Standing again among a sea of bodies, the acolytes catch their breaths.
Meanwhile, the others search the bodies for more ammunition and supplies. Located up on the scaffolding, the acolytes find the Heretek’s arm and the Magus’ corpse. They quickly gather up their weapons as well as various flesh and tissue samples for further study.
Up the newly-blasted breach into Midstone, the acolytes can hear the distant sounds of gunfire and explosions. Praxos is being overwhelmed by the tide of hybrids.
Along with the surviving Arbites, the acolytes decide to depart as quickly as possible in order to either reassess the situation from afar, or to allow the Reliant Dawn to bombard the station into oblivion.
Dragging Calidus, the party makes its way back up the mine’s main tunnel, walking past their burned out Repressor and the piles of hybrid corpses. Reaching Foundation, they find that the situation has become even direr than before.
Now, full-scale riots and looting have enveloped the districts. Near the Midstone lift, running gun battles are being fought against the Combine enforcers trying to maintain the Arbites’ lockdown. Fires rampage out of control as panic grips the slums.
Thankfully, the acolytes manage to skirt around any major resistance and make it back to the hybrids’ burnt out smuggling tunnels. Reaching the airlock, the acolytes don their void suits and exit back out to their awaiting Cutter.
Aboard, their pilot tells them that the vox network is a nightmare, filled with flurries of traffic. Additionally, someone has been continuously broadcasting to the vessel on encrypted channels, seeking information regarding the warband’s current situation. Unable to respond without proper clearance cyphers, the pilot has been panicking.
Ishamael reaches out to the man’s crumbling mind, convincing him that everything is fine. The pilot immediately calms and prepares for departure.
The acolytes key in the appropriate cyphers and reach Krieger.
Krieger explains that Praxos has fallen. Currently, handfuls of Combine enforcers and the surviving inquisitorial Storm Troopers are in a frantic defence of the docks – buying time so that the Reliant Dawn can make its way through the asteroid field and get into a proper firing solution to destroy Praxos.
Overwhelmed, Krieger explains that thousands of people – civilians and hybrids alike – are swarming the docks, attempting to get passage off-station. As the situation is growing worse every moment, Krieger advises that the acolytes return to the Reliant Dawn as soon as possible.
The acolytes order their pilot to depart with haste. The Cutter screams around the Understone, eventually emerging from the darkness beneath Praxos. Breaking out into Diomedea Stella’s harsh cyanic light, the acolytes witness the chaos of the ongoing bombardments.
In the distance, the Reliant Dawn has stationed itself between a few large asteroids. Its broadside guns fire relentlessly, hammering the multitude of vessels attempting to escape. The void around Praxos has turned into a nightmare minefield of explosions and burning hulls.
More and more vessels pour from Praxos’ docks. Some are destroyed instantly after leaving the station’s void gates. Others make it slightly further afield before being blasted apart into the harsh vacuum of space.
Psychically induced to calm, the acolytes’ pilot manoeuvres around the wrecks. They quickly close the distance to the Reliant Dawn. The acolytes broadcast appropriate clearances in order to make it past the Dawn’s skillful gunners.
It seems like Krieger too has made it off Praxos, narrowly being destroyed by an incoming barrage.
Having reached a safe distance, the acolytes see the end of Praxos. From the side of the Reliant Dawn, a massive cyclonic torpedo slides silently into the void. Its plasma engines ignite, hurling it towards the besieged Combine station.
The torpedo plunges into the side of Praxos, hammering deep into the dense, brown-grey stone. Moments later, massive explosions ripple out into the void. Parts of the station begin catastrophically separating away, venting the interior atmosphere. Secondary plasma explosions blow outwards as the station’s many generatoriums and refineries are destroyed.
Within an instant, electrical energies begin crackling around the disintegrating station. A massive gravitational well opens deep inside Praxos and the compromised asteroid stats to collapse in upon itself. Soon, other nearby asteroids and wrecked vessels are pulled into the vortex.
Over the vox, the acolytes hear the piercing screams of trapped or crippled crews before they are silenced forever.
The gravitational cyclone continues to devour the station, destroying any matter in the silently swirling storm. The chaotic mass reaches a fever pitch, discharging copious amounts of electromagnetic energy before imploding. The ensuing burst leaves behind only echoes.
With the Reliant Dawn’s guns finally silent, the acolytes are given clearance to dock. Aboard, a few other vessels disgorge battle-weary Storm Troopers and handfuls of Combine troops. Krieger and Murco drag a few of their wounded out of their damaged shuttle, handing them off to handfuls of waiting adepts.
Minutes later, the Reliant Dawn’s departure from Port Aquila is marked by the metallic voice of a servitor over the ship’s vox. The acolytes feel the familiar gut-wrenching shuddering as their vessel drags itself into the Warp.
Like after Tertia-12, the acolytes undergo a biologis quarantine and various debriefings by Valdane’s senior agents. Additionally, Calidus and Caradoc are sent to the shipboard medicae facilities to treat their injuries. After a few days, all parties are released back into the general population.
Emerging from isolation, the acolytes notice uneasy glances and whispers shared among the other acolytes and crew. Word of Praxos has spread, and obviously, there has been some major developments.
Eavesdropping on two ship stewards, the acolytes determine that the Reliant Dawn is headed to the sector capital Juno, where Valdane has called a Conclave.
The acolytes are unsure of the exact details, but they learn from Krieger that a Conclave involves a gathering of Inquisitors. It is rumoured that this is the first such event in almost a century.
The acolytes settle back into their quarters, getting some much needed rest. In the following days, they rearm and refit, making a few trips to the ship’s outfitter and armouries.
Furthermore, Arkady sets to work, gaining access to some of the Reliant Dawn’s research facilities. Here, he begins developing a stable pattern for the wide-scale manufacture of servo-skulls capable of detecting Genestealer genetic material. Using his prototype, he makes quick progress, ensuring that the Inquisition will not be so easily caught off-guard again.
After aiding in the recovery of his comrades, Felpox also sets to work. Using the Magus’ recovered head and tissue samples, he attempts to determine if the Genestealers and hybrids have a method of communicating non-verbally. Unused to the sterile, clinical environments of chymistry and medicae laboratories, his progress is slow – eventually stalling completely.
Overall, following a series of winding tributaries as well as the main Processional – the largest of Askellon’s stable warp routes – the acolytes’ journey to Juno takes slightly more than a month.
A few hours after the Reliant Dawn translates out of the Warp, the low, rattling voice of a servitor asks for acolytes to report to their crews in the flight bays.
The acolytes grab their gear and head down. Reaching the flight bay, the acolytes find numerous other warbands in the process of preparing for departure.
Corvath greets the party, showing them aboard their new Cutter. Refitted after Praxos, the Cutter has replaced Corvath’s Arvus Lighter. The vessel has been repurposed from its original geological role and has been repainted a plain gunmetal grey. Although currently unarmed, the Cutter features quarters for up to six and a forward cargo bay that can fit up to thirty – or equivalent cargo. Should the acolytes so desire, the forward cargo bay can also transport a small autocarriage-sized vehicle and/or cycles.
The acolytes store their gear and prepare for planetfall.