Rogue Trader: S2: Ep24: In The Emperor’s Name, Or In The Emperor’s Head Anyway
The days move slowly, Sun Li has not been happy with the agreements made in her name. Godwin Blake is not back upon the craft, held now until Xanatov agrees to a private meeting to discuss Sun Li’s terms. The wait is not wasted time, Aviner works through the data streams, attempting to work out how to backtrack the teleportarium’s signal. Xanatov sends out feelers on behalf of his crew looking for rare items they wish to be within their possession. Pandareos on the other hand intends to spend the time wasted, looking for drug dealers to take the edge off his memory.
Three weeks have passed
Under the pocked archway, under the image of an imperial saint, Pandareos stand, finally having found a confirmed contact for what he needs. Slabs of mutated human muscle, etched in ink watch him carefully as he approaches. “Aight, do I need to know a double secret code phrase or can I just give ya money for the stuff” Pandareos greets them.” Welcome to Gonzo’s emporium, what can I do you for” the shuffling wretch answers him. “I want some drugs, can you do that for me” Pandareos answers. “Your asking Gonzo if Gonzo can provide drugs” a gurgling laughter comes from its dripping maw. Pandaeos cuts in “Talking in third person is my gig, so Pandareos is asking you if you can give Pandareos drugs”. The shuffling mutant looks disappointed at his spiel being cut short and answers huffily, patter ceased “ok, ok, going rate?”. Pandareos throws down a wad of notes. A stash of bags and pills comes in response along with a vial of noxious petrol fumed liquid that may be some debased form of alcohol. Pandareos takes the drugs and spits a lit cigarette into the vial, tossing it to explode against the nearby wall. “Hey hey, that’s good shit” the dealer shouts, irritated. Padanreos pauses and fixes the man with a tired glare ”I have a hangover. I have my drugs, go away before I realise I don’t have to keep you alive anymore” As the low life’s scutters away the Void Master tosses a stack of pills into his mouth, crunching down on them “Now if only the Lord Captain would let me kill the throaning witch I wouldn’t have to go to such lengths”
Victrix’s craft approaches the spiralled structure that houses the discerning procurer that promises her the chance of laying her well manicured hands upon a legendary Force Weapon. The building floats free within the void, steel reinforcing its massive stain glassed windows. Crafts passing freely by, anonymous and without identity here.
As the craft lands within this, the home of “Aloisus and Aloisus Traders” impeccably attired traders move out, not to do anything so base as to sell goods, but to show physical works of art that may later be procured by the guest. The trader steps forwards showering praise at his steps “Oh my, an angel in a raiment of glory has fallen from heavens to find her way to our humble establishment” before bowing near double before Victrix. Victrix lightly taps her long lodestick holder into a conveniently available ashtray before replying “Aloisus, I believe some of my subordinates have made initial inquires”. Aloisus reacts with shock “I am not worthy of hearing my name from your lips, I should be called but wretch. My dear lady I am aware of your excellence of choice, your kindness and your wisdom. My house is unworthy of you, before we commit to trade is there anything we can do to remove the burden of my presence before you?” Victrix nods, and enquires for a rare and delicate blend of tea. This is brought quickly, prefacing several hours of fawning conversation. Finally the item is brought out upon a velvet cushion, even just before her eyes it responds to her, feeling her power and will reaching out to it. Then she knows it must be hers, and soon it is, its warmth running through her arm as she harmonises to its power.
In Footfalls halls of the Adeptus Mechanicus a Delphis Mark 2 Ironclad Power Armour suit has been found, and its guardians may be able to be persuaded to part with its hallowed machine spirit.
Three stand in the shrine of footfalls shields, the centre of prayer that controls the void shields which protects footfall from the flares that would destroy it. Here the heat is as a furnace, this is the heart of the machine, the forge that builds its home. A cogitator bank the size of a hive spire looms over them bathing them in blue light as their first mechanical greetings exchange.
The first tech priest, his hands now a mess of antiquated tools, lets loose a burst of binary chatter, a greeting and list of the achievements of his chapter, a non too subtle attempt to intimidate the arriving Explorator Aviner. Recognising it as such, and knowing the import of a position of strength before bargaining Aviner replies with a burst of binary that describes their discover of an STC template, and of converting a planet to the correct worship of the Mechanicum, and of the landships they found on the planet. This is received with awe, and a floating female tech priest presses for more information and further information.
Offering forth the Power Armour for examination the floating priests lets slip that it is her creation, and approaches Aviner in a way that to only a tech priest would be interpreted as flirtation. The suit is a work of art, unwilling to encourage her advances Aviner couches his complements in guarded machine code, the variables protected and enclosed so not to be misinterpreted. This does little to end her attempts at seduction, Aviner finally introduced two new variables to halt her advances. His Partner Sente, and the gift of anti tech priest rounds Aviner has given her. Eventually the deal is complete, the work of mechanical art now belongs to Aviner.
Meanwhile back in the Saint Druses, Pandareos sits in a drugged haze, sinker deeper and deeper into his addiction.
The meeting point is finally confirmed, inside the statue of the god emperor. Before Xanatov heads out, alone and unarmed, Aviner locks the teleportarium to his signal, ready to retrieve him in the case of danger and offers the advice “If we must deal, offer the choice of the most dangerous location of the set, or a promised place at the auction. The illusion of control may give leverage”
Thus comes the hour of midnight, the hour of the wolf and the hour of the trade. The place is set, inside the macro statue of the emperor himself. At this time normally no one dares enter the hallowed land, a superstitious dread of what may haunt those corridors keeps most at bay. Thus alone Xanatov stands before the judgmental gaze of the emperor, before innumerable skulls that festoon his glory. The vox crackles to life once more detailing the place of meeting as being inside the very head itself.
Lord Captain Xanatov steps through the void portal, into the statues very head, electo candles flickering to life in his wake. Around him the deeds of Saint Druses are marked in their bloodletting glory. Before him, double doors swoop open revealing an area the size of a gladiatorial arena. Sun Li sits at the head of a table in the centre, looking out through the left eye of the emperor to the void shield beyond. From the shadows Godwin Blake steps, unharmed, in fact in the best of health. “My lord I must apologies, Sun Li has explained everything to me, it was a necessary ruse” he speaks. “I apologise for the force I was forced to unleashed.” Sun Li adds “It was necessary as a deception against others. Lord Captain I knew what part I was expected to play, the other Rogue Traders turned on me. They believed I was in your pocket. I tried to make them believe that our allegiance was at an end. That you had ruined me financially. I lost out on lucrative business ventures to keep such illusion. There are traitors everywhere in footfall who have alerted Basteel to your arrival. I knew you would escape the attempt on your life, I knew you would escape. I accept the Kasballica attempt on revenge. I have made it my choice to pit myself against you in the hope it would flush out the real stratagem of our enemies.”
Xanatov raises an eyebrow at this and turns to Blake.” So the deceived becomes the deceiver Mr Blake?”. Blake nods “Yes she showed me the evidence, Feckwood has found a drop on us all. I fear he is arranging even now our assassination, and will use the auction to decapitate our dynasties”. With respect Xanatov turns back to Sun Li “A very unexpected but commendable move on the regicide board of our dynasties then”. “Are you trying to flatter me?” Sun Li asks before continuing “Flattery is a girl’s best friend, but honesty is far more useful”. Glad at this resolution Xanatov adds “When this is done we should consider working together in a longer term”. Feigning shock Sun Li answers “Lord Captain, but we hardly know each other”.
Upon the Saint Drusus, Aviners eyes watch the auguries with mechanical coldness. Even the odd readings showing up cause not a twitch from his expression as he runs them against expected patterns. The readings come back clear. The ship “The Hammer Of Truth”, Scourges ship, descends on footfall, macro cannon batteries arming. The weapons locked upon the Lord Captain location. Information assimilated, Aviner burst to life, sending binary commands across the ship, the Lord Captains life is in great danger.
From within the Emperors visage Xanatov looks out, the approaching shells shorting out the void shields with their force. As the second salvo follows on its heels, Xanatov raises but a single eyebrow quizzically, trusting to his crews skills. Moments later the statues skull explodes before the onslaught unleashed upon it.
Sun Li glances around momentarily disorientated, but hiding the fact quickly. Around herself and Xanatov the walls of the teleportarium now stand. Aviner has snatched them to safety just in time. Klaxons of war ripple across the ship, Scourge still continues his destruction of the statue of the holy emperor outside as footfalls defences finally come online. The airwaves fill with a mixture of begging for him to cease and threats from the drusians. Scourge replies “The emperor will forgive me for hunting down those who would throw their lot in with alien species” before demanding Xanatov be dragged before him, to be made to pay for the lewd acts he has allegedly committed on Eldar.
To this nigh anarchy another ship enters, The Lord Captain Basteel. His voice then adds to the chorus, demanding Xanatov be brought out to face justice or be excommunicated from the human race
In the hold of the Druses, Xanatov and Sun Li quickly discuss the potential benefits of being believed dead in the strike that just occurred. Xanatov comments “We will have to wait for the teleportarium to recharge before we can send you back, while you wait in your prepared quarters I can advise to you that the third bottle of amsec is particularly rare “. “Why Lord Captain” Sun Li answers “Are you trying to get me drunk?”
To the comms chatter outside Jeremiah Blitz adds his voice with a convincing soliloquy “Ya know, I’ m not an emperor fearing man myself, but it really wasn’t a smart move setting your puppy dog loose. If I were a gambling man, and I am, id say you played your hand too early. You are going to reap the whirlwind, you have brought a tidal wave of shit down on your head. My ship is tad gaudy, but my sense are quite astute, and you may have noticed that some of the other rogue trades have just entered the system, and they are powering up their weapons systems. You had better hope you have taken out the Lord Captain. Remember the kicking we gave you before, well after that we shall see if Able took my advice and bought some atomics on his last expedition. Let’s hope then that Xanatov is dead, because if not there is the biggest target on your head since someone declared himself lord of terra and tried to overthrow the emperor.”
Xanatov smiles “It seems Sun Li, we have a choice between being dead or not dead, so many decisions”. Sun Li is cautious about the situation “That Blitz is more wily that he first appears. I wonder what he has to gain from it. He goes from wild drinking to elaborate schemes in moments” Xanatov nods “He is like someone made a Rogue Trader from myself and Pandareos into one package, hmm, now being dead would give me a few days well deserved rest”. Sun Li raises and eyebrow in response “You were planning on resting?” she asks with a knowing smile. “Evidently not” comes the deadpan response. “Good” Sun Li says “you wouldn’t like me when I’m disappointed”
In the com chatter once more Basteel is hurriedly backing down from his previous stance, a blustering half apology claiming that he thought Xanatov was responsible for the attack on the Emperors holy statue. He then demands that Scourge leave the system, or faces him.
Xanatov looks at Sun Li, and her anger at Basteel claiming to fight in her name, the comms silent. “Do we publicise that we are alive and in a state of friendship, or that we are alive and claim you are my captive?” Xanatov asks. Sun Li smiles “We are going into dangerous reaches of your subconscious there” she laughs.
Xanatovs voice speaks out, joining the chorus of comms chatter “Lord Admirable Basteel” he greets. The comms chatters goes silent for a moment as all reassess their positions. “Lord Captain Xanatov, gratified I am to hear your voice again” Basteel blusters. Having none of this Xanatov presses on “How glad I must be then at your attempt to desecrate the image of the Emperor himself. Oh yes it was your associate not you, your right hand man, he turns up blows up the structure I just happened to be in, and then you by some happenstance turn up moments later denouncing me in such an orchestrated way. What a coincidence”. “If you want to accuse me of heresy then at least to it openly” Basteel states.
Meanwhile Aviner is setting the technology to listening for the prayer echoes of past vox transmissions, hoping to find out more on Basteels comments. Reconstructing the message he finds that Basteel tells the truth, his vox on arriving denounces scourge as a fool and orders him to desist.
On hearing this Xanatov acknowledges that they have found Basteels transmission “Since you have denounced Scourge, put him down or you will not have a seat at the auction. I want his head on a platter. “ Basteel declines “He is a wretch, but if I was so fast to cut him down I would spare him the trial he is due”. Xanatov growls at this counter move“ A trial of peers, fine, if he did not have a writ of trade I would say he deserves nothing but cleansing fire. Innocence proves nothing, you can have your show trial if you like, but regarding our auction that is a separate matter. Have your trial, find your verdict, and it may alter my disposition. Let’s see what the sentence is.” Basteels mind quickly tries to find a advantage in this situation ” Only one who has proved his loyalty and piety beyond any doubt should act as judge jury and execution, I ask Able Gerret to stand before us in such capacity” Xanatov smiles at the move “I think this is the first thing you have said that makes sense. I do like the look of Scourges ship, it may work well as a hauler for me”
Scourge breaks into the conversation “As long as you two love birds are having a kiss and make up session, lets see if you have guts to hunt me down, I know you wont, you fop Xanatov”. Xanatov addresses the Rogue Traders “Does anybody here agree with me that this man should be brought to trial? Would you join me in bringing him to custody”. Suddenly all the rogue traders seem busy with repairs or other duties that take them away from this holy duty. Xanatov growls “You know what Scourge, get the fuck out of Footfall. We will cover the cost of repairing the holy visage of the emperor”. Pandareos hearing this in his cabin, drags his drugs ravaged form across the floor, and grabs the vox in shaking hands “He destroyed the statue of the Lord Emperor” he mumbles drunkenly “Ya don’t do that, Heck *I* don’t even do that. We gunna let him get away with this?”
Xanatov sits still and quiet for a moment then speaks once more “and I for one will not put up with anyone defacing the Lord Emperor himself, others will put in for repair, but I intend take him to justice”.
Around Footfall, a thousand cheers go up from the Drusian adherents, a thousand more scream the Lord Captains name.
The Emperors vengeance is due.