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MARVIN THE ARVN

For Profit and Plunder - A pc's tale

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Well, assuming the party survived the firefight with the eldar.

They would have explored the rest of the structure and found.........

.......after the flight to the Righteous Fury with those that has survived the.........

.......returning back to footfall battered and broken........

The above would have been a good result happy.gif

Also, the nid fleet attacking the Calixis sector would have been destroyed by the obvious but in turn Castagirs chapter system would have been destroyed and the beginning of the end started that would have finished within some of the pc's life spans demonio.gif

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 Awwwwww isn't Marvin adorable when he's tryin' to be all coy and mysterious. happy.gif

At the (virtual) table it was hilarious as all the players very quickly twigged what the ancient weapon was (even me, the resident non-40K fan), but obviously couldn't know in character.  So while our bold explorers were pressing forward, the players were all desperately looking for excuses not to be there and trying hard not to use the N-word.

Two other stand-out things about this session that deserve mentioning.

1) I dunno if it's been mentioned previously, but Inquisitor Atellus and his entourage were the PCs from the long running Dark Heresy game that preceded this one, both of which form the first two parts of Marvin's planned epic campaign (presumably ending in a future Deathwatch campaign).  Castagir was Lord Spatula's old PC, and this sequence was big story pay-off for him.

2) The black dwarf star is real science, albeit hypothetical.  Basically when a star grows old it shrinks down into a White Dwarf star.  When a White Dwarf star burns out all its fuel it stops emitting heat and light and becomes a black dwarf.  When you calculate the length of time that would take, you get a figure that's thousands of times longer than the currently estimated lifetime of the universe.  javascript:f_valida_respuesta();So when Marvin started describing it, it was a fantastic "holy crap, this thing ain't right" moment.

Coming up in next week's exciting episode....... WAAAAAAAAAAARGHHH! gran_risa.gif

 

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Why thank you Dr V, I do try my best gran_risa.gif

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

 


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

I spent the next few days making basic checks on our new Cruiser, and specifying the repair and refit regime for the crews who were working on her. From the bridge of the ship I noticed a small shuttle craft depart from The Revenge and then dock with the Asteroid Base, and shortly after received a vox call summoning me to the Medicae chamber. I finished relaying my instructions, and made the short transfer from ship to base before heading there. On arrival, I found the grievously injured Captain McFallon, being prepared for surgery. I could see straight away that many of her vital organs would need replacing, as would an arm and a leg, and so I dispatched a Tech-Priest to my workshop to bring my store of cybernetic parts. I modified the required components and tailored them to fit the unfortunate woman, and then left the Tech-Chirurgeons to complete the cycle of implantation.

The Furnace of Redemption had been re-supplied and was making ready to begin another journey into Winterscales Realm to follow up on the leads that the scouting had uncovered while we had been dealing with the aftermath of the conflict in the Saphirus System. As I boarded her, I saw that the Rogue Trader Regent's personal gun-cutter was missing, however, it did return shortly afterwards. When I checked the onboard cogitators, I was able to discern that it had visited the Black Dragon's Asteroid base. It left me wondering what business the head of the Dynasty had with that criminal organisation, however, I am fairly sure it had something to do with the recording I had seen of his conversation with the tattooed man a few weeks earlier...

Our journey into Winterscales Realm was uneventful, although we were delayed at the jump point in the Footfall System by warp storms that the Navigator told us were obscuring the Astronomicon. Hartek employed the usual pit fighting diversions to keep the crew occupied, with some success. I did what I could by providing a number of fighting contraptions to make the spectacle more interesting for the audience, and the winners were cherry picked and added to the elite shock troop formations that were being put together to aid in the defence of the ship should we ever be boarded. After three weeks the storms dissipated as quickly as they had appeared, and we got underway.


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, SYSTEM 0108, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

System 0108 was a short hop from both Footfall and Dropas, and if we could find something of interest here would complete a nice trading loop from Footfall to Dropas to System 0108 and back to Footfall, and as a result could significantly boost our money making capabilities, and therefore our influence within the Expanse.

We appeared on the very edge of the system, which although adding time to our journey into the centre was a blessing, as it gave us more time to scan the planets that were there, and then interpret the data. The system was centred on a sol sized yellow-white star, and there was very little of interest outside the habitable zone; many of the planets were of the Jovian type, but what resources were present would have taken more effort to exploit than they were worth. Within the habitable zone however, was a small terrestrial planet, which although reasonably hostile to humans - the atmosphere was not breathable, and the biosphere was classed as immiscible for human habitation, it did have a number of mineral and precious metal resources. Of more interest was the fact that the world seemed to be inhabited, and inhabited with an advanced civilisation of at least several tens of thousands of life-forms; our scans had even detected transmissions from orbit, indicating that the inhabitants were technologically advanced, and capable of void travel.

We scanned the vessels from which we had detected the orbital transmissions, and were shocked to discover they were tiny, closer to the size of gun-cutters or shuttles, being no more than one or two-hundred metres in length! We detected that they were scanning us in return, and Hartek started to open a vox channel, however, we were uncertain whether they would be able to receive such a transmission, so I suggested we attempt communication via the slower radio waves. This agreed, Hartek spoke;

"This is Trader Regent Hartek of the Dureen Dynasty. I greet you in the name of peace and co-prosperity, and we come seeking honest and open trade. Please respond if this would be of interest to you."

And we settled back to await a response. It took over a standard hour for us to pick up a signal, and then we heard a voice speaking a dialect of Low Gothic;

"This is Admiral Falke. Who the devil are you, and what are you doing here?"

This caused some puzzled looks on the bridge, and I voiced the thoughts that I am sure many people had; "I thought we had just said that!"

Then before anyone could do anything rash, a thought hit me. I ran some calculations through my cogitators, and the data seemed to confirm that thought. "I know what had happened here; the messages have crossed. They transmitted their message before they received ours - this method is very slow, so we need to await their next message."

Hartek nodded, and we continued to wait. Sure enough, a short while later, we received a second message; "I am Admiral Falke, of the Lele Federation. I am here to escort you to Lele. Any act of aggression will result in the use of force! Do you comply?"

The looks of bemusement and shock on the faces of the bridge crew was interesting to see, but this only lasted for a few seconds before people began to laugh; obviously the thought of being threatened by shuttle sized vessels did not carry the menace that the Admiral thought it might. Fortunately we were not transmitting this amusement, instead settling for a diplomatic response.

"We thank you for your kind words Admiral Falke, and appreciate your offer of a protective escort as we journey to your world. It is most kind of you to look to our safety! When will your Fleet arrive on station?"

I was impressed that the Rogue Trader Regent managed to keep a straight face while he transmitted to the Lele ships. Admiral Falke responded that two of his ships would take station on our flanks, and one would lead, to escort us to orbit around Lele. The ships arrived within a couple of days, and I took the chance to scan them more closely, and as I ran the data through my cogitators it became clear that they had very efficient plasma drives, potentially outputting as much power as we would normally see a small transport vessel capable of. In addition, the hulls themselves seemed naturally stealthy, making it more difficult than normal to pinpoint these small craft; they had advanced communications, and were armed with weapons of a type I had not previously encountered. I doubted that they were much of a threat to the Furnace of Redemption, however, there was obviously some advanced technology in use, and I hoped that I would be able to inspect one of these drives at closer quarters once the diplomacy had been dealt with.

A week later, we had arrived in orbit around Lele, having had no further contact with our new friends. Once we were on station though, we received a message from the planet itself.

A male voice spoke; "Visitors from out of system, we welcome you to Lele, and the Federation of the Lelian people. I am High Researcher Lerouche, and I invite you to visit our city where we can learn about each other, and maybe foster a friendship that will last through the ages. We await your response."

We accepted the invitation, and prepared to make the journey to the surface. The humans tested their environment suits; they would be dependent on their systems as the atmosphere was not breathable, something, that thanks be to the Omnissiah, I have not had to worry about for a while, so I donned my armour, collected my weapons, and accompanied by my servo-skulls met with the rest of the landing team in the docking bay. It was a small team, with the Rogue Trader Regent accompanied by myself, Ivanov who flew the gun-cutter, and thirty of Hartek's Household Guard. Half a Cohort of troops were made ready and told to prepare for a combat should things not go well on the surface.


++ LOCATION: LELE, THE LELE SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

Lele reminded me of Mars, and I felt a pang of longing for the cradle of the Omnissiah, however, there were subtle differences and large areas were swathed with vegetation that gave the world a green covering over its red surface. The buildings in the city were constructed of a silver-brown rock and metal, and there seemed to be a highly structured society with public transport in the form of a monorail and tram system servicing every district. We navigated towards a series of landing pads that seemed to form a space port, and waiting for us was a group of around a hundred humanoids, dressed in brownish-red robes worn over jumpsuits. I noticed that around twenty-five percent of the crowd were armed with long, bulky rifles of an unknown type, and were wearing what looked to be a type of carapace armour in the form of chest plates. The gravity was lighter than standard, and this was reflected in the build of our hosts; they were almost uniformly tall and slim, and obviously had human origins. I quickly noticed however, that they only had three fingers and a thumb, and were able to breathe the strange atmosphere as they had what looked to be gill slits in their necks. Strangely, none appeared to be older than thirty-five Terran years in age. As we disembarked from the gun-cutter, I found it quite difficult to move in the weaker gravity, and saw that I was not the only one moving awkwardly; most of our people were too. I looked over at the Lelians, and saw that a small group had detached themselves from the main mass of people, and then a single man took an additional step forward and nodded in our direction.

Hartek cleared his throat, and then spoke; "I, Kilgrim Hartek, Trader Regent of the Dureen Dynasty greet you in fellowship and peace, and the promise of profitable cooperation."

The man smiled, and then replied. "I am the High Researcher, Archibald Lerouche. I apologise for the terse welcome you received from the Admiral, and we welcome you in peace and understanding. I believe now that introductions are over, maybe we should retire to the High Facility where we can discuss our new friendship."

We left a squad of the Household Guard with the gun-cutter and then walked the short distance to the to a monorail terminal, which quickly transported us to the largest building in the settlement. It was interesting to note as we were conveyed through the city, that it appeared very clean and well maintained, and had an air of high technology, some of which I recognised, some of which I did not. During the journey, the High Researcher asked where we had come from, and Hartek startled everyone by informing him that we had "Come from the Heavens to bring prosperity". That may have worked on some backwater feral world, but I was surprised he had attempted it with such a sophisticated people, and it appeared that they were equally taken aback, and seemed to deal with the statement by ignoring it.

The Rogue Trader Regent's next comment was far more pertinent; "I notice that none of your people appear to be advanced in age. Are you a young colony?"

"Oh, no! We have been here for as long as anyone can remember." Lerouche replied, seeming relieved that the conversation had turned in a more sensible direction. "Thousands of years, or longer. We age well."

I certainly detected a second meaning in that statement, but was unsure quite what was being left unsaid…

We reached the High Facility and were made comfortable in a conference room; snacks and beverages were made available to us, but of course we could not avail ourselves of them; the produce of this world being indigestible to our bodies. Anyway, the others of our group could not remove the masks from their environment suits to even attempt to try them.

The negotiations went well, and it appeared that although advanced, their world suffered from a shortage of gemstones which were required as components in some of their technology. We had a sample of the Dropas gems delivered to the surface, and the Lelians seemed excited to see the size and range, so an agreement was struck to provide them with the gems that they needed in return for a supply of the rare minerals and precious metals that were abundant on their world. The deal struck, despite some exceptionally blunt statements from the Rogue Trader Regent, even by his standards, the conversation turned towards their origins.

Their history told them that they were descended from the people of a great Empire which had occupied this area of space many millennia previously. When their people first arrived, it was as the result of an unknown disaster, and they thought that this world would prove their saviour, however, it was a hostile environment, so they had had to engineer their bodies to better interact with the environment. Over time, they had learned to expand their technology, and move into the void to explore their system. They had thought about exploring further, but the distances seemed so vast that such travel did not seem practical. This led to questions about how we had travelled to them, and I explained the theory of warp travel, but as their population did not contain any psykers this led to more questions than answers for them.

Throughout the conversation I had watched the High Researcher use a small logic engine, but at no time had he attempted to use any of the correct incantations or litanies, and although shocked by the insult to the Omnissiah, I held my tongue as I had no desire to cause offence, indeed, I used the opportunity to steer the subject matter towards technology. This appeared to bore the rest of my companions, whereas all the Lelians were involved in the conversation. This was surprising in its own way, as even the most junior person seemed to have knowledge that would stretch the capabilities of many senior Tech-Priests and Magos's. I of course understood the subject to its core, even though I was concerned by the seeming ignorance of the Omnissiah and the presence of Machine Spirits.

Hartek, still bored by the technological conversation, suggested a cultural exchange, offering to take a number of Lelian volunteers aboard the Furnace of Redemption, and back to our base in Footfall so that they could expand their knowledge, and also travel beyond their system, as they had been striving to do. Lerouche promised to think about the offer. I arranged to speak to him again in more detail, to delve into the technology of the Lelians. Tech Priest Calldia was the happiest I have ever heard him by the end of the meeting.

As the meeting broke up, almost as an afterthought, the High Researcher asked a strange question; "Are you the first of your kind?"

Initially I thought he meant of my kind, meaning Tech-Priests, as I had been aware of a number of inquisitive looks that my augmented appearance had drawn from the Lelians, but I was wrong. Lerouche rephrased his question, asking whether our people had visited them before. I thought carefully, and having run through the data, was certain that Imperial Representatives or other Rogue Traders would definitely have made contact with them, responded that "To the best of my knowledge, none of our people have explored this system in recent times, although there is a possibility that they have prior to that." Strangely alarmed by the seemingly innocuous question, I inquired why he had asked it.

"Well, you see, almost one solar rotation ago, another vessel crashed on the planet. That is the reason the Admiral was terse with you; we thought that you may have been scouting us previously..."

I was genuinely surprised, and felt slightly uneasy at this news. "Have you explored this wreck?"

"We tried, but everyone we dispatched to investigate did not return." Lerouche replied, a weak smile on his face.

I asked the Head Researcher and asked whether he had any images of the wreck.

He turned to a display screen, and called up the grainy images he wanted to show us (once again without speaking the correct litanies), and before us we could make out wreckage of crashed void-fairing vessel of roughly the same mass as ours. It was not human in origin, and was fairly ramshackle, primitive and blocky. I called over to Hartek, and informed him of what I had just learned, and indicating the images, suggested we request that the Furnace of Redemption take up a geo-synchronous orbit above the crash site and attempt to gain a clearer picture of what had crashed. It put me in mind of the wreckage we had seen in the Magaros system, but neither I, nor Hartek were certain. Even so, I have often found it is best to be prudent when dealing with xenos, and with that in mind, we warned Lerouche that this was a serious threat to his world.

Lerouche looked concerned, and readily agreed to our offer of aid to help cleanse his world of the threat, which of course would help us appear in a positive light in any further negotiations...


The crash site was overlooked by a ridgeline approximately four to five hundred metres from the final resting place of the xenos wreck, however the rest of the terrain was open and flat, which made it an ideal area for operating armoured vehicles. To the untrained eye, other than the wreck itself there appeared to be few places for an enemy to conceal himself, however, as anyone experienced in these matters knows it is easy to hide infantry, even large numbers of them so when selecting our forces Hartek erred on the side of caution. He arranged a deployment of our armoured Cohort, the 10th, and the bike scouts from 7th Cohort led by Big Red, along with a Cohort of infantry, 5th Cohort, to be mounted within the armoured transports.

Initially it seemed strange that High Researcher Lerouche deferred to us in all matters military but he quickly explained that Lele had no standing military as such, only a Militia that thanks to the levels of technology available to the people was very well equipped, however had no real combat experience. Even so, I expected that there would be some form of protest from the Militia leadership, however fortunately this was not the case; the only condition to our deployment was that the Militia Commander, who introduced himself as General Theodore could join us on the expedition along with a cadre of his troops. We were happy to oblige him.

We asked for, and received a demonstration of the Lelian war-gear, and it was impressive. Weapons that would at first appear too large for the slight Lelians to wield we made usable by the clever application of technology; they were fitted with a type of suspensor and recoil suppression system. The rifles fired a burst of pulse energy, in the same manner that I am told the xenos Tau weapons function. (Not that I have any direct experience of this.) This power was concentrated in the same way that they had increased the energy output from their ship engines, a fact that made me even more convinced that we should push the subject of a technological exchange with the High Researcher.

The deployment went well, and General Theodore was obviously enjoying himself, his face seemed permanently stretched into a wide grin, as he rode on the command vehicle. The armour was spread out in a wide arrowhead formation, with the scout biker ranging ahead, and protecting the flanks, and I have to admit that seeing that military power speeding over the plains did stir something in the heart. We closed in on the crash site, hearing nothing from the scouts; they had been ordered to maintain vox silence unless they had anything to report, so it seemed that no news was good news.

This did not last. The vox sprang to life, and at the same time a dozen call-signs reported contact with the enemy; it was obvious that the scouts had been lured into an ambush, and one after the other a number of vox feeds went dead. On those still active we could here increasing panic in the voices, and the sound of heavy gunfire and explosions in the background.

Hartek attempted to exert some control; "Big Red, report!"

There was a brief silence, and then an unfamiliar voice got onto the channel; "Red's dead man! Red's dead..." Our scout commander who had served us so well on Saphirus 1-1S2M3 had fallen.

"This is command actual. Pull back to the ridgeline, we will reinforce you there. Confirm." Hartek barked.

"Confirming..." Then we heard the unknown man shouting at the scout troops; "To the ridge boys! Get out of this killing zone!"

We linked up with the battered bikers, some of them passing between the advancing tanks and personnel carriers before arcing round and taking position on our flanks as we advanced to the reverse slope of the ridge. Although there were a number of wounded soldiers, once we had regrouped it was clear that only a handful had been lost, unfortunately including their leader. The Basilisks then began laying down suppressing fire into the area where the scouts had been ambushed as we attempted to take stock.

Hartek started to take the reports from his men, so I headed up to the ridge so I could make a quick technical survey of the wrecked ship to aid with targeting. At first glance I recognised it as an Ork ship, so my feeling of alarm was clearly justified, but I got onto the vox-net and began calling shots at perceived week points on the hull when a slight movement caught my enhanced eyesight; one of the ships guns had been removed, and mounted as a ground based direct fire artillery piece! I immediately shouted a warning over the net to the Rogue Trader Regent.

"Sector one-gamma niner-five, ships weapon active! All troops must withdraw behind the ridge and take cover!"

Hartek immediately ordered our forces to fall back to the cover. There was a momentary pause as the implications of order sank in, and then vehicle commanders began ordering their crews to withdraw their vehicles to cover; it was a confused and chaotic melee of manoeuvring vehicles, and I am fairly sure that several unfortunate soldiers were crushed beneath the armour, but all the troops managed to withdraw below the ridgeline, just in time. There was a thunderous booming, and then the shock of a huge projectile impacting on the ridge. Anyone standing was thrown to the floor, and I saw two vehicles thrown onto their sides by the shockwave, but had we still been in position on the ridge we would all have been destroyed.

I edged forward again, and saw that in the act of firing, the weapon had annihilated itself; the barrel had split in a particularly comical manner, which was a relief overall. Hartek came up to the ridge alongside me to take a look at the target for himself, and relayed what the scouts had discovered; the force facing us was sizeable numbering several hundred, and definitely Ork, but uncharacteristically were disciplined, camouflaged, and well dug in.

I turned to Hartek and made a suggestion; "Lance strike from orbit?"

Behind his mask he grinned that worrying grin of his before replying. "Agreed!" He then got on the vox-net again; "Main force withdraw one klick, Chimeras one through five hold your position to act as transport. Forward Observation Officer to my location!"

Hartek's protective detail joined us, as did the Forward Observation Officer; the man responsible for calling the lance strike, and General Theodore, still looking like he was having the time of his life appeared to my right. I ran through the calculations required to put a direct feed from the targeting imagers on the Furnace of Redemption through to the data-slate used by the Forward Observation Officer, and then the strike was called.

"Take cover! Protect your eyes!" Hartek called

General Theodore looked awed by the power of the strike, but as the dust settled, we could see that the Ork ship was unscathed, as were the positions around it! Ringing it was a perfect circle of scorched ground where it looked as though the power of the lance had expended itself.

"Void shield! ****!" I muttered

"Not a void shield..." Ivanov interjected "Orks use power fields... They're impenetrable, but generally single use and take a long time to recharge!"

Hartek immediately called for another strike, however the lance would be recharging for a while. Suddenly our attention was drawn by hundreds of Orks moving out of their positions, in a organised and disciplined manner, one group covering another as it advanced towards in a zigzag path.

"Stand to boys!" Hartek bellowed, and then called the remaining troops back to the position. He then ordered a trio of melta-cannon shells to be fired by the Furnace of Redemption at the Ork position.

From the Ork positions we could hear "Waaaaagggggggghhhh!" and a number of rockets rose into the sky, and with horror I realised that each had an Ork strapped to it; they appeared to be the equivalent of an Imperial jump-pack trooper! Around a dozen made it into our lines, where they caused chaos briefly before being gunned down by the overwhelming numbers surrounding them.

Then something else caught my attention; I noticed where the ridge had been destroyed a warren of tunnels had been dug into the ground, and immediately realised that the Orks could use these to get behind us. Just in time, I called a warning to our troops as a large Ork dragged itself from an opening not twenty metres from my position. It was wearing the remains of trousers and had smeared itself in the red mud that covered the ridge here, and on its back was strapped an anti-vehicle mine. I aimed my melta-gun, shot the Ork, and scorched and blistered the green flesh, also unfortunately succeeded in drawing its attention to me. It opened fire with its slug thrower and then charged at me, swinging with a chain-axe, and I scrambled out of the way, firing again, this time killing it and leaving a noxious smell of burnt Ork flesh as its corpse bubbled and smouldered.

From the back of my mind I heard Calldia shouting in horror; "The mine! The mine!"

Wide eyed I shouted a warning to those nearby and flung myself out of the blast area as it detonated, splashing me with the remains of its' erstwhile carrier.

I spoke to Calldia, "See, when you stop moaning, we make a good team!"

Still panicked, he responded; "Stop talking to me, and stay alive! And whatever you do, do not shoot those other ones over their either! It just makes them angry!"

My attention drawn to the new threat I called a warning over the vox as twelve huge Orks clambered out of holes in the ground, but once again, they were cut down by the massed troops around them before they could inflict too much damage. Then, near the Rogue Trader Regent, all fighting stopped as a huge Ork appeared; it was far bigger than any of the beasts I had previously seen, almost as large as the Grey Knight in armour that we had fought against the corrupted denizens of Saphirus 1-1S2M3, and was obviously the leader of this war-band.

One hand of the huge creature was encased in a massive power claw that looked well suited to tearing vehicles apart, and the other was holding a twin-barrelled slug thrower with an ammunition belt hanging from it. It was wearing a strange tri-corn hat with a skulls emblazoned on the front, and a naval style long jacket and boots. One of the Ork's eyes had been replaced by a chunky, inelegant three lensed cybernetic that glowed red, and at its feet bounced a strange ball shaped creature that seemed to be all mouth. I have since been informed that this breed of creature is known as a "Squig".

"Waaaaagggggggghhhh! Get 'em boys!" the massive beast shouted.

I raised my melta-gun again and aimed a shot but was flung to the ground once more as the ship fired melta-cannon rounds slammed the Ork positions from orbit. The wreck and the surrounding positions were enveloped in rolling superheated flame and the small bombardment effectively ended the threat from that direction. However, there were still a number of the xenos in hand-to-hand combat with our men. Once the ground stopped shaking, I braced myself from the floor, and re-aimed at the Ork leader, before pressing the firing stud. I was shocked to see it stepped around the blast, in a remarkably nimble manner, and with almost contemptuous ease. Ivanov had opened fire too, hitting it in the chest, but the creature barely registered the impacts. Hartek took this as his cue, and powered up the hill at the Ork, leaping into combat. He swung his power axe and the Ork thrust its gun up to block the strike, which it managed to do, but at the cost of the weapon which was cleaved in two.

"Oi! 'Umie! Me shoota! Ya bust me shoota! That woz me favrit shoota!" The Ork bellowed, and then snapping the power claw stepped towards Hartek.

The Rogue Trader Regent growled back at the creature; "Watch who you're calling 'Umie, Greenskin!"

The Ork leader grinned, and smashed Hartek with the power claw knocking him flying backwards, where he crashed into the ground and lay unmoving. At this point I feared for the life of my friend, however, after a few seconds he slowly and painfully got to his feet, reaching for his axe that he had dropped.

I could see that I was not the only one mesmerised by the struggle in front of me; all of our troops, as well as the Orks had stopped their own fights to watch. Both Ivanov and I took the advantage of the lull and opened fire, but again, neither of our shots appeared to do much damage to the behemoth.

As Hartek stood, the Ork actually looked surprised! "Oi! Youse tuff fer a little 'un, int ya!"

"Not dead yet!" Was all that Hartek could manage in response. He took a deep breath, looking around. "But all your mates are..."

"Youse a little bit cleverer than you look int ya? Youse got some smarts!" The creature was actually smiling.

Between the ragged rasping breaths that I could hear through the helmet speakers in his power armour, the Rogue Trader Regent chuckled weakly. It was clear he would need another trip to the Chirurgeon on his return to the ship after being on the receiving end of such a mighty blow. He took another gurgling breath and spoke; "I could say the same about you! I saw the way you led your boys!"

The Ork tapped its head with a giant finger, and spoke again. "I is the finkin' type, I am! Big Ork, big brain!" And then it laughed a deep, rolling grunting chuckle.

"Well..." Hartek nodded, "You want a job?"

"Like in smashin' fings?" The Ork asked.

Hartek nodded again. "Smashing what I tell you to smash!"

The Ork looked thoughtful, and stroked its chin, before laughing again, then stepped forward and slapped the Rogue Trader Regent on his back. "I like youse! Yeah, awright then! I like clever stuff, mebbe if I works fer youse and smashes stuff I'll get sum o' that clever from youse!" He slapped Hartek on the back again. I'm fairly sure that had Hartek not been wearing power armour, he would have been smashed to the floor!

We're good at making clever! What's your name Greenskin?"

The Ork drew itself up to its full, impressive, height. "I is Kolonel Shakgul" He indicated the Squig that was still bouncing around near his feet, "An dis iz Bari da Squig! Be careful wiv 'im, 'ee aint friendly like me. 'Ee's got a tempa, an 'ee bites!"

"Well, Kolonel, I am Kilgrim Hartek, Trader Regent and Warmaster of House Dureen. Do you swear to serve house Dureen?" Hartek paused, and then added "And hit those what I tells you to?"

"I'll do tha hittin' wot you tells me to!" Shakgul roared

"Good enough!" The Rogue Trader Regent thrust his hand forward, which was firmly grasped by the Kolonel, and the deal was sealed.

Shakgul turned around and bellowed "Oi! Listen up! All youse stand up! Any o' youse rapscallions wot is left, show yerselves! Come on boys!"

Around the battlefield in small clusters of Orks stood. The Kolonel shouted again, pointing in our direction. "Theze lot is our lot too now, so come 'ere!"

Almost two-hundred confused looking Greenskins made their way to our positions.

Ivanov walked over to me, and spoke in a low voice; "An interesting turn of events!"

I nodded my agreement, and Ivanov went on to explain that he had recognised the Orks as being of the Blood Axe Clan, and some of their number were made up of the elite types know as Stormboyz and Kommandos. The Blood Axes, apparently, are the Orks most likely to deal with the Imperium, and have even copied some Imperial tactics, and it was not unknown for them to be found in the service of humans as mercenaries.

House Dureen had just acquired itself a new Cohort of surprisingly disciplined shock troops.


++ End of record ++

 

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Not to be pushy, but Papa needs his next fix of story-time-goodness.

 

It's great to see the character's perspective on the "adventure" and it certainly motivates me to be a better GM.

 

 

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Ops, sorry chaps I forgot to mention that I was going on holiday for a week (Though the players did want to continue without me). Here is the writeup from two weeks ago and we play again tomorrow gran_risa.gif

Feedback as always is welcome.

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

 


++ LOCATION: LELE, THE LELE SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

One of the more remote holds of the Furnace of Redemption was assigned to the Orks, and as they were transported to the vessel from the surface I noted with interest that the vehicles and wargear of the Greenskins could be at best be described as ramshackle. I have no idea how it worked; by any measurable means it was barely better than scrap, yet, undeniable it was extremely effective in the hands of the Orks. If anything, if any vital component failed, the creatures seemed to find that more satisfying, and certainly more entertaining, than when the equipment functioned correctly. Perhaps I should rephrase that; they seemed to find the fate of the Ork that was operating the machinery more satisfying, and certainly more entertaining, than when the equipment functioned correctly. I have never seen mechanical catastrophes met with such abandoned hilarity...

I arranged for the injured Rogue Trader Regent to be transported to the ship too, on a separate shuttle of course, (I did not want to run the risk of the Orks mistaking him for a tasty morsel to snack upon), and he was deposited in the Medicae Chamber. This left Lieutenant Ivanov and I to tie up the loose ends of the trade deal, and each to pursue any of our own interests should we wish to.

I attempted to persuade High Researcher Lerouche of the benefits of detaching some of his men to travel with us, and to allow us to share research. He was a little reserved with regard to this suggestion, however, in the name of friendship he agreed to consider it, and to ask for volunteers to accompany us in the future. I, in return, promised to set up an area of our asteroid base in Footfall with special quarters within which I would modify the atmosphere to match their own. I also spent some time with their scientists and engineers, as the Lelians referred to their specialists, to study their technology. It was similar in many ways to Imperial technology, although the differences were enough to make modifying our own technology with ideas gleaned from the more efficient way the Lelians constructed items difficult at best, and probably involving a major overhaul of any vehicle of ship. Having said that, creating a device from new would make this process much more straight forward, and I found my thoughts turning towards the Grand Cruiser His Undying Will undergoing repair in Footfall; if I could include some of the knowledge I was picking up here on that vessel, then she would become far more effective than equivalent ships of her class.

As I was preparing to leave the researchers to their work, one made a comment regarding warp travel. As the Lelians did not have psykers within their population, this was effectively beyond their reach, so they had been researching other ways of rapid travel over long distances. This technology was still experimental but they claimed to have a number of test journeys out of the system. Needless to say I was interested in this, and having made a brief study of the technical specifications, and made some suggestions, asked that they keep me up to date on their research.

Ivanov spent time with the Lelian military, observing their drills, offering advice, and making suggestions where he thought they would benefit from his knowledge. General Theodore seemed to appreciate his efforts, and the two men seemed to get on well, as far as I could tell; in fact their relationship developed in such a way that the General readily agreed to an exchange of a number of weapons and pieces of wargear between the Lelians and ourselves. The Lelians generally seemed to suffer from a lack of effective armoured suits, and really only focussed on torso protection, so Ivanov delivered a number of sets of the different armour types, and a selection of the classes of weapons, that we held in our armoury, and in return he secured fifteen pulse carbines, fifteen pulse rifles, and a good supply of ammunition for our use. Several of these pulse weapons were delivered to me for reverse engineering.

All negotiations completed, we returned to the ship.

I turned my attention to treating the injured Hartek, and my efforts, combined with the care he had already received, meant that by the time we had made our warp jump to the Saphirus System, the Rogue Trader Regent was almost completely healthy again. I am getting to know his abhuman physiology and genetics quite well now! From here we planned to jump into the system that our scout ships had identified as being inhabited by humans, and where they encountered the ships of the Fel Dynasty.

The journey through the warp was uneventful, however, Lieutenant Ivanov, who had been placed in temporary command while Hartek was indisposed did cause some concern amongst the crew, when for a brief period of time he seemed to be deep in conversation with people who were not present. The stories that reached me suggested that the topic of these strange conversations seemed to revolve around the loss of a ship in the warp, and who was to blame. Understandably, the crew that knew of this became quite nervous in the Lieutenants' presence, although the old hands did seem to have some measure of sympathy, and Ivanov was presented with a mug of amasec laced recaf to help him steady himself.

On arrival in the Saphirus System, we paused long enough to transmit instructions to our representatives on Dropas, instructing them to undertake cargo runs to Lele, and giving them the details of the warp route, and in return we received updates with regard to the local system. The ships' systems were recalibrated and we prepared to jump to the unknown Fel occupied system.


++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION SYSTEM 0105, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

Ivanov ordered a auger sweep of the system the moment we appeared in real space, and I managed to boost the ships systems to aid with this, however, instead of offering helpful advice and checking my calculations as he had done previously, Tech-Priest Calldia refused to offer any aid telling me that I had been neglecting him lately. I could not see that this was the case as he had been as enthusiastic as I was when studying the new Lelian technology, and his interest in the biology of the Rogue Trader Regent was still evident as I treated his injuries sustained in the battle with the Orks. Slightly disturbed, I let his truculence slide and focussed on the tasks in hand, hoping to re-engage his interest that way. It is somewhat difficult to deal with a Tech-Priest sulking like a child when he is in your head with you, and you need to focus on a technical task.

And yes, Calldia, when I speak of a sulky child I am referring to you...

The system was centred on a medium sized red star with five major stellar objects orbiting it. Four of the five objects were barren or uninhabitable, however there was one planet that was not only habitable, with a breathable atmosphere and Terra style gravity and temperature, but also showed signs of a reasonably developed population, and interestingly, the planet seemed to be almost entirely water covered, with a single island, of around fifteen kilometres square, in the equatorial region. This was the world that our scouts had detected the Fel ships interacting with.

There were a number of cities built on platforms and stilts scattered around the globe, and the scans were picking up radiological emissions, suggesting nuclear power was in use. Our scans also detected a ship in orbit, and this was quickly identified as a Vagabond Class Merchant Trader. We continued our course towards the habitable planet, and the Rogue Trader Regent decided not to hail them, but rather to go to silent running procedures and attempt to close on them undetected.

We slipped in to orbit, and closed to within a few kilometres of our target, in the aft arc and the ship did not give any indication that it was aware of our presence. We scanned the vessel in detail and hailed her. The ship was called The Throne, and was equipped in the way of the majority of vessels of her class; well suited for defending herself, but outclassed by a warship of the capabilities of the Furnace of Redemption.

Hartek broadcast a vox message, "Attention The Throne. Please state your purpose in this system." Unsurprisingly we detected her systems suddenly coming online.

"Who the devil is this!" Came a somewhat flustered and panicky reply from the trader ship. "Why should I tell some cutpurse sneak who I am if they don't identify themselves to me?"

"This is the Dureen Dynasty ship, the Furnace of Redemption. I am Kilgrim Hartek, Rogue Trader Regent and sworn Warmaster to House Dureen. Now, who are you?"

After a slight pause there was a reply. "I'm Captain Brown!"

Hartek smiled at the image of the female Captain on the display; "I'll just bet you are!" The bridge crew did well to hide their sniggers and grins.

The woman obviously did not like that one bit. "Who the hell do you think you are?" She demanded. "Sneaking up on someone like that!" She took a deep breath and seemed to calm herself then. "I am acting on behalf of the Fel Dynasty in the capacity of a merchant trader."

She looked to be in her mid-fifties, with a worn and weather beaten face, suggesting that she spent some time away from her vessel. She was fairly plain, and this appearance translated to her unremarkable clothes which were plain and work-man like.

The Rogue Trader regent signalled to mute the transmission, and after receiving confirmation turned to the Officer of the Watch, Orbest Dray.

"She's not wearing a hat!" Hartek was incredulous. "I don't understand..."

Dray smiled weakly, "Women, are strange creatures my Lord, as fickle as the warp!"

Hartek grunted, and ordered the transmission be restored with audio. "My dear Captain Brown, please accept my humblest, humblest apologies." He pointedly tipped his hat to her. "This is a terrible misunderstanding. We are only here to offer such help as we may to this world..."

"Well next time," she snapped, "You can bloody well not sneak up on us. You nearly gave me a heart attack!"

Fleshbags! If only she allowed herself a half decent cybernetic replacement, then a heart attack would be one worry she would not have!

Hartek smiled his most winning of smiles, and I was instantly suspicious about what was going on in his mind. He indicated that the transmission should be muted again.

"Mister Ivanov, go and get the Orks ready!" Ivanov nodded as Hartek turned back to the display, "Captain Brown, you must forgive me; I've been called away on urgent ship's business... I'm sure as a fellow Captain you understand... Perhaps we should continue this conversation later? Would you do me the honour of taking dinner with me aboard my ship?"

Captain Brown paused for a moment, looking slightly non-plussed. "I will see how busy I am. Out" And she cut the transmission.

"Mister Ivanov", Hartek called after the Lieutenant, "I believe I will visit the Orks with you - I have been reading up on Orkish culture!"

I had no desire to mingle with the xenos, but was intrigued by what may happen, so sent one of my servo skulls to record the meeting.


As they walked Hartek spoke. "You know the Ork is a fascinating creature! They have an innate, genetically programmed culture, with all the knowledge of technology they need to wage war."

Ivanov made a non-committal noise.

"You don't sound convinced Lieutenant?"

"They are xenos my lord, and I have had dealings with them before. They are a most implacable foe..." Ivanov frowned.

"Well, you must remember that these Orks are now our allies, and must be treated with the respect with which they are due...!" The Lieutenant looked uneasy at this, but did not argue.

The two men were joined by a detachment of Harteks Housecarl personal guard on the way, and as they reached Hold 51, the designated Ork barracks, and the largest area we had available for the Green skins. The group entered as one, with Hartek at the head.

My servo skull that was trailing them sampled the atmosphere, and judging by the readings of the impurities present, the smell must have been incredible. Looking at the reactions of the group of men following the Rogue Trader Regent, I do believe that my assessment did not perhaps convey the almost physical impact that the smell had, and with some amusement, I saw a number of men slip their breather masks over their faces.

The hold had been transformed; a small town had been built consisting of around thirty buildings; there were small generator boilers chugging away with smoke billowing from their vents, and the buildings themselves seemed to consist of a ramshackle collection of corrugated plates and metal sheets seemingly salvaged from the wreckage of the Ork ship on Lele, strung together in a semblance of construction. At the centre of the settlement was a small fort, which seemed to be garrisoned by the Orks we had previously identified as Stormboyz and Kommandos, although a number of smaller Orks hovering around the edge of the fort seemed to be attempting to emulate their larger kin. Hanging from the fort was a sign, and scrawled in a crude Low Gothic script, surrounded by strange runes, was "Bartertown". In places, there seemed to be a type of fungal vegetation growing from the deck plates and walls in the hold, and I on viewing the recordings I sent small teams of flamer armed maintenance servitors to ensure that none of the strange growth had spread beyond the limits of Hold 51.


Smaller Orkoids, which I have heard referred to by a number of names such as grots, snotlings and gretchin, were roaming around, seemingly intent on their own tasks. I am not entirely sure what the differences are between these sub-species, but if there is any difference at all, it appears to be size based. Further into the settlement, a pair of Orks were brawling, much to the amusement of their fellows, and as Harteks' group advanced further, I was able to make out a couple of smaller figures that were working on an Ork buggy that they appeared to have strapped a giant rocket to; these, I think, must be the Mekboyz that I have heard referred to by some of the Adeptus Mechanicus adepts. I am fairly certain however that when we catalogued the Greenskins on their embarkation of the ship there were none of these types present, although I do seem to remember hearing that Orks had a strange ability to develop quickly to fill niches within their society when required, but I had had no indication that it could happen so quickly...

As Hartek walked into Bartertown a number of the Orks turned to watch his group; they were all wearing a crude red and black tiger-striped uniform, and focussed on the group with thinly disguised malevolence. As more of the Orks noticed the interlopers, the cacophony of shrieks and growls that filled the hold fell away to silence. Scattered around the buildings, were a number of the spherical squigs; some seemed to be accompanying Orks, whilst others roamed Bartertown alone or in packs, and further squigs were kept in pens near the buildings.

The human group headed towards the fort at the centre of the settlement, shadowed by the smaller Orks who seemed quite excited by their presence. As they arrived, Kolonel Shakgul, obviously alerted to their arrival, stepped out to meet them. Bari the Squig was alongside him, on the end of a chain which was being held by a smaller Ork; even from the recording it was clear that the squig could have broken free whenever it felt like doing so, but seemed to have settled for dragging its unfortunate handler along in its wake, and generally making his life difficult. A second small Ork was standing further back; this one was dressed in black and was wearing a crude mask, and seemed to be making a show of moving "stealthily" in the shadows. I suddenly struck me that this was a parody of an Inquisitorial retinue, and this figure was the equivalent of an Imperial Assassin, and despite myself I laughed out load for the first time in many months.

Shakgul stopped in front of the Rogue Trader Regent, and the two leaders nodded to each other, then Hartek leapt forward and backhanded the Kolonel across the face! As he settled himself from the effort of landing the blow the Rogue Trader Regent spoke; "It's good youse lot is working fer me now! I likes havin' you 'ere, we'll make a good team!"

Initially Shakgul looked bemused by it all, but then he looked down at Hartek, and slapped him across the face in return! However, he appeared to realise that this was one Warboss showing the followers of another where he stood in the rankings, and did not use his power-claw, or put his full strength into the blow. Hartek was bloodied, but still looked relieved!

"Welcome to House Dureen Kolonel!" Smiled Hartek, although he did seem to be moving his jaw quite gingerly...

Shakgul grinned a tusky, toothy, fanged grin in return. "We's are glad to be 'ere! It's good innit?"

"I like what you've done with the place!" Hartek raised an eyebrow as he looked around. "Have you got everything you need?"

"Yeah! We's brought up loads of gear an' loot from der snappa-cracka that woz crashed, an' we can send da boyz out to collect stuff!"

"That might not be a good idea..." Hartek looked nervous. "They might take something that's needed..."

The Greenskin furrowed his large brows. "But my boyz is good at fixin' stuff!" He pointed to the smaller Orks who were tinkering with the buggy, one of which quickly tried to hide something behind its back; it was a briefcase sized box, and had the Holy symbol of the Adeptus Mechanicus imprinted on it.

Reviewing the recordings, it soon became clear why Ivanov had suggested to me that I increase maintenance patrols around this area of the ship... I am also pleased to report I had taken the man at his word, and had arranged the suggested patrols. I am beginning to recognise the quiet competence that the Lieutenant seems to possess.

My attention was drawn back to the recording by Harteks voice. "Thing is, Kolonel, this ship isn't Orky..."

"Well, we's can make it Orky!" Shakgul suggested.

"Yeah, we could, but it wouldn't work so well as we don't have enough Orks to make it work... It's a human ship, and humans don't think like Orks. Tell you what, you tell us what you want, and if we can, we'll get it for you - that's what being part of House Dureen means - we all work for each other as part of a big team - a big tribe!"

"Errr... Okay! That sounds good ter me! But one of me boyz says he has lots of plans fer the ship...! Ain't that right Mista Hammerdy?" He looked over to a smaller Ork clutching a large hammer who was nodding enthusiastically.

Hartek paused. "Tell you what. I'll get my Enginseer to come down and talk to Mister Hammerdy. How does that sound?"

The small Ork beamed with delight. Not a feeling I was sharing, if I am completely honest, and Calldia began mumbling to himself too, which did not help matters in the slightest.

"You wanna see the boyz? We's ready you knows. When's there gonna be some fightin'?" Shakgul asked.

"Well, funny you should say that. There's some smashin' coming along soon, for at least some of the boyz!" Hartek smiled encouragingly.

Shakgul grinned again, a feral glint in his eye, and then bellowed; "Right you maggots! Line up!"

The bigger Orks began to kick the smaller ones into position, and after thirty seconds of complete mayhem the Greenskins began to line up in an open space outside Bartertown. I have never seen anything like it in my life, and do not have the words to describe the rolling melee that resulted from such a simple order.

The recording picked up an aside from Hartek to Ivanov. "They're no Mordian Iron Guard, Number One, I grant you, but you have to credit their enthusiasm!"

Ivanov did not appear convinced.

Shakgul made to walk down the lines of Greenskins, and gestured for Hartek to follow, which he did. The lines of Orks stood upright, heels together and chests puffed out did look odd, but they towered over the Rogue Trader Regent.

"Good boyz dese, ain't they?" Shakgul asked

"Yes. They do you proud Kolonel!" Hartek answered, looking at the rabble in front of him.

To one side of the main body was a formation of a dozen large Orks, and these appeared to be very different from the others; they were extremely smart by Ork standards, and smart even by human standards. Their boots were shining, and all were wearing identical, well cared for, uniforms. They were standing at parade ground attention, and each was holding an identical position. It appeared that these were the surviving Stormboyz.

This was confirmed when Shakgul identified them as Gruttoof's Stormboyz, and introduced Hartek to Kaptin Gruttoof, who was almost as large as the Kolonel.

"Soldier! Do you like hitting things?" Hartek barked.

"Sir, I loves hittin' fings! Sir!" Bellowed the Kaptin in response.

Ivanov had hung back, and as he glanced around, he noticed a handful of large Orks paired off, and semi-concealed in the undergrowth around Bartertown. They seemed to hiding from the other Orks, and were attempting to sneak up on the settlement, but it looked like these Ork Kommandos were generally being ignored by their kin.

As the inspection progressed, a none too subtle voice from the back of the ranks was heard; "Oi! Why we workin' for dese stinkin' 'umies?"

Kolonel Shakgul slowly swivelled his head round in the direction of the speaker, and as he did so, all the nearby Orks leaned forward to get a better view of what was going to happen, one leaning over so far it fell on its face.

"Who said that? You's been telled before, no talkin' on parade! Oi! C'mon! Who sed dat?" Shakgul was getting increasingly angry...

Hartek and Ivanov followed the huge Greenskin as he continued to shout at his troops. "One of you's 'ad better tell me who sed it! Come on! Now!" His power-claw was active and blue sparks of power coruscated along the length of the weapon.

In the second row, an Ork raised its arm, and then pointed at one in the row in front of it. It was quickly followed by several others, all pointing in the same direction. The target of all the attention drew itself up to its full height, and stood stock still, and ramrod straight, but even on the recording it was obviously sweating profusely.

Shakgul moved slowly towards it, and then spoke; "Korporal Sticka?" The Ork holding the lead of Bari the Squig stepped forward, and Shakgul spoke again. "Stick 'im!"

As the Korporal began to move, Bari the Squig bounded forward, snapped his chain and leapt on the unfortunate Ork, then Korporal Sticka followed and began to kick the downed Greenskin with his heavy boots. After a few seconds of struggling and scuffling Bari seemed to become bored and ended the fight by biting the Orks' head off. As Bari was enjoying his meal, Sticka took the opportunity to loop the now shortened length of chain onto Bari's harness.

Kolonel Shakgul looked to Hartek and gave a knowing, approving nod in his direction, which Hartek returned. I reflected that both leaders seemed to use very similar disciplinary measures.

The whole diversion seemed to create much amusement amongst the small Orks scattered around the edges of the town.

Hartek turned his attention back to Kaptin Gruttoof. "How would you feel about hitting things for me?"

Gruttoof responded immediately; "Sir, don't care who I 'it stuff fer, as long as I get to 'it stuff, Sir!"

Hartek smiled and turned to Ivanov. "Number One, I think we've found our boarding party - if we need it...!" He looked over to the Kolonel. "We may need to borrow some of your boyz soon Kolonel..."

"No problem, Short humie!" Bellowed Shakgul "Me boyz can't wait fer it!"

The two groups bade each other farewell, with Hartek and Ivanov returning to the bridge. After some thought and discussion, it was decided that a direct attack on The Throne would be inadvisable as it could be construed as an act of piracy, so we turned our attention to the planet below to see if we could sabotage Fel's operations from there.


++ LOCATION: ORREMA, THE ORREMA SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


The world was relatively sparsely inhabited, with a total population of just two million, and was controlled by a series of eighteen noble merchant houses, however, there were just three major players; the Merchel Trading House, the Handrayana Combine, and the Coam Federation. There were also a small, but significant, number of people who had rejected the structured way of life prevalent on Orrema, and roamed the world living a nomadic, piratical life on large ships. Their histories showed that in the past there had been a number of additional factions, and indeed cities, however, several thousands of years previously there had been a global conflict, and many were destroyed. Since then an agreement had been struck never to attack each other's cities, and that agreement still held.

Although the civilisation was very much along the lines of the Imperial model, they had stagnated, and militarily were quite poorly equipped (possibly as a result of the non-aggression agreement), relying on slug throwers and stubbers, however, they had retained knowledge of atomics. We had already made contact with representatives of the different factions, and had discovered that the Coam Federation had made an agreement with Fel Dynasty, and as a result refused to have anything to do with us unless we could come up with a better offer, however, the other merchant houses were more than happy to speak to us.

Hartek called for a gun-cutter to be made ready, and with Ivanov at the controls, I joined him and a detachment of his Housecarls in the cabin and we descended to the surface.

The meeting was staged on neutral ground, and was reasonably successful, with each of the rivals of the Coam Federation eager to secure our support. They were happy to pass information to us with regard to their competitors; however, attempts to get them to combine their efforts to focus on the Coam Federation fell on deaf ears. Most professed their lack of surprise that the Fel Dynasty were not a trustworthy group, they had come to that conclusion themselves, and unsurprisingly they felt the same about Coam Federation. It was revealed that Hadarak Fel had attempted to sow discord and conflict amongst the inhabitants of Orrema by seemingly randomly picking the Coam Federation as an ally. Alarmingly they revealed that Fel had unbalanced the status quo by arming them, and had had received some atomics in return!

We thanked them for their time and requested some time for a private conference, something they Orremnians accepted without qualm, as they understood the need to keep trade discussions private, being merchants themselves.

Once we had our privacy, and I had scanned for any eavesdropping devices, Hartek raised the possibility of sabotaging the delivery of the trade supplies between the Fel Dynasty and the Coam Federation, in an attempt to make each side look unreliable to the other. We realised that this would be a long term effort, so looked for something that could make an impact in the short term, to prove how valuable we were to the Orremnians. We analysed the information that we had been given by the locals, and realised that the perfect opportunity had presented itself; the nomadic pirates had recently become more aggressive, and had occupied an area of the small landmass of the world. This small island was of immense significance to the Orremnians; they called it Home, as this was the place the first settlers lived when they came to Orrema, and the occupation was considered a desecration of the sacred ground.

We requested a resumption of the gathering and asked whether the occupation had coincided with Fel's intervention on the planet; there was much angry muttering amongst the delegates when they all realised that it did. Furthermore, they realised that the pirates had been increasingly targeting their holdings, and ignoring those of the Coam Federation. The anger in the meeting chamber was now tangible, and when we offered our aid in removing the interlopers from this sacred ground, and used our forces to strike back at the pirates on their ships they readily agreed, with one condition; Home should not be damaged in the assault. We had found our way to gain trust with the natives of this world.

We arranged for garrison units of House Dureen forces to be stationed within the major cities with orders to instruct the local forces in modern tactics and gave the leaderships of the individual factions contact frequencies to enable them to contact us in the event of an attack, arranging for a rotating roster of rapid reaction forces to be ready to deploy from the Furnace of Redemption. We began to scan the surface of the world to detect the movements of the pirate vessels, and to map the topography of Home, and started to put our military plans into action. We reserved our human forces for action on Home, and the Orks were designated as an anti-piracy force for exclusive use against the troublesome ships at sea.

The Boyz of the Dureen Dynasty attacked and boarded three large pirate vessels, and met fierce resistance on all of the assaults; something the Boyz were very appreciative of, and although they took some casualties forcing the landings there was no real doubt with regard to the final result; inevitably the defenders were quickly overrun. The happy Orks took loot and prisoners which were brought back to Bartertown - something I think that the Rogue Trader Regent will need to deal with in due course...

Overall, the Orks thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable week.

We turned our attention to the occupiers of Home, with the Rogue Trader Regent contacting them, and offering the opportunity to travel off world, saying that House Dureen was always appreciative of adventurous spirits, and they would be welcomed with the Dynasty with open arms. If they decided not to take this career opportunity, Hartek would be less understanding, and they would be forcibly removed from Home.

Diplomatically, we were not so successful, and despite the best efforts of Navigator Proscesu, we were unable to bring the Merchel Trading House and the Handrayana Combine onto common ground; there were too many generations of distrust standing between them, so we began to look to turn the mutual distrust to our advantage...

After the Rogue Trader Regent had spent some time with Lieutenant Ivanov, and having seen his competence at first hand, he decided to promote him to First Officer, potentially, I am sure to keep a closer eye on him, and ensure that his ambition did not spread any further than operational command of a star-ship.


++ End of record ++

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

 


++ LOCATION: ORREMA, THE ORREMA SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

Reports from the monitoring teams watching the Orks on their missions began to filter in, and it appeared that they were attempting to work out how to transport one of the capture surface ships onto the Furnace of Redemption. Although I could not really see how they were going to manage that, I thought that it would be interesting to observe the planning process they used to affect the salvage attempt. It turned out that after several hours of head scratching, and pacing around they gave up on the idea, and began to strip the ships of anything they considered useful, which looked to be anything not too sturdily constructed to remove from the hull.

As previously predicted, once the Rogue Trader Regent heard of the humans that were being taken as slaves by the Orks, he decided that he could not let it stand, although given his track record of not being overly sentimental about those who stand against the Dynasty, I was a little surprised that he did decide to intercede; after several moments pondering for a suitable approach he could take, he came up with a solution.

"Mister Ivanov!" Hartek summoned the new First Officer.

"Aye aye Rogue Trader Regent!" Ivanov stepped over to the command throne.

Hartek looked directly at him; "Mister Ivanov, please convey to Kolonel Shakgul my compliments on a job well done, and our thanks for bringing up the new recruits for the ships' company!"

Ivanov paused, realising what he was being asked to do. "Yes Sir. It would be my pleasure..." He lied, and boarded a guncutter to head down to the surface of Orrema. On his way to the shuttle bay he stopped by my workshop, and asked me to standby at the controls of the Teleportarium in case he needed a rapid extraction. I agreed, and linked a sensorium device into the vox link so that I could see whether the Lieutenant needed a rapid extraction, just in case he could no longer speak, or call for help for any reason.


As he disembarked from the guncutter, and stepped aboard the captured ships, Ivanov was struck by the carnage around him; there were hundreds of bodies, men, women, and children, and the smell of battle was still in the air. Small groups of humans were being beaten into submission and forced into work by the Orks. Ivanov watched almost wistfully, as the guncutter lifted away to adopt a holding pattern over the conglomeration of ships, he called out to one of the Orks.

"Where is the Kolonel?"

The Ork shrugged, and looked at a colleague who said "'Ees on da bridge, I fink!" before turning and kicking out at an old woman the Greenskin obviously thought was not working hard enough.

Ivanov nodded, and headed that way showing as much confidence as he could muster, watching the Orks that were dismantling the ships with interest. As he took in the scene he caught a pleading look from a woman who had fallen to her knees; "Help us my Lord!"

Before he could respond, and Ork dragged her to her feet by her hair; "Oi! You! Back to work!" The Ork looked at Ivanov; "Lazy!" and aimed a kick at the woman as she staggered away.

Ivanov arrived at the bridge and cleared his throat before speaking; "Well done Kolonel! Good Work..."

The Kolonel, surrounded by a number of his boyz, looked up. "Not really, 'umie, they weren't as good as your boys, but it's better than kicking each other!"

"Kolonel. I have to have a word with you..." Ivanov persisted.

"What do yer want?" growled Shakgul.

"The humans Kolonel. Rogue Trader Regent Hartek is very pleased with the new crew you've got him for the ship. So once we get them back to the ship we'll take them off your hands."

Shakgul glared at Ivanov, his Power Claw twitching. "You want these fings as crew?"

"Well, yes! They're no good to you..." The Lieutenant continued; "And as a thank-you we can get this superstructure onto the Furnace of Redemption for you to!"

"Really?" Shakgul stroked his beard, suddenly looking interested. "I likes that idea!" he exclaimed

"Well, Kolonel, I think you'll like this even more, we'll even make sure you get the engines to play with too!" Ivanov smiled widely.

"Hmmm..." Pondered the Kolonel, "I'd want some wartruks to put 'em on..."

The First Officer nodded, "We can give your boys everything they need to make your own special… Errr… Truks… Then nobody else would have vehicles like Kolonel Shakgul..."

"I is still listenin'" The Ork growled.

"Of course!" Ivanov smiled again. "I notice that you still haven't replaced you gun?"

"I needs a new shoota coz mine got busted..." Shakgul nodded. "Will it be loud?"

Already knowing what was coming next, I started planning the custom weapon I would need to build for the Ork, and sure enough, when Ivanov spoke again I heard myself being volunteered to create a "Very loud shoota, louder than anything else!"

To demonstrate, Ivanov drew his own hand-cannon and shot the nearest Gretchin, splashing tissue and blood all over the deck.

"See Kolonel, that's a loud pistol, but it's just a squeak compared to the noise your shoota will make!"

Personally, I think that Ivanov just wanted an excuse to kill a Greenskin; I have noticed that he does not seem to like them much, in fact he appears to dislike them much more than even the normal crew do.

The Kolonel roared with laughter, and then licked his hand, offering it to Ivanov, who paused, and then his smile fixed on his face, licked his own palm, and the two shook hands. "You's got a deal 'umie, now take yer worthless rats away!"

The First Officer called several guncutters from orbit, and loaded the survivors aboard, whisking them away to relative safety, before getting them medical help.

I sent several work teams to the planet, and at the end of the week, once the superstructure was removed from the hull of the ship, teleported the required section to the exact location, just outside Bartertown, that the Kolonel specified.

Once this was done I began the design of the Kolonel's new shoota. I settled on a tri-barrel design, painted red, of course. To generate the noise effect that Shakgul wanted so much, within the body of the weapon, I embedded a solid audio pickup and rebroadcast speakers that would take the already impressive noise of the firing weapon, and boost it further. Having noticed the Orks love for the colour, I arranged for all the ammunition to be made in the same red that the weapon case would be made in. Happy with the design, I began to collect all the parts I would require for the construction.

I realised that the standard human dimensions that I normal designed for would be inappropriate for this custom (perhaps, having listened to the Orks speak, that should be "kustom") weapon, so I despatched a junior Tech-Priest, and a servitor to take measurements of Shakgul's hand. They returned an hour later, the servitor damaged, with a perfect imprint of the Kolonels fist in its chest, and a white faced Tech-Priest. Although not ideal, the imprint was good enough for me to get the dimensions required, so I congratulated the young man, and set him to repairing the servitor. As he left I told him that as he had obviously struck up a rapport with the Ork, he would be my liaison with Kolonel Shakgul from now on. Although he smiled (I think), I am not entirely convinced he was happy; perhaps he is still far too human to realise the importance of his role... (Yes, Calldia, that importance is keeping us intact!)


Hartek had finally received intelligence reports outlining the Orremian factions. We had already met representatives of two of the three major factions, and most of the minor factions, be we now had a clearer idea of what we were dealing with;


+ + Intelligence assessment conducted by Adept Codename Alpha-sixer-four Theta-two for Rogue Trader Regent Hartek.


My Lord Hartek,

Within this data-slate is the information summary of the factions present on the world of Orrema in the Winterscales Realm.


• The Merchel Trading House, led by Chancellor Mordrek, a spindly, sallow-skinned elder, interested in allying with House Dureen, but slow at making decisions as everything must be considered. He refuses to mix religion and work. The House has a population of around 300,000 of which 1,800 are security forces.

• The Handrayana Combine, led by Pricep Goss, a stoic, merchant-priest, also interested in an alliance with House Dureen, but religion would have to take an important role in any relationship. The religion is compatible with the Imperial Creed, although there is some deviation, which can be used as an excuse to remove this faction if necessary. The Combine has a population of around 300,000 of which 1,800 are security forces.

• Coam Federation, led by President Swartz who had refused to have any contact with House Dureen as they are allied with the Fel Rogue Trader Dynasty. The Federation has a population of around 400,000 of which 2,400 are security forces.

Of the fifteen minor factions three are of particular interest;


• The Berg Freehold, led by Lord Wentzelan, an arrogant but open-minded man, seen as a fair leader and popular with his people.

• The Koho Republic, led by Viscount Spry, a cheerful champion. This is an unpopular faction with the others, and was once a major power, however, was brought down by a coalition of the former Koho allies. They appear very willing to make a deal with House Dureen if we support them.

• The Valo Contract, led by Sir Premis, a self-righteous, vocal opponent of any off-worlders.

The populations of the minor factions average out at around 56,000 each, with around 400 serving as members of the security forces.


The final group have already been introduced to us as pirates, but on contact with them, they describe themselves differently, calling themselves Travellers who reject the mainstream way of life.

• The Travellers, have no clear leader, and are broken down into individual "tribes", but look to a group, or council of elders for guidance. There were around 133,000 of them prior to our initial assaults.

Overall, across the factions, the security forces are a mix of paramilitary police and naval marines (not to be confused with the Holy Astartes, of course), they have access to wheeled armoured vehicles, and a limited amount of fast air and some transport assets, but little in the way of support weapons.


My Lord, I hereby conclude my summary.

For the Glory of House Dureen and the Imperium, and in the name of the Emperor of Mankind. + +


Hartek summoned the senior survivors from the Ork assaults of the surface vessels, and spoke to them about joining the Dynasty, and was obviously very persuasive as they were more than happy to sign on. They had been self-sufficient in their previous lives, and as a result brought with them many skills that a normal voidsman may not have, so they were assigning them specialist roles within our crews; I believe now that amongst other things, we now have a Furnace of Redemption' beer in production. Several of our new friends also agreed to go amongst their people on the planet, spreading the word of House Dureen and recruiting on our behalf.

Another change was made when Hartek presented Kolonel Shakgul with a new hat, by way of thanks for his good work to date. The hat was very similar to his existing one, however was in House Dureen colours, and whilst his old headgear was unadorned, the new one had two large feathers sprouting from it. I have to admit that both I and Tech-Priest Calldia were somewhat bemused by this, however the Ork seemed very pleased with his gift.

Navigator Proscesu began using the scans of the world, tied in with the reports of the survey teams to construct a detailed map of the planet, with a natural focus on Home and the trade routes between the floating cities. This is something that we may have cause to thank him for over the coming weeks, as a distinct tactical advantage can be gained from the possession of such data. I believe he was also mapping the other worlds of the system and the routes in and out, however I must confess to being distracted by the technical challenges presented to me when I was asked to transport the large surface ship components to the Orks barracks, so I cannot say with any certainty whether he managed to complete this task or not.

The Rogue Trader Regent arranged to meet the occupiers of Home, and along with the First Officer and his personal guard of Housecarls, and some of the new recruits to the Dynasty, made the journey to the small landmass in a guncutter. He left a full Cohort of troops on alert in the shuttle bays of the Furnace of Redemption, obviously anticipating a worst case scenario. I, as usual, piggy-backed a narrow beam data feed from the transmitter of his power armour to keep track of events; I am not entirely certain whether he knows I do this, however, I take the fact that he has not challenged me about it means that I have his tacit approval. Anyway, I see it as quite a sacrifice on my behalf; it gets quite crowded in my head, what with my own thoughts, Calldia's valued advice, and additionally managing this extra data feed directly into my cranial cogitators, while keeping abreast of any developments that may require my intervention is all very tiring.

The things I do for this Dynasty - if I still needed to breathe I would be sighing about now...


Hartek and his group were immediately the centre of attention when they landed on Home, and were rapidly approached by dozens of the Travellers who had settled there. The area was obviously artificially created, as there was no surface flora native to Orrema, and, from the information I was receiving, had the feel of a well maintained park more usually seen on a wealthy Imperial world, although there were several ruined buildings observable too. I surmised that these were where the first settlers lived when they arrived, and had been retained as a tribute to them. Around Home, around thirty surface ships of varying sizes lay at anchor, the larger ones several hundred metres out to sea.

The Housecarls were ordered to stay with the guncutter, and Hartek motioned to Ivanov to follow him, muttering "I've always wanted to say this..." He turned to one of the travellers, and spoke more clearly; "Take me to your leader!"

The locals looked at each other, then one replied, "We have no leader - we are simply a grouping of tribes. You may speak to the council if you wish?"

"Aye!" Hartek nodded, "I would!"

The locals led him to a grouping of larger tents, and waiting for him was the council of thirty elders, although the name "elder" seemed to be an honorific, as many were quite young. The conversation and exchanges of pleasantries were long and tedious, every time I have to review meetings such as this I am reminded how inefficient some of the fleshbags are in their communication. Once more I find myself feeling the urge to sigh.

In an efficient summary, the Travellers Council wanted to know what Hartek wanted, and why he was getting involved in the affairs of the Orremnians. They were told that the cities were determined to end the current way of life of the Travellers, and that he had been called on, as an outsider, to aid in this. He continued that he sympathised with the Travellers, after all Hartek himself roamed the black between the stars in much the same way that they travelled their seas, and wanted to offer them the opportunity to do the same, and thus present an alternative to the bloodshed that the city dwellers wanted.

Predictably the Travellers were not keen on giving up the life that they had, and were resistant to the Rogue Trader Regent's words, so he decided to add a little steel to his words, when they stated derisively that the city folk and by extension Hartek himself, could do nothing about them should they just chose to board their ships and roam the waters of the planet again. After all, they argued, there were hundreds of ships, and it would take an age to find them all, and longer to do anything about them! The lance strike that Hartek called on one of the larger ships out at sea, vaporising it instantly, shocked them into silence at first, but then drew anger.

They refused to speak further with the Rogue Trader Regent, and he was forced to leave empty handed. I knew then that we were now not far from initiating military action.

Over the next few days we used the Furnace of Redemption to track the Travellers ships that decided to leave their positions at anchor, which proved to be half of the total number that Hartek had seen. The general picture was one of people who were not willing to change their minds.


Our next diplomatic efforts were more successful. Hartek arranged to meet Viscount Spry of the Koho Republic, who was more than pleased to receive the attentions of the off-worlders.

Lieutenant Ivanov took the controls of a guncutter, with myself, Navigator Proscesu, and the Rogue Trader Regent with a number of his guards taking our places in the rear cabin.

The descent through the atmosphere to cruising height, although uneventful, was bumpy and turbulent as we dropped through storm systems, but soon we were in clear air again. Judging by the manner of the flight however, I believe that the First Officer was attempting to ram home some point or other to Hartek by being fairly aerobatic in his piloting style. The non-augmented humans seemed to suffer some form of nausea, while I amused myself by calculating the interesting trajectories that we were flying.

Suddenly, from the cockpit Ivanov's voice rang out; "The auspex has detected unidentified contacts closing fast on an intercept, and possible attack course. Strap yourselves in people!" He then called to the Furnace of Redemption for air support to back us up, but we knew it would take a while for it to reach us.

Although unfamiliar with the heavy weapons mounted on the guncutter, I ran some calculations and realised with my augmetics and logis implant I had a better chance of hitting fast moving targets than most, so strapped myself in to the gunnery seat on the port side of the craft, before directly connecting with targeting systems. A crewman leapt into the starboard gunnery seat, and we prepared to defend ourselves.

It quickly became clear that the atmospheric aircraft were hostile as they split into three pairs and turned onto different headings to split our defensive fire. Although able to track and fire quite easily, my shots in the ensuing combat were not that effective; I only managed a single hit, although I like to think I worried the enemy pilots somewhat.

That the aerial dogfight was won was down to some outstanding flying by Lieutenant Ivanov, who out-manoeuvred the fighters with the heavier guncutter and allowed the Navigator to drop the rear ramp and use his warp-eye to assail the attackers so effectively that two crashed into each other, while another lost control and crashed into the sea. One, obviously damaged, turned tail and fled the scene, whilst another, out-manoeuvred by Ivanov's skill at the controls, over corrected before crashing into the unforgiving waters below, leaving the last aircraft to be shot down by Ivanov.

There was no sign of any survivors from the enemy aircraft, and in return we had taken some minor damage to the hull of our vessel, and those of us in the rear cabin who were unfortunate enough to succumb to the seductive power of the uncovered warp-eye, were left feeling weak and somewhat damaged. I did what I could for the injured and listened as the others discussed the identity of our mysterious attackers; the aircraft bore a small red star symbol that did not match any insignia listed in our intelligence cogitators as belonging any known faction. It looked as though this would need further investigation.


Ivanov suggested that we return to the Furnace of Redemption, however, I countered that we should continue with our planned meeting, after all, if Viscount Spry was not expecting us to arrive, we would have discovered our enemy. Hartek agreed with my assessment and we resumed our flight to Koho.

It was quickly evident that the Viscount was not behind the attack, as he and a group of his dignitaries were waiting for us and they all expressed shock when hearing of the attempt on our lives. Either that or he was cleverer than we gave him credit for, and was covering all angles...

The Koho Republic had fallen from power two generations previously, largely due to the autocratic style of governorship, and this fall was reflected in the architecture, which although fine and regal in appearance was obviously in need of some maintenance indicating that the finances had not been available to do so over recent years.

Spry himself was tall and thin, and had the typically aristocratic bearing seen around the Imperium, he wore a be-medalled uniform and sported a fine moustache. He obviously saw himself as a cut above the others of his world, but was very hospitable to us, offering us rooms in his palace to refresh ourselves. We all accepted, with the exception of Ivanov who elected to wait for the reinforcements he had called for. The Viscount accepted this without qualm, and even left the Lieutenant a guide to bring them all to us on their arrival.

Unfortunately, when asked, none amongst the Viscount's entourage could identify the faction represented by the symbol that the aircraft bore, so they surmised that the markings were either false, or that they belonged to some independent group they knew nothing of. However, they did profess surprise, as outside of the major factions no single force could even put six fighters into the air; the Viscount himself said that even at the height of their power, when the Koho Republic was the dominant faction on Orrema, they could only raise two squadrons of twelve aircraft each, and that was an absolute maximum.

As the conversation progressed, it became obvious that Viscount Spry wanted us as allies. His conversation was littered with phrases like "Opportunity abounds for those willing to make new allies, and those willing to take the step of new friendship" and "With the right support I could put right the betrayal of my family".

Hartek was candid with the Viscount, and support was offered to the Koho Republic as long as it was understood that once they had a dominant position on Orrema, the Viscount would be ruling as a Planetary Governor, with minimal outside interference, but in the name of House Dureen, and for the profit of both. Spry readily agreed to this and outlined his plans to take back the power his family had lost.

Effectively, he intended to make an example of some of the smaller factions, before striking one of the major factions hard.

Hartek nodded. "If I were to receive persuasive evidence pointing at those that attacked House Dureen then I could not fail to support any attack on the perpetrators..."

"My intelligence network is far reaching." Spry smiled, and told the Rogue Trader Regent "I have operatives imbedded in all the other cities. I'm certain that the evidence you require will be forthcoming. I will dispatch salvage teams to retrieve the wreckage of your attackers, no doubt we will find symbols and insignia of the enemy on those craft, and we will be able to tie it all together. You will have your evidence, Rogue Trader."

Ivanov spoke up. "Obviously the red star is misdirection, aimed to confuse matters..."

"Obviously!" Viscount Spry's smile got wider, as he realised that he was thinking along the same lines as the leaders of the Dureen Dynasty.

"In that case, Viscount Spry, I look forward to a long, profitable, and mutually beneficial association!" Hartek stood and shook the taller mans hand.

We returned to the Furnace of Redemption, and Hartek prepared to activate the "training team" units we had placed within the target settlements of the Merchel Trading House, simply picked by Hartek as they were assessed as being the slowest to react to a crisis. The troop’s orders were to decapitate the leadership of each city, integrating their actions with the external assaults when they were launched in a series of lightning attacks. However, first we would have to deal with the squatters on Home; three Cohorts of Dureen troops were given notice to prepare for action, with a fourth set to work as a mobile reserve.

As things are wont to do in the Expanse, however, events took an unexpected turn when we received an astropathic message from Port Wander. The Administratum there had heard rumours of the death of Rico Dureen, and were demanding the return of the Dureen Rogue Trader Warrant of Trade, and the confiscation of all the assets of the Dynasty. They had started by impounding The Lux and her cargo of Hartek fruit, and the Rogue Trader Regent was now left with a difficult situation to deal with from half a sector away.


++ End of record ++

 

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Hi all!!!

Next episode, FYI my work shifts are going crazy at the moment so the weekly game will be jumping around different days so the writeups might not come out as constant.

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

 


++ LOCATION: ORREMA, THE ORREMA SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++


There was little that we could do directly at such distance with the pressure that the Administratum was putting on the Dynasty, so the decision was made to call in a favour from the Inquisition, that organisation that had used our services so regularly. Interrogator Helbrech responded to our requests, and although he was unable to do anything himself, he passed the request along his chain of command, and the mysterious Inquisitor who he reported to agreed intercede on behalf of House Dureen. Of course, I do not think for a minute that this will be the end of the matter, and no doubt this Inquisitor will want something in return eventually.

However, as Hartek so eloquently phrased it; "If some Emperor-damned Inquisitor waltzes in and demands another Emperor-damned favour from us, whether we owe him one or not doesn't matter, effectively we have no real choice, so let's make the bastards work for us for a change!"

I cannot say that I find much to disagree with there...


We turned our attention to the matters we could deal with directly, and focussed on removing the Travellers from Home. The 5th, 11th and 12th Cohorts were ordered to prepare for action, and the 46th prepared to act as a reserve, with the Stormtroopers on standby to handle any surface ships that may choose to intervene. I attached myself to the mobile Field Medicarium units that had been setup in the back of a number of the guncutters, feeling that my talents would be best utilised in dealing with casualties, something that Calldia agreed with whole heartedly as this should keep me off the front lines. Air cover would be provided by several flights of guncutters and by Ivanov in the Fury interceptor. Viscount Spry was invited onto the Furnace of Redemption as an observer, and watched events unfold on the holo-projector as the images mirrored those on the planet.

Hartek had ordered a number of reconnaissance flights, and combined with Navigator Proscesu's map and the orbital auger scans we had developed a good understanding of the defensive organisation of the Travellers, and planned our deployments accordingly.

Operation Domestos, as the assault was named, began with a stirring speech from the Rogue Trader Regent which the troops seemed to enjoy and appreciate if the cheering is anything to judge by. The initial landing was split into two parts; 5th Cohort deploying in the south-west of Home with orders to hold the enemy that had been detected in that area, and the 11th and 12th Cohorts deployed to the south-east, with orders to overrun and destroy the enemy units there, before pushing North up the coast to destroy further Traveller units entrenched in the North East. All Cohorts would then push towards the centre of home to surround and defeat the remaining enemy units detected in that location. I attached a number of servo-skulls to the units to record the action, and chosen troopers had vid and pict capture devices attached to their helmets, for the purpose of creating an official record and for information broadcasts around Orrema once the operation was completed.

The initial landings were unopposed; however, as soon as the Dureen units moved off from the landing zones they came under effective fire and suffered some casualties. The soldiers pushed forwards, and supported by very effective attacks by the air cover against bunkers and other fortified ground positions, quickly achieved the initial aims of the landings. The southern half of Home was firmly under Dureen control, with the enemy in the south-east destroyed in the first four hours, with those in the south-west pinned into their defensive positions and their combat effectiveness being rapidly degraded. I deployed in the second wave, and am more than happy to report that the Field Medicarium performed flawlessly; over fifty percent of the casualties that reported to the facility were able to return to the frontlines within the hour, preserving the momentum of the attack. Of those that could not be returned to the battle, their swift treatment meant that their long term recovery was far more certain than it would otherwise have been.

The Omnissiah smiles on those that marshal their resources efficiently.

The surviving enemy forces attempted to disengage from the combat to retreat towards the other Traveller units, however, our people had read the battlefield well, and they found themselves pinned into position and unable to extract themselves from their perilous location. The superior training and equipment of House Dureen troops was obvious during this phase of the battle, and the hapless enemy units were destroyed in their defences. The battle-plan was holding well, and 11th and 12th Cohorts pushed north, with the 5th Cohort holding the high ground overlooking the remaining enemy dug in to the ruins and wooded areas towards the central region of Home.

The subsequent battle in the north of the island was more costly; the travellers had had longer to fortify their positions, and the Dureen troops had to advance over areas of clear ground, exposing them to the accurate defensive fire. While the final result of the battle here was the same as the previous ones, with the Travellers utterly defeated by the combined attentions of the ground troops and once again, effective air support, the gallant 11th Cohort suffered significant casualties.


Basilisk heavy artillery had been landed in the second wave and ordered to setup on the high ground in the South of Home. From here, their reach effectively covered the island in its entirety, meaning that they dominated the remaining known enemy positions. No attempt was made to camouflage their location; they were not necessarily there to be used, more as a demonstration of the availability of overwhelming firepower to demoralise the enemy. 5th Cohort were now effectively a screen for this artillery as their positions placed them between the Travellers defences and the high ground, essentially offering a disincentive for the enemy to try anything creative to negate this new threat. Realistically, the travellers were not in any sort of position to do anything about the big guns, however, a field commander who is over-confident has the tendency to lose battles, and Hartek had no intention of losing this battle.

The 12th Cohort pivoted south-west from the freshly defeated enemy and began to advance towards the remaining known Travellers who were being held in position by the 5th Cohort, leaving the depleted the 11th Cohort in charge of the prisoners that had been taken during Operation Domestos so far.

As the enemy positions began to be surrounded, Lieutenant Ivanov broadcast a vox message to Hartek; "Rogue Trader Regent, perhaps an approach should be made to the survivors that further bloodshed will achieve nothing...?"

Hartek paused a few seconds before replying. "A capital suggestion Number One, I hereby authorise you to act as my representative in these talks!"

I am sure that I heard muted swearing from Ivanov's vox feed.

The First Officer skilfully piloted the Fury interceptor to a touchdown in the landing zone, and commandeered a vehicle to take him to the 5th Cohort positions. At the same time, the reserve Cohort, the 46th were deployed to replace the decimated 11th in the North, and the Stormtroopers were called into action to take the surface ships at anchor around Home. As they moved into position from the Furnace of Redemption it became clear that the majority of the Travellers were ashore, so the ships were brought under House Dureen control in short order leaving the enemy still on the island completely stranded, and with no means of escape.

On arrival at the 5th Cohort positions, Ivanov wasted no time in requesting parley with the leader of the surviving Travellers. The meeting was agreed, and accompanied by one of my servo-skulls, dispatched to record the meeting so we would have proof of our attempts to end the conflict by all means necessary should we need it, the First Officer cautiously headed to the neutral meeting place. Waiting for him was a young looking man covered in some form of crude war paint, and carrying a lasgun, (obviously one of the weapons supplied by that damned interfering Haderak Fel) to which he had added a number of colourful feathers for some unknown reason.

Before the First Officer could open his mouth the young man spoke, his voice shrill; "We will never surrender to you invaders!"

Ivanov looked at him, and slowly reached into a pocket and retrieved a hip-flask, from which he took a swig.

"Drink?" He asked the Traveller, raising an eyebrow. There was no response, so Ivanov continued; "Now there are a couple of things we can do. We can take you out from orbit, like we destroyed the ship a few weeks ago. We can bomb and strafe you like we've done to the other units in this area. We can put an assault in over land. Or we can bombard you from distance using those..." He indicated the Basilisks. "Or, and this is worth thinking on, we can all stand down, you can join your compatriots who have already agreed to come with us on our great adventure, and no-one else needs to die!"

The young man looked thoughtful, but still suspicious.

"You do realise" Ivanov continued, "That it's not us that want you away from here? It's the city folk who have got tired of the raiding, and asked us to remove you... If you come with us, you'd be actively encouraged to do what you have been so far... But on a grander scale!"

"We've heard the fighting!" The young man finally responded. "We know you've lost many men! We'll defeat you too..."

Ivanov smiled sadly, "We've lost men, but not as many as you think, our medicae facilities are better than you assume. And we now hold most of this island; your compatriots are dead or have surrendered. And we can deploy reinforcements whenever we like."

"The other tribes are not as dedicated as us! I am not surprised they surrendered..." The Traveller shot back.

"It's a shame that you seem most concerned about the differences between your own people. And the differences you have with us..." Ivanov said thoughtfully. "We simply see the similarities, the common ground that we share, and the potential! All I ask is you discuss the offer with your people, and we meet again in an hour to continue the conversation."

The young man paused again. "Two hours." He stated, and when Ivanov nodded, he turned on his heel and walked away.


The Rogue Trader Regent called a command conference over the vox network, and once I had patched all the feeds in, we began to discuss the possibilities that had been raised by Ivanov's conversation with the young Traveller leader. After several minutes of discussion and clarification, Hartek stunned us all with a suggestion.

"Why don't we get hold of a small ship or two for them, and let them do what they do on this world for us, except around the Expanse? Leave them independent, but tied in to our House, and with a certain amount of duty to us?"

I paused, then spoke, "Use them as explorers? That could work... We would need to train them first though..."

Hartek spoke again; "Agreed. They would need to learn the skills to operate a star-ship, but "explorers" would be a good way to describe what I have in mind..."

The more we considered the idea, the better it seemed, and with Hartek taking the lead, we all made our way to the agreed parley point.

The same young man who had spoken to Ivanov appeared once again, flanked by half a dozen of his fellows. Hartek nodded a greeting, and then with the minimum of preamble and fuss made the offer. The Travellers seemed shocked at first, but readily agreed to a truce as they liked the idea that was being presented; they agreed to vacate Home and board their ships to discuss the offer in more detail with all the tribes scattered around the world. I suggested to the Rogue Trader Regent that we give anyone who wished a limited tour of the Furnace of Redemption, accompanied by some of the Travellers who had already agreed to work with the Dynasty so they could get an idea of life upon a void-faring vessel; Hartek considered the idea for a second, and nodded, passing the offer on to our potential allies.

I turned my attention to the Travellers' wounded, and with permission of their leadership, and the Rogue Trader Regent arranged for them to be transported to our Aid Posts to be treated by the medicae staff there. Instructions were given that the enemy wounded be given the same care and attention as our own injured, which it appeared was appreciated by all concerned. I do not know what else the fleshbags expected, it is clearly inefficient to let large numbers of wounded die, or remain ineffective; a simple grasp of logic and statistics should make that clear, however, the Omnissiah works in mysterious ways, and if they think better of us for preserving the lives of potential allies, then so be it.

The Rogue Trader Regent stressed to the Travellers that the offer we were making was time sensitive as the Dynasty had various other irons in the fire, and could not neglect those while they prevaricated over the offer. I offered a communication device that the Travellers could fit to each of their ships, which would give them the ability to communicate directly to the Furnace of Redemption should they have any questions, which they accepted, along with the notion that they had limited time to accept, or reject our offer; they said that they would have an answer for us within a standard month. Of course, an additional benefit of the communication devices I had created was that they allowed us to track the ships from our position in orbit with the minimum of fuss. Negotiations concluded, we parted on surprisingly cordial terms.


Viscount Spry seemed to be suitably impressed by both our military and diplomatic efforts, and appeared to feel that he had made the correct decision in allying with us. He had obviously been paying attention during his previous discussions with Hartek, as when asked by the Rogue Trader Regent whether his intelligence network had discovered the identity of our attackers of a few days previously, he nodded, before speaking.

"Rogue Trader Hartek, I am ashamed to have to report to you that my agents have uncovered evidence that one of my fellow leaders was behind the dastardly assault!" Looking suitably grave, he continued; "I can hardly believe that any faction would try to kill travellers to our world, but the proof I have is irrefutable, and it pains me to say that it was the Merchel Trading House that betrayed our world so heinously!"

Hartek sat down before responding. "I, for one, am shocked and disappointed..."

"As am I..." Spry nodded sadly.

"What are your feelings Number One?" Hartek asked Lieutenant Ivanov.

"Sir, I am shocked and disappointed. Perhaps we should do something about it..." Ivanov responded.

As I watched the exchange, I could not help but agree with Calldia when he muttered "They may be masters of politics, intrigue, and military matters, but they will never be actors..."

"It's a shame that some of our men didn't get to flex their muscles on Home." Hartek mused, "Perhaps they'll enjoy some exercise now..."


The Command Staff were summoned to develop a strategy, which was effectively in two parts. We were to begin with a charm offensive on the Merchel population, appealing to those amongst it who felt stagnated by the slow processes which the Trading House seemed to rely on; we aimed at the younger more dynamic generation, painting a more prosperous picture for the future, inviting those with an interest to visit the Furnace of Redemption and spend time with selected representatives, in the same way that we had allowed the Travellers to visit. Once we had managed to separate the views of the Elders from the wider, younger, population Hartek would call, and attend, a diplomatic meeting on Orrema. He would publicly accuse the Merchel leadership of being responsible for the attack in the meeting, and respond to any perceived the threat there and then. I would be standing by on the teleportarium to transport troops to the designated location, as reinforcements to rapidly overwhelm any opposition. Additional troops from the infantry Cohorts would be ready to deploy from guncutters to seize key points within the Merchel cities.

As the planning session broke up, Orbest Dray was waiting for Hartek. "My Lord. The witch wishes to speak to you! He says it's urgent, and is waiting in the Dome."

I reflected that were I the Astropath, I would take exception to that name. And yes Calldia, I do know that the crew refer to the followers of the Holy Omnissiah as "Cog-boys", which is generally inaccurate when there are a large number of female adepts too. I am more offended by the inaccuracy than the name itself; after all, it is a great honour to be a follower of the Cog, is it not?


Astropath Golgotha was waiting as we entered the huge domed chamber, indeed, the door opened before we had chance to request entry. He was dressed in white robes with blue and black trimmings, and wore an Aquila amulet; his acolytes stood around him in a semi-circle, their heads bowed. There were trinkets, and parchments of Holy texts, some written in blood, attached to what appeared to be every surface, a mix of different incense burners in different areas of the chamber, and there were devotional phrases scrawled in High Gothic across the walls. One section was filled with plants, and seemed to create a pool of tranquillity, but the chamber as a whole seemed as strange to me as Hold 51 where the Orks had taken up residence.

"Master Golgotha!" Hartek's voice broke the silence. "You summoned us?"

The Astropath nodded. "Thank you for coming at such short notice, Lord Captain. I have an urgent message which I thought would be of interest..."

The door behind us closed with a soft thud.

"Do continue Master Golgotha!" Hartek prompted.

The Astropaths surrounding the Choir Master Telepahica began to chant quietly, and although there were definite words present in the chant, as the strange energies swirled around the room, for some reason I was unable to hear the words clearly enough to decipher them. Golgotha joined the chant, and then suddenly, one after another they entire Choir began to call out words; the overall effect was unnerving as the different voices rose and fell, and although spoken in a staccato sentence, the message just seemed to be a garbled collection of random words. After five minutes of the nonsense, the choir went quite, and puzzled I looked at Hartek, not quite understanding what I was supposed to make of what had happened; I certainly could not decipher anything of use from the noise we had just been subjected to.

Suddenly, my attention was drawn back to the Choir in the centre of the chamber as one of the Astropaths spoke a few Low Gothic words in a hollow disassociated voice; he fell silent and one of his colleagues spoke a few more words in the same manner, then fell silent, then another, and another, until eventually a full message was produced in a most unnerving form as each Astropath spoke and fell silent. Throughout the chorus of voices, the message flowed uninterrupted as though each mouth was controlled by a single, guiding, intelligence yet the voice that spoke it sprang from one random mouth to another, changing so regularly it was difficult to pinpoint which person spoke each section. The disorientating effect was still present in the recordings I have of the encounter, kept to make sure I understood what was happening, and I do not enjoy watching them back.

I have transcribed the message in its entirety here so that I do not have to refer back to the strange meeting again;

"Author; Governor, the Honourable Lord Belkan Kapak, 20th Heir of the Damaris throne, Lion of the Highland Fields. Encryption Level, None. Message Begins. To all available Imperial and affiliated Rogue Trader Vessels within range. Being a loyal system to his most Holy Majesty the Emperor of Man, Governor Kapak requests the aid and succour from Imperial assets against the Xenos-threat known as the Ork. Damaris is preparing to resist an impending invasion by the wretched greenskins who are massing outside of the system. We ask for any assistance in the form of ships, supplies, manpower, arms and expertise so that we may protect the Emperors worlds from the depredation of this horrid and unclean horde. Governor Kapak in his most magnanimous foresight promises to reward any such aid with the wealth of his planet. Know that Damaris is a rich planet and will reward her allies greatly. Message Ends."

"A call for help Rogue Trader." I stated, after a pause to steady myself. "And potential for profit, influence, and new allies..."

Hartek nodded. "Indeed!" He turned towards Golgotha; "Thank you Choir Master for your sterling service."

"My service is to the Throne, and the Dynasty. As always." Golgotha replied.

"As is all of ours." Hartek smiled, and turned to the rest of us. "To the chart room, then!"

Golgotha joined us, and relayed what he knew of Damaris as we headed to the Cartographer; both Hartek and I had some knowledge already, and between the three of us we managed to develop a reasonably detailed background. Damaris was a relatively rare case in the Koronus Expanse as it had aligned itself with the Imperial cause, and having succeeded, grown into a thriving world. While not officially part of the Imperium, the societal structures in place dove-tailed exactly with Imperial organisations, and the population considered themselves members of the Imperium of Man, a happy coincidence as the world was known to be rich in mineral resources, always in demand by the Imperial industry.

The strangest thing about the message that the choir Master had received was that although Damaris was known to be located within The Cauldron, some thirty days warp travel away and closer to the Foundling Worlds than to our base of operations in Footfall, the message seemed to originate much closer, perhaps only six days warp travel, to our current location within Winterscales Realm.

"Perhaps there is some sort of warp anomaly, or gate in that region..." Hartek mused, mostly to himself, I am sure. He turned to us and spoke more clearly; "We put our plans for Orrema into action tomorrow."


We prepared to move on towards Damaris, and in parallel ran our public relations campaign against the elders of the Merchel Trading House, which began to have an almost immediate impact as the younger generations responded to the dynamic message that House Dureen was giving. Part way through the week Hartek requested that the Merchel leaders and others of influence assemble in the Council auditorium as he wished to address them. They were eager to hear him speak, so much so that those not immediately invited clamoured to be included too.

The Rogue Trader and his retinue were greeted by the Merchel elders in a guarded manner, obviously not being unaware of the effect that House Dureen was having on their population, however, they were cordial and respectful. I kept an eye on the proceedings via my usual vid-link with Hartek. As well as the thirty elders, there were around a hundred others of position, and thirty armed guards, who did not appear to be overly alert.

1st Cohort were standing by in the teleportarium chamber, preparing to deploy in small teams, each with orders to detain everyone within the Council rooms, and only using lethal force if threatened. Viscount Spry had procured detailed plans of the Merchel chambers, and the troops had used these in rehearsal stage of the planning of the strike until they were thoroughly familiar with the target building.

Hartek stood to address the audience, and spoke in a clear, loud voice; "Gentlemen. Gentlemen! Pah! And ladies Of the Council of Elders."

Immediately there was a rustle of unease throughout the room.

"I came to your world as a traveller from the stars, seeking friendship, and a peaceful, mutually profitable co-existence." Hartek continued. "I extended unto you the hand of friendship of House Dureen. And you have slapped it away!"

The unease was replaced by shocked gasps, and startled looks.

"You have slapped it away in the most insidious and invidious manner! Perhaps not all of you are guilty, but there are those among you who will know of the attack on my person. You will know of it because you were responsible for it!"

Cries of denial rang out from the Elders, whilst others around the chamber had covered their mouths with their hands, unable to hide their surprise.

"I have incontrovertible proof..." Hartek slammed the book he had been holding onto the lectern he was standing behind, and the sharp crack cut through all the protests and denials that rang out from the Elders, forcing silence from the Merchellians.

"I have incontrovertible proof! Do you compound your calumny with further deception and denials? And now with a heavy heart, I find I am forced into action. I believe that this council no longer has the moral right to govern the honourable people of Merchel without stronger, more moral guidance..."

I triggered the Teleportarium the instant Hartek used the key phrase, and strike team after strike team were deployed to their target locations, each arriving precisely where intended.

As the troops began to materialise, the Rogue Trader Regent began to detail the full evidence to his shocked audience. One guard was foolish enough to attempt to intervene, raising his shotgun, and was quickly dispatched by the Dureen troops for his trouble, and others who attempted to offer resistance met the same fate. Unfortunately during the chaos that resulted several of the more quick-witted Elders managed to get clear and make good their escape, however, casualties outside of the security forces were remarkably light. As I had triggered the teleportarium, I had relayed the order for the other Cohorts to deploy from the already transiting guncutters and take their targets. They met no resistance, and in some cases were greeted with open arms.

Once the key areas were secured, the Rogue Trader Regent broadcast a message from the central vid-station, outlining what had happened, and why he had acted. He was apologetic to the people, and said he had only acted to prevent such an honourable and admirable populous being further led astray by weak and fearful leaders.

He signed off with "People of Merchel, we have tolerated it previously, but no more! Regrettably we have been forced into action by your corrupt, self-serving and insidious leadership, and have been forced to intervene and remove them. The people of Merchel can now know true freedom, true opportunity and true justice. My only wish is that I could have done this for you sooner."

It was quickly clear that he had hit the right tone; the population were shocked by, and condemned the actions that their erstwhile leaders had taken. They demanded the removal of a number of the societal structures the old regime had put in place, something Hartek was happy help them with, and they even turned over fugitives to Dureen troops. The people were happy to accept the protection of House Dureen at this critical time in their history, and even recognised Viscount Spry as the representative of the Dynasty.

The Elders that had been captured during the coup were transported to the Furnace of Redemption, and while I am not entirely certain what their fate was, I did notice that the Orks in Hold 51 seemed to gain some new human helpers.

The other City States were shocked by events in Merchel, however with the exception of the Coam Federation who had allied themselves to House Fel, they took great pains to make perfectly clear to the Rogue Trader Regent that they considered themselves allies and trading partners with him. Viscount Spry, as befitting his new role of Planetary Governor, was then tasked to bring all the factions of Orrema together, and ensure that they worked towards a single goal; the prosperity of Orrema, and by extension the prosperity Dureen Rogue Trader Dynasty.

As Hartek phrased it, "Viscount Spry, by the time we return here I expect the Coam Federation to have at the very least, disavowed their links to Fel, and the world to be united under our umbrella! I will leave 11th Cohort and a flight of guncutters to aid you in your task. Do not waste these resources."

Colonel Senf of the depleted 11th Cohort was ordered to screen and recruit from the Orremnians in our name, and Hartek left him one final instruction. "If Viscount Spry decides he longer wishes to abide with terms of our agreement, remove him."

The Colonel clicked his heels and acknowledged the instructions.

As we were making the final preparations to leave Orremnian space we received a message from the Travellers; over forty-thousand had decided to accept our offer to explore the stars. They were left with instructions to gather a thousand of their brightest and best to be assessed and screened by small cadres of specialists that we detached to the world, in preparation for our return from Damaris when we could begin to train them so that they could crew their own warp-capable vessels. Colonel Senf was given the overall command of the cadres we left behind, and left to make the arrangements for transporting such large numbers of people to the new training centres.


A week later we jumped into the warp from the edge of the Orremnian system and began our journey to answer the call for aid from Damaris.

Although not as smooth as some of our more recent journeys had been we initially travelled along known warp routes, taking us through other systems we had previously explored, and allowing us to check-in with our representatives via one form of communication or other at each stage. However, it was when we hit the unknown route towards the anomaly that things began to get strange.

I was focussed on the some maintenance sweeps when I noticed a sudden fluctuation in the Gellar field, which lasted for a fraction of a second, before settling out again. I immediately contacted the bridge, warning of a potential problem. All acknowledged my warning, except the Rogue Trader Regent, who had apparently retired to his quarters, and so I turned my attention to further diagnosing the problem, and attempted to detect the source of the fluctuation. As I was doing so the First Officer contacted via the vox warning me that the Choir Master had just staggered onto the bridge, looking drained and dishevelled, and issuing a dire warning. Ivanov replayed the automatic recording that the cogitators on the bridge make of any conversation, to allow me to judge the full importance for myself.

"There is a presence on the ship! I can feel it! It is as if a spark has just lit itself! It draws the attention of the powers that should not be named, we need to snuff it out before it brings doom on us!"

Golgotha demanded Ivanov accompany him to search for the "spark" of which he had spoken. I acknowledged the warning, and began to run a systems check, deck by deck, and level by level throughout the ship. I was quickly able to pinpoint some anomalous readings from the cold storage areas of the Furnace of Redemption, however all the surveillance devices I had in place there were simply transmitting white noise and static, and once again, the Gellar Field began to fluctuate.

I raised Ivanov on the vox, and directed him to this area, but he reported that the Astropath was already guiding them there, muttering of a "Strong presence". I diverted power from non-essential systems to the Gellar Field in an attempt to restabilise our protection from the fiends of the warp, and made fruitless attempts to reactivate my surveillance devices. Suddenly, the centre of disruption detected by both the Astropath and myself, seemed to focus on Hartek's quarters.

I have no record of what happened next, and was forced to piece together events from official verbal and written post-event reports, and some accidentally decrypted personal logs, to get an idea of events, however, as far as I can ascertain, what follows is an accurate summary of events.

Gothgotha staggered towards the door, supported by Ivanov, and between them they forced it open; they were greeted by the sight of the Rogue Trader Regent scrambling to his fleet, and reaching for his axe.

Ivanov, concern in his voice shouted "Trader! We have something from the warp aboard!" His last words almost drowned in a booming noise.

The room and corridor were suddenly swept with immensely strong winds and all three men were forced to hold on to firmly anchored fixtures, and then from nowhere sprang a rain of blood.

"I know!" Hartek shouted back, "It's taken on the form of Dureen!"

Ivanov had support the Astropath, who began to shout at Hartek; "Lord Captain! Close your mind! Your mind is a feast for the creatures of the warp!"

Hartek dragged his head to stare at Golgotha; "What are you saying, man? You're talking nonsense!"

"You are drawing them!" Golgotha's voice became more desperate. "Like blood would draw a shark!"

"Then let them come!" Hartek bellowed. "I'll face them down! I fear no ruinous power! Let them come!"

The pressure of the winds increased, and Golgotha shouted at Ivanov; "Steady me!"

The First Officer grasped the Astropath by his robes, and shouted at Hartek; "Look! It's Dureen. Behind you!"

Unable to resist, Hartek glanced over his shoulder, and there seeing nothing, turned back, starting to speak; "What do you mean? There's no-one th..." right into a blow from the Astropath's staff.

The Rogue Trader Regen was knocked off his feet and deposited in a heap on the floor, unconscious. Instantly, the winds died out, and the blood faded from reality. In my position in the engineerium, I saw the Gellar Field return to normal operation, and twenty-two point four seconds later, all my surveillance devices sprang back to life.

I was greeted with the sight of Hartek in a heap on the floor of his quarters, slowly attempting to get to his feet, a very confused look on his face. The room was silent, and I was about to check the audio feed when I noticed the Astropath examining himself closely, he glanced over to the slow moving form of the Rogue Trader Regent.

"What is the meaning of this?" he demaded. His words trailed away, and he glanced at the Rogue Trader Regent again, before speaking in a quieter voice; "What? What? Number One... I... What?"

"Choir Master? Are you hurt?" Ivanov asked

Golgotha looked utterly confused; "What? Choir Master?" He limped over to the mirror on the wall, put his hand to his face, and spoke again. "Oh boy!"

Ivanov rushed over to the struggling form of Hartek, still trying to get to his feet; "Rogue Trader?"

"Yes?" the Astropath answered from behind him, and then suddenly staggered again.

"Rogue Trader?" Ivanov asked again, looking from one figure to another, as confused now as the others in the room.

This time Hartek answered; "I think so!"


Later on, having reviewed the records, I knew that I had missed something when my surveillance devices were non-functional, and that the official reports were similarly incomplete, however when sorting through the ships cogitators and decrypting some operational files, I retreived, and accidentally included into the decryption routines, the Rogue Trader Regent's personal diary entry for this part of our travels. The section concerned with the events I have just reported makes very interesting reading so I have included it here to fill in the blanks;

 

 

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+ + + There's some as cling to the notion that a man's dreams are the product of his own subconscious mind, an outpouring of his own guilty secrets and hidden fears.

Trollocks to that. I had a vision. Visions aren't just for poncey, skinny prophet types. That ex-Astartes who was running around with the Inquisitor, he had visions too and the Inquisitor seemed to take stock by 'em. Ain't no Astartes anyone could ever call poncey, 'cept possibly for them Dark Angels. Anyway, I reckon what I had was a vision of something that hasn't happened yet, that might not happen if we can stop it. Castagir changed what happened in his vision, so I figure we can do the same.

I was in my quarters, resting. Well I had eaten first, and drunk a little. It was the Hartek fruit, from the planet of the Dropas, that I find so refreshing. Nothing wrong with that. We were in the warp, and that little **** Ivanov was running the bridge so efficiently there was bugger-all to do until we get to our destination. So retired to my cabin, hit the "Do Not Disturb" button and had myself a slice or two.

At the start of the vision I was looking down into a cold room. So cold, I could feel it chilling my blood. I looked down and into the room. It looked like a Freezarium, the walls lined with foodstuffs preserved for a long journey. There was a figure in the room, walking towards the door, as if to leave. There were wisps of smoke coming off him. Maybe steam, but I swear I could smell the brimstone from my disembodied position. I couldn't see his face at first, but then he stopped and slowly turned around. He looked towards me as if he could see me, and smiled evilly.

"No!" I found myself screaming. "You're dead!" The obviously dead figure of Rico Dureen grinned wider and I could see the sharp points of his elongated teeth and the demonic glow around his eyes. His ice-cold frozen corpse was now almost glowing with infernal energy. He nodded towards me, as if acknowledging my ethereal presence.

"No! Your time has gone. This is my ship now! My Dynasty! I won't let you take it away from me!" In response he simply turned away and reached out to touch the door. Where he touched by the lock, the metal started to glow red, then white hot. Molten metal started to puddle on the floor as he burned his way out of his icy prison.

"No!" I cried once more. "Go back!" But then it was too late, as the possessed Dureen lashed out with a foot and smashed the door open before striding out into the ship to wreak his revenge.

Then suddenly I was overcome with dizziness, and found myself falling, and awoke momentarily to find myself crumpled naked on the deck-plates in my cabin, a goblet half clutched in my left hand, its contents spilled out over the floor. I tried vainly to drag myself to my feet, but wave after wave of dizziness swept over me. Now I've always been able to hold my drink, drugs or whatever else is available. I remember there was this one time on Pylos with the old 48th where I got meself into a drinking contest with an Ogryn Sergeant... but that's another story. Anyway no amount of wine or Hartek fruit had ever effected me like that, and I wondered briefly if Ivanov had made his move at last by poisoning my meal.

It was then that I detected a foul odour, the likes of which I couldn't possibly begin to describe, but so strong and pungent that it made my eyes water. I blinked to clear my vision, then all of a sudden I had the feeling of falling again and on opening my eyes I found myself looking down upon a dusty desert plain, flanked on all sides by mountains. Moments later I was standing on the ground looking up at the sky, where a bright ruddy star shone down and a vague, greeny-blue glowing mass, scattered across the breadth of the heavens, visible even in the daylight.

Looking across the plain, I saw several plumes of dust being thrown up, as if by some fast moving vehicles. I ran towards them, stumbling down the loose sand of a dune, until I could get a better view of them. As they grew closer, I could make out the forms of three chopper bikes, speeding across the dusty landscape, their course parallel to my current position. Thinking that they were scouts from the 7th Cohort sent out to rescue me, I let out a great shout and waved my hands in the air to attract their attention.

They didn't seem to notice me, but continued on their course weaving through the broken and barren terrain. I ran after them, somehow able to keep pace and even gain on them, and as I grew closer, I realised that these were not the Malfian humans of the 7th, but were in fact of my own people. Squats! Their short, rotund bodies and extensive beards could be nothing but Homo-Sapiens Rotundus, the abhumans of my race long thought lost to the depredations of the Tyranids. Somehow they had survived the apocalypse and made their home on this dusty, barren world.

"Stop!" I cried. "I'm one of you." But still they didn't notice me, continuing on their path which I now saw led them towards a huge rock face that had been carved out into the form of a mighty fortress.

Suddenly the skies darkened and a shadow was cast over the riders. I looked up to see at least half a dozen ships appearing in the sky overhead. Their vast forms were corrupted and distorted with spikes and fins and other features that I knew marked these vessels as those in the service of the Powers That Be Not Named, like the cruiser we had faced in the Sapphirus system. Again I cried out to my brothers.

"No! Come back! Don't go there, it's not safe!" But again they failed to heed my warning, but seeing the Chaos ships arriving overhead, spread out slightly and gunned their machines into even greater speed. I tried to run after them, but tripped on a stone and fell, skidding into the dust and dirt. Pulling myself up to my knees I cried out once more in a weakened and croaking voice. "Come back."

There was a flash and a crack of thunder, and a searing white bolt of energy pierced the sky, scattering clouds and heading straight for the rocky fortress. It struck, and scoured the very bones of the world, eliminating all trace of the habitation that had been there moments before. A vast cloud of dust and debris was picked up and hurled outwards from the blast site. The three riders slammed their vehicles into sliding brakes, but before they had time to flee the blast-wave swept over them and they were obliterated. Moments later the blast reached my position and I felt myself lifted bodily into the air and hurled several meters across the desert, only to slam into the cold, hard deck-plates back in my cabin aboard the Furnace of Redemption.

I hauled myself to my feet, and moments later the door to my cabin opened and there was Lieutenant Ivanov, weapon in hand. Thinking that he had made his move and come to finish me off in my poison-weakened state, I reached for my battle-axe. No-one was going to give this squat the bloody Emperor's Peace without losing a few extremities first, but then he spoke.

"Trader! We have something from the Warp aboard."

At these words there was a mighty boom and a blast of force ripped through the room. I barely managed to keep my feet and saw that Ivanov was doing the same, while struggling to keep hold of the Choir-Master who had apparently accompanied him. A mighty howling wind whipped up through the cabin, and as if from no-where, the room was suddenly awash with a rain of blood.

Something told me Ivanov might be right in his assessment.

"I know." I shouted over the howling wind. "It's taken on the form of Dureen." Ivanov seemed momentarily baffled by the reference to my predecessor, but then he'd only had the official story about Dureen deserting his duties. He couldn't know that Rico Dureen's corpse was in fact hidden in a Freezarium aboard the Furnace of Redemption and now, as I sincerely believed, possessed by a warp demon that threatened the very safety of the ship.

Choir-Master Golgotha forced his frail body into the cabin, gripping tightly on the doorframe to secure himself against the storm. "Lord Captain!" he shouted, "Close your mind. Your mind is a feast for the creatures of the warp!" Now there have been many things said regarding my intellect over the years, but it has never been described as "a feast".

"What are you saying, man?" I shouted. "You're talking nonsense!"

"You are drawing them. Like blood would draw a shark."

"Then let them come!" I cried, hefting my battleaxe. "I'll face them all down." The battle-rage was upon me now, and the learned sophistication of the Trader's rank fell away and I was who I had always been. Kilgrim Hartek. Warrior. "I fear no ruinous power! Let Them Come!" At this point I was ready to take on whatever the demons of the warp could throw at me, but was unready for the machinations of the trickster Ivanov who pointed behind me.

"Look! It's Dureen. Behind you!" Having already been transported to a distant desert world on this day, I was ready to believe anything could happen. I span ready to do battle with my demon-infected predecessor, only to see a blank wall covered in blood. My wits slowed by a combination of the Hartek juice, the infernal storm and what had been so far shaping up into a really crappy day, it took me a moment to register that there was no-one there, before I turned back.

"What do you mean? There's no-one th..." And that was when the Astropath's staff struck me in the face and everything went black.

I opened my eyes to find myself already standing unsteadily, being held upright by Lieutenant Ivanov.

"What is the meaning of this?" I shouted, then turned to look Ivanov in the eyes.

Without looking up.

Something was very wrong. My cabin was smaller than before, the ceiling lower and more claustrophobic. All traces of the storm had vanished, but as I moved to look around I felt the constant jabbing of pain from all my joints. Looking down, at the end of long spindly legs covered in robes, I saw my feet.

As a new wave of dizziness hit, I leaned on my staff for support.

"What?" I managed. Then again. "What?" Looking around the cabin, I saw a short, rotund and bearded figure lying crumpled and naked in the corner. My mind clawed desperately to make sense of the scene "Number One.... I .... What?" Ivanov was still at my side.

"Choir-Master? Are you hurt?" he asked.

"What? Choir-Master?" I could scarcely make sense of what was happening. I hobbled across the cabin to a mirror, and there looking back at me was the wizened form of Choir-Master Golgotha. I bent slightly, and put a hand to the wrinkled face I now wore. Looking back at me with empty, burned out eye sockets, I heard the Astropath speak in my voice "Oh boy." I was dimly aware of Ivanov moving to help my former body to its feet.

"Rogue Trader?" he asked.

"Yes." I replied by instinct. Ivanov seemed momentarily confused, but then moments later there was a flash of intense pain and I found myself back in my own body.

"Rogue Trader?" he asked again, looking from me to the body of the Astropath I had briefly occupied.

"I think so." I replied, though it was only some time later that I was able to convince myself of this.

So that's what happened, my vision of a possessed Dureen, the Squat colony on a world blasted by Chaos. I can only hope that this was a vision of things yet to come, that by bold action we may yet avert the colony's destruction and save my people. The rest of the crew can't know that this is what drives me, they wouldn't understand. Or worse, might suspect I am possessed by the ruinous powers myself. We're already committed to the relief of Damaris, but once our business there is concluded I intend to take the Furnace there with such forces as I can muster to try to save my brothers. I have consulted Commander Jace our Carto-Artifex and between us have identified a likely candidate for this system in Winterscale's Realm, with an orange sun in the shadow of a mighty nebula. I can only hope we arrive in time.


Personal log entry end. Save and encrypt. Keyphrase: "Blessed is he who in the name of the Emperor shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brothers' keeper and the finder of lost children." + + +

+ + + Addendum: Not enough. Can't risk it. The buggers will think I've lost me wits. Erase last entry, double security protocol then mark storage media for destruction and replacement. Authorisation Hartek-One. I'm sorry, my friend Nicander, but this is one entry I cannot let even you, my dearest friend, just "stumble across" as you do. Your boundless curiosity will have to remain unsatisfied and be replaced with obedience to the Trader's Throne. For am I not my brothers' keeper? + + +


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Kilgrim was right, with that level of encryption, followed by a deletion, it would have been more work and time than it was worth, however, it is rare that it is the file structure in the cogitators themselves I search, it is the data traps in the buffers. No-one ever thinks to purge them.

For the record, I do not think he has lost his wits; when you are not seen as exactly normal by those around you, I understand the drive to discover those that are your kin. I am considered an anomaly even by others within the Adeptus Mechanicus, and I am ninety seven point three percent certain that I was attached to this Dynasty as a form of exile. While I would not say I am "obedient" to the Trader's Throne, I am certainly loyal to my friend who occupies it. I find it strange to use that word again; since the death of Yorrick, himself a victim of the servants of the ruinous powers, I have not considered any other a friend, and I will keep his secret; even he will never know that I know.


++ End of record ++

 

 

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We will wait... but if you tarry too much, I shall release the hounds of hell on you!

Administrum shall ask you to give us a complete inventory of your crew, holds and maybe a dip in your recreation area... you are bound to have brought back a few interesting "specimen" on that journey of yours!

 ---+++---

Nice read as always keep hem coming... PPLLLEEEEAAASSEEEE..... master

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The hounds finally caught up with me so below is the next installment gran_risa.gif

SPOLIER WARNING - We are now playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

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

 


++ LOCATION: THE WARP, EN ROUTE FROM ORREMA TO THE DETECTED WARP ANOMALY, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

Hartek, obviously still shaken by his experiences called for his personal guard, and then ordered a complete search of the Furnace of Redemption to search for the "Warp-entity that was impersonating the old Rogue Trader". I had my suspicions that Hartek himself would search the freezarium chamber where we had left Dureen's remains in storage, as it did seem to match the description of the hold in the vision he wrote about in his diary.

The Choir Master had obviously been harder hit by the strange events, and was collapsed in the corner of Hartek's state-room, repeating prayers in a frantic, mumbling voice, seemingly oblivious to the people around him. Ivanov attempted to engage with him, but receiving no response from the catatonic man, arranged for a pair of the Astropathic Acolytes to escort him back to his Choir in the hope that they could do something for him.

I was correct in my assessment of the Rogue Trader Regent's priorities; leaving the First Officer to arrange the ship-wide search he took four of his Housecarls into the freezarium. It was immediately obvious that his vision was more than just a wild imagination, as the chamber was precisely as Hartek had seen it, complete with melted lock and blackened footprints. As soon as Hartek had made his discovery, he contacted the command staff to raise the alert level warning that the Dureen impersonator could be anywhere. Remembering the interference that the false Rogue Trader had caused on my monitoring network, I scanned all those I had in place around the ship, and was able to discover that a trail of devices leading towards the lower holds of the ship had been blinded for a few minutes before returning to nominal operation. Unfortunately, my devices were far sparser in this area, as there was nothing of critical import located here, so all I was able to do was pass on the direction of travel, and rough location to the Rogue Trader Regent. Still, as Calldia reminded me, it was far more information he had previously had. I did caution however, that the interference had occurred almost twenty standard minutes previously, a timescale that coincided with Hartek and the Astropath's bizarre experience, and so the trail may not be the most accurate. As a compromise I dispatched a team of my servo-skulls to aid Hartek by scouting ahead of his team; one equipped with an auspex, one a vid- and pict-capture device, and the third armed with a las-pistol to provide limited protection, and they were received gratefully.

The search was fruitless, so the Rogue Trader Regent tasked the Chief Bosun. Johannes Vitteberg, with dispatching teams on regular patrols to continue it; Vitteberg contacted the Twist Catcher, Carl Jherek as he was more familiar with these less travelled paths in the holds, and an efficient search plan was devised.

I turned my attention to attempting to aid the Choir Master, and ordered him transferred to the Apothecarium so his condition could be properly monitored. It was clear that the man was not physically damaged, but that his problems lay within his mind, so I suggested that the members of his choir should take turns sitting with him in an attempt to reach him, and draw him from his shell, which they agreed to do. I would continue to monitor the situation and spend whatever time I could to try to find any other ways to help him, as until I did I knew that the Astropathic Choir would be less effective without their Master.


++ LOCATION: WARP ANOMALY SPACE, WINTERSCALES REALM ++

We dropped out of the Warp into the location that had been charted as the probable location of the warp anomaly from which the message from Damaris had originated, and initially there was nothing to be seen. However, as the auspex came online and as the holo-tank projected the image of the area we had arrived in a large rift was visible. It seemed to be slowly shifting, and a yellow light was emanating from it, however, there was nothing tangible, nothing solid to detect; this was definitely a construct of the immaterium. I reported the puzzling findings to Hartek, who seemed equally perplexed, however we were interrupted by our Warp Guide, another Navigator of the Proscesu clan.

"Although I have never encountered phenomena like this before, I have heard rumours, and know the theories behind them. The Enginseer is correct; this is a product of the warp itself, and my eye shows me that this is a clear path into the immaterium. It's difficult to explain to those that do not travelled the ways of the warp itself, but imagine a river, and imagine that at the side of a river, the water pools and eddies. This is one such area where the force is so great that the eddies cannot escape, and the excess just bleeds away into real space. This one seems to contain a fairly powerful and strong current..."

Hartek nodded. "What you are saying, Navigator, is this might be a way to travel through the warp itself, without using the normal method? It might lead us to our destination more quickly?"

"That is a good possibility!" The Navigator responded. "There is a good chance that whoever sent the message is on the other side of this rift... We could jump into the warp here, but we must be careful, it would be like leaping into a fast flowing river."

"I like the fast flowing part..." the Rogue Trader Regent mused. "Warp Guide Proscesu, let us make the jump. Mister Ivanov, take the helm, let us try to catch this fast flowing river. Try not to break the ship gentlemen."

If only things were so simple, eh, Calldia?


The ship shook and shuddered, and I could detect the hull twisting, and yet not twisting, depending on which sensors I looked at, and then there was a ringing, booming noise, and the Warpsbane Hull activated, drawing far more energy than normal, any crew not securely fastened into their acceleration couches were thrown around, and I later heard of several broken bones amongst the more careless. This was by far the worst warp transition I had ever experienced, but the ship held up well, although I knew that she was close to her stress tolerances. Suddenly the damage control alarms sounded, and my sensors reported a fire in the auspex arrays, and on the bridge the Navigator gasped, a screamed "Take us out of the warp - now!"

Ivanov instantly reacted, and with a cry of "Brace for impact!" the Furnace of Redemption was flung into normal space, coming to an almost dead stop.

"I saw the warp storm at the centre of the Cauldron!" a shocked Navigator reported, "It would've been the end of us all!"

According to my chrono just fifty-seven point three seconds had passed since we entered the rift. I unstrapped myself and made towards the affected area as quickly as I could as I heard the ship wide vox calling for the relevant damage control teams to report to their stations. I detached teams to the areas I knew to be most vital, co-ordinating the efforts through the bridge, and the well drilled teams commanded by Ensign Goodwin were extremely effective in fighting the fire, and it was quickly extinguished. Unfortunately, despite the rapid response, almost one thousand two hundred and fifty souls were dispatched to sit alongside the Omnissiah, but it could have been far, far worse.

It took me several long hours before I was able to get a semblance of functionality from the auger array and allow us to see enough to calculate our location, and continue the journey. Shockingly, we were only a short warp hop from the Damaris System, in terms of time, we were less than two hours away; a warp journey of over thirty standard days had been completed in less than a minute, real-time!

We finished our jump to the system, and the journey towards the Damaris system core took a week, which I and my teams spent repairing the damage the best we could, and although we were able to restore the majority of the functionality, we would require an additional day in a properly equipped repair bay to complete them properly.


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORSELLIS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

The system was centred around a brilliant blue giant, and they system was ringed by a treacherous ice field held in place by a vicious gravity well, and known locally as the Frozen Reaches. We ran a detailed survey scan of the system, having learned that the more we knew of a battleground, and we were in little doubt that Damaris would become a battleground, the better chance we had of prevailing. Closest to the star were a group of three small, rocky, blasted and lifeless and hostile planetoids that the cogitators had labelled as "The Burning Ones", individually named Ingus, Aestus, and Aduro. In addition, there was another stellar body; Skadi, a massive gas planet, which although surveyed was hidden within the ice field, and generally seen as too dangerous to approach.


Damaris itself fell well within the temperate zone, halfway between the blue star, and the ice field, and was of medium size, covered with small but deep seas, low mountain ranges and rolling hills. It was colder than optimum, so had larger than average ice-caps, but the equatorial regions were ideal for farming. As they paid tithes to the Imperium received a number of services not normally offered to non-Imperial worlds, including an Imperial Navy presence. The local setup mirrored that of a standard Imperial planet, and looking at the organisations outlined in the ships cogitators, it was clear that Damaris would have not been out of place in the Calixis Sector; it was ruled by a nobility formed from trading families, with the head of the most powerful family taking on the role of Governor. The planet had an overall population of three billion, and the infrastructure was remarkable modern and advanced, suggesting a level of wealth present in the society, although there was only really one city of note, the capital, Damaris City, known simply as "The City" or "The Capital", which was home to a third of the planetary population. There was little standard, or warp radiation present, meaning that both mutations and psykers were rare.

Industry consisted of extensive mining and agriculture, and there was also a shipyard building in-system vessels based at a mined out and significantly fortified moon, known as The Bulwark which also served as a military base. The world was young; less than a millennia old, and extremely successful, meaning that the promises of profit made in the message calling for help was certainly not inaccurate.

Damaris had been known as a peaceful world, with a gentle pace of life and a good standard of living, however it appeared that the greenskins were aiming to put an end to this.


The Furnace of Redemption travelled towards Damaris, and our now mostly repaired auger arrays picked up a number of vessels in orbit around the world. We announced our presence and were given approach vectors allowing us to close to the immense, and heavily armed Bulwark. The most striking of the ships we detected was a dangerous looking Imperial Navy Dauntless Class Light Cruiser that our cogitators announced was the named the Aegis. Next to be identified was a ship designated The Ordained Destiny, a heavily modified Luna Class Cruiser, apparently stripped of some of its more standard battle orientated components, converting it into a gaudily decorated vessel with a focus on trade and exploration. Unsurprisingly the ship was identified as belonging to a Rogue Trader although we were unable to identify its' livery. The Starweaver, a modified Tempest Class Strike Frigate was the next ship that our cogitators were able to identify, captained by Lady Elizabeth Orleans, another Rogue Trader with a reputation for being straight talking and no-nonsense. Clearly, we were not the only ones to respond to the call for help (and the promised rich reward). Additionally, we were able to pick up some in-system vessels, roughly Raider or Destroyer class in size; these were obviously the class of ship constructed by the Damaris shipyard for anti-piracy patrols.

One thing that I noticed as we closed on Damaris was that the strategic disposition of the vessels was very illogical, and certainly inefficient. Either they were defending things that we were unaware of, or there was an unknown and unhelpful dynamic present amongst the defenders. I relayed this information to the Rogue Trader Regent, and the First Officer, who after closer examination agreed with my assessment; indeed, when pressed by Hartek, the auger crews revealed that there were three different vox-nets in use, and no single common frequency. This would obviously bear further investigation...

"Incoming message, Sir!" Called the duty vox-operator. "We're being hailed by the planet. It's a message from the Sphinx Landing Star Port, asking us to state our business!"

At this point I considered that a strange question, after all it was them that had called for our aid! Calldia muttered his agreement...

The transmission was routed through to our holo-tank, and we were treated to a view of a military man of late middle age, thin, but tough looking, sitting in a non-descript office.

"Greetings, and welcome to Damaris. I am the Commanding Officer of the port landing facilities. Please state the purpose of your presence here." His no-nonsense words matched his appearance.

"This is the free trade ship the Furnace of Redemption of House Dureen, and I am Rogue Trader Regent Hartek, bonded Warmaster and leader of the house. We have come because we received a call for help from you."

The image in the holo-tank nodded, and a small smile briefly flashed across his features. "Excellent news. We were hoping that was the case. I will transfer the docking codes, and make the arrangements for you to meet the Governor yourself. Please join us at your earliest convenience. Out."

The transmission was ended, and within a few seconds we had received the promised data.


The Rogue Trader Regent, Ivanov, and myself, protected by a number of the Hartek's Housecarls, and the 1st Cohort descended to the Sphinx Spaceport in a flight of guncutters, and the show of force was patently unexpected, as the Spaceport needed to clear more space for us. A well dressed Adept was waiting for us with an official looking groundcar, and after some moments of confusion when it was clear that he was only expecting to transfer a small group to meet the Governor, we selected four of the best 1st Cohort troopers to accompany us - the power armoured Housecarls would not fit in the vehicle!

Adept Jorun Alexander, as the man introduced himself, was Aide to the Governor and our official liaison for the length of our stay, and although Hartek initially seemed to find him a little too familiar, as we journeyed in the car to the Governors Palace where we were expected to join a meeting, we spoke to the man, who provided as much information as he could, and we found ourselves warming to him.

Initially, Alexander himself looked a little embarrassed, before speaking to us in a slightly hurried manner; "On behalf of myself, and my family I would like to thank you for coming to our world to aid us. If there's anything I can do for you during your time here, you simply need to ask."

I, for one, appreciated the sentiments and told him so. I went on to ask about the tensions that seemed evident in the deployment of the ships in orbit. The Adept sighed, an paused before telling us that we were correct in our assumptions that there were some tensions between our soon to be allies, although he was not able to inform us of the cause of those tensions, other than there were differences of opinions within the Defence Council, with regard to the best way to proceed. I was starting to develop a bad feeling about what we were heading into, and fell back into silence.

At this point Hartek spoke up. "The Ork threat. How did you learn of it, and how soon is the attack expected?"

"The Aegis discovered the Orks on a routine patrol, and we have ascertained that the greenskins are moving on us from a neighbouring system; our best estimates tell us that we have between one and two standard weeks before they attack." Alexander told us, "They are led by a brute who calls himself Warlord Snotgritz. Beyond that I know little, although I expect that Captain Locke and the council will be able to tell you more."

Digesting the new data, we filled the rest of the journey with small talk, learning as much as we could of the world, effectively confirming everything the ship-board cogitators had told us.


The Governors Palace was situated in the centre of the city, and was a magnificent example of Imperial Gothic design, with grand marble statues, columns, and towers liberally included in the design. Adept Alexander escorted us into the interior of the building, which was if anything, more impressively appointed with thick, plush carpets, and differing Imperial styles obvious in each of the chambers, ostentatious decorations in the form of wall hangings and murals were everywhere as were bronze busts and hololiths. Everything about the building screamed wealth and Imperial allegiance.

Eventually we arrived at some large, heavy wooden doors flanked by two Palace Guards, as heavy as the doors were, we could clearly hear raised voices from beyond them, and credit to the guards, the seemed to be studiously ignoring the shouted discussions from within.

An embarrassed Adept Alexander spoke to us after a brief conversation with one of the guards; "I'm afraid my Lords that the Council was going to await for your arrival. A can only apologise for this insult, it is unacceptable for them meet without waiting. It is a terrible breach of protocol..."

Hartek nodded, "Don't worry about it, my good man; it's not your fault!" And suddenly, before anyone could move, he threw the doors open and strode through.

Those of us who knew the Rogue Trader Regent struggled to hide our smiles, and followed him, leaving the Dureen troops outside with the Palace Guards who looked unsure, and then just held their position. A shocked looking Adept raced after us, somehow managing to get in front of us, breathlessly, and rapidly, introducing us to those assembled within.

Within the room, the War Council were assembled, and leaning over a iron topped hololithic table, depicting the world and the system, shouting at each other were an Imperial Navy captain, who was introduced to us as Sylvia Locke, and a man dressed in a similar manner to an Imperial Guard General, who we discovered was the commander of the Damaris ground forces, General Reme Dante. Seated at the far end of the table, his head in his hands was the Governor, Belkan Kapak, and finally, there were two Rogue Traders, Lady Elizabeth Orleans, and Lord Jeremiah Blitz; Blitz seemed to take his lead from Lady Orleans.


Hartek hung his coat over a handy servo-skull hovering nearby, and spoke; "Right. We're here now! Let's get these Orks bloody well seen to! Anyone got a plan?"

The Governor stood, and spoke in High Gothic, a pointless language that I have never bothered to learn, and Hartek replied in the same flowery tongue, I used the time to calculate the odds we had of getting the disparate groups evident in the chamber to work together. Calldia agreed that they were not good. Eventually, our glorious leaders seemed to remember that there were others around them who had not wasted their time learning non-functional languages, and reverted to the more workmanlike Low Gothic so we could all understand.

We were warmly greeted by the Governor, and treated to a sardonic and wry smile by Lady Orleans, while the Naval Captain and Damarian General spared us non-committal glances and terse words, although I suspect this was more due to the shouted argument they had been having when we arrived.

Suddenly Locke and Dante suddenly resumed their argument, which seemed to centre on the defensive strategy, and the differences the two had, with the General implying that Locke did not really care about Damaris. I noticed the others around the table roll their eyes, and surmised that this was an argument that was not new...

Bored, I spoke. "While you are... discussing... your plan, it would be more efficient and helpful if someone would outline it for us, to see whether we could add anything value. It would be illogical for us to make a judgement on something we have no knowledge of."


Those around the table looked at each other, but the next voice to be heard was Hartek's. "Aye. Both of your plans could be bollocks!"

There was a pause, and plans were summarised, with Locke's understandably focussing on an in depth defences from space, while the General believed that resources should be focussed and the Orks defeated in a series of set piece battles. Logically, I could see no reason why both plans could not be combined; using the combined forces of the ships present to destroy the Ork Naval forces, and then trigger the General's plan to destroy any survivors who actually made planet fall. It struck me that the disagreement went beyond simple strategy and that there were deeper differences.

Governor Kapak suddenly slapped the table with the palm of his hand, and called an end to the meeting, stating that the Council would reconvene the following day. As the others filed from the chamber, we waited, as Kilgrim wanted a word with Kapak, who, it appeared also wished to speak with us, so we followed him to his private chambers, adjacent to the hall. Before the conversation began, the Governor took a small silver pipe and inhaled from it, visibly relaxing; fortunately, I do not need to breathe, but I was able to scan the composition of the smoke and identify it as Obscura. To add further complication to an already delicate situation, it seemed that the Governor was an addict.

The conversation was far less formal than the previous one, but in essence, to his relief, we promised complete support to the Governor and Damaris. He immediately put all the facilities of Damaris at our disposal so I arranged for the final repairs required by the Furnace of Redemption to be made at the Bulwark. The Governor admitted to a feeling of wariness bordering on anger with regard to the way the supposed allies were behaving, and their refusal to co-operate, but seemed somewhat at a loss at how to deal with it. He then invited us to a Gala Banquet which would be attended by the high ranking members of all Adepta, Guilds, and other organisations of the world, and, more importantly, every member of the Defence Council, giving us a chance to speak in less fraught circumstances. Finally, we were invited to stay in rooms allocated for us within the Governors Palace itself to enable us to liaise more effectively with the individual factions.


Over the next two days we all busied ourselves with our individual tasks, and soon the Furnace of Redemption was back to her full capabilities, with all the damage repaired, and the crew losses replaced. Intelligence summaries outlining the personalities and capabilities of the different factions were prepared and absorbed, and the evening of the Gala was quickly upon us. I dug out my formal, rust-red, Adeptus Mechanicus robes, and had a junior Tech-Priest shine up my Omnissian axe so that it would look impressive for the fleshbags, and with a number of my servo-skulls swarming around me, joined the others on the planet surface for the banquet.

We were announced into the ballroom, and it was immediately obvious that the Governor had not skimped on the costs of the banquet; a sumptuous feast was in evidence, obviously wasted on me, and gilded servitors moved amongst the guests dispensing drinks and delicacies. Music drifted through the chamber, and groups of people clustered whispering intrigues, and all the time Alexander pointed out who was who in the chamber. In one corner I spotted a Tech-Priest sitting on his own.

Following protocol, we approached the Governor to introduce ourselves formally; it was soon clear that he had been using Obscura again, as he had a faintly glazed look about his eyes. Hartek and Kapak exchanged pleasantries, each indulging themselves with the fine fare on offer, Ivanov and I dropped back, keeping others from earshot, leaving them to converse in private. I am fairly sure this involved the passing of the Obscura pipe.

Hartek turned back to the ballroom, and raised his glass, and voice in a toast; "To the Emperor! To Damaris! And to friendship!"

It was interesting to see that some of the people seemed reluctant to join the toast, clearly some were more loyal to the Imperium than others, noticeably the General, the leader of the Defence Flotilla, Commander Reynolds, and Lady Orleans.

Hartek smiled at all around him, nodded to Governor Kapak, and headed over to Lady Orleans. "I rather though that would play better than "For great profit and getting our worthless skins off this rock intact!", don't you think?"

She smiled, "Well, profit's what we're in it for, isn't it? Let's not beat around the bush!"

"It is a position I have found myself becoming accustomed to..." Hartek agreed.

Lady Orleans smiled again. '"I too have found myself in a similar situation!"

They continued to talk, and Hartek found that she was open and honest with him; she had numerous trade deals in place, and felt a kinship with the place. She was essentially protecting her investment, and if that coincided with giving the world greater independence from the Imperium, so much the better. It appeared that both Rogue Traders had much in common, and Hartek discovered that she had no love for the Imperium because she held the Administratum responsible for the death of her father as they got him involved in a disastrous, and poorly planned campaign against heretics. Hartek sympathised, and repeated the promise that he had made the Governor, that he was here for the long haul, and did not see himself in conflict with her after the Orks were defeated, in fact he would welcome co-operation between the Orleans and Dureen houses. She thanked him for his candour, and when asked about her ally, Rogue Trader Blitz, she explained that she and Jeremiah Blitz's business interests coincided, and although he was currently down on his luck, brash, and full of stories, some of which may even be true, she knew him to be loyal and would stay so, at least until he repaid his creditors. He was no coward and had kept himself alive through many difficult situations. Hartek and Orleans parted as firm allies, obviously seeing each other as kindred spirits, with Lady Orleans promising her own and Blitz's forces in support of House Dureen.

During the conversation, I had moved to interface with the Tech-Priest, who Alexander had informed we was named Hadron Shard. I displayed my neuro-sphere details with Shard, and read his, and we spoke in the language of the Mechanicus. It appeared he was at the Gala as a matter of diplomacy, and was not really interested in anything else, and though aware of the Ork threat did not seem to care about it as he felt that his research was too important to interrupt. Indeed when we first conversed he had been running through some calculations regarding plasma drives; I had gained his attention by inserting the information I had learned about the advanced drives that the Leleians produced. I was invited to visit him at the Forge he commanded on the outskirts of the city, and promised to do so, to further continue the information sharing with regard to the new plasma drives. The technical conversation took much of our time, but I steered the conversation back to the Ork threat, and managed to secure his support, and those of his Skitarii, under the command of House Dureen in the upcoming conflict. Tribune Alpha-Quad-One-Alpha was the Skitarii Command node, and Shard informed me that he would instruct him to await our contact. He then announced that he had spent two-standard hours at the Gala, and that would meet the parameters as the minimum allotted time to be classed as both polite and diplomatic, and left for the Forge. I wished that I could have accompanied him; it was refreshing to converse with a senior Tech-Priest again.

Ivanov had approached Captain Locke, who was accompanied by her Executive Officer, Lieutenant Onos Kass, and although distant and cold, after the introductions had been made she was happy to speak to him, recognising his Naval background. He attempted to persuade her of his qualifications by outlining some plans he had generated for the defence of the system, however, Locke, displaying her undoubted competence and ability was able to pick them apart, leaving Ivanov feeling as though he was in one of his training evolutions, back at the Academy. She did however soften the blow by building an alternative plan phase by phase using Ivanov's ideas as a basis, and his willingness to listen and ability to absorb the new information seemed to make an impression with the Captain. Ivanov then called Hartek over and introduced him to Locke, and talked him through the redesigned Naval plan that Locke had suggested. The Rouge Trader Regent then pledged the Furnace of Redemption to any fleet commanded by Locke, and explained that he had secured agreement from Lady Orleans for her ship, the Starweaver and Jeremiah Blitz's Ordained Destiny to be used in the same way. Captain Locke nodded her thanks, but still seemed somewhat wary of the approach that was being made. Hartek politely thanked her for her time, and arranged a meet in a more professional environment at a later date.

Hartek and Ivanov then approached General Dante and Commander Reynolds, and paid their respects in an attempted to break down some of the barriers that were obviously there, and forge a working relationship. Hartek began to speak about tactics for fighting Orks. Hartek made the offer of the House Dureen Cohorts to supplement the Damaris Defence Forces, which the General seemed to appreciate. Hartek suggested some joint training exercises so that the units could get used to fighting alongside each other, and foster an esprit de corps, and the General seemed to genuinely appreciate the offer. He opened up slightly after the training was agreed, and revealed that he thought that Captain Locke was an incompetent who did not have the best interests of Damaris at heart, he also hinted that similarly, he was not entirely convinced by the competency of the Governor, which probably explained the reluctance to respond to Hartek's toast earlier in the evening, and the suddenly reminded animosity seemed to carry over into the current conversation.

It was clear that we would have to work hard to build some bridges.

Hartek took his leave from the General, and moved to speak to the Astropath, who introduced himself as Kevil Stasys. Hartek asked for a private word, and they moved into the gardens to talk. Strangely, Hartek reported afterwards that he could hear the Astropath's words in his head without the man speaking.

"My Choir-Master recently saved me during an encounter in the warp, but paid a heavy price. I would like to see him safe in the coming battle, and was wondering whether you and your choir would be able to do anything for him? My own Choir are relatively young and inexperienced..."

Stasys paused and seemed to be considering his next words carefully; "I will do what I can for him... Often there is little we can do though... Often the Emperors Peace is the best solution..." He seemed to be holding something back.

Hartek prompted him, and he suddenly spoke again. "I have seen something that disturbs me... When the time comes, if the planet falls, you must take me with you!"

"If the time comes, and if the planet falls, I will take every soul I can cram aboard the Furnace, that I promise!" Hartek paused, "And I can guarantee that if you are at the front of the queue, you will be one of those souls..."

Stasys looked relieved, and spoke more confidently; "When Captain Locke confirmed the presence of Warlord Snotgritz to Fleet Command, they sent out an Astropathic message which I reported to the Governor who assured me that all was in hand. I did however pick up an echo of another message; I do not know the details of the message, as it was somewhat encrypted, however I was able to understand the intent. It seems that the Imperium do not, or cannot, send aid to this planet."

"Thank you for that information Astropath." Hartek said, thoughtfully.

"My pleasure Rogue Trader. I will make myself available to visit your ship tomorrow."

The two men returned to the banqueting hall, as the other guests were starting to leave. Hartek realised he still had a lot of work to do.

 


++ End of record ++

 

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Another great session report wrote up by LordSpatula.

 

SPOILER WARNING - We are now playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.
 

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

Our campaign to unite the different factions on Damaris continued apace as we each tapped the various sources of information that we felt may prove fruitful, and suitable forearmed with the additional intelligence further meetings were arranged.

Ivanov arranged to meet Commander Reynolds, the leader of the Damaris space forces, on The Bulwark, already aware that the man had aligned himself with General Dante, however, he hoped that creating a favourable impression with Reynolds would result in smoother Naval operations, and potentially a more cordial relationship with the General himself. The two men shook hands, and exchanged small talk each letting the other know that they were no-nonsense and professional, and eventually they warmed to each other enough so that they developed and understanding, and a feasible working relationship having discovered that they were quite similar in attitude.

Having paid he respects to Commander Reynolds, Ivanov then visited Captain Locke, aboard the Aegis as he had promised to do at the Gala Banquet of a few nights previously. He was greeted by Lieutenant Kass, who he had also been introduced to at the Gala, and shown into the Captain's office, and the two officers review the latest iteration of the space defence plans. Locke seemed to be both genuinely surprised and perhaps even slightly impressed that we had managed to gain the commitment of all involved to pledge their star ships to the upcoming fight, with her in overall command, added to the fact that Hartek had managed to have a conversation with General Dante without the two shouting at each other.

"It seems your Rogue Trader has been busy!" She commented.

"Yes Ma'am!" Ivanov nodded.

After a brief, thoughtful pause she continued; "We can do something here. I will have a closer look, tell me the specifications of your ship, and the others..."

The next few hours were lost in a detailed planning session as Locke and Ivanov reviewed the dispositions, and it became increasingly obvious that she had committed herself to the defence of Damaris, with one proviso; Ivanov would be her liaison with all other parties, something he readily agreed to (I'm fairly sure he did that so he could stay close to the good Captain; he always seems to get unduly excited where the Imperial Navy is involved). Shortly after, he received a message from Marshal Thrace, the commander of the local Magistratum and Law Enforcement units, pledging herself to work with us in the defence. It seemed that our influence, and our grasp of the situation were getting stronger.

During this time I visited Tech-Priest Shard at the Forge to continue our plasma drive discussions, and to take operational command of Tribune Alpha-Quad-One-Alpha and his Skitarii Cohort. The transition went smoothly and I arranged for him to interface with the leader of my own Skitarii unit, Tribune Goethe. I found that it was easier to designate my own troops with more human names as it made it easier for the normal soldiers to interact with them, whereas Shard's Skitarii almost exclusively kept their contact to within the Adeptus Mechanicus. I know it is strange that I have to make such behavioural modifications, but I find that people generally are strange themselves...

Rogue Trader Regent Hartek was left to deal with possibly the most critical meeting; the attempt to bring General Dante round to our combined command. The pre-arranged joint training exercises seemed to be progressing well, and Hartek joined the General on an inspection tour. Dante was obviously a hard leader, but as he was almost universally liked and respected by those he commanded he was obviously fair, and he held himself to the same high standards as he did his soldiers; Hartek began to develop a grudging respect for the man, particularly when he recognised the sharp intelligence underneath gruff military exterior. His army were well drilled and trained although untested in battle, and the men listed eagerly to our veterans who had fought the Orks previously, so it seemed that we may have a good solid base to build from.

Although suspicious of our motives, the general did apologise for his frosty reception of us initially, he admitted to being wary of people who had no real stake in the defence of the planet, but acknowledged that Hartek, and by extension House Dureen, did seem to be doing all that we promised we would, and have the best interests of Damaris at heart.

Hartek steered the conversation towards Captain Locke, and asked why the General felt that she did not really care about Damaris, after all has the Rogue Trader Regent phrased it, "She's putting her life on the line too..."

Dante smiled, offering a glass of amasec to the Rogue Trader Regent before replying; "Perhaps I was a little harsh. I have nothing against the woman personally, it's just who she works for; she's nothing more than a small cog in the machinery of the Imperium. I'm sure she's very competent at what she does, I just don't believe she has the best interests of the planet at heart, she listens to her masters - to them we're nothing, I don't see any Imperial fleets rushing to save us..."

"If she was obeying the orders of her masters do you think she'd still be here?" Hartek asked. "Do you think they would so casually sacrifice a Light Cruiser?"

Dante's interest was obviously piqued. "Why? What have you heard?" he asked bluntly.

"Well. She is still here. If I were a naval planner, sitting comfortable in the rear, I wouldn't be wasting a single hull on a world that we intended to sacrifice to the xenos. The fact that she's still here, and there are no reinforcements does seem to indicate her will to defend Damaris, despite what her masters say..."

"I concede the point" Dante spoke slowly. "But even so, what do the Imperium give us? We pay these tithes, and get nothing in return, and I cannot see them rushing to help us in our hour of need. The Governor is a fool for pretending to be part of the Imperium, and one measly light cruiser is not a fair return for our efforts!"

Kilgrim smiled. "Perhaps the problem is which part of the Imperium you pay the tithes to! A Rogue Trader has a wide remit with what he does outside of the Imperium. Including taking worlds under his protection..."

"I can see what you're thinking..." The General sipped his drink.

"We have invested a significant portion of our assets in Damaris..." Hartek pointed out.

Dante nodded. "A defence pact then?"

"More a loose affiliation. Of course defence is included in that! We are in need of a home in the Expanse. Somewhere we can be safe." The Rogue Trader Regent continued.

"Allies?" General Dante pointedly asked.

"Allies." Hartek confirmed. "I know Lady Orleans has considerable investment in this world, and I see no reason why this should change..."

Dante snorted. "She has limited interests! And if they were to disappear she would quickly follow. The woman is little more than a pirate!"

Hartek shrugged his shoulders. "She is easy to work with. Anyway, after a crisis like this, this world would need a strong hand to guide it. One not hindered by chemical reliance."

"Someone with the strength to do what needs to be done." Dante stated.

"Indeed." agreed the Rogue Trader as the General refilled their glasses. "Obviously, when the Orks arrive you'll be declaring a military emergency and martial law?"

"I will." The General confirmed. "I think it's time to stop the dance, and both spoke frankly. I will give you my complete support on the understanding that you will act as my patron in a run for Governorship. Happy?"

Hartek nodded, and they raised their glasses. Dante continued; "To future business. And some direction in this **** war!" Both men smiled, and downed their amasec in single gulps.


Navigator Proscesu had decided to visit the Shrine of St Drusus located in the centre of the capital city of Damaris, to offer his devotions to the Saint, and the Emperor, and seek guidance for the coming conflict. Located on the opposite side of some well tended parkland to the Governors Palace, it was an imposing building, appearing to be more a bastion than a place of worship, but then Drusus is a martial Saint. Many of the worshippers were members of the Damaris military, obviously seeking the same guidance as the Navigator.

As he was preparing to leave the shrine several of the guards intercepted him, and directed him to a sickly looking scholar standing off to one side. Proscesu recognised the man from our briefings; it was Bishop Arint.

"I am sorry for interrupting you like this, but you would be doing a great service to the Emperor if you would walk with me and listen to my words..."

The Bishop turned and walked away, and after a few seconds Navigator Proscesu followed. It emerged that Bishop Arint wanted a favour from House Dureen; the shrine was home to a holy relic of Saint Drusus, and he was keen to ensure its safety during the inevitable fighting that was about to engulf Damaris. Proscesu promised to relay his meeting request to Rogue Trader Hartek, and after a number of further minutes of discussion of the meaning of certain articles of faith, took his leave.


On his return to the Furnace of Redemption Proscesu passed on the Bishops request, and after a briefly considering his options, Hartek realised that taking responsibility for the protection of such a Holy item could only reflect well on the Dynasty, so agreed to meet with Arint, "For the greater good of the sector", as it had been phrased to him by Proscesu. Having already arranged a meeting with Astropath Stasys anyway, Hartek saw little reason to delay meeting Arint, and immediately ordered a guncutter to transport him, and the Navigator back to the planet's surface.

Hartek listened patiently to the Bishops request for a guncutter to be placed on standby at the star port, ready to retrieve the relic and its guards, and then shocked the man by refusing!

"Bishop, I am afraid that is out of the question. If the situation becomes so dire that the city falls and an evacuation is required, it will happen quickly, and I very much doubt that we would have time to waste waiting for the retrieval of a small craft. If the city falls, all will be lost, and your relic will be in the hands of the xenos."

Once he had finished spluttering in shock, the Bishop listened to Hartek's counter offer; he would move the relic and its guard onto an armoured chamber in the chapel on the Furnace of Redemption immediately, that way there would be no delay should it need to be removed to safety rapidly. The Bishop needed some convincing, probably, I am sure because he was not used to people refusing his requests, but was finally reassured with Hartek's arguments that a mobile target would be more difficult to hurt, and that a relic of Saint Drusus would be of great use inspiring the men and women in the frontlines to fight that much harder in the battle, after all, where would Saint Drusus himself be? No doubt the Bishop himself would gain status by projecting the will of Saint Drusus in such a martial and dynamic manner.

The relic itself took the form of a small closed and shuttered, casket; once a year, it was shown to the masses to inspire the faith of the people, however the protective shutter on the container itself only opened a fraction of an inch so the contents could not be seen properly. The Bishop was of the opinion that the box held one of the hands of Saint Drusus, however, he could not fully open the shutter he stated that this was only his own thoughts on the subject. No matter what it actually was, it was a holy relic of the Saint himself, and that was enough to swell the faith of the people.

The casket accompanied by several dozen of the highly trained custodians that protected the Relic were conveyed to an armoured chamber within the onboard chapel, and Archbishop Shepherd, the Confessor on the Furnace of Redemption was beside himself with excitement that his Chapel was being used for such a holy purpose.

Hartek's next move was to make contact with Marshall Solaria Thrace. Obviously having spoken to Captain Locke, the Marshall was happy to speak to the Rogue Trader Regent, and listen to his offer to take any of the hardened criminals she may have locked in gaol, and use them to reconstitute our Penal Cohorts. She agreed that this would be a possibility, and she would consider it, however she did not believe that it would be necessary at the moment.

That dealt with, Hartek headed for the Astropathic Choir chambers to arrange for a message to be sent. As he left, I noticed an evil little smile on his face, so, my interest piqued, while he was away I searched though the data buffers of his message preparation logs and found the following missive;

 

 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

To Haderak Fel, Footfall.

Author; Kilgrim Hartek, Trader Regent and bonded Warmaster of the Dureen Dynasty.

Encryption Level, Traders' Cant.

Message Begins: Dear Hadsy. Having a lovely time saving Damaris from the raving savage barbarian xenos horde, which made me think of you. Obviously you're far too busy to serve humanity and the Emperor in this way, but you're obviously busy stealing someone else's honest salvage claim again. Obviously you've also been too busy to protect your clients on Orrema, if what that Scourge chap is saying. I wouldn't take that if I were you, people will get all sorts of ideas about your fitness to command. Must go, ravening horde of drooling beasts approaching to **** and despoil every living thing in the system. Wish you were here. Kilgrim.

Message Ends.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 


Perhaps I should clarify the contents. We had received word from Orrema that a Rogue Trader names Djanko Scourge had attempted to claim the world for himself, and had in fact bombarded the planet destroying at least one of the floating cities. The Coam Federation had responded with atomics, severely damaging his ship and forcing him away. Hartek had been livid when he heard, and had every attention of punishing the man when our business here was complete...

Now, as the years have passed, and I have become more machine than man, excising the weaker, fleshy, parts of my body, I am not unaware that I have become freer of some of the more pointless emotions that humans suffer from. I read this message, however, and laughed for the first time in over three standard years; I of course knew of the bad blood between Hartek and Fel, but it amused me how far my friend would go to taunt his fellow Rogue Trader, and potentially set him against a third, who had enraged him so, particularly as we had been working against Fel ourselves at every opportunity. I admired the base cunning of Hartek, and hoped that his ploy of setting our two rivals against each other would work...


Having dealt with the required diplomacy to make all involved actually work together, we turned our attention to the physical defence of the Capital City.

The city was surrounded by a huge wall, and split into distinct areas which were garrisoned with their own troops. In conversation with the General, and others involved in the defence we looked to reinforce the areas that we felt would be most critical to the defence, using every resource that we had available to us. Our holds were stripped of weapon and ammunition stores which were used to equip additionally levied troops, we recruited additional forces from amongst the mercenaries and household troops aboard the ships that had been unlucky enough to be in system when the emergency was declared, and were now in the process of leaving. Overall we were able to bulk up the capabilities of the majority of the units arrayed in the defence and even able to boost the output from the Adeptus Mechanicus Forge by supplying raw materials to allow production to be set to a war footing.

Finally we seeded large swathes of orbital space with mines, to make any attempt by the greenskin forces to land on the planet as difficult and costly as we possibly could. As always, given enough time, and more resources we could have made the world an impregnable fortress, however, experience has proved that things are never that easy, and so it proved to be this time.


The estimated time of the arrival of the enemy was almost upon us; at best we had two standard days left, but the hard work and planning that had gone into the defence seemed to be paying off as the disparate forces were now working well together. The off-worlders were distracted by a meteor shower that evening, but the locals paid little attention to it, such displays were common as a result of the proximity of the Frozen Reaches, however, I suggested that such a common occurrence would logically be a perfect cover for a covert landing of advance forces, and I said as much to the Rogue Trader Regent. He agreed and put the ground forces on alert. It seems our caution was justified; one of the Manticore anti-aircraft batteries based in the mountains to the east had stopped communicating with Headquarters, leaving a hole in the air defence net.

I elected to remain on the Furnace of Redemption to provide orbital cover if necessary while Hartek led his Housecarls and 1st Cohort, and the Damarian 1st Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Regiment led by Captain Meyers, in a joint operation to forge the first bond of combat between the defending forces. Navigator Proscesu joined him, and Ivanov flew reconnaissance and air support in the Fury interceptor. General Dante chose to stay at the Headquarters in case this was a landing, and just the tip of the attack, so he would be free to co-ordinate. As the ground troops prepared, I used the shipboard cogitators to calculate the reverse trajectory of the meteor shower and the in-system ships were dispatched to investigate the origins, with strict instructions not to engage any enemy they detected; this was purely a "see and not be seen" scouting mission.

Although not present for the patrol, as usual I managed to gain an understanding of how it progressed from the after-action reports.

Ivanov overflew the anti-aircraft position but was not able to detect anything, however, his defensive sensor suite picked up active radiation from the Manticore; the Fury was being tracked, but whether this was an automated system, the human crew who had perhaps lost vox-comms, or something else, it was impossible to tell. The guncutters that were following behind at low level, moved as close to the mountain position as possible before deploying the troops, and powering away out of range of the potentially hostile missile platform.

The troops formed up, and led off in battle formation with the Damarians taking the lead, and they cleared the landing zone without incident. As they advanced over the rocky ground they caught sight of two buildings on the edge of the Manticore position, one of which had obviously been on fire, and indeed was still smoking. Immediately alert, the troops began a more deliberate advance, when suddenly the crack of a single shot rang out, rapidly followed by a storm of gunfire. The lead soldiers hit the ground quickly, and began to return fire, but it soon became clear that a number had been hit. The Dureen troops immediately began to lay down suppressive fire, aimed at the buildings where the enemy had taken refuge, and in support of the ambushed Damarians, and Hartek called for his Housecarls to follow him, and the power-armoured troops rushed forwards towards the greenskins, as it was obvious that that is who the enemy were.

Bolstered by the supporting fire, the local troops began to push forwards in an attempt to fight through the ambush, and quickly cleared the killing ground and found some cover. Hartek and his bodyguard powered around the flank of Damarian forces, and the Navigator Proscesu followed closely behind, anxious to lend his firepower to the battle. 1st Cohort advanced to more favourable positions and continued to pour fire onto the enemy positions.

As the Rogue Trader Regent and his Housecarls pushed on they were greeted with a roar, and a group of Orks charged down the slope crashing into hand-to-hand combat with them. The melee was brutal, but it is in melee that Hartek excels, and he cut the greenskins down with his battleaxe, even smashing the Ork leader's chain-axe into a mess of spinning, whirling teeth and fractured metal, with a single blow. The foul xenos turned tail and ran at this, leaving his fellows to their fate. Inspired by the example of the Rogue Trader Regent, the other troops pushed forwards, and the battle was quickly won.

Overhead, Ivanov spotted three Orks running from the Manticore position and wheeled the Fury interceptor in pursuit, strafing them and cutting at least one down. He whipped the craft round in a tight turn to track any survivors, but could only a single, mangled body bleeding into the ground.

The ground troops continued a cautious advance up the mountain, when suddenly a huge explosion rocked the ground, just over the ridge. Hartek ordered Ivanov to return to investigate, and once he had ridden the blast wave he was able to see a huge crater where the Manticore position had once been. True to form the Orks were destroying anything they could.

Overall casualties were remarkably light; four of the Housecarls were damaged, two of whom I was able to save when they were returned to the Furnace of Redemption, the other two are now standing at the side of the Omnissiah, may He watch over their souls. The Damarians suffered a number of minor injuries, with only a couple of troopers killed in action. For this cost the Ork advance force was destroyed, and the hole in the air-defences plugged, and, more importantly the local forces and those of the off-worlders had performed well in combat, and learned to trust each other.


We had just finished analysing the fight on the planet surface when a vox-transmission was received from the in-system ships that had been on the reconnaissance sweep along the route of the meteor shower; they had detected several Ork ships heading from the Frozen Reaches towards Damaris, and had obeyed orders by immediately reversing their course, and returning to The Bulwark at full power. Immediately our larger warships powered their systems up, and led by the Aegis and Captain Locke, began to move to intercept the closest of the xenos. We split into two groups with the Aegis, ourselves, and the Starweaver taking the lead in the intercept. The Ordained Destiny and the in-system craft were left as a second line to intercept any enemy that got past us, or managed to find another route towards Damaris.

A few hours into our advance, the Furnace of Redemption had detected fifteen hostile vessels, split into four groups, and as we closed with the closest one, we were able to identify the composition of the detachment; two Roks and two raider class vessels that appeared to be scrap built. If the other detachments consisted of the same ships we would be facing a large number of greenskins over the next few days, and possibly weeks.

We received a message from Captain Locke and the Aegis; "I am told they are coming within range gentlemen. Good hunting! The Emperor protects."

The three Imperial vessels turned in and began their attack run, initiating the first naval engagement in the war to save Damaris.


++ End of record ++

 

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SPOILER WARNING - We are now playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.


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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

As we advanced on the enemy I connected myself into the tactical cogitators of the Furnace of Redemption and analysed the movements of the both our ships, and more particularly the enemy. Taken as whole, there was a pattern behind the seemingly straight forward manoeuvring of the Ork vessels, and tracking back I was able to deduce that theoretically there should be some form of base at the origins of the convergent tracks. I passed the information to the command staff, and Ivanov ordered an auger sweep of the area I suggested in the Frozen Reaches; we detected another group of ships, including one that gave returns suggesting a vessel of Cruiser size.

We informed Captain Locke and the Aegis of our findings.

"Gentlemen, this changes the situation significantly! Stand by." Locke stated flatly. A few seconds later she returned to the holo-screen; "Congratulations Mister Ivanov, well spotted. I will attempt to intercept the new targets, and have called for the in-system ship the Enforcer to support you in your attack. Good hunting!"

As if Ivanov had spotted it! I noticed he took the credit for my deductions. Fleshbags! Pah!

Hartek stepped in and took over the communication; "Same to you Captain. We should all do what we can, and then rendezvous on the defensive line at the planet."

"Agreed!" Locke acknowledged and then cut communication.

With no time to lose, the Aegis powered away, and the Starweaver and ourselves turned to engage the approaching Ork ships.

The decision was made to hit the Raider class vessels first, as they seemed to be the greatest threat in space combat. Ivanov had now identified the Raiders as Onslaught class, and we scanned the first one in detail to get an indication of what we were facing. I worked on the boosting the power of our auger array and targeting systems to give us the best possible chance to hit the enemy ship, and at maximum range we opened fire with our lance battery, missing by a matter of a few hundred metres.

The Starweaver arced away from us, before closing and firing on the same Raider that we had targeted, now identified as the Smak 'em. Although she managed to bracket it with a storm of macrocannon shots, the effect was equally disappointing. The Ork Raiders attempted to manoeuvre and draw us away from the Roks which simply continued straight towards Damaris, and all the enemy craft pounded us with the Ork equivalent of macrocannon shells; fortunately we were protected by our void shields and suffered no real damage.

The fight continued and effectively turned into an attritional slugging match, and inevitably the superiority of the human crews, and effectiveness of our Omnissiah blessed ships meant that we slowly gained the upper hand, slicing chunks from the enemy Raiders, and smashing components leaving burning hulks drifting in the void. Only once did we suffer a hit that penetrated our void-shield, causing damage to our hull and dropping its integrity to 80%. Then, as though hitting a specific tipping point, we managed to destroy both of the raiders, one quickly after the other. The Furnace of Redemption, the Starweaver, and the freshly arrived Enforcer then turned their attentions to the lead Rok; although effectively an asteroid with an engine attacked, we pummelled the target for several hours, blasting lumps of rock from its surface until it finally collapsed in on itself, destroyed. We chased down the second one, and finally managed to do the same after sending some of the more recalcitrant Travellers we had captured on the island of Home on Orrema on a one way teleportarium assault.

As Hartek phrased it; "I did everything I could to persuade them of the benefits of joining the Dynasty, but they were downright hostile. May as well make 'em work for us, and free up some barrack space at the same time!"

To be fair, I had questioned the efficiency of keeping the hard core of the Travellers that had stood against us on Orrema on board ship, and those that had agreed to join us did not seem to disappointed to see the back of their more militant kin.

The small Ork force finally destroyed, the three human ships turned and headed with all speed to our rendezvous point close to Damaris.

Even before we got close we could detect the massive energy discharges characteristic of space combat, and rushed to join and add our own weight of fire. A battered Aegis joined us twelve hours later, with Captain Locke reporting that she had engaged a flotilla of Ork vessels centred on a large Ork Kruiser. She managed to damage the Kruiser enough that it was forced to disengage and withdraw, in additional, a number of smaller vessels were destroyed. It was clear however, that the Aegis had suffered from the return fire and was in need of repair, however as Locke stated, the strategic advantage we had gained by driving off the large Ork vessel was worth it.

The battle was fierce, and seemed to be following the pattern of our earlier engagement, with the more skilled human crews more efficiently applying damage to the enemy. The Orks themselves seemed fearless, in fact I would say that reckless would be a better description of their actions; some of their ships even attempted to attack The Bulwark, and got remarkably close to ramming the space station before being reduced to little more than space dust by the concentrated weight of fire that was aimed in their direction. After several days of fighting we managed to drive off, or destroy the Ork warships; however during the confusion of battle three Ork Roks manage to slip through our defences and impact on the surface of Damaris. We were incredibly lucky; we did not lose a single ship to the xenos, however, conversely, no ship remained unscathed.

It was now the turn of the ground troops to do their share of the fighting to do to secure the safety of the planet.


Hartek and Ivanov used the time available preparing the defence plans, while I deployed to the surface of Damaris, and working with the local Tech-Priests began setting up automated defence turrets at key locations in and around the city in an attempt to make it as impregnable as possible. Naturally, my focus centred on the Forge on the island to the north of the capital city, after all, this also provided the main power supply to the city, and was vital to keeping the defensive positions active.

The Rogue Trader Regent and General Dante worked hard at co-ordinating the defence forces, using the intelligence gleaned from their control of the planetary sensor grid, and the Generals local knowledge. Units were transferred to meet threats, real or suspected, and the defences coped admirably with the initial attacks. They were in the middle of when of their planning sessions when the city wide air-raid sirens sounded; one of the Roks that had slipped through the orbital defences was close to impacting in the city. The men rushed to the roof of the Governors Palace and looked to the sky as it cleared the ridgeline of nearby mountains streaked towards the city itself.

Dante spoke, "That doesn't look safe!"

Several people on the roof began to back away, and then the Rok fired huge thrusters slowing its descent a few kilometres away, and crunched into the ground, the shock of the impact being felt by the observers, even so far away.

"Well, the Orks are here then!" Hartek shrugged, and he and the general headed back to the bunker to plan a mission to deal with this new threat.


Aerial reconnaissance revealed that the Rok was resting in a crater, with smoke pouring of its surface. Scans revealed it to be out of range of the defences on the city walls, whoever those same images revealed hatches being blown clear, and dozens of greenskins pouring out of the ruined vessel. Scattered along the trail of the crashed Rok was a trail of dead Orks.

"Well, that's a start!" Hartek grunted.

Dante smiled. "It is. But a threat this close to the city must be dealt with... I think it's about time the Levy got into the fight, we've let the Navy have all the fun to date!"

"Perhaps the armoured contingent would be suitable?" Hartek asked.

"You're reading my mind Rouge Trader!"

Hartek readied the 8th (Armoured) Cohort, minus the Basilisks batteries which would stay behind in the city to offer fire support from there, and the 7th (Reconnaissance) Cohort, while Dante ordered the 1st Company of the Sphinx Heavy Guard, the 1st Battalion of the 1st Damarian Highlanders, and the 1st Company of the Highland Wardens to form up, and the combined force advanced from the mustering grounds, westwards, over the plains towards the Ork positions, with Hartek in tactical control. It was a stirring sight which must have stiffened the resolve of the forces positioned on the city walls.
The human forces moved to engagement range and began to pound the crashed Rok and the surrounding Ork positions. The attack had been pressed so quickly that the Orks were caught still setting up their heavy defences, but lighter units made up of infantry, war-bikes, and light vehicles were mobile. 7th Cohort were ordered in on a hit and run raid, designed to sow confusion and add further complications to them setting up their defences, and destroy the enemies mobile units. The Orks were forced to withdraw behind the power field that had sprung up to envelop the Rok, and the human armoured infantry pushed after them, cutting them down as they ran, and soon the massed human forces had overwhelmed the uncoordinated xenos and were fighting their way into the crashed vessel. Hartek's instinctive grasp of the tactics required laid the foundations for an overwhelming victory, which culminated with the Hellhounds burning the infestation from the wreckage and the surrounding area. Demolition charges were placed around the huge ship which when detonated cracked it open and then fractured it into small parts, destroying it.

Overall, it was a stunning victory in the first major land campaign of the defence, and the morale of the human troops was significantly raised. I must admit that the battle went better than I expected, truly the Omnissiah was watching us this day.


Back on the Furnace of Redemption, however, Navigator Proscesu was somewhat distracted by the internal politics of his Navigator House. His cousin, Aurelius, previously a junior member of the family had usurped his position, and Patronius was determined to win his position at the apex of the Proscesu clan with the Dureen Dynasty. Although aware of the intense familial rivalries present within the Navigator Houses, I had no real firsthand experience, so, in the name of research, I detailed a number of my surveillance servo skulls to monitor Patronius, keen to discover some of the inner workings and politics.

Patronius was attempting to gather key people to his camp, and after a number of meetings was told of a man who had been watching the familial conflict with interest, and would be interested in helping him; he simply had to meet the man in "Joe's", one of the semi-legal bars in the bowels of the ship. The Navigator thought the offer over, and then agreed to the meet the mysterious Mister Blake.

The Navigator arrived at "Joe's" early, finding a shadowed corner to sit in, directing his bodyguards to an alcove a couple of tables away, and attempted to drink some of the homebrew grog. Exactly on time another figure entered the bar; the man was well dressed, wearing a smart suit and polished shoes. He was wiry, with slicked back dark hair, and a pale skin. He glanced over at the two bodyguards and smiled wryly, before approaching Proscesu, presenting his hand for the Navigator to shake.

"Mister Blake." he introduced himself.

"I believe you wanted to see me Mister Blake?" the Navigator asked.

Blake nodded, and asked "What do you want?"

"Depending on how well you have done you research, I think you probably know..." Patronius smiled, refusing to be drawn.

Blake nodded again. "I hear you have a... problem. What would you like doing about this problem?"

The Navigator paused, "That depends. How would you propose to assist with it?"

"I have associates who can help."

"Would you care to elaborate Mister Blake? I cannot afford to be caught up in any embarrassment..."

Blake paused. "I cannot reveal my associates, they wouldn't be happy with me if I did. But just let's say that I, and my associates, deal with problems that people have. We would deal with this for you, and in return, my associates would call for something from you in the future. I cannot say what that is now, although of course it would only be reasonable and commensurate with what you are asking for now."

'"How long does this offer stand for, Mister Blake?" Proscesu asked.

"Not long I'm afraid... Particularly when family is involved. Let me know in the next twenty-four hours." Blake smiled widely. "If you wish to proceed you can contact me through the proprietor here."

Blake stood to leave, and smiled at the Navigator again; "You have a good day now!" Then he walked from the bar.

Unsurprisingly, the Navigator did contact Mister Blake. He specified that he did not want to harm his cousin, merely scare him into stepping down from his senior position, leaving Patronius to step into his rightful place leading House Proscesu in the Dureen Dynasty.

"Perhaps we will scare him, then...?" Blake left the question hanging.

Patronius was almost dismissive, "There is very little that scares our type Mister Blake, you understand..."

"Oh, I understand!" Blake smiled in a sinister way. "My associates have ways of doing things... Ways you do not want to know...!"

The Navigator nodded. He had made up his mind. "Make him grovel to me for help!"

"This can be done. Give us twenty-four hours. A pleasure doing business Navigator, I will see you around."


Almost twenty-four standard hours later, the Patronius was walking towards his quarters when a panicked figure came running down the corridor towards him. It was stumbling, dishevelled and wide-eyed; the Navigator was surprised to see Aurelius, his cousin.

Aurelius flung himself at the feet of Patronius, "Please! Please tell them to stop! Please!" he shrieked. "You can have it! You can have whatever you want! You're the boss! I never wanted it!" He looked nervously over his shoulder.

Patronius smiled, and spoke calmly. "Is there a problem, cousin?"

"Please! I'm sorry, you can have it all back! Please!" The terrified man pleaded. "Just call them off! We'll go right up now, and we'll tell him you're in charge again! Right now!"

Patronius smiled, and a puzzled command staff were informed of the change. When asked for an explanation, all Patronius offered was, "He's clearly not as developed as I thought..."' before heading for his own quarters to "meditate".


As he walked into his room, he saw Mister Blake sitting on one of his chairs.

"Ah, Mister Blake. I believe we can stop now."

Blake smiled. "Yes, I believe our business is concluded. Although my associates will be in touch."

"I'm sure they will..." the Navigator agreed.

As Blake left the room, he turned back "You really should lock this door you know..."


On reviewing the recording I am sure that I saw some distortion around Blake's figure as he moved. I am uncertain whether it was real, or a glitch on the recording itself, but if it was, that was the only time throughout the entire recording that it happened.

I knew two things now. Firstly, the political machinations of the Navigator houses were if anything more brutal and devious than those of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Secondly, this Mister Blake would stand watching closely...


++ End of record ++

 

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MARVIN THE ARVN said:

On reviewing the recording I am sure that I saw some distortion around Blake's figure as he moved. I am uncertain whether it was real, or a glitch on the recording itself, but if it was, that was the only time throughout the entire recording that it happened.

I knew two things now. Firstly, the political machinations of the Navigator houses were if anything more brutal and devious than those of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Secondly, this Mister Blake would stand watching closely...

Nice play on Mr Morden. Well done. There are many things to learn from Babylon 5.

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Thanks Thrantor, I thought Mr Morden was a good character.

SPOILER WARNING - We are now playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++ ++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

I had been spending my time in Shard's Forge, re-siting some of the automated weapons turrets, and plugging some of the holes in the defences that seemed glaringly obvious to me; Shard himself had continued with his research which he deemed too important to interrupt, so I assumed de facto command of the military defence of this haven of the Omnisssiah's will. I would allow no greenskin to defile the sacred Forge. Once I had set teams to work, I was recalled to the Furnace of Redemption with the rest of the command staff for a strategic planning session, and Hartek reported that he had spoken to Kolonel Shakgul with regard to the composition of the Ork forces. Worryingly it appeared that the enemy were not from a single tribe, and it appeared that this was a major campaign, known in the Ork tongue as a Waaagh! ; this was no simple warband spoiling for a fight and some salvage, and that their origin was 'Undred 'Undred Teef.

On digesting this information, the movements of the Orks seemed somewhat illogical to me, and I voiced my concerns; there were a number of targets that should have drawn the Orks attention far closer to 'Undred 'Undred Teef which appeared to have been bypassed so why had the Orks come to Damaris? There was a pause as everyone digested that thought, and the obvious question was raised; what did the Orks want with Damaris? What had drawn them here?

Any further musing on the matter was interrupted as Commander Reynolds on The Bulwark hailed us; "Sir! Our augers have picked up echoes in the immaterium, the wakes of several ships. They are close! Strangely close! By the Emperor..."

Suddenly space around us tore and four Ork Raiders appeared around our ship, transitioning from the warp insanely close not only to the Furnace of Redemption, but to the planet itself. The sheer lunacy of this move was demonstrated as one of the enemy ships flared briefly with energy, and then tore itself apart.

"All hands, Battle Stations!" Hartek bellowed into the vox, and the Furnace of Redemption turned towards the newly arrived enemy, followed a few minutes later by two of the Damaris system ships, the Serbol and the Tidepool.

Hartek and I took control of the gunnery stations, whilst Ivanov took the helm and Proscesu used his strange powers to read the potential manoeuvring of the enemy vessels, and we quickly engaged the enemy. Our first barrage of fire smashed into an Ork Raider, the macrocannons shells collapsing the shields on xenos vessel, and the lance battery carving into its hull, severely damaging the craft, however the system ships were less effective, hitting, but unable to match the sheer destructive power of our attack. We managed to keep the Furnace of Redemption manoeuvred so that we always had at least one of the Ork warships in our arcs of fire, and in a position that would receive minimal return fire. Unfortunately the Tidepool found herself bracketed by shots from two of the Raiders and suffered greatly, and was forced to attempt to break free of the fight and run in order to preserve herself, however, Orks being Orks, they seemed keen to prevent her escape and chased after her. Seeing her sister ship in such trouble, the Serbol barrelled towards the most severely damaged Raider, hitting it square on with a full volley of fire from both weapons systems, and destroying the xenos scum.

We caught one of the two remaining Raiders in pursuit of the Tidepool, hitting it with both or weapons batteries, again severely damaging the enemy, but not quite able to destroy the tough ship. Fortunately however, once again the Serbol was able to close the range on the xenos, and finish them with one of her own volleys, narrowly avoiding an attempt to ram her by the crippled Ork. At the last moment, the desperate xenos, knowing their own ship was doomed, attempted to board the Serbol however were utterly destroyed by a well planned defence that prevented them getting beyond their initial incursion points.

Seeing that the Tidepool was now effectively safe both the Furnace of Redemption and the Serbol turned in to face the last of the enemy ships, and Hartek led a telportarium raid onto the enemy ship, sowing confusion and damaging its heavy guns battery, thus significantly reducing the Orks combat effectiveness; amazingly, the Rogue Trader Regent returned from his successful foray having suffered a number of wounded, but remarkably few fatalities to his attacking force. The Orks fired their remaining weapons batteries at the Furnace of Redemption and the ship bucked and twisted under the impacts from a single devastating volley of macro-cannon shells, which we suffered significant damaged the hull, but fortunately did no deeper damage. We closed the range and infused by the fury of the injured machine spirits returned fire, finally destroyed the Orks.

Damaris orbital space was now clear of enemy warships, so our small flotilla turned to The Bulwark to make good the damage we had suffered, and replace the lost crew. Over the period of the week, each of the other ships engaged in the defence of the system took advantage of the superb facilities on the space station to make their own repairs, and keep the fighting capabilities as high as possible. Without those repair bays we would have definitely suffered an attrition of effectiveness at the hands of the enemy, and Damaris would have fallen. The spirit of the Omnissiah was strong in the structure of the mighty base, a fact which we all should be grateful for.


Our unexpected battle in orbit completed, we each had to return to our defensive posts in Damaris City to prepare for the inevitable ground assault that would be launched from the Roks that had survived the plunge to the planet's surface.

Two days later, we were once again summoned to a meeting, this time in the Daedelus Command Bunker, in the centre of the city. One of the Roks that had landed on the planet had been observed by some advanced elements of the Levy, and General Dante had proposed a plan to deal with this threat before it could disgorge the vast numbers of Orks it had most likely been transporting. He could provide seismic charges to a team that could attempt an infiltration of the enemy position, and these could be used to destroy the Rok and its cargo in a single pinpoint strike. Hartek's interest was noticeably piqued, and he quickly took responsibility for the mission; the Rogue Trader Regent would lead, and much to Calldia's disgust, (I might even say terror), I agreed to accompany him, as did Ivanov and the Navigator, whose Psychic powers could be vital to the success of the attack. We would be accompanied by a small team of twelve of the ship-boarding specialists that Hartek had fought with during his boarding action on the Raider two days previously.

Scans indicated that we would need to place the seismic charges in four separate locations to allow us to totally destroy the grounded Rok, so I downloaded as much information as we had into my personal cogitators to make it easier to access during the mission. We would be deployed a few hundred metres from our target by one of the guncutters from the Furnace of Redemption, and would approach under the cover of darkness on foot. A Stormtrooper Valkyrie assault lander would extract us from the surface of the Rok when we summoned it after completing the mission when stealth was less important. Local units would engage nearby Ork positions in an attempt to draw as much attention away from the Rok as possible as we deployed.

The mission went perfectly; it appeared that many of the systems on the Rok had been looted from Imperial sources, and I was able to interface with them with the minimum of fuss, indeed it seemed that the machine spirits were relieved by the contact of one chosen by the Omnissiah and freely gave me the information I needed to plot a course to the four target locations, and then to the extraction point. The only thing they demanded from me in return was the assurance that I would ensure that they were all released from their servitude to the xenos scum. I knew that the only way I could make this happen was by the destruction of the Rok, and although this would be a blessing for them, it was with a heavy heart that I agreed.

We laid the charges and made the extraction point without any interference from the xenos, and as the Valkyrie powered away, we watched from the viewports as the charges detonated; the Rok fractured, crumbled, and then blasted apart, and for hundreds of metres around we could see trees being blown flat by the shockwave. If only everything went so smoothly, life in service to the Omnissiah would be far easier!

The next day, it appeared that the Orks had been stung into action, and intelligence reports showed vast numbers of the xenos advancing on the city. Rather than attacking in a single green wave, the Orks seemed to be focussing their assaults on individual sectors, which fortunately we were able to divine by analysing the movements of the enemy, and garrison those areas with more than sufficient troops, mixing their origins and capabilities to suit the situation. I chose to stay in the Forge, as it seemed logical to do so; I had spent several days analysing and upgrading the fortifications, and, moreover, the Forge provided the power for the defensive positions and bunkers throughout the city, and I felt that my talents would be best suited to keeping it active.

The Rogue Trader Regent attached himself to several House Dureen units on the south wall of the city, the only place where intelligence had been unable to get a clear picture of the enemy we were facing, so as is his wont, he placed himself where he expected the hardest fight to occur.

Ivanov stayed aboard the Furnace of Redemption, using the augers to scan the surface and feed real time intelligence to the units we had dedicated to taking the fight to the enemy by leaving the fortifications in an attempt to destroy the Roks where they had crashed, an action that if successful should significantly reduce the forces the Orks had available.

Finally, the Navigator elected to support the units dug into the bunkers surrounding the city, using his talents to produce exceptionally accurate charts of the killing zones of each bunker, allowing for far more effective fire to be poured onto the attackers. However, as Proscesu surveyed the ground, he found his attention drawn to the sky. As he reported later, the guiding light of the Astronomicon suddenly flickered out. His vox suddenly crackled to life as the other Navigators on the Furnace of Redemption called him in panic; they had felt the same sudden loss.

No-one in the fleet had ever experienced anything like this before, moreover, nobody had ever heard of anything like this happening before. Warpstorms often interfered with the light of the Astronomicon, but nothing, as far as he was aware had ever cut the light off so completely...

Navigator Proscesu did his best to reassure the junior Navigators on the ship, and then spoke with the senior Navigators on the other vessels, but nobody was really able to explain the strange occurrence away, and as it was, time was short with the greenskins on their way, so all attention, by necessity, was focussed back on to the upcoming battle, although the sense of unease remained amongst the Navigators.


The first shots of the full on ground offensive were fired by the forces we had dedicated to offensive operations, fittingly, it was one of the Damarian units, the 1st Company of the Sphinx Heavy Guards that were first into action, and the attacks were completely successful severely weakening the enemy even before they fell under the guns of the defensive fortifications around the city. When the Ork hordes smashed into the defences they were in fewer numbers than expected, and although we did suffer some losses, this first wave of attacks were disastrous for the Orks; every attack was crushed by overwhelming force, and utterly destroyed. As the attacks petered out we easily remained in control of all areas of the city and its environs, and thousands upon thousands of greenskins lay dead.

All we needed to do now was keep the momentum going...

 


++ End of record ++

 

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A double helping of our RT game this week, enjoy!!!

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

Morale was high throughout the defensive forces, the Orks having suffered badly throughout the campaign so far, however, Hartek and the command staff, myself included found ourselves increasingly having to spend our time among the defenders of Damaris City, or in orbit and patrolling the space around the planet; as usual there were never enough hours in the day, and I found myself feeling somewhat sorry for my fleshy companions who seemed to feel the physical stresses more than those of us blessed with the gifts of the Omnissiah, however, admirably nobody let their levels of professionalism drop.

Not that we really had much chance to let this happen, the city was coming under attack constantly, although nothing like on the scale of the assaults of the end of the previous week, and the ground forces quickly slipped in to an easy routine of standing-to in their positions and slaughtering the Orks with their well sited heavy weapons. The Governor seemed to have flourished in the time of crisis, and was spending a lot of time with the people, doing what he could for the population and was a very different man to the one we had first met on our arrival. As Captain Locke phrased it, "This turn of events is indeed surprising! Maybe it's the beast in us all, conflict brings out the best in some people..."


Two days later, as the ground attacks had dwindled to minor skirmishes, Lieutenant Commander Ivanov was onboard the Furnace of Redemption, preparing to depart on another patrol sweep with Captain Locke and the Aegis when the duty officer, Orbest Dray spoke up.

"Sir, you might be interested in this; we've just picked up an Imperial signal from the outer regions of the system! The Bulwark is transmitting the information to us now, I will transfer it to your station..."

Ivanov looked over the data, and found that an Imperial Navy Firestorm Class Frigate designated the Adamant was fleeing three Ork Onslaught Class Raiders that were in pursuit. He immediately contacted both myself and the Rogue Trader Regent, and I agreed to meet Hartek at the bunker and we took advantage of our teleportarium, and found ourselves on the bridge forty standard minutes later as the Furnace of Redemption gathered speed on an intercept course with the new arrivals.

Ivanov relayed a conversation he had had with the Captain Locke, who had appeared quite tense. I reviewed the logs and recordings of the conversation later, and was able to confirm that the Captain did appear to be worried by the arrival of the Frigate, as it turned out, with good reason. Our two ships closed on the Adamant and her pursuers quickly, and slightly under six hours later we were in a position to engage the xenos vessels.

The Adamant had not been trying anything clever; she had simply been running at full power towards Damaris with the Orks close behind. As she got within vox-range Hartek hailed the Imperial ship;

"Imperial ship, identified as the Adamant, I am Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek of the Dureen Rogue Trader Dynasty. The defence of this system falls under my command, please state your business!"

An answer was quickly forthcoming, and on screen a tall, thin man appeared, "I am Commander DuRanes, Captain of the Adamant, a Frigate of the glorious Imperial Navy. I am here under orders to speak to Captain Locke, of the Aegis."

"Captain Locke is a little busy at the moment." Hartek grunted. "She is currently operating under my overall command, so if you pass on your communication to me, I will be happy to transfer it at my earliest convenience..."

DuRanes frowned. "These are military orders for Captain Locke's eyes only, and no authority save that of the Imperial Navy can stand in the way of them!"

A smile briefly flashed across the face of the Rogue Trader Regent. "I can't help but notice that you have brought some friends with you. Shall we deal with those before we continue this conversation?"

"Yes, this conversation can wait until the greenskin filth are dealt with. Out." DuRanes cut the contact.

The battle was over in a couple of hours, and although all three human vessels had taken hits on their void shields and their armour, neither the Aegis of the Furnace of Redemption suffered any damage, and once she had linked up with us, neither did the Adamant. Two of the Ork Raiders were severely damaged and set on fire early in the engagement, and all three turned in an attempt to run for the Frozen Reaches at the edge of the system, however, reluctant to let the greenskins escape and add their numbers back into their fleet we closed on them, utterly destroying the two damaged ships while the last one, using its compatriots demise as cover, managed to escape our wrath. Still, we had ensured the survival of the Adamant, destroyed two of the attackers and driven off the third; all in all a successful engagement.

As we turned, and made best speed towards the planet, the Rogue Trader Regent requested a private conversation with Captain Locke, and retired to his state room. Of course, the data-traps I had put in place on all the vox-feeds captured the conversation, which was illuminating in its content.

Hartek spoke first; "Good work with those raiders Captain!" Locke simply nodded, so the Rogue Trader continued. "It appears our visitor has a message for you..."

The naval Captain looked uncomfortable before speaking. "Yes. We had better meet with DuRanes..."

Hartek continued; "It's a funny thing, duty, isn't it? One can never be quite sure where ones true duty lies..."

"What are you trying to say?" Locke asked, bluntly.

Hartek smiled. "I'm trying to say that it would have been a shame if you'd taken a hit in the fighting so far, damaging say... uh, your warp engines... Obviously we'd do our best to prioritise your repairs, but we would have to focus on the defence of the system first, wouldn't we? I hope you understand me, Captain...?"

Locke allowed herself the brief flicker of a smile. "I understand you Rogue Trader; however I think such subterfuge should not be used at this time. I think we would be better simply approaching the Captain with the truth... We should do so at the earliest opportunity."

"Aye!" Hartek sighed. "Such things are best done quickly..."


Hartek, Ivanov, Captain Locke, Governor Kapak and Commander Reynolds met Captain DuRanes in one of the VIP suites aboard The Bulwark; there was a tension in the air that suggested hidden agendas and it proved to be an enlightening time, particularly when I reviewed the vid-capture and was able to pick up on things that I had missed when I was actually sitting in the room.

DuRanes immediately turned to Captain Locke; "Captain Locke! Your orders tell you to immediately return to the fleet! Why do you tarry here?"

The Damarians in the room looked shocked, thinking that the Adamant was the first of the naval reinforcements to arrive, although Reynolds seemed to have a wry smile on his face.

Locke met DuRanes glare with a steady gaze. "My original orders were to be a presence here, and defend the people of the system against all threats. I could not, in good conscience leave these people to their fate."

DuRanes sighed. "You knew your new orders Captain, and you disobeyed them. Have you learned nothing?"

Locked took a deep breath, and paused as though weighing her next words carefully. "To hell with orders. I have had enough of this! The people here need my protection, and the protection of my ship!"

DuRanes sighed, and surprisingly seemed sympathetic. However, before he could respond I spoke. "Commander DuRanes, the most logical course of action, if you wish for Captain Locke and her vessel to return to your fleet would be to deal with this xenos incursion quickly. For that to be achieved we would require additional firepower. If you were to lend your ship to this battle, then the Orks will be defeated more quickly, and both of you can return to the fleet together." I looked around the table at a number of surprised faces. "It is the most logical and efficient way to progress!"

Tech-Priest Calldia agreed with me whole-heartedly, which was nice.

"Tech-Priest..." DuRanes answered, "If only things were so simple. Unfortunately, I have orders." He glanced at Locke, "And I obey my orders! We will be on our way soon enough. Locke's orders came in weeks ago..."

Governor Kapak looked shocked at this news. "You would abandon us?"

DuRanes looked at the Governor, and seemed genuinely sympathetic. "It is not my decision; my orders come from higher up..."

"You are the Captain of a starship in the Imperial Navy, are you not?" Hartek addressed DuRanes. "Or are you simply a messenger boy?"

Rising to the bait somewhat, the Commander looked at Hartek. "Unlike you, duty is what I signed up for. I obey orders. Sometimes I do not like those orders, but they must be obeyed. Now it is time for both of us to return to the fleet Captain Locke. Staying here would be career suicide!" He paused before turning his attention to the rest of us in the room. "Do not get me wrong, the plight of the people here - I would like to help... But we have orders to be elsewhere, and there are others to help... We cannot be in two places at once, and our orders are given by those that have a firm grasp of the strategic situation for the thin resources of the fleet as a whole..."

"When do your orders have to be enacted?" I asked

DuRanes responded; "As soon as possible."

"So, if you were forced to delay for a week, for repairs say, and then move to the fleet, would that not be categorised as "soon as possible"?" I countered.

DuRanes looked thoughtful.

It was at this point that on reviewing the recording I noticed that Commander Reynolds left the room, quickly followed by Ivanov went after him. When asked, the First Officer later reported that Reynolds had dispatched a messenger to General Dante, with an almost grim satisfaction. He argued that they "knew the Imperials would abandon us" but after some discussion did grudgingly agree that Locke had been honourable and had risked her own career by staying as long as she already had, but she would have to follow orders. Lieutenant Commander Ivanov then pointed out that that might be the case, but whatever happened, House Dureen would be staying. The discussion ended there and the two men returned to the room.

Throughout this time, Hartek had launched into a speech outlining the nature of duty, and defending those unable to defend themselves. He later admitted that this was as much aimed at Captain Locke, encouraging her to stay, as much as an attempt to get DuRanes onside, but as time passed, and the discussion progressed, it appeared that DuRanes was softening his stance.

Eventually DuRanes sighed, before speaking again; "It looks like none of you are going to give up on this insane venture!" He looked at Locke, "Maybe your warp engine got damaged; maybe you're undertaking repairs... How long would that take?"

Locked smiled. "A few weeks at least, I would say!"

"Fine." DuRanes sighed again. "I will return to the fleet to report that you are making repairs... Make sure you don't get killed otherwise it'll be me that gets left hanging...! Perhaps I stayed for a week to offer some help to you but decided that the repairs were too time consuming and I couldn't stay for such a long time... I cannot stay longer than that though - I have to report, and return to my patrol station then!"

"Thank you Captain DuRanes" Hartek nodded, "Your flexibility is appreciated!"

It appeared the defence of Damaris had received some reinforcements, if only on a temporary basis.


The Rogue Trader Regent and I had returned to the planet to continue our preparations there, however, Hartek had asked for a servo-skull with recording capabilities to be detached for his use; I readily agreed and detached one from my ever growing squadron of such devices. I did not have the heart to tell him that there is usually at least one method of recording his conversations available to me at most times...

After one of his planning meetings, General Dante approached Hartek and asked for a private word, something that the rogue Trader readily agreed too, as the servo-skull had concealed itself in a location close enough to record the meeting, but hopefully remain undetected.

The recording was much distorted as though an attempt had been made to interfere with any possible eavesdropping, and as a result it was difficult to discern who was actually speaking, but with a little cleaning of the data it was possible to make out the words that were being spoken. The conversation made passing comment about the orders which Captain DuRanes had brought with him, and after a brief discussion the two men agreed to keep the near-withdrawal of naval assets a secret so as not to unduly impact the morale of the populace.

The conversation then switched to the real reason that Dante had approached Hartek; it appeared that the General was beginning to feel threatened by the resurgence in popularity of Governor Kapak as the crisis had deepened, and indeed by his growing competence. The General had decided to do something about it, by arresting the Governor on a number of unspecified charges, probably including incompetence. The Rogue Trader was shocked, but other than questioning the charges said little. Kapak would be touring a number of refugee and garrison locations the next day, and on his return to his mansion at the end of that tour General Dante would have men in place to make the arrest, he was only telling Hartek as he knew that the Governor would be inviting him to accompany his retinue on the inspection tour.

"Are you sure that this is the time for it General?" Hartek asked. "We need to present a united front in the midst of conflict!"

Dante shrugged, "Now is as good as any time, his removal with have no impact on our defensive capabilities, and the public have no need to know the exact reasons behind his detention, they will simply know that he is being kept safely away from the fighting for his own good."

Although somewhat surprised by the suggested course of action and putting forward a number of counter proposals it was clear that the General had made up his mind, and would not be deflected from his plan. Hartek kept his own council and thanked Dante for giving him the heads up, and then returned to his post with a thoughtful expression on his face; it was clear that he had a difficult choice to make, and he quickly called a command meeting to discuss the problem.

It is fair to say that we were all shocked by the revelations, even myself, and Calldia who are usually unsurprised by the machinations of the fleshbags were dumbfounded, and it was at this point that I reviewed the recording in the hope that we could use it should we decide to stand in the way of the General's plans, however, although damning, it was not really clear cut enough to stand up legally.

The discussions lasted several hours, and although we had no real strong feelings about who was in power at the end of the conflict, it seemed that the major problem was that we were letting the General gain momentum, and the worry was that he may feel strong enough to go it alone at the end of the conflict. However, after analysing the data, it seemed that this would be unlikely as he would still need off world support. We were minded to let things fall as they might, as distasteful as that may be, and although Hartek did not like the lack of control he had over the situation, he reluctantly agreed.

Personally, I could not quite shake the feeling that he had grown to quite like Kapak (even though he had admitted that he had already a plan in mind to assassinate the man at the end of the conflict if necessary) and may decide to act unilaterally when Dante's men made their move, and if I am honest, illogical though my feeling was, I could not really fault him for that...


Sure enough, the next day Rogue Trader Regent Hartek received an invitation from Governor Kapak to accompany him on the inspection tour, and he accepted the invitation with mixed feelings. The defence of the planet required integrated and coordinated planning, which if the General were to withdraw his troops from Hartek's command would be far more difficult, however, this needed to be weighed against the positive changes that were increasingly apparent in Governor Kapak, and the potential he was beginning to show.

The Governor and Rogue Trader Regent were met by smiling crowds and their speeches were well received, and Kapak was as animated as Hartek had ever seen him on their journey back to the Governor's mansion, and as the two men left the ground car the Governor smiled widely and warmly shook Hartek's hand. Then from behind him a gruff voice spoke up.

"Excuse me Sir, I have been ordered to place you under house arrest. Please come with me!" A tough looking carapace armoured officer, flanked by four other soldiers had stepped from inside the mansion.

A shocked Kapak looked at Hartek, and then in a quiet voice he said "Rogue Trader...? What's happening?" The colour drained from his face. "But I thought we were..."

"Sir, I'm afraid you must come with me now!" The officer interrupted as the other soldiers stepped forward.

"...friends!" The Governor finished as Hartek turned and walked away.


++ End of record ++
 

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The latest writeup!!! Enjoy!!!

SPOILER WARNING - We are now playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

The fight against the marauding orks continued apace, and I took my position on the front lines with the other defenders of Shard's Forge. It was clear that the formidable defences were not going to be breached, at least yet, and we held off increasingly weak waves of greenskin attackers. Strangely, as the days passed I found myself feeling more at ease with the carnage, and I noticed how handling the various devastating weaponry began to feel more natural to me, indeed, amongst the non-Mechanicus defenders who cared about such things, I began to gain a reputation of always being where the fighting was heaviest. To me, it simply seemed the most effective, and logical approach to defeat a determined enemy. Tech Priest Calldia was remarkably silent on the matter.

Towards the end of the week, and the defenders having driven the enemy back once more, I stood down and returned to the forge to continue monitoring the power levels supplied to the City and ensure that the defences remained active. I arrived in the generatorium chamber and turned to place my melta-gun into the weapon racks next to station from which I intended to work, but with a shock realised that I could not let go of the weapon! I looked down and, amazed, could see that my armour and hands appeared to have... joined with… to have melded... with the weapon!

Horrified, I made my excuses and hurried to my own chamber in an attempt to analyse what was happening to me; I had already concluded that anything that changed my body from the holy image of the Omnissiah could not be good, so I checked my systems, and replayed the events of the battle, and with yet another shock realised that not once, over the last few days had I ever needed to stop to reload my melta-gun! With that additional piece of information, I rechecked my systems, and saw that my core power unit had suffered small drains of power regularly over the battle, before rapidly returning to optimal strength. I was quickly able to discern that these power drops coincided with the need to reload the weapon.

Once again, Calldia was silent on the matter, even though I prompted him for his opinion and advice. There was however, a small, nagging, voice that kept reminding me how efficient this method of destroying my enemies could be...

After much thought on the matter I resolved to visit my fellow Tech-Priest, and commander of this Forge, Shard. Strangely, as I stood, I realised that I could now release my melta-gun; it was no longer attached to me directly, although relieved, I was now more confused...

Shard, at first was reluctant to spend any time with me; he was exceptionally busy working on the projects we had previously discussed, however, I quickly outlined what was happening to me and his interest piqued, he delegated the current testing to a junior Tech-Priest and we headed to his private laboratory. We spent several days closeted, diagnosing and analysing both my fleshy, and machine parts, and discovered that I was infected with some form of virus that was changing my very structure.

My thoughts immediately turned to the events of a few months previously, and I spoke a single word; "Saphirus!"

Shard demanded I explain, and I described our encounter with the servants of the ruinous powers, and our work for the Inquisition, and fight alongside the Grey Knights. A shocked Shard told me that he had been about to order his servitors to restrain me, and deposit me into one of the forges great furnaces to destroy all taint, but my description of battling alongside the Adeptus Astartes, and the Inquisition, in the name of the Omnissiah and Emperor had convinced him that our cause had been Holy. I could not fault the man for his initial reaction, and thanked him for his restraint. At this point, I expected a sarcastic comment from Calldia, however, unusually, he was still silent.

We turned our attention to attempting to identify the virus, and find a way to halt and reverse its effects, but as usual the orks were no respecters of decency and priority, and chose this moment to renew their attacks on the city. Unable to turn my back on my duty, I returned to the defensive positions to face them again. Shard promised to continue his research, and wished me well in the fight; this was the first time he had even acknowledged that the Forge was under assault, so I nodded my thanks, and left my fate in the hands of the Omnissiah.

Once again, the vessels in orbit had fought heroically, devastating the xenos forces as they attacked, and the majority never made it into the atmosphere, however, three Roks did survive, more or less intact, to crash-land onto the surface of the planet.

Our scout forces were active, identifying the most probable attack paths that the enemy would use, thus allowing us shuffle our defences round and reinforce those areas that looked as though they would be hit hardest. Once again, we dispatched our armour on an offensive raid to destroy the crashed Roks before they could disgorge the entirety of their foul cargo. This time Hartek led from the front, and although it was a close run battle, his leadership meant that the orks were destroyed with surprisingly few casualties amongst our own troops.

As a result of this successful sally-forth, the resulting attacks on the city were noticeably weakened, and we had positioned the defenders perfectly; once again the ork main force was slaughtered, and our troops suffered minimal casualties. The most worrying aspect was the sheer amount of ammunition we were burning through, but while the Forge stood, resupplies though difficult and dangerous, ensured that the fighting forces were as effective as they could be.

After the massed attacks, the number of orks attacking the fortifications significantly reduced, so I left my position, once again melded to my melta-gun, and returned to Shard, so we could continue our attempts to cure me.

Wrapped up in our work, I missed several command meetings reviewing the defence of the city, and conscious that this would raise concerns, Shard agreed to attend one as the Adeptus Mechanicus representative, stating that he "had an issue to raise with Rogue Trader Hartek in any case..." I thanked him for doing so, asking that he be accompanied by one of my servo-skulls to record the meeting for my records, and returned to analysing the infected cell samples in front of me.


It appeared that my comrades were missing me!

They questioned Shard closely with regard to my location and wellbeing, and although Shard assured them that I was fine, and simply detained by my duties, knowing them as I do I could see that they were not entirely convinced by his answers. Bless the little fleshbags; they were concerned about me!

More important, however, was Shard's business with Hartek; he reported that a small force of orks was active, separate from the main horde, and were conducting hit and run attacks on a number of mines and facilities to the north of the forge, and were impacting on the ability to supply the defenders properly. In addition, a number of the guilds involved with the running of the industry had approached Shard concerned of the long term impact on the economy of the world.

The Tech-Priest paused; "We have sent larger forces against these pests, however, they always evade them, I believe that a small more agile force will be more effective, and I have heard that you are the man to mount such an operation..."

Hartek nodded, so Shard continued. "The last place hit was a refinery designated Alpha-Six. We have discerned no pattern to the attacks, but although they are cunning creatures, so far attacks have been limited to a relative small geographical area, so we believe they must have a base of operations there." He called a map up onto the holo-display, and indicated a fifty kilometre square area in the low hills and forests of the northern quadrant.

Hartek agreed to undertake the mission, and Shard placed two squad sized detachments of Skitarii at his disposal, including one of mine (I would use the recordings taken from their systems to later get a picture of the mission, combined with the after action reports), under the command of Tribune Lazur Four-Two. Thinking that stealth and scouting capabilities would be of prime importance to the mission, Hartek asked Ivanov to petition Captain Locke for the release of some of the Stormtrooper unit, and was able to gain the services of a fireteam of four of the elite troopers. The Naval Armsmen that Ivanov had trained up for brutal close-up ship boarding actions were placed on standby in a series of guncutters ready for a rapid deployment and extraction of the force should that become necessary.


The small, elite force was deployed into the area by guncutter; Hartek was accompanied by his Housecarls and Ivanov, in addition to the Stormtroopers and Shard's Skitarii. On touchdown, the Stormtroopers quickly moved into a skirmish line and joined by the other troops searched the refinery for survivors. There were none. The next order of business was an attempt to discern which way the marauding xenos had heading having caused so much devastation at the refinery. Moving out from the wrecked refinery, the elite Imperial soldiers quickly picked up a trail made by the force of ork raiders. Hartek and his force followed the tracks into the wilderness area tracking the xenos for six standard hours, before the Stormtrooper Sergeant reported that they had discovered a ramshackle base, surrounded by a timber wall and with two guard towers at the single entrance.

The Rogue Trader Regent studied the pict captures the scouts had secured and noticed that one of the huts formed part of the outer wall. He grunted to himself, and quickly outlined a plan.

"That is our point of entry. Sergeant..." He nodded at the Stormtrooper Sergeant, "You and your team will approach and breach the wall with explosives, and then drop back while I and my Housecarls enter through the breach. We will deal with any xenos within the building then advance into the rest of the compound from there. You will then take out any escapees from that breach."

The Stormtroopers nodded, and Hartek continued. "Tribune, you and Mister Ivanov will wait for that explosion, and lead one unit of Skitarii through the front entrance, having first neutralised the threat of the guard towers. We will meet in the centre of the compound and mop up any remaining enemy. The final Skitarii unit will form a loose perimeter in the tree line and, together with the Stormtrooper will kill any greenskin that escapes the compound. There will be no survivors. Any questions?"

There were none, so the briefing completed, everyone moved to their designated start positions.


The plan worked well; at the rear of the compound the Stormtroopers breached the wall and Hartek led the charge in, and he and his Housecarls cleared the first building of all the xenos filth, by the time they had finished there were nearly thirty dead orks and gretchin, at the cost of one dead Housecarl and one wounded. Hartek himself had been involved in an epic battle with the enemy warboss, and although bloodied and injured, he finally slew the giant beast with a devastating blow from his power axe. The Rogue Trader Regent would require extensive medical treatment when he returned to the city; however, his reputation as a warrior was further enhanced in the eyes of the defenders. Seeing the battle won, Hartek spoke; "Tell Ivanov to get the Governor out..." and slipped into unconsciousness.

At the front of the compound, events were less spectacular; the Skitarii and Ivanov kept the defenders engaged at ranged, cutting several of them down, and the one mob of orks that did make it clear of the compound suffered a number of dead before they got close to the attackers. Tribune Lazur Four-Two cut the survivors down in short order, and the any threat from the greenskins was effectively over. Of the remaining Orks, less than five survived long enough to be intercepted and killed by the Skitarii and Stormtroopers forming the cordon; as the Rogue Trader had ordered, there were no survivors.

The Ork bodies and their ramshackle fortifications were then put to the torch to remove any xenos taint from the area.


The attacking force returned to the city, receiving the approval of Tech-Priest Shard who insisted that Hartek remain and avail himself of the high quality medicae facilities at the forge, along with his injured Housecarl. Three of the Skitarii had been killed, and another three suffered minor wounds, but after treatment they were well enough to return to duty within forty-eight hours. I resolved to ensure that the Hartek and his injured Housecarl were healed as quickly as was possible, and split my time between tending to them, and working on my own recovery with Shard.

I fear that ultimately I will be more effective in their treatment than I will be with my own.


++ End of record ++
 

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I was slacking and have been instructed to attend my nearest penitent centre and subject myself to a six day renewal of faith course .

SPOILER WARNING - We are still playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

 

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

I had very little to do with the valiant defence of the system, and the city itself over the next week; my time had been taken up with my ministrations to the Rogue Trader Regent, who was spending his time unconscious in a treatment vat in the medicae centre at the Forge, and with Tech Priest Shard with whom I was researching the mysterious virus that had so afflicted me. For this record I had to piece together the events that took place from after action reports, and my ubiquitous recording devices.

The population of Damaris City were in their streets in their thousands, mourning the injuries to Hartek; he was developing a heroic reputation amongst the civilians, and I am sure that as soon as he is mobile again, he'll do little to disparage them of this, after all, a popular following of the head of the Dynasty cannot be something that harms our influence here. And throughout this, Lieutenant Commander Ivanov had set Adept Alexander to collecting intelligence with regard to the wellbeing and location of the Governor, and the disposition of any troops guarding him.

Ivanov took Hartek’s place on the War Council, and I think managed to antagonise the General a little in a min-power struggle. As I reviewed the records I have to admit that I found the political manoeuvrings amusing, however, the most interesting point in the meetings took place when Marshall Thrace, the leader of Damaris's Magistratum forces posed a seemingly innocuous question to General Dante.

"General, I had a report that you had cleared the civilians from the palace grounds?"

Dante looked towards the Marshall coldly, and she returned his gaze evenly; "You would be correct Marshall, we decided that we needed to move the people away from the Governor for his security and safety."

Thrace nodded, accepting this. "Will the Governor be joining us?"

"The Governor will not be joining us for the rest of the meetings." Dante spoke firmly. "Let us just say that that the Governor hasn't been completing his duties satisfactorily, and is under house arrest. For his own protection of course."

"I thought I was responsible for law and order?" Thrace smiled.

Dante grinned in return; "Martial law, my dear Marshall. Martial law!" and he ended the conversation.


Once the Council finished its reports, Ivanov approached Captain Locke, and joined her on the shuttle ride from planet to the warships in orbit. During the journey they discussed the position of the Governor, and Hartek's order to "get the Governor out". Although surprised, thinking that the Rogue Trader Regent had backed the General, Locke agreed that a retrieval mission may be a necessity, and with that in mind agreed to arrange a meeting between Marshall Thrace and Ivanov. She suggested that Bishop Arint, as the representative of the Imperial Cult on the planet would be interested in such a meeting too, and so it was agreed, and arranged for that evening.

Later in the day as Ivanov was aboard the Furnace of Redemption preparing to transfer to the Aegis when she returned from a patrol, to meet the others when and alarm sounded, and a warning was shouted by the commander of the vox crew.

"Sir, reports from The Bulwark! Ork vessels have rounded the nearest moon and are moving into range. They're on a direct intercept with The Bulwark itself!"

Ivanov responded instantly. "Mister Dray, beat us to Action Stations!"

"Aye aye Sir!" Orbest Dray sounded the alert, and spoke into the ship wide vox; "All crew to their posts, combat imminent. Be ready to engage in fifteen minutes!"

Ivanov transmitted warnings to the few remaining civilian ships ordering them clear, and sent a message to Captain Locke, informing her of the incursion.


Analysis of the attacking Orks indicated that the force consisted of a Rok, a Kruiser, and a Raider. Immediately deciding that the Rok, as a troop carrier, was the most significant threat, Ivanov ordered the ship to make a direct assault on this craft, and quickly closed to range, battering the Ork vessel with a full barrage from the melta-cannons and lance battery. The Rok was severely damaged, but kept on course towards The Bulwark, and engaged by the Raider, Ivanov was forced to turn away and deal with the new threat. The Kruiser loosed some ineffective shots at the Furnace of Redemption, and then bypassed her, heading for the space station. It was clear that the Orks were intending to board, and destroy, The Bulwark, and this would significantly hinder our defences should we lose the repair facilities there.

As the Rok and the Kruiser closed on The Bulwark, they were bracketed and then hit by the impressive firepower the station could bring to bear, and before the Rok could ram her, The Bulwark finished it off, smashing it into pieces. Stung by the loss of the majority of the attacking troops, the Kruiser turned towards space station, and impacted against her. Although breaking the back of the Kruiser, effectively ending the life of the warship, it meant that the Orks on board were able to swarm aboard the beleaguered station.

Ivanov had been exchanging fire with the raider, and had inflicted some damage, when, inspired by their larger sister ship, the raider came alongside, grappling the Furnace of Redemption, and Ork infantry began to force their way aboard. They were quickly met, and pushed back by Ivanov's stormtroopers, and Kolonel Shakgul took his Orks on a counter raid into the enemy vessel, confronting the enemy Warboss, and trading blows before both were forced to disengage; Shakgul to get back on board the Furnace of Redemption as she attempted to separate from the Ork vessel, and the enemy leader to try and rally his troops as they had been thoroughly confused by the unexpected hostile forces within their own ship.

As the fight between the two crews tailed off, Ivanov received a message from Commander Reynolds on The Bulwark. "We are being boarded! By Drusus there are too many of them! We need your help!"

Ivanov, far calmer than Reynolds replied; "Commander Reynolds. We will be there as soon as we possibly can. We have some issues here too..."

"Please hurry! There are so many of them! You can enter through one of the docking masts - please hurry..." and Reynolds desperate plea was cut off.

The Furnace of Redemption broke clear of the Raider, and powered towards the space station, and with some excellent piloting docked at one of the masts, as suggested by Reynolds. Ivanov led his stormtroopers and a significant proportion of the crew aboard, and cleverly manoeuvred the Orks into isolated regions of the space station before venting them to the void. Although the remaining ork ship, the Raider, managed to close with the space station, it was severely damaged, and was largely ineffective by the time it managed to offload its xenos cargo. The unfortunate greenskins met the same fate as their brethren, and the few remaining ork survivors were quickly mopped up, and the threat to The Bulwark ended.

Once again, through decisive action by members of the Dureen Dynasty another threat to Damaris had been neutralised, and those that had fought alongside Ivanov discovered a new respect for the man, having seen him in action against the hated xenos.


Ivanov turned his attention back to the problem of the detention of the Governor, and a short hour after the last of the greenskins had been despatched, met Captain Locke, Marshall Thrace, and Bishop Arint on the freshly returned Aegis. Locke congratulated him for his successful defence of The Bulwark, and then they got down to the business at hand.

The Bishop would make a speech to the masses about the glory of the Imperium, and the importance of loyalty to it, whilst Thrace and Locke agreed that more direct action may be required. They agreed to provide some handpicked troops from the Magistratum cadres and Locke's Stormtrooper unit who would begin to train Ivanov's Stormtroopers and prepare for a potential raid, and all present promised to share any intelligence they should come across with regard to the Governor's situation.

 


Fresh from his successful defence of The Bulwark, Ivanov's attention turned to the war on the ground; he passed information to the command centre, and tracked Ork formations as they advanced on Damaris City. This aid was invaluable as other intelligence reports were patchier this time than they had been over the previous weeks, however, combined they were good enough for the defending troops to strengthen the fortified areas that looked under threat with high confidence that the forces had been deployed correctly.

Once again, the armoured columns found and destroyed the Roks that had managed planet fall, weakening the forces that were besieging the city, yet there were still large numbers of attackers. The well disciplined and now experienced troops took their positions once again, and, again the green tide broke against the stubborn defences. Thousands of Orks were killed, and defenders of Damaris City stood proudly in their positions knowing that their homes remained safe still. Even so, men and women died, and once again ammunition and fuel supplies dwindled to dangerously low levels.


Ivanov took the decision to escort a vital resupply convoy in from the Forge to the city, and found himself harried by Ork bikes and buggies for the entire journey. Eventually the enemy closed on the convoy, and he was forced to make the difficult decision to sacrifice some of the supplies, leaving them behind for the Orks. As they closed on their prize, they allowed the rest of the land train to get clear; Ivanov smiled a small smile, and pushed a button on his command transmitter, and in the distance the Orks were immolated as the sacrificed stores, booby trapped by one of the soldiers before it had been cut free from the convoy, detonated. The remaining twenty kilometres of the run to the city was uneventful, and the supplies desperately needed by the frontline troops were distributed.

Elated by the resupply, morale soared once more, however, it was clear to anyone with the full strategic picture, or to someone like me, who was able to review the data after the fact, that with the levels of attrition that were evident, it would be unlikely that the city would be able to hold for much more than two or three standard weeks...

 

Adept Alexander reported back with regard to the information he had uncovered about Governor Kapak. He was being held in his private rooms in the palace, "protected" by a platoon of the local levy and was always escorted by two tough looking guards. It did appear that he was being drugged to keep him compliant, or to give the impression of the incompetence that General Dante was accusing him of. At least we had confirmation that the man was still alive, and of his location...

The reports of Bishop Arint's speech were not so positive however, apparently he got carried away, and the population was not particularly impressed with his fire and brimstone performance extolling the virtues of the Imperium when General Dante had been emphasising in his addresses how Damaris had been abandoned by the Imperium, and left to their own devices. Interestingly, Dante had been quite clear how important the Dureen Dynasty had been in the defence of the world, calling us the "true allies of the world" so, it seems that the man is not all bad...

It appeared that Lady Orleans had been meeting with General Dante more regularly, so it looked as though she had decided that after the xenos threat had been neutralised, it would be Dante in power rather than Kapak, and at this moment in time I could not fault her logic.

Finally, at the start of the week, we had despatched the four system defence ships on scouting missions; we had been attempting to locate the source of the Roks that kept bombarding Damaris. They had not been able to find those, but, had tracked a number of Ork raider class vessels into a segment of the Frozen Reaches, but, obeying their orders had not closed with them, instead turned back to report their findings. Combined with the other intelligence we had gained over our time in system, we had at least narrowed down the possible location of the Ork headquarters to a mere two million square kilometres somewhere within the belt of asteroids and ice... If we were to have any chance of victory, we would need to find and destroy this before they defeated us through simple attrition.

Unfortunately a dedicated search through that volume of space, cluttered as it was with debris and asteroids would take at least two weeks, and that would take the planet to the limit of its endurance, and possibly beyond.

The final interesting piece of information came from The Bulwark, which later in the day had warned of a solar flare that would interfere with short range vox communications and the satellites in orbit, and the population was ordered to take cover indoors. Afterwards, it was reflected that such a flare would provide perfect cover for a raid if necessary.

In Shard's Forge, I was summoned to the medicae chamber; Hartek had been showing signs of returning strength. Once again, he awoke from unconsciousness to see me leaning over him. As reassurance I had once again selected the smiling mask to attach to my respirator grill to signify that all was well. After his initial surprise, and a brief conversation during which I related all I knew of the strategic situation, and any changes that had occurred in his absence, I realised that Ivanov would probably be better placed to update him, and arranged a vox link to the Furnace of Redemption. As Ivanov updated Hartek, I sent a servitor to retrieve his clothes, as I am sure that Ivanov was slightly uncomfortable conversing with a naked Rogue Trader, even at a distance and in the form of a holo-projection...

Afterwards, Hartek had requested a record be made of his return to the front lines, so I dispatched a vid team to accompany him. The finished recording was impressive; he stood on the city walls, cheered by hundreds of soldiers, both House Dureen, and local, a spectacular sunset behind him. He stood there, proud, his battle axe in one hand, and huge Damarian standard in the other, the fact that he was still wounded evident, and his battle scarred armour testament to the efforts he had been making in the defence of the world. I had instructed the vid crew to capture the whole vista (which Hartek had outlined to me after he had woken), and then for them to focus on his face and upper torso, where the sigil of House Dureen was clearly visible on his armour. This would clearly link our Rogue Trader House with Damaris in the minds of those that saw the broadcast. Apparently this was very effective, and it became one of the signature shots in the media coverage of the defence of the world, usually bearing the title "The Defender of Damaris".

All we needed to do now was survive long enough to exploit the benefits that this would give us.

The following day Hartek was back aboard the Furnace of Redemption getting himself re-familiarised with the minutiae of running the campaign when he was interrupted by a report from the sensorium crew.

"Sir! We've detected a contact! It's an unusual profile... I think it's a craft of some type...!"

Ivanov walked over to the sensorium station and attempted to clean up the return that was being received. It was difficult, but he finally managed a relatively clean contact, and then he grunted in surprise; "Rogue Trader, I have identified the craft as xenos, classified as an Eldar Aconite Class Frigate. They're heading in-system!"

Hartek looked up. "Vox, hail them!"

The crew could did as instructed, and one crewman reported back, "Sir! They're responding."

The holo-tank was activated, and the face of an Eldar female appeared, her eyes were piercing grey, and a tear like marking surrounded her right eye. She wore the green hooded robes of an Eldar Ranger, similar to those we had encountered in the strange pyramid several months previously, with Inquisitor Atellus and the Astartes Castagir. The Eldar spoke, in the unearthly tone common to her kind, however, differing from those we had encountered previously, she seemed less hostile and certainly less arrogant.

"Greetings humans! I am Jahanna Bhalroth, the Scorpion's Wrath. We are the noble children of Isha."

Hartek grunted. "I am Trader Regent of House Dureen."

The female nodded a greeting, before speaking again. "We know of the plight you face. The battle against the greenskins. Even now they cower at the edge of the system. We offer you a gift so that you may attain victory over these beasts, and wish to parley on the planet below. What say you?"

Somewhat stunned by the request, and the polite manner in which it had been made Hartek paused for a second, and then nodded. "Well then, come ahead Eldar ship, and be welcomed as friends!"

The Ranger thanked Hartek, and we received data packets embedded in the transmission, giving the coordinates for the meeting; an area on the far side of the planet to the major settlements, and one that had yet to be fully explored.

She spoke again. "I shall be bringing a few of my trusted advisers. You should do the same. May your journey be safe." And she broke contact.

The bridge crew was left wondering what other surprises our time on Damaris would bring.


++ End of record ++
 

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 We managed to scrape in an extra session this bank holiday weekend, so Lord Spatula is slogging his way through a double-plus helping of write-ups at the moment.

So while you're waiting and so that Marvin doesn't have to flagellate himself with birch twigs again, here's a little cinematic teaser trailer for the finale of the Frozen Reaches storyline to keep you going.  Enjoy. happy.gif

 

[MUSIC: Gregorian chanting]

[FADE IN to opening SFX shot of Damaris system in space. A ship, the FURNACE OF REDEMPTION flies from behind and to the left of camera, in towards the planet of Damaris, where we can see three other ships already in orbit. FADE TO black title card with bold white text]

TITLE: They came for gold

[FADE TO shot of the Governor's Palace on Damaris, in the middle of the Grand Ball... I mean Gala Banquet, welcoming the planet's defenders. The place is opulently decorated, all the attendants are in their most redonkulous finery littered with gold braid and shin baubles. FADE TO title card again]

TITLE: They came for glory

[FADE TO shot of a battlefield, with a wave of human troops sweeping forward over Orky defensive positions that look like something out of World War One. An explosion demolishes a small dugout bunker, sending bodies scattering in all directions Quick cut to shot of Leman Russ tank leading the charge, with Kilgrim riding on the turret. His right hand holds his Squat Power Battleaxe, his left a standard bearing the flag of Damaris. In slow motion he screams defiance at the orks, framed by a billowing, fiery explosion behind him. FADE TO title card again]

TITLE: They came to bring hope to a doomed world

[FADE TO SFX shot of two Orky Roks plummeting through the Damaris atmosphere, wreathed in the fires of re-entry. CUT TO shot of a battlefield as the greenskins goe over the top heading towards the camera with a mighty WAAAAAAAGH. The Green Tide fills the screen from side to side and is clearly a mighty horde. CUT TO to shot of RANDOM PEASANT WOMAN with CINEMATICALLY GRUBBY CRYING CHILD clutching DOLLY who are cowering in the doorway of a rubble-strewn street. FADE TO title]

TITLE: Now they must learn the terrible truth

[FADE TO series of 1-2 second close-up shots of command crew on Furnace Of Redemption bridge, by the glow reflected onto their faces it looks like they're looking at a big viewscreen display somewhere behind the camera. First focus on the inhuman visage of Enginseer Nikander Hak, who although devoid of emotion, is clearly disturbed by what he's seeing. Next we cut to Lt Commander Victrix Ivanov, in naval uniform, whose eyes are wide in terror. Finally back to Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek, standing before his command throne reaching his bionic right hand forwards, as if to grab something off the viewscreen. He's shouting something that might be "Noooooooo" but we can't hear it, and his eyes hold a look of shock. FADE TO Title]

TITLE: You can't have it all.

[MUSIC CUE: chanting interrupted by massive Taiko Drum hit, a beat of silence follwed by European style military drums beating out a fast tattoo to match the montage of images. It builds up in intensity towards the end.] 

[MONTAGE: We FAST FADE through a series of short 2-3 second shots with a voice over from Kilgrim Hartek]

[sHOT: Ship Interior, recognisable as a corridor in the Furnace of Redemption. Kilgrim in Power Armour with his Squat Power Battleaxe in hand striding purposefully forward in slight slow motion leading the Housecarls, his power-armoured bodyguards who are close behind him.]

KILGRIM VOICE OVER: (in an oratorial voice, as if he's giving a speech to troops) Sometimes in the course of history..

[sHOT: Exterior Space, in the middle of an asteroid field, a dark mass is slowly revealed to be the form of a Gas Giant planet nestled amongst the Asteroids, as sunlight illuminates a crescent of the Gas Giant, and any players with real-world astronomy or physics knowledge all die a little inside. Hell, why don't we just throw a gratuitous lens flare in there for good measure?]

KILGRIM VO: ..all the workings of the great powers..

[sHOT: Enginseer Hak, apparently melting into a bank of machinery]

KILGRIM VO: ..come down to the deeds of a handful of ordinary men and women..

[sHOT: Ship Interior, focus on Kilgrim's Killers, the all-female Stormtrooper unit, in desperate close-quarter combat with a greenskin horde. Girls are dying horribly]

KILGRIM VO: ..who just happen to be in the wrong place at the right time.

[sHOT: A huge Ork Warboss on the throne in what looks like an orky ship interior, he bounds to his feet and lets out a bestial roar]

KILGRIM VO: But if those ordinary souls at the point of the spear..

[sHOT: An Imperial Frigate, slowly pinwheeling out of control as explosions ripple down its length]

KILGRIM VO: ..stand fast and do their duty..

[sHOT: Ship Interior, a firing line of the power-armoured Housecarls giving volley-fire with their custom double-barrelled Hellguns]

KILGRIM VO: ..they can change the universe.

[sHOT: Exterior Space, the Furnace Of Redemption pivots on its long axis as it slides between two Ork vessels, macrocannon batteries blazing at close visual range. As the explosions hit, the ship turns hard over to starboard and heads towards camera leaving the Ork ship wreathed in flames]

KILGRIM VO: (shouting) This is our moment!

[sHOT: Ship Interior, in the midst of a melee of Kilgrims Killers and Greenskins, we zoom in on Victrix Ivanov who almost looms in the camera shot. In a determined but fluid motion and heedless of the chaos around him he brings down his Naval Pistol in a classic duellist stance, aiming at a target behind and slightly to the right of the camera. We see the muscles on his hand tighten, but cut before he fires]

KILGRIM VO: (shouting) This is where we make our final stand!

[sHOT: Ship Interior, Kilgrim Hartek in Power Armour, Squat Power Battleaxe in his bionic right hand, lighter Power Axe in his other, going one-on-one with an Ork Warboss who towers over him. Both are fighting in a whirling, two-weapon hail of blows style. They are evenly matched, neither landing a blow on the other.]

KILGRIM VO: (shouting) This is when we shake the pillars of heaven and cry fury at the abyss.

[sHOT: Two of Nikander Hak's Battle Servitors facing camera, guarding a doorway. Firing at full auto towards us as greenskin horde pours towards them from behind the camera, lots of carnage among the orks but they're slowly closing on the servitors]

[PAUSE for a beat]

[CUT TO SHOT: Kilgrim on a raised platform, addressing a mixed assembly of troops in what might be recognisable as the Furnace of Redemption's Teleportarium]

KILGRIM: (Shouting and raising his battleaxe overhead defiantly) For Damaris and the glory of House Dureen!

[Crowd cheers wildly, then all are encompassed by a Teleportarium SFX field]

[MUSIC CUE: The Drum tattoo reaches a climax and then stops abruptly] synced with [CUT TO black screen]

[PAUSE for a beat]

[sLOW FADE TO very, very tight close-up of Rogue Trader Kilgrim Hartek's face, so tight we can only from just above his eyebrows to just below his mouth. He's heavily bruised and bloodied with grime covering his face, obviously having been in the fight of his life. His jaw is slack, his eyes are wide with a mixture of fear and grief. His expression looks uncharacteristically vulnerable, with his normal hard edge and bluster nowhere to be seen.]

KILGRIM: (voice broken and barely above a whisper) Emperor, what have I done?

[MUSIC CUE: Taiko drum hit] synced with [CUT TO BLACK]

[sLOW FADE IN to title screen]

Rogue Trader: For Profit And Plunder

Mid-season two-part finale event
25/05/2010 at 19:30z
29/05/2010 at 14:00z

[HOLD for 7-8secs, then FADE TO final title]

TITLE: Nothing will ever be the same again.
 

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Oh you tease...

The talent in this group is excellent, I'm very much looking forward to the next installment, even more so now.

Thanks

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Zakalwe, I agree, so far as the GM its been a blast to run and I hope to continue tormenting them for a few more sessions.

SPOILER WARNING - We are still playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

As another meeting with xenos held little interest for me, they're just another form of fleshbag, after all, I remained in Shards Forge working on my own problem while Hartek and Ivanov went to meet the Eldar at the designated coordinates; as usual, I dispatched a flotilla of servo-skulls to monitor and record the meeting.

The far side of Damaris had been little explored, and the two men and their bodyguards were forced to use a guncutter to deploy themselves as the teleportarium on the Furnace of Redemption was unable to gain a clean lock on the designated location due to interference from a strange energy vortex. They were deposited in a clearing around five kilometres from their target, and looking around they found themselves in primordial forest that seemed full of animal life. As they approached their destination, they came across a series of strange ruins; these were stark white in colour, however, the harshness of this was ameliorated by a variety of green and natural colours that were also present. The designated coordinates corresponded with a small clearing; within this was an ancient central construction, seemingly some sort of xenos temple. The structure of the ruins was elegant; odd arches with strangely rounded and smoothed edges, and studded with large, smooth gemstones that were as black as night, as if any colour they once held had somehow drained away.

Ivanov stepped forward into the silence to investigate, nervously looking around, and then he spoke; "Lady Bhalroth, we are here!" His breath misted in front of his face, and silence fell again.

Several seconds later that silence was broken again, this time by the arrival of an Eldar male dressed in flowing purple robes, a featureless helm tucked under his arm and a long blade strapped to his back. Flanking him were two others, dressed as Eldar Corsairs, in long coats adorned with talismen and trinkets, and they both carried shuriken catapults. Beyond these was the Eldar Captain, wearing the robes of a Ranger. As she stepped lightly forward she let her hood fall, and revealed a mane of white hair, and a delicate face with strangely stormy grey eyes. Her grace was animalistic, and she gave the impression that to face her in battle would be a dangerous thing to do.

Ivanov turned towards Hartek, and spoke; "Sir, the Eldar are here. It is safe to approach!"

Now, I feel that that phrase was particularly wasted, as Hartek had been watching events, and I doubt he needed coddling in such a way. It seems that he felt the same way; the recording clearly shows that he when stepped forward, he glanced at his first officer with some disappointment, coloured with a tinge of annoyance. I suspect there may have been words passed between the two men on their return to the ship!

Anyway, enough of that.

Hartek strode towards the xenos, and as he came to a halt, the male Eldar spoke in fluent Low Gothic, with a lilting voice; "I am Bhaine Dhun of the Craftworld Kaelor. We have come a long way to see you, and bring you information of great importance. Several months ago I received a vision of this place. In the vision I saw two groups going to war with one another; orks and humans."

This in itself was no real prophecy, and could be applied to thousands of worlds across the galaxy, and everyone knew it. I could see the twitches on Hartek's face that meant he was about to make a sarcastic comment, but then he seemed to restrain himself. Calldia believes that this was probably for the best, and I am inclined to agree with his assessment.

The Eldar continued to speak, one eyebrow raised, as if he too had guessed the Rogue Trader Regent's thoughts; "I saw premonitions of the future. If the orks won the war it would herald a greater doom, ushering in events that could prove disastrous for my Craftworld, and perhaps some of my race. However, should the humans prevail you might go on to avert this doom. Hence our presence here to aid you."

No-one around the clearing reacted at this, although I am sure I could detect a slight movement as Ivanov looked towards Hartek.

The sing-song sound of the Eldar broke the silence once more, as Bhaine Dhun spoke again. "Now, I have a gift for you."

He produced a crystal wafer (this, unlike the xenos themselves, I was interested in), he activated it, and an image of the entire star system appeared above it, glowing ethereally in the twilight.

"This shows where the hidden giant will appear next, in six times ten of your hours." Bhaine Dhun looked at Hartek, before continuing. "Use it well human, for you have no other chance. The greenskin warlord has spread his fleet wide over the system leaving his heart vulnerable..."

Fortunately, the information regarding the "hidden giant" tied in with everything we had already discovered, however, had removed the need for us to search the arc of space we had divined the orks to be based in. The Eldar handed the crystal wafer to Ivanov, who stepped forward to take it. It was noticeable that the Eldar flinched slightly as Ivanov approached, and he dropped the wafer into Ivanovs' hand, apparently keen on avoiding physical contact.

The transfer complete, the Eldar composed himself, and spoke again. "I must warn you of one final matter. The greenskin warlord will not be slain unless you witness his severed head with your own eyes. This I have foreseen..."

Hartek grunted, hefted his axe, and spoke for the first time. "Doable."

The female Eldar nodded, amusement in her eyes, and then shockingly Bhaine Dhun bowed towards Hartek. "Until fate brings us together again!"

The Rogue Trader Regent returned the bow and all the Eldar turned on their heels and silently left the clearing.


Ivanov arranged a vid conference with Captain Locke, General Dante, Lady Orleans and Jeremiah Blitz. Hartek outlining the new data we had received from the Eldar. All those present expressed shock that the xenos would want to help, and this quickly turned to suspicion, but once Hartek had explained that their helpfulness was spawned from self interest, the boon was accepted for what it was; useful intelligence. Plans were quickly made to use the new information to launch a strike at the ork holding area, and destroy the threat at source. Hartek requested the return of a small number of troops to the Furnace of Redemption, and for Captain Locke's Stromtroopers to be returned to the Aegis. This was agreed, and it was agreed that the system defence vessels would be left defending the planet in the event that the orks launched an unfortunately timed strike at Damaris, or The Bulwark again.

Hartek paid me a surprise visit in Shards Forge, expressing concern for my wellbeing. I paused, about to dissemble, and then decided to take the risk and told him all that I and Shard had discovered with regard to the virus. Barely missing a beat, Hartek grasped my hand, promising that once we had dealt with the orks, all the resources of House Dureen would be made available to me to help me defeat this virus.

Which was nice.

He then asked me to return to the Furnace of Redemption and take my place for the coming battle. Once I had left further samples for Shard, I readily agreed to this, and returned with him.


The small fleet, consisting of the Aegis, the Furnace of Redemption, Lady Orleans' Stormweaver, and Blitz's Ordained Destiny, made good time out to the Frozen Reaches; however, navigation through the asteroid belt would prove difficult if a route had not been plotted. Ivanov took the Fury interceptor, and I joined him to run the sensors and operate the technical apparatus.

Waiting at the edge of the belt of debris, Hartek arranged to speak to Lady Orleans. He had noticed that she had been spending some time with the General, and was keen to find out where she stood with regard to the situation with the Governor. After some verbal fencing, they both decided that the they should speak frankly; her position was that she would have to do business with whoever was in charge, as she could not neglect her interests on Damaris simply because of a regime change.

She phrased it succinctly; "It's unfortunate, but we have to move with the ebb and flow of business...!"

Hartek agreed, but expressed concern whether General Dante would honour any previous arrangements. Lady Orleans felt that there was no reason why Dante would not do so, particularly for the highly thought of "Defender of Damaris", and although not totally reassured, it is obvious from Hartek's comments that he felt a little more relaxed haven spoken to his fellow Rogue Trader. The meeting broke up with a toast to "Mutually enriching profit!"

Ivanov and I were struggling to find a clear route through the asteroid belt, but eventually we did so, and found a strange pocket of empty space centred on the gas giant. For the first time we were able to gain a clear picture of the ork dispositions. It had taken us almost nine hours to find the xenos base of operations, so I quickly locked the location into both my own, and the interceptors cogitators, and we headed back into the asteroid field, before sending a tight beam communication to the waiting flotilla, before we moved to intercept the advancing force, and dock with the Furnace of Redemption. Our plotted route did allow the warships to advance more quickly, but even so they took multiple hits on their void shields and armour, fortunately without doing any serious damage to any of the ships; it would have been unfortunate to lose one before battle was joined.

I reviewed the reconnaissance recordings I had used the interceptors systems to make, and was somewhat shocked by the scale of operations that the orks had undertaken. They had turned one of the moonlets into a construction facility. Strange protrusions had been added, and as I watched the recording I saw one of them spit forth a bolt of energy which struck a nearby asteroid and began to drag it into a cavern on the surface of the moonlet. The orks were about to start the construction of another Rok.

The actual act of locating the hidden gas giant was important in its own right; Skadi was listed as one of the fables of the Expanse and few had ever seen her and survived long enough to report the fact. Still, we had managed the first half; there was only the simple matter of a sizeable ork fleet preventing us from doing the second. I fed the information into the tactical cogitators on the Furnace of Redemption and we were presented with a display on the holo-table; at the centre of the projection was the gas giant and the ork base that was producing the Roks that had been bombarding Damaris. Two more were almost ready for launch, and another three were in the early stages of construction. Nearby was a huge ork warship that the cogitators labelled as a Kroozer, and identified as Da Rippa, but it was bigger than any ork vessel we had previously seen, and knowing what we now did about the greenskins, it was on here that the ork warlord would mostly likely base itself. There was another, smaller Kroozer, eight Raiders, and suddenly I was able to tag another vessel; this one was covered in strange symbols and sigils that were unpleasant to look at, but with which we were unhappily familiar. Servants of the ruinous powers were present too.

It seemed that our excursion to Damaris would continue to throw surprises at us; unfortunately they all seemed to be unpleasant.

A battle plan was formulated; the Aegis and Furnace of Redemption would team up and attempt to destroy, or at least cripple the smaller Kroozer, and then head directly at our target ship, while the Stormweaver and Ordained Destiny would attempt to keep the smaller raiders of our backs. It would be difficult to do but it seemed the best plan available to us.


The orks were taken by surprise, as we drifted in under silent running protocols, and our opening salvoes severely damaged the smaller Kroozer, leaving it burning, and with shattered weapons batteries, but from that point the battle went badly.

The Aegis found herself separated and was forced to run for the cover of the asteroid belt as she was battered by several of the Raider class vessels. She did manage to destroy one by way of payback, but it was unknown whether the proud ship would see the day out. Similarly, the Starweaver found herself out-gunned by the orks, and the chaos vessel, and although she was able to do some minor damage to her attackers, she was quickly forced to go on the defensive to avoid the withering fire from the enemy. Blitz aboard the Ordained Destiny fared better, but seemed strangely reluctant to commit his ship to the aid of his comrades, perhaps deciding that all was already lost. As successfully as the campaign had been going to date, this critical battle seemed to be going equally as badly.

Seeing this Hartek ordered a close pass on Da Rippa, and in a last desperate throw of the dice he ordered his Housecarls, Ivanov and his dedicated boarding troops, and myself to the teleportarium chamber, I elected to bring my three Charron pattern Battle servitors with me to boost our firepower.

As we prepared to make the telportarium jump the gunnery crews out-did themselves, hitting Da Rippa with salvoes from both weapon systems, then a vox channel from the bridge opened on the speakers in the chamber, and we heard the voice of Orbest Dray; "Sir! You need to see this!"

Dray had redirected the auger feeds to the small holo-display in the control chamber, and as we watched as our fire impacted on the vile xenos craft, then suddenly the display was distorted by strange readings that coalesced into false returns and disappeared, only to reappear elsewhere, then the lights in the chamber flickered, and my servitors lurched as though they had just suffered from an electrical surge. I could hear a high-pitched wailing scream, and when I looked around the room I could see everyone else could hear the same thing. Suddenly my attention snapped back to the holo-display; a massive return steadied itself and resolved into an ancient Eldar ship. Strangely, it looked as though it had seen thousands of battles; the hull was scored and pitted, and its sails were tattered.

I heard a sudden intake of breath from Dray, then, shocked, he spoke; "The Whisper! It's the Whisper of Anaris!"

The Officer of the Watch explained that the strange Eldar vessel was a ghost ship, famed throughout the Expanse, but with an ominous reputation; a sighting could portend fortune or calamity in equal measure. It had been recorded aiding vessels, only to attack them in later encounters. We watched the display as the strange new arrival turned in on us, and the Ork Kroozer unsure of her intent. My attention was snapped back to more immediate concerns by Hartek, who barked a command, ordering us to get into the teleportarium chamber itself and to prepare for transit onto the bridge of the greenskin vessel.

"Death or glory" is an oft-used phrase in the entertainment vid casts that the masses consume with such eagerness, but in this case, a situation as desperate as any we had ever experienced, I believe that it was an apt phrase. The next half hour would go down in the history of Damaris and the Dureen Dynasty, or would seal the destruction of both.


++ End of record ++
 

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Below is the concluding session of the Frozen Reaches.....

Also, im away for the next two weeks so those who like the writeups will have to wait for their fix gran_risa.gif

SPOILER WARNING - We are still playing through the Frozen Reaches so dont read on if you dont want to know what happens.

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

 


++ LOCATION: DAMARIS, THE FORCILLIAS SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++

++ File retrieved from the carrier wave of the final vox transmission from ork Kroozer, Da Rippa, previously designated as the Imperial Cruiser Remorseless declared lost 119.M32; added to this personal record by Enginseer Prime Marcellus as instructed in encrypted subtext.

Glory be to House Dureen, and in the name of the Omnissiah ++


I do not have long, but, it seems have long enough to complete the record I have been keeping since I was assigned to my role with the Dureen Rogue Trader Dynasty; after all, it has been eventful, and it would be a shame to leave the record unfinished after all that has happened. For no logical reason I can discern, as I doubt that anyone will ever read these words, I feel that I must record the events of the last hour, and hope that the transmission makes it through to the Furnace of Redemption...


As the Whisper of Anaris continued its run towards us and the enemy Kroozer it swatted an ork Raider that had turned to engage it, lashing it briefly with a volley of pulse laser energy, and leaving tumbling wreckage where the undamaged enemy vessel had been moments before. Although my attention was focussed on the demonstration of power being shown on the holo-display I heard Hartek rousing the nervous troops around us;

"Sometimes in the course of history all the workings of the great powers come down to the deeds of a handful of ordinary men and women who just happen to be in the wrong place at the right time. But if those ordinary souls at the point of the spear stand fast and do their duty, they can change the universe. This is our moment! This is where we make our final stand! This is when we shake the pillars of heaven and cry fury at the abyss. For Damaris and the glory of House Dureen!"

The nervousness in the troops was replaced by a roaring of approval from the assembled fighting men and women. I could hear cries of "For the Dynasty", "For House Dureen", and "For Damaris" punctuating the cheering, and as I turned towards the Rogue Trader Regent to nod my approval I felt the familiar cold energies of the teleportarium wash over me. Quickly I snapped my ocular implants closed; I had no desire to gaze into the warp as we transited from one ship to another.

Just as quickly, the chill disappeared, and was replaced by the dry air of a starship, and the stench of generations of orks. I opened my ocular implants again to assess our position; we had arrived on the ork bridge, and amass of surprised greenskins looked at us with beady red eyes. Dominating the enemy chamber, sitting in a huge command throne was a massive ork, larger even than Kernal Shakgul, with half its jaw consisting of a metal replacement - a crude approximation of a cybernetic implant - and seemingly petting a furry white squig; this creature must be Snotgritz himself. Ivanov rapidly barked commands to his troops, ordering them to form a screen for the Rogue Trader Regent and his Housecarls, and they sprang into action firing volley after volley of gunfire into the startled orks. The power-armoured Housecarls, Hartek's bodyguard, formed a wedge, cutting down orks with discipline and precision fire allowing the Rogue Trader Regent to take his place at the tip, and begin to fight his way towards the massive ork Warlord, who seemed to be looking on with amusement.

I immediately turned towards the bridge doors, which were just behind our point of arrival, and ordered two of my servitors outside them into the corridor beyond, with instructions to hold the position until either the enemy, or they themselves were destroyed. I received confirmation of the orders and the men-machines stepped forward to do their duty. Almost immediately I heard the chattering of heavy bolter fire and explosion of plasma cannon blasts followed by the whine of the weapon recharging mixed with the screams and cries of orks as they died in large numbers. Satisfied that the servitors would buy us the time we needed, I struggled to close the heavy adamantium doors, and then began to seal them, isolating the bridge from outside interference.

As I worked I was able to take the time to survey the bridge, and heard the deep base rumbling laugh of Snotgritz, as he turned to the twelve large orks standing near him; he gestured at them, and with roars they charged towards Hartek and his Housecarls accompanied by Snotgritz bellowing, in Low Gothic, of all languages, "The tide is coming!"

I can only assume he meant the "green tide" as I have often heard ork armies referred to by veteran warriors who have faced them previously.

I sent my remaining combat servitor to aid the Rogue Trader and his men as dozens of orks, men and women were locked in brutal close quarters fighting; dozens of dead and wounded already littered the deck. I saw numerous acts of heroism, where the troops of House Dureen surpassed themselves, and I am sure there were many more that I missed in the chaos of the melee. I saw several of Snotgritz's chosen orks cut down before they smashed into the powered armoured wedge, cutting down at least one unfortunate Housecarl. In the midst of it all, I could see Hartek's blood axe rising and falling, and hear the crack of Ivanov's pistols as the two men reaped a heavy toll on the xenos. Outside the doors the heavy bolter fell silent and I realised one of my servitors had fallen. It soon became obvious that I would have to find further delaying tactics to slow any reinforcements that were on their way to the bridge.

I noticed that near the doors were a number of data-ports, and they appeared of Imperial design. Before Calldia could object I connected myself to the ports, and quickly found myself conversing with the machine-spirit of the warship.

Initially responses were slow as it had been several millennia since anyone had deigned to talk to the powerful spirits; however they seemed to welcome my presence, grateful for the chance to converse with someone who could understand them. They soon flooded me with information; shockingly it seemed that the vessel had begun life as an Imperial ship, originally designated the Remorseless, and had fallen to xenos control, some time thousands of years ago. The creatures had done foul injuries to her over the years, but now we began to form plans of revenge.

Once I had outlined my intentions, the mighty spirits seemed almost gleeful, welcoming the chance to extract a toll of vengeance on the vermin that now infested the corridors of the ship. Working together we began to turn life support off in vital areas, to open the regions of the ship surrounding the bridge to the void, to close off areas of the ship denying the orks access; thousands of greenskins died, and I could feel the Remorseless exalt in their death. We turned off artificial gravity in some areas, and increased its strength in others, we cut off power supplies in some areas, and caused conduits in others to overload, electrocuting anything unfortunate enough to be nearby. We flooded chambers with vented plasma, immolating numerous orks; we flooded corridors and rooms with water, drowning countless others. Between us, the Remorseless and I made the orks fear their own home, and they quickly became more concerned with the simple act of survival than doing anything to counter House Dureen's offensive strike. Satisfied, we turned our attention to the orks on the bridge, and began to overload terminals and power conduits there sending sparking arcs of energy around the chamber frying any greenskin too slow to get out of the way.

As the minutes passed, I became more and more aware of the precariousness of our position as the battle on the bridge developed; the fight was worryingly even, and in such circumstances it would have but one conclusion; the orks would find some way to reinforce their numbers and we would fall to their blades or their guns. Hartek had obviously come to the same conclusion, and decided to force the issue, and bellowing in the manner of the orks themselves, charged into the hand to hand combat with Snotgritz, closing with the monster, and shaking him with a massive blow from his battle-axe.

The fight between the two leaders was as mesmerising as it was brutal; both were masters of the art of fighting with blades, and both held weapons in both hands; however, it seemed that the inhuman tenacity of the ork would swing the balance. Snotgritz seemed able to ignore blows that would kill any normal opponent, and Hartek, already injured in the fighting on Damaris itself was on the receiving end of some crushing hits. I was not the only one to see this, and as the Housecarls were winning their battle against their orkish counterparts by a narrow margin, three of the brave men finished their own opponents and, one after the other, rushed forwards to protect their leader.

As it became clear that Ivanov's troops were effectively tying down the remaining orks on the bridge, the Lieutenant Commander took the opportunity to step calmly to one side and aim shots at Snotgritz, hitting the huge ork repeatedly, but seemingly unable to find a vulnerable location.

Snotgritz swatted away the three Housecarls that had intervened on their masters' behalf, but their sacrifice was not in vain. Hartek seemed to take strength from their self-sacrifice, he redoubled his attacks, and this time found gaps in the overstretched Warlord's defences. Seeing the opportunity to decisively swing the battle in the favour of the forces of House Dureen, Ivanov charged forwards and joined Hartek in hand to hand combat with the ork leader, leaving his surviving troops to finish the few remaining orks on the bridge.

Suddenly, I realised that other than the clash of blades, and swapping of insults between Snotgritz, Hartek and Ivanov, there was a strange silence on the bridge, and as I turned my attention to the scene of carnage, I could see only eight of Ivanovs troopers still standing, all of whom were wounded, and all of Hartek's Housecarls had fallen; the last man had his hands locked in a grip around a huge orks throat, taking his killer to its own grave with him. The bridge had been cleared of orks, and there were well over a hundred dead greenskins scattered over the deck, and victory looked close.

Then I heard a low moan from Calldia, and found my attention drawn to the air vents in the extremes of the bridge; armed orks were beginning to drop out of the conduits and crawl spaces, having obviously found a way passed the obstacles the Remorseless and I had attempted to put in their paths.

Assessing the situation using the pure logic that the Omnissiah had gifted me with, it was clear what needed to be done to ensure the safety of Damaris, to secure the future of the Dureen Rogue Trader Dynasty, and by extension to ensure that our original mission to the Koronus Expanse had a chance of success.

Once again I communed with the machine spirits, and with an almost feral glee, they agreed to my plan. Surprisingly Calldia did not voice any objections either, although I'm not sure whether he agreed with my plan, or was too shocked to object.

As I turned to watch the denouement of the epic battle between the ork leader, Hartek and Ivanov, I felt myself lifted from my feet; hundreds of cables and flexible pipes detached themselves from the hull plating, seemingly under their own power and volition, and secured me to the bulkhead. I connected as many of my mechadendrites and probes as I could into the ports connecting me to the ship, and suddenly felt as though I was a component of the vessel itself. I, or the Remorseless, I am not certain where one began, and the other finished, sent a narrow beam data stream to the Furnace of Redemption. Down this beam I connected to the teleportarium, and began to begin the procedure to invoke a transfer, and at the same time lock out any external interference.

I watched as the eight surviving troopers edged close to their leaders who were still battling the Warlord, all the time keeping a wary eye on the orks freshly arrived on the bridge. As I watched, I saw the exact moment that Snotgritz died. Ivanov took a grievous wound from the Warlords blade, but that was the opening Kilgrim needed; he hit the greenskin with an impressive combination of blows, and I am certain I saw the look of triumph on the face of the ork change to one of consternation, and then one of shock as Ivanov thrust his power blade through the xenos throat. As the huge body crashed to the deck, Hartek neatly side stepped and beheaded him with a final blow from his axe. He reached down, holding the severed head aloft shouting in victory, shocking the newly arrived orks and leaving them stunned and rocking on their heels.

Ivanov turned to call his surviving troops towards him, but his attention was caught by one of the fallen Housecarls, who in his final moments had seemed to be reaching out for something; he saw a small, corroded metal box, and quickly picked it up. I heard Hartek on his vox calling for extraction, but before he could complete the order, I triggered the teleportarium myself; safely transporting the survivors back to the Furnace of Redemption.


Alone on the bridge, I put the final part of my plan into action; the Remorseless was an ancient vessel, and as a result she had far more automation built into her than the warships currently in use in the Imperium, in fact, I am sure that certain elements of the Adeptus Mechanicus would consider her technology heretical now, but that was the least of my concerns. In fact without this ancient technology, my plan would not have been possible.

I have long since lost most of the frailties of the flesh, and so began to vent the bridge to the void, as I had done with many other parts of the vessel earlier. The newly arrived orks were quickly no longer a threat, so, focussed on the task in hand, the machine spirits and I turned the vessel, and put her on a collision course with the small moon that the orks were using as the Rok production facility. We paused slightly as the huge ship moved around her own axis and then pushed the plasma drives to full power. The Remorseless confirmed the trajectory and I returned my focus to defending the bridge from any further interference as the orks desperately tried to find a way in.

Notification chimes sounded and I picked up a broadcast from the Furnace of Redemption; Hartek appeared on the distorted display on the shattered bridge, holding aloft Snotgritz's severed head.

"Attention ork horde! I have in my hand the head of your leader, Warlord Snotgritz. His skull will make a fine drinking cup for my trophy cabinet. Leave this system while I have a mind to let you..."

I smiled to myself, appreciating the dramatic flourish, and realised that I needed to speak to my friends and explain my actions. I opened a channel to the Furnace of Redemption, and once it had been accepted, spoke.

"Kilgrim, my friend, you know what is happening with me... The virus... And I realised that there was only one way we could save Damaris... It seemed logical, and it serves all our needs."

I saw the Rogue Trader Regent look towards the helm crew, and heard him begin to bark orders. "Bring us alongside that Kroozer! Teleportarium, lock on target bring the Enginseer back aboard!"

I heard the familiar crackle of the Furnace of Redemption's internal vox, and smiled to myself as I knew what the Enginseer Secundi would say.

"Sir. The Teleportarium has been locked out. The source is external. I am attempting to break the coding now."

"Unlock it, **** your blood!" Hartek snapped

I could see the look of sorrow on the Rogue Traders face, and for the first time in a long while, I felt a wave of emotion wash over me, and the ship seemed to tremble along with me. Still I knew that he was pragmatic, and would take the events of the day in his stride and push on to meet our overall goals.

Another voice broke the unusual silence on the bridge. "Helm, bring us about. Engines full power. Get us away from that base!" Ivanov had realised that the Furnace of Redemption should not be anywhere near the moon when the ork ship impacted.

I cut the connection, and switched the view to the one being picked up by the external sensorium array. I was able to see the Imperial ships break clear, and even though the Starweaver and the Aegis were severely damaged I was confident they would survive. I watched as the mysterious Whisper of Anaris effortlessly destroyed two more ork vessels before fading from view, and then watched the surviving greenskin raiders scatter, breaking in disarray.

The bridge door suddenly rang to the sound of an immense blow, and I was able to detect that the orks had unleashed a number of their walker mechanised units, and after several minutes the heavy doors collapsed under the sustained assault. I made a number of quick calculations and smiled; I knew that they were already too late. I quickly prepared a final transmission to the Furnace of Redemption, set to transmit five seconds prior to impact; "Farewell my friends!"

I will encrypt this file, and attach it to the carrier wave in the hope that Enginseer Secundi... No, Enginseer Prime Marcellus as he is now will detect and retrieve it. I left him enough hints in the lock out of the teleportarium, so hopefully he will do his job as well as I know he can...

Calldia finally spoke to me; "I knew you would be the death of me!"

He was so calm that I could not help but laugh before I replied; "But what a way to go..."


++ Appendum: Added by Enginseer Prime Marcellus in the interest that all records regarding the events on Damaris are complete and accurate.

Following the events detailed earlier in these records, the Furnace of Redemption returned victorious to Damaris, and was able to replace her losses to both crew and soldiers by recruiting willing volunteers from the population of the world. Astropath Kevil Stasys, who had previously spoken to the Rogue Trader Regent agreed to join the ship as her new Choir Master Telepathica to replace Golgotha, whose mind was still shattered by the strange events on the journey to Damaris. Furthermore, it appeared that the Dureen Dynasty and Damaris had forged strong links that would last well into the future; Rogue Trader Regent Hartek reconnected with General Dante, and was able to secure the release of the old Governor into the custody of House Dureen. I understand that once the man has recovered from chemical cocktail that his guards used to control him and keep him compliant Hartek has plans to use the administrative talents of the man to further the influence of the Dynasty.

Hartek and Ivanov used the time of the journey to inspect the small box recovered from the ork Kroozer; it seemed to contain what passed for the diary of the ork Warlord, and confirmed much of the information uncovered during our time in the Forcillias system. Further to that, it did indicate that the Chaos raiders were led by Karrad Val, a follow of whose, Sendak Voltrasse, we had previously encountered in the Saphirus system when we battled the Promise of Sedition. The heretics were interested in the Relic of Saint Drusus that we had taken into safe custody aboard our ship, and had guided the orks on their invasion as a mere distraction. With this in mind Bishop Arint agreed to accompany the relic which we would install in a purpose built Temple-shrine on the Grand Cruiser, His Undying Will on our return to Footfall, feeling that this would be safer for Damaris, and a more secure location for the relic.

Finally, Hartek, with the aid of Magos Shard, purged a small number of crew infected with a mystery virus of unusual potency, and inoculated a number of others. From the information garnered from the earlier records of Enginseer Hak, it is logical to assume that this was the same infection that ailed him.

I have also uncovered a small gift Nicander left me; a small Churubim that appears to be similarly featured to the late Enginseer. It has been programmed with sub-routines that reflect the core of his profile, and seems to exert a small degree of control over many of the servo-skulls that inhabit this vessel. Oddly, it roams freely around the vessel, and makes a point of delivering reports to me on a regular basis, appraising me of any event it considers relevant; I am not sure what to make of this, however, it could prove useful in the long term.

Appendum complete.

Glory be to House Dureen, and in the name of the Omnissiah ++


++ End of record ++

 

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My deepest reespect for such an innovative and surely memorable character death.

I dont know if ill ever be able to play this adventure without this scene forever etched into my mind.

Nicander Hak, you shall forever remain as an important cog in the great design of the Omnissiah.

 

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I am in the process of collating all the write-ups into a single .pdf file, with a few other details such as character, ship, and NPC overviews... It's going to be a fairly hefty volume, but if people are interested I'll post a link and make itavailable once it's done?

Just got to start planning Volume 2 now...

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