Cometh the hour, cometh the man-machine

Session 17

Write-up by Jason (jymmijamz)

Game – Rogue Trader

(Run by) GM – Chris

Altius (Astropath Transcendent) – Jason (jymmijamz)

Victris (Navigator) – Will

Gnothics Sexxophin (Explorator Tech Priest) – NightUlf (Darren)

Chapter 17

The newly returned ocean world hangs in the void below the Boadicea’s Wrath, a wealth of minerals ready for the taking. From the surface a chaotic god like being looks out. All its centuries long plans going awry. The hated Eldar have been driven away by the humans. Those same humans cleansing their own, denying it’s beloved plague a foot hold in the universe.

 

Aboard the Boadicea’s Wrath, Marcus steps up to the Astropath placing his bolt pistol against the back of Altius’ head. “I hope you have a good explanation for what just happened.” After some garbled jabbering on the telepaths part, Victris tries to calm the situation and lead Altius to an answer. “How did you know that the Captain was one of them?” “Sh… She was not there.” Altius haltingly replies. “Please elaborate.” Altius pauses as he tries to figure out the best way to explain. “When I contacted you all about the tech priests being voids, I realised that she had no mind either. Hence she was not there.”

 

At that moment on the other side of the room, Gnothics receives a binary communication. “Statement… No original infections evaded your purge… Statement… Thank you.” Gnothics glances around to make sure he is not being observed, before giving his binary reply “So if none survived, is this a new infection?” “Statement… Thank you… Statement… You connected to them all… Statement… New viral package delivered…” “Is this from within or without?” “Statement… Signal is from within… I am telling you this as it is already too late… Statement… It is customary to give thanks… Thank you…

 

In the split second it take for Gnothics to hold his conversation, Marcus looks at Victris. “Is there anything you can do to convince me not to execute this guy as a traitor, we really do need an Astropath.” In response the Navigator Lifts his bandana and opens himself to the warp. “Well what can you tell me?” The impatient Seneschal asks. “I can find no sign of warp taint on him.” “Okay I will accept that for now. But if we go back to imperial space and say that the Lord Captain was corrupted to hell, they will take the warrant of trade away, and give it to another family.” Gnothics looks up. “I’m not going to say anything, but what if this was some sort of interloper and the captain is still in her rooms?” Marcus turns to look at the Explorator. “We can’t rely on that.”

 

After some discussion Marcus turns to Altius. “So just how many corrupted tech priest are we talking about here?” Altius considers his answer for a moment. “How many tech priests do we have on board?” “Around a thousand.” Altius pauses to take this information on board before answering. “Um, about a thousand.” “Throne!” Lylith exclaims. “Are you telling us that there are on uninfected tech priests on board?” “Pretty much, yes.” After debating the accuracy of the statement and what they can do about it if it is correct, it is decided that Marcus and some of the bridge staff will try and find a member of the ecclesiarch to rally the crew, and Lylith will ready her troops for combat. Whilst Victris, Gnothics and Altius will head down to the Core Cogitator, in the hope of trying to head off the swelling numbers of Tech Priests gathering down there.

 

As the trio, accompanied by Victris’ menservants, take a service lift down into the belly of the ship, the lifts metal frame creaking under the excessive weight of the engineseer. Victris and Altius each, in their own way, sense the impending doom. An oppressive feeling of finality hangs over them all. As the elevator nears the core Gnothics starts to pick up a growing hubbub of binary voices, an electronic chorus rising in a binary hymn. The lift comes to a halt and the doors open, revealing row after row of chanting, red robed priests, all heading into the most sacred areas of the core cognitator.

 

As they step off the lift Victris turns to Altius. “Did you feel that?” Altius grimaces. “Yes” Looking around the navigator turns to Gnothics. “Are they doing what I think they are doing?” “Yes, unfortunately I believe they are trying to revive the artificial intelligence.” Meanwhile the chanting continues to rise in volume; Gnothics is now able to pick out the repeated phrase. “Up lift comes… Up lift comes…”

 

Turning back to his servants, Victris addresses them in navigator cant. “Get to my people and ask them to see if they can figure out who is controlling all of this.” They bow as they step back on to the lift. “As you say, we follow the navigator.” Their unified cant spoken response.

 

Half a kilometre away they can hear the unmistakable sound of las fire, followed by the telltale krump of frag grenades going off. In response a large group of priests brake away from the main body and head of in the direction of the fire fight, chain axes coming to life as the head off.

 

Victris starts to get images relayed from his cult, showing a hollowed out skull. Sparks flicker and dance around its innards. It is the repository for what was retrieved of the AI. As he gets these images, the navigator can tell that as the cult members are sensing this, the AI is feeding back fatally via the connection into them. Victris turns to Gnothics. “They have placed an item of hereotech in the cognitator.” “Throne! We are going to have to hit that skull… um item… ah hereotech and now.”

 

Victris pulls his hell pistol and starts to recite a ritual of maintenance on it. The instant his pistol leaves its holster, five tech priests turn forming a wall, completely blocking the corridor. Seeing this and realising that the priest only react to a direct threat, Gnothics keeps his weapons firmly holstered and along with Altius, sets off the long way round, trying to find a way in to the Core. “You try and get to the core, I’ll draw them off.” Victris calls after their retreating backs.

 

Looking back Gnothics can see even more tech priests blocking off every route back the Victris. Turning back, the Gnothics starts to run towards the core, followed by Altius. Thick coils of cabling dotted with glowing blue crystals, start to appear more and more frequently the deeper they get, the crystals glow pulsing in time with the chanting tech priests. Behind them they hear the distinctive whumph of a hell pistol being discharged. It is the sound of Victris opening fire as the tech priest’s pile in, their chain axes swinging, sending the navigator diving and rolling to avoid being eviscerated.

 

As Gnothics and Altius arrive at the core they can see Shiroigin standing before the metallic skull. Behind him they can make out a squad of grey camoed security officers, firing las rounds at full auto into an approaching wave of priests, who are bearing down on them like a wave of robotic ants. Next to them is the newly raised Canon Archlight, leading a team of acolytes, who are more like Special Forces than clergy. Out in front, Lylith and Albina fight with vigour and vengeance in their hearts, but will soon be over whelmed.

 

As Gnothics and Altius step into the core Shiroigin looks up. “I… I told… I…” his face betrays some sort of inner conflict, before suddenly going blank. “Hello again… I told you it was too late…” Conflict once more flows across the tech priest’s face again as he falls silent. “Altius is there anything you can do to assist Shiroigin with his torment?” Gnothics asks his warp touched colleague. “It’s really within my skill set, but I will try.”

 

Meanwhile back out in the corridor Victris lifts his bandana, focusing his witch powers through his third eye. Tech priests drop in their dozens, heads exploding, limbs writhing and contorting. The few survivors charge the navigator with abandon. One of them leaps forward landing on Victris, crushing him to the floor. He feels bones crack, ribs snap and his vision turns momentarily grey at the edges. As he is forced to the hard metal floor plates, a chain axe swings down towards him. Its momentum arrested by an overhead pipe.

 

Back in the core cognitator, Shiroigin looks on. “If you kneel, you will become his most prized servant. That will please the master.” Suddenly the voice changes back to a more human tone. “If you do this, you turn your back on the Omnissiah.” In the hope of angering what is left of Shiroigin’s consciousness, Gnothics drops to his knees. As the engineseer drops, Altius takes a step away and rests his hand on the hilt of his mono-sword, in case he needs to administer the Emperors Mercy. All around him chain axes roar into life. Altius slowly removes his hand and the axes quieten down to idle. Seeing his chance Altius focus’s his mind, drawing in all the anguish and horror of those who are still burning in the our areas of the ship. He then releases it as a psychically charged scream. The room shacks, knocking tech priests and crewmen to the floor. Shiroigin takes the brunt of the blast, his head simply evaporating, blood and oil geysers from his truncated neck. As the surrounding tech priests start to stagger to their feet, Gnothics launches himself at the skull. As he lays his hands on it electrical arc’s envelope his body and a battle of wills ensues.

 

Altius, laying on the floor after losing his footing in the psychically induces quake, can see his colleague in agony. Snap drawing his pistol, he fire from a prone position trying to hit the skull. His round seems to bounce off of a haze hanging in front of the skull, a smoking droplet of metal drops to the floor.

 

Further off across the room, taking advantage of the quake, Marcus, Lylith and Albina along with their combat squads, make their way towards the embattled Explorator. As the approach they systematically execute any downed tech priests they encounter.

 

Having finally extricated himself from the mass of augmented, red cloaked priests, leaving crisped flesh and slagged metal in his wake Victris makes his way towards the core and the sounds of battle.

 

Seeing the engineseer fighting his own body, as he tries to force the skull down on to a running chain axe, Altius clambers to his feet. Rushing over, the Astropath calls for someone to throw him a Krak grenade. Victris finally enters the chamber and witness this as ten more tech priests enter from another route and block his path to Gnpthics. Lifting his bandana once more, the navigator starts a slow steady, purposeful march forwards. Tech priests collapse under the baleful glare of his third eye, their screams ringing in his ears.

 

Altius and Gnothics battle for their lives, even as the engineseer battles for his very soul. With a sudden burst of strength Gnothics finally manages to throw the skull to the floor. Stamping his foot down hard on the hereotech artefact to keep it in place, Gnothics draws his pistol and fire off a burst at point blank, shattering it. As the thing explodes energies are released, spreading in a wave throughout the ship. Where ever the wave comes into contact with infected tech priests their minds are fried. As their systems shut down the tech priests start to drop dead where they are standing. The ensuing silence is finally broken by a mighty cheer as the combat squads celebrate the victory.

 

Victris finally make it over to his two exhausted colleagues, a feeling of impending doom still hanging over him. “What do you make of this?” he asks Gnothics, indicating the shattered skull. Gnothics pushes the pieces around with the toe of his boot, before answering. “I think the original infection is still in the core cogitator, but I think we have solved the immediate problem.” Even as the statement leaves his vox-box, a light starts to flash on a nearby logic engine. It soon becomes clear that there is a sum total of one being on board the Boadicea’s Wrath that could hope to understand what the flickering light means.

 

Fortunately he is standing right there in front of it. “Suggestion… I will vacate this unit… If you will carry me.” Gnothics wanders over to the logic engine and start flicking a switch in a rhythmic way. “What insurances do I have, that you will not try and take over the ship again or worse?” “None… Up lift will happen…” Thinking fast, Gnothics extrudes a cable and plugs it into his servo-skull and uploads some of his brain wave patterns, in the hope of fooling the viral entity in to thinking the skull is in fact him. Plugging the servo-skull in to the logic engine, Gnothics runs the up load. As the program finishes, the skulls eyes snap open. “I have not moved… This is not you… Leave me here, there is more mobility… Agreed?” Gnothics thinks for a moment, weighing up the pro and cons.

Eventually he reaches out grasping the hovering Skull by the nest of wires hanging below. With a mighty yank the priest severs them, destroying the things ability to connect to any other device. “Agreed.” He states. The skull drifts off, and as it does the feeling of warp taint diminishes.

 

Life aboard the Boadicea’s Wrath starts to return to normal, or at least as normal as it can with about half its crew dead and only one tech priest to oversee all the necessary repairs. The minerals have to be collected from the planet’s surface and loaded in to the cargo bays. Eventually the ship is ready to limp back to imperial space. On their eventual arrival back within the familiar star clusters of home, the minerals are sold and moneys made. Marcus contacts Lord Captain Zanatov aboard Vengeance of Saint Drusus, and after sometime crunching numbers and negotiating their future, announces that the Warrant of Trade will stay within the family.

 

What will the future bring?

What strange new worlds?

What new opportunities will come their way?

Who can say!

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