Sunday, April 9, 2017

Mission Report: A Lost Soul Is Pulled Back Into The Struggle

Althea, an ex-Navy soldier and pilot.
This was my first mission in a new Dark Heresy campaign being run by one of the members of Hogtown 40k.  I enjoyed it so much that I got home and wrote up the entire mission from the point of view of my character.  Please let me know if you like it, as this could be the first of many. 

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Althea looked up at the pict screen and sighed. Life had been so simple before yesterday.  Miserable, yes, but at least it had been simple.  She had been flying shipments for the Red Eye Syndicate for the last two months, ever since she had arrived on Pickman, this slime ball of a planet.  She hadn't asked questions, and they hadn't asked her any. They'd barely even bothered her except for Jarak, that cutty bastard. But he bothered the entire cell, so at least she wasn't getting special treatment. Maybe she'd even started to gain their trust.

Yesterday, though, her vox had beeped.  Four years, and it had never beeped. She had never made a call and no one had ever called it.  Until yesterday.

She put aside her lho stick and hit play. The vox spat out explicit instructions.  "Tomorrow, a colleague will approach your cell to buy medical supplies. He must be successful in his mission. Learn what you can." She tried to replay the message, but the vox was empty and had no record of ever receiving a dispatch. She knew what it meant by a 'colleague' - someone else like her; someone else who owed that voice behind the vox.

As she sat on her bunk, her mind swimming under the lho's influence, she was sure she had hallucinated. Thoughts of her special vox lead to thoughts of the Navy. Her mind, quite detached by now, was content to trod the well-worn paths of self-pity until her body finally fell asleep.

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The morning chime came too soon. As they were taking breakfast in the mess, the cell started talking about the drop they were going to get on "some junk doc from the skins."  It hadn't been a hallucination. The knot cinched back again in her belly. 

"Why not just avoid trouble and let the guy buy his stuff?" She had asked, feigning disinterest.

Jarak sneered.  "Causo, I say so," he said, waving his right hand with that damn ring on it. Palm in, waving it sort of, like he always did. She knew cut all about it, but it always seemed to stop any argument with the cell when he flaunted it. She imagined she would learn when, if, she became Red Eye herself. They had started to hint that they might make her an offer. She was worried they would. 

Worried she would never get out if she said yes. Worried they would space her if she said no. Or worse, sent to the Pits.

"Oh, will this be like that exchange in Boretonne last month?" she asked. She didn't mind antagonizing him. And it was normal enough that her protests shouldn't raise any suspicions.

"Causo this way, we gots the creds and the meds. This Doc hasn’t got the eye, you see there? No need to go wasting our cargo on this." He laughed at his cleverness and wandered off.  He must really be happy, to not have risen to the bait, she thought.  Cut this! He's gone - now what?

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The more she thought about it, the more she realized that changing the odds for the cell was the only way to get out of this without ruining everything.  She used the special vox and dialed the only number that had ever been stored in it. 

It rang and rang, and then beeped.  Figures this cutting voice won't even pick up.  "They're going to try to kill my colleague as soon as he gets here. Please bring backup so that they think twice."

When she grabbed her kit before she left, she made sure to grab the extra credits she had stashed as well as her laspistol and her father's shotgun. It had polished wood panelling and smooth action, it had saved her life more than once during her time in the Navy, and since. She had a weird feeling that she might never be coming back here.

She spent the rest of the day agonizing, and she now found herself staring at the pict screen in the lander while the cell waited downstairs in the hold for the Doc. 

There was Jarak, Wimpy, Busto and Ken down there. Jarak had a chainsword, and there wasn't a lot of space down there for someone to dodge. She had to hope that her message had been received and that her colleague would show up with a small army.

She froze when she saw a small man amble towards the lander. He had a respirator over his face and he was wearing faded fatigues with the regiment and rank badges pulled off.  He looked like he had seen a few battlefields, but his demeanour was far from threatening. Pitiful maybe, but not threatening. He glanced around furtively as he walked up. This must be him. 

She started to panic as soon as she realized that he was truly alone. There was no way a simple medic was going to survive those four in the hold. The consequences of failing the vox had been explained to her. Failing wasn't an option. Not by a long shot. And if she betrayed the Syndicate and they found out, she’d just be dead. If she was lucky it would be quick.

She hit the lander's vox just as the medic reached the ramp to the lander.

"Jarak, there's a problem up here."

"Whassit? Can you deal?"

"I don't think so. You gotta get up here!" Shit. 

She couldn't think of anything else.  She reached behind the pict screen and pulled out the power cord.  The screen went dark.

"What's wrong?" She spun from the screen and saw Jarak at the top of the stairs.  He was not happy. She tried to keep the anxiety from showing in her face. Jarak had his chainsword strapped to his waist and his laspistol tucked into his pants.  Wimpy was beside him, his lasgun languishing against his shoulder.

"Pict screen went dark. I can't tell if the medic is coming."

He gave her a hard stare. "So?"

"So I can't warn you if he's coming." Come on Doc, just buy the stuff from Busto and Ken.  They won't attack you without Jarak there.

His gaze hardened. As if he was trying to read her thoughts. Suspicious bastard. Of course he’s suspicious! Cutty – THINK!

He walked up to the pict screen and walloped it, like he was a trader checking the fat layer on a snagglefish back home. Nothing. He hit the power button.  Nothing.  He started to peer around the side.

Althea stood on a blade's edge. She didn't want to die. And she couldn't fail the vox.  Some things were more important than life.

She had a split second to decide. This was a rickety old lander, and it wasn't that farfetched for a cable to come undone.  But it was a little rarer for it to spontaneously happen when the ship was landed. And rarer still for a competent pilot not to check. That said, she was smarter than Jarek, and she still thought she could talk her way out of it. It wouldn't be easy, but she could play up to his ego and smooth it over.

But some part of her knew that her time in this Bitrunner was over. She wanted to slink away, Syndicate or no, but Jarek was a cutty bastard - real scum. She’d seen him on leave. She’d seen the haunted eyes of the girl he’d cut.

And she knew it had never really been a choice for her.

She swung up her father's shotgun and fired it straight at Jarek's head as he stood.  He was caught completely by surprise and although she saw blood splatter, he was still standing. Cut these new eyes! I still can’t shoot straight!

She felt a searing pain in her side as Wimpy’s lasgun scorched through her own ex-navy flak armour. Just below her ribs. It was only after she felt the pain that she also heard him yelling at the top of his lungs for Busto and Ken.

Althea was far more afraid of Jarek. She knew she could handle Wimpy if Jarek was gone and her window of opportunity before Jarek started to retaliate was shrinking fast.  She squeezed off two quick shots straight into Jarek's chest. 

His chest disintegrated and the wall behind him was suddenly painted red. 

Just as Jarek's body started to crumple, she heard two earth-shattering booms. Bolt fire. She hadn't heard that since her Navy days, not since the Implacable Servitude had gone down with all hands. All hands but me!

Just as she was turning to deal with Wimpy, she felt a sudden dread seize her.  The cockpit seemed to bulge around her, and turn… somewhere. She could feel the taint of the warp. She looked back at Jarek's corpse and saw red. A spill of black and red came up from Jarek’s fist - clenched in hatred, even in death. It soundlessly burbled and rippled, pulling itself inward, but growing quickly. Shrieking began as limbs, scales, and what she could only describe as a lizard head turned its hateful dim eyes upon her.  Dread fill her and she shrieked as it darted towards her.

She jumped back and barely evaded its claws. She swung her shotgun up.

Before she could pull the trigger, she felt and then heard a huge boom and the creature recoiled back.  Whoever had the boltgun had fired at it, and hurt it. A piece of the… thing… blew off and sort of, splashed onto the ruin of Jarek.

From this range, it was nearly impossible to miss. Her shotgun barked twice and the creature vapourized. There was no corpse as such, just a smear of ichor, now indistinguishable for the most part from Jarek himself. An awful lot of mess, to be sure. Not so bad, eh?

She turned and saw the medicae beside her as he lowered his bolt pistol. He mumbled something indecipherable from behind his respirator. She raised an eyebrow. He reached up and took off his gas mask.  "Hi," he said. "You must be the ‘friend’ I was sent to meet.  My name is Geryk Soll." His eyes darted everywhere.

"Althea," she said. "Thanks for helping." She glanced around and saw that Wimpy was nowhere to be seen.  "We have to get out of here before he brings backup."

He nodded and holstered his bolt pistol before reaching into his jacket.  He drew out a vial and gathered some of the creature's essence (probably some Jarek too!) into the vial before stoppering it and putting it back into his jacket. He was muttering to himself as he did it, but Althea couldn't make out the words.

Althea wanted nothing more than to get off of the lander, but she had been fending for herself for too long not to take advantage.  She walked over to Jarek's corpse and grabbed his chainsword before securing it to her waist. No need to waste good gear.

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They trotted down the stairs into the cargo hold. 

Althea saw blood everywhere and the corpses of Busto and Ken laying on the ground.  Ken was missing his entire chest and Busto was headless. Althea felt a twinge of sadness.  Busto had been a good guy down deep, and she was sad to see him go. A few choices made differently and he never would have wasted his life like this. The same could be said of me. She shook her head. Later.

"You have the medgear you needed?" she asked.

"Well no," he said. "I had my hands full misleading and obfuscating those scoundrels. I do think I was quite successful." Soll grinned. His eyes did not.

"Right, well, why don't you grab it quickly and let's get out of here." Althea glanced down the open ramp…

"Well I don't know where it is," Geryk said.  "As I mentioned, I was too busy."

"Cut that." Althea spat on the ground. "Let's find it! Fast! You search in that crate and I'll check here."

After a moment of rummaging she heard him say "Excellent! Yes!".  She didn't find any med supplies in her crate, but she did find the packet of creds they were going to use to pay her for the piloting. She said nothing and pocketed the creds.

She was itching to get out of there, but there was still a lot of cargo in the hold and opportunities like this were rare.  She couldn't quite figure out whether to flee or keep scrounging, so she decided to split the difference. Maybe I can ransom myself to the Syndicate… when this is done.

"Geryk, keep looking for valuable gear. I'm going to go see if Wimpy got backup."

She padded over to the lander's ramp. Before she could peer outside, she heard hurried footsteps and low urgent whimpering. They didn’t call him Wimpy for nothing.

She padded softly back in the room just as Geryk was withdrawing an archaic looking pistol and a shimmering handful of what could only be cameoline.  "We've got company," she whispered.  "Take cover."

She peered around one side of the doorway to the lander's entrybay and saw Geryk take up position on the other side as he refastened his gas mask.

The footsteps stopped at the base of the ramp and she heard someone yell "Sun Guard!  Surrender now!"

Cut that! Sun Guard here?  She didn't know if the Sun Guard were raiding the Red Eyes or coming to reinforce them, but she knew one thing - Sun Guard didn't take prisoners. Not for long, anyway.

A small object was lobbed up the ramp and rolled into the entryway. The room was flooded with smoke and Althea started to choke.

Every day she cursed the accident that had taken her left eye from her and the crude implant which had interfered with her optical nerve. Since that day, scar tissue had turned her eyesight into a crude shadow of its former self, like her hands were spiting her by pulling just ever so slightly up and right whenever she needed straight!.

That day though, her implant surely saved both of their lives. Her right eye was blinded, but the bionic left eye could see through the smoke and saw one of the Sun Guard rush their position.  She fired twice at him and hit him once solidly in the side. He was far enough that his armour was able to absorb most of the impact, and he barrelled right into Geryk.

She still couldn't see out of her right eye, and she was coughing as she choked on the smoke, but through her left eye she saw two other Sun Guard walk up the ramp toward the entry bay.  They weren't taking cover, obviously relying on the fact that their quarry would be blinded.

She squeezed a shot at them from around the door and missed. Damn your eyes Althea.  They raised their weapons and unloaded at her position.  Debris flew as the doorway absorbed most of the impact, but a sharp pain in her side told her that not everything had been stopped.

Her right eye still couldn't see anything, but they were clear as day through her left.  She thumbed her shotgun into rapidfire and started to fire at them as quickly as she could.  Her first shot went just wide of the guard's head.

Not for the first time in her life, and hopefully not for the last, she felt as if the God Emperor himself took a direct interest in her fate.

Her next shot must have hit one of the guard's spare ammunition clips or grenades. That guard's body was torn apart in a vicious explosion. His companion might as well have been wearing a paper bag for all the good his armour did him and he dropped to the ground. Or, half of him did.

The explosion knocked the first Sun Guard and Geryk sprawling. Althea stood up, and swung her shotgun up. The two men were still struggling on the ground and it was going to be hard to shoot one without hitting the other.

She heard Geryk yell "don't shoot!" through his gas mask. In retrospect she should have just used her shotgun, but Geryk's imperative was ringing in her mind so she dropped the shotgun and pulled out her laspistol. 

She had never been a good hand to hand fighter nor was she particularly tough. She had long ago realized that guns were the great equalizer. Many opponents would easily overpower her, but a shotgun is a shotgun, and any finger will do.

She pressed the pistol to the back of his head and he stopped struggling with Geryk.

"Get up." He did so, slowly. 

She looked over at Geryk and gestured him to stand up too. Perhaps it was pure luck, but somehow he sensed her distraction.  He turned and knocked the gun from her hand.  It went skidding across the floor.

He unhooked his shock maul and bludgeoned her as she dove for the pistol. Her vision nearly went dark as pain shot through her. She slammed into one of the crates.

She looked up at him as he advanced.  He raised his maul for another swing but all she could do was watch him as she tried to will her limbs to respond. Luckily for her, although the guard had forgotten about Geryk, Geryk hadn't forgotten about the guard. 

Just before the guard could swing, she heard the boom of a boltgun and his head suddenly ceased to exist. 

She closed her eyes in the sudden silence that followed, barely staying conscious.

"We've got to get out of here," she muttered.

"I'm a medic! Calm down! Let me look at you…"

"I'll survive," she rasped, slowly pulling herself to her feet.  "Let's get out of here before more of them come."

"How? I saw too many people on our way in for us to leave without a single person seeing us. "

"I saw you find a chameoline cloak, right?"  She had known Ken owned one. 

"Yes, but only one. Not sized large enough to hide both of us." 

"Maybe there will be something in that last crate." She limped over to the final crate and started rummaging.  She didn't find any clothes, but just as she was about to give up she felt a latch and a false bottom gave way.

"The Sun Guard armour!" Geryk practically yelled.  He was pointing down at the body of the man they had just killed.  His head was missing, but his armour otherwise looked in pretty good shape.

"Great idea," Althea said. "Can you take it off him for me? I might have found something here." She dug inside and found a large power pack connected to one of the most ornate laspistols she had seen. Cutting yeah! Jarek and those rhinoxes had a hotshot laspistol?! She hadn't seen these in action since her navy days, but she had once seen one of these burn right through three men in one shot. She put it in her kit bag and slowly rose, favouring her right side.

"Okay, I've got it," Geryk said.  "Maybe I should wear it and you be my prisoner."

"Wimpy is still out there, which means we need to assume that the Red Eyes will be closing in…  I need the armour." She saw a surprisingly intact helmet at the bottom of the ramp.

"And besides," she added, "that only happens in the vids. In real life, single guard escorts do not march prisoners out of active crime scenes. They run and get help. Now help me into this suit and let's get out of here. I need to get as far away from the Syndicate as I can. Who even ARE you people?"


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