Chapter 3 – Out of the Fire
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[[ \\ ++ :: Beginning Scene Reconstruction :: ++ // ]]

 [:: Inloading Data-Packet; Lt. Tomas Foley :: ]

 \\ ++ ::  Begin Record Playback :: ++ //


     The course ahead of him was unclear as Tomas led the trio further down into the bowls of the titanic vessel.  Their course leading them past the hurried and frantic forms of menials and arms-men hastily construction barricades in the corridors whilst sealing off certain passage ways. Far in the distance, the eternal hiss and bark of weapons fire rumbled.

    Their pathway forward was stilted several times, as Tomas and Gamma trail Ran, the gold eyed lass pausing several times as she works to get her bearings in the labyrinthian internals of the vessel, as they raced across carbon scored corridors and past blood spattered gantries across vast water reclamation tanks. 

    The further down within the belly of the beast they travelled the more sparse the menials and their accompanying arms-men grew, as the trio come to a halt within the vast water reclamation chambers, Tomas gestures for Gamma to come aside him as he stares off the gantry they are upon, into the churning vat of faintly glowing water below.

    “Aye, you got any comms traffic related to who is scuffling with the crew? The damn weapons fire seems to be getting closer the further we travel downward.”

    Gamma stares emptily at Tomas, the highly polished silver feminine death mask she wore merely reflected Tomas own face and unease squarely back at him as a stout antenna extends from her power-pack.

    “Processing: It would appear from current contact reports, that elements of the ships menials have staged some sort of coordinated armed revolt nearly in perfect time with our Gellar Field’s failure. They have raided several voids-men stations and looted the weapons from such. Their goals are unknown at this time.”

    The thought was far from comforting as Tomas stares down at the water, a sharp shake of his head following. This was clearly something planned out far in advance, this all reeked of some sort of scheme aimed to weaken them. As Yukari’s words come back unbidden to his mind surrounding the impending future, he indicates to Ran as he concedes his doubt may have been misplaced .

    “Aye, sounds a bit too coincidental as it lines up with what Lady Yakumo was saying, someone was playing a long game and now we gotta clean up the mess. “

    Gamma casts a glance towards Ran, who had taken up a spot at the center of the gangway, her head turning to and fro as she watches for something unseen. The steel faced Skitarii indicates towards her and lowers her tone.

    “Inquiry; The companion you are travelling with, how is she so familiar with the inner layout of the vessel? She isn’t…” The Skitarii turns to face Tomas once more, a pair of cold lenses focusing on him, scrying him intently. “... An abnormality is she? I do not spy any sanctioned equipment upon her nor any sign of implant work to suggest her ability to interact with the vessel's blessed machine spirit.”

    The question gave Tomas pause as he too, gazes over at Ran, the unnatural and uneering manner in which she was able to lead them about, not to mention the apparent inherent knowledge of what might be at the heart of his problem, did unsettle him if he was being honest. He does however, keep his tone neutral, opting to maintain the group cohesion.

    “Not too sure, she has a strange knack for things, but frankly you know as much about her as I do. She was dropped into my lap just a short time ago as the chronometer counts. Her Master seemed a bit eccentric and daft but so far has been correct in her foresight. As for Ran here? She seems harmless enough, we don’t have room nor time to second guess…”

    Gamma moves to bring the baroque galvanic rifle from her shoulder, a steel hand clasping at it's wooden stock as she stares unreadibly at Ran,

    “Perhaps she is aiding and embedding the menial uprising: My logic engine dictates that the chances of her betraying us: are nearly at 99.9 percent certainty. It would be wise to dispose of her now, rather than risk falling into any sort of trap she might have laid for us. Foresight without tempered logic-engines rarely leads to positive conclusions.”

    Catching the slight air of tension, despite the synthesized and artificial voice of the Skitarii, Tomas casually reaches out and clasps hold of her boxy and angular shoulder guard and gives her a slight squeeze, a placating tone on his voice.

    “Easy there cog-gal, we don’t need to leap to conclusions. There will be plenty of chances to turn the tides on her if this goes bad. Besides my thought is, if she is in line with the enemy, we have the chance to intentionally get stuck in and foil her plans. Closer we stick with her, the better our odds of mucking up something important for these traitors.” 

    He casts his gaze back towards Ran, who had idly crossed her arms, tapping a boot on the grating beneath them. He calls over to her, aiming to change the topic.

    “Aye, Ran? Is there any particular reason why you’ve chosen water reclamation as the place we will idle about at? Don’t we have more pressing matters?”

    Ran turns back, that same sharp and keen look in her eyes as she raises a gloved hand to halt him, motioning forward to a sizable bulkhead at the end of the gangplank.

    “From what I recall of the deck layout, we are at the geometric center, this area serves as a central hub that travels outward to the rest of the deck, we have the highest probability of encountering the man that the Commodore assigned to us, here.”

    The Lieutenant and Skitarii exchange looks, before Tomas indicates with a shrug to Ran, he tries to give a wry smile as he speaks.

    “Eh, might need to recalculate that one, Gamma here is a Skitarii, she has a bit more solid means of calculating that. Best to leave the number crunching to those with inbuilt cogitators. I say let's get moving the-”

    Tomas finds himself cut off as the silent and motionless form of Gamma extends her hand, slapping it against is breastplate as she stares stoically at Ran,

    “This…. Calculation is accurate, we are indeed in the center of the deck floor plans. How did you calculate that so swiftly? Are you assisted by any augmentation?”

    Ran merely flash a confident grin and snaps a thumbs up to Gamma and Tomas, as they standby dumbfounded.

    “Can’t say I have any fancy bionics, I just have a knack for crunching numbers… Our new friends should be arriving shortly.“

    The dumbfounded Tomas was readying a reply, when the door opposite the trio hissed audibly, the vast blast door moving apart as a shower of sparks rained down as the massive door slide apart, revealing a sizeable figure backlit by the brightly glowing pale lights from the corridor beyond. 

    The figure observed the trio from a distance, clad head to boot in an armored void suit of venerable design and quality, the newcomer bore in his hand the considerable bulk of an idly whirring rotor cannon. Stacked tall beneath his free arm were several cases of fresh munitions. This new arrival promptly flicks off his suit’s blinding luminators, as he lumbers over to the party, his heavy boots clanging against the gangway.  The armored helm of the man sweeps between the trio, as he moves alongside. 

    As promptly as he arrived, he merely drops the heavy cases of ammunition to the ground and takes a heavy knee.  His gaze turns to them, as he starts to prepare his suit's feeder line to intake munitions onto the heavy drum affixed at his suits back.  The suit's face-shield hisses as it flips upward, revealing the worn and tired face of Deck Officer Viktor, a thick Vostroyan accent in his tone.

    “Ah, so you are the Lieutenant that Viktor was sent to assist, aye? Well good then, help me load my weapon's reservoir, before those traitors gather up the courage to come back.”

    A bit taken aback, Tomas merely moves to heft one of the heavy cases to the munition reservoir on the man's back, the munition case locking in as it rapidly siphons shells and feeds them into a pair of rotating drums.

    “Well… to say your right would be an understatement. Aye I am Lieutenant Tomas, Sky Raiders, we were sent down here to deal with the source of our failed Geller Field. Supposedly it was down on this level.”

    Viktor merely nods his head as he manually rotates the barrel of his rotor-cannon, double checking his feed as he gives a nonchalant shrug to the assisting lieutenant.

    “Yes, this level is currently bloated with traitors, they raided my deck’s armory and killed my quartermaster. I have been hemming them into the lower water tanks. Just had to reload, many bodies require many bullets.”

    Gamma moves forth and squat down before him, a curious air about her as she watches Viktor go about his work, a flat tone in her synthetic voice.

    “Curious: How did you know our Imperial aligned if the deck is swarming with traitors? You should have opened fire on first making contact with us.”

    Viktor gives her a quizzical look, before shaking his head dismissively as his arm lurches as the new munitions race to fill the half empty feed-line to his cannon. 

    “Eh? Why would Viktor do that? You did not shoot at him. Traitors, no think right with their small brains, heads are full of too much treason. No, easier to wait, void armor could have taken a hit or two. Besides, why do you think Viktor kept a few shots in reserve? Must think big, not small like traitors.”

    He punctuates his words with a broken tooth grin, as he depresses the rotor-cannons activator, the barrels whirring suddenly, before he lets the weapon fall silent again with a hearty chuckle.

    “Meh, funny times. Now come, lower water tanks are filled to brim with traitors that want to play with corpses. We must now go and step on their heads properly to teach them the final lesson.”

    Ran looks on with a bit of squeamish look on her face, clearly uneasy at the casual mention of slaughter, just as Tomas finishes loading the spare munition cases into the Deck Officers rotor-cannon.

    “That is…. A colorful way to describe these humans, do we have to go and kill them? Isn’t there any way we might be able to talk them down or out of their actions?”

    The trio give a side-ways glance to Ran, as they sit there in an awkward silence. Viktor rises and moves to her side slapping an armored glove on her shoulder whilst giving her a sagely nod, it was almost as if he appears ready to dispense invaluable wisdom.

    “Heh, No.”

Viktor lumbers off back towards the door he came from, Gamma moving in trail with him leaving Tomas to cover their rear alongside Ran, the latter carrying a disappointed face. 

“Do we really have to kill them? Is there some reason why they won’t listen to reason?”

The Lieutenant casts a glance towards the departing forms of the Voidsmen and Skitarii, indicating to Ran to come along with him somewhat taken aback by the naivety of her inquiry.

“Eh? Not sure what you mean, they are trying to drag this ship down and feed on it's lifeblood like a parasite. There isn’t any fate more fitting to the traitor than death, their lives are forfeit the moment they take up arms against servants loyal to the Throne in these dire times.”

Ran moves alongside Tomas, shaking her head mournfully at the notion, as the duo move to catch up with the leading pair of their company.

“Still seems like a waste, in the grand scheme of things.”

As the pair cross the vast gang-way suspended above the churning vats of water below, Tomas gives a lingering glance towards Ran providing her a flat retort, as they and their other companions finally reach the steam cloaked corridor.

“Don’t get weak in the knees on me Ran, we can’t start second guessing here. I’m going to bet, this is the first combat operation? Can’t start thinking about these sorts of things in the field, remember, if you're a faithful servant of Terra then the death you deal to traitors and heretics is ordained and just.” 

Ran looks upon Tomas with blatant unease upon her features, she does however give him a slow affirmation, indicating her understanding or at least willingness to comply with his orders.

“I have my reserves, but if it is what you will, then it will be done.”

The quartet manage to make their way through the churning and winding corridors deeper down into the water reclamation deck, the signs of battle growing ever more apparent. The path they followed lead them down a oversized flight of stairs that terminated in a wrenched and torn asunder bulkhead, the room beyond the ground floor for the vast water tanks, the titanic cylinders churning and mixing not the life giving water they were due, but vast churning cauldrons of crimson ichor. 

Crudely hacked into the deck-plating were intricate and exhaustive rune-work that scrawled and sprawled across the large open space. The only cover provided were vast cargo pods that had been left scattered about and pushed aside. Brutally rising above the deck, lashed between two of the massive water-tanks, was a crude upturned pair of mangled scrap iron and reclaimed material from the surrounding decks. The wicked horn like construction towered over the scene below it, as faintly sparks of ruddy hue leap and dance between the twisted and foul rune inscribed gate-way. Sprawled before the twisted hell-gate were the myriad of forms of warped worshipers and subverted menials that danced and bleed to stir the gate to life, their outer periphery guarded by a host of haphazardly armed traitor voids-men

The Lieutenant casts furtive glances from behind the cover of the mangled bulkhead, furthermore turning to face his companions as he briefs them on the grim situation, a glance to Ran punctuating his words with an indication to the throng of cultists beyond the door.

“Well, it's worse than we projected, I thought you said there was a ‘disruption’ not a damn well full blown cult on the level. What about you Deck-Master, did you know about this?”

Ran and Viktor exchange a look, the former speaking up first as Viktor idly spins the barrel of his rotor cannon, counting the foes number beyond the door.

“How am I to know what all that means? I told you I knew there was something afoot within the ship, not that I knew inherently what it was. What are the madmen doing anyway? Why are they spilling their blood in such a vile manner? It's drawing in unnatural energies and focusing them here.”

Tomas adjusts his las-rifle, inspecting it as he thumbs off the safety, a cautious glance inside the room, making certain they haven’t been spotted.

“Ran, I think that's their plan to be honest with you. They are damnable cultists worshiping the Ruinous Powers. Throne preserves us if they catch something’s attention. Gamma, get flash traffic across the comms and tell the bridge we found the source of the disruption, we need backup to knock them out for good.”

Gamma stares vacantly at the far wall as the heavy antenna extends from her power-pack, her jade eyes flickering for a moment before she reports in flatly.

“Warning: Comms relay has been damaged two floors above us, I am attempting to reroute the message through peer connections, however several Magi are not responding to hails over the noosphere. I estimate the damage wrought by the Cultists is higher than initially estimated.”

The trio with the Skitarii give her the most frigid stare they can muster, Tomas leans back into the hall and lowers his tone urgently as he fights to keep his voice low.

“The hell do you mean the comms relay isn’t working? Re-route the message through another one, or a further one, damn well demand a runner if you have to, we aren’t charging into that room and drawing that fire on us, we need support.”

Viktor glances over as he manually lifts his visor with a wide grin on his face, as he cues the wind up for the rotor-cannon.

“We do not need backup, backup is for weak men. I have at least six barrels for these traitors and many bullets to spare. No need to cower behind cover. We tear apart their cover and leave them dead. Dead men cannot shoot back, no?”

Tomas looks down at the overly eager Voids-men, and stares daggers with a shake of his head.

“Damn well you better not…” Another stolen glance into the room, the cultists were slowly building up their ritual, the chanting growing more impassioned as more blood was spilled for the sake of their dark art. “... Damnation, they are getting lively, not a good sign. Alright, take stock then, we need to clear them out as quickly as possible. What have we all got?”

The group pools their arms, between the quartet of them, they come out with a pair of las-pistols, a bandolier of mixed grenades, one worn shock maul, Viktors rotor cannon, Gamma’s galvanic rifle and a single hotshot lasrifle to boot. The collection leaves much to be desired.

The trio of Gamma, Viktor and Tomas do stare dumbfoundedly as Ran produces only a single archaic las-pistol from her holster, along with a few blind grenades as well. The normally stoic Ran looks somewhat unabashedly ashamed as she tries to explain her arms.

“I did not have proper time to get my actual weapons together. Besides this is a very special las-pistol, it's not like yours, it has unique properties my capabilities will be on par with yours, I promise.”

Gamma looks at the weapon with a long impassive gaze, before flatting commenting in her empty tone.

“Observation: You don’t have a power cell in the weapon.”
    Ran’s face flushes embarrassed as she recovers the weapon, turning it over in her hand with all the experience of a conscript fresh into the field, as she thumbs the empty slot where a power cell should occupy.

“I-I knew that.”

Tomas works his jaw idly, jabbing a finger on her breastplate before motioning at the corner.

“I want to convey my disappointment and it's immeasurable weight, but you're going to plant your arse right there… “ He produces the few grenades he had in his kit and holds them before her. “...You can throw right? Your arm at least works right? Then just throw grenades when we call the target.”

Ran hesitantly takes the bandolier of explosives, turning it over in her hand as she indicates her understanding of the instruction, Tomas wheels about and stares out the doorway, nodding to the group at his back.

“Alright, it's just us for now, we move fast enough they won’t be able to form a cohesive counter push. In His name lets us smite these traitors.”

The duo of Gamma and Viktor give their sign of acknowledgement as the group begins their breach of the chamber. Tomas and Gamma lead the group into the fray, their first steps into the room, result in a hail of blazing lances of light and sparks of energy leap from their weapons, cutting down the sentries nearest the door. The cultists were sluggish to reply to the assault, the ruthless efficiency in which the pair had entered, allowed the group to reach the cover of the nearest set of cargo pods. 

However the world was thrown fully into madness as Viktor stepped forth into the chamber, errant auto-gun slugs deflecting off his hardened void plate, as he revs up his rotor-cannon.With a roaring laugh that rolls from him, he unleashes the terrifying weapon’s fury forth in a near steady stream of shrieking manstopper slugs squarely into the confused ranks of the traitorous menials and their ilk.

Tomas ducks into cover behind the fallen form of a cargo container as he watches the battle begin to take shape, the cults tightly hunkered down near the edges of the vast water tanks, throwing over cargo crates and supply panels as makeshift cover, as they throw forth sporadic return fire.  Taking notice of a brace of these menials attempting to form a cohesive unit beyond a cluster of crates, he calls out to Ran sharply indicating the traitors mustering point. 

The slight form of the bodyguard leans out from her shelter at the door, spying Tomas’s mark, as she heaves forth one of the fragmentation grenades. Much to his surprise, her throw manages to not only clear friendly lines, but also land with an immaculate bounce into the cover of the traitors, a hailstorm of searing shrapnel shredding the traitors where they cowered. He gives a rousing cheer for the lass as she readies another, throwing forth her deadly payload in the thickest throngs of the traitors.

From his position, on the outer ring of battle, Tomas spies the menials shifting about, hastily trying to regroup themselves as their order of battle was absolutely non-existent.  He does, however, take note of the bloodshed, and how the wicked runes hacked crudely into the deck seem to drink deeply of the twisted life-blood of the fallen disciples. As the traitors fall, the inward pang of concern makes itself known to the Lieutenant.

It's too easy, something ain’t right here. This response is about as organized as grox herders trying to stave off orks. What in Terra’s holy name is their game here…

The Lieutenant watches as the menials gleefully throw themselves into the path of Viktors roaring cannon, the flash vaporized hits from Gamma’s arc-rifle only seeming to bolster their resolve to throw themselves against the loyalists and their defensive position. A shout from Ran drew his attention upward, as upon a suspended gangway, did a trio of traitorous guardsmen clad in the blood soaked garb of Ichorous V’s. 

The traitors zealously  work to set up a heavy stubber behind the weapon's heavy gunshield. He snaps his rifle upward squeezing off several shots, but the shields hide merely scoffs at his retort, the stubber leveling at him as a fusillade of shots stream towards him. 

His eyes widen in shock as he leaps for cover, only to find himself face down upon the deck, no less than several feet from his original place of refuge. Ran lay atop of him, pushing him down as they hunker behind the cover of a heavy cargo crate. The lass leans down and hisses to him.

“I told you to watch out! Didn’t you see them? Stay here for a moment, I might be able to neutralize their weapon.”

Tomas manages to roll over to his back, prepared to hurl an sharp retort before he spies her standing tall, archaic las-pistol in hand, with that uneasy golden shimmer in her eyes. She swiftly rises from cover, her weapon, despite lacking its power cell, via unnatural means builds charge at it's barrel before a leaping searing bolt of redundant amber springs forth.

 The shot streaking over the heads of the traitorous gunning crew and striking the ceiling above them. However, uncharacteristically of las-bolts, the shot does not disperse its energy into the plate, instead it refocuses itself akin to a ricochet back down towards the hunkered traitors. The shot lancing the weapons gunner, much to the shock of his loader and spotter that promptly abandoned their position only to be cut down by shots from Gamma’s rifle.

The Lieutenant stares at the lass with a mixture of unbridled awe, and a growing sense of fear. He looks between the shot and her smoldering weapons barrel, just as he spies that resolved look and shimmer being sapped from her form. She staggers uneasily, as the las-pistol falls from her grip.  

Reacting from the gut, Tomas shoves himself over as he watches her collapse, managing to catch her and haul her back into the relative safety of the cargo container form.

With a cautious glance over the edge of the crate, satisfied that Viktor and Gamma were more than capable of ruthlessly dealing with the now shattered resolve of the traitors, he stares down at Ran, a sharp and reprimanding tone on his voice.

“Damn fool, I told you to stay back in the cover of the hall, a stubber isn’t going to hew me down. The hell was that anyway? Don’t you dare tell me you're one of them immaterial channeling freaks. Don’t you put that on me, not here and not now.”

Ran lays in his arms, raggedly breathing as she tries weakly to recompose herself, an uneasy shake of her head merely part of her reply.

“N-No the energy here is malign and of no use to me, being so far from my Master is exhausting. Besides, I couldn't let you get hurt, my Master said to protect you, and humans are so slow to react.”

A scowl is drawn from Tomas, while peering over cover as he watches the fight slowly winding down, however the twisted metal gate-way has only grown more excited, biting lances of energy striking between the upturned arc as it builds in intensity.

“Damn it girl, you said you knew of this device? How in the Emperor’s name do we cut it off, the worshipers are either dead or fleeing, and the thing is still flaring up ever more actively.”

Ran strains, leaning past the Lieutenants arm as she watches the gateway, a weak grimace forms on her face as she mutters.

“It appears we arrived far too late, this gambit was rigged against us from the start it seems. We will have to adjust accordingly and deal with the fallout after. Master’s tertiary plans are soon to be put into effect, we had best make ready for our transition into real-space.”

Damnation, this is all going to hell, and we are left stuck holding the door ...

Tomas peers over the lip of the crate, tapping his vox-bead a few times to clear the shrieking static that assails the channel.

“Viktor, Gamma, times up. Pack it up and head for our secondary objective to secure the savior pods. We are falling back to the Commodore’s rally point.”

Viktor turns towards the place Tomas was sheltering, his arms out in a heavy shrug as he steps down heavily upon the squirming form of a downed menial.

“What? Withdraw? But we are winning Lieutenant. No need to run, just crush more of these traitors beneath boots. All will be well.”

Gamma emerges from the rear of one of the reclamation vats, her shock maul sparking and dripping with crimson rivulets, as she turns towards the daemonic gateway, vox clicking to register her retort.

“The Lieutenant is correct, power consumption on this deck has escalated considerably, we are at risk of exposure to unsafe levels of unstable energy. Confirming order to withdraw.”

Viktor gives a disappointed wave of his free hand, his snarky remark cut short as the sharp crack of thunderous energy discharge ripples in the room, the scent of ozone and a thick copper taste upon the tongue as the mangled metal portal frame ripples with sparking and unnatural energies. The fluttering scarlet flames leap between the two upturned crude iron spires, the dancing flames slowly merge together as a hellish churning mass of the immaterial manifests itself and grows, slowly opening like a yawning maw.

Beyond the threshold of this rippling tear in reality, hellish figures move and shift, their afterimages revealing a towering quartet of ceramite clad monsters that bear the unmistakable silhouette of the fabled Adeptus Astarte looming just beyond the portals threshold. As the cause-way resolves, a twisted host of mutated bestial servants arrayed before them start to claw and push against the weakening barrier of reality causing it to fracture before them.

Gamma stares on, back peddling slowly towards the door, as her voice speaks aloud, over the din and shriek of the building portals energy. 

“Alert: Astarte assistance was not requested nor confirmed. This unit finds this entire situation suspect, recommending the unit prioritize secondary objectives.”

Tomas swallows dryly as he takes several long steps back and away, casting a look to Viktor and Ran, each of them returning an equally dread filled gaze.

“Confirmed, something isn’t right here. Fall back to secondary objectives, Throne, something isn’t right with those Astarte. We leave now.” 

With that Tomas snatches up Ran to carry her, despite her protests, barking his orders to withdraw. The ad-hoc fire team moves with all haste from the chamber with a vigor only borne by those being harried by the very hounds of hell as the twisting and rippling causeway to the hellish realm audible shatters the barrier of reality pouring forth it's malice upon the doomed ship.