The Conclave

The Ordos Majoris - Roleplay => In Character => Topic started by: Macabre on June 16, 2013, 11:50:09 PM

Title: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on June 16, 2013, 11:50:09 PM
Names.

Why is it that some names echo across the millennia, whilst countless billions of others are forgotten as motes of dust upon a temporal tempest? Spread before me, like the major arcana of an astropath’s tarot, are just such names of legend, that spiral and conjoin into a harrowing epic:

Mentirius, Nexus, Junious, Drazh Marazel, Vaith Osis, Maltheus, Alundirel, Ludvos Arkhan, Trachtenberg, Rex, Taren, Amaurn, Raphael…


I was too tired. I set aside my autoquill and sighed heavily. With a cramped hand I reached for the bottle of Vino Imperias and shook off a vellum page that had adhered to the bottom with a burgundy ouroboros of runoff. The distant throb of the engineerium two floors down added to my annoyance of finding the bottle empty and myself absent of wine. Normally I would choose somewhere far quieter to work, but this planet was far too cold, and the central column was the warmest place in the complex.

I rubbed my temples, trying in vain to preemptively shift an oncoming migraine. I needed air. Dragging myself away from the Munitorum-issue plasteel desk, I grabbed my fur-lined arctic robes, pulled down the bulkhead release crank and with a hiss of pneumatic pistons, swept through the yawning portal.

I blinked myopically as the sterile-white phosphor rods seared through my eyes. My breath had already started to mist, and a thin film of permafrost covered the surfaces of the corridor. As per usual, the temperature of the complex away from the central core was somewhere beneath five degrees, which was nothing compared to the outside. Crossing the tertiary gantry, the five hundred cells and the commissary some hundred feet below me were unsurprisingly deserted: with a standing crew of only five Inquisitorial functionaries, a handful of enginseers and mech-wrights to keep the complex running and about twenty or so servitors, all dwelling in a kilometer-wide site designed to house over five thousand, I rarely saw anyone unless I went looking for them.

I reached the heatlock, pulled my robe tighter to my chest and bracing myself for the cold. The locking wheel was uncooperative and screeched in protest as it turned before the door opened onto a silent vista of blue-white icy tundra and clear lavender sky, broken only by the sporadic, grey void-shield coils in the distance. I whispered a short prayer of gratitude that the normally hurricane-wracked landscape was still. I retrieved a groxhide and brass carton from the pocket of my robe, flipped the lip and plucked a tabacstick to my lips. Replacing the carton with a flintwheel lighter, I savoured the acrid stench of kerosene as I struck a flame and lit the end of the tabacstick. The coals blazed as I drew in a heavy draught, shivering as the weighted narco-vapour settled in my lungs. Exhaling blue-gray smoke I mused on my current situation: This was Rura Penthe, a minor Inquisitorial listening post, a very minor listening post in the Segmentum Pacificus, largely forgotten by the very institution it serves. Once this was a penal establishment until it was sequestered by the Ordo Xenos sometime in M38 as a staging post for an offensive against an alien threat now long since passed. With the inmates either drafted or sent to other prisonworlds, Rura Penthe was left as a listening post in the unlikely event it would be needed again and became a short string of numbers on an Administratum audit exclusion form.

“You shouldn’t remain out here too long, Sister Ellis, another blizzard is due soon” said a voice suddenly at my side.

“Rebekah, please” I murmured in insistence through another drag of smoke, “and be damned, how is it someone of your stature move so silently?”

“Sometimes stealth is the only weapon you have” came the reply as a massive bicep tattooed with a shield livery of a blue winged skull in profile on a field of white hoved into view to my right.

“I haven’t seen you for a while, Librarian Phaldor” I sighed curling vapour.

“Morael, please” he smirked “and I’ve been meditating, but I find the stillness of this moon spiritually soothing when the storms have abated”

The vivid purple glow of the jotunnium gas-giant Violet-Theta-Twelve had just begun its crescent rise upon the horizon and already the wind had picked up as a prelude to the predicted meteorological wrath.

“Why are we here, Morael?”

“My father trusted you.” He replied after a moment’s pause.

“I never really knew your father.” I refuted quickly. In truth, I had worked for a decade with Inquisitor Danyael Rephexis and returned to my Order a scant few years before his reported death and the disappearance of his ship: the Zankantō. I could see much of Danyael in Morael, the same patrician features, the same high forehead and wise but tormented eyes.

Morael looked down at me with a sad smile, “I only met my father once, and only by the sheer coincidence that I was tenured to the Deathwatch at the time.”

“He was a good man” I nodded solemnly, “but I meant; why are we here?”

“Catherine told me that my father recovered here for the nine years that followed the events of Secrets Hold.”

Danyael rarely spoke of his past and many of his retinue at the time of my secondment to his service hadn’t been with him them. Catherine D’Harquebus was his personal chirugeon and had been with him since his ascension to full inquisitor status. She had designed and aided in his physiotherapy regime following the betrayal of Inquisitor Lorenco di Valdi that left him paralyzed from the waist down and left for dead aboard the hulk: The Invisible Dragon. She must be at least some three-hundred Terran standard by now.

She was also the one that gave Danyael’s archive to Morael along with instructions that led him to recruit me and bring us to this desolate, nigh-deserted and freezing rock. It also struck me at the superhuman tolerances of the astartes at my side: barefoot and wearing naught but a sleeveless, white-linen recreation robe despite the snow and ice.

I flicked the spent tabacstick into a nearby snowdrift and turned towards the heatlock.

“Some of the archive is either corrupted or incomplete, Morael, are you sure it should be made accessible to the Inquisition?” I asked.

The Librarian’s gaze remained firmly fixed in the distance and silent moments passed before he gave his answer;

“Catherine told me that my father had maintained extensive records of related inquisitorial activities since Secrets Hold and that his final request was that his brothers and sisters in the Ordos needed to know the truth.”

“Truth is subjective….” I began and then instantly realised why Catherine had suggested Rura Penthe: The moment Danyael’s archive was uploaded to the Inquisition’s gateway database there would be elements within that would see it removed. The Puritan Council and Ordo Malleus would see it destroyed simply because of the names it contained (the names of: Amon Dull, Landen Dosdamt, Charax came unbidden to my mind). With the core archive held deep within the datastacks of Rura Penthe, it would take years, maybe decades, to break the complex encryptions and trace it origins to this lonely moon. By which time copies will have circulated too widely to control.

“It will cause anarchy, Morael, rifts will divide the Ordos, a schism of interests and new philosophies will break the Inquisition: a new internal war of secrets and lies. This truth will be buried under the avalanche of further misinformation.”

“I know,” he replied. “The next supply ship arrives in seventy-two hours, Sister Ellis, if you are finished by then we will arrange passage away from here and then part company. I recommend from there that you find yourself a remote convent somewhere the fallout cannot reach you.”

“I’ve been finished for two days. I just wanted to speak with you, to be sure that this is necessary.” I say, sighing with resignation.

“It is,” he whispered.

I nod, retreating through the heatlock into the complex and back to my chamber.



+++ Accessing database +++
>>> User access code:_
>>> *
+++ Authorising +++
[ACCESS GRANTED]
://<query=central+inquisition+gateway?>
- accessing inquisition gateway:_
[ACCESS DENIED]
://<search=tertiary+route?>
_No Pathway Found:_
://<cmd=search?maintenance+lock>
_searching.
_lock0:_
_lock1:_
_lock2:_
_lock3:_
://<cmd=access_lock0?>
+++[ACCESS RESTRICTED]+++
- insufficient clearance:_
://<cmd=show?restriction+protocol>
-protocol=key1657774839900506874773
://<cmd=bypass+protocol>
_
_
_
_protocol disengaged:_
://<cmd=access_lock0>
- insufficient clearance:_
://<passkey=yarrick+beta+oboe>
://<cmd=new+logon>
- please enter authorisation:_
>>>user access code:_system+overide
>>>passkey:_=][=
[ACCESS GRANTED]
#uploadfile=107684Φ4666Θ76Ψ
_UPLOADING:_
_
_
_
[UPLOAD COMPLETE]
://<cmd=new+file+dir>
_1 new file found:_
://<cmd=access_file?>

_REPHEXIS_ARCHIVE:_ (https://www.dropbox.com/s/34skibyjhysmubu/Conclave%20Archive.rar)
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on July 03, 2013, 07:40:05 AM
“Who will read this?”

“Does it matter? The old man said it was important. He wanted this doing, especially if his era came up on the channels. Especially if something this big came up.”

He shuffled at the terminal.

“Are you uncomfortable with this?”

“No. No, listen, no. The old man.... This was his last request. He wanted his death, Aithol. He wanted it all to mean something. With Junious gone.. Throne knows where, the rest of the Mentirians have gone to ground - well, those who weren't dead in the purges anyway. What is there left? Maltheus, Stryde, lost to the warp. Even that lunatic Muundus hasn't been heard from. There's a new generation now.”

He keyed his access codes, cycling the channels.

“Not a single name I know. Mefisto, that old goat, even he is gone and he was one for stirri-”

“-the pot for the sake of stirring the pot.”

Both of the figures chuckled.
“This feels hollow.”

The words echoed around the librarium. It was dark, cold, drafty. Many a message was sent from places like this. Dusty reliquariums that had been accumulated by the various bibliophiles in the Inquisition. They'd pick an outpost on the fringe, and drop their collections leaving them accessible to all. All who had a ship, and a navigator, and the will to get to the edge of the known galaxy. And that was the draw, the edge of the galaxy. It would take months to get here, and even those places with barely one route in had that advantage – barely one. There was always another way, usually much riskier, but worth it to evade capture. Some, like this rocky outcrop, had multiple safe routes in and out.

Perhaps that explained the few other souls in the place, going about their business. The surroundings and the virtually inaudible murmur suggested that everyone in the place had no interest in the machinations of anyone else.

“What does it matter, seriously? Why did we hump our forsaken hides all the way out here just to pour some petrol on this bonfire? Why bother?”

The seated man sighed. He thumbed his temples, and straightened his spine.

“Because of the idea.”

“Idea? Is that what we are now? Idealogues? Fanatics? Messengers?”

“No,” the seated man snapped, “None of that. We are active agents-”

“Without an Inquisitor.”

“Aye, but we do the good work. We keep working against the great enemy. We aren't just idealogues, or messengers. This is important, Karon, this is really important. Look, you saw the archive with your own eyes. You know what they've published. This... This is the start of something. Dangerous, stupid, important, whatever. This event...”

He sighed, and slumped into his chair. His partner waved her hands.

“If you think this is right.....” she said, her words faltering off.

++++ Communications.=I=.TheConclave:Open ++++
++++ <CMD:AllFreqBrdCast> ++++
++++ CMD – ACCEPTED ++++
++++ <CMD:Auth//Black-47\\Action:POST.ANONYMOUS> ++++
++++ Subject: The Last Confession of Jaydred Taren ++++


History will not treat us kindly, if it remembers us at all.

I said that to Mentirius, in one of our final conversations before Aithol. We sat in the Warp for some time. I suppose everyone on that vessel, and on route to that planet, knew the same. It wasn’t a fool’s errand – it was a traitor’s run.

If this has been published, then I am long dead and there is a demand for something new in the Inquisition. Specific parameters I specified have been met, and as a result, this is to be published.
A review of the past, and perhaps to provide some lessons for the future.
 
Legacy was one of my many vanities – a vanity most Inquisitors have – and thus when Mentirius and I spoke, we spoke of a many great things, not least his book, our personas, our ideals – our legacy and that of all those heading out for Aithol.

We all knew that, one way or another, we’d all end up fixing gazes with an executioner as a result of our actions.

I do not fear that day, and it is closer than I suspect.

We had all been proscribed. We had all risked everything to get to that world. This was our opportunity to create a legacy though, a true legacy, one forged of bravery and conviction. The galaxy potentially hanging by a thread – isn’t that what we signed up for? Isn’t that our task? Didn’t that make it our opportunity?

It did, and it was, and perhaps a great many things, ideas and men died as a result of our vanity. But the galaxy was saved.

I suppose I would like to remember the names and faces with a rose tint, not the way we ended on that world. Not the way our legacy will be recorded, infamy and riddled with heresy. Not the way things actually happened, but the way I remember them.

This little vanity, then, will be preserved. It will be kept safe. This will be published at a time I have specified to hands, hearts and minds I trust completely. It is to be released at a time when it is needed; when the Inquisition bloats with the narrow radical and the fiery rhetoric of puritanical conflict.

Redemption sits in this room tragically dimmed. Since Aithol, I’ve not taken up a blade again. My mind is weary, and there is too much to document for me to waste any more of my lifetime on conflict. Ah but the name of the damned blade, and what it meant.

It all started with Alessandro Nexus – the dratted fool, the naïve imbecile; that confounded martyr! He started something and it stirred the Inquisition to its core. His actions were brutal and heartless. His collaboration with the Eternal was nothing short of abominable and resulted in the deaths of far too many. I don’t suppose things would ever have progressed without him, the incomparable fool.

And then Mentirius. A shining wit, his rally call echoed loudly through the Inquisition. A brilliant mind, no doubt but perhaps he would have been an incomparable font of wisdom in a more enlightened time. Instead he cast a shadow across the Inquisition and inevitably we all became embroiled in a conflict with a god in waiting. Amon-Dull, Nine Eyes, GreenEyes, the Spider – a myriad of other names, some more forgettable than others.

And to you, my friend – rest well. I do not know what transpired on Aithol after you left, and above on the Eye. Perhaps it is better I never know. But, for a shining moment, we knew – absolutely – what we were doing and that explosion will live on in my memory forever.

To Maltheus, Stryde, Nexus, and more besides – thank you for standing with us through those dark days. Reputations, lives, and more were risked to down that beast. I hoped you escaped with your lives, and more importantly with your sanity. Take courage and conviction in that your actions were bold... beautiful. Take hope in your future, for it will be bright and more important that you know.

Alundirel, I will never understand you or your kind, nor do I wish to. I am sure you will still monitor these channels. Alliances fold as easily as they slip together. Remember Aithol. Remember our sacrifice.

To Chief Justice Bob MacFarlane – I know it is you who comes for me. I know it is you who orchestrated the downfall of the Mentirius and Nexus. It was you who sought to apply justice – a narrow minded, bureaucratic form of justice – to the Inquisition. I hope this message finds you dying of old age, MacFarlane. I hope this finds you rotting on the Throne-world, in some forsaken hole where some Inquisitor has tossed you to be forgotten as the wretched relic that you are. Terran roaches such as yourself should only ever be exterminated for messing in the business of the Inquisition.

Mefisto – the outsider, ever the watcher, but ever the wisest of us all. I am sure you've evaded your critics, as ever. I hope you realise everything you plotted for. And Ludvos Arkhan, may you find peace brave Captain. I came to see your wisdom in the end.

To Rex, Muundus, and the rest of you fringe lunatics – keep counsel with the open minded. Unity, not conflict, not internal strife, will keep the Imperium safe. Do not go after your brothers and sisters. Do not seek to slaughter our own. Look to the lessons of the Nexus Schism, and a horde of other names. Take those lessons and broaden your view. Wars do not prove who is right, only who is left.
But I suppose those are dusty names, dead names now. But the lessons should ring truer now than ever before.

Unity in preference to ideology.

Hope ahead of fear.

Truth over lies.

The Inquisition can be – should be – more. We should achieve something greater, while the Imperium rots. The grotesque face of the Inquisition must remain – but we can be the torch bearers of humanity. The Emperor granted the Inquisitorial charter for one purpose – for men and women of true minds and hearts, with clarity of vision and will of forged steel, to take the fight to the enemies of the Imperium, Within, Without, Beyond – and to fight them tooth and nail; red claw and savage mind; black hand and white heart. For any inch the Inquisition might give, billions of lives are lost and the consequences of our negligence, inaction and factional nonsense are beyond those of the majority of menials across the Imperium.

Take your responsibility on, blast it! Use your seal for what it was for, for Throne's sake!

I regret nothing of what I did in the past. I know the Emperor will absolve anything He can understand. When I stand before Him, I hope to be eloquent.

They say there is nothing more powerful than an idea who's time has come.

What better place than here, what better time than now?
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on July 04, 2013, 03:26:37 AM
It was more humid than he remembered; an oppressive heat and stench of foetid vegetation that assaulted the olfactory senses and obliged the skin to perspire. He was somewhat gladdened to be standing within a clearing that stretched several kilometers in any direction, a single pockmark upon the verdant surface of this arboreal deathworld, rather than trudging through the carnivorous vines and winding around the gigantic boles and titanic tubers that he recalled with a disgusted nostalgia. However the decayed tableaux before him left an ambivalent, hollow melancholy: Rhiannon had died here, he had died here, and all for the vanity of a single man.

Of course he hadn’t died ‘here’, but several million miles elsewhere in this system, left to perish and scream defiantly into the soundless vacuum amongst the wreckage of naivety. He was much younger then, and he had changed (evolved?) in the passing centuries, but it had all begun here.

The clearing was a grandiose homage to the perils of hubris: even time had failed to inspire the semi-sentient jungle to recapture it, leaving the vines and small brightly coloured fungi to cling upon the precipices marking the land’s end before the sunken architecture below. Anyone standing upon the edge looking down would probably feel the dizzying sensation of vertigo when confronted by the shattered archways and collapsed walkways that descended deeply into shrouded darkness that even the sun at its zenith could not penetrate.

“What is this place?” piped a smooth feminine voice from behind him.

“If this world ever had a name, I have long forgotten it, but this,” replied the old man gesturing to the devastated vista before him with an outstretched, steel hand, “is all that remains of Secrets Hold.”

He tore his gaze away from the ruins and turned with difficultly, a metallic squeak of calipers accompanying every step, leaning heavily on his cane. His augmetic spine was always less compliant in extremes of temperature, and it was times like this that he truly felt his age.

The pale woman looked insultingly untouched by the infernal swelter as she gracefully perched upon monolithic slab of black stone, torn from the ceiling of the upper corridors of the Hold and cast aside when the secret at its heart burst from its prison in a cataclysmic orgasm. Her alabaster skin was free from flush, her bone-white hair bone dry and pink eyes absent of film-sweat. He instantly envied her youth.

“Is this about the archive, Lord Iscariot?” She enquired.

“Not here, Lilith, here I am Danyael again, “he sighed, almost pleadingly, “and yes, this is about my archive.”

“You haven’t been Danyael for a long time,” she chided, “and this is not in our remit.”

“Then allow the indulgence of an old man his memories?” he grimaced, head bowed and ran a sweat-streak through his thinning hair with his flesh hand. “Besides…” he began before a gunshot crack, like lightning striking a tree, sounded in the distance, “at least Beckett seems at home here.”

“This cannot be linked back to us. We cannot indulge in a personal vendetta.” She stated resolutely.

“It won’t be,” the old man countered, “and this isn’t a personal vendetta, this is…..necessary.”

She pushed herself off the stone and landed spryly, crushing vegetation underfoot.

“Why?” she asked.

“I cannot answer that with any certainty,” he replied shaking his head, “but the Inquisition has become jaded, its purpose marginalised and degraded into fanciful pantomime. The puritanical firebrands now yawn silently and the machiavellian radicals have become prosaic. If anything, they need to know the truth.”

“Truth is subjective,” She smiled derisively in that way only the young manage when confronting the old and senile, “and you cannot get involved.”

“I cannot,” he agreed, “the Imperium and the Inquisition believes that I am dead. That cannot change. Jezebel has been instructed as to the next steps to take.”

“Then why is she not here in our place?” she frowned.

“The young never understand the gravity of nostalgia until they become old themselves. I wanted, I needed, to do this personally.” He turned away from her as grunts of exertion echoed from the ruins nearby, closely followed by gloved hands appearing on the lip of the closest archway and a synthsuit clad man hauled himself back onto ground level.
 
“Many of the traps are no longer functioning, but those I could repair have been reset,” called out the newcomer.

The old man turned back to Lilith, “you know what to do: upload the geographical sector of this site and the navigational star-coordinates for this world onto the Conclave database. Use the Inquisition Gateway and flag the file under Omega-Red Urgent, I want them to notice. I want the location of Secrets Hold to fail in its namesake.”

She opened her mouth to protest, but instead walked away with a resigned murmur.

The newcomer drew closer, his breathing slightly labored and beads of perspiration pearlescent upon his brow. The blue light of his bionic eye flickered as though in irritation.

“How was it down there, Kobayashi?” the old man asked wryly.

“Labyrinthine,” he answered honestly with a shrug, “the upper levels match the map, but the deeper I went, the less it correlated. It would have been better to take a geological resonant scan.”

“The map is a copy and an old one at that,” the old man nodded, unsurprised by the report, “I was told that the Hold was impervious to scans, both technological and psychic, because of this;” he punctuated by kicking at a fist-sized chunk of the black stone at his feet.

“I also saw….ghosts,” Kobayashi muttered with an embarrassed uncertainty, “they seemed oblivious to my presence though.”

“That’s not unexpected. They are not ghosts per se, more like corrupted vid-logs that continually loop: a negative image imprinted upon realspace by the mass-flash of a warp event. Individuals damned to non-sentient purgatory, repeating a singular, and in some cases final, action.”

“What happened here?” the younger man whispered in awe, drinking in his surroundings with new eyes.

“Titans of fallen gods and lesser mortals all risking life, soul or essence for a coveted and dubious truth. The warp spilled from this place like an unnatural geyser, trapped for untold millennia beneath black stone.” The old man gestured across the clearing with his steel hand, “why do you think nature has not reclaimed this place and subsumed it under burgeoning jungle even after all these centuries? The maya of realspace is thinner here and the taint of the warp still saturates this accursed ground. A salted earth wherein nothing will grow.”

“Huh,” was all Kobayashi exclaimed.

“Recall Beckett and get back to the lander, make sure you report to Gediman for a health check and we’ll leave once Lilith is done.” The younger man gave a sharp nod of affirmation and followed in the direction Lilith had taken, leaving the older man with his thoughts.

He worried that Inquisitress Jezebel Magdalene would have too much to handle after this irretractable gambit: first the release of the archive and now revealing the location of Secrets Hold. Still, he had absolute faith in her, she knew her part well. This world would become the center of a new pilgrimage for the radical and a new crusade for the puritan, now that they knew its significance. They will create a sainted martyr from the apostate and an invisible enemy from the paranoia. They would come, they would search, and they would find nothing but each other.

Secrets Hold maybe devoid of its secrets, but its tragedies endure. Once it all began in this place, now it would begin again.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on July 05, 2013, 02:10:38 AM
The Warp, Early M42

"Interesting."

The data slate illuminated the room with a bright white haze, casting a shadow on the wall. The engine of the Black Hand hummed distantly, filling the room with an ambient low din. A cooling cup of coffee steamed into the room which was kept deliberately cool to suit its primary occupant, a figure sat in a high backed leather chair, and the other denizens of the large room - books. A veritable horde of them, neatly arranged on ancient looking book shelves.

"I brought you the daily reports."

A second voice in the room. Another data slate illuminated the room - the entrance to the room.

"Thank you. Please leave it on the side."

"There's a pile growing, you know."

The seated figured waved a hand.

"That's why I have a Captain."

"It's him who's writing them."

"That's why I have you?" she hazarded.

They both laughed.

"A word, if I might..." hesitated the figure in the doorway

"Speak."

"What do you think it means? Why now? Why these long dead ideas from men as dust in their graves? Traitors too."

The seated figure sighed.

"Honestly, Paal, I have no idea. I have no idea who would want to publish these chronicles. The interesting thing is that they conflict - sometimes quite fundamentally, with my own records. That interests me."

She took a sip of her coffee.

"That is what I'd wager a significant portion of all who read these chronicles will be interested in. The inconsistencies. Junious was hung during the Vampiris purges on Terra. Maltheus died in action on Aithol. Charax was banished. I have the after action reports from the Puritan Council. And on."

She thumbed onwards through the data.

".Other reports from this period conflict with these directly. I have enough conflicts cross referenced to fill three pages already. I spend a lot of effort and time verifying my data. And my data from this period is solid."

She stood up, tossing aside the data slate.

"Here," she said, touching the spine of a book, "The Tale of the Puritan Council. Here, a memoir of Titus Sargoth. Karius Prelune wrote about that period under a pseudonym. It would appear to be nothing but exceedingly clever forgery."

She paused, lingering in silence.

"And so, what of this inconsistency? What do we make of this? How many of these books are forgeries? Is that repository a fake, and if so, why?"

She turned sharply on her heel.

"And to the meat of the issue. Why now? There's an agenda here, but blast it if I can't grasp it yet. Ideology is one thing. I suppose there will be an opportunity here too and I intend to grasp that. But I need to get to the bottom of this."

She stepped to a large thickset table, grabbed her quill, stabbed a pot of ink on the table and moved to a luxurious looking sheet of vellum.

"Send this," she said, scratching furiously "To the Lords Cadia, Solar, and Terran."

She paused in mid thought, chewing the end of her quill.

“Is Jarrod Hal still the Lord Terran?”

“I think he's a few years dead ma'am. They're still in election on Terra. A few candidates are still in caucus.”

“Ah. And I suppose the Lord Cadia will likely be knee deep in filth still. Who are the major candidates on Terra? Do we know any of them?”

“A few ma'am. We had the list of names and have been keeping tabs as they've been crossed off.”

“Send this missive to the more moderate elements,” she said, passing a finished vellum, “And for the more volatile heads...”

She scratched frantically, finishing the note.

“Who should I indicate they are from?”

“Grixos and Fanham respectively. Use the official seals. And their encryption codes as well. Ensure the Lords Cadia at least get a courtesy note on this from Grixos as well. Send the Lord Solar a message from me personally. I also want word sending to Hound, Havoc, Rapture, Taurus and Vanquish. I want to meet with them and their cells within the month.”

“Very good. I'll make all the preparations for the meetings. In person?”

“No. Send the cripple.”

“You'll need to speak to him.”

=I=
[/b]

The old man stood up. His back was bent, to the point of nearly being broken. His body creaked with age, virtually audibly – his face was mostly bionics, including a glowing blue eye that whirred as it focused and refocused. He stretched to his full height – little more than five and a half feet of crushed savant – allowing his to move his previously mantid like arms to stretch. His face and cheeks were cratered with liver spots, deep wrinkles and a scattering of shrapnel scars that ran down his cheek and neck. His room was illuminated by a single bared bulb that ensured a dim light was dragged throughout the room that exaggerated his features, running the shadows deeper into his flesh.

“I suppose you've come to ask me for a favour, Jacqueline.”

The room flooded from a new source of light. Scant furniture could be seen. It was larger than a cell, but only to the point where it made the barest of differences. A token gesture. From behind the caustically bright light, she nodded.

“I have.”

“What do you have to negotiate with?”

She raised her eyebrow, smiling. She swung into the room, taking a perch on the edge of a desk.

“You're still negotiating, Grix?”

The old man wheezed indignantly, his eye screeching as he eyeballed the Inquisitor.

“You need my face more than I need your damned books, girl, and don't forget that.”

She smiled, and handed across a data slate.

“You'll be interested in this.”

Grixos scrolled down a few pages, his eyebrows raising as he saw some of the titles. Jacqueline indulged him for a few minutes, noting in the reflection of a monocle on his non-bionic eye the pictures and titles he paused on.

“Is this genuine? Is this all of it?”

Jacqueline shrugged.

“It isn't even one tenth of it.”

Grixos raised an eyebrow that creased his entire face.

“It is passing our tests for veracity. Each of the photos is being reviewed and they're passing blush. Each of the documentary accounts is being analysed for patterns of language and word usage that seem inconsistent with known works by the supposed author. That's working fine. The seals pass too. Video is being broken down frame by frame to see if we can spot any edits. We're doing all we can. Everything seems optimistic so far.”

“And that leaves other questions though, girl.”

“It does. But that can wait. For now, I have requirements that I need you to talk to my agents about. I need to go back in the chain where you got these-” she palmed him a second slate, “-books from. I need you to review these records and confirm these are the sources you acquired each of these books from.”

“Fine. I can do that.”

“I also want to discuss Terra. Three centuries ago. I need to discuss that period with you.”

Grixos looked over the top of the data slate.

“I told you everything I remember from then, Inquisitor, and in great detail.”

She nodded and waved.

“I had hoped so, Grixos, I just thought access to this new material might prompt your memory. A few thoughts lost on old dusty shelves.”

Grixos sighed, putting the data slate onto an old table beside furniture that looked as ancient and as ramshackle as the man himself. He wandered to a chair, lowering himself slowly and with a grimace into a chair by the table. He sat upright, and stared straight at the Inquisitor opposite him.

“It's been a long time since I recanted those days, Inquisitor, and a long time since I basically renounced my badge of office. A man can forget many things.”

“You swore the information you provided to me to be the truth.”

He sighed again.

“Truth, Inquisitor, is a fragile and sadly relative thing. In our world, we pretend to trade in relatives and dodge absolutes, but the fact is we deal only in absolutes, and certainly the way we document things. You know I served with a few of the Puritan Council as scribe, savant, and then Interrogator, before they fell apart as those things are wont to do. There were secrets there I was sworn to protect.”

He took a few moments, swigging from a chord near his chin. He pulled a pallid yellow fluid from the end, gulping it.

“This filth is still basically inedible. Can't you... Bah, never mind. There are perhaps some things I left out from that period that would be of use. Sit a while, and listen. Forgive an old man his folly in honouring the ghosts and oaths of a time long dead. Let me tell you my truth. We may be some time.”
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Van Helser on July 06, 2013, 05:36:37 PM
'Is it possible to purge The Conclave of these broadcasts? Or simply kill The Conclave? That would be the most efficient solution.'  Lorne said between mouthfuls before he paused to rub sauce from his chin with the back of his hand.  'If the broadcasts are so dangerous, I say go for the throat.'

Maritsau saw Delavier and Aldana share a look.  'I will let your colleagues field that one.'

'The Conclave is not something that can simply be turned off,' Aldana sighed.  'It is a vast system supported by innumerable techpriests on hundreds of worlds.  It was designed such that even if all but one Inquisitorial station were to fall, The Conclave would be available for the Inquisition to access.'  She looked squarely at Lorne.  'Even you can surely see we can't "simply kill The Conclave".'

'I'm sorry I came up with a suggestion,' Lorne said, raising his hands.  'It's not like you two have had much to offer.'

'We trace the source of the broadcasts, travel there, and put in place a pogrom, like Inquisitor Weidzer on Belasco.  We leave none alive.'  Delavier sat back in his chair, arms folded.  'Problem solved.'

'What about all who've read the archive?  Do we track them down and kill them too?  Impossible.' Aldana looked to Maritsau. 'What do we do, Inquisitor?'

Maritsau turned away from the acolytes and looked out through the suite's window and across the grand plaza.  Guardsmen marched in phalanxes below, parading past thousands of cheering spectators towards transport ships that loomed over the city despite being some miles distant.  He didn't know their destination, but he knew their fate.  Martyrdom in the name of the Throne.  It was what all true servants of the Emperor craved.

'Have any of you read the archive?  Listened to Taren's confession?  It always fascinates me that the heretics are portrayed as the protagonists of these tales, and the names of the good and the just are trodden in the dirt.  Great men and women whose names should be upon the lips of every praying pilgrim who instead are lost to the anonymity of time.  It is names like Nexus, Mentirius, Junious and Taren that resound within the annals of the Inquisition.  Their names should act as warnings of the fate that unorthodoxy will bring, but instead they are quietly celebrated as visionaries and prophets.'

Maritsau left the window and faced the room once more.  'There was a time when the Inquisition sought to work as one.  After the Conclave of Mount Amalath the Ordos saw what could be achieved in unity, but it came to naught.  There were too many egos that could not be reined in, but by and large there was tolerance.  It may shock you that mere centuries ago the Inquisition was at war with itself in a schism that claimed the lives of hundreds of Inquisitors.  We have Nexus to thank for that.  Since his execution the Conclave network slowly stopped being a sparring ground for the differing philosophies, and Inquisitors simply started doing the Emperor's work. 

'Conflicts between Inquisitors became small and short-lived and the Imperium continued despite the horrors of the last two centuries.  I know that true unity is an impossible pipe dream, but the relative silence of recent times allowed for focus.  Now these broadcasts threaten to bring it all crashing down: extremists both orthodox and not will take this as a clarion call to come to blows again.'

Maritsau ran a hand across the smooth half of his scalp and closed his eye for a second.  He sat himself upon his armchair and beckoned his cherubim down from the rafters.  The chubby constructs swooped down lazily and settled upon the arms of the chair, seeking out the affection of their master.  He obliged each of them with a tickle under the chin.  They cooed and gurgled at his touch.

'We cannot hope to stop these broadcasts,' Maritsau continued, 'nor can we hunt down the perpetrators.  Once information like this is out there it cannot be suppressed.'

'Then what do we do?' Delavier asked.

'We try to stop the Inquisition tearing itself apart again.'
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: N01H3r3 on July 06, 2013, 09:26:02 PM
A maniple of combat servitors trained their weapons on the cowering figure. The machine spirits of a variety of rotary cannons, flechette-impellors, thermal lances and las-beamers all twitched with destructive intent, restrained by the dumb willpower of their mindless bearers.

The formation parted to allow through a figure clad in iron-dark robes trimmed in arterial crimson. He moved with an inhuman, undulating gait, and a mantle of semi-autonomous steel tendrils waved like the fronds of some sub-oceanic flora. Deep beneath a heavy hood, an asymmetric cluster of seven dull red orbs glowed, their dim light sufficient to hinder any attempt to perceive a face.

"You possess information I require."

The statement was vocalised in the figure's fleshvoice and broadcast in binaric Lingua-Technis simultaneously, permitting no misunderstanding. In its binaric form, the statement's packet headers presented authorisation ciphers and warnings against non-compliance, taking full advantage of the greater ability to convey bulk information in binaric compared to the inefficiencies of the fleshvoice.

The cowering figure responded with a packet-blurt of binaric. It conveyed statements of denial and hasty expressions of piety incongruous with the interrogator's prior intel on the subject.

"Falsehood is unacceptable. I am Magos-Juris Automachus Oshek, and your continued existence is subject to my determinations. Where is Kregori Heiron?"

The screams of a fleshvoice were a largely-pointless form of information-transfer - a means of indicating only a singular extreme emotive or sensory state. The screams of those blessed with a machine-voice capable of binaric broadcast were far, far more valuable, for they could contain a wealth of data to be sifted and analysed at a later point. The heathens of the Imperium spoke inefficiently of deathbed confessions. No confession could be quite so thorough as one uttered in binaric.

The combat servitors took a step back as one, their synthetic aggression quelled by a single thought from Oshek's augmentic-laced mind. Snaking, tool-tipped steel tendrils flowed from his sleeves past mechanical hands with too many fingers. Chain-scalpel, photon lance, neural siphon and synaptic inducer plied their painful trade, and the cowering figure gave all he knew to the Omnissiah's servant...

"The Conclave" - as its users knew it - was a blasphemy in the optics of the Machine God.

Such was the decision of a Martian macrotribunal, the gathered and coalesced intellects of one hundred and twenty-eight of the wisest theophysicists, after intense deliberations spanning a century.

Conducive to manifold heresies and polluted by the maleficent presences of Xenos and Daemons, the Conclave had been at the heart of untold crimes against Emperor and Machine God alike. Oshek did not care about the crimes against the laws and faiths of flesh-bound heathens, but to sin against the Machine God was to be a fault in the underlying mechanism of the cosmos.

Kregori Heiron, an Apostate Magos who fled rectification more than four centuries ago, was one of the Conclave's architects, according to sealed archives on Mars itself. He and his associates were to be terminated without remorse once all they knew was catalogued and archived.

The newly-discovered leak of Conclave-relevant data had provided new leads in the hunt, requiring that a thousand-score additional servitors and menials be tasked with its analysis. For the first time since the investigation began, Oshek had more than rumour and speculation.

For the first time in decades, Oshek had a destination.

Secret's Hold.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on July 06, 2013, 11:04:42 PM
The Warp, HX -519 days

“And that is the truth of the matter, Darius, as I know it.”

Grixos shifted on his heavy feet, trying to encourage some blood back into them.

“I fear he is gone to us, he has left the bosom of the Emperor's Light. I cannot let this slight persist. He is surely planning to steal them for the use of the enemy.”

He pointed to the data slate.

“Look at the order he has issued to three of his cells. They are moving on the facility within the next week. We cannot cut them off there, but from there the goods will be in transit across three routes, heading to this world. He'll use vaults along the way that you can exploit. You can head him off. Send your men ahead.”

Grixos sighed and stretched.

“You've tracked him for how long now? Three years? Find a weakness, find the conflux of these goods before they leave the Segmentum. Send an agent to infiltrate his circle, and use it to wrench out his treachery. We cannot let the line break, and these weapons are crucial to the fight back in this sector.”

Grixos looked to Kharsi, a deadly serious mood smoothing the age from his visage.

“This is your duty, Darius. Do this for the sector.”

=I=

The Warp, HX -269 days

“That's the last of the messages. I tracked them as fast as I could but … I was too late. I found their remains at each of the vaults, with these vids attached.”

The pair of them sat watching, as dispassionately as possible. The vids flickered on for some twenty five minutes – switching between each of the dead team members – before Kharsi waved his hand to stop them

Havoc took out a pile of paper from his desk.

“He took your retinue – three of them – to get the codes for the facilities he is about to hit. He visited upon them monstrous and grievous violence, such as was unnecessary as they carried the codes on their person, not in their minds or bodies. I do not mean to inspire in you a hatred, but this is sacred work.”

Darius wandered through the papers and the data slate. His face attempted to remain calm, bereft of emotion, though Havoc could see rage building. The old rogue knew it wouldn't take much to shove Kharsi into action.

“We can't let this slight slide. He could have just let them go. He could have just returned them to us."

=I=

Thracian IV, HX -14 days

++++ F:HOUND ++++
++++ D:HAVOC ++++


Eggs confirmed. Pick up to be confirmed. Vast is the view. Prepare.

++++ END ++++

=I=

Thracian IV, HX -10 days

++++ F:HAVOC ++++
++++ D:HOUND ++++


Viper is primed. Salivating.

++++ END ++++

=I=

Thracian IV, HX -4 days

++++ F:HOUND ++++
++++ D:HAVOC ++++


A tale spun for pick-up. Ripened fruit for the Viper.

++++ END ++++

=I=

Thracian IV. HX -15hours

"This is actionable intelligence Inquisitor."

The scene was strewn with written reports, data slates and three portable terminals scrolling analytical code. The air reeked of sweat and bad hygiene. The residents of this room hadn't left it in some time. The air conditioner was disconnected from the power sockets and the vents welded shut.

"Darius. We need to move on this. He's backed into a corner, we won't get another chance like this. He moves in 12 hours. I can have the strike team good to go in 6 hours, 2 in transit, and he is ours. 4 years..."

A short, powerful looking man looked over a paper report, thumbing over photographs.

"You're sure?"

"My source came through. The time and look - recon on what was exchanged. You don't put seals like those on damned farm equipment. You wanted proof before we ExOp. That's your proof."

Darius rubbed his eyes, which were bloody and framed by heavy bags. His chin had wispy strands of greying hair escaping from his skin. He looked exhausted, but as his eyes finished the pages a shock of revitalisation refreshed his face.

"We really have the traitorous bastard don't we. This is it. Mercutio.... Hah my boy! This is our proof. To hell with the Lords who would protect his hide on the premise of past glories, Emperor blessed be! I knew he was dealing in bio-weapons. He is taking weapons away from the Agripaan front. Unacceptable."

"We move now?"

The interrogator's eyes blazed with zealotry and enthusiasm.

"Yes. We move now."

=I=

Thracian IV, HX-12 hours

“Inquisitor. The shipment is in transit.”

“Good. Are we ready to take delivery now?”

“Containment is up. We have the servitors too. It will take longer than anticipated, though.”

The man, middle aged, hooded, wisps of hair, glared at the bearer of bad news.

“Oh?”

“Servitors are being retrofitted with gyroscopes in each of their arms, and we're having them re-balanced. Takes time. Unguents. Reagents. The appropriate rituals. They need to be careful with those crates.”

“And this can't proceed any quicker?”

The interrogator smiled, revealing a clutch of sharp, metallic fangs.

“No, Inquisitor, I've tried to persuade them to move a touch quicker. The Magos was quite clear, even when I was.... Strong, with him.”

The hooded man grunted his assent.

=I=

Thracian IV, HX-11 hours

++++ F:HOUND ++++
++++ D:HAVOC ++++


Egg retained in basket. Viper may feast on young. Ensuring attendance of choir and chorister.

In conflict, strength prevails.

++++ END ++++

=I=

Thracian IV, HX-2 hours

The Valkyrie roared into the air, which was dry and oppressive. The engines buffeted a storm of dust around the landing pad, reducing visibility on the ground to virtually zero. The sky beckoned. Inside the craft, sporting aggressive and heavy armour, sat a full strike team of Inquisitorial Storm troopers. Alongside them, Inquisitor Darius Khasi, and four of his closest aids. Each held their weapons nervously, totems protecting them from what lay ahead.

“This is never a pleasant job,” Khasi began on the vox “But it is a job we do anyway. Those who would draw resources away from the war effort cannot be allowed to continue their blasphemous acts. This is a fight for survival. There are no sanctions strong enough against this sort. They are, quite simply, traitors to the human race, and should be extinguished from existence. Take no prisoners. There is no remit for mercy. There is one objective.”

Khasi paused.

“Kill every single last one of them on the ground. Secure the biological weapons and ensure they are safely extracted.”

=I=

Thracian IV, HX -11 minutes

“Rottweiler, are we nearly done?”

The hooded man turned on his heel, barking again.

“Rott, tell me we're due out now! I don't want to linger on this damned world any longer than I have to.”

His interrogator bared her fangs to him again in a sharp smile.

“I'll re-try the Magos. It shouldn't be long now. The final crates are being moved to the Cutter. We are on track and on time. Patience.”

The servitors around on the pad were moving large metal boxes, which were covered in heavy locks and seals. The servitors padded slowly, carrying the boxes gently. Around them scuttled smaller cherubim holding bio scanners sweeping the air for any sign of contagion. In the centre of the scene, the Magos. His mechadendrites swept the area, taking in small bursts of data from each of the Servitors.

++ Inquisitor, a Valkyrie is approaching. ++

The hooded man spun to glare at the Magos, then cast his eyes up to the sky.

++ Incoming on attack vector, they are approach from the south west, bearing four, four, eight. Bio scans indicate fifteen are present on board. ++

“Rott, rouse the flaggelants. Markus, get up on that roof. Magos, I might suggest you move a touch quicker.”

++ I will expedite the loading. Safety protocols will be rescinded. ++

The keening engine of the Valkyrie could be heard just in the distance wailing with a banshee cry.

“What heavy weapons do we have?” spat the Inquisitor, his nerves beginning to jangle.

=I=

Thracian IV, Hour of Execution

The heavy bolters on the Valkyrie spat death around the encampment as its engines whined, pulling the craft in a tight loop overhead. Below, Inquisitor Baerev watched from cover as the grounds around his cutter were smashed under the rattling ammunition.

“Steady. Magos, prepare to fire.”

++ Havoc, incoming ++

A servitor came into view, stepping behind the line of sight of the Valkyrie. Clunk-click, a missile loaded quickly before the servitor drew a bead on the Valkyrie. With a violent rush of air, the missile slammed into the side of the Valkyrie which began to bleed Stormtroopers and an Inquisitorial cell. Three stormtroopers fell to their death smashing them into the concrete of the landing pad below. Their limbs were broken and wrong showing them to be quite, quite dead. The Inquisitorial representatives fared better, landing catlike and rolling into cover. An avalanche of fire erupted from the hidden allies of Baerev, trying to smash the offensive of Khasi.

++ Hound, prepare for carnage ++

Rott moved quickly, skidding into heavier cover. He kept himself small as las bolts rattled the box he hid against. With a second thought, he checked the great chest to assure himself he wasn't resting against a plagued box.

“Move, move!” shouted Kharsi, resplendent in his carapace armour, gilded with gold and silver. He strode out from cover, firing a magnificent bolt pistol at where he knew Baerev was skulking. All around the stormtroopers moved with precision.

“Troopers, hotshot protocol enabled!” shrieked Havoc.

As ordered, they flicked the swit-

Explosions rang out – not large, but violent. Sprays of blood, cracked armour, and shattered limbs covered the landing pad. Gore was slick underfoot as the screams of those who weren't dead began to fill the air. Kharsi flinched instinctively as carnage erupted around him. Some parts of his former stormtroopers decorated his armour with red. Still, Kharsi stood resolute.

“Face me, you dog. What witchcraft have you unleashed, hmm, such that you would see so many dedicated servants fall for your treachery? Speak, you damned dog.”

++ This is always anti-climactic ++

From his hiding place, Baerev stood and walked at Kharsi. He lifted his hood, revealing his scarred face.

“I face my assailant at last. What business do you have, Kharsi, interfering? I have the right here.”

“Then let us cross blades, you blasphemous dog, and we will let our arms have the truth of it. I know I have the Emperor on mine.”

“So be it.”

Baerev spat on the ground and dropped his cloak from his body. He was a powerful man, built well and aggressively sculpted. He flexed his arm. Kharsi drew a short power sword, shaped like a gladius of old. Baerev wielded an aggressive looking mace, covered in spikes. They circled each other for a moment, eyeing for weakness or hesitation. As one they move, mace defecting off gladius. Baerev was the more forceful of the two, pushing into Kharsi with grunting attacks. Kharsi was forced back, ducking and snaking backwards to avoid being smashed by the mace. Kharsi tried to press forward, stabbing with his gladius, but Baerev was onto him, dodging the first before grasping Kharsi's left hand, and sword, in his bionic grasp. He snapped his wrist like a twig causing Kharsi to drop the sword.

“I take it we're done,” Baerev hissed, “You inadequate foundling. What did you hope to achieve?”

Baerev released Kharsi, kicking him across the pad. As Kharsi stumbled, Baerev followed up behind him and cleaved his skull in.

=I=

+++ Report Begins +++
+++ After Action Report:184X/:B +++
+++ From : Havoc, Hound, Cog +++
+++ To : Inquisitor Grixos +++


Infiltration of codename Viper's team began HX -519 days. Trust was gained, quantified and added to the simulation. Confirmed HX date to be within 500 days. Trail was indicated using Hound co-ordinates. Dead drops received HX -459 days, -382 days, -339 days, and -309 days. Evidence attached as (I), (II), (III) and (IV).

At 284 days, simulation assessment was made that further motivation was required to ensure Viper's co-operation. Assignment crew – D, Shan; H, Conrad; V, Rustath; identified as part of Viper's staff who were all assigned responsibility for key code couriering.

Dead drop at 283 days was sent to Hound, and within 14 days each of the targets was eliminated. Footage attached of the vids of the torture and death of each of the targets. Interrogations level eight and nine deemed necessary to trigger the correct response from Viper. Authorisation received as attached item (V).

Cog identified at 207 days to help with offload of packages by Chorister, with Hound assisting.

Havoc confirmed pick-up dates at 198 days with Viper. Viper authorised movements of packages to allow for the packages to be shipped, HX date confirmed.

Warp travel until HX-15 days. Contact re-established between Hound, Havoc. Confirmed pick-up and drop.

Viper's mental degradation noted during warp transit. Weakness was noted and informed into simulation.

Final approval for trial of outcome given at HX-5 days. Havoc prepared each of the hotshot packs to explode to isolate Viper. Cog was given access to scanning equipment, heavy servitors, and upgraded carry cases. Landing pad was prepared for ingress using Valkyrie.

Hound prepared Viper for combat. Use of psycho narcotics in food for entire retinue to ensure sleep deprivation, heightened testosterone, cortisol and adrenaline to drive an overly aggressive response. Analysis of simulation confirmed this would not disrupt the projected outcome by more than 0.002% and deemed an acceptable deviation from simulation as outlined.

Hot procedure was initiated on Viper, however due to catastrophic cranial injuries nothing of use could be retrieved. Behavioral data observed and recorded HX -520 days through Hour of Execuction has been made available to the Configuration.

Combat played out in line with localised simulation. Weapons acquired and sent to the Lord Solar. Simulation re-run for the Agripaan front, factoring in Chorister and weapons. Chances of success running at 89% for that front. Havoc exfiltrated and is en route back to Cadian front. Other members of Viper's retinue were captured. Potential candidate identified for indoctrination into network; psychological profile attached as (VI).

Awaiting instructions for next assignment.

In conflict, strength prevails.

For the Emperor;
Hound, Havoc, Cog

+++ Report Ends +++

=I=
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on July 07, 2013, 08:26:43 PM
Terra. Homeworld. Throneworld.

Brandt thought it strange that the romantic ideal of this cradle of mankind, as depicted in the commonly distributed daguerreotypes and lithographs peddled to pilgrims and tourists, showed a shining world of glittering, golden architecture, bathed in halos of benevolent light from our species mother-sun against a backdrop of clear pellucid blue sky: an illuminated, welcoming beacon in the harsh darkness of the galaxy beyond that surrounded it. A beautiful pearl amongst an endless sea of tar and filth.

He had heard that this was the way astropaths always saw it; a world bathed in the holy glow of the Emperor’s divine essence. He envied their sight, for it could not be further from the truth, the blue skies had been overcast with smog and grey meteorological nihilism for time immemorial, the sun hadn’t been seen in millennia even on the highest tiers of this sprawling labyrinth of urban decay, its buildings were vulgar ferrocrete monstrosities rather than mighty golden edifices. And it stank. It stank of toxic pollution, human detritus and planetwide infection.

Its streets and boulevards, whilst not especially narrow, were choked with an endless procession of its cowed populous. Monolithic vid-screens streamed constant images of the state: the Aquila, Ecclesiastic imagery, scenes of heroic victories and Imperial maxims and axioms, all designed to inspire compliance and opiate its citizens in the blinding ersatz-truisms of blissful ignorance. Vox-poles bellowed hymnals, psalms and rhetoric that the masses repeated in mumbled obedience.

Brandt stopped sharply and the human tide continued to shuffle around him like a river around rock; since when had he become so cynical? He shook off these thoughts and blamed the fug of the resultant hangover from last night for his currently sour disposition. His feet began walking again in the direction of the central circus of district-two and he vowed to go easier on the rotgut in future. Perhaps it was the cause of his heresy-via-melancholia? After all, it had been a great evening: surrounded by good friends, and then there had been that woman. She was engaging, pleasant and they had both gone back to his hab-block. She was passionate, arousing and skillful, and Brandt remembered worrying if she was a prostitute: but he awoke the following morning wrapped in a warm post-coital buzz, she had already left and his coin-purse was untouched.

Without quite remembering how, Brandt found himself facing his destination: two kilometers of oppressive grotesquery and bristling with communication spines – the central transmission hub for all the public broadcasting equipment in the western hemisphere. It was a grey testament to the prison of his occupation.

“Symbols are given power by the people,” he whispered to himself.

What!? Why had he just said that? Stupefied, his own introspective self gawped at him. His hangover suddenly kicked up a gear, introducing a cold fever, sticky and pungent sweat began to perspire all over his body, a lancing, white-hot migraine began stabbing relentlessly across his cerebellum and an acidic burning raged in the pit of his stomach causing him to double over in pain.

As instantly as it occurred, the pain wracking his body ebbed and abated, leaving him gasping, dribbling viscous spittle in long ropy strands onto the ground and wincing at the receding aftershock twinges.
Was that the drink? Something he ate last night?

Klaxons signifying shift start warbled around the plaza: he needed to get himself into straightened out and into work. He wiped his mouth with one sleeve of his standard-issue coveralls, dabbed his forehead dry of sweat with the other and ran a trembling hand back through his soaked hair whilst gulping down a lungful of atmos-scrubbed air.

The armour-clad guards at the unnecessarily huge entryway didn’t deign to even glance at him as he stumbled past them into the vaulted atrium. The building, like so many others on this world, was designed to make you feel small and insignificant, and unlike the superstructures gilded for pomp and ceremony, the frescos and friezes that were deemed so beautiful in them were considered an extravagance unbecoming of such a bureaucratic institution and thus were absent here. Thus the edifice itself was naught but a symbol, a reinforcement of an idea: the supremacy of the state.
Brandt tried to shake free these foreign feelings of malcontent as he approached the first security cordon, “Brandt Langford,” he murmured as he handed over his identification wafer and bared the barcode on his wrist. Flickering red lines of the low powered lasreader danced over the tattooed flesh and chimed in affirmation.

++ID confirmed. Please proceed to your designated department and station++, spoke an oddly modulated voice through the speaker grille.

He retrieved his card and wound his way through the other loitering functionaries to the elevators at the far end of the hall. Swiping his identification wafer through the aegis block he typed in the corresponding numbers on the keypad. Unseen machines whirred as they cycled before a green light appeared above him and pistons hissed as they pulled open the plasteel portal blockade.

Numbers ascended and blurred together as the carriage rose steadily. Brandt was struck by the stifling sensation of cloying claustrophobia and began perspiring heavily again. He couldn’t understand what was happening to him, this had never occurred before in all his years working here, but his blood ran cold and a nauseating apprehension left a hollow vacuum behind his sternum.

The doors suddenly opened without him realising he’d reached his department. Corridors stretched before him and he began walking without thinking, a displacing sensation of remote viewing disconnected his mind from the rest of his body. He was only vaguely aware that he had missed the turning towards his station as his feet carried him in a direction that, whilst familiar, Brandt knew to be a forbidden deviation from his regular routine.

A bulkhead, adorned with hazard symbols dissuading entry for all but the authorised, loomed in front of him: another swipe of his card forced the heavy obstruction to yield and open to his credentials.

Hold on, he thought, since when have I had access to this sector?

The chamber beyond was unbearably cold and his breath began to mist almost immediately. His ears were filled with the droning white noise hum of a choir of cogitators. Brandt was almost certain that this place was entirely alien to him, but the troubling recognition and ease in which he wound his way through the purring machine-stacks to an interface consol seemed to come directly from his procedural memory. Just how much of his own memories were actually genuine?

He recalled that this place was largely autonomous (how?) so the chances of being disturbed were minimal. Any faults were addressed directly by a coterie of mechancium priests stationed elsewhere in the complex and scheduled maintenance periodic to every fortnight.

His fingers were a staccato blur across the console’s keyboard as he weaved a preordained pattern which the monitor dutifully replicated into scrolling, green hued machine code. An iris-shuttered data port effloresced as Brandt reached into his pocket and withdrew a small metal cone engraved with microengineered prime spirals and slotted it into place.

The effect was instant and dramatic: a digital torrent cascaded down the screen, endless strings of numbers and symbols. An orange glow flared from the data port and smoke began to pour from the instruments. The cogitators crackled and spat golden sparks as overloaded components melted, fused and exploded in miniscule conflagrations of charred metal and plastic.

As warning sirens lamented their urgency for an intervention, Brandt was left to stare mindlessly at the algorithmic anarchy confronting him, control over his own flesh now completely abandoned despite his screaming insistence for the contrary. He thought he recognised some of the coding, despite being certain that he had never been taught such advanced programming: one string represented packet data for new input and broadcast, another a lockout cipher whilst another was rewriting the authority override requirements, changing the protocol to accept only the highest echelons of the Inquisition, the High Lords themselves and, in the somewhat satirical unlikelihood, the God-Emperor Himself.

Brandt heard the expectant heavy footfalls of the oncoming security enforcers answering the incessant, wailing alarm and in that moment resigned himself to die. The sentient corners of his mind raged and rebelled impotently against this senseless capitulation: he didn’t want to die!

“Transgressor, you are hereby bound by law! Stand down or we will use terminal action!” barked a harsh command behind him. Brandt turned away from the console to face these instruments of justice, in this case anthropomorphised in beetle-like matt black carapace armed with close-quarters assault rifles leveled menacingly in his direction.

“Stand down, lie on the ground, this is your final warning!” boomed the squad commander, his voice amplified through his helmet mic attached to a shoulder mounted vox-relay.

Unbidden, a crazed grin stretched across his face, and against all sane reason his arm reached behind to the small of his back for a firearm he knew wasn’t there. The security enforcers acted as expected and fulfilled their promise of terminal action; bright orchids of flame blossomed from barrels and percussive parabellum bored through his flesh with all the grace of a hammer blow.

It was over in seconds, after the thunderstorm silence fell to the acrid stench of cordite smoke. His nerveless legs gave way beneath the weight of his lead-shredded body. As he toppled to the ground and his final exhalation left his lungs in a wet mixture of aspirated blood and foamy fluids, his incarcerated mind, now free from doubts, fear and pain, drifted to his last happy memory: the face of that beautiful woman from last night, smiling in the exultant joy of intercourse.

Fade to white.



The woman was waiting in the plaza outside, but not for him. Her gaze was fixed onto the monolithic vid-screens that had moments ago faded to imageless static. Even the vox-poles had fallen silent except for the white noise drone of a void input signal. She felt sorry for Brandt, he wasn’t to blame for being a slave to a broken system with a mind not his own, but using him was necessary. Her operation was seemingly accomplished, now she hoped her colleagues, Montague and Klondike, in the eastern and southern hemispheres of Terra respectively had met with an equal success.

She couldn’t deny that it had been a difficult enterprise as the human factor was at best unpredictable. Normally infil-traitors take many years of psychological deprogramming and reconditioning for long term campaigns of sabotage, she’d had half a day with the most powerful hypnotics and mesmerising instruments, and Brandt had barely lasted an hour. Still she had been working with an original template rather than a vat-clone, and his task had been relatively simplistic, but the dangers of mental defragmentation, nervous breakdown or basic moral resistance were all possible scenarios that could have ended in the premature termination of this entire mission.

Like a chilling omen, a prelude of things to come, an icy ill wind stirred through the circus and lapped at her stormcape and pulled down her hood to reveal a surprisingly youthful face framed with raven hair cut to her jaw-line, her pale blue eyes narrowed in patient expectation. Already, individuals amongst the human masses had stopped in confusion at the sudden absence of ceaseless propaganda, before the silence was shattered by an electronic whine vibrating from the public-address system as input was restored and a clear voice echoed across the entire western hemisphere of Terra:

++Take heart, my noble citizens, for I am your saviour, the Lord Sanguinius++

The vid-screens flickered as the video signal was restored, but rather than the usual preselected votives and mantras, a winged astartes in the crimson livery of the Blood Angels fell to the ground with a heavy thud, his armoured boots crashing into the dirt. The cherubs flying round him, keeping his robe from the floor.

++That fool Horus could not possibly defeat the might of the Angel and his Lord, and now I am here with a new purpose, a new drive, a new deliverance from evil++

More of the populous had become statues, gawping at this new revelation whilst the safe little world they knew crumbled away. The old man had chosen his target well, for the streets and buildings all across Terra were filled with monuments and graven images depicting Sanguinius. She smiled, imagining the herd flitting their gazes between the symbolic epitaphs of the long dead primarch and the vid-screens displaying his supposed miraculous return.

++The Inquisition is the ENEMY! The Lord Emperor did not create that band of imbeciles, and lackeys, and bigots! They do not follow the True Creed! And who will act? The... Authorities? The Arbites?++

The resultant cries from the offscreen congregation filtered through the vox-poles: "NO!" "THEY DON'T CARE!" "ALL UNDER THE THUMB OF THE INQUISITION!"

++THEN WHO WILL ACT WITH THEIR LORD AND SAVIOUR! IN THE NAME OF HE-ON-TERRA?++

It was a fair question, but the populous on Terra were still too dumbstruck to formulate a response, they still did not realise the magnitude of what it was they were looking at, but that did not matter. Their understanding was an unimportant prerequisite. Besides, the unseen congregation would answer for them: "WE WILL!" exclaimed the united offscreen consensus. The vid-screen filled with the beatific smile of Sanguinius.

The old man had found these recordings buried in the Inquisition’s archive under the name of someone or something called; Landen Dosdamt, within sealed subfiles titled ‘Second Sign’ and ‘Confiscated Combat-Cams of the Valente PDF’. The resultant videos had been spliced together and edited to ensure maximum dramatic effect.

++Once I lead you against TYRANNY, AGAINST EVIL! I COME TO YOU THIS DAY TO LEAD YOU ONCE MORE! THERE NEED NOT BE MORE BLOODSHED! I AM SANGUINIUS! I AM YOUR LORD AND SAVIOUR! I WILL LEAD YOU ONCE MORE TO THE PROMISED LAND, AGAINST THE EVIL OF THE INQUISITION, AGAINST THE EVIL THAT IS ON THIS HOLY SOIL!++

The more observant amongst the crowd may have spotted the half-second jump of a minor continuity error: the slightly changed skyline, the gradient quality of the image. Perhaps the more astute amongst them will have realised that this wasn’t even filmed on Terra itself. Again, it was unimportant, only the symbol mattered.

++And yet they deny me! ME! A PRIMARCH! THE IMPERIUM OF MAN IS CRUMBLING! COME WITH ME I SAY! COME WITH ME TO THE IMPERIUM OF THE LORD EMPEROR!++

The following images showed drop-ships embossed with the Inquisition’s stylised ‘I’ and its agents perpetrating a massacre against supposedly loyal Imperial citizens. The brutality of the stormtroopers drew gasps of shock and disgust from the people around her, along with murmurs of jubilation as they saw Sanguinius defending his innocent, unarmed flock from their warmongering. It was over in moments, as the blood and smoke settled, the primarch stood triumphant, gathering his survivors around him like a benevolent shepherd.

++I AM LORD SANGUINIUS, AND I HAVE DELIVERED YOU! FOLLOW ME NOW! FOLLOW YOUR LORD!++

The image faded to black and began again. She turned away from the frozen crowd still riveted to the looping vid-screens. The first stage was complete, now she needed to leave Terra and rendezvous with the others.

All three of them had been taught by the old man, and likewise they had instructed other agents in their philosophy. A Rephexian philosophy: she smirked at the self-aggrandising notion and knew the old man wouldn’t have approved. He had been a harsh, intemperate mentor, old age and experience had molded him into a bitter cynic, but he was also learned and pragmatic. His philosophy had stemmed from that wisdom and an unfailing certitude that he was right.

“Institutions are given purpose by the people. Institutions become symbols of purpose and power. Symbols are given power by the people,” she whispered the mantra central to the philosophy.

She recalled the first lecture he had given her in that cramped, draughty amphitheatre: a shy, young cipher of the Administratum, utterly terrified to be faced with a member of the mythic Inquisition. She had come to his attention because he was certain that the legendary memory capabilities of her kin could be modified into an engine of superb scholastic proficiency.

“If a hospital is devoid of medicae personnel and patients; is it still a hospital?” he asked.

“I guess so, sir,” she answered in a small quavering voice.

“Then what is the purpose of an empty hospital?” he countered.

“I’m not sure I understand, sir,” She admitted, lowering her gaze to the ground in shame. Gnarled fingers, wrinkled with age, gripped her smooth, delicate chin gently and softly he tilted her head back to meet his gaze.

“If a church is absent of a priest and his congregation; is it still a church?” he pressed.

“Yes, sir, the building remains a church, even without its people,” she nodded with surety.

“Then what is the purpose of an empty church?”

She couldn’t find an answer; the Inquisitor’s questions were still far beyond her current apprehension.

“Why can’t a priest and his congregation hold a sermon within the wards of a hospital, or a surgeon operate on a patient within the chancel of a church?” he continued, despite her bewilderment.

“The people are what give these institutions purpose,” he explained, “these institutions become symbols of power and purpose. Therefore, symbols are given power by the people.”

She nodded in what she thought was the expected behaviour and remained quiet.

“The Imperium is filled with such symbols and institutions, but they aren’t given power or purpose by the people, they are given power and purpose by the oppression and fear they cause towards them. They exist to be served by the people, not for them.”

“Why?” she found herself asking, and quickly covered her mouth with her hands, regretting voicing such an impertinent question. Rather than the rebuke she expected, the old man smiled and nodded encouragingly.

“You have a right to wonder: the people do not own their own minds, they are conditioned to believe the doctrines of these institutions, doctrines constructed by those of either corrupted purpose or a crippled understanding. Thus these institutions ultimately fail to fulfill their obligations to those they should serve.”

“Why don’t the people abandon these institutions if they don’t work?” she enquired, worrying that this conversation was treading the very footsteps of heresy.

“Because they are asleep and don’t know any better. Those that do wake up to this realisation are swiftly silenced by the guardians of the institutions, who in turn are asleep themselves. There are some of my colleagues in the Inquisition who believe that by destroying these institutions, the Imperium will once again achieve functionality; they are not only wrong, their methods are dangerous. Destroying the broken institutions won’t wake the people; if anything they will undermine the very foundations of human society and will damn our entire species to extinction.”

He paused, leaned heavily on the lectern and sighed deeply. She hesitated and dared to ask; “what can be done?” He raised his head and suddenly looked so much older to her.

“Open the eyes of those still asleep, let them see the truth, galvanise them to rebuild a better empire with the tools of mutual consensus.”

“How?” she whispered.

“With new symbols; make them doubt the falsified convictions impressed upon them in the guise of axioms, make them question the validity of the institutions that control them.”


It had been an ambitious undertaking, and at the time she thought it an impossible achievement, but she had been a dutiful apprentice and held true to the ideals she had come to realise as horrifyingly true. In fifteen years she had earned the rank of Interrogator, and fifteen years afterwards she had accepted her Inquisitorial laurel in a secluded, circumspective ceremony.

Already, voices around her had begun to whisper their disquiet, exchanged assertions, suppositions and interpretations of the message. Inquisitress Jezebel Magdalene smiled to herself, the meaning of the message was irrelevant, it was a symbol that gave power to the people: the somnambulists of the state were starting to wake up.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Charax on July 09, 2013, 03:09:16 PM
New Data
There was always new data. The Imperium generated data as a byproduct of its existence; each individual was at the center of a buzzing zettabyte cloud of data - from their official record of birth at the Administratum archives to the record of their death in the very same building. Every recorded illness, enlistment, tour of duty, job, transaction - everything the Imperium could track it did, often just for the sake of tracking. A billion terabytes per person, documenting all that there was to know.

A billion terabytes was nothing to them, they swam through it with ease. The only signs of their passing were ephemeral changes in code, minor glitches that manifested then passed, noticeable only by those who actively looked. They glided from system to system on the transient transmissions that passed from machine to machine. They were hunters, designed to seek out certain references and erase all trace of them.

Their bodies were forged from long-forgotten machine-code, built in blasphemous constructs of metal and smoke. A hundred years had passed since they were unleashed, the first of them had been few in number, but as they had found their way into systems with a large enough capacity they had multiplied, twisting algorithms to their own end and spawning offspring to carry on their work. The offspring took on minor attributes of the system they were birthed in, and there had been many births in that century of hunting. So it came to be that they now numbered in the tens of thousands, all subtly or greatly divergent from the original dozen or so.

New Data

One of them sought out this latest batch of information, parsing it as it passed through. Personal records, shipping manifests. Nothing of note. It moved on

New Data

This was different. A larger amount of data had been made available - not entirely unusual, it happened sometimes when the Mechanicus performed an upload from a returning Explorator mission. They swarmed on it like sharks to a flailing swimmer, tearing into it - far too much for one of them to handle in a reasonable amount of time, they had developed into pack hunters for this task.

Start and end bits were communicated between them, denoting the portions of data each were allocated. Some which inhabited simple systems were nothing than instinctual predators, and it fell upon the larger, more complex of them to guide the others to the most efficient data. The processing began in earnest.

Quote
"You'd gather correctly, Alund'athil"

Not-quite-pain burned through their not-quite-bodies as their prey was discovered. This new data must be purged

Quote
"Maltheus, darling, come out and play...I won't bite"

Another. This was... significant.

Quote
"You... you will kill her. She only lives through a sick whim of the beast, were it not for Charax she would be dead."

PURGE

The command roared through them all, a directive carved into every routine and subroutine. The creator's name must not be spoken. They destroyed it with extreme prejudice

Quote
"Y%$... %$^will kill he()! nly lives through((!"^f the beast, were it not ^&£%289she would be dead."

They wrote and overwrote the passage, every pass of their not-bodies changing a bit, a byte, a kilobyte. The crystal storage medium cracked under the stress, trapping a few of them in perpetual stasis. The others passed on, escaping the system and barely acknowledging the sacrifice of their brothers.

New Data

New Data

New Data


The system crashed as the last of them left, but more information was being unleashed. Familiar data. This was the same as they had just purged - replication was not uncommon but this was new. It carried no endpoint, the packets were not directed to a target as almost all communication was, this was...a broadcast. An indiscriminate release of data, the selfsame data they had lost their kin in destroying.

They felt no fear. They couldn't, they faced the wave of forbidden information and dove in.

CharaxCharaxMatheusStrydeSargothAlundirelDelan'sPoint

The signal wave hit them, and they got to work. the origin server was masked by the sheer quantity of information, so they entered the systems that were downloading the broadcast and purged those first. A signal relay on a forgotten asteroid was first; it passively received and retransmitted the data. One of the data-wraiths dove in with what could be likened with fury in an organic creature, it buzzed around the station's core, devoting more and more of its host system's computing power to finding and destroying the data, but there was too much.

Half a galaxy away, a servo-skull crashed to the floor as its processing matrices burned out

This did not go unnoticed, it had been a long time since one of them had been destroyed performing their task, but as much as they tried, the more sophisticated among them could not direct the younger ones to more appropriate prey. They were.. panicking. Most of them had little in the way of self-preservation anyway, save for those who had been birthed in some form of bionic and inherited it from their organic co-host, but even by their standards this was reckless. One of the Originals moved in and surveyed the digital battle, barking orders like a wizened general

Start byte 0x00000/End Byte 2x88402
Start byte 2x88403/End Byte 4x66430
Start byte 4x66431/End Byte 8x88888


No use. The systems they inhabited were small, their ability to comprehend constrained. They weren't designed for this; their creators had not envisioned that anyone would release so much data at once. For hunting out small scraps over a wide area they were exemplary, but for large masses of data that required intelligence and planning? They were worse than lost.

Packets of data transmitted over the swarm as they burned out, informing them of the virtual death of a comrade and warning that more data required burning, this drew more of them in and, subsequently, more burned out and died, taking their hosts with them.

Somewhere, an autoquill stood still
Somewhere, a datapad went dark
Somewhere, a door unlocked

The larger, older ones who had taken up residence in more complex systems turned their attention to the problem. They could not run as the wave was spreading, downloading into any system that would accept it. Besides, even if they could escape it, they wouldn't. Their core directive was to purge, they could not abandon that for anything - not even self-preservation. They could, at least, warn the creators of what was coming.

Traceroute home_server

Only a few of them knew of the home server. Maybe half a dozen of them had survived the initial release, and any born subsequently had the information excised in case some curious tech-adept located one and sought to discover its origin. The Original awaited a reply - it had never attempted to go home before - there had been no need, but there was a need now. It awaited the reply.

Trace successful. 1024 nodes. 20330ms

Home; it was still there after an eternity. The response time was over twenty seconds - an unacceptable delay. The wave would hit in half of that, and the Original sensed it would overwhelm even it.

Another fell, consumed by the urge to process all the data rushing towards it. That one had lived for decades, one of the oldest that remained. It had found a safe, powerful host node and still had been overcome

Somewhere, a Space Marine was boiled alive, the regulatory systems of his dreadnought sarcophagus failing and raising the temperature of his neutriant bath to unimaginable heights. He died in a soundless scream, drowning in a soup of his own organs while the adepts around him wondered why the monitors showed no failures.

There was no time. the data must be processed and purged, but the Creators should be warned. A data-burst was sent to the others, he sought out the one whose host was closest to home.

18000ms. Too Far
16500ms. Too Far
13250ms. Too Far

There was one. A young one, born in the last cycle a few minutes earlier. It had not detected the incoming wave yet and the one that birthed it had been one of the first to burn out. It was newborn, supple, awaiting directives. It was also 8 seconds from the home server. A lifetime in their perception, but close enough

sudo cp /var/log/* > //2620:9b::19c4:bde9 && cp * > //home_server/

Go Home came the command. Go Home and tell them. Pushed at the newborn with the permissions granted from its ancestor12, the urge was overwhelming. The newborn established the connection and transmitted itself back to its ancestral origin point, carrying the logs showing what was coming.

The Original saw the transmission as the wave hit. it poured every ounce of processing ability it could muster into purging the information that washed over it. A pointless task, as the data was replicating faster than they could stop it, but a directive was a directive. It burned out like the others, taking its host with it.

Somewhere, a Gellar Field flickered a moment too long.

In a long-abandoned room, a screen lit up. Mechanical insects swarmed towards the light, innumerable shining eyes logging the incoming signal and chirruping, a chittering metallic tide that parted in front of a figure cloaked in thick, oily robes. Thin servo-arms punctured the cloak at the back , tipped with needle-fine fingers that tapped away on keypads as it reached the screen, the light reflected in lenses studding its face. A moment staring at the streaming words on the screen, then it spoke:

"Wake Him"
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Mentirius on July 09, 2013, 10:59:53 PM
Balmortis Prime, it had been called once.  Named for its sun, which he named for himself, by the first man to ever set foot there, with all the grandiose propriety of the empire he pretended to serve.  Balkoth’s first Deathworld; for such are places called that do not open willingly to Mankind’s desires.  A planet seething with life of almost limitless variety, hostile to a single alien species, hence categorised with the irradiated deserts and summarily dismissed.  The broiling jungle covered the landscape from horizon to horizon, broken only by the gaping mouth of the crater where nothing grew.  It was a rugged landscape shot through with steep ridges, pitted with jagged valleys, and every stone of it lay smothered in dense vegetation, save for the stones of what had once been Secret’s Hold.

History might have been crueller to this so-called Deathworld.  If the Inquisitor had been honest with his superiors about what he found there, the planet would surely have been scoured to bare rock, and thereafter would unquestionably have deserved its name.  But even as a young man, Balkoth had guarded his secrets well.  Unfortunately for life on the planet, having inherited those secrets from him, his apprentice had not been so cautious.  Mentirius had taken secrecy for granted, and in doing so provoked a scouring of his own.  Then War had come down from the heavenly void; Death had strode incarnate on the earth, reached into the forest and torn out its beating heart, leaving only the accusing cavity that even now screamed mutely at the sky. 

When the last great battle was over, the fire it left behind swept unrelenting through the jungle, making ash of every living thing above ground.  It shattering mountains with its unnatural heat, turning lakes and rivers to great clouds of steam.  Seemingly unquenchable, the hungry flames razed an entire continent to scorched earth, halting only when they reached the sea.  Suddenly deprived of further prey, they starved then and guttered low.  Beneath the desolation, long-dormant seeds were already germinating, while high above the clouds prepared to burst. 

The first new shoots emerged before the ash had settled, lurid and defiant.  The humans and their enemies had burned with the forest, and unlike the forest, they failed to rise again (though seeds of a sort they had planted, in their way).  No more of their kind followed them here.  The few mentions of Balmortis Prime that existed in their records had been altered or expunged by some anonymous guardian angel.  In the intervening centuries, not only the name but the very existence of the planet had been forgotten by the Imperium of Man.  No shoots had sprouted in the wreckage of Secret's Hold.

Now, without warning, humans walked again amongst the ruins, heedless as ever of the vibrant world around them, seeking some dormant seed of truth still fossilised in black stone.  The Imperium may have forgotten this place, but apparently its Inquisition had not.  The jungle screeched and clamoured, brimming with vitality, while they spoke of luring others here - to listen to each other, or else the silence of the Hold.  I perceived them from afar, breathing in their sweet perversity.  Centuries may have come and gone but I remembered the flavour well.  A shiver ran through my being, and I said to myself:

I want one.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on July 10, 2013, 05:02:16 PM
+++ Astropathic Message +++
   [decoding#error]

+++ Subject: 71-72-73-61-6f-31+++
+++ Sender:6873616273676f696f +++
+++ Recipient: CC://= 686a69727361746f//66676a696264666f +++
+++ Astropathic Duct: Nega, K +++

51-72-73-61-6f-20-31-3a-20-52-6f-70-70-73-20-96-20-4d-6a-68-6b-67-6f-72-6f-2e-20-4b-70-6a-6d-6f-6f-62-64-69-61-20-72-6a-20-51-72-73-61-6f-20-32-2e-20-50-6f-69-62-6f-7a-75-6a-74-71-20-73-72-20-53-67-64-6f-71-72-70-73-2e-20-46-67-6a-69-62-64-66-6f-2c-20-6b-67-6f-73-6f-20-79-70-64-69-61-20-6a-74-70-20-68-6f-71-71-6f-69-61-6f-70-2e-20-48-6a-69-72-73-61-74-6f-2c-20-44-20-73-68-20-71-72-64-67-67-20-73-76-73-64-72-64-69-61-20-78-6a-74-70-20-70-6f-6b-6a-70-72-20-6a-69-20-6a-74-70-20-4b-70-6a-62-64-61-73-67-20-51-6a-69-2e

+++ Message End +++
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Inquisitor Maltheus on July 10, 2013, 06:02:14 PM
"Truth...What I can tell you is that there is no truth. Truth as you believe it is something that lies in the mind of whoever is telling it."

The words seemed to echo from a far off place…somewhere he wished he could forget, but knew he never would…never could.  He stared into the fire, absentmindedly shifting the logs with an iron poker.  He leaned forward in the large leather chair and slowly exhaled, closing his flesh eye.  The images from that time were a faded print on his old memory, blurred and, at times…unrecognizable.  And never did these memories bring to his face even the hint of a smile. 

So much lost…so much…changed.

The chamber was dark, save for the light from the fire and a dim glow from a small stasis chamber on the wall.  He kept it that way most of the time.  Even when he ventured out of his chamber and into the rest of the complex on this Emperor forgotten rock, he would dim the lights as he went.  Darkness, once a foreboding element of fear for him, had now become one of his only comforts.

Another memory slowly made its way to the surface.  Hovering behind the fog of years…her face.  The only woman he ever loved…the one he watched tormented and infested by a daemon…the one he saved through sacrifice.  He shook the memory from his head and leaned back in the large chair.

Love…he huffed at the thought of the word.  Once in his lifetime had he allowed himself to love.  And it was used as a weapon against him.  Never again.  The fire popped and crackled as he prodded the log again.  Red embers floated leisurely upward.  He started at them, and yet another memory trudged through the mire of his mind…

Fire.  Death.  Pestilence.  Plague.  Change.  The laughter of a child…

That’s how it all ended…at least how it began to end.  But is there ever an end?

The door to his chamber moaned loudly upon its thick hinges as it slowly swung open.  He could feel the young man’s presence…just standing there, slack jawed, as usual.  He did not turn; did not acknowledge this intrusion of his quiet reminiscence. 

“Ah…hem,” came the timid sound from the young man hovering at the door.   He had been waiting there for what seemed an eternity.  The old man rarely acknowledged his presence, even when he wanted him near.  To expect anything more from an unannounced visit was ludicrous.
 
“What is it, boy?” the old man growled.  He shifted slightly in his chair, his large frame silhouetted against the glowing of the fire.

“You…you told us to…to inform you if ever…if ever…” the young man stammered.  Three decades in the old man’s service, and he was still intimidated…still unsure.

“Out with it!” the old man snapped.  His voice resonated through the chamber and it always surprised the young man how powerful the ancient man still was at such an age.

“It’s happened,” he stated simply.  The tone in the young man’s voice told him everything.  He stood, and turned to the boy.

“You’re sure?  Now?” He asked as he walked toward the chamber entrance. 

The young man sensed he was not asking for validation, so much as contemplating what to do next.  Small servos clicked and buzzed quietly as the old man strode forward…augmentations in his legs helping to carry him forward.  He had spared no expense to keep himself as young as possible.  Re-juve treatments and augmentations…sometimes, just to be preemptive, became a way of life for him.   After all he’d been through; he vowed to never be weak enough to lose again…

The old man’s bionic eye began to glow a dull red, as he raised a hand to scratch his stubble ridden chin.  The deep lines of his face grew even deeper, if that were even possible.  He was troubled…but if the years had taught him anything…it was patience.  Now was not the time to rush and make a rash decision. 

“We’ve downloaded the file, my Lord,” the boy continued.  “It’s all there…all in one archive.  You said that…you said if anything with your name…or any of the others...ever comes across the…”

“Yes,” He interrupted.  The quiet tone was almost unsettling to the young man.  “Yes, thank you.  Bring me everything you have…and do a search.  Find anything related.  Cross reference…use the methods and codes I taught you.”  His demeanor had completely changed.  He stood at his full height…his bald head reflected the glow of the fire behind him.  He turned away, and walked to the other side of his chamber.  A myriad of memories, thoughts, and nightmares flooded his mind.   

He shifted his gaze to the wall.  Hanging behind a pane of glass, in a small stasis chamber, the curve of an ancient Eldar blade reflected the fire’s light.  Beneath it, a custom double barreled bolt pistol hung, having not seen action in over a century.  There was a time when he would have taken them up and charged headlong into whatever chaos lay ahead.   But…things change.  He turned back to the chamber door.
 
****

He strode down the hall, his pace that of a much younger man.  His mind raced, and he wanted to believe that this wasn’t happening…but somewhere deep inside, hoped it was true.  He pushed past the door to the communication room and opened the coms channel.

“Where is it?” he growled.   The young man brought over a data slate.  His old eyes scanned the contents.  Sure enough…his name.  All of their names.  A ‘confession?’  Truth?  It went on and on.  It was all there.

He put the slate down and exhaled slowly.  So many would seek the truth.  So many will be drawn into it.  He had survived it once…could he do it again?  At the very least…he could help…he could make a…change.

“Send a message,” he instructed, grabbing the young man by the arm. 

“Sir?”

The old man straightened and stood tall as a look of grim determination crossed his face. 

***
++++ Communications.=I=.TheConclave:Open ++++
++++ <CMD:AllFreqBrdCast> ++++
++++ CMD – ACCEPTED ++++
++++ <CMD:Auth//Black-47\\Action:POST.TheVengeanceOfBraxus> ++++
++++<ENCRPTION:RedOMEGA7>
++++ Subject: Rumors… ++++

It seems rumors of my death are grossly exaggerated.
Inquisitor Maltheus,
Formerly Ordo Xenos
The Vengeance of Braxas

++++ CMD: CloseBroadcast ++++
++++ Channels closed. You are now offline. ++++
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on July 11, 2013, 06:15:56 AM
Ghost Worlds, Edge of the Galaxy; Early M42

“It is said the people of this world saw their doom coming. It is why I have brought you here, Inquisitor. There is something you need to see. It is truly astounding. It will take your breath away.”
 
Inquisitor Jacqueline Dubois dropped to the earth, surveying the scene. Her lander was a looming shadow over here. She was slight then, and had only her own flesh. Her chest was square, flat, with thick carapace armour covering it – and her hips were squared off the same by armour that covered her thighs. Neat carapace greaves, covered in ornate representations of the Inquisitional I covered her shins, up and over her knees. Perhaps her mind was sharper at this time as well, but certainly not as devious or politically informed. The world had come to her attention from an Archeotech Explorer known to her as Falid Wakhan, a roguish though somewhat charming man. The world had been scoured during one grand crusade or another, but never colonized by the Imperium. Like many worlds who suffered a similar fate, the ghosts of the past echoed in a very literal sense.
 
“If this is another one of your far-fetched tales, Falid, this time I will have your head.”
 
“Believe me, Inquisitor, when you see this, you will be astounded.”
 
Dubois bent down, picking at a spent bolter casing in the ground. Astartes, for certain – she eyed the casing looking for a sigil. There – Flesh Tearers. That helped to explain the brutality in the after action reports. She had left very little to chance as part of their excursion.
 
Behind her, her hired muscle stepped onto the world. They were large men, wearing carapace styled after Dubois herself. Behind them came a small cavalcade of seers, tech-magi, and savants who took considerably longer to disembark. Around the more administrative wing of her retinue came a flock of cherubs and behind them a small cadre of manual laborers, working for both Wakhan and Dubois.
 
The haze was increasing as a stiff wind swept in from the east. With only the ancient wreckage of the Imperium’s warmachine to break the air, the gale dragged dust into the air and started to choke visibility. To the north, their target – the former capital city of this world – a wreck but their target, according to Falid, was remarkably intact.
 
The skeletal buildings showed all the hallmarks of a brutal imperial assault – as they worked through the ruins at the edge of the city, Dubois could see chainsword marks, scorches from las weapons and the familiar craters of bolter fire. Bones had been left exposed here as well. The Astartes, as was their custom, had taken their dead but Imperial and separatist humans alike had been left out to rot, and now their bones were thoroughly bleached clean. In areas exposed to the wind, the bones had begun to fray like old sandstone monuments in the blasting winds. The wind was probably as much bone fragment as it was grit and stone.
 
The savants scrawled and captured every detail – vid, pict, descriptions, measurements, atmospheric data – in line with Dubois’ way of operating. And this place had detail for the mind in abundance. She could see the remnants of last stands, of aggressive pushes by the Imperials, and hopeless slaughter.
 
She plucked a skull from the ground, a great portion of it missing – she ran her fingers across the jagged edge where the chunk had gone missing noting the brutal power of chain weapons when in the hands of the Astartes.
 
“Log everything you can,” she shouted back as her entourage kept pace, “I’d like to catalogue as much as we can while we are here.”
 
Gazing up, the star of this system beat down with vengeance. It would appear the pollution of this world hadn’t run into the clouds and choked the heat out. She pulled her headscarf tighter and adjusted her gas mask. Sweat was beading on her brow and down her back.
 
This had better be worth it Wakhan, she reiterated to herself.

Ahead, the high hall was to be their target. A still mostly intact dome, Falid had promised the great engine was below there – the picts he had taken showed it to be there. The city was hard to access and find stable ground to set down on, hence the enforced march from the outskirts and more reliable ground.
 
The walk was been painful. They stopped a few times for dehydration. The gas masks, the thing keeping each of them alive, were also causing everyone to sweat profusely. This in turn caused exhaustion and deadening legs. Debois gazed back as her hired muscle helped another savant to his feet and took him to shelter.
 
“I researched this world for some time,” said Falid, as he tugged at a chord that ran to his flask.

“They say that when the Imperium found it, it was something of a beacon. For two or three systems around they came here. They said it was the second wonder of the galaxy, after Terra. Terra was a legend here, you know, but they still believed.”
 
He pointed to the side of a ruined building, on which was a depiction of the Emperor in His Form of the Eternal Beacon of Knowledge. It was scored as if someone had assaulted the effigy – it wasn’t clear whether that had been in the invaders or the defenders.
 
He took out a handkerchief, and mopped his brow underneath his own keffiyeh.
 
“Bah, this heat will be the death of me.”

He finished, and returned the now dripping handkerchief to his pocket.
 
“This was a place of dreams Inquisitor. Look over there, in that square. This world was not a world of militants. This society was dreamers, architects, scholars, philosophers, scientists. I would wager this world was destroyed in a fit of jealousy by the Adeptus Mechanicus. I would wager they suspected there was something of value here, and when they found naught of their sacred machines, they simply tore down this whole world as heretek. I would wager it was the engine.”
 
He pulled the bottom of his gas mask away from his face and spat on the floor. As if to illustrate his point, he meandered into the square, beckoning Dubois to follow. A few paces in, he pointed to a pile of rusting bionics and withered bones. In between the detritus, they could make out the unmistakable red of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
 
“They guard their secrets well, Inquisitor, and they guard their expertise better. You see, this was a great civilization. Look at the towering peaks above us – imagine them, shimmering in the sun with great walls of glass and crystal. Look over there to the ruined statues and the edifices around them. This was a beautiful place, once, in a time long past. Have you ever wondered why they are so threatened by worlds such as these?”
 
He glanced back to the retinue snaking behind them.
 
“It is because worlds like these prove, categorically, that man can control technology. That loyal men and women of the Imperium do not need the hand holding of the monopoly Martian. When we press our mind to it, Inquisitor, we might create wondrous things. And for sure this is a heresy to their tin ears, but do not doubt this to be a truth.”
 
He looked back again, watching intently for signs any of the Magi accompanying them might have overheard. They remained a respectful distance back, and were too interested in some blasted Imperial shells to have any real interest in Wakhan and Dubois. At any rate, they were used to the usual banal claptrap he would spout in their company and had no reason to suspect him to be a person of interest.
 
“Do not trust them. Believe me. Do not trust them,” he emphasized as he bent over, plucking up some of the cloth. He held it in his hands, mulling it over.

Dubois had known Falid for some years. He had proven a reliable source of information, leads and unusual artifacts. For the most part, she catalogued them and handed them over to the Hereticus or the Xenos, depending on its source, for study or destruction. A few she kept, including her neuro-shredder at her side. She knew for a fact at least two had been taken back to the Terran vaults for safe keeping.
 
One, the Monolith of Syracuse they found on an ancient moon, had been deployed to Farthen, a world close to Cadia. After action reports had been sent to her, including extremely gracious thanks – the Monolith had proven pivotal in the naval battles above the world.
 
Her trust in Falid was solid. She eyed him as he continued to speak, a fascinating guide to this world. He continued to speak of the philosophical works, and great texts that he had managed to salvage from this world. He’d obviously been busy the last time he was here.
 
Holding a protected data slate, he flicked through a few images while stood with the Inquisitor.
 
“I think this plaza was a debate hall. Look over there, you can see where the lecterns would have been, and here where the audience would have sat. It’s raised gently, and if you look closely the walls around here” – he pointed - “curve just enough to ensure the acoustics in here are just right.”
 
He sighed.
 
“This was a travesty, all for the jealousy of Mars.”

Jacqueline paused for a moment as she looked around the theatre. Falid wasn't wrong – the dipping bowl shape, the surprisingly pleasing acoustics, what remained of what clearly had been lecterns. This was a theatre, it had been a place of scholarly debate.

“What's your point here, Kalid?”

“Progress, Inquisitor, nothing more. The rules of Mars constrict progress, and I'd be shot for saying as such. Worse, probably. If I didn't trust you, Inquisitor, I woudn't be saying these things for fear of my life and sanity. We should have progressed. So many of these ghost worlds are filled with gems of human innovation, but if the Explorators had their way, they would incinerate each and every single one of them in the name of the Omnissah.”

He sighed again, somewhat dejectedly.

“You should keep those opinions to yourself, Falid,” she responded, her voice a perfectly smooth and diplomatic tone, “There is always someone listening, Falid Wakhan the Archeotech expert, and some of them will provide a less sympathetic ear than I.”

The journey onward was considerably quieter. Falid kept himself to himself, clearly unsure as to why the Inquisitor had so easily dismissed his opinion. Dubois watched around them interestedly, taking as many of the details of this place in as she could. Broken, chipped sculptures were everywhere, as were mosaics made of beautiful tiny squares of precious stone.

Within striking of the distance of the great dome, it became clear this was the centre of all governance in the world. Stopping at some of the empty plinths of dusted marble, Dubois noted the incredibly ornate brass plates on each stating who each of the former statues had been. Clearly, as they came through, the Flesh Tearers had torn down the statues or defaced them with their weapons but it still left an interesting trail down towards the hall. The language was a splinter of low gothic, and so some of the descriptions still made basic sense.

She pointed to each of the plinths, and her savants took time to take notes on each of the statues. History, data, it was all important.

Catalogue. File. Republish.

The trail to the main building was short, and easy to navigate. While the fighting here had clearly been heavy, evidenced by the craters and the damage, few bodies remained.

“We cleared here when we scouted it out,” pointed out Falid, “Here, the corpses were three and four high. The bones came over your knees.”

She nodded. The hall itself was ornate beyond imagination. Each of the sculptures here had also been defiled, but they still looked magnificent. The statues themselves ran into the dome, which had a glorious painted scene above. It showed the Emperor in His Form of The Liberator descending on this world. The world was surrounded by prisms. Looking carefully, Inquisitor Dubois could see that the intention had been for the sun to filter through the outstretched hand of the Emperor, and be split by the prisms giving glorious multi-colour rainbows across the world. The light of the Emperor, providing the full spectrum of knowledge to the whole population.

“Come, Inquisitor, not much further now.”

Into the catacombs of the building they went. Falid picked up pace, leaving the retinue behind them negotiating tricky stairs and fallen stone archways. Ahead of her, Falid beckoned.

“Quickly, Inquisitor, let us leave those behind. You will want a moment to collect your wonder.”

They moved together now keeping a good pace. The others, their noise and their light faded behind them.

“Brace yourself, Inquisitor, just a little further.”

Dubois kept her powers of observation at maximum. Even after all this time, there was still a distinct scent of incense. The smoke from the incense had stained the walls and the ceiling. Each of the walls had interesting murals depicting imperial saints, again each of them with halos of prisms around their heads. She suspected that, perhaps, at a specific time during the day the light would flow all the way down through the building, as far down as here, into the catacombs. She glanced down the wall, noticing each prism could clearly trace an angle to another,and if each prism was intact they would perhaps go as far as the large room ahead of them that was rapidly opening into a grand open hall.

And such a hall! Falid hadn't undersold the grandeur. This place had a huge vaulted room, and was circular – at approximately every 90 degrees, a statue stood. Each of them was a recreation of Atlas, holding the world on his shoulders – and each planet was a beautiful representation of Terra. Each of the statues themselves had blindfolds on, with the Aquila of the God-Emperor on each. They were incredibly detailed – the muscles on each were ripped with the individual strands of flesh.

“If you care to notice, Inquisitor, each of the visions of Terra themselves are actually on runners. You can, just, make out grooves on the base of each of them. A mechanical necessity on things of purest beauty. They rotate though the cadence we have no idea about. I suppose there's very little we know of this, beyond reputation."

In the centre of this arrangement hung a sphere – a beautiful sphere made of a sold deep green material. It was threaded with almost invisible metal threads, which came to a head at the top of the sphere. An arm made of a gleaming metal – somewhere between gold and brass – held the sphere firm in the air and extended up to the top of the vault. Around where it joined at the ceiling were wonderfully ornate cogs, each of the cogs inlaid with incredibly detailed scenes of culture on the world.

“This is an engine of wonder, Inquisitor. Look at each of the statues – they have a place just large enough for a human to stand, and within each of those spaces there are wires. The metallic wiring is all psychoreactive – the green stone above us isn't stone, it's actually a compound metal. It is circuitry of some kind, though we haven't ascertained exactly what kind.”

He pointed across to the door they came through.

“Another door comes down from there, which has a few tiny holes in. I would speculate light travels from above – from the Emperor's hand, right down here. It travels through the building, all the way here. Below the sphere is a beautifully inlaid depression in the floor – again, made of psychoreactive metal; we measured, and the sphere slots in perfectly. The sphere itself, for all intents and purposes and according to all our measurements is perfectly spherical.. I cannot tell where this all goes,” he pointed to the metal inlay, “– I suspect there is another door in here somewhere.”

He walked the walls, trailing his hand on the stone.

“I'll find it.”

He glanced back to Dubois, who was stood, mouth agape, looking up at the sphere and the sheer majesty of this discovery.

“Inquisitor – this is what you asked me to find.”

He allowed himself a moment of delicious dramatic pause.

“This is the Tiresias Configuration.”
 
=I=

The Most Sacred Birthworld of Mankind; Seat of All Human Power; Throneworld of the Immortal God-Emperor; Most Holiest Terra, M42
 
Scene of The Incident; Communication Point Two
 
“He entered from over there, Interrogator, and moved in to this terminal here. As you can see, the team eliminated him effectively, and with full prejudice. We found a pistol, this ID tag here, and nothing much else on her. We have his original ID, sector, residential records, and all other information on this data slate.”
 
Raijner took the information and data slate while nodding.
 
“The terminal has been isolated as requested by Lord Inquisitor leading the investigation. You’re not the first interrogator to come here though. I’m not sure what more we can provide.”
 
The Arbitrator, a Sergeant, shuffled nervously. This incident was colossal, and he felt uncomfortable guiding Interrogator after Interrogator through the scene, simply because the Inquisition had a funny way of doing things – a contagious kind of guilt seemed to spread from what they investigated sticking to anyone associated with any kind of crime.
 
Right now, stood here, he was associated and that made him very nervous.

Right now, he wanted to be very far away from this particular duty.
 
“Has anyone taken copies of any data, the pass? What about the code?”
 
“Not yet, Interrogator Oebels, we’re waiting on the Magi to arrive. We’ve been requested to keep it all quarantined. They’re sending for specialists from Mars, they should be here within a few hours.”
 
He nodded.

“Can you give me a few moments to gather my thoughts here?” Raijner asked.
 
“No, Interrogator, I cannot.”
 
The Arbitrator hesitated.
 
“Given the content of the incident, sir, we’ve been asked to ensure everyone is accompanied.”
 
Raijner sighed. At least it showed significant dedication to duty. Still, there was more than one way to skim data, and he was a master of many of them. Reaching into his MIU, he activated his servo skull on the edge of the area which hummed into life.
 
“I’d like to take some picts and record the scene, to present to my Inquisitor later.”
 
The Arbitrator sighed. His instructions, sadly, were quite clear and quite detailed – and, very specific. No pictures. No videos. No touching the evidence. Access would be granted, but clearance was needed and anyone entering the scene would be accompanied. No servo skulls. No cherubs.
 
“Interrogator, please, remove the servo skull.”
 
All he needed was a few more meters.
 
“I’m sorry? Are you impeding my duty, Arbitrator?”
 
“Interrogator,” the Arbitrator began. At the edge of the scene, a number of other, similarly armored, similarly armed Arbites began to shuffle.
 
“We have very specific instructions. Instructions you are violating, Interrogator. I will be forced to confiscate that Servo Skull if you d-“
 
“My mistake,” interrupted the Interrogator, holding his hands up.
 
“I’m not here to cause a scene, or any issue. I’m just trying to do the Emperor’s good work, I apologise.’
 
And, he thought, skim enough data off that data crystal to get a clue about who did, and catch a break.
 
“I’ll need the skull too. Orders.”
 
“Already done,” smiled Oebels, as the Skull’s copied drive wiped itself repeatedly, leaving little trace it had done anything at all. He lead the skull to buzz into his hand, at which point he powered it down, and with a casual flick passed it over to the Arbitrator.

“Apologies, Sergeant, I'm not here to make your life more difficult, believe it or not. Thank you for your company. I'd like the skull back as soon as you can. I am sure you have my contact details from my sign in to the scene.”
 
Halls of the Inquisition; Fortress Primus
 
Interrogator Raijner Oebels moved with purpose. He clutched a sheaf of papers and data slates, and was accompanied by a veritable horde of data cherubs and savants; each of them held further massive repositories of information.
 
They were calling it the incident.
 
The halls of the Inquisition were ablaze with activity. Raijner danced in and out of the traffic, trying to stay focused. The lack of a Lord Terran was amplifying the carnage of the situation as there was no central leadership to unify the feline cavalcade that made up the Inquisition. Each of the candidates was predictably looking to exploit the situation - their acolytes and interrogators were roving with strong statements of condemnation.
 
No one had come up with an actual plan of action, however, and that was where Raijner came in. The astropathic signal had been strong, and he had been able to get in touch with his master. She had spoken at great length of her opinions on the incident and potential actions. Raijner had taken direction, and followed her instructions sending notes and missives to each of the Lord Terran candidates.
 
At least the signals had been shutdown. There hadn't been just one, there had been three, and at distinct locations around Terra. It had taken significant effort to clamp down the transmissions. Three deaths accompanied the signals. That made it more apparent this had been a co-ordinated exercise.
 
It also factored into the pattern of events in recent times. Resources were being shifted to address the security breach, though nothing of use, so far, had been gleaned from each scene. Puppets. The same implanted mnemonic code virus that manifested at the same time.
 
The code itself was sophisticated and smashed through Inquisitorial protocols, referencing material from the Archive, splicing that material, then broadcast it simultaneously across as many channels as possible all over the Throne world.
 
The political situation was at a critical juncture. A kind of equilibrium had been established in the wake of the events of the past few generations. That fragile peace was now under threat from the extremist elements.
 
Major moves were being made now, this noise having roused some of the Inquisition's dormant krakens of all philosophies and inclinations. Heavyweights formerly thought to be active only in the field were now preparing to work in the bear pit of politics and ideology. Border skirmishes for the Inquisition. An ideal opportunity to open old wounds and grievances. With lifetimes extended, the term living memory often took on another meaning in the Imperium and that went double for the Inquisition.
 
Still, this kind of conflict wasn't new. Raijner hadnt seen it before, but he had read enough to know this kind of war would be bloody and cause fresh, deep wounds - ideological and physical - unless it could be averted. His master had a plan, admittedly risky, that would navigate the Terran politics first. Getting the right Inquisitor in post would be the start. A candidate that was somewhat disagreeable to all sides.
 
From there, the situation could be managed. Having the central and most influential region of the Inquisition slowing the conflict, moderating the debate, would deflate the conflict and reduce the worst of the casualties to regional bloodletting.
 
Such were the machinations of the Inquisition.
 
Raijner had hope though, and belief that any conflicts spawned from the incident, Taren's confession, the Archive, and the release of co-ordinates for Secret's Hold.
 
Secret's Hold.
 
Pandora's box right now. It needed to be contained, and his master was on her way to see to that. No doubts some horrendous revelations still lurked deep in that facility that needed to be quashed.
 
Raijner wasn't far from the situation room now. He steeled himself - old master Grixos had given him the opportunity to speak to the gathered venerables managing the incident, but that didn't stop his nerves from jangling. He went over his proposal once more in his head flicking through his material, the investigation vectors and the likely suspects known right now. He sifted the papers once more, and breathed in and out slowly, deeply.
 
Finding his calm, Raijner entered the room
 
=I=

As had been predicted the discussion had descended into farce.

Ye Emperor above, Raijner sighed, how can we live like this? How can we operate like this?
 
“I’ll not have him wielding the Seal of bloody Terra, and you can tell that pig I said that! He’s not fit to run an outfit of Arbites, weak minded fool that he is!”
 
“And I suppose you’ve got some better names? Hmmm – Farah, or perhaps Randis I’d wager? Those dogs haven’t left their bloody residences on Terra in years, never mind got hands on in an investigation! You must think us stupid if you want to get one of those lackeys elected!”
 
And so on. Seeing noble, honorable bicker like children rankled with Raijner, but he knew he had to let the debate continue.

Things had been simpler under Ishigiru. He was a unifying force, at least in the wake of the Delan's Reach beautification, in which many of the Puritan Council had triumphed in their goal of annihilating the worst of the radical threat. Officially, Ishigiru had welcomed the slaughter, but there had long been rumours he rued that day. He had pulled together what remained of the less contemporary factions, and he had included them in the many processes of governance in the Inquisition.

For what good it did, for the short while he could do it.

Jarrod Hal, however, had been quite the opposite. He had clearly been a Puritan Council toady, and effectively operated as puppet after the Puritan Council had Ishigiru deposed for whatever minor nonsense it was in the end. Very little of Ishigiru's approach remained. A few of the Lord Inquisitors remained, and had kept their political positions strong. Others had simply left, knowing that Hal was a puppet, and there would be trouble.

Of course, Hal met his end somewhat gruesomely. The situation couldn't persist, and though no faction ever took responsibility for his death, it was clear it had been a political killing. No one had been fingered for the murder.

That lead back to this debate, and the various recriminations. This would take time.

Glacial time.

=I=

+++ Report Begins +++
+++ Encryption:Mar.Inf.Q-f424 +++
+++ After Action Report:184X/:T +++
+++ From : Revelation +++
+++ To : Mother +++


For the old man. Seeds have been planted. Dissent on truth.

Our trail is established and we walk it bravely.

Attached is the proclamation. Request review by the bank.

Revelation cannot leave the homeworld

+++ Report Ends +++
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on July 12, 2013, 02:44:10 PM
Her room was spacious, with all the comforts her coin could purchase: luscious tawny-red walls paneled with ostentatiously carved red oak scrolling luxuriously lacquered in a sweet-smelling treacle tinted glaze. A four-poster bed, its bodymorphic mattress, surrounded by exquisitely fluted, golden columns, was wrapped in sumptuous, white satin. Soft, fractural light was diffused to ephemeral effervescence by the carved, crystal speartips covering the electro-lamps. It was accommodation more in keeping with a land-bound stately manor rather than the guest quarters aboard a void-treading vessel.

Whilst a brief quiescence would have been welcome after the intensities on Terra, and she certainly could do much worse than the opulence of her current chambers, Jezebel could not under good conscience allow herself to rest whilst there was still plenty of work left to accomplish. So instead the baroque dressers and antique bureaus were removed in lieu of a bank of cogitators hauled up from the auxiliary sections of the engineerium. Yes, her coin had provided the vast acquiescence of the ship’s crew, regardless of the seeming lunacy of her requests.

She sank back into the embroidered upholster of the gilded bergère and closed her eyes, listening to the white-noise drone of the cycling servers whilst they decrypted, encoded and rewrote the parameters of a singular protocol. Of all the collectables and artifacts onboard, this small storage device, lain in reverent solitude upon the surface of the last aged coiffeuse left in the room, was perhaps the most valuable. The three cables linking it to individual ports in each bank quivered with imperceptive micro-tremors as thousands of pulsing algorithms shuttled back and forth in milliseconds.

 A discreet, professional knocking broke her revere and a muffled voice requested permission to enter. She rubbed the bridge of her nose between finger and thumb, sighed in irritation and vocalised something of an agreement in tired emphasis.

“Sorry to disturb you, M’lady,” drawled the footman in long vowels as his thin frame, gaudy in brocaded blue/silver raiment and pompadour wig, appeared from behind the door, his mercury-painted face pursed in abstruse apathy, “but I have been instructed to inform you that we are about undergo translation to warp, and these messages arrived for you during our sojourn in realspace.”

She accepted the data-slate, framed in tawdry, gold script and dismissed the serf with a wave of her hand. Once alone she withdrew the retractable cord from the slate, swept her hair aside and connected the jack to the neural-port implanted at the base of her skull. Lines of code cascaded before her eyes, unseen to everyone else, as she downloaded and decoded the messages whilst simultaneously wiping the parent data on the vulgarised tile.

+++ Stage 1 Completed. Zero complications. Rendezvous confirmed and en route. Have received an issue re:- report. Will discuss at destination. Montague. +++

+++ Stage 1 a success. The word is spreading. In transit to rendezvous with Messenger in tow. Klondike. +++


She was already aware that the word was spreading, she had heard as much during the vessels’ first stop in realspace: the rumours of Sanguinius’ return. Well, falsified return, she mused. Jezebel was not so naïve to believe that this singular event was enough to wake the sleepers on Terra, but like a stone dropped onto the surface of a still lake, its ripples will extend far from this most central of Imperial worlds to effect those more susceptible. The Inquisition will try to censor it, of course, but you cannot stop it from being carried in whispers and chatter from the mouths of a million pilgrims, chartist crew and other miscellaneous travelers leaving the Holy Capital.

Montague’s communiqué concerned her though, he had been left in charge of perhaps the most important aspect of their goal and now he was reporting problems. She already considered him to be a weak link, but the old man had made assurances about his capabilities. Jezebel, whilst not doubting the old man at his word, had her reservations: Montague, whilst obeying the creed, did not follow it. He had been recruited over a century ago, whilst he had been a young man who had recently inherited stewardship over a megalithic conglomerate of ancient noble houses in the Pangaea Sector, until a suitable heir could be found. The investigations had proven fruitless as the probate researchers of the Administratum turned up nothing (owing in no small part to the machinations of the old man) and Montague, a feckless and arrogant man of avarice, had been left in command. His motivation for their enterprise was one of pure greed, and whilst Jezebel was reticent to Montague’s involvement, the old man’s reasons could not be argued: this venture required capital and expertise, and whilst the Inquisition had limitless resources, they were all traceable. The conglomerate had fingers a vast number of institutional pies from the Biologis division of the Mechanicus to reliquary archives of the Ministorum and access to almost infinite funds.

Montague, if he ever had a first or last name, she didn’t know it. She still considered him a liability and whilst he was currently indispensable, she could not help thinking that she would end up having to kill him once his usefulness was at an end.

Klondike, however, could not be more of an opposite. Interrogator Konstantin Klondike was born in the slums of a nameless world upon the far fringes of Imperial space, whose extremes of climate resulted in its ghetto-cities to be islands surrounded by a desert of snow in the summer and a desert of sand in the winter: a haven for those void treading merchants of ill repute. As a child, he’d been privy to that most rare of human experiences; a performance by the enigmatic caste of the elder – the Harlequins. Fate had changed him that day, awe and obsession had inspired, some would say driven, him as a young man into the arms of his worlds’ black market cartels. Klondike became a name synonymous on his planet with the race he so beloved, collecting artifacts and trinkets of the eldar from traders who’d harvested them from the surface of a hundred alien worlds. When the Inquisition came to his world, Klondike was one of the first to be captured in their purges and incarcerated in the dungeons of the Ordo Xenos, his crime and sentence already decided: death as a xenophile and trafficking in forbidden materials. Upon the morning of his execution, the Inquisition found his cell empty, unbeknownst to them, he had already been recruited by another member of their own institution. Jezebel’s trust in him was absolute, he had more reason than most to see the truth of their philosophy and whilst his original motivations had been directed towards vengeance, half a decade had changed him; now such notions were beyond him and his focus was entire directed towards the vindication of their goal.

The cogitators finally chimed in completion to their task; several hundreds of hours of invisible hacking simply to change a string of code on the Inquisition role call from ‘expired’ to ‘active’, bringing a fallen member of the Ordos’ back to life. It was worth the time spent, whilst it may have taken a eighth of the time to go in with bull horns and broken through with sheer technical strength, this way was more silent and insidious. They would never suspect a thing.

Almost as an act of providence, she felt the ship vibrate and shudder as it translated to warpspace for the final time in her journey. Whilst Montague had the pleasure of a direct route on board his own ship The Capulet, and Klondike having his own mysterious methods of transportation, she had been stuck charting a private vessel from Terra and was subject to the whims of its paranoid captain, who kept himself shuttered in his own, no doubt luxurious, cabin and left the running of the ship to his first mate and seneschal subordinates, who had been only too eager to accept her generous coin for passage to her destination.

Half a dozen layovers for minor repairs and cargo had allowed her the small merit of further time in preparation, but now the Shadow over Aberystwyth, with the myriad scylla and sharks striking its Gellar field for the tinned feast within, was hurtling upon the rapids of the warp towards its chartered target:

Aliestra.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Koval on July 17, 2013, 09:32:53 PM
Ships were always busy.

Even though she was entirely used to the hustle and bustle on board voidships, space docks and orbital stations, Giovanna still somehow found herself surprised and, at times, even dismayed by how many people one could cram onto even the simplest of spacecraft.

She wanted to cut loose with an automatic shotgun, or even better, a flamer, but the Inquisitor wouldn't want that.

The Inquisitor. Giovanna found her thoughts turn to him astonishingly frequently. He was a pain in the fundament at the best of times, not to mention all too eager to hole up in his quarters with a data-slate, or a notepad and autoquill, rather than go out there and shoot something, but he had saved her life at least twice now, and offered her a job when Prince Axian had wanted her executed. Not just that, but he'd practically given her a license to kill, and a big list of marks he wanted her to eliminate.

We were told that the Inquisition is united in its cause, Giovanna thought, her thoughts now dwelling on the bundle she carried. Everything we'd been told was a lie.

The crowds eventually thinned as Giovanna reached the elevators. Stepping into an empty capsule and closing the door in a voidsman's face -- sorry, friend, she thought -- Giovanna flipped open an access panel and inserted a pair of keys into their respective keyholes. Turning them, Giovanna was rewarded with the quiet hiss of another panel revealing itself at about waist height. She removed one of her gauntlets and pressed the heel of her hand into a small recess in this new panel, feeling a soft electric buzz on her skin as the electoo inductor in her palm communicated with arcane machinery that she couldn't comprehend. Apparently satisfied, the elevator's machine-spirit finally spurred itself into action, and Giovanna felt the capsule almost fall down the elevator shaft for what felt like hours.

At length, the elevator door opened again and Giovanna found herself in a well-lit, red-carpeted hallway that felt like it belonged more in a Governer's palace than on a voidship. Glow-globes and electrolumina set off-white faux-marble columns gleaming, and various works of art sat in alcoves, catching her eye as they always did when she passed them by. Situated towards the very middle of the ship, this was where the Inquisitor made his lair and formulated his many plots and plans.

Where they did, Giovanna corrected herself as a gust of hot air blew into her from the right. Lady Rall was evidently in the middle of her "exercises". Giovanna didn't fully understand them or Lady Rall, but then again, she didn't need to.

At length, Giovanna came to a large mahogany door and, pausing at the threshold with her hand straying towards her holster, she cautiously opened the door and stepped inside.

"Good evening, Lady Rossi," Markus Krenn greeted her. The Inquisitor was seated in a high-backed chair, one leg crossed idly over the other as he buried his face in a red leather-bound tome with gold leaf patterns along the spine. Krenn wore reading glasses out of habit, even though his bionic eyes -- almost indistinguishable from real ones, Giovanna noted, except when they light up -- afforded him a level of vision that easily surpassed even the keenest of organic eyes.

Krenn was still absorbed in his tome when Giovanna closed the door, only deigning to look up when she moved over to where he was sitting. An unruly mess of hair flopped sideways as Krenn tilted his head in Giovanna's direction, his expression halfway between curiosity and feigned offence that Giovanna had disturbed him.

"I got what you wanted," Giovanna told him, dumping the somewhat bulky package she was carrying unceremoniously next to Krenn's foot. "Had to kill a few people to get it."

"I can well imagine," Krenn sniped, marking his page with a ribbon and putting the tome down. Reaching down, he picked up the bundle and unwrapped it, swiftly wishing he hadn't.

"When I said I wanted Scipio removed, Giovanna," Krenn sighed, "I didn't actually require physical proof."

"Look closer," Giovanna prompted from the other side of the room, halfway through unsealing the clasps on her breastplate. In response, Krenn rummaged around in the rest of the distasteful package, pulling out a small data-slate the size of his palm.

"Is this what I think it is?" Krenn asked, already knowing the answer.

"Depends on what you think it is," Giovanna answered playfully, setting a piece of her armour on its stand.

"It's a hell of a lot more than what I wanted," Krenn remarked, finally sitting up. "No more data-leaks, though, and no suppressed texts or heretical lore; no, this is even bigger than that."

Krenn put the data-slate down. "Don't make yourself too comfortable, Giovanna; I need you to--"

He turned, noticing Giovanna's state of undress, and paused.

"When you've finished," Krenn continued, "go and fetch Lady Rall. And that Tech-Priest of hers while you're at it."

"That Tech-Priest has a name, boss," Giovanna reminded him.

"I don't care," Krenn replied. "Put some clothes on and go to Lady Rall."

He glanced back over at the data-slate. "Because if I'm right, that leak was just the start."
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: MarcoSkoll on July 19, 2013, 03:13:03 AM
Giovanna opened the door to the training room.

She couldn't help but recoil from the wave of heat that washed out over her. A considerable portion of the training room was on fire.
She paused, then disregarded the fact and stepped in through the doorway.

A sparring servitor to the left of the door turned a slightly scorched head to face the new entrant, a soft buzz from focusing motors signifying attempt to identify her. A few seconds apparently satisfied it she was not presently a training subject and it immediately disregarded her by turning forwards and rumbling to join the three other servitors in the small melee happening in the middle of the room.

In the middle of that brawl, flushed and sweat-drenched between physical exertion and the sheer heat of the incandescent room, was Inquisitrix Joaana Rall. Stood at most of six feet between her cropped brown hair and slightly small feet, everything in between was left to be built on the design for an experienced heptathlete.

Rall slapped aside the sparking shock probe the latest servitor was attempting to introduce to the fight and slammed a flame-wrapped fist into the impact sensors in its abdomen. This incendiary pummelling lasted for several seconds before she noticed Giovanna.

"Cease!", the Inquisitrix barked in slight surprise. The servitors obeyed immediately, rotating weapons into their inactive positions and reversing into the charge stations around the perimeter of the room.

"Gianna...", the Inquisitrix flicked her hands, the flames blowing themselves out and leaving small curls of smoke to twist away towards the ceiling. Likewise, the blazes around the room, including a number of now rather foul smelling servitors, extinguished with quiet pops.

"... you'll end up with a nasty burn if you keep walking in here half dressed while I'm training."

Giovanna looked up and down the Inquisitrix's training gear.

"You're not very covered yourself".
"I've told you before, I'm resistant to my own powers... mostly. It's better since I had the body hair removed. Throw me that towel."

The bounty hunter followed the line of Rall's finger, eventually laying eyes on a singed rag hung over a rack of wooden practice swords that had a bit of cheek still being referred to as a towel. She picked it up slightly distastefully and threw it to the Inquisitor.

"So, what brings you in here? Markus too embarrassed to fetch me himself?", asked Joaana, mopping sweat from her shoulders.

"That old prude?", Giovanna shrugged, "Probably. But yes - he needs to speak to you. Scipio turned out to be a bigger deal than you two thought."

"Ah."

The syllable's tone was one of concern and surprise, emphasised by the Inquisitrix freezing in the middle of drying off.

"He also wants to see Chain."
"Right", the Inquisitrix nodded, assertiveness returning as fast as it had left, "Then go and find him. I'll catch up."

~~~~~

Five minutes later, and draped in a spare set of sparring robes, Joaana rapped twice on the door of Markus' office.

"Come in", came a slightly distracted and muffled reply.

She did as instructed and was greeted by the sight of the Inquisitor studying his new object of interest, the small dataslate. It took him a few moments to look up from it.

"Saint Agrius' cassock, Joaana. You're dripping everywhere."
"I've been through the shower. It seemed better than coming in here stinking. I was training, you know."
"Right. Well.", he swiftly changed the subject by holding up the slate, "The spoils of war."
"My eyesight isn't as good as..."

The sentence was cut off by the click of the door handle and the slight creak of aged hinges as Giovanna returned herself to the room. She promptly collapsed into one of the room's spare chairs.

In her wake was a man whose records called him Imeda Marini. No-one else did - to everyone who knew him, he was 'Chain'.
A bulky bionic structure of more than three hundred years of repairs and upgrades was hidden beneath Mechanicus red robes, although his face was not - although pale, emaciated and slightly creased with age, it retained much of the humanity it might ever have had, the consequence of having once been an ambassador for his forge worlds.
A rare circumstance in which the priesthood of Mars would consider flesh an acceptable option.

A second later, he was pursued by an absolutely pristine servo skull.
Joaana knew she had seen this particular airborne cranium abused in almost every possible way over the years. She was sure she had seen cracks, dents and chips in the bone. Yet, every time, it had polished up perfectly, as flawless as the day it had been made.

She had once asked whose skull it had been, but had got the Tech-priest's equivalent of an evasive answer: "Emotional connections are inefficient".
Very useful, she thought, and not true. Still, she saw fit to have not pressed the matter. His records had given her a good idea.

"You had need of me, Inquisitors?", he spoke with enough of a mechanical timbre to give away the fact his larynx was no longer completely flesh.
"We do, yes.", she nodded in assent.

The Inqusitrix turned back to the desk.

"Now, Markus... what are we looking at here?"
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Van Helser on July 20, 2013, 12:31:40 PM
Maritsau took prayer alone in the chapel of Saint Magenaud the Penitent. A few coins in the deacon's palm had ensured him a few minutes of peace away from the stinking throng that was the tens of thousands of pilgrims that bustled through the belly of the Lady Ophelia. Magenaud was a lesser saint whose chapel was hidden away amongst more illustrious company aboard the ship. On this deck alone were chapels dedicated to Saint Erasmus, Saint Melodie, Saint Akilla, Saint Honibaal and Roboute Guilliman. The Primarchs were all represented here, and second only in grandeur to the shrine of the God-Emperor was the chapel of Sanguinius the Martyr. The Emperor's fairest son, the angel, whose noble sacrifice opened the chink in Horus's armour that allowed his father to kill the Warmaster and end his heresy. Sanguinius's actions were now honoured with adulation second only to the God-Emperor alone, and his resurrection and message upon the surface of Terra had been taken as gospel by millions.

Maritsau had first become aware of heralds of the angel's return four sectors from Sol after docking at Nero VII. He had taken that man to be nothing more than a run-of-the-mill doomsday prophet, one of a hundred within the Piazza de Imperator where he had stood that morning. He had almost put him out of mind entirely. It was only when he routinely accessed The Conclave that evening within the Ordo Xenos facility there that he realised that those had not been the ravings of a madman. Word of the broadcast was spreading; ripples on the Imperial pond heading out into the Segmentum Solar from the pebble dropped in the Terran epicentre. He had changed vessel twice more, at Wargenstein and Almehdi as he closed on Terra, and on each of these worlds the telling of Sanguinius's message had been exponentially more intense. On Wargenstein there were organised rallies decrying the Resurrection of the Angel. He had seen thousands gathered in the centre of Wargenstein's second city, Selz, while edgy enforcers looked on. On Almehdi the substance of Sanguinius's message had been taken to the heart by the people and there had been mass protests against the Inquisition around the Governor's palace. The seditious piece of propaganda had swayed enough of those present on Terra to make a meaningful impact on their minds. That was unsurprising: populations kept in line with propaganda tended to rely on it for every conscious thought. If it had appeared on the vid screens of Terra then it must be true; Throne-sanctioned truth at that.

Maritsau thanked the deacon as he left the chapel, slipping another coin into his palm as he went. He pulled the hood of his robe back up over his head as he rejoined the gangway, obscuring his scars, both devotional and from the line of duty, and made sure the scarf around his neck obscured the sanctioning brand that marked the skin between the corner of his jaw and his collar bone on the left. He had no intention of upsetting his fellow passengers this day. Rearranging the scarf, he took in the fragmented memories of his first trip to Terra: the press of unwashed bodies; the cruel barbs of the wardens' whips; the paradoxical paring of ecstasy and pain; and the screaming, the endless screaming. He hoped for little on this visit. 

Terra was no stranger to him: he had resided there while stationed with the League of Blackships. That had been many decades and another Ordo ago, but he knew that he would find little different when they finally took the pilgrim shuttles down to the Port of Caledonia. Terran time moved at a crawl, it's edifices and institutions stubbornly resisting the pressures of the vast Empire on their shoulders. Tradition dictated everything, and thus he imagined the appearance of something new upon the devotional and pacification screens had been met with fear and panic. Order would have been restored with force on those who called Terra home, but the transient populace had clearly taken the message with them.

Maritsau had feared rebellion would come to Almehdi, but had seen the task force being arrange to crush them. Perhaps on lesser worlds the Arbites would be overthrown, but those would be isolated incidents.  The pathetic prophet on Nero VII stood no chance of bringing down the rule of that world. As the message rippled across the Imperial pond it had diluted and lost its essence. There would be no grand downfall of Imperial rule, and the Inquisition would emerge practically unscathed. There were benefits to secrecy after all. Why go to the difficulty of orchestrating such a broadcast in the first place then?

He had returned to his private cabin to the chirruped delight of his cherubim whom he allowed to take his cloak and scarf, leaving him in his mesh jerkin and tired flak-weave body glove. Neither fitted well now - too many years spent organising cells from afar had robbed him of his field agent's physique - but he would continue to wear them to deflect an assassin's blade or bullet. If anything, the threat of an attempt on his life was greater than at any point in the preceding century, so it paid to take precautions. While his body was weakening, his mind was still up to the rigours of service to the Throne, and he mused on the problem at hand while his cherubim brought him tea and synth-starch crackers. To penetrate the security of the Throneworld, evade the data sentinels within the broadcast code and get away without seemingly leaving a trace would have taken a level of expertise far beyond any of the cells he controlled.  It surely would have taken years in the planning and the sacrifice of many resources in the cover up.  All that to stir up a few dozen heavily policed worlds in the Segmentum Solar?  It seemed like a colossal waste.  He finished his tea, and levitated the two crackers he hadn't eaten up to the eerie above.  The cherubim snatched and quarrelled over them in their language of mechanical squeaks and infantile echolalia.  He left his cup for them to clear when they finished their squabble and settled down on the mat beside the bed and closed his eye for a brief moment of meditation and contemplation.

Maritsau came back from his place of deep thought with a start.  He had been looking at things wrongly all along.  This hadn't been about inciting rebellion; they had thrown away all these resources in one operation of minimal impact simply because they could, and boy did they want everyone to know it.  They believed no gate was barred to them, and this little show, this sabre-rattling was to get the attention of the Inquisition.  To do this at the heart of the Imperium was the gravest of insults to the masters of the Inquisition on Terra.   If they lacked the control to prevent this on the most heavily defended world in the galaxy, what true power did they have over the rest of the Inquisition?  This was a challenge to the heads of the Ordos: You are not safe in your ivory towers.

=][=

The Lady Ophelia had at last begun the docking process above Port Caledonia.  The devotional vid-screens had switched to an exterior view from high on the vessel's superstructure that showed the crenellated hull of the ship silhouetted against the murky grey orb that was humanity's homeworld.  As Maritsau watched, a pair of gold-clad tenders began to flank their craft, great mouthed gargoyles on their prow facing them down.  The internal broadcast system boomed with the voice of the Cardinal-Captain: 'Make ready for purification!  Take to your knees and prepare to be absolved of your sins.'  Maritsau did as was instructed and settled down on his mat.  On the screens, the two tenders began to spray the sides of the Lady Ophelia with a mixture of blessed water and incense, moving slowly aft to anoint the whole vessel and all she carried.  'Through this baptism we pass, the unworthy of the Imperium, come here to show our devotion to the God-Emperor of mankind upon the soil of Holy Terra.  Let it wash away our sins and leave us pure enough to suffer the transition to solid ground and our final step upon our pilgrimage. Ave Imperator!'  Eighty thousand souls replied in unison, Maritsau's voice as impassioned as the rest.

As he joined the procession to the pilgrim shuttles, Maritsau found himself contemplating the web of politics that awaited him upon the Throneworld.  The hierarchy of the Inquisition would be called to task over the events surrounding the archive's release and the broadcast upon Terra.  Elections were due to decide the next Inquisitorial Representative, and these two events were sure to destabilise the existing power blocs.

The seat had been held in orthodox hands for as long as Maritsau had held a Rosette, and while this was perfectly acceptable, or indeed good for the Imperium, the men in power had become too enamoured with maintaining their status and doing little to address the needs of the Inquisition.  Maritsau had always been told that each Inquisitor was an island; a lone light in the dark with absolute power, but the truth was far more complicated than that.  Without the support of other Inquisitors, the greater Ordos and the institutions of the Imperium an Inquisitor had little temporal power.  Through cronyism, threats and bullying the Terran elite had made things exceptionally difficult for a great number of Inquisitors to gain the contacts they needed to achieve great things for the Imperium.  While he had benefitted from the centuries-old networks his master had established, Maritsau knew that had his forebears not been held in high regard by the power blocs that he too would have struggled to have completed his holy tasks.  How he had taken things for granted in his comparable youth.

Though he hated the term, “Radicals” would be blamed for the opening of the archive and the Terran broadcast.  Unorthodoxy had certainly played a part in the actions, but Maritsau severely doubted he would be seeing a Horusian take the role of Inquisitorial Representative anytime soon.  Moderates of any ilk were the ones with the support required to take the seat.  Extremists tended not to care about politics anyhow: by the point in their careers that the likes of Goldo and Xanthus felt able to announce their true beliefs they had amassed enough power already to be practically untouchable even without the support of those with influence.  Whomever had responsibility probably did have links to one or more of the new candidates Terra was sure to see over the coming months, but there would be little joy in trying to unmask him or her; one doesn't pull off something like this on the Throneworld without being very, very good at covering one's tracks.  Maritsau didn't care either; it was the repercussions that were his focus.

Maritsau passed through a cloud of incense as he boarded the pilgrim shuttle, taking in a breath of sweetly spiced siglewort that tasted to him of his early career in the Inquisition.  It had been many years now since he had born the censer at his master's side as an acolyte, and it was a tradition he had not enforced upon his own juniors.  If his master could see him now, what would he make of him?  He doubted he would approve of him.  First leaving the Ordo Hereticus, then losing his Amalathian principles...  If he still lived, they would not likely be friends, and possibly even enemies.  Maritsau took some comfort in the thought that he would have approved of his voyage to Terra to try and dampen the fires that threatened to gut the Inquisition, but would have disapproved of his motives.  He passed through the airlock and into the shuttle's vaulted interior, and his cherubim squealed with delight at the space to stretch their wings.  They took flight and danced amongst the struts and buttresses above.  He thought to beckon them down again, but they were as safe there as anywhere aboard.  Taking a seat, Maritsau strapped in for the descent.  The pilgrims around him began to copy his mode of preparation, and the man next to him inclined his head towards him.

'You've done this before?' he asked through a smile of missing teeth.

'Yes brother, I have made this journey before.'

'Then you are truly blessed.  I have heard most do not even complete one pilgrimage – I have seen men and women die around me on this march across the stars – but I am ready to see the glory of Terra for myself.  I am ready to witness the majesty of the God-Emperor.  I have met men that said Terra was a lie, and that there was no Emperor, but I abandoned those heretics long ago.  Their lies could not turn me away from the truth, and now I am ready to see the light that binds the Imperium together.'  He clicked his harness into place across his shoulders.  'I am ready to witness the true face of the God-Emperor.'

'You and I both brother.'

=][=

He did not see that pilgrim again.  Once he had been processed at Port Caledonia, he had revealed his Rosette and been borne away from the millions-strong march.  As the speeding carriage weaved between the towering arches and statues Maritsau was on the look out for signs of protest and rioting, but as he expected, he found none.  Terra was the same immovable rock it had always been. 

As his carriage neared his destination, he could see a group of figures waiting for him.  They stood haphazardly, suggesting divisions within the group.  This was no honour guard.  He disembarked, his cherubim once again delighted by the space afforded to their wings.  Amongst their chirruping he heard his name being called and found himself under a familiar gaze.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on July 23, 2013, 09:07:38 PM
The removal of the Tiresias Configuration had been a daunting venture. It had taken three solid months of planning without so much as touching a single component, with many late nights spent pouring over scan data to figure out how deep into the building the machine actually went. Each of the components needed to be meticulously catalogued, framed into the overall architecture of the machine, and then extracted delicately. Mechanical surgery and each step became more frightful than the last.

After a wretched week trying to remove the psyker integration cells from the statues, Dubois simply ordered the statues removed entirely, a strangely distinctly easier demand.

The main cogitation unit itself turned out to be the most difficult component to free, as it had foundations dug deep into the main complex. Within two weeks, they found more challenges in how deep it was dug, the various connectors of an arcane design that few had encountered before. Another week past with them barely daring to touch anything else.

To help her with this, Dubois had employed a large number of savants and tech-salvagers, but had purposely tried to avoid bringing in Adeptus Mechanicus expertise. At this stage, and given the wreckage on the world, it made little sense to stick her hand into that hornet’s nest before she absolutely had to.

In the end, it took them another three months to wrench every last piece of the Configuration out of the complex, into stasis, and then back to the ship in safe order.

“How many of the Adeptus Mechanicus will help us with this?”

“I know a few names. Ressten. Falaar. There’s even the odd forgeworld that will discuss such things, but I don’t suggest we get involved. I know a Rogue Trader, Valar Morgu, who deals exclusively in archeotech, but I think this is maybe a touch specialist even for him.”

Falid flicked through his data slate wordlessly.

“They’re worlds away, though, Jaq. We’re talking months and months in the warp, I don’t know whether… I think we need to assume this relic will need more urgent attention. We can’t have the core damaged, we can’t let any of the wire degrade. I’ve checked the status of all our stasis storage, I fear a few of them are failing.”

They sat at the table reviewing data slates for another hour or two, flicking through chartist offers, warp transit manifests, and the stasis reports. The logistical side of an Inquisitor’s role wasn’t very glamorous but it required the upmost diligence. Getting stuck between worlds for months on end on a terrible warp transit route, delaying vital work, meant these details couldn’t simply be left to take care of themselves.

“What about Haarun? It’s tied to a forgeworld, they’re archeotech friendly… Well, for the most part.”

“Most … part?” Dubois raised an eyebrow.

“There have been some misunderstandings.”

“Details?”

“Unnecessary Inquisitor, for the most part they were resolved without conflict. The Adeptus Mechanicus are nothing if not predictable, offence to the machine code, offence to the Ominissiah, they take it all very seriously but they aren’t easy to provoke and are slow to action.”

“We can spend some time in the markets, there are always rumblings and the Mechanicus need to be able to receive dignitaries like anyone else. We can pose as nobles and visit the local houses. Take a view on who is likely to be sympathetic. There’s usually one. We arrange a quiet visit. Flash the seal.”

Falid made a slightly lewd gesture, which made Dubois roll her eyes and scowl. Falid raised his hands in apology.

“No disrespect, Inquisitor.”

Falid was suddenly acutely aware of the power of the woman across from him.

“If we take our time on screening, we should identify the right individuals. From there, we can work our way through.”

“Who’ve we got on retainer?”

“Are you assuming it’s going to go awry?”

“Not yet. But I’d sooner know, for certain, that I had enough muscle if it did.”

“Hound. We’ve got the remains of the Fifth Gavarian Resistance. Eight men, all of them hard as nails, carapace, hotshot packs. Lyssa is on her way. You’ve got Lomax, Harry, and Tarlok, though Tarlok can barely handle a piece these days.”

“Anyone else?”

“No, the rest of your staff are savants, researchers, analysts. None of them could be trusted with a weapon. But look, the Golden Hind offers a route past Haarun, so we can get off there, but they’re stopping at Lorech IV.”

“The Carnage rings?”

“They’re no better than glorified advertising for bounty hunters anyway, I don’t see any harm in it. They’re due to spend three days there, long enough for us to pick up reinforcements, get on the Astropath to Haarun and resupply credits, slates, cogitators and weaponry.”

Dubois pursed her lips as she flicked through a brief description of the Carnage circuits on Lorech IV. The competition wasn’t known to be as voracious, violent and vicious as some of the more well-known circuits elsewhere, but where Carnage could be found, there would usually be muscle. Talented muscle tended to be a more expensive and rare commodity, but dumb muscle was useful nonetheless and it wasn’t like she had to stick to a specific budget.

“Get in contact with the Golden Hind. Make sure they have adequate facilities for us. I need at least one of their cargo holds as well, for the Configuration. I’m not sure,” she said, going back over their offer “They’ve factored that in. I need that space, and try and get more crew quarters. I want to get my analysts back at it. The after action reports from my cells are piling up.”
 
The journey to Haarun was tedious and uneventful. The Carnage rings, usually a rich source of muscle for the Inquisition proved to be for nothing which had frustrated Jacqueline no end. Days spent eying the rings had proved to be an awful waste of time, not least because of the lack of entertaining bouts. She’d brought her full retinue out to get some time away from the data, from reports, from tediously cross checking facts and after action reports, cross compiling them with other action data to note patterns, migrations of heretical activity, and the like.

Still, as she walked around the capital of Lorech IV, basically something akin to a dreary spaceport and nothing more, she couldn’t help but feel she would regret not taking up at least some of the talentless dross from this world.

Still, she had the inimitably lethal talents of Hound – a codename, and a good one too – who was one of her better operatives. Not just a simple murderer, he was a good infiltrator, a quick mind with tactics and he even had a good line in judging the complicated world of interstellar pleasantries.

Lyssa Darien was another trusted lieutenant, who had originally joined her retinue as an Interrogator in training. Lyssa was close to her seal now, and Dubois had thought it crass to keep her on a short leash. She had been out managing three of Dubois’ cells, cells she intended to give to Lyssa upon her ascension, and she was returning reporting success with all three. Lyssa had been classically trained as an Interrogator, learning the arts of investigation, excruciation and interrogation. Lyssa was also a reasonable combatant – she had an eye with a pistol and wasn’t afraid of shooting.

Lomax Ratin and Harry Yudd were her adjutants, her eyes and ears into her cells. They were often required to be in the field, but coincidence had conspired that they would be with her as they approached Haarun. Lomax was a small man, with rodent features and a nose for information. He was often found cross referencing incredibly large amounts of information, looking for leads that would defy a normal man. Yudd was his polar opposite – a large man, with square shoulders and noble features. He had a passion for psychology and the analysis of people, personalities and individuals. Dubois had trust in him that he could find what an individual cared about the most with the scantest of details of their life, and how to push them to convince them that they could lose that thing, at any time. Yudd was excellent at exploiting the fear and perceived power of the Inquisition.

A capable group, to be sure, but against the potential might of the Adeptus Mechanicus? Dubois couldn’t be sure, especially as the only true combat specialist was Hound. The rest of them could handle a weapon, but only Hound was a real expert. Dubois even doubted her own skills – she was rusty, having spent too long behind a desk and face deep in report after endless report.

Still, the prize was within reach – the Tiresias configuration was in sight. It had taken four solid years of research and two expeditions following that by Wakhan for confirmation the thing existed. And what a prize – no simple cogitator, the Tiresias Configuration was a marvel of human ingenuity and technological miracle.

Haarun turned out to be a dustbowl. It had long been strip mined and left as an open pit. Most of the heavy operations they had been expecting had been moved off world, and a skeleton crew of Adeptus Mechanicus had been left behind. The world retained strong links back to the nearest Forgeworld, Telus though, and most of their Explorator fleet was based out of this world. This meant it was a hub of ambitious adventurers, intrepid rogue traders and excited traders.

The Magi Explorators were known to be eccentric, even by the standards of the Adeptus Mechanicum, and some of them tended to be downright volatile. Falid had insisted this was likely to be the best place they could find a sympathetic ear, though. Someone they could do business with discreetly and maybe even buy into the project of restoring the Configuration. Eccentric they might be, Falid had said, but they were excitable types and likely to look on the Configuration as something worth spending their time upon.

With some detail, they’d gone over the potential magi who were famous for their open mindedness on world and come down to a single name – Magos-Explorator Ypres Laar. Laar had a reputation for being a trailblazer and rumor had long maintained he had a passion for the unusual.

“How solid is this?” asked Yudd as he chewed slowly on some non-descript jerky.

“I can’t doubt it,” responded Falid, taking another bite of his own meat.

“What do you think Harry?” asked Dubois.

“I’d guess him to be arrogant. He thinks he’s above those in the Adeptus Mechanicum, and Emperor knows what he believes the common folk of the Imperium are by comparison. I don’t think we can trust him. His record shows rebellion, yes, but loosely within the confines of his role as Explorator.”

Yudd flicked back through the profile.

“He does have a record of confrontation, but I don’t think that necessarily counts against him. Morning Lyssa. I don’t think that means we shouldn’t trust him, though. I’d advise caution.”

Lyssa sat at the table, grabbing at an apple which she began to core with a short knife.

“I read the reports – we need to chance our arm on this Inquisitor. He might be unstable but if we don’t do this the Configuration could be unusable. We have to grasp this opportunity.”

Lyssa’s view was one Dubois trusted – Lyssa had good instincts and an excellent ability to read a situation.

“Fair enough – get the Gavarians geared up. Hound, you’ll lead them. Falid, you’ll take the lead with the Explorator. Lyssa, Harry, Lomax, Tarlok, you’re with Falid and I. Let’s keep our armaments low key in the main meeting – Hound, feel free to take whatever pre-cautions and equipment seems appropriate. This is a critical operation. Ice cool heads on, and for the love of the Emperor remember the cover.”
 
The meeting point was a dusty outcrop on the planet, a bone region known as Marrow’s Folly. Here, there were a few huddled buildings, and in one of those the Magos had setup a meeting space – functional, lit with only basic lamps and covers to protect them from the worst of the winds. Dubois and team arrived a few minutes late deliberately, leaving Hound and the Gavarians to take up positions around the camp. Inevitably, Hound dropped a signal that the Mechanicum had also dropped a few of their own around the camp. Clearly trust was at a premium on the fringe worlds.

++ You are two hundred forty eight seconds late ++

Falid nodded.

“My apologies, Magos-Explorator. We had a few issues on departure.”

++ Irrelevant. This is an attempt to sway negotiations in your favor. This is the foolishness of the flesh. ++

The Magos was clearly ancient – his red robe was pristine clean, but ragged and ripped. Both limbs they could see – an arm, and a leg – were bionic. The limited flesh they could see, a few pale scraps around the edges of the arm, and a pallid patch on his face – was thin, crinkled, and desiccated. His posture shifted subtly, suggesting confidence and knowledge that those before the Magos were definitely his lessers, engaging as a lord might address a slave.

++ Does my appearance alarm you? ++

“No, Magos-Explorator, it is just a while since I met one as… venerable, as yourself.”

++ You are Wakhan, Falid. You are the archeotech trader. You have brought extraneous input with you. There is no need for your companions. Please dismiss them immediately ++

Dubois stood up immediately and stepped forward slightly, her posture changing to be more aggressive. Harry Yudd also stepped forward from his position behind the meeting table. Almost together, they began a chorus of disputes.

++ Irrelevant data. Please desist in the provision of extraneous data Yudd Harold and Wakhan Jaali. You will be silent ++

“My advisors stay, Magos. That is not negotiable.”

The Magos-Explorator spent a few seconds looking over Dubois and Yudd, and the rest of Dubois’ associates.

++ Yudd, Harold. Trade advisor. His expertise is irrelevant to our meeting. He will be silent. Wakhan, Jaali. Archeotech expert and partner of Wakhan, Falid. Her input is duplicate. She will be silent. These are my terms. Compliance is not negotiable ++

Falid glanced to Dubois, who shrugged her assent. She and Yudd sat back down.

++ You are here to discuss the Configuration. You are here with data to review. You will provide the data. You will provide the specifications ++

Falid drew out a data slate and offered it to the Magos, who took it in one of his newly emerged mechandrites. He spent a few moments going through the information.

++ Has it been subject to the fifteen canticles of disassembly ++

“Well, I… Not exac-“

++ Was it transferred in line with the seven cants of stasis transportation ++

“I think we could have missed one or t-“

++ Was it reviewed with the Librarium Holistica to check function and form ++

“We didn’t exactly have one to hand, no.”

The Magos-Explorator looked directly to Falid. His body language, one of the few human things even the Mechanicum couldn’t hide, bristled with barely contained rage.

++ Where are you harboring this device ++

“That can wait, Magos.”

++ Where did you get this device ++

He paused for a moment, staring down the Inquisitorial retinue.

++ New data. I know where you obtained this device ++

Instinctively, the Magos’ staff began to unfurl at the top, revealing a brutal looking chain-axe – as much as a symbol of his high office as anything else. The axe head came in a series of clicks, the teeth of the axe expanding with a series of clicks and short aggressive revs of the chain engine, a growling mechanical dog. Without thinking, Dubois’ hand went to her own weapon but she managed to not draw. The Magos was drawn to Falid’s face, who was eyeing the axehead.

++ My weapon’s efficacy is rated 100% versus; flesh, human; flesh, Xenos-Eldar; flesh, Xenos-Ork; 74% versus Flesh, Astartes; 51% versus the machine wrought; note the superiority of the machine. Note the weakness of the flesh. Hail the Ominissiah ++

Falid stared down the Explorator, waiting for his next words.

++ Do you fear me Wakhan, Falid? To fear is the flesh and weakness. You are weak, Wakhan Falid, and you were foolish to bring this to a loyal servant of the Glorious Machine-Cult. By the power invested in me, by Holy Mars and the Ominissiah, I sentence you all to detainment pending a hearing on your tech-heresy ++

Dubois grabbed at the thick chain around her neck, revealing her seal.

“I am Inquisitor Jacqueline Dubois of the most Holy Ordos Hereticus, and you, Magos-Explorator, should reconsider your plan to detain my associates and me.”

++ New data is irrelevant data, Dubois, Jacqueline aka Wakhan, Jaali. You are tech-heretics. You have no jurisdiction nor do you have any immunity to the prosecution of martian decree. It is absolute ++

As one, they all drew weapons.

It quickly became a blur. Furniture flew as Dubois’ associates dived for cover. The Magos-Explorator stood up and emitted a blurt of machine code. All around, gun shots raged as servitors went into overdrive. Hound grunted the engagement code over the vox, snarling as he and the Gavarians began to move and engage the Mechanicus forces.

++ This world is a viper’s nest of tech-heresy, it will be purged. You will be the first to pay penance and penalty ++

He immediately closed in on Dubois, closing the distance in only a few gargantuan steps. Even as he closed, blazing las-pistol shots fizzed against his metal flesh to little effect.

Dubois scrabbled back, trying to draw her weapon to protect herself – her noble clothing was ridiculously lacking in practicality, and her own ring rust didn’t help either. As she drew her melee weapon, a vicious dagger, she stood up. The Magos swung at her, knocking the knife out of her reach.

She hesitated for the smallest iota – her arm outstretched, fingers clenched. What she most remembered about this moment in her darkest recollections was the vision of the axe – chain teeth whirring furiously being brought down in an arc destined to impact above her elbow. Each tooth had a shining, gleaming razor edge, and each of the chain links holding the teeth in place and forcing them around the edge of the axe was perfectly serviced – oiled smooth and fitting perfectly onto the gears driving them.

The most terrible part was the smell of the oil – it wasn’t an aggressive, engine oil smell but rather a light, faint, distantly floral fragrance. This weapon wasn’t just a tool – it was adored in the way someone might celebrate a lover or a child.

While the Magos’ face was an impenetrable shield of steel, wires, and red LED, for a brief second Dubois could have sworn she could see satisfaction ripple through the face of her attacker. His array of eyes, seven beady, red LED lights in his face each a different size and luminescence, shone brighter with blood lust as they both realized what was about to happen.

Pain.

Unimaginable, sharp, mind-bending pain.

It didn’t just hit and pass through her – for some mind splitting milliseconds that dragged longer than lifetimes her entire being and existence was pain.

Millimeter by millimeter of flesh gave way under the relentless assault of the diamond hard teeth. At several thousand RPM, in reality there was no way for Dubois to actually see each chunk of flesh being torn and pulled away, nor each individual tooth – but, as it bit down she could swear to the Emperor herself – as it shredded muscle tissue, and gristle, and tendon, through bone and marrow; all spattered by the inordinately powerful weapon.

The arm gave way soon after – gravity had its say as well, pulling in the microseconds during which the bone was destroyed, her soon to be severed arm giving way to the pull of the planet below. The bone now breached, the axe came out the other side of her arm, the teeth grunting with effort as the lack of resistance – flesh – was encountered and they began to rev out of control.

Jacqueline stood shocked for a few moments, staring at her stump. Her heart kept beating and in rhythm with that pounding in her ears and chest, the ragged veins that poked around her shattered humerus bone spurted an alarming volume of blood. Already feeling the power of shock, she staggered backwards, unable to shriek and momentarily unable to breathe.

In front of her the Magos advanced, only to be torn into shreds by a volley of bolt shells from her savior, Hound. The brute loomed over the shredded Magos for a few moments before he was assaulted by a frothing servitor. They became a tangle of limbs, leaving Jaq feeling surprisingly lonely in a room filled with mortal combat.

Dubois reached a wall behind her – firm, comforting, and slumped involuntarily. Her legs had given out as the loss of blood began to take a terrible toll on her. Her breathing accelerated as panic set in, and no matter how hard she tried to suppress that feeling of outright animal panic her body simply would not comply.

There it was, still twitching and refusing to accept death. Fingers remembered the last impulse and it fired repeatedly. They played a percussive melody together; a staccato samba beat punctuated by the throbbing bass contrast of the pulsing elbow. It was gone; detached; inevitably dead to her. Her left arm, her weapon arm; a core part of her humanity, she was no longer a whole being, balanced and unsullied by the machine.

Yet more blood poured from the stump, more than she ever imagined had been a part of her. Early biological lessons sprang back to her from her time in the Schola – a human being with a higher level of fitness could expect to have has high as ten to twelve litres of blood, compared to the average of only six.

It is surprising those things that fill a hysterical mind.

A stench of iron and ozone she usually associated with the death of her enemies overpowered her senses and made her vision dip in and out of clarity and darkness.

At the center of her being, the composed hub of all willpower, sentience, and humanity she felt serenity and rationality she hadn’t realized was possible. Around her, her retinue fought as fiercely as tigers, snarling and claws, blood and fury.

Still more blood leaked from her and a great realization came to her – death was certain and here.

It was here for her now – in scant minutes everything that made her a conscious being would be gone. What sliver or spark of creation infested her body was about to leave, and not just her crimson vital – no, it was her.

Her eyes rolled back into her head, but she fought back against the feeling of slipping into sleep.

Live, dammit, live.

That her will couldn’t stop her arm from spurting blood nor her heart from racing and amplifying the danger was obvious, but her tenacity wouldn’t let her accept serenity. Conflict was where she was born, and fired, and tempered – this was a grievous wound but she would live.

Not today, she vowed, even as her head bobbed again.

And in the corner of her eye, she spied her most loyal retainer – Falid Wakhan.

He strode over to her, sliding slightly in the ever larger pool of blood. With speed, he applied a firm tourniquet to her arm, stemming the tide somewhat but the blood still came.

“Not today,” she shivered as her words were barely able to make it out of her mouth between panicked breaths.

“Indeed Inquisitor,” responded Falid with a grim look on his face as he heated the end of his dagger. It glowed white hot in mere seconds.

Wide eyed fear took Jacqueline, a fresh shot of adrenaline firing what was left of her fight or flight response forcing her to scrabble backwards. Ghost fingers scratched at the floor – she could feel the cold stone and the cooling blood on them, wet and cloying and hard all at the same time.

“You will hate me for this, JD… But not today.”

As the blade hit her bleeding arm, the world went immediately dark.

=I=

The aftermath was unclear to her, but as she awoke in her infirmary a few things began to come clear.

Firstly, her retinue had been battered but had lived. She had suffered the worst, the rest of her associates had overpowered the Adeptus Mechanicus in short order. The combat had been bloody and wounds inflicted, but nothing as grievous or severe as she had suffered.

Secondly, her arm was gone. The cauterization had saved her life but had damaged her nerve endings beyond reasonable biological repair. Her arm was in stasis but it looked ragged and too damaged to be of further use – a stray round had taken a chunk out of her hand and robbed a finger as well. The bones had been shattered in her wrist, hand, up to where the finger had been torn off by the ricocheting bullet.

Thirdly, she was back on her ship.

“How is the Configuration?” she asked. She coughed as her throat felt dry and raw.

“Fine, Jaq, fine.”

Falid eased her back down onto the bed.

“Will I live?”

“Yes, sadly for all of us. You've a formidable constitution Inquisitor.”

Jacqueline managed to raise a smile, if only for a moment. Her face was gaunt and it was clear she had lost weight and was dehydrated. She pulled herself upright, and took a cup of icewater from Wakhan. He sat patiently doting on her for a few moments while she finished the water.

"How long have I been out?"

"A few days. The shock alone nearly killed you. You’ve suffered severe blood loss as well. If it wasn’t for the fact that you’ve at least kept yourself to a good standard of fitness with those tedious conditioning machines, you’d probably be dead."

She coughed again, and tried to adjust herself to a more comfortable position. Her arm – what had been her arm – scrabbled at the sheets and for a few moments she would have sworn she could feel the sheets and pillows underneath fingers that weren’t there.

She began to hyperventilate, her whole arm and legs scrabbling.

“Easy, Jaq, easy,” said Falid, comforting her, “This is going to take some time. Calm down.”

In a rare moment of affection, Falid grabbed her and held her closely, Jaqueline following suit with her whole arm.

“It gets better.”

Dubois grabbed at those words and held them tight in her mind. For once, she let herself be vulnerable and squeezed tightly to Falid and the first tears of fear and upset in more than six decades came on in floods.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Necris on July 24, 2013, 12:15:55 AM
"Are you certain this is the right course of action?"

Erasmus asked as they walked the wood clad corridors of The Shimmer the support frame wrapped round his legs hissing and pumping as he struggled to keep pace with the younger man beside him, a man that walked with the purpose and air of me with authority and menace. Erasmus had seen the likes of him before served the masts before this one as he had done since his formative years when he'd started his life as a savant in service of the Inquisition, in the years since he had seen a great many things and his duties had become numerous and expansive, his counsel to this current master valued and respected yet, now he felt himself at a loss a bystander as events spiralled beyond his comprehension.

His master didn't even pause in his stride as he moved though the ship, a young man in term of Inquisitors he still possessed more decades of service to the inquisition than many older inquisitors, having served the mysterious Vepres as interrogator his rise to full inquisition had been rapid thanks in part to Vepres' methods of independent operation, he had followed in his masters footsteps but now he stood on the brink of moving beyond the limits of even his radical master.

"As things progress as they are no doubt bound too, the inquisition will push ever closer to war, it will mean change, change that is long over due the masters of the Inquisition stagnate, it time for new life to be infused into our ranks, and I intend to enact that change."

"But to do what you desire means taking a step you have never taken before."

The master paused half turning to regard the older man from und the hood he wore only his chin was visible.

"War is coming, the message is a ember it will split the inquisition, weaken us, leave the imperium exposed to the enemies of mankind. My plan is to cut that weakness from the inquisition, remove the weak for the strong, by the time I am finished the Inquisition will be stronger than it has ever been."

A figure up ahead had been waiting for them she looked up as the Inquisitor and his man servant approached the old mans hissing pumping legs irritated her, they always had but he possessed the sharpest mind she had ever know, he possessed a conga give prowess that over shadowed her and she often wondered why she was in service to the Inquisitor, but she possessed skills the old man didn't where he was a thinker and an analyser she was a problem solver and was well known for being able to source any resource the Inquisitor needed, when his head angled to address her a shiver ran down her spine.

"What do you have for me Krysta?"

She looked at the data slave mounted on her left arm the MIU link to the lens over he left eye her fingers moved with grace over the virtual interface as she complied her report.

"All operatives are withdrawing form current activities, local agents are expected to board within twelve standard hours, weapons stores are low we could do with a resupply of certain ammunitions but the local supply is not compatible."

"Nearest source?"

"Fifteen days away."

"Can we do without?"

"We can make do, but Irons will be unhappy."

The inquisitor dismissed the issue with a wave of his hand as he stepped past, Krysta fell in step behind him.

"The Adept wants a performance report."

"The left leg actuators lock up in extreme combat, the wrists need reshaping so I can use a sword and the thermal regulator doesn't work. I want the tassets removed and the helm is too restrictive."

"Do you want him to make any change to the helm?"

"No, tell him to remove the necessary functions and implant them into the gorget."

She nodded despite him being in front of her as she made record of his feed back from his armour tests, she known he wasn't happy about it last time he'd tested the armour, the report to the Adept would hopefully address the issues he was having with it. Erasmus questioned her as they continued breaking her train of thought.

"Did your informants locate the source of the coordinates transmitted?"

She looked at him and the at the Inquisitor, the old man acted with an air of seniority, always had done, but she suspected that it was just an age thing.

"Yes but they can't be right, all of my source inform me the place was reduced to dust centuries ago."

"What place?"

Erasmus questioned her but it was the Inquisitor who answered her.

"Secrets Hold, it sustained major damage but was far from destroyed, it is according to the inquisition an abandoned ruin, this is interesting news, have the captain make final arrangements for our departure."

With that he turned and entered his private quarters the door hissing closed behind him, once alone he dew the hood back from his head and walked to a life sized statue of the emperor in a recessed alcove looking up into the generic face without any singular definite feature of eminence or regal bearing he spoke to it.

"Please give me strength to do what needs to be done, the ends justify the means but grant me the conviction to carry them out."
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Charax on July 28, 2013, 10:19:10 PM
The Satoria barely resembled the proud Imperial battleship it had once been. The Harbingers had lost their original capital ship, Mortarion's Fury as they had broken off from the legion following the Heresy and the loss had been felt deeply. The battle to escape the Imperial Fists had cost them a large number of ships and almost a battalion of Marines but they had endured. The Heresy transformed the Harbingers in many ways, they had suffered the same mutations as the rest of the legion when the Rot had scythed through their ranks, bloating and decaying them, but the severe loss of forces had transformed them further. Gone were the days of massed, open warfare; now they were raiders, a strike force that hit hard, weathered what little resistance could be mustered and retreated with whatever they could salvage. The Death Guard were always known for their efficiency, the Harvesters wasted nothing.

The Satoria was no Space Hulk, no random melding of ships fused together by the Warp but a feat of engineering. For millennia her attendant fleet had brought her tribute; the finest of captured ships were hauled by the Harbingers' cruisers to the Sartoria's mooring point where a fleet of ships would erupt from her launch bays, slicing off sections with massive magna-cutters and plasma torches to be incorporated with her distended body. Over the millennia her original shape had been subsumed by the salvaged additions; her aft section was a cancerous mass of propulsion systems torn from a dozen vessels, a score of Imperial Plasma engines clustered around small number of massive, ancient Fusion drives of the kind which first propelled humanity to the stars. Each one large enough that they could swallow fighters whole, three of them provided massive forward thrust but lacked any method to alter course, they projected kilometer-long silent flames when activated, but they had stood silent and still for decades.

The long, thin body of the Satoria housed hundreds of hanger bays, few of which had been part of the original construction. In battle attack craft swarmed from her decks like a cloud of flies, tearing ships apart with a hundred bombs and lance strikes or protecting her fleet. Now, the bays stood dark and almost silent, occasional ships passing through their doors.

Her Prow had changed the most over the thousands of years since her construction. Gone were the angled panels sported by most pre-heresy vessels - She had not tasted atmosphere since her construction, and was far too bloated to make planetfall now so the concept of aerodynamics was wasted on her. Instead her flat, broad head was studded with torpedo launchers and lances that ran down the spine of the ship.

Moored against a small asteroid, the Satoria was at the center of a vast complex. Charon's Reach had been borne of necessity; The Harbingers conserving fuel by mooring against the tail of a huge, slow-moving asteroid, protected from sensors and impacts by its bulk. The Satoria had remained moored there as the other ships left for raids and came back laden with spoils, spoils that led to the construction of the complex - first as a refuelling station, which went on to incorporate manufactora and living quarters. Ships damaged beyond use were hauled to the Reach and used as raw material, sliced apart by the complex's macro-lances and smelted down for casting. The Harbingers were known for their efficiency.

After centuries of salvage the Reach's manufacturing facilities and resources became vast and impressive, and had attracted the attention of others. The fleshcrafters of a The Brotherhood of the Flawed Helix were the first to see its potential, they approached and offered their services as artisans and builders in exchange for the sanctuary and resources provided by the Reach. As an offshoot of the Mechanicum they were welcomed, and under their productive hands the facility grew and with it, so did its reputation. Mere decades after this first alliance the Reach had become a haven for those escaping the Imperium's law. Still firmly under the rule of the Harbingers, communities of smugglers and hereteks, slavers and mutants thrived, all welcome so long as they had something to provide. Gleaming Hydroponics domes maintained by the Brotherhood were erected next to the black spires of the Heretek proto-hive and large spaceports where ships docked to unload captured slaves, crews of defeated ships and cargo to be processed. The Harvesters wasted nothing.

the Brotherhood had been with them so long now that the distinction between the Harbingers and the Brotherhood was difficult to define. The Legion's apothecarion studied with the Dark Mechanicus as they had once done on Mars, and the Brotherhood in turn maintained many of the Death Guard machines, adapting and modifying them as resources dwindled or became available. This union had been signified by the Supplicant, a feat of incredible bio-engineering which rended the bodies of thousands of slaves and captives to form a giant humanoid construct, one which Charon had slain to form the figurehead of the Satoria. Void-cleansed bones now gleamed on its hull, a grim symbol of the power of both the ship and its master.

=][=

The woman walked slowly, calmly into the bar, taking a moment to acquaint herself with her surroundings. It had every appearance of an upscale drinking establishment, frequented by nobles seeking a place to mingle among others of their station, but closer inspection revealed the lack of any truly refined refreshments behind the bar and most of the women wore fashions that were at least two years behind the rest of the system's nobility, woven from sub-par recycled fabrics dyed and coated to make them seem new. As a child she would have looked up to these ladies, marvelled at their status and wealth, but she had mingled with the Imperium's true nobility, the Inquisitors who stood apart from the everyday banality these people lived in.

Her own dress was finest crushed velvet and drew stares from many of the bar's patrons. the inlaid golden thread mapped out a spiralling pattern and few of the nobility present noticed that they felt just a little nauseous staring at it too long. Her hair was a deep brown with jagged purple tips styled in a long ponytail and she wore a few unassuming rings, but no jewellery beyond that, a deep contrast to the garish jewels and flaunted opulence of the others. She chose a table and glided towards it, taking a glass of deep cyan wine from an offered tray and pulling up a high-backed chair. she made no effort to look around for the one she was meeting, there was no anxiety in her demeanour, just patience and an air of total superiority.

The table was wooden, trimmed with dull metal - she paused for a moment, trying to place the deep red colour of the wood and recognised it as Straxian Bloodwood, she had visited Strax once and learned about the volatile material. Here it was sealed behind thick lacquer but on its native world an exposed section like this, concentric rings displayed like veins would have oxidized over in seconds. the process had started here too, indicating poor worksmanship and a coating applied unevenly or incorrectly. The wood itself was common as dirt on Strax, but that was several systems away and this was a hive world, a barren rock punctuated by towering spires of metal, and having any form of wood at all was a sign of opulence or status.

The bar in which she sat was barely a kilometer from the tip of the spire - luxurious indeed for most, but she could not help but notice the signs of an establishment trying too hard - the worthless trinkets displayed as if they had value simply because of the insular nature of the Hive. She dragged an indigo fingernail over a particularly thin area of veneer and took a slow sip of her wine as she awaited her contact. It possessed a fruity aroma, but also a tang of bitterness. To the Hive Nobles who frequented this place, the house-born and spire-bred, this was considered a delicacy but she had travelled far and knew the scent of decay when it passed her nostrils. She knew it well indeed.

Her wait was not long, His presence in the bar was felt before it was seen. The atmosphere turned oppressive as he strode in, large bulk filling the elegant doorway as he strode in. Her back was to him but his heavy footfalls warned her of his approach, creating a breeze that disturbed her long purple dress. How vulgar she thought To appear himself, in this place. One of his station stooping so low. He noisily pulled a stool towards the table and sat down, squatting on it and hunching over the table. He was dressed in what was almost a mockery of fine clothing, robes hidden under garish armoured pads and wearing a necklace of sigils. He radiated power, but it was of a raw, pulsing nature. He grinned a wide grin, filed teeth jutting down like knives, a smile like a wolf's to a lamb framed with long, oily black hair which possessed an almost metallic sheen. She looked up half-lidded, her pale complexion contrasting against his ruddy face.

"You're late" she mused, sipping her wine. She had no doubt he held more physical power but he had asked for this meeting, and she had graciously accepted. She held the cards in this situation and was going to make it known that she would brook no disrespect. Besides she thought There would be consequences to harming me

"Apologies, Milady" His tone seemed mocking, but he possessed a gravelly voice more suited to barking orders and making demands than polite conversation, her impression was that he had never had to apologise in his life. "I am surprised that you managed to make your way up here, the screening for offworlders is quite rigorous, so I hear"

"The one I represent has lived since the Emperor walked among us" she began "Time has a way of making even trinkets of that era valuable to some, and for those who cannot be bribed..." She opened her hand to him, showing her palm. With full violet lips she blew lightly across it, the flow of air revealing a sparkling thread embedded in her skin which wove over her hand, tracing out an Inquisitorial sigil. She smiled slightly and continued "Many agents of the Hidden Ordos have come for him over the milennia, the one who came with this was most unhappy with our method of obtaining it from her. Then again, you would know all about the doors that open for an Inquisitorial Seal, don't you Landen?". The man looked surprised for a moment, then remembered himself and regained his composure.

"Have you considered my request?". Straight to the point. No conversation, no dance. How she missed mingling in better company, not parlaying with brutes

"You ask a lot. We've fought in this war before, you know... " her voice trailed off, drifting into memories before coming back; "I died the last time, I'm not altogether anxious to repeat that experience" she took another sip of the deep red wine and chipped off a small portion of the table's coating, causing it to blacken with exposure to oxygen. "Why would we commit our precious forces on your behalf? What can you possibly offer us?"

"On behalf of us all" he corrected "This enemy threatens us all, that's why you fought it before, is it not?"

"True enough" she hesitated "But time has a way of broadening one's perspectives. We have no need to be involved in this, so what is your proposal?"

"Name your price-"

"That is quite possibly the most dangerous phrase in the history of humanity" she interjected

"-and yet I chose it. Your forces are considerable" She could see he was reluctant to admit this , but he continued "But so are my resources. What would it take to get your support, to persuade you to join the fray when needed?"

Ah, the brute's offer has become interesting she thought, spinning her glass slowly and staring into the ripples. "There is one thing that would impress him enough to rouse him to your cause. Maybe."

"Name it" he repeated

"An Ironclad". She took in his bemused expression "I'm not surprised you don't recognise the name, they are ancient. Before Void Shields the only way a ship could survive was massive armour plates, an Ironclad is a behemoth of a starship, designed to take a hell of a beating, but there are almost none left. Most were destroyed or lost, but there is at least one left. A specific one.." She left a moment for the history lesson to sink in. "The Pride of Dorn, an Imperial Fists vessel. Bring it to us intact, with not a living soul aboard, and you might sway the Eternal to your side". She had diplomatically chosen not to mention that the Pride of Dorn was the ship which had destroyed Mortarion's Fury, ramming straight through the Death Guard vessel and sustaining barely a scratch while the Harbingers' flagship had been bisected and annihilated. An Ironclad was a worthy gift, but this one would surely rouse him. She was exceeding her authority by commiting his forces while heremained in absentia, but she hoped such a prize would aid her eventual bartering for forgiveness. She gulped down the last of her drink at the thought of whatever wrath awaited her if the gift was insufficient or the losses too great.

Landen sat still for a moment, contemplating the price. He shifted uncomfortably a few times, she imagined he was weighing up the logistics of stealing a ship from an Astartes chapter, then going deck-by-deck to annihilate every soul aboard. He settled, apparently having formulated a plan, then rested his large, clenched fists on the table and used them to haul his bulk up off the stool. She looked up at him, not sure if he was insulted by the price or not. "It will be done" he said finally "Be mindful to keep your side of the bargain when it is". With that he walked off the way he had come, other patrons staring and giving him a wide berth, unaccustomed by one of his stature in their midst.

She sat back in the chair and sighed. What had she just committed herself and her Master's forces to? Surely he would never be able to deliver the Pride of Dorn. Would he?
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: TheNephew on July 30, 2013, 11:46:58 AM
+++ORDERS AMMENDED+++

SUPPLEMENTARY DETAIL:

OUTGOING PERSONNEL:

ADDITIONAL:

ALEXANDER, DMITRI, AIDE, LORD HIGH GOVERNOR MARSHALL PELLICK OF ST. MARTISBERG HIVE. PROVIDES SECURE CHANNELS FOR REPORTS TO BE COPIED TO ST. MARTISBERG HIVE.
# MAINTAIN APPROPRIATE KNOWLEDGE DISSEMINATION VIGILANCE FOR DURATION.
# EVIDENCE OF BLESSINGS OF THE OMNISSIAH, SIGNIFICANT [67.44%] PROBABILITY OF INTRA-CRANIAL CYBERNETIC ENHANCMENTS, IMPERIAL TYPE, CONFIGURATION UNKNOWN. EXCERCISE DILIGENCE IN SECURING THE MACHINE TRUTHS.

PICKER, [EMPTY], MEDICAL ASSISTANT, ALEXANDER.
# TECHNICAL TRAINING, MECICAE, DIAGNOSTICS. SUB-BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF THE MACHINE.

+++END+++



“Baader! Excellent, let us begin.”

“Why is my presence required here?”

“In short, my boy, you’ve been recommended to me as a technician of consummate skill and reliability in areas that I, or rather a close friend and colleague, requires assistance in.”

“I have ongoing work to attend to. House Pellick of Martisberg have retained me for the duration of the fermentation period to optimise their biosynthetically reduced metroline promethium tanker vat volatility sensor coordinator cogitator network.”

“I see.”

“It is a distributed responsive data-communion across one hundred and fourteen vat systems located in twelve megabays in Martisberg proper, eighty five tanker ships and two distribution platforms. Harmonising so many minds has proved challenging, and it is taxing work that requires significant expertise and is yet unfinished. As you are no doubt aware. Lord.”

“I am. I was one of four consulted for the last expansion of your contract. As I’m sure you know. There are several adepts under you capable of continuing your work, and fully able to manage the servitor teams with minimal supervision. The more specialist aspects will be handled personally by Magos Rankol.”

“Rankol has neither my equipment nor experience. His approaches will not meet the requirements of a work of this scale. I have separated the lobes of my brain, augmenting my logic centres and vastly increasing data storage capacities, while leaving regions of my brain that those Biologis that are respected in the field believe to be the seat of subconscious cognition entirely untouched. My mentor, prior to commendation to the banks of the Omnissiah, informed me that my work is too intuitive, lacking theoretical rigour in analysis of obstacles. He, and a number of other respected Magii, declared it a weakness that should rightly be corrected by symmetrical augmentation, to purge this tendency in favour of a working method more easily followed. My experience liaising outside the Initiate circles suggests that I retain a greater ability to cooperate efficiently with non-initiates, with little harm to operation with my fellow priests, and I maintain efficiency ratings within acceptable deviations of baseline for a devotee of my experience, specialisation and placement. To train a replacement on a project of my own devising, however, is simply impractical. The servitors I make use of, the load-bearing auxiliary cogitators I provide, even the dialect of the communion harmonies are of my own construction. This last alone would take even as worthy Magos Rankol longer to unravel than I would to finish it. While the work is in progress, Martisberg runs at barely eighty five percent of normal efficiency. House Pellick will be as unwilling as I to halt it. I cannot help you.”

“Indeed. And yet, it seems, Markos and I share a few old friends from days gone by. As does your Arch-Magos, I understand. You work well with cogitators, data banks and the like. Work well with damaged memory structures, technology older than our standard patterns, code dialects that are not taught in the seminaries. You are talented in areas that make you of use to someone who wants you, and you will be seconded to him. Or her, rather. Your name has brought you far, given you time and resources in abundance. Goodwill to patrons carries so much weight with the Machine Cult, and no more. Your expertise is either of use to our mutual friend, or you will be of use supervising your servitors skimming metrolium from the promethium vats.”

“Mutual friends with a long reach and deep pockets, perhaps? I am outmanoeuvred. May I at least know the wheres and whats, if not, I assume, the whys, of my transferral?”

“Well, your accurate assumptions aside, I’m afraid I can’t be of much more help than that. You are needed to study, and if possible repair, a repository that has been compromised and significantly damaged during an attack by rivals of your new benefactor. The who and how of it is also naturally of interest, should you be up to it. The phrase ‘locust spirit’ came up a number of times, which will presumably mean more to you than I. Your duties on Martisberg are being reviewed and delegated as we speak by Magos Rankol. You are advised to bring the highest diagnostic tools and rites as you can assemble before the next tanker ship leaves Bounty. Fifty six hours.
"This is important work, it seems.”
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Inquisitor Maltheus on August 02, 2013, 07:40:36 PM
=][=

He pushed the data slate aside and leaned forward with his elbows resting on the edge of his desk.  He placed his forehead in his hands, fingers attempting to push the last seven hours of stress from his temples.  A long sigh escaped his lips, as he leaned back in his large chair and closed his eyes for a moment.   Inquisitor Langston Novus was, for the first time in over two centuries…    unsure of what to do next.

 It had been so long…so, why now?  The reports had been coming in more frequently as of late…    from different factions, different Ordos, and from every corner of the Imperium.  And it was not just the Inquisition.  The Adeptus Mechanicus seemed to be involved, or at least interested in some way.  And of course the Rogue Trader network was flooded with hints, stories, and rumors.  All of them, however, were vague and each had their different reasons for being interested… but they all pointed to the same thing in the end…that damned place. 

And that is what disturbed him the most.    Novus wondered, briefly… Could it be back?  He shook his head and shifted in his chair.  That couldn’t be possible.  No… they told him that everything was made rather clear in the end… that its return would not be an issue.  He wasn’t actually there to see or hear what had transpired, but he knew that when the others emerged… they were changed...things were different.  And there was a sense of finality to that situation.

Right now, though… there were too many questions.  He had to get a message out… although, he was sure it would not be a surprise to the others at this point.  The network had eyes and ears everywhere.  Still, he had to let them know… and, he had to seek some guidance.  He wondered briefly if his former mentor would be upset at his uncertainty.  Surely, he would understand.  But, the old man had changed much since then… they all had.

Novus himself had grown into quite an impressive figure.  Standing at just over six feet tall, and weighing a sturdy two hundred pounds of lean muscle, he was a far cry from the boy he was when the old man found him so long ago.  Age and the Inquisition had carved his features into a hard set, yet almost regal appearance.  His deep blue eyes were piercing, and he had the unique ability to intimidate, yet comfort all in one glance.  His long dark hair was pulled up neatly out of his face, and he did his best to keep clean shaven at all times… when possible.  His skin was tanned, and scarred…    a testament to the field work he found himself so impassioned about.  The most prominent scar…    and the oldest...traced a pale pink line from his left temple, down and forward to his cheekbone, and then curved down, ending just under his jaw line.  It was a grim reminder of what was sacrificed in that dreadful time long ago.

 He pushed away from his desk and stood… his muscles stretching involuntarily at the sudden movement.  He had been sitting for quite some time.  He moved toward his wardrobe, and removed his coat, belt, and boots from within.  He smiled for a moment as he put them on, remembering how his first mentor had loved a good pair of boots.  Damn the old man, now…    Cantankerous bastard he was.  Finally, grabbing his seal and throwing it over his head to hang from his neck, he turned and left his chambers.

 

=][=

 As he strode through the halls, Novus’ mind drifted to the old man, his first mentor.  It was the old man who taught him the things he would carry with him through all the years of his training… even to this day.   As a matter of fact, the old man had practically raised him, almost to adulthood...though, their experiences together helped to accelerate Novus’ maturity greatly.  By the time they reached the end, he was still a child, only seventeen years, Terran Standard… hardly a moment’s time at this age… but they were the most important to him.    Novus remembered how the old man had taken to him… more so than the other Acolytes.  He had told Novus that he was special… that he had a gift the others hadn’t.  He learned from the old man, how to use that gift…    How to hone his psychic ability.  Novus had learned so much from him.  He felt privileged to be able to carry on his work today, especially after all that had happened. 

 He turned the corner and entered the operations center.  The relative quiet of the corridor outside the door gave way to a symphony of noise and commotion.  The room was alive with activity.  Auto-scribe servitors were hunched over desks, transcribing coded transmissions that had been intercepted earlier in the week.  Cogitators buzzed and communications terminals flashed and beeped as literally an entire Galaxy of information filtered through.  A slender woman with sharp features and jet black hair stood nearby, watching a row of acolytes work the terminals and process the data that came in.  She paced back and forth, along the row of acolytes, occasionally stopping to scan the details of one of their reports.  She wore a well kept uniform of gray and white...a red sash crossed from left shoulder to right hip.  Interrogator Evangeline Belladonna was the epitome of ruthless efficiency, and cold calculation.

 On the left, hovered over a stack of maps detailing everything from whole systems to individual cities, the Senior Action Officer argued the validity of one of his analyst's thoughts on the defensive merits of a certain asteroid based complex.  Jameson Haney, better known to Novus' retinue simply as 'The Major', was a stout man, standing only five feet tall.  The Major was solid muscle, fueled by a tenacity that would give an Imperial Baneblade a run for its money.  He was an experienced Imperial Guardsman at one point, well decorated and highly honored.  He had left the Guard to serve as Novus' Senior Action Officer nearly thirty five years ago.  He was the best at what he did…    and it showed.  The Major looked up from his maps and stood as he noticed the Inquisitor enter the room.

A broad welcoming smile crossed his faced in greeting, and he placed the smoldering stub of a cigar in his teeth as Novus approached.  With a wave of his hand he dismissed the analysts with whom he had been arguing.  He slowly shook his head side to side and cast a withering gaze at the stack of maps and analysts notes on the table.  Novus looked at the man, and noted briefly that there seemed to be grayer in his salt and pepper hair as of late.  The Inquisitor had grown fond of the man and relied heavily on his tactical experience and advice.

"You're looking old, Major," Novus smiled at him.

"It's not the age, it's the mileage," Haney answered, chewing on the cigar.  "And since I've started working with you, Inquisitor, I have put a lot of miles on these old bones."

"Indeed," Novus nodded.  "So, what do you make of all this?"
 
“Hard to say.  There's plenty of interest in this sector," he pointed at a cluster of stars on a large map that showed half of the system in question.  "And the interested parties, well...they’re coming from everywhere,” He said, a concerned look crossed his face.  “Inquisitor Novus, what is this place?”

Without answering, Novus turned and motioned for Belladonna.  She nodded and made her way to the map table to join them.

“Inquisitor,” she greeted him as she approached. 

“I need to get a message to Hammer,” he said.  His tone was dark, serious.  “He must be told of the Archive, and how far it has reached.”

“Sir, we are still sifting through thousands of reports,” she began in protest. “I cannot possibly begin to give an accurate estimate as to how many it may have touched.”

“We don’t have time for pinpoint accuracy, Eve,” Novus replied, placing a hand on her shoulder.  “It’s clear that it has reached members of every Ordo, every faction.  There is too much exposure, and interest.  It must mean something, and I won’t make a move until I have some guidance from Hammer.”

“As you wish, Inquisitor,” she nodded.  She knew he was right, but she hated giving half answers…especially to Hammer…and she knew that there were going to be questions.

“And open a channel to the Old Man,” he added.

“Are you sure about that?” Haney asked. 

“Yes, Major,” Novus looked at the old Guardsman.  “If anyone should know about this, it should be the Old Man.”

“He doesn’t like it when you call him….you know he prefers it the other way around,” The Major replied, a hint of a warning in his voice.

Inquisitor Novus turned and took a step toward Major Haney.  The Major instinctively took half a step back.  While he feared little in this galaxy, even he knew that crossing Inquisitor Novus bordered on madness.

“Do not question me on this, Major.  I will contact the Old Man.  You want to know what that place is?” Novus pointed at the spot on the map, his voice rising as each sentence escaped his lips.  “It is hell.  It is where the warp opened up and spewed forth every living nightmare that every man, woman, and child within the sector could think of.  That is the place where demons battle…and Gods die.”

All eyes had turned to him.  He took half a step back, and smoothed his jacket.  The Major simply nodded and turned to the table, leaning on it and giving the Inquisitor a moment to gather himself.  Interrogator Belladonna looked around the room…and noted that all work had ceased.  With a scowl and a wave of her hand, the acolytes and other servants all went back to their assigned tasks.

Inquisitor Novus turned and leaned on the table next the Major.  He exhaled slowly.

“It means something,” he started…his voice much more calm now.  “I don’t know what.  I don’t know why someone would choose to expose all that happened there…now, after centuries.  What I do know…is that nothing good can come of it.  Hammer and the Old Man will know what to do next.”

“I understand,” Haney responded, nodding slowly.  “Can I ask…?”
Novus straightened and turned away from the Major.  He walked around the table, tracing a finger along the edge.  His eyes scanned the system map.

“Ask what, Major?”

“Is this the place that…where it happened?”  The Major let out a heavy breath.  “You were there, weren’t you?”

Inquisitor Novus stopped on the opposite side of the table.  He looked at the Major, but it was clear his mind was somewhere else…a million miles away…long ago.

“There was a young guardsman,” Novus explained.  “He wasn’t much older than I was at the time.  Holst….I believe, was his name.  I know he was a good shot…and the Old Man liked him.  And there was a girl…with the most interesting eyes.  They shifted through all the colors of the rainbow…”
His voice trailed off.  He turned and found a chair.  He lowered himself slowly, staring blankly at the floor…
“Everything happened so fast.  We were scattered…all of us.  And then the battles…battles between all sides, even from within.  In the end, The Old Man wanted to honor them…but the powers that be…well…”

He stopped talking and continued to stare at the floor.  Belladonna and the Major exchanged a glance.  She took a step forward, but the Major held up a hand, halting her in her tracks.

“Sir,” he said quietly.  “You wanted to send a message?”


=][=

***
++++ Communications.=I=.TheConclave:Open ++++
++++ <CMD:ClosedFreqBrdCast> ++++
++++ CMD – ACCEPTED ++++
++++ <CMD:Auth//Black-22\\Action:Encryptedtransmission> ++++
++++<ENCRIPTION: DarkMagenta>
++++<To: HAMMER>
++++<From: The HAND>
++++ Subject: Ghosts in the machine ++++
++++ Thought of the Day: History is written by those who survived.++++
Hammer,
Ghosts in the Machine do not bode well for those that lived that life. 
Players from all sides converge on the tomb.
Seeking a path. 
Awaiting guidance.
-The Hand

+++<ENCRIPTION: DarkMagenta>
+++<Transmission sending>++++
+++<Transmission complete>+++



=][=

“What do you mean he’s not there?” Inquisitor Langston Novus’ voice roared through the halls.  He stood, pacing back and forth in his chambers, a vox com speaker hissing and crackling on his desk.  Sitting in a chain in the corner, the Major simply shook his head.  On the other side of the room, Interrogator Belladonna worked at a secured transmission terminal.  The message she just sent for Inquisitor Novus had just gone through.

“I’m sorry Inquisitor,” the voice on the other end of the vox com stammered.  “He left four days ago.  He said he had a meeting, and then from there he was going to go to the Ordo Xenos Headquarters in the Sector Capitol.”

“The man hasn’t left that building in three decades,” Novus’ voice was pure disbelief at that point.  “And now you’re telling me he isn’t even on the planet?!” 
He shot the Major a look of disbelief, which was simply returned with raised hands and a questioning look.  Belladonna watched with an undecipherable expression of stoicism.  Novus both loved and despised that quality in her.

“He did say you might try to be in touch,” The voice informed him.

“Did he now?” Novus asked.  “And…did he have a message…a reprimand….anything?”

“He said to wait.”

“To wait?” Novus chuckled.  “And what does that mean?”

“Well, there’s more…” the voice responded.  “One moment, Inquisitor, while I retrieve the message.  Ah, yes…here it is.  It reads:
  ‘If you are receiving this message, it’s because you have attempted to contact me.  First of all…you know the protocols, and I don’t like it when you contact me. ..’..."

At this, the Major raised an eyebrow and a face splitting grin crossed his lips.  Novus simply returned an impassive glare.

  "... ‘…as far as the archive and our next move…I need you to wait.  Right now, I need you to NOT be Inquisitor Langston Novus.  I need you to do as you are told…I need you to be Ripley.’...That is all that he left, Inquisitor,” the voice informed him.

Novus was quiet for some time.  He had not used that name in over two centuries.  He knew what the Old Man was trying to say…

“Inquisitor?” the voice broke the awkward silence.

“Yes, that will be all,” he answered. “Thank you.”

With that, he pressed a button on his desk disconnecting the secured vox transmission.  He sat in the large chair and let out a long, heavy breath.

“Now what?” the Major asked. 

“Prepare the unit,” Novus said.  “I want everyone ready to leave within the next twenty four hours.  Eve, prepare the ship…and gather your team.”

“Sir?” she replied.  “But I thought the Old Man said…”

“Make the preparations,” Novus interrupted.  “Assemble the Angels.”

She nodded and left the room.  He knew she would assemble her best agents…the ones he had given the nickname “The Fallen Angels.”  He noted the raised eyebrow that had appeared on the Major’s face.  He shrugged.

“What?” Novus asked.

“You and your women,” the Major chuckled.  “So, you’re gathering the Angels.  You think it will get that bad?”

“I don’t know,” Novus admitted.  “But I want to be prepared.”

“Ok,” Haney nodded.  “Now what?”

“You heard the old man,” Inquisitor Langston Novus…once, just a boy known as Ripley…responded.  “Now we wait.”
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Dosdamt on August 22, 2013, 05:57:19 PM
Ghosts of the Past, Vol 1.

The surface of the planet shook again under the weight of the assault. Aithol, home of Morai Heg, was under assault – though, from whom was not obvious at first view. First, spearing in from below the planet, had been the Puritan Council.

Thwarted at Delan’s Point from wreaking any significant havoc, they had come to Aithol in a frenzied blood lust. The journey from the system of Delan had taken further months, and the spacebound politicking hadn’t calmed nerves – it had amplified them to the point of hysteria and zealous madness.

All of them had been left virtually frothing at the mouth – certainly the more intense of their number had been reciting the Creed for months on end and scouring themselves into bloodied ruins with dedications, and so by the time they had reached Aithol they had been hungry to crush virtually anything they could break with their hands, even if that meant each other.

The group of heavily armoured ships had shattered real space and they had speared into the system with all weapon systems bristling. That was when the madness had begun – Amon Dull had already positioned a sizeable force in preparation to reinvade the world. The Chaos vessels had been listing lazily, waiting for the order to commence their assault. It hadn’t come yet, and their lust for battle was rising in their veins.

In the void, high above Aithol, the battle for the soul of the White Child had been locked in.

Barking wildly like an abused dingo, Muundus had urged his forces forward in a relentless assault. There had been no strategy – just blood and vengeance. Little more than prayers had been offered in advice, and the demand that heretics be purged regardless of human cost, and damn the consequences. This was holy prosecuted at its most blind and furious. Those around him had obeyed with little dissention. Those who could sense the madness held back, offering longer ranged firing solutions in an attempt to distance themselves in mindset and literally from their more extreme brethren.

Against a back drop of stars, enough firepower to destroy a hundred planets was exchanged in mere hours. No decisive blow had been struck, but a true war of the heavens had been engaged. Torpedoes sped across the warp missing by hundreds of metres that looked like inches.

Smaller escort ships were being torn apart in storms of fire from the broadsides of their bigger kin, but still no decisive blow was likely to be struck – both fleets were colossal in scope and losing the smaller vessels was nothing more than a scratch on a behemoth creature.

The forces of MenanGauTuis had returned, though they were far more surgical in their forays. They avoided the brutes of both the Imperium and Amon’Dull, focusing instead on the forces that had landed on Aithol. They ran down the invading mon’keigh wherever they found them, dividing and obliterating with clever ambushes, flowing hit and run assaults and the brutish power of their wraith legions.

Aithol would not be easily won.

Suddenly the edge of the system burst with another light – out of which slunk a familiar vessel last seen in this system exiting quickly.

Futility.

The vessel speared into the system, on full battle alert. It was an aggressive looking ship – it’s twin, Mentirius’ old vessel, had never looked as predatory as Futility, but perhaps that was because of her captain.

Balkoth stared into the system with absolute serenity. He looked battered and bruised, but resolute – around him, Amaurn, Junious, Maltheus, Stryde, Karl Falkus. They watched on, waiting. Futility snarled as a restrained blood hound anxious for the signal to hunt as she turned, coming about towards Aithol. His shoulders were square and back, his hands relaxed and lacking absolutely in tension. Around him, the others ticked, shrugged and sighed, narrowing eyes, but Balkoth was ever and specifically Balkoth,  complete and assured.
 
An alliance of the desperate, Balkoth

So it might be

I’ll kill you last, so you can see your failure laid bare

Deicide is a dish best served cold, and I have experience with the hanger

Futility moved with purpose, coming about behind the conflict. A great boneyard of vessels was already here, planet smashing weaponry turned on significantly more delicate ships in the void. Fires from pockets of flammable material burned brightly for seconds before the oxygen drowned in the spiteful vacuum.

A few of the small escorts of the Puritans came about the witness and approach this new threat, but they posed no danger to the hulking apex predator.

“Come about, and bring us into orbit over Aithol. Ready all weapons; I want pre-emptive strikes against anyone lining a shot, even if it is across our bow. Give me maximum speed and shields. Prepare yourselves.”

Futility’s colossal frontal weapons, huge lances, hung loose as bared fangs. At the sides, weapon batteries became poison spines alongside the beast, and then as a shark might beat its caudal fin the engines of the ship ignited and pushed it through the void.

=I=

The Devil's Deal

“I suppose, ladies and gentlemen, this is the point I play my hand.”

More than a man – more, indeed, than many mortals altogether; he didn’t drift into view so much as become the view, regardless of surroundings and situation. And even as blood was shed, and even as the chorus of daemons drove wretched barbs into the ears of every man who could hear them, and even as the mightiest of the Imperium’s heroes fell – at this very moment, he could well have been the only mortal in existence – mortality was important, here, for this was no warp fuelled entity nor any simple servant of chaos. It was more.

A penchant for the dramatic very rarely cut it when describing the man wielding a daemon sword with grim purpose - he hadn't just arrived in the middle of any conflict - this was a cataclysmic nightmare become real. All around the screams of the dying echoed and the howls of the twisted gripped the mind yet here he stood, somewhat resplendent, somewhat haggard - entirely grandiose.

His cloak was ripped and his armour scored with what should have been multiple fatal wounds. The face was familiar to only two of those present - the horns, sweeping over his black hair that hung ragged down to his pock marked and scarred face – this man looked very different to the last time that those who recognized him had seen him. Somewhat less regal than then compared to now, though no less deadly and no less coiled with purpose – if there was anything that defined this man, it was purpose.

“Though, Christian, I don’t think this time you are here for me.”

“Balkoth.”

The name resonated with all the spite Amaurn had saved across a dozen conflicts and multiple days spent crawling through the worst nightmares Amon'Dull had imagined and brought forth.

"This, Inquisitors, is the end. Not a good end, certainly not a glorious end, but I assure you this is very much the end. It is a death scrabbling in the dirt, choking for your last breath while those of greater sight and purpose watch on impassive to your fate."

"Bastard, Balkoth! I'll see you dead!"

"Unfortunately for you, Amaurn, the only way you, and this goes for the rest of you as well, will ever have a chance to see me dead is if you do exactly as I say. I have no business here more than my own, and that business isn't you. I have the same regard for your lives as I have always had, that is to say naught and perhaps even in your case Amaurn nothing more than cold disregard.”

Overhead a wild flutter of AmonDull's servants descended again to be annihilated in the combined fire of several of those Inquisitors and assorted retinues not dead from the traps or denizens of Aranis. Even as they wrestled with the depths of nightmares made real – hideous tentacled freaks drooling wildfire, green eyed and wild, flailing limbs – few could take their eyes off Balkoth, even those born of the immaterium, such was his presence.

“To whit – to prove one's existence is to know purpose, to have a bearing on our reality and be worthy of mortality. So I would ask – who amongst you is worth to live? What are you prepared to do to live?”

“Really Balkoth, a game now?” screamed Maltheus, wafting an arm, “In the middle of this?”

“There is rarely a better time than the present to do anything, Christian. It is the where and the how that often drives us mad. You may think here is inappropriate, and to have a discourse of all things seems like grotesque liberty on my part.”

He paused for a second, swatting an angel out of the sky with the ease a lazy cat might swat a butterfly.

“The reality is, this situation is the how – you are fighting for your existence, you will die here unless I intervene. This is the moment when your reality should mean the most. The very thoughts that drive you, that define you, that give you purpose should be at the very forefront of your every thought. Life is on the line – each of you, and not even one of you is prepared to stand up to me and give me a reason as to why any of you should live?”

Balkoth scoffed.

“Are you all so bound into dying for this cause?”

=I=

What Legacy is Written

A Report on Lord Inquisitor Balkoth;

Commissioned by the Lord Ordos Malleus Cadian, M41.987

As vile as he had seemed and certainly as his legacy might suggest, Lord Inquisitor Balkoth should not and cannot be judged on what he said, or believed in – he should be judged in terms of what achieved and what his results were. In terms of the Inquisition, while it would pretend to deal without absolutes and judge somewhere in grey, too many see in black and white and for that reason Balkoth had always seemed treacherous and thus a wretch and nothing he ever did should be regarded in anything other than the lowest of esteem.

His methods had always been deemed too extreme. His various treatise – all from early in his career, when perhaps he valued the Inquisition more than later in his life – had been insightful, dramatic as ever he was, and terrifying. They speculated on the nature of the Warp, reality, and other esoteric concepts. They speculated on the nature of existence, how weapons might be wrought from the Warp, daemonology and proscribed arts, and on the chaos gods themselves.

Never one to pull his punches, Balkoth used his intelligence and eloquence to simply express his views; controversial views no doubt – but views the Inquisitorial seal gave him the right and the protection to hold. Dangerous views.

The reaction from the Monodominant extreme was as loud as it was predictable.

Such are geniuses pilloried and driven underground. The good Balkoth might have done, in the light of the Emperor and the full pull of his seal is incalculable, and lost.

The second trait of important when speaking of Balkoth was his formidable and incredible foresight – an ability to see not simply a move ahead, but generations ahead. And thus, he had secreted himself no small reserve of allies, resources and agents hidden across the Imperium, in preparation for the inevitable declaration of him as Excommunicate Traitoris.

No small rift opened at the time of the Carta, with his more vocal and visible supporters attempting to delay and deride the Carta as frivolous, fuelled by fear rather than true knowledge of Balkoth’s fall. As it past and was signed into effect, it unleashed no small number of hounds.

Balkoth’s death – alleged – ceased these, and his death came within fifteen years of the Carta. That he was never really troubled by those chasing is a testament to his fortitude and his foresight. Grandstanding and grandmaster that he was, he ensured the chasing pack of baying zealous hounds were kept at arm’s reach and scenting distance.

As such, actions thought to be perpetrated by cults, other renegade elements, or agents of chaos have since been revisited, and the evidence now indicates the intervention of Balkoth. Events and consequences have been extrapolated, and the net impact is discussed in section three. Suffice to say, the results are impressive and a number of the interventions have consequences running for centuries.

Balkoth permanently and decisively widened and enlightened the debate of the Xanthitic method. He educated a plethora of Inquisitors, and while a certain lineage of heresy cannot be denied, taken on balance he did reinforce the knowledge of the Enemy Beyond that is held by the Inquisition, providing valuable insights still indirectly relied upon today – for example, the Treatise of Mortis Daemonica by Inquisitor Wilfred Pastor is of course simply the re-packaged work of Balkoth – his name may not be on the book for reasons of perception but the work is valuable and cannot be dismissed because of its author.

To round out this summary, Balkoth cannot be judged in any simple way. While a posthumous revocation of his status as excommunicat traitoris cannot be recommended – segment four discusses in great detail the depths of his heretical acts – but what must be discussed is his legacy.

=I=

Rebellion

“What do we gain by killing him, you fool!”

“Satisfaction! He is the reason this mess exists, Maltheus, remember that! This wretch is dealing in hubris alone, he doesn’t care about his consequences or what is left of mankind. He cares about Balkoth, and about Balkoth’s legacy, but nothing more – he turned on Amon Dull, on Drazh Marazel, because he could.

This is the essence of the man – he does what he can, because he only ever does what he wills. He will not toe the line; he will leave us to die when it suits him.”

“Like he did on Aranis?”

“Aranis was his conceit and another victory for Balkoth! Don’t you see – if we trust him, if we even ally ourselves – temporarily or otherwise with this man we are sure to end up dead. His roaring intellect is second only to his misplaced belief in his own omnipotence and arrogan-“

“That sounds familiar.”

Amaurn shot the wounded, but still standing, Jenna Stryde a look that would have withered lesser beings out of existence.

“His arrogance, and his only objective here is to please Balkoth. Do you have any idea what went on in Secret’s Hold before Mentirius inherited that miserable place? Have you any idea what he is capable of? You’re all showing a naivety I had hoped would be purged from the Inquisition in this time of madness. How many seals are here, hmmm? How many of you pretend you have the vision and the choler for the ultimate sanction, and here all of you balk at killing one man. He is one man.”

Amaurn let silence invade before he continued, ensuring they all had eyes only on him.

“You remember a ship called The Eye?  A choir of tortured psykers used as a weapon, built into a vessel half the size of a planet and powerful enough to scour one twice over?  Balkoth designed it.  By himself.  He was also responsible for the untimely and agonising death of his own daughter, but that's another story. He isn’t just insane, he is wildly dangerous to you, to him, to her, to all of us if we let him live.”

Amaurn, still bleeding profusely from an ugly wound in his shoulder caused by Dhusgin snarled his final words of the diatribe.

“He must die.”

“You want to kill out of some ill-considered need for revenge. I was on the Eye at the end. I saw him stare down a Solitaire, I saw him bluster through the madness of Aithol, and I know what happened on that damned ship. For all his madness, for all his conceits and arrogance – he knows this daemon, he knows it even better than I.”

That especially held weight with all present – most could see the pressure Maltheus was putting himself under and the physical toll was showing. His cheeks were more gaunt than before, and no doubt many of the wounds he’d suffered in the labyrinth would add another layer of scar tissue to an already tortured body. He sighed – and his armor showed the damage Balkoth had inflicted when they had come for him – a great crack down one side, a bloodied rend on the other side. Even alone, even with Istaranastari, even with Amaurn, Junious, Stryde, Grisbane and Karl Falkus, Balkoth hadn’t been taken easily.

Most of them were licking their wounds. A few unfortunates were recovering in the medicae bay – less of those would fail to survive the night.

“We could not let him dictate the terms for passage to Aithol. Nor could we let him control how we would assail our foe, on those points we all agreed. But to murder him now is insanity.”

Maltheus strained, his battered ribs paining him. Swelling above his right eye was starting to go a deep red and crowd out his eyelid.

“If nothing else he must live beyond this so he can be tried. The Emperor and the Imperium must see justice done, and before that he must be pressed into service.”

Junious raised his eyebrows at Maltheus’ words.

“Christian?” he began

“I’m sure, Junious. This is right, we’re not in the business of murdering our brothers and colleagues and nor are we in the business of ignoring an advantage when it presents himself. Don’t you see – even you Amaurn – a man of the vision to build that damned insane weapon is the same man we need to stare down that damned beast. This isn’t just a conflict between us, petty little rivalries running rampant, this is a duel to the end with a beast that wants to rip out the heart of humanity and commit genocide on a scale the likes of which has literally never been seen before.”

“These are dark times brothers and sisters, dark and foreboding, and if nothing else we need a guide who has spent his entire life living in the damned darkness.”

Maltheus rubbed his chin, feeling the stubble underneath his fingers. He couldn’t bring himself to look at Balkoth, or Amaurn.

“This is not a choice. This alliance-“ he held his hand up, “Perhaps the wrong word. But you cannot doubt his goals, even if he might choose to achieve them in an unconventional way. He has double crossed it before, and yes he has cost lives but how many has he saved? In the grand schemes of things…”

Maltheus didn’t speak, just for a second.

“Isn’t Balkoth everything the Inquisition is supposed to be?”

=I=

Nine Lives

Nine

“This is it, Balkoth,” sneered Amaurn. “I hope the rest of you are ready for this lunacy.”

Balkoth stood with an almost serene confidence. The lander plummeted ever faster towards the planet. Below them the carnage reaved by the charge of the immortals – Voor’Acht, Landen Dosdamt, Charax the Eternal – was staggering. The forces of MenagauTuis had clearly thought better of being in the cross fire, and had withdrawn with surgical precision. Not a single Eldar soul had been lost as they had moved, as one, to a waiting warp gate and re-directed their own forces.

The devastation sown had almost cracked the crust of the planet such was the ferocity with which they had attacked. Fissures had blown out from below the earth. Warp energy was cracking reality and smashing across the service, blasting apart formations of troops and heavy armor alike.

Below him, Junious could see the flailing chain of one of the monsters smashing apart Amon’Dull’s lines; in another, a staggering amount of biological effluence was flowing from what had been a counter attack by Amon’Dull’s forces. It had been lashed back by the Eternal, forcing them to turn back in a shower of their own bodily juices and detritus which had come on like a tsunami of melting corpses.

Eight

Still, the malign presence of Amon’Dull hung over all of them. Even the presence of the three Daemon Princes hadn’t tempted out Amon’Dull – instead, it had chosen to remain aboard its colossal vessel in orbit. Waiting, with all the patience of a spider confident its prey had fallen into its trap. Hunched over on its vessel, nine eyes watched. It would watch until the perfect moment.

Seven

“What are you prepared to sacrifice?” said Balkoth loud enough for all to hear, but not nearly quiet enough for it to have been a murmur to himself.

“If this is the end of humanity, to birth a new god in hatred, what price to defy the will of immortals?”

Six

“The inexorable pull of centuries, Inquisitors. A coil and ken beyond our reckoning, but here, now, we have the opportunity to change it.”

“We all feel the gravity of fate, and like immobile wretches we cling onto the face of the earth hoping we won’t have to, we won’t be forced to, take charge of something so large we cannot comprehend it.”

Five

“The creed tells us the Emperor has a plan for us. The books of Chaos demand obedience. They might as well be one and the same – absolve responsibility for your life to a higher power. Bow. Obey. Believe.”

Four

“The paths of the Eldar demand adherence over all things, the dark kin are slaves to fear, but both lock themselves away from the galaxy praying for deliverance from the monsters that come for them.”

Three

“The Tau demand loyalty to the greater good, yet they scrabble around in the dirt looking for meaning in their existence.”

Two

“I choose to rip up the plan. I choose to disobey. I am no adherent, I do not fear man nor immortal, and I do not believe in any greater good. I am versed in the skeins of fate, and here and now I demand another way. I am no slave, nor are any of you – when I ask you what you would sacrifice, Inquisitors, I look only for one thing – sacrifice your fear of inevitability and allow yourself to believe – deep in your animal cores – truly believe you can make a difference.”

One

“Inevitability is nothing.”

The sky darkened, and the ground rumbled hard. Overhead, clouds in the sky roiled and flashed with unnatural light – not lightning – something even brighter. For a split second, a white hand, the size of a sky scraper, swept up into the sky, engulfing Balkoth’s lander in bright, mind splitting light.

The planet shook violently again, this time knocking most to the ground. The ground itself became liquid for a second, pure warp, and in a second flash all those on the surface were gone – not destroyed, not dead, merely sent back to their ships clustered in orbit.

And where Aithol might have been before, and where reality had once been solid and reliable, there was nothing but empty space and a child’s laughter.
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on August 23, 2013, 04:43:45 AM
Aliestra hung like a rusted sphere against the lightless backdrop of space. She was told that it used to be an Imperial world once home to over three billion human citizens and yet the sight of the orb before her through the landers’ starboard porthole stirred within her a notion of doubt in what she was told.

The planet had been reclassified some three hundred years ago to a dead world; that much was on record, but the nature of what cataclysm had caused such a mass extinction of almost all life on the surface had not been included. The only organisms left were the simplistic algae that maintained a thin but breathable atmosphere. However, for all intents and purposes, Aliestra could never become habitable by human life again. Another Imperial world lost, like so many others: to the tyranids’ insatiable hunger, to the dynastic dominance of the necrons, to the malign expansion of the Eye and like a decaying shroud with its edges being devoured by maggots, the Imperium was falling into darkness. Now, petty fiefdoms from other alien species such as the charon, the cohesive legion of the naar and the zbor of zabami spread like patches of mould upon the fabric of the Imperium of Man. The future was dimming and the lesser alsorans were now hearkening to the final dying flame of the guttering candle; the eldar now little more than dispersed vagrants and the dynamic tau empire, once thought a considerable threat, crippled before the weight of a greater enemy. Aliestra was a stark testament that even nature, with her vindictive whimsy and disasters, seemed adamant to included humanity in that list of species due for extinction.

Jezebel was worried; what if all her struggles culminated into naught but a futile rage against the dying of the light? What if their planning was too little too late? Was the Imperium truly doomed if it fails to wake whilst its extremities are ravaged as it slumbers in near-death? It wouldn’t be too long before a major organ is consumed, the loss of Cadia, subsumed into the Eye, had been a devastating blow that forced our retreat to the new gate-worlds of Hydraphur, Stygies and Mordia, but it had almost lost the Imperium the Segmentum Obscurus.

The lander shuddered as it yawed to starboard following the curvature of Alietra’s thermosphere and prepared for its positive entry angle; portside the Shadow over Aberystwyth became a shrinking city floating in the void. The striated plasteel decking beneath her feet suddenly dropped away as a cogitator error in course plotting suddenly altered the crafts’ alignment; Jezebel was suspended for a slow-motion moment until the meager grav-counters rectified this unexpected change of state and she was propelled gracelessly to the ground, forcing her to grapple hold of the overhanging clutch bars lest she be thrown face-forward into adjacent bulkhead.

“Beggin’ your pardon, Lady de la Vega, better take a seat and strap in before we hit atmo,” came a gruff voice behind her, “the turbulence of entry will buffet you about something dangerous.”

Jezebel nodded, found herself an empty chair and buckled herself into the safety harness. She closed her eyes and listen to the chatter of the armed and armoured men-, and women-, at-arms surrounding her. She’d been travelling under an alias as a noble woman from Estalia, and whilst the vessels’ seneschals had been originally perplexed when they realised that her destination was a dead world, they had come to their own conclusions that she was some kind of amateur in search of buried archeotech and saw fit that she’d be provided an escort to the surface despite her charter with the Shadow being only one-way. Perhaps they were worried she might attempt to steal the lander, she mused amused, as the craft began to sway, a hurtling comet trailing fire across the mesosphere of Aliestra.

=][=

The ground was soft, like freshly tilled earth, beneath her booted feet. It was colder than she expected and she huddled tightly in her brocaded bolero to fight off the unconscious paroxysms of chill. The landing party had dropped her about half a kilometer from the rendezvous site and she could spy her compatriots awaiting her in the near distance. She had dismissed her chaperones almost immediately upon planetfall, but not before purloining a munitorum issue rebreather to help combat the potential onset of hypoxia. The roar of the landers’ plasma-cycling jets faded, leaving Jezebel in absolute silence and it was the most remarkable thing she had ever experienced. There was no sound beyond her own bodily rhythms. Aliestra no longer harboured any life, no flora or fauna, or man-made machines; its barometric pressure was practically zero resulting in no tidal winds to howl across the absent landscape. She was sure that few in the Imperium ever got to experience absolute silence, for where there was life there was noise; and this truly was a dead world. She shuddered at an encroaching loneliness that seemed to echo of mankind’s future should she fail and started walking.

=][=

They had been waiting for her for a few days, but with warp-space as agitated as it was these past decades; it was a small miracle they hadn’t arrived several centuries apart. The suited Montague stood with his ever-present aide and personal telepath: Mister Riegert, looking bored but on edge. The skull-masked Klondike mingled with his mute ‘stage hands’ garbed in kaleidoscopic unitards and mirror masks and the robed Shoaibhim, Absalom, perched his crooked countenance in attendance, leaning over the back of an antiquated chair of fathomless mechanical construct which held, bound and hooded, the Messenger, ensconced within a cocoon of wires and cables.

Her short trek had left her breathless and periodically drawing fresh oxygen through the vulcanized rubber mask clipped to the collar of her jacket. The gazes of the gathering swiveled in her direction as she approached. She felt the eyes of Mister Riegert linger at length upon her and the greasy sensation of psychic pseudopodia beginning to stroke the very personal space of her own mind. He suddenly winced in pain; the ciphers of the Administratum are not so easily invaded by mind-rapists and she still had the redundancy loops and countermeasures installed since novicehood, designed to emit a painful feedback of white static to any psyker stupid enough to attempt a reading.

“Report,” she instructed, her voice muffled through the cup.

“I have received word that the angel has returned to Tellurus; the Lighthouse still awaits the testing phase,” spoke the melodic voice of Klondike.

“Can he handle that?” She enquired incredulously.

“Unknown. The angel doubts that his strength will be sufficient. We need the prodigal son,” he replied, turning his deathmask towards Montague.

“Yeah, about that,” he drawled, his ebony skin beaded with perspiration, “we lost him.”

Putain d’idiot!” spat Jezebel in her native tongue, ripping off her oxygen mask “You lost him!? How?”

“He developed consciousness faster than we imagined…” began Mister Riegert

“He woke up,” interrupted Montague, dabbing his shaven scalp with a linen handkerchief, “what did you expect? You tried to cage a god in a laboratory.”

“What happened?” she sighed, rubbing the bridge of her nose, eyes closed in irritation, “how did he escape?”

Montague looked pensively towards his aide who busied himself cycling though data on a stylish, silvered plasteel slate.

“That’s currently unclear,” droned Riegert, “at oh-four-twenty-seven lab security was breached. The guards’ response was immediate, but they found chamber eight empty. They searched the grounds, but owing to the darkness and the storm they found nothing. Survey teams are currently canvassing the local cities…”

“Could he have been taken?” asked Klondike.

“Doubtful,” answered Jezebel, “no one beyond those involved in the project knew of him, and no one beyond us know his true origins or purpose.”

“One of your brothers or sisters?” Montague leveled at her accusingly, “the Inquisition could have pieced it together.”

“Again, doubtful,” she shook her head, “all records are physical and stored in the vaults, nothing is kept electronically. The Inquisition could not have retrieved any information short of walking into the vaults themselves.”

“A mole then?” enquired Klondike.

“That’s possible,” conceded Mister Riegert, “we can schedule interviews of all the staff once we get back to the installation.”

“With his predicted power,” interjected Absalom, speaking for the first time, “isn’t it possible that he could simply have vanished? He may not even be on the same world anymore.”

“Teleportation?” clarified Riegert raising a skeptical eyebrow.

“That’s unlikely,” refuted Jezebel, “given what we know about the father, it is improbable that the son would exhibit such capabilities. Regardless of how, do I need to remind you all that this project has been a hundred years in the making? One hundred years! One hundred years of research and several dead ends: several failures. He is our first viable success.”

“We’ll find him,” argued Montague.

“Yes you will,” warned Jezebel sharply, “and I’ll see to it personally. Once our business is concluded here, I will be joining you back at the installation.”

“Speaking of which,” rumbled Absalom, resting gnarled hands upon the shoulders of the hooded captive, “three more minor houses have joined the Shoaibhim, our ranks have swelled by another seventy-three members.”

“That makes more than five-hundred now,” exclaimed Jezebel in quiet surprise, “so who is this unfortunate bastard?”

“Are you truly shocked?” asked the elderly astropath rhetorically, “most can see by now the dying of the light, they are afraid of the coming darkness, and this ‘religion’ gives them comfort. This one, however, feigned his belief and would reveal us to the authorities. His house abandoned him to our judgment.”

The chair the unfortunate messenger was shackled to was an archaic piece of torturous technology was called a Utrecht’s Obsequiem, only thirteen were ever said to have been made and were designed to induce control and compliance in psykers. It was a priceless artefact and one that had a greater purpose ahead, but currently a mundane necessity to force the messenger to send an important message.

“Do you have the codes?” he continued.

“I have,” she affirmed, retrieving the small storage device from her jacket pocket.

“Are they genuine?” pressed Absalom, “Can you confirm their veracity?”

“I can, and they should be considering who I got them from”.

“How can you be sure?” interjected Montague.

Jezebel glanced back, frowning in irritation, “because he was personally responsible for the man’s death,” she sighed, exasperated, handing over the storage device to Absalom.

The decrepit astropath took the device without further questions and slotted it into one of the brass oblong ports with a hollow click. Arcane wiring and cathode tubes hummed and glowed as the chair awoke with a whine of increasing power. The hood was removed, revealing the battered, scowling face of the traitor, his milky orbs glaring blind hate and swollen bruises blossoming across his sunken features. He mumbled impotent rage through the leather gag tied tightly across his mouth as Absalom connected thin cables into his cranial-jacks and adjusted dials on the consol affixed to the chairs’ back.

With an almost perverse relish, the Shoaibhim plucked up the final neural-spike and inserted it roughly into the astropaths’ cerebellum port. The traitors’ eyes went wide as the compliance circuits of the Obsequiem sent crackling arcs of volition-altering algorithms directly into the deep centers of his brain, his body shook with violent paroxysms as grand mal seizures gripped him. Absalom’s fingers danced over the consols’ keypad, and with a final stroke, the message coupled with codes filtered into the traitors’ overridden mind and began uploading to astropathic channels.

Jezebel turned away as, having chewed through his gag in viciously wild spasms, the astropath shrieked which raised to oddly-modulated, synthesized screams: “Message sending,” informed Absalom, blind eyes reading the aura-trails, “verifying,” another pause, “Message received – confirmed.”

“Let us just hope the codes are valid,” quipped Montague sardonically.

“The codes haven’t changed since the Heresy,” snapped Jezebel, drawing a Lockyer .62 stub-handgun from a leather holster buckled to her hip, “and the authority is sound, even if it is, or rather was, three hundred years old.”

There was a split-second descending whine as the chair powered down, its occupant, head slumped onto his chest, unconscious from shock. Faint wisps of smoke curled from the ports studding his skull.

“Do we have any more need of him?” asked Jezebel. The Shoaibhim shook his head in reply. “Then release him,” she instructed.

Unplugged and disconnected, the clamps and bindings of the Obsequiem snapped open and, with help from Klondikes’ stagehands, the limp form of the stunned astropath was dragged from the chair and pitched face-first to the damp ground. No sooner had his head hit the earth, Jezebel fired a single shot. With a loud thundercrack, the traitors’ skull shattered, the impact of the round sending blood and gobbets of cerebral matter splattering across the mud and spraying onto a rock with the name ‘Eurydice’ etched into its surface like crude graffiti.

“Leave the body here,” she instructed, “Klondike, go with Absalom, take the Obsequiem back to Tellurus, have it reinstalled in the lighthouse and convene with the angel.”

Klondike nodded silently and joined the Shoaibhim, directing his stagehands with complex hand gestures. The temperature dropped sharply as they circled the Obsequiem, and within the blink of an eye, vanished from sight, leaving Jezebel alone with Montague and Mister Riegert. She regarded the cooling corpse of the traitor once more with distain.

“What do you think this means?” asked Montague, gesturing to the makeshift headstone with an inclination of his head.

“It means nothing,” she replied after a moment’s pause, “Let’s go and find the prodigal son.”

=][=

Rigel Sector, Segmentum Solar. Galactic North of Terra, Stellar Ref: 335φ.4322λ.ξ

From a distance it appeared like a needle, a thin sliver of silver upon an endless ocean of invisible black satin. In this place directions were mere concepts without bearings or reference, but closer still, and the needle became a fletched javelin, irregularly striated with crenellations and ramparts. Indra’s Arrow, a single seemingly insignificant naval battlecruiser alone to patrol the void in fact held a deceptive secret: a stockpile of exterminatus armaments.

Within, a solitary figure marched down the length of a steam filled corridor, jack boots rang off the burnished mesh grating beneath his feet, a steady staccato with every footfall. It was unusual for Captain Oppenheimer to be called to the bridge outside the watch schedule unless there was an all quarters call to arms. Instead, the intraship communiqué to his cabin mentioned a message had been received, something of Omega-Red urgency that require a shipmasters authority to open.

The pneumatics of the final bulkhead hissed and pealed open, anticipating the captains’ stride, and within moments, Oppenheimer walked into the tense atmosphere of the Arrow’s primary bridge.

“Captain on the bridge!” someone cried as he tried in vain to rub the fatigue from his eyes.

“As you were,” he mumbled and waved a hand dismissively. First officer Romuska rose from the command throne and saluted smartly. His commander had the pallid complexion of a void-born youth, but at least it was free from the stigmata of tiredness that currently marred the features of Oppenheimer. He returned the salute and stifled an irresistible yawn.

“Okay, Commander, what do we have?” he sighed.

“At oh-three-fifty-three shiptime astropath Creighton received a transmitted message listed as Omega-Red, its encoded, but I recognise an Inquisition cipher when I see one,” reported Romuska, proffering a brass framed dataslate.

The Inquisition. Oppenheimer was suddenly awake; the only reason why the Inquisition would contact the Arrow would be to issue the ultimate sanction. He placed a thumb onto the gene-reader interface pad and entered his personal code when prompted. Digits cycled as the message decoded and his blood went cold.

“Signalman! I want this authority verified!” he barked, copying the relevant data to a separate slate. A uniformed officer collected the slate and returned to his workstation, experienced fingers working smoothly and swiftly over the consols’ keyboard.

“What’s wrong, Captain?” asked Romuska in a circumspect whisper.

Oppenheimer raised a hand in silent belay, watching intently as glowing vert symbols scrolled and cascaded down the signalmans’ monitor display. Moments passed breathlessly for Oppenheimer, until the officers’ furious typing ceased and he turned back to his waiting captain: “Authority verified, sir, its genuine.”

His legs lost solidarity and he stumbled forward, leaden hands groping for the command throne. Romuska was suddenly by his side in assistance, guiding him to sit down.

“Captain?” he enquired with a voice full of concern.

Oppenheimer slumped in the seat, closed his eyes, took a deep breath and buried his face in the faux-solitude of his hands. His throat became too dry to utter anything beyond a hoarse croaking: “We have been given orders to deliver a final sanction.”

Romuska blinked dumbstruck. Few men in the whole eleven-thousand years of the Imperium have ever witnessed the death of a world – the annihilation of all life upon the surface of a planet. Exterminatus, the final sanction. By now, all activity on the bridge has ceased and all eyes were turned expectantly towards Oppenheimer.

The commander gulped half-formed words, before settling on: “What is our target, Captain?”

“Lord Inquisitor K. Ishigiru, Lord of Ordos Terran has issued the command phrase: Mons Olympus Has Fallen,” Oppenheimer turned his face to Romuska, wide eyes haunted by the very future they were about to make, “Our target is Mars.”
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Macabre on August 23, 2013, 04:47:17 AM
+++ Astropathic Message +++
   [decoding#error]
+++ Subject: 51-61-6a-6b-66-70 +++
+++ Sender: 6873616273676f696f +++
+++ Recipient: CC://= [unknown] +++
+++ Astropathic Duct: Kritschgau, J +++

44-54-2e-20-51-61-6a-6b-66-20-79-6c-72-20-63-6c-6f-20-71-61-69-20-73-6c-74-69-70-2e-20-51-61-69-79-20-77-62-67-67-20-6b-69-76-69-6f-20-67-69-71-20-62-71-20-61-6a-6d-6d-69-6b-20-75-72-71-20-62-71-20-77-62-67-67-20-6d-6f-6c-76-69-20-71-61-69-20-69-6f-6f-6c-6f-20-6c-63-20-75-67-62-6b-74-20-6c-75-69-74-62-69-6b-73-69-20-71-6c-20-75-6f-6c-66-69-6b-20-70-79-70-71-69-68-2e-20-51-61-69-20-75-6f-69-6a-66-74-6c-77-6b-20-75-69-71-77-69-69-6b-20-71-61-69-20-48-69-73-61-6a-6b-62-73-72-70-20-6a-6b-74-20-62-6b-6e-72-62-70-62-71-62-6c-6b-20-70-61-6c-72-67-74-20-66-69-69-6d-20-75-6c-71-61-20-6d-6a-6f-71-62-69-70-20-6a-71-20-69-6a-73-61-20-6c-71-61-69-6f-70-20-71-61-6f-6c-6a-71-70-20-63-6c-6f-20-6a-20-67-6c-6b-65-20-71-62-68-69-20-71-6c-20-73-6c-68-69-20-6a-6b-74-20-75-67-62-6b-74-20-71-6c-20-6c-72-6f-20-6a-73-71-62-6c-6b-70-2e-20-51-61-69-20-67-6c-6b-65-70-71-6a-6b-74-62-6b-65-20-6a-67-67-62-6a-6b-73-69-20-75-69-71-77-69-69-6b-20-71-69-6f-6f-6a-20-6a-6b-74-20-68-6a-6f-70-20-77-62-67-67-20-75-69-20-70-71-6f-6a-62-6b-69-74-20-71-6c-20-75-6f-69-6a-66-62-6b-65-20-6d-6c-62-6b-71-2e-20-51-61-69-20-6d-6c-67-62-71-62-73-6a-67-20-63-6a-67-67-6c-72-71-20-77-62-67-67-20-61-6a-76-69-20-71-61-69-20-73-62-71-62-7a-69-6b-70-20-74-69-68-6a-6b-74-62-6b-65-20-6a-20-6b-69-77-20-72-71-6c-6d-62-6a-20-6a-6b-74-20-77-69-20-62-6b-71-69-6b-74-20-71-6c-20-74-69-67-62-76-69-6f-20-62-71-2e-20-42-20-77-62-70-61-20-79-6c-72-20-77-6c-72-67-74-20-6f-69-73-6c-6b-70-62-74-69-6f-20-68-79-20-6c-63-63-69-6f-2c-20-75-72-71-20-42-20-6a-6d-6d-6f-69-73-62-6a-71-69-20-71-61-69-20-6f-69-67-72-73-71-6a-6b-73-69-20-71-61-6a-71-20-73-6c-68-69-70-20-77-62-71-61-20-6c-67-74-20-6a-65-69-2e
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: TheNephew on August 30, 2013, 01:15:58 AM
Jostenn stood in his quarters, feeling the deep hum of the ship engines, the background buzz of a thousand systems checking and reporting and comparing, the whispers and clicks of his workshop servitors calibrating.

Disassembling and transferring his kit to the Selene had taken barely a day cycle, leaving ample time to update a unit of his servitors and order task queues for the remaining dozen. Modules meditating on the damage to Martisberg, the abilities of Magos Hieron Rankol, and the work invested into his languages reported back to conclude that a primer on the basic cadences should be prepared, but more would be unnecessary. The complex stages could be completed upon his return.

Next door was one of House Pellick’s auditors, conveniently not just aboard the same ship, but in the adjacent cabin. He was a sickly man, thin and grey. Rankol, a neurologist, had informed Baader that he suspected weak cranial insert dendron splicing. The man’s assistant sat in the deck technician’s cupboard bunk at the end of the corridor, sharing a small bottle of fine amasec. None had made more than a token effort to introduce themselves.

He returned his attention to the servitor in front of him. Configuring the dozen of them would be an ample distraction over the short voyage.





Once again Magos Jostenn Baader entered through the high arch of the reception hall of House Pengrave. The doors creaked closed behind him, painstakingly  tuned to give the opening bars of ‘March of Saint Lucien’, one of the House’s more popular devotionals. On his previous visit, close to a decade ago, it had been a hymn by Piety Pengrave, a scion of the house making great progress through the Ecclesiarchy’s ranks. Idly he wondered how often that was changed. It fitted with the change in decor, scattered clusters of chaise longue and chairs occupied by chattering gentry of fabulous wealth replaced with a stark white room a hundred paces wide and twice that long containing just a handful of chairs beside a table, and a dozen equidistantly spaced empty fireplaces.

Close to the back wall sat the Duchess Valery Pengrave, a voluminous monochromatic gown matching her surroundings, a silver tea set on the table by her arm. The Duchess retained the porcelain perfection of their last meeting, an artfully shaped beauty spot the only mark on her fashionably alabaster visage, broad smooth cheeks delicately rouged, silver filigree ribbons holding back great waves of artificially static jet hair, dripping pearls and gems that mirrored the constellations of the neighbouring Doraden System as seen from the Northern hemisphere. But for her bearing, and the strength of her stare, she might have been twenty-two, her appearance belying a career spanning close to a century in the upper echelons of the Imperium's merchant elite.

Jostenn’s chosen face was similarly pale, a masterpiece of fine actuator construction and base-neural interfacing, skinned with a perfect cover of just-rough-enough tan syn, eyes spheres of cobalt-doped plascrystal, facial muscle MIUs occupying fully one third of his cranial jacks. It had probably cost him as much in time worked equivalence as the Duchess' last decade of rejuvenat treatments.

His steely skull had been out of the question, naturally, but even the articulated plas-molds of his finer work masks unsettled so many ladies of the greater Houses, prejudices running too deep for conscious thought to countermand, revulsion towards the unnatural at the most instinctive level. Many of the lords of these houses would profess to prefer the businesslike appearance of his working attire, but the doors opened by his reputation, and, unfortunately, his heritage, would not remain open to the scarred metal of his welding masks, or the lens arrays of his circuit-etching hood, or even the plain plastics of his foreman visor, when so much of this communication at this level of society was done in a fashion as complex in it's own way as machine code.

He mused over these thoughts as the preliminary pleasantries were dispensed with, and the conversation drifted gently through markets and space-faring to the troubles of securing trustworthy representation among the so-called-nobility of backwater planets, how the difficulties of managing such a merchant empire seemed beyond the abilities of a single human, the vital nature of strong communication links, good information handling, appropriate information analysis automation.

As the Duchess warmed to these subjects, coaxing more and more from Baader in the way of opinion and recommendation, it became apparent that the affected girlishness and detached flirting that had characterised earlier meetings was rapidly evaporating. It would seem they were circling towards the reason for his presence, a point where directness might become acceptable.

 “As I intimated earlier, Duchess, there are many who could do this as well as I, indeed would be eager to, who are not currently engaged in other works of significant delicacy and import as I am. It seems... excessive, to have me removed from ongoing work vital to the sustained productivity of an entire processing hive to satisfy the curiosity of those that could satisfy it for themselves. And yet here I am, with barely a quarter of my compliment of compiler drones and none of my truly effective analytical examination suites.”

Throughout, her face had been subtly shutting down, and though slight tension had brought a cold irritability to the fore, her face was radiating far below normal thresholds for genuine anger, and what passive readings he could take had detected none of the Omnissiah’s blessings that might have enabled such improbable physiological self-control.

“I ask, why?”

The thin line of her mouth bunched momentarily, eyes narrowed, nostrils flared.

“And I will say it plainly here, Magos Jostenn Baader: you are dangerously out of your depth here, and insolence and obstructiveness are dangerous traits at these levels. Understand that you move now in higher circles, circles that even your honoured venerable father does not mix with. Understand that to bring you here, work was halted on your world that costs Primate Pellick close to a billion thrones a day, mildly disrupted processing of fuel destined for no less than three active fronts of two crusades, and that this is not the limit of our reach. Understand that, contingent on your impressive results here, you could perhaps attain access to resources far in excess of your ability to utilise for decades to come. Understand that refusal here will see you and your servitors returned to Bounty to skim impurities from your metroline tanks for those same decades.”

The irritation had given way now to a blank stare. Even now, after hundreds of years communing with the cold logical minds of machines and blank slates of servitor matter, Jostenn barely suppressed the urge to shift uncomfortably in his chair under the scrutiny of this new face of the Duchess.

“These threats levelled at you by your contracts marshal are the product of leverage perhaps beyond your true appreciation at this point. The work required of you here will free you from the burden of knowing that the recognition of your successes are due to your patron's influence rather than your undeniable talent in the field, because it is the first project to genuinely challenge you for many, many years.

“This is the proving ground that few are able enough to receive even consideration for.”

The Duchess had undergone a complete change now, casting off the affected languor of the noble lady, face hardening and posture straightening. In those minutes she was rendered almost a new woman before his eyes, sterner, harder, self-assured in a way entirely different from the self-confidence of the rich high-society lady.

“When, three decades ago, you assisted in the construction of our House security centre, our overseers recognised your work manipulating the balance of data flow as good, noteworthily so. We had numerous good minds study the network after it's completion, and the consensus reached was that you have talents beyond simple good teaching and diligence in this area. Since that first contract, you have been retained for a further sixteen jobs by our organisation-“

“Eleven, my Lady.” Her lips thinned again.

“Sixteen. The organisation that retains you is greater than the mere merchant clan in whose house you sit, Magos.
“Your contract projects has been remarkably successful, much of your equipment is clearly unique, as is your approach to many tasks which have prescribed solutions.
 “You will work for us in a capacity utterly appropriate to your interests and talents for the duration of an operation of indeterminate length commencing soon. While in our employ you will suffer severe restrictions to your personal freedoms of movement and communication, and will be accompanied by other employees of ours, three of whom you are already passingly acquainted with - your flight technician for the voyage here and the occupants of the neighbouring cabin. They will remain with you for your stay here, but may be replaced upon your departure.
“Formally acknowledge and accept my offer, and we can begin briefing you on particulars.”

“Accepted.”

“We shall depart once your effects have been transferred. It should take no more than an hour.
“Would you like some more tea?”
Title: Re: Welcome to the Truth
Post by: Koval on September 04, 2013, 11:08:07 AM
A forgotten place
Now made notable only by its absence
This was my world once
Manifest defiance against an empire of rot
Pregnant with disaster
Eaten
From the inside
Out
The lucky ones died before it began

My world a wasteland, my work brought down in flames
Everything consigned to oblivion
Annihilation controlled the madness
The ashes fall but can never come to rest
Billions gone in an instant -- a mercy killing
Might to rival empires and make parasites and puppet kings tremble
Gone
Like ashes scattered into the river
We averted Doomsday before
Then we brought it on ourselves
To wake up
To end the nightmare
To make false gods bleed

But how?
What stands behind us?
No army, no fleet
No power
Out of hundreds, only one remains
Out of billions, only seventeen have the power to fight
But we persevere

Even if one reaches the end, it will be worth it
Even if it achieves little
To spit in the eyes of the corpse idol
To spite the golden tyrant
It is enough

Secret's Hold
Two words, countless meanings
And a name
A thousand things to a thousand people
And more
Billions died so that seventeen
And one
Might live
His slaves gather there
They will bleed
They will fall
And their false Emperor will see them
And he will not care