Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Profit and Loss

In a breef respite between adventuers Captain Atticus Havlock finds himself in his studdy.

Atticus rubbed his head. Despite the assurance form the Magos Biologis the deep seated pain in his skull had yet to fully fade. The new vat-grown skin and flesh of his face still felt tight and clean. He now looked 10years younger despite the large neat scar running down his face. The Mangos insisted that he could flawlessly repair the damage but Atticus wanted something to show for that harrowing encounter with the Xeno entity. He forced himself to focus his new eyes on the thick piles of parchment on his desk, and rubbed his temples. He doubted his newfound youth would last if he was forced to deal with paperwork like this for long. Bills, notes of credit, requests for payments and shipping inventories he sighed. This distraction had been amassing on this desk with an alarming speed. Atticus much preferred to command and explore then to sit and scribe. "Damm all you to an eternal darkness" He raged at a large document filled with the filled tight with the neat uniform scripting of an autoquill. Its contents consisting of a long winded explanation on why the priesthood of Mars refuse to commence repair works on the mighty starship hull he recently returned to Footfall with. The pigs won’t start work without a down payment. Two million tons of refined Adamantium! Forty billion thrones of liquid currency or equivalent non-perishable tradable goods! It might take 30years or more to amass that volume of wealth. There was the other option. Could he bear to part with one of his ships? The Emperors Hand was his family's ship not to mention the value of its cargo holds meant to his dynasty. But Fell's Folly was his prize every time he stepped aboard he felt like he was treading on Fell's smug face. He doubted that he would be able to afford the refit without acquiescing to the priesthood’s requests.

Atticus turned to one of the other bundles among the despised paperwork a dossier from Luther. He couldn’t help but think that it was the Seneschal’s job to eliminate paperwork, not ply him with more. He vaguely remembered that he promised to help Sholk with that little tiff his house was having with the authorities. Atticus skimmed the pages. Rumours of inquisitorial movements, intercepted astropathic communications good work looks like Luther has located an Inquisitor. Background checks, service history’s, vetting processes, equipment purchases Luther has been outfitting a unit of specialist mercenary’s. Atticus wondered to what end? Striking against a random inquisitor will hardly help Sholk he continued to scan the pages. Cold trade contacts, Xeno artefacts, weapons, armour, trinkets ah very cleaver Luther. A well placed red herring and a murder will have the Holy Ordos chasing the shadows instead of investigating renegade navigators. Atticus Stamped the front of the submission with deep crimson ink APPROVED.

Chewing on a mouthful of exotic fruit Atticus thought to himself. I need to think of a name for this most delectable food. The journey to Havelock’s Haven was uneventful and the colonists were most grateful to be visited by their lord and saviour. The recent attacks had left the colonists in low sprits. The colony’s population now boosted by several thousand voidmen and work on a great civil project begun. When completed the project will provide effective irrigation to the newly cleared farmlands. The dynasty’s newly acquired household troops were unable to locate any signs of insurgence. If it wasn’t for the destroyed agri-trucks and dozens of fresh graves I would have thought that there was nothing wrong. Hopefully the now swelled population and newly formed colony militia will be able to prevent any further attacks.

Ragnar’s report indicated that his journey was anything but uneventful. Warp squalls, asteroid storms, unstable gravity tides all before he began his hunt for the raiders that have been pillaging the trade convoys along the heathen trail. The Emperors Hand once again plied her lethal trade as a Q-ship playing the hapless lamb baying to be slaughtered. Ragnar struck one single devastating blow to the enemy fleet. He led the raiders on a merry stern chase for six days and had the Astropath broadcast unencrypted pleas for help. When the wolf pack had finally had their prey surrounded the lead ship lowered their void shields in preparation to dock. Ragnar demanded that they confirm who their master was before he would open the Hand’s bulkheads. They laughed and stated that the men of Lord-Admiral Bastille the VII fleet didn’t need to him to open his bulkheads. That was all the conformation Ragnar needed. At point blank range the macro cannons discharged a very dangerous action considering that the Hand was also caught in the resulting detonation that crippled the rival ship. Suffering only minor damage Ragnar moved quickly to harass the other ships in the wold pack. Shattering their will and forcing them to flee. Ragnar returned to pummel the crippled destroyer and only stoped bombardment when the debris were scattered across a dozen astronomical units and too small to be targeted by the Hand’s auspex arrays. The message should be clear to anyone thinking of pillaging our trade lines from now on.

Atticus felt his Grynix stir as he skimmed some personal evaluations, he was about to dismiss the report as unimportant as two furry paws stretched up to the desk edge. Atticus could feel his companion’s inquisitive nature and he decided to read the report again. What first steamed like mundane personal evaluations and punishment details, resolved itself into a more worrying pattern. Atticus stroked the soft fur of the Grynix’s head to entice a bass-full vibration, he always thought better in the pleasant company of the purring feline. An increase in insubordination, dereliction of duty, malingering and cases of theft from one's master would normally indicate a drop in moral. However all of these incidents were confined to one section of the ship, the upper crew quarters and all the reports were from NCOs reprimanding the ship security detail. The incidents were not confined to one squad and but they didn’t seem to wide spread. Furthermore all the reported crewmen had exemplary records up until this point, they were so well trusted that they had all been handpicked by Ragnar and vetted by Luther to act as honour guard in the trophy room. Atticus skimmed the details of each incident caught starring at the floor, found wandering the passages, unwilling under pain of flogging to return to his post, failed to report for duty, found tampering with status controls, found in possession of precious artefact. He reread the last incident He didn’t know anything had been taken. A junior Boatswain had caught a guard in possession of a small metallic sculpture of a Xeno worm. The guard had claimed to be carrying it back to the status locked display case after it had escaped. Atticus rechecked the other reports, not only were these guard assigned to the trophy room they had all served on the detail tasked with observation of the Halo artefact. The guards all clamed some variation of the same story. The worm was creepy, appeared to have moved when not observed, the status field sometimes seemed to flicker, strange sounds could be heard in the walls, the feeling of something crawling on their skin. The officers who reported the incidents never found any corroborating evidence and assumed the guard were lying to save their skin from the lash. What the hell was this thing? If the guard stories were true, it had apparently been affecting the minds of those tasked with guarding it and somehow managed to escape at least twice from a tripled locked status case. It seems impossible every tech-priest that had examined the thing had provided the same conclusions. They would always announce in their flat monotone emotionless voices. “an inert sculpture of Xeno craftsmanship constructed out of an unidentifiable metallic substance. Likely warp-sensitive or physichoactive. Age indeterminate but estimated at six million years’’ The only thing the consulting Xenoaerologist had to say on the worm was “You think man is the only race to dabble in the darkness of the warp? No my friend, there are creatures far older and evil than us out there among the cold stars—aliens whose worship of the warp makes humanity seem as naughty children screaming at the sky. Sell that bloody thing to the right collector then retire fat and happy. Just ensure that no agents of the throne find out that you sold it”

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