Ordering his men into position, forming a single line of auto and lasguns facing the huge, lowered blast door Chief Confessor Cornelius felt a bead of sweat drip down his face as the sounds of the creatures hammering on the door grew louder and louder; his faith in the Emperor remaining strong the Priest gritted his teeth and spoke calmly to his men “Hold steady men… hold… hold… fire!” At his signal the blast door hissed upwards revealing a hoard of misshapen and snarling mutations reaching out with grasping and gnarled claws; pinpoints of red light lanced out and autogun shells richocheted off the metal floors as salvo after salvo of fire was poured into the advancing mutations, reducing them to a red mist of twitching limbs and dancing corpses.
Meanwhile Captain Black leads his team of men on a tense crawl through the miles of maintenance and air ducts criss-crossing the ship; suddenly their is a scream from up ahead as only of his men Jones is grabbed by unseen hands and is pulled down the narrow corridor, his cried growing fainter as the unseen assailant drags the unfortunate into the distance. Following quickly the Captain’s team realises that Jones has been dragged by the mutations into the waste tanks of the ship, re-inforced tanks full of incredibly toxic and hazardous wastes; analysing some of the toxic effluence clinging to the ducts around it they quickly determine that Jones chance of survival is minimal. Speaking to Captain Black on the vox system, Enginseer Prime Pak is able, from his position at the controls, to isolate the sections of the ship containing the human life signs and vent the other areas into space, flushing the mutations out of the ship; a lifesign scan of the ship confirms that all signs of the mutations have been purged.
Confessor Cornelius makes his way to Captain Blacks positions, where he ministers to the chemical burns sustained by the Lord Captain and his crew whilst during their abortive attempt to retrieve Jones from the depths of the ships caustic waste tanks; a couple of the men are suffering from toxiemia and, whilst Cornelius is able to stabilise them, he tells the Captain that they need to be got back to the Lunatic Pandora quickly.
Whilst this is occurring, Enginseer Prime Pak and his team of junior tech-adepts have reached the fabled threshold of the legendary teleportarium, a piece of technology from the long lost past rumoured to be able to transport matter over great distances in the blink of an eye; a strange corruscating, flickering ball of red energy surges inside the glasscrete teleportarium chamber and a voice rings out chanting strange discordant pieces of dialogue
“…demons spawned of man’s iniquity and lust for power…
…protect the spirits of the crew…
…ghasts lurking in the lower levels…
…ordered by Itharius to transport them to another place when the time is right…
…mutations spawned by the failure of the Gellar fields…”
During his attempt to activate the ancient piece of technology, it malfunctions or some long forgotten subsystem is accidentally triggered causing the Enginseer to disappear in a flash of energy.
Rushing to the teleportarium chamber following the incident, Lord Captain Black orders the remaining tech-adepts to perform a system diagnostic and find out what has happened to his Enginseer; meanwhile Cornelius has been scanning the crew records and has discovered that the Venerus’ Chief Confessor was a redemptionist priest called Zane Cortex, listening to the strange phrases ringing out in the air he quickly reaches the conclusion that somehow the red energy is the remnants of Confessor Cortez who was lost attempting to use the teleportarium to transport as many crew as possible off ship. The tech-adepts have managed to work out that the teleportarium had sustained some damage when the Venerus’ crew overloaded it attempted to transport too many people, they have also managed to back-track it to the planet of Caliban VI where the believe Enginseer Prime Pak has been transported.
Moving back to the Lunatic Pandora, Lord Captain Black orders the crew to prepare the ship for warpspace travel to Caliban VI; sensing the urgency in his Captain’s voice the Navigator York Benetec opens his third eye, staring into the Immaterium and commanding it to bend to his whim. Such is the Navigators power and the strange time warping effect of the warp that the Lunatic Pandor materialises with its ship cronometers showing that they have actually reached the planet of Caliban VI half an hour before the transport beam from the Venerus was due to hit the planets surface. As the Naviagator retires to his contemplation chambers, body wracked by the strain of his exertions, a team is assembled and loaded into a gunboat shuttle; exiting through one of the launch bays the team make their way towards the surface of the planet.
As they burst through the upper atmosphere a lush jungle canopy spreads out below them; they have no time to take in the scenery as a blast of strange energy jets from the surface of the planet, striking the gunboat and throwing it into a spinning dive. The pilot of the shuttle struggles with the controls as the consoles short out and explode infront of him, raking his body with fire and electrical charges, it is a testament to the elite skills of the Lunatic Pandora’s crew that he manages to land the shuttle, only then allowing himself the luxury of passing out from his injuries. Whilst Chief Confessor Cornelius ministers to the injured man, Lord Captain Black oversees the uncoupling of the (mercifully undamaged) Rhino APC from its underslung harness, beneath the shuttle; there instruments show a surge of energy nearby that corresponds to the signature of the teleportarium and so, with a growl of the Rhino’s power engines, they begin to plow through the jungle towards where they believe the signal to be originating.
As the Rhino rumbles into a clearing, the group are relieved to see Enginseer Prime Pak (apparently unharmed), however, they are more surprised to see a red cloaked figure wielding a flame-thrower standing next to him; Confessor Cornelius recognises the robes of a Redemptionist preacher and, using his knowledge of the secret tongue of the Ecclesiarchy, is able to calm the ranting priest. Over the next few minutes it emerges that the priest is none other than Zane Cortez who was the last person to attempt to use the teleportarium, but it malfunctionned, trapping him halfway between the planet and the ship; the passage of Enginseer Prime Pak seemed to have freed up the system block and resulted in Zane Cortez materialising at his original destination Caliban VI.
The group barely had time to take this in when one of their guardsmen was grabbed from above by a strangel predatory form of vinelike plant that dragged him screaming into the canopy; barely having time to think, Enginseer Prime Pak whipped out his pistol and fired into the canopy severing the strange vinelike limbs of the plant creature. Deciding to relocate rapidly the group piled back into the Rhino APC whilst Cortez and Cornelius cleared an area around it using their flame throwers, and began making their way towards higher group; eventually they arrived at a hill that was dotted with strange uprights, each bearing a gemstone of unknown composition, counting them, with mounting horror, they realised that there was one for every member of the Venerus crew that had escaped to the planet and that stood in the middle of some bizarre graveyard or memorial.
Setting up watch for the night, the group was thrown onto high alert when they awoke to discover that the two guardsmen who had been on the last watch had been killed, each with a small neat holed drilled through their heart, bearing the trademark cauterisation of lasgun wound. Determining not to be taken by surprise again, Lord Captain Black ordered the guardsmen to take the Rhino APC and clear the trees around the hill, denying their enemy the benefit of cover, this went well until the Rhino struck a particular tree that clanged with a resoundingly metal sound and refused to collapse before the overbearing weight of the APC. As Chief Confessor Cornelius began approaching the tree with his flame-thrower drawn, a single red dot from the treetops panned up his chest and paused where his heart was located.
Eventually a lithe figure wearing a strange covering that caused it’s outline to shimmer and ripple and that carried an odd, streamlined rifle of xeno manufacture emerged from the trees, its face (what they could see of it) appeared humanlike but more scupltured, beautiful and cruel; in halting Imperial tongue the alien explained that the previous humans had awoken an ancient sickness and that his people had caused the Sycorax warp storm to isolate the system. When the crew of the Venerus came to the planet the aliens had scanned them and realised that they had failed, since the Venerus’ crew were infected as well, to save them from a painful lingering death they had dispatched the crew cleanly and quickly, before burying them; when the gunboat had arrived on the planet the aliens had feared that another ship of infected people had arrived and shot it down – however, having scanned them, the aliens have realised that the crew of the Lunatic Pandora are not infected.
Communicating via long range vox with the Lunatic Pandora, Lord Captain Black has Navigator Benetec take the ship back to the Venerus and board the ship; he is then able to pilot the Venerus out of the system through the warp and use the teleportarium to transport himself back aboard the Lunatic Pandora in time to meet with Captain Black’s team who have returned from the planet. Enginseer Pak transfers to the Venerus planning to help with repairs on the teleportarium, whilst Redemptionist Zane Cortez also returns to the ship to help with re-educating the primitive descendants of those crew who were left behind during the original exodus to Caliban VI.