Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader: S2:Ep5: First Blood
Godwyns day was not to be the best he had had, less than twenty four hours until the auction and everyone was quiet. Maybe it was because he had to keep it discreet , but not a damn thing had turned up. Well that’s not entirely true, some of the people he had been talking to turned up again in pieces. He had known someone had been watching but this was something else entirely.
It was better at least than those who had just disappeared entirely; parts left a trail to follow. He had the pic recording of the marks, the strange inhuman marks that had been etched upon them. He didn’t know what they signified but they were all he had for now.
It was time to let Xantov know that less subtle methods were going to be necessary.
From orbit Xanatov watched the clustered asteroids of footfall with a detached air. Through the vista screen he could see bursts of light flash across footfall, tiny markers of where doors explode in and half asleep figures are dragged out to the street.
Moments later the information starts feeding through, ancient machines etching the findings in gothic text. It seems that the bidders to be have left some trails after all.
Able Gerrice, a scion of the eastern fringe and captain of the Maxims Gambit, a small light raider. Despite his attitude, he is not a Rogue Trader, being 100th in line for his dynasty. Whilst he is reputed to have a lot of influence in the eastern area, here he is out influenced and out gunned. Repeatable an honourable and fair combatant, he intends to offer an item known as the “Palace Of Moonlight” at the auction.
Jeremiah Blitz of the Lunar Class “The Ordained Destiny” has left trails as well, it seems he intends to offer a series of mummified remains, though more information is unavailable on this unusual bid.
Basteel the 7the seem to not even try and hide his trail, his reputation for bombarding planets mercilessly before even offering the chance to surrender, his career in the Imperial Navy, and the fact his entire family died in a Vortex Torpedo accident, granting him Rogue Trader status, is enough to warn any who think to get on his wrong side. His offer is to be co-ordinates of a prior unknown station of passage through the maw.
Finally a new entrant is found Madam Charabelle, charter captain of the cargo ship: “Grace of sopha”. Well educated and cultured, she nonetheless runs her ship with an Iron fist. Her offer is as yet unknown.
The information at hand, Xanatov turns to working out the odds on the bids, as Pandareos offers a plan. Spread rumours of rival Rogue Traders in the bidding having gained access to the foretelling and so set the traders upon each other, leaving the survivors weakened an open to attack for what riches they carry for the auction.
Aviner steps out onto footfall alongside his Lord Captain, quietly watching the darkened streets of Footfall at night. Even to his uneducated eyes it is obvious that the predators roam. Movements in the shadows hint at the Narco gangs that stalk the streets, and the night markets trade warp dream stones and more, hinting at illicit wonders for the right price. From the battle circles bloodthirsty howls rise, and screams of “Blood for the blood god”. No one intervenes, not at night.
The relative safety of the Obsidian Emporium is nearly in sight, when Pandareos’ voice chips over the comms. ”Hey, you got a group of Narco gangers at your six, carrying knives, and looks like combat drugged up. Want me to intervene?” Pandareos has been holding back, trying not to be openly associated with the captain considering his pirate influenced ways.
Marchessa and Frag feed forwards at Pandaroes orders. Eager for the fight they set up in alleyways either side, ready for an ambush. As they drop into position Aviner and Xanatov notice more gangers coming down from all directions surrounding them. Large mutated figures walk amongst them, the lead figure mockingly greats the Lord Captain “A moment of your time?”
The next moments freeze into snapshots in memory, a blur that is all that can be seen of Xanatov drawing his inferno pistol and the explosion of the leaders leg into burning plasm. A spark from the distance as Pandareos duelling pistol speaks, exploding a mutant into bloody chunks. As the Nacro gangers try to retaliate Pandaroes raises the bolt pistol in his other hand, casually cutting another two down. Marchess and Frag spring from the shadows, and the lord captain continues his ferocious inferno fire, turning the ovcersized ganger into a blazing candle.
Ignoring Xanatov warning for them to halt, the gangers break and run before they even start, and are cut down for their troubles. Finding a ganger still living, if barely, Xanatov leans down to hear his bloodied whisper “the boss said that you’d be easy”. With disturbing nonchalance, Xnatov slits a fresh wound into the dying gangers skin and forces his steel baton within – “Who do you work for?”. It doesn’t take long to get a name – Crawken Feckwad, the hated slaver who Pandaroes had framed for his actions. Satisfied Xanatov turns away as Pandaroes puts the ganger out of his misery with a vicious kerb stomp.
With the rest fallen back to the shadows again Xanatov and Aviner continue on to the auction with no further issue until they find themselves in front of the entrance, a vast portal carved from volcanic glass. Giant mutated creatures loom on either side, flesh slothing from their grotesque forms as they lower gargantuan halberd like weapons to block the travellers path. After a tense moment they nod, and adamantine doors swing open to let the two within.
Switching to a coded tongue known only to the Rogue Traders personal retinue the two look across the darkened cavern, littered with ruined rusted devices of broken forlorn machine spirits, lit only by the numerous servo skulls that roam the area.
It seems amongst the hord of charter captains and hopefuls a few significant players exist, most notably the Rogue Traders already encountered and identified, including Sire Parcefal, who seems unwilling to continue his vendetta openly at this time.
In the midst of a group, including a disdainful Basteel to one side in full uniform, and Jeremiah fleecing a few marks at cards, Xanatov recognises Sun Li, a flowing scabbard blade by her side. Smiling he approaches, only to be blocked momentarily by her guards until she nods approval for him to come closer. Recognising the obvious gamesmanship involved in the display Xanatov complements her on the move. After a short discussion, Sun Li praises Aviners skills as a tech priest, and hints at potential employment. Uncomfortable with the social nuances Aviner politely thanks her, before allowing Xanatov to take the helm of the conversation. Li smiles and speaks “I do look forwards to discussion after, and the continuation of our burgeoning friendship.” With an expressionless face Xanatov responds “the current situation are not conducive to such, for do not forget we are in competition today”. Li looks somewhat put out by the brusque brush off, and replies cuttingly that with such a statement the captain has shown himself ill suited for the position he has found himself in.
Unaware of the social weaving behind him Aviner immerses himself in greeting the machine spirits of the servo skulls around him, but beyond basic respect and adoration for the machine spirit he also weaves a bond with them, sharing their senses to gain a network of spies amongst the gathered bidders. More than that he recognises he is not alone, some heretical thug has crudely patched into their spirits to watch similarly. Angered at this blasphemy but unwilling to tip his hand, Aviner sets responses ready to break the heretechs conduit to the skulls.
A large figure shuffling through the mounting crowd signals that the games are afoot. From out of the hood stares a bovine like skull, covered in input sockets – it seems this being known as the ”The Intercessor” shall be in charge of the proceedings tonight. Cables drop down from the ceiling and entwine the figure, mounting the sockets and lifting him up to the pinnacle of the lectern, where he perches with his rusting metal limbs, ready to adjudicate the bidding
Immediately a blurted cry of “a thousand thrones” hits the air, silence follows as the unfortunate bidder is beaten within an inch of his life and thrown out onto the street for his decision. As Aviner surveys the bids through his hundred electronic eyes he realises most are bidding mere money and material things. When Xanatov is told he knows this is not the way to go – the witches value that which matters to them, the spiritual and the psychic, that which grant power.
Finally the first successful bid is received, Basteels offer of co-ordinates finds the Intercessors favour.
The next bidder, a painted popinjay of a charter Captain, is far less lucky in many ways. Bidding an inherited rank of colonel in chief 23 militia (the valaxide militia) does not gain him the response he wished for as both he and his brightly coloured friends are beaten to a pulp and thrown to the streets outside. This unfortunately is not the end of the indignities heaped upon them. The unfortunate fellow is helped to his feet by a smiling fellow of void born birth, who pours a cheeky vintage of amsec down his throat to calm his nerves. Whilst listening to the battered bidders woes and outrage, the seeming good Samaritan lifts the title of rank from the injured individual without anyone the wiser. His theft complete he shows the grateful group an alleyway they can wait in whilst he goes for help. As the sounds of mugging and murder rise from the alley he had directed them to Pandareos laughs at another job well done.
Back in the Auction room Xanatov finally commits his bid, the Eldar Gate that has been a threat to security in the hold of the Vengeance. The bidding is harsh, but with canny calls, Xanatov finds his bid approved. They shall be present at the foretelling.
As they turn to leave successful Aviner requests a moment. With a silent prayer to the servo skulls that have aided him, he requests their interjection, to identify those that have despoiled them with their ignorant touch. Moments later Gabriel’s voice rings out over the comms. A signal with Aviners signature has just broadcast from the other side of the settlement, from the unknown ship that falsely identifies itself as the Measured Response, and known to the crew of the Vengeance by its nickname of The Void Wasp”. After the calls to immediately strike back die down, a calmer call reigns it in. It seems likely this is the home of all those that are conspiring against the Rogue Trader, and to strike blind would be suicide. Biding their time, Aviner speaks to the crafts machine spirit, ensuring that it will grant him free access to their systems in the future – whenever they choose to strike on their terms.
Waiting outside, Pandareos speaks with the captain, offering his stolen document of rank over if the Captain wishes it, but speaking a preference to keep it, as who knows when it may be a useful bribe. Pausing on a private channel to speak with Gabriel, Xanatov asks for his view of the division. It seems from Gabriel’s cutting response that the division is a band of wastrels and spoilt nobles worthy only of use for target practise. With a sly smile, Xanatov returns to Pandaroes ands tells him to keep the rank and to bring the group on board, Gabriel has said that they are a legendry band and that he would have an important use for them on the ship. Confused Pandareos agrees, before returning to watching the traders as they leave the auctions.
With the Rogue Traders not making themselves vulnerable, Pandareos turns to a new plan, loose a bit of gossip to the criminal element on what the Rogue Traders are carrying and wait for the inevitable attacks, at the very least it should give a bit of information of the defences the traders have.
It all seemed fine in theory.
A three way Mexican standoff with Pandareos, Marchessa and Frag on one side, and two groups of rival crimanal bounty hunters on the other shows that practise is somewhat different. With two shotgun barrels pointing down at his pride and joy Pandaroes tries to weave his way with words to get them out of this but to no avail. It seems the only debate is between those who want to take him alive, and those who want to take him dead. All that is given away is that “She” hired them to capture him.
With the seconds ticking away Pandareos spots a bulge that looks suspiciously like a frag grenade under the criminals jacket. With practised ease, Pandaroes slips his hand under to pull the pin, when his arm snags upon the gangers jacket, alerting him.
The moment explodes. Pandareos drops backwards away from the twin shotgun blasts , his bolt pistol barking a response as Frags knife slits the throat of another, covering the area with a crimson shower before her head is taken in turn by a point blank blast.
With a howl of rage, Pandareos launches himself too late at her killer, plunging his pistol deep into the assailants ribs and exploding his ribcage open with explosive fury that rips through the unfortunate figure and mutilating the ganger behind him.
It is but moments before Machessa and Pandaroes fire sweeps away all of those who hunted, mowing them down in a burst of vengeance. But as the spent bullet shells still, Frags body remains. With cold anger Pandareos and Marchessa turn upon the one wounded figure left behind.
Gabriel and Xantov arrive scant moments later, murder servitors in tow to find the two figures, covered from head to toe in gore, a ruined figure of the final ganger now lying still in their wake. Pandaroes, slumped against the wall, a hole punched through it it a fit of rage, Marchessa still stands, shouting at the world for someone to face her.
As Xanatov tries to talk down Marchessa she turns on him, rage still flowing. Pandaroes speaks quietly “Don’t blame him, it was my plan, my fault”. Marchessa hisses “Don’t you speak to me, you and I aren’t on friendly terms” before storming into the night.
In the still air, Pandareos gives a last prayer to the emperor for Frag as Gabriel laments. “We lost two good people today, it’s not right, losing them to scum like this. This place is just a breeding ground, it doesn’t matter how many we cut down”
Eventually Xanatov as turns to start slowly walk back to the Ship, Pandaroes speaks “I think I’ve done enough damage, don’t you think, Captain, ya want me to do something, tell me, otherwise I’m not getting anyone else killed” Lifting Frags body onto his shoulders he adds “This will be my burden to carry for now”
Quietly Gabriel replies ”I think she will be your burden for a lot longer than that”
And only silence answers as they walk through the darkness.