Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Dark Heresy Campaign: Episode 1.1a

PCs:
  • Cadence: A Tech Priest CyberHound handler. Played by Ali.
  • Grimoire: Potent Void-Born Psyker. Played by John.
  • Gunner: Down-Hive Gun-Slinging Scum. Played by Fiona
  • Ishtari: Novice Sister of Battle. Played by Caroline. 
  • Lemantz: Penumbrae Hive Enforcer. Played by Niall.
  • Zane: "Squat" Flamer-wielding Cleric. Played by Stuart.
NPC's:

  • Explicator Sand: Seneschal of the Sanctum Invigilus. The PC's immediate superior within the Inquisition.
Session 1.1

Within hours of the Surgeon's escape, Coscorla is overwhelmed by a massive Inquisitorial presence. Inquisitional Storm-troopers, Mechanicus Skitarri and Adeptus Arbiters are moving from hab-block to hab-block, rounding up dregs and inhabitants at gun-point. A few of the orange-garbed gangers are stupid enough to resist, and pay dearly for it. Bloody scraps of orange cloth flap pitifully in the gentle breeze of the air recyclers. Boss Luntz is furious, loudly calling out to all who will listen that he is an ally of the Inquisition. He pleads with the acolytes when he is led into an armoured prisoner conveyance, hands bound in electro-shocks cuffs before him. Lilly Arbest is also led away, weeping tears of bewilderment and betrayal. The last the acolytes see of her is her face peering forlornly through the rear window of a prime-mover marked with the ominous words: Adeptus Mechanica Vivisection Node 361.

Inquisitor Sand oversees it all, relishing the cruel scenes before him. He congratulates the acolytes on their successful defeat of probable Logician cell. He expresses disappointment at the “Surgeons” evident escape, and seems surprised at the lack of fatalities among the acolytes. He implies that he had expected that Coscorla “thin the herd” somewhat, but admits that while survival of the fittest is certainly an operational truth within the Inquisition, it is certainly not an inefficient way of managing the Sanctum's wage bill.

The Explicaor carelessly throws each of the acolytes a small ersatz-leather wallet containing their new Acolyte Rosettes and reminds them of a useful procedural loop-hole: while it is a capital offence to impersonate an Inquisitor, there is no requirement to correct anyone who mistakes them for one. Indeed, such mistakes only add to the Inquisitions mystique as an omniprescient force within the Imperium. He scoffs openly though at the notion that any of them might be mistaken for a member of the Ordos' higher echelons, however. At least, not yet. But he does advise them to announce themselves as "Throne Agents" rather than "Inquisitional Acolytes" or the "Inquisition." Purely to take advantage of the ambiguity. 

With a few final, parting barbs, he instructs Cadence and Sister Ishtari to report to him for surgical treatment as soon as he returns to the Sanctum Invigilus. He expects the remaining Acolytes to personally bring their written reports to his Reclusiam at the beginning of first-shift.

Cadence and Ishtari undergo a horrific experience, bound to surgical tables in the same room where Sand conducts his forensic examinations. Surrounded by half-decayed, mutilated corpses, he gleefully explains that he is somewhat short of anaesthetic. The procedures will have to conducted using local anaesthetic only. Thus, both acolytes are wide awake as Sand tears them open and pokes around in their insides with blunt, remarkably filthy, surgical instruments. Fortunately, both somehow manage to pass their toughness tests and avoid contracting nasty infections while under the knife of their somewhat sadistic employer.

While the injured acolytes recover from their ordeal, the others present their reports to the Explicator at first-shift. All fail to mention the initial blunder that led to a succession of fire fights with the local Coscorla crime-lord and his gangers. Luckily, Sister Ishtari has been excused from providing a written report due to her wounds. Sand would be unlikely to forgive the acolytes for submitting selectively edited reports and the naive young battle sister doesn't have a deceptive bone in her body.

At the meeting, Sand informs the acolytes that he has another task for them. One of their master's sometime informants, Jeremiah Elias, has contacted the Sanctum Invigilus via astropath. Sand speaks of this agent as a remembrancer fond of chasing ludicrous conspiracies and clearly thinks little of him. However, he does admit that Elias has occasionally provided useful information amongst all the dross. Clearly, the Remembrancer thinks he has found something big- astropathic communication is not inexpensive and nor, for that matter, is warp-travel. As such, Sand will be sending the acolytes to meet with Sand when his ship docks in six days. When asked, Sand states he does not know what ship the informant will arrive on, only that the acolytes are to contact Elias at his hostelry when he makes land-fall.

Sand provides only three useful pieces of information:
  • The informant has information concerning the doomed Coriolanus Expedition.
  • The astropathic message originated somewhere in the Shian sub-sector
  • The informant is Jeremiah Elias, a Remembrencer who specialises in writing sensationalist non-fiction concerning ancient, pre-Imperial heresies of the Crone sector.

With six days to burn, the acolytes set about finding as much information as they can about Elias and the Coriolanus expedition.

From their recovery cots, Cadence and Sister Ishtari set about finding out as much as they can concerning Jeremiah Elias. However, while they have no trouble accessing Inquisitorial files with their new security clearances, they find that every second word in the man's file has been “<redacted>”. This strikes Cadence as being somewhat odd. Why would information concerning a mere informant -and an unreliable one at that, according to Sand- be above their security clearance?

Gunnar, meanwhile, hits up his old street level contacts in return for information. It seems that Elias' investigations have left very few footprints in the Penumbrae underworld. Only the lowliest -and craziest of Gunnar's various contacts have every heard of him – and these contacts are themselves among the most rabid conspiracy theorists. The sort of rambling, junk-addled lunatics than even the worst of drunks steer clear of. Zane likewise speaks with contacts among the local ecclesiarchy, but none of his scholarly companions have even heard of the man or his theories.

Grimoire has much better luck. As a fellow pysker, he has no qualms about visiting the Sanctum's Telepath, Erazmus Kensin. Kensin is a wasted, emaciated fellow, left paraplegic by the soul-binding process and permanently plugged into the Sanctums astrotelepathica array by dozens of thick cables. Suppurating pink flesh, badly infected, rims each connection where the cable enters his thin body. Starved for company, Kensin is only too happy to share what he knows about Jeremiah Elias. Elias, it seems, is actually one of Inquisitor Schardes most valuable and prised informants. Although not a member of the Inquisiton himself, the remembrencer's research has frequently uncovered high level conspiracies throughout the Crone sector. Elias' tips have resulted in a number of successful prosecutions. At least one corrupt Planetary Governor has been exposed and executed thanks to Elias' research. While the scholarly community largely considers him to be a “hack”, Inquisitor Scharde thinks very highly of him. So highly, in fact, that Sand has standing orders to forward any communiques from Elias to the Inquisitor immediately.

Which, Erazmus muses, is odd considering that the message arrived three days ago and Sand has yet to return to the astropath with clearance for him to re-transmit to the Inquisitor. Erazmus even shares his original transcript of the transmission with Grimoire. It clearly shows that the informant is travelling on a ship called the Silver Majesty. Moreover, the transmission was clearly sent from Shian itself, not merely from somewhere within the Shian sub-sector.

Troubled, Grimoire shares this information with his fellow Acolytes. Clearly Sand has been deceiving them, but that is hardly unusual within the paranoid ranks of the Inquisition. Despite this, their hackles -and their suspicions- are raised. They decide they would prefer to meet Elias at the docks rather than at his hostelry as Sand has requested. Zane openly wonders if there is anything else they need to do in the mean-time. He's clearly tired from a long day of voxing dry, rambling old scholars for information. Ishtari helpfully points out that they have two more leads to chase down: the Coriolanus expedition itself, and the planet Shian.

Shian is easy enough. Gunner explains that the world is the capital of the Shian sub-sector, the last part of the Crone sector to have been conquered by the Imperium. Although Shian itself was absorbed only a few generations ago, it has already earned a reputation as a shady trade hub where anything can be bought or sold for enough credits. The world itself is almost entirely underwater. Most of the actual land-mass is only a few metres above (and in some cases, under) sea-level. It is crowded, dank and musty and overall a very, very dangerous place to do business.

The Coriolanus Expedition is another matter. Cadence spends much of the second day trawling through Inquisiorial data bases on the subject. She quickly determines that it was an exploratory expedition sponsored by the mighty House Coriolanus of Penumbrae in partnership with House Penhew, a Rogue Trader dynasty bound to the Adpetus Mechanicus Explorator fleets by a treaty of indentured servitude. The entire expedition was reported lost some years back

[See the previous  hand-out post for transcript of various hand-outs concerning the expedition. The final entry is the transcript of the astropathic communication sent by Elias.]

The acolytes briefly consider contacting Erika Coriolanus, the sister of expedition leader and socialite Rogal Coriolanus. However, it's clear from Cadence's research (as well as the acolytes own local knowledge) that Erika Coriolanus is a very powerful, very influential individual. It's even commonly believed that she has the Planetary Governor's ear. She may, in fact, be something of a power behind the throne. Although they have Inquisitorial authority to speak to whomever they like, whenever they like, they decide it would be better to speak to Dame Coriolanus after they hear from Elias. While they do not fear making an enemy of her, they realise that contacting her with vague questions concerning her brothers fate would be impolitic. They may need her cooperation later, when they have uncovered some concrete information.

Talk turns to planning their meeting with Elias. Cadence tries to locate a pictograph of the Rememberancer to make approaching him at the Space Dock Terminus more feasible but finds nothing in any Inquisitorial or public data-net. The acolytes spend the new few days planning the Space-port operation, training and requisitioning more gear.

When the Silver Majestic docks at the Penumbrae Terminus five days later, the Acolytes are waiting. Cadence has already interrogated the Terminus' machine spirits and found that the Majestic is due to disembark 173 passengers. She attempts to persuade the Majestic's machine spirits to reveal an image of Elias, but finds that Elias' file has been mysteriously corrupted. The Tech Priest does, however, find Inquisitorial finger-prints all over the seemingly “innocent” data corruption. Incensed at this disrespectful treatment of so ancient and wise a machine spirit, she conveys this information to the rest of the Acolytes via Vox.

The acolytes decide that the Inquisition is doing a magnificent job of covering Elias' tracks. But Zane wonders openly if this is the work of their Inquisitor trying to protect Elias, or if someone else within the Inquisition is trying to kill him. Either way, their plans remain unchanged.

So it transpires that when the Majestic's passengers disembark from their luxury lander at the Terminus, Cadence is waiting for them, complete with a sign bearing the name “Jeremiah Elias.” Not because the acolytes actually expect Elias to approach them, but in the hope of provoking the informant into making some sort of furtive gesture than will give himself away. Lementz and Gunnar are standing nearby, watching the richly-dressed arriving dignitaries for just such a sign. Meanwhile Cadence counts the new arrivals. 172. One short.

Around the corner, Ishtari, Grimoire and Zane are waiting. Heavily armed and fully armoured in their newly acquired gear, they are a truly intimidating presence. The perfumed and effete dignitaries who have left the ship are too intimidated by the rosette badges they openly wear to utter even a gasp of protest. Buxom, somewhat elderly ladies swoon and blush when a dashing young man purporting to be a lord is pulled from the crowd by the acolytes. But it's not Elias. It is instead a somewhat infamous impersonator and thief named Eidipus Flynt whom they drag into the back of the Inquisitorial Chimera brought along for this purpose. Though he is not their real target, his presence does give the Acolytes the pretence they need to board the Majestic.

The ships captain is an ancient and dignified figure whose double-breasted ships-uniform is festooned with medals, ribbons and precious metals. When he acolytes suggest they must interrogate the crew to determine if Flynt has any accomplices among them he blanches and protests that there are almost 14000 indentured crewman aboard the ship. One of the acolytes wryly observes that the interrogations will clearly take some time. The Captain tactfully points out with as much dignity as he can muster that, while the Inquisition has the authority to impound his ship and crew for as long as they like, there are a number of very influential passengers travelling to other destinations who might take umbrage at the inconvenience of an enforced delay. The acolytes acknowledge this but seem unconcerned (they hadn't really been planning any such thing, after all). Instead they require the Captain's assistance in another matter. They observe that 173 passengers were due to disembark, but one remains unaccounted for: Jeremiah Elias.

The captain thinks for a moment, but eventually seems to remember the man. It seems that Elias snubbed invitations to dine with the captain an unprecedented three times during the journey from Shian. Three! The captain is only too happy to lead the acolytes to Elias' cabin door.

When they arrive, they cannot fail to note the blood seeping under the door -or the noxious odour of warp-taint eminating from within.

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