Dark Night of the Imperium

The Wages of Sin...
... Are Pretty Good, Actually

Author: Manius Mercutio
Recipient: Priam Lothario
Subject: An Important Task


I have a request for you. By now you will have my instructions to investigate the three nobles linked to this mysterious Praetus. The task I am giving you requires a certain mind set, which I do not believe your fellow acolytes possess, and will almost certainly be easier to achieve alone, rather than in a group.

As you will be aware, Orla Flair was at one time a middle hive prostitute. How she escaped that life and made it to the upper hive is unknown. I want you to find out, by whatever means necessary.

I have arranged a cover story. You are to assume the identity of an auditor for one of the middle hive manufactorae. The work itself is not taxing, you will simply be required to act as a witness as the manufactorum performs an audit of its stock and equipment. However, you will need to fill the role convincingly if your cover is not to be blown.

Fortunately, I think you will find the actual investigation more than makes up for this drudgery. You will find attached to this communication a list of prostitutes known to have worked with Orla Flair, and the brothels that they were last known to be working at. Your task is to find as many of these women as you can, and get what information you can out of them. I am hoping that at least one of them will have some information as to how Orla managed to insinuate herself into the upper hive.

Emperor Protect You,

Manius Mercutio

Priam read the missive from his master with sinking heart. Pretend to be some piddling middle class bean counter? How humiliating…

Still, his heart rose as he read further. Open license to visit as many brothels as he could? Yeah, it could be worth putting up with the mindless bean counting for that…

The Sins of Men
It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye...

Having tracked Jurgen Garssener to one of the hive’s many blood sport arenas, the acolytes learn that he is involved in match fixing. Taking the bold step of interrupting the games, Praetia forced the combatants to fight fairly, no doubt resulting in massive losses for Garssener. While this was happening, Nicodemus kept an eye on Garssener, under the pretence of performing maintenance on the climate control systems of Garssener’s private box…

“Well, lads, did you miss me?” announce Smithy as he entered the acolytes’ accommodation. “What do you think of my new upgrade?”
The acolytes looked around to see that the guardsman now sported a new bionic eye.
“Anything happen while I was away?”

Having brought Smithy up to speed with the events during his absence, Praetia outlined the plan of attack. “We’ve hopefully spooked Garssener, so he might do something under pressure. I suggest we go and find his car, and see where he’s going.”
“You reckon the bug’s still in the car?” grumbled Smithy “I reckon he found that straight away and is onto to you.”
“We’ll go and have a look.”

Despite an hour of searching, the acolytes eventually give up hope of finding the car. “I reckon he found that bug,” said Smithy “It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s high tailed it out of here. I’m going to check and see if there’s any sign he’s left the hive. What are the rest of you going to do now?”
“Well, we know he’s mixed up in fixing fights in the arena.” said Wraxphal “That must mean he deals with bookies fairly regularly. I suggest we try and find out who he deals with, and question them.”

The acolytes, minus Smithy, started their search for bookies at the arena. Having questioned the security guards, they are told they will find the bookies at the pub called “The Head of the Grox”, just around the corner. As Praetia entered the pub, the buzz of conversation dropped, and then picked up again.

Walking up to the bar, Praetia addressed the barman “I need to find a bookie, can you point one out?”
“Need to lay a bet, do you love?” sneered the barman “You won’t find any bookies here.”
“I know that this is where the bookies drink, so do as I say, and point one out!”
“Look love, I don’t know who told you that you could find a bookie here, but they were having a laugh.”
Pulling out her las pistol, Praetia leveled it at the barman “Don’t hinder a servant of the Emperor, tell me what I want to know, or pay the price!”
“Put it away, love, you might hurt yourself. I told you, there’s no bookies here.”

Looking around, Praetia found that half the bar were watching in amusement, and the other half were looking into their drinks nervously. Walking up to the most nervous of them, Praetia grabbed him by the collar. “Right, are you feeling like helping a servant of the Emperor? Lets go and have a chat.”
With that, she started dragging him to the door.

While Praetia escorted her victim out of the bar, Wraxphal sat at the bar. “Hey mon, what do you have that’s strong?”
“Ah, you’d be after a Head Cleaver, then”
“Sounds good, mon”
Watched closely by the bar, Wraxphal knocked the drink back.
Slurring slighty, he said “Hey, that’sh not bad, mon, gimme another!”

Before the second drink could be poured, a commotion from outside caught his attention. As he headed for the door, the micro bead crackled into life. “Guys, I need you out here, I’ve been attacked”
As he left the pub, Wraxphal saw Praetia surrounded by three thugs. One was already wounded, but it would only take a lucky shot from one of them for things to go badly for Praetia. Summoning the power of the warp, he sent the closest thug into convulsions, causing him to spray lasgun fire wildy.

Nicodemus followed Wraxphal out, and engaged the un-wounded thug, taking him by surprise. Praetia pressed the advantage, and aimed carefully at the thug leader’s head. The shot was accurate, causing the thug’s head to explode and catch fire. As the body stumbled around randomly, Nicodemus narrowly missed being set on fire.

Wraxphal pulled out his large axe, and drove it into the thug on the ground, splitting his torso open from neck to groin. Blood washed over the street, making footing very treacherous. Nicodemus, in the mean time had managed to land several shots on the remaining thug, and he stumbled to the ground stunned. “Quick, make sure he doesn’t get away!”

Wraxphal turned to subdue the struggling thug, but slipped in the gore, sliding into the wounded thug. Nicodemus stepped forward to assist, and like wise slipped over. Praetia took a careful step forwards to help her comrades, but caught her foot in a loop of the dead thug’s intestines, and crashed to the ground.

As they struggled to regain their feet, Smithy drove up, parked the car, and entered the pub, shaking his head in disbelief. Sitting himself at the bar, he ordered a drink. As he drank, he asked the barman “So, if a guardsman just off deployment were looking to have a bit of fun, and put down a bit of a wager, where would he go?”
“Well, he’d want to know exactly what he was betting on” replied the barman “Or he’d be likely to end up losing a lot of money. But, if you know the right people, and can grease a few palms, then the arena should prove profitable.”
“Well, my friend” replied smithy, sliding a few thrones across the bar “Can you put me in touch with the right people?”
“I can, at that. You want to talk to Ricardo Jablome. Tell him I sent you, and he’ll look after you”
“Good stuff, I’ll be back to spend my winnings, you can count on it.”
As Smithy left the bar, he too got caught by the gore splattered street, and ended up slipping over. Getting up with a look of disgust on his face, he got back into the car, and drove off.

Despite the treacherous street, the acolytes managed to subdue and restrain their prisoner. As they searched the bodies, they noticed that all three thugs had a tattoo of a crescent moon on their left wrist. Other than that, none of the thugs carried anything which could identify them. Bundling their prisoner into the waiting car, they returned to their accommodation to question him.

Praetia stared the thug in the face and said “Right, let’s start with something simple: Who do you work for?”
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’!”
“Really? You might change your mind after we’ve had our way with you.”
“Nuffin’ you can do would be worse than what they’ll do to me if I tell you anyfing.”
“Really? And who might they be?”
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’!”
“Perhaps our friend might be persuaded to talk if I had a chat with him?” growled Smithy
“Very well” said Praetia “Just make sure he can still talk properly once you’ve finished with him”

“Well now, friend, I’m sure we see eye to eye on this. Just tell us what we want to know, and it’ll all be over very soon.” said Smithy in a friendly tone
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’”
“Oh, that’s a shame. I was so hoping we’d see eye to eye. Of course, the nice thing about eyes is that they’re so useful. push my thumb in your eye to the first knuckle, and your eye will pop, go past that, and it’s into your brain. How do you feel about talking now?”
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’!”
“Very well then, let’s see if this changes your mind.”
With that Smithy pressed his thumb into the hapless prisoner’s right eyeball. The thug gritted his teeth and squirmed, but said nothing.

“Still not talking? How about I try a bit deeper then?” said Smithy, pressing harder.
The thug struggled even harder, and a small moan escaped from his mouth.
“You’re really stubborn, aren’t you? I don’t reckon I’ll need to press much harder for your eye to pop.”
Pressing home the point, Smithy pressed even harder.
“Arrgh! Alright, I’ll talk!”
“See, I told you’d we’d see eye to eye.” Smithy nodded at Praetia “Okay, back to you.”

Praetia leaned over the thug and hissed at him “Okay, let’s start with who you work for”
“I work for Jurgen Garssener”
“Really? What’s he want a piece of scum like you for?”
“I’m in his personal guard.”
“Are you now, and how many others are in his personal guard?”
“There’s about 40 of us.”
“Excellent! See how much easier this is when you cooperate? Now, tell me about that tattoo on your wrist”
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’ about that. It’s more than my life’s worth.”
“Your life’s not worth a pinch of shit right now. Tell us about the tattoo.”
“I’m not tellin’ you nuffin’!”
“Ah, I take it that’s my cue?” said Smithy

Bending over the prisoner Smithy grinned at him and said “That’s a nice tattoo you have there, I wouldn’t mind one like that for myself.”
Pulling out his combat knife, Smithy proceeded to cut around the tattoo, peeling it off the thug’s wrist.
“So, how about you tell me about this lovely piece of artwork?”
“It’s… It’s a common mark that we all wear. Something to do with some group he belongs to. That’s all I know, I swear!”
“Well, if that’s all you know, then we’ve no need to detain you any longer then.”
With that Smithy pulled out his las pistol and shot the thug through the eye.

“Well” said Praetia, “It looks like we’ve got under our friend Garssener’s skin. Let’s send him a message that we’re not intimidated by his thugs.”
“What do you have in mind?” asked Smithy
“Well, we know where he lives, why don’t we deliver this piece of scum back to him?”
“Sounds good to me.”

Driving up to Garssener’s compound, the Acolytes dragged the dead body of the thug out, and held it up against the wall, while Praetia impaled the wrists to the wall. “There, that should get up our friend Garsenner’s nose even more.”
“So, what do we do next?” asked Smithy
“Well, why don’t you meet up with that bookie, and see if we can’t mess Garssener about some more?”
“I like it…”

Smithy returned to The Head of the Grox, and ordered a drink. As he sat there drinking, a man sat down beside him, and looked at the barman, who nodded back at him. “So, I hear you’d be interested in wagering on the arena.”
“Yeah, I’ve just back off deployment, and I have a bit of extra money I wouldn’t mind wagering.”
“You want to be careful, betting on the arena fights. If you don’t know what you’re doing you could lose a lot of money.”
“So, do you have any tips for someone with a bit of cash to burn, and a hankering to watch a few fights?”
“I might be in a position to help, it just depends on what you’re after.”
“Well, you know, it’d be nice to be able to watch the game in comfort, in a private box, say, with room service, if you get my drift. Making a bit of a return on my money would be good, too.”
“Well, if you’ve got 500 thrones spare, I can sort something out. I can have a private box arranged, and I’ll put the rest of the money on the three most promising fights for you.”
“Sounds like a deal.”
“Excellent, just ask to be shown to your box tomorrow afternoon, and let me take care of the rest. Meet me here after the fights to collect your winnings.”

After the bookie had left, Smithy caught the barman’s attention. “So, I’m in need of accommodation, are you able to help a fellow out?”
“Well, we do have some rooms spare, they’re not flash, but I reckon they’ll be better than what you’re used to in the Guard. Tell you what, I’ll do a special rate for you. Best room, 50 thrones a night.”
“Mighty kind of you. Tell you what, I’ll make it sixty, seeing as you’re looking after me so well.”

After being shown to his room, Smithy told the other acolytes over the comm-link that he would be staying separately, so as not to arouse suspicion. They agreed that they would all make their way separately to the arena the following day to monitor Garssener. Nicodemus made a quick visit to Grendel Tybalt, in order to obtain a work order, which would allow him access to the private areas of the arena. They agreed that they would wait until the last fight of the day, when Praetia would again disrupt the fight.

The following day Smithy made his way to the private box, waiting for Praetia’s disruption. Meanwhile the others all entered via different entrances. Wraxphal and Nicodemus had no problems entering, but Praetia is stopped by the security, and warned not to disrupt the fights.
“I won’t disrupt the fights, as long as they are fought fairly.”
“Listen, sister, you don’t know what you’re talking about. The battles out in the arena are only half the fight. The nobles like a bit of sport as much as the next man, but they also enjoy flexing their power as well. How those fights are fought is the end result of a battle of power and money behind the scenes. Mess around with that and you’ll soon be in trouble, even if you are one of the Sororitas.”
“Very well then, I can see that there is more to things than they initially seem. But I warn you, if I detect the use of traitorous powers, I will be forced to act.”
“Just watch yourself, and we’ll all be happy.”
With that, security waved her into the arena.

Making his way to the Arena’s administrative area, Nicodemus asked to be shown to the databanks, in order to perform some maintenance. The arena staff were initially perplexed at his request, until he showed them the work order from Grendel Tybalt. After seeing the work order, the staff show him to the arena’s databanks.

Working quickly, Nicodemus started copying the databanks to his own memory stores. Soon after a staff member interrupted him, demanding to know why he was copying the data. “Backups, of course.” he replied “Of course, if you don’t mind losing all your data if something goes wrong, I’ll be happy to stop.”
“Ah, of course, please continue.”

While waiting for the last fight of the day, Praetia stationed herself in the crowd, in plain view of Garssener’s private box. Every so often, she would look directly at the box, hoping that Garssener saw her presence there. As the last fight commenced, she made her way to the access door for the arena area. Finding the way blocked by guards, she pushed her way to the edge of the arena, and vaulted over the safety railings.

Landing heavily in the arena, she strode over to the fighters, brandishing her las pistol and yelled “Stop this fight!”
The fighters, both trying to watch Praetia and each other stood still, not knowing what to do. Across the arena, a savage cry broke out.

“What’s that fucking bitch doing interrupting the game! Get her out of there, I didn’t pay good money to see the best fight of the day fucking interrupted by some goody two shoes Sororitas slut!”
There was a crash of breaking glass, as a chair was hurled out of a private box window, revealing Smithy, red with rage, brandishing his las gun. As the crowd stared, he opened fire on Praetia, who returned fire. Praetia continued to fire at smithy as she sprinted to the closest arena exit.

Dashing up the stairs, closely followed by security guards, Praeti radioed Wraxphal and Nicodemus. “Listen, I’m probably going to end up arrested here, I need to you to arrange a cover story, just in case they want to know why I’m here.”
Pounding up the stairs to the private box hired by Smithy, Praetia saw him arguing with two guards. “Arrest that man! He is a heretic!”

“I don’t know about heretic myself,” said the most senior guard, a sergeant, “but I know I have orders to arrest you. I think I’ll take you both in and let the powers that be decide.”
Barking orders to the guards that had followed Praetia, the sergeant arrested both of them.
When questioned as to her presence in the hive, and pressed for a reason for the continued disruptions at the arena, Praetia simply stated “I am a Sister of Battle, on the trail of a vile heretic. I believe he is involved with fixing fights at the arena.”
“Oh, is that the case, then? I suppose if we were to contact the Adeptus Sororitas, they’d back your story?”
“They would indeed.”
“Well, we’ll see about that. We’ll see if your story holds water. Until we do, you’ll stay here.”

“As for you, John “Smithy” Smith, I’ve no need to contact the Imperial Guard regarding your record, as I can see it all here. I’ve never seen such a vile record in a serving man in my life. I could well believe that you’d be suspected of being a heretic. We’ll keep you here until we can put you on trial, unless of course you’re able to post half a million thrones in bail?"

During the following week, Wraxphal and Nicodemus worked on making sure that Praetia’s cover story was verified, intercepting the request to the Adeptus Sororitas, and falsifying a reply verifying her story. Nicodemus also managed to search the copied records from the arena, and found numerous financial transactions between Garssener and several bookies.

Once Praetia’s cover story was verified, and she was released, the three acolytes spent a few days preparing for the next part of their task. Tracking the other two nobles, Nigellus Haglethorpe and Orla Flair, the acolytes learn very little, save the exact locations of their residences. They also investigated an address given to them by the thug they interrogated, as he indicated that Garssener visited it frequently. Aside from a well fortified front wall, the acolytes were not able to discover anything about who owned it, or even who visited regularly.

In desperation, the acolytes sent Nicodemus to try and break into the hive government’s records, to see if there was any information on Flair or Haglethorpe. Nicodemus was able to find a small amount of information on the two in the public records, and also discovered that he could access the government databank, but was unable to break through their security systems.

Trawling through the information he found, the acolytes learned that Nigellus Haglethorpe was once tried for allegedly being involved with a crime syndicate. According to the records, Haglethorpe was cleared of any involvement, thanks to the efforts of his team of lawyers, who discredited all witnesses. Orla flair was also on the receiving end of such negative attention, being accused of bribing several powerful nobles. Not much was recorded, and it seems that the case simply disappeared quietly.

A week after Praetia’s release, Smithy is released from prison, after being informed that an unknown party has paid his bail. “I don’t know who’d want to bail you out” growled the prison warden, “But he must think you’re worth something to him.”
Returning to The Head of the Grox, Smithy is met by Jablome. “I heard that they’d let you out, how did you wangle it?”
“I dunno, someone paid the bail, but they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me who.”
“That’s strange, I hope that you’re not getting yourself into anything too dangerous.”
“Ah, I’m no stranger to danger, you never know, could be a bit of fun. Now, I don’t suppose you’ve got my winnings handy?”
“Ah, yeah, about your winnings, there’s a bit of a problem there. You see, when you tore up that private box, you happened to kill a man, that chair you threw landed on his head.”
“Ah well, he should have paid for a better seat, shouldn’t he?”
“Yeah, but it turns out his family weren’t too happy, so between paying them to shut up, and paying for the damage to the box, I’ve had to take a fair bit out of your winnings.”
“Exactly how much are we talking about here?”
“Well, you did pretty well out of the fights, but after the expenses, you’ve only made 250 thrones profit.”
“Ah, well, as long as I’m ahead, it’s all good.”
Handing over Smithy’s winnings, Jablome left him to celebrate.

Not long after the bookie left, a man dressed in nondescript clothing sat down beside Smithy and spoke to him. “Having a bit a celebration?”
“Yeah, I am, as it happens.”
“Thought you might be, after all, it’s not every day that someone pays half a million thrones bail for a guy.”
“And what would you know about bail being paid?”
“I know my master was the one who paid your bail. I don’t think I need to know more.”
“Hmm, if you don’t mind me asking, why exactly did your boss bail me out?”
“You’d be better off asking him. Which is, of course, why I’m here. My master would like to meet with you. I believe he has an offer to make you.”
“Well, I’d better meet him, then.”
“I was hoping you’d say that. Now, I don’t mean to offend you, but I’ll have to ask you to wear a blindfold on the journey there, as well as switch off your bionic eye. Nothing personal, you understand, but my master guards his privacy closely.”
“Yeah, whatever, it’s no skin off my nose.”

Smithy is led to a luxurious car, where he is blindfolded. “Would you care for a drink while we travel, it will take some time to get to my master’s offices.”
“No, I’ll be fine thanks” replied Smithy.
After traveling a rather twisty route for 45 minutes or so, the car eventually pulled up. Smithy heard the driver talking faintly, and then the sound of a gate sliding open. The car started moving again, before heading down a sloping road. When the blindfold was removed, Smithy found himself in an underground car park.

“Feel free to turn your bionic eye back on” said the stranger “Now, if you’d care to follow me, I’ll take you meet my master.”
The stranger led Smithy to an elevator, which took them to nearly the top floor of the building. When the doors opened, Smithy saw a finely furnished waiting room. The stranger said “Please, make yourself comfortable here until my master calls for you.”

“Now, you listen here, sunshine” growled Smithy “Your master may have paid a bunch to get me out of prison, not that I’m ungrateful for that mind you, but I’ll not be treated like some sort of pet, you understand?”
“Of course, but please understand, my master is on the middle of some very important business, and cannot meet you straight away. Please make yourself comfortable, you won’t be waiting long.”

A few minutes later, a well dressed butler appeared, and said “Please follow me, sir, the master will see you now.”
Following the butler, Smithy entered an office furnished even better than the waiting area. As he looked around, a large leather chair swung around, and the man occupying it spoke. “Ah, Mister Smith, it’s good to meet you. I suppose you’re wondering why I should have spent such a large sum of money bailing some guardsman who I’ve not met before out of prison?”
“The thought had crossed my mind, yes” said Smithy
“Well, I saw your performance at the arena a few weeks ago, and I couldn’t help thinking that we could help each other. You see, we have a mutual, well not enemy, but there is someone who appears to be a thorn in both our sides.”
“And you need my help why, exactly? If you don’t mind my saying, you don’t look like the kind of person who needs help from the likes of me. It sounds to me like you’re after someone to take the fall for dealing with this problem person”
“My dear Mister Smith, nothing could be further from the truth. I saw you in action at the arena, and felt that you would be an asset to my business. I’d like to offer you an opportunity to work for me, dealing with those things that make my life difficult.”
“Ah, now that’s the kind of offer a man could be interested in” said Smithy
“I’m glad to hear it. Now, given that I’ve invested quite a sum of money in you, I hope you’ll understand if I ask you to perform one service for me as a demonstration of your good will?”
“Oh? And why would I do that for you?”
“Well, while I have paid your bail, I can very easily take it back, and leave you to rot in prison. But, that would help neither of us, so I trust you’ll agree.”
“Well, when you put it like that, I suppose I don’t have much choice. What is it you need done?”
“Well, there is a man who owes me quite a sum of money. Considers himself an astute gambler, but somehow he doesn’t seem to win all that often. He’s also a drunk. You’ll most likely find him in the pub called The Fighter’s Arms. He tends to drown his sorrows there after a big loss, which seems to be often, these days.”
“I see. And what would you like me to do with him?”
“Well if you can get the money, which I doubt you can, that would be fine. If not, then I’d like you to make an example of him.”
“Right you are then. Leave it to Smithy, you’ll not be disappointed”
“Very well then. I’ll send someone back to The Head of the Grox to contact you in two days time. I trust that will give you all the time you need.”
“Time enough for what I have in mind”
“Excellent. I’ll see you in two days.”

Smithy was led out of the office by the butler, and taken back to the car. “Ah, Mr Smith, if you would be so kind as to turn off your eye and wear the blindfold again, we will return you to your accommodation.”
“Much obliged, sunshine”

Smithy walked the short distance to The Fighter’s Arms, and entered, looking for his target. Looking around the bar, he soon spotted a miserable looking man, slumped over his drink. Greeting him in a booming, cheerful voice, Smithy said “Ah, there you are me old china! Hope you’re still keen to let me in on your secrets!”
Looking at Smithy in confusion, the man replied “I’m sorry, who are you? I think you’ve got the wrong person.”
“Of course I haven’t mate, you remember, you and I was discussing the finer points of gambling last night.”
“Are you sure, I never forget a face, and I’m sure I’ve not seen you before!”
“Ah, come on, surely you must remember last night? You swore you had the best gambling system around, and promised to let me into your secret! Here, let me get you a drink”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right, I remember now. Thanks very much!”
“No worries. Now, I don’t much like talking about things of such a delicate nature here in a public bar. How about I grab a bottle of something, and we go back to your place to talk about it?”
“Er, well, I guess we could do that…”
“Tell you what, let’s make it two bottles. Barkeep, two bottles of your finest rotgut, if you would be so kind!”

Leading the swaying man by the shoulder, Smithy soon found himself at a run down apartment block. As the man opened his apartment door, Smithy grabbed him, rushed him into the room, and slammed him into the wall. “I’ve got a friend who you owe a lot of money to, sunshine, what are you going to do about that?”
“I, I, I d-d-don’t h-have the m-money” stammered the man “B-but I can have it for him tomorrow, I’ve got a dead certain tip, I just need 24 hours!”
“24 hours is something I can’t give you. But, I can give you this” growled Smithy, as he plunged his combat knife up under the unsuspecting man’s ribs. Twisting and pulling out the knife, he let the man drop into a chair. Slicing down the man’s chest and stomach, Smithy spread his skin wide, exposing his rib cage.

Dipping his finger into the pooling blood, Smithy wrote on the wall above the man “The fate that awaits all men”. On the opposite wall he wrote “Do not drink your life away”. As an after thought, he removed the tops of both bottles, and jammed the necks into the dead man’s eyes. Surveying his handiwork, Smithy cleaned himself off in the bathroom, and returned to The Head of the Grox.

Smithy made contact with the other acolytes as soon as he was alone in his room. “It looks like I’ve got a chance to go under cover with Garssener. I’m going to have to drop the micro-bead, in case they track me back to you. Any ideas on how I can contact you?”
“Well, the safest way is to drop a message somewhere we can all go without arousing suspicion. I reckon the arena is the best option. You can leave a message behind the toilets cistern, and we’ll check each day to see if you’ve dropped something.”
“Right, that sounds like a good idea. By the way, Praetia, it looks like I might be asked to kill you. We need to make sure we can fake something to make it look like you’re dead. I suggest planting some of your armour and some explosives in our rooms, and getting new rooms elsewhere. That way I can take something back as proof.”
“I don’t know about that, Smithy, you know I won’t go undercover.”
“Ah, for the Emperor’s sake, you don’t need to go under cover, dye your hair, get some new armour, and pretend to be a different Sister.”
“I’ll think about it, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.”
“Whatever, just know that if I’m sent to kill you, and you pop up again afterwards, I won’t stand a chance against these bastards.”

The following day Smithy was again approached by the unknown man in The Head of the Grox. “Have you completed the task?”
“I have indeed, to my utmost satisfaction” replied Smithy
“Quite. If you’ll come with me, then, my master wishes to talk to you. If you would do the honours with the blindfold again? Excellent, this should be the last time, if it’s any consolation.”

Smithy was led straight into the office this time. “Ah, I see from the news reports that you were successful in making an example of our man.”
“Yeah, I hope that sends the right message for you” replied Smithy
“Yes, I think it will. I don’t expect to have as much trouble with debtors now. Seeing as you’ve acquitted yourself so well with that task, shall we discuss my offer?”
“Certainly. I’m looking forward to working with you”
“Excellent. There will be other tasks like that, and more, if you accept. But, before you accept, I need you to be aware of how we do business. My workers are all like family, and I expect them to be loyal like family. As such, we require two things of you.”
“Oh, and what would that be?” asked Smithy
“Well, we have something of a ceremony to welcome a new person to the family, and we all wear an identifying mark on our wrists.”
“A tattoo, by chance?”
“Yes, well guessed. A crescent moon, as it happens. We use it to identify someone who can be trusted. The mark goes beyond this business, too. There are a number of people who make use of the mark, and you can be certain that if someone bears the mark, then you can trust them.”
“Hmmm, seems to me that a mark on the wrist could be a bit tricky to see if a man was to be wearing a jacket.”
“Yes, there is that, but we have something of a secret handshake. When we greet someone, we make sure to bare our wrist, showing them the mark.”
“Ah, I see, very logical. I suppose I should ask to see your mark, then?”
“If you wish, then.”
“Ah, excellent, I like working for someone who doesn’t mind doing what he asks his men to do. Now, about that ceremony?”
“Of course, I take it you’re willing to accept my offer?”
“I am indeed”
“Very well, then, follow me.”

Smithy was led into a small room, and instructed to put on the black robe that was hanging there. “Once you’ve out the robe on, the door in front of you will open. Step through it, and the ceremony will begin.”

Smithy pulled the robe on and waited. After a brief wait the door opened, and he stepped through into darkness. “Fools” he thought “don’t they know I have a bionic eye?”. The door closed behind him, leaving the room in silence. Looking around, Smithy could see that the room was filled with a large number of people. Suddenly, the people in the room broke out into an ominous chant. “Who seeks admission to the Elucidated Brethren of the Ebon Night?” boomed a voice.
“I do, John Smith”
“Do you vow to protect the secrets of the Brethren with your life?”
“I do”
“Will you do all that is asked of you in service of the Brethren?”
“I will”
“Very well, then. Now you must face the trial.”

At that, the figures in the room crowded around Smithy, pushing him towards a doorway. Smithy was left in darkness as the door closed behind him. Looking around, his bionic eye picked up minute disturbances in the ground. Reaching forward with his toe, Smithy gently tapped the disturbed area. A sudden gust of wind blew over him, causing him to jump slightly.

“Is that the best they can do” he thought to himself as he moved forward. Further down the corridor smithy saw that the walls were full of small holes. Checking the ground for pressure plates, Smithy moved forward, until a slight noise caused him to look around. Out of the holes in the walls crawled a multitude of spiders. Smithy continued forward, brushing off any spiders that climbed on him.

Up ahead he could see a door, but he noticed a strange looking section of floor ahead of him. Testing it with his foot again, he found that it gave way beneath the slightest pressure. Taking a short run up, he leaped across the section of floor, landing on the other side. Brushing the last of the spiders off, he opened the door.

On the other side, he found himself greeted by the hooded figures from the dark room. One moved towards him, and as it drew back its hood, he saw his new employer. “Jurgen Garssener” the man said “Welcome to the family”

Under the Hive...

The door resounded to a furious knocking. Praetia opened the door, and found a breathless Acolyte of the Adeptus Mechanicus standing there. Catching his breath, the acolyte managed to blurt out “Grendel Tybalt sends a message of the utmost importance. He requests your assistance in a matter of great urgency!”

Praetia looked the young acolyte up and down, and replied “Tell your master that we have a matter of our own to attend to first. When we have completed that, then we will assist him.”
“Please, hear my message before you make up your mind. My master asked me to tell you that he has discovered traces of a further device, like those you found before. This one, though, would cause a catastrophe should it be activated. Will you at least hear what my master has to tell you?”

Preatia looked at her fellow acolytes, the unspoken question in the air. Nicodemus, the tech-priest simply nodded, while Wraxphal the Psyker spoke ’Let us at least hear what Tybalt has to tell us. Who knows what would happen if another of those devices was activated."

Turning back to the young tech-acolyte, Preatia replied “Very well, we will go and meet Tybalt. If we decide it is important enough, we will delay our own undertaking.” The acolytes gathered their gear, and followed the tech-acolyte to Tybalt’s quarters.

Tybalt greeted them, and outlined the information he had. “Since the first discovery of those infernal devices, I have had my adepts monitor the hive closely, and I believe that we have detected anomalies in the power usage in the Hive, which points to another device being built. From what we can deduce, this device is much larger than the ones found so far.”

“Signs point to it being built in the underhive, a forsaken area, long abandoned, and left to the mutants, outlaws and worse. I would ask for your assistance in locating and destroying this device. If our calculations are correct, should it be activated, it would reanimate the dead in a large portion of the hive.

“I can provide you with directions to the rough area the device is located in, but such is the nature of the underhive that any blueprints we might supply you will be hopelessly inaccurate. Still, I believe that you’ll be able to locate the device easily enough. What do you say, will you accept this task?”

The three acolytes looked at each other, then back to Tybalt. “We will, but would like more information first” said Praetia, “For instance, what sort of dangers might we face in the underhive?”

“The upper levels are quite often the hiding place of outlaws, and mutants may be found all through the underhive. There are all manner of wild creatures down there too. These are the living dangers, but you will have to beware of toxic material down there as well. Fortunately I can provide you with monitoring equipment that will alert you to the presence of any dangerous substances.”

“Very well,” replied Praetia, “We will accept your task.”

“Excellent. Let us prepare, then. In addition to the monitoring equipment, I will supply you with demolition charges to destroy the device when you locate it. Now, let us not waste any time, I fear that time is running short.”

Following the directions provided by Tybalt, the acolytes located the entrance to the underhive they were to use. Entering the security code to the door, the acolytes stepped through the door, and were engulfed in darkness as it slammed shut behind them. Switching on their torches, they looked around them.

The area they were in seemed to be mainly ruined buildings, too badly damaged to enter. A rough road led down into the depths of the underhive. Moving cautiously along, they had traveled several hundred metres, when they came to a fork in the road. Following the right hand fork, as that led in the direction they had been told the device lay in, they continued.

After another 2 hundred metres, they found themselves faced with another fork. This time one fork led steeply downwards, but away from the direction they were to follow. “I know it’s the wrong direction” said Praetia, “But this one looks like it will get us lower quicker, and we know that the device is down about a hundred metres or so. Shall we take the left hand fork?”
“Yes, we should be able to find a way lower down that will take us in the right direction” said Nicodemus.

The road downwards was lined with buildings in better condition, so the advance was cautious, with the three acolytes watching for any sign of outlaw or mutant activity. After a hundred metres, the roadway opened out into a large cul-de-sac. Under the light from their torches, the acolytes could see unmistakable signs of occupation. Crude shelters had been erected in the open area in the centre, and signs of old fires could be seen.

As the acolytes moved around the edge, they looked for a way further into the underhive. The majority of buildings appeared to be blocked with debris, but partway round they found an unblocked entrance. Entering cautiously, they found themselves in a long hallway. Doors on either side appeared to be blocked by rubble, so they continued down the hallway.

At the far end they found a stair well. The upwards stairs were completely destroyed, but the stairs down looked sound. The acolytes moved down the stairs, prepared to deal with any threats. As they reached the bottom Wraxphal stopped the others and said “Did anyone hear that? I could have sworn I heard something down here”

The others shook their heads, and they prepared to open the door at the bottom of the stairs. Finding themselves in another hallway, the began to move along. This time it was unmistakeable, behind the doors on their left side came the distinctive noise of something moving. Praetia moved quietly to the door, and tested the handle, which turned out to be locked.

Motioning to continue on, the acolytes worked their way down the hall, listening to the unmistakeable sounds of movement behind the doors. Ass they reached the far end, and prepared to open the door, they heard a ferocious growling. “Well, let’s not hang around then, lads” said Praetia.

Moving out, they found themselves in another cul-de-sac, very similar to the one above them. Following the road out, they continued downwards. Part way down the road, Nicodemus pointed up at the windows of the buildings on either side. “Do you see that?” he asked.
“What are you talking about?” hissed Wraxphal.
“There’s light in some of those windows. It’s not bright, but you can see it.”
“He’s right” whispered Praetia, “Let’s stay alert.”

As they moved on, their eyes kept moving back to the faintly illuminated windows and doorways. Every so often, up in a high window, the would catch a glimpse of a silhouetted figure moving back into the darkness. The further down they travelled, the more common the illuminated windows became.

Eventually they found themselves in another, much larger, open area. Searching around, they found a small alleyway that appeared to travel in the right direction. Keeping a careful watch, they entered it, and started to walk, when a voice sounded in the darkness.

“Who are you, to be entering this place?”
“We are servants of the Emperor, and we are on a task in his name.” replied Praetia
“Really.” The unseen voice took on a much harsher tone, " We have seen servants of the Emperor here before, hunting and killing us. If that is your business here, I suggest you leave, now, while you are still able to."
At this, a mutant stepped out of the shadows, flanked on either side by two massive brutes.
“We have no business with you, and we do not seek to kill you, whoever you are.” replied Praetia
“And why should I believe you? It would not be the first time someone has tried to deceive us.”
“I can only offer my word as a servant of the Emperor.” replied Praetia “Our business is not with you, but with false servants of the Emperor.”
“Very well, I believe you, I know not why” replied the mutant “But, believe me, should you harm one of us, it will go very badly for you. We may not look much of a threat, but there are many of us here, we know these tunnels, and should you go back on your word, we will hunt you down.”
With that, the mutants stepped back into the shadows.

The acolytes continued along the alleyway, which continued steadily downwards. After a brief walk, the alley opened out into a space dominated by a large round building. Following around to the left, the acolytes found a window and looked in. In the darkness, their torches swept over the unmistakeable architecture of an Imperial temple, left in ruin.

As they continued further round, Wraxphal spoke quietly. “I’ve got a feeling that this is where we need to be. It’s near here, I’m sure of it.”
“Very well” said Praetia, “Shall we find a way in?”

Following the building further round, they found a lower window, which gave them access to a gallery running around the inside of the temple. Making their way down to the main floor, the Acolytes could see three exits. Starting on the right, they burst through the door, only to find a pitiful sight. A mutant lay on the floor, whimpering. Judging by the signs he had been making a poor existence in this room.

“Come on, this is not what we came for” said Praetia, “We can deal with him later”.
Moving on to the middle door, they found themselves in what appeared to be a sort of entrance foyer. Two doors on either side were closed, and sounds of movement could be heard. Starting with the doors closest to them, the acolytes checked each room in turn. As they broke through the first door, they heard a ferocious growling. Inside the room was a hideous creature.

The creature was the size of a large dog, but looked more like a mis-shapen rat. Seeing the acolytes, it charged at them. A short burst of lasgun fire later, the creature had been dealt with. A search of the remaining rooms uncovered nothing but the hole the creature had used to enter the building.

Moving on to the last room, the acolytes found a set of stairs heading down. Going down, they found themselves face to face with a couple of armed men. Wasting no time, the acolytes opened fire, taking the two men out of action quickly. The landing at the bottom of the stairs ended in a door, which opened onto a large room.

Dominating the room was a massive antenna array. Looking it over, Nicodemus suggested that this could be part of the device they were looking for. Taking a moment to place demo charges, the acolytes backed into the stair well, and closed the door. After the smoke cleared, they could see down into the room below, but were not able to make out any details.

After finding a door that led down below, the acolytes continued down. As they entered the room below they came under fire from more armed men. The soldiers put up a fight, but they were no match for the acolytes.

Quickly scanning the room, the acolytes found a further exit, which they covered, expecting more company to be arriving. As they did this, Nicodemus inspected the large device in the centre of the room. “Yes, this is it. Let’s plant these demo charges, and get out of here.”

He was interrupted by a group of soldiers bursting through the door. The acolytes fired at the fresh troops, driving them back through the door. “Quick, get those demo charges placed quickly. If we’re lucky, we can trap them in here when they go off.”

Nicodemus placed the charges, and the acolytes retreated out of the room. Closing the door, they quickly fused the door to the frame. Running up the stairs, they were nearly knocked off their feet by the blast. Seeing no further resistance, the quickly made it back to the main floor.

Already weakened from the first set of demo charges, the main floor had given way completely when the second lot exploded. Making their way carefully to the staircases, the acolytes retraced their steps to the window they had entered through.

Keeping a careful eye out, the acolytes moved back into the alleyway where they had met the mutant. This time they saw no sign of any mutants, and had soon made their way back to the door to the middle hive. As the door slammed shut behind them Praetia looked back and muttered “I’ll definitely have to arrange for this area to be purged…”

The Strange Happenings

The investigation started as planned, beginning with interviews with the household of Horation Nelson. Very little new was learned, although the psyker Wraxfal did detect a faint aura of warp energy around the place. Following the few leads they had, the Acolytes spoke to the doctor who had examined the child’s body.

Barton Salazar, a respected medicae in the upper hive, reported that he found no unusual signs on the girls body. His report reached the same conclusion of the family doctor, the girl had died of a disease, which while uncommon, was not unheard of. According to his observations, he could see no reason for the girl to have apparently come back to life, nor any evidence that she had done so.

Following up a second lead, the Acolytes spoke to the priest who had performed the death rites, Brother Ignatius. After some discussion, the priest agreed to direct them to the Nelson family tomb. After a relatively short trip the Acolytes found themselves at the family tomb. Entering the tomb, the Acolytes were struck at the shear number of tombs inside the mausoleum.

Judging by the dates on the first tombs, they were a long way from their goal. Walking to the back of the mausoleum, the Acolytes found a staircase leading up to a second level. Eventually they found the tomb they were looking for. Opening it, they made an unexpected discovery, the body was nothing but a skeleton, all flesh had been removed. A closer examination confirmed that this had been performed surgically.

Having made this discovery, the Acolytes questioned Brother Ignatius further, regarding the state of the body. The brother informed them that it was standard practice to perform excarnation on the bodies of the Nelson family, as it was the one condition imposed on them for being able to house their dead in a Mausoleum. When asked what happened to the flesh removed from the skeletons, Brother Ignatius replied that it was cremated, along with the rest of the hive’s dead.

Having come to another dead end, the Acolytes returned to Barton Salazar, who had also performed the excarnation. As they arrived at the medicae’s surgery, they heard a disturbance inside. Bursting in, they found the medicae apparently struggling with a patient. After a brief struggle, the patient collapsed again.

After catching his breath, Salazar informed the Acolytes that the man he had been struggling with had been brought in dead earlier. Salazar had been preparing to perform the autopsy when the body had sat up and grabbed him. At this point Wraxfal pointed out that he could feel the same sort of aura that he had felt at the Nelson Household…

The Beginning...

Inquisitor Manius Mercutio looked at the four acolytes gathered in his office. Such a wide range of backgrounds and temperaments, it was almost impossible to see how they could work together as a team. The Guard veteran and Sister of Battle would certainly have no problems with following orders, but how well they would be able to work under cover, well that remained to be seen.

The young Nobleman would certainly cause some friction in in the group. His air of laid back arrogance was the complete opposite of the two Imperial soldiers. Still, he knew how to use those pistols he kept secreted on himself, and he would be able to go places the other two, with their insistence on uniform, would not be able to.

That left the last member of the group. Tall, dark skinned, and with a shock of bright orange hair, everything about the man screamed feral worlder. After a few minutes in his company, there was also a sense of something else. Once you knew he was a sanctioned psyker, then it became clear. How the two Imperial soldiers would react to his presence and abilities was unknown. It was only to be hoped that they would see the benefit of his particular skills.

“Greetings, Acolytes” said Manius “I hope you’ve had a chance to introduce yourselves, as you’ll be working together for a while.”

“Let me fill you in on the details of the mission I have for you. I’ve been asked to investigate an unusual incident by a friend of mine on the Hive World of Malfi. He has made me aware of an incident involving an acquaintance of his, a Nobleman in Hive Primus on Malfi.”

“This nobleman had an 8 yearold daughter, who recently took ill, and succumbed to the illness. While there’s nothing strange in a young girl getting sick and dying, there was an incident the day after her death. Her father claims that the day after her death, he was going to the room her body was being kept to help prepare her for burial, when he saw her walking down the stairs in his home.”

“Overjoyed at the thought that perhaps she had just been in a coma, and was now recovered, he ran to her and hugged her. As soon as he touched her, though, she fell down, clearly dead. Although he saw her walking, all the signs indicated she had been dead for some time.”

“Normally something like this would be put down to a father’s grief at losing his only daughter, but my friend believes that there is something else going on. He has asked me to provide any assistance possible. Given that this is just an isolated incident at this stage, I’m not able to provide any official investigators, but I think that this would be an ideal first investigation for you.”

“Now, due to the low key nature of the investigation, I’m not able to give you any official standing, although you will be provided with a cover story which will allow you to investigate unsuspected. I will give you details of the persons involved to peruse while you prepare for travel. Now, as your transport leaves in a few hours, if there is any equipment you require, let me know, and I will see what I can organise. As this is not an official mission, you will need to pay for any equipment you require, but I will obviously arrange for a generous discount for you.”


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