Rogue Trader:S2 Ep 33: Heretics, Xenophiles, and a Pale Moon Dancing
The ship “The Vengeance Of Saint Drusus” has been riddled by the traitor marines plague. Many have fallen or are falling. Some fallen are starting to move once more, shambling under the control of the sickness that slew them. The lower decks of the ships clash with guardsman as panic flickers through their number. In the end the purifying flame restores discipline and removes taint.
It is not as bad as it could have been. Aviner’s groups of Apothotech priests have done well, and stilled the worst of the outbreak, bringing back many from the very precipice of death. As he organises this Aviners back is watched by Sente, who is still furious at being excluded from the battle with the plague marine, and happily takes out her anger on Aviners metal body. For Aviner it is worth it though, Victrix’s bloodied body help on life support reminds him of how easily most fell before the marine, and Sente may be furious, but she is alive.
The Lord Captain Xanatov coughs blood inside his Power Armour, ignoring the screaming and flickered warnings that it holds. Hitting the sacred runes, he ejects himself from it, freeing himself to join his crew. It is just in time as the Saint Drusus rocks under a cataclysmic blow. The Yu Vath vessel is in weapons range. Slamming a needle of stimms into his neck, Xanatov prepares to do his duty. Having scavenged two rare bolt pistol clips of exceptional deadliness from Xanatov, the void master Pandaroes returns with his crew to the “Sword of Scintilla” to lend his aid in the coming fight.
Upon the bridge Xanatov receives an incoming vox from the Rune Priest Sigurd on the “Oath Of Purity”. “Nemiel tells me you associate with xenos filth. This is heresy. If it were nor the situation I would turn weapons on you and turn your ship to atoms”. The Rune Priest says. “You forget yourself, I have a writ of trade. We are outside the empire. So my word is the world of the god emperor. My writ sanctions a xenos. If you have a problem take it up with the emperor” Xanatov answers. “I FORGET NOTHING. You speak heresy. We will take you back to the emperors light and you will stand trial for association with the enemies of man. When you do I will happily lead the inquisition myself”. Further argument is paused by the necessity to prepare for war.
Upon the Scintilla Lucius prepares, watching the telemetry of the Yu Vath approach. With Pandareos still returning Lucius is in charge of the ship and guides it ready for battle. The Oath of Purity has engaged battle already, swinging round to loose its broadside battery of turbo lasers. The Yu Vath craft, a massive sphere of warp energy and crystal, wades through the fire-power unmarked before letting an arc of warp energy whip across the imperial ship. The energy cuts deep into the ships structure. Watching, Lucius can feel the hunger of the ship, its warp influence sapping the crew’s resolve. Sprinting finally to the helm Pandareos sees the readings Lucius has prepared. No vulnerabilities, no weak component or unprotected chink in the armour has been found, for it has no such weakness
On the Saint Drusus, Xanatov is busy slaving himself into the ballistic system. Unbeknown to him, he is about to receive aid from an unexpected source. Lured to battle by his grot, Wartsnagger is now stomping amongst the fire crew. Tossing “Wimpy ‘Umies” from their positions and taking it over itself. Whipping the slaves the overseers scream “Look, look!. That Xenos filth, ahem, I mean the lord captains pet, is doing better than you. PUT YOUR BACKS INTO IT!”. The resulting fire-power drags down the Yu Vath shields and pocks its propulsion, but cannot score the lance fire to finish it off. The damage does little to help the Oath of Purity, which continues to be torn and shredded by the Xenos energy, doing massive damage to the ships superstructure. The Saint Drusus however is unharmed, having learnt from the prior battles with the Yu Vath, Xanatov has positioned his ship in the optimal position to evade their attacks.
Swinging out from behind the cover of the Saint Drusus the smaller craft of the Sword Of Scintilla joins the fray. With a cry of “This is one of the stupider things I’ve done. Which anyone who knows me will know is very stupid. Lucius, don’t throaning miss” Pandareos speeds the craft in behind the Xenos sphere, praying that it does not have rear armaments. Lucius does not disappoint. First the void missiles cut down the shields, then the lance punches in, its capacitors threatening to blow from the energy pulsing through. The energy cuts damn near to the centre of the ship, burning the crystal from its path. Then as it promises to cleave the ships heart from it the power finally gives. The crystal ships and reforms, leaving no evidence of the close call Lucius brought to it.
From the distance Linara Cobolt joins in with a barrage of hope more than aim. Striking impressively but to little effect. Cobolts’s spirits are not dampened though as she screams “Die. Die you Xenos filth. DIE”
To Wartsnaggers laughing and bellowing the Saint Drusus strikes once more. This time it is like the wrath of the emperors hammer as a precision lance strike finds a fracture line of the ship, shattering shards and sensors. As the statues of the saint glows, bathed in the weapons light, a xenos voice can be heard shouting “We showed those puny space marines. That’s how we do it”.
Lucius mind fills with the screams of pain of the Yu vath, the pain soon becomes material as the ship lashes out once more, ignoring the Oath and Penances barrage. The oath rocks again from impact, and the Saint Drusus rocks as it is marked for the first time in this encounter. Rapidly biologis adeptus teams spill loose to heal the wounded. Across the vox drunken sea shanties can be heard as Pandareos hauls his craft to a better position to strike once the weapons have been reloaded.
Too late Xanatov realises that the closing Yu Vath ship is on collision course. The machine spirits roar to life, but still the ship cannot move out of the incoming threat. At the last moment Xanatov lays in with a desperate shot that finds the Yu Vath. In the explosion that follows the xenos ship spins away with a scream of psychic agony. They have been spared for now. The Oath of Purity is not so lucky, crushed once more by a strike of expanding concentric circles of energy. Though wounded the Craft still rings with the terrifying battle hymns of the battle brothers within.
“The mutant abomination Lucius did well” Pandareos shouts as he leaps upon the control panels of the Sword Of Scintilla “Lucius, lock on, strike it again”. “Shut up Pandareos” Lucius says as he tries to get a lock “Right, no more distractions. You’re having it”. The resulting barrage sets off a chain of explosions across the Yu Vath ship. Between the attacks on each side the craft spins on its axis screaming across all psychic minds in the area. In the medicae bay Victrix convulses as she feels its agony wash over her. The weak willed go mad and collapse, blood pouring from their eyes from its rage and pain.
Then it pauses, ignoring all the other wasps picking at it, it focuses upon the one that hurt it most. Across the Saint Drusus darts of Eldritch energy piece through the walls, and shafts of violet anti light ravage across the ship. Tens of thousands die in the emperors name and the Drusus hull shivers, the craft near its death.
“Oh throne” Pandareos shouts “they’re sitting ducks”. Jumping up the void born screams for the vox to be open, all channels, static and noise as he swings the “Sword of Scintilla” out in front of the Ya vath craft, hoping to draw its fire. Pandareos opens a pic feed and shouts “Xenos filth. You couldn’t hit us if we were still in the water.. You couldn’t even hit this!” With that Pandareos turns, undoing his belt and dropping his trousers, presenting a pale blotchy arse before the pic feed “Throne you”.
Lucius feels it turn. The Yu Vath may not know, or understand the gesture. They understand defiance. This small bug before them defies them utterly. The Ya Vath’s wrath is like a supernova as it prepares to destroy utterly the bug that mocks them. “I did not need to see that” Lucius mutters as Pandareos’ laughter echoes across the vox.
Taking advantage of the moment Xanatov orders a hail of fire. In perfect joy the ork rushes from cannon to cannon as the crew whimper beside it. The salvo is immense, pounding the Ya vath ship as it tries to swat the Scintilla from the air. It attacks with all it has, but the smaller scraft is never where the xenos expects it.
Taking the initiative Panadroes shouts down to Lucius “Ok. I’m about to do a run through the ships graveyard. Tell me if I’m going to hit anything, aight?”. “Oh crap” comes the reply, followed by a hurried list of co-ordinates through the debris. It is a mad man’s manoeuvre, and all other craft lend their fire to distract the behemoth sphere as it chases after the Scintilla.
The Scintilla should never be able to manoeuvre through the graveyard, but somehow it is unharmed as it runs between the thousands of ruined craft. The Yu Vath on the other hand crashes from ship to ship, crystalline shards tearing loose with each impact. Finally a colossal detonation throws the spent ship around as if toys, before condensing back to a single dot of light. The Yu vath ship is no more.
Elated Pandareos leaps up punching the air “Yes! That’s what you get when you mess with those in the emperors name” across the vox he adds ”Everyone, when you tell your grandchildren about this remember my name is Pandareos!” back on internal vox only he adds “Thanks Lucius, ye were great. Me, I was perfect”. Finally Pandareos collapses exhausted back into his chair. Still reeling from the things death scream Lucius says “That’s ok for you to say, I still have the image of your arse in my third eye”. “Aye, and ye didn’t even have to buy me a drink” came the reply.
The battle is done, but there is no time to rest as Xanatov orders them to gather. The Astartes has ordered them to stand down and face trial for working with Xenos. Xanatov has refused, empowered by his warrant of trade, but it seems there is one who disputes his claim.
Across the pic feed the image comes of a rogue trader clad in duster jacket and hat. Krawkin Feckward “My former enemies, lord captain, I am a changed man. I have seen the error of my ways and I have seen the ignominies I have forced on you all. I see that I have been an unrighteous man, and a sinner I tell you now, with the god emperor as my witness that I have seen the error of my ways. His angels came before me and showed me the way. I give myself to him, and all I ask is that you turn over your lord captain to these warrior monks, then no further bloodshed will be caused. Give to them the lord captain, and the xenos abomination that I know he holds against your will, for you surely would not have it voluntarily. It is Xanatov that forces you to abide it. As holder of a warrant of trade I shall take you all to my bosom in his place.
Finally Xanatov speaks over this soliloquy “You may be redeemed, I don’t believe you, but you still may. For allying with chaos you will be redeemed in death.”. Krawkin pauses then answers “I have nothing to hide. The emperors chosen have looked in my soul and seen no wrong doing. I did make a pact, but I thought I was dealing with holy astartes, I had no idea of their real masters. I offer that I will take on the responsibility for the crusade once Xanatov pays for his crimes, I shall redeem his holy works. Would the lord captain dare allow asatrtes to look into his soul also?”. Meanwhile Pandareos tries to negotiate allowing Lucius and himself on board to question Krawkin in person, but the Astartes will brook no delay. “Any chance they could have fooled an asatrtes?” Pandareos asks. “I don’t know anything that could fool a psychic of that power, but I still don;t trust Feckward” Lucius replies.”. Aviner also has tried a plan of desperation, interrogating the captured captain of the chaos vessel to find the truth, but the captain will not speak of that matter. He speaks only of the book that haunts the ship, and of the unholy truths of his master Tzeentch. Feeling sick to his machine core and head reeling with obscenity, Aviner is soon forced to flee the holding cell.
Unaware of the machinations, Krawkin speaks on “I have begged the battle angels for clemency, but time is running low. You must hand over the traitor of they bring down fire upon you.” Xanatov continues with his own plan, the high provost summoned to his presence. “I need some with a higher authority than my own” Xanatov says “I need to demonstrate my conviction is to the lord emperor and the lord emperor alone.”Provost Achilles thinks then says“You would open yourself to me? What would you do if I found things I had to act upon?”. “Then you would do your duty” says Xantov.
Upon The Oath Of Purity the vox opens and the Provost speaks “I am high provost Achilles acting under high inquisitor mandate. I am not yet a full member of the brotherhood, but you will find me highly placed enough. How shall we defuse this situation my friends”. Sigard replies “Achilles, we have several shared colleagues it seems. Would you vouch for this man?”. The answer is a simple “Yes”. “Very well.” says Sigard “We will allow Feckward to depart. He has the location you require, you will have to come to some arrangement. Xantov, do not cross our path again. A seal will get you so far but we will not forget your weakness”. Back on the Vengeance Of Saint Drusus Achillis says “That is my end complete. Now don’t forget to do yours. Quid pro quo”
One threat down, Xanatov turns his attention to the next. The location of the dread pearl. Krawkins message is waiting “I am not a fool, my former life has taught me many things. I will provide the final location of the dread pearl but it is on my terms and you will have to match my price” Speaking to Blake Xanatov says “He has us over a barrel doesn’t he?” “Yes, he is pulling the same trick you did. I had not anticipated that move” Shaking his head Xanatov mutters “we could have easily blown them out of the air, but they are Astartes.”. Another message from Krawkin blinks through “I send you to your death in the hope that you die in his service. I Will give the location to you for free when I am in safe distance” Opening vox to reply Xanatov says ”How do I know that you are truly a man of your word? You have already nearly killed me once. I trust you as far as I throw you, and I have a bionic limb I could throw you further than you could throw me”
”You will have to take a leap of faith”Krawkin says, a simple statement “It is all part of his plan, You have shown that you are not an emperor fearing man with your xeno loving nature.”
Around the ship crew rush to search for alternatives and plans, scanning for signs of the last location. It all comes down to two men in the end. Two Lord Captains and the choices they will make.