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.”
“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.”
“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.
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
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.
=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 +++