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Quote of the Week: "A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." - Will Durant, American historian (1885-1981)

A Squelch of Empires (crossover)

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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 09:05am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
One- sided update, purely from the point of view of the IoM; and some fun with power structures.
Caledonia, incidentally- isn't it obvious? 'Half forge and half feral',

A squelch of Empires ch 3


From the journals of Commissar Cain

Navy servitors led the way to the central briefing chamber near the pinnacle of the main basilica- a huge cathedral- vaulted room, but as soon as I walked in, I started wondering if it was big enough to contain all the egos.
Somebody with more care for system than sense had placed us all so that we were sitting in faction groups, all the guard together, the mechanicus all shiny bits and robot tentacles opposite- apart from a handful sitting apart, as a group within the group; they wore simpler, more military dress, fatigues rather than robes, and all of them bore the same insignia of an angular, stylised running man in metallic grey.

I stiffened as I recognised the group of princeps, presumably the senior officers of the legio cinereus cursoris. The navy was there in numbers too- but an interesting not quite perfection of pomp; as snooty as they normally are, this lot seemed to be trying just a bit too hard, and I guessed that most of them were first and second officers, not the captains of their ships.

One senior officer looking over the collection of servants of the imperium and obviously wondering what he had let himself in for, the commander of the station I guessed- rightly- and one with as many stars on his coat as I could see out of the viewport, trailing a comet’s-tail of aides.

Speaking of that viewport, no planets. We were far out in deep space, as lost in the void between stars as any hulk in the warp- but a lot easier to get away from.
Secrecy, maybe, but also the fact that the ships didn’t have to waste time slogging up and down a solar gravity well to reach the fringes of the warp- which also meant that something with murder in mind could pop out of the immaterium literally on our doorstep. So, closer to danger in every sense. On the whole, I thought, no thank you- not that I had been offered a choice.

Opposite the navy, between the mechanicus and the officers of the guard and spilling down to crowd the space around the main display, there was what appeared to the biggest gaggle of criminal scum, glowering maniacs and gibbering lunatics I had ever seen outside of a penal legion. In other words, the assembled representatives of His Majesty’s Holy Inquisition.

Disrespectful, maybe, but from the way they were largely ignoring us and talking- hissing, really- among themselves, they weren’t interested in our respect, but desperately fascinated by what all the others were doing there.

Each of the inquisitors had brought their dozen closest and dearest gunmen, which made it quite hard to tell how many of the genuine article there actually were, but any damn fool could see there were far too many.
If all of them thought they had the right to give orders- and they would think that- then we could find ourselves run ragged chasing objectives that changed on a minute by minute basis.

Which in itself would only be a minor problem, compared to what was likely to happen when their disagreements among themselves passed beyond mere words to trying to use the rest of us to do their bloody- work. Of which, considering the way they were all being icily polite to each other while obviously contemplating murder, there would be a lot.

I was trying to study them without making it obvious that I was studying them, looking to pick out the genuine articles, and it was with some relief that I failed to spot Amberley and her retinue among the snarling horde.

There was one man in power armour, young, dark- skinned and intense, and so heavily slathered with purity seals that I swear my eyeballs started to go ‘ommmm…’ when I looked at him; if he wasn’t a demonhunter, he was well disguised as one. There was another probable Malleus whose entire retinue had some sort of light-absorbing force field around them so that they looked like walking slabs of shadow, and the obvious demonhunter was looking at them as if planning an attack.

A cluster of pyromaniacs and flagellants marked the presence of a group of ordo hereticus witch- hunters; bolter-stake crossbows and flamer lances and purity banners sticking out everywhere, some of them glaring at everyone else. Left to their own devices they would have had a redemptorist purge organised in about three seconds flat.
About half a second after they had finished with the rest of us, they would have turned on each other. Would have? Might have, yet.

The third of the major ordos were here as well- one with an archaic looking long rifle and a retinue of seeming primitives, wearing the most absurd thin woven-looking hat; I found out later it was called a pith helmet, although I have no idea what pith is, seemed damned flimsy stuff to make a helmet out of to me.
One thoroughly creepy tall, thin, pale man, wearing a cape that had been made from flayed eldar skin- I remembered the necron pariahs doing something similar, and hoped it meant something different when the being doing it was on our side.

Two Malleus, two Xenos, three Hereticus. Interesting combination- they were all still backing and filling among themselves, trying to establish some kind of chain of precedence and failing, and I tried to find someone solid to sit behind so I could use them as a human shield when they eventually did get it organised.

For all the times I’ve been trapped behind enemy lines- and believe me, I did enough grumbling about it on each and every occasion- it may actually be less dangerous than being too far behind your own, where the command structure can get at you.

Between the navy and the mechanicus, there was a- really, although it would be dangerous to admit it, another- collection of cheesily overgunned homicidal madmen, flashy and overdressed and with an even odder selection of associates, if that was possible. Those would be rogue traders; I had met a few before, and recognised the type. One in particular- he was quivering like a jelly, and had dressed down for the occasion. Was this what all the fuss was about?

On the other side of the navy between us and them, after the riots of colourful eccentricity over the way, it was almost a relief to have the Adeptus Astartes.
I say ‘almost’, because the largest single presence was the Lions of Caledon, their fortress- monastery was the nearest to this place, and they set a fairly high standard for eccentricity themselves- most of them turning up in some kind of throne- awful right-angled pattern camo of clashing- hued lines and strobes, in half a dozen different variants. Tartan I think they called it.

Them, Deathwatch, a handful of men from other chapters- including a few Reclaimers. I recognised Tobamorie, chapter master armourer, but he was paying very little attention to his surroundings- he was busy talking to Lachlan, both of them bent over something that the Caledonian was holding. It looked highly suspicious, all sorts of tapering curves and knobbly bits that had never come out of any manufactorium, but that wasn’t the biggest issue right now.

Most of the rest of the Astartes contingent was a picture of restrained irritability. I personally wouldn’t want to get them mad at me, but I suppose that was one of the privileges of the inquisition. Mind you, considering later events, there were at least a few of the Marines who seemed to make a habit of driving the inquisition round the sump.

The room was full of noise, and the admiral obviously wanted to call everyone to order, but faced with such a glittering assemblage of rank he didn’t know where to start.
I looked round at our own assortment of Guard; a fine diversity there too, but one interesting item missing- senior officers. Colonels and commissars all over the place, but nobody of general rank.
Oh, frak. Who was there who could actually get this moving, who could stand up, tell the Inquisitors to sort out their differences, and get on with it?


An official Hero of the Imperium, maybe? Well, I might survive the process. Might. It was a risk that probably didn’t need to be taken. I would wait and see if someone else stood up to receive the first blast of hate from across the way.
As it happened, two people did- first the Primus Pilus of the cursoris, Xharratt, who seemed to have temporarily forgotten that he wasn’t fused into twenty thousand tons of adamantium.

He was a little man, one metre sixty-six, but that actually worked for him- he was no immediate physical threat. They reacted to his words rather than his physical presence- and at that, I was still surprised they didn’t shoot him.
‘Is this the way you serve your god- emperor? With noise and confusion, disorder and distress? Do you reckon yourselves so mighty that you can accomplish the task without the forces of the Imperium standing behind you?’

There was further muttering in the cogboys’ ranks, and I managed to overhear something along the lines of ‘-should replace them all anyway. Hopelessly inefficient. The job could easily be done by incorruptible, self- purifying logis engines, far more reliable and consistent in their judgement.’
‘I quite agree, Magos. No-one would be able to escape a technish inquisition.’

The inquisitors were all glaring at the little princeps, when one of the Astartes stood up to second him. Up, and up, and up. “Wee Ruaridh”, Captain of the XIV company Lions of Caledon, who took personal charge of the naval operations of his company mainly because no plans existed for a suit of power armour big enough to hold him.
Something had either gone very wrong or very right during his transformation, because he was at least twice the height of the titan pilot; he could have given anyone else in the room, even the rest of his brother Marines, two hundred kilos bodyweight and change.

‘I have tae’ agree with my dimorphic colleague in arms here. We have an urgent crisis that demands an immediate and drastic response and listening to you lot argue about who blew whose contact and who broke whose seal, who’s a filthy radical and who’s a hidebound puritan, that doesnae’ inspire confidence.
Oh, aye, all the Astartes and most of the mechanicus heard every word of that, and can I ask you, as a favour to the groundlings,’ he said with heavy irony, ‘not to do quite so much washin’ of dirty linen in public?’

The Guard were all fidgeting, all soldiers used to going where and doing what we were told, nothing less and nothing more, but at least we needed the illusion that our superiors knew what they were doing. They were not comfortable watching this, nobody was. Soon, the inquisitors would have to form a united front and demonstrate their authority. That could get bloody.

The third person on their feet, with every available bodily organ crossed and wishing Jurgen was there to hold me up, was me. I had never expected or intended to win the bronze in the sector Suicidal Defiance of Authority Cup, but somebody had to do and say something to try and defuse the situation, and that duty fell to the nearest official hero.

Which was me, worst luck. Feeling thoroughly ridiculous as well as severely doomed, I put on my most pious expression- the one Amberley said made me look like an aardvark- and said ‘I am sure that my fellow Commissars and Guardsmen will support me in this when I say that we will do everything in our power to accomplish the task before us.

You stand at the right hand of the Emperor. Lead, and we will follow; point, and we will pave the way.’ Which was a quotation from some amateur dramatics I had done back at the Schola, the Tragedy of Malcador if I remembered rightly. If anyone among the assemblage of authority recognised it, they showed no sign. Probably too busy trying not to laugh.

So far, so good. Although anyone who knew me must have realised that my tongue was so far in cheek it must have looked like I’d converted to Slaanesh, they didn’t and I could work on them with this sort of pompous nonsense. I wasn’t even terrified anymore, all my critical faculties had simply gone numb.

‘So what is your expression of the Divine Will? Where does the finger of the hand of the emperor point? Where is it that you choose to lead us to- you are, after all, the senior authorities here, the responsibility is yours as is the burden of command. You hold the security of the Imperium in your hands. What is it that has to be done?’ I finished my oration, and sat down trying not to shake so badly that the chair clattered.

I’ve been hoist on my own reputation and done so many ludicrously dangerous things trying to maintain my public image, it’s got to the point where it probably would be safer to admit that I’d much rather not be doing this any more. Not that it’s ever really been an option, as Lachlan quoted later “Every man would be a coward, if only he wid hae’ the guts to admit it.” (Then again, I hadn’t been the one daft enough to be openly tinkering with a captured shuriken cannon in full view of the ordo xenos.)

I suppose that it was just about time to see if I could make that principle work for me, but what a place to start. In my own defence I can only say that a command this badly divided probably would have got me and a lot of the rest of us killed, so it was self defence in the long run.

In the short run, which was exactly what I felt like doing, it was mad. Appealing to their sense of responsibility was more of a risk than I realised at the time, but it seemed to pay off, as most of them looked at each other and realised they had been making fools of themselves.

Between us Xharratt, Ruaridh and myself had propelled them through denial, anger and bargaining, although I strongly suspected that the fourth step was far more likely to be ‘homicidal wrath’. Admiral Lake seemed to have other ideas.
‘We are still at the dissemination of information stage, if you and your colleagues-‘ being carefully non-specific about which of them he was actually addressing- ‘would care to confer among yourselves, there is a chamber prepared for you two levels down.’

None of them willing to acknowledge any of the others as boss, they all looked warily at each other- none particularly keen to turn their backs on each other either, I noticed. It was a sound idea though, and eventually they all marched out in procession.


‘Aye, well, who would have guessed that the Inverse Ninja Law applies to Inquisitors as well?’ Ruaridh said, and if anyone other than the rest of the Lions knew what he was talking about, they were doing better than I was. ‘Right, mah lads can deploy in three minutes. If we can come up with a plan before that shower of overpaid prima donnas come back and if the rest of you can move fast enough, we might manage to get somewhere after all.
As a matter o’ interest, Admiral, how many of them were aware of each other before they entered the chamber?’

The senior naval officer gave a wintry smile, before saying ‘They move in secret, after all; I saw no reason to spoil that by giving any of them away.’
In other words, he had let them walk in cold, sure that each of them was going to be in charge of the operation- which we were still waiting to be told about- and encouraged them to clash with each other openly in front of an audience, diminishing all their authority. Deviousness like that had a way of backfiring, and it wasn’t a risk I would have taken. (The fact that I frequently ended up taking risks anyway was just plain bad fortune, or the Emperor’s twisted sense of humour.)

‘In any case, this is definitely a situation that warrants their oversight…although perhaps not on the tactical level.’ The admiral said, and I began to wonder if even an entire battlefleet was enough to protect him from the wrath of the inquisitors he had just, in effect, run a sting on. ‘That and we may be all too glad of them if the situation develops by the worst case, and we need their authority to call for reinforcements.’

‘We’re all still waiting to hear what the situation is, Admiral.’ Caffran got up and reminded him. ‘Even what it could be, to attract so many of the Throne’s roving troubleshooters.’
‘Oh, it’s fascinating.’ Admiral Lake said, and considering what came after that really made me wonder about how he preferred to enjoy himself. ‘We’ve been invaded by another universe.’

There was sheer stunned incomprehension at that. ‘We’re not talking about the warp here, are we?’ one of the naval officers said.
‘No, although that was how we became aware of the issue- a curious patch of tranquillity in the warp, marking something that certainly is not but seems to be equivalent to an Eldar webway.
Ahuaserus Grobbeler here,’ he said gesturing at the rogue trader, ‘managed to find it, and fall through to the other side. And very possibly start a war.’

The rogue trader looked desperately nervous- as well he might. ‘Our first clue was the stars, they were all in the wrong places. They were the wrong stars. W, we found a planet and set down, and it was insane. Humans and Xenos living together. The power of the almighty credit. Floating cities, contragrav. Everyone had a logis engine. They worshipped someone they called the Emperor but he sat at the centre of the galaxy and not on a golden throne.
They had starships fifteen metres long. And aliens, aliens everywhere. The horror…’ he curled up into a ball on the deck.

‘The logs of his ship, Remuneration, are rather more reliable than the man himself,’ Lake said, stepping over him and directing a pair of servitors to carry him away, ‘as she was a sold out of service Lunar class cruiser. The machine spirit retained enough of it’s wits to make comprehensive records.
Which to be fair to him do make notably little sense.

Some of us are convinced that the portal is a window to the far distant past in the Dark Age of Technology, and are combing the records for traces of any attempt by them to reach what would have been the far distant future, but the astrography and the shape of the warp argue against that.

Part of his collapse is due to the apparent fact that the warp is extremely quiescent on the far side of the portal. In effect, he and his crew were deprived of then reintroduced to their souls, a process that would shake the strongest of us.
It is also possible that the other side of the portal is a window to the almost infinitely distant future, perhaps hundreds of millennia after some sort of final victory of the Imperium of Man- in which case I would very much like to ask them how they did it.

If mere matter is anything to go by, neither of those possibilities are accurate and we are dealing with not past or future but something else entirely, perhaps a sideways shift into what could have been- although what sort of change in our history could almost abolish the Warp, I cannot say.

Although the remarkably human looking dominant lifeforms on the other side are likely to have their own opinion on the subject. Which could perhaps be a wondrous thing for the Imperium, a potent ally in the endless war of survival- if Grobbeler hadn’t managed to offend them badly enough that they started shooting at him.’

‘If you’ll forgive me for interrupting, Admiral, this actually does seem like a job for the Inquisition.’ I said. ‘We need information above all else.’ I said, and really hoped I hadn’t inadvertently volunteered myself for a scouting mission.
‘An inquisitor, yes, but not so many of them that they fall over each other.’ He said. ‘I’ve spent my entire career among the halo stars, dealing with the mystery and the madness of so many dead races I’ve had to do their job as well as my own, and I was never so dangerously certain that I knew what needed to be done until I had found out far more than we know now.

If the humans of the far side are more tolerant of the alien than we are, and holding rigid to our ways may cost us a potential allegiance and plunge us into a war with an entire universe, then I do not think refraining from collecting alien skulls for craniometry is too high a price to pay. At least one of the Xenos is more taxidermist than investigator.’ He said, with a disgust that, to be honest, I could see the point of.


‘Ach, don’t worry about him, he’s probably got more sense than it looks. Besides which, if worst comes to worst,’ Ruaridh said, ‘It widnae’ be the first Inquisitor the chapter’s killed and eaten.’
Everyone- all eight hundred people in the room- stopped whatever else they were doing and turned to stare at him. ‘You know,’ I said, ‘that story really is just crazy enough to be true.’
‘Aye, well, it wasn’t entirely our fault. You see, there’s a world called New New Caledonia- the way it is, back on earth at the dawn o’ the space age, one of the islands in the great southern ocean was named New Caledonia, and it wasn’t a compliment.

The place was a benighted hellhole full of mad cannibal headhunters, well, really no’ that unlike Maryhill now I think ae’ it, but New New Caledonia was settled from there, actually has nothing to do with us at all.
Didn’t stop them greetin’ us like long lost brothers, but that comes later. Anyway, we find this yacht in orbit about the planet, move in to investigate, and instead of doin’ something sane like hanging out a do not disturb sign, they start shooting at us, a rapid reaction task force. Not smart.

Then it tried to duck and hide under the atmosphere, so we shot it up a bit and it augured in. We went down after it to find out what all the fuss was about, found the wreck, followed the footprints tae’ the local settlement.
A lot of jumpin’ up and down and arm-wavin’ later, we managed to get across the idea that we were sky hunters, we had killed a great metal bird and we were looking for the men who rode on it’s back. The things we dae for the Imperium…anyway, they explained that they were gey’ sorry but they had finished off the men themselves, they didn’t realise they were our rightful quarry, the least they could do was invite us to the victory feast.

We thought aye, nice dangerous place, we could well end up recruitin’ from here in due course, might as well go along. Now, our Omophageas still work, they’re an active part of the chapter geneseed.
To be fair, they were a decent wee bunch of man-eatin’ savages, I don’t think they’d have served us a stew made from the brains of an inner order Malleus inquisitor and his retinue if they had realised what effect it was goin’ tae have. I see the Astartes understand what happened next. Digest the brain, digest the memories.

They were impressed- it’s part of their mythology, that’s why they eat their opponents anyway, they didn’t realise it could really be done. If we’d gone for it I think we could have rounded up enough of the wee lads to make another three Chapters.
When we called it in, we found out that he had been declared excommunicate for forbidden experimentation two years previous. He was tryin’ to use the primitive vibes off New New Cal for some sort of experiment in anti-daemon weaponry, or maybe daemon summonin’, what we found when stripping the wreck before melta-bombin’ it wis that dubious.
So it was a righteous shoot in the end, a’s well that ends well.


Then again,’ he said, lowering his tone, clearly about to move on to the serious part. I thought about trying to stop him, sure that he was about to tell us far more than we wanted or was safe to know. I had a chainsword, he had a power claymore and he was surrounded by eighty other Astartes. So, violence was out.

Reason? He wasn’t out of control, there was method to this particular madness, he was telling us all this in order to achieve something. I couldn’t bribe him, I had no clue what I could offer him that would be enough to make him stop. I certainly couldn’t intimidate him. I felt sure that “…and they shall know no fear” was absolutely not intended to apply to having no fear of the bloody Inquisition, but he evidently disagreed.

‘It left us knowing far more than we’d hae chosen to about a whole screed of things,’ the huge marine went on, and no surprise there, more than a few of us, navy and guard, were trying not to listen- but even more caught in horrified fascination.
‘Not least the unpleasant details of who it really is who watches the watchers,’ he went on, raising his voice like a fire and brimstone preacher to reach those who wanted not to know, ‘how candidates are chosen and what they have to go through tae’ earn their rank.

The Malleus and Hereticus deal with so much in the way of madness and corruption- both of which they themselves reckon to be contaagious- that anyone who makes it through acolyte and interrogator’s rank to the rosette has tae have seen and done enough to put them right out on the jagged edge of whit it means tae be human.

And some of them do fall off. What’s left, to be honest I wouldna’ trust anyone who stands that close to the darkness with anything more dangerous than a rubber spoon, never mind the nae checks, nae balances and nae answerin’-back authority the Imperium extends to them.
And they, who have moved entirely beyond the psyche of the ordinary men we should be tryin’ to protect and defend, are at best responsible to each other in conclave met, at worst to cross purposes and mutual murder.

There is no common doctrine; they’re allowed to think the unthinkable, remember, and most of them dae. Whenever they differ in opinion, they tend to try and resolve it by killin’ each other, or ordering whoever happens to be standing around nearby to do it for them. That means you an’ me.
You’ve all heard of it, seen it happen, but have ye ever known a unit acting under an inquisitorial mandate come out well frae’ the experience?’

Well, the 597th hadn’t done too badly, I thought, but then I spotted a Sororitas in the retinue of one of the rogue traders, and happened to remember the Order of the White Rose, who had been played for fools and used as hired murderers by one inquisitor, and cheerfully encouraged to hide the evidence by atoning with their lives- helped on their way with orbital bombardment in fact- by another.

Which happened to do for a large mob of Tyranids who had been trying to eat me, so I wasn’t complaining, although I doubt the sisters would have agreed if they had been alive to do so. Although the truly terrifying thing is, maybe they would…

‘Which is why I sent an open letter to the High Lords of Terra, respectfully suggesting that the Inquisition has outlived its usefulness, degeneratin’ into a mere self perpetuating gang of loose cannons, and it should be abolished entirely with it’s functions bein’ assumed by the Arbites and the presently existing chambers militant.’ Ruaridh said, and more than a few jaws, even- or especially- the augmetic ones, flopped open.

He took a deep sniff, then added ‘Mind you, maybe we could make an exception for some elements of the Ordo Xenos. Good afternoon, lady Vail.’
I smelt hegantha bloom shortly after he did, and turned round. It was her, bodyglove, robes and concealed weaponry. She gave me a quiet, concerned look as she passed, too discreet for anybody but me- and probably the astartes- to notice.

‘Ruaridh. Is this you preaching revolutionary upheaval again?’ she said, in a tone of amused tolerance- absolutely convincing, what an actress that woman is. Yes, I thought. Deflect and defuse, play the situation down. It was probably all that could be done, at this stage. Although, I realised, his account was remarkably short of specifics. No names, no evidence- which if he had the memories he claimed to, he almost certainly could have brought up.

‘Somebody has tae’ keep the flame alive, afore the human race forgets that entire side ae it’s nature, the restlessness and will to think that things could be otherwise that brought us to the stars in the first place. I’m just scunnered that it happens to be me who got landed with the job.
Your compatriots are formin’ a chamber, or a conclave or a cabal, or maybe a’ three, a couple of levels doon, by the way.’

‘You’re surprised that I’m here instead?’ she said, smiling. She obviously knew him, was he really acting on her behalf in some sort of convoluted plan as an agent provocateur? Even with unofficial official backing, would he be allowed to go that far?
‘Ah.’ She said mainly to herself, and headed in the direction of Admiral Lake.

I sidled down towards centre stage, trying to pick up on what was happening; I heard, as expected, much more than I really wanted to know. Something about astropaths, a ‘nid fleet, and a force coming through the portal.
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Darth Raptor
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 10:10am 

Red Mage


Joined: 2003-12-18 04:39am
Posts: 5448
As incredible as it sounds, the non-idiots seem to be in charge. For now. Methinks the Tyranids are about to bite off more than they can chew.
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 05:19pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17531
Location: Tahalshia Manor
If the Tyranids try to hit the Black Prince, they're gonna be fucked.

Either way... GREAT CHAPTER!
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Darth Raptor
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 05:35pm 

Red Mage


Joined: 2003-12-18 04:39am
Posts: 5448
Right, I'd be more worried about daemons. Because they use "mundane" hyperdrive they don't need to worry about the Warp directly, but the transparency between the Warp and the Force means that Black Prince will have anywhere from two to four psykers on board once they cross over into the Milky Way.
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Vehrec
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 05:45pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-04-22 12:29pm
Posts: 2204
Location: The Ohio State University
I expect that this talk of an invasion force isn't the Black Prince-at least not yet.

I think that if anyone could take the low-warp environment without effect, it would probably be Jurgen-he's a pariah anyways, so what does it matter if he's got less warp to nullify? Cain and others who associate with him should likewise not be too mentally disturbed. And reading the descriptions of the Empire Far, Far away is just great-even the Rogue Traders are so Xenophobic that they can barely come to grips with what they have seen.

I have to wonder how an Imperator would look in Battlefleet Gothic... Probably a strength 1 or 2 hanger bay for launching fighters/bombers, lances that fire to the side and forward, and a nice set of shields, but light on the armor front.

Quote:
Right, I'd be more worried about daemons. Because they use "mundane" hyperdrive they don't need to worry about the Warp directly, but the transparency between the Warp and the Force means that Black Prince will have anywhere from two to four psykers on board once they cross over into the Milky Way.

Powerful psykers to boot. I don't doubt that Aleph-3 will keep her clone head screwed on with pure devotion to duty, but the others might want to lock themselves into that force cage right quick. If the calculations so far are correct, over there, Lennart will be more powerful than the Emperor is in his own universe.
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 08:04pm 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17531
Location: Tahalshia Manor
Vehrec wrote:
If the calculations so far are correct, over there, Lennart will be more powerful than the Emperor is in his own universe.

That is frakking scary
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Xon
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 08:34pm 

Sith Acolyte


Joined: 2002-07-16 06:12am
Posts: 6205
Location: Western Australia
LadyTevar wrote:
Vehrec wrote:
If the calculations so far are correct, over there, Lennart will be more powerful than the Emperor is in his own universe.

That is frakking scary

What would be sacry is if you dumped a high-end force user like Vader or Luke in there.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 09:25pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
Important question; which Emperor? Palpatine? I really hope that was what you meant. That and I reckon Palpatine demonstrates a grasp of the Force, in his own home turf in Dark Empire, greater than any living, stable human psyker- although considering that it kills him that may not be the best example.
Whatever the raw power, Lennart and the high midichlorian count members of his crew have a handful of vague, inchoate and subliminal talents- no preparation at all for trying to handle the raw currents of power in the warp.

Refusing to use the force is not a bad start for resisting the pressures of the warp, but positively drawing on that is going to be a lot harder-won an ability. learning control is going to be even more critical for a psyker than it is for a force user.

The transition is definitely a shock, like stepping from midwinter to midsummer in one pace, and some people will stand that shock better than others, some will have much more trouble adapting and managing to function than others.
Partly it is sense of self. Think about it; someone who is only marginal is going to limit themselves by that very thinking. The elasticity, or otherwise, of the individual human mind is going to play a big part. Thinking big is probably more dangerous than thinking small, also.

Jurgen's fairly obvious. Rakel's going to lose it badly, Ciaphas Cain's sheer survival instinct should stand him in good stead anyway, from the other side Black Prince's crew are going to be looking to her captain and chief engineer.

Statting up an Imperator- class destroyer in BFG, I have to admit I've tried this and found a couple of very wierd kinks in the process. For a start, it's an escort.
Far too small, too agile and much, much too fast to use the capital ship target profiles- may even slide all the way over to ordnance marker, depending on how much credence you place on ECM.

Weaponry is a real nightmare to figure considering the difference in tactical style; the enormous gap between theoretical maximum and practical combat range of turbolasers- closing in for hit probability- I have tried to stat them up, but I haven't managed to come up with something I think I wouldn't be accused of being a cheesy, beardy git for putting down on a table top.

At a very rough comparison, they're probably roughly equivalent in tactical value to an Emperor-class battleship, but the tactical styles are so unlike that I really weant to write it up myself and see what I come up with before trying that.

Oh, yes, a small note on the subject of '88'. I refuse to accept the hijacking of this or any other number by right wing idiots and intend to deploy it as I choose, without reference to them or their fetid little cults. 88 was the regimental number, in the British Peninsular War-era army list, of the Connaught Rangers, a crack light infantry outfit legendary for extreme aggressiveness on and, regrettably, off the field. It fits the whole 'New Tanith' gag rather well. It was also the number of an Irish regiment from new York in the American Civil War.
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Academia Nut
PostPosted: 2008-10-29 09:57pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-08-23 10:44pm
Posts: 2598
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Looking over the BFG rules and trying to come up with reasonable estimation for a star destroyer's approximation, I have come to the conclusion that an Imperial-II approximation could quite possibly make the Necrons shit themselves in fear, depending on how you gauge the rules.

1) Particle shields. Definitely the most brutal and undeniable aspect, SW shields are not in any way the same as void shields. For one, they are not subject to the 'slow blade passes' problem. So as long as their shields are up they would be good against anything that bypasses shields normally in 40k (except for maybe ramming, although that would probably fuck up both ships something fierce), and to go further, I would posit that bombers, boarding torpedoes and boarding craft would all be utterly useless with the shields up, and the latter two would probably be destroyed on contact.

2) SW capital ships don't tend to miss when slugging it out, at least not in the way 40k ships do in battle. Most certainly they wouldn't really have any miss chance againt ordnance which would be considered big fat wallowing whales in comparison to what they usually fight. This leaves us with a few options. The first is that SW ships wouldn't use the gunnery tables, they would just auto hit everything. That may be a little much, but SW gunnery is almost certainly more accurate than 40k gunnery. Perhaps a more fair mechanic for the gunnery tables would be that all 40k ordnance is automatically destroyed if a single point of weapons batteries are directed against them, and that at all ships are always considered to be Locked On and can thus reroll all 'to hit' rolls on the gunnery tables.

3) The big guns. From reading the descriptions, I would hazard to say that the octuple heavy turbolaser batteries sound just like 40k lances. What does that mean? It means that a SD has eight lance attacks, on what would be considered somewhere between an escort and a light cruiser in 40k. That's just the heavy stuff, there are also the lesser guns too, which would probably count as 'just' weapons batteries, and maybe 5 sounds like a decent BFG fit for the anti-ship stuff all together, but its pretty arbitrary. For arcs, pretty much all of the weapons would be turretted so they would have port/forward/starboard. Launch bays 1 or 2 sounds about right though.

4) Shield strength, the really, really nasty part. SD are known to be able to pretty much slug on one another and take it for hours. Admittedly, that's probably a single turn in BFG is probably that amount of time, but that means that a SD should be able to take a full broadside from its own guns and be intact at the end of the turn, even if the shields are out. Worse yet, I remember Connor doing a calc and stating that a nova cannon is about the same as a full broadside from a SD. Thus I will say this: I don't see a SD having any less than shield 4, and 5 is more likely, with 6 possible. An Emperor class battleship has shield 4.

5) Finally the two areas where SD is lacking in comparison to 40k: armour and hull strength. Their armour isn't paper, but it can't take the sustained pounding that 40k can. An unshielded SD is basically scrap if a heavy turbolaser hits (another reason I think their main guns can be statted as lances). I would say that armour 4+ would be a good fit for them, with maybe 3 hit points.

The BFG stats for a SD would thus look maybe like this:

Type/Hits: Cruiser/3
Speed: ~20-25cm (about same with a light cruiser, no real speed advantage has ever been known either way)
Turns: 45 deg (not particularly agile)
Shields: 5
Armour: 4+
Turrets: 3 (not quite sure on this one, but SW seems to have better PD [when they mount it anyway] than 40k) so better than average for a cruiser looks good. Their shields and regular guns already make ordnance and attack craft from 40k cry
Dorsal lance batteries (HTL): Range- 30cm (no idea on the range, so I'll use a comprable size, but this is probably a minimum) Strength- 8 Fire arc- Left/right/front
Dorsal weapons batteries: Range- 30cm Strength- 5 Fire arc- Left/right/front
Ventral launch bay: Fighters speed- 30cm, bombers speed- 20cm Strength- 2 squadrons (6 squadrons is possible but I think there are sufficient differences in organization and doctrine between the two that 3SW=140k squadron seems a fair comparison

Special rules- Particle shields, always locked on

What does this mean? Against another of its on a closing heading, a SD will probably be destroyed in a single turn, (6 successful lance hits + 3 successful battery hits = 9, which is greater than its shields plus hull of 5+3). So either drop the lances down to 4 or up the shield strength up to 6 and hull up to 4, in which case it would be crippled but on average alive. I would go with halving the lances, but the bastards do have 8 heavy turbolaser octuplets.

Against 40k ships? These things would be grim reapers against cruisers. Lunar class on approach they would get 6 lance hits and 4*(1/6)+3*(5/6)*(1/6)=~1 1/3 hits. Lunar class would get a strength 6 torpedo barrage which is to say that they're going to need to turn and present their less armoured flanks to actually damage a SD as their torpedoes do fuck all. In a single turn, the ship will be crippled. The general consensus from fluff is that SW and 40k tech is about on parity but SW is much more compact and efficient, so a SD should be able to duel with a cruiser and have even odds. So lance 8 is actually pretty good... but that means we would need to bump up the shields to 6 and the hull to 4.

End result, in BFG rules, SDs would be tiny killing machines that would go through escort ships without blinking and be able to tangle with cruisers and battleships successfully, but would be glass cannons once their ridiculously strong shields go down.

Still, awesome story and that was just a little rules analysis and I am sure you will write it suitably awesomely. I think Cain's strategy of 'run away', or rather 'close down the damn portal' would be the best one in the situation for both parties unless they can somehow find a way to get along. Maybe some of the more levelheaded grunts on both sides can agree not to try and disebowel each other, but I doubt their governments can cooperate. To say nothing of all the other problems in 40k that I doubt SW wants to deal with.
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Kartr_Kana
PostPosted: 2008-11-03 12:14am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2004-11-02 03:50pm
Posts: 879
Location: College
Sheer hilarity!! I must admit that the only 40k I know is from the computer games and is practically nil, but the story so far is great!!

I think my space trooper squad is going to need upgrades for it's armor before this is all over ;P
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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 12:33am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
A Squelch of Empires ch 4

‘Gentlemen, Ladies-‘ Admiral Lake called us all to order.
‘Dogfaces an’ vacheads.’ Ruaridh interjected, the Admiral wisely ignored him and kept going.
‘We have an urgent call for support from a system that feels the hive mind approach. As we are a special purpose formation detached to independent, and might I add classified, duty, normally I would ignore this.’
I tried not to sigh with relief, partly because it would be indiscreet but also because that ‘normally’ made my skin crawl.

I was right. ‘Unfortunately, in this case the system happens to be Port Alcaris, the home base of most of the naval contingent and our prime repair and logistics support. I believe we can make one objective serve another.’ He looked across the assembly, particularly the volunteers for suicide who had answered back to the Inquisition.
Oh, frak, I thought. Typical. Get out from a diplomatic bunfight with overtones of negociating with menaces, by being offered up as a snack to something with more claws and tentacles than a Catachan petting zoo.

The alternative- well, if I was going on it, this raid down the plughole of the cosmos would undoubtedly turn into a blood- soaked disaster. Maybe this was better for the Imperium. Perhaps the worst might not happen. With my luck, it would be a ten thousand ship hive fleet. It was either that or the Inquisition.
‘Wave One will move back to Alcaris to aid in the defence. Wave Two will become initial attack element, Wave Three will become holding and follow up. On the basis of unit readiness.’ He said, and fooled nobody. Wave One included the Cursoris, XIV coy Lions of Caledon, and us.

‘Units of Wave One will board their assigned transport, take on stores and depart by 1000 tomorrow. Contact station control for loading and shuttle coordination.’
That was us with our marching orders; I left the chamber hoping two things, that we weren’t going to be in for another passage with the Astartes- presumably, we couldn’t, it would take forever to get us deployed- and that I would get to spend some time with Amberley. Or that if we were taking passage on a marine ship, she would be going with us. No, cancel that, the cameras.

Chance would be a fine thing; apparently speed was of the essence, so we were going to be shoehorned into various navy warships, ideally those with hangar bays big enough to launch shuttles from.
Some of them exceptionally strange, and I managed to catch a glimpse of one of the Malleus, the one with all the purity seals, looking out at the Grey Runners’ transport and making gestures at it which were either runic or highly obscene.

I was on my way back down from station command to the bay holding the regiment- letting Kasteen go direct and taking the scenic route myself, when I came across this tableau in one of the observation bays; deciding not to get involved, I backed away quietly- and literally bumped into Amberley coming the other way.
‘Is that a meltagun in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?’ she quipped.
I glanced over my shoulder, hoping she hadn’t been overheard, but evidently we had.

‘This is an extremely delicate ritual- I cannot counterbalance for your presence unless I am fully aware of you. Come or go.’ A shout came from the malleus, an angry bellow that in itself made a mockery of the concept of delicacy.
I looked at Amberley, perfectly willing to slide off into a quiet corner with her, but she had other ideas. Of course, she was on a level with him, she didn’t need to be nervous.
She walked calmly into the unlit bay, looking innocent and utterly unlike an inquisitor- rosette hidden. I was far from certain about the wisdom of that- or any of it.

‘Ah, commissar. Who the krutz are you?’ he added looking at Amberley. ‘Never mind, soon find out.’ He gestured with some sort of rod into the middle of the pattern he had laid out, a circle of light flared on the deck, and somewhere out of sight- probably just round the corner out of reality- a choir started to sing.
Entirely within this reality and lounging against the walls of the bay, the flash revealed several figures, all well armed and one with something that looked worryingly like a man portable multimelta.


I was certainly not in favour of what was going on, whatever it was, but sudden moves were equally unlikely to be healthy. ‘I’m moderately certain that this is one of those things where you’re really supposed to ask.’
‘The pure have nothing to fear.’ He said, and there was a flare of light in the circle- it was that fast. I could have drawn fast enough to shoot him, but nothing less, it was too abrupt for talking. ‘Ah, I see that you have been repeatedly tempted by Chaos and resisted more by inner strength than by devotion- the phrase “Frak off, my soul’s my own, and I’m keeping it” could hardly be considered to be theologically sound, but I will leave that to your confessor… and is that a colleague I see trying to eclipse herself behind you?’

My jaw was open; I glanced round to see that Amberley was only slightly less perplexed. Saying something like ‘Who are you?’ would only get the extremely obvious response.
Apparently, he had just given my soul the once over, although how and how fast I couldn’t comprehend. Accurately, too, damn him.
‘I really hope I don’t have to ask you for an explanation.’ Amberley said. ‘Vail, Xenos. More than guesswork?’
‘Segovian Nkrumah, Malleus. You have the wrinkles in your soul that come from having to sit in judgement of others- a telltale giveaway of rank and status.’ The daemonhunter explained, and I stepped forwards, trying to get between him and Amberley.

I didn’t want him getting hurt- it would be far too much work to explain- and he had just insulted her. ‘If you really are a master seer of souls, then you should know better than to pass judgement on a lady’s complexion.’
He laughed. ‘You are bold. Telling an inquisitor what he is and isn’t supposed to do.’ His eyes narrowed at that, and I heard a click behind me that sounded like a safety being snapped off.
‘He’s with me.’ Amberley stepped forward. I hoped she realised I wasn’t wearing a displacer field. ‘I presume this isn’t just for our benefit?’

‘Oh, no. That ship out there- do you recognise it?’
The cloud grey paint job softened the outline a bit, but it was distinctive in it’s own way, broad, angular, spiky. Not in detail, and Amberley, if she knew anything, didn’t say.
‘No? A Devastation- class light fleet carrier, gifted to the Mechanicus and used as the Grey Runners’ prime transport. A logical-‘ he spat that word out- ‘choice, if not for the fact that those ships were removed from Imperial Navy service as being too likely to draw the attention of the Ruinous Powers.’

‘You suspect it might be tainted?’ I said, no longer worried about stating the obvious. It was likely to be less frightening than the non- obvious.
‘I am deeply suspicious of the methods used to maintain her purity- considering that she was recommissioned by the Caledonian space yards that are part of the fief of that chapter of deviants.’ Nkrumah growled. I was right.
‘Something that you would like to bring to the attention of your colleagues?’ Amberley asked him, deceptively lightly.

‘Do you know what an inverse ninja is?’ he asked. Which meant that he had heard Ruaridh’s last comment. ‘No? The ninja were a species of proto, or very early, Assassin, who relied very heavily on stealth, misdirection, mobility. They required the use of their environment- to the extent that two, or more, would limit each other’s options, close down possibilities. A group, together, would get so far in each other’s way they would reduce themselves to barely more than ordinary men.
It was far less dangerous to face eight, or seven, than it was to face one.’

Which was a clear threat, to someone if not directly to us, and I could see Amberley tense. I had just time to make a plan, and hope that it wouldn’t be necessary, when the malleus inquisitor’s face suddenly contorted, he screamed and clutched his head, the circle flared and faded out- and there was a smell I could have recognised anywhere.
The emergency lighting flickered on, and I could see Nkrumah’s men think that we had somehow done it. Which wasn’t that far from the truth, actually, if Jurgen had been responsible for breaking the circle.


The man with the multimelta started to point it towards Amberley; she dived out of the way, I drew my chainsword activating it as I did and lunged for the man next to him, who was levelling a weapon- probably a plasma gun from the glow.
Just my luck, I thought, picking the one most likely to explode; although it probably worked for me, as it doesn’t do to sling those things around too fast.
I hit him flat along the ribcage, coming up from under, and he screamed and thrashed- not enough to stop me following the blade up, putting my hand on his back and shoving him towards the man with the multimelta.

They collided before he could bring the heavy weapon to bear and went down in a tangled heap, the plasma flask mercifully not splitting. ‘Is this a brawl or a murder?’ I shouted across to Amberley, while turning to face a minion with a heavy lasgun who was pointing it at my head.
She had punched his techpriest in the jaw, not a winning strategy, and then tried to kick the cogboy in the groin; vicious, but the clang told me it hadn’t done much. Also, nothing compared to what she could have done.

‘It’s a mistake,’ she shouted back, and at the acolytes ‘stand down, we had nothing to do with this-‘ I ducked and darted forwards under the hellgun shot that split the air over me, Nkrumah’s acolytes weren’t listening.
The cogboy brought a mechadendrite round with some kind of gun on the end of it, blasted at her, I tried to face fifteen ways at once, there was a flash of light that told me her displacer field had worked- and a high rushing sound, like one second snatched out of the middle of a hurricane.

‘Ah think,’ Lachlan said from one of the accessways, shuriken cannon in hand and thickening his accent in some sort of private joke, ‘there’s been a murrdurr.’ Well, he should know considering what he had just done with it.
I had been about to hedge my bets by smashing the gunman in the gut with the back, casing edge of my chainsword, but that- and most of the rest of him- wasn’t there any more. The only one of Nkrumah’s acolytes still alive was the cogboy, thrashing, sparking and jetting fluids all over the place. There were shuriken and fragments of shuriken embedded in the walls.
‘Are you a’ right?’ the Astartes said.

‘Probably not. Was that really necessary?’ I said, pulling myself together and checking for damage. I still couldn’t quite believe what had happened.
‘I met yer aide the next deck doon, wandering along lookin’ for you. He was about tae walk right under that damn’ impertinence there,’ he said meaning the fading circle, ‘and I guessed somethin’ was aboot to go hideously wrong.’
I looked around at the mess of dead acolytes, sawn apart by the blizzard of shuriken- and realised there was actually a lot less collateral damage than I had thought.


It definitely fitted the description of something going wrong. The shattered men on the deck hadn’t exactly been friends of mine, but I did not relish the job of explaining this to anyone. I wasn’t certain how to explain it to myself.
What was worth the murder, Throne, the murder of an Ordo Malleus inquisitor? And if anything was, did I want to know it? Well, it had happened now, and what was the way out? They had been killed by shuriken- that could be a plan.
Amberley came back at that moment, jogging in to the chamber, bolt pistol ready, and after she took in the scene not sure whether to thank Lachlan or shoot him.

I was ready to back her up no matter what- but it wasn’t necessary. She holstered the bolt pistol.
‘You ken, I have a radical idea for how tae explain away this mess.’ Lachlan said. ‘We could aalways resort tae’ the truth.’
Amberley shook her head, with a perplexed grin. ‘Well, it has the virtue of originality. Start by explaining it to me.’
‘Your man there-‘ he gestured with the eldar cannon’s barrel in the direction of Nkrumah’s twitching body- ‘was tryin’ an enormously complex rite stupidly fast, and you happened tae be standin’ next to him at the time.

‘Why ye didnae’ try to stop him baffles the shite out of me, could ye no’ tell that he was making a fankle out o’ it? It takes days for a team to dae a loyalty assessment, no’ wan man wan minute.’ The more excited he got, the thicker his accent got.
‘And you know this how?’ I asked, knowing that Amberley would want to know.
‘Let me see…Ah command a warp capable starship. I reckon I picked up a few clues daein’ that.’ He said, voice dripping sarcasm. ‘That and I’ve been part o’ the team standin’ behind our own librarians an’ chaplains when they did it. Properly.’

He was positively angry with the brain- toasted inquisitor; I know the Reclaimers spent most of their time in prayer and training, but what the Lions of Caledon did in their spare time, I couldn’t tell. Maybe they put on the devotions and mystery plays, and Lachlan had hidden depths as a master performer- he was a passable comedian at least- but I doubted it. That was real enough.
Amberley looked sceptical. He wasn’t a psyker, and she would want a second opinion from somebody who was.

‘Onyway,’ Lachlan went on, ‘he screwed it up, an’ the rite backfired, rolled back intae’ his head and took half his brain out. I didnae’ actually shoot him; that twitchin’ there is all self inflicted.’
‘It was working earlier.’ I pointed out, remembering his scan of Amberley- and myself. Suddenly I wasn’t too unhappy that he was dead. Although I was soon about to wish that he was deader.
‘Really? So he had more warpcraft than Ah gave him credit for, but that’s likely what went wrong. Ye have tae focus broad, no’ narrow- it would hae been like looking through a microscope at a flash grenade as it went off.’

It was the old intel dance; I know that he knows, but I don’t want him to know that I know- he knew Nkrumah had been trying something stupidly delicate that the presence of Jurgen even a deck away could implode, but was carefully not saying so, hiding it from Amberley- who had been the first to notice his abilities anyway.
‘He opened himsel’ up to the perils of the warp, and his retinue thought you had somethin’ tae do with the inevitable, and…ah, shite.’
He heard it first, a sort of faint hum on the edge of hearing coming from the direction of Nkrumah’s body- which was now hovering just above the deck.

‘Naming calls.’ I chided the Marine. ‘You shouldn’t have said that.’ Wondering if I could afford to run for my life now. Amberley looked as if she was considering it herself.
‘Ah know. Never a Grey Knight around when ye need one, is there…whate’er it is will most likely focus on me onyway, so Ah’ll try to get it’s attention, distract it while you shoot it.’
‘Do purity seals mean nothing?’ I asked.
‘The mannie was walkin’ around with three dozen signs that, what’eer their effect, advertised “I’m afraid of the warp”- some things oot there just cannae’ resist that kind of challenge.’

Never, ever play poker with the Adeptus Astartes. Their rebuilt, hyper-acute senses can spot signals you’d never in a million years suspect you were giving out.
I’m sure I didn’t do anything that an ordinary man could have spotted, but to him the mixed signals of the relief and indignation I was feeling must have been plain as day. That was what I usually ended up having to do; take centre stage, play hero, draw attention- and fire- while somebody else did the grunt work.

‘Oh, a’right then.’ Lachlan said, choosing to grievously misinterpret my expression of reluctance, sidestepping behind me, picking me up and putting me down where he had been, right in the path of the coalescing thing.
I didn’t have time to shout at him before the noise and curdling in the air took form; above and astride the body, huge, feather-winged, an eye-agonising riot of colour screaming into existence.


Where the frak did I start, I thought crazily. Drumstick, wing, giblets? It really did look like a titanic multicoloured omnifowl, beak and all. It was difficult to look at- the blur, the colours- typical chaos daemon, it was posing, flaunting itself.
I bounced on to the balls of my feet, charged forwards at it aiming to slice it’s head off the end of that ridiculous long neck- not really expecting it to be that easy.
I was right. It wasn’t. The thing looped it’s neck round, actually phasing through itself at one point, as my chainsword followed a moving target.

I realised I was overextended, brought my trusty blade back to low guard position- just in time to take a few feathers off the wing the thing batted me with. Not enough; the blunt impact tumbled me back against the observation chamber wall, slamming me against it. I pulled myself to my feet as the thing began to speak.
‘Why do you force me to give you death? I should reward you, for opening the door to this paradise of change.’ It went through about fifteen different voices- each syllable in a different accent, different tone.

Lachlan wasted no words, just filled the air with a blizzard of shuriken that shredded feathers off the thing, which drifted through the air- then some of them started to animate. Little birds, with blue and pink fire around their talons.
Amberley tried to shoot it, but she made the same mistake as I did- aiming for the head; it ducked and bobbed- and sent some of it’s birds after her.
I shrugged off my long coat and waved it through the air like a matador’s cape, swiping half a dozen of them out of the air; stood on one of them- it crunched.

Using my coat, trying to ignore the ichor burns and fumes coming off it, I cleared some space for myself and went after it. I had no idea what the thing had between it’s legs, but gave it a chainsword exploratory anyway.
Sweeping up from low, I sliced into it- the smell was incredible, but years of dealing with Jurgen had hardened me. I rolled out of the way of a back kick, and ducked as it’s head looped round- but it went for Lachlan.
The thing looked at him and spat out a billow of blue eldritch flame, licking through the air at him, looking somehow alive; he dropped his gun and grabbed Nkrumah’s body, using it as a shield.

The purity seals on the inquisitor’s armour each flared into a little magnesium bright blaze, burning out but protecting the marine. Amberley shot at it off hand with the bolt pistol, moving for- and looking at- the dropped hellgun; weirdly, her rounds seemed to connect more accurately and do more damage when she was spraying blindly at the thing.
I tried to get round in front of it, draw the birds on to me away from Amberley- screaming at myself in the process; it tried to rip my coat away with one claw, I stared to duck then leapt over it’s claw- it had guessed that I was going to go low- found myself almost nose to beak with it; it looked into my eyes.

I’d been given the evil eye by daemons before, but this one was actively trying to force my way into it’s head; I could feel it’s intricacies worming away at me, trying to open me up to the wonders of probability, read my memories, my fears and hopes, every little wish-
‘The frak you will.’ I snarled, swinging up at it with the chainsword connecting in the side of it’s impossible neck.
Not cutting all the way through- that would have been too much to ask- but enough to shake it’s concentration; it let me go- it was only then I realised it had been levitating me- and I rolled backwards out of the line of fire, and drew my laspistol.

It shrieked- in the warp, not just in voice- and blasted us all back, numbing and shaking.
‘Such a mastery of appearances,’ it said to me, ‘you cannot conceive of power without masks,’ to Amberley, ‘you are already far from what you are supposed to be,’ to Lachlan- and to all of us, ‘Tomorrow is mine, you were born to join me.’
Amberley was spraying bolter shells and hellgun blasts at it, Lachlan drew his blade- a long basket- hilted backsword, outshouted the daemon- screamed ‘Albannach’, his chapter’s battle cry, charged at it.
What else could I do? He went for one wing, I went for the other.

It tried to bite him- he flashed his bright-edged blade at it, a circular parry that it looped round and darted forwards; the mad Caledonian bastard headbutted it. Grabbed it by the neck and planted his forehead on it, apparently breaking the tip of it’s beak, it shrieked and clutched it’s nose with one claw.
Well, there was no way I was letting myself be outdone. I sliced a gash in one of it’s drumsticks with the chainsword- sidestepped out of the gush of ichor, ducked a claw, palmed one of the spare power packs for my laspistol into the gash, stepped back and shot it.

It squealed, but it wasn’t willing to give up and die just yet. It unleashed a circle of pink fire, expanding outwards, the billow of searing air and warp force rushing us all off our feet, tumbling us back. Buying time to heal itself, and to try to confuse us; it’s head started to bob and weave, hypnotising, the coloured patterns on it’s skin changing.
‘We have tae finish it afore it regenerates-‘ Lachlan said, trying to force his way through the wall of flame- it concentrated on him, ignoring me; and the kaleidoscopic scent it was giving off wafted away to be replaced by a foul miasma.

The flame batted Lachlan back, Amberley shot it in one of it’s eyeballs- it sprouted four more. I blew two of them off, but there was no way I was getting too close to it- and I was right.
The air in the chamber seemed to catch fire and I lost visual track of everything in the actinic flare.
When that cleared, there was one giant chicken claw sitting there, slowly evaporating into the warp, and my aide, as animated as I had ever seen him, clutching the fallen acolyte’s multi- melta to his chest. He looked as if he had just found his new devotion in life.

‘Well done, Jurgen. And if you can manage to carry that thing round the obstacle course, I’ll let you keep it.’ I said, pointing out the obvious flaw in toting a support weapon that weighed almost as much as he did. He looked severely disappointed- as much as anyone as misshapen as he was could be said to have a definite look. He obviously intended to smuggle it along with us, but if he could manage that he was a better scrounger than even I gave him credit for.
‘Are you all right?’ I added to Amberley.

‘I can still see coloured spots in front of my eyes.’ She said.
‘So can I.’ I admitted. ‘It’s afterimages from the melta. I hope.’
‘Ah’ve changed mah mind about purity seals.’ Lachlan groaned. ‘They have their uses efter a’. Cavalry’s comin’.’
Then, at least five minutes late, on a station with a hundred regiments of imperial guard, then and only then reinforcements arrived. The astartes were there first, and to give them their due looked disappointed to have missed the fight.

More people crowded in, all pushing and shoving and trying to figure out what all the fuss was about; good, stand on the evidence, I thought. I was sure I heard Ruiaridh mutter to Lachlan ‘Wan doon, six tae go’, but I wouldn’t swear to it. I was too busy trying not to shake.
‘I’ll do the explanations.’ Amberley said, looking at Lachlan and Jurgen. She didn’t want them being questioned, and with good reason. ‘You’re required, you had better go. Actually, Ciaphas, a word.’ She led me- and Jurgen- out of earshot.


‘Break the habit of a lifetime. Tell me something.’ I said, trying to sound lighthearted, relieve some stress after that, and she rolled her eyes- both of us feeling it was much safer to take that kind of comment as a joke.
‘I had intended to tag along with you in the initial wave; see how the other half lives.’ she admitted, knowing that I would make the obvious inference- that she wanted to hide behind a unit that knew her, more or less, and would be more likely to be of some use in protecting her from her colleagues.

‘Aren’t there cults to root out on Port Alcaris?’ I asked, trying not to sound too serious about it.
From her momentary look of utter deviousness- the wheels were clearly turning- I knew I had hit a nerve. She was wondering how much to tell me.
‘There are none.’ She said, quietly. For a moment, I thought good, no internal security threat, then it occurred to me how little sense that made. Either they had all been wiped out, or something very wierd was going on.

‘The hunting call?’ I asked. ‘Wait a moment. If there was no brood, then the only people capable of broadcasting a signal-‘ Chaos? No, the tyranids would just eat them too. Although to take out a navy base, it would be worth it. Eldar- they were coldhearted enough, but they would be just a shade obvious.
Actually- how the frak could anyone, no matter how sneaky, broadcast a signal that was by definition supposed to be noticed, without setting off a major panic? The navy could be a bit louche at times, but they weren’t that sloppy. There should have been enough astropaths around to set off every alarm in the system.

It had to have been an inside job. Only high authority could sanction something like that.
‘A trap. Fake a ‘nid homing signal, lure them to where we can fight them on our terms.’ Except it had gone hideously wrong, the left hand not telling the right hand what it was doing. One secret project had tripped over the other and the sector fleet were now required to be in two places- at least- at once.
‘It was a good idea.’ Amberley admitted, acknowledging that I had worked it out. ‘Unfortunately, nobody knew about both plans in time, not enough to realise that we were going to end up wide open somewhere.’

Suddenly, I was very angry about that. Doing the Emperor’s work is one thing, and often damn’ risky, but those were the chances I took in the imperial guard (and as few of them as possible). A cockup of this magnitude wasn’t a legitimate chance of war, it was close kin to treason- at the very least, criminal incompetence.
I wanted to see someone strangled with his own intestines for that, for the blind arrogance that tossed men- me!- impossibly far in harm’s way – and then I took a deep breath, and forced myself to calm down.

That, after all, is how radicals begin, and how renegades- and traitors- are made. I forced myself to say, in tones of brutal cheerfulness- that I had heard Amberley use often enough, now I think back to it- ‘Ah, well, it’s only men’s lives at stake.’
‘You’re taking this very calmly.’ She said, knowing that I wasn’t but recognising- with relief?- the effort.
‘Nothing else to do but shut up and soldier, is there?’ I said, knowing that she knew I was wishing I could do anything but. ‘You’re the one going off into unknown danger.’

‘And you’re the one having to hold this end of the passage against chaos, tyranids, and any and every thing that has an interest in what’s happening here.’ She said, and started to say more- but stopped herself before she could get it out.
‘Yes, well, story of my life.’ I said.



Palpatinian forces;

‘Well, that was an interestingly noneventful experience.’ Brenn said. ‘Primarily because, as far as I understand this transfinite voodoo, there’s not that much of a distinction between ‘fine’ and ‘boom’. Cap- Commodore, recommend we move clear of the mouth of the wormhole to long range scan distance.’
He didn’t have to spell out why, it was a sound idea and one they they had discussed. Breaking datum, essentially. Moving far enough out into wide open space that it was unlikely anyone without highly advanced sensor capabilities could find them.

There were conceivable opponents against which such a move would be useless- themselves, for a start- but against someone with poor or nonexistent transluminal sensor capability, it would be a viable option. Provided they could spot something moving up to the wormhole in time to intercept.
Well, easy enough with time to precalculate a return course. Baring all the possibilities of invisible ships, wormhole hijackers, sentient curdles in the fabric of spacetime, civilisations capable of fitting on a pinhead, the fun stuff they were here to investigate.

‘In for a penny, in for plutonium. Bring, no, wait.’ What the hell was that? A flash of crimson and bronze at the edge of vision. No possible excuse for it on the bridge module. And his head hurt when he tried to turn to follow it.
Still hurt when he stopped it moving. As if thousands of people were shouting at him. Forty-seven thousand? At least there would be an explanation for that. No, more than that, faint echoes of…millions, maybe billions? As if it was possible to tell. Like a crowd of sports fans, except plumbed directly into the back of his head. And a growing, throbbing swelling.

Galactic Spirit, is this what a stroke feels like? He wondered. Multiplying, racing, fissioning pain- no, that would be more confusing, more depriving, more numbing. In theory, and may it be a long time, if ever, before I ever actually find out.
Almost certainly something to do with the force, or whatever it was that filled the same place here, no, crowbarred it open.
‘Does anyone else feel as if they have millions of little tiny people with blunt objects setting out to demolish their hippocampus?’
Some of the newer members of the crew looked at him very strangely, but most of them could feel the fringes of it too.

‘Thick, gungy feeling.’ Rythanor reported.
‘I get ozone.’ Brenn said, after sniffing the air. ‘Mind-fogging clammy tension, pre-thunderstorm.’
‘Well, I’m getting it a lot worse than that, and I doubt it’s down to natural animal magnetism. What’s the sensor picture look like?’ Lennart asked Rythanor.
‘Everything that ought to be there is, we’re predicting together a starmap now- that cosmological probe was near useless, focusing way out in the ultra-deep field, no tactical, navigational use at all. What else is also there’s the scary part.’

‘I think you just made my headache worse.’ Lennart said; Rythanor bent down into the pit, had a rushed, whispered conversation with one of the techs, then turned back to his commanding officer.
‘The LFIs are spasming, giving flashes of contact; self test circuits are all good, so either the malfunction detector’s, well, you know, or space here literally is alive or glowing with the reflection of life. I have no clue how that could be, but that’s the data.’ Rythanor reported, sounding as if he didn’t believe himself. No, that wasn’t fair. ‘I’ll break the signal down for a closer analysis.’ He added.

Life Form Indicators were hopelessly ambitiously named; they were dedicated packages that picked up on several different kinds of signal, which hopefully had something to do with a living creature.
Neural electrical activity was one of those phenomena, and the life form indicators were picking up on it, from empty barren space. Extremely faint but it was there.
‘If this is true, it makes no sense.’ Rythanor said.
‘It’s accurate enough, I can feel it looking at me.’ Lennart said.

On intraship, he added, ‘Gethrim, want to refine that estimate of yours?’
‘It’s towards the upper end, at least.’ The heavyweight engineer- although not at the moment, because he was hovering four metres off the deck- admitted. ‘The wibbly-wobbly Force is an interaction effect between the electromagnetic and nonlocal forces- the interaction’s open to question, the phenomena that drive it are more powerful. I need to test this more thoroughly, set up some experiments to establish a general rule.’

‘First, you need to imagine the experiments. Frankly, lead element and all that, I’m not sure how much more of this I actually want to know.’ Lennart said, at the same time recognising that it was futile. They had to find out.
‘Even if we go back and indent for a dungeon ship, the escort are still going to have to do this. And the next lot might not be any better- I can come up with a few nightmare scenarios straight off the bat, the worst of them being ruled out by the fact that we’re still here and recognisably ourselves.’ The big engineer said.

‘I don’t know about that, my fourth arm seems to be missing…’ Lennart joked, and felt the fog in his head recoil slightly. ‘Actually, I have an empirical measure that we might want to try out. What’s the worst case that’s consistent with our having survived this far?’
‘That nothing really hideous has noticed us yet, basically.’ Mirannon said. ‘If the nonlocal force locally is about a hundred times more powerful, then why isn’t a midichlorian count of ten going to be a problem?’
‘That’s, let me see, everybody. You’re saying I’m now running a ship crewed by forty-seven thousand potential human bombs, including you and me?’ Lennart said.

‘Actually, I think that may be ruled out by the ‘still here’ clause. Although there may be a latency issue. The other thing I’m trying to disprove is that the significance of the interaction may be exponential.’ Mirannon said, sounding obscenely cheerful for someone who had just laid out that nightmare of an option.
‘Are you just trying to remain positive by looking on the bright side until all the facts are in?’ Lennart asked.
‘What, you mean that we may now have enough psimen to outnumber the old jedi order five to one, and outgun them maybe fifty to one? You’re going to have to tell me what the locals are capable of before I call that a bright side.’

‘Anyway,’ Mirannon went on, ‘it’s a function of the universe, not of ourselves. The real bright side is that all of this ceases to happen as soon as we transit the wormhole again.’
‘Right, you’ve told me about your worries, now let me tell you about mine. Strange attractors.’ Lennart said. ‘Like calling out to like if you want to be fuzzy about it, the power and nonlocality forming stable patterns having a characteristic effect on anything that passes too close to them. Like the light side, and the dark side.’

‘We’re talking close in terms of pattern here, yes?’ Mirannon theorised. ‘Obviously more to it than frequency and spin, otherwise sheer statistics would result in there being electrons with psychic powers. And the sort of universe in which that statement actually makes sense, I’m not sure I want to live there.
Not that we’re likely to find it; this is close to the extreme stable solution, about as nonlocal and magic prone as a universe can get. In human terms, though- I wonder how many fuzzy-goodness-and-pink-unicorns types we could manage to export? Hardest part would probably be finding somewhere that actually wanted them.’

‘Well, I doubt this is going to be the place- and don’t interrupt, I haven’t finished terrifying you yet. What do you think pattern means?’ Lennart asked.
‘Ah…kriff. Brainwave patterns, yes? I could make a noise about unproven, worst case, jumping to conclusions, but it’s bad enough to be true- hold on a moment. The very existence of those pirates limits the scenario.’ Mirannon objected.
‘They were operating in our territory with a weak, unfamiliar Force, they were much closer to what we would call normal.’ Lennart said.

‘No, I can’t buy into the biological side of that argument. I can’t imagine how a recognisable lifeform that could pass for one of us in all but culture would evolve under those conditions.’ Mirannon pointed out.
‘Which means the conditions aren’t that extreme, or they’re less normal than they seem, or more likely both. Makes it all the more important that we get on with the plan as fast as feasible, before we spend too long in this place. But not at the expense of hurrying so fast we blunder into something. I don’t think we have enough information for that, we go with the slow plan. Proceed.’

The plan that the engineer had just been told to proceed with was a simple tactical probe- first a probe droid would be launched on a short, measured microjump, and it’s behaviour plotted and monitored. Then a pod with an experimental animal- an ensign, they had joked, but in fact a dwarf nerf- to test the effects on a living creature.
Then whichever fighter pilot had drawn the short straw would go out to retrieve them. Complexity, life, sentience, in that order- and assuming that a fighter pilot counted.

The probe droid- no problem. The long range escape pod- the creature came out the other end gibbering, howling in fear. The random number generator had fingered Eta One; in the revised-and-uprated wing they had been re-equipped with, a bomber winged early Avenger.
Out, and pull the lever- and slide at transluminal speed across the surface of a tortured reality, experiencing the universe of the Imperium from the dubious safety of hyperspace.

Ten minutes later, they had an answer.
‘As I thought.’ Mirannon reported. ‘The slightly different nature of the underlying universe means that when we experience it from a tachyonic perspective, there are differences- but nothing remotely critical. A five percent power increase to the lateral lobes of the hyperfield and a shorter alluvial purge cycle should be enough to overcome the minor stability problem.
Eta One did report transient hallucinations of sight and smell, two minutes into the hop. One of your attractors, maybe?’

‘I think we would do well to avoid it, anything with a brainstate inductive effect is likely to be more trouble than it’s worth until we figure out how to deal with them.’ Lennart said. ‘I doubt that these people have mapped out their galaxy in any way that is likely to be navigationally useful for us; our definition of the shape of the universe may be different from theirs. We worry about mass, they worry about mind.

Detection; until we start talking to them- which may be at gunpoint- I really can’t estimate how visible we are to them, how far away and how accurately they can tell what we’re doing.
If it is essentially force-powered, then it’s going to be very long ranged but unpredictable, with wild variations in clarity. How well can we detect them, and at tactical distances? Rythanor?’

‘Large metal objects.’ The com-scan chief reported. ‘EW upper potential completely unknown, the trader had little to none- simple electromagnetic noise jammers. Lots of raw energy, poor baffling.
If this really is all they have, then combat detection is going to be trivial; and if their own tactical sensors are geared to this easy a target, we can run silent enough to be near as dammit invisible.
If. We almost certainly haven’t come up against their best, and interpretation’s a whole separate complex of issues. I’m trying not to get overconfident, but we haven’t seen anything to worry about yet.’

‘Any sign of engine flares in the nearby systems?’ Lennart said.
‘Yes. The light is years old of course, using that to cue in long range scans- hm.’ Rythanor glanced over the data. ‘Most barren, activity in about one in a hundred, and we have drastic change in two systems. Far more traffic in that- G3 type, fifty-four light years distant, at that time than there is now. Many, high intensity. The exact opposite there, K8, hundred and ten years distant. Nothing then, heavy traffic now.
Skipper, request permission for mass probe droid launch? If we can get interferometry going-‘

‘We can start to piece together a map of the local civilisation, at least what of it that it’s starships give away. It’ll serve for our definition of navigation and we might even be able to chart expansion and economic trends from the density of space traffic.
We’re hoping to learn that from them anyway- but having our own take on it will help when they start lying to us, which if they’ve any brains they will.
Benefit outweighs cost- that’s what the probes’re for-go with it.’ Lennart ordered.

‘A distinct thought, actually; suppose we encounter an “inferior” civilisation- what can they do to us?’ Lennart asked, tone making it clear it as a rhetorical question.
‘When shooting people’s out of the question-‘ Wathavrah said, sounding like he hated the idea- ‘Don’t we usually resort to bullshit?’
‘Misdirection, terrorist tactics- personal combat.’ Ntevi decided.
‘Bio’s out of the question, chemical might be almost as dubious. The one thing all sentiences have to have in common is information, so that’s the universal medium; signals and lies.’ Rythanor suggested.

‘Complicated locally by psionics, of course…and if what we come up against is a superior civilisation? Those traders could have been the equivalent of backwater hillbillies, their core worlds might be far more advanced.’ Lennart suggested.
‘Obviously then we’re in the position of the inferior, so we cheat and lie to them.’ Wathavrah recognised.
‘Good, I just wanted to make sure no-one had any hang-ups about the process, no standing on the dignity of the empire. I’m not happy about being here and my head still hurts, but we might as well get on with the mission.

We’re not here to conquer worlds, plant flags and preach the glory of the Galactic Empire; we’re here to scout, to gather information. Information that might make it possible for a larger force to come and do that at a later date. I reckon one of the systems with change; a society in motion’s likely to reveal more than one in a steady state.
Opinions, people; do we move to the system with a growing density of space travel, or do we make contact in the system in decline?’ Lennart asked.

‘Decline.’ Brenn said. ‘More likely to get a better look at the ugly side, the bits of their culture they don’t want to admit to.’
‘You’re implicitly assuming quite a lot there, such as the existence of a sense of shame.’ Lennart said, ‘but the principle is sound. Assent, dissent?’
‘The looting and pillaging probabilities are better in a system in decline.’ Wathavrah agreed; most of the command team concurred.
‘Start launching the probe droids.’ Lennart ordered. ‘When the last is away, move out for target designate one.’ Highlighting the type G3 star.
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Academia Nut
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 02:41am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-08-23 10:44pm
Posts: 2598
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Ah, in the Galactic Empire, sometimes the left foot doesn't know what the right hand is doing. In the Imperium, if the right pinky knows what the right ring finger is doing, its probably deluded.

The only problem I have with the fight scene with the daemon is Jurgen. Jurgen's presence severelly fucks with the daemonic and they tend to recoil strongly from him being too close because he shuts down their ability to manifest in the physical realm.

Also, I predict that trained Force users will be very, very scary in 40k. To everyone, especially their allies.
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Darth Raptor
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 03:32am 

Red Mage


Joined: 2003-12-18 04:39am
Posts: 5448
What's the deal with this Jurgen fellow anyway? Is he some kind of Warp-canceling mutant?

The transparency rule has all sorts of fascinating implications for those who have both the ability and the skill. I would almost go so far as to say that a Sith might actually be more stable in such an environment than a Jedi would be. Sure they're evil, but there's enough control that they can be lawful, whereas fallen Jedi are more chaotic. Then again, I guess the question of what's worse, daeomonbait or yet another malevolent Warp god is pretty academic. It's a good thing Adannan is dead, in either case.
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[R_H]
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 09:25am 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2007-08-24 08:51am
Posts: 2894
Location: Europe
Quote:
Opposite the navy, between the mechanicus and the officers of the guard and spilling down to crowd the space around the main display, there was what appeared to the biggest gaggle of criminal scum, glowering maniacs and gibbering lunatics I had ever seen outside of a penal legion. In other words, the assembled representatives of His Majesty’s Holy Inquisition.


Quote:
Oh, frak, I thought. Typical. Get out from a diplomatic bunfight with overtones of negociating with menaces, by being offered up as a snack to something with more claws and tentacles than a Catachan petting zoo.


Love those comments, just like in the Ciaphas Cain books. I think you have his persona nailed down.

Darth Raptor wrote:
What's the deal with this Jurgen fellow anyway? Is he some kind of Warp-canceling mutant?


Yes
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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 10:20am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
Gunner First Class Ferik Jurgen has in the words of his creator "a good claim to being the true hero of these stories"; Ciaphas' aide and something of a Planchet to his D'Artagnan, he is indeed a blank, very- if not competely- resistant to psychic powers and tends to force warp phenomena to collapse in his presence.
His radius of effect seems to be highly variable; in one of the stories he manages to nullify a powerful and exotic warp phenomena completely within a fairly large radius, in another he has to physically make contact with a daemon prince(ss) to do it much harm.

Unfortunately, Ciaphas Cain being the lazy bastard that he is, Jurgen also gets landed with as much as possible of the routine work of the commissariat as can be handed off to him. He didn't make much impression on that fight until the very end because he simply wasn't there for most of it; he was several decks up doing the job of an aide, collecting the deployment details for a boss who preferred to go walkabout.

Simply walking by on the next deck down- looking for the commissar- disrupted the rite enough to give the daemon that had been watching this young radical malleus inquisitor it's chance; and when Jurgen did find them, given his known affection for melta weaponry the big gun was just too much to resist.

Nkrumah would have got ganked by something anyway, sooner or later; bringing a perfectly crafted microscope to do a telescope's job. It's the aphorism about the superior pilot- using superior judgement to avoid situations that would test their superior ability. His abilities were superb, but his judgement had not yet matured.

The Lions of Caledon are quite unconventional but not that careless, and I had intended to put in a bit there about the measures taken to establish and maintain the reliability of the Devastation- class cruiser, but that'll have to wait for another time. (I had also intended to put in "Fascinatin' lad, your aide- Ah'm tempted to take a genetic sample, but Ah really doubt he'd make Astartes material.")
The Grey Runners are an offshoot of the Warp Runners, incidentally, a detachment reinforced and eventually established as an independent unit in the post- Heresy cleanup.
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Vehrec
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 05:42pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-04-22 12:29pm
Posts: 2204
Location: The Ohio State University
A thought occurs. If the Inquisitor is going to the other side, we'll likely see here again, if from a different point of view. Here's hoping the language barrier comes down sooner or later.

I wonder what kind of planet Black Prince and her jolly crew of rapscallions are going to find. Blasted wasteland caused by 'nids? Decaying Hiveworld? The 'cleanup' phase of a rebellion-or a rebellious world that hasn't been squashed yet and will be likely to jump the gun when it comes to defenses?

And here's a terrible thought. Who has the only non-warp drive in WH40k and has a vested interest in keeping that state of afairs?
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Singular Quartet
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 06:34pm 

Sith Marauder


Joined: 2002-07-04 05:33pm
Posts: 3896
Location: This is sky. It is made of FUCKING and LIMIT.
Vehrec wrote:
A thought occurs. If the Inquisitor is going to the other side, we'll likely see here again, if from a different point of view. Here's hoping the language barrier comes down sooner or later.

I wonder what kind of planet Black Prince and her jolly crew of rapscallions are going to find. Blasted wasteland caused by 'nids? Decaying Hiveworld? The 'cleanup' phase of a rebellion-or a rebellious world that hasn't been squashed yet and will be likely to jump the gun when it comes to defenses?

And here's a terrible thought. Who has the only non-warp drive in WH40k and has a vested interest in keeping that state of afairs?


I'm guessing the Necrons, since they hate the warp in general. I'm not that up on the various technologies of the many and horrible races, but it's got to be the Necrons. Maybe the Tau, but I thought they were just slower than everybody else rather.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 07:19pm 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
Oh, I'm being much cornier than that. Half of this is 40K, after all, conscious and gratuitous overuse of the laws of drama to produce improbable contrivances is part of the game- and mocking those improbable contrivances is another reason why Ciaphas Cain is so much fun.
Port Alcaris just happens to orbit a G3 type star, 54 light years from the mouth of the wormhole.

Naval base, right? Lots of traffic in normal conditions, except right-this-minute-now when almost everything's away on essential patrols that cannot be diverted, or at the Quaestio Abstrusa site. And currently being approached by a swarm of 'nids, which should be entertainingly violent.


Amberley's actually the character I feel least confident about writing; arguably Ciaphas doesn't understand her that well either, but trying to walk that fine line, get the idiosyncrasies that make her uniquely her instead of falling into the tropes that she herself hides behind, I find that tricky.

The language barrier is a one way problem; the Galactic Empire got enough samples of people speaking varieties of Gothic from the crew of the Remuneration (the rogue trader) to start linguistic analysis, and while it is incomplete, culturally barren, and nowhere near native level knowledge, they have enough for basic understanding and every intention of rapidly acquiring more.

Necrons. Hmph. Well, I suppose they were bound to show up eventually- although getting interesting plot out of an enemy that is so relentlessly uncommunicative, it's all on the humans really, isn't it? Damn' if I know what I would use for a Necron viewpoint character. The Deciever's long-lost stoner/slacker kid brother? (not serious.)

Seriously, if I go into too much detail about what I expect to happen ship to ship, we're likely to end in a debate that would be better in OSF- but the Necrons seem to depend on manoeuvre, surprise, and quality over quantity, which makes the Imperial Starfleet who are likely to match or beat them at their own game pretty much the last people they would be advised to pick a fight with.

Not that that is necessarily going to stop them.
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Academia Nut
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 09:08pm 

Sith Devotee


Joined: 2005-08-23 10:44pm
Posts: 2598
Location: Edmonton, Alberta
Sadly Specialist Games appears to be down right now (hopefully it will come back, but this is GW) so I can't look up the exact rules, but if I remember right the reasons Necrons are so unholy is that their ships have all sorts of special rules that screw around with other players abilities in one way or another. They would probably be on even footing with the Imperial ships, maybe a little better in everything except for the FTL drive speed where they do dominate, and even then not to the same degree that GE hyperdrive outclasses 40k warp drives. Which means that when we start playing the numbers game, especially after 5th ED, the Necrons are probably better off just nosing around quietly and gathering data than picking any particular fights with the GE.

Of course, in raw numbers, if the GE wanted to they could probably swamp the 'Nids in droids. It's unlikely to ever get that way of course, but the 'crons would end up in quite the robot war if they pushed things.

Of course, from a storyline perspective, with 5th ED out the Necrons do get more personality, the Lords having actual motivations and desires beyond 'serve the C'tan, kill everything'. It's still mostly that, but there's some room for quirks in the fluff now.
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Robo Jesus
PostPosted: 2008-11-09 10:05pm 

Padawan Learner


Joined: 2006-01-05 08:01am
Posts: 156
Academia Nut wrote:
Sadly Specialist Games appears to be down right now (hopefully it will come back, but this is GW) so I can't look up the exact rules, but if I remember right the reasons Necrons are so unholy is that their ships have all sorts of special rules that screw around with other players abilities in one way or another. They would probably be on even footing with the Imperial ships, maybe a little better in everything except for the FTL drive speed where they do dominate, and even then not to the same degree that GE hyperdrive outclasses 40k warp drives. Which means that when we start playing the numbers game, especially after 5th ED, the Necrons are probably better off just nosing around quietly and gathering data than picking any particular fights with the GE.

Of course, in raw numbers, if the GE wanted to they could probably swamp the 'Nids in droids. It's unlikely to ever get that way of course, but the 'crons would end up in quite the robot war if they pushed things.

Of course, from a storyline perspective, with 5th ED out the Necrons do get more personality, the Lords having actual motivations and desires beyond 'serve the C'tan, kill everything'. It's still mostly that, but there's some room for quirks in the fluff now.


Well, he could use the Orkrons from the tales of Orkhammer!
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LadyTevar
PostPosted: 2008-11-10 01:22am 

White Mage


Joined: 2003-02-12 11:59pm
Posts: 17531
Location: Tahalshia Manor
Great Chapter... and I want more!
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Darth Hoth
PostPosted: 2008-11-10 04:53am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2008-02-15 10:36am
Posts: 2319
rodon wrote:
It'll be fun to see the Imperium's reaction to the mixed species forces that the Empire deploys. What few of them there are, as I think from what we see most of them are in the supply areas. On the same note, I wonder how the Eldar will react to the new 'idiotic' Mon-keigh and their allies. The Tau will be happy to see someone else taking up their ways, until the first landing craft touches down and tosses out a few thousand stormtroopers.


From my understanding of the fluff and what I read here on the board, the Tau are fucking Stalinists. Their society is based on mind control, and they sterilised their new human subjects in the Tau Dark Crusade ending. They are about as bad as the Imperium Nazi-fundies, only the latter do not use alien Janissaries and do not have access to their social engineering - hence, they need the Inquisition &c.

Quote:
On the other hand I wonder how the Empire will react to the Space Marines. 'Nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure,' comes to mind on that subject.


Perhaps an exaggeration; an E-web salvo should be able to reliably take them down, and a thermal detonator certainly would. But yes, I imagine the first Stormtrooper finding themselves up against them would be in for a world of hurt, as they say . . .

Quote:
Or the fact that compared to the Imperium, the Empire is a welcoming and supportive friend to the non-humans and some ab-humans.


They will be a welcoming friend to the overwhelming majority of the local populace in any given area, given that 40k standards of living are 1800s Indstrial Age at best, and often outright mediaeval. Just shipping in food in adequate supply will win them a lot of hearts and minds in many places.

Quote:
*Cackles madly at the thought of a female Twi'lek teasing the hell out of the Imperial Guard Troopers. They won't know what to make of it, except that they should most likely kill themselves for having such thoughts.* :angelic:


:)

Well, more prosaically they might employ the Nazi axiom that race purity is the important thing, and thus it does not matter as long as nothing is left to breed. 40k is the land of Grimdark, after all.

Oh, and so this is not a complete hijack, I enjoy the story so far; I usually do not have time to check Fanfics, but I will with this one, I think. Please do continue it. I know too little of the Cain books to tell whether the characterisation is accurate (it feels a little off from the Grimdark 40k setting, but given what I read of Cain, that is as it should be), but given my area of expertise I concentrate on the Wars stuff. Interesting idea you have there about the Force being a "dormant" Warp, like 40k might have been before the Fall (or whatever newer retcons might say, the early, peaceful age); I had similar ideas for my SW/40k crossover that never got finished (and went with my computer when it was rootkitted and I had to call down the Exterminatus on it :cry: ). This opens up a range of interesting new problems, but also opportunities for the Wars side; I shudder to think as to what Palpatine might do if he enters 40k . . . But you seem to be running a character-driven story rather than superpowers wank, so do continue with that; it usually has more substance.
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Eleventh Century Remnant
PostPosted: 2008-11-23 01:51am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2006-11-20 07:52am
Posts: 2247
Location: Scotland
A Squelch of Empires ch 5

Palpatinian forces

It was a straightforward short hop through hyperspace at less than a quarter of maximum speed- to a system fifty-four light years away, one hundred and twelve seconds.
Just before emergence, the fuzzy feeling, the scent of ozone, the drumbeat inside the back of the skull, they all got worse. Massively worse. ‘Legion, disperse to internal security stations, set to stun-‘ Lennart ordered.
No time at all to have it obeyed, of course. They had decided on an entry point far above where the ecliptic seemed to be, to observe the system spread out in plan view.

The destroyer tunnelled back into bradyonic space, and the hideous gnawing feeling, of something with too many teeth right behind, intensified. Except they weren’t behind, they were spread out over maybe ten degrees to rimward of the system and plainly visible.
‘We were expecting the strange, but this is pushing it…’ Rythanor said, not entirely able to believe his sensors. ‘How the kriff do they manoeuvre? Is that a relativistic sphincter?’
‘Galactic spirit, don’t zoom in, I did eat lunch.’ Brenn said.

‘They’re biological, they’re alive, and there are a kriffload of them.’ Rythanor said. ‘Slow movers, not much better than a thousand KPS- one point four million seconds to that there.’ Pointing on the holo map to a planet in what should be the life zone.
‘Sixteen and a quarter days to planetfall- assuming that’s where, yes, their vector is that way. There are orbitals, oxygen, it’s inhabited. Anyone care to guess what’s going on?’ Brenn asked.
‘Commendable.’ Lennart said. ‘Trying very hard to assume what you see isn’t what you get.’

‘Well, this could be some sort of periodic migration that the local industry organises itself around, like a school of fish…’ Brenn suggested, tentatively. He obviously didn’t believe it himself.
‘They could also exist in symbiosis with the local humans, or actually be the dominant civilisation in the area.’ Rythanor said. ‘Life form indicators suggest- not much brain activity for their size, actually. Lots of fuzzily complex low level EM, but it’s big slow waves, peripheral nervous activity- probably.’

‘Thanks a lot, for leaving it to me to harp on the extremely krutzing obvious.’ Wathavrah stated. ‘Count the claws, fangs, beaks, tentacles- if optimisation means anything at all, they’re predatorial.’
‘They’re also where my headache’s coming from.’ Lennart said. ‘They, whatever intelligence they have, is radiating, and it is not friendly. How are the planets reacting?’
‘With a full EM spectrum, for a start- thousands of sources in the low, millions in the high megahertz. Give me a couple of minutes to run the permutations and get their decoding.’ Rythanor said.

He also projected up the main multispectrum display. ‘Lots of neutrinos, lots of fusion happening, the place has a moon, there’s activity at all five lagrange points. The L2 point gives me pattern recognition- got it.’
He isolated and brought up the image. ‘Not the trader, but not far off. I count twelve hulls, various shapes, sizes, states of repair. Best guess, it’s a boneyard. Not stone cold- there is activity.’
‘Large ships- kilometres long- I wonder how long it takes them to recommission something that size? Pass the image down to Engineering.’ Lennart said, looking at the image of the space creatures and trying not to loathe them back.

If the extremely bloody obvious was correct- those things were hostile, predatory, and coming to eat absolutely everything possible- then this was a superb opportunity, Lennart thought.
Too good to be true? Maybe. From the reports on the incident, these people- must find out what they called themselves; apparently they were part of an empire, referred to themselves as Imperials more often than not, and wouldn’t that get confusing?

Paranoia. One of their chief defining characteristics. They seemed to behave as if the entire universe and each other were out to get them- and in that particular case, they had been right.
If things like those fang-ridden, malice-exuding monstrosities out there were in any way routine, then paranoia was entirely understandable. Assuming that-
‘The situation in near orbit?’ Lennart asked.

‘Small craft- small, who am I kidding- some orbital platforms. Most of them look like caltrops. Pointy bits everywhere. I tell you, these people have an unhealthy fascination with the spiky. Long, thin protrusions, probable gun mounts, type unguessable but far more than a point defence fit, and taking up so much of the surface area- they’re weapon platforms, they have to be.’ Rythanor said.
‘Are we certain what a gun mount looks like?’ Lennart said. ‘The trader?’
‘A few images, comparing now.’ Rythanor said.

‘Skipper, I was half right.’ Mirannon conceded- unusually-comm’ing up from main machinery. ‘The style isn’t consistent, there’s clear evidence of evolution of design. From the rectangular with conic- section bow to the stacked wedges with underside ridge. I’d expect more variety if it was essentially non functional, this looks like evolving function to me.’
‘Or devolving. Do we have enough information to guess how long something like that lasts in operational service?’ Lennart asked. It would be important to find out- if these people could produce twenty cubic kilometre ships as easily as the Empire turned out eighth of a cubic kilometre star destroyers, this could get very messy.

‘How long’s a maintenance bot’s power cord? It depends on material construction and technique, neither of which we know enough about. Gravitometer says we’re a factor of three at least denser, spectro calls it mainly iron, but there’s a mass of variety in there. That and I can’t think of a dating technique that would be unambiguously effective for use on a ship that alien.
Seriously,’ the chief engineer added, ‘to go backwards from ships that look as if they were built to fulfil a function, to gross stylisation like those boxes with steeples on, if that does make sense I don’t like the kind of sense it makes.’

‘A declining, decadent civilisation? None of them are exactly free of baroque, new or old- and a civilisation has to be complacent, rightly or wrongly, before it can start to be decadent, I thought. That doesn’t match up with the paranoia of the traders.
Anyway, can you tell from the planet and the active platforms what they’re using for power?’ Lennart asked.
‘Good question.’ Mirannon said, looking at the board in front of him and trying to work out what sort of reaction would give off this absurd a set of end products.

‘Multi- stage I think, enough neutrinos coming off for a fusion reaction, but the shower of strangelets along with them- best guess is that the fusion plasma is held at ‘why would you want to do something that stupid’ temperature and pressure and used as the interaction medium for something more exotic. We can theorise, but I’m not going to know until I get the chance to cut one open.’ Mirannon said, sounding carefully neutral about the possibility. Hoping I won’t think too hard about that and tell him not to, Lennart thought.

‘Speaking of cutting things open,’ Lennart said, ‘stay on the line and comms, get me the chief medical officer.’
A few seconds pause, then a new voice on circuit, ‘Commodore, this is Surgeon-Senior Lieutenant Karrish. The surgeon-commander has just relieved herself from duty on medical grounds and ordered that she be sedated.’ He reported it as a matter of fact, but there was a wobble in his tone that said he was verging on panic.

Lennart thought of the surgeon-commander’s sensitivity index- in the six hundreds- and cursed.
‘Is she going to be all right?’ Mirannon worried.
‘If you can tell me how to treat possession, I might be able to answer that.’ Karrish said.
‘Possession? Right. Is this a problem that violence can solve?’ Mirannon asked, meaning as applied to the possessor, ‘because if it isn’t, I have a few new ideas I want to try out.’

‘Actually, I think it may well be.’ Lennart said. ‘I was looking for her opinion on this.’ He brought up the image of one of the monstrosities in the outer system.
One of the larger ones; kilometres long and billions of tons, looking vaguely like some species of deep sea mollusc that had had enough, snapped and decided to exact vengeance on the universe. Or like a flatworm cast in chitin.

‘Opinion as to what?’ Karrish said, with a shade of hysteria, as the image rotated in front of them all. ‘Precisely how little sense they make? The tentacle count per square metre? An evolutionary path that has to add up to “a wizard did it, and then they ate him”? Our own native void dwellers are hard enough to understand, that monstrosity is just beyond…I know I ought to be interested in the thing as a lifeform, but, just, gruurgh.’

‘I can’t say I like the look of them of them myself,’ Lennart said dryly, ‘but assume this universe knows what it’s doing for a moment, and tell me what you can about them- how they got there, what they’re doing, and we can do about it.’
‘Medusae.’ Mirannon said. ‘I’m getting magnetic fields that suggest they came from gas giant dwellers- never mind the deep sea look, these things’ ancestors came out of a radio saturated environment. Those tentacles might just be the uptakes for an interstellar-hydrogen scramjet.’

‘That’s mad- you’re seriously suggesting those things can achieve fusion from a biological basis?’ Karrish asked.
‘They’re on the fringes of the system heading inwards at velocities, for a chemical thruster, I’d look for a fuel tank about fifteen thousand kilometres across. No possibility of their being where they are without nuclear rockets, FTL, or both.’ Mirannon pointed out, not liking the idea at all.
‘Glorious.’ Lennart grumbled. ‘They’re moving far too slowly for deep space sublight, so, electrogravitic or psychodynamic drive?’
‘Electrograv, we can detect- and outrun. No data on the other.’ Brenn pointed out.

‘If they could do electrograv, they’d be hitting much higher velocities and wouldn’t need a ramjet.’ Mirannon said.
‘Skipper?’ Rythanor pointed out. ‘Comparison complete- most of the insystem works are military defence platforms, all have at least point defence, the hulks in the boneyard are warships. No standardisation- mass multiple mounts. All that are active have their weapons trained on the biologicals. Nothing pointing at us yet.’
‘Still outside the light cone- if they react to us faster than that, they have some transluminal sensor capacity at least. At this stage, probably psychic rather than tachyonic. Watch for that.’ Lennart said, unnecessarily.

More to prove to them and himself that his head was still functioning than out of any necessity, it was a straightforward enough deduction. The throbbing was starting to recede slightly, and also to transform.
‘If two and two still make four, they’re source of your strange attractor.’ Mirannon found time to point out.
‘If there’s anything else around here that is giving off feelings of primitive rage and voracious hunger, I want to know about it now.’ Lennart said. Also just a faint hint of- manifest destiny? Strange thing for an interstellar nautiloid to think. Or perhaps not; they- it?- certainly seemed confident of their ability to kill and eat.

To the ground forces officer attached to the bridge he said ‘At internal security stations, and set to stun? Good- tell them to shoot anyone who starts expressing cannibalistic tendencies. I can feel this pushing in my head, but it’s distinguishable enough, I know the CMO’s down with this already and there’ll probably be others, but on the whole I think we might just have got lucky.’
‘Assuming we can kill them.’ Brenn said. ‘Or do you mean the sheer dissimilarity of ten kilometre long exoskeletal void swimmers?’

‘Yes.’ Lennart said. ‘Their thoughts are barely comprehensible, only really touch at the most primitive levels. It gives us a chance to adapt to the sheer psychic pressure of this place, the other- mindedness, without having to deal with other human minds and the deception and confusion of that until we’re ready.
The tactical question is, have we lost so many already that we would be better off engaging now, or can we afford more time to learn and adapt? Oh, and get the force cage up to medical. Well, ground forces, Karrish?’

They compared notes; six others disabled, two catatonia and four attempted cannibalism, two of the cannibals shot by the legion, the rest dealt with by their crewmates. The midi counts were interesting; none of the known sensitives, all well above average but below what in their own space would have been the threshold.
‘I thought so,’ Lennart said, honesty compelling him to add ‘well, suspected it anyway. The most vulnerable aren’t the already sensitive, they’re the individuals who would have had no Force abilities back home but do on this side of the wormhole.’

‘Gethrim,’ Lennart added, ‘how’s your improvised anti-Force shielding project going?’
The engineer didn’t even bother to ask how Lennart knew about it. ‘In a week I might have worked out the theory, in a month I could have a prototype, in six months a reliable example, in a year I might have enough of it to matter. Stripping the wrecks in the boneyard might work better.’
‘Are you sure they have what you need?’ Lennart asked. ‘if the locals can withstand this kind of psychic pressure well enough to function recognisably-‘

‘What do you think happens when a ship in psychodynamic drive passes through one of your strange attractors?’ Mirannon asked. ‘We had enough trouble in hyperdrive, with something that intimately interlinked- the effects could go either way. If they intend to arrive as recognisably the same people as when they set out, without having their minds taken over by one thing or another, anti-Force shielding or something like it is going to be essential.
Of course, if I happen to be wrong, that’s more information to work with.’

‘Have you considered the local reaction?’ Brenn asked. ‘If they’re trying to get those things back into working order to hold off the bioship swarm, they might not take too kindly to our ripping parts out of one without as much as a by-your-leave. We could do better at a deal like that after we save them.’
‘Assuming we can. Also assuming,’ Lennart pointed out, ‘that they aren’t under orders from their own higher authority that dictate how they have to react to aliens and outsiders.’

‘Well,’ Brenn pointed out, ‘however obnoxious they may be, it certainly isn’t going to be laying the groundwork for future good relations if we sit back and let them get eaten.’
‘It might be in the best interests of the Empire to do exactly that.’ Lennart stated, but without certainty. ‘We would obtain thorough data on what they’re capable of by observing their defence system being tested to the limit.’
‘Who’s playing devil’s advocate here, me or you?’ Brenn asked, now thoroughly confused.

‘Lost track myself.’ Lennart admitted. ‘Playing it by the book, first critical question?’
‘Do they represent a threat to the Empire?’ Brenn said- he had read it too. ‘From the navigational point of view- it depends how numerous they are, if they can exert any real strategic pressure. Immediately, if this is a typical example, if they usually come out this far from the life zone and take this long to make planetfall, then we could reinforce any threatened system from the other side of the galaxy and still be in time to matter.’

‘Gethrim, mechanical considerations?’
‘How much punishment can a biological construct that size be expected to take, you mean?’ The engineer realised. ‘If I’m right about their technical basis, they cannot do any of the really exotic forcefields- no tensors, no stasis, limited shielding, no heat sinks. I’d be very surprised to be wrong, and that means at best single digit teratons to kill even the largest, more likely gigatons. Psychodynamic effects aside, butchery.’

‘Kriffing high estimate.’ Wathavrah said. ‘Are you assuming vapour-deposition construction, electronically-aligned cerametals, microbe based ersatz nano to build structures, fungal self repair?’
‘All of the above.’ Mirannon admitted.
‘So anything much over that- if they can protect themselves with forcelike effects, we can measure it from that. Assuming it produces anything measurable at all.’

‘That threat assessment boils down to “Maybe”.’ Lennart said, not happy with it. ‘We’re not going to get a better until we do some active probing, and we might as well do that in style. Worth bearing in mind the locals seem to be reacting to them, they feel threatened, what I can sense through the fog of biofiend feels that way.
No waiting. We engage now, bring the rest of Deep Field Recon through the wormhole- I hope that special messenger droid’s as good as it’s supposed to be- give them directions to here, tell them to join us. Nav, set it up, on the ecliptic plane, one light minute sunward of the leading edge of the bio swarm.

I want to, literally, fly a ring round them. Open at long range, spiral in closer, see what sort of targets they make. We will commit to action, then we will go to these people and see what sort of sense we can get out of them. Hopefully we won’t just have blown away the equivalent of a school of fish.’



Dictator- class cruiser Cittern, transporting Fourth Brigade First Wave, Task Force Quaestio Abstrusa

Well, this was something of a relief after the last flight; although not for those of us with nervous dispositions. Which after that briefing, included essentially everybody with enough brains to be worried.
Cittern- apparently the name of some stone age musical instrument that was played incessantly over the voxcast system, driving all the ground troops on board siggy- was a bigger ship, and one crewed by the navy, not by dangerously insane Astartes. Not that they wouldn’t be good to have around when the shooting started, just that they were likely to find it too soon for my liking.

The first major worry was the armoured doors. We were camping out on the flight decks, flat expanses of metal- not entirely featureless, there was one jagged line, to the outside of that the metal of the deck changed colour. An obvious battle scar, and half the regiment swore they could hear it creaking.
I reassured them by telling them that it was obvious the rest of the ship had come through all right, and after that I just had to plant my bedroll outside the line to show confidence. I could manage that easily. Showing confidence was never the problem.

That put me closer to the doors, which opened onto the void- as we were in transit at the time, that would be opening out onto the warp. Intellectually I knew that it was the force fields that protected us, a metre or so of adamantium-reinforced steel was neither here nor there. In practise, the idea that the whole frakking lot of us could be given full view of the Immaterium by one careless flick of a switch was terrifying.
Almost as worrying as that the crew of the ship didn’t seem fazed by this in the slightest.

We saw a lot of them, not surprising considering how we had been shoehorned into the ship. It was still expected to function as a navy carrier. The dropships the regiment had been issued, an ill- assorted lot of half a dozen different designs picked up from one world of the Segmentum or other, had been plonked down on the launch ramps ahead of the combined wing.
Nobody was happy about this; we would be launching without cover, they couldn’t get out to protect the ship until we had been pushed out first. Both sides were grumbling about it on a regular basis, and it was only the backdrop to a whole other horde of minor irritations.

We spent one long, futile day manhandling dropships and Furies around the flight deck, like one of those puzzle games with sliding squares and one empty that you can move through to make a picture out of the rest. Usually something devotional, for the kids. The picture on this one would have been entitled ‘Military frustration, part MMCXXVII’.
Part of the problem was that the units onboard- the 9909th Bomber and 30782nd Fighter Wings- had already, suspecting that something special was up, raided their own depots trying to cram the decks full of everything that could fly.

Under other circumstances it would have been welcome, not least as news that the navy contained a few people whose brains hadn’t yet dissolved in starch solution. At this exact point, unbelievably annoying.
Which could be said for most of the fighter and bomber pilots, especially considering that we and the New Tanith both were mixed regiments, and they seemed to think that the female personnel of both units would be so grateful at a mere glance from the gods of the sky that they would fall into bed with them automatically.

The truth was rather different. For one thing, Colonel Kasteen was seriously considering authorising armed retaliation- she said it as though she was joking, but there was a hard edge to her voice as she brought it up that made me think it might not be too far from the truth. Caffran, of the New Tanith, had already broken one pilot’s jaw.
That was why I was up in the superstructure of the ship, wandering around from corridor to corridor trying to find the ship’s own commissar, who was apparently doing his best to avoid the whole business.

I could grasp the scale of Commissar Arden’s problem, trying to keep discipline among a couple of hundred pilots and their crews, but that didn’t mean I sympathised. No sense pretending, not now and especially not to myself (if anyone short of the God-Emperor Himself is actually cleared to read this, I’d be horrified) that I was ever really enthusiastic about the job; I tried to do as little of it as possible and hand everything that I could over to Jurgen, but I never walked out on it entirely. Or at least never managed to, which is to all practical intents and purposes the same thing.

Arden was an honoured name in the Commissariat, and that could be part of the problem, the ship’s commissar was suffering from famous- ancestor syndrome. Unable to live up to what was expected of him, he resorted to- literally- running away from the job. My being here couldn’t have helped.
I knew that feeling of having a reputation loom over me- in my case, my own; what I really resented the little weasel for was managing to get away with skipping out on it, and saddling me with the mess.

I was just in the process of getting thoroughly lost, the navy guide supposed to have been assigned to me being called away to something or other- probably no more than a practical joke.
My sense of direction is pretty good, and I was looking for the outer skin of the superstructure, on the somewhat cynical theory that that was exactly where the navy would put a seventh wheel like a shirking commissar rather than letting him occupy space in any protected position.

It was only when I came across a hatchway that was five metres thick that I started thinking, perhaps I’ve gone too far- by then it was too late.
‘Ah, Commissar Cain, isn’t it? Come to get your first good look at the enemy?’
My interlocutor was wearing an olive green flight suit that seemed to be made entirely of pockets, one stitched to the other. He was sandy haired, about one metre seventy-five and compact, and if the rank insignia were anything to go by a senior pilot- the commander of the 9909th in fact.

I was perfectly ready to hate him, but he seemed amiable enough.
‘Only if your ship’s commissar counts.’ I said. ‘Are we that close to breakout?’
‘Hmph.’ He laughed. ‘Hoot, Beep, Twang and Squawk know their way home well enough- all of 14ACS are based out of Alcaris. Fourteenth carrier squadron. All named after ancient musical instruments, that’s why the nicknames. We made good time in the Warp, if there is such a thing, we’re near breakout. Want to come up to the bridge?’

Well, there was no way back out of that- and I might as well get the worst over with, and see exactly what we were up against. ‘Lead the way.’ I said, wishing I was actually as confident as I sounded.
Jurgen was back with the regiment, shuffling files, so I didn’t need to worry about what the ship’s astropaths and navigators would make of him. I followed the wing commander towards the command bridge.
‘I wanted to talk to him, but perhaps you might do.’ I said, along the way.

‘My boys getting out of hand?’ He shook his head. ‘Only to be expected- for the first and only time in history, we’re overstrength. I’ve squirreled as many of the Johnny-raws as I can away as second pilots and assistant navigators, but they’re still trying to prove themselves in the eyes of the old sweats by behaving as wildly as they can. It is mainly the young ones misbehaving, isn’t it?’
As far as I remembered from the many incident files, it was. I said so.
‘Well, I didn’t say this officially, but if you need to dent a few skulls to get some sense into them…command complex is this way.’

‘Complex’ didn’t even begin to describe it. The door dilated open on to four huge hololith displays, one showing an image of the ship, the other three blank- as yet. Gallery upon gallery, one extending out over the displays, ranks of smaller displays and consoles, some manned by servitors, most by officers and crew.
I had just time to get my bearings, and to notice the ship’s captain up on the gantry extending out over the displays- a heavily augmented man- when we folded back out of the warp.

The other three hololiths became active, the wing commander motioned me to follow him and quietly moved to the main command gantry- obviously intending to look over the captain’s shoulder.
The system spread itself out before us; and there were the Tyranids. We were outward of them, would have to chase to catch them up. There was definitely going to have to be a space fight, I thought, and precious little chance of getting us to ground before then.

The rest of the force arrive from the warp scattered around us- the flagship of this wave wasn’t Lake’s battleship Tantadem, it was another of the same class, named for the hero of the Gothic war, the Lord-Admiral Ravensburg.
That war had gone on for twenty years; I whispered that to the wing commander- Brahamian- and got back the comment ‘Nothing like job security, is there?’

I followed the hum of voices, the smooth organisation of the warship’s bridge- no last minute changes of plan, no chaos of battle. Well, we weren’t shooting at anything yet, but it felt more like a full dress parade than an operation of war.
They were grimly counting up and classifying the ‘nids- a relatively small fleet, only a thousand or so. Only. I was reckoning the likely number of horrors per ship and wondering if we would run out of lasbolts before they ran out of chitin, Ravensburg was passing out a fleet manoeuvre order, when another voice came over the main intership circuit.

‘Brother-Captain McCrimmon’- Ruaridh- ‘to all rearguard force units, we hae an unidentified smaal ship, light cruiser mass but showin’ as no bigger nor ae frigate, behavin’ very strangely ahead of the ‘nids; can anybody get a clear auspex o’ it?’
‘Ravensburg to Cruachan, it is not deemed relevant at this- Emperor on Earth!’ the com officer on the Ravensburg shouted, so loudly you just knew his eyes were half way out of his sockets, and it was nothing to do with the ‘nids. That small peculiar contact had just done something very, very strange.

I looked at the captain, he was rising out of his seat on cybernetic flippers and looking at the image of the system in astonishment; the blip was now flashing at a maniacal rate and numbers racing past underneath it, there was a strained note now in the voices on the bridge and the intership was full of babble.
If this was a Guard operation, I would have said something had just gone very seriously wrong. ‘What’s all the fuss about?’ I asked Brahamian.
‘That thing there, whatever it is, has just started moving. Over two- no, better than three thousand.’

It was all Eldar to me; I didn’t know what that meant, and I was sure I didn’t want it explained. He explained it anyway. ‘Do you know how fast our ships move? It depends on the type of ship, on the yard, on the maintenance- but without AG, the thrust of even a lumbering barge like an Emperor would squish the crew flat. In the size of a star system, that’s still slow. Forty. Most cruisers do eighty to a hundred. The Astartes do one- eighty, maybe two hundred on a good day, and there are one of a kind relics from the Dark Age that go far faster yet- but those that the Mechanicus don’t keep to themselves the Inquisition are busy playing with. That thing’s far beyond anything we can do. And if it can move like that-‘

‘Target has opened fire.’ One of the bridge officers announced. ‘Seems to be shooting at the ‘nids.’
With a sinking feeling, I realised that most of the weapons fire pouring out of it was green. The bridge went quiet then, as most of us simply watched in hushed awe.
We had been outnumbered maybe thirty to one; I, personally, hadn’t been hoping for anything more than a chance to get out and go to ground before the ship got eaten.

That arrowhead- ‘It’s smaller than a bloody Cobra-‘ one of the auspex team whispered before the rest shut him up- was picking a fight with a swarm a thousand times it’s strength.
‘It’s just not possible, they can’t frakking do that.’ I heard, from the weapons pit. I couldn’t believe it myself. We were spectating at the deformation of the universe. Strictly speaking, not the first time for me, but even so.
The ship was laying down an almost leisurely barrage, tearing into them, and I glanced at the space past the ‘nids away from the sun; there were very few stray green flashes. Whoever they were, they didn’t miss much.

‘I have never felt the impulse to be sorry for the likes of the Tyranids before.’ There was a basso- profundo rumble from in front of us, and with a shock I realised it was the Cittern’s captain. It was even more of a surprise to realise that I almost agreed with him.
I remembered all the times they had tried to kill me, and the sooner they were removed from the universe the better- but actually watching it being done with such unanswerable, effortless butchery was chilling.
It was far beyond the range of anything the ‘nids could answer back with, and I started wondering if it actually was necrons, or if there was something else out there even worse.

There was absolutely nothing at all that we could do, for or against; nothing would carry that far except torpedoes and bombers, and they wouldn’t have got there until long after the execution was over. In fact, light delay, this had already happened well before. I watched glittering green bolt after bolt flash into a tyranid ship and blast it apart, vapourising and volatilising, shot after shot blasting the swarm apart a dozen at a time- and then, at last, it was over and there was nothing but dust and tumbling fragments.
‘One hundred seconds, Captain. One hundred seconds from beginning to end.’ One of the auspex officers reported.

Time had well and truly stretched during the barrage; I would have said hours, in felt time anyway.
‘Please tell me,’ the captain replied, ‘that our void shields, higher acceleration and longer ranged weapons would have made us a more difficult target.’
No answer. No reply. Silence on the intership circuit, as well. The fact that the immediate mission seemed to have been accomplished for us had turned to ashes in our mouths.

Finally, someone said something, although not something I wanted to hear. ‘All ships, this is Admiral Stone, force commander. Formally, for the record, I ask; does that ship represent a xenos intruder, of great potential danger to the Imperium?’
There were a handful of extremely reluctant ‘yes’ replies- well, ‘no’ was obviously wrong, but I was worried that we were about to do something suicidal. By the sound of it, the admiral wasn’t exactly looking forward to it himself.
‘Ye ken it’s probably frae the other side of the portal?’ Ruaridh pointed out.

‘In that case-‘ Stone began, heavily.
‘We have nothing to lose by trying to talk to them.’ I interrupted quickly, stepping forward and grabbing the captain’s microphone as if my life depended on it- which it did. ‘At best, peace may be possible-‘ if only, but there was a sceptical noise from the other end and I tried to think of an argument that would convince a hidebound, hard- nosed my life is as nothing compared to my duty to the Imperium type admiral- ‘at worst, that would leave us, after failed negociations, right alongside. We couldn’t possibly stand less chance in a face to face brawl than in a long range artillery duel like the ‘nids just lost.’

‘Yon Official Hero of the Imperium has a point.’ Ruaridh backed me up. ‘I clocked that wee thing at puttin’ out better than five hundred million megatons a second. Naewhere’s safe, but better startin’ up close where we can at least try- an’ who knows? If we can fight them man tae man rather than ship to ship, we might just end up with that wee thing to play wi’.’
There was a long pause as the admiral tried to balance the reasoning in his mind. For any sane man, the general undesirability of being dead should have tipped the scale.

The admiral remained silent long enough to make me wonder if he really was mad enough to pick a fight with a ship that had gone through a sizable ‘nid swarm like a Chimera through a herd of turkeys.
‘Is that the official advice of the Astartes and the Commissariat?’ he temporised by asking.
Ruaridh and I, neither of us having authority to do so, both said ‘Yes.’
Now that he had someone else to blame, the admiral decided to avoid immediate suicide after all. ‘So be it. Force will secure from battle stations and proceed insystem.’

I tried not to look too relieved, but there were two thoughts still bothering me. Fortunately, all the inquisitors had were either still at the Abstrusa or had accompanied the main force into the xenos’ home space- there was no-one here to override us and tell us to go and get killed, which was a good thing and a state of affairs that ought to be preserved.
On the other hand, that ‘all’ included Amberley, who was even now wandering cheerfully off into the place where the arrowheads lived.

----------------------

Yes, well, the ultimate in superpowers wank; a turbolaser battery putting out sustained firepower in the petatons per second range.
In 40K terms, an Imperator carries a battleship grade power plant and weaponry to exploit it- on a destroyer class hull. Power to weight massively higher, superior accuracy of fire. Ship for ship, it's nowhere near a fair match. Force for force, and especially controlling mind for controlling mind, the strategic situation is, I reckon, a lot more even. Don't worry, there's a lot still to happen yet.
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Kartr_Kana
PostPosted: 2008-11-23 04:47am 

Jedi Knight


Joined: 2004-11-02 03:50pm
Posts: 879
Location: College
First post!!

Great chapter especially the comment by Rythanor "...Pointy bits everywhere. I tell you, these people have an unhealthy fascination with the spiky..." :D
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Darth Hoth
PostPosted: 2008-11-23 09:01am 

Jedi Council Member


Joined: 2008-02-15 10:36am
Posts: 2319
Ah, more material! :D I cannot wait for when they actually get into contact. Cain is probably a good choice for a negotiator, as noted, in that he does not carry the typical Imperium arrogance. . .
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