Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Interminable Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #4)

Emperor on Earth, Inquisitor Tiraske mused to herself, did this Eldar ever shut up?  Their kind were known for being wordy, but Ba Luith Ath seemed incapable of using one word when a paragraph would do.  She would execute an acolyte for writing such a roundabout field report.  Not that she wouldn't like to execute Ba Luith Ath, if he gave her the chance...

She opened the third scroll.

"Everything seemed to be going well for the acolytes.  Until they heard an explosion from outside, and felt pieces of their beloved ground-dragger vehicle hitting the side of the building.  When Lepidoptera reached for his trusty Pandora’s Ear, he realized that he had left it, along with another of the Pandora artifacts, the Box entrusted to Han, outside in the (late) vehicle.

As Dario tried to stealthily slip outside, he noticed that Marcus had apparently been waiting with the ground-dragger until it exploded beneath him, driving considerably beyond fatal amounts of sharp metal into his squishy back.  Still, he had apparently fought valiantly enough for a Mon-keigh, as a number of dead insect-like creatures littered the ground around him, their six-inch frames torn apart by gunfire and the explosion.  A damaged data-slate lay near the vehicle, active and blaring some kind of warning in the typical  fashion of panicked Mon-keigh technology.

As Aristide ran out to investigate, he was rewarded for his reckless curiosity with a Lasgun shot to the chest, which glanced harmlessly off of his Carapace armor as he rolled into cover.  Aristide then turned to suppress the incoming enemies, one “Shambler” and one armed enemy of unknown origin.  Dario then ran for the data-slate, only to be confronted by more of the insects that had attacked Marcus rushing for the slate.  Dario and Han engaged the creatures as Charyl and Aristide continued to fire upon the Shambler and its cohort and Lepidoptera began (unsuccessfully at first) to construct a simple device that would later prove very interesting.  Dario retrieved the slate, and passed it to Aristide, who in a wisdom born of ignorance passed it to Lepidoptera for examination.  The Shamber rushed at Charyl, but it was rent asunder by the deadly warrior.   Lepidoptera made an… explosive…. Breakthrough on his device, though Aristide still did not understand what the simple mechanism connecting a series of high-impact explosives to the tinkerer’s body was meant to do.

Suddenly, an unmarked vehicle armed with a brutish but effective Mon-keigh weapon called a “Heavy Stubber” rolled onto the battlefield, and quickly attempted to run down the remaining insects.  After a brief conversation with one of its passengers, a mortifyingly verbose man named Ansbach Wilhelm, everyone then rushed to the relative safety of the new vehicle, which pulled alongside the burning heap of the old ground-dragger just long enough for Aristide to use his pitiful psychic senses to retrieve the Pandora artifacts by tracking their psychic auras.

Ansbach, who was a member of the first investigative team under your esteemed colleague Howitzer, then explained in far too many words that the rebels were not the heretics, and the source of the heresy lay in the government of Candor 5.  The far more taciturn driver of the new ground-dragger, Mori, also introduced himself.  Dario then convinced the pair that the acolytes needed to meet with Tsuji before the assassination of Bitlee was to be carried out, and both agreed, although again Ansbach chose to do so in an extremely circuitous fashion, which was not met with outright hostility by all members of the group.  Lepidoptera then offered not to use his “suicide belt” to destroy the vehicle and everyone in it in exchange for the safe return of blessed silence, who had been conspicuously absent ever since Ansbach made his rendezvous with the other acolytes.  Han offered Ansbach a sip of something he called an “energizing beverage,” but the flask looked suspiciously like the backwards laser weapon that he and so many other warriors of the Imperium carry.
Suddently, Lepidoptera’s fiddling with the data-slate paid off, and the group received the dying message of Marcus, that “the whole goddam planet is covered in bugs,” and that they should “make sure you don’t do [something, but of course the transmition failed here].”  The party also received a message from one Taw Senox, a member of the first Acolyte team and an old ally of Han Uno, that the rebellion was not responsible for the heresy on this world, and that a group named “The Shadows,” were the real power threatening Candor 5.

The group arrived at the rebel base and entered a meeting with Tsuji when Aristide’s Chronometer, which obviously fails to take a number of important universal factors into account when attempting to “tell time,” claimed that it was 3:15, a mere hour before the assassination was meant to occur.  Ansbach was again silenced by popular vote, and the meeting began.  Tsuji attempted to convince the Acolytes that their investigation was leveled at the wrong organization, and that they should instead be sticking their Inquisitorial noses into the affairs of the government of Candor 5, particularly Senator Bitlee, who Tsuji claimed was capturing denizens of the forested regions for experiments to create enhanced soldiers.  Tsuji offered his own grotesque, mismatched body of machine and Mon-keigh as proof of this conspiracy, and while most of the acolytes kept their cool, Lepidoptera was apparently ignited by this unsanctioned creation before him.  Rushing forward, his furious, foolish zeal blazing even as he detonated himself, Lepidoptera suddenly went up in a gout of fire and shrapnel, declaring Tsuji an abomination before the so-called “Machine God” with his last fiery rhetoric, even as Aristide and Dario attempted to intervene.

At this moment, back in the peaceful gardens of my ship, I, Spirit-Seer Ba Luith Ath, felt the plaintive cry of Aristide for salvation, and in my nigh-infinite mercy offered him shelter from what would otherwise have been his pyre, and likely that of Candor 5.  The Talisman I had given him allowed him to teleport 5 individuals through the webway, and he attempted to send Dario, Han, Tsuji, Klistine, and Charyl into my open arms.  Apparently, he had chosen to save Tsuji instead of himself because he believed that he was key to rooting out the heresy, though in truth I believe he simply wanted to die in a self-indulgently heroic fashion.  Additionally, I felt him send a psychic message with all of his might to Dario, to explain the situation to me – no that such an act would have been necessary, given the ease of reading the shallow human mind.  While he probed around in Dario’s mind, I think he even stumbled upon what makes that seemingly likeable man interesting – the teeming darkness behind his understanding eyes – but he was somewhat distracted by Charyl shoving him through in her place.

In any case, the message was doubly unnecessary, as Charyl proved as stubborn as any Space Marine, trusting her reflexes to carry her out of the explosion and her armor to protect her.  Of her fate, I cannot say, but I severely doubt that such a pitiful conflagration could kill her.  Aristide had no doubt that she had survived, and for once I agree with his assessment.

After receiving Aristide and his friends as guests for as the full duration that I could tolerate them aboard my ship, I returned them safely to the planet – to the inside of their ugly ground-dragging vehicle, in fact.  And that is where the tale ends, save for one small detail.  When I sent them back through the webway, I felt something emerge from the Warp near Candor 5.  A shadow, if you will, and one I have not felt in a long time.  A shadow whose presence darkens the whole sector.  But, despite my near-impeccable memory, I cannot seem to place why this shadow is familiar.  Ah well, I’m sure it isn’t important.  The answer will become clear with a few centuries.  But you are an Inquisitor.  You will Inquisit, I have no doubt.  I hear the weather on Candor is miserable, however, so it would be best to pack a coat.

-Ba Luith Ath, Spirit-Seer, He Whose Sight Can Pick Even the Tiniest Spot from the Hea-

At this point, Inquisitor Tiraske tired of Ba Luith Ath’s self-aggrandizing titles.  The Eldar had no hound in this fight, so far as she knew, and yet this message was troubling.  Ba Luith Ath had indeed ruined her day, but this was hardly the time to consider returning the favor with another “visit” to his ship.  She had work to do.


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.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

On Continuing Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #2)

Inquisitor Tiraske glared menacingly at the package, now on hovering several inches above her desk.  The package had most certainly not been there a moment before.  Neither had the Eldar Aspect Warrior carrying it, but she was quite ignoring him.  Deal with one thing at a time, her mentor had always said.  The box was surprisingly practical for an Eldar creation, she thought – only slightly ornamented, and not made in some mind-twisting shape that would challenge the best artisans of the Adeptus Mechanicus to reproduce.  For a brief moment, she looked up, locking eyes with the ancient creature, and although the mask of the Warp Spider remained impassive, she thought she felt a most satisfying flicker of what might have been fear.  Then the moment passed, and the impromptu courier was gone from her office, likely no less pleased to have been used in such a mundane fashion than she had been to have a surprise guest.  The box hit the desk with a thump.
Tiraske wasted no time raising the lid and dumping the contents onto the desk – three scrolls, in cylindrical holders, numbered “1,” “2,” and “3” with the Gothic characters, instead of their Eldar equivalents.  Most assuredly a veiled insult, implying that an Inquisitor of her stature could not read the Eldar script.  Pointless, like so many things the Eldar do, she thought.  A sign of weakness.  Petty, backhanded insults are for those without the power or will to seize what they really wanted.  But it did tell her who had sent the box.  It been some time since she had heard from Ba Luith Ath, but the last time the two had met, she had been running rampant on his ship.

She unrolled the first scroll and began reading the script that could only be described as so graceful as to be arrogant.

“To the Mon-keigh known as Isamira Tiraske, that most Implacable Lady:
Although I am aware of the painfully short lifespans your people suffer from, I assume that this missive finds you still alive, and if not, I truly cannot be bothered to care.  However, I recently had an encounter with one of your underlings (or perhaps former underlings – he seemed unclear on the matter, and hence I share his doubts).

If I have not lost your flitting attention already, I thought you might be interested to know the goings-on in the life of one Imperial Acolyte Aristide de Balafrer, especially because you can do nothing about it or the crisis he faces, and I know that such powerlessness irks you Inquisitors to no end.  Consider this letter both my thanks and my long-awaited revenge for your “aid” in resolving the situation aboard my ship several years ago.  I pray fervently that you rush as headlong into this situation as you did my ship, and that your arrival is no less catastrophic but perhaps slightly more… karmic, as you might say.

I was minding my own business, tending to things of little matter (peering into the future, creating stars on a whim, altering the very fabric of my being, and that sort of mundane business that needs to be dealt with regularly) when, suddenly, I felt a most familiar and unwanted intrusion in my mind, as though someone was calling out to be saved from the searing shrapnel of some extremely inelegant explosive.  Normally, intruding into the mind of Spirit-Seer like myself would be impossible for any Mon-keigh, and irrelevant even if one succeeded, but before I could sever the link, I remembered this particular individual – a man named Aristide de Balafrer, one of your so-called “Navigators,” who had once helped me during YOUR unsolicited visit to my ship.  In exchange, I gave him a talisman of great power (that of course allowed me to spy on him (and, by extension, you) whenever I wished, but your tepid little lives rarely warranted my attention).  This talisman let him connect with me, and he requested aid for himself and a number of his companions.  Of course, I was honor-bound to allow him entry to my abode, and did not consider stranding him in the Warp for interrupting my nap important work for even a moment.

Of course, the talisman, which I assume he still has, though it will not work again, also gave me the briefest of glimpses into his mind, and here I provide a fraction of what I saw, after I waded through the dreary swamp that he calls memory, the quagmire of hypocrisy that is his ego, and the squelching morass of his sex drive:
Aristide’s party had bungled their way into being captured by the pathetic rebels of this “Candor 5” led by a man named “Tsuji,” and so Inquisitor Howitzer sent a second group sent in to finish their job, secondarily, and rescue them.  In particular, Aristide needed to be rescued, and not just from his self-indulgent self-loathing this time.  No, he needed to be rescued from the ravenous victims of a nasty virus (for which I could offer you a dozen cures if I cared), who had trapped him in a building after he blindly stumbled his way out of the rebel base in roughly the same way he got in.

At that time, the second party was having as auspicious a beginning as the first one, having lost two members in even less days of investigating, the first due to a dodging into a shot from a Lascannon and the second due to the sorts of things that kill you frail Mon-keighs, like a little bit of poison being placed in the vital organs.  Further, the victim of the Lascannon shot was gone from the bed where they had left him under the watchful eye of a non-existent guard while they cowered in their rooms awaiting the dawn.  After unsuccessfully attempting to determine the lost Acolyte’s whereabouts and otherwise dithering with a nurse, other practitioners of your medieval medicine, and a mustachioed man who they rightly distrusted (that some Mon-keighs even can grow hair there is mildly disturbing in its own right, but I digress), the group was pushed into action by a call from none other than Aristide, formally requesting that they liaise with him to discuss the matter of saving his sorry life from flesh-eating mutants that Mon-keighs apparently become when suffering from a sniffle.  And so they departed in their ground-dragger to retrieve the errant acolyte.

With something to kill in sight the group made haste, and they arrived at Aristide’s site within the hour, where he was cowering and praying fervently that he might avoid being eaten.  Unfortunately, the meeting went less well than planned when the flesh-eating invalids (who were not quite so invalid) attempted to crash the party and boorishly devour all of the food (the Acolytes).  Using the usual method of you “hyu-manns,” the party responded by firing primitive ballistic weapons at them.  Aristide went one step backward, using explosives so crude I cannot even imagine Orks would employ them to blast apart the wilting wretches.  “Fortunately,” their luck held, and the party managed not to blow themselves up with these “frag grenades” and the other deathtraps they called weapons (a “bolter,” I believe, in the hands of a tiny, extremely irate Astartes who did not board the ship, thankfully, and sundry other “tools”).

Needless to say, the “Zombies,” as several members of the party remembered them took affront to their meal being interrupted by small arms fire, and so they gave a spirited chase, though once Aristide escaped his bolt-hole and joined the others, they used their ground-dragger to bravely reposition themselves to the Duke’s manor.

Thus concluded the first scroll.


Monday, January 3, 2011

On Acolyte Adventures (The Shadow War Chronicle #1)

Inquisitor Howitzer sat at his desk, dwarfing the sturdy naalwood office set surrounding him.  He reached for the large mug sitting next to the recaff machine on his desk before deciding to simply grab the pot instead.  As he sipped the near-boiling brew, he began to open the package on his desk.  It had been delivered by a cleverly rewired servitor, which had immediately self-terminated after bringing the message to one of his aides.  A bit theatrical for his tastes, but effective nonetheless.  His Tech-Priests had been unable to trace its origin.  Now, to see what was so important that someone would go to all this trouble to put it in his hands.  From the package’s size and weight, it was obviously a data-slate, and he slid it out of the wrapping and activated it as he took another swig of recaff.

“To my dear friend, the Inquisitor Howitzer,
Contained is a small sample of a report one of my sources has collected on the Acolytes you recently put planet-side on Candor.  I recognize that you have not likely heard from them yet, and I wanted to make sure that you had all of the best information available at your disposal.


One with watchful Eyes and vigilant Ears trained on the Black Box.

The new meat acolytes sent by Inquisitor Howitzer arrived on Candor auspiciously.  Which is to say they nearly crashed their Arvis Lighter, a flaming deathtrap called the “Luprecal,” into the landing bay they had been assigned at breakneck speeds, which would no doubt have saved various local rebels (and me) a great deal of time.  Alas, from what I could gather from my observational position, the bald Acolyte (with crazy eyes, though I couldn’t see those at this distance, even through my scope) bolted into the cockpit and pulled the lander up at the last second, so they merely landed ungracefully, instead of in a fireball.  When they exited their rocket-coffin, I got my first good glimpse of all of them through the rain that this tropical death-ball is so gracious to provide, often alongside carnosaurs the size of a Chimera.  They seemed to match the files well enough.

According to the files I had received from [REDACTED], this team had been cobbled together from various Inquisitors who Howitzer could convince to lend him an expendable acolyte or three.  He had apparently given them some special-issue equipment, too, but I couldn’t identify any of it at this distance.  First off the ship was Charyl “The Pebble” Rockwell.  For a moment, I thought there was a very small Astartes in the squad, but upon checking my information, I recognized the symbol of her order.  Then Han Uno, looking every bit the smuggler his files say he is.  He was followed by a Tech-Priest, Leopedoptera Philliskirk, whose name I will henceforth leave to the savants to auto-correct in any future drafts of this report.  The adept of the Omnissiah began to look over the damaged ship, and announced that it could be repaired within a few hours – probably with parts from the ship crashed next to them on the runway, that apparently did not otherwise warrant a second glance.   The next man had slipped out before I even noticed him, apparently behind the Tech-Priest – Dario Lichtus.  Marcus Diomedes Winnifred Somethingorother the Fifteenth came off the vessel next, lighting his cigar with the pilot-light of his flamer as soon as he was off the vessel, where he had assuredly been banned from smoking.  Then came Castus Eisen, a taciturn man of indeterminate age, and finally Nithroc Abletor, rain bouncing off the hat he had pulled on to cover his hairless head, nervous eyes scanning.  Castus and Nithroc both seemed ill at ease, and for a moment I could swear they turned in unison to look right at me, but the moment and the accompanying paranoia passed.  Even psykers don’t have unaugmented eyesight that good.  I hope.

The group approached the door to get inside (a very logical plan of action, given the rain, and one I very much wanted them to follow, so that I might get out of it as well), but they found themselves unable to open it.  After resorting to violence against the innocent and unarmed portal in the form of a Hellpistol shot, they apparently got the attention of those inside.  At this point I fervently hoped I might be able to get out of the rain and move to a drier post, but they insisted on dallying with the bureaucrat, Administrator Crayke, who had been sent to meet them (along with his armed guards).  Han Uno’s acolyte sigil failed to provide the proper code, an argument broke out, and once again it looked like I might be free of my duties early as Charyl proposed something that must have been a violent solution, given the reaction of the guards.  However, the situation was “resolved” when a number of carnosaurs broke through the outer barrier and began to move towards the inner wall at disturbing speed.  Unfortunately, this necessitated that I shift my position, but as I performed my “tactical reassignment of relative locations,” I noticed that several of the acolytes had opened fire upon the carnosaurs, as had a number of local gun-Servitors.

The acolytes had taken a car to the Duke’s palace by the time I caught up with them.  Fortunately, my painstaking efforts to place of several small vox recorders in the vehicle before-hand paid off, and I was rewarded with all sorts of valuable and worthwhile information, such as that none of them had realized that Charyl was a woman up to this point.  They too had apparently been under the misapprehension that she was a miniature Astartes.  Castus and Nithroc complained of a presence darkening the warp, which Nithroc called “a shadow,” but I suspect that it such ambiguous but menacing statements are in fact psyker code for “let’s screw with everybody else for once.”

I was unable to observe them in their meeting with Duke Friedrich, but presumably he informed them of the current political situation with the local anarchists, and then made all sorts of nebulous offers to help that he had no real interest in following up on, and his servants would certainly not recognize in a way useful to the acolytes.  They did manage to requisition a vehicle, however, and they headed to Site Gamma-Eighty-Four, also known as the “spooky abandoned train-yard.”  According to my files, their colleagues had examined this site in association with rebel movements.  They were easy to follow, since given the bad weather they drove quite slowly, and I had little trouble finding a position from which I could safely observe them.

Once at the train-yard, they harassed a derelict who was definitely less than sober.  They then moved on to another inhabited storage container, and this time spent several minutes arguing with the occupants for access before breaking in to find a pair of very fresh corpses and a large hole in the wall.  For important reasons, I had to shift my position considerably at this point, but when I managed to get a better vantage point from the top of a building some distance away, I saw Leopedobeara fiddling with a damaged data-slate that was still fresh with blood and Charyl running towards the next storage container, apparently following the killer.  Unfortunately for her, she was rewarded for her enthusiasm with several inches of plasteel through the shoulder, attached to a long chain.  She collapsed under the hit, but still tried to free herself by hacking the chain apart, albeit unsuccessfully.  Her party fell into position to support her, and I thought I heard one say something over the vox network about firing on the fuel tank attached to the building as soon as she was freed.  Nithroc moved up and fired on the chain with his autogun, shredding it and nearly hitting the fuel tank, but miraculously a monstrous fireball was averted.  Then, suddenly, I was blinded by a flash of light, and when I could see again, Nithroc appeared to have been left in the oven too long, while Marcus had apparently been removed prematurely.  Having seen such weapons discharged before, I suspect that the shot was made with a variant of a lascannon, directly through the wall of the storage container if the smoking hole was any indicator.  At this point, the party courageously began falling back, impaled and incinerated comrades in tow, when the drunken derelict decided to see what all the fuss was about.  Apparently believing the party to be caught in a clever pincer-movement, Han opened fire with his Hellpistol, which made short work of the man menacing their escape with half-bottle of rotgut and total lack of sense.  They then retreated to the vehicle, and subsequently to the Duke’s manor.   At this point I stopped tracking them, instead attempting to hunt down a hot meal and a bed, but one of my sources informed me that they passed the night in groups, barricaded in their rooms at the manor.

In summary, I do not believe our particular objectives on Candor are threatened by this group of acolytes.  After a single attempt to investigate the rebels, two of their number are injured, one likely fatally, unless the hand of fate itself stepped in to shield his vital organs from a direct hit from an anti-tank weapon.  They may have found some information of value on that data-slate, but even if they do not continue to drop at this current rate, we have no reason to worry about their presence.  I will continue to observe as long as you see fit, of course.”

Inquisitor Howitzer finished his recaff slowly, the liquid now merely scalding.  Putting the empty pot down and pressing the activation rune on the recaff machine, he reached into his desk, pulling up a canvas bag.  From it, he withdrew a lacquered regicide board, and began setting up the pieces.

“Captain, do you read?”
“Aye, Inquisitor.  The Blood of Saints awaits your command.”