After a slight delay due to some overseas travels im now back and here is the next exciting write up.
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, FOOTFALL SYSTEM, THE CAULDRON ++
With only a slight pause, the Officer of the Watch replied to the challenge from The Light of Purity, and we were ordered to hold our position until the Astartes vessel could close to within shuttle range. The Interrogator smiled wryly at this, and then turned and left the bridge.
I turned to Hartek "They will take several hours to close with us, I will use the time to slave the transport vessels navigation systems to our own for the jump."
"Good idea. I have others to welcome aboard." Hartek replied "I have managed to recruit some experienced troops to our flag, and they are due to be here within the hour..."
"That's welcome news!" I said as I left the bridge, and I could hear Tech-Priest Calldia agreeing whole-heartedly. He had been strangely silent since he heard that we would be returning to the Saphirus System, and I had welcomed the silence if I am honest.
Yes, Calldia, I am saying that sometimes you talk too much...
Of course, I already knew about our impending recruits, I had sent Yorrick to shadow Hartek when I noticed him slipping out one evening, and had reviewed the recording on his return. He had met a Mercenary Captain named Duo...
Captain Duo was a hard-bitten and tough looking character, obviously a veteran of dozens of battles, who had earned his position within the Mercenaries. He and his men had returned from a mission in the Heathen Stars. They had chosen to part company with their previous employer, Duo stated, because of a "Cock-up."
Hartek sat up at this, alarm bells sounding in the back of his head. "Cock-up? Really? What happened?" He asked, hoping that what had happened was not the fault of the men he was hoping to recruit.
"Yes," Duo responded. "Some damn fool Rogue Trader nearly got us all killed out in the Heathen Stars. I don't want to be heading out there again in a hurry...!"
Hartek nodded. "Well, I won't lie to you Captain, we're not exactly on a pleasure cruise here. We're signed up for some fairly robust action. However, I won't piss my men's lives away like some Rogue Traders do."
"I hear that!" Duo grunted. "We lost a lot of men. Maybe not good men, but men non-the-less! It was a fool by the name of Trask, Sarvus Trask."
Hartek had never heard of Trask, but made a mental note of the name, for future reference.
"The man's a crazed fool!" Duo continued, "Takes insane risks, and cares little for the consequences. I won't be signing on with him again, or his line!" He paused as if thinking. "So, where are we going?"
Hartek nodded, accepting the implied acceptance of employment by Captain Duo. "I can't tell you the exact location, but we are heading into an unexplored system where we have, err... accepted... some subcontracted security work..."
Duo smiled wryly. "My men and I are not scared by hard fighting, we just object to sailing with fools. Or men who just don't care."
"Good." Hartek grinned. "Captain Duo, I am looking long term here. I aim to establish a cadre of experienced troops to build my cohorts around, and it seems like you and your men fit the bill. Stick around, and you will do well out of this."
Duo took another look at the figures on the dataslate that Hartek had passed him, and spoke; "We're in!"
Hartek smiled, and shook his hand. "Good! I'm pleased to hear it, Captain, actually, no, Major Duo. Welcome aboard."
Duo wrinkled his scarred face into the approximation of a smile, "Major Duo's Light Infantry is at your disposal, my lord!"
Hartek passed him another dataslate, giving him the co-ordinates for rendezvous near the jump point, "I trust you can arrange transport to here, and at this time?"
"Of course my lord." Duo nodded, stood and left the bar.
The work on the transport ships went remarkable smoothly and also allowed me to gain an insight into the vessels, their machine spirits, and their Captains. The Lux was a bulk carrier, with the capacity to transport people, supplies, and equipment. She was well maintained but poorly armoured and armed, and her Captain, who went by the name of Sven was pleased to be travelling in the company of warships. Captain Sven himself was a portly veteran of the outer worlds, charismatic and garrulous, who was even friendly towards me - I know that I cause some disquiet amongst most humans, so this was a pleasant change.
The Anvil was a smaller ship that was built with a specialist heavy lift capability for salvaging machinery, and was well equipped with lifters, diggers, cranes, and large dropships. Her Captain was an ugly Asian woman named McFallon, and for me to realise she was ugly, is saying something, usually I pay little attention to the appearance of humans except for recognition purposes, but she definitely stood out. She had a knack for technology, and if I'm truthful I would say that the ship was an example of borderline tech-heresy, and if we were within the borders of the Imperium I would report the ship to the nearest Forge World, simply for the sake of the mistreated machine spirits. However, I am a realist enough to know the challenges of the Expanse, and know that the skills of a bodging, scavenging, engineer are often required, and as Calldia reminded me, I have skirted the edges of tech-heresy myself. I kept my opinions to myself, but it was obvious I made McFallon uneasy, even more so than I do with other humans. I finished my work quickly, and headed back to the Furnace of Redemption.
I headed to the bridge to report the successful work on the navigation systems to Hartek, and he nodded his thanks, and as I left Navigator Proscesu approached the Rogue Trader Regent, and asked to speak to him in the Bridge Briefing Room. I looked on with interest, however, was not invited to join the meeting, so simply activated the recorders I had secreted in the room, and diverted the feeds to my own cogitators.
The Navigator was worried by some of the reports he had been getting from his contacts in Footfall, and amongst the vessels of other Rogue Traders and Chartist fleets, and had decided to pass on this intelligence to Hartek.
"I know you are busy Kilgrim, but before we left Footfall I felt that it was important that you know what I have discovered over the last few weeks. We need to protect our interests, I fear that conflict is coming..."
Hartek snorted, "There's always conflict!"
"I know, but this time it seems that the Dynasties are splitting into two factions, and facing off against each other. This is bigger than anything that's been seen for decades!"
Chastened, the Rogue Trader Regent took a seat, and indicated that Proscesu do the same. "Tell me everything..."
Effectively, the two largest Houses in the Koronus Expanse appeared to have developed a conflict of interest, however it was unclear what that was. Both sides had been make overtures to other Houses, and organisations, bringing them into the "protection" of the respective Dynasties, and were also rapidly recruiting troops, and buying weapons.
On one side was the Winterscale Dynasty, led by Calligos Winterscale. Even I had heard of Winterscale, a legend in the Expanse, indeed, the Saphirus System we had recently discovered, and were heading back to was located in an area of the void known as Winterscales Realm...
The Winterscales were squaring off against the Chorda Dynasty. The Chordas too had influence in the Expanse, not as much as the Winterscales, but were probably more powerful than any other line. Aspyce Chorda, the head of the Dynasty had a reputation for ruthlessness and coldness, and being from Scintilla in the Calixis Sector was a natural at dealing with political intrigue. She was an ex-Imperial Navy Captain, the third of six siblings, and the only daughter of Hamish, the previous head of the family. She took control after Hamish nearly bankrupted the Dynasty, and then disappeared with his oldest son and the family flagship. Anyone else who may have prevented her taking control, or had a claim to the Warrant of Trade, quietly disappeared, or were hunted down by Aspyce herself.
Hartek was obviously intrigued by the political upheaval, and he sat in silence for a few seconds, before speaking. "I think that we should hold a great ball on our return from Saphirus, and invite all the players. It will be interesting to meet these people and see what unfolds..." He smiled. "I'll leave instructions with the Seneschal to develop as much intelligence on all involved as she can while we're away."
Proscesu waiting patiently for Hartek to finish his scheming, and then continued; "I have also heard reports that a 'Master Dougal' in Port Wander has been offering a bounty to anyone who would help 'solve a problem' for his Dynasty..."
"Which Dynasty?" Hartek asked.
"I wasn't told." Came the reply.
Hartek went back to looking thoughtful; "Hmmmm... Thank you Navigator, we have a lot to plan for it seems! By the way, the Interrogator has provided three Warp Routes into unexplored systems for us. He assures us that no-one still living knows of them..." He handed the Navigator a data-slate. "I suggest you study them, we will be making use of them soon..."
They both left the briefing room, and Hartek headed to the Communicatorium chamber to relay his instructions to the Seneschal. While in conversation with Mistress Cassandra he learned that the Fel Hand had been spotted arriving in Footfall, and that Hadarak Fel had entered into conversation with the Chorda Dynasty. It appeared that more and more pieces were being placed on the board. The Seneschal reported to Hartek that she had run the standard checks on Fel to confirm what we already knew of the man from personal experience, that he was cunning, and his foppishness was a simple blind. She was able to add that the Fel Dynasty was in decline, and Hadarak was the last hope for the recovery of their line. I saw Hartek smiling at this news. She had also learned that a ship of the Mako Dynasty had arrived, captained by Lady Sun Lee, broadcasting dire warnings that a small flotilla of Ork Raiders had been encountered in the Cinerus Maleficum region of the Expanse, moving away from Undred Undred Teef.
The time of the rendezvous was fast approaching when Interrogator Helbrech requested my presence in the bridge briefing room for a planning session for the upcoming campaign. Finishing the work that was occupying me, I transferred any data I felt would be relevant to my cogitators, and made my way there. On arrival I found the rest of the Command Staff, and the Interrogator and his retinue already in place, it was the first chance I had had to properly inspect the Interrogator's team.
My attention was first drawn to a bulky, well tattooed man, who carried himself with the confidence of a combat veteran. He was obviously an ex-Guardsman, and was rarely seen without a well crafted long-las. He was introduced to us as Sergeant Bolke, the only survivor of his entire regiment. What he had survived was not discussed, and the Sergeant himself seemed to have very little he wanted to say to us.
The next man, a tall human, he had features that were almost too perfect, almost artificial, and I made a mental note to find out what I could about him. He was dressed in the manner of Feral World tribal shamans I had seen picts of in the cogitator databases, so logically it made sense to assume that Boe was the psyker of the group. A few seconds later this was confirmed by the Interrogator as he introduced him as such, and named him as Damien Boe. Strangely, he seemed universally liked by all that had any contact with - me included, something that made me more determined to discover what I could about him. The Omnissiah knows that I am not usually so suspicious, but this man had triggered something that I needed to settle.
In the corner of the chamber stood a relatively short and sinewy figure dressed in a bodyglove. I saw Hartek smile as he caught sight of the figure, and remembered his story of the fist contact he had with the Interrogator on our asteroid base. I think Hartek assumed this was the person who had been standing behind him during the conversation. The figure moved with a grace and silence I have not seen in anyone else, and nodded, but did not speak, when introduced as Divine Vengeance.
The final person to be introduced was Doc. Doc had the appearance of a gun-fighter, and my attention was drawn to the pair of exquisite custom made pistols he carried. Initially he spoke very little, something that seemed to be a requirement for this Interrogators retinue, however, as people got to know him he opened up more. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given his name, he was introduced as the team medic.
A few minutes after the introductions were completed a message was relayed from the Bridge telling the Rogue Trader Regent that Justicar Poscar's shuttle had just left The Light of Purity. Accompanied by Interrogator Helbrech, the Rogue Trader Regent and I made our way to the shuttle bay to show our proper respects to the Astartes by meeting him on his arrival. Hartek had arranged for an honour guard in full dress uniform to be in place too.
The Shuttle was a work of the Omnissiah's art. It was sleek and deadly looking, superbly and lovingly maintained, and inscribed with prayers of dedication. The ramp dropped, and a huge armour-clad figure stepped onto the deck plates, I was shocked when I realised I could feel the vibrations of his steps through the floor. My mind flashed back to my previous encounter with an Astartes, at the start of my posting to the Rogue Trader Dynasty. As imposing as he was, he was unarmoured, and nowhere near as striking as the giant in front of me. I suddenly realised that Justicar Poscar was not wearing power armour, but was clad in tactical dreadnought armour, Terminator armour - something I had read about in the Mechanicus briefings, but never actually seen myself. He was carrying an archaic weapon, a halberd that he was also using as a staff, yet even that was as finely crafted as anything I had ever seen.
The armour quality was incredible, and despite the bulk it was intricately carved and constructed with a care rarely seen. I thought of the suit of Astartes power armour in my workshop, the set belonging to Castagir that we had recovered from Hadarak Fel, and resolved to rework it to the best of my ability in an attempt to provide him with something that a hero of the Imperium would be proud to wear. Tech-Priest Calldia was stunned into silence by what we were seeing - it was strange to be without his constant commentary - and I was shocked at just how wrong it seemed when it was missing.
The Justicar gazed at us all, sweeping us with his piercing eyes, and I could feel his eyes piercing my soul as he seemed to judge us. I was not alone in this feeling, judging from the gasps escaping the lips of those nearby.
"Justicar!" Hartek spoke, stepping forward. "Welcome aboard the Furnace of Redemption!"
Poscar looked down at the Rogue Trader Regent, and I am certain I saw his eyes widen with surprise when he realised who he was. He glanced at the Interrogator, before speaking in a rumbling bass voice. "You summoned us Interrogator?"
Poscar glanced at Hartek, then turned back to the Interrogator. "A mutant?"
Before the Interrogator could reply, Hartek interjected; "Abhuman is the correct terminology, Justicar!"
Helbrech added, "The Rogue Trader Regent stems from a stable branch of humanity, Justicar, in a similar way that the Ogryns do."
There was a brief silence, and then Hartek spoke again; "My people were once populous, and loyal servants of the Imperium, until we suffered great calamity..."
Justicar Poscar nodded, and then spoke; "I meant no slight, Rogue Trader Regent. Let us discuss the Emperor's work."
At this, Calldia snorted, and spoke to me for the first time in a while; "He said slight! To the slightest person on board! Ha!" I am sure I detected the edge of hysteria in Calldia’s voice, and he soon quietened down again.
"No slight was taken Justicar." Hartek replied. "If you would like to join us in our briefing room..." And with the rest of us in tow, he headed towards our destination.
As we approached the briefing room, the Archbishop, Nathaniel Shepherd, was waiting in the corridor, along with numerous missionaries and clerics, all clearly in awe of the Justicar.
The Archbishop spoke; "It is a pleasure to have you aboard, my lord! I knew the Emperor would send his servants to smite those who stand against him!"
"His eye watches all of us, and we all do his work." Poscar replied sternly, before brushing passed him, and entering the briefing room.
We all took our seats, as the Justicar remained standing, and Hartek spoke up once more.
"Justicar, in this case the Archbishop speaks for us all. We are truly most blessed to have you with us, to have you aid us in solving this problem..."
"The Emperor guides our steps, and this is the destiny that he has always had in store for us. But this is no minor problem, this will be a fight, not just for your lives, but for your very souls."
Hartek nodded. "Then let us hope we prove worthy!"
He paused, and began the briefing, outlining everything that we had done, or encountered during our time on Saphirus 1-1S2M3. I provided all the data I had, including recordings of all the creatures we had encountered, including the highly distorted pict capture of the huge figure seen emerging from the underground tunnels.
Justicar Poscar listened intently, and absorbed the information with a focus that a normal man would find impossible to maintain for so long a time period. Occasionally he would interrupt with a question, and then return to listening to the reports, once it was answered to his satisfaction. On several occasions during the briefing, particularly when the reports were concerned with the deadly infection that killed the wounded, and nearly killed me, I noticed that his armoured gauntlet with its mounted storm-bolter drifted slightly to cover everyone in the room, and then after a slight pause, as though he was analysing and assessing the data he was given, and appraising us, it dropped away again. I knew then that if the Justicar felt that we were compromised in any way, he would not hesitate to administer the Emperor's peace to us, and with a chill, remembering the voice I heard in my head on the planet, I felt strangely grateful.
Glancing around the room, I realised that nobody else had registered the slight movement, and decided not to mention it.
The Justicar was not interested in the records of the deadly illness, other than recognising that we were not infected, however, Interrogator Helbrech took copies of them, thanking me for my diligence.
We then started the strategic and tactical planning for or return to the infected world. Poscar revealed that there were four other Astartes that would travel with him, and they would engage the large creature that we had the distorted pict capture of. Our role was to deploy a teleportarium homer close enough for them to strike against the beast, and then keep all the other enemies from interrupting. This way, it was hoped, we could keep the large creature ignorant of the arrival of the Astartes, and give us the element of surprise crucial for victory.
Justicar Poscar informed us that he would leave us to making our plans for battle, and would return to The Light of Purity to prepare himself, and his men for the upcoming battle. With a final "The Emperor guides" he left the room and headed back to his shuttle.
Hartek and the Interrogator began to plan, and quite quickly formulated something that looked like it might work, and Interrogator Helbrech decided that he and his retinue would deploy with the forces of House Dureen. The operation was codenamed Operation Innoculatus, and broke down as follows;
++++ OPERATION INNOCULATUS ++++
Target: Saphirus 1-1S2M3
Objective: Destroy the Entity. Purge infected former-colonists. Restore the world to the Emperor's Light.
Initial Forces Available: (Guncutter transport requirement in brackets)
1st Cohort (3)
Tech Guard (2)
Inquisitorial Party (1)
9th Cohort (4)
7th Cohort - 100 bikes (5)
10 Basilisks (8 Cohort) (5)
20 Guncutters in total
2nd Cohort (10)
3rd Cohort (10)
20 Guncutters in total
4th Cohort (10)
6th Cohort (10)
20 Guncutters in total
Reserve Forces Available:
8th Cohort (Armoured Brigade) Due to transport limits, this will be reduced to 25 Leman Russ Battle Tanks and 25 Chimera Armoured Personnel Carriers
25 Guncutters in total
PHASE 1: Orbital Bombardment of the planned zone by the Furnace of Redemption and The Light of Purity
PHASE 2: The Orbital Bombardment is shifted to outside the planned defensive perimeter (10km radius), on call for redirection by Divisional HQ. Initial landing of Divisional HQ, Duo's Brigade, and Zim's Brigade to setup a beachhead and to use the bike units to scout the perimeters. These scout forces are directed to avoid contact if possible, but report concentration and movement of hostiles. Priority given to reporting location of the Entity. Zim's & Duo's Brigade to immediately setup defensive perimeter with prepared positions, and the Basilisks will be sited at a firebase central to the overall position primarily for fire support, but placed suitably for assault-gun mode direct fire should it become necessary. Guncutter transports are to leave the combat zone immediately and return to the Furnace Of Redemption to be loaded with ammunition and supplies. However, one Guncutter, assigned to the Inquisitorial Party, is to remain on the ground and under the Interrogator's command. Once the defensive positions are engaged with significant numbers of hostiles, Phase 3 will be initiated.
PHASE 3: Armoured Brigade landing. The Armoured Brigade will be held in reserve for when the natives attack, but when this happens they will be directed to a Landing Zone previously pacified by orbital bombardment, 4-8Km from main defensive perimeter. The Armoured Brigade will then proceed to the main defensive position where it will act as a mobile strike force tasked with breaking any attacks that look set to breach the defensive perimeter. Once the location of the Entity has been reported, Phase 4 will be initiated.
PHASE 4: Teleportarium Deployment. When the Entity shows itself, the teleportarium beacon will be deployed by Enginseer Hak to give the Grey Knights accurate coordinates and then the House forces will shift focus towards keeping all of the other hostiles off their backs. The deployment of the beacon, while under the control of the Enginseer, will be undertaken by those forces best suited to do the job. Since this will be a judgement call by the Officer Commanding, this could be one of a number of options; delivery by Mechanics battle servitors, manual delivery by 9th Cohort penal troops, or in the 8th Cohort vehicles for an armoured push. Once the beacon has been successfully deployed, the Grey Knights will deploy to engage the Entity and Phase 5 will be initiated.
PHASE 5: Support the Grey Knights. The focus of the House troops will shift to keeping hostile forces from interfering with the Grey Knights mission, and they will take an offensive stance in support of the Grey Knights. This task will be led by the mobile elements (7th and 8th Cohorts) with fire support from Divisional HQ and the Furnace of Redemption and The Light of Purity. Other Infantry forces may be redeployed from their initial positions where the tactical situation permits. Standing Orders are not to engage the Entity directly, but to focus on other hostiles attempting to flank or harass the Grey Knights. Fighting in Phase 5 will continue until the Grey Knights have defeated the Entity. This may take some time, and Guncutter resupply missions may be required.
PHASE 6: Mop-Up. House forces will remain in theatre for an indefinite period until all hostile threats have been eliminated. The Destruction of the Entity may or may not result in destruction of other minor infected. The plan is for a deployment period of not less than a week and Guncutter resupply missions will be possible in this time. Recovery of all troops to the Furnace Of Redemption will be carried out when threat has been eliminated.
++++ FOR THE GLORY OF THE EMPEROR AND THE ADVANCEMENT OF HOUSE DUREEN ++++
Justicar Poscar seemed happy with the plan, and so, everything settled, we prepared for the journey to the Saphirus System and made our transition into the Warp.
++ End of record ++
Thanks Apex, its Lord Spatula who writes these up, I just post them. Enjoy!!!
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++
I settled myself into my usual role of monitoring the ships systems as we made the transition into the Warp, and was pleased to see that my work slaving the control systems of the other vessels to match ours for the journey through the Empyrean was working perfectly. I had barely finished running through my checks, and applying the correct unguents and incenses to the holy machinery when the ship-wide vox carried an announcement ordering us to prepare for the jump back to real space! The Navigator had surpassed himself, and we would have completed the journey that had previously taken almost a standard week would be completed in just six hours. I ran a diagnostics check of the Warp Engines, and was unsurprised to notice the unusual flutter in the drives that I had seen previously. Still, the Omnissiah was clear providing His blessings and speeding us on our way...
The collision alarms blared the instant we reappeared in normal space. While Navigator Proscesu had been outstanding with the navigation of the route, it appeared that he had miscalculated the final stage badly; as we appeared in the Saphirus System we found ourselves on course for a head on collision with the rest of the ships in the Flotilla. I felt the violent manoeuvres through the structure of the Furnace of Redemption as she responded to commands from the helm, and later was given to understand that we missed a collision with The Lux by just three kilometres... Apparently the bridge crews of both ships were left ashen faced by the close shave. I'm sure that the crew of The Lux would have been more worried had they known that we were seconds away from using the lance battery to break their ship apart if it looked like we were going to hit... I suspect the Rogue Trader Regent will keep that gem of information from Captain Sven!
Interrogator Helbrech looked towards the Rogue Trader Regent Hartek and smiled weakly. "Perhaps we should wait long enough to allow the enemy to try and kill us...?"
"The Emperor protects" Hartek replied, jovially, however I know him well enough that I could tell he was mightily relieved, my recording of the events was clear enough to pick out the sweat on his brow...
To help alleviate the shock that was evident around the ship, Hartek broadcast a brief, but stirring speech over the vox, in which he spoke of his pride at the professionalism with which the crew handled themselves and spoke of his unswerving faith in them. This was mildly successful, and confirmed my opinion that most humans will do anything if you scare them enough and then say something they want to hear. I may instigate a program of monitoring the Rogue Trader Regents speeches' and then compare that with the productivity and efficiency levels of the crew. I am certain that the Adeptus Mechanicus will find a use for the data, even if it is only to confirm the gullibility of the unenhanced. Whatever my future plans, the Interrogator seemed impressed with Hartek's performance, even suggesting that he may have missed his true calling within the Ecclesiarchy, which I believe drew some hastily hidden smiles from those who overheard the comment.
Overall, however, I am just pleased that I did not have to oversee another round of repairs caused by the carelessness of others.
The Flotilla began the journey from the outer edge of the system, and over the next few days Hartek worked the troops hard, running them through the plan for the forthcoming battle until every action became second nature, following the old Terran maxim of train hard, fight easy, but nobody believed the upcoming fight would be easy.
Hartek was interrupted in his training by a message from Orbest Dray. "Sir! Officer of the Watch reporting! Your presence is urgently requested on the bridge by Captain Sven of The Lux."
Handing control of the latest training exercise to the senior officer present Hartek hurried to the bridge; "Mister Dray! Report!"
"Sir! Captain Sven has reported that The Lux has detected a number of contacts in the system!" Came the concise reply.
Hartek nodded. "Get me a vox channel to The Lux!"
Dray had already done so, and instead simply activated the link.
Appreciating the good work of his subordinate, the Rogue Trader Regent allowed himself a small smile, and then spoke again. "What have you seen Captain Sven?"
There was a brief pause, and then Hartek heard the voice of the Captain. "My boys ran a standard sweep of the centre system to help plan the route through, and we've picked up multiple ship contacts! I didn't know you already had ships here..."
"We don't..." Hartek grunted
"Oh. Well, um, transmitting the data to you now!" Sven stammered "We have detected at least three vessels, but there may be more..."
Hartek turned to the Sensorium Void Master; "I want active scans of that area now! I don't want any surprises when we get closer to those asteroid belts." He then opened a vox link to the Astartes and notified them of the contacts, which they acknowledged.
After a couple of hours of scanning, and interpreting the data the Sensorium teams reported back a total of six contacts. Four appeared to be Raider Class; one was Frigate Class, and the final one Cruiser Class. As the information sunk in, it soon became clear that our small flotilla was hugely outgunned. The ships were split into two patrol groups, the Frigate with two Raider escorts, and the Cruiser with the remaining two raiders. Over the next few hours as we closed on the ships, we were able to gain additional information, and the database of vessels stored within the ships cogitators soon identified the Cruiser as the Promise of Sedition, and the Frigate as the Bringer of Desecration. Clearly we were facing servants of the ruinous powers.
The Promise of Sedition had been en route to the planet Dropas, however, had reversed course and seemed to be making all speed towards Saphirus 1-1S2M3, the corrupted world that was the target for out little adventure. The route of the other group of ships led by the Bringer of Desecration was quickly detected as being towards Saphirus 1-101, the ice world from which we were planning to lift the miners for transport to Dropas, however, those ships too had reversed their course. It was obvious that both planets were to have been the target of assault by our enemy, and that we had arrived in the nick of time. Unfortunately, although both of the enemy patrol groups were moving at different speeds, they were now heading to the same destination, and would be there at roughly the same time and this left us with a tricky tactical problem to solve.
Hartek called the command officers together, and Interrogator Helbrech joined the planning session, as did Justicar Poscar over a link from the Light of Purity, and the two Captains of the transport vessels. As the discussions began, the door to the briefing room opened, and the Interrogator's Psyker, Damien Boe was shown in. As he moved into the room, he staggered, it was quickly clear that he was not well; his face was paler than usual, and drawn, and movement was an obvious physical effort. He was holding his head, and a fine trickle of blood flowed down his face from one nostril. Helbrech quickly stood, and helped prop Boe upright as everyone else looked on in confusion, there was a slight pause as Boe appeared to focus, and then the blood on his face appeared to reverse direction, and then disappeared, and Boe himself looked stronger and healthier. I noticed at this point that the Navigator stared with intent at Boe, so I concluded that logically he must have used psychic energy to affect his recovery.
Boe raised his head and spoke, a desperate look in his eyes; "A great evil is awakening - it calls those who would serve it! We cannot let them get there! I have seen a future where if it escapes all will decay..."
A silence filled the briefing room, abruptly broken by a booming voice from the vid-projection of Justicar Poscar. "Our course is clear. We must stop these... Heretics."
Hartek nodded. "Agreed. Justicar will you do us the honour of sailing into battle at our side?"
The projection of the Justicar nodded. "It will be our honour to bring the Emperor's justice to these heathens. Even should it bring our deaths, we will show them that victory will not be theirs!"
"I would rather make the other buggers die!" Hartek growled. I am sure I saw the Justicars face twitch into a smile for a brief second, although it could have been interference in the projection.
"We will need EVERY available ship in the line..." the Justicar stated, and glared at everyone. Captain Sven looked less than happy at the prospect.
Hartek spoke, quietly, "I do not wish to contradict you Justicar, but should we fall we will need someone to take the news to the relevant authorities and arrange for our unfinished work to be completed... I propose that Captain Sven takes this role as I doubt that The Lux will contribute much to the fight..."
"I see the wisdom in your words Rogue Trader Regent..." The Justicar conceded, "And I do not believe that the worm has the guts for the fight in any case. This would be perhaps the best course of action."
Hartek spoke quickly to soften the insult to Captain Sven; "Captain Sven! Would you do us the honour of providing overwatch to us please? This is vital should we fail..."
"Of course my Lord!" Sven spoke rather quickly, "I will make the preparations immediately!"
"Good!" Hartek nodded, glaring at Sven, "But you do not jump until ordered, or until you witness our destruction."
"Aye my Lord! You can rely on me." And the projection of Captain Sven disappeared from the briefing room.
It quickly became clear that Captain McFallon was made of sterner stuff, and she refused the invitation to withdraw from the battlefield with Captain Sven, insisting that she would provide flank support to us. I know that we do not see eye to ocular implant, however I am fairly certain that this decision proves that the woman has something wrong in her head...
"It is clear that we must split our forces." The rumbling voice of Justicar Poscar cut through the conversation. "The path is dangerous but the Emperor is with us."
Even I noticed the raised eyebrow from Interrogator Helbrech, but as no one mentioned it, I deemed it best not to say anything myself.
As the discussion continued, it became clear that The Light of Purity would have to be dispatched in pursuit of the Bringer of Desecration and the two Raiders in that group as she was the only vessel with the speed to get close enough in the time available. That left the Furnace of Redemption with some support from The Anvil to face the Cruiser. There was a definite shuffling of feet when people realised the implications of this. Calldia squawked loudly at this, and then went quiet for the rest of the meeting, and I cannot say that I disagreed with his reaction.
As we considered this there was something about the enemy cruiser that seemed familiar to me, however, no matter how I scanned through my cogitators I frustratingly could not pinpoint the data. It was then that the Navigator spoke up; "I know of the Promise of Sedition. It is known as a pirate ship, and a tainted cruiser, and has been hunted for centuries, but had vanished in the lesser explored, far reaches of the Expanse almost seven hundred years ago. It has a reputation for attacking the weak, focussing on transport and colonist ships, but Sebastian Winterscale's fleet managed to drive it away, but not before it had raided the convoy for prisoners and slaves..."
I could not help myself this time; "A fleet managed to drive it away!?" Calldia made that strange strangled squawking noise that is becoming so familiar, and there were similar reactions from several others at the briefing table.
Navigator Proscesu smiled weakly and continued. "It is also known to Warp-spawned clouds in its wake, making it difficult to pursue. All in all, a formidable vessel..."
Interrogator Helbrech looked around, and seemed to come to a decision. "Gentlemen, and ladies. This information is classified; people have been executed for knowing even less than this. That ship is one of my Ordos most wanted targets in the Expanse. It is captained by a Sendak Voltrasse, a hideous creature who has given himself over to the Warp. He was probably once a man, but we cannot say for certain, all we know is that he exists to serve the ruinous powers, and few are the people who have had contact with him and survived..."
Hartek nodded. "It is a dire situation indeed then. Let us be about our work! May the Emperor protect us!"
There was the ringing sound of ceramite on ceramite as the Justicars crashed his fist across his chest, and his voice intoned "May the Emperor protect us."
"And the Omnissiah watch over us!" I added. After all we would need all the help we could gather to our cause.
Helbrech spoke up; "Rogue Trader Regent, this is a dire course you set us on. Do not under-estimate this vessel! It is ancient, dating from the thirty-third Millennium, and served with honour and distinction for the Imperial Navy, but was lost in the warp en route to the Cadian Gate, and was next seen in the thirty-sixth Millennia, aiding rebellion in the Hades XV agriworlds. It has history and experience."
"Helbrech, I know that this could be the end of us all, but our course is clear and duty must be done..."
The Interrogator smiled. "To the bridge, then!" And the planning session broke up, and the ships crews plotted the respective courses for their venerable vessels.
"The Light of Purity" angled away at speed in pursuit of the Bringer of Desecration, while the Furnace of Redemption quickly stepped up to battle stations, and within three days we had caught the Promise of Sedition.
Relying on our better speed and manoeuvrability we angled in directly at the Cruiser, hoping to cause disabling damage early in the engagement. The Anvil moved onto the flank to draw off one of the Raiders reducing the odds we had to face. As we closed on the enemy we were able to detect that the Machine Spirits of the vessels were labouring with great insult; the hulls had been daubed with forbidden runes and desecrated in countless ways, and we could hear the noise of wailing and moaning coming from within them. I pitied the once proud ships; they were being horribly mistreated, their plasma drives were leaking and operating well beyond safe levels and it was clear that no care had been taken of them. It would be a great service to their tortured spirits to destroy the abominations that now controlled them, and possibly the vessels themselves as they were crying out for the release of oblivion. As we closed to extreme range and opened fire I offered up prayers to the Omnissiah.
I could tell by the trajectory calculation that the hab-sized shells from the Pyros Melta Cannon battery were flying true, and we were rewarded with the flaring of void shields on the Promise of Sedition as first one, and then another shield collapsed under the intense energy. The non-essential systems on the Furnace of Redemption shut down, and lights flickered throughout the ship as the lance battery fired, again striking true with one of the beams of coherent light, leaving huge chunks of the enemy ship drifting into the void. As big as the hit was, the huge Cruiser seemed not to notice as it continued turning towards us.
The Raider closed on us and opened fire, its Macrocannon batteries fired wildly and the shells missed us by several kilometres as we evaded. The Promise of Sedition manoeuvred to bring us within her weapon arcs and as we watched the tactical representation of the battle in the holo-tank, we were interrupted by an incoming transmission warning.
Hartek accepted the transmission, and initially I thought that the projector was malfunctioning as it sparkled with a range of colours, but they suddenly coalesced into a hugely tall figure dressed in a gore caked void-suit, that towered over those standing around him. The void suit was torn in several places and visible in the rents were thin dark veins, worming over pale skin which twitched and shifted. A sphere of obsidian, held in place by a cage of barbed black iron and covered in blasphemous runes and engravings that hurt the eyes was visible through a larger hole in the chest of the figures suit. The eye sockets of the large figure were empty, as were those of many of the creatures surrounding it, and all were covered with strangely shifting tattoos. I assumed that this was the foul Sendak Voltrasse, the fiend in command of The Promise of Sedition.
Voltrasse opened its mouth, when suddenly there was the loud report of a bolt pistol firing. Doc, the acolyte of Helbrech stepped away from the headless corpse of the crewman who had been operating the vox controls as the projection snapped back into nothingness.
"We will not have contact with the ruinous powers, or those that serve them! The next person to accept an incoming transmission from them will meet the same fate as this fellow..." the Interrogator barked at the Rogue Trader Regent, and then glared around the bridge.
Seemingly unperturbed Hartek nodded, and then called for a replacement communicatorium operator, as a servitor cleaned up the mess at the terminal. He then gestured to the Interrogator; "A simple "No!" would've sufficed"
"There was no time; the minds of weak would have easily succumbed to his powers..." Helbrech indicated the crew on the bridge.
Hartek nodded, but added with a raised eyebrow "I am generally a little unhappy about random executions of my crew, unless it is by my orders..."
"I apologise Hartek." The Interrogator acknowledged, "However, time was of the essence here. If I had got to the bridge sooner I would have stopped the transmission being accepted, and avoided this unpleasantness."
"I understand Helbrech, however, we must work together to ensure this doesn't happen again..."
An accord reached, the conversation was about to turn to more pleasant topics before it was interrupted by a shouted warning; "Brace for impact!"
The Promise of Sedition was firing her Mars Pattern Plasma Batteries at us, and the projectiles were almost upon us. The first barrage flew wide, however the second barrage hit us, collapsing our void shield and scoring our armour, however Omnissiah be praised doing no damage.
Hartek barked orders to the crew and we prepared to strike back.
++ End of record ++
Hello readers, heres the next session, enjoy!!!
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: THE FURNACE OF REDEMPTION, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++
As the Void Shield bled off the energy of the hit from the enemy plasma battery, and then reactivated, we manoeuvred the Furnace of Redemption into an optimal firing position, the Promise of Sedition our target once more. The build up to our next attack was going smoothly, however, the new vox-operator called out "Incoming transmission, my Lord!"
I am certain I saw the man glance nervously at Interrogator Helbrech, conscious of the fate of his predecessor, but when he continued, "It's from The Anvil!", everyone relaxed.
"Put it on speaker!" Hartek ordered
There was a lot of interference overlaying the transmission, and the crewman constantly had to fine tune the receiver, but he did an admirable job and Captain McFallon's voice came through strongly.
"My Lord Hartek! I am sorry to report that we are in trouble! I attempted to push our engines to draw the raider away, but I overloaded the conduits and we are running at reduced power... We are attempting repairs, but we are a sitting target for the Heretics..."
Calldia suggested that if she had been following the correct litanies laid down in Mechanicus lore, then she would not find herself in such peril, and I found it difficult to disagree, however, speaking up at this point would not help the situation, so I kept my council, particularly as I saw Hartek's knuckles whiten as he gripped the arm of the command throne. "Understood Captain. Do what you can, and attempt to run in our direction. We are still engaging the Cruiser and other Raider but will endeavour to aid you if we can!"
"Thank-you My Lord!" McFallon replied, relief in her voice, although I'm not sure she realised how dire her situation was, as there was no way we could turn our stern to the enemies we were engaged with.
Just before we began the Rituals of Firing, and prepared the solutions for the weapons systems, Navigator Proscesu spoke up; "I have scanned the Promise of Sedition, and although there was much interference I have been able to identify her basic layout. I will transfer the data to the gunnery cogitators, it may aid with the targeting!"
I nodded, and took a few seconds to absorb the information, and then made some changes to the auger array which would allow the gunnery officers the clearest possible tactical picture for the barrage, while the Rogue Trader Regent coordinated our actions. As this was ongoing, the new Master Helmsman, Victrix Ivanov, an ex-Imperial Navy Commander, recently recruited amongst the experienced Void-farers who joined us in Footfall, eased ship into position, and we opened fire on the heretics again.
The melta-cannon barrage flew true, the initial salvos flaring the void-shields of the Promise of Sedition, and as these collapsed, the remaining shells battered the hull, smashing through in a number of places, setting fire to one of her plasma-batteries, and staggering the corrupted Cruiser in its flight. Then, just as the enemy ship seemed to recover from the battering, the light of our lance battery reached out across the void and punching through the hull causing the enemy ship to shed large chunks of itself and its crew, into the void, and putting the other port-side plasma-battery out of action at least temporarily. The Cruiser, staggered once more, rolled away from us as we closed on it, and as the last of the energy bled away from our lance array, Ivanov threw the ship into evasive manoeuvring as we found ourselves within the arcs of fire of both the enemy ships.
McFallon came on the vox once more, the panic clear in her voice; "We have been boarded! I am mustering the Armsmen to defend the incursion, but I don't know the number of our enemy, and I don't know if we can survive! I will report back when I can, Emperor willing!" and the transmission ended.
Helbrech looked at the Rogue Trader Regent, "Well there is nothing we can do to aid The Anvil for now, except get to her as soon as we can. She will have to fend for herself..."
Hartek grunted his agreement, a worried look on his face, but turned his attention back to the matter at hand.
As we rolled after the Promise of Sedition we picked up an energy spike from her prow, and the beams from a lance battery flashed across the void towards us, fortunately missing. The Raider, now identified as the Cursed Death, closed, and attempted to ram us, however, we easily evaded the clumsy attempt, and as it slid past us it fired its weapons, with an equal lack of success, as Ivanov guided us through the salvos unscathed.
Notification came from the gun-crews that the melta-cannon battery was ready to fire again, and the power readings showed the lance battery had finished recharging, so, once again the command team combined to give the best possible chance for a firing solution for the Gunnery Void Master. The targeting systems were still suffering from the violent manoeuvring we had used to evade the earlier attacks, and this was reflected in the effectiveness of our attack on the cursed heretics; the melta-batteries missed, and the lance battery only struck home once, overloading the enemy's void shield, but causing no further damage.
The Promise of Sedition fired her lance battery at us again, however was obviously struggling with the damage she had suffered as the beams went wild, missing by a long distance, and then she turned away from us. The Cursed Death attempted to hold our attention by firing, and missing, again, before turning in the opposite direction to the Cruiser, meaning we would have to focus on one target or the other.
The vox crackled to life once again, and the message headers showed that the transmission had originated onboard The Light of Purity. There was an obvious delay because of the distance that the message had travelled, but the content was clear enough to show that the ship had been in combat, as a shaven headed bulky man in devotional robes, and wreathed in smoke, appeared in the holo-projection. "Furnace of Redemption: If you get this message, we have engaged the enemy battle group! The Justicar and his men have boarded the enemy ship and are on their way to the bridge, but the two raiders have damaged our systems. We are still in the fight, but we do not know for how long..."
Another voice interrupted him, calling out "Sir, I am picking something up! It seems like an increase in energy! I think there is another ship out-" The transmission ended suddenly, leaving us uncertain of the fate of our allies, and although The Light of Purity was still detectable on the sensorium array, sadly, it did not seem likely that that fate was a good one.
"Sir!" The Master of Etherics called out, "It looks like the Cursed Death is attempting to run to Saphirus 1-1S2M3!"
Hartek cursed, and then ordered Ivanov to break off the pursuit of the Cruiser and focus on the running Raider; "We CANNOT let it reach that planet!"
The new course was quickly laid into the cogitators and we began to chase the Raider.
"Mr Ivanov!" Hartek called out.
"Yes Sir!" Ivanov came smartly to attention.
Hartek smiled, "How do you fancy leading a raid?"
Surprisingly, Ivanov matched Hartek's grin with one of his own, "It would be my pleasure, Sir!"
"Excellent. Report to the Teleportarium chamber, the Penal Cohort will join you on this little jaunt!"
The raid went exceptionally well, and on his return Ivanov was able to report that they had damaged the void shield generators, and they were at least temporarily offline, and that an estimated thousand heretics had been dispatched, mainly due to the judicious use of explosives and booby-traps. The assault force suffered five dead and a dozen wounded.
"Good work Mister Ivanov!" Hartek grinned, "Make sure the cohort are rewarded for their work with an extra grog ration!"
"Thank you Sir! I will see it done." Ivanov saluted and returned to his station.
The raiding party safely back aboard, we opened fire on the now shieldless ship; the lance battery discharged first, once again hitting home tearing a huge hole through the length of the Raider, leaving its engines damaged, and the burning ship leaking atmosphere and the corpses of her crew into the void. As the stricken vessel shuddered, and drifted virtually out of control, our melta-cannons opened fire, sadly missing by a small margin.
As we surveyed our handy work, the vox-operator called out "Incoming transmission, Sir. It's... It's from The Anvil!"
There was a pause as we waited to hear whose voice it would be coming from the speakers.
"We have repulsed the enemy, my Lord!" An excited McFallon almost shouted, "We have lost some crew and servitors, but the enemy seemed to get distracted by the fighting and did little damage to the ship itself...!"
Hartek grinned at Helbrech who returned the smile, "Well done Captain! Now repair your engines and get over here!" And he cut the connection.
As we watched the holo-display, we saw the Raider that had been harrying The Anvil turn in on her again, and then registering the fate of her sister ship, turn towards the planet and start to run. As our cogitators analysed the data from a clean sensorium sweep on her, we were able to identify the corrupted ship as the Unholy Curse. The tactical display showed the Promise of Sedition continuing her run in the opposite direction, heading out of the Saphirus System.
Hartek barked orders, and the Furnace of Redemption closed on the shattered Cursed Death and finally destroyed it in a merciless barrage of both melta-cannon shells and lance blasts. The coup de grace applied, we set off in pursuit of the Unholy Curse, ordering The Anvil to pound the wreckage of the Cursed Death until there was too little debris remaining to show up on the sensorium display to ensure no heretics survived. I managed the power drain on the plasma drives to give us best possible speed, which had the unfortunate consequence of some areas of the ship losing power to the artificial gravity, still it was for the betterment of the mission, and as this allowed us to catch our quarry within two standard hours, so I am sure the crew will not grumble too much!
The Unholy Curse realising she could not outrun us turned to meet us head-on. "This ends now!" Rogue Trader Regent Hartek roared, and the decision that the situation was well beyond subtlety and complex tactics made, we closed to weapons range and opened fire.
Our initial attack was ineffective as the heretics desperately manoeuvred to avoid the fire, but suddenly the Master of Etherics called out once again; "Sir! Sir! The Unholy Curse is registering impacts!"
In the holo-tank we saw the characteristic flare as the void shield overloaded, and the Unholy Curse staggered from additional hits. Our batteries reloaded, and lances recharged, we took the opportunity to open fire again, and at the range we were at we could hardly miss. The full barrage hit the corrupted vessel, blowing large sections of her open to the void, setting her on fire, and punching through her length with the lances. The wrecked ship was left tumbling out of control as she began to die.
We manoeuvred to finish her off, but saw a strange, pulsing beam weapon flash out of the void, and cut the wreckage in two, and finally her plasma drive detonated, destroying anything that remained of the ship.
"Get me the location of that other vessel!" Hartek barked, and then looked at the Interrogator, who simply shrugged.
The Sensorium crew leaned over their terminals, and to aid them I modulated the frequency of the auger scan to cover a broad spectrum, and quickly we were able to detect unusual temperature changes that were indicative of the cooling weapons of a star-ship moving away from us off our starboard bow.
The data from the scans mapped the vessel to the holo-tank; it was obviously of Xenos origin, but was heading away and not appearing to pose a threat.
"Eldar!" spat Hartek, and sat back in the command throne, recognising the strange build style of the unusual vessel, and then activated the vox-broadcast, and spoke; "Eldar vessel in quadrant Alpha-niner Sierra-two, please identify yourselves..."
After a few seconds, the holo-screen flickered to life, and we were presented with an image of a tall, slim, apparently male, humanoid figure that projected an uncommon grace. Its face had an inhuman beauty to it. I recognised it as far more pronounced, but similar in character to those strange features that I had seen in Interrogator Helbrech's pet Psyker, Damien Boe, and I wondered about possible Xenos heritage in the man. The figure lounged back onto a throne-type construct, and seemed to be amused with us.
Hartek spoke again, "We are the Dureen Dynasty trading ship the Furnace of Redemption" At this the creatures smile widened slightly, but it retained its focus as Hartek continued; "I am Rogue Trader Regent Hartek-Dureen, I thank you for your assistance in that... unpleasantness..., and would know the name of my comrade in arms!"
The fey creature looked beyond the range of our view, and spoke in a language that none of us understood, and then, smiling again, turned its attention back to us, this time speaking in Low Gothic; "My name is not important, little Mon-Keigh! Of course you needed our help, you and your kind always do, don't you?" He leaned forward, still looking amused. "There is no need to thank us, as your thanks are worthless anyway!" He paused briefly, and glanced at something out of view to us, and then continued; "For your barbaric kind, who only know destruction and hate, your vessel is not too primitive, by your standards!"
Hartek smiled back, at least I assume it was a smile as I could see his teeth, and the emotions that the flesh-bags seem to have to deal with are somewhat alien to me, however, I was also annoyed with the creature too; it could say what it like about the humans, but it needed to be careful what it said about the Furnace of Redemption! This is my ship, my temple to the Omnissiah, and no foul Xenos can denigrate such a powerful machine spirit, and expect to go unpunished...
The Rogue Trader Regent replied to the Xenos; "Truly you are being too kind! Anyway, now your business in our space has been concluded, you are free to run while we continue the important business of cleansing this system of corruption!"
There was an instant change in the demeanour of the Eldar and his face flushed with anger as Hartek continued; "Obviously I understand that you don't wish to be involved in these good works..."
The Eldar almost shouted at the projector "This was all your races doing, Mon-Keigh! Everything you touch you destroy, the galaxy would be a better place without your kind, but unfortunately that is not the way of things..." He seemed to get control of himself, and quickly appeared calm once more.
Hartek smiled, "That may be so, but we can't always have what we want, can we? Now if you'll excuse me, I have to be about my business in this System."
The Xenos smile had twisted into something nastier and more sinister as he spoke again. "Beware of what you find on the surface little Mon-Keigh!"
The Eldar cut the connection just as Hartek was attempting to reply, so, instead, Hartek turned to the bridge crew; "Well, he was a bit of an arse, wasn't he?" I couldn't help but notice the smiles that diffused the tension that had been building.
The Master of Etherics reported that he had tracked the Eldar ship, which our cogitators had now identified as The Memory of Lament, and tentatively tagged as Cruiser class, to the edges of our scan range, and it appeared to be leaving the Saphirus System. Hartek acknowledged this information before ordering a message be sent to both The Lux, and The Anvil, asking for damage reports and ordering them to complete their missions to the worlds of Saphirus 1-101 and Dropas. We received the reports, acknowledgements, and congratulations, from both Captains.
We next attempted communication with The Light of Purity, and glory be to the Omnissiah, received a response! The Astartes were back on board, without casualties, and they were en route to our position. They also reported the intervention in the battle of a mysterious vessel which destroyed a raider when it looked like they were about to be destroyed. The Rogue Trader Regent relayed the story of our detection of the Eldar ship, and the brief conversation with her arrogant Captain, and it seemed likely that the Xenos had intervened in both battles for some obscure reason of their own.
I accepted copies of the battle report from the Astartes destroyer, and they made interesting reading; The Light of Purity had barrelled into the enemy flotilla with a single aim; to get close enough to the corrupted Frigate, the Bringer of Desecration, to teleport the Grey Knights on board. Once this had been achieved the fate of the enemy ship was effective sealed; two of the Space Marines fought their way to the warp drives, and once they reached their target placed explosive charges, while the other three warriors headed to the bridge. Justicar Poscar slew the enemy Captain in single combat while the other two Astartes butchered the bridge crew along with anyone who attempted to intervene. Their mission complete, they too placed demolition charges before teleporting back to The Light of Purity.
The ship battle was not so clear cut; the escorting Raiders had battered The Light of Purity as she focussed on her mission to deploy the Space Marines to their target, however, once this had been achieved, she turned to face them, and crippled one, the Blissful Despair. However, in return she had suffered damage to her plasma drives and void shield generators, and when it looked as though the second raider the Eternity of Doom would take advantage of this, the mysterious attacker we now know as the Eldar ship The Memory of Lament, intervened and destroyed the attacker. The demolition charges left on board the Bringer of Desecration then detonated, and in the subsequent warp explosion the Frigate was obliterated, and the crippled Blissful Despair dragged to her doom in the warp, ending the battle. The crew of The Light of Purity were then able to repair the damage to their engines and shields and plot a course to join us.
The effectiveness of the Astartes raid gave me pause for thought, and I resolved to speak to the Rogue Trader Regent with a view to strengthening our on ship defences to guard against a similar calamity befalling ourselves...
When considering the overall balance at the end of the space battle, we had done incredibly well;
Four corrupted Raider Class ships had been completely destroyed, the Cursed Death, the Unholy Curse, the Blissful Despair, and the Eternity of Doom. Similarly, the Frigate Class ship, the Bringer of Desecration had been destroyed, and the Cruiser Class ship, the Promise of Sedition a notorious pirate and servant of the ruinous powers had been badly damaged and driven off.
The cost to us was small, the Transport Class ship, The Anvil suffered cosmetic internal damage from the raiding party who had attempted to board her, and the Astartes Destroyer The Light of Purity had suffered 38% damage to her hull integrity. The other Transport Class vessel, The Lux, and ourselves, the Furnace of Redemption had remained completely unscathed.
Truly the Emperor, and the Omnissiah, had been watching over us.
The two fighting vessels in the service of the Emperor of Mankind, the Furnace of Redemption, and The Light of Purity turned together and continued the journey to Saphirus 1-1S2M3, and to take the fight to the lair of the enemy.
++ End of record ++
Hey Marvin, sorry to hijack your post a bit... but I see that you use the Dark Heresy Framework for maptools(found it out on the 4shared page). Where do you get your scifi images from? And do you use it for this RT game?
Hi Thrantor, your welcome to Hijack the thread and its nice to see some people are reading it.
We are indeed using maptool and the dark heresy framework for our campaign, though we do seem to be abit behind the current version and leap frog a few versions at a time when we do upgrade.
The Sci Fi images are either taken from the internet or created by DrVesuvius (Who is very good at creating planet images). Lord Spatula also has a useful knack for finding relevant images from the internet.
Once I have the required images I then use token tool to create a token and bob's your uncle....
Do you have a recent campaign that you could upload to the 4shared? I JUST found the framework and am amazed at it's potential but finding things like a non-fantasy bunk room bit are hard to find.
Example: As part of my groups investigation of a chaos cult on one of their planets they are raiding the headquarters(Or what they think is the head quarters.) and the building has extensive barracks... But I can't for the life of me find an image of bunk beds from the top that doesn't look basically pulled straight out of a Tolkien novel.
I'm nit picking I know and can just say "this room contains a barracks and bunk beds..." but it's more interesting to be able to put images up.
I'd love to see the campaign or map you used for the fight on the other ship towing the asteroid in the warp. Just to see how you are using it.
I've gotten lots of fantasy examples... but not quite as useful as scifi maps for learning.
Sweet. Thanks. I hadn't found dundjinni yet. Thanks for the pointer. Any others?
And sorry, Marvin. Please continue the story when you can. I know I'm waiting to hear what happens next.
Nice images Errant and ive used that site a few times for images.
Thrantor, when I first started using maptool I use to make some epic looking maps but as time has become more limited I tend to be abit more 'that will do'. Maptool also allows you to save maps now so it can save you more time by using old maps. I dont have any Rogure Trader campaign files uploaded yet but I may do so in the future, also some of my clean Dark Heresy maps are on the share part of the DH/RT/DW maptool site.
For the asteroid fighting scene I didnt use a battlemap as it wasnt needed, for space combats I use a starfield background and through some ship tokens in and it seems to work well enough.
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: SAPHIRUS 1-1S2M3, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++
As the ships approached the planet, and then slipped into geosynchronous orbit over the target area, The Light of Purity closed up on, and then hid herself in the shadow of the larger Furnace of Redemption. We hoped that the enemy would not be able to detect the Astartes vessel, and the deployment of the Grey Knights would remain a surprise, until they actually engaged the target. I have to say that the skill of both crews was a pleasure to behold, and as such befitted the trust which the Omnissiah had placed upon them to care for the venerable machine spirits of the mighty warships.
The House troops hurried to their deployment positions, being harried, and barked at by their NCO's, as appears to be the tradition of human militaries wherever I have experienced them, and then I felt the deck plates shudder as we began to bombard the intended landing zone. Hartek had modified his assault plan slightly, and the guns of The Light of Purity remained silent; what was the point of the stealth and subterfuge of hiding her in orbit if we were to reveal her presence during the early phase of the plan?
As the final blast wave rolled over the target area, the first of the gun-cutters dropped from its holding pattern, and the landing began. I do not pretend to understand all the aspects of the deployment of an army in the field, and kept my focus on the Maniple of Tech-Guard and two Praetorian Battle Servitors that were to act as my personal body-guards, however, it all appeared to be very efficient. The soldiers and Basilisk self-propelled artillery pieces hurried to their pre-set positions as they had in all the rehearsals we had staged, and began to dig in. The command posts were set up, and I moved ahead of the defensive lines and began to set command-wire anti-personnel explosives and booby traps to help destroy the corrupted enemy. Hartek sent his reconnaissance units out to do their job, and overhead, shepherding the gun-cutters was a single Calixis Pattern Fury interceptor, piloted by the new officer, Victrix Ivanov.
Interrogator Helbrech, followed by his small group of Acolytes moved over to speak to Hartek, "Very efficient!" he nodded.
"There's no profit in inefficiency!" The Rogue Trader Regent smiled.
Helbrech nodded again. "I know some Imperial Guard Colonels who would be jealous, and I've worked with PDF's far too many times..." He sighed.
Hartek laughed. "You have my sympathy!"
Within two standard hours, everything had clicked into place, and the soldiers settled in to wait for the enemy to show himself. I overheard one of the soldiers complaining that the order of the day seemed to be "Hurry up and wait!"
One of the veterans soon silenced his complaints; "I'd rather be bored and waiting for an enemy that didn't show, than fighting for my life against Emperor knows what... Enjoy it while it lasts!"
I moved on leaving the troops to their discussion, and settled down to familiarise myself with the teleportarium beacon with which I had been entrusted. Prior to the deployment, and remembering the terrain from our last visit to this world, I had constructed a self-propelled, tracked mini-vehicle to carry the beacon, and I used the opportunity to test this over the ground that had been scoured and scorched by the bombardment. I am happy to report that it functioned perfectly, meaning that I did not have to divert any of my Tech-Guard from their primary duty of keeping me alive to carry the device. I know that this made Tech-Priest Calldia very happy.
The bike mounted scouts began to return to the HQ position; at the best of times had the appearance of a wasteland road gang, which I understand they actually were until recruited to the flag of House Dureen, and this appearance was exaggerated now they were covered in the dust and dirt of the planet, however, I also knew that they were very good at their job, so it was with mixed feelings that I heard them report no sign of the enemy.
Hartek grunted at the reports, before speaking almost to himself; "Well, we all know they're out there, and I can... feel... that something isn't right, there are places that don't look quite... solid... and the chronos are behaving strangely. I've felt things like this during some warp jumps, and I can hear distant... whispering... see lights... but the only other time I can recall it is last time we were here... Hrmmmpphh!" Then he shook his head as if to clear it, and ordered the bike scouts to continue their sweeps.
I was not quite sure whether the Rogue Trader Regent expected any response to his musings, and did not feel as though I had much to add in any case, so I kept my mouth shut. In any case, Hartek's attention seemed to be on the Interrogator, and his Psyker, Boe, and he voiced his "feelings" to them too.
Interrogator Helbrech nodded. "Boe informs me that the walls between the warp and reality are weak, and the epicentre seems to be focussed on these mountains. It seems that the entity is working to weaken the reality of this world." Hartek's feelings were confirmed.
"I feel as if the veil has weakened since I arrived..." Boe's voice was weak. "The lights and whispers you hear are physical manifestations of this weakening..."
"If it has a physical presence we can kill it!" Hartek punched his fist into the palm of his cybernetic hand.
Realising what he was about to do, I took cover behind an out crop of rock, and adjusted the photo-visor in my armour to its highest setting; my eyes were still sensitive to light after our previous encounters with the denizens of this world.
"Furnace of Redemption, this is Hartek actual. Fire mission!" and he reeled off a list of coordinates. Vox calls went out for the troops to take cover and within a standard minute the target area was taking hits from lance strikes.
I could feel the atmosphere being sucked into the vacuum created by the passing of the golden white beams of energy that struck the ground, and the air became saturated with fine particles of dust thrown up by the immense forces, and, even a thousand metres away from the focus point, the ground shook as though caught up in the shocks of an earthquake, and a wave of hot air was pushed out over our positions, pushing the dust before it like a sandstorm in a desert. Impressive as it was, I am not entirely sure of the value of that assault, after all as Boe said after the mission was called; "You can't kill the warp!"
There was the sound of static, and then the vox-operator called out "Incoming message from the scout leader sir!"
We all closed in to the soldier, and heard the static resolve itself into Low Gothic. "Hello Hotel-Zero-one, this is Big Red!"
The vox-operator answered "Hotel Zero-One. Go ahead!"
"Roger. We've spotted a couple of targets moving in to your location!"
"Roger. Wait out!" and the vox-operator turned to Hartek, who raised an eyebrow before speaking.
"Well, get bearing and heading!"
The vox-operator rapidly turned back to his sacred machinery and requested the information.
What I was able to glean from the exchanges was that there was a small group of around a dozen humanoid figures moving towards our location from the direction of the mountain caves that we knew from our last visit, and were perhaps fifteen minutes away. I also remembered that the corrupted settlers had attempted to use the same tactics last time, to lure us into a trap, and it seemed Hartek had remembered the same ambush.
"Big Red!" Hartek got on the vox, "This is Hartek actual. Well done! There's an extra ration of grog for you and your boys when we get back on the ship!" I could hear the celebrations in the background at that statement. Hartek continued, "Follow your orders. Avoid contact, continue the sweep, and keep your eyes open for more! Out."
The Rogue Trader Regent called one of the Basilisks forwards, and we waited. Shortly afterwards, the outer sentries reported the same group of figures closing in, and we were able to study them through magnoculars. They were similar in appearance to the corrupted settlers we had encountered on our first visit, with an unhealthy look and ragged clothes, however one of this group was carrying a large banner, and others were beating on drums with femur shaped clubs.
"Basilisk! Take them out!" Hartek shouted.
The artillery piece began to line up on its target, and then paused; there appeared to be an ongoing discussion between the gun commander and his senior NCO. The NCO was telling the commander he was wrong about something, and the commander was insisting the opposite.
I could tell that Hartek's patience was wearing thin when he spoke. "I don't mean to rush you, Commander...!"
The argument continued, and Hartek spoke again, "Commander...!"
Finally the argument was settled as Hartek put a bolt-pistol round into the unfortunate gun-commanders head. The NCO took half a second to look at the body of his former commander, ran a quick check of his calculations, and then barked orders at the gun-crew, who sprang to life. The Basilisk roared as it fired, and the enemy party disappeared in a mist of gore, amputated limbs, and smashed drums.
"Nice shot, Sergeant! " Hartek paused, and then continued, a steady timbre to his voice, "I mean Commander!"
The shocked former NCO brightened a little as he realised he had just received a field promotion. I am slightly concerned by the number of Officers being relieved of their commands via the medium of explosive bolt rounds, it does seem to be very inefficient to train these men and then waste the investment in such a cavalier manner.
The day progressed, and soon it a standard Terran cycle had passed, and we had no sign of any further enemy activity as we waited so Hartek called for a council of war, with Lieutenant Ivanov joining us via data-link from the Furnace of Redemption. It was decided that as the enemy were unwilling to come to us, we would force the issue by sending the Penal Cohort on a reconnaissance mission into the tunnels, with orders to advance to contact, and then withdraw to the HQ location. Unfortunately it appears that they managed the first part of the mission, however, as they were never seen again, the second part appears to have been too much of a challenge to them...
The other scout units, as part of their normal sweeps, reported contacts with small groups of hostiles, which were quickly dealt with by well flown strafing runs from the Fury fighter piloted by Ivanov, however, as the hours passed, we still had not encountered the main enemy force. By now, forty-eight standard hours had gone by, so reasoning that the plan to force the issue was sound, just that it had not been executed well, Hartek ordered a second incursion. This time the advance would be in greater strength and he would be leading. The Armoured Cohort was summoned to the landing zone from orbit to allow us to advance with immediate heavy fire support. Interrogator Helbrech insisted on joining us too, which was nice of him, as we were only back here because of his "encouragement"...!
We mounted Second Cohort in twenty-five Chimeras, and were accompanied by twenty-five Leman Russ battle tanks, and headed towards the target, leaving the rest of the armoured vehicles supporting the rest of the army in the HQ location, the command of which had passed to Ivanov. I did not pay much attention to the journey in as I was ministering to the teleportarium beacon, but suffice to say that it was uneventful, and within an hour we were deep in the tunnels and heading into a settlement chamber similar to the one we had encountered on our first visit.
Following the maps I had created from the data from the cogitators we had discovered in the settlement we had been ambushed in on that first visit, we pushed on through the buildings, having first dismounted the infantry; even I know that unsupported armour in a built up area is just asking to be destroyed, and although there were sporadic fire fights, again, the corrupted creatures we encountered were in small groups and easily dealt with.
It soon became clear that we were on the right track, the maps seemed to be indicating that there was a large chamber several hundred metres ahead, and the closer we got, the more people in the force began to hear the strange whispering noise, however, Hartek kept spirits up and the men focussed with words of encouragement.
Damien Boe seemed to be suffering more than he had on the surface, and his reactions reminded me of stories I had heard of from the ancient history of Terra. It appears that in the early days of industry and mining, unbelievable as it sounds, there were no means to detect noxious gasses, and many workers died suffocated by the fumes, until they discovered that a small avian creature known as a canary was more sensitive than they were. They took to carrying these creatures with them, and if they died the workers would leave quickly, knowing the poisonous gasses were present. I could not help but think of Boe as our canary, and the more he suffered, then it seemed logical to deduce that the closer we were to our target. On a more positive note, he was still functioning at reasonable efficiency, which meant that the danger could not be too great.
Yet. I resolved to keep a close eye on the man whenever possible...
We forced our way through the chamber remarkably quickly, clearing it within four standard hours, and found ourselves pushing into a tunnel at the far end.
After almost six hours following this tunnel, we came to another door which was too narrow for the Chimeras to pass through, however, oddly enough the heavier Leman Russ's were narrower and could scrape through the gap, quite literally on a couple of occasions. Realising that this was a natural choke point, Hartek ordered the Chimeras, five of the Leman Russ's, and their crews to hold this location, along with fifty infantry. The rest of us climbed onto the hulls of the battle tanks, and the advance continued.
A few minutes later we moved into a huge vaulted chamber; there were thick stone pillars supporting the ceiling, which was so high I could not even make it out, however, my auspex insisted it was there, so I did not doubt its existence. The hall was dark, and beyond the radius of the illumination, initially I could not make anything out, although I had a bad feeling, and judging by the expressions on the faces of those around me, I was not the only one who felt like that.
Calldia broke his silence, for the first time in a while; "I don't like the look of this; I have a bad feeling... Surely there must be things to do back at the camp - or even better, on the ship...!?"
He kept his complaining going, and although I am getting quite good at filtering his muttering out, when it was combined with the strange, distant, whispering I could hear it got very distracting and irritating...
I began to make out humanoid shapes at the edge of our illumination, and suddenly, a chill gripped me as I realised there were hundreds of the corrupted settlers standing in the dark. The cold fear spread and froze me, and I felt that I could not move any closer; this was very different to fighting them in the open, as we had done before, and I could not help but remember the illness that had infected me after my last encounter with the foul creatures. As I stood and stared at them, Boe came over to me, and spoke some words; I cannot recall them now, but I felt somewhat happier about the situation, and as the body of troops opened fire, cutting dozens of the foul creatures into chunks of rotting gore, we pushed forwards towards the head of the chamber, which the scans showed us contained a large door.
The Rogue Trader Regent looked as stricken as I felt, and I saw Boe move on to him, and now I had my wits about me, I noticed that the Psyker seemed to be glowing with a white light, and this time I heard what he said;
"Do not fear, He is with us. He is always with us, and always watches over us. He knows who we are, and he knows that even little people have big hearts too..."
The expression on Hartek's face changed, and he looked calm, almost serene, and he seemed to come to his senses, much as I had. I was also amused to note that our Squat Rogue Trader Regent had not seemed to register that Boe had used the words "little people" to him. Perhaps I should inform him of this when I get chance. But then again, perhaps not...
I sent my servo-skulls, Yorrick and Horatio, forward to investigate the path ahead, and they were able to report back that although the numbers were large, almost a thousand, they were not endless. However, I was also able to count amongst their numbers, taller blade carrying figures with horned foreheads, and low to the ground were a number of the small spherical creatures we had encountered as we escaped from the planet on our last visit. I put the information over the vox-net, and the troops began to pick their targets.
"Forward! To the door!" Hartek bellowed.
Our forces split, with the main body holding their ground while levelling withering fire at the creatures, which continued to fall, while three of the battle tanks pushed on, with the Command team, the Interrogators group, and my small force, clinging on to the outsides.
I heard Hartek's voice once again; "To the door, make for the door ahead!"
Finally, I could make out what he meant, and could see four wide steps, leading to a massive stone door in the chamber wall, flanked by sturdy looking stone columns. The large, raised area gave us a slight advantage, allowing us to fire into the massed enemy more effectively; however, it was what was beyond the door that gave me a feeling of dread. I knew, and I cannot explain how I knew, but I knew that the Grey Knight's target lay over the threshold in that chamber... I also knew that I would need definitive proof of this before I triggered the teleportarium beacon.
The three battle tanks formed up at the front of the steps, firing into the massed enemy, and the main force had formed a circle defence two hundred metres away on the chamber floor, and were doing the same. Hartek, Helbrech and his acolytes, and my men took position on the steps, and I sent Yorrick and Horatio through the door to investigate the chamber beyond.
As I watched the data feed I saw more of the sword carrying, horned, creatures probably forty if them, and then I saw something else... It looked like one the small spherical creatures, but much, much bigger, and I was immediately reminded of the shape that was captured on the distorted recording from our last visit... I could feel it looking at me through the eyes of my servo skulls, and felt a strange draw, and then I remember nothing more.
My internal chrono registered the passing of 0.52 standard minutes, but as far as I am concerned that time was, and till is a complete blank. Hartek later told me that I collapsed, vomited what appeared to be oil, and appeared to be fitting and twitching as I lay on the floor. It was this combined with the feelings that Hartek, and Boe, particularly had, that convinced the Interrogator that our target was indeed beyond the door.
When I regained my senses, I saw Doc leaning over me, but seeming puzzled as to what ailed me. Then I heard a voice as Helbrech shouted "The beast is inside!"
Boe was launching bolts of energy over our heads into the approaching horde, and I could see Hartek, the Interrogator and two of my Tech-Guard unloading the teleportarium beacon from where it was stowed on the back of the Leman Russ.
I felt weak, and disorientated and tried to struggle to my feet, but in reality ended up scrambling across the floor towards them, my attention locked onto the beacon as I tried to ignore what was going on around me.
It was then that I became aware of another faint voice on the vox; it was Ivanov on the surface, reporting that the scouts had withdrawn to the perimeter as thousands more of the corrupted settlers had come streaming out of the mountain caves and were clearly targeting the HQ area. The estimate of the enemy number stood at around six thousand, and Ivanov informed us that he was calling for orbital strikes from the Furnace of Redemption into the massed enemy horde. I felt the earth around me shake as the huge energies were unleashed above our heads, and later analysis would reveal that the repeated lance strikes cut great swathes through the slow moving creatures, and by the time they had closed to melee range they had suffered 85% losses. Even so they remained a potent enemy, as our own casualties would soon swell their ranks...
Yorrick and Horatio flew out of the chamber at top speed, and hovered over me as I finally reached the beacon. I connected myself to the data-port, and thanks be to the Omnissiah, made the connection I needed. I was still disorientated, but because I had taken the time to familiarise myself with the interface while still in orbit I was able to recite the correct incantations, and apply the holy incenses without too much conscious thought. I forced myself to focus, and re-ran the calculations through my cogitators to confirm them, and then, stroking the surface of the holy device, began the final rites of activation.
"Hurry up hurry up hurry up hurry up hurry up!" Calldia was chanting in the back of my mind, almost like a litany.
I snapped at him "If you actually shut up and helped me, then perhaps I would..."
He stopped instantly, and then suddenly calmer than he had been, recited the activation rites with me.
I heard Hartek's voice bellowing over the sound of the gunfire, "This is where we stand!", and the men redoubled their efforts, destroying more of the abominations, and I heard the whine of activation as the power flowed through the beacon - it was active! I set the small tracked vehicle supporting the device moving into the chamber containing the entity, and then scrambled away from the door.
The Rogue Trader Regent opened a vox channel; "Hartek to The Light of Purity. Do the Emperors will!"
Inside the chamber there was a bright flash of light, which my photo-visor just managed to suppress, and a sound like a thunderclap, then gobbets of flesh and gore splashed through the open door, before fading into nothingness. In the doorway stood a huge, silver armoured figure, gleaming with light, and sweeping an enormous halberd through the onrushing horned creatures, splitting them in two, before their corpses faded away. It turned towards us, crashing its fist against its chest in salute, before spinning around and striding slowly into the chamber. The Grey Knights had engaged the enemy.
++ End of record ++
Below is this weeks session report.
++ Excerpt taken from the personal record of Enginseer Prime Nicander Hak ++
++ LOCATION: THE SAPHIRUS 1-1S2M3, SAPHIRUS SYSTEM, WINTERSCALES REALM ++
On the surface of the world the massed horde of the enemy had forced our scouting teams back to within the defensive perimeter, and had closed to a range which meant that additional lance strikes from orbit would be far too dangerous for own troops, and even firing the Basilisks was risky; the overpressure from the artillery was causing casualties in our defensive lines. The gun crews abandoned their main guns and manned the vehicle mounted heavy stubbers and opened fire on the enemy with those instead.
Realising now that there was little he could do onboard the Furnace of Redemption, and the threat from the damaged Promise of Sedition had not re-emerged, Navigator Proscesu made the decision to to the planet and lend whatever help he could to Lieutenant Ivanov. Remembering the way that the gun-cutters were brought down during our last excursion to the surface, his gun-cutter made a crash to deposit him in the middle of the HQ area before boosting away to orbit, fortunately escaping unscathed.
Proscesu had arrived in time to see large numbers of the troops breaking in the face of the horrific enemy advancing on them, and began to regret his decision to join the ground forces. Then he saw Ivanov moving towards the front lines, shouting encouragement to those around him. Miraculously the Lieutenants words appeared to have the desired effect, and the faltering men held their ground and redoubled their efforts at repelling the enemy, then Ivanov, leading from the front in the best traditions of House Dureen, crashed into the leading creatures, laying about himself with his sword as the men around him began to be overwhelmed.
"Ivanov!" Proscesu shouted over the noise of battle, "Hold fast, I will be with you soon!" and he ran to join his comrade.
The two men adopted a back to back defensive formation to fend off the enemy, and soon managed to create space around their position as they held off the closest enemy, as their numbers were swelled as our dead got to their feet and joined them...
Below the surface, the situation was far more desperate. I watched as one by one my valiant Tech-Guard fell, giving their lives to protect me, Omnissiah watch over them, but still we fought on winnowing the enemy numbers with gun and blade. The first of our fallen here also began to join the ranks of the foul creatures, and although still badly shaken by what I was facing I made a point to put a hellgun blast through the heads of any of my men that I encountered, refusing to give the dark powers at work on this world the chance to control the remains of such honourable men.
As I glanced around, I saw Helbrechs Acolytes moving around the cordon we had thrown around the steps we were standing on. My attention was caught by the graceful, dancer-like movements of Divine Vengeance, the bodyguard-assassin as she moved amongst the enemy, cutting at limbs and pressure points with surgical precision. Something struck me as illogical about the tactics but I was unable to work out quite what it was. Doc was blazing away with the fine pistols he carried, each shot obliterating the head of one of the abominations facing us, and I saw Boe blazing with energy, disintegrating waves of the creatures with the power of the warp, and crushing them with a ghostly hammer. Helbrech himself calmly stood with his right arm raised and holding his pistol, his left arm folded behind his back in the traditional duellists' stance, and took measured shots into the mass of corruption before us, each round striking true. I was suddenly aware that one of his group was missing, Sergeant Bolke, at least the Sergeant's body was nowhere to be seen, however, as the enemy pressed on at our position, I did not have time to dwell over that piece of information.
I heard explosions as the power packs of two of the Leman Russ tanks detonated, overrun by the horde, and could see creatures swarming over the defensive positions. As I attempted to run probabilities based around this information through my cogitators, a panicked Calldia spoke up again.
"What have you got us into? You know the figures - we're all going to die! It's hopeless..."
"Where is your faith Calldia?" I responded angrily and probably with no little panic myself, "We are beloved of the Omnissiah. He will watch over us!" At least I hoped that was true...
My internal discussion was interrupted by Hartek. "We must hold this door! We cannot let them get through and aid their master! The Grey Knights must be given the chance to prevail!"
The Rogue Trader Regent's roaring voice snapped me back to reality and I raised my hellgun once more and continued to snap shots off as the creatures advanced on us. Our infantry were being overrun, with the small rotting, giggling, spherical creatures swarming all over them, and tearing them apart, and we began to fall back towards the door. The troops left in the centre of the chamber had retreated into the circle of armoured vehicles and were trying to use their hulls as cover, generally unsuccessfully.
It was then that I realised what was illogical about Divine Vengeance's combat style; while it would have been devastatingly effective against creatures that required a circulatory system, the surgical hits that she struck the abominations with were effective in removing body parts, but they were not destroying them. The assassin danced around the slower creatures almost mocking them, until suddenly she was grabbed mid somersault and dragged into the midst of the horde. Even as I saw her limbs being ripped from her torso, I was planning the cybernetic replacements that would be required to allow her to keep her marvellous agility; however, I stopped when a sightless head rolled from the mass of corrupted flesh. There was nothing I could do to aid her now.
The Rogue Trader Regent leapt from his position on the hull of one of the Leman Russ tanks and intercepted a group of creatures that were heading my way - thank you Kilgrim, I did not know that you cared - and cut one in two with the mighty sweep of his axe. As he did so, young Fenducci, Harteks' aide was left to fend for himself on the tank, and found himself by two of the small spherical creatures. I saw him slip, and one of them pounced, and thought he was done for but he scrabbled away losing only a boot. I could not help but applaud his lucky escape! My attention snapped back to my problems as two of the spherical abominations launched themselves at me, and clung on to my armour, unable to penetrate the scale, but doing the utmost to drag me to the floor.
I dropped my hellgun and used my axe to try to scrape one of them from me, but it squirmed round evading my clumsy attack. I was almost flung to the floor as the other Leman Russ tanks near the steps exploded, sabotaged from within, and at the edge of my vision I saw others with the force stranded in the middle of the chamber destroyed in the same way. The only bonus from these losses was that several of the enemy were incinerated in the detonations.
Hartek had found himself somewhat isolated having launched himself into the melee with gusto, and although was revelling in the fight, it was clear that he would be overwhelmed by the sheer number of his foes. Then, to my right something burst through the wall in an explosion of masonry and debris. The huge shape smashed through the enemy, and I am sure I saw at least one crushed beneath its bulk. I suddenly realised that one of the Grey Knights had inadvertently come to our aid, although the warrior looked in a bad way. Still, a normal human would not have survived the trip through the heavy stone wall!
The giant figure lay motionless for a few seconds, the formidable armour suffering from numerous tears and cracks, and in one place, the ceramite and adamantium plates had be ripped clear, exposing the workings beneath. Even then I could not help but to admire the exquisite craftsmanship that was required to construct such a suit, and I muttered a quick prayer to the machine spirits, to help atone for their suffering.
The Grey Knight struggled to his feet, blood streaming down his face and pouring through the many rents in the silver armour. He picked up his halberd which appeared to bend part way along its length and steadied himself against the wall. With a shock I realised that this was Justicar Poscar. He grimaced, and seemed to be testing himself, before stepping back towards the chamber from which he had just been ejected.
"For the Emperor!" I heard Hartek shout.
I could not help but add; "And the Omnissiah!"
The Astartes warrior smiled through the blood, and crashed a salute against his breast plate, and spoke; "The beast is weakening. It shall fall!"
With a burst of fire from his storm bolter he limped back into the darkened room beyond.
Ivanov and Proscesu were still locked in a desperate fight with the creatures on the surface, but overall the Dynasty forces were winning the battle, cutting down more enemy than were being replaced as their own casualties rose from the dead. The two officers were at the heart of the resistance, killing any foolish enough to attack them, and seeing the example set by the two men, the troops held fast refusing to give ground to the horrors they faced. While the battle was still vicious and far from over, it soon became clear that the confidence that the stalwart defence was giving the troops meant that victory was in their grasp.
Underground, it was a different story; we were being slaughtered, and hope was starting to fade. Suddenly the surviving creatures turned as if of a single mind, and surged towards the steps.
"Close the doors!" Hartek shouted
I nodded, and tried to run towards the open portal, ignoring the creatures trying to trip me. I kicked one clear, pausing to stamp down on it to finish it, and then after a struggle with the first door, I managed to drag it closed. As I moved, however, the flexing of the scale armour created a gap at one of the joints, and quick as a flash, one of the abominations squeezed itself through the hole. It was inside my armour with me, and I could feel it scraping away at my body... Calldia screamed in panic, and would not be quiet no matter how much I asked him to! More disturbingly, I could hear a deep, rumbling laughter that reminded me so much of the voice I heard in my head when I was ill with the fever after our last visit to this world.
More of the abominations turned towards me, and Hartek pointed at them, and then enveloped them in a gout of burning promethium from the hand-flamer I had built into his cybernetic arm. Obviously, that was one of the most important design decisions I had made in my life, and the now burning creatures writhed on the floor.
I turned in time to see one of my Battle Servitors impaled through the chest by one of the single eyed, horned creatures, but it kept fighting, along with its partner, holding the horde at bay. Damien Boe stepped forward again, and unleashed his combat powers crushing and burning more of the enemy, but as he drew himself up to deal more death he too was run through by a horned creature. I was struck by the look of complete astonishment on his face.
He gasped, "This wasn't... meant... to... happen!" And then he died, a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth.
Interrogator Helbrech killed the attacker with a single, well placed shot to the head, and the remains faded from reality.
I shook my head, to clear my thoughts, and turned and dragged the second door closed, latching and locking it, and then turned to face the horde once again. I could still feel the tiny fiend scratching around the insides of my armour and as it gouged at my flesh and systems, I fell to the ground in an attempt to crush it between my body and the armour. Nearby, the still burning creatures popped, and faded from reality, giving us some time, and some space, and Hartek strode across the cleared ground, calmly putting bolt-pistol rounds into the massed enemy. One broke clear and almost tore the Rogue Trader Regents face off, but he deftly manoeuvred himself out of its reach before dispatching it with another well placed burst of bolt pistol fire.
We were being forced back by the wave of small spherical fiends, and soon found ourselves backed against the door, however, as he was retreating Interrogator Helbrech slipped in a pool of gore, landing hard on the stone steps, Doc leapt forwards, butting himself between the creatures and the Interrogator, unleashing a fusillade of pistol shots causing them to pause for a few seconds. Helbrech scrambled backwards, and got to his feet, and Doc continued to cover him, until there was a sudden silence as his magazines emptied, he looked in horror as he realised how exposed he was, and was then dragged down by four of the corrupted and rotting humanoids and was torn apart in front of us.
I thrashed around on the ground, and then found I could not move. I looked up into the grim face of Helbrech who had his foot on my chest.
He shook his head; "Stop wiggling!" Then he watched me carefully. He pried one of the joints of my armour open, paused and opened fire, and I felt a heat spot and then a splash of gore as the creature burst. I felt disgusted and relieved at the same time, and the Interrogator gave me a wan smile.
As I gathered myself together, I could hear that strange distant laughter again...
Suddenly I realised that I could no longer hear gunfire, and as I scanned the battlefield I saw that all our troops had fallen, and the Leman Russ Tanks were burning. There was only Hartek, Helbrech, and I left standing, backed against the doors, as the remaining creatures advanced on us. Suddenly, from on high, I saw a las-blast reach out and kill one of the enemy. It seemed that one ally at least was still living, and Sergeant Bolke continued to extract a price from those that opposed us. I emptied the power cell on my Hellgun, cutting down more abominations, however, I soon ran dry, as did Hartek and Helbrech, and with a last look at each other.
My cry of "For the Omnissiah!" was matched by the other two shouting "For the Emperor!"
We drew our melee weapons and prepared to sell our lives, inflicting as much damage on the foul creatures as we could.
As we took out combat stances I detected a slight vibration, and then deep rumble from the chamber behind us, and shouted a warning; "Behind!" And then the doors exploded outwards.
All three of us threw ourselves flat, miraculously avoiding the debris that obliterated the front ranks of the advancing horde. Powering this debris was a strange wind blowing with the power of a hurricane, which knocked more of our attackers flat. The wind carried with it a strange howling, crying moan, and then the distant, sinister laughter I was becoming so familiar with. We turned back to face the advancing creatures, but they were no longer moving, just standing there, and then I realised that there were none of the horned one eyed creatures or small spherical fiends remaining amongst their number... With a strange sense of hope, and muttering prayers to the Omnissiah, I turned and looked through the shattered doors.
On the surface, the troops still locked in deadly combat suddenly found their enemies gone, or simply standing their passively. Taking advantage, they moved out of their positions in order to destroy any of the abominations they could see, but found they did not need to, as within a few seconds they all collapsed lifeless to the ground.
Ivanov opened a wide channel vox-link, and spoke; "All glory to the Emperor!" A wide smile spread across his face as he heard cheering from across the battlefield.
The troops began to build pyres, and burned the fallen, just to be sure.
As I peered through the doors, I could sense a presence on either side of me, and I glanced each way and saw that I was flanked by both the Rogue Trader Regent, and the Interrogator. Ahead of me, amongst the debris of what had obviously been a titanic struggle, I could see a huge figure moving in the middle of the chamber, and another limping towards us, a green ooze steaming on his battered armour. He stopped before us, and with the click and hiss of a seal being broken, he removed his helmet.
He looked young, in human terms, perhaps he would be in his mid-twenties; however he was Astartes, so it was impossible to guess. His eyes looked a lot harder, and older than his physical age suggested, and his features were weathered, not through age, but through physical abuse.
My attention was briefly called away from the giant, as I heard a series of thuds from behind, and I checked, to see the stationary figures collapse, and lie still.
I turned back to the Astartes; "I assume the threat is ended? Logic would suggest from the evidence surrounding us that you were successful?"
The figure nodded, so I continued. "Truly the Emperor was with you!"
"Aye!" He finally spoke, "He was!"
"And Justicar Poscar?" Hartek prompted
The Astartes shook his head, and I am sure a look of sorrow briefly passed over his face. "He fell doing the work of the Emperor."
I nodded. "As will we all, at some point..."
Again, the Grey Knight nodded. "He will be remembered by his Brothers."
He looked towards us, a strange look on his face, touched by a slight smile. "Only myself and one other Brother survived. We will retrieve the remains of our kin and we will return to The Light of Purity. The task is completed, and the creature banished. May the Emperor be with you!" And he saluted us.
I returned his gesture, and responded, "And the Omnissiah with you!"
The Space Marine turned around, and walked back into the chamber towards his Brother, and once they had gathered the bodies of the fallen and the teleportarium beacon, I saw the light of a teleportarium beam begin to envelop them, and heard him shout, "The next time we meet, it will be by his side! We will stand by the Throne together!" Then they disappeared from sight.
Hartek had turned back towards the carnage behind us, surveying the damage with sad eyes, when suddenly I heard a clang of metal plates falling to the ground. I gripped my axe tightly, and focused on the noise, and from out of the wreckage a head appeared, looking round nervously.
"Fenducci, my boy!" boomed Hartek.
The Rogue Trader Regent stepped forward and helped his aide from the wreckage, and smiled. "It's... It's over...?" The young man asked.
"It is!" Hartek nodded, and then joined by the grim faced Sergeant Bolke, a survivor again, we turned and began the walk towards where we had left the Chimeras, and moved on to the surface.
We withdraw all our survivors to the Furnace of Redemption, to give them a well earned rest, and then I headed to the bridge to watch the departure of The Light of Purity, and found the others already there. As we stood in silence, watching the Destroyer pass beyond our scanner range, the Interrogator spoke in a subdued voice, "Do you think they even really noticed us?"
++ End of record ++
This is one of the rare occasions when I take issue with the good Enginseer's account of the aftermath of the underground battle. Clearly his machine transformations have left him somewhat de-sensitized to the carnage and the effect it has on "the fleshbags". No disrespect to Lord Spatula intended, as this is his characters personal account of our adventures as well as the "official" version, but I'd like to offer an entirely personal, more human viewpoint from Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek.
It was as grim a scene as any Hartek had seen in his long battlefield career. Over two hundred men and twenty vehicles, the best part of an armoured brigade, had rolled into that underground chamber with him and now you could count the survivors on the fingers of one hand. Broken and torn apart bodies lay scattered everywhere, House troops mixed freely with the infected natives, for in the end all had been the enemy. House Dureen's wounded and dead had risen up and joined the plague, making Seventh Cohort's doom a simple matter of grim, inevitable mathematics.
Hartek turned away from the figure of the Grey Knight, heedless of any insult offered and with slightly unsteady feet on gore-slick stone, started to walk down the steps to where the wrecks of three Leman Russ still lay. He passed the wrecks of Enginseer Hak's battle servitors. The two man-machines had done their part in slowing down the advancing tide, but numbers had overwhelmed them. He saw the remains of Interrogator Hellbrech's fallen companions; Doc, Boe, Divine Vengeance. He saw the bodies of Hak's remaining Tech Guard, who had died to a man fighting against what must have been incalculable odds, even for them.
He reached the tank where he'd last seen Fenducci before diving off into the melee to protect Hak. It had been a foolish move, depriving his men of leadership and command at a vital moment in the battle. A junior officer officer making the same mistake would normally have drawn the Warmaster's ire, but there was no-one to discipline the Warmaster himself for making such a rookie mistake. That decision had given up any hope Hartek had of swaying the course of the battle, and almost certainly condemned Fenducci and many others to death.
Hartek tried to put the thought from his mind as he scanned the bodies around the remains of the Leman Russ. There was no sign of his young aide's body anywhere. Could the oncoming horde have torn him completely apart? Or had the flow of battle carried his remains away from where he fell? The squat Warmaster tried not to think of the other possibility, that Fenducci had staggered away from the tank himself on shaking, undead legs. The horrible mental image gave way to a different one, of a dark smoky-filled room on Malfi, where hard faced men made deals that would never see the light of day, and where Hartek had offered an apprenticeship to the nephew of one of Malfi's most powerful crimelords.
"Of course there are risks in travelling the void." Hartek saw himself telling Don Mario. "But I'll keep the boy out of harm's way. He'll come back to you stronger and better trained than you could ever hope him to be, stuck here on Malfi. Trust me, it'll be the making of him."
A loud metallic clang broke Hartek from his reverie. One of the hatches in the wrecked Leman Russ had been thrown open, and a familiar, weasel-like face appeared in the frame, looking around nervously. Hartek cleared away a piece of obstructing debris and Antonio Fenducci emerged fully from the wreckage, blinking as he took in the sight of the surrounding carnage.
Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek, sworn Warmaster to House Dureen, looked up at his young ward and gripped him firmly by the shoulders. "My boy." he said, his voice wavering slightly as the adrenaline crash started to hit him hard. He smiled wanly at Fenducci's shocked expression.
"It's...it's over?" the youngster managed.
Hartek nodded "It is." With no more to be said, he turned and strode down the steps, to begin the task of rebuilding his shattered legions.
++++ Believe Me, nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won. - Commander Artorius Wesley, Praetorian Imperial Guard.
Also, in the very final scene as we watched the Grey Knights warping away without so much as a by-your-leave, Interrogator Helbrech's rhetorical question "Do you think they even really noticed us?" drew a succinct, one-word answer from the Trader Regent. Sadly this word, along with much of Hartek's more... colourful idiom, has been stricken from the published Imperial Record lest it corrupt the unwary.
This is one of the rare occasions when I take issue with the good Enginseer's account of the aftermath of the underground battle. Clearly his machine transformations have left him somewhat de-sensitized to the carnage and the effect it has on "the fleshbags". No disrespect to Lord Spatula intended, as this is his characters personal account of our adventures as well as the "official" version, but I'd like to offer an entirely personal, more human viewpoint from Rogue Trader Regent Kilgrim Hartek.
Meh! I think someone's being overly sentimental about his fleshbags!
All joking aside, it's nice to see a more human perspective on the battle, compared with the deliberately more impersonal version I wrote... Nice one Dr V!
When a lion shows his teeth, do not assume he is smiling at you.