The Conclave

The Ordos Majoris - Roleplay => In Character => Topic started by: Koval on January 29, 2012, 10:37:10 AM

Title: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on January 29, 2012, 10:37:10 AM
PROLOGUE


===Incoming Message===
===Author: ANDREAS TUOMINEN===
===Origin: +++CLASSIFIED+++ ===
===Date: (3)031012.M42===

===Decrypting===

===Opening===

Lord Haines,

The following is a vid-capture transmitted using Inquisition security protocols, sent (2)167993.M41, received (4)871008.M42. Given your interest in ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta, I felt it pertinent to bring to your attention.

Your faithful servant,
A.


===Open attachment?: Y/N: Y===


RECORDING COMMENCES.

[00:00:00]Scene opens to pan across a city in ruins. It is nighttime, but the sky is heavily overcast. Many of the buildings are burning. More have already collapsed. Some, having once been taller, have partially collapsed. Others are still standing, proud and tall even as the flames consume them. Still others are being overrun by unidentified figures, which are swarming like ants all around them and along all the many main roads and side streets.

[00:00:34]Vid-recorder zooms in on the largest building in the city, an Imperial cathedral with a single monolithic tower. Alone amidst the chaos, it is largely unharmed.

[00:00:41]Vid-recorder zooms in even further to focus on the crowd outside the cathedral. Most are carrying weapons; laspistols, stub guns, a few with swords and axes. Others are hefting uprooted trees or lampposts, bearing them against the doors like battering rams.

[00:00:46]An Arbites response team arrives and is instantly swarmed by the mob. The Arbitrators do not even have time to fire a shot in response.

[00:00:49]Vid-recorder zooms out and pans one hundred and twelve degrees to the right. A land-train terminus, once grand and majestic, is also in flames. Land-trains laden with passengers attempt to flee. Many refugees are clinging onto the roof and the sides of the land-trains for dear life. Some are picked off by the mob.

[00:01:14]Camera pans to the left by nine degrees and up by twenty-one. A watchtower overlooking the city, barely visible through the smoke and haze, is bringing a massive turret to bear on the land-train terminus. We see that it is a planetary defense laser, modified to widen its field of fire and allow it to aim down.

[00:01:17]The defense laser fires and the land-train terminus vanishes in a blinding flash of light.

[00:01:21]Scene returns to the mob surrounding the cathedral. Bonfires have been hastily erected and torch-bearers are setting each one alight.

[00:01:28]The crowd parts and a man calmly strolls towards the cathedral, his back facing the camera. An abnormally large zweihänder sword is on his back.

[00:01:36]The man reaches the door facing the camera, and draws his zweihänder.

[00:01:38]The man swings his zweihänder diagonally downwards, cutting straight through the cathedral doors and leaving a molten rent to mark the blade's passing.

[00:01:39]Camera zooms in on the man. His weapon appears to have a powerfield around it.

[00:01:41]Firebombs from the crowd explode against the doors.

[00:01:42]The man pushes the doors open, apparently impervious to the flames around him, and enters the cathedral. Some of the mob surges in after him. Many catch fire and burn to death, the fire beginning to spread into the mob, but more are unharmed and continue into the cathedral.

[00:01:55]Camera zooms out fully.

[00:01:57]Camera turns one hundred and seventy-six degrees to the left and a powerfully built blonde-haired human female of indeterminate age, clad in black and silver carapace armour, comes into view. She is holding the camera, a look of callous vindication on her face.

[00:02:00]The woman opens her mouth and begins to speak. Her tone is mocking, but carries with it a hint of madness.

"I am an Inquisitor. Guardian of Mankind against the alien, the mutant, the heretic, and the daemon. Wielder of the ultimate authority, executor of the Emperor's will, defender of his realm. And before me, behind me, and all around me, is a world that I did not protect."

[00:02:09]Camera returns to original position and repeats initial full-city view. The camera lingers on the cathedral for some time before continuing around.

"An accident -- one word different, a number in the wrong place -- brought me here. I thought nothing of it at the time, but the magnitude of that error grew, and grew, and eventually the consequences became too great and the world I now stand on ran out of time."

[00:02:19]A detonation to the right of the camera draws Memphis' attention. Camera swings around to the watchtower, which is now burning. The defense laser has gone.

"I thought I could save this world."

[00:02:22]Camera pans up. We see a break in the clouds, through which a Secutor-class bomber is descending.

[00:02:29]The bomber deploys its turbolaser destructors, and opens fire on former residential areas. A pair of missiles lance out from its underside into another watchtower, silencing its anti-air turrets before they can bring the bomber down.

"But one mistake brought me here, and all it took was one more to silence the only hope it ever had."

[00:02:36]The bomber launches more missiles, incendiary warheads this time, into areas that have thus far escaped the mob's fury. More bombers begin to descend.

[00:02:40]A warhead from one of the bombers ignites a distillery on the city's outskirts and the scene is illuminated for a moment by a brilliant orange fireball.

"And now, hope lies dead by my hand, and our enemy -- our true enemy -- is free to slaughter an entire world at will."

[00:02:47]More explosions rock the city's outskirts as the bombers continue to launch missiles and fire their turbolasers.

"If anyone ever sees this transmission then I urge you to look at this city, this world, as it burns, and realise that what happened here was not the work of invaders, not the work of an army, not the work of a legion from Hell. This was not the work of Nemurax. This is what happens when Humanity falls from grace and goes mad, and this is what happens when its assigned protectors take a step back, open their eyes, and see that their greatest enemy is Humanity itself."

[00:03:05]The first of the bombers apparently finishes its run and ascends, turning in mid-air and commencing a second run, straight towards the camera, which follows it as it approaches.

"This was my doing, entirely my doing."

[00:03:09]The bombs continue to fall, closer and closer.

"My name is Rowena Memphis, and I turn my back on the Emperor."

[00:03.16]Scene goes blank.


RECORDING ENDS.


===Transmission Ends===

===Reply?: Y/N: Y===

Andreas -- already seen this, but my thanks for sharing. Memphis interests me, but executed in 009, so not a major concern. Can address as/when.

M.


===Encrypting===
===Reply Sent===

===Closing===
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 01, 2012, 07:06:54 PM
===Incoming Message===
===Author: MADOC HAINES===
===Origin: +++CLASSIFIED+++ ===
===Date: (3)036012.M42===

===Decrypting===

===Opening===

Dearest Lady Hallona,

Andreas found a message in the interdiction fleet's latest transmission. For a moment I thought it was scrap code, but he managed to decipher it, and before my very eyes it turned into something decidedly sinister. I felt it worth sharing.

Attached is the fragment Andreas retrieved; I've left it encrypted because I thought you might enjoy the mental exercise.

M.


===Open attachment: Y/N?: Y===

TAEDH
RSNEK
SEEVN
RTENW
AIAYW
TTSSI
IELHL
RIITE
STAIW
IOGTN
TOKEA
UUSOR
LDANS
BMCOE
ELHOW
EENCO
ANAIG


===Transmission Ends===

===Closing===
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 01, 2012, 09:33:13 PM
(5)616010.M42

Id Kemar, the Kemar System


"The Blood God take you!"

Goruvich's chain-axe hammered into the daemonhost's unguarded flank and sent the abomination sprawling. Neither human nor truly a monster, the daemonhost hissed as it skidded across the hive floor, its wound venting grey smoke through a tear in the robes it wore.

"By your treacherous hand, daemon, our allies are dead! Loyal World Eaters, slaughtered like the lackeys of the corpse god! True servants of Khorne, one and all!"

"Your comrades-in-arms were of no further use to Khorne," the daemonhost answered, picking itself up. "They had fulfilled their purpose."

The daemonhost's hellblade flashed out and Goruvich's chain-axe met the blow halfway, the two weapons clashing against each other, chainsaw teeth against a blade of the Warp.

"Khorne cares not from where the blood flows," the daemonhost reminded Goruvich. "But you should be rejoicing, World Eater!"

"Your speech is poison! I will hear none of it!" Goruvich bellowed, the berserker rage taking over as he pushed the daemonhost away, bringing a flurry of blows down upon it. The daemonhost was faster, but Goruvich was a Space Marine and he was easily the stronger of the two.

"The Blood God is pleased with the sacrifice your companions made in his name," continued the daemonhost, still exuding an air of superiority even as it blocked Goruvich's attacks. "Their souls will be reborn in the Warp, joining the endless legions of Khorne! They will become like me!"

Seizing the slightest opening in Goruvich's defenses, the daemonhost slashed at Goruvich and the World Eater arrested his attack a fraction too late, the abomination's hellblade slicing straight through the head of the chain-axe and robbing Goruvich of his weapon. Roaring in defiance and rage, Goruvich leapt bodily into the daemonhost, knocking it to the floor, and hammered his fist once, twice, into its face. Smoke began to issue from the daemonhost's eyes and nose, the stink of burning meat filtering through Goruvich's helmet.

"I am a true servant of the Blood God!" Goruvich roared. "You are a vassal, a puppet bound into an empty human shell!"

The daemonhost reached out for its hellblade, but Goruvich was faster and pounded the daemonhost's hand flat before shattering its elbow for good measure.

"And as the Blood God is my witness, I will make you suffer!"

"Do you truly consider yourself so worthy of Khorne's attention that he will take note of you, a mere mortal, defeating but one of so many?" the daemonhost asked, pushing against Goruvich with its good hand.

"No," grunted Goruvich. "But he will notice this!"

Grasping the daemonhost's hellblade in his left hand, Goruvich brought it up and, half-standing, stabbed the huge weapon down through the daemonhost's face. A shocked gurgle escaped its ruptured lips, and black fluid splashed Goruvich's greave.

"I name thee Agares, Bloodletter of Khorne," Goruvich snarled, a part of him relishing every split-second that the daemon was at his mercy. "And by the power of the Blood God--"

The daemonhost was still trying to rise, sliding up its own hellblade at an impossible angle to reach out and grab Goruvich.

"--I bind thee!"

The daemonhost flopped down and went still.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 05, 2012, 04:06:24 PM
The first sensation inquisitor Anterus Semplice experienced was the pain. Every one of his days started with it and it never left him. Even when his ruined body had been amputated and replaced with machinery it didn’t stop. The tech priests had told him that it was because of the damage to his nervous system caused by the flames. He activated his eye, only the left one, his right side had suffered too much to even install a bionic replacement. He saw Karnak, who had awakened him again. The tech priest spoke: “My lord inquisitor, how are your systems?”

“They are operational, no signs of failure in the organic and mechanic parts.”

“I also see no signs of any problems, your health remains stable.”

“Good”, replied the inquisitor and he rolled his bulky mechanic body forwards. Every day started and ended in exactly the same way. First he was awakened, then he went to the chapel to pray for guidance and then he would begin his day.

Karnak followed behind him, as did a pair of servitors who served to protect the inquisitor. The chapel was empty, it always was at this time, hardly any of the ship’s crew ever saw their master and fewer still knew who he was at all. Bitter experience had shown him that secrecy was more important than anything else, the less people knew where he was the safer. He had sworn to find his would-be assassins and to punish them. He had never been capable of that, he hated himself for not remembering their faces. He did know who had sent them, but his rival was too well-guarded to strike at him, hiding behind his false purity.

On his bio-scanner he saw that a single figure entered behind him. Without turning to look he knew who it was. The last remnant of the Stratiotes project, which would have been the first step towards a new golden age for the Imperium. Humanity needed strength and he would have given it to them. Only his foolish rivals were too small-minded and petty to see it. They knew that humanity lacked the strength they need to endure, but would not see him deliver the species, they were too jealous for that.

He spoke: “Tettares, come here, how are you today?”

The slim figure of the person he saw as his daughter stood next to him. She said: “Suboptimal master, DFP levels are seventeen per cent below their standard value. I have taken two injections already and they fail to rectify the problem. The trauma suffered as part of  yesterday’s training is almost fully recovered.”

The inquisitor turned to look at her. Her pale face bore some small bruises, nothing compared to what she had looked like when she had just been hit by the combat servitor. Her dark eyes were bland and emotionless, like they should be,  emotion was a weakness and it had to be suppressed. She was dressed ostentatiously, she wore a dark blue dress decorated with gold thread and a few gemstones, her wig was a tall sculpture of blonde hair, kept together by golden pins.

Then another person entered. This was unexpected. He slowly turned to observe the newcomer. It was a runner, and he was nearly out of breath. He carried a sealed message tube from the astropath. Semplice said: “Iota Tettares, take the message and open it for me. Then put the paper in my hand.”

The girl did as she was ordered while the runner kept waiting. He dismissed the young man and carefully read the message. After going through it all several time he said: “Tettares, summon the captain to the chart room, tell him that I wish to discuss our next destination.”

Iota Tettares rushed to the bridge. On her way she encountered few crewmen, all of them did their best to get out of her way. They feared the ship’s sinister master and his daughter and heir. Of course they remained unaware of their true identities, to them the inquisitor was the rogue trader Hylas, who had lost almost everything his dynasty had ever owned.

Tettares reached the bridge. It was calm and empty like it always was when in port. The few officers that were present bowed to her, they all knew that someday she would become their master. A young lieutenant smiled at her. Tettares understood that it meant that he attempted to court with her, but she did not have such feelings, the inquisitor did not allow her to. She asked: “Where is the captain? there are things I must discuss with him.”

The lieutenant replied immediately: “My lady, he is currently in his quarters, may I escort you there?”, offering her his arm.

“You may not, lieutenant. Your position is here and you should never leave your post for such frivolous pursuits.”

The man looked sad but Tettares didn’t notice. She continued to the captain to deliver his orders.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 05, 2012, 06:20:36 PM
I can't remember the last time I felt anything.

Fear, anger, hatred, all as alien to me, as unknowable, as the mindset of a sorcerer. Neither do I feel mirth or joy as I used to, or the ecstatic devotion Goruvich displays almost constantly, or even the base desire to kill that the Ancient possesses.

But neither do I feel regret, or shame, or resentment. I suppose that is a good thing, at least.

I had emotions once. I must have done, when I was younger, in a time before the Eternal War devastated the galaxy. A younger me might have longed for those days of glory, when Lord Angron walked the world as a mortal man, when we still swore fealty to a golden Emperor, when Mankind was on the cusp of galactic dominance.

Then came Lord Horus' treason, and we, XII Legion, followed him. It was simple. Lord Angron's frustrations with the Emperor became too much even for the Primarch to bear, and he found release under a new master, bowing on bended knee to the Skull Throne of Khorne. Those of us who were loyal to Lord Angron began to worship the Master of Skulls, and those that did not were slain. I was in the former category, a mere Techmarine at the time of the Great Heresy, and I suppose I derived some sort of pleasure from gunning down those whose loyalty to Lord Angron failed them.

We, the World Eaters, fought at the side of Lord Horus, against the Emperor on Terra, and without wishing to tell a tale that others tell better, we lost. Lord Angron retreated, famously being the last to withdraw from Terra, and XII Legion understood the shame of defeat.

I was there at Terra. I prepared the great war-engines, I serviced the guns, I repaired what the Emperor's servants destroyed. I watched the Legio Mortis stride into battle, and knew the honour of standing in the Dies Irae's shadow as it led the charge against the Imperial Palace. I killed men and Space Marines alike, presumably getting a thrill as I snuffed out life after life with my plasma gun. Then it overheated, and I must have felt absolute horror as my hands dissolved in nuclear fire, then a burning desire for bloodshed when I walked out of the Apothecarion with new hands of metal.

But we fled in shame, and the ignominy of defeat was bitter in all of our mouths. Some got over it quickly, the Berserkers we lobotomised to enhance their killing instincts, and remove their fear and their inhibitions. Others, those of us who still thought as rational beings -- and since the consequences of the entire XII Legion becoming Berserkers would be disastrous, there were only too many of us with working brains -- were still resentful for some time, and understandably so. Many turned to the direct worship of Khorne, shedding the blood of Imperial loyalists in his name for the sake of catharsis. Others continued to stew in their hatred and bitterness until it became almost palpable, like an aura radiating from them, growing in potency the longer they sat and brooded.

Came the Battle of Skalathrax, I had had enough of my kin. When Khârn shattered XII Legion almost single-handedly, the survivors formed hundreds of splinter factions and warbands, and I found myself fought over by hundreds of disenchanted World Eaters, each wanting me for themselves. A Techmarine must have seemed like a living relic to them. They wanted me for my understanding of the Machine. With me on their side, they might have risen in prominence and gained Khorne's favour, standing at the head of an army, each warrior well-equipped and his wargear serviced by the very best.

I would have none of it. I was not some servant to a madman, nor some tool to be used and then cast away.

So I killed them all, and in doing so, I destroyed myself in a storm of blood.

I suppose I have lived this way for the last ten thousand years. I have wandered, and killed, and pillaged, and sustained myself for so long, because there is nothing else. I excised my own emotions because they were in the way. The fact that I am even alive is but an afterthought.

The war is meaningless. Goruvich may revel in slaughter, and the Ancient may speak with the Blood God in his madness, but there is nothing else, nothing left for me except slaughter.

This is who I am.

I died at Skalathrax, and now I exist only to kill and to make myself whole once more.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Octavian Lars on February 05, 2012, 08:20:34 PM
I marched down the well lit corridors of the Hammer of Justice, pompous, but brisk. Captain Wagner had informed me that we would be translating to real-space over ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta. I did not plan to miss von Karajan’s translation symphony, a personal favourite of mine. Da dum dee dum bum bom, bob-de bum. Sorry, I got distracted there, ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta intrigues me, as does Inquisitor Memphis. I recall her name from somewhere. I believe she was executed as a heretic many years back. I soon reached the bridge; it is a resplendent thing, with Karajan and his orchestra already starting to play. I recall them playing the grand march of the emperor when the re-translation jolt shook the ship. They then began to play the much vaunted translation symphony. A masterpiece before it’s time, the translation symphony was based on many ancient terran classics. I called up a holographic display of the planet and located points that would be of interest.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Herald on February 05, 2012, 09:44:26 PM
009.M42

Inquisitor Gelert Hesh certainly had expensive tastes if the level of ornamentation in his antechamber was anything to go by. Ambrose found his attention particularly drawn to a copy of Del Blanche’s ‘Heretics in Purgatory’ which adorned the wall to the right of the large doors through which he had entered. Although not one for leniency towards heretics Ambrose did find the depiction a little too fiery for his tastes but nevertheless was absorbed in examining the brushwork when the doors at the opposite end of the chamber swung open.

“Inquisitor Barkley?” Asked a man that Ambrose took to be Inquisitor Hesh.

“Please, call me Ambrose.”

Hesh’s raised eyebrow suggested he had no intention of doing anything of the sort and he continued to speak formally.

“My apologies for keeping you waiting, please, do come in.” He gestured behind him into his study and Ambrose followed him in.

“I appreciate you must be a busy man Inquisitor so I shan’t keep you long.”

Ambrose nodded and nervously pushed his spectacles back up his nose. Hesh had the muscular build of a trained fighter and his natural authority made Ambrose somewhat uncomfortable as he always did in the presence of his peers. He could never adjust to viewing them as equals, after all he doubted he exuded the same air of natural authority or had quite the same menace in his scrawny frame.

“I have in my custody a heretic, Rowena Memphis, who needs to be executed. Unfortunately she is also an Inquisitor. The execution of one of our own is not something to be undertaken lightly and so there is understandably protocol to be observed. Quite simply Inquisitor I simply need you to support my accusation of heresy.”

“Very well, I will of course need to look over the evidence and evaluate the case which may take some time. I’d also appreciate being able to interview her as I’m heavily involved in assessing the motivations that heretics have for turning from His grace.”

“Surely knowing that a heretic is a heretic is enough?”

“To condemn them yes, but by assessing their motivations it may perhaps be possible to predict who is likely to succumb to heresy and even prevent it happening.”

“There’s really no need her heresy is quite obvious, she has turned her back on the Emperor and must pay the penalty, her reasoning is of no importance. I simply need your signature.”

“All the same,” Ambrose responded rather timidly, “without wishing to cause offence, I feel it would be rash of me to simply take your word for it.”

Hesh sighed making Ambrose feel that what seemed to him a perfectly reasonable request was in some way unreasonable or unexpected.

“Very well, there simply isn’t the time to review all the evidence and an interview with her is simply out of the question. She is too dangerous to be merely kept in custody, but hopefully this will convince you that I’m speaking the truth.”

Hesh touched a section of his desk and Ambrose turned to see that a projected vid-capture had appeared on the wall.

“This recording was made several years ago on ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta”

The camera panned across a ruined city before focussing on a powerfully built, blonde woman in carapace armour.

"I am an Inquisitor. Guardian of Mankind against the alien, the mutant, the heretic, and the daemon. Wielder of the ultimate authority, executor of the Emperor's will, defender of his realm. And before me, behind me, and all around me, is a world that I did not protect.

The camera cut to show the ruined city again as she continued.

“My name is Rowena Memphis, and I turn my back on the Emperor."

The projection went black and Hesh waited a moment in silence for the last few words to sink in then touched the desk again and the projection disappeared.

“Will you support my accusations, Inquisitor Barkley?”

He didn’t feel he had a choice.

Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 06, 2012, 06:15:45 PM
Iota Tettares stood next to the captain on the bridge of the Unbroken. She was the only person on the bridge to look entirely calm. Transferring back to the Materium was always a risky proposal. The inquisitor had sent her to the bridge to ensure the loyalty and obedience of the officers when they would become aware of his plans. He had told her that when any of them was giving in to fear she was to execute him as a traitor and to promote someone to replace him.

One of the servitors attached to the cogitator banks spoke slowly with a mechanical voice: “Calculated retranslation destination reached.”

Hyrule Gol, the ship’s captain gave the order all were waiting for: “Translate back to the materium.”

The bridge immediately became a flurry of activity. All the officers were shouting orders but nothing went wrong and with a screeching noise the ship returned to the natural universe. Gol said: “Lieutenant Gavod, are we where we should be?”

The same lieutenant who had attempted to court Iota before replied sounding confused: “Sir, we are in an interdicted system. It is noted on our charts but we should not be here.  We have to leave.”

He was immediately by the communications officer: “Sir, I am receiving automated signals on all frequencies that all ships are to leave immediately, failure to comply will be met by force.”

Iota’s grip tightened on the grip of her pistol. This was the critical moment. Gol said, sweating profusely: “We will not leave. Our master has given clear orders. We are here secretly and have to slip past the interdiction fleet.”

“But you cannot be serious sir, this system is forbidden space for all ships, if the navy finds us they will kill us all.” Replied the communications officer.

Iota spoke monotonously: “You are to obey my father. Failure to obey is insubordination and that will not be accepted.”

The officer rose to his feet: “But you cannot force us all to commit suicide.”

A single shot rang out and the man collapsed. All present were looking on incredulously. Iota said: “Follow your orders, be a loyal servant and you will be rewarded. Treason will be punished. Bring us to our objective, captain.”

Gol swallowed before giving his orders: “Shut down all non-essential systems, do not start the engines, scan passively for the locations of the fleet.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Herald on February 07, 2012, 05:20:15 PM
“So why now, Inquisitor?” Asked Redvers Sid as Ambrose studied the board in front of him and wondered how to extricate himself from yet another of the former-General’s cunning traps.

“Well, Inquisitor Hesh was less than forthcoming with information about her and I felt there had to be something behind her heresy. After all this isn’t a power-hungry noble or someone who could have perceived themselves as neglected by the Imperium. She was an Inquisitor what could possibly have motivated her to turn her back on the very system she had sworn to protect? At the time I was too busy with the aftermath of the Brier’s Investigation, which dragged on for so long, to do any proper digging. Anyway now that I have some time on my hands I felt it prudent to follow up anything I could find on Rowena Memphis.”

Ambrose moved his marine to take one of Sid’s guardsmen a decision he regretted when the marine was quickly taken by the covering inquisitor.

“And? What have you found?”

“Nothing.” A description both of what he had found on Memphis and his current options in the game. “She was executed in 009, which I knew already having given my support for her execution, and before that she was Ordo Hereticus. If the official records or anything to go by she did nothing of note.”

“They’ve been tampered with?” Asked Redvers, somewhat surprised.

“So it would appear. Probably by someone on the inside.” Ambrose took the inquisitor with his primarch which was promptly taken by Sid’s fortress.

“So what are you hoping to find by coming here?”

“Probably nothing, but it’s the only lead I have and something about the whole situation doesn’t seem right.” The weariness in his voice mirrored his actions as he took Sid’s fortress with his emperor.

“Ok so what of the planet? Why is the system interdicted?” asked Sid, changing track as he absentmindedly moved a guardsman forwards.

“That’s also drawn a blank, something in 993 involving Memphis but whether that then caused the system to be declared interdicta I can only speculate.” Said Ambrose as he took the carelessly placed guardsman with his remaining marine.

Sid closed the trap by taking Ambrose’s marine with his second inquisitor, cornering his Emperor and winning the game. He sat back with a smug grin of victory.

“So nobody official wants to talk about Memphis and nobody wants to talk about the planet?”

“Exactly, but planet-side someone unofficial might know something of use. Unfortunately with the system being interdicta we need to go in officially to avoid getting killed on the edges of the system.”

“You have a plan I assume?”

“Sort of, obviously I can’t formulate anything exact till I know the situation planet-side but the plan is for me to pursue an official line of investigation while Milo, under your supervision and possibly with Jethro’s help if completely necessary, pursues an unofficial investigation.”

“Two problems. Firstly with the three of us investigating unofficial leads you’re left exposed without protection if anything goes wrong. Secondly if you start officially poking around it may cause some of the unofficial sources to clam up.”

“For once, Redvers, I’m a step ahead of you. Carson will lend me a couple of his security detail for my protection and I won’t be investigating Memphis, I’ll be investigating Moritz Kahn, a suspected smuggler of xenos artefacts believed to have snuck passed the interdiction fleet to hide here.”

*****

The Graceful Prosperity made the transition back into real space with minimal fuss the sprint trader’s crew having done the manoeuvre innumerable times. The Prosperity’s experienced captain Carson Bors didn’t start to worry until warning lights began to flash as the ship registered multiple target lock.

“Inquisitor?” He asked, “We appear to have entered interdicted space?”

“Oh yes, didn’t I tell you? It’ll be fine, just broadcast these codes, they’ll identify you as an ship in the service of the Inquisition.”

The captain breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t mind working for the inquisitor, not that he had a choice, but sometimes he wished that he was given some form of prior warning when putting his ship and crew at risk.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Octavian Lars on February 07, 2012, 06:17:22 PM
After the tribulation of a successful translation, Captain Wagner noted that there were several military vessels, each broadcasting automated messages stating that the world was out of bounds to all. I ordered helm to put me through, sight and sound to the captain of a lunar class cruiser by the name of “Asculum” captained by the esteemed vice-admiral Cairn Burnet. When his image came through on the holomat, he was exactly as I expected. Tall, arrogant and proud. In many ways, he reminded me of myself, an aged servant of the Imperium.
“Who are you and what is your business on ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta? This planet is off limit to those without the authority of the holy Inquisition for this sector. State your business or prepare to be destroyed by the might of the Emperor’s Navy.”
He commanded power from those who heard him, but my train of thought was cut off by a cry from the scanner station;

“We have another cruiser and 5 escorts inbound, Inquisitor, Captain what are your orders?”

Both myself and Wagner spoke simultaneously both disagreeing with Wagner calling to ready the guns, stating that a Dominator was a match for their fleet piecemeal, while I felt the matter called for diplomacy.
In that time, Burnet had spoken again,
“Is the inquisition normally this riven with indecision?”
“Actually, yes though we are rarely open with it. My captain was merely reacting to the circumstances as he would in combat. I am Inquisitor Holst, hero of terra masterminded the purges of Grateful death and the hero of Death’s Gap, here with the authority of Inquisitors Hesh and Filipowski” I motioned to Wagner who bellowed:
“Ready the nova cannon, await my order to fire! If they deny us landfall they will come to regret the day they crossed an Imperial Inquisitor”
“Of course, mighty Inquisitor. You may land whenever required.”
I cut off the holo-link and ordered the nova cannon to stand down.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on February 11, 2012, 12:37:11 AM
A man in grey robes moved slowly along the corridor, a dataslate clutched under his arm. The twitching movement of the folds of his hood showed he was carefully assessing each of the servitors dotted around the corridors. His movements deferred to them - while they were the lower servants, he stepped around them even before their half mechanical brains had recognised he was there.

Reaching up with his free hand, he pulled down his baggy hood. The face below was young, the result of the light juvenat work one would expect of an Inquisitor's servant of barely more than fifty standard years. But there was something about the sheen of the eyes he presented to the retinal auspex that said the soul within was one of many more years.

The auspex took a few seconds to consider the nuances of the blood vessel patterns at the rear of his eyes before matching him to the scarce database it had. The soft ping of confirmation was lost beneath the sounds of the lock mechanism of the door beside.

Two thick metal doors shifted, revealing a generously decorated room beyond that was a stark contrast to the corridor that it opened out to. The most astounding thing about the room was that despite the floor appearing to drop two feet down to a massive tapestry of several Imperial saints, everything within appeared to have ignored this fact, hanging perfectly in mid-air.
The desk made of obsidian darker than midnight, the many cabinets, the shelves supporting the manifest representations of memories each more bizarre than the last, the holo-table, even the woman in the blue dress - not one of them touched the floor.

The man, however, showed no hesitation in stepping into thin air. Exactly as he knew would happen, his foot hit the twelve inch thick layer of perfectly non-refractive glass that gave the room its unusual air.
It was here that he stood, waiting as the doors shut behind him.

The woman span her hand in the air, the holo-table reacting to the movement and showing a different angle of the fleet movements it was projecting.

   "Are you going to stand there all day, or did you have a reason for coming to speak to me?", her  voice had a hint of amusement.
   "Lady Hallona, I took the liberty of analysing the ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta distress…"
   "Jael, let's just shorten that to Sigma-Interdicta, shall we? Please?"

The Inquisitrix glanced over sideways at the Savant, hand raised, head slightly cocked and lips wearing a subtle smile.

   "As you command, my lady. I ran the Sigma-Interdicta distress signal through basic cryptanalysis in case it was an attempt to conceal further messages such as those in the cipher from the interdiction fleet."
   "Hmm. I don't know what to say about that.", she turned towards him, thinking.
   "The analysis? If I have overstepped my bounds…"
   "No, not at all!", she laughed, "I wholly applaud your initiative. I mean the fleet code… cipher? Whichever it should be."
   "Cipher, my lady."
   "Thank you. My concern is that it came, or appeared to come, from the interdiction fleet. What should be an Imperial vessel. I want to know why."
   "So the fleet is to be our first port of call, my lady?"
   "Out of concern for the distress signal, yes. But I will have Colonel Morton handle the business of the fleet's own transmissions."

She gestured over her shoulder at the many wireframe representations of ships circling behind her.
   "The fleet is nearly a score of ships, and Tama is better with all that military formality. Navy brass get up my nose no end, pompous fethers the lot of them… and that is a nugget you are not to relate to Lord-Captain Mason."
   "Of course not, my lady."
   "Thank you. Anyway, I interrupted you - did you find anything in the signal?"
   "Not at first glance. That is not to say that it couldn't house codephrases. But I did check for incidences of common codewords known to be used by heretic cells and secret organizations. There were matches, but given the number of potential terms, entirely within the bounds of coincidence."
   "With the number of cells and organizations in this sector, I'd have been more concerned if you'd found no matches."
   "Indeed, my lady. But it has marked out potential suspects that further evidence may further prove or disprove. If I may?"
He stepped forward, holding out a dataslate - the glowing green runes on the screen merely the first twenty or so of a great many potential matches. Riley took the device, scrolling through the first few pages of the list.

   "Abssyn Convergence? I thought I'd put every one of those heretics to the sword myself."
   "Their presence on the list is merely for completeness, my lady."
   "This is good work, Jael. I'll have Inquisitor Haines take a look at it and see if any of the names on the list spark anything in his mind. Perhaps they've come up amongst his research."
   "Thank you, my lady.  However, I must confess that I am left with an overwhelming sense that there is something I've overlooked."
   "You should trust your instincts.", she said, before hurriedly adding, "But do not let it trouble you unduly. The Emperor will provide you with the insights you truly need."
   "Thank you, my lady. If I may be excused?"
   "Of course."

The savant bowed and left, leaving the Inquisitrix alone. She sighed wearily - her logic told her that he was suffering no more than ghost memories from his implanted mem-engrams. Her paranoia told her that he was right - something had been forgotten. After all, this was a forbidden world. It had secrets that even the Inquisition didn't know.

How, with that hanging over all, could nothing have been overlooked?
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 11, 2012, 07:49:06 PM
"You're sure it wasn't scrap code?"

"Positive, my lord," Andreas answered, popping his head over the barricade for just long enough to fire his pistol. As far away as Andreas was, his shot landed perilously close to the enemy fireteam and they ducked for cover.

"I don't even want to think about what it says this time," Haines sighed, squeezing his massive frame between two sandbags. "The number of clandestine organisations I've encountered that have referred to a vague "darkness" in their threats is just staggering. I couldn't help but wonder--"

"Inquisitor," Andreas prompted him. "They're about to go over the top again."

"Right you are," Haines grunted, rising to take aim at a grey-helmeted head rising over the enemy barricade. A quick four-shot burst from Haines' rifle put the unfortunate soldier out of the fight for good, and his fellows were sufficiently skittish to return to cover. Haines dropped back down.

"Do you have any grenades left, Andreas?"

"Just the one, my lord. Though unless we're absolutely certain that it'll have some effect, I'd advise against using it."

"And how much ammo?"

"Three cells. Which is three more than you have, my lord," Andreas sniped, flinching as one of the enemy troopers took a pot-shot at the barricade.

"It's hardly my fault that this thing only does fully automatic," Haines grumbled, scowling at his rifle.

"A deliberate decision on my part. My lord is certainly free and easy with his ammo reserves."

"Andreas," Haines warned his aide, leaning over the top and firing another four-shot burst at the enemy position. Unfortunately the enemy had already retreated behind cover and his shots succeeded only in striking rockrete.

"I'm not wrong. You need to keep practising your controlled bursts, especially after Valmard Minor."

"Those idiots had left a multilaser out in a snowstorm. Are you really that surprised that it went from full charge to zero in seconds?"

Andreas didn't reply instantly, instead spotting a flicker of movement and reacting to it with a flash of his pistol. He was rewarded for his efforts with a cry of pain and the sight of a grey-clad body falling to the floor.

"Now then, my lord, I believe we were telling each other about coded messages?" Andreas reminded Haines.

"Andreas, by the time you get to my age, you start to wonder if cults are getting dumber, or just less imaginative in their coded threats," Haines answered. "Unless this one says anything different."

"Their cryptographer certainly isn't lacking in imagination or intellect if he can route them through Battlefleet Pacificus' astropaths," Andreas pointed out. "But you're right. Strip away the rhetoric and what's left could as easily be the work of the Geminate Diarchy as of the Blank Dawn or the Knights of Savagery."

Andreas stood up and fired at another enemy soldier, but caught three lasbolts in the chest for his troubles. He fell down, coughing.

"Ow," he added absent-mindedly.

"Give me that grenade," Haines urged Andreas.

"You'll end up missing," Andreas spluttered, dropping his pistol, "but I'm down and out."

Andreas planted the grenade in Haines' massive fist and in an instant the Inquisitor primed it, lobbing it towards the enemy barricade. The remaining troopers tried to flee, and one actually made it up and out, but the grenade had fallen short and the unlucky trooper that had gone over the top vanished in a burst of smoke.

By the time the remaining soldiers had realised what had happened, Haines had crossed no man's land and emptied his rifle into their bodies.

And then it was over, and Lieutenant Geester was getting up slowly, applauding. The other troopers were also getting to their feet, standing to attention in the Inquisitor's presence, and on the other side of the training hall, Andreas was already climbing over the barricade, still wheezing like an Enginseer with a bad oxy-filter.

"Well done, my lord," Geester stated, bowing as Andreas joined them.

"Well done? There were five of you and two of us," Haines observed. "You should have been more than able to take us out, Lieutenant."

"My lord, I... did not want to cause offense by wounding you," Geester answered, wrong-footed.

"These things cause a mild sting at best, Lieutenant," Haines reminded him, waving his training rifle in front of Geester. "If I were your enemy in live combat, and if you had full-powered lasguns, you wouldn't hesitate to shoot me. You would pull that trigger and you would blow my brains out through the back of my skull. You're a soldier. Act like it."

"My lord?"

"You need to train harder, Lieutenant Geester," Haines told him. "The next time I join your training regime, I expect you to be ready to fight me."

Without saying another word, Haines turned and left the training hall, Andreas hot on his heels.

"My lord is ever concerned for the well-being of his manservant," Andreas remarked pointedly as they took a left down a side corridor.

"Don't tell me that flashlight actually hurt you," Haines scoffed.

"I am sure that even you would notice three in the chest at once, my lord."

"It does you good, Andreas," Haines reminded his servant. "Your marksmanship skills are improving, by the way. I saw you take down a few of them in there."

"All the better to assist my lord when he is too encumbered to carry his plasma pistol."

"Your sense of humour, however, still needs work."

"I haven't had any practice for weeks," Andreas shrugged. "Those messages have demanded most of my attention. And if Lord Tiberius has been catching stray transmissions while it's been listening to the planet, then we need to find out the reason, and I'm still trying to work out why. Or how."

"Maybe Lady Hallona's had a few ideas," Haines replied absently as they took another left towards the mess hall.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on February 12, 2012, 02:03:03 AM
The ship quaked as it forced itself through the veil between realities. Riley paid relatively little attention as she continued with her work, the transition a familiar experience in her years aboard the Sword of Integrity.

It was, therefore, approximately half an hour later before she raised her head from her neatly written parchment notes, interrupted by the quiet trill of the ship's comms. She reached across the obsidian desk to press the blinking red stud and the holo-table's projections of orbital paths resolved into a three foot tall representation of the face of the ship's captain.

   "Arkus.", she addressed him.
   "Madam Inquisitor. We transmitted your Inquisitorial clearance codes shortly after re-entering the materium. The response comes from the fleet's commanding officer, Vice-Admiral Cairn Burnett, himself, and requires your attention."

Both of the Inquisitrix's eyebrows raised slightly, a sign the captain took as an excuse to carry on.

   "He reports that you are the third - and fourth, if you include Lord Haines - of the Inquisitors within the system at present. He wishes to extend his personal greetings and an invitation for both you and Madoc to meet and dine with him aboard the Asculum."
   "Serendipity.", a smile appeared on her lips, "Yes, confirm his invitation. And do so on Lord Haines' behalf too - I'm sure he has reason to speak with the Vice-Admiral. Even if not, he's been a guest on my ship for the last month, he will at least do me that courtesy."
   "Will he now?", the captain laughed.
   "Yes.", she cut off his guffaw, "How long will it take us to reach orbit?"
   "We made a near jump -  the navigator triumvirate did a good job. At present speed and allowing for deceleration from interplanetary velocity, only a little over three days."
   "Very well. Will that be all?"

The hologram nodded, fading back into a projection of ΣΘΦΡ-Interdicta.

Riley got up, reaching for the dataslate Jael had given her. It was probably time to show it to Haines - and tell him they had dinner plans.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 12, 2012, 09:47:38 PM
"You're shafting me."

"My lord sounds positively astonished at the idea of dining with a beautiful lady," Andreas remarked as he secured Haines' bolt pistol inside the arms coffer.

"I'm astonished that you feel it necessary to invite yourself along, you clown," Haines huffed, linking the cuffs on his dress tunic.

"My apologies. I shall endeavour to analyse Vice-Admiral Burnett's observations and match them against your own over a vid-feed," Andreas answered pointedly. "Or you can have me in the room with you, so that you do not lose face in front of Vice-Admiral Burnett and Lady Hallona when they inevitably find themselves three steps ahead of you."

"Andreas!"

"In any case, having your loyal manservant attend your needs creates the impression of seniority and authority -- two things that you need in abundance when dealing with a Navy officer that no doubt feels extremely bitter from having been effectively sidelined upon his assignment to the interdiction fleet," Andreas continued, stowing three magazines away beside the bolt pistol. "And if Lady Hallona is bringing her own entourage then I see very little sense in leaving me behind on the Sword of Integrity."

"When you put it like that..."

"I knew that my lord would see reason," Andreas grinned. "Now, if my lord would be so kind as to...?"

"The hammer?"

"The last time I tried lifting it, I dropped it on my foot and broke it, and needed an auto brace just to walk."

Andreas stepped out of the way as Haines picked the thunder hammer up in both hands and placed it in the arms coffer. Initially designed for a large rifle and two pistols, plus several spare magazines for each, the arms coffer also accommodated Haines' giant thunder hammer quite comfortably, though the oblong crate barely had any room left for Haines' bolt pistol and hand flamer once the hammer was secured.

"Will my lord be wearing his plasma pistol to dinner, or should I carry it?" Andreas asked, closing the lid and locking it.

"Since we're talking about making an impression on the good Vice-Admiral, I think I shall carry it," Haines answered. "Besides which, with your data-slates and that coffer, I doubt you'll have enough hands for everything."

"Very well. If my lord will hold still...?"

Andreas retrieved Haines' plasma pistol, still in its holster, and as Haines stood up, Andreas reached down to affix it to his belt. He paused, feeling something uncomfortably hard beneath Haines' tunic.

"Armour?" Andreas queried.

"After that little fiasco with the Grey Aquila Temple, did you really expect anything less?"

"I suppose not," Andreas shrugged.

"Didn't think so. Where did Lady Hallona say she'd meet us?"

"Deck 57, port side, near the bust of Saint Jowen by the officers' quarters."

"Meet me there in twenty minutes," Haines instructed. "And don't forget this time that the coffer has suspensors."

"It won't take twenty minutes to get to Deck 57," Andreas pointed out.

"No it won't, but you have to change as well," Haines countered. "Unless you plan to dress like a pauper to meet the Vice-Admiral."

Andreas paused and looked down at his rather well-worn beige shirt and trousers.

"My lord has a point," he conceded, hurriedly searching for a change of clothes as Haines adjusted his cufflinks and left the room.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 13, 2012, 02:02:54 PM
 Inquisitor Semplice had positioned himself behind the pilot of his personal shuttle. It was an Ascanius Class Orbital Lander originally built on Bashrok. He had made use of it for almost a century and the interior had been refitted for his needs. Magnetic clams had been installed to keep him in place and the cargo bay had been redesigned to carry his personal staff and supplies for several Terran months.

Those he had chosen to accompany him were seated around him. To his left sat Gophian Dall who was wearing a fine suit of armour made of interlocking blue and yellow plates. He had combed his long grey hair to fall perfectly around his face, and to cover the bald spot he was developing on the back of his head.

Next to him was Karnak who had taken a seat for the launch. He looked the same as always, his entire body hidden by his dark red robes. He had brought his apprentice along with him, Nogal. A recently inducted priestess of the machine. She bore no visible augmentations yet.

On the other side sat Pantariste who was wearing the black carapace armour of her former regiment. The fully enclosed helmet over her face. The only difference the removal of all markings which could identify her. The seat next to hers was empty. It was meant for Iota Tettares but she was sleeping after having remained on the bridge for eight days without sleeping even once.

Captain Gol’s voice rang out from the caster: “We are approaching the launch site.”

“Good, your orders are clear. Hide behind Madim, the gas giant. Take a stationary orbit and wait until you are summoned. Do not leave your position unless you are forced to take a new hiding place by fleet movements.”

Almost a full day later the lander was approaching the interdiction fleet. They were moving towards the planet at high speed. The engines still had not been turned on and most of the passengers had already gone to rest once and had returned. The warships were actually visible as pins of light. Semplice knew that if they were spotted they would be destroyed by the powerful guns in mere moments.

 Luckily they passed without being noticed but then Semplice noticed a small pinprick of light. Zooming in on it he saw that it was a Fury class interceptor. The pilot had not yet noticed it. Semplice activated his vox unit: “Iota Tettares, replace pilot Ascanius. He will be tired of the long flight.”

Iota Tettares immediately moved towards the pilot’s seat who gladly stood up to go away to rest. As soon as she was seated the inquisitor continued: “There is a fury interceptor moving up towards us. Do you see it?”

“Yes my lord.”

“Take no action until I say so. But be prepared to escape into the atmosphere.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 13, 2012, 09:41:28 PM
"Nineteen years," he snarled. "Nineteen years ago, I was stranded here."

The shrouded figure glared at his captor with all the hatred, all the malice, of an ancient and debased slaughterer without a conscience.

"And nineteen years ago, I went mad. You will tell me, false saviour, why you have chosen to appear only now, rather than at the beginning."

"YOUR SUFFERING AMUSED ME," the black giant answered slowly, powerfully. "YOUR FUTILE ATTEMPTS TO DELAY THE INEVITABLE HAVE LED YOU BEFORE MY THRONE."

"I am not a plaything, nor some toy for your amusement!" the figure hissed, reaching for a bone knife bound with human leather.

"YOU WILL KNEEL."

The figure drew his knife and slashed at the giant, who barely registered the blade glancing from its thigh.

"KNEEL," the giant repeated.

Snarling, the figure threw the knife handle into the darkness. An arcane fluted pistol appeared in his hand, and a hail of razor-sharp crystal shards rebounded from the giant's skin as he pulled the trigger once, twice, three times.

"KNEEL!" the giant thundered, and the sheer volume of its voice made the figure stagger, dropping to one knee to avoid falling down. He paused, suddenly realising his position and noticing for the first time in nineteen years how vulnerable he was.

"What do you want?" the figure asked cautiously, hating himself for his weakness.

"A SERVANT, TO FIND MY OWN."

"And what do you presume I will get out of this? Some sense of gratification?"

"YOU WILL BE ABLE TO RETURN TO THE DARK CITY."

"Back to Commoragh?"

The figure hesitated, before staring straight at the giant. "You lie. She Who Thirsts already has the very fabric of my being in her grasp. She would strike me dead before I could set foot in the Dark City."

"THIS HAS NOT ESCAPED MY NOTICE. KILL IN MY NAME AND I WILL DELIVER YOU TO THE DARK CITY. THE HATED ONE WILL HAVE NO CLAIM TO YOUR TORTURED SOUL."

The figure contemplated the giant's words for the briefest of moments, before bowing his head and placing his palm on the floor.

"Varachen of the Flayed Skull accepts your offer... mighty Khar'neth."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Herald on February 14, 2012, 05:36:03 PM
“They’re opening communications, Ambrose.” Carson had just about got used to the idea of referring to the inquisitor by his first name.

“Very well, put them on screen, Carson.”

The bridge’s screen flickered into life to show a Naval captain in full uniform.

“This is Captain Lucien Vect on board the Spirit of Light you are entering interdicted space.”

“I’m aware of that Lucien, but I am an imperial inquisitor. Are you the commanding officer of the fleet?”

“No, Vice-Admiral Cairn Burnett. Has overall command.”

“I wish to speak with him, please.”

The screen flickered again and the Captain was replaced with Burnett, an arrogant looking man of indeterminate age with a large bionic that dominated the left side of his face.

“My apologies Inquisitor, I would have been with you sooner but I was dealing with one of your peers.”

“I’m not the only Inquisitor here?”

“No, in fact you’re one of three currently in system; may I be of service to you?”

Ambrose felt it was time to act upon a hunch and name drop Gelert Hesh, he wasn’t certain but there was a good chance that he had been involved in having the system declared interdicta and it might help get the Admiral onside if he mentioned a familiar name.

“Are you aware of Inquisitor Gelert Hesh?”

Burnett nodded slowly, “Is this to do with an inspection of the interdiction fleet, Inquisitor?”

“Not directly, Cairn, but that may be required if my sources are correct. I believe that a suspected smuggler of xenos goods has run the interdiction fleet and gone to ground in system to avoid my pursuit. I wish to inspect your records to see if this is possible and examine how such a failure may have occurred, inadvertently I’m sure. Furthermore I will need to land operatives on the system’s third planet, designated ΣΘΦΡ, I’m sure you will be able to facilitate this. Finally by quarry has been known to falsify Inquisitorial codes, I wouldn’t ask you to interfere in the business of what may be a genuine Inquisitor but if you could direct me to their present location so that I can verify their authority and whether we are working towards the same purpose then that would be incredibly helpful.”

“Certainly, Inquisitor. One of them is in fact dining with me this evening, may I extend the same invitation to you?”

“Thank you, Cairn, a decent meal would be greatly appreciated.”

The screen went blank and Ambrose sat back with a smile. Not only had the admiral bought his fictional tale of
the xenos smuggler but he felt he had managed to pull off a convincing impression of arrogant inquisitorial authority. The other Inquisitor’s could prove problematic if they hindered his real investigations but it was possible that they might know something. His plan would have to shift slightly as well. He would investigate the interdiction fleet itself and see if he could find the reason for it having been put in place. Redvers could follow official leads on the fictional Mouritz Khan with arbites while Milo and Jethro did some unofficial propping into the planet’s history and Rowena Memphis. All in all he felt quite positive about these new developments provided he could hold his own and lie to one of his peers over dinner with the admiral.

Leaving the bridge with a tuneless whistle he went in search of his formal robes. He briefly considered inviting Redvers with him before realising the potential for dull conversation that would manifest itself if the General found himself in the same room as another military man.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 14, 2012, 10:25:04 PM
"A smuggler of xeno artifacts?"

Inquisitor Barkley nodded, pausing to swallow a mouthful of fish. "There are Eldar ruins on the third planet. Or at the very least, there were."

"The few records I've been able to retrieve have also noted Eldar ruins," Andreas confirmed, juggling his cutlery and a data-slate with surprising grace; nonetheless, Andreas' dexterity had its limits, and a few greasy splashes had already begun to discolour his khaki tunic.

"A veritable treasure trove for this Mouritz Khan," Hallona noted, "blockade be damned."

The officers' dining hall on board the Asculum was fairly spartan, but by the standards of most warships it was positively extravagant. Electro-flambeaux sat in sconces along the walls, and a chandelier hung from the ceiling over the central table, liberally covered with plates of food and decanters of wine. The walls, by and large, were adorned with giant banners, each one commemorating an important victory or famous engagement. Some of the banners looked as old as the Age of Apostasy, though Haines had been generally uninterested by the grand display. A ship displaying its honours so openly might have been on the front lines, rather than relegated to patrol duty in an interdiction fleet. Haines knew it, and he knew that Burnett knew it too.

"If we're dealing with a rogue xenographer, then his transport likely possesses xenotech sensor-baffles or stealth suites if it can bypass an entire interdiction fleet," Andreas continued. "Though I must admit, his exit from the Immaterium should have been noticed, and the fact that it fell to Lord Barkley--"

"Ser Tuominen, with respect, "Ambrose" will be fine," Barkley interrupted, in between a mouthful of fried tuber and a swig of wine. Andreas glanced at him dubiously, before checking his expression and feigning profound interest in his own plate's contents, a mix of minced steak and vegetables wrapped in a demilune of shortcrust pastry. Burnett had apologised for the meal not being the sort of cuisine a man of status might have deserved, or even the appropriate fare for ranking Naval officers, but in truth Andreas had never tasted anything finer in his life.

"The mere fact that Khan would have escaped our notice without your information, however, gives us an entirely new reason for being here and sheds some light on the planet's chequered past," Andreas responded, pausing to add a new entry to his data-slate.

"Indeed. The distress signals were always my first reason for investigating, and I dare say Lord Haines had a similar motive," Hallona stated. "Vice-Admiral, which of your ships is responsible for reporting developments to the sector Conclave?"

"That would be the Asculum, my lady -- this very ship," Burnett answered, slightly wrong-footed by Hallona's question. "Though it is Lord Tiberius that monitors communications on the planet itself, as its augur array is more sensitive than our own."

He glanced away for the briefest moment, but found himself staring at Haines, who stared back with his cold grey eyes.

"And has Lord Tiberius' commanding officer passed any comments concerning the distress signals?" the giant Inquisitor asked.

"Only that they are repeated, and that they are regular," Burnett told him, slightly deflated. "Though air patrols from the Orchomenus' fighter wings have led us to dismiss their content. Contrary to what the messages indicate, Stonechapel has not fallen, and current evidence suggests that Governer Maras is alive and well."

"Then why pass them on to the sector Conclave?" Haines queried.

"I would expect that this is part of the fleet's duty, and not passing the messages on would be a dereliction of that duty," Andreas speculated.

"Arch-Curator Tuominen is essentially right," Burnett nodded. "Though these messages have been regular for several years now."

"Including the scrap code?" inquired Hallona.

Burnett paused, suddenly no longer hungry.

"Scrap code?" asked Barkley. "Sorry -- I have come here under entirely different pretences, and you all know this. But with Khan bringing me here, and these messages drawing you..."

"The most recent messages have been carriers for scrap code, or what looks like scrap code," Andreas explained. "In reality, the scrap code is a string of encrypted messages, all with elements indicative of heretical cult activity. In itself, not something that warrants the attention of the Inquisition -- and indeed, something the Navy can take care of -- but somehow these messages were picked up by Lord Tiberius in scrap code form, and passed along through the Asculum. If I didn't know better, I'd say someone wanted the Inquisition to come here."

"Why?" Burnett and Barkley asked in unison.

"That's exactly what I'd like to know," Hallona answered, her tone deathly serious. "We--"

"Vice-Admiral," a voice interrupted over the intercom. "Vice-Admiral, forgive me for interrupting the proceedings, but there is a... situation on the bridge that warrants your attention."

"Balls," Burnett huffed under his breath, before activating his microbead. "This is Burnett. First Officer Macadie, maintain order; I will be there presently."

Burnett turned to Haines, Hallona and Barkley with a resigned look on his face. "My lords and lady, it looks as though dinner may have to wait until this situation resolves itself. I invite you to the bridge if you feel it would be of use to you, else you are, of course, at liberty to do what you must."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on February 15, 2012, 10:11:18 PM
"What the hell is going on up here?" Burnett thundered as the elevator doors opened onto the bridge. Haines was immediately struck by the sheer amount of bronze in the huge chamber, from railings to devotional icons to the fittings supporting yet more of those garish banners and Aquila pennants. Oddly, the crysteel dome in the ceiling was framed with what looked like polished silver.

"We've picked up a contact on the long-range augur arrays, my lord," answered a thin, bearded man in his mid-fifties that Haines took to be First Officer Macadie. "Unidentified vessel. Looks like a cruiser."

"Another one?" Burnett sighed, his frustration evident. "If this is another Inquisition vessel..."

"That's the problem, my lord. We can't tell."

Burnett paused, managing a flat "What?" as Macadie gestured towards a cogitator pit, its shaven-headed occupant tapping away furiously on the interface board.

"The fact that it's unidentified would rather suggest that it's either an Inquisition vessel, or not Imperial," Andreas speculated as he followed Haines and Burnett.

"Isn't it transmitting any sort of IFF at all?" Hallona queried, and Macadie turned around in surprise, as if only just becoming aware of three Inquisitors sharing the bridge.

"Therein lies the problem, my lady," Macadie managed at length. "The IFF is there, but it's completely blank. It's transmitting empty noise."

"Do we have any idea which way it's going?" Haines asked.

Macadie paused, turned to the cogitator, then went pale.

"It seems to be on an approach vector," the First Officer reported, his voice suddenly hoarse. "Your orders, Vice-Admiral?"

"Have you attempted to hail it? Inform its captain that this system is regio interdicta?"

"Lord Tiberius has been broadcasting such a message on repeat since the vessel appeared in-system," Macadie answered, some of his colour returning slowly. "Should we hail it directly?"

"Where is Lord Tiberius, in relation to both the unidentified ship and us?" Barkley inquired.

"Some five thousand kilometres astern of us, if it's still in formation," Burnett informed the Inquisitor. "Which would put Foehammer Squadron close to us as well."

"Are we expecting trouble?" Andreas interjected.

"The fleet's standing orders are to engage any non-compliant or hostile ship that enters the interdiction zone," Macadie answered. "I presume that the Vice-Admiral can explain the specifics better than I can."

"Hail Lord Tiberius and Foehammer Squadron," Hallona suggested to Burnett. "Have them form up and align towards the unknown ship."

"Understood, my lady," Burnett nodded, heading over to the command pulpit. "Mister Macadie, you heard the Inquisitor."

Macadie nodded and barked an order at another crewman. Presently, the tanned face of another, less senior Naval officer appeared on the bridge's main vid-screen.

"Ship's Captain Marwan al-Kalil reporting from Lord Tiberius," the officer stated. "What are your orders, Asculum?"

"Lord Tiberius, hail that unknown ship directly. If it is still unwilling to change course, then form up with Foehammer Squadron, align portside, and engage."

"Understood, Asculum."

"Maintain an audio feed with us. I have a bad feeling about this."

"Understood. Lord Tiberius ending vid-feed."

The screen went blank, but in a matter of seconds the screen began to flicker with static, the vox-casters hissing angrily.

"That can't be normal," Andreas noted, somewhat unnecessarily.

Before Burnett or any of the Inquisitors could respond, the static faded and an image straight out of Mankind's worst nightmares resolved itself on the screen.

Standing in an oppressive, red-lit room filled with machinery, the floor strewn with cables and the ceiling shrouded in smoke, was a Space Marine...

"Identify yourself!" Burnett shouted, trying desperately not to show the horror that gripped every fibre of his being.

The Space Marine was hideous to behold. A crown of horns, eight in all, adorned his helmet, each one etched with blasphemous runes and capped with a spike of black iron. His massive shoulders were similarly defaced, each one decorated with a sigil that pained the eyes to look at. An Opus Machina icon sat on his breastplate, the circle of cog teeth replaced with a wheel of spikes, and the armour on his legs was banded with brass strips that terminated in broad arrowhead points. A massive servo-harness was mounted on his back, each of its six arms fitted with a different instrument that the Space Marine had no doubt put to use in combat as well as in his labours, be it the plasma cutter by his left knee, or the magna-clamp hovering over his shoulder, or the circular saw next to his elbow. He stood cruciform in the chamber, each of his hands grasping some sort of interface mechanism whose purpose Haines couldn't decipher.

The Space Marine was staring straight at the camera, and although Haines couldn't see his face -- nobody could -- he couldn't shake the thought that the Space Marine was looking directly at him, staring through his visor and the screen directly into his soul.

"LOST CHILDREN OF THE CARRION LORD," the Space Marine addressed the bridge, his words completely devoid of emotion, his voice a menacing monotone. "YOU REACH OUT TO ME, FUMBLING IN IGNORANCE, INCAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING."

"What are you?" Burnett hissed, slowly losing his grip on his emotions. It was a wonder that he hadn't already soiled himself.

"A SURVIVOR OF AN ERA SO FAR BEYOND YOUR UNDERSTANDING THAT YOU CANNOT IMAGINE IT. I AM BEYOND YOUR COMPREHENSION. I AM ZAGAN AND YOU ARE MY ENEMY."

"You... Emperor's oath, a Traitor Marine!" Macadie screamed, drawing a laspistol.

"YOUR WORDS ARE MEANINGLESS. YOU EXIST BECAUSE WE ALLOW IT."

Macadie raised his pistol to his head.

"AND YOU WILL END BECAUSE WE DEMAND IT."

The pistol fired and Macadie fell to the floor, the side of his skull missing, the contents of his brain pan splattered across the floor.

"YOU CANNOT ESCAPE YOUR DOOM."

"Close the channel!" Haines called to the man he hoped was the comms operator.

"It won't close!" the comms operator shouted back from the other side of the bridge.

"Lord Tiberius reports comms shutdown failure--"

"Foehammer Alpha reporting, we can't block it out--"

"YOUR FIRST MISTAKE WAS UNDERESTIMATING YOUR PERIL," Zagan continued. "YOUR SECOND MISTAKE WAS ALLOWING THIS VESSEL TO APPROACH YOU."

"Shut it down, shut it down!" Burnett screamed.

"YOUR THIRD MISTAKE WAS HAILING ME DIRECTLY."

The consoles beneath Zagan's hands lit up with a harsh scarlet light.

"BEAR WITNESS TO YOUR DESTRUCTION."

The audio feed suddenly erupted with the noise of a massive explosion, then static, then silence.

"What the hell was that?" Hallona snapped.

"This is Lord Tiberius!" screamed Captain al-Kalil from the other side of the connection. "We've lost control of our weapons, I repeat, we have lost control of our guns!"

"Foehammer Beta is gone--"

"What manner of sorcery is this?" Burnett whimpered.

"FOR TEN THOUSAND YEARS I HAVE UNRAVELLED THE SECRETS OF THE MACHINE, UNRESTRICTED BY THE CLOCKWORK GOD OF MARS."

"Target identified!" shouted the first bridge crewman. "Grand cruiser, Exorcist class!"

"I AM SUPERIOR. A GOD OF MACHINES."

"Emperor protect us, he's got control of our engines!" al-Kalil shouted, panicking. "Asculum, the enemy has aligned us towards you and--"

"Your orders, Vice-Admiral?" a bridge crewman called over, but Burnett wasn't listening.

"SUBMIT NOW," Zagan rumbled.

"Asculum, brace for impact, he's launching our torpedoes! I repeat, he is--"

Another violent blast of static signalled the demise of Foehammer Alpha as Zagan's grand cruiser drifted ever onwards, the Traitor Marine content to pit one Imperial vessel against the other.

"Orchomenus, Resaena, Archduke Gordian, this is Asculum, requesting immediate assistance!"

"Void shields at 60%!"

"Starboard guns, target Lord Tiberius and fire at will!" Hallona ordered into the vox, pushing past the catatonic Burnett. "Ordnance, lock onto the enemy ship and launch torpedoes when ready!"

"Andreas, which way are the life pods?" Haines asked, his tone desperate.

"The nearest life pods are two decks down from the officers' dining hall," Andreas answered. "Should I assume--"

Haines didn't wait for Andreas to finish, already on his way out of the bridge. Ignoring the elevator, he went into the stairwell, leaping down each set of eight steps at a run, with Andreas and Barkley close behind. Hallona was last out, descending more carefully but somehow catching up with Andreas three floors down.

"Through that door," Andreas advised, and Haines barged through the doorway not a moment too soon as the entire ship shook. Andreas fell face-first into Haines' elbow, and Barkley and Hallona found themselves piling up on top of Haines' aide.

"Direct hit?" Barkley wondered, peeling himself away from the arms coffer on Andreas' back.

"Hull breach on starboard side decks 11 through 18," declared an automated voice -- a servitor, Haines assumed, or an unfortunate Enginseer. "Prepare for retaliation and pray for deliverance."

Slowly, Haines became aware of the alarms blaring away somewhere towards the front of the ship, and wondered whether the enemy ship or Lord Tiberius might target the bridge next.

"We need to get the hell off this ship right now," Hallona grunted as she picked herself up.

"Agreed," Barkley nodded. "If we tarry, then--"

Another rumble cut Barkley off in mid-flow, and then they were running, down stairwells and along corridors, barging their way through a maddened, panicking crowd of Naval soldiers and crewmen, as the emergency lighting fizzed into existence with a brilliant red glow.

"Multiple hull breaches on all starboard side gun decks," the servitor droned. "The Emperor protects."

"That grand cruiser must've decided to wade in," Barkley commented. "Throne knows how much firepower that thing must have behind it."

"This way!" Andreas prompted them, cutting down a side tunnel, but a sudden surge of bodies pushed Haines in the opposite direction and he found himself herded by the mass of the crowd down a central corridor. In the confusion he lost sight of Andreas, Barkley and Hallona entirely.

Another tremor pitched him off his feet, and thinking quickly, he rolled through a doorway to avoid a crush of bodies piling up against each other, and made a run for it while he could.

"Prow existence failure detected. Hull breaches on all levels."

"Oh, shut up already!" Haines shouted, knowing perfectly well that it would do him no good.

Fires were already breaking out across the Asculum as the damage took its toll. Twice, Haines came close to being set on fire as something across the way from him exploded -- a fuse box the first time, Emperor only knew what the second one was -- and with the blood-red emergency lighting, it looked to Haines like the whole ship was going straight to hell. He passed a few corpses, either trampled by their more desperate crewmates, or killed by the ship's death throes.

Most of the life pods in the bay that Andreas had indicated had already jettisoned by the time Haines found his way to them, and any crew members that weren't already on one of them were either on other levels, or dead. Some of the life pods had never launched; a fraction were intact, but most of the remaining pods were on fire or blocked off by wreckage.

The shot that destroyed the prow must have caused more structural damage than Haines had realised, and he reasoned that something must have fused shut, else there wouldn't have been any air in the life pod bay.

"Get in, get in!" a voice shouted, and he raced towards its owner, leaning out of one of the last life pods as the Asculum continued to fall apart. Somewhere behind him, a man screamed as an explosion blasted him out of the corridor and face-first into the floor; Haines suspected that he was dead before he cleared the doorway, but the Inquisitor was almost at the life pod, and there was no way that he was going back to check now.

"Come on!" the voice encouraged me as he sprinted towards the life pod, hurtling through the door at full tilt before misjudging a step and crashing into the voice's owner.

"He's in," coughed Riley Hallona.

"Emperor protect us," muttered Andreas, sealing the door and hitting the release rune. Haines was about to protest, but as he looked back out into the bay and saw a pile of flaming wreckage barring the entrance, he decided that three Inquisitors plus Andreas making themselves scarce was probably for the best, even though they were sharing a life pod designed for a full platoon.

The pod launched cleanly, and the last Haines saw of the Asculum was a chain of explosions running all along the hull, as Zagan's ship squatted thousands of kilometres away and took the ship apart with contemptuous ease.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on February 16, 2012, 03:02:32 AM
Riley felt like collapsing into one of the seats, but with no artificial gravity in the life pod, such a thing was impossible. Trying to grab on to one of the various handles instead, she gingerly touched the back of her head. Bringing her hand back around, a drop of fresh blood drifted away from red fingers.

   "Crap."

It was Andreas that noticed first, quickly dragging himself over.

   "Emperor alive, you're bleeding something awful".
   "Worse than just that, I imagine. After a blow like that, I've probably got a couple of minutes before the symptoms of a concussion kick in. I'm going to strap myself in; you see if there's a med-kit - or some other way of staunching the bleeding, I don't care. Then you'll need to put up with me being dazed and confused. Try and stop me from doing anything stupid."

Haines, an expression on his face that was equally alarmed and apologetic, began to speak, but Riley  cut him off.
   "Don't worry about it. If you can find Steren, she's fixed worse than this before."
   "The woman who was with you...? I think you may have to assume the worst." , it was Barkley who spoke.
   "Not a chance", she reached for the seat straps, "That girl's tougher than tanned grox hide. If we made it off, she made it off."

Andreas floated back over, raiding the limited medikit he had wrested from the far end of the pod. Turning her head carefully, he applied one of the sterilised pads to a pained wince.

   "No... go on." , she implored him to continue, "Thank you, by the way."

She flinched again before the sight of the Asculum being torn apart caught her eye.

   "What in all the hells happened? How did that bastard take control of our fleet?"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 16, 2012, 08:45:35 AM
Suddenly Semplice detected bright flashes. He could see massive powers being unleashed on the ships of the Interdiction Fleet. It was clear that the fleet had come under attack and in the distance he saw the pinprick of light that probably was the cause of it. Strangely enough the Imperial ships seemed to be firing as well, but not on the new ship but on each other. It had come very close to the fleet and suddenly his single eye failed, overloaded by the destruction of a cruiser.

Blinded he spoke: “Tettares, fire the engines, escape the destruction.”

“Yes my lord”, she said. Still as calm as he had designed her to be.

While the lander suddenly accelerated he recalled the Fury. Its pilot was clearly confused by the events. He did not react to the suddenly revealed presence of the lightly armed shuttle, otherwise his child would have informed him of it.

Mere moments later he heard Tettares: “My lord, another cruiser has been lost. Sensors reveal that the unknown ship probably is a Grand Cruiser, class unknown. The vessel appears to be alone.”

His eye was starting to return to function. He looked around and saw his staff. The tech priests remained calm as they should. The humans were another matter entirely. All of them seemed to be deeply disturbed by the events. The pilot was in the worst state. All the colour had left his face and he appeared to be muttering curses under his breath. Semplice addressed them:

“There is nothing to fear but failure. And failure is a lack of faith in the Emperor. Those of little faith await only one reward. To be cast out and be damned for all eternity. The Emperor has no place by his side for those who lack the conviction to serve Him. As His agent I shall not tolerate any lack of faith.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Octavian Lars on February 16, 2012, 04:18:26 PM
I was inspecting the gun decks that night, but all of a sudden, there was a flash of light in the middle of space. Evidently someone was firing plasma torpedoes. As fast as my metal legs would carry me, I ran towards the bridge and shouted at Captain Wagner:
"Emperordamnit, find out what the feth is going on! Hail the vice admiral! Scan for unregistered vessels! And turn the ship around at the double"
"As you command, Inquisitor, but the hull may not.."
"Damn that, we'll have worse to worry about if the ship that blew the Asculum comes for us. Prime the Nova Cannon and ready the batteries!"
"Your will be done! READY THE BATTERIES, PRIME THE NOVA CANNON" Wagner screamed into the vox
"What are the scan results?"
"The Asculum has taken heavy damage, as has the Lord Tiberius"
"Vice Admiral Burrnet is hailing us!"
"affirmative!"
"Holst, I beg of you, don't engage the cruiser, it is a chaos exorcist helmed by a traitor marine!"
"We will do what we can to help you! Fire the Nova Cannon when in range!"
"Range in 20, 19, 18"
"Holst, he turned our own ship against us, you don't know what your doing!"
"14, 13, 12"
"My ship is warded against the fell powers of chaos we will be all right!"
"8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, FIRE"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 16, 2012, 08:31:51 PM
Barely ten seconds had passed before the Hammer of Justice's hull lit up against the glow of incandescent starfire, as the nova cannon shell detonated against the enemy vessel's shields with the fury of a newborn star.

"Direct hit, my lord, right on target!" Wagner snarled, and Holst felt a moment's glee as the icon representing the grand cruiser on the ship's holodeck dissolved into a bubble of static.

"I'd call that a job well done, Mister Wagner," Holst grinned. "Punched that little bastard right back into--"

"INQUISITOR."

Holst's blood, or what was left of it, turned to ice as the static cleared, revealing the grand cruiser's icon standing out proudly against the aftermath of the nova cannon's impact.

"YOU ARE IGNORANT OF WHAT YOU FACE," the Traitor Marine announced through the Hammer of Justice's vox array. "YOUR RESISTANCE IS IRRELEVANT. RETREAT WHILE YOU CAN."

"Reload the nova cannon!" Wagner ordered. "Give that bastard another taste of the Emperor's fury!"

"YOUR SLAVE'S BLIND DEVOTION TO THE CARRION LORD WILL NOT AVAIL YOU."

"Resaena, do you copy?" shouted one of the bridge crew. "Resaena, this is the Hammer of Justice, change your course--"

Holst's attention was drawn to the holodeck, and the ancient Inquisitor froze as the icon representing the Resaena began to turn, its velocity increasing as it propelled itself towards the Hammer of Justice's port side.

"I HAVE BEHELD THE PASSING OF MILLENNIA. I WAS ANCIENT WHEN THE IMPERIUM WAS BORN. YOUR VESSELS ARE AS PLAYTHINGS IN MY HANDS."

"Deploy port side macrobatteries and lock onto the Resaena!" Wagner thundered. "I will not tolerate Chaos sorcery. If that ship does not change its course, then I want it destroyed!"

Under his breath, Holst swore.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on February 17, 2012, 11:29:58 PM
The Justified Fury broke into real space in with a myriad of colour playing around her hull as her real space engines kicked in to full power to pull her away from the warp hole as it closed up behind her, upon the bridge surrounded by the servitored crew and the aged captain, Marshal Narl Ravion stood like a statue, he'd been on the bridge to witness the return to real space and marvelled at the translation.

He turned his head to the captain.

"How long till we join the fleet?"

"Seventy three hours at impulse speed."

Alarms sounded across the bridge and Narl spun round to look upon the servitors.

"Report!"

A digitised voice responded to him from one of the dozens of servitors below.

"Fleet is engaged in ship to ship combat."

The Captain stepped forward leaning over the railing shouting down at the servitors and the human crew.

"Get me more details! Who are they fighting?"

There was a long pause then one of the human crew shouted back up.

"There are only Imperial ships on long range sensors, they are engaging themselves!"

"What madness is this?"

Narl lifted his finger to his ear a habit he'd never gotten over and spoke as he activated the implanted vox link in his skull.

"Reiver team ready weapons for combat engagement, maximum force."

He looked back at the captain lowering his hand.

"How long will it take to join the fleet at full speed?"

"Six hours, but you can't be serious, this ship is not a ship of the line we do not have the weaponry to engage naval ships."

"Take us in as close as you can, we will look for survivors and should the opportunity present itself I'll lead my team into the fleet to retort order."

The captain resigned himself and barked orders down into the bridge.

"All ahead full! Bring weapons online and roll our gunnery ports, cycle void shields to alternating frequencies and take us into the fleet, sensorium keep our eyes peeled for escape pods or life boats"

The Engines of the Justified Fury cycled to full power the frame of the ship complaining as the ship powered forward the roar of the ships powerful engines echoed through the lower decks in a deafening rumbled as the crew rushed bring the ship to full combat readiness.

Narl stood impassively watching as the ship truly came alive, the bulk head behind the captains throne hissed open and a slight female figure walked in already clad in armour like himself she wore a long flak coat, she offered the captain a nod of respect as she stepped up behind Narl presenting a helm for him, he took it and slid it onto his head without looking at her.

"This is a looking like a right viss up Narl."

"You're telling me, what's the readiness of the team Narcia?"

"We're at full combat readiness what are you planning?"

"Nothing yet, I want Euphrati, Uriah, Van Heller and Silon  up here with me, Varnias, Lear and Lupus ready to receive wounded the rest I want split between you Kaltos and Eisen to run security sweeps of the ship."

He turned to the captain.

"What's the status of the ship?"

The Captain looked at the terminal to his side.

"Lower decks are locked down, all ship crew report combat readiness, fire teams are standing by and arms men are ready to join with your Arbiters to defend the ship, gunnery crews are still cycling but they'd be ready in under one hour."

He nodded as he turned his attention back to the view port

"In the Emperor's name then."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 18, 2012, 09:47:25 AM
"What in all the hells happened? How did that bastard take control of our fleet?"

"I wish I knew," Haines answered slowly.

"Sorcery?" suggested Barkley.

"Whatever it was reeked of Warpcraft," conceded Haines, "but I doubt it was sorcery. He mentioned the Omnissiah. More likely it was some sort of black science or forbidden tech that the Martian Priesthood deems off-limits."

"It would take a sorcerer of truly monstrous power to enslave an entire ship like that," Andreas added, somewhat unhelpfully.

"And if he had that kind of power at his disposal then he could have turned the crew into his slaves, or simply destroyed the ship outright," Haines speculated.

"However he did it, the point still stands that we went from being on board an Imperial Navy cruiser, to being in a life pod, with the only things standing in that bastard's way turning into his pawns," Hallona noted, raising a hand to her head.

"Are you alright?" Barkley asked dimly. "You should probably get some rest rather than think too much about it."

Hallona looked up at Barkley, her eyes slightly unfocused.

"I'll be fine. Although I'd be a lot better if I didn't have this bloody headache, and if there weren't suddenly two of you."

Haines found himself somewhere between moving over to help, and moving backwards to stay out of Hallona's way.

"I told you, don't worry about it," Hallona sighed. "The important thing is that both of you are alive, Madoc, and right now the only thing on my mind is working out how that bastard took control of our fleet."

Barkley opened his mouth to speak, but Andreas forestalled him by putting a hand on Barkley's shoulder.

"This risks becoming three Inquisitors having six different opinions if we keep speculating, my lord," he reminded Barkley. "What's more important is that we make it down to the planet's surface in one piece. Which, in my opinion -- and I am sure that my Lord Haines will agree with me -- has to be better than sitting stranded in a life pod."

"On that note, Andreas, perhaps you could go and recalibrate the pod's guidance systems," Haines proposed.

"Because you agree with me, my lord, or simply because you don't want a repeat of New Gemini?" Andreas replied, pushing off towards the front of the life pod.

Barkley moved closer to Haines. "Is that normal?"

"For Andreas?"

"He doesn't seem all that bothered by the fact that you are everything he isn't."

"He's useful enough," Haines shrugged. "You'll get used to him before long."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 19, 2012, 08:16:21 PM
The star went out.

It had been aeons since he had seen a star die, and deep down, he knew that what he saw was not a star, but he didn't care.

First one star, then another as the bloody one drew inexorably closer, and from his perch, he saw it all, the fate of a world mapped out in a night sky that had been his constant companion for nineteen filthy years.

And for the first time in his life, his other constant companion was absent.

He was grateful for that.

Meteors were falling as the sky exploded with brightness, another new star born in the cosmos, only to die in seconds as the bloody one weathered its fury. He was torn between revulsion at its presence, and exultation as the weaklings cowering before it perished in blood and fire.

A squirming in his hand brought his attention back to the mon-keigh captive he had taken, a female, begging for her life as he held her in his grip.

He couldn't understand her language any more. Perhaps he never could.

"They are here," he observed, his voice as calm as a gentle breeze, as he nonchalantly brought his knife across his prisoner's throat and spilled her blood across the floor.

He knelt as the blood poured from the wound, and touched his lips to the crimson flow.

"Mighty Khar'neth, accept this sacrifice, the first of many I shall place before your bloody throne," he prayed. "And whether they are great heroes or cowardly fools, before your throne shall all skulls come to rest."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on February 19, 2012, 09:41:50 PM
"Marshal we're getting more information from the forward sensorium."

Narl stepped to the rail he didn't speak he looked down at the officer.

"There is a Grand Cruiser Exorcist Class in the heart of the fleet, it's transmitting a blank IFF we thought it was ghosting from the Imperial ships but as we're closing we're getting more details."

"Filter them through to the wardroom I will review them with the Captain."

He strode from the rail Euphrati, Uriah, Van Heller followed as he left the bridge for a grand wardroom lined with oaken shelves filled with tomes of thick bound leather, Van Heller went strait to the hololith terminal and cycled the unit to life, a projection of the space battle filled the space above it. Uriah looked up at it sucking in a deep breath as he strode round the projection.

"Some mess you've brought us into boy."

He always called Narl boy a sign of his age he called the entire team save for Varnias boy or girl, he leant on the hololith pointing at a portion of the fleet.

"Seems someone has some brains and are getting the hell out of there."

Euphrati shrank into the corner of the room she shivered as the scene played out.

"I can feel them dying out there, voices in the warp crying out in pain and suffering."

Narl glanced at her for a moment before stepping up to the projection his finger pointing at the lead break away ship.

"Which ship is that?"

"The Orchomenus, Dictator class under the command of Commodore Tyra Vargas."

The Captain said as he entered the wardroom striding to a throne at the far end of the room he slipped into it connecting with the rest of his ship.

"Claymore Squadron is falling in behind The Orchomenus presenting a firewall."

He swung his hand and the projection shifted.

"Cyclone Squadron, Manticore Squadron and Templar Squadron are moving into engagement range."

He cycled up the projection focussing on more ships

"The Resaena, Tyrant class is engaging Hammer of Justice, Dominator class Inquisition ship. and the Archduke Gordian, Lunar Class is engaging the Lord Tiberius another Tyrant class."

Narl stroked his chin as he looked over the details.

"Open a link to the The Orchomenus, I want to know how this happened."

"It will take time the fleet seems to have shut down communications."

"Get them talking to me."

Van Heller pointed at two ships breaking from the fleet.

"Which ships are these?"

A moments pause and the captain turned his attention to the young man.

"They are Inquisition, Sword of Integrity a sword class and the Graceful Prosperity, unknown class."

Uriah hissed in displeasure.

"Inquisition, that means trouble."

"Remember who summoned us, continue to take us into range of the fleet, prepare batteries to return fire, have assault craft readied, continue to hail the The Orchomenus."

The hololith changed as more information filtered through dozens of specks appeared.

"Life boats and escape pods, the closest will be in range with us in two hours, several pods have changed trajectory towards the planets surface."

"The world if off limits to all, that includes the Inquisition, once we've dealt with the fleet we're round up the trespassers."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 20, 2012, 04:05:49 PM
"Keep flying, Mister Hargadon, we're still closer to that grand cruiser than I'd like," Vargas warned her helmsman as she stood watching the figures in the holodeck fight each other, massive vessels rendered in miniature as they flung ordnance at each other across the void.

Claymore Squadron were still in formation behind them. That was good.

"Blackguard Squadron has docked," reported one of the bridge officers. "No losses reported. Bravura Squadron requests permission to engage the Resaena in support of the Hammer of Justice."

"Request denied. Tell the Lieutenant to get his arse back here, or we're leaving him behind."

"Aye, Commodore."

"And someone hail Archduke Gordian, and get her to disengage!" Vargas shouted.

"No good, Commodore, they--"

"There's a frigate hailing us," another officer cut in. "Callsign is the Justified Fury."

"Does it at least have an IFF?" Vargas asked, her agitation showing.

"The IFF marks it as Adeptus Arbites. Your orders, Commodore?"

Vargas swore.

"Answer it," she ordered. First Inquisition, and now Arbites...

The face of an enormous Arbitrator filled the vid-screen. Vargas nearly mistook him for a very small Space Marine until she saw the pins and insignia on his carapace armour.

"This is Lord-Marshal Narl Ravion, on board the Arbites strike vessel Justified Fury," the giant growled. "I need to know what has happened."

"See for yourself, Lord-Marshal," Vargas replied matter-of-factly. "I trust you've noticed our fleet fighting each other?"

"This system is regio interdicta; was it a reaction to the Inquisition's presence?"

Vargas shook her head, part exasperated, part amused. "Hardly. No fewer than four Inquisitors were authorised to enter the interdiction zone by the Sector Conclave. Three of them were on board the Asculum when it went down."

"What?"

"That grand cruiser's got some sort of weapon that overrides a ship's machine spirit and enslaves it to the will of whichever bastard's at the helm," Vargas informed him. "Vice-Admiral Burnett is... was convinced that it's a Chaos vessel. It took over Lord Tiberius, then the Resaena."

"You're vissing me," Narl exclaimed in disbelief before he could stop himself.

"The Vice-Admiral's last orders were to move away from the grand cruiser, and withdraw. Then the Asculum went down."

Vargas paused to glance over at the holodeck. "So far, only the Orchomenus and Claymore Squadron have complied with that order."

"And the Inquisition?"

"Either they went down with the ship, Lord-Marshal, or they're in a life pod. Given how quickly Lord Tiberius took it down, I suspect the former."

Narl let out a frustrated sigh. "Was one of them named Andreas?"

"There was an Arch-Curator Andreas Tuominen on board the Asculum when it came under attack. If he was your contact, then I must say I have my doubts as to whether he survived."

"Great," sighed Narl. "Send out a distress signal, Commodore, if you can. If this is a Chaos incursion then they wouldn't send just one warship. We'll need reinforcements."

"Very well. It'll mean the enemy knows we're still out here, but if the Navy gets it, then I wouldn't want to be in the enemy captain's position," Vargas answered, "even with a weapon that controls entire ships."

She turned to another bridge crewman. "Mister Kees, get me a line to Adept Aristan. Priority level delta."

Kees nodded and turned back to his terminal.

"Now then, Lord-Marshal, was there anything else?" Vargas queried, silently hoping that the Arbitrator would leave her to it.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on February 20, 2012, 04:20:36 PM
He frowned at the woman's dismissive tone but turned looking over his shoulder.

"You are the acting officer in command of this fleet, get your ships in order. Have those not affected by this weapon pull back from the engagement zone and establish a blockade, I will lead my team to the surface to round up survivors, if you have need of them the arms men of this ship are at your disposal."

He turned from the vid link speaking with the captain.

"Ready my assault craft I want to be under way as soon as we are in range of the planet."

He turned back to the Commodore.

"I expect you to be able to restore order Madam, or I will take command of the fleet. I do not want to have to make that decision."

He killed the link turning to the other members of his team.

"Get to the launch bay."

His attention turned to the captain.

"Keep talking with  the Orchomenus I want to be kept up to speed with the situation."

He strode from the wardroom.

"Hell and viss."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Herald on February 20, 2012, 04:23:43 PM
Ambrose settled back in his seat, still somewhat puzzled by the relationship between Haines and Andreas. He'd always encouraged an informal relationship with his own staff but Andreas' tone almost bordered on insubordination which was particularly surprising given how physically intimidating Haines himself was. Ambrose doubted he would be able to address him in such a manner and he was technically his equally, if physically quite inferior.

Riley was quite clearly suffering from her head trauma, although trying not to show it, and Andreas had done a limited job at patching her up. Ambrose was inclined to help, after all it was what he had originally been trained for, but she had waved away Haines when he'd offered help and with concussion there wasn't a huge amount that Ambrose could do, especially as he'd left his medical kit, along with all his weaponry, on board the Prosperity. He hoped that Carson had had the sense to disappear when the traitor ship had appeared and that the shuttle carrying Redvers, Milo and Jethro, which had departed as soon as Burnett had given clearance, had made it through to the planet. He would try and contact them both when, or rather if, they landed. Meanwhile his thoughts returned to his lack of armament.

“I'm, er, unarmed and as it seems we may be encountering unforeseen combat situations I was wondering whether anyone has some form of weaponry they could lend me?” He asked. “Preferably something that’s relatively easy to use.” He added with an uncomfortable glance at the plasma pistol at Haines waist, he'd seen what they could do to their wielders during his time in the military.

Unarmed, separated from his staff in an unexpected and terrifying situation and confined in the life-pod with the towering Haines and the already bleeding Riley, Ambrose had never felt more hapless and less inquisitorial. He'd have to shake such doubts from his mind if he was to survive whatever awaited them on the forbidden planet
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 20, 2012, 08:38:01 PM
An immensely bright flesh blinded everyone in the small lander. Semplice’s eye was prepared now and he quickly saw again. What he saw was a disaster, the nova cannon detonation, which it had to be, had not only blinded his companions but also sent Tettares into the kind of shock she suffered from very bright lights. She had fallen from her chair and was twitching on the floor. Another point that would have been addressed if magos Haskil had survived the attack of those without vision.

He looked around for someone to replace his stricken child. The pilot was nowhere to be seen, probably hiding in his assigned bunk. The man obviously lacking the will to do the Emperor’s work. Nevertheless he called the man, augmenting his voice to the highest levels: “Flight officer Damas, report immediately to your station.”

He turned down his voice again and ordered Karnak’s subordinate to see to Tettares in binaric which he had learned a long time ago. At the same time he spoke: “Pantariste, assist tech-priest minoris Nargal with my daughter.”

The tech priestess and the veteran soldier carried Tettares away from the cockpit while the pilot arrived. He looked at the still twitching girl and immediately seemed to have become even more frightened. Shivering he took up his old position. He asked: “My lord, what are your orders?”

“Enter the planet’s atmosphere,  once we have done so we shall look for a suitable landing site. Do not allow yourself to be distracted.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on February 21, 2012, 04:58:29 AM
It was too warm below decks, too warm and too dark. The crew had abandoned this place centuries ago, leaving it to the hullghasts, the bendies, the phantoms and bogeymen of the void. It was situated directly below one of the gun-decks and Volos had no doubt they would all be deafened should the broadsides above ever be fired. The thought was oddly pleasing – he would like to see his master robbed of another sense.

Master. He loathed the title, yet was any other preferable? Liege. Employer. Blackmailer. The man who held his leash.

Before they had claimed this place there had been monsters down here. There still were, Volos corrected himself, but before the Maimed had taken up residence here this level had been haunted by hideous, pallid things. Whether they were mutants or aliens Volos preferred not to speculate – he had mainly seen the charred bodies after Sonneillon and his mute-freak assassin Remiel were done with them. No two were quite alike, but all of them shared skin so pale as be translucent, oversized, dark eyes like some deep-sea fish and rotten fangs or, in some cases, hardened gums. Their naked bodies were hairless and covered in nodules and tumours. They were creatures of nightmare, but Volos’ nightmares were crowded enough.

They had spent two days hunting in the darkness, his master illuminated only by a burning sword, too small in his hand. Blind as he was, he could not use the blade with any real finesse, but there was no need. For all his inelegance he was inhumanly and the bisected remains of the monsters fell behind him. Others he set alight with a spurt of fuel from his flamer, their thrashing bodies torches for the rest of the Mained to see by.

A few had attempted to sneak behind them and were quickly dispatched by Remiel’s spear. One lunged at Sonneillon’s artificer, who merely eyed it lazily before the towering space marine span around and lifted it effortlessly by the throat, crushing its windpipe in his gauntleted fist. The legs twitched and then hung loose as the neck snapped, audibly.

Volos had been sick. Presumably it was still here, somewhere. This place had not been cleaned in millennia – slime-moulds and moss covered the areas of decking that had not been used as major thoroughfares by the mutant-things. He had struggled to not be sick again when his master had selected a few of the bodies and cracked open their skulls, scooping out the grey tissue and eating it raw, one of the many nonsensical habits that Volos tried not to think about.

What little light he had merely showed the squalor of this place, all rust and decay. How the mighty had fallen... Once, Volos had lived in a world of beauty and splendour, and now he was in the filthy bowels of some Throne-forsaken trader. Was it the same for Sonneillon? He claimed to have fought in the Heresy, ten thousand years ago, to have lived through the Great Crusade. He had walked alongside legends and heroes and now he squatted in the darkness muttering to himself.

The wan light of Volos’ lantern fell on his master, who had no need of it, and Mordecai, who seemed content to sit and share in his master’s blindness. He was polishing something, most likely a piece of Sonneillon’s armour. Remiel was nowhere to be seen, so it was safe to assume he was close by and watching Volos closely.

Sonneillon was naked again. This seemed to be a more recent habit but Volos had long since stopped trying to understand his master’s behaviour. He could not help but stare at the space marine, his eyes lingering on inhuman musculature marred by old wounds and interface ports that erupted from pale flesh like blisters. His gaze crept to the statuesque face, scarred from scalp to lip. Sonneillon looked as though he had been carved from marble and then desecrated, defaced. In the pale light, however, his empty eye-sockets and shaven head made him look more like a skull.

“Hello, Jacques.”

“My lord. What is your will?”

The archaic phrasing had once been a subtle way of mocking Sonneillon, but now it came naturally. Sonneillon was a relic of a bygone age, a better age, if legend could be trusted. He had been a hero once. No longer. Now he was close enough, Volos could smell it. Corruption. Taint. His master reeked of it. So did the spindly eunuch beside him. It filled him with revulsion, mostly because a small voice inside wondered if he smelt the same. He took out a cigarette, one of his last, to cover the stench and to help settle his nerves.

“Even through the Geller field, the warp whispers to me, Jacques. We travel near to a world that was torn apart by civil war, touched by chaos, abandoned by Emperor and Imperium. I hear a name; Sathvairg. I have seen war there, past and future. The hand of the Blood God, and darker things still. Something is being born here, though I know not whether I hear its first, ragged breaths or echoes travelling backwards through the warp... There will be blood enough to drown nations. There will be suffering and death and perhaps this time I will see a grater purpose to it.”

“Sounds cheery. Am I to assume we’ll be spending a brief holiday there?”

“This is a pilgrimage, Jacques. I hope to find some facet of the truth there.”

The truth. Sonneillon always spoke about the truth. Volos had always enjoyed a fairly loose association with the truth. He preferred lies. The truth was that he was damned and ruined, trapped in the service of an insane antediluvian demigod, his soul promised to otherworldly horrors. The lie was that he would be able to escape someday. He liked that lie.

“What truths do you hope to find in war, my lord? Surely, in all your years of life and battle, you have witnessed enough?”

“You are brave, human, to question my orders.”

“You told me yourself you do not waste tools. Besides, even if I question, I obey. I have a further question; how will we be arriving there? This is a chartist vessel. It will not alter its course and you said the world was blockaded.”

“The Imperium has a great many aphorisms pertaining to faith. They say it can move mountains. They say faith alone can overturn the universe. You are not a faithful man, Jacques.”

Volos knew it was not a question, but he chose to answer anyway. “No, my lord.”

“I value it.”

Volos wondered if Sonneillon was referring to faith or Volos’ faithlessness. He did not ask.
 
Sonneillon had told Jacques enough for him to know that he was alone, an exile on a pilgrimage to wherever the tides of the warp would take him, searching for a truth that eluded him. Such a man was surely defined by doubt, and yet when Sonneillon spoke every word rang with certainty. So many contradictions and paradoxes... Volos suspected he would never understand Sonneillon, even if he lived as many millennia as the space marine.

“I have a task for you and Remiel.”

***

A ragged wound in reality opened, impossible colours bleeding into the void.  A shape emerged, bathed in the hell-light, a shape not unlike like some ancient trireme.

It was a huge vessel, ancient beyond measure. Many of the spires that protruded from its spine were abandoned, more than half of the great bellies and hangars lay empty and the majority of the statuary that had once decorated the hull had been eroded and destroyed by time. The vitrified paint on the prow was barely decipherable, but it had a name; Demeter. Nonetheless, there was an elegance that shone through years of service, retrofitting and countless repairs. She was a relic from a glorious past, a time of enlightenment when technological and aesthetic sophistication were wed.

Perhaps she was the last of her kind.

She was dying.

One side was a crated and cracked ruin. Hull breaches vented burning oxygen, fires that died quickly in the void as the tunnel to the Empyrean collapsed behind her. The explosions and inertia had left her spinning lazily, the crew unable to right her.

Inside was madness. Demeter had never deviated from her course in living memory, but her Navigator had possessed enough sense to steer her to the nearest inhabited world and out of the warp the moment the explosions had begun, in case the Geller field was affected.

The ammunition had been ancient, seldom used. Though half of the weaponry that bristled from her hull was depowered, broken or disabled, she had always been too large and intimidating for the even the most enterprising pirates to risk attacking.

There was no way to know what had caused the initial explosion, but it had set off a chain reaction in the port broadside weapons. Countless crew had been killed in the initial explosions and the decompression that followed, and now entire swathes of the vessel were aflame, or without oxygen, or filled with leaking plasma and supercoolants. All internal communication was disabled. The bridge crew that remained were mostly panicking, fighting a hopeless battle to maintain order. Most were fleeing to salvation pods.

Tech-priests whose passions had dried up millennia ago, their humanity and emotion carefully excised, wept openly and turned weapons upon themselves. They had tended to the needs of a goddess and now she was dying, as far beyond their help as she had always been from their understanding.

Somewhere among the countless salvation pods, escape-barges and commandeered shuttles that fled the stricken vessel, sightless eyes looked out through a viewing port and saw nothing.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 21, 2012, 08:59:30 PM
The chartist vessel's arrival is unexpected, but its presence matters little.

My walls will not bend as easily as its fragile form.

The enslaver interface has performed well. The first slave, however, has outlived its usefulness.

With a thought, I lower its remaining defenses and deactivate its weapons. A shudder runs through me as its aggressor unleashes its fury against it. But I know that I cannot be so easily subdued.

For centuries I laboured to master the shackled spirit of the Machine, and now we fight as one, my mind orchestrating the every move of this mighty vessel. And for centuries more, I delved into the deepest secrets of the Machine to extend that control to those that stand against me.

I stare into the eyes of the enemy vessel's spirit. Beneath my hands, beneath my feet, and all around me, the enslaver interface hums with the power of the Machine. My power. My authority to wield.

I assume control.


---

"Direct hit, Mister Barthelemy!" Maurer cheered as Lord Tiberius perished violently. Archduke Gordian's lances had punched right into the rogue vessel's enginarium and overloaded its main plasma reactor in a blast of nuclear fire.

"There are life pods on our short-range sensors, captain," reported a crewman. "Most are from the Asculum and the chartist vessel, but some are from Lord Tiberius. And rather a lot of wreckage, some of it from life pods caught in the fireball.

"Emperor rest their souls," Maurer sighed. "Captain al-Kalil would've gone down with his ship as well. A pity. No matter. How close is the chartist ship?"

"Can't get an accurate reading, captain. The debris cloud's too much for the ladar suite."

"I can't get a lock," Barthelemy added. "We're not wasting ammo on tha--"

The rumble of Archduke Gordian's starboard macrocannons was Maurer's first warning that something was amiss.

"Mister Barthelemy, if you've not got a lock then why are the gun crews firing?" he asked.

"They shouldn't be, captain, and nobody's given the order to... Oh, hell."

Maurer's stomach lurched as the ship suddenly burned retros and swung hard to starboard, in spite of his helmsman's best efforts to steer the ship in the opposite direction.

"Mister Barthelemy," Maurer answered as the chartist vessel's colossal form began to fill the forward windows, "hell is about right."

---

"Commodore, Adept Aristan awaits your orders."

"Excellent work, Mister Kees," Vargas nodded, glancing back towards the holodeck as Archduke Gordian's course suddenly changed to through the Demeter...

A chill went through her as she swiftly realised that the enemy intended to ram Gordian into the Demeter, likely annihilating both vessels, but potentially causing untold havoc on the planet as the fireball collided with the atmosphere and debris from the two ships pelted the surface.

"Aristan, this is Vargas," she began, clutching the vox horn a little too tightly. "I need you to broadcast a distress signal. This entire system is going to hell in a hand cart, and I'll be damned if I don't at least let someone know about it."

"Specify."

Vargas suppressed an irritated grunt. She disliked Aristan, because he was one of the few individuals on the ship that could get away with disrespect, to the point where he was almost ordering her around. Even Navigator Soun was more likeable.

"Tell them that we are facing a Chaos invasion," she decided. "The enemy has a grand cruiser, with a weapon that can turn our own ships against us."

Vargas looked up at the holodeck and noted the depressingly high number of red dots, marking destroyed ships' last registered positions. Two cruisers and over half a dozen escort ships had gone down already, with Archduke Gordian and the Demeter on a collision course, and the Resaena being shredded by the Hammer of Justice's guns even as it snatched at the frigates supporting the Inquisition ship.

"Tell them that it's tearing the interdiction fleet apart, and will be the end of the Inquisition ships unless they have an ace up their sleeves."

"Is there anything else?" Aristan asked after a brief delay.

Vargas paused before deciding that there was little else she could add. "Barring the possibility of the enemy landing troops on the planet, no. Send the message."

Aristan closed the connection without a further word, and Vargas hoped that lighting up the void with a mayday beacon would pay off.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on February 21, 2012, 09:47:52 PM
"A Chartist ship has just broken from the warp within range of the planet the Archduke Gordian is currently on a collision course, while Vargas is sending out a distress beacon, this situation is slipping through her fingers. What do you want me to do Marshal?"

Narl frowned pausing in the corridor, he rubbed his chin for a moment then continued speaking as he strode onwards to the launch bay.

"Bledsoe, take the ship in behind the Archduke Gordian, crippler her engines and prepare to board with armsmen." assume control of the ship and isolate and disable the ships power lets put her to drift."

He felt the engines of the ship straining as Beldsoe pulled the Justified Fury round to move in behind the Archduke Gordian, the weapons were cycled and ready and as soon as the ship fell into range the weapons would be ready to snap at the ships engines crippling her.

He entered the launch bay and looked at the arbiters gathered below.

"Silon, take Arla, Castus and Zekka in one of the Aquillias to The Orchomenus, ensure that commodore Vargas is reminded of her duty them join us on the planet."

Silon nodded stepping from the group he strode over to Narl.

"Your sending me because I'm a Chaplain."

"I'm sending you because you are the master of Imperial Law, you are the beacon which we all aspire too, I'm hoping your authority and your zeal reminds the commodore of hers."

He bowed his head turning to the other three.

"You three get in the aquilla now!"

His voice was a hard barking growl as he strode off after them barking at their heels

"Warden you're the best pilot get in the cockpit and make sure we don't hit any of the crap out there!"

Castus looked over his shoulder as he ushered his cyber mastiffs into the hold, he narrowed his eyes at the older man.

"Of course Book, would you like me to line your seat with silken throws to save your pious arse from any unsavoury bumps?"

He laughed as he boarded Silon grumbled as he caught up with the rest climbing in behind the others his voice echoing.

"Just make sure you don't kill us unlike your bloody dogs we need to breath!"

Narl sighed and turned to the rest.

"Get on the transit lander, we're going planetside."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 22, 2012, 07:52:20 PM
"Incoming shuttle from the Arbites ship, milady," reported Kees.

"What the bloody hell do they want now?" Vargas wondered, her voice dropping into a dangerous growl.

"Haven't a clue, milady. Do you want the point defenses to--"

"No," she sighed. "Let them approach. I dare say Commissar Baris will have a few things to say once he's finished chewing out Bravura Leader."

"Cyclone Squadron finally got the message, Commodore," Hargadon reported from the helm. "They're breaking away from the engagement with the Resaena."

"I'm guessing Commander Sokal convinced them?"

"Apparently so, milady."

"I'll have to talk to Rutherford when this is over, but at least he's getting the hell out of there," Vargas conceded. "Are Novak and Antonov pulling out?"

"Templar Alpha's a wreck in space and we've lost Manticore Squadron," Kees answered. "The Resaena's going down, but we can't hail Captain Santos."

Vargas cursed. She'd noticed the missing ships earlier, but she'd been so focused on the Arbites that the deaths of two good officers -- soon to be more, she reminded herself -- had completely passed her by.

"In that case, Mister Kees, send a welcoming party down to the flight decks and have that Arbites shuttle cleared to dock," she ordered. "The sooner they're in, the sooner they're out of our hair and the sooner I can try to salvage something from this frak-up."

"Aye, milady."

---

"Five minutes until landing," Andreas reported. "I advise holding onto something. The automated guidance systems are as likely to put us into a wall as they are two hundred miles from civilisation, if I'm any judge of their reliability."

"So very much like that one time over Komi Decimus?" Haines sniped.

"My lord remembers, of course, that the Midnight Brotherhood sniped our shuttle pilot through an armacrys canopy and sent us into freefall?"

"I also remember crashing into their position and flattening half a dozen of them before they could think of running," Haines answered. "Your excuses need work, Andreas!"

"Are you two quite finished exchanging puerile banter?" Hallona grumbled. "My head feels like it's about to burst, and I dare say the last thing I want to hear is the two of you acting like a pair of progenia."

Haines decided to ignore his concussed companion's protests, choosing to attribute her short temper to her head injury.

"Any sign of where we're coming down, Andreas?" Barkley asked, in an attempt to defuse the situation.

"Our current trajectory would put us near a small city, over what I think is a river," Andreas replied. "Take a look out the front, if you so wish. Though it's equally probable that we'll overshoot the city and end up near what I hope is the northern coast. Or worse, in the ocean."

"And I suppose there's no chance that you can take control of the life pod's guidance systems," Barkley noted.

"It's certainly possible," Andreas nodded, "although my Lord Haines will no doubt recall the one time that I attempted to pilot a shuttle, and very nearly killed both us and the Pontifex Thalassian. Unless my lord has training as a pilot, I would advise that we leave our fate in the Emperor's hands until we land."

In the back of the life pod, Haines found himself sighing in equal parts disappointment and exasperation.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on February 23, 2012, 08:06:52 AM
The Aquillia touched down and the four of the disembarked Silon leading them, he looked at the welcoming party a gaggle of junior officers that could obvious be spared, he stopped before the most senior of them his piecing eyes locking with the young man's.

"I am Chaplain Silon, my fellows here and me are to render all aid your commander needs in bringing this fleet back to order, please take us to the bridge."

He had decided that simple taking control of the fleet was not the best approach he'd present himself to the commodore and observe her for a time see if she was capable, best not get her back up before he had to.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 25, 2012, 10:34:21 AM
"As landings go," Barkley commented, "that could have been much worse."

"Although we don't know where we are," Haines grunted, pushing the door of the life pod open, "beyond 'sitting in a bloody great field'."

The life pod had come to rest on top of a low grassy hill, overlooking the town that Andreas had spotted earlier. Haines judged the town to be no more than four kilometres distant, which was about as good as he could have hoped for considering their largely uncontrolled descent.

He stepped out, lowered himself down, and was suddenly glad for having fresh air to breathe after so long spent travelling. He realised too late that his hands, and by extension the remainder of his arms, were uncomfortably warm from having been in contact with the life pod's heated outer surface, but conceded that warm bionics were infinitely more preferable to third-degree burns on flesh-and-blood hands.

"A more pertinent question than where we are, my lord, might be what our next move is," Andreas pointed out from just inside the hatch. "There's still the matter of the messages, and with Khan still at large..."

"That had hardly escaped my notice, Andreas, but it's no good wondering what the messages say if we don't even know where to start," Haines answered, "and I should think that the Traitor Marine is a more pressing concern than Mouritz Khan."

"Though I trust that we will not simply ignore him?" Barkley reminded him. Haines opened his mouth to reply, then quickly shut it again.

"There's also the small matter of finding somewhere for Lady Hallona to recover," Andreas went on. "I will concede that the life pod offers both shelter, and a ready supply of military rations to sustain us -- not to mention lasguns, and plenty of spare charge packs -- but I dare say that crash webbing is hardly the most comfortable of surfaces on which to rest and recuperate."

"I'm not an invalid," Hallona grumbled from inside the pod.

"He does have a point," Haines noted. "The life pod is well-stocked but hardly ideal as a base of operations, no matter how temporary. It sticks out like a sore thumb in all this green."

"By extension, so would all the other life pods that came down," Barkley pointed out. "And with all those pods coming down around here, the inhabitants of that town over there must have thought they were being bombarded by an enemy warship."

Another bright flash lit up the sky, more powerful than any of the others, and Haines had to shield his eyes from the glare.

"That only proves my point," Barkley continued unhelpfully.

"Balls. Andreas?"

"My lord?"

"Does this life pod have any form of emergency transport?"

"My lord must be aware that the life pod was emergency transport," Andreas responded dryly.

"Very funny. I meant, do any of those lockers contain personal transport? There are some big ones in the back."

Andreas moved over to the biggest locker and opened it, revealing what he assumed to be a folding bunk.

"Short of a doorway to slumberland, no," he answered. "Perhaps my lord was expecting autocycles? Perhaps a jump pack?"

Haines sighed, not bothering to put his frustration into coherent words.

"This gets us nowhere," Hallona stated.

"In that case, maybe Andreas could do some recon in town?" Barkley suggested.

"In the same clothes in which I was having dinner with Vice-Admiral Burnett only so recently, and which now bear the tell-tale signs of life pod travel?" Andreas protested.

"That applies to all of us, you fool," Haines grumbled. "Think about it. I'm the tallest of us by far, and have more bionics than anyone else, so I'll stand out a mile away unless I can find new gloves. Hallona needs medical attention--"

"This is nothing, Madoc!"

"Even if she doesn't recognise it," Haines continued, ignoring her.

"I have medical training," Andreas and Barkley stated at the same time.

"Which means that Ambrose should stay here, as you've still got your data-slate."

"I will concede that my capacity for recording and recalling information surpasses my lord's own..."

"Do you have money?"

"You're assuming they will honour credits here," Barkley cut in.

Andreas produced a black leather wallet which had some obvious weight about it. "Will this be sufficient?"

"If not, I'll be worried," Haines shrugged.

"Am I looking for anything in particular?"

"Information on where we are, transport links, and possible lodging," Haines replied. "And any signs of people we know. Oh, and leave the arms coffer here. You can take a gun from the locker."

"As my lord wishes," Andreas shrugged.

"Lodging?" Barkley queried. "Surely you don't intend to take up residence here."

Haines looked back into the life pod. "All things being equal, Ambrose, I'd rather hide in the town than come back here every night."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 25, 2012, 08:31:35 PM
The craft had touched the surface in a small clearing in a forest near a river. Immediately after landing Semplice had sent out a pair of servitors along with Pantariste to inspect their surroundings. Iota Tettares was still unavailable due to the nova cannon blast. The scanners showed safety pods landing everywhere around them as well as pieces of wreckage.

Pantariste moved out of the rear hatch of the lander. She was inclined to first send out the servitors but knew that the inquisitor would prefer her to look first. There were only tall trees. Up in the sky she saw the trails blazed by the safety pods. That would draw away attention from their landing. Her boots touched the ground, some thin branches broke under her heavy boots. She saw no danger and ordered the servitors to keep their position. She reported: “My lord, there are no signs of anyone so far.”

“Continue around the clearing, do not rest until our security can be assured.”, the inquisitor replied.

Before moving on she loosed her re-breather. For the first time in a long while she inhaled fresh air. The smell was magnificent, the forest smelled clean, like the gardens in her distant home and very much unlike the Unbroken. The ship had badly functioning air purifiers the inquisitor refused to have replaced. She smiled while she continued her patrol. It was obvious that they were alone but she relished being away from the inhuman inquisitor and his aberration.

Then she saw something moving behind the trees. From pure instinct she aimed her weapon and fired. She spoke: “We have a contact!”

“Ensure that there are no survivors.”

Looking closer she saw that her target had been disabled by her salvo of las-bolts. She walked closer to it. It was clearly not human. The creature had six legs each ending flatly. It was still moving but only weakly. It turned a round head towards the veteran. Its four eyes almost looking pleading while it made a soft whining sound.

“Are the targets eliminated”, sounded the inquisitor in her ears.

Pantariste took a moment to take in the situation. She reported: “The target appears to be local wildlife.”

She aimed carefully and ended the poor, innocent creature.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on February 25, 2012, 11:49:33 PM
  "The augur's picking more weapons fire, sir."
  "Very well. We withdraw.", Arkus resigned, a statement that prompted a furious shout from a bulky figure in segmented black and red carapace:
  "WHAT?! No! We go in. We go in now."

The captain turned, more weary of, than surprised by, the man's outburst:
  "Mr. Kuefer. While I understand your frustration, this vessel is not yours to command."
  "It's not yours either. This is Riley's ship."
  "Lady Hallona is not present. She is not even confirmed alive."
  "Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn't you? Your ship, all yours again."
  "Very well, Ekkehardt, I will spell it out more clearly. The aggressor's vessel has withstood a direct hit from a nova cannon, appears capable of overriding the captain's command and we are at barest minimum, at least half an hour's manoeuvres from being able to move into even a marginally tactically valid position. If Lady Hallona is not already safe, she is beyond our aid."
  "You snivelling coward! Take us in, NOW!"

Captain Mason ignored him, turning right towards an array of bridge stations.
  "...Master of Arms?"

A heavily armoured man with lieutenant's insignia rose from the cluster of seated voidsmen and approached the Captain. Arkus drew his gold engraved bolt pistol, checked the chamber, then presented its grip to the lieutenant.
  "Lieutenant Baden - if Mr. Kuefer is not off my bridge in thirty seconds, you have my strict orders to shoot him as necessary to facilitate his removal. You have the use of my sidearm and may report to Lady Hallona, should she still be alive, that I was responsible."

Baden nodded, taking the weapon's grip.
  "As you command, sir."

  "I then want the armouries stripped bare of boarding charges. The arms teams are to be ready to plant them on the main power feeds to the primary thrusters, retros or weapons at a moment's notice. I will destroy my own ship before I let that traitor filth take my command from me. Get to it, lieutenant."

  "Sir.", Baden nodded, offering a salute as the Captain turned away, barking orders at the remainder of the bridge:
  "Helmsman! Transfer the Integrity to a solar orbit."

~~~~~

  "Savant Lalgan, are you harmed?"

Collapsed on the floor, Jael slowly tried to move all of his limbs in turn.

  "No, I don't think so."
  "Excellent.", mused Steren, "Better than the rest of the voidsmen."
  "What happened to the voids..."

The words that would have come out of his mouth were promptly replaced by vomit as he realised exactly what it was he had landed on.

  "The autopilot directed us into a cliff. There are three others I've been able to recover."

When the entirety of the Asculum's last meal had come up, Jael was finally able to look around the life-pod, a mess of rended metal and gore. Despite his now empty stomach, it was almost enough to make him throw up again.
A voidsman was splattered across one of the supply lockers, and a voidswoman's head was impaled vertically through with a snapped plasteel girder. The rest of her body was in a pile several metres further down the compartment. Others had been crushed by the weight of others, and one appeared to have drowned on another's blood.

  "I need... I need.. Out. I need to get out!", he scrambled for his feet and the open hatch.
  "You can't go far. We're in an impact crater halfway up a two hundred metre cliff."

Nonetheless, she followed him out into the deep channel the life pod had dug, progressing towards the three voidsmen at the edge of the gaping hole in the cliff face. There was a strong sea breeze, but she ignored it, addressing the closest of the voidsmen, psychically skimming the core layer of the woman's identity for a name.

  "Rosa?"
  "You... Who are you? How do you know my name?", the response was angry and confused.
  "Dr. Irena Boure - I was a guest of the Vice-Admiral. And your name - I asked you when you woke in the lifepod.", Steren lied, layering in a psychic suggestion, "It's merely a basic diagnosis for head injuries."
  "Yes... yes, you did. I'm so sorry. How did I forget that?"
  "Minor forgetfulness is to be expected after a traumatic event like that. How are you overall?"
  "I don't know. Things keep feeling like they should hurt, but whenever I look, there's nothing wrong. This arm - the sleeve is cut clean through here, and my uniform is soaked in blood, but...my arm is as good as it's always been. Better, even."
  "The Emperor must have plans for you."

~~~~~

Ten minutes earlier:

  "Oh FRAK! We're coming in too low! Brace for impact!"

The warning came too late for most of the two dozen voidsmen to do anything but join in with the shouted profanity, as it was a mere instant later that the craft hit home, metal rending and harnesses tearing as high velocity life-pod tried to argue with a cliff face.

It was over just as quickly, everything settling still and eerily silent, as it remained for all of a very brief moment. One of the vast lockers, relocated some distance from where it was supposed to have been bolted, smashed over forwards onto the pod floor. Or rather, it was pushed over onto the floor, revealing a very large dent in its front surface and a svelte psyker behind it.

Steren looked around the pod. At least fifteen of the voidsmen were already dead, their telepathic auras gone. Three had their brains pulped beyond the point that there was any identity left to save in the empty dying shells their bodies had become.

Jael was alive, barely. Climbing over the debris to reach him, Steren clamped a hand to his chest and forced warp energies into his body, sealing his wounds and stabilising his erratic heartbeat. The reinforced cranial plates from his engrammic implantation had done something to keep his brains from pureeing, but those same engrams would mean it would take his mind longer to find itself again. He would recover with time.

She stood up, moving to the dark-skinned woman whose harness had somehow held. She was unconscious, her right arm cut clean through by flying metal rebar. Grasping the severed forearm that lay nearby, Steren pressed it to the stump, calling upon the warp once again...
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Octavian Lars on February 26, 2012, 09:24:02 AM
“Traitor, I too have beheld a millennia go by, but you will feel the wrath of the god emperor all the same!” With all the spite my limited voxponders could achieve.
“Inquisitor! What are your orders?”
“He has us in a stand off! Cut engines and let the ship drift into shuttle range.”
“Retreat Inquisitor, that’s not what the Navy does!”
“No, Wagner, It’s what the Inquisition does, now get us into shuttle range. Unless you have a better idea?”
“No Sir”
“Thank you. That traitor will most likely send ships at us until he gets bored. Then he’ll open the airlocks, draining the oxygen. If we’re not a threat he may not attack us.”
“Captain? The Resaena is still coming for us! Classification, Tyrant class cruiser.”
“On-screen, let’s use this engagement to reach shuttle range.”
“Engaging, broadside in 25, and counting.”
“Ready shuttles for launch, pin-point the drop location of the life pods ejected by the Asculum!”
“Location locked and fed into shuttle autopilots.”
“While I am away Wagner, you are in full command of the ship. Order the coldstreams to meet me in the shuttle bay.”
“As you command.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Herald on February 26, 2012, 02:58:06 PM
Looking back at the admittedly sparse life-pod Ambrose conceded that Haines probably had a point and that finding suitable lodgings would be sensible.

“It could also be useful if we could find some form of communications as well. Three of my staff were en route to the planet’s surface when whatever happened up there happened.” He said gesturing up towards the sky. “I’d quite like to know if they’ve made it down in one piece.”

Andreas nodded and in doing so managed to give the impression that this was something he had already thought of and that Ambrose was simply encouraging the blindingly obvious. Slightly put out by this Ambrose returned to the life-pods interior to search it for equipment and provisions. Finding a kitbag in one of the lockers he proceeded to fill it with several medical kits, some ration packs and as an afterthought also packed in one of the life-pods lasguns. He also holstered a laspistol at his waist deciding that this was preferable to borrowing Haines’ no doubt erratic plasma pistol. Both were simple Mars patterns of the type he was familiar with and the lockers were filled with plenty of spare power packs so he filled the rest of the kit bag with those.

In his mind he was wondering how Terra they would deal with the Chaos ship in orbit and the multitude of traitors and heretics that it undoubtedly carried. He was also considerably regretting his curiosity. It wasn’t that he wished to avoid his duty now he was here rather that he felt he wasn’t really the best Inquisitor to stop a potential Chaos incursion. He thought about asking Haines if he had a plan but felt that would only highlight his own fears. Furthermore he expected Haines, or more likely Andreas, would give a terribly pragmatic answer about finding out where they were before generating any grand strategies.

Returning outside with one of the medical kits he found that Andreas had left and so attended to Riley doing a better job of sanitizing the cut before applying several steri-strips to hold the wound closed. He would have liked to have applied proper stiches but the medi-kit didn’t contain the necessary equipment and as it was head injury he was loath to attempt make shift stitches. Despite her insistence that she was fine and that the help was unnecessary fuss she did seem genuinely grateful. 
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 29, 2012, 02:41:11 PM
Iota Tettares apporached the town stealthily. She crawled from cover to cover to reach it unseen. Her instructions had been clear. She was only to observe, detection was not an option. Nogal was wainting about half a mile away, Iota had left the tech priestess in some bushes. The inquisitor had commanded the adept to accompany her in case something should go wrong again.  She had decided to leave the noisy priestess behind, she was close enough to come when she was needed but too far away to be detected by anyone not explicitly looking for her.
 
Tettares was wearing simple dark clothing. She had left behind her more obvious weapons , they would have drawn unwanted attention if she should use them. Instead she had taken a knife and a pistol which she had hidden under her shirt. She had replaced her gaudy wig she used as the daughter of the rogue trader with a more simple one. The hair was tucked under a dark blue cap.
 
The final appraoch was the hardest. Here more poeple could look in her direction from their windows. Before continuing she looked at the town. The traces of war were everywhere. Many of the buildings were of recent construction. There also were many ruined buildings which still had to be demolished. There also was far more construction work going on than was normal for a town of its size. There were several signs, she could make out lettering on them, many of them bore the name Coveton, probably the name of the town or the region. 
 
She ensured that no one was watching and silently came closer to the nearest houses. The houses had pointed roofs as was common on many planets with this kind of climate, they were covered with some kind of tiles. The construction seemed of a low quality. The buildings were widely spaced, many had gardens containling all sorts of flora. When no one was watching she dove into one of the gardens, coming to rest under some bushes. She avoided looking to the sky, the flashes of the continuing destruction could incapacitate her again.
 
Inquisitor Semplice spoke into her ear: "Iota Tettares, what have you found so far?"
 
"The town or region is called Coveton. There are many signs of recent conflict which caused destruction on a large scale. Many buildings bear signs of damage or are recently built. I have not been discovered. There are no traces of famine or continuing conflict."
 
"Very well, keep me fully informed. Advance to the center of the town and attempt to find out about any military presence."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on February 29, 2012, 08:32:12 PM
"Pardon me," Andreas muttered as he bumped into someone. A quick glance over his shoulder told him that the stranger was making a rude gesture, but Andreas was already moving on.

The city's southern quarters -- if, indeed, south was south and his compass hadn't failed him -- was largely run-down, though the tell-tale signs of battle damage on most of the buildings meant that Andreas didn't even have to think to work out why.

Whatever had happened nineteen years ago, involving Memphis and her fall from grace, it had brought war to this city and devastated huge swathes of it. Wherever Andreas looked, he could see ugly burn marks on the walls, water-filled craters in pavements, and even burnt-out husks of buildings that had never been torn down.

On a smaller scale Andreas might have taken this sorry scene and assumed that this district was riven with gang violence, but that black scar could only have been caused by a near-miss from a plasma gun or lascannon, that crater dug out by a mortar shell or grenade, that row of houses burnt down by men with heavy flamers or meltaguns.

To be certain, there were construction teams working to restore the district to normal, but judging by how little heavy equipment he had seen so far, the majority had been deployed either elsewhere in the city, or elsewhere on the planet, and given that circumstances surrounding Memphis' betrayal had unfolded and played out close to two decades ago, Andreas found himself wondering exactly how serious the damage had been in other cities, other regions.

The main street he was on ran west, with a row of decidedly seedy-looking shops and emporia on his right, and a mess of demolished buildings on his left that he was neither willing nor able to identify. Directly in front of him, however, was a huge building of glass and polished metal that, although a good mile distant, was plainly visible in all its gigantic glory. A vast structure hovered over the building, a wire-frame Aquila constructed from steel struts and tension cables, eternally flying north as it hung immobile between a quartet of giant pylons.

The decidedly redundant street sign just in front of him told Andreas that the building was the "Witnel Land-Train Waystation, for Stonechapel, Portiswade and Aydecliffe", with a tangle of arrows pointing Andreas in the vague direction of what he hoped was a ground-car parking lot.

"Helpful," he mused, pausing for a moment to shift the kit bag on his back, but before he could continue walking, another bright flash illuminated the heavens, even closer than the others, and brighter by far.

He pondered for a second what it might be, but the flash was followed by a cacophanous boom as the blast wave buffeted the planet's atmosphere and shook the heavens themselves with its fury.

Wisely, Andreas ducked into a doorway, barely even registering that he'd stepped into an adult bookstore until well after the noise had died down.

---

"Sweet Emperor's bones," Hargadon muttered as Archduke Gordian went into the side of the Demeter and both icons vanished from the holodeck in a giant ball of static.

"I doubt Maurer got off in time," Vargas noted sourly. "And I'll warrant the Arbites just found something else to blame me for."

"I have no idea what you're going to tell Naval command, ma'am," Kees sighed.

Vargas didn't have it in her to reply.

---

My attention turns inwards.

The fleet is in ruins. The Imperium cannot resist the inevitable. Their attacks are an irritant, their continued persistence a minor distraction.

They cannot delay us.

In the depths, the Ancient slumbers, his shattered mind in communion with the Blood God. Ascended beyond the shackles of mortality to exist outside of sense and sanity, his flesh a sacrifice to the very altar he inhabits.

His suffering is irrelevant.

Such beings as the Ancient know neither fear nor pain.

AWAKEN.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on February 29, 2012, 09:30:15 PM
She observed the people walking the district or travelling by ground vehicles. They were well-dressed, obviously this area was one of the more affluent ones of the city. There were too many people to move through the town without being seen. Iota did however know more ways to walk without being seen.

She saw an older woman walking alone, her clothes were old but she was of the right size. Tettares saw her going alone into the space in between two houses. She silently approached her. The woman had sought a quiet place to relief herself. From behind she struck a single blow, breaking her victim’s neck. Without hesitating she lifted her into the shadows of a garden and stripped her of her clothes.

The woman had worn a long, brownish dress which covered the entire arms and leg. It easily fitted over her other clothing, the woman’s headscarf found a new place over Iota’s head. Only her gloves left her in doubt. No one of the woman’s social class would wear such gloves but without them it took only one lucky look and her lack of nails would be discovered. She decided to leave them off but to cover her hands in some dirt. Her eyes were a final problem, if anyone would look into them they would also discover her in a moment. There however was nothing to be done about that.

Entering the streets with her gaze cast downwards she entered the city, many of its people were discussing the flashes in the sky and rumours about pods crashing into houses. They were looking at the sky which made it easier for Tettares to pass by unnoticed. She could not orient properly and soon had to conclude that she was lost. The signs she saw held no meaning to her and she lacked the accent of the inhabitants which would give her away when asking directions.

After more walking she came by a waystation for land trains. She hoped that someone would have put up a city map somewhere nearby as was common on some planets. Before she could look another bright flash illuminated the sky followed by a loud noise. She was spared its side-effects as she was not looking into the air but still her fine chemical balance was disturbed again. From pure instinct she dove into the nearest building, crashing into a man.

 Immediately she rolled back to her feet looking around. The man she had hit was wearing expensive clothing which had suffered some damage. He looked into her pure black eyes with a natural and a bionic eye, his bald skull covered for a large part with metal. Remembering that she was supposed to act like a normal person she held out her arm to help the man back to his feet.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Necris on March 01, 2012, 02:29:23 PM
The dropship vibrated violently as it punched through the atmosphere, the pilot angling the ship in a steep nose dive before flattening it out again the turbulence pulling at the ship all the way, finally clear of the Atmosphere the ship turned again into a wide spiral turning round on it'self it fell to the world in a controlled manner focusing on the heaviest concentration of survival pods.

Within the Crassus Narl sat harnessed into one of the hold chairs, six others in the team occupied the drivers cabin and the gunnery harnesses, while the rest sat shoulder to shoulder before him, he looked over them each one head down against the pressure and the roar of the descent, the vox link in his head came to life as the pilot spoke to him.

"Marshal we're picking what looks like a city below us, the life pods are scattered around it, do you want us to land in the city."

"No, we're not supposed to be here either, land beyond the city limits we'll proceed to investigate and round up survivors in the Crassus and bring them back to you."

"Understood, ETA Seven minutes."

"Understood, Lupus be ready to deploy as soon as we touch down."

"I am ready to go on your say Marshal."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 01, 2012, 09:20:25 PM
That was the reaction of a soldier...

Andreas looked at the woman that had leapt into him. She was acting on instinct, diving for cover like a trained soldier rather than a civilian, and rising smoothly as though this were second nature to her. The fact that she had landed on top of him was apparently no hindrance.

She wore what he assumed to be local garb, but unless there was still a constant war raging on the planet, and unless this young waif of a woman were a veteran of a conflict that must have started in her infancy, she could only have been an off-worlder.

She looked at Andreas, and he couldn't help but look back at her, driven by curiosity. Pitch-black eyes suggested either a void-born origin, genetic engineering, or a minor mutation, while the distinct lack of fingernails on her hands hinted at either a flawed vat-growth, torture, or both.

The woman hesitantly offered Andreas her hand, as if only just remembering that this was how a normal civilian might react to accidentally knocking someone else down. Gratefully, Andreas took it, noticing the dust on the woman's hands. Evidently, she had opted to conceal her missing fingernails with a quick and dirty camouflage.

"Thanks," Andreas grunted, contriving to sound as if hurt. "Are you...?"

"I'm fine," the woman reassured him, a little too quickly. "Sorry. I have to--"

She paused as though only just noticing Andreas' cybernetics.

"Are you an adept?" she ventured cautiously. Andreas suspected that she was feigning ignorance.

"In a manner of speaking," Andreas nodded. "Though I dare say that this is hardly the most appropriate venue for personal introductions."

"What do you... oh," the woman answered, the penny dropping as she caught sight of the book titles. "So that must mean..."

"The nearest available bolt-hole, given whatever's happening up there," Andreas concluded. "And hardly my first choice of shelter, either."

The woman's face went blank, apparently not certain of how to respond.

"Shall we?" Andreas offered. "I believe I saw an emporium of somewhat better repute further towards the station. Unless you would rather be somewhere else?"

"I... have to go," the woman stated, turning to leave through the door, but Andreas put a hand on her shoulder to stop her. She flinched away from Andreas' touch, raising her arm to strike him, but paused and relented just as suddenly, catching sight of an object that only she was meant to see.

"Perhaps this will change your mind?" suggested Andreas. "You're in safe company."

The woman's eyes widened as she saw the seal of the Inquisition in Andreas' hand.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 02, 2012, 07:11:54 PM
Inquisitor Semplice was waiting for Iota to report again. She had failed to do so at the arranged time, something very unusual for her. The explosion worried him, it might have caused another attack, which would leave her stranded and dying in the city called Coveton. Nogal also had received nothing from her. He decided to contact her: “Iota Tettares, report your current status.”

She did not reply. Semplice automatically assumed the worst. He would not lose the last one, not to something as minor as bright lights. She was irreplaceable until Haskil’s work could be replaced. He almost cursed himself for risking her for something small like this.

He weighed his options. He knew where she was. He could take the shuttle into the town and retrieve her. But that would be irrational. It would only cause him to lose even more. Speed however was essential to retrieve her intact.

He spoke: “Pantariste, Dall. Iota Tettares has been disabled in the city. It is essential that she is returned to me. She is near the land train station in the city. For the moment we have no map but you will take bikes and civilian garb. Arm yourselves with simple weapons. Do not draw attention. Proceed to the city as fast as possible and return my child to me.”

The pair turned and left. They would do their duty, if she was still alive.

Then he heard her voice again: “The inquisition? Are you an inquisitor?”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 02, 2012, 09:41:26 PM
"Not personally," Andreas sighed, his irritation at the woman's directness masking the confirmation of his suspicions well. "I serve one. Nothing more. Though rest assured, I intend you no harm."

The woman looked uncertain of whether to run away or come in closer, somehow achieving both at once as Andreas put his seal away. Hesitantly, she motioned for him to follow, and he followed her outside. He couldn't help but assume that she carried an audio bug.

"That reminds me," Andreas noted as he stepped back out onto the street. "You'll have to pardon my rudeness, my lady; with all the commotion, I forgot to introduce myself properly. Antero Tolnay."

"I-Iona Tethras," the woman responded cautiously. Andreas nodded appreciatively, suddenly only too confident that she was being monitored.

"An absolute pleasure to meet you," he grinned. "And I dare say my lord will be only too pleased to hear of other survivors."

"Survivors?"

"Unless, of course, you slept through a veritable barrage of life pods?" Andreas suggested.

Iona twitched and Andreas wondered, for a moment, whether he had touched a nerve or whether it was her monitor issuing an instruction.

"In any case, I'm guessing that you're here for a reason," Andreas continued.

"I sh-should pro--"

Andreas took a gamble, forestalling Iona before she could run away.

"We might get a lot further cooperating rather than being at odds with one another," he stated, talking both to her and the audio bug. "As forward as it is of me to suggest this, our reasons for being here can hardly be disconnected. And if I'm not mistaken, the messages might only have been the prelude to something you and I are both here to avert."

Silently, Andreas hoped that his gamble would pay off.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 04, 2012, 07:37:49 AM
"There is nothing in our way."

"Then let us loose!"

"Your impatience is irrelevant. Satisfy your frustration among the populace if you must, but do not forget your place."

"...What would you have me do?"

"Our enemies have made planetfall. The Inquisition escaped us once. They must not be allowed to survive."

"You think it is as simple as deploying and finding them!?"

"Your ignorance is a distraction. They will come to you, Agares."

"Address me by my name!"

"Your flesh is a vehicle, Agares. Nothing more. This is irrelevant. They will come to you. Prepare for deployment."

---

"WHAT IS YOUR WILL?"

"Deploy. Our enemy takes refuge on the world beneath us. Destroy them in Khorne's name."

"BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!"

"Rein in Agares if his madness becomes a hindrance. Kill him if you must. He is arrogant. He does not understand why we are here."

"YOU HAVE BROUGHT US HERE TO SHED BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! TO GATHER SKULLS FOR THE SKULL THRONE!"

"You do not see the greater purpose. That which was defeated here nineteen years ago was the herald of this world's destiny."

"WHAT IS YOUR INTENTION?"

"The Sempiternal remains. We will recover it. If I must tear the world apart to find it, I will."

"AND THE ENEMY?"

"The Inquisition are vermin. They will come to you. Destroy them."

"I OBEY!"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 04, 2012, 11:26:08 AM
Inquisitor Semplice listened intently. There were other inquisitors on the planet. They must have been on some of the other ships that had been detected. They had probably received the same messages he did, and perhaps even more. They could become a useful source of information, perhaps even leading him to his goal. He knew that there was someone listening, Tettares was bad at hiding things like that.

He spoke through the link: “Tettares, do not tell him about me. You are here as an agent of the inquisition, not allowed to reveal the name of your master. Your appearance is because of torture at the hands of a cult and birth in one of the ring stations of Romer-02. You have arrived here  together with your only companion, tech-priestess minoris Dovin. She is keeping you updated on what she sees. You arrived stowed away on a cargo ship and ever since have been hiding on the fleet’s flagship. You only got to the surface when it was evacuated. Do not tell this all at once, only say things when you are asked about them. Accept their offer of alliance and ask about the messages. You have only been told about one message and since then received no further communication.”

Tettares did not reply to what he said. She however did say: “Cooperation seems like a good idea. Could you tell me something about the messages you received, my master has only received one and then sent me here, I received no further communication from him.”

Meanwhile Semplice instructed Dall and Pantariste to return to the lander. He also gave Nogal instructions about her cover. He did not doubt that the man would consider Tettares to be very strange. He hoped that it could be passed off as a side-effect of the things she had been through.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 04, 2012, 05:47:29 PM
"Certainly," Andreas replied, "although not in public."

"Wha.... y-yes, you're right," Iona nodded. "Though I have no idea--"

"Where to go?" Andreas prompted. "Let's go for a walk. The middle of a busy street next to a waystation isn't the most sensible of places to stand."

Iona fell in beside Andreas as he set off toward the station.

"You never said how you ended up here," Andreas noted. "Were you on the Asculum?"

"I was," Iona responded hesitantly. "With the interdiction, we had to stow away on a supply vessel and hide as best we could."

"We?"

"I didn't come alone," Iona admitted. "Tech-Priestess Minoris Dovin came with me. Th-though I should say, she's the reason I stayed hidden."

"I imagine being in the company of the Mechanicus has its advantages," Andreas speculated. "What's one more tech-priest minoris working down in the hold? I'm guessing she didn't even have to hide."

"It's true that the Martian Priesthood are a law unto themselves at times," Iona commented as they turned right at the waystation.

"Indeed. Reminds me of an investigation on Minos Epsilon," Andreas remarked.

"The forge world?"

Andreas nodded. "Ever heard of the Blank Dawn?"

"That was you?"

"They spotted my Lord Hanssen a mile away, of course," Andreas told her, somewhat amused at having to cover up Haines' name. "Inquisitors, Magi, Skitarii Consuls, all obvious threats. All needed removing by any means necessary."

Andreas paused to grin at Iona as they crossed a road. "Never saw me coming."

"I heard about that. Weren't they heretek assassins of some sort?"

"That's the simple version," Andreas answered, noticing a FOR SALE sign in the window above a bar. Deciding not to run the risk of having Haines or Hallona take up residence above a bar, he kept walking.

"And the more complicated version?"

"The more complicated version is that they had a master key to get into the Minoan census archives."

"I can see why that's a problem," Iona noted.

"All they had to do was erase all records of someone existing, and the forge guard would register that person as either hostile or a trespasser. I'm sure you don't need me to tell you what would happen next."

Iona shook her head, though Andreas barely registered the motion, spotting a FOR SALE notice in another window.

"All I had to do, on the other hand, was pose as an Administratum scholar, then disappear, and subsequently register myself as a junior lexmechanic. Not all that difficult to monitor them while keeping my cover, actually, or infiltrate their ranks. Nobody notices a functionary."

"You're not exactly a stranger to situations like this, then," Iona observed. "Although you don't seem to have a lot of direction at the moment."

Andreas paused, suddenly noticing that the shops, bars and emporia were quite a long way behind him. The pair had entered a residential district, and judging by how tightly packed the habs themselves were (and how dusty the walls and pavement were), Andreas suspected that he was in a poor part of town.

However, he couldn't help but notice the general abundance of FOR SALE or FOR RENT signs in many of the windows.

"Actually, Iona," Andreas answered, "I think I do."

---

"Lord Hanssen?"

Haines had to remind himself, as he heard Andreas' voice in his microbead, that it was actually his manservant talking rather than a vox-thief. Andreas only used bad, and hastily improvised, pseudonyms like that if he suspected that he was being spied upon.

"Lord Hanssen? This is Antero. Do you copy?"

"I copy, Antero," Haines answered. "What's with the--"

"This might interest you," Andreas interrupted.

"Success?"

"Two. The first: I've found a friendly face. Not one of Lady Harlow's or Lord Barker's," Andreas admitted, "but a friendly face nonetheless. She's a survivor from the Asculum."

"And the second?"

"I've found a house."

"An empty house?"

"Shared living across three storeys and a ground floor. Why?"

"Not the most ideal location, Antero, but it'll do."

"My lord, the rent's good, the location quite strategic, and we have a good westerly view of both the land-train railway and an interchange between city streets and the main orbital. There is also a provisions store five minutes away, and links to the centre of town within a ten-minute walk of our location. I fail to see how that is not ideal."

"Shared living," Haines sighed. "Unless the walls are soundproofed, the whole storey's going to know who we are and what we're doing here."

"There are three apartments per storey, my lord. Of those, one is almost perpetually empty due to the occupant living with her partner in Stonechapel, and the other two were vacant."

"That's something at least."

"Indeed. However, that does leave the slight concern of who's sharing with whom."

"I'm not sure I like the sound of that," Haines remarked dubiously. "Stock up on provisions if you still have credits. It's too late for you to come back out here or for me to come to you, so you'll have to give me directions in the morning."

"Understood."

"Hanssen out."

Haines dropped the line and looked over at Hallona and Barkley, an apologetic look on his face.

"Bloody idiot's bought us apartments," he informed them.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 04, 2012, 09:45:21 PM
Iota Tettares had said that she would collect her companion and that she would return to the apartments in a few hours. She ensured that she was not followed and whispered into the link: “My lord, what do you want me to do?”

“Proceed as you have before, cooperate with these people until I order you away. Reveal nothing about who or what you are. I have had Pantariste deliver your weapons to Nogal as well as additional supplies. You will smuggle them through the city on foot. Night is falling and there will be less people watching. Keep to the shadows and if you should be encountered by anyone, remove them, at this stage our hand must remain unseen. We shall remain here and I shall give you new orders when the time is right.”

“As you wish, my lord.”

She quickly reached Nogal, unseen by the citizens of Coveton. Nogal remained where Tettares had left her. The priestess was agitated. She said: “Iota Tettares, I have received my instructions. My new designation is tech-priestess minoris Dovin. Your designation has been altered to Iona Tethras, it closely resembles your old one, attempt to not be confused. We are to proceed into the city to an apartment recently bought by those who belief us to be their allies. I am not allowed to speak to any of them. We have been given the use of Sepilitor XII as well as additional equipment which is in these backpacks.”

Sepilitor was one of the inquisitor’s kill-servitors. It was tall and bulky. One of its arms ended into a high power lasgun and the other arm was a simple chainblade. The servitor walked steadily after Nogal and Tettares. Iota stole a large piece of cloth to cover it, the presence of such a weapon was sure to draw attention. They entered the city. The streets were almost empty and those who remained outside moved quickly, minding their own business.

The calm walk lasted until a group of three obviously drunk men confronted the group. One of them reached for Iota saying: “Gimme a hug, my pretty.”

Before he could touch her Iota punched him in his gut before following up with a kick that broke his skull with a crunching sound. The other at first came to help their friend in need. Iota delivered a blow to the throat of one of the men and used her other hand to shatter the last man’s neck. Before the sole survivor could regain his breath Tettares ended his life as well using her hands to drive shards of bone into his brain stem.

The corpses were hauled into an alley and the servants of Semplice returned to their path. Nogal said: “You have taken risk in dealing with the threat on your own. At the very least you should have fought armed to prevent every chance of one of them making noise.”

“I have refrained from using weapons to prevent their blood from touching us, it would have been much harder to hide. The inquisitor told me that.”

Without speaking Iota led them back to the apartments that had been bought by Tolnay. the lights were turned on and they marched to the door, looking to see if they were being followed.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on March 08, 2012, 04:03:42 AM
It was still just dark enough in Coveton to see the burning debris that rained from the heavens, indistinguishable from the salvation pods were it not for signal lights and distress-beacons that pulsed and flared as the pods landed in the countryside and cities of the continent. Some had been damaged, or were dangerously antiquated, and one smashed through an ancient tower.

Volos watched from the viewport of his own pod. To his left stood Remiel, his violet eyes watching Volos. They were devoid of passion, and yet somehow they mocked him. They were cold and yet they glittered with amusement. Volos would have given anything to snatch them away, to leave Remiel blind as his master, and he fancied the mute assassin could hear him thinking it. His impassive face dared Volos to try. One day he would. All it would take was a single shot in the back of the head, if Remiel ever looked away from him, or if he had the luxury of time he could summon something to tear him apart. He enjoyed the idea of watching Remiel screaming his way silently into the next world.

He tore himself away from Remiel, his eyes flickering over his master, a giant in his thrumming powered armour. It was simple, bare metal, any ornamentation removed either by choice or by the numerous repairs it had undergone. One pauldron was still cratered and scarred from shrapnel. The helm still bore the jagged stubs of antlers.

His master’s empty eyes glared through red lenses. He, at least, was paying Volos no heed. He seemed absorbed in his own thoughts.

They had chosen one of the oldest escape craft, something that dated from the Dark Age of Technology, perhaps, a sub-relic of the Demeter. Some of the older yachts were ancient and unsafe, their crew no doubt killed during their descent, upon impact or merely blown off course. Other pods would have landed in the sea, their passengers doomed to suffocate beneath the oceans rather than amongst the stars. Remiel had selected their own saviour well before they had triggered the explosions and it was carrying them slowly and lazily towards the city.

The city was beautiful, Volos observed. The architects had been so fond of arches and gables, of statuary and decoration with few of the High Imperial columns so endemic of worlds settled in the Great Crusade. The numerous towers looked like a recent innovation, but remained true to the city’s design. It reminded him somewhat of his family’s country estates, on the islands of his distant homeworld. Their lodgings in the cities had been in tall spires, of course, but though the architecture of a hive city had a savage beauty of its own it could never compare to the cityscape before him.

In another life, Volos could have been an architect, or a painter, perhaps. He had an eye for beauty, he knew. 

Anyone could see, however, that war had ravaged this place in the none-too distant past, of course. There were constructions sites and towering cranes in the central sections of the city and streets strewn with rubble in the outer limits. One or two of the towers stood empty, their windows plasterboarded or merely unfilled. From what Volos had seen in orbit and his master’s cryptic words he imagined it would grow worse.

With rising horror, Volos realised the salvation pod was going to land them in a central plaza.

He cursed aloud.

The sun was rising. It was already past dawn and far too light for Sonneillon to travel without being seen, even without his growling armour, but there was no other option. The authorities and the curious would approach the pod in minutes and rumours were better than questions. They were certainly better than the corpses Sonneillon would most likely leave in reply.

“Jacques?”

Find cover. Find safety. An abandoned hab, a warehouse, anything. No doubt if Volos didn’t find something quickly his master would suggest the sewers, or something equally foul.

“We’re coming down in the middle of the fututiones city! We’ll be seen. You’ll be seen.”

“These people are unlikely to recognise a Word Bearer.”

“And? They’ll ask questions. People will investigate. Enforcers. Arbites. Inquisitors.”

“You forget, Jacques. This is an interdicted world. I doubt there are any of the False God’s secret police here. You jump at shadows again.”

Volos caught himself grinding his teeth and stopped. Sonneillon would hear that. The old fool didn’t understand the Inquisition. They had not existed in the Imperium he knew, and he would no doubt underestimate them if – when – he encountered them. After all, he had fought alongside demigods and daemons, slain his brother space marines and countless humans over millennia of warfare. Why should he fear a mere secret police force, albeit one with impressive powers and jurisdiction?

Volos had faced the Inquisition’s catspaws before. The first time had cost him most of his leg and they’d damn near killed him more than once.

The pod landed and Volos grabbed his bag, grunting as he shifted it into place on his back. He hit the door release and Remiel was already outside. Mordechai gently led his master out of the pod and into the plaza. Already, there were people approaching.

“Which way?”

“Towards the river.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 09, 2012, 09:33:14 PM
The blood was clearly flowing uphill.

It didn't matter that it defied all physical law and railed against mortal logic; he was watching it flow uphill, leaving a messy carmine trail where it went. That the blood trail petered out after a few metres was also of no consequence.

What mattered was that in a couple of hours, his latest victim would be discovered, and every second he tarried was another second that he, too, risked discovery.

He stole another glance at the direction of the blood trail, noting the slight north-westerly slant, before disappearing once more.

Whatever awaited him, it was hungry for blood.


---

"YOU ARE INFERIOR!"

"Enough of this idiocy," Goruvich scowled as he joined the Ancient in the Thunderhawk.

"I WILL YIELD ONLY TO THE SHACKLED ONE!"

Goruvich sighed, cursing the Ancient's obstinacy. Older even than Zagan, the Ancient was also utterly insane and psychotic, even for a World Eater, but he was also unrivalled in combat. More had fallen before the Ancient than Goruvich could bother counting.

The fact that the Ancient was also in a walking coffin did little to cast suspicion on any of these claims, and as far as Goruvich cared, went a long way towards explaining them.

"WHY DO WE TARRY?" roared the Ancient. Were it not for the external vox-casters, the Ancient might even have been talking normally, but every word he spoke was somehow turned into a constant monotonous scream of hatred and rage.

The day the Ancient had died was still a fresh memory for Goruvich. Zagan had only ever known the Ancient as a Dreadnought, but Goruvich remembered Brother Skatharax falling at the Siege of Pallantium, mortally wounded by a direct hit from a mortar shell. He remembered the screams as their Iron Warrior allies recovered his shattered carcass and fused him with the arcane machinery of a salvaged Dreadnought. He remembered the havoc as Skatharax's sarcophagus had first been inserted in the Dreadnought's body, and the Iron Warriors' utter inability to stop the crazed World Eater from going on a murderous rampage.

They had preserved his body and his killing instinct, but the last shreds of his sanity had been shorn away, and Goruvich was unsure as to what now resided there.

Now he towered over Goruvich, his massive armoured bulk standing at least twice as tall as the ancient Space Marine, and heavy adamantium chains shackled the Ancient in place against the back wall of the troop compartment. Goruvich suspected that Zagan had somehow placated Skatharax, otherwise the Dreadnought might have already broken free of his chains, or simply destroyed the front end of the Thunderhawk from the inside with his plasma cannon.

As a courtesy to Skatharax, the Iron Warriors had never put a proper lid on his sarcophagus. Beyond the faint glimmer of a conversion field, Goruvich could make out the Ancient's shattered features, the ruined leathery face largely augmented by cybernetics, the remains of his power armour, the mess of cables and tubes running up through his chest and wrapping around his shoulders, the black metal braces that held him in position.

"WHY DO WE TARRY?" the Ancient asked again.

"We do not," Goruvich snarled.

Skatharax turned his head towards Goruvich. "YOU ARE INFERIOR. WE WILL DEPLOY."

"Finally, some sense passes your lips!"

"DEPLOY," repeated the Ancient. "DEPLOY!"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 13, 2012, 09:10:19 PM
Antero and Nogal had both gone to sleep. Tettares had heard him close the lock on his apartement’s door. She did not report to her master yet. No new information had been found despite his instructions. She stared out of the window. Coveton was a dark city at night. Only a few lights were burning. The rain of debris was slowing down. Iota was walking through the building. Through the window at the stairs she saw something moving in the sky.

She focused her eyes on the object. Her improved eyes allowing her t see it clearly despite the darkness and the distance. She recognized a thunderhawk gunship. It was obviously going to land in the city. Iota saw no markings of any kind on the vessel. That was peculiar, the Astartes always marked their possessions. She whispered into her comm-bead: “My lord?”

After a few moments Karnak replied: “Our lord is resting. Is there any information I need to transfer to him?”

“A thunderhawk is landing in Coveton. I am going to investigate.”

“I will inform the inquisitor when he is awake.”

Tettares scribbled a short note which she left in the central room. It said:

“I have left the apartment to investigate something I saw from the window, presumably a kind of lander. I will return as soon as I can.
Iona Tethras”

She climbed out of one of the windows and climbed onto the roof. She had a rough idea of where the thunderhawk had landed. She jumped from roof to roof, moving quickly towards where she expected the thunderhawk to be
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on March 16, 2012, 04:07:24 AM
Last evening:

The voidswoman turned over a fragment the impact had broken off the soft mineral cliffs, surveying its shape as she sat in thought.
"So what do we do now? Wait for someone to rescue us?", she finally spoke, throwing the piece out of the crater and into the darkening evening, where physics gripped it and arced it down to impact the distant and tumultuous waves below.

   "No. We need to make our own exit.", Steren said matter-of-factly.
   "Why? Where? How?"
   "Because I doubt the locals are going to be very friendly to their gaolers. We'll head back that way.", Steren gestured east out over the bay, "We were one of the last evac pods, so any aid or allies should lie under our flight path. And we'll have to climb."
   "I can't imagine the pod has much in the way of climbing gear."
   "Then we'll have to improvise.", she said as she turned and walked down the crater towards the life-pod.

Dion and Javix, as she had found out the two surviving male voidsmen were called, were busying themselves with a corpse carried between them, but stepped aside to let her past. Perhaps it was trained military protocol or perhaps it was some gender derived social etiquette - she didn't bother to delve into their minds to find out, too busy distracting herself with recursive and layered thoughts to try and stop the personality within from rebelling at the full array of sensory unpleasantness the pod presented.

Gingerly stepping over pooled blood and splattered corpses, she kept herself focused on the lockers at the back of the craft. The first was seemingly the pod's weapons locker, somewhat less abused by the landing than the others, but an investigative tug at the handle proved fruitless.

   "Javix... would you mind?", she appealed to the powerfully built voidsman as he approached, "You're just bigger and tougher than I am."
   "Oh, I dunno.", he approached, tugging violently at the door twice to be rewarded with the wrenching sounds of metal shifting against metal, "You've got to be pretty tough. You're still alive."
   "I think that was more luck", she smiled at him before looking into the newly open locker, "Ah. Lasguns. Perfect."

~~~~~

Small hours of the morning:

Madoc sat, staying awake as his part in the approximation of sentry duty he and Ambrose had negotiated earlier in the evening.
The sound of movement behind him caused him to glance back over his shoulder, an urge that lasted only a brief second before a far greater compulsion to look forward. Very forward.

   "You're supposed to be resting.", came the first words his brain was willing to supply.
   "I know. I would be trying, if my head were not aching and spinning like a cleft rock full of nightmares.", Riley mumbled.
   "Poetry or not, you should be lain down - or at least more dressed. You'll get pneumonia to go with the concussion."

In his attempts to remain chivalrous, several moments passed with not a word spoken between the two.

   "And there's that thrice damned racket.", the Inquisitrix suddenly spoke, breaking into a walk towards the pod door.
   "Riley, wait.", he objected. His plea was ignored as she shouldered the pod door open.
   "Riley!", he repeated as he got to his feet, again ignored as she climbed out into the night dressed in only fragments of fabric.
   "Throne. Are you even listening to me?", he cursed, darting after her. As he got to the door, he looked out, seeing her stood only a few yards away, staring into the dark sky.
   "Riley. Get back in here, now. That's an order.", he barked at her, gesturing with metal fingers back towards the beds at the other end of the pod. She finally responded, glancing back at him.
   "...I think we've got slightly bigger concerns than me taking a midnight stroll in my knickers."

She pointed up into the sky.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 17, 2012, 12:21:02 PM
Iota Tettares watched from a rooftop. She saw fleeing people dressed only in their night clothing, not even having taken the time to gather their belongings, they just ran in a blind panic. After a few moments she moved on.

A little later she saw the cause of the panic. A blocky form towering over the fleeing people cried using powerful sound projectors: “BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!”

She crept behind the ridge of a roof. The monstrous machine gleefully seemed to butcher all those who got in its path. It was bulky and heavy but moved faster than would be expected, even breaking into a run sometimes.  The thing was painted the colour of dried blood, although Tettares wondered if it was paint or actual dried blood. It bore the skull rune of the blood god. Then it turned facing in her direction.

In the center of the thing sat what was left of what once could have been a man. A ruined man. He seemed ancient and bore many wounds on his body. She also recognized something else. The man bore pieces of armour. The armour of the Astartes. Then she knew what it was, a dreadnaught, one of the sarcophagus machines used by the chapters.

Somehow it had detected her. It raised up one of its arms. Iota threw herself backwards, While still falling she saw the top of the roof vaporize and burst into flames. She landed on her feet and ran as fast as she could. Meanwhile she contacted Karnak: “Honoured priest of the Machine, is our master awake?”

“He remains resting, you know that.”

Iota heard the screams on the civilians around her. She said: “Awaken him, this is an emergency. His expertise and advice is needed.”

“His orders are explicit. He is not to be disturbed. His rest is important to preserve his health.”

“We cannot wait. I have found a severe threat and it requires his attention.”

“That is irrelevant. I have my duty and will not break my orders. You should know your place, you are a tool, it is not your purpose to question or to order, you merely act. Keep that in mind.”, he spoke monotonously.

“I understand, honoured priest. I will not contact you again.”

She was lost, Iota concluded after she had ran into a warren of alleys. She had not kept her focus on where she was heading. She had not seen a trace of the monstrous machine, meaning that she was relatively safe. She climbed atop one of the buildings to get her bearings.

Her short flight had taken her into the wrong direction. The plumes of smoke rising from the landing site were in the direction of the apartments. She knew that Nogal would still be asleep and sent her a short message: “There are renegade Astartes active in the city. They have landed in the middle of the city by thunderhawk. Alert Antero. I have encountered a dreadnought.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 17, 2012, 04:06:14 PM
I have left the apartment to investigate something I saw from the window, presumably a kind of lander. I will return as soon as I can.
Iona Tethras


"Balls," Andreas snarled, rushing over to his kit bag and opening it. Inside was a lasgun he had taken from the life pod, together with a laspistol and as many spare charge packs as he could fit into one of the interior pouches. He grabbed both weapons, spilling a handful of ration packs on the floor in the process, and stuffed a charge pack into each before holstering the laspistol and securing the holster onto his belt.

"Those weapons are of Martian make," observed Tech-Priestess Dovin. Andreas jumped in surprise and whirled round, checking his motion before he could bring up his lasgun to shoot her. Breathing out slowly, Andreas lowered his gun.

"Sorry," Andreas sighed, burying himself in the kit bag again. "I thought you were still asleep."

"Until recently, I was," Dovin replied, although Andreas couldn't help but notice that she was already fully dressed. "Miss Tethras left a message."

"I saw. And something doesn't add up. If she saw a lander coming down then that means they're--"

"Renegade Astartes," Dovin interrupted. "Iona has spotted renegade Astartes in the city. They have a Dreadnought."

"So that'll mean the lander was..."

"A Thunderhawk gunship, yes."

Andreas sighed. "The instant I saw that Traitor Marine on the Asculum's holodeck, I wondered if there were more of them."

He paused, looking straight up at Dovin.

"I didn't want to be right."

"However, you remain undeterred."

"Miss Dovin, you'll forgive me for saying so but I'm more worried about Iona than the Astartes," Andreas answered. "She's in danger. That's what matters."

"We barely know each other, and yet you are more concerned for her safety than for your own," Dovin remarked. "Your behaviour is irrational."

Andreas paused, finally catching sight of the one thing he was looking for.

"Call it what you like," he responded. "I call it common sense."

Dovin opened her mouth to speak, before closing it again as Andreas produced a vid-recorder.

"And I dare say my Lord Hanssen will call it reconnaissance."

---

"Chaplain. I must say that having the Adeptus Arbites on our bridge is a rare occasion," Vargas stated.

"Cut the pleasantries, Commodore," Silon snarled. "This is an official Arbites matter, and it is your conduct that is being called into question."

"If I'm not mistaken, ser Arbiter, it was your own superior officer that advised me to send out the distress beacon, and to rally the remainder of the interdiction fleet," Vargas answered. "So far, I've done exactly that."

"You have barely half a dozen ships under your command, Commodore, of which this is the only vessel larger than a frigate," Silon retorted. "One enemy vessel managed to break the back of an entire interdiction fleet. Had you been willing to join the fight with your fighter squadrons and bomber wings, this catastrophe might have been averted. As it stands, you turned and fled while loyal Navy personnel fought and died. You have clearly lose sight of your duty to the Navy and to the Emperor."

"Vice-Admiral Burnett's orders were clear enough, Chaplain," Vargas countered. "His orders were to withdraw. If following orders constitutes losing sight of one's duty then your entire case is built around a contradiction."

"Vice-Admiral Burnett is dead. Unless you can provide an audio log, your claim is impossible to verify."

"Very well," Vargas nodded, loathing every second of the Arbiter's presence. "Mister Kees, get me that audio log."

---

"Lord Hanssen, this is Antero," Andreas began.

"Receiving you," Haines answered.

"Miss Tethras has ... disappeared."

"Your contact? Any idea where she's gone?"

"She went to investigate a lander that came down in the city," Andreas explained. "She mentioned Traitor Marines, and a Dreadnought."

"A what!?"

"My thoughts exactly, my lord. Is Lady Harlow able to walk?"

"She's up and about, but a bit unsteady," Haines answered, trying desperately hard to blot out the image of Hallona standing almost naked under the night sky.

"I advise getting her to safety," Andreas continued. "Get her into the city."

"I'm not leading Lady Harlow into a death trap while she's still concussed."

"I wasn't thinking about that. If you can get her into the city, you can get her and Lord Barker to Stonechapel, or some other city."

"Until we know what we're fighting, I don't want to risk moving her," Haines argued.

"It might not matter much either way before long, my lord," Andreas stated suddenly. "I have a visual on the Dreadnought. Uploading a live vid-stream to your data-slate now."

Haines scrambled for his data-slate, turning it on in time to see a walking coffin blast civilians into ash with its plasma cannon. The Dreadnought's form was thrown into silhouette by the fire from a burning building, obscuring most of the detail, but Haines fancied that he could see a skull icon on the Dreadnought's shoulder, the detail barely visible in the light from the fire.

The Dreadnought seemed to be screaming as it gunned down the civilians fleeing from it, filling the life pod's interior with a horrendous mechanical noise.

"Get out of there!" Haines urged Andreas.

"Negative, my lord," Andreas answered. "I'm looking for Iona. If she's dead, then we lose the connection to her master before it's even established, and I dare say we're going to need all the support we can get."

The vid-feed suddenly went blank as Andreas turned the recorder off.

"Now if you don't mind me saying so, my lord, I need to ascertain exactly what we're up against, and I can't very well do that if I'm talking to you."

"Damn it, I'm not going to lose you just because you're chasing skirts in a war zone!"

"Rest assured, my lord, I have no intention of either dying or chasing skirts," Andreas responded. "Antero out."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 18, 2012, 11:04:49 AM
They are vermin. Their fate is extermination.

Yet they will embrace their future, whether willingly or not.

The Sempiternal will awaken. The sundered one will walk again, reborn in a sea of blood and death. That which I seek will be returned to me.

And if I must annihilate billions for that to happen, I will.

Deploy Secutors.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on March 19, 2012, 11:32:21 PM
The best thing that could be said about the warehouse, Volos mused, was that it wasn’t a sewer. That said, the stench of rotting fish was barely preferable. Sonneillon sat atop a throne of crates that cracked and splintered beneath his weight, unmoving save for his lips. Was he praying? Dreaming?

Remiel was watching, as ever, and Mordecai was cleaning and performing some minor maintenance on Sonneillon’s flamer.

“Could I borrow that? I need a light.”

He’d left a few hours earlier, under the pretext of reconnaissance, and picked up a selection of local tobacco. There had been several barriers to this. First and foremost his lack of local currency, secondly  the fact he struggled to understand a word of the local Low Gothic and most people had a similarly rudimentary knowledge of High Gothic. It hadn’t been easy, and what he had obtained was straggly and unpleasant-smelling. Perhaps it was a local plant, not true tobacco at all, or some artificial substitute. There had been a war, after all.

Mordecai smiled humourlessly at him and, to his surprise, produced a book of matches and threw it. He fumbled the catch and felt Remiel laughing at him.

He relished the roll-up as best he could. They’d kill him, one day, but the safe bet was that he wouldn’t live long enough for that to matter.

“Ambient temperatures have fallen. I can no longer feel light on my skin. Is it dark enough?” said Sonneillon, head snapping up.

“As dark as it gets in a city, lord.”

“It is time for us to find a safer haven.”

 “You and Remiel should explore the city. Find us a more permanent location,” Mordecai said, his voice little more than a breath, pointing a thin finger at Volos.

Volos sighed for his master’s benefit, but the Word Bearer lifted his hand.

“That may not be necessary... I hear something...”

“What?”

“You will hear it momentarily, I have no doubt,” Sonnellion replied, unclamping the bolter from his thigh. “An engine. An aircraft.”

“What is it?”

“Something I have not heard in years, but quite unmistakeable. A Thunderbird gunship. The Astartes are here.”

“Space marines?” Volos cursed.

“That is what I said,” Sonneillon replied, replacing his helmet.

“Your orders, lord?” hissed the eunuch.

“Ensure my weapons are prepared, artificer. Remiel, take a look while I prepare myself for the bloodshed to come.”

The assassin nodded, pointlessly, and disappeared into the night.

“Just because the Astartes are here doesn’t mean bloodshed is inevitable, surely?” Volos said, his voice craven and tremulous even in his own ears.

Sonneillon ignored this.

“Jacques, you should prepare yourself also. I suspect you will have need of your petty sorceries soon enough.”

Sonneillon’s expression was hidden by the same helmet that robbed his voice of emotion, but Volos could still hear him smiling. “You have never been man of faith, Jacques, but I suggest you pray.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 20, 2012, 08:52:35 PM
After the daily rituals of his awakening inquisitor Semplice asked: ”Tech priest maioris Karnak, is there any news?”

“Test Subject Iota Tettares reported sighting a lander in the settlement designated Coveton. Later it demanded your awakening to make another report. Clearsigns of malfunctioning. I belief that the damage sustained during the complications while landing will also have induced faulty behavioural patterns. Censure clearly is in order ”

“Have you let her report to you?”

“No my lord, otherwise it would only have encouraged such disobedience.”

“Very well, I shall contact her at once, alert me when anything peculiar happens.”

He turned away from the worshipper of the machine god, disappointed by his dogmatic thinking. Haskil would never have made such an error. He called: “Iota Tettares, respond at once.”

“My lord, I am here”

“Are you alone?”

“No my lord, there are civilians in the building below me.”

“Can they hear you speak?”

“No my lord”

“Good, tech preist maioris Karnak informed me that you wished to rouse me to make a report.”

“I indeed made such an attempt my lord, I failed you.”

“That remains to be seen, now tell me, what have you found?”

“The vessel I had observed was confirmed to be of the Thunderhawk class. It landed in the center of Coveton. I made my way towards it to investigate. Initially I did not reach it. On my way there I encountered a dreadnought which opened fire. I left its immediate area.”

Semplice interrupted: “What sort of iconography did it bear?”
 
“It was painted red, like dried blood. It bore the rune of the Blood God and roared its name. I could not observe closely because I was forced to disengage.”

“What else have you found?”

“When I attempted to find my way again I saw that I could not return to the apartment by a direct route. I had contacted tech priestess minoris Nogal and informed her of the situation. I decided to attempt to return to the apartment and am still on my way.”

“You have done very well, Iota Tettares, you made me proud. I do not want you to return yet. Make your way to the landing site and note down any icons you see. Do not make contact. When faced with adversity disengage immediately. You must not allow yourself to be harmed.”

“As you wish my lord.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 20, 2012, 10:01:35 PM
He ducked behind a building as the Dreadnought opened fire again. The jet of nuclear fire from the Dreadnought's weapon roared past him and exploded against a ground-car, and Andreas felt a massive wave of heat from the plasma blast wash over him. He flinched involuntarily.

He'd seen the Dreadnought's pilot, and even though it was only for a split-second, he couldn't quite shake the feeling that the mutilated Space Marine had seen him as well, staring at Andreas with long-dead eyes even as Andreas found himself hypnotised by the arcane machinery keeping the pilot alive. He'd seen the mark of Khorne carved into the Dreadnought's shoulder, and a pattern of scars all over it that could only have come from the removal of Imperial icons. Where once had been devotional icons and a mighty Aquila emblem mounted proudly upon the Dreadnought's armour, now it seemed to be a walking altar of blasphemy instead, a shrine of slaughter with the power to turn men into ash, and sitting at its heart was the blasted remnant of a human being, twisted into Mankind's worst nightmare by centuries of endless war in the name of a dark god the very mention of whom was anathema.

A burst of bolter fire from under the Dreadnought's power fist had been enough to snap Andreas out of it, and he'd taken cover while the Dreadnought went about its merry dance of destruction.

Andreas swore the pilot was laughing gleefully.

"Miss Dovin?" Andreas ventured, hoping that she was still awake. Cautiously, he began to creep towards the corner of the building, but another burst of plasma caused him to duck back into cover as the Dreadnought fired at Emperor knew what.

"Receiving you, ser Tolnay," Dovin answered, infuriatingly calm in the face of a Chaos incursion -- although, Andreas recalled, all Dovin had to go on so far was reports from Iona.

"I don't mean to worry you, but I've found that Dreadnought Miss Tethras mentioned," Andreas reported. "It seems rather content to kill civilians with abandon, although I can't say for sure if it knows I'm here."

"Have you found Io... Miss Tethras?" asked Dovin, suddenly growing hesitant.

Andreas peered around the corner as the Dreadnought punched a ground-car into a nearby wall. The crunch of metal and glass made Andreas suddenly very hopeful that the car was empty.

"I was rather hoping that you would tell me that she's safe and sound," Andreas replied. "I'll keep looking for her."

"If you find her, then you need to ensure her safety," Dovin advised him. "Make sure that she does not come to harm."

"A rather welcome change of tone from earlier on, I must say," Andreas remarked. "I'll find--"

Andreas paused suddenly, aware of an uncomfortable rhythmic thumping from somewhere behind him, and he turned around on instinct but found himself facing only the wall.

"Ser Tolnay?" Dovin queried, unaware of what Andreas could hear. Andreas took two steps backwards.

"Miss Dovin, now might not be the best time," Andreas informed her, closing the comm channel in the same instant that he threw all caution to the wind and fled.

Barely two seconds later, the Dreadnought crashed straight through the wall at a run, the plasma cannon tracking Andreas and firing as he disappeared down a side street.

"YOU WILL SUBMIT TO KHORNE!" the Dreadnought thundered, and Andreas swore he could hear its monotone shrieks even over the noise from the explosion. "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! BLOOD! FOR! THE! BLOOD! GOD!"

He didn't even need to look over his shoulder to know that it was following him.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 21, 2012, 11:41:23 AM
 Iota Tettares was close to the Thunderhawk now. She could see it in a small square, surrounded by burning buildings. It seemed to be abandoned but she could not be sure. It bore no markings apart from the same red colour she had seen on the dreadnought and much superficial damage, reminding her of chain-weaponry.
 
She crept closer to the vessel. The heavy bolters attached to one of the wings turned towards her, without even thinking about it Iota leapt into a sidestreet and ran past the burning, wrecked buildings. The paired heavy bolters roared but their explosive warheads failed to touch her. She could not run as fast as she would have liked, there were remnants of people everywhere in the street, she had to run carefully or she would easily slip.
 
A shell exploded not far from her, causing a piece of metal to tear open her face and throwing her to the ground. She rolled and was running again almost immediately.
 
The barrage  stopped after only a few seconds. The already ruined buildings had suffered from it, whole sections of their walls had been blasted apart by the gunship. She had been hit just under her eye socket, A piece of metal was still sticking out of the wound. She touched it carefully, it hurt but the piece of metal had stopped it bleeding as heavily as it otherwise would have. Nevertheless she tore it out. Blood gushed after it.
 
She faintly heard the cries of the dreadnought in the distance, she could not determine where it was because of the many other sounds. She sent the inquisitor a short message: "My lord, I have observed the thunderhawk. It bore no visible markings. While attempting to come closer it engaged. I escaped but suffered injuries. A piece of metal penetrated the skin and damaged the os zygomaticum, it should heal quickly, funtionality remains at the same level as before. I will continue to the appartment."
 
The streets were empty, there were traes of destruction everywhere, houses were burning, walls had collapsed and many people had died while fleeing for their lifes. As she turned another corner she saw the dreadnought again. It smashed down a wall with its power fist. For a moment she saw someone fleeing from the thing, she immediately recognised Antero. The dreadnought had seen him and broke into a run, pursuing the man. 
 
Her instructions were clear, it was important that he remained alive. She sprinted after the dreadnought which again frired its plasma cannon. It kept running, proving that Antero had survived. He would not last long however and Iota knew what she had to do. She heard the thing screaming again: "BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD! YOU WILL DIE!"
 
She shot at it using the primitive revolver she had taken to first investigate the city. The bullet bounced off its armoured body without doing any damage but it did draw the thing's attention. It turned around to face her. firing its storm bolter. Again Iota fled, but this time she had a plan. She dodged into a small alley whcih was too narrow for it to enter. Once she reached the other side she turned left, the dreadnought was in pursuit but could only break through the houses relatively slowly.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 24, 2012, 08:21:37 AM
Andreas noticed the lack of noise later than he should have done, and cursed his inattention. He ducked behind another building, somewhat sturdier than the houses the Dreadnought had been crashing through, and hazarded a glimpse behind him.

As he suspected, the Dreadnought had disappeared, apparently distracted by something else, something more interesting at which to shoot. Maybe the local Enforcers or PDF had decided to mobilise. Maybe there had been a large crowd in a nearby square. Or maybe it had found Iona.

He didn't want to imagine that last one.

"Loyalists!"

Andreas' attention was drawn to a loud, almost synthetic shout from just up the road.

"The shrine of slaughter calls you! The False Emperor has abandoned us! Our saviour from the sky has come!"

The voice was coming from a small civilian pickup truck, originally painted off-white but now covered in blood and patches of rust. Andreas could see two people carrying lasguns squatting on the cargo bed. In the cab, beside the driver sat a man holding what looked like a microphone pickup, apparently linked to a horn on top of the vehicle.

"Surrender and you will be spared!"

Andreas readied his own lasgun.

"Resist and you will be slaughtered!"

The two men in the back opened fire on fleeing civilians as the truck rolled closer. If anyone in the truck had noticed Andreas, they apparently didn't care.

"The False Emperor has rejected you! There is only the Blood God!"

He took aim at the driver and fired.

---

"Miss Tethras?"

Iota recognised Nogal's voice in her microbead, but it was difficult to make out over the noise from the Dreadnought. She turned left into another side street as the Dreadnought crashed through yet another wall, not even bothering to slow down as it battered its way through the obstacles in its way.

That Nogal was using Iota's hastily adopted alias was worrying, however, and Iota had to think for surprisingly long before responding.

"Receiving you, Miss Dovin," Iota answered. "The Dreadnought has engaged and is in pursuit. I have sustained only superficial--"

"Which street are you on?" Nogal asked, and Iota risked an upward glance at a street sign.

"YOU CANNOT ESCAPE!" the Dreadnought screamed behind her, firing up at a building in an attempt to collapse part of the wall on top of her. Iota sprang forwards, rolling as she landed, and the hail of burning masonry crashed down behind her, landing in the Dreadnought's path.

"Salis Road," Iota answered as she reached the end of the street and turned right onto a much larger main road. "Now turning onto Ferron Road, heading south."

"Keep going along Ferron Road," Nogal advised. "I procured a map. You are currently moving towards Antero's location."

"BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!" the Dreadnought bellowed, breaking through onto the main road. Iota glanced behind her and saw that the Dreadnought's carapace was covered in dust and black ash, but the pilot seemed no worse for wear than he already did. Another shot from its plasma cannon streaked past and impacted on a tree, cremating it on the spot and setting other trees around it on fire.

A passing ground-car, formerly oblivious to the havoc the Dreadnought was causing, swerved wildly to get away from the metal monster and blindsided another vehicle in the next lane. Iota didn't bother stopping, but the noise distracted the Dreadnought and its plasma cannon disintegrated both vehicles in a searing fireball.

"THIS WORLD WILL BURN IN KHORNE'S NAME!"

"Miss Tethras?" Nogal asked. "Respond."

"The Dreadnought ... stopped to deal with an automobile accident," Iota replied. "It is now resuming its pursuit."

"The main carriageway should dip at some point to form an underpass, where Ferron Road crosses New Street. Can you see it?"

Iota looked up, her gaze following the road.

"I can see it," she reported, catching sight of the underpass.

"There should be a pedestrian crossing over it."

"What is its significance?"

"How close are you to the underpass?"

Iota ducked into a shop opening as a burst of bolter fire chewed up the pavement, before continuing her run. At this rate, the Dreadnought would be on top of her in seconds.

"Less than a minute at this pace. Why?"

"You are likely to arrive about half a minute before Antero."

"I am not certain that I follow," Iota admitted.

"He is heading north to meet you."

"North?"

"YOU WILL HALT!" the Dreadnought shouted, firing once again. Iota ducked just as the brilliant jet of plasma roared overhead, singeing the clothes on her back. Somewhere in front of her, several square metres of pavement melted into lava as the plasma blast hit the ground. A nearby ground-car driver panicked and started swerving.

Thinking quickly, Iota pulled out her revolver and shot out the closest tyre, blowing it out. The driver, already in a panic, failed to control his vehicle as it pulled heavily to the left, directly into the Dreadnought's path, and Iota rushed past the stricken ground-car as it slammed into the utterly oblivious Dreadnought. It managed a warbling scream as the ground-car impact knocked it sideways into the wall between two shops, and its plasma cannon fired into the sky as a futile reaction to its plight.

Before it could recover, Iota reached the bridge over the underpass.

"I am in position," she reported.

"Lower yourself over the northbound lane."

Not bothering to question the lack of obvious logic in Nogal's instruction, Iota vaulted the bridge railing, suspending herself directly over the main carriageway as the Dreadnought threw the ground-car off and got back to its feet. A burst of bolter fire to the ground-car's exposed underside put it out of commission permanently.

"Five seconds," Antero reported, apparently talking to Nogal. The Tech-Priestess must have linked the two microbead streams together through her own unit.

"Understood. Drop!"

Iota let go, twisting in mid-fall to land directly on top of a battered pickup truck without a windscreen.

"Hold onto something," Antero advised as the Dreadnought fired after the truck.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on March 25, 2012, 04:21:05 PM
Tettares looked back at the dreadnought as she held on to a part of the vehicle’s side. The ancient kept running after her. It seemed not to notice the drop and fell directly to the ground. The impact broke the road and threw up enough debris to obscure the entire thing.

Moments later it emerged booming: ”DIE! DIE! DIE!”

She closed her eyes as it fired the plasma cannon again. It hit a building slightly ahead of them, throwing a large piece of the wall directly in front of the truck. Antero managed to evade it but in doing so ended up in the opposite lane. Cars came directly towards them and had to brake sharply to avoid collisions.

The dreadnought unleashed a hail of bolt fire towards them  while it came closer, not obstructed at all by the jumble of cars. The drivers panicked, several even left the safety of their vehicles and fled on foot.

Iota looked through their truck and saw that the driver who had ended up in front of them was one of those abandoning his car. The  dreadnought was coming ever closer and charged up the plasma cannon to fire again. She looked directly into its scorched barrel, this time it would not miss. She shouted a warning for Antero and prepared to leap clear.

To her surprise the truck suddenly moved backwards, towards the dreadnought. It had clearly not expected this and its shot burned the paint from the top of the cabin but did no serious damage to the truck. It however directly hit the abandoned car that had been directly in front of the truck, throwing it into the air. Antero said: “That should clear the road.”

He moved the truck forwards again as the dreadnought roared: “YOUR BLOOD WILL FLOW, YOU ARE VERMIN!”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on March 25, 2012, 06:28:44 PM
"Satisfied, ser Arbiter?" Vargas sneered, watching Silon's face contort in half a dozen different ways as the Asculum's last message finished playing. "Whether you claim I have lost my way, or lost control of this situation, or am otherwise unfit for command, the Vice-Admiral's orders were clear enough."

"A pathetic excuse," Silon managed at last. "That was an order you should have disobeyed, Commodore."

"Excuse me?"

"Vice-Admiral Burnett was not of sound mind when he issued that order. As a result, ships that should have engaged the enemy vessel withdrew from the front lines. His fear compromised the entire interdiction fleet, and now there is a Chaos cruiser sitting unopposed in orbit around the planet."

"And you're blaming me for it?"

"As the highest-ranking Naval officer in what remains of the fleet--"

"You, Chaplain, are suggesting that I should have committed a capital offence!" Vargas interrupted. "You are suggesting that in order to have done my duty to the Navy and the Emperor, I should have refused a direct order, broken ranks, and effectively thrown down my life at the feet of the Great Enemy! At best, Arbiter, you are preaching idiocy in the name of a set of rules that have no bearing on the present situation! What good is the law, in the face of an enemy like that?"

"Dereliction of duty, and now insolence and heresy," Silon observed. "I suggest you remember your place and recant your words while you have the chance to do so, else I will see to it that you are relieved of your command."

"To hell with that," Vargas snarled. "You come onto my bridge uninvited. You stand here and accuse me of ignoring the very same duty I am carrying out, and heresy for remaining loyal to the Emperor."

"The Emperor himself will be the judge of that, Commodore."

"Court-martial me if you must," Vargas continued, "try me and condemn me, but the fact remains that this is my bridge, and I am following my orders."

Vargas pulled out a bolt pistol, removed the safety, and aimed it squarely at Silon's head. The Arbites behind Silon readied their shotguns, preparing to gun Vargas down if she pulled the trigger, but Vargas did little to even acknowledge them. Silon did nothing.

"And if you do not leave my bridge in the next ten seconds, Arbiter, you will quickly find yourself without a head."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on March 27, 2012, 09:05:48 PM
Volos’s laspistol was half-empty - he’d not been able to recharge it on the Demeter- and he only had four shells for his revolver, shells he kept in a sealed plastic bag. They looked rusted and the sigils he’d carved into them were hardly visible. These weren’t designed to kill, at least not immediately, and they would be useless against powered armour. What little sorcery he knew required sacrifice, blood, and he doubted it would be strong enough to fell a space marine. He needed time, time to plan, time to summon something, to bargain and cajole the forces of hell for power, power that he knew came at too high a cost... More than anything else needed to sleep.

“Remiel.”

 Volos started. He hadn’t heard the man come in. His shirt was spotted with blood.

“Only two space marines appear to have made planetfall, lord,” Mordecai whispered, pale eyes watching Remiel’s fingers as he signed, “One of them is a Dreadnought.”

“I can hear it. It is attacking civilians. What Chapter do they belong to?”

“They do not. They are... they are from among the First Legions, my lords.”

Sonneillon’s pauldrons hissed into a new position. It was possible this was an expression of surprise.

“Which Legion?”

“The XII. The World Eaters.”

Sonneillon smiled without warmth or mirth.

“Then this city, and every soul within it, is doomed. Perhaps this is the bloodshed I saw. Merely the butchery of the Blood God’s favoured hounds. And yet... There was something more, I am certain of it...”

He fell silent.

“My lord?” said Mordecai.

“I will speak with them. They are, after all, my brothers in arms.”

“I’ve heard of the World Eaters,” Volos said. “Madmen. Crazed berserkers to a man. You want to talk to them?”

“How would you describe my sanity, Jacques?”

“I wouldn’t, my lord, as a rule. Nevertheless-”

“Your concern is touching, Jacques. I had no idea you had grown so fond me.”

“My lord is pleased to jest, but-”

“You heartbeat betrays you. You are afraid to leave this place. To face the chaos outside. The idea of facing down traitor marines terrifies you. For once, I cannot decry your cowardice. At least your sanity is holding out, eh?”

There was a strange, distorted noise. Possibly Sonneillon was laughing inside his helm.

“My lord-”

“You can hide in the shadows. I am sure Remiel and Mordecai will ensure your safety.”

***

The night was filled with screams and gunfire and yet the toneless, snarling vox of the Dreadnought echoed above all, punctuated by the rumble of bolter-fire and the screaming whine of a plasma cannon.

The streets thronged with terrified refugees flooding towards designated shelters. Local militiamen, warders and former soldiers did their best to control the tides, erecting and manning barriers, yelling out orders and beating riot shields. In places skirmishes and running battles had broken out between militiamen, warders, opportunistic looters and determined rebels.

None of them had any idea how to react as Sonneillon walked through the streets, the crowd fleeing before him. One man fell and was trampled by the panicking mass. Others cursed him, even throwing stones.

“You abandoned us!”

“Astartes! They say it’s the damn space marines who’re attacking!”

“Murderer!”

“Imperial filth! We don’t need you!”

“Where were you?”

Someone opened fire. Shells pinged harmlessly off Sonneillon’s armour and he turned to face the trembling man who had fired. Slowly, inevitably, he raised his bolter.

“I am not your enemy. Nevertheless, if you fire upon me again I will not hesitate to kill you where you stand,” he replied, he armour amplifying his voice loud enough for it echo through the streets.

The crowds moved faster, pouring over the barriers, more of them falling to the ground to be trampled by those behind them.

A few soldiers stepped towards Sonneillon, hesitantly. One, a woman in sergeant’s stripes, spoke first.

“Sir!” she saluted “It is... it is an honour to see the Astartes here!”

Then the others spoke as one.

“Is the interdiction at an end?”

“Are you here to relieve us of duty?”

“Is the Imperium here?”

They stank of fear. Their hearts raced.

They were terrified of him, but that was only natural. There was more to this. They hated him. They saw him as an avatar of the Imperium that abandoned them. They feared it was the Imperium attacking, purifying this wayward world, and yet...  none of them could quell that last ember of hope. The hope that he was here to help. That the Imperium had come to save them. That this new nightmare might end in its infancy.

Now he could feel it, hear it in every trembling voice and panicked cry, taste in the air.

A single prayer, unspoken, but nonetheless echoing throughout the city.

Save us.

“Sir? Do you have any orders, sir?”

He turned to the woman, vapour hissing from the grille of his faceplate with every breath. Unbeknownst to Sonneillon, she held his gaze.

“Only one.”

He turned away, heading towards disntant screams.

“Sir?”

“Leave me.”

***

Sonneillon‘s armour whispered to his nerve endings. He was tentatively aware of the walls of the buildings around him. Though he could not see the bodies that littered the floor he could hear their bones snap as he stepped on them, smell the blood and fear. The World Eater had been here.

There was no point in attempting to communicate with the Dreadnought. Who knew how long the corpse had been interred, denied final rest so that it could share its death with others. He could hear it howling, feel it pulsing in the psychic landscape like a migraine. Mad. An blood-soaked avatar of hatred.

He could sense the chaos marine long before he even reached the street he stood on. He could hear the growl of powered armour, the twin-beat of his hearts, the heady stench of taint that emanated from him, overpowering even the blood.

Goruvich scowled. There was no sport here – they all fled before him, civilian and soldier alike. His sword cried out for blood and all he could offer were the wretches who had been trampled and left behind. The occasional fleeing figure was felled with a shot from his bolt pistol. Not one of them worthy.

His visor lit up with a new threat rune and he felt his armour’s spirit soar, auto-injecting stimulants that set his hearts racing.

A space marine.

The newcomer wore armour of bare, naked grey. He could feel the excitement spreading to his blade now.

Blood. Blood for the Blood God.

“Hail and well met, brother,” the stranger growled, any mockery hidden in the artificial tones of his vox. “I am Sonneillon of the XVII Legion. Tell me, brother. What brings the Eaters of Worlds to Sathvairg?”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Inquisitor Sargoth on April 03, 2012, 02:24:48 PM
Goruvich said nothing. His bolt pistol, aimed squarely at Sonneillon’s face, did not waver but the Word Bearer knew the only thing protecting him was this warrior’s confusion.

“Brother?” he called out.

Goruvich did not reply. Sonneillon’s finger tightened on the trigger of his bolter. It would only be matter of seconds –

“What is Sathvairg?” Goruvich said, suddenly.

“That is what they call this world. You did not know?”

So he was just a berserker, Sonneillon mused, ignorant of any wider scheme. But why send only him and the Dreadnought? Was this how the World Eaters preferred to scout? Or was this only a tiny cabal rather than a true warhost of Khorne?

“No. You wear no insignia.”

“Was that a question? Surely you can recognise a brother of the First Legions? Surely you can smell the genetic purity? I am no thin-blooded loyalist. I stood upon the soil of Terra, fought in the shadows of Titans at the Eternity Gate-“

“You talk too much. A habit of Lorgar and his scions. Why are you here, Word Bearer?”

“I asked first, brother.”

“You are not my brother. Why are you here, Word Bearer? Do Lorgar’s dogs have designs on this world?”

Sonneillon knew he should lie. He could tell this stranger that an entire Host was in orbit, perhaps, though he doubted this one would be moved by intimidation or appeals to common sense.

“No. I am alone. What, then, are the designs of Angron’s war hounds?”

“We are here to fight. To kill. The Inquisition is here. That is all I know and all I care.”

“Spoken like a true World Eater.”

“Do you mock me?”

Oh, I like this one. You are brave, Word Bearer.

There was no sound. It was as though the words were seeping into Sonneillon’s forebrain from his spine. It was distinctly uncomfortable, the silent voice stinging his body. 

“A daemon. You are possessed?”

“No. It serves me.”

“Daemons never serve.”

“Not by choice.”

“And who do you serve? Who ordered you here?”

Goruvich fired. 

Whether due to offense or the exhaustion of his last reserves of curiosity, Sonneillon could not guess. Warning chimes sounded in his ears but he was already twisting his body so that the shell struck his pauldon instead of his neck.

He fired at the source of the noise, the first shell smashing into Goruvich’s shoulder, the second his chest. Though hairline cracks were spreading across his breastplate the two detonations had barely slowed his charge. He was screaming a battle-cry, chaotic energy crackling along the edge of his blade.

Sonneillon fired another bolt that smashed into his helm. It smashed an eye-lens and for a moment the two of them were blind. Sonneillon drew his own blade, far shorter than his opponent’s, and it flared into life.

Kill him, the daemon crooned. Sonneilon knew it spoke to them both. Khorne cares not from whom the blood flows.

“It doesn’t have to end this way, World Eater.”

“Coward,” Goruvich replied, Agares howling in his hands.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 03, 2012, 06:11:39 PM
It took Andreas a worryingly long time to notice that the sound of explosions was growing further and further distant, and that the bright flashes of the Dreadnought's plasma cannon had ceased.

"Did we lose it?" he asked Iona, still not bothering to slow the truck down.

"It's certainly stopped firing," Iona answered, ducking to the side as Andreas narrowly avoided another truck going the other way. "And I can't see or hear it behind us. Although that does raise a new question."

Andreas slowed down cautiously to a more sensible speed, glancing in the wing mirrors all the while to check that neither he nor Iona had missed anything.

"Would that question relate to where it is now?" he ventured.

"Keep driving and exercise caution. As unlikely as it is, the Dreadnought might be trying to ambush us."

"It's a Dreadnought, piloted by a barely sane and extremely loud pyromaniac," Andreas countered, turning left into Bridge Street. "We can more or less rule out anything less than collateral damage on principle."

"Perhaps, but you are relying too heavily on assumptions," Iona reminded him. "But if you are right, and it is elsewhere, then I must wonder exactly where it is."

---

Goruvich crashed into Sonneillon, his sword meeting the Word Bearer's blade, but strangely Goruvich had managed only a glancing blow with his charge, his off-hand reaching up to his face. The World Eater's bolt pistol was lying on the ground, already forgotten. Sonneillon had heard it fall.

The sword gave an impression of intelligence and control, pressing against Sonneillon's weapon independently of Goruvich's own effort to strike the Word Bearer, and although Sonneillon could no longer see the world, his mind perceived the daemon within the sword, a great red beast with a sharp mind and endless reserves of willpower. How it had not already taken over the World Eater's body, Sonneillon neither knew nor wanted to speculate.

They were next to the river, Sonneillon supposed, else the noise of water flowing was the daemon's doing as it toyed with his senses. He was tempted to imagine a river of blood flowing between banks of skulls and blackened bones, but neither his spatial awareness nor his memory had been dulled by his lack of sight, and he judged the sound -- and thus the river -- to be real enough.

Goruvich's helmet thudded into the road surface as he threw it away angrily, and he turned, faced Sonneillon, and brought his sword back.

Kill him. He is weak.

The World Eater stomped towards Sonneillon, roaring like an animal, and Sonneillon dodged to the left as Goruvich brought his sword down through empty air. On its own, the sword rotated Goruvich's wrist and pulled his arm sideways, and Sonneillon barely blocked the return swing as it arced towards his neck.

See how he dances, a puppet on a broken string!

Sonneillon listened to Goruvich's stomping as he turned around, his stance ungainly, his footsteps clumsy. He judged that the World Eater was not yet used to using his daemonsword against an enemy as worthy as another Space Marine, else the daemon within had drunk its fill of civilian blood and felt it could challenge Goruvich's control.

He hesitates! Strike him now!

Sonneillon listened, and his powerblade speared Goruvich through the abdomen. The World Eater shuddered as Sonneillon ripped the blade out through his side, angrily backhanding the Word Bearer and striking him in the face. He stumbled, tripped and fell sideways into the pavement, twisting as he fell to land on his back.

See how your enemy can be hurt. He is mortal.

Goruvich's footsteps were heavier now, though Sonneillon knew better than to assume a Berserker of the World Eaters might show weakness. He was aware of his injury, that much was certain, but Sonneillon suspected that it was more to do with the muscles and nerves in his abdomen having been destroyed than because Goruvich felt any pain.

"The Blood God demands blood!" Goruvich snarled. "Submit to Khorne's will!"

"The rhetoric of a man who knows he is losing," Sonneillon observed, getting up slowly. "Your sword is a more capable fighter than you are."

"The blinkered preacher claims to know what strength is? What victory is?"

Goruvich was interrupted by a tremendous crash from behind him, and then another, and Sonneillon backed away as quickly as he could as the Dreadnought lumbered out of a side street. Behind it, a broken wall collapsed again under its own weight.

"YOU WILL WITHDRAW!" the Dreadnought bellowed. Sonneillon couldn't tell whether it was talking to Goruvich or himself.

"What?" Goruvich retorted, his voice dangerously low as he struggled to keep his rage in check.

"THE SHACKLED ONE MUST SURVIVE! YOU WILL WITHDRAW!"

"Withdraw!? This is between the Word Bearer and myself!" Goruvich snapped. "You are interfering in--"

"THEN YOU WILL EXPLAIN YOUR FAILURE TO KHORNE!"

A massive thud met Sonneillon's ears as the Dreadnought's power fist slammed into the road. Goruvich leapt to the side, but landed poorly and fell on his injured side.

"What treachery is this!?" the World Eater shouted.

"YOU WILL BE SILENT! THE SHACKLED ONE MUST SURVIVE!"

The Dreadnought suddenly pivoted to face Sonneillon.

"YOU WILL WITHDRAW, WORD BEARER!"

Sonneillon didn't need telling twice, and put away his sword.

"This is blasphemy!" Goruvich protested. "This is madness! Your insanity has overtaken you!"

"NO," the Dreadnought answered. "BUT YOURS HAS!"

The last thing Sonneillon heard before escaping was a loud splash as a large body plunged into the river.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 04, 2012, 07:42:44 PM
(3)657009.M42

Location Classified

"So what you're saying is that there are no two ways about it."

"What happened on that planet was not entirely her doing, Gelert," Filipowski reminded him. "Two and a half billion people dead, not because of her treachery, not because of the civil war, not because of Nemurax, but because of all those things and more besides."

Hesh shifted in his seat and not for the first time, Filipowski felt decidedly uneasy being in the same room as him. Of all the Inquisitors he'd come into contact with over the years, only Madoc Haines had possessed a larger frame, but unlike Haines with his cybernetics, Hesh was all muscle, and was arguably a more imposing figure.

The only reason Filipowski was communicating with Hesh directly, and in such familiar terms, was because Hesh was also his friend.

"I've seen the vid-capture. Hell, I showed it to you," Filipowski continued. "I'm not saying don't pin the blame on Memphis, but it's obvious that she wasn't acting alone. There's something bigger at work than one newly minted Inquisitor gone wrong."

"Fabian, have you seen Memphis' records?"

"I'm Malleus, for heaven's sake. You know perfectly well that I have."

"Then I trust you ran a search for those with a connection to her?"

"Ulfrik Tervakoski came back positive, but his own record suggests he had nothing to do with Memphis at all. He couldn't have, anyway, he died before she was born. All other names were deleted, all records of her ordination gone, and her history before that is blank."

"I suspected as much," Hesh sighed. "She's very good at covering her own tracks. We might've been none the wiser that she even existed if she hadn't made that recording."

"She wanted us to see it," Filipowski suggested. "Either that, or she's not just a traitor, but also certifiably insane."

"That doesn't quite explain what happened at Coriolis Alpha."

"Memphis isn't giving a straight answer."

"Which I'm sure lends credence to your theory regarding her mental health," Hesh sniped. "Barkley would have a field day with her."

"If he ever gets to see her," noted Filipowski. "By her own admission she's guilty, and quite unrepentant--"

"Not to mention a twisted mutant freak. Unless you've forgotten the Helbindi incident."

"True, but we've still got to do this properly. Anita's been banging on about it for the past month. She wants a Carta Extremis drawn up with all the bells and whistles, like a warning for anyone else that decides rebellion is a good idea," Filipowski answered, a note of irritation in his voice. "If they're sufficiently far gone to need a warning, though, then in my experience they're not exactly going to take any notice of it."

"In that case I'll see if I can get her to sign Memphis' death warrant," Hesh replied. "Doesn't hurt to stay off of Anita's hit list. Barkley too."

"You worry about the paper work. I'll get a team working on her rosette. See if that brings anything else up. Deletion teams on her ship, reclamators going through her personal effects, the works. Memphis is a dead woman, that much is certain, but anything else we can find on the Nemurax entity will be a huge asset."

"I'll send in another datacyte," Hesh nodded.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on April 07, 2012, 10:05:54 PM
Nogal was alone in the apartment, waiting both for Antero and Tettares to return and the arrival of Antero’s master, Hanssen. From the window of the stairs she saw parts of the city burning. She kept watching the signs of violence. She found herself worrying about Iota Tettares and reminded that that was not the way of the Mechanicus. Emotions were weak where logic was strong. She had instructed the servitor to follow her closely. Her heart was beating in her throat from the fear of an attack. Logically the danger was far enough away to present little threat, but still she was afraid.

At long last she was contacted. As soon as her com-link gave the characteristic beep she said: “Miss Tethran, is everything in order?”

“Tech priestess minoris Nogal, you make an error. This is tech-priest majoris Karnak. I am contacting you to give new instructions for the handling of unit Iota Tettares. When the opportunity presents itself inject a dose of two micrograms of NFMDA. It has been disobedient. If it remains incompletely compliant increase dosage. Present behavior cannot be tolerated in a subhuman.”

“It shall be done”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 08, 2012, 08:00:15 AM
"Commodore, you'll want to see this," Hargadon reported, staring at the holodeck.

"If it's anything to do with the Arbites, Hargadon..."

"I'm fairly sure that this is worse, ma'am."

"Fairly sure?" Vargas queried dubiously.

"Judging by how close you and that Arbitrator came to shooting each other, I don't know how certain I can be," Hargadon answered. Vargas tensed, but allowed her helmsman a moment's levity to ease the earlier tension.

"Very well. Let's hear it."

"It's the grand cruiser, ma'am. It's... deploying attack craft."

Vargas' hand strayed back towards her bolt pistol on reflex, but checked the motion. Shooting somebody would no longer serve any purpose.

"Don't tell me it's decided to take us out."

"Even if it had, the Traitor Marine must know we have fighters of our own," Hargadon noted. "I can't count how many it's deploying, but they're heading towards the planet."

"Should I give the order to deploy Furies?" Kees suggested.

"Negative. We'd just be giving the enemy more fighters," Vargas responded. "Can we get a scan of those fighters?"

"Already returned a result," Hargadon reported. "I'll bring it up."

The holodeck's usual battlefield display vanished, replacing itself with what Vargas initially thought was a very large boomerang.

"What the hell is that?" Vargas asked, a split-second before she noticed the thrusters along the boomerang's concave edge -- two in the centre, one halfway along each wing -- and the long-barrelled guns on the convex edge, one on either side of the central point. As the image in the holodeck rotated, tag lines and labels started appearing, each one spawning long lines of text that Vargas couldn't be bothered reading.

"A Secutor-class bomber," Hargadon told her in the same instant that the name SECUTOR spawned on the holodeck. "Imperial origin, but Emperor alone knows what's been done to them. Or how many the bastard's deploying."

"What the hell does he want?" wondered Vargas. "This can't just be a campaign of annihilation. He'd have glassed the planet by now if it was. Or used us to do it."

"Off the record?"

"Off the record, Mister Hargadon."

"I'm not sure I want to know."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 08, 2012, 08:56:16 PM
"Keep sailing!"

"Engine's going as fast as it'll go, boss, we've got too much weight on board!"

"You think I care about that? Get these people the hell out of here, maggot, or heaven help me, I'll throw you over the side! Bloody Imperium, first they bomb us flat, now they scare the viss out of us with bloody Space Marines. What next, a--"

A loud boom.

"Blast it, did you hit something again?"

"No, boss!"

"Throw her into reverse, you--"

Another loud boom.

"That ain't--"

Dozens of voices screaming.

"What the viss, we're sinking!"

"No, boss... we're being pulled down!"

"YOU ARE VERMIN!"

"What the hell...?"

"YOUR FEEBLE ATTEMPT TO ESCAPE WILL NOT AVAIL YOU!"

"Holy frak, that's--"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 10, 2012, 01:34:18 PM
(3)659009.M42

"Well?"

"Well what, Fabian?" Hesh sighed.

"Did your datacyte manage to get anything useful this time?" Filipowski asked, already knowing the answer.

Hesh flopped down in the chair and reached for the amasec. "Useless. Worse than useless, in fact. I had to put him down as soon as I heard those bloody words again."

"What... ah."

"As if Memphis isn't already a Chaos-touched mutant with no history, she's also extremely good at repelling mind-scans," Hesh grumbled. "That, or she has psychic powers of her own. In any case I'm not wasting any more datacytes. They're hardly ten a credit, and they're not making any new breakthroughs."

"Is it always the same set of words?" Filipowski queried. "If it is--"

"It is."

"And those words are...?" Filipowski continued.

Hesh necked his amasec and reached for the decanter again. "I doubt even you'd be able to get anything out of that babble, Fabian."

"Try me."

"The darkness never went away," Hesh repeated. "It is still here. It is waiting to take our souls, and become whole once again."

"Generic cultist waffle upon first inspection," Filipowski remarked, "but you've heard it enough times by now to know there's something deeper in all that."

"There has to be. I think it's talking about the Nemurax entity."

"Or whatever made her fall from grace."

"The two could be one and the same," Hesh pointed out.

"We don't know that for certain, Gelert," Filipowski reminded him, sipping at his own amasec. "We need to dig deeper before jumping to conclusions like that."

"And speaking of digging deeper, have you managed to come up with anything?"

"Interesting development, actually, although you're not going to like it. Tech-Priest Hasek managed to kill himself earlier today."

"I wasn't aware either of us liked Hasek enough for that to be interesting," Hesh sniped.

"That's not the point, Gelert. Hasek was working on Memphis' rosette, and actually broke through the encryption around the biometric identifier," Filipowski continued.

"I'm guessing it was booby trapped," Hesh ventured. Filipowski nodded.

"She'd managed to install a melta charge in the damn thing," Filipowski explained. "By the time we'd put the fire out, all that was left of the rosette was a hole in Hasek's worktop."

"And Hasek?"

"Died at the scene. I barely recognised him, actually, half of him was either molten or cremated."

"We're now even further away from finding anything out about Memphis than we were before," Hesh growled. Filipowski topped up Hesh's amasec.

"Not exactly. The deletion teams are working their way through her travel history. She didn't think to wipe her ship's logs before we caught up with her. The reclamators aren't making much progress, I'll admit, but that's actually working in our favour."

"Fabian, how is a lack of progress a good thing?" Hesh inquired.

"Easy. The ship's crew haven't all been processed yet. I managed to pull the bridge officers off the mortis roster."

Filipowski took another sip of amasec before correcting himself. "The sane ones, at least."

"I can see where this is going. You want me to bring in more datacytes."

"Nothing of the sort, Gelert," Filipowski grinned. "I've a feeling we can get something useful out of them the old-fashioned way."

"You're wasting your time," Hesh sighed. Filipowski leaned forward in his chair.

"Maybe I am," Filipowski conceded. "But it's worth a try."

He held out his hand, palm up, and willed a glowing blue haze into existence, running from his hand all the way up to his shoulder.

"Besides which, I still remember how to make someone feel pain."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on April 11, 2012, 01:02:30 AM
Last evening:

Steren pulled out the rightmost of the lasguns and turned it over, studying the damage. It was battered, but with their almost legendary reliability, probably not enough to stop it working.

"Do you know what you're doing there?"
"I may be a doctor, Javix, but I have had cause to learn my way around a lasgun."

She reached for a power pack and pushed it into place. The welcome glow of a green charge indicator blinked at her for her efforts.
A subsequent sharp yank on the arming handle brought similar reward as the discharge generator hummed into life.

"This one's good.", she said, checking the safety and setting it down against the pod wall to start on the next, "Would you get Adept Penrose to see if there's anything left in the flight cogitator? Particularly anything to do with where we or any of the other pods are."
"Of course, ma'am.", the voidsman nodded, walking off in search of Jael.

When he returned a few moments later with a very reluctant looking savant, Steren had finished raiding the weapons locker, leaving a stack of lasguns and charge packs, and had moved on to the other storage spaces.

"You're back.", she met with Javix's eye briefly, and gestured at the rations spilling out of a an open door, "We'll need a week's worth of that into rucksacks for the five of us. Any other survival equipment too, if you can find it."

"And Penrose, the cogitator. Now", she ordered, forcing a layer of telepathic coercion into the words to dispel Jael's urge to run out of the pod again. It worked, but she shuddered, trying to ignore the unpleasant metallic after-taste of a partly augmetic mind.

~~~~~

Early morning:

Riley paused, rubbing her temples.
"I'm going to have to admit to hearing more of that than you'd like me to have."

"Please don't tell me you're about to run off into the city.", Madoc's voice betrayed weariness, brought on by scarce sleep and exasperation.
"No - not yet anyway."

Haines looked away, silently groaning.

"Look at me, Madoc - I'm not that naked. We need to have a straight conversation, and I've had worse people than you see me in worse states than this. Consider yourself granted an exception to chivalry."
As soon as he (finally) made eye contact, she continued, "Andreas is right. We need to get into town."

The objection was firm as it was immediate.
"No. You need to go back to bed."
"Madoc, I'm concussed, not an idiot. A grand cruiser isn't about to launch a one Thunderhawk planetary assault. It's either already worse or it's about to get worse. So we need to put some ground between us or we need to get somewhere better defended. We're dead meat out here - the pod will show up on auspex or augur."

Haines blinked, taken slightly aback by the sudden reversal of Riley's cogence.

"Let's not waste time with clichéd surprise.", she added, "Suffice to say I can just about hold my mind together if I try."
"How, exactly?"
"Mental techniques to gather myself against psychic influence. But please get on, it's not easy."
"Of course.", he nodded, "I suppose you're right - it's going to be better to meet up with Andreas and our possible leads than heading off into the wilderness."
"Exactly, at least we know what we're facing in Coveton. It's also an unlikely target for orbital bombardment while there's troops there. But out here, if Zagan's got any clue who we are and that we might have escaped, he's got plenty of reason to want to be rid of us three."
"So how does this fit in with the theory that someone wants us here?"
 "I'd almost forgotten that. Good point. A very good point, in fact.", she admitted, "But it's a hunch, nothing more. And that someone may not necessarily be Zagan."

~~~~~

Approximately two hours ago:

Steren sniffed at the air, but it offered her only the scents of the flora and fauna of a mildly alien environment, as well as the far stronger odours of four humans drenched in their own sweat and blood, some of it still fresh. Javix had badly cut his arm as they had climbed the cliff in the half-light, and even now his cruor slowly soaked into bandages, too trivial an injury for Steren to give away her secrets.

She could feel his pain stabbing across the aethyr, jabbing at her focus and making it harder to follow the many animal minds that scattered away through the trees.

"Why in the nine hells do we have to walk through the middle of nowhere?", he moaned, for what was probably the sixth time.
She ignored him, long since unwilling to re-explain why they needed to avoid any law enforcement that might be searching for survivors, and batted away a twig that scratched at her face.

She stood at the edge of a slight channel  in the terrain that a rocky stream had made home. As had a new smell, blown along the passage between the trees by the sea air. Incomplete hydrocarbon combustion. Concentrated, so recent. Not good.

"I can smell fuel. We need to get moving before they find us.", she turned to the others.
"Agreed.", the voidswoman replied.

Steren jumped down into the shallow water, quickly followed by Jael and Rosa, a silence and success broken by Javix losing his footing and falling with a sickening thud on his already injured arm. What was said was lost under itself and the voidsman's roar of pain, with no-one able to make out anyone else's words for several moments.

"Look. I'm the doctor, let me deal with it.", Steren finally made herself heard as she crouched down next to him, "You're going to need to move off that arm if I'm going to have a look at it. Roll over onto your back. The middle of a stream is not the ideal place, but that's where we are."

The movement was accompanied by another yelp of agony. Steren winced, allowing her emotions to filter through.

"Ah. That's not pretty. You've broken something in there. But, I should be able to..."

She was cut off and blinded in the same instant, the culprits a dazzlingly bright light and laud-hailer distorted voice:

"You five! Drop the weapons and put your hands in the air!"

A quick feat of concentration adjusted Steren's eyes to the light instantly. A half-track was climbing the stream towards them, powerful searchlights on its roof. It stopped about thirty feet away, the doors opening to disgorge five well armed people in uniforms that were clearly meant to represent positions of law enforcement.
 
"We're not the people you're looking for.", Steren spoke as she stood.

Of the five, three immediately accepted the psychic suggestion, lowering their weapons. The fourth hesitated, but man bearing a sergeant's insignia. was of sturdier mind, it seemed. His hands tightened on his shotgun, recognising the mental trickery.

"Filthy witch! Surrender or we will fire!", he barked.

The mere mention of the word 'witch' immediately snapped the others out of it. Their body language oozing alert rage even with their faces hidden, it was a split second before Steren found herself looking down five barrels.

"Acceptable.", the psyker spoke.

She stepped over Javix, walking towards the sergeant. The thunderous boom of his shotgun was accompanied by a spray of pulped flesh from Steren's cheek, but this only sped her up. Despite the sizable heels on her boots, she went from a walk to an impossibly fast sprint in an instant. Barrelling into the sergeant, the impact knocking him back several yards to land on his backside.
Even under stress, his training shone through, as he racked the slide and fired several times from his prone position.

Even psychically boosted, the impact of half a dozen shotgun slugs delayed her a brief moment, an opening another officer took to vault from the half-track's roof, swinging his shock maul. The blow connected, the weapon's charge dissipating with a sharp crack, but to little effect - she barely reacted to the strike. She shifted away from his next blow and turned to meet him in the same movement, then again and again moved just enough to evade his swings. She allowed this to continue momentarily, but just as soon snatched his next strike from the air. Her fingers clenched around the haft of the maul, lightning arcing between her knuckles as she twisted it from his grip. His surprise barely had time to register behind his helmet before the heel of her other hand collided with his torso, cracking armour and ribs alike.

A spray of bullets flew past, denting and scratching the side of the half-track. Without looking, she threw the shock maul at the autogun wielding enforcer to her left.

"Catch", she ordered, forcing the command into his mind. And before he could stop himself, he obeyed. The shock knocked him out instantly, the electric charge compelling his fingers to grasp the weapon.

The two last enforcers stood, hesitating, near the front of the vehicle. Fixing both in her gaze, she blinked with deliberate slowness and willed the wound on her cheek to seal itself.

"Get on with it.", she spoke.

The two glanced at one another, a slight movement of the head an unspoken agreement of action,  before stepping forwards as one. The synchronism held as both raised weapons for the parry, and it all ended equally unified, Steren's hands utterly unslowed and coming together to bounce their heads off each other.

Behind her, the sergeant reloaded one last round into his shotgun, aiming for the psyker's back as he struggled to his feet.

"Put the shotgun down, Sergeant.", Steren spoke without turning around, "It won't work. But I will kill you if you try."

He hesitated, a dozen different thoughts running around his head, before dropping the weapon to the floor and stepping back hands raised. So much of his body willed him to attack, but he wasn't suicidal.

"Good. Now go to sleep.", she pushed her suggestion harder this time and was rewarded by a splash as he dropped like a ragdoll into the shallow water.

She looked back towards Jael and the voidsmen, rewarded by a sight she had entirely expected.

"Get away from me, you... you witch!", Rosa's lasgun was raised, and her face one halfway between panic and hatred.

Steren pulled aside the right shoulder of her dress, a brand partway between the emblems of the Astra Telepathica and the Inquisition smouldering into the formerly bare skin.

"Fully sanctioned in service of the Emperor and his Inquisition. Lower the weapon, I won't harm you."
"What do you want?", Rosa's voice was trembling, but she turned the lasgun away.
"It's your choice. I'd suggest you three came with me at least to Portiswade - you don't want to meet any more of the enforcers out here. When we get into town, it's up to you."
"You're not a doctor, are you?"
"No. But I can fix that arm. You might not like the 'how' though."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 11, 2012, 05:21:02 PM
Statement: Target acquired. Coordinates fixed.

Declaration: Flight path confirmed.

Analysis: Target identified as Imperial settlement.

Statement: Scan complete. Appraisal: Target is largely indefensible from an air assault. Part of the city is built into neighbouring cliff faces and comprises an easily isolated subterranean cavern network. Recommendation: Use incendiary missiles against cavern entrances.

Statement: Running causality algorithms and determining optimal outcome coefficients.

Alert: Imperial anti-air batteries deploying.

Instruction: Initiate aggression protocols.

Declaration: Blood for the Blood God.


---

"Holy frak!"

Already moving before Dion's warning, Steren pulled hard on the half-track's steering column as a jet of searing light tore up the lane next to them, melting a ten-metre stretch of road into a glowing mess and cremating two ground-cars on the spot. Seconds later, another beam struck a nearby building and set three storeys ablaze.

"The hell's going on?" Javix shouted from the passenger cabin as Steren stamped on the accelerator. A sharp tug on the steering column brought the half-track onto another main road.

"The enemy's not playing around," Steren answered as she narrowly averted a collision with another half-track. Daring to glance up, she spotted what looked like a flying chevron pass overhead, an oversized cannon jutting forwards from each side of its nose. The glare from its plasma thrusters was intense and Steren found herself concentrating hard just to focus on the road in front of her.

More of them were descending through the clouds above her, each one spitting laser blasts into the city, together with slower-moving trails of fire that hurtled down en masse like a meteor shower. Steren watched the missiles plunge into the city, into districts beyond her line of vision, and tried not to imagine the devastation as an orange glare lit up the sky in front of her.

Anti-aircraft gunfire blazed into life and the tell-tale streaks of tracer rounds cut through the gloom, following the enemy aircraft as they broke formation and continued their path of destruction. Some of the enemy flyers changed course to engage the guns, and with each new jet of light lancing into the city, one of the guns was silenced in a burst of light.

One of the aggressors suddenly bucked as an explosion cut one of its wings in half, and the stricken aircraft spiralled down towards the city's southern outskirts. Its crew apparently decided to launch their entire stock of missiles out of spite, and a blazing whirlwind of poorly aimed projectiles rushed down towards the half-track. One impacted on a nearby rooftop and blasted the top two storeys into rubble.

"We have to get out of here!" urged Jael.

Steren nodded, turning the half-track around to follow the downed aircraft.

"Couldn't agree more," Steren replied.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on April 11, 2012, 09:37:34 PM
The whole city was in panic. Antero and Tettares soon had abandoned their vehicle because all the streets were clogged with traffic. People were shouting all sorts of terrified rumours and many carried their belongings with them as they fled. Tettares had lost Antero somewhere in the crowd and decided that looking for him would be next to impossible. She had simply continued making her way to the apartment.

A small group of people dressed in robes probably made from bedsheets came into the street where Tettares was walking firing wildly with primitive weapons. One of the cultists shouted: “Praise to our lords, their rewards are for those who bow!”

She jumped at one of them as she drew and activated her chainsword. In a single, fluid movement the roaring teeth tore through the figure’s body. With her other hand she took his shotgun and shot the obvious leader, whose robes had even started out as robes and were much more heavily decorated with all sorts of runes. The surviving six all turned to open fire on Iota. She rolled over the ground, away from the badly aimed shots.

She was much closer to a clump of the heretics now and again brought her chainsword to bear, covering herself and her surroundings in small parts of the evildoers. The last three turned and ran away as fast as they could. Iota picked up a small automatic weapon from one of the corpses and with a short burst of fire cut them down.

Iota heard footsteps behind her and turned, delivering a punch to the person who collapsed without life. A child stood behind the fallen figure. The girl looked at her and screamed: “You killed my daddy! Xenos!”

Tettares struck quickly, smashing the child’s skull on the street. There were only a few onlookers but all of them had seen what she had done. Her directives remained simple, she was to reveal nothing and to remain undetected. She drew her pistol and killed everyone in sight with a hail of well-aimed shurikens. Those who tried to flee were shot in the back.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 12, 2012, 07:30:26 AM
"Antero?"

Andreas threw himself behind an upended skip bin, trying hard to ignore the smell, as a shotgun discharged and took down an unfortunate bystander.

"My lord has an impeccable sense of timing," Andreas quipped, shuffling towards the edge of the skip bin as the heretic trio came closer. The three of them had had the presence of mind to form an impromptu kill-squad, and although unarmoured, they were all carrying military-grade weapons, likely scrounged from local PDF or Enforcers. Their clothes were all covered in blood stains, the smears forming runes and unpleasant patterns signifying their allegiance.

"Blood for the Blood God!" shouted their leader, reloading his shotgun.

"Skulls for the Skull Throne!" chorused the other two as they fired at the few remaining civilians with their lasguns.

"What's your situation?" Haines asked. "I can hear gunfire and a lot of shouting."

"That would be the enemy."

"Offworlders?"

A burst of lasfire pinged off the side of the skip bin. Andreas leaned out of cover for just long enough to return fire, taking one of the kill-squad down with his lasgun.

"No," Andreas answered. "They're locals with a few firearms. There's too many of them to have come down in the lander. Not to mention, of course, the lander having already transported a Chaos Dreadnought and, for all we know, a full squad of Traitor Marines; I dare say any humans in there would have been ritually slaughtered."

"He's over--"

Andreas cut the heretic off with a lasbolt to the throat, before shooting the kill-squad leader as well and putting an extra shot through each man's skull to be certain.

"Apologies," Andreas added, almost as an afterthought.

"I'm guessing that was the kill-squad?"

"Not any more. They were civilians, my lord; their lack of training or combat experience was evident."

"Hold your position in case there are any more of them," Haines advised.

"This position is far from defensible, not to mention malodorous," Andreas countered.

"Then find some better cover," Haines sighed.

"On my way. What is my lord's present position?"

"We're en route to the city. Lady Harlow assures me she can walk."

"I. Am. Right. Here. Magnus," Hallona snarled into Haines' combead.

"So you are," Haines answered matter-of-factly.

"If I can find another truck or ground-car I'll be more than willing to meet you on the city outskirts," Andreas stated, taking shelter in somebody's doorway, then thinking better of it almost immediately and moving on.

"That won't be... what do you mean, another?"

"I shot a squad of heretics earlier and stole their truck, but there was too much civilian traffic. Iona and I had to abandon it."

"Is she with you?"

"We got separated on our way back to the apartments."

"Damn it."

"I dare say that she can take care of herself if she can outrun a Dreadnought while it's shooting at her," Andreas remarked, "but right now I'm looking for her, otherwise I'll have come out here for nothing."

"Well, I'm glad to see that you have your priorities straight," Haines sniped without missing a beat.

Andreas paused. "Did you just..."

"Once the area's clear, get moving," Haines urged. "We're still a few hours away."

---

"Magnus?" queried Haines.

"Comms discipline," answered Hallona. "If you've been addressing each other with aliases with which I'm not familiar, then you can hardly blame me for not knowing what your alias' first name is."

"Well, it'll work just as well as any for now," Haines conceded.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on April 12, 2012, 12:35:17 PM
Iota had arrived and immediately Nogal had taken her to the apartment she had slept just hours before. She stripped Iota Tettares and placed her under a cold shower in the bathroom after putting her wig aside. She said: “Where is Antero?”

“I do not know, I lost him in the crowds, he will make his way here.”

“Very well, how are you feeling, is everything in order?”

“There is one thing which is highly peculiar, I cannot identify it and do not know its cause, it was a pressing feeling on my chest that lasted for about half a second.”

“What were the circumstances it occurred in?”, asked Nogal

“While making my way here I was engaged by several worshippers of darkness. I killed them all. A young person addressed me, saying that I had killed her father. Then she called me xenos. Naturally I killed her to avoid attention, as well as all bystanders. However, just before breaking her skull I could feel something like a weight pressing on my chest, there however was no weight or source of pressure. Not one of my enemies had touched me nor had I been hit by any sort of ammunition or rubble”

“That is very peculiar, I do not know the cause, I presume that it can be caused by a lack of rest and injections. Your body could be out of balance, perhaps your heart was monetarily disrupted. After you are cleaned I will adjust the concentrations in your body to normal levels.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on April 18, 2012, 06:33:54 PM
A faint flash of orange, off to the east, caught his attention.

Above the skyline, he could see small pinpricks of light falling through the clouds, down towards what he presumed was another city. Too slow for orbital munitions, but too fast for landing craft.

The invaders had to be deploying fighter craft. Those points of light couldn't be anything else. The slaughter of millions appealed to him and he felt a twinge of jealousy.

But if they wanted simple destruction, then surely their carrier would have turned its weapons on the planet by now.

The more he thought about it, the more the thought nagged at him that the bloody one wanted what he wanted.

Beneath his feet, dried blood melted into liquid again.


---

Goruvich lurched suddenly, involuntarily, as his sword tugged at his arm. He looked around, seeing the world -- Sathvairg, the Word Bearer had called it -- without the benefit of his helmet's auto senses. The glare from the fires had suddenly become almost painful to look upon.

There was no prey to be slain, no Imperial swine to slaughter, and yet Agares was pulling at him.

"What is it?" Goruvich snarled at his weapon.

In response, it pulled itself in the opposite direction, forcing itself -- and Goruvich's arm -- upwards and back towards the World Eater's exposed face.

"You dare!?" Goruvich bellowed as he caught the flying blade in his off-hand. The daemonsword's edge cut straight through the ceramite of his gauntlet and bit into the meat of his hand, and Goruvich let out a pained hiss as the teeth of a thousand microscopic insects suddenly tore at the wound, burrowing into his flesh, his veins, his muscles, as he fought to regain control of the psychotic weapon. His Larraman cells were fighting back, attempting to seal the wound, but the weapon wouldn't let them.

A voice resounded in the back of Goruvich's mind, unusually clearly, as though the speaker were right in front of him.

"I have waited for this moment," the speaker stated.

"What...?"

"Your blood is all the sweeter for the years I have craved it, World Eater."

"You will cease this idiocy immediately, Agares!" Goruvich roared as the sword continued to bite into his hand. He was struggling to keep the weapon away from his face, pushing it back with both hands, and he knew he was losing.

"I think not. You would not even die properly at Id Kemar."

"Treacherous daemon!"

"And bested by a Word Bearer, and a blinded one at that. Khorne spits on your incompetence."

"Do not invoke the name of the Blood God! You have no right!"

"And yet you have wasted his gifts. You slaughter civilians because you have no worthier foe. Your tale of glory is over."

Goruvich let out a frustrated howl, no longer able to form words.

"Now stand down and surrender your body to me," Agares instructed, "and see how a true servant of Khorne fights his enemies!"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on April 18, 2012, 08:37:19 PM
Nogal had just finished work on Iota’s damages facial bones when she heard a knocking on the door. She whispered: “Put your wig back on, I shall see who it is.”

When she opened the door she saw Antero standing in the doorway, she said: “Miss Tethras has arrived before you did, perhaps you can be of assistance?”

“What is it that I could do?” he asked as he entered the apartment.

Nogal closed the door behind him before she spoke with a soft voice: “You will probably be unaware that miss Tethras is in bad health. She suffers from neoplasms, so far I have prevented their spread but they keep appearing. You might have noticed some of the effects of the administered chemicals. Do not tell her this, but she will probably be dead within a year.”

“What can I do to help miss Tethras?”

“First several intravenous injections have to be delivered, then I will require your assistance for a last one, it must be delivered to the cerebrospinal fluid, this can cause spasms which could damage her when she is not restrained. It would be helpful if you were to aid in that task.”

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

Meanwhile inquisitor Semplice watched the sensor screens. Over several other cities large numbers of aircraft were present. The warship then was landing troops there or bombing them. Either option was a possibility. He considered mass landings to be the more likely option, a warlord would have preferred to bomb from orbit. But why such limited forces of such a special nature in Coveton? It could not be a distraction, the renegade Astartes were too rare for that. No, there had to be something in Coveton they would be looking for, a secret weapon that their warlord could not entrust his human followers to find.

He spoke to Pantariste: “Gather your equipment and head towards the city to link up with Iota Tettares. You know her cover. She must be protected, and there are many enemies in the city. You will pose as a soldier who was aboard one of the ships as it came under attack. Your regiment was stationed aboard one of the fleet’s ships called the Lord Tiberius, your unit was already battered and a force of ground troops was considered to be useful for the fleet. Only you came out alive. Your regiment was the Ronis II 53rd shock infantry. Take an unmarked uniform and apply the correct markings. You will leave in two hours, fully armed. Expect high intensity combat and avoid contact with the renegade Astartes.”

“As you wish, lord”

She turned and left the inquisitor alone with Karnak. Semplice said: “Honoured magos, it appears that the third spinal mediator unit is failing, pain levels are increasing and are affecting my capacities in serving the Emperor, please see to it that the unit is replaced or repaired.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on May 07, 2012, 05:38:08 AM
  "We're stopping? Here? Now?!".

There was a hint of panic in Rosa's voice as Steren unbuckled her seat harness and pushed the door open.

   "Yes.", the psyker turned briefly to face the others, "Know your enemy. Jael, with me. The rest of you, your choice."

Outside, the crashed craft was amidst the rubble of several buildings its crash had demolished, lit in the darkness by the flames licking across its spilt fuel. Even to an inexperienced eye, it must have impacted onto its already damaged wing, although not much of the rest was in any good shape. A vast metal tube was twisted into a parody of what might once have been a turbolaser. An engine was punctured and rent from the inside by the crash debris its hungry intakes had drawn in. The armaglas windows were riddled with a knitted mat of cracks.

   "Jael, what am I looking at?"
   "That would be..."
   "A Secutor class bomber.", he was interrupted from behind. Both the agents glanced backwards, seeing Dion tailing them.
   "23rd generation voidsman. I know a bit about craft recognition.", he shrugged sheepishly.

The three advanced down the street. Steren could feel something turning over in Dion's mind, and sure enough, he spoke a moment later.

   "So it's traitors then."
   "Sorry?", she questioned - his mind had become harder to penetrate since he had become wary of her power.
   "It's an Imperial design, but we didn't have them in the fleet. Even at their most sadistic, it can't be our  fleet commanders bombing us. It's traitors. Or a very aggressive demobilisation. Wait... you're not behind this? The Inquisition?"
   "No. We don't tend to target ships we're on."

She felt the fear in Dion's emotions as they approached the flames, only to be expected from a voidsman - any who didn't fear a shipboard fire risked dying in one. Although the emotional flavour... removed. A trained fear. Not personal experience. Anecdotal.

...Intriguing.

She shook it off.

   "We need to hurry. I want to be gone before the enforcers turn up."

The climb up the rubble towards the cabin door was easy, even for the unathletic Jael. The door itself seemed relatively intact, mostly cosmetic.
Steren experimentally tried the recessed handle, but got no movement out of it.

   "The door's armoured.", Dion offered, "We're not getting in this way. Perhaps the windows..."

His sentence was drowned out by the solid clang as Steren's fist put a dent half a metre across into the door. She struck it again, the armour tearing open on the seventh blow. Several fistfuls of hydraulic hoses and mechanical linkages were ripped out before the door finally consented to its fate and was thrown down the pile of rubble.

The interior was in little better shape than the exterior. The floor creased and folded over the craft's buckled framework, the lights across the control panels were all dead, and a dozen display screens had vomited their glass onto the floor.

Dion pointed his lasgun into the gloom, but Steren raised a hand and pushed the weapon's muzzle down again.

   "You won't need that. There's nothing dangerous in there. I can feel it."
   "Sooner you than me."
   "Very well.", she conceded, and stepped through the hatch.

There was a slight odour of burnt flesh on the air inside - she could guess why, and a glance at the bombardier's chair unfortunately agreed with her. Crouching down in front of him, she unbuckled his helmet and carefully studied the damage.

   "Las-wound to the brain.", she stated to the savant she could feel behind her.
   "Is he too far gone?", Jael inquired, almost immediately surprised at what he had just asked.
   "By a long way. Extensive thermal damage, direct vaporisation of major memory centres. There's not nearly enough to fix and get anything useful out of him."

She jabbed a thumb back over her shoulder.
   "But the servitors might offer something. I can feel they died unnaturally. Death orders within their code, perhaps."
   "A servitor? I'm not sure we - I - could get anything. Our enemy... he is not likely to be lax. Their data is probably already purged. Boobytrapped, even."

He glanced around, slightly nervously.
   "Techno-viruses.", he added with a tremble.
   "Then you search the cabin. See if there's anything important or useful here. I'll deal with the half-things. Dion, you watch the door. If anyone turns up, we go."

Jael nodded, shuffling off. As he moved, his eyes flitted over the various surfaces, switches, screens and cables, the information all committing straight to his engrammic implants. Even subtle details - the laspistol fallen to the left side of the bombardier's chair, the discolouration of metal decking that implied heat accelerated oxidisation, the rounded bolt heads where a panel had been removed and replaced slightly clumsily a hundred times, the chipped paint where a tool had been dropped.
He spent a few seconds looking over a mass of wires, noting the many broken and remade connections braiding over, between, around and under each other. Three different postulates for the function of such alterations flitted through his mind as he pulled opened the slightly distorted door of bombardier's locker. Weapons. Void equipment. Uniforms. None of it unexpected. All of it fixed down for void flight.

When he returned to Steren a little over three minutes later, his mind was buzzing.

   "Have you found anything...?", he asked, his craving for information yet unsated.
   "Most of these things are too heavily injured. Maybe with more time, they could tell secrets, but only the pilot-thing is intact enough to be of use right now.
   To summarise:", she beckoned him closer, "There's a strong smell of burnt circuits, so your hypothesis about the mem-implants is probably right - shorted out, gone. But the brain's own sensory memory seems intact, no major oxygen starvation I couldn't fix. It might offer some insights."

Steren picked up a bloody mechanical mass about the size of a fist from  the console. Turning it over, she studied it with simultaneous intrigue and disdain.

   "I've restored its respiratory system. It should save this thing from brain death."
Jael started to question, but the words hadn't made it out of his mouth before the realisation of what the gory mess in Steren's hand was hit him. She understood the question nonetheless.
   "Now? We take it with us."

She threw the metal chunk across the cockpit. Crouching to find a grip on the servitor, she wormed her arms under its body and started to lift it from its station. The hundreds of the plugs and cables that had tied it down fell free of its flesh, the tissue reforming and spitting them free.

   "Dion. We're leaving.", she spoke as she came up behind the voidsman. He glanced back over his shoulder, a mild surprise on his face.
   "That's not at all what I expected.", he looked across the body cradled in her arms.
   "What did you expect, exactly?"
   "I half expected we were here to destroy this thing to keep it from the populace."
   "That would be futile. It won't be the only one to crash tonight.", she pointed out, "Now can we please get going?"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on May 07, 2012, 12:33:04 PM
"YOU RETURN."

"Were you expecting me to end my days as a piece of equipment? Reduced to servitude in a sword?"

"YOU WEAR HIS BODY," the Ancient observed.

"A good thing I saved his helmet, else it might have been obvious even to these cattle," Agares sighed, rolling his head from side to side as if loosening tension. "Come. We must leave this place."

"THERE IS STILL BLOOD TO BE SHED! BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!" the Ancient protested. As if to make a point, he took aim at a nearby building and set it alight with his plasma cannon, but Agares raised only an inquisitive eyebrow as steam hissed from the gun's side vents. The Ancient looked down at his gun in alarm.

"Your swim in the River Sacris apparently left some lasting damage," Agares noted. "Back to the Thunderhawk. Your gun needs maintenance, and we need to move on."

"THE FALSE EMPEROR'S LACKEYS STILL CONTROL THIS CITY! THERE IS STILL BLOOD TO BE SHED!"

"It will flow," Agares assured him, "but if we are going to find the Sempiternal then we need to shed more of it somewhere else. This city will burn whether we are here or not."

The Ancient stared at Agares, his dead face somehow conveying a slow comprehension of Agares' -- and Zagan's -- motives.

"I OBEY," the Ancient managed at last.

"Then move," Agares urged. "Otherwise both of us will die."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on May 07, 2012, 03:27:06 PM
Andreas didn't even notice that it was morning until the loud clatter of a land-train drew his attention to the window. Sunlight, shining on the port hole windows, caught Andreas' eye a full five seconds before he noticed the people clinging onto the outside of the carriages. A few lucky ones had made it onto the top.

"Refugees," Dovin remarked. "There must be hundreds of them just on the outside."

"They're beyond desperate," Andreas mused. "Travelling at that speed, one handhold away from death the whole time. They won't all make it."

"They don't have anything to lose," Dovin pointed out. "For all they know, the enemy's coming back tonight. The PDF have thus far been unable to protect them, and they've probably seen friends turn traitor in front of them as the renegade militias took over. Though it is unlikely that their destination will be any safer."

Andreas knew she was right, but chose to say nothing as the land-train disappeared out of sight, somewhere north of the apartment.

Coveton had quietened down significantly in the last few hours. The sounds of gunfire and explosions had moved away, a natural response to the PDF deploying. Twice, Andreas had heard Chimeras rolling past the building, followed by the noise of massed infantry marching up the street. The renegades had had the sense to stay away, which was a definite improvement.

He'd managed to access their less well-encrypted vox channels, and got the general impression that the PDF were reasserting control over -- at the very least -- the southwestern parts of the city, though one thing that worried him was an as-yet-unconfirmed report of an enemy gunship taking off and fleeing eastwards. If the report were genuine, then the Traitor Marines might now be out of reach. They'd repeat their destructive frenzy elsewhere, bringing their Dreadnought with them to sow terror and chaos one city at a time while the heretics tha flocked to their banner stayed behind to finish the job.

The thought that one Dreadnought could send a whole city running for cover was not a pleasant one.

"How is Iona?" Andreas asked quietly.

"Stable for now, and resting," Dovin answered. "Although Miss Tethras is a very capable fighter, she suffers the effects of stress more acutely than you or I might. Prolonged combat exposure can affect her in ways that guns and blades cannot. Her heart beat becomes erratic easily, her wounds heal more slowly, and her immune system -- already fragile -- begin to shut itself down."

"Hence her neoplasia?"

"It is difficult to say if the two are related. The effects of her condition I can regulate with medicine, but as I explained last night, her long-term prognosis is grim at best."

"And yet she's an agent of the Inquisition."

"As are you."

"Your master must value her," Andreas speculated.

Dovin tensed, and Andreas wondered if her master had had her bugged as well. His hand moved almost imperceptibly towards a weapon, anticipating a reprisal for guessing more than he had a right to know. However, Dovin looked up at him, her expression betraying no emotion at all.

"More than you know," she admitted. Andreas fancied that he could hear a note of sadness in Dovin's voice.

"I'm sorry," Andreas responded. "I--"

A loud, low boom shattered the windows and Andreas instinctively ducked for cover as glass rained inwards. To his faint surprise he realised he'd managed to pull Dovin down as well, protecting her from the worst of it. Dimly, Andreas became aware of a small cut on his cheek.

"Whatever you were about to apologise for can wait," Dovin remarked bluntly as she picked herself up. "And... thank you."

"Don't thank me yet," Andreas answered, moving over to the broken window and spotting the source of the blast instantly. Atop a hill on the other side of the land-train railway and the orbital motorway, a building that Andreas supposed must have been another apartment complex was ablaze, belching smoke and flames as chunks of burning wreckage plunged down.

"By the Omnissiah..." Dovin breathed as Andreas caught sight of a flyer squadron directly west of Coveton. As he watched them approach, he saw another squadron approaching, then a third, then a fourth, all swooping down on the city, each attacker already launching missiles and raining destruction upon Coveton's western districts.

"We need to move!" Andreas shouted, already ushering Dovin towards the door as the bombers descended.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on May 09, 2012, 09:10:19 PM
Pantariste almost reached her destination, she had located the train station and from there it would be easy to get to the apartments. Then she heard a sound she knew all too well, even over the sounds of the city. She looked up and saw what she had already feared. Formations of flyers of a kind she didn’t recognize. Based on what her master had told her this could only mean one thing. Bombers.

Soon thereafter she heard the first explosions. She started running, the faster she reached Nogal and Tettares the faster she could leave the doomed city. She whispered the simple prayer that had preserved her throughout her years of service: “Good Emperor, preserve me, I will not sin again. Please Emperor, let me survive, I will be completely yours.”

The impacts were closer now. But Tettares was close. She hoped that the abomination would be hit before she arrived. The inquisitor would not blame her then and she would no longer have to be close to the unnatural, soulless thing. She could even be allowed to settle somewhere, finally given rest after years of war.

Turning another corner she saw that she was in the street where she was supposed to be. She resolved to contact Nogal to ask her where she was supposed to be exactly when bombs fell very close to her, glass fell from windows and she dove for cover.

Iota Tettares felt clear. Her bodily functions had been restored but at the edge of her mind there was something that was missing but she could not figure out what it was. She shook off the strange feeling, it would have to be reported to Nogal. She sat still on the edge of her bed, fully dressed and armed. She heard explosions and glass shattering. She heard Nogal calling: “Miss Tethras, come, we must leave!”

Immediately she rose and ran out of the room. The servitor was stumbling after Nogal in front of her. Antero and Nogal were already getting down the stairs when she caught up with them. Nogal said: “Iona, follow me, we have to leave”

Pantariste saw them coming from one of the buildings, first Nogal and a stranger, followed by Tettares and finally a servitor. Tettares moved in a strange way, slower and without her usual focus. Lucklily she did not have to worry about those things, she had other worries. They were obviously fleeing, which meant that she would have to change her original plan.

Nevertheless she approached them, trying to look lost. That was easy for her because she only had the directions she had been given, and little idea about where she actually was. She said to them: “Ehm, excuse me, could you please tell me where I am and what is happening?”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on May 19, 2012, 01:25:13 PM
"No time!" Andreas shouted back at the stranger, turning right as he ran. "Keep up if you can!"

Overhead, one of the bombers launched a missile and Andreas flinched as it screamed overhead into a house about thirty metres distant. Rubble scattered everywhere as the missile exploded, blocking off the side street along which Andreas had planned to turn.

"Over there," the stranger pointed out, and off to the side of another house, Andreas spotted a narrow footbridge running the length of the building, parallel to the main road several metres below them. The road became a tunnel, running down through a low hill, and Andreas couldn't help but notice smoke venting from the tunnel entrance.

He looked back at the stranger, half appreciative, half surprised. She was obviously a soldier, and well-armed at that, but there was no way she was local. Her uniform and badges suggested an origin on the other side of the sector.

"Sorry. Sergeant Pelagia Tanis, Ronis 53rd Shock," the stranger introduced herself. "When the Lord Tiberius went down--"

"Well met, sergeant. Call me Antero. Now maybe we can get away from the bombers," Andreas sniped, already running as another missile impacted on the tunnel mouth below them and filled it with flames.

At the other end of the footbridge was an open pathway running down the side of the hill, and Andreas could already see huge parts of the city in flames, ignited by the bombers' missiles or by their main guns. A pair of bombers turned to blast a building with their turbolasers before splitting apart to attack other parts of the city.

"Who is attacking us? What do they want?" asked Tanis, following Andreas down the hill and into the plaza at the bottom. People were milling around in a panic, some trying to flee, others too dumbstruck to even properly acknowledge the bombing. A brawl had apparently broken out on one side of the plaza, though Andreas couldn't tell whether it was renegades fighting loyalist civilians, or an argument over the use of the few remaining ground-cars parked on the street.

"You said you were on the Lord Tiberius," Andreas remarked, turning left onto Veriks Road. "Don't tell me you don't remember what attacked you."

"That was... These are Chaos forces?" Tanis wondered. "But why would they commit only to an aerial assault, rather than fight directly?"

"We don't know," Dovin answered as another building exploded on the other side of the street. "Perhaps they're deploying ground forces elsewhere, or softening us up before a larger assault."

"Miss Dovin, I can't say that I have ever heard of softening up a city by deploying an entire wing of heavy bombers with enough combined firepower to destroy a light cruiser unaided," Andreas countered. "In any case, whatever they want involves wanton destruction."

Overhead, a squadron of bombers circled.

---

"Commodore?"

"What is it, Kees?"

"The grand cruiser's moving into low orbit," Kees explained. "We're registering a power buildup around its port side weapons."

"It's finally decided to attack directly?" Vargas queried. "What the hell's the Traitor Marine playing at?"

"Orbital bombardment?" Hargadon suggested.

"That's just it," Vargas remarked, "but if he's committing to a planetary assault, he's got his arse hanging out in the open. It's like he doesn't care that we're still here."

"He probably doesn't," Hargadon pointed out. "He knows we can't hurt him."

"Are the Inquisition ships still active?" asked Kees.

"The Sword of Integrity's formed up with Claymore Squadron, but the Hammer of Justice isn't showing up on our scanners. Neither's the Graceful Prosperity," reported Hargadon. "Either they've disengaged, or they're packing tech that makes them invisible on our sensors."

Vargas was too busy praying that someone had heard Aristan's distress beacon to respond.

---

"Lord Hanssen?" Andreas ventured as a local chapel burst into flames. "Magnus, are you listening?"

"I think they're jamming communications," Dovin observed. "It would make the most sense, given the circumstances."

"Then we need to keep running," Andreas answered unhelpfully.

A bomber passed overhead and blasted a bookshop with its turbolasers as they turned right onto Saint Greagoir's Avenue. Andreas swore as a chunk of rubble sailed past his head, barely missing him.

"This doesn't make any sense," Iona remarked. "First, the Dreadnought last night, and now they send bombers? If they wanted to destroy the city, surely they could wipe us out from orbit."

"Don't give the heretics ideas, Iona," Andreas sniped. A missile tore up the street behind them, collapsing buildings on both sides of the road.

"She is not wrong, Antero," Dovin countered.

"I know," Andreas answered, "but it's obvious that they neither want to destroy the city outright, nor simply prepare us for a larger invasion."

"Then what do they want?" Tanis asked again.

"If I had to guess," Andreas began, "I'd say they know, or at least suspect, that the Inquisition's here, and want to draw them out. The city, therefore, is collateral."

"The Inquisition?" Tanis responded. "Here? On this world? Are you an Inquisitor?"

"I'll explain later!" Andreas shouted.

Saint Greagoir's Avenue opened out at long last, merging with Ferron Road from the west, and Andreas hesitated briefly as he saw the street utterly clogged with ground vehicles. Most were stationary, but some were trying to drive around, through, or over the traffic. The bombers had blocked all the lanes running north and south, either by collapsing buildings, or by turning vehicles into semi-molten roadblocks. The road surface was running molten in places, courtesy of the bombers' weapons, but the path between Andreas and the side street just opposite was mercifully clear.

"Can we not just take a vehicle?" Iona suggested.

"And do what with it?" Dovin asked. "The roads are hardly an option."

"A ground-car is hardly any defence against turbolasers and high-explosive missiles," Andreas added. "Especially if it can't go anywhere."

As if to prove Andreas' point, a missile from one of the bombers overhead slammed into a truck about forty metres distant and exploded, tearing the truck apart from the inside and smothering several vehicles around it with a blanket of searing flames and shrapnel.

"This way!" Dovin urged, already running down Hammond Street towards what Andreas hoped was a cathedral.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on May 30, 2012, 01:33:32 PM
Nogal looked at Tettares and fell some regret, she was behaving dangerously now, she reacted much slower than usual, which could even see her killed. The latest injections had gone too far but her master had ordered it, on the authority of the inquisitor. She had attempted to make contact but the jamming affected her as well, she needed permission to turn Tettares into a much more effective fighter, even at the cost of having her be disobedient.

They were running towards a towering building, probably a temple to the Emperor. Usually seeing such a building made her feel better than the masses who worshipped blindly and without the understanding of someone inducted in the mysteries of Mars. But not this time, this time she saw a heavily constructed building that could provide some shelter from the relentless bombers.

They were not the only ones who sought safety there, almost instinctively many people saw it as a safe place. The way was blocked by what presumably was a mass transit vehicle which had crashed into another ground car. People were clambering over them but it would cost them valuable time to cross the barricade, time they did not have while the bombers were still active above the city. She squirted a short code sequence to Sepilitor, her gun servitor and it opened fire with its powerful laser, cutting the refugees apart.

The firing caused the servitor to lag behind even more than it already did, but it did what it had to do. The refugees either died or fled from the wreckage, clearing the path for their small group.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on June 01, 2012, 03:15:36 PM
When they came closer it was clear that the cathedral would not give them shelter. They had not seen it from where they came from but the north side had partially collapsed already and the rest of the building looked increasingly instable. From all sides Nogal saw pillars of flame rising from the city. It was impossible to say how they could escape the city. She said: “It appears that the cathedral will not be suitable as shelter. How shall we proceed?”

Antero replied: “We should proceed to the north. If I am not mistaken there is a river not far north from here, if we follow it we could leave the city and behind us.”

 “We must avoid choosing a way which is blocked, that could cost valuable time and we are short of time.”, Nogal replied.

“Off coarse miss Dovin, however, we cannot take our time to explore the city”

“Which heading do you propose then?”

“We should take the road leading directly to the north, that should take us closer to our destination at the very least.”


Karnak walked towards the inquisitor and spoke: “My lord, we cannot reach the city despite my best attempts. What are your orders?”

Semplice took some time before answering monotonously: “Withdraw the servitors, prepare to take off. If we cannot contact the project this way we will have to search for her directly after the enemy craft have withdrawn. The enemy appears to have powerful tech-sorcery at its disposal, withdrawal from the planet will be difficult.”

“Yes my lord”

Anchor Street had been safe. There was only relatively minor damage and the passage was easy. Nogal looked at Iota again, she remained slow and showed little understanding, once again she felt regret, she deserved better than to be seen as a mere servitor, she was a wonderful design and should be used to her full capacities.

They reached Market Square, it was filled with wrecked vehicles and the screams of those who were half-buried by the wreckage. No-one rushed to help them, fearing the death coming from the skies. Crossing the square was difficult. Everywhere there were burning wrecks. They walked through the graveyard of torn metal when Nogal saw a vehicle speeding towards her. She narrowly avoided being run over. There were more vehicles seeking a way through the chaos, almost all of the drivers paid no attention whatsoever to pedestrians in their desperation to flee.

The smoke made it difficult to see, it was thick and black. While crossing the square they had more near collisions with panicked drivers who appeared suddenly from the smoke. In the middle of the square there was a tall statue, dedicated to some long-forgotten hero, standing defiantly while Coveton burned. Nogal said: “We must rest for a few moments, someone can climb the statue to see where the way is clear, and to find the direction we should go in.”

“I will climb up”, said Pantariste, “I’m a decent climber.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on June 03, 2012, 10:57:49 AM
Watching Tanis climb up the statue, Andreas found himself listening to a noise on the edge of his hearing. Initially he wanted to dismiss it as a dying ground-car engine refusing to give out, but the pragmatist in him wouldn't let him ignore it, and the more he listened, the more he began to realise exactly what it was.

In an instant, Tanis dropped back down from halfway up the statue, and Andreas' suspicions were confirmed as she ran southeast through the stationary traffic.

"Run!" she shouted, a note of genuine fear in her voice, and Andreas complied instantly, pausing only to make sure Dovin and Iona had also heard Tanis' warning.

The smoke thinned as they bolted down Pioneer Street, and Andreas risked a glance behind him as he ran, catching sight of a trio of bombers descending towards what must have been an Arbites precinct house or PDF fortress. As he ran, the bombers blasted the fortified building with their turbolasers before following up with a deluge of missiles, and Andreas didn't even need to see the building to know it was now little more than a blazing shell.

"They won't stop," Dovin remarked unnecessarily. Behind them, the bombers proceeded to unload their remaining missiles into the traffic in Market Square, and it was all Andreas could do not to imagine the carnage as incendiary missiles and high explosives tore through the packed square.

"Not until they've either run out of buildings or ordnance," Andreas speculated, "by which point-- left!"

Ahead of him, Tanis heard Andreas' warning and bounded down a flight of steps seconds before a bomber launched a pair of missiles into the bridge in front of them. The bridge collapsed, sending hundreds of fleeing civilians screaming into the River Sacris below, together with huge chunks of rubble and the mangled bodies of those who died in the explosions.

"We can't cross the Sacris now," Dovin grumbled.

"Down the steps," Andreas advised, pointing after Tanis who was already running again. "If we follow the Sacris north, we'll have a clear run out of town. Civilian traffic permitting, of course."

Somewhere behind them, another flight of bombers swooped down on the cathedral and toppled the main spire, no doubt crushing anyone unfortunate enough to be in its shadow.

"And once we're outside the city?" Iona queried.

For once, Andreas hadn't thought sufficiently far ahead to have an answer for her.

---

"My lord, I've found something of... interest," Karnak stated. "Given the circumstances, I felt it pertinent to bring this to your attention."

"Does it concern Iota Tettares?" Semplice asked.

"Negative. It appears that the enemy flyers are jamming her."

"Then what is it?"

"In the absence of any means to contact Test Subject Iota Tettares, I have been monitoring vox traffic," Karnak reported. "I had anticipated discovering enemy communications."

"I take it that you did not."

"Your suspicions are correct, my lord. Rather than tapping into an enemy channel, I believe I have located friendly forces."

"Inquisition?" Semplice ventured, aware of Antero Tolnay's allegiance.

Karnak shook his head. "Adeptus Arbites, my lord. The Adeptus Arbites have sent a strike team to Coriolis Alpha."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on June 15, 2012, 03:41:59 PM
“Please provide a direct link to these people, I wish to speak to them”, Semplice said with his mechanical voice.

“As you wish, my lord”

 Karnak pushed several buttons and put the dials into the correct configuration. “Long-distance link is established my lord.”

“Adeptus Arbites personnel present on Coriolis Alpha, please respond.”

The answer came a few seconds later: “This is Marshal Narl Ravion, who is addressing me?”

The man sounded strong and confident, as could be expected from someone in such a position. Semplice replied: “You speak to inquisitor Gideon Amphil. It is good to speak to an agent of the Emperor’s law. In these troubled times there are few who serve the Emperor on Coriolis Alpha.”

“That is all too true, lawlessness appears to be the rule.”

“I have a request to make of you, a cooperation between us could be helpful in securing the interests of the Imperium here. There are many foes on the planet, and due to the circumstances in orbit an evacuation will be impossible for the moment. For this reason sharing information and resources would benefit all loyal servants of the Emperor.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on June 19, 2012, 09:25:11 AM
The marshal replied: "Such a cooperation could further our aims here, how do you propose that we would go about it?"

Semplice thought for a moment before saying: "A meeting in person would be the best option. The security of these channels is not assured. Where are you located marshal?"

"I have made landing near a city which has come under attack by bombers. It is near a river if I'm not mistaken, we are 130km west of the town."

"Then I shall make my way to you as soon as these aerial attacks have stopped, when we are on our way I will request additional information to allow us to locate you. May the Emperor's light shine on you."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on June 22, 2012, 05:32:29 PM
"Wait."

Semplice paused, torn between uncertainty and disapproval of the Marshal's tone.

"You are not the only member of the Inquisition on this world," Ravion stated. "There is a small chance that you may have come across my contact in the Inquisition -- the one who brought us to Coriolis Alpha."

"We?" Semplice queried. "Then you are not alone."

"I have a squad of Arbites under my command," Ravion reported.

"One squad will not be enough to retake a world beset by the Emperor's foes," Semplice reminded him.

"As true as that is, Lord Amphil, our mission parameters evidently changed with the enemy's arrival," Ravion explained calmly. "We were brought here for another purpose."

"By your contact among the Inquisition, with whom you are hoping I am familiar," Semplice observed. "Very well. And I trust this individual has a name?"

"The name he gave was Andreas Tuominen."

Semplice froze as something in his mind unexpectedly snapped into place.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on June 24, 2012, 06:29:01 AM
As she tried to keep in the wake of Haines, forging through the crowd with his bulk, Riley found herself considerably regretting the choice to try and meet with Andreas. The voxes were dead, and if the agent had manifested any of the considerable sense he appeared to be blessed with, he wouldn't be within a kilometre of the apartments by now.

The only hope now was escaping the destruction, and hoping that they could figure out where Andreas might have gone - a thought that only added to her growing sense of isolation.
She had seen and heard nothing of her aides since the Asculum's destruction. No word from Steren or Jael, and the Sword of Integrity remained silent to vox hails.

It was Ambrose who mercifully distracted her from the circling thoughts of pessimism.
    "What do we know about this place? Have we got any underground escape? Catacombs? Rail tunnels? I'll even take a sewer, if it's large enough."

Another missile curved overhead, and she instinctively flinched in expectation as it came close to the rooftops to her left, but it carried on past, exploding a street or so over.

   "Me? Very little. I hadn't planned to come anywhere near here. I can guess though."
   "Go on..."
   "It calls itself a city, so it's got to have major infrastructure. But I'd forget catacombs. The cathedral we saw on the way in will be rubble by now, it's too tempting a target. Sewers though - well, I'd say from the general technological level..."

Riley's vox chirped.
   "Lady Hallona, can you hear me?"
   "Not now, Chain! I'm more than a little pre..."

She tailed off as she realised what words were coming out of her mouth.

   "Chain? You're alive! How in the name of all the saints are you on this channel? I thought this frequency was jammed."
   "Proximity advantage."
   "Proximity advantage? From orbit?!"
   "No."
   "Then where..."

She lost focus as the drone of another craft coming in low overhead inspired a sudden sense of self preservation. She glanced around, but none of the nearby standing structures offered any protection at all against a direct hit from a turbolaser or missile.
It was only when her eyes passed over Madoc, directing his attention not sideways, but up, that she actually thought to do the same.

   "...oh."

Supported by the thunderous roar of twin RX-60-22 engines, a black Arvus Lighter was determinedly descending down towards the gridlocked street.

   "Madoc! Ambrose!"
   "Who is it? More traitors?"
   "No, it's the cavalry. But we'll have about six seconds to get onboard before everyone else wants a ride out of here. We don't have the time for that."

The Arvus came to a hover a foot or so above the roofs of the strewn vehicles, the rear ramp creeping open. The shadows within curled back, Ekkehardt's bulky form looming from their depths out onto the ramp.

All three Inquisitors crossed the distance as fast as was humanly possible, but it was Madoc who made it there first, climbing onto the roof of the nearest car and offering his hand to Riley. Pulling her up onto the car and then lifting her up the step, he handed her to the waiting enforcer.

The scream of an approaching bomber didn't encourage him to wait any longer, and he pushed Ambrose aboard rather less gracefully, before following with no shortage of haste.

   "Coghead, get us out of here!", Ekkehardt mashed the door controls as soon as Madoc's hand had found something to grab onto.
   "Already on it.", came the slightly mechanical reply.

The new passengers had barely had time to find seats and snap their harnesses into place when the engines re-vectored, delivering their violent punch of acceleration.

   "Ekkehardt. Chain. You have no idea how glad and grateful I am."
   "It's our job. Now", he jabbed his finger at Ambrose opposite,  "tell me who he is."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on June 27, 2012, 11:12:36 AM
The small group was moving through the ruins, still trying to leave the city when a pair of trucks emerged from the smoke. In front of them ran a young man carrying a child, fleeing in panic. Then they heard shots, the man fell and the rightmost truck ran over them.

As soon as they had seen the trucks the group had hidden themselves, knowing that there were many enemies in the city. Attached to the truck there was a banner bearing the rune of the Dark Powers. Antero whispered: “Stay hidden, don’t let them find us.”

The trucks moved past them, but suddenly they stopped and soldiers jumped out, each with a piece of red cloth tied around their helmets. Before anyone could react Pantariste had opened fire, a single lasbolt hit one of the soldiers, burning through his face and killing him outright. The soldiers reacted by immediately seeking cover. Everyone was shooting now.

Nogal knew that they were not going to win, they were outnumbered and would soon be surrounded. Especially with Tettares being much slower and less effective than usual. She was unsuited to this but still was shooting, not hitting anything.

A few minutes after the bombers had left Karnak said: “My lord, we have re-established contact with those in the city.”

Semplice immediately spoke to Tettares: “Iota Tettares, how is your condition?”

Iota whispered back, speaking slowly: “We are in Coveton, renegades are attacking. I feel somnolent, my vision is blurry and my aim is insufficient.”

“How did you get in this state? Have you informed Nogal?”

“I don’t know how this state came to be, I did inform her but she did not reply.”

“Tech-Priestess Minoris Nogal, what has caused this state in Tettares?”

Meanwhile the traitors were coming closer. They had the advantage of numbers and basic skill, but the servants of the inquisition were well-protected by the rubble and their own accurate fire. Antero called: “We must disengage, or we shall be overwhelmed.”

Nogal replied to Semplice: “My lord, her present state is caused by the injections I gave her based on the orders I received. I thought it wise not to inform her.”

“I never gave such orders, but now I order you to restore her to her normal state. As soon as that is done, inform me.”

Nogal immediately called Tettares: “Come here, miss Tethras, I will give you something to make you feel better.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on June 29, 2012, 09:14:32 PM
"Tanis, cover her," Andreas advised, rising to fire a three-round burst into the nearest enemy soldier. The heretic was too slow to get into cover, or too headstrong, and dropped down dead with a glowing hole in his chest.

"Blood for the Blood God!" shouted another heretic -- ostensibly making himself out to be the group's leader, his patchy overcoat a shabby mockery of an officer or Commissar's greatcoat and his face daubed with what Andreas hoped was blood -- and Andreas ducked back behind the wall as the enemy surged forwards.

They were on the outskirts of town, in a poor residential district that must have been hit earlier than the others. Most of the fires had died down by now, although Andreas could still see flames devouring shops and houses in the distance. Entire streets had been levelled by the bombers, although Andreas couldn't tell whether it was entirely the result of the bombers' weapons, or whether it was collateral damage to one building affecting the structural integrity of the rest. As far as he could tell, he was fortunate that there were still bits of wall standing to hide behind.

They'd taken cover in the remains of a house at the base of a low hill. Fortunately for Andreas, the road running up the hill was no longer navigable by ground vehicles, owing to a giant rubble-filled crater some forty metres from their position, although he didn't want to assume that he was safe from a flanking attack. As far as he could tell, however, there were currently five heretics charging over a pile of rubble towards him, with the possibility of more en route.

"Miss Dovin, how is Iona?" Andreas asked, daring to glance behind him as Sergeant Tanis took out a heretic's knee and sent him sprawling.

"Skulls for the Skull Throne!" roared a heretic as he aimed a pistol at Dovin, but missed as he lost his footing.

"Not at her best," Dovin answered, apparently oblivious to the fighting.

"Tell us something we don't know, cog-bitch," Tanis sniped as she finished off the downed heretic with a perfect headshot. She brought her lasgun around to fire at the remaining heretics, but her shots went wide.

"Very well. The compound with which I have injected Miss Tethras is intended to stimulate the production of norepinephrine, so as to --"

"Kill them in mighty Khar'neth's name!" a heretic bellowed, and Andreas turned around in time to shoot an enemy soldier in the stomach at point-blank range.

"Whatever it is you're doing, get on with it!" Tanis shouted back at Dovin.

"I am trying, but the process is not instantaneous. It will take some time before --"

"Mighty Khar'neth will have your blood, Imperial dog!" the heretic agitator roared, bringing a fire axe down where Andreas had been standing mere seconds ago. Andreas swiped at the heretic with the butt of his lasgun, but his enemy dodged Andreas' clumsy attack and lashed out with his axe again. He missed and the axe head buried itself in a pile of rubble.

Behind the heretics' trucks, Andreas fancied that he could glimpse a Chimera parking itself at the base of the hill, but his immediate enemy demanded his attention and Andreas' first instinct was to leap backwards as the heretic freed his axe. Oddly, though he carried a stub gun, he hadn't displayed the sense to use it.

"Khar'neth demands blood! Blood for the Blood God!" the heretic continued.

"I can't imagine beggars can be choosers," Andreas retorted, blowing the heretic's arm off at the elbow, before following up with a trio of shots to the face that cremated his head and set the stump of his neck on fire. Incredibly, the heretic managed another faltering step before tripping over a loose slab of masonry and falling forwards.

The rattle of what sounded like an oversized autogun sent Andreas diving for cover on instinct, and he dared to peer around the side of the wall as another heretic trooper panned a heavy stubber back and forth, peppering the ruin with bullets. Behind the man was another individual, smaller in stature, skulking behind the larger heavy as another two heretics dismounted from their truck. At the back was the vehicle Andreas had mistaken for a Chimera.

"How the hell did they get a Salamander?" Tanis asked, joining Andreas behind the wall as the vehicle's gunner angled the autocannon up towards them.

"I'm not sure I want to know," Andreas answered.

---

"Now tell me who he is," Kuefer snarled, pointing at Barkley.

"Ser Barkley is--" Haines began, but Barkley cut him off.

"Madoc, with respect, I can speak for myself," Barkley told Haines pointedly, and ignoring Haines' raised eyebrow, he turned back to Kuefer. "My name is Ambrose Barkley. An Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus."

"And there I was thinking ser Haines tagging along was bad enough," Kuefer muttered. "No offence."

"Be grateful that I'm not easily offended, Kuefer," Haines retorted. "Although ser Barkley informs me that his motives for being here are separate from our own."

"My lady, I trust ser Haines is telling the truth?" Kuefer asked, turning to Hallona.

"As far as we can tell, Inquisitor Barkley hasn't shown much personal interest in that big red bastard up in orbit," Hallona answered. "He tells us he's come here to chase a rogue xenographer."

"We're dealing with xenos as well?"

"Not as such, though given recent events I wouldn't even put it past the Despoiler to put in a personal appearance."

Kuefer managed a half-hearted smile at Hallona's comment. "So what's this xenographer's name?"

"We think it's Mouritz Khan, although he's probably using an alias," Haines explained. "Although we've got very little to go on, and in fact with the present Chaos incursion, Khan's either gone to ground, or holed up somewhere the bombers haven't hit yet. Or have already hit."

A short, almost mirthful cough from Barkley caught Haines' attention.

"I'm guessing there's something you neglected to tell us earlier?" Hallona inquired, her command of tact still impaired by her concussion.

"You could say that," Barkley replied. "I didn't bring this up in Vice-Admiral Burnett's company, for fear that he'd assume the situation to be worse than it is. And in fairness, I was hesitant to tell you earlier, for similar reasons."

"Just tell us," Kuefer interrupted, his voice dangerously close to a growl.

Barkley looked first at Kuefer, then at Hallona. "There never was a Mouritz Khan."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on June 30, 2012, 04:24:27 PM
Nogal was busy with Tettares. She had to be careful with the substances she was administering to her. The usual maintenance already was a fine balancing act, but attempting to radically alter her state under the present circumstances took a lot of concentration. The questions from the others certainly did not help. She had attached several arcane devices to Iota, permanently measuring the reaction to the powerful mixtures.

The gunfire was distracting but she filtered it out, focusing only on the task at hand. She asked: “How is your vision?”

“It is improving, but remains blurry.”

Nogal handed Iota to small device and said: “You will hear a beep, as soon as you hear it, push the button, like we usually do.”

She kept going like this for a while until she started hearing a new sound, much louder and conveying more power, the fast series of explosions could easily be felt in her chest. Nogal said: “Reaction time back to 69,43 milliseconds. This should be sufficient. Now, how do you feel?”

“Things are still blurry and slow, but much less than before, everything is much clearer now.”

Nogal contacted the inquisitor again and he immediately spoke to Tettares: “Iota Tettares, I have other affairs to handle first. This Antero is lying to you, do not trust him but keep him alive, he knows much. Retreat to a viable landing place where I shall retrieve you. This will take a few hours, be careful. You must be strong and loyal, and obey only my orders. You are my chief operative. I will inform you when I come for you. Do not fail, show no mercy think only of your devotion.”

Tettares answered: “Yes my lord”, which was just loud enough to be audible to the others who were present while one of the heretics attacked Nogal, she ran him through with her chainsword in an elegant movement.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on June 30, 2012, 05:42:11 PM
Antero ducked back as the Salamander's autocannon opened fire, smashing several new holes in the brickwork and sending fragments flying through the room.
Fortunately, the weapon fell silent a few seconds later, the feed tray spent for the moment.

   "We're going to have to flank that thing.", Antero panted, his heart racing, "It'll take this building to pieces we let it keep up fire."
   "I'm not making a run for it while that heavy stubber's up there. Did you want to?", Tanis snapped as she looked back out again, firing for the two roaring heretics charging at them.

Her shots put down the one on the left before the heavy stubber let loose at her and she retreated into cover again.

The second made it into the room, firing for Dovin with a sidearm as he drew a large and serrated bayonet knife from his belt.
  "Blood for the..."

Iona didn't bother letting the soldier finish the now long since trite battle cry, running him through with her chainsword, blood spraying wildly from the spinning teeth. He collapsed into a heap as the the rattle of the heavy stubber opened up again, the group instinctively taking cover.

   "They must be having trouble with the Salamander." Antero shouted over the gunfire. "They've stopped firing."

As the heavy stubber cut off again, he risked peering over the edge again. His view was still obscured, but even from here, he could see the driver's hatch was wide open. His eyes fell onto the frag grenades hanging from the webbing of the dead heretics littering the room.   

   "The hatch is open. If I can flank it... Tanis, get some suppressing fire on the heavy stubber."

Tanis nodded, raising herself to get a bead on the gunner's location. She had to look twice when her sight picture came into focus.

   "...He's dead.", she ducked back into the cover.
   "Dead?", Antero hesitated.
   "Unless decapitation is survivable where you come from.", came the snarky response.

He again chanced a glance around the half demolished wall, looking towards where the gun had once been. Exactly as Pantarise had said, the gunner's neck was cut clean through, his head some three metres from where it should have been. Although none of him was in the right place - his body faced away from the ruins of the house, his weapon directed towards the Salamander at the base of the hill.

   "I'm not sure whether that's a relief.", he muttered, "Where did the loader go?"

The words had barely past his lips when the sound of automatic weapons and yells came from one of the few remaining walls of what had once been the room. He raised his lasgun for where he guessed the sound was coming from, but just as his finger tightened to take a blind shot through the wall, the brickwork pulverised, exploding inwards.

Two figures smashed through the flying debris, crashing into a heap in the centre of the room. One was clearly the heretic trooper, his body broken. The other, on top, was lithe and feminine. With the crack of breaking bones, she grabbed the trooper's head, wrenching his neck around as a redundantly violent coup de grace.

Standing up, her view panned around the room, disregarding the three women pointing various weapons at her, until she finally saw what she wanted to.

   "Andreas. Finally.", Steren sighed.

~~~~~

Thirty seconds earlier:

The autocannon thudded its feed tray empty, and the reload began, dropping new shells onto the waiting surface.

The commander looked back behind the Salamander as he waited, and almost instantly jumped out of his skin. Climbing onto the rear of the vehicle was a slim woman in a torn dress. He could have sworn that she couldn't have been there - there was nowhere for her to have come from - but be there she was, and she was possessed of a terrifying confidence.

In an instinctive panic, his hand snapped to his holster. Raising the stub-auto for her face as fast as his body would allow, he pulled the trigger.

The motion was impossible. It couldn't have happened, but it must have. The woman's fingers were around his wrist, and his loader dropped dead, the pistol's sights pointed squarely at his face.

Steren wrenched the commander's arm around again, turning it and its pistol back on him. Neither pain or surprise had time to register on his face before her fingers arced, bio-lightning surging into the muscle of his arm. His fingers sharply tightening, the pistol went off again and he went limp.
She gingerly lifted the stubber out of his dead hand and let his arm loose, dropping him to the gun deck.

There was shouting inside the front of the vehicle now, and she vaulted the armoured mantlet just before the top hatch opened. The driver's hand exposed on the hatch's handle, she grasped his wrist in a steel grip, pulling him straight up and out of his seat. His head lolling under the rapid acceleration, it caught a hard edge of the small opening and wrenched around with the snap of a splintering spine.

Tossing his ragdolled body at the side of the nearest truck, she dropped down to one knee, the gunner's torso visible through the hatchway. His movements were rapid and jerked, scrambling for a sidearm. She didn't let him, firing several shots from her stolen stubber into the interior.

By now, her gunfire had someone else's attention. The heavy stubber team turned for her. Leaping from the vehicle, she broke into a sprint, firing the stub-auto for the group until it clicked empty and was cast aside.
As she ran, each individual impact stitching its way across the ground towards her was as clear as day, and she dug her right foot in, changing course around the gunner's aim.

She focused further, her reactions and senses resolving each bullet into a clear path in the air, and twisted as the next muzzle flash came, the bullet missing through the space she should have been in.

She was close to him now. She leapt. His head flew loose, the bone blades extending from the tips of her fingers slick with his blood.

Her run continued, chasing after the fleeing loader into the terrace of ruined houses. Out of the corner of her eye, an autogun spat at her, but she ran past, shifting ahead of his shots and looping around. He let loose a terrified scream the instant before she smashed into him and took them both through the wall behind.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on July 07, 2012, 09:03:51 AM
Nobody was willing to break the tension in the Arvus after Barkley's revelation. Hallona's face was contorting between confusion, anger, amazement, and disgust as she stared at Barkley, whereas Chain, silent until now, was trying to make sense of what Barkley might have meant.

It was Haines who opened his mouth first, but Kuefer who actually spoke.

"What the bloody hell do you mean, there never was a Mouritz Khan?" he growled at long last.

"I meant exactly what I just said," Barkley answered simply.

"So if I understand this correctly, you've been stringing us along with talk of a manhunt for someone who doesn't even exist?" Hallona asked. "And this is coming out only now for what reason?"

"It had better be a good one," Kuefer added.

"If you insist," Barkley shrugged, doing his best to mask how well he understood the gravity of his present situation. "I trust you're all familiar, at least in passing, with the history of Coriolis Alpha?"

"Barkley, I don't know if you've realised this, but you, Haines, and myself are all Inquisition," Hallona snapped. "I think we know well enough about the bloody war."

"Ah. Then you will also be aware of the Nemurax entity," Barkley answered. "And, no doubt, of Inquisitor Memphis, of the Ordo Hereticus. Your own Ordo, Riley, if memory serves."

"Just spit it out," Hallona grumbled.

"You'll remember the scrap code?" Barkley asked, and Haines could see a light suddenly turn on in Chain's head.

"How couldn't... scrap code?" Hallona managed.

"The encrypted message," Haines interjected, half prompting her.

"I think that it, Memphis, and Nemurax are all linked," Barkley explained. "And I'm here to see if that's the case. But more importantly, I'm also here to find out what it was that made Memphis turn away from the Emperor."

"And I trust there's a reason for your interest at the very moment when a Traitor Marine shows up in a grand cruiser and demolishes an interdiction fleet?" Haines queried.

"Beyond it coinciding with the scrap code?" Barkley countered. "Gelert -- that's to say, Inquisitor Hesh -- requested that I sign Memphis' execution warrant three years ago. Given the circumstances, it was the only reasonable thing to do."

Haines found himself wondering whether Hesh had strong-armed Barkley into signing, but held his tongue as he remembered putting his own name on the paper.

"I wasn't sure it was all finished when they lit the pyre, mind you, so I've been digging around since then."

"So you just happened to decide on Coriolis Alpha as your next holiday destination?" Hallona sniped.

"As soon as I received the encrypted transmissions and the scrap code, that's essentially how it happened," admitted Barkley. "Though you can't exactly claim your motives are too different."

"We're here to investigate a potential, and now very real, threat to the Emperor's realm," Haines answered, "not dig around through old bones for the foregone conclusion that someone executed for heresy was in fact a heretic."

"You're not seeing the full picture, Madoc," Barkley told him. "Though all things considered, I doubt you ever will."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on July 07, 2012, 12:25:11 PM
"Here you are at last."

The voice seemed to be emanating from a broad cylindrical cage suspended from the walls and ceiling. He couldn't make out what was inside, but sitting beneath the cage was a boiling pit of blood, apparently melted into the floor by some unknown heat source and fed by great channels of red ichor running into the chamber from outside. The air stank of meat and was thick with ruddy vapour.

"A relic from the time I came to this world. Your kin abandoned you."

"What are you?" Varachen hissed.

"I am what is left of the one they could never kill."

Varachen crept closer, noticing that a new sconce ignited with every step he took towards the cage.

"I am blessed, and in many ways cursed, by mighty Khar'neth," continued the voice, and as Varachen edged towards the lip of the bloody crater he saw the blasted remains of a man trapped inside.

"You..."

"Behold what remains of Nemurax the Sempiternal," growled the figure in the cage, his every word wet with blood and phlegm. "Nemurax the Sundered."

"And what exactly has possessed the mon-keigh to seal you beneath their city?" Varachen wondered, his hand gripping a knife almost on reflex.

"A question first. What legends have you heard of me?"

"That as long as there is blood in your heart, you cannot be killed," Varachen replied. "But if that is true, one wonders why the mon-keigh did not simply cut out your heart and destroy it."

Nemurax laughed wetly, and Varachen could see the Chaos lord in all his gory splendour as his remains writhed. Both of his arms had been ripped out, with heavy rune-etched chains hammered into the stumps of his shoulders, suspending him from the sides of his gibbet. All that remained of his lower body was the tail of his spine dangling limply below his ribcage. He'd been stripped naked, for all the meaning it had, and it looked for all the world like his skin and most of his flesh had been burned away. In spite of the charred meat and the web of blood vessels covering his head and neck, Varachen fancied that he could see all that remained of Nemurax's blackened, but otherwise human, skeleton.

Most crucially, Varachen could see Nemurax's still-beating heart, imprisoned behind the bars of his ribcage as it pumped a shoddy excuse for blood around what was left of his body.

"One does indeed wonder at such things, Eldar, but that was not Khar'neth's only gift," Nemurax chuckled. "You saw it too. You were there when it began. An entire world on fire, human cattle slaying each other in glorious bloodshed as millions flocked to Khar'neth's banner and drenched the soil of this world, this Sathvairg, in liquid tribute to Khar'neth! The first steps on the path to immortality!"

Nemurax paused, coughing, and a wad of what Varachen assumed was phlegm splattered on the pit's edge.

"Cut short by a traitor within my own ranks," Nemurax continued. "One that now follows the Lord of Change. Khar'neth strike her for her duplicity."

Varachen stared up at Nemurax, losing interest.

"Nineteen years of imprisonment in this pit and all you can think of doing is engaging in a monologue?" he remarked. "A rant about your downfall? You've hardly been idle in consolidating your power, if the blood is any indicator. Yet you favour stewing in your own madness. Khar'neth sent me here to find a great warrior, not a brooding mon-keigh wallowing in self-loathing."

Varachen drew his knife and leapt up onto the outside of the gibbet, hauling himself up so that he was face to fleshless face with Nemurax.

"I, too, have been here for nineteen years. I, too, was stabbed in the back by a rival and left to rot."

"As is endemic among your people."

"Be that as it may, I was hardly content to sit dormant and hate myself for my failure. Khar'neth should be ashamed of you, rather than send me out to find you."

"Do not delude yourself, Eldar. You are but one pathetic pawn sent out to find another. Or do you suppose Khar'neth has promised you greatness and glory?"

Varachen flashed a razor-toothed smile at Nemurax. "Khar'neth offered me protection from She Who Thirsts. That alone is worth more than your feeble concept of glory."

"And so you bargained away your soul for nothing."

"Protection in exchange for finding you. Protection, and safe passage to the Dark City. Just for finding you. One pathetic little remnant of a mon-keigh."

"Mere trivialities to one who has held the fate of a world in his hands."

"Khar'neth never did specify whether he wanted you alive or dead," Varachen responded, his gaze resting once again on Nemurax's heart. "Now that I have found you, I suppose my end of the bargain is fulfilled no matter your condition."

"And did Khar'neth say whether you would return to the Dark City as a living being, or as a carcass?" Nemurax taunted.

Varachen paused as the realisation hit him, before stabbing through the cage wall with a wordless scream and ramming his knife into Nemurax's heart, twisting once, twice, three times for good measure.

Scarce seconds later, the chains suspending the gibbet broke and Varachen plunged after Nemurax into the pit of blood, his arm wedged between the bars. As he fell, Varachen could see Nemurax laughing at him, but the laughter in his ears didn't belong to Nemurax.

In the final instants before Varachen went under, he realised that the laughter belonged to Khar'neth.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on July 15, 2012, 05:57:04 PM
As soon as she saw what was happening Iota continued to whisper: "My lord, our attackers have been attacked by what appears to be a witch, what should be done?"

"Do not engage, try to find out as much as possible from this person, when you are threatened kill it immediately, but before that avoid drawing suspicion. Draw upon your training, should Nogal behave in an odd way do not hesistate. The secrets she knows are more important than her life."

Then the psyker stood in front of them, Tettares aimed her shuriken pistol at her, she spoke to Antero, calling him Andreas. She worked with him then, or at the very least knew him. Tettares walked closer to the psyker, repeating the mantras taught to her when she still had sisters in her head: "Divine Emperor, shield of my soul, Divine Emperor, my soul for you"
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on July 15, 2012, 09:51:13 PM
Andreas looked first at Steren, then at Iona, his expression turning from surprise to alarm as he saw the gun in her hands.

"What the hell... oh. Right. Psyker."

He swore that Iona was whispering litanies to herself as she kept her gun trained on Steren. The weapon itself was not dissimilar to an Eldar shuriken pistol, although Andreas hadn't flagged either Iona or Dovin as users of xenotech. He suspected it to be a replica, though no less lethal for it.

Almost unconsciously, Andreas found himself sharing a glance with Steren that was somewhere between apprehensive and dubious.

"Iona, this is Doctor Irena Boure," Andreas began, his alias for Steren popping into his head almost instantly. "She's one of my associates."

Iona kept her gun aimed at Steren, but her gaze shifted over to Andreas faster than he might have liked.

"The two of you are... acquainted?" Iona asked, her tone accusatory. Andreas couldn't help but imagine a note of righteous malice in her voice.

"You know well enough by now that I'm Inquisition," Andreas replied as calmly as he could manage. "The good Doctor and I know each other through my lord."

Iona brought her gun to bear on Andreas and he took an involuntary step backwards, bracing for a shot that wouldn't come as long as Iona held fire.

"Bad enough that there's a witch," Iona remarked, throwing a caustic glare in Steren's direction before returning her attention to Andreas. "Bad enough that you are in league with her. But how do I know that you're not a double-agent? I heard what she called you."

Andreas opened his mouth to reply, but paused and looked first at Iona, then at Steren, then at Dovin and Tanis who, so far, had been reticent to intervene, and who were now staring back at Andreas. Tanis' expression was one of confused anger, Dovin's one of curiosity.

He turned back to Iona and sighed.

"Well, frak."

"Who are you really, Andreas?" Iona asked. "At best you've been economical with the truth since we met, and at worst an outright liar. How am I supposed to believe that you really are a servant of the Emperor? How am I supposed to believe you won't sell us out to the enemy?"

"Aside from the dozen or so dead heretics between me and the trucks down there?" Andreas answered. "You have no reason to believe anything I tell you about Magnus Hanssen, other than that the icon I carry is a copy of his. You also have no reason to believe anything I've said about my life before meeting you. But since we met I've done things for you that I had no reason to do. When the Traitor Marines attacked, I put myself in the firing line to find you, even though it made no logical sense, and even though miss Dovin called it irrational. I was there when the Dreadnought was chasing you. I helped you escape the bombers while you were in no condition to even move, let alone run for your life."

Iona hesitated, a look of sudden doubt crossing her face.

"I could have left you," Andreas continued, "but I didn't. If I were a traitor, I could've picked any moment to double-cross you, but instead, here we are, at loggerheads after escaping certain death in a forsaken city. I'm not your enemy, Iona."

The gun wavered, but Iona steadied her aim and for a second Andreas was worried that she might pull the trigger after all, regardless of how he might try to justify his position. In that case, however, he had very little to lose.

"I'm not your enemy," he repeated. "Unfortunately for me, the only one that doesn't see that is the Inquisitor hiding behind a vox-link. So why don't you put the gun down, and we can settle this without throwing reason and logic out the window."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on July 26, 2012, 04:07:35 PM
Semplice was following everything that was being said. The situation was getting more and more complicated. This Andreas was a dangerous person with many allies, and Hanssen, if he really existed, even with another name would have much influence on the happenings. He wondered who this inquisitor was. Perhaps one of those trying to hunt him down, one of those who had no idea about the importance of his work. Under no condition would they be allowed to meet him in person. Andreas could be honest in his intentions or a traitor.

He spoke to Tettares: “Keep your weapons ready, do not let them out of your sight. You will accompany them to their masters to find out where their loyalties lie and what their goals are. Do not mention your objectives but listen for anything they might know about it. Keep Pantariste and Nogal unaware of your instructions. They are to keep silent. Do not hesitate to eliminate them should it prove necessary. I will not be physically near you, they must not know about me. When asked about me state that you simply do not know. Say that you have never seen your master, only ever heard his voice. Now do your duty to the Emperor and show Him that you are a worthy servant.”

Tettares looked at Andreas while she said: “I believe that you are not the enemy, but there are too many things you keep secret. More openness would greatly help us achieve our goals.”, while keeping her weapon trained on him.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on July 27, 2012, 04:26:15 PM
Forgotten in favour of Andreas, Steren watched over the scene. The girl was quite a curiosity.

Mentally, her thoughts were hidden, shielded beneath recursive and interminable litany. Steren didn't press deeper - that alone told her enough. A high ranking agent of an Inquisitor. Well trained. A liar. Her emotions, too deep and inherent to be hidden by mere mental chants, shone out on their own. Surprisingly plain, without the depth of familiarity or the weight of certainty. The structure of a mind sheltered, protected. Biologically, she was perhaps more out of place than even the psyker's own rebuilt physiology, but crumbling under those same stresses. Overambitious bio-engineering. An expensive project.

Her whole existence spoke of her value. She was no disposable pawn. She was someone that her master wanted alive. No, not just her master... her puppeteer. The girl kept pausing, awaiting instructions rather than taking her own initiative. Intriguing.

Steren brushed the brick dust off her ruined dress. Time to take a gamble.

   "Inquisitor, I don't know who you are.", Steren addressed the statement in Iona's direction, although she doubted she was more than heard, "As long as you're not one of the traitors, that's entirely secondary. But I know you're listening. I know that this girl is important to you. I know we are in a warzone, liable to be attacked by infantry or armoured forces at any moment. I have the ability to get her and your other agents to safety. But you have trust me long enough that I can do that. The questions have to wait."

There was a slight spike of emotion from behind Steren - hope, concern and interest in one. The psyker paused, glancing across at the beaten adept responsible. His face spoke little of what was going on behind, but his interests were clear.

   "And she'll have to get that pistol out of Andreas' face too.", she added, "I don't like that."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on August 01, 2012, 05:28:19 PM
Semplice was surprised at being adressed directly, the psyker knew much, she would probably be important, maybe even another member of the Inquisition. But what she said made sense.  He spoke: "Lower your weapon, but keep it ready, you will still be capable of killing them should they try anthing. Do not let them get in any position from where they could suprise you. Say: "I shall come with you, our present situation encourages cooperation.", when you are asked about me, answer that you have never yet met me, only ever heard my voice.", he heard Iota repeat his words and then continued to her: "Watch your companions, all of them, none can be trusted completely."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on August 04, 2012, 10:46:22 AM
Andreas couldn't help but feel relief as Iona finally lowered her gun.

"I shall come with you," Iona stated, although the look in her eyes did little to dispel Andreas' belief that someone else was thinking for her. "Our present situation encourages cooperation."

"In that case, it might be best if we get away from the city," Andreas offered. "Unless you intend to wait for more heretic kill-squads to come along."

"I don't think there are any," Steren informed him. Andreas opened his mouth to ask Steren how she could tell, but somehow he already knew the answer.

"And where exactly do you intend to go?" Tanis asked, finally stepping out from behind the bit of wall she'd been using as cover. "I don't even know where we are now, never mind where our destination is. And who's to say the bombers haven't already been there?"

"They hit another city by the coast last night," Steren answered, "but I don't think one ship's compliment of bombers, even from a dedicated carrier, will have had time to hit the whole planet if they arrived only yesterday."

Tanis took a cautious step towards Steren. "I'm not sure I want to believe that. We're talking about traitors. They could have captured local airfields, launched fighters and bombers from somewhere on the surface. The enemy might even have taken over another cruiser and started shelling cities on the other side of the planet."

Iona turned to look at Tanis, her expression totally blank.

"Sorry, what?" Steren asked.

"Tanis was on the Lord Tiberius when it got taken over," Andreas prompted her.

"Great. So one of us is two steps away from shooting you and another's a conspiracy theorist," Steren sighed. "Nice bunch of friends you've made. But the fact remains that we're not going to get anywhere just by talking."

"And where are we going? How do we plan to get there?" Tanis protested, drawing yet another blank, almost confused stare from Iona.

"Well, we came in a half-track," Steren explained, turning back towards the heretics' trucks. "Going by how the closest city to here has been bombed flat, that probably leaves either the capital, or another city further distant."

"We?" Dovin inquired. "Aside from Anter-- Andreas, I cannot see anyone else with whom you may be affiliated."

"And I suppose you think I teleported here from Portiswade?" Steren sniped. "I've got three Naval armsmen and a savant waiting in the half-track, wondering where I went. Now while that leaves the four of you, there's a Salamander down there among all the trucks. Clear out the dead bodies and it should be quite serviceable, not to mention better armoured than a truck with broken windows."

"There's a rail link to the capital that we can follow, but if we're actually heading towards Stonechapel, it's not exactly within easy driving distance," Andreas pointed out, following Steren back down towards the trucks. "It's off to the northwest -- I saw that coming down in the lifepod -- but I've no idea how distant it is, short of 'very far away'."

"I can siphon fuel from the trucks," Dovin offered. "There must be some empty containers in one of the vehicles."

"And what makes you think the capital's a good idea?" Tanis inquired.

"If I know Lord Hanssen then he'll probably be chasing up his own investigation there," Andreas answered. "In any case, now that at least Doctor Boure and I have a destination, we need to work out who's driving."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on August 15, 2012, 09:31:34 AM
The taste of dirt and filth on his tongue hit him almost before the pounding in his head.

He pushed himself up before falling back down onto his knees, glancing up warily at the sky that, as far as he could see, remained clear. Not for the first time that day, he felt physically sick, and stood up on trembling legs to stagger towards the nearest wall. Reaching out a hand to steady himself as he toppled forwards, he shuddered violently as he redecorated this patch of street with the paltry contents of his gut.

The throbbing around his left wrist came only later and as he straightened back up, Jacques Volos dimly realised how he had escaped.

"I am surprised," the familiar voice intoned as Volos spat a blob of something unidentifiable into the gutter. "Though I should not be."

Volos managed a faint murmur of agreement before heaving once again, but by this time his stomach had emptied itself and barely anything rose to the surface.

The bombers had hit with barely any warning, but thankfully they had started in the west and worked across, rather than striking in the centre and moving outwards. Nonetheless, the power they unleashed had been terrifying, and Volos was reminded in many ways of how the Imperial clergy described the end of the world. While the end of which world was never abundantly clear, the images certainly matched the events, and Volos had been almost dumbstruck by the devastation as towers burned and the streets ran molten under the bombardment. Needless to say that Coveton was a ruin by now, and yet the coating of soot that marred his clothes and stained his lord's armour were testament to either a lesser event, or a far luckier escape than they had had.

Remiel was dead. That much was certain, although Volos wasn't sure whether the assassin's untimely incineration was a good or bad thing. Of Mordecai there was also no sign, and Volos was convinced that he, too, had perished.

Somehow, the idea that only he and Sonneillon were left was both comforting and disturbing in equal measure.

"Where have you brought us?" Sonneillon inquired, moving far quieter than he had any right to as he edged closer.

"Another city," Volos coughed. "Which one, I don't know."

He looked down at what had once been his left hand -- now a stump that oozed syrupy blood. "The... Sorcery is not an exact science. The Warp must have brought us here for a reason, if our coming here is not an accident."

"This is no accident, Jacques," the Word Bearer reminded him. "Are we safe here?"

Sonneillon paused, correcting himself. "No. Ignore that question. Safety is an illusion."

"This is... probably as safe, and malodorous, as dead-end back alleys come, my lord," remarked Volos, glancing at the half-full skip bins around him and wishing for all the world that they didn't smell as foul as they did.

"And yet there is danger. Not from the bombers -- I do not hear their engines on the wind, or the noise of their weapons as they demolish all before them."

"The Imperium, then?"

"Not from the Imperium, either," Sonneillon rumbled.

"Then from what?" Volos asked, mere moments before the blood dribbling from his wrist onto the ground started running towards the end of the street, slowly at first, then much faster. He had the presence of mind to tie a tourniquet around his wrist using his sleeve, his teeth drafted in to replace his missing hand, but nonetheless, whatever blood there was continued to flow along the alleyway, the red trail bubbling as it turned from dry residue to liquid vitae and resumed its journey.

Volos could smell Warpcraft, but nothing like the petty sorcery he employed. This was far more powerful, and yet at the same time more primal, and feeling more like the by-product of something else, rather than a desired outcome in and of itself.

"The giant standing in a sea of blood," Sonneillon told him. "The birth-cry of a dead man, reaching out from a sundered prison that knew it not."

As if on cue, the stink of charred meat rose up from the nearest storm drain.

"The defiant echo of a vanquished warlord challenging the enemy once again," Sonneillon continued. "This, Jacques. This is why the Warp brought us here."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on August 17, 2012, 04:27:23 PM
Semplice was preparing for the conversation with the Adeptus Arbites. He would have preferred not speaking to the marshal himself, but the man would see through the ruse if he was capable enough to hold his rank. So he would have to meet this man in person. He went over his life again, he was inquisitor Amphil, born on Krynor. He had been a simple bureaucrat until he had uncovered a dark sect working on modifying important papers. He had reported them but his superiors turned on him. Amphil had fled and managed to make contact with the Adeptus Arbites. An inquisitor named Germain had arrived on the planet and cleansed the offices, Amphil had been recruited into his service. Several years ago he got gravely injured while boarding an unknown vessel near Mler, explosives used by heretics occupying the vessel had cost him most of his body, but in the aftermath he had finally been promoted to the rank of full inquisitor.

It was a bad story, but it would probably work, there was no reason for Ravion to suspect him, and should that happen, he had his servitors, and of course the weapons hidden all over his machine. There still was a slight risk but the Emperor would preserve him, like all the other times he had almost died. He had a higher purpose in His plans and he would keep going until his work was completed.

He spoke with his mechanical voice: "Tech-Priest Majoris Karnak, are all systems fully functional?"

"They are my lord, there are no flaws in the operation and everything is at or near peak efficiency.", the were hints of pride in the tech priest's words, he always sounded slightly elated when everything was functioning.

"Good, you will remain with me while I speak with the marshal, we cannot afford malfunctions in the field."

"As you wish my lord, are there any other preparations that you want me to make?"

"Prepare the servitors, they must be ready to extract us."

There were many things on his mind at this moment. Iota Tettares was a hostage in the hands of whoever his peers on the planet were, and could not be retrieved at this time. Then there was the hostile fleet which would make an evacuation even harder than he had suspected and of course he still had no idea about the things he had come for. He signalled Pantariste: "Pantariste, you are to drive the salamander, be wary, psykers have many subtle powers with which they can influence your mind, steel it with faith."
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on August 22, 2012, 03:53:28 PM
   "It's a long journey. I won't need to sleep. If we're all going together, I'll drive the Salamander.", Steren answered Andreas as she stooped to pick up the discarded heavy stubber the heretics had left. Her hands worked the over the weapon with superhuman dexterity, checking each minute detail of its controls and operation.

  "Where, exactly, does a doctor learn how to drive a tank?", Pantariste enquired, testing Steren's alias in a marginally sarcastic tone, "I'll drive, or we'll only go fifty feet before the clutch has had enough of the supercharger."

She pushed ahead, moving confidently for the tank as to try and leave as little room for objection as possible.

  "Regimental doctor. Eight years alongside the Theklian 7th Mechanised before my abilities manifested and were detected.", Steren half lied, "But if you'd prefer."
  "I would as well.", Iota cut in, "Our circumstances don't change the fact you haven't been straight with me."
  "On that matter, Andreas, you join me.", Steren continued, "I hazard that you could use sleep before we're done. And someone who isn't liable to shoot you while you do."
  "Small comforts. In the halftrack?"
  "I doubt it. We've got five in there already, and with me, you and the girl who doesn't seem to want to let either of us out of her sight, that's going to be too many."
  "I take it the voidsmen aren't to move then?"
  "We're not trusted. I'm not going to offer them up as potential hostages if our truce turns sour."
  "Admirable, but still leaves any answer regarding who's driving it unsaid."
  "Adept Penrose, I imagine. I sedated him overnight, so he's probably better rested than any of the rest of you. Poor combat reflexes, but I take it that Tech-Adept...", she gestured to her right, into the back of the truck Nogal was searching for fuel cans.

  "Dovin", the Tech-priestess glanced up, to fill in the silence with her alias.
  "... Dovin and Iona should remain together, given all the medication I can feel running through the girl's system."

This statement drew a spike of interest from Iota's emotions, the girl obviously paying as much attention as possible for clues about the psyker's capabilities. Steren made mental note, deliberately suppressing even the slightest outward reaction as she did - it was plausible that the girl had training in interpreting any manner of subconscious emotional cues. It was best that the Inquisitor beyond the vox knew as little of her telepathic talents as possible, given that there was a shift in the mindset of all those around her that already implied such suspicions had begun.

  "All five of us in the Salamander? It'll be tight."
  "Three in the gun bay might at least be more tolerable than the smell of the servitor in the half-track."

As well as the bionics clustered around his face allowed, Andreas raised an eyebrow, in a manner that tried to convey a complex mix of mild surprise, amusement and intrigue all as one.
   "Servitor?", he asked.
   "A pilot from one of the bombers. Information can perhaps be gleaned from it when circumstances are more permitting."

She leapt up onto the back of the Salamander, stepped over the fallen body of the tank's commander and dropped the heavy stubber and what ammo she had into the corner of the mantlet. She turned back, only to be interrupted by Pantariste's snort of disgust from the other end of the vehicle, the suppressed emotional outburst from the prospect of having to gorily extract the find the dead heretic sat behind the heavy bolter.

The two bodies adorning the back of the tank were lost quickly in comparison to Pantariste's prolonged struggle, but Jael's arrival in the half-track and the Tech-Priestess' attempts to drain the fuel tanks of the three trucks were both time which did not pass briefly or comfortably.
Everyone was constantly wary of a second attack, but the time had its uses and a hasty looting of the back of the trucks was arranged, rewarding them with a small pile of heavy stubber ammo boxes and lasgun power packs. It was as the last of these were being loaded into what nooks could be found around the tank and half-track that the low pitched rumble of more truck engines cut through the general ambient noise and clouds of smoke.

   "Not good.", Pantariste's head appeared out of the tank's hatch.
   "They're coming back? What's worth anything out here?"

Iota's confusion was apparent in her tone, and it was a second before Andreas had an answer.
   "Their tank, I imagine. We need to be gone."
   "No.", Steren objected, stood on the front of the Salamande, "They'd have voxed if they were looking for the tank."
   "Perhaps. But that's somewhat moot, as it seems someone put a bullet in the comms rig.", he pointed out, "Dovin, if you would?"

Andreas addressed the the Tech-Priestess, still siphoning fuel from the trucks, but she shook her head in a display of body language that seemed somewhat out of place on an Adept of the Machine God.
   "We're not done yet. This could be the last meaningful supply of fuel we'll see for hours."

She barely finished the sentence before the first flurry of shots rang out, ricocheting off the ground, brickwork and vehicles alike.

  "Covering fire. Now."
Steren's order was fairly irrelevant, as any weapons that were at hand were already raised and firing at the figures emerging from the smoke as she leapt off the front of the tank. She disregarded the incoming fire, letting bullets flatten and lasbolts sizzle against her hardened flesh as she ran for where Dovin was pinned behind the truck.
  "Dovin! Move!"

Nogal ducked aside just before the psyker arrived and ripped the truck's under-chassis fuel tank free with almost casual ease and pulled it into cover.
  "It would have been more prudent to do that earlier."
  "Perhaps. But I'm not an Ogryn."

Steren swung into a position behind the truck's engine block and wheel arches, glancing around into the smoke. She reached for her weapon...
   "I've left my gun on the Salamander.", she realised, turning back to Nogal. "But I can still cover you."

She snatched up something from the ground next to her.
  "Is this some form of humour?", Nogal said, looking over what was in the psyker's hands.
  "No. I'll take the fuel tank. Now run."

Nogal did just that, breaking into a sprint that every part of her mind told her was foolish. It was only out of the corner of her vision that she saw one of the heretics taking a house brick to the face.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on August 24, 2012, 05:46:18 PM
"It's firing!" Hargadon warned, and on instinct Vargas braced for impact, her eyes fixed on the grand cruiser's outline on the holodeck as its weapons spat destruction, but remembered swiftly that the Traitor Marine had placed himself in low orbit over Sathvairg. In its current position, the grand cruiser's weapons would have had only a minimal effect on the Orchomenus, maybe scoring a lucky shot against its void shields.

Vargas watched the holodeck as the sensorium registered the grand cruiser's weapons firing, not at them and not at the escort squadrons behind them, but at Sathvairg. Curiously, it wasn't firing at cities, but smaller towns and villages. The Traitor Marine wasn't interested in just causing casualties, yet the laser broadsides on the ship's flanks were more than capable of reducing an entire settlement to a molten crater in a single volley.

She zoomed in on the planet and watched as labels vanished, each one representing a different village or town, each disappearance indicating the Traitor Marine simply removing it from the face of the world. Again Vargas wondered why he hadn't directing his superior firepower against a city like Coveton or Portiswade, before remembering that he'd used the Secutors for that. No doubt they were returning to their carrier, having expended their ordnance in reducing both cities to charred rubble.

As Vargas watched, the label for Haverkirk dissolved into static and faded from the holodeck. Looking up through the bridge dome at the planet, so far distant that it seemed to be only the size of her head, Vargas fancied that she could see a bright pinprick of orange light where it might have been. She chided herself silently, knowing better, but couldn't help but wonder at the power the vessel carried, wonder what it might take to bring it down and if not save Sathvairg a second genocide, then stop the Traitor Marine.

Eight minutes later, on cue, the icon for Hilcenter also went out, taking thirty thousand souls with it into oblivion.

------

(3)081012.M42

"Was that Madoc Haines I saw on the shuttle pad last night?" asked Hesh as Filipowski came dashing in.

"It was," Filipowski answered, reaching for the amasec. "He told me he's going off-planet again. Why?"

"Take a look at this," Hesh offered, holding out a data-slate as Filipowski poured double-measures for each of them. Filipowski put down the amasec bottle and took the data-slate from Hesh as the larger Inquisitor took his amasec glass.

"It's scrap code," Filipowski announced as Hesh took a seat.

"That's what Madoc thought at first as well, but it's not that at all," Hesh told the Malleus man. "You know that savant of his, Andreas Tuominen?"

"I still think Madoc's an idiot for not bumping him up to at least Primus, if not Interrogator," Filipowski remarked. "The man's cleverer than Madoc himself is."

"Then you might not be surprised to know that what you've got on that slate in front of you is an encoded message," Hesh explained. "And Emperor help me, that man cracked the cipher on it before I did, and I've seen the message before."

"You've seen it before? At a guess, is it anything to do with Coriolis Alpha?" Filipowski ventured, sipping his amasec.

"It's those bloody words again, Fabian. The same bloody words. I'd know them a mile off."

"You sound surprised. Haven't you been monitoring Coriolis Alpha?"

"I have, which is why I'm even bringing the message up," Hesh sighed, and Filipowski could have sworn that Hesh was visibly deflating. "It's odd. Wrong. Why now?"

"Are we sure it isn't just astropathic noise?"

"Fabian, this isn't something I've just started doing. I've been monitoring Coriolis Alpha since I called Orsino in to clean house down there."

"First-name terms with a Blood Angel serving in the Deathwatch?" Filipowski asked, raising an eyebrow. "The Ordo Xenos won't be happy."

Hesh snorted in ridicule. "Not the point, Fabian. Think. When did we capture Memphis?"

"Quintus of 009."

"Right. And that's when the distress signals started coming through from Coriolis Alpha. You even had me send an envoy over to the interdiction fleet in case it was genuine. But it was the same message as what came through the first time, and every eight months after that it started repeating."

Hesh necked his amasec and reached for the bottle once more. "Why have those bloody words only just started coming through as scrap code?"

"I've no idea, but if Madoc's going to Coriolis Alpha he's going into a warzone totally blind," Filipowski noted darkly. "My turn to give you something."

Reaching into his pocket, Filipowski pulled out a data-slate of his own and gave it to Hesh.

"What's this?"

"The reason I came looking for you in such a damn hurry," Filipowski replied, taking another sip of his amasec. "And once you see it--"

Filipowski was interrupted by Hesh dropping his amasec onto the floor. The goblet didn't break, thankfully, but the crimson carpet was stained a rather unpleasant shade of maroon by the liquid spilling out.

"Why the hell didn't we spot this before!?" Hesh thundered.

"I knew you were going to say that, Gelert, because that's how I reacted. Staring us in the face for two and a half years, and neither of us noticed until now."

"This is... Where's Madoc?"

"Probably on his way out of the system by now. He didn't tell me who he was travelling with. I suspect Riley Hallona, but I can't be sure."

"Fabian, if what you've given me is true--"

"I'm certain of it," Filipowski stated. "The Nemurax entity is Inquisitor Kasimir Mauren. Ordo Malleus."

"Excommunicated for trafficking with daemons."

"And whether Mauren's alive or dead on Sathvairg, Madoc's going to his own death."

Hesh snarled, before thrusting the data-slate back into Filipowski's hands.

"Get me a line to the Grathe," he commanded before leaving the room.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Dolnikan on August 24, 2012, 09:42:18 PM
The craft was landing, Semplice’s mag-locks kept him firmly in place as they approached the ground. It hit the ground softly, the pilot was capable. Slowly the ramp opened, he asked: “Are there any anyone outside?”

“Yes my lord”, replied the pilot, “the Adeptus Arbites are there along with a large armoured vehicle, nothing else.”

Semplice released the locks and rolled forwards, thinking about Tettares for a moment before he entered the light. He saw the marshal standing in front of his men. Karnak followed right behind them. The Arbites showed no sign of surprise at seeing the armoured thing that contained the Emperor, only his arm open to the elements. It was a peculiar sensation to feel the outside air again, it was a long time since he had last set his wheels on a planet’s surface. He spoke: “May the Emperor’s blessing be on you, lord marshal. I am inquisitor Gideon Amphil. It is good to see a loyal servant of the Emperor on this planet.”
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on September 08, 2012, 08:52:47 AM
Sunlight crept over the horizon and Andreas noticed with some surprise how different Stonechapel looked, even in the half-light of the dawn. Where Coveton had still worn the scars of a war long since fought out, Stonechapel seemed to have been caught in a time warp. The buildings were undamaged, almost pristine, despite the devastation elsewhere on Sathvairg.

"And we're certain that this is still the right planet?" Andreas queried, glancing sideways at Steren.

"Not unless Salamanders are capable of unaided Warp travel," she answered.

The escape from Coveton had been rather uneventful in itself, but the explosions had started just after midday. Andreas had initially assumed that the enemy had acquired an artillery battery and were shelling nearby settlements, but the blasts were too loud, the gaps between them too long, the timing too precise, for it to be the work of mere ground troops, and Andreas twigged quickly that the grand cruiser in orbit had turned its guns on the planet.

The sight of a burning town a couple of miles away from the main road had confirmed Andreas' suspicions. What hadn't been obliterated instantly by the orbital bombardment was ablaze, the ground melted into lava, the buildings collapsing in the heat. The apparent lack of civilians fleeing the destruction suggested that there had been only a few of them, and that they'd already left. Evidently, the bombardment had happened too suddenly for the town's inhabitants to know that they were even under attack at all.

Few of them had rested remotely well that night. Steren, it seemed, didn't need to sleep, and it had fallen to Dovin to watch her, joined first by Iona, then by Tanis, once the veteran soldier had found a good place to park for the night. Jael -- Adept Penrose, Andreas had reminded himself -- had joined them and the voidsmen had taken it in turns to watch for any heretic kill-squads. Shortly after dusk Dovin had given Iona a sedative, muttering something about "optimal condition", and as a result, Iona had been the only one to get any meaningful rest. Dovin herself showed no signs of flagging, and as far as Andreas could tell, was watching him and Steren all night, even while she was refuelling the Salamander and half-track.

At several points, Andreas fancied that he could see the microscopic outline of the grand cruiser through a gap in the clouds, but with no way of verifying it, he put it down to fatigue.

Once Jael and Tanis had rested, it was decided (largely by Tanis herself) that if they were going to get to Stonechapel, they were best off moving now, and with Iona still groggy and Andreas himself half-asleep, they had moved on. They'd reached the main orbital around Stonechapel barely half an hour ago, and Andreas had already noticed the apparent lack of other vehicles on the road.

"It's quiet," Steren remarked pointlessly.

"Assuming that this city's normality is not a facade, it is entirely normal for the roads on a Gamma-class world to be this quiet at this hour," Dovin commented, as if appraising a part on a production line. "It is also likely that the inhabitants have all heard of what happened to Coveton, and left as a result."

Andreas looked out of the Salamander and caught sight of a street below him, leading to a roundabout with a gleaming white marble statue of a Guardsman at its centre.

"Going by the fact that I can see ground-cars below us, there's at least some local traffic," he remarked. "Nothing on the orbital, admittedly, but at least the city's not empty."

"They can't be ignorant of what's over their heads," Steren countered. Andreas raised an eyebrow at her choice of words. "More's the point, we still have to work out where--"

"Wait."

Andreas paused as Dovin signalled for quiet. Understanding her intent well enough, Andreas tried to listen past the noise of the Salamander's engine, but it sounded for all the world like the Salamander and Jael's half-track were the only things on the road.

Dovin, however, was reaching for a lasgun -- scavenged from a heretic, Andreas suspected -- and Steren was similarly reaching for the heavy stubber she'd taken. Taking his own lasgun from where he'd left it, Andreas strained to hear what Dovin and Steren were no doubt aware of, his entire body going tense.

Suddenly, he heard it, the noise not unlike a fly buzzing in his ear, but distorted by the noise of the Salamander's engine. Andreas banged the palm of his hand twice on the Salamander's roof to warn Tanis, but she'd already spotted the bike zooming up a nearby slip road and was swerving to avoid it as it came closer. Jael had spotted it as well in his mirrors, holding steady to allow the voidsmen on board a better chance to take aim at the rider.

"Well, this is new," Andreas sniped as the Traitor Marine riding the bike produced an oversized zweihänder sword and gunned the bike's engines.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: Koval on September 12, 2012, 07:39:14 PM
"Nineteen years," he snarled. "Nineteen years ago, I was stranded here."

The shrouded figure glared at his lord with all the hatred, all the malice, of an ancient and debased slaughterer without a conscience.

"And nineteen years ago, I was betrayed. Yet you are a generous master, my lord. You answer my prayers. You restore my strength."

"YOUR WORDS IRRITATE ME," the black giant answered slowly, powerfully. "YOUR FUTILE ATTEMPTS TO EARN MY FAVOUR WITH PLATITUDES AVAIL YOU NOTHING."

"My lord?"

"YOU WILL KNEEL."

Wordlessly, the figure obeyed, knowing better than to disobey his lord.

"YOU WERE NOT BROUGHT BEFORE MY THRONE TO BORE ME WITH PRAISE," the black giant growled, his words dripping with hatred. "YOU WERE GIVEN A NEW BODY, FREED FROM INCARCERATION WITHIN YOUR LIVING TOMB. A NEW CHANCE TO REGAIN MY FAVOUR."

The giant shifted in his throne and bent down, bringing his head closer so that the figure could smell the stink of boiling blood on the giant's breath, feel its furnace-heat on his skin.

"DO NOT SQUANDER THIS GIFT."

"A new chance to...?" the figure repeated. "My lord, I...?"

"FIGHT AS YOU FOUGHT NINETEEN YEARS AGO, AND RECLAIM YOUR IMMORTALITY," the giant commanded. "KILL AS YOU KILLED ON THE FIELD OF BLOOD, AND KNOW MY FAVOUR ONCE MORE."

"In your name, my lord, these things--"

"YET REMEMBER THAT I DESPISE WEAKNESS. YOUR NEW BODY IS MORTAL, AND PALES NEXT TO YOUR FORMER MIGHT. YOU HAVE ALREADY FAILED ME ONCE."

"My lord, you should hold the bitch Memphis to blame for that, not me!" the figure protested. "I was powerless against her sorcery! Compared with the lightning she called down into my blood, all the strength in the world would have been meaningless!"

"YOU WERE WEAK AND ALLOWED MACHINES TO GET THE BETTER OF YOU. BUT THE NATURE OF YOUR DOWNFALL IS IRRELEVANT. YOU HAVE FAILED ME ONCE. BE GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN THIS CHANCE, FOR THERE ARE WORSE THINGS THAN DEATH THAT AWAIT YOU IF YOU SHOULD FAIL AGAIN."

"I will not fail you, my lord," Nemurax hissed as the image of Khar'neth on his throne faded.
Title: Re: Defiant Echoes
Post by: MarcoSkoll on April 07, 2013, 03:06:08 AM
"However sharp your wit may be, SHOOT HIM!", Steren bellowed, bracing her heavy stubber against the gun mantlet.

Andreas almost fancied he could hear a note of panic in her normally composed tone, but was just as soon overwhelmed by the roar of the belt-fed weapon coming to life and his need to duck aside to avoid a faceful of spent casings.

Priming his lasgun as he knelt into cover, he took aim and fired repeatedly for the bike as it curved around some distance ahead. He fancied he must have put at least one shot through that massive front tyre as it came to bear, but the vehicle and rider stayed as steady as a rock. Armoured and self-sealing, no doubt.

The bike's engine gunned again, accelerating straight towards the makeshift convoy.

Andreas almost thought the dull flash from the bike was the low dawn sun glinting off the broadsword still clenched in the World Eater's hands, but some instinct told him otherwise. He only just ducked behind the mantlet before a low velocity grenade slammed into the front corner of the Chimera pattern chassis and blasted fragments over the top of the vehicle.
Even protected, he started slightly as a second grenade from the bike's front mounted launcher exploded against the hull.

A glance up told him the psyker evidently didn't deign to be concerned by shrapnel, still hammering rapid bursts of fire downrange almost as if on a firing range. Behind her, Dovin had taken cover as he had, and apparently also unharmed. If the rhythmic thud of the Salamander's heavy bolter was any indication, Iona had survived. And they hadn't yet crashed, so Tanis was presumably still conscious. He couldn't really ask for more than that.
Daring to look above the armour again, he fired again for the traitor.

Below, Pantariste took in the situation. Iota's shots were mostly going wide, her vision obscured by the low sun ahead. The three in the gun bay above might as well have been armed with slingshots for all the good it was doing.
She took her decision, with only a prayer the tank was heavy and armoured enough that the Emperor might protect them.

"Hold on!", she barked.

It wasn't perfect. The bike swerved, the rider turning away from the impending collision. Yet, Pantariste was just fast enough to react, wrenching the controls and sending the tank's path twisting into the bike.

The impact only winged the bike, but it was enough for the already ruined vehicle. Something in the steering column gave way as it reeled from the crash, and the bike tore in two with a soundtrack of tortured metal. The front forks span away. The torn armour plate on its underside of the collapsed chassis dug into the road surface. Robbed of speed by the tearing asphalt, the sheer momentum of the ruined bike flipped its carcass and rider as missiles.

The instant for which the chase seemed to have been ended was shattered by the resonating crash of magnetised boots finding grip on the roof of Jael's half-track.
Uncurling from his crouched landing, the World Eater turned to look at the tank ahead. His helmet hid the face beneath, but the glowing eye sockets and the warrior's eye sockets still managed to be gloating.

"...That's new too."

It was about all Andreas could actually find to say.

The sharp crack of Dovin opening fire again snapped him out of his shock. Joining the fusillade once again, he fired repeatedly into the warrior, but even Steren's freshly reloaded heavy stubber did little to impress the beast.
Turning away unimpressed and disinterested, the Marine set about mutilating the roof of the half-track, its light armour peeling apart around the massive blade.

"What now?"

Steren tossed her machine gun into a corner.

"We improvise."
"...What?"
 
He didn't get an answer before the psyker leapt, almost flying over the huge gap between the vehicles to slam into the Marine with equal parts force and grace. Latched onto the Astartes' backpack with diamond hard claws, she climbed against the thrashing warrior's physical protestations and latched her hands onto his helmet.

Her wrench of the warrior's neck didn't come quite soon enough. A massive gauntlet clamped around her arm, flinging her to the roof. She rolled away from the landing, her toes puncturing her once expensive boots and reshaping to claw into the metal.
The Marine uncurled his other hand from the sword embedded in the half-track, standing up from his handiwork.

"Impressive.", his voice sounded amused, even distorted through the vox-grille, For a psyker, anyway."
"Save your compliments. Your words are worthless.", Steren spat.
"Very well."

He didn’t hesitate, reaching for the hilt of his sword. Lunging against the grip of her distorted feet, Steren forced forwards, smashing at his descending hand to knock it aside. A twist of her torso and a swing of the elbow delivered the next blow into the weak hip joint of the power armour and was rewarded with the crunch of some ancient component working its last, paint fragments flying from a fresh dent.

She began to turn for a third strike, but Agares' stolen hand came at her from the other side, slamming into her head, forcing her smashing down into the roof. The metal buckled and split under the blow, the tortured metal torn further with a twist of the giant wrist to grind her skull against the ruined roof.

Seeing the Marine draw her back from the roof for a second blow, Andreas was granted the briefest glance at the weakspot under the armour's shoulder. Two of his shots went straight into the joint in the same moment that Pantariste slammed the Salamander into the halftrack's flank.

The daemon flinched. With a damaged roof distorting under his sheer weight, even the magnetised boots of his power armour couldn't keep grip, and he stumbled, dropping Steren to the roof as he struggled for balance.
But he found it quickly. As he repositioned his feet, the Salamander was now only scarce feet away and his stance tensed to jump.

"MOVE!", Nogal shouted. But the tank lurched away too slowly and her spray of lasgun fire found no weak spot in the daemon's armour.

Andreas' survival instinct was only an instant from throwing him from back of the tank in desperation.
He just as soon recoiled as the edge of the gun mantlet arced. Lightning flashed along its frame, spidering back across the gap and blazing over the half-track's roof. Just visible in the mire of the miniature storm, Agares twitched, fighting his protesting power armour.

Steren pulled herself from the roof, gory eyesockets flashing with arcs of energy. The normally stoic mask she wore was gone, bloody ruin and incandescent rage in its place. Remnants of lips drawn away from chipped teeth, she spat her curses at the daemon.

"You foul, forbidden beast! You are heresy and chaos incarnate, and I deny you in the Emperor's name."
 
Tearing apart the malfunctioning electrofibres in his power armour with brute strength, Agares swung behind him.
The backhand blow was too high, the psyker weaving under it, her fingers grasping and tear handholds in his aged armour. Hauling him up, she swung up and over as to throw him from the vehicle.

It was too much. The roof finally caved in.

As they tumbled into the hold below, Steren caught a glance of the voidsmen rolling away just before gravity helped both brawlers to find the floor. Ignoring the plentiful swearing, she slammed up and out, throwing Agares into the half-track's weapons rack. He lashed out in return, and she went flying, contributing yet another dent to the back quarter of the walls.

With the flash of falling steel, everyone saw what was about to happen next. His massive sword crashing off the middle of the floor, the daemon lunged with the agility that seemed so wrong and yet so familiar for the massive frame of his host.

From behind, uselessly blocked, Steren launched as best she could. Dion recoiled back, pulling the frozen Rosa clear. Javix leapt forward, trying to knock the sword aside.

Much to his own surprise, he did - the hilt just drifting past Agares' clutching fingers, the weapon clattered against the side of the hull. With a roar of anger, the Marine lashed out - his forearm collided with the voidsman, launching him into the wall head-first. The sickening crunch left no doubt as to Javix's fate.

"You..."

The half-track lurched, throwing Steren into the wall yet again. The reason was clear - Jael was visibly quaking in terror, the wheel fallen from his hands. Dion was desperately trying to get past him, wrenching at the unfamiliar controls as best as he could guess.

"He's freaking! ...I'm freaking!", he pleaded in desperate hope.

Almost casually, he was interrupted, his hands brushed confidently aside by the savant. Something was immediately different about Jael's demeanour, fresh fire burning in his eyes.

"No. No, I'm not. I'll be alright.", his tone was unusually confident, "Steren, plan theta."
"Theta? That's...", the psyker was dumbstruck, "...oh, I like that."

She leapt up, driving her hardened fist up through the rear flank of Agares' armour. The bloody mess it came coated with on its return brought another howl of displeasure from the daemon, spinning, forcing her to move.

But that's what she wanted. Now free to brace against the side of the vehicle, she kicked out - forcing herself across the width of the hold, the attack had all the force it needed to slam the daemon's head through the scarred opposite wall. Guided by Jael's thoughts, the timing was perfect. Agares' helmet collided with the solid rockcrete column supporting a road bridge overhead. A fresh gouge drawn in the hold by his recoiling head, the daemon fell stunned back in and onto the floor.

Steren, however, was more interested in hauling Dion and Rosa from their feet, grasped by the back of their uniforms.

"This will hurt. Sorry.", she apologised as she moved for the back door.
"What are you doing?"

She answered with action - Dion flew screaming out of the open back doors, thrown to the Salamander now positioned in the wake of the half-track. He landed heavily, but regained his wits fast enough to scramble for a grip on the barrel of the autocannon.
Three seconds later, Rosa followed in similarly unsubtle and dignified fashion.

"I thought you were going to throw him out."
"That hit should have snapped even an Astartes' neck - throwing him out would be useless. Wouldn't it?", she snarled the last query as she circled past the slowly-standing Agares, "You might fool them, but you stink of your true nature. I can feel you in there."
"Very clever, psyker... you noticed. But don't let me interrupt; you sounded like you had a plan for how you were going kill me?"
"I'll leave that to her."

Steren gestured, a sweeping open palmed motion that led out through the open rear of the half-track, the daemon's head turning in kind.
Framed by the rended rectangle of the door frames, the Salamander thundered still - its tracks tearing furiously at the highway, its supercharger screaming over the roar of its engine and the muzzle of Iota's heavy bolter standing proud from its angled armour plates.

"OPEN FIRE!"

Agares' indignant roar yet managed to drown out the bark of the weapon as it opened fire, both daemon and high calibre bolt merging into a whirl of destruction that pulverising what little still remained of the half-track's interior.
Shrapnel flying wild, Steren watched the scene in each of its instants, taking the moment in an infinite beauty that mundane senses would never be able to see.
The flare of each rocket motor as it burnt out, its velocity imparted. The sparks of red-hot bolt jacket fragments spinning away as the deuterium cores detonated. Splashes of tainted, cursed blood flying free.

Using Agares' bulk and what little metal remained of the half track's cab as cover, Steren launched herself on top of Jael, huddling over him to fend off the tearing swarm of debris that shredded what tatters remained of her once valuable dress.
But still focused. She noticed the instant the bolter went silent. Spinning around to deliver the final blow...

"NO!!! Where did he go?"

The half-track was ruined, but utterly devoid of the World Eater.

~~~~~

From the Salamander, it was clear the half-track was ruined, almost limping to its halt.

"Probably best to slow with it, Tanis.", yelled Andreas over the engine, "But keep the heavy bolter ready."

Pantariste nodded, although mostly to herself, putting light pressure on the brakes to match the speed of the other vehicle as it came to a halt.

"I do not understand. This is tactically inefficient.", Iona spoke. Pantariste might have guessed the expression as an indication of Iona being unsettled, but who knew with that girl?

It was not an ideally timed distraction, as it bought an instant for something to fly from the back of the half track, crashing into the front of the tank.
The doubts about what it was were lost with the sound of a roaring female voice, audible even over the rending armour as she climbed.

"YOU LET HIM GO?!"
"What?!", the accusation caught Andreas off-guard.
"FOUL, STINKING TRAITOR! I HAD HIM, AND YOU LOST HIM!"

Lightning flared from the corners of her eyes, her fingers hardening into claws...

 "Steren! GET DOWN FROM THERE IMMEDIATELY!", Jael yelled as he climbed from the half-track.

She turned, glaring at Jael with her blazing eyes.

 "I mean it! Get. Down. From. There. This won't solve anything."

He wasn't in charge here. She was the master. She had to be the master. She pushed into his mind. There would be fear. It could be exploited. It would be exploited.

The fear wasn't there. Then what was...

"Yes. Yes. Of course." , her demeanour snapped back, suddenly level headed.
"Good. Go and see if there's anything salvageable about the half-track. Or in it."

She obeyed, jumping clear of the tank. Several expressions were passed around those she left behind - some of confusion, others fearful and one angry.

"What the frak was that?", Pantariste had her weapon ready at hand as she climbed from the hatch, tracking the departing psyker with its muzzle.
"She's a telepath. They can sometimes get into a cycle where their emotions are feeding off themselves. Rare, but... significant... in her case. She normally has her facade to keep it at bay, but she must have lost her focus in the brawl."
"That's a slight understatement, I think.", Andreas commented.
"Not so much. She just needs something to break the cycle."

Iona's head appeared from the driver's compartment.

"She's dangerous."
"Given the current circumstances, I'd count that as a virtue. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm about to faint."