Murmurs of dissatisfaction have been rumbling through both the Venerus and the Lunatic Pandora regarding the presence of an alien onboard the flagship of the fleet; meanwhile Confessior Cornelius has been preaching about the danger inherent in the touch of the xenos, his message is well received by those carrying the undercurrent of dissent around the ships. After one of his sermons Cornelius is approached by a familiar face wishing to give confession, Maron is the cleaning for the murder servitor pens on the Lunatic Pandora; since the Confessor’s aid with a crisis of faith the cleaner has had a high opinion of Cornelius and has made his way across from his ship to give confession.
Maron admits to being uncomfortable with the presence of an alien onboard the ship but Cornelius explains Captain is listening to advice from alien and that the confessor is monitoring him to make sure that Lord Admiral Black is not corrupted by the Eldar; he tells Maron that the Captain believes they can get more information from them by being nice but that eventually the alien will be handed over to the appropriate authorities for interrogation and death. Maron seems much more comfortable with this revelation and tells Confessior Cornelius that there is a meeting being held on the Lunatic Pandora by Huron Marsters (third gun deck commander) of people not happy about alien presence, Maron apparently found out about the meeting from Marsters second in command.
Confessior Cornelius doesn’t like aliens being on-board but allows it because Lord Admiral Black is a sanctioned Rogue Trader, but he settles Maron’s mind with the words “you are created in the Emperor’s image, you are of the divine race and as such we shall conquer”
Marons mind set at rest, Confessior Cornelius assigns a junior priest to handle the rest of rhe days confessions and contacts Lord Admiral Black to inform him about potentially mutinous meeting; he proposes going to the meeting incognito to investigate how dangerous this situation might actually, Lord Admiral Black approves his plan.
A junior navigator knocks on the door of Lord Admiral Black’s quarters, he carries the days scroll containing route navigational info ready to be passed to the Navigator York Benetec, he asks Lord Admiral Black for the ship’s destination. Admiral Black orders the ship to get underway, heading for Caliban Secundus in the Sycorax system (the same planet where they had previously planted a sensor in orbit); because there was no travel in warp space the coordinates straight to the engine room.
Enginseer Pak hears that there are some excited murmurings amongst the mechanics because they know that there is an Eldar on-board and that they are one of the more technological/older races. Although the technology of the xenos is heretical, it doesn’t stop the various technicians on-board from having a detached interest. Pak attempts to keep the technical crew inline, however there is little he can do to stop the speculation of the crew (although it is unlikely the technical crew will interfere with the alien); the younger tech-crew are more excited because they’ve not seen xenos-tech before, however the older crew are more cautious, knowing that “academic interest is all very well but beyond a certain point it becomes hazardous for your health.”
The ship departs for Caliban II and Confessior Cornelius takes a shuttlecraft to the Venerus’ sister ship the Lunatic Pandora.
Lord Admiral Black notices a few mutterings amongst his command staff but nothing that seems mutinous, although his immediate staff is far better informed than the majority of the grunts on the ship and so are not as likely to speculate.
Confessior Cornelius disguises himself as a general crew member and, after helping out unloading cargo as part of his cover, begins mingling with the other crew members; an announcement from Captain Polaris on the ship-wide vox system relays the receipt of orders to head towards the planet Caliban II and orders all crew to report to their stations. Cornelius mixes with the rest of the crew, casually hinted at how much he hates the xenos and slipping in some of the more inflammatory stories from his past (making sure to remove references to the Ecclesiarchy). Later in the mess hall an engineer sits down next to him and loudly expresses dissatisfaction that the Lunatic Pandora is no longer the flagship and at the presence of the hated alien. Having heard Confessior Cornelius’ stories he mentions that a meeting is taking place on the 3rd gun deck to decide on further action, he slides a piece of parchment across the table containing the department number of the meeting before he leaves. Turning over the paper Cornelius sees that it says “Compartment 24B Gun deck 3.”
Cornelius heads to the murder servitor pens and, after checking to make sure that he is alone, he opens his personal vox unit and contacts Captain Polaris who is alone in his quarters, having just finished a staff briefing; after a little preamble Cornelius tells Polaris about the potentially mutinous meeting, asking Polaris to put together a team of trusted security officers in case he should require backup, he tells Cornelius that his inner-circle was personally vetted and that they’ll be ready at the Confessor’s signal.
Meanwhile, on the Venerus Lord Admiral Black is holding an informal meal/Q&A for his officers; the nutrionists onboard have done their best to turn the unpalatable ration packs into something more appetising with only ‘modest’ success; Enginseer Pak is sat in the corner eating rancid food that is reminiscent of hive slop from a small metal mess tin, having specially requested the rank fare from the ship nutrionists. At one end of a long metal table sits Lord Admiral Black and facing him at the other his wife Lady Dominique Decusis-Black, York Benetec is at his right hand; Dominique is not entirely happy with her proximity to York Benetec but the Admiral attempts to smooth it over by loudly mentioning the many years of loyal service that the Navigator has provided.
Admiral Black addresses his crew, “many of you have served me for years on the Lunatic Pandora however some of you have only worked for me for a few months aboard the Venerus; I thought to take this opportunity to see if you have any questions regarding our mission?”
In response to the question the Head of the Armouries, expresses concern regarding the acknowledged presence of one, possibly two xenos species in the area, asking if there is any more information regarding this potential threats. Lord Admiral Black explains that the purpose of their mission is to discover the extent of the threat posed by the race known only as the ancient enemy, the Eldar envoy Da’Duith Iath has pointedly not been invited to the meeting. The Head of Armouries says that it has been a while since they have resupplied and that it would be a good idea to stop off soon to recover more ammunition and make sure the ship is at peak fighting proficiency.
Lord Admiral Black asks about the Temperance system and is informed by Enginseer Pak that system has a large blue white star, three planets, gravitational shearing effects that made navigation difficult and that the star throws out irregular radiation bursts, however he is unaware of any civilisation currently occupying the system, there are rumours that he has heard through the Mechanicus that it was once occupied. Enginseer Pak discusses with Master of Armouries having the fighter craft on regular patrol if they travel to the system in order to help scout out and counter the shearing effects.
The two main stable warp routes from the Sycorax system are Malus and Temperance.
Confessor Cornelius and about 12 other people attend the meeting on gun deck three, sitting on crates and boxes; Cornelius stations himself at the back of the room listening to the other people murmuring amongst themselves. A large figure wearing the uniform of a gun deck officer stands up on a box and says “Friends, crewman, you all know me, I’ve worked alongside you for many of these years, from the time we were the flagship of this fleet, since we left our homes. Never once in all that time has my faith in my superiors wavered, no matter what was thrown at us, I had my faith in our superiors and the Emperor.
But what happens when those two things are no longer the same? What happens when my faith in the emperor tells me one thing and my faith in the Admiral tells me another thing? I ask you now, since that time is here; our superiors have allowed a vile, xenos abomination aboard the flagship. My faith in the emperor tells me that we must hate and fear the alien, not allowing it to turn us away from our destinies.”
Cornelius can tell from the man’s speech that he is fairly well educated, as the gun deck officer continues to speak, “My faith in the Admiral tells me that they must be doing this for a reason and that they are justified in collaborating with this fiend in human form that is on their ship.” People start to get riled up and Confessor Cornelius goes along with crowd so as not to seem out of place.
“Worst of all, when we ask for re-assurance we are told to continue with our duties and that everything is fine, my friends, how can everything be fine when such a creature is allowed to walk unchallenged on one of the Emperor’s vessels? How can such a thing be right, and if it is right, then is our faith wrong?
Greater than my faith in our superiors is my faith in the Emperor; I ask you, what should we do?” At the back of the room someone shouts “throw the scum out of the airlock!”
The gun deck officer continues, “Listen, I’m sure there is nothing wrong with the majority of our command staff, our ship hasn’t been corrupted by the touch of the alien, we are still pure; what should we do? Should we turn against our own? I say no, but we must remove this unhealthy influence from our sister ship.
I do not believe that a member of the noble House of Black would allow such a creature on his ship lest it had some unholy grasp on his mind; the only way to free the Admiral is to remove this creature and shatter the hold it has on his mind.”
Cries of agreement sound it the back of the room and someone fires off a couple of shots in high spirits before a person asks “But what can we do Huron?”
Marsters proposes that as a group they are stronger than any threat and that they should take their demands to Captain Polaris; Confessor Cornelius stands up on crate and throws off his hood speaking in commanding tones, “Brothers, i agree with you, but your plan is foolish.”
People begin to shout him down, but says Huron “the time for action is now my friends! What would you have us do?!”
Confessor Cornelius tells them that they’ll be arrested, instead suggesting that they move people into position aboard the Venerus so that they can act when the time is right, he continues “We will get our people in place ready to deal with the xenos filth.”
Huron Marsters replies “Your words have a certain amount of truth, what do you suggest? Let him speak”
Confessor Cornelius says that the Eldar is on the ship because of a worse threat, they are trying to play the aliens of against themselves, “is it not better that two xenos races annihilate each other with no loss of human life? And once their strength is expended we can then deal with them”
A few people in the crowd begin to nod and see the wisdom of the Confessor’s words, the leader of the rabble asks “That’s certainly true since human life is precious, what is your name?”
Standing up tall Confessor Cornelius reveals his identity, he hears several people gasp and look quite nervous as he continues to speak, “If I had my way this thing would’ve been chucked out of an airlock as soon as it came aboard, however the Admiral believes it can be used to serve the Emperor’s will, I will ensure that no-one is corrupted by its foul ways, and if they are then I will deal with it.”
Huron seems comforted by these words and offers Confessor Cornelius help if he ever needs it, Cornelius speaks to him after the meeting and gives Huron his personal vox frequency, people begin to drift away from the meeting, returning to their stations.
Confessor Cornelius contacts Polaris and tells him to stand down and that he believes the problem has been dealt with; Polaris is grateful and arranges for Cornelius to be shuttled back to Venerus.
On the Venerus a vox alarm sounds to alert the Admiral that the ship is nearing Caliban II; scans of planet conducted by Enginseer Pak, register a large planet, with high gravity and a slightly toxic, thin atmosphere. A network of tunnels runs from the crater left by the departed xenos ship under the surface of the planet.
Lady Dominique Decusis-Black asks her husband if there is anything she can do but the Lord Admiral tells her that the planet “may not be any place for a lady.”
Scans of the surface reveal no life-signs and, as Lord Admiral Black laments his lack of drop pods, the crew begin preparing the breather masks required for normal people to walk on planet; such things are not required by the largely mechanical Enginseer. The detachment taken down to the planet consists of 50 marines, some technicians, half a dozen servitors, Confessor Cornelius, York Benetec, Enginseer Prime Pak and the Lord Admiral himself.
Upon arrival on the planet Enginseer Pak martials his servitors and directs then to build a temporary base of operations whilst Confessor Cornelius explains about the averted mutiny to Admiral Black, who explains his view on the Eldar, “They are a dwindling, weak race, they barely have a presence in the system and pose little threat.”
Confessor Cornelius expresses his opinion with the simple statement, “However they are xenos, and therefore scum Sir.”
York Benetec offers to conduct deals with the Eldar since the crew don’t like him anyway and it won’t affect his relationship with them; he walks to the “ambassadors” quarters and knocks on the door with his staff. It slides open to reveal Da’Duith Iath wearing the form fitting androgynous, bejewelled armour of an Eldar warrior.
York begins to speak “As I’m sure you are aware we have arrived at Caliban II”
“I have not left my chambers since my arrival how would I be aware?” asks Da’Duith Iath in a matter of fact tone
“Consider yourself informed, Admiral Black will shortly be departing to the planet and requests your presence”
The Eldar accompanies Benetec into the presence of Lord Admiral Black who asks the Eldar if it has enjoyed its stay, the Eldar responds “It has been satisfactory. I take it you have already performed whatever scans your ship is capable of?
The departure of the alien ship has revealed a larger complex below ground; I had hoped to put my notes in a form you’d better understand but time has forced my hand. The ancient enemy hid their ship here where it expanded into the surrounding area and slept awaiting a time when they could rise again.
They are not creatures like us, but of living metal.”
Lord Admiral Black asks how they can be destroyed since they are very tough, the Eldar says that at the height of its power his race didn’t manage to destroy them completely, he hopes that the fore they face is a mere echo, if so then with luck human technology might be able to defeat them.
Confessor Cornelius noted a metallic tang in air as the servitors busied themselves constructing the hab dome and the troops went about securing the perimeter; the pit was incredibly deep with tunnels/corridors set in the sides of pit, Enginseer Pak estimated that the corridors were approximately two metres by two metres, he begins construction of a wheeled riot barrier with gun slits that could be pushed ahead of the party. Getting slightly carried away the tech-priest mounted swivel lights on the barrier and covered it with prayers to the machine god. The troops were mostly armed with auto guns but had a few rocket launchers between them that came loaded with krak missiles.
Lord-Admiral Black picks a tunnel at random and the group begins moving down it; the tunnel is made of a smooth almost organic looking metal, there is dust everyway but otherwise the metal is undamaged. Enginseer Pak takes a small metal sample and puts it in an isolation box for examination when they return to camp; Enginseer Pak and York Benetec see a part of the wall peel back and a glowing green protuberance emerges silently, pointing at them, lightning flickering around it, the Eldar identifies it as some sort of intruder detection system.
Ignoring the danger York Benetec turns to Da’Duith Iath, “You’ve not actually been to one of these ships before have you?”
“No,” replies the Eldar in an unemotional voice
There is a load hiss, followed by an explosion as Lord-Admiral Black shoots his plasma pistol at the protuberance, the melted remnants dribble slowly down the wall; Enginseer Pak examines the wreckage using his servo-skull, it is a focussing lens, mounting smaller versions of weapons seen possessed by the other ancient enemy troops encountered, but no signs of wires or an interface are visible.
“Why of all your people did you decide to join us here?” asks Benetec paying no heed to the explosion nearby
Da’Duit Iath responds, “I was one of the few members of our species willing to tolerate your kind for the period of time necessary to accomplish this mission, that and my knowledge of human languages and customs.”
“So you’re an unusual member of your species?”
“Unlike your species we do not fear that which is different and encourage our people to pursue many different paths to enlighten.”
York Benetec replies “As you may have noticed I am not like most of my species. My experiences in the wider universe have lead me to believe that there are other ways of looking at things.”
“How very progressive of you” replies the Eldar.
As they continued down the corridor it started to become darker, the lights on the shield were turned on and soon one of the troops cried out “Sir we’ve got something up ahead!”
The corridor widens into long, large chamber, with hooks hanging from the ceiling, a battered form resembling a ragged metal skeleton with dark eye sockets hung limply from one set of hooks; Enginseer Pak realises that the other hooks must once have held other warriors, despite the dust thrown up by the ships departure, he can tell that some activity took place in here recently.
Lord-Admiral Black asks whether the Eldar has any suggestions to activate the warrior so it can be returned to the ship for study, Da’Duith suggests not activating it in the first place and cautions that they have no way of knowing if interference will trigger any additional defences. Pak’s servo-skull moves in close to the skeletal warrior and scans it, detecting no energy signatures but registering extensive damage to its right side. Enginseer Pak hypothesises that the defective warrior was left behind when the others left on the ship.
Da’Duith Iath explains that the ancient enemy were once mortal but found a way to transfer their souls into mechanical bodies of living metal, they would power down on long voyages and then their systems would awaken them when needed; York Benetec mentions that they have previously encountered the creatures only as implants set in biological race, the Eldar replies that this is not consistent with what they know of the ancient enemy. Benetec describes the small beetle-like halo device they encountered and the Eldar envoy says that it sounds like a repair device used by the armies of the ancient enemy, a swarm of living metal that carpets the battlefield repairing damaged warrior units.
Enginseer Pak hypothesises that the scarabs have perhaps adapted to survive on other races in the absence of their old masters to become the halo devices of human legend, perhaps even controlling creatures at the will of their masters. Lord-Admiral Black orders Enginseer Pak to collect the repair unit as a sample, he detaches a small side strip of metal from the blast sheet and prods at the hooks attached to the warrior but it doesn’t react, he pushes one of the unattached hooks onto a non-damaged part of the warrior and it melds with it creating a seamless join.
Enginseer Pak estimates that there must have once been 50 or so warrior units in the chamber, he suggests damaging the section of wall containing the attached hooks so that they detach from the warrior unit; Confessor Cornelius tries to lift the warrior unit off the wall, one of its eyes lights up and it reaches for his throat before it once again deactivates, he extracts himself from it’s now limp grasp and lifts the lifeless warrior unit off the hooks.
Lord-Admiral Black sends some of the marines back to basecamp with the warrior unit; Pak instructs them to put it in an isolation unit; Swivelling the light upwards the group can see what appears to be a larger version of the Scarab attached to the ceiling, but instead of legs it has the hooks upon which the necron warriors were mounted descending into the room. Pak notices that, as they proceed, comms are becoming worse with basecamp; they leave some of the troops behind as a relay with a spare comms unit to keep communications with basecamp and move on.
Enginseer Pak sees footprints in the dirt, seemingly left by the departure of the necron warriors, suddenly one of the marines alerts them that they’ve lost comms with basecamp and the relay squad.
The party heads back towards where the relay squad was left, finding a charnel scene of carnage and destruction, the comms unit is smashed beyond repair and the slaughtered bodies of the crew are liberally scattered around the corridor; Cornelius looks for shell cases and finds that the crew were killed before they even had time to crack off a shot and that the gun chambers of the men are cold. Enginseer Pak checks comms and from this position is able to get through to basecamp, they confirm that the warrior unit was put into containment and warn the base to remain on high alert due to potential hostiles in the area.
Confessor Cornelius begins re-assembling the bodies and saying last rites, he quickly realises that the bodies were sliced up very cleanly by a large curved blade; meanwhile Enginseer Pak begins looking around to see if he can see where the tracks have gone, but he can’t see any trails, there are several round indentations in the dust around the murdered bodies; he theorises some sort of tripod like creature.
Da’Duith Iath draws an ornate gem encrusted laspistol as though some extra sense tells him that trouble is about to find the party.
A loud scream sounds from one of the troops at the front of the party as a large scythe blade phases through the wall and bisects the soldier in two, his body falls in seperate pieces to the floor; the Eldar pulls out thin bladed power sword that flickers blue and hums gently.
Confessor Cornelius draws his thunder hammer, it begins to crackle and rumble as its power begins to build.
York Benetec prepares to flee and the rest of the characters follow, another soldier falls to the floor with his leg severed as the scythe blade phases from the floor and severs his leg at the knee; Confessor Cornelius tourniquets the wound with his belt, hefts the man on his shoulder and begins carrying the man away as his leg gushes blood, Enginseer Pak uses his power sword to cauterise the wound, the man shrieks and passes out.
The party runs back into the hook chamber, their progress comes to a rapid halt as a large metal centipede creature phases through the ceiling and drops into the corridor, two glowing green weapons are mounted on the creature. Benetec fires his hellpistol at the creature but it does little damage, seeming to glance of it’s carapace. Lord-Admiral Black runs underneath the creature as it rears back, stabbing up with his powersword, scoring a shallow cut along the underside of the silent creature.
Enginseer Pak opens fire with his hellgun destroying one of the guns on the side of the creature, the Eldar also fires his laspistol destroying the creatures second gun, as the soldiers pour fire and missiles into the creature, a krak missile strikes the creature with a loud explosion. In response the creature lashes out with one of its scythe blades, striking and winding Lord-Admiral Black, backhanding him across the corridor; he lands near the rest of the party with the breath driven from his lungs.
York Benetec uses his psychic powers to move one of the krak missiles through the warp to a position directly underneath the creature, exposure to the energies of the immaterium causing it to detonate as it emerges below the tomb guardian, he briefly feels the normal resistance he has encountered when facing the ancient enemy although it is much lessened (presumably because the tomb is mostly abandoned); there is a huge explosion and the rear of the creature is sheared away by the blast of the krak missile. The creature continues trying to scuttle towards the party but it has been severely damaged; Confessor Cornelius smashes his mighty hammer on what passes for the creatures head, destroying the tomb guardian in a blinding flash of light.
Confessor Cornelius picks up injured solider who is delirious and dazed, Pak suggests taking metal from creature although Benetec is not keen on the idea; the Enginseer secures a small scraping of metal.
York Benetec councils caution, saying “We already know these things don’t die properly.”
It is night when the group makes it back to basecamp, the Admiral directs the camp to pack up and make ready to return to the Venerus; as they do Lord-Admiral Black instructs that the beacon around the planet be changed so that it no longer scans but submits a warning/quarantine message to warn any future ships approaching that they should not land on the planet.
Looking at the details they have on the enemy ship they realise that the ship was heading towards the edge of known space.
Enginseer Pak returns to his quarters on the Venerus, as he enters he finds an blinking red device on his table, before he can react it gives out a small explosion, just beyond it is a data pad containing the message ‘that’s the only warning you’re going to get.’