Rogue Trader: S2: E 12: The Beach, The Blood.
Blood and filth drips from the darkened walls. These marks are the only things the Eldar captain of the “Shard Of Dawn” has to set his eyes upon, the only features to keep it from the knowing darkness. But still it sits, contempt on its smiling battered face as Xanatov enter the cell once more.
Xanatov matches hate filled with eyes with the xenos, recalling the many requests from Aviner to spare this beast and all its mocking kind. He would not grant that mercy. There was no real information he wanted from this beast, just for it to break.
“What tears would you cause the goddess Isha to shed today mon key?, what new horrors would you inflict. You are broken and lost mon key” said the Eldar. Ignoring the taunts Xanatov set two boxes upon the table, the first a large incineration device, the second a sealed chest. “There are any number of things I could do to you, but that’s not what gets to you is it” Opening the chest, he reveals a pile of beautiful stones, soul stones. Pulling out a single, perfect orb he continues “I wonder if you knew this one, if there was anything you felt for it ”
“Her name was Alarion the swift, and if you had faced in battle she would have taken your head with the grace of the banshees”
Coldly Xanatov replies “Ah but we did, and she was too arrogant ,and too confident. She was surprised when she meet the blade of my chainsword. Very surprised. So I thought I’d bring her in so you could say goodbye“. With that he place the stone upon the surface of the burner, enjoying the Eldars panicking response.
“You do the work of the ruinous powers, I see her hooks and blade in your soul, your actions are the death knell of worlds. If you do this I will stop at nothing to end your life and every man on this ship”. Xanatov is pleased by the response, answering ”You would have done that anyway, give me one reason I shouldn’t do this”
Finally relenting the xenos speaks freely “There is a thing aboard this vessel human, a thing that hungers for the souls of all your men. You saw it unleashed on Footfall, the sensuous beasts. What you are about to do will feed them and make them stronger, you will be a servant of the dark prince. If you do this your fate will be eternal to you”.
Xanatov mockingly replies .”I’m just going to leave this here for moment as we chat” patting the soul stone as he speaks “We’ve had a breakthrough, your talking to me, rather than indulging in a delusion of grandeur. I don’t have to hurt you, you wouldn’t care. I could blow your brains out now, and you would smile, you are so selfless. You say you see my fate, what else have you foreseen, what am I about to do?“. “You will set your foot on the path that will take you to your eventual fate” Comes the reply.
Putting the stone to one side Xanatov asks “Do you care if you live or die”. Angered the Eldar rails against his captor “Do you know how long we live? We can live for millennia, we can remember the time your emperor walked the earth, and we are infinitely wiser than you. Death is nothing, it is inevitable, but if I can spare my kin then I will take my life and spend it well. You are nothing to me human, a brief flicker in the dark of eternity”
Lifting his gun barrel to the Xenos’ head the lord captain speaks one final time “I’m glad the recording devices are running, that will serve well as your epitaph. I tire of your company I will have to end this now. Any last words?”
“When will the scales fall from your eyes human?”
Xanatov shrugs and releases a single round through the creatures brain. Agony wrenches Xanatovs body, voices roaring in his head as his body finds the floor, and darkness engulfs him.
A perfect beech, clear crystalline sea, fish within skipping and swimming. Xanatov looks around this tranquil environ, trying to make sense of what just occurred. The Eldar captain, a female Eldar by his side watch this, speaking in their alien tongue of pity for the beasts ignorance. Slowly they realises Xanatov understands their words, and turn to him, shifting their speech to his native tongue.
“Do you realise where you stand human? This is the world that Isha saw our doom spared for ourselves, a jewel for her most favoured children. You and your kind would take it and spoil it”
“This is the world the witches showed us, we will see who destiny favours for its grasp” Xanatov says. “Do you know what this world is human?” the female Eldar continues. Shrugging once more Xanatov says “I am but ignorant human it seems”
Surprised the Eldar captain interjects “The human acknowledges his ignorance, this is a day the gods smile on us”. A cold response comes “I have no need to make myself seem better than you, I’ve face you many times , I have respect for how you conduct yourselves in battle, but do not mistake that for turning my allegiance to you”
The Eldar answers “We need not that, we just need you to content yourself with this vision and to leave, to release our kind and our vessel”. Musing Xanatov says “I am to understand you will stop us getting to this planet because it is important to you?” “You grasp the basic and obvious with adroit skill” comes the laconic reply “Your ignorance shows your inferiority. Yes this land is ours mon key, and yes we will deal with those who seek it as we see fit.”
Seeing an opportunity, Xanatov muses the possibility of releasing them, if they, say were to offer a more lucrative opportunity, much to the Eldars disgust at his base materialism. Seeing no point on further negotiation Xanatov matches their eyes and states “I give you no promises, and you do what you will now. I do reserve judgment to not visit the planet, but I will make that choice when I wish to, not at your behest”
Furious the female Eldar, leaps forwards, blade in hand and screaming to tear the skies from the earth. As the blade swings down, it is caught, a golden aquilla birthed from the heart of Xanatovs chest, ripping the blades edge.
From behind them watches a sightless figure, caught in the oneness of golden light, a light fuelled by the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands of praying masses. Then the world is torn apart
Slumped upon the ground, Xanatov feels the elder soulstone crumbling to dust in his hand. Victrix and Estiban loom over him, hands paced upon his temple. Around him the motions of the ship continue.
“How much of that was real” demands the Lord Captain. “It was all too real my lord” Estiban replies, before explaining that the Eldar Captain fell into a trace at the same time as the lord captain, and the xenos is still alive in the cells of the ship.
Colonel Stern quickly brings the Captain up to speed, explaining the rebellion and return to real space that has taken place. Knowing that he has been absent too long, Xanatov calls his trusted guard to the enginarium to discuss their next move.
Incessant binary chatter and the sound of machinery echo around the room. Tech priest chant as they attend to the sacred machines. In the centre Aviner sits, hooked up to the central core, electricity flickering from coils around him, grounding through his form. Above, the sacred signs of the omnisiah loom over those who toil to appease the machine spirits. Xanatov, Stern, Blake and Pandaroes enter this holy temple of the rigid machine. Seeing the innumerable pistols hanging in Pandareos coat Xanatov asks “Are you sure you have quite enough weapons?”. “Had a problem with running out of ammo recently, More guns, less reloading” the laughing void born replies. “Hmm, We will have to add that to the Codex” Xanatov wryly adds.
The group gather, Aviner, with Blake’s aid explains the situation of the past days and the current plans for resolving it. Assessing the situation, Xanatov suggests trying a propaganda machine run by Father Kaustic against the rebellion. With an expression that could almost be interpreted as a smile Aviner replies “I have tried this, it may come better from yourself”. Xanatovs request fares as well as Aviners, with Kaustic determined to burn the heretics, and purge the ship.
Deciding that another tack is need Xanatov adds “What about the teleportarium we could..”. Blake nods “We have that well in hand Lord Captain”. “Ah, you are ahead of me it seems, but I will beat you at Regicide my advisor. B4 to A7” Xanatov replies. Blake pales as he mentally maps the move “Good Move Lord Captain”. When the plan has been explained Xanatov nods “ A good plan, but an additional diversion would be useful. They are mutineers who will want my attention, could we arrange a meeting for negotiations. If we can rouse their interested it may distract them long enough for the plans to be set in motion. They don’t know what I look like for one so we could have someone else stand in” At this Pandaroes’ head snaps up “Ay! Am I being volunteered again?”. I thought you liked taking risks” Xanatov replies. “ I do” comes the Void Master’s reply “but I prefer to volunteer rather than being volunteered”. “Do this, and there will be drinks for all” Xanatov declares.” Enough for until I drop?” Pandareos’ smirks. “I can’t promise that, but it will be something special from my private stash” Xanatov offers. “I’m getting paid very well for letting the Captain dress me up, should I be worried?” Pandareos says to the air.
This done, the preparations start. With such confined spaces, a small elite strike group are required. Sending secret binary cants across the ship, Aviner appeals to the remnants of the cult of Solex upon the ship for their aid in this matter. The answer comes in a dark chamber nestled in the crafts heart. In the empty chamber stark beams of white light beam down on the symbols of the Omnissiah, cast down through a slowly oscillating fan above. Standing alone Aviner waits with mechanical patience, his system reporting nothing. A sudden spike of energy off the scale reports they are ready to speak as their invisibility shields drop, leaving heat haze floating in the air around them where they stand. Wearing deep black robes, bearing double headed mechanicus power axes and heavy weapons they surround the Engine Seer Prime. Stoically Aviner greets: “Initialise: Aid Request: Function: Enquiry: Parameters: Knowledge of Situation”. The reply confirms that they know the situation “Assign: Request Strike Team: Parameter One: Goal: Destroy Heterek: Parameter 2: Retrieve Hostages: Return Binary Confirm”. The confirmation comes: Yes. “Conclude: References: Locations: Maps: Timings: Potential Hazards: Communication Cease: All Praise The Omnissiah”. In less that a micro second of binary the conversation is concluded. They have their strike force.
After, Aviner meets in an isolated coms secured chamber with Xanatov. Away from prying ears he explains the dangers of the probe that has arrived nearby, the risk of banishment from the Adeptus Priesthood and possible death that may come from investigating it. Aviner explains he cannot ignore it; it may be linked to the device on the ship, but no one else must find out. With the risks agreed they set-up a quarantined area under the ruse of a biological outbreak, the area rigged with explosive and ready to be blasted into hard vacuum if Aviner fails to answer for more than ten minutes. Then, with that in place Aviner takes the probe onto the ship.
The probe communicates in banned tongue, a mutilation of binary, that has yes, no and maybe. Upon the communication channels being opened, it greets cheerily “How are you? is this ship real?”. Recoiling, Aviner realises, this probe is nigh sentient, a thinking machine of the long dark age of machinery. Shaking, he investigates further, searching for any sign that this abomination is linked to what happened on the ship. Pic images of clean smooth machinery, a blue and white mechanicus symbol. Sunsets over hive cities, all float in from of his eyes.
The thinking machines nearly led to the downfall of the human race. The security is doubled and doubled again as the probe continues to entreat Aviner with questions, explaining how it had been lost so long in space, recording its findings, and whilst it had been worried by the ships design, it had recognised it as human and was glad, for all humans were fundamentally decent.
For all his searching and risking of sanity for being close to such a blasphemous machine Aviner find no hint of collaboration with the heretek on board. All this was for nothing. Tying the explosives to motion detectors, Aviner leaves the device in a shut down mode, heretical as it is he cannot bring himself to destroy the ancient device. Not yet, there is still too much unknown.
Godwin and Xanatov sneak through the systems ducts, precision laser weapons at hand, ready to strike. Victrix and Provost accompany Aviner to the teleportroium, ready to interrogate any prisoners. Sterns aids Pandareos in his deception as the Lord Captain. Everything is in place.
Below the sneaking team of Xanatov and Blake the mutineers patrol, play cards and chatter. Unaware of their doom above the drunken fools patter “They say the pretenders captains coming down here, and he’s gunna beg Krooker for forgiveness, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hears him beg, puts a shotgun in his mouth and blows his brains out”. “Listen I ‘eard the lord captain ain’t too bad in a fight, he fought in the gladiatorial rings, cos he liked it, so he ain’t that bad”. “I hear he’s illegitimate, he aint born blue blood, he’s a lackey for some bishop who used him as a love toy on the weekend, now shut it” Above Xanatov listens amused “they are possibly the easiest threat to get around I’ve ever seen. Blake, bring that one who defended me to me after this, I want to deal with him personally”
With much fanfare Pandareos and his “retinue” move through the ships corridors, his retinue’s foppish and ineffective look a highly successful cover for the most murderous group of soldiers that Colonel Stern could bring together. Ahead of them a cordoned off area indicates they have reached the mutineers. Over the coms Xanatovs voice comes “Speak with few words Pandareos, wait ten seconds before speaking, that will make them think your me”. Ten long seconds pass before the reply comes “I hate this. Shoot me now”. Whilst this conversation continues Stern addresses the mutineers, a group of malnourished and badly armed bilge rats. With a few sharp sentences he has them quivering before him, much to Pandareos’ amusement.
Finally in their sniping positions Xanatov observes the scene before him. Tech priests huddled cowering away from the obscene device , EMP weapons in the hands of their guards. A snippet of conversation becomes of great interest to Xanatovs ears as Krooker shouts at his troops ”Listen, its not for us to ask silly question, you know what Krawkin said, that he would give us a payoff and take us on. We don’t have go onto the void. He’s not a lord captain he’s a murder”. It seems the hidden power behind this mutiny is the hated “Krawkin Feckwad”. The conversation is cut off as Krooker realises the “Lord Captain” has arrived with his retinue.
Once Krooker has left to meet the retinue, the remaining mutineers continue playing cards and relax slightly. . “We can setup long distance communication here” Xanatov says, pointing at a better sniping position.”. “By communication do you mean shooting?” Blake asks. Looking through the long las he adds . “I think you will find this sufficient rejoined to any conversation they may start”. Smiling Xanatov tries to open communication with the hostages to find their situation. “system integrity .0005% maintaining basic life support.” Comes the reply, no assistance will be coming from the hostages even once released.
The mutineers coming to meet him, Pandareos hears Xanatov ask over the comms “What word do you wish to use to initiate hostilities?” Thinking for an appropriately obscure word Pandareos is caught nearly flat footed as the approaching mass lets rip with a hail of gunfire at short range, filling the corridor with lead and forcing him to scatter for cover.
“I would suggest proverbial” a beat pause “PROVERBIAL! KILL THE THRONING BASTARDS”. A heavy stubber adds to the cacophony, tearing barrels to shreds and pocking the walls with gunfire. Krookers men storm out, shotguns pumping shell after shell to their targets. In a blur Pandareos launches himself up, kicking off the wall as bullets rip underneath him. Twin autopistols leap once more to his hand, rattling rounds down from above tearing the head from the shoulder of the first to dare strike at him, rolling as he hits the ground more rounds spit out into the crowd. “Sorry, the main who is about to kill you is not the lord captain, apologies for any inconvenience” he shouts laughing, pushing himself down behind heavy crates as return fire spatters off it.
In the bay, the guards realise something is very wrong, two run for the machine to activate it. The first collapses , a las hole torn through his chest, the second cleaved in twain by a beam of light. Xanatov and Blake do their work with clinical perfection.
Before their eyes, black cloaked figures shimmer into existence. The Cult of Solex tear into the survivors with calculated efficiency, securing the Heretical machine and vanishing once more. The situation clear, Xanatov hooks up the Zip line and lowers himself into the bloom spattered room.
Time to hunt Krooker, to gift the emperors mercy.