Valdane's Chronicles

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 4

Entries and exits. Monsters and men.

Exiting the station’s mighty void gates, the acolytes’ rented cutter pitches downwards, beginning a slow and careful circumnavigation of the lifeless, jagged exterior of Praxos’ asteroid home. After a short journey, the acolytes reach the Understone – the bottom of the Praxos hidden away from the harsh blue light cast by the neighbouring star – Diomedea Stella.

Approaching the missing prospector’s survey coordinates, Caradoc awakens the cutter’s geological augurs and sensorium arrays. On the porous, craggy surface below, the ship’s machine spirits register an abnormal reading – an extremely small and dense pocket of some sort of ferric-magnesium alloy – a composition impossible to find in any natural formations.

As the pilot maneuvers the craft closer, the cutter’s forward facing lights reflect off something metallic jutting out into the void. With a closer inspection, the acolytes discover a small metallic hatch dug crudely into the asteroid’s jagged brown-grey surface.

The acolytes quickly don their borrowed void suits and vent the cutter’s internal atmosphere. Positioning the vessel’s rear to line up with the surface, they lower the ramp, gaining a good view of the hatch and its surroundings.

Calidus fires a high-strength grapnel to tether them to their objective. The projectile drifts out from the craft, making contact with a small rock outcropping beside the hatch. Small bursts in the airless void mark the silent explosions of the grapnel’s anchor bolts firing into place.

Slowly, the acolytes cross the short, weightless distance through the void. They discover that the hatch itself is mounted on plasteel plating, riveted directly against the rock. The gaps around the crude construction have been filled with ferocrete. The entryway is secured from the outside by a keypad and Caradoc notices that it also appears to be fitted with a crude docking seal for an unknown make of shuttle.

Caradoc sets to work, dismantling the crude electronic locks in order to gain entry into whatever lays beyond. After a moment of negotiating around the control panel’s ornery and restless machine spirit, the hatch vibrates slightly before popping unlocked. A slight puff of gas escapes around the seal and the hatch swings open freely.

Calidus’ stablight and lumenstrip illuminate the small chamber. On the left wall is mounted a series of crude switches, gauges, and some sort of compressed storage tanks. At the far end of the room is yet another entryway featuring a simple wheel locking mechanism.

The acolytes enter the cramped chamber and close the exterior hatch behind them.

Figuring the wall-mounted mechanism to be some sort of airlock, Caradoc attempts to restore an atmosphere and pressure. As he works, power slowly returns to the chamber, providing energy to the ramshackle grav plating below. Eventually, the soundless vacuum becomes a roar as the correct mixture of breathable gasses fills the small space.

Having equalized pressure, the acolytes open the inner doorway. A long, narrow corridor stretches out before them, dug directly through the rock, slowly angling upwards. Small glow globes hang off of a thick cable bolted to the wall at regular intervals.

The acolytes progress slowly down the corridor, inspecting their surroundings. Ishamael locates a series of gouges dug along the walls. Made not from mining or digging equipment, the crevices seem to have been created by repeated rubbing or scratching over an extended period of time. Along one of them, he finds a few drops of blood dried as well as a series of torn fingernails.

Felpox examines the nails, matching them to those recovered from Tellic’s bedchamber.

The acolytes speculate that this tunnel might be serving as a method to take Praxos’ disappeared workers and citizens off-station. For what purpose, the acolytes remain unsure.

Now believing that adversaries may be close by, Calidus activates his stummer, creating a blanketing wall of silence. He proceeds further up the tunnel, finding another door – a simple construction of metal with a sturdy frame jammed into the surrounding rock walls. Listening for any signs of activity, he manages to hear muffled voices and murmurs – indicating some kind of conversation is taking place on the other side. Calidus relays this information back to the others.

The other acolytes ready their weapons and join him at the doorway.

Caradoc uses Calidus’ multi-key in an attempt to circumvent the door’s locking mechanism. Fumbling the device, Caradoc wedges the lock into place, trapping the multi-key and rendering the device useless.

With a nod, the two acolytes step back and Caradoc readies his Hellgun. A razor beam cracks from the end of his rifle, punching through the metal door and shearing apart the mechanism with a spray of molten metal and shrapnel.

Taeric, with shield and sword in hand, gives the door a firm kick, throwing it open with sufficient force to bend the hinges.

Calidus ducks inside, past the feudal warrior, weapon ready. Attempting to find a target, he is instead forced to dive for cover as a shotgun blast rips through the air beside him. The report of another shotgun blast lends itself to the deafening echoes trapped inside the room.

Now, across from Calidus, stares five large, armed targets – humanoid, but oddly proportioned. Pale, elongated faces snarl and hiss at the intruder. Clad in dark tattered clothing and robes, they’re armed with an assortment of shotguns and pistols. Dark eyes set into bulbous heads glance back and forth, waiting for additional targets to enter the room.

Beside them, trickles of light filter in through large, boarded up windows and through the slanted frame of another door leading outwards. The other side of the room is home to rickety metal shelving piled high with garments and a few worn shipping crates.

Immediately, one of the bizarre figures charges Calidus. From beneath the man-thing’s robes, a third arm extends outwards and lashes out, tipped with razor sharp talons. The humanoid-creature misses just high, shearing through the metal shelving above the sprawled acolyte.

Sensing his comrade in danger, Felpox charges in. Seeing the multitude of targets, he hurls his axe, sending it careening across the dusty room. It strikes just wide of his foes, hammering the wall and tumbling to the floor.

With the chaotic gunfight already overwhelming his otherworldly senses, Ishamael retreats into his mind and into the Warp. Flashes of possible futures collide with the psyker’s own present. Forcing these visions out, he propels them across the Seal of Souls and into the flashing essences of his allies. Directing their fates, his prescience provides a fleeting advantaging in the deadly combat erupting in the chamber beyond.

Meanwhile, one of the blasphemous man-creatures charges Felpox. Two arms tipped with powerful talons emerge from the figure’s bulky garments and rend and rip at the shaman, spilling his blood across the room. Taeric charges into the room, smashing into the four-armed man-beast.

Caradoc also enters, positioning himself among the swirling melees to gain clear shots at the shotgun-wielding figures at the far end of the room. His Hellgun volley manages to graze one of them, with the additional rounds punching high into the ramshackle walls. Unfazed, the creatures fire back, hammering pulverizing rounds into Caradoc’s armoured face. The skitarii stumbles back, humbled by the amount of fire power being directed his way.

Calidus fires his naval shotpistol up toward the figure towering over him, missing high and wide over the beast’s shoulder. He quickly leaps up, hoping to gain a better chance of dodging the thing’s next blows. It lashes out fiercely, managing to rip a shred from the young operative.

Felpox draws his spear and attacks the creature in front of him and Taeric. He manages to plunge his spear point deep into the creature’s shoulder, spilling a wash of purple-ichor blood across himself and his comrade.

Seeing the thing assailing Calidus, Ishamael directs a superheated burst across reality, immolating the creature with wychfire. The thing’s dirty garments catch fire, quickly filling the room with choking smoke and ash.

The four armed-creature engaging Felpox and Taeric wrenches the witch-doctor’s spear from its flesh and lashes out at Felpox again. Its deadly talons shear the acolyte’s left arm and shoulder apart, spraying the adjacent wall with a mist of Felpox’s arterial blood and tattered muscles. With its humanoid set of arms, the creature fruitlessly smashes the butt end of its shotgun into Taeric’s shield. With an overhead swing, Taeric cleaves the beast in half from gullet to groin. The thing’s organs spill out, washing the floor with a torrent of gore.

Caradoc unleashes another volley from his Hellgun, striking one of the monstrous shooters and punching out a sizable hole from the creature’s chest. Additional rounds reduce the thing’s arm and shoulder into a cloud of crimson ash and send the figure crumbling to the ground. The two remaining shooters continue hammering shotgun rounds at the skitarii, failing to incur much damage.

Calidus leaps past the shrieking, immolating creature in front of him and heads back toward the tunnel entrance. He readies his autopistol and prepares to renter the fray. The beast-thing trapped in the inferno falls to the ground screaming and hissing horrific sounds. The creature’s flesh pops and bursts while the intense psychic heat turns its unholy body to ash.

The heavily wounded Felpox drags himself past Calidus and free from the combat. In the dirty rock tunnel, he staples together his shoulder and manages to staunch his rapid blood loss.

Ishamael leaps past him, back into the room, attempting to immolate another one of the creatures. The thing’s thigh is engulfed in brief psychic flames, but the creature fails to fully catch alight.

Having now dispatched his first foe, Taeric charges another one of the creatures at the far end of the room. He plows into the beast with his outstretched shield and plunges his sword deep into the thing’s hip. Blood washes down the blade, covering his hand in the abomination’s dark, slick blood.

Caradoc exchanges deadly fire with the creature in front of him. A flurry of shots ripple back and forth across the room. Eventually, the skitarii brings down another of his prey.

Calidus charges the lone remaining beast engaged with Taeric. With an underarm sweep, he plunges his chainsword deep into the thing’s pinned leg. The adamantine teeth of Calidus’ weapon dig deep, chewing through flesh and bone, becoming bogged down in the thing’s innards. The creature kicks and flails, separating itself from the hungry blade. Calidus catches the thing’s foot with the tip of his weapon, ripping off the appendage and pulling it into the ravenous mechanism roaring in his hand.

Pinned by sword and shield, the flailing man-thing unhinges its jaw, presenting razor sharp mandibles and an elongated, dagger-point tongue. With a heaving motion, a jet of bile bursts from the tip. Thankfully, Taeric uses his shield to push the creature’s face aside. The liquid attack strikes the ground beside him and the corrosive payload begins eating through the dirt and rockcrete floor. With a final blow, Taeric finishes the creature, rending it apart and spreading yet another wash of purple ichor and gore.

The acolytes gather themselves, attempting to mentally process the last minute’s ferocious events.

Magazines are reloaded, power cells are checked, and blades are wiped clean.

Felpox administers his bizarre medicae to his comrades and the acolytes slowly begin their first real examination of the surrounding chamber.

The metal shelving of the room is stacked high with piles of torn garments and footwear, much of it bloody. Furthermore, the crates in the room are filled with other personal effects including jewelry and other trinkets. Among the bloody items is only one piece that provides any useable information. Upon a discarded miner’s garb is embroidered a name – “K. Durano”.

Felpox examines the blood and bodies of the acolytes’ slain assailants. Although humanoid, the figures have been clearly twisted or mutated by some kind of unseen force. Felpox samples their blood and flesh, finding that these figures are some kind of crude hybrid of xenos and man. Additionally, he discovers that these samples are similar to that recovered from Tertia-12. Although not directly related, the slain hybrids share some kind of genetic lineage with the genestealer previously encountered.

Before exiting the door at the far end of the room, the acolytes prepare a small barricade while Ishamael attempts to gather information from the Warp. Through an extended gaze into the flows of the empyrean, Ishamael manages to see various shadow wakes – more malevolent entities flowing in and out of this chamber in both past and future. Across time, he sees repeated innocents brought to this room, stripped of their possessions, and dragged down the tunnel leading back to the void.

With the information and evidence gathered, the acolytes have a decent idea of the fate befalling Praxos’ disappearances as well as the nature of those committing the crimes.

They make ready to open the next door.

Carefully and quietly opening the exit, they find that it leads to nothing more than another forgotten and desolate corner of Foundation’s slums.

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