Planet Telec – Hive Primus (House of Black)
Ten years before the present day, five years before Fortunus Black would meet his cousin Polaris Black in a bar on the outlaw settlement of Footfall and offer him the first officer position on his ship…
Rising high above the toxic industrial clouds of the planet Telec, the gleaming spires of Hive Primus pierce the heavens and touch the void beyond the planet’s atmosphere; the noble House of Black, rules of House Primus have been celebrating the coming of Age of one of their youngest members, Fortunus with a week long display of wealth, celebration and debauchery. Heedless of the suffering of the lower classes engaged in back breaking labour in the darkness of the lower hives, sweating and toiling without ever seeing the sky or the sun above the toxic clouds created by the industrial manufacturing processes of the hive factories.
Still shocking by his father’s announcement that he was planning to retire from actively seeking the family’s fortunes, Fortunus is summoned to his father’s quarters and is escorted there by the House Black guards, carrying shock lances and clad in resplendent silver carapace armour; entering the chamber he beholds a mighty circular meeting table, emblazoned with the emblem of House Black – seating around it are several members of his family, some recognisable to him (his uncle Gillam Black sat silently nodding, his nervous tic causing his eye to flutter is seated next to him and, flanking his father, are his two cousins Tristan Black whose wide eyed visage and grey hair is rumoured to have been caused by warp exposure following a Gellar field failure and Darius Black whose eyes appear to move independently, taking in everyone in the room) and others that he has never met.
Fortunus’ father Macharius runs a hand through his grey hair and his yellowed eyes (a result of numerous quasi-legal longevity treatments) look out at his family members, “As you are aware, there are many of our enemies who envy our house and who would see us torn down; our youngest have always lit the way and have bought wealth and prosperity to our family, making us the undisputed rulers of this system.
I am no longer a young man, it is time for me to step aside and allow those younger than myself to step forward and make themselves known.” Fortunus nodded, his father was known to be 250 years old, although numerous chem treatments, artificial enhancements and xenos life extension treatments of questionable virtue (and legal status) mean that he appears to be in his 50s or 60s. Macharius continues to speak, sliding a data tablet across the table towards Fortunus, “If you sign your name on this document my son, then a request will be sent to the Adeptus Administratum adding your name officially to our Imperially granted Warrant of Trade; before you do this, know that, although it will grant you power and freedom undreamt of by lesser men, it also carries with it responsibilities and duties.”
Signing his name on the document, Fortunus slid it back across the table to his father saying simply “This is what I was born for father.”
Present Day – Into the Storm (Fate of the Venerus) 816.M41
Following their return from the Catan II sector the Lunatic Pandora sailing under Lord Captain Fortunus Black emerges from the warp on the outskirts of Port Wander and begins their final approach, thanks to the unfathomable skills of their Warp Guide York Benetec it seems as though virtually no time has passed for them since they entered warp space on the edge of the Catan star system. Still wary of the dangerous xeno tech that they have onboard (even though it appears to still be in a powered down/dormant state) their Enginseer contacts the local Adeptus Mechanicus on the station and, after explaining the situation to a functionary, they are ordered to remain at a distance from the station whilst the machine cult sends one of their people over in a shuttle craft to examine the technology.
Less than an hour later, a small shuttle exits the station and docks with the Lunatic Pandora, out of it emerges Magos Explorator Rha-haz, an imposing figure garbed in deep crimson, augmented with a large grapple arm mechandrite and flanked by four heavily armed servitors that move in lock step with him; Enginseer Prime Pak meets the Magos and leads him to Captain Black’s meeting chambers. Once esconced in there, the Captain explains how they came across the xenos technology, he also mentions that he has discovered a stable passage through the Sycorax warp storm to the lost Adeptus Mechanicus outpost in the Caliban system. Fortunus explains that he is planning to mount an expedition through the stable corridor to investigate what has become of the system and, in return for their help repairing his ship (and additional payment in equipment upgrades should they return) that he will turn over any recovered technology to the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Magos accepts, his voice echoing electronically around the chamber, face hidden by a voluminous red hood, save for some small tentacle like wires that emerge from the lip of the hood.
Magos Explorator Rha-haz makes arrangements for the Lunatic Pandora to dock in one of the Adeptus Mechanicus repair bays on Port Wander so that immediate attention can be given to the ship, he also has a number of mind linked servitor drones take the recovered xenos techonology to a safe distance from the port so that the contents can be examined remotely.
Whilst waiting for their ship to be repaired Lord Captain Fortunus Black meets with some of his contacts from House Ramirez, a merchant house who have had links with his family for centuries, he is able to strike a deal with Raz Ramirez and purchases three Calixis Pattern Fury Interceptors from the moustached merchant, who leaves after concluding the deal saying “We have always valued our lucrative ties with the House of Black, you will not be disappointed my young friend.” Enginseer Prime Pak has also used his own connections to secure three Gun Cutters and has arranged to have them shipped aboard, whilst York Benetec has been purchasing astronavigational charts and writings that he can use to improve his, already impressive skills at navigating through the Immaterium.
Unfortunately Fortunus’ appears to have deserted him as he fails to find any fresh crew to enlist and replace the casualties suffered during their battles with the Ork menace, no doubt this is partly due to the fact that word has got around about the mission he is planning to undertake, attempting to reach a system that the Adeptus Mechanicus, with all their vaunted technology and explorator fleets, had written off as lost; desperately needing additional crew, Captain Black approaches the local law enforcement on Port Wander and offers to take some of their more violent and scurvy criminals off their hands, press ganging them into service aboard his vessel, the Adeptus Arbites agree on condition that these crew be confined to the ship during it’s stay on Port Wander. Bringing the new crew aboard, vague murmurs of dissatisfaction circulate amongst the existing crew, who feel that their position as veteran, skilled crew is being tarnished by the introduction of murderers, thieves and thugs onto their vessel; Enginseer Prime Pak attempts to cow the crew into silence but is not successful, just when it looks like the situation might result in an attempt at mutiny, the ship’s chief Confessor, Cornelius steps forward and delivers a rousing speech, about how these criminals are being given a chance to return to the Emperor’s light by serving penance and that it is the duty of ever good Imperial citizen to help shepherd them in this attempt. He finishes with a promise that, should any of these people fall by the wayside, that he will deal with them in the same manner that the Ecclesiarchy deals with all those who have rejected the Emperor’s light; the crew seems pacified by the stirring words of the priest and a potential mutiny is avoided.
Unable to turn his crew loose on Port Wander due to Adeptus Arbite edict, the Captain waits until repairs have been completed on the Lunatic Pandora and then heads to the well known criminal outpost of Footfall, where he goes on a nostalgic drinking tour with his first mate and cousin Commander Polaris, the shore leave seems to do the crew some good and their morale is much improved by the time their ship disengages from the Footfall docks and gets underway to the Caliban system.
Emerging near the coruscating red and white energies of the Sycorax Warp Storm surrounding the Caliban System, the naigators use the flight trajectory and astral coordinates gained from the Ork vessel to locate the entrance to the stable warp corridor that pierces the storm; moving through it slowly they begin to map out the area ahead, their sensors being limited by the warp stuff surrounding the corridor, Navigator York Benetec assisted by Enginseer Prime Pak skillfully guides the vessel through the narrow corridor. Suddenly, ahead of them, their sensors pick up a garbled distress Imperial distress signal, although they are unable to make out many details due to warp distortion on the sensors, although Cornelius does hear snatches of a hymn in the background that he recognises as the Emperor’s Lament (an Ecclesiarchy officially sanctionned battle hymn). Moving slowly closer they are eventually able to identify the hulking shape of the Tyrant Class Cruiser Venerus stuck on the edge of the corridor, half in real space and the other half hanging in the warp storm surrounding the narrow stretch of normal space. Examing the sensor data coming in from the ship Enginseer Prime Pak is puzzled to see that the damage inflicted on the hull seems commesurate with that of a ship that has been derelict for hundreds of years, rather than the mere 50 or so that the Venerus has been missing for, with his knowledge of Imperial ships Chief Confessor Cornelius confirms his assessment, Navigator York Benetec warns about the warp’s potential for time distortion.
Keen to board the vessel, sensing the potential salvage rights, Captain Black realises that they may have to enter the ship via one of the sections exposed to space, however, he does not wish to risk exposing the crew unprotected to any ambient warp energies that they may encounter outside the protective Gellar fields of their own ship (especially considering that he does not know the state of the Venerus own shields; eventually he accepts a risky plan proposed by Navigator York Benetec where they plan to bring the Lunatic Pandora alongside the Venerus, coming in dangerously close and slightly overlapping the Gellar fields of the two ships, this would allow smaller vessels to pass between them with only a very small exposure to any ambient warp energies.
Lord Captain Fortunus Black, Enginseer Prime Pak and Chief Confessor Cornelius each take one of the recently acquired Calixis Pattern Fury Interceptors, each crewed by five junior tech adepts and an additional 25 soldiers from the Lunatic Pandora; Chief Confessor Cornelius is clad in his armour, girded by his faith, a thunder hammer strapped to his back and a flamer gripped in his hands, his eyes shine with righteousness as he contemplates the potential souls to be saved and begins leading his crew in stirring song, praising the Emperor and girding their souls against mankind’s fear of the void. As the three ships cross the narrowest point between the two fields a panicked transmission issues over the voxc systems from Enginseer Prime Pak’s ship to the others “We have a situation here.”
Low powered las-gun fire echoes around the crew compartment of the Interceptor as the soldier crew fire wildly at a flailing monstrosity that was once one of their crew before mutated by exposure to the stuff of the warp, features melting and forming into fang mouthed tentacles the creature lashes out killed two of the other crew even as concentrated lasgun fire and mighty thrusts from Pak’s power sword dispatch it, with a grimace of disgust the twisted body of the unfortunate is ejected from the airlock into the cold vaccuum of space. Circling the Venerus, it is established that there is no power to the docking bay and that it would have to be triggered manually; not wishing to send someone out in a vaccuum suit Enginseer Prime Pak loads his servo skull into the airlock and, commanding it mentally by the power of his will, sends it slowly across the void, using it to manipulate the manual controls and open the docking bay doors. After they have touched down, he used the skull to close the doors and repressurise the cabin before they all emerge from their craft.
Whilst Lord Captain Fortunus Black and Chief Confessor Cornelius prepare to explore the ship (all of them remaining in comms contact with Navigator York Benetec who has remained behind on the Lunatic Pandora) the Enginseer reroutes power to the instrument panels in the docking bay, using it to scan the ship, he picks up 800 life signs in total, 200 of them registering as human and the remaining as unclassified, the human life signs seem concentrated in the crew and mess quarters, whilst the majority of the unclassified readings come from the lower decks where the Gellar fields are at their weakest; he also discovers that the Bridge appears to have been sealed off and that, according to the date stamp recorded by the machine spirit of the Venerus, approximately 300 years have passed for those on board the vessel. The distorted echo of the Emperor’s Lament continues to play on loop, Chief Confessor Cornelius bows his head for a moment in contemplation or perhaps prayer and says solemnly “the Emperor is still with this ship… and with us all.”
Enginseer Prime Pak is at last able to isolate and play the full distress message:
This is Lord Captain Itharius of the Imperial Cruiser Venerus, calling to any ships that may be within range of the Caliban system; following the loss of the Adeptus Mechanicus outpost here and the rise of the warpstorm we were commissioned by Ordinate Adoplhus on behalf the Adeptus Adminstratum to investigate. We discovered what appeared to be a stable corridor through the storm but our Geller fields suffered a catastrophic failure and we have been cast adrift on the tides of the warp. Our Navigator is dead and I fear that without him we will not be able to free ourselves… we need help… this is Lord Captain Itharius of the Imperial Cruiser Venerus calling to any ships…
Chief Confessor Cornelius decides to explore the crew quartes; upon arrival he is met by a strange primitive human who speaks in an almost incomprehensible dialect that seems to be some debased form of ships dialect (according to York Benetec who is able to translate some of the primtive’s babble over the comm link, it seems that the person is from something called the Adeptus Itharius, he becomes quite excited when Cornelius mentions the Emperor (‘the Golden Father’ as he refers to it). Cornelius is able to convince the primitive (and his gathering comrades) that they are messengers from Itharius (the name of the Venerus’ Captain whom these people seem to venerate as some sort of messianic figure) come to lead them back into the Emperor’s light. The confessor is lead through a makeshift shanty town of lean tos and huts fashioned from shipboard detritus and salvage until they arrive at one of the few remaining intact crew quarters, he is introduced to a female albino with watery pink eyes called Yarni who is one of the tribes leaders; as he enters the chamber he notices the severed heads of what appear to be fanged mutants of some variety (he thinks back to traders tales of Hullghasts, lower deck dwellers mutated by engine radiation and warp emanations) mounted on sharp metal spikes and nods in approval, ‘at least these primitives know how to deal with the mutant’ he thinks.
Lord Captain Fortunus Black] and his squad have reached the sealed blast doors of the Bridge section, his junior tech adepts have the [[Enginseer temporarily reroute some additional power to the instruments up here, allowing them to bypass the system lockdown and open the door a few feet before the corroded circuitry gives out; the gap is sufficient for the boarding party to slip through in pairs. They find the bridge deserted save for the powdered, ancient remains of one of the crew seating at an instrument panel, a tarnished golden Aquila resting amidst the dust identifying the remains as belonging to Captain Itharius. Whilst scanning the ship, the tech adepts are shocked to discover a piece of archeotech known as a teleportarium, a device from the lost age of technology permitting the instantenous transportation of matter across space; voices verent with wonder they communicate the find to the Enginseer although they do say that, despite it appearing to be in working order, there is no power to that section and they would have to check the circuitry before restoring power to avoid risk of an overload.
Whilst considering this, they locate a ship log recording by Captain Itharius in his dying moments and play it, the voice of the long dead captain echoing once more around his Bridge:
Ship’s log 766.M41
The mutineers have killed the Tech-priest Ramain, and with it, any hope of repairing our damaged systems; we are now adrift without hope, our Confessor the Redemptionist Zane Cortez wished to remain and fight the mutineers in the name of the Emperor, I commend his fervor but our duty to our crew and our ship must come before our need for vengeance. I have ordered the last of our reserves shunted to the teleportarium chamber and have given the order that Cortez should evacuate any non-essential crew to the nearest life supporting planet before following them through himself; someone will be required to minister their spirtual needs, we have no idea how long a rescue may take.
I plan to set the engines to stabilise our position here, in the hope that someone may find this record and rescue our crew, returning them to the bosom of the Emperor’s light, I fear there is no hope for me but I will seal this chamber behind me, the mutineers will not take my ship damn them!
Ship’s log 766.M41 – additional
We’ve recently had a power spike, I pray that Cortez managed to get the rest of the crew to safety, but I can’t spare the power from the engines to check the internal cameras; some of the rebel scum appear to have begun to mutate, no doubt due to the fact that we have driven them down to the lower decks where the Geller fields first failed.
I fear that the wounds I suffered during the mutiny attempt are taking there toll, I can no longer feel my left arm and my breathing is laboured, my soul will soon be with the Emperor.
Abbas laudo meus animus sedeo praeter vestri rutilus per , in imperator nomen
The moment is cut short when Enginseer Prime Pak’s voice comes across the commlink, “Captain, there are multiple unclassified life forms moving towards our positions rapidly, impossible to accurately predict numbers; i’m attempting to close blast doors to slow them down.”
In the crew quarters hearing the announcment Chief Confessor Cornelius shouted to his men “You four, protect the tech adepts, the rest of you with me – I will protect these people and lead them back into the Emperor’s light!”
Lord Captain Fortunus Black ordered his men to set up a firezone in preparation; back in the docking bay Enginseer Prime Pak spotted the first of the hostiles, a long pale shape moving with a simian slouch, it’s face horrible human but distorted into a thing of bestial hate and instinct with needle sharp teeth and the forward facing eyes of a predator; the pale wormy flesh of the creature bought back vivid memories of the tentacled thing on the Interceptor earlier and, before he slumped to the floor, vomiting onto the deck, his grasping hand punched a button causing blast doors to come crashing down all over the ship.