Knight Errant (40K)

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2011-09-08 12:38pm

I'm not criticizing, I'm making sure I understand. Substitute "should" for "could" if you prefer, and it would more accurately reflect what I'd been meaning to ask.

ECR has his own set of mannerisms and writing style, and once in a while I do need to slow down and check to be sure I'm on the same page with him.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2011-10-19 08:10pm

Next bit;

The problem with rooftops, Ignatius thought, is that so many people like to come and brood on them. They're a natural magnet for the kind of nutter I seem to spend a lot of time actually avoiding.

Then again, it's better than the alternative. Most enemies of the Imperium tend to go underground, metaphorically (if the Arbites are doing their job at all, anyway) and literally; the lower levels of the undercity are always thick with dropouts, criminals, mutants and cultists, not all of them chaotic.

If I did start hanging out in underhives, there'd be so much to do, so many people to purge I'd never be done. The other side of the coin, the advantage of rooftops, obviously, is that you get a better class of scum.

So, who is it that's coming to visit? Don't have to use psychic senses- the smell alone gives them away. Perfumes, incense, drugs and blood. Slaaneshi.

Try to catch sight of them- estimate how many. If anything fancy could be done.

Smelt like- possibly about a dozen; lead sour, trailers sweet. A fair assortment. probing them at least a little, there were surface complexities- the two or three nearest the front were thinking a lot, and it was not the darting animal alertness of the senses. The deeper, roiling considering of plans and plots.

Fortune, Ignatius thought, has poured them into my hands- now, mustn't fumble the catch. How to exact maximum benefit from this? A plotter and planner obviously, with some ability himself, no sign of counterreaction though; one magos, female transitioning to male, being warped by the dark god; two schemers, permutations of bodies uppermost in their minds but some thought there.

How senior? Fairly, by the feel of it- and what do I want these people to go away thinking, Ignatius pondered. For most of them, anything coherent may be uphill work.

They staggered on to the roof, and Ignatius acquired new respect for their leader; getting this shower to walk in a straight line would have been a near- insurmountable management challenge. The magnitude of the task of getting them to climb four hundred flights of stairs passed description.

The lead was a relatively well- dressed, normal- looking type, market trader maybe, apart from the stolen, bloodstained cardinal's hat sitting at an odd angle to his head. One of the rest of the band rounded on him- ' "Through the pain barrier, feel the burn" my aching ass.'

A third of them, one of the hermaphrodites, grabbed the follower and said 'Maybe later, babe, think I'm going to have to start with just two and work up. Woo!' Danced with him, swung him round briefly and moved on.

Not fazed by this at all, the follower carried on 'Why did you drag us up here, anyway?'

'I dragged you?' their leader said. 'I was trying to get away from you. I need time on my own, me time, planning time.'

'See, that's why we had to follow you.' the second man emitted a hallucinogen-flavoured burp. 'Make sure you don't come up with anything boring.'

'Someone's going to have to.' the slaaneshi leader said. 'It's nice of the Imperials to put on this fireworks show for us and all,' waving at the shield dome, 'and the feeling of being balanced on the edge of oblivion adds spice to life, but I'm starting to think they actually mean it.'

'Aw. Buzzkill.' the second man said, turning to shake his fist, and then his penis, at the dome. 'Orgy to the end of time, shitheads- you can't stop us!'

'Party forever, yes,' the leader said, sounding strangely like a senior ministorum official, 'but forever lies on the other side of now, and somebody has to be straight enough to organise the trip...hey, isn't that Pink Man Fizzwater that Sherri's waving at you?'

'Hey. Cool.' the stoned idiot shambled off in the direction of one of the lizard girls, and the leader tried to find a bit of the roof where none of his people were.

He was stopped within metres of walking onto Hasek's bayonet by another of his entourage, a young woman wearing belts and fishnet who tried to wrap herself round him; he held her for a moment, then let her go.

'Aw, Drey, come on.' she said to him, pouting.

'Look,' he said, 'this, just...well, you, yes, but always? You know what we're supposed to believe in now; it's the new things, the experimentation, the no boundaries; show a good Slaaneshi anything, a roof tile, a canned yam, a dust bunny, and the word should be "how can I turn this into a good time?" Just us isn't right any more, monogamy's...wrong.'

Partly he's really trying to get her to go away, Ignatius thought, partly he's terrified of his new masters- not stupid enough not to realise just how much of his mortal life and immortal soul he's signed away. Wants her, she knows it, but is willing to bend over backwards to fit in and not be destroyed. Hates them for that a little, maybe. Too late.

'Unless,' she said, 'you enjoy being bad.' She rubbed herself up against him. 'Because then, anything goes. What's more chaotic than telling the powers of Chaos to frak off and just doing what you want?'

Hard to tell who was more surprised, the Slaaneshi cultist or the Grey Knight. In my almost- grand plan to get the daemon prince who corrupted this world to manifest where it can be dealt with, Ignatius thought, I think I have just met one of the key players; the daemonhost.

With an attitude like that, in the face of the real and actual workings of the powers of darkness, I wouldn't give two groats for her likely lifespan. Or two scrotes, which, worryingly, Albia still has in her possession.

She'd make a good host; the cultist, not Albia. Wobbly, sproingy mind, latent psyker and a potent one too, very reachy and touchy, very sensitive- of Slaanesh or Chaos Undivided? Could probably read the team if she wasn't preoccupied.

She was bloody inconvenient for another reason, too; she was distracting the man on whose brain Ignatius wanted to eavesdrop. Sod off and leave him to it, he thought he was grumbling in the privacy of his own head, I want to see what he comes up with.

He realised that hadn't been as quiet as he had meant to when she jerked upright and started frantically looking round for the source.

He cult leader asked her what, she said 'There was a voice, a voice in my head.'

'This is news?' the cult leader said. 'What did it sound like, what did it say?'

'It sounded- big.' she replied. 'Square. Straight. Solid. Sober.'

Mostly true, Ignatius thought. Ah, crap, time for plan A. 'Get ready,' he voxed the team, very quietly. 'On the word, everybody but the leader and his girl- and without lights. No giveaway las, no glowy weapons, cold steel.'

'What did it say?' the cult leader was asking the girl.

'It said I was to go away and pleasure myself and leave you to think in peace.'

'That sounds far too relevant to be a divine revelation.' The slaaneshi cult leader said, and Ignatius thought quietly- enough to escape notice this time- dammit, why didn't you stay loyal, I could have used you.

'Also, it doesn't sound like anybody I know. Imperial, maybe-psykers scrying us form beyond the dome?'

'Go.' Ignatius told the team already moving- the cultist girl caught sight of him, big grey blur- she could hear but not see? Interesting- briefly, before he kneed her in the gut and hit her man in the solar plexus with the haft end of the halberd, quarterstaff- style.

Both went down- the cult leader was so shocked by the sudden appearance of the Grey Knight in front of him that Ignatius could have used a feather and had an excellent chance of it's working. Apart from that the cultist would probably have enjoyed it.

He had felt confident enough placing such a restriction on his team because most of the Slaaneshi were too tired, from walking up four hundred floors, and drunk and stoned just from being themselves, to fight back effectively; as he looked around to see how they were doing, he felt a stab of panic from Aule that suggested he may have been overoptimistic.

One of the mutant lizard women threw herself at him, getting stabbed but too far out of it to let it stop her, but body- checking him to the ground and tearing the lasrifle out of his hands, and the other two dived on him, scrambling for it and scrabbling for his other tools and weapons.

Ignatius moved to intervene, did not so much rescue Aule as three fast thrusts with the halberd left him protected by the bodies of the enemy dead. No time to pull them off him.

Other problem- Laure had nothing that could serve as a backup weapon. Her whips shed light, and if Ignatius had been thinking just a little further he would have let her use them because they were quite easy to explain away, but evidently she hadn't thought of that either.

She had gone in barehanded, attacking one hermaphrodite, high kick, punch to the gut, punch to the throat- good hits but as drugged up as he/she/whatever was, they were feeling no pain, didn't go down.

Laure had already turned to strike the next, the first punched her in the kidneys, the medical corset took most of the force but still hurt; she turned back to hir, kicked hir in the head, in the gut, in the head again; se went down, and Laure pivoted to face the second again- in time to get a baggie emptied into her face.

The slaaneshi cultist had used their stash as a weapon, and that could be devastating in a little while, but the immediate effects weren't enough to stop Laure pounding on them until they went down, and kicking them once they were down until Albia offered the mistress her eviscerator to finish the job.

The rest were all done by then. Ignatius moved over to Aule who was wriggling out from under the dead and wondering if there was a dry-cleaners nearby to get the cultist blood out of his uniform; Ignatius weighed up the results of telling him he was in perfect condition to pose as a Khornate berserker, and decided he wouldn't see the funny side.

Hauled him up, pointed at Laure who was sitting cross- legged trying to breathe normally; 'One of the cultists used their drugs as a chemical weapon on her. Look after her, pay no attention to what she says. No matter how odd it sounds. Albia, sit on that one.' Pointing to the sensitive. 'Bohr, oppress that one- I'd do it myself but I want him in one piece, for the next few minutes at least. It's brain- moulding time again.'
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2011-10-20 12:53am

Good job on the intra-Slaaneshi communication, the dynamics in the band. I am beginning to get a vague sense of how the plan works...

Also, from a literary standpoint, I always like to see the spread of "they" as a superior substitute for "it" when refering to people of indeterminate gender in the third-person singular.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2011-10-20 05:33am

The last time I bothered to check, there was a movement to synthesise new pronouns, he/she collapsing, or integrating, to "se", him/her to "hir", and others- not sure if this is officially accepted yet. "It" is not merely neutral, it's actively dismissive and insulting- not so much a matter of gender awareness, but the much older concept of good manners, and of not offering unnecessary offence.

Although it may yet come out of the mouth of a character who is being deliberately dismissive and insulting, but that's the characters; and unfortunately in the 40K universe, the vast majority of servitors probably are sufficiently brutalised and dehumanised that "it" is actually appropriate for them.

I did enjoy writing the Slaaneshi, but there's no way I could have played that straight. I was never a raver- one of the real ale crowd actually- so I had to exaggerate a little for comic effect.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2011-10-20 09:14am

Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:The last time I bothered to check, there was a movement to synthesise new pronouns, he/she collapsing, or integrating, to "se", him/her to "hir", and others- not sure if this is officially accepted yet. "It" is not merely neutral, it's actively dismissive and insulting- not so much a matter of gender awareness, but the much older concept of good manners, and of not offering unnecessary offence.
Personally I'm just as happy to stick to "they," rather than synthesize new pronouns, unless the cultural mores shift on me so much that "they" becomes as unacceptable as "it" ought to be.

Remember, "indeterminate gender" doesn't necessarily mean a person who doesn't have an easily defined one- it can just as well mean a person who I don't know (how many times have you seen women mistaken for men, or vice versa, online?). Or a generic statement meant to apply equally well to everyone, with gender being totally irrelevant.

Suppose you wish to convey that every employee of a company is obliged to fill out a set of safety forms, universally and without exception, without fear or favor, whether they are male, female, or neuter, blah blah blah. Given a choice between saying "I expect every employee to fill out their safety forms" versus "I expect every employee to fill out hir safety forms," I choose the former. An adaptation of existing language, rather than synthesis.

I did enjoy writing the Slaaneshi, but there's no way I could have played that straight. I was never a raver- one of the real ale crowd actually- so I had to exaggerate a little for comic effect.
40k should seldom be played perfectly straight, I think; it makes for bad fiction save in unusually good hands.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2011-11-27 06:22pm

I have three people to see to now, Ignatius thought. Call it spiritual welfare or mindbending, whichever is preferable- and there really is more in common between the two concepts than I or anyone sane likes to think; two cultists to turn into the informatic equivalent of kamikaze, and a mistress to do the exact opposite to.

Begin with the cultists- actually, start with several moments' thought as to what specifically could and should be done. Ignatius had an objective, but not a detailed plan; he avoided those as far as possible. There were the traps the enemy set for you, and the traps you set for yourself- and believing everything would go according to plan was one of the most obvious.

Procedures, moves in a swordfight- little pieces of plan, to be patchworked together on the hoof into a greater and hopefully satisfactory whole; each situation to be looked at and the appropriate move chosen. Objectives to be progressed towards.

So, to serve the object of breaking the old order that was so easily corrupted, of drawing out and banishing properly the corrupting daemon, what made sense to do to this pair to serve that?

He pondered for a moment; the poisoned pill would serve again, but to be convincing carriers of disinformation, they would probably have to be convinced of it themselves- the degree of reverse top-spin he would have to put on it otherwise was daunting.

To get the half-sketched-out plan in his head to where it needed to go, they would probably also have to be cultists in good standing with the powers of chaos, and so most of this would have to be done with illusions, again.

I knew eating that genestealer patriarch would come in handy, Ignatius thought idly, although it's hardly an option I could widely recommend; they're a bit like blowfish, have to be prepared very, very carefully.

He fleshed his rough plan out into a telepathic shooting script- this was still the phase of possibility, where he let his mind wander over all things to pick out what could be done before locking it in and following it; if I hadn't been grabbed for the Black Ships, he wondered, would this be what I spent my life doing? Picts, theatre?

There was a plausible route from where I was to there, and if I had I'd be two centuries or more in my grave by now and not have seen nearly as much along the way. Although given my potential it would be unlikely to have been a life of peace and blessed ignorance, either way.

He glanced over at his other problem. Laure was sitting rigidly upright, fighting the shakes that were starting to come over her, trying to refuse to move and not entirely succeeding, holding off the drugs with willpower.

If that was what it took, all it took, then even before such a massive dose, anyone who could make her journey and have her chains lifted from her by the emperor's grace was safe enough;

but he didn't think it was, it would need strength less than it needed balance and inner content that she did not have enough of to spare, and this was not the time for a trial by chemical ordeal even if she had been likely to pass.

'Hasek, help Aule. Aule, the eggs. Albia, stand by for street theatre, and get those testicles out of your pouch.' he noticed Bohr was struggling not to lose it. 'Well, Commissar-Cadet? Imagining how many of your tutors at the schola would keel over in horror if they heard such an order issued?'

Was it that obvious? Bohr thought. 'Yes, something like that.' Fondly imagining, too- this was hardly the reality they had prepared him for. Although in fairness, he did wonder how they really could.

'Hang around the flying I long enough, lad,' meaning the stylised sigil of the Inquisition, 'you'll hear a damned sight more and odder. Right, you.' he turned to the cultist who had recovered enough to be almost equally fascinated and horrified.

'I'll never repent.' the cultist began.

'You won't waste your breath telling me lies you know I wouldn't believe, you mean. Interesting that it is the first thing you come out with, though.' Ignatius batted back at him, trying to weigh his head.

'Are you just playing for time, or have you actually had a chance to think over the actual terms and consequences of the deal you made with Chaos? Were you- you were- one of the ones who outsmarted themselves, thought you could make deals with the darkness, thought you could dance with it and fool it as you did the authorities of the Imperium.'

'Chaos is freedom.' the cultist said- demanded, and it was the sound of the party line.

'Then why is it you still don't get to do what you want?' Ignatius hit an obvious, visible fault line in his head. 'Why men act is too long a subject for the moment, but I begin to think the only true freedom is the absence of pressure upon you, the absence of being forced to act- and of the many things chaos is, the absence of pressure is never one of them.

'You must have had "that" moment by now. You know exactly which one I mean; you're already past what experienced watchers of the night call the First Watershed; the moment just before you submerge, when you take a good look at your new kin and see what chaos has made of them, see yourself in them.

If you have others in the cult looking to you, you should have passed the second- the moment when you feel the internal pressures of the cult, when you realise Humanity, Chaos and survival are mutually incompatible- and only a very rare and favoured few even manage as well as two out of three...

for a lot of your breed, it comes when a senior member of the cult decides to take their pleasures on you, or on someone you haven't been able to stop caring about-' and he glanced over and his thoughts went to the woman; well controlled, but not well enough to fool Astartes eyes.

'when you realise that it is not always you who gets to indulge themselves, and the furthest breaking extremities of agony and misery, too, are sensation.' He projected into the cultist, not the actual torture, but the emotional state of the being who had undergone it, the terror and the hopelessness, the humiliation and the abandonment.

Watching the cultist try not to fold and fail was fascinating; I will not, he began by demanding of himself, show this Imperial bastard anything, I will not be ashamed of what I have chosen to become...but it was already a lie, and his heart was breaking under the pressure.

As the cultist tried to curl up into a ball- and Ignatius motioned Bohr to stand to let him- this, the grey knight thought to himself, may not actually help the plan. Even if it wasn't too late for him to turn his back on chaos, the fact remains that I need a poisoned cultist.

Push all the way, then. Redemption through martyrdom. 'No-one ever tells anybody anything.' Ignatius said, sympathetically. 'You see the flaws and cruelties of the Imperium spread out before you,' to Bohr's horror and Albia's suppressed giggle, 'but no-one ever brings home how truly, inhumanly terrible the alternatives really are, and you don't get to find out for yourself until it's too late.'

'Too late?' the cultist said.

'Actually,' Ignatius said as if he had just thought of it, 'that may depend on whether or not you believe in miracles.' Which was not far off what it would take, but within the stretch of wishful thinking.

'What do you want?'

'Remember and believe the tale I'm about to tell you, live it as I fold it into your head.' Ignatius said, and took the cultist's head in his hands, began to feed him with illusions. A not entirely unwilling subject made this a lot easier.

He started from shortly before the ambush, leaving a just not quite perfect join that a really skilled prober would detect- trying to make sure the slight flaw appeared in a characteristically Chaotic manner; the central idea, the cancer in the mindspace, was that the cultist and his followers had been ambushed by a truly perverse thing;

a warband of Tzeentchians, who thought it would be a superb joke and ruse to pretend to be an Imperial strike team.

It made perfect sense, if you had no loyalty to Chaos as a whole- utterly brilliant, from a certain point of view. It was not unknown of the Lord of Change to produce such detailed parodies, and that was probably where this lot had got the idea from; who would question their motives?

They could strike at anyone, eliminate whomsoever they chose on their own side without any political questions being asked at all, reshape and control their own side with incredible ease.

From their own actual point of view, it laid the groundwork for their being able to pass, Sororitas, Grey Knight and all, openly and unmolested within the lines of Chaos, turnabout was only fair...

Ignatius did not go into improbable detail over the actual incident, nor yet blurry confusion; a few moments in utter, monowire- sharp detail, and it was the very clarity and obsessive thereness of those that leached away so much form the rest.

Emotional reaction, panic reflex, intellect struggling for air, the excellent but not quite perfect parody of the Imperium, the agony of the cultist's own wounded- at least one of whom tried to take it as ecstasy and failed.

It was only in the black mockery of Imperial justice the strike team had tried to subject the cultist to that the masks had started to slip, they had been ungenuine in that- their absence of delight in repression didn't quite ring true.

They had made a momentary slip, turned away from him for a second, and he had decided a cleaner death was better than this- sprinted for and threw himself off the edge of the roof.

As Ignatius thought this into him, the impressions of the wounds the cultist had received branded and sliced themselves into him, along with the memory of the pain; the Grey Knight slipped one of the stolen genitals into his pocket, wrapped in an act of kinesis, and let him do exactly that.

Then his woman- she would catch him up in the fall. A slightly different version of the story for her, different enough to be believable. The Tzeentchian impostors had known better than to try to inflict pain on her- although they had tried, and it had achieved perhaps rather more than it should have if she was fully committed to the lord/lady of pleasure.

Some of them wanted to follow that up- he made sure she could see her man being tortured out of the corner of her eye, that it matched, that she tried and did not entirely succeed to refuse to admit to her torturers that that was the worst part of all- others, who prevailed, thought it would be 'more Imperial' to torment her with mock pieties.

They set up to do so, and began to conduct a black mass of a sort, half Tzeentchian and half genuine, that Ignatius had great trouble keeping a straight face for. Had to though; the details were very important.

This is one of the reasons theatre folk are notorious for their impiety, he ruminated- in the interests of keeping his own head on an even keel and not botching it.

Because they can see, with expert eyes, how much mummery and codology, how much pageantry and pretence- how much, in short, theatre there was in the practise of formal religion.

And yet true faith is almost always an inward thing, the Grey Knight thought, requiring no ceremony. Just the occasional contact with others of the faith, to be sure that what you are listening to really is the word of the Emperor rather than the sound of your own voice bouncing off the inside of your head. Too many of us forget that bit. I did, for a while.

Most of my comrades would probably think I'd lost the plot pulling this little stunt, in fact. I may have to go back to the chapter soon, if only to see the look on their faces while I explain why this seemed like a good idea at the time.

What a result, though, if this comes off.

In the cultist's imagination the false- Imperial tzeentchians danced around her, until she saw an opportunity, saw her man choose death- Ignatius simply remapped the shock from one collection of time- memories to another, editing himself out as he went- and while they were distracted, followed him.

One final practical problem; no pockets in her strappy harness. He simply handed the blood- slippery testicle to her, blurring the though of where she had got it, and propelled her towards the edge of the roof- and she leapt.

The enchantments he had placed on the pair of removed bollocks would ensure that they both drifted more or less safely to ground, half a mile down- saved by a miracle of the cult of Slaanesh. Albia had been inadvertently responsible for creating whatever the chaos equivalent of a holy relic was. And himself of course.

Right, another seed sewn. What to do now- see to Laure, of course. Then hijack some kind of air taxi, there were a few moving around. Find a safer hide, and watch things develop.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby LadyTevar » 2011-11-27 10:03pm

Great to have you posting again :)

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2011-12-15 10:11pm

I'm not sure I am, really; winter is not my best time, I'm feeling pretty down about life in general, and it's a matter of the current of the moment whether that means I write less out of gloom or more, out of defiance. At the moment it seems to be the latter. This bit is mainly in flashback.

The grey knight moved the few short steps over to the twitching, thrashing mistress. Aule and Hasek were trying to hold her down and force her into the recovery position, but doing it with less than their whole hearts; she was trying to throw them off not to stand upright, but to kneel- she wanted to pray, search for spiritual guidance.

A moment's looking into her head, and the grey knight decided the two men had the right of it- she couldn't afford to pray, not from where she was now so far from the light. Treat it as a medical problem, and anything she might say or feel or do was just that- a medical issue, confidential. Anything she said before the golden throne, however massively inappropriate, she would never be able to unsay or ignore, and rise above.

There was a lot of that coming bubbling up. Whatever cocktail of psychoactives she had been hit with almost certainly included a euphoric, an aphrodisiac and a disinhibitor, and, Ignatius realised, her head is full

The militant orders of the Sororitas are not passionless, the Emperor is the sole light and meaning her life orbits around, and I was insensitive enough to let fall that bit of information about the collective ancestry of the Astartes, that was a spiritually dangerous mistake; and quite a predictably human one at that, which was the really annoying bit.

I suppose I was playing the spiritual guardian bit a shade to excess, small wonder that she fixated; perhaps there is a way not necessarily to restore things to the way they were- I could do that, could remove some of her memories but would it be just, would it not be better for her to face and overcome?

She knows she's been drugged, which might make the problem actually harder to deal with, might have to cut through her solution to impose my own. They had her on her side and curled up now, but she was still shuddering, breathing shallow and rapid, eyelids fluttering and heart racing as she tried to make sense of the bits of herself the drugs brought bubbling up.

If she wasn't fighting it it would be easier; as it was she was trying to think and reason, and that meant that she was dragging too much of the furniture of her mind into the firing line.

She was a bad mistress, the chemicals made her think, because she did it with reason and reason was the last thing it was about; she could never have been anything other than bad at it, because she had never understood that it wasn't about redemption.

It was much more simple than that; it was about recycling. Wringing the last drop of use out of the sisterhood's failures, as a deterrent to keep their sisters in line and as a distraction in the line of battle, the blood- stained carrot of a return to grace dangled before them- the old matriarchs knew their material.

She told them lies about glory and the golden throne, and tried to get them to repent and redeem themselves; all they were really supposed to do was inspire the rest with insane frenzy and get killed by the enemy as quickly as possible so their blood would not be on their sisters' hands.

That was a joke. A black, sick joke, enough to make her think that if that is the sense of humour of the universe then nothing, not it, you or me, makes sense. The truth was that as Hereticus, murdering their own was about all they were actually supposed to do.

They were, oh, you could talk about holy purpose till the spacebats came home, but the fact was that there were a trillion strands of the Imperial Cult, almost all of them missing something, and the orthodoxy had changed so much from pontifex to pontifex, age to age, place to place, were any of them right? were none of them?

Across the immense span of mankind there was no single coherent faith, there couldn't be; and given the shambolic state of the ecclesiarchy's educational side most people on the lower tier of the Imperium didn't even know that much, had hardly even been given the opportunity to be faithful.

Of course, the system blamed the people for its' failure to reach them, and lashed out at them for it. The holy sisterhood's job was to inflict hellish agonies on the unfortunate who had never been adequately told about something that really couldn't exist, and on those who didn't swear blindly to worship something essentially beyond human comprehension.

She had been right the first time, should never have wanted this, should never have demanded it; the penitent/damned soul's view was the truest one, lashed, tormented, denied and driven (almost?) mad for a crime she had confessed to and lamented so often that the details had actually become quite blurred in her head- but the reality of pain and obdience trumped the apparent reality of sisterhood and faith.

He had never asked, she was thinking confusedly, and it was true; he had never inquired about the crime that made her a penitent, or Albia's for that matter. Perhaps it was time to.

It was probably the defining experience of her life, her fall and rise (although by whose standards?) and it was only to be expected that what she was now flowed from it, was out of that mould. Hideous though it would be, memory lane likely led to a better place than the present.

Laure had been five years a sister of battle, and exposed to more actual combat than most- a squad leader, sister superior, involved in a Redemptorist purge of an agriprocessing complex when the eyes of the frothing psychotic who led it had glazed over with the effort of too much thought.

The Frateris Militia, such as there were organised, far from heeding the call of redemption in the wilderness had turned out to defend the community against the purge, led by their pastors and sargeant- confessors in the name of mankind. Which side was the God-Emperor on, anyway?

The redemptorist had begun the updated version of the classic line, from an earlier inquisition of an earlier religion far, far in the human past, "kill them all, the God-Emperor will-" and that was as far as he got before she put her bayonet through his face.

She might have got away with that, but it was her behaviour at the inevitable court- martial that had really landed her in trouble. She had made things much worse for herself by her defence, though, saying that she had been thinking of the founders of their order, of the saints who had followed Vandire into error and spilt the blood of countless innocents in his name.

They had only and eventually, after being wilful-blind to all lesser sources of persuasion than the Throne itself, redeemed themselves by turning on, betraying and destroying him.

The murder of the redemptorist she might have escaped with a lesser sentence for, but the spiritual pride of comparing herself and measuring her actions by such holy names was too much, so off to the death squads with her.

Much of the torture under the old rule was psychological, deprivation and ostracisation, humiliation and self- abasement; inward wounds and long, deep, subsurface scars. The Sisters were, as a body, granted the mercy of being allowed to die usefully for the Imperium- or most often just the sisterhood- so being sent to the field already injured and broken would be counterproductive.

A sufficient degree of righteous insanity would usually do, and she and her sisters in error, unloved, self- hating, spiritually wrecked and ready to die just to get this hideous life over with, found themselves diverted to deal with a xenos threat- orks.

Imperial Guardsmen and Orks both covered an enormous span of competence, from the suicidally sub- moronic to the awe inspiringly brilliant- fortunately they overlapped for the most part. Not today; the guard were outguessed and out- warbossed, the bulk of the force drawn out in a series of meeting and holding engagements.

The Guard's Prime General (why that was the rank, the munitorum alone knew) had a core of heavy units to use to retrieve the situation, win one of the widely scattered sub- battles to start rolling up the others, and he set them on the march- and got it catastrophically wrong.

They moved, the orks moved, and sent their own heavy support lancing through one of the lesser engagement zones and caught the Imperial reserve armour, superheavies and artillery in travel order, in the flank as they were moving up.

The greenskin strike- Gorkzkrieg- was led by a Gargant.

With nothing else to commit and no other possibility of aid, the Prime General did three things; scraped together what of a scratch force from rear area units he could, sent an urgent call for assistance to the Astartes, and decided to see if the Sisters of Battle were tired of burning errant troopers at the stake yet and would like to do some good for once.

Resent the terms it was couched in as they might, they could not actually refuse, and turned out to try to blunt the spearhead. Under normal circumstances, the penitents would be marched, or harnessed to one of the transport vehicles of the sisterhood and allowed to run alongside it; if they fell, or rather when, they would be picked up, dusted down, allowed to rest on it for a little while- then kicked off to run again.

This time, they had been allowed to ride all the way, and they hadn't stopped for prayer breaks. That had been Laure's and her penitent sisters' first real hint that something was up. The second had been the crude, half painted mound of rust and scarring and green death spitting a dozen improbable kinds of fire as it lumbered over the horizon towards them.

Ignatius, reliving it all through her and trying to ignore the terrible state her soul had been in at the time, was fascinated. Delving into this- that had actually happened after all and was done with- was probably a damned sight safer way of getting her through the crisis of chemistry than using the now.

The sisters' attack brought out the best and the worst in the Orks. The best in that they were always, infinitely, utterly ready for a ruck and turned out to meet the Sororitas head on. The worst in that they completely lost sight of their original objective and gave the scattered and disorganised Imperial armoured column a chance to sort itself out.

That meant the full weight of the attack falling on the Sisters, which could have been equally disastrous. Ignatius was trying to make sense of the view from beneath the penitent's hood, and from Laure's confused impressions it looked as if the Sister Palatine in charge had got it right.

She had forbade the usual pre- battle spiritual preparation, undoubtedly promising to atone in orkish blood, in the interests of deploying fast, and had formed the sisters up in a move that the Grey Knight had thought was beyond them; form a hull- down fire sack and break the first orkish rush, then mount up and countercharge.

Ignatius found orks to be fascinating in theory, so different in their spiritual basis, but rather tedious to deal with in practise. He was usually happy to leave them to someone else to sort out, which it actually seemed as if the sisters were doing fairly well at.

The first rush of light vehicles and fast troops was met with a wall of fire, flamers and meltas and bolters, and then it was the sisters' turn. Penitent eviscerators were much more powerful than the standard chainsword; they had enough rending and mauling power to chew up lightly armoured or shoddily put together vehicles, and Ork Battlewagons fell easily into both categories.

Not that they fell easily in the military sense; Laure had an engraved-in memory of one of her fellow purgatorians, hood and hair and all the cloth and texts of her harness- dress blazing- caught fire from the sparks off the eviscerator as she laid about a battlewagon and it's crew.

She had been gored by shards and splinters, too, but showed no sign of letting it matter as she hewed into the wagon again and again, howling a banshee wail in which it could not be judged where agony and ecstasy ended and began.

In this world, Aule had just injected her with the product from all four eggs, which should make all the difference. In the relived glorious nightmare, Laure had just realised she was making the same sound.

There was still the supermonster to deal with, the gargant. She had started off after it, briefly felt the touch of her mistress' whip- a move to restrain her by her domineering, smothering surrogate mother- but it flickered away as the mistress read the situation and herded her fellow bloodwomen after her.

Several had already fallen, most had been hurt but the wounds of the body that slowed them down were less than the wounds of the soul that goaded them on; dripping blood, sweat and orcish ichor they ran down the huge, brutal image hydraulically shambling towards them.

Their berserk charge was a leap through fire of which few details were solid enough to remain, and fewer of which she wanted- one penitent trying to help another pulling on her harness, dragging her- leaving her legs behind;

the soul- shivering wail of another, ripped in a hundred places by an ork fragmentation bomb and unable to force herself on, despairing at the realisation that this was as far as she would go and salvation still far beyond- she would not be able to reach out and touch the Golden Throne.

The mistress herself was brought down by a fantastic absurdity, a giant, maybe five metre wide, metal ball on a stick- a spigot mortar that wobbled lazily through the air and crunched open when it landed in front of them, not to detonate but to release the orks' own suicide troops- bomm snotlingz.

The little crazed green things spread out at first, noticed the mistress and converged on her; she brought many of them down with flickering electric whips, detonated some of them and ruined most of the rest, but there were too many. Her armour was tough, her faith- driven flesh possibly tougher, but it could not be enough.

As she died Laure felt- too many things, everything. Towering hatred for the sour, stone- faced, stone- hearted harridan who had made her life a misery and wanted her to die; and also love for the guide who had found her torn in mind and spirit, put her back together and pointed the way to redemption; a dozen, a hundred things, and none of them mattered more than determination.

A powerful love- hate relationship was more or less exactly what should exist between the penitent and her mistress- no, from the penitent to the mistress, who was required to consider the errant scum from a more official and brutal point of view. Laure was less good at that, she empathised with them too much.

She believed herself less good at infusing her penitents with that do-and-die reckless hunger, not good at the business of pushing them down hard, so that they bounced back hard; she wanted them to see the face of god, not- as she had done- race after death and touch the divine on the way. Salvation was a possible accident that attended their doom, nothing more.

Not that her fellow penitents, in the reliving of it, had thought anything of the sort. Less than half had survived to try to board the gargant; Laure remembered vaulting onto the giants' foot, with her sisters chainsawing hand and foot holds into the crude, fireblacked skin of the base metal leg. All of them, strangely, reverent enough not to mock even an alien and hostile god by looking up and seeing what was between its' legs.

Gargants were god- machines of a sort too, depictions of the two great ork deities; not that they were a devout people, unless you counted war as their church- which was possible.

It did have to be said for them that they were consistent, all Gargants tending to look much more alike than such cobbled- together monstrosities really should; whereas in the course of almost three centuries of rattling about the Imperium from one disaster zone to another, Ignatius had come across such a variety of Titan designs that if they really were all in the image of the Deus Mechanicus, he must be a very funny shape indeed.

Which actually, being home- based on the actual old world of Titan and within psychic spitting distance of Mars, it was possible to notice that he was. Yet another dark secret to keep.

Laure remembered chopping a wedge out of the gargant's leg to use as a foothold, picking up the slice of metal- burningly hot but what of it?- and throwing it through the eye of one of the orks trying to stop them;

of another ork literally dropping on them, she caught it on the edge of the eviscerator but was knocked off by the impact, one of her sisters caught her by her chain harness, and Laure glad of the pain.

Scrambling up into the belly of the giant, half designed war machine, the fight in the engine room; her sister who had helped her, her fellow bondswoman and sufferer and seeker for redemption and only friend in this vale of tears ripped apart in the gears of the alien god- machine.

One of the handful of them left slicing at one of the boilers; shearing off a panel, and the flesh dissolving off her bones in high- pitched wailing, the sisters having the inspiration to make for the exits before the orks did, as they started to be cooked and blasted to death by high pressure steam.

The eruptions from within as, engine crew dead and dying, more of the boilers guttered out and shut down or overheated and blew up; and from without, as the Gargant slowed and made an easier target, and what was left of the Imperial armour caught it and started pounding it.

One fewer of them left, as a Shadowsword's volcano cannon melted and sheared away a huge slab of the ork monstrosity's flank, the reflected and channelled flash blinded another sister, and she stumbled onto an ork's choppa- carving its' chest open with her dying reflex.

The survivors- four, now- living, how with the wounds they were all carrying, and in flux calling on the Emperor's grace to lift them out of the ranks of the damned; one place to go. They carved their way to the bridge, beyond exhaustion but bodies an irrelevance, looking for something to use as a springboard to make the leap to absolution and grace.

Fortune- or grace- was with them; a lucky lascannon shot had severed most of the voice pipes, so the bignob had moved with his retinue to con the gargant from one of the gun turrets leaving only a mekboy, guards, gretchin trying to sort it out.

Laure split one of the ork boyz in half with an upward swipe, before he could react; another was faster, shot the penitent facing him with four shells from what seemed a crude orkish copy of a bolter, painted her across the room. Then it went click, and Laure and another sister tore him to bits, blades clashing and colliding in the ork's torso.

To spare her blade for later use Laure grabbed one of the gretchin by the ankle and started beating the mekboy with it, smashing one flailing, wailing green thing off the other; the other two sisters still alive attacked him more conventionally, but it was the two skulls meeting and cracking that seemed to be enough.

There would be more come running soon; the controls of the gargant were exceeding primitive, there weren't many options to choose from, and the sisters heaved on and pushed at everything trying to find the self destruct.

They managed to find and fire the fuze to the bomb in the magazine, and that was seconds before the bignob came back. It was too far gone then to stop, and the giant ork looked at them, charged- Laure leaped to one side and flourished her eviscerator like a matador's cape, catching the ork and spraying pieces of it around the room, but it was too huge and too plain orky to be stopped.

It also wasn't directly trying to kill them- although only her and Tamika were still on their feet, Vasha had been directly in it's path and she had bled it, but it had smashed her down and stood on her, shattering her pelvis. The bignob vaulted out of the open observation gallery- landed on his feet and ran for it down the hull.

The ork chieftain had made the sensible, Morkish- or was it Gorkish?- decision to leg it from the soon to be immolated gargant and come back for another go later with something not quite so explodey, and the two sisters, beyond thinking- they certainly wouldn't have meant to save themselves, that was not the point at all- gave chase.

That meant, in practise, chainsaw off the boss's command chair, throw it after him and ride it like a sled down the sloping outer face of the Gargant, chasing the ork warlord, zig- zagging around the broken and torn fragments of hull as best they could.

Not very well. They hit the steeply sloped lower surface of the thing and lost control, went tumbling down to earth, expected to die- landed on the side of a shell crater, sloping enough to break their fall from lethal to just enough to shatter bones.

Then the gargant blew itself apart, tons of crude explosive in the central ammo rooms blasting it apart in a firecracker chain of one touching off the next, metal fragments showering over the landscape. One of them- a tube, probably a gun barrel- nailed Tamika to the ground.

She screamed, and the scream drew the attention of one of the few survivors- the ork bignob whose gargant it had been, and he was very, very angry. Been hit by a few of the pieces himself, but that wasn't enough to slow a monster like him, or a fanatic like her, down.

Came lumbering towards them, down into the crater; Laure was starting to feel it- really should have been dead already, legs weren't working properly, vision blurry; stumbled towards him, too tired and broken to call for absolution or scream or pray to anything but oxygen.

Not enough, she remembered telling herself, have to try, this is it, the gate to the golden throne is on the other side of that big green bastard, I'm the only one who made it this far, for them if not for me. Dragged herself towards him.

The end came in three moves; the ork tried to outreach her and cleave her down with his snazzchoppa, but he wasn't watching his feet- crippled, dying Sister Tamika managed to get her blade round to slice him across the back of the knees. It was just as well she didn't care if the effort killed her or not, because it did.

The ork toppled forwards, and Laure met it with a massive swing of the eviscerator, starting behind her head, curving down and up in a perfect closing arc that she was sure had the Emperor's hand behind it, starting half way down it's ribs, up and through and ripping it's head in half;

but dead weight had it's day, and the body kept falling, the shiny, snazzy chopper catching her on the collarbone, slicing down into her lung, not quite taking the arm clean off her body.

That was how they found them- the ork dead, her fading fast but not beyond help, not for one who had redeemed herself in such spectacular fashion- even if the touch of grace had felt much more like terror and desperation at times.

And now- now she was here, on a cold rooftop in a city under siege, a mistress with one penitent to her name and- God-Emperor, he's psychic, how much did I say, how much did I give away?

'Nothing that you can't atone for in the blood of the Emperor's enemies.' Ignatius answered the unspoken question, and behind him there was a rising whine as an airtaxi, pilot operating under mental control, descended to the rooftop for them. 'I'm not going to let you talk yourself back into the harness, not on the Ordo Malleus' time. we have too much to do and duty, as always, comes first.'
The only purpose in my still being here is the stories and the people who come to read them. About all else, I no longer care.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2011-12-15 10:31pm


And, yes, say what you will about the orks, but if "piety" can even be defined for them, it would express as devotion to the gods of war, and they're really quite rigorous about their devotionals.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2011-12-21 06:35pm

They dismounted on a more convenient rooftop, close to the main transit station where the sisters would likely emerge and the cathedral where Ignatius planned to stage the grand finale.

It was larger than most of the buildings around it, even though it had no business being, simple for the sake of the glory and grandeur of it; the architecture really hadn't scaled up well, the Grey Knight thought.

Simply in order to take up the full volume of the monolithic building the actual church was perched on top of, it included all the various administrative facilities of the Ecclesiarchy for half the sector, which included a great many things that it would be better if Chaos had not had the chance to riffle through.

All the confidential reports- readymade blackmail material- for seventy worlds' worth of priests, for a start. A disaster, if Chaos had the wit and organisation to intelligently and systematically exploit it.

Ignatius briefly debated with himself how to deviate from the plan far enough to make sure the entire building went foom, but there was no way to square that with the prime objective, because that was where it would have to happen.

At the moment it would be righteous, because the place had been profaned and stank of blasphemies, as he was expecting. The Imperial Cult comes in almost as many forms as the heads it sinks into, Ignatius ruminated, and mine is more arcane than most considering it includes large lumps of pre- Heresy doctrine and a severe spicing of what are normally forbidden truths. Abnormally forbidden ones, too.

Still, there could hardly be a standard by which that was not wrong, and most of my brothers would think there was something wrong with me for not rushing over there at once to purify it.

No, wait, the Istvaanites really are that crazy. They consider the odd provocative abomination from time to time serves a valuable role in stopping the Imperium becoming lazy and complacent. I've met too many frantic, terrified people- and too many abominations- for that.

'Take the tool and first aid kits.' he told the team, while he did a little more work on the airtaxi driver. There would be three kamikazes tonight, not two.

They did, and Ignatius sent the driver off with a sense of searing hate against the people who had stolen his livelihood, stolen his city, killed and oppressed his friends, made life impossible- a sense that there was only his soul left to lose, and he would, unless-

That was where Ignatius left it; let him supply his own conclusion. It was very little to add anyway, almost all of it was there to begin with. The taxi- man hovered away, and Ignatius turned to the rest of the team.

'Simple question; did any of you turn into Marines while I wasn't looking? No? Thought not. You need rest a lot more than I do- I'll stand watch.' The normal field drills of vigilance were not as familiar to him as they would be to a brother of similar vintage from a line chapter, but he knew what he was doing well enough. And they really did need it.

'Brother-' Laure began, nervously.

'All right, you can stay up and watch the first explosions, but no later, you need rest most of all.' Ignatius deliberately misunderstood, hoping she would take the hint.

She heard and understood it, and heeded it for a second, but decided the stakes were too high and she needed to say it. 'I have...confessions to make.'

'No,' he said, 'you have acknowledgements. You're right, I'm psychic, we both know what you're about to say- and that it's deeply unwise. I'm ten times your age, five times your weight, and several times your score on most standard psycho-theological disturbance tests.

You're an instrument of discipline, I follow my nose to where I'm needed, which is practically indistinguishable from rattling around the galaxy at random- and a lot of the places I go, you cannot follow.

In your head, you know all of this.'

'My head tells me that most of what I do is ridiculously dangerous and at least debatably wise, but I never let that stop me.' Laure said. 'My heart-'

A third of the way to the horizon and off on the right behind her, there was a spray and a brief streak of fire, a smallish explosion then a much larger secondary explosion; excellent timing, the grey knight thought.

That had been the airtaxi diving on the nearest Slaaneshi pleasure dome, them shooting at it, trying to stop it and damaging it- but not enough; it's power cells blowing, and then the dome's own energy nodes.

We have too many suicide troops, Ignatius thought, but he would have had to be sacrificed anyway to preserve security, so they couldn't find us through him; taking some of the great enemy with him and saving his soul thereby is about as good as could be arranged.

If chaos was always resisted to the utmost, there would be many more of us left alive and free at the end of the day; and if tyranny was resisted thus, the Imperium would have to be a very different place indeed.

'Well, you've had your explosions.' he said. 'Even if the eggs have cleared your head, your body badly needs rest. Try not to dream too loudly.' he added wryly. 'I'll critique your version of Astartes physiology in the morning.'

She started to turn away, almost convinced, then looked back at him open- mouthed; he couldn't possibly have said what she had just thought she heard him say, he couldn't possibly mean what that could be taken to mean- which turned into a yawn as she realised she really was exhausted and it was only the armour holding her up.

She shambled away, found a brick to use as a pillow waving away her penitent who offered herself for the purpose; Ignatius found a vantage point on top of one of the building's air conditioning intakes, scanned the city-scape, once quickly to fix the outstanding features, once more slowly looking for detail; by the time he had finished that all five of them were asleep.

Time to settle down to the surprisingly difficult task of spotting, monitoring and estimating all that was taking place- and this was the tricky bit- without letting himself gloat about it.

These were the first moves, the first movement he had planned. They seemed on course to build to the crescendo he intended. So far. He was improvising a lot as he went, to ensure the main thread moved as intended- the suicide skytaxi had been exquisitely timed for more reasons than one;

at least some of the Slaaneshi leadership would have been in there, and his agent would not- not have got there yet. That would magnify his relative importance.

For the moment- until they were ready to go again and a suitable objective presented itself- what was to be done was keep a low profile, stay under the grey veil with a gently unobtrusive zone of psychic awareness extended, physically scan for approaching threats,and see which of the chaos powers gave into temptation and went for each other first.

Not much of a surprise, he grumbled about an hour later when the streets around the dome started to fill up with lots of red and shiny; looking closely, red-stained cloth, some of it blood, and edged weapons. Khorne, again.

The slaaneshi tried to defend themselves against them, and the khornates laid in with their own brand of happiness, attacking the pleasure-god cultists and each other in no particular or indeed particulate order.

Ignatius watched the business unfold, marking who and learning what he could, looking round from time to time to avoid becoming fixated, and feeling vaguely guilty that he wasn't down there fine- tuning the process, making sure the more sensible of them died off (there were such people, despite what certain Commissars had to say).

That and more dubiously but justifiably in the big picture, making sure the most frothingly moronic lived to further damage their own cause, at least until they had done their worst and could be profitably put down in their turn.

With this group to look after, not practical, though; couldn't take off and leave them, not after promising to watch over them. I need them for the endgame, he thought, one way or another. I'm quite surprised they haven't put the pieces together and worked out what I intend to do...

No, on reflection that's unfair, he thought. They're not Malleus acolytes, and I'm not a Malleus inquisitor- even though I do actually have a seal in my possession and I'm certainly fitter to wield it than the spiritually undisciplined, trigger- happy idiot I took it, and various important organs, from.

No, actually, two, he thought; forgot the bookmark.

He was indeed using an inquisitorial seal of authority as a page marker, albeit in his copy of the Liber Daemonica. How long did it take a repurposed object to lose it's original spiritual identity, anyway? So much was in the eye of the beholder to begin with, one man's trinket being another's destroyer of worlds.

And as so depressingly often, one age's marvels being another's landfill, one human's beloved all being another's living putty to plug another hole in the line.

How long- rather, how much, what weight of strife and pain to recover a lost identity? To fall, and rise, and come back to teetering on the edge again?

Ignatius looked over his followers, considered them. Aule was bright and brittle, too young to have really learned anything more than the bare concept of medical detachment, and was probably the least likely to come out of this alive and with psychic integrity intact.

He could resist the temptations of Chaos, but was struggling to resist the temptation to do something about it, try and fix and cure- youth and confusion were holding him back for now, but he would die trying to make a difference long before he learned how to survive, or to do calmly what had to be done.

Perhaps the best thing for him might be to let him be the faster burning light and die young and gloriously, before he could ruin himself with unwise determination and too much need to cure the sick of soul.

Hasek had been well prepared by a wise grandfather, and he was coming into his lessons in practical soldiering now; Ignatius would back him against most odds, he had the makings of a military hero, but he had also been given as much as a young man could carry of an old soldier's cynicism.

Not that his grandfather would have intended it that way, but some of the images in the young man's head were familiar, Ignatius had been there for some of the same campaigns as the old man had served in, and knew there had been more than enough of it to go round.

That would work against the lad; disgracefully often, the Imperium's response to old heads on young shoulders was to separate them. If he lives through this I may need to get him out of the Guard, if not to acolyte-hood then perhaps discharged and turned over to the Arbites.

Bohr, now, he had his eyes wide open- obviously not literally this very moment- and he was learning fast, but what was he making of it, anything good? As a Commissar-cadet, he was in training to be one of the Guard's repositories of forbidden knowledge anyway, so this wasn't as much of a stretch for him.

Not being in charge was what was worrying and frustrating him, and the worst of it was that it was right that it be so, that it was entirely right and reasonable under the circumstances that his dreams of heroic leadership should be put in abeyance galled him the most.

The backchat he was getting from Hasek didn't help. People grew up fast in the schola progenium, but he was close to living down to the normal standard for his age by behaving like a sulky teenager.

His hormonal balance was nowhere near healthy; it wasn't hard for Ignatius to guess that he had been sharing a bed and probably thought himself in love with one of the student sisters, and it had left him permanently kinked that way. A wriggle of her hips and a sultry look from Laure and he would dissolve at her feet.

He was also having some seriously disturbed fantasies about the actual penitent sister, which- they were fairly well within the usual human run, Ignatius had certainly come across much, much worse and the reality was fairly dubious to start with; but as bad for both of them as they could be, they had better remain only dreams.

The boy could get himself into trouble that way, he's trying to control himself but he's being too heavy handed about it, and that he knows it's wrong is actually making it worse. When he reaches his limit he'll snap, hard- his career may well come to an end with or shortly after the words "I knew it was wrong, but I couldn't help myself."

Would being heavy- handed with him actually work? I could pull moral rank on him, remind him that extraordinary positions require extraordinary individuals to fill them, but the last thing I want him to do is try harder- he's well on the way to being far too brittle as it is.

Albia, herself, had pared herself down to the spiritual simplicity of an arrow; she had no real repentance, and had kept the flesh on her spine because Laure understood why- their crimes had not been very different at all. Both of them had lashed out at authority that had gone too far.

In Albia's case it had been one of their own, though, a senior teaching sister whose treatment of her novitiates had, in Albia's opinion, passed beyond righteous toughening through gratuitous hazing into outright abuse.

Albia had shot the teaching sister then turned herself in knowing that what she had done was right, but also unforgivable; the system simply could not permit actions of that sort, Authority had to be upheld.

It was all in the Emperor's hands, now; she was going do die, that was all there was to it- apart from trying to do so as heroically as possible just to show them. She's probably right, Ignatius thought, I'll be asking a lot of her, of us all.

I'd prefer if she lived, for the politics of it, but I won't bet on that.

Laure, though, would take her penitent's death very badly. Assuming I can manage to persuade her that she doesn't have to surrender her own position and rejoin the ranks of the damned herself, and that might be uncertain, maybe, then I'd recommend she gets out of the penitent business.

She leads rather than drives, she'll keep taking bigger and bigger risks until she dies with her charges- holds her life at least as cheaply as they hold theirs. She may be right, actually she is better at leading them back to grace, but- can it even be right to tell someone not to sacrifice themselves for the Imperium?

I'd still recommend she should relinquish the position in favour of somebody with less empathy with the doomed, and find something she can do without it necessarily destroying her. You can't be that ready to destroy yourself for that long without it eventually happening.

She's read much more into me than I have into her; this is just what I do, and evidently I have done too much. If I have a right to expect her to follow me- and technically I don't, being officially a rank and file brother, which fortunately nobody seems to have noticed- she has a right to expect me to lead rightly and righteously.

Those are the right terms to consider it in. Has to be, despite- there can officially be nothing personal in it, we were all young when we get taken up for the Astartes, but sometimes life begins younger still, and I do remember.

Never quite understood, after many years of dealing with normal people and seeing what makes them go, why we in the beaky helmets were made sterile. People fight for many things, for pride and pain and stupidity, but you can't separate machismo from sex anyway, and most often and most of all for family, to win or defend, and the biological posterity they carry.

Perhaps it's to do with having something to lose, too- the eldar have families, kith and kin, as do we, and look what happened to them. Necrons? They barely even have selves. Nids, likewise. Orks, so alike that it's debatable, and a lifecycle that leaves no hostages. Individuality seems to be a great handicap and a burden, to the extent that humanity's the only even vaguely successful race that has it.

Becoming a Marine isn't so much a rise or a transcendence as it is a separation, our only kin our brothers and me shading towards the status of an only child, us as the shield for a humanity hopefully in transition- but not part of it.

Leave her be, then, and settle down to watch the fireworks- which were starting to appear in earnest.

Strongpoints on the walls lobbing shells at each other; Khorne worshippers doing for each other and weakening the defences of the city, unusually counterproductive even for them but good- and there was a band of Tzeentchians there massing to assault one of the main fortresses and take it out of their blood- greedy hands.

Khornates neglecting to do anything at all about them, choosing to attack their old enemies, and the Slaaneshi pleasure dome putting up a handful of people in resistance- and also to Ignatius' relief, something he would possibly have to do penance for later, a few summoned daemons. If their minds were already moving in that direction, good.

There was a rising and spreading cloud of foul air, flash and flare lit, over the western district; then first a point, then a burst, then a ring of fire rose up to meet it, and the Grey Knight had to blink to be sure he was seeing this with his eyes rather than his mind's eye. So symbolic he thought it must be a metaphorical illusion, until he realised they were actually doing it that way.

The clouds hung over the respective bands of chaos worshippers, and the cloud of venom tried to resist and overcome the cloud of fire, but the flame burnt and boiled off the poison- and the Khornates lobbed shells and plasma- blasts at them all.

The strike team, released to admit how tired they were, managed to sleep through it, and Ignatius let them. Tomorrow was going to be an enormously long day, ending in something rather strange indeed, if he had his way.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-02-08 07:23am

Next bit;

Eventually, morning. The Slaaneshi had been beaten severely, but survived as a faction- partly due to their use of giant robotic sex toys as assault units. Ignatius had watched the fruit of truly warped minds at work with as coldly professional an interest as he could maintain.

Even he couldn't help giggling a little, though, when one aspiring champion of Khorne was compressed to a metal- studded splurtch of goo beneath a fifteen foot diameter bouncing breast.

In our chapter, he thought, we are sometimes accused of being too ready to delve into that which which we fight, of defending purity from far too far a forward position, and of setting a bad example to the less well shielded- to the Inquisitors of the Ordo Malleus for a start.

They probably have a point. We are willing to do things like take trophies- captured daemon weapons- down off the wall and go hacking with them, like parodying and disrupting the black rites of Chaos with what are actually alarmingly close copies thereof- and that's only the half of it.

I've summoned daemons myself; granted that it was to their ritual exegesis, execution and extinction, and they were carefully chosen and fairly small, technically it's still spectacularly far beyond the pale.

Even so, when it comes to using the weapons of the enemy, I don't think even the most radical of us would be willing to go quite that far. It would be almost impossible to look stern and righteous surfing an animatronic vulva into combat.

The Khornates had had either a successful or a disastrous night, depending on whether you were one of them or someone with a more conventional concept of victory.

Many had died, mostly at each others' hands, including and especially a great many of the artillerymen- poor close quarters fighters but for a few- who manned the wall guns; the place was usefully weakened. Many others had died too, and much blood shed, so it was all good.

Nurgle's followers had been all but eliminated as a cohesive force, a process Ignatius had given the odd telepathic and telekinetic shove to- raising their hazard level but it seemed to have paid off.

If somebody- one of the khornate gunners on the wall, for instance, which was why Ignatius had been so happy to see them go- had decided to lob a plasma bolt at the rooftop, he doubted whether even his multiple physical and psychic defences could have held. The best chance would have been to feel the hostile intent drift towards them, and jump for it- between telekinetic power and mind control, hope for a soft landing.

Hadn't happened, fortunately- came close though. A fire in the undercity, one of the last acts of the nurglites- fed with a little telekinetic/pyrokinetic help if truth be told- managed to undermine the foundations of one of the towers, and it had fallen.

Such a fantastic underestimate of a word, bearing no resemblance to the shattering, world- mutilating experience it lay over; the kilometre- high building cracked, pieces tumbled off, buckled, the structural framing on one side tore loose and it collapsed.

Not straight down; it crumbled down onto another, more strongly built- the second tower was wrecked but not toppled, the core remained standing but most of the outer layers were smashed off, leaving an adamantium frame standing over a billowing cloud of ferrocrete fragments and dust.

Ignatius had looked wistfully at the swelling, spreading, choking cloud of masonry dust and smoke; it would be a very effective veil, the fear and confusion of the people caught in it a more effective psychic shield and blind than the grey-brown mass was a physical.

A little resonance here and there, amplifying people's own feelings, nothing that someone without extreme subtlety would really recognise as influence- and who was subtle in the midst of this? Only the very professional and the very deranged. Him and a few high- ranking Tzeentchians, basically.

They would be the ideal people to go for in the midst of this, if that was only practical. How long would they remain useful for- when does their effect as a goad on their fellow chaotics reach it's natural term, and they revert to simply being a threat?

There's a several- hour window, Ignatius thought, and the spiritual tides are building to it, which the Slaaneshi will need to prepare their ritual, and I need the Tzeentchians alive until the opening of that window, After that point, the lords of difference not only can be productively killed but should be, because the last thing I'll want at that point is for the situation to change.

Come to think of it, that moment squares with- anyone with a sense of the mythic, and you don't get good at the daemon game without one, would time it for- sunset.

So once this lot get out of bed, we can pass a relatively quiet day snapping up mainly- Khornate targets of opportunity, before warming up for the big game by an evening of sorcerer- potting, which should leave us nicely keyed up but not too strung out for the main event.

And to think that some people actually think this is difficult...

If the old saying about sleeping the sleep of the just is remotely true, he added to himself, then we definitely have problems. The sleep of the completely bloody exhausted was closer to the truth.

As might be expected, Albia was the first to rediscover sentience, but she violated the terms of her vow of silence in doing so, groaning and jingling as she rolled over and sat up.

She realised what she had done, which was actually the first clue Ignatius had, her own shock, and her guilt and far as she looked at where he was perched on top of the air conditioning inlet.

The problems of the people you command, wise or unwise, right, wrong- headed or sheer barking mad- those people's problems are the problems of command. She thought she had done something wrong; he didn't but it had to be dealt with.

What she was genuinely in error about by his standards was in expecting him to judge and punish her, to exert spiritual authority over her; her mistress was responsible for her, and Albia was trying to appeal past her to him.

Offering herself to his judgement- well, her mistress had done far worse in her dreams, which was something he would have to have a word with her about when she awoke.

'Don't imagine sins that are essentially irrelevant; don't judge yourself any more harshly than you already have been. A moan and grumble in a semi- conscious state is neither here nor there. At most I might expect you to repent a little harder- do a slightly longer penance perhaps.'

She looked properly humbled, then it dawned on her that, as her penance was going to be to die, it didn't really make that much difference. Had to try not to giggle.

They did not have long to wait before the mistress joined them, it was obvious when her mind broke the surface; she made a frantic grab at her dreams, before realising that perhaps she shouldn't- and reacting with a confused spasm of longing and horror as she realised exactly what she had imagined herself getting up to.

The most depressing thing is, Ignatius thought, that I almost could make all that lot come true for her; most of the momentary things and a damned sight more, between psychokinesis and fine nerve manipulation and what they used to call the tantric arts- except the one part that really matters.

There's a layer of her that doesn't want to do death any more, wants to do life; and I can't do that for her. Tries to mother her penitents, and that's one of the reasons she's coming apart.

'Ah, good morning.' he said to her, openly and cheerfully. On the surface at least.

She noticed Albia standing at muscle- taut attention, asked 'What's happening?'

'Oh, your penitent here imagined that she violated her vow of silence with some grumblings in the night.' Ignatius said mischievously. Both of them blushed the colour of the red in their robes.

'Now, as far as I can tell the object of that vow was to prevent anyone else from hearing your reasons as to why you did what you did, was it not?' Ignatius asked Albia, and she nodded.

'Considering that you conveyed no actual information whatsoever, I would say that you only did one thing wrong- coming to me to be judged instead of to your appointed confessor.' and he looked at Laure.

'She did not much more than you did, anyway, in terms of keeping your vows. Consciously consider this- if I had come to you last night and done all the things you dreamt of, would it have been right?'

Damn, he thought a second later, major mistake- she might just have the guts to say yes.

Instead she blushed, looked a third her actual age- a strange and somehow right mixture of guilt and innocence, tried to meet his eye and ended up staring at the aquila on his breastplate. That happened a lot, although seldom for such reasons.

She wanted to say yes, her body (which didn't know what it was talking about) demanded it, passion battering at the walls of indoctrination- she had spent her life driving her body beyond its normal limits by the power and authority of faith; belief was stronger than flesh, she had chosen to live and die by that.

Couldn't say yes, wanted to, couldn't think of anything theologically sound; he was a very confused jumble in her head, of physical and spiritual lust, of patriarch, warrior hero and friend and confessor; she couldn't, it was almost blasphemous to-

she considered prostrating herself before him and saying "I am yours, brother, punish me as you will-" but she had done that in the dream, hadn't she- looked down and, confused and embarrassed, said 'No.'

'So you had a hot blooded dream, and in the calm and dusty light of day realised that was all it was.' Ignatius stated it as- transforming it into- a fact, despite both of them knowing that it really wasn't.

'Fantasies have their place, and it would be a worse and more destructive error to punish them all; but in such a place, and at such a time, any wishful thinking could be the first mis- step down a dark and terrible road.

Constant vigilance, and over oneself most of all; no hostages to fortune, no cracks in the armour of contempt that Chaos can exploit. Yes?' Ignatius reminded her, trying not to entirely crush her dream.

A full blown reprimand and penance would have made her viciously, suicidally determined to regain his good regard, and led her counterproductively close to death. Which was going to make the next bit really awkward.

'There is actually another matter- not as any form of penance, I would hate to have to impose common sense as a penalty- your electrowhips are well enough on flesh, but against the armoured and the demented, and eventually the daemonic, they may not bite deep enough.

we do have two heavy close combat weapons; would it not make more sense for the weapon that cuts with very little effort to be used by the unboosted wielder, and the weapon that requires strength and power to be used by the wielder in power armour?'

Laure barely understood- couldn't believe it. 'Are you suggesting I should take up the eviscerator?'

'Not in the sense that you mean. You need a bigger hitty stick, that's what there is.' They actually had three heavy close combat weapons, but there was no way he was letting her borrow his halberd. Aside from the obvious jokes that would naturally occur to a warped mind about her fondling his weapon, he needed his daemon- prodding implement.

'Biomechanically, it does make sense- you're very good with it, and we are going to be up to out eyeballs in traitor's blood, emperor willing we get this right that is, before you get a chance to dream again- but if you see the idea so badly then perhaps we should let things stay as they are.'

' could you suggest such a thing, brother?'

Not the sort of question that actually wants to be answered. He did anyway. 'By considering only the biomechanics of it, and deciding it would do your faith good to be left to take care of itself, and decide on it's own recognisance what you could and could not stand,

'I could have told you to do it as a matter of penance, and you would have done without a second thought- the fact is that you are a spiritual leader, a beacon, in everyone's eyes but your own. Which makes your own doubts and worries all the more important...

Seriously, you offered up your life, embraced martyrdom. That you are still with us means the Emperor has a use for you alive.'

'You think that I have a better chance of remaining alive and killing the Emperor's enemies wielding the characteristic weapon of the doomed martyr?' she asked- doing what he had done actually, defaulting to the practical to postpone the dizzying consequences of the spiritual.

'Yes.' Ignatius deadpanned.

The three of the Guard presented no spiritual difficulties by comparison, although Hasek noticed the tension in the air and thought about quipping "so, no morning prayers then?" but thought better of it.

Breakfast; Ignatius did joke 'No, I'm all right, I ate a cultist earlier.' Medicine- seeing to the injured- deliberately not policing up the site; if anyone was on their trail, that was good, because it was much easier to ambush them that way and anyone sharp enough to follow like that deserved to be ambushed.

'Right, everyone sentient? Don't kill anyone we don't have to, we'll do more damage if they don't spot us until after we get where we're going. First, up to the wall bastions.'

Morning, and the last for many; the sun looking red- orange through the pall of smoke. It would have been an omen of doom, but it was already blatantly obvious that there was going to be more than enough doom to go round.

This was the quiet phase before that, both sides would be waiting and preparing, and praying, one to a plethora of false gods and the other to a man who had never wanted to become a god.

Pondering when the calm would shatter; when would today's barrage be?

The city's defences had been heavily battered, but the Guard depended largely on shells and missiles that took time and effort to bring up and ready.

The heavy energy weapons could keep up a continuous slow fire to keep the pressure on, but to do lasting damage the tube artillery and rocket batteries would , when the forward stockpile reached a sufficient level, fire a short maximum- effort barrage, locally overwhelming the defences somewhere along the line and wrecking part of the wall and defences.

Sometimes the artillery regiment commanders got it wrong and joined in the continual suppression barrage, sometimes coordination failed and they splattered fire all over the city's armour and voids without breaching, sometimes it worked- they had got better with practise.

Today would be a three stonk day, probably. One as soon as the gunners were all coordinated and ready to go, which process of reciprocal swearing and command aides stampeding in every direction should take another couple of hours.

One late in the afternoon, once the damage assessments had been conducted and the new target chosen, and everything made ready again. The third in response to the conditions Ignatius intended to create.

The city's transport system was a mess, a half planned, half grown, wholly shambolic mess. Airtaxis- fantastically expensive usually, that kind of technology was rare and didn't come cheap; transtubes; pneumatic tunnels; flying bridges. Hardly any solution not attempted. There, there was something like a set of cogs, a giant car- lift scarphed onto the side of a building.

Along the high level roads then, the ones built between towers at the hundred and fiftieth floor level- most without guideways, interestingly; safety wasn't a priority. Well, they had fallen to chaos, but that didn't mean there was a correlation.

Under the grey veil, picking their way through the not yet destroyed portions of the system, in the general direction of one of the largest buildings left standing- there on the left, the road branched, an accessway coming out from a large vertical farm.

Young animals started on the lowest levels, were slowly and chemically inspired to progress up the long grass covered spiral at the heart of the building, bred and their calves were sent down to the early levels, fattened and were milked for many turns, and eventually reached the slaughterhouses of the hundred and fiftieth floor, then in pieces packing, processing, warehousing and dispatch.

The place was full of looters, there was a confused and terrified mooing that was probably a handful of ill- favoured slaaneshi beastmen forcing themselves on whatever they could get;

more growling from a disappointed pack of Khornates, who had been kept out of the lower levels by a Tzeentchian guided tour, and were amusing themselves by trying to beat each other to death with frozen cuts of meat.

One, visible through the loading bay, crushing a Slaaneshi's head in with a giant catering- sized black pudding. Ah, ecumenism, a death they can jointly agree on, Ignatius thought.

He also realised he was gently humming another old tune, a much less serious one- 'Grox with Gats' or something like that, a comedy song about meat animals rebelling against being eaten and going on the rampage.

For a moment he did start thinking about the psychodynamic impulses it would take to get the beasts in the lower levels to rise in revolt, and how to avoid leaving his own fingerprints all over it.

Pointless, though; they were almost certainly doomed anyway. if the cultists didn't get them, the bombardment would, and if not that then the Imperial troops would eat them all. There was just no future in being edible.

Apart from a brief comedy moment of small- c chaos, it would not contribute towards the salvation of those who could be saved, or the destruction of those who must be destroyed.

He was moving on when he noticed Bohr and Albia had taken his pause and looking at the place as a cue and started towards it; managed to grab them both and get them back under the grey veil before they could be spotted.

'We can't afford to ave the cattle, when we haven't yet saved the people.' he whispered at them, authoritatively.

Albia acknowledged, but signed back- might that not have been a trap, a symbolic thing, an invitation to callousness?

Yes, Ignatius replied, and I did consider it, but it would have been a waste of time and energy we have a better use for. Sometimes you have to resist even the temptation to do good; even if what you're doing genuinely matters, it's still a mistake if it costs you the opportunity to do something that matters more.

He gathered them all- they had moved on a few hundred metres- and said quietly 'The choice is between doing that place over, and another trouble laid to set the powers against each other, which after last night is less urgent than it was, or damaging the garrison on the wall to make it easier for the army to come in after us.'

A plan dawned on him, and he added, more than half to himself, 'There is a way to do both, but it involves much more in the way of soul swapping, possession, psychic bestiality and general deviance worthy of instant death and excommunication.

Swapping out the brain states of cows and Khornates, letting the cows go berserk and herding the loonies with bovine minds onto a delivery truck and depositing them on the wall- then changing them back;

it would be extremely entertaining to watch, but there are limits as to how far you can go with the weapons of the enemy, and that is so, so far on the other side of them it defies calculation, trust me. We make for the wall.'

They understood, but it didn't stop Laure forming the fugitive thought- is that the sort of forbidden dream you have, Brother? There was no easy answer to that, because the truth was that yes, it was.

-----missing section inserted
Last edited by Eleventh Century Remnant on 2012-02-09 03:31pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-02-08 10:00am

Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:'Don't imagine sins that are essentially irrelevant; don't judge yourself any more harshly than you already have been. A moan and grumble in a semi- conscious state is neither here nor there. At most I might expect you to repent a little harder- do a slightly longer penance perhaps.'

She looked properly humbled, then it dawned on her that, as her penance was going to be to die, it didn't really make that much difference. Had to try not to giggle.

-------insert here...

'She did not much more than you did, anyway, in terms of keeping your vows. Consciously consider this- if I had come to you last night and done all the things you dreamt of, would it have been right?'
You missed a spot. I can fill in the bridge, mentally, and the outlines of what went in there are clear enough, but you might want to patch it over.

Although there is a certain humor to "insert here" in light of some of what went before the missing piece, and definitely in light of what went after.

He also realised he was gently humming another old tune, a much less serious one- 'Grox with Gats' or something like that, a comedy song about meat animals rebelling against being eaten and going on the rampage.

For a moment he did start thinking about the psychodynamic impulses it would take to get the beasts in the lower levels to rise in revolt, and how to avoid leaving his own fingerprints all over it.

Pointless, though; they were almost certainly doomed anyway. if the cultists didn't get them, the bombardment would, and if not that then the Imperial troops would eat them all. There was just no future in being edible.
"But on the horizon, surrounding the cultists, came the deafening roar... of turkeys in Thunderhawks!"
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-02-08 11:11am

Oh, bollocks...

What it is- I haven't been able to come up with a version of Laure's return to consciousness, after about four manuscript attempts; at least, not one that felt right. That's what was supposed to go there, ideally before it was posted- I don't think I forgot as much as refused to think about it, because it still isn't ready and it's annoying. I'll have to edit it in when it's done.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Vehrec » 2012-02-10 04:41pm

Say, we've previously discussed the fact that the Eldar are far more arrogant than they have any right to be. And we know that they're an engineered species, like the Orks, who are far more combat-loving than they have any right to be. The Warp is influenced by belief. Could the Eldar's belief in their own abilities fuel their competence in a degree equal to how overconfident they are? They're a massively psychic race, so it only makes sense that this kind of self-confidence would have some sort of effect.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-02-10 05:17pm

I had actually intended to have one of them come back, hunting Ignatius- revenge, get him out of the way, he knows too much, etc- and for him to buy time with the following psychohistorical argument;

Think back to the Dark Age of Technology. Who isn't about yet? There are three extant powers of Chaos, so far so good; Necron remnants, yes, relatively inactive. Nids are still thousands of years off, tau are still evolving.

There will be plenty of Orks, yes, but predominantly, as far as civilisation goes, the growing and expanding human race is displacing the Eldar as lords of the universe.

Now, think about the psychological effect of this, of defeat, of dethronement, of the derailment of the future; and what we know the Eldar did- turning within, turning to hedonism, turning away from the harder virtues. Could that not have been the consequence of defeat?

The growth and birth of Slaanesh, then, an admittedly self- destructive revenge upon the human race- a more deliberate act, denial- if we can't have the stars then neither can you? Pulling down the temple? Spite on an inhuman scale- is this really out of step with how the Eldar have behaved since?

The survivors of the Eldar are basically their survivalists, a fragment of the species, their extreme right in fact- I'd conjecture that there are very few eldar left, if any, who are wholly sane by the old standards of their species.

The ones who are left are the ones who thought they didn't need their civilisation, cut themselves off from the mainstream of it, and actually did get to say "I told you so." For them, this is the post- apocalypse. Absurd self- confidence was a survival trait, and is culturally carried through because of that.

That's the theory at the moment, anyway.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-02-10 06:28pm

That fits together- though so does the "having that level of sheer gall and confidence actually does help make them close to that good, if not quite as good as they think they are" explanation. 40k is absolutely rife with arrogant superheroes, and we have the obvious example of the God-Emperor, seemingly empowered by belief to levels far beyond what he could achieve in life (making warp storms- did he ever come close to doing that when he was a living man?)

Survival by superior cunning and skill, and the closed-minded arrogance and selfishness... those could be a self-reinforcing loop for the Eldar race, I think.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-03-30 09:32pm

Ignatius and his warband picked their way across the city, then, disdaining wholesale psychic engineering, but not combat- it would get some of the morning stiffness and awkwardness out, do them good to get their bayonets wet; rationalise their frustrations and vent their doubts- and it wasn't as if targets were hard to come by.

He put a little effort into picking a good one- it was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs of course, wasn't the whole bloody point of cities, from the dawn of civilisation onwards, to avoid having to live like an ape, constantly walking miles and climbing things?

Hive cities, especially the ones I get to visit considering the state they're usually in, seem to have come full circle.

This was worth it, though- a party of Khornates dragging a pallet of shells up to one of the wall batteries- the lifts had failed or been shot out, so they were doing it the hard way.

They were also using a rendered down Nurglite as lubricant, heedless of the hazard to their health or sense of smell. Numbers, hm- how much advantage did his people need? as little, Ignatius decided.

He could have made this a much more sensuous gesture if he had wanted, but he borrowed some of Laure's scent and wafted it over them. Somehow she had kept herself reasonably presentable- the medical wipes had made a lot of that difference- and the clean, fresh, womanly smell drove them to distraction.

When Khornates got distracted and lost focus, they tended to revert to first principles- this lot did, certainly. Pausing at one of the flat lands on the upward spiral, they started slapping at themselves, waving their hands in the air, trying to get rid of the smell as if it were a cloud of bees.

It was pointless; Ignatius kept the olfactory illusion moving, drawing them into each other, stretching them out, Laure couldn't tell exactly why but she could see his shoulders wobbling as he chuckled.

'Are you doing that, Brother?'

'It's not hard, they're just reaching the axe- licking stage, give them a moment and they'll be swinging for each other- ah, there they go. Lovely decapitation. We can't let them have all the fun though- right, into them.'

Ignatius led off, not at full pace, holding back a little to let them keep up; not much for Laure- zeal powered, she was bounding ahead of the group, Albia sprinting to catch her up and the three guardsmen further behind, although not dangerously so.

The cultists saw Laure coming, could hardly not have considering she was screaming something that came close to being an approved war cry, but not quite- three, two with knives and crowbars and one with an autogun, turned to challenge her.

The grey blur intervened, and Ignatius scored two beheadings and a decapitation before having to step aside to avoid being the victim of friendly fire as Laure laid about her in a state of theocratic frenzy.

There were plenty of targets,and she seemed to be operating under the assumption that the best defence was attack- there was no thought of caution in intellect or in muscular reflex, no concern at all for her own safety, believing that the emperor- or his nearest representative- would protect her.

That or she had lost the plot, which was equally likely. Given an opportunity to burn away some of her worries and be uncomplicatedly ferocious, she would take it- but there were darker currents coming up from memory.

Who were the psychic centres of gravity of this lot, who would be best picked off?

No-one massively psychic as might be expected from Khornates, or even all that psychotic really; they were just the sort to get picked to go and play stepenfetchit, the types to get put on an ammo supply party.

The worst of them was easy to spot, he was acting as overseer; standing on top of the pallet of shells in fact. Ignatius moved to take his legs off, stopped as Bohr was drawing a bead on him, held his hand until the commissar- cadet put a lasbolt into the cultist's guts; not a prompt kill, might as well dismember him after all.

That done, those three there running; one with a surge of telekinetic force very like the edge of a blade, into the back of his neck, sending him ragdolling and tumbling, sending the other two tripping over him; pin one with the halberd, the other tried to rise with combat knife and stub pistol, Ignatius backhanded him in the face, scattering his head, then had to move fast to save Laure from herself.

She was in the red mist, not thinking, and a quick telekinetic prod deactivated the eviscerator; she shrieked in fury, jabbed the cultist nearest to her in the gut with the point, as he crouched smashed the casing edge up into his face-

was going through the rite of safety and reactivation when Ignatius put his hands on her shoulders. 'Stand easy, lass.'

But Brother, His enemies-'

'The fuse end,' he asked her, 'of a pallet of shells?'

She cringed, blushed with shame and embarrassment as she realised she had been about to do exactly that.

Strange, Ignatius thought, that the two of them are such opposites; as unstable as the penitent was, it was a matter of motive- she actually fought with a much cooler, clearer head than her mistress.

Although, Laure did retain much more of a sense of self mockery than Albia did. 'Is this the better chance of survival I'm supposed to have?'

'The shutdown procedure for a lascutter is more complicated.' Ignatius said, deadpan. 'I wouldn't have been able to stop you in time.'

'Oh...' Not much more could be said than that, not in the heat of the moment at least.

Ignatius glanced round, surveying the field- Aule had recognised his limitations, had not gone in with the bayonet but he had shot four of the cultists- dropping only two, but it was good enough. More importantly, presence of mind which was better than the Grey Knight expected, and a hopeful sign and step towards survival.

Bohr and Hasek still clearly thought of themselves as being in competition largely on the subconscious level, and were getting good results for what were not entirely good reasons.

Albia- who was one of the things for which they were in competition, to be crude about it- she had been supporting both of them, zapping cultists off both of their backs- although not literally, the fearsome industrial laser would go through two people easily; she had saved each of their lives at least twice, though.

They had basically run out of people to hit, for the time being- a few to finish off maybe, but none capable of fighting back. 'Let's not explode the pallet of ordnance while we're standing next to it- but eventually would be good. Hasek, rig boobytraps, two if you can, give them something to think they've found.

Scavenging time. Powercells, rations, ammo. Bag it all up, I'll scrutinise it for taint and purge it when we get to the next pausing point.

In general,' he added, 'that could have been better. We won, without loss or hurt, but with a few mistakes that could have cost us dearly against a more competent or luckier opposition , and I am not convinced that it was deliberate incautious brilliance- more like blundering through and getting lucky.

Laure- you're not a penitent any more, they took your chains off, remember? You don't have to think expendably. You're a unit leader, and I need you to use your wits, use your leadership qualities, pick your targets, and try not to explode until it becomes absolutely necessary.

Bohr, Hasek; "Banzai, Motherfrakker" is not always a wise strategy in action- if you can't watch your own backs, at least watch each other's. I lost track of the number of times you nearly let yourselves get blindsided

Albia, Aule, you ended up covering for the dynamic duo- quite well given that they're not dead. we'll move along the wall a bit and try this again, and see if it doesn't go better.'

It was Bohr, trying to recover himself a little, who said 'How many cultists are we going to have to kill, Brother?'

'All of them, which is why I want you to start scavenging.'

While they were doing that, Albia holding the sack it was all going into, Ignatius amused himself b laying a complicated jinx on the pallet of shells. They would of course detonate in the breeches of the guns they were to be fired from; setting it up so that the rest would still do useful harm after the first had given the game away was the tricky part.

That accomplished, physical boobytraps set, time to move on to what may be the first serious challenge of the day. He didn't bother the rest of the team, but there was a faint hit in the air of, of all things, loyalism. Of the reflected light of the Emperor- or a damn' good fake, anyway.

Maybe it's just excess paranoia, Ignatius though while trying to engage with the distant whisper as lightly as possible, sniff out the reality of it; if it is a trap, then they have a high opinion of my subtlety in being able to be enticed by it at all.

Or is it the fake, the imaginary Tzeentchian they're after? It would be reasonable to expect that august personage to be very subtle indeed; I wonder how long the senders are prepared to keep it up before they get bored, what kind of wards and tripwires there are?

What sort of advantage might I be able to take of the situation? I can't ask Laure to play a chaotic parody of herself, she's met one already and was severely shocked by it; Albia probably could,though.

I'm not convinced I could, not for anything more than a tactical length of time- as a twist and a flash, yes, but if I had the kind of mind that makes a good deep cover agent I'd never have passed the trials- been chucked out around number 237 or so.

Come to think of it, I'm probably a dangerously good liar by the standards of the chapter anyway. As long as I don't start lying to myself, that's the important part- although who doesn't lie to themselves, by omission at least?

'This way'. he told his team, leading them along the inner edge of the wall zone, through the buildings that had been built backed against the wall or the older ones which had been incorporated into it as it was built, to another larger and juicier target of the same class.

Aerorail station; a flat place on the wall where long- distance flyers from the rest of the planet arrived and disgorged their passengers into the local transport net, where people from the hive ventured into the larger world.

It would be an excellent target anyway, but now it was superb. Pounded, but not too much- a ready assault point, it was a weakness in the wall that the Imperials were practically bound to come through. The army had shot it a little, thought it suppressed but not destroyed.

Chaos had, somewhat atypically, come up with two good plans; one to use what they had, the general- aviation side, the gaggle of morphwings and ornigliders and motorjets and pulsespitters, to try to push a suicide strike through to Imperial HQ, kill the general and disrupt the campaign; the other, once the strike was away, to sew the field with mines and turn it into a killing ground.

Ignatius sensed an irresistible opportunity for mayhem. The timing was wrong, premature- it could still be made to serve though. Where was the opportunity to get his people something useful to do? Ah. Right.

'I have a plan. We sneak in past the outer layer of security, kill everyone smart enough to stop us, cause wholesale mayhem, then run like hell. Right? The bag.'

Sort out and bless the power cells, rat packs and other random bits of battlefield loot- three las and an autopistol, wash them in light- trying not to make it stand out too much- and purge them of chaotic influence, hand one to each of the others apart from Hasek who needed one least.

'Stay close, and concentrate on not being visible. Nothing to see here. Right? Right.' Close together under the veil then, up to the fence, psychically disable the security alarm- then slice through with a simple sweep of the halberd, stroll casually across the field- trying not to leave footprints- up to the control tower.

He had done this once, and got that bit badly wrong; the building he had walked into had disappeared from view entirely- it had been a small house- and that had attracted attention.

'Fire at the thing that isn't there any more' was a confusing order for even the best troops to recieve- for Chaos artillerymen it had been completely baffling. That had bought him time to run like a three second egg.

And to arrange for the chaos infantry to charge in pursuit of him into the building that was about to be bombarded, so it hadn't been all wasted, but still, not today if he could help it.

No mistakes this time. There were guards, but the lines of sight were immense, there were few of them, and it was eaasy to hide in open sight on a huge blank canvas- just draw the blank spot in a little closer.

Up to the control tower and in, ground level entry and domestic services of the building, canteen and kitchen and toilets; in the basement, the cogitator engines- in their usual various states of repair- that made the place work; above, planning and meeting rooms, map rooms and monitor rooms, some based on the engines and some based on their failure.

Manned by a few taken slaves, and an uneasy blend of khornates and tzeentchians spending most of the time glaring at each other. Kick that off? No, keep all the fun to themselves.

'Right, start here and work up, kill them all.'

Most were in the glass- walled main control at the top of the tower; three foot thick slabs of armorglass that probably could withstand a small aircraft crashing into them; controllers, overseers, spectators.

Six of them were chained to consoles- four who had not sworn loyalty to chaos and were being used as slaves and two who just liked it that way. Ignatius blasted the head overseer and the two nearest guards with a blast of psychic heat.

Bludgeoned one of the willing bonded to death with the blunt end of the halberd, spun it in his hand and bisected the other with the sweep of it, got the guards looking and shooting at him and drew their fire off the sisters charging into the main ops room.

All three guardsmen, this time, stayed in the doorway and gave the sisters their room, shooting at whatever they could find a clear line of fire to; Laure and Albia slaughtered the cultists, and it was almost that simple- mistrusting to begin with, unwilling to support each other, easy prey.

They did a fair amount of damage to the facility too, las- slicing and chainsawing through chairs, consoles and torsos, hololiths and heads, with what would have looked to the slower- eyed observer as uncontrolled frenzy.

Closer to the truth in the mistress' case, she had positively been taught not to think with an eviscerator in her hands, but only sense and react- that she was able to do any more than that, that she was trying to do so and able to overcome the conditioning at all, was an excellent sign- if for all the wrong reasons.

The chemical attack had all but convinced her that she loved him, wanted to be with him, would willingly die for him, would carry new life for him- not that that was actually possible.

She had been purged of the chemicals, but not of the conviction- was resisting it like a dutiful servant of the emperor, but without much in the way of conviction.

They left the least threatening to last, which were the chained slaves, and Ignatius stopped them there. 'Leave the last three. Right,' to them, 'You were forced to serve the powers of darkness- that is death, but you have a chance to escape damnation. Deploy the mine field.'

He could have done it directly, established dominance over the machine spirits, or over the slave- controllers and puppeteered them through it, but it was good to spread a little of the light.

Mortal parts, doomed- apart from what was likely to happen to the tower, they couldn't keep up, would be caught easily if they were set free, and if the team was lucky they would be killed- and not made to talk. That was still too much of a risk.

They did as they were told; not relieved- they had been waiting and praying for death and now it had arrived, who wouldn't be having second thoughts? They had the access, and used it. Automated mine deployers sprayed, mortar launched scatter- bombs plopped out of their tubes, pre- buried mines activated.

Easy enough. Now for the fun part. 'Sound the scramble.'

Chaos was hardly, except in its' occasional moments of parody, a procedural thing. Perhaps some of the major efforts required more organisation; but checklists? Quartermasters, logistics, staff work? Maybe. Under some warlords. The ones willing to sacrifice the chaos in the process for the greater chaos inherent in the result.

Not here. Hardly anybody error checking, nobody doing FOD walks, safety? Feh. The pilots taxiing out could see the field was mined, and Ignatius had an answer ready.

He wafted an idea towards the leader, and it took, the psychic seed bore fruit. 'It's a test of fortune; only the most darkly blessed will meet with success. Throw yourselves at fate and the less fortunate can stand as blood sacrifices for the glory of the rest. Death to the servants of the corpse god- Forward!'

It was just as well that the two sisters and three guardsmen were there, because they preserved the Grey Knight's dignity; he would otherwise likely have given in to the temptation to roll on the floor laughing.

He did say to Albia, 'Told you it was worth waiting. It's not easy to get cows to explode like that.' The chaos suicide flyers were trying to take off across a field mined to prevent Imperial assault troops, and they were finding many of the mines.

It was absurd, massively so, and hilarious, about as much fun as high explosive death ever got- the stupid, pointless, colourful high explosive deaths of almost a hundred cultist idiots. They ran over mines and blew up, they caught each other in the blast patterns, caught fire and blew up, ran into burning wreckage and blew up, caught foreign object damage, engines breathing in shards and fragments, caught fire and blew up.

The ground staff manning the base were horrified, tried to stop it; tripped mines, were chopped to pieces by propellers, sucked into engines, died in blast and shrapnel- a deviant demolition derby.

I probably shouldn't be too exultant, they were all imperial citizens once, Ignatius thought; but still, I can't think of a nicer bunch of people for it to happen to. 'Right, time to go before they get their act together.'

'Two of them made it out.' Hasek pointed out. 'Them?' meaning the three chained controllers.

Easily dealt with. 'You have helped undo the work of the powers of darkness; go to the Throne.' stab. Repeat another two times. 'I hope that chaos squadron leader was wrong- not that it's matter much, the commanding general's an idiot and it does headquarters good to be kamikazi'd from time to time, stops them getting too far out of touch. Move before our artillery wake up.'
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Crayz9000 » 2012-03-31 10:14pm

You know, between the vast and incomprehensibly obfuscated mismanagement of the Imperium, and Chaos's own self-destructive tendencies, it's amazing that anyone still lives in the 40k universe.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Eleventh Century Remnant » 2012-04-01 06:47pm

Add the 'nids' tendency to eat everything, the Orks' tendency to fight everything, and the Necrons' tendency to zap everything, and yes, it does begin to look a tad peculiar...

Grimdark is inherently turned up to eleven of course, it's always the bad news that gets attention, there are precious few slice of life stories out there that don't involve dakka (which is a shame...maybe I'll try that next as a nice change of pace)- and, all right, let's go back to first principles and see how bad it really ought to be.

In the worst of the worst, industrial hives, we're probably looking at something like Sheffield- which has the horrific distinction of being the place in all of time and all the world that recorded the shortest average life expectancy not actively connected with war. And worst than most warzones, too. Nineteen.

Bloody cavemen did better than that. Prehistoric hunter gatherers lived longer, healthier lives than the workers of the first industrial revolution. A lot of the grimdark GW ladled into the setting is only a mirror of how bad things historically have really been.

Extending that into the future, there probably are worlds populated by children, worlds in the Imperium where the average age of the population is not into double digits and working life begins at three years old. On average, you're probably looking at closer to third than first world lifespans- thirty-five to forty years on hive and forge worlds which eat their population through bad ecology, maybe up to first world modern earth average on worlds that have something approaching civilisation. Agri worlds are probably the least carnivorous.

For adepts, for the servants of the arms of the Imperium, everything changes, all doors are open- things to do that don't involve inevitable death through overwork, disease and pollution, medical care that both gives a damn and actually has resources to work with. These are the people with the artificially extended multi- century lifespans. Then it tends to be the enemy that gets you.

The Guard, and the Navy, interestingly aren't adeptus; officers of sufficient rank maybe, (and their staff elements- the Adeptus Munitorum socially rank the fighting services), but they're drawn from the amorphous suffering multitude. The quickest and most likely way out of hell on earth for a denizen of the Imperium may be to join one of those arms that do recruit in numbers, the Ministorum, the Administratum.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-04-01 07:10pm

I'm getting this sense that Brother Quixote Ignatius is to the Astartes what Caiaphas Cain is to the Guard...

Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:Extending that into the future, there probably are worlds populated by children, worlds in the Imperium where the average age of the population is not into double digits and working life begins at three years old.
I think that wouldn't work even for the Imperium; child laborers really aren't as efficient as grown men for all but a handful of tasks, and even most of those are better done by industrial machinery for anyone who can afford a post-electricity technical base. The only planets that would go full Sheffield, let alone "planet of the child laborers." are the ones that are really too primitive to produce on the scale the Administratum and the Mechanicus would expect from a forge world. That probably couldn't even produce on the scale to sustain their own existence as hive worlds- civilization would simply collapse.

Also, I've never gotten the impression that they can't do basic sanitation in hive cities- there are waste treatment plants, and except for the scavengers in the underhives most of them benefit from them. If they couldn't, if that wasn't so, Nurgle would have won the galaxy eons ago. Their infant mortality rate is probably better than Sheffield's, even if their child mortality rate is as bad or worse.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby White Haven » 2012-04-02 10:17am

Given the level of misdirection-based mayhem that Ignatius gets into, I see more Guard-era Mosegi than Cain. And that's a very good thing.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Vehrec » 2012-04-02 08:44pm

Simon_Jester wrote:
Eleventh Century Remnant wrote:Extending that into the future, there probably are worlds populated by children, worlds in the Imperium where the average age of the population is not into double digits and working life begins at three years old.
I think that wouldn't work even for the Imperium; child laborers really aren't as efficient as grown men for all but a handful of tasks, and even most of those are better done by industrial machinery for anyone who can afford a post-electricity technical base. The only planets that would go full Sheffield, let alone "planet of the child laborers." are the ones that are really too primitive to produce on the scale the Administratum and the Mechanicus would expect from a forge world. That probably couldn't even produce on the scale to sustain their own existence as hive worlds- civilization would simply collapse.

Also, I've never gotten the impression that they can't do basic sanitation in hive cities- there are waste treatment plants, and except for the scavengers in the underhives most of them benefit from them. If they couldn't, if that wasn't so, Nurgle would have won the galaxy eons ago. Their infant mortality rate is probably better than Sheffield's, even if their child mortality rate is as bad or worse.
I think you have a point here, but so does ECR. It only needs to happen once after all-one world where the adults die off so quickly that the breeding age gets pushed down and the tithes don't change and before you know it every girl past the age of menarche is off the workforce just to keep the population stable. It is by no means a stable situation-one audit by the Adeptus should be all it takes to direct some attention to correcting the problem, and it is always a problem as you say. The problem is, how long between audits? Someone needs to not only take a Hive-census, but then double check those figures. The sheer scale of effort involved-there must be roving auditor ships, the ink-stained fleets of accountancy plying the galaxy, tallying up your figures and the balance of payments. Why? Because you need that many workers stuffed into a modified cruiser to actually achieve reasonable turn-around speed.
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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby rodon » 2012-04-03 05:16am

Vehrec wrote:I think you have a point here, but so does ECR. It only needs to happen once after all-one world where the adults die off so quickly that the breeding age gets pushed down and the tithes don't change and before you know it every girl past the age of menarche is off the workforce just to keep the population stable. It is by no means a stable situation-one audit by the Adeptus should be all it takes to direct some attention to correcting the problem, and it is always a problem as you say. The problem is, how long between audits? Someone needs to not only take a Hive-census, but then double check those figures. The sheer scale of effort involved-there must be roving auditor ships, the ink-stained fleets of accountancy plying the galaxy, tallying up your figures and the balance of payments. Why? Because you need that many workers stuffed into a modified cruiser to actually achieve reasonable turn-around speed.

The hives tend to have billions in population, there comes a point in their development that the locals simply give up with a census. Only counting those in the mid and upper hive as the lower portions of the hive tend to be law-less. The mid and upper areas of a hive seem to be fairly livable, low 40s at worse in the worst areas of the middle levels. Upper areas can have First world life expectancies, for both the masters and servants (to avoid constant retraining the servants mostly). The lower areas of a hive are horrific, and older hives commonly contain vast lakes of wastes, unsurprisingly mutants and the cast offs from other areas of Imperial life find there way there, unless adapted to live there though generations of mutation, your life expantance can be measured in days for the unwary, or single digit years in the best case.

As for audits, there is a canon planet that got hit by an asteroid and sent into a permanent winter. Despite requests and pleas, no change in the tithe was made. Requests for a lowering was rejected, so was a request to send them materials to help out (3/4 or more of the population had died). Eventually, the planet revolted and the Guard was sent in, only for it later to be withdrawn as a Hive-Fleet neared the planet and the IOM decided to let the xenos do their work, afterwards the planet was destroyed before the Hive-Fleet could feed on it.

Edit: Note, I haven't seen mention of audit fleets.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby InsaneTD » 2012-04-03 05:51am

I think I saw mention of a planets Tithes being audited one point. I think it was in a Battlefleet Gothic or Forge World book but I'm not sure. A senior Adminstartum official led a team. Didn't have his own fleet.

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Re: Knight Errant (40K)

Postby Rogue 9 » 2012-04-17 11:04pm

InsaneTD wrote:I think I saw mention of a planets Tithes being audited one point. I think it was in a Battlefleet Gothic or Forge World book but I'm not sure. A senior Adminstartum official led a team. Didn't have his own fleet.

You're probably thinking of Imperial Armour III, the Taros Campaign. Taros was audited because the local forge world required more output from the mines, and the auditor discovered that the governor had been selling on the side to the Tau.
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