck with that, given that this specific Magos had retired from the practical side of the Mechanicus a long time ago. Still, Thelonious was convinced he could convince him and he REALLY wanted those implants… he had a pair of Eldar Mirrorswords that he needed to learn how to use.

 

With their business concluded the Magos pointed out to Thelonious that part of the agreement for him meeting them was that he would get to look around the Holy Teleportarium that they had on their ship. After they managed to locate an area that wouldn’t inadvertently teleport more than they wanted, the crew and the Magos were transported back to the ship, with the look on the Magos’s face indicating that he had felt it to be more like a religious experience… it was obvious he did not get to do this often. The Magos then spent the next 30 minutes inspecting the Teleportarium, asking questions of the Tech Priests who utilised it all the time, and just generally filling his memory banks with all sorts of information. By the end of it he definitely had a smile on his face and Thelonious congratulated him on the advantage this piece of technology had given him.

 

With the meeting with the Magos out of the way, all the preparations turned towards the oncoming fight that Isendark had signed Bazak up to… they realised it was a bigger deal when the Beast House started advertising on the Damaris trid net about the fight, it seemed to be one of their larger forms of entertainment. Some more research led them to realise that the stadium had a capacity of about 100,000 and that they also put on large vid screen viewings outside the stadium… all in all it was reckoned that over 1 million people, 2% of Damaris’s entire population, would be coming to see this. Bazak started wondering what Isendark had gotten him into, although any fight was a good fight for an Ork… although it did come as a shock to the rest of the crew, Isendark included, when the advertising started talking about it being a Fight to the DEATH!

 

After gathering everything they thought they would need, including some bodyguards, but excluding Mistress Valentina who had other things to do on the ship, the command crew set out in a Shuttle, Isendark doing his usual peerless job at getting them to the ground, planting them right in the middle of the VIP shuttle section. As they moved out of the area they spotted a couple of interesting markings on shuttles, one that indicated that senior government officials were at the event and another with the Orleans crest… Thelonious thought that this was going to be an interesting event, even without the fight. They were quickly shown in through a VIP entrance in the side of the stadium, getting their VIP passes, which Bazak decided to put 10 around his neck for… reasons. Yorke also had a grenade launcher hidden in the bottom of her wheelchair, still not having recovered fully.

 

Eventually, Isendark and his contact found each other, even in the VIP area there were a lot of bodies moving around, lots of vendors hawking their wares and just a general sense of pandemonium but, Bazak was eventually shown to his Gladiator Cell. There he was stripped of his armour (not allowed) but was allowed to keep his Big Choppa as it was not a Power Weapon, which were not allowed in the rules… the rules that Isendark was beginning to think he should have read before he agreed to this contest. Bazak was left alone, apart from Isendark who was his “manager” and had nothing to do for the next half an hour. Normally fighters spend that time limbering up and getting into shape for the combat but, as an Ork, Bazak was always in that shape so he decided to sharped his Big Choppa by slicing through the metal cells, whilst humming a jaunty tune.

 

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew were making themselves at home in the VIP seating area in the stadium, with Natasha finding a good vantage point and settling in for the long haul, whilst Thelonious managed to spot Lady Orleans across the way and manoeuvred himself into her path. After a little bit of small talk they both decided to head across to see the Governor, who Lady Orleans pointed out to Thelonious… she winked at Thelonious and said “fancy having a bit of fun?” as she moved towards the Governor. Thelonious soon found that Lady Orleans had the Governor wrapped around her fingers, although it was something he could have figured out himself given her business interests but, he had to admit, it was fun watching her play. After she grew bored, Thelonious made sure to introduce himself to Kalpak, realising that talking business would be pointless, given the haze that the Governor was in.

 

However, when Thelonious moved the topic onto tonight’s bout the Governor became extremely animated, talking about how the Champion was undefeated in 12 bouts stretching back over 3 years and that no Filthy Xenos would ever be able to win. Thelonious took that bet, betting that the Xenos would win for a favour… either he would owe the Governor one, or the Governor would owe the Deepstalker House one… relatively high stakes given the relative power of the two making the bet. The conversation was ended at the realisation that the bout was about to begin, the sense of expectation and tension was noticeable to everyone in the stadium and as the announcer began his walk into the centre of the stadium, every step was greeted with a cheer and a thunderous roar as everyone in the arena started stamping their feet.

 

“Honoured Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls; the Beast House is proud to present our latest… DUEL!”

 

At the word Duel, the stadium (and outside) started reverberating to that word, being shouted out, almost in unison, by everyone in the stadium. Even Thelonious, Natasha, Rolaine and Lady Orleans were getting carried away by the energy in the stadium.

 

“It’s occasions like this that remind me of that ancient Terran Proverb. ‘Xenos, huh! God-Emperor y’all; what are they good for?’”

 

The crowd shouted and screamed out the answer, “Absolutely Nothing!” in such a tide of bloodthirst and hatred that everyone could feel their bones shaking from the power of the feeling in the stadium.

 

“But, this time, at least, one of them will die for your entertainment, that is what they are good for!”

 

At this signal, both doors to the arena opened and Bazak strode out, Big Choppa resting across his back… the lights were so blinding that he could not see his opponent on the other side of the Arena… which is obviously how it was planned.

 

“Over here we have one of the filthy, bloodthirsty, violent Xenos known as the Ork. From the Undred Undred Teef, an area of space that makes seasoned voidfarers go white with terror, here is Bazak Nazdrek!”

 

Bazak turned, lifting his Big Choppa in one hand and screamed out an Ork Warcry, WAAAAAAGGGHHHH… although such was the sound in the stadium that it couldn’t even be heard, although those that knew Orks could see what it was doing.

 

“And then, over here, from the colony of Lucien’s Breath, you have seen him fight many times before but you have never seen him DEFEATED, the CHAMPION!”

 

What emerged was a monster in human form, standing over 8 feet tall with a grossly fat torso and a couple of twisted horns emerging from his head. Still, those with knowledge of combat could see that it was light on its feet and that there seemed to be quite a level of muscle underneath all the fat… it was not to be underestimated, the fact that it used a Sword and Shield combo underlining this fact.

 

“The rules of this bout are simple… live. If you die, you lose!”

 

With that, the Announcer left the ring, the lights dimming enough for both competitors to view each other and then, suddenly, from all around the Arena came the command… “FIGHT!”

 

Bazak, as an Ork, was always on the edge of violence so it was no surprise that it was the first to act, seeming to lurch forward until it was running full tilt at its opponent, an Orkish Warcry bursting from its chest. As it approached the Champion it showed a little bit of Kunnin’, feinting to continue to charge one way before pivoting suddenly, launching itself into the air and bringing the Big Choppa over its head and slashing downwards. The Champion, as had been expected, was a lot faster than he looked and managed to push his shield across to deflect the attack, although he did get a slight wound as the Orks power carried the sword through his guard, but only just. The Champion quickly stepped back and, adopting a fencing stance, poked a couple of holes in the Ork, his hand blurring as he thrust through the Orks attempt at a guard.

 

The Ork and the Champion separated slightly after this coming together and circled each other, respect in both of their eyes after this first “round” of combat, before they came together again. As before, it was Bazak leading the way, all pretences of defence thrown out of the duelling arena and the Ork tried to end the duel early. Once again, the power of the Orks overhand chop was too much for the Champion to deflect and, this time, the Choppa struck deeply into the fat encased torso of its opponent and, emboldened by this, Bazak tried a perpendicular slash but was dismayed (as much as an Ork can be) when the Champion dodged nimbly aside and then Bazak was less dismayed and more hurting as the Champion thrust a couple more times, hitting the Ork in the Head and Leg, although the damage was nothing that Bazak could not handle.

 

After this second exchange of blows, the Champion disengaged and started backpedalling, fully in control of the arena, whilst the Ork pursued but, such was the agility of the Champion that he was able to manoeuvre the Ork into the position he wanted… and that was when the Ork charged. The Champion took a more open stance than he had before and was able to deflect the Orks overhead smash just enough that the Big Choppa ended up stuck in the dirt of the arena, which enabled the Champion to dance away, but not before landing two hits to the head of Bazak. This opened up a cut above the left eye of the Ork but a quick headshake, and the freakish nature of Orkish regeneration, was enough to keep it from obscuring Bazak’s vision, although he did grin and growl slightly when he tasted his own blood, eager to continue the fight.

 

The Champion also found out, quite quickly, that he had not moved nearly far enough away from the Ork as the next attack caught him by surprise. Bazak, with a roar of WAAAAGHHH pulled the Big Choppa out of the dirt and swung it sideways in one smooth manoeuvre, breaking through the Champions guard and cutting a massive swathe of flesh free from his leg, with such a force in the blow that the Champion teetered slightly, before regaining his balance. However, the Champion was not unbeaten for no reason and managed to reign in the shock that had started to flow through them, to go back on the attack. Unlike the Ork, the Champions attacks were precise and, after a couple of cuts to the arm, the Big Choppa flew into the air, Bazak finding himself unarmed and the Champion seemingly thinking that the contest would soon be over. The crowd gasped at what happened next.

 

Bazak, seeing his Big Choppa cartwheeling through the air, made an instant decision. He crouched, using his hefty muscles on his legs to their potential and launched himself through the air, grabbing the Big Choppa in both hands and, such was the power of the leap, landing next to the Champion, bringing his Choppa down. The force of the attack, and the momentum from the Ork, caused the shield to be torn off the arm of the Champion and he staggered back under the force of the blow, which left him open to another hit across the chest that caused a wild spray of blood, which quickly soaked into the dirt of the Arena. The Champion, without a shield and without the time and space to retrieve it, gripped his sword in two hands and slashed downwards, cutting deeply into the Orks leg and revealing the bone, which the Champion seized the opportunity and smashed down with his leg, causing a crack that echoed throughout the stadium.

 

Bazak, howling with rage, pain and bloodlust, and somewhat hampered with a Broken Leg (and an artery spurting blood all over the place), still managed to bring his Choppa up and around, slicing into the horrific fat armouring the Champion but this left himself open to a counterattack, with a couple of slices from the Champion cutting off a vast portion of Bazak’s chest and cutting yet another artery, with blood fountaining up and out over the Champion, with everyone in the stadium wondering just how the Ork was still standing with such grievous wounds, including the Champion himself who hesitated just a little bit as he had assumed he had won the duel.

 

This hesitation proved to be the Champions undoing with Bazak, using heretofore unknown reserves of strength and hatred, hefted his Big Choppa and spun around on his good leg. The momentum of the strike sliced into the stomach of the Champion, doubling him over but the Ork continued to spin, bringing his Choppa around again, angling it slightly down as it did so and caught the Champion on the left thigh. Such was the strength and momentum of the strike that, with some resistance, it sliced through the Champions thigh completely, the leg coming free as the strike continued, hitting the Champion in the right leg and lifting him up and over… he was dead before he hit the ground.

 

The crowd who, as the fight had moved closer to its denouement had become quieter and quieter, so focussed were they on the action, were silent. The death of their Champion, one who had been undefeated for 4 long years… it was like the cork of a bottle being popped, with the silence being broken with a roar that shook the stadium to its foundations. Isendark was quick to act, running into the middle of the arena with a Medikit and seeing to the Orks hideous wounds… so hideous in fact that Isendark was not sure how it managed to stay standing and, without his medical attention, it probably would have expired… but, after a few minutes of patching up the danger had been averted. Thelonious turned to the Governor and just winked at him.

 

The announcer made his way out into the middle of the arena, slowly and tentatively to avoid the massive pools of blood that were laying around, brought up his microphone and uttered one word… “Well…” that made the stadium go quiet. Into this sudden quiet a small chant could be heard from the VIP section… “Bazak, Bazak, Bazak,” which soon swelled into the entire stadium, and many outside, chanting for an Ork they barely knew, but who had left an indelible impression on those viewing that night. Lady Orleans leaned in and whispered to Thelonious “and to think that thing propositioned me for you last night… looking at this, maybe I should have said yes,” and she flashed a smile before heading off on her own errands.

 

Thelonious and Natasha had realised, through the fight, that the “Champion” was actually a mutated Space Marine, probably one from the Storm Wardens chapter, and so, through the comlink they ordered Bazak to take some samples for them to study. The Ork, in his usual way, dragged himself over to the Marine and chopped his head off, holding it up to the crowd, before Isendark dragged the rest of the body back across the arena… after all, no-one was going to get in their way and it was the Ork way to take a trophy of their victory. They made their way back into the staging area and were quickly teleported back onto the Hope in the Void where Bazak made his own way to the Medicae and then promptly passed out, even his inhuman endurance proving it had a limit.

 

The body of the Space Marine was taken up with the remainder of the command crew in the Deepstalker shuttle and then was put into storage, with Thelonious already thinking about what interesting adventures the body of a Storm Wardens Marine could lead him on but, with a favour from the Governor, this had already been a very profitable endeavour.

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Chapter 14 – A Voyage into the Unknown

 

After the manic preparations and events of the last few days, the following week or so was relatively benign, although the life of a Rogue Trader always has opportunities for those who can grasp them. With Natasha Yorke and Bazak resting/in intensive care for most of the week, the pace of House Deepstalker slackened somewhat, although Thelonious was seen paying visits to his Seneschal… they had an auction to plan for, after all. Even the legendary regenerative qualities of the Ork were put to the test by the massive wounds it had suffered and, by the time the auction came around, it was still looking, and feeling, very injured indeed although it was no longer life threatening. Given the fact that the auction was anonymous (although some people of consequence had been made aware), Thelonious decided to go incognito, whilst sending Natasha and Bazak in his stead.

 

The choice of Bazak confused the crew at first but all became clear when the resulting media scrum, Bazak being a minor celebrity on Damaris now, meant that no-one was paying him the slightest bit of attention, exactly as he had anticipated. Thelonious was scanning the crowd, using his keen sense of entitlement to pick out those with a similar body language, picking out those who had come to bid on his Plasma… which was part of the reason for a public auction… he was only putting half of it up for sale after all. He quickly spotted representatives for the Imperial Navy, Damaris Governor, Damaris Army (and Thelonious was keen to understand why they had separate representatives), a representative from a business conglomerate, the Adeptus Mechanicus and, finally, Lady Orleans herself, although she was keeping to herself for now.

 

The auction started out very slowly which worried the Rogue Trader for a  little while before he realised that the reason people were not bidding quickly was that they expected it to sell for quite a lot of money and did not want to put their hat into the ring just yet. Whenever it seemed like it would flatline, Natasha was on hand to put in a bid for the Deepstalker House which got it going again. The Imperial Navy and the Business Conglomerate were the two main bidders at first, with the Navy showing tenacity and eventually convincing the Conglomerate to sit this one out, and the Imperial Navy representative looked rather pleased… until the Adeptus Mechanicus entered the race. Soon after, the Army and Governor representatives also started bidding and, eventually, the Navy bowed out graciously.

 

Eventually, the auction was down to the Army and the Mechanicus, bidding against each other, pushing the price higher and higher… and it was then that Lady Orleans made her move, blowing both of them out of the water and, with gracious nods the Mechanicus and Army ceded the floor to the Orleans House. As the auction gathering broke up, Thelonious reflected on what had been a very profitable day and, with knowledge of who was interested, he had another half a hold full of Heavy Plasma to bargain with… Svard was looking very much worth the trouble. Over the next couple of days the Deepstalker House made many bargains with the various power brokers of the Damaris system, further cementing their status as a favoured trading partner.

 

Amongst these deals were a deal with the Adeptus Mechanicus which resulted in the materials needed to repair the tracks on Cog, as well as a cadre of Tech Priests to get Cog back up and running to full strength. Thelonious met with General Remi as well, coming away impressed with the training of the Damaris Highland Levy, although it was obvious to him that these troops were Green with no real combat experience. He agreed with the General to provide him with some joint training sessions with his Svardian PDF troops whose training was nowhere near this level but they had something the Damarians had never had… experience of combat… they were veterans. Thelonious found the General a rather charismatic and straightforward person whose views were somewhat aligned with Lady Orleans… this concerned Thelonious somewhat but there was nothing he could do about it at the moment.

 

Whilst the General and Thelonious could not come to any particular trade terms it was not because they were poles apart, it was that the Deepstalker House had something that the Army wanted, but the Army did not really have anything that the Deepstalker House wanted… yet. Thelonious promised to go away and think about how they could work together, partly because he wanted to understand what the future might hold and also because Damaris needed to be strong and profitable if Svard was going to become what it could be.

 

After leaving that meeting, and on his way to a meeting with the Business Conglomerate, Thelonious put a Vox call into Lady Orleans and asked her Seneschal to set up a meeting with the Free Talons, Thelonious wanted to understand if their business was done now and wanted the Orleans house, as a neutral party, to set up the meeting. Lady Orleans Seneschal agreed that this was probably a good idea and said he would set it up and let them know when it had been arranged. Thelonious found the next meeting to be a complete and utter waste of time… the goals of the Conglomerate and his house were not really aligned and a lot of the efficiencies that would be enabled would increase the Conglomerates profitability rather than his… it was a disappointing meeting.

 

And, last of all was a meeting with Lord-Captain Sylvia Locke of the Imperial Navy, an incredible tactician who was a little bit outspoken about what she viewed the task of the Imperial Navy to be, which is to protect the God-Emperors citizens to the best of their ability. In fact, in researching what the Deepstalker House knew about her, Thelonious could see that it was only that she was so good a tactician and commander that had kept her in the Navy, she had numerous disciplinary issues and seemed a bit of a wild card… which was his kind of person. One of the first things that the command crew noticed was that the level of discipline and training onboard the Aegis was at a very high level… in fact it was the best that Thelonious had ever seen and he directed Marcia Cross to take some notes on how things could change on their own vessel. Thelonious was impressed.

 

The meeting went well, although Locke’s brusque manner did raise Thelonious’s heckles somewhat and there were some frank exchanges of views that did raise the level of the tension in the room but, in the end, common sense prevailed. To Thelonious, giving away part of his remaining Heavy Plasma to the Imperial Navy, and the Aegis in particular would increase their patrol range and make this area of space a little safer which, given that Svard was in this particular area of space, was just good business sense. At one point the Rogue Trader tried to lay on his “legendary” charm onto the Lord-Captain but it went down like a tonne of bricks and Commander Rolaine’s attempt at salvage just pushed things even further down… it was decided by both sides to stick to business from then on.

 

With the decision made as to who to trade with (Imperial Navy, Adeptus Mechanicus and the Highland Levy), freighters were commissioned and the Plasma was delivered, leaving the Hope in the Void a lot more empty but a lot less explodey. A call had come through from Lady Orleans giving them the co-ordinates to the neutral meeting site along with the promise that the Lady’s household troops would be the ones guarding the site, to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. The meeting with the Free Talons leadership went very well, their contract had only been for one particular cell and as the Rogue Trader had defeated them, and the “one” who escaped had been killed for his cowardice as far as the Free Talons were concerned, everything was square.

 

After a little conversation about how much it might cost to set up something similar, but larger, for Hadrek Fel, both sides went their way, honour satisfied and knowing that neither of the sides in this “conflict” had any particular desire to keep it going. The command crew returned to their ship and started to make preparations to depart from the Damaris System… they had a lot of stuff to take back to Svard, including the ability to repair a lot of the rails on Cog… hopefully the Orbital station would be in operation and they could get some guns installed on their ship… there was a lot of potential excitement, especially from Commander Rolaine, regarding this. One decision that did have to be made, however, was raised by the Senior Navigator, who voiced the possibility of going directly to Svard from Damaris, cutting about half of the time from the trip.

 

Of course, charting a new warp route was not something to blindly enter into but the potential for time saving (which equalled profit for the Deepstalker House) and a new charted route (which equalled profit for the Navigator House) was too high to ignore. The journey, which would take them between two spatial anomalies, the God-Emperors Scourge and the Cauldron, was not one for the faint of heart but, after discussing it with the crew, the decision was made… they would be travelling using uncharted Warp Lanes. The Hope in the Void manoeuvred into position and then, with the klaxons peeling throughout the ship, translated into the Warp. The first week of travel provided the command crew with a chance to rest and the potential closeness of the Warp worked miracles on the Ork who quickly regained its usual vigor.

 

However, that was secondary in the mind of most of the command crew when, suddenly, the Navigator started howling in pain and distress, the klaxons shouting their alarm everywhere in the ship and then, in an instant, they found themselves back in real space, with a huge asteroid coming right for them! Isendark, as he had many times in the past, proved himself in that moment, manoeuvring thrusters and the Plasma engines flaring, spinning the Hope just out of the way of a serious collision, before wiping his brow with the sleeve of his command uniform. After their butts had unclenched the rest of the command crew started to scan the surrounding area and try and work out where they were. Natasha and Isendark combined their scans and intelligence to realise that, whilst they were slightly off-course, it could have been far worse… although Mistress Valentina couldn’t help but get in a comment at the expense of the Navigator.

 

After another seamless translation into the Warp… you could say many things about the Hope in the Void but it certainly seemed at home in the Warp, much more so than any other ship that any of the command crew had been on before, the whole of the next week passed without much incident. However, just as the crew were starting to believe that the rest of their journey would be easier their Gellar Field flickered and, worse, no-one noticed as something deadly and devious manifested in the lower holds of their ship. The entity soon made itself known to members of the crew, however, as a spate of unconnected deaths in the lower, and upper, holds of the ship eventually filtered through to the Command Crew. Knowing the perils of the warp, the Command Crew fell about this problem with a will and started trying to figure out any particular pattern to the deaths.

 

It was Mistress Valentina who came up with a hypothesis. The deaths appeared to be on decks that had 9 decks between them and the deaths were of the 9th person on each duty roster… obviously there was some foul Warp Fiend on their ship. However, because of this hypothesis, the command crew were able to figure out the potential victims for the next death and were quick to gather them together in a Cargo Hold, telling them that it was a training exercise that had just been thought up. Overall, it was around 500 people that they had gathered in the nearest Cargo Hold, and they were shown the recording of Bazak’s epic fight as a starter, this was to get them relaxed and to make them think that there was nothing wrong with this random gathering. The command crew kept a close eye on the 500 souls they had gathered but, once again, it was Mistress Valentina who spotted something strange.

 

Of course, being an Astropath gave her a slight advantage on this, but her psychic senses gave her a very dirty, dark and uneasy feeling all of a sudden, one that she knew meant that something that was not of this reality… she could almost see a black cloud gathering over the assembled crew. Signalling to the crew, she started following where her senses were taking her, before “seeing” it congeal and enter one of the crew in the Cargo Hold. Mistress Valentina was about to signal which member of the crew had been infected when, suddenly, she could not move, or speak, or do anything that she wanted to do. The rest of the command crew started to see random people suddenly dropping to the floor, dead to the touch with not a mark on them. The Bazak fight was keeping most of the attention of the crew in the Hold, but it would not be long before panic started setting in.

 

Suddenly, Mistress Valentina was back in control of herself, gathering her formidable willpower and breaking the Fiend’s domination of her mind and body. Constantine started chanting the canticles of the Emperor in a loud voice, but that did not seem to have much effect on the disembodied warp creature. After a quick description, Thelonious reached into his augmented memory and realised that what they faced was a “Veiled Deceit,” which he remembered from a book of hazardous provenance that he had read earlier in his life. Informing the command crew of this, there was an element of panic in their chatter, and Natasha Yorke started moving towards the doorway, aiming to potentially space the entire Cargo Hold if necessary… after all, they could not allow such a daemon to remain free… who knows what it’s designs were.

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Chapter 15 – The Oncoming Storm

 

The Seneschal realised, after gaining position near the doorway, that spacing the entire cargo hold in the warp was probably not a good idea… in fact, it might have been the worst idea that had ever been mentioned on the Hope in the Void and this is where one of the crew is an Ork. There was a discussion, away from the other members of the crew, about doing an emergency exit from the warp and then spacing the cargo hold but, after a very back and forth discussion, it was decided that the danger to the ship was too great… who knows where they would end up? Meanwhile, whilst their discussion was ongoing, Mistress Valentina could sense the Veiled Deceit moving from body to body, a few minutes between each of its possessions, and taking the life of everyone it took… she realised that they actually had a good window of time before everyone started noticing.

 

The decision about what to do mainly boiled down to two options. Keep everyone in the Cargo Hold until they could make a controlled translation from the warp and then space them all, or spread the people around the ship to make the Daemon’s job of finding them a lot harder. In the end, it was the Ork, of all members of the command crew, who suggested that they might want to think about using the Teleportarium. Natasha, now fully healed, was tasked to go and question the tech priests controlling the Teleportarium and, once she was there she set about the task in no uncertain terms, phrasing her suggestion as an order. The chief priest was somewhat aghast at the question/requirement but, after thinking about it for a little while, realised that there was nothing particularly wrong with teleportation in the Warp… although he had not heard of it being done before.

 

After contacting the Lord High Captain, Natasha headed back to the Cargo Hold where the command crew was in heated discussion about what the next action should be. The Arch Militant came up with a plan to get everyone to the Teleportarium, where the Astropath could see who was possessed and then the Ork could fling the offending person into the Teleportarium, and they could then be teleported out of the ship and, more importantly, out of the Gellar field. Cutting short the “training” video the selected crew were watching, the command crew ordered the crew members to follow them to the next area for their next level of training, whilst contacting the Ork (who was in the Captain’s chair, wearing his best hat) and getting them to meet them there. Whilst a few members of the crew “mysteriously” died on the way, order was kept.

 

Once the majority of the crew were in place, Thelonious took his place and pointed out the rules of the “game” they were going to play. It was very much a game of Deepstalker Bulldog, with teams of crew members trying to get from one area of the large space they were in, to another area, whilst avoiding other teams trying to tackle them. During the “match” a few more people dropped dead before the plan was able to be enacted, with Mistress Valentina pointing out the next person who was about to be possessed and Bazak leaping in to grab them, shouting “You’ve won a prize!” as it tried to manhandle the crew member into the Teleportarium. Unfortunately, the crew member was too slippery for that, and staggered out of the Orks reach… with their plan falling around them, Commander Rolaine rushed into the fray and kicked the crew member in the back… this was enough to make him stumble into the Teleportarium.

 

Having been briefed, the Tech Priests quickly activated the Teleportarium and, with a flash, the possessed crew member was gone, moved into the abyss that was the Warp outside. The command crew carried on the “game” with the crew members for a while after this, although Mistress Valentina did do a psychic sweep of the area, trying to figure out whether the Daemon was, indeed, gone… and she could find no trace of the creature. After the “game” had finished, the crew members were rewarded for their participation and cleanup crews were called to get rid of the corpses, a task that took them quite a while given the regular bodies from their journey from the Cargo Hold to the Teleportarium. With that excitement finished with, the rest of the journey through the Warp seemed to pass quite quickly and the Hope in the Void soon translated out into the Svard system, their systems showing a passage of 22 days.

 

The long range scans, whilst somewhat impeded by the gas storm coming off Svard Prime, were showing a very similar scene to what the crew had seen before and, as they got closer to Svard itself, they could see some of the System ships moving through the void. After a quick hail, once they got within range, the Hope in the Void were shocked to learn that the trip through the warp had taken 90 days, 3 months had passed in what was only 22 days to them. Thelonious questioned the Navigator quite closely, who theorised that they were going against the Warp Currents and the fact that they went between the God Emperor’s Scourge and the Cauldron could have made a difference. However, the Navigator was quite confident that, because of this, any trips the other way would probably be a lot faster… Thelonious took this under advisement as the Hope in the Void traversed the system.

 

After informing Svard that their Lord and Saviour had come back and after meeting the Crystal Council again, Thelonious and the command crew took stock of where Svard was. With the system ships now converted back to cargo carriers, and doing a circuit of the major installations and moons in the system, intra-system trade was probably about as good as it was going to get without more ships. This was not beyond the shipyard of Cog, although they had been focussed on getting the planet up and running first but, based on the information he was getting, Thelonious knew that the only way to accelerate the growth of Svard was to bring in some inter-system trade, which would involve talking to the Chartist captains. Thelonious was impressed by how far Svard had come, with a lot of the armed forces being demobilised and food production up, with the plasma and promethium flowing from the Installation proving invaluable.

 

The command crew were informed that a lot of the former Whisperers were being slowly reintegrated into society, although they got the impression that if Svard had not been in such dire straits then they might have been killed… but at the moment most of them were being utilised to the best of their ability. Whilst they were on Svard, the Lord High Captain gave his patronage to a military ceremony, where the medals he had ordered were passed out, although he did a more private ceremony for the veterans of Cog, site of Thelonious’s best victory so far, although he had 500 to give to some Naval Marines when he next ran into them… as he was sure he would. After finishing up on Svard, and dropping the Tech Priests off for a little maintenance (whilst also giving orders for them to be on the next transport to Cog) on the hives, the Hope in the Void departed for Cog.

 

The trip was uneventful, as would be expected… they were hailed by a system ship or two on the way, hails that they were happy to answer and inform them that their Lord and Master had returned. When they arrived that Cog they could see that it was much more of a hive of activity than it was on their first visit, with the spaceport somewhat active and in the process of refitting one of the System Ships, although that was quickly made to leave so that the Hope in the Void could dock. The Magos was pleased to see them, firstly because they were bringing a large amount of priceless metal to repair the tracks on the planet, but also because the Magos knew he owed them a Macrobattery Broadside and wanted to get that sorted as soon as possible. After a little negotiation, they also managed to talk the Mechanicus into shifting one of the Launch bays to the other side of the ship… they knew they could roll in combat after all.

 

After spending a couple of weeks on Cog, the refitting and installation was finished and the Hope in the Void had something that they could fire, much to the Arch Militant’s delight and she immediately wanted to go and “test” it on the Seedworld, but was wisely overruled. During this enforced downtime the crew came together to discuss where they were going to go next. The choice seemed to boil down to Damaris or Footfall, with Damaris being closer and being able to map the Warp Route they had travelled before, and Footfall having a lot more facilities that would allow them to better themselves, but was a very long way away. However, the main thing that swung it in Damaris’s favour was that the crew did not want to really disappear from Svard for a long period of time until they had advanced it a bit more than its current state… and that meant inter-system trade, and probably an Astropath.

 

With their business in Svard finished, for now, the Hope in the Void moved to the edge of the system and translated back into the warp, braving the unknown route they had tried before, but knowing it would be different because they were going with the “current.” During the journey there was a slight outbreak of madness amongst the lower decks and gun crews, with some of it proving a little infectious to the command crew as well… Natasha was definitely looking at the Captain a little strangely for the rest of the voyage. However, just like on the trip to Svard, in a serendipitous occurrence that the Warp loves throwing out occasionally; the Navigator was again assailed by something and, being unable to avoid it, threw the Hope in the Void out into realspace. Isendark was on alert, in case of any asteroids this time, but none of those seemed to be in the vicinity.

 

That being said, the long range scans did reveal a threat, and a big one… an Ork Kroozer travelling the same way as them, although as it realised they were there, it started to turn towards them, floating ominously in the void. Knowing that a fight with an Ork Kroozer would be dangerous and potentially ruinous, and also wondering what they were doing out here, Thelonious decided to let Bazak handle this… knowing that the Orks would probably be quite surprised to hear one of their own.

 

Bazak: “Dis is Bazak, of de Hope in Da Void… state ya intenshuns ya Git!”

Ork: “Dis is Warcheef Boznoz of the Kill Kroozer Naargh! Named after da soundz me enemies makes when I smoosh em! Howz der be an Ork on da Humee ship?”

Bazak: “Cauz Iz represenz dees Humee’s.”

Boznoz: “Dey ur Klan?”

Bazak: “Dey Arr!”

Boznoz: “You wiv Warboss SnokGritz?”

Bazak: “Nahh… too much bitchin!”

Boznoz: “Whats u doin on dis Korse den?”

Bazak: “Weze on way to Humee world for tradin and fightin and bitin! Damaris”

Boznoz: “Warboss on way to Damaris, smoosh Humees!”

Bazak: “Fun! Plunder! When attack happn?”

Boznoz: “Soon… on way to join… death for Humees… except in Klan! Join us!”

Bazak: “Nah, get der first, stomp puny Hummes before SnokGritz!”

 

There was a moments silence on the other end as Bazak’s threat/bluff/conversation stalled, with the rest of the crew holding their breath as to how Warchief Boznoz would respond. They soon got their answer.

 

Boznoz: “Well, me boyz be wantin a fight, but can smash Damaris… good huntin! Oi… datz mine ye Git!”

 

The crew could hear the sound of a fight engulf the communication along with many cries of pain and enjoyment and decided that this would be a good time to leave… with most of them looking at Bazak with something akin to respect. After translating back to the warp, met with a sigh of relief that was not usual for such an effort, the Hope in the Void sped through the warp, seeming to drift on the very edge and catch the currents. With no further incidents along the way, they translated back into the Damaris system, into one of the very open and empty translation lanes that Damaris was blessed with. The first thing they asked was the date… and were delighted to discover that the 20+ day journey they had undertaken had been done in just under 8… although the Navigator, after a conference with his house members, told the command crew that the route they had charted was always going to be that unstable.

 

It was at that moment that Mistress Valentina received an Astropathic message telling her exactly what she already knew… that Orks were coming and Damaris needed aid, although the potential for profit was something she passed onto the Lord Captain. Once they moved into orbit they realised that it was probably the Aegis, on patrol, who had discovered some of the Orkish threat as it was currently being repaired at the Bulwark. They were soon hailed by the commander of the Bulwark, Orryn Reynolds who was surprised they had answered the call so quickly, and no-one on the crew did anything to dissuade him from that. They soon realised that there was no combined sense of orbital defence in the vicinity, which given the relationship between Lady Orleans and General Remi did surprise them somewhat.

 

They docked with the Bulwark and found out that there was a Defence Council meeting the next day… they quickly got an invite and then retired back to their ship to plan.

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SPOILER WARNING

 

We are now starting to play through the Frozen Reaches Campaign.

 

If you are aiming to play this setting and want it to be a surprise best stop reading now.

 

 

I'll let you know when we're done

 

Chapter 16 – 15 Profit Factor and a Party!

 

Having decided that Teleporting directly into the Governors Palace, where the council meeting was taking place, was just a bit too ostentatious (for the moment) the command crew gathered in their diplomatic shuttle and, under the sure guidance of Isendark, shuttled down to the planet. It was a bright and beautiful day, totally at odds with the sense of impending doom that was spreading amongst the people of Damaris. Upon landing, and setting their guards around the shuttle to keep it safe, the crew noticed someone across the way who was looking intently at them and, when they returned his look, he moved over to introduce himself as Jorun Alexander, adjutant to Governor Kalpak. After some facile greetings the command crew was shown into a luxuriously appointed vehicle, which set off towards the Governors Palace, which gave the crew time to question the adjutant.

 

Jorun mentioned that the Governor was glad that the Deepstalker House had arrived, given the relationships they had with most of the major players. He also mentioned the mansion that had been set aside for their use if they so wished, and Thelonious started issuing orders to the effect of securing the mansion so that it would be safe on his return from the council meeting. They found out that Battlefleet Calixis had rejected their call for aid a few days ago and, whilst the government were keeping it quiet, the rumours were already starting to spread. Thelonious pointed out that it seemed odd they had done this, given that the Aegis was still in orbit and Lord Captain Locke was on the defence council… it was something to be ruminated on later. Although, given the rancour between the Lord Captain and the General, which based on what Jorun was saying was mutual, maybe it made a bit more sense.

 

Jorun also pointed out, after questions by Thelonious, that the rumour was that Lady Orleans and General Remi had disagreed about the future of Damaris and that was the reason for their falling out. Thelonious realised that this was probably the truth, given Lady Orleans “interest” in the Ecclesiarchy and Administratum… yet another challenge to surmount. The Adeptus Mechanicus was very much on the side-lines, not really bothered about who commanded what, confident that the Forge was impenetrable to most forms of attacks. Soon after their conversation died, the command crew arrived at the Governors Palace… which could be charitably described as “aggressively Imperial,” which was something they had seen elsewhere on Damaris… they wanted to be an official Imperial world so much that it almost hurt, and that entire attitude was distilled in the Governors Palace.

 

As they entered through the main doors, carved with reliefs of Imperial Saints, Jorun Alexander was quickly assailed by another functionary and, after a quick and heated discussion, the Governors adjutant approached the party, embarrassment written over his features… it appeared that the Defence Council had already restarted their session, a terrible breach of etiquette. Thelonious took this in his stride, literally, as he moved with purpose, his cane making a suitable clicking noise on each step, moving his hat to be at the right jaunty angle, before stopping before the door to the Defence Council, nodding at Jorun to open the doors and announce him. Making sure that everyone could hear the click of his metal studded cane smashing against the floor with each step, Thelonious strode into the Council chamber imperiously, making sure to meet the eyes of everyone in one fell swoop.

 

Everyone turned to look at the Lord High Captain, Lady Orleans giving him a smile and a sneaky wave, Marshall Thrace shaking her head slowly, Lord Captain Locke practicing one of her patented “death stares,” Jeremiah Blitz smirked, and gave the impression that it was just a natural expression on his face. General Remi was the last to meet Thelonious’s gaze, greeting him with a severe nod. Thelonious nodded back to all of them, apologising for his tardiness in getting here, his smile hard but enticing, before indicating that he was just here as an observer for this meeting and for them to please carry on. It quickly became obvious that most of the meetings were made up of people sniping at each other, with very little thought given to collaborative planning or the holographic display of the planet of Damaris… the level of animosity would not have been too out of place on an Ork ship.

 

The Governor was trying to act as a mediator but, in all honesty, the command crew could see that the level of respect he commanded in the room was minimal, if not less than that. Eventually, as the crew realised had been happening quite a lot recently, the sniping got too bad and the Governor called for an adjournment of the council meeting until tomorrow, to which everyone agreed and then started filing from the room. Thelonious and his command crew stayed behind, greeting everyone who left with societal niceties, whilst waiting for time to be ‘alone’ with the Governor… Commander Rolaine was incredibly angry at the lack of progress, the inefficiency was particularly galling. During the meeting, whilst keeping an eye on proceedings, the command crew had been quizzing Bazak on the Ork’s likely attack patterns and anything else he might know about them.

 

One thing that Bazak could tell them was that Warboss SnotGritz was from the Undred Undred Teef and that he was quite far down the Ork pecking order, so it was quite surprising he was so far away and they wondered what it was that had brought him to Damaris. In terms of combat tactics, however, Bazak could only point out that they would fight like he fights… straight ahead, burying Damaris with their numbers although, given that SnotGritz was a Warboss, there was likely to be some degree of Kunnin. They realised that, with their carrier, they would be able to use the aeronautica to provide air support and superiority which, given the Orks would probably not have a lot of air support, would give them quite the advantage of intelligence. Realising that this was about the best they could hope for at the moment, they turned their attention to the Governor.

 

Governor Kalpak was quite nervous, at least until a pull on his Obscura pipe, but was pleased to see them and they started dickering over the fine points of the agreement that had been promised for anyone who helped to defend Damaris. Thelonious, who had done some digging into Kalpaks backstory, saw some eerie parallels between them… both were second/third sons who were not expected to amount to anything and both had been thrust into a position of power that they were not trained for. However, whereas Thelonious had grasped the opportunity and risen to the challenge; the Governor had not… perhaps could not, but it gave Thelonious an insight into the man behind the title. The Governor did have one good idea though, to bring forward his Quarterly Gala to give the command crew time to talk with the great and the good of Damaris.

 

Thelonious thanked the Governor for the foresight in providing them with a Mansion to call their own and also “complimented” the Governors Palace, calling it the “most Imperial Building I have ever been in,” which had the added benefit of being completely true, and the Governor lapped it up. After a little bit more conversation, in which they learned that the populace of Damaris was converging on the city of Damaris, with their high and wide walls, due to a call out that the Governor had spearheaded… it was obvious to the command crew that the Governor deeply cared for the populace of Damaris. After taking their leave, Thelonious directed Natasha to take 1,000 of the most loyal crew members, from all walks of life, and disperse them around the planet… he knew that there would be losses and wanted to be able to infiltrate their ranks if the need arose.

 

Taking their complimentary limousine back to the Mansion, the command crew were delighted to find that they had access to the military and planetary data for Damaris and set to it with a will, gathering and collating all the information they could get. The Highland Levy, the Mechanised Infantry of Damaris was 4 regiments strong, although the walls were so massive and lengthy that 2 regiments were always assigned to the walls. Added to that were the Sphinx Heavy Guard, Damaris’s 2 armoured regiments and the Highland Wardens, the mobile artillery function of Damaris, although they were quite lucky to have that, mobile artillery not really being needed on Damaris. They could see that the Magistratum troops seemed to be well organised, although only really skilled in urban suppression, and then there were the Skitari from the Adeptus Mechanicus.

 

Bazak was somewhat concerned with the orbital defences, although it was pointed out to the Ork that it had not been needed before and that Damaris would have spent the money on things they needed, like survival. With the Bulwark and 4 system defence ships, it was imperative that the Deepstalker House get everyone onside because it would only be with those ships that were in orbit that there would be any hope of denting the Ork onslaught. Thelonious made the decision to delegate their support craft to the evacuation effort whilst also sending out feelers for people who were prepared to pay to leave the planet… after all, they had a lot of space on their ship. They also made a decision that they were going to invest heavily in Damaris’s defence, and started sending orders to that effect.

 

Thelonious came up with an idea of a bounty on Ork Teef, guaranteed to make soldiers fight harder and with more morale, knowing that some of them could get very rich… competition between the battalions and units, which would have the side effect of acquiring Teef for the Deepstalker House. Commander Rolaine had meetings with the Manufacturing Conglomerate and convinced them to move their production towards a war facing, spending liberal amounts of Throne Gelt to lubricate the process. The Hope in the Void also opened their holds and gifted the rest of the Promethium and Heavy Plasma to various interested groups and, finally, they contacted the Free Talons and other mercenary groups and started buying up their contracts to put them into the fight. Finally, they convinced some of the other industries and the Bulwark to create some orbital mines, because it was a form of area denial and very much in their interests.

 

With that decided, and members of their staff set to making it a reality, their thoughts turned to the gala that evening. One of the first things to decide, as Thelonious knew well from his decadent past, was when to arrive. The Rogue Trader wanted his Seneschal to get there early, so that she could overhear and keep an eye on the other party goers and sent Isendark with her as protection. The Governor had made a request for Bazak to be there, the Champion of Damaris was in high demand amongst the nobility, so the Ork and Commander Rolaine were to arrive on time. Mistress Valentina had been suffering from the effects of Warp Translation and begged off going, which left Thelonious to arrive fashionably late. With that decided, everyone went their separate ways to get ready, and dressed, for the gala.

 

The evening of the Gala came faster than they would have thought possible. Natasha and Isendark turned up early, Isendark looking relatively uncomfortable in formal wear whilst Natasha was looking stunning in a flowing crystal blue dress. On the way through the grounds, Natasha took a detour to speak with someone she had noticed… Magos Hadron Shard.

 

Shard: “Yorke, greetings.”

Yorke: “Magos, greetings to you as well. Why are you standing outside?”

Shard: “Party starts at 7pm. I am waiting until 7pm exactly. I will enter through the doors then.”

Yorke: “How… punctual of you Magos.”

Shard: “I will stay for 2 hours exactly. I have calculated this is the exact amount of time I need to stay to be ‘polite.’ Very few talk to me… I prefer this.”

Yorke: “Well, we might pop over later but otherwise enjoy the party.”

 

With a nod to the Magos, Yorke continued her entrance into the Palace. After both her and Isendark were announced as they entered the room, quite empty as they expected, they could see that the banqueting hall was huge, still aggressively Imperial, with a large portion curtained off for the food. The Seneschal was soon approached by Bishop Arrint, who looked about as uncomfortable as Isendark did, to Yorke’s eternal delight. Given that Yorke was not too fond of the Imperial Creed, having been born and raised on a Forge World, the conversation quickly petered out and Yorke went to moving around the room, engaging in petty conversations.

 

Commander Rolaine was the next to arrive, without Bazak this time as the Ork had decided he wanted to be ‘fashon late’ as well, and saw the Magos entering just as the bells in the Palace finished tolling for 7pm. She was joined at the entrance by Marshall Thrace who, as seemed to be the way, looked quite uncomfortable… obviously it was only the command crew of the Deepstalker House that was accustomed to social situations. They struck up a mutually appreciative conversation, entered the hall together, before moving off to visit others in the hall; Yorke made a note of this to tell the Rogue Trader… you never could tell when contacts could come in handy. All that was left for them to do, other than mingle and socialise, was to await the grand entrance of the Lord High Captain and his Ork pet.

 

The Ork made, as was to be expected, a grand and not exactly subtle entrance, its corded muscles pushing open the doors with enough force to cause a reverberating BOOM to echo throughout the hall, with even the announcer somewhat stunned into silence. However, after that entrance it seemed that the nobility of Damaris were engaged in a game of one-upmanship by trying to be the last to show their interest in the Xenos Savage that they had taken to their hearts. Bazak, not bothered at all by the game of politics, lumbered onto the dance floor and, to a heavy drum beat, started an Orkish marching tune in his head, stomping all over the dance floor, seemingly at random. This amused most of the party goers until the Rogue Trader entered, the ringing endorsement of his title of Glorious Strategist booming out from the announcers voice as he strode confidently into the room.

 

Taking a long, slow look around the room he noticed that, as fashionably late as he had been, a lot of the worthies he was here to talk to had not yet arrived and he frowned somewhat. Bazak, having terrorised the dance floor had made his way over to the food table where he found Hadron Shard, using his mechadendrites to pick up and sample a wide variety of food, with everyone else giving this metal monstrosity a wide berth. After the typical greeting between an Ork and a Magos; “Xenos Scum, Metal Man,” the Magos offered the Ork some shrimp, saying it was delicious. When the Ork took up this offer, ate the shrimp and didn’t die, the Magos noted this for later research… not allergic to shrimp. It was about that time that the Governor made his entrance and, soon after him, Lady Orleans.

 

Quickly following her were Jeremiah Blitz, General Remi and Orran Reynolds and then finally, so late that it was just plain rude, Lord-Captain Locke and her XO, Xano Cass. The Governor’s Astropath had also made his quiet way into the hall during that time, and the Seneschal decided to speak to him… her experience having been shaped by Mistress Valentina, she was curious to see if they were all alike. Meanwhile Thelonious, who was talking to some random noble whilst scanning the room was looking to see who to approach first, based on their demeanours. Sylvia Locke and Xano Cass appeared to be tolerating the gala rather than enjoying it, the same with General Remi and Orran Reynolds (although they were passing glances at the Governor) whereas Lady Orleans was working the room like a seasoned pro… not that Thelonious was surprised by that.

 

Meanwhile, Yorke was dancing with a succession of noblemen… not because she was leaving them after one dance, but because her inexpert flailing was making the nobles have to retire with bruised shins and feet. Thelonious decided it would be polite to go and greet the Governor, which conveniently also put off him having to decide which person to approach first, knowing that whomever he did not would be royally annoyed, such was the level of rivalry between them. The Governor shook his hands vigorously, and somewhat desperately, until Thelonious signalled for a servant to bring an Obscura pipe, which calmed the Governor down immensely. That service being done, and after a short conversation, Thelonious started looking around the room again, a sigh escaping from his mouth.

 

Commander Rolaine had waited until Sylvia Locke and Xano Cass were separated and then pounced, in a non-sexual manner, on the XO… the last time they had met was when the Free Talons had tried to assassinate Rolaine and, literally at the same time, they both said that they hoped the gala would be less eventful! Rolaine started laying the groundwork with the XO, talking about the Deepstalker investments into the defence of Damaris, which seemed to impress the XO who had not thought that Rogue Traders would put so much of themselves on the line for a would-be Imperial World. He also point out that the Lord-Captain was very much a fan of blunt speech and that the reason Thelonious and Rolaine had annoyed her so much previously was because of their over flowery and not getting to the point speech.

 

Thelonious was just about to pop over to see Lady Orleans, but Bazak got there first… Thelonious shook his head and moved towards General Remi and Orran Reynolds instead, although inside he was wishing he could be amongst that conversation.

 

Lady Orleans: “Oh, I see… Thelonious’s pet, what could you be after?”

Bazak: “Youz iz lookin particlary striking toonite Mizz Orleans.”

Lady Orleans (sighing): “You are not here to proposition me again for Thelonious, are you?”

Bazak: “Iz mite be… da Boss needz a humee!”

Lady Orleans: “Well, I have to say… you are persistent, I will give you that… and I never thought I would be muttering those words to an Ork.”

 

It was about this time that Lady Orleans delicately extricated herself from the Ork’s presence, which meant that Bazak moved onto the next person in line… Lord-Captain Locke; although, luckily, Commander Rolaine spotted this impending catastrophe and was able to intervene before the evening was ruined. Meanwhile, Thelonious had retired to a more private booth with the General and Commander and was discussing what would be needed to bring them onside… other than not having to speak to Lord-Captain Locke again.

 

General Remi: “You are a Rogue Trader, with a good reputation and I have seen nothing in our dealings to say that is false. I have already spoken with Jeremiah Blitz about this, but his price was too high.”

General Remi: “You are observant enough to have noticed in our last meeting the disdain I have for the Governor, he is not fit to lead a Conga Line, never mind a planet. This was fine when Damaris was just a trading port, a place for people to stop over. Now that we face invasion, however, this cannot stand.”

Thelonious: “Well, I can see that you have some strong beliefs there, and I can’t tell you that I disagree entirely… tell me what you want.”

General Remi: “The time is coming, soon, for me to take over the Governorship of this world and I would like your patronage and support for when that time comes. For that, you will gain my troops as if you were commanding in my stead.”

 

Thelonious leaned back for a moment, considering the offer, and then came back in with an offer of his own.

 

Thelonious: “Without a united front, without a consolidation of resources towards the war effort, Damaris burns. Now, I have a ship, Blitz has a ship, Orleans has a ship and Locke has a ship… we can leave whenever we want… you, on the other hand, would be stuck here, eventually dying to Orks. Give me your troops and I will work to see that does not happen.”

 

Thelonious could see that he had hit a sore spot with the General… who knew that Thelonious had him over a barrel. On the other hand, Thelonious did think that the General might make a better Governor than Kalpak so, to soothe the wound he made the right noises about backing the General, but only after the current crisis had passed. As he left the conversation, Thelonious mentally ticked off one of the people he had to convince and congratulated himself on a job well done. Meanwhile, Natasha was keeping an eye on Blitz, especially the amount of women he was vanishing with and then coming back a little while later with an even larger smile on his face… when he came back from yet another rendezvous, she grabbed him. Blitz looked her up and down.

 

Blitz: “You’ll do.”

Natasha: “And, who are you?”

Blitz (stepping back and bowing): “Jeremiah Blitz, my lady. Owner of the Ordained Destiny, you may have seen it in orbit?”

Natasha: “Ahhh, yes… that gaudy monstrosity that looks like someone has attacked it with Gold paint?”

Blitz: “Yes, the old girl does look a little bit out of place, but has never let me down yet. Plus, it shines like a supernova in the sun.”

Natasha: “Have you ever thought of melting it down? The Gold I mean.”

Blitz: “Not at all, I find her perfect for my needs just the way she is.”

 

The short campaign of one-upmanship carried on for a while, sending veiled insults and questions back and forth to each other, both impressed by the others quip making ability until Yorke offered to dance, to which Blitz replied that he didn’t dance, Yorke responded that neither did she and they left a trail of devastation behind them with their “dance.” In fact, during their “dance” Hadron Shard left the gala, calculating, to the very second, his exit, as he had promised to Natasha what seemed like a very long time ago. Thelonious took advantage of both distractions to make his way to Lady Orleans, avoiding the glare coming his way from Sylvia Locke.

 

Lady Orleans: “Thelonious… if only I had known that you Seneschal and Blitz were such terrible dancers, I would have got them together a long time ago… truly hilarious.”

Thelonious: “Unfortunately, I was in consultation with General Remi at the time but, hopefully her Servo Skull will record the occasion for posterity.”

Lady Orleans: “Yes, I saw you speaking to the General…”

Thelonious: “What an arse!”

Lady Orleans: “and I was hurt that you would not talk to me first.”

Thelonious: “Well, you know what they say Elizabeth, you should always do your work before your pleasure, and General Remi is indeed work.”

Lady Orleans: “So you are saying that I am not work?”

Thelonious: “My dear, I would say you are the perfect combination of the two. Shall we dance?”

 

It was at the time that Lady Orleans took the lead in their dance that Thelonious realised that he might have made a mistake… she was an incredible dancer and the dance she had chosen had a beat that he was unfamiliar with… it took all his agility and poise to even keep up with her and, after a few minutes, he was panting and his heart was pounding. Lady Orleans could see this and, after a couple more minutes of increasing his torment, she slowed down a little and allowed Thelonious to catch up.

 

Thelonious: “Elizabeth, why are you being so astringent about working with Damaris… you know that if Damaris burns then all your investments go with it.”

Lady Orleans: “Thelonious, it is not about not wanting to work with them, it is the fact that the General thinks that he should be the overall commander and, after our falling out, that is not something I would countenance.”

Thelonious: “Yes, I had to offer him more than I wanted to gain his forces, but such is the way of the world.”

Lady Orleans: “Some people are willing to let Damaris fall to fuel their petty ego and ambition, rather than getting along in a greater sense of brotherhood.”

 

Thelonious thought it unwise to point out the fallacy in her argument and they continued the dance, the Rogue Trader getting more familiar with the beat and the rhythm.

 

Lady Orleans: “Well, getting down to business, Thelonious, we have spoken before about my distaste for the Ecclesiarchy and my wish for it to vanish from Damaris. I will require your promise and your help to do this as well as honouring any contracts I still have in Damaris… that is my price for my help.”

Thelonious: “I definitely have my concerns about that course of action my lady… I fear it will court disaster more than we can both face.”

Lady Orleans: “Did you know that 85% of what Damaris produces is tithed to the Imperium. It goes all the way to Footfall and then into the Calixis sector... 85%! Do you know what Damaris could do, could be, if that was invested instead of being squandered. And what does Damaris get for its fealty? Nothing!”

Thelonious: “It is definitely an oddity amongst the planets in the Expanse, that is true. I had not realised that the Imperial Tithe took so much from Damaris… that does change things somewhat.”

 

They continued their talk in this vein for a little while more and Thelonious knew that he was winning her round. In the end they agreed to try and create a Damaris Cult of the Emperor that was separate, but still aligned to the Ecclesiarchy. The plan being, to then funnel those funds that were due to the Church into Damaris itself, which would both spite the Ecclesiarchy but not lead the faithful of Damaris from the Emperors light. For this, Lady Orleans pledged her, and Blitz, to the unified cause. Thelonious, who very much enjoyed Elizabeth’s company, said his farewells and made his way over to Sylvia Locke, shaking his head as he did so… saving planets and systems was hard work!

 

The glare that Lord-Captain Locke sent Thelonious’s way was not as hate filled as it had been earlier in the evening, the intervention of Commander Rolaine with her XO and, indeed, with her and the Ork had softened her stance somewhat towards the Deepstalker House.

 

Locke: “Lord High Captain, your XO did not make quite as bad an impression as she did last time.”

Thelonious: “Lord-Captain, I am very glad to hear that, it was never our intention to offend you the first time, my apologies. Would you care to dance?”

Locke: “Captain, I do not dance. I focus my time on trying to be the best **** Captain that the Imperial Navy has ever seen… it does not leave a lot of time for dancing.”

 

Commander Rolaine and Xano Cass were perched up against one of the bars in the banqueting hall, with Xano Cass relaying what was happening to Rolaine, who could not bring herself to watch yet another disaster playing out before her. However, contrary to her expectations, the conversation seemed to flow relatively well, with the body language easing as time went on… Thelonious was teasing answers from her like a well-tuned director, although it did seem that Locke wanted to unburden something and the Rogue Trader just happened to be the first to ask the right questions.

 

Locke: “I recently received some orders from the Battlefleet that are very, very troubling to me. As someone who sees a lot of potential in Damaris, I see the potential for greatness, with the right support. I have been ordered by the Battlefleet to abandon Damaris to the Orks… they have judged that it is not worth risking my ship over.”

Thelonious (somewhat stunned): “That would be… a tremendous loss Lord-Captain, I see the Aegis as a cornerstone in the defence of Damaris. A defence that would be lost without your participation.”

Locke (getting angry): “The Imperial Navy has a duty to the people of the Imperium. It is the first, and sometimes only, line of defence and any who fear the God Emperor should be protected. How can I do that with orders telling me to leave!?”

Thelonious: “High ranking members of the Imperium can request aid from the Imperial Navy and Guard… I am one such member. Whilst I don’t think I could change the Battlefleets mind, I might be able to extend the time you were allowed to stay here, just by paralysing their bureaucracy?”

Locke: “That... that might actually work. I see a colony here wants to be part of the Imperium and I want to protect and nurture that… even the Governor can see that, so why can’t my superiors?”

Thelonious: “I will send an astropathic signal, a very weak one, to the Battlefleet, requesting your aid. This should give you time to come to terms with the decision that you have to make. Whether you value your career or your duty to the Imperium.”

 

With that, Thelonious turned on his heels, smartly, and started walking away from Lord-Captain Locke. As he did so, he allowed a smile to play across his face… he was wondering whether the title of Grand Marshall was appropriate for the Supreme Commander of Damaris’s assets.

Edited by Major Kimenth

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SPOILER WARNING

 

We are now starting to play through the Frozen Reaches Campaign.

 

If you are aiming to play this setting and want it to be a surprise best stop reading now.

 

 

I'll let you know when we're done

 

Chapter 17 – Macrocannons, Stormtroopers and Telekinesis, Oh My!

 

The next morning dawned, bright and beautiful but heavy with portent, and Thelonious made sure he got to the Defence Council meeting early, so that he could have some one-on-one time with the Governor. When Thelonious informed the Governor that he had managed to get all three of the major power blocs on Damaris to co-operate… at least with him, and that he could freely name him as Grand Marshall when the Defence Council started. Thelonious, mindful of his conversation with General Remi, also gave the Governor a few members of his household guard, as a “gift” to keep him safe in these trying times. The rest of the Defence Council were quick to arrive after that, Sylvia Locke giving Thelonious a slight nod to indicate what decision she had made and, whilst there was a little bit of grumbling from various quarters, as Thelonious had mentioned, his appointment to Grand Marshal was unopposed.

 

The Rogue Trader and his crew spend the next few days touring the troops that were going to defend Damaris. They already knew about the Highland Levy, although they had not seen much of their Heavy Guard or Mobile Artillery and, with their own aeronautica, they would have complete and utter air superiority. They also toured some of the troops that had been provided by Lady Orleans and Jeremiah Blitz as well as the Magistratum forces of Solaria Thrace, and were also somewhat surprised when a couple of Cohorts of Skitarii arrived, courtesy of the compliments of Hadron Shard. With a company of their own armsmen, the command crew of House Deepstalker were feeling confident that the troops they had would be enough. The rest of the week was spent firming up the plans with the various power groups, converting Damaris to full on war production and sending out calls for everyone outside the walls to come into Damaris.

 

They also took a tour of the city defences, noting the Levy Bunkers that had been set up outside the city walls, which would have the effect of channelling any attacking army and sapping some of their strength… it was a good bit of foresight by the city planners that had Commander Rolaine’s approval. They learnt of the power generators being housed in the Mechanicus Forge as well as the planetary infrastructure and industrial infrastructure that was part of the reason for Damaris’s reputation as a jewel of the Expanse. They realised that their original plan of holding everything on Damaris’s walls and letting the Orks mess around with the outer parts of the planet would protect Damaris, but would not allow some of their investment to come back… they needed to keep the planet as a going concern. It was about this time that Bishop Arint approached Constantine to ask that the holy relic always be able to be taken from Damaris, so as not to fall into the hands of the filthy Xenos.

 

With the tension growing, and the sense of impending doom increasing, the Defence Council met to decide on the patrol routes for their Space Fleet… 4 capital ships and 4 system defence sheets. After a short discussion, it was decided that each capital ship would be accompanied by one system defence ship and that they would cut Damaris into quarters to patrol. They knew that the Orks were going to get through… space is just too big and open for them to stop everything but they vowed to make the Xenos scum pay for their attempt. They also plumbed Bazak, their resident Ork, for knowledge of his kin… although it was not really anything different to what they knew about the Orks… the attack would be direct, it would be brutal and it would have no quarter. The rest of their time was spent with further strategizing and making sure that Damaris was in the best shape it could be for the fight of its life.

 

And so it came to be that the command crew on the Hope in the Void were patrolling in orbit, with System Ship 196, when their Ultimo Array managed to pick up a ping of approaching objects. After letting the rest of the space defences know they watched as the single ping manifested into two, then three, then four and finally, five. The rest of the orbital defences also started reporting in that Orks were approaching their position as well, with Sylvia Locke issuing a system wide rallying cry, ending with “The Emperor Protects” before the Orks came close enough to engage. As they came closer the Augury Arrays were able to pick out more details and it looked like 3 frigate style ships and two much larger ones… Roks! This had been the assumed way that they would invade but, there was something to be said about finally seeing what you have been talking about… a kind of catharsis.

 

The alarms went off, bringing everyone to battle-stations and battle-readiness as Isendark started bringing the Hope in the Void around so that Commander Rolaine could aim the new Macrocannons at the Orks, the first shot they would have fired in anger. Keeping an open communication channel to the System Defence Ship, to better coordinate their movements, Commander Rolaine immediately identified the Rok’s as the biggest threat and immediately asked for a firing solution, even though the range was extreme. Yorke was happy to oblige, working with the Augur Arrays to work out the range and elevation, which she then fed to Rolaine. Rolaine took these calculations, made a couple of amendments and then gave the order to fire. In the depths of the Hope in the Void the work gangs responsible for loading and manually aiming were deafened as the Macrocannons roared.

 

The hab-block sized projectiles sailed through the void, unaffected by friction, and slammed into the Ork Rok, some being deflected by the crude void shields that protected the asteroid and the rest being deflected by the incredibly thick prow armour… the crew on the bridge let out a slight groan at the readings coming back in. Knowing that the Rok, as well as the rest of the Orks, would be coming right for them, the Hope in the Void kept on the same course. As they expected, the Orks came right for them, their Gunz firing similar sized projectiles at them but the Orks lived up to their reputation and the few that connected were deflected by the Void Shields of the Hope. System Ship 196 also fired at the Rok but, once again it was absorbed by the huge amounts of armour that the Orks had fashioned on the front of the Rok… they were going to be coming straight at them… it just made sense.

 

However, somewhat like the Orks they were facing, the command crew had wanted the Orks to come closer. With an order, Thelonious sent his bomber squadrons towards the Rok whilst Mistress Valentina gathered her choir around her and, fortified with an injection of White Void, started meditating to clear their minds for what was to come. The bombers flew straight and true against the Rok, moving around to the sides and rear of the Asteroid, and avoiding the rather haphazard turret fire that came in their direction. They let their ordinance go against the Rok and the results were impressive, massive chunks of Asteroid flying off into space and, more importantly, setting the Void Shield Generator on the Rok on fire. The Boss on the Ork Rok roared and he smashed some heads together to get them to put out the fire… little did he know what was coming for them.

 

Mistress Valentina, her normal level of clear-headedness being enhanced by the drugs coursing through her system, exhorted the choir to a new level and reached out with her mind, finding the flames caressing the Generator on the Rok. She could see the flames in their truest sense and knew that they only needed a little push to spread… she gave them more than a little push. As the rest of the command crew were debating their next move, fire spurted from the Rok in many, many locations… explosions rocking the vast Asteroid as fire swept through every location on the Rok and completely gutted it. It took Thelonious a full minute to figure out what had happened and, when he did, he realised just how scary Mistress Valentina could be and how glad he was to have her on the side of the Deepstalker Dynasty. His mind was soon on other things though, as the nearest Onslaught swung itself towards them.

 

Isendark was wrestling with the great cruiser, trying to slow its momentum enough to allow him to turn it more than 45 degrees and, as per usual, he succeeded, keeping the Orks in range of their broadsides, whilst also allowing the bombers who had launched before, to dock. System Ship 196, once again finding the target, managed to take down the only Void Shield on the nearest Onslaught, although their captain could not keep up with the fancy manoeuvres of Isendark and they separated somewhat. Bazak was waiting for this moment, the Ork being in the Teleportarium with the Svardian PDF and a specialised detachment of Stormtroopers that the Lord High Captain had managed to procure and, once they knew the Void Shields were down, they teleported directly over onto the Onslaught. Roused by Bazak’s sheer ferocity, the PDF went on a rampage through the Orkish ship, taking them completely by surprise and, before they teleported back had managed to do untold damage.

 

As they teleported back, Bazak sent his communication to Thelonious, reporting that they had managed to set the Void Shields on fire, had seriously damaged the Sensors, Life Support and Crew Quarters and had blown a hole in the hull near the Gunz… in one move they had crippled the Onslaught as an offensive force. With the Onslaught crippled, Rolaine focussed her attention on the other Rok and, in tandem with Yorke once again, fired and hit the Rok, causing very little overt damage but, unbeknownst to her, one of the projectiles had holed one of the gun compartments on the Rok, with Orks floating off into space. Thelonious, on the other hand, was not going to leave even a crippled Ork vessel that close to the Hope in the Void and launched the second bomber squadron against the stricken vessel. The outcome was never in doubt and, soon after he gave that order the Augury’s picked up a dangerous level of power coming from the Onslaught’s plasma drives.

 

Having seen this once before, in the battle with the Whisperers, Thelonious was quick to order the bombers to turn away more quickly than they would have done, and his quick thinking and reading of the situation was enough to save the bomber squadrons from a plasma drive explosion, although some of them were badly damaged, no lives or planes were lost. Meanwhile, Constantine was on hand to welcome the other bomber squadron and directed efforts to refuel and rearm them, he could tell this battle was not over yet. In an amazing turn of events another Onslaught actually managed to aim correctly and take down the Hope’s Void Shields but, unfortunately for the greenskins, the remaining projectiles did no more damage to the Hope in the Void than if they had coughed against it, the thick armour plating doing its job well.

 

Upon returning to the Hope in the Void, Bazak was informed by the Rogue Trader that the remaining Rok was moving on the planet and to do something about it, to give them more speed. Responding with a “Da ship canne tak it Kaptin,” the Ork nevertheless managed to get a little more speed from the Thrusters… showing that even an Ork can intimidate the Adeptus Mechanicus when needed. Isendark was very much up to the challenge of channelling this extra power and flung the Cruiser through a series of turns that seemed impossible, but in his hands were very probable… he even managed to keep the Macrocannons pointed towards the enemy. The team of Rolaine and Yorke, working very well together, were quick to take advantage. The Macrocannons boomed once again, but this time they were closer to the Onslaught they were trying to take out and they let out a shout of triumph as large chunks of the Ork ship broke apart… it was still a going concern though.

 

Knowing that the Ork would be busy trying to coax extra from the engines, Thelonious made his way down to the Teleportarium, deciding to take personal command of the next mission, whilst also wanting to outdo Bazak. He very nearly managed to do so… the Svardian PDF troops, responding to the Glorious Strategist, executed his will to the letter, and with very few casualties as well… whilst Orks seemed to love close combat, they seemed surprised by the grim faced troopers, led by a maniac with a glowing sword, that materialised amongst them. By the time Thelonious was teleported back to his ship, the Onslaught was a wreck… they had made sure it could no longer turn, would not be able to sense them and had sent numerous Orks out into space by blowing holes in the Hull. It was as he was teleporting back that Mistress Valentina tried to repeat her trick but, without any fire to draw upon, and without the White Void elevating her consciousness, she could not manage it.

 

Having had enough of this intrusion into their midst, the Boss of the Onslaught signalled for the retreat and they made their way, as quickly as they could, towards the outer edges of the engagement zone, with Thelonious sending a message in Orkish (which he could now speak) to them telling them that Kaptain Kraken would be back for them, before laughing manically. Lt Hains, communications officer, was the only one who was not looking at the Captain as he laughed like a loon, but he had been promised to secrecy and was enjoying being in the know. However, they realised that all their fancy moves would be for naught if the remaining Rok found its way onto Damaris, so Bazak and Isendark used all their knowledge of the Hope in the Void to coax enough speed out of it to close the distance quickly… but they ran into the last remaining Onslaught.

 

Once again, System Ship 196 proved its worth, again taking down the Void Shield of the Onslaught… and causing the crew to dub the vessel as the “Golden Terrier” for its ferocious actions in the fight despite its small size. Never ones to look a gift horse in the mouth, the tag team of Rolaine and Yorke quickly created a firing solution, relatively easily given the short range, and sent their shots towards the Ork Ship. The combination of the gifts of Rolaine and Yorke, and the short range, proved devastating to the Onslaught, with large explosions erupting all over the Hull, including in the area where the thrusters were located. The Onslaught’s movement suddenly ceased as it floated in the void. Once again taking charge of the Svardian PDF, Thelonious and his crew set enough charges on board the Onslaught that when they teleported off, the ship was destroyed in the ensuing explosion.

 

This left the last Ork Rok as the only remaining enemy and it was so perilously close to the atmosphere of Damaris. Isendark managed to coax something more out of the engines and managed to pull the Hope in the Void within range of all its weapons, both Macrocannons and Bombers, as well as the mind powers of Mistress Valentina. Once again, it was the Golden Terrier that managed to take down the Rok’s Void Shields, opening it up to a devastating bombardment by Rolaine and Yorke. With the Rok spiralling out of control, Mistress Valentina managed to reach deep within herself and cause the fire to rush through the Rok… although this time not turning it into a burned out wreck. Bazak and his team teleported over, doing even more damage, but still the Rok survived… until Thelonious set the bombers on them, blowing the Rok into a million pieces and giving the folks on Damaris a nice meteor shower to see. Thelonious turned to his crew, and the crew of the Golden Terrier, and gave his thanks.

 

After checking up on the rest of the defenders of Damaris, the command crew learnt that the Aegis had been as successful as they had, the Starweaver had let an Ork Rok through and, unfortunately, the Ordained Destiny had taken enough damage to force it to retreat and, whilst the Bulwark had taken out enough Orks, the battle was going to be fought on the ground. They knew they were not going to be able to stop all the Orks but, based on this latest performance, they had a good feeling that they were going to be able to keep the Ork numbers from being too reinforced from Space… it was something they could be pleased about… something which was going to become harder and harder as the war carried on.

Edited by Major Kimenth

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SPOILER WARNING

 

We are now starting to play through the Frozen Reaches Campaign.

 

If you are aiming to play this setting and want it to be a surprise best stop reading now.

 

 

I'll let you know when we're done

 

Chapter 18 – The Roiling Tides of War

 

One of the first things that Thelonious and his command crew had to decide, after hearing the damage that the Ordained Destiny had taken, was how long they could afford to have the Ordained Destiny held up in dry-dock, having emergency repairs. It was a fine balancing act… if they left it in there for too long, then it would not be able to help in the defence as much as may be needed but, if it was not fixed up to standard then that could have had some issues further down the line… and they did need every ship they could get their hands on. In the end, after weighing up the options, and to the delight of Jeremiah Blitz, Thelonious decided that he could live without the Ordained Destiny for a little while, as keeping what they had in working order would be more important the further through this war they got. Thelonious even got a note of thanks from Jeremiah Blitz, which surprised but also pleased him… he could work with someone like that.

 

Over the course of the next few days, eventually into the next week, the decision to fix the Ordained Destiny and take it out of the fight seemed to have been a good one. Whilst the Orks did manage to land a few Rok’s and other ships to increase their presence on Damaris, it was not as many as it could have been and, when the Ordained Destiny came back into the line, it’s vengeance was prolonged and vicious. However, soon enough, Thelonious and his command crew had to teleport down to the surface of Damaris to ready themselves, and the city for the Ork’s onslaught. One advantage they did have was complete and utter air superiority… the Aeronautica that were kept on the Hope in the Void proving incredibly successful in relaying the Orks positions, as well as taking some of them out when necessary, although this was only a pin-prick to the vast Ork Hordes.

 

With their unique ability to see all they needed to on the planet, the command crew, specifically Mistress Valentina and Commander Rolaine (who had served together in a military crusade) were the ones offering tactical and strategic insight. They could see that the main Ork thrust was going to come from the East and South of Damaris, with spoiling attacks on the West and North… with the Northern attack nothing more than a raid… albeit a raid made up of Orks. They could also see some Xenos Scum gathering to try and raid some of the outer silver mines and water towers, things like that, which could impact the battle for the city itself… they did not want to lose a large source of fresh water for the city due to their negligence, so these reports were taken as seriously as the attack on the city.

 

However the Bunkers and strongpoints outside the city, if held, could weaken the Orks attack on their walls so it was imperative to hold those but Thelonious pointed out that they really needed to send units to destroy some of the Roks which had landed on Damaris as their eyes in the sky had informed them that Orks were gathering in front of these, ready to reinforce the attacks they could see coming now. All these things, and more, were weighing on Thelonious, and his command crews, minds as they sat down with the other members of the Defence Council to hammer out a strategy. Another thing plaguing their minds was that they had no idea how their troops were going to perform… the Highland Levy was well trained and well equipped but very, very green and they made up the majority of their forces… how they performed in the battle was going to be crucial.

 

A quick decision was reached that the Armsmen Regiments, created from the crew of Blitz’s, Lady Orleans and Deepstalker ships, were probably likely to suffer heavy casualties no matter where they were posted but, because they were numerous light infantry, posting them on the Walls seemed like the best idea. This would give them the protection of the Damaris walls, which should help to reduce casualties and also, rather cold bloodedly, keep their stronger units safer… and attrition was a real concern for the Defence Council. The Magistratum enforcers were placed in reserve, ready to come to the defence of the Damaris Walls but, because of their relative weakness unless fighting in urban environments, they had orders only to fight if the walls looked like they were going to fall. These decisions were approved unanimously, with further reinforcements likely once the relative strengths of the forces were known.

 

The Shard Forge, which housed the generatorium for the entire city of Damaris was allowed to keep one further Cohort of Skitarii for its defences as the raiding party of Orks was not expected to be able to take the Forge anyway, never mind with enhanced defences. The rest of the Deployment went well, with Lady Orleans House troops being stationed to defend the Silver Mines (that she had quite a stake in) and the Levy Troopers being apportioned to areas that were most under threat. This left the Sphinx Heavy Guard, the Highland Wardens, the Stormtroopers of the 8th Calixian and another Highland Levy battalion to take the fight to the Orks outside Damaris, and to try and take away their reinforcements before they could join the fight. The remaining two battalions of Highland Levy and one remaining Skitarii Cohort were kept in reserve, on morale raising duty… they would soon realise that they were the lucky ones.

 

As the Orks started attacking, the command bunker became a hive of activity… the holographic displays updating as more news came in, showing the status of the war on Damaris. As a member of the command crew, and with the ear of the Grand Marshall, Isendark lead one wing of the spoiling attack that they had organised, with the Leman Russ tanks proving much too difficult for the Orks to handle, especially supported with the Basilisks of the Highland Wardens. As more news came in, the mood in the Defence Council lifted… their attack had caught the Orks off-guard and they had swept all before them… the Rok’s that were teeming with reinforcements fell, one after the other with mighty explosions. This did not seem to deter the Orks who were already attacking Damaris, but it did blunt some of their potential menace with attacks on all 4 of the walls being fought off… the casualties amongst the Armsmen were horrific, but still not as bad as they might have been.

 

The Highland Levy, on the other hand, proved to be every bit as proficient as they had seemed… yes, there were moments where fear took over but, on the whole, they performed extremely well… Thelonious started thinking that, after this, if they did some wargames with the Svardian PDF, that the results may not be as clear cut next time. They proved adept at the form of defensive warfare that they were involved in, baiting the Orks, time and again, into traps where they managed to destroy them piecemeal. This played out across the rest of the battlefield, with everyone exceeding the expectations that were put on them and, overall, the Orks were repulsed with very little loss… unfortunately “very little loss” was still from a limited number of troops, whereas the Orks seemed to be springing from the very ground but, for now, the morale of Damaris was increased by the exploits of the Highland Levy.

 

The success of their plans, and the fact that they had managed to keep some of their troops out of the fight, gave the command crew an idea… they would take the fight to one of the Ork’s major staging posts on Damaris, one of the first Rok’s to make it through the cordon on that very first day. Also, given the fact that they had access to both a Teleportarium and a fleet of Shuttles, Thelonious was keen to take both the Svardian PDF and the Skitarri Cohort with him… General Remi agreed that the two battalions of the Highland Levy that were not committed to the fight, would provide a feint to move some of the Orks away from the Rok, which would allow the command crew and their handpicked men (and women) to infiltrate the Rok and blow it to kingdom come. They knew that they had to move quickly, before the Orks could realign themselves and form a new attack… this would be a big blow for the war effort… not that the Orks would know it.

 

The plan worked to perfection… the Orks were deceived by the Highland Levy (and probably just wanted something to hit) and so the Skitarri and Svardian PDF were able to land/teleport nearby with very few Orks around. Of course, very few Orks is still a lot of Orks, so the troops took up a defensive position to draw out the remaining Orks, which would allow Thelonious and his command crew to sneak in behind them, set the charges and blow the Rok apart from the inside. With the “distraction” working as intended, the covert team moved into position and, using thermal images to get a view of the layout, worked out where best to lay the charges to cause as much damage and destruction as possible. As they made their way into the bowels of the Rok, the noise inside covering their own, each crewmember was able to showcase their own skills in pursuit of this goal.

 

Bazak, no slouch with human tech, was an emperor-send when it was related to Ork tech. He was able to distract the Orks by utilising their own machinery against them, setting off explosions and other interference, drawing the Orks away from them. Rolaine was able to read the tracks within the Ork Rok, pulling the command crew away from well-travelled routes through the Rok and figuring out where some side passages led to, narrowly avoiding some of the patrolling Orks. Mistress Valentina, her senses attuned to the slight psychic feeling that Orks gave her, managed to do the same thing… with her and Rolaine working in tandem, no Ork could come near them without being detected… this was truly an effective team that Thelonious had gathered. He, himself, was no slouch either, keeping the team moving whilst doing his best to teach them the arts of silence which, given the large amount of noise in the Rok, meant they went completely undetected on their way in.

 

Such was their skill that they were able to place all 4 explosive charges, in exactly the right place, without being detected even once. It also meant that, when they encountered a wandering group of Orks, they were able to attack them with complete surprise. Rolaine proved what a Mistress of Weaponry she was, hitting the Ork Boss of the group directly in the right thigh with his incredibly deadly Inferno Pistols… and deadly it proved to be, even the legendary toughness of the Orks was not able to withstand such a blow as its entire leg was melted into oblivion. Bazak took this opportunity to try and wrestle command of the Orks from them, using his bulk, his weapons and his intimidating manner to pull them under his aegis. One of the remaining Orks stepped forward to challenge him but, after only a few seconds the Thunder Hammer of Bazak found the Ork’s torso, pulverising his bones and his stomach, lifting the Ork up and around and throwing the broken corpse to the feet of the other Orks… they belonged to Bazak!

 

Thelonious did not have time to question Bazak’s apprehension of even more Orks (after all, sometimes one was bad enough) as they really had to leave. They exited the Rok to see their Svardian PDF and Skitarii more than holding their own against the Orks… they had chosen a good position to hold their ground and, within a few minutes they were either Teleported or loaded onto the Shuttles and they were away. As he flew away, Thelonious pressed the detonator and, after a little delay as the signal penetrated the Rok, the resulting explosion was huge… in fact, it was only Isendark’s skill as the Pilot that stopped them crashing into the ground… but, the sight of the Rok slowly collapsing in on itself was worth it. They got back to Damaris to a great reception, even that far away they had heard the explosion and seen the thick black smoke in the sky… everything seemed to be going well.

 

Even the Governor was getting in on the act… he was like a man reborn. He left the military tactics and strategy to the Grand Marshall and those who knew better and focussed his efforts on caring for the populace of Damaris. One of the few things that anyone could find good about the Governor was that he definitely cared for the people of Damaris but, in his exalted position, he did not get to show that too much… now with some of the burdens removed, he was showing what he could do. He was, almost singlehandedly, making sure that the refugees who had fled into Damaris were being looked after… he had even opened up the grounds of the palace to fit more people in and his popularity was soaring with the people of Damaris, something that was appreciated by many, but not by all. It was also the Governor’s idea that the Grand Marshall make speeches in some of the lulls of the fighting to keep morale high… or, higher if possible.

 

Thelonious was happy to do this, knowing that the morale of the people behind the soldiers were an important thing… if they started wondering if they would lose the fight, then what were the soldiers fighting for? Thelonious had always been a relatively good speaker, and he used this knowledge and experience to gee up the populace of Damaris, utilising such soundbites as “Valiant Defenders of your Homeworld,” and “Stunning Victories in Space and on the Ground… more is to come but, together, united, we will defeat the Xenos Scum.” The Governor was happy to lend the spotlight to Thelonious, using his charm to then get some more down-to-earth views across, like caring for your neighbour, keeping an eye out for Ork infiltrators and the like. After the fourth speech, Governor Kalpak thanked Thelonious for his efforts and then left him to go and help with some more efforts to house and clothe some of the latest refugees. Soon after, suspiciously soon after, Thelonious was approached by a member of the Highland Levy.

 

After being informed that General Remi would like to talk to him, in the command bunker below the Palace, Thelonious made his way there, taking his command crew with him. The first thing that Thelonious noticed was that the General was preening slightly, obviously proud of his troops, but that his face looked like he had bitten into something and was not pleased with what he found. After a short and sweet greeting, both men liked to get on with business and not waste time with the pleasantries (unless they were VERY pleasant), General Remi informed Thelonious why he had asked for his presence.

 

General Remi: “There has been a development in the agreement that we came to… the Governor is actually showing competence! He is growing in popularity… for the good of Damaris, I cannot let this stand! As per our agreement, to keep you informed, I am informing you that, as soon as the Governor gets back into the palace, I will be placing him under arrest.”

Thelonious: “Interesting… would you not think that this is something that should be done after the war is won?”

General Remi: “No… if I wait that long, his popularity would be too great, based on the current trend. He is incompetent at almost everything, I would not have Damaris suffer that after the war. He will go into seclusion so that the populace will not know… after all, there is a war on.”

 

With that, Natasha took to distracting the General with other things that needed to be done, which gave Thelonious a chance to talk to the rest of his crew, using the Deepstalker Rogue Trader cipher tongue, so as not to be understood. Mistress Valentina was quick to offer a compromise solution… that Governor Kalpak have either an accident or be killed by a random squad of Orks who had managed to infiltrate the city and the palace after the war was over. Thelonious thought the Governor could be useful… potentially on Svard… which would enable them to keep both sides satisfied, although that might be a forlorn hope. When Thelonious put both of these options to the General, he was not really that impressed because, they could just be using words to stop him and then take him out later… which had occurred to some of the command crew. The only way that General Remi would take them at their word would be a signed, and sealed, document from Thelonious himself, detailing the plan.

 

Thelonious knew that he was stuck between a rock and a hard place… it was an area he was used to, but could not see any way forward for a compromise, not that didn’t place his good word with the Governor in jeopardy. Thelonious thought about this for a while and then told the General his decision…

Edited by Major Kimenth

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SPOILER WARNING

 

We are now starting to play through the Frozen Reaches Campaign.

 

If you are aiming to play this setting and want it to be a surprise best stop reading now.

 

 

I'll let you know when we're done

 

Chapter 19 – Navy, Oh My Navy!

 

Thelonious indicated that he was willing to acquiesce to the Generals request, but insisted on typing out the letter on his dataslate and then getting Yorke to print it out for him, in triplicate, before signing and affixing his holographic seal onto the bottom of it. The letter was a masterwork of passive aggressiveness, informing the General that, whilst he was going along with his little scheme, they would do it his way and nothing would get in the way of the Defence of Damaris and that the Governor would remain in his position until such a time as the safety of Damaris was ensured. There were also a few subtle insults towards the General and his poor choice of timing (for the Deepstalker Dynasty), along with a demand that the Governor is allowed to make his own speech that he is stepping down, rather than just being ingloriously arrested and detained.

 

General Remi, having got what he wanted, did not mind these minor adjustments… and was happy to accept them… he knew that the Governor was actually doing a competent job of managing the refugees and that he was helping the war effort, he just didn’t want this to get in the way of his own ambitions… or the ambitions of Damaris. Thelonious, barely keeping his distaste in check, turned smartly and left the General, making his way from the protected command bunker to the surface, and into the antechamber of the Governor’s Palace. There he waited, and was pleased to see that some of the troops who had been in attendance were making themselves scarce, until the Governor came back, in relatively high spirits. Thelonious was quick to quash those, however, informing Kalpak that he needed to speak to him in private, and was joined by his command crew.

 

The reason for this soon became clear, as Thelonious ordered a teleportation and brought the Governor onto the Hope in the Void, which was quite surprising for most gathered there. The Governor, having never been teleported before, looked around in awe at the amazing piece of technology, before staggering out of the room to be violently ill, then looking back at Thelonious and asking if you ever got used to that feeling.

 

Kalpak: “Is there any reason you teleported me off Damaris, without my consent? I do have things to do down there.”

Thelonious: (Handing Kalpak a copy of the letter he gave Remi) “Treason.”

Kalpak: “Ahh… I wondered if this would ever happen… myself and the General have never really seen eye to eye… most in the Military despise me and, honestly, I can see some of their reasoning.”

Thelonious: “I have managed to forestall the attempt for a little while, at least until Damaris is safe, I wanted to let you know what was going on, where none of Remi’s spies could overhear.”

Kalpak: “I appreciate the thought, it is more than I would expect of anyone who normally views profit above all else. I wonder what it is you expect me to do about this though? After all, it is eminently possible that General Remi would be more suitable to the Governorship than I have been.”

Thelonious: “I think you have come across quite well in this emergency… I have been impressed how you have marshalled the civic responsibility, it has allowed me to focus entirely on the Military side and thus you are, in part, responsible for some of our victories so far.”

Kalpak: “To be honest, I have impressed myself! I have always cared for the people of Damaris, it is just that everything else about being Governor tires me… I don’t want to have to appease nobles all the time, balance their threats against each other… being Governor does not allow me to do the things I want to do, except in a time of crisis!”

 

The happy glow that had surrounded the Governor had slowly faded through the conversation, perhaps unsurprisingly, but it moved on to discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of both Kalpak and Remi before moving onto the most controversial part of Damaris… the “Imperial Tithe.” This was one of the main reasons why Remi and Lady Orleans had a grudging respect for each other, they both wanted the same thing for Damaris, just in slightly different ways. Thelonious continued to praise the Governor for what he had done but all he could get out of him was that they would decide what was going to happen after the war was won, which was not the rousing statement that Thelonious was looking for but was what he had to work with. His respect for what the Governor had done was not feigned, he truly believed that, with a little more training, the Governor could be a competent administrator of Damaris.

 

After teleporting the Governor back to the surface of Damaris, Thelonious and his command crew spent the rest of the day going about their usual duties aboard their ship, although the Lord High Captain and Seneschal did start getting reports that a few of their flamer crews had been checked into the Infirmary with large bite marks on their legs. When they questioned the men, they all told the same story, a raging ball of teeth had leaped out at them and bitten them, before running off. They went straight to Bazak. It seems that, with another three Orks on board the Hope in the Void, there had been enough spores to mature into a Squig… which Bazak had been quick to adopt and call it “Mawz.” After getting a vow from the Ork that it would try and keep the Squig under control, everything went back to normal… although the Flamer Crews were reinforced by guards in each squad… better safe than sorry.

 

The next day, the Hope in the Void, along with the Golden Terrier, were taking on munitions and supplies from the Bulwark, having expended quite a lot of them defending the planet. Everything was going fine when Yorke, who had been focussing on the Augurs, and more importantly to the Sympathetic Augurs (which could detect Warp Travel), spotted a little anomaly on one of the sensors. Focussing more on this, she quickly informed Thelonious that there appeared to be something wrong with their sensors because, as they both looked, it appears to say that there were some ships in the Warp, coming through the planet of Damaris! Thelonious did not hesitate and quickly called for Battle Stations, even before Bazak piped up with “Ey… dat soundz Orky, dat dos”… which perfectly, if grammatically incorrectly, mirrored Thelonious’s thoughts.

 

He started to give the order to send the message to the Bulwark and Golden Terrier, which Yorke had already started to do, but there wasn’t enough time before three Onslaught raiders translated back into realspace, whilst another one was not as lucky and blew up on re-entry… but now the raiders were directly in their midst! These were no ordinary Onslaughts either, a quick scan by Yorke indicated that these appeared to have some kind of Lance weapon… at least, that is what she thought it was, you never could tell… but they were obviously more dangerous than the Onslaughts they had faced before. Thelonious expected the ships to go directly for the Bulwark but, as he looked at the sensor feeds, he could see them all turning towards the Hope in the Void… Thelonious knew he had a fight on his hands.

 

Isendark, knowing the damage that they had faced in the past, immediately started throwing the ship into a series of evasive manoeuvres, something that he had not done since the battle with the Whisperers… but he had lost none of his skill and soon the Hope in the Void was moving with a ballerina’s grace… if a ballerina was ever 5km long. This put a bit of a crimp in the shooting ability of Commander Rolaine… the movements of the Hope and the random firing arcs that resulted from this did not help her aim but, with the masterful skill she was known for (with weapons of all kinds), she did manage to land a few hits on the nearest Onslaught, dropping its void shields. This was what Bazak had been waiting for, ensorcelled in the Teleportarium with his Boyz, Gromit, Mawz and some very nervous Svardian PDF and Stormtroopers.

 

However, there was no denying that Bazak’s instinctive cunning and brutality made him the perfect choice to lead the Hit and Run missions, with the PDF acting like a well-oiled machine, they had plenty of experience of this now, setting fires, depressurising and otherwise damaging the hull of the Onslaught. They set up firing positions to take down any counterattacks from the Orks and, as they teleported away, their charges went off, blowing a hole in the Ork’s Barracks and spacing a lot of Orks. This was followed by the Hope launching their first wave of bombers, with a fighter escort, against the same Onslaught, with the pilots weaving their ungainly craft around to the weakest points on the ship, dodging the Turret fire and sending their payload into the Orks Hull. The damage was immense, explosions blossoming over the Onslaught but, not completely destroying it… although it was definitely crippled.

 

Mistress Valentina, after a conversation with Thelonious, decided to focus her ability on another one of the Onslaughts but, as she had found previously, it was very much difficult to will fire out of thin air rather than fanning already existing flames… she fell back into the arms of her minders, completely exhausted by her efforts. Both the other Onslaughts, seeing the complete devastation of the other one, decided to use their Armoured Prows for what they had been designed to do, and tried to Ram the Hope in the Void. One of them fell short, the aim of the Orks being about usual, but the other one was dead on target and the impact could be felt on the bridge as the Armoured Prow of the Onslaught tore open a hole in the side of the Hope, although the Onslaught was also damaged by this action. With the Onslaught so close to them, the command crew decided that they would place their faith in their men and gave the orders for a Boarding action.

 

Before they could do this, however, the Bulwark opened up on the other Onslaught, the one that had failed to ram them, and their veteran crew utilised the incredible weaponry on the station to rip apart the Ork Ship. Large projectiles fired from their Macrocannons caused immense damage, with large portions of the ship being opened to space, and the Lance weaponry caused even more damage, scything across the Onslaught before their Plasma battery missed… leaving the Ork ship pretty much dead in the water. With this threat mostly neutralised, the Hope in the Void, expertly piloted by Isendark, managed to pull alongside the undamaged Onslaught and crashed into it, as their boarding tubes, boarding ships and melta charges were readied and then everything was chaos.

 

Before that, however, Rolaine managed to get one last shot off from the Macrocannons against the crippled Ork Onslaught, the shells breaking through the armour in many places until one of the shells smashed into the Bridge, destroying it completely and setting off a series of explosions that left the Onslaught as a hulk. That left the main focus on the boarding action as both the Golden Terrier and the Bulwark would be able to take care of the remaining Ork ship, and what a boarding action it was. The main thrust was led by Bazak, once again being entrusted the responsibility due to his Warlike nature, with Thelonious and Rolaine leading offshoots of the main attack, causing distractions and performing a more hit and run attacks throughout the ship, to bleed off some of the strength that the boarding action would face. This tactic worked to perfection as the Orks were surprised at the sheer ferocity that Bazak could incite in the crew of the Hope in the Void and they smashed through the early defences.

 

As the attacks and diversions moved deeper into the Onslaught, Yorke and Mistress Valentina were spreading optimistic rumours and disinformation throughout the crew, taking away most of the feelings of unease that had spread amongst them during the earlier ramming incident. The Orks could not get up a defensive (even for an Ork) position due to the speed and strength of the strikes, combined with the raids and hit and runs being led by the other members of the command crew, meant that the boarding action was going even better than anyone had anticipated. Bazak had one target in his mind and, flanked by his Boyz, Gretchin and Squig… and the crew of the Hope… he took aim for the Bridge, smashing through position after position, utilising his base kunnin and ferocity to their maximum and sending some of the Orks fleeing before his might.

 

Bazak soon found himself at the entrance to the Bridge, with a corresponding increase in Ork density, but did not let that stop the Xenos. Taking the lead, as was Bazak’s way, they smashed through those defences as well and came face to face with the Kaptin of the Onslaught. They met with a titanic clash, the force of their weapons smashing together actually blew a few Gretchin off their feet but the Kaptin had put all his strength into that one blow, whereas Bazak had not, which gave him enough time to turn his blade and sliced into the body of the Kaptin. Pushing forward with his incredible strength, Bazak impaled the orc and lifted him up above his head, watching as the furious red light faded from its eyes, as the fighting on the Bridge slackened off, all the remaining Orks looking at Bazak… knowing that they had a new Boss.

 

Thelonious and Rolaine were leading two flank attacks on the same area of the ship, the Plasma engines, and were running into strong defences, the narrow corridors blunting some of their natural tactical ability… there are only so many ways to attack a defended position with one entrance. Just as they were getting their troops ready for a frontal assault, not seeing any other way, the Loudspeakers throughout the Onslaught suddenly started blaring… Thelonious and Rolaine recognised the voice. “Dis iz Bazak speakin! Youze Kaptin iz now part off me Boss Pole, rite frew de Belly! I’z de Boss now, stop fightin gainst da Hummies or youze be dead!” A slight scuffle was then heard through the loudspeaker system, before Bazak took the Ork apart… literally… it was quite disturbing to hear but Thelonious and Rolaine knew that hearing was probably better than seeing.

 

With that, Bazak found that he had a ship… it was mostly undamaged (although the Ork population had suffered immense damage during the Boarding Action) and, after a wide ranging discussion with everyone else who was repairing in Orbit, it was decided that the Onslaught would be kept in low orbit to Bombard the Orks on the ground. The Hope in the Void had suffered some semi-serious damage and put into the Bulwark for repairs, although it couldn’t stay there for too long, to be fully repaired, because otherwise it wouldn’t be able to take down the Roks that were still raining down on Damaris. The command crew also had to focus on the next phase of the ground combat as their Aeronautica had given them intelligence and information that the Orks were gathering for another attack. This time the main attack seemed to be coming at the North of the City, although everywhere was being attacked by ever larger numbers of Orks.

 

Whilst it would be untrue to say that the Grand Marshal of Damaris and his advisors were getting a bit blasé towards the Ork threat on Damaris, Thelonious was sweating somewhat about the attrition some of the troops were taking, with Commander Rolaine and Mistress Valentina they had two incredible tacticians. Add this with the Logistical ability of Natasha Yorke, the Flair of Isendark and the Command ability of both Thelonious and Bazak (albeit in different ways) and the command crew were in a confident mood coming into the next phase of the war. In the main, this confidence proved well founded because, whilst the troops did suffer casualties (as would be expected), they did everything that could be asked of them and more. The Sphinx Heavy Guard and Highland Wardens once again proved equal to the task of striking the Orks before they could attack, their mobility and power breaking through the Orks defence and leaving burning Roks in their wake.

 

With their reinforcements destroyed or delayed, the Ork’s attacks fell into a relatively predictable pattern and the defenders of Damaris proved equal to it. The Armsmen from the various ships put up a valiant fight but died in droves… but they were just there to allow the Highland Levy to maintain their strength… and the Levy proved adept at fighting from defensive positions once again, their training now being supplemented by that most valuable of resources… experience. Whether the Orks attacked the Infrastructure of the planet, the Industrial Might outside the walls or the walls themselves, the defenders of Damaris proved equal to the task… yes they took casualties, but they gave back more than would have been thought possible and the Orks ended up retreating in disarray more often than not, and even when a breakthrough was threatened, judicious use of interior lines repulsed them.

 

The defence of Damaris had, once again, been a masterclass in defensive warfare and, heartened by this, the command crew retired to the Hope in the Void for the next phase of the space battle. The Hope was continuing it’s patrolling around Damaris, checking in with the other warships… the Aegis, unbowed and still in fighting order; the Starweaver, slightly damaged and somewhat reduced in crew, but still in fighting form and the Ordained Destiny which, out of all the ships was suffering the most damage and most losses… bringing a cruiser outfitted for trading to an Ork fight was taking its toll. During their patrol their Ultimo Array, far more powerful than anything their allies had, picked up a broadcast on an Imperial Navy frequency. “This is Commander Algor DuRains of the Firestorm class Frigate Adamant, is anyone responding on this frequency?”

 

There was a slight debate about how they wanted to respond and, in the end, Commander Rolaine, with her knowledge and experience of the Imperial Navy, took the lead. “This is Commander Rolaine, of the Rogue Trader Vessel Hope in the Void, currently assisting in the defence of Damaris, please state your intent.” The decision was also made to go out and meet the Frigate halfway between their location and Damaris, the crew had a bad feeling why the Frigate had turned up around Damaris and did not want rumours to spread about the Imperial Navy potentially abandoning the fight. The conversation between the two Commanders soon turned to the reason for the Frigates presence… they were here to inquire as to why the Aegis had not followed the orders sent to it, and to determine the cause of this. Commander DuRains also mentioned that the astropathic message they had received, about Damaris, had been incredibly garbled and, in fact, had made the Navy’s chief Astropath want to go on a drinking binge!

 

As the discussion continued, despite the obvious amusement of Natasha Yorke of the Astropath’s message, Thelonious took control of the discussions, informing the Commander that the reason why the Aegis had been unable to follow their orders was because they had a damaged Gellar Field and that, as Grand Marshall of Damaris, he had decided that other repairs were more important than that. He also tried to spin the situation as Sylvia Locke protesting about this as she wanted to leave Damaris and follow her orders, but that Thelonious had not let this happen… he could tell that DuRains was somewhat sceptical about this… obviously he knew about Locke’s past transgressions in the Navy. He insisted on the Hope in the Void sending a message to the Aegis to get them to come out to the meeting point so that the crew of the Adamant could inspect the Gellar Field (and story) on the Aegs. After a short discussion, it was decided to send a message to them… Mistress Valentina gathered her choir and started transmitting her message…

Edited by Major Kimenth

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SPOILER WARNING

 

We are now starting to play through the Frozen Reaches Campaign.

 

If you are aiming to play this setting and want it to be a surprise best stop reading now.

 

 

I'll let you know when we're done

 

Chapter 20 – Attrition, Eventually Everyone Succumbs to Attrition

 

The message needed to be transmitted in a narrower beam than normal… Mistress Valentina did not really want the Adamant to pick up the message that she was going to send, especially given that she had decided not to utilise her choir… the message was too important to the defence of Damaris. After encrypting the message in an already agreed cipher with the Chief Astropath of the Aegis, the message was sent, Mistress Valentina feeling her mind stretching out across the void, almost guiding the message into the waiting mind. Her vision snapped back into focus, and she knew that the message had been received, getting the corresponding reply from the Aegis and then going to inform the Lord High Captain of her success in this endeavour. Now there was nothing to do but wait, after informing the Commander that they had sent the message.

 

In less than 30 standard minutes, the Ultimo Array on the Hope in the Void started picking up the unmistakeable signal of the Aegis and, soon it was within hailing range, and a three way conversation began, and ended very soon afterwards with both Locke and DuRains agreeing to meet on the Hope in the Void, as a “neutral” party. The relative speed of the Aegis’s movement to this location worried the command crew, it was not really enough time to sabotage (even for a fake) a Gellar Field, but there was nothing they could do about it now. Thelonious assigned them landing berths on opposite sides of the ship, going to meet with Commander DuRains whilst sending Yorke to meet with Lord-Captain Locke… which given her somewhat fraught, although slightly thawed, relationship with Thelonious, was deemed a good idea.

 

DuRains appeared to be the very model of a Naval Commander. His eyes showed not the slightest bit of what he was thinking, he stood ramrod straight in the presence of others and he was meticulously turned out in his dress uniform... he even didn’t show his disdain for the rather flamboyant dress of Thelonious, indicating his professionalism. After a rather wry remark about the Hope in the Void having more luck contacting the Aegis, Thelonious escorted the Commander to the state room, taking advantage of his counterpart’s lack of knowledge of his ship to take him through some of the Arboretum areas, giving Yorke more time with Sylvia Locke. The Lord-Captain was her usual staid self, keeping mostly to business except to comment about the lack of Thelonious’s presence, issuing a rare joke about being too far below the Grand Marshall of Damaris.

 

After everyone had gathered in the State Room, and with the perfunctory salutes and handshakes to each other, in which Thelonious realised that whilst DuRains and Locke obviously knew each other, theirs was a professional relationship… very little love lost between them.

 

DuRains: “Lord-Captain, I have been sent here by the Admiralty to investigate why you had not yet either confirmed you had left Damaris or, indeed, appeared at the rendezvous point. This fine gentleman (indicating Thelonious) informed me that you had suffered Gellar Field damage… why was that not reported?”

Locke: (looking at Thelonious with a half-smile) “With all due respect to the “fine gentleman” and yourself, DuRains, but the Lord High Captain is talking bullsh*t. I have not suffered much damage at all, you know the reason why I am still here, and I am performing my duty as a Lord-Captain of the Imperial Navy.”

DuRains: “You must know, Lord-Captain, that by admitting that you received your orders, but wilfully ignored them, that you were committing treason in regards to His Imperial Navy? You have managed to ignore most official censure for your attitude and lax regard for orders due to your undoubted brilliance… but I am afraid this is one step too far. I should arrest you!”

Locke: “Indeed… but it would be worth it Commander. I take a longer view than most in the Navy… when this becomes the Koronous Sector, Damaris will become its shining capital. How can the Navy order me to abandon a world that gives more of a Tithe than some actual Imperial Worlds?”

 

The exchanging of views (they don’t call it an argument in the Imperial Navy) carried on for some time, with DuRains sticking by the rule of Law and Locke trying to get over her more moralistic standpoint. The command crew, who were keeping silent at the moment, could see that Locke’s position was affecting DuRains, she was starting to get through to him and so, when their conversation petered out, the command crew continued on the path that Locke had set for them. Commander Rolaine started by pointing out that the Lord High Captain had not cut and run from the fight and, had they done so, then DuRains might not have seen Locke again because they would have been overwhelmed… an argument that did nothing but anger DuRains because Locke should have followed her orders to leave before the Orks arrived.

 

The command crew then changed tack with their reasoning, pointing out that most of the Ork assault has been from Raiders and Roks and the Aegis is not going to be threatened by them so, even if Damaris does fall, the Aegis will be able to escape and re-join the Navy. Over the course of the rest of the meeting, the crew of the Hope in the Void issues their bests arguments and counter-proposals to try and convince DuRains to leave the Aegis alone, at least until the Ork Invasion was over, one way or the other. Eventually, they ran out of steam and stood back, waiting on the judgement of Commander DuRains.

 

DuRains: “Lord-Captain… there is a reason that is still your rank. Insubordination can only be countered by good work for so long, and I suspect this time might prove to be your undoing. However, I have been convinced, at the least, of the importance of Damaris so I will not be taking you into custody. I will report back to the Admiralty that you have been delayed by ‘unforeseen technical issues’ and will give you enough time for this war to have been settled, one way or the other. But then, you WILL report for your debrief, otherwise even my report will not help you!”

 

With that, followed by the same perfunctory salutes, DuRains turned on his heels and left the State Room, returning to the Adamant and setting course for the normal translation point… soon they vanished off the Augur arrays and there was a sigh of relief. The Hope and the Aegis then resumed their patrol routes around Damaris and it was almost like the Adamant had never been… and to the citizens of Damaris this was indeed the case… no need to sink morale, which had been holding up quite strongly, by showing Damaris that the Imperial Navy doesn’t actually care about them at all. With that sorted, Thelonious ordered the Hope in the Void to the Bulwark for some much needed repairs and, due to a focused effort, the ship was repaired to be almost as good as new… as much as was possible during a war anyway.

 

A while later, just as the shifts were about to change and the command crew were looking forward to a nice rest and some respite from the tension and stress of war, at least for a little while, their klaxons started wail and they received a hail from the Bulwark, informing them that they had detected Ork vessels coming around from behind the nearest moon! Thelonious quickly ordered battle stations and moved, along with the Golden Terrier to put them between the Orks and the Bulwark because, based on some scans, it appeared that they were coming straight for the Bulwark… they meant to board it! As the Ork ships moved from around the moon, their shapes became more visible and the command crew could see that they faced an Onslaught Raider, an Ork Rok and, to their shock, a Kill Kroozer. As more detailed scans came in, they realised this was the same Kroozer they had encountered whilst on their way to Damaris, it really was a small Galaxy.

 

The Onslaught and the Kill Kroozer increased their speed to make sure that they were the first to be encountered, whilst the Hope in the Void decided that the Rok was going to be their main target, but realised that leaving a Kill Kroozer on their flank was a recipe for disaster and so manoeuvred to take out the Kroozer. The Kroozer put on a massive burst of speed, surprising the command crew as it sped through the void on a direct course for their ship, closing to within very close range and outpacing the Onslaught (only just) whilst the Rok continued its stately (for an Ork Rok) progress through the void. With the Ork Ship so close, Mistress Valentina reached out with her mind, looking to control part of the crews on one of the Kroozer’s Gunz, to make them shoot the Onslaught. However, the strangeness of the Ork mind proved to be her undoing, she could not find the specific area to press against, like she would be able to in a human mind.

 

The Kaptin of the Kroozer was no novice in battle either. The Gunz on the prow and port side of the Ork ship spoke first, sending their projectiles across the void to take down the Hope’s void shields before unleashing the Heavy Gunz on their, now unshielded, ship. Massive explosions ripped down the hull of the Hope in the Void as salvo after salvo found their mark, with crewmembers being pulled into the unforgiving grasp of space for their last few moments of life. One massive, hab sized, shell slammed into the area with the Void Shields, setting them on fire and causing klaxons to shrilly sound throughout the ship… a voidsmans worst nightmare was threatening the Hope in the Void. Thelonious and Rolaine leapt into action, with Thelonious taking charge of putting out the fire and Rolaine being instrumental in containing some of the casualties that the salvo had caused… but it had been a nasty blow and the command crew were seething with anger.

 

The Bulwark chose that moment to open up on the Ork Kroozer, well aware of the power of the Ork Ship and the sheer amount of firepower, and the lance fire, that the Bulwark launched at the Ork Kroozer was able to batter through even the prow armour, causing moderate damage. Thelonious saw a chance to even up the fight against the Ork Kroozer… it has weaker armour towards the back and had no Gunz that aimed that way so he gave the order and Isendark, as usual, carried out the manoeuvre with his typical aplomb, even managing to turn the ship so that Rolaine could bring the broadsides to bear. Rolaine, in conjunction with Yorke feeding her firing solutions, was quick to take advantage of the fine flying, sending Macrocannon shells into the back of the Ork Kroozer, knowing that they could mostly ignore the Onslaught Raider.

 

The Macrocannons must have been out of alignment because, even with the firing solution and close range, the salvo was not as devastating as the crew had expected… it still did a lot of damage to the weaker rear armour of the Kroozer but everyone had learnt to expect more from Rolaine. However, the only proved to be the first shot as Thelonious launched the Bombers with their Fighter escort, feeding them coordinates and directing them to where they needed to be. The Fighters proved to be very much needed as they absorbed some of the Turret Fire that was meant for the Bombers, the pilots giving up their lives to ensure a devastating blow from the Bombers. And a devastating blow it turned out to be, the bombs hitting vital and weak parts of the Ork ship, sending Ork Boyz flying out into space and also, more importantly, damaging the Kroozer’s engines, preventing them from manoeuvring properly. The punishment the Hope in the Void was dishing out was not over however.

 

In the middle of their Teleportarium, Bazak gave the signal and the Svardian PDF and Stormtroopers materialised in the midst of the Ork Kroozer. However, the Kaptin of this vessel was a kunnin’ creature and, whilst the Hit and Run action was able to do some damage, and even more damage to the Kroozer’s engines, it had nowhere near the level of success as Bazak was used to and so the Ork gave the signal to be teleported back. Still, the Damage they had inflicted would have destroyed a less sturdy ship. Mistress Valentina was ready to make sure that happened… never before had she managed to create fire out of nothing on an enemy ship but, fortified with White Void, she managed to create the spark before pushing her willpower to the maximum to send that fire spreading across the Ork Kroozer, engulfing half of the components on the Kroozer, without even suffering any fatigue as a result. The increase in her power was getting more and more noticeable.

 

However, even with the damage, the Kroozer was still able to turn slightly to bring some of their Gunz to bear, whilst the Onslaught showed a skill that most people would have been proud of, managing to turn a full 180 and fire their weapons at the Hope in the Void. The Kroozer’s weapons missed completely, which was to be expected as many of them were on fire, but the Onslaught’s found their mark but, the Hope’s void shields were up to the task of protecting the ship… no damage was caused. The Rok, seeing the Ork’s plan going to hell in a handbasket, was putting all power to the engines and moving through the void quickly… it was getting closer and closer to the Bulwark… and the Bulwark knew it. It unleashed it’s firepower on the Rok, whilst sending its lance fire towards the Ork Kroozer on Thelonious’s recommendation. The lance completely destroyed the Kroozer’s thrusters, meaning it could no longer turn, and thus was out of the fight.

 

The rest of the Bulwarks defensive emplacements targeted the Ork Rok, with the Macrocannons and the Plasma Batteries damaging the Onslaught, but not fatally so… the crew of the Bulwark were disappointed with their showing, they knew they could do better than that. With the Kroozer mostly disabled, the Hope in the Void turned to attack the Ork Rok, once again ignoring the Onslaught as experience had taught them that it was not much danger. Once again, the Yorke and Rolaine combination proved their worth in a space battle, sending Macrocannon shells into the Rok, hit after hit causing parts of the asteroid to break apart, breaking off the outer layer and exposing some of the inner workings of the Rok, truly it was a massive hit.

 

The second wave of Bombers, with their Fighter Escort, was launched after the end of the Macrocannon barrage, and closed in quickly with the Rok, not having to bother with the thicker prow armour as they just flew around to the sides and rear of the Rok before loosing their bombload. One of the bombers flew incredibly close to the Rok and fired its bomb directly into one of the holes that Rolaine had made with her shot, the bomb flew into the corridors that had been carved into the Rok and detonated. As the bomber flew away, secondary detonations spasmed through the Ork Rok, fires burning merrily through every inch of the Rok, leaving it as a dead hulk in orbit around Damaris. The cheers on the Bulwark were deafening, they knew how dead they would have been had the Rok not been stopped, and Thelonious ordered all fire directed on the remaining Onslaught. The Onslaught did not last long with the Bulwark, Golden Terrier and Hope in the Void smashing it to pieces and, when it was finally ended, even the Plasma Drive explosion caused no damage.

 

Not wanting to let the Kroozer escape and potentially come back to plague them again, Thelonious sent Bazak down to “torture” the engines to gain additional speed whilst ordering Isendark to push as much as he could from his end. Thelonious lined up the Hope with the Kroozer and gave the order. The engines fired and the ship leapt forward into the void, screaming as they went beyond their normal limits… and then died. Bazak had pushed the engines too hard and they were now crippled and, whilst it did not take long for the Tech Priests to get the engines up and running (after complaining about just WHAT the Ork did to their beloved engines) but by then the Kroozer had made good its escape. The Hope in the Void limped back to the Bulwark to finish the refit and rearming they had been doing before the Ork attack… once again another Orkish plan had been foiled, and results from the rest of the planet were encouraging, although everyone knew the next Ork wave was incoming soon.

 

In fact, the next Ork Assault from space ended up battering the defenders of Damaris. The unrelenting wave of Onslaughts, Roks and a few Kroozers was beaten back with no loss of any ships, but all the system ships were out of the fight, crew and ammunition depleted and even the larger ships were starting to feel the pain of the attacks… Thelonious knew that if the Orks attacked like that next time, he could start losing ships. So many Roks made it down to the planet that the command crew knew they would have a hard fight on their hands, and so they went into the planning centre to decide where to allocate their resources, after gaining all the intelligence they needed due to their Aeronautica. What their aircraft told them was not heartening… the number of Orks seemed to be almost limitless and their strength grew every time they decided to attack, it did not seem to matter how many the defenders killed, it hardly seemed fair.

 

One thing they could do, and did, was to weaken the Orks using Bazak’s Onslaught Raider, which they tasked with Orbital Bombardments. The Ork’s had been practicing how to send massive shells down onto the planet and made their boss proud (and didn’t get as much of a kicking) as they managed to reduce one of the hordes of Orks to a mere raiding party with hellishly accurate fire, which meant that area was hardly in any danger at all. However, this was the only bright spot in the intelligence they were given… everything looked like it would be a much harder fight this time, and pretty much every unit under their command had taken casualties… some more significant than others. On their side, however, they had Commander Rolaine and Mistress Valentina, students of the art of war, the Tactica Imperialis… their insights and strategies had been key to holding up the Ork advance, and they were being asked to do it again.

 

However, even Rolaine and Mistress Valentina were stretched this time, there just didn’t seem to be enough troops to go around and their keen tactical insight indicated that a lot of the locations were going to take moderate casualties… they would hold, but the amount of damage they would take would make it incredibly hard to hold on for much longer after that. It was time for the command crew to take a more hands on approach to the war… to get their hands dirty. As it turned out, their intervention proved crucial at certain points of the Ork attacks, from Bazak leading from the front and lifting the troops hearts by showing the sheer ferocity the “Champion of Damaris” was capable of… how could the troops lose when they had the Champion on their side? His berserk fury was well harnessed during the Offensive Operations, ending up with most of the newly arrived Roks burning.

 

Utilising her innate grasp of strategy and tactics, which had been honed by war and battles, Rolaine managed to utilise the Highland Levy to the best of their ability on the South Wall, where the fighting was the hardest and ugliest of the war. Whenever the Orks attacked, Rolaine had the answer, shifting troops using interior lines to counter each and every attack, repulsing attack after attack and keeping the troops as safe as could be. By the end of the attack, the walls still stood and the Levy was defiant. She was helped by Thelonious, the Grand Marshall taking more of a backseat to ensure that the Logistics were capable of keeping Rolaine and the Levy in the fight, a job that he proved (as you might expect of a Rogue Trader) incredibly capable of. Yorke was also utilising her bartering and commerce skills to keep the Forge well supplied, you could even say that they were oversupplied and so were able to throw more against the Orks than they would have… another attack repulsed.

 

Isendark used his knowledge of War, and War against the Orks in particular to tutor some of the Highland Levy in better ways to kill the Xenos scum. The Levy was not green anymore, no regiment was green after facing the Orks in even one battle, but Isendark’s knowledge just made them that much more effective and, in the end, proved to be the decisive edge that they needed to hold back the green tide. The command crew regrouped in the Command Bunker with all the other members of the Defence Council, and the mood was not good. The victories of the last couple of phases had meant that morale was through the roof amongst the troops, but the Defence Council could see the bigger picture and that was that the Orks were getting stronger and stronger and attrition was sapping the strength of the defenders… it was time to get serious about finding the source of the Orks and putting an end to it.

 

How this could be done when they had no idea where the Orks were, no idea how much strength they would need to keep in orbit of Damaris and very little knowledge in general was a source of much discussion and arguments. They were all aligned that something had to be done, but they didn’t have the time to scout out the location, if they could find it at all. It was at this moment that Thelonious received a communication from Lt. Haines, to his own personal commbead.

 

Lt. Haines: “Lord High Captain, we have just been hailed on an Imperial Frequency by someone who says they know you. We have been unable to locate the source of the transmission.”

Thelonious: “Could you, perchance, try and mimic the cadence of the transmission?”

 

Whilst Lt. Haines was not a natural mimic… skilled in communications, yes, but not a natural mimic, he did a good enough job of conveying the otherworldly and musical melody of the transmission for Thelonious to have a very good idea of who was trying to hail him. Thelonious made his apologies for a piece of urgent business that he had to deal with, subtly signalled the rest of his crew to come with him, excluding Yorke who he left at the Council as his representative, and then they all teleported back onto the Hope in the Void, before making their way to the bridge. As the hail was put on-screen, Thelonious found himself staring into the face of Captain Opwith, the Eldar he had last seen leaving the Svard System and, standing next to him, as usual, was the Eldar Mystic.

 

Opwith: “Captain, I am given to understand that you face the greenskinned menace known as the Orks. It so happens that I believe that we have a means to help you put an end to this war and would be ‘delighted’ to meet you on the surface of Damaris, at these co-ordinates.”

Thelonious: “Well, Captain, I am as ‘delighted’ as you are to meet up again, and would rather meet on my ship but, if meeting you on Damaris is enough to gain your support, then I will do so.”

 

With that agreement, and a warning about not teleporting down to the location as ‘unforeseen’ things might happen, Opwith ended the hail. Thelonious looked around at his crew on the bridge and summed up everything they were thinking with one word… “Well…”

Edited by Major Kimenth

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