The Eurydice Incident

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

Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Skritt » Sat May 28, 2011 3:01 am

Great story! looking forward to the next section
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Wed Jun 01, 2011 11:52 am

Cheers Gaius and Skritt!

Gaius: I did my degree in War Studies, but the prospects for getting a job down that road are pretty slim (short of moving to London *shudder*), so this sort of thing is the only real opportunity I get to play about with strategy and tactics and stuff. So, that's why Guardsmen act fairly smartly. Plus, I reckon its just better in general if they try really hard, make all the right choices and still get pasted. If they made consistently bad or unrealistic decisions then there wouldn't be the same kind of potential for sympathy for the reader (best comparison ever is in Dog Soldiers, funnily enough, if you've ever seen it- the deaths of Bruce and Spoon).

Anyway, back to this Part, which took a little too long to write and almost got discarded in favour of another idea entirely. Its also, I think, the longest part so far at about 3,500 words. That takes the whole thing to over 30,000 words. Which is a pretty hefty figure, but highlights a bit of a problem for me. Its much longer than the 6-8 k words for a Black Library short story, but I can't see it getting near to the 100k target they want for novels. Its somewhere in between. Maybe it would be different if it was in a conventional style, but anyway. Just have to practise writing short and long I suppose.

Anyway, ramble over. Get stuck in:

***

Part XVI


Hanger 6, Troop Hold 23, Hersir


(The sixth hanger of Troop Hold 23 is being used by the armoured elements of the Keiten 23rd’s 16th Brigade to store their vehicles in between surface drops. There are tanks, armoured personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles and all manner of support vehicles everywhere. The hangar is almost impossibly loud with revving engine tests, thrumming machine tools and shouting crewmen. Red robed tech adepts and not a few of the partially mechanised tech priests themselves roam about with offered blessings, swinging incense censors and applying their prodigious mechanical skills where required.)

(This is far too noisy a place for an interview. My subject takes me to his own tank, a command modified Mars Pattern Leman Russ, hand signals his crew away and helps me in climbing up into the turret. Predictably, Corporal Klyst seems well practised at climbing up the sides of tanks and manages to be waiting for me at the top.)

(The inside of the turret is not as cramped as I had thought. The main gun that defines the profile of the Leman Russ is evidently a dummy in this case- there is no sign of any of the mechanism at all. Instead, the insides of the turret are crammed with communications equipment. My subject and I sit in the uncomfortable seats down in the turret, whilst Corporal Klyst takes the commander’s chair so that he can use the viewing prisms around the cupola to keep watch. As soon as he locks the hatch into place the noise of the hangar seems to almost switch off.)


(Finally, now that I’m not focused on dodging hurrying maintenance teams or clambering up armour plating, I can direct my attention onto my subject. He wears a set of dirty tanker’s overalls. His head is an equally dirty mop of blond hair, though there seems to be a large bald patch on the left hand side occupied by livid pink burn tissue. He looks slightly ridiculous- I would have shaven my head completely, but I suppose not doing so draws attention to the wound and that somehow appeals to soldiers. His name is Ernst Abstrother. The rank slide on the front of his overalls marks him out as a captain, but he doesn’t seem to have the kind of officer-like bearing of the other Keiteners I’ve seen so far. Perhaps he was a ranker once- the man’s record wasn’t included in the pre-interview material supplied by the Lord Commander’s staff.)

You were wanting to talk about the Battle for Tchitotry Hive, weren’t you? That’s what my OC said this morning, anyway.

Yes, that’s about where I’ve gotten to in my account, chronologically speaking.

[Abstropher nods, then shrugs.]

What do want you want to know?

Where you were, what happened, what you thought… that kind of thing.

Well, I was sat where your… friend there is sat. This is- was- my tank, I was a squadron leader at the time. She wasn’t a command tank then. This is all a retrofit to patch over battle damage, they’ve taken the battlecannon out and bolted in all this vox gear.

We didn’t hear much about what was going on, to be honest. Not at the time, anyway. The big picture wasn’t very high up on our priority list. I followed the orders that got passed down to me. What usually happened was that we would drop into a post-fusion bombing wasteland and use our tanks as mobile strongpoints to support the infantry. So it was a question of rolling off the dropships, coordinating with the company we would be fighting with, giving them fire support, then withdrawing and rolling back into the dropships.

For the big Tchitotry Hive thing, we were in a holding pattern in the dropships for hours. It turned out later that the Task Force ships had launched us real quick because they had to break orbit.

Break orbit?

Yeah. There was a warp disturbance, something like that, at the system’s edge I think I heard. So, the Navy had to leave us to deal with this oncoming alien death horizon while they redeployed to face whatever was coming at them.

And?


And it was bad. Of all the stuff that happened to our squadron on Eurydice, the Battle for Tchitotry Hive was easily the worst.

The ‘nids were pressing in from two sides, north and south, pushing at the PDF’s defensive line, trying to punch through to get at the Hive. Don’t ask me why, I can’t tell you. Command was using its armoured columns to wipe out ‘nid brood-groups that got past the PDF. So, we hung about in our dropships until we got word, were vectored into the path of some aliens, set down, rolled off and got stuck in.

The terrain was nice and flat, steppe-like. The company, or companies if it was a big group of ‘nids, would form up into squadron arrowheads about a hundred, maybe two hundred metres apart.

We’d just be sat in our tanks waiting for them, staring at the dark horizon. The smaller brood-groups we could break up at range, no problem. A company of Leman Russ’ can put out an awful lot of firepower, you know.

And the larger brood-groups?

Once they got within heavy bolter range we’d start to retreat by bounds. So, Squadron A would continue firing whilst Squadron B reversed a few hundred metres. Then they’d swap over. It’s so important to keep the ‘nids at arms reach. Most of the time we’d manage it without having to go back. Then the dropships would come down, we’d re-board and resupply and refuel while we were being transferred to the next location.

How many times did you do that?


[Abstropher pauses.]


A lot. I’m sorry, it’s all blended into one general experience rather than however many separate ones.

Up to the breakthrough at least.

The breakthrough?


The ‘nids broke through along a thirty kilometre stretch of the northern line. You can’t blame the defenders: they held out for hours against millions of ‘nids. But once they broke through in one place, they started breaking through in others. Soon they were just pouring through. Either the PDF troops in the strongpoints just ran out of ammunition or simply reached their limit and had to give up. I can’t blame them for that. Everyone has a limit.

So you were redeployed again towards the northern breakthrough?

Yeah. Us and everyone who could be spared from the south. The put us down ten kilometres in front of the swarm in three division groups. All in all, there were 9 brigades… thirty odd- battalions, ten of them armoured and the rest armoured infantry in Chimeras. There was even a super-heavy company. Command really wanted to get as high a force-to-space ratio as they could.

I have a very distinct memory of standing up in my cupola and looking from side to side. All I could see was tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. All the way into the distance on either side. I actually felt that we might be able to stop the ‘nids.

Then it started to rain. Not real wet, not wet rain. Alien rain. Little squirming living spore-things. The word went out- everyone had to button up, activate their overpressure systems.

Overpressure systems?


It’s for use in chemical or biological warfare environments. The system raises the air pressure inside the vehicle higher than the pressure outside, right? So because air- in this case carrying all kinds of lethal nastiness- can only travel with the pressure gradient, not against it, air outside the vehicle can’t get inside the vehicle. Simple.

It didn’t work that well against the stuff the ‘nids threw at us though.

Because some of it was alive?

Yeah. Even though we’d sealed the tank as best we could, things still got in. Little things- not like gaunts or rippers or anything- nothing bigger than your hand. They chewed or burned through the sealant. Not consciously, I don’t think. They didn’t get in and immediately go for us. They were only dangerous if they landed on you, and even then you had a few seconds before they could get through your overalls. You could just brush them off and crush them underboot.

So what happened when the Swarm reached you?

Visibility was crap because of the rain. It was dark. And to make matters worse, the steppe-grasses were going berserk. Growing like mad, changing, mutating. Not a bother to a Leman Russ or a Chimera, but if you were on foot you’d have to muscle your way through it and pray you didn’t get caught by anything.

When we finally made contact- or they made contact, however you look at it- it was as much on the ‘nids’ terms as they could make it. We had maybe a hundred metres worth of shooting time before they reached us. That works out to maybe ten seconds if it’s a hormogaunt brood, little superfast critters. Enough time for a single battlecannon round.

At those sorts of ranges we were using canister shot- which basically turns the battlecannon into the largest shotgun you’ve ever seen. Over half our ammunition was canister- orders had filtered through to load up on it before we’d deployed to deal with the breakthrough.

You’d never believe the mess a canister round makes of organic targets unless you’d seen it. There’s just a bang, that tremendous recoil and then everything in the expanding cone of the shot is just a smear. It’s wonderful.

But you only had ten seconds…


Yeah. Only enough time for one battlecannon shot. And one isn’t enough to stop them getting to you. We’d fitted as many tanks as we could with heavy flamers replacing the hull lascannons. They helped. And every sponson was going like mad, chattering away with the heavy bolters.

Imagine this on a twenty kilometre front. A three division firestorm. I ran into a Navy Marauder pilot who had been on incendiary missions over the swarm that day. He told me that they could see a line of fire and light through the spore-clouds and used that to tell where the friendly forces were.

So how successful was it?

Very, to begin with. But with the ‘nids there’s so many of them. You can’t stop them all, every time. And every round you fire at the little ones is one that’s not aimed at the big ones. We started to retreat by bounds, the whole line. There was so much coordination by vox it was unbelievable. And every time a company had withdrawn its distance, a dropship would skim over, real low, and dump out a pallet of ammunition for us. That’s the only reason we’re still here. It was a matter of the whole turret crew going. It was haz-mask on, jump out, sprint over to the pallet without getting caught by the grass, grab a heavy bolter ammo box or a flamer canister in each hand and leg it back in before chucking the ammunition where it was needed. We never had time to load up on battlecannon shells.

The whole process was absolutely mad. Totally insane, ridiculously tiring both mentally and physically. And the ‘nids just kept coming. And coming. And coming.

Eventually, the ammunition supplies on the dropships started to run out. So, they began making relays back to the armouries and magazines in the Hive to fill up. That took time… for us that meant there were far fewer ammo drops. Things began to run out. We started to develop gaps in our firing arcs as weapons went dry.

And the Tyranids got through.

Yep. The firing lines were staggered, of course. There were more than one, we were in arrowhead formations to give the best firepower to our sides and front… but still. They started getting through.

The first I knew about it was when my wingman started hosing us with heavy bolter fire. It wasn’t going to get through the hull or anything, but there’s plenty of relatively delicate stuff on the outside of the tank- stuff like periscopes, viewing prisms, vox aerials, remote-controlled pintle-mounts- stuff which a heavy bolter will seriously damage. Plus, of course, it’s bleeding disconcerting to have your wingman shooting you up.

After a few angry words shouted into the vox, we got an explanation. Our tank was crawling with little ‘nids, all of them scuttling over the armour trying to find a way it. Our wingman cleared them off us. A few minutes later another wave of gaunts hit us and we were returning the favour.

More gaunts? You haven’t really mentioned anything larger yet.


We hadn’t dealt with anything larger. One or two ‘big-one’ contacts came over the vox, but we never saw anything until our ammunition started to dry up. I doubt that’s a coincidence.

I know that our higher officers make a big thing about ‘imposing our will on the enemy’. They like to mention that in briefings. It sounds very high and mighty, but it really just means making the enemy react to you, rather than vice versa. At a really fundamental level, to be a good commander means narrowing the enemy’s choices down so that whatever choice he makes he’s screwed. Stacking everything up against him so that he can’t possibly win, so that every decision he makes plays to your advantage.

That’s what the ‘nids had done to us. They’d ground down our ammunition supplies with the little critters and once we were low, they introduced their heavier stuff. They forced us into a choice: we could concentrate our fire on the hundreds of thousands of gaunts and stop them reaching us, thus letting the bigger creatures get close enough to kill us all. Or, we could focus our fire on the thousands of bigger creatures and get overwhelmed by the weight of numbers of the little creatures. If we tried to balance our fire between the two- sponson weapons on the critters and hull and turret weapons on the bigger ones- then we wouldn’t be able to bring enough fire down on either.

They had us. And we suffered. There were casualties. Mostly it was from ranged fire, biological rounds that just melt, burn or chew their way through armour and then the crew. Some of it was... worse. Warp stuff, bioelectircs, bioplasma. But there were plenty of close-up, toe-to-toe losses. With ammunition and fuel running out, some vehicles were sitting ducks. Or canned humans if you want it from the 'nid's point of view. The line was starting to crumble and get overrun, threats began coming at us from the sides and back.

That was when your tank was damaged?

[Abstropher nods.]

Carnifex. Came at us from the side, put one gigantic claw down through the port sponson and another through the side of the turret. Killed the sponson gunner and my loader. The rest of us had to scrabble for our haz-masks to save ourselves from the sudden influx of hostile microclimate.

The ‘fex almost brought us over as it tore its claws out. We managed to reverse a few feet and I gave it a face full of bolts from the remote pintle-mount, but I think that just made it angrier. Then everything went white.

Everything went white?


Yeah. White. Blinding white light, everywhere. Constant and unwavering for a good thirty seconds. The temperature jumped up, there was a hissing noise and then a deafening, continuous roar that lasted for several minutes.

The naval element of the task force had returned, yes?

Oh yes. A special marauder flight dropped a string of fusion bombs that detonated at high altitude over Swarm 1 and just incinerated a good chunk of it. Most of the divisions on the ground- the survivors- were sealed in their armoured vehicles and came out unscathed. Everything outside though… we could see the ‘fex that had been attacking us through the hole it had torn in the turret. It was dead, very dead, but its limbs had been stuck in place somehow. It was still standing, but it was completely charred, the flesh had blasted off it in places, there was a limb missing, its eye sockets were empty. It wasn’t angry now.

I can remember sticking my head up out of my hatch, for the first time since the battle had started. Everything had changed. The top of the turret was steaming, hot to the touch. The paint had been vaporised off and the empty stormbolter cases from the pintle-mount had melted to the armour. There were other tanks, other vehicles, all of them in similar shape. The spore-rain had been burnt off by the detonations and the sun was shining, reflecting off the armour of all the tanks. It was glorious, as though the Emperor was looking down on us and knew what a good job we’d done.

The ‘nids were all dead, all of them charred and stick-like and wasted away by the thermal flash. It looked all the world like we were sitting in a sea of corpses. There were ridges and troughs where one brood had ended and another begun and the whole scene was repeated as far as I could see. It was almost as if we’d won.

Almost? What happened?

The warp disruption that the Task Force vessels had responded to were the incoming reinforcements from Sector Command. Of course, no one had told them to expect us to be on Eurydice, so they got a bit of a shock.

On the plus side, they were all set for a planetary assault. Their plans were to drop in around Tchitotry Hive- which they expected to be holding out- occupy, fortify and then push out slowly. It was what some people seem to think the Task Force should have done, but realistically we just didn’t have the numbers. Sector Command did.

They came straight down out of their troop ships- they had nothing like Hersir for planetary assaults- and landed in between our mauled divisions and the ‘nid survivors from Swarm 1. Task Force dropships then ferried us back to replenishment depots closer to the Hive where we could have time to sort ourselves out.

So these newcomers dealt with what was left of Swarm 1?

Yeah. I don’t want to say that they dealt with it badly- they didn’t because they won. But they could have taken fewer casualties. It was almost as though they had decided that they had missed the beginning of the war and they had to catch up by diving in head first.

Well, all this begs the question: what about Swarm 2? That had been pressing against the PDF lines to the south, hadn’t it?

Yeah. When Swarm 1 broke through in the North, we threw everything we could at it. And held it up long enough for reinforcements and orbital bombardment support to arrive, even though we didn’t know we were doing so at the time.

Because we couldn’t do that and help plug the holes in the southern line, Swarm 2 got through. It was that simple- you know, the ‘nids had forced another lose-lose decision on us. I’ve heard that PDF Command and the Keiten 19th Garrison had decided that if the southern line broke then they would leg it back to the Hive to man the defences there. They reckoned that that would give them their best chance.

And?

By the time the Task Force vessels and Sector Command’s reinforcements arrived, it was too late to do anything about it. Swarm 2 had broken through and spread out- majorly spread out so that orbital bombardment would be grossly inefficient even if it had been used. It wasn’t used because as the Swarm spread out it overtook and intermingled with retreating PDF elements.

Another bad decision either way. Rove had to decide whether or not to waste very precious, very rare fusion bombs and kinetic projectiles on a mass widely dispersed targets with the knowledge that he would be killing friendly local forces- forces whose morale was already shaky and whose help was absolutely necessary. That’s on top of destroying the reams of logistics infrastructure- supply dumps, maintenance yards, barracks, fuel lines- that had been set up in the hinterland around Tchitotry. On the other hand, doing nothing would let millions of ‘nids overrun the area right up to the walls of the Hive.

So he did nothing?


Rove didn’t have the capacity. His forces were all either totally committed or recovering from previous drops. Most of the Task Force’s dropships and Naval aviation wings were supporting the three divisions to the north anyway.

The new, incoming reinforcements were entirely occupied dropping on Swarm 1. Only when they decided that they were winning that battle did they start landing troops to deal with Swarm 2, but all of these came into the spaceport inside the Hive to bolster the garrison rather than directly attack the encroaching Swarm.

What happened then?

I think that the overall plan revolved around holding the ‘nids of Swarm 2 off at the walls of Tchitotry, what with the heavy defences, the fortress super-heavy artillery, the now gigantic garrison and the mobilised citizen militias. As long as they could stem the tide for a while, the battered forces outside the Hive could redeploy and try and roll up Swarm 2 from the flank. Probably they envisioned heavy orbital and air support.

Did that happen?

No. Some bunch of nutters the locals called the ‘Corpse Cult’ screwed everything up.

***
Okay, so it was a bit of a formulaic Tyranid-wave-of-death scenario, but I haven't really done dealt with that properly yet. Hopefully the general scale of it and the treadhead perspective will balance out the Hollywood plot (saved at the last minute by airpower, complete will religous overtones. I'm already kicking myself, but then again it did seem right at the time.)

And the Corpse Cult are back! If only what they were going to be getting up to wasn't blatantly obvious...
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Thu Jun 02, 2011 2:51 am

Very good stuff Liber. Like you said, the tyrannid attack was a little well, Tyranidic classic, but the guard's response to them and tactics were well played. Possibly you could give the Tyrannids their own tactical description later, maybe from someone's observation of them or from a captured Genestealer cultist.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Skritt » Thu Jun 16, 2011 4:16 pm

Nice read. Look forward to the next section.

Your characters seem very believeable. Easy to relate to I guess; In many 40k novels I have the mind set of the characters can be quite unusual.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Mon Jun 27, 2011 12:14 am

Cheers Gaius and Skritt!

Gaius: I've always thought that Tyranid tactics could be a little difficult. I think I've always thought that their evolution determined their tactics and that they won wars further up the scale (in terms of 'Who cares about fine-tuning our tactics: we've got a billion billion critters. Even if they all get killed then the enemy will drown in their blood!'), plus then there's the uncomphrehendable alien perspective to wrestle with. Maybe 'Nids just don't have tactics in the way that I'm thinking of them (ironic, considering that they were created specifically for a tactical table-top game) or maybe they don't need them. I've got a couple of interviews lined up to try and work something out for, so I'll try and have a good think.

Skritt: I've always reckoned that making characters easy to believe is just about making them realistic. The fact that there's a lot a of speech helps (in fact, its practically nothing but speech- hands up who wants a 'Eurydice Incident Audiobook'?) because I've found speech easy to make realistic- you just read it out and if it it doesn't sound right then you change it so it does. That's a big step towards realism. But after that when I'm trying to fine tune the speech to the character speaking its all about what the character thinks... and no matter how crazy some of the stuff in 40k is I can probably come up with a reasonably rational explanation (probably) which would make it realistic and thus believable. Then again I really haven't thrown up any really really crazy characters yet, so we'll see.

Okay, this one took much longer than I expected. First of all, I've been overtiming away at work. Secondly, I had to actually redraft pretty big chunks to try and avoid spoilers- I've never had to do that before! This is what happens when I try and weave it into other parts of 40k.

I'm confident that what's actually in there as it stands is abstract enough not to really give anything away- or at least stands as nothing more sinister than an "Oh, its that guy!" moment for people who can make the links. If anyone thinks its necessary then I can write 'possible spoilers' at the start in great big colourful letters to make sure I'm covered. Anyway, I'm rambling off again- well actaully that part was kind of important unlike usual- but I'll stop anyway and let you get to it.

***

Part XVII

Somewhere on Hersir


(Once again, Corporal Klyst has led me into the Hersir’s sub-deck depths. This time we stop in a narrow maintenance passageway lit by irregularly spaced lumen globes hanging from the ceiling. Periodic alcoves along the right hand side of the corridor contain valves, piping and access hatches along with wax purity seals bearing the Mechanicus icon, the occasional devotional statue and hundreds of the same kind of strung up cog-icons I saw on my previous excursion into Hersir’s underbelly. There is a man-made breeze which makes the icons tinkle gently.)

(I give Klyst a questioning look- there is clearly no one here. The corporal ignores me. After a few minutes there is a loud clunk from one of the alcoves further down, followed by a louder clang as an access hatch falls out of its mounting. Klyst still does not react and whilst I am hardly surprised by this now (I doubt I would even see a flicker of emotion in his face if the most Magnificent Emperor Himself were returned to us), it troubles me that I cannot tell from him whether to be worried or not.)

(I shouldn’t be, it turns out. Ungracefully extracting himself from the vent-system behind the access hatch he has knocked out is Wegener. He dusts himself down- subconsciously perhaps- and strides over. I always seem to forget how big he is- and how he never seems to look right without reams of decorations on his chest. He needs a shave as usual, his hair is unkempt and he wears on his face that expression of mild amusement that he used to affect whenever his students exasperated him in the sparring rooms and lecture theatres back home on Ortygius. I can remember seeing that look an awful lot. He starts to talk as he comes over.)

Getting on alright are we?

Aside from both attempts on my life, getting stuck with the ever-talkative Corporal Klyst here and not being able to tell whether I’m to be acting as an Interrogator, a Lord General’s archivist or some damn stormtrooper’s bait, yes I’m getting on alright.

Good to hear it. And you Klyst?

[The Corporal does not respond. No surprises there. Wegener waits a moment for an answer, then turns back to me and rolls his eyes.]

He’s fine too then.

As much as it’s always good to see you Weg… could you get to the point? I have to get back to researching the Mighty Lord Commander’s Glorious History of the Eurydice Incident.


I thought it was about time that I let you in on exactly what was going on.

And there was me thinking I’d never find out.

[Wegener grins.]

You’d better pay attention then- finding things out tends to be quite rare in our profession. [He has a chuckle before continuing.] The short version is that you’re here so that you’re in a relatively safe place.

Despite everything that’s happened so far?


I did say relatively. The master was ordered off onto a mission by Lord Inquisitor Varius.

And it would be too dangerous for me to accompany him, would it?


Probably. But there’s more to it than that. The master doesn’t trust Varius, even though Varius has apparently gotten him a lot of support. He’s gone out with a skeleton crew- most of whom will be staying in orbit for the mission.

You’re specifically here while the master's busy because Lord Commander Rove owed the him a favour, so he made arrangements for you to be safely tucked away within the Task Force under a good deal of protection.

Hence the Corporal here.


Exactly.

Originally I though that he’d left you here so that you were doing something useful, safely out of the way.

But why would he do that? Would I not be safe enough back home on Ortygius? There’s plenty for me to be getting on with there.


[Wegener pauses for a moment.]

The master left Eurydice and was sending regular astropathic messages until he left the Urphir system. That was two weeks ago, back when you were trawling through useless interviews on the Resettlement Platform.

It isn’t exactly unusual for him to break contact with us for months at a time if he’s busy, is it? He’s done that before.

I’m well aware of that. If it was just a lack of contact from the master then I wouldn’t be bothered at all.

The fact is we’ve lost astropathic contact with our base on Ortygius. I’ve been trying like mad to get in touch with some of our contacts over there, even with our people across the whole damn sector, but I’m running into dead ends every time.

You know as well as I do that astropathic communication is hardly a hundred percent reliable Weg. Surely you’re overreacting?

[Wegener gives me a serious look. I haven’t felt my skin crawl like this since I got on his wrong side back when he tutored me.]

The newsnet reports from Ortygius are still coming through fine. And they’re buzzing with reports of a huge scale chemical accident- the entire eastern hemisphere is uninhabitable. Millions dead. An absolute catastrophe.

A chemical accident?

Don’t be so damn naïve! Add it all up: the master is out of contact, our home base gets wiped and I can’t get hold of any of our other contacts across the sector.

There are no coincidences in our profession.

Throne Weg! You’re suggesting conspiracy? That someone’s taking advantage of the master’s absence to cripple his organisation?

It’s a serious possibility. It all adds up.

And when exactly were you intending to damn well tell me all of this?

We needed to check one last thing first.

What? What the Throne was so important that you had to keep me in the dark over something like this?

You remember the unknown party in the Task Force, the ones who’ve been eating away at the records of the Incident?

What about them? Get to the point Weg.

We needed to know if they were after you.

Well they were, weren’t they? And you couldn’t think of a better way to figure that out without using me as bait? And that you didn’t fill me in on anything that had been going on because if I’d have gotten captured then they’d know that you knew about them.

Essentially.

Well, thanks for that Weg. Now will you just get to the- [It suddenly hits me and I stop. The enormity of the idea is enough to send shivers down my spine.] Major Krache said that they were probably Inquisition.

I concur with that. So does the Lord Commander.

Oh Throne…

More usefully, the Lord Commander’s personal ring of internal security agents within the Task Force are saying that the unknown party is under the command of one Inquisitor Reinhardt Hannos of the Ordo Xenos…

He’s one of Varius’ circle… oh Throne Weg… You’re suggesting that Varius is behind all of this? You’re saying that a Lord Inquisitor wants us dead?

That’s how it adds up. He’s probably already gotten rid of the master. We’re just loose ends to him.

[I spend a good minute just processing the revelation. Life with a Lord Inquisitor breathing down your back surely cannot last very long. A brief thought crosses my mind- Varius has lifetimes worth of experience... maybe he has seen something corrupt in my master and his organisation that needs to be purged. Maybe we have all slipped into the pit without realising it and Varius is doing his duty to Emperor and Imperium... No. It simply cannot be so. Whether a Lord Inquisitor thinks so or not, I am no heretic!]

So what do we do then?

[Technically, with the master apparently dead or at least out of contact, as his favoured Interrogator- according to Wegener very possibly his only surviving Interrogator- I am in command of whatever remains of his networks and resources… but I would be a fool not to make use of Wegener’s vast experience.]


We carry on. You’re safe enough here, at least for the time being. Klyst will keep an eye on you.

And what? I just carry on restoring the story of what happened on Eurydice so Rove can have his place in the history books while you go and try and get on top of this catastrophe?

Yes.

Weg I need to do something useful. I need to help. I’ve got a duty to my master, a duty to the integrity of my Ordo… Throne, someone like Varius has the potential to be a colossal threat to whole sector, maybe even beyond!

You will be helping-

Weg, I don’t mean-

No! Think about it. Why does Rove want you to sort the record out?

That’s got nothing to-


Why does Rove want you to sort the record out?

[I have to stop now and look at Wegener. What the Throne does what Rove wants got to do with anything? There’s a brief silence.]


I give up, Weg. Just tell me for Throne’s sake.

Well, what’s so special about your record? Why isn’t the one he’s got good enough?

Because the record he’s got… because the record he’s got is being eaten away and erased by Varius' men in the Task Force! And the only reason they’d be doing that is to cover their master’s tracks!

Exactly.

So Varius has something to do with the Eurydice Incident?

It’s a possibility. The facts are that Hannos' and his team came in with the Sector Command reinforcements- probably with orders from Varius to suppress everything from the word go. But Rove and his Task Force had gotten there first and have built up their own records which now need to be destroyed.

If you can gather up enough information to pin down what Varius has got to do with the Incident and get the evidence out then we’ve got him. He can’t take on our entire Ordo- and he’s going to be up against the wall if that sort of evidence gets into the hand of our brothers and sisters in the Ordo Hereticus.

Damn it Weg, if we get the Witch Hunters involved… do you really think that that might work?

What else are we going to do? I’m not lying down and waiting to die. And while I’m perfectly prepared to go down fighting, I’m at least going to go out trying to do some real damage.

Alright. What are you going to do?

I’m going to carry on trying to get in touch with the master and anyone else I think might help. Our best chance is to disappear into the Task Force. Rove is with us, but if Varius’ man Hannos comes out of the shadows then he’ll have to do as he’s told. He can be a mad old sod can Rove, but he’s not crazy enough to obstruct an Inquisitor.

That’s it. Good luck.

[Wegener turns and heads down the passageway. A few steps away from the alcove he emerged from, he stops and turns.]

Before I forget, the attack in the shuttle: it’s got psyker written all over it. Hannos’ men must have brought one with them. You should be safe enough as long as they don’t know where you are but watch your back. They probably think you’ll be too resistant to direct effects so they’ll try and manipulate the people around you. Don’t worry about Klyst or any of the others from his company- they’re all heavily conditioned. But if you’re in a group of people who all start acting weird and spontaneously start bleeding from thin tissues- eyes, nose, ears- then either get out or kill them all. If that happens just concentrate on staying alive. We can sort the mess out later.

Have you forgotten to tell me anything else that’s going to brighten up my day like that?


I don’t think so. But then I am getting old. I’ll let Klyst know if I learn anything else and he can pass it on. Meetings like this are risky. Besides, you’ve got a lot of work ahead of you.

Alright. Good luck to you too Weg.


[He waves over his shoulder as he disappears off down the passageway towards his alcove. I can’t help but wonder whether I will see him again.]


***

Hopefully the next one shouldn't take so long (I won't have to grapple with spoiler-y-ness at least) and we can return to the main plot before the sub-plot takes over entirely.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Tyrant » Thu Jun 30, 2011 9:26 pm

Really enjoying how the plot is developing and becoming more intricate as the story progresses. I'm looking forward to finding out just how far the inquisitor's involvement in the Eurydice Incident goes!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Jul 02, 2011 4:05 am

Good one Liber, nice work on spinning some intrigue, so the Inquisition is at war with itself eh?
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Gaius Marius » Sat Jul 02, 2011 5:14 am

Good one Liber, nice work on spinning some intrigue, so the Inquisition is at war with itself eh?
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sat Jul 30, 2011 12:31 pm

Whoa... who would have thought that having time off would mean I would write less? Weird. I have been poking some submission ideas (with a long, long, pointy, pointy stick. A pike, in fact.) but I wasn't getting anywhere. Best to wait for next time and run through some practice ones- which I can put up on here of course.

Cheers to Tyrant and Gaius! I remember when Inquisitor first came out: 'Everything you've been told is a lie!". There's plenty of intrigue to come: the sub-plot is well and truly taking over, mainly because I'm running out of things to happen in the past. I know where I want to end up with what happened on Eurydice, but filling in the gaps is getting more difficult so... sub-plot ahoy!

***

Part XVIII

Strategium Tertius, Hersir


++ Post-Incident Lecture Series III ++

++ The Battle of Tchitotry Hive Part B ++

++ Presented by General Tobias Ambrust of the Keiten 23rd ++


[This strategium is considerably smaller than the one in which I met Lord Commander Rove, though it follows a similar design. Judging by the shelves of seating rising up in the style of an auditorium around the edges, this chamber is used mostly for briefings and the like rather than direct command and control as was the Strategium Primaris. The seats are filled with officers- mostly Keiteners but with a few groups of uniforms from the Sector Command Reinforcements are scattered about.]


[This lecture series is apparently a means of putting across the lessons learned in the accumulated tactical and operational level experience of the Task Force during the Incident. The notion of post-action analysis is nothing new, of course, and it is simple common sense (and almost ubiquitous practice amongst all well organised regiments) to distil this experience and make sure that the resulting knowledge of successful practices is spread across the regiment or, as in this case, across several regiments.]


[The outer lights begin to dim and the General takes his place in the raised area directly beneath the ceiling hololithic projection array. The chatter quietens down quickly. General Ambrust begins to speak shortly afterwards in a clipped, rapid fire tone. It is immediately obvious that he is speaking quickly not because he is bored but because he has a limited amount of time to set out a horrendous amount of information.]


Good evening Gentlemen. In this lecture we will examine the main events in the second half of the Battle for Tchitotry Hive- the first half having involving the Swarm 1- Swarm 2 pincer movement, the Task Force reaction and the arrival of Sector Command’s Reinforcements.

[The General pauses, waving his control-wand and initialising a sequence on the hololith. The familiar blue light fuzzes into being above his head, then resolves into an image of Tchitotry Hive and the immediate surrounding area. As he speaks, thousands of tiny coloured icons spring up on the image.]


To recap very briefly, the situation into which we are arriving here is thus. The main Hive is held by roughly half a million guardsmen- mostly Keiten 19th of the original garrison and the first echelons of the Mordian 438th Mechanised though with increasing numbers of other regiments being deployed at the spaceport. There are also some three million PDF- roughly two hundred thousand of whom could be considered to be in armoured formations- and an undetermined number of citizen levies to the order of perhaps five or six million.

The majority of these forces were deployed in the initial defensive zone on or immediately behind the main Hive Walls. These were fifty metres high, thickly built, bastioned, well loopholed, etcetera, etcetera everything that one would expect from first rate fortifications. Artillery- including batteries of super-heavy guns in the fortress wall- are already engaging the enemy, to who we now turn.

The Tyranid Swarm in this action is the largest recorded on Eurydice by the Task Force and remains somewhere in the region of ten million strong despite casualties taken whilst overwhelming the defensive line a hundred miles south of Tchitotry Hive.

Swarm 1 was advancing in a somewhat curious fashion, however, which requires some attention.

[The image flips into a top down view and translucent orbital imagery is overlayed. Darker areas on the plains outside the Hive- concentrations of Tyranids presumably- are delineated, shaded red and given identification numerals.]


Here we see that, rather than operating in what has come to be known across the Task Force as a ‘horizon swarm’, in which the alien foe essentially forms a thick, advancing horde; Swarm 1 has split into a great many smaller units. This may be as a result of natural dispersion due to the recent battle to the south and the ensuing pursuit of Imperial forces for almost a hundred miles; however one cannot ignore the fact that such a loose arrangement of forces makes a poor target for the massed artillery within the Hive. Coincidence? Very possibly, but we would be setting ourselves up to fail in our duty if we underestimated our enemies, no matter how foul and alien an adversary they may be.

The fact that Swarm 1 was dispersed did not, as one would might expect, diminish its fighting capacity. Instead, the various sub-swarms made their own attacks at various points on the Hive Walls, well concealed by the fog and chemical effects of the sudden tyrannoformation brought on in the area due to the Swarm’s very presence. Most of these attacks were fought off with ease owing to superior local firepower and the immediate protection offered by the fortifications.

[The hololith image starts to play out at speed. Whilst the General speaks, occasional related pict-captures or even grainy combat footage flashes up with markers to show where it was taken.]

As we can see however, some of these attacks succeeded in breaching or overcoming the Hive Walls and spilling over into the Hive proper. Here, for example, there was an abundance of Heriophant bio-titans which, hidden in the chemical fog, approached without heavy loss and almost immediately overwhelmed the defenders. Here, the ground sub-swarm had enough time to climb the walls due to the distraction caused by repeated aerial attacks from Gargoyles and Harridans. In this area, the Hive Walls were breached completely- in several places- by an unidentified species of what we assume is a bio-titan.

If we move this hololith imagery on further, we can see that these breaches were quickly sealed by counterattack forces deployed in the sub-hive beyond the wall. Even the Heriophants were quickly wiped out owing mainly to the actions of a PDF tank battalion which moved to engage them in the streets.

At this stage, with the line essentially holding, plans were quickly being formulated to bring orbital weaponry to bear and to organise a follow-up assault from the Mordian 249th Armoured Regiment which was being rapidly landed some distance outside the Hive and moved towards its start-lines to the east of the Swarm.

However, if we skip the imagery forwards roughly an hour then we see…

[The overhead image of the Hive blinks and the red blotches denoting the Tyranids abruptly jump within the walls.]

… that the enemy is inside. And inside the Hive they are shielded from orbital bombardment and almost automatically negate any hope of dealing with them at a distance. The Mordian Armoured, which is now here [a blue marker pops appears well outside the Hive], are well into their counter-attack, but their tanks are struggling in the tyranoformed vegetation and taking losses to hit-and-run brood-groups operating out of the fog.

So, how did Swarm 1 get inside the Hive?

The answer, very simply, was that the Tyranid foe already had elements within the Hive before it began its attack.

Despite all of the screening measures, despite all of the purges, despite the impeccable manner in which the Hive Spire was stormed and the Corpse Cult stronghold there cleansed… there were enough surviving Cultist cells active in the Hive to seriously disrupt the loyalist defenders.

Much of what actually happened is unclear owing to the state of absolute confusion that reigned for some time after the Corpse Cult made its move. However, we know that strike groups of genestealer hybrids attacked a number of key locations with varying degrees of success. Command posts, vox hardline relays, the spaceport, transportation nodes and the Imperial Guard Fortress were all targeted with varying degrees of success, as were hab areas, civilian hospitals and emergency shelters with the aim of generally inducing a state of mayhem.

Of special note is the fact that a psychiatric asylum was attacked and the dangerously violent, unstable prisoners within let loose into the hab levels of the Inner Hive. Those of you who have been folded into the Task Force from the Keiten 19th or the Eurydician PDF will know that the asylum in question was used to incarcerate suspected psykers prior to the arrival of Inquistorial Blackships. Presumably the release of these individuals was the main objective of the Cultists. Fortunately, in the course of events, Inquisitorial forces deployed with the Sector Command Reinforcements for the explicit purpose of liquidating these exceptionally dangerous individuals arrived, stormed the building and terminated the cultists and psykers before they could escape.

[That last shred is perhaps something to look into: according to Weg, the Inquisitorial party hidden in the Task Force have apsyker with them… though I have no idea whether or not it was already in their possession when they arrived or whether they smuggled it out of this asylum for their own ends. If the latter is the case then I know at least a few of my Master’s old colleagues would likely react with the wrath of Dorn.]

[A Mordian officer in the row directly in front of Klyst and myself glances at his colleague sat next to him and then raises his arm. A servo-skull with an amplifier system begins to float over, but the General waves the control wand at it and it turns back.]


Please refrain from questions until the end gentlemen, we have a great deal of ground to cover and not a spectacular amount of time to cover it in.

[The Mordian drops his arm.]

After getting inside the walls, the Tyranids inflicted serious casualties on the defending units in the outer precincts by taking advantage of the command and control breakdown followed the Corpse Cult’s attack on communications nodes. Units of some strength- up to and including battalion, or even brigade if we include PDF forces- were very rapidly surrounded and either destroyed in detail or left isolated. The comparison between Imperial and Tyranid forces in this instance bears some examination, as it highlights one of the most important aspects of dealing with this particular xenos threat.

We all know from experience that battlefield command and control is often exceptionally fragile. Vox nets are frequently jammed, overwhelmed by traffic, broken by equipment losses. Even hardline vox webs can be cut by artillery fire or aerial bombardment. There are even recorded instances of hardlines being jacked into and hijacked by the enemy in order to demoralise or mislead the troops. Below the level of vox, couriers and messengers are time consuming and susceptible to battlefield conditions whilst voice and hand signals do not carry far and can be misinterpreted- especially when unfamiliar units are working together. Even under training conditions without the stresses and random friction of combat it can be difficult to get soldiers to do as one wants.

The Tyranids do not suffer these problems to a great extent due to their literally in-built synapse networks. Let us take a typical example.

[A diagrammatic appears and builds itself up as the General explains.]

A single brood-group consisting of several distinct gaunt broods presided over by a small group of larger creatures of the Warrior genus. The Warriors receive their instructions from the Hive Tyrant- relayed through the synapse network- and act on those orders by delivering their own to the gaunts under their command- again via the synapse links. As long as the gaunts remain within synapse range then they are at the total whim of the Warriors and can pull off complex battlefield manoeuvres with little difficulty.

This, in short, represents the central Tyranid advantage: they can move through the cycle of observation-orientation-decision-action far faster than Imperial troops as a result of their heinous evolution. Because the xenos can go through the loop quicker, by the time we have evaluated the situation and decided what to do, the Tyranids have already reacted, changed the situation and rendered our decision irrelevant or even dangerous.

The Task Force repeatedly overcame this issue earlier in the campaign by imposing itself on the Tyranid Swarms. Aside from the fact that the enemy was subjected to heavy orbital and aerial bombardment, Task Force units were extremely careful to deploy in areas with long lines of sight and very gentle terrain. This essentially forced two choices on the Tyranids -attack into the teeth of Imperial firepower or retreat- and thus completely negating any advantage in decision-making times. In Tchitotry Hive, however, the Tyranids had infinitely more tactical options and enough cover, momentum and opportunity to exploit these options to great effect.

So, the Tyranids made use of their tactical fluidity and naturally resilient command and control webs to overrun most of the Outer Precincts. As mentioned before, many of the defenders- particularly Imperial Guard and the better trained PDF- were able to avoid being destroyed in detail and were effectively bypassed and left under siege.

However, large numbers of PDF conscripts and most of the citizen militias which came into contact with the Tyranids were either totally wiped out or broke and fled. Here we see the beginning of the end for Tchitotry Hive. This panic- which we can safely assume is a purposeful psychological effect- spread backwards into the heart of the Hive despite the efforts of the Commissariat and the local PDF discipline apparatus. The thus far uncommitted Imperial forces were relatively unaffected and remained steady enough to hold the Inner Precincts against the oncoming Swarm alongside the Imperial Guard forces.

Unfortunately- and we should not perhaps discount the possibility of further Corpse Cult action in this- the panic spread to the civilian population. The result was predictable: unarmed people, fearing their apparently imminent violent deaths decided that their own only hope for safety was to leave their shelter and designated safe zones and somehow escape via the spaceport. It was not a large number of people in terms of the Hive’s overall population, in all less than twenty million people sought to escape, however they clogged up the transport networks and significantly slowed down military movement.

[The image of the Hive switches to a translucent isometric view. Streets and tunnel systems gradually begin to fill with thousands upon thousands of markers.]

The Sector Command regiments deploying at the spaceport were swamped: their unloading and movement to the frontlines of the Inner Precinct reduced to a slow trickle no matter the harshness of measures used to clear the way. In fact, the leading elements of one company from the Tangrean 65th were apparently overwhelmed by the Tyranids because they had used up most of their ammunition before they even reached the front.

[The General pauses for a moment to take a breath. He checks his wrist chronometer.]

I believe that its time for a short break, we are marginally ahead of schedule. However, before we do so… you sir, with the question from earlier. Now’s your chance.

[He wands the servo-skull over towards the Mordian in front of Klyst and me. The Mordian stands up so that his voice is within range of the skull’s amplifier.]

Mordian: With regards the Corpse Cult terrorists within the Hive… how were they not detected and dealt with in the months before this battle?

General Ambrust: An important point. The Corpse Cult was believed to have been thoroughly decimated and was essentially ignored due to more pressing issues. There were some measures implemented to finish the job, which were obviously quite unsuccessful, including amongst other things detailed screening of PDF recruits, compulsory checks and surveillance in some- but not all- of the hab levels… there was even a serious attempt to comb the underhive for hidden cells and arms caches.

As it turned out, most of the cultists who appeared at this stage were masquerading as PDF soldiers. This, of course, added to the general confusion as well as allowing them to move with practical impunity behind the lines. Interestingly, a high proportion of actually were PDF men who were in-Hive for medical treatment for amputations or had suffered amputations and been invalided into rear-echelon positions.

It appears that, taking advantage of the general confusion on Eurydice and patchy PDF records a great number of cultists across the planet managed to pass themselves off as military casualties by donning PDF uniforms and hacking off their own mutated appendages so that they appeared human. The central location for treatment after these men were picked up by medevacs was, of course, Tchitotry Hive. Their physical state did not, in the event, particularly diminish their combat effectiveness thanks to…

[General Ambrust continues talking, but I have stopped listening. That last point has managed to chill me to bone: cultist amputees posing as PDF troopers…]

[I lean over to Klyst and am about to speak when someone in the lower tiers opposite us stands up and starts to edge his way along his row in order to leave. He looks as though he is in a hurry. The man is wearing scrivener’s robes rather than an Imperial Guard uniform, but there is something about him that sets him aside from the smattering of other scribes dotted about. Something in his bearing perhaps, the kind of arrogance and self-importance a dog gets from having a powerful master…]

[I speak to Klyst with a whisper.]


Who’s that?

Klyst: Don’t know him.

We need to leave. Now.

[Klyst gives me one of his blank looks, but stands as I do.]

Klyst:
Why?

Because whoever that is over there has made the same connection that I just have and is rushing off to tell his master.


***

Well, there we are. This part took too far long, was generally a pain to write and ended up as something of a wall of text. Hopefully its not too bad. I don't think the hook at the end comes off as well as I thought it would and the set-up with the Mordian (never see any Mordians anymore) seems too artificial to me, but I had to do something to break into the monologue. On the plus side I got Boyd Cycles in and things are bound to get more exciting- hypothetical confections offered to anyone who figures out where the sub-plot's going next!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Tyrant » Sat Jul 30, 2011 1:36 pm

Good to see this back again! A very intriguing update, I have a few thoughts about where this might be going but I'll be keeping them to myself to avoid looking stupid when it turns out that I was completely wrong.....
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Skritt » Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:07 am

Nice update. I liked how you compared the command structure of Tyranids and Guard; I never considered it before. Look forward to the next section!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sat Aug 06, 2011 12:06 pm

Cheers Tyrant and Skritt!

This one got churned out pretty quickly... maybe its all the violence. Either that or I'm so swept up in the sub-plot's momentum that I want to get it all out. In the same way as the earlier experience with Klyst and the Interrogator getting their hands dirty (or Klyst at least- the Interrogator was a bit useless really) this might suffer visually from me persisting with the same formatting everywhere. If anyone's eyes struggle with the ridiculous amount of bold text than I can change it over to a more standard format (ie. normal prose with speech marks and none of these [] surrounding every paragraph).

Anyway, off we go:

***

Part XIX


The corridors outside Strategium Tertius, Hersir


[The wide, well lit corridor is quiet… but not empty. The traffic cuts both ways: the scrivener we pursue cannot see Klyst or myself in the throng… but at the same time we can hardly apprehend him without blowing our cover. Klyst has been muttering into his concealed vox ever since I explained my realisation to him. I would expect the stormtroopers to keep a reaction team of sorts nearby in case any more attempts on my life develop and hopefully Klyst is trying to arrange something with them.]

[After a few minutes of pursuit, the scrivener stops dead in his tracks. We stop too. The three of us form a curious set of islands in the flow of busy Navy personnel. The scrivener starts to turn, his head cocked slightly like a curious mastiff. Klyst and I are obviously watching him through the crowd and he will know that we are after him as soon as he sees us. Klyst doesn’t move, however, and I can only assume that he intends to drive the scrivener onwards until his companions can apprehend him. Either that, or he is looking for a confrontation.]

[The scrivener turns all the way around and stares directly at me. Blood is dribbling copiously down his face- streaming out of his eyes, nostrils and mouth to leave diagonal, parallel rivulets thanks to his cocked head.]

[I know I should react, but the sight is suddenly too chilling… too horrible to countenance. The realisation only lasts a moment, but its shocking nonetheless. The psyker evil. Direct possession. This is what Weg warned me about. This is what happened on board the shuttle. “Get out or kill them all”, Weg said. As usual, Klyst is one step ahead of me.]

[The corporal has whipped an autopistol out, causing nearby Navy crew to jump back in alarm. More are skirting the scrivener- or what was the scrivener. Klyst fires three shots into the air and everyone runs. Almost everyone.]

[A naval menial in dirty overalls lunges at Klyst’s pistol from one side, trying to wrench it away from the corporal. Klyst pulls the pistol across his front, dragging the man across and down. I see Klyst’s other hand reach in under the man’s chin and twist sharply. There is a wet crack. The man’s grip evaporates and he falls down onto his back. His eyes, nostrils, mouth and ears are starting to leak red fluid.]


[The crowd has gone completely, except for half a dozen individuals who stand stock still… all them bleeding profusely from their facial soft tissues. The scrivener has risen a foot or so into the air. His robes are stained black with blood which runs down to pool beneath him on the metal deck. He cocks his head to the other side… and the other puppets dart forwards towards me and Klyst.]

[I confess to rather unrealistically expecting them to stagger or shuffle over. They don’t: possessed by some foreign entity they may be, but the bodies and the actions available to them are the same. At least that should mean that they should die like a normal human being.]


[I have by now drawn my Tronvasse and have enough time put tight three round groupings into the closest pair of puppets. Klyst manages to frees his own pistol and puts a single shot through the eye socket of another. They all thump hard to the deck, convulsing in fast-spreading pools of blood and blown-out innards. Then the others are upon us, one body-tackling the corporal to keep him out of the picture while the other two go after the main objective: me.]

[The first, a white-haired menial who has produced an illicit, crude blade from somewhere and darts it forwards in precise, experienced jabs. The other is a big man in the robes and regalia of a confessor, swinging the chain-suspended, incense-wreathed thurible hanging from his staff as an improvised flail. I have to give ground- both to stay out reach of their weapons and to give me time to aim my own.]

[My Tronvasse jams- inexplicably- on the first pull of the trigger. I throw it at the knife wielding menial and the heavy butt connects sharply with his right eye, messily blinding it. I have no time to capitalise on that opening. The confessor brings his flail down in an overhead swing and I barely manage to dart backwards out of the way. The delicately ornate thurible cracks open on the deck, spilling out smouldering charcoal and acrid incense dust.]

[I immediately stamp onto the thurible’s chain, locking the flail in place as I bring my dagger around from its concealed sheath in the small of my back. The blade is one of the older ones from the Master’s armoury back on Ortygius: finely made, well balanced… the classic leaf-shaped death sliver. In one fluid motion ending in a jarring halt, I put it up to the hilt in the side of the confessor’s skull.]

[The white-haired menial thrusts his knife at me from one side as the confessor collapses. I have to jump back, leaving my dagger stuck in the confessor’s head. The menial advances and jabs again. This time I take a step forwards- past the blade- grabbing his arm at the wrist and elbow and twisting them round as violently as possible. There is a series of cracks- his arm breaking in several places. I throw him over my hip onto the deck and then crunch his throat under the heel of my boot to finish him off.]

[Looking round again, I can see that Klyst has already despatched his own attacker and- presumably because he thought I could handle myself against my two opponents- is advancing steadily on the scrivener. The man is surely treading that fine line between incredible bravery and absolute insanity.]

[Klyst periodically fires off rounds at the floating scrivener from a braced, two-handed grip. None of the bullets appear to do any damage, instead they seem to veer dramatically off course and plink off the corridor walls, slipping round their intended target. This is bad news indeed.]


[As far as I can grasp, the scrivener must have had some kind of direct channel back to Inquisitor Hannos’ party and their pet psyker has been allowed to use him as a conduit. In effect, this seems a kind of direct possession and we are starting to see more and more powers manifest themselves. First we had mind control… now we have some kind of telekinesis. The scrivener might be immensely more dangerous, but it hasn’t used its new power to attack Klyst and me yet… hopefully because of the wards and mental conditioning we have both received. Regardless, if the scrivener is acting as a conduit, we need to break the link to neutralise him. Destroying the brain should do it. The realisation flashes before my mind in an instant and I shout out to warn Klyst, but the Emperor throws a distraction our way.]

[A reaction team of Hersir’s armsmen seem to have appeared out of nowhere on the other side of the scrivener- they must have run up whilst I was fighting my two attackers. I can tell what is going to happen next and throw myself to bloody deck.]


[The armsmen open up with their sub-autos and a deafening crackling bursts down the corridor from them. None of the rounds hit. They all swerve off into the ceiling, deck or walls. More than a few snap past me. The scrivener pivots slowly in mid air, still dribbling blood everywhere. Evidentially, it considers the ten armsmen a greater threat than the still advancing Corporal Klyst.]

[There is a kind of pulse as the scrivener lays eyes on the armsmen. It is difficult to describe- itself intangible, silent and invisible… but there nonetheless: one of the light fittings in the ceiling shatters and sparks, the corpse of the confessor shudders, a random pattern of wall and deck panels are dented inwards. Then the armsmen start to die.]


[I never expected telekinesis to be so brutal. It is of course, literally, ‘distant movement’: movement induced without physical contact. That was what was shifting all of the scrivener’s incoming rounds off target. I had, I suppose, expected the scrivener to start picking things up- bodies, wall panels, exposed piping- and throwing them at the armsmen. At the very least he would, I subconsciously thought, manipulate the air to push them away or into things.]

[The scrivener- or rather the distant psyker controlling what was left of him- did nothing so indirect. The armsman sergeant, infuriated with the ineffectual weapons fire and charging forwards with his chainsword revving, dies when his helmet- and the head inside- is abruptly crushing inwards like one might crush a metal can. Blood and liquidised brain matter squirts out through rents in the helmet.]

[One armsmen’s spine is torn out and flung away, another’s head twisted off. More of them simply collapse screaming- I would assume as a result of other such catastrophic anatomical rearrangements hidden beneath their body armour. Three of them are peeled apart in an instant- armour plates ripped off, clothing beneath disintegrated… skin excised from muscle which is in turn shed from bone.]

[This is truly horrifying. If nothing else is to be levelled at those elements of the inquisition ranged against me then measures such as this are obscenely out of proportion- and would be immeasurably worse should the pysker behind all of this escape or overpower its captors… I can only hope that I can somehow get hold of official reports or picter footage of all this to use as evidence. I know of enough of the the master's colleagues who would detest the use of such methods.]

[A flash of movement switches my attention from the gruesome fates of the armsmen. Klyst has reached the scrivener. He jams his pistol into the small of the scrivener’s back and starts to pull the trigger as fast as he can. At this range, the bullets can hardly be deflected or forced to miss.]

[The scrivener howls and writhes round, still levitating, to reveal the massive exit wounds Klyst’s shots have made in its lower abdomen. It lashes down at the corporal and manages to cuff him around the head, knocking him to the floor.]

[Klyst simply rolls underneath the scrivener and scrambles up behind it, sweeping up the armsman sergeant’s fallen chainsword as he does so. The scrivener whirls around again, but is too late. The corporal brings the whirring blade round and hacks it into the scrivener’s side.]


[The thing screams and claws at Klyst, but he dogged carries on forcing the chewing teeth of the blade deeper, putting all of his genhanced strength behind the weapon. The screeching revving of the chainsword changes pitch- the difference between flesh and spine- and the scrivener drops to the ground like a sack of earth, writhing and arching its back in pain. Klyst hauls the chainsword out and then jams it through the scrivener’s screaming mouth until it erupts out of the top of its head and embeds itself in the deck. The scrivener thrashes for a few moments, then lies still and dead, pinned in the curious position.]

[Klyst- covered head to toe in blood- leaves the blade there and then staggers back to me. He pants as he approaches.]

Time to go.

[He pushes me away from the gory scene, back down the corridor the way we came. I start moving and we both speed up into a distance eating jog. We need to get as far away as possible before more armsmen turn up- or the psyker finds another adequate host to manipulate. And besides, I have to assume that the psyker looted the scrivener’s mind and passed on what he had just worked out to its master…]

We need to get to the Resettlement Platform! Fast, before-


[Klyst cuts me off. Yet again, he is a step ahead of me.]

The Major’s got a team together already. We’re meeting them on the hanger decks.

***

So, lots of blood, a tiny little nugget of extra info about what the Interrogator worked out last time (the reward of hypothetical confection remains!) and a set up for more violence in the near future (it is WARhammer after all). Getting near to 40,000 words (funnily enough) now and I reckon that there's plenty of story arc to go through yet.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Tyrant » Sat Aug 06, 2011 1:41 pm

Interesting, the interrogator is right: this level of psyker activity seems like definite overkill; whatever the scrivener worked out must have been of vital importance. Nice to see that the interrogator knows how to take care of himself too.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby hypomaniac » Sat Aug 06, 2011 11:34 pm

Absolutely fantastic! The sub-plot is just as intriguing and entertaining as the main plot. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of WH40k literature.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Skritt » Sat Aug 27, 2011 2:21 am

Great! I liked the fight scenes, very well described. I'd like to see how the plot develops further.
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:19 pm

Cheers Tyrant, hypomaniac and Skritt!

Tyrant: I've been wanting the Interrogator to get stuck in for a while... just to show that he is capable. Klyst overshadows him a bit what with his Captain Echbar moment, but he's not exactly a walkover. He'll get plenty more opportunities to get stuck in. As time goes on. And yes, the psyker activity is purposeful overkill... well, you'll find out!

Hypomaniac: Wow, praise indeed! Thanks, here's hoping I can maintain the standard!

Skritt: Its been a while since I wrote any proper fight scenes, so I thought I might be a little rusty. Obviously not!

And before I forget, immense thanks to Gaius who suggested a boarding action a few posts back! That really got me thinking and helped everything click plotwise together and make sense.

This one took too long. But, then I think I always say that. It took several attempts to fit everything together- not to mention working some plot out of what I'd written up 'til now (this being a disadvantage of barely having a plan). That said, I think I'm on course. The sub-plot is well and truly ascendant now... at least for the time being. Anyway, I've left you all hanging for three weeks so I'll let you get on with it:

***

Part XX


Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha, Eurydice Orbit


(I shouldn’t have been surprised at how quickly things were turning against us. The opposition in the hangar had consisted off a rushed-in reaction force of PDF soldiers. They had been sent in by hostile agents aboard the platform, or by their commander who no choice but to obey the angry, Inquisitorial authority on the vox.)

(That said, it had been grotesquely unfair. The stormtroopers squad with me had erupted outwards from the shuttle, gunning down every last man of the security teams before the ramp had even touched the deck. Without a pause they moved off towards the exit… all the angles covered, all the drills flawless. Klyst pushed me after them.)

(Things had gotten more complicated on the ride over. We’d watched on the augur displays as Verbera had broken formation and turned for the edge of the system. A scrap of intercepted vox traffic bore the explanation- there was an ‘incident’ on board. It took me little time to realise the details. The pysker set loose on me back aboard Hersir had overbled itself into the helpless, unwarded body of the scrivener it had possessed. And it had done so on purpose... it was a bid for freedom. When Klyst had destroyed that vessel the backlash had been enough to break the pysker's own wards and set it loose. And now it was running around on an Imperial battlecruiser. That indescribable nightmare was, for the time being, not our problem.)

(Not long later, we detected a swarm of shuttles leaving Verbera. More vox intercepts revealed that Inquisitor Hannos was abandoning the vessel to whatever fate his pet psyker was unleashing on it. Half of the craft angled off towards Hersir, broadcasting a message for sanctum and medical assistance with Inquisitorial authority. The other half headed towards the Orbital Resettlement Platform.)

(We’re now burning our way through the labyrinthine maintenance decks and sub-spaces towards our goal, but we have to move fast. Not only has Hannos used his authority to mobilise the Platform against us, but those shuttles crammed with his henchmen are no doubt docking even now. And whilst I have every confidence in these stormtroopers… the faster we deal with this- and somehow escape back to Hersir- the better.)

(Klyst and I crouch down amongst a mass of interwoven piping in a wide sub-passage. Everything on either side is lost to darkness… to me at least. Klyst donned his full war gear on the shuttle over- and has slotted what is no doubt an image-intensifying lens into the visor of his angular helmet. For my part, I have the helmet, cuirass and tassets minus the heavy customisation and myriad extras. I have also picked up a compact sub-auto from a dead PDF sergeant.)

(Klyst suddenly taps me on the shoulder. I look round and can just make out him pointing me down the passage after the other stormtroopers. I get up and make my way down- carefully and quietly. After some distance a carapace armoured form looms out of the shadow. It is Major Krache. We speak in whispers.)


We’re directly beneath Hab Area 17. I’ve already sent Maher and Kerricks up to snatch your man.

What makes you so sure he’ll be here?


He’ll have no idea what’s going on so he’ll fall back onto his standard operating procedure- stay out of trouble, blend in. He’d be stupid to make a run for it or do anything else that might expose his cover.

Is there anyone else up there? Aside from the refugees. Any PDF security… any others?

Difficult to tell. I’ve got another three men hidden around the passage exit on overwatch. We’re lucky with the time cycle- its night here. All the refugees have their heads down. We’ve got a nice, clear 360 up there. If any comes in then we’ll see them coming a mile off.

Unless they pull the same trick as we are, using the underspaces…


Not as stupid as you look are you?

[I bite back a retort, half because we need to avoid unnecessary noise and half because I can see Krache reach up to key his helmet vox. There is an uneasy silence for a few seconds.]


Arbites are coming in. A kill team.

Damn. Hannos’ men will have tipped them off… they’re after our target.


They’re moving in quick. [Krache keys his vox.] Do it.

[After a few seconds- time enough for the stormtroopers up above to work out a fire plan and take aim- the shooting begins. It is not what I expect.]

[There is a single, ragged volley of shots from directly above and the crack of lasguns echo off the cavernous sides of the Hab Area above. Someone shouts in an Arbites patrol cant, then a dozen other voices start screaming in panic. On top of us, two thousand refuges are suddenly awake amidst the noise. Instant anarchy takes hold… exactly the kind of cover the stormtroopers need to snatch the target and escape.]

Make room!

[Klyst pulls me back a few steps. A trio of figures tumble down the ladder- then a few more. All except one are stormtroopers.]

Target secured! Time to leave!

[The stormtroopers are all set to move, but I step forwards and flick my lamp-pack on. The red filter doesn’t damage my nightvision- and doesn’t interfere too much with the stormtrooper’s vision devices- but allows me to check they’ve got the right man.]


[Hans Nellorese is still wearing the same ragged refugee cloth that he was when I last saw him, weeks ago now. His head is bowed, his good arm twisted up into the small of his back by a stormtrooper. He isn’t bothering to struggle- the stormtroopers must have stunned him with something. I reach out and peel back the cloth covering the stump of his right arm… the skin there is peeling and cracked, broken by distinctly inhuman growths. He must cut them out regularly- none of the security checks prior to our previous meetings found them.]

[Despite having some time to come to terms with the fact, I still can't help but be galled by the fact that I've been face to face with him twice before and his real idenity slipped me by on both counts. I half wonder if the master knew... whether it was some kind of test. Now isn't the time for that kind of rumination, however. Now we have to get away and then find out everything he knows... especially why Varius' lackeys were so intent on getting to him first.]

[Evidently, Krache has had enough. He pushes me back and pulls a black hood over Nellorese’s face. The interrogation can wait until we find a safer place to stop. He signals for the stormtroopers to move out.]

[Klyst pulls me out of the way as the stormtroopers start to head off quickly back down the passageway. The two of us follow on after Nellorese- still reeling from whatever the stormtroopers have stunned him with and practically being dragged along- and before the two men of the rearguard.]

[We get a few dozen metres down the passage when more gunfire breaks out up above. These are not warning shots aimed at dispersing the refugees. This is relentless, fully automatic fire mowing the milling crowds down. It isn’t anything like the operating procedures of the Adeptus Arbites.]


[The screaming intensifies, joined by moans of pains and frantic shouting. There are thuds on the ceiling as bodies drop. Blood starts to wash down through gaps in the decking plates. There is no similar drainage down here in the passage- after a minute we are sloshing and splashing our way along, ankle deep.]

[Evidently, Inquisitor’s Hannos’ men have arrived.]


[The shooting dies away to leave the vocal pain of the survivors. Boots tramp overhead, accompanied by an unfamiliar combat cant. There are no mercy shots- no more wastage of ammunition now that the way is clear. I half want to stop and figure out exactly what the henchmen are doing, but Klyst hustles me along.]


[We reach the end of the passage and come out onto the platform side of a wide, circular tunnel that was once storage space for macro cannon shells. Massive flatbed cars sit on foot-high rails, barely illuminated by dim amber emergency lights set into the tunnel sides.]

[There is a reverberative clunk somewhere beneath us. Suddenly, the main lights of the tunnel are on and the entire space harshly lit. It takes a moment for me to realise two things. Firstly, we’ve been flushed into a trap. Secondly, the stormtroopers are all abruptly blind, their image intensifying equipment overloaded and whited-out.]

[There is a shout and dozens of figures burst out of their hiding places. Some charge out of alcoves, others emerge from behind the flatcars and leap up onto the platform. They are all swathed in quilted padding or heavy leather layering; some of them sport blackened segments of plate armour over the top. The same blackened metal is used in their bowl helmets, sallets and kettle helms. They are all armed exclusively with short melee weapons- swords, axes, bucklers and maces.]


[Every one of them has a brassard or tabard coloured half blue and half white, split by a heraldic clutch of swords behind the Imperial Aquila. As I raise my stolen sub-auto and the stormtroopers tear off their vision equipment, I make the detached observation that these are mercenaries- men from one of the infamous Gothardus Free Companies. Apparently they don’t want to risk hitting our mutual target with small arms fire. I fire off a burst from my weapon, gunning down the two nearest to me. A fraction of a second later the stormtroopers open fire too. Immediately the air is full of what Guardsmen call the ‘lasgun crackle’. More enemies fall in the precious few seconds before they reach us, but it is nowhere near enough.]

[In an instant, my world shrinks to the swirling melee of what is going on within a few paces of me.]

[Klyst pushes me to one side, away from a clutch of screaming mercs. He leaps into them, swinging the chainsword he acquired back on Hersir to grisly effect. A Free Company man stabs at me with a sword as I turn, the blade glancing from my cuirass. I slam the butt of my sub-auto into his exposed face. His nose breaks, he shrinks back clutching it and I put a burst through his torso. His sword clatters at my feet.]

[Something smashes into the back of my head and knocks me to the ground. I roll to one side instinctively, despite my daze and shock. A hand axe slams down into the space floor I have just left. Continuing the roll onto my back, I bring my sub-auto up to bear on the visored sallet of my attacker. He kicks it away.]

[The merc heaves his axe up again and starts to bring it down. Before it can impact, Klyst’s chainsword suddenly swings up out of nowhere and slices off his forearms. I flinch reflexively as blood sprays out into my face. The axe and severed hands drop to the floor between my legs. As Klyst yanks me to my feet, I scoop up a fallen sword.]

[Klyst is gone as soon as he came, diving into another clutch of attackers. Two more Free Company men come at me next, one with a sword and one with a long, flanged mace. They are both skilled fighters, used to working with one another.]

[As I block the sword, the mace whips out and cracks my parrying hand. The carapace gauntlets absorb most of the force, but it is not painless and I can’t help but drop my weapon. Instead of recoiling as they expect, I step forwards inside the swordsman’s guard, avoiding his reverse swing and getting him between me and his companion. Shielded from the maceman for a moment, I quickly grab the swordsman’s weapon hand and his opposite shoulder before throwing him across my hip. I maintain my grip, the movement of the throw enough to dislocate his arm and let me come away with the sword just in time to deflect a swing from the mace. One moment later and I have rammed the sword blade up under the maceman’s rib cage. He falls, squealing, as I wrench out the sword and finish off his companion.]

[I have a moment’s respite and frantically look around. Two of the stormtroopers are already dead. As I watch, another is mobbed by five mercenaries and goes down as they work their sword points into the gaps in his carapace shell. Major Krache and one of the others, standing back to back surrounded by corpses, have discarded their lasguns, unholstered their sidearms and taken up fallen melee weapons. The mob that had killed just moments before turns on them and is sharply gunned down. Klyst, absolutely covered in blood, is splitting someone in half with the chainsword. Another stormtrooper is on top of a merc, repeatedly stabbing him in the face with a combat knife. There are a few other knots of vicious fighting, but it is clear that we have the upper hand.]

[Suddenly, I realise that we are missing the target that we snatched. Hans Nellorese is gone. There hasn’t been enough time for any of the mercs to drag him off to any of the obvious exits…]


[I tear out my Tronvasse with my free hand, take two long bounds forwards, neatly decapitating a Free Company man as I do so, and drop off the edge of the platform onto the rails. Ducking down onto one knee and peering under the nearest flatbed, I can see the top half of a merc disappear down a hatchway between the rails. That’s where they must have taken him! I haven’t come so close to have my answers snatched away at the last moment.]


[Another round of shouting rings out as a second wave of mercs attempt to rush the stormtroopers. There is a burst of shooting as the stormtroopers scoop up their discarded ranged weapons and lay into them. A trio of mercs on the opposite platform try to jump across over my head. Lasfire plucks two of them out of the air. They drop down onto the rails. The third lands on the edge and I hack into one of his ankles with my sword. He collapses onto the platform, screaming and writhing. More of the mercs are swarming the stormtroopers from every side. I’m sure they can handle it.]

[I scramble under the flatbed and crawl towards the hatch as the sounds of fighting back on the platform reintensify.]

***

So... a lot of ground covered in the opening. My first attempt at writing this part started in the hangar on Hersir but fizzled out. The second started with them already on the shuttle, with the Interrogator and a new stormtrooper character in the cockpit reacting to what Verbera was doing. That was lacking something and just went on and on, and too many people were talking and.. urgh. It ended with them getting out, crashing the shuttle into the Resettlement Platform and then spacewalking in through the hole. It was a cool idea, but it didn't want to play. The third try started the same as this one, but instead of just leaving they tried to interrogate Nellorese there and then in the passage. That didn't work either and I never got onto the next bit where genestealers turn up and the Interrogator gets captured (so that the Magus can have a villainous monologue and conveniently explain everything just before Klyst and co. turn up for the inevitable rescue (quite glad that idea got kiboshed tbh!).

The Free Company men are modelled on War of the Roses soldiery. Hopefully they aren't too incongruously medieval, but even if they are- it is the 41st Millenium. At least they seem competent and have gotten their "We're the bad guys!" definition moment whent hey wipe out the refugees (its not explicitly them, but... why not?). In the meantime, the Interrogator has made the fatal mistake of going off on his own. Granted, he pretty much has to, but still... not genre-savvy at all.

Oh, and hypothetical-confection-of-choice to people who figured the Interrogator was going after Hans Nellorese! Didn't orginally have him as a Genestealer hybrid-cultisty type, but hey... he fits the bill. Cheers again for Gaius for poking my thoughts in that direction with the boarding party idea!
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Fri Sep 30, 2011 9:30 pm

Finally done with this bit. Had to split the concept in two so it was more manageable and made the usual mistake of wandering forwards with nothing but a vague idea of what needed to happen to move the plot along. I'm not sure how much I like it... but its there in the way it naturally flowed from fingers to keyboard and changing it seems too difficult (I can't draft very well- once its written once that tends to be it, unless I think its really rubbish.)

Anyway, back we go to the Interrogator going off after Nellorese all by himself...

***

Part XXI


Transit System, Western Magazine (Disused), Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha


(The hatch opens up onto a narrow maintenance shaft that plunges away into the darkness. Bundles of cabling snake down the sheer walls, the staples holding them in place doubling up as access rungs. There’s no way I can get down with both my hands full, so I leave the sword and trust to my Tronvasse.)

(I make my way down, carefully. For a few moments I start to doubt myself: how could these mercenaries have possibly manhandled Nellorese all the way down here?)

(The answer quickly becomes apparent. Only a dozen metres or so down the shaft is intersected by a horizontal maintenance way. The opening is flush with the wall and almost invisible from the hatch above.)

(Cautiously, I step down off the rungs into the passage, Tronvasse raised. A merc is slumped against the wall just inside the passage, a gaping hole in the side of his sallet-helm which has obviously just gushed blood everywhere. A quick check reveals no entry wound on the opposite side… the wound was caused by a melee weapon.)

(Bloody tracks lead off down the passage. I follow.)

(After a few twists and turns full of cabling, piping and valves, the passage opens onto an open chamber rimmed with pumping equipment and buzzing electric generators.)

(The entire space is awash with blood and guts. Splintered bones, ribbons of glistening human flesh and slopped out viscera are cast about amongst the open bodies, shredded armour and lost weapons of a dozen mercs. Hundreds of empty cases are spread through the carnage- arcs and clusters of them brass glinting amongst the red. These mercs had no interest in avoiding collateral damage in the same way as their comrades up above.)

(The reason why is as obvious as it is shocking. Three hulking, shattered forms lie crumpled amongst the dead. The Hive Fleet colours are indistinguishable beneath the blood, but the carapaces are not bullet-holed or blade-notched enough to disguise the unmistakable form of genestealers. They are- I sincerely hope- dead. What the aliens were doing here on the resettlement platform is a question to be answered later- I have a far more immediate concern.)

(In the midst of all the carnage are two figures. One of them is Hans Nellorese, on his knees facing me. His face twitches. Dark rivulets of blood run down his features from where the other figure has a hand embedded in his skull.)

(This second figure is female, dressed in a black bodyglove spattered with gore. A pendant hangs from her neck- silver worked into the symbol of the Inquisition. She looks up from the insides of Nellorese’s head as I step. A few loose wisps of dark hair hang down over her sharp, pale face.)


(Her eyes narrow with recognition and her hand darts for the laspistol at her side.)

(I am faster: the Tronvasse barks, she shudders, the empty case clinks on the chamber floor… she drops like a sack of earth. Dragged down by the embedded up to the wrist in its skull, Nellorese’s body slumps to the floor. Not two seconds have passed since I entered the room.)

(I let out a long breath and start trying to piece things together.)


(The woman is- was- presumably part of Inquisitor Hannos’ inner circle. Maybe she was a close, trusted member of his retinue. Maybe she was an Interrogator. Probably she was at least in local command of the mercenaries: having snatched their target they must have brought Nellorese down here to her.)

(The only explanation for the genestealers is that the Corpse Cult is well and truly alive on the Resettlement Platform… and that it doesn’t look kindly on those who abduct its members. There is a thread of interest to this: is the Corpse Cult under control of the lingering Hive Mind presence down on Eurydice… or, being in the perhaps unique situation of completing its mission planetside and somehow surviving, is it working under its own auspices again? A question for later.)

(Whatever has happened, this woman is bound to have something useful on her person- anything that can help me open a window on Inquisitor Hannos’ activities.)


(I walk into the middle of the chamber, stepping around bodies and body parts. I’m not prepared to make the same mistake as the woman was: my Tronvasse remains in my hand and I keep checking the angles.)

(Kneeling at the woman’s corpse, I start to go through her equipment. There is some vox apparatus- ear bead and throat mic all wired to the main body of a vox device. I snap off the wires and pocket the main body- no doubt the stormtroopers will be able to do something with it. She also has a battered old dataslate tucked into one of her thigh pockets. I take it. There isn’t anything else except combat kit- barring perhaps sub-skin mnemonic spools which I haven’t the time to dig out- so I turn to her hand embedded in Nellorese’s head.)

(It takes an almighty heave to yank the hand out. It holds a pair of needle-nose tongs. Ignoring the blood and smeared brain matter, I examine them carefully. The tongs hold a tiny metal cylinder… an ident chip? A tracking device? Either way, it was coming out rather than going in.)

(Whatever it is, this small cylinder is clearly what Inquisitor Hannos is after. Nellorese himself was immaterial. Standing up, I carefully put the cylinder in one of my map pockets, behind the cuirass the stormtroopers gave me.)

(Its time to get back to them and figure out our next mov-)

So you’re Lok’s last are you?

[I nearly jump out of my skin as the woman speaks. Acting purely on reflex, I put a round through her head. If she wasn’t dead before then she must be now.]

I thought so.

[She carries on! Beneath the coin sized entry hole in her forehead, her eyes stare straight ahead, glassy and dead. She isn’t breathing; a quick check reveals no pulse.]

That’s an interesting trick.

A useful one, though I can often only use it as the result of one tragedy or another.

[Her mouth frames the words and they are projected with her voice... but they are clearly not her own. I brace myself for the possibility of a repeat experience of the scrivener’s possession back on Hersir.]

What tragedy?


That my dear Katerin failed the mission that would propel her to full Inquisitorial status. A great loss to have moulded an individual into such a promising Imperial Servant and then lose her in such a way.

I’ve seen this trick before. The scrivener, back on Hersir.


Not the same trick, but similar yes.

And I suppose that you are Inquisitor Hannos?


I am.

And that this is one of your Interrogators?

Indeed. I am very much surprised that you overcame her. The details of the encounter would be of some use, if only to put together her last moments.

In all honesty I believe I was lucky. She was distracted… I reacted faster.

Ah. Disappointing. An elementary mistake- a lack of situational awareness, do you think?

Something like that. She had just fended off a trio of genestealers.

[The corpse makes an appreciative noise.]

A much better end. No offence, of course.

Any offence pales in comparison to those already visited on me and my Master by you and your… associates.

I would expect nothing less from one of Lok’s chosen. He never came across as an idiot.

Just as… what? An obstacle? A rival?

As a probing irritant, a description I could well apply to you.

A dangerous irritant, obviously. Otherwise you wouldn’t expend all this effort in attempts to dispose of me.

True. You were lucky on the shuttle flight over. If all had gone to plan then the shuttle would simply have been piloted straight into the side of Hersir. Nothing but an accident caused by careless flight crew or faulty maintenance.

Subtle. Not like your second attempt with the Dirty Five Hundred. That was practically a total failure.

It would be. I had nothing to do with it, I learnt of it only later. A politicking attempt by the Dirty Five Hundred. They were unhappy with the way I was pulling the strings aboard Verbera and after discovering that I wanted to suppress something you knew tried to find out from you themselves.

So that they could gain some influence over you? Blackmail you?


Yes. As you pointed out, it was a total failure. Not only did they not manage to capture you but made the mistake of not covering their tracks adequately enough. Suffice to say, the Dirty Five Hundred is no more.

I can imagine.


My second attempt was a spur of the moment thing.

The scrivener?

Yes. He had some weak telepathic ability and used it to convey the possibility that Corpse Cult members disguised as PDF troopers had been evacuated up to the Resettlement Platform.

Which, because you’ve been keeping tabs on me, pointed you towards Hans Nellorese?


Yes. But you were right behind the scrivener, you and that dog Klyst. It would be beyond my powers to deal with you there and then but-

But you could let your pet psyker take over the scrivener?

Something like that.

But it overbled didn’t it? Then broke its warding when it returned to its own body.

And turned Verbera into a charnel house within seconds. Using the psyker was a risk. I took it and it didn’t play out well. The Emperor tests us with experiences like these.

[Hannos puts it matter-of-factedly, as though the potential loss of Verbera was nothing to him. Remembering the fact that a hemisphere of Ortygius was wiped by Varius’ little clique- maybe even by Hannos himself- I feel a sudden flush of anger. It is unexpected. Perhaps Hannos is reaching out to me with more than his voice? In any case, if I am to speak with my enemy then I might at least try and get something from it. He has come across as supremely confident so far… arrogant even. Perhaps a goad might provoke a slip?]

Has the Emperor been testing you since you arrived? I have to say that there has been an awful lot of wasted, murderous effort directed at me since I arrived here. Either I have divine protection, am exceptionally lucky, or you’re pushing incompetence.

An attempt to barb me? How crude.

The question stands, does it not? Have you simply not been trying hard enough?

[The corpse laughs. This is clearly not going to push him into letting anything slip.]

And now persistence in a futile attempt. Not so much crude now as entertaining. Do continue…

If you insist. Do you not think that you’re being manipulated yourself? My master was sent on a fools errand designed to dispose of him.

You were sent here to get rid of me… does that not seem like a minor issue for such a distinguished Inquisitor as yourself? Why not send a small cell to complete the task? Why not send an assassin?


Continue.

My point is that here you are flailing about trying to get rid of me in order to protect your Lord Varius’ plans while the Tyranid infestation down on Eurydice is surely broadcasting out to the Hive Fleets for help. For reinforcements. Maybe you’re supposed to still be here when the Hive Fleet arrives. Maybe that’s how you are supposed to be gotten rid of?


Interesting. I understand what Lok saw in you. Totally wrong of course, but a fair attempt at provoking doubt and mistrust. I congratulate you.

Thank you.


Like I said, though, totally wrong. Not least because it assumes that my part in your demise is anything but circumstantial.

So you’re simply the right man in the right place at the right time?

Quite. Now, I hate to disappoint you but I’m afraid I will have to be saying farewell.

So soon?

Yes. You see, you are the right man and you’ve been in the right place long enough for Hersir’s batteries to formulate a near perfect firing solution.

[My blood runs cold. How could I fall for something so simple? But then again, even if I hadn’t I’d simply be in the same position without knowing it. Hersir’s batteries will no doubt reduce the Orbital Resettlement Platform to floating debris in mere minutes. I have to escape... but to where?]

[The corpse, its face twitching into a smug smile, speaks its last, mocking words.]

The Emperor protects.

***
There were a few things I wanted to put in here that just didn't happen- the biggest one being a fight between the two Interrogators. I think it was just easier to shoot her in one and get it over with, which is perhaps more realistic if not more dramatic. Another thing that didn't get in was the Interrogator getting steadily more and more freaked out as the voices of the other dead bodies joined in one by one as the conversation with Hannos went on.

Hannos himself ended up being surprisingly cordial... not the kind of semi-psychopathic ranting bad-guy. More like a Blofeld maybe. Then again maybe not. Anyway, I'm sure he'll crop up again at some point and I'll have a more focused stab at his character... assuming the Interrogator actually manages being on the recieving end of the Hersir of course...
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby J D Dunsany » Fri Sep 30, 2011 10:31 pm

Just started reading this (I know, I know - late to the party as usual) and I'm enjoying it immensely. You obviously know what you're doing with this - it's well-written, well-paced and, in your narrator for Part I (what I've read so far), you've achieved an authentic, entirely convincing voice that really pulls you into the narrative.

And what a narrative it is! The exploration of the space hulk is told in a reasonably terse but conversational style that exudes a pleasingly sinister atmosphere. When the moment of true horror does come (at the very end) the matter-of-fact manner in which it's conveyed makes it all the more effective. (And the miming is kind of funny in a very morbid way, too.)

In short, this is a damn' fine opening and I'll be reading the rest as time allows.

Thanks for sharing!

JDD
JDD story of the moment: Glory
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:21 pm

Cheers JDD! I wish I could say that I do know what I'm doing and did everything you pointed out on purpose! At best its something of a semi-conscious process. I think. Its mostly a matter of describing imaginings, if that makes any sense. A better way to put it, perhaps, would be to say that I don't put much conscious effort into translating thoughts into words.: the middle stage between imagination and end product seems to just... happen. Except on bad days, when nothing seems to happen at all.

And now we return to the Interrogator who, harking back to Part XXI, has suddenly found himself up a certain creek without a paddle...

***

Part XXII


Orbital Resettlement Platform Alpha



(The entire platform feels like it is shaking itself apart. It probably is. Red warning lights spark out with every shudder, spraying glass shards across the corridors. Emergency klaxons blare and scream. Heavy blast doors are starting to slowly, inexorably grind themselves shut. The air seethes with sheer panic. There are people everywhere, flocking towards about in hope of survival: uniformed Navy and PDF men, robed adepts of the Administratum and Mechanicum, tattered Eurydician refugees by the score. It takes no effort to blend into the panic.)

(I run through the corridors, desperately further into the mass of the Orbital. The Resettlement Platform is gigantic enough for the outer layers to effectively shield the central hub… at least for a while. That will give me time enough to think of a way out of this. Hopefully.)

(Suddenly, I am tackled from the side. Knocked to the ground I reflexively try to squirm away from the figure that collided with me. It takes me a second to realise that it is Major Krache. I am taken aback, able to do nothing but gape at him for a second. He pulls himself closer and then slams one of his gauntleted fists into my face. The sense of shock almost as palpable as the pain. My head snaps back, cracking against the deck.)

Stay down!

(Krache gives me another punch to the face for good measure, leaving me dazed. Distantly, I can feel him patting me down… looking for something. The crowd might be in a state of panic, but the individuals making it up are not yet desperate enough to try and stampede over a bloodstained soldier in hulking carapace armour. They part around us.)

(After a few seconds, Krache finds the dataslate in my pocket. He tears it out of my thigh pocket and stands, slipping it into one of his own. He gives me a disparaging sneer and then kicks me hard in the stomach. The armourplas cuirass takes most of the force out of the boot, but it is still enough to wind me, make me grit my teeth and screw my eyes shut in pain. When I open them again, the Major is gone.)

(The crowd starts to hem in on me immediately. I scramble up, but not before having my fingers stamped on a few times. I start to stagger along with the crowd’s momentum. In all honesty, I am totally thrown by Krache’s actions. What the Throne was he doing? He can’t have always been with Hannos because he’s had ample opportunity to get rid of me. Has he been playing both sides? Is he trying to switch sides now, seizing the dataslate as collateral in the hope of some kind of negotiated salvation with the Inquisitor?)

(I force Krache from my mind. Now is not the time to worry about him. I still need to get off the platform.)


(As a stumble along, a powerful hand grabs me by the scruff of my neck. I try to snap around, but I’m pushed forwards sharply.)


Keep moving!

(It is Klyst’s voice. For a few terrifying moments, the only thing inside my head is the idea that Klyst is somehow out to get me in the same way as he superior. The fear fades, though. If the Corporal was going to kill me then I would already be dead. More to the point, he starts to guide me forwards through the crowd, pushing me forwards into a run along the path of least resistance. The crowd jostles at me, but gives way when they look round and see Klyst.)

(The blast door up ahead is starting to close. People are screaming, trying to squeeze through the tightening gap in time. Klyst swears under his breath and forces me right, across the corridor and through the crowd into a side-passage. I can’t see how it will do any good: all the blast doors in this section of the orbital will surely be operating on a common timer.)

(The side passage is dark. Klyst lets go of me and brings his lasgun up, flicking on an underslung lamp pack. Two more lights flash on with it. I glance over my shoulder, Klyst is not alone: there are two more stormtroopers with him. One of them pushes past and leads the way forwards. A few of the crowd start to follow us, but the tail-end stormtrooper bellows at them to stay back and aims his lasgun at them. We quickly leave them behind.)

Klyst what the Throne i-

Shut it and keep moving. We don’t have much time!

(After a few minutes following the contorting passage, we enter a darkened corridor. The blast doors are all already clamped shut here. The gloom and quiet is such a departure from the frantic noise and panic of the crowd in the last corridor that even the shaking of the ship- now accompanied by distant, but hideously audible groans as titanic sections of the orbital’s structure buckle under the bombardment stress- seems somehow muted. On the wall opposite us is an embossed symbol: a three metre high skull- half skeletal, half machine- ringed with a cog. The symbol serves as a warning to lost or curious crew: this area is a ward of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Somewhere to avoid at all costs...)

(We approach one of the blast doors. Klyst pulls me out of the way. One of the stormtroopers hands another his lasgun and unslings a lascutter from his back. The bulky device whines up to full power and then emits a blinding, coherent beam of light about a foot long. In a moment the stormtrooper is slicing a hole in the underside of the blast door. It takes him thirty seconds to slice out a mousehole big enough for us to crawl through. Then it takes another five seconds to kick the metres worth of cut-out through the hole and out of the way. We scramble through on our bellies. The edges of the door glow red with the residual heat and blister the back of my neck as I pass through.)

(On the other side is a large, vaulted, hexagonal chamber. We have come out onto an upper gantry overlooking a clutch of saviour pods mounted in the floor. Saviour pods! It would figure that the Mechanicum would have some private escape mechanism hidden away somewhere. Unfortunately, our intrusion has not gone unnoticed.)

(Two weaponised servitors stand on the gantry on the other side of the room. Both of them are pallid skinned, machine-parted figures with red glowing targeter eyes and limb-mounted rotary cannons. A trio of tech priests lie dead at their feet. Part of me instantly thinks ‘control error’, but the Interrogator in me suspects that Inquisitor Hannos does not want anyone leaving the Resettlement Platform alive. It would be remiss of me to think that he does not have the authority to demand from the Mechanicum that their servitors assist him in that mission.)

(The servitors’ audio sensors must have picked us up: they turn and start to spool up their cannons immediately.)

(The stormtroopers open fire. Bright blasts of las snap across the distant and impact on the cyborg slave things. Flesh is scoured off, machine parts buckle, wiring fuses. They barely seem to feel it as the multiple barrels of their weapons reach firing speed.)

(Klyst throws me forwards towards the edge of the gantry as hard as he can. I fly through the air, skid across the mesh floor and go over the edge between the guard rails. I manage to grab onto one of the railings before I go completely and spend the next few seconds dangling helplessly.)

(I’m sure I would only be a hindrance anyway. The stormtroopers have all dived onto their fronts, scattering away from the fusillade of hard-rounds. The servitors fire in short bursts, both of them tracking onto one of the stormtroopers. As they spool up again, the stormtrooper in their sights comes up onto his knees and braces his lasgun against his shoulder. There is an underslung, single shot grenade launcher mounted under the barrel.)

(All three fire at the same time. The stormtrooper is instantly killed in the hail of shots, his armour punctured and his chest cavity pulped. His grenade strikes the left-hand servitor in the face. The detonation shreds them both in a blast of fire and smoke, collapsing their section of gantry and spilling the sparking, bleeding, dismembered remains onto the chamber floor.)

(Klyst is hauling me up within seconds. Even as I get to me feet, unfocused and overwhelmed by the rush of events, the other stormtrooper has collected up his dead comrade’s weapons and chest rig and is jamming them into my hands, shouting at me to take them. I sling them both over my shoulders.)

(There is a sudden lurch. It feels like it is the entire platform moving, crumpling under Hersir’s furious attentions. The artificial gravity abruptly dies, leaving us floating and hanging onto the gantry rail. All around us, we can hear the groans and screams of the orbital’s reverberative death throes. Any second now, I am expecting one of the walls to disintegrate and us all to be sucked out into the harsh void.)


(Klyst pulls at my arm, using the lack of gravity to throw me towards the saviour pods beneath us. I sail down there, managed to find a handhold and not bounce off. The stormtroopers follow me down. The Corporal immediately finds an access hatch in one of the pods and punches in an access code to open it. We clamber in. I feel awkward in the lack of gravity. The two stormtroopers seem predictably nonplussed.)

(With the hatch closed again, I busy myself getting into and properly adjusting one of the restraint harnesses lining the inside of the little circular space. Klyst does the same, his comrade quickly analysing the data on the central control panel and making some sharp adjustments.)

(There is a clunk somewhere, then the roar of a thruster. Force asserts itself. Not gravity, but acceleration. Klyst and I are pressed into our harnesses… the other stormtrooper is struggling to strap himself in. The only vibration now comes from the saviour pod itself- we are no longer attached to the Orbital. Lights start to flash past the vision slits studding the walls of the saviour pod. We must be passing down the launch tunnel.)

(The increasing G-forces start to dim my vision. It is getting harder and harder to focus on things. Through one of the viewing prisms, I catch a glimpse of the Orbital Resttlement Platform hanging in open space. It is dying. Twinkling clouds of erupting debris and roiling atmosphere spread out from open wounds. Clouds of fire jet out from damaged sections. A blinding, searing beam of light- a lance beam from Hersir- impacts on the central hub, punching a hole straight through.)

(The saviour pod rotates, shifting my view. The G forces start to increase even more as, whether following a preplanned de-orbit or just the relentless, merciless hand of gravity, the saviour pod starts to descend. Just before I pass out, the murky, foreboding orb of Eurydice looms up and fills the vision slit.)
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Re: The Eurydice Incident

Postby Liber Sanguis » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:36 pm

It's taken ages for me to get round to this and can't decide whether to blame work, Battlefield 3 (I daren't even look at Skyrim) or the nagging feeling I that I've overextended myself. Which is strange, really, because I always intended for things to get planetside.... Anyway, this part was orginally going to give a bit of insight into stormtrooper selection and training, but it got a little silly and OTT so I scrapped it. That means that this part is a tad short... but it does what the plot needs it to.

***

Part XXIII

Eurydice


Wakey wakey…

(I open my eyes, fighting off a splitting headache. Everything is bathed in amber emergency lighting. I am still in the pod, though it is skewed at a sharp angle and I loll against my restraint harness. Straightening up in the seat results in enough aching pain to tell me that I’ve been buffeted violently within the harness. The underseat lockers of the pod- usually full of emergency survival gear- are all open and empty. Presumably the contents are filling the oversized bergan in the middle of the floor. Klyst is nowhere to be seen, though his companion sits across from me. He has his lasgun sat across his lap.)

Finally.

Wha…?

[The stormtrooper frowns, then sighs heavily.]


You are on Eurydice, somewhere in the northern hemisphere because I altered the saviour pod’s pre-planned descent route. No point in making it easy for anyone to find us. Klyst is out having a look around, I’m in here keeping an eye on you and ready to heroically fend off thousands of hungry hungry ‘nids. You… well you were having a nice rest.

[I take it in slowly, still lethargic. Tilting my head, I take a long look out of the armourglass viewport. The last thing I had seen was the globe of Eurydice looming up. Now, all I can see is dark, green-grey murk and fog. It churns laconically, revealing fleeting glimpses of six foot grasses and grossly mutated trees. The only ground I can see is mud strewn with charred off vegetation- the pod’s impact crater.]


And now you’re seeing the effects of biome tyranno-formation for the first time. Make the most of it.

Why?

Chances are it’s the last thing you’ll be seeing.

[I look back at the stormtrooper from the viewport. He has the same neutral aspect as Klyst, but there does seem to be something like amusement twinkling in his eyes.]

What’s your name?

Maher.

Where’s Klyst?


I told you: he’s out having a look around. For all we know, there might be an outpost ten metres through the fog. Then again, we might be on an island in a digestion pool. Klystie’s finding out.

What makes you think this’ll be the last thing I’ll see? I can handle myself better than you think.


Really? Which scenario would you like to consider yourself handling? The ‘nids tearing through the sides of the saviour pod? The impact-stressed ground beneath it giving way and plunging us into a brood complex? A lictor outside in the grass? A party of desperate guardsmen looking for the pod and its emergency supplies? Psychopathic PDF survivors still trying to kill Imperial intruders to their world?

I get the pic-

The sheer misfortune of landing inside the target box of a preplanned aerial, orbital or artillery bombardment? Fast reacting Inquisitorial forces who tracked us down conducting a drop assault on our landing site? Do you think you realistically handle any of those possibilities, even if they were polite enough to happen one at a time?

[There is a pause. Maher has made his point. He changes tone.]

Look on the bright side though: you’ve postponed your death for at an hour or so. You could be a floating corpse up in orbit like most of the planet’s former inhabitants.

Thanks for that. What’s the plan then?

What?

The plan. You stormtroopers always have a plan.

Well I’m glad it looks that way. [He grins.] No plan for this.

No plan at all? You’re just going to ad-lib it? Take it as it comes?


No. We don’t have a plan, we have a drill. All you need to know is that most of our company was already planetside on operations. Once we’ve secured the area- or made it as secure as we can- Klyst and I will bounce a message off the Guard’s satellite net and try and arrange retrieval.

So it’s not so doom and gloom as you make out, is it?

It’s not an instant thing. Even if we broadcast in the clear- and let everyone know exactly where we were- it could still take anything up to a day for someone to reach us. If we ‘cast securely- encrypted over the background net- then well…

How long?


Days at least. A week perhaps. And we’d have to hang around the designated pick-up. Is staying still for a week in this environment enough to constitute doom-and-gloom for you?

Could be worse.


That’s more like it! [He grins.] Things can always be worse.

[He frowns for a moment, his attention obviously shifting elsewhere. After a few seconds, he reaches up to key his vox headset.]


Alright. We’ll come to you.

[He unkeys his vox.]


Which do you want first the good news, the bad news or the really bad news?

You might as well give them in that order.


Okay. The good news is that Klyst has found a decent place for us to lie up in while we wait for pick-up. The bad news is that there’s a malanthrope hanging about.

A what?


[He chuckles. It doesn’t help.] Ask not and let ignorance be your strength.

And the really bad news?

[Maher leans forwards, grabs the survival bergan off the floor of the pod and throws it over towards me. The fact that he can’t throw all the way across is enough to give an indication of its weight.]


You’re carrying that, which means you’re not going to be able to run very fast.
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