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MARVIN THE ARVN

For Profit and Plunder - A pc's tale

217 posts in this topic

All,

Sorry for the late reply, ive been away this weekend.

So...

FoxPhoenix135 I have thought that with a little extra work so of the games I have ran would make a **** fine novel happy.gif

Timberboar I dont remeber seeing it in any published adventures and I just thought the idea was too cool not to use, I thought about a tentacle or something similar but then realised that its harder for the players to realise just how big the creature would be and hence, PANIC!!!!

crisaron its good to hear your still enjoying the write ups, FYI the next session will be the last one for approx 5 weeks due to winter sports and climbing going on with the players and gm. Depending on how quick LordSpatula writes up the session will depend when it gets posted. Hopefully I can get a cliff hanger or two out but you know how players will attempt to destroy and gm plan demonio.gif

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MARVIN THE ARVN said:

 Hopefully I can get a cliff hanger or two out but you know how players will attempt to destroy and gm plan demonio.gif

Oh Marvin only says these things to make me cry. llorando.gifjavascript:f_valida_respuesta();

Anyway, we played the "holiday season finale" this week and it was spectacular, wrapping up a couple of plot threads and laying the seeds for the next run.  Sadly LordSpatula hasn't managed to finish the write-up before Marvin left for his "falling-down-a-mountain-on-a-plank" holiday, so I'm afraid you Fantasy Flight-ers will have to wait a couple of weeks to read about it.

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Hi all,

Sorry for the delay in the posting of our last session but its all here now in its full glory!!! Enjoy!!!

Note - We will not be playing another session until the start of the new year.

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, TRANSITION FROM SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

Once the crew of The Revenge, and the Iron Men had dealt with the remains of the incursion, I asked the Iron Men to return to the Furnace of Redemption taking their casualties with them. As they left I thanked them for their assistance, and promised that I would do my utmost to reactivate their fallen comrades, in the same way that we were attempting to "reactivate" the damaged humans, and then began to repair the systems that had been damaged during the battle.

Captain Perez had moved to the secondary bridge in the enginorium chamber, and so it was that I heard him begin to curse to himself, as I was completing the replacement of damaged power couplings.

"How dare they! The fools! The ungrateful curs! I'll have their hides for this!"

I snapped the last restraining bolt in place and looked up. "Is there a problem Captain?"

Obviously agitated, Perez nodded; "The ungrateful blackguards have decided that they don't want to work anymore. It's a **** mutiny!"

"Really? What do you propose to do about it?" I asked.

"Huuurrmppph..." he grunted. "A firm hand is needed! Give these people an inch, and they'll take a mile - and a nautical mile at that!"

"Where are the mutineers?" I asked.

"Well, you know those safe containment areas I went to the trouble of setting up for the crew? A few of those are refusing to return to their duty stations, **** their eyes!"

"Captain Perez, would you give me a few minutes to attempt to speak to them before acting?" I asked, "We have lost a lot of crew today, and if possible I would like to avoid the further wasting of resources... By all means, put your plans into action, but hold off until I've spoken to them..."

The good Captain looked dubious, and I can't really blame him, but credit to the man he agreed to let me try.

I opened a vox-link to the ringleaders of the mutiny, and asked to speak to their spokesman. One was quickly appointed, and a new, aggressive voice came onto the vox.

"This is Petty Officer Theon. What do you want?"

"That was what I was about to ask you!" I replied calmly.

"We've had enough I tell you!" he shouted.

I knew then as the man listed perceived slights and minor grudges that the negotiations wouldn't end well. I offered a number of incentives, and promises of bonuses, which Hartek and I had already agreed would be paid to the members of our Dynasty on our return to Footfall, and completion of our first great endeavour, as a thank-you for loyal service. However, he obviously was not really listening, and he continued to shout about minor problems, and then began to criticise the decisions of the Rogue Trader Regent, whipping those around him up into a storm of disloyalty. I cut the link.

"Captain Perez" I looked at him, and he nodded, "You were right. We will do it your way..."

Again, the Captain nodded and ordered his armsmen in. I noted that although he had every right to say that he told me so, he chose not to, and my respect for the man increased. He led the armsmen himself, seizing control of vital areas, and storming the containment areas, managing to quickly ****** the ringleaders, applying the letter of ship-law, and executing the traitors. I was able to prevail on him to leave the skulls of several of the mutineers intact, as I had plans to create a number of additional servo-skulls. Once again, Perez was happy to comply, and I thanked him for his understanding.

The crew were informed that the unrest had been dealt with, and they quickly made the sensible decision to return to their posts, to prevent any further loss of life. I made a mental note at this point, much to Calldia's amusement, that I should stop trying to be reasonable with people, as they really do not appreciate the effort... I really should stick to dealing with the machine spirits of the wonders of the Omnissiah, at least they are logical unlike the clearly deranged flesh-bags I'm forced to associate with.

I left Perez dealing with his recalcitrant crew and headed up to the bridge, and spent some time repairing as much of the battle damage as possible, allowing the Captain to return to his rightful place on The Revenge, realising that it would be far easier for him to command the ship from his primary bridge. He thanked me for my efforts, and I returned to the Furnace of Redemption.

On my return, I headed straight to the medicae bay, and began to look at the long term care of Hartek, and take measurements so I could start to construct a replacement cybernetic arm for him. It was fortunate that I was able to make a difference to his recovery, and promoted speedier healing. The most worrying aspect was that in his delirium, he kept crying out for more of his "special" fruit, which I took to mean the fruit named after him that we were transporting from Dropas. It appears that an addiction has well and truly taken hold.

As I was tending to Hartek, the proximity alarm sounded, and a ship-wide announcement to "Brace! Brace! Brace!" was made. I attempted to clamp myself to the deck with my utility mechadendrite, however, had not managed to anchor myself properly when the impact occurred, throwing me off my feet, and into the far bulkhead. Once I had cleared my head, I attempted to contact the bridge to enquire as to the nature of our latest emergency, but aside from making out the word "impact", was unable to decipher anything else through the static.

After thirty-seven seconds of shaking and shuddering, the ship finally calmed, and as I was about to vox the bridge once again, the device crackled to life, and I heard the voice of Mister Dray calling for me.

"Mister Dray. What has happened?" I replied.

"We have had an impact to the stern of the ship. The asteroid shifted in its tether, and we have reports of three decks open to the void."

I sighed. "Seal them, and I will see what I can do."

As it turned out, there was little I could do other than ensure that the bulkheads would hold, check on the tether holding the asteroid, and mutter a brief prayer of passing to the unfortunates who had been caught in the damaged sections.

Later in the day we actually received some good news! The Navigator informed me that we were in a position to back into real-space, so Mister Dray made the announcement, and we made the transition, appearing right on the cusp of the transfer point of the Footfall system. I congratulated the Navigator on a well judged jump, and headed back to the medicae bay to see if there was any more I could do for Hartek.

Fortunately there was, and shortly after the judicious application of various chem substances, he regained consciousness, and although slightly surprised by the fact he was missing an arm, he shortly afterwards returned to the bridge.


As an aside, I used this opportunity to test a theory. I had noticed that the chirurgeons and medicae staff tended to use exaggerated facial expressions to reassure those remanded to their care, and so in an attempt to duplicate this, and make myself seem more approachable and friendly, I had constructed a series of mesh grills that simply clipped to the front of my respirator unit. Each of these grills replicated an expression that could be made by a human mouth, and as Hartek regained consciousness, I attached the one that represented a wide smile. I am not sure that it had the desired effect, as the Rogue Trader Regent looked more surprised and confused than anything else. I realised that perhaps I had not painted the smile with enough teeth. I resolved to experiment further and judge different reactions.

We began to prepare for all the work that would be required once we reached our destination, arranging for more ship repairs at Magos Julien's dry-dock, Hartek contacted the Black Dragon Society to arrange for the work to start on the new asteroid base, and then began to notify the relevant guilds that we would be recruiting more crew once we had docked. The astropaths were ordered to send messages back to Inquisitor Attalus and the Adeptus Mechanicus back in the Calixis Sector, notifying Attalus of the recovery of his team's equipment, and that we needed to speak to him with regard to a pressing matter. That matter was that of the corrupted world in the Saphirus System; however we decided not to mention that in the message because of the risk of a security breach. The message to the Mechanicus included the details of the strange terra-formed world that we had also found in the Saphirus System.

The vital messages sent, I returned to my workshop and turned my attention to attempting to re-activate the damaged Iron Men. It quickly became clear that the Iron Men contained an emergency download module to which they could send their consciousness if they were physically damaged to a sufficient extent and had enough time to enact the relevant protocols. However, I would only have chance to attempt to reactivate Xerxes, as his comrades had either not had the time to enact the protocols before critical damage shut them down, or as in one occasion, the module was too damaged to recover anything from.

As I was working, I reflected that I had not seen anything of the other Iron Men since our return, so contacted them to explain that I was attempting to reactivated Xerxes, or XX1V1 as they knew him. Although I was surprised by the lack of interest this information elicited from them, I returned my focus to the job at hand. Xerxes was in a bad way, although his head was undamaged, his torso was severely crushed, and his limbs were either broken or had be removed by the force of the impact, however, it appeared that his vital systems were intact.

I connected to one of the standard data-ports in the cracked chest cavity of Xerxes and replaced his damaged power-unit with a prototype I had been working on with Iron Man XX1V2 over the previous few weeks. I quickly invoked the proper rituals and litanies, and almost instantly Xerxes core systems hummed with power once more.

I could see the start-up routine and data compilation running through his neuro-sphere, and was able to guide the data-flow through the correct channels. I had just started to greet him, when Calldia spoke up;

"Oh! Oh! That's strange!" And then with increased consternation, "What's that? That's not right!"

I paused, "What have you seen Calldia?"

"Look... There! Have you seen that before?"

Suddenly, I could see what he was talking about; coded data was flowing, coded in a way I had never seen used by the Iron Men before, and in a style that did not make sense. I could feel an icy cold spreading through where I had connected to the data-port, and suddenly a panicky Calldia was shouting for me to break the connection. I quickly shut Xerxes back down again, and then disconnected myself.

"That was scrap-code!" Calldia was still panicking "It did not make sense! It was... it was Heresy! It was describing things that cannot exist! Things that break all the laws of the machine! Heresy! Heresy!"

"Corrupted code... Hmmm" I muttered to myself. "We need to strip the corruption away to give Xerxes a chance..."

I retrieved a stand-alone cogitator from storage, and rigged it to capture the data output from Xerxes. "We need to restart the process Calldia, it is important..."

"No, we cannot! It's far too dangerous! Please do not plug back in - it is not Holy information!" Calldia wailed

I nodded; "In that case we need to purge it..."

"I feel like it is changing me... I feel different..." Calldia's voiced trailed away.

"In that case I am relying on you Calldia. You must drag me back to myself if you feel it again, we must do this for the good of the Mechanicus and in the name of the Omnissiah!"

There was a brief pause before he replied. He sounded stronger; "For the Omnissiah. Yes. For the Omnissiah!"

I re-plugged into Xerxes port and began to transfer to the cogitator, keeping an eye on the strange code, and suddenly realised that although the code was corrupted, it was putting forward theories that were impossible, the mathematics did not add up, and the data relating to the tech-use made no sense... Unless, of course an additional variable was added; the fluctuations and power of the Warp. If included as the unknown element of the calculations, then the theories made sense... Stunned, I realised Calldia was right, Heresy indeed!

I checked through Xerxes' systems to attempt to work out whether it was him projecting the data, or whether he was infected, and although the theories were enticing I did my utmost to reject the heresy and focus on my search for Xerxes core data.

I heard a binary call from one of my Tech-Priests, "Enginseer! Look at subject Alpha!"

I turned towards Xerxes and saw that his physical body had rapidly rusted and decayed, and that his eye had changed colour to a sickly green colour. I rapidly enacted his shut-down protocols and disconnected. I realised that Xerxes core was indeed infected as a result of his contact with the warp creature onboard The Revenge.

The next logical step, as far as I could see was to remove the corrupted code from the copy I had made of Xerxes core on the cogitator, and to do that I knew I would need a healthy Iron Man to compare the coding with. I called XX1V2 over, explaining my intention, however, he ignored me, and after a few seconds simply walked away. I knew I had no hope of preventing this, so, shocked I let him go.

I destroyed the cogitator I had used to store the corrupted code, and sadly did the same with Xerxes emergency module, knowing that there was nothing more I could do to retrieve him. I did, however feel concerned by the response of the other Iron Men to my attempt to rescue Xerxes' personality. I would have been far, far more concerned if I had realised what was actually going on.

I reported the events of the previous hours to Rogue Trader Regent Hartek, and he was as worried by the reaction as I was, and equally at a loss to explain it. I confess that I was also slightly distracted by the new ways of using the technology that had been indicated by the corrupted coding that was being spewed from Xerxes. Calldia did his job in keeping me focussed, but I did feel a change in my body, no matter how much I tried to fight it, and eventually I noticed that my eyes became very sensitive to light. I resolved then to remove the fleshy orbs and replace them with sanctified cybernetics to rid me of this reminder of my fleshy weakness... As an interim measure I constructed a set of shielded goggles to wear to protect my vision.

The day after this uncomfortable occurrence we arrived in the settled core of the Footfall System.


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

We towed the asteroid into the location we had selected for our new base of operations; it was nicely high profile and close to the centre of Footfall, and quickly, the teams from the Black Dragon Society began their work. The asteroid itself was twelve kilometres in diameter and after the initial shaping was almost spherical.

We had arranged for a dry-dock area in the centre of the base to be created, and above the opening a huge Dureen Dynasty crest was laser etched; Asteroid Base Alpha, as we had named our home, was taking shape in a most impressive manner. Hartek paid a social visit to Mistress Chu Leng, the head of the Black Dragons, to thank her for her prompt work, and to finalise the plans. On completion, as well as the dry dock, capable of servicing a cruiser sized vessel, there would be external docking spines, and a docks area offering everything a crew on a run-ashore would need. We had arranged for specialist meeting places, stores, and services, hotels, a garden area of similar quality to that within the base of the Black Dragons, and, of course the private offices and accommodations for members of the Dureen Dynasty.

All these services would keep Thrones pouring into the Dynasty coffers, particularly when the Rogue Trader was busy elsewhere, allowing the base to be more than self sufficient. The asteroid would be protected by its own void shield generators, and have point defence weapons systems. All in all, it would provide an excellent and imposing front for the up and coming new Dynasty, projecting an image of wealth, power, and quality.

I took a step back, continuing to look towards our technological needs, with my immediate attention being focussed on building a cybernetic arm for Hartek. I focused on good quality components, and decided, as a little bonus to conceal a compact hand flamer within the construction. The Rogue Trader Regent was delighted with the results, and found that he was able to wield his Squat war axe one handed! It had been several weeks since I had seen him smile quite so widely. On a more selfish note, while searching for the components for constructing the arm, I stumbled across a suit of Dragon Scale armour, which, having listened to the pleas of Calldia who seemed inordinately concerned about my physical wellbeing for some reason, I managed to acquire for myself.

Even as the new base was being constructed, the work on our damaged ships was continuing apace, and within two standard months all three vessels were fully repaired, and ready for action. Hartek and Seneschal Cassandra Salvatore had recruited a number of Chartist captains to run the trade route to and from Dropas, and they now turned their attention to the recruitment of new crew. Hartek had notified the Guilds of his intention to do so on arrival in the System, and this prior notice, along with some generous sign-on bonuses, was quickly able to gather some high quality and experienced void farers. The Furnace of Redemption and The Revenge were brought up to full complement, and we were able to provide a permanent crew for Asteroid Base Alpha, however, The Great Fortune was still only crewed by a skeleton crew, which although not able to effectively fly her, would allow her to operate safely while docked in system. Once we had brought everyone into the Dynasty, and allocated them their respective roles, we then gave them rotating shore leave so that all of them could get to know one another, and those who had been with us previously could get chance to clear some of the star-dust from their hair.

Hartek began to source the basic weaponry that he had promised the Dropas leader, Word Bringer Korvek, and made sure that amongst the vessels selected to accompany us, was one suited to heavy lift as we would need to relocate the miners and their equipment from Saphirus 1-101 to Dropas, and the preparations continued apace.

Throughout this time, we had heard nothing more from Inquisitor Attalus, so we resent the astropathic message. Fortunately, the Adeptus Mechanicus had responded with a simple acknowledgement to the message sent to them, so that was one less thing to concern us. Perhaps the lack of response from the Inquisitor should have worried us more than it did, but hindsight is a wonderful thing...

Eventually, we did get a reply from the Inquisition, but not from the expected source. The reply came from a Witchfinder Rykehuss who informed us that we were to have no further contact with Inquisitor Attalus as he had been declared Excommunicatus! Rykehuss sternly questioned us, asking whether we could inform him of the current whereabouts of Attalus, which we were truthfully able to inform him that regretfully we were unable to do so. We also informed Rykehuss that we had replaced Attalus man, Rico Dureen, who had also mysteriously disappeared... We decided not to mention the corrupted world to the Witchfinder, as it was entirely possible that he would purge the Dynasty for simply possessing the knowledge of such corruption, and began to attempt to make contact with the Inquisitorial presence in Footfall, using some of Hartek's back channel contacts in the system, however we had little initial success.

The construction of Asteroid Base Alpha had progressed well since our return to Footfall; there were now areas which were inhabitable, and it was from one of these which Hartek had claimed as his personal office that I received a vox-call summoning me. I quickly made my way there, and found Hartek relaxed in a large chair behind his desk, enjoying a glass of amasec, with a slice of the Hartek fruit added for additional flavour; I noticed with satisfaction that he was using his new cybernetic arm, and seemed to have gained perfect control of the limb. I was, however, slightly worried by the noise I could hear; it sounded like the failed transmission of a cargo lifter from the docks, and I was considering how the delicate cybernetics could be making such a din, when I noticed that there was a music playback device in the room, and realised that the noise was emanating from that, and worse, Hartek had chosen to listen to it! This must be the traditional Squat music I had heard some of the crew talk of, and it probably explained why the Squats as a race were prone to flashes of temper; it certainly was giving me a headache. I tuned as much of it out of my hearing as I could and crossed the threshold.

Hartek looked up and noticed me, and then grunted; "I've had visitors..."

I paused, and realised that the Hartek had had lots of visitors over the preceding weeks, and surmised that the visitors he was referring to were unexpected. I know of Hartek’s penchant for telling a story though, so simply replied "Really? What happened Kilgrim?"

He smiled, obviously relishing the story he was about to tell, so I found a large, low, couch and settled into it.

Apparently he was relaxing in the chamber, and going over some of the status reports, when the lights in the chamber flickered; that caught his attention, but he was not too worried as construction was still ongoing. Then, from behind him he had heard a cough, obviously made to get his attention...

Hartek pivoted round in his seat, and saw leaning on the wall at the far side of the chamber a reasonable tall and muscled figure, wearing a long greatcoat, sturdy boots, and a tri-corn hat which left his face in shadow. The man was in the process of lighting a lho-stick, and seemed completely at ease.

Hartek poured another glass of amasec, and offered it to the man; "Alright, I'm impressed. You have my attention."

The man looked up, showing a thin, rakish face, and walked over to the desk with long, measured fluid strides, giving the impression that he could be a dancer or acrobat. There were definite shapes underneath his coat indicating weapons.

He smiled slightly at Hartek, taking the drink and nodding his thanks. "A toast, Rogue Trader Regent, to our future working relationship!"

"I am quite choosy who I go into business with..." Hartek smiled.

The man sipped his drink, and sighed. "It would be uncouth of me to say, but it is you who have been looking for me..."

"I have been looking for a lot of things, friend!" Hartek said, raising an eyebrow, "Which particular object of my intentions are you?"

"I heard from... mutual contacts... that you were asking for, shall we say, a certain service from the authorities..."

"Ah! Yes!" Hartek smiled. "And you have come to ply your trade?"

The man smiled, showing a perfect set of teeth. "As much as I enjoy the verbal sparring, we are both busy. Shall we get to the point?"

Hartek agreed, and switched on the holo-projector built into his desk. He quickly displayed the chart of the Saphirus system, and recapped the story of our adventures there, focussing on Saphirus 1-1S2M3, the world with the corrupted population. He showed the man the pict-captures and video recordings that we had made there, and the data-slate documenting the progress of the illness that so nearly killed me.

The man looked at Hartek; "This is very dangerous information you have here. I know people who would kill for far less; even knowing such information is grounds for termination."

Hartek shrugged, and the man continued to check through the information the Rogue Trader Regent had passed him; "But then, that would be counter-productive, as no-one would ever tell us anything would they?" He indicated the data-slates, "Can I keep these?"

"I'll have copies made for you..."

The man nodded his thanks, and asked "What now? What do you plan on doing with this place?"

Hartek smiled; "Never going back and forgetting I've ever heard of it. After reporting it to the proper authorities, of course! Some of my ships will be returning to the system however. Should someone wish to hitch a ride to discretely visit the area, they are welcome to do so..."

"Hmmm..." the mysterious man mused, "From what you say, this sounds like a significant threat, and certainly not one we should allow to grow. Valuable time could be wasted if action is not taken soon..."

The Rogue Trader Regent nodded. "I agree, however, I am no longer the military man I once was... I now have the concerns of a Rogue Trader House to consider... I cannot simply head off on a mad crusade at the of a hat... However, if a certain revenue stream was guaranteed, I am sure such an expedition would be approved by the house!"

"These dealings with the xenos, how go they?" The stranger asked pointedly.

"Well, thank you for asking! We have a trade agreement setup, and we have even seeded their world with humans, so the future looks good there!"

"Good..." the man replied, "Having the ear of... certain parties... would also prove beneficial for you, would it not? I hear of many things, and many of those are profitable. It would be to everyone’s benefit if those profitable opportunities were given to those who had proven their loyalty to the Throne..."

The Rogue Trader Regent paused before answering; "I would be more than happy to take on the task of purging this world, however, I'm not sure that my meagre forces are up to the task..."

"You would not have to purge the target yourself. Your role would be to get me and my associates close enough..."

"We can do that!" Hartek nodded.

"A joint venture then?" the man smiled.

"Agreed. How many associates?" asked Hartek.

"Myself, my travelling companion" he indicated the space behind the Rogue Trader Regent, who smiled, but did not look, "A few additional companions, and a small number of guests... No more than a dozen in total..."

"We can handle that!" Hartek smiled. "I assume you need our troops to support you?"

"Of course. We will deal with the major threat, you will keep the other threats off our backs."

Hartek considered the network would be available to the man via the Inquisition, and the offer he had made. He held out his hand, "I believe that this could be the start of a beautiful friendship!" and the two men shook hands.

Smiling, the stranger said, "We will meet again in a week" and left the office.

Hartek leaned back in his chair, and waited for a few seconds, and then spoke again without looking; "And you can go too!" He heard the door open, and then close softly again, and permitted himself a wry smile.

Hartek leaned back in his chair having relayed his story to me. I reflected that he was right, that the Inquisition has a far better intelligence network than we could ever hope for, but hoped that we would not have to pay too high a price for their favours. We both sat in silence for a few moments, after I had voiced my thoughts, before I got up and returned to my workshop on the Furnace of Redemption.

I had been working in the workshop for several hours, stripping down the remains of the deactivated Iron Men, when suddenly the ship-wide alarms sounded, and the lights and artificial gravity failed. I quickly clamped myself to the deck using my utility mechadendrite, successfully this time, and waited for a few seconds until the emergency systems activated, before moving to the master cogitator terminal in the workshop. The terminal was locked out, so I moved on to another, to find the same there. I did a little a digging into the code, and saw that it was a command override lockdown, and, had an immediate thought that this was the doing of the Iron Men.

All vox-traffic was being blocked, and the door to my workshop was sealed, so I stepped to the manual override, and ordered my servitors to open the door. It took them a few minutes to force a gap wide enough for me to squeeze through, and I headed towards the bridge, sending another Tech-Priest to notify the Rogue Trader Regent of the events.

It took forty-two standard minutes for me to reach the bridge as I had to manually open every door I came to, but as I moved and opened each one, I was able to release trapped members of the crew that had been caught by the lockdown. As I freed them, they followed me to the bridge, aiding me with the opening of further sealed doors that blocked our path.

As I stepped through the bridge door, I could see Officer of the Watch Dray attempting, and failing to get the systems back online.

"By the Throne Enginseer! What's going on?" he asked.

"I was about to ask you the same thing Mister Dray! Status report please." I replied

"We have no idea! Everything is locked out, it's as though the Rogue Trader Regent had removed that!" he indicated the control rod, locked into the command pulpit. "And one of the crew noticed that!" Dray continued, pointing so a metallic arachnid shaped creature, attached to the ceiling. Later, after reviewing the events that had led to this, I was able to recognise this construct from the recording made by the translation servitor in the chamber of the Iron Men...

At the time, I simply recognised the device of being of similar build to the Iron Men, and it appeared to be running a program of corrupted code. I firewalled and isolated my systems in preparation of interfacing with the device in an attempt to over-ride its actions, and finally ready, I steeled myself and made the connection, despite the protestations of Tech-Priest Calldia.

I made the connection, and was quickly able to overwhelm the arachnid's sub-routines and logic loops, shutting it down, and the ship's systems began to restore themselves. Immediately, I made a vox-call to Hartek, outlining the situation, and was about to attempt to contact the Iron Men, when Dray called out "Enginseer! The Great Fortune is heading out of system!"

"Hail them!" I ordered, and to my surprise, received a response, however, I recognised it as the corrupted scrap-code and killed the connection straight away.

"How long before we can be underway?" I demanded, however, even as I asked I knew it would not be quick enough as we were effectively coming from a cold start, and would take us several hours before the Furnace of Redemption would be active.

Suddenly we were hailed by The Revenge. Captain Perez came on the vox reporting that a number of mechanical creatures had teleported onto the vessel and started to interfere with the systems. They were quickly removed, and the vessel could be underway within two standard hours, I ordered him to do so, and Hartek and I transferred to The Revenge, meeting on the bridge.

Although The Great Fortune had the head start, I was confident that the familiarity of our crews with their own vessels would give us an advantage, particularly while commanded by the Rogue Trader Regent. I spent my time micro-managing the engines and tracking of the escaping ship, attempting to gain as much power as possible, making us more efficient in the chase. We closed down on our quarry quickly, and had got within weapons range in twenty standard hours, However, as soon as we closed to range the Sensorium Void Master called out; "They're bringing their warp engines online Sir!"

"This close to the gravity well?" I asked, incredulous "That's insane!"

The Void Master nodded, but confirmed that they were doing so anyway.

"Power-up the weapons systems, and prepare to fire!" Hartek fired off a number of orders, "Wait until they their shields just before they try to jump! Send out a vox-alert into Footfall warning that a rogue vessel is about to make a warp-jump so close in!"

At this, I quickly moved to the gunnery systems, and began to lock The Great Fortune into our targeting cogitators, and, at Hartek's command fired both the Sunsear Laser Battery and Mars Pattern Macrocannon at her. The lasers hit, scoring the armour from our target, but the vessel still began her jump; however, we had obviously distracted them as they began the transition, as the ship twisted at an angle, before the hole into the warp flashed with its strange light, and The Great Fortune disappeared.

Hartek shouted at the helmsman to turn us away, and although the void shield collapsed, we were able to ride the shockwave from the reckless transition, suffering only minor damage. The Furnace of Redemption which had got underway in pursuit of us was unscathed, as was our new base, but despite our warning, others within Footfall were not so lucky; fully ten percent of the structures in the system were destroyed, and an additional forty percent damaged to one extent or another.

Hartek and I sequestered ourselves into the command meeting room to discuss the events. Captain Bully Hayes, the erstwhile commander of The Great Fortune, had been onboard when she was taken, and given his past record, we decided that he would take the blame. The story that would be passed to the authorities was one of a man who had decided to return to his old life of piracy, and steal our ship in the process. We, of course, had pursued, and reverting to reckless type, he chose to make the near-suicidal jump in an under-crewed vessel when we challenged him, with catastrophic consequences for the system.

I destroyed every single record and all physical evidence that I had pertaining to the Iron Men, with the exception of this highly encrypted journal. Our story clarified, we turned back towards Footfall, and joined up with the Furnace of Redemption.

We began to offer tows back to the dockyards for any damaged ships that we came across, for the correct towage fees, of course, and made our services available to the authorities in Footfall, which were gratefully accepted. Strangely, the catastrophic events had left us virtually untouched, whilst many of the other Houses and Guilds were in poor shape, so we were much stronger, relatively, than we had been. Truly, the will of the Omnissiah is strong, and works in unimaginable ways.

As we journeyed back, Hartek and I transferred back to the Furnace of Redemption to begin the purge of all evidence, and I visited the chamber that had been used by the Iron Men. The walls had rusted, and there were strange symbols and sigils on the walls, so I cleansed the room with fire, and then an acid wash, before asking the Archbishop to re-sanctify the space. Once done, it reverted to a tech storage area.


In the aftermath, I was shocked to find out that twenty-seven of my junior Tech-Priests, and twenty-four of my Tech-Guard were missing. I checked the logs of the teleportarium, and found that they had fled to The Great Fortune with the Iron Men, Omnissiah **** them!

We spent the remainder of the week doing what we could throughout Footfall, and the name of House Dureen was spoken with much favour in the system, largely because of our selfless acts. We left The Revenge in Footfall, to help with the reconstruction efforts, and took the Furnace of Redemption to our rendezvous with our new Inquisitorial ally. He and his retinue came aboard with very little fanfare, and Hartek conducted them to their private quarters, effectively an area of the crew quarters more remote than the rest, and we headed out to the edge of the system, followed by the merchant fleet that would be making the trade runs to and from Dropas on our behalf.

As we approached the jump point, our new passenger made his way to the bridge meeting room. Finally we learned his name, Helbrech, and his rank, Interrogator, and he told us that his additional guests would be with us momentarily.

Within the hour, there was a flash of light, and another vessel exited the empyrean, several hundred thousands of kilometres off our bow. Our scans reported a destroyer sized craft, massively armoured and shielded, and if we thought that the Furnace of Redemption was overpowered for her size, then this ancient ship was a magnitude again more powerful. Her hull was covered with religious statues and huge, embossed texts from a holy book which I did not recognise. Truly she was a temple to both the Emperor and the Omnissiah.

"Our guests have arrived!" I looked over my shoulder to see who had spoken, and saw Interrogator Helbrech, with a small smile on his face.

Our holo-screen sprang to life and the head and shoulders a stern looking, huge, grey armoured figure appeared. His face has covered in the traceries of fine scars, and he had three gold studs embedded in his forehead. I recognised him immediately for what he was, after all, I had met an Astartes previously, and I could tell by the intakes of breath that the bridge crew recognised him as such too. I glanced at Hartek, if the Angels of Death were joining us, just how bad was this mission going to be?

The Space Marine spoke; "This is Justicar Poscar of The Light of Purity, we are here at the request of Interrogator Helbrech. Identify yourselves."

++ End of record ++

 

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Emperor's toothbrush! This is excellent. Really very, very good.

Thanks Marvin, and thank the Enginseer for the great read too.

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Hello all,

After a slight delay due to some overseas travels im now back and here is the next exciting write up.

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++


With only a slight pause, the Officer of the Watch replied to the challenge from The Light of Purity, and we were ordered to hold our position until the Astartes vessel could close to within shuttle range. The Interrogator smiled wryly at this, and then turned and left the bridge.

I turned to Hartek "They will take several hours to close with us, I will use the time to slave the transport vessels navigation systems to our own for the jump."

"Good idea. I have others to welcome aboard." Hartek replied "I have managed to recruit some experienced troops to our flag, and they are due to be here within the hour..."

"That's welcome news!" I said as I left the bridge, and I could hear Tech-Priest Calldia agreeing whole-heartedly. He had been strangely silent since he heard that we would be returning to the Saphirus System, and I had welcomed the silence if I am honest.

Yes, Calldia, I am saying that sometimes you talk too much...

Of course, I already knew about our impending recruits, I had sent Yorrick to shadow Hartek when I noticed him slipping out one evening, and had reviewed the recording on his return. He had met a Mercenary Captain named Duo...


Captain Duo was a hard-bitten and tough looking character, obviously a veteran of dozens of battles, who had earned his position within the Mercenaries. He and his men had returned from a mission in the Heathen Stars. They had chosen to part company with their previous employer, Duo stated, because of a "Cock-up."

Hartek sat up at this, alarm bells sounding in the back of his head. "Cock-up? Really? What happened?" He asked, hoping that what had happened was not the fault of the men he was hoping to recruit.

"Yes," Duo responded. "Some **** fool Rogue Trader nearly got us all killed out in the Heathen Stars. I don't want to be heading out there again in a hurry...!"

Hartek nodded. "Well, I won't lie to you Captain, we're not exactly on a pleasure cruise here. We're signed up for some fairly robust action. However, I won't piss my men's lives away like some Rogue Traders do."

"I hear that!" Duo grunted. "We lost a lot of men. Maybe not good men, but men non-the-less! It was a fool by the name of Trask, Sarvus Trask."

Hartek had never heard of Trask, but made a mental note of the name, for future reference.

"The man's a crazed fool!" Duo continued, "Takes insane risks, and cares little for the consequences. I won't be signing on with him again, or his line!" He paused as if thinking. "So, where are we going?"

Hartek nodded, accepting the implied acceptance of employment by Captain Duo. "I can't tell you the exact location, but we are heading into an unexplored system where we have, err... accepted... some subcontracted security work..."

Duo smiled wryly. "My men and I are not scared by hard fighting, we just object to sailing with fools. Or men who just don't care."

"Good." Hartek grinned. "Captain Duo, I am looking long term here. I aim to establish a cadre of experienced troops to build my cohorts around, and it seems like you and your men fit the bill. Stick around, and you will do well out of this."

Duo took another look at the figures on the dataslate that Hartek had passed him, and spoke; "We're in!"

Hartek smiled, and shook his hand. "Good! I'm pleased to hear it, Captain, actually, no, Major Duo. Welcome aboard."

Duo wrinkled his scarred face into the approximation of a smile, "Major Duo's Light Infantry is at your disposal, my lord!"

Hartek passed him another dataslate, giving him the co-ordinates for rendezvous near the jump point, "I trust you can arrange transport to here, and at this time?"

"Of course my lord." Duo nodded, stood and left the bar.

 

 

The work on the transport ships went remarkable smoothly and also allowed me to gain an insight into the vessels, their machine spirits, and their Captains. The Lux was a bulk carrier, with the capacity to transport people, supplies, and equipment. She was well maintained but poorly armoured and armed, and her Captain, who went by the name of Sven was pleased to be travelling in the company of warships. Captain Sven himself was a portly veteran of the outer worlds, charismatic and garrulous, who was even friendly towards me - I know that I cause some disquiet amongst most humans, so this was a pleasant change.

The Anvil was a smaller ship that was built with a specialist heavy lift capability for salvaging machinery, and was well equipped with lifters, diggers, cranes, and large dropships. Her Captain was an ugly Asian woman named McFallon, and for me to realise she was ugly, is saying something, usually I pay little attention to the appearance of humans except for recognition purposes, but she definitely stood out. She had a knack for technology, and if I'm truthful I would say that the ship was an example of borderline tech-heresy, and if we were within the borders of the Imperium I would report the ship to the nearest Forge World, simply for the sake of the mistreated machine spirits. However, I am a realist enough to know the challenges of the Expanse, and know that the skills of a bodging, scavenging, engineer are often required, and as Calldia reminded me, I have skirted the edges of tech-heresy myself. I kept my opinions to myself, but it was obvious I made McFallon uneasy, even more so than I do with other humans. I finished my work quickly, and headed back to the Furnace of Redemption.


I headed to the bridge to report the successful work on the navigation systems to Hartek, and he nodded his thanks, and as I left Navigator Proscesu approached the Rogue Trader Regent, and asked to speak to him in the Bridge Briefing Room. I looked on with interest, however, was not invited to join the meeting, so simply activated the recorders I had secreted in the room, and diverted the feeds to my own cogitators.

The Navigator was worried by some of the reports he had been getting from his contacts in Footfall, and amongst the vessels of other Rogue Traders and Chartist fleets, and had decided to pass on this intelligence to Hartek.

"I know you are busy Kilgrim, but before we left Footfall I felt that it was important that you know what I have discovered over the last few weeks. We need to protect our interests, I fear that conflict is coming..."

Hartek snorted, "There's always conflict!"

"I know, but this time it seems that the Dynasties are splitting into two factions, and facing off against each other. This is bigger than anything that's been seen for decades!"

Chastened, the Rogue Trader Regent took a seat, and indicated that Proscesu do the same. "Tell me everything..."

Effectively, the two largest Houses in the Koronus Expanse appeared to have developed a conflict of interest, however it was unclear what that was. Both sides had been make overtures to other Houses, and organisations, bringing them into the "protection" of the respective Dynasties, and were also rapidly recruiting troops, and buying weapons.

On one side was the Winterscale Dynasty, led by Calligos Winterscale. Even I had heard of Winterscale, a legend in the Expanse, indeed, the Saphirus System we had recently discovered, and were heading back to was located in an area of the void known as Winterscales Realm...

The Winterscales were squaring off against the Chorda Dynasty. The Chordas too had influence in the Expanse, not as much as the Winterscales, but were probably more powerful than any other line. Aspyce Chorda, the head of the Dynasty had a reputation for ruthlessness and coldness, and being from Scintilla in the Calixis Sector was a natural at dealing with political intrigue. She was an ex-Imperial Navy Captain, the third of six siblings, and the only daughter of Hamish, the previous head of the family. She took control after Hamish nearly bankrupted the Dynasty, and then disappeared with his oldest son and the family flagship. Anyone else who may have prevented her taking control, or had a claim to the Warrant of Trade, quietly disappeared, or were hunted down by Aspyce herself.

Hartek was obviously intrigued by the political upheaval, and he sat in silence for a few seconds, before speaking. "I think that we should hold a great ball on our return from Saphirus, and invite all the players. It will be interesting to meet these people and see what unfolds..." He smiled. "I'll leave instructions with the Seneschal to develop as much intelligence on all involved as she can while we're away."

Proscesu waiting patiently for Hartek to finish his scheming, and then continued; "I have also heard reports that a 'Master Dougal' in Port Wander has been offering a bounty to anyone who would help 'solve a problem' for his Dynasty..."

"Which Dynasty?" Hartek asked.

"I wasn't told." Came the reply.

Hartek went back to looking thoughtful; "Hmmmm... Thank you Navigator, we have a lot to plan for it seems! By the way, the Interrogator has provided three Warp Routes into unexplored systems for us. He assures us that no-one still living knows of them..." He handed the Navigator a data-slate. "I suggest you study them, we will be making use of them soon..."

They both left the briefing room, and Hartek headed to the Communicatorium chamber to relay his instructions to the Seneschal. While in conversation with Mistress Cassandra he learned that the Fel Hand had been spotted arriving in Footfall, and that Hadarak Fel had entered into conversation with the Chorda Dynasty. It appeared that more and more pieces were being placed on the board. The Seneschal reported to Hartek that she had run the standard checks on Fel to confirm what we already knew of the man from personal experience, that he was cunning, and his foppishness was a simple blind. She was able to add that the Fel Dynasty was in decline, and Hadarak was the last hope for the recovery of their line. I saw Hartek smiling at this news. She had also learned that a ship of the Mako Dynasty had arrived, captained by Lady Sun Lee, broadcasting dire warnings that a small flotilla of Ork Raiders had been encountered in the Cinerus Maleficum region of the Expanse, moving away from Undred Undred Teef.


The time of the rendezvous was fast approaching when Interrogator Helbrech requested my presence in the bridge briefing room for a planning session for the upcoming campaign. Finishing the work that was occupying me, I transferred any data I felt would be relevant to my cogitators, and made my way there. On arrival I found the rest of the Command Staff, and the Interrogator and his retinue already in place, it was the first chance I had had to properly inspect the Interrogator's team.

My attention was first drawn to a bulky, well tattooed man, who carried himself with the confidence of a combat veteran. He was obviously an ex-Guardsman, and was rarely seen without a well crafted long-las. He was introduced to us as Sergeant Bolke, the only survivor of his entire regiment. What he had survived was not discussed, and the Sergeant himself seemed to have very little he wanted to say to us.

The next man, a tall human, he had features that were almost too perfect, almost artificial, and I made a mental note to find out what I could about him. He was dressed in the manner of Feral World tribal shamans I had seen picts of in the cogitator databases, so logically it made sense to assume that Boe was the psyker of the group. A few seconds later this was confirmed by the Interrogator as he introduced him as such, and named him as Damien Boe. Strangely, he seemed universally liked by all that had any contact with - me included, something that made me more determined to discover what I could about him. The Omnissiah knows that I am not usually so suspicious, but this man had triggered something that I needed to settle.

In the corner of the chamber stood a relatively short and sinewy figure dressed in a bodyglove. I saw Hartek smile as he caught sight of the figure, and remembered his story of the fist contact he had with the Interrogator on our asteroid base. I think Hartek assumed this was the person who had been standing behind him during the conversation. The figure moved with a grace and silence I have not seen in anyone else, and nodded, but did not speak, when introduced as Divine Vengeance.

The final person to be introduced was Doc. Doc had the appearance of a gun-fighter, and my attention was drawn to the pair of exquisite custom made pistols he carried. Initially he spoke very little, something that seemed to be a requirement for this Interrogators retinue, however, as people got to know him he opened up more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his name, he was introduced as the team medic.

A few minutes after the introductions were completed a message was relayed from the Bridge telling the Rogue Trader Regent that Justicar Poscar's shuttle had just left The Light of Purity. Accompanied by Interrogator Helbrech, the Rogue Trader Regent and I made our way to the shuttle bay to show our proper respects to the Astartes by meeting him on his arrival. Hartek had arranged for an honour guard in full dress uniform to be in place too.

The Shuttle was a work of the Omnissiah's art. It was sleek and deadly looking, superbly and lovingly maintained, and inscribed with prayers of dedication. The ramp dropped, and a huge armour-clad figure stepped onto the deck plates, I was shocked when I realised I could feel the vibrations of his steps through the floor. My mind flashed back to my previous encounter with an Astartes, at the start of my posting to the Rogue Trader Dynasty. As imposing as he was, he was unarmoured, and nowhere near as striking as the giant in front of me. I suddenly realised that Justicar Poscar was not wearing power armour, but was clad in tactical dreadnought armour, Terminator armour - something I had read about in the Mechanicus briefings, but never actually seen myself. He was carrying an archaic weapon, a halberd that he was also using as a staff, yet even that was as finely crafted as anything I had ever seen.

The armour quality was incredible, and despite the bulk it was intricately carved and constructed with a care rarely seen. I thought of the suit of Astartes power armour in my workshop, the set belonging to Castagir that we had recovered from Hadarak Fel, and resolved to rework it to the best of my ability in an attempt to provide him with something that a hero of the Imperium would be proud to wear. Tech-Priest Calldia was stunned into silence by what we were seeing - it was strange to be without his constant commentary - and I was shocked at just how wrong it seemed when it was missing.

The Justicar gazed at us all, sweeping us with his piercing eyes, and I could feel his eyes piercing my soul as he seemed to judge us. I was not alone in this feeling, judging from the gasps escaping the lips of those nearby.

"Justicar!" Hartek spoke, stepping forward. "Welcome aboard the Furnace of Redemption!"

Poscar looked down at the Rogue Trader Regent, and I am certain I saw his eyes widen with surprise when he realised who he was. He glanced at the Interrogator, before speaking in a rumbling bass voice. "You summoned us Interrogator?"

Helbrech nodded.

Poscar glanced at Hartek, then turned back to the Interrogator. "A mutant?"

Before the Interrogator could reply, Hartek interjected; "Abhuman is the correct terminology, Justicar!"

Helbrech added, "The Rogue Trader Regent stems from a stable branch of humanity, Justicar, in a similar way that the Ogryns do."

There was a brief silence, and then Hartek spoke again; "My people were once populous, and loyal servants of the Imperium, until we suffered great calamity..."

Justicar Poscar nodded, and then spoke; "I meant no slight, Rogue Trader Regent. Let us discuss the Emperor's work."

At this, Calldia snorted, and spoke to me for the first time in a while; "He said slight! To the slightest person on board! Ha!" I am sure I detected the edge of hysteria in Calldia’s voice, and he soon quietened down again.

"No slight was taken Justicar." Hartek replied. "If you would like to join us in our briefing room..." And with the rest of us in tow, he headed towards our destination.


As we approached the briefing room, the Archbishop, Nathaniel Shepherd, was waiting in the corridor, along with numerous missionaries and clerics, all clearly in awe of the Justicar.

The Archbishop spoke; "It is a pleasure to have you aboard, my lord! I knew the Emperor would send his servants to smite those who stand against him!"

"His eye watches all of us, and we all do his work." Poscar replied sternly, before brushing passed him, and entering the briefing room.

We all took our seats, as the Justicar remained standing, and Hartek spoke up once more.

"Justicar, in this case the Archbishop speaks for us all. We are truly most blessed to have you with us, to have you aid us in solving this problem..."

"The Emperor guides our steps, and this is the destiny that he has always had in store for us. But this is no minor problem, this will be a fight, not just for your lives, but for your very souls."

Hartek nodded. "Then let us hope we prove worthy!"

He paused, and began the briefing, outlining everything that we had done, or encountered during our time on Saphirus 1-1S2M3. I provided all the data I had, including recordings of all the creatures we had encountered, including the highly distorted pict capture of the huge figure seen emerging from the underground tunnels.

Justicar Poscar listened intently, and absorbed the information with a focus that a normal man would find impossible to maintain for so long a time period. Occasionally he would interrupt with a question, and then return to listening to the reports, once it was answered to his satisfaction. On several occasions during the briefing, particularly when the reports were concerned with the deadly infection that killed the wounded, and nearly killed me, I noticed that his armoured gauntlet with its mounted storm-bolter drifted slightly to cover everyone in the room, and then after a slight pause, as though he was analysing and assessing the data he was given, and appraising us, it dropped away again. I knew then that if the Justicar felt that we were compromised in any way, he would not hesitate to administer the Emperor's peace to us, and with a chill, remembering the voice I heard in my head on the planet, I felt strangely grateful.

Glancing around the room, I realised that nobody else had registered the slight movement, and decided not to mention it.

The Justicar was not interested in the records of the deadly illness, other than recognising that we were not infected, however, Interrogator Helbrech took copies of them, thanking me for my diligence.

We then started the strategic and tactical planning for or return to the infected world. Poscar revealed that there were four other Astartes that would travel with him, and they would engage the large creature that we had the distorted pict capture of. Our role was to deploy a teleportarium homer close enough for them to strike against the beast, and then keep all the other enemies from interrupting. This way, it was hoped, we could keep the large creature ignorant of the arrival of the Astartes, and give us the element of surprise crucial for victory.

Justicar Poscar informed us that he would leave us to making our plans for battle, and would return to The Light of Purity to prepare himself, and his men for the upcoming battle. With a final "The Emperor guides" he left the room and headed back to his shuttle.


Hartek and the Interrogator began to plan, and quite quickly formulated something that looked like it might work, and Interrogator Helbrech decided that he and his retinue would deploy with the forces of House Dureen. The operation was codenamed Operation Innoculatus, and broke down as follows;


++++ OPERATION INNOCULATUS ++++

Target: Saphirus 1-1S2M3

Objective: Destroy the Entity. Purge infected former-colonists. Restore the world to the Emperor's Light.

Initial Forces Available: (Guncutter transport requirement in brackets)

Divisional HQ

1st Cohort (3)

Tech Guard (2)

Inquisitorial Party (1)

9th Cohort (4)

7th Cohort - 100 bikes (5)

10 Basilisks (8 Cohort) (5)

20 Guncutters in total


Duo's Brigade

2nd Cohort (10)

3rd Cohort (10)

20 Guncutters in total


Zim's Brigade

4th Cohort (10)

6th Cohort (10)

20 Guncutters in total


Reserve Forces Available:

8th Cohort (Armoured Brigade) Due to transport limits, this will be reduced to 25 Leman Russ Battle Tanks and 25 Chimera Armoured Personnel Carriers

25 Guncutters in total


Mission Plan:

PHASE 1: Orbital Bombardment of the planned zone by the Furnace of Redemption and The Light of Purity

PHASE 2: The Orbital Bombardment is shifted to outside the planned defensive perimeter (10km radius), on call for redirection by Divisional HQ. Initial landing of Divisional HQ, Duo's Brigade, and Zim's Brigade to setup a beachhead and to use the bike units to scout the perimeters. These scout forces are directed to avoid contact if possible, but report concentration and movement of hostiles. Priority given to reporting location of the Entity. Zim's & Duo's Brigade to immediately setup defensive perimeter with prepared positions, and the Basilisks will be sited at a firebase central to the overall position primarily for fire support, but placed suitably for assault-gun mode direct fire should it become necessary. Guncutter transports are to leave the combat zone immediately and return to the Furnace Of Redemption to be loaded with ammunition and supplies. However, one Guncutter, assigned to the Inquisitorial Party, is to remain on the ground and under the Interrogator's command. Once the defensive positions are engaged with significant numbers of hostiles, Phase 3 will be initiated.

PHASE 3: Armoured Brigade landing. The Armoured Brigade will be held in reserve for when the natives attack, but when this happens they will be directed to a Landing Zone previously pacified by orbital bombardment, 4-8Km from main defensive perimeter. The Armoured Brigade will then proceed to the main defensive position where it will act as a mobile strike force tasked with breaking any attacks that look set to breach the defensive perimeter. Once the location of the Entity has been reported, Phase 4 will be initiated.

PHASE 4: Teleportarium Deployment. When the Entity shows itself, the teleportarium beacon will be deployed by Enginseer Hak to give the Grey Knights accurate coordinates and then the House forces will shift focus towards keeping all of the other hostiles off their backs. The deployment of the beacon, while under the control of the Enginseer, will be undertaken by those forces best suited to do the job. Since this will be a judgement call by the Officer Commanding, this could be one of a number of options; delivery by Mechanics battle servitors, manual delivery by 9th Cohort penal troops, or in the 8th Cohort vehicles for an armoured push. Once the beacon has been successfully deployed, the Grey Knights will deploy to engage the Entity and Phase 5 will be initiated.

PHASE 5: Support the Grey Knights. The focus of the House troops will shift to keeping hostile forces from interfering with the Grey Knights mission, and they will take an offensive stance in support of the Grey Knights. This task will be led by the mobile elements (7th and 8th Cohorts) with fire support from Divisional HQ and the Furnace of Redemption and The Light of Purity. Other Infantry forces may be redeployed from their initial positions where the tactical situation permits. Standing Orders are not to engage the Entity directly, but to focus on other hostiles attempting to flank or harass the Grey Knights. Fighting in Phase 5 will continue until the Grey Knights have defeated the Entity. This may take some time, and Guncutter resupply missions may be required.

PHASE 6: Mop-Up. House forces will remain in theatre for an indefinite period until all hostile threats have been eliminated. The Destruction of the Entity may or may not result in destruction of other minor infected. The plan is for a deployment period of not less than a week and Guncutter resupply missions will be possible in this time. Recovery of all troops to the Furnace Of Redemption will be carried out when threat has been eliminated.

++++ FOR THE GLORY OF THE EMPEROR AND THE ADVANCEMENT OF HOUSE DUREEN ++++


Justicar Poscar seemed happy with the plan, and so, everything settled, we prepared for the journey to the Saphirus System and made our transition into the Warp.


++ End of record ++

 

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Thanks Apex, its Lord Spatula who writes these up, I just post them. Enjoy!!!

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


I settled myself into my usual role of monitoring the ships systems as we made the transition into the Warp, and was pleased to see that my work slaving the control systems of the other vessels to match ours for the journey through the Empyrean was working perfectly. I had barely finished running through my checks, and applying the correct unguents and incenses to the holy machinery when the ship-wide vox carried an announcement ordering us to prepare for the jump back to real space! The Navigator had surpassed himself, and we would have completed the journey that had previously taken almost a standard week would be completed in just six hours. I ran a diagnostics check of the Warp Engines, and was unsurprised to notice the unusual flutter in the drives that I had seen previously. Still, the Omnissiah was clear providing His blessings and speeding us on our way...

The collision alarms blared the instant we reappeared in normal space. While Navigator Proscesu had been outstanding with the navigation of the route, it appeared that he had miscalculated the final stage badly; as we appeared in the Saphirus System we found ourselves on course for a head on collision with the rest of the ships in the Flotilla. I felt the violent manoeuvres through the structure of the Furnace of Redemption as she responded to commands from the helm, and later was given to understand that we missed a collision with The Lux by just three kilometres... Apparently the bridge crews of both ships were left ashen faced by the close shave. I'm sure that the crew of The Lux would have been more worried had they known that we were seconds away from using the lance battery to break their ship apart if it looked like we were going to hit... I suspect the Rogue Trader Regent will keep that gem of information from Captain Sven!


Interrogator Helbrech looked towards the Rogue Trader Regent Hartek and smiled weakly. "Perhaps we should wait long enough to allow the enemy to try and kill us...?"

"The Emperor protects" Hartek replied, jovially, however I know him well enough that I could tell he was mightily relieved, my recording of the events was clear enough to pick out the sweat on his brow...

To help alleviate the shock that was evident around the ship, Hartek broadcast a brief, but stirring speech over the vox, in which he spoke of his pride at the professionalism with which the crew handled themselves and spoke of his unswerving faith in them. This was mildly successful, and confirmed my opinion that most humans will do anything if you scare them enough and then say something they want to hear. I may instigate a program of monitoring the Rogue Trader Regents speeches' and then compare that with the productivity and efficiency levels of the crew. I am certain that the Adeptus Mechanicus will find a use for the data, even if it is only to confirm the gullibility of the unenhanced. Whatever my future plans, the Interrogator seemed impressed with Hartek's performance, even suggesting that he may have missed his true calling within the Ecclesiarchy, which I believe drew some hastily hidden smiles from those who overheard the comment.

Overall, however, I am just pleased that I did not have to oversee another round of repairs caused by the carelessness of others.


The Flotilla began the journey from the outer edge of the system, and over the next few days Hartek worked the troops hard, running them through the plan for the forthcoming battle until every action became second nature, following the old Terran maxim of train hard, fight easy, but nobody believed the upcoming fight would be easy.

Hartek was interrupted in his training by a message from Orbest Dray. "Sir! Officer of the Watch reporting! Your presence is urgently requested on the bridge by Captain Sven of The Lux."

Handing control of the latest training exercise to the senior officer present Hartek hurried to the bridge; "Mister Dray! Report!"

"Sir! Captain Sven has reported that The Lux has detected a number of contacts in the system!" Came the concise reply.

Hartek nodded. "Get me a vox channel to The Lux!"

Dray had already done so, and instead simply activated the link.

Appreciating the good work of his subordinate, the Rogue Trader Regent allowed himself a small smile, and then spoke again. "What have you seen Captain Sven?"

There was a brief pause, and then Hartek heard the voice of the Captain. "My boys ran a standard sweep of the centre system to help plan the route through, and we've picked up multiple ship contacts! I didn't know you already had ships here..."

"We don't..." Hartek grunted

"Oh. Well, um, transmitting the data to you now!" Sven stammered "We have detected at least three vessels, but there may be more..."

Hartek turned to the Sensorium Void Master; "I want active scans of that area now! I don't want any surprises when we get closer to those asteroid belts." He then opened a vox link to the Astartes and notified them of the contacts, which they acknowledged.

After a couple of hours of scanning, and interpreting the data the Sensorium teams reported back a total of six contacts. Four appeared to be Raider Class; one was Frigate Class, and the final one Cruiser Class. As the information sunk in, it soon became clear that our small flotilla was hugely outgunned. The ships were split into two patrol groups, the Frigate with two Raider escorts, and the Cruiser with the remaining two raiders. Over the next few hours as we closed on the ships, we were able to gain additional information, and the database of vessels stored within the ships cogitators soon identified the Cruiser as the Promise of Sedition, and the Frigate as the Bringer of Desecration. Clearly we were facing servants of the ruinous powers.

The Promise of Sedition had been en route to the planet Dropas, however, had reversed course and seemed to be making all speed towards Saphirus 1-1S2M3, the corrupted world that was the target for out little adventure. The route of the other group of ships led by the Bringer of Desecration was quickly detected as being towards Saphirus 1-101, the ice world from which we were planning to lift the miners for transport to Dropas, however, those ships too had reversed their course. It was obvious that both planets were to have been the target of assault by our enemy, and that we had arrived in the nick of time. Unfortunately, although both of the enemy patrol groups were moving at different speeds, they were now heading to the same destination, and would be there at roughly the same time and this left us with a tricky tactical problem to solve.

Hartek called the command officers together, and Interrogator Helbrech joined the planning session, as did Justicar Poscar over a link from the Light of Purity, and the two Captains of the transport vessels. As the discussions began, the door to the briefing room opened, and the Interrogator's Psyker, Damien Boe was shown in. As he moved into the room, he staggered, it was quickly clear that he was not well; his face was paler than usual, and drawn, and movement was an obvious physical effort. He was holding his head, and a fine trickle of blood flowed down his face from one nostril. Helbrech quickly stood, and helped prop Boe upright as everyone else looked on in confusion, there was a slight pause as Boe appeared to focus, and then the blood on his face appeared to reverse direction, and then disappeared, and Boe himself looked stronger and healthier. I noticed at this point that the Navigator stared with intent at Boe, so I concluded that logically he must have used psychic energy to affect his recovery.

Boe raised his head and spoke, a desperate look in his eyes; "A great evil is awakening - it calls those who would serve it! We cannot let them get there! I have seen a future where if it escapes all will decay..."

A silence filled the briefing room, abruptly broken by a booming voice from the vid-projection of Justicar Poscar. "Our course is clear. We must stop these... Heretics."

Hartek nodded. "Agreed. Justicar will you do us the honour of sailing into battle at our side?"

The projection of the Justicar nodded. "It will be our honour to bring the Emperor's justice to these heathens. Even should it bring our deaths, we will show them that victory will not be theirs!"

"I would rather make the other buggers die!" Hartek growled. I am sure I saw the Justicars face twitch into a smile for a brief second, although it could have been interference in the projection.

"We will need EVERY available ship in the line..." the Justicar stated, and glared at everyone. Captain Sven looked less than happy at the prospect.

Hartek spoke, quietly, "I do not wish to contradict you Justicar, but should we fall we will need someone to take the news to the relevant authorities and arrange for our unfinished work to be completed... I propose that Captain Sven takes this role as I doubt that The Lux will contribute much to the fight..."

"I see the wisdom in your words Rogue Trader Regent..." The Justicar conceded, "And I do not believe that the worm has the guts for the fight in any case. This would be perhaps the best course of action."

Hartek spoke quickly to soften the insult to Captain Sven; "Captain Sven! Would you do us the honour of providing overwatch to us please? This is vital should we fail..."

"Of course my Lord!" Sven spoke rather quickly, "I will make the preparations immediately!"

"Good!" Hartek nodded, glaring at Sven, "But you do not jump until ordered, or until you witness our destruction."

"Aye my Lord! You can rely on me." And the projection of Captain Sven disappeared from the briefing room.

It quickly became clear that Captain McFallon was made of sterner stuff, and she refused the invitation to withdraw from the battlefield with Captain Sven, insisting that she would provide flank support to us. I know that we do not see eye to ocular implant, however I am fairly certain that this decision proves that the woman has something wrong in her head...

"It is clear that we must split our forces." The rumbling voice of Justicar Poscar cut through the conversation. "The path is dangerous but the Emperor is with us."

Even I noticed the raised eyebrow from Interrogator Helbrech, but as no one mentioned it, I deemed it best not to say anything myself.

As the discussion continued, it became clear that The Light of Purity would have to be dispatched in pursuit of the Bringer of Desecration and the two Raiders in that group as she was the only vessel with the speed to get close enough in the time available. That left the Furnace of Redemption with some support from The Anvil to face the Cruiser. There was a definite shuffling of feet when people realised the implications of this. Calldia squawked loudly at this, and then went quiet for the rest of the meeting, and I cannot say that I disagreed with his reaction.

As we considered this there was something about the enemy cruiser that seemed familiar to me, however, no matter how I scanned through my cogitators I frustratingly could not pinpoint the data. It was then that the Navigator spoke up; "I know of the Promise of Sedition. It is known as a pirate ship, and a tainted cruiser, and has been hunted for centuries, but had vanished in the lesser explored, far reaches of the Expanse almost seven hundred years ago. It has a reputation for attacking the weak, focussing on transport and colonist ships, but Sebastian Winterscale's fleet managed to drive it away, but not before it had raided the convoy for prisoners and slaves..."

I could not help myself this time; "A fleet managed to drive it away!?" Calldia made that strange strangled squawking noise that is becoming so familiar, and there were similar reactions from several others at the briefing table.

Navigator Proscesu smiled weakly and continued. "It is also known to Warp-spawned clouds in its wake, making it difficult to pursue. All in all, a formidable vessel..."


Interrogator Helbrech looked around, and seemed to come to a decision. "Gentlemen, and ladies. This information is classified; people have been executed for knowing even less than this. That ship is one of my Ordos most wanted targets in the Expanse. It is captained by a Sendak Voltrasse, a hideous creature who has given himself over to the Warp. He was probably once a man, but we cannot say for certain, all we know is that he exists to serve the ruinous powers, and few are the people who have had contact with him and survived..."

Hartek nodded. "It is a dire situation indeed then. Let us be about our work! May the Emperor protect us!"

There was the ringing sound of ceramite on ceramite as the Justicars crashed his fist across his chest, and his voice intoned "May the Emperor protect us."

"And the Omnissiah watch over us!" I added. After all we would need all the help we could gather to our cause.

Helbrech spoke up; "Rogue Trader Regent, this is a dire course you set us on. Do not under-estimate this vessel! It is ancient, dating from the thirty-third Millennium, and served with honour and distinction for the Imperial Navy, but was lost in the warp en route to the Cadian Gate, and was next seen in the thirty-sixth Millennia, aiding rebellion in the Hades XV agriworlds. It has history and experience."

"Helbrech, I know that this could be the end of us all, but our course is clear and duty must be done..."

The Interrogator smiled. "To the bridge, then!" And the planning session broke up, and the ships crews plotted the respective courses for their venerable vessels.


"The Light of Purity" angled away at speed in pursuit of the Bringer of Desecration, while the Furnace of Redemption quickly stepped up to battle stations, and within three days we had caught the Promise of Sedition.

Relying on our better speed and manoeuvrability we angled in directly at the Cruiser, hoping to cause disabling damage early in the engagement. The Anvil moved onto the flank to draw off one of the Raiders reducing the odds we had to face. As we closed on the enemy we were able to detect that the Machine Spirits of the vessels were labouring with great insult; the hulls had been daubed with forbidden runes and desecrated in countless ways, and we could hear the noise of wailing and moaning coming from within them. I pitied the once proud ships; they were being horribly mistreated, their plasma drives were leaking and operating well beyond safe levels and it was clear that no care had been taken of them. It would be a great service to their tortured spirits to destroy the abominations that now controlled them, and possibly the vessels themselves as they were crying out for the release of oblivion. As we closed to extreme range and opened fire I offered up prayers to the Omnissiah.

I could tell by the trajectory calculation that the hab-sized shells from the Pyros Melta Cannon battery were flying true, and we were rewarded with the flaring of void shields on the Promise of Sedition as first one, and then another shield collapsed under the intense energy. The non-essential systems on the Furnace of Redemption shut down, and lights flickered throughout the ship as the lance battery fired, again striking true with one of the beams of coherent light, leaving huge chunks of the enemy ship drifting into the void. As big as the hit was, the huge Cruiser seemed not to notice as it continued turning towards us.

The Raider closed on us and opened fire, its Macrocannon batteries fired wildly and the shells missed us by several kilometres as we evaded. The Promise of Sedition manoeuvred to bring us within her weapon arcs and as we watched the tactical representation of the battle in the holo-tank, we were interrupted by an incoming transmission warning.

Hartek accepted the transmission, and initially I thought that the projector was malfunctioning as it sparkled with a range of colours, but they suddenly coalesced into a hugely tall figure dressed in a gore caked void-suit, that towered over those standing around him. The void suit was torn in several places and visible in the rents were thin dark veins, worming over pale skin which twitched and shifted. A sphere of obsidian, held in place by a cage of barbed black iron and covered in blasphemous runes and engravings that hurt the eyes was visible through a larger hole in the chest of the figures suit. The eye sockets of the large figure were empty, as were those of many of the creatures surrounding it, and all were covered with strangely shifting tattoos. I assumed that this was the foul Sendak Voltrasse, the fiend in command of The Promise of Sedition.

Voltrasse opened its mouth, when suddenly there was the loud report of a bolt pistol firing. Doc, the acolyte of Helbrech stepped away from the headless corpse of the crewman who had been operating the vox controls as the projection snapped back into nothingness.

"We will not have contact with the ruinous powers, or those that serve them! The next person to accept an incoming transmission from them will meet the same fate as this fellow..." the Interrogator barked at the Rogue Trader Regent, and then glared around the bridge.

Seemingly unperturbed Hartek nodded, and then called for a replacement communicatorium operator, as a servitor cleaned up the mess at the terminal. He then gestured to the Interrogator; "A simple "No!" would've sufficed"

"There was no time; the minds of weak would have easily succumbed to his powers..." Helbrech indicated the crew on the bridge.

Hartek nodded, but added with a raised eyebrow "I am generally a little unhappy about random executions of my crew, unless it is by my orders..."

"I apologise Hartek." The Interrogator acknowledged, "However, time was of the essence here. If I had got to the bridge sooner I would have stopped the transmission being accepted, and avoided this unpleasantness."

"I understand Helbrech, however, we must work together to ensure this doesn't happen again..."

An accord reached, the conversation was about to turn to more pleasant topics before it was interrupted by a shouted warning; "Brace for impact!"

The Promise of Sedition was firing her Mars Pattern Plasma Batteries at us, and the projectiles were almost upon us. The first barrage flew wide, however the second barrage hit us, collapsing our void shield and scoring our armour, however Omnissiah be praised doing no damage.

Hartek barked orders to the crew and we prepared to strike back.


++ End of record ++

 

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Hello readers, heres the next session, enjoy!!!

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


As the Void Shield bled off the energy of the hit from the enemy plasma battery, and then reactivated, we manoeuvred the Furnace of Redemption into an optimal firing position, the Promise of Sedition our target once more. The build up to our next attack was going smoothly, however, the new vox-operator called out "Incoming transmission, my Lord!"

I am certain I saw the man glance nervously at Interrogator Helbrech, conscious of the fate of his predecessor, but when he continued, "It's from The Anvil!", everyone relaxed.

"Put it on speaker!" Hartek ordered

There was a lot of interference overlaying the transmission, and the crewman constantly had to fine tune the receiver, but he did an admirable job and Captain McFallon's voice came through strongly.

"My Lord Hartek! I am sorry to report that we are in trouble! I attempted to push our engines to draw the raider away, but I overloaded the conduits and we are running at reduced power... We are attempting repairs, but we are a sitting target for the Heretics..."

Calldia suggested that if she had been following the correct litanies laid down in Mechanicus lore, then she would not find herself in such peril, and I found it difficult to disagree, however, speaking up at this point would not help the situation, so I kept my council, particularly as I saw Hartek's knuckles whiten as he gripped the arm of the command throne. "Understood Captain. Do what you can, and attempt to run in our direction. We are still engaging the Cruiser and other Raider but will endeavour to aid you if we can!"

"Thank-you My Lord!" McFallon replied, relief in her voice, although I'm not sure she realised how dire her situation was, as there was no way we could turn our stern to the enemies we were engaged with.

Just before we began the Rituals of Firing, and prepared the solutions for the weapons systems, Navigator Proscesu spoke up; "I have scanned the Promise of Sedition, and although there was much interference I have been able to identify her basic layout. I will transfer the data to the gunnery cogitators, it may aid with the targeting!"

I nodded, and took a few seconds to absorb the information, and then made some changes to the auger array which would allow the gunnery officers the clearest possible tactical picture for the barrage, while the Rogue Trader Regent coordinated our actions. As this was ongoing, the new Master Helmsman, Victrix Ivanov, an ex-Imperial Navy Commander, recently recruited amongst the experienced Void-farers who joined us in Footfall, eased ship into position, and we opened fire on the heretics again.

The melta-cannon barrage flew true, the initial salvos flaring the void-shields of the Promise of Sedition, and as these collapsed, the remaining shells battered the hull, smashing through in a number of places, setting fire to one of her plasma-batteries, and staggering the corrupted Cruiser in its flight. Then, just as the enemy ship seemed to recover from the battering, the light of our lance battery reached out across the void and punching through the hull causing the enemy ship to shed large chunks of itself and its crew, into the void, and putting the other port-side plasma-battery out of action at least temporarily. The Cruiser, staggered once more, rolled away from us as we closed on it, and as the last of the energy bled away from our lance array, Ivanov threw the ship into evasive manoeuvring as we found ourselves within the arcs of fire of both the enemy ships.

McFallon came on the vox once more, the panic clear in her voice; "We have been boarded! I am mustering the Armsmen to defend the incursion, but I don't know the number of our enemy, and I don't know if we can survive! I will report back when I can, Emperor willing!" and the transmission ended.

Helbrech looked at the Rogue Trader Regent, "Well there is nothing we can do to aid The Anvil for now, except get to her as soon as we can. She will have to fend for herself..."

Hartek grunted his agreement, a worried look on his face, but turned his attention back to the matter at hand.

As we rolled after the Promise of Sedition we picked up an energy spike from her prow, and the beams from a lance battery flashed across the void towards us, fortunately missing. The Raider, now identified as the Cursed Death, closed, and attempted to ram us, however, we easily evaded the clumsy attempt, and as it slid past us it fired its weapons, with an equal lack of success, as Ivanov guided us through the salvos unscathed.

Notification came from the gun-crews that the melta-cannon battery was ready to fire again, and the power readings showed the lance battery had finished recharging, so, once again the command team combined to give the best possible chance for a firing solution for the Gunnery Void Master. The targeting systems were still suffering from the violent manoeuvring we had used to evade the earlier attacks, and this was reflected in the effectiveness of our attack on the cursed heretics; the melta-batteries missed, and the lance battery only struck home once, overloading the enemy's void shield, but causing no further damage.

The Promise of Sedition fired her lance battery at us again, however was obviously struggling with the damage she had suffered as the beams went wild, missing by a long distance, and then she turned away from us. The Cursed Death attempted to hold our attention by firing, and missing, again, before turning in the opposite direction to the Cruiser, meaning we would have to focus on one target or the other.

The vox crackled to life once again, and the message headers showed that the transmission had originated onboard The Light of Purity. There was an obvious delay because of the distance that the message had travelled, but the content was clear enough to show that the ship had been in combat, as a shaven headed bulky man in devotional robes, and wreathed in smoke, appeared in the holo-projection. "Furnace of Redemption: If you get this message, we have engaged the enemy battle group! The Justicar and his men have boarded the enemy ship and are on their way to the bridge, but the two raiders have damaged our systems. We are still in the fight, but we do not know for how long..."

Another voice interrupted him, calling out "Sir, I am picking something up! It seems like an increase in energy! I think there is another ship out-" The transmission ended suddenly, leaving us uncertain of the fate of our allies, and although The Light of Purity was still detectable on the sensorium array, sadly, it did not seem likely that that fate was a good one.

"Sir!" The Master of Etherics called out, "It looks like the Cursed Death is attempting to run to Saphirus 1-1S2M3!"

Hartek cursed, and then ordered Ivanov to break off the pursuit of the Cruiser and focus on the running Raider; "We CANNOT let it reach that planet!"

The new course was quickly laid into the cogitators and we began to chase the Raider.

"Mr Ivanov!" Hartek called out.

"Yes Sir!" Ivanov came smartly to attention.

Hartek smiled, "How do you fancy leading a raid?"

Surprisingly, Ivanov matched Hartek's grin with one of his own, "It would be my pleasure, Sir!"

"Excellent. Report to the Teleportarium chamber, the Penal Cohort will join you on this little jaunt!"

The raid went exceptionally well, and on his return Ivanov was able to report that they had damaged the void shield generators, and they were at least temporarily offline, and that an estimated thousand heretics had been dispatched, mainly due to the judicious use of explosives and booby-traps. The assault force suffered five dead and a dozen wounded.

"Good work Mister Ivanov!" Hartek grinned, "Make sure the cohort are rewarded for their work with an extra grog ration!"

"Thank you Sir! I will see it done." Ivanov saluted and returned to his station.

The raiding party safely back aboard, we opened fire on the now shieldless ship; the lance battery discharged first, once again hitting home tearing a huge hole through the length of the Raider, leaving its engines damaged, and the burning ship leaking atmosphere and the corpses of her crew into the void. As the stricken vessel shuddered, and drifted virtually out of control, our melta-cannons opened fire, sadly missing by a small margin.

As we surveyed our handy work, the vox-operator called out "Incoming transmission, Sir. It's... It's from The Anvil!"

There was a pause as we waited to hear whose voice it would be coming from the speakers.

"We have repulsed the enemy, my Lord!" An excited McFallon almost shouted, "We have lost some crew and servitors, but the enemy seemed to get distracted by the fighting and did little damage to the ship itself...!"

Hartek grinned at Helbrech who returned the smile, "Well done Captain! Now repair your engines and get over here!" And he cut the connection.

As we watched the holo-display, we saw the Raider that had been harrying The Anvil turn in on her again, and then registering the fate of her sister ship, turn towards the planet and start to run. As our cogitators analysed the data from a clean sensorium sweep on her, we were able to identify the corrupted ship as the Unholy Curse. The tactical display showed the Promise of Sedition continuing her run in the opposite direction, heading out of the Saphirus System.

Hartek barked orders, and the Furnace of Redemption closed on the shattered Cursed Death and finally destroyed it in a merciless barrage of both melta-cannon shells and lance blasts. The coup de grace applied, we set off in pursuit of the Unholy Curse, ordering The Anvil to pound the wreckage of the Cursed Death until there was too little debris remaining to show up on the sensorium display to ensure no heretics survived. I managed the power drain on the plasma drives to give us best possible speed, which had the unfortunate consequence of some areas of the ship losing power to the artificial gravity, still it was for the betterment of the mission, and as this allowed us to catch our quarry within two standard hours, so I am sure the crew will not grumble too much!

The Unholy Curse realising she could not outrun us turned to meet us head-on. "This ends now!" Rogue Trader Regent Hartek roared, and the decision that the situation was well beyond subtlety and complex tactics made, we closed to weapons range and opened fire.

Our initial attack was ineffective as the heretics desperately manoeuvred to avoid the fire, but suddenly the Master of Etherics called out once again; "Sir! Sir! The Unholy Curse is registering impacts!"

In the holo-tank we saw the characteristic flare as the void shield overloaded, and the Unholy Curse staggered from additional hits. Our batteries reloaded, and lances recharged, we took the opportunity to open fire again, and at the range we were at we could hardly miss. The full barrage hit the corrupted vessel, blowing large sections of her open to the void, setting her on fire, and punching through her length with the lances. The wrecked ship was left tumbling out of control as she began to die.

We manoeuvred to finish her off, but saw a strange, pulsing beam weapon flash out of the void, and cut the wreckage in two, and finally her plasma drive detonated, destroying anything that remained of the ship.

"Get me the location of that other vessel!" Hartek barked, and then looked at the Interrogator, who simply shrugged.

The Sensorium crew leaned over their terminals, and to aid them I modulated the frequency of the auger scan to cover a broad spectrum, and quickly we were able to detect unusual temperature changes that were indicative of the cooling weapons of a star-ship moving away from us off our starboard bow.

The data from the scans mapped the vessel to the holo-tank; it was obviously of Xenos origin, but was heading away and not appearing to pose a threat.

"Eldar!" spat Hartek, and sat back in the command throne, recognising the strange build style of the unusual vessel, and then activated the vox-broadcast, and spoke; "Eldar vessel in quadrant Alpha-niner Sierra-two, please identify yourselves..."

After a few seconds, the holo-screen flickered to life, and we were presented with an image of a tall, slim, apparently male, humanoid figure that projected an uncommon grace. Its face had an inhuman beauty to it. I recognised it as far more pronounced, but similar in character to those strange features that I had seen in Interrogator Helbrech's pet Psyker, Damien Boe, and I wondered about possible Xenos heritage in the man. The figure lounged back onto a throne-type construct, and seemed to be amused with us.

Hartek spoke again, "We are the Dureen Dynasty trading ship the Furnace of Redemption" At this the creatures smile widened slightly, but it retained its focus as Hartek continued; "I am Rogue Trader Regent Hartek-Dureen, I thank you for your assistance in that... unpleasantness..., and would know the name of my comrade in arms!"

The fey creature looked beyond the range of our view, and spoke in a language that none of us understood, and then, smiling again, turned its attention back to us, this time speaking in Low Gothic; "My name is not important, little Mon-Keigh! Of course you needed our help, you and your kind always do, don't you?" He leaned forward, still looking amused. "There is no need to thank us, as your thanks are worthless anyway!" He paused briefly, and glanced at something out of view to us, and then continued; "For your barbaric kind, who only know destruction and hate, your vessel is not too primitive, by your standards!"

Hartek smiled back, at least I assume it was a smile as I could see his teeth, and the emotions that the flesh-bags seem to have to deal with are somewhat alien to me, however, I was also annoyed with the creature too; it could say what it like about the humans, but it needed to be careful what it said about the Furnace of Redemption! This is my ship, my temple to the Omnissiah, and no foul Xenos can denigrate such a powerful machine spirit, and expect to go unpunished...


The Rogue Trader Regent replied to the Xenos; "Truly you are being too kind! Anyway, now your business in our space has been concluded, you are free to run while we continue the important business of cleansing this system of corruption!"

There was an instant change in the demeanour of the Eldar and his face flushed with anger as Hartek continued; "Obviously I understand that you don't wish to be involved in these good works..."

The Eldar almost shouted at the projector "This was all your races doing, Mon-Keigh! Everything you touch you destroy, the galaxy would be a better place without your kind, but unfortunately that is not the way of things..." He seemed to get control of himself, and quickly appeared calm once more.

Hartek smiled, "That may be so, but we can't always have what we want, can we? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be about my business in this System."

The Xenos smile had twisted into something nastier and more sinister as he spoke again. "Beware of what you find on the surface little Mon-Keigh!"

The Eldar cut the connection just as Hartek was attempting to reply, so, instead, Hartek turned to the bridge crew; "Well, he was a bit of an arse, wasn't he?" I couldn't help but notice the smiles that diffused the tension that had been building.

The Master of Etherics reported that he had tracked the Eldar ship, which our cogitators had now identified as The Memory of Lament, and tentatively tagged as Cruiser class, to the edges of our scan range, and it appeared to be leaving the Saphirus System. Hartek acknowledged this information before ordering a message be sent to both The Lux, and The Anvil, asking for damage reports and ordering them to complete their missions to the worlds of Saphirus 1-101 and Dropas. We received the reports, acknowledgements, and congratulations, from both Captains.

We next attempted communication with The Light of Purity, and glory be to the Omnissiah, received a response! The Astartes were back on board, without casualties, and they were en route to our position. They also reported the intervention in the battle of a mysterious vessel which destroyed a raider when it looked like they were about to be destroyed. The Rogue Trader Regent relayed the story of our detection of the Eldar ship, and the brief conversation with her arrogant Captain, and it seemed likely that the Xenos had intervened in both battles for some obscure reason of their own.

I accepted copies of the battle report from the Astartes destroyer, and they made interesting reading; The Light of Purity had barrelled into the enemy flotilla with a single aim; to get close enough to the corrupted Frigate, the Bringer of Desecration, to teleport the Grey Knights on board. Once this had been achieved the fate of the enemy ship was effective sealed; two of the Space Marines fought their way to the warp drives, and once they reached their target placed explosive charges, while the other three warriors headed to the bridge. Justicar Poscar slew the enemy Captain in single combat while the other two Astartes butchered the bridge crew along with anyone who attempted to intervene. Their mission complete, they too placed demolition charges before teleporting back to The Light of Purity.


The ship battle was not so clear cut; the escorting Raiders had battered The Light of Purity as she focussed on her mission to deploy the Space Marines to their target, however, once this had been achieved, she turned to face them, and crippled one, the Blissful Despair. However, in return she had suffered damage to her plasma drives and void shield generators, and when it looked as though the second raider the Eternity of Doom would take advantage of this, the mysterious attacker we now know as the Eldar ship The Memory of Lament, intervened and destroyed the attacker. The demolition charges left on board the Bringer of Desecration then detonated, and in the subsequent warp explosion the Frigate was obliterated, and the crippled Blissful Despair dragged to her doom in the warp, ending the battle. The crew of The Light of Purity were then able to repair the damage to their engines and shields and plot a course to join us.

The effectiveness of the Astartes raid gave me pause for thought, and I resolved to speak to the Rogue Trader Regent with a view to strengthening our on ship defences to guard against a similar calamity befalling ourselves...

When considering the overall balance at the end of the space battle, we had done incredibly well;

Four corrupted Raider Class ships had been completely destroyed, the Cursed Death, the Unholy Curse, the Blissful Despair, and the Eternity of Doom. Similarly, the Frigate Class ship, the Bringer of Desecration had been destroyed, and the Cruiser Class ship, the Promise of Sedition a notorious pirate and servant of the ruinous powers had been badly damaged and driven off.

The cost to us was small, the Transport Class ship, The Anvil suffered cosmetic internal damage from the raiding party who had attempted to board her, and the Astartes Destroyer The Light of Purity had suffered 38% damage to her hull integrity. The other Transport Class vessel, The Lux, and ourselves, the Furnace of Redemption had remained completely unscathed.

Truly the Emperor, and the Omnissiah, had been watching over us.

The two fighting vessels in the service of the Emperor of Mankind, the Furnace of Redemption, and The Light of Purity turned together and continued the journey to Saphirus 1-1S2M3, and to take the fight to the lair of the enemy.


++ End of record ++

 

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Hey Marvin, sorry to hijack your post a bit... but I see that you use the Dark Heresy Framework for maptools(found it out on the 4shared page). Where do you get your scifi images from? And do you use it for this RT game?

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Hi Thrantor, your welcome to Hijack the thread and its nice to see some people are reading it.

We are indeed using maptool and the dark heresy framework for our campaign, though we do seem to be abit behind the current version and leap frog a few versions at a time when we do upgrade.

The Sci Fi images are either taken from the internet or created by DrVesuvius (Who is very good at creating planet images). Lord Spatula also has a useful knack for finding relevant images from the internet.

Once I have the required images I then use token tool to create a token and bob's your uncle....

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Do you have a recent campaign that you could upload to the 4shared? I JUST found the framework and am amazed at it's potential but finding things like a non-fantasy bunk room bit are hard to find.

Example: As part of my groups investigation of a chaos cult on one of their planets they are raiding the headquarters(Or what they think is the head quarters.) and the building has extensive barracks... But I can't for the life of me find an image of bunk beds from the top that doesn't look basically pulled straight out of a Tolkien novel.

I'm nit picking I know and can just say "this room contains a barracks and bunk beds..." but it's more interesting to be able to put images up.

I'd love to see the campaign or map you used for the fight on the other ship towing the asteroid in the warp. Just to see how you are using it.

I've gotten lots of fantasy examples... but not quite as useful as scifi maps for learning.

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Hi all,

Nice images Errant and ive used that site a few times for images.

Thrantor, when I first started using maptool I use to make some epic looking maps but as time has become more limited I tend to be abit more 'that will do'. Maptool also allows you to save maps now so it can save you more time by using old maps. I dont have any Rogure Trader campaign files uploaded yet but I may do so in the future, also some of my clean Dark Heresy maps are on the share part of the DH/RT/DW maptool site.

For the asteroid fighting scene I didnt use a battlemap as it wasnt needed, for space combats I use a starfield background and through some ship tokens in and it seems to work well enough.

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: SAPHIRUS 1-1S2M3, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


As the ships approached the planet, and then slipped into geosynchronous orbit over the target area, The Light of Purity closed up on, and then hid herself in the shadow of the larger Furnace of Redemption. We hoped that the enemy would not be able to detect the Astartes vessel, and the deployment of the Grey Knights would remain a surprise, until they actually engaged the target. I have to say that the skill of both crews was a pleasure to behold, and as such befitted the trust which the Omnissiah had placed upon them to care for the venerable machine spirits of the mighty warships.

The House troops hurried to their deployment positions, being harried, and barked at by their NCO's, as appears to be the tradition of human militaries wherever I have experienced them, and then I felt the deck plates shudder as we began to bombard the intended landing zone. Hartek had modified his assault plan slightly, and the guns of The Light of Purity remained silent; what was the point of the stealth and subterfuge of hiding her in orbit if we were to reveal her presence during the early phase of the plan?

As the final blast wave rolled over the target area, the first of the gun-cutters dropped from its holding pattern, and the landing began. I do not pretend to understand all the aspects of the deployment of an army in the field, and kept my focus on the Maniple of Tech-Guard and two Praetorian Battle Servitors that were to act as my personal body-guards, however, it all appeared to be very efficient. The soldiers and Basilisk self-propelled artillery pieces hurried to their pre-set positions as they had in all the rehearsals we had staged, and began to dig in. The command posts were set up, and I moved ahead of the defensive lines and began to set command-wire anti-personnel explosives and booby traps to help destroy the corrupted enemy. Hartek sent his reconnaissance units out to do their job, and overhead, shepherding the gun-cutters was a single Calixis Pattern Fury interceptor, piloted by the new officer, Victrix Ivanov.

Interrogator Helbrech, followed by his small group of Acolytes moved over to speak to Hartek, "Very efficient!" he nodded.

"There's no profit in inefficiency!" The Rogue Trader Regent smiled.

Helbrech nodded again. "I know some Imperial Guard Colonels who would be jealous, and I've worked with PDF's far too many times..." He sighed.

Hartek laughed. "You have my sympathy!"

Within two standard hours, everything had clicked into place, and the soldiers settled in to wait for the enemy to show himself. I overheard one of the soldiers complaining that the order of the day seemed to be "Hurry up and wait!"

One of the veterans soon silenced his complaints; "I'd rather be bored and waiting for an enemy that didn't show, than fighting for my life against Emperor knows what... Enjoy it while it lasts!"

I moved on leaving the troops to their discussion, and settled down to familiarise myself with the teleportarium beacon with which I had been entrusted. Prior to the deployment, and remembering the terrain from our last visit to this world, I had constructed a self-propelled, tracked mini-vehicle to carry the beacon, and I used the opportunity to test this over the ground that had been scoured and scorched by the bombardment. I am happy to report that it functioned perfectly, meaning that I did not have to divert any of my Tech-Guard from their primary duty of keeping me alive to carry the device. I know that this made Tech-Priest Calldia very happy.

The bike mounted scouts began to return to the HQ position; at the best of times had the appearance of a wasteland road gang, which I understand they actually were until recruited to the flag of House Dureen, and this appearance was exaggerated now they were covered in the dust and dirt of the planet, however, I also knew that they were very good at their job, so it was with mixed feelings that I heard them report no sign of the enemy.

Hartek grunted at the reports, before speaking almost to himself; "Well, we all know they're out there, and I can... feel... that something isn't right, there are places that don't look quite... solid... and the chronos are behaving strangely. I've felt things like this during some warp jumps, and I can hear distant... whispering... see lights... but the only other time I can recall it is last time we were here... Hrmmmpphh!" Then he shook his head as if to clear it, and ordered the bike scouts to continue their sweeps.

I was not quite sure whether the Rogue Trader Regent expected any response to his musings, and did not feel as though I had much to add in any case, so I kept my mouth shut. In any case, Hartek's attention seemed to be on the Interrogator, and his Psyker, Boe, and he voiced his "feelings" to them too.

Interrogator Helbrech nodded. "Boe informs me that the walls between the warp and reality are weak, and the epicentre seems to be focussed on these mountains. It seems that the entity is working to weaken the reality of this world." Hartek's feelings were confirmed.

"I feel as if the veil has weakened since I arrived..." Boe's voice was weak. "The lights and whispers you hear are physical manifestations of this weakening..."

"If it has a physical presence we can kill it!" Hartek punched his fist into the palm of his cybernetic hand.

Realising what he was about to do, I took cover behind an out crop of rock, and adjusted the photo-visor in my armour to its highest setting; my eyes were still sensitive to light after our previous encounters with the denizens of this world.

"Furnace of Redemption, this is Hartek actual. Fire mission!" and he reeled off a list of coordinates. Vox calls went out for the troops to take cover and within a standard minute the target area was taking hits from lance strikes.

I could feel the atmosphere being sucked into the vacuum created by the passing of the golden white beams of energy that struck the ground, and the air became saturated with fine particles of dust thrown up by the immense forces, and, even a thousand metres away from the focus point, the ground shook as though caught up in the shocks of an earthquake, and a wave of hot air was pushed out over our positions, pushing the dust before it like a sandstorm in a desert. Impressive as it was, I am not entirely sure of the value of that assault, after all as Boe said after the mission was called; "You can't kill the warp!"

There was the sound of static, and then the vox-operator called out "Incoming message from the scout leader sir!"

We all closed in to the soldier, and heard the static resolve itself into Low Gothic. "Hello Hotel-Zero-one, this is Big Red!"

The vox-operator answered "Hotel Zero-One. Go ahead!"

"Roger. We've spotted a couple of targets moving in to your location!"

"Roger. Wait out!" and the vox-operator turned to Hartek, who raised an eyebrow before speaking.

"Well, get bearing and heading!"

The vox-operator rapidly turned back to his sacred machinery and requested the information.

What I was able to glean from the exchanges was that there was a small group of around a dozen humanoid figures moving towards our location from the direction of the mountain caves that we knew from our last visit, and were perhaps fifteen minutes away. I also remembered that the corrupted settlers had attempted to use the same tactics last time, to lure us into a trap, and it seemed Hartek had remembered the same ambush.

"Big Red!" Hartek got on the vox, "This is Hartek actual. Well done! There's an extra ration of grog for you and your boys when we get back on the ship!" I could hear the celebrations in the background at that statement. Hartek continued, "Follow your orders. Avoid contact, continue the sweep, and keep your eyes open for more! Out."

The Rogue Trader Regent called one of the Basilisks forwards, and we waited. Shortly afterwards, the outer sentries reported the same group of figures closing in, and we were able to study them through magnoculars. They were similar in appearance to the corrupted settlers we had encountered on our first visit, with an unhealthy look and ragged clothes, however one of this group was carrying a large banner, and others were beating on drums with femur shaped clubs.

"Basilisk! Take them out!" Hartek shouted.

The artillery piece began to line up on its target, and then paused; there appeared to be an ongoing discussion between the gun commander and his senior NCO. The NCO was telling the commander he was wrong about something, and the commander was insisting the opposite.

I could tell that Hartek's patience was wearing thin when he spoke. "I don't mean to rush you, Commander...!"

The argument continued, and Hartek spoke again, "Commander...!"

Finally the argument was settled as Hartek put a bolt-pistol round into the unfortunate gun-commanders head. The NCO took half a second to look at the body of his former commander, ran a quick check of his calculations, and then barked orders at the gun-crew, who sprang to life. The Basilisk roared as it fired, and the enemy party disappeared in a mist of gore, amputated limbs, and smashed drums.

"Nice shot, Sergeant! " Hartek paused, and then continued, a steady timbre to his voice, "I mean Commander!"

The shocked former NCO brightened a little as he realised he had just received a field promotion. I am slightly concerned by the number of Officers being relieved of their commands via the medium of explosive bolt rounds, it does seem to be very inefficient to train these men and then waste the investment in such a cavalier manner.

The day progressed, and soon it a standard Terran cycle had passed, and we had no sign of any further enemy activity as we waited so Hartek called for a council of war, with Lieutenant Ivanov joining us via data-link from the Furnace of Redemption. It was decided that as the enemy were unwilling to come to us, we would force the issue by sending the Penal Cohort on a reconnaissance mission into the tunnels, with orders to advance to contact, and then withdraw to the HQ location. Unfortunately it appears that they managed the first part of the mission, however, as they were never seen again, the second part appears to have been too much of a challenge to them...

The other scout units, as part of their normal sweeps, reported contacts with small groups of hostiles, which were quickly dealt with by well flown strafing runs from the Fury fighter piloted by Ivanov, however, as the hours passed, we still had not encountered the main enemy force. By now, forty-eight standard hours had gone by, so reasoning that the plan to force the issue was sound, just that it had not been executed well, Hartek ordered a second incursion. This time the advance would be in greater strength and he would be leading. The Armoured Cohort was summoned to the landing zone from orbit to allow us to advance with immediate heavy fire support. Interrogator Helbrech insisted on joining us too, which was nice of him, as we were only back here because of his "encouragement"...!

We mounted Second Cohort in twenty-five Chimeras, and were accompanied by twenty-five Leman Russ battle tanks, and headed towards the target, leaving the rest of the armoured vehicles supporting the rest of the army in the HQ location, the command of which had passed to Ivanov. I did not pay much attention to the journey in as I was ministering to the teleportarium beacon, but suffice to say that it was uneventful, and within an hour we were deep in the tunnels and heading into a settlement chamber similar to the one we had encountered on our first visit.

Following the maps I had created from the data from the cogitators we had discovered in the settlement we had been ambushed in on that first visit, we pushed on through the buildings, having first dismounted the infantry; even I know that unsupported armour in a built up area is just asking to be destroyed, and although there were sporadic fire fights, again, the corrupted creatures we encountered were in small groups and easily dealt with.

It soon became clear that we were on the right track, the maps seemed to be indicating that there was a large chamber several hundred metres ahead, and the closer we got, the more people in the force began to hear the strange whispering noise, however, Hartek kept spirits up and the men focussed with words of encouragement.

Damien Boe seemed to be suffering more than he had on the surface, and his reactions reminded me of stories I had heard of from the ancient history of Terra. It appears that in the early days of industry and mining, unbelievable as it sounds, there were no means to detect noxious gasses, and many workers died suffocated by the fumes, until they discovered that a small avian creature known as a canary was more sensitive than they were. They took to carrying these creatures with them, and if they died the workers would leave quickly, knowing the poisonous gasses were present. I could not help but think of Boe as our canary, and the more he suffered, then it seemed logical to deduce that the closer we were to our target. On a more positive note, he was still functioning at reasonable efficiency, which meant that the danger could not be too great.

Yet. I resolved to keep a close eye on the man whenever possible...

We forced our way through the chamber remarkably quickly, clearing it within four standard hours, and found ourselves pushing into a tunnel at the far end.

After almost six hours following this tunnel, we came to another door which was too narrow for the Chimeras to pass through, however, oddly enough the heavier Leman Russ's were narrower and could scrape through the gap, quite literally on a couple of occasions. Realising that this was a natural choke point, Hartek ordered the Chimeras, five of the Leman Russ's, and their crews to hold this location, along with fifty infantry. The rest of us climbed onto the hulls of the battle tanks, and the advance continued.

A few minutes later we moved into a huge vaulted chamber; there were thick stone pillars supporting the ceiling, which was so high I could not even make it out, however, my auspex insisted it was there, so I did not doubt its existence. The hall was dark, and beyond the radius of the illumination, initially I could not make anything out, although I had a bad feeling, and judging by the expressions on the faces of those around me, I was not the only one who felt like that.

Calldia broke his silence, for the first time in a while; "I don't like the look of this; I have a bad feeling... Surely there must be things to do back at the camp - or even better, on the ship...!?"

He kept his complaining going, and although I am getting quite good at filtering his muttering out, when it was combined with the strange, distant, whispering I could hear it got very distracting and irritating...

I began to make out humanoid shapes at the edge of our illumination, and suddenly, a chill gripped me as I realised there were hundreds of the corrupted settlers standing in the dark. The cold fear spread and froze me, and I felt that I could not move any closer; this was very different to fighting them in the open, as we had done before, and I could not help but remember the illness that had infected me after my last encounter with the foul creatures. As I stood and stared at them, Boe came over to me, and spoke some words; I cannot recall them now, but I felt somewhat happier about the situation, and as the body of troops opened fire, cutting dozens of the foul creatures into chunks of rotting gore, we pushed forwards towards the head of the chamber, which the scans showed us contained a large door.

The Rogue Trader Regent looked as stricken as I felt, and I saw Boe move on to him, and now I had my wits about me, I noticed that the Psyker seemed to be glowing with a white light, and this time I heard what he said;

"Do not fear, He is with us. He is always with us, and always watches over us. He knows who we are, and he knows that even little people have big hearts too..."

The expression on Hartek's face changed, and he looked calm, almost serene, and he seemed to come to his senses, much as I had. I was also amused to note that our Squat Rogue Trader Regent had not seemed to register that Boe had used the words "little people" to him. Perhaps I should inform him of this when I get chance. But then again, perhaps not...

I sent my servo-skulls, Yorrick and Horatio, forward to investigate the path ahead, and they were able to report back that although the numbers were large, almost a thousand, they were not endless. However, I was also able to count amongst their numbers, taller blade carrying figures with horned foreheads, and low to the ground were a number of the small spherical creatures we had encountered as we escaped from the planet on our last visit. I put the information over the vox-net, and the troops began to pick their targets.

"Forward! To the door!" Hartek bellowed.

Our forces split, with the main body holding their ground while levelling withering fire at the creatures, which continued to fall, while three of the battle tanks pushed on, with the Command team, the Interrogators group, and my small force, clinging on to the outsides.

I heard Hartek's voice once again; "To the door, make for the door ahead!"

Finally, I could make out what he meant, and could see four wide steps, leading to a massive stone door in the chamber wall, flanked by sturdy looking stone columns. The large, raised area gave us a slight advantage, allowing us to fire into the massed enemy more effectively; however, it was what was beyond the door that gave me a feeling of dread. I knew, and I cannot explain how I knew, but I knew that the Grey Knight's target lay over the threshold in that chamber... I also knew that I would need definitive proof of this before I triggered the teleportarium beacon.

The three battle tanks formed up at the front of the steps, firing into the massed enemy, and the main force had formed a circle defence two hundred metres away on the chamber floor, and were doing the same. Hartek, Helbrech and his acolytes, and my men took position on the steps, and I sent Yorrick and Horatio through the door to investigate the chamber beyond.

As I watched the data feed I saw more of the sword carrying, horned, creatures probably forty if them, and then I saw something else... It looked like one the small spherical creatures, but much, much bigger, and I was immediately reminded of the shape that was captured on the distorted recording from our last visit... I could feel it looking at me through the eyes of my servo skulls, and felt a strange draw, and then I remember nothing more.

My internal chrono registered the passing of 0.52 standard minutes, but as far as I am concerned that time was, and till is a complete blank. Hartek later told me that I collapsed, vomited what appeared to be oil, and appeared to be fitting and twitching as I lay on the floor. It was this combined with the feelings that Hartek, and Boe, particularly had, that convinced the Interrogator that our target was indeed beyond the door.


When I regained my senses, I saw Doc leaning over me, but seeming puzzled as to what ailed me. Then I heard a voice as Helbrech shouted "The beast is inside!"

Boe was launching bolts of energy over our heads into the approaching horde, and I could see Hartek, the Interrogator and two of my Tech-Guard unloading the teleportarium beacon from where it was stowed on the back of the Leman Russ.

I felt weak, and disorientated and tried to struggle to my feet, but in reality ended up scrambling across the floor towards them, my attention locked onto the beacon as I tried to ignore what was going on around me.

It was then that I became aware of another faint voice on the vox; it was Ivanov on the surface, reporting that the scouts had withdrawn to the perimeter as thousands more of the corrupted settlers had come streaming out of the mountain caves and were clearly targeting the HQ area. The estimate of the enemy number stood at around six thousand, and Ivanov informed us that he was calling for orbital strikes from the Furnace of Redemption into the massed enemy horde. I felt the earth around me shake as the huge energies were unleashed above our heads, and later analysis would reveal that the repeated lance strikes cut great swathes through the slow moving creatures, and by the time they had closed to melee range they had suffered 85% losses. Even so they remained a potent enemy, as our own casualties would soon swell their ranks...

Yorrick and Horatio flew out of the chamber at top speed, and hovered over me as I finally reached the beacon. I connected myself to the data-port, and thanks be to the Omnissiah, made the connection I needed. I was still disorientated, but because I had taken the time to familiarise myself with the interface while still in orbit I was able to recite the correct incantations, and apply the holy incenses without too much conscious thought. I forced myself to focus, and re-ran the calculations through my cogitators to confirm them, and then, stroking the surface of the holy device, began the final rites of activation.

"Hurry up hurry up hurry up hurry up hurry up!" Calldia was chanting in the back of my mind, almost like a litany.

I snapped at him "If you actually shut up and helped me, then perhaps I would..."

He stopped instantly, and then suddenly calmer than he had been, recited the activation rites with me.

I heard Hartek's voice bellowing over the sound of the gunfire, "This is where we stand!", and the men redoubled their efforts, destroying more of the abominations, and I heard the whine of activation as the power flowed through the beacon - it was active! I set the small tracked vehicle supporting the device moving into the chamber containing the entity, and then scrambled away from the door.

The Rogue Trader Regent opened a vox channel; "Hartek to The Light of Purity. Do the Emperors will!"

Inside the chamber there was a bright flash of light, which my photo-visor just managed to suppress, and a sound like a thunderclap, then gobbets of flesh and gore splashed through the open door, before fading into nothingness. In the doorway stood a huge, silver armoured figure, gleaming with light, and sweeping an enormous halberd through the onrushing horned creatures, splitting them in two, before their corpses faded away. It turned towards us, crashing its fist against its chest in salute, before spinning around and striding slowly into the chamber. The Grey Knights had engaged the enemy.


++ End of record ++

 

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Hi all,

Below is this weeks session report.

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE SAPHIRUS 1-1S2M3, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


On the surface of the world the massed horde of the enemy had forced our scouting teams back to within the defensive perimeter, and had closed to a range which meant that additional lance strikes from orbit would be far too dangerous for own troops, and even firing the Basilisks was risky; the overpressure from the artillery was causing casualties in our defensive lines. The gun crews abandoned their main guns and manned the vehicle mounted heavy stubbers and opened fire on the enemy with those instead.

Realising now that there was little he could do onboard the Furnace of Redemption, and the threat from the damaged Promise of Sedition had not re-emerged, Navigator Proscesu made the decision to to the planet and lend whatever help he could to Lieutenant Ivanov. Remembering the way that the gun-cutters were brought down during our last excursion to the surface, his gun-cutter made a crash to deposit him in the middle of the HQ area before boosting away to orbit, fortunately escaping unscathed.

Proscesu had arrived in time to see large numbers of the troops breaking in the face of the horrific enemy advancing on them, and began to regret his decision to join the ground forces. Then he saw Ivanov moving towards the front lines, shouting encouragement to those around him. Miraculously the Lieutenants words appeared to have the desired effect, and the faltering men held their ground and redoubled their efforts at repelling the enemy, then Ivanov, leading from the front in the best traditions of House Dureen, crashed into the leading creatures, laying about himself with his sword as the men around him began to be overwhelmed.

"Ivanov!" Proscesu shouted over the noise of battle, "Hold fast, I will be with you soon!" and he ran to join his comrade.

The two men adopted a back to back defensive formation to fend off the enemy, and soon managed to create space around their position as they held off the closest enemy, as their numbers were swelled as our dead got to their feet and joined them...


Below the surface, the situation was far more desperate. I watched as one by one my valiant Tech-Guard fell, giving their lives to protect me, Omnissiah watch over them, but still we fought on winnowing the enemy numbers with gun and blade. The first of our fallen here also began to join the ranks of the foul creatures, and although still badly shaken by what I was facing I made a point to put a hellgun blast through the heads of any of my men that I encountered, refusing to give the dark powers at work on this world the chance to control the remains of such honourable men.

As I glanced around, I saw Helbrechs Acolytes moving around the cordon we had thrown around the steps we were standing on. My attention was caught by the graceful, dancer-like movements of Divine Vengeance, the bodyguard-assassin as she moved amongst the enemy, cutting at limbs and pressure points with surgical precision. Something struck me as illogical about the tactics but I was unable to work out quite what it was. Doc was blazing away with the fine pistols he carried, each shot obliterating the head of one of the abominations facing us, and I saw Boe blazing with energy, disintegrating waves of the creatures with the power of the warp, and crushing them with a ghostly hammer. Helbrech himself calmly stood with his right arm raised and holding his pistol, his left arm folded behind his back in the traditional duellists' stance, and took measured shots into the mass of corruption before us, each round striking true. I was suddenly aware that one of his group was missing, Sergeant Bolke, at least the Sergeant's body was nowhere to be seen, however, as the enemy pressed on at our position, I did not have time to dwell over that piece of information.

I heard explosions as the power packs of two of the Leman Russ tanks detonated, overrun by the horde, and could see creatures swarming over the defensive positions. As I attempted to run probabilities based around this information through my cogitators, a panicked Calldia spoke up again.

"What have you got us into? You know the figures - we're all going to die! It's hopeless..."

"Where is your faith Calldia?" I responded angrily and probably with no little panic myself, "We are beloved of the Omnissiah. He will watch over us!" At least I hoped that was true...

My internal discussion was interrupted by Hartek. "We must hold this door! We cannot let them get through and aid their master! The Grey Knights must be given the chance to prevail!"

The Rogue Trader Regent's roaring voice snapped me back to reality and I raised my hellgun once more and continued to snap shots off as the creatures advanced on us. Our infantry were being overrun, with the small rotting, giggling, spherical creatures swarming all over them, and tearing them apart, and we began to fall back towards the door. The troops left in the centre of the chamber had retreated into the circle of armoured vehicles and were trying to use their hulls as cover, generally unsuccessfully.

It was then that I realised what was illogical about Divine Vengeance's combat style; while it would have been devastatingly effective against creatures that required a circulatory system, the surgical hits that she struck the abominations with were effective in removing body parts, but they were not destroying them. The assassin danced around the slower creatures almost mocking them, until suddenly she was grabbed mid somersault and dragged into the midst of the horde. Even as I saw her limbs being ripped from her torso, I was planning the cybernetic replacements that would be required to allow her to keep her marvellous agility; however, I stopped when a sightless head rolled from the mass of corrupted flesh. There was nothing I could do to aid her now.

The Rogue Trader Regent leapt from his position on the hull of one of the Leman Russ tanks and intercepted a group of creatures that were heading my way - thank you Kilgrim, I did not know that you cared - and cut one in two with the mighty sweep of his axe. As he did so, young Fenducci, Harteks' aide was left to fend for himself on the tank, and found himself by two of the small spherical creatures. I saw him slip, and one of them pounced, and thought he was done for but he scrabbled away losing only a boot. I could not help but applaud his lucky escape! My attention snapped back to my problems as two of the spherical abominations launched themselves at me, and clung on to my armour, unable to penetrate the scale, but doing the utmost to drag me to the floor.

I dropped my hellgun and used my axe to try to scrape one of them from me, but it squirmed round evading my clumsy attack. I was almost flung to the floor as the other Leman Russ tanks near the steps exploded, sabotaged from within, and at the edge of my vision I saw others with the force stranded in the middle of the chamber destroyed in the same way. The only bonus from these losses was that several of the enemy were incinerated in the detonations.

Hartek had found himself somewhat isolated having launched himself into the melee with gusto, and although was revelling in the fight, it was clear that he would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of his foes. Then, to my right something burst through the wall in an explosion of masonry and debris. The huge shape smashed through the enemy, and I am sure I saw at least one crushed beneath its bulk. I suddenly realised that one of the Grey Knights had inadvertently come to our aid, although the warrior looked in a bad way. Still, a normal human would not have survived the trip through the heavy stone wall!

The giant figure lay motionless for a few seconds, the formidable armour suffering from numerous tears and cracks, and in one place, the ceramite and adamantium plates had be ripped clear, exposing the workings beneath. Even then I could not help but to admire the exquisite craftsmanship that was required to construct such a suit, and I muttered a quick prayer to the machine spirits, to help atone for their suffering.

The Grey Knight struggled to his feet, blood streaming down his face and pouring through the many rents in the silver armour. He picked up his halberd which appeared to bend part way along its length and steadied himself against the wall. With a shock I realised that this was Justicar Poscar. He grimaced, and seemed to be testing himself, before stepping back towards the chamber from which he had just been ejected.

"For the Emperor!" I heard Hartek shout.

I could not help but add; "And the Omnissiah!"

The Astartes warrior smiled through the blood, and crashed a salute against his breast plate, and spoke; "The beast is weakening. It shall fall!"

With a burst of fire from his storm bolter he limped back into the darkened room beyond.


Ivanov and Proscesu were still locked in a desperate fight with the creatures on the surface, but overall the Dynasty forces were winning the battle, cutting down more enemy than were being replaced as their own casualties rose from the dead. The two officers were at the heart of the resistance, killing any foolish enough to attack them, and seeing the example set by the two men, the troops held fast refusing to give ground to the horrors they faced. While the battle was still vicious and far from over, it soon became clear that the confidence that the stalwart defence was giving the troops meant that victory was in their grasp.


Underground, it was a different story; we were being slaughtered, and hope was starting to fade. Suddenly the surviving creatures turned as if of a single mind, and surged towards the steps.

"Close the doors!" Hartek shouted

I nodded, and tried to run towards the open portal, ignoring the creatures trying to trip me. I kicked one clear, pausing to stamp down on it to finish it, and then after a struggle with the first door, I managed to drag it closed. As I moved, however, the flexing of the scale armour created a gap at one of the joints, and quick as a flash, one of the abominations squeezed itself through the hole. It was inside my armour with me, and I could feel it scraping away at my body... Calldia screamed in panic, and would not be quiet no matter how much I asked him to! More disturbingly, I could hear a deep, rumbling laughter that reminded me so much of the voice I heard in my head when I was ill with the fever after our last visit to this world.

More of the abominations turned towards me, and Hartek pointed at them, and then enveloped them in a gout of burning promethium from the hand-flamer I had built into his cybernetic arm. Obviously, that was one of the most important design decisions I had made in my life, and the now burning creatures writhed on the floor.

I turned in time to see one of my Battle Servitors impaled through the chest by one of the single eyed, horned creatures, but it kept fighting, along with its partner, holding the horde at bay. Damien Boe stepped forward again, and unleashed his combat powers crushing and burning more of the enemy, but as he drew himself up to deal more death he too was run through by a horned creature. I was struck by the look of complete astonishment on his face.

He gasped, "This wasn't... meant... to... happen!" And then he died, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth.

Interrogator Helbrech killed the attacker with a single, well placed shot to the head, and the remains faded from reality.

I shook my head, to clear my thoughts, and turned and dragged the second door closed, latching and locking it, and then turned to face the horde once again. I could still feel the tiny fiend scratching around the insides of my armour and as it gouged at my flesh and systems, I fell to the ground in an attempt to crush it between my body and the armour. Nearby, the still burning creatures popped, and faded from reality, giving us some time, and some space, and Hartek strode across the cleared ground, calmly putting bolt-pistol rounds into the massed enemy. One broke clear and almost tore the Rogue Trader Regents face off, but he deftly manoeuvred himself out of its reach before dispatching it with another well placed burst of bolt pistol fire.

We were being forced back by the wave of small spherical fiends, and soon found ourselves backed against the door, however, as he was retreating Interrogator Helbrech slipped in a pool of gore, landing hard on the stone steps, Doc leapt forwards, butting himself between the creatures and the Interrogator, unleashing a fusillade of pistol shots causing them to pause for a few seconds. Helbrech scrambled backwards, and got to his feet, and Doc continued to cover him, until there was a sudden silence as his magazines emptied, he looked in horror as he realised how exposed he was, and was then dragged down by four of the corrupted and rotting humanoids and was torn apart in front of us.

I thrashed around on the ground, and then found I could not move. I looked up into the grim face of Helbrech who had his foot on my chest.

He shook his head; "Stop wiggling!" Then he watched me carefully. He pried one of the joints of my armour open, paused and opened fire, and I felt a heat spot and then a splash of gore as the creature burst. I felt disgusted and relieved at the same time, and the Interrogator gave me a wan smile.

As I gathered myself together, I could hear that strange distant laughter again...

Suddenly I realised that I could no longer hear gunfire, and as I scanned the battlefield I saw that all our troops had fallen, and the Leman Russ Tanks were burning. There was only Hartek, Helbrech, and I left standing, backed against the doors, as the remaining creatures advanced on us. Suddenly, from on high, I saw a las-blast reach out and kill one of the enemy. It seemed that one ally at least was still living, and Sergeant Bolke continued to extract a price from those that opposed us. I emptied the power cell on my Hellgun, cutting down more abominations, however, I soon ran dry, as did Hartek and Helbrech, and with a last look at each other.

My cry of "For the Omnissiah!" was matched by the other two shouting "For the Emperor!"

We drew our melee weapons and prepared to sell our lives, inflicting as much damage on the foul creatures as we could.

As we took out combat stances I detected a slight vibration, and then deep rumble from the chamber behind us, and shouted a warning; "Behind!" And then the doors exploded outwards.

All three of us threw ourselves flat, miraculously avoiding the debris that obliterated the front ranks of the advancing horde. Powering this debris was a strange wind blowing with the power of a hurricane, which knocked more of our attackers flat. The wind carried with it a strange howling, crying moan, and then the distant, sinister laughter I was becoming so familiar with. We turned back to face the advancing creatures, but they were no longer moving, just standing there, and then I realised that there were none of the horned one eyed creatures or small spherical fiends remaining amongst their number... With a strange sense of hope, and muttering prayers to the Omnissiah, I turned and looked through the shattered doors.


On the surface, the troops still locked in deadly combat suddenly found their enemies gone, or simply standing their passively. Taking advantage, they moved out of their positions in order to destroy any of the abominations they could see, but found they did not need to, as within a few seconds they all collapsed lifeless to the ground.

Ivanov opened a wide channel vox-link, and spoke; "All glory to the Emperor!" A wide smile spread across his face as he heard cheering from across the battlefield.

The troops began to build pyres, and burned the fallen, just to be sure.


As I peered through the doors, I could sense a presence on either side of me, and I glanced each way and saw that I was flanked by both the Rogue Trader Regent, and the Interrogator. Ahead of me, amongst the debris of what had obviously been a titanic struggle, I could see a huge figure moving in the middle of the chamber, and another limping towards us, a green ooze steaming on his battered armour. He stopped before us, and with the click and hiss of a seal being broken, he removed his helmet.

He looked young, in human terms, perhaps he would be in his mid-twenties; however he was Astartes, so it was impossible to guess. His eyes looked a lot harder, and older than his physical age suggested, and his features were weathered, not through age, but through physical abuse.

My attention was briefly called away from the giant, as I heard a series of thuds from behind, and I checked, to see the stationary figures collapse, and lie still.

I turned back to the Astartes; "I assume the threat is ended? Logic would suggest from the evidence surrounding us that you were successful?"

The figure nodded, so I continued. "Truly the Emperor was with you!"

"Aye!" He finally spoke, "He was!"

"And Justicar Poscar?" Hartek prompted

The Astartes shook his head, and I am sure a look of sorrow briefly passed over his face. "He fell doing the work of the Emperor."

I nodded. "As will we all, at some point..."

Again, the Grey Knight nodded. "He will be remembered by his Brothers."

He looked towards us, a strange look on his face, touched by a slight smile. "Only myself and one other Brother survived. We will retrieve the remains of our kin and we will return to The Light of Purity. The task is completed, and the creature banished. May the Emperor be with you!" And he saluted us.

I returned his gesture, and responded, "And the Omnissiah with you!"

The Space Marine turned around, and walked back into the chamber towards his Brother, and once they had gathered the bodies of the fallen and the teleportarium beacon, I saw the light of a teleportarium beam begin to envelop them, and heard him shout, "The next time we meet, it will be by his side! We will stand by the Throne together!" Then they disappeared from sight.

Hartek had turned back towards the carnage behind us, surveying the damage with sad eyes, when suddenly I heard a clang of metal plates falling to the ground. I gripped my axe tightly, and focused on the noise, and from out of the wreckage a head appeared, looking round nervously.

"Fenducci, my boy!" boomed Hartek.

The Rogue Trader Regent stepped forward and helped his aide from the wreckage, and smiled. "It's... It's over...?" The young man asked.

"It is!" Hartek nodded, and then joined by the grim faced Sergeant Bolke, a survivor again, we turned and began the walk towards where we had left the Chimeras, and moved on to the surface.


We withdraw all our survivors to the Furnace of Redemption, to give them a well earned rest, and then I headed to the bridge to watch the departure of The Light of Purity, and found the others already there. As we stood in silence, watching the Destroyer pass beyond our scanner range, the Interrogator spoke in a subdued voice, "Do you think they even really noticed us?"


++ End of record ++

 

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This is one of the rare occasions when I take issue with the good Enginseer's account of the aftermath of the underground battle.  Clearly his machine transformations have left him somewhat de-sensitized to the carnage and the effect it has on "the fleshbags".  No disrespect to Lord Spatula intended, as this is his characters personal account of our adventures as well as the "official" version, but I'd like to offer an entirely personal, more human viewpoint from Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek.

It was as grim a scene as any Hartek had seen in his long battlefield career.  Over two hundred men and twenty vehicles, the best part of an armoured brigade, had rolled into that underground chamber with him and now you could count the survivors on the fingers of one hand.  Broken and torn apart bodies lay scattered everywhere, House troops mixed freely with the infected natives, for in the end all had been the enemy.  House Dureen's wounded and dead had risen up and joined the plague, making Seventh Cohort's doom a simple matter of grim, inevitable mathematics.

Hartek turned away from the figure of the Grey Knight, heedless of any insult offered and with slightly unsteady feet on gore-slick stone, started to walk down the steps to where the wrecks of three Leman Russ still lay.  He passed the wrecks of Enginseer Hak's battle servitors.  The two man-machines had done their part in slowing down the advancing tide, but numbers had overwhelmed them.  He saw the remains of Interrogator Hellbrech's fallen companions; Doc, Boe, Divine Vengeance.  He saw the bodies of Hak's remaining Tech Guard, who had died to a man fighting against what must have been incalculable odds, even for them.

He reached the tank where he'd last seen Fenducci before diving off into the melee to protect Hak.  It had been a foolish move, depriving his men of leadership and command at a vital moment in the battle.  A junior officer officer making the same mistake would normally have drawn the Warmaster's ire, but there was no-one to discipline the Warmaster himself for making such a rookie mistake.  That decision had given up any hope Hartek had of swaying the course of the battle, and almost certainly condemned Fenducci and many others to death.  

Hartek tried to put the thought from his mind as he scanned the bodies around the remains of the Leman Russ.  There was no sign of his young aide's body anywhere.  Could the oncoming horde have torn him completely apart?  Or had the flow of battle carried his remains away from where he fell?  The squat Warmaster tried not to think of the other possibility, that Fenducci had staggered away from the tank himself on shaking, undead legs.  The horrible mental image gave way to a different one, of a dark smoky-filled room on Malfi, where hard faced men made deals that would never see the light of day, and where Hartek had offered an apprenticeship to the nephew of one of Malfi's most powerful crimelords.

"Of course there are risks in travelling the void." Hartek saw himself telling Don Mario.  "But I'll keep the boy out of harm's way.  He'll come back to you stronger and better trained than you could ever hope him to be, stuck here on Malfi.  Trust me, it'll be the making of him."

A loud metallic clang broke Hartek from his reverie.  One of the hatches in the wrecked Leman Russ had been thrown open, and a familiar, weasel-like face appeared in the frame, looking around nervously.  Hartek cleared away a piece of obstructing debris and Antonio Fenducci emerged fully from the wreckage, blinking as he took in the sight of the surrounding carnage.

Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek, sworn Warmaster to House Dureen, looked up at his young ward and gripped him firmly by the shoulders.  "My boy." he said, his voice wavering slightly as the adrenaline crash started to hit him hard.  He smiled wanly at Fenducci's shocked expression.

"It's...it's over?" the youngster managed.

Hartek nodded "It is." With no more to be said, he turned and strode down the steps, to begin the task of rebuilding his shattered legions.

++++ Believe Me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. - Commander Artorius Wesley, Praetorian Imperial Guard.

Also, in the very final scene as we watched the Grey Knights warping away without so much as a by-your-leave, Interrogator Helbrech's rhetorical question "Do you think they even really noticed us?" drew a succinct, one-word answer from the Trader Regent.  Sadly this word, along with much of Hartek's more... colourful idiom, has been stricken from the published Imperial Record lest it corrupt the unwary.

 

 

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DrVesuvius said:

This is one of the rare occasions when I take issue with the good Enginseer's account of the aftermath of the underground battle.  Clearly his machine transformations have left him somewhat de-sensitized to the carnage and the effect it has on "the fleshbags".  No disrespect to Lord Spatula intended, as this is his characters personal account of our adventures as well as the "official" version, but I'd like to offer an entirely personal, more human viewpoint from Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek.

Meh! I think someone's being overly sentimental about his fleshbags! gran_risa.gif 

All joking aside, it's nice to see a more human perspective on the battle, compared with the deliberately more impersonal version I wrote... Nice one Dr V!

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OK then, you asked for it.  I posted this on our private game forum as a 'tween session action and Marvin the ARVN has asked me to crosspost it here.

 

Numbers, numbers, it was all god-rotting numbers on slips of vellum. The story they told was not a pleasant one. Two, Three, Four and Six Cohorts were all down to half strength. Eighth Cohort had been all but eliminated as an armoured fighting force having lost 80% of its heavy armour and infantry. Ninth (Penal) Cohort had been virtually wiped out, and I had pardoned the handful of penitents who had survived, allowing them to return to regular duty. Even the Household Guard, left "safe" in Divisional HQ had suffered serious casualties acting as a flying reserve to hold the line.

 

Krom! It was going to take some time to recover from this "Endeavour". Better hope the god-rotting Interrogator's god-rotting jump routes were worth the cost we'd paid for them in blood.

My brooding was interrupted by Antonio Fenducci, my aide and apprentice, who had also survived what the soldiers called "The Belly of the Beast". He seemed to have recovered from the experience, although it did seem to have robbed him of some of his former youthful exuberance.

"Trader Regent Hartek?" He ventured. "There's a Sergeant Talon of the 1st Cohort Household Guard to see you, sir."

"Excellent." I said, casting the hated paperwork aside and standing up from my desk. "Send him in."

Moments later Fenducci returned followed by a familiar figure. The scarred and hardened face spoke of a soul who knew only battle, and even here in his formal dress uniform he carried the air of a savage warrior about him. He stood to attention and brought his right hand smartly to his chest, open palm faced downwards, in the new salute that I had only just instituted amongst the House Armsmen. I returned the salute and Fenducci turned to leave.

"No Antonio, stay for this. At ease, Sergeant. You're looking well. I trust your wounds are healing?"

The sergeant shrugged. "Fine sir. Was just a scratch really Warmast... er I mean Trader Regent." I couldn't help but smile as the grizzled sergeant backpedalled uncomfortably from the gaffe.

"Don't fret, Sergeant. A lot has changed since last we met, and I sometimes lose track off all the bloody hats I have to wear these days. No man who bears arms at my side need fear retribution for saluting the wrong one."

"Yes sir. Thank-you sir."

"I heard about your actions on the surface. They didn't quite make it into the official report, but Lieutenant Ivanov tells me you saved his hide at least once out there."

"To be honest, sir, I think we were all just busy saving each other's hides, most of the time. Rest of the time we were just looking out for ourselves." I nodded, understanding what he meant. Ninety percent of cases of so-called "battlefield gallantry" were just blind reflexes and random chance kicking in before the person had a chance to think about the situation. Most sane and sensible people would simply run for cover and never come within a million mile of the battlefield again, had they the time to think about it properly.

"Nevertheless, a job well done. You're obviously aware of our losses?" The Sergeant nodded. "There's going to be a major shake-up as we re-organise the House troops in the aftermath of Operation Innoculatus. We're going to need men with your skills more than ever Sergeant."

"Yes sir. I'll do my duty, sir."

"I said men like you, Sergeant. Not you personally." Had I drawn out my battleaxe, and smashed it fully into Sergeant Talon's face, the look of shock and surprise it bore could not have been more perfect. I permitted myself an evil chortle and the thought of the ill turn I was about to do the poor Sergeant, and made a note to reward him properly once he had fulfilled the duty I was about to give him.

"I have a special assignment for you, Talon. I need you to take over the training of a very small unit, to bring them up to the standards where I can get the best use out of them. Start at the very beginning - physical training and conditioning, unarmed combat, firearm combat and maintenance, small unit tactics and battlefield awareness. Then take it up to operational level tactics, logistics, principles and application of leadership and any other specialties you happen to have under your belt. Do you understand the nature of this duty I place upon you?"

"I...er.... well not really, sir."

"Fine. Ensign Fenducci, front and centre." To the boy's credit, the look of shock and absolute amazement lasted only a couple of seconds before he stepped forward smartly and came to as passable imitation of attention as I'd seen him manage.

"Sergeant Talon, meet your special assignment." The look on both their faces as they did a classic double take was the funniest thing I'd seen since coming aboard this god-rotting ship, and could barely manage to keep a straight face, turning away for a few moments to regain my composure as the news sunk in.

"You once told me, Sergeant," I continued, turning back to Sergeant Talon "that if I gave you ****, I couldn't expect you to make anything but **** out of it. Well I happen to think I'm giving you rather better than **** this time. Fenducci has fought at my side in at two actions and saved my life at least once. Potential he has aplenty, what he lacks is what you can teach him. I give you the boy. Give me the officer."

"Antonio," I went on, turning to Fenducci and reaching up to grip him by the shoulders. "I've been unfair to you. I promised your uncle I've give you an apprenticeship and to teach you my trade. I've tried to show you and pass on some of what I do by making you my aide. But the truth is, normally a soldier must have learned certain basics before he's ready to take on that position. You skipped that phase, and doing so has put you in far greater danger than I have any right to demand of my men. It's a mistake I'm now putting right."

I grabbed a piece of blank vellum and hastily scribbled out a note, then fixed it with both the Warmaster's and the House Dureen seals. I folded it, then handed it to Talon. "This ought to help with the process." before he had a chance to look at the note's contents, I barked out "Special training detail. Ten-HUT." Both veteran and youth came to attention smartly, the sergeant tucking the unread note into his belt. "Dis-miss." Two hands snapped up to their chests in unison, and I returned the salute before Talon and Fenducci turned and left the briefing room.

I chuckled at the thought of what Talon would make of the note when he read it. "In the name of House Dureen, by the order of Kilgrim Hartek, Rogue Trader Regent, Warmaster and Sworn Armsman to House Dureen. The bearer of this bond, Sergeant Talon, acts with my will. In the matter of resources required to carry out such duties as I have assigned to him, deny him nothing." Sometimes it's good to be the Rogue Trader.

I'd deliberately tasked the Sergeant with teaching Fenducci elements of the art of war that were, so to speak, above a humble sergeant's pay grade. If I'd read Talon right though, he wouldn't baulk at the duty and by being forced to teach such subjects would through necessity learn them himself first. Potentially I sought to gain two fine staff officers out of this exercise.

I sat back down at the desk, and sighed deeply. Where would I find a new aide who could mix a Hartek Fruit Daiquiri as well as Fenducci? Oh well. Chalk it up as one of the burdens of command.

With the weight of numbers against me, I hurled myself back into an all-out-attack against the paperwork.

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++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: THE SAPHIRUS 1-1S2M3, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


With the dust settling after the battle, we set about cleansing Saphirus 1-1S2M3 of any remaining taint, not that there was much to be found other than the bodies that were awaiting incineration, a number if buildings in the settlements that needed disinfecting, and heretical graffiti that required removing. We left a number of cleanup teams along with survey teams on the world, and passed instructions to The Anvil and The Lux to retrieve them once their relocation mission had been completed. The Rogue Trader Regent dispatched a team of the hydroponicum specialists to Dropas to learn more about the techniques and conditions required to cultivate the Hartek fruit, and I dispatched a team of Tech-Priests to staff the growing human colony and aid with any research. On the return run, the shuttle was loaded with a good supply of the unusual fruit; it does rather appear that Hartek still suffers from his strange addiction. The Furnace of Redemption then began the slow journey to the outer edge of the system, preparing to make the warp jump back to Footfall.

The journey was interrupted as we were caught in the fringes of a warp storm, however, despite his initial error, Navigator Proscesu redeemed himself by expertly steering us around the disturbance. Mind you, any praise for the man was held back as when we jumped into the system we found ourselves three weeks journey from the centre...


I filled my time creating a gift for the Interrogator Helbrech; as we had left the underground chamber on Saphirus 1-1S2M3, I had collected the severed head of Divine Vengeance with this plan in mind. Obviously, with the loss of his Assassin, Helbrech would find himself more vulnerable than usual, so I resolved to use the remains of his Acolyte and create a specialist servo-skull, dedicated as a blade wielding bodyguard. I coated the skull with the same synth-skin that Divine Vengeance had used in life, and dulled the metallic parts with an anti-reflective coating. The finished familiar was difficult to detect, unless you knew what to look for, and I was quite pleased with my efforts.

Once this was complete, I spent some time searching through the cogitators to see what information I could uncover about our newest member of the command staff, Lieutenant Ivanov. I was curious what would cause him to leave his career in the Imperial Navy, to join our fledgling Dynasty. The records were still incomplete, and no doubt will be updated by the Adepts at Footfall during the next roster updates, however, I was able to discover that Ivanov was one of the few survivors from the Naval vessel, The Fearless Hunter, which was destroyed in circumstances not recorded in the files.

That avenue of investigation exhausted, I set my cogitators examining the many recorded files from my surveillance devices in place throughout the ship, and whilst the majority of the information I gathered was mundane, I did come across an interesting recording from the Rogue Trader Regent's office.

Hartek appeared to be fighting with the mounds of data-slates scattered over his desk, which I assume contained the details and the minutiae involved when running a vast Rogue Trader House, however, he was interrupted by a figure slipping into his office. The figure was cloaked, but stocky and obviously male, with oriental features, heavily tattooed with dragon motifs, and missing two of his fingers on his left hand.

Hartek spoke; "Is it done?"

The figure nodded. "It is done. To a degree. Although more time would be better, as would some sort of field training. Would you like us to continue, or shall we leave at Footfall?"

There was a pause as the Rogue Trader Regent appeared to consider his answer, then he cleared his throat before speaking again. "Do you believe they are ready?"

"I would say it would take another three to six months to turn them into something that would be effective..." The stranger answered. "At the moment they are adequate."

Hartek nodded. "I will communicate with your mistress and arrange payment if you would be willing to continue the programme?"

"Additional payment is unnecessary. The deal was for us to complete the programme, no matter how long it took. If you wish us to stay on for the additional time to ensure they are to a higher standard, we will do so." The tattooed man responded.

Again, Hartek nodded. "Make it so please!"

The tattooed men bowed slightly and turned to leave, but before he exited, he spoke again. "I suppose the first test will be those you pointed out to us..."

There was a soft thud as the office door closed behind him.

Hartek looked up slightly and spoke to the empty room; "And that's none of your bloody business Nicander!"

Despite myself, I smiled inwardly. I had not hidden the fact that I monitored areas of the ship to keep abreast of developments, and it was nice to see that the Rogue Trader Regent had not looked directly at any of the recording devices, so it was probable that he did not know for sure, and simply assumed I had not excluded his office. It was also interesting to note that he was not upset by my actions; after all I had proven how useful recordings of meetings could be after our initial disagreement with General Sinclair on Malfi. I agreed that generally speaking, the conversation was none of my business as Hartek had suggested, however, I also recognised the tattoos as those displayed by members of the Black Dragon gang who we had commissioned to construct our asteroid base. I knew that the Black Dragons were also a criminal enterprise, and knowing what I did with regard to Hartek's shady origins, and that he was not averse to taking "direct action" I felt my curiosity piqued by the clandestine meeting and while I would do nothing to interfere I did decide to see whether I could uncover more data to shed some light on the subject matter.

The days passed and we arrived at our newly completed asteroid base in Footfall. We made the minor repairs needed to the Furnace of Redemption, and began the process of resupply the vessel for our next trip into the Expanse.


++ LOCATION: ASTEROID BASE ALPHA, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++


Interrogator Helbrech asked to speak to us before he left the ship, and he thanked us for our aid. The Rogue Trader Regent nodded, and handed the Interrogator a simple vellum scroll, upon which was inscribed the names of all of those that had given their lives for the Emperor and Omnissiah during the battle with the foul forces on Saphirus 1-1M2S3. Helbrech paused as he accepted the scroll, and then spoke in a sombre voice;

"I know a place where this will be looked after for as long as the Imperium stands. These good servants of the Emperor will not be forgotten."

"Thank you Interrogator..." Hartek replied. "Until we meet again." And the two men shook hands.

"Hopefully it will be in better circumstances! Helbrech smiled.

I stepped forward, and spoke to the Interrogator; "We all serve the Omnissiah, the Emperor, in our own ways. Often we are called to make sacrifices beyond that which most people understand, and often we serve far beyond the expectations of others. Many of your servants fell in battle, if I could have salvaged them all for you, I would have, but unfortunately I could not. I hope that this will protect you until you can add to your team once more. I believe she would be pleased to know she serves the Emperor beyond her death..." And I guided the servo-skull I had crafted from the remains of Divine Vengeance over to its new master.

Helbrech looked a little shocked initially, but accepted the gift gracefully, and gave his thanks. It was my belief that he appreciated my efforts; however, both Hartek and the Navigator spoke to me later, and suggested that the Interrogator may not have believed that the fallen assassin would appreciate her remains being used in such a way.

I do not understand why the flesh bags get so attached to their bodies, after all, they are just a means of transport...

As they boarded their shuttle, Bolke quickly disappeared into the cabin, but Helbrech turned on the threshold of the door; "I'll probably be seeing you around..." Then he followed his Sergeant.

On the journey into the system, Ivanov had spent some time with the good Sergeant, and had attempted to recruit him for the Dynasty, however Bolke had refused, simply saying that he had a "Debt to pay." Ivanov knew better than to push the matter further, but did ask if Bolke could recommend good people. The Lieutenant was rewarded with the flicker of a smile, and told to visit a tavern called the "Spit and Grit" which was apparently popular with veterans.

We turned our attention to replacing the men and materiel that we had lost, and using the information that Ivanov had gleaned from Bolke, and was able to attract a large number of experienced veterans - obviously the influence of our Dynasty was growing. The new troops were used to fill the ranks of two complete Cohorts, and as replacements in the units that had not suffered too badly. Hartek amalgamated the survivors of the Second, Third, Fourth, and Sixth Cohorts into new formations forming two full Cohorts putting our infantry strength back to full establishment. He also created a new formation of a dozen grizzled veterans as a personal guard which he named the "Housecarls", and began equipping them with the best equipment money could buy. He managed to locate a cache of unusual twin barrelled hellguns, which he had engraved with the house crest, and the muzzles modified so they had a likeness of his face, with the blast emanating from his open mouth! I am sure that the Chirurgeons that specialise in psychological medicae would have something to say about that, but the weapons do look suitably imposing...

In addition to the new infantry, Lieutenant Ivanov had spoken to some of his contacts and had managed to secure thirty Hellhound armoured vehicles to help replace the some of the tanks destroyed in the battle with the corrupted forces on Saphirus 1-1M2S3.


Although the Furnace of Redemption was a high quality ship, there were a number of things that I was not happy with. During the refit on Malfi, I had sourced some turbo-batteries to update the Pyros melta-cannons, and while they did their job, there had been a number of minor niggles with them which I discovered had been due to some low quality components. Through my contacts within the Holy Mechanicus, I had learnt that the parts I would need to upgrade these components on our ship were sitting in a vast warehouse, and after some negotiation, I managed to acquire them for our house. The net effect was that the range of the melta-cannon battery was increased by 33%.

During the upgrade, I was contacted by the Tech-Priest captaining the Explorator Scout Vessel, The Omnissiah's Will. The vessel had jumped into the Footfall system a few days previously, and was en route to our asteroid base. The Tech-Priest reported that he, and his ship, a heavily modified Cobra Class Destroyer, were now under my command. I was surprised by this unexpected turn of events, but, as the Captain explained, it seems that the exploits of House Dureen had been reaching the right ears back in the Calixis Sector, and we were starting to be supported behind the scenes at least, by people of importance. I reported the development to the Rogue Trader Regent, and after explaining that such vessels were not warships, carrying no offensive armament, but were crammed with sensorium arrays. We quickly decided to use our new resource to explore nearby systems and warp routes, allowing us far greater opportunities for profit and new discoveries. As an added bonus, when The Omnissiah's Will docked at our base to allow her Captain could make the necessary face to face introductions to myself and the Rogue Trader Regent, a Cohort of veteran Skitarii warriors disembarked. These experienced tech-troops had been detached to my command to replace the combat losses that the Mechanicus leadership in the Calixis Sector assumed (correctly) that our forces would have taken during our time in the Expanse.

On a more personal level, the Commander of the Skitarii, Tribune Goerth, carried with him another gift for me; the most exquisitely engineered and maintained Mezoa pattern meltagun I had ever seen. I accepted the gift with the reverence it deserved for the spirit of the Omnissiah was clearly active within this weapon, and then I dismissed the troops to their new posts.

Shortly after The Omnissiah's Will had departed on her scouting mission, we had additional arrivals; two modified Light Cruiser Class vessels, The Aquila, and the Stormwalker, had been detached from piquet duty on the borders of the Calixis Sector and the Koronus Expanse, and again, on the orders of someone nameless but powerful, sent to aid us with our search for new systems and warp routes. In the same way that the Mechanicus Explorator scout was, they were weak in combat terms when compared to line ships of the same class, and individually they were also as also less effective explorators than The Omnissiah's Will as the standard of equipment was not of the level the Adeptus Mechanicus could provide. However, working as a team they would cover more space in more detail than we could possibly hope to survey on our own. We welcomed the ships and their crews to our Dynasty, and sent them on their way.

It was two standard months before we were ready to journey away from Footfall again, and it was only a matter of days prior to our scheduled departure when received a flurry of astropathic reports from our assets scattered around the Expanse.

The Aquila and the Stormwalker had found a single system of interest and were in the process of cataloguing it in detail, however of more interest were the reports we received from The Anvil in the Saphirus System. During their transit runs shifting equipment to Dropas, they had detected an anomaly the inner asteroid belt of the system, near Dropas, and after investigating they found an ancient derelict Heavy Cruiser class vessel. The report was slightly vague, and did not include many details which initially puzzled me; however, as I read on it became clear why. The first survey team that boarded the ship had been clumsy beyond belief, and triggered some sort of power surge which damaged the mighty vessel, and incidentally killed all who had boarded her. I cannot say I was upset about this; the useless fleshbags had damaged this great treasure and I would have taken the same approach that Hartek followed with his junior officers, and expressed my disapproval with a bolt pistol had any survived. I read on with more dismay; a second survey team had been landed, this time commanded by Captain McFallon herself, these idiots had obviously not spoken the correct litanies to the proud machine spirit of the warship, and it had retaliated with self-defence systems that killed the Captains team. Apparently the Captain herself survived, but was critically injured. I only hope that the vessel has been placated by the sacrifice of those who dared defile her.

The report we received from The Omnissiah's Will was more mixed. She had found an inhabited system with a number of warp routes, however, there were already warships present; the Frigate and three Raider Class vessels bore the livery of Fel Dynasty. The Rogue Trader Regent was very interested in this information as he felt that he still needed to extract revenge from Hadarak Fel after our encounter on The Righteous Path... The Omnissiah's Will was forced to flee the system when Fel's fleeted turned towards her.

Our initial priority, we decided, was to salvage the damaged heavy cruiser - it is not often that such an opportunity presents itself, so we modified our plans accordingly, and began the transfer to the Furnace of Redemption. As we waited in the docking bay of the asteroid base a vaguely familiar, tall, cloaked figure stepped from the shadows, however, it was not until it spoke that I realised that it was Inquisitor Attelus! I focussed on the man, remembering that he had been declared renegade, and it was not until I heard a sharp intake of breath from Ivanov that my attention was drawn to a shape deeper in the shadows. This figure was moving parallel to us, along the edge of the room, not exactly hiding itself, but moving with a slow, hunters grace belying its huge size. The features of the man were shrouded by a hooded cloak, and perhaps realising it had been seen, it angling towards us. With a start, I realised that this was the Astartes, Castagir.

"Greetings! Rogue Trader!" Atellus's voice rang out clearly. "I believe we may have some business to do, now that you are in charge of the Dynasty..."

 


++ End of record ++

 

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++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++

 


++ LOCATION: ASTEROID BASE ALPHA, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++


After a brief silence as we took stock of the situation Atellus spoke again; "I require transport to a location..."

Hartek cleared his throat, and then spoke. "That's as maybe... Inquisitor... However we do have a journey planned ourselves - in fact we were just leaving..."

Atellus nodded. "I understand that Rogue Trader. However the information I have is time sensitive, we have no time to delay. We must leave with a couple of days..."

There was another silence, and then Hartek continued. "And what's in it for us?"

Atellus paused, obviously not expecting that response. "Does not your Warrant of Trade, which I procured for this House, demand that you aid in the defence of the Calixis Sector?"

"Aye. That it does..." The Rogue Trader Regent mused. "But only when that aid is sought by the legal authority. You have been declared excommunicatus, and we have been ordered to report your location to Witchfinder Rykehuss should we discover it. Why should I not do this now?"

Obviously annoyed Atellus snapped "You should not involve yourself in the internal workings of the Inquisition. It does not concern you. This is a result of an internal struggle, and some of my... colleagues... attempted to have me assassinated. Their failure has led them to take this approach, which will also fail when all the information comes to light!"

"Why should we abandon our plans on your whim?" Hartek asked angrily, not unreasonably in my opinion.

Atellus nodded. "I am not asking you to abandon them, just delay them..."

"If we delay too long, then we will lose out on our prize. This would affect the Dynasty in the power struggle in the Expanse, and cost us in our mission to raise forces against the Tyranids..." The Rogue Trader Regent responded.

The conversation continued; each man was powerful in their own sphere, however each knew better than to annoy the other too much as neither could afford the retribution the other would be able to bring to them, Atellus within the Imperium, and Hartek outside. As a result, there was much verbal fencing between the two, and although they seemed to enjoy it I will not document it here as much of was not overly relevant to our task, however, the thrust of the discussion was that Atellus was on the trail of an ancient super-weapon which he planned to turn against the xenos that were threatening the Calixis Sector. His investigations had led him to a world in the Heathen Stars on the far fringes of the Expanse, a location provided by an unnamed scholar, with the suggestion that it may have been an Eldar Maiden World. Hartek agreed to transport Atellus and his team to the location, and in return Atellus promised that he would owe Hartek a debt, and would aid him when Hartek asked. Thus an accord was reached, and we would begin our voyage in two standard days when we had chance to re-plan the recovery of the Cruiser discovered near Dropas.

Finally Atellus asked a question. "I was given to understand you had recovered our missing equipment?"

We did." Hartek responded. "It is now in the care of Interrogator Helbrech"

Atellus nodded. "Excellent. I think we will pay him a visit while we are here. Thank-you, Rogue Trader. I will see you again in two days."

Atellus and the giant, robed figure turned and walked towards a small shuttle craft in the docking bay, and as they did so were joined by a lithe, graceful figure, who none of us had seen before. Ivanov grunted, and Hartek muttered under his breath, "Do all those **** Inquisition types travel with personal assassins...?"


We contacted Captain Perez of The Revenge, who had been escorting the trade fleet in the Saphirus System, and ordered him to do what was needed to secure and transport the Cruiser back to Footfall for repair and refit. He confirmed his orders, and then reported that the ship was not a Heavy Cruiser, but had been properly identified by his salvage teams, who were obviously far more professional than Captain McFallon's, as the Avenger class Grand Cruiser, His Undying Will. That taken care of, I passed a list of the immediately identified parts required to refit the ship to the Seneschal, and asked her to start stockpiling them to make the repairs, and we turned our attention to the Inquisitors mission to the Heathen Stars.


Once the initial jump to the warp had been made, and the correct litanies spoken and incenses lit, there was little for me to do, so I retired to my workshop. There I found a small refrigaratum with a note, which read, Thought you could do something useful with these! in what I think may well be the Rogue Trader Regents' hand. I carefully opened the cooler, and found six severed heads. I was fairly sure I recognised at least one of them, so did a quick trawl of the cogitators checking the Dynasty rosters; it appeared that these men had chosen to leave the employ of our Rogue Trader house after the battle on Saphirus 1-1S2M3. They were undamaged, so I began the process of converting them into servo-skulls, not missing the irony of the situation; by attempting to leave their employment, they had ensured that they would forever remain servants of the Dynasty.

I must check what the official pension policy is for our House...


The warp journey was uneventful, which made a nice change, but it was long, we had spent ten uncomfortable days travelling through the empyrean, and people were on edge, waiting for something bad to happen. Hartek attempted to alleviate some of the tension by providing entertainment, arranging for pit fights, and combat bouts between volunteers, the winners gaining financial or career benefits. I will never understand the emotions of some of the fleshbags; they allowed themselves to be so very easily distracted, having said that, exactly because of this lack of focus, the events worked well keeping the crew distracted.

The sirens sounded warning of the impending transition back to real space; however, the Navigator was concerned as there was no evidence of a star in the region of space we were jumping into. Inquisitor Atellus insisted we were in the right place, so Hartek ordered the jump.

Immediately, I knew something was wrong. The Furnace of Redemption was being subjected to forces she was not designed to withstand, and it felt like her hull was being twisted. Above the groaning noise of the stressing hull plates I shouted litanies to the machine spirits and prayers to the Omnissiah, and over the vox to the bridge heard Ivanov shout;

"We're caught in a gravity well! Correction, we're trapped between two gravity wells!" Then I heard him barking orders to the helms crew.

Ivanov quickly took control and found the corridor of the void where the two gravity wells cancelled each other out, and masterfully steered the ship out of the danger area. I ran diagnostics on all of the ships systems, and sent servitors and Tech-Priests on visual inspection tours, and, thanks be to the Omnissiah, the Furnace of Redemption was undamaged. I opened a vox channel to the Lieutenant;

"Lieutenant Ivanov, both I, and the machine spirits of our ship thank you for your timely actions, you have preserved us all."

"Thank you, Engineseer!" Ivanov responded, and then I heard him speak to his team; "Gentlemen, well done. A double grog ration for you all!"

I cut the vox link to the sound of cheering, and made my way up to the bridge.


The system we had arrived in was strange, in fact it should not exist according to all conventional wisdom, and we should not have survived our entry into it; the gravity wells should have torn us apart in seconds.

In the true sense of the word, where we were was not even a system at all; there was a frozen blue gas giant with half a dozen asteroid sized moons present, however initial scans failed to detect a star! I adjusted the auger arrays to search for anomalies, and they quickly detected a very small but intense gravity well. I fed the data into the cogitators and they reported that all the evidence pointed to a system that had all the properties of being based around a dwarf star, but that it was emitting no heat whatsoever. Puzzled I extrapolated that further, and the only logical conclusion that could be drawn was that the star was a black dwarf, something that according to all the records at my disposal had never been previously encountered.

The theory was that a black dwarf was the remains of a star that had flared into a red giant, consuming its system, and then collapsed in on itself becoming a yellow, then white dwarf as it used all its energy, then after several billion years, once the white dwarf has expended all the remaining energy a black dwarf was formed. The problem with the theory was that the current estimated life of the universe was not long enough for this process to have taken place...

That left one conclusion. Something else had depleted this star. Tech-Priest Calldia was not the only one who had developed a bad feeling about where we were...

I explained the impossibility of what we were seeing to those around me, and saw a mix of confusion and bafflement on the faces of the command staff, however, Atellus looked very excited.

You know, I think we've found it!" he said as he looked up from a data slate. "If the tales are correct, and it seems that they are, it will be on one of the moons! Pass me the data and I will confirm our target."

I transferred the information to his data slate, and then asked "If this legend is correct, what other legends are there about this place?"

Atellus glanced at me, "Very little. Just stories of the weapon. If it can do this, just imagine what it will do to those foul xenos Tyranids!"

I nodded, but still could not shake that uneasy feeling.

The Inquisitor soon pinpointed our destination, and our sensor scans located a small barren planetoid, perhaps two thousand kilometres in diameter, with a solid core. However, there was a perfectly round patch of disruption, about twenty kilometres in diameter which resisted all efforts of our auger arrays to penetrate, no matter how I modulated them. Something was being shielded.

Although the Rogue Trader Regent was beginning to share my disquiet about what we were finding, we made preparations to to the planetoid. The plan was to keep the incursion as small as possible, limiting it to two guncutters, each transporting a Chimera, and split between the two small ships, the Inquisitor's party, Hartek and a platoon of the 1st Cohort, Ivanov, and myself.

Ivanov piloted the first guncutter, taking us within the circle of the disruption, setting us down within ten kilometres of the centre. Any closer would have been dangerous, as the strange disruption was affecting the controls of the small craft. The second guncutter followed our flight path and made it down without trouble. On the way down, we had spotted a pyramid shaped construction at the centre of the circle of disruption, but soon lost sight of it in the poor visibility. We disembarked from the craft, and, leaving a squad to protect them, headed off towards the pyramid.

The planetoid was just as barren as we expected, and was scoured by strong solar winds, making exposure on the surface uncomfortable, if not outright dangerous, and throughout the journey I tried, and failed, to make the auspex scanners work, and it became more and more hopeless the closer to the destination we got. We pushed on regardless, making reasonable time, and almost an hour of travel time later arrived at the base of the pyramid, which reached five hundred metres into the dark sky at its capstone.

The pyramid was weathered, having been battered by the winds the swept over the surface, and on closer inspection carved into alcoves along the side of the construction were huge, badly weathered statues. They stood twenty metres high, and were humanoid in shape; however, they had been so badly degraded by the environmental conditions, it was impossible to identify which race they had originally depicted. As we traversed the base of the pyramid we found a huge doorway, the top of which was thirty metres from the ground. They were covered with glyphs of a type I had never seen previously, and looking at the others in the group, it was clear that they had not either. We had no hope of opening the doors manually, so attached chains to the Chimeras, and used them to drag the huge doors open wide enough to allow a person to enter. Even that small movement nearly proved too much for the vehicles to manage.

As soon as the door was ajar, Castagir, the Astartes, now clad in the power armour we had recovered from Hadarak Fel, slipped though the gap, and after a few seconds called for us to follow. Inquisitor Atellus and the assassin, who I had learnt was named Scythia, followed, and then after a slight pause, the rest of us followed, detaching another squad to hold the doors in case a rapid withdrawal was required.

Before us was a huge, black expanse, and so illuminators shining, we moved forward. Almost immediately I noticed errors occurring on our electronic equipment, as the machine spirits were interfered with by whatever was causing the wider disruption. My internal chrono suddenly suggested that we had moved back in time three days, yet Hartek's was showing that we had travelled forward two days... My distance markers began throwing up random numbers, so I began to count my paces to estimate distance, and it soon became clear that we had travelled far greater than should be possible in a five hundred metre pyramid - we had gone at least double that. I turned to check behind me, and was still able to see the lights from the squad holding the doors. It seemed that spatial and temporal rules did not apply here, and the strange geometrics made me feel uncomfortable. More than that, it felt wrong.

The men were getting nervous too, obviously feeling the same thing, so Hartek allowed a short break and Ivanov dropped back, speaking to each of the soldiers in turn, helping them allay their fears. The Lieutenants words and the breather seemed to do them good, however, I noticed that at the front Castagir although stopped was not resting, nor seemed to need it, and he did not take his focus from the unknown that surrounding us.

I estimated that we had continued on for three further hours, and yet throughout this time we did not appear to be gaining ground, when Castagir signalled for the column to stop. The soldiers surrounding us immediately scanned around, looking for threats, but none seemed to present themselves, so I moved forward in the company of Hartek and Ivanov.

"Obstacle!" was the only explanation the Astartes gave when we caught up with him, the Inquisitor and Assassin were already there, and sure enough in the gloom ahead I could see a deep chasm, perhaps thirty metres wide.

Atellus broke the silence; "We need to cross..."

Scythia nodded, and produced a gun that fired a cable that imbedded itself in the far side. She then secured the near end of the cable on our side by firing another pin into the floor, and looping the cable around this. I recognised the cable as a type of braided mono-filament which combined numerous strands to give immense strength for very little weight, and was often used for recovering immobilised armoured vehicles. I could not help but feel amusement however, when she glanced over at Castagir, and then fired a second cable over the chasm, securing it parallel to the first. I confess I wondered how he was going to cross the gap, but as it transpired I need not have worried; Scythia crossed first, showing her agility by barely breaking stride, and despite his bulk, Castagir crossed with a surprising grace, Atellus, was slower, but seemed untroubled, as did the Rogue Trader Regent. I bridged both cables and focussing on the far side crossed with a minimum of fuss, and then turned to see Ivanov cross with almost as much grace as the Assassin. The troops were slower, and had it not been for the safety harnesses attached to their webbing, we would have lost at least one, as it was, all of us crossed the obstacle safely. Thanks be to the Omnissiah.

We formed back into our column, and continued to move forward, but after only thirty more minutes of walking our progress was halted again, this time by a massive wall that stretched as far as our illumination reached. The only break in this wall was an opening that led into a corridor approximately four metres wide, and the same height, and just visible at the end of this corridor was a metallic looking door. It was silver in colour, I did not recognise the metal, and it was inlaid glyphs and runes of a type I had never seen before. I looked around puzzled, and asked if anyone else recognised anything, and received a chorus of negative responses. The rock of the corridor, and around the door was incredibly smooth, and a deep obsidian black, once again unlike anything I had previously encountered. Where the door met the wall glowed a faint green light, and I suddenly felt that strange dread again.

Clearly I was not the only one, Ivanov turned to Hartek; "I have a really bad feeling about this boss...!"

After a pause the Rogue Trader Regent answered. "We go on!"

An excited Atellus, and Castagir stepped up to the door, and the rest of us moved to one side to give them space, and in my case to remove myself from the range of any booby trap that might be present.

"I think we've found it!" Inquisitor Atellus said, and then he turned to Hartek. "The weapon is beyond this door, but no doubt there will be many other treasures..."

Hartek nodded, and spoke; "I'm just as interested in the weapon myself!"

"Well, no doubt once we have destroyed the xenos, there will be other uses for it!" I am sure I could detect a smile in the Inquisitors voice. Mind you, Inquisitors have a reputation that travels alongside extreme violence...

Ivanov stepped to the end of the corridor with the troops, and set them up in a defensive arc, leaving the rest of us near the door. I stepped forward again, to check whether there was a technical way to open the door, but there did not appear to be anything more complicated than a large handle. I reached up to grasp it, but as I did so, I found myself blocked by Castagir's arm. I stepped back, confused, and if I am completely honest, slightly relieved, and looked up at the Astartes who appeared to have frozen in place.

After a few seconds Atellus spoke; "What are you doing Castagir? Let us through!"

More seconds passed, and then I heard the deep rumbling of Castagir's voice. "I have seen this before. Atellus, you and I have spoken of this before." He paused, and his helmeted head turned to regard the Inquisitor, who looked shocked.

Then from the far end of the corridor came a commotion. I turned to see what was going on, and from the gloom heard a xenos voice speaking Low Gothic. "Stop foolish Mon-Keigh!" I recognised the terminology for humans that the Eldar like to use.

Ivanov whipped round, facing the direction from which the voice had emanated. A tall thin, apparently female figure in strange red and white robes and a plastic type armour appeared out of the darkness. She was flanked by six blue armoured figures carrying shuriken catapults, while further back was a figure carrying an exquisitely designed and crafted sword - as much as anything xenos crafted can be exquisite anyway...

The female spoke again. "You do not understand what you're dealing with! This course of action will bring ruin to both our peoples!"

Behind the group two more figures appeared. These we wearing black armour and were carrying a larger, heavier version of the shuriken catapults that the blue figures held. Flanking them were a pair of green armoured xenos, moving carefully and gracefully forward.

I could hear Ivanov speaking to our troops, calming them; "Steady! Steady boys...!"

Castagir turned fully, and I saw him loosen his sword in its scabbard, however, when he spoke his voice was once again measured and calm. When he spoke his focus appeared to be on Atellus rather than the Eldar; "This was the subject of one of my visions. It doomed the Chapter. It doomed the System. And it doomed the Sector..."

"But your visions were given to you by a foul creature of the warp! It could've lied!" Atellus stated.

Castagir spoke more in the next few minutes than I had ever heard him speak before in one sentence, even including when we had had the discussion regarding the arming of the Furnace of Redemption; "Not all of the visions came from that spawn. This one predated that... Event... I recognise now this corridor. I recognise the people around me who I knew not at that time. I recognise the door, and the symbols. You know that the vision did not end well. You know that I saw then end the Calixis Sector. You know that I saw the Tyranids destroyed, but a greater threat unleashed. And you know that I speak the truth, it was... tested..."

I felt an involuntary shiver pass through my organic parts as I heard these words.

Hartek turned towards the Eldar. "We do not understand what we're dealing with? On the contrary, Eldar! Thanks to our friend there we may understand more than you!"

"Maybe not all of your kind are as foolish as you appear to be..." The female xenos responded. "I recommend that you leave this place before you disturb something that once woken cannot be put back to sleep..."

Hartek cocked his head to one side, before speaking slowly. "Do you know of the threat that is posed to all inhabitants of this area of space?"

"Of which threat would you be speaking, little Mon-Keigh?" The xenos asked.

Hartek smiled, "Castagir? Perhaps you are better placed to answer?"

"As you wish." The Astartes spoke. "I am sure you are aware of the biologicus xenoform we know as the Tyranids?"

The Eldar nodded, "You Mon-Keigh call them the Great Devourer..."

"Indeed." Castagir continued. "A hive fleet is en route to this area of space. We estimate we have less than ten standard years before worlds are lost."

"Of course we know this, and more!" snapped the Eldar impatiently. "But this does not concern us..."

"It will do when they fall on your people" Castagir said, remaining calm.

"Do not worry about us Mon-Keigh, we will be prepared. I warn you, one last time to leave this place! I can see that you, Astartes, see some reason. That is unusual for your race. Take heed, and do not tarry here..." With that the Eldar turned back into the darkness, shimmered, and faded from sight.

Finally Atellus spoke. "The foul xenos want to use us, as they always do!"

"That's as maybe Atellus, however, whether you believe it or not, I believe that this place will not provide us with the aid that we seek..."

Atellus nodded slowly. "I will take your word for it Castagir, but I will not take theirs! Let us leave this place then..."

We turned and left the corridor, and as we walked, Castagir explained his vision to us. He had seen this place as he had stated earlier, and then the vision skipped forward, and he had seen a black crescent shaped ship move into systems of the Calixis Sector, destroying their stars and leaving no life, in the same manner that the system we were currently in had no life and a collapsed star. He described how he saw the defenders of humanity, including fellow Astartes overwhelmed, before the light of humanity blinked out in the Sector, and the dark shadow move further into the Imperium. He spoke with a certainty which chilled us all; however it was his final words that struck home the most. This was not his only vision, and without going into details, he explained that another of his visions had unfolded almost exactly as he had foreseen, until he, Inquisitor Atellus, Scythia, and a number of others intervened and ended the threat. He finished with the words;

"The others did not survive, however, my vision held true until our intervention. I know that had we opened that door it would have been the death of us all, and many billions beyond." With that Castagir fell silent again, leaving us all to our thoughts.

After a few minutes, Atellus broke the silence. "You know, nobody had identified the origins of this place, but the scholar referred to the race that inhabited it as the Necrontyr. I had never heard of them, and I know many xenos races..."

No one had heard that name before, but then Hartek spoke up; "I have not heard of such a race, but in several languages that word, or something very similar, means "death"..."


The journey back to the Furnace of Redemption was fortunately without incident, and Atellus looked sadly at the holo-tank representation of the system.

See the preoccupied Inquisitor, Castagir turned to Atellus and spoke; "We will find other means, my friend..."

Atellus nodded. "I hope so. I hope so for everyone's sake..."

The ship moved out to the edge of the system, made the transition into the warp, and arrived back in Footfall after a journey of ten standard days, once again, fortunately without incident. I used the time to craft myself a set of high quality cybernetic eyes, something I had been meaning to do since my own eyes had become sensitive to light, and then let my Tech-Priests fit them for me.


As our Asteroid base came into view, our auger arrays picked up another contact; the Avenger class Grand Cruiser, His Undying Will was tethered to the repair dock, and crews were already swarming all over her! The bridge crew cheered as the vox screen sprang to life. Captain Perez appeared and spoke; "Welcome home gentlemen. We have the prize!"

Perez had been successful in his mission, and I am sure that the Rogue Trader Regent rewarded him well for his efforts.


++ End of record ++

 

 


 

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