The Eurydice Incident

Forget the promise of progress and understanding, for in the grim, dark future there is only war.

The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Tue Mar 08, 2011 11:15 pm

The Eurydice Incident has made the transition to this awesome shiny newness! Here it is in full, thus far, unfortunately minus comments and (perhaps not so unfortunately) my associated writing-related ramblings. These can all be found back here.

To keep things fair and equal, if you haven't read it before the hypothetical cookie still remains for those who can work out who the main antagonist is before the end of Part V!

I
Aboard the merchantman Tacher, docked with Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, in orbit above Eurydice


(The Tacher is offloading vital supplies- mostly foodstuffs and water- to the Resettlement Platform in order to take advantage of the increased reward incentives offered in Governor Augis’ aid plea. The Tacher’s captain, Elbel Zsander, is overseeing the operation from the staterooms he is too aged to leave. After a month of transit and frequent company, he has established well enough what I really wish to interview him about and is sensible enough not to try and avoid the matter.)

I suppose, given your background you’ll know more about me than I do, so I won’t bother you with my life story. What you want to know about took place a long time ago, some… hundred and twenty years? A hundred and fifty? More perhaps? Back when I had been palmed off in my youth to serve on the crew of another trading family’s vessel.

[Pauses]

It was aboard a space hulk. Gigantic thing, a huge mass of crammed together bits of spacecraft from across the breadth of human, even alien, time. I forget what it was called.

Saint Lysander’s Demise.

Is that its name? [Snorts] We just called it the ‘Hulk’. Much snappier. It was the first one I’d ever seen, which wasn’t surprising given my age at the time. I haven’t seen one since and nor do I wish to see one again.

I was part of a salvage crew that went aboard. There were about fifty of us. And we had to act fast, in salvagers’ terms. The hulk had just translated out of the warp, way beyond the system’s edge. It was complete fluke that we were closest to it: our navigator was off the jump beacon by a fair way, so we were out of position on the system fringe, well away from the main shipping routes. Another two merchantmen, sniffing salvage profit, were racing in, chased by system authority patrol craft. They were a long way off.

We might have a day, at most, to do all the work we could and then run. The other merchant craft weren’t an issue- remember this hulk was massive, probably enough room for every scavenger in the sector. The local authorities were a different matter. They might have tried to drive us away, either to quarantine the hulk or to get their own greedy paws on it. Either way, the captain decided to get in, cut out something valuable and then get away, preferably as fast as possible.

So in we went. There was a convenient access port, something our shuttles could work with, jutting out of what looked like some Reign of Blood era dreadnaught enmeshed in the hulk. Beyond the port, according to our augurs, was breathable atmosphere.

It was one of the most unnerving experiences of my life. The darkness seemed to be toying with us. Our lamps didn’t seem to cut through it very well and it was always there, always behind you, or to one side. As if it was alive. Waiting to swallow us up. The place was a labyrinth too, made worse by equipment issues. We thought that, perhaps, the machine spirits imbuing our kit knew something that we didn’t. Trackers and mappers fuzzed out at random intervals, vox contact with other teams was intermittent at best. Assuming that what we got on the vox was us.

What do you mean?

Ghost contacts. Whispers. Faded human chatter and bizarre alien tongues. Don’t ask me to explain because I can’t. The part of the hulk we were on was at least five millennia old. Notwithstanding the vagaries of warp travel, that’s a lot of time for… feelings, events, echoes to accumulate. The place was disturbing. It wasn’t just the vox issues and the darkness. There was just a fundamental sense that we shouldn’t be there, that… I don’t know. It felt wrong.

The team I was in: we never found anything. We were too busy letting our surroundings gnaw at our resolve and avoiding getting lost. I’ve already pointed out the place was a maze. It was derelict, too, remember. You might have to squeeze, climb or crawl in some places where the corridors had been damaged or filled with debris. Every now and again the floor might just run out and we’d have to turn back. Some rooms we couldn’t get into because the doors were welded or jammed shut. Others were completely empty or… just too full of darkness for us to dare enter. Eventually, the whole experience just became too eerie. Too wrong. So we turned tail and hurried back, empty handed.

There was only one team that found anything of use. Something obscure, I don’t know exactly what. Something coggy, if you’ll pardon the slang. Eventually I think the captain traded it to one of his Mechanicum contacts for a ludicrous sum. Whatever it was, it was enough for us to cut tail and leave the hulk after that first trip.

That’s not what I’m interested in.

I didn’t think it would be. There was one team, six men in all, which had an accident. That’s what you’re really interested in, yes? A corridor collapse. Hardly unheard of on board abandoned craft. They were very lucky to lose only two men, on reflection. Worse could have happened: a void breach, gas or chemical explosion, viral infection, they could have been attacked by… something.

The four survivors were the last people to get back to the shuttle, all of them obviously in shock. When we asked them where the remaining two were they were too disorientated to give us a decent answer. All we could make out was that there had been a sudden collapse and that the two men up front who had been in the lead were missing.

Of course, that made things difficult for us.

How?

We had two men missing. Not definitely dead. Missing. The obvious conclusion was that they had been caught in the collapse, but even then they could easily still be alive. They could be trapped on the other side of the debris, they could be buried but unharmed. They could be injured, unconscious. There was a strong feeling amongst the men that we should go back and at least find out what had happened.

And?

I thought you might have known.

Some things are never recorded.

[He chuckles] That’s hardly surprising, is it? We were the crew of a freelance merchantman. We didn’t exactly live and breathe bureaucracy. Important things like cargo, fuel, supplies, crew strength… yes, these things were noted down because we needed to know. The fates of the crew… not so important.

So did you go back?

No.

No?

A rescue team was being pulled together, volunteers. People were arguing about whether they should go or not. I just sat and watched. I wasn’t going back into those corridors: all the myths and legends, horror stories about space hulks suddenly seemed to be relevant. The prospects of a huge salvage return had been enough to push us into going inside in the first place, but after such limited success… it didn’t seem quite so appealing. The undercurrent consensus was, I think, even amongst those preparing to go back, that we had dipped our toe in once and gotten off pretty lightly. Anything else would be pushing our luck now that we’d disturbed the surface. We’d be asking for something bad to happen.

It didn’t matter anyway. The captain called us back, so we left. It didn’t sit well with the crew, even those of us who didn’t want to go back didn’t like the idea of leaving anyone behind, but they knew to do as they were told. We got back to ship, confined to the standard quarantine period. By the time we were let out, we were in a different system. I don’t know what happened to the hulk or the other vessels heading for it.

And the four survivors from the collapse? What happened to them?

They were in shock, but there was very little physical injury between them. A broken arm, a sprained ankle, grazes, bruises. The ship’s doctor looked them over, said they were fine.

Physically, I have little doubt that they were.

And mentally?

They were different after they came back. Three of them wanted to quit. Almost the first thing they did once they left quarantine was to go up to the bridge and petition the captain to let them go. They were all perfectly competent men, there’d been no problems with any of them, they’d just gone through a traumatic experience and that had been it for them. They all wanted to put the job behind them and settle down somewhere. So the next time we stopped over a world, they went down with the supply shuttle and didn’t come back.

And that world was Eurydice?

[He pauses, then nods] That world was Eurydice.

And the fourth survivor?

While we were all quarantined he had nightmares. Every night. And sometimes you got the impression that he was having them whilst he was awake too. He was beyond terrified. Pitiful really, to see someone crack like that. Never spoke to anyone about it. Word among the rest of the crew had it that he was good friends with the two who didn’t come back. Maybe that had something to with it. Or maybe he just couldn’t handle a near death experience. In the end he snapped completely and killed himself.

Did anyone have any idea what the nightmares were about?

[Pauses] We thought that we had it pinned: the collapse, being buried alive maybe, something like that.

But?

The way he killed himself was bizarre. We were all quarantined inside one of the hangars. There were storage annexes along the walls, filled with equipment, dormant servitors, fuel lines and so on, plenty of places to search when we discovered he’d gone off in the night. I was with the group that eventually found him. He’d put his head in the manipulator tri-claw of an old servitor unit and then commanded it to squeeze. Messy.

A manipulator tri-claw?

[Zsanders mimics the device by grasping with the thumb and first two fingers of one frail hand] Strange, isn’t it? Granted he can’t have been thinking straight, but there were a hundred easier, quicker ways of killing oneself in that hanger. Yet he did that.

II
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Eastern Officers' Quarters


(Commander Lukas Ziedlitz of the Imperial Navy is in his quarters. The commander’s position as naval attaché to Eurydice was effectively made redundant during the Incident when the Imperial Navy took over official control of the system from local authorities. As such, Ziedlitz occupies a workless dead end in the bureaucracy whilst the post-Incident tribunal of the Imperial Navy works out whether he held any responsibility. He lets me into his modest living space, where if the considerable quantities of empty bottles are any judge, he now spends most of his time. Unsurprisingly, he offers amasec- which I politely refuse. He fills a glass for himself before dropping into a leather chair and starting to talk.)

Most of what I have to say is in the Imperial navy debrief if you just want the facts. Except all the feeling will no doubt have been sucked out.

I was, still am I suppose, the Attaché of His Glorious Imperial Majesty’s Navy to… well, here. Eurydice. Officially, my duty was to provide the link between the local authority forces and the Navy. Unofficially, I spent most of my time trying to bring the PDF Orbital Division up to a vaguely competent standard with almost no success.

The local defence arrangements, void-wise, were a complete shambles. And I mean a complete shambles. Not enough patrol craft for the system reaches, nothing but of quartet of poorly armed, slow monitors for orbital work. There were defence batteries on the surface, but these came under ground PDF control and I was never allowed to find much out about them. The main lynchpin of the defence was this very orbital, back before they crammed it full of refugees obviously.

The day after I arrived here, they ran a TEWS [Tactical Exercise Without Ships], presumably to impress me with how professional they were. I knew I was going to be in for a rough time as soon as it started. They ran the entire thing on a two-dimensional map, like a general might, and completely disregarded the nature of the void-environment. It never occurred to them that the enemy might come from above or below. Unbelievable, isn’t it? And the scenario they ran was just as ridiculous. In the debrief, I asked what they would do if the enemy didn’t conveniently attack their only defence orbital and instead avoided it completely, landing ground troops on the other side of the planet. They ignored me.

On top of the complete failure to comprehend void-combat, the entire PDF Orbital Division was run as if they wanted it to fail. At the bottom, the chain of command was bizarrely convoluted. So, for instance, there had been concessions to the prudish Mechanicum crew that ran the central plasma reactor to the effect that any request to fire lances required their permission. I fully understands and respect the need to properly placate the spirits of the reactor, but still… can you imagine asking for permission to fire in a combat situation? You might have no more than a few seconds to exploit a shield gap and you have to ask?

The weapon batteries outfitted with projectile weaponry- mass drivers, automatic cannon, missile batteries and the like- were crewed by artillerymen rejects from the ground forces. They’d been trained to make their calculations based on local gravity, still thinking in terms of trajectories and falling shot. In space? Excuse me?

Where on an Imperial Navy ship we’d have specially trained armsmen equipped and taught to fight on board void-going vessels, they just rotated a company of bog-standard infantry up every month. There’s so many things wrong with that. To start off with, it takes a month just to figure your way around an orbital this size, so they’d be useless from the word go. Then they were still armed with lasguns. Yes, let’s arm our men with fire-starting, energy-based weapons in an enclosed space with limited oxygen. Idiots.

[To interrupt Ziedlitz’s monologue with an important note: he does not do justice to either the true state of the PDF Orbital Division nor the limits of probable competency. Whilst the PDF could by no means live up to the high standards Ziedlitz would have expected to find on an Imperial Navy platform, it was of an adequate standard for the level of threat that Eurydice could reasonably expect. The commander is probably exaggerating out of Navy-PDF rivalry, the effects of alcohol or- most likely- in the hope that he can shift some of the responsibility for events taking place during the Incident away from his own uninspiring performance.]

At the top, command was shared between the post of PDF Orbital Division Commander- the holder of which changed on a regular basis as people dropped out of favour with PDF High Command and got shoved orbitside- and the hereditary ‘captain’ of the defence orbital, who was a noble that never left his planetside estates but had enough political clout to make trouble if we didn’t keep him in the loop. The end result was that half the command was completely inexperienced and the other half, which had to be consulted, was at the other end of a communications time lapse that prevented any quick decisions. The result? Long waits for bad decisions.

Like with the Syrith? [Syrith was a regular freight vessel which had included Eurydice on its trade run for several decades.]

Exactly! This is all two or three years ago, way before the Incident. We get hailed by Syrith, who’s just sitting there in orbit waiting for her cargo-shuttle window to come round so she can get her goods planetside, and she says that she’s on fire. Any normal situation, the first thing anybody with any sense would do is send over damage control teams. Experts. They’ll get a grip of the situation straight away and, more importantly, report back to us with a professional assessment so that we have better information if we need to make any more decisions. It’s a no-brainer.

Our PDF commander, on the other hand, has gotten it into his head that it’s a trick. He’s been reading his History of the Later Imperial Crusades and thinks that it’s all a ruse to get us to divert attention and effort away from an impending attack from another direction.

And you didn’t think that might a possibility?

Of course it was a possibility, but… [Shrugs] so what? All we’d be sending to help- to start with- would be a shuttle or two with damage control crews. Let’s say that Syrith is brim full of crazies who have faked a fire to draw us in. Our shuttles go over, the damage control teams get massacred. So what? We’ve lost thirty or forty men and the enemy have shown their hand: they’re now sitting in orbit under our guns and we can easily annihilate them.

I explain this to him, of course, but he won’t have it and we start arguing. It doesn’t matter anyway, because when we finally get vox to the other half of the stupid command arrangement, it turns out that that idiot is off hunting. No one knows where he is and no one knows when he’s coming back.

Back orbitside, the PDF commander is still refusing to make a decision and I’m still trying to convince him that he does actually have the authority to act and he has to do what I’m telling him to do… fast.

[Judging by the bridge vox recorder log, Ziedlitz seemed to be relying on volume rather than more subtle persuasion.]

Eventually we get interrupted by a contact alert from the bridge crew. A drabble of pods starts leaving Syrith, then a few minutes later all of the remaining capsules are suddenly launched within a few seconds. No mass of frenzied, panicked human beings is organised or disciplined enough to be so synchronous unless it matters. It had to have happened on purpose, someone must have set that up. Or maybe it was automatic. I don’t know. It must have been terrible for the crew still on board after the last saviour pods went. Just sitting there waiting to die. At least they didn't wait long and when it happened it was quick: Syrith simply blew up not long afterwards.

The explosion left enough debris in the lower atmosphere to pose danger to trade for weeks afterwards. And if we’d reacted sooner it might not have happened. Seven hundred people died on the ship. The rest of the registered crew numbered about three hundred and they were all accounted for when the planetside authorities went around the landed saviour pods... the saviour pods that actually had people in them, I mean.

Half of them were found just sitting there, in fields, in the hills, scattered all over the place. Just sitting in their impact craters, doors blown off by the automatic release, completely empty. There were easily enough pods for the entire crew and they were spread all over the ship… so why did so few make it? Or, why were so few allowed to make it?

[Ziedlitz leaves the question hanging, raises his glass to take a sip and then freezes. He pales, lowers his glass and tries to compose himself.]

Was Syrith what you really came to ask about?

Yes.

Because what happened might be related to what the Incident?

It could be.

Because that was about the time the Corpse Cult started showing its head?

Exactly.

[He shivers, then whispers]
Corpse Cult.

III
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Office of the Adeptus Arbites


(Denunciator Irlav Torshtein finally enters the bleak interview room where I’ve been instructed to wait for him. Judging by the carapace armour which he has yet to remove, I would imagine he has come to conduct this interview directly from whatever duty has delayed him. He is obviously in no mood to allow me to waste his time.)


What do you want to know?

Why did it take so long for the Arbites and the local authorities to designate the Corpse Cult as a threat?

[The denunciator stares at me impassively for a few seconds.]

And you are aware that revealing the inner workings of the Adeptus Arbites is punishable by death? That doing so could not only compromise the operating procedures of this Precinct but those of others throughout the sector? That even openly discussing the possibility that the Adeptus Arbites could be less than all-seeing, or that it is imperfect as a tool of retribution for the all-mighty Imperium is sedition? Under what authority do you ask these questions?

[+++Content excised+++]

Very well. [Torshtein is clearly unhappy, but continues nonetheless. He settles into something of a lecture-like tone.] I can spare a little time in deference, if absolutely necessary. Are you familiar with the basic beliefs of the Corpse Cult?

As far as I understand, the cult believed that the Emperor would one day call a second Great Crusade and that all of his loyal followers would become impervious to harm if they joined him.

Your understanding is essentially correct. This is not a concept confined to Eurydice: the belief does in fact have perfectly legitimate standing across the sub sector. However, roughly a hundred years ago the Eurydician incarnation underwent a change of doctrine.

A change of doctrine?


The change was a simple expansion of what could constitute the ‘loyal followers’ of the Emperor. An adjustment was made to cater for the ‘loyal followers of ages past’, who would in short return to life as the Emperor’s new, invincible soldiers if preserved in a specific manner. Hence ‘Corpse Cult’.

The cult began to slowly spiral in popularity amongst the hive population, though it never gained more than three hundred thousand full members or so. [There was only one hive city on Eurydice- the capital, Tchitotry Hive, which contained over a half of the planet’s population.]

Up until this point the Corpse Cult had had little or no criminal associations that we were aware of. Even after this change in doctrine, the cult was only indirectly responsible for unlawful activity.

How? What kind of unlawful activity?

The same kind which accompanies any monetary fascination of the masses. The twin costs of paying for the right to be exempt from cremation and to arrange the proper burial with the Corpse Cult each time a family member died was enough to push millions into poverty. Poverty breeds crime. On top of this there was some violence. Mostly it was Corpse Cult followers- rarely official members, who were almost universally well behaved- lynching those who were seeking to profit illegally by exploiting cult beliefs: the usual mixture of con-artists and other unscrupulous people.

And how did the Adeptus Arbites react to all of this?

We saw fit to keep an eye on the Corpse Cult, as we had done before its doctrinal change, and leave the fringe matters of indirectly related criminal activity to the local enforcers. There were other more pressing issues: possible secessionists amongst the PDF high command, a number of xenoist infiltrators from Taros. We even keep a close eye on the debaucheries of some of the noble families.

You must remember that the Corpse Cult was perfectly clean. None of the informers we inserted could discern anything unlawful about the cult and it was extremely open in its workings. It even survived an Ecclesiarchical inquest petitioned by a jealous conglomeration of other more mainstream Imperial sub-cults who were losing out on followers. There was no reason for us to do anything but monitor it.

No reason at all? If you could go back, knowing what you know now, would you have acted differently?

I don’t have time for counterfactualism. Now, if you are quite fini-

Indulge me. [Torshtein stiffens at the interruption, but allows it.] Would you have acted differently towards the Corpse Cult knowing what role it would play in the Incident?

No.

No?

We would not have anything constituting reasonable evidence. We could have made provisions for the possibility of events during the Incident, dug deeper in certain areas and acted if those investigations precipitated usable evidence, but that is all.

But you would not have acted against the Corpse Cult because you had… no evidence?

[The denunciator sighs heavily.] Evidence is everything. Proper procedure is everything. We are the embodiment of Imperial law as maintained in Hall of Judgement on Holy Terra. To deviate from that law, even if it would appear better in the short term, would undermine the word of Imperial law in the long run and imperil the Imperium itself. We do not under any circumstances operate without evidence.

[There is a brief silence.]

I understand denunciator… and I admire your resolve. I have one further question.

Go on. Quickly.

Could you explain the Arbites’ viewpoint on the distribution of the Corpse Cult’s burial sites?

They were what we would expect from a law-abiding organisation. The Cult’s necropoleis were outside of Tchitotry Hive and also in most cases away from any rural settlements in accordance with health legislation passed by the local authorities. The Corpse Cult legally bought unused and resource-less land from the noble families with legally acquired funds. The necropoleis themselves were universally well maintained by cult members living on the sites. As with the cult’s other activities, there was no cause for alarm.

What about after the Syrith’s accident? When over half of the saviour pods found empty were within a short distance of the Corpse Cult’s necropoleis?

I have no time for further questions. I have important duties to attend to. [The denunciator rises, opens the door and calls down the hallway.] Chastener! Escort this individual to the exit. If they have any more pressing questions they can leave a list to be answered at the leisure of the Precinct.

IV
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Hab Area 17


(Hab Area 17 was until recently one of the Orbital Platform’s magazines. The ammunition has been moved elsewhere and the machinery rendered inert in order to allow some three thousand refugees to make their temporary homes there. I have had assigned to me to me a pair of naval security ratings for my own safety. The refugees give us a wide berth. Sitting on the rags that mark out his tiny allotted floor space is Hann Nellorese, a former PDF trooper. His right arm is missing above the elbow.)

Yeah, I was there. Day One is what they renamed it after they found out what had really been going on. We had no idea, obviously. My company was sat out on the Lonnyl Expanse, which was a huge training area on the western continent. It was a cross training exercise between us and some reconnaissance boys from the Keiten 19th- our Imperial Guard garrison.

It was fairly basic stuff- move out onto the steppe, dig in, go out and patrol. Every now and again the exercise judges would throw something at us- simulated artillery, simulated assaults, simulated ambushes. Of course, it was all choreographed for safety reasons and we were all operating with dried out powerpacks. The fully juiced up ones were kept in a pile of locked equipment cases in the company commander’s post. [He adds, sarcastically:] You know, just in case everything hit the fan.

And did you think it might?

What kind of question is that? Of course we didn’t think anything was going to happen. Six months earlier there had been a cultist uprising- a few thousand nutjobs who went beserk and just tried to kill as many people as possible. [The Cult of Benares, which sprang into existence, revealed itself and was wiped out within a few weeks. The majority of the members had apparently been rejected membership by the Corpse Cult after ‘failing’ their initiation periods.] And we’d squashed it into the dirt. On our own. The Imperial Guard garrison hadn’t been called out of its fortress in the Hive, the Arbites had kept an eye on everything and were apparently ready to join in if necessary, but we got it sorted out nice and quickly.

It was a… good time. We were very proud.

A good time?

We… [He swallows, giving himself time to think of the right words.] we were riding a wave of emotion. There was a lot of independence feeling flying around. Well, we called it independence feeling. Obviously now we know we were being used and that there’s no way that we could possibly survive on our own.

Anyway, the point is that we, the Eurydician people had just taken care of a big security issue on our own, without help from the Imperium. And a lot of popular feeling started to run along the lines of ‘If we can protect ourselves, why do we need the Imperium?” I’m not saying that we were thinking about rebelling, or that we would forsake the rest of humanity, but a little more independence would have been nice, you know? A little less pressure for our tithe, fewer restrictions on personal freedoms. [As on many worlds, local political decisions destined to be unpopular were frequently presented as if they originated in the undeniable authority of the Imperium. Unless the local authorities are commandeered or the planet is of special significance this is almost never the case: even the bureaucratic colossus of the Administratum doesn’t have the time for the day-to-day minutiae of every world.]

Or at least, that’s what we got conned into thinking. It doesn’t matter now anyway, does it? PDF High Command and the noble families caught their own heavy dose of traitorous secessionism and look what happened to all of them.

You were talking about Day One.

I was. Sorry. It was very early in the morning when it happened. Dark, cold. We’d been up all night practising standing-to for contact repellence. It might sound complicated, but its basically standard procedure for anything coming out of the sky. It might be a meteorite, it might be a lander, it might be something ten times worse.

There was an artillery battery on exercise as well about ten kilometres away and they’d been firing trailer shells around us all night. A trailer shell is what we use for guiding artillery on to the right targets- it, well… trails a line of light so you can see exactly where it lands and you don’t get the shell impact mixed up with any other explosions on the battlefield. It also looks conveniently like something coming in from orbit.

What would happen was we’d see a line of light in the sky, go on alert and man our positions while our recon elements went out and took a good look at the impact site. We’d get one of these practices in one every hour or so.

Then two come down at once. No problem we think, it’s just the arty boys mucking us around or part of the exercise, so we send our recon boys out to one and the IG recon out to the other. We’d been stood to for about half an hour when the Keiteners in their sentinels vox back to the company. They’ve gotten to their impact site, checked it, there’s nothing there. Our PDF recon hasn’t answered in yet so the Keiteners head on over to offer support, just like they would if it was real.

The thing is, it was.

What do you mean ‘it was’?


[Nellorese stares at me for a few seconds, as if I’m an idiot.] Because it was. It was the real thing. That’s why it was called Incident Day One. First contact.

So what happened?


I still don’t know exactly. We were still stood-to in our fire slits and we were out of vox contact with the two recon teams. The Keitener’s OC [Officer Commanding] wasn’t though: the Guard had much better kit then us. We could hear him talking in the command post behind us. Then he stopped and out of that silence we heard the crackle of weapons fire from over the hill that none of us expected. And it was high powered stuff too, not minimum-setting training shots. Obviously the Guard were more prepared than we were.

We just stood there, looked at each other and started thinking “Is this real? Or a really good exercise from the higher ups? Are the Keiteners playing a joke on us? What’s going on?” A few minutes later, the Guard OC talks into his vox set again. He’s really quiet, so we can’t make out exactly what he’s saying. It’s clear enough that something’s gone badly wrong though.

Immediately after that, the Guard OC gets into a shouting match with our commander, storms out, gathers up all the men he has still in the outpost, commandeers a shuttle and hightails it back to the Hive.

And that was-

Major Straubing. Hero of Eurydice and all that.

Anyway, at the time, we still had no idea what was really going on. The Keiten recce group which had gone out came back in minus two sentinels.

Once they got back, they were the only remaining guardsmen in the outpost. Straubing had taken everyone else with him. They went straight into the command post and another shouting match started. I think they tried to convince our commander about what was going on, that he should issue us with live powerpacks, get us out onto the steppe so we could hunt down whatever was out there. Our boss wouldn’t have it. He had them arrested.

Why?

[He shrugs.] Our recon team never came back, so we assumed that our commander thought the Keiteners had gunned them all down in a friendly fire incident. That would have explained why he looked so damn angry… but we didn’t really buy that.

Eventually the whole thing got labelled as a training accident and things went back to normal.

Well, back to normal for us, not in the grander scheme of things. In the Hive, PDF High Command had seen its chance and surrounded the Keitener’s fortress to stop them interfering.

Stop them interfering?

Yeah. Not aggressively or anything. There was a bit of a stand off, yes, but neither side was willing to push the other unless it was absolutely necessary.

It turned out pretty quick that PDF High Command knew exactly what had happened to our lost recon boys and knew exactly what that meant, knew what was coming next and knew how bad it was. And then they stopped word getting out and decided to deal with it themselves- without all the expertise, firepower and manpower available from the Guard.

Remember I was explaining about that feeling of independence? Our higher-ups had it bad and decided that if they could stamp out this latest problem by themselves without any Imperial help then they could maybe negotiate a little more independence. Or some other half-truth like that. They thought they could steamroller this next little issue, just like the last one, and prove themselves a bit more.

And?

And it wasn’t a little issue was it? It was the bleeding end of the world.

Part V


(The following constitutes an account of the action in which Major Straubing earned his title ‘Hero of Eurydice’. No survivors of the action remain on either side and thus I have sought to piece together events through other sources. The mainstay of the information used is none other than the vox-record of the Major’s personal servo-skull, which was retrieved with its memory engrams intact after troops from Lord Commander Rove’s Raiding Detachment stormed the spire of Tchitotry Hive. I have used both the official transcript and notes from my own listening. Secondary data was to be found in fragmentary security picts retrieved from the spire and the official, if somewhat heroically embellished, after action report. Given that Major Straubing’s action lasted for almost two hours, the majority of it is not dealt with and I have focused upon the most important events.)

[On board a PDF cargo shuttle heading for Tchitotry Hive. Judging by the background noise being picked up by the servo-skull, Major Straubing is in the cockpit, probably looking over the pilot’s shoulder. He most likely has a speaker headset on with which to use the intercom and access the vox.]

Pilot: We’re in range of your fortress now sir. Patching you through.

Straubing: Thank you. Hello Iron Tower, hello Iron Tower this is Righteous One-One, over.

Vox: Hello Righteous One-One, this is Iron Tow- [The vox suddenly dies.]

Straubing: Iron Tower?

Pilot: I’ve lost landing telemetry.

Straubing: Vox too?

Pilot: Yeah. We’ve run into some heavy jamming.

Straubing: Can you burn through it?

Pilot: No sir. It’s thick stuff.

Straubing: Can you still fly us there?

Pilot: That depends. The tip of the Spire I can do, because that’ll show up nice and easy on my sensors. The Guard Fortress I can’t do. I’ll never pick it out of the background readings.

Straubing: Right. Head for the Spire then.

Pilot: Yes sir.

[Some time later, the shuttle has managed to set down on the primary spire-tip landing pad. Major Straubing is outside, having spent the last minute or so arguing with the head of the PDF security team which has reacted to the unscheduled arrival. It is difficult to hear over the howling gales and driving rain.]

Straubing: I don’t give a damn about whatever higher authority your orders come from! I’m ordering you to stand down and let us pass- and my authority as a representative of the Imperial Guard comes straight from the Holy Throne of Sacred Terra itself!

PDF Team Leader: Sir, with all due respect, I can’t let you into the spire. My orders-

Straubing:
What did I just tell you about your orders? My authority supersedes the authority which issued them. Now move!

[It is difficult to ascertain exactly what happened next when working from vox alone. There is something which could well be a scuffle, followed by roughly four seconds of intermittent lasfire, shouts and screams. Given the comparative difference between the combat skills of the veteran Keitener guardsmen and the inexperienced PDF men, the firefight is unsurprisingly one sided. The vox does not record a single shot matching the sound signature of the PDF’s low megathule issue lasgun.]

Straubing: Sergeant Ladroyne!

Sgt Ladroyne:
Yes sir!

Straubing: Get this door open and then lead the way inside. I don’t want unnecessary casualties to the locals, especially non-combatants, but I want any opposition crushed fast. There’ll be a company’s worth of PDF security heading for us now. We need to get moving.

Sgt Ladroyne: Understood sir. The Emperor Protects.

[The Keiteners progress inside. Distant lasfire and grenades can be heard echoing up the corridors of the spire as Sgt Ladroyne’s team blazes a way towards the central maintenance stairwell.]


Straubing: Yes sergeant?

Sgt Ladroyne [on vox]: Be aware sir, we’ve started to run into heavier resistance. I’ve got two casualties…

Straubing: Copy that sergeant. I want you to hold position until the main body catches up.

Sgt Ladroyne [on vox]:
We will sir.

[Several minutes later, Major Straubing has reached Sgt Ladroyne’s position.]

Straubing: Throne… those aren’t PDF. What are they, mutants?

Sgt Ladroyne: Whatever they are, they rushed us just after I voxed back to you sir. We piled the bodies up to serve as a barricade. We checked them all sir- they’re all covered in Corpse Cult tatts.

[Straubing pauses momentarily.]


Straubing: We need to push on. This treachery obviously runs deep. No more rules of engagement. Kill everyone and everything that gets in our way. Push on, we’ll be close behind. For the Emperor.

[After several sharp firefights the Keiteners have managed to get halfway up the central maintenance stairwells. Their casualties are slowly building up, but it is evident that they are taking a great toll on those who oppose them. By this stage PDF opposition has been replaced almost entirely by what the Guardsmen are referring to as ‘mutants’. In the background the distinct metallic chugging of a heavy stubber can be heard over the more sound of the fighting.]


Straubing:
Sergeant Hurzon! Your team to give covering fire on my word! Corporal Tukes, your men with me! Go!

[The servo-skull is wise enough to hang back, but events can be followed by sounds alone. The lasfire rises in frequency, Straubing and what is presumably Corporal Tukes’ team scream their battlecries and storm forwards. After a moment the heavy stubber stops firing, followed immediately by the distinct noises of Major Straubing’s chainsword and the wet, rapid grinding sound such a weapon makes when it meets flesh.]


Straubing:
Hurzon! Push up past us and storm the next post! We’ll cover you with the stubber!

[Some time later, the fighting dies away from the recording completely and it appears that the Keiteners have sliced through the security cordon established to protect the Astropathic Chambers at the top of the Spire. Despite some obvious unease, Straubing continues pushing his men until they reach the chambers.]

[Having gained access by convincing the worried Adeptus Astra Telepathica attendants of their righteous intent, the guardsmen begin preparing to defend the chambers. Straubing himself rushes up the final flight of stairs into the interior of the chambers to personally deliver his message to the astropaths.]


[However, as he approaches the Sanctum Astropathica the doors close shut and all power to the floor is cut. Screams erupt from inside the chamber. Straubing immediately rushes back to his men and returns with a full team. The screaming stops as they manage to pry the doors open. The Keiteners cautiously move inside.]


Straubing [whispering]: Tukes and Kweil, lamp packs on three. The rest of you stand by. One… Two… Three.

[The servo-skull records a brief pause followed by a series of quiet, negative exclamations from the guardsmen. We know from the backlash experienced by other Imperial astropaths on Eurydice- those with the Guard and the Arbites, for example- that all of the astropaths were dead by this point. If the state of the Sanctum Astropathica as it was found by Imperial troops months later is any indication, this should have been immediately evident.]

Straubing: Quiet. Kweil- go back and bring in another team. Tell Sergeant Hurzon he probably has an enemy in his rear too. Everyone else, lamps on and move in. We need to find survivors.

[After roughly thirty seconds, a confused close range firefight breaks out which bears quoting in full from the servo-skull log.]

Guardsman A: [Screams.]


Guardsman B:
Contact left! Left! Get a light on it!

[Intermittent lasfire from this point onwards.]

Guardsman C:
On the righ- [Cut off by sound of tearing flesh.]

Straubing:
Back to the door! Get back!

[Chainsword revving.]

Cpl Tukes: Frag out!

Straubing: Get back to the swyfing door Tukes!

Cpl Tukes: [Screams.]

Straubing: Swyfe the lot of you swyfing monsters! For the Emperor!

[Cpl Tukes’ frag grenade detonates. Something heavy collapses to the floor and appears to spasm violently.]

Guardsman B:
Behind us!

[Chainsword revving, followed by the sound of the blade meeting flesh.]

Straubing: [Unintelligible.]

Guardsman B: [Screams.]

[Lasfire stops completely.]


[Chainsword revving, followed by the sound of blade grinding on a hard substance. After a moment’s resistance, the chainsword cleaves through and something falls to the floor. Straubing pants heavily, then collapses himself. Judging by his laboured breathing, he is badly injured.]

[Running footsteps. In the distance, a fierce firefight can suddenly be heard as the servo-skull auto-adjusts its sensor sensitivity.]

Guardsman Kweil: Sir! They’re getting in! They’re- Holy Throne!

[Given that the threat in the sanctum astropathica appears to have gone, Guardsman Kweil is presumably free to use his lamp-pack and observe fairly freely- unlike the guardsmen earlier. Kweil goes over and kneels next to the major.]


Guardsman Kweil: We’re being overrun, sir. Sergeant Hurzon and his men are going to hold them off so the rest of us can split up and make a break for it. We reckon that this place is enough of a labyrinth for at least some of us to slip the net and get the message out, but we need to know what’s going on sir.

Straubing: [Unintelligible.]


Guardsman Kweil:
Sir? Please sir… what are these things?

Straubing [Weakly]: Genestealers.

Part VI


(I am slightly late for a brief, surprise meeting with my master in the staterooms of the Orbital Resettlement Platform. The double guard of Imperial Navy Armsmen and my master’s own bodyguard on the chryselephantine doors take time to check my papers thoroughly and then usher me in. Inside, my master is sat behind a great metal desk at the far end of the onyx floor. The only light comes from the stars shining through great, arched armourglass windows on my right and a lumen globe hovering over my master’s paperwork. I quickly hurry over. My master is hunched over his work, face hidden inside his hood. He continues to write and does not look up.)

You are late.

Apologies, master.


Save your excuse for later. Now… your work for me thus far concerning Eurydice. Inject some of your own thoughts into it for throne’s sake.

Master?

[He sighs, pausing in his work.]
Had I wished for reams of straightforward information I would have sent a team of savants or other lesser acolytes. I have instead sent you. This is your opportunity to demonstrate how you work with something which is not an overused case study. Thus, I need to know what you are thinking as well as what the facts are. Clear?

I understand.


I hope so, for your sake. Now… [My master continues writing.] Given that you have failed to do so thus far, you may appraise me of any insight you might have had about the Incident now while I have a few minutes.

It appears to have been a double-wave infiltration. Aside from the original infection via the space hulk salvagers, Syrith seems likely to have contained another batch of genestealers, hybrids or another entire cult which disappeared into the Corpse Cult necropleis.

Go on.

That would suggest the possibility of interplanetary cooperation between genestealer cults, something which would significantly magnify their threat. The cult aboard Syrith may have been fleeing or relocating and was welcomed with open arms by the cult on Eurydice; or the Eurydician cult may have requested aid.


A disturbing possibility, certainly.

Aside from that, the suicidal infectee from the salvagers is an interesting case. It appears that he was probably able to resist or overcome the short-term memory loss associated with genestealer implantation. After remembering what happened drove him insane he killed himself- either because he couldn’t live with it or, more sinisterly, perhaps the implant within him detected the physiological changes brought about by insanity, decided that this host was no longer suitable as an infiltrator and brought the suicide on itself.

An interesting conclusion.

Nothing but conjecture, master.


But conjecture is half of our business. At least you mark out what is conjecture and what isn’t. What about the grander scheme of things? Could the infiltration have been prevented or detected earlier?

At any number of stages. Better quarantine procedures on Eurydice, random events which might have revealed or provoked the cult, a faster response to Syrith’s predicament, deeper investigations by the Arbites… if we’re being counterfactual then the question revolves around logical imagination rather than facts. I would imagine it would be more productive to concentrate on the response to the threat.

Which is exactly what I would have you do next. I will be leaving here in a matter of hours on business of my own and I shall not be returning for some time. In the meanwhile, you will continue to work here. I have arranged several interviews for you, which you are unlikely to have secured otherwise. I shall be leaving a small team behind under Wegener, who will hold all of the details for you. These interviews do have set dates and times, so don’t be late for Throne’s sake.

I won’t be, master.


You were late to see me. Now would be a good time for an excuse.

I thought that I was being followed, master.

You thought you were being followed.

Yes master.


By who, exactly?

I couldn’t tell. Nor can I prove that anyone was following me.


Gut instinct then? Nervousness about reporting to the unexpected arrival of your master? Hmm?

… possibly.

Speak up. Don’t mutter.

Possibly, master.


I wouldn’t be too surprised if you were being followed. Any number of people could be keeping tabs on you. I have left Wegener instructions to that effect, certainly. Don’t let it interfere with your work.

I won’t master.


Good. Now… Wegener is outside waiting for you. He has the details of the first appointment which I have scheduled for you. The individual you are to interview is to be executed within the hour, so I suggest you get a move on.

Yes master.


That means go, for Throne’s sake.
Liber Sanguis
 
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:23 am

Part VII
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Chambers of the Adeptus Mechanicus


(The first interview my master has arranged is with the infamous arch-traitor Lord Gyllam of the House of Kuuke. As the figurehead of the Eurydician secessionist movement he was captured by a stormtrooper head-hunting squad deployed after Lord Commander Rove’s task force retook Tchitotry Hive. Only now, after several months of interrogation, has the time come for his execution. This is being carried out by the Adeptus Mechanicus- who have their own particular horrifying and invasive means for dealing with traitors. Execution is perhaps a misleading term for the procedure- though the subject effectively ceases to exist as a human being by the end.)

(Lord Gyllam is tightly restrained to something approaching an operating table. Leads and cables snake into ports and interfaces grafted into his skin, surgically equipped machine arms rising up from the underside of the table are working on him in concert with medical servitors. Areas of his skin have a pale, grey colour to them. The overseeing Mechanicum adept informs me that these areas are where the internal organs below have been excised and replaced with ‘more useful equipment’. The attendant has also informed me that his subject has being receiving stimulants to keep him conscious throughout the long procedure, rather than any kind of anaesthetic. The Mechanicum obviously do not appear to be concerned with hygiene either- there is plenty of blood everywhere… and on inspection, several examples of what appear to be surgically removed organs lying on the floor. Lord Gyllam himself is clearly alive, though he hardly appears to be capable of maintaining lucid conversation.)

Lord Gyllam?

[He does not respond.]

Lord Gyllam?


[Beside me, the Mechanicum adept gestures to one of the operating servitors, which injects something into Gyllam’s throat. He blinks slowly. Then he groans and grimaces. Blood- and what is looks like a kind of synthetic fluid- drools liberally from the corners of his mouth onto his chest. Eventually, he looks up.]

Who the hell are you?

I’m here to ask you some questions.


[He snorts. Or tries to. The only effect is to discharge some more synthetic fluid from his nose.]

Have you people not asked enough questions?

I haven’t asked you any.


Well, you’re too late. I’ve already answered everything. I’m sure there are recordings of it. I bet you’ll enjoy watching them, just like these red robed sickos.

[He casts a bitter glance at the Mechanicum adept, whose half-machine features remain impassive.]

I have watched them. And I have some questions.


Go to hell.

[I remove a parchment from my chest pocket and hold it up. On it, as obviously as possible, is stamped the seal of the inquisition.]

The others who questioned you have nothing like the authority I wield. This carta is effectively a pardon- on my orders the Adpetus Mechanicus will reverse their processes and return you to functional health.

[I pause for a moment. Despite the whirring machine arms and the attentions of the servitors, Gyllam is silent and stonefaced. Something of the shrewd politician is reasserting itself behind his eyes.]

Your attitude as revealed by the recordings of your previous interrogations may be something of use to me. I want you to prove it. If you can’t, or you don’t cooperate, then… well. There will not be enough left of your mind to regret it.

Why now? Were my answers not enough before?

I was not present. Details of such things are easily faked or altered. I wanted to hear directly from you. And of course, within the next [I pause again and check my wrist-chronometer] few minutes you will be officially dead. If you convince me and I invoke this carta, your death will still be recorded but you will pass alive into my service.

You’re giving me a chance to become one of your… servants? Agents? Assistants?

The term we use is acolyte. I’m sure your status would be of less importance to you than the fact that you would still be alive.

And I should believe you because?

Why else would I bother being here? The only thing that has piqued my interest in you is the possibility that you may be useful to me. As you have said, everything else is already recorded.


[Gyllam stares at me, obviously weighing his options up. As he is doing so, a scalpel bearing machine arm orientates itself towards the side of his head. Gyllam’s first knowledge of it is when it slowly moves in to work. He screams and I can see the muscles in his neck straining to move his head away from the blade. Given the restraints holding his head in position, the effort is entirely wasted.]


Ask your questions! Ask! Ask!

What were you trying to do? What was the point?


[The Mechanicum adept commands one of the servitors to deliver another injection to Gyllam’s throat. He obviously stops registering the pain, but the scalpel- soon joined by other implements- continues its work. He recovers his breath as he speaks.]


For everyone else, all the other nobles, it was about freedom and it was about independence. If we could ease off the Imperium’s stranglehold on Eurydice then everyone would benefit. If we could prove we could defend ourselves then there would be no need for a Guard garrison- freeing up troops for better use. If we ran our own manufactories then we could do it more efficiently, if we focused on improving the quality of life for our citizens, increased their disposable income, then we could push up taxes and contribute more to the tithe.

It was a pipedream. The more realistic nobles knew the Imperium would never give up control. It certainly wouldn’t do it bloodlessly, as so many people hoped. What we needed was something that would cause the Imperium to write us off, cause them to abandon us to our fate. Then we could stand on our own and if we survived then... then we’d have gotten our freedom and we could still contribute.

And then we heard that there were Tyranids on Eurydice. That was what we had been looking for- but we had to manage it carefully. If we crushed the aliens too quickly we would have squandered our opportunity. If we let them overrun us then we could risk greater Imperial involvement… even exterminatus. We had to balance things well enough for the situation to put off the Imperium. Eurydice wasn’t a major world by any standards- not worth risking Imperial soldiery for if the locals could hold the line. Things would be have to be bad enough to provoke an evacuation of, well almost everyone Imperial but the Guard, but not enough to send reinforcements.

That seems wildly optimistic.


It was. That was the best case, a mad dream. The worst case- [Gyllam’s eyes become unfocused for a few seconds and his mouth hangs open. A quick glance shows that a slender implement is deep within a hole bored into the side of his skull. It begins to pull out. Gyllam convulses slightly, then his eyes refocus and he continues. He doesn’t seem to have noticed what happened.] - would be that the Imperium gets dragged into a major conflict on Eurydice. And that was most realistic- and best for the Imperium.

Best for the Imperium?

Struggle makes the Imperium stronger! Makes humanity stronger! Whether it is because we learn how to grind our foes into the ground, whether it is because it drives evolutionary development, whether the sacrifice of martyrs on the Emperor’s altar of war fuels his divinity… war makes us strong. I knew exactly what was going on when we kept the lid on the Tyranid incursion on Eurydice. I knew that we had to keep word away from the Imperium if they were going to have a real fight on their hands. I knew we could never expect the PDF to hold the aliens back, never expect the Imperium not to strike at us with rightful vengeance. We made a war. And the Imperium fought it. And now the Imperium is that little bit stronger. A little more knowledgeable about the Tyranid threat. Hundreds of thousands of guardsmen are that much more experienced, have learned that many more lessons, have survived to carry their warrior genes through to the next generation. It was all worth it. I have no regrets.

An Istvaanian attitude indeed. And dangerous. [I check my chronometer again.] Your time is up Lord Gyllam. After this process concludes you will serve the Imperium in a more reliable fashion.

[Gyllam glares at me, his faces contorts with rage. He splutters blood and fluid.]


You-!

[Beside me, the Mechanicum adept initiates the final stage. Machine arms descend on Gyllam’s head from all sides. He quickly stops screaming and soon there is only the sound of cracking bone and buzzing blades. The servitors on either side stand ready with various devices that will take the place of Gyllam’s frontal lobes. I must confess I chose that moment to leave- not out of squeamishness but due to the fact that the concluding moments of the procedure were being broadcast live to the refugees around the orbital and I had no wish for my image to be captured. This will be the eleventh such propaganda execution- apparently someone believes the message needs ramming home.]

***

With respect, you may wish to adjust this account slightly before I forward it to our master. Whilst your method was most effective, I doubt the master would be impressed by your blatant impersonation of a higher station.

Wegener


***


***
That one had a few awkward bits. I thought it was best to spell out what was going to happen to Gyllam at the start, because otherwise it didn't seem particularly clear from the interview alone. Gyllam was also originally going to be espousing the view that semi-breaking Eurydice away from the Imperium was best for everyone- but the more I tried to put it into words the more unworkable it sounded. So instead, Gyllam got to be a bit of a psychopath. A well-meaning psychopath, granted, but still a bit too mad even for the general Imperium (though not, I'd imagine, for more than a few Inquisitors).
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Maugan Ra » Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:04 am

Yay. I managed to guess that it was Genestealers by the end of part III.

*scoffs a virtual cookie*

Very nice story though. Good pacing, interesting style, and I can't see any blatent errors. I'll certainy keep reading this, if it's going to be updated again.
Maugan, your slow descent into madness is starting to look more like a BASE jump...
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:47 pm

Cheers Ra! Hope the virtual cookie was good!

Stupid overtime! Why do I agree to these things? (Duh! More money!). That's why this is up a bit later than I meant to post it. On the plus side, there's more than usual (2800ish words, which is pushing it in terms of single readable segments), so yay!

I wanted to get back on track plot wise (seeing as though the last one didn't really add very much in that regard) so this one covers quite a bit of ground. More writer's-ramblings at the end, because I don't want to spoil things.

***

Part VIII
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Western Officer’s Quarters

(Hans Nellorese is waiting in my quarters when I return, having been escorted there- blindfolded- by one of Wegener’s teams. He seems, somewhat unsurprisingly, absolutely terrified until the blindfold is taken off and he recognises me. After that he is only moderately terrified. Obviously he fears that I have found something to accuse him of. I quickly allay his fears: explaining that my master has arranged for me to interview him again and that his methods are… less subtle than mine. Nellorese quickly calms down, accepts a drink, a chance to smoke and then starts answering questions.)

We probably saw more of it the bigger picture than the average PDF trooper, given that we were on convoy escort duty. Every day we’d cram into our trucks- these big, flat-nosed eight wheelers- and tag onto a long line of more vehicles. Usually it was supplies, less often it was tanks on their transporter-trucks or towed artillery. We got so sick of trucks you wouldn’t believe it. Hours and hours and hours just sat numbly on a mind-bogglingly uncomfortable wooden bench. Too jammed in with one another to move at all, too much kit in the central aisle to stretch your legs, too noisy for any conversation.

We were supposed to do anti-ambush drills and stuff to keep us on our toes, but we never had time. Everything had to get to where it was going on time, on schedule. If we were ever late there was hell to pay for the OC [Officer Commanding], which always meant he'd be a complete git to us for a few days.

What made you late?

There were… well I don’t know what you’d call them. Refugees doesn’t fit as well as pilgrims, but they looked like refugees. People streaming out of the hive, out of the outlying cities and towns, filling up the roads… all of them answering the Corpse Cult’s call.

Because they thought the time had come?

Yeah. The Emperor was almost upon us, according to them. And the devout, the faithful, the true believers, should be waiting for Him amongst their dead relatives and friends in the necropoleis if they were to join the resurrected host. Poor sods.

They were going to the necropoleis?

Yeah. They learnt to get out of our way pretty quick and we never had any problems from them. That said, in some of the places we passed through, especially the smaller places further out in the agri-swathe, there was a lot of tension.

Tension?


Yeah. The Corpse Cult wasn’t as entrenched out there as it was in the hive. The agri-swathers and their families didn’t see eye to eye with all the pilgrims pouring through. There was evidence of unrest fairly frequently- smashed windows, forced doors, maybe even barricades- but we never saw any actual violence. We didn’t see many of the locals either. Usually it was because they stayed out of the way, stayed indoors, but some of the places we passed through were just… empty. Ghost villages. Rumour had it that mobs of Corpse Cult fanatics were roving the continent aiming to save as many people as possible, aiming to swell the ranks of the Emperor’s nascent immortal army by bundling people off to the necropoleis… whether they liked it or not. Two of the men from my platoon disappeared in one of those ghost towns when we had to stay the night to wait for more fuel. Never saw them again.

And you didn’t go looking for them?


Of course we did. We started searching as soon as we realised they were gone… but, in the dark, in a deserted settlement… we never really had the manpower to look everywhere. Or the time. In the morning, the fuel trucks trundled in, we tanked up and then it was back onto the road. The convoys always took priority.

And where were all of these convoys going?

Out into the middle of nowhere. Obviously if someone’s assaulting from orbit they have the whole planet to come down on. High Command made the assumption that the enemy- who or whatever they were- would aim to land on land, probably away from the heavy defences around the hive, but they didn’t have enough forces to cover the rest of the continent. So it was a matter of setting up operating bases all over the place. Each one was within artillery range of at least two others, so they had local support, and the idea was that when the enemy came down the local outposts would be able to inflict some damage, maybe slow them down a bit, and report the landing the High Command. High Command would then order in the biggest armoured formation it could get together at short notice and smash the dropzone.

And you were escorting convoys moving into these positions?

Yeah. We didn’t spend much time in the operating bases because we were too busy. Lucky us.

Lucky you?

We spent our entire time sat in trucks. And no matter how much you come to despise sitting in the back of them for hours and hours on end, trucks instantly redeem themselves when you’re trying to get away from something.

Like what?

Like the horizon.

The horizon?


The first indication we had that something was going wrong was that the vox went dead and the sky started turning black ahead of us. We were escorting an artillery battery: towed earthshakers. The whole convoy just stopped. We all knew, or made the assumption that that black, black stain on the horizon was the invasion we’d been waiting for. No one seemed to know what to do. We had no vox, the mission was obviously immediately outdated, we were getting scared.

So what did you do?

We dug our heels in.

The battery was unlimbered, spread out in a firing line at right angles across the road facing the black-sky. We dismounted and got posted in between. Our OC and the battery’s OC worked together to make sure that we weren’t in each other’s way… and that we had our transports close at hand.

Why was that?

Indecision I think. At least mainly. If someone broke through the vox or came along with new orders then we’d be able to get a move on quickly. For the artillery it was different, obviously. They didn’t have time to offload their ammunition so they were taking it straight off their trucks.

We never got new orders. All that happened was that the black-sky got closer, started to tower up above us, started to stretch left and right until the entire horizon was filled by it. And we cowered there, frantically scraping at the ground with our e-tools.

First came the spore rain. We could see it sweep in towards us, just as if it was normal weather. But it was much thicker. Instead of rain it was tiny black spores. They almost looked like little brains with spinal columns attached- all bulbous, weeping head and whipping tail.

You must have gotten your haz-gear on fast if you’re still here.


Believe me I got it on faster than humanly possible. And it was a good job too, as we found out later. More stuff followed the spore-rain. Rolling fog, dark and green. The sun couldn’t get through that. It was suddenly dark. Dark and foetid and terrifying.

And there were shapes in it. Nightmare-things that coalesced into existence out of the churning fog and then slunk back into it. I’ve no idea if anything was actually there or not.

It didn’t matter anyway. One or two haz-masks failed across the line- filters corroded through- and the two OCs decided that it was time to pull back, to try and get out of the fog.

So we gave the artillery a hand limbering up before we piled into the trucks, got back onto the road and sped off back hivewards.

You ran away.

[Nellorese pauses. He must be used to being asked that by now, but he must also know that I properly understand what they would have faced had they stayed.]

Effectively. We were trying to get out of the fog, like I said. And I was following orders all the time… not that I’d have wanted to stay, to be honest.

You did make some contact with the xenos, though?

Yes. We did.

[He sits awkwardly for a few seconds, as if trying to get away with that answer and not have to dredge the memories up. I simply stare at him until he continues.]


We managed to get out of the rolling fog, but we couldn’t get ahead of the spore-rain. There were what looked like meteor strikes dropping in the distance on either side- that brought back memories of Day One. They were mycetic spores, as Command only bothered to tell us later- the bugs' one way ticket to their invasions. There were thousands of them, but we were outrunning them slowly. Only one cluster of mycetics fell near us. And we didn’t stop for them. It was almost surreal- these big leathery egg things dropping out of the clouds and splattering onto the ground, splitting apart in explosions of slime to throw out scores of… well, scores of ‘nids.

We’d never seen them before, didn’t know what they were. But we saw enough super-fast shapes with long claws and gobs full of teeth to get the message. Some of the gaunts were even fast enough to chase the trucks. That freaked us, I can tell you. We hosed them down with lasfire over the sides or out of the back. Nothing big came after us, nothing that was going to really ruin our day.

Eventually we managed to outrun the gaunts. Then the spore-rain. We outran the horizon… so we survived.

Your personal record says that you received medicae attention on invasion day.
For your arm. [I gesture at his stump with absolutely no subtlety whatsoever.]


I did. That’s the day I lost it.

But you were saying that you outran the horizon. You escaped the Tyranid dropzone.

I did. But things didn't get much better.

What happened was we got back to a checkpoint on the road. It was more of an overnight stop for the PDF convoys- a hundred metre square compound for trucks to park up in surrounded by flakboard gabions and flay-wire. There were a few pre-fabs and tents, a covered workshop for repairs.

There were no PDF troopers on the gate. That stopped the convoy in its tracks… even with the horizon slowly closing on us. Our OC dismounted my platoon and sent us in to take a look, to sweep the place over.

And?

The place wasn’t empty. It was full of people. Civilians. All at the far end of the compound. Some of them were fairly covered in blood, all of them walking about- stumbling about- as if they were in shock. They weren’t coherent, they didn’t speak. A lot of them were wearing white robes, some of them quite finely decorated.

White robes?

Yeah. It took us a good minute to figure it out. They were wearing Corpse Cult ceremonial gear. The kind they dress the dead up in so the Emperor can recognise them.

So, what happened?


We thought that they’d be these wackos going around ‘helping’ people by bringing them kicking and screaming to the necropoleis. So we fanned out into a firing line, two squads up front, one in back as a reserve and then the last- my squad- circling off to the right so we could enfilade them if they got crazy.

They were worse than crazy. As soon as one of them noticed us- one of them- they all suddenly surged at us as fast as they could. My squad was closest, so we had less time to react.

They rushed you?


Yeah. We screamed at them to stop, then fired warning shots over their heads… then we hesitated. That was a mistake, but… what do you do when an unarmed civilian charges at you? Deep down, you don’t want to shoot them. No one wanted to shoot them… and none of us did. We just took it.

Three of them piled into me, knocked me over and pinned me down with their weight. Even then, I… I suppose I couldn’t believe it. My lasgun was trapped between my bodies and theirs, completely useless. I managed to wrench my right hand free and grab the hilt of my bayonet but, Throne! Stabbing someone is far worse than shooting them. I can’t believe I didn’t do anything now, but… well we were naïve back then. Inexperienced… indecisive.

What happened?


Pain happened. One of the bodies on top of me- a woman- bit into my right arm. Started chewing and gnashing straight through the fatigues and into the flesh beneath… absolutely frenzied. Now I had no chance of using by bayonet. The others started to try to… try to dig into me, tear into me with their hands. I was lucky: they only found body armour.

This woman, though... I’m never going to forget her eyes. Even though she was gnawing my arm down to the bone, mangling flesh and getting her face covered in blood… through all that she was staring at me out of the corner of her eye.

She was just as terrified as I was. Just as shocked. It was horrible.

So she wasn’t in control of her actions?


No. Someone bayoneted her from behind… and I watched her eyes screw up with pain and tears. She kept on biting. She kept on biting until she physically couldn’t, until someone put a las bolt into her head at point blank. Took them a while to do that because they were trying to get an angle where the bolt wouldn’t carry on through into me.

She spasmed out and died, but at least the las shot had taken her eyes away so I couldn’t see them. I passed out almost immediately after that… woke up with an amputation a hundred miles away with the medicae. Notwithstanding the fact that the poor woman had chewed me down to the bones, the wound had quickly gotten infected. All that Tyranid biowar stuff floating around. So they’d lopped my arm off.

I’d been separated from my unit. It took me weeks to catch up with them and get the full explanation of what had been going on.

So were they Corpse Cult fanatics?

In a manner of speaking. The ones in the white robes probably had been at one point. They were the ones who’d been buried and dedicated. The embalming process had preserved their bodies fairly well in the necropoleis, but out in the open air they were starting to show sign of decay. Those ones never ran at you. They were dead, after all: rigor mortis.

They were dead?


Yeah. We called them shamblers, after the way they walked. Dead as doornails. It was only afterwards that we really found out what was going on, when news of autopsies and the infestations around the necropoleis came out, a long time after the Lord Commander turned up and exposed the Corpse Cult.

The Cult had been worked with the ‘nids… somehow. And in the necropoleis they’d been stockpiling dead bodies. Then, when they knew the invasion ship was getting close they started collecting live bodies- letting the ‘faithful’ come to them, just abducting people, rounding them up, whatever. They let a kind of parasite loose on them in the necropoleis. Like a ripper but smaller. It latched on to the back of their heads, burrowed inside and… took over. Hijacked their bodies. That’s why some of them could run at us, perform complex tasks like pinning us to the ground. Their bodies were still alive: they were functioning human beings. They died off quickly- a mixture of complete malnutrition, exhaustion, sheer horror and the spores. But after that they kept going. A horrible way to die.

What do you mean?


That woman who bit my arm nearly off: she was still in there. Still behind the eyes, but with something else at the controls. It doesn’t bear thinking about. If you don’t get killed because an alien mind is putting your body in harms way, then you’ll die because that alien consciousness runs your body into the ground. And there’s nothing you can do but watch and feel it happen.

And all this, these shamblers, was part of the Corpse Cult’s plan?


It was according to the briefings we got. And it made sense too. The invasion day… those hours when the swarm is spilling down out of the sky… that’s when the ‘nids were most vulnerable. Before they’d really gotten their bearings.

So the Cult made things difficult for us. They let these shamblers loose, opened up the necropoleis. And almost as soon as we’d worked out where the front was, there were shamblers popping up all over the place in our rear echelon. Thousands… tens of thousands of them. An extra hazard, an extra diversion that needed manpower to contain... an extra psychological tool to terrify us.

Did any get into the hive?


No. Or at least, not enough to cause problems. We’d have heard about it otherwise, I’m sure. We were busy, obviously. And High Command was going round the bend trying to figure the ‘nids out.

Trying to figure out what they were doing?


Yeah. They expended all of this effort getting planetside, caused all this damage, killed thousands of PDF, overran hundreds of square miles around their drop areas. Then half of them just fell down the dead.

***
Originally it was going to be more like The Fall of Malvolion (which is a fantastic Abnett short story about a 'nid invasion that was in an old White Dwarf. I think it's in one of the older BL short story compilations somewhere.) but it didn't want to be written. That's why there's a towed artillery battery in it- the guns were going to do a rolling leapfrog backwards (pepper-potting to those who understand that), firing pointblank into the horde before eventually being overrun. Nellorese and the PDF infantry would escape on their trucks. I know it sounds more awesome but I just couldn't get it to work very well. Something to come back to anyway.

Apart from that, I still have plenty to cover on Invasion Day, especially because the Tyranids didn't really feature in their own invasion (doh!). So expect an overabundance of gribbly death in the next bit.
Last edited by Liber Sanguis on Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Mon Mar 21, 2011 4:19 am

Awesome update Liber. The Corpse Cult was really well done, it would have been easy to make them just zombies, but they're done subtlety, deadly, differently. The Tyranid rain was excellent and so was the cliff hanger at the end of it. I really want to know why half of them die.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sat Mar 26, 2011 10:47 pm

Cheers Gaius! I've been saving up the Corpse Cult 'zombies' for ages now: it feels surprisingly good to unleash them!

This one's another nearly 3000-words bit. They seem to be getting steadily bigger, but I suppose I'm revealing things in detail rather than leaving hints and building things up. This is a bit strange, seeing as though I've never actually planned any of this outside my head. Its all kind of naturally coalescing as I write one part a week (-ish). The characters especially have little or no forethought before fingers meet keyboard. It feels a little wierd to have things pretty much resolve themselves as I write. Anyway, enough of that, here we are:

***

Part IX
Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Hangar Bay Secundus


(This is to be my last interview on board the resettlement platform for some time: my master has arranged for me to transfer over to the flagship of Lord Commander Rove’s Task Force which remains in high orbit over Eurydice.)


(My subject for this interview is former-colonel Ebram Maach, who was the alert commander of the PDF Orbital Division’s fighter wing on Invasion Day. He now sits behind his desk, in his office, which overlooks the hangar deck through thick, armourglass windows. Beneath us is stretched out a row of Lightning interdictor aircraft attended to by tech priests and groundcrew. The markings indicate that they are all Imperial Navy craft. Maach himself is wearing the uniform and insignia of an Imperial Navy Squadron Executive Officer (a considerable step down from the rank he held in the PDF), though he wears a black armband to denote the mourning of his homeworld. Once we have greeted each other and exchanged pleasantries he gestures up to the wall where there are an array of framed certificates, pict-captures and awards.)

This is something of an aviator’s thing. We call it an ego-wall. I keep getting told to take it down, that the only thing I’m supposed to stick up there is a devotional eagle. They can sod off.

Still getting used to the rules and regulations of the Navy then?

[Maach smiles.]
I think it’s the other way round. They’ll have to get used to me. I know the Imperial Navy from the inside out. You see that pict there? That’s my graduation class at the Imperial Naval Academy on Bakka. I was there for seven years and three months.

Why?

Why was I there? [I nod. Maach chuckles to himself.] At the very top of the wall, there’s another pict… just there [He points]. Who’s that?

Augis, Governor of Eurydice… isn’t it?

It is, yes. I’ve been thoroughly… sponsored, I suppose you could say, by him for almost my entire life.

[Looking from the pict to Maach, the fact he is getting at takes a few moments to register. They do look remarkably similar. I raise my eyebrows at him. He nods by way of reply.]

I don’t know who my mother was, except that it wasn’t one of Augis’ wives. I was raised in one of the Upper Hive orphanages, the ones reserved for nobility, and went straight into the PDF Air Division as soon as I was old enough. At every turn there were signs of the Governor’s hand twisting things to my benefit and advancement. It was years until I actually met him, when he explained everything to him. He said to me that he needed someone he could trust, someone who cared only for Eurydice, someone he could rely on for the truth under any circumstances… whilst staying off the radar of his political opponents.

He kept you as a spy?

Spy is perhaps not the right word. I’d have thought someone like you would understand that [He grins]. Informant is perhaps more accurate. This was just before the Ecclesiarchy took him away to Arawan Prime.

Took him away? I was under the impression that he was chosen by the Cardinal Astral to join his Crusade on Thought?

It was an intrigue. Augis was only one candidate out of thousands and certain people had it fixed that he would leave Eurydice. Seeing as though he could hardly decline, Augis would have to leave the Noble Council in charge during his absence.

So he wanted a network of supporters left behind to keep an eye on things for him?

Yes. I assume that there were others, but with these things its best for security that no-one knows of anyone else.

And it didn’t bother you that you were being manipulated? Being influenced from birth to think and act for someone else?

[Maach pauses for a few seconds. It’s almost as if he’s never considered that idea- something I find hard to believe.]

No. [His deadpan face breaks into a laugh again.] But I suppose that’s what I’m meant to think! I was brought up in the orphanages, then indoctrinated in the PDF, then further indoctrinated by the Imperial Navy… duty is everything to me. I have a duty to protect Eurydice- its people, its resources, the idea of it perhaps- all as a part of the Imperium of Man for the sake of humanity. There is no greater responsibility or commitment.

The Governor certainly thinks the same way and retains his position and power even though he is systems away. The potential usurpers in the Noble Council… well. They didn’t think the same way did they?

Objectively, I know I was- am- being manipulated. But I was being manipulated in pursuit of the duty I had been brought up to act upon. I was a willing participant in Augis’ web.

So, with all the developments on Eurydice whilst the Governor was away… you kept him informed?

Yes. I had a pass to allow me priority access to the astropaths, should I have needed it.

Did you use it at all in the run-up to Invasion Day?


No. I did what I usually did, which was to pen a missive to a female… acquaintance of mine living on Arawan Secundus and sent it out with the rest of the low-priority commercial or social astropathic traffic.

Of course it was laced with code, this woman didn’t exist and whoever received it bumped it on to the Governor’s staff on Arawan Prime. Coming up to Invasion Day, I passed on every scrap of information I could scrounge.

Did you know what was going on?


Not really. I was up here all the time, to start with. I think that High Command planetside- probably quite reasonably- had decided that the PDF Orbital Division would have absolutely no effect on whatever was coming and therefore didn’t bother telling us anything about it. We were ordered onto a higher alert stage, we could see the physical preparations being made below, we made our guesses… but we were out of the loop.

And when Invasion Day came?


There was plenty of time. Something broke warp halfway into the system- a horrendously dangerous thing to do- and then cruised in towards Eurydice. Even though it was close by void-war standards, we still had over an hour to get ready and raise the alarm. I had enough time to get to the astropaths and get a simple message out.

The astropaths were working?


Yes. I bet you weren’t expecting that.

I wasn’t to be honest. There was no shadow in the warp?


No. But then, it was a single… well, organism. They don’t have ships do they? It came right into Eurydice’s upper atmosphere, on the opposite side to the defence orbital, so it was out of range and sight. We only knew it was there because the defence monitors had taken up positions over the poles and were sending us their augur data.

And the orbital commander didn’t dare send them to attack in case he lost his eyes?


Yes. I doubt they’d have done much anyway, but there’s a lot to be said for trying sometimes.

And what did you do?


I was spending most of my time fending off stupid orders. The best one was when he ordered us to attack the Tyranid vessel… on our own. Notwithstanding the fact that our Lightnings aren’t designed for void-war, we wouldn’t have even had the legs to get over there, never mind the armament to actually do any damage. Once the ‘nid ship started to vomit stuff planetside though… then we had something we could deal with.

We scrambled, took our Lightnings down through the atmosphere. We vectored into an air-assembly zone where ground-based aircraft we supposed to congregate before being given targets as they filtered through. We were the first attack-craft there: coming in via orbit gives you the mother of all speed boosts- which was exactly why we were stationed in orbit in the first place. We were the fast reaction wing. In the assmebly area a pair of Marauder tankers filled us up and we headed off towards the stain on the horizon.

It was huge. Absolutely massive. The base was several hundred kilometres square and it all came down from orbit like a titanic, churning organic funnel of rain. My first thought was to lead the flight into it, like it was a cloud, but as we got closer I realised that that would a stupid idea.

The spore rain?

That’s what the ground troops called it. We weren’t so bothered by the little spores in our sealed cockpits, though there was a nagging worry that they might clog the engine uptakes through sheer numbers. The bigger spores… mycetics or meiotics mostly: you had to watch out for them because they’d just annihilate you if you got in their way.

Once we’d gotten to the spore rain there wasn’t actually much we could do. We couldn’t go into it... we’d never hit anything if we shot at it. The aliens that were being deployed on the ground stayed underneath it for the most part, so we couldn’t get close enough to strafe them.

We felt so impotent. And on top of that, we kept getting bombarded with support calls. Pleas for air strikes, evacuations, reinforcements. The high-gain vox sets at battalion level were picking up our presence and the operators were calling us thinking that they were saved. A lot of them were cracking up or despairing. Not surprising, given what was happening.

There was one operating base though- OB Purity, or something like that. They never asked for help or assistance. They always gave an appraisal of what they could see- they always reported in what was coming at them. Completely neutral, not scared, not panicky. And then at the end of every message they tagged on a request for more ammunition.

What did you say?


What was there to say? We kept vox silence. After a while our vox died completely. We had to go back to communicating visually- hand signals from cockpit to cockpit. Which was hardly ideal.

And all that time you were what? Circling?

No. After the first hour the spore rain started to thin out at the edges. The ‘nid ship in orbit was pulling out. I’d been half expecting it to: just a delivery mission, as it were. An infection mission.

The mycetics and larger spores went from being an almost solid wall blocking our path to narrower streams with gaps between. Once those gaps had gotten big enough, we had space to dart in and out relatively safely, though if we went too far in we'd run into much thicker areas.

What do you mean by relatively safely?

They ‘nids were still trying to kill us. And just flying through the spore rain was dangerous enough: you try dodging things at 400 miles an hour in horrendous visibility.

We tried a few things. Strafing runs on the swarm beneath us were pretty ineffective. Lightnings aren’t armed for ground attack: an autocannon and two lascannons isn’t going to do very much against a million Tyranids is it? We tried targeting incoming mycetics with more success, especially if we could get on top and then dive after them. We did our bit, but there were already so many of them on the ground.

Then we met our first harridans.

Harridans?

Big ‘nids. They look a bit like alien dragons, of all things. Huge leathery wings, grasping claws. Most of them burst out of mycetics halfway down. They were all covered in gargoyles too and every now and again you might see one through the haze swoop down and disgorge their cargo onto some unfortunates.

We flashed past the first group we saw- three of them. Me and my wingman circled round and came in for a run on them. They couldn’t compete with us for speed, but Throne I’ve never seen something so manoeuvrable.

We opened up about half a kilometre out, my wingman flying a hundred metres to my front left. It happened so fast- all air fights do- but your reactions ramp up to some insane level and somehow your mind takes it all in. We shredded all of them between us, in a fraction of a second. Put burning lascannon bolts through their wings, shattered their bodies with autocannon fire. The one that got my wingman had had its right wing and most of its tail severed. In the last moment before it fell out of the sky, it whipped out a talon at my wingman as he flashed past. It connected- sliced off his rear stabilisers and slammed his tail down. He flipped over at the speed of sound and his Lightning just disintegrated. It simply wasn’t built to withstand that kind of sudden stress.

And you?

I had a choice between flying into sixty tons of plummeting, eviscerated alien corpse or trying to fly through the innards it was spilling out. That’s a split second decision with only one answer. I jinked underneath the body and copped a load of blood and organs all over my bird. Thankfully, the cockpit’s anti-stick coating actually worked and I could see where I was going. I thought I’d gotten through okay, but my right engine must have sucked in guts and it suddenly gave out.

On only one engine I wasn’t going to be any good to anyone. I came out of the spore rain and started to limp back to the nearest airfield- there was no way I was going to get back up to the orbital.

There was plenty to see. Down below, the ground troops were congregating at some points, spreading out along defensible features at others. I saw plenty of armour, but they seemed to be holding it back for some reason. Apparently, they were trying to coordinate their counterattacks- but the vox was out so they had to communicate by messengers. That caused a lot of delays.

It seems reasonable enough: better than going in piecemeal.


[Maach nods, but slowly, as though he is acknowledging the notion rather than agreeing with it.]

Sometimes it’s best to just get stuck in.

Apart from the PDF there were huge crowds of people wandering about behind the coalescing front, seemingly at random. Some of them were moving into settlements. It didn’t mean anything to me at the time, but now… well. Now we know don’t we?

And later on? What happened later?


Later? Later I managed to get down at some planetside airfield and immediately started bawling at people to get myself another bird. I was told that they were all in the air, but they quickly started coming back in. All the pilots were saying that the vox was back up- patchy, but back up- and that all their missions were being called off.

Called off? Who calls off air support in the face of an invasion?

[Maach smiles grimly.]

The ‘nids were starting to drop everywhere our troops were in contact with them. They'd been doing so for a while, but with the communications problems it had taken ages to get word through. They decided that it was better to ground any aircraft that they didn’t need, rather than have them all in the air guzzling fuel. Obviously the air support was kept on stand-by... but no one called us for a while.

And the Tyranids were just dying?


Yeah. Daft, isn’t it? They just died, in their tens of thousands. Just fell over and didn’t get back up again. I saw the picts afterwards- Throne, everyone saw the picts afterwards. They were instant propaganda material: ground level captures with the dead xenos stretching off as far as you could see, jubilant PDF troopers who’d not gotten there to soon enough fight grinning and celebrating.

Did you know why they all died?

No. Well, not at the time. It turned out pretty quick that the area directly on top of the Tyranid drop site was still heavily infested. Plus the Shamblers were getting everywhere, so we were pretty busy.

We weren’t about to complain about the enemy dying en masse, so it passed from our minds quite quickly. I did ask one of Lord Commander Rove’s Keitener officers about it later on in the Incident. He’s the one who’s come up with the best explanation I've heard so far.

What was it?

That the dying Tyranids were the first wave- the initial beserker sacrifice that clears the ground for the real invasion force. A ‘forlorn hope’, he called it. All the ‘nids in that wave were so pumped up with adrenaline and their metabolisms so ridiculously hyped that they were practically unstoppable. But, the flip side was that they had a life span of a few hours.

So they just burned out?

Yeah… giving the main swarm time to get planetside in the process. As the picture cleared over the next few days, it soon became apparent that the surviving Tyranids had broken out of their drop area through gaps made by the initial wave and were spreading out all over the continent. After only a week we started to see new infestations cropping up hundreds of miles away. There was a lot of scattered fighting, a lot of skirmishes, one or two big meeting engagements where the PDF tankers blundered into swarms. It was very difficult to tell what was going on.

So it was a kind of stalemate?


Effectively.

What broke it?


[Maach grins again.]

The man you’re going to see next. There’s a shuttle waiting down below.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Sun Mar 27, 2011 3:25 am

Ahh, aerial battles, an oft overlooked and very awesomely done side of 40K. Excellent chapter Liber, really captured the scale of the war in this one. 8-)

Also, I'm guessing were going to see this story's equivalent of that Indian General in WWZ?
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sat Apr 02, 2011 9:06 pm

Cheers again Gaius! I hadn't thought about the Indian General from WWZ (loved that character). Lord Commander Rove isn't really a candidate for that- unfortunately he's a little past his fighting days and spends most of his time generalling. That said, he's got plenty of subordinates who might be crazy enough to form square in the face of the 'nids...

That's all for later though. I thought I'd do something a bit different this time for a break. Its not an interview for change, so we'll see how it goes.

***

Part X
The Visitor Staterooms of the assault carrier Hersir of His Glorious Imperial Majesty’s Navy


(Pardon this interruption in the task you have assigned me master, but I feel I must present this account supplementally in order to keep you informed of events. I have felt it necessary to record as much detail as I can remember in case you can pick up on anything that I have missed.)


The freight shuttle used for the trip over to Hersir was small, not much larger than an Arvus lighter, with facing rows of seating down either side of the cargo compartment. I was alone, having declined Wegener’s offer of either an aide or a small support team to accompany me.

There was no one else with me in the passenger compartment so I took a seat at the far end, next to the narrow door which led to the cockpit. I suppose it was mostly a matter of wanting to sprawl out: I sat with my legs across several other seats and my back against the cockpit partition. I had also asked the pilot to inform me when we were in visual range of Hersir- the assault carrier is ancient even by Imperial Navy standards and reputedly the only vessel of its designation in this sector. Sitting close to the cockpit would enable me to get inside quickly and make the most of what was likely to be my only chance of seeing Hersir with my own eyes.

I busied myself with making notes on Maach’s interview and reading some of the provided preliminary material- mostly background information on Lord Commander Rove.

Roughly halfway through the flight I was disturbed from my work by what sounded like a scuffle in the cockpit. There was shouting, though none of it was coherent. I immediately reacted, springing to my feet and trying the door. From the outset I was convinced of foul-play of one sort or another: the prospects for Imperial Navy pilots losing their cool and getting into fights with each other (whilst in flight no less) are almost impossible given the level of professionalism in their service.

The door refused to open. It took me precious seconds to fish a multi-tool from my kit and prise off one of the maintenance panels and gain access to the door mechanism. By the time I had cut the power to the door the noises from beyond had stopped.

The lack of sound was disquieting. Nonetheless, I put my shoulder to the door and began to slide it open. It was difficult, but after a few moments of pressure there was enough of a gap for me to see into the cockpit.

Inside, the pilot and co-pilot were buckled into their seats, slumped and unmoving. Closer to me the navigation servitor- attached via its armature to the short instrumentation corridor leading to the front of the cockpit- was inactive and shut down. Despite this, judging from the view through the front of the cockpit, the shuttle was thankfully only drifting and had not slewed into any kind of dangerous, drastic manoeuvre.

Clearly something had gone drastically wrong- though I was unsure whether I was the intended target or I was simply caught up in events. I forced the door open the rest of the way and went inside.

I gave the servitor a glance as I squeezed past it (it had obviously been shut down as its armature was switching it from one side of the instrument corridor to another). There seemed to be no obvious damage to either the fleshy or machine parts.

The Imperial navy crewmen were a different matter. Both of them had been bleeding from the eyes, nose, mouth and ears for some time and the fronts of their flightsuits were heavily stained. The pilot- wearing his flight helmet- had apparently vomited blood all over the instrumentation and controls in front of him.

I quickly decided that they were both incapacitated, or more likely dead, and quickly searched for a vox device to inform Hersir of the issue. Once I was linked to one of the flight deck controllers, I explained the situation. He immediately asked if I could pilot the shuttle myself. I could of course, given the wide-ranging scope of my training. The controller filled me in on docking details, told me that both medicae and security elements would be waiting for me when I landed and then informed me that he would stay on this channel to help guide me in if necessary.

I thanked him, left the vox open and then proceeded to heft the pilot out of his chair so I could take his place. I lay the limp body out on the floor behind me.

The trip was uneventful for the next fifteen minutes. I certainly had enough time to get a good look at Hersir.

Then, suddenly, the co-pilot threw up blood all over himself. The act made me jump, but I quickly regained my senses. After locking the controls, I leant over to see if I could help, launching into the stereotypical medicae reassurance spiel.

The co-pilot looked round at me. Blood was drooling from his lips, thick and viscous. His eyes were wild. And in his right hand he was readying a bloody combat dagger. I simply reacted.

I had not buckled myself in to the pilot’s chair, so I had quite considerable freedom of movement. Even so, I had to contort myself over and around the jutting central control bank in order to lunge for the weapon with my right hand.

He responded by sharply passing his left arm underneath the armpit of my lunging arm and then bending his forearm back so as to trap my arm in the crook of his elbow. At the same time, he forced my shoulder forwards and tried to pin my upper body over the instrument panel. This gave him a perfect angle to drive the dagger into my side. Luckily, I had managed to grab his right wrist and twist the blade away from me before he could make his move.

After a second, I had properly adjusted my grip on his wrist- according to my training- and twisted hard. According to the medicae’s first glance some time later, I shattered the joint and snapped several metacarpals. He didn’t scream, but frothed and snarled and gnashed at me. Something red and bloody dropped out of his mouth as he did so- he had chewed part of his own tongue off.

It only took me a second to wrench the dagger from the co-pilots ruined hand. My arm was still locked in his elbow hold, but I managed to contort my fingers into an adequate hold on the hilt before jamming it repeatedly up underneath the man’s sternum. I could not get the kind of force behind the stabs that I wanted, owing to the angle and my awkward body position, but he quickly went slack and shut up. By this time there were copious amounts of blood everywhere.

After disentangling my arm from his I slit his throat just to be sure.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful, though I spent most of it glancing over my shoulder at the pilot, in case he should get up and attack me from behind. As it happened he was actually dead. The medicae found a deep stab wound through the side of his head, which had been concealed by his flight-helmet.

As far as I can surmise, now that I am resting briefly in my assigned quarters aboard Hersir, it seems that there was a short struggle, almost undoubtedly caused by the co-pilot, in which the pilot was killed. After that, the co-pilot presumably did his best to hide the pilot’s head wound- by putting the man’s helmet on- and then somehow shutdown the navigation-servitor. Then he must have simply being lying in wait for me, playing dead. I should have made a more thorough check of both men, though that would have undoubtedly left me open for a lethal stab wound.

This seems almost certainly to be an attempt on my life. There are plenty of possible suspects- anything from dissident anti-Imperial Eurydician survivors, to a Corpse Cult sleeper cell which may have managed to be included in the evacuation. It seems unlikely that the co-pilot would be a member of any such organisation (especially as a quick check has revealed he was not one of the PDF Air Division remnants drafted into the Navy). Rather, I believe that some sort of behavioural control was established over him. Drugs or primitive brainwashing seem most likely: I am tempted to discount complete mind control, direct possession or other psyker tricks owing to the narrow range of capabilities of the presumed enemy.

The Imperial Navy has launched into an investigation both aboard Hersir and the Orbital Resettlement Platform. I have also been in contact with Wegener, who is making his own enquiries and is dispatching a security team to keep an eye on me.

I have taken this opportunity to put all of this down as soon as possible in order to provide as much information for you. Unfortunately this means that I am now quite late for my scheduled appointment with Lord Commander Rove. While I am sure the Lord Commander will understand it leaves less time to interview him than I would have liked. Regardless, I will do my best. I will also be considerably more careful in future.

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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Apr 02, 2011 10:48 pm

Cool update, neat to see the secondary plot playing up. I can't wait to see the Hersir, the assault carrier sounds awesome.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Tyrant » Mon Apr 04, 2011 12:05 pm

So the plot thickens.....I wonder who is behind the attempt on his life, since he hasn't exactly been making friends there are a lot of suspects!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Mon Apr 11, 2011 10:12 pm

Cheers Gaius and Tyrant! In all honesty the main plot line is starting to dry up from my point of view, so you might see more of the secondary (just who is trying to kill him anyway?).

That doesn't mean that the primary plot is done with or that I'm going to drop it- its just that its getting to be more of a grind. Then again, maybe I've just had a tiring week and I'll bounce back. There's certainly still plenty more to come from it: what did Lord Commander Rove's task force get up to and what happened that was so bad they had to change the 'orbital defence platform' to an 'orbital resettlement platform'...

***

Part XI
Strategium Primaris, Hersir


(The Lord Commander has elected to meet me in Hersir’s main strategium. Clearly he wishes to run through the interview as he has planned it- regardless of whether or not I am late. He is alone in the vast amphitheatre-like room. Rove is an old man by any account- at least into his second century- though repetitive juvenat treatments have preserved his mind in the body of a sixty year old. As one might expect from such age, the Lord Commander has something of an unorthodox mind when it comes to warfare.)

(As I enter he is playing with the control-wand for the strategium’s massive central hololith. The flickering, fuzz-washed holo has taken the form of a small, ice capped moon. Markers and vector lines drawn in bright red light are swarming and dancing over the closest side of the northern hemisphere in vast numbers.)

(The Lord Commander looks around as he senses me enter. He smiles, waves me to his side and then goes back to manipulating the control wand.)


I doubt you’ll have heard about this place.

That depends on what place it is, sir.

Murbogen.

[I shake my head.]

Can’t say I’ve come across it before.


Good, good. [Rove says this absent-mindedly, as though he doesn’t really care about my answer. I doubt that this is the case. It seems more likely that he thinks it is good that someone in my profession has not heard of this ‘Murbogen’ before.]

[There is a brief silence. On the hololith, the red markers seem to be retreating at speed, flowing backwards to a point on the surface before jumping up to a large designation suspended in orbit. When there is nothing left but this orbital marker, the Lord Commander pauses the action and turns to me.]

This mark here is Hersir. We came in out of the deep system, ambushed the rebel’s system patrol craft, knocked their two orbital lance platforms out of the heavens with torpedoes and then swung into position over our target.

Just Hersir? I’d have thought that such a valuable craft would have an escort.


It did. The bare minimum- Verbera and Stryknir, both battlecruisers. Sector command had wanted to give me a whole fleet. It took me a long time to persuade them that that wasn’t the point. We were dealing with the sector-fringe rebellion instigated by the Tau. I wanted to take a small task force and operate a deep-raiding strategy to keep the rebels on their toes and attrite their war-making capacity… whilst sector command went through its usual lethargic response.

So where are Verbera and Stryknir? [I aim to change the subject- no doubt Rove was eager to explain all the political wrangling and faction infighting that he used to get command of Hersir. I have no interest in that.]

[He pauses before answering.] Stryknir is here, hiding close in Hersir’s shadow.

How close?

Visual close. Close enough to show up as a single target on anyone’s long-range sensors.

And Verbera?

Verbera is locked in a northern polar geosynchronous orbit with her non-vital systems shut down. That way no one can tell she’s there until they get close.

So you’ve hidden your two battlecruisers? Set up an ambush with them effectively?


Yes. And Hersir on its own is enough of a target to draw anyone in.

What makes it such a good target?

Unescorted capital ships are usually good targets. Unescorted capital ships of battleship displacement are even better. Assault carriers… well…

Well what?


[Rove smiles and presses a stud on the control wand. The hololith zooms in to Hersir’s marker and starts to play again. The swarms of designations and vectors which had been sucked up during the rewind start to be regurgitated en masse.]

That’s two entire infantry divisions assaulting planetside. Stormtroopers and recce companies are already down on high value targets and the fringes of the dropzone, blowing things up and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

Most of the craft you can see here are platoon sized dropships which will do relays until everything is down. Mixed in are heavy landers carrying armoured or support companies. Some are even armed and armoured themselves so we can just drop them in as strongpoints wherever we please.

Overflying the dropzone are half a dozen fighter wings and then more lander variants for aerial minesweeping, command and control, fire support, vox relaying, area marking…

This is why Hersir is so valuable, why she's such a good target. She's a fighting invasion platform. Not a slow, sloppy troop convoy... Hersir can pop in to a system, wreak havoc, deploy a small ground task force, support it, then evacaute it, then jump out of system. If we had to, we could do that in a few hours.

Sounds like a command and control nightmare.


It is. That’s why Hersir has three of these strategiums.

How many men can you put down in an assault landing then?


That depends how many men I’ve got on board. When we arrived here at Murbogen [he gestures up at the hololith] I had a hundred thousand. The slimmed down, cobbled together remnants of half a dozen regiments.

And you could put down a hundred thousand men in a single assault?

If I thought it was necessary. Hersir’s troop bays can carry close to three times that. Three hundred thousand men isn’t a lot. It’s enough for minor skirmishes, raids… coup d’ mains.

That’s still a lot of power in a single pair of hands… given that you command both the Naval and Guard assets. The separation of fleet and army goes all the way back to the post-Heresy reforms.


You sound like sector command when I petitioned them for Hersir.

And?

And I’m nominally in command, yes, but not technically. If I want something done I have to ask my Admiral, or ask my Marshal. They can always say no if they like. They won’t, as a general rule, because they understand what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, but I can't make them do anything.

Apart from that, just to keep me on my toes, there’s a bunch of sector command pukes loitering around keeping tabs on everything. If it looks like I’m going to go power mad then they’ll… remove me. And if I don’t go peacefully, rumour has it there’s an assassin onboard somewhere ready to do the job.

So there are plenty of contingencies?

Plenty. And they get in the bloody way.

Did they get in the way when you responded to the Eurydice Incident?


No. I went behind their backs.

In short, we were heading for a replenishment station on one of Arawan Secundus’ moons- after Murbogen the ships in my task force had to restock their magazines. Our astropaths caught the initial flurry of panic over something happening on Eurydice- the alarm and confusion that was sent out after what we now know was Major Straubing’s last action.

We prepared for the possibility of intervening, thinking that it was simply a matter of a potential rebellion. I had my staff start working on strategic options. Weeks passed and there was no change in the situation. We carried on topping up our supplies and got on with training.

Then there was a minor fracas at the replenishment station.

A minor fracas?

Yes. I found it marginally amusing at the time. A rogue trader arrived at the station seeing if he could scrounge any war materiel. We thought he’d probably be trying to see if he could pass a few backhanders and equip his own private army for whatever mad schemes he had going.

And?

And I’d had my task force running dark and quiet as a training exercise. The rogue trader was already in high orbit when we powered up and suddenly became visible. Scared the crap out of him! A navy task force appearing out of nowhere! We boarded- I’m not one to miss an opportunity for more training- and found out what he was really up to.

Something to do with Eurydice presumably?

Yes. [Rove nods.] He’d taken on a contract with the council of nobles to gather military equipment, vehicles, ammunition, even potential volunteers in the Eurydician diaspora.

I don’t see how this relates to going behind your minder’s backs.


That’s because I haven’t got there yet. Be patient. The fact that the nobles ruling Eurydice were clearly up to no good was enough for me to decide to take action. Seeing as though we were close, I took a visit to Arawan Prime to visit Governor Augis. He knew about matters back on his world of course. I asked if I could intervene, with his blessing, and he gave it… on the condition that I kept civilian casualties down.

Most of the sector command pukes that were keeping tabs on me had come planetside along with me and my small travel staff. I simply let Augis know that they could be problematic.

And?

They were… delayed catching the shuttle back up to Hersir and mysteriously ended up in audience with the Cardinal Astral for three days straight. Apparently it was suggested to the Cardinal that he hadn’t enough naval minds involved in his ‘Crusade on Thought’. I should think that they’re probably still there: how do you refuse a Cardinal?

So once you’d gotten that political room for manoeuvre, what did you do?


We decided that bursting out of warp and making a planetary assault directly into the capital, Tchitotry Hive, would be excessive. Especially in terms of the civilian casualties that I’d promised to minimise and in terms of my own casualties. I was still only working with less than a hundred thousand men remember. That is not a lot.

In the end, with the extra knowledge of events on Eurydice provided by Governor Augis, we made a series of broad assumptions.

[Rove counts these out on his fingers.]


Firstly, that the Eurydician PDF would crumble, morally if not physically, in the face of the Imperial Guard, especially if we overawed them.

Secondly, that the populace would do little to oppose us. This we based on the fact that if we made our move at great speed, preferably at night, most of the population would wake up and find their home city back under Imperial control. It’s very easy to be secessionist when the Imperium is light-years away, but when there are armed guardsmen at the end of your street, it’s a different matter.

Thirdly, that we could achieve total surprise.

Like you did at Murbogen? [I gesture up at the still moving hololith.]


Oh, Throne no! [The Lord Commander laughs.] Murbogen was warfighting, Tchitotry Hive was re-establishing Imperial control. They are two very different actions. We didn’t want to completely disable the orbital defences or war-making capacity of Eurydice, for example. And it’s a good job we didn’t.

Because the Tyranids were there?


[Rove nods.] Because the place was swarming. As it turned out we were in a good position when the main task force arrived. We had the Hive locked down, well, almost locked down, we were putting together a functioning government under martial law and shifting to full scale war production…

You mean the Hive was already under imperial control when you arrived?


Yes. When I arrived, along with Hersir, Stryknir, Verbera and almost the entire Imperial Guard contingent of my task force we had control of Tchitotry Hive.

Corporal Klyst, on the other hand- [Rove looks over my shoulder. I turn to see a figure standing only a few feet behind me. How he managed to ghost that close to me, I have no idea. He is tall, athletically built, clean shaven and wearing- of all things- a set of ragged Imperial Navy overalls. He has a jagged, recent-looking scar down his right cheek. I can see medicae clips holding it- and presumably his cheek- closed.]

Corporal Klyst arrived when it was not under Imperial control. Corporal, if you’d like to continue.

Klyst: Sir.

Rove: I’m afraid I have to dash. There’s always some business that I have to deal with. Don’t go worrying about what happened on the trip over, my people are looking into it.

[Rove shakes my hand and then starts to walk off towards the door. I extend my hand to Corporal Klsyt, who shakes it. His grip is surprisingly strong- I have had some work done to my muscles, but nothing like the level this man must have had. I briefly- very briefly- entertain the thought that he might be an Astartes. He is not.]

Good to meet you Corporal.


Klyst: Sir.

Is ‘sir’ all that you say?


Klyst: No sir.

[I pause and then obviously glance at his cheek.]


Have you just come back from the surface? I hear there's still skirmishing down there.

Klyst: I can’t answer that question sir.

[Rove shouts over his shoulder just as he leaves the room.]

Rove: He says that a lot! Even I can’t get answers out of him sometimes.

I’ll bear that in mind. [Rove disappears. I turn back to Klyst.] You can talk to me about what happened on Eurydice, can’t you? How you helped retake Tchitotry Hive immediately after you arrived?


I can sir.

How did you do it then?


***

Yeah, sorry about that ending. Seeing as though that interview is running on to deal with another 'big thing' I thought it'd be best to split it. Apart from that, Rove just kind of came out and ended up as the character he is. I'm not sure if I'm happy with him- he doesn't seem very much like... well I can't put my finger on it. He's maybe a little too nice, too open... dunno. I did contemplate cutting him out completely and having Klyst just there waiting in his stead, but then I wouldn't be able to set the scene for the Task Force so well. I'm thinking that I should perhaps have gone with the idea of having him duelling with the interviewer, but it would be too much of a distraction from the primary plot. Plus there's just been an actiony-bit aboard the shuttle and another one immediately after wouldn't work too well (or would it?).

Arrgh! Too much thinking! I'm off to bed.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue Apr 12, 2011 3:55 am

Very cool one Liber, Rove's naval tactics were pretty dang cool and the Hersir itself is an awesome ship. I'm looking forward to hearing the Corporal's story if he ever speaks and confident you can handle it from here. Kudos1 :D
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:56 pm

Thanks for the support Gaius! I bounced back the day after and wrote most of this then. I think I was planning too much, even just mentally. So I'm going to just get on with it and go with gut writers' feeling. I should be able to type may wy out of any major plot convulsions... I hope!

(As an aside, the Murbogen Raid has a story of its own, which will pop up on here if I ever get round to finishing it.)

In other news, I'm saving all my planning capacity for something else in the pipeline- something that's going to be a lot more work that I think (and I already think its going to be a lot of work); but which is going to be great fun for anyone who gives it a go. It has currently planned itself over two A4 sheets which I've had to tape together... but that's all I'm saying for now!

Anyway, we now return to the slightly mysterious Corproal Klyst, whoever he is...

***

Part XII
Somewhere on board Hersir


(Corporal Klyst has lead me from the strategium where Lord Commander Rove left us and plunged into the labyrinthine depths of the assault carrier. I am thoroughly lost. Every now and again we pass a party of naval ratings, officers or tech-adepts. They all look busy. None of them bother us.)

(The Corporal remains silent. Only now is the purpose of the naval overalls he is wearing revealed: he merges into the general corridor-traffic almost perfectly. On several occasions I have almost lost him completely as he has forged on towards whatever destination he has in mind.)

(It is becoming clear that Klyst is not what he seems. He wears a naval uniform, yet there are no corporals in the Imperial Navy. He flat-out refuses to answer some questions, denies having seen recent combat when he apparently has and his handshake revealed a plainy modified musculature. I cannot shake the notion that he is perhaps some kind of assassin. Given my recent brush with death on the shuttle ride over, my sense of caution is close to overwhelming.)

(Eventually, Klyst stops and gestures to a shutter. We are in a narrow, dark empty maintenance corridor. I give him a wary glance. He opens the door for me. Inside is a small, poorly lit alcove, maybe four by four metres. The walls are lined with piping, dials, purity seals and what look like hundreds of metal bottle caps attached via string in as many places as possible. A moment later, I realise that the bottle caps are cogs- devotional symbols of the Mechanicum. In the centre of the room is a small device approaching the size of a Guardsman’s portable heater unit. A tiny, antenna studded cam stutters around on top with frequent changes of direction. As far as I can make out it is a small obscurement generator. Such things, I need hardly tell you, are exceptionally rare.)

(On either side of the generator are sat two men, both dressed in the same way as Corporal Klyst. They both stand up as we enter. Klyst speaks.)


Eyes open. Someone tried to kill him not so long ago.

[The two men nod, then slip past and out into the corridor. Klyst closes the shutter behind them, then sits down next to the generator. He looks up at me, face impassive.]

Hersir is a big ship to begin with. Then we’re well away from any of the places anyone would expect you to be. After that, this room is full of interference vectors- the pipes are full of steam, the cog-icons tend to baffle listening equipment and we’ve got the obscurement generator. No one is going to be overhearing us.

[I nod slowly, then sit down opposite him. Between us, the generator hums quietly. Suddenly, the room feels more like a cave and the generator more like a primitive’s fire. I wonder if Klyst has purposefully decided to make the allusion.]

And your two friends will stop anyone coming in?

Aside from generally keeping an eye out, yes.

You take security very seriously.

[Klyst doesn’t answer. Then again, I didn’t ask a question. There is an awkward silence for a moment.]


So then… Eurydice. The Lord Commander was very vague about the capture of Tchitotry Hive, except that you were somehow involved. What did you have to with it?

A lot.

[There is another silence. I can’t decide whether Klyst is being obtuse or security conscious to the point of awkwardness.]

The Lord Commander hinted that you didn’t arrive on Eurydice on board any of the Task Force’s ships. How did you get there?

On board the Rogue Trader Clarion.

[I pause for a few moments, making connections. The only way in which it appears this interview is going to work is if I scrape enough information out of Klyst to make my own conclusions.]

And the Clarion was the Rogue Trader which the Task Force stopped in the Arawan system?

Yes.

So… what? You had taken control of the Clarion? You had snuck aboard and Rove had turned the ship loose to return to Eurydice?

[Klyst says nothing for a few seconds. I begin to fear that he won’t even go as far as making explaining matter to aid understanding, leaving me to keep asking questions until I've covered every facet. Needless to say, I hardly have the time. Finally, Klyst speaks. Evidently he was weighing up how much to let me know.]

The Rogue Trader took on a contract at the behest of Governor Augis. In exchange for a payment double that which the Eurydician noble council had offered him, he would return to the planet with a cargo arranged by Lord Commander Rove.

Which included you?


Yes.

Not just you, surely?


My unit and I were on board.

You and your unit? How many men was that?

I can’t answer that question.

[Another brief silence.]


So, on arriving at Eurydice, what did you do?


The Clarion began to offload the cargo it had gathered prior to being stopped by the Task Force. This was mainly ammunition and small arms, some heavy weapons. All of it was cased up, straight out of storage. My unit and I went down to the surface in a heavy cargo shuttle crammed with members of the Eurydician disapora- people who wanted to return to their homeworld when the Rogue Trader had told them that it was becoming independent. We passed immigration individually and then made our way into Tchitotry Hive.

So you snuck in in plain sight? You masqueraded as civilians returning to Eurydice to gain entry?


Yes.

Were you armed at all?


No.

Not at all? Not with anything? No weapons of any sort?

Anything is a weapon. [Klyst’s reply is blunt and, even to me, somewhat chilling.] We carried nothing that could pique the interest of the immigration officials.

Would your physique not attract attention? There was a concerted recruitment effort at the time, would you not look like ideal conscription material?

We masked ourselves.

What do you mean by that?


I can’t answer that question.

And once you’d gotten inside Tchtitory Hive, gotten past immigration and- presumably at least a few of the PDF checkpoints… what did you do then?


I went to the appointed safehouse, making sure I was not followed. The other members of the unit did the same.

A safehouse? So there was considerable preparation work for this?


I can’t answer that question.

What did you do in the safehouse?

We assembled and then fine tuned our mission plan, taking into account extra intelligence we had gathered at the spaceport, on the streets and what information our contacts at the safehouse could provide.

And after that?


We made our final preparations.

Which were?

We unmasked ourselves, then armed and armoured ourselves, then remasked.

And then what did you do?


We split into our objective teams according to our mission plan and returned to the spaceport by several different routes. Then we executed.

You executed your mission?

Yes.

Which was?

To take control of the spaceport.

That must have been difficult, assuming that your ‘unit’ was only small. How did you do it?

Quickly.

That… doesn’t really get into the nuts and bolts of how managed it. Can you give me an example? Say, how did you get past the outer perimeter?

We walked in. There was no security coming in to the main public areas of the spaceport. Once inside, we used a combination of lightning attacks, human shields, constant movement and area denial weapons to stave off and confuse the local security reaction forces.

Area denial weapons? Like what? Sentry guns, mines… chemical weapons? Virus or rad bombs?


I can’t answer that question.

And what were you doing Corporal? What was your part in the mission?

The responsibility for me and my team was the spaceport’s long-range vox array. We secured it and then waited for confirmation that we also controlled the landing control towers.

And after that?

After that, when we had secured all of our objectives, I was responsible for using the long-vox to initiate the next stage of the operation.

Ah, we’ve changed semantics here. Before you were talking about the ‘mission’. Now you’re talking about the ‘operation’. What was the next stage of the operation?

Apart from my unit, the Clarion was also carrying a mechanised division of Imperial Guardsmen from the Task Force. These were pre-loaded into heavy cargo shuttles of the same type already being used to transfer down war materiel from the Rogue Trader. The second phase involved a simple switch- the shuttles already in use went up and stayed up. The shuttles loaded with Imperial Guard companies started coming down. To any observer, the Clarion was continuing to offload its cargo despite the minor ‘terrorist’ attack on the spaceport.

And the tasks of the Imperial Guard companies once they were down?

Firstly, they took over and consolidated control of the spaceport from my unit. Secondly, they pushed on to their own objectives within the hive.

So you opened the door for them. Very bold. What kind of objectives did the Guard have?

Their most important task, aside from taking control of the Hive’s aerial defence network, was to breach the PDF cordon surrounding the Imperial Guard garrison already on Eurydice.

I see- you opened the door for the Task Force to free the garrison. So in effect, your unit- however many men that was- snuck in, then let a division in- twenty thousand men- which then let out the hundred thousand men in Tchitotry’s Imperial Guard fortress. And presumably the garrison had worked out a plan to take control of the hive whilst they’d been cooped up for weeks on end?

Yes.

And they immediately put it into motion?

Yes.

Did it work?


Yes.

How did the locals react?

The reaction from the PDF was mixed. For the most part, they dared not fire on the Guard and got out of the way. Scattered elements attempted to resist.

And met the fate of all traitors?

Yes.

And what were you doing? You’ve said that the Imperial Guard had taken over control of the spaceport from you. I can’t imagine that you would have nothing to do.

We went back out into the hive and began to secure VIPs, according to information given to us by Governor Augis.

These were Governor Augis’ agents in place?

I can’t answer that question.

Did these people go on to form most of the provisional government after the noble council was deposed?


Yes.

Right, so they were the Governor’s agents. And that was it, was it? Tchitotry Hive was suddenly Imperial again?

No.

No? What happened?

The provisional government had been working in secret for some time, gathering support. Most of the PDF in the hive rallied to us. However, those who didn’t, along with numbers of civilian dissidents, fled to the central spire. This was where the noble council was in hiding.

And you went in after them, presumably. That was when the Task Force stormed the spire.

No.

So what happened?


The spire was cordoned off.

Why?

There were bigger issues.

For example?

Dissident rioting and some insurgent PDF in the hive. Outside of the hive, it quickly became apparent that most of the PDF was locked in a fluid meat grinder with the Tyranids.

The semi-stable situation on the battlefields descended into absolute turmoil when news of what had happened in the hive spread.

Why?

Like in the hive, the true loyalties of the PDF were mixed. Some formations were loyalist, some were secessionist. Most were wavering. They didn’t know whether the newly arrived Imperial Guard would turn on them as traitors.

The chain of command broke down. Units did as they thought best- either fleeing back to Tchitotry to beg for mercy or onwards into the Tyranids to try and escape retribution. Some held their defensive positions, other reorganised to try and meet all threats. A few units even descended into factional infighting. The Tyranids did not fail to take advantage.

And the Guard forces in the hive? What did they do in response?

Nothing. They waited for Lord Commander Rove to arrive and held the hive in the meantime.

And your unit?


[Klyst pauses for some time.]

Right, you can’t answer- [Klyst suddenly interrupts me.]

Its time to leave. [I look at him confused. As he kneels down to deactivate the obscurement generator, I catch a glance of a tiny vox-bead in his ear. He must have been listening to it.]

What is it?

Someone’s catching up with you.

[He pauses again, listening to his vox.]


Scratch that, a lot of people are catching up with you.

What do you mean? Be clear for Throne’s sake!


Just be quiet and follow me. I assume you have a weapon?

Yes…

Then be prepared to use it.

***

I couldn't resist! More secondary plot incoming!

Plus, I forgot to mention: most of what Klyst+Co did in Tchitotry Hive is based on what the Soviets did when they occupied Prague in 1968. Wikipedia says (and it is right, I've checked): "...a Soviet airborne division (VDV) captured Prague's Ruzyne International Airport in the early hours of the invasion. It began with a special flight from Moscow which carried more than 100 plainclothes agents. They quickly secured the airport and prepared the way for the huge forthcoming airlift, in which An-12 transport aircraft started arriving and unloading Soviet airborne troops equipped with artillery and light tanks."

So much for the 'We have reserves' stereotype!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Apr 16, 2011 3:41 am

Cool strategy Liber 8-)
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:47 pm

Cheers Gaius! Just a short one this time. This one cried out for more of a full prose style instead of the script-like style that I've been using for this so far. I've kept it for continuity nonetheless and it seems to work, so maybe its just me. I'm trying to concentrate more on my other little project at the moment (which has planned its way across a whole A3 sheet so far) and my writing routine has been mucked up a little by Easter (in terms of both overtime and laziness) but I'm getting back on track.

Anyway, off we go:

***

Part XIII

Somewhere on board Hersir


(Corporal Klyst and myself stand next to the door of the maintenance chamber. I have unholstered my compact Tronvasse autopistol. The Corporal has yet to produce any weapons, though from what I have heard from him I cannot believe he is unarmed. Then again, he did point out that ‘anything is a weapon’. I can hear nothing from beyond the chamber walls, though whether that is because those walls are effective sound barriers or because there is nothing audible going on outside I know not.)


(Corporal Klyst listens to his vox for a few seconds. He gives me an impassive glance, then speaks.)


Don’t move.

[Before I can protest, he has wrenched the door open and stepped outside. I manage to look around the doorframe in time to see what happens. There are two men passing the door, both of them- at first glance- naval armsmen in full combat armour. Both of them have ship-duty autoguns tight in their shoulders and are moving down the corridor leftwards.]

[Klyst’s step has taken him to the side of the closest armsman. Before the man can react, he grabs him by the shoulder, takes the autopistol from the man’s thigh-holster, jams it into the gap in his armour at the armpit and pulls the trigger three times. The noise is concussive, extremely loud in the confined space. By the time the other armsman has spun round, Klyst has re-aimed the autopistol and fired another two times. The second armsman’s head snaps back, two holes neatly punched through the forehead of his helmet. He drops to floor instantly. Blood begins to glug from the holes. The entire action has lasted less than two seconds.]

Check him.

[Klyst’s command takes me by surprise. He has already begun rifling through the first armsman’s pockets with practiced speed. I daren’t think about how he has acquired such practice as I dash over to the second. I push all thoughts about the bigger picture from my mind- I can find out exactly what is going on later. Kneeling over the leaking body, I don’t have any idea where to start.]

What am I looking for?

[Klyst neither looks up nor stops up as he replies.]

Information of any kind at all- identity tags, unit markings, anything.

[I start going through the pockets of the armsman’s combat jacket. They are all empty. As I feel with my hands, I use my eyes to check him for any badges or rank markings. There is nothing. That in itself suggests subversion.]

[I get the sudden sense of a presence next to me and swing round, Tronvasse ready. It is only Klyst. He ignores my startled reaction- despite the fact that I could easily have shot him- and starts to work the release catches of the holed helmet. Evidently he has finished with his own body.]

Keep an eye out, I’ll deal with this. Yell if you see anything.

[I stand up and focus my attentions on the corridor to either side. It is completely empty, though I imagine that enemies could spew into sight from any of the frequent intersections down its length.]

[There is a wet splash. I look down and see that Klyst has removed the armsman’s helmet and the accumulated blood had been released. The Corporal is bent over the man’s face and seems to be trying to wipe the blood away. After a moment he swivels slightly, takes the armsman’s combat knife from his chest-rig and then goes back to the man’s face.]


[As I look away down the corridor- I don’t want to know what Klyst is doing- I catch a blur of movement. After a second, this resolves itself into half a dozen armsmen. They are all armed and armoured, tramping up the corridor towards us in a combat spread.]


Company!


[Klyst stands up, dropping the wet knife and slipping something like a red-soaked parchment into his chest pocket. He apprises the situation in a moment, grabbing me by the scruff of the neck and throwing me into an shallow alcove in the side of the corridor. The action- and the sheer force behind it- has caught me by surprise. As I blink the shock away, Klyst scoops up one of the dead armsmen’s autoguns and leaps in after me.]

What-

[Klyst’s next move is even more surprising. He wrenches the Tronvasse out of my hand and then spins me round.]

What the Throne!


[The Corporal silences my protests with a harsh whisper.]

Trust me and you might live!

[Now even more confused, I can feel Klyst pulling my arms back and jamming the autogun underneath one armpit and through to the other. Next he takes the sling of the weapon and puts it around my forehead, tightening it as he does so and forcing my head back. The overall effect is to immobilise me, almost as if I have been locked into a penitent’s stocks. I can feel Klyst’s hand on the pistol grip of the autogun in the small of my back and can just about see him readying the Tronvasse in his other. A shocking revelation comes over me: the Corporal intends to use me as human shield. Almost as soon as I can process the thought, Klyst steps out into the corridor.]

[The armsmen have gotten much closer, their weapons aimed and ready, but the sudden appearance of Klyst and myself- as a human shield no less- throws them off completely. There is a moment of still silence, then one of the armsmen shouts.]

In the name of the-

[Klyst shoots him in the face with the Tronvasse. The armsman collapses instantly, his armour clattering on the deck. I can see the others wanting to shoot, but they don’t seem to dare. Obviously they’re after me alive. The impasse reasserts itself. Klyst doesn’t seem to want to push his luck by killing any more of them. After half a minute he starts to edge backwards down the corridor. I am forced to go with him in an uncomfortable sideways waddle- Klyst is keeping both the autogun and the Tronvasse trained on the armsmen. For their part, the armsmen follow, but keep their distance and make sure that they make full use of the corridor alcoves and piping for cover.]


[I begin to see great flaws in Klyst’s plan. Surely the armsmen are calling in back-up even now? Surely another team will intercept us from the rear or close off bulkhead doors and trap us? After that, all they need do is get a good medicae team close, shoot through me to take out Klyst and then patch me up.]


[The off-chance possibility that the armsmen are here to save me from Klyst- however impossible given Klyst’s apparent orders from Lord Commander Rove- gnaws at the back of my mind.]


[Suddenly and silently, I see a door behind the armsmen swing open. Out of it sweep Klyst’s two associates. Both of them are armed with what look like lascarbines. They silently take up positions on either side of the corridor, aiming as they do so.]


[At an unspoken command, both of Klyst’s men open fire with searing cracks of light. Two of the armsmen immediately drop dead, the backs of their heads open and their brains boiled into gloop by las-heat. The remaining three stutter as they try to react- at an instinctive level they know they have to turn and face these new attackers, but they know they have to watch Klyst as well. The hesitation costs them their lives. More las rounds slam home in tight bursts and two more armsmen fall.]


[Klyst turns the Tronvasse on the last armsmen. Within an instant he delivers a trio of shots which shatter the man’s knee and pulverise his trigger-hand. The armsman yelps in pain, collapsing as his ruined knee gives out with a harsh, wet crack. Klyst immediately releases me and jumps onto the stricken armsman. What the Corporal does is shielded from my view by his body, but the armsman immediately goes quiet and limp.]

[Klyst looks up to his two associates. One of them is covering the corridor whilst the other is starting to check the bodies as Klyst and myself did earlier. The Corporal speaks.]


We’ll have enough intel with this one. [Klyst stands up and hauls his unconscious victim to his feet.] Time to leave.

[The other two nod and get ready to move. Klyst turns back to me and hands me my Tronvasse, pistol grip first. I pause momentarily, then take it. No matter the indignity or horrific sense of vulnerability that Klyst has inflicted on me, I have to admit that it worked. I give him a sideways look, but he remains totally impassive. I take my weapon back and then help Klyst with the armsman, slipping an arm under the man’s shoulder. One of Klyst’s men goes out in the front, leading the way to wherever we are going as the other trails behind us. Hopefully the armsman me and Klyst are carrying between us will provide me with some damn answers.]

***

Finally, some answers on the way! Plus I think its probably time to let out exactly who Klyst and his mates are...
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:54 pm

Cool Action scene Liber, neat use of a human shield.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Mon May 09, 2011 9:16 pm

Cheers Gaius!

I've been on a reading spree over the last fortnight or so- Nemesis, A Thousand Sons, The First Heretic and Riders of the Dead. Riders of the Dead has put me in a thoroughly swords and spears mood that has being difficult to get out of. Its almost as bad as the Prospero Burns audiobook- the first two chapters left me almost thinking in that kind of awesome skaldic style. Both of those keep distracting me from getting this done- or make me want to add in things that would mess it up: pikes, swordplay and space vikings (though the last two are hardly infeasible and, because 40k is so open, the first could easily be slipped in like in Legion.)

Anyway, too much rambling, too few answers.

***

Part XIV

Somewhere on board Hersir


(I am obviously in the centre of operations for what Klyst referred to as his unit. The room seems to be something of a huge storage hangar, with rooms and corridors partitioned off by bulk containers and walls of equipment cases. The place was obviously designed to be defensible. There are hidden doors cut into the sides of some containers, dead-ends and mazes of corridor covered by concealed firing slits. Several floor panels have even been moved to one side to allow access via crawlspaces. No doubt there are also booby traps and sensors as well, secreted beneath the flooring waiting to be activated.)

(We rendezvoused with a larger party from Klyst’s unit some time after dealing with the armsmen, at which point I was blindfolded and led along. I haven’t seen our armsman prisoner since, though there are some muted screams emanating from somewhere around here which I assume are his. From the sound of it, Klyst and his associates are fairly adept at this sort of thing.)

(For my part, I have been moved around a little by the Corporal several times since having the blindfold removed. At the moment, we sit on the ubiquitous equipment cases in front of what appears to be a Munitorum field table, complete with hololith. There is a faded stencilling on it which reads “3376 Coy”.)

(After some time, a section of the containers making up the far wall opens and a figure steps through. He closes the concealed door behind him and it seems to disappear into the wall again- even knowing where it is, I fail to make out the edges.)

(My attention is anyway occupied by the newcomer. He is, somewhat surprisingly, bulked out by a full set of carapace armour. This is covered with sheets of cameleoline lamellar that shift colour to match the man’s surroundings. In one or two places the lamellar is broken by diagonal scars or discoloured by splashes of some dark fluid. The figure gives me a passive glance, then looks to Klyst and back. Suddenly, he breaks into a grin.)

So you’re the one all the hoo-hah is about, eh?

Apparently so.

[The man steps around the table and extends a gauntleted hand. It is only after I have gotten to my feet and taken the hand to shake it that I realise it is dripping fluid. Whatever it is, it stains the skin of my hand a dull purple. It stings. The figure lets go off my hand and nods towards it, still grinning.]

I’d wipe that off if I were you. It’s bad for you.

[I smear most of it off onto my trousers. My palms continue stinging, but I ignore it.]

What is it?

Nid blood. From the same hormogaunt that gave Klyst that slicing.

[I glance back round at the Corporal, who hasn’t moved. He looks- to my surprise- uncomfortable with the attention, as though he might be embarrassed. The cut through his cheek is still there, though during the fight earlier it seems to have lost one of the clips holding it closed.]

What happened?

A little chainsword work, that’s all. I am Major Krache, 3376th Stormtrooper Company. I know who you are.

Good to meet you.

Your armsman friend back there didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

He’s dead?

Yes.

I was hoping to interrogate him myself.

It’s a bit late now. Besides, with no disrespect, we know what we’re doing.

I don’t doubt it. What do you mean when you say he didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know?

Exactly what it says on the tin. I assume that you meant to ask what it was that we already knew?

Yes.

We knew that an armsman cohort came in on a shuttle specifically to look for you. We knew that there was enough of a jurisdiction muddle and enough confusion between conflicting authorities for them to try and snatch you off Hersir. We also knew that they’d been authorised to use deadly force to get hold of you.

And the armsman through there told you nothing new?

No.

[At this, Klyst stands up and- silently- removes the wet red thing from his chest pocket. With longer to see it now, I can tell immediately that it is the face of the second armsman he shot earlier. There is a curious tattoo marking the orbit of the left eye. Major Krache takes it from Klyst and examines it before setting it down on the table. The empty eyes seem to stare at me. Klyst sits back down and the Major carries on talking. His facial expression has not changed.]

Well that settles it then. They were from Verbera, most likely from the Dirty Five Hundred.

The what?

Verbera’s First Officer came up out of the armsmen cohorts. He keeps a sort of private unit of them known as the Dirty Five Hundred, all of them veterans. They all show their allegiance either via augmetic parts or by tatts which mimic them.

So the tattoo on that face there [I gesture to the table] signifies that he’s part of this… Dirty Five Hundred?

Yes. It probably marks rank or maybe specialisation too.

So, an augmetic eye means that he’s good at seeing things?

[The Major pauses.]


Finding things, perhaps.

Finding me?

You would be someone they seem to want to find, yes.

But why? I can appreciate that there could be some people after me: dissidents or even cultists back on the resettlement platform, but I wasn’t expecting to be chased around whilst in the care of the Imperial Navy!


[The Major glances at Corporal Klyst for a moment. The Corporal seems to shake his head, ever so slightly.]

Well, I suppose we may as well tell you. [Krache flashes another officer’s grin.] I’m sure you’ll only pester us about it otherwise.

Between Lord Commander Rove’s Internal Intelligence assets and our own sources, we think that there’s someone with Inquisition links somewhere in the Task Force.

Apart from me?


Apart from you. We reckon that he turned up long before you did, probably coming in with the Imperial Guard reinforcements sent out by from Sector Command and then slipping aboard with the liaison parties. Whoever it is, they obvious have enough of a grip on board Verbera to give missions to the Dirty Five Hundred.

They seem to be spending most of their time trawling through the storage architecture of the Task Force's archives, deleting all the data they can find about the Eurydice Incident. Parties of them have been risking going planetside too, probably to try and purge whatever data still exists down there.

So, they’re after me because I’m building up a picture of what happened on Eurydice?

Probably.

What makes you think they’re Inquisition?

We’ve… bumped into Inquisitorial parties on more than one occasion. We’ve got a good idea of how they work. Certainly we have enough of an idea to come to the conclusion that they’re probably suppressing or deleting all that information to cover themselves.

[That comment, no matter how obvious a lead up it might have had, sends me reeling. Such an act suggests no motive that would stand up to examination by the Ordo Hereticus. It takes me a good few seconds simply to get my head around the concept.]

Do you have any idea why?

Nothing we can base on facts.

[There is a brief silence again. As I run through everything again, an alarming notion crops up.]

Am I to assume that you’ve been aware of this for some time?

Yes.

And that the Lord Commander is aware too?

Yes.

So, can I also assume that the Lord Commander passed me into the care of Corporal Klyst here for a very specific reason?

You can if you want.

Between you, you wanted to use me as bait, didn’t you? You wanted to tempt these people into showing their hand.

[Major Krache smirks. His voice takes on a sarcastic tone.]

I’m sure with that mind you’ve got a very successful career ahead of you.

[I ignore the insult. Notwithstanding my current situation- surrounded by heavily armed Stormtroopers who clearly have very few qualms about attacking and killing Imperial personnel, as evidenced earlier- I’m sure the Major has other things to tell me. Retorting with the same will only make it more difficult to extract information from him.]

And the Lord Commander is interested in this other Inquisition party because…

Because he is concerned about his reputation. If there is no trace of his successful intervention in the Eurydice Incident then he loses glory doesn’t he? What’s the point of expending all the effort, all the resources, all the lives… if no one knows about it?

So the Lord Commander wants to put a stop to it?

Yes. And he wants to keep you safe, because you’re also developing a record.

Hence I’m in you hands?

Very perceptive.

What about the attack on the shuttle over? The armsmen seemed reluctant to try to kill me, something which the Corporal here noticed [I sourly gesture to Klyst]. The shuttle’s co-pilot was definitely trying to kill me.

[Krache shrugs dismissively.]

Objectives change. Maybe after meeting Rove you would be of more use alive. Maybe further instructions were received, changing that facet of their mission from kill to capture. Maybe the armsmen had different orders or hadn’t understood them properly. It could be anything. You’d be best waiting for the results of the investigation into the shuttle incident.

And in the meantime?

In the meantime, you’ve got a heavy schedule of interviews to conduct.

You mean I should just carry on?

Of course. Both your master and the Lord Commander want a record of events on Eurydice developing, a record separate to the official one which is being systematically eaten away.

[There is silence for a good minute. A part of me chafes badly at being essentially ordered around by this Major, a feeling made so much more aggressive by the fact that he exuded that pleasant kind of officer-charm when the conversation started. Another part of me, a more sensible and far stronger part, knows that he is right. I have tasks pertinent to my duty to perform.]

[Eventually, I nod and rise to my feet.]


Fair enough, I’ll be on my way. I’ll need someone to guide me out.

[Major Krache grins one final time.]

I don’t think that that’ll be a problem. The Corporal here has orders from the Lord Commander himself to keep you safe from harm. He’ll be accompanying you everywhere you go until he gets orders otherwise.

***

So, there we go. I always thought that Stormtroopers would keep busy by getting up to no good. Back to the more usual interviews next time, ie. what happened on Eurydice instead of what's happening to the interviewer (whoever he is).
Last edited by Liber Sanguis on Wed May 11, 2011 9:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Tue May 10, 2011 10:13 pm

Another cool one Liber, I'm guessing this is leading up to a storm trooper assault on that other ship.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sun May 22, 2011 11:09 pm

Cheers again Gaius! A stormtrooper boarding action hadn't crossed my mind actually. I wouldn't count on it to be honest- Verbera and the characters on board have a major part to play in something else entirely, so I don't want to make that story arc more complciated than it already is. That said, there are plenty of other ships etc orbiting Eurydice for the stormtroopers to board, so the idea isn't off the cards...

As for this part, it took too long and was typed down in little bits at a time. Not entirely sure why. But anyway, we're back to what actually happened on Eurydice. For some reason, the voice I had in my head for this interviewee was the same one as Combat Master Korine from the Prospero Burns audiobook. I'm not sure how much of that impacted on the way this interviewee speaks- in terms of sentence structure and pacing perhaps- and I haven't said anything at all to suggest the accent to the reader (bar this); but there you go.

Anyway, I'll shut up and leave you to it...

***

Part XV

Officer’s Quarters, Troop Hold 23, Hersir


(Finally, the formality of a conventional interview again- my first since leaving the Resettlement Platform. The prospect of something more familiar than one-to-ones with grossly powerful generals or those damnably secretive, dirty-fighting stormtroopers is more welcome than I anticipated.)

(The room is almost empty bar a camp-bed, an open locker full of guard kit and a worn, collapsible table with two stools. I sit on one of them, my subject sits facing me on the other. Corporal Klyst is outside.)

(My subject here is Colonel Wernek, commanding the 2nd Battalion, 16th Brigade, Keiten 23rd Regiment. He sits ramrod straight on his stool, peaked cap on the table in front of him, wearing his immaculate dress uniform- all gold braid and brocade on black fabric. No doubt his batman spent all night getting it perfect for him.)


(After exchanging a few stale pleasantries, I begin.)

Tell me what happened after the Task Force arrived in Eurydice orbit. What did you do when you discovered that there were Tyranids waiting for you.

[Wernek smirks a little.]


They weren’t waiting for us. They were chasing the PDF around and generally making a good job of chewing them up. But that’s a completely different issue.

When we arrived and made contact with the Imperial enclave around the capital Hive, they informed the Task Force of the situation straight away. Word filtered down to us from the strategiums, officially of course, that we would be facing the Tyranid xenos. Everyone spent the next few days grinning in excitement.

Excitement?

Yes. Strange, now that I look back, but we were excited. After Murbogen, an enemy that showed its face and let us pour on our righteous firepower was something to look forward to. Fighting Tyranids, we thought, was a simple matter of applying overwhelming firepower and keeping our distance.

And?

And we were completely right. Emperor knows that doesn’t happen very often.

I thought the Task Force struggled somewhat.


We got bogged down quite quickly, yes. It turned out that while we knew what to do, actually doing it was a nightmare.

We’re getting a little sidetracked.

My apologies. When we arrived the strategiums started to go through the standard procedures: finding out exactly what was going on planetside. This involved a lot of sensor work, recce flights and augur-sat deployment from the Imperial Navy; a lot of collation of the information sent up by friendly forces on the ground on loyalist troop locations and status, contact reports of both the tyranid and secessionist PDF. The situation planetside was very confused and very complicated. There was no single, continuous front for us to come down and bolster.

The area around the Hive was essentially secure due to the concentration of loyalist PDF, the Keiten 19th garrison and the elements of the Task Force which had been sent ahead. So, should we drop in there en masse, the whole regiment? Set up the Hive as our centre of operations and logistics base before grinding outwards across the continent- slow, steady, inexorable, thorough? Or should we stay at arms length? Let the PDF take the brunt of the fighting and use the mobility of our armoured divisions and planetary assault capabilities to go from crisis to crisis, snuffing out major threats to the PDF in sudden attacks?

So, what did you do?


Well, planning went on continually, of course, constantly updated as the strategiums built up an exact picture of what was going on. Personally, I jostled with all of the other battalion leaders trying to get training-hanger space to sharpen up my men. We still didn’t know what we were going to be tasked with so we tried to cover all the basics, especially things like marksmanship, reloading drills and retreating by overwatch- the kind of things that would help in fighting the Tyranids.

Eventually, our orders came through. The strategiums had made themselves a pretty holo-map that showed all their contact information and the kinds of things that indicated alien presence. Later on, when I saw the aerial and orbital picts, I actually understood how difficult it was to piece together. They had everything on there- or everything they thought was there in the places they thought it was- and they’d marked on targets.

There were two types, first of all the familiar unit designations for secessionist units and PDF units whose exact loyalties were unclear. Then there were the swarms. They’d used all their data to isolate what they thought were the major concentrations of Tyranids- swarms ranked by estimated number of organisms. So there was Swarm 1- a ten million swarm. Swarm 2- a nine point eight million swarm. And so on.

We got our orders after a mass briefing by the Lord Commander and his flag-staff, along with the Guard marshal and the Task Force admiral. They looked pitifully outnumbered to be honest. They'd gotten every officer in from guard colonels upwards, then there were mechanicum adepts, naval gunnery officers, fighter and bomber wing commanders, munitorum logistic coordinators- there were hundreds of us.

The plan as the Lord Commander outlined it was… a little controversial.

Controversial?

The Lord Commander is quite old- he’s seen a lot, a lot of experience has soaked into over the years and as a result he’s... less conventional than the rest of us.

His plan rested on the same interplay of firepower and manoeuvre I was talking about before- hit the Tyranid foe from a distance, never let them reach you. The greatest ranged weapon that the Lord Commander had at his disposal was the combined firepower of Hersir, Verbera and Stryknir. And he intended to use that weapon to best effect.

He wanted to bombard the swarms from orbit?


Yes. There’s a whole host of problems with doing that- we learned the hard way on Murbogen. [He pauses for a moment, perhaps wondering if he should have said that.] Anyway, the Task Force vessels could hit the larger swarms with strings of fusion bombs and kinetic bombardment projectiles. Then Guard forces would drop in, mop up and come back ready for the next strike.

And this was controversial because…?

You’re not a soldier. You don’t know that the more complex a plan is, the more likely it is to fail. If things can go wrong, they will, usually things that have completely slipped your attention or things you haven’t even considered.

Something very complicated like a planetary assault drop is going to go wrong anyway, which makes things difficult… generates casualties. An opposed drop- or a drop that will quickly attract unwelcome attention- is even harder and will generate even more casualties. An opposed drop into a hazardous environment- say a partially tyranoformed or post-fusion bombing area- places huge strains on your troops, who have to wear their haz-gear. Strain reduces combat effectiveness… generates casualties.

So you disliked the plan because it would cause losses? Avoidable losses?

Yes. There was a trial run to test the concept- Swarm 43, a small fifty thousand swarm if I remember. The effects of a large fusion bomb cleared out the landing zone, and then the guard came down in dropships with as much close air support as possible. Everyone was crowded into one of the subsidiary strategiums watching it as it unfolded.

And?

It went well. We identified a lot of issues, took steps to solve them. Casualties were acceptable. The worst incident was when a dropship landed slightly off the mark. Its readings were scrambled by the fusion-bomb after-effects, and it came down on top of a brood-concentration. Totally overrun within minutes. A whole company gone, just like that.

And that counts as going well?

Not for them. But it was a brigade drop: there were eight other infantry companies down there, plus two armoured ones. They all came through with… acceptable losses. Swarm 43 was gutted, its network of synapse creatures eliminated and the lesser creatures almost entirely wiped out.

Almost entirely?

[Wernek shrugs.]


When they lose their synapse controllers the dependent creatures go feral, relying on instinct alone. Some of them turned aggressive and tried to overrun our firing lines. Those ones we killed. Others went to ground or… I want to say to fled, but that implies that they were panicking. Now, [he chuckles] I want to say they withdrew, but that seems too precise and organised. You get the impression.

I do. And you didn’t go after the… ones that got away?

No. It was too dangerous. You have to remember that the battlefield itself had been fusion bombed- everything had been incinerated, irradiated and then blown away by the shockwave. That was why we did so well: there was no cover for the aliens, except some areas of dead ground which we covered with hellhounds and flamer teams. Outside the blast area, the land was in a state of semi tyranoformation. The vegetation had gone berserk. Growing, mutating, shifting as you watched. Around the edges of the battlefield it was still on fire too. It was the kind of environment which would favour the enemy: close up, bad visibility. We’d gone to all that effort to fight the Tyranids on our terms- it would be counterproductive to throw that advantage away chasing a few thousand leaderless lesser aliens.

And this happened quite frequently then? Destroying most of the swarms and then letting the feral survivors escape?

[Wernek shifts, uneasy.]


Yes, but for the best of reasons. We did not falter in our duty or shy away from losses when it was required. But we did our best not to risk huge casualties if it was unnecessary.

And it had nothing to do with the Lord Commander seeking glory?


What do you mean?

Lord Commander Rove was fully aware that other Imperial Guard forces were en route under the auspices of Sector Command. Granted they would take months to arrive, but they were coming. One could take the view that the Lord Commander was earning all the glory by doing the dramatic, easier work: dropping in and decapitating the swarms, whilst leaving the costly, difficult work of mopping up feral tyranids on their own terms in their favoured terrain to other forces.

You think what we did was easy? [The Colonel’s tone has gone cold and quiet, almost a hiss]

I didn’t say easy. I said easier. Not a moment ago you pointed out that you did not completely eradicate the swarms you dropped on by exploitation and pursuit.


Ah, I see. I haven’t explained properly. You have to factor in the overall situation. If you look at each swarm-drop operation in isolation, then it might appear that we were lacking in resolve- not exploiting or pursuing like you said.

If you take in the bigger picture then it is a different matter. Let’s take Swarm 16 for example. A four and a half million swarm. A horizon swarm, one that you could see coming because the sky turned dark red and the spore rain fell. Not the largest, but enough to necessitate a change of underwear, yes?

I can understand that.

The swarm was in the post-glacial valleys only a hundred kilometres north of Tchitotry Hive. And it was heading south, hence it was a priority target. The terrain was not the best for Tyranid fighting, but the valleys did produce significant bottlenecks that proved useful. There were the remains of a PDF army group up there- secessionist, some two hundred thousand men- which had dug in and was engaging the swarm as it approached.

In this case, the Lord Commander’s plan needed adapting a little. To begin with, Swarm 16 was large enough to generate its own kind of local tyranoforming effect. So, the sky was full of spores which masked its exact deliniations from orbital or aerial picting, various bio-electric and xenopsyker effects prevented us from using other sensor-apparatus.

That meant we did not have the kind of targeting data that we wanted: detonations that made the best use of the terrain or which were centred on key areas of the tyranid synapse webs were favoured, but required good intelligence.

Which you were lacking.

Yes.

What about saturation bombardment?


Ammunition issues aside, we would have hit the secessionists.

So?

So they were doing a remarkably good job of slowing down Swarm 16. They were our enemies, yes, but they were very useful at the same time, so long as they were fighting the Tyranids. You see how it begins to get complicated?
In the end, the overall plan to deal with Swarm 16 was to put down small, company sized target marking units. These would be up on the high ground behind the secessionist’s lines, they would identify key alien concentrations and then relay the targeting data up to orbit.

Even this was not simple. These units needed to be quite close to the frontline to be able to observe properly. That meant that they were frequently operating very close to secessionist support elements, depots, artillery bases. Then there was the fact that the area was quite heavily infested. Behind their lines, the PDF were fighting running battles with roaming broods, shambler concentrations, scatterings of local loyalist militias or troops who had refused to secede. It was very, very messy.

And this was a typical situation?


Yes. Maybe a little more complex than most, but you see my point. We could not pursue the enemy in all circumstances because the situation on Eurydice was immensely complicated. If you stayed down too long you would attract attention, if you went haring off then you might run into secessionists or broods or even undiscovered swarms that hadn’t been detected from orbit. It was a very bad idea to stray from our dropzones.

So the Task Force pursued Rove’s policy of bombardment, drop in, mop up, get out for quite some time?


Several months. We took quite heavy casualties if you examine the strategy over the whole time period. After the Incident concluded, we combined with the Keiten 19th, given that Eurydice hardly needed a garrison anymore. We’re still very much under strength.

How effective was Rove’s strategy then? From your perspective.

It… it slowed down the xenos threat. We killed tyranids in great numbers, but we never held any ground.

And holding ground was important?

Yes. In the area around the hive, where the 19th and PDF loyalists were holding the line, they were constantly struggling to keep tyranoformation effects under control. Some areas took to the alien process well, others did not. In areas where patrols were infrequent, there would be rampant vegetation growth, alien flora forms... Imperial forces might run into Tyranid broods, even if they were miles from the front lines.

Why?

Because as areas became more and more tyranoformed, brood nests started to develop. They are something akin to alien incubators. They were universally underground, difficult to spot and a nightmare to clear out. And they just churned out Tyranids. Sometimes there would a drip feed of them, sometimes a major brood nest complex might harbour several hundred creatures in a state of hibernation. Just waiting, waiting for the right moment.

Standard practice was to roll in incendiary grenades and use flamers. I hear, though, that there were some especially mad soldiers- Keiten and PDF- who crawled down them to root out the enemy. Like I said: mad.

So, you’re saying that even though Rove was killing hundreds of thousands of Tyranids, he wasn’t actually making much headway?


No, he wasn’t. Like I said, overall, we slowed the threat down. You have to remember, we were hanging on until reinforcements arrived from Sector Command. As soon as they got to Eurydice we could stop, regroup, replenish, rest and re-assess the situation. In the meantime we could do the best we could.

Do you think the Task Force could actually have stopped the Tyranids in their tracks?


[Wernek pauses. Behind his eyes, I can see he knows his answer, but he is weighing up whether or not it is prudent to share it with me.]

I think the Task Force would triumph eventually, but only at great cost and many years. It was better in general terms, in sector terms, that the reinforcements got the glory of final victory and Lord Commander Rove’s Task Force returned to its assigned duties.

I see.

We were lucky, in fact, that they arrived when they did.

Why was that?


Because Swarm 1 and Swarm 2 had caught Tchitotry Hive in a gigantic pincer. And we were in no position to stop them.

***

Before I forget, a big part of Rove's strategy got its genesis when I was thinking about orbital bombardment in this thread: http://www.thebolthole.org/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=389&start=20. Thanks to Rahvin for pointing out kinetic bombardment in that, even though it only gets a side mention here (purely because I know more about fusion/theremonuclear bomb effects than kinetic bombardment projectile effects. They'll probably pop up (should be 'pop down' perhaps?) later.)

The next one might be some time- I've foolishly agreed to so much overtime that I'm almost working full time this week.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Thu May 26, 2011 5:27 am

I'm impressed by the consistent intelligence of your guard units Liber, kudos.
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