Main Group: Aboard Horizon's Pride

 
Ydnar's salvo scythes through the servitors. Most of the constructs' bodies become a fine red misting across the walls and ceiling. Bits and pieces litter the floor, sparking and hissing as they twitch like insects in their dying throes. As the last reflexive motions weaken and trail away, a silence falls over the hall.

Heth holsters his laspistol, his mouth twisting wryly as he surveys the carnage. "Let's hope there aren't more," he says.



Brother Androcles

"Brigadier, in my experience, there are almost undoubtedly more." Brother Androcles said, switching his bolter's clip out for a fresh one with swift, practiced motions. "But we will cross that particular bridge when we come to it."

He stored the mostly full clip he'd just taken out in his ammo pouch for refilling later and then clapped Ydnar on the shoulder. "Excellent shooting, Brother." he complimented as he walked past to examine the remains.

He unsheathed his chainsword and turned one of the servitors over, his lip curling in disgust. "Foul sorcery is at work here. These servitors should not have even had the brainpower required to speak in full sentences. Let us hope that this is just a random fluctuation in the ship's Gellar Field and not a determined heretic at work somewhere on board. Either way, we should rendezvous with Brother Camael on the bridge." he decided.

Heth nods, leads the kill-team back the way they came. They pass the squad of troopers from the range. Laser burns score the walls of the hall, and a pair of dead servitors lay at the far end. The sergeant is in mid-harangue, barely noticing the Space Marines as they pass.

"Unbelievable. Almost three power packs apiece to bring down two walking can openers. Shame it weren't orks. They'd have painted the walls with you lot's guts and I'd have thanked them for putting you all out of my misery. Maybe then I could get some soldiers who can shoot better than. . ."

***

The elevator returns the group to the plush halls of the main deck. Heth pushes the carved wooden door to the bridge. It is a spectacular room, armorcrys panels that would look out onto the void now shuttered by metal to hide the terrors of the Warp from mortal eyes. To the killteam's right, the command throne stands atop of recessed dais, a swarm of bronze cherubs patrolling the air above it.

The room's opulence is somewhat marred by the damage. Crewmembers scurry about, picking up bits of dead servitor. Enginseers moan over control lecterns and cogitators damaged in the crossfire, desperately trying to appease the wounded machine spirits. Heth stands at an ellipsoid table in the center of the half-circle chamber, spent bolter shells lying at his feet. His two bone handled bolt pistols lay close at hand on the table. He straightens and turns as the kill-team enters.

"My Lords. We have you to thank that this was merely a disaster instead of a catastrophe. If not for you there's no telling how many would've died. . .or what vital systems the servitors would've crippled." He gestures towards the devastation. "They were here to kill me, it seems, and knock out shipwide communication. Your comrade Sergeant Camael stopped some from deactivating the Gellar Field generator. Two munitions loader units attempted to destroy the magazines on the gunnery decks."

Suddenly he slams a fist onto the table, his face contorted with barely constrained rage. "This was deliberate sabotage, meant to cripple my ship if not destroy it out right. Whoever is behind this will pay!"

The doors swing inward once again. Sergeant Camael steps through, followed by a tech-priest in the robes of a middle-ranking enginseer. Lan greets them with a nod as he shakes out his hand.

"Sergeant." He sweeps his gaze over the assembly. "Where is your apothecary?"

As if one cue, Artemis's hails the kill-team over their vox net. "Brothers, this is Apothecary Marr. I am afraid I have sustained some injuries defending the medicae ward. Nothing serious, but I will see to them first, just to be certain. I will join you on the bridge as soon as I am able."

"Very well," Lan says. "It is clear that sabotage is at work and by the. . .blasphemies those servitors were spouting, the saboteur serves the Ruinous Powers." He swallows, a flicker of his eyelids betraying unease. Quickly, the Trader masters himself.

"I know that dealing with aliens is your forte, My Lords, but I'm afraid we have no experience hunting heretics on this craft. What does the Deathwatch suggest?"

Brother Camael salutes his team with the aquila and moves to stand among them. "Arrange for an inquisitor to be brought aboard, Captain. There can be no long-term certainty until that is done. In the meantime, however, I suggest that you assign Deputy Enginseer Gaius to head the inspection of your remaining servitors. I do not know how well you trust the remainder of your tech-priests, but I have witnessed first-hand his willingness to risk his life for ship and crew." The big marine frowns, looking displeased. "With your permission, I would like to speak with the young man who claims to have killed an enginseer in self-defense. Boatswain Brizz mentioned him to me."

Lan nods. "Very well. Veyoris, have the sergeant of the brig bring Crewman Bennex up here." A pale man in a green, high collared greatcoat detaches from a nearby knot of senior ship officers.

"I'll see to it, Captain." He strides quickly off the bridge.

"I'd intended to simply hold Bennex until he could be turned over to Mechanicus authorities. But this development does cast things in a different light. And if you think Enginseer Gaius is best suited for the job of examining the rest of the servitor pool, Sergeant, then I agree with you."

He turns to the rest of the Kill-team. "Anything else that should be done? I'll not have my ship turning into a breeding ground for heresy and sorcery."

Brother Androcles

"Brother Eldgrim," Androcles looked over at the Rune Priest with a curious expression, "I wonder if your more specialized senses would be able to detect some clue about this sorcery that the rest of us cannot? Though the names and titles change, you are not so unlike my chapter's Librarians..." he prompted.

"As for more mundane precautions, I would suggest switching around the crew's duty rosters, assigning men you trust to perform surprise inspections and oversee operations, post armed guards in vital areas to prevent further acts of sabotage, and ask that your Navigators seclude themselves when not on duty and perform whatever rituals and prayers are necessary to keep them from being compromised should another sorcerous attack target them. They are also vital to the ship's functioning, after all, and much easier to sabotage than an enormous piece of machinery." he rattled out a few suggestions as he tried to picture all of he avenues of attack a hidden heretic might attempt to exploit.

"In the meantime, my battle brothers and I will perform our own investigation into the matter in the time remaining until we reach Aurum." he decided. "We will hunt down this heretic and cleanse this ship of the filth in the Emperor's name."

"I'll see what I can find, give the destroyed servitors a check and a once-over of any the tech-priests are tending to at the moment." Eldgrim said. "Hope this just an aspiring heretic with a knack for corrupting servitors and not a full-blown sorcerer."

Psyniscience test:
Dice Roll:
1d100
d100 Results: 74

Can't remember what characteristic the skill uses and can't get at my books at the moment.

Lan nods along as Androcles runs down the procedures. "Very well. And I promise the full cooperation of the crew as you make your inquiries. I only ask that you try to minimize the disruption to their duties as much as possible; we still have a ship to run and a mission to complete on Aurum."

The Rogue Trader runs a hand through his silvery hair. "You. . .Gaius, was it? Give me your first approximation of the technotheological situation."

After a hesitant look towards Camael, Gaius steps up to the table. His voice emanates from a speak patch on his metallic face. Modulated and distorted by static, it gives little clue to his inner thoughts, but the way the mechadendrites on his back sway and jitter it's apparent the enginseer is nervous.

"Someone--the heretek, I suppose--planted a metamorphic logic bomb in the servitor programming, corrupting their machine spirits. Very difficult to detect. It was keyed off the ship cogitators to activate when we entered the Immaterium. . ." Clearly gaining confidence, the enginseer embarks on a long explanation, sprinkled with technotheological jargon that leaves Lan frowning and Brigadier Heth scratching his head.

". . .in short, Captain, the most important thing is to begin inspecting the remaining servitors as soon as possible. The corruption cannot spread between units, it appears, so it is likely that all the infected units activated and were then destroyed. But we must be sure."

It takes the Rogue Trader a moment to realize Gaius has stopped talking. "Best get to it, then."

Gaius takes his leave, parting with a nod and a bow. At the door he stands aside for two ship security officers, hold a young man between them. He wears the grayish jumpsuit of a low ranking crewmembers. Outlines of frayed thread at the shoulder and collar show where the insignia had been recently removed. His wrists are bound in cuffs.

"Oh, Throne," he says, catching sight of the Astartes. He gulps, another prayer dying with a meek gurgle in his throat.

"Crewman Kohl Bennex," Lan says, nodding to the Space Marines. "Your witness, Arbitrator."



Camael clears his throat and addresses the prisoner.

"Explain how you came into conflict with an enginseer, Crewman Bennex. I am told that you claim he attacked you?"




 

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