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    Default Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    Dead in the Water
    Chapter One: Still Waters Run Deep

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    Lumen globes flared to life in the dark room, casting shadows across the faces of those assembled. The remaining two members of Acolyte CelL Sigma, after the others had been re-assigned, sat across from Inquisitor Valle of the Ordo Hereticus. The room they were in was sparse, no more than a desk and chairs - this wasn't a formal interrogation, though. They'd submitted their reports, the Inquisition had been informed of what they'd found under the sands of Klybo, and that discovery itself was what had led to them being here.

    The Inquisitor shifted in her chair, servos whirring as her impassive death-mask of a face turned upwards from the dataslate she'd been reading. Being this close to an almost entirely mechanical being, especially after Klybo, was an unsettling experience, and the Inquisitor's patchwork voice didn't help, defaulting as it did to a harsh metallic rendering anywhere the tech-adepts hadn't been able to find a suitable clip.

    "Tell me again," she said, "what you found on KLYBO. Describe it."

    "Death." Joss rasped, shivering a bit as he recalled what they had endured. "We found Raltus' camp on the surface and followed his trail into the caverns. At every step we found evidence that something, somehow, had gone horribly wrong. And then we began to encounter them."

    "The Metal Men," Valle tapped the dataslate.

    "Yes, but first we met smaller ones. Like insects. They seemed harmless at first, until they swarmed. We fought them off, but then the tunnel into the cavern collapsed, charges Raltus' crew had set there exploded, trapping us. We had to press forward for a hope of finding a way out. In doing so we discovered the city. Massive structures occupying a cave, a pyramid at the center, all lit in a twilight of green."

    "It was something I never want to see again, ma'am," Gabe added. "A vast xenos city, drilled into the planet like ants. Or Hivework, with an immense central chamber, all revolving around that slick, black pyramid. Everything was laced with some sort of green energy and glowed. Runes everywhere. We have some rubbings for you. The building were a perversion of Imperial architecture. Squat and sturdy, with that same awful green-and-black. The majority of the heretical xenotech we found inside were silver metal perversions of the Holy shape of Man, with the green lines running though them. The filthy pseudo-eyes and blood..." The priest trailed off, and Joss continued.

    "We followed Raltus' trail through the city, and that is when we began to encounter the Metal Men. We were forced to retreat into tunnels beneath the city, but that brought us no protection. We found..." The assassin's voice falters, a mix of anger and disgust on his scarred face.

    "A Flayed One."

    "It was a mockery of my order! Of everything I have dedicated my life to! A blasphamous monstrosity! A direct insult to the Emperor Himself!"

    "All Xenos are. All Heretics are." The Inquisitor looked at the slate again. Her voice was firm - a trick of the synthetic voxcoder she used to speak, perhaps. It was difficult to convey emotion through prerecorded vox clips.

    "We blew a hole in it's chest," Gabe explained, "and the wound healed quickly, scabbed over, and the monster stood ready to fight again. I got a look at the circuitry, though, I was looking for a way to disable it, take it and the abominations like it down more quickly. Or even all of them at once. It was an order of magnitude beyond me, and your servant could not figure out a way to do so."

    "You destroyed a device in the city."

    Joss nodded. "At the center of the pyramid. There were cages full of human bodies. And the chair...They put people into it. Human beings used... I don't know how. As some sort of power source? As part of some cruel experiment? I don't know. It was evil. It needed to be destroyed."

    "RALTUS' notes answered that. Did you read them?" Valle didn't wait for an answer to that question. "It was designed to alter humans. No good would have come from keeping it in one piece. Necron technology is not to be trusted." Moving on from the subject, the Inquisitor consulted her dataslate again. "How was the Navy Installation destroyed?"

    "The majority of the xeno warrior-heresies carried rifles which fire green lightning." Gabe said, "I swear to you, I saw it strip a naval provost's flesh clean off, and then muscle, and then bone, and then reduce the bones to desert dust." He paused, his train of thought continuing. "Come to think of it, that may be what happened to the planet itself, so long ago. If the xenos had a reason to scorch their planet, with such arms they could reduce it all to ashes and dust, unfit to hold life. Maybe they were crushing a rebellion? Those green lightning guns have an absurd effective range, ma'am. And giant ones sprouted from under the planet's surface to lance out at the moon. The rest is evident, and the Imperium is short a few thousand more faithful servants."

    Joss' answer was in agreement with Gabe's. "After we found our way back to the surface, those... Necrons? followed us. We fled in a shuttle, and beams of light were shooting past us. I thought they were trying to hit our ship, but when we got into orbit... the station was in ruins." The warrior hung his head, guilt washing over him. Had they done something to cause the death of those thousands?

    "Unsurprising." Silence hung in the air as the Inquisitor watched them, the only sound the idle ticking of hydraulic compressors. Abruptly, she spoke again. "Do you know what the survival rate for encounters with Necrons is?"

    The acolytes shook their heads; no.

    "It is so low that, for a long time, even the Ordo Xenos did not believe any still existed. Nobody who fought them lived to tell of it." Valle placed the dataslate on the table, her chair creaking as she leaned forwards. "That you survived speaks well to your competence. I am not often impressed. You have impressed me."

    The Inquisitor allowed a moment for that to sink in, spending the time retrieving another dataslate from a pouch hidden within the folds of her robes. Handing it to Gabe, she inclined her head towards them. "The details of your mission are on the slate. In brief: The other members of your cell have requested re-assignment. I will make up the difference with some new recruits. One you," a glance at Gabe, "have met before. The others I am unsure of. They are skilled but untested. I expect you to watch them closely." Another glance at Gabe. "Especially the Psyker."

    "You will travel to Landunder. RALTUS mentions that world in his communications. R.A. has been staying there, and may still be on the world. You are to identify and locate them. Capture them if possible, kill them if you cannot capture. Do you have any questions?"

    Both of the acolytes voiced the same question: What would happen to Klybo?




    The Inquisitor's answer was still ringing in their ears months later, when the Invincible dropped out of warp just outside the Landunder system's Kuiper belt: "Quarantined. Cordoned off. It is an Ordo Xenos matter now, do not think further on it than that." Of course, during Warp Travel, all they had was time to think. They'd met the new members of the Cell when they boarded the Invincible. Sure enough, Gabe had recognised the adept Mouse, who looked as though Sephiris Secundus had been the last place she'd been able to see a sun. With her were a dangerous-looking woman who, by her accent, was from Gunmetal City; and a gaunt, sallow man carrying an aquila topped staff.

    Now, the five of them stood together, looking at Landunder through the scratched armaplas of a shuttle viewport. The planet was a dull brown, with only the barest visible trace of Imperial construction on its surface. Beneath the crust, they knew, the world's great cities hung suspended in subterranean oceans, their occupants working day and night to extract valuable chemicals from vents near the planet's core. It was a watery grave waiting to happen, and everyone who lived there knew it.

    The acolyte's shuttle touched down on a steel-grey landing pad tucked amidst the squat towers of Hiveport Adraxis, the spaceport complex to which most of the surface buildings belonged. Nobody was present to greet them. The briefing materials told them that a residence had been secured for them in Neptune Spire, one of the shorter hive towers near the outskirts of the city. They found an elevator, and dropped off the face of the earth.

    Below was like another world. The entire city had been constructed, by some ancient and skilled Imperial architect, with reinforced viewports into the ocean beyond. Sidewalks ran through glass-plated tunnels, the swirling water that surrounded them held back by Imperial engineering. Lights glowed in the water, marking the position of other parts of the hive. Neon signs had been placed on the sides of buildings in some locations, advertising the sorts of services one could expect to find within. In the distance, the imposing shapes of Mechanicus facilities loomed through the murk, tangles of piping jutting out from their vast bulks. Suspended guiderails for transit shuttles were woven around the buildings, and every so often one of the shuttles would zip by, floodlights mounted to the front illuminating the way before it. The Hive was a massive place, full of winding corridors and towering spires. Sobering in its immensity, it couldn't quite quell the little thought that rose up unbidden in all of their minds:

    Somewhere, in all of that, their quarry lurked.
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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    Annie drummed her fingers on the hilts of her pistols as she rode the elevator down. Occasionally she broke off to tap the steel toe of her boot heavily on the elevator's deck.

    "They don't allow guns here" she announced to the company at large. "I ain't biased, right, but how do you run a city when people ain't got guns. It don't work."

    There was a pause, punctuated by the tapping of dirty fingernails on custom-tooled stocks.

    "Knives ain't no good. You can run away from knives. Ain't right."

    With a certain amount of huffing, Annie began cinching her pistols into holsters high on her flanks, under her jacket, where they wouldn't be visible to the casual observer. The more-than-casual observer could go stick his ass in the sump. Her knife, a stamped plastek blade less than six inches long, slipped into her belt easily enough.

    "I don't like this place," she considered. "But at least there ain't no sky."
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    Mouse is a shorter woman, barely five feet in height with pale skin and slightly curly dark hair that reaches her shoulders. At least, on the right half. The left half of her head has been shaved to the skin and replaced by a socket that's been implanted into her skull. The scarring around it is still bright pink and fresh. Her eyes are somewhat wearier than they used to be, but the small smile on her lips betrays the fact that she's happy to get out of the stuffy libraries and finally back on the job.

    She wears an overly large set of plain brown robes covered with pockets and when she heads off the ship she picks up a large backpack, slinging it onto her shoulders. The only thing sticking out of the backpack is the butt of a shotgun that Gabe will probably recognize as the one she looted off the Skiitari months previous. Perhaps she's finally gotten herself trained in its use.

    Once they reach the elevators she shrugs her hands out of the sleeves of her robes, lacing her white-gloved fingers together. She gives a bit of a smile when she views the city through the porthole. "I think I'm going to enjoy this world."

    ...what?

    Mouse doesn't hate the planet?

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    "It is harder to outrun an arrow." Joss Falkenrath rasps in response to Annie's comment. The assassin's form was shrouded in a heavy mesh combat cloak and his lower face covered in a roughspun scarf, mostly concealing a large burn on his face. Yellow eyes with slitted pupils darted left and right, taking in details of their surroundings. The scabbard of a sword extended out from the folds of the cloak, and a longbow was slung across his back. The prohibition against guns caused no issue for the feudal worlder, indeed, it gave him an advantage.

    He peered out a veiwport, staring at the strange depths beyond, and shook his head. "How can you live in a place without a sky?"
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    The psyker clutched his Aquila staff during the descent as his ears popped from the pressure. There was something of a gleam in Enoch's eye as Cell Signa dropped into the depths of Hive Abraxis. The topsy-turvy structure reminded him of Hive Tarsus, and the place a different young man had once called home. How strange that so soon into this mission he would be haunted by the phantoms of his old life - a life he had spent over a decade putting behind him before being called into the Inquisition's service.

    Up to this point, he'd made little effort to get to know the other members of the cell, but he had not been unfriendly - safe perhaps a little standoffish with the priest. Most of the time they had seen him he had been sitting at tables, his two decks of cards on front of him. One deck came in a paper case and it seemed he was incessantly shuffling them, knotting his fingers over and over again, causing the cards to fall and perlite in various rhythms. The other deck was kept in a leather wallet, and he barely touched them.

    Now his laspistol was tucked away under his cream Scholastica robes, though his sword and mercy blade were openly hanging from his belt. But he, too, felt a smidgeon of annoyance at having to hide the Mark IV. But seeing the structure of the hive, the prohibition made a lot of sense.

    "It is clear why they proscribe firearms, however," he said aloud. The vox inducer snagged on the end of the sentence, sending his voice into an odd pitch. He coughed. "So fragile ..."

    Enoch lapsed back into silence, staring out at the depths of the sea.
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    The elevator reached the bottom with a creak and a lurch, iron grating sliding aside to admit them to the city proper. Below the spaceport was a wide thoroughfare lined with industrial buildings, glimpses of the sea visible through plated glass windows in and around the structures. There was a transit hub nearby, its outer surface exposed to the sea. As they watched, heavy airlock doors rumbled open, and one of the shuttles slid out on its guiderails, vanishing into the murk within moments. That would be the fastest way to get to where they needed to be - it looked like the city didn't have much in the way of cars, whether of the air or ground variety. In a place like this, space was at just as much of a premium as on a voidship.

    A blinking sign over the entrance to the station advertised departure times to various parts of the city. Neptune Spire departed in fifteen minutes. The board also served as a list for the other spires. There were seven in total, including Neptune: The Governance Spire, The Cathedral Spire, the Mechanicum, the Deep Spire and two other residential areas, Vestus and Jove.
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    The blinking sign caught Joss' attention. His cat-like eyes squint in concentration as the feudal-worlder deciphers its meaning. "The transport to our quarters will be leaving shortly. Should we settle in before or after we meet our contact? Or do you think they will meet us there?"
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    "I say we settle in before hand. Give us ground to run to, if it comes to that," the priest offered, with only a mildly disarming smile.
    "Until we're done with the meeting, though, stay on guard."
    On the one hand, they were in a Hive, a beautiful, beautiful hive, and the glow-globes didn't suspend themselves in the sky unaided. On the other, the prohibition against guns made the Metallican wary. He had planned to openly carry the laspistol looted from the remains on Klybo, while keeping his old sidearm hidden, as was his custom, but circumstances prevented that and he carried the archaotech hidden away next to the silent autopistol. He hoped he wouldn't draw the wrong one.
    Still, having each piece of iron close to his heart centered him and kept him focused.
    "You could cause a lot of damage down here, eh, Gunarke-Pard?" the priest offered to Annie, slipping into his mostly-disused Gunmetallican drawl and dialect. It's odd how the accents and dialects of home come back to you.
    He patted the hilt of his scimitar fondly.
    "You may look a bit out-of-place here with 'only' that knife, though. Push comes to shove, you mind comin' with me and we can look for somebody forgin' a real blade?"
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    There was an unnerving sparkle in Annie's eye as she imagined the damage a single round could wreak in here, but she put it aside. "It'd 'ave to be pushing proper hard, but i ain't saying never, aye?"

    As for the question of what to do next, she shrugged. "Might's well settle in. How often do the shuttles go, anyway? An what're we doin till the neptune one goes?"
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    "Until then, we simply wait." Mouse says, frowning a bit as she looks around. "Though I don't relish the idea of being stuck on a shuttle with too many locals. Even if we don't show our arms we more than likely stand out too much." She explains. "A word of warning. If people try to cause issue with us, be they gangers or simple thieves, we can't afford to show them any mercy. We need word to spread that we are a force to be reckoned with if it comes down to it. Otherwise we'll be treated like trash and walked over."

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    Enoch smiled and raised an eyebrow - tilting the focusing band around his forehead slightly. "That," he said with a nod to Mouse, "I agree with. And that we find our lodgings first of all. As for passing the time - " and the psyker took the paper pack of cards from a pocket " - perhaps a quick game?"
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    Gabe spared a glance and the deck of Tarot cards.
    "More of a Regicide man, m'self. Too much luck involved with cards." he opined, before addressing Mouse.
    "You know, I don't know if I ever got around to saying it on the ship, but it's good to have you around again, Mouse. Looks like time has treated you well."
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    "Surely such a show of force would spook our quarry?" Joss summises. "Of course, we could use that to our advantage." Although it was unlikely a small altercation on a train car would even be a blip on the radar in a hive like this. However the assassin probably couldn't comprehend the size of the numbers involved when considering the population of a place like this.

    There may have been a smile behind his scarf when the cards came out. "I'll play a hand or two. What did you have in mind?" Games differed from village to village, and certainly world to world, but they all had their similarities. Joss had played quite a few games around the soldier's camps back on Acreage.
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    "Nah." Annie opined. "Beating the snot out've some scavkids aint hard, an' we don't want to raise any attention, savvy? Not with the biters, or with the gangers. I'd play a few hands, if yer offering."
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    "I'm partial to a flutter on Amasec," said Enoch, "but we don't have the time. How about a few hands of Exterminatus?"
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    "I may know it." Joss admits, "If by a different name. If not, well, I will learn." The assassin shrugs and looks for a place for them to play cards. If there were no convenient tables, he would simply find a seat in an out of the way corner, although the others might not like sitting on the floor.
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    "I do not play for I don't believe in chance. Particularly when it involves people like us." Mouse says, addressing them all in general. "Count the times we've all cheated death and you may fall in line with my way of thinking as probability most certainly isn't in our favor at this point." She says before giving Gabe a weary smile. "Flattery gets you no where, but thank you. It is good to get out of the libraries and tomes and cogitators. It is...soothing to be in a city once more. If this were a forge world, I might even be pleased."

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    Annie settled down for the game with Joss. "Normally i'd say play for thrones but I aint gonna take your money 'fore i knows yer proper."

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    The group found a table in the corner of the transit station, settling down for a game of cards. They only really had time for a few hands before their shuttle arrived, trundling into the station through its airlock, water dripping off the hull as doors opened to admit new passengers. They were one of the first groups on, which meant they got seats: by the time the shuttle had finished boarding it was jam packed, slipping into the water filled with jostling hivers.

    If one thing could be said for Landunder's transit system, it was that the shuttles themselves didn't make much noise. By the time they arrived at their destination they had each been bumped into half a dozen times, as people moved about the cabin. Stops were few and far between, and the crowd on the shuttle never seemed to get any smaller. When they disembarked at the base of Neptune Spire, the shuttle seemed to contain more people than it had when they started out.

    The apartment they'd been assigned by the Inquisition was in one of the more rundown buildings they passed. The Landrian Arms looked as though it hadn't been properly maintained for years: the facade of crumbling stone fallen in places to reveal solid metal beneath, and the windows that opened to the street were covered in grime. Some time in the past someone had gone to the expense of installing carpet in the lobby, and rattling elevators that had probably been nice when they were new. The room keys they'd been given with the rest of their briefing material opened apartment 1480, which featured faded carpet in a pattern even uglier than the lobby, and furniture which at first glance appeared to be wood, but was proven on closer inspection to be entirely synthetic. There were two bedrooms, a small kitchen unit, a living area with a voxphone and phonebook, a battered old holoviewer, and a vast plate of glass that looked out into the ocean beyond. Of everything in the room, the window seemed to get the most attention from maintenance - the sealant around the corners and bolts in its fixture looked fresh.

    On the desk with the voxphone, someone had left a business card. "Det. McKaren, Adraxis Constabulary, Central Branch." On the back was scribbled a personal vox code, and the message 'call upon arrival.'
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    When they arrived at the apartment, Enoch tapped the window a couple of times with the tip of his staff. "Let's hope this is as sturdy as it looks." He had to admit to being a bit unnerved by the fact that only a handful of centimetres stood between him and a soggy, ignominious death - but then, it was probably no less safe than any shuttle through the void. He hoped, anyway.

    He spared the business card a glance, then frowned and moved on. Clearly, he was not going to do the honours.
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    "Well, don't mess with it, then." Joss advises, frowning at the furniture. Wood that wasn't wood. That wasn't natural. He then moves to check the food supplies in the kitchen.

    "I am surprised we have been given such spacious accommodations." There was no sarcasm in his voice. Something this size would suit even a large family on his homeworld, and he'd heard some very absurd things about hiveworlds.
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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    UncleWolf's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    "Someone else call. I have preparations to make." Mouse says as she sets her pack in a chair and pulls her robe off over her head, revealing a white armored bodyglove beneath with the legs tucked into a pair of matching white combat boots. "Hate the thing." She admits before stretching herself to work kinks out. When she finishes, she begins to unpack some of her gear, pulling out guns, holsters, ammo, and finally a tank of promethium and bundles of det-cord with tape. "Any objections to me rigging the window in case we have unwanted visitors and need to vanish completely?" She asks everyone.

  23. - Top - End - #23
    Ogre in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    Joss does a bit of a doubletake at Mouse, his cat-like eyes going wide. "Didn't I just say not to mess with that?!" There was an awful lot of water outside that window. He certainly didn't want it to be inside with them.
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    Titan in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    Annie slung her kitbag onto the table and jerked a thumb at the apartment's entrance. "If that aint watertight blowing the window'll kill a lot of people."
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  25. - Top - End - #25
    Titan in the Playground
     
    Destro_Yersul's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    The door of the apartment was made of the same faux-wood as much of the furniture. It looked reasonably solid, but by no means watertight.
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  26. - Top - End - #26
    Ogre in the Playground
     
    UncleWolf's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    "The door isn't. And the threat of such might be precisely what we need at a moment's notice. Particularly if this all ends up being an elaborate scheme to kill us." Mouse points out as she gets the bundles of det-cord and tape and a remote, heading over to the window to work. "I'm not going to go into another situation without a backup plan. There isn't much difference between being trapped underground and trapped under water."

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  27. - Top - End - #27
    Ettin in the Playground
     
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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    With the rest of the cell getting ready to make preparations, Gabe sauntered over to the phone and business card, snatching both up and deftly dialing their contact, casually leaning the desk's chair on its back two legs, gently rocking himself with his toes.
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  28. - Top - End - #28
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    Destro_Yersul's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    The Kitchen unit was small, and contained a fridge, stove and assortment of cupboards. They had been left a modicum of cooking equipment for anyone who felt inclined to try their hand. The equipment was of as reasonable a quality as could be expected, but the food on offer was less than stellar. It consisted primarily of synthetic spices and cans of nutrient paste. The freezer had several packages of Brontian Synth-Bacon in it, and a single loaf of bread, guaranteed to contain up to 20% wheat and wheat byproducts.

    Meanwhile, Gabe had picked up the vox. The number on the card rang twice before being picked up by a harried-sounding man with a clipped accent that Gabe couldn't quite place.

    "Hello? Who's this?" Once Gabe had identified himself, the voice on the other end sounded more relieved and less harried. "Ach, that's right. You lot were supposed to be arriving soon. Detective McKaren, 1st precinct. Am I right in thinking you're here to help with the investigation?"
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  29. - Top - End - #29
    Ettin in the Playground
     
    Thanatos 51-50's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    "The wonders never cease! Business cards that don't lie!" Gabe quipped through a smile, shooting glances around the apartment, and quickly gauging whtehr or not there was too much noise to put McKaren on speaker before deciding against it and dialing his commbead to transmit and replacing the receiver by his ear.
    "Investigations are our forte, of course. I assume you'll want some face-to-face time to discuss details?"

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  30. - Top - End - #30
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    Destro_Yersul's Avatar

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    Default Re: Dead in the Water (Dark Heresy IC)

    "That'd be right. Do you want to come down to the precinct, say in an hour or two?"
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