Monday, May 9, 2016

The Forges of Ghorok Campaign - Prelude

The Arc Cruiser, Primus Code, stalked amidst the violet and crimson clouds of the Hera Nebula. The stars here were ghosts in the ether, illuminating the billowing vapors and scattering radiation in a haphazard spectrum, making the vessel all but invisible. The nearest of those stars glowed fat and red, gorged from eons of feasting upon the nebula's gasses. A small planet once known as Shatara was the hungry star's only surviving child and it was suffering from an Ork infestation.

Even closer to the world, a handful of small satellites, running on barely enough power to keep their entombed Astropaths alive, transmitted raw data to the Primus Code. From what their translator servitors could divine from the brutish transmissions the Orks used to communicate over short distances, the Tech Priests had surmised that the world was completely lost along with its three manufactorum complexes.

Magos Ulivaras sighed as she poured over the seventeen datafeeds scrolling on the bridge's voluminous pict display banks. She didn't have to sigh, of course. Not anymore. Her lungs no longer burdened her nearly perfect form. In fact, precious little of her original body remained, though she retained just enough to maintain her individuality, and, unfortunately, a sliver of her humanity. A porcelain mask and chest plate covered her remaining flesh while a tangled, writhing mass of mechadendrites snaked out of her torso and interfaced with the ship.

She was the ship. Whenever the Primus Code glided through a Hydrogen cloud, the ship's sensors transmitted the sensation to her human brain which translated the sensation. The memory of cool wind on wet skin, hair pricking up on gooseflesh. A splash. Someone laughing. The memory faded. There was not much left of her memories from before the Omnissiah's embrace. She was better for it.

She droned, "Fifty-seven thousand feeds analyzed. Eighty-four remaining. Prepare the vessel for departure and recall the Observation Drones."

Her Secundus repeated the order. Ulivaras observed in her status feed that the Tech Priest was seeing to the preparations. Confirmations of the orders began to stack into the ship's logs while further subordinate orders were queued, awaiting the completion of prerequisite tasks. The Magos paid little mind to these minutiae. It was the sensor data from the Observation Drones which concerned her.

If Magos Ulivaras were to admit she had a specialty, it was decryption. Other Magos had admitted a somewhat emotional jealousy at her ability to find patterns where others could not. She could find a meaning in scraps of code from a number of sources and re-assemble it faster than even a hundred servitors slaved in a computational chorus. She grudgingly admitted to herself that this knack had faded somewhat with each brain augmentation. Although the Omnissiah had blessed Ulivaras with many modifications over the centuries, it had been some time since she'd accepted further wetware.

"Belay last order," she blurted in binary. Her Secundus, as calmly as he had carried out the previous orders, began recalling them.

There had been a pattern in that last datafeed. Background noise. Music. It was playing in the background of one of the Ork transmissions. The Ork (presumably one of some importance) was very upset that Manfactorum Assembly Alpha was experiencing a glitch in the vox units throughout the complex. He was demanding, in a very loud tone, that a technician or "Bloody weedy grot oiler" be despatched to the Manufactorum to "Bloody well fix this racket".

The Magos set twenty-five compilation servitors to the task of finding other transmissions carrying the music in the background. She pushed the data to Tech Priest Collumxar to be stitched together into a single, unbroken piece. The music was soon filling the bridge's acrid air with its vibrations. Bass shuddered the deck plates and a crowing voice begged for love. Disgusting sentiment. However, she hadn't been wrong.  The bass line was off by a different microsecond of time with each beat. Even when the song repeated itself, each beat of the bass line was adjusted by a nearly imperceptible amount.

She pushed the compilation servitors to work themselves into a fever. Thousands of transmissions within, from, and near Assembly Alpha were assembled into a thirty hour string of musical filth which Ulivaras was able to translate to a single paragraph of text.

"To the Ark Cruiser Primus Code. Urgent message from Manufactorum Assembly Alpha. Magos Hexaflare functional. Standard Template Constructs for patents SWJ0021-K and SWJ0021-J in our possession in addition to Shatara research records dating back 3200 standard years. Location: fifty meters beneath Assembly Alpha, smelting tunnels."

It was clear Hexaflare knew Ulivaras and the Primus Code had been enroute when the planet had fallen to the Orks. It also seemed as if Hexaflare had calculated that Ulivaras would investigate and calculate all possible permutations of recapturing the world and rescuing any survivors before returning to the Forge World for further instructions. He had also wagered quite heavily on Ulivaras's decoding abilities. It would seem, she surmised, his faith had been well-placed.

"Data on patents SWJ0021-K and SWJ0021-J," she ordered.

The servitors replied immediately (rarely a positive sign), "Access denied at your security level, Magos. Standard Template Constructs listed as classified and top priority."

The Tech Priest peeled her eyes from the pict bank and affixed them to the main viewport. The red star burned, nestled in the arms of the nebula. She growled, the sound was a sputter of static from her voxcaster. Ulivaras knew the world assembled tanks from various Forge Worlds, accepting chassis, weapons, and armor from many different worlds, then assembled them for the specific needs of the local systems. The STCs hidden away beneath even one of the world's three Manufactorum would likely be priceless.

"Secure from general quarters. Recall Observation Drones. Battlestations." The Arc Cruiser's blood flowed and brought it what it needed to make war upon the Orks. She felt the millions of souls within the vessel run about their tasks, from the lowliest servitor to the most important Skitarii commander. Before she finally gave the order to cycle up the engines for the short Warp jump, she transmitted a message. She requested assistance from both the Adeptus Mechanicus and the only other Imperial ship which was only hours away: the Carrion Crown under the command of Chapter Master Revueltas of the Blood Ravens.

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