RT: S 2: EP 13: Did Anyone See A Planet Around Here Somewhere?
The “Vengeance Of Saint Druses” moves through the cold vacuum of space, its immense bulk shifting slowly past the stars. In vacuum there is no sound, but inside the screams of the dying and the gunfire of their executioners rage. Through a vast stain glass window a figure can be seen, a red light flickering upon his forehead. A head that snaps backwards as a bolt of light tears a ragged hole through it ending all that that person could be, all hope of redemption or glory, all has become just meat.
“Well my lord I do believe you are winning the kill count so far” says Godwin Blake as he and Xanatov step over the smoking corpse.
In the distance desperate figures scrabble and scream, trying to escape the death that follows on their heels, but ahead there is no respite. Autofire and mocking laughter echo through the tight corridors. Pandareos, Stern and the assembled imperial guard have little trouble picking off the rebels with contemptuous ease. In desperation a group charge Pandareos. With a sharp kick the laughing void born sends a barrel stumbling towards his assailants, then pumps rounds into it, causing a roaring explosion that lifts him off his feet and decimates his assailants.
“Ya see em lads, ye see the fear in their eyes. Let show up what it means to fear the emperors wrath” Stern growls as his guard charge the remnants, picking them to pieces. Lifting trophies from the kills that fall, ears and lips severed and slipped into pouches. With no more difficulty that a killer would face with a helpless child, the battle is over.
As the crew celebrate, Xanatov walks amongst them, watching with a careful eye the stacked piles of bodies. One body is missing, Krooker, the instigator, is missing. “I don’t like loose threads Godwin” he mutters. Seeing what the Captain refers to Godwin nods “I will see to it my lord”.
In midst of the celebrating guards Pandareos stands smirking. Flipping a lodestick into the air, he catches it between his lips and lights in on the fires of the burning barrel. Seeing this Xanatvo turns to Stern “Thanks for not allowing him to be killed”. “It were nothing ma lord” Stern replies to Pandareos consternation. Lighting a gold tipped lodestick Xanatov removes two gleaming bottles of rare amsec from beneath his jacket “I almost forgot, your reward”. “I’ll keep it safe” Stern says. “ill keep it safe as well, no one got in my stomach yet” Pandareos adds.
Turning to the troops, Xanatov gives a well received speech that includes promise of doubled alcohol and lodestick rations for them for their hard work. “Work sir, this wasn’t work, this was more recreation my lord” comes the jovial reply. As the crew celebrate Pandareos suggest the troops join him and his in the underdecks for some gambling and good old fashioned drinking, to more cheering. All is well.
In the darkened hold of the teleportarium Aviner wrestles with the dark device that has been brought upon this ship, trying to neuter its dark forces. Perversions of techna lingua scrabble across its form, prayers of extinction lie in its warped angles, and sermons to the power of the warp flicker across his eyes. Finally the machine sputters still, fallen before the purity of the machine. Behind Aviners eyes something still roils however, as the abyss has stared back. A chime rings across the coms as Aviner shakes off the ill feel that rests upon him. Xanatov speaks “How goes the efforts to restore Gabriel and Sente”. Moving to answer that he is nearly done, the Tech Priest pauses, new thoughts uncurling in his skull, they were too easily harmed, too weak. The flesh is too weak in them, the machine would be strong “They will be done shortly, I need more time to prepare more items, They will need more than I initially thought” comes Aviners slow response as ideas for enhancements flicker upon his awakening mind.
In the cells of the craft Xanatovo faces the elder once more. The Eldars craft has been gutted, its engines ruined, but he shall release them. In front of him the battered Eldar captain sits, offensive to the faithful eye in his calm radiance despite his wounds. Realising Xanatov intent he speaks . “Know lord captain, that though you set me free, fate may bring us together again. But know this I will not raise weapons against you for this mercy, unless that is what fate has called” Xanatov starts ” You knew what I was going to say as I walked in?” pausing the Eldar denies any such knowledge but admits a grudging respect for the Lord Captain for his actions, this more than anything else shocks Xanatov.
Taking the initiative once more Xanatov explains that they shall be released, but the crew shall see their craft being destroyed to cover up the Eldars escape, a bargain the Eldar is willing and capable to accept. Musing Xanatov adds “By the way if you happen to come across a rogue trader called Krawkin Feckwad, he would not be missed”
The elder speaks softly in the dark “His name is know. The one you speak of seeks the dread pearl; therefore he will be dealt with. Know this though, when the bloody handed god calls us to war, all who stand against us will feel his wind”
Xanatov replies calmly “When we met I would have preferred to kill every one of you, I have re evaluated that and realized it is not in our best interests. When you return to your ship there will be small locked box you will be familiar with, the contents are undamaged. That would have earned me a massive fortune, but I returned it for nothing but it felt like the right thing to do. An act that would have me burned if not for where we are, and what I am.”
“For all the base inferior nature of your kind, you have shown something approaching wisdom with your compassion.” The Eldar says “You have surprised me, surprise is something I have not experienced in 15,000 years. It seems my cousins made you as clay, to make you the tool that you are”.
“I fought you to protect me crew, but my quarrel is with your cousins, if you give me the chance I will take my quarrel to them” Xanatov replies. Thinking the Eldar captain asks “Tell me, this Krawkin, if you had the chance to turn him over to what you consider vile aliens, that would crush his spirit and remove his humanity, would you do so?”
A quick smile from Xanatov breaks free “Very tempting but no”. “Then we are not as different as I thought” The Eldar answers. However the Elder’s appreciation of Xanatovs answer diminishes as the Lord Captain continues ”If you come across him make it quick, if I come across him I will do whatever I wish to do” Seeing the revulsion in the aliens eyes he continues “I have had enough of him trying to kill my crew. Surely you must appreciate there is a crossing of paths in this case”
Scorning the humans attempt to discern the fate, the xenos cuts down the Lord Captain with barbed words “Tell me human, have you ever walked past as stream and heard it babbling, you might catch words from the meaningless morass of the water, it is a pleasing illusion. This is what you are to me human. You make noises but you understand nothing of what you speak. You are the brook, and now you are displeasing to me. You may have a role, but to us no more that virus in the livestock of the universe”. Gesturing mockingly Xanatov replies “Yet I the lowly pawn will set you free.”
In the ships belly, Aviner sits gazing at the abominable device. Isolated behind Cult Of Solex phase shield generators it still calls. Knowing its lure is strong Aviner ruminated on plans for an infotomb to secure such devices far from weak minds, but he shall need Victrix help in contacting one of his controlled tech planets for construction of such things. As the Tech Priests runs check sums against his arguments as guards against corruption he turns back to his plans for altering more of the crew with cybernetic implants to better interface with the ship. The idea bubbles greedily in his mind. Sending initial specs for the plan to Xanatov, he rises slowly, heading to the Astropaths chambers.
Victrix sits, mind intertwined with the choir as Aviner enters. She senses his every movement, buts stills signs of her awareness. The unenlightened are so easily shocked by her eyeless awareness of her surroundings. The messages from the imperium are weak. Out here there are but echoes of horrors the human mind should not face, terrible screams in the psyche without the soothing barrier of human thought the Imperium presents. For this her choir is fearful, their minds new and weak, and she guides them through their fear.
Despite this difficulty some messages have made it through. Garbled messages speaking of Sire Parcifals house moving openly against their dynasty. The subtle war no more, terror strikes, assassinations, and gang war rule the day. The great houses move warily, watching for weakness and a chance to strike. Victrxi’s family moves, but with no set direction. Individual members have lent their power to different sides of this battle.
The whispered words at an end Victrix finally speaks ”Aviner; So good to see you again”. “Do you have a time of sufficient duration available to speak” Aviner asks.
“Time works different for us, I could have had an eternities conversation in the time it took you to ask” Victrix replies. “I will note that for future reference” Aviner comments sombrely “I wish to send message to the system of sigmunds folly, to alert them of the requirement to build infotombs. Is this possible”. Victrix “Did the lord captain approve this?” Aviner answer “On this my word is the highest, not the captains”.
The sending starts, sending messages of binary lingua describing five tomb vaults. The distance is vast, and the pressure great. Thought ripple across the surface of the warp for nearly an hour, and something responds, something hungry. Screams rip from the choir, a girl screams, blood pouring from her eyes. The wards burn with witch fire as Victrix breaks from her trance, her nose gushing bright red blood. A shadow burns from the young choir members mouth, consuming her life before Victrix blind gaze. Hunger and violation given form, a shadow of obscene pleasure at the suffering it causes, blades and poison dripping from its form
As it leaps forwards to feed, the ships Klaxons burst once more into life. In his chamber, far away, Xanatov bursts awake, cold sweat on his brow. A daemon has birthed again to the ship.
At Victrix command the astropath chamber seals itself, but to no avail as the creature shudders through the walls as if they are not there, heading with inexorable purpose towards its prey. Far away, Xanatov commands Stern to take his troops to her aid, but it cannot be in time, the distance is far too vast. A drunken Pandareos mutters as he stands “Is krooker messing with us again” as he lifts his weapons from their holsters, again too far and too slow to help. Aviner runs towards her chamber with all the speed the machine can aid him, his now familiar power axe in hand.
The doors part before Aviner to reveal Victrix, her chest rend open and black liquid pumping through her veins. The daemon casts her form hard to the deck, and leaps at its new prey, balefire roaring over its shadowed form. With inhuman speed it tears chunks from the Tech Priest, rending his armour and face, shredding the sacred machines with its powerful blows. Staggering back before the force Aviner nearly falls, but holds fast. Leaning forwards with all his weight behind his blow he plunges the power axe burning into the daemons form. Screams echo in agony through all their minds as black ichor drips from the wound but still it stands.
It steps forwards once more, to tear this petty mortal limb from mechanical limb. Before it can, it freezes, its limbs locked by a superior will. Behind Victrix, bathed in gold, holds it fast with her indomitable will. The beast howls in rage and anger, unable to sate its thirst. Taking this miraculous respire, Aviner swings his axe overhead, trailing lightening as it cleaves the beast it twain with a clap like thunder. The axes head embeds in the deck plates as the creature fades once more from view. Standing Victrix addresses the air “Here endeth the lesson” turning to Aviner she orders him to leave this sacred place.
Waiting outside for the injured to be brought to him Aviner muses “I’m getting too good at this” as he sags against the wall, machinery already attending to his wounds.
Down the corridor run the assembled might of the Rogue Trader, weapons at the ready. Stern, Xanatov, Kaustic, Pandareos, and more all ready for the worst, but Victrix stands barring entry to her chamber.
Kaustic speaks first “Is it true. Did an agent of the ruinous powers break through”. A silent nod answers. “Then the emperor protected you child?”. “The emperor protected me, and I had some assistance from Aviner” Victrix replies. Stern looks on with awe and fear at one who survived such an assault, seeing this Victrix says ”Be glad you did not have to face it” causing the normally resolute soldier to pale. Interjecting Kaustic says “Have no fear, that is what they feed upon, you are a servitor of the emperor. The lady needs guards, can you do that”. ”. “Milady ill see that done, you have my word” comes the proud but fearful response.
Alone again in his cabin, Aviner recalls the weakness of the flesh and the machines that kept him strong. He has convinced the Astropath to accept implants for her protection, but still it is not enough. Too many have died for their flesh weakness. Stroking Sente’s stasis pod he contemplates how he can aid her, make her stronger, show her the glory of the machine.
As the ship prepares to return to real space Estiban calls the recovering crew together. The time of the dread pearl is near at hand. The air is one of excitement “Just think, a world no one has ever seen before and we will be the first to set foot upon it”. The crew are ready to defend the space around the planet as if it were their own, the engines aflame with passion, and the pilots ready.
Without further ado, or issue, the ship rolls back to real space, and the Vista panels roll back before the jubilant crew. Instantly they know, something is very wrong. The void before them is dim and empty, lit only by the distant light of a dim star. The dread pearl is not here. Knowing exactly what he would do if he found a craft lost in space, Pandareos steps to the augers looking for signs of ambush. The place is Kuppa psi 12 as expected, but nothing is here. “I would like everyone to be at battle stations five seconds ago” Xanatov booms to his crew. Stretching the augur scan, Pandareos reports a vessel, five hundred thousand kilometres away. A Xenos ship. The Striksis, a group of nomad traders, not to be trusted, but possible to trade with. Pandareos, Stern, Xantov, and their bodyguards prepare to contact them. Moving through space in the guncutter, Pandaroes exchanges banter with his co pilots Marchessa and The Player, happy to be navigating honest real space once more.
The craft they approach is ramshackle and made up of scavenged elements from numerous races, one of a ten kilometre convoy. Stepping onto the ill lit craft, they find it covered in trinkets and fetishes, shrivelled body parts and bolts. Before them a Stricksis, its snout barely visible beneath its huge robe. “Greetings bipeds, greetings to my home. It is unsafe here, but I would be remiss if I did not greet your leader” it chatters, bowing and scraping before the Lord Captain. “I have many thing so show you, have you, have you currency?” Its hand paws at Xanatovs rebreather ”Pretty! Want it, want it, what do you want for it?” At a motion of its hand, a green brute drags out a treasure trove of items before their eyes “Any, any may have for pretty device.”
“What can you tell me about the dread pearl?” Xanatov asks. A panicked reply comes “Dread? Pearl? “Scattered words burst free about dread planet with creatures with many legs that kill or flee from”the thin point ones, we hate them”
The negotiations are broken by harsh electronic hissing as the vox comes on in “faint auger readings at extreme range”.
Deep in her chamber, Victrix mind prickles as old familiar thought ripple uneasily across he mind. Arrogant, ancient minds. The Eldar have arrived in force. Opposite this arriving Eldar fleet a series of imperial vessel drop from the warp. The comms fill with Bastilles voice “I claim this area in the name of terra”. Pandareos smiles ” people who hate me one side, xenos who hate me other. Lord Captain who hates me here. This is going to be fun”. Ignoring this Xanatov tosses his respirator to the Xenos, grabbing an odd shaped bolt weapon in return, before running for the guncutter.
“open up a com link to Sun Li” he demands. “Ah lord captain I was waiting to hear from you” comes Sun Li’s voice. The fleet crowding in around them, Xanatov speaks “lets put it this way, I got here first and I wondered if you wanted to help me stake that claim”
A pause, the ships move into place, the battle seems inevitable
“What do you have in mind” comes Sun Li’s careful reply
The battle for the Dread Pearl has begun.