Believing the Brotherhood’s breach of Midstone to be imminent, the acolytes scramble to preempt their now-alerted foes. First, they seek to track down the Heretek before he has a chance to escape the station.
Using Brenner’s information, Krieger had poured through more archival records, correlating the timeline of the Brotherhood’s arrival on Praxos to the dates of purchasing and rental agreements of warehouses and storage facilities in the dock district. Although a handful of results turned up, only one appeared to be for a building of decent size.
The acolytes decide to meet up in order to take the warehouse in force. They find the defunct, rundown storage facility buried among the more regal and well-kept guild holdings. It is a simple warehouse, slightly smaller than those surrounding it. Above the secured doors, a large, once-gilded crest rusts in Praxos’ recycled air.
Knowing the Heretek’s level of skill, the acolytes assume that the entrances have been trapped. As such, Calidus uses his grapnel to scale the side of the building to get a look inside through the warehouse’s small, dirty windows.
The main chamber is a cavernous room barely lit by pale blue and green light emitting from a series of bubbling stasis tubes and flickering cogitators lining the walls. In the middle of the room sits a small shuttle and promethium refueling station. It appears that the roof also has some kind of crude opening mechanism to allow a departure.
As a final precaution, Arkady uses his servo skull to scan the building. He finds a few trace energy signatures scattered about but no signs of life.
Although the facility is seemingly empty, the acolytes decide not to risk it – instead employing Ishamael to create a new entrance. Pulling in the hidden energies around him, his hands erupt with a blinding beam of sun-hot energy. The ray cleaves through the warehouse’s plasteel walls, melting a man-sized hole.
The acolytes wait for the molten metal to cool before illuminating their stablights and heading inside.
Getting a better look from up close, they find that the stasis tubes contain a series of the grotesque hybrid creatures suspended at various stages of their foul lifecycles. At the end of the row, the final stasis pod contains a beast very much like the one encountered on Tertia-12.
Although the foul-smelling tanks and numerous cogitators account for most of the energy signals detected by Arkady, one remains in the far corner of the chamber. The acolytes track it down, finding a seemingly deactivated combat servitor.
Setting out to completely dismantle the potential threat, Caradoc attempts to remove some of the servitor’s weaponry systems. Immediately, it whines to life, thrashing about and bringing its heavy stubber to bear.
The acolytes immediately pump volleys of close-range fire into the bezerking machine – ripping it apart with numerous stub, shotgun, and las rounds. Caradoc’s hot-shot volleys catch the servitor’s ammo hoppers, triggering a chain explosion of flesh and shrapnel.
A few of the acolytes leap clear while Arkady takes the bulk of the blast. The adept is tossed across the chamber, smashing into one of the stasis tubes. The foul-smelling contents spill out across the floor, mixing with Arkady’s own blood.
Thankfully, Felpox is unharmed. He quickly patches up his comrades.
Knowing now that the warehouse is clear, the acolytes begin a full investigation of their surroundings.
Caradoc sets off to examine the Heretek’s large cogitators. He manages to bypass the sophisticated security, gaining access to the machine spirit and contents beyond. The machine overwhelms Caradoc with corrupted binaric screams and heretical cant. Barely holding onto his sanity, Caradoc manages to exfiltrate some of the data.
The bulk of the information is research documentation on the genestealer and hybrid lifecycles, but even with dozens of datasavants and lexmechanics, Arkady realizes that the material would require months to sift through.
Furthermore, the acolytes gain access to shipping ledgers for all across the spinward worlds of the Stygies Cluster Sub Sector. Most of the ledgers note large and heavy shipments of “cogitator assembly parts”.
Within other files, the acolytes find budgets and running tallies of gear and resources that the Heretek has managed to acquire while on Praxos. It appears that the Brotherhood has funded him extremely well.
Finally, Calidus checks out the small one-man shuttle docked in the center of the room. He unlatches the cockpit and reaches inside to awaken the vessel’s machine spirit and auto-navigator. Activating the shuttle’s power grid, he unwittingly triggers a massive explosive trap, sending him spiraling across the warehouse. The interior of the shuttle and any corresponding evidence is instantly annihilated. Thankfully, the majority of the blast is contained by the hull and directed straight up.
Charred and battered, Calidus looks up and sees just how close the warband has come to oblivion. Teetering over the shuttle’s charred structure, the nearby promethium pump is badly damaged and structurally compromised. Had the explosion been a little stronger, the group would have been completely and utterly obliterated.
Once again, Felpox medicaes his comrades.
Having had enough of the Heretek’s subterfuge, the acolytes decide to leave the remaining equipment to be seized by the inbound Inquisitorial kill-teams that had been summoned after Krieger’s broadcast.
Now, the acolytes can only assume that the Heretek is still preparing the imminent breach with the Brotherhood in the mines. Hoping to prevent disaster, the acolytes decide to regroup with the Arbites.
Because Praxos’ transit networks remain at a standstill due to the Arbites’ lockdown, the acolytes seize a shuttle in order to rapidly reach Foundation from the understone.
The acolytes manage to relocate the hybrids’ exterior hatch previously found during their search for the prospector Desun. Entering the smuggling tunnel, they find it structurally sound although badly smoke damaged and without lighting. Emerging out into Foundation, they also find the hybrid’s hovel a burnt-out mess.
Foundation itself fares little better, as the slums’ many workers and citizens have entered a state of panic and unrest. Many roads and passageways are deserted while others are packed densely with those attempting to gain access to the massive Midstone lift. The acolytes make haste traversing the beleaguered districts, hoping not to get caught by the quickly forming mobs.
Crackles of broken Arbite vox traffic relay scatterings of information regarding overwhelming numbers and punishing fire – whether regarding citizen riots or the hybrids emerging from the mines, the acolytes cannot tell.
Quickly bypassing the few crowds and riots erupting throughout the hab districts, the acolytes eventually reach the refineries and storage yards servicing the mines. With a careful approach, the stealthy warband gains a good look at their target destination.
Near the threshold of the mine’s large entryway, the Arbites’ Repressor sits smoking among a crowd of bodies. Splayed out in front of the vehicle’s main storm bolter armament, dozens of Brotherhood members and hybrids lay dead, armed with a variety of weapons – autoguns, shotguns, mining picks, rock axes, clubs, and even vestigial talons and claws.
Arkady’s servo skull pings endlessly, continuously registering the blasphemous xenos abominations piled up along the dirt roads descending down through the mine’s gaping maw.
Although damaged, the Repressor thrums idly.
The acolytes approach the vehicle, cautiously crossing the open staging grounds. It’s clear that that the Arbites have been through a hell of a fight. Hundreds of spend bolt shells and shotgun cartridges litter the ground, crunching underfoot.
With a grinding pop, the Repressor’s top hatch flips open and the Chief Arbitrator climbs out. Although bloody and battered, the Chief Arbitrator is clearly relieved that reinforcements have arrived. He explains that after being posted at the entrance, they were quickly swarmed by waves of Brotherhood members and hybrids. Although at first the enemy was merely probing the Arbites’ strength, they soon began to approach in force, and well armed.
Regretfully, the acolytes inform him that they need to be head deeper into the mines – into the very heart of the enemy’s forces.
Calidus and Caradoc help the Arbites effect some quick repairs before the group begins its slow journey downward.
Shortly after entering the main tunnel, lighting becomes sporadic and the tunnel begins to split off in a myriad of directions. The acolytes maintain their course, following the main shaft down deeper into the labyrinthine nightmare world.
The interior of the cramped Repressor is lit dimly by red emergency lighting and the occasional chemtorch flickering past the vehicle’s small firing slits. Soon, the tunnel narrows slightly and becomes absolutely pitch black, illuminated only by the transport’s meager forward-facing headlamps.
After a few anxious minutes, the Chief Arbritator calls halt, squinting out of his vis-port. Calidus squeezes up into the driver’s compartment and to get a good look out into the darkness. Far ahead in the darkness, a sea of flickering orbs reflect the vehicle’s weak lighting.
Looking up to the cupola gunner, the Arbite commander calls to illuminate the rooftop spotlight and bathes the length of the tunnel in piercing yellow light.
The flickering dots become a wave of bodies, each pressing forward and scampering around each other in their mad rush to the Repressor. The mass is crudely dressed in a mess of workers garbs, Brotherhood robes, and natural chitinous plating.
The Repressor driver slams the vehicle into reverse, tossing around his passengers. The turret gunner unleashes devastating volleys from his storm bolter. Within the vehicle, the chattering weapon is a deafening roar, drowning out the hybrids’ screams.
The acolytes and Arbites brace for impact, knowing that their damaged transport has no hope to outrun the massive crowd.
The vehicle is jostled as the first bodies slam against the hull. Snarling faces press up against the side firing ports and claws slash and fight to gain purchase at those trapped inside.
The Repressor rocks back and forth as the tracks jam with the overwhelming volume of pulped flesh and bone.