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[Actual Play] [Dark Heresy] The Enigma of [REDACTED]

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So, this is an actual play transcript of our text chat Dark Heresy game. I've found out that as much work it is to clean up the raw text (and shorten it occasionally), it is still more interesting and takes less time than writing an actually informative summary from scratch, so you will get the detailed version whether you'd prefer a more succint one or not. DM comments are in italics.

 

 

Session started with a short intro about the characters’ trip to the orbital docks above the Hive World of Piety, where they were to meet soon. Not much time is spent on how they were recruited – we can always revisit the matter in flashbacks, if it ever becomes relevant. After a few days of ****ing around on the orbital, waiting for everybody’s ship to arrive, their recruiter and contact, Rose announces that now would be a good time to meet up and discuss their mission, because that’s what the = ][ = is paying them for. The meeting will be in two hours, and they can spend their time however they want.

 

OOC, everybody starts asking questions about Piety. A successful Common Lore: Imperium test informs the battle psyker and the arbitrator about the hive’s relatively recently gained reputation as a wretched hive of scum and villainy. A follow-up Common Lore: Adeptus Arbites test also nets the info that the planet used to be a model example of arbitratorial accomplishments, until a few years ago someone pulled the plug on their funding. Meanwhile, the scholar psyker botches her roll, and is convinced that Piety is a feral world famous for its extensive libraries.

With the exception of the arbitrator, who decides to watch news and get a map of Piety, nobody really knows what to do with their time, so our heroes gather about half an hour before the appointed time. Let’s meet them!

 

Kationa (scholar psyker) spends the couple of hours of free time just meditating. She felt nervous beyond belief but didn't want to show it, so she mentally steels herself for what is to come.  A little before the meeting time, she heads to the designated room and waits patiently. She's a tall but painfully thin woman in a frayed robe that is a little too big for her and slides down her shoulder. Her skin is pale and shows signs of torture - scars and marks can be seen all over. Her hair is thin and pale, but most notable are her eyes, which seem to be cybernetics. They are completely white and featureless, giving her a creepy other-worldly type appearance. Despite all this, she holds herself proudly, standing up straight, and she looks at the others as they arrive with interest.

 

Lazarus (assassin) creeps up silently well before time, aiming to leave an impression of quiet eagerness. He is tall, skinny and has an extremely crooked nose. Otherwise, he seems pleasant enough, and carries himself with some sort of aristocratic determination. He is snugly enveloped in a body glove, with a nasty looking rifle on his back and a very curious weaponised gauntlet on his right arm. He just stands by the door, looking at the other arrivals.

 

Third to arrive is Kelegh (battle psyker), a tall and thin young man, with built-in lenses in his eyes. He's wearing a simple but clean robe, which is adorned with prayers for the Emperor, and looks at anyone present with curiosity, but not aggressively. He’s armed with a sword on his side and a las pistol on the other, his face has a bit darker stains than his natural skin color.

 

"Good day to you. I'm Kelegh" – he introduces himself.

"You are not the contact. Who are you?" – Lazarus.

"My name is Kationa," says the woman, a little shyly, but she gives a faint smile. "I guess we are going to be working together?"

"I am Lazarus. Of the most noble house Golgotha." He eyes the woman up and down, but says nothing.

"I am a servant of the Emperor, just as you are, I presume?" – Kelegh

"We all are. Or should be, at least." – Lazarus

Kationa doesn't offer any further name, but she meets Lazarus's gaze. Despite her ragged appearance, her manner and bearing are of the nobility.

 

This is the moment when our Arbitrator, Mordecai, joins the group, fashionably late. His browsing of the local news channels, unfortunately, yielded no useful informations (or did it?) – the steel production rates have surpassed the guidelines set in the last five year plan, the war on Tranch rages on (The Emperor wants YOU!), the committee designated to evaluate sainthood has received 50 new petitions this quarter.

He arrives a few minutes before the meeting, drawing a small gulp from his amasec for confidence before entering. He is a tall, well-built man, with dark skin and semi-long black hair fashioned into dreadlocks. He wears his black Arbites uniform and has a well-maintained shotgun slung on his back. His left cheek has a blue Imperial Aquila tattooed on it. He tries to appear confident and politely nods to everyone present. "Greetings.", he says before sitting down awkwardly, eyeing Kationa.

Despite his relative lateness, they still have about 10 minutes to socialize.

 

Lazarus gives an appreciative nod to Mordecai.

"Hello," says Kationa to the newcomer.

"So, have any of you done this kind of... uhh... work before?" she asks, trying to break the ice.

"I have just finished my training, lady, and I have been looking forward to meeting you all." – Kelegh

"I ...suppose. *looks around again* We seem to have a colorful gathering present. Not sure what is in store for us. Though judging by the weapons, I can take a guess." – Mordecai

"I've done work for the Emperor." – Lazarus

Mordecai clears his throat. "Be that as it may, my name is Mordecai Vern, pleasure to meet everyone." *His voice is deep and slightly growly, but he is clearly audible*

"I've been in... training for a while," Kationa says awkwardly. "This is a great honour." That's what she keeps telling herself anyway.

"So, what do you think of this planet?" Kelegh asks, looking around at everyone, smiling.

"We haven't even left the dock yet, what's there to think?" – Lazarus

"A sad departure from its earlier glory, I've heard bad things about it." sneers Mordecai.

"Feels heavy," says Kationa, who has spent pretty much the entirity of her life in space.

 

After a minute or two without anyone talking, Kelegh starts chanting almost silently, looking in the distance.

"Should we go in?" – Lazarus

Mordecai look at Kelegh then at Lazarus. "...Yes, we should do that."

The battle psyker focuses his eyes on the others, straightens up and eagerly starts walking in the room. The others follow..

It's a fairly huge and imposing area, probably aimed at important nobles doing important things. Business meetings. Discussing imperial taxation. Blowing rare drugs off the backs of hookers. That kind of stuff. There's an abundance of mahogany (or a fairly convincing fake, at least) and crimson tapestries. Mirrors create an impression of even bigger space. Sharp lights bathe the room in a golden blaze. Looks like a colossal waste of the Imperium's resources.

A huge table sits in the middle of the room, with four chairs and pre-arranged data-slates on one side, and Rose on the other one. She looks exactly like she did when she recruited the characters: seemingly in her fifties, short grey hair, piercing blue eyes, serious expression, vaguely uniform-like clothing.

Mordecai salutes. "Madam." Lazarus does likewise. Kationa walks in slowly and looks around with interest. She then stands uncertainly and watches Rose for further instruction. Kelegh bows politely, but says nothing.

“Welcome, Acolytes”, Rose greets the group, then motions toward the chairs. They all sit down, Lazarus glancing at his slate curiously.

“Your first task: I have given you two hours before this meeting. Report what you did with it.” - Rose

"I meditated and prepared my mind, Ma'am," Kationa answers nervously.

"I did as ordered - proceeded to the meeting place." – Lazarus.

"Checked the surroundings of this place, madam, and my would-be companions." – Kelegh

"I have read up on local news, acquired a map of the hive *Mordecai shows it* and inquired about the status of Piety."

“I see” – Rose, fixing the group dispassionately, with an inscrutable expression. “Your next assignment will be about as significant as the one I just gave you.”

“We've received news of... unrest among workers of the lower levels. It seems that certain... peculiar... mutants plague the streets at night and around dawn. The locals are convinced that they must be unholy devil-spawn and a sign of certain doom” - she rolls her eyes, but her tone remains cool and professional.

“These creatures are reportedly harmless, but the effect they have on worker morale is significant. It is usually the job of the Arbitrators to deal with problems caused by mutants, but understandably, they refuse to do anything - their resources and manpower are better spent elsewhere. Your job is simple enough: deal with the problem. The hows are up to you, but I expect you to keep the Scintillan Dictates in mind when you represent our authority. Any questions?”

 

Apparently, nobody in the group knows what the Scintillan Dictates are. Heresy!

Thankfully, they are on the first page of the data-slate.

 

"What is peculiar about the mutants?" - Kationa

"How long has this been going on? Is there a pattern in the locations these mutants appear?" – Kelegh

“The data-slates provided have the information for these questions. Seek the file named "Incident report #782.” – Rose

 

Everybody checks the report, which seems inconclusive, at best. It was penned by a certain Thraxus Brent, Regulator of the Gamma-321 Precinct, who seems to be utterly uninterested in his job by the looks of it. It informs the reader that the sightings have been going on since two weeks in Districts 318-329, says that the mutants always died before he could get there, and that the specimens he observed "looked incapable of living". The area in question is quite big, seems to almost completely envelop the southern part of the lower levels.

"Mutants deserve to die anyway." – mutters Lazarus.

It also refers to Appendix C for pictures, but that doesn't seem to be a part of the report.

"We need to talk to this ... Brent guy about work ethics." - Kelegh

"We most certainly do. And questioning the local workers would be prudent as well. Checking archives for possible earlier appearances is also a possibility." Mordecai looks up at Rose. *Is this the only report we have of the mutants? What about this Appendix C the report mentions?"

Rose motions him to hand over the data-slate, then skims the report.

“Looks like it was either misfiled, not included by our informant, or this... Regulator Brent made it up completely.”

Mordecai just stares at her, deadpan. "....Excuse me?"

Kelegh looks shocked, too.

“Regulator Brent doesn't seem like the most stalwart servant of the Imperium. It seems in the realm of possibility that he refers to these pictures which he did not include at all, and if pressed on the matter, will say that they must have been misfiled. As I have stated earlier, this case is not exactly high on the priority list of the Adeptus Arbites.” - Rose

"He never reckoned the report would come under such scrutiny. The fool." – Lazarus

"Is there any reason to believe that this Regulator intentionally aids the mutants by his sloppiness?" - Kelegh

“I have no idea. Do investigate. Seems unlikely to me, though.” - Rose

“Whether it's intentional or not does not matter. Innocence proves nothing." – Lazarus

Mordecai slowly nods. "Fool indeed. I suppose we should still interview him. Sloth or not, he is still a trained Arbites, he might have noticed something the factory workers have not. One more question. In what capacity are we to conduct our investigation? Inquisitorial or pretending to be an Arbites cell?"

"But the information may be important in our investigation." - Kelegh

“You have identifications which prove that you are here in official capacity as members of the Adeptus Arbites to conduct an internal investigation about reported incompetence of a certain Thraxus Brent, Regulator.”

Kationa looks up again. "It seems we need to get down there and start investigating then," she says. "We seem to have a few leads to get started with."

Mordecai hums to myself, reading the data-slate again. "If the Arbites ignore this... who asked for Inquisitorial involvement? Was there an official petition for help?"

“We have our sources” – Rose says cryptically.

Mordecai nods. "I was hoping someone in a higher capacity had run his or her own investigation we could question."

"One very important issue remains. While you're not with us, who of us shall lead?" – Lazarus

“You are agents of the Inquisition. Initiative and determination are more important than your capacity to follow orders. I do not believe it is necessary to point out a leader... unless you give me a reason to” – Rose answers, her slightly chill tone implying that she would prefer if they wouldn't force her to, and even if they did, they wouldn't like the results.

“I'm sure we can work it out between ourselves," says Kationa quickly.

"Initiative it is, then." - Lazarus

"Yes, it's probably best to let leadership develop as we go along." – Mordecai, then he changes the subject. "...Where, when or how can we contact you once the investigation is over? Do we have a time limit to wrap this up?"

Rose chuckles, amused.

“I *will* find you, and I *will* know if you've done your job, Acolytes. The time limits will become apparent when they bear relevance, I believe.”

Mordecai nods again, gulping quietly.

"What abot... uhh... expenses?" asks Kationa nervously.

“I’m informed you have monthly wages?” – Rose asks, sounding a bit confused.

Kelegh smiles silently.

"We most certainly do… though not everything is within reach of our wallets. The Imperium may be generous with its wages, but the merchant are less generous with their prices. And trudging through the lower hives can be ...detrimental for our health. Perhaps we can requisition rebreathers, or poison neutralizers, if it is not much to ask?" - Mordecai

“Fill out the appropriate forms, and I'll see to it that they will reach you in time”

 

Mordecai fills out the forms and request 4 gas masks and 2 doses of detox. Nobody wants anything else.

I have them roll Logistics, as per Only War, which they fail, to my great delight. Now I get to generate random items from the list that includes things like a regimental supply’s worth of dirty laundry. The results are fun, but unfortunately, they don’t arrive in this session…

 

"Some of us might also need... clothing more suitable for Arbites Intelligencers," says Kationa. "Also some kind of travel pass to the lower hives?"

“You current clothing is appropriate enough, I believe. Intelligencers are generally not too choosy about their uniforms, nor are they very concerned about fashion.” – Rose. I’ve totally forgotten how crappy and tattered the psyker’s starting clothes are. Oh well.

“The travel passes are included among your identifications.”

 

"Let's get this done." – Kelegh, standing up. He bows towards Rose "The Emperor is with us."

Mordecai stands up as well. "Very well, let us be off. Shall we?"

"We shall." Lazarus starts toward the door.

Kationa stands and bows. "Thank you, ma'am," she says and turns to leave.

Mordecai salutes again before leaving "We will deal with this mutant plague."

Rose motions for them to get on with the formalities and get out of her conference room. They leave.

 

--

 

After they leave, Mordecai makes a more detailed introduction of himself, noting his specialty in non-lethal takedowns, investigation- and medicae-related training (also the shotgun). Then he asks the others what their strengths are.

"I'm a psyker," says Kationa after a moment, and with a bit of shame. "I can do assorted things, but am best at divining the Tarot."

"I mostly kill, but I can maim too if necessarry," Lazarus says without a hint of humour.

"I am trained in the use of psy and these" Kelegh pats his sword and las pistol.

Mordecai nods in turn as everyone says their part. "Divination will be useful for us, assuming you don't blow yourself up."

"So we have at least TWO mutants on our team. I... loathe mutants." – Lazarus.

"I'm not a mutant" – Kationa

"Lies!" - Lazarus

"No one mutates willingly. Cut them some slack." – Mordecai

"If I were a mutant, would the Ecclesiarchy want me to work for them? Definitely not." - Kelegh

Mordecai slightly winces as Kelegh mentions working for the Ecclesiarchy.

"I am not going to debate the Emperor's will." - Lazarus

"Wise" – Kelegh

"We should.. uhh.. focus on the mission." – Kationa.

"I spit on all mutants, psykers and other heretics," Lazarus mumbles quietly to himself.

"Spitting isn't the most effective weapon." – Mordecai, trying to lighten the mood.

Lazarus sighs. "All right, so obviously we only have two candidates for team leader."

"Do we now?" - Mordecai

"I could do it!" says Kationa, trying to stick up for herself.

"Obviously it's going to have to be the dark skinned one." – Lazarus, referring to Mordecai.

"Do you accept the responsibility of being the leader?" – Kelegh, to the arbitrator.

He hesitates a few seconds "If you are willing to place your lives in my hands and follow my orders, I will try to live up to your trust."

"We need a decision maker in case of opinion differences, and someone to arbitrate disputes, if we want to function as a team. An Arbitrator seems a good choice for that" - Kelegh

"Yes, Mordecai, you seem to be good with interpersonal relations.... you will need that, once you start answering for the group's deeds." - Lazarus

"Very well, I will do my outmost to keep our little troupe alive." - Mordecai

Kationa nods. "Alright."

 

In the meantime Mordecai shows everyone the map of Hive Piety and notes the points of interest. Kelegh starts looking for chemicals-dense places whose waste products might cause mutations, but without any of the Medicae, Chem-Use or Scholastic Lore: Chymistry skills, his attempts are doomed to failure. Mordecai, who picked up Medicae as an elite advance, also tries his hand at it, but fails miserably. So they decide to visit the Arbitrators, in order to get some info about this Thraxus guy, who wrote that report. After a short trip, they arrive.

 

Mordecai shows the nearest arbitrator his cover-ID.

"Greetings Arbitrators. We were sent from Scintilla under orders to investigate a certain Thraxus Brent among your ranks. There have been...concerns regarding his competence in the service of his duties. Are you keeping an archive of the local Arbites up here on the station?"

“Well, we mostly have records about the men stationed here” – arbitrator. “Maybe I could look up if he was stationed here earlier, then I could dig out his files for you?”

"That would be perfect, thank you."

“Or, we can take a look at how many times he's been on the station, although I doubt this would interest you very much”, he offers absent-mindedly, while typing on the terminal he has in front of him.

“Mmm... nope. Never been here”, he concludes.

"Not even off-duty?" - Mordecai

“Well, he shipped in a few months ago... looks pretty green.” – arbitrator.

"Can I have the exact date?"

“Three months ago, in February.”

 

A short discussion ensues about the unwieldiness of the Imperial Calendar and how it will be better for everybody if we use real-world time units, and assume that the characters actually say what’s appropriate.

 

Mordecai nods. "Thank you for your time ..." he peeks at his nametag. "...Investigator Koch. Stay vigilant."

He starts turning away, then turns back.

"One more thing." *still in a polite tone, but with a stern edge* "I heard the local Arbites are having a tough time lately on Piety. What happened here? Something about funds drying up..."

Now that’s a line of inquiry which is worth at least a -10 modifier. As expected, he fails his Charm roll.

“Yeah, that's about it” Brecht shrugs. A successful Scrutiny roll makes it obvious to Mordecai that he does not wish to talk about it. The reason is probably embarrassing, maybe even dangerous.

Mordecai, however, does not relent. He leans in close and whispers to him:

“The Imperium doesn't just freeze funding one of its best and brightest. What happened? A riot gone awry, a stray shot and a nobleman? Raids on ships or something worse? We are alone, and after we leave, we will be taking a report back to Goreman himself. If you have suspicions, now is the time to name them. Unless you want to find yourself one day outmanned and outgunned against a mob whipped into frenzy by some petty crimelord grown fat under lax eyes."

He gets an opportunity to reroll, because I’m willing to count his roleplay as a change of circumstances. This time, he succeeds, although not too well.

“Worse”, Albrecht says, grimly.

Mordecai nods and hands him the data-slate, still whispering "Can you write it down on this?"

“I don't really know the specifics” he whispers back. “Only thing I've heard - don't know for sure, mind, but *heard* - is that somebody ****ed up so hard, he angered the Inquisition itself.”

Cue gasping.

"No!" – Lazarus.

Mordecai hushes him.

"Quietly", then turns back to Koch. "The Inquisition may be the harshest punisher of incompetence, but the whole Precinct? That sounds peculiar. Around when did this happen? And who could know more"

“About 10 years ago? 8? Something like that. Mind you, I've never set foot on the actual *planet*, so my knowledge is fairly limited - but if I had to guess, I'd ask around there.”

Mordecai nods and straightens his back again, then says aloud "Thank you Investigator Koch, your helpfulness in the matter of Brent will be noted in my report once this matter has been settled."

 

With this, the group leaves. A short discussion ensues about the necessity of rebreathers, but I point out that every info on the data-slate points toward the air being breathable. So they get to the landers, strap themselves in, and are off.

 

--

 

The Hive sees a fair bit of aerial traffic, so the trip takes some time, but at least it's not the usual nightmare with vomit-inducing turbulence and stuff. They enter the atmosphere, and, in the distance, can already see the huge, rust-colored stain on the face of the planet that is Hive Piety. After about half an hour of uneventful flying, the lander finally crosses the mountains that border the hive to the south. A further 10 minutes, and the group arrives in the port of District 281, in the Middle Hive.

Kelegh stands up as soon as they land, and can hardly wait to see the place.

Kationa looks uncomfortable at setting foot on solid ground, but she tries to look confident and controlled. "Where shall we begin, then?"

"At Precinct Gamma-321. As good a place as any." - Mordecai

"Are we going straight to see Brent, or ask around first what's happened here?" - Kelegh

"Should we make a parallel investigation?" asks Lazarus. "Maybe some of us should feel the pulse of the hoi polloi..."

Mordecai raises an eyebrow. "What's a hoi polloi?"

"It's the unwashed masses. Maybe 2 people go see Brent, and 2 go ask around. The problem is, how and where to meet up afterwards?" - Lazarus

"We should prepare accomodations somewhere and meet there when we're done. I'm sure there's a hotel for ship crews or something we can rent. The question is, who goes where? I can interview the locals and Kationa can maybe divine us what eyes and ears missed. Kelegh and Lazarus, can you handle Brent?" - Mordecai

"I suppose." - Kelegh

"…I don't have any money," mutters Kationa is a low embarrased voice.

"Now that I think about it, as Intelligencers, we may get rooms in the Precinct as well." – Mordecai, with his player looking hopefully at the GM.

 

The GM concludes that indeed, they should be able to receive room and all assorted bells and whistles, and if they are really Charm-ing, even a modest amount of funding. Their chances for the latter, however, would be pretty slim without the Bureaucracy skill.

 

"What do you say, Lazarus?" - Kelegh

"Um..." - Lazarus

"I can deal with Brent if you're more comfortable pestering the locals." - Mordecai

"…I feel more at home with the criminal element." – Lazarus. "So maybe I could harass some scum?"

"Should I pretend you haven't said that?" – Mordecai, smirking.

"Yes, you should better pretend. It was a slip."

"Fine, you go with Kationa, I go with Kelegh. I want to press the funding issue anyway. Though for now stick to the workers. I doubt the criminal part of the hive has much to do with this, apart from maybe selling the critter cropses." - Mordecai

Kationa looks at Lazarus warily, having not forgotten his comments about her being a 'mutant'.

"Come on, this way I can keep an eye on you. I'll even posture as your bodyguard while you interview the rabble." - Lazarus

"Very reassuring..." - Kelegh

"You don't need to keep an eye on me," Kationa says wearily, but she follows him anyway. "Let's go."

"Be nice. The Emperor expects us to do our job." - Mordecai

"And where do we meet up later?" - Lazarus

"The Precinct. We'll get some rooms there." - Mordecai

"Good. Off we go then." Lazarus and Kationa leave.

 

--

 

We shall start with Team Mutants and Assassins!

After a brief discussion, they decide to hit the bars. Kationa inquires about disturbances, monsters and mutants, while Lazarus just sits down in a shadowy corner and eavesdrops on the conversations of random people. They roll Inquiry and Awareness, respectively, at +10 modifier, and both succeed. After a while, they meet up to share info.

"Told you I didn't need watching," Kationa says with a smirk. "I found out that as well as there being mutants, there is also a Father Solomon and his followers who have been setting everything on fire. Lots of fire."

"Really? Interesting, I've heard that people cannot get to their workplaces because the streets are flooded with mutants. And they have some kind of bad luck curse." – Lazarus.

"The bad luck curse?"

"Yeah, if you cross a street where unhallowed blood has been spilt, that's 5 years of misery. Silly hivers."

"That sounds like ship-board legends. Many are twisted out of fact, so there may be something toxic about the blood that we should check."

"Means we'll either need a live one, or a piece of a dead one. And then have our quack have a look at it."

Kationa nods. "We may have to watch out for Father Solomon though - he may get in our way."

"Arsonists are not our problem, BUT... if they're a heretical cult, and they MIGHT be... Either way we might need a lot of rope."

 

At first I didn’t understand why would they want to hang them, if they always have a bonfire ready, but it turned out they just want to bring them in for questioning.

 

"Unless they are Emperor-zealots who burn mutants... in that case they're useful. We need to look into this."

"As long as they don't burn me." - Kationa

"You have nothing to fear as long as you're not a mutant."

 

I point out that psykers are technically mutants, but they don’t seem to mind.

 

"I'm not a mutant. You were the one who called me that."

"So there you have it," Lazarus smiles. "Safe as houses."

"Still... these Emperor zealots like to burn psykers as well as mutants."

"They don't need to know you're a psyker. OR, we could just hit one of them over the head and drag him somewhere for questioning."

"I think we should definitely question them. They probably know more about these mutants than anyone else. I'm not sure we need to hit them over the head though, unless they threaten us."

"Shall we go into these seedier parts and look for a zealot or two?"

"We could try. Do we want to meet up with the others first?"

 

They agree to meet up, and head for the precinct.

 

--

 

Meanwhile in Team Law-Abiding Citizens…

 

They take a train and after about three hours of travel, end up at their destination. It’s in a fairly seedy neighborhood, with dilapidated buildings and two green-looking recruits in worn uniforms at the door of the Precinct Fortress.

“Not exactly a welcoming neighborhood. We shouldn’t split up” – Kelegh.

“I didn’t plan to.” Mordecai turns to the recruits and flashes his ID. “I’m Intelligencer Vern, sent here from Scintilla in a matter of internal investigations. Who is the captain of this precinct?”

“Thaddeus Vex, sir” – Recruit 1, saluting.

“Lead me to him, please. I have to talk to him” – Mordecai, in a polite, but cold tone.

“Yessir”, they mutter, and obey. They get to the captain pretty soon.

 

“Captain Vex, I’m Intelligencer Vern, and this is my partner, Intelligencer Kelegh. I have to talk to you about an internal investigation.”

The captain halfway rises up from his chair, then falls right back into it upon hearing the phrase “internal investigation”.

“Internal investigation? About what?”

Mordecai eyes him up deliberately.

“I’m going to be honest with you, Captain. Have you heard about the reports concerning the mutant plague in Districts 318-329? Others have.” short pause, letting it sink in. “They don’t think much of it on Scintilla, either… BUT… a certain Regulator, Thraxus Brent was assigned to this case, and he did an abysmal job of it. News of his ‘work’ have reached the ears of important people. Even more important people that the Lord Marshal…”

He gives the captain a meaningful look.

“Piety has already disappointed the Inquisition once… when was it? 10 years ago? 8? …And people like Brent aggravate the situation even more.” he pauses to look what effect his speech had.

 

His speech was awesome enough for me to reward it with a partial Fate refresh! Unfortunately, he didn’t spend any Fate points, but he does gain a temporary one, to be spent in this session, otherwise it’s lost.

It also had a profound effect on the Captain, who goes pale and starts to sweat profusely. He’s a bit old and fat, having a heart attack does not seem out of the question for him. Kelegh goes out to get him a glass of water before he dies on them.

(Actually, a glass of water would do very little to prevent a heart attack, but he doesn’t have Medicae, so it’s kind of appropriate.)

 

“Don’t worry, Captain, not everything is lost yet. Our boys have convinced them to let your people correct the mistake, that’s why we are here. I’ll talk to Brent, if he’s not past hope, we’ll kick his ass until he tracks the source of this mutation back to its source, even if said source is the toilet of the Planetary Governor himself.” – Mordecai

“Of course. Just grab him and kick away as much as you like”, mutters Vex. Meanwhile, Kelegh gets back with the water, sees no immediate medical emergency, and decides to hold on to it for the time being.

“Don’t worry, we’ll get excellent results out of Brent, and everything will be forgiven. In order to accomplish this, however, I will need complete access to the databases of your precinct. Who knows, how many decades ago there might have been a chemical spill whose effects are just manifesting? Oh, and I’ll need accommodations for 4 people. Two of my men are already examining the site of the contamination.”

“Of course, of course. Whatever you want” – Vex, still terrified.

They also order him to get Brent into an interrogation room where they can talk, then they’re off.

 

--

 

Back to Mutants and Assassins, who just arrive. They are greeted by the green recruits from before, they flash their fake IDs, and get assured that their esteemed colleagues are right now at an important meeting with the captain, but will surely be available soon. They take a seat and wait.

 

Lazarus fiddles with his weapons. From time to time he looks up to check on Kationa. Just in case.

Kationa perches on the edge of the seat and gives a slight glare back at Lazarus. "I'm really not going to explode," she says in a prim tone.

"I know you're not," Lazarus pats his hunting rifle knowingly. "I've seen them psykers at work before. It was nasty."

"Well, I'm not like them," she says firmly. "I wouldn't be here if I was." She tries to change the subject. "You're a noble? How did you become..." she hesitates and gestures to him. "...what you are."

"You mean a killer? I guess, like you, I was... born this way. Much like mutation, great talent does not make choices based on social standing."

"You mean you didn't have a choice?"

"Freedom of choice is an illusion. But the Emperor does not frown upon gifted killers. He embraces them. Whereas psykers..." Lazarus trails off. "What's keeping them?"

"I stood in the light of the Emperor. That's what they do."

 

They get interrupted by an arbitrator who announces that their companions await in Interrogation Room 3. They decide to join.

 

--

 

So, back to Room 101... I mean, Interrogation Room 3.

Thraxus is sitting in a plasteel chair, with a confused expression. There's a desk before him with a huge lamp with its considerable amount of light shoved right in his face. So, his expression is not as much as confused as somewhere between "confused" and "oh god oh god I'm gonna go blind".

Mordecai switches the lamp off and lets him get used to the dimness.

"Thraxus Brent. My name is Intelligencer Vern and these are my collegues, Kationa, Lazarus and Kelegh." He tosses him the data-slate with his report. "Your disgraceful work has reached important people on Scintilla and they expect us to remedy your mistake before the higher-ups drain Piety of every last Gelt. In essence you have two choices. With our help, you will turn your attention back on this case and solve it. Flawlessly. OR, with our help, you will be made an example of."

Kationa doesn't interrupt and just watches politely.

Kelegh leans close to him, so that he can see the sanctioning brand on his left forearm and just studies his face and eyes closely for about a minute, without a word.

“You are not an arbitrator!”, he exclaims, seeing the brand, and starts to struggle with his bindings. “Who are you?! WHO ARE YOU???”

Mordecai rolls his eyes, then bitchslaps him with his ID. "Whoops, forgot to show this to him."

Kationa does speak up now. "We're here to help," she says, being the 'nice one'. "To clean up this mess before it gets out of hand. You want to help with that, don't you?"

“What?” – Thraxus, channeling Pulp Fiction.

"Tell us about the case" - Kationa

"Anyone skimming your report can tell you didn't give two figs about it. But you are a trained Arbitrator. I refuse to believe you didn't notice SOMETHING useful." - Mordecai

“Well, the mutants seemed... off”, he starts. “Like, they had these ****ed-up mutations with the... long... and... soft-looking limbs… It was, like, they couldn't even stand!

"Tentacles?!" - Lazarus

“No ,they had arms and legs, but they were... off! Like... malleable or something, couldn't support their own weight, they had to crawl. And their whole body was like that, like if their bones went all soft and stuff. Gum-like. Every damn one of them.”

Mordecai shakes his head "That's peculiar, even among mutations."

"If it's a random mutation, and not some deliberate tampering with nature..." - Kelegh

“I was, like, ok, one mutant is like that, it's cool - I mean, not cool, he's obviously a mutant and therefore has to be put down -, but a whole lot of them? And there WAS a whole lot of them, mind you. Streets were crawling with them. And also, creepiest thing? They seemed... dunno. Aware. Driven. Like, ok, I don't have an arm and a leg, can't walk, but I HAVE to get there even if I have to crawl all the way.”

"Could it be a disease combined with madness?" - Lazarus

“Let him finish first." - Mordecai

“They were crawling for a long time, I guess. Their skin came off totally. They were leaving blood trails after themselves, like snails, except, you know, not. And all the while, they were *aware*. They knew what they were. They knew what happened to them. And they knew they had to be there, or... I dunno. Still, they died after a few hours.”

"Why didn't you put this in your report?" - Kationa

“I had other cases. Had to run. Too few of us, too many crimes. Also, not enough vehicles.”

"This is unacceptable." - Lazarus

"And what was so much more important than this???" - Kelegh

“Well, there was this imperial official guy with his eyes gouged out, then the smuggling ring with the military-grade weapons, also some suspected cult activity... stuff like that. Cult activity turned out to be bull****, though.”

Mordecai nods, thinking. "You said they were driven. Where? In which direction were they going? Or a specific place maybe? Where were they coming out of? Every hole knook and cranny in the area? Did they resemble anything? Rats, insects, degraded humans?"

“They were like humans, only with the bones turned gel-like and the limbs all elongated. Dunno where they might have been coming from. I was in kind of a hurry, couldn't really follow them. They came from the south, this much I can tell. As for where they were going? Everywhere north-ish. It was like they were spreading or something.”

“Did you ever hear of someone starting fires in the area? Father Solomon?" - Kationa

Mordecai and Kelegh look at her weirdly.

“Never heard of him. Must be a newcomer. Probably some preacher from the upper levels, seeing the opportunity to convert souls, coming down?”

"Have there been reports of excessive fires though? Or did you fail to look into it?" - Kationa

“Look, ma'am, looks like to me that whoever this Solomon is, he's probably only burning the muties. Nobody complained so far. As far as I'm concerned, locals probably think he's doing him a service.”

"YOU've never heard of him, yet we hear of him 2 hours after landing here?" - Lazarus

“What could I say? I'm not THAT pious” – Thraxus, shrugging.

Lazarus turns to the others. "This sod's report is not going to look good."

"It wasn't looking good in the first place, but he did earn some points just now. We have more leads. Any other questions?" –Mordecai, turning to Brent. "If not, you are dismissed for today. We're borrowing you from captain Vex, you'll come with us tomorrow."

“Good, good” – Thraxus, relieved. “…Will any of you unchain me now?”

Mordecai lets him go "Rest up, we'll have work tomorrow."

He scurries away.

"He is obviously hiding something." – Lazarus.

 

Cue Scrutiny rolls. He fails and obtains no information. Mordecai tries his hand at it, too, and gets a botch – with it, comes a strong sense of having been lied to. His player decides to use that temporary Fate point from earlier to get a re-roll, which succeeds.

 

"I'm pretty sure he doesn't." – Mordecai, then he turns to Lazarus and Kationa. "So...Father Solomon?"

"Let's discuss what you learned." Kelegh, looking at Lazarus and Kationa

"Someone names Father Solomon has a gang down in the lower hives, setting fire to everything. Most likely some kind of zealot, but we think it is worth following up to see what they know." – Kationa.

"Well, the mutants crawl and slither and leave their blood in the streets. People are superstitious about it, they refuse to cross those blooded streets, and fail to appear at work. The Emperor's Holy Economy is at stake here." – Lazarus.

 

He also gains a temporary Fate point for coining the phrase “The Emperor’s Holy Economy”. It’s near the end of the session, though, so it doesn’t see use and is lost.

 

"Yes, I plan on checking up on missing workers. Assuming they're not underhive nobodies. That's why we got access to the Arbites archives. We'll be milking that all evening, so get some decaf." - Mordecai

"Why is Father Solomon a problem?" - Kelegh

"Cults need to be investigated." - Lazarus

"He may interfere with our investigation." - Kationa

"He has followers and his followers have eyes and ears. They may be useful. I'm not good with zealots though." - Mordecai

"Let's talk to him, learn anything he or his group knows, and we can still do away with them if they are found guilty of heresy." - Kelegh

"We need to look at this blood as well. It may be toxic in some way, or shed clues." - Kationa

"Good idea, blood samples. Someone get some forensics gear from the Verispex department please." - Mordecai

"I have no idea what you're talking about. I'll let you handle these details." Lazarus steps back.

Mordecai hangs his head "Yeah, you'd just blow our cover like this. Anyway, I'll requisition some forensics gear, then I go to the database/archives/monitoring stations/whatever else there is.”

 

With it, he’s off to requisition stuff. He books a Verispex adept with matching gear, and tries his hand at getting protective gear against toxic environments, but the distinct lack of toxic environments around dooms his attempt to failure.

I also inform the others that Fearless Leader will probably be busy for the next few hours sweeping around in the precinct’s databases, so they might want to do something without him. Lazarus is the first to show initiative…

 

"I'm taking the psykers out for a walk." - Lazarus

"A walk?" - Kationa

"I don't think I WILL BE TAKEN out for a walk..." - Kelegh

"Enough with the semantics, let's go!" – Lazarus

 

If we’re already talking semantics, am I the only one who is not keen on the prospect of being taken out by an assassin, even for a walk?

 

"Where are we going?" - Kationa

"First, the clothing emporio. Then, we look for zealots." - Lazarus

"We're going clothes shopping?"  Kationa looks absolutely over the moon at the prospect and her eyes light up with glee. But then her face falls. "But I have no money."

"Why should I need more clothes?" – Kelegh. "My sanctioning brand is covered by default.  It only shows when I want it. But talking to the zealots is a good idea.""

"I'll lend you some. Kationa needs clothes to cover up her psykishness." - Lazarus

"Really? Thank you!" She looks delighted. "I hate looking like a beggar, whatever they said on the Black Ship."

 

They leave in the direction of the mall to buy some non-tatty robes and ominous cloaks, because Lazarus wants his pet psykers to look badass, then depart from the store with their spoils and go in the general direction of.... the lower levels where the zealots lurk.

 

--

 

Meanwhile in the Precinct Fortress, Mordecai seems to enjoy his newfound privileges as Big Brother.

He starts off by rolling Tech-use to access the files, which he promptly botches. A spent Fate point later it is merely a normal failure. Fortunately, he still has access to the files his cover identity’s clearance entitles him to.

First order of business is combing through missing person reports, of which there is no shortage. He could spend his whole life here, reading those. So, instead of reading through them, he just looks at the numbers, and notices a 60% increase in the districts affected by the mutant plague compared to the other low-level districts. Both have way higher numbers than the middle hive, though, but that is to be expected.

Then he looks up structures in the affected districts that might attract the mutants, but finds nothing that isn’t present in the northern ones, too. Only thing that is unique to the southern districts is the southern border of the Hive (duh).

Disappointed, he starts digging for some info about the Colossal ****up that presumably caused the local Arbites to fall out of favor. His initial inquiries of higher-ups being demoted/killed/coming under suspicion of heresy yield a fair number of higher-ranked arbitrators (mostly in leadership or administrative positions) being demoted and transferred – mainly to Sinophia Magna or into the Divisio Immoralis. Also, there is a huge list of casualties around this time, but his clearance is apparently not high enough to look at the cases they were working on.

Frustrated, he starts to look at cases near this date which involved a large number of manpower, and were either extremely successful or very unsuccessful. He finds a rather involved operation just a few months earlier that managed to root out heretics among the highest echelons of the nobility – they have completely purged a noble house and heavily pruned two others. Curiously though, nobody who worked on this case was among the casualties.

This is the point where he gives up.

 

--

 

And this is the point where the session ended! Everybody gains 100 XP, we agree on when the next game will be held, and we're off to sleep.

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"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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No comments? I'm a sad pandarbitrator. :p

 

They might have been scared away by its length!

 

Or are following the principle of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything". Which, knowing the majority of posters here, seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened.

 

Anyways, if you are reading this, feel free to comment.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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FWIW I enjoyed it

 

Mind you I've never played PnP because I have lame friends but I find it very interesting

 

Well, if I ever GM a different game (which seems more than likely, there was talk about trying Numenera in the summer), you are welcome to join :)


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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So, another session was held today! It moved surprisingly fast, compared to the last one. On the other hand, juggling a party fragmented into 4 parts has proven to be quite a challenge. Writeup coming sometime.

 

Edit: so raw text is apparently 59 pages. Cleaning it up is gonna take a while (last one was about 23 pages and it took 4 hours or so).

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Eh, I'll just post it in parts.

 

 

 

So we pick up where we left off last session – Kelegh, Kationa and Lazarus go hunting zealots.

"Well... That trip from the mall seemed to take unusually long." – Lazarus, puzzled.

"I needed to find the perfect outfit" - Kationa, who looks much happier and more confident now that she is dressed smartly.

"That's why I don't frequent the emporiums. Those shopping trips seem to take weeks." - Lazarus

"I used to love going shopping" – Kationa, wistfully. - "Before... Uhh... Before everything changed."

 

The group lurks in the streets, looking for slimy mutant trails and/or signs of end-of-the-world agitators. Slimy mutant trails could have been followed by Tracking rolls, but Lazarus, being an urban hunter, skipped this skill. They all roll Awareness instead, to search for agitators. Lazarus succeeds, while Kationa and Kelegh both score a critical failure. Of course, this means they hear the same thing from opposite directions, because splitting up the already split-up party is always a good idea.

"Did you just hear that?" – Lazarus, looking to the west. - "Something out of the ordinary is going on."

"Yeah, but in that direction too." Kelegh, pointing east

"Take into consideration that it might be your warped senses playing tricks on you. We go west." - Lazarus

The psykers shrug and follow him looking really indifferent.

As they draw closer, they start to hear "Burn the unbeliever!" and "Make the heretic confess!" shouts. Also, general sounds a semi-large mob would make. The group tries to look unassuming as they approach the mob. They all roll Shadowing +30. Kelegh achieves a success, letting him simultaneously look mysterious and cool in his cloak, yet blend in with the crowd. Lazarus fails – then again, blending in with the proles while dressed really stylishly and being armed to the teeth, one can argue, was an undertaking doomed to failure from the beginning. Kationa crit fails, again – her creepy cyber-eyes definitely start to draw unwanted attention, although the mob is somewhat more preoccupied with the witch in the square yet.

…Well, „witch” is perhaps a bit strong word for someone who looks like a fairly ordinary junkie. Barely 14 or so, dirty clothes, dirty hair, rotten teeth. Everyone rolls Awareness to see what the fuss is about. For a moment it looks like everyone fails (again), then we remember that Lazarus has Heightened Senses, so he manages to notice that she's holding something printed on ****ty paper. The only thing the psykers manage to notice is the mob of about 20 people standing around her, crying "witch!" and "mutant-lover!".

Lazarus, for some inexplicable reason, decides he wants the thing she’s holding. He starts shouting "Down with mutants!" and elbows his way toward the child.

"Look at her, clutching the vile rantings of the Heretic! I say we should take her to the Father!", cries an elderly woman as he passes beside her.

"A stoning should teach her to show proper respect to the Saints!", shouts another.

Meanwhile, Kationa tries to determine whether the girl has any true psychic ability, but fails her Psyniscience test. Kelegh, in the meantime, looks around for a leader-type person in the mob, and notices a large, heavy-set man who seems to be the loudest of the crowd. He doesn’t seem, however, to wield any religious authority (unless copious amounts of body fat entitle one to such).

Lazarus approaches the girl and, sneering with authentic disguist, hisses at her "What is that, you filth?"

"N... nothing, my Lord! I swear I don't know! I can't even read!" – girl, crying.

"Give me that!" the assassin snatches at the paper, but fails his Sleight of Hand roll. At least not a critical failure, though, so he doesn’t tear it in half.

"You dare hold on to it?!", the nobleman reels in disbelief. "Hand it over, now!", he holds out his hand.

Meanwhile, Kationa is unwilling to stand by and let an innocent be harmed like this.

"Hey!" She yells. "Let her go!"

She crit fails her Command roll, though.

"She's in league with the witch!", cries a voice.

"A witch herself, I say!", adds another.

"An arch-witch or something! Look at her eyes! You can see the devil in them!", a third one yells, pointing at her cybernetics. The crowd seems to get divided between the girl and Kationa, drawing in an ever-more threatening circle around the two psykers.

"What the hell are you doing???" – Kelegh, hissing at Kationa

"Trying to save a life!", she answers, but her confidence is fleeing and she starts to back away.

"That's not our job here. We need to find the mutants..." - Kelegh

"We can't just let them kill innocents like this" – Kationa

"Why? There are billions of them dying every minute. We save more by eliminating the cause: the heretics." – Kelegh, whispering. - "... and mutants."

"The witch dares to cry innocence?!", the heavy-set man protests.

"Don't listen to her poisoned words!", warns another.

Lazarus, meanwhile, is growing increasedly frustrated with his continuous failure to get his hands on the magazine. He looks around, then yells at the top of his lungs "This witch won't let go of her heretical scribblings! They are demonically glued to her hands!!!"

He’s trying to divert attention from his teammates, which is a mighty cool thing to do, considering his psyker-phobic tendencies, and just audacious enough to make me laugh. These culminate in me awarding him a Fate regain. He also rolls Deceive +30, and succeeds. The people seem to remember the initial cause of their concern.

"Unhoooooly!" – Lazarus, frothing at the mouth.

"It's demon-tainted!", someone yells with apparent horror.

"Cut off the arm and BURN IT", cries another.

"Take her to your leader, he'll know what to do with her!" – Lazarus, trying to whip the crowd into action. It works, they kinda forget about Kat.

"Yes, Father Solomon will know! He knows all that is heretical!", cries a weedy guy. People look at him weirdly.

"This is insane" says Kat in horror.

Lazarus unsheathes his sword and points to the magazine. "Cast off that unholy tome! Renounce your ways and be judged!"

The girl throws the magazine away in apparent horror. The part about cutting off her arm has scared her enough to make it an auto-success.

"The Emperor is true! The Emperor is true!", cries the heavy-set guy. Soon all start to chant it.

"Where is Father Solomon?", Kat asks someone in the crowd. She gets an adress.

"But... what about the demon-glue?", a voice asks timidly.

"Maybe she was framed by that weedy guy who seems to know all about heresy!?" – Lazarus, while picking up the magazine nonchalantly.

"Yes, he seems heretical! Burn him!" – some guy in the mob.

"Death to the one renouncing the Father!" – another guy.

"So let's take her to the Father, then!" Kelegh says loudly, going in a different direction from Lazarus.

"Her?", a woman asks from Kelegh, confused. "Wasn't she framed by the heretic guy?"

"Enough!" Kat yells again, trying to calm things down once more before someone got hurt. She rolls Command, a skill she’s untrained in, and amazingly, achieves a success. The crowd stops at once. It’s only momentary, but has gained enough space for the group to make a convincing speech.

"We shall go to see Father Solomon", Kat says. "Don't hurt anyone."

Stunned silence.

"But... we go to the Father to burn Heretics! To smash the unholy! Why would we bother him if we don't want to hurt anyone?", an elderly woman asks, dumbfounded.

"WE will take her to the Father. You WILL go home before the enforcers arrive!" - Kelegh

"Save your hatred for the true heretics" - Kationa

"Also, mutants." - Lazarus

They all roll. Kelegh achieves a success. The crowd starts to disperse.

Lazarus steals a look at the magazine. He sees the title "HERETICS' HIDEOUT" in a scary-looking font. Also, a cover illustration that's probably supposed to be a guardsman devoured by a giant xeno-thing, but doesn't really look convinving. The Xeno-worm-thingy looks more like a sad plushie snake than a genuinely threatening beast.

Meanwhile, Kelegh grabs the still sobbing and shivering girl, and waits for people to go home, then asks:

"What happened?"

"I... I dunno... My uncle has disappeared...", sobs the girl. "After I haven't heard from him for a week or so, I've decided to go to his apartment, see if he's there... you know, with these disappearances, you can never be sure... Anyways, he wasn't there, and I've found this, and tried to ask around what it is, then they started crying 'witch' and stuff!"

She starts to cry openly. Kat gives her a comforting hug, a kindness which she repays by drooling and tearing on her new clothes. She doesn’t mind much, though.

Meanwhile, Lazarus is trying to determine whether he’s holding a heretical pamphlet. I have him roll Literacy, because otherwise that skill is useless. He succeeds and gains the info that It's a so-called "Penny Dreadful", which on certain planets is heavily cultivated, saying that it strikes a fear of the Enemies of Mankind into the hearts of the populace. People in other places, however, say it's peddling knowledge that is borderline heretical, and they all should be burned.

„What’s your name?” – Kelegh, to the girl. He gets no answer, turns to Kationa.

"We need to know if there was something amiss at the uncle's home. And we need to get out of here, before they return for another lynching. They really didn't like your eyes...."

"I have Father Solomon’s address." – Kationa

"Oh that's great. Then we go to this uncle's apartment first, and visit Father Solomon later." - Lazarus

"What about Mordecai? Isn't he finished with looking for info? 4 is better than 3" - Kelegh

"Do you have somewhere safe you can go?" – Kationa, turning to the girl.

"Not really", she sobs. "He was my last living relative, y'know."

”I think we should take the girl with us. If she is untainted, she could be useful. These urchins are great at running errands and eavesdropping.” - Lazarus

"What's your name?" Kationa asks the girl.

"Thea."

"I'm Kationa. We'll take care of you."

She just looks at her with big, brown, hopeful eyes, and nods.

The party decides to get back to the precinct.

 

-


"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Somebody hasn't written any updates in a while. Somebody. I'm not gonna say who.


"Bones heal, chicks dig scars, pain is temporary, glory is forever."

What is glass but tortured sand?
Never forget! '12.01.13.

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Meanwhile at the Precinct

 

Mordecai continues his investigation. He wants to look into who patrols the general area of the mutant sightings, but he's interrupted by a young arbitrator carrying a message of vital importance: the equipment they requisitoned has arrived! He rushes to loot examine what they've got, but takes time to scrutinize the messenger - after all, he might be an agent of their mysterious employer, therefore Useful and Important. Sadly, he fails his roll, despite a +20 bonus, so his reading fails to produce any useful information.

 

Given the fact that chances of success are generally so slim in the W40K games (50% or so in something you're supposed to be good at, given average difficulty), I'm thinking of providing some sort of background information on failed non-essential rolls such as this in the future. Possibly something that hints at the answer to their question, but lets them figure it out. Or maybe the ability to retroactively spend a Fate point to auto-succeed. Or just offer the possibility of "you succeed, but there's some complication".

 

As it turns out, the shipment takes the form of two huge boxes bearing the seal of the Departmento Munitorum.

 

That's the logistics division of the Imperial Guard, for those not steeped in W40K lore.

 

"I didn’t expect them to be so big. The prospects will be Rosy if they sent the wrong equipment”, Mordecai murmurs while opening one of the boxes, subtly trying to prod at the allegiances of his young colleague. He only gets a weird look, accompanied by an even weirder one when the box is revealed to be full of decaf boxes. He gets points for not questioning the wisdom of his superiors, unlike Mordecai.

 

Heresy!

 

"...I’m never leaving anything to the Munitorum again”, Mordecai complains, then checks the other box. It's full of lasgun charge packs, on top of which sits a folder containing a deactivated data-slate. He pockets two of said charge packs (which would definitely be more useful if the party used las weaponry), then activates the data-slate.

 

WARNING: HIGH COMMAND ONLY - the words appear on screen as it flickers to life. A further two paragraphs detail the procedures (three months of interrogation, followed by full memory wiping and reassignment to most unpleasant duties being the most favorable outcome) that await those who view the contents without authorization.

 

"This shipment was obviously sent to the wrong place. Go and tell the high ups to attend to it’s proper delivery”, he instructs the younger Arbitrator, then continues reading when he's out of sight. Well, he'd continue reading, but there are no words after the ominous warnings, only pictures. They're high-res satellite images of the planet. A few days old, judging from the dates in the top corner. The coordinates are also labelled. There's about a thousand of them, and since Mordecai really doesn't want to get caught while browsing, he puts an empty data-slate in the folder and pockets the original for later viewing.

 

Succeeding in this heretical act, he's off to see the Enforcer in charge of the patrols in the mutant-afflicted districts.

 

***

 

He arrives at the Enforcer Station after about an hour of travel, and conecedes that it looks less underfunded than the Precinct Fortress he came from. He flashes his ID, they salute and escort him to Corporal Ivan Franka, the man he came to see.

 

"Greetings, Corporal Franka. I come in the service of the Emperor. I was told you patrol between Districts 318 and 329. I trust you can guess why I’m asking.” - Mordecai

 

"Welcome”, the enforcer smiles warmly, shaking his hand. He’s young, with long hair and a carefully trimmed beard and mustache. There's some slight resemblance to Jesus, but this comparison would probably be lost on the characters.

 

"The local mutant problem is a slight in the Imperium’s eyes. I’ve read up on the area but the local archives had nothing of interest, so I came to you. As someone who patrols the place regularly, I assumed you know it best. Have you seen anything that could be linked to the degenerates? Heard any rumors? Has anyone erected new mines or manufactorums, were there any problems with cults in the near past?”, the arbitrator opens with a barrage of questions.

 

"I don’t know about any mines, manufactorums or cults. Speaking of the latter, however... an exceptional clergyman called Father Solomon has already dealt with the mutant problem and keeps the situation admirably in control. In fact, I’ve already recommended him to be approved for beatification” – the corporal's brimming with pride.

 

The enforcer bringing up Father Solomon when asked about cults seemed a bit forced to the players. The tried and true method of "give at least three venues for the players to discover essential clues" can sometimes come across as having the subtlety of a sledgehammer, especially with players competent enough to find all of these venues in short order, but "clue overload" sure as hell beats fumbling around with no idea of what to do next. The NPC being a gushing fanboy trying to bring up the subject of his obsession at every possible occasion probably didn't help avoiding the feeling of beaten over the head with the Clue Bat either.

 

Mordecai smiles and nods.

 

"Was his work that impressive? Please, tell me more about him. I have heard about a cleric named Solomon arriving in the area, but not much more beyond that.”

 

"He is a very imposing man. The flames of faith are burning bright in his soul! You should hear one of his speeches! Hearing his words, I feel the urge to unleash the Emperor’s unabated fury on all His foes!" - Franka, gushing. 

 

"And where can I find this father Solomon? It seems I need to have a chat with him about these mutants.” - Mordecai

 

The enforcer searches among the documents scattered on his desk for a while, then produces an address.

 

"Thanks, you have been a great help.” - Mordecai, departing. - „May The Emperor watch over you …and good luck with that beatification.” 

 

After that, he decides to pay a visit to Father Solomon, then remembers that this is an encounter where the support of his fellow Acolytes might come in handy. (Because everyone knows that fanatical clergymen tend to react so well to the company of psykers.) So he heads back to the Precinct instead.

 

***

 

Meanwhile at the Precinct 2, the Precinct Strikes Back!

 

As the group heads back, Kelegh examines the so-called witch for signs of psychic talents, rolling Psyniscience +20, succeeding, and finding her to be a perfectly ordinary human with no deeper connection to the Warp. During their short journey, Kationa tries to dispel the girl's misconceptions about what the Inquisition is supposed to do.

 

"We travel. Investigate. Solve problems. Help people," she explains, vaguely. Thea remains unconvinced.

They arrive at the Precinct shortly, and are informed that their package has arrived, but Officer Vern has already determined that it was misplaced. They decide to take the girl to their rooms and wait for Mordecai to get back, interviewing the orphan while they wait. Lazarus immediately jumps at the opportunity to show off his excellent social skills.

 

"Hey, urchin!", he begins, but seeing her expression, he decides to change tactics, and turns to the others. "Uhhh, maybe Kat would be better. The girl seems to be more trusting to persons of the female persuasion."

 

The psyker just rolls her eyes at him.

 

"Maybe it's more to do with treating people nicely." She turns to the girl. "Thea... Can you tell us about these disappearances?"

 

"Not really", the girl shrugs. "All kinds of people have disappeared from the neighbourhood, ever since the mutants have appeared. People say they curse the god-fearing ones, they steal them away at night."

"...But I've never met a god-fearing one who was taken away", she adds in a small voice.

 

"Have you ever seen one of these mutants?" - Kat

 

"Yes, they are... weird. They look like the ones on those pictures", she says, gesturing toward the magazine in Lazarus' hand.

 

"The plush worms?" - Lazarus

 

"No, not on the cover... In the other story... the one with the boy and the girl..."

 

"All right, let me just...." Lazarus skims through the story, and finds this:

 

32.jpg

 

"Ah! Disgusting!", he recoils in horror, then shows the picture to the girl. "They look like THAT?"

 

The others try to steal a look at the image, too, and are rewarded with their own dose of Nightmare Fuel.

 

"Yes, just like that", Thea confirms. "Maybe their head is not that long, but basically that's it."

 

This is the moment when Mordecai steps through the door. 

 

"I'm back", he announces the obvious.

 

"And not a moment too soon! Look at this rather realistic depiction of the mutants in this hive!", Lazarus exclaims, showing the picture to Mordecai.

 

"Also, they are a bit more... bloody", the girl adds, then gets acquintanced with Mordecai, who also gets answers to the question of "what is a street urchin doing in our rooms?".

 

"And they are taking people? Like your uncle?", Kationa continues with the questions. 

 

"I dunno, people say they are taking people. To me, they don't really look like they can, though." -Thea

 

"Were there signs of a break in at the hab?" - Kat

 

"My uncle's apartment door was open when I came there, so... do you think it might have been the mutants?" - Thea, unsure.

 

"Maybe your uncle turned into a mutant and slithered out.", Lazarus proposes. Thea turns kinda pale and green-ish at the thought, but doesn't comment.

 

"Was the apartment also bloody?", Kelegh asks, thinking back to the girl's description of the things.

 

"No, it wasn't. It was just dirty", she answers, still horrified by Lazarus' theory.

 

"So it probably wasn't these mutants", the battle psyker concludes.

 

"I don't know. We'll need to look at the apartment", Kat murmurs, lost in her thoughts. "Do you know of any areas of the hive where the mutants can be found?"

 

"They are everywhere. Only around dawn, though. The Father's men gather and burn them by the morning." - Thea

 

"It's best if we go and see for ourselves. in the meantime, this little urchin needs to be scrubbed and fed." - Lazarus

 

"How did you end up getting hauled away by a mob as a witch?", Kationa asks, thinking back.

 

"I started asking people about the magazine... can't read, y'know? Then I've found this fat dude, and he saw it and got really angry, started shouting 'witch', then people gathered, and... that's how", the girl summarizes. Kat looks dumbfounded; being the former scion of a noble house, she can't really imagine the existence of illiterate people, much less how they could possibly survive.

 

The group peers at the clocks, concludes that it's late, and they need to get up early in the morning if they want to take a look at the mutants.

 

"Well then, let's call it a night. Thea can share a room with Kationa I assume?", Mordecai proposes, while thumbing through the magazine, looking for any information about the publisher. Being a self-styled "HERETICAL" magazine, though, they obviously don't have such things. Possibly because they've been printed by daemons, but more likely that they don't want to end up at the stake of an overzealous cleric.

 

"Well, I think we should check the apartment. And we also now have the location of Father Solomon and a lead on the mutants", Kationa makes plans for the morning.

 

"The apartment can wait, but the mutants only come out at dawn, we should be rested by then", Mordecai states. "Here's what I had in mind: See the mutants, maybe backtrack their path if we can, meet Solomon when he comes a-burning, then see Thea's uncle's apartment. Oh and we need the blood samples as well."

 

"What about the girl while we go mutant-watching?", Kelegh asks.

 

"We should lock her up in Kat's room." - Lazarus

 

"What? Why? She's harmless!" - Kationa, horrified.

 

"Nobody is harmless. Even if she does not intend to..." - Kelegh

 

"For her own good. Locking her up is unnecessary, I feel." - Mordecai

 

"Unnecessary?" - Kelegh

 

"OK, then don't lock her up, and if she starts running loose around the precinct, someon'e bound to bring her down." - Lazarus, annoyed.

 

"We'll just tell the guards to keep an eye on her. Dragging her with us would be a bad idea." - Mordecai

 

"I'll advise her to stay put. But we are not treating her like a prisoner", Kationa states firmly.

 

"We are already spending too much time on the brat. Let's go.", Lazarus hurries his companions.

 

"She is an asset and we need her", Kelegh injects.

 

"Didn't you meet her when a mob was about to lynch her? And you want us to bring her with us to a meeting with a religious zealot?", Mordecai asks, dumbfounded.

 

"To find her uncle's home, I mean", Kelegh specifies.

 

"No. She'll stay here. But we are not locking her up." - Kationa

 

"Mordecai, you are the leader, you decide what to do", Lazarus reminds the Arbitrator.

 

"True. Thea, can you tell us where your uncle lives? Or would showing it be easier? And you could describe him so we know who to look for?" - Mordecai, oblivious.

 

Kelegh clears his throat.

 

"Hmm?" - Mordecai

 

"Her uncle's missing", the battle psyker points out. Mordecai just winks at him.

 

Their Ciphers (Acolyte) is sometimes impenetrable even to me. What he was trying to get at is the fact that finding said uncle would benefit both Thea and their investigation.

 

The girl gives them an adress and describes her uncle as this wiry, bald guy in his forties with a goatee.

 

Thinking back at this scene, I really dropped the ball when I just let them talk over Thea's head about her fate, without any reaction or input from her. Which could have been retroactively explained by her not being in the room at the time, but then she suddenly showed up right at the moment when they needed her. In my defense, watching them bicker among themselves was really entertaining, and it kinda caught my attention.

 

"Good girl. Now let's get some sleep." - Mordecai

 

"May the Emperor watch over us." - Kelegh

 

Before they went to sleep, however, Mordecai shares his discovery with the others. 

 

"Right, we got our shipment from Rose. About a 100 kilos of decaf beans, and bunch of lasclips and a week old collection of satelite photos of the hive", he shows the data-slate.

 

"These photos could be useful", Lazarus remarks.

 

They also get informed about the lengthy warning labels and the fact that there's about a thousand of them, so if they wish to inspect them all, they won't really get much sleep. Their first idea is to look for the blood trails the mutants leave after themselves, but the spires of the Upper Hive hide pretty effectively what's going on down here. They decide to save the images for later use.

 

"Why do we have beans?" - Kationa

 

"We have beans because the Departmento Munitorum is incompetent" - Mordecai.

 

***

 

And with this important insight into the nature of imperial bureaucracy, our heroes are off to sleep.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Next day they wake up before dawn, get their buddy Brent (the arbitrator whose incompetence they were supposed to investigate as their cover story) and the Verispex Adept they booked, then go out to hunt mutants before the zealots take care of them. Mordecai decides to bathe and get a breakfast before heading out, though. His comrades pass the time bickering making plans.

 

"We should maybe look around the apartment. And look for Solomon afterwards." - Lazarus

 

"Solomon will come to burn the mutants." - Mordecai, presumably yelling from under the shower.

 

"Let's split again. I'll go to the apartment", Kationa offers.

 

"I'd rather not, but if you want to save time, fine", Mordecai shrugs.

 

"It isn't very wise to wander around the hive at night", Kelegh warns them, remembering that it still hasn't dawned yet. "Why don't we see the mutants and Solomon, and then see the apartment?"

 

"Yes, so let's all go to see the mutants, scrape the samples, and then find Solomon. Or let the leader decide" - Lazarus

 

"I've decided already. I'm getting Brent and the Verispex while you guys are still arguing." - Mordecai, deadpan. He follows up on this promise, too. When he gets back, they're still arguing (because arguments happen at the speed of plot, apparently).

 

"I'm not arguing with no mutants!", Lazarus complains.

 

"Because there are no mutants around", Kelegh retorts.

 

"...whose word counts in an argument", the assassin expands the sentence. This is when Mordecai gets back.

 

"Mine does. And I say we go. We can take the Verispex team to the apartment as well, so going as a group would be prudent."

 

 

His word is law, so that's what they do.

 

***

 

 

They start advancing to the mutant-infested area. In the meantime, they pass a fairly dilapidated-looking railway station, where a few people are standing around. One of them is apparently asking another for directions - she's our fifth character, Kaylee, whose introductions I couldn't find. Short version: she was sent here by her superiors in the Church to investigate a certain "Father Solomon", who is, by all accounts, not affiliated with the Ecclesiarchy in any way, yet mysteriously ended up on a list for beatification.

 

A low moaning fills the air. They do not yet see the mutants, but these unholy noises can only come from them.

 

Occasionally, we have soundtracks! I tend to either forget about them, or just not prepare anything suitable in advance, but this is one of the rare exceptions. Enjoy.

 

Kaylee notices the small group of violent-looking people with flashlights shuffling around. She gets nervous and hides away.

 

 

"This is creepy," Kat says as she follows the others.

 

"Literally", Kelegh smiles.

 

"Hush, you'll scare off the creepy crawlies", Lazarus hisses at them.

 

Mordecai tries to listen where the moans are coming from, trying to glean something more specific than "everywhere". He determines that the answer's "somewhere from the south", so that's where they are headed.

 

Kaylee creeps after them, since the address he was given points to that direction.

 

The arbitrator decides it's time to try out the shiny new Auspex he requisitioned along with the Verispex adept, crit fails, spends Fate for a reroll, and finally succeeds in activating the device. It helpfully points out the hiding Kaylee, and a lot of lifesigns from the south. He shares this information with the others. Lazarus isn't especially surprised at the former, having already noticed the girl.

 

"Act naturally", he whispers to the others, and slips into the first side alley. There he lies in wait for an ambush.

 

***

 

The Adventures of Team "Following Life Signatures"

 

As they get closer and closer to the source of the life signatures, the moaning intensifies. It doesn't take long for them to get to a crossroads where they can take in the view in full.

 

Mordecai wisely takes a sip from his amasec before confronting the sight. Kationa starts to focus her mind for unleashing her psychic will if necessary. Kelegh draws his sword and shield. As psykers, they have a high enough Willpower score to have no need of liquid courage. Well, they would have, if the diceroller didn't hate them.

 

Pale, deformed bodies crawl towards them from all directions, writhing, moaning. Soft and misshapen bones give way and bend with each movement. Tatters of flesh get scraped off by the pavement. They look desperate and in pain, long streaks of blood trailing after them. There's at least 50 of them, and their moaning provides a background noise of insane cacophony.

 

They all roll vs. Fear, and predictably fail critically, their sanity shattering with an almost audible crack. Kelegh gets off lightly with only 1 point of Insanity, while Kationa and Mordecai gain 3 and 5, respectively. Nobody has passed the threshold of 10, though, so no immediate ill effects await them (aside from the feeling of blood freezing in their veins). Brent and Verispex Guy roll, too. The former looks aghast, but the latter is unfazed. He doesn't really understand what the others are making such a fuss about.

 

Kat freezes up for a moment and there's a flash in her white eyes, but she holds firm.

 

"So what are we going to do exactly?", she inquires.

 

"I was told there will be dissections", Verispex Guy replies.

 

Mordecai shakes with fear, but forces himself to step closer. Then he takes out his riot baton (fancy word for a club with the mono upgrade) and gives the nearest mutant the Emperor's Mercy.

 

"Verispex, here's your sample", he manages to blurt out.

 

"...I was hoping for a live specimen, in order to be able to study the changes in the internal physiology, y'know", the adept replies with a disdainful look.

 

"There's plenty of still living ones, but test the blood first. Unless you mean to bring one back to the Precinct?" - Mordecai

 

"Yes, that would be splendid. Perhaps more...", Verispex Guy wanders.

 

Nobody bothered to ask his name. The life of a background NPC is a thankless one.

 

"Are we sure we want to bring these... things to the Precinct?", Thraxxus asks, still shivering.

 

"I was told they die in a matter of hours. How do you plan to bring them back?" - Mordecai, more concerned with the logistical side of the operation.

 

"...We should totally get an ambulance car." Verispex Guy proposes.

 

"Fine, call one in and do the tests. Brent, you stay with him. We'll follow their tracks", Mordecai gives the orders with an audible sigh.

 

Kelegh stands frozen for a few seconds as his mind tries to cope with the sight, then he has a look at what the others are doing. As Mordecai kills one of them he lunges forward to hack them apart with the sword. Kat joins him. They don't fight back.  They even seem to welcome it somehow. No wonder, considering the pain they must be in with their tattered skin.

 
While Kat is busy cutting and slashing, and Mordecai is giving orders, Kelegh stops with the killing and gets to a suitable vantage point, from where he sees that the mutants' numbers stretch as far as he can see.
 

"There seems to be no end of them...", he shouts down to the others.

 

"They must be coming from somewhere", Kationa concludes. Mordecai starts following the blood trail. The others do the same.

 

"Well, I don't want to miss Solomon either. But it seems to me they are being released on purpose. Don't want to miss whoever is doing that", Mordecai offers in a way of explanation, while he rushes past the mutants, hoping to see where they come from. As he gets farther, their numbers seem to be thinning, but the blood smears on the pavement indicate that they were coming from even farther south. He checks the streets he passes, suspecting Solomon's involvement in the matter, but the trail points to a way more distant location than his adress. They continue running along the blood smears.

 

After a certain point they realize that they've passed the majority of mutants, so they won't run into Solomon's men cleaning up if they go further.

 

"Want me to wait for the zealots?", Kationa offers.

 

"f you're okay with waiting alone, sure." - Mordecai

 

"I can manage."

 

"Can't you divine where they're coming from anyway?", the arbitrator asks, having no clue of what a psyker of her power level is supposed to be able to pull off.

 

"No better than what we can see with our eyes..."

 

"Mordecai", Kelegh interrupts.

 

"Yes?"

 

"This trail isn't gonna get cleaned by anyone soon. Shall we wait for Lazarus?"

 

Mordecai ponders for a moment. "I suppose you're right. I was hoping we could find the source, but if they come from farther down... Let's wait for Lazarus and Solomon."

 

"I'll wait for Solomon. You go find the source", Kationa instructs the others.

 

Aaannnd nobody picks up on the fact that speaking with the fundamentalists maybe should not be done by the most obviously witch-looking member of the group.

 

"We'll wait for Lazarus to catch up", Mordecai states firmly.

 

"What? Don't say you think I can't do anything by myself either," Kat explodes, her white eyes raging.

 

"Who said that???" - Kelegh, dumbfounded.

 

"No, of course not. Following these tracks could take hours. But this Solomon may help us and his congregation could make the search faster. And we wanted to check that apartment out too. And only I have a communicator, so we can't even update each other", Mordecai explains calmly.

 

So they sit down and wait. Kat impatiently drums her foot against the ground to make her displeasure obvious. Mordecai walks around anxiously, not wanting to let the trail go cold, but not wanting to miss Solomon or get lost either... and especially not feeling like sitting around. He mercy kills some mutants to pass the time.

 

Kat gets fed up very quickly and stands up again.

 

"Fine, you stay here and do nothing. I'm going to go and find the source", she hisses, and starts to walk in the direction of the trail.

 

"How old are you, Kat?", Kelegh asks, with a look of disbelief on his face.

 

"Old enough to choose my own path, whatever they tried to make me."

 

"And you get offended because we didn't do what you wanted us to do? We didn't stay because you couldn't do something. We stayed for Lazarus..." Hearing some strange noises, Kelegh trails off. It's as if someone was singing to himself.

 

"Well, Lazarus isn't here. Lazarus is doing something. We're not, and in the meantime, we're losing the chance." - Kationa, oblivious to the noises.

 

"Some people are coming from there...", Kelegh gestures at the direction of the sounds.

 

***

 

Team Nuns and Assassins

 

Meanwhile, Lazarus pulls up his gimp mask and lurks.

 

Gimp mask apparently meaning the part of the bodyglove that covers the face, according to the player. I'm sure there's a more technical term for it somewhere, but now it being called a gimp mask is part of my headcanon.

 

"Fascinating... it looks as if they just split for a good reason", Kaylee murmurs to herself, seeing the assassin disappear in some dark corner, then continues onward. She can't beat Lazarus' 4 successes on the Concealment roll, however, so she remains oblivious to his presence.

 

The assassin thoroughly inspects the girl from his cover, and finds her harmless. So he approaches from behind.

 

"It's dangerous to stalk people around these parts, you know?", he growls at an opportune moment, then swiftly glances over his shoulder, just in case. Rose would approve of his paranoia.

 

"Is it?", Kaylee asks, stopping. "How could it be, if such a holy man defends this place?"

 

"Why were you following that group of clearly-not-mutants?", Lazarus proceeds with a question of his own, disregarding hers.

 

"Because they looked so suspicious with those flashlights and they were walking towards the shelter of Solomon..."

 

Lazarus walks in front of the woman.

 

"So you're one of the zealots?", he asks.

 

"I don't think we like to describe ourselves like that. But why do you ask... and actually, what are you doing here?"

 

"That's my own business. We are not looking to harm your Father Solomon, so you can stop following us. And I'll spare your life today because I'm in a good mood and I don't feel like wasting a bullet on you", the assassin growls, turning his back on her.

 

"Well, all right. But I have to meet him anyway. You don't have to feel being followed though... It's just we're headed towards the same destination", she answers cheerfully.

 

As the two of them proceed, they soon meet the rather green-looking Brent and a fairly excited Verispex Adept who is currently scraping off bodily fluids from a beheaded mutant. There are a few other dead mutants around too - some of them died from cuts, others had their rather soft-looking skulls bashed in like a wet paper bag. Even larger is the number of mutants, however, who are still alive.

 

The two of them both pass the Fear test without any lasting ill effects.

 

"Filthy mutants!", Lazarus exclaims, turning to the young arbitrator. "Where is the team? Brent! Are you armed? What is going on?"

 

"We have called an ambulance to get them to the Precinct for vivisection, and are waiting for it to arrive. Others have run forward to see where they're coming from", Brent replies, apparently calmer than before.

 

"Will  it make you nervous if I pull out my gun?", Kaylee inquires politely, while walking towards the bodies.

 

"You may defend yourself", Lazarus nods, jumping at the opportunity to look at her weapon. It's a bog-standard stub automatic, though, so offers no special insight into her character (aside from the fact that she's not especially concerned with what kind of gun she's toting).

 

While Lazarus scrutinizes her gun, Kaylee inspects the mutants. They're misshapen, pale, and most of them are clearly underfed. Judging from their injuries, they've been crawling here from a great distance, and their skin has been completely peeled away where it was in contact with the road. Noting that they seem to be aware of their condition, she wonders if they might be able to speak, but turning one over, she can clearly see that their throats are way too deformed to create any sound that could be interpreted as a human language. She sighs disappointedly.

 

Her next experiment is aimed to inspect the resistance of their skin. She borrows a pair of pliers from Verispex Guy, who's currently elbow deep in another dead specimen, then plucks at it. It seems unusually elastic, but otherwise normal.

 

"I have never heard of a mutant of this kind. Their whole anatomy is so strange. It seems as if they couldn't have survived on their own. But they all seem so... big and well-developed. I mean, for the underhive", she concludes.

 

"Right? Riiight?", Verispex Guy responds, positively glowing. He's obviously happy to have someone share his enthusiasm.

 

"You research mutants?", Lazarus gasps.

 

"Well... No, not really. I do other kinds of reserach. But I cannot pass by without glancing at strange signs like this", she admits, standing up, then goes to check the other bodies.

 

"And you are not afraid to admit this unhealthy curiosity openly?", the assassin asks.

 

"Just a little bit. But why do you ask? Do you think it is common to find such... events at the threshold of a wannabe saint?", she raises an eyebrow.

 

"I ask because curiosity is close to heresy", Lazarus states sternly.

 

"Ignorance often leads to misunderstanding and failure. Some would say, failure is heresy", she retorts with a dignified look. Lazarus eyes her suspiciously.

 

"Do you know this Solomon personally?", he breaks the silence after a short pause.

 

"No, I don't. What about you? "

 

"Not yet. Well, watch out for those nasty mutants. And don't fraternise with them too much: the locals are very prone to lynching people", Lazarus advises her, then hurries in the direction of his team.

 

"And here I thought we were going to talk... ", she shakes her head, then turns to the adept. "Tell me, Verispex. Can you detect any strange chemicals on the bodies or in the dust?"

 

"Depends on what you'd call strange", he replies.

 

"I'm not educated in this matter, but let's say, some acid or lixivium? Anything that could peel away the skin or soften the bones. I guess if they had this deformity in their youth, they wouldn't have lived so long... Or maybe some sort of psychic phenomena?", she guesses.

 

"I ain't no goddamn psyker", the adept scoffs. "Anyway, no acid or similar substances detected."

 

"I see... is it possible to keep one of them alive for interrogation?"

 

"Well, we are doing what we can, but that damn ambulance car doesn't seem to be in a hurry", he grumbles.

 

"Can I get the phone?"

 

The adept gestures toward Thraxxus, who tosses it to her.

 

"Thank you... I doubt it would help, but it's worth a try", she murmurs, gets some distance, then calls the chapel and asks for Father Martin.

 

"Yes?", a sleepy voice intones a few minutes later.

 

"Father. I am faced with... unexpected events. Lots of bodies, practically at the door of this Solomon. They look mutated... but I don't think they are. If they were born with these deformities, they wouldn't have survived their first year. Something made their bones soft and torn off their skin... the Arbites has asked for medical help, but this being the Underhive, it's not coming very fast. Could you... hurry it along? I think this could be important... maybe even more important than the issue of this heresy."

 

"...I'll see what I can do", he replies after a short pause.

 

"Thank you, Father. The Emperor protects."

 

"The Emperor protects."

 

 

After this short conversation, she gives the phone back to Brent.

 

"Well, I don't promise anything, but it might help."

 

"Yeah... right" - Thraxxus, sceptical.

 

"Such lack of faith is not healthy...", she purrs with a slightly threatening edge. "Pray, and maybe your prayers will be answered."

 

***

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Back to the others, who are hearing seven dwarves-style singing and are appropriately terrified (read: not much). Soon, about five kinda rough-looking men emerge from the shadows. They all hold bloody sledgehammers, and are drawing a small carriage full of mutant bodies. Their leader, a huge, black-bearded, muscular guy whistles merrily.

 

Kat is still in the mood of the millenium.

 

"As I am incapable of doing anything, you talk to them", she instructs the others, turning her back on them.

 

"Howdy comrades", Beardie greets them with a wide smile, looking pleased with the amount of dead mutants Mordecai’s anti-boredom tactics have accumulated.

 

True to his dwarfy thematics, he speaks with a Scottish accent in my head. Having never met an actual Scotsman, though, I make no attempt at conveying this to the players. (Given the fact that in-universe he’s speaking an extremely bastardized underhive dialect of Low Gothic, it wouldn’t really make sense anyway.)

 

"Hello, I see we are in the same shoes", Kelegh welcomes him, proudly waving his sword which is still slick with mutant blood. "Where are you taking those bodies?"

 

"We are investigating this outbreak", Mordecai injects in a way of explanation, showing them his ID.

 

"Why, to burn them, of course! Their mere existence is an affront in the eyes of our Immortal God-Emperor, after all", the man explains cheerfully.

 

"You seem to be used to doing this... how long has it been your job?” Kelegh inquires.

 

"About... half a month or so? Maybe even a full month?" Beardie seems unsure.

 

Suddenly, Lazarus appears. With the exception of Kationa who seems to be utterly ignoring everyone, the others give him a curt nod, and proceed with the interview.

 

"Has anyone tried following these things from where they come from?" - Mordecai

 

"Oh God, no. That would mean crossing their blood, because nobody could scrape away that much blood from the streets. And you know what that means", he responds, horrified.

 

"Do enlighten me."

 

"Years of bad luck, friend. Weren't you at the latest sermon?"

 

"No I'm afraid, but I'm looking forward to meeting Father Solomon. He's supposed to come sweeping by soon?"

 

"He doesn't really do that nowadays. There's enough of us volunteering that we don't need to burden him with this."

 

"I see, thank you for you time. The Emperor protects. Men, come", Mordecai hurries the others and sets out to follow the bloody blood again. Kat’s still not listening to him.

 

"So anyway.... About that woman who was following us..." – Lazarus, trying to get some attention.

 

"Ah right, report." - Mordecai

 

"She is just very nosy and curious about these mutants, and she is at the moment questioning our verispex adept.... without any authority to do so", the assassin points out.

 

"What kind of person is she? An adept?" - Kelegh

 

"I don't know.... borderline heretical if you ask me. She wasn't flashing any badges or wearing any insignia. She did not identify herself to Brent and the adept, she just asked questions and they answered. So yeah, who knows." - Lazarus

 

"What was she doing here?" - Mordecai

 

"I have no clue, she wasn't following us. She said she was going to meet Father Solomon." - Lazarus

 

"Fine, let's talk to her before she causes more trouble. We can go to Solomon then", Mordecai decides.

 

"She's back there", Lazarus gestures roughly at the direction where the mutants converged.

 

They backtrack there to find the place empty, aside from a few mutants who were shockmauled into compliance and are loaded into an ambulance car by a grinning Verispex Guy and a rather tired-looking Brent.

 

"Off to Solomon then", Mordecai concludes.

 

"Yeah it seems destiny wants us there. Both the father and the girl will be there, probably." – Kelegh

 

Railroading Destiny? What destiny?

 

"Onwards" – Lazarus, deadpan. Kat, however, still seems to be in the midst of a tantrum. "What's wrong with her? Is her warp taint acting up?"

 

"No, just her immaturity", Kelegh shakes his head, puzzled.

 

"Why? You mauled a mutant so she's angsty?" - Lazarus

 

"I can't really understand what the psy masters saw in her." - Kelegh

 

And they’re off to go see Solomon. Meanwhile Kat, who feels they’re a bit overequipped to deal with the challenge (or, to be more precise, the lack thereof), decides to follow Brent and Verispex Guy back to the Precinct to supervise their work.

 

***

 

A few minutes earlier

 

Soon after the call, an ambulance car arrives. Kaylee takes this as her cue to leave. She proceeds to the address of Solomon.

 

After about fifteen minutes of walking, she arrives at a huge, decaying building whose main feature is a giant stake in the backyard. Next to it are some strange markings on the asphalt, similar to parking spots. The pyre seems to freshly made, but scorch marks on the asphalt hint at burnings being a regular occurance around here.

 

Hand set firmly on the grip of her pistol, she creeps closer to the door, but finds it closed. Ear on the keyhole, she’s listening intently for a few moment, then an accusing voice disrupts her concentration.

 

“What is a fine lady such as yourself doing around these parts?”, a short, barrel-chested, redbearded guy asks.

 

***

 

Back at the Precinct Fortress, Kationa’s full of plans. She wants to comb through the pictures on their mysterious dataslate, possibly read through the copy of HERETIC WEEKLY for hidden clues, and definitely ask the arbitrators about their investigations into the disappearances. First order of business is the dissection, though, being the most time-sensitive of all.

 

She gets down to the basement, where Verispex Guy's positively glowing with excitement. The harvest has proven to be quite fruitful: they have managed to bring in five live specimen, and quite a few dead ones.

 

Kat watches with interest. Having no real knowledge of biology herself, she doesn’t interrupt with silly questions and just lets the experts get on with the job. But she's clearly very interested in what they are doing.

 

Verispex Guy gestures toward the first mutant, whom his assistants happily strap on the nearest dissection table. The mutant seems to be aware of what is happening to him, and wildly thrashes around, giving out ever more desperate moans.

 

I wonder how said assistants are called in English. Were I to directly translate the Hungarian term I’m thinking of, we’d get “Dissection Dude”, which, while fits the tone of this summary perfectly, would be a bit too much in the actual game.

 

"Are they sentient?" she asks. Her soft heart chips in. "Will they feel pain?"

 

They may be heretical mutants, but Kat doesn’t like seeing any creature in pain - she had enough of that to last a lifetime on the Black Ship.

 

"I have no idea", Verispex Guy grins happily. "Only one way to find out, I guess!"

 

He sifts through various medical implements, finally settling on a scalpel. The mutant's eyes are now totally wild, he's flailing around in an absolute panic, foaming at the mouth.

 

"What's your name, anyway? I'm Kationa", she tries to make small talk, possibly to avoid having to concentrate on the suffering of the mutant.

 

"Please do something about the specimen", the medicae expert commands his underlings disapprovingly. "I'm Eisen, by the way."

 

"Isn't there some drug you can give it to knock it out?" the psyker asks. Maybe she gave the assistant an idea, maybe not, but he reaches toward an injector. Eisen slaps his hand away.

 

"We're underfunded as is, even without wasting valuable medicine on lowly mutants that are destined to die anyway", he scolds him.

 

Kat doesn't know how much authority she has here, but she decides it is worth trying.

 

"No, use the drug," she says, trying to sound authoritive. She has another idea. "We don't want to spoil the results by having the creature thrashing around."

 

"That is a valid point", Eisen concedes, with newfound respect in his voice. He seems torn. "On the other hand, this medicine could be used to save the lives of our men. Well, to be precise, to ease the mind-shattering pain amputations and other necessary operations tend to cause, but let’s not get caught up in the details. Anyway, you outrank me, this is your decision", he looks at her expectantly.

 

Kat had been brought up on instant gratification. If she had continued in her destiny to be a grand rogue trader, she might have learned more about planning for the long term, but during her life she had never received that learning. She just didn't want to see the pain now.

 

"Use the drug", she says, eliciting a small, resigned sigh from Eisen.

 

"Ah well", the adept shrugs, gesturing his assistant to go ahead. "Now we wait for it to take effect. In the meantime... what brings you here?"

 

"Trying to get the results as they come," she explains. "In this investigation, things are moving quickly. We basically need the data as it comes."

 

That sounds much better to her than “I had a strop and went home in a huff”.

 

Good thinking, Kat!

 

"Well, I meant, the planet”, he specifies. "Is this your first Big Interplanetary Case?"

 

"Oh!" Kationa blushes. She decides to go with what’s essentially the truth. "Uh yeah, it is for me anyway. Some of the others are more experienced."

 

"So, you're here to learn at the shoulders of giants?" Eisen asks absentmindedly. One of his assistants rolls his eyes. This provokes a small snort from her, too.

 

"I wish," she says, still feeling mad at the others. "More like giant-wannabes." She grins.

 

"Well yeah, Mr. I'm-Better-Than-You with the giant nose looked kind of like an asshat", the adept shrugs. "He started questioning me for showing an interest in the muties! Can you imagine? I’m being paid to show an interest! Asshat."

 

She can't help but laugh, and with her laughter, some of her anger fades away.

 

"I just wish they would trust me," she says with a sigh. "It's like I'm just a kid."

 

The irony of faulting her comrades for treating her like a kid after behaving like a kid is not lost on the player.

 

"Well, stand up to them! You are an Intelligencer of the Adeptus Arbites! A 'member of an Elite Brotherhood', as they say”, he encourages her. “Did your drill instructor also come up with this bull****?"

 

She thinks back to the Black Ship.

 

"No, not exactly", she grins. "But yeah, you have a point."

 

"Three out of ten will fail basic training! One out of ten will die in basic training! Of the remaining six, four more will drop out in advanced training! The Arbites is an Elite Brotherhood!", he shouts, doing his best drill instructor impression.

 

"Seriously, that part about the dying is total bull", one of the assistants injects.

 

She laughs again.

 

"Well, I like investigating... I guess that's why I have the job," she mumbles and looks towards the dissection table again. "Are we ready to begin?"

 

"Yeah, he should be ready now. Nice and quiet", he observes, looking at the mutant's pupils, then grabs the scalpel and starts with a Y-cut. An unholy stench fills the room.

 

Everybody rolls Toughness. The NPCs all fail, one of the assistants with a botch. He falls to the ground, vomiting uncontrollably.

 

"Emperor have mercy!", the adept cries, and starts grabbing at the industrial fan above the dissection table.

 

Kationa, however, rolls 03, which means not only is she perfectly unaffected, she’s even allowed to be smug about it.

 

Her player politely declines, though.

 

"Is everyone alright?" she asks. She glances around and then goes to assist the man vomiting on the floor, trying to pull him out of the room while they clear the air.

 

"M... mostly" - Eisen manages to blurt out while frantically trying to suppress his oxygen intake to the barest minimum. Meanwhile, Assistant 2 manages to stand up and get to the nearest toilet to continue vomiting.

 

Seeing things calming down, Kat goes to look at the specimen trying to see what had happened, and whether it was going to get any worse.

 

"Emperor's blood", Eisen mutters after regaining his composure enough to notice the insides of the thing.

 

Kationa’s no expert in biology, but even she’s aware that the pulsating, mostly formless mess that is inside of the mutant should not look like this, and definitely should not keep him alive, even for the limited time it did.

 

This revelation, in true Lovecraftian style, calls for a WP test to avoid gaining Insanity, which she aces with a 01. Then she rolls Forbidden Lore: Warp to gain further useful information, and succeeds again.

 

It becomes obvious to her that these things that replaced the mutant’s organs are incapable of sustaining life in normal circumstances. On the other hand, maybe under different stars, at blasphemous places where the veil that separates the material world from the screaming cacophony of the Warp... his organs might even work optimally.

 

Dun dun DUN!

 

***

 

“I’m looking for a man called Solomon. They say he’s some kind of a saint or something?” - Kaylee

 

"That he is, child. That he is.", he assures her.

 

“I certainly hope so... otherwise my sister is doomed”, she lies with a straight face.

 

This is when the others arrive.

 

"That's the woman", Lazarus whispers, pointing at the nun.

 

"Greetings. We would like to see father Solomon" – Mordecai, getting closer.

 

"You too? What a coincidence!", Kaylee exclaims with feigned surprise, slightly irked by having her conversation disturbed by the guys.

 

"Good day to you", Kelegh nods to Redbeard and the girl.

 

"And who might you be?", the former asks disapprovingly, turning towards the new arrivals.

 

Kelegh shows his ID.

 

"We are investigating the mutant outbreak here. Apparently Father Solomon has done much to stymie their tide, he may know something we can use to purge them completely", Mordecai explains, then he turns to Kaylee. "What happened to your sister, if I may ask?"

 

“She’s horribly ill... I don’t really know the proper terminology... but her arms are going to be paralyzed for sure! It started three weeks ago, a complication to the pox, the doctors say. I hope Solomon is truly a holy man who can help where medicine fails”, she glances at Redbeard hopefully.

 

Mordecai puts his Medicae training to use, and tries to figure out what ailment might cause such symptoms. He succeeds on the roll and knows that something fishy is going on, gaining a +20 bonus to his Scrutiny. He rolls 10, achieving 4 degrees of success. Kaylee only gets 3 successes on her Deceive, so he knows she’s lying.

 

"I wish your sister well, maybe the Emperor will smile on her" – Mordecai, reluctant to show all his cards.

 

"From what we heard, the only cure Father Solomon prescribes is fire at the stake" - Lazarus

 

“Yeah, they didn’t really advertise that where I’ve heard of him. Still, maybe a prayer from such a holy man would help...” - Kaylee

 

"So you are here solely on personal business?" - Kelegh

 

“Is it not enough?” - Kaylee

 

"I don't know, I was just inquiring. The Emperor may smile more readily on those who help cleansing mutants..." – Kelegh

 

"I was thinking the same thing." - Mordecai

 

"We ultimately want to find the origin of these monsters, and it probably won't be a joyride." - Kelegh

 

"I see... But how could I, a simple choir member, help you investigate?"

 

"Well, what do you think? How could you, a simple choir member, help us investigate? What are you good at?" - Kelegh

 

Redbeard is watching their conversation unfold with great interest.

 

“Well... maybe by singing? But it’d be probably wise of me to go with you, if I may... These parts are dangerous.” - Kaylee

 

"By singing?!?" – Kelegh

 

“Yes, you know, choir members tend to be proficient at that...  have you never heard it in a temple?” - Kaylee

 

"That could come handy as well" – Mordecai, looking pointedly at her pistol.

 

"I guess the Emperor has a job for each of us." - Lazarus

 

“That’s how the saying goes." - Kaylee

 

"So you are good at other things besides singing", Kelegh concludes.

 

"Possibly. One never knows if one never tries. But I still don't know much about mutants." - Kaylee

 

"They burn. That's mostly enough." - Kelegh

 

“What about you, fellow citizen? What do you do?” – Kaylee, turning to Redbeard.

 

"I mostly look after the old man's needs."

 

“The old man? Do you mean Solomon?”

 

"Yes."

 

"Will he come out to hold a sermon?", Mordecai chimes in.

 

"Yes. As soon as the bonfire is ready", Redbeard growls. While they were talking, different groups started to show up with their carriages filled with mutant bodies, and started to pile them on the pyre.

 

“What do you know of him? Is it true that he is going to be blessed by the Ecclesiarchy?” - Kaylee

 

"He is one of the truly blessed, our Father Solomon. The Emperor personally graces him with his words. What greater honor could they possibly offer him?", Redbeard asks, a bit confused.

 

Meanwhile, the bonfire is starting to fill up nicely. People are gathering around. Not just the crews of the carriages. Elderly people, women, children. They are clearly expecting something.

 

As soon as the last carriage is emptied, a small, wizened old man steps forth from the house.

 

***

 

And that’s it for our second session! Another 100 xp is handed out, and we go to hibernate.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Belatedly, we continue with our 2,5th session!

 

Team Loneliness

 

So we left one of our heroines at a point where she’s doing the dramatic Lovecraftian Revelation bit, complete with screaming “IT’S NOT OF THIS WORLD!”, trying to claw out her own eyes, then running off into the night and spending the rest of her years in an insane asylum. Except she does none of these things, because she aced her save vs. insanity.

 

"How is this even possible...?" Kationa points to the mess that comprises the internal organs.

 

Eisen blinks slowly.

 

"How indeed... I have to admit, I have no idea. Perhaps through some sort of dark sorcery or other unnatural warping of the Holy Human Form."

 

Kat frowns. She finds that she needs to report this to the others. The problem’s huge and far more dangerous than she’s expected.

 

"I'll need to file a report," she says, her expression conveying the gravity of the situation. Before she does that though, she narrows her eyes and tries to focus on the local warp, trying to pick up more of a feel for the taint that is clearly present here.

 

She’s trying to get a feel for the mutant’s warp signature, but fails her Psyniscience roll. The eddies of the Empyrean elude her sight.

 

She leaves the forensic crew to clean up while she heads out to find a private spot to call Mordecai and the others with her report.

 

Which will only come later in the session, because her player’s adorable new kitten has claimed her laptop as an optimal place to do cat stuff on.

 

***

 

Team Staring Intently at the Elderly

 

Last time we left, Solomon has stepped onstage, while creepy music started to play. Except I’ve totally forgotten about the creepy music I’ve prepared in advance just for this occasion.

 

As the crooked little man strides forward, his steps betraying a frailty that seems to be out of place even for someone of his age, the team gets a better look at him. His clothing’s dishevelled, his hair grey and falling out in patches, face riddled with wrinkles etched on by decades of toil and suffering in the Emperor’s service. Circles under his eyes speak of a recent string of sleepless nights, and his gaze radiates the fatigue of a man shouldering a world’s (or at least an Underhive’s) weight.

 

After thoroughly inspecting the pyres, he turns to the crowd. His eyes seem to linger on the group’s more conspicuously dressed members for a few moments, but then he starts speaking. His voice is small, clearly lacking the training exhibited by clergymen of the upper levels; regardless, the crowd seems to be transfixed by his every word.

 

“Brothers and sisters! Today we are graced by the presence of the Emperor’s stalwart servants, venturing down here, reminding us that our plight is not forgotten by the world. It gladdens my heart to see our congregation growing with each passing day. But our struggle is not yet over! Unclean creatures are still befouling the streets of our city! The corrupt of heart, those who refuse to listen and let the Emperor’s words shine a light into their soul, are still dragged away by the forces of darkness! I ask you, my children: are we letting the corrupt, the wicked, the warped in mind, body and soul congregate and plot our demise right on our threshold? I say no, and I know your answer as well! These”, he feebly kicks at the hand of a mutant dangling from a pyre, “are testament to our will to fight, a message to the decadent and the daemonic, that Hive Piety is still worthy of its name!”

 

The crowd roars, the individual shouts merging into a primal howl, frenzied and pleased at the same time. Despite his lacklustre oratory skills, by now this wizened old man has become the sole focal point of attention of everyone your eyes can see.

 

This was actually only the first part of his speech I’ve written for him in advance, but I’ve thought this would be as good a place as any to give the players a bit of agency, because hey, interactive medium, the fun lies not in reading the wall of text but getting to **** with all the stuff in the wall of text. In hindsight, I should’ve made it clearer that unless they use this momentary pause to interfere, he’ll continue.

 

Mordecai isn't feeling too confident in this situation and he's scanning for possible escape routes as he waits for the old man to continue.

 

He fails his Awareness +10 roll, however, so the only routes he finds are ones where their movement would be severely impeded by the crowd.

 

Kaylee does what she was instructed to, and tries to find proof of heretical thought in the old man's speech. She has a hard time doing so, but notes that he’s clearly not a man of the Ecclesiarchy. Regardless, she’s wondering whether that’s reason enough to condemn someone in his position.

 

Actually, Imperial Law is pretty clear about impersonating members of the Adepta being Bad and Wrong. (Suggested course of action: field interrogation, followed by field execution, according to my copy of Book of Judgment. Which is actually one of the more lenient sentences found there, neatly explaining why a successful Scholastic Lore: Judgment check confers a +20 bonus on Intimidate attempts made by an arbitrator in my games.)

 

On the other hand, Solomon never claimed he belongs to the Ecclesiarchy, so there’s that.

 

Contentwise, the speech seems acceptable to her, although very generic. Doesn't explain why these people are lapping up his words with such ferocity.

 

Ouch. Well, he was just getting warmed up.

 

Her foremost concern, however, is the Father’s startling ability to pick out the official-looking party members from the crowd, which is quite a feat, given the size of the gathering and the fact that it’s just barely dawning yet. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, she decides she might as well try to pump him for information.

 

“Can you tell me where are they coming from?”, she shouts to Solomon, referring to the mutants.

 

I have her roll Fellowship, because big and noisy gatherings tend to drown out individual voices (and because I’m keen on having Solomon continue his speech uninterrupted), but the dice gods favour her, so everyone present hears the question clearly.

 

"Our visitors have questions! Excellent!", the old man beams.

 

"Quite a few, in fact", Mordecai interjects quietly, but lets Kaylee ask hers first.

 

“Yeah, I have. Can you tell me where do they come from? How did you get so many of them piled on the pyre?”

 

"Where do they come from? What an inane question. Does the lamb wander where the wolves originate? Is the thought 'but what led him down this path?' the foremost in the mind of the victim of a mugging?", Solomon replies with two questions of his own. "They're sin personified. The wickedness on the inside is mirrored on the outside. Those of little faith end up like them!"

 

“Then I shall ask again. Where have you caught them, and how?” - Kaylee

 

"On the streets. There's no shortage of them", he sighs, apparently disappointed.

 

In Kaylee’s defence, she wasn’t around with the rest of the party when they’ve met Blackbeard the Scottish Zealot and co. on their merry mutant-gathering trip. That doesn’t make the question any less stupid in the eyes of Solomon, though.

 

Their interference causes Redbeard to take action. He starts wading through the crowd, trying to get to the party. People let him pass. A string of failed Awareness checks means only Kaylee notices this, though.

 

"Tell us what we should do, Father! This cannot go on!", Lazarus shouts to the old man.

 

"He's liable to provoke a riot sooner or later, don't encourage him!" Mordecai whispers warningly to him.

 

"Fight against the corruption! Embrace the Emperor's truth! Remember the words of the scripture: your armour should be contempt! Your shield, hate! The only defence against the taint of the wicked is not letting its corruption into your hearts!", he bellows his answer to the assassin’s question.

 

Lazarus looks at the group. "He is right. But also very vague."

 

Redbearded Guy is drawing ever closer, now all of them can see him. The assassin chooses to step in front of him.

 

"Yeah?"

 

"Could you please keep your questions until the end of the sermon?", he hisses at the group. "The faithful are here to listen to a holy man, not you spouting your ignorance."

 

"You better watch your tone, ginger." Lazarus scowls. “Heresy's afoot, and the Emperor's work knows no timetables."

 

His rudeness earns him the stink-eye from quite a few surrounding workers.

 

“I want one of the heretics from the pyre. Alive, to be questioned by the Ecclesiarchy”, Kaylee requests, eliciting a hearty laugh from the preacher.

 

"You're most welcome to come up here and take your pick", he gestures at the pyre.

 

“You are very kind, but I trust your judgment. Pick one for me, one with a working tongue, and send two of your fellow citizens to carry him. This will earn you the gratitude of the Ecclesiarchy”, she assures him.

 

The cleric’s face darkens.

 

"My point was that there are none here alive. None capable of speech, at least. My flock takes 'suffer not the heretic to live' very seriously."

 

“They’re already dead? How sad. Tell me, how are we supposed to track down this evil then?” - Kaylee

 

"We don't. We pray to the Emperor to give us the strength to defy them" - Solomon, clearly baffled at the thought of interrogating mutants.

 

Mordecai’s had enough of this. He steps forward and raises his voice.

 

"The Emperor has said that each of us have a place in this world. And it is our duty, of the members of the Ecclesiarchy and the Adepta to deal with these threats. Not factory workers and street cleaners.”

 

He half-addresses the crowd.

 

“I know how you all feel. I have heard the rumours and stories. They take your friends at night, their blood curses all who touch it. You're scared and you want to deal with these monsters. You want to grab your guns and pitchforks and race through the Hive, killing anything suspicious or less stalwart of faith. But that only leads to chaos and confusion. Do you know why the Emperor has enacted LAWS? Because ORDER is the Imperium's ally and Chaos its enemy! We are of the Adeptus Arbites and it is our duty to uphold His laws and protect His citizens. All of you. You may think we are little, not enough. But Hive Piety was not forgotten. We were sent from Scintilla itself to stop these mutations and kidnappings. So all of you, burn your dead, pray for their soul, hold congregations. But do not intervene. This will all be over soon.”

 

He turns back to Solomon.

 

“And now we would like to have a private word with you, Father, if you will. I'm sure your congregation has told you much that could help us in our quest to root out this evil."

 

Cool speech, worthy of a +20 modifier to his Charm check. Sadly, Arbitrators don’t get Charm until rank 4 (yay for niche protection, I guess), which means he had to roll under 36, even so.

 

He gets a 46. Sadface.

 

Then Kaylee chimes in that she was totally providing assistance, and because she does have Charm, it means a +10 modifier for Mordecai, turning his roll into a success. I see no point in objecting; it was a cool speech after all, and being accompanied by Cleric Girl is plausible to add legitimacy and gravitas to his words, even when she doesn’t open her mouth.

 

"A stalwart servant of the Imperium, if I ever saw one", Solomon praises him. "You have spoken well.”

 

He dismisses the crowd. They grumble, but start to disperse. The old man gestures for them to get inside, while splashing oil on the pyres, and lighting them. Soon enough, the delicious unclean smell of burning mutantflesh fills the air.

 

This is when Kationa calls them. Thankfully, the crowd is slow to give way, so it’s not very conspicuous of them to stand around a bit, waiting for their numbers to thin.

 

“Hello? Can you hear me?” – Kat, displaying her lack of knowledge on vox protocols.

 

“Who is this?”, Mordecai replies.

 

“It's Kationa. I have a report.”

 

“Well?” - Lazarus

 

“Go ahead” - Mordecai

 

“I returned to the precinct and we did a dissection of one of the mutants. And, well, it's bad. Really bad.” She takes a deep breath and then continues. “When we cut it open, it basically exploded in unholy stench. And then on closer inspection, its anatomy turns out to be physically impossible. There's no way that its organs should function at all. It's not natural mutation - it's warp mutation. Corruption.”

 

“There's nothing natural about ANY mutation. It's all filthy and corrupt.” - Lazarus

 

“Yeah, but this isn't regular mutation, that's what I am saying. There's bad stuff doing this. Chaos.” – Kationa, making the sign of the aquila.

 

“So we need to find where they come from and stop this once and for all.” - Kelegh

 

“Given how many mutants are out there already - this is worse than we thought.” - Kat

 

“I figured it would be something bad, you don't mutate too this degree just from the Under-waste. Is it possible they are... unloaded here via... youknowwhat?” – Mordecai, tiptoeing around the subject

 

“The warp? Something bad is causing it. Something really bad. And if we don't find what it is and stop it, it could spread...” – Kationa, worried

 

Meanwhile, the parts she managed to catch on her end pique Kaylee’s curiosity. She tries to listen in, an Awareness -10 check, but fails. Then she attempts to tune her micro-bead to the frequency they’re using. By succeeding on a Scholastic Lore (Bureaucracy) +0 roll, she remembers the most common frequencies used by the Adeptus Arbites. Given the fact that the party’s using common quality micro-beads borrowed from the Precinct, I find this a completely reasonable approach, so she manages to listen in on the last part of the conversation.

 

“What about the blood, anything wrong with it?” - Mordecai

 

“In what way? I can ask them to do a test on the blood specifically?” - Kat

 

“You know, rumours about it being cursed or acidic and whatnot. We're still at Solomon's for now, you can meet us here.” - Mordecai

 

“Alright, I'll get them to run a blood test, and then I'll join you if nothing else comes up here.”

 

“Alright, good job.” – Mordecai.

 

 

Back to Kationa, who breaks the connection now.

 

As she ends the call, she pulls a face. She still felt mad at the others for how they treated her, but at least she could be professional and put such things aside. She walks back into the lab to see what the adepts are doing.

 

"We need a blood test done," she says, trying to sound commanding.

 

She finds Eisen methodically pulling out the mutant's organs, putting them into glass jars, and trying to categorize them. Judging by the look of his face, he's not making too much progress. Hearing the psyker’s request, he snaps his fingers at his assistant. "You've heard the woman."

 

The assistant takes a blood sample and puts it in a rather sophisticated-looking machine. After a few seconds of sputtering, it spews out a rather long paper trail.

 

“It doesn't seem to carry any harmful substances known to the machine", Eisen concludes after taking a peek.

 

"Is it human?" asks Kat with a frown.

 

"Definitely. Its gene-sequence seems to be devoid of external tampering, curiously enough...", the adept trails off.

 

Kat's frown grows. "So you're saying it is a completely normal human blood sample...?"

 

"According to the machine, yes", he responds, with a trace of disbelief in his voice.

 

"Can we do a manual test? To verify the result?"

 

A short discussion ensues about what a blood test could accomplish here. We settle on them examining a blood smear for possible changes on the cellular level. I make it clear that such a test takes about half an hour at minimum to complete, which Kat decides to wait out.

 

About half an hour later, they conclude that this looks like completely ordinary human blood. Slightly increased white blood cell count, but other than that, nothing out of the ordinary.

 

She thanks them and asks them to put the corpse on ice in case they need any further tests done. They promise they'll look into preserving a few samples.

 

Kationa stops and thinks for a moment before heading out to meet with the others.

 

"Wait, can you run one more test through the machine from another subject? I would like to know if there are any matches?"

 

"You mean, whether two different mutants have the same genetic signature?", Eisen asks. "Yes, them being clones would explain much..."

 

She nods.

 

He swiftly draws blood from another mutant, and gets the sample in the machine. Intense moments pass while they wait for the paper. He tears it off excitedly.

 

"...No. They're different", the adept concludes with sad puppy eyes.

 

Kat frowns again, feeling his disappointment.

 

"But this one is just normal human as well?" she asks. "Just from a different human?"

 

"Yes", Eisen sighs heavily.

 

"Alright, well that still tells us something anyway. Thanks for the help."

 

"Glad to be of assistance. Tell me if your wannabe-giants find out something interesting."

 

"I will." She smiles at him gratefully and then heads out again to meet up with the rest of the group.

 

***

 

While they’re waiting for a path to Solomon’s house to open up, Mordecai decides to engage in small talk with Redbeard.

 

"Are you an aide of Father Solomon or something?"

 

"You can call me his butler, if you will."

 

"I see. Don't worry, citizen; your preacher has done nothing to earn our ire. In fact, he has done a good job keeping them spirited. Maybe that beatification is actually warranted."

 

Redbeard just shakes his head and shoots him a pitying look.

 

"I agree, duty is its own reward", shrugs Mordecai.

 

"Wise words", he comments, then, seeing that the congregation has more or less dispersed by now, he guides the group inside. Which is lucky, because the burnt mutant stench was getting worse with each passing minute.

 

On the flipside, they’ve burnt with that really relaxing, crackling fireplace sound.

 

"Feel free to accompany us", Mordecai invites Kaylee, and signals the others to follow him.

 

“I will. The church is asking questions about him, and they want answers”, she replies.

 

Getting inside, they notice that Solomon’s place is quite empty. No shrines to the Saints or holy books as far as they can see. There are two beds, a table full of scribbling, two chairs, a stove and a wardrobe. Also, doors presumably leading to other rooms.

 

"Cosy little room. Are those letters from other communities?”, Kaylee inquires about the scribbling.

 

"No", he answers vaguely, pointing the group toward the beds to sit down.

 

"You wanted to have a word with me, Officer?", he addresses Mordecai. The arbitrator nods thankfully and sits on the sturdier looking bed.

 

"Yes, we do. As I've said, we are looking into these dis- and reappearances. We were hoping you would have anything to add to our current findings, since most residents hold you in apparent high regard. Oh, and I wonder if you would know where these things come from", he adds, showing him his copy of HERETICS’ HIDEOUT, the sight of which causes the preacher to visibly recoil in disgust.

 

"How did you get such a profane thing?" - Solomon

 

"From the home of one of the kidnapped. Curiously, it stars one of our mutated friends” – Mordecai, thumbing through it to find the relevant page.

 

"HERESY", the cleric hisses, eyes narrowing.

 

"Calm down, Father", Redbeard puts a hand on his shoulder.

 

"This filth has surfaced among the unfaithful since a month or so. I've done everything I could to burn any and all copies members of my flock could get their hands on. Sadly, nobody I've interviewed could tell me where they print such blasphemies."

 

"One of your men told us he has been burning these mutants for half a month. Could they have appeared in these booklets earlier?" - Mordecai

 

"Yes. It's the copy of the previous month. This heretic magazine predates their appearance by 20 days or so" - Solomon

 

"Interesting. Another question: the citizens are afraid of the blood. Nobody has even tried following it to the source. Who cleans the streets then?"

 

“Nobody does. My people have more urgent matters to attend to, and the cleanliness of the streets down here is apparently no concern to hive authorities.”

 

"Has any of your followers turned out to be rotten at the core and become a mutant later?", Kaylee asks.

 

"None that I know of", the old man shakes his head.

 

"Has anyone seen people being kidnapped? Any suspects? Where are they taken? From their homes, from their work?" – Mordecai, again with an impractical amount of questions.

 

"No. They're taken from their homes, and although my faithful don't associate with the wicked and therefore never see them being taken away, the only possible culprits can be the mutants. I've asked the Emperor what causes the disappearances, but his only answer was 'an impure heart'", Solomon replies.

 

The logic behind his words doesn’t quite add up to Kaylee.

 

”I’m afraid I don't understand. Are you telling us that if one’s relatives were taken, they wouldn’t admit it in fear of retaliation for ‘association with the wicked’?”

 

"I'm telling you that members of my group don't count the wicked among their relatives", the preacher asserts disdainfully.

 

“I see.” - Kaylee

 

Suddenly, Kationa appears. She nervously walks in, her arms crossed protectively in front of her body.

 

"Hello?", she greets those present, but nobody really minds her.

 

"Those things can barely crawl along the street, let alone kidnap someone." - Mordecai

 

"The unholy might of the Ruinous Powers must assist them in some sorcerous way then!", Redbeard barks.

 

"By picking their locks and dragging them away at night, surely. I'm afraid we'll have to follow their trail." - Mordecai

 

"Whose trail? - Solomon

 

"The crawlers', of course. Unless you happen to know anyone who owns an unlicensed printing machine that s/he's using to print these things.” – Mordecai, pointing at his copy of HERETICS’ HIDEOUT.

 

"Yes, I'm sure the blood curse will do you much good if you trail along that path" - Redbeard, sarcastic

 

"What does this curse do, pray tell? And who told you it's cursed in the first place?" - Mordecai

 

"The Emperor, of course", Solomon wheezes. "'The blood of the unclean will bring forth the ruination of all', he said."

 

 

Tragically, at this point our session is cut short by technical difficulties and other obligations, respectively, for two of our players. I don’t see much point in continuing with 60% of our player pool, so we name this a half session, the completion of which nets everybody 50 xp.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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“I figured it would be something bad, you don't mutate too this degree just from the Under-waste. Is it possible they are... unloaded here via... youknowwhat?” – Mordecai, tiptoeing around the subject

I'll just point out that there was a redhead and the dispersing crowd, mentioning youknowwhat would've upset their frail little minds. Plus I probably would've had to execute them afterwards. :p


"Bones heal, chicks dig scars, pain is temporary, glory is forever."

What is glass but tortured sand?
Never forget! '12.01.13.

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Sadly, after his mysterious disappearance in the middle of our last session, Lazarus’ player didn’t show up, forcing the party to soldier on without the assistance of an assassin. Too bad, I’ve enjoyed his contributions immensely and think his presence added something of value to the game, but mysterious disappearances are beyond my power to address.

Regardless, we put on Solomon’s theme, and continue where we left off.

 

Kationa has slinked in quietly and looks around. "What's going on?", she whispers to the others.

 

"Father Solomon was just telling us about his visions regarding the mutant problem", Mordecai explains to the new arrival. "It seems the Emperor himself warns him of the dangers to come.”

 

“It must be an otherworldly experience to be sure", he adds, straight faced, hoping our resident psykers catch the drift.

 

Meanwhile, Kaylee’s looking at the texts lying on the table with a mixed expression.

 

Even a cursory glance let her determine that it was probably written in a cipher she’s unfamiliar with. Despite her inability to read it, a -10 Scrutiny test (well, base difficulty -20, +10 synergy bonus from having Literacy +10) would’ve let her glean some insights into the writer’s emotional state at the time of the writing, but unfortunately, she botched that roll.

 

Kelegh is watching Redbeard and Solomon very suspiciously.

 

“Can you tell me about the visions you have, Father?”, Kaylee asks quietly, trying to steer the conversation towards subjects relevant to her investigation. The old man eyes her up suspiciously.

 

“They are a transcendent experience... I'm not exactly sure words could do it justice...”, he responds hesitantly.

 

Kaylee responds with a stern look of her own. “There could’ve been signs hidden in them, hinting at an even greater truth… I dare not to hope we can understand the totality of your experiences, but maybe you should try to describe what you saw.”

 

“Could you please be a bit more specific regarding the nature of these... signs?” – Solomon

 

"Do you summon those visions purposefully, or do they just appear to you?" – Mordecai, cutting in.

 

“The visions... sometimes they come and go as they will. Other times, I can induce them by castigating myself and praying. There is no true, reliable way to communicate with the divine”, Solomon turns his attention to the arbitrator. He leans back, getting tired, and glances at Kationa to see if she's sensing anything.

 

Kationa seems to get the hint and casts her gaze across the room, her eyes rolling slightly upward as she looks into the warp.

 

Rolling 12 on her Psyniscience check, she gets 4 successes, after taking the +10 bonus from average difficulty into account.

 

Her stare pauses on Solomon for a moment, noticing the unusual brightness of his soul, a telltale sign of latent psychic power. Then she starts to move on, but her focus suddenly snaps back to him and her eyes widen in brief horror when she realizes that subtle traces of corrupting warp influence hang onto him, hinting at some sort of daemonic entity establishing repeated contact in the last few weeks.

 

She even had the option to further scrutinize the marks left by the daemon, but knowing that too much curiosity in such matters tends not to lead one to a long and happy life, she wisely declined.

 

"No..." she whispers, staggering slightly back against the others as she breaks the connection to the warp hurriedly. Mordecai gets up and walks over to her, checking if she's alright, trying simultaneously to cover her from prying eyes and discreetly inquire if she’s seen anything.

 

“Visions of divine origin are often accompanied by symbols of the holy. Many sacred texts on the subject point out that uncovering their hidden meaning can be a source of great wisdom, if interpreted correctly”, Kaylee explains to Solomon, which handily serves to divert his attention from the scene.

 

Redbeard’s not so easily misdirected, however, entitling him to a -20 Awareness check to make out what our heroes are whispering about – which he aces with a 01. Our Acolytes are about to get into a fair amount of trouble…

 

Kationa calms down and whispers back. "Latent psyker. He's been touched by dark powers... repeatedly and recently..."

 

“Excuse me?”, Redbeard cuts in, sounding pissed. Solomon, having no clue of what has transpired, shoots him a confused look.

 

Kat quickly shuts up and glances around.  "Uhh, nothing," she says. "Just a personal matter."

 

“A personal matter of spreading vile allegations about a holy man? I fail to see the ‘personal’ part there”, the butler hisses, stepping closer to the group. Kelegh stands between him and the others, trying to look threatening.

 

"Mind your place!", he barks at Redbeard.

 

"My place is making sure nobody endangers our community - by besmirching the name of our leader, for example", the other man shouts back, prompting Kaylee to touch her firearm absent-mindedly, wondering whether it’s time to start shooting. Fortunately, there is no need for such ugliness; Kationa gazes deeply in the man’s eye, and calls upon the powers of the Warp to suppress his memories of her.

 

She’s using Forget Me, a power I’d personally never would have picked up due to its limited applicability (ironically, even though I’d have prioritized powers like Healer or Fearful Aura over it due to their broader usefulness, so far no situation has presented itself in the game where any of those would’ve come in handy). The threshold is only 6, meaning she’s almost guaranteed to succeed using only PR 1 (which would have a lower chance of invoking Psychic Phenomena), yet she decides to use her full psychic might (possibly to make absolutely sure it goes off, or maybe to get a little extra oomph with Overbleed). Scoring a 2 and a 7, she achieves a total of 13, granting her 1 level of Overbleed, which she might use either to affect an additional target, make the resistance roll one step harder, or extend the duration with 1d10 minutes. She chooses the latter, letting her suppress Redbeard’s memories for 2d10 (in our case, 8 ) minutes after he predictably fails his roll to resist.

 

"So, about the signs...”, Kaylee injects, drawing Solomon’s attention away from the commotion. He bites.

 

"Ah yes, the signs... well, there are no signs to speak of, really. Just an immense golden blaze of glory and comforting, warming calm. And above all, His voice, resonating with power and promises of Mankind's glory", the preacher summarizes. Meanwhile, Redbeard's expression changes to that of gentle confusion. He obviously doesn’t understand how Kat’s gotten in there, but doesn’t press the issue, choosing to concentrate on the unfolding conversation instead.

 

"Since when have you been receiving your visions, Father?", the arbitrator inquires.

 

"Since about the time the mutants appeared, I think. He must have sensed our plight and decided to choose me as the instrument of His will in purging this corruption."

 

"We only have a few minutes", Kationa whispers to Mordecai. He nods and walks up to Solomon, lays a hand on his shoulder and gives it a discomforting squeeze.

 

Him being the only one in the group who’s succeeded on the Scrutiny roll to notice that the old man was holding something back when discussing his visions.

 

"And what is it you aren't telling us, Father? I thought you are a fervent servant of the Emperor? Don't hold anything back now."

 

At my instruction, he rolls “something social”. Which in this case means Inquiry, perhaps the least applicable social skill out of the bunch. On the other hand, Inquiry is the skill of questioning people, which might be argued to encompass the ability to convince people to relinquish information they’re hesitant to, so it’s not really verisimilitude-breaking. (The ability to make up reasons on the fly why a character’s skills are applicable in a situation is an important player skill!)

 

His roll of 69 fails, though. There’s only so far player skill can tip one’s hand.

 

"Why would I lie to fellow servants of the Emperor, pray tell?", Solomon asks with feigned innocence.

 

"So how long are we gonna waste time here?", Kelegh complains, not really seeing the point of following this line of inquiry. The idea of wasting time fills Kat’s heart with anxiety, so she decides to slink back outside and out of Redbeard's line of sight before his memory returns. She stays alert though for any need to rush back in and assist.

 

The arbitrator sighs and squeezes the old man’s shoulder harder. "I do not expect a simple man to be well versed in every detail of Imperial Law, but you should know full well the consequences of lying to one of His lawkeepers. Especially for a man in a position such as yours, with a community that might take the fall with you, should your sermons be determined as heretical.” He lets it sink in. “Talk."

 

Not waiting for the preacher’s answer, he turns to the others and points at Redbeard. "In the Emperor's name, restrain him. Unhurt, for now."

 

"I'm not sure I can let you go ahead with that in good conscience", their target grunts, standing up, eyeing the group warily. Tension hangs in the air, but nobody makes a threatening move… yet.

 

Time for Intimidate, a roll on which Mordecai receives +20 for having their enemy, a wizened old man, heavily outnumbered and outgunned at the moment. He achieves 3 successes.

 

“What is the problem, officer?” - Kaylee

 

"Our good father isn't completely honest with us, you see." - Mordecai

 

"It's all right", Solomon sighs, caving in. "Sometimes, He sounds... strange. Speaking about how His will is betrayed by those who call themselves His servants, how there is a deep corruption even in His Most Holy Adepta... how change is necessary for Mankind to rule the stars against, as it is our birthright."

 

He turns to Kaylee. "Also, there might be a sign of some sorts, a sign you've mentioned...  His words are sometimes accompanied by a fluttering of thousands of wings, as if a host of angels were hovering around, encircling us, listening to Him..."

 

HERESY!

 

Everybody automatically knows that claiming a necessity to change the Emperor’s Most Holy Institutions is deeply heretical, but 2 successes on an Ordinary (+10) Forbidden Lore: Heresy roll also let Kaylee know that such suggestions often come from followers of the abominable warp entity widely alluded to as “The Lord of Change”, and its many foul brethren. The wing motif also serves to confirm her suspicions – such daemons are often birdlike in appearance.

 

(Do notice the name “Tzeentch” getting no mention here. That’s what Daemonology is for. Also, speaking it aloud would net everyone present some insanity, perhaps corruption even, depending on the degrees of failure on a WP test.)

 

“I see...”, Kaylee nods sagely. “And what did He say about your servant, this man who’s accompanying us even now?”

 

"He didn't deem my humble companion worthy of His attention, I'm afraid."

 

This is proof enough for her. "Can you keep the servant alive? ", she asks her companions.

 

Mordecai ignores her and takes out a pair of magnacles. "I have bad news for you, Father. The woman outside is one of His sanctioned psykers and can sense the presence of another.... such as you. Not only that, but your mind seems to have been manipulated as well, that's why your visions may have been odd. Now, duty requires us to bring you in and send you on your way to Terra for sanctioning... but I doubt you'd survive the trip. However, since you have worked diligently to keep your community faithful, I offer you an alternative. Quick and painless execution. Your butler may pass on your farewells to your congregation and I'll grant you time for a final prayer, but I'm sure you know what danger a latent psyker would pose to the people you were protecting all this time. And I doubt they'd allow you to be taken if we'd linger. So the time to choose is now. Sanctioning or euthanization?"

 

“May I object, officer? We have much greater concerns than an unsanctioned psyker. I have a particular feeling that these manipulations you mention are somehow related to the mutants on the streets. Actually, I’m surprised you didn’t consider this”, Kaylee voices her concerns, while eyeing Redbeard suspiciously for signs of hostile intent. Kelegh is also watching him intently, fiddling with his lasgun, ready to restrain the man if necessary.

 

"I have, which is what clued me in. But unless you know when they'll send him new visions and know of a way to trace them, I doubt it would benefit us any more than it already did", Mordecai responds.

 

"So you're... saying an unclean force of some sorts has... corrupted the Emperor's words?", Solomon asks, voice raw with emotion. "A force related to these mutants?"

 

“I am sorry, preacher. I know your intentions were pure, but you’ve been misled by the Ruinous Powers. Had you received the education real members of the Ecclesiarchy have access to, you could’ve ascertained it yourself.” - Kaylee

 

"But... what about my flock? They need me! Please! There has to be some other way. They need guidance. They're lost without me... how can I trust they will have the strength to stop this mutant horde when I've turned my back on them?", the old man asks, pleading.

 

"That is why we are here, don't forget", Mordecai says, not unkind. "The mutant problem and whoever is behind it will be taken care of, I promise you that. As for their spiritual well being, I'm sure the Ecclesiarchy will see to that. Am I right, sister?" He looks at Kaylee for confirmation.

 

“Sure. I am going to relay your plea to my superiors and I’m sure they’ll send someone competent in your stead.” - Kaylee

 

"See, there's nothing to fear. Your congregation will be taken care of." - Mordecai

 

Time to roll Charm. Earlier, he made a cool speech, and he’s assuaged almost all of Solomon’s doubts, but still, he’s asking the guy to go against basically everything he holds dear. We settle on a total modifier of +10 (-20 base difficulty, +20 from Cool Speech and reasonable arguments, +10 from attempting to deal with his misgivings). Despite the flimsy odds, rolling 03, he succeeds - unknowingly saving the party (and, in wider context, the Hive) from [REDACTED]. (Which would’ve been baaad.)

 

Rose will be extremely pleased.

 

“Very well. I will accompany you and agree to be sent to Holy Terra", Solomon lets out a resignated sigh. "Take care of them, Ignatio. Make sure their faith remains strong", he nods encouragingly to Redbeard, who looks positively heartbroken, but holds back his manly tears and nods rapidly.

 

"I'm ready", the old man turns back to Mordecai, holding his arms out, waiting for the magnacles.

 

The player reactions to this scene in private chat were entertainingly varied.

 

Player 1: I hope you're happy for making me feel **** about myself.

Player 2: Heh, “manly tears”. *snicker*

 

"....I don't think they'll be necessary." Mordecai puts the cuffs away and calls the Arbites to pick them up.

 

"This is too much leeway for a warp-infected individual... don't you think?", Kelegh complains. "Even if he doesn’t want trouble, the daemon can influence his mind!"

 

"That is true, but he's a strong one. And I'm sure our collegues will share your suspicions and restrain him. A few more minutes of freedom won't hurt him. Nor us." - Mordecai

 

"Let us pray you're right..." - Kelegh

 

While they are busy bickering, Kaylee unassumingly collects Solomon’s writing on the table. She’s not even very subtle about it, yet nobody seems to notice her.

 

Given the fact that her precautions have proven unnecessary, and no firefights have erupted in the last few minutes, Kationa comes back in, curious as to what happened in her absence.

 

"Got everything under control?" she whispers. The others (presumably Lazarus) fill her in quickly.

 

Mordecai turns to Solomon. "I don't mean to twist the knife any further, but in light of these developments, how would you reinterpret your visions? Maybe they could help in identifying our perps now."

 

"There isn't really that much to reinterpret about a heavenly voice urging one to take up arms against unholy mutants, is there?", he asks bitterly.

 

“I think I know what or who it was... no need to make the life of Solomon any harder...”, Kaylee replies calmly.

 

"Oh? Pray tell." – Mordecai, walking over to her.

 

“Not here and not now. Certain names should not be spoken aloud, especially not in company such as this.” – Kaylee, being all mysterious and Kreia-like again.

 

Kationa nods. "Let's hand him over and then we can have a private talk. I suspect we all have much to share."

 

"Yes, I'm still curious about those blood tests", Mordecai agrees. "Maybe you could take a look at the mutants as well?"

 

“I saw them burning outside.... not that much to see... it stank.  I guess I can take a closer look?"  Kat pulls a face. Considering the fact that she’s spent the last 10 minutes outside, breathing in the horrible burning mutant-stench, her reluctance is understandable.

 

"Never know what we might find", the arbitrator shrugs. "I also think we should head to Thea's uncle's apartment next. Or should we go straight to the source?"

 

“I actually have no idea what are you talking about, but I must report to the church now”, Kaylee excuses herself.

 

"We can meet up there" - Mordecai, giving her the address.

 

"Who is Thea's Uncle? Who is Thea?" – Kationa, confused.

 

"....The orphan girl you saved?" - Mordecai, dismayed.

 

"Ahh," Kat’s eyes alight with recognition. "I'm not sure I ever got her name."

 

So cruel. Forgetting about NPCs and plot hooks is a sad reality of games where months pass between sessions. This is why APs and clue cheat sheets are important. Speaking of the latter, I should copy ours here.

 

“So now the Arbites save orphan girls. How nice.” – Kaylee, voice kept studiously neutral.

 

"The well-being of the citizens is just as much the wish of the Emperor as the death of xenos. Especially so when they're potentially helpful in solving cases of heretical shenanigans." - Mordecai

 

"I still think we should all talk in private before we continue onwards?" says Kat, watching Kaylee with a frown. "Is she with us now?"

 

“I am with the Echlesiarchy”, she responds before the others could, raising her eyebrow, then swiftly changes the subject.  “May I ask you to refrain from harming Solomon or any in his flock? It would draw the ire of my superiors.”

 

"It should we obvious we don't mean to. He'll be sent to Holy Terra to be sanctionized", Mordecai assures her before turning back to Kationa, just to find out she’s wandered off again.  Sighing, he goes outside to search for her. Moments later, Kaylee follows suit, leaving Kelegh and Lazarus alone with the two heretics.

 

The psyker decides his talents are better used searching for any forbidden artifacts that might have caused Solomon’s visions. He leaves Lazarus with strict instructions to watch the pair, and goes off exploring.

 

Soon enough, he finds a cramped little chamber with zero amenities. There’s a blanket on the floor, a cheap-looking shrine in the middle of the room with a single candle sticking out of the middle, and a whip hanging from a hook in the wall. The door’s heavily reinforced and the room has no source of electricity as far as he can see.

The shrine arouses Kelegh’s suspicions. Knowing that he can’t afford to be wrong here, he prepares for his psychic inspection as thoroughly as he can. He shuts the door behind himself, effectively turning the room into a sensory deprivation chamber, then cuts his palm with his psykana mercy blade.

 

“Oh Emperor, seated on Holy Terra, hear my prayer. I am but a humble mortal in touch with the immaterial, begging for your help. Open my eyes to let me see the mirages cast by the daemonic burn away in the light of Your Glory. Open my ears to let me hear the insidious whispers of the daemonic for the lies they are, nothing but wind compared to Your Voice. Open my mind to let me recognize the work of the daemonic, and lend me the strength to destroy it in Your Name.”

 

With the blood dripping from his palm, he traces the sign of the holy Aquila on his forehead, and opens his mind’s eye.

 

As with the social rolls, cool descriptions go a long way to secure a bonus to the check (+10 in this case). It went above and beyond the standards of a cool description, however, earning Kelegh a temporary Fate point on top of the bonus.

 

He wishes to ascertain whether any items in the room bear the taint of the Warp, a task that has a base difficulty of +20, bumped to +30 by the description bonus. His roll of 77 succeeds, but just barely.

 

Colors soon return to the lightless room, bathing the objects present in the impossible radiance of the Warp – but none of them have the bright spark of items endowed with malignant powers. Disappointed, he heads outside.

 

***

 

Mordecai finds Kat by the pyres, frowning in deep concentration.

 

She’s scrutinizing the bodies with Psyniscience, as she was instructed. With an Ordinary (+10) Difficulty, she gets 4 successes.

 

As she opens up her senses to the mind-bending vistas of the warp, she can’t help but sense that something’s… off. A metaphorical shadow is hanging over the locale, as if a storm was waiting to erupt. She dismisses the feelings and concentrates on the bodies, ascertaining that whatever energies have warped them into their current forms, they bear the same resonance as the presence that tainted Solomon’s mind. She reflexively makes the sign of the aquila across her chest.

 

"Kationa, a word.” The arbitrator disrupts her meditation.

 

"Yes?"

 

"Good job on that blood test. And on Solomon. However..." he towers above her, giving a hard stare, his tone a low growl. "…I don't care how pampered and praised you were in the Hive Spires, when I give you an order, you obey it. Throwing tantrums and hissy fits is not only unprofessional, but endangers the rest of your team and we're not here to pat you on the back. UNDERSTOOD?"

 

Kat narrows her eyes slightly at him, but then just shrugs and turns away. "You have no idea who I was," she says, sadly. "But I am sorry."

 

Mordecai relaxes and smiles "Good. Now cheer up. You did do a good job."

 

There’s a slight lull in the conversation before he changes the subject. "So, have you noticed anything peculiar about these things?"

 

She nods and rubs at her face.  "There is taint hanging over these bodies - it feels the same as what I sensed from Solomon. His... affliction and these mutants are connected."  She then goes into what she learned from the blood test at the lab.  "There's no genetic connection between the subjects. Each has completely normal human DNA. But their biological form shouldn't function under normal human conditions."

 

Hearing this, Kaylee, who stepped outside earlier but so far has conveniently remained out of sight, can’t help but smile faintly.  "As expected. The Bishop will be delighted."

 

Kat turns and glares at her. "What's so funny? Why would he be delighted?"

 

"Because I haven't let him down. He trusted me and I’ve solved this mystery..." – Kaylee, sounding a bit smug.

 

"You found out what made your ‘sister’ sick? Care to share so we can get done with this mess?" – Mordecai, calling her out on her earlier lie.

 

"We can put it that way. All the clues are here, around us. Mutants who are not mutants, but humans robbed of the purity of their form; a misled preacher possessing heretical texts... sadly, I cannot share my conclusions with a simple Arbites officer." – Kaylee, without a hint of sadness.

 

"Then share it with me." – Kat, voice cold with barely restrained anger.

 

“Can I share them with her? I don't know her rank either”, Kaylee asks Mordecai.

 

"We are all Intelligencers in the service of the Emperor. And what you are doing right now is obstruction of duty. I doubt your Bishop would be delighted about that", he responds sternly.

 

Suddenly, the door to Solomon’s opens again, and Kelegh walks out, his left palm bleeding and a bloody symbol on his forehead. As it turns out, trying to paint an Aquila on your head with your own half-dried blood in complete darkness, without the assistance of a mirror can be a bit tricky.

 

Mordecai's jaw drops as he spots Kelegh. "What the...?"

 

Kat rushes to him. "What happened to you?"

 

"I serve the Emperor myself, as a member of the Adepta Sororitas. This case is related to the Ruinous Powers. You should warn your superiors and inform the Inquisition." – Kaylee, unfazed by recent events.

 

"I made sure there was nothing warp-touched in the father's room and personal belongings...”, Kelegh starts explaining. “Oh, the blood. I offered it to the Emperor for his help."

 

It ain’t heresy if the players are doing it!

 

Well, this might turn out to be especially cunning foreshadowing, considering certain details in his backstory, details I intend to build on. Details I’m fairly sure even his player has mostly forgotten about.

 

"...Oh.” Kat’s apparently at a loss for words. “Did you find anything?"

 

"No, everything in there is clean of the warp."

 

"You haven't hurt them, have you?", Mordecai asks suspiciously, then turns his attention back to Kaylee. "As for the Inquisition, who do you think has enough clout to have four Intelligencers sent here for some crawling mutants?"

 

She doesn’t seem convinced.

 

"Fine, then we'll just confront whoever blindly, die and they'll continue unopposed. I'm sure that will make the Ecclesiarchy pleased." – Mordecai, sounding frustrated and passive-aggressive.

 

“Well, if you put it that way…”, she buckles. “The one behind this is one of the vilest enemies of Mankind. Birds are his emissaries. I hope this will be enough help for now… maybe I’ll share more later.”

 

Going by that description alone, those well-versed in calixian lore would probably first think of the Crow Father, making this statement less helpful than intended. Thankfully my players don’t really use OOC knowledge. A few Scholastic Lore: Occult rolls later, both psykers have a fairly good idea what she was alluding to.

 

"...No, not particularly”, Mordecai confesses. Hailing from an Agri-world, he even takes pride in being ignorant in such matters. "What should we expect from it?"

 

“...Everything.” – Kaylee, again with the probably-less-helpful-than-intended advice.

 

"Is it that bad?” – Mordecai, unsure whether she was sarcastic or not.

 

“Well, it’s really not my place to determine. But I suppose certain others in our position would take it very seriously, and make getting to the heart of this case a priority”, Kaylee states vaguely. “May I suggest simply locking Solomon away instead of putting him on a ship? We don't know how deeply he’s affected by the taint.”

 

"The Black Ships should be more than capable of handling worse cases than Solomon", Mordecai assures her. His confidence would be a lot more inspiring if he wasn’t the least knowledgeable person on the subject at hand.

 

"Trust me, I know they do", Kat supports him, slightly paling and shuddering at the memories.

 

"…Right. The worse cases are now burning on the streets." – Kaylee, apparently unconvinced.

 

Their conversation is interrupted by the sudden appearance of the Arbites backup they requested a few minutes ago. Well-armed people jump out of a black van bearing the insignia of the Adeptus Arbites, shout a lot, go inside the compound and soon return with a magnacled Solomon who is shoved into the back of the vehicle.

 

"Shall we bring in the other one for questioning?", their leader asks, unsure of who to address. Mordecai steps up.

 

"No need. Keep an eye on the old man. He volunteered for the sanctioning, but he could be unstable."

 

"Okay. Need a ride?", she offers nonchalantly, while gestures for the rest of her men to chain down Solomon. They graciously accept, and are sat down in the back, accompanying Solomon. Of course, unlike him, they’re not cuffed to the seats.

 

"What will happen to me now?", the old man blurts out after a few minutes of watching them nervously.

 

"I hope you will be found clean enough to be deemed worthy of being transported to Holy Terra. Until your fate’s determined, you’ll be under custody, unharmed." - Kaylee

 

“It'll be... horrible. Painful and humiliating and horrific in every way. It's... not too late to take the easier way out." – Kationa, after thinking on the issue for a few moments and deciding to be honest.

 

"They will test you, and if you are found deserving, you will be a sanctioned psyker.  If you fail, you will serve the Emperor with your soul. Both are glorious ends, albeit painful." - Kelegh

 

"...My soul?" - Solomon, confused.

 

"Your soul. Be proud of it." - Kelegh

 

"You mean... he uses my soul... how?"

 

We briefly debate whether the truthful “why, he drinks it dry; what did you expect of an undying corpse-god?” answer is something a sanctioned psyker might know or would Imperial authorities rather prefer to keep news of the Emperor’s “soul habit” under wraps. Ultimately, we settle on elegantly side-stepping the issue.

 

"That's not important. The important thing is, you will be of help for the Empire and its billions of inhabitants. Don't worry about the details, just have faith. You know how to do that, don't you?" – Kelegh, putting an end to this line of questioning.

 

"Ah. Serving not just my flock, but the whole of humanity... yes, I think I can live with that", the old man sighs, and leans back as far as his chains allow with a peaceful expression. The conversation lulls briefly.

 

"Can you read, Solomon? ", Kaylee breaks the silence.

 

"That is a skill that has always eluded me", he confesses.

 

“Then who wrote down your texts?”, she asks, surprised.

 

"The visions... they've shown me a writing of sorts, something I can use to preserve them after they've faded from my memory... but much to my dismay, as I've noticed later, this script is not one the Imperium at large is using. It looks like He wanted His secrets to stay secret.”

 

"Uhh... can I see these papers?" asks Kat, feeling worried.

 

"Maybe later, if your superiors approve" , she waves away her concern, and starts teaching prayers to Solomon who proves to be a quick learner, despite his advanced age.

 

Kat glances over at Mordecai with a despairing gaze before turning back to Kaylee.  "It may be important. Very important," she says, trying not to lose her patience again.

 

Kaylee’s not happy to have her lesson interrupted by her pleas. "Not here. Please, be patient and keep in mind where we are.”

 

"Some things are better left unknown, Kationa", Mordecai assures her with a firm ignorance that would make the Emperor proud. She gives him a disbelieving glare.

 

"In our line of work, no", the psyker declares, but instead of protesting further, she just mutters some unknown curse in her native tongue under her breath, crosses her arms and fumes once more, not caring who reprimands her for it.

 

"Perhaps, but my gut says it really is better if I don't know." – Mordecai, leaning back in his seat, declaring the matter closed as far as he’s concerned.

 

After a few minutes - and a few new verses which Solomon enthusiastically recites on his shaking voice – their car stops. They've reached the hab-block they were looking for: a towering, dull grey monstrosity of a building, with an almost palpable aura of despair emanating from it. Many windows are broken, and at least a few centuries' worth of filth dots its outer surface. Mordecai whistles at the sheer unkemptness of it, Kat wrinkles her nose, while Kelegh just watches the place with indifference.

 

"People live in places like this?" she says, still feeling grumpy and oblivious to her own sense of privileged upbringing.

 

"So, about what you saw and some of what Kaylee knows: mind updating the rest of us?", the arbitrator asks while appraising his surroundings.

 

"Depends. Will you get those papers out of her for me? As it's almost certainly connected…" - Kationa

 

"Kaylee?" - Mordecai

 

"One could say such curiosity is dangerous... but okay, I can show you a page", Kaylee relents, handing her a single sheet of paper full of unreadable scribbling.

 

"Curiosity about such powers is basically my job and what I've been trained to do," the psyker says grouchily as she holds a hand out to receive.

 

"See anything worthwhile? ", the sister inquires, carefully scrutinizing her expression for signs of recognition or understanding.

 

"Hmmm...."  She narrows her eyes and casts her warp sense over the paper. The strange symbols don’t make any more sense under her psychic sight.

 

Clever idea, but that’s not how it works. As a consolation prize, however, she notices that the warp shadow she’s observed to be looming ahead of Solomon’s apartment and its surroundings is absent from here.

 

Frustrated, she hands it back to Kaylee, who’s now off to report to her superiors.

 

"Anything important?", Mordecai asks, taking a peek inside the building through the broken windows.  A desolated apartment with scattered, broken furniture looks back at him. It's probably been abandoned decades ago.

 

Kationa frowns.  "The sister was speaking of one of the Ruinous Powers, one associated with the warp, change and mutation. That fits in with everything we have seen here - the mutants, what happened to Solomon and so on. Whatever is at the centre of this mess is powerful, with sorcery at its command. We'll need to be careful, but if it’s not stopped, the corruption will keep spreading."  She looks at the paper again as she follows the others inside, and keeps talking. "As for this paper... I just don't know. The writing is... just gibberish."

 

At the behest of their fearless leader, they head inside. Kat keeps her warp sense receptive as they enter the building. Knowing that their quarry is on the 23rd, they look for elevators. Miraculously, one seems to be in working order, even if the creeks it gives out while descending are far from reassuring.

 

"No turbulence here. Not like at the last place", she expounds.

 

"At Solomon's house?" – Mordecai, pushing the button for floor 23 after they’re all crammed in.

 

"Yeah.  It felt bad there. But not here.  Despite..." Kationa sniffs and pulls a face. "Despite how bad this place looks."

 

"How reassuring." - Mordecai

 

The elevator finally starts moving upward, and only seems to die on them and leave the merry group alone in a frightening, dark metal coffin hanging hundreds of meters above ground three times during the ascent, so they arrive on the 23rd in short order. The corridor they end up in the middle of is quite long, with pale, flickering lights that seem to be out more often than they give light. There's a rhythmic thumping noise coming from farther along. In the short breaks while the lights are on, they can observe peeling paint on the walls, and flimsy, unwelcoming plastic doors leading to the individual apartments.

 

"I think I'll take the slow route back down." – Mordecai, sneering at the elevator.

 

"Oh.  It's like being on a ship."  - Kat, suddenly calming down. "I somehow doubt those noises come from a ship's engine though."

 

(Abandoned Places theme)

 

The arbitrator gets out his flashlight and takes a hard look at the corridor as they walk slowly to the apartment, looking for signs of struggle on the floor, blood, pieces of clothing, anything, to no avail. As he gets closer to the apartment, the rhythmic thumping seems to get louder, with intermittent creaking noises. The reason becomes apparent as soon as they can get a look at the door: it's been left open, and the draft has been hitting it against the frame repeatedly.

 

They stop in the doorframe and take a peek. It’s dark, messy and dirty inside. No apparent signs of struggle, no threats either.

 

Mordecai heads in and starts examining the crime scene by looking at what counts as a bedroom first. It's a rather miserable little chamber, with an average-sized mattress laid on the floor which takes up about half the available space. The rest is covered in dishes and - judging by the smell - dirty laundry. The mattress is partially covered by a single blanket that seems to have been hastily thrown aside by its owner. Something crunches underfoot as he walks inside. He carefully combs over everything, noting that there are no signs of struggle, the victim’s slippers are still at the side of the mattress, and remains of what looks like dinner are firmly embedded in the rug.

 

Failing his Search check, he gets no help in interpreting these clues.

 

Meanwhile, Kelegh pokes around in the corridor.

 

He also fails his Search check, finding nothing.

 

Mordecai goes back to the entrance and checks the door, trying to determine if the apartment was broken into.

 

Another failure on Search. Man, this game is really good at relaying the progress and tension of investigation. It’s not, like, the core of the game or anything.

 

He uncovers no sign of forced entry.

 

When there is no time pressure on the players, I see no point in depriving them of clues. They’d just re-roll it anyway.

 

"Kationa, see anything with warp-affected?" - Mordecai

 

"I can look.  If he was lured out by some kind of sorcery, there might be traces..."

 

And she promptly fails Psyniscience. Her example is soon followed by Kelegh, who even blows the earlier temporary Fate he’s earned on a reroll, to no avail.

 

Kat shakes her head at Mordecai. "I'm not getting anything. I'm sorry."

 

"Let's keep looking then", he lets out a disappointed sigh, and goes off to search the living room, noting the pair of shoes on the shoerack.

 

Finally, a success! Sadly, there’s not much to be found here.

 

He notices that the victim had a rather well-kept collection of earlier HERETICS' HIDEOUT issues. Judging by the amount of dust covering them and the rest of his bookshelf, he probably flipped through them regularly. He finds no other obviously heretical items, but no items of devotion either.

 

Suddenly our favorite nun returns!

 

“Have you found anything yet?” – Kaylee

 

"From what I've seen so far, he might as well have left willingly. Maybe after he received visions as well, judging from his lack of breakfast and legwear. Or he got inspired by that pamphlet." - Mordecai

 

Thus end our third session, as we leave our heroes to ponder the mystery of the man whose apartment was not broken into, but who left said apartment, never to return, possibly at the middle of the night, without even dressing up.

 

Everybody gains another 100 xp, and I’m left with the thankless task of updating their clue cheat sheets with the wealth of information they’ve gained this session. I’ll post it someday.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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Around the end of Rank 3. Those who have written a really compelling backstory and were present at each session might have begun Rank 4.

 

Edit: I'll post character sheets once the actual story is over and no player forbids me from doing so.

Edited by aluminiumtrioxid

"Lulz is not the highest aspiration of art and mankind, no matter what the Encyclopedia Dramatica says."

 

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