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The Higher Call [DH] Episode III: Under the Hammer

The Higher Call Play-by-Post PBP Dark Heresy Commissar Molotov roleplay inquisition

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#26
Easy E

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As Acolyte Prime Stroud briefed them on the new recruits the Scribe felt his face noticeably blanch.  Each one seemed like more and more of a potential danger than the last.  Tech-priest, Penal Legionnaire, Bounty Hunter, Witch Finder, Sanctioned Psyker….. 

 

His pen paused for a brief moment.  The next thing Astelan realized was he had switched pages and was instead cataloguing the contents of the room about him.  Six high-back chairs of unknown wood, One large rectangular table, polished, made of an unknown wood, one….. so on and so on. 

 

He looked down at his auto-quills and watched them for a moment, amazed as they started to sketch out the general lay-out of the room as if of their own accord.  Gently, he put his right hand over the archaic machinery or his left hands’ writing harness.  He physically stopped his hand from continuing to write for a moment to reset his own mind.  He took a long, slow deep breath.    

 

Acolyte Prime was right.  It was best not to pre-judge.  In an act of will, Astelan reached to the notes he had taken about the new recruits, physically crumpled them up, and tossed the documents into the fireplace.  With a stirring of sadness, he watched them slowly ignite, and burn away into a blackened ash. 

 

 

He was going to follow his Prime’s orders as a humble servant should.  It was all he had to offer.  However, Scribe Astelan was fairly sure he would be keeping Father Zarkov or Arbiter Stroud very close.  They were all he had to hang on to, the only way to stay right-side up in this upside down world.   


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#27
Commissar Molotov

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Yunxian, Munny, Brye, Reeve, Eustasius

The shuttlecraft takes off, lifting from the landing pad with a grinding roar. It isn't long before the immense bulk of the hive-city itself stretches in front of you. It is a bewildering agglomeration of architectural forms, spires built upon spires, all scrabbling to claw at the sulphurous cloud-cover. At its base, the armoured "skirts" seem to dominate the coastal plains, stretching out for many miles. Titanic black cliffs mark the western limits, but the hive itself spills over, seemingly into the churning sea. It isn't long before the lander descends onto a mighty buttress jutting from the side of the hive, one of many landing pads in this strata of the hive. 

 

You emerge from the craft into a lightly drizzling rain that smells faintly of gunmetal. The shuttle squats on the landing pad, steam hissing from it as heavily-coated staff push through the rain to attach refuelling hoses. You are met by a darkly-attired servant who leads you through ornately decorated corridors, every surface covered with artifice. 

 

You soon arrive at a heavily-armoured door, the surface of which is emblazoned with a silver-and-blue pattern, pierced by a single red dagger. The servitor waves a hand and the door opens slightly inwards. 

 

You are drawn into a richly-attired chamber, resembling a large study, with various plush furniture pieces. Various artefacts are placed on little end tables, whilst the walls are covered in tapestries, portraits and bookshelves. 

 

You are greeted by a tall individual with close-cropped, straw-coloured hair. His blue eyes pan over you as he grips a data-slate in his hand. It appears this is likely to be the individual you are here to meet. Beside him is a short, pale scribe with his arm encased in an auto-quill device and a preacher of the Ecclesiarchy, with a dark brown robe and a long, grey beard. 

 

++GM: Whilst you are free to post your thoughts on the journey, on Stroud, Astelan or Zarkov, please allow Marovian to talk to you before you speak!++


Edited by Commissar Molotov, 23 May 2016 - 09:31 PM.

 
QUOTE (voi shet magir @ May 31 2011, 05:38 AM) 
That is an unexpectedly strong assertion from a dead person.

#28
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Silence.

 

Contemplation.

 

Observation.

 

These were the social tenants of servant to the Omnissiah such as 6-72, a venerated and ascended member of the priesthood, yet a servant nevertheless. There were those among the Adeptus Mechanicus of whom their work is to be the voice of the Machine-God and his cult. Such diplomats were trained in social skills and etiquette to relay the will of the Mechanicum to its allies and trading partners. Yunxian was offered no such exemption to the cold steel practicality of the Machine-Cult had no place for human kindness. It was an utterly irrelevant and unnecessary facet of the human psyche that only posed to slow the oiled gears of the machine.

 

And so, without orders or being spoken to, the Chirurgeon sat in silence, contemplated, and observed.

 

A single red lens rotated into focus as the tech-priest drew a gaze upon each of the individuals that sat aboard the vessel inside with it. It examined them, scrutinizing, yet in an entirely different manner to how they chose. Basic human psychology tells of the common theory to ‘first impressions’ where the physical traits and most minute details of from actions, look, or even simple posture would set a foundation to one’s judgment on the capabilities or likeability of an individual. Such notions were impractical. One need not hold emotional attachment to a fellow servant to work with them properly. Efficiency was the product of faith and, calculations, and effort, not kindness.

 

Instead, Yunxian 6-72 detailed their many physical traits, assessing them and categorizing their potential based on data recorded in the cerebral cortex for further addition, amendment and later use. Already the Chirurgeon was creating a file on each of the individuals within the transport hold. It would need more data.. Biometric scans, blood samples, retinal recording, tissue samples… The list seemed to trail on for a moment as 6-72 silently listed the many requirements needed to properly fill a record of this servants, but that would come at a later time…

 

Within its hunched spine, something began to stir, a light purr issuing from something hidden within the tech-savant’s ragged overgoat. It shifted, moving on its own as though to seek freedom. From under the tech-priest’s coat a skull emerged, held aloft by ancient anti-grav technology built into the framework of the cranium and extending from where the spinal cord would connect. Its hollow sockets were integrated with optical bionics, one covering the right socket and much of the side of the bone, while the left remained hidden within. 

 

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 The little construct moved as though with a mind of its own, driven by an almost child-like curiosity as it hovered on anti-grav suspensors with an almost feline purr. These were the eyes 6-72 no longer had, all visual feed recorder from the servo-skull’s optical units linking directly into the Tech-Priest’s cortex, allowing it a better look at the other passengers of the ship. As it moved closer, the dim light of the chamber revealed a single X engraved on the skull’s forehead.

 

Three males and one female, excluding their guide who went by the moniker of ‘scabs’. Each of them seemed to be of general upstanding health, all within a general age of prime save for the one in the wide-brimmed hat and trenchcoat who seemed to have past that time only recently.

 

A time for further observation would have to come later as the ship finally came to a halt and the dorsal hatch opened into the night sky. Face still hidden beneath that corvian mask, Yunxian 6-72 was the first to stand from its seat and move out of the compartment, arms folded together beneath the overcoat sleeves to hides its hands, optical servo-skull trailing behind.

 

As it walked another lump began to move from its hunched back, a second servo-skull revealed itself, this one bearing only one bionic eye and the numeral VIII emblazoned on the bone. The servo-skull carried beneath itself a lumen globe, a short but strong light that illuminated the darkness for the party. The twin skulls floated obediently behind their maker just as Yunxian obediently followed their guide into the chambers of this dark librarium. 

 

It was here the 6-72 now stood with the group, remaining to the tenets of social service to the Omnissiah. 

 

Silence. Contemplation. Observation. 


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#29
Olis

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As the craft landed, everyone in the carriage bobbed while the struts took the weight of the craft. Brye kept her hood up in the drizzle. She had disembarked from the shuttle quickly, eager get some room between her and the others. So quickly that she had nearly brained a staffer with the gull-wing door. A little grimace and a half-wave in placation prevented the yelp of surprise from turning into an oath at her. There was still a scowl. She carried on after the retainer into the monolithic building, light from behind her - she turned to check - from the tin-man creating a shadow of her on the back of the servant. 

 

Inside was a kind of opulence that Brye had rarely seen in her life. The finery and the flash of the ornaments wowed her. The carpet alone, as they walked, belied the kind of riches that she could only dream of. The plushness of it, the richness of the crimson inlay and the high-shine polish of the wooden border. Paintings and mural-picts depicted great scenes of battle or the aftermath thereof. The great and the good of... well, wherever, stared out from their framed prisons, exhibiting a startling array of fashion styles and personal grooming. A chandelier here, a chandelier there, and a great many cleverly placed lumin-globes lit up the procession as they moved through countless millions of thrones worth of antiques. Notably, a suit of what Brye thought was power armour, lacquered in a dark metallic red, stood in a display case at the base of a flight of stairs heading up and away from the corridor. An accompanying case with a gun inside sat before it but Brye made out no details as they walked past, engrossed as she was with the armour on its stand. 

 

Then, of course, came the door and the study. While the heavy blast door held little interest for Brye, especially after the cavalcade of opulence leading to it, inside the door were people. Not servants. Not servitors. Not staff. People, she presumed, like her and her compatriots. Agents of the Inquisition. Walking forward, conscious of being at the head of the motley group, she sat heavily in a tall, ornate armchair. The chair made a cracking noise, although Brye could have sworn that the damn thing looked like it could seat the fully armoured witch-hunter with no problem. One of the agents winced. 


Edited by Olis, 24 May 2016 - 10:26 PM.

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#30
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The flight to their destination had been.... well, awkward as all hell in all honesty. The old timer had fallen asleep straight away, no surprises there, and the Mech-Rep had done whatever it was Mech-Reps did to pass the time in silence. Maths probably. That left the fanatic and the witch, both studiously and politely ignoring the other like two housewives that didn't see eye to eye. Oh and their contact, "Scabs", living up to his name by picking away at the flaking skin on his neck and hands.

 

So Reeve thanked the stars when they finally got to wherever it was they were going and they were able to disembark from the now faintly damp-smelling and flaky shuttle hold. The witch surprised him by taking the lead and scurrying off as quick as she could, presumably eager to show her new bosses that she didn't need to be purified any time soon. That or she was actually looking forward to serving the Ordos, which made her a lot dumber than she looked. Still, least they were out of that hive-sink and into something all together a bit classier. 

 

Reeve had to admit to himself that he was finally a little impressed. The opulence and grandeur of these rooms was something he hadn't experienced since the Governors Ball on Killen Halts, almost eight years or so ago. Fine night that had been - invitations entirely faked, him and a couple of other junior officers charming and sweet-talking their way into a formal do way above their station. And then there had been the girl, what was her name again? Tempé? Celeste Tempé? Something like that anyway. Throne, the things she'd  wanted to when she'd found out he was only a Guardsman....

 

Trying to push thoughts of long limbs, lace and acts that would make a priest blush from his head, Reeve coughed awkwardly and tried to pay attention to the people they were being introduced to. An easily forgettable scribe who looked half scared to death already. Could be useful though, if he had access to certain things. Another priest type, perfect. And finally Captain Squarejaw here. Looked the kind who'd volunteered to fight all kinds of bat:cuss insane stuff in the shadows just for kicks. Looked to be in charge, which wasn't ideal but still, Reeve had worked his magic around similar types before.

 

The witch had already made herself comfortable in the biggest chair she could find, seemed to be fairly glowing with eagerness. Old habits died harder for Reeve though and the thought of having someone behind him made his back itch in that sweetspot where a shiv would be rammed home. So no chairs, at least not yet. He leaned himself against a bookcase instead and pulled a carefully constructed look of interest and open honesty onto his face.


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#31
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He watched as the new members entered the room and sat down. He watched them with interest, trying not to appear too stand offish.

 

The psyker made herself comfortable almost straight away in a huge armchair, alebit with an awkward look on her face as she shattered the silence with the chair, and the cog-wearer was both non-distinct and uniqiue at the same time. The others filtered in, each with their own reactions. The penal legionnaire caught the eye of Stroud straight away. To most people, he was acting perfectly normaly, and didn't stand out. To Stroud, he could see the warning signs. The man didn't let anyone get behind him and was clearly aware of what was going on around him. They were the traits of any good operator - maybe there was something there he could work with?

 

"Welcome to House Haldane," said Stroud, once they all seemed comfortable. "I am Artemis Stroud, and I have the.................. task of being prime in this group. These are my friends and colleagues, Astelan and Father Zarkov."

 

Addressing a group was never fun for Stroud, especially a new group. Was he too formal, too full on, too casual?

 

"You have been chosen to join us in the serivce of our Lady, and the inquisition. On behalf of Septimus Cell, welcome to our little group."

 

What were they thinking? Which ones were cursing the path that had bought them here? Who saw a chance to better themselves or just to better their situation?

 

"I'll be brief because I am sure you have lots of questions. I recall our recrutiment being a jarring experience, and I don't want to make yours any more painful than it needs to be."

 

"We have been requested by another Inquisitor, a man by the name of Grist. Apparently this is a very unusual, but totally legal occurrence in the Inquisition. I do not know what tasks this Grist may have for us, but whilst we serve him we still work for our Lady. So we will be trying to establish his agenda whilst working for him. As I am sure you can all imagine, this will not be without risk."

 

"So, first of all, please ask anything you wish of us, we will try to be as honest and forthwright as we can. We have only until tomorrow before we meet Grist, I would like us to all be reasonably up to speed and familiar by then."

 

He stood and waited. He was alays willing to listen to different vew points, and here were five unique people with their own outlook. He only hoped the skills and talents they had had been chosen wisely by the Inquisitions recruiters.


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#32
Olis

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As she watched Stroud make his introduction, she surreptitiously glanced at the others to see how they were taking it all in. With perhaps the exception of the Snake, who looked a little too earnest to be listening properly, everyone appeared to be paying attention. It was only then that she realised that she herself had taken her eye off of the Acolyte Prime. Attempting to compensate in a way that wouldn't draw attention, Brye refocused. No cough, no crossing of her legs, no change in facial expression.

 

With Stroud finished with his spiel, Brye ran her tongue along the roof of her mouth. She would remain silent unless she was spoken to. 


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#33
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Well, that certainly made things a little more interesting. Aiding one Inquisitor whilst working for another and reporting to the latter on the actions of the former while pretending to the former that you aren't in fact spying on him at all, all the while knowing that he probably knows very well that you were telling your boss everything. Welcome to the Ordos. Still, at least it was the kind of inside-man shell game that Reeve had run himself back in the day. One thing niggled at him though, one little detail that only made sense when you considered.... ah. Of course.

 

He looked around at the others, but there was no sign that they'd guessed yet. Looks like he was going to be the one to ruin their big day. Reeve coughed out a small laugh.

 

"Well, I guess we know one thing about this other guy. Your - sorry, our boss Lady really doesn't trust him at all. Why the frak else would she send us to him?"



#34
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Wyl was surprised. Very much so. This manifested on his face as his left eyebrow shooting up an inch from its normal, neutral, position. They were being sent to assist another Inquisitor in pursuit of ends unknown? Intriguing. Very much so. Especially if his four shuttle companions (not counting Scabs, of course) were as new to the Inquisition as he was. The only one of them who might have dealt with this sort of thing before was the Witch Hunter, and perhaps not even him. Wyl Munny didn't know much about the Inquisition, but such an occurrence as an Inquisitor requisitioning another's forces couldn't just be rare, it had to be abnormal. Something big had to be going on.

 

As the Inquisitorial Prime, a hard looking man named Stroud, finished speaking, the man in civvie clothes whose name Wyl hadn't yet learned asked a question. It wasn't a bad question, but Wyl had a better one in mind. Looking at Stroud, he cleared his throat and spoke in a dusty voice:

 

"Why? Why us? Why does this Grist want us, specifically? What are we supposed to be capable of that his servants are not?"


"Sometimes painful things like this happen. It's all part of the process of exploration and discovery. It's all part of taking a chance and expanding man's horizons. The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave."

 

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#35
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"We're capable of being eminently bloody expendable, that's what we're capable of. Grist doesn't risk any of his own on whatever he's got in mind for us and the Lady doesn't waste experienced and useful agents on what is either a wild sumprat chase or a suicide mission. Either way, she gets to see what's going on in this Grist's head with the minimum of risk to her own organisation."


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#36
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Eustasius walked through the rain into the opulent rooms. He cared nought what they looked like, heresy and piety were found equally in squalor and finery. As the Prime introduced his colleagues Eustasius bowed his head in acknowledgement to Father Zarkov. His fellow travellers began speaking without greetings or introductions. 

 

"Good evening Stroud, I am Witchfinder Eustasius as you may know. I bid the rest of you all a good evening too" he said as he turned to his fellow travellers.

 

Turning to Reeve he continues "As to whom we work for within the Inquisition, it is irrelevant, 'wheels within wheels' does not even begin to explain the complexity of the ordos. However,  whether you live is up to your own tenacity, faith helps too".

 

Turning back to Stroud "What should we know of our cell and the lady Inquisitor?"


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#37
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Astelan shuffled about nervously, unsure of himself.  The fingers on his left hand twitched, eager to begin writing, but now was not the time.  He would need to write down his own notes on each of their new members later.  To write now would be untoward and disrespectful. 

 

What he knew of each of these people…. his new peers.... was enough to make him exceedingly uncomfortable.  How did the Lady expect them to function as a group?  They were all natural enemies.  Witch and witch hunter?  Bounty hunter and criminal?  Tech-priest and priest?  Arbite and penal legionnaire?

 

He should not lapse into questioning the workings of the Inquisition.  Such thoughts would only bring him trouble.  His efforts on the Life of St. Oliander had eased his burden about doubting his path.  Now was no time to backslide.    

 

Somehow, Septimus Cell had made it work in the past.  Lukas had been an underhiver.  Majester had been a tech-priest.  Helbrec had been a criminal.  Varin and Rand had been soldiers.  Lt. Hinds a noble.  Malia a void-born.  Of course, all of those people were dead or as good as dead; sent away to serve elsewhere by the Lady Amaranthe.  Naturally, he mentally sorted his former peers into categories, dead, re-assigned, injured in the field…. It was a dismal list to review.  Idly, he began to move the names of his new comrades into different categories and wonder where they would eventually filter to.  Where would his name end up on the list?      

 

 

The scribe kept his eyes down, and his ears open.  He knew that Acolyte Prime Stroud would set everyone in their place.  He would be assigned his duty soon.  His fingers burned to be put to motion.    


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#38
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The questions were flowing now, which pleased Stroud. He was especially happy to see that most of them had honed in on the very thing that concerned him the most - why?

 

And then Reeve spoke again.

 

"We're capable of being eminently bloody expendable, that's what we're capable of. Grist doesn't risk any of his own on whatever he's got in mind for us and the Lady doesn't waste experienced and useful agents on what is either a wild sumprat chase or a suicide mission. Either way, she gets to see what's going on in this Grist's head with the minimum of risk to her own organisation."

 

Stroud opened his mouth to speak, to slap down Reeve as quickly as possible before the seed of doubts were placed in the minds of the cell. Then his brain caught up wth his mouth and he truly processed what Reeve had said. And then that one word hit him. Expendable.

 

Expendable.

 

Is that was what was really going on here? Surely not. The thought had never crossed his mind, not deep down. He knew the risks. Knew people died doing what he did, but his life wasn't one to be thrown away. Was it? He was an Arbite, trained to administer the Emperors justice, a man determined to stand up to injustice and hand picked by the Lady Inquisitor. At least the latter could be said about all the others as well. The whole point of the Inquisiton, of all the creaking Imperial agenices and departments was to keep the Emperors loyal subjects safe, or at least that is what he had been telling himself all his life. It was what he had been taught all his life. Was it all a lie? Were they all just nothings to their masters, to be expended as and when it suited a personal agenda.

 

The idea was suddenly almost overwhelming.

 

What about Brandt's praise? The deaths of the others? The lengths that had been gone to recruit them all into the inquisiton, they all pointed to some purpose, some higher agenda other than a meaningless death.

 

And yet.

 

Reeve was a man who had been in a penal legion, had no doubt seen life expended for nothing. Did he have a different, more profound insight than Stroud? What could you tell a man like that to counter his argument that they were just bodies to choke the throat of the enemy.

 

Snapping out of his self-doubt, he realised he had taken too long to answer and the witch finder had stepped in. He cursed himself for showing such weakness. Now was not the time to begin to question himself.

 

"What should we know of our cell and the lady Inquisitor?"

 

He seized on this, something he could address, something that could put him back on a solid footing.

 

"The honest truth is very little. To my knowledge we have never met her. For undisclosed reasons each of us attracted enough of her attention to warrant elevaton to service of the Throne, and she bought us together."

 

It sounded hollow, even to Stroud. The unknown was never pleasent.

 

"I do not know why Grist wants us, nor what he has in store for us. I only know what we have been assigned to do. I have assurances we will not be out of contact, but there is no doubt this will be dangerous. Without risk, there is no reward, and we will do everything in our power to complete our assignment. This cell has worked before, against all the odds, and will work again." He decided to push a little to see if anyone wanted an easy way out.

 

"Those of you who do not want to take part in this are welcome to leave. I am sure the Lady Amaranthe will be happy to release you from your...... torment. The rest are welome to enjoy the facilities of house Haldane for at least one night.

 

 



#39
Commissar Molotov

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Stroud's words hang heavily in the air. Having never even met the Lady Amaranthe, who lifted you all from your previous lives and bound you in service to the God-Emperor's Holy Ordos, you are soon to meet your first Inquisitor. It may well be an auspicious moment - but not, it seems, a particularly pleasant one.

For now, the facilities of the household are at your disposal.

Edited by Commissar Molotov, 27 May 2016 - 07:34 PM.

 
QUOTE (voi shet magir @ May 31 2011, 05:38 AM) 
That is an unexpectedly strong assertion from a dead person.

#40
JackDaw

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If there was one skill Reeve had honed over the long years of cons, tricks and everyday life in the Legion, it was how to read someone. And right then, for one brief moment, when Reeve had pointed out their utter unimportance in the long run, he'd seen a genuine moment of doubt in Stroud.  Huh. Maybe Captain Squarejaw wasn't so square after all. Of course, that just led to the next worrying observation that not even their supposed leader knew exactly what was going on or what they were getting themselves into. Life in the Ordos. Bloody marvellous.

 

Now the fanatic was weighing in with something, drowning on about tenacity and faith in that wonderfully formal way of his. Reeve mustered a half-smile and let it slip across his face. The sooner he and the priest compared favourite psalms together and left Reeve alone, the better.

 

Stroud's final words almost made him laugh - release from torment. Yeah, right. The kind of release you found at the end of a las-bolt through the skull maybe. Still, at least they were out of the sinks and somewhere decent for at least one night. Reeve's thoughts turned to decent food, maybe a little wine or amasec. Tired house-servants who'd never heard fully learnt the rules for a full hand of Amburlaines Vice. No point trying to work the angles yet, not when you didn't even know the shape of things. Might at well try and have a little fun when you could, enjoy the small moments.



#41
Commissar Molotov

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  • Chapter Name: The Castigators

Yunxian, Munny, Brye, Reeve, Eustasius 

Each of you is shown to new accomodations; it seems that the Haldane Household has more than enough rooms to accomodate you all. The Household stretches across several floors; the service areas in the lowest level lie beneath various reception rooms, libraria and bedchambers. There is even a fully appointed ballroom, although it seems there has been no dancing for a long time. The whole place is eerily quiet, as though whatever life used to be in this place has been snuffed out. Of the Lord of the household, there is no sign. The servants are obliging, and food is brought to you upon your request. 

 

If you are to do anything this evening, it would serve you well to make your move soon. 


 
QUOTE (voi shet magir @ May 31 2011, 05:38 AM) 
That is an unexpectedly strong assertion from a dead person.

#42
Easy E

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As the meeting broke-up Astelan found his way to the dining area.  Most of his life, he had been fed warmed mush that was bland and nearly flavorless.  The best thing that could be said about it was it had a distinctive grittiness to it.  On the few Feast Days where he was allowed to leave the Admin-hive it had been a treat to stop and eat at the various street-vendors to sample their wares.  He had relished these small bursts of flavor, but it made going back to the Admin-hive mush that much harder.  Now, he had access to some of the most sumptuous meals in the Imperium.  However, he had no tongue to taste it with.  Now everything tasted like the mush he had eaten for most of his life.  It was another cruelty inflected on him.

 

The Scribe sighed heavily as the servants of House Haldane brought him roasted Tuskagor with a Burrberry compote on a bed of steamed hydra-leaves.  They accompanied it with a glass of Red wine imported from off-world.  A fine delicacy.  He may not be able to taste, but he could still soak in the aromas, and that was enough to make his mouth water. 

He dug into the meal.  A few of the others were wandering around the estate, and he saw glimpses of them as they passed in and out of the dining hall.  They were a motley crew. 

The tech-priest was nothing like Brother Majester.  He had been augmented, but still noticeably human; well at least until the VInculists had gotten hold of him.  Under their care, he had been severely battered and extensive augmetics were needed to keep him alive.  After the Vinculists, Brother Majester looked more like this Tech-priest Yunxian fellow. 

 

Astelan had been a hereditary scribe assigned to seat XV-A.  He remembered when Scribe Morticai in seat XV- D had passed away at his duties.  He was discovered a week later by the overseers and carted away from his cube.  AS the body had passed, Astelan had accidentally caught a glimpse of it.  The desiccated and aged corpse reminded him of Yunxian.  It was hard to believe that such a mummified looking half-corpse was a chirugeon.  The thought of Yunxian touching his injured flesh made his skin crawl. 

 

Then, there was the Witch-Hunter Maraxus.  He seemed amiable enough, but so were the editor-scribes.  They were kindly and gentle in the common-room, but they would go after your every error.  Their judgements often brought harsh punishment.  He imagined that the Witch-Hunter would be the same.  Perhaps not having a tongue would be a blessing around that one.  It was clear that he could be relied on to do what was needed, but Astelan didn’t want to dwell on what that might be.  He was sure it had been messy. 

 

He idly wondered about witch Haygarth and how she felt around Maraxus.  She carried the brand of sanctioning on her hand, but it was a process he knew little about. His entire life he had heard and read stories about the horrors of the witch.  Indeed, he had personally copied many such missives and passages about their inherent evil and need to be purged.   The only sanctioned psykers he had encountered were in passing in the upper levels of the Admin-hive.  Occasionally, the overseers would send a runner with an important message to the Psych-tanks at the spire.  He had seen the rows upon rows of astropaths sequestered in their tanks, and seen a few wandering blindly around.  They were always shadowed by a blank looking armed guard.  Who was supposed to keep an eye on this one?  Maraxus?  Stroud?  Zarkov?  He knew he didn’t want to spend too much time around her.  Witches were dangerous.  However, he would do what his duty required, but he knew he wouldn’t like it. 

 

The Penal legionnaire Reeve seemed like he would be trouble.  Lukas may have been a ganger, but he could be trusted to keep his wits about him.  This man had spoken the unspoken out loud.  He wondered about his sanity after spending so much time in the frontlines.  Astelan recalled the experience of being stuck in the library during the mercenary attack.  The smells, the sounds… sometimes he still woke up in a cold sweat remembering the dead eyes of the servant that had been killed at his feet.  He shook his head.  Experiencing that day-to-day must change some one, how they think and act.  Varrin, Rand, and Hinds had all been soldiers too.  However, they were different.  They were disciplined and understood the chain of command.  He doubted Reeves would care one iota about the chain-of-command.  The scribe knew he would be standing with Acolyte Prime Stroud when the time came. 

 

Finally the Bounty Hunter, Munny seemed like the most normal and reliable of this eccentric lot.  However, he was still just a mercenary and their loyalties could be fickle at best.  Was he just another hired gun to bulk up Septimus Cell’s ability to kill?  That boded ill for their future assignments. Scribe Astelan had hoped that his Mistress would take interest in the grey-covered tome and the “Dark Traveller”.  However, with this switch to Inquisitor Grist and the addition of Haygarth, Maraxus, Munny and Yunxian to the retinue he sensed a more “direct” and dangerous assignment ahead of him. 

 

It was a lot to take in.  The scribe dabbed away the Tuskagor juices from his lips.  Almost instantly, a servant appeared and shuffled the plates away.  The Scribe had become comfortable here and he realized that Grist would probably take all of this luxury away from them.  He looked around the dining hall slowly and absorbed the sumptuous and elegant surroundings, potentially for the last time. 

 

House Haldane had been his home for several weeks.  He was shocked to realize he would miss it.  This might be the last sane place he would for some time.  The scribe checked is backpack and found a stack of vellum paper.  He decided to view the House of Haldane one more time, and perhaps illuminate miniature sketches of the sculpture, paintings, murals, and tapestries that caught his eye.  He decided if he was to relax this evening, he would not be able to face the library again.  There were too many horrible and recent memories there. 

 

With that, the Scribe got up and began to ramble around House Haldane.               


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#43
Olis

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Brye had wandered out of the state room, effectively dismissed. She stopped in the hallway with the suit of armour, looking at it more thoroughly now. She still believed it to be powered armour but had no idea, in truth, whether she was right. However... the way that the armoured plates sat begged the question - who was the suit for? Brye had the impression that whoever this person was, they were female. Was it the slope of the abdomen? Was it the waist? There was not much at all to make such a call. It could very well be that she was wrong and these perceived differences were just the armour made to be form fitting.

 

The gun below was described by a bronze plaque as the "Barnassus Special" 16DT Military Autopistol. Curious. What was Barnassus? A person? A manufactoria? A planet? The witch shrugged and glanced to the red armour again, the depth of the finish and the shine of the gloss practically made it an art piece, along with the precious metal trim. The gun was no different. There was a great degree of filigree and acid etching on the metal components of the pistol but the body of the Special had been decorated much in the same way as the armour had.

 

She felt where her laspistol was holstered to her hip and drew the firearm, looking over the work that had been put into it. This wasn't the first time she had inspected her own gun, in fact memorisation had allowed her to recall the aquila on the muzzle and the etching on some of the upper casing and handle before whe even brought it up to compare. It was good but not as breathtaking as the Special. She looked at the autopistol again. It was quite the piece. Two barrels. An extended double-magazine. A holo-sight of some kind. Some sort of inbuilt circuitry on the grox-horn grip...

 

Brye checked over her shoulder, finding no-one else in the corridor except a servitor buffing the floor panelling twenty metres away. Reholstering her laspistol, she knocked on the glass only to find it absolutely solid. She checked the lock on the case. No luck. She had hoped for some sort of mechanism or if she was being smiled upon, an actual lock for a key. Nothing. Not even hinges. No chance of burning through without damaging the gun or at least the furnishings in the hallway. For the few seconds that she genuinely contemplated theft, the old feelings from back when she was a juve had rushed back to her. Now she shook them off. It was probably for the best. No doubt the case was alarmed or some such. 

 

She moved on. Passing a spacious dining room where the scribe was eating, the smell of the meat and the accompanying food was something she had not experienced since Terra. Admittedly, she had only eaten fine foods once while she was there but still the vaguely familiar aroma made her mouth saliva. When the silent adept noticed her, Brye smiled and gave as professional a nod as she could. Neither had yet spoken and Brye did not fancy broaching an introduction while the scribe had a forkful halfway between the plate and his face. Now was not the time.

 

Elsewhere in the manse the witch found other members of the cell. First Yunxian then, as she sought to avoid speaking with the walking corpse, she practically bumped straight into the witch hunter, her face grazing his robes. Instead of thanking the God-Emperor for avoiding a bloody nose, she looked up into his face, staring directly at his scarred features. Eustasius Maraxus stared back.

 

"I intimidate you." He rumbled. It wasn't a question, just a statement of fact. 

 

"You do." Her mouth clicked, Brye agreed. She finally tore her upward gaze away from him, looking around at the dusty ballroom. The only thing out of place was Yunxian. The chirurgeon watched the pair from the doorway in perfect quiet. She tried not to think of her almost-theft earlier.

 

"And so I should, girl. I am the God-Emperor's wrath. I am His judgement. I am His hammer. Faith will guide you, psyker. Trust in the God-Emperor and you can trust in me." The witch hunter declared. 

 

"I will." She said, looking him directly in the eyes. Another click from her palate. Brye wondered if her answer was satisfactory. Eustasius regarded her for another moment and then walked from the ballroom. Yunxian watched the witch hunter leave before turning to the psyker. 

 

The silence was broken briefly by Brye with a sneeze. Damned dust. Now was a good time for some aristo food and drink. Passing by Yunxian, she headed off to find the kitchens or at least a cook.


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#44
JackDaw

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She was beautiful, there was no denying that. Elegant, slender, wore that formal tailored suit like she had been born to it. And the hair of course. Always his weakness. Alright, so the picter had likely made some adjustments to the hololithic portrait, but still. And it wasn’t just the beauty, the ‘lith had captured something in her eyes – a fire, a challenge. It might be the wine talking, but Reeve could easily fall in love with this woman. For a time at least.

 

He groped down by the side of the chair, found the neck of the bottle of Zumerian red and poured another measure into his glass. The gallery Reeve had found himself in lacked any tables, so the hardwood floor around his chair played host to his bottle and a platter bearing crusts of fresh bread and crumbs of hard white cheese. He wasn’t sure exactly what time it was, he’d quite lost track of time since the end of that first ever-so-awkward meeting with Stroud and the others. After being shown to his room, Reeve had taken what may have been the longest bath in the history of the Imperium before locating the nearest dining room. He’d seen the little scribe scurrying off into a library room, no doubt salivating over the prospect of fondling some manuscript, but had not seen any of the others save for the Mech-Rep. That in itself had been a little uncomfortable as he… she…it? Had indicated that it wished to collect some samples. That minor unpleasantness over, he had been left to his own devices.

 

And that was dangerous.

 

Still, with little to no incident, he had found himself wandering the seemingly endless galleries of paintings and sculpture and hololiths, not really paying them any attention until this one. And here he had remained, lost in his own thoughts until a cough pulled him from his admiration. Reeve looked up and couldn’t stop the small sneer from creeping across his face at the sight of the oh-so-stoic Stroud stood over him. He saw the man’s eyes tighten fractionally before Stroud spoke.

 

“The Lady Adrielle.”

 

“Hmm? Oh, you mean…” Reeve pushed through the slight fuzz of drunkenness to compose his thoughts and mould his face into something more neutral and controlled.

 

“Yes, the woman you’re…admiring. Lord Haldane’s own daughter. She’s…” Stroud paused. Was that discomfort Reeve sensed? “She’s currently away. With family.”

 

“Ah, well. I see. There’s a shame.” Reeve raised his glass in salute, turned to face the hololith again. “Still, here’s to Haldane and his ravishing daughter. My thanks for their hospitality.”

 

Stroud remained standing, hands clasped behind his back. There was a tension to him, that much was obvious, something to do with the girl in the hololith. Reeve could feel the man’s eyes boring into the side of his head. He obviously had something to say, question was would he come out with it or work up to it?

 

“I wouldn’t have taken you for a lover of art.”

 

Ah, so we’re taking the scenic route then. Reeve felt a grin slash its way across his face.

 

“Oh I have my hidden depths sir, you can be sure of that. And well, who couldn’t appreciate something like this? Besides, there was a fellow from the understaff who was becoming quite irate at losing his pay so it seemed like a good idea to explore the house a little more.”

 

“You were concerned for your safety?”

 

“Ha, Throne no,” Reeve laughed. “I was concerned for his safety.” He wasn’t sure if it was possible for Stroud to stiffen even more, but somehow he managed it.

 

“Tell me Reeve, are we are going to have a problem with you? I will not tolerate any behaviour that will endanger this Cell or its undertaking. I’d have hoped that you of all people would embrace this chance to leave your past circumstances and serve the Throne as best you can. As I said, if you feel this calling is not for you, arrangements can be made for your removal from this…situation.”

 

And there we are. Reeve grinned again, a crueller one this time as he bent to pinch crumbs of cheese from the platter at his feet and slipped them past his lips. Seemed like Stroud had quelled whatever traces of doubt he may have had and was back behind that rigid self-control and sense of righteousness. He pushed himself to his feet and collected the bottle of wine by its long neck, swaying slightly as he stood.

 

“No problem here, I assure you. I’m simply eager to begin our work.” He hoped the smile he gave Stroud was sincere looking, but from the expression on the man’s face, Reeve doubted he’d managed it. Ah well. Reeve clapped Stroud on the shoulder as he pushed past and began to walk towards the door leading from the gallery.

 

“I’m to my bed, to sleep and to purge myself of impure thoughts of red headed women. Seems we have that in common at least.”

 

“I fear you are a terrible man, Nolan Reeve,” Stroud called after him. “There is a cruelty in you, I think.”

 

“Ha! You may be right sir. But why else would I be here, if not for that?” Reeve raised the bottle in one last salute as he left the gallery. “Good night Stroud. Give my regards to the Lady Ardrielle.”

 

He left the Arbite standing there, gazing at the hololith.


Edited by JackDaw, 31 May 2016 - 01:41 PM.

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#45
Easy E

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Eustasia Maraxus

Eustasius Maraxus took his tour of the House Haldane just as everyone else seemed to.  His eyes roamed over every detail.  He had a habit of looking at the details.  It was a way to discern the pure from the profane. 

 

He had been in the homes of nobility before.  The opulence was always an interesting contrast to the peasants they ruled over.  However, the Nobles were the same as the commoners.  They would try to protect their own.  In some ways, they were worse, for they had the resources to try and hide the witches and the shame they brought.  No matter where the darkness hides, the righteous light of the Emperor would find them.  They had tried to hide behind wealth, status, and power; but he had burned them just the same as the poor blighters in the underhive.    

 

Despite the lush surroundings, for the home of nobility House Haldane was a much more somber affair.  The artwork spoke of devotion to duty and past honors.  Whoever owned this house was most likely a devout servant of the Emperor. 

 

In passing, he crossed paths with a few of his fellows.  He exchanged pleasantries with them, but everyone was still awkward and unsure of each other. He assured them that they had nothing to fear from him and that he was bound to the will of the Throne.  He flashed his most reassuring smiles and adopted the movements of a harmless man.  However, the metal that replaced his flesh would betray the lie.

 

His new companions were an interesting lot.  The sanctioned girl feared him.  There was a time when she should have feared him, but that time was past.  Brye Haygarth served the Throne now, and was thus under His protection.  She was the one that interested him the most. 

 

The others were like so many others he had met before.  He would need to watch them, talk to them, and observe them.  The Inquisition would not have summoned them all together unless there was a reason, but their motivations and abilities would need to be determined.  He prayed that none would be found wanting.    

 

Soon, Eustasius had observed enough, and he returned to his quarters.  Once there, he stripped the bed of linens, folded them neatly, and placed them under the bed. He pushed the chairs to the corners, and rolled up the soft, deep rug and set it aside.  Such items were a comfort that was unwelcome to him.  Eustasius chose to endure hardship as a sign of his piety.  The Emperor endures unending hardships for Mankind, so one should endure hardship in this world too. 

  

Eustasius followed a ritual that he had followed for countless days.  He oiled and anointed his weapons and recited the verses of the Roisacusion Edict.  He maintained his armor and read-aloud the inspirational writings jotted down inside.  His physical weapons against heresy were thus prepared.

 

Next, he prepared his physical body.  He maintained and applied sacred oils to his augmetics.  They had to perform flawlessly when called upon.  As he did so, he quietly sung the psalms of the Saint of the Swordpoint Stars, his patron.  She would provide providence and had protected him for his entire life in order to complete his work. 

 

From there, the witch-finder began to work-out.  The space was spacious enough, but the Witch-finder had been trained to work in tight quarters.  His movements were precise, and focused.  He felt his body move through the routine on muscle-memory.  He felt his body respond at first with a slight burning ache, and then flow with joy.  Each motion and action of the routine was overlaid with the parable of the Swordpoint Saint, the motions of his body accenting the life of the Saint. 

 

With his physical tools cleansed, it was time to turn to the spiritual.  He sat cross-legged and retrieved his copy of the Imperial Creed.  It was worn and dog-eared.  The cover leather had been rubbed smooth where he held it.  The book had once belonged to an old mentor at the Synod, who had passed it down to him upon his graduation from the temple and ascension into the ranks of the Witch-finders.   His fingers turned to a random page, and he read the first passage he found….

 

“In a world of darkness, the blind man is the best guide.”

 

Eustasius closed the creed and set it in front of him.  He closed his eyes, steadied his breathing, and meditated on the words of the Creed.  He did this, until the votive candle flickered itself out, the fuel spent.  He rose, and found his way to the bare bed.  There he slept.    


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#46
Noctus Cornix

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To be left to its own devises was an… unsettling issue of disregard. Though having become accustom to the nature of common humans who live their lives in fear and ignorance, Tech-Chirurgeon 6-72 failed to understand the inefficient concept of laxity in ‘free time’. Boredom was a concept unknown save for only when there was no work to be done, a lapse in neural functioning that left it feeling empty… A longing to better serve the Omnissiah through even the most mundane tasks..

 

To simply grant ‘free time’ did exactly the opposite of what such a reprieve was intended for.

 

With no orders or any tasks to be done or overseen, the good doctor took the self-appointed task to collect the biological samples of its new ‘teammates’. The term was of an alien language to the surgeon who knew only comradery through a designation of binary codes sanctioning united work to complete a single task, never once knowing a sense of unity with any outside the Martian brotherhood. Still, whether they were of the Crimson Cult or not, 6-72 would see to the task of standard protocol and ensure that records of regular contacts were recorded through bio-samples. A whole host of test and collections were usually required, as was typical for the excessive need for detail of the Mechanicum. But for now a simple retinal scan, pict-record along with a blood and tissue sample to be stored in the cerebral cogitator and sample housing stored in the lumbering casing fixated along the priest’s back.

 

Two samples had been obtained already.. the one designated as a member of Penitent duty to the Astra Militarum was first..  Nolan Reeve. Age 34, Standard Terran Cycles. Male. Place of Birth registered as Irrelevant. The man was with the earlier years of his prime, a general bill of health. He would have made a fine servitor. That was, of course exactly what this man would have become were he sentenced to Penitence on Mutara. Combat servitors were a common sight, but such things as free thinking and human emotions were utterly irrelevant and nothing more than a hindrance to proper combat performance. Yunxian filed a personal notation in the memory banks to recommend servitor reclamation to Subject Prime Stroud for Subject Reeves should he be found wanting in services. It was the most respectable thing to do in the Tech-Priest’s opinion.

 

The second was the Witch-Finder. Eustasius Maraxus. Age 45, Standard Terran Cycles. Male. Place of Birth, Roiscant. He was an older specimen, his body inlaid with extensive bionics by most human standards, higher level bionics than what was provided to low-class workers but still a pale sham to the artistry of the Mechanicum. His eyes were the most fascinating and discerning facet, so filled with emotion, something 6-72 no longer shared but understood. Such chemical reactions in the body in response to trauma and the environment around a human were but a natural facet of a Chirurgeon’s basic knowledge. He was a fervent believer of his faith in the individual known to those outside the Mechanicum as the Emperor, a golden being that seemed beyond any scope of reason. Doctrine had described that this ‘Emperor’ and the Omnissiah were one in the same, or that the Emperor was merely a facet of the Omnissiah’s will. These were, of course entirely unscrupulous heresies in the eyes of zealots, Mechanicum doctrine giving warning that such individuals are to be avoided in any conversation of higher thinking for they often tend to lack it. Subject Maraxus’ samples were taken and he was left to go about his business without conversation.

 

It was the Psycher that Yunxian would see next, knowing her name to simply be Brye without any further record to be made. The girl passed the Tech-Savant with a clear sense of aversion the Chirurgeon noted of silently. It was not an unreasonable action, and certainly not uncommon given its present state of condition. Even still wearing that billed Corvian mask did little to create any sort of inviting atmosphere. She was stopped from simply leaving by Subject Maraxus. The two spoke, and the Surgeon simply watched in silence, observing the situation and creating minute details and blink-picts now saved to the memory cortex to be further added to the files. It was not until their conversation finished and the Witch Finder departed that Subject Brye began to lean.

 

“Command: Halt.”

 

The voice came in a disjointed, garbled spew of static vox filtered through the Savant’s rebreather, an artificial voice, androgynous but made deep and almost growling by age of the vocalizer unit. Unit 6-72 moved towards the girl, should she have stopped, the thing lumbering on whining servos like some shambling monstrosity from a child’s fable.

 

“Record: Subject Brye. Surname unregistered. Age unknown. Female. Birthplace unknown.  Blood and tissue sample unconfirmed. Retinal scan unconfirmed.”

 

There was a pause after the slew of unfulfilled notations in the personal file kept on the young woman, the Tech-Priest finally speaking after a pause that was perhaps too long to be comfortable.

 

“Query: Will you comply to needed records for personnel file?” 


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#47
Commissar Molotov

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Whether fitful or comfortable, sleep - or some approximation of it - claims you all. The tumultuous storm lashing the hive seems the perfect metaphor for the uncertainty of your new life and the unsettled nature of your thoughts. And yet, the next day comes quickly enough. Perhaps you were awake early, or woken by dutiful servants. It matters little; you are due to meet your new Master at the centre of his web.

 

The quickest and most direct route to the Chancellery Courts of the Jargan Prefecture is to take the transit networks, those rockcrete veins that thread the hive from its spire to its very roots. You are required to change mid-way through your journey, and find yourselves sharing a carriage with a dozen ashen-faced subaltern scriveners, each of whom spends their journey fingering lucky charms or leafing through leatherbound books filled with indecipherable script. For their part, they pay you no attention. It seems that curiosity has been excised from their personalities - or, perhaps, that they are just too exhausted to care. The journey is spent in almost complete silence.

 

You soon find yourself at the Jargan Prefecture's transit terminus. You are disgorged from the carriage alongside the scribes, who march off against a tide of exhausted and hunched figures making the opposite journey, boarding the train you have just left. As the transit car howls back into the tunnel from whence it came, you follow the scribes - but your eventual destination is clear enough.

 

The Chancellery Courts themselves are housed in a cathedral-like structure that stands fully a kilometre wide. The symbol of the Administratum is imposed upon the front, illuminated by the arcs of greenish stab-lights. It is in this building that judges, adepts, ministers and data-helots adjudicate and deliberate before deciding the fate of the sub-sector with a flick of the quill. And it is here that Grist awaits you. 

 

You find yourselves at the base of a flight of steps leading to the gates of the court. The stairs themselves are seemingly large enough to accommodate a dozen regiments of the Imperial Guard. They bustle with supplicants; those too weak to endure the trek to the top of the stairs seem to have made camp where they collapsed - sometimes even literally. Here and there you see vagrants, men who have lost everything as they wait for their claims to be processed. You see priests - the so-called friars-on-the-steps - tending to the fallen. Amidst all of this, heirs of lesser consequence hold court - those lordlings waiting for the Administratum to rule on their inheritances, shielded from the poverty and squalor by rich tapestries and gene-bulked muscle. Water-merchants make their stalls, incense and decay fill the air and Magistratum Enforcers patrol with shotcannons held in mailed fists, keen to avoid any queue-riots. 

 

You are not to be denied, however, and you make your way up the stairs, through advisors, fix-makers, intercessors and flunkies. You push through the crowds, over the pathetic forms of claimants and beggars. You are forced to halt at a Magistratum guard-post, where you relinquish your weapons in return for rectangular metal chits with astronomically high numbers stamped on them. 

 

Finally, you enter the gates of the Chancellery Court - wide enough to admit a Baneblade - and are able to goggle at the immensity of the building. You behold thousands of black-clad clerks, sombrely robed advocates, typing menials, servo-skulls carrying missives, and a neverending background murmur that is like the crash of a distant ocean. Plaintiffs of every conceivable origins and station can be found variously waiting, walking, arguing and queuing. 

 

Your hearts sink. Finding Grist in this is going to be a nightmare. 


Edited by Commissar Molotov, 01 June 2016 - 12:35 PM.

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QUOTE (voi shet magir @ May 31 2011, 05:38 AM) 
That is an unexpectedly strong assertion from a dead person.

#48
Commissar Molotov

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Stroud:
The journey had been wearying, to say the least. The transit tube had been oppressive; not just because of the claustrophobic confines of the carriage, but due to the teeming numbers of scribes. Perhaps everyone around the acoloytes felt themselves essential. But truth be told, Stroud doubted that if the carriage disappeared into the next tunnel and never came out, that the Hive would even miss them.
 
Eventually they'd come to the foot of the stairs. With an inward sigh, Stroud began to climb. Even as he did so, he marvelled at the way humanity could find a home in even the most unusual of places - he couldn't imagine the precarious existence on the steps to be an easy one. 
 
Standing, finally, in the entrance hall of the massive Administratum cathedral, the Arbitrator remembers the data-slate given to him by Interrogator Brandt, and looks to the rest of the Cell. 
 
"Grist will be found on the thirty-ninth floor of the outer wards." 

Edited by Commissar Molotov, 02 June 2016 - 12:56 PM.

 
QUOTE (voi shet magir @ May 31 2011, 05:38 AM) 
That is an unexpectedly strong assertion from a dead person.

#49
Easy E

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Astelan

The journey through the transit tube had been a sad reminder of his old life.  He had once been just like all the scribes around him.  In those days, he had been pre-occupied with concerns about Editor-scribe censors, the overseers demanding more illuminations per hour, and whether or not he would be able to glimpse the scribes of the lower levels again.  Now that he had a glimpse of the wider world, he realized how pathetic those concerns were.   

 

He recognized how pathetic and simple-minded his old da-to-day routine had been, but he still yearned for it.  In those simpler times, no one had been trying to kill him, he hadn’t seen the horrors of the “red-Eyes”, he had never met Elspeth Vigg, and he had never realized how pointless it all was.  His service to the Inquisition was a blessing, burden, and a heavy curse. 

 

He exited the transit tube with the others.  He was careful to stay close to Acolyte Prime Stroud or Father Zarkov.  He was still unsure what to make of the others.  As they approached the Chancellery Courts, he began to feel more at ease.  This was something he could relate to, something concrete to believe in.  The Admin-building was like a second home, and its rhythms and flows soon came back to him.

 

On the transit tube, he had bumped, wedged, and wound his way throught he trudging crowd of sallow and bland faces.  Here, he saw the patterns of the foot traffic and was able to move and anticipate.  They were patterns he understood and walked many times himself in the Hyades Admin-Hive.

 

Stroud addressed the group, and Astelan nodded.  His face was set in determined purpose.  He pulled out his own data-slate and began referencing it for reference maps of the Chancellery Court and started charting the rout through the byzantine structure.  It was clear that the path would not be easy, but Bureaucracy was his home.  The Scribe was confident he could lead the way. 

 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   * 

 

Eustasias Maraxus

The with-finder donned his plain pilgrim robes and adopted the walk of the simple workers of the Imperium.  They walked purposefully and quickly, their backs bent, with only minimal hesitation.  They kept their heads down, and their faces passive.  They strove to be one amongst many and to go unnoticed by their betters, and more importantly from their better’s Enforcers. 

 

He joined up with the group and easily fell in step with them.  As he moved, he kept Haygarth in the periphery of his view at all times.  He wanted to observe, but not be observed observing.  It was a subtle art.  It was one that he had learned years ago in the Synod. 

 

He blended in with the Scribes of the Transit Tube as best he could.  He bent his shoulders down to their level.  Each of them seemed absorbed in their own worlds.  That was good, they paid him and the group no heed.  However, he paid them heed, he was always watching for signs.  There were many signs, the odd medallion, interesting tattoo, reading strange whimsical texts, the darting of nefarious eyes.  Signs were everywhere, but one had to be able to see them.

 

Idly, he engaged in conversation with one of the passengers.  They weren’t interested in talking, but he chatted aimlessly with them anyway.  The banter was pointless, pleasant and brain-dead, but again he watched and listened for signs.  As one scribe ignored him, he easily pivoted and engaged another.  It all seemed harmless, but it was very serious. 

 

As they pushed out of the transit Tube, he again moved closer to Brye Haygarth, but kept his eyes focused on their purpose.  He would be near her, protecting and watching her; for she had been sanctified to do the Emperor’s Holy work as he himself had.  They had been sanctified in a manner that the others of Septimus Cell had never been anointed.  They had a special bond, which she probably didn’t even realize. 

 

As they approached the Courts, even he was forced to gasp in wonder and awe.  Truly, the works of Mankind were mighty!  Above him stretched the gothic beauty of the Chancellery Courts and for a moment he was dazed in reverence.  He mumbled a quick prayer to the Saint, before composing himself again and bowing his head like the other supplicants along the stairs. 

 

He adopted the air of those around him as he ascended.  He groaned with an exertion that he barely felt.  He joined in choruses of prayers as he passed the Clerics of the Stairs, he purchased bits of food from the stands and ate as he ascended. He was just another supplicant in the crowd.

 

Finally, inside, the Acolyte Prime spoke.  He nodded, confident that the way would be shown to them if they were simply open to the will of the Emperor.            


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#50
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Munny

 

Wyl groaned inwardly at his morning aches and pains as the servants who had woken him left. The hour was early, too early. He should have been used this sort of thing, should have adjusted to irregular sleeping patterns and waking before dawn, but it had never gone that way. He most definitely was not a morning man, and the older he had gotten the more true that became. He dressed quickly. If the members of Septimus Cell were being woken this early, it meant that someone, most likely Stroud, wanted them to get going as soon as possible.

 

The journey went quickly. They boarded a transit tube filled to the brim with Administratum scribes, all bent of back and pouring over manuscripts or fingering odd trinkets -- things like a worthless coin, a lepidorian paw, a finger bone. At his height, Wyl stuck out like a sore thumb among the stunted scriverners, but he paid them no heed. The scriverners and the Inquisitorial Agents seemed to have an unspoken arrangement -- so long as the scribes ignored the Inquisition, the Inquisition would ignore them. So Wyl did.

 

When they reached the transit terminus, Stroud began to move, and so Wyl followed. He hadn't decided yet whether he in fact liked the Prime or not, the man was difficult to get a good read on, but either way, he was Wyl's superior and so Wyl would go where he led. Besides, where else would he go? There was no where else he could run to, no where the Inquisition's eyes couldn't follow, especially if what Stroud had said about Grist proved true.

 

As they walked, the towers of the Courts rose before them and Wyl's breath was taken away. The House Haldane had been impressive, certainly, but it did not inspire awe in the same way that the Chancellory Courts did. Wyl had never seen the Imperial Palace of Terra, and he probably never would, but there was no doubt in his mind that they looked something like the Courts, the pure majesty and splendor of the Imperium and Great Crusade on display.

 

The illusion was broken as they began climbing the Stair. Here was the detritus of the Imperium laid bare -- the beggar, the penitent, the outcast -- collapsed where they had fallen, crushed by the weight of the Imperium's bureaucracy. There were the arrogant sons, the rich men, the dandy fops isolated from the filth of lesser men, proud and vainglorious. A scene echoed throughout the Imperium's million worlds, where the highborn danced and whored and drank, while all other men slaved in the gutter.

 

After they had given their weapons up to the Magistratum, Wyl and the rest of their group  had just made their way into the Courts proper, when Stroud turned and addressed them.


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