Saturday, 28 April 2018

It's Always Heretical in the Kronus Expanse: The Crew finds an Opportunity

Rogue Trader: A quest for profit in the grim darkness of the 41st millenium. But dying in mediocrity and misery is for poor people and losers, and a Rogue Trader's retinue is anything but.

It's Always Heretical in the Kronus Expanse is bought to you by:

Lord-Captain van Hohenheim - Rogue Trader. Hero. The last of his line. Possibly insane, although a holiday has done much to soothe his agitated mind. Questionable epicurean delights have left him unreasonably muscled.
Magos Abigail von Thannhausen - A Magos Explorator-Chymist who possibly takes too much pleasure in the craft of Servitors. Accompanied by her servo-skull. Ever since doing warp-eel shots, she seems more insightful somehow.
Archaius "Boosto" Wash - A gunnery sergeant with a now less-irritating artificial voicebox and a jetpack. We are all amazed by his apparently-infinite agility, and his recent ability to just shrug off pain.
Sebastian LaMarck - A seneschal with a silver tongue. Spymaster and king of Human Resources. One hell of a butler, even when he's on autopilot.
Winter York - Astropath Transcendant. Monstrous willpower. Notorious advocate of psychic power pissing matches, and freshly endowed with wings, somehow. Your glorious narrator and remembrancer.

The next morning, the command staff is feeling the night before.

Wash's morning self-flagellation isn't tickling like it used to. The Lord-Captain's exercise regime of lifting amasec bottles has paid off, but perhaps too fast -- he has trouble getting through doorways, and aside from my hangover, my back appears to be sprouting bone spurs.

I book an appointment with the Magos. Yep, it's unnatural. She bandages it for me, and gives me some medical amasec and space panadol. I ask if I should lay of the Kriegian grox milk.

The Lord-Captain, by contrast, decides to go for a third-party doctor; the Magos tries stalking him with a servo skull, and fails miserably. The Captain finds a good doctor, and after accepting a complimentary pair of fist-sized grox tranquilizers, diagnoses him with unusual hormone imbalance or really good, but poorly installed, vat grown muscle. There's not really much he can do about it, except recommend a more even install of muscle on a planet with the appropriate facilities.

Wash also pays the Magos a visit; she diganoses it as successfully surpassing the weakness of the flesh. She tries to put him on the table

We make our way to the Foretelling; as we get closer to the place, architecture worsens, stone structures in poor condition, and there's precious few people around, not even the usual scum.

I feel ill at ease. We must be close.

We're met by LeFrancois at "The Cell", a crumbling stone structure with a barred opening; it gets a wide berth from the few other people around.

We hear eerie voices that come from all around us. Ahead of us, the air is punctuated by occasional screams.

There are two guards; once their quilted armor was white, but time and stains have made them worse for the wear. Each one carries a staff with a copper orb, cables linking it to a pouch on their belts. They wordlessly welcome us and lead us in; the walls are lined with stained padding like their armor.

The place feels a lot like an abandoned asylum.

We cross one last threshold, and the guards close the gate behind us, not accompanying us any further. We're plunged into darkness, and the air feels moist. We don't balk, and the light returns, flickering and staccato. We see seven witches, as well as the other auction winners, and they speak as one, bidding us welcome.

"Many have heard the call, but how few shall reach the destination?"

They focus their power, and the temperature drops once more. They profess to be beyond even the Emperor himself. Dread fills us. Someone vomits, and we're all snatched away into a void of pain. I try to resist, but

The vision comes to us.

We are adrift on a sea of roiling energy. The raw stuff of nightmares swirls all around. Screaming voices, seven streams of voices, speaking as one, directly to our souls. A cipher forms in our mind, a time and place. An oval gemstone, glittering against the velvet of space, and we are compelled to take it. We must own it.

We return to reality, awakening with a start. I feel an opp

The vision clarifies. The gemstone isn't a gem, it's a planet, wrapped in a warp stone. And we feel like we just need to look at a star chart to know where it is.

Before they fall silent, the witches have one last word of advice for us: "It's not a gem, it's a pearl; a pretty, dread pearl."

As we digest the information, there's several snaps of energy and ozone; several witnesses vanish, including Fel, which ruins our plans to put him six feet deep and eliminate some competion.

LeFrancois, dabbing at his mouth with an embroidered kerchief, makes eye contact with us and legs it. Along with most of the others. Everyone's in quite a hurry to depart.

We've got quite the star chart waiting for us on our ship, so we make haste to it. As we're making our way up to the bridge, the ship begins to rock; something is shooting us! Auspex tells us it's the guns on the docking arm.

We get a transmission; the big goon who tried to mug us is there. He gives us Hadarak Fel's regards. Wash blasts two of the turrets shooting us, and they stop, fearful for their lives.

The damage is done, however; they tickled our engines, which isn't scuttling us, but is going to slow us down until we fix them in a couple of days.

As we make our way out to the jump point, the Navigator sits us down to chart a path with us; he begins to describe how he views the warp.

The Navigator shows us his view of the warp; not unlike a hedge maze, with the beacon of the Astronomicon

We're watched the whole way; eyes in the hedges, belonging to awful, awful things. The Navigator is trying his best, but he's lost.

More and more eyes are closing in on us, like sharks in the water. We need more time. I plan to buy it, channelling more power to try and draw attention from the Navigator. Wash begins to pray feverishly. The Magos prays to the Omnisiah.

With the Lord Captain's encouragement to Do Better, the Navigator gets what he needs, and we drop out of the vision and back onto the table.

Alarms are going off when we return; we've got contact about a hundred thousand klicks out. It's an Imperial ship, belonging to a trader or free captain... shooting at what appears to be nothing. The Lord-Captain wants to join in. We prepare for battle stations, and hail the ship doing the shooting to assist.

It's the Captain who bid the mummified remains of the priest-king. He's extremely jaunty, and goes by the name Jeremiah Blitz. He can't tell what it is he's actually shooting at; he suspects it's Eldar. He won't ask for help, but if we're giving it, he'll take it, particularly as the Lord-Captain is doing it >For Free. Blitz likes this, and calls him a good bastard.

We properly engage the ghost ship; the Magos tries to ping it on auspex; the ship sort of shows, flickering in and out. The Lord-Captain takes the helm, and brings us closer; we get a visual on it, it's some sort of translucent ship. Wash opens up on it, scoring a firm hit. The ship flickers, and sure enough, an eldar ship swims into view. It doesn't respond to a vox hail. Which was expected, in hindsight.

Blitz opens up on it, too, and scores a direct hit. It rocks, and flickers firmly back into view, before going ghosty again. Parts of it glow, burning craters in the enemy vessel.

It turns it's attentions to us. It fires what look like little suns across our shields; they don't get past, but the shields take a hammering.

This time, I reach out to it psychically. I'm slapped psychically for the trouble, taking a wound. The Magos calibrates the macrocannons, the Lord-Captain rallies the gunnery crews, and Wash cuts loose with an absolutely blistering shot clean through the eldar ship, ripping a hole straight off the top of the ship. The laser makes contact, and shakes the ship hard; it disengages, and tries to fuck off, leaving nothing but wreckage behind, which we scavenge.

Blitz hails us again, and congratulates us; if we weren't rivals and in a race, he'd stop to have a drink with us. We wish him well anyway, and toast to a fair fight.

The material we got from the ship is mysterious; it seems porous, but is actually rather smooth. On contact, I briefly hear alien singing.

We reach the jump point, and punch it into the void at full speed.

It's sixty days to our destination. To pass the time:

- I discover that Wings growing in. It's an interesting morning, and thereafter, I spend a lot of time on the flight deck, eating bulkhead.

- We now have a franchise branch of MagosDonalds onboard.

- The Magos works on "Reading the bolts". I suggest making them out of that hull material we pulled off the eldar ship. It seems to work: The Magos asks: "Where in the world is Skekris?", and she gets a vision of an asteroid, bristling with weapons; and inside it, a facility. The Magos Skekris. An operating room.

Wash has intense feelings of Deja Vu when I share those images with everyone. And the Lord-Captain has an unshakable sense of dread.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

It's Always Heretical in the Kronus Expanse: The Crew Attends an Auction

Rogue Trader: A quest for profit in the grim darkness of the 41st millenium. But dying in mediocrity and misery is for poor people and losers, and a Rogue Trader's retinue is anything but.

It's Always Heretical in the Kronus Expanse is bought to you by:

Lord-Captain van Hohenheim - Rogue Trader. Hero. The last of his line. Possibly insane, although a holiday has done much to soothe his agitated mind.
Magos Abigail von Thannhausen - A Magos Explorator-Chymist who possibly takes too much pleasure in the craft of Servitors. Accompanied by her servo-skull.
Archaius "Boosto" Wash - A gunnery sergeant with a now less-irritating artificial voicebox and a jetpack.
Sebastian LaMarck - A seneschal with a silver tongue. Spymaster and king of Human Resources. One hell of a butler.
Winter York - Astropath Transcendant. Monstrous willpower. Notorious advocate of psychic power pissing matches. Your glorious narrator and remembrancer.

The crew begins Season 2 of Fear and Loathing in the Kronus Expanse -- It's Always Heretical in the Kronus Expanse.

Last season, the crew of the Absolute Ambition established a a religion-orientated colony in the Kronus Expanse, on Magaros.

In our downtime, we've had the chance to relax, and the Lord Captain's madness has had a chance to subside somewhat. Somewhat.

It has come to light that the most stable warp routes around Magaros are a touch choppy and unstable; most pilots are unwilling to fly them, but Jean LeFrancois and other associated free captains have been willing to do so in exchange for a handsome reward. LeFrancois has bought out the lanes, making arrangements with other free captains, but he is doing the bulk of the work.

Orbus Dray has been accompanying LeFrancois as a senior officer / supervisor for the last four months or so.

One night at dinner, as we finish the sixth course, Sebastian stands up and gets our attention. He is sad to be the bearer of bad news; while things are stable and the colony is breaking even, if we don't do some actual work, we risk running out of amasec within the next 18-24 months, and having to cancel the seventh course as soon as 3 months away.

I throw my fork on the table in anger.

Wash proposes that we kill two rocs with one bolter -- we settle our beef with Skekris (Spit on the ground) and take his stuff, satisfying our dual lust for revenge and money / Catachanian quail.

As a more immediate measure, the Lord-Captain wants to send kevins to pick up the xeno batteries we withheld from the Mechanicus and leak them to the Cold Trade for cash.

As we contemplate this, I receive a message from Orbus Drey, encrypted using cyphers which I relay to the crew; there is an event promising great fortune in Footfall that we might be particularly interested in -- the "Foretelling".

That sounds like it's up our alley, and a good way to get back into the swing of things, as it were. The Lord-Captain decides we depart in three days; in the meantime, the Kevins are to begin drills at 5am. The Magos and Winter are unsure how useful drills are, they're good for making holes in things, but of debatable use in space.

Preparations for the journey begin. The Lord-Captain wants to send our old friend Captain Fel a message and bait him into coming to the Foretelling so that we can make fun of him and/or kill him while we're there, but now isn't the time. So he will settle for taking the xenobatteries.

We return to Footfall successfully, after a few weeks' travel. Sebastian gives us a refresher course on Footfall, it's an irregular mass of towers and gantries, hanging in the void, growing erratically and without planning. As such, it has changed ever so slightly while we've been away.

The settlement is led by an individual nominated by champions of Footfall's interests named the Leige; the Leige is usually subservient to any rogue trader, and even the most inexperienced captain would theoretically be higher on the pecking order, but in practice this can be hard to enforce, and a slow-to-learn captain can find themselves between a rock and a hard place in a dark alley.

What we don't expect on the way in is a macro-sized statue of the God Emperor; it's a massive thing, assembled from various materials.

On arrival, we look up LeFrancois and Dray -- they're situated a few bays down the Longshore, where we've docked. We walk past a number of crates when a large, heavy-set man steps out, and gets in our face, casually blocking the way.

He and the lord captain exchange some banter before I just tell him to Move. It works, and he scampers away, declaring that we'll get ours.

We eventually find an incredibly extravagantly-decorated ship -- there's no mistaking it as LeFrancois' ship, the Fleur de Lis -- LeFrancois and Dray emerge to greet us. LeFrancois is looking exceptionally well, his powdered wig bigger and more powdered than ever before.

He greets us warmly, and Dray briefs us on the Foretelling.

It's an uncommon event, but has happened before; the last time it happened, it revealed a new warp route out by Winterscale's realm. The Lord Captain asks me about it; it's not my field of expertise, but it's possible to predict the future. But such a thing requires power, and for a large-scale predction, a disgusting amount is needed. Even I can feel it welling up in the warp around us, coming in hard and fast.

As I finish educating the team, we're approached by a servo-skull; it projects the image of a man with extensive and elaborate augments and a chromed deathmask with disturbingly organic eyes; he introduces himself as Tanthus Moros, and cordially invites us to a dinner function later on.

This sounds like a good opportunity to expand our business connections, if it's not a trap. I suggest the Lord Captain bring a sample of our Ghostfire Lilies, possibly worn in the lapel, to get the attention of the Leige's benefactors.

We dress in matching white tuxedos, with the exception of the Magos who settles for her best robes with gold gear-trim. We wear our Dinner Hats. I wear a fascinator and my bodyglove under my tuxedo.

The location is a gathering of extremely well-dressed people -- although they're not quite wearing the outfits right; they're affecting nobility.

At the end of the hall, we see a palanquin surrounded by scantily-clad women, likely concubines. We're making our way towards it when we spot a familiar face in the crowd: Fel. That asshole. He hasn't noticed us.

We confer. We could launch a surprise attack on his ship, a suicide option, or we could kill him here and now. The Lord-Captain opts to publicly humiliate him and ruin his night, before killing him opportunistically if we have a chance after dinner.

The Lord Captain opens up on Fel at range, increasing in volume as he gets closer, and draws the attention of the crowd; Fel can do nothing but stand there and take it; he declares he has better things to do after being roasted, and leaves. The crowd gathers around and the Captain socializes.

The Magos presses on towards the palanquin, and meets the Leige. She is quite taken with his extensive augmentations, and speaks with him.

After a while, he calls for the food to be brought out. Servants bring out platters of food that are... strange. Like the guests, these are imitations of haute cuisine. The Lord-Captain wants quail, so I go looking for some.

And extremely weird. At least, as far as I can tell -- surely nobility doesn't eat dishes this strange. So weird, people are attentively watching and cheering anyone who can keep it down. Obviously, this is some sort of hazing challenge. I report that there is no quail.

I'll rise to the challenge -- I pick a platter of... "Jerazol brain fluke, braised in ork spinal fluid", and tuck in. It's tough to keep down, but it feels like an hour of hallucinations rammed into a very few seconds. I've had the warp in my head, but this is something else. I feel my mind has been opened to new wisdoms.

The Lord-Captain picks a platter of "deep warp eel of unknown origin with Egarian mummy extract", and spoons it down. It seems to have a positive effect on him, and he seems to grow in stature, growing larger. (He's gained the hulk mutation)

The Lord-Captain eggs Wash into trying the eel -- they have a blender so he can drink it through his grille. I decide to join in, and make it a shots challenge. We down them and empty our glasses.

Wash seems to stop noticing when people brush into him. (He no longer feels pain.) Me, I feel just fine, although my back is itching like mad and I'm regularly looking for pillars to casually scratch my back against. (Growing wings, eventually to have Flier trait @ Agility Bonus x2)

Everyone is well impressed by this, and it seems like their tongues waggle more freely around us. We use this opportunity to learn more about the Foretelling.

Word has it that the Foretelling is invite only -- and to get it, you have to bid at an auction. Top ten bids get in, everyone else goes. Auction's at the Obsidian Emporial, tonight.

We need to get a move on. We say our goodbyes to the Leige, and part ways for the evening. My back is driving me nuts, and the Lord-Captain's suit seems to have shrunk on him.

The Obsidian Emporial is, by day, a prominent shopping center. We arrive just in time, meeting Sebastian there with a change of clothes for the Lord-Captain, which don't seem to be faring much better than his tux.

As we enter, we pass through an arch of black stone. The doors themselves seem to be made of adamantium hull plate, flanked by two Ogryns. They give us a once-over as they enter; small arms and explosives seem to be okay, but the Magos' power axe gets sideways looks.

The hall is lit by hovering servo skulls, each carrying a wax-dripping candle. The hall is packed, with rich, poor, and the Fel alike. Everyone's attention is focused on the podium at the front, where a hunched, decrepit creature stands; his face distended and more bovine than human, and his skull lined with sockets. He is the Intercessor.

Cables extend down from the ceiling and pick him up by his skull, placing him into the podium, where he rolls up his sleeves to reveal mechanical arms; he bangs a gavel and the auction begins.

 Near us, a man bids ten thousand thrones. The crowd goes silent. The Intercessor declines, and the man is removed. We get one bid each, it seems.

The crowd begins to thin itself out. And suddenly, Hadarak Fel stands up. And bids a goddamn moon. It's accepted.

A man named Jeremiah Blitz stands up, and bids the mummified remains of a preist. A daemonette's toenail is bid, and also accepted. A cask of centuries-old drink.

We confer; the common element of the winning bids seems to be time. It's either going to be our spare Warrant, or...

The Lord-Captain stands up. "The coordinates for the Righteous Path."

There's a tense moment in the air; the Intercessor regards us carefully, and after a moment, raises his gavel, striking it once against the podium.

It's accepted.

The auction concludes with the tenth successful bid, and we receive the details of our invitation: Midnight, tomorrow.