40K Rogue Trader: S2 E29: Where Legends Go to Die
The Imperial Vessel “The Vengeance Of Saint Drusus” is motionless in space. The surface of the hull still blazes from the fire-power that has been spent upon it. Inside the crew is restless, morale pushed to breaking point by the suffering they have endured. Duties are shirked, and prayer cathedrals filled as the crew whisper amongst themselves. The cursed ship has claimed its due in blood once more.
Compared to their opponents though, they are lucky. Most of the crafts that faced them are now floating tombs, their remaining crew dead at the hands of the Ork that was teleported on board to unleash havoc. Blake sits watching the reports of the destruction, and notes that he must ask Aviner
to use his servitors to ensure that the orks aggression is always channelled in such a useful manner.
Engineseer Prime Aviner himself, like most of the senior crew is still upon the legendary craft, the Light Of Terra. It seems Navigator Lucius’ plan to instruct the crew to openly wear the aquilla was a good one. Since that point the occupying tribes of the ship have been mostly avoiding conflict with Rogue Traders Xanatov’s occupying force. It has not been entirely without incident, some tech priests have disappeared into the ships bowels, screaming as they go about the pale mother of the depths. For most part though it goes well. The prototech magi known as the Iron Kin have accepted Aviners approach and aided him in bringing the enginarium online. Their ways are crude, but still the old traditions have been kept. It seems the Iron Kin are apart from the other tribes of this ship and can for the most part walk freely amongst them to attend to their sacred duties.
Lord Captain Xanatov, who has not moved for the past hours as the battle raged in the stars, finally snaps back to reality, collapsing to his knees with a gasp of breath. He looks around, his bionic eyes taking in the fortifications that now cover the ships bridge. Sentinel walkers and flamer crews stalk the decks, patrolling the killing zones that funnel attackers to their doom. Stern looks over from the vox he is speaking on and snap to attention. Within a moment, the massive tech enhanced Gabriel looms over the lord captain, concern on his features “ My lord, are you well?”. Xanatov answers “I really don’t know where to begin” his voice sounds weary from the exertions that have passed. Stern steps in, pulling a dataslate from the depths of his double breasted greatcoat “We held here. It turns out the attacker weren’t a bad lot. We also have a message from Saint Drusus and Pandareos, they have had a fracas with a group of pirates that arrived. One it seems was allied with Sun Li” Xanatov nods “ I take it they didn’t get away easily” Stern shakes his head “I never knew that Pandareos was so vicious” Xanatov smiles “Someone must have stopped him getting alcohol onto his ship” dropping to a faux conspiratorial whisper he added “it was me you know”. The laugher of all ring out at this.
Once Stern has finished explaining about Lucius’ aid during the conflict Xanatov removes his helmet “ I don’t know about you two but I am very hungry and very thirsty” Stern looks over at Gabriel who is reaching for the supplies “Well, you know Gabriel, he always goes where the food is”. “Very Droll” Gabriel replies “I have to work hard for this physique”
A holographic display of the damage done to their craft is brought up. The three men discuss the weakness of the crew performance in the battle just gone. The crew need training, or the next conflict will not fare so well. About 15% of the Light Of Terra has been secured so far, but they do not have nearly enough crew or time to do a thorough sweep. Whilst they wish to try and bring the ships crew back under the watchful eyes of the emperor this would be a lengthy distraction from their hunt for the dread pearl. In the end they decide hiding the ship until they have time to deal with it properly will be be the best course of action.
As they talk, the Seneshal and Spy Master Blake steps in from the darkness. Without looking around Xanatov greets him “Don’t worry Blake, you will manage to surprise me one of these days”. With slight annoyance Blake comments “Are you sure you don’t have psychic abilities Lord Captain”. “Don’t forget, I have built up my empire by knowing what people will do, and I know you so very well Blake”. After a pause Blake says “It is just as well I have nothing worthy of hiding”. Xanatov smiles knowingly “Isn’t it”.
Blake suggests that Aviner should be capable of devising some mechanical ruse to cover the ships presence. Stern agrees “Aye, he knows a lot more than he let on, if it were not for the fact that he make my guns work I would not trust him as far as I could throw him and that is not far at all.” Xanatov says”Do not forget, him and I were a crew of two once”
Lucius, who has been working quietly during this exchange, swings around a holomap, pointing to an area upon it “This is where we will hide it”. None is willing to go against a Navigator in his speciality and so it is agreed. As they prepare to depart Stern asks “So you do not wish me to nerve gas them then?” “Not for now” Xanatov replies. Blake moves alongside Xanatov and ask quietly “My lord, have you considered the issue of Captain Roth?”. “I have given it a lot of thought, the ships safety weighs heavy compared to one man” “He was a contemporary of the Saint Drusus and an Imperial hero lord captain”. “Yes he was” Xanatov says. “Pragmatism, a curse we were born with, well then lord captain, let none gainsay you from what is yours, nor turn you from the path you have chosen”
Upon the Sword Of Scintilla the void master known as Pandareos is less than happy to find out that the celebratory alcohol has run out far quicker than expected due to most of the hull being filled with recaf rather than the promised amsec. To alleviate the bad mood he opens up the channel once more to the begging and pleading of the few survivors on the hulked ships outside, begging that soon turns to screams as the ork finds them. Many scream that they have turned from chaos and found the emperors glory once more. Amused, Pandareos sends over a small craft, just big enough for ten men, and let them fight over access. Those that manage to get through arrive to be granted what is known euphemistically as the emperors mercy, their executions broadcast over all ships to raise morale.
That done Pandaroes meets with a drunken “The Player” who sits strumming at his guitar morosely, surrounded by empty bottles “Eh ese, why did we have so much recaf?” He asks. “I dunno” Pandaroes replies “Think there’s low morale over at the Drusus, maybe I’ll have to head over there and grab some stocks on the way”. “Ah mission to reclaim booze, ese, I volunteer” The Player says before collapsing in a heap. Turning to a tech priest Pandaroes asks “Ay, tin man, is there anyway you could reclaim the alcohol from his blood, ya know, keep us going” After a lengthy declaration of the priests correct designation, which is incidentally not tin man, the tech priest mentions something about synthesising from a blood sample, and moves on the prone Player, its blades whirling. “Ay, ay, speak gothic, did you just say you can make alcohol, and if so will he survive it?” Pandareos asks. “Yes I can, and there is a ten percent likelihood of survival”. “Oh, aight, lets save it for someone who annoys me then”.The tech priest pauses “I was joking. Ha ha. Ha ha” it says it metallic monotone. “Hilarious, tell all your mates” mutters Pandaroes who feels worryingly close to sober. “I have already told over six hundred people. They all find it funny” the tech priest adds. “What I need is a beautiful woman, who is willing and has booze for me, is there anyone matching that description on the ship?”. The tech priest shines strange rays over Pandareos scanning him for something “Based on your asymmetrical features the probability of all is low”. “Why do I feel if I could understand what you said you would be in trouble” Pandareos mutters, “Aight, which one’s the problem?”. “All of them”. Grumbling Pandareos raises Onna and Alala on the vox” Ya know I’m not 100% sure, but I think this tech priest just called you ugly, and possibly fat”. Closing the vox Pandareos was fairly sure that would provide him with the violent entertainment he needed for the next half hour.
That done, Pandareos ordered the Saint Drusus raised on vox “Hey, I heard some people over your side were tetchy after the battle.”. “Yes” replied the head officer “I had hoped our victory would have raised morale, but it was not to be”. “No problem, I’ll be heading over and we can organise a celebration to raise morale, just make sure there’s two hundred crates of amsec and spirit ready for me to bring back to my ship, we’re running low”.”Sir, the Lord Captain left specific instructions that you were not to be allowed near our alcohol supplies”. Pandaroes curses “Listed, do you want to have your crew rebel, riot,loot and have a sober Pandareos, no? then get me some booze”. The officer paused again “I will have to run this past the lord captain”.”the Lord Captain is at this moment communing with saints, with vision quests of the emperor himself, and you want to be the man to interrupt him from that? Really? Or you could just get me some booze”.After the vox is cut the officer mutters” The emperor have mercy, I don’t think we have enough!”
On “The Light Of Terra” the order has been given to withdraw. However Aviner is hesitant. Tech priests have been disappearing, screaming of the children of the pale mother. When the troops arrive at their last known location all that is found is pools of water. To find out more he decides to talk to the operator of Junction 2B. She has risen in respect amongst the Iron Kin now, held as the one who discovered the true tech priests, who they now nigh worship.
The Operator 2B answers that those who worship the goddess lives deep beneath the waves. She sends her monsters out to cast terrible magic against those who would revere the burning one or the oracle. Thanking her, Aviner opens vox to Xanatov “Have you heard mention of the children of the pale mother?” Xanatov answers that he has heard of mutant attacks from the pale sons. “I have been told they attack servants of the oracle, or the burning man, which appears to be their terms for the emperor and omnissiah. Once we have reactivated the ship it is highly likely that their attacks will increase in response”. Xanatov thinks a moment “They sound like heretics, Colonel Stern, we may have a civil war on our hands, I do not know what the situation will be like when we return”. Colonel Stern pauses “We could always gas the lot of them”. Aviner interjects “We can seal the area they come from. They seem to be limited to a base in the water. It is possible their mutation allowed them to adapt to the environment”. “We could then put them to the void and save on gas, good thinking” Stern says. That done Xanatov says “I shall visit the bridge briefly, continue with the evacuation”. Agreeing, Aviner arranges to bring a group of Iron Kin to the Saint Drusus to educate on the true rituals of the Omnissiah.
Upon the bridge, alone once more Xanatov stands gazing at Captain Roth who lays in the command throne “I’m going to be leaving soon, we need to continue our work elsewhere. Made a mess of your bridge I’m afraid” Xanatov says. The cadaver like figure of Roth lifts his head “Little Drusus, you’ve brought me so far, and I am ever loyal to you.” he pauses as he feels the ships engines move below him ”What’s that? they move? Like grains of sands upon a beach. You now how long its been since I saw a beach? But who needs a beach when you have a galaxy and a ship that can level worlds. The worlds, we shall burn them all, purge the xenos. Exterminate civilizations and heap their bodies before the throne”. Froth and spittle leap from his desiccated lips as he rants about the glories he shall behold.
Xanatov speaks softly ”You have worked so hard, let me release you so you can stand by the side of the emperor”. Ignoring him Roth rants about the treasures they have taken from the countless ruins world, laughing as the power comes online. A countdown booms forth, the ship is readying to leap to the warp. Plunging his hands deep into the wires Xanatov takes the life support within his hands, ready to cut this hero of the imperium from his craft and end his life, ceasing the warp jump. “No. No, your killing me, your killing me, I’ve fought for you and you murder me” Roth shouts, babbling with rage and terror. Xanatov hand closes, tearing the coils loose. One spasms and Roth stills, a hero dead by Xanatov’s hands.
A moments silence. Xanatov stares at the corpse taking in the finality of what he has done. Then the moment is over and action begins once more. With panic seeming in his voice Xanatov voxes Gabriel and Stern “I need you the bridge immediately”.”What’s happened”says Stern. “Something terrible” comes the reply.
The bulkhead doors are ripped from their hinges moments later as Gabriel barrels into the room. Before him Xanatov kneels holding Roths body and weeping freely. Gabriel’s face falls, his eyes filling with tears””Oh, oh no, no not, our hope” His bionic legs fail beneath him as he collapses to the deck. Stern places his hand upon his shoulder in cold comfort. The troops behind them are silent, unable to express their shock. Xanatov prays aloud, soon leading the men in chorus, a dedication to the fallen hero. Soon Father Kaustic pushes through the crowd, clad in black robe and ashes. Gazing upon the broken form he screams in guttural pain, clawing and tearing at his face, his voice raises shouting “You, you, did the saint anoint you. You stand in the presence of greatness!”. Swinging hiss roaring chain sword this way and that he searches for an enemy to slay, a foe to end. Xanatov grabs him with his armoured arms an shouts “FATHER!”. Kaustics chainsword crashes against Xanatov armour, hammering at it until his mind clears and he realises who addresses him. Without energy left he collapses mewling “Anointed one, anointed one”
Xanatov pulls his power helmet free, exposing his bionic eyes with which he affixes Kaustics gaze. “You are needed more than at any other time, for ever man woman and child in the Imperium”Xanatov pulls back his hand and slaps Kaustic around the face “PULL IT TOGETHER”. A moment of homicidal rage crosses Kaustic’s features. Xanatov pulls his power sword loose, holding it aloft “You, will show composure and steel yourself in service to mankind, for one of his angels have fallen. We will show respect, but our belief will not be shaken by it”.
Kaustic rises, a psalm at his trembling lips. He speaks of the fallen Captain, saying he underwent an apotheosis, and Xanatov has witnessed the ascent of one of the emperors chosen. Xanatov says” Roth deserves to be returned to Terra itself, as does this ship. I shall see it done”. Kaustic, a tiny figure before Xanatovs Power Armoured bulk, embraces his Lord Captain, tears in his eyes. “The voice of Drusus has spoken” Kaustic says”Thus it will be” turning to the rest he continues “Drusus did not cease when assassins took his closest allies. We have our mission, to take the dread pearl. Only once our tasks is done may the ship return, but the sword must never cease. You must take this ship forth as the pride of your fleet, to crush the expanse and remake it in his image. Xanatov answers “Father I am humbled”.
Around the fleet the images are broadcast, Pandareos sits slumped in shock. There was a hero of the empire here, and he has died. Pandareos will never meet this legend. The horror grasps at him. On the vid screen Xanatov raises the Power Sword once more to salute Roth “I want every ship that is able to fire a salute in his honour. FOR THE EMPEROR!”