Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader: S2 EP 10: Fightin’ an Lootin’, Its the Imperium Way.
Still shaken by having his hidden suffering at the hands of the Eldar exposed, Xanatov storms from the navigators room, seeking the solitude of his gravity free chamber. Unsure of how to deal with the very human pain of what has just occurred, Aviner holds, storing his recent memories to trustworthy machine then rises. “Victrix, we are needed at the bridge” he intones.
Victrix, a veteran of the tides of the warp is already deep in conversation with the navigator. Of the group, she is most aware of the dangers they have just faced, the fact that their thoughts have just skimmed the warp adrift amongst the predators of the darkness. She is also aware that it was her and the navigator’s strength that held back those forces and so she shows no fear at the knowledge. With a curt nod she acknowledges Aviners request and heads for the bridge.
The bridge is no place of safety that they head to as chaos breaks loose. Red light and klaxons fill the craft. War spirits readying as anarchy claims the bridge for a moment. The appointed head of the ship is unable to keep calm, resulting in many a sarcastic comment from an insubordinate Pandareos. Calling up the holo images of the swirling space around them, Pandareos’ eyes roam seeking danger, or an opportunity to play. Xanatov storms onto the bridge, reclaiming his control as Pandareos magnifies closer and closer into a seemingly empty area. His eyes narrow as he recognises the distinctive flash of macro battery fire. Humming a cheery imperial war chant, he watches as inordinate piles of munitions are expended, seemingly into empty space.
The craft is “The grace of Sopha” Imperial Vagabond trailer for a rival Rogue trader – Madam Charlebelle, a trader of which they know little barring her appearance at the dinner with a Harlequins kiss and charming manner. A sucker for a pretty face, Pandareos looks for an excuse to intervene, but the augury readings shift, unable to lock on the assailants. With a smile Pandareos realises what they face “Lord Captain, requesting permission to join in, looks like she’s dancing with xenos” he pauses before dropping the word which will embroil them in the conflict for sure “Eldar”.
With a look of rage Xanatov turns to the gunner “If the guns aren’t ready to fire by the time I look at you again I will have you shot” he barks, before answering the Sophos’ distress comms. The holo image raises, giving a rare glimpse into the Sophos, angels of death overhand the walls and cherubim fly above as shock troops fly above, a ship ruled with an iron fist contrary to the outgoing manner the Rogue Trader normally affects.
Now Charlebelle hides none of her fury, thanking the Lord Captain for his answer she quickly details what they face, a single ship of which they are unable to lock onto. At Xanatovs response she sends their spare augury information. As it comes across Xanatov pales, still partially lost in his past, he sees traces of an Eldar Ghost ship, a long held vision of doom and ill tidings that heralds the burning of worlds. He is shaken out of such ill vision by Pandareos laugh. “Is that all? Fast, but we’re gunna wipe the floor with it”
Preparing for the coming battle, Aviner loses himself in the rites of mechanical benediction, soothing and inflaming the ships machine spirit simultaneously. The plasma lines roar into perfect alignment and the ship tears forwards, its barely harnessed power under Pandaroes guidance more than control. The elder craft almost seems to blink from moment to moment, performing manoeuvres of alien grace. It turns on the blind side of the Vengeance ready to fire when the xenos suddenly realise they are facing directly down the ships cannon. Aboard Pandareos smiles, his risky manoeuvre has played true.
The firepower of both craft unleashes simultaneously, tearing a gash across the Eldar craft. Xanatovs laughs at the pitiful return fire that peppers the ship “I spit at their weakness” he roars to the crew cheers as they record this victory of humanity over the foul xenos.
The Eldar are not yet done. The craft leaps forwards, raking the macro batteries with their alien fire, tearing the area open to the vacuum in retaliation for the slight. The Vengeance follows hot on its heels. To the xenos shock it flies tight behind them, despite the ships seeming lumbering nature. As Pandaroes lines the ships up, Xanatov confirms his wish “Ram them” he commands, and the two craft become one momentarily as the Vengeance plunges deep into its infrastructure, nigh tearing the smaller craft apart.
Xanatov turns to the ill shaved brawler Colonel Stern who commands the guards in Gabriel’s absence. “Prepare for boarding action and go to the teleportarium” he commands. “Id be honoured to lead the charge against these Xenos filth” comes Sterns reply. As Aviner struggles with the young machine spirit, trying to hold is enthusiasm so not to spill the crew into space, Xanatov overrides his command. “No, send the murder servitors for now”. Aviner replies “I understand, we shall not send the weak flesh whilst the machine is strong”
The murder servitors do their job with clinical grace, unleashing fire upon the craft and crippling its ability to move. On the heels of this destruction Stern is unleashed to board the craft, butchering the occupants with faith and hatred, in less than half an hour, surrender is gained as the remaining xenos plead for their lives, and the spirits of those fallen.
Xanatov accepts their captains surrender personally, making him grovel before him. With them sealed safely in the hold he smiles, and orders one to be executed a day in celebration of this glorious victory. Then comes the spoils. Once the crafts webway is destroyed it is chained to the Vengeance, and its wonders captured. Xanatov and Pandaroes both take their pick of Powerswords, defensive fields, alien weapons and holo suits, whilst Aviner requests to be able to examine both the corpses and equipment for study. The vast remaining pile is moved to the holds for later profit.
As the crew turn their attentions once more to the expanse surrounding them, things seem less joyous as Charlebelle is nowhere to be seen, in her crafts place a solitary servitor reciting a single line over and over “See you at the dread pearl”. “The throning shit used us, probably set up the entire encounter” Pandareos mutters.
As the Vengeance Of Saint Druses turns back to the expanse, trying to make up for lost time, Blake and Xanatov discuss possible opportunities that may come from the executions of the Eldar. In particular, releasing a single Eldar to the crowd to kill, and set up a betting book on the nature of its death.
Meanwhile Aviner keeps watch on the recently temperamental geller field, ensuring this vital protection does not desert them before they enter the warp. They reach the edge of the system just as the navigator has confirmed the co-ordinates. The vengeance is ready to return to the race, and to the warp itself. Armour field drop over view portals to shield unprepared minds from the horrors of the warp, and Canon leads the faithful giving benediction. To Victrix’s hollow eyes, the faith of the crew, roused by victory over the hated xenos, is clear. They are proud and ready to face what may come. The portal to the hellish immaterial opens releasing terrible horrors to die in the harsh grounds of reality, and then the ship is gone.
In the cold grasp of the immaterium the ship floats, held for what will be weeks on end with no respite, but still the ships duties need attending. Aviner slaves away, building replacement cybernetic for the fallen Gabriel, and more importantly in his eyes, for Sente. As he works, his eye falls upon Sentes serene face, encased in the Stasis pods, locked in time. Upon the pod sits a whispering temptation, a dark tome. The book that has haunted the crew has returned once more. Nearly caught within its spell, Aviner rips his eyes away at the last moment, plunging his power axe into the heart of the wretched book and activating the power field. Cautiously gazing back, his axe has found nothing but air, and the book has gone once more.
Xanatovs comms chirps as Aviner speaks, slowly but still with worry showing in his vox cast voice. “The book had returned, the tome that ensnared Sigmund, My attempts to destroy it have failed and it has vanished once more. I do not know the best way to handle such things, could you find the views of our more warp knowledgeable crew ”.”I will handle it, and bring in the ecclesiarchy as well, they should be able to deal with this” Xanatov responds.
As the Lord Captain sits in his opulent meeting chamber awaiting Victrix, Estiban, Canon, and others, he sips upon his glass of red wine, and smiles at the muttered pleading for mercy that whines from the soul stone he spins. The Eldars souls suffering and pleading for its living kin a balm to Xanatov’s tortured soul.
First Caustic arrives, clothed in sack cloth and ashes, followed by an organ chested servitor, but it is Estiban who first comments on the soul stone “what a remarkable treasure my lord, but watch its whisperings” he warns. When all are present the Lord Captain starts “There is a book that was discovered by the previous incumbent captain of this vessel, a book which I believe was the epicentre of his degradation. This book was ordered destroyed, but could not be found at the time. I thought it destroyed in the fire that followed, but I have had it reported that it has returned and when Aviner tried to destroy it disappeared once more”
Estiban visibly blanches at this “Such books are not good tidings Lord Captain”. Xanatov continues “I fear this book may be found by some without the will to resist it, it may corrupt some, maybe some in the underdecks”. Caustic’s fist slams down on the table at this “That will not happen, not whilst I live”. When the commotion has died down Estiban comments once more “such book, once written are hard to cleanse, fire does well for lesser volumes, but for this we will need to take extreme measures. I fear for whoever this book haunts, for such books haunt only one or two individuals to which it has a hook, such individuals work to their own ruination for even the best reasons. Such books are not destroyed, but bound in stasis, warded and beyond, otherwise they will always return.”
Thinking Victrix interjects a comment on inquisition chapels she knows of which hold such tomes, and the inquisition who hunt them with zeal. Xanatov speaks one more “Then we contain it, and we make sure that no one member can make access alone, myself included. It would need unanimous decision, Victrix, Myself and Aviner to open it once more”. The decision made, Caustic agrees and comments that faith will be their guard in the coming weeks
Days pass, and the tome remains hidden. Aviner continues his work on bionics and Xanatov immerses himself in his spy network, seeing fights and sabotage rise upon the ship beyond what is expected. Something is sick within the ship. A sickness that finally raises its head inside the ships chapel.
Head lowered in prayer, Pandaroes does not see the battle until it is too late, gunfire suddenly opens around him, echoing within the sacred walls. EMP blast weapons burst, sending tech priests clattering to the ground, sharp toothed figured dragging them down, outnumbering them at least four to one. Pressed behind cover under the giant stain glassed window, dim without light from the stars behind it Pandaroes considers his options.
Away from the battle Xanatov realises what is happening upon the ship and contacts Colonel Stern to increase patrols and find those behind the attacks. As he gives the order, his coms crackle to life to hear Pandaros voice echo through.
Patting his pockets, Pandaros finds himself armed only with an auto pistol and lacking in armour. Cursing his wish to remain discreet at prayer, he smiles “ah the heck with it”. Stepping from behind the cover he walks smiling towards the gangers, weapon hidden behind his back, and coms open to Xanatov
Sharp toothed narco looking gangers watch him with suspicion as he approaches “Ay lets talk outside ok, and I know ya want to put a round though my skull but it’s a holy place here” Pandareos greets cheerily.
Xanatov smiles as he listens in “Cut off the chapel, deploy at the perimeter, it sounds like Pandareos is in there and establishing his own life protection procedures” “Has he pulled out the amesec yet?” Stern replies.
Hearing the comms chatter Pandaroes takes another step forwards, eyes locked with the wide pupils of the narco ganger, his patter covering the sound of a round being breeched into the autopistol. As violence is promised, deep in his throat the laughter is starting once more.
It’s time to play.