Part 1 – A Gaze into the Eye
Following the awakening of the last Egerian, the Deathwatch contracted Mayorga to retrieve the device the creature described. The Lord Captain’s attunement to the Egerian network was apparently required to access it.
The ship was refitted with a full barracks, teleportarium, and emergency-failsafe gellar field. In addition, a Deathwatch killteam detachment was assigned to assist with the mission.
The vessel first returned to the Lathes for further resupply and to acquire more troops. Using their pull with the Mechanicum and their increased wealth the dynasty was able to acquire elite skitarri storm troopers and add highly skilled specialists to almost every staff segment (crew quality increased to 40).
All the while the Egerian and Warp Guide “Master Or” worked to find the location and warp route of their destination. They finally concluded that it was in the fringe of the Eye of Terror. On hearing this Vinter recalled seeing Exporator records indicating that the world had become a deamon-world.
Despite considerable concern over this revelation, the crew set course for the fringe around the Eye of Terror. This turned out to be the most difficult navigational challenge Warp Guide “Master Or” had ever faced. Progress was slow, and numerous warp disturbances over the first two months of the voyage threatened morale and the ship’s health.
Part 2 – Dark Salvation
Then things got worse. First the ship was nearly ambushed in the warp by a large Chaos flotilla. Only a remarkable counter-ambush, the ship’s Nova Cannon, and a lot of luck kept the venture from ending right then and there. Then as the ship moved deeper into the fringe progress practically stopped. Two more months passed without any measurable progress towards their goal.
All the while, Vinter and Feight spent all their free time in the ship’s laboratorium working on some expansive R&D project. Three months into the voyage Vinter had already designed two extensive surgical redesigns on himself, having Master Or perform the actual surgery. Following this the Enginseer emerged looking much more human than before… an unusual change for any Tech-Priest, even a Genetor.
Finally Master Or came to a horrible conclusion; he and the ship were lost. Wandering blind in the warp is tremendously dangerous at the best of times. Unable to locate the light of the Astronomican, the Navigator could not even see if they were heading deeper into or away from the Eye of Terror anymore.
An emergency meeting was called, and it was decided that dropping out of warp to reorient was too dangerous this close to the eye. There was no question that some way to reliably flee the fringe was required though.
A strange message appeared on Mayorga’s dataslate: “Give a sign, and I can awaken Or’s instincts.” The situation was sufficiently dire that Mayorga didn’t hesitate or question the providence of the offer. “Do it.” was all anyone in the room heard, and Master Or underwent a now all too familiar change.
A cruel grin broke across the Navigator’s face, “No problem, I’ve got this.” A few days later Or’s id guided the ship back out of the fringe. Moments after the ship dropped back into the materium the Navigator regained control of his mind. Too focused on the task at hand to worry about the lost time, he immediately began preparing a new course to the lost daemon-world.
Part 3 – Future Past
Valuable lessons had apparently been learned from the recent near-catastrophe. Once the journey resumed progress was much smoother. It would only be another 30 days to reach their destination.
As the ship got closer, the warp disturbances became more pronounced and disturbing. Whole sections of the ship were melted, warped, or rearranged without warning and only the creative insights of Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum allowed the vessel to recover. The worst was the “un-mutiny” stemming from some sort of time-slippage.
Everyone on board was suddenly two-days in the past. The crew retained a surreal but seemingly-full recollection of the events that had been “lost” with no evidence of those events having ever occurred. Many details were blurry. On further investigation approximately 2-6 additional hours were found to be missing from most people’s memories at the end of the lost time.
Finally the lost events were reconstructed with a disturbing revelation; there had been a mutiny against the command staff. No clear cause to the mutiny could be found in the reconstructed memories but the results became quite clear. The Lord-Captain “was to have been”1 tortured before his execution via airlock, while most of the other officers were simply killed in the fighting. A handful of others escaped in a gun-cutter, but had no way out of the warp…
While these events effectively never transpired and no cause was ever found, these discoveries led to an atmosphere of paranoia and uncertainty. Extraordinary effort was put into reinforcing morale and the rest of the voyage was spent waiting for everything to go to hell.
1 Future-past tense is awkward no matter how you slice it.
Part 4 – A World Apart
Until this time the alien psyker had been conferring with Warp Guide “Master Or” from time to time, generally in regards to the nature of navigator tools and equipment. Less than a week from the daemon world he called on the Lord Captain and Enginseer to discuss their plans.
The alien believed that the technology of the ship, primarily the navigator pod and gellar field, could be used to expand his control over the energies of the warp. If it worked he claimed that he could temporarily pull the daemon world fully into the materium, allowing a ground team to land without being ripped apart by the warp.
Mayorga expressed some disbelief and began to question the entire purpose of the mission. Unable to verbally explain with sufficient clarity, the alien imprinted a complete picture of what it knew. The understanding was alien in nature, but ever since Mayorga’s attuning to the Magoros Array he had become progressively more familiar and comfortable with alien thought patterns. In fact such patterns seemed almost natural by this point.
The planet held an ancient Xenos fortress, refit for human use thousands of years ago. The fortress held a greater array than the one found on Magoros. Originally it had been part of a failed project to contain the Eye of Terror’s growth. Now it secured the device from the eyes of chaos.
How the fortress could remain functional once the world had been overcome by the warp was unknown. However, the alien psyker was certain it still stood intact and untouched by the rest of the world’s corruption. After his alien communion Mayorga was just as certain and ordered the crew to begin work under the alien’s direction.
Part 5 – Poking Chaos in the Eye
Upon arrival the ship’s auspex came to life with dozens of ships in the system. The ship had already begun running silent after the initial sensor sweep, which may have saved the 100,000 plus lives on board. This was a small comfort in the face of a full Chaos naval garrison.
Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok consulted the bridge’s archeotech hololith, calling up a map of the force distribution throughout the system. Recalling their encounter with Karrad Val’s raiders at Magoros she realized that they weren’t looking at a military garrison at all. These ships were part of a civil project.
Most of the ships were transports, many of them in considerable disrepair. Nearly half of the vessels were in orbit over the Array world, primarily clustered over what was assumed to be the Fortress Array. The ships were arranged to optimize for transport and delivery of resources to the planet’s surface, not keeping the system secure.
Though this news was somewhat comforting, the military forces were still considerably more than the Corpus Dei could take on by itself. It was time for Mayorga’s crew to update their plans. Rather than hours or days, the ground operation would have less than two hours to get the device and return to the ship. Even that presumed that they somehow disabled all of the combat-capable ships currently in orbit.
After tense hours of slow, silent coasting the ship was in position. The plan was a bold one, but it was the best the crew had. One of the grand cruisers had set itself up as a makeshift station and stardock, with a cruiser and three transports physically attached and powered down.
The Corpus Dei fired its nova cannon directly into the makeshift space station. Exposed and without its void shields even a Grand Cruiser couldn’t withstand a direct hit from a nova cannon shell. Broadsides and two wings of bombers accompanied the collateral damage of the shell’s explosion, crippling most of the priority targets before they could mount a sufficient counter-attack.
No matter how successful, this ambush was just an opening gambit in a larger battle. The patrol wing the ship had managed to sneak by earlier came about to engage and two other cruisers in orbit had been too far away to be a part of the initial strike. The Corpus Dei was surrounded with four times its own mass in Chaos vessels and a protracted, costly battle ensued.
Hours of grueling combat, multiple boarding actions, and two more nova cannon shells later the battle had been won. Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum and Master Or’s medicae skills had helped mitigate the casualties enough to keep the ship running while High Factotum Edmund Swift’s remarkable talent for manipulating the crew kept morale from collapsing.
Part 6 – Sundering
The real concern was the damage to the ship. The void shields had been completely destroyed and the hull was hanging from the ship’s spine. On top of it all the rest of the ships in the system would arrive in less than 90 minutes and there was no way the Corpus Dei could expect to survive another fight, not even with a single frigate.
The last Egerian fulfilled its promises, both to the crew and to those he left behind millennia ago. He ripped the caul of the warp from the planet’s surface and brought the world fully into the physical realm. To those with even the slightest psychic sensitivity it was a complete violation of reality, ecstatic and terrible.
The ground team was already underway. Lord Captain Mayorga was accompanied by Master at Arms Kerchan Bron Kennok, Choir Master Telepathica “Lux”, and Warp Guide “Master Or” on a small shuttle piloted by F-Eight. Flying in escort formation around the shuttle was a full wing of fighters, and bombers had been deployed for ground support.
The Deathwatch kill team deployed via orbital drop and secured the landing area. F-eight wove through the waves of anti-aircraft fire and sorcerous assaults with almost supernatural precision. Still, by the time the ground team had been dropped half the escort craft had been destroyed and the kill team’s assault marine was already dead.
The astartes were pouring bolter shells in every direction, bombers kept the worst of the Chaos horde in check, and it was still clear that there was little time to waste before everyone would be overwhelmed. The space marines held the line with air support while Mayorga’s team made a mad dash for the fortress.
Despite all the screening a small horde of monstrous, warp-spawned “things” had managed to cut Mayorga’s team off. With nowhere else to go the party stood before the beasts mere meters from the protection of the Fortress Array. Kerchan stood ready to carve a path for the rest to get through, but Choir Master Telepathica “Lux” recognized the creatures before them and knew that any such gesture would be futile.
Striding forward the astropath brandished nothing more than a small, strangely decorated knife. Just as the daemons were about tear the party apart a torrent of Lux’s blood poured out onto the ground from a horrific self-inflicted wound. With an single invokation the blood flowed into arcane patterns across the ground and the daemons were blown back. Some were even thrown into the warp outright.
Horribly wounded, Lux stumbled across the line of the Fortress Array’s shields. The others followed close behind before the warding collapsed. Mayorga’s team was safe for the moment, but they had just over half an hour left before there would be nowhere to retreat to.
Part 7 – Passing the Torch
The team took a moment to ensure Lux was still with them and stable. Only Master Or recognized the truth of what had just transpired, the rest were too focused on more immediate concerns to ponder “psyker matters”. With a long-standing suspicion confirmed, he made a mental note to follow up later.
Having finally caught their breath enough to look around, Mayorga’s team was greeted with a disturbing sight. Young women, all ranging from roughly 15-20 years of age, had been cybernetically built into the very walls of the Fortress. The girls were clearly in pain and had their vision sealed with a warded plate bonded over their eyes.
Or’s naturally inquisitive mind was the first to put everything together. Every one of the girls was a powerful psyker and almost certainly a clone. Based on their ages he further surmised that they were being interred into the fortress walls at rough 15 years of age and survived no more than six years as part of the living ward that protected the fortress from the Eye’s influence. For this to be true there would be many more being prepared within along with their handlers.
While Or was fascinated the rest of Mayorga’s team was too driven to get their prize and get out to pay his observations much mind. Pressing on, they eventually came to a large chamber housing a considerably more complex version of the Magoros Array. Within the chamber a ancient looking woman knelt on a small dais surrounded by a number of young girls with varying levels of cybernetic “enhancement”.
Only Or so much as spared the silent woman and her charges a second glance. While the others focused on the array Or came to some genuinely shocking realizations. The old woman was a psyker of tremendous power and almost certainly the original genetic template for the clones. With all he had learned and discovered Or concluded that she would be several thousand years old.
The ancient psyker watched Mayorga approach the array with barely concealed anticipation. Or could see she was more than ready to be released from her millennia-spanning vigil. The children seemed to have a more basic understanding, lowering their gaze and pulling tighter towards one another and their progenitor. A hush settled over the fortress as Mayorga brought his lens towards the array’s central hub, even the cries of the living barrier abated.
Mayorga opened his mind to the Xenos network once more. This time the flow was far more powerful than when he had attuned to the Magoros Array. While his well-trained and incisive mind was able to open itself to this new understanding, further surrendering his perspective to this alien way of thinking pushed him yet further from humanity.
Stumbling from the strain, Mayorga held his focus and sought out the location of the device the Egarians had secreted away so many millennia ago. It was only then that he could understand why attuning to the Fortress had been necessary; the device was hidden on the Egarian homeworld which had itself been sealed within a pocket of their gate-system. The Fortress Array was the last remaining array holding the necessary keys to unlock that pocket.
With The Warden successfully attuned to the array, the ancient psyker released her hold on life with a sigh of relief. At that same moment the shields protecting the fortress began to fail. Master Or knew what was to come, and thus what he had to do.
The renegade navigator had committed numerous horrors in his time, some for knowledge and others out of simple necessity. Despite all he had done, Master Or hesitated for the first time in memory. It was no more than the slightest moment but it was an unexpected sign of humanity long since thought discarded.
Dispelling his momentary lapse of conviction the Navigator opened his Warp Eye. Sweeping his destructive gaze over every surface of the fortress Master Or obliterated every last psyker child in the fortress. It was a merciful atrocity; their death now was quick and purifying. Left on the daemon world they would become puppets of Chaos, if returned to the imperium they would be torturously examined then executed by the Inquisition, and set loose on the galaxy they would be unable to care for themselves and fall to a variety of truly horrific fates.
While the navigator’s display was horrific, the rest of the party had little time to react. The Lord Captain felt what was happening around the fortress and could see what was coming towards his people on board the Corpus Dei. He did not see how they would have the time and freedom to enter the alien homeworld and did not wish to see the array claimed by the forces of Chaos. So there was only one chance, and it was a hell of a gamble.
Mayorga had been contemplating the Egarian array network and the possibilities it presented for some time. He had a loose theory he had been toying with and the new understanding from the Fortress Array gave him just enough information to attempt an “unconventional” manipulation of the network.
Reaching through the Fortress Array’s hub he sought the dormant connection to the sealed device. Taking hold of that connection he “unfolded” the connection within the hub, dumping it into the gate-system and pulling the device into the crumbling fortress. It was much like turning reality inside-out.
Unfortunately this process ran through Mayorga both psychically and, at least in part, physically. The violation of reality around and within him very nearly killed him, and he was left with only the faintest flicker of life remaining within him. While Kerchan moved to stabilize the captain Lux felt the fortress shield collapse. Back on the ship a violent spike of thought slammed into Enginseer Prime Vinter Stum’s mind, calling for immediate extraction.
With the shield down and the chaos forces in disarray there was no longer anything blocking use of the teleportarium. In the time it took to breathe the Enginseer performed an exhaustive series of calculations that would have left even most of his peers in contemplation for hours. Entering this masterwork of logic into the teleportarium’s terminal he pulled nearly every individual and asset on the planet’s surface back to the ship.
It was at this time that Mayorga’s backup plan was discovered; a rapidly destabilizing gate had opened next to the ship just before he collapsed. With a chaos fleet incoming and the ship badly damaged First Officer Vidame Mayorga took the helm and plunged the ship back into the non-space of the Egarian gate system.
Free of an immediate threat the crew conferred over their situation. Of course everyone’s first concern was the captain. Vinter hooked The Mayorga up to the very best support and diagnostic system he could devise within the ship’s considerable med-bay. The captain had been severely traumatized in ways that only the Warp Auger could fully analyze. However, the Lord Captain was stable but lost within a deep coma.
Work to revive the Captain would continue but for the time being First Officer Vidame Mayorga would be acting captain. Hoping for some insight on the alien realm the ship was now potentially trapped within, Vidame ordered the navigators to pull the alien from the navigation pod. Unfortunately all that remained in the pod was a warp-wracked and desiccated corpse.
Now the ship was lost in an alien realm with no guide, in severe need of repairs, light on supplies, and its captain in a coma. Then there were the losses to consider. Only a single member of the Deathwatch killteam, the apothecary, had survived the raid. Four of the Starhawk bombers and eight of the Fury interceptors had been left in ruins on the planet’s surface, though five of the pilots had managed to survive long enough to be teleported out.
Further casualties comprised over a quarter of the ship’s active crew. More than five thousand crewmen were dead and nearly than twice that number would be unable to return to service. A quarter of the elite skitarri storm troopers had been killed, with another quarter convalescing in the med-bay.
Now the crew had to find their way back to Imperial space before supplies ran out or their enemies caught up with them…