As the smoke slowly clears over Brenner’s charred corpse, the acolytes form a plan.
Krieger, Murco, and Ishamael will search for signs of the Heretek while the others prepare to infiltrate or strike at the Brotherhood of Praxos’ headquarters in Foundation. Additionally, the group hopes to use the Adeptus Arbites to simultaneously secure the mine’s main entrance – potentially containing any Brotherhood reinforcements.
The Arbites Commander offers his four remaining troopers and the use of their Repressor – an armoured riot-suppression vehicle. More of a mobile bunker than a transport, the Repressor is a force all its own. Furthermore, he initiates a lockdown of Praxos’ arteria transportation networks, limiting travel to those without adequate Imperial clearances.
As Krieger, Murco, and Ishamael depart to track down the Heretek or his supposed warehouse among the docks, the others return to the Arbites’ precinct house with their wounded trooper.
There, they refit and rearm.
With access to the Arbites’ own armoury and evidence lockers, the acolytes put every last weapon and piece of gear to use.
Additionally, Arkady commandeers one of the Arbites’ standard-issue servo skulls. Together, Arkady and Caradoc program the machine spirit within to be able to detect any traces of the genestealer hybrids’ genetic codes. With it, the acolytes gain the ability to easily differentiate between humans and any potentially tainted or xenos infiltrators. The prototype is crude, but functional, correctly alerting the acolytes when testing against the seized hybrid remains.
The acolytes and Arbites load up in their respective vehicles and head to Midstone. The roads and transportation networks are at a standstill as confused travelers bumble their way around the unexplained security lockdown.
Reaching the Foundation lift, the small warband finds themselves the only passengers on the twenty-minute journey downwards.
With stern nods and unsure handshakes, the party splits. The Chief Arbitrator and his four healthy Arbites aboard the Repressor depart to the mines. The acolytes in their modified Hectin search out the Brotherhood’s compound.
Buried among Foundation’s numerous refineries, the Brotherhood’s officio appears as if two buildings have been cobbled together. One, a large prefabricated hangar-like edifice, stretches out across the street. The second, a larger stone building sits behind, reaching up to the low-hanging stone ceiling as if acting as some kind of mighty support pillar. Both buildings are adorned with only a handful of windows. The structures’ only doors appear to be on the front of the metal prefab.
As the other acolytes remain in their vehicle, Calidus takes a closer look, skulking around the rear of the buildings. Behind the structures, he finds a reinforced steel door. Knowing the futility of attempting to unlock the heavily-secured entrance, he attempts another method of entry.
Using Taeric’s grapnel, Calidus secures a line to Foundation’s stone ceiling, providing him with access to one of the tall building’s third-floor windows. Climbing safely unnoticed up to the view-port, he finds an office in absolutely pristine condition. The room features a desk and portable cogitator in the corner with two simple chairs laid in front. Calidus manages to defeat the window’s security latch and enters the room.
Upon examination of the room, everything but the cogitator appears to be untouched. The desk is completely empty except for a few pieces of parchment. The potable cogitator’s machine spirit is encrypted – hidden behind some kind of crude security mechanism. Calidus seizes the machine and puts it into his backpack.
Carefully, Calidus leaves the room and heads deeper into the heart of the building. Outside the office, he finds a small landing featuring another door and a set of stairs heading down to the second level. Quietly, he sneaks into the second chamber. In stark contrast to the untouched work-space, the second room appears to be some kind of simple bedchamber whose stone floor is littered haphazardly with a few dozen simple bedrolls. A portable promethium lantern sits between them, flickering softly and producing a reasonable amount of heat.
Heading back out to the landing, Calidus hears voices on the second level. With his mirco-bead, he contacts the others, asking for Arkady’s servo skull to join him at the staircase. Eventually, the small skull hovers in through the open exterior window and glides out into the hall. The skull reads numerous life signatures and detects that at least a few of them are tainted. Knowing he’s outnumbered, Calidus retreats from the edifice, making sure to leave little sign of his presence.
Rejoining the others, he provides Caradoc with the encrypted cogitator. Caradoc manages to bypass the cyphers, gaining access to a few correspondences and invoices contained within. Among these files, Caradoc finds a hidden sub-directory containing a lone message:
We are ready.
We have finally secured and departed enough hosts that the Father has been fulfilled.
The Heretek prepares the final tunnels and shafts. He has confirmed that the final detonations will gain us access directly to Midstone. Without the bottleneck of the Lift, our numbers shall pour forth.
His price has been grave, but I admit that he has been useful – as has that pathetic Brenner.
We will shape these fools into His image.
Our actions will take the Father to even greater victories.
Praise the Brotherhood. Praise the Sky Father.
We are legion.
The acolytes have finally found direct evidence liking the Brotherhood to Praxos’ disappearances and the wretched hybrids. They also realize that the hybrids have gathered in a large number in an attempt to breach and seize Midstone. With the Heretek’s aid, they have tunneled from the mines and up into Praxos’ heart. No longer needing to operate in the shadows, the Brotherhood intends to take the whole station for their blasphemous cause.
Hoping to buy the acolytes more time to operate with the element of surprise, Calidus quickly returns the cogitator, ensuring that it is placed back in its exact original location.
Then, leaving the Arbites to contain the hybrids in the mines, the acolytes return to the Administratum archives. With little time to waste, Arkady frantically pours through geological data, finding sites of intense seismic activity within the station. He locates one suspicious area bordering the mines below Midstone, far from the Foundation lifts. He determines that it is here where the hybrids will strike.
The acolytes inform Krieger of the Brotherhood communiqué and what is to come. Together, they must act quickly to prevent all-out disaster.
Krieger confirms that he has received the message and is on his way with Murco and Ishamael. He closes his vox-link.
Within moments, Praxos’ lights flicker as the electrical grid is strained.
Every vid-screen, data slate, and holo projector flickers to black.
Every vox-network, loudspeaker, and autohailer screeches to silence.
After a slight pause, the sigil of the Inquisition projects onto every screen aboard Praxos. These few seconds stretch into an eternity before the image is replaced by a close-up of the stern, stoic face of Interrogator Varl Krieger. His inquisitorial override broadcasts through every available frequency, channel, and medium.
As the station’s concerned populace turns to face the closest source of transmission, the Interrogator speaks. Krieger’s voice is a clear, concise monotone, aware of the imminent nightmare to come:
“Citizens of Praxos, a foul xenos taint has infiltrated your home.
By order of the Inquisitor Tyrion Valdane, Ordo Xenos, Cyclopean Sub, and the Council of the New Day, every man, woman, and child are to take up arms.
Defence assignments will be distributed by Combine representatives and the Adeptus Arbites.
Praxos is now in a state of alert.
May the Emperor have mercy upon your soul.”
With Krieger’s final words, the screens flicker back to black, again projecting the single, solitary image of the Inquisitorial seal. Every vox frequency broadcasts nothing but static, echoes, and the high-pitched whine of an uncertain future.