Rogue Trader :S2: E 16: Recovery and Reloading
Hundreds of ships descend in a feeding frenzy to the jungle world. Basteel and Scourge’s ships blaze with radioactive fire from the battle just ended. The damage matters not to them, for they are sure their military might will grant then what they need on the planet, unaware that the spoils have already rotted on the vine.
The Vengeance of Saint Druses slinks away through the night, victorious, though it would be hard to tell that from its state. Silent running engines, torn superstructure, nigh 8000 dead from the battle that tore the heavens. The crew one meal from mutiny, only suppression squads moving between them, blasting executed corpses into the void of space keeps the ship moving forward.
Basteels bluster still fills the vox channels, but it cannot cover up the fact. He has lost.
Almost as soon as the Fury Interceptor touches to the ground, Xanatov steps forwards intent on the next glory. His body however will not stand what his will commands. Pitching forwards, blood spews forth, splattering the insides of his armour as the toll of battle finally stills him. “Throne” mutters Pandareos “If he dies I don’t get paid”. The medicae bays are filled with tech priests, the wounded and the dead. Into this the Lord Captain is dragged, placed before those most highly placed in the rituals of preservation of the man machine. Of 2500 troops that hit the planet, bare 600 return. Those who return still fall from infection and poison from the Xenos filth that riddled the land.
The days pass and the tech Priest Aviner watches over the wounded Lucius and Xanatov personally, replacing broken flesh with trusted steel, reinforcing Lucius leg and building a new metal chest and glowing heart from the Lord Captain. They come one step close to the holy machine. At the end of the second day Xanatovs rest is interrupted by a battle weary and torn figure. Sterns stands over him, severed Eldar head in hand “My lord I got vengeance on em, them that did in my lads”. In scorched battle armour and torn robes he stands battered but defiant. “Those bastard xenos hunted them for sport, made a trophy of them”. Facing the war worn veteran Xanatov answers “Then we shall make a trophy out of them” as he orders the Xenos head to be presented in a shrine dedicated to what happens to the enemies of man
Walking cautiously on his bionic enhanced leg Lucius returns once more to work under the suspicious gazes of superstitious crew. His old companion Estiban his only trusting ally. Leaning with his clawed fingers encased around his gnarled walking staff the old Navigator greets Lucius return with joy “How was it my boy?”. “We got the information from the xenos filth, so a win for us. I made a chart, I will record it now”. Lucius replies simply. Seeing the injury to Lucius’ leg for the first time, Estibans already ashen skin pales. “Ah my boy what happened to you, I had presumed you were made late by making merry rather than this?” Deflecting the question Lucius just says “In a better state than the lord captain”. Politely ignoring the deflection Estiban continues “You must tell me all about it, out herein the great unknown, who knows what is out here in the stars. That is why we are here, that is the essence of what life is” He chuckles as he walks away. “Look after that leg, if my knowledge of the lord captain is right we have a long journey ahead of us. If we are lucky we may even find a planet with good amsec”
Below decks good amsec if already in full flow as Stern and Pandareos raise the cups to the fallen men. Dented lockers and long diatribes follow Stern as he falls further and further into his cups. The night is long and filled with tales of their lives, loves, heroism and hope. Those who faced the Xenos and did their duty. Tongue loosened by the amsec Pandareos joins with tales of the fallen Frag, and of the soldier boy who had saved his life on the planets surface. In the tales one thing is know that every soldier knows, one day you will find the foe that takes your life, so tonight you live.
Aviner is alone, working tirelessly to return Sente and Gabriel to the land of the living. No matter how he tries, the restoration for Sente is imperfect, not good enough for his beloved. Gabriel however shall walk tonight. The lights flicker with the power drain required. An eight foot tall weapon of flesh and machine, very different from what was once before, steps forth. Enhanced eyes, muscles, all limbs shining with metallic perfection. A unique dedication to the Omnisiah.
Gabriel screams for what he has become.
His frenzied madness is short but brutal, tearing a servitors head from its shoulders before an implant stills him forcibly. Slowly over the next few days sanity, or what passes for it, returns.
“What happened to me?” Gabriel asks coldly. “You saved the lord captain life, so it fell to me to save yours” Aviner answers, carefully evading the questions, intent to hold his patients fragile grasp on sanity. ” “I saw the witch die, he made them pay. So, what am I?”
Careful, Aviner answers, “You are now not weak flesh, you will not fail the lord captain”. The next shock is a welcomed one as Gabriel realized Aviner has purged the mutated flesh. He is pure once more. “Your keeping something from me, I want to see the lord captain” Gabriel states. Acquiescing to his request Aviner replies honestly ”Your ignorance is the greatest gift I can give”.
Shortly Aviner arranges for Gabriel to return to the side of his Lord Captain. The floor rattling behemoth of a man that stands before him is far from what Xanatov expected and silence reigns momentarily. “My lord” Gabriel states as he bows. “It is I Gabriel”. A welcome smile returns to Xanatovs face “We’re going to need to get some bigger quarter for you lord general” he says, subtly promoting his favoured underling “I had a coat made for you but its going to need some adjustments I feel.”. “My lord you do me an honour” the stoic Gabriel answers. Aviner departs leaving the two together once more.
Meanwhile Lucius and his navigators pore over the star charts they have so recently liberated. Six planets lie before them, six clues to the dread pearl. Six bullets embedded deep within the Heathen Stars, places that know nothing of the Lord Emperor or Holy Terra. Six opportunities for profit.
The first is Xath, a world from the dark ages of technology, and gateway to the Heathen stars. Riddled by eternal war, its lands poisoned by atomic fires, the populace live within vast travelling fortress cities. Cities locked in perpetual war with one another.
The second is Vaporeos an unknown world rumoured to be a desert world ruled over by priest kings. The third an uncharted star system. The fourth world, known as “Dross” has never been explored for its strange and hazardous atmosphere keeps all at bay. The fifth a system barely scouted. The sixth, oh the sixth.
As the sixth co-ordinates arise, the candles flicker out before returning in blazing blue light. The emperors tarot turns forth three cards. Death, Time and Folly. Then the room fades to darkness as the power splutters a final death. Two lights flicker, two co-ordinates. The first, empty space, the second causes Estiban to pale even further. “No, no , no, not there, anywhere but there. We cannot go there, wipe it from the records, we cannot go there” he mutters, nigh incoherently.
Shocked at his mentors outburst, Lucius commits the location to memory, then erases it from sight. Estibans relief is evident “Thank you my boy, this must never part our lips, the less you know the better. Knowledge is a curse and I envy you your ignorance. Tell the captain we are ready to begin the jump. You make an old man very proud”
The crew gather in the Lord Captains dining room, a room of opulent splendour. Thrones sit around a vast mahogany table. Servo skulls and cyber cherubim float overhead, littered with tattered scrolls. Of all the crew however Xanatov is nowhere to be seen.
Looking around Lucius asks “I assume the lord captain will be with us shortly?”. Godwin Blake smiles “Your summation would be correct assuming he is not here already, he is everywhere”. A calms voice announces from behind the Navigator “Indeed”. Xanatov steps into the light “So I assume everyone knows why we are here. You all know of the value of the information to our competitors and this is one of our more formidable weapons. We have made many enemies, but they can be made to see the value of business”
After Lucius has brought up the star charts and explained the significance of the five planets he gives the floor a chance to discuss the best next step. Aviner’s view is simple. He wishes a chance to examine the moving fortresses of the first co-ordinates. Pandareos wishes to test his pilot skills against the atmospheric disturbances of the fourth.
However Xanatov expands on his comments before “We paid a very high price to get this information, and if we are to do a military action we will need more troops. We need to put to port, and we have substantial ties in Footfall, I suggest we auction some of this information. With but a single coordinate they cannot find the Dread Pearl, but not knowing that they would pay a vast sum for the information. Most rogue trade will pay very high price, and if we do not give enough information to harm us then they are no threat. In fact there is one person I want to seem harmed particularly” he comments with a smile.
Blake interjects “Foot fall is contested territory, perhaps a situation we could control would be more suitable” After some discussion they decide to head to the war stricken first world. With the first co-ordinates in hand they would have a much safer situation to auction other co-ordinates, and in case of trouble, Aviner could declare the investigation of the planets technology verboten which would be sufficient ruse to cover actions to prevent access to the planet.
The plan is nearly complete, but they do not want to make it too obvious that the co-ordinates they will sell are to the most dangerous planets. Blake agrees to leak their supposed intent to visit that planet, to lure the others to their own doom.
With planning complete, the ship breaks cover to prepare for a jump to the warp. The vox spatters to life once more with incessant threats and offers of alliance. An open unsecured vox between Sun Li and Xanatov is filled with threats as Xanatov boasts that he had used her as a pawn to his own ends, whilst Sun Li orders an open season on Xanatovs head. Under the cover of these arguments, subtle gestures tell another story. The state of play is know. Sun Li understands his acts, but if he betrays her, then she will kill him. Pandaroes’ final message to Blitz is much less subtle “Had fun, hopefully bump into you at another planet”
Then the warp jump starts. The eternally dangerous act, with doom held at bay by the thin shield of a geller field. Guiding them through the warp, Lucius sees the way ahead in visions, landscapes to make the unintelligible world visible to him. The world is rendered to his third eye as hive cities and gangers that hunt him through its spires. Tired and worn, he delivers them to their destination, back to the comparative safety of real space.
Xath lies before them, obscured by ash clouds and a sickly green light. Vast craters pock the world, flickering with apocalyptic fire that burn from ten thousands years before. “Where there are wars, there are markets” Godwin comments. Xanatov looks down at the planet “who is winning currently?” He soon realises that on this world there are no alliances, each wars totally against all others. They do not even view the other cities as being human. “Guess we will have to go down there” he smiles.
Lucius looks over “I would say I really hope you know what your doing, but I have known you long enough know that doesn’t matter ”. Xantov answers “well it doesn’t matter, your life belongs to me, I saved your life”. Pandareos laughs “Well then Lord Captain, does that mean your life belong to me?” “If you can beat Gabriel in hand to hand combat” Xanatov answers
Alone in her chamber Vitrix pitches forwards. A vision fills her sight. A beach, clean blue sky above, sun shining through. A star falls from heaven, a flash of incandescence light, sheering wind and mushroom clouds. Seas boil. With a start she realises she knows the exact location of the Eldar bone wraith structure that was once hidden deep beneath the oceans.
With this information the Landing party is formed. Xanatov, Aviner, Lucius, Gabriel and his men all clad in rad shielded void suits. Hearing he is not needed Pandareos smiles. “Well I shall wait below deck, some fine ladies will keep me supple in case ye need a pick up.”. The teleportariums casts the intrepid few through the darkness, filled with whispers that clutch at the mind and soul, and then they are upon the planet.
A sheer drop lies before them, a bone white structure visible at the bottom. Their goal is nearly at hand. Enraptured by the sight, Aviner steps forwards, floating down to the wonder before him. The others must climb slowly down, two unfortunate guards find a faster but far more fatal rout as their handholds give out below them.
As the others catch up Aviner pokes and prods the structure. Sections light up and chime harmoniously under his tender caress. Xanatov arrives interrupting his awe “Get what we need then destroy it” he shouts. “I would advise otherwise” Aviner intones. “you have as long as we need, then we will set the charges” Xanatov replies undeterred.
It takes but short moments for Lucius to decode the manifest within. Their work is cut short as a rumbling shakes through the air. Shouting for everyone to stand ready Xanatov vox’s the ship demanding teleporting back, they have what they need. “00/gammadelta 5 – the teleportarium has exhausted itself” comes the reply. Cursing Xanatov orders Pandareos to extricate himself from the pleasures he is entwined in and get down here to pick them up.
Rocks tumble down the cliff face threatening to entomb them as the party sprint for cover. Godwin speaks over the vox “My lord, it would appear two landships are converging on your location they do not appear to aware of your presence. Pandareos is on his way . I would advise you to leave the location as quickly as you can before you are trapped below tons of rubble.”
Pushing Aviner bodily way from the bone structure Gabriel shouts “I would advise you move out of the way it is tainted we shall purge it”. Without time to argue, Aviner cuts a piece and a gem free for later examination and secretes it in his packs. As the charges are laid Lucius suggest they should be detonated in time with the firing above to hide the explosions.
Fleeing from the approaching landships they make their way out of the trench. Before them is the sight of vast walls of metal leaving 4 kilometer footprints in its wake, hive cities that move and war upon each other. Mushroom clouds tear the horizon, and the elder structure is lost once more before the landslide it causes. A muffled blast mark the explosives detonating below. Two vast armies head over the plains and the air is filled with gunfire and massive shells.
Far above a guncutter rides the gravity down, racing against time to recover the team, heading into this hellish land with wild laughter
On the land, they have finally found cover. A crashed shuttle of Imperial markings. An aquilla lander, painted in the red and black of the Adeptus Mechanicum. It is here that the troops are converging upon. As they drag themselves inside Aviner hears a familiar chilling sound echoing from the cockpit. Scrap code, weakened but audible. A familiar heresy as it speaks in ruined binary cant.
“Paracelus in deus vult”.
The Magus arch traitor is here.