Saturday, January 29, 2011

On Further Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #3)

Inquisitor Tiraske opened the second scroll, sliding it open across the first.  The containers jangled to the ground.

Now, you may be coming to wonder how Aristide came to use my ship as a safe-haven from deadly shrapnel.  You will have to wait for this tidbit, however, because I have no desire to sate your curiosity prematurely.  Or possibly at all, but you will keep reading regardless.  Relentless, aren’t you?

In any case, when the party of Acolytes (now Aristide, Charyl (the tiny Astartes), Lepidoptera (the tinkerer), Han (the smuggler), Marcus (the aristocratic pyromaniac), and Dario (a seemingly likeable fellow)) finally began to gather information of value after their sluggish start.  They communicated with some of the Duke’s aides, who had defiled the remains of Castus, the psyker, with a so-called “autopsy” and determined the obvious (that he had been poisoned).  Lepidoptera seemed chagrined that he had been unable to partake in this grisly affair, but was mollified to learn that someone had done it as his proxy.

They also learned that the “Zombies,” were suffering from a disease you call “Maurin’s Fever,” and which we Eldar do not call anything at all, as our superior immune systems had never bothered to inform us we were under attack by it.  Apparently incurable, the victims die painfully by suffocation, and then rise from the dead as shambling abominations.  Common symptoms are similar to a common Mon-keigh “chill,” but quickly progress into difficulty breathing, sweating, erectile dysfunction, and fever, followed by ravenous hunger for brains.  How these creatures do not starve on an Imperial world is a scientific mystery that will likely puzzle me for the rest of my life.

Marcus vanished during this time to take a call from “the lady,” and none of the other Acolytes even seemed to notice.  Well, I suppose Aristide "noticed" insofar as he saw Marcus walk off, but he did not actually make a mental note of the disappearance.  Shameful, really, to have a mind so disorganized.

The group received an invitation to meet with a bureaucrat, one “Administrator Crayke,” but ignored it to pursue their own avenue of search via a laughably primitive information terminal.  Still, Aristide was able to locate the machine and Lepidoptera was able to use it, to some extent, and they learned about the political complexities of the planet Candor 5.  In particular, they learned the identities and duties of the various Grand Senators who regulate most aspects of life on Candor 5.

In the mean time, several members of the party (Charyl and Dario) went to meet with Crayke, who was simultaneously arrogant and useless, except to inform the doomed Acolytes that they were all stuck on the disease-ridden mud-ball due to a light spritzing expected that afternoon.  Still, this “storm,” apparently challenges Mon’Keigh vessels, and so I suppose it was material to them, if not to me.  Additionally, the Warp chose this time to begin acting up, as it always does.  Dario tried hard to get Administrator Crayke to like him, but was unable to breach the man’s hard outer shell, and eventually was forced to concede that the man was simply not very kind or welcoming.

Marcus rejoined the party, having apparently resolved his issue, only for Han to begin talking to himself (at least, that is what Aristide’s feeble senses observed) and wander off.  No wonder you go through so many acolytes – their attention spans are short enough to frustrate anyone to wit’s end.  Aristide seemed to think that Han was feeling somber, although his ability to understand others has never been his strongest point.
Whilst waiting for Han to return, Lepidoptera and Aristide amused themselves with images of small, furry mammals (called EMPRAHCATS) instead of doing productive work.

After significant procrastination, Lepidoptera decided to examine a data-slate that the party had acquired earlier, apparently at great cost, and it showed the movements of a local Grand Senator, a man named Bitlee who controlled the machine-whackers known as the “Adeptus Mechanicus” on Candor 5.  He plotted the data against a number of known rebel attack sites, and came up with the site nearest his most recent escapades, the train yard where they had acquired the data-slate.  However, another site, St, Grendel’s Hospital, drew the interest of several acolytes, and so they bickered for some time, arbitrarily changing their votes until the party decided to end the argument with the ancient “golden oracle,” which is to say throwing a coin into the air.  Such barbaric soothsaying.  In any case, “fate” decided they would visit the train yard.
After the last few scrapes they had been in, the party also decided to request a medic – as their two psykers were now gone, and they had no capable healers.  After being deflected to Grand Senator Cruz by the Duke, the affable young man assigned the mixed blessing with green hair known as Klistine, an extremely energetic young woman to whom Lepidoptera took an immediate dislike and attempted to ostracize subtly in a fashion that would make any Eldar proud.  Unfortunately, he failed, as she was utterly oblivious.  For once, I can sympathize with a Mon-keigh, for I too have known the pain of my sharp wit falling upon dull ears.  Meanwhile, the rest of the party, especially Aristide, attempted to discern her age, lest romancing her be a morally unacceptable option.  However, apparently they were incapable of determining it with any certainty from vision alone, and she cunningly deflected their attempts to see her ground-crawler operating license by hiding her age with her thumb.  Naturally, none of the Acolytes attempted to discern whether or not she was a spy placed by the Duke or the Grand Senator.

At the train-yard, the group used recon effectively for once, determining that the site was full of “shamblers,” infected with the plague, but managed to avoid their attention for the time being.  They also managed to locate a man who they took to be a derelict so common to Imperial worlds, and Dario approached him to converse.  Unfortunately, he turned out to be less of a derelict and more of a rebel sentry, as Dario discovered.  As Dario distracted the man, Aristide slid through the darkness with extremely uncharacteristic grace, and, standing before him, removed his mask to reveal his mutilated face.  Oddly, Dario did not even seem startled by his first glimpse of Aristide unmasked (though he did ask him to talk about it later), but the sentry was so intimidated that he immediately surrendered.  Dario and Aristide rushed him back to their ugly ground-dragger even as his comrades responded to the distress signal he had sent.  The party’s luck held, however, and the new threats were called away by a loud crack and a scream.

After having Lepidoptera tie the prisoner, Aristide attempted to sneak after the  rebel soldiers to determine what had  happened.  Moving over rain-slick terrain in the pitch dark, however, had predictable results, and he skidded face-first down a piece of rubble.  As he scrambled away from the “Shambler” who responded to the noise that it no doubt heard as “delicious cuisine at no charge,” Charyl and Dario reacted quickly, opening fire on the creature.  While the small Astartes missed her shot (have Mon-keighs finally gotten past the ridiculously trivial barriers preventing the creation of female Astartes?  I hadn’t heard, if so), Dario’s aim proved better, and a salvo from his primitive chemical-combustion rifle eradicated the creature.

The Acolytes then sought a new location to deal with their ill-gotten gains, and upon finding a suitably empty warehouse, immediately decided to employ to torture.  At this point, Marcus wandered off again to speak to someone, and Han led Klistine away after significant prodding by the rest of the group, and then turning on something apparently called the “rugged charm,” whatever that is supposed to mean.

Back at the interrogation, Dario’s pragmatism won out over Lepidoptera’s enthusiasm, and so the party merely began with “enhanced interrogation” instead of outright torture, mostly revolving around the “good arbite, bad arbite” trick that is apparently so effective against Mon-keighs, despite its obvious nature.  Aristide played the “bad arbite,” supposedly giving Dario (the “good arbite”) three minutes to extract all of the information before he began his questioning, though in actuality Dario spoke with the captive, a man named “Victor,” for considerably longer.

Victor babbled on for a time in a delusional fashion about the “conspiracies” of the Candor government out to destroy the rebels (Hah!  What do you lesser creatures know of conspiracies!  I once ran an eighty-year long scheme simply to arrange for a social rival to wake up with a dead Ork as a bedfellow!  It was worth all the effort, of course).  He blamed the Duke, and also Grand Senator Bitlee, and revealed a rebel plot to assassinate the Grand Senator at 4:15 Candor time (it was 2:30, according to Aristide’s recollection).  After some coercing and cajoling in equal measure, he agreed to allow the Acolytes to meet with his master, a man named Tsuji (from whom Aristide had earlier escaped during an attack on the rebel base where he was being held), and the acolytes wisely decided to attend the meeting with Lepidoptera wearing every single crude explosive in his possession, in case the entire group needed to be “redeemed.”

Additionally, once Han and Klistine returned, Lepidoptera and Aristide distracted her with the tinker’s cantrips while Han, Dario, and Charyl discussed whether or not the medic was more risk than she was worth.  Han claimed that he could keep her under control (though who was controlling whom seemed unclear to Aristide, especially given Han’s uncharacteristic vox-silence during the interrogation, and the minor welt he had apparently acquired on his neck during his time exploring the warehouse).

Thus ended the second scroll.


No comments:

Post a Comment