The man looked out of the porthole of the descending shuttle.
A desolate planet home to naught but a single deserted mining settlement, Chorda’s Folly looked anything but inviting. From orbit, the brownish land masses drift by languidly under a thin veil of cloud cover. The oceans appeared to be shallow and dark green in colour.
Chorda’s Folly home to more than seventy thousand souls. Most worked in the various mines and pumping stations scattered about the area. Indentured workers that receive payment for the ore and mineral wealth they extract from the planet, in return, the Dynasty charged them outrageous amounts for food and shelter. This ensures that no one is ever be able to buy out their contract and leave the planet. Just like the dozens of similar backwater mining worlds he had worked on. These newer colony’s always unearthed the most remarkable discoveries.
With the de-orbit finished the shuttle’s engines moaned as it entered a low attitude flight mode. Skimming over the desolate, dry, and dusty surface he saw a scene dominated by rocky land masses and shallow seas filled with brackish water. Small scrub plants clung to the various rocky edifices sheltered from the wind storms that dominate the plains. The only thing that kept anyone interested in this world is the numerous pools of crude promethium scattered across the landscape. These bubble to the surface every few years and their appearance heralds an intense race to capture the valuable liquid for processing. There are also veins of semi–precious ores deep beneath the planet’s surface. While technically under the protection of Aspyce Chorda and her dynasty, Chorda’s Folly has its share of so–called “independent” miners who hope to strike it rich with an easy find.
The man was at this moment dressed like one of these poor and wretched souls that flock to this world in the hopes of easing their suffering with the faint glimmer that they might find a rich strike of ore—or a bubbling pool of crude promethium.
Stepping off the craft he could see the hustle and bustle of a working spaceport, dozens of labours and several servitors hustle about. Loaders, fuel pumps and hoses, and other bits of gear were strewn about the permacrete. These were being employed to fuel the waiting bulk lifters and load cargo as the wind and dust swirled around the harried figures of the indentured work force.The spaceport looked able to accommodate shuttles, guncutters, and similar craft, the permacrete pad was cracked and marred from the comings and goings of shuttles and haulers over the centuries. At the far end of the spaceport rail cars from the refinery stopped to unload their carts. Several Servitors moved about working to load and unload cargo.
The man could see the mag-rail tracks leading from the spaceport, heading out into the wastes, around the outer perimeter of the settlement towards the refinery.
The refinery is where the ore from the nearby mines would go for processing. Employment at the refinery would mark a local as a chief member of the labour force; minor tasks would be delegated to menial labourers, and mono–tasked servitors. In addition to processing the various ores ripped out of the ground, the refinery also processes the crude promethium pumped out from wells scattered across the landscape.
The man joined the crowd of passengers leaving the shuttle and shuffled off towards the center of the city. The commercial district was the hub of the city. All the stalls and stores stood open, with signs blowing in the wind. The air was filled with the hum of merchants hawking their wares, Throne Gelt coins exchanged hands and slid across counters to fill till–boxes. The main types of items found here wee common tools and sundries such as dried foods, alcohol, and clothing. The man haggled with a mining outfitter for some simple tools and dehirid soup rations playing the part of the freelancer the only piece of equipment of any worth he purchased was top class surveying scope and tripod. He paid for it all in Gelt minted from the same world as the other prospectors he shipped in with. No weapons or armor could be found in any of the shops here, Chorda didn’t want any chance of an armed rebellion on her hands. Home to only a small number of residents Chorda’s Folly didn't warrant a full–blown precinct fortress or prison. All but the most petty or heinous offenders would be sentenced to work in the worst part of the mines or labor in the refinery.
Only a small number of enforces could be seen walking the streets, in their dark blue uniforms equipped with pump–action shotguns, power mauls, riot shields, flak coats, and helmets. They were equipped for breaking up bar fights and settling pay disputes. None asked to inspect his perfectly forged identity papers or inquired about his backstory.
He turned a corner and strolled down the roughly paved road towards the Bunker fortress. The original colonists who settled Chorda’s Folly first came to this world, lived out of this single massive fortification. When more permanent structures could be built to protect them from the elements and predators of the world, they eventually moved out and converted the original bunker–fortress into a state hall for formal functions and a place to shelter them in the event of an emergency, common practice across the frontier.
It loomed upwards towering over the surrounding buildings, made of a heavy–duty alloy that could withstand several impacts from orbital assault. Massive vox masts and other types of communications and augur arrays were mounted at the apex of the building piercing the skyline. Several heavy defense laser batteries stood silent guard spaced out around the perimeter. Two dozen militia stood guard at the base of a set of beautiful white marble stairs that ascend to thick adamantium doors.
The man joined end of the line that snaked to the base of the stairs he waited patiently under the baking sun for access to the fortress the guard didn't pay any of the miners any attention. When inside he found the civilian astropathic relay service and compiled his message. The service was a simple board unencrypted announcement, it offered no conformation or return message service. They didn't even record the name of the sender, he couldn't think of a more untraceable method. He paid his fee and made sure to acted shocked at the price demanded, a huge sum for a common citizen.
From memory he scribble out his message sixty three strings each six characters long. Looking like a wall of gibberish he added a single sentence
Return what was stolen and his honor will demand he say and fight.
The recipient; Naval base Port Wander, private account: House Havlock. In the special comments section he added attn: Luther.
He hoped his “friends” would appreciate the work he put into obtaining this encryption key.
He was descending the stairs as his personal vox chimed. A gruff voice announced directions to the rear of a Manufactorum that produces small machine components before abruptly cutting off. Exiting the final alley the man spotted a civilian shuttle in the center of a poorly maintained landing pad. Another man dressed in the robes of a factory foreman standing nearby called out.
Are you the independent I am ferrying out past Blind man bluff? Well get on board you're never going to find your fortune just standing around.
You don’t have the look of the other independents. The way you all move and hold yourself you seem more jaded that the typical fresh faced hiver wanting to strike it rich.
Why you heading out to past the bluff anyways, no promethium has ever been spotted there it’s too bloody rocky?
Must be ore hey? There are rumours that someone found something valuable up in the mountains, perhaps precious minerals or gems? That’s what you’re after I’ll guess.
That’s why that imperial bloke went out there. Must be surveying it or sum-such. Still I don’t know why he needed all those solders. He must just be some frightened lily, sacred of life on the big frontier.
Mind you heading off all alone like yourself isn't the best idea either. You may be able to find something valuable but keeping it in a place like this is a whole different matter. There’s no true law out here in the expanse not like back in the Imperium.
Be careful out here and don’t stray too close to that big mountain over there. Some of the local blokes went out to have a peek, to see what that official was up to. They won’t be trying that again they had the tires on their ore hauler shot out then these big blokes with armour and silver masks dragged them out and wanted to know what they were doing in a resected area. Beat them bloody. They finally were released and drove back to town with some poorly patched tires. They only talk about it if you ply them with a glass of grog.
Anyways you’re a good talker, were here now mate.
The shuttle touched down in a small grassy clearing the ramp slid closed just as the man was finished hauling his equipment out of the cargo pod. The thrusters left scorch marks from where they powered the shuttle into a steep climb. The man slung his pack and begun to hike up the mountainside, he pushed aside the thick scrub unwilling to hack a tractable trail with a machete. He crested the edge of the southern face of the mountain two hours later and settled in, storing his rations and laying out a water proof sleeping-sack. He took great care assembling the surveyors scope. He mounted the tripod low behind some rocks to reduce the silhouette and piled some dead shrubs on top to shield the lens from any sunlight that may reflect. He calibrated the instruments and looked through the viewfinder to orientate himself. Then traced along the opposite ridgeline, at the base nestled among some thick brush he identified the camp. It was a ramshackle encampment with muddy paths leading between mining excavators, ore haulers and tents. Some earthworks along the edge displayed obvious evidence of the search for mineral wealth, or so it would seem. The workers looked outward not downward the earthworks were cut deep, narrow and arranged so that any vehicle approaching had too slow to a crawl. The tents indicated that this mining camp had either very spacious living areas or that many more “workers” were hidden from view. And the two tarps covering the ore piles looked like they could be covering a Valkyrie transport and a Chimera APC. He depressed the magnification rune and the view blurred as the optics whirred and brought the one of the miners in to sharp focus. Strong of limb and straight backed, the miner drank deep from a canteen but his eyed didn't stop surveying the sounding landscape, his upper arm bore scaring possibly from a mining accident but more likely from las-removal a tattoo. It Looked like He had found Ragnar’s hidden little army. The man zoomed out and panned about towards the larger mountain that Staious had warned him about. Much easier to locate on the side of the mountain serviced by a well-worn dirt track was an obvious military encampment. A basic affair mostly costing of personal carriers some light tanks and row upon row of large tents a board earthen barrier topped with a prefabricated defensive wall marked the the perimeter. The troops that patrolled the surrounding area and manned the defensive wall looked to be at combat readiness.
Again he zoomed in, extraordinarily well-equipped, clad in finely-wrought armor, adorned with silvered masks in the image of Saint Drusus, standard issue las-guns, and heavy bolters.
Maccabian Janissaries renowned for their faith, often compared to violent fanatics. Capable marksmen and well-trained at fighting in carefully orchestrated formations, made these troops popular among members of the holy Ordos of the Inquisition.
In the centre of the camp was the apparent reason for the imperial interest in the mining colony a deep fissure likely caused by mining explosives had exposed an large metallic structure. He zoomed in further and could faintly make out markings on the some surfaces. The best consulting archaeologist in the whole subsector, a master xenopologist and a natural linguist the man could not decipher the markings. He had however seen similar before. He removed a simple leather diary from a hidden fold in his silky skin. He opened it to a page containing a single image. A brilliant light arched out in all directions striking the surrounding figures, Atticus’s head appears to be on fire from the xeno-lighting, likewise for Luther's arm and Sholk’s leg. He winced as he recalled his own mauling at the hands of a foul Xeno. In the background of the picture he could make out a large dark trapezoid object, every surface covered in the same intricate markings. Whatever was under this mountain was Xeno, old, and judging by the size of the excavation very big. He settled in to see how things turned out.