Valdane's Chronicles

Shadows Over Praxos - Part 9
Explosive discoveries. The meat grinder.

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.

They contact Krieger and Murco who, after some time, reveal that they have a solid lead.

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.

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 8
Requisition. The Brotherhood. Krieger's broadcast.

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.

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 7
A heretic's end.

The panicking crowds eventually thin out as the acolytes reach the warehouse district.

In the streets lay numerous civilian bodies littered with bullets. In the middle of one intersection, a wounded Arbite, bleeding heavily, attempts to drag himself to cover. A blinding volley of automatic fire ripples down the avenue, punching into the injured trooper. His movements cease.

On the opposite side of the intersection, the acolytes see Krieger, Murco, and a handful of other Arbites hunkering behind a building’s corner.

Dressed in an ornate, molded red carapace, Krieger immediately motions for the acolytes to remain in cover. He commandeers the Arbite commander’s vox-hailer servo skull and orders it out into the open.

With silent obedience, the small skull glides forward on ancient grav suspensors.

“Dalsius Brenner,” Krieger bellows through the vox’s rattling grille, “by order of His Immortal Majesty’s Holy Inquisition, you are thrice convicted of heresy – by your deeds, by your beliefs, and by your associations. Your sentence is death.”

After a brief pause, chattering autogun fire rips the servo skull apart. Murco smiles and returns fire.

Ishamael reaches out into the dead Arbite’s fleeting mind in order to get a better picture of the foe they face. The psyker rifles through the last few moments of the man’s life and learns that further down the street, in a warehouse on the right side, four well-armed men protect a cloaked foe – most likely Brenner.

The party decides to split, hoping to approach the target building from multiple sides.

Under covering fire, two of the Arbites on the far side swiftly cross the deadly kill-zone. With reinforcements, the acolytes set out.

Using Taeric’s grapnel, Calidus gains purchase on the warehouse roofs, providing him with a decent unseen approach. Below, the other acolytes and their two Arbites circle around the rear. Krieger, Murco, and the other Arbites provide distracting, suppressing fire from the front.

Eventually reaching the unguarded rear entryway, the acolytes prepare for entry.

High above, Calidus lets off some diversionary shots at one of the figures firing from the target building’s third-story vantage points.

At the rear, the two Arbites breach the locked door. Immediately, a storm of lead pours out into the alley, striking the two troopers. One manages to dive for cover while the other is gravely wounded.

Calidus continues to exchange fire with his target, sliding back and forth between the pipes and cooling towers providing him meager cover. The deadly exchange carries on back and forth as each shooter curses the tangles of cable, messes of plasteel, and machinery obscuring their respective foe.

Back below, Taeric leaps forward into the doorway, shielding the wounded Arbite. Felpox manages to drag the man to safety as numerous armour-piercing rounds rip through Taeric’s shield and punch into his armoured body. Ishamael too joins the fight, stepping behind his comrade’s living-cover and firing powerful wych-fire volleys at his foes.

Inside the darkened warehouse, two gunmen stand up on elevated walkways, firing out from the building’s upper floor windows. At ground level, another fires out from the building’s large sliding front entryway. The last gunman, crouched behind a series of crates, continues hammering the acolytes at the rear door with suppressing fire.

Having withstood enough punishment, Taeric draws his keen blade and charges into the fray. The closest target meets his challenge, drawing a chainsword and beginning a deadly, swirling melee of whirring teeth and blades. The red-haired man is a skilled fighter – the two exchange blows, blocking and ducking out of the path of the other, while counter attacking in turn. Eventually, Taeric strikes true.

Behind him, Ishamael and Felpox enter the room, each lending their fire – physical and psychic to the fray.

Pulling from hidden wells around him, Ishamael’s mental attacks strike one of the men on the upper walkways, catching him alight. Pausing briefly, the gunman manages to put himself out.

Felpox’s stub gun chugs away, connecting with the gunman at the front door.

The unwounded Arbite joins in as well, firing his shotgun at the walkways overhead, attempting to wound or kill the gunmen above. A few of his rounds connect, knocking Calidus’ target to his knees.

Calidus seizes the opportunity – using his grapnel to leap across the gap separating him from the target building. Carefully approaching the his now wounded foe, Calidus pushes the barrel of his shotgun through the window. With a point-blank shot, he blows apart one of his target’s legs. The man spins around, raking the wall with his autogun. The rounds tear through the metal wall as Calidus leaps wide. Jumping back to his feat, the acolyte pumps out another volley of deadly buckshot, obliterating the gunman.

Hidden among the shadows inside the warehouse, the thunderous report of a bolt pistol announces the presence of the fifth enemy fighter. The rounds slam into the exposed Arbite and the shells’ micro-detonations pulverize his shoulder – turning the man into chunks of unrecognizable meat.

Knowing that they must act fast, Felpox drops his pistol and pulls out his spear, charging the fighter engaged with Taeric. Felpox’s fine spear-point cleaves apart the foe, ripping muscle and sinew away, exposing the man’s ribcage. Using the distraction, Taeric slams his blade through the target’s hip and leg, spilling a river of gore across the dusty warehouse floor.

Believing the fifth man to be Brenner, Taeric charges after him into the darkness.

Meanwhile, Ishamael continue his psychic assault on the remaining gunman on the walkways above. Again, the target is lucky, ducking and dodging around many of the heat-waves arcing and rippling through the air towards him. Eventually, Ishamael’s bolts catch him. The man begins cooking alive, his flesh crackling and popping under the vicious balefire.

From beside the psyker, Felpox charges the front door gunman. Catching the foe unaware, Felpox knocks him to the ground. Panicking, the man tries to push aside Felpox’s wild blows. Felpox thrusts his blade through the man’s outstretched arm, shearing his hand from his wrist. The spear continues its plunge into the man’s shoulder, pinning him to the ground.

Now knowing that his target is indeed Brenner, Taeric continuously attempts to knock the man down. Brenner dodges many of Taeric’s swings and attempts to fire back with his ornate bolt pistol. Taeric parries the shots and eventually connects a solid blow to the heretic’s face, stunning him and knocking him to the ground.

Additionally, without any more suppressing fire erupting from the front of the building, Krieger, Murco, and the other Arbites are able to finally make their approach. Krieger strides forward toward Brenner while Murco finishes off Felpox’s pinned target. The point-blank shotgun blast obliterates the wounded fighter, spraying both acolytes with a shower of chunky gore.

Taeric calls for the Arbites’ manacles. He shackles and subdues Brenner completely.

The acolytes catch their breaths and regain their composure.

Three of the enemy gunmen and one of the Arbites lay dead.

Surprisingly, although gravely burned, one fighter remains alive. Armed and armored well, the acolytes are not sure what to make of him. Like his dead comrades, the man – once red-haired – is covered in numerous tattoos and markings.

Arkady recognizes their meaning.

The men are Vasarian Janissaries – an entire culture made of mercenaries septs. Although working for the heretic Brenner, the Vasarians are completely apolitical. They serve as nothing more but hired human weapons – concepts of life and death or right and wrong have little meaning to them. After a contract has been served, they are returned to their world like a gun put back into a case. Arkady explains that is unlikely the men knew or could even understand what Brenner had done.

Through broken conversation with the injured man, Ishamael learns that the group was hired by Brenner to escort and defend him during his journey to a neighbouring world. The mercenaries were not briefed regarding their ultimate destination, and were, like always, paid in advance. The man is filled with remorse for having failed in his oath – a grave dishonor for him and his people.

Ishamael offers the man the Emperor’s Mercy. The fighter, although grateful, explains that a true Vasarian death is to die in combat with a weapon in hand.

Taeric accepts the challenge.

The combat is brief – the badly burned and wounded Vasarian standing no real chance. The Vasarian thanks Taeric even as the acolyte’s blade slides deep into the mercenary’s chest, ending his life.

Now, Krieger and the acolytes turn their attention to Brenner, whimpering and sputtering in the corner.

Felpox removes his medicae kit and begins arranging his blades. Krieger pulls a crate forward as a makeshift chair. Then, he takes a single incendiary shell from Murco and unscrews the end. The Arbite commander forces out Brenner’s hands and Krieger pours out the contents onto the adept’s bare skin.

Reacting with the moisture in his flesh, the powder begins crackling and eating its way through Brenner’s hand meat. His flesh blisters and bursts as the reactive substance start tunneling through muscle and bone. Tendons snap and the warehouse begins to fill with a sickening smoke.

Brenner’s screams pierce the still air.

After a few minutes, the reaction slows. Kriger seizes a second shell from Murco and the real interrogation begins.

Primarily, the acolytes discover that those kidnapped aboard Praxos have been moved off-station to somewhere in the Stygies Cluster Sub-Sector. Although Brenner is unsure of specifics, he knows that the genestealers’ taint has spread much further than Praxos.

Furthermore, Brenner reveals that the Brotherhood is obviously not the fraternal labour union that they have made themselves out to be. Brenner knows that they’re monsters – both figuratively as well as literally and that their headquarters is not simply a soup kitchen. Furthermore, all of the Brotherhood’s recent contract acquisitions have lead Brenner to believe that something is transpiring in the mines. To date, he has been too afraid to see for himself.

Lastly, the acolytes learn that Brenner knows the Heretek that they have seen in the servitor vid-capture from Tertia-12. The creature’s name is Somnius Halbrel. As far as Brenner is aware, Halbrel was brought in months ago to help the Brotherhood with their work. Although Halbrel spends the majority of his time in Foundation, Brenner believes that he has some sort of warehouse somewhere among the docks.

Through the intense and lengthy questioning, the acolytes come to understand that Brenner is but a mere pawn in a much larger picture.

Eventually, having unraveled the adept’s secrets, Krieger and the others realize that Brenner has exhausted his usefulness. Ishamael sets out to render the Emperor’s Justice.

Brenner, terrified, whimpers and drools in the corner, cradling his mangled hands.

Krieger and the Arbites commander back away.

Rolling up his sleeves and undoing his armoured jacket, Ishamael braces himself. The air heats and ripples around his hands as the essence of an unseen world-that-should-not-be is pulled into reality.

The psyker’s eyes flare as he extends his arms, surrounding Brenner with a fiery, ethereal embrace. The inferno overwhelms the prisoner and once again his screams resonate throughout the edifice. Ishamael steps back, taking a breath and letting the heretic burn.

Eventually, the screams subside.

Murco strides forward, lighting an Iho stick off of the now immobile husk. He nudges Ishamael and chuckles.

For a while, Brenner’s charred form continues to sputter and crackle like a wet log. The darkened warehouse walls flicker with the light cast by the dancing corpse fire. Wretched smoke rises to the rafters.

When all is done, only ash and whispers remain.

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 6
K. Durano and the two faces of Dalsius Brenner.

Besides the body on the floor, Calidus sees no further signs of struggle – the attack was brutally rapid. Although Calidus is unable to discern exactly what weapon caused the fatal wound, the victim’s congealed blood informs him that the attack took place some time ago.

Returning to Krieger’s, the acolytes pass another restless night.

Without answers, the acolytes decide that Krieger should use his access to High Haven to find Brenner in order to set up a meeting – hopefully he can provide some kind of additional insight or clues into the events aboard Praxos.

In the meantime, the acolytes return to the vox relay station in Foundation. Finding no new communiqués, they copy all the data they can. Scanning through the merchant’s records and sent messages, Caradoc finds the names of two other missing prospectors.

Ishamael splits from the group, looking into these new leads. Finding their habs, the story is familiar – low level prospectors had obtained survey contracts for the Understone. Like Desun, they have vanished without a trace.

The group returns to the docks, searching out the local Adeptus Administratum Officio. The small edifice is poorly lit. The meager candlelight and ancient glow-globes barely light the dust hanging in the air. Two ancient scribes and a handful of servitors wander the stacks of tomes and spools of parchment, moving records back and forth, correlating data, and logging mountains of new entries.

The acolytes manage to get their help, beginning a search for any records of K. Durano and Severus Onan – the first disappearance from Tertia-12.

Severus Onan yields no information, as no such records exists.

Ishamael reaches into the scribe’s aged mind, attempting to discern whether or not he is withholding the truth. After so many exhausting days and sleepless nights of travel and investigation, the unfocused Ishamael loses his grip on reality. For only a moment, the barrier between reality and the Warp weakens. The stacks of records and books shake violently as realspace begins to peel slowly away. Many inside the officio are knocked off their feet. Ishamael regains focus.

Knowing now that the scribes are telling the truth, the acolytes assume that Severus Onan must be one of a few forged identities used to spread the genestealer taint.

Although unsettled by the bizarre station-quake, the scribes continue their work, pulling all records for K. Durano. Thankfully, they find only one – a woman, now thirty-seven years of age, born in Foundation. The acolytes find her last known address of habitation as well as the report of her disappearance three weeks ago.

Deep in Foundation, the acolytes manage to locate Durano’s address. The hab is occupied – a faint flickering glow spills from the dirty viewports and out into the desolate street. The acolytes knock on the door, meeting Durano’s brother Cheg. He welcomes the acolytes inside, hoping that they may be able to help him determine his sister’s whereabouts.

Cheg explains that Killian was a welder down in the mines. After being laid off, she had joined the Brotherhood of Praxos. Although she had reservations – noting their odd behavior – she believed that they were her only way of making a living or getting a hot meal. Shortly after, she went missing, having simply failed to come home after one work cycle.

With the night cycle settling in around Foundation, the acolytes return to their borrowed homestead.

During the night, Krieger returns, explaining that Brenner was absent from his post today. Although Krieger searched for him, he had no luck in locating the missing adept. Inquiring with Brenner’s superiors, Krieger learned that Brenner’s behavior over the last few days had been erratic.

Now, with Brenner’s disappearance, the acolytes worry that he too has been kidnapped. They believe that perhaps, like Tellic, Brenner may have come too close to the corruption within the Combine and the truth behind the Praxos’ hidden heresies.

With a convincing story, the acolytes gain access to the private High Haven lifts and journey up to the top of Praxos. As they exit the lift, it’s immediately obvious just how remarkably wealthy High Haven is.

Great ceilings arch hundreds of metres overhead with large viewports looking out into the void beyond. The rest of High Haven’s ceiling is covered with sophisticated photo panels, displaying beautiful renderings of a serene sky. Massive glow globes high above create the illusion of numerous small suns beaming down onto the various esplanades and streets sprawling out from the lift exit.

Using Krieger’s intel, the acolytes manage to locate Brenner’s residence – the small villa appears to be untouched. The acolytes make their way down a rear alleyway and silently force their way inside. Scanning the finely furnished chambers, the acolytes notice that many garments and pieces of luggage are missing.

Now suspicious and confused, Caradoc attempts to access Brenner’s holo-table and cogitator. Communing with the encrypted machine spirits contained within, Caradoc gains access to all of the adept’s files. Among them, Caradoc finds copies of personnel logs, including Tellic and other members of the Combine’s anti-corruption bureau. Additionally, Brenner has been monitoring Combine enforcement vox channels and other encrypted communications sent from the terminal match those intercepted at the vox relay.

Lastly, scanning Brenner’s credit accounts, the acolytes discover that he has withdrawn large amounts of funds to purchase currencies for many of Port Aquila’s neighboring worlds.

Not only is Brenner the Combine mole, but he’s now also on the run.

Using the terminal’s built in vox, the acolytes warn Krieger that Brenner is attempting to escape Praxos Station – if he hasn’t already. Krieger and Murco scramble to intercept him at the docks.

Before departing, the acolytes syphon Brenner’s remaining funds, laundering the credit through Arkady’s various familial holdings. They also take numerous works of art and tapestries to use later in battering efforts.

Heading back down to the docks, the acolytes set out to find the local Adeptus Arbites precinct. The armoured edifice towers over the surrounding warehouses and landing grounds. Covered in arrays and spotlights, it looms over those coming and going from Praxos’ ports. Inside, the precinct is a whirlwind of activity as numerous adepts scramble to process incoming logs and data.

The Chief Judge welcomes the acolytes and explains that Krieger and Murco have already enlisted his aid. The half-dozen Arbitrators under his command have already been deployed to the docks with the two senior acolytes – hoping that they still have a chance to catch Brenner.

The acolytes give over their electronic and physical evidence in hopes that it may speed the Arbites’ efforts. With curious glances, the Chief Judge’s senior staff take possession of the remnants of the slain hybrids’ bodies.

The acolytes radio Krieger, hoping to get an update. Krieger tells them to get down to the docks to aid in the search and to strengthen their cordon.

The acolytes get as close as possible to the piers, but the thick crowds force them to dismount their vehicles and proceed on foot. Fully armed, they begin making their way through the clutter of pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

Suddenly, numerous gunshots ring out from deep within the district. Mass panic errupts. Straining against the crushing wave of bodies attempting to flee, the acolytes push deeper into the crowd.

The acolytes’ microbeads crackle to life with the sound of Krieger’s labored breathing.

“I think we’ve got him cornered.”

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 5
Covering tracks. Empty ambushes. The relay.

The acolytes quickly make a plan to cover their tracks. At first, they debate the possibility of damaging the exterior hatch, creating an explosive decompression and sending evidence of the hybrids into the void. Although potentially effective, the acolytes determine that it would risk damaging a large part of Foundation – drawing unwanted attention to their activities.

Instead, they choose to cleanse the area with flames, hoping to make their fight look like an underworld struggle gone wrong.

Before setting fire to the building, the acolytes harvest the most incriminating pieces from the hybrids’ bodies. If needed, they now have physical evidence of the horrors transpiring deep within Praxos.

Furthermore, Calidus retrieves a transponder from their rented cutter and stashes himself in an abandoned hab across the abandoned street. This way, the acolytes will be able to find their way back from within Praxos and Calidus can keep a vigilant eye in case more of the xenos abominations return to their slaughtered kin.

Once ready, Caradoc shoots open the building’s lock from the outside and Ishamael starts the inferno. Quickly retreating down the rocky tunnel, the acolytes don their void suits and make their way back to their vessel.

After a short voyage, they return to the dock district. Still believing their hab to be compromised, the acolytes mount up aboard their vehicles and head to Krieger’s domicile. This evening, however, Krieger is joined by Murco – an aged Valhallan acolyte that the party had encountered previously aboard the Reliant Dawn.

The acolytes brief the two senior agents on what they have discovered, presenting the evidence of xenos-human hybrids and of an organized human-trafficking operation.

During these conversations, the acolytes realize that out of all of those having disappeared, the Combine adept Seran Tellic is an outlier. They ask Krieger to investigate the nature of Tellic’s work in High Haven, hoping that it will lend some insight into her kidnapping. Furthermore, the acolytes turn over Seran Tellic’s access cognomen for the High Haven lifts – understanding that Krieger has a resource that can adapt the gene-coded device to one of their own signatures.

The acolytes spend the night on Krieger’s floor. Murco keeps an uneasy watch over the door.

During the evening, Caradoc convenes with a stubborn machine spirit, decrypting part of the dataslate recovered from the now-deceased owner of the Praxos-Urquain Geological Services. He finds that the coded one-way messages are being sent to a small relay station in Foundation.

Hoping to draw out other hybrids or perhaps even a more sinister foe, Arkady crafts a fake message, posing as the merchant and asking for an emergency meeting the next night.

To help in the success of their planned ambush, the acolytes also decide to recruit an impoverished worker – using him to tip off Praxos’ Combine enforcers that a major illegal weapons deal will be occurring at the same time and place as that just sent by Arkady.

After a brief morning meal, Arkady heads out and beings spreading a network of misinformation and lies throughout Foundation – obfuscating any details regarding the previous evening’s firefight and tenement fire.

The rest of the party heads to markets to refresh their supplies – purchasing a bulk order of microbeads – greatly increasing the group’s short range communication capabilities.

Before the evening cycle returns, the acolytes recover Calidus and brief him of their plan. Hoping that the hybrids have taken the fake meeting as bait, they will use the ensuing chaos of the Combine enforcers’ raid to capture one of their enemies for interrogation. With Murco, they prepare the meeting place – an abandoned building – and rig it with numerous explosive charges in case the plan goes south.

The acolytes wait in hiding until the prescribed time. Although any hybrids fail to show up, a large patrol of Combine enforcers ends up storming the building. Reading their lips, Calidus determines that the enforcers have found nothing and have determined that the situation is a false alarm.

The party is dismayed by the failure of their plan, wondering if their forged message was convincing enough.

Uncertain about their next steps, the acolytes decide to split up.

Arkady and Calidus head to the relay station in Foundation to determine the ultimate destination or recipient of their dataslate’s previously sent messages. Taeric, Ishamael, and Caradoc head back to House Terryn to inform them of the results of their investigation into the missing prospector Desun. Felpox returns to Krieger’s to study the hybrid’s harvested corrosive bile and glands.

Tracing the coordinates that Caradoc provided, Arkady and Calidus eventually locate the small vox relay. Inside the cramped and cluttered officio, they attempt to convince the clerk to give them access to the relay’s encrypted repositories. With the right amount of currency smoothing over his conscience, the clerk is ultimately assuaged, providing the two acolytes with the information they desire.

Navigating through numerous records, Arkady sees that the merchant’s message are deleted a few days after each one has been marked as read by the intended recipient. Arkady locates the acolytes’ own false message, seeing that it was accepted, processed, and received.

Among the messages in the relay repository are a few with a high-level Combine cypher. Breaking the code, Arkady discovers that a source inside High Haven provided the recipients with an advanced warning of the Combine raid. Additionally, the source informs the recipients that an Imperial investigation may be responsible for the safe house fire in Foundation.

Yet again, the conspiracy grows.

Meanwhile, the acolytes at House Terryn inform the guild officers that although Desun has fled, they have recovered most of the funds he had been given. House Terryn’s representative is grateful, promising that should it ever be required, he is more than happy to return the favour.

Meeting up, the acolytes again return to Krieger’s for a briefing. Informing him of a Combine connection, Krieger is remarkably unsurprised. He informs the group of his own findings – Tellic was working in an anti-corruption department of the Combine. The acolytes realize that it is likely that Tellic got too close to whatever or whoever has been involved.

Needing time to collect their thoughts and plan a new course of action, Calidus departs, deciding to check on their hab and to determine what has happened to the address that they passed on to the now-deceased merchant. Making the short journey on his veloxic cycle, Calidus checks the perimeter of the building for any suspicious activity. Reasonably confident that he isn’t being surveilled, Calidus stalks his way inside and up the few flights of stairs to their hab level.

Predictably, he finds that the address the acolytes provided has been broken into. Calidus quietly and carefully enters the abode, finding a single body in the middle of the room – torn open by some kind of razor sharp weapon.

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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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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 3
Finding the prospector. Lighting the fires of truth.

Somewhat dismayed by the lack of any solid evidence, the acolytes depart Barrow’s hab. With the start of Praxos’ coming night-cycle beginning to take hold of Foundation, they navigate their way back to the massive lift and return to Midstone.

They search out Krieger’s domicile, looking to gain more information about the “Brotherhood” and their supposed ties into Foundation’s labour movements. Reaching the senior agent’s hab, they find the door locked and without answer. Although they think of breaking into the hab, the acolytes decide against it – knowing that Krieger’s slightly paranoid nature and fondness for gadgets could well translate into the presence of unseen booby-traps.

Instead, the acolytes return to the market district to leave Krieger a dead-dropped message – a request to meet the next morning.

The acolytes pass an uncomfortably cold, dark night in their meager accommodations.

With the returning illumination of the station’s fluorescents and the restarting of the station’s heaters and recirculators marking a new dawn, the acolytes return to the market yet again. Purchasing new bedding and ration packs, the acolytes load up their autocarriage and return back to Krieger’s.

The Interrogator bids them welcome and the two groups brief each other on their progress. Krieger has continued to dig into the Combine’s operations without much luck. Mostly, he has kept an eye on Brenner, whose behavior has regularized into a set working routine in High Haven.

In lieu of a long explanation of the last few day’s events and investigations, Ishamael quickly relays the details and his visions through a telepathic exchange. Krieger agrees with the acolytes’ assessments that there is likely Genestealer involvement in Barrow’s gruesome murder.

Furthermore, Krieger affirms that “the Brotherhood” is The Brotherhood of Praxos, a recently-formed fraternal organization that helps provide basic sustenance as well as helping resolve labor disputes on behalf of the working classes. The Brotherhood has started making inroads into Foundation’s various refineries and mines and has begun taking over a few minor labour contracts.

The acolytes set a meeting time with Krieger for the next night and decide to set out and gather information on their last outstanding victim – the low-level prospector Callen Desun.

To find his trail, they search out a merchant that may have ties to House Terryn, the prospector guild that reported Desun missing. Calidus manages to locate a dealer of tapestries, pottery, and fineries that seems to be of a slightly higher standing than the other merchants in the district.

Calidus and Ishamael claim to be visiting merchants representing House Arkady who are seeking to purchase a suitable gift for House Terryn and to set up delivery of the aforementioned purchase.

Among the available goods, Ishamael notices a bizarre, asymmetrical pot. The merchant explains that the piece is Glavian, from the Scarus sector – a fine example of their exquisite craftsmanship that is a few hundred years old.

Calidus attempts to make the purchase on credit, but as House Arkady is a new arrival in the Askellon Sector, he is forced to use hard currency and a trade of the exquisite Combine chrono recovered from Seran Tellic’s residence.

As the rotund merchant finalizes the agreement on his dataslate, Calidus glances over to see House Terryn’s coordinates brought up on screen. Calidus and Ishamael inform the merchant that they have changed their minds, deciding to take the pottery themselves.

The acolytes find House Terryn located in Midstone, on the cusp of Magnutia Gardens, Midstone’s artificial biome. This surrounding area is taken by guilds and merchant houses too wealthy to brush shoulders with unwashed masses, but not wealthy enough to warrant a permanent stead in High Haven. Gilded double doors and double wide blast windows decorate a mostly stone-grey façade. A large crest of an equine creature and a carrion bird looms over the entryway.

Inside, unlike most guild offices, House Terryn is rather utilitarian. Simple workstations and large cogitators are positioned about the room. A mess of papers, geological samples, and dataslates are stacked high atop most. A few figures in simple uniforms turn their heads as the acolytes walk in. One approaches, a mid-aged man with scruffy, bronze-coloured hair that introduces himself as Quinten Marus, Chief of Terryn Prospecting for the Southern Field.

Having formed a suitable cover story, the acolytes inform Marus that they are sanctioned bounty hunters that have been hired to locate Desun. They ask for any details regarding his whereabouts.

Marus explains that Desun’s name is familiar to him, and that Terryn is looking for the prospector as well. He explains that Desun had acquired a down payment to do a geological survey and assessment of some rock formation on the underside of Praxos – and area know as the Understone.

Although it is normally rare that prospectors are willing to work on the underside of an asteroid – as superstitions state that any that try will fall off into the void – Desun was one of the few that was willing and Terryn had successfully worked with him in the past. Now, it seems like he has pocketed his down payment and ran.

Marus informs the acolytes that House Terryn had even sent a collections team to Desun’ residence without any luck. Finally, Marus offers a finder’s fee if the acolytes can recover Terryn’s lost funds. The acolytes collect the prospector’s address and depart.

Desun’s hab block is located in one of Midstone’s poorer districts, close to the Foundation Lift. It is a squat, grey building among a sea of squat grey buildings. At the top of a few flights of stairs, they find his chambers, locked.

Calidus heads further up and scopes out the roof, seeking a method to possibly enter Desun’ hab from an exterior window if the situation so requires. Caradoc instead focuses on the door’s sturdy locks, eventually opening the entryway after a few attempts. Unlike Tellic’s hab, Desun’s appears to be untouched, with nothing appearing amiss or out of the ordinary.

Among the prospector’s papers, the acolytes find an invoice for the hiring of a small surveyor’s cutter from the Praxos-Urquain Geological Services. It appears that Desun had made a payment for half of the required amount – with the second half due upon completion of the trip.

As another false morning arrives, the acolytes track down Praxos-Urquain among the many terminals and warehouses of the dock district. The front half of the diminutive officio housing the firm is an open stall, allowing customers and new clients to quickly interface with the rotund figure manning the location.

The acolytes inquire about Desun’s business and the owner claims that the prospector had paid for Praxos-Urquian’s services, scheduled the flight, logged the flight plan, but never showed up.

As such, the acolytes convince the purveyor to return the credits to House Terryn and to allow them to take over Desun’s flight plan. They register their details and secure their flight – providing their address as that of the hab next to their own.

As they finalize the paperwork, the merchant explains that a shuttle won’t be ready until the next day.

Ishamael and the others sense some unease in the man’s words. Suspicious of a lie, the acolytes step aside to discuss the matter. Deciding that the merchant may be playing a role in Praxos’ disappearances, Ishamael forces his way into the man’s panicked mind, showing him the horrible damage that the psyker can inflict.

As Ishamael telepathically threatens a horrific fate, Calidus quickly and quietly slips inside the officio’s back rooms. Calidus makes his way to the front of the stall, grabbing the man and pulling him into the back storage area to question him.

The frightened merchant breaks down and explains that some odd looking fellows offered him payments if he provided information regarding prospectors that were planning on performing any surveys of the Understone.

The merchant claims that he has only provided this information a few times, and this is the first where the prospector never showed up for his scheduled flight.

Furthermore, the merchant explains that he sends these messages to a secure one-way channel. He includes flight details, information about the prospectors, their addresses, and everything else available – as he has now done with the acolytes’ information mere moments ago. Although he never gets answers back, the odd men later show up to collect more information and deliver payment.

With the required information in hand, the acolytes force the purveyor to ensure that their flight is booked with sufficient equipment aboard.

Deciding that the nervous merchant could potentially compromise their investigation, the acolytes gag and bind him to a chair with strips of torn cloth. The acolytes then exit out the back of the room as Ishamael taps into the warp and sets fire to the man.

The merchant’s muffled screams and the crackling of Ishamael’s wych-fyre are easily overwhelmed by the numerous and varied sounds of Praxos’ busy piers and void docks.

The acolytes slip deep into the dense crowds as the psychic fire begins to spread throughout Praxos-Urquain’s storage rooms and document archives. The acolytes close in on their rented shuttle as the first wisps of smoke begin to escape from the officio’s sealed doors.

As the acolytes greet their pilot and mount up aboard the cutter, panic begins to grip parts of the crowds. Emergency crews begin filing through the crowds, making their way to the rapidly-engulfed building.

The acolytes’ pilot – unaware of the tragedy that has just befallen his employer – maneuvers the craft from the landing pads and out of Praxos’ large void gates.

As the fires flicker behind their speeding craft, the acolytes inspect their new gear and make ready for the darkness of the Understone.

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 2
Transportation and early inquiries.

After a few days of canvasing the crowds, the acolytes set out, trying to get a true lie of the land and acquire some much needed transportation.

From their cramped and simple dwellings, the party heads deeper into Midstone – to Praxos’ main market district. Like Midstone’s streets, the markets are full of traffic, both vehicular, as well as pedestrian. Most merchants occupy stalls littered across a large stone square as well as under the awnings and overhangs of the adjacent buildings. Other peddlers make their way among the crowds, carrying or towing their collections of trinkets, goods, or refreshments. The smell of sweat and smoke drifts over the press of bodies.

Arkady locates a simple outfitter, acquiring a set of armour for his compatriots.

Meanwhile, Calidus and Felpox attempt to locate some chems in order to supplement the witch-doctor’s current dwindling supply. Finding only a surly narco-dealer, they come up empty-handed.

Caradoc also makes his way among the stalls, attempting to locate some cranial armour to further reinforce the sturdy feudal warrior, Taeric. Familiar with the needed specifications of the augmentation, Caradoc finds a suitable piece and finalizes the transaction.

After a semi-successful day at the market, the group returns to their hab to discuss their next steps.

Felpox goes about setting up a small operating area and spends the next few days bolting the armour to Taeric’s skull. Packing and bandaging the wounds with mashed herbs and plant coverings, he keeps the warrior in a drugged daze, keeping watch for vengeful spirits and maintaining a vigil over Taeric’s condition and life signs.

Calidus, Caradoc, and Arkady head back to the market, finding a scrap dealer at the edge of the district. Arkady and Calidus bargain for a wrecked Hectin autocarriage, acquiring it as well as a Veloxic cycle. They limp the damaged carriage back to their hab, where Caradoc and Calidus spend the next few days repairing it back to working order. Calidus learns much from the talented servant of the Omnissiah, as they gut the vehicle and revamp the body work – turning the once enclosed civilian craft into a rugged open-topped high-capacity transport.

Over this week full of healing and repairs, Ishamael wanders Praxos’ crowds, probing the dock district and Midstone for rumours or other oddities. He discovers that not only are there constant rumours of disappearances in Praxos’ slums deep below in Foundation, but now there’s word that people are starting to go missing from Midstone itself.

After recovery, Taeric rejoins the rest of the party. Mounting their new vehicles, they return to the market once more, finally attempting to find Varl Krieger at one of his scheduled dead drops. Among the crowds, Calidus notices a solitary wandering figure vaguely matching Krieger’s description. Ishamael reaches out to the man’s mind, pushing a telepathic message that they have arrived by order of Valdane. Krieger departs down an alleyway, subtly motioning for the group to follow.

Rounding the corner, they find Krieger gripping what appears to be a weapon in his long storm cloak. He speaks a nonsensical phrase about some kind of “thirteenth sunrise.” Without hesitation, Caradoc replies an equally nonsensical sentence regarding the depth of the “ninth night”. As the acolytes realize that some kind of psycho conditioning has been hidden deep inside their minds during their indoctrinations aboard the Reliant Dawn, Krieger ushers them off the streets.

Krieger takes the party to a nondescript hab block some distance off of the main thoroughfares. Entering the hab, he takes a long look around before bringing the acolytes inside. Then, he sets security latches on the door and thumbs a small device sitting at the bottom of the frame. Walking over to the table, he reaches underneath and toggles yet another switch. Finally, he seems to relax.

From his clothing, he removes and stores his hidden weapons and gear and then pours a round of cold recaf. The acolytes drink slowly as they recount the details of the recent events of Tertia-12.

Krieger then explains the situation on Praxos, offering that there have been a number of disappearances over the last few weeks. Some of the victims have turned up, however, in pieces. Krieger has confirmed identities of a few from marks and names on their shredded up garments.

From what he can tell, there has been little to no pattern – the disappearances have been from both the slums in Foundation as well as a few from Midstone, mostly regular citizens with no personality issues, signs of addiction, or unsavory connections.

Krieger explains that due to his continued investigation of the Combine, he has yet had the chance to fully delve into the disappearances. Now that the acolytes have arrived, he can turn over his meager findings for them to use. Krieger produces a dataslate from a locked storage chest and slides it across the table. Lighting up the room, it shows the names and images of three individuals that have recently vanished:

The closest, geographically speaking, is a woman, 28, Seran Tellic, a mid-level Combine Adept or clerk. She defaulted on her payments for her hab in Midstone. Although no one has seen her for a while now, it wasn’t reported until recently.

The next is a man, Saul Barrow, 53, a worker in Foundation. They found what was left of him near the refinery in which he worked – Seisman Smeltery.

The last on the list is another man, 32, Callen Desun. Krieger is not sure where he lived. Desun was a low-level prospector that often did contracts with House Terryn. Terryn registered him as missing with the local Arbites – it seems like he owed them some money that they’re keen on collecting.

Having set the acolytes onto the most recent trails, Krieger he explains that he will resume his inquest into the Trade Combine’s operations on Praxos to determine if anything is connected. The acolytes explain that they have made their own contact, Dalsius Brenner. Krieger promises to keep a close eye on him, especially with Brenner aware that the Inquisition in operating on Praxos.

Using an address from Krieger’s notes, the acolytes begin by proceeding to the residence of Seran Tellic. Unlike other, higher-ranking members of the Combine, Tellic lives in Midstone. There, the acolytes find her thick, squat building off of one of the lesser highways. Climbing up a few flights of stairs, they arrive at her door, sealed.

Calidus picks the sturdy lock, opens the door, and is immediately hit with the smell of alcohol and stale air. Inside, Tellic’s small living quarters are a mess, with furniture and items knocked over haphazardly. After a cursory glance, it appears that there was some kind of struggle. The mattress is stained with urine and a few drops of blood. A bottle of amasec lays half broken behind a chair.

Ishamael sequesters himself in Tellic’s quarters, peering into the warp, hoping to catch a glimpse of what transpired. Like his vision from a few days before, he sees two robed figures coming to take away a terrified woman. She fights back, shattering a bottle over one of their faces. Furthermore, her own nails tear out while she tries to keep herself from being taken.

Before leaving Tellic’s hab, Calidus locates a cog token used to access to the lifts to High Haven, mostly likely where Tellic worked.

Next, the acolytes investigate the most recent registered address for Saul Barrow. Although they have the coordinates from Krieger’s information and a general idea of their locations, finding either in Foundation’s twisting, ramshackle press of buildings and its maze of dirty streets presents itself to be a challenge.

Eventually, they arrive at Barrow’s hovel, a small, crooked door along a dirt passageway. His address is scrawled upon the hatch in simple rust-coloured paint. The door is closed, as is a small window covered by oxidized metal shutters.

Once inside, they find that Saul Barrow’s domicile is a simple place, minimally furnished. Cracks of florescent light poke in through the shutters, lighting the dust hanging in the air. His bed is a thin mattress on a plain metal frame. In one corner of the room is a small oil furnace. Cooking utensils sit atop. On the other side stands a simple writing desk with a well-worn leather chair.

Inside the small desk the acolytes find a variety of letters and correspondences. The first appears to be some kind of letter from a local foundry’s union – the organization’s letterhead looks official enough. The note is short, simple, and to the point, explaining that now that “The Brotherhood” owns the Seisman Smeltery contract, there is nothing the union can do to aid in Barrow’s labour disputes.

The second letter is signed by Barrow himself. Scrawled on simple parchment, it’s addressed to an unnamed member of the Trade Combine. In the letter, Barrow complains about “The Brotherhood’s” monopoly on labour contracts and pleads with the Combine to intervene. He claims that he will soon start raising the matter to higher authorities.

The last is another message written by Barrow and addressed to his sister. He complains that he is being pressed out of the lucrative shifts and having a hard time making ends meet. He notes that he has vocally expressed his concerns and issues about what he calls “The Brotherhood”, but that he feels like he is mostly being ignored.

Finding no concrete evidence of Barrow’s disappearance or any wrong-doings, Ishamael once again stares into the Sea of Souls. Through alien eyes, he stalks past the belching steam vents and smoke stacks of Foundation’s tangled ceilings. Below, a man in workers’ garments leaves a facility. Following the worker from high above, Ishamael prowls down twisted and cramped corridors. Feeling nothing but searing hate and hunger, he leaps, tearing into the screaming man before the vision fades out – bearing striking similarities to his previous auguries.

Calidus finds a set of Seisman Smeltery workers’ coveralls and the acolytes depart Barrow’s abandoned hab.

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Shadows Over Praxos - Part 1
Debriefings and rebriefings. Arriving in Midstone.

After a few hours voyage, the bloodied and shaken acolytes return to the Reliant Dawn, Brenner and Kaur included.

Immediately after landing, they’re set upon by a handful of Inquisitorial storm troopers as well as a large number of Mechanicus adepts, servitors, and tech priests – members of the Adeptus Biologis. It seems like word of the acolytes’ experience has already gotten back to the Dawn. Questions begin flying from the science and security representatives as the acolytes are shepherded down the Dawn’s corridors and away from their typical lodgings.

Separated from Brenner and Kaur, the acolytes are placed in biologis quarantine, undergoing a few weeks of debriefings, body scans, medicae checks, and psychological screenings.

Eventually, they’re released back into the general population to recuperate. They take time to tend to their gear and acquire a few more pieces of necessary equipment.

Arkady, unhappy with they amount of information they’ve received regarding this new threat, sets out to find the Dawn’s archives or any kind of Inquisitorial library. Convincing the senior agents to grant him clearance, he locates Perrin Lemant, the Reliant Dawn’s chief savant and caretaker of knowledge. From among the dark and dusty archive stacks, Lemant recovers a few tomes, offering them to Arkady to study.

After a few days, the party is once again summoned and taken to Inquisitor Valdane’s briefing chamber. He stands in the corner, nodding acknowledgement as the group makes its way inside.

Valdane is explains that the creature they encountered on Tertia-12 was a Genestealer – a vanguard organism of the Tyranid race that excels in the infiltration of other species’ inhabited worlds and vessels. First encountered sixty years ago, it had yet to be seen in Askellon space until now.

The Inquisitor thumbs an activation rune on the table and once again, a holographic view of Port Aquila crackles to life. A single image is highlighted and the hologram zooms in, revealing Praxos Station, a facility the size of a small hive.

Valdane explains that some time ago, the Inquisition started receiving rumours of disappearances aboard Praxos. At first, they had attributed it to Combine wrongdoings. However, with the information the acolytes managed to recover from Tertia-12, there is a new belief that these events may all be connected.

As such, Valdane tasks the acolytes with investigating the disappearances on Praxos and to find out if they are. Additionally, if there are other Genestealers present, they are to find out how they entered Port Aquila and then destroy them for good.

Lastly, Valdane explains that the Heretek from the recovered vid-capture is familiar to the Inquisition – although they have not seen his presence in some time. If the acolytes find him on Praxos, they are to question and kill him.

The acolytes are told that once aboard, they should find lodgings and transportation and seek out Varl Krieger, one of Valdane’s senior agents. Although looking into the Trade Combine’s operations, Krieger is likely to have information that could aid in the acolytes’ investigation. Valdane provides a simple description of what Krieger may look like as well as the times and general location of where he receives his dead drops.

Heading to the Reliant Dawn’s flight bay, the acolytes find Brenner waiting for them. They mount up aboard Corvath’s shuttle and once again depart into the depths of Port Aquila’s asteroid fields.

After a journey slightly shorter than the last, the massive Praxos Station eventually slips into view.

Gaping void gates welcome small and medium sized vessels inside the safety of the station’s confines. Those vessels too large for the gates maintain a safe distance close by, their swollen hulls disgorging cargo and shuttles to the awaiting port.

Passing through the gates into an absolutely gargantuan and cavernous hold, the acolytes hear the rush of returning atmosphere. Lights ahead flash warnings of gravitational return and the multitude of shuttles coming and going switch between their plasma engines and their atmospheric thrusters. Those shuttles still too heavy for terrestrial gravitation wait at the threshold. The acolytes’ Arvus continues through to the mess of landing pads, docking clamps, and other berths.

The docks are easily reminiscent of Desoleum’s Port Gyre. However, rather than built up the side of a hive, Praxos’ landing areas are spread out, like false waterfront piers under a plasteel and ferocrete sky. These piers filter traffic in from the smaller landing pads and giant void gates. Most travelers and workers are on foot, but numerous haulers, autocarriages, and cycles motor past, emerging from shuttles, cargo landers, and the holds of other vessels.

Eventually, Corvath, in communication with the dozens of control towers, chooses and sets the Arvus down inside one of the less-cramped landing areas.

Pulling up the relevant documentation, Arkady recounts how Praxos is separated into three distinct areas:

First, there’s Midstone – connected to the docks by a few main arteria networks and fast travel rail lines. Midstone is supposedly no different than most typical mid-hives and is home to the majority of Praxos’ 647,000 habitants. It also hosts Praxos’ main markets.

Beneath Midstone, dug deep into the heart of the asteroid is Foundation. Past Midstone’s market district, a massive lift shuttles cargo and passengers down and back. Most have no reason to travel there, as Foundation is mostly home to refineries, slums, and ore mines.

Finally, atop Praxos sits High Haven – the main seat of the Combine’s holdings aboard the station and where the main Praxos control centre is located. From the warehouse district along the docks, High Haven is accessible from a series of private lifts.

Even in the hustle and bustle of the piers, it’s clear that like the rest of Port Aquila, the docks are run by the Combine. Ahead, where the pier meets the main assembly areas, a security checkpoint screens those arriving and departing, checking logs and manifests for discrepancies and outstanding tariffs.

At the checkpoint, Arkady presents forged documents indicating their presence as a merchant envoy and the acolytes easily pass through the Combine’s screenings.

Once through, it becomes more evident that besides the Combine, many other guilds have holdings here. Large stamped guild crests mark various warehouses, storage yards, and small- to medium-size officios.

Additionally, towering over the landing areas, a large black structure looms, covered in arrays, spotlights, and a large aquila. It seems that even the Adeptus Arbites have a small contingent here.

Now, past the piers, merchant stalls are set up, attempting to make quick sales of goods and services to incoming visitors. Equipment, transportation, guides, and other forms of labour are readily available, for a price.

As they make their way through the crowds, Brenner stops and informs them that he must check in with the Combine and deliver his report. He wishes the party well and departs to High Haven.

The acolytes attempt to secure some transportation – an autocarriage and cycle. However, with a lack of credits on hand, they are forced to take the dirty and cramped public hab-conveyors.

They exit the transportation network in the very middle of Midstone, which, in turn, sits at the centre of Praxos. Surrounded on all sides by officios, guild halls, and hab blocks, Midstone is a sea of grey metal and rockcrete. Midstone’s many throughways, streets, and corridors are thick with foot and vehicle traffic as the masses come and go about their daily business. Over the streets hangs scaffolding, numerous walkways, and messes of cables and conduits. Every so often the passageways open to small courtyards, terraces, or public squares.

Using their assumed identities, the acolytes secure lodgings in a nondescript hab block.

Their first night’s sleep is uneasy, as many are still plagued with nightmares of the tunnel and of the Tyranid.

Ishamael takes time to ask the Emperor for guidance, seeking to read the ebbs and flows of the warp. He feels dread, knowing that Praxos is full of many evils. Catching brief glimpses of a woman taken, a man cleaved apart, and strange faces in the crowd, Ishamael knows that many challenges await.

Over the next two days, the acolytes canvas Midstone’s crowds, attempting to determine if there has been any news or rumours of their arrival. Although thorough, their inquiries are inconclusive.

Now, the acolytes set out upon their task – peering into the shadows hanging over Praxos.

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Belly of the Beast - Part 3
Unwelcome guests.

As the creature tears its way down the cramped tunnel, many of the acolytes are frozen in pure terror. Panic grips them as their few stablights illuminate the monster rampaging through the dark, freezing water toward them.

The beast leaps are Taeric, tearing deep into his shoulder. It swipes again, just barely missing his head.

Arkady and Brenner attempt to flee the living nightmare, making a dash for the ladder back up to the well-lit corridor above.

Felpox’s mind snaps, and he lashes out at his friends, believing that they too are more of these “daemons”.

Calidus opens fire at the beast with his shotpistol. The weapon’s roar is deafening in the tight confines of the maintenance conduit. Unfortunately, he only manages to gouge a few scratches into the thing’s thick chitin plates.

Ishamael too begins firing, overcharging his laspistol. With a crack-hiss, Ishamael’s bolt fires down the tunnel and into the beast, blowing out a chunk as the energy superheats part of the creature’s exoskeleton. Black ichor pours into the water, laying across the surface like an oil.

Incensed, the beast rips its way up the wall beside Taeric and leaps into the middle of Ishamael, Felpox, and Caradoc. With a furious, dizzying assault of talons and blades, it tears into the acolytes.

Felpox is caught by one of the creature’s razor claws, tearing open this throat and adding his own blood to the flooded tunnel. He staggers back, clutching his gaping wound, and tumbles into the bulkhead behind him.

Caradoc disengages from the beast, narrowly avoiding another flurry of attacks. Raising his helgun, he fires a volley of overcharged bolts. A few catch the creature low, throwing up sizzling steam as they punch through the water and into the thing’s powerful leg muscles.

Calidus inhales a series of powerful combat drugs as he draws forth his chainsword. From over his shoulder, a now-recovered Arkady lends his laspistol to the fight as well.

Charging the beast, Calidus catches it in the shoulder. The chainsword roars as it digs deep, soon becoming bogged down in flesh and bone, spraying the walls with the creature’s alien blood. The four-armed monstrosity flails – screeching, hissing, and roaring.

Wounded, the creature leaps to the ceiling, using all six limbs to escape back into the darkness of the flooded tunnel.

Caradoc, Ishmael, and Arkady keep their weapons and lights trained down the dark tunnel, waiting for the beast to return. Wounded, Felpox and Taeric help each other back to the ladder. Back on Deck 16, the acolytes find a terrified Brenner and start their rapid retreat.

They make their way to the docking bay, finding Corvath, oblivious to what has just transpired. Kaur remains aboard the Arvus as well, still sedated and strapped to one of the shuttle’s gravity benches.

Corvath fires up the Arvus’ engines and prepares for their emergency evacuation and the shaken and wounded acolytes drag themselves aboard. Now secured, they depart the beleaguered Tertia-12 for good, beginning another dangerous dance through Port Aquila’s dense asteroid field.

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