(Hopefully) Held 13/14th November, 2021 at Common Ground Games, Stirling
The bridge was an almost overwhelming riot of sensations. The harsh chemical tang of fire suppressants hung heavily in the air, warning lights flashed while warning klaxons blared and sparks cascaded from damaged consoles mirroring the slashes of inter-ship ordnance in the dark void outside. An insistent automated voice intoned a warning to abandon ship. Captain Re’ve grimaced. The Indomitable Host was dying, there was no point in heading for the salvation pods now. In a voidwar of this scale the destruction of smaller vessels such as his was almost inevitable.. Even if one did escape – where would one go? The ship was barely making headway now, the last broadside from the Imperial Fists had mauled her badly, but Re’ve was almost certain that they were almost close enough to the system Mandeville point that there was a chance at successfully translating into the immaterium but there was no indication of the status of the ships’ Gellar fields.
Fai’clan and Korre’gin had been a rout. The promises that the Warmaster made of an easy victory after the events on Beatha’sa had come to naught and with the ship dying around him, the orders to regroup at Bondool and Avych seemed impossible now. But where else is there to go? For a moment, Re’ve thinks of surrender, of saying it was all a mistake and that he was just following orders. They might take pity on him and execute him on the spot. But they too might just follow orders…
“Orders. I do still have orders” Re’ve murmurs. It takes a conscious effort but this is what enables him to focus. That training was a lesson that Admiral Urgen had drilled into him over and over. The old witch had pushed Re’ve hard, beaten him at times but what he wouldn’t have given for her advice now. It was a pity she was in command of the Libertatum and almost certainly one of the vessels firing upon us out there. Re’ve finds himself wondering what had brought him and his ship to this point.
Long before he had thrown in his lot with the Warmaster, Re’ve had been sought out by Khun’Tai Bohs of the Word Bearers Legion. There had been promises of great things to come. At first he had ignored the overtures of the Legionary, thinking them odd but eventually Khun’Tai Bohs arrived in person to press the point. It had been late and Re’ve had been alone in his quarters when an acticnic flare of blue-white light heralded the appearance of an Astartes warrior clad in robes. The light had burned so brightly it had left permanent stains in the deck and walls of his cabin that Re’ve had had to hide behind furniture. The Word Bearer explained that he had taken a great risk by coming aboard an Imperial vessel using these means but there was great need of assurance that he had safety and assistance. Re’ve had reached for the intercom to call armsmen to deal with the intruder but had hesitated. The Astartes had asked for help and he felt compelled to aid him. His hand had fallen away from the intercom, the call for the armsmen remaining unsent, though his memory of events beyond that point remained hazy and uncertain to this day.
Now with his world crashing around him Captain Re’ve Chibal, of the Crimson Blade fleet began to suspect he had been played for a fool. Was he truly just a pawn in a bigger game? Is this really all the part he will play?
A rasping laugh followed by a cough broke his reverie. Was that in his head? “Who’s there?” He turns in all directions looking for the source of the sound. Half of the bridge crew are dead, or dying while the other half fight desperately to keep the ship alive. He was certain the laugh could not have come from any of them.
“Do you really surrender to regret so easily, Captain Chibal? I had expected so much more of one such as you”
“I have no time for cowards who lurk in the shadows and even less for mind games.” Re’ve barks irritably. He closes his eyes and rubs his temple with both of his hands.
“Come now. Is that any way to speak to one who would be your ally? The straits are dire, but your ship, your crew can still make it out of here you know.”
“Is that so? State your terms. Make it quick as I have calculations to make”, Re’ve’s fingers are flying across the console built into the arm of his command throne now, but his eyes still roam the bridge, trying to locate the source of the voice, though nothing lurked in the shadows that he could see.
“You are to muster at Bondool – are you not?” – says the voice sounding amused.
“If you would give me peace then we would be making our way there” – Re’ve can’t hide his distrust. He turns to the emotionless, empty husk of a servitor next to him – “Ready warp engines, prepare for translation”
A monotone voice replies from within this being that used to be a human female “Compliance”. A moment later the servitor speaks again, “ Warning. Immaterium engines at 45%. The vessel has a less than 50% chance of making it to the chosen destination”
Impacts ring throughout the ship as a trio of Thunderhawk Gunships in the livery of the Blood Angels Legion flash past the bridge’s main view port chasing a flight of Fury pattern interceptors.
Somehow closer, almost an intimate whisper now, the rasping voice continues “There is little time. Do you wish my help or not?”
“What will it cost us?”
“It will cost you everything and nothing. I want your servitude. Engage the immaterium drives, do not activate your gellar field. We should meet face to face”
“To do so is madness! I was told…” Re’ve begins to shout before the voice cuts him off. It sounds hurt. Angry almost.
“TOLD! By who? By your precious Nola Urgen? By schools teaching lies of a treacherous beast? You have less than 10 seconds to choose, this ship is on borrowed time, as are you!”
Despite himself, Re’ve panics and involuntarily keys the commands into the command throne console. The Indomitable Host lurches as reality distorts around it and it is pitched into the immaterium. Re’ve tries in these moments to make sense of what has happened. Is this yet another trick? Why did the failsafes not prevent him from issuing the command to translate while the Gellar field was unraised, but most of all – had he really issued that order at all?
Vast distances separated the two ships but canny maneuvering and swift calculations had found the optimum firing position. It was a shame to kill a former pupil, especially one who had shown such promise but Fleet Admiral Urgen has never let compassion cloud her duty before, and she was not about to start now. The countless deaths under her command were for the greater Imperial progress.
“Fire an Independence spread”
The firing solutions of the torpedoes coalesced upon the main auspex screen of the Libertatum. They were calculated to disable the engines of the Indomitable Host, either destroying her entirely or leaving her completely open to boarding actions as she was unable to flee.
Urgen watched as the torpedos streak across space, seeing instantly that she has calculated correctly. The Indomitable Host disappears from the auspex and Fleet Admiral Urgen turns her attention to other skirmishes satisfied her job is done.
Aboard the Indomitable Host, the surviving crew begin to succumb to possession. One by one, the horrors of the immaterium have consumed them, leaving only one with their sanity intact.
Fingertips clutching tightly to the arms his command throne, Captain Chibal has no choice but to take in every vision that the immaterium reveals to him.
The bargain struck, his life spared, he was now on his way to meet the new master he had pledged himself to. He could see him it now, a vast being that filled the viewports, his hands moving in patterns Chibal didn’t understand around the planets of Bondool and Avych.
In momentary flickers of realspace the monster is revealed to exist only in the immaterium but as the journey nears completion Re’ve begins to suspect that this would not remain the case for long.