The delegation of Mechanicus (all of whom the D’Stayns now considered hereteks) departed without incident. Forward Black Lancer scouts confirmed that the contingent disappeared into the depths of Unfailing Allegiance. They would no doubt be back and with numbers enough to deal with the intruders. As such, the D’Stayn forces decided to make themselves scarce.
Hovering outside of the Allegiance in her newly captured Thunderhawk gunship, Vesper opened fire on weak points in the hull with the Thunderhawk’s lascannons, breaking through the damaged metal to reveal the D’Stayn team below. Unfortunately, the action got the attention of several of the Allegiance’s macrocannon batteries (which were not as destroyed as previously assumed). Vesper’s masterful flying prevented her from being atomized on the spot, but the Thunderhawk suffered a fatal crash landing only a few dozen meters from the rest of the D’Stayns.
Undeterred, Vesper led the D’Stayns back to the hanger bay she had previously discovered and secured a second Thunderhawk, though this one required more of Magos Omnus’ technical skill to resuscitate. While the repairs were underway, the D’Stayn leaders conferred and decided that they would attempt to fly into the massive engines of the Allegiance, traveling as far as possible with the Thunderhawk before proceeding on foot to enter the sacred engineerium of the warship. Once there, they would recon the situation and, if necessary, strike at the hereteks.
The flight to the great plasma exhausts of the light cruiser was a simple matter – at least for Vesper. Only a hundred or so close combat gun turrets were still operational and Vesper was able to avoid those with ease. She guided the gunship through the ever-narrowing exhaust ports until the ship could go no further. Leaving a token force of Lancers to guard the ships, the D’Stayn team pressed on.
They found the outskirts of the engineerium to be largely unoccupied and dark, with signs of crude salvage attempts and ransacking of supplies everywhere. As they went deeper into the Mechanicus realm, some power was restored but the walls were littered with heretical symbology, futher proof of the Tech-Priests’ treason against the Imperial Creed. When the D’Stayn force reached the edge of what would be the warp drive chambers, they encountered resistance in the form of three heavy combat servitors and two of the so-called ‘seed-born’ encountered with Magos Barrabas’ delegation.
Stealth was attempted but failed, erupting into a bloody combat. The seed-born proved especially brutal and strong in the fight. In the end, the guards were slain thanks to pinpoint shooting by Lady-Captain Morgan and Tryft, but Eurydice was critically injured by a barrage of heavy bolter fire and barely survived the battle. She was forced to settle back in a makeshift stretcher carried by Lancers while the painkillers ran their course. While in a delirious state, she inadvertently confessed to Vesper the secret of her liaison with one of the Emperor’s elite Astartes warriors. Vesper kept the information to herself, rocked by the revelation.
The D’Stayn party moved on, albeit a little slower than before. When they finally reached the warp core itself, they found it surrounded by a pattern of dark mysticism. The energy of the warp engines pulsated through the symbols and blood-stained lines. Small groups of tech-priests tended to the arcane design while others periodically wheeled in modified stasis pods. The pods were placed in certain segments of the pattern and the warp energy seemed to flow into the containers. After a few seconds to several minutes, the pods would be wheeled away.
The D’Stayns were able to see that virtually all traffic seemed to come and go from a single corridor. Using their knowledge of Imperial ships, Vesper and Tryft led the D’Stayns in a roundabout path that eventually came back to that same corridor. Most of the chambers they passed were storage for medicae equipment and biological samples. Others were converted processing rooms where scarlet-splattered Mechanicus busied themselves with dissecting a myriad of space hulk creatures. Still others were implantation rooms for installing and modifying bionic augmentation – many of the ‘seed-born’ were within these rooms.
Finally, the D’Stayn scouts located one of the larger storerooms that was heavily guarded by a dozen ‘seed-born.’ Guessing that this was obviously an important location, Tryft sent the Black Lancers along with Eurydice, Pulveria, and the young Reavers into the ventilation ducts and access conduits while the rest of the D’Stayns disguised themselves in crimson Mechanicus robes and marched straight up to the main entrance. Meretek (with some coaching from Janessa and Vesper) bluffed his way past the ‘seed-born’ guards and led the D’Stayns into the chamber.
The sight that greeted them filled the Explorers with revulsion. Dozens, if not hundreds, of stasis pods were stored in the vast room. Tech-priests and servitors were busy butchering the remains of Imperial Space Marines, attempting to harvest the sacred gene-seed from the corpses along with the specialized Astartes organs that made the Marines the most powerful fighting soldiers in the Imperium. Magos-biologis were storing and cataloging the harvested parts before taking samples and sending them through some sort of replication machine. The genetic material from this process was then being implanted into a variety of brutalized human (and semi-human) bodies while hereteks chanted arcane words and worked mystical rituals.
At the center of the charnal house, like a maestro directing a dark symphony, was a Mechanicus Magos of immense size. His body was warped and twisted beneath his tattered red robes and his Mechanicus augmentations seemed an unholy blending of organic and bionic. A face covered in lenses and protruding bone swiveled to face the disguised D’Stayns, as if the Magos could sense the intrusion into his domain.
“Unbelievers…pawns of the hidebound Martian powers,” he hissed and bellowed, his voice the sound of gargled metal, “You have intruded about the realm of Fabricator Zophon and for that you forfeit your organic material our cause – the secrets of the Emperor await!”
And seemingly as one, the hundreds of tech-priests, seed-born enforcers and combat servitors turned toward the D’Stayn group and attacked.