Rogue Trader: S2: Ep11: Spent Shells Are Tax Deductible, Right?
Sliding across the polished floor, a hail of gunfire echoing around him, Pandareos smiles. Pulling himself up by the statue of a saint he finds himself behind, his eyes flicker to where his chasers are entering. For some reason they had seemed less than friendly at his greeting, never mind, two cold auto pistols had found themselves ready in his hand, and he was happy to return their “greeting”.
As he shuffled, moving between the pews that filled the area, his eyes glanced back at the gunfire torn basalt pew where he had stood but moments before. Chamber racked shotguns and the sound of hooked chains across the ground echoed once more. Easily half a dozen, with more coming it sounded like, better get started fast then before the numbers game really started to add up.
The first two scavengers looking for an easy kill loped in, converging on the point Pandareos had been at a mere moment ago. A paunchy squat predator and his ally, moving quietly in to what they hope to be an ambush. Barely restraining his laughter, Pandareos taps the barrel of his gun against the pews, allowing the noise to speak softly out around the chapel. The interlopers eyes widen, realising their mistake, turning to face their enemy. They are too slow. The air fills with cyber cherubim, angels of their coming death. Spinning out from behind his cover Pandareos fills the air with rounds, shell cases ejecting from the twin autopistols warming now in his hands. The first assailants paunch form is torn to shreds in a hail of bullets and the second spun gracefully in the air as his arm is riddled with rounds, before collapsing ungainly in a heap on the ground. Lying weeping on the floor he trys to drag the gun from his ruined hand, finally tearing it free only to find a grinning Pandareos standing over him. A bullet tears through the goons good hand and the gun bounces hand off the ground, spending its fury in the figures groin and up through his belly.
At such a sight Pandareos laughter echoes around the chamber, not even ceased by the hail of gunfire that comes through attracted by the sound. Amongst the hail of fire a single round finds its mark, or seemingly does, a blue flicker dances across the air, a small gem warms under Pandareos shift, and the bullet vanishes. It seems looting the dead does pay after all.
Two shotgun pumping narco gangers run down the side isles as two more stub firing fools come in from the sides in a pincer moment. One, firing round after round with the pistol held sideways shrieks as the casing catches in the chamber jerking his arm wildly as the weapon locks useless in his hands. Breaking out from the trap Pandareos leaps from pew to pew as he runs towards his assailants, weapons blazing with deadly fire. The pews are torn to shreds as the shotgun blasts punch giant holes under Pandareos feet, but in return his bullets leave two more ragged corpses clutching their prized shotguns as they collapse bullet ridden to the floor.
More rounds rush close past Pandareos’ running form, instead finding their mark in the centrepiece of the room, a giant stained glass partition of the Saint Druses purging Xenos of unknown nature, the bullets shattering the lower half into thousand of deadly shards.
Covering his face with his arms, Pandareos dives through moments before the entire thing collapses. Hitting the round rolling he comes up, weapons ready and spitting back through the collapsing glass, as if Druses himself was taking vengeance for the insult. The remaining two fly back, one collapsing dead into a shattered pew. The other as good as lying bleeding on the ground as his final salvo tears the skies, tearing a cyber cherubim from the heavens, collapsing torn to the ground. Finally the chambers on Pandareos’ autopistols lock back, their every round spent.
Fleeing footsteps indicate the leader has decided to depart, but what catches his attention more is the whine of a heavy stubber spinning up. Turning he sees a giant muscled figure on the pulpit, ready to unleash a storm of fire. With a click the spinning ceases, the first round locked as it enters. Looking at him with contempt Pandareos speaks “I’m going to go find a gun to kill you with. Don’t be here when I get back”
Whistling as he walks, Pandaroes moseys over to the broken forms in his wake, ignoring the frantic efforts to unjam that go on behind him. Scooping a stubber from the ground he fires a single round into the wounded fighter on the ground then turns, eyes locked down the sight at the giant facing him “Ok mate, you got 3, 2, …ah the heck with it” and lets loose another round dead centre into his chest. The giant rolls back for a moment, blood bubbling from his chest, then smiles before the heavy stubber speaks.
Diving across the ground, Pandareos slides away from the bullets that tear up the marble floor around him, sending up a hail of dust and broken stone. Scooping up a second stub pistol as he slides, he returns a volley of his own, tearing across the giant and sending his aim flying to the sky.
From the distance a scream comes “He’s just one man. Kill him. Kill him” Dozens of warriors fill the room, swinging vicious hooks and chains. A single figure steps forwards weaving his chains in lethal katas, standing proud and ready before Pandaroes, daring him to face him in single combat.
Laughing Pandareos moves to holster the pistols behind his back, pausing just as they touch the holster. “Hmm.Nah” He snaps the guns out releasing two rounds into the figure in front of him. The warrior staggers back, but still stands, looking down he touches a finger to the wound. Leaping forwards in a berserk rage he smashes Pandareos to the floor. Coughing Pandaroes rises to his hands and knees only to be sent flying by a solid kick to the chest.
Rolling with the impact Pandareos slides across the broken ground smashing into the statue he once hid behind. As his eyes flicker open again he sees a shotgun, lying just within reach. Grabbing it, he rolls back onto his shoulders before flipping up onto his feet. Ducking under the warriors charge he slams the butt of the gun into the statue breaching a round as the warriors wild swing imbeds itself into the statue. Shoving the shotgun deep under the fighters ribcage he unleashes its fury, exploding a shower of gore and broken bone ten feet in height, that splatters to the ground in front of the watching crowd.
Throwing the shotgun into the air he catches it by the pump racking another round “Aight, who’s next” he demands. Thirty plus gangers face this challenge, a spinning up heavy stubber and the leader at the edge of madness watches muttering “Yes, yes, we have you now”
Staring them down, Pandaroes becomes aware of a crunching of glass underfoot behind him. Before he can spin round a woman’s voice speaks “You got into trouble again boss?”. Recognising Marchessa’s voice he answers “Nah, they’re just admiring my ability to redecorate” A third voice joins “Panareos esse, we may need to even the odds a bit” as tall handsome man in a long dark coat steps beside him. The Player, as he is known, has joined the game. Playing a few odd notes on his slightly heavier than expected guitar the Player continues “How do you want divvy them up?”. ”Can’t let you have all the fun” Marchessa adds. “Hey I was just trying to enjoy myself before the Captain turns up again and steals all the fun”. “Well caring is sharing boss”.
“I tell you what” Pandaroes decides “I’m gunna go liberate that stubber and take them from the back, the rest are yours”. As Pandaroes leaps back to the fray, Marchessa steps forwards, unslinging a heavy bolter, as it unleashes its holy prayer of vengeance the battle joined once more
Elsewhere Aviner is deep in thought, Eldar instruments dissected in front of him, but their secrets far from his grasp. Xanatov is not answering his comms, a pity, for the execution of the xenos worry him greatly, and only the Lord Captain can put an end to them. It seems though that his study must wait for now, the attacks on Tech Priests demand his attention as much as the joys of the xeno tech.
Nestled in a hive of information he sweeps through servitor reports, pic images, accounts of attacks and the ships systems, looking for patterns. Soon he realises that the rebels are hiding in plain sight, locked down amongst the plasma storage batteries with the rebellious crew. Watching the images of his brothers held hostage, they seem huddled away from a vox transmitter like item, a mystery of unknown nature.
Tearing his eyes regretfully from this mystery, Aviner calls for a group of priests to make first contact with the group to establish the reason for this act. The bilge rat who passes for their leader, a villainous individual known as Krooker is more than happy to meet and make his demands known. “I have a list of demands, these will be met” he froths “or I shall unleash scrap code upon this ship”. Listening far away in the ship Aviner muses on the terms, but cannot see any meaning to them. “The lord Captain is illegitimate” Krooker continues “He holds not a valid warrant of trade, we demand that he returns to real space and sets back for footfall. Failure to do this will result in the release of scrap code and the death of the hostages”. Sending a burst prayer message Aviner explains what his emissaries should do next. The emissaries turn to leave, but pause asking “What proof do you have of the Lord Captains illegitimacy, and please provide supporting references, and legal precedent that would support such a decision.” Irritated Krooker barks back “I know little of your fancy ways, I just know what I have been told” Noting the reference to having being told by a third party, Aviner authorised the group to leave.
Wishing to find an alternate solution to violence, Aviner intones the holy supplications to open up a secure communication pathway to Father Kaustic. Kaustic however is in little mood for Aviners pacifistic requests, tied up as he is with the Lord Captain. Muttering something about battling for the captains soul from xenos trickery he offers instead the solution “They are heretics and traitors, open the hold to space and then burn the survivors with fire.”
Ignoring Kaustic advice Aviner attempts to prepare propaganda to pipe through into bays to foster dissent. Knowing his lack of skill in such area he contacts Godwin Blake for assistance. “Ahh, dear engine seer prime” comes Godwin’s measured tones “I am much gratified that you have been paying close attention to events as have I. I am perturbed to the absence of the lord captain – however where I do have my eyes and ears in the other areas of the ship. We must identify who the leader is and have him dealt with swiftly. Cut the head of the beast and the body will die“
Aviner interjects that he is aware of the supposed head, that being Krooker, however whilst he is the main actor he does not appear to be the initiator of the conflict. Godwin answers “I know many enemies, but the lord captain is very secretive which makes it difficult to prepare for those who wish him ill”. “I understand” comes the leaden reply from Aviners vox grills ”I will interview those who have met him and see what I can ascertain from their details. I will inform you of what I find”. After informing Godwin that a tech priest called Dargov will be his primary contact whilst Aviner is busy, he prepares to leave “I thank you for your lively conversation” Godwin states before discreetly exiting.
With the data gathered from the tech priests the situation becomes more disturbing as Aviner realises the full extent of the rebel’s plans. The vox caster is not a transmitter as originally thought, but something disturbingly familiar. Whilst similar to the schematech, it quickly becomes apparent that it is something much more unnatural and dangerous. Something ancient and forbidden. There were rumours, hidden and forbidden, harking back to the Horus heresy itself, of half the forges of Mars turning. Of a warped mechanicum. Rumours that Mars itself was lost to a scrap code that did not obey the commands of techa lingua, a living virus of code. All facets of schematech were born from that root, when Mars was taken, lost for years until the Fabricator General returned to purge it. It was this time that the Anima Chorus was born, a device that violated the boundaries between life and death, unleashing an undead army of daemonic infested bodies. It is this that infects the heart of the Vengeance of Saint Druses.
With the danger realised, Aviner sends a short message requesting Blake meets him in person. With such heretical tech on board he cannot be sure that the communication systems have not been violated. As they meet Godwin enquires “Lord engine seer, may I ask the urgency of your request?. Aviner looks distracted for a moment. Whilst seemingly non formidable in his chosen cover grab of a mid level officer, Godwin has concealed upon his person many weapons tucked away in ruffled sleeves, or in one case secreted in an intricate ring. Breaking from this, Aviner explains the situation, and potential ways to try and resolve it.
Since they need to drop back into real space to get their bearing s soon, they agree that it would be easy to give the impression of giving in to their demands, which would buy some time. Aviner pauses “They used electrical pulse weaponry against my brothers, if we could lure them out and capture it, such weaponry would be useful against the device if our plans were to go wrong. Would you be capable of giving the impression that there is a group of tech priests that would be an easy target?” Godwin affirms, and asks if he would be allowed to use the teleportarium for part of plan. Aviner concedes, but insists that he be made fully aware of the plan, the risk of heretical tech infection is high and he is bound to ensure that the machine spirits have a high probability of remaining sanctified and pure.
The plan is then finalised, return to real space and pretend to concede to their demands, providing them with food altered with slow acting sedative chems. Lure out a group to ambush and recover pulse weaponry from for the assault on the heretical machine. Use the teleportarium to remove the leader, and destroy whatever device he has to control the machine, whilst tech priests enter to destroy the machine with pulse weapons and ensure the safety of the hostages.
The first parts are accomplished easily. The highly trained guards, under the cover of a group of Tech Priests capture and execute the traitors, retrieving their weapons. Estiban allows the ship to return to real space, spilling back from the warp.
It is here that things start to go askew. Pandareos, recovered from the incident at the cathedral, detects a quiet signal echoing in the vacuum of space. Unable to decode it he flags it up to Aviner, who sits entranced by its complex protection, unable to solve its mysteries until inspiration hits and he compares it to the archives on fallen Tech Priests who have used schematech. Finally the signal is recognised, it is a fully operational probe that pre dates the discovery of the expanse by thousands of years. Its message is simple; investigation of this probe is proscribed by Mars itself, the work of a heretical priest of great infamy. To go further would risk being punished by the full weight of the Adeptus Mechanicum.
To Aviner’s mind it can be no coincidence that this arrives when they are faced already by such technology of fallen nature on their craft. To investigate it could be against all the Adeptus Mechanicum stands for.
To not investigate it could allow a heresy beyond doubt, the Anima Chorus to live again.
Or is that just what he tells himself to justify what he will now do.