Deep within Hive Borealis, in the armoured vaults that served as a command center to the forces of the Maelstrom Dominion, Cyrandras Rakash was bored beyond belief.
Not that he would allow that to show outwardly. Arms crossed, his pale, chiseled chin resting between the armoured thumb and index finger of his right hand in a classical thinking pose, the Lexicanus was the very model of the dedicated strategist, immersed in his observations regarding the information displayed by the hololithic campaign table in front of him. Not any information here was new. Also, the next steps of the campaign were quite obvious and, in fact, already agreed on.
Still, that situation was currently hotly debated by several individuals around the projection table, over said table as well as in varying stages of agitation and responding levels of verbalized noise. Appendages were waved, boldly sweeping through wire mesh representations of mountains and fortifications. Fingers thrust aggressively the through ghostly images, aiming at enemy positions half a continent away as often as at the faces of opponents only a table length away. Any third rate observer would have been able to quickly perceive that, apart from the obvious military objectives at hand, other battle lines were also drawn and besieged regarding the interest of the parties at hand. . Local interests. Mortal Interests. Factors that, again, had already been factored into the developing situation.
Inwardly, Rakash sighed.
Here was one of the core problems of the Imperium in a nutshell. The Strategium was brimming with mortals. And mortals tended to obsess over little details while missing relevant data. They tended to overemphasize their own needs and interests and quarreled over petty slights with little regard to the bigger picture.
And from that more detached, strategic point of view, the Surngraad campaign was already a success.
The Fortress world provided a major lynchpin in this region of the Maelstrom Zone. Sadly, it's leadership had been found frustratingly fixated on their adherence to the structures of the wider Imperium and spectacularly near sighted and blasé to the worlds around them. Lufgt Huron himself had denounced them as " a densely layered amalgam of ossified inbred bunker rodent excrements" during an entirely different and vastly more entertaining Strategium session Rakash had humbly accompanied his superiors to some decades ago.
Thus considered unreliable and unwilling with the idea of forming a more efficiently run Maelstrom Dominion under the aegis of the Astral Claws, plans had been drawn up and measures put into action long before the current crisis had developed. Petty mortal short sightedness would not be allowed to hamper the defense of the Tyrant's domain for much longer.
In his function as an Envoy of his Chapter among the retinue of the Rogue Trader vessel "Retribution of Cygnax", Cyrandras Rakash had been involved in coordinating such efforts on Surngraad as well as several other worlds at the behest of First Captain Corinne Sumatris for some time now.
The rulers of the Fortress World, whose siege mentality and adherence to inflexible orthodoxy in the face of the bordering Warp anomaly had developed long before the Astral Claws and it's current brother chapters had assumed the mantle of Wardenship. From their point of view, they had stood alone before and weathered the hordes of xenos, mutants and heretics that had been throwing themselves against their walls for millennia and so they could, would wait out any current disputes likewise.
As expected, they had therefore politely refused to accept an invitation by combined naval and ground forces of the Chapter conveniently resupplying in the system when hostilities broke out elsewhere between the factions involved in what was now called the "Badab Schism" to be advised and coordinated by the Astral Claws in defending the Maelstrom Dominion for the duration of the emergency.
Of course, the same environment that had developed that petrified fecal assembly which drew the ire of the Tyrant had also spurned the growth of other resources the Astral Claws had then chosen to look into instead. In any society, there would always be people disillusioned and unhappy with the status quo. Nobles and guildmasters with ambitions above their station. Grizzled veterans who felt their commanders lacked the guts to do what was necessary. Experienced officers who had been kept back in favour of better connected but less talented peers. The overly pious who felt that their jaded overlords had fallen from the grace of the God Emperor. Centuries old blood feuds and economic clashes bubbling beneath the surface. Hoards of Anger, Hope, Fear. All bottled up beneath the ferro-concrete shell of the Surngraad fortress walls.
Exploring, cataloging and exploiting these hidden strings of knowledge and opportunities now fell to the Astral Claws Librarius, which had quietly been expanded to encompass these duties.
By Imperial degree, such endeavors would have been the purview of the Inquisition. But as the Chapter became increasingly disappointed as well as distrustful of the Holy Ordos and their -often conflicting- agendas, the Astral Claws had begun to establish a section of the Librarius dedicated to these task, unwilling to further rely on external assets for intelligence work in the defense of their realm.
A task to which, much to his own surprise, Cyrandras Rakash had taken to with increasing fervor. While it often lacked the sheer brutal intensity of a direct confrontation in the more Codex conforming an traditional form of Astartes warfare, Rakash soon learned to appreciate the tension and the thrill of these activities which could be liked more to a slowly developing game of Regicide than the short bout of rock, paper, chainsword commonly accompanying the duties of a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes.
His signature smile broadened a bit. Sealed within the encrypted data mills of his trusty servo-skull were the vox and pict captures attesting to the sheer sense of disbelief displayed by the rulers of Surngraad when most of their orbital and system defense grid as well as the majority of the northern hives had welcomed the Astral Claws instead and requested their aid in defending the world. Those data chunks were of no real value to the war effort. Even so, Cyrandras considered them priceless.
Now, the naval forces of the Maelstrom Dominion successfully blockaded the system. Half the planet had declared their allegiance to the Dominion.
The Fortress World was (mostly) structurally intact and would thus still serve as a subsector bulwark in the future. Those that still held to the leash binding them to the Adeptus Terra and their blinded attack dogs were boxed in, unable to lend support the enemies of the Dominion. Total planetary compliance was, at the moment at least, not really achievable but neither had it been deemed necessary at this phase of the operation. Surngraad had been effectively denied to the enemy. Mission successful.
The current objective was to uphold this status by keeping the opposition occupied and on the defensive. That was it. The mortal hotheads arguing around the table might wish or dream otherwise, but it would make little difference. Breaking the line and achieving a planet wide compliance would require an amount of additional forces, Astartes forces in particular, that were currently much more urgently needed and better used elsewhere. Case in point, what little advances had still recently been achieved and the forces which kept the pressure on the imperialist lines were being made by elements of the now so called "Tyrant's Legion" and were owed mainly to the transhuman capabilities of the embedded Astartes.
But actually holding the line still fell to the bulk of the planetary defense force. Mortal forces without direct Legion supervision. At least, for the time being. And thus, appearances had to be maintained and mortal vanities had be endured. It was irritating, but necessary.
And it wasn't particularly thrilling.
Around him, the mortals kept bickering. Cyrandras allowed his mind to drift, looping it through mental exercises. One of his favorites involved going through his mental archives and developing interesting deaths for the person under his focus. The Lexicanus considered himself neither particularly spiteful or murderous nor particularly cruel. He just considered it a method of examining and updating his personal recollection of data on the people around him by looking at it through that particular lens. He often set himself different tasks, such as a way to eliminate the person he examined in the most stealthy way , or the most public, most or least painful, and so on. In this way, Rakash considered the exercise a most effective tool to hone his mental facilities and the mental Rite both entertaining and quite relaxing.
By his count, the Lexicanus had killed of the entire assembly almost a dozen times since the meeting had been joined.
His eyes moved, then held the gaze of the only other ranked Astartes in the Strategium for a moment as his mental focus shifted. The massive form of Centurion Ortiz Druz loomed over the quarreling mortals in front of him, his scarred features unmoved by their antics. It was easy to see why the stoic Space Maine commanding the Legion elements involved the Surngraad liberation had been nicknamed "Vuori" - "the Mountain" by the locals. Druz was a taciturn commander who excelled at Siegecraft and armoured warfare. The Centurion had repeatedly shown a skill at using the forces under his command to the upmost of their capabilities and with a cool ruthlessness that would have made a member of vaunted Iron Hands weep oily fluids. It didn't take a telepath' s gift to perceive that even that glacial patience was slowly coming to an end and that Ortiz Druz was going through a mental homicidal rote network of his own but from very different approach. And a much more drastic outcome.
Delighted by this new angle to the situation, Cyrandras began changing his own mental exercises and aimed his focus towards predicting the Centurion's most likely target priorities.
He was interrupted by an approaching orderly carrying a dataslate. The mortal saluted with all the jerking awkwardness of an over-wound clockwork toy soldier.
"Apologies, my Lord. Urgent transmission from the Retributation of Cygnax"
the young man whispered. His paleness was of an entirely different hue than the Lexicanus'.
Few mortals faced a warrior of the Adeptus Astartes without unease and often outright fear even away from the battlefield. Yet unlike some of his brethren -especially those serving with the expanded Legion of Badab - Cyrandras did not particularly enjoy that reaction among the mortals serving along him. Fear might "keep them in line", as some lost military philosopher of Old Earth was often quoted, but to the Lexicanus fear was a double edged blade at best. Loose your grip on it and there was no telling who might get cut. Ah, but what about affection? That was entirely different beast!
Rakash nodded and smiled warmly at the orderly, carefully taking the slate from the mortal's shaking hands.
"Jhons , isn't it? I hear your sister is recovering from her injury after the air raid?"
Not that the Librarian actually, particularly, cared for either the mortal or his kin. But the eidetic memory of his transhuman mind soaked up such detritus almost by accident and Rakash had found using these random snippets eased interactions with mortals by an almost ludicrous degree. The Librarian had taken to keep a record of things important to the people surrounding him for just these occasions. Even if he lacked the time (or interest) to store these facts away in his mental fastness himself, he would at least keep the servoskull' s memory coils updated to them. It was quite amazing what mortals were willing to do when they thought one genuinely cared for them. Yes. Fear might indeed keep them in line, but affection? Affection made them bind themselves in chains of adamantium and then made them love you even more for it. And sometimes, in his heart of hearts, Cyrandras wondered if this had been the God-Emperor's intention all along in allowing the whole mess that was the Imperial faith to exist in the first place. His smile broadened a bit at the thought of this delightful little heresy.
"Yes, my Lord." The orderly straightened visibly as he utterly misinterpreted that smile. Changes in heart rate, respiration, perspiration and pheromone levels indicated a switch from fear to expectant anxiety as the mortal was recognized by one of the Emperor's own Angels. "And yes, she... I mean.. Yes, my Lord! My sister..."
Cyrandras nodded politely and then pushed the mortal's drowning from his active attention. He would sift through the audio recordings of his servo skull later, in case there was a significant morsel of information contained within the orderly' s rambling. Scrolling down the volumes of text on the slate, the Lexicanus noted a set of cyphers hidden within the avalanche of reports that continuously kept pouring in during an operation of this scale. He then raised the slate slightly, breathing over it before rubbing off some imaginary flecks of dust. He made sure to include just the right amount of spittle in this to activate the gen-sensitive lock keyed to the pad. The text on the slate's screen twitched twice, fussed, pixelated, the images blurring. Rakash tapped his armoured index finger to screen to portrait his irritation, then shook the device slightly until it resumed it's proper function moments later. He then took his time to finish reading the regular files for some time. Rakash then returned the slate to the orderly, still smiling.
"Thank you, Jhons . Carry on. And give my regards to your sister. The Emperor protects".
The orderly saluted sharply and strode of as if he had been just called into service by the God Emperor himself. In Cyrandras mind, the mortal practically ceased to exist the moment he turned away and returned to his thinking pose. Any information regarding the man was flushed away to the vaults in the outskirts of his his mind. The Librarian closed his eyes, as if to better focus on the information he had just received.
The Lexicanus instead retrieved the glitched images from his mental archives. The glitches had been just fragments, visible for only the briefest fracture of a second, but the code cypher had given the Librarian time to prepare his focus and now in Cyrandras mind, he could perceive the hidden message like a still frame from a patchy pict recording. Orders. A summoning. The First Captain had recalled him to Badab Primaris to receive instructions for another operation. The nature of this operation was obviously not included into a summons via astropath, even one coded and hidden away in megapulses of less sensitive campaign data. So this operation was probably of a more... delicate.. nature. Interesting. And, hopefully, more entertaining.
Eyes still closed, the Librarian subvocalized a coded phrase hidden in a litany of dedication to the God Emperor, which his ever present servoskull picked up promptly and relayed to his Chapter serfs who were right now busy elsewhere inside the vast polar fortress. Upon receiving the code, they would immediately begin preparations for his departure. Patience was not a virtue often attributed to the the First Captain.
Other matters would have to be settled after the current session in the Strategium was closed, though. Agents would have to be contacted and their operations adjusted to his absence. Redundancies were in place of course, but up to now, Cyrandras had planed for overseeing on-world operations for some time as the siege continued. Now, they would have to be transferred to other handlers and Rakash had to ensure that operations would smoothly continue after his departure. The Librarian did not expect any real delay.
Rakash also had no doubt that Centurion Druz would soon receive an astropathical dispatch shortly via more official lines of communicatio in which the redeployment of the Lexicanus would be requested along the proper chain of command. The forms had to observed, after all. But it would probably be linked to a vastly less conspicuous endeavor. The Defenders of the Maelstrom did not suffer from a shortage of enemies at this point. And being seen as having already begun making preparations because of an " insight gained from meditating on the current state of the war and it's reflection in the Warp" was a nice touch to keep up his reputation before leaving.
Cyrandras Rakash was no longer bored. He opened his eyes. Across the table, the mortals were still arguing. The Lexicanus no longer cared. He would wrap up his operations here shortly and was eager to then answer a new challenge elsewhere. His smile became a bit more loop sided. One could surely say a lot about First Captain Sumatris. And a lot of it would properly not be nice. But whatever Sumatris was intending for him to do, it would certainly be challenging.
And, most certainly, not even remotely boring.....
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