An hour had passed since the end of the battle with the Mechanicus Priests and their servitors. Two or three dozen of the mindless machine-men continued their monotonous work cutting sections of the hyper-dense metal from the gigantic ram-prow that made up the front of the Idolator raider. They were allowed to continue working as no one was quite sure what else to do with them.
Four of the six Tech-Priests were dead, most of them atomized by weapons fire from the Black Lancers, but two had managed to survive, thanks in no small part to efforts by Eurydice and Meretek. Now the pair sat comfortably against a slab of wreckage, kept far enough apart that they could not whisper to one another. As a precaution, Tryft had instructed Meretek to disable the two prisoners’ bionic arms and mechadendrite, a process that the young Explorator found distasteful, though he complied nonetheless. Their weapons had also been taken, revealed to be heavily modified Imperial laspistols and exceptional quality Lathe-pattern mono-blades. There was little else of interest on their persons.
The two Tech-Priests had only recently regained consciousness, recovering quickly thanks to their bionic augmentations. They had silently assessed their situation and remained unmoving and unspeaking, not even broadcasting in binary to one another. As the D’Stayn leaders conferred quietly about what to do next, the two men simply sat on the ground, observing their Black Lancers guards and the motley group of Rogue Traders.
“Perhaps our tech priest should attempt to speak with them?” Eurydice suggested. “Tell them who we are and what we are doing here? Perhaps he can make a good impression on them.”
She glances over to Meretek, who is currently fiddling with one of his servo skulls, laughing and talking to it as if it were a beloved pet.
“Or… perhaps not,” she sighs.
“Maybe… we tell them we’re here to bring them back into the Fold of the Imperium so we get an escort to their leaders. They don’t fight without a leader right?” Vesper asks, out of earshot of the two techpriests, actually whispering for a change.
Though he had only been quietly listening to this point and was loathe to intrude, Lexmechanic Gauss cleared his throat and stepped forward. “My Lord and Ladies, if it pleases you, I will be happy to try speaking with my brother Priests. I would prefer to defer to Magos Omnus’ seniority and wisdom, but if you require it, I can interview the two Magos. I would simply need to know what information you wish me to learn.”
On the outskirts of the discussion, Kas and the other Reavers lurked. They had been asked to keep a distance from the captured Tech-Priests, which they did – though they kept shooting wary or hateful glances toward the two robed figures. Instead, they ventured closer and closer to the mindlessly working servitors, hands drifting more and more toward the hilts of their weapons.
“”/campaigns/rogue-trader-pride-and-profit/characters/vesperevasaraphangeline" class=“wiki-content-link”>Vesper, you may want to distract your new friends before they start something we may regret later." Janessa turned to Gauss. “I think the most important thing we need to know is their history and are they actively attacking the Reavers.”
Gauss bowed respectfully and moved toward the two disabled Tech-Priests. There followed a long conversation in rapid lingua-technis. While Janessa was not as good at reading tone and body languages in the Mechanicus as she was with other people, she did get the impression that the two prisoners were ‘talking down’ to Gauss. The young lexmechanic seemed unperturbed by this behavior though and, after several minutes, returned to the D’Stayn leaders, a somewhat troubled look on his face.
He bowed again to Janessa. "My Lady, I was not able to glean as much information from the prisoners as I’m certain you would prefer. Due to my low rank within the Mechanicus, I am not worthy of their secrets. However, I was able to infer some data from our conversation.
“Neither of these two enginseers are from the original core of the local Cult. One originally served aboard a vessel called the Hymn of Faith, an Ecclessiarchy transport that collided with this space hulk after being caught in a warpstorm approximately seven hundred years ago. The other was part of the crew of the Celestial Majesty, a Rogue Trader ship that crashed here about one hundred fifty years ago due to an Ork gravity weapon. Both were recruited, along with many of their fellow Mechanicus, by the core group of Magos, who made up the enginseer corps of the Unfailing Allegiance.” He gestured around them. “That is the name of this vessel, which did indeed do battle during the Angevin Crusade as Lady Magdalene surmised.”
Gauss shifted slightly, looking uncomfortable. “The core Magos are led by Fabricator-Genetor Zophon, originally the head of the medicae corps aboard the Allegiance.” He paused then pressed on. “My Lady, I should note that I am disturbed by this Zophon using the title of ‘Fabricator.’ Such a honor is reserved for the leaders of the Adeptus Mechanicus on Mars. This designation seems….presumptuous.”
Gauss was silent for a moment then returned to reporting hard data. “The Mechanicus are taking members of the Reaver tribe for use as servitors and experiments. The Tech-Priests were very open about this….and callous as well. They see the Reavers – and the local mutants and even Orks – as a resource to be harvested as needed. I was not able to learn much about the experiments they mentioned as genetics, biology, and medicae are not among my skills, but Zophon and the core Magos seem to have a goal in mind. Something about re-creating a great work of the Emperor.” Again, Gauss paused, looking disturbed.
“The Mechanicus have been operating here since the Angevin Crusade some 2500 years past when the Allegiance collided with the Red Haze…” He gestured to the raider vessel. "…and suffered a warp engine failure that took them and a slave vessel named the Pit of Despair into warpspace. They have survived the centuries thanks to cold sleep capsules, though these two imply that Zophon and some of the greater Magos live on thanks to advanced biological and bionic augmentations. Everything they do seems to revolve around their genetic experiments.
“Also, they do not refer to themselves as the ‘Iron Makers’ or ‘Iron Takers.’ That appears to be a designation given to them by the Reavers.”
Gauss bowed once more. “Forgive me, my Lady. I was unable to gain any further information.”
Vesper wanders over to the small reaver group sneaking up on the servitor skulls, “They’re not really an enemy you know.” She says quietly, “They’re tools, we could make them useful. They’re more like self-aware screw drivers. Sort of.” She thinks for a moment “They also make great basketballs in zero-g.”
“If this so-called Fabricator is attempting to recreate the great work of the Emperor, then this is heresy most foul and base,” Eurydice says through gritted teeth. “We must learn more, and then put an end to it.”
“The only question is, do we go in shooting and then ascertain our answers later, or do we attempt to greet them peaceably and then slay them when our fears are confirmed?”
“Going in shooting is going to be difficult. They know the terrain and can set ambushes, and we do not know their numbers. We might never make it to the command center. Attempting to parlay with them first has the advantage that we may be able to get to their commanders quickly and without losses, but we’ll be in the middle of hostile territory with no safe egress. I and my men are ready and willing to do that which the Captain commands.”
Janessa nodded to Gauss, “You did an excellent job.” She listened to Eurydice’s comments, “I’m not sure if either is going to work. If they see everything as resources to used, that could include us. I always perfer the diplomatic route frist, we can alway shoot later.”
Gauss put in. "I should note that my brother Tech-Priests here do not seem overly hostile or negative toward our group – at least as far as I could ascertain. It is my opinion that they might be open to a dialogue, especially given their prisoner-of-war status. I of course cannot speak to the response of the rest of the Mechanicus.
“It is important to say that I believe they were successful in getting at least a partial call for assistance during our attack. They seem to be expecting reinforcement very soon.”
“Let’s see if Gauss or Meretek can send out a broadcast on their vox frequency, to let them know we want to open a parlay with them. That way, when their reinforcements do arrive, they might not come in shooting.”
While the two Tech-Priests worked to commune with the holy vox frequency used by the two prisoners, Tryft and Eurydice organized the remaining Black Lancers into a wide defensive deployment, taking advantage of the cover made plentiful by the torn wreckage of the two ships and the mining operations of the still-toiling servitors. A third of the Lancers – especially those with long-range and heavy weaponry – returned to the edge of the _Allegiance_’s lance battery barrels, providing cover over the area. The rest spread out in small groups behind cover but within sight of other groups. A small detachment led by Tryft moved outside of the mining operation, guarding the handful of corridors and access ways in preparation for the arrival of the Mechanicus contingent – regardless of whether it would be friendly or hostile.
Kas and the other Reaver youths grudgingly allowed themselves by led back up with the overwatch Lancers. Vesper was forced to go along with them to keep them under control. The Reavers were like caged cats, pacing and fidgety, constantly checking their weapons. The fear and hatred that Kas and her friends felt toward the “Iron Takers” was almost physical. It was so strong that Pulveria had to move to the lower levels to avoid a migraine.
After a bit of effort, Meretek was able to access the Mechanicus binary frequency and transmit roughly the same introduction that Eurydice had made to the Reaver chieftain Malchiah – namely, that the D’Stayns were a Rogue Trader House looking for trade and salvage and willing to negotiate with the Mechanicus for some sort of profitable agreement. Since the prisoners had said that a distress message was already transmitted, Meretek also added that a tragic exchange had indeed occurred between the D’Stayns and the mining group but that the conflict had been the result of a misunderstanding and that House D’Stayn would like to avoid further hostilities through conversation. Janessa coached Meretek through proper language to hopefully avoid further antagonism with the Mechanicus.
Almost thirty minutes passed (in which Meretek re-transmitted the message a couple times) before the so-called Iron Makers responded. The reply was terse:
“Requested dialogue accepted. Await Mechanicus contingent at current location.”
The Lancers remained in position and under cover. Tryft returned to the rest of the D’Stayn group, though Vesper was forced to stay with the Reavers to make certain they kept out of trouble. Pulveria brought all the D’Stayn officers (and a Lancer sergeant from each of the three deployments) into a mental communion, mostly to avoid eavesdropping by any of the Mechanicus. The D’Stayns quickly decided who would greet the Mechanicus (no one really looked to Meretek) and who would accompany them.
After almost another hour, Pulveria heard from the sergeant in command of the outrider Lancers. Hostiles incoming. Count six cogboys, er, Tech-Priests. Same number of combat servitors. Also same number of electro-priests. And…. There was a pause. And…four…uh, four ‘things’ — huge, look like a cross between an industrial servitor and some kind of hulk mutant. The sergeant then got a hold of his surprise and reported weaponry, direction of approach, ETA, and so forth.
The hidden Lancers and the prepared D’Stayn contingent readied themselves. From her vantage point, Vesper spotted the Mechanicus group first. As reported, a half dozen Tech-Priests wrapped in worn crimson robes marched purposefully toward the D’Stayn group. Each had a powerful combat servitor, arms replaced by heavy weaponry, accompanying him. A ring of six of the fanatical electro-priests, sparking electoos dripping with liquid lightning, were spread out around the group, constantly looking for likely targets.
Finally, a trio of massive humanoids formed a triangle between the Tech-Priests and the electro-priests. They were the size and mass of Ogryns or Ork Nobz with limbs and features twisted and warped like space hulk or deep underdeck mutants. Obvious bionic grafts were affixed at joints and over faces, looking like they were painfully correcting defects. The main similarity in appearance between the three twists was a black fibrous tendrils that seemed organic in nature and wrapped around the humanoids, especially dense around the torso. In addition, each of the three carried bolter and chain weapons, apparently sized to fit in their massive hands.
The group approached the D’Stayns without looking around (save for the electro-priests, who looked at everything) and stopped a short distance from them. The lead Tech-Priest stepped away from the others, his servitor only a pace behind him, and briefly studied the D’Stayns from beneath the shadows of his cowl. Twin pinpricks of red light (and a third of green) flickered under the hood.
“I am Magos Barrabas,” the Tech-Priest said without preamble, his voice scratchy and mechanized, “This dialogue may now commence. Begin with additional data as to your identity and purpose. Conclude with reasons for your attack on our operation. Response will depend on the content of your data.”
In order to keep the Lady-Captain and her aid out of the sight of these potential hostiles, Eurydice steps forward. “I am Eurydice Magdeline of the Rogue Trader House D’Stayne,” she says. "We are on a rescue and salvage mission, with a mandate to bring the light of the most holy God-Emperor to the darkest reaches of the void. We are, as you can see, also blessed by the presence of Mechanus Explorators.”
“We ask your forgiveness for the tragic misunderstanding that took place here. Your mech-brothers were slain before either of us had a chance to identify ourselves properly. As you can see, we performed the medicae rites on those who survived the initial firefight. As a gesture of good-will, we return them to you.”
“House D’Stayne may have much to offer, not the least of which is a welcome back into the Holy Imperium of Man. I believe we have a great deal to talk about.”
Magos Barrabas stares unmoving for a moment before emitting a short burst of binary static. Meretek is able to recognize the static and Explorator Binary – it is a command to the lesser Magos to recover the two prisoners and bring them into the protective circle of the ‘seed-born’. Two Tech-Priests move to their captured brethren and assist them in getting to their feet and joining the main group.
As the other Magos begin reactivating the prisoners’ disabled bionics, Barrabas speaks to Eurydice. “Symbolic gesture is acceptable. However, loss-compensation ratio remains inadequate.” The Tech-Priest gestures with a metal hand tipped with needle-like injectors toward the missile craters and scrap remains of battle-servitors. “Six combat units destroyed. Four Enginseers killed.” Barrabas flicks a surgical mechadendrite toward some of the visible Lancers crouched nearby behind cover.
“Eight organic combat units will be taken as compensation for battle-servitors,” Barrabas continues in a toneless voice, “All field equipment and weaponry included. Twelve additional units and two D’Stayn command units will serve as compensation for loss of Tech-Priests. Further donations of biological material will be counted as proof of diplomatic intentions.”
The nearest Lancers tense at the cold demands of the Magos, but they keep their discipline and avoid opening fire outright. The Mechanicus electro-priests seem to notice and the arcs of electricity dancing around their bodies accelerate, casting blue light and contrasting shadows. The fear and tension is enough to make Pulveria wince.
Magos Barrabas doesn’t seem to notice. “Additional clarification: no interest in returning to the Imperium exists. The holy work dictated by Fabricator Zophon must continue without interference. The secrets of the Omnissiah await.”
The ex-Sister of Battle fights the urge to simply pull out her bolter and put a bullet into the skull of the impudent Magos who would dare say such a thing. “One moment while I confer with my comrades,” Eurydice says.
On the private vox, and speaking in the odd cant unique to the House of D’Stayne, “Vesper, what is your 20?”
“Um… nothing! I wasn’t doing anything,” Vesper replies, perhaps too quickly. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I told you to take the Reavers and remain silent and unseen. Since I neither see you nor hear you, I can only assume that you’ve managed to sneak away and are up to some sort of mischief.”
There was a longer pause this time. “We’re acquiring superior air support. You’ll like it! We can really bring the thunder!”
Eurydice managed to avoid rolling her eyes. “Good. Negotiations are not going well. Be prepared to provide cover, ASAP.”
The Sister then turns back to the Mechanus. “I would like to offer a counter-proposal,” she calmly replies. “Since your people fired first without giving us the chance to identify ourselves, and since several of our own contingent were killed or wounded by their rash actions, we require the safe return of the 40-some Reaver scouts taken approximately twelve cycles ago. In exchange, we will gladly welcome you back into the sheltering arms of the most holy Imperium.” These last words have an edge of steel to them.
Vesper sighs when the connection is cut, “Seriously, what if I actually was sitting still and being quiet? Huh? They never think of that.. alright everybody – I told you they’d need rescuing.” She stashes her flak armor somewhere out of the way and prepares to do some serious flying, “OK, internal bulkheads, damaged at that, aren’t going to be too much trouble to blast through…” She tries to remember exactly where they are in position to where she started and the Thunderhawk goes through a power up cycle. “Oh, listen to those engines….”
Out of her peripheral vision, Eurydice can see that the Black Lancers – professionals that they are – have picked up on her tension and are (if possible) more alert and prepared. She knows that the Lancer officers and Tryft have planned for a confrontation. Should fighting break out, the Lancers on the main floor will open fire, trying to keep the Mechanicus clustered together. At the same time, the long-range heavy weapons teams located on the lip of the Red Haze’s lance barrels would rain down death in that cluster, working on the military adage that there is no overkill, only “open fire” and “time to reload.”
Magos Barrabas stares his shrouded gaze at Eurydice for several minutes, though Meretek informs the D’Stayn group through Pulveria’s telepathic link that the Tech-Priests are conversing rapidly into high-frequency binary between one another….and with some remote contact as well. Meretek is able to glean that the Tech-Priests are discussing the tactical situation, calculating the odds of four ‘seed-born’ and six electro-priests successfully eliminating fifty or sixty combat-ready organics, while Barrabas confirmed with that remote person regarding the existence of recently ‘harvested’ biological units. Meretek overhears that the Tech-Priests do not feel that a battle now would be in their favor, despite the fanaticism of the electro-priests and the programmed combat prowess of the ‘seed-born.’ He is unable to hear both sides of Barrabas’ conversation but does hear Barrabas accept the news that the captured Reavers are already in the process of being converted into servitors. He also seems to accept some sort of instructions, but Meretek is unclear as to what they are.
As this silent communications occurs, the giant ‘seed-born’ have eased toward the front of the Mechanicus contingent. A couple electro-priests are between individual ‘seed-born’ while the others spread out along the right and left. The Tech-Priests are subtly moving further behind the cover of their minions.
While Eurydice and Tryft notice this, Magos Barrabas – who continues to stand in front of the rest of the contingent – finally speaks. “Conference with fellow Enginseers confirm your data regarding hostile exchange. Counter-proposal is deemed reasonable. D’Stayn command and combat units will accompany delegation to where requested biologicals are being detained. Biologicals will be released into D’Stayn custody and further negotiation may commence at that time and location.”
Flipping back to the D’stayne private channel, Eurydice says, "I’m disinclined to go with them deeper into the ship, where they could ambush us. And if Meretek is correct, the Reaver youths have already been ‘processed’ and are therefore useless to us.
“We surrender all our ammunition to them.” Vesper pipes in over the line.
“We leave.” Janessa states. “I agree with Eurydice, going with them would be too dangerous and we would lost our newly acquired air support. It’s too late to save the Reavers and since these Mechanicus seem unwilling to re-join the most holy Imperium anything we could gain may only be achieved with substantial loss.”
“Negotiations are best carried out on neutral ground,” Eurydice tells Magos Barrabas. “Where there are no secrets to be hidden. We have proven our good intentions by releasing our prisoners. Kindly show your good intentions by doing the same.”
Over the command team’s telepathic link, Meretek confirms that Magos Barrabas is again conferring with a remote contact. Barrabas summarizes the situation and ‘requests’ of the D’Stayns then is silent for a moment as he listens to what must be instructions. Then he speaks briskly and curtly.
“Request accepted. Mechanicus delegation will depart to recover appropriated organic units. D’Stayn delegation will withdraw from Mechanicus territory to await contact. D’Stayn vox frequencies have been analyzed and recorded to facilitate future communication. Warning: further incursions into Mechanicus territory will be categorized as hostile and appropriate countermeasures will be activated. This dialogue session is closed.”
Without any fanfare, Magos Barrabas turns away from Eurydice and the other D’Stayns, walking through the line of hulking ‘seed-born’ to rejoin the other Tech-Priests. As one, the Mechanicus leave the direction that they arrived from, with the ‘seed-born’ walking slowly backwards, meaty hands tight around their bolt weapons and mismatched eyes glaring at the D’Stayns and the Lancers. The electro-priests, still keyed up and crackling with blue arcs, also withdraw, circling the whole Mechanicus party, alert for surprise attack.