Chapter 08 - On to Omnicron

Date: 297.815 M41
System: Tanstar 88
Present Location: Hymn’s Medicae Ward

‘Get an IV started!’ Anna yells over the frantic activity, her voice echoing slightly off the walls of the medicae OR. ‘Eva, I need his vitals, now!’

Ten minutes ago it had been an ordinary night in the ward. Annatolla had been looking forward to a relaxing evening, but that swiftly became a distant memory just a few minutes ago.

‘What the hell happened?’ she demands, her eyes fixated on her unresponsive patient.

Desperately she fights to stabilize the seneschal who lies on the table before her. His left arm is completely gone, his upper torso covered in gruesome third-degree burns as if he had been splashed with molten liquid.

‘We were in the process of setting the charges to close the entrance to the heretical xenos site, when Acolyte Brendon inadvertently crossed the threshold.’ Ethan reports. ‘There was an odd sound, as though some sort of device powering up. Before any of us could react, Seneschal Devalt pushed the acolyte out of the way.’

‘Ethan,’ Anna says, looking at him with a detached professional seriousness in her eyes, ‘Please get to the point.’

‘Yes, doctor, of course. A large plasma weapon, we assume automated, was triggered by the acolyte’s misstep. I am afraid there was nothing we could do, it happened so quickly.’

She simply nods at the enginseer’s explanation as more medicae staff rush into the room to assist.

’I’m afraid you’ll have to leave,’ Eva says gently as she ushers Ethan from the room. ‘Doctor Marastraza will take it from here. The seneschal is in good hands.’

The silver-haired nurse pats him on the arm reassuringly before disappearing once again through the operating room doors. The sounds of medical equipment and Annatolla shouting orders briefly escape before the doors swing shut once more.

‘Libram, how is the seneschal?’ Octavius asks as he strides over. Standing at his side is the seemingly ever-present Hob, stoic as usual.

‘The evac team arrived quickly, Lord Captain, which is in our favor, but his wounds appear most grievous. I calculate Seneschal Devalt has a fifty-nine percent chance of survival.’

‘I see,’ Octavius frowns as he looks through the OR viewing windows with concern. ‘Was the site closed?’

‘Yes, sir. We detonated the explosives shortly before the lander arrived.’

‘Very good, Ethan.’

‘Do you believe the seneschal will recover?’

Octavius looks at Annatolla, already prepped for surgery and surrounded by her hand-selected team of medicae staff. He has seen her work miracles before and doubts she’ll stop amazing him anytime soon. He nods.

‘If you or the seneschal need anything else, please do not hesitate to ask, Lord Captain. My acolytes and I are indebted to you.’ He bows before walking away, his small cadre of servo-skulls hovering along behind him obediently.

‘Imagine that, old one eye a hero,’ Hob muses. ‘Guess Doc is goin’ to be busy a while.’

‘Indeed,’ Octavius agrees. ‘Did you need her for something?’

‘Naw, we usually watch the jumje matches on Deck 31 after she’s done in the ward is all.’

‘Deck 31? That seems a little too close to the lowdecks.’

‘Ah, she’s with me, ain’t nobody goin’ to bother her. ‘Sides, Doc ain’t a stranger to the lowdecks.’

The Lord Captain sighs. ‘I know.’

’Don’t worry, sir. I always have my eye on her, ‘specially when she goes past 26.’

‘Twenty-six?’ Octavius exclaims. ‘What in the God Emperor’s name is she doing down that far?’

Hob shrugs. ’Don’t know. Hard to get close to her down there, she’s got quite the followin’. People lookin’ out for her, y’know? I get too close and…’

The rogue trader holds up his hand. ‘I understand. You do your best, Hob, I can’t ask for anything more. In any case, she will likely be in surgery for several hours. Perhaps you should give her a pass on tomorrow’s training session.’

‘Maybe. I ain’t promisin’ nothin’, though.’

Octavius smiles, almost certain Hob is joking. Almost.

’Don’t know what I’m goin’ to call him now.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, he was one eye. Now he’s down an arm. Things keep goin’ like they are I’ll have to just call him stumps or somethin’.’

The rogue trader arches his brow. ‘You could just call him ’seneschal’ or ‘Thurman’.’

‘Naw, Cap’n,’ Hob shakes his head. ‘You don’t get it.’

‘Clearly not.’

Octavius would like to say his bodyguard is an easy man to understand but that isn’t the case. He supposes it could be attributed to spending over three hundred years alone, surely that would have strange effects on a person. He glances up, finding Hob’s brow still furrowed in deep thought. Clearly this situation is affecting all of them in very different ways.

’We’ll be departing for Omnicron in twelve hours. There is nothing more we can do here except let Doctor Marastraza do her job.’

‘Seems a lil young to be such a high rankin’ doc,’ Hob observes as the two of them walk out of the medicae ward.

‘She is quite gifted. It is the main reason her brother brought her to my attention.’

’She’s mentioned him a time or two.’ The bodyguard thinks back to his purposeful insult to Heinrich not long ago. Much to his delight, it had proven more than a tender spot to strike. Her unexpected reaction brought new mystery to the young woman he’s been tasked to protect at all costs.

‘They were quite close,’ Octavius nods. A dark shadow passes over his face as if the very memory stabs at his heart. Habit compels him to force a smile even as he battles to force the recollection away, despite being well aware that Hob can see right through it. ‘Rest assured the seneschal could not be in better hands.’

Three weeks later…

A frown tugging at the corners of her mouth, Anna stares dispassionately through one of the long line of tall, gothic void windows of the Hymn. After the beautiful planet of Tanstar 88, Omnicron 71-DX looks like a cesspit by comparison. The atmosphere is a sickly shade of brown frequently punctuated by patches of blazing amber yellow. Below those bright spots lie the beating heart of the planet, countless forges and foundries toiling endlessly away.

She sighs. Being born and raised on a forge world it is a scene with which Anna is all too familiar. She would have been quite satisfied never setting foot on another such planet, but when a ship needs repairs as badly as the Hymn there really is no better place to be.

‘Such a look, Annatolla,’ Octavius says as he appears beside her. ‘Is something the matter?’

‘No, sir. I just didn’t think we’d be stopping at a forge world so soon. Really I’m just sulking, the medicae ward has been rather demanding lately.’

‘Did you and Ethan have any trouble attaching the seneschal’s cybernetic arm?’

‘It took a bit longer than expected, but it turned out. I believe Seneschal Devalt is adapting well to his new limb.’

‘Excellent,’ the rogue trader nods, then smiles. ‘Well, I have some good news. You won’t have to go to the planet’s surface straight away and I’m rescuing you from your medicae duties.’

‘Oh?’ Anna replies, arching her brow as she looks up at him.

‘Indeed. There is another rogue trader docked at Omnicron and he has invited us to dinner tonight.’

‘Another rogue trader? That is rather interesting.’

‘Oh he’s quite the character, too. His name is Conrad Livingston, a very old scholam type. Rumor is he’s organizing some sort of high stakes race soon.’

‘Sounds like fun,’ she smiles. Honestly after a month in the warp she’s quite ready for a change of scenery, even if that means walking on the surface of the unappealing planet below. Dinner with Octavius, however, is an unexpected and much more preferable option.

‘Then I’ll drop by your quarters and pick you up around 1900 hours, doctor.’

‘I look forward to it, Lord Captain.’

Octavius turns, walking down the long corridor that runs almost the entirety of this deck. This level houses the medicae ward that Annatolla practically built from the ground up, and he has to admit he’s quite impressed with what she’s done. Though he could provide so very much more for her, he knows Anna is stubborn. It’s almost as if she is in competition with herself to see how much she can do with as little as possible. He taps his com-bead.

‘Hob, what’s your location?’

‘Just got done eatin’. Need somethin’, Cap’n?’

’I’ve received word of a race organized by a prominent rogue trader coming up on Port Wander in a few weeks time. I would very much like to get a headstart on procuring suitable components for the occasion.’

‘Come again, sir?’ the bodyguard asks, clearly confused.

‘I need you to get me an engine, Hob.’

‘Ah, sure thing, Cap’n. Anythin’ in particular?’

‘Yes. I’ll need you and Devalt to meet me in my study for further details. You’ll also be taking our two newest initiates with you.’

‘The lil tech rat and the fire witch?’ From the underlying hint of anger in his voice, it’s clear he has not yet forgiven Charles Peskin for any of his actions on Tanstar 88. ’Don’t think Devalt will be too keen on takin’ the witch.’

‘They are part of our crew now and need to be shown how things are done. Erata can handle herself, but I need you to make certain Peskin is brought back in one piece.’ Octavius pauses. He’s learned it never hurts to be as clear as possible when giving instructions to Hob. ‘And alive.’

The Mortressan groans. ‘Yes, sir.’

The shuttle’s airlock opens with a loud hssss. Before the four passengers can even step foot onto the Omnicron docks, several children run up to the doorway, small devices in their hands whirring to life. When the little light on the top of the device turns from red to green the children run away as fast as they came.

‘What was that about?’ Charles Peskin asks, a look of abhorrence on his face.

Devalt looks around, the filtration plugs in his nostrils making the toxic air bearable. He’s been to Omnicron 71-DX before, and finds it no more pleasant than his previous visits. Even with plugs the whole place still smells like corrosion.

‘Air snatchers,’ Hob grumbles.

‘What?’ Peskin asks, daring a glance up at his gigantic chaperone.

‘The air from the shuttles is cleaner than the air planetside,’ Devalt replies. ‘Shuttle docks, they run up and get jars full of the air, then they sell it on the street.’

‘Why would they do that?’

‘So the little wretches can eat,’ Erata says flatly as she shoves past Peskin, following Hob and Devalt onto the docks.

For a moment, Peskin stands there with a look of shock on his face as his mind tries to wrap itself around the idea of selling air. Clearly poverty is a concept with which he is not familiar.

They pile into the cab of a waiting flatbed truck near the shuttle port. Slowly making their way through the cramped and crowded streets of the Ohm parish, they pass numerous vendors hawking jars of clean air, filtration masks, and blessings for machines. Eventually the road leads them out of town into one of the older, less-populated industrial areas.

‘Where is this place?’ Erata asks, casting a disdainful look at the rundown factories lining either side of the road.

‘Supposed to meet techpriest Desai at the abandoned slag fields,’ Devalt replies. ‘He has the engine the Lord Captain wants us to procure.’

‘Map says it’s just up ahead. Why is there a skull over the meeting place?’ Erata stabs her finger at a rather ominous-looking icon on the map. The beacon pulses like a heartbeat, a glowing warning to stay away.

‘Because it’s the site of a large industrial accident.’

‘Fabulous,’ she sighs, rolling her eyes.

Devalt shrugs. ‘Was the only place Desai would meet. I got the feeling he’s not totally on the up and up.’

‘You think?’ the pyromancer says haughtily. ‘Whatever, let’s just get this over with. The faster we get out of here the better as far as I’m concerned.’

‘You and me both,’ Hob mutters.

Eventually they pull through a broken chain link gate, a rusted fallen sign indicating that this was once the headquarters of Seratech Industries. The truck’s engine shifts down to a hearty purr as it comes to a stop in the middle of the abandoned courtyard. Once a thriving company, it is clear that whatever industrial accident occurred here sealed the company’s fate.

Hundreds of fifty-gallon drums bearing weathered Seratech emblems surround them like a toxic wall. While some seem to remain sealed, many others have pools of a disconcerting luminescent blue liquid beneath them. Filtration plugs do little to dampen the powerful acrid stench that seems to permeate the site. In the distance, the thundering rumble of the foundries can be heard, but this area seems completely devoid of life.

‘Well this ain’t promisin’,’ Hob says, throwing a wary glance at the barrels of mystery goo around them. There are few things in the universe that he bothers to give a second thought, but exposure to radioactivity is certainly one of them.

’He’ll be here,’ Devalt nods with characteristic certainty.

Sure enough, in a few minutes they hear the sound of an approaching truck bearing a large object covered by a canvas tarp. An industrial-sized monotask servitor is chained into place just behind the cab of the vehicle. It appears to be the torso of a man housed within a large adamantium exoskeleton. With huge pneumatic pincers for arms and tracked wheels for locomotion, the servitor stares blankly ahead as the vehicle comes to a stop several meters away.

A person in oil-stained rust colored robes climbs out of the cab. Before he takes a step toward them, a cable disconnects itself from a port in the vehicle’s dashboard and retreats back into the folds of his robes. As he moves toward the group, the quiet whir of his leg actuators is punctuated by the loud exhalation of his mechanical respirator. The man’s face is hidden within the shadows of a cowl, but the grillwork of his rebreather apparatus is back-lit by the green glow of his cybernetic eyes.

‘You Devalt?’ the hunched figure asks, his voice the cold, machine-like monotone of adeptus mechanicus.

The senechal nods.

’Name’s Desai and my time is much more valuable than yours. A few other rogue traders have already made me an offer on this engine, but they weren’t good enough. What do you have to offer?’

‘What makes this engine so good?’ Peskin asks, cutting himself short when Devalt throws him a cautionary side glare.

Desai turns toward the question’s originator, his goggles quietly whirring and clicking as they focus on Peskin.

‘This is a SSME RS-25. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how rare and coveted this type of engine is for serious belt racers. If I do, then you don’t need to be the one doing any of the talking. Now either make me an offer or stop wasting my time.’

‘You said you’ve had other offers,’ Devalt begins. ‘How much would it take to take that engine off your hands?’

The tech priest settles back on his feet, nodding slightly. ‘Straight to the point, I like you. I’ll be honest, I’m not interested in currency so much as technology. I’m sure fellows like you who work for a rogue trader come across some fascinating pieces of tech in your travels.’

Hob and Devalt exchange a glance, the seneschal especially not fond of being reminded of their recent experience with xenos tech on Tanstar 88.

’That’d be illegal,’ Hob replies. ’ ‘Sides, not like we just carry stuff like that ’round with us.’

‘Well, that’s too bad. This really is a fine engine. In fact, it’s the fastest one you’re likely to find in time for your big race. Run along now and tell your boss to contact me when he has a serious offer. I might respond,‘ Desai pauses for effect. ’That is, if I still have it, of course.’

The tech priest turns to leave, his metallic feet crunching into the gravel as he starts moving toward the cab of his truck. The door seemingly opens on its own at his approach.

‘I,’ Peskin hesitates, casting a wary glance at his escorts. ‘Might have something that will interest you.’

Desai stops, turning toward them. ’What’s that?’

The former quartermaster doesn’t dare a second look at the seneschal, but he can still feel Devalt’s accusatory eyes burning holes straight through him just the same.

‘I said, I might have something that would interest you.’

Desai returns. His mecha-goggles focus on Peskin, scanning for a sign of what he has to offer.

’I’m listening.’

A half hour later, Hob glances back through the truck’s rear window at their newly acquired SSME RS-25 engine as they head back toward town. Save for the scorch marks near the rear cylinders it appears to be in almost pristine condition. Emperor only knows what fate befell its former owner, but that’s not their problem.

Peskin stares straight ahead, very much wishing this journey would come to a quick end. Devalt casts a silent, venomous glance at him before turning his attention back to the road.

’Can’t believe you just carry that stuff on you,’ the seneschal says finally, shaking his head. ‘What do those things even do?’

’I’m not really sure,’ the quartermaster admits, nervous sweat dripping down his face. The seneschal throws him a scowl. ‘I didn’t get a chance to study them! Besides, we got the engine for Captain Shilwulf, so we’re good, right?’

Devalt doesn’t even grace him with a disdainful look, but Hob grins.

‘I think he did all right for his first time out. Cut him some slack, one eye.’

’Don’t start,’ Devalt says flatly.

Suddenly the windshield shatters, showering the cab’s occupants in broken glass. Peskin screams in terror as he stomps the brake pedal, the tires squealing on the pavement as the truck skids to a halt.

A second later the report of the rifle responsible for their destroyed windshield reaches their ears.

‘Sniper,’ Devalt states as calmly as if this were nothing more than a leisurely drive.

‘Yup,’ Hob agrees, both men scanning their surroundings.

‘Looks like Desai ratted us out to the locals,’ Erata observes nodding toward two large military vehicles pulling onto the road ahead. Once the makeshift roadblock is in place, twenty-five or so troopers swarm out of the abandoned buildings and aim their weapons at the truck.

‘Those ain’t arbites,’ Hob says with a scowl. ‘Mercs.’

Half a dozen servo-skulls swarm around their vehicle as the armed soldiers surround it.

‘I can take these guys easy,’ Erata smirks. ‘Be right back.’

Devalt catches her arm, not allowing the pyromancer to make the grand entrance she had hoped for. Ignoring the drop-dead glare she gives him for daring to touch her, he tilts his head slightly to the left.

‘Those snipers won’t give you the chance,’ he says. ‘Hob, what do you think?’

The bodyguard considers their options, then shakes his head. ‘These guys have backin’. Nice armor, decent weapons. Even with her fireworks you’d be cut down in seconds. I’d probably make it, though.’

A tap on the driver’s side window startles Peskin, who visibly begins to tremble. Devalt leans across him and rolls down the dirt-caked window down.

A brushed-silver servo skull floats in front of them, its perpetual steel grin seeming to add insult to injury.

The vox-caster mounted in it’s mouth crackles to life. ‘Greetings, seneschal,’ a woman’s voice says in an overly polite tone over the caster. ’I’m afraid I’ll need to take that engine off your hands.’

Even so desperately outnumbered, Hob can’t suppress an instinctual growl.

‘Now, now,’ the mystery woman reprimands cooly. ‘I shouldn’t like for any of you to get hurt, but if you try anything, my hand will be forced. Now, if the four of you would please step slowly out of the vehicle we can conclude our business in a timely manner.’

With no other viable options, the retinue begrudgingly files out of the cab. A few of the armed guards escort the four of them to the side of the road while another merc gets behind the wheel of the truck.

’I’m sorry we had to meet like this,’ the woman’s lilting voice states, her tone conveying an unexpected sincerity of apology. ‘But you know how it is working for rogue traders, they are quite accustomed to getting what they desire. My snipers will make certain you don’t try anything stupid, then you are free to go. It was nice meeting you!’

As the four of them look on, the soldiers return to their transports. The trucks pull away, the stolen vehicle nestled between the other two like a child. Eventually the convoy fades into the distance until all that’s left is the dust cloud kicked up by their tires.

‘Did we just get robbed?’ Peskin asks, disbelief on his face. ‘Can…can they do that?’

‘They just did, idiot,’ Erata spits, fury in her eyes.

‘This isn’t over,’ Devalt says, holding his hand up to the com-bead in his ear. The seneschal maintains his cool and calm exterior despite the tooth-gnashing rage simmering just below the surface. ‘Enginseer, come in. We need a teleport.’

‘This is Libram,’ the enginseer replies. ‘I must apologize, seneschal. I am unable to comply with your request. The teleporatrium is currently under inspection by the High Magos of Omnicron 71-DX.’

‘What?’ Devalt growls. ‘We just had a delivery stolen from us! Let me speak to the Captain.’

‘I believe he is currently unavailable, sir, as he is having dinner with Doctor Marastraza. He gave strict orders not to be disturbed.’

‘And we can’t be teleported because…?’

‘Shortly after our arrival on Omnicron 71-DX, the Adeptus Mechanicus requested to come aboard to inspect the Hymn. When it was revealed there was a piece of functional archeotech aboard, the high magos became quite excited-’

‘Enginseer, get to the damned point!’

‘We agreed to allow them the opportunity to divine its secrets in return for a much better position in the repair queue. The teleportarium was disassembled in order to better communicate with the ancient machine spirit. I believe they are currently in the process of examining the gellar field initiator array.’

‘So you’re saying we’re shit out of luck,’ Devalt replies defeatedly. With dread he realizes that the high magos could knock them all the way back to the end of the queue, meaning potentially months of wasted time sitting in port awaiting their turn for repairs.

‘Indeed, sir, I believe that phrase befits this situation.’

‘Then send a shuttle to pick us up and start putting that thing back together,’ the seneschal orders through clenched teeth. ‘Tell the magos we’re about to give him one hell of a demonstration.’

‘Of course, sir. Libram out.’

The twenty minutes that pass before the Aquila lander arrives seem like an eternity. A huge cloud of dust billows into the air as the lander sets down hard, the boarding ramp already extended.

‘Take us back to the ship, full burn!’ Devalt barks at the pilot as they sprint onto the Aquila.

The lander’s engines let loose a furious howl as the pilot revs the throttle and seconds later they are breaking atmo.

As the Hymn comes into view, Devalt taps his combead. ‘Have a full squad of shock troops locked, loaded, and waiting at the teleportarium chamber in five. I’ll also need two of our best pilots there as well. Get me information on any shuttles travelling to the other in-system rogue trader vessels in the past hour.’

‘I think it would be best if I just stay on the Hymn,’ Peskin says, wringing his hands nervously.

‘Suit yourself,’ Hob shrugs as he habitually checks the ammo in his bolt pistols. ‘Goin’ to miss all the fun.’

‘Erata, you might want to stay back, too,’ Devalt suggests.

‘Frak that, I’m coming!’ she scowls. The seneschal looks at her with uncertainty.

‘Let her come, Devalt,’ Hob says with a malicious smirk at the thought of the witch vomiting on arrival. The teleportarium is a harsh mistress. ’It’ll be fun.’

As soon as the airlock opens, Devalt, Hob, and Erata head for the teleportarium with haste, leaving a cowering Peskin in their wake.

As they hurry into the chamber, they become momentarily lost in the sea of activity. Many mechanical parts still lay scattered about on the floor. The usual neat braids of cable now twist about like a mass of long entangled snakes.

’Two’ought seven to port!’ an auspex tech shouts over the commotion. ‘Mark one twenty-six degrees on vector.’

Devalt ignores the bewildered look on Erata’s face and quickly scans a dataslate provided by one of the many tech acolytes in the room. Spying the information he’s searching for, he gives the acolyte a nod of approval.

’Seneschal, may I introduce Tech Magos Sorren, from the Omnicron 71-DX Adeptus Mechanicus, and his assistants, Ethan says.

Beside the enginseer hovers a broad torso wearing ornate rust-colored robes trimmed in black. Sorren’s solid metal forehead protrudes several centimeters further than normal, a sure sign of cyber-brain expansion. The smooth metal continues down, covering where his eyes should be while a network of interconnected brass tubes replace the lower half of his face. To either side, two servo-skulls float above his shoulders, wired directly into the Magus’s head with thin black cables. The hem of his robe flutters out as he turns to bow towards the seneschal.

‘Magos,’ Devalt replies, ’I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse us, but we’re in a bit of a hurry.’

‘No apologies are necessary, Seneschal Devalt,’ Sorren replies, his voice completely lacking in any quality that might resemble human. Indeed, for all his cybernetics, cables, and mechadendrites, it is highly likely that very little even remotely identifiable as human remains. ‘My assistants and I are quite eager to see this truly divine creation of the Omnissiah in operation.’

’If you will step onto the dais, Ethan motions.

Hob smiles as Devalt draws his ripper pistol, affectionately named Retribution. He’s seen the weapon in action before and is almost envious of the horrible agony it inflicts on its victims. Loaded with armor-piercing rounds, the ripper ammo delivers a fast-acting corrosive toxin into the body, effectively dissolving any soft tissue that it comes into contact with.

’We’ve done movin’ targets before, right?’

‘Sure,’ Devalt says, his brow furrowing in thought. ‘At least, I think we have.’

’That’s not comfortin’.’

‘What are you two talking about?’ Erata frowns. ‘How are we going to catch up to their shuttle?’

‘Can you really hit such a small moving target, Enginseer Libram?’ inquires Sorren.

‘It is my hypothesis that there is approximately a sixty-eight percent chance of success, Magos.’

Sorren’s cowled assistants let forth a strange chattering sound. If they weren’t under such time constraints Devalt might take the time to be unsettled by such a show, but he has a much more pressing concern weighing on his shoulders at the moment.

Erata looks around, her eyes narrowing at the multitude of cables hooked up to the pad they’ve stepped onto. ‘I don’t know what the hell we’re doing, but a thirty-two percent chance of failure is too high for my tastes. What do we-’

‘Do it,’ Devalt says simply but authoritively.

Libram and his acolytes respond with flawless speed. The familiar deep whirring of the teleportarium powering up reverberates through the room, much to the excitement of the visiting magos.

Those standing on the dais find themselves awash in pure white light a second before they are unceremoniously plopped down onto unforgiving deck plating. A clap of thunder announces their presence, further amplified by the enclosed space. Quickly gathering their senses, it appears they are in the cargo bay of a ship, arriving just behind the engine that was stolen from them. Just on the other side of the engine, the mercs who assaulted them earlier scramble to react.

‘My apologies, seneschal,’ Ethan says over the combeads. ‘It would appear-’

As Devalt reaches up and switches off his com, Erata leaps onto the engine.

‘You want to play with fire?’ she yells. The mercs look up in surprise to find a woman standing with her arms spread wide.

Still crouching behind the cover of the engine, Devalt and Hob see only a sudden flash of brilliant white light, followed by screams of panic. Cursing under his breath, the seneschal motions for the troopers to charge forward.

Hob goes right, drawing his mono swords as he lets loose a fearsome roar. Devalt takes the left, quickly taking aim at his first target.

Many of the mercs writhe on the floor, their hands covering their eyes and groaning in pain. Those quick enough to recover find themselves swarmed by a squad of heavily armed riot troops.

Wild auto-gun fire sprays through the cabin as those still blinded shoot into the fray. A merc charges Devalt, who greets his attacker’s jaw with a solid back hand from his new cyberlimb. The soldier crashes into the wall of the ship before sliding to the ground in an unconscious heap. The seneschal gives his new limb a nod of satisfied approval before returning to the fight.

Swords slicing through the air, Hob makes short work of two soldiers before they can draw their sidearms. Meanwhile, Erata finds herself facing off against one of the mercs who regained his senses.

‘Time to die,’ he sneers, raising his auto-gun.

‘Not today,’ Erata says flatly, a ball of orange flame igniting just above her palm.

The man’s eyes widen as the ball flies towards him with incredible speed, impacting just above his sternum. His terrified scream fills the cabin as the fire swiftly envelops his entire body before flaring to a white-hot flame. His weapon falls to the deck as his arms flail wildly about in a panicked effort to extinguish his burning flesh.

‘Emperor damnit!’ Devalt growls as some of the auto-gun fire etches new holes in the engine. He snaps off a quick shot at the soldier responsible, the armor-piercing bullet striking the man squarely in the abdomen.

A second later, the merc claws at his throat just before a gout of blood gushes from his mouth, the ripper ammo already dissolving his internal organs and tissue. Dark-colored blood hemorrhages from his eyes and ears as he falls to his knees, then face down onto the deck.

Witnessing their comrades cut down so effortlessly, the remaining soldiers choose to surrender rather than meet similar gruesome fates. The Hymn’s shock troops secure the prisoners, slapping manacles on their wrists and checking them for hidden weapons.

Devalt shakes his head in dismay as Hob stands there laughing heartily at the still-burning man. As he heads for the cockpit, the seneschal pulls his normal sidearm and mercifully fires a single shot into the back of the man’s skull. He takes note of the man-shaped silhouettes left on the dark metal walls of the cargo bay before glancing at Erata. She sits nonchalantly on a metal crate as if watching nothing more than a show at the theatre.

’Don’t do anything stupid,’ Devalt says as he slides up behind the pilot, his pistol placed at the man’s temple. ‘De-activate the auto-servitor and get up.’

Unsurprisingly the man complies without hesitation and is escorted to the cargo bay while the Shilwulf pilot takes his place.

As the shuttle banks sharply to starboard, Devalt feels an immense sense of vindication. Two minutes more and the thieves would have been docked in the safety of their void ship. As the windows of the immense vessel pass by, he imagines the looks of surprise on their faces. Most especially he thinks of the woman who addressed them with such a saccharine tone.

’That’s how you steal an engine, bitch.’

Hours later…

‘Seneschal,’ Octavius nods across the planning table. ‘I trust everything went well.’

‘Well enough,’ Devalt shrugs. ‘Though I did notice something a little off.’


‘Hob and I, we’ve been through the teleporter before. We’ve learned how to shake off the after effects quickly. But Erata – she didn’t even hesitate. We appeared on the shuttle and she attacked before I even gained my bearings.’

‘Interesting,’ Octavius replies, his brow arched. ‘Perhaps her psyker abilities afford her greater protection against any ill effects of teleportation. I’ll make it a point to discuss the matter with Janus while you to dig into her background.’

The Lord Captain stands, pacing in front of the vast windows looking out upon the rust-colored stain of Omnicron 71-DX. ‘In any case, you brought me a fine engine. A true example of pre-Talosian ingenuity. Let me say that I admire your tenacity, seneschal. However, our little operation has resulted in some bruised feelings between House Shilwulf and the Ocaturian Dynasty.’

Devalt laughs bitterly. ‘Is that so?’

Octavius pauses. ‘This race has many rogue traders scrambling and tempers are already running high. I believe it would be prudent for anyone venturing off-ship to travel in groups, command staff included. Hob will be leading the retinue tomorrow on Omnicron to obtain the power armor I have secured for him. A routine operation, but it can’t hurt to exercise a bit of caution.’

‘Yes, sir. Anything else?’

‘Just one other thing.’ The rogue trader hands Devalt a slip of parchment with a clap on the shoulder. ‘This transmission from the Ocaturian flagship came for you shortly after you returned.’

As the seneschal leaves the planning room and joins the throng of crewmen in the bustling corridor, he opens the slip of paper. He laughs out loud at the singular word staring back at him.

‘Nice.’ is all it says.

GM Note:

Our first major critical hit vs. a player happened when Devalt triggered a heavy plasma turret. The resulting blast melted the flesh and flash boiled the marrow of his arm causing the bones to explode. Good times!

We also get to meet a seneschal of another dynasty (by servo-skull proxy). She was a fun character to run and has since developed into an ally/love-interest for Devalt.

I wasn’t sure if the players were going to get their engine back. I hadn’t planned a solution, but Devalt was quick on his feet and came up with a viable (if somewhat risky) solution. When we played through this, the Engineseer rolled really terribly for trying to hit the moving shuttle with the Teleportarium. Someone spent a fate point to reroll and it was a critical success. Very cool. :)

This chapter is pretty darn close to what happened at the table.The only difference I can think of is that Devalt didn’t get his cybernetic arm right away. He had to wait until after they visited Omnicron.

Session Summary: 01-03 Picking up the Pieces – First Half
Previous Chapter: Dinner with the Governor
Next Chapter: Sudden but Inevitable

Chapter 08 - On to Omnicron

The Shilwulf Dynasty Eck Snowmoon