Author Topic: Tuloni III incident  (Read 5621 times)

Offline Wulf

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Tuloni III incident
« on: September 03, 2010, 10:02:29 PM »
All across the Raptors Chapter Gladius frigate Startalon, vox-casters blared to life with a cracking, grating noise.

'All Battle-Brothers to my quarters. All Battle-Brothers to my quarters. Immediately.'

Battle-Brother Caj Vertis finished the Rite of Maintenance with as much possible haste as he dared so as not to offend the machine spirit of his bolter. He still arrived in Brother-Sergeant Galeo Lividus' quarters in under two minutes, only to find everyone else already there, even Battle-Brother Eiro Lagus who had been on bridge duty. Battle-Brother Airic Cadmon shot him a witheringly cold gaze of disapproval as he took his place in the circle of six facing Lividus. The semi-machine form of Techmarine Soled Telsa loomed beside him, Telsa's left eye whirring softly as it gave him a passing glance. Lividus nodded to him, acknowledging him before he could salute. The sergeant harbored no liking for formalities between the seven of them.

'Brothers, orders from Brother-Captain Talos. We are to move to Tuloni III and land on the planet. Astropathic messages from the planetary capital Hive Veilinridge indicate that a civil war has broken out on the planet. We are to land on the planet and infiltrate into Hive Veilinridge. Imperial Guard and Navy assets are enroute as well.'

Cadmon looked coldly at Lividus, crossing his massive arms at his barrel-like chest.

'Intelligence from the planet is scarce,' Lividus continued, 'Regular astropathic traffic from the planet has ceased, but from the last few coherent messages it seems that the loyalist elements have been overwhelmed and recidivist forces have taken control over the planet.'

**********************

Two days later, they were gathered at the observation deck, suited in their green, holy Power Armor and ready to deploy to the planet's surface at a moment's notice. It loomed before them, blue and green, with white and gray clouds hanging over the surface. Tuloni III was a garden world, scarcely populated and for the most part in a virgin state. Five main hives on three contingents housed the majority of the two billion people population, with Hive Veilinridge sprawling the expanse between the Primaris contingents western coastline and the range of mountains called the Ilias. Home to a billion people Hive Veilinridge was built mostly on a range of foothills rising from the coast towards the mountains. The planetary seat of government, the governor's palace sat almost at the geographic center of the hive and the main planetary spaceport was situated on an artificial mountainplateau fifty miles to the north from the hive's northern edge. Other notables in the hive included the PDF main HQ, the planet's largest seaport, the Ecclesiarchy complex and the Munitorum complexes. The main gathering of the Mechanicus Cult was in the mountains, almost twohundred miles to the north of the hive.

Vertis watched as the planet grew slowly in their view. The Techmarine, Telsa, would remain aboard Startalon while the other six Space Marines would land on the planet using a drop pod. He stole a quick glance around at the five Marines standing beside him.

Lividus, the squad sergeant, a veteran well into his second century as a marine. He hadn't been in command for long, just under two years. It was still over a year more than Vertis had been a full-fledged Battle-Brother. Still, he was secure in his skin, even though Cadmon gave him no more respect as a leader than for Vertis as a marine. In Vertis' eyes he was calm yet decisive, an example of what a marine should be. And it wasn't just Vertis who appreciated his skill. The Grand Master had seen it fit to promote Lividus ahead of Cadmon, not to the latter's liking, and he had even been gifted a power sword from the Chapter's armory.

Cadmon was the veteran, as tough as they came, both on friends and foe. He was proud, prouder than some thought he had any right to be, but he was talented as well. And ferocious. But most of all, he was bitter. It seemed to Vertis as if he was always in a bad mood, and eager to take it out on anyone and everyone else. Lividus said that he had had a special bond with the late Brother-Sergeant Kyns and had turned for the worse after Kyns' death a few years back. Cadmon was also a master marksman with his bolt pistol and peerless with his chainsword.

Battle-Brother Eiro Lagus was a quiet, introspective Space Marine with a number of service years trailing only Cadmon. He also carried the squad's only true heavy weapon, a missile launcher which had reputedly logged over a hundred armor kills in Lagus' steady and sure hands. Lagus was quiet to the point of being detached even from the rest of the Marines, but he was uniformly respected and the only member of the squad that Cadmon didn't harass.

The same couldn't be said Battle-Brother Davis Buteo, just beginning his second century. Buteo was as devoted servant of the Emperor and the Primarch as any, often to the point of his fervor turning into frenzy. Cadmon often questioned his decision-making with rather acidic words, but none questioned Buteo's courage and bravery. He had been wounded over ten years ago and now had a bionic for the left arm. He wielded a chainsword with the bionic arm and a bolt pistol with his good hand. Buteo was highly critical of the Adeptus Mechanicus, which would have led to words between him and Telsa, if Telsa could have been bothered to care. Alas, Telsa couldn't be.

The last but not least was Battle-Brother Waylan Ventus, a transfer from the third company. Ventus too had been wounded in action, losing both his legs and suffering massive trauma to his lower torso in battle against the hated traitors, the World Eaters traitor marines. He now had bionics and his torso had been reconstructed with implants and grafts, but while he was reasonably sound physically, the whole incident had left him somewhat twitchy. Consequently he had been transfered from the third company to one of the reserve companies, and eventually to Lividus' squad. To have even survived the wounds was an impressive feat, but the strained nerves gained him few friends. Especially Cadmon had a habit of giving him a hard time.

With these five, Vertis, the youngest of Squad Lividus, would be making his first combat drop as a full Battle-Brother into Tuloni III. He felt confident, but anxious, eager to get his first action with the squad. They had welcomed him, aside from Cadmon, but to truly become one of them, he would have to shed blood and bleed with them. He watched the planet slowly creep closer and subconsciously stroked the bolter magclamped to his thigh. Soon, soon.

He snapped out of his thoughts as Telsa intoned in his mechanical monotone voice.

'Three minutes to orbit. Eight minutes to deployment.'

Lividus fastened his helmet into place.

'Brothers, for the glory of Emperor and Primarch.'

'For the glory of Emperor and Primarch, Brother-Sergeant.'
« Last Edit: September 03, 2010, 10:05:07 PM by Wulf »

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2010, 01:40:02 PM »
The siren blared. Once, then twice, thrice, the shrieks coming closer to eachother. Zero hour was approaching at terminal velocity. Lividus had led them in prayer as they descended from the sky. Now they sat silent, awaiting the imminent firing of the decelarators and the subsequent impact.

'...They are my bulwark against the Terror...' Buteo spoke softly, almost at a murmur. The siren bleeped and now the warning light flashed. Suddenly the decelarator rockets fired and the drop pod jerked violently. Vertis felt the sudden g-forces in his stomach as the drop pod braked.

'They are the Defenders of Humanity...' Vertis stole a glance at Lividus while Buteo continued his chant. He could hear something crashing against the sides of the pod outside and breaking. The brother-sergeant sat statuesque in his seat. Likewise Cadmon beside Lividus. The final warning siren blared.

'They are my Space Marines-' Buteo was interrupted by the thunderous crash as the pod landed. Before the dust had cleared outside, the hatches sprung open and the Marines stripped off their harnesses. As they bomb-burst out of the pod, Vertis tore his bolter from the magclamps at his thigh and racked the charging handle without breaking stride. He noted that the machine-spirit was eager as he raised the bolter and scanned his sector, falling to a kneel beside a massive tree. The forest ahead of him was eerily quiet, aside from the hiss of the scalding hot decelarator rockets of the drop and the drumming of rain on his Power Armor. He keened his ears, blocking out the noise of the rain mentally and listened, letting his eyes and aim sweep his field of fire from end to end at the subconscious urging of the bolter's machine-spirit. Nothing. Just a tropical forest silenced by the jarring impact of the drop pod. If anything had been in the vicinity, it had by now moved to calmer areas.

'Status,' Lividus demanded.

'Cadmon, standing by.'

'Lagus, standing by.'

'Buteo, standing by.'

'Ventus, standing by.'

'Vertis, standing by.'

'Fall in,' Lividus ordered, satisfied that everything was fine. There was no need to waste time and breath stating that you had nothing to report. He inspected his auspex for a moment while Cadmon keyed the sigils to seal the pod until it was retrieved. The hatches closed with a hiss of pneumatics.

The Marines gathered in a circle, their backs facing eachother, weapons at the ready. Their insertion had been fast, but there was always a chance that the enemy would have reacted already. If air assets had been mobilized immediately from Hive Veilinridge, they would arrive in a matter of minutes, but for now the jungle was calm.

'Single file,' Lividus spoke, pointing out the direction of March. Cadmon peeked over his shoulder to see Lividus' direction and then stalked off, weapons ready. It was his honor to take point. Behind him followed Ventus, bolter ready to support his battle-brother. Then Lividus, carrying the vox-relay unit in addition to his personal gear, and after him Lagus. Buteo followed Lagus, while Vertis brought up the rear. Cadmon had objected to the order of march, saying the rearguard should have been someone more experienced, but Lividus had denied him. Vertis wasn't quite sure if it was because Lividus trusted him or for tactical considerations.

They ghosted off into the undergrowth, disappearing into the wilderness. Compared to Jemadal, it was a walk in the park. Massive palm-like trees rose out of the ground and into the sky. The thick canopy ensured that underneath them the day was never bright, while rainwater poured down perpetually. In a matter of minutes, their bootprints were filling up with water and disappearing into the rest of the mud.  The moved through the undergrowth as gently as is possible for a fully armored Marine, easing through bushes and tall stalks of grass. Still, they were able to keep a good pace.

About a mile later, they could hear the roar of turbojet engines.

'Valkyries,' Lividus warned. They all sought cover quickly, making themselves small amongst the vegetation and powering down. They stood, crouched, kneeled or lay motionless as the sound grew closer, then seemed to level off at some distance.

Lividus eased his arms out wide to his sides and pointed back towards the way they came. Silently, the Marines crept to a sparse line, taking positions on both sides of Lividus. Vertis eased himself to a kneel behind a giant palm tree and took aim back down the way had come. Even with his armor's autosenses, he couldn't see that far in the gloom of the jungle, but in his mind he could envision enemy troopers lowering ropes and rappeling down from the valkyries to where their drop pod lay right now. The armor's enchanced senses allowed him to filter the noise of the valkyries so well that he could even make out differences between the aircraft. By his count, he could make out the whine and squel of six turbojets, or three carriers.

Lividus watched his auspex, looking for signs of the enemy. Meanwhile, the other five waited, silent, motienless, with weapons at the ready.

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2010, 09:17:55 PM »
Minutes passed slowly but eventually no threat emerged from the jungle. After a while, Lividus put his auspex away and gestured for the others that they'd resume their march. One by one the Marines fell in formation and continued on their original course. The only difference was that Vertis walked almost backwards, scanning his sector more intensely, his gaze sweeping his field of vision from side to side every now and then. All around them, the downpour continued, running off their armor and down to the wet mud. From time to time they could hear the roar of the valkyries' turbojet engines as the aircraft swept overhead in a search pattern, trying in vain to locate the Marines. When they heard the engine noise approaching, the Marines melted into the jungle, taking cover underneath the giant trees. As the distance to the drop site increased, they started hearing more of the usual sounds of jungle. Animal voices, birds shrieking, the occasional growl of a predator, the rustling of grass and splashing of water as something moved beyond the edge of their superhuman vision. Occasionally Vertis would switch to his armor's thermal imaging and catch glimpses of slightly smaller than human quadrapeds that flocked together. Herbivores, it seemed. As far as he could, they weren't being stalked by man nor beast.

After a march of slightly over five miles, Lividus sent word through the file.

'Fall in, brothers.'

They gathered around in a particularly dense stretch of bushes, with only Vertis even slightly visible from outside, and even then only by parts of his helmet and the muzzle of his bolter as he covered their track. Others kneeled beside Lividus, who had again produced his auspex and was examining it.

'Brothers, the situation as I see it. Our drop has been registered by the enemy and they have secured our drop site. I expect that they are in the progress of deploying a hunter force, unless they have already done so. We will exercise caution and march in a high state of alert. Our initial tactical objective, to clear the drop site without enemy contact has been accomplished. Our second tactical objective is to establish a vox relay to Startalon and Tech-Brother Telsa.'

The others nodded. There was always the risk that the enemy signals intelligence could detect their transmissions, but the relay used sophisticated burst messaging technology, converting spoken text to binary machine-code and transmitting it in a short, instantaneous burst that gave the enemy very little time to detect the transmission or determine its source. They needed the relay operative to establish contact with Startalon and ultimately, via Startalon's astropath, the fleet command behind the task force headed to Tuloni.

'The enemy was very fast to arrive, Brother-Sergeant,' Buteo noted, glancing back towards the drop site in the distance, 'I wonder why they didn't immediately begin an effective search.'

'Insufficient forces,' Lividus mused, 'Or basic tactical error. Securing ground from inside out.'

'The humans are afraid,' Cadmon sneered coldly. He had a very low opinion of human soldiers in general, even more so of planetary PDFs. 'They know that we are Astartes and they know that there's at least a drop pod worth of us in the jungle. Wanted nothing better than to hide in some bush by the drop pod and hope that we march off to become someone else's nightmare.'

'Perhaps so,' Lividus noted without a hint of emotion or amusement in the voice transmitted from his vocalizer, 'But we must assume that we are being hunted. Remain alert as we resume march.'

**************************************************

Two days later, they established the vox relay unit on the lower slopes of the Ilias. As far as Vertis could tell, Lividus had performed all the approriate rites accurately, but after three tries, they had yet to receive acknowledgement from Startalon. Ventus seemed even more twitchy than before as he watched Lividus adjust the frequencies to transmit on the secondary frequency.

'They aren't answering, Brother-Sergeant,' Ventus asked, crouching over Lividus as the Brother-Sergeant worked on the vox relay.

'No, Brother, they are not.'

Ventus hissed something under his breath and turned away. Lividus switched the frequencies once more, then rose.

'There's nothing more I can do. This is unfortunate, but we must resume our mission, Brothers. The Emperor and Primarch watch over us,' He noted with solemn determination. Vertis felt proud to serve with such a man. Here they were, six against a planet, yet there was not the slightest hint of desperation evident in Lividus' voice or demeanor.

They left the relay in place. It was an automated unit, changing frequencies thrice per day according to a predetermined chart to avoid detection or enemy intelligence operations if it or its transmission was detected. Aboard the Startalon, Telsa should be listening to the same frequencies, changing frequencies according to the same chart. But if either the relay unit was faulty, or the frequencies had become mixed up, there was nothing they could do but transmit at preset timings and hope for a reply.

For the next three days, they descended back into the jungle, working their way through towards Veilinridge. The rain never relented. On the fourth day, the jungle gave way to rolling hills. Between them, small rivers wound their way towards the sea. Every now and then, they would hear an aircraft, mostly valkyries, fly by above the jungle canopy. Curiously, there was very little traffic in the jungle. Logging crews, fishermen, hunters, all seemed to have taken the week off. Here and there in the jungle, there were vast tracts of barren land where gigantic machines had ripped out trees for use by the planet's industry. They circled around those open spaces, not wanting to risk detection by the enemy air assets.

They would have used the riverbeds as their avenue of approach, but the riverbeds were mud, washoff from the jungle so deep and sucking that they couldn't navigate it even in their Power Armor. So they had to march along the hills, which slowed their advance as they clung to cover to avoid detection by the valkyries and other military aircraft that zoomed overhead from time to time. But the aircraft weren't the only problem. Along the rivers patrolled gunboats, metal barges with twin-linked autocannons at the prow. Men and women in PDF uniforms loitered on the decks, but their discipline and motivation was seriously lacking in Vertis' opinion. If they hadn't been recidivist scum, he'd have been appalled that someone could neglect their sacred duty to the Emperor so. Perhaps they weren't expecting resistance. Perhaps they were just good-for-nothing, weak-willed scum of the earth as Cadmon said. Whatever the cause, escaping their detection wasn't overtly complicated for the superiorly trained and disciplined Space Marines.

On the sixth day, it happened. Lividus transmitted once again, only this time he was answered. The vox message from Telsa informed them that Startalon had been forced to retreat from orbit following the appearance of an unidentified vessel that had returned to hiding behind one the planet's moons. Fleet assets were standing by, lingering in the warp until more intelligence could be gathered regarding the planet and the strange vessel. Whatever it was, it was not Imperial and it dwarfed Startalon.

They registered the news with mixed emotions. It was good to be in contact with Startalon again and to know that their link to fleet command was intact, but at the same time the presence of a probable enemy starship was troublesome. Perhaps it was a rogue trader. More likely it was an enemy capital ship. It started to seem like they weren't here to quell just a civil war. Instead they had landed in the middle of an invasion.

Lividus acknowledged the message, then they marched again. Everytime they transmitted, they changed location immediately to avoid possible detection by enemy sigint and subsequent rapid response assets.

On the seventh day after leaving the vox relay, they sighted the first significant human habitation. Plas-sheet cots, rising wall-to-wall on the hills ahead. The slums of Hive Veilinridge. They stalked closer and laid eyes on the hive for the first time.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2010, 06:55:14 PM by Wulf »

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2010, 08:45:24 PM »
The area surrounding the slums was littered all kinds of trash. Broken-down and stripped ground cars, appliances thrown away, rotting clothes and just about anything imaginable that couldn't be used anymore. Cadmon hesitated.

'There's no way I'm going in there. We're Astartes, damn it. It wounds my pride that we should stoop to skulking in trash,' He growled on the secure vox channel.

'Advance, Brother. The mission comes before your pride,' Lividus snarled.

'Emperor help me, we're Astartes, not sneak-thieves,' Cadmon snapped back.

'Do not take the Emperor's name in vain, Brother' Buteo cut in.

'Silence, Brothers. This is not up for discussion,' There was a finality in Lividus' voice. He would tolerate no further grumbling. 'Ventus, take point. Find us an observation position.'

Ventus strode forward silently, casting an irate glance at Cadmon while he passed, and stalked ahead amidst the garbage. The others followed, not everyone without hesitation. Vertis didn't mind. He would have to appease his Armor's machine spirit, purifying the warplate with holy oils afterwards, but now the Brother-Sergeant commanded and he obeyed.

Ventus stalked forwards, using trash piles for concealment, until he came to a halt behind a stripped skeleton of a public bus. The rusted chassis was a sorry sight. But it afforded them concealment and at least some cover from the hive's direction. Ventus fell to a knee and Lividus crept up beside him. The others took up positions nearby.

From there they could see into the slums. Plas-sheet cots were lined up wall-to-wall with no discernible order. Tiny alleys twisted between them. Here and there, gigantic rusty pipelines raised on massive metal poles cut through the slums and dumped the effluent from the hive to the rivers outside. The stench of waste was everywhere. Being able to block it out with training and the Power Armor's autosenses was luxury.

'Nice,' Cadmon sneered. Lividus was too busy checking his auspex to respond.

Out here, on the outer perimeter of the slum, there seemed to be little movement. They could see that some of the cots had collapsed, or been torn down or burned, somewhat more than you could expect to see in a normal underhive slum. For some reason, there didn't seem to be that many people around.

'Lagus, Ventus, Vertis, set up a firebase. Cadmon and Buteo, with me,' Lividus ordered, raising his gaze from the auspex screen. He grasped his plasma pistol in one hand, power sword in the other. Cadmon and Buteo followed him as he moved quietly forward, circling around the bus and advancing towards the nearest cots. Lagus and Ventus set up behind the bus, while Vertis took cover behind a trash pile. Their targeting reticules swept along the cots and the alleys, bolters and missile launcher ready to open up on anyone who threatened their brothers.

Suddenly Lividus stopped and took cover behind a pile of thrown-away appliances, gesturing for Cadmon and Buteo to stop and fall back. Without question, they did so.

'Autosenses report airborne toxin. Standby,' The vox crackled. There was a pause while Lividus scanned the ground ahead, looking for the origin of the toxin. Then he gestured for Cadmon and Buteo and resumed, the two quickly catching up to him again.

Lividus reached the outer cots along with Cadmon and Buteo. They spread out, saw to it that it was safe for the others to advance and then Lividus gestured for the support section to advance up to them. Ventus went first, then Lagus, while Vertis stood ready with his bolter. Finally Vertis advanced when the others were ready to support him. A warning rune flashed in the corner of his eye as the Armor's autosenses detected the toxin. It wasn't dangerous as long he was armored as the armor filtered the air he breathed.

As Vertis came up to the wall of a cot, there was a corpse on the alley leading further into the cot-slum. Cadmon moved up to inspect it once the others were in position to cover him.

'Physical violence. Repeated blows to the head,' He voxed, 'Not the toxin.'

Lividus checked the course he had plotted out on his auspex and they advanced again, Cadmon and Buteo stalking ahead from cover to cover while the Ventus and Lagus covered them. Lividus concentrated on his auspex and Vertis brought up the rear.

As they advanced, the damage to the cots became more prevalent and more violent. Some were burned, others just torn down. More bodies also lay in the muddy sludge of the unpawed alleys.

'Riot,' Ventus asked, his bolter springing from one alley to the next, from one window to another rapidly.

Lividus nodded. 'Not a military operation at least. I don't see that many laser burns, nor do I see the consequences of grenades or artillery fire. Fits logic that the underhive scum would lose all control once the civil war broke out.'

Then he paused.

'Contacts. In your alley, Cadmon. Thousands of them.'

Ventus jerked his bolter around, pointing it down the alley Cadmon was watching.

'Vertis, move up. Cover Cadmon,' Lividus ordered calmly.

Vertis moved up to Cadmon, taking cover behind the cot on the opposite side of the alley from Cadmon. Down the alley he could see two people fornicating openly. He also heard shouting and screams. It seemed there was a mob up ahead.

'Multiple underhive scum,' Cadmon snarled, 'Seems that they have not noticed us.'

'We will circle around them. We do not want to be compromised.' Lividus surveyed his auspex intently, plotting out a new course. When he was finished, they set off, moving tactically along the alleyways, Cadmon and Buteo scouting ahead while Ventus and Lagus were ready to provide covering fire. They advanced further into the slum, passing looted and burnt stores and barrooms, whole hab-blocks that seemed to have become massive orgies. Beneath the overwhelming blare of music, Vertis' autosenses could pick up sounds of violence, gunshots, fighting, fornication, the smell of obscura and lho, cheap booze, sweat and heat.

'Throne! There's a war going on and these - degenerates - are indulging their every vice,' Buteo barked, 'May the Emperor's wrath strike them down.'

'Underhive bastards,' Cadmon snarled, 'What did you expect?'

Buteo just shook his head.

***********************
By noon the next day, they passed from the slums unseen and into the main hive, slipping inside an unguarded gate. The gate itself was like it had been run over. As they had advanced further into the slums the carnage had grown worse and worse. People seemed to have lost all control. The underhive had gone mad.

Vertis crossed into the main hive and gazed down the road leading further. In the distance, underneath the grey clouds and the perpetual rainfall, loomed what Lividus said was the governor's palace, a huge slab of dark grey rockcrete. Massive, it stood over every other building like a giant pole struck into the earth. Along the road, hab-block spires and humongous manufactorums formed the outer rim of the Hive. Off to the side of the road and well above it ran a doublerail track. Lividus gestured towards it and they moved off.

As they sprinted one by one over the open road, they could see bodies strewn around, while people seemed to be having an orgy right in the middle of the street in the distance, performing all kinds of vulgarities and violence upon each other. The insanity of the underhive had spread into the hive itself. Vertis couldn't believe his eyes.

'This is insanity,' He muttered to Lividus as the Brother-Sergeant prepared to launch himself into a run across the road and into concealment on the other side, 'This is no civil war.'

Lividus paused to look at him, legs coiled and ready to spring to the other side of the road.

'I know, Brother. But it doesn't change the fact that we have a sacred duty to the Emperor to fulfill. We are Brother-Captain Talos' eyes and ears on the ground. And we will be the Emperor's iron fist, when the time comes. But now, we must not lose sight of our mission and purpose.'

Then suddenly, the sound of jet engines appeared in the distance, slowly rising above the background noise.

'That's no Valkyrie,' Ventus snarled on the vox, his voice tense, 'That's a Thunderhawk.'

'There's no word from Telsa of any other Space Marine forces other than us. Take cover,' Lividus barked. They immediately dispersed, disappearing into whatever cover each could find.

In the distance, two Thunderhawk shapes zoomed over the city, heading out towards the mountains. Vertis watched as they disappeared into the distance, curious and puzzled. Telsa hadn't sent any word of any Space Marine forces having arrived in the system, much less onto the planet. After they had gone, Lividus sprang across the road and gestured for everyone to converge on his position. Buteo and Vertis, the last two on their side of the road, crossed in turn and the Marines gathered around Lividus.

'There are no other Chapters in the system, are there,' Ventus hissed, his voice edgy and tense, 'It's the Archenemy, isn't it?'

Lividus was keying his vox and speaking on the relay frequency. He was reporting the sighting to Telsa. After he was done, he looked at Ventus.

'None that I know of, Brother.'

'Traitor Legions,' Buteo breathed heavily, 'Curse them all. Curse them and their primarchs.'

'Calm yourselves. It could be the Archenemy, but we must remember our mission. We are Raptors, Brothers, and Raptors don't falter before the Archenemy.'

'Frag,' Ventus yelled. Cadmon glared at him.

'It is our holy duty to destroy those abominations. The Emperor wills it.' Buteo was working himself into a fervor again, Vertis could tell. He admired Buteo's zeal, but didn't share his penchant for bravado.

'For the Emperor's sake, don't wet yourself, you two' Cadmon growled.

'Silence! No more,' Lividus barked, 'It is our holy duty to carry out our mission. Brother-Captain Talos has authorized us to engage targets of opportunity, but our primary mission is to reconnoiter and prepare the theatre for the fleet's arrival. I hate the Archenemy as much as any of you, but the mission comes first, over anything else. We are Astartes, not some Emperor-forsaken guardsmen. Remember that, Brothers.'

Vertis stole a glance at Lagus, who had remained quiet all the time. He still remained passive, kneeling beside Lividus without having said a word. It seemed that nothing rocked him. Not even Traitor Marines.

'Now, move out,' Lividus ordered, 'Cadmon, take point. Head for the railway. We'll use the maintenance level underneath the rails to infiltrate further into the hive.'

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2010, 10:46:48 AM »
Vertis crawled up the maintenance ramp, hidden from the street by the sides of the ramp. He finally came up to the walkway running beneath the rails. Here the maintenance level was shielded from the elements and, more importantly for the Marines, prying eyes by corrugated iron on both sides of the walkway. Vertis rose, gave Lagus a sign of everything fine and assumed his rearguard position as the others started down the walkway.

Underneath them, on the streets, pandemonium reigned as if the whole hive had lost its mind. Vertis watched the scene for a passing instant, revolted by the vulgarity and lack of any social control. Humans, he thought to himself with a sneer. Cadmon always said that humanity was to loathed and hated for its weakness. Perhaps he was right, Vertis caught himself thinking.

The others had already moved up ahead, so Vertis had no time for further reflecting. He walked after them sideways, keeping one on the corrugated iron tunnel he left behind. They advanced for a good while until the vox came alive.

'Contact, standby.' It was Cadmon's voice. They all stopped, then there was a short pause. 'Two maintenance-servitors. Loitering aimlessly.'

There was another pause and then Lividus' voice came on the vox.

'Eliminate.'

Fifteen seconds later, Cadmon came on the vox again.

'Sector clear.'

'Proceed.'

They resumed march. As Vertis followed, he came across the two servitors, now torn to pieces by Cadmon's chainsword. They were beneath a railroad crossing, where they must have once been working the switch. Their controllers must have left them there when the madness began. Vertis understood Lividus wanted no-one alive that knew of their presence on the planet, even lobotomized servitors. If someone were to find the bodies, they were just two more victims of the madness, with nothing to connect them to a squad of Astartes. He left them behind without a second thought.

They resumed march for a good two miles, until Lividus again came on the vox.

'Multiple contacts up ahead. We're coming to a station.'

Cadmon keyed the mike twice, acknowledging Lividus. The slowed pace, creeping ahead instead of marching, wary of making any unnecessary sound. The maintenance level proceeded past the station underneath the rails. Vertis could see up from between the rails and hear the commotion on the station. He counted at least two corpses that had fallen through the rails and enough body parts to make ten more, seemingly having been run over by a train. All the while there were screams of agony and joy, a perverse cacophony coming from above. Smoke and the smell of burning flesh, as well as alcohol, obscura, lho and every other imaginable vice descended from the station.

'Emperor have mercy,' Buteo growled on the vox.

'Silence,' Lividus hissed.

Suddenly las- and gunfire broke out above. People were shrieking, screaming and wailing. Panic ensued. Vertis tensed, turning around to aim his bolter upwards in case the shooting was related to someone having seen them.

'They're shooting amongst themselves,' Cadmon came on the vox, 'No clear factions, seemingly random fire by individuals.'

'Move on,' Lividus answered, 'We use the commotion to hide our passing.'

'Should we not do something? This is madness, an abomination to the Emperor,' Buteo objected.

'No.'

They moved, running past the station while the orgy above turned into a massacre.


Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #5 on: September 17, 2010, 01:04:39 PM »
They reached their destination two stations later. It cut through the hivecity under them, running east from the seaport, past the Governor's Palace before turning sharply north and through the Guardsman's Gate north towards the spaceport.

Emperor's Road.

It was a multi-lane highway, once lined with statues and memorials, a grand sight with masses of traffic running along it's rock-crete surface. Now it was a pitiful wreck. Statues lurched and lay broken and defiled, memorials toppled, traffic all but gone. Lined with carcasses of both military and civilian vehicles and pockmarked with craters, it was no longer a testament to the might of the Imperium. It was a mortuary of dead machinery, a testimony that war had come to Tuloni III.

Vertis stopped beside a rock-crete pole supporting the rails and looked down the highway. It was a sorry sight. PDF vehicles, civilian cars of all kinds, all lay by the road, rusting corpses mangled by heavy weapons and small arms fire. Suddenly Lividus hissed on the vox.

'Standby. Three armor units on the road, towards the seaport.'

Each of them hid from sight, disappearing behind whatever concealment was available. Vertis stole a glance from a hole in the corrugated iron.

Three tracked vehicles crawled along the road, their muzzles sweeping the lanes, obviously on patrol. He focused his vision on the lead vehicle.

It was a sick blasphemy of the Predator tank, pink, gold and purple, painted in runes that mocked the eye with their obscene and vile shapes. The battle cannon muzzle gaped with the snarling visage from the Empyrean. Anger flashed in Vertis. Still, the defiling of the machine was nothing compared to the travesty that rode atop it. In the open hatch of the turret rode a defiant figure like the lord of the highway.

A renegade Astartes.

His helm was masked by a purple veil and his twisted Power Armor gleamed in shades of black, gold and purple. He rode in the open hatch head held high, hands resting against the twisted metal of the hatch, lording over the highway like a pre-imperial tyrant enjoying a leisurely evening hunt in his chariot.

'The Emperor's Childr-,' Cadmon whispered, his voice cold with hate.

'Heret-,' Buteo almost screamed.

'Silence. Disperse,' Lividus cut them off. 'Vox silence.'

Vertis ghosted off, back the way he had came, as silently as he could. Once he was hidden behind a manufactorum building, he kicked off a sheet of corrugated iron and swung himself down from the level, climbing down a support pole. A broken window afforded easy access into the manufactorum. He ignored the people and servitors milling about inside as he stalked to the side of the building at the edge of the highway.

Hidden amongst the throng of Auspex contacts, he waited in silence as the armored vehicles crept closer. He saw now that the other two were former PDF chimeras, now defiled with crude runes emulating the ones on the traitor's Predator. Men in PDF uniforms, accentuated with pastel scarves, vests, cloaks, hoods, or other oddities rode on top of the two.

Vertis knew that his Brothers lie in wait like him. Hatred burned inside him now, vengeful rage against the massacrers of Istvaan III. Anger permeated his whole being, reaching all the way to his mechanical extensions. His bolter yearned, no, screamed for blood. He thumbed the fire selector switch to full auto and brought the weapon up, hatred flowing from his lips in the form of silent recital of battle liturgy as he led the traitor up the road with the bolter's sights.

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2010, 09:43:27 PM »
The Predator mockery rumbled past Vertis as he waited silently, hidden in the shadows of the manofactorum. His whole being was primed for a kill. He felt the bolter's machine spirit, ready and willing as he took off the slack from the trigger. He sensed the holy war plate responding to his thoughts - servos, actuators and pistons all bracing themselves to absord the recoil from the violent release of the bolter's might.

He was ready and willing as well. He had compensated for range and speed. Taken into account the angle of impact and the curve of the traitor's defiled Mark III armor. Planned his following actions. Said his prayers.

All he needed was the words from Lividus.

Suddenly, the tank stopped. The chimeras stopped as well, but awkwardly, rocking forward and the men on top of them let loose with a litany of cursing as they collided against eachother at the sudden halt.

Then a flash of light erupted from a building off to the side of the road. The Predator took it on the left track with a sound that was equal parts the sizzling of liquifing metal and the enraged roar of a beast from the warp as the track melted where it was hit by the lascannon blast. Before the bestial howl had dissipated, the turret was turning and the Traitor Marine had whipped the pintle-mounted heavy bolter around.

'Weapons free.'

Lividus' voice was dead calm.

Vertis felt the bolter scream with exhilaration as the sear disengaged. A burst of five rounds raked the figure in the hatch, taking him in the pauldrons, the neck and back of the head. He let loose with another burst just as the the tank exploded in a ball of fire. Lagus' missile struck the engine and fuel compartment, blowing the tank all over the highway. The wreckage continued to burn with flames that bore an unnatural shade of pink and purple in addition to their natural colors.

Bolter rounds ripped through the men jumping off and spilling out of the chimeras. Vertis turned his attention to the two armored personnel carriers and saw Lividus emerge from the roadside, tossing a grenade amidst the dismounted men. Before the grenade had even exploded he was already charging the APCs together with Cadmon. Their fire tore men apart as they ran, weapons blazing all the way. Buteo and Ventus were firing as well from their positions. Vertis couldn't join his fire to theirs as Lividus and Cadmon would have been caught in his field of fire. Likewise Lagus held his fire to not hit his Brothers. One of the chimeras was tearing into a monument behind which the lascannon crew that had initiated the whole affair was hiding, its multilaser and heavy bolter shredding the stone monument. The other tried to target the charging Space Marines, but was too late turning around. Lividus' plasma pistol fired twice in quick succession and the multilaser in the turret melted away.

'For Corax,' Lividus roared as he leapt on top of the wounded chimera.

'Die, cowards! Die,' Cadmon bellowed, soaked in blood and gore as he tore into the men with his bolt pistol and chainsword.

Vertis scanned up and down the road, alert for reinforcements. He knew Lagus would be doing the same now that they couldn't fire upon the chimeras or men. In the corner of his eye he saw Lividus' power sword and plasma pistol cut through the chimera. Within moments it was a burning wreck. Meanwhile, Cadmon had cleared his way to the back of the other APC.

'Emperor's wrath upon you,' he growled as he shot the driver, gunner and vehicle commander through the open rear ramp.

As quickly as they had burst from the roadside, Lividus and Cadmon were sprinting back to where they had come from.

'On me,' Lividus voxed.

Vertis climbed through the window he had fired from and dropped to the street below. He felt the armor groan with exertion as it softened his fall. Then he sprang up and rushed over the highway to rejoin his Brothers on the other side.

'Single file,' Lividus barked as he and Lagus were the last two to arrive, 'High alert.'

They ghosted off, disappearing further into the hivecity before the enemy reaction force could catch up to them.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2010, 10:14:47 PM by Wulf »

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2010, 08:50:26 PM »
They stopped in the shadow of a hab-complex where Lividus called everyone to him. Kneeling in the shadows, he ordered individual assignments.

'Brothers, my order.'

They waited in silence, each in their own way. Cadmon, head held high and yanking at his chain, angry at the universe. Buteo, likewise raring to go, but out of zeal, not anger like Cadmon. Ventus, quiet and reluctant, eyes downcast. His whole being lacked the fire and determination characteristic of Space Marines. It seemed that the Khornate chainsword had taken away his spirit as well as his natural legs. And finally Lagus. Statuesque and detached. Almost aloof. His quiet and laconic confidence was awe-inspiring. Vertis watched them all quietly as Lividus spoke.

'Known enemy forces are an unknown force of the Emperor's Children Traitor Legion, including armor and air assets, as well as an unknown number of PDF traitors and rebel civilians.'

'Friendly forces are unknown.'

'Cadmon, your objective: the aerodrome. Priorities: enemy air assets and viability as a mass landing site for an aerial assault.'

Cadmon growled something under his breath. Vertis wondered if it was wise to send him off alone, in effect to unleash him, but on the other hand he worked best alone.

'Ventus and Buteo, your objective: Emperor's Road and Guardsman's Gate. Priorities: defences at the gate and enemy troop movements on the road. Ventus, you lead among equals.'

Ventus and Buteo were almost polar opposites. Buteo was brash and impulsive, Ventus cautious and hesitant. Buteo's zeal was the engine that drove the pair, while Ventus' caution served as their steering wheel. It was an insult to both of them, that Ventus needed someone to prod him onwards, while Buteo needed someone to keep him from getting into trouble with his reckless zeal. No doubt Lividus knew it, Vertis thought.

'Vertis, your objective: make contact with possible friendly forces. Priorities: local intelligence and estimate of friendly forces' strenght.'

He didn't know whether to feel insulted or honored. The task in itself held very little glory and was far less important than those of Cadmon, Ventus or Buteo. But on the other hand, he had only been with the squad for less than a year, yet Lividus trusted him enough to send him off alone. In the end, he nodded eagerly, acknowledging what was said.

'Lagus and I, our objective is the Governor's Palace. Priorities are structural defences and enemy strenght.'

Lagus remained passive and silent as ever. They all knew that was where the enemy's main force must have resided. It was the proverbial lion's den.

'Try not to get yourselves violated,' Cadmon groaned, looking at Lagus. His disdain for Lividus was obvious. Lagus looked back at him, then turned away without answering.

'Enough,' Lividus barked. 'Rendezvous is here, grid reference...' He continued, showing the location on his auspex. It was what looked like a hab-complex approximately the same distance from all mission areas.

'RV is at 0330 hours, six days from now. Tactical vox is on channel Gamma-Omega-Pi. Secondary channel is...'

Lividus went over the rest of the details. Vertis listened until he was finished, then waited until the others marched off. Cadmon stalked off first, disappearing down the street without a word. Buteo wished the Emperor's Blessings on all of them, to which Lividus responded that 'may the Primarch watch over you'.Ventus skulked off after him, silent and almost depressed.

Vertis stood and checked his bolter mag. He had changed a fresh one after firing on the tank, but it never hurt to be sure. The full magazine sat flush in the magazine well, waiting for action. Vertis looked up and saw Lividus looking at him. Lagus was standing to the side, watching the street.

'Go with Corax, Brother,' Lividus said softly.

'For the glory of the Primarch, Brother-Sergeant,' Vertis answered.

'Watch your back.'

'The Primarch protects,' He said before walking off. He felt a closeness to Lividus none of the others shared. Almost father-like. Stalking through the streets towards the direction the las-cannon crew had disappeared, he couldn't help but decide that he felt honored, not disrespected, by the mission given to him by the Brother-Sergeant.

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #8 on: October 20, 2010, 11:38:06 PM »
The lascannon crew had been joined by three others. Spotter, vox-operator and a sniper. Vertis watched them from a distance as they made haste away from the highway. Wise, considering the circumstances, he thought. One thing he'd have done differently would have been that he'd have chosen a shorter route of egress. Vertis listened calmly to the whine of turbojet engines while he watched the men in hazmat suits. Pursuit was underway, obviously. But not headed directly towards them. Judging by the engine noise, Valkyries and Thunderhawks were operating a standard search pattern, sweeping the area instead of heading straight for him or the men he followed.

He followed them to an abandoned trainyard, almost at the edge of the hive. They were good, he had to give them that, as they avoided detection by the air assets. The hazmat suits seemed to be fully enclosed, for they didn't give off any sort of heat signature, making tracking by thermal sight impossible, and the men knew how to utilize cover and concealment to their advantage once an air unit zoomed overhead. Likewise the sealed suits also prevented biospoor tracking as well.

But not being stalked, as Vertis followed them, keeping out of sight. As he followed them, he noted that this section of the hive was eerily quiet. There was very little activity of any kind and nothing coming close to the orgies they'd witnessed earlier.

He watched quietly as the men, six in all, two with a lascannon and battery packs, one who was obviously a commander given the way the others followed his lead, and the aforementioned spotter, vox-operator and the sniper, pried off a section of the chainlink fence and slipped inside the derelict trainyard. Vertis scanned the area quickly. There were at least two men hidden inside the yard. Security just in case of pursuit, no doubt. There wasn't much of a choice, as he couldn't find an alternate route inside without being seen, so he broke cover and rushed over to the fence, weaving and ducking to avoid being hit.

Soon after he broke cover, there was a flash from one of the hidden snipers. Vertis sidestepped just as the shot left the barrel, not consciously, but lucky for him. The laser beam streaked past, missing him by less than a step. He reacted reflexively, breaking off his run and rolling to cover, the bolter coming up as he rolled to his knees behind the wall of a hab-complex.

'Cease fire! Space Marine,' he shouted. Another shot sizzled on the rock-crete of the corner. 'Cease fire you idiot! Friendly forces!'

No more shots rang out, but he dropped to all fours and peeked around the corner lower than the shooter probably expected. Two of the men in hazmat suits were kneeling by the chainlink fence, aiming in his direction, but held their fire.

'Space Marine! Raptors chapter! Cease fire,' he repeated, 'Friendlies!'

The two men lowered their aim just slightly and one of them beckoned him out of his cover. He rose to his feet and stepped out of cover, bolter in one hand while the other made a partial sign of the aquila over his chest. The two men relaxed, their postures easing and lowered their guns. One turned backwards and shouted at this mates. Vertis jogged over to the fence and pried it off where he had seen the men detach it from the fencepost. He slipped inside and pushed the fence back into place.

The two men were the group leader and the sniper, while the others stood in the shadows of the trainyard further back.

'Flip me, it's a real Space Marine,' the leader mumbled, while the other looked at Vertis silently, 'A real flippin' Space Marine.'

'Ave Imperator,' Vertis answered, 'Battle-Brother Vertis of the Adeptus Astartes Raptors Chapter.'

The human hesitated for a moment. He seemed unsure how to adress Vertis.

'Erm... Major Lexan Draccus, Tuloni III PDF first regiment, reconnaisance battalion, first company commander. If you'd follow me, Marine, this location is about to get hot if we stay out in the open for too long.'

Vertis nodded. There was no need to tell him that the pursuit was underway. The wail of turbojet engines did that.

**********************

They slipped into the trainyard, through a maintenance hall and into a waste disposal unit. Major Draccus looked puzzledly at Vertis as they came to a draining pool for engine oil. Two of the men slipped into the run-off pipe with the lascannon. Vertis shrugged. He'd need to appease the machine spirit of his armor later, but if this was the route they had to take, then he wasn't about to complain. After all, a Space Marine never knew what kind of environment he'd have to fight in. If it was a sewage tunnels of a hive, then so be it. As he slipped into the pipe, his greatest gripe was that it was cramped. There was no room for manouevering, and his head and shoulders scraped the ceiling from time to time. Any contact here would be decided by firepower and reflexes, not by tactics or skill.

He followed major Draccus and his men into the pipe, which in turn led to central reservoir for runoff industrial waste. The everpresent toxicity warning rune in his vision grew slightly brighter as he followed the men to another pipe, then yet another and another, until after what seemed like an eternity, but was in fact a little under eight standard hours according to his Armor, they emerged from a maintenance hatch into a manofactorum. The engine halls stood vacant, aside from a number of servitors fullfilling their function or milling about mindlessly once their function had ceased to exist as the manofactorum had shut down.

Once outside, Vertis realized they were in a middle-class residential area. He followed major Draccus' men into a hab-complex and into a service elevator. Once the elevator had risen to the top floor, major Draccus led him out and into an airlock. A rolling cog-wheel door closed behind them, then there was an audible his and his Armor flashed a warning rune denoting vacuum and depressurization. A moment later, they were sprayed with what his Armor registered as hot, high-pressure water. Impressive, Vertis thought as the sprays died down and air was fed into the airlock once again, someone has considerable resources. At the same time, the toxicity warning rune dimmed and disappeared.

A second cog-wheel door rolled open and major Draccus led them into a hall washed with bright, pure white light. Vertis paused. The hall was lined with people. Most of them were cheering, but the cheers died down once he entered. A silence fell over the room. Then as soon as the silence had fallen, raucous cheering broke out. He could hear and see the Emperor being praised, people cussing, singing, backs being slapped, men and women exchanging high-fives, falling to their knees and praying, hugging, even kissing. Major Draccus screamed at them to stop, to no avail.

'Ave Imperator,' Vertis shouted, his vox-caster blasting over the cacophony. A silence fell once more. Then the crowd, fiftythree people precisely, according to his autosenses, replied as one.

'Ave Imperator!'

Vertis couldn't help but crack a slight smile underneath his helmet. The crowd stood in anticipation, while a woman stepped forward. She was beatiful, he could tell, dressed in a form-fitting bodyglove with a flak vest and a laspistol hanging at her hip. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail and her felinine features glowed with joy at the return of major Draccus and his men. An inquisitorial rosette hung from her long neck.

'Welcome back, major. You continue to amaze us time and again.' Her voice was soft, warm and gentle, but Vertis could not help but feel that there was a cold iron will behind those big green eyes. He estimated her to be around thirty, not more than forty years old physically, although with rejuvenat treatments, her actual age was quite likely well over a hundred.

'Indeed, my lady. I can hardly believe it myself,' he answered, taking off his hazmat helmet. Underneath it he was largely unremarkable, aside from the twinkle of intellect in his eyes.

'We had just missed on the Archenemy tank, and we thought we were gone for sure, when out of the clear blue, this...' he turned, pointing at Vertis, 'Space Marines. Not one, but at least five if not six. They blew up the tank and ripped through a couple of Chimeras like they were live-fire dummies. I've never seen anything like it. Less than a minute, took down a Predator tank, two Chimeras and two squads of infantry. Without a single casualty. They're monsters, I tell you.'

A murmur rose, then it was silenced by the woman. She looked up at Vertis, then offered her hand in greeting. He looked at her for a moment before making the sign of the aquila, then taking her hand. It was so tiny in his massive Power Armored fist. She looked flustered for a moment, then gathered herself before anyone could notice.

'Battle-Brother Caj Vertis of the Adeptus Astartes Raptors Chapter. Ave Imperator.'

'Ave Imperator, Battle-Brother Vertis. I am Inquisitor Loran Hasmorel. And these are my people,' she answered, tilting her head slightly. No doubt she was used to manipulating men with her beauty. It hardly impressed Vertis.

'Your people,' he asked.

'Correct, not truly my people, but many of them belong to my staff, others are loyal imperial subjects we have been lucky enough to come across and provide with shelter.'

'I take it this is your base of operations?'

'Correct. But enough of that... your being here is a blessing, Marine. This planet had almost lost hope, but now the Light of the Emperor shines upon Tuloni III once more. Tell us that we have reason to rejoice?'

'Have faith in the Emperor. His or his sons' vengeance knows no bounds,' he answered, his gauntlet caressing the bolter magclamped to his thigh.

Her face melted into a smile and she turned towards the crowd.

'Do you hear? The Fleet is coming! The Fleet and the Space Marine chapters!' The crowd broke into a wild cheer. She threw her arms up, whipping them into a frenzy. Major Draccus smiled and clapped his hands furiously. She slapped him on the back, then turned back to Vertis.

'Come, Battle-Brother. I will brief you in my quarters.'
« Last Edit: October 22, 2010, 04:02:08 PM by Wulf »

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2010, 11:17:40 PM »
Vertis followed Inquisitor Hasmorel into a cozy chamber in the back of the complex. He had no previous experience of an inquisitor's base, but what she had here indicated that she was not without resources. Multiple rooms housed an interesting mix of machinery and people. Men and women from all social classes and walks of life lingered in the hall, while more could be heard or seen attending to their duties in the adjoining rooms. There were military personnel as well as civilians. A lone Tech-Priest caught Vertis' eye among the crowd.

She opened the door with her Rosarius, stepped inside and bade him to follow. He crouched underneath the archway and stepped in. The Tech-Priest followed them, along with major Draccus.

Her chamber was luxuriously decorated, with a massive bed with silk linens, plush fur mats, velvet drapes and bookshelves full of dataslates and tomes. A mahogany desk dominated one section of the room, while the bed took up most of another. Beside the bed was an ancient recliner and a small table stacked with dataslates. She eased herself into the recliner delicately, with almost feline grace.

'Please, have a seat, Brother Vertis,' She said, gesturing for the throne-like chair behind the desk.

'I rather stand,' He answered. Major Draccus looked at him funnily, then took over the vacant chair. The Tech-Priest stood next to the door, his mechanical eyes whirring softly as the focused on Vertis.

'As you please,' She shrugged her shoulders. 'Care for refreshments?'

Vertis took one look at the bottle of amasec sitting on the desk.

'No.'

She shrugged again and looked at the major.

'Major, help yourself.'

Draccus poured himself a drink.

'Brother Vertis, before I begin, I must ask how much do you know? It would help me not waste your precious time,' She looked at him intently, no doubt appraising him, trying to formulate a plan how this conversation should proceed.

'Tell me everything, Inquisitor. Don't worry, I will interrupt if you're telling me what I already know.'

'No doubt you will,' She noted with a slight sarcastic smile. 'But before I begin, allow me to introduce my two most trusted aides. Major Draccus you've already met. And the gentleman, or gentlemachine, by the door is Lexmechanic Vederius Ord.'

'Greetings of the Cog, Astartes.'

'Omnissiah's blessings, Tech-Priest.'

'Lexmechanic Ord was, at the time of this disaster, the third highest ranking archivist of Hive Veilinridge. No doubt you can understand how valuable he has been to our cause.'

Vertis was suitably impressed. The amount of information she had acces to through him was staggering.

'The loss of information this - incident - has caused is heinous, Astartes. It is madness.' Vertis wondered if it was possible for a tech-priest to become excited, or nervous, but it seemed to him that Lexmechanic Ord was manifesting some kind of excitement, despite seemingly lacking regular human emotions. Not to mention normal human facial expressions. The vox-caster and the two bionic eyes, as well as a skull-shunt and numerous neural jacks dominated his features.

He turned back to Inquisitor Hasmorel. He didn't understand the cult of Mars enough to have a decent conversation with the tech-priest.

'Many things about this incident are heinous.'

'Indeed, Brother Vertis. Again, I ask you, how much do you know?'

'Madam, start at the beginning. What I know or do not know is part of operational security, so do not ask me again.'

There was a brief flare of emotion in her eyes, but then she relaxed in her recliner.

'Very well. I will start at the very beginning. Approximately sixteen years ago, Tuloni III sparked the interest of the Holy Ordos of the Inquisition. Inquisitor Feyd Olsevin, may the Emperor rest his soul, recorded contact with a pleasure cult in Hive Veilinridge. As far as Inquisitor Olsevin could tell, the cult seemed to be nothing major, but rather a small group of bored nobles playing decadent. Alas, while investigating the cult, Olsevin died. Or was killed. I don't think they ever reached a conclusion. Anyway, it took four years until his chief Interrogator, now the late Inquisitor Ulman Heylemans, was recognized as a full Inquisitor. He then proceeded to continue Olsevin's investigation into the cult. Until he, and that was clear as a day, was killed. That was about eight or so years ago.'

'Yeah. I was to meet with him that day,' Major Draccus noted, sipping on his amasec. He was already halfway through the glass. 'But he was ran over by a ground car while leaving the Governor's Palace. The Arbites caught the perpetrator later, which led to a few influential people being shot, but that was that.'

'Go on.'

'Heylemans' death drew my interest to Tuloni III. My master happened to be both Olsevin's and Heylemans' master as well, so I was told to go and investigate. And so, here I am.'

'Lucky you,' Draccus quipped.

'Indeed. But what I discovered was much more sinister than a simple pleasure cult. Mostly thanks to Lexmechanic Ord, I since found out that much before Olsevin's initial discovery, the ruling planetary elite became infested with Slaaneshi cults. The easy life pf Tuloni III, away from the toil and hardship most of the Imperium sees had led to depravity and perversion amongst the rich and the powerful. The Governor himself was nothing more than a sock-puppet for the cult to which he belonged. And not only the rich and the powerful. The general populace was kept in line with an iron hand, probably so that the ruling class could fulfill their every whim and need without fear of resistance.'

'What about the Arbites, the Ecclesiarchy and the PDF? And what of the Adeptus Mechanicus? Have they been corrupted as well?'

'Emotion cries out "NO". But logic dictates "yes".' The Tech-Priest spoke suddenly, cutting everyone off.

'Yes, well, things are not clear-cut, Brother Vertis. When the Children of the Em-'

'Stop! I will not have that name spoken in my presence,' Vertis snarled. 'It is a blasphemy, an insult to the dead of Istvaan V. You will not speak that name again, Inquisitor. Do I make myself clear?'

She raised an eyebrow. Here she was, with the authority to destroy worlds. Yet this one Space Marine stood right in front of her, making death threats. From anyone other than an Astartes, it would have been lunacy. From an Astartes, it was still inexcusable, but somehow understandable. She shifted her weight, a little more uneasily than before.

'Brother Vertis, while the Adeptus Astartes do not bow to the authority of the Inquisition, I would advise you to not make any more threats to my well-being from now on. Now, do we understand eachother?'

He looked at her with the arrogance of a man who knows that he could kill everyone in the room, as well as in the whole complex, by himself without real effort.

'Inquisitor, I understand that working with you helps me accomplish my mission here. I hope that you understand that blaspheming against my ancestors does not help you further your goals.'

'Indeed. I am not that familiar with Astartes history, so forgive me for my ignorance. Would you please enlighten me, as I expect to meet more of your kind in the near future, Brother Vertis?'

'The Raven Guard, the Raptors' progenitor legion were among the loyalist forces involved in what most Imperial historians refer to as the Drop Site Massacre,' Lexmechanic Ord noted, 'The Traitor Legion in question were among the opposing forces.'

She nodded.

'My condolences, Brother.'

'Shall we return to the issue at hand, Inquisitor?'

'Yes, yes. When the Traitor Legion landed, they were met with resistance by the PDF. Within days, the PDF were wiped out.'

'Unsurprising.'

Major Draccus looked sour, staring into his drink and mumbling under his breath before he poured himself another glass.

'The Adepts of the Cog, well, things aren't that simple. Evidence suggests that there must have been traitorous elements at work, but for the most, they have resisted the Traitors.'

'Site [blurp of machine code] was destroyed by the invading force yesterday. The Omnissiah weeps for the loss of knowledge,' The Tech-Priest lamented.

'That'd be the main research station,' Inquisitor Hasmorel clarified. 'There were signs of corruption within the Arbites, but that grew irrelevant when the Traitor Legionnaires' kill teams destroyed the precinct house within minutes of landing on the planet.'

'And the ecclesiarchy?'

'Part corrupted, part destroyed,' Hasmorel shrugged. She sighed and shifted her weight. 'So much death and destruction. Feels almost pointless. Draccus, if you'd please?' He filled a glass with amasec and rose, carrying it over to her before returning to his seat.

'Perhaps so. But such contemplation does not help us.'

'Yes, yes. You Astartes, so full of empathy and understanding,' she smirked mischievously, 'Makes one almost want to cuddle you.'

'This has happened in the past. What of the present,' Vertis answered, not remarkably moved by her last comment.

'The present? The populace's gone mad, the Traitor Legionnaires are running wild, hope is running out. Then you showed up.'

'How many Traitor Legionnaires?'

'Who knows? Too many. Estimates are running anywhere from a hundred to thousands. Verified intel counts at least two hundred groundside. Most of them are busy having orgies in the Governor's Palace and the noble district while others are killing the other hives and remaining Adeptus Mechanicus outposts. Some have been herding people from their habs and into the spaceport for some reason or another, but any attempts at finding out why have ended up in our operatives disappearing with the rest of the people. Probably shipped off world to the Legionnaires' starship.'

'Tell me about the toxin.'

Her eyes lit up. Apparently she wasn't talking to a rock.

'Ah, the toxin. Ord, if you'd please?'

The tech-priest lumbered over to the desk, opened a drawer and produced a thin glass tube of clear liquid.

'Molecular analysis suggests the following. The liquid in question is an organic poison, derived from Homo Sapiens specimens, most likely from the brain and the reproductive organs and distilled in conjunction with other fluids, many of which are unknown or classified as heretical by the Inquisition. Molecular analysis fails to answer some aspects of the sample, suggesting influence of the [blurp of machine code]. Clinical analysis of victims suggests that the toxin in question a psychotropic neurotoxin. Known symptoms include...'

'The short version is that it's a nerve poison, spread by the Traitors both in an airborne aerosol form and liquid form through the water supply system. Causes people to lose all control, until everyone acts on their every wish and whim,' Hasmorel cut off the Tech-Priest. 'In case you don't speak machine code, we suspect it's warp-tainted.'

'I see. The strategic implications are obvious.'

'Indeed. If we could strike at the Waterworks and the air field, and destroy the toxin reserves, we might, just might, be able to bring back some semblace of sanity to this planet.'

Offline Wulf

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Re: Tuloni III incident
« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2010, 10:06:55 PM »
Vertis voxed Lividus immediately after the discussion was finished. He relayed what he had learned to Lividus and they discussed the information for quite a while.

After Lividus signed off, Vertis allowed himself a light meal and two hours of rest. When he removed the helmet, air inside the complex smelled clinical, having been filtered to avoid contamination by the toxin. The food was mostly canned goods, but it was still something. After all, they'd eaten nothing since entering the area contaminated by the toxin.

*************

He was watching inquisitor Hasmorel's intelligence section at work when a man burst into the small chamber filled with hololithic projectors, maps and computer interfaces.

'Come on, you guys need to see this!"

The men around him scrambled off their seats and out the door. He followed them, curious. People were packed into the rooms on the outer edge of the complex, peering out and up of the windows. As he approached, the crowd around one window parted. He had to lean down to look up, but once he looked up, there was no mistaking it.

The darkness above was lit by brief flashes of light and tiny shimmering specks. A spiderweb of light shimmered and faded again and again, until there was a bright, foreboding flash along the outer rim. A part of the night sky fell dark while the dance of lights continued elsewhere. The frequency of flashes seemed to gradually subside as the dance progressed, moving across the night, until there was another bright flash. A brief flurry of flashes erupted, then dwindled slowly, growing more and more distant.

Eventually, the flashes grew infrequent before they stopped altogether. People turned to look at Vertis. He ignored them and marched out of the room.

'Sir? Sir?!'

He made his way to the great hall, where people were already converging. Inquisitor Hasmorel was conferring with lexmechanic Ord and major Draccus, as well as a number of other people. Vertis didn't need to push his way through, people moved out of the way as he approached.

'Ah, Brother Vertis. Good to see you, especially now.'

'The Fleet has entered the system.'

'That much is obvious, I'd say.'

'Planetfall is imminent. What can you do to help it?'

'Major, please,' She said, nodding her head towards Lexan Draccus. The major coughed and stepped forward.

'Brother, I know what you're going to ask, but...'

He took a long pause. Vertis waited, silent and unmoving, waiting for the obviously nervous major to continue.

'We don't have the manpower to take any significant target. We could mount some sort of a diversionary attack, but chances are that we'd be overrun before we could make a difference. Our best option is to provide the relief force with local intelligence.'

'I see. Inquisitor, you spoke of the aerodrome and the waterworks. What of those?'

'Brother Vertis, I have to ask, how many of your brethren are there, planetside, and would they fight alongside us?'

'That information, Inquisitor, is classified due to operational security. Whether we fight at your side is not my decision.'

She crossed her arms at her chest.

'I see.'

She looked around the hall, at her people, and sighed.

'The aerodrome is too heavily defended, from what I understand.'

Lexan Draccus nodded emphatically.

'The waterworks, while not quite as hard a target, is still beyond our capabilities. Is that right, major?'

'Correct, my lady.'

'Enemy strength at the waterworks is..?'

'Approximately twenty Marines, plus local traitors.'

'And the location?'

'Twelve clicks east of the Hive edge. The waterworks is on a dam on river Veilin. In the middle of the dam. The dam itself is wide enough to drive armor across, although it's a moot point, since we don't have any. There are security checkpoints and air defence installations at both ends of the dam, but for the most part it's a civilian structure.'

'Interesting. One more thing...'

'Yes?'

'Inquisitor, is there any idea how long the effects of the toxin last?'

'Well,  judging by the fact that the Traitors' spray the Hive every two days, I'd say a little over 48 hours.'

'Thank you, Inquisitor.'

***********

The tac-vox was alive with traffic. Cadmon reported pretty much the same as major Draccus. The aerodrome was packed with Traitor Marines and their Thunderhawks, as well as local air forces and their Valkyries. Ventus and Buteo had reached their destination, but they had yet to reconnoiter it adequately.

'The Fleet has engaged the enemy. Brother Telsa reports that they've driven away the Traitors' battle-barge and established a blockade around the planet. Sword-class Frigates Ticonderoga and Unyielding were destroyed in the fighting.'

'The Emperor mourns the loss of lives,' Buteo stated, 'But rejoices in their devoted sacrifice.'

'Spare me,' Cadmon growled, 'Any change in orders?'

'Yes. RV is ASAP, grid Fiver-Epsilon-Gamma-Gamma-Four-Six-Six-Five-Niner-Seven. Further orders upon arrival.'

Vertis smiled partially. The grid in question was close to his location. Lividus was coming. The others were coming. He swelled with pride as he reflected on how much Lividus trusted him.

They'd strike at the waterworks.