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    Default The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

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    ++TRICORN ARCHIVE: Report Index 1745 Gamma-K++
    ++CASE CUSTODIAN: Inquisitor Al Subaai, Ordo Xenos++
    ++THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Excuses Are The Refuge Of The Weak++
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    The Gilded Ark freighter has returned from the Scrivener’s Star, and with it, my acolytes of Cell Lambda. I have met them here on Solomon, intercepting the Ark’s course in advance of the agreed rendezvous: delegations from the Adeptus Mechanicus have already made precisely clear the import of the events on Prol VII. Inquisitor Renfield of the Ordo Hereticus, and Inquisitor Sinon of the Ordo Malleus have agreed to meet me in the Court chambers here to discuss these matters further, in the light of the recent conclave on Scintilla. I can only hope my old allies can shed some light on this darkness.

    My acolytes’ report raises a hundred questions for each that it answers. Most disturbingly, it has transpired that one of their number – the Naval Provost Heironymous Bosc – has been infected by the madness of the Warp, perhaps ever since he entered my service. Though lacking the resolve to execute him themselves at the scene, his companions did their duty by the Emperor, and reported his treachery to me.

    One way or another, perhaps knowing his fellow Acolytes too well, Bosc anticipated that he would be condemned. Attempting to escape the quarters in which the cell had been billeted, he killed two members of the Storm Trooper kill-team requisitioned to subdue him before he was brought down, manifesting the very warp-born corruption that his comrades had reported on Prol VII. We had hoped to take him alive, so that Inquisitor Sinon might extract answers from whatever parasite has taken residence in his soul on her arrival: that objective proved impossible. In the end, my own bolt pistol was the instrument of his destruction.

    I have replenished their team’s losses with acolytes who I know I can trust. In the wake of the events on Prol VII, all my influence is required to keep the Administratum and the Mechanicus – particularly the Mechanicus, whose involvement in this I am certain goes deeper than they care to let on – at arm’s length. Nonetheless, no time can be lost in pursuing the leads gathered on Prol VII: as such, I am dispatching them to the planet of Abandoned Hope, to investigate the site of the last known operation of Inquisitor Pallas Leonid. According to the survivors of the Prol operation, Leonid was mentioned repeatedly by the heretics encountered in the Vault: a member of my own Ordo, the records of his life are extensive.

    Abandoned Hope has been deserted for over a century. Hopefully this assignment will give the acolytes a chance to recover themselves – and keep them clear of the politics surrounding this case.

    The Emperor Protects.

    ++REPORT ENDS++


    [hr]
    The Ragged Edge


    Chapter I
    Faith Without Deeds Is Worthless

    Fillian’s Rest. Paradise world of the Josian Reach, once the bright and gleaming hope of the Scintillan Bureau of Colonies. Now, as before, a deserted wilderness, left to keep turning around its blazing giant of a star - in silence.

    Somehow avoiding the greedy eyes of Administratum Logistors for most of the history of the Calixis Sector, in M41.874 the Pilgrim-class vessel Salvation had blundered across the planet during an unplanned exit from the Warp. The settlers found a verdant world, already brimming with life – aside from excessive levels of atmospheric oxygen, perfect for colonisation. Under the leadership of their captain, Jonah Fillian, they set about claiming their new world for humanity.


    The fate of the settlers is poorly understood, and still more poorly recorded. Voidsmen tell tales of the Rogue Trader’s crew who landed on Fillian’s Rest fifteen years after the establishment of the settlement – how they found the doors of the houses hanging open, food left on the table as if in mid-meal that had clearly been mouldering for months. Some bodies were found with marks of violence on them, but nowhere near enough to account for the population of the settlement. No distress call was ever received, no log or journal surviving to shed light on the events that had led up to the settlers’ vanishing act. It was as if the forests had swallowed them whole.

    The Administratum struck the world from its records, declaring it forbidden, pending further investigation. Among the people of the Josian Reach, it took on a new name – Abandoned Hope.

    The hand of the Imperium of Mankind had not been felt on Abandoned Hope for nigh on a hundred and ten years. That was about to change.

    ~

    The slender church-steeple silhouette of the Battlefleet Calixis corvette Instigator hung motionlessly in orbit, like an insect frozen in amber. Below it, the blue-green sphere of Abandoned Hope loomed, its curvature stretching the horizons of the eye. Whorls of white cloud stretched over rich blue seas like lacework, verdant green continents girdled by a belt of scorched equatorial desert. To the hive-born eyes of Sergeant Red of the Guytogan Rifles, it was one of the most alien things he had ever seen.

    His stripes had arrived not long after Bosc’s death, the Inquisitor apparently having put in word with regimental command that the guardsman had proved himself as worthy of promotion as he could have on the front lines. A sergeant without a squad, unless you counted the other acolytes who stood beside him.

    There had been time enough to get to know the new arrivals since their departure from Solomon, during the corvette’s sojourn in the Warp - the time seemed to have passed as in a dream, the soldier’s memory condensing weeks of trackless voyaging into a few moments’ recollection. Nevertheless, there was no ignoring the fact that two new faces stood among them, two more old squad-mates fallen by the wayside.

    Behind them, the gates to the observation deck pulled open with a harsh hydraulic hiss. Lieutenant Milon – their liaison with Commander Agrippa of the Instigator – stepped through, hands held smartly behind his back.

    “Gentlemen,” he said. He nodded to Nova. “Lady. The captain has asked me to inform you that your transport is ready.”
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    One of the new faces belonged to a grim man with hard eyes, standing dressed in a reinforced greatcoat at the window next to Red. His eyes wandered over the surface of the planet, searching for the slightest sign of gleaming metal towers or human construction. Finding none he turned away to face Red. Though he hadn't spoken to the guardsman much, he had watched him run drills in the hall assigned to them for such purposes. Whatever else he may have been, the guardsman was a good shot, and Tychon Urbanus could respect that.

    "I don't like it," Tychon decided, turning the rest of the way from the window. "There's something off about this place. Where, exactly, are we going to be landing down there?"
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    “Orbital scans indicate that the landing pad in Pilgrim’s Haven is still relatively clear,” said the Lieutenant. “Ought to be able to set you down there, and then it’s no more than half a local day’s walk to the site of the old investigation.”
    Milon looked out of the observation port at the gleaming expanse below.
    “Southern hemisphere, although to be honest I couldn’t point it out.” He cracked a smile. “You’d have to ask one of the cartography boys about that sort of thing.”
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    Red frowned as he gazed down at the lush, verdant planet.
    "This is going to be... disorientating." he murmured, not in fact caring what any of the ship's crew thought of the little outburst. If anybody snickered, he could force them to head dirtside. As far as he was aware, void-born, like Hive-born, rarely left their cozy little confines of Man, the Emperor and Technology.
    "Haven't seen a place so devoid of Mankind's touch since I was on the lines. Even then, well, there were barracks. Motor pools. Pillboxes."
    He looked over at his assembled cell. Of the four others, Jericus had officially become the only other one who had been there since the beginning of this investigation, all the others having been killed, detained, captured or executed. He high attrition rate of his cell had grown to chafe at Red's shoulders, right underneath where the crisp new Sargent's stripes were located. It was all, however it happened, his fault.
    Red wasn't a fan of his men dieing on him. Never was.
    Ever since Bosc's departure he had withdrawn from the new members of the cell, trying not to interact with them much. The personnel files he recieved stated that the one in the big coat went by Tychon Urbanus, and he was Metallican, while the woman was called by "Nova". He had caught Tychon studying his form during his daily martial duties, and Nova...
    Well, Nova had something off about her, like she wasn't quite right in the head. The way she walked, ate, and moved during training drills seemed to be less a product of a lifetime of Service to the Emperor and more like a servitor going through its motions.

    Sargent Red broke from his reverie and turned to face their liaison.
    "I assume, Lieutenant, we'll be allowed to requisition some soylens verdenes before we go dirtside? I'd be surprised if anybody in my squad has ever hunted game bigger than a sump rat, and it would be particularly bad for us to succumb to hunger, as opposed to the Emperor's enemies. And, since we're looking at that coin, any scans indicate where there might be some vehicles we can commander? I don't fancy having to walk among those xenoforms. I'm no Catachan."
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "Oh, absolutely. Anything you need in the line of provisions, we can send along to the quartermaster for." He paused. "As for vehicles - well, the Lighter'll stay planetside until you return, but as far as we can tell, the roads the settlers cut haven't been traversible for decades. Thick vegetation, you understand. Don't think you could drive through that with much short of a battle tank."

    He smiled, trying to lighten the mood.

    "Don't worry, Sergeant. I'm sure you and your team will be more than capable of handling the local wildlife." He looked back at the planet below. "It's not a death world, after all."
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    Red bit his tongue for a moment to consider his next sentence.
    "Officially. I'm told it was originally classified Paradise World before the colonists up and vanished. If you're a predator, looking pretty lures in the prey."
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    Jericus stared at the scrap of solyent in his hand, slowly twisting it round in intricate patterns as he focused on it, eyes as cold and emotionless as a bionic targeting system. He serenely broke from his reverie and turned to look at the owl perched on the chair next to him. Silent, he offered the scrap to the owl.

    The owl stayed, unmoving, watching him with its giant eyes, one a glass lens, one an clouded orb.

    Jericus shifted, keeping his gaze on the owl's feathered form while holding the morsel in front of him.

    The owl looked on, unblinking.

    Jericus stopped.

    "Oh, right. You don't eat."

    The owl blinked, three eyelids sliding over the one natural eye, and the bionic dilating.

    Jericus wasn't sure what he thought of the fresh blood. On one hand, more warm bodies in the way of incoming fire was undoubtedly a good thing, but on the other hand, given the fates of some of the previous members of their little cell, you could never be too careful. For all Jericus knew, there could be another daemon waiting to manifest in the dark heart of his new comrades. The other problem was that if they stayed around for too long Jericus might build up a rapport, or even a camaraderie with one of them, if he wasn't careful. Burning your way through a vault of proscribed knowledge, cutting a path through heretics, technology, and tech heretics with someone did lead to a certain amount of... attachment.

    And then there was the fact that the enemies of all things good and holy had had the gall to flee to a out-country omnissiah-damned backwater techless dump, and one squirming with undomesticated organics as well. Jericus's role in the Mechanicus was clearly related this thinks that went clank, when you opened them up, not squish. You'd need a Magos Biologis for that.

    Jericus absent-mindedly ate the scrap, and walked over to the Lieutenant.
    "Could we get anything bigger communications-wise? We're going to have trouble contacting the lighter if we get too far away, using only combeads."

    Jericus looked to Red, waiting for a confirmation of his supreme foresight and planning.

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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    Milon nodded.

    "We're loading a long range vox onto the lighter. You should be able to reach us with that, unless you choose to go caving." He glanced at the owl a little uncomfortably. "If that fails, though, there's always the lighter's hailer, too."
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    Nova seemed disinterested in the conversation, nodding when Milon introduced himself but otherwise seeming to not pay attention to the others. Though her focus appeared to be on the world below, in reality the assassin was taking a moment to set things straight in her mind. She mentally ran through the briefing materials they had been given, what records the Inquisitor had shown her on her new comrades, what she had picked up by observing the other acolytes during day to day activities, anything that might be important to remember.

    The presence of the two gunmen was reassuring; the number of times Nova had been saved by comrades at range were already growing too rapidly to count. The fact that Red was somewhat distant during the voyage didn't bother her much, as she knew she had been accused of the same by her fellow acolytes in other cells. Her interest had been piqued by the presence of a techpriest and a psyker, though; the Inquisition hadn't seen fit to give her much knowledge of them upon her re-awakening, and Nova was always curious to learn more about such odd beings.

    Nova turned as Jericus approached, observing the owl with some curiosity before speaking for the first time that morning. "I would suggest stocking the Lighter with a surplus of food, water, and ammunition. Best to be overprepared and find nothing than to find ourselves out of contact and supplies on an uninhabited world," she says, her voice calm and cold; not monotone, but somewhat distant. "And would I be able to procure a shotgun or longarm?" she asks Milon. "I would prefer something with a bit more power; I expect my usual sidearm to be underwhelming should we encounter any fauna larger than a man." She pats the stub automatic she carries, now holstered at her right hip rather than the small of her back; the lack of discretion needed for this mission means Nova is wearing all of her gear openly, the tabard and cloak normally covering her weapons stowed inside her pack.

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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "I think your comrades here have that covered," said the Lieutenant, politely but firmly. "You'll have the vox. If there's anything really dangerous down there, the Instigator will be standing by to assist."
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    A ghost of a wry smile crosses Nova's face at Milon's reply. "I guess we will have to leave the big ones to the two of you, then," she says to Red and Tychon, a very slight warmth to her tone and the ghost of a smile still showing. Knowing that she'd been her usual distant self, Nova's curious how the others might react to a little banter before the mission begins in full.

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    Red suppressed the urge to have a laugh at the woman's expense.
    "Longarms we have aplenty, Nova." he said, careful to keep the laugh out of his voice. "And if you find a better marksmen in this sub-sector than me, I'd like to know. This ol' girl has saved all of us more than once." Red gave the barrel of the heavily-modified Sollex-pattern lasgun an affectionate pat.
    "In case that doesn't make you comfortable, our good Techpriest is quite a fair shot, himself, and Ignace tells me he doesn't miss when he pulls the trigger, though I've yet to verify that. When it gets deadly, you'll be begging us to stop shooting everything before you can get a piece." Red jerked a thumb at the other newcomer. "And I've been told he's Metallican."
    Red turned back to the Liaison. "So, that's food, water and communications - Good thinking, Jer - taken care of. I have only two more questions: One: Who's our pilot? And Two: When's drop?""
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "Inquisitor Al-Subaai specified that we bring along the pilot from your, um, previous missions." The lieutenant blinked - he was clearly trying to hide the affront of the suggestion that the Instigator's own personnel were not good enough. "Apparently, he specifically requested to come along. The shuttle should be ready by now: it'll just take us thirty minutes or so to load it with the supplies you've requested." He nodded courteously to Red. "So, whenever you're ready, Sergeant."
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    "Technically I said that I don't hit what I don't mean to, not that I don't miss. I prefer to be in a position where I don't have to shoot. And if I do, my lightning generally does me better." Ignace said, looking up from fiddling with his Blessed Icon of the Golden Throne. The past month or so saw his control over the warp increase in leaps and bounds compared to the slow trickle of progress he had made in his previous 57 years in life. While he wasn't particularly happy with how much more active he was than previous, perhaps it wasn't so bad.
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    Tychon nodded. "I'm Metallican, all right. And I'm betting that at mid ranges I could give you a run for your money as far as accuracy goes." The hiver ran a hand over his pistol's grip again, still resolutely refusing to smile. "With any luck, we won't need to be shooting at much. Carelessness gets you dead, though. I'm going to grab a few supplies before we hit the dirt. See you all in half an hour."

    With that, Tychon turned around and strode out of the observation post, his reinforced boots ringing on the deck.
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    Red nodded as Tychon left the ob deck.
    "He has the right idea. Get your pre-mission rituals over with and meet at the hanger in thirty standard. If you've nothing better to do, I expect you to be going there now to oversee and join the loading work-party. It's your lives on the line, you're going to put your backs into ensuring they don't fall of it."
    With that, Red saluted the LT.
    "Emperor Protects, Milon" he intoned before making his way to make sure the cargo-loading went smoothly and their pilot got all the help necessary for pre-flight checks.
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    Jericus eyes moved to the autogun at his side. These martial men and their obsession with marksmanship as an art form were missing the point.

    Targeting algorithms and sheer volume of lead were the way to go.

    Reassured, Jericus moped off.

    OOC: Jericus isn't a bad shot himself. He's somewhat less squishy than the rest of the acolytes, and can pour out a reasonable amount of firepower in one turn, but everyone seems to forget about him.
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    By the time the Acolytes had made their way to the Instigator’s small craft hangar, the last of their provisions were being loaded into the Arvus’ boxy belly. Jericus was carrying a largish box of bandages that he had secured from the ship’s medicae bay under one arm, the silent, black-feathered owl on his shoulder looking dispassionately around at the busy scene below.

    Their pilot was leaning against the side of the lighter, seemingly taking a quick smoke before departure: as he saw them approach, he straightened up.

    “Hello again, chaps,” he said. He paused. “And chapettes,” he added, nodding to Nova. “These the new faces? Don’t think I’ve seen you before.”

    Turning around, he hauled open the lighter’s passenger hatch, the angled metal plate pulling back with a loud, metallic rattle.

    “Got one space up front in the co-pilot’s seat, if any of you want to watch the ride from the cockpit. Otherwise, strap yourselves in. We should have clearance for the void bay doors five minutes ago.”

    Flashing a white-toothed smile, he stepped up into the lighter, opening the hatch to the cockpit and clambering into his seat with a monkey-like agility.
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "Be fine in the back, thanks." Tychon stomped up the ramp and picked a seat to strap himself into, ensuring his effects were secure before settling back. "Expect we'll see enough of this place from the ground without seeing it from the air, too."
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    "I'll take co-pilot." Red offered, climbing in the front of the ship with their friendly pilot and manning his controls. "Don't want my pilot skills getting too rusty, wanna remember what a cockpit feels like."
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    Following Tychon into the Lighter, Nova secures her gear and straps into a passenger's seat. "It has been some time since I was on a world with so much natural terrain. A welcome change from traipsing around hives, I think."

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    Edit: There was dialogue here but for some reason disappeared. Jericus was being whiny about nature. I'll replace it when I'm at a keyboard.
    His dogmatic and xenophobic tendencies fufilled for now, Jericus bundled his box of bandages under his seat and strapped himself in, allowing his owl to aloofly hop from his shoulder to a chair, where it immediate turned away from him and started staring out the window. Jericus was relieved. Having an owl on your shoulder was all very imposing and unerving to others, but the weight of it was starting to take its toll, and Jericus began massaging the back of his neck in an effort to banish the pain.
    Last edited by Etcetera; 2011-03-11 at 02:43 PM.

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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "I'd prefer a hive, myself." Tychon had taken to staring pointedly at the owl. He had read the briefing, of course, but he wanted to confirm the owl's origin for himself. "Who's your friend, Engineseer?"
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    TIMESPLIT!

    "She, or uh, he is a prime example of the glorious machinations of the omnissiah. That is to say it's an augmented owl I rescued from the library, which was truly a bountiful haven of the aforementioned glorious machinations. Only they were trying to kill us. So we rescued them, I , uh, would have rescued something bigger, but we only had so much space. It's called... ah, Minerva. Yes. Minerva."

    Jericus realised what had been bugging him about the man.

    "You don't happen to have a less obtrusive belt buckle, do you? It shouldn't be a problem where we're going, but it is a bit of a risk." said the red robed, heavily armed techpriest.
    Last edited by Etcetera; 2011-03-11 at 05:13 PM.

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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    As the acolytes strapped themselves in, the warning chimes began to sound in the hangar outside: the Battlefleet voidsmen thronging the bay quickly made their exit, bulkheads hissing shut to seal in their precious air. Amber lights began to spin and flash overhead, heavy machinery rumbling the warship’s adamantium guts.

    With a tooth-rattling rumble, the void bay doors began to draw open, Abandoned Hope looming bright and huge against the black void of space beyond. Pulling padded headphones down over his ears, the pilot gestured for them to do the same, the electronic communication system allowing them to be heard over the scream of the lighter’s engines powering up. A swelling acceleration caught them as the lighter lifted clear, engines burning low to avoid damaging its dock – then, with a blue-white flare of fuel, it blasted forwards, tumbling out of the Instigator’s gaping stomach into the endless void beyond.

    Strapped into the co-pilot’s seat, Red watched the planet grow larger, trying to suppress his instinctive fear at the sight – there was vertigo, and then there was this. Behind them, the majestic outline of the corvette was dwindling fast, shrinking to a speck as the little Arvus banked towards its final destination.

    They hit atmosphere, and the rattling started anew as ripples of orange heat rippled over the lighter’s squared-off nose. The pilot’s hands flicked over the controls with a dexterity born of years of professionalism, sensor readouts lighting up: flying terrestrial, there were many of them that Red had never seen used before. Far, far below, the equatorial desert raced by in a hurtling, cloudless expanse of orange and brown, the white clouds and green forests of the southern hemisphere looming ahead.

    For all that it was new and exciting, Red felt a certain weariness creeping over him as they sped towards the planet’s surface. For all that the lighter’s speed was impressive, the planet was only creeping closer: for the first time, the guardsman was getting a real idea of planetary scale. And though he was a hiver born and bred, Guytoga had at least had a day, and a night – the uniformly-lit shift cycles on the Instigator’s voyage here had taken their toll. Looking back over his shoulder, he saw the others were much of the same feeling: Nova’s head seemed to be nodding a little, the new recruit occasionally looking up sharply as if denying to herself that she had been dozing off.

    Below them, gleaming white cloud banks were coming gradually closer. Watching the white blanket spread out to envelop him, Red found his thoughts drifting away.

    ~

    Red woke with a start as he felt the Arvus shudder – looking round, he felt a sudden trepidation as he saw the pilot slumped at the controls, shoulders rising and falling as if in a deep sleep. Outside the cockpit, the world was a mass of mist, the lighter still plummeting through the cloud-banks at orbital speeds.

    Red’s heartbeat quickened as the sea of vapour began to clear. Through the dissipating mist, a carpet of vegetation was looming into view, growing closer by the moment...


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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    Red sprung into action as quickly as he could, quickly thumbing the co-pilots emergency control override switch and pulling back on the control stick as hard as possible in an attempt to make the lighter achieve level flight once more.
    "Sound off if you're alive!" he yelled into the comms system perched on his head. "I knew this place was a trap."
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    The pilot remained insensible: as Red hauled back on the control stick, the Arvus’ nose dragged up, retro-thrusters firing. If they had fired earlier, they might have made a difference, but the canopy was already looming large below: this close beneath the cloud level, it had to be some kind of vast volcanic plateau beneath them, ferny treetops sloping inwards through wreaths of mist.

    The lighter shuddered as its stubby wings strained against the rushing air, scorched traceries of fire licking around their edges: the increased lift was slowing their descent, but not enough.

    On the starboard side, just within reach, a ragged clearing was visible through the cycads, a vivid green sward amidst the tangled forest. He might not have control over the lighter’s speed, but Red still had steering: there was a choice between a flat landing, or taking a chance on using the trees as brakes...
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    Red angled for the clearing, trying to coax the nose up just a little bit more as he did so. If the Arvus was going to be rattled by the shock of a crash landing, the rear hatch would take the most damage, after all, his squad as up towards the front.
    "Brace for crash landing!" he yelled - no, screamed - frantically into the headset before chanting the Litany of the Dropship in as strong a voice as he could manage and attempting to make the upcoming crash landing less fatal.

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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    "Bloody frakking warp." Tychon reached up, holding tightly to his hat and thankful for the crash webbing strapping him into the shaking lighter. It seemed he didn't have a different belt buckle, as he hadn't changed it when Jericus requested he do so. Or, if he did, perhaps it was back on the ship. "What's with our intrepid pilot?"

    As the shaking increased, and the craft neared the ground, the gunslinger frowned thoughtfully. "I should have brought more ammo."
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    Default Re: The Ragged Edge - Dark Heresy [IC]

    The shuddering of the Lighter and the yelling over the comms rattles Nova awake. "Acolyte Nova here, I'm alert," she replies into the comms on reflex. The assassin looks to her comrades, visually checking on each in turn.

    Hearing Tychon's comment, Nova chuckles a moment despite the situation. "That's why I carry blades; you never have to reload them."

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