Author Topic: Welcome to the Truth  (Read 5643 times)

Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #15 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?"
« Last Edit: July 20, 2013, 02:02:02 PM by MarcoSkoll »
S.Sgt Silva Birgen: "Good evening, we're here from the Adeptus Defenestratus."
Captain L. Rollin: "Nonsense. Never heard of it."
Birgen: "Pick a window. I'll demonstrate".

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Offline Van Helser

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #16 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.

Offline Dosdamt

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #17 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.
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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Offline Necris

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    • The Order of the Iron Rose - Necris' PLog
Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #18 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."
« Last Edit: July 24, 2013, 03:29:13 PM by Necris »
This here is my very favourite gun...I call her rita.

The Order of the Iron Rose - Necris' Inq28 Plog

Offline Charax

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #19 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?
The guy with his name at the bottom of the page

Offline TheNephew

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #20 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.”
« Last Edit: August 30, 2013, 01:19:04 AM by TheNephew »

Offline Inquisitor Maltheus

  • Initiate
  • *
  • Posts: 19
  • Well, That escalated quickly.
Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #21 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.”
« Last Edit: August 02, 2013, 08:08:20 PM by Inquisitor Maltheus »
"I am an arms dealer, Fitting you with weapons in the form of words.
And...don't really care which side wins
As long as the room keeps reading...That's just the business I'm in."

Offline Dosdamt

  • Inquisitor
  • ***
  • Posts: 141
  • Old Guard
    • The Mind
Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #22 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.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2013, 06:13:53 PM by Dosdamt »
It is never too late! - Mentirius

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Offline Macabre

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #23 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.”
++Believe the lie. Trust no one++

Offline Macabre

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #24 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
++Believe the lie. Trust no one++

Offline TheNephew

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #25 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?”
« Last Edit: September 07, 2013, 12:05:29 PM by TheNephew »

Offline Koval

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Re: Welcome to the Truth
« Reply #26 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
« Last Edit: September 04, 2013, 11:10:48 AM by Koval »