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Crystal Geyser

The Journals of Acolyte Alvarez

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I’ve had a number of requests to post the exploits of the Dark Heresy Campaign I ran last year. Hopefully you may find them entertaining.

 

Acolyte Alvarez licked his aged, dry lips and adjusted the autoquill in his hand. The parchment beneath his fingers felt dry, rough. Seated across from him, lounging in the old wooden chair in the stateroom of the Nostradamus, was a young man clad in the traditional officer’s garb of the Departmento Munitorum Commissariat. His unruly black hair, however, stuck out like he’d just been hit by a stun baton, and his eyes twinkled with a kind of malicious delight. Sitting across from him gave Alvarez the sensation of standing too close to a roaring flame – a roaring flame that felt inches from reaching out and burning his soul as well as his flesh. Of course, none of this was a surprise to Alvarez – he’d been warned to expect these unnatural phenomena around the rogue psyker.

He hadn’t been warned that there’d be three of them. Three identical copies of the same lad, seated around the table with him. He scratched down a few notes on his parchment – the slight sound of insect-like clicking as one of the boys rolled his neck, the way that their pupils expanded beyond their irisises in the low lighting, making their eyes look black as ink.

The boy seated across from Alvarez reached down and stroked the wolf. Alvarez nearly jumped out of his seat. That wolf definitely hadn’t been there before. It bared metal fangs at him. The boy laughed. His tongue seemed far too long.

“How did you find me?” the boy asked, grinning.

Alvarez cleared his throat. “An anonymous order for a few hundred Munitorum-standard Commissariat issue jackets doesn’t go unnoticed, even in Inquisitorial channels. Lord Locke flagged you immediately.”

“Ah, Locke,” the boy sighed. “I assume you’ll want an explanation?”

“For the jackets?” Alvarez shook his head. “There are more pressing questions on my mind at the moment.”

The boy raised his eyebrow. “Where shall I start then, old man?”

Alvarez readied his quill. “At the beginning.”

 

+++From the journals of Adept Konrad Alvarez, Ordo Xenos+++

 

It was the 940.M41. The Second War for Armageddon was only a scant year away, yet the galaxy still reeled from the conflict in the Ultima Segmentum that had nearly thrown the entire Imperium into a civil war on a scale rivaling that of the Horus Heresy – the Badab War. There are those who claim that the Tyrant of Badab was defeated, and his turncoat Red Corsairs crushed – lies. It’s been little more than a year since the Wolf of Fenris was taken. Emboldened by the example of Huron Blackheart, Chaos cults rise up in droves across the Segmentum, requiring a forceful hand of intervention by the Imperial Inquisition.

 

Turn now to the Nisroc Subsector, in the Isiah Sector of the Ultima Segmentum. Inquisitor Mathayus Penn of the Ordo Hereticus had set his sights on the small, hot mining world of Scarth. Scarth’s history was an unfortunate one – catalogued during the Great Crusade by the Adeptus Mechanicus, Scarth, an aquatic world at the time, was found to possess vast quantities of the mineral corcase aethex, an ore utilized in the production of experimental warp drives. However, thanks to the leviathan sea life and hostile weather, Mechanicus efforts to construct outposts on the world for the purposes of mining the athex failed drastically. The Mechanicus assembled an array of solar lances around the system’s sun to artificially accelerate its death, projecting bursts of heat and radiation that were intended to raise the planet’s climate just enough to become inhospitable to the life within its seas.

 

In true Mechanicus fashion, however, the devices were forgotten and, it seems, never deactivated. These days, Scarth is a barren radioactive desert world littered with the bones of ancient beasts. The miners live in void-shielded, hermetically-sealed habs, digging away in hardsuits to get at the veins of athex running below the surface. Perhaps that’s why the psyker birth rate has skyrocketed to such a degree that the Black Ships have arranged to visit the planet for the second time this century – an unprecedented event.

 

Penn knew the matter of extracting this many renegade psykers from such a hostile world, for the second time in a generation, would be a potentially delicate task. For this reason he recruited an acolyte cell to watch over the proceedings For the purposes of interacting with the pskers themselves, he recruited Lukas Ulrich, son of Lord Commissar Wilhelm Ulrich, and a former student of the Schola Progenium. Well, “recruited” perhaps isn’t the right word. “Blackmailed” is so tasteless, however, and it’s not like the Inquisition wouldn’t have found out about his…abilities anyway. Joining the team was the beautiful Beatrix Alexander, a noble-born lass. Apparently her father was recently murdered by a rival house – a pity. On the other side of the spectrum, the far less beautiful Althea “Thea” Mahliassan lay. Raised on the icy death world of Lydrurgea, inducted into the Imperial Guard and then discharged, Thea had been living the mercenary life for some time, and she’d earned scars to show for it. Like Ulrich, it was her other, more renegade abilities that drew Penn’s eye, and Mathayus, a self-identified Radical, saw no point in squandering her talents. Finally, rounding out the team came Quint, a iron-jacket assassin from the forges of Kazpbar IX, a dominion of the Mechanicus.

 

The team was assembled on Kazpbar, where Penn met with them along with Mercedes Tiller, the captain of the Nostradamus, a chartered transport vessel that Penn had contracted to transport his new operatives. Introductions were awkward, to say the least, especially when Thea and Ulrich detected each others’ psionic abilities. Penn explained that their job was to watch over the tithing and ensure that it went off without difficulty.

 

The trip to Scarth was uneventful, but the arrival was not. As one of the Nostradamus’s Arvus Lighters descended to the surface, the acolyte cell spied the crumbling, crenellated tower of a blackened void shield generator. Donning void suits, they exited the lander, and recovered the remains of a tech-priest who had evidently been working on the generator before it went down. The sudden blast of exposure to the planet’s heat and radiation had burned the priest down to the bone, melting his implants and augmentations to quicksilver. It was during this examination that gunshots sounded, and the acolytes found themselves suddenly attacked by a band of mutants! Horrible rad-filth armed with knocked-together guns and patched void-suits sprung from the sands and opened fire on the acolyte cell – however, a few well-placed headshots from Quint and Alexanders’ hunting rifles, along with some bolts of psychic flame from Ulrich and a brutal barrage of lasbolts from Thea put most of them down. The last remaining mutant turned tail and ran for it, sprinting back into the desert under the cover of night.

 

Quint went to work using his technical expertise to repair the shield generator and the townspeople came out to greet and thank them. The cell immediately made way for the local Arbite precinct for access to a vehicle, and were able to use their Inquisitorial connections to wrangle a outrider scout vehicle out of the Arbite motor pool. The desk sergeant, a young Arbite named Novus, was very put out. Before long the cell had caught up to the mutant, who in the heat of the rising sun had nearly expired. A short interrogation later, and the mutant revealed that he and the others were members of a twist clan called the “Gold Diggers”. While the young Ulrich sniggered at the name, the cell quickly deduced the twists were camped out in the ruins of an old gold mine that had dried up decades before. When asked why he’d helped sabotage the town’s shield generator, the mutant revealed that it had been to steal parts from it to power the twist clan’s own shield.

 

The mutant was brought back to the Arbites precinct and locked up, much to Novus’ chagrin, and the acolytes made their way to the Gold Diggers’ base of operations. Two twist guards were spotted outside – Alexander and Quint took them out at range using their precise sharpshooter training without making a sound. Ulrich ran his hands over Alexander’s body – Thea gave the teenage boy a sharp glare when his hands perhaps strayed a bit too far – and where his palms passed, her flesh and armor turned the color of the sand. Invisible to the untrained eye, the chameleon’d Alexander snuck into the mine.

 

Alexander discovered a cavernous array of catwalks and gantries in the mine, armed by many guards, and travelled down them to the bottom. At the bottom of the cave she spotted a concealed door guarded by two more mutants, who she executed silently with her sidearm. Sneaking into the chamber beyond, she discovered a primitive shrine – a throne made of packets of some kind of green crystalline powder, upon which sat a mutant barbarian-queen. Evidently, this woman was in charge of whatever operation the twists were running. Alexander returned to report back to the cell what she had seen, and the acolyte cell decided apprehending the leader would be best done not through stealth, but brute force.

With concealment broken, the entire acolyte cell rushed in. One of the mutant guards opened fire up with his autogun as Ulrich dodged from the cover of the catwalks. Ulrich rasied his hands at the guard and directed a mineral worm into his mind, forcing him to relive the past few seconds. As the autogun jammed, the guard twisted it in his hand over an over again, yelling swears. Meanwhile, Alexander and Thea drew their mono-swords and stormed down the gantries, hacking mutants apart while Quint brought fire support from his elevated position. It was then that Thea revealed what she referred to as her “fearful aura”.

 

The mutants and acolytes alike were struck with a sudden blast of horror at the woman’s grey-skinned face, pallid and cruel. Ulrich, a psyker himself, kept his composure, but Alexander passed out and Quint rushed for the exit. The mutant in front of Thea promptly voided his stomach all over her, and when she stabbed him in the gut with her mono-blade, he only continued to wretch. As Quint dashed to make his escape he was cornered by none other than the ganger queen herself, clad in bones and leathers over a ratty yellow void suit. She lashed out at him with a wickedly curved hunting knife, slashing open his gut. Alexander, who by this time had regained consciousness, drew her laspistol and shot the ganger square in the eye, blinding her and knocking her out. The mine cleared, the acolyte cell returned to the town, clearing the filters on their rebreathers to keep out the stink of baking vomit. Thea strapped the ganger queen, along with as many packets of drugs from her throne as she could carry, to her tower shield for transport. On the ride back, Quint realized that he didn’t possess a micro-bead like everyone else and promptly ripped the hand vox out of the outrider.

           

Back at town, the acolytes interrogated the mutant leader, and she revealed that she’d been running a drug ring with a local noble named Sykes. Sykes was the head of a corcase athex mining guild and also one of the town’s water farmers – his real fortune was made from sending crewed airships into the tumultuous stormy skies to harvest water from the irradiated atmosphere. Sykes had supplied her with the case, and she had dealed it. This case, a crystalline powder derived from corcase athex, could cause supernatural phenomena in the user, a high from beyond the planes. Evidently, they needed to pay this Sykes a visit.

 

The cell travelled to his manor, after leaving the twist leader with Novus the Arbite. At the mansion, they discovered the ground and second story packed with disheveled-looking miners sleeping on cots and bedrolls. Sykes himself was nowhere to be found, but in his chambers they discovered a data-slate containing his ledgers and a journal. The slate revealed that Sykes had spent the money from the athex on beetle tents, food, security fences, and autogun turrets – evidently he was plotting to establish a fortified compound within the desrt. He journal was packed with mad scribblings, warning of a coming darkness, and that his people needed to flee lest they be taken. The portents, the cell realized, were prophecies of the coming of the Black Ship. Sykes and his miners had become renegade psykers from their exposure to corcase athex, and they were planning an exodus, funded by the distribution of a supernatural substance. This was a cult – a cult of witches. This was exactly the sort of thing that Penn had been on the watch for.

It should be noted that while this occurred, Quint had decided to survey the area and had skirted round to the back of the building. There he had found Syke’s parked water zepelllin and, detaching its gas supply, ran a hose through a window into the manor to pump the gas into the building. The psykers began to grow woozy, and Ulrich and Thea, fearing that Quint intended to kill the psykers, ushered them out onto the lawn. There, they encountered a strange individual.

 

A aged pale man with fiery red hair limped up to the manor but stopped at the sight of the cell. Thea and Ulrich immediately pegged him as a psyker – his aura had that distinctive feel to it. They assumed he was one of Sykes’s wards, and began to interrogate him. When the conversation grew heated, and one of them – no one remembers who – reached for a laspistol, the psyker threw up a blinding flash of light and made a run for it. Thea tackled him, and poor Red ended up strapped to Thea’s tower shield.

 

Alvarez’s note: I later asked Lord Inquisitor Locke if I could speak to Acolyte Red about this incident, but my request was denied. Apparently his extensive injuries and cybernetic augmentations make it difficult for him to speak, and Locke tries to avoid mentioning Penn’s cell whenever possible for fear that Red will accidentally set something on fire again.

 

The cell bungled Red into the back of the outsider vehicle and began to drive away. Quint, in a bizarre desire to “remove an evidence”, drew his laspistol and shot the house through an open window as they left. The manor, filled with gas from the zepellin, exploded. All of the psykers passed out inside, including those milling around on the lawn, died fiery deaths as their souls were delivered to the God-Emperor of Mankind for eternal judgment. Ulrich, Thea, and Alexander stared at Quint with open mouths as they realized that their one objective – ensure the tithing of psykers – had just been terminated by one of their own cell operatives.

 

The boy grinned and chuckled, taking a glass of amasec from the table and swishing it around before taking a sip. He looked over at Alvarez. “Want one?” he asked. Alvarez nodded, and one of the lad’s doppelgangers stood and made his way to the liquor cabinet for another glass.

“So this Quint…” Alvarez said. “He singlehandedly failed the entire mission objective?”

“In his defense, it was an accident. He thought the psykers were clear. He likes to trust his gut instinct.”

Alvarez laughed. “Shocking. Now I see why I’ve never come across any mention of him in any of the Inquisitorial annals.”

“Well, actually,” the lad said, “That’s not the real reason.”

“Oh?” Alvarez asked, accepting the drink from the boy’s clone. From the imbedded micro-auspices in his palms he ran a hypersonic diagnostic of its chemical composition – pure, it seemed. He drank. It was good.

“No,” the boy said, stretching his legs out. “No, Quint was off the rails to begin with, but he got a lot worse later on – well, you’ll see why we had to put him down.”

“You killed him?” Alvarez asked.

The boy nodded.

“But…” Alvarez frowned. “I thought you said he likes to trust his gut.”

“Oh, he does.” The boy finished his drink and put it down on the table. The wolf growled, and he reached a hand down to stroke the animal’s neck. “Death didn’t really stick to him.”

 

I hope you enjoyed the beginnings of the antics of Lukas, Thea, Beatrix and Quint. I intend to post the full campaign, most likely one "session's" worth of archives per week, so be sure to tune in!

Edited by Crystal Geyser

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