Warhammer 40K: Rogue Trader: S2: E17: The A and P Show
Pandareos laughed, the guncutter riding the gravity wave down. Impact glyphs screamed, Servitors screeched and the crew prayed as he rode the vessel though manoeuvres of a madman. In the eye of the madness he sat, truly living in the face of death. Lighting flashed all around, green hued by the radiation storms around as the craft entered the planets cloud layer.
The auspex blinked twice, a vessel approaching with inhuman speed on an attack vector. “aight, I don’t have time to play, can I kill you on the way back out” Pandareos grinned. The lord captain and crew were waiting planetside for a pickup, no time for fun. The stylised vessel breaks through the cloud, a falcon shaped craft, darting down to pluck the guncutter from the air. Recognising it a Eldar in origin Pandareos curses “I thought you were meant to be a dying species, you’re throning everywhere”.
Jinxing into the lightning, the game of cat and mouse starts. As the Eldar craft follows Pandareos throws the craft into a hard stall then pushes the craft back, raking the Eldar craft with autocannon fire as it passes overhead. The wounded craft falls, buffeted by the winds to the ground below. “Tell you what, I’ll race you to the bottom” Pandareos quips at the doomed craft.
On the ground gunfire echoes all around the away party crammed into the scrap code ridden Aquilla Lander. Screams of men and woman hacking into each others flesh rise above even that.
As Aviner sets up the melta bombs to purge the heretical code he comments that whatever the group is fighting over must be in this craft. To control it would allow them control of the situation. “Very well, but there are two sides outside with hundreds of men” Godwin comments over the vox “We would do better if we knew what they were after”. Looking through the ruined craft Aviner quickly identifies a data crystal plugged into the ruined form of the Tech priest who once lived here Tearing the crystal from the cranium Aviner enquires as to its purpose. The response comes. Data on the land ships that are rapidly closing in. This is the prize being fought over.
Needing a distraction, the servo skull is sent out away from the group, broadcasting white noise, claims of the prize and emergency aid request messages. As the approaching crafts systems slow trying to cope with this barrage of information Xanatov and his crew sprint for the cover of the nearby gully
A blast wave in the distance send up a ripple of dust covering their rapid fall back. Weapons fire follows them as the troops realise finally what is happening. As weapons fire rains over their shelter Gabriel speaks “I’m picking something up my lord”
A dull reddish glow surrounds the guncutter as it drops down into sight. “Pandaroes cut the theatrics out and pick us up” Xanatov barks. In the air, the ship dips forwards as if bowing mockingly then drifts towards them, piling round after round into the approaching army to hold them back. The local air support seems weak, simple crafts adapted to war and are no match for the guncutters firepower. As the troops run on board a distant explosion signifies the end of the heretical scrap code and that the Aquilla Lander will not fall into ignorant savages hands
Rising victoriously into the sky the guncutter comes face to face with the damaged form of the Eldar vessel once more. A barrage of fire again fills the air, but the shifting elder defences flow and meld around its onslaught. In but a moment the craft locks on the guncutter tail, riddling it with strange alien fire. Taking advantage of another shockwave, Pandareos drops the craft down out of line of fire, then brings the protesting vessel round raking the Eldar vessel with holy vengeance. The craft explodes as its ammo bays are torn apart. As the Eldar die, Xanatov almost smiles. Across the wastes Pandareos voice echoes “I hear you guys like to keep your kind alive, stay alive longer, don’t get in my way. I’m Pandareos ya hear.”
Back on The Vengeance of Saint Druses the victorious craft lands. Xanatov calls a meeting between himself Godwin, Aviner and Pandareos. One more in the opulent feasting chamber they find themselves. “That was good flying” Xanatov comments. Smiling Pandareos answers “considering what I was interrupted from doing, I had some aggression I needed to work out”. Xanatov’s cold stare cuts that conversation short.
Examining the data Aviner comments that since whatever was on there was in such demand, it should give them a significant advantage in the coming negotiations. Nodding agreements Xantov orders Pandareos, Aviner and Godwin to the surface to act as a trade envoy.
Before leaving Aviner notes that there was evidence of an old adversary from the previous lord captains time. That Paracelsus has sent envoys to this planet, though he does not seem to have been openly received by the natives. Xanatov says “If he has set foot on Xath I want to know about it. We can gain access to information and technology even he does not have access to”. That done, the envoy group prepares to depart, with a final muttering from Pandaroes “Great, I have to work with the bloody tin man again”
The information on the data crystal is simultaneously enlightening and infuriatingly obscure. The orders upon it are for the Lander crew to contact an X2V Baddor Hovic then proceed as directed, interacting only with X2V and a group called the gun masters, Specifically, an group called the elder tacticians are labelled as being off limit for contact. The orders say to find the full extent of the technology they have, to offer tech in trade, but specifically not to offer melta based devices. The final recommendation is one of regime change. This information will indeed prove useful Aviner thinks.
With the information in hand they negotiate with the land ship “The Indestructible”. Whilst large and deadly in war, it is suffering from years without basic supplied, sufficient food or maintenance. Without aid they will not last much longer. Once Paracelsus’ name is mentioned a private meeting with the elder tacticians is quickly negotiated
From above the land ship seems like a vast multi ringed crawler, a hive city with legs towers and more. The electro magnetic output channelled into the void shields burn the air with the raw energy required. Aviner watches in religious awe as Pandaroes skips the craft past clumsy flack fire, gracefully bringing the ship in to land.
Within the hanger three senior officers approach the envoy. Garbed in greatcoats and armed with chain swords they look familiar, but millennia out of date. The Eldar Tactician Fobos makes polite greetings to the crew. Responding Godwin Blake says . “and may the holy god emperor of mankind shine his grace on you”. Confused Fobos answers .”I know not of what you speak”. Turning the conversation aside Godwin says ““ah yes of course that will come in time, we are here to discuss a matter of great importance”
As the pleasantries continues, Avienr breaks from greeting the machine spirits to notice black robed figures that look like crude replicas of tech priests. Intrigued he turns to Fobos “Do you have follows of the Omnissiah to tend to your machine spirits”. Fobos again looks confused “We have mechanical people who tend to our machines, but spirits?” Seeing their lack of spiritual guidance, and realising the effect it must have on their land ship Aviner tries to explain of the machine spirits but to no end.
A tall woman with chrome metal implants steps forwards, a representative of their order. Lacking all purity seals and signs of the Omnissiah she makes for a strange image of a Tech Priests. Identifying herself as Cilleiah she greats Aviner with a complex binary string, questioning him on his knowledge of the fundamental secrets of physics.
Aviner answers simply, but will not expound, stating that she should not risk exposing unprepared minds to such concepts. Cilleiah looks with disdain “You are an anachronistic and uninnovate creature”. Without of a hint of sarcasm Aviner thanks her for her compliment. As Cilleiah turns back to her students Aviner listens, her knowledge is in death, but there seems to be huge gaps in her knowledge, ideas she cannot even conceptualise. Knowing her to be a disseminator of information Aviner chooses not to inform her, lest it fall into untrained hands.
Seeing the conflict Fobos asks what is wrong. “Such is the mystery of those who are well versed in the machine” Godwin answers “those who understand not at all are best to let them get one with it.”. As Fobos laughs Aviner sends an encrypted vox to Godwin “We must make adherence to correct ritual part of the negotiation, I would rather see the wonders here rot than be shared like a common whore.” He speaks with uncharacteristic venom.
The journey deep into the land ship is smooth, having been exposed to automation before Aviner recognises its prevalence within this technological land. No servitors are needed to roam its corridors. Finally they reach a sparten mess room in which they wait for the leader Graves.
When Graves arrives he is unmistakable, striding in wearing a double breasted greatcoat adorned with medals and a power sword by his side. He booms “well make this quick I have a war to win” as he sips from a large tankard of water
Aviner speaks of the Arch heretic Paracelus. Interrupting Graves says “Arch Heretic, we have no religion to do with him. This Paracelsus, he is important to you. I’ve been a general long enough to recognise bullshit. What do you know of him?”. Cautious not to reveal too much Aviner speaks of the threat he is, and that he does not wish to waste time explaining to them what they already know, and asks again what occurred. Graves answers . “One of his emissaries came to this city, he wore out his welcome rapidly. He tried to infiltrate our group and tried drive a hard bargain for our technology. We didn’t need his kind, we have a hard time in this war , but we will win. Unfortunately despite us exiling them, they made contacts here, but I don’t know with whom. That was what was on that shuttle, it gave an indication of who tried to sell us out”
Aviner speaks, his metallic tones giving no hint of his nerves at having to handle such diplomatic duties “We could give assistance we think to recovering that data, but it would be a grave commitment of resources”. Using the cover of requiring time to recover the information Aviner lets Godwin take the floor to negotiate with the group. Godwin voxs over “Take Pandareos and see if you can get any insight into these marvels, see if it’s worth it.” Aviner agrees but asks “Just make that in the negotiations we will be allowed to bring the Omnissiah’s teachings in in, we shall not heal the craft just to lose its soul”
The negotiations well in hand, the odd couple of Pandareos and Aviner accompany an elder tactician back into the corridor, intent on continuing their plans. Their guide pauses to address a solider approaching, heavy stubber in hand and six men at his back “Styles what’s the meaning of this, these corridors are off limits”. Styles response is simple and blunt, smashing the butt of his heavy stubber into the tacticians face.
Aviner steps between the stubbers barrel and the fallen ally, imposing his armoured form before the fatal shot comes. Seeing weapons being drawn and Styles finger closing on the trigger Pandareos sweeps his coat back and draws the twin shuriken pistols in one smooth motion.
Spitting his lit lodestick through the air he clamps his fingers down, unleashing a hail of razor sharp mono molecular blades, turning the men before him into just so much severed flesh and blood. The lodestick tumbles end over end meeting nothing as all in its way but fragments torn to red mist before finally falling into the forming pool of blood and extinguishing. All seven assailants are now but a shower of gore. Smiling at the destruction Pandareos turns a sheepish grin to Aviner “Oops you told me not to kill any one today”.
The room fills once more as troops pile in, a figure drops to the ground, another heavy stubber in hand and fills the air with lead. Round after round bounces off Aviners form, hunched protectively over his charge, but when the barrel winds down, not a dent is to be seen.
Patting Aviner’s metal back Pandareos shouts ”Serious guys, put the guns down – it aint worth it”. Again the air fills with lead, causing the thief to scatter for cover. Taking advantage of a pause in the fire, he leaps for the ceiling, hovering as the Xenos flip belt kicks in. Hooking his feet in the cables above, Pandareos unleashing another outburst, tearing the gunner apart. “Look mates, I’m killing ye and that’s making the tin man cry. Do you want to surrender, seriously you don’t want to see a tin man rust on his own tears do ya?” Aviner stares with mute anger at his taunts.
The response is a figure darting out, grenade launcher in hand “Oh throne” Pandareos mutters, desperately trying to unhook his feet from the cables. A dull thunk echoes around the corridor as the grenade ejects out back into those firing it. Bare moments of curses can be heard before the explosion tears the attackers apart.
As the smoke clears Pandareos can be seen rolling on the floor in laughter at the scene that has occurred. Standing Aviner addresses the wounded and dying “If you surrender I can tend to those of you who are still alive. It is better offer than you will get from any other here”
The vox sparks to life with Godwins voice “We are under attack, the traitor has played his hand.”. Aviner tries to argue for a tactical retreat but they are having none of that, the only choice is to fight back. Regretfully Aviner contacts Xanatov to request assistance. Replying to Godwin he tells him to pretend they have just decoded the transmission, this is a good time to give up the traitor’s name. Godwin smiles “Very good, we can cut the head off this traitorous hydra and you can get your hands on that technology.”
Civil War it is then.