Rogue Trader S2 EP9: Did We Mention We Have Space Marines?
Into the dim light of Footfall returns the Rogue Traders, but this time with a new fire in their eyes. Lust for power and prestige fuels them, and the distrust simmers behind guarded eyes.
Held aloft solely by the Stimms running through his system, Xanatov waits quietly, steadied discreetly by a stoic Victrix, the least shaken of the crowd by the nights events. For she who has stood before the emperor, the witches theatrics were like candle before a supernova. Aviner quietly avoids the crowd, reciting the runes of activation to restore the shields to his mind as he radios for Pandaroes to come quickly before distrust breaks into open violence.
Sun Li steps forwards, motioning for peace. Xanatovs eyes immediately take in her exquisite jade power armour, and pre imperial power sword, assessing value and threat as one. As Sun Li speaks, his vision clouds, lost in an insight of source unknown. The forge master working the blade, a golden figure, towering in golden light and smooth golden armour lays his touch upon the blade, bare handed but unburnt. Waves of power ripple off, but his face is unseeable. Victrix’s gasp wrenches Xanatov back to the present, her shocked face showing that she saw his vision, and its meaning.
Any discussion is cut off by Sun Li’s words “I do not need to tell the obvious to any of my esteemed brothers and sisters. We know the prize, and we would kill any number to be the only one to claim the dread pearl” Whilst Bastille nods, Able Garret steps forwards to object. “Would you consider we would betray each other, when we would do better to work together?” he questions. Sun Li raises an eyebrow at this interruption. The individual, white painted face, duelling jacket and tied back hair, rapier at side, makes his statement seem even odder.
The large barely sentient thug with pretension of gentile behaviour known as Scourge is less polite. Laughing with disdain, he dismisses the idealistic fellow with a wave of his plasma weapon. With crisp clear tones Garret warns him that if he insults him again then he will challenge and kill him. “Are you challenging me whelp?” comes the astonished reply. “If you insult me again, yes”. As the two rise their heckles ready to duel Krawkin Feckwad sidles from the shadows, interrupting their words “This is profiting us nothing, we all know the other legions of troops, and maybe I’m playing my hand, but we know of my assassins right now. The first person who pulls a gun on me or mine dies, then everyone else.” The other Rogue Traders, slowly move to try and extricate themselves, with bluff and threat moving back and forth between them all.
In the confusion, Aviner alerts everyone that Pandareos is ready and waiting. Unable to resist, Xanatov flashes a mocking smile at Krawkin as he departs. ”Any time son anytime” Krawkin croones. “Maybe next time without your entourage” smiles the Lord Captain. “How is your ship” comes Sire Parcifals mocking cry. ” “I believe its recently received the blessing of a group of space marines” comes the answer, silencing the room “You would do well to remember that”
Boarding the Fury pattern Interceptor, a final comms message comes to the Captain, Sun Li’s measured tones voc “Remember lord captain, you are now just a competition to me”. “I am very much aware, but there are many competitors for both of us” Xanatov recognises. Measuring each other Sun Li offers “You play an interesting game lord captain, I move to see it continue- though only one can have the prize, we may have an alliance until we have to part ways”
With that the Interceptor roars to life, returning to the haven of the Vengeance of Saint Druses. Made whole once more, the ship gleams with life, light and dedications to the Lord Emperor. An immaculate statue of Saint Druses watches out over the crew, and the hellish glow of the red star shimmers across its bow. Eyes filled with wonder Pandareos speaks “Soon back in the void, back where we can play by our own rules” A wicked smile returns to his lips as the craft passes past the new weapon batteries that hunger for war, past battalions of tech priests visible through arching view screen as they perform benedictions of preparation, past Caustic as he preaches fire and brimstone” You shall not let the Lord Captain down, you shall not or you shall burn”. Through the void of space Caustic eyes seem impossibly to match with the Lord Captains as the craft prepares to board.
Without any further incident the Interceptor is guided by Pandareos’ capable hands to a smooth landing within the ship. A disappointed frown crosses his lips “Ya know, not one of those Traders tried to take a cheap shot on the way out, I’m disappointed”. In reply to this comment the ship rocks as explosion rock its bows “Now that’s what I’m talking about”, with indecent glee the Void Master leaps from the craft sprinting for battle stations.
Sensors quickly identify the situation, the space docks are opening up with hundreds of smaller weapons, “This is what you get for not paying your dues rogue trader”. The extorting dock hands gloat over the airwaves, to everyone disbelief. Aviner quickly identifies the source of the signal, centring in the docks.
“Thank you sirs, I’ve been needing to blow off some steam, so make your peace, get a lady but make it fast, cos ye ain’t got much time left” Pandareos chatters down the comms as the craft slowly takes to the air. Reaching safe distance void shields and weapons slowly raise as the behemoth readies its revenge. Xanatov pauses, considering a more personal revenge, to bring those before him and humble them before killing them, to ruin them with the drusians or the assassins. A hundred horrid fates leave his lips, but finally he settles on the simplest route. “Give them a broadside” he speaks to Pandareos’ great cheer.
The parchment order for the holy destruction is triple signed, carried the length of its journey upon a velvet mount. Checked and sealed with its purity recorded, each letter scribed once more for posterity, before the order is placed upon the wall, hung upon a thick layer of ever order given. The sacred ritual complete, the weapons unleash their vengeance. The docks split as if sundered by a vengeful god, thousands of souls, fried crushed or flash frozen as they spill into space.
Angry messages fill the airways immediately, but the most important message comes from the Leige of Footfall “I fear the asteroid seems to have got in the way of your weapon testing, I apologise and offer to replace your precious weapons lost”. Smiling Xanatov addresses the crew “Let them hate, so long as they fear” and with that the craft starts out to the stars
They are not alone, each Rogue Traders craft travels the same journey, the threats and deals as numerous as ever. Krawkin fills the air with threats and slights to the Captain, crowing over what it must have felt like to have the bolter shell rips his guts, and insinuating indecent deals with Eldar gods for his survival. Parfical bombards the craft with screams and the begging agony of the last confessions of captured crew members, but none but the highest command hear these morale destroying messages as Aviner blocks their attempts to broadcast the messages within the ship.
Eventually a message comes which Aviner considers worth the Captains ears, and so Bastille and Xanatov speak. “Turn Back” Bastille speaks “Your run your ship like a war fleet – have you trained in the navy?”. “Its no secret” Xanatov answers. “Then you are well aware that I have a superior ship, that you would be hard pressed if we conflict” After pausing to let that sink in Bastille continues “If you will not disengage, you must be worthwhile as an ally”
Over secure comms Pandareos’ outraged voice speaks “Aight, I’m getting a tad pissed off with this pompous idiot, how about ye point out if he better not make himself worth us paying attention to before we decide he’s worth calling Deathwatch on, ye feel me?”. Smiling Xanatov answers Bastille “We may not have equivalent in crafts but we have…other assets, and I am not one to go quietly.” Before the Trader can reply, Xanatov cuts the communication
Next is Sun Li, as always with a display of grace and strength she sits addressing the Lord Captain ”Lord a captain, a pleasure to see you, I would invite for tea. But I fear the distance between us is ”stellar”” and we have a bigger distance ahead of us” After a short discussion of the Rogue Traders facing them Li asks “What of Sire Parcifal and his ilk?”. “Sire Parcifal, he is one of the many corrupted spawn that shared the progeny of the heretical lord captain”. Surprised by the honesty Sun Li thanks him adding “It seems he is a cancer we must remove then”. As the communication ends Xanatov asks Aviner if the communication was secured. Replying affirmative Aviner notes that next time it would be best to ask that before taking the message.
Out in the cold depths of space the battle is heating up, with a skirmish between Scourge and Garret interrupted by Krawkin taking advantage with a broadside before disappearing once more. Alert Pandareos watches for Krawkins return, happily willing to sell him out to those he wishes to ambush. Deals are made and broken in moments, it seems none but Xanatov and Sun Li manage to build anything resembling a stable alliance.
A call comes out to Xanatov, Victrix and Aviner. The ships navigator wishes to confer with them. His cultured tones explain that he needs to perform a rite to establish more accurate co-ordinates from what the seven witches implanted in their mind. As Xanatov leads, he addresses a senior officer informing him that he is in charge in his absence. Seeing Pandareos annoyed expression he comments “ I need you as an observer, you’re a better pilot than you are a captain. “Ay, I’m the best pilot” comes the reply. “exactly” Xantov replies as he leaves the irritated void master
Deep in a secured area of the ship, the Navigator Estiban Yeshar sits, a thousand candles lit in his chamber hewn from marble and granite. His long thin fingers preparing tubes of hallucination inducing herbs “I have prepared the ritual, I will have to know exactly what was revealed to you. The journey will be hard, many things will be seen, and faced.” Xanatov smiles “I can already tell you are wiser than your predecessor”. Bowing Estiban replies cautiously “Yes, I can still feel his taint around me”
Cautiously they sit in a circle, the pipes between them “This will prepare your mind for the journeys ahead” Estiban speaks. Aviner is the first to try, with seeming no affect.
Gunfire rages above, A cold hand pushes Aviner down forcefully. Rising from his hands and knees Aviner matches eyes with a young Sente, emblazoned in gang colours and automatic shotgun in hand “GET DOWN.” She shouts “Do you want a damn bolter shell in your head”
Xanatov and Victrix watch in the navigators room as Aviner sits, staring blankly into space. Estiban speaks “He is there, but you must hurry, he will be in danger”
Victrix weeps, tired and almost broken, iron collar weighing on her neck, acupuncture needles riddled across her skin. Around her are the masses, aspirants huddled together under a billion cherubim chanting hymns to the lord emperor. With a start she realises, this is the ancient hive of Terra itself.
Silk like chains strung through his muscles, Xanatov hangs, skin peeled back, agony wracking his body as a leering flensed face carves runes upon the underside of his skin. Below a face watches that was not here before, Sigmund’s body lies tattered and torn, but his face still smiles, watching and sated in Xanatovs agony. With each scream, the ex lord captains ruined body grows back more.
Steam hisses from above as the young Sente pulls Aviner along, miles below the sprawling metal hives. Gunfire and screams echo down from above. A figure filled with bolt and covered in tattoos leaps down, swinging at Aviner. The gangers blow does not fall though as his head shatter from a point blank shot that erupts from Sentes weapon. “How did you survive before you met me” she wonders out loud. Still lost in this timescape Aviner mumbles “don’t worry, I’ll learn eventually”. Tilting her head Sente adds “You look good with tech, care to take a look at our weapons if we survive this?”. “That would be good” comes the honestly happy reply.
The happiness cannot last long. Estiban voice murmurs from out if view “Don’t linger, come with me”. Still entranced by the view of Sente without the agony of the daemon weighing upon her Aviner does not respond, instead committing to weak flesh memory this sight that he will not gain again.
Estiban warning is not without merit as a golden light burns out from within the Sente shell, fire roaring in her hollowed eyes and behind filed teeth. An impossibly beautiful figure hovers over her, the figure seen before on Hesh as it protected them from the eruption of a dying Imperator Titan, a figure that drove them to madness.
With the precious memory shattered, finally Aviner flees, throwing his hulking form through the underground tunnels with grim desperation.
The flight is short for the moment shifts, a giant plaza cast to shadow by the ancient hive building reaching for the jet black pollution ridden sky. Millions parade through this vista towards a colossus shrine under the imperial eagle, watched over by god machines of unknown patterns, emblazoned in gold.
Estiban voice speaks again “You are fortunate, permitted to see this place shown to only a select few, the emperors palace on holy Terra”. Aviner’s eye is however drawn to Victrix huddling form, and the shadowy figures that move through this dream land towards her, the golden mans ways echoing in their steps. As Aviner rushes towards her the crowd parts easily before his bulk, Esiban following is his wake. “This isn’t real” Estiban says “look at the shard of the emperor within, you are our only way out”. As if woken from a dream Victrix rises, walking above the crowd, dispelling this illusionary world and creating her own path rather than following its winding rules, guided only be Estiban’s advice “Now we must find lord captain, for I fear they feed on his soul”
Xanatov remains hanging in the moment between life and death, false memories of heresy and thoughts that tear at his very self are breaking his mind. Sigmund rises from the floor, near whole from a glut of fear agony and humiliation, his mouth yawning impossibly wide ready to continue his fest upon Xanatov flesh, as the golden figure approaches.
To the vision of the agony Victrix appears. With an inferno of power she breaks through the false walls, tearing apart this tableau and shredding its false images. Xanatov rasps with remembered pain, his hand dug deep into the chambers floor as Estiban’s quarters reforms around him. The navigator himself collapses back, covered in a sticky sheen of sweat. Rising he speaks “Thank you, I know where we must go. Thank you for showing me him” Then he addresses Aviner, Victrix and Xanatov in turn. “Thank you for showing me your depths of humanity, thanks for showing me your fortitude of will, and thank you for showing me your courage”. ” I have seen many horrors, but thanks to you all, I have seen the god emperor and I am changed.” With those last works he slumps once more
Quiet contemplation passes between the three who shared the dream world, the three who saw Xanatovs hidden secret and pain. Xanatov holds himself in painful check, unwilling to show the slightest recognition of what came before. After agonising moments he stands “I’m need on the bridge” and departs their gaze. We can begin the journey when you are ready”.
What has been seen cannot make them have unseen, but he will not fall, for he is the Lord Captain, the Rogue Trader, for he is Xanatov.