Hyperspace Anomaly 1098 by Ludvig Iversen
Part one: Darkness and Light
Chapter one: Hyperspace Anomaly
The station was busy as usual. You could hear the clanking of officers, stormtroopers and maintenance staff walking somewhat stressful through the tight corridors of the central command section. I had been tasked of taking care of a few anomalies that had occurred in one of our subsectors, and I hadn't gotten much information on the subject except a few generalizations. I looked across the corridor to find the office I had been granted. Two-hundred and fifty-five, two-hundred and fifty-six, two-hundred and fifty-seven, aha, there it was, office two-hundred and fifty-eight. I walked up to the door and pulled out the keycard from my pocket, sliding it through the terminal and a green light flashed.
The door swung open and revealed my small cramped office. There was a desk, two chairs, a data terminal and a window of transparisteel through which you could see the asteroid field surrounding the station. I turned on the terminal and checked through the data-folders. "Incident 1098 Report" I clicked it and started skimming through the information. It was hard to get a solid picture of what had happened, it seemed that a Durasteel mine in the outer belts had suffered a major malfunction or possibly an attack. Pirates maybe? This wasn't really my department. I worked with the department for hyperspace anomalies, and this seemed to be a strictly Imperial navy type issue. I read further. "One of the surviving miners claim that the incident was caused by a major hyperspace anomaly" This peaked my interest, "He claims that it 'broke space itself', it is unclear what he is referring too" Maybe this is was my kind of work after all. It seemed like the subject had been in a state of shock after the incident had occurred, and the interrogators had gotten only a small amount of fractured data. The only way to get conclusive answers would be too find the miner and question him myself. There wasn't a name anywhere but I could rewrite the code into the main station archives to get the names of all involved.
I scanned the codes into the machine, and a robotic arm worked its way through the data-shards searching for the one with my referral number. The machine found it and handed it to me. I hurried back to my office to read the data into my machine. It showed a variety of names, mostly of miners and other workers in the asteroid mine. CAMDIL HASPEN: DECEASED, MARRONA GERWATE: DECEASED, the list went on with about twenty names of workers who died in the accident. JOSEGIAN PINHELL: SURVIVED, that must have been the miner that the navy questioned. He resided on the planet Xarsara in the Ansion system, only a few light years from here.
Xarsara was a bleak world, its surface covered in steppes and little vegetation. It had a few forests of short pines and strange horse-like creatures who lived of the grass growing on the large steppes. Josegian lived in the planet's second largest city, Yubruwei, a large, old, run down mining city, a perfect getaway for a former miner who wanted to close himself off from the galaxy. Large rusted spires rose from old refineries since long abandoned. Large silos had turned into homes for some of the impoverished populus. But there were also high rise apartment buildings with power lines hanging between windows.
My shuttle was cleared for landing on one of the pads in the local space-port. The large shuttle gracefully locked its wings as it closed on ground level. A puff of gas and steam shot out as the landing ramp was extended. I could sense that the planet rarely got Imperial attention, the space-port staff seemed stressed over my arrival. I was escorted by the planetary police to a hovercraft that had been waiting for me. The streets smelled of coal dust and chemicals, and the smog made it hard to see the tops of some buildings, but the stores and shops on ground levels lit up the first floors of the skyscrapers in all kinds of colors.
"Take me to the west city hab-blocks" I told the driver. As we flew through the city, I noticed that we were the only ones flying a hovercraft. "Why are we the only ones flying a speeder?" I asked the pilot who sat in front of me. "Nobody can afford such luxury here anymore, especially not now when Durallium Corp closed down. You're flying the planetary governors speeder, it's the only one we have for-" He paused "-Imperial business". "Is that so?". As I suspected, I didn't get an answer.
The Smog grew thicker as we made our way to the West parts of the city. Here some parts of the machinery was still active, and worked by the last competent miners who didn't live on the streets. "This is it, right here." I said as we flew by some large apartment blocks. The speeder landed on the street in front of the building were Josegian supposedly lived.
The Building seemed mostly abandoned. Many of the apartments were darkened and showed no signs of any inhabitants. The corridors had a yellowish eroded colour, and in some places it was gone completely and uncovered the aluminium coating that laid under.
"Josegian Pinhell". That was the door. I knocked. Nobody answered. I knocked harder. This time a vague, weak voice answered, "Who is it? I don't want any trouble".
"I am Leodar Tritim, Imperial navy, the section for Hyperspace Anomalies, and if you don't want any trouble, I recommend you open up immediately." The door opened and I looked down on the troubled face of an older man. He was short and compactly built, had pasty long gray hair and brown eyes. He missed two fingers on his left hand and in the other he held a cup of some heated drink. "Please, come in officer, have a seat." I walked through one of the doors and hanged of my large grey officers coat on a hook conveniently placed in the walkway.
"Do you want anything to drink? Will you be in town for long?" Josegian asked, he seemed a rather wholesome man, living a decently comfortable existence in this forgotten part of the Empire. "No, I don't need anything. I'm just here to ask a few questions". "What questions, am I in trouble? are my sons in any bad business?" The short man answered concerned. "No, I can assure you that nobody is in any danger, I'm here to talk about the incident". "Oh yes, the incident of course." "Now please sit down Josegian"
We sat down at one of the tables. To the left of me was a large window, viewing an old Industry area, filled with pipes, tubes and other machines. "Now Josegian, what can you recall of the day of the incident?" "Oh, it was a long day, I was very tired, hadn't slept properly for days, but my cleaning work was done as usual". "What events can you remember leading up to the failure". "I have told you many times! It wasn't a 'failure' it was a deliberate attack!". "Yes I know, of course it was a attack Josegian, but what happened before it occurred?". "I… I remember I suddenly felt very uneasy. Like there was something wrong, and then, oh god… there was a light, a strange light, it wasn't nothing natural you see, it was…" Josegian looked out of the window, seemingly disconnected from the dialogue. "Yes Josegian, what light" I noted important keywords into my data-terminal. Josegian snapped out of it. "There were colours of all sorts, the station was covered in it. I remember I ran to one of the windows to see what all the fuss was about, and that's when I saw it". He was remembering it very vividly I could see, his face changing as he was rushed by emotion "Go on" I said eagerly.
"It was like a hole had been torn in space itself… Like a gate had been opened to hyperspace. It felt very unnatural. And from this hole, this rift, that's were all the light came from. And that's when I first saw it. Something monstrous came out of the tear, it resembled a ship in some ways, but it rather had the size of a station. It was unfathomable, covered in ornamental spikes and arches, and there were statues of men with blades engraved into the hull. It looked like some sort of religious temple rather than a starship. And the engines, oh, they roared and shot flames of chrome. They burned and screamed and it seemed to shake us even on the mining station. And when it came all the way through the rift, it closed behind it. Now it was cloaked in the shadows of space. You could only see those enormous engines burning and glittering. Thats... that's when I decided to flee, you see, I was scared Leodar, I was so scared". The man started sobbing uncontrollably. "Collect yourself Josegian". He looked up at me, tears running down his wrinkled cheeks. "Collect yourself". "I… I left them there… With that… abomination… to die".
Chapter two: The lost Droid
When I left the building, the Speeder was still waiting for me outside. "How did it go officer?" The driver asked. "It went fine, I got what I came for". The rest of the trip we flew without speaking a word.
The Station felt cold and lonely when it's staff wasn't there. I had spent hours by myself in the archives searching for any scrap of information regarding the events surrounding the 'attack'. But it was hard to find anything. There had never been any anomalies in those areas for as long as the Empire could remember. As a matter of fact, there hadn't been much activity there of any kind. Was it some new technological scheme invented by the Rebel Alliance? They were not known to attack civilian mining stations. It couldn't have been them. Pirates? It was hard to say. I scrolled through more files. "Probe Droid Records" I skimmed through that one too "PD 99862: Lost contact 4/11. How curious. It was the same date as the Incident took place. Maybe it had been present during the attack? It was nearly impossible to find a droid alone in space, deactivated and dead, but it was worth a shot. If any of its data logs were still intact, the information would prove invaluable.
I would need higher approval to carry a deep space mission, so I would have to consult a ranking officer. I had made an appointment with him earlier and now I was waiting outside his office. After months on Station, life quickly turns into a series of repeated traditions and loops. Waking up, showering for exactly two minutes to preserve water, and then reviewing logs and hyperspace data, all meanwhile the coldness and emptiness of space stood forever unchanged outside.
"Leodar Tritim… Leodar Tritim" I snapped out of my daydreaming. I really needed an adventure, to break the monotony. "Leodar, you have an audience". "Yes, right, I do" I walked through the cold steel corridor to the Officers room. "Now, I'm a busy man, and I believe you are too, so make it quick". I collected myself and spoke up "I'm asking to be granted a Shuttle, a pilot and four stormtroopers for a deep space investigation on an Hyperspace anomaly". "So you expect me to divert resources from the war effort, to aid you in some endeavour on a mining station?" "How did you-" he stopped me "Don't worry, I read the reports, im sorry, but the shuttle is needed elsewhere". "Sir, this is potentially the largest anomaly in Imperial history, it might change the tide of war, from what I have heard first hand, we are talking of a vessel of such magnitude it could lay siege on a world all by itself, so please reconsider. This might be an interdimensional invader, of likes we have never seen before".
"I will give you four weeks, no more. Finish the job."
Leodar, This is your crew, Dari, the pilot, Brev, Rale, Hans and Revaq, the stormtroopers you asked for. They all stood in a line and saluted me as was Imperial tradition. "No need for that, treat me as an equal, this is a exploration mission after all"
The Shuttle had seen a couple of missions, but everything seemed fine and operational. Dari ran diagnostics and checked that all systems were operational and functioning. "We're all green Leodar". "Perfect, we have no time to spare". The Troopers boarded the shuttle and made ready for the flight of the station. The pilot pressed a few buttons and flipped some switches on the control board. Green and red lights were flashing, and then all of a sudden the space craft started shaking as the engine blocks powered on. The Shuttle extended its wings as it lifted up from the landing pad, hovering in the middle of the hangar. The Pilot guided the ship out of the station, and out into space.
"Preparing for hyperspace jump to the Ansion system, ten seconds". I leaned back comfortably in my seat, watching out of the transparisteel cockpit as the hyperdrive accelerated the craft into hyperspace. "We haven't been briefed on the current objective sir, would you care to explain?". "The officer didn't care too? Well, there is nothing for me to keep from my crewmen, I am Leodar Tritim, I work for the Imperial office of hyperspace anomalies. There has been a major anomaly here in the Ansion system, and we have been tasked with investigating a mining station that has been destroyed by a potentially interdimensional invader". The troopers nodded, showing that they understood. "I permit you to remove your helmets, no need to hide your faces during transit." The Troopers looked relieved as they removed their white plasteel helmets showing their faces.
Brev was a young man, it couldn't have been long since he left the academy. He had luscious blond hair and blue eyes. He had a permanent look of confusion about his face, but he seemed sure, and held his E-11 blaster firmly. In contrast to Brev, Revaq was an old man. He had dark skin, and looked like he had spent much time in the sun, and he had some burn marks on his barren head. His facial features were rough and serious, and he gave of a vibe of veterancy. Hans on the other side was hard to read. It couldn't be said what that man had been through. His dark eyes stared emptily into the hyperspace rift we flew through, and he seemed consumed by his own thoughts. The last one of the troopers was Rale. Rale had the features of a Republic age clone. I knew that some of them were still in service, but I had never seen one in the flesh. Could he be one of the warriors from that pre-Imperial age? "Rale, can I ask you some personal questions?". I asked him carefully. "Sir, any questions, I'm an open book." "Did you serve in the Republic clone army?". "Yes sir, or at least I was about to, never had time. 673 company, one of the last generations". The clones were good fighters, trained from birth in warfare, martial arts and strategy. It was said that one Republic clone, was worth five Imperial Stormtroopers.
"Five minutes until re-entry and arrival". "Good Dari, faster than I expected". Soon after the ship snapped out from Hyperspace. This sector was distant from the system star, and the large mineral rich asteroids were but mere shadows in the darkness. Dario pressed a few buttons and booted the radar screen "Scans indicate no reports of any vessels, except for… I found the mining station, all systems are offline, it's all dark sir".
We flew closer to the station. You could see the shadow of it in contrast to the dimly lit space around it. "Dari, turn on the floodlights". The Station looked mostly intact except one cleanly cut large hole in the hull. It looked like something had cut itself into then side of the station, and quite violently eaten its way into the vacuum sealed rooms. "Bring us closer Dari". The shuttle moved sideways, swinging around to get a better view closer to the opening. It looked like machine teeth had eaten their way through the durasteel plating leaving small but visible marks on the station. Like a large drill had worked its way to the inside. It looked like the station was unharmed on the inside, and that the failsafe bulkheads had activated and sealed of the station in time. In theory, it should still be safe to enter.
So this must have been the landing pad from where Josegian escaped and left his fellow miners. The shuttle had to activate its magnetic landing gear now when the artificial gravity was deactivated. "Rale and Hans, follow me, Brev and Revaq, you see if you can find and activate the generator". The ship docked to the station and opened up to pressurize the docking section. I put on my oxygen rebreather and voidsafe mask, and signaled the troops to be ready for entry. I had brought a sidearm blaster, just to be sure, and it hang loosely in its holster swinging back and forth on my hip in the zero G environment.
The airlock was blasted open and revealed the cold metal walkway in front of us. I turned on the flashlight attached to my helmet, and started floating carefully through the dark corridors of the station. There was stuff floating everywhere, recreational items, food stuff, and mining equipment. "Anything on you scanners?" I asked the troopers accompanying me. "Nothing yet sir" Rale answered through the comlink system.
All of a sudden the rooms filled with a whirring sound, and soon the light started flickering on. "We found the generator Leodar" Brevs voice sounded over the radio channel. All three of us were abruptly thrown towards the floor as the artificial gravity was activated. Now when the light was turned on, I could see a large room opening up in front of us. It was a horrid scene. Some parts of the walls were splattered with blood, and brain matter had dried into the ceiling, floor and walls, and right there in the blood, large craters had been formed. The metal around it was deformed and melted, like explosive projectiles had burrowed in and detonated. Whatever had been through here had been an exceptionally efficient killer.
On the floor in the center of the room laid something yellowy white. I got closer to try to decipher what it was. It looked like some sort of cranium. It was a skull, fuzed with a machine. The technology looked ancient, and little arms and scanners stuck out from the back. One of the skulls eyes was filled with one red metallic, cyber enhanced lens. I reached out to touch it, but then out of nowhere, the eye lit up. It made a beeping noise, not much unlike a droid. Its behaviour was also droid-like as it floated in front of me. It seemed to be scanning for something. This machine scared me, and I unholstered my blaster. In returned the skull extended a small arm, fitted with a peculiar looking piece of technology. "Get to cover, it might be dangerous!" I could here Rale shout over the comlink. He was right, and I snapped out of my curiosity to quickly leap behind a piece of large mining gear. I wasn't a second late, because just mere moments after, a laser cut through the air just behind me. Rale opened fire on the skull, and in two decisive blaster shots, he destroyed the thing, the smell of scorched electronics and burnt fat filling the air. I got out from my hiding spot. I saw brains, oils and chemical smeared across the floor with fragments of bone and metal tubing, still smoking from the two blaster shots of superheated plasma that had pierced and boiled the biomechanical horror from the inside.
We searched through the rest of the station, finding nothing of importance, this time always on the watch for more skull probes, but we found none. Now it was time to find the lost Droid. I figured that it couldn't be far off, after all, it was stationed in this general subsector of space. Once again me and the exploration crew boarded the shuttle and readied for flight back into space. "I have calibrated the deep space-sonar scanner and I was just waiting for you to give me the authority to use it" Dari said when we climbed back into the ship. He had been waiting onboard just in case we needed a quick escape. "Take us to the closest asteroid field, they tend to hide among the rocks".
The asteroids just floated there, gigantic and solid, concealed in shadow. As the ships flood lights painted the rough rocky surface of the asteroids in light, you could see rich ore vines stretching across the surface. The shuttle, although being quite a large ship for its class, felt incredibly small in the vast contrast to the gigantuan rocks. "Pinging for radio signals". Dario flipped a switch, activating the subspace sonar. Nothing. "We must go deeper into the asteroid field". The shuttle disappeared in between the large rocks. We couldn't see the light from the station anymore. We were completely in the dark. The sonar pinged frequently, searching for any trace of the lost Droid.
"That's it, lock on to that signal" I pointed at a small blip on the scanner, alone among the rocks. "Are you sure that's it sir?" Dari asked. "Yes, I have done this type of work before, that perfectly matches the signal of an Imperial Probe droids". We closed up on the signal until we could see the deactivated droid with the large ship mounted flashlight. "There is a magnetic arm on this thing, is there not?" "Yes, I'm booting its systems right now" Dari answered me as he activated the mechanical arm attached to the underside of the ship.
When we returned to base it was busy as normal. TIE fighters were being repaired by maintenance staff, landers were being primed for combat, and shuttles were waiting idly for orders. "Dari, refuel the ship, Rale, help me to get this droid going, or atleast remove the databank". Me and Rale moved the hulking machine to the workshop, where we had the necessary tool to get it open. We unscrewed the sides of the machine, trying not to activate the main core. If we turned it on, or somehow awakened it, we were scared that the data may corrupt, or even worse, that the droid would self destruct.
After much tinkering and power tool work, we managed to safely remove the databank and the recorder. I brought both of them to my office, and started feeding the raw data into my machine. There were video and audio logs. There were also other data logs and sensory information, but that needed an imperial droid to decrypt. I started viewing some of the video files. There was mostly darkness, but at one instant, you could see the strong light flashes that the miner told me about. There were only a few frames, but there was enough to validate my beliefs.
I walked out of my office and started searching for a diagnostics and data droid that wasn't occupied, when I suddenly saw a man walking quickly towards me. It was Dari, although it was hard to see now when he wasn't wearing his Navy uniform. "Leodar, there is something you should see, this might concern us". Dari grabbed me and stared me in the eye. "It's been sighted again, this time just light years from Dathomir. The reports don't say much, but if we hurry there might just be enough time for an investigation".
Chapter three: The Hunt
The ship had been powering for hours through hyperspace now. The navi-computer was automatically tracking and guiding us through the hyperlane. The mood was tense, all aboard waiting suspensefully. We were hunting now, but we still didn't know if we even wanted to reach what was being hunted.
The flimmer of hyperspace outside the transparisteel windows was impossible to comprehend. The longer you looked, the more puzzled you felt. There was always a new level of detail and intecrasy. It was said that if one stared for too long into hyperspace, one would go mad. I could see that now. "Captain, it seems we are running out of coaxium, there is a civilized planet nearby that I have heard refines and sells". "Prepare for reemergence Dari, were landing". "Understood captain."
Hyperspace melted away in front of us, and blinding light from a close star emerged. In orbit of the sun you could see a small but beautiful marble of a blue little planet. It had no moons nor other natural satellites. As a matter of fact it seemed to lay completely alone in the system.
The shuttle burned through the atmosphere, its thermal shielding protecting us from the firestorm outside as we pushed through the sky. A trail of mist and cloud strayed behind us as we broke through layers of clouds. The planet was mostly ocean, dots of land and shallows visible in clusters around us. There was one particularly large island that seemed to have some constructs of metal and textile. The retro thrusters burned as we landed on a ramshackled pad.
A group of natives, clad in robes approached us. "You are Imperials, are you not?" One of them asked. He had dark leathery skin, and as he spoke I could see that he had barely any teeth left at all. "Yes, we are here on Imperial business, does that pose a problem of some sort". I answered, trying not to sound aggressive in my manner of speaking, as I had been told I could do unintentionally. "All we ask, is that your troopers leave their weapons and remove their helmets then we will supply you with whatever you need". The stormtroopers seemed to object as first, but I signaled them to do as they were told. "Now, what can we offer you?" The man asked us, calmer than before". "We are here to refuel our Shuttle with fresh coaxium". Three children came out of the shadow created by one of the homemade sunroofs, one of them carrying a large cable connected to the building.
After the children were done refueling the shuttle, I thanked the man and paid the price he offered, plus a little extra I told him to give to the children for their help. As we waited for the charge cells on the shuttle to refuel, I overheard the men speaking about something that interested me. "There is talk of strange times and equally strange folk around". One of the men said in an easy tone to his fellow. "I have heard of a strange spacecraft in orbit of the Dathomir". Dathomir I thought to myself, Dathomir should only be a few parsecs away from here.
Dathomir is a strange planet. Seemingly inhospitable and hostile, but it is full of power lurking in its dark crevasses. It was one of the key points during the clone wars. It is said that the planet is home to a group of religious fanatics, believing in some strange and ancient religion. There wasn't a place you wouldn't rather be.
As we entered a low orbit of the planet, you could see large strange forests and swamps stretching over the surface. All painted red by the dying star that it was orbiting.
Plumes of smoke and ash could be seen on the distant horizon, and parts of the forest had erupted into flame. We guided the shuttle close to the surface, our shadow moving quickly over the swamplands below.
In a clearing, a small town appeared. Flames and smoke rose from the little houses, the streets devastated and the dead scattered in the ruins. "They have been here" I said quietly to myself as I viewed the carnage from the shuttle hovering above.
"Stormtroopers, look for survivors." They spread out, walking through the grey rubble of the ruin town. Suddenly, something moved in the scrap in front of me, and faint screams could be heard. I rushed there and started digging with my bare hands among the sharp shards of metal plating and splintered wood. Soon Rale and Hans joined me, and after a short while we uncovered enough to get a glimpse of the woman screaming in distress.
She was a middle aged, seemingly an immigrant from another system. She was scared and a bruised but otherwise in good health. We had given her a blanket and a cup of tea, and she sat across from me in the shuttle cockpit command room. "Explain the attack, how come you are the only survivor?" I asked, trying not to come of as too aggressive. "There were strange men, they… they took the children… all of them". the lady stuttered. "What is your name?" I asked her, ignoring the strange statement. "They only took the humans, the rest were… the rest were executed…" The woman was obviously in shock, shaking uncontrollably "We need to know what happened, it is the only way we can help preventing this happening in other communities such as your own".
"The machine men took the children. All of them!" Was the only thing she managed to say. Over and over again she whispered in between her teeth. She clung to the blanket so hard, you could see her knuckles whitening from the tension. Who were these machine men? Where they droids maybe? And why had they taken the children?
We could not leave the woman behind, so we decided to bring her along to the station where she could be transferred safely to another system. I felt rather unfulfilled as we pierced the atmosphere and out into the void. We had been searching for days, and still it did not feel like we had come any closer to finding the ship.
I gazed across the planetary surface, watching and admiring the details of lakes, mountains and red desserts as the world grew smaller under us. Soon we would be far enough away from the planets gravity to engage into hyperspace. "Sir, there seems to be a disturbance in hyperspace" Dari said as he flickered franticly around scanners and switches. "Could it be interdimensional?" I asked as I rose up from my seat and approached Dari in the cockpit. "No, these are classic starship signals" he answered me as I stood over him, watching him try to track the signal through hyperspace. "Imperial?" I asked him, trying to decipher the codes myself, although I had no knowledge of how to do so. "Those are Rebel ships, and quite large too, possibly a cruiser with an escort, activate the emergency warpspace beacon". Rale answered Dari. I flinched as he spoke. I hadn't seen him coming and it felt like he had suddenly just appeared besides me. Now he sat by Dari, tinkering with the buttons on the ships dashboard trying to activate the beacon.
Suddenly, the ship went dark, as something big blocked out the sunlight that had just illuminated the interior of our shutte. The Rebel cruiser had just emerged from hyperspace, and now it's escort ships appeared behind it. "This is admiral Raddus of the cruiser Sovereign, surrender yourselves, or prepare to be annihilated" A voice came from the radio channel followed by static. "How should we proceed captain?" Dari asked me, removing his pilot outfitted headset. "Deactivate all weapons systems, and prepared to be boarded, this is not a fight we can win" I answered him.
Chapter four: First Contact
I could still feel my jaw hurting where the blaster had been bashed over my face. I could smell blood, and feel its taste in my mouth. I had no recollection of what had happened after we were boarded. I opened my eyes, and it hurt as they adjusted to the light. I had no idea of how long I had been unconscious or if Dari, Rale, and the other crew members were still alive.
I was back bound to a chair in an empty storage room. There were storage units with metal boxes stacked along the sides of the room, and the lamps were gently swinging as they spread their dim light across the floor and walls. Suddenly the door was flung open with a loud clang, and a Humanoid Twi'lek came through. His face was rough and he had his appendages knit tightly behind his head. His skin was light orange and he wore standard Rebel Alliance fatigues.
He took a chair from the corner of the room, making a loud screech as he dragged it over the metal floor. He sat down and watched me closely for a while. "How could you do this to innocent people?" He asked me, calm although I could feel him suppressing his rage. "You truly are the scum of this galaxy" He continued, still keeping close eye contact with me. "We did not do this, you have to let me go, or more people will be hurt". I tried to answer him, but I could barely get the words of my dried and bloody lips, and all my throat could muster was a faint wheezing whisper. The Twi'lek moved his chair closer to me. "Two worlds have you devastated, one of them your own. Reports are surfacing of genocide of non-humans and mass kidnappings. For what purpose would the Empire do this?"
"I am telling you…" I coughed violently. "This is not and Imperial attack, there is something else. You must let me go, this threatens us all". I answered him, my voice growing slightly stronger. "Why do you lie officer? What is this weapon you are testing?" he continued, ignoring my words. "Its… its interdimensional. It's not from here". I tried to tell him, but his face didn't change. "The woman you had in your cargo, was she to be experimented on? She speaks of strange droids. What have you created?" He asked, speaking louder and more aggressively. "You must understand, we were hunting whatever did this". His expression changed. "You were hunting it?". "Yes, yes, I have been hunting it for days" I said, my words more like a wheeze.
The room flared red as the alarms blared. The bastards had forgot to destroy the shuttle tracker, and now Imperial support had arrived. "All men to battle stations, all men to battle stations" A voice sounded on the cruiser intercom speakers. The Twi'lek lost concentration and rose from his chair. He unholstered his blaster and pointed it towards my face. "The only good Imperial is a dea-". The ship violently shook and just when the humanoid was about to pull the trigger, he was slung into one of the storage shelves, and I watched as a heavy metal crate slid over the edge of the shelf, hitting the twi'lek in the head, and in turn knocking him unconscious. As he collapsed violently and fell to the floor, his blaster came loose and slid over the floor settling just beneath my feet. Now, realizing that this was my time to escape,. I started to try to break free from the rope and felt that it was loose and had been poorly tied, and that it wouldn't take me long to get free.
After a few minutes I was free and picked up the blaster from the floor. I tried to open the door, but figured out that the door was locked. I yanked repeatedly on the handle with no results. "All pilots to Interseptors and bombers, mobilize the X-Wings". The voice said as the sirens sounded simultaneously. I had an idea. I aimed the blaster on the locking mechanism and pulled the trigger as I kicked the door opened. The corridor in front of me stretched for what looked like the entire side of the cruiser. It was slightly curved and had windows at the left side all the way to the end. Through the transparisteel viewing pains I could see the battle outside. Ships of all sizes flew back and forth spewing volleys of fire, lighting up the void in green and red dots. Fighters, bombers and designated interceptors engaged everywhere in dogfights, squadrons of X-Wings were flying to objectives, delivering payloads on Imperial targets. But in the distance I could see the immense triangular shapes of two Imperial Star-Destroyers, bombarding the Rebel fleet in explosively charged plasma.
I walked back into the storage room, exchanging my Imperial officers cape for the Rebel Fatigues the twi'lek had been wearing. They were a bit tight, but I had to make due. I holstered the blaster and walked out into the corridor.
The deck shook and cranged as I navigated through the Rebel cruiser. The ship was orbiting a Moon, seemingly covered in large deserts and drylands. I was trying to find a comlink terminal, and hopefully contact the destroyers. I stumbled as the ship was struck once again by Imperial bombardment. I looked around me, and saw through one of the large transparisteel windows how a TIE fighter, smoking and wreathed in fire, spun violently towards the hull of the cruiser as the pilot had lost control. It crashed into the side of the cruiser, activating a fire safety system, spewing foam all over the deck. As I slowly made my way through the corridors onboard I could finally see a comlink system, but it was already operated by another officer. I unholstered my blaster, ready to take him out. Just as I had snuck up behind him, the man turned around, and I could instantly recognise his clone facial features. "Rale? How did you get out?" "I untied myself, and killed the guard, same as you I assume". Rale answered "Yes, killed him. Have you established coms with the-" I froze. It felt like everything fell silent. And then, I felt incredibly uneasy. I was rushed by unexplainable fear, just as I saw the hallway and comms room bathed in unnatural light shining through the windows. I had to close my eyes not to be blinded by the intenseness of the changing colors that covered the walls, ceiling and deck.
In between the Rebel cruiser and the Star-Destroyers, a massive rift had torn itself into space, spewing flickering light over the voidborne battlefield. And through that rift, that gate, something emerged.
It was like nothing I had seen before. First, a triangular ornate form pierced the portal like a gigantic ram, laced in brass clad by an eagle made off massive gold. Behind this ram the rest of the shape emerged. It looked somewhat like a palace or a cathedral, obviously not built to be efficient or aerodynamic. The hull was covered in statues, arches, pillars, spires and the gaping maws of gargantuan canons, facing both the Rebel and the Imperial fleet. Other weapons were mounted on the ship, ranging from small automatic plasma guns, to large turbolaser tier weapons systems.
The interdimensional ship drifted slowly forwards, powered by the enormous engine blocks and just behind it, now when the entire had pierced through the trans dimensional rift, the anomaly closed in on itself, imploding and collapsing on itself, and returning the void to darkness. The fighting had stopped, as both Rebel and Imperial forces were contemplating how to best react to this emerging threat. TIE fighters had stopped trailing the Rebel ships, and the X-Wings and Y-Wings had seized bombing the star-destroyers. The silence before the storm.
The first to open fire was the Imperial command cruiser. And soon, all the heavy turbolaser batteries on all Imperial vessels joined in this orchestra of destruction. Hell rained down on the extra-dimensional threat. But all the green bolts of plasma seemed to just dissipate before they could hit the surface of the new enemy. The turbolaser fire acted just like small droplets of water hitting an invisible pain of glass, the energy scattering away, losing its potency to the invisible shield that seemed to surround the giant ship. For a while it seemed like the behemoth would not fight back, as it drifted deeper in between the fleets. But after some time of increased Imperial bombardment, it retaliated.
I watched as the enormous cannons fired projectiles large as starships, hurling them at incredible speeds towards the Imperial star destroyers. Two of the shots connected, and on impact they swiftly overloaded the Imperial shields and decimated the hull. I witnessed as star-destroyers, the benchmark for Imperial strength and power, were shattered like glass by some unknown force.
I snapped away from the spectacle, and tried to collect myself, figuring out what my best course of action would be. "We need to get off this ship before it is destroyed like the others." I told Rale. "This way". He answered, pointing further down the corridor.
I ran with Rale down what felt like the entire length of the Rebel cruiser. Rales cardio was superior to mine, and I had difficulty keeping up as he seamlessly and tirelessly rushed forward, with me, lagging just behind. Inconsistently, the starship shook and cranged violently, throwing us to the sides, but we stood back up, and continued the run. "Over there, escape pods!" Rale shouted, pointing towards a section of the corridor that seemed to open up into a small room.
The smell of burned plastics and metals filled my nose, as I saw further down the corridor, smoke belching from the hangar area. The cruiser didn't have long, as it had sustained multiple direct hits from both the Imperial star destroyers, but also the alien behemoth. Screeching noises from metal, slowly scraping against metal rang out loud, as the cruiser's hull failed and the bulk was about to collapse.
"Rale" I shouted behind him, struggling to collect my stamina. Rale turned around and faced me as we ran, "Rale, how much further?" I shouted between my heavy breaths and gasps for air. I couldn't go much further now, as the toxic smoke poisoned my lungs more and more for every breath. But Rale just continued to run.
The blaring and screaming of emergency sirens was unbearable, and I couldn't take much more of it. And my lungs felt as they were on fire, the taste of blood on my tongue. I wasn't going to make it. "Here it is, just here." Rale stopped, and frantically meddled with a panel of buttons and switches on the wall. A round hatch opened up, and Rale slid himself through. "Hurry up, come in after me" He told me from the other side of the hatch, and I hurried up to try to get myself in the pod.
The pod was surprisingly comfortable, padded, and with a decent view of what happened outside. But what happened outside was anything but nice. I saw how a beam of seemingly solid light shot out from the ornamented behemoth, and cut a Nebulon-B rebel support vessel clean in half. All that was left of the Imperial star destroyers was a cloud of atomized glowing scrap, slowly cooling in the void of space.
The pod wasn't equipped with a hyperdive, so we were trapped in this system, and the automatic navigation system was guiding us straight down to the planets surface. Burning through the atmosphere, of this desert world, the battle in the sky grew ever more distant, but however distant it was hard to miss the flair of light that shot out into space, as the massive Rebel command cruiser's core generator finally overloaded, and the ship detonated into a massive explosion, shredding what was left of the hull into a million pieces.
As we were plummeting, dragged by the gravity of the planet, I looked over at Rale, he was sweating heavily, dripping from his forehead down on his Rebel fatigues. "The galaxy will never be the same" I said. "I know"
Chapter one: Men and Machines
The hunched, rat like figure of a small man scurried through the tight passages and corridors of the giant voidcraft. He brought a message for his master, deep within the hull of the vessel. He was scared of his master in a strange way. Not a fear for violence or physical torment, but he was afraid of his master psychological pressure. The ways in which he spoke, and played with his poor mind. But it did not sway him from his messaging duties, and with great haste, he hurried to the diagnostics room where his master worked on yet another great work.
He swung open the door to the diagnostics room and the sent of chemicals, rot and burning incense hit him like a blanket of misty stink. "My lord, I bring news" In the darkness, deep into the dank room, his master turned around. Grand Magos Dominus Regulus Stradivaria was not a pretty sight. Once, maybe he had resembles a man, but heavy cybernetic augmentation had brought him far from his bipedal and conventionally built human form. The untrained and unaccustomed eye would probably view the Grand Magos as a horrendous abomination, claws, cables and machine parts sticking out from all sides of his being, but most of him was covered in the red cloak of the Mechanicum of sacred Mars. Regulus Stradivaria's cloaked face turned towards the messengers, insectoid machine appendages running through and out his old and torn face, and three large ocular visors, or 'eyes' if you could even call them that, lit up the room around the messenger in a ghastly green light.
"My… My lord, I bring news from the sensorium on the higher levels" The messenger stuttered once again, now once he had gained his lords attention. "Ah, Serapis, you do not have to fear, I always value information" The Magos Dominus answered, his voice heavy and mechanical, coming from multiple speakers conveniently placed around his machine form, to amplify his weak and old biological voice. "Yes, my lord-" He was cut off by Regulus. "Time is valuable to me, you if anyone should know this Serapis. Do not waste it" It was hard to tell the emotional tune of Stradivaria's voice, for it was always the same mechanical machine pitch. Sarcasm was not easy to detect in his voice, although he knew it was something the Dominus often used. This was one of the many reasons the Messenger was afraid to speak to his lord. "You were right, my lord, the warp anomaly is a recurring phenomenon, it originates from the Irrilian sectorum". Serapis told the Magos, waiting wearely for a reply. "Once again it seems my hypothesis has been proven correct."
Grand Dominus Regulus Stradivaria of course followed the teachings of the Cult Mechanicus very closely, anything else would be strictly heretical. However he did not get along with the rest of the priesthood of sacred Mars. He felt that their obsession with mechanical faith sometimes could get in the way of what he believed was the truest and most holy of missions. To accumulate as much knowledge for humanity as possible. Regulus Stradivaria believed that this was truly the purpose and test, set out by the Omnissiah to test the faith of Regulus and his kind. Nothing would get between Stradivaria and his goal. He was determined.
"It is best if you come with me to the sensorium, and see for yourself, my lord" Serapis asked, now when he felt that his master was in a better mood. "Perhaps you are right Serapis" The Magos spoke in his chilling machine tone. Hundreds of little legs skittered across the floor as the Grand Magos made his way out of the dark laboratory, his massive machine body crawling seamlessly out the door.
Regulus Stradivaria captained an old Dauntless Class light cruiser, a vast vessel crewed by thousands of men, and equipped with enough modified weaponry to face off any enemies he might encounter on his research voyages around the galaxy.
The sensorium fell silent as the Grand Magos Dominus entered the relatively small room, and only the servitors continued there work, as they had been programmed to do. "I have been informed that there is data here for me to evaluate, is my servant correct?" The Magos Dominus asked, his voice heavily amplified by the voice box on his steel carapace. "Yes my lord, we have uncovered new data for you to analyse" One of the half-machine adepts answered. "Wonderful" Regulus Stradivaria Answered his voice cold and devoid of emotion.
Cogitators clicked as the magos downloaded the diagnostics to his digital memory. His brain interface system was processing the vast amounts of data, filtering it and serving only what was important to the enhanced biological mind of Regulus Stradivaria. After a few brief moments of machine interface, Stradivaria was finished. All data processed, filtered, catalogued and stored in his internal cogitation systems.
"Change the course" Regulus spoke out into the room. "What is our new heading my lord?" "Tenebris Inferior. There is more data to be excavated there". If the Magos Dominus calculations were correct, he was on the verge of something that might change the future for humanity, he only needed more data from the sector.
Warp travel is a dangerous business, and it has never been easy to surf the waves and tides of the immaterium, but since the fall of Cadia and the great rift, the warp has grown ever more uncontrolable and it's wrath consumes sometimes even the sturdiest of ships with the most stable gellar fields. But traveling the warp is a necessity, and for tens of thousand years it has been the only way to travel faster than light.
The only one capable of looking into the warp was the Navigator. Her psychic prowess allowed her to see into the unconquerable and with her mind conquer it. She could fathom the unfathomable, and understand the impossible. For this is the gift the Emperor had given to her and her kind, twelve thousand years ago, at the birth of the Imperium, during the dawn of the glorious great crusade. Regulus knew these times, although he had not lived through them, he had always had a fascination for the days of crusade.
"What is causing these fluctuations in the warp Grand Magos?" One of the adepts on the command deck asked Stradivaria, as he stood static in the middle of the bridge, running calculations and accounting for all possible variables. "I cannot say, the warp does not care for our physical laws, and is therefor incalculable. It is a tech-adepts nemesis. But through its interference with our material world, the warp translates to the language of physics and mathematics. A language in which I speak. Just because the warp is incalculable does not mean it is inunderstandable." The magos answered the adept, if only investing a portion of his consciousness in the conversation. "Do you fear their interference? Could it be a trick to attract our attention?" The adept answered, following the Magos answer. "The information I have analysed thus far, do not show any data pattern commonly connected with the activity of the Arch-Enemy. I do not think they are involved." Stradivaria answered in a cold calculated tone. "If it is not the ruinous powers, and it is not a purely physical anomaly, then what could it be? Xenos trickery?" The Adept answered the Magos, trying to understand what his lord was implying. "I cannot answer you Adept, for I do not know." Regulus Stradivaria turned his head and studied the Adept "You strive for more knowledge and information. That is good. What is your name Adept?" Humbled by his masters question, the Adept stuttered and struggled to speak for a moment "I am humbled-" He was cut of "Your name, Adept"
Ubrelor was older than he seemed at first glance. He had served deep in the techno vaults of Telebria Secundus for almost a century. He was a natural at serving the ancient data looms of the tech vault, and without him the archeotech of that world would have been lost much earlier than it was. But the Xenos incursion had ruined the ancient tech-world, and much that once was, had been lost. With his workplace and home ruined, Ubrelor was forced offworld with many other refugees, hopping from world to world looking for a place to serve. Mostly he served repairing and maintaining the manufactorum machines of the factories on numerous hive worlds but there, much of his expertise and potential was unfulfilled. But after four decades of work in the manufactorums, he was picked out by the Grand Magos, who just happened to be looking for adepts with experience regarding Archeo-Tech.
"My name is Ubrelor, at your service my lord." Ubrelor told the towering behemoth that was Regulus Stradivaria. "Good, Ubrelor, your competence will be required. Do not stop seeking the truth." The Magos answered, seemingly finished with his calculations and snapping out of his static trans. "We have arrived"
The Grand Magos Dominus skittered through the tight corridor towards the sensorium, trailed by all manner of Adepts and Tech-Priests. "Test the diagnostics on the probe and the warp space sensory array." Regulus said the moment he entered the sensorium, with no introduction or other information regarding his quick arrival. Stradivaria did not have time for such, he simply expected his crew to always be ready, and his orders to be followed. "At once my lord" A servitor, fused to the sensory equipment of the sensorium answered the Magos, before hydraulics pulled him back into the maintenance hatch in the deck, were the servitor had been condemned to work the rest of his days.
The sensorium was humming with the sound of machines and blinking with visors, displaying all kinds of sensory information regarding the status of the voidborne antennas and probes. Adepts working all kinds of machines on various levels. Some on the top of hydraulic lifts, raised far above the others to work the cogitators and data looms near the domed roof of the cathedral dimensioned sensorium. Two Adepts dragged large data cables towards the Magos Dominus, readying to connect them and directly interface Regulus with the large quantities of data the sensorium was cycling.
Regulus always interfaced with the information source directly, never wanting it first to be filtered by any cogitator servitors. No, Regulus Stradivaria valued raw data, he felt that through the processing of it, he could come closer than any other to the god of all knowledge, the Omnissiah. Direct interface was however very dangerous and the risks were many. That is why there were always cogitator servitors to first interface the source, so if the data was corrupt, the mem-cores of the tech-priest or Adept would not be the first to fry. However, onboard the ship, Stradivaria had grand halls, dedicated to the storage of his vast amounts of knowledge and consciousness, in rows of cognition-servers as a backup of his memory incase his mortal form would ever be destroyed.
Stradivaria's three machine eyes blinked and fluttered as he processed through the information. "Serapis" he said, speaking through his data processing trans. "Yes my lord" the little frail adept answered wearely, always at the Magos side in case he was needed. "I have a message for Adepts working the warp engine." Serapis wrote down the magos message on a piece of parchment, just to make sure he wouldn't forget it, although his enhanced memory hardly could forget it.. "Tell them to run all diagnostics and to repair the system if it shows any signs of damage. Today it will be stress-tested. It cannot fail." The Magos followed as Serapis wrote it down. "Anything else you wish to convey, my lord?" Serapis said, looking up with his cyclopean eye at the Grand Magos Dominus. "That will be all Serapis."
Serapis was in eternal debt to Regulus. He owed the Magos his life after it had been spared almost half a century ago. Serapis had grown up on the agri-world of Nova Orstillian, abandoned by his parents at an early age and living of scraps left by the protein farmers who drove the economy of the ancient planet. He had been involved all kinds of petty crime, stealing everything from protein-bricks to jewelry. Life was good for a while and he earned a name for himself in the underworld of Nova Orstillian, but his luck turned when he attempted to steal a shipping container of high grade agricultural products, meant to be shipped off-system. He was caught by a Servitor, and later a worker punished him by pouring industrial grade sulfuric acid in his eyes, permanently destroying them and turning him blind. Blindly begging for food on the stinking streets of Orstillian, he grew more and more desperate for each day, and after a few weeks, he attempted to pickpocket one of the hundreds of workers walking down the busy street. Serapis was caught and handed to the city Aribites. He was condemned to eternal servitude, and he was set for lobotomization. However, Stradivaria saw better use for him aboard his vessel, and saved the life of poor Serapis. To be able to perform his task as the Magos messenger, his vision was also restored by a large, crude and mechanical eye, for which Serapis was very grateful.
To Regulus, Serapis wasn't even necessary. The Magos didn't need a messenger, and he was perfectly capable of conveying his orders another, quicker and more effective way. But Serapis made him feel something. On the street the little man had made some of his old, withering biological feelings slip through, although he didn't know wich of them. Maybe it was pity, maybe he felt a fleeting sensation of empathy. Maybe, he himself had originated similarly to Serapis, those four millennia ago, although he could not remember. Or maybe, he just enjoyed having someone so weak, frail and helpless under him, so he himself could feel superior. But Regulus didn't need to feel superior, for he was. He was so vastly overwhelming in both physical prowess, and pure intellectual power, that he had thought himself beyond those basic human needs. Maybe Regulus believed himself transcended. He couldn't know, but for now he kept little Serapis as his project.
Serapis scurried through the labyrinth paths and corridors of the vast cruiser, knowing through his neural implant exactly where he was, and where he was going. Through his brain-interface, he was a part of the ship.
His years in blindness had taught him the importance his nose held. He could smell the ship, and he knew every sent and odor aboard it. Long before the addition of his ocular implant, Serapis had relied solely on his acute sense of smell. He knew that he was nearing the engine bay and machine room, for it was the most arcane part of the ship, and the sent of ancient machine oil and smoke from the old machinery grew ever stronger.
The pipes grew larger, but also more rusty the deeper in he got. Incense was burning in every corner and filled the machine-bay in a holy aura. The smoke in the air grew thick, but through it you could just manage to see the lights and flares of possibly hundreds of Tech-Priests and adepts, praying in unison to the holy machine spirit. Maybe this was what kept the derelict engines running. Although it was highly unscientific it had been the only way the eldritch machines of the Imperium kept on working.
Purity seals made of ancient parchment, scribbled on by uncounted members of the holy Priesthood of Mars covered the oldest machines, like leaves on branches. But in the middle of it all, the cables and pipes slithered like serpents towards a single point in the middle of the engine room. As they met, the cables rose up, twisting and turning, fuming with boiling liquids, vents shooting steam and smoke into the air, covering the room in a dense smog. But higher up, the pipes were covered by a dark red robe, filthy from centuries of service in the engine room. The robe belonged to a semi humanoid being, connected from the waist to all the cables, and in turn connected to the engine room itself.
"My master sends me here with a message my lord." Serapis stammered in front of the being, connected to the ship. The being turned, the cables moving in an organic manner, as if they were simply a extension to the being itself. You could see now that the being in the large robe had once been a man. His face remained mostly intact with few augmentations, but his purity in flesh did not make him less hideous. Both of his eyes had been replaced by machine sensors, and rings of boils and irritations in the skin surrounded them. But that was the only colour left in his horribly scarred features. The rest of the skin on both his hands and face was bleached and grey, and felt dead as if it could shed at any moment, revealing the skull and metal below.
"What does lord Grand Magos need of me." The man said, his voice low and frail like that of a dying man. "He asks of you to run the diagnostics on the engine. He speaks of some sort of test. My lord says it will induce enormous stress on the machine spirit." The old man relaxed, his eyes rolling back as he interfaced the machine spirit. A strange aura of energy surrounded him, like he had been consumed by something far more powerful than his ancient and biological mind could comprehend, but quickly the field vanished and the strange feeling it had caused in Serapis left him. "It has spoken to me."
Chapter two: The Probe
Countless whispers surrounded him as he too prayed. When whispered by thousands, they become a sort of white noise, a blanket isolating the mind from its surroundings, and letting it focus on the worshipping. It created a strange feeling in Serapis as he sat there, almost like loneliness but more intense. Serapis joined in the whispering, letting his words drown out in the sea of noise. He searched his mind, finding new ways to express himself in his prayers, always trying to outdo himself in his prais, getting better and better for each holy gathering.
The whispering stopped, and Serapis opened his mechanical eye. The light was sharper than he was used to, straight from a sun, shining in mighty rays through the tall windows of the cathedral. The cathedral was located on the upper deck of the vessel, just under the main bridge so that it may get the most of the natural light outside. Now it lit up hundreds of heads, silent, as they waited for the ecclesiarch to speak.
"Pray with me children of the master of mankind" The ecclesiarch spoke, his voice raspy and altered by the mechanical components fused to his flesh, in order to strengthen and amplify his voice. "Pray with me, and let our voices in unison carry out our message" He continued. He was dressed in layers of coats and robes, ornamented with ancient relics of all kinds of shining metal. He in himself was a sort of temple, scriptures attached with chains to his body, so that he may at any time utter the canticles in prayer to the most holy God-Emperor.
"In faith his Imperium is united, and in faith shall it be preserved. In loyalty we gain his sacred favour, and in labour we redeem ourselves of any sin. The Emperor guides us, he lights the way in a universe of darkness of pain. Through our labour and toil, our lord gains the means to strike down the enemies of Humanity, and through our undying love he protects us. Remember always, that he protects. The Emperor protects us from the mutant, the vile xenos, and most importantly, he shields us from the horrors and heresies of the cursed immaterium. Through the Emperor's vigilance, humanity is allowed to flourish and blossom, like we have for ten millenium. Under the Emperors shield we live, our children live, and our grandchildren will live under the divine protection of him upon the throne. Ave Imperator. The Emperor protects." "The Emperor protects" They answered as one, and the room felt as it surged with power for a moment. The acoustics of the great cathedral carried the their voices with great strength, and it's echo lingered for a while before fading.
"My lord, the last prayer is carried out. The Emperor is with us in our endeavour. We are ready to initiate the first stage of testing." The adept told Regulus as he stood watching the void outside the large windows of the bridge command. "If we are ready, initiate protocols. May the machine god be with us."
Lights blinked and sirens wailed as the ship warmed up its warp-engine. Countless adepts and other crew members worked all kinds of machines and controls to properly stabilize the ships inner workings. The hull creaked as the vessel made ready. But it was not the cruiser that was to enter the warp, no, it focused its energy on a small object just below. An augur probe was being prepared to be thrown into the immaterium carrying al kinds of sensors and instruments.
The void violently tore itself open, collapsing in on itself as the warp engines ruptured the very fabric of space and time. The fires of the warp burned through more and more of the space in front of the cruiser until it had scorched an opening, like a portal to the warp, bathing the darkness in strange lights and chaotic illusions.
Now the probe below the cruiser started accelerating, gaining more and more speed until finally, it was dragged and shot into the opening by some unseen force, and just as it did, the portal imploded and disappeared, as though it was never there from the start. Now, the Magos could only wait for his precious answers.
"It cannot be!" He exclaimed, baffled as he looked at his sensory equipment once again. "It is impossible!" For hours he had processed the same data over and over again, trying to get a different, more logical answer to his questions. "Come here Apostia, watch this" The young Stradivaria asked one of his Tech-Adept colleagues.
"What is it Regulus, more messages from the future? Or maybe from the Past?" She asked him sarcastically, not convinced of the legitimacy of his discoveries. "Actually, both it would appear. I cannot wrap my mind around it." Apostia rose from her workbench and sat down besides Regulus, reviewing his data pad and cognition archives. "Isn't it curious?" He said as he watched Apostia read through the files. "Curious indeed" She answered as she continued to read and decipher various encodings and encryptions. "I have decoded it several times, and the signatures do not seem as they have been corrupted." "But Regulus, it is impossible, it cannot be. It says here that it was sent in the early Forty-Second Millenium, but that is nearly six millenia in the future, yet here, the code has degraded severely, as though the signals have ionized away over hundreds of thousands of years." Now she was equally as blown away as her colleague, both of them cycling and recycling through the information searching for flaws or signs of chaotic corruption, but non could be found. "How can a signal come from the future, and yet be possibly millions of years old?"
The warps effect of the material world had always fascinated Stradivaria. The change from something impossible to something possible always had another outcome than expected. Numbers changing from gibberish to facts in milliseconds as the world struggled to translate it into the language of physics. He had noticed that time had always been the hardest, as if time was one of the most basic and fundamental laws everything followed. Time was unbreakable, and after forty millenia, still could not be tinkered with. It happened sometimes that ships travelling the warp sometimes managed to slip its iron grasp, and move through its cracks, but it had never been done intentionally. The workings of time were unknown to humanity, and seemed to be to all other races as well. Even the Necron, with their vast pools of eldritch and heretical knowledge, and seeming mastery of the material realm, had not managed to change the flow of time.
Regulus felt his mind drifting into aimless thinking. Improvable hypothesis and incalculable equations. His thoughts wandered as if he were young again, unrestrained by his bionic enhancements and religious beliefs in the importance of efficiency and hoarding of data. But those times were passed, and he snapped out of it as he once again came to his senses. This daydreaming was wasteful, and there were more pressing things that required his mental presence.
"Stradivaria, it has been some time my old friend!" Regulus twitched, he wasn't used to being spoken to in such a manner. Few would ever dare to call him friend. "I heard you have achieved great things here Regulus. News are spreading, and you have gained the attention of some important people." The man continued as he walked across the bridge towards the Grand Magos. Stradivaria turned. "Inquisitor. I did not imagine I would have the pleasure of your presence aboard my vessel."
The Inquisitor was a tall, well built man. He was old, but his age didn't seem to affect him in any negative way. His clothes were as proper as his posture, all according to the military code and latest fashion. He wore a large coat, hiding all kinds of equipment that could come in handy in his secret work for the Emperor. At one side, he carried a mastercrafted and fine tweaked ornamented las-pistol, and on the other his force-blade, ready to strike at a moments notice. Over his shoulders he carried a great canine pelt. A trophy from a campaign long ago, when he had served in the Guard. But the Inquisitor did not come into the room alone. He was closely followed by an escort of two Astartes from the Ultramarines chapter. The lumbering beings spread awe among the various adepts and crewmen operating the many controls on the bridge. Most of them had never seen one of the Emperors own angels of death, and almost none would ever get the privilege to see one again.
"The nature of your experiments here intrigue me and the ordo, in fact so much so that I have been granted an entire company of these fine warriors" The Astartes came to a halt behind him as he stopped next to Regulus, joining him in gazing through the bridge window. "Why are you here Inquisitor. How does the ordo know of my work." The Inquisitor chuckled in a cold tone. "Forgive me Grand Magos. I thought you had learned by now. Nothing escapes the eyes and ears of the Inquisition. You are not as omnipotent as you believe."
"What have they sent you here to do Inquisitor. If you are to be aboard my cruiser, I must know the extent of your potential interventions in my work." Although his voice was mechanical and calculated, you could sense some distress in his monotone language. "Oh, I am not here to hinder your achievements lord Magos, I am simply here to observe as you accomplish your goals. I am but the eyes of the Ordo. But to be able to comprehend the scope of your work here, I need your compliance in helping me understand. And as a servant of the throneworld, you owe me that compliance Regulus."
Stradivaria stood thoughtful for a while. Thinking about how he should translate his thoughts into words. "Four Millennia ago I intercepted a strange signal on the edge of Imperial space. It was not chaos corruption, nor was it the blasphemous signals of any vile xenos. No, it was in fact an Imperial transmission with a strange encryption which I cracked in minutes. It was strange in those days, for the encrypted was designed in such a fashion, I felt that it had been made for me to crack. But stranger yet, was that embedded in the transmission, were memories. Memories from my life of moments that had yet to pass. The transmission also carried one final text. It can be done." Regulus stopped, once again watching the stars through his window. "Continue Magos" The Inquisitor followed. "Upon further research I deducted that the signal was incredibly old and had travelled trillions of lightyears. And that is when I understood it. And that is when my work began. The summaries of my research indicated that in the future I had done it. That I had achieved the unachievable. Not only will I travel through space, but I will also travel through time. So for the last Millennia, I have searched for the fracture in space and time. I have searched for the warp anomaly that will guide us to a galaxy incomprehensibly far away, and to a time eons in the past."
"So if we have found it, what exactly are we waiting for Regulus? Are you afraid of destiny?" The Inquisitor asked sarcastically, not expecting an answer. "There is no concept such as destiny, Inquisitor. There is only mathematics and the Machine-Gods plan."
Chapter three: Eyes of the Inquisition
Light pierced the void as the ship punktured into realspace. Strange light spread across the darkness, bathing the asteroids in the colors of the immaterium. Warp magic corrupted the virgin space as it flowed through the gate. But as suddenly as it had formed, the gate in the void collapsed in on itself, leaving nothing but the looming shadow of Imperial cruiser behind. "My Lords, the transit has been successful. No hull damage detected." "Good. Scan the area for life." Stradivaria answered his crew member. "We cannot detect any- Wait. There seems to be life just nearby as a matter of fact it seems to be… Human life." He continued, speaking as he got the data straight from the sources on the sensorium. "As expected, pin down it's location."
Not far from the void cruiser there was a light, alone flickering among the asteroids. A small station all alone with the rocks, floating in the darkness. At Least, it had been. Now the light was alone, in a world of darkness created by the immense shadow of the Magos own flagship. "Send the skitarii to investigate immediately. They will gather any information that could be valuable to us." The Grand Magos spoke, but he was cut of by the Inquisitor. "I am afraid I will not let you do that. This is why I am here. This is a strictly inquisitorial operation from now on." In outrage, Stradivaria answered. His tone amplified and voice raised. "You have no authority above me on my own ship Inquisitor. This is my great work. I will not have my achievement taken credit for by Cawl or any of his submissives!" "Oh I am afraid I do have the authority. By decree by the most holy Emperor himself. You dare not go against his word, do you Regulus Stradivaria." "This is outrageou-" Stradivaria was stopped before he could finish his sentence. "I will take it from here." A strange feeling rushed through stradivaria. He was struck by fear as well as awe. He felt an intense will to submit to the Inquisitor. "Of Course, my lord Inquisitor." The Inquisitor turned around to face the commanding crew behind him, and raised his voice so all could hear. "I have taken control of this ship on decree of the Ordo Xenos of the most holy Inquisition. From now on, you shall all answer to my orders as if they were spoken by the Emperor himself. Is that clear?" A dull murmur could be here from the crowd. Some clearly more compelled to comply than others. "The Astartes will investigate the station, and the skitarii and mechanicum can do their research whatever is left of whom or what is on that station, if it decides to fight back, is that clear?"
Amos could recognize the feeling of the drop pod exiting the ship immediately as it happened. He had probably been dropped by pod at least half a thousand times, over half a thousand battlefields. He knew exactly when the pod left the safety of the hangar to be shot out into the void, unprotected and fierce, as it pierced whatever atmosphere was dividing the world below from the cold, uncaring space above. With him in the pod were Destissos, Meriburus and Torghel. They were his battle brothers, and had been ever since he was taken by the chapter and had his gene-seed implemented. On hundreds of battlefields had they fought. On in every terrain imaginable. This time, they all sat still as the pod propelled them towards the station, shaking as the unstable rocket booster accelerated them forwards. He was counting down. Twelve seconds he was told it would take for the dropship to reach, and breach the stations hull. Nine seconds left. It was a great honor to be the first in contact with life from another galaxy. The glory of being the first of the chapter to slay a xeno from another place, in another time. Five seconds. He held his bolter firm. Loaded with blessed bolts, sent with him from the armory of macragge itself. Carried away in though as he was, the impact surprised him as he was hit by the sudden violent impact. The ship pierced the outer hull, slowing down as it chewed through steel, cables and isolation with a great drill that had been attached to the pod, ensuring a successful breach.
Smoke poured from severed pipes and tubes, leaking all kinds of glasses used for cooling and refining of precious minerals aboard the mining station. The Friction caused by the Pods entry had cauterized the holes with molten steel, and the station was once again airtight. But in the smoke, Amos and his brothers had already deployed, scouting the area, watching closely as their internal visors searched for heat signals. "Brothers, move out, we must clear the station as fast as possible."
The Astartes marines moved towards the doorway out towards the station corridor, when suddenly, Destioss detected an incoming heat signal. "Brothers, possible hostile" They halted and raised their bolt-rifles into firing position. Amos managed to get a glimpse of the creature just around the corner, as it was waiting for them. His enhanced vision could spot every detail, and his Astartes psychology helped him remember all of them, although he had only seen it for a fraction of a second. The being was a light blue, like a one of the T'au, and it's appearance resembled a classic bipedal human form. One of its hands grasping some sort of xenos firearm. However, its human resemblance ended at the head. Instead of hair, the xenos had two long appendages, like foul tumors dangling and knit behind its head. It's form disgusted Destioss, and in millisecond he had made up his mind. "Xenos scum, straight ahead" He spoke into the vox, and the moment he finished his sentence he fired a bolt towards the wall, which were he knew the xenos was hiding, trusting the rocket propelled, high explosive bolt to pierce it and detonate, killing or mortally wounding the xenos cowering in the corner. The bolt did as intended, and the xenos did not know what had been done, until its body was pierced and violently burst, spreading blood and innards over the walls, floor and roof of the corridor. "Fire was effective, Emperor be blessed." He spoke once more into the vox.
As they entered the corridor, more heat signals were detected, and once again the battle brothers came to a halt, ready for combat. This time however, what stormed into the corridor was not of alien origin. The Astartes were slightly confused as they realized what came through the doorway was in fact human. Not that the astartes had never killed their kin before, they had rooted heresy and other corruption, painting many battlefields red from the blood of fellow humans. However what confused them was that they had not expected human contact in such a distant place, and such a distant time. But these humans were carrying the foul xenos weaponry, and at this moment, they were pointed towards the space marines. The humans fired their weapons, small bursts of superheated plasma discharged towards the Astartes in their enormous hulking power-armor. For a moment Amos was worried that the armor might be pierced, for he knew full well the ferocity and potency of plasma against ceramite, however these blasts did not seem nearly as powerful. The Astartes returned fire.
As the Battle Brothers returned, the Inquisitor was waiting patiently in the launch bay. "Captain Amos, report please." The Astartes had just returned, their armor still covered in blood and dust from the slaughter on the Station. "Is there anything left for the Mechanicum to examine?" He asked them as they approached him. "They can autopsy whatever is left of them. We faced resistance and had to retaliate. Negotiation was not an option." The Inquisitor seemed displeased with his answer. Maybe he wanted prisoners. "However, my lord Inquisitor, they were not all human. There were xenos among their ranks. Humanoids like the Eldar or T'au, and likewise we put them down." "Not all of them. One ship was detected as it fled and escaped using some sort of lightspeed technology." Amos looked confused. "I was not aware of any escapes. He must have been a coward, running from the fight the second we arrived. I can assure you Inquisitor. Every life-form we laid our eyes on was destroyed." "I am sure of it Captain, you did well down there. However fortunately we have discovered more life to be examined. We need to know all we can of this new strange reality before the
invasion fleet arrives." "Sir, the invasion fleet?" "Indeed captain. May the Emperor protect us in this most holy mission."
The last rays of light glimpsed on the horizon as the sun set over the reddish world. A gloomy light settled across its forests and swamplands as the day faded away into night. The crimson lighting only helped strengthen the already present feeling of imposing doom and decay, as if the planet was writhing with dark forces and evil powers. But just as the last glimpses of light dissipated into shadow, a new source lit up the sky. Drop pods burnt through the atmosphere like shooting stars in the night. The pods tumbled through the air at incredible velocity until they finally hit the ground like meteors, with brutal force. The pods deployed and the Astartes Ultramarines within rushed out too secure the perimeter, bio scanners searching and bolt-rifles ready.
After everyone were confirmed to have landed on their prescribed drop sites, the marine company started to make their way through the forest, every move and action in accordance with the Codex Astartes. Leading the spearhead was captain Amos and his brothers, leading the vanguard as they pierced deeper into the unknown. "The forests here remind me of those Illios, this crimson vegetation." Destioss muttered through the vox. "Do not remind me of that campaign brother. I can't get those hellish arthropods out of my damned mind." Torghel answered his brother. "Hopefully we will encounter no such beasts here brother, and even if we did, the entire company is with us. We will cut down anything in our path." Amos answered them, his voice filled with determination and focus.
The Astartes had dropped an approximate 13 kilometers from their target. A small village the scanners onboard the cruiser had spotted on the surface, not far from were the vessel laid in orbit. They did not know if it would retaliate or what technology they had at hand, so they were careful and would lead a vanguard to secure it before the Magos and his skitarii could land, and and do their research.
As they pushed on through the veins and branches of the forests, they could manage to see thin plumes of smoke rising in the distance. It was marvelous how such large warriors managed to move almost in complete silence through the vegetation, an entire company of Marines barely making a noise as they approached the village. As the forest ended, farmlands stretched out over the ground, covering the surface to the small town, but the land was abandoned as the farmers had gone to their families in the evening. And so the Astartes managed to walk across without being noticed.
However, the silence could not be kept forever. A xenos beast that was attached to a small building had uncovered the presence of the company and started a furious barking as it unleashed it's rage at the marines, and soon the entire town was alerted. Hell broke loose as confused men stumbled out of their homes, makeshift slug rifles and old blasters ready as they took cover and foolishly fired upon the Astartes company as they approached through the farmland. However, the Marines did not even seem to care about the incoming fire, as their armor could easily shrug of anything these peasants could muster.
Some marines fired back, their bolters roaring as they shredded buildings as well as the farmers in a slaughter of a battle. Soon the skirmish was over, the resisting forces beaten to a bloodied pulp as the bolter fire had decimated both the defenders, as well as any building they had used as cover. Some were still crawling injured amongst the smoking rubble, but the Astartes put a swift end to them as they cleared through the village. Cowering in the buildings, women were protecting their children, xenos were amongst the humans, the Astartes repulsed by the thought of a human mother caring for an alien.
As they were done clearing the town and making sure all able bodied defenders had been neutralized, before calling the Cruiser over the vox. Not long after, the dropships and landers of the Mechanicum could be seen grazing the sky, their red ships blending in with the dark crimson atmosphere of the world. Dust and rubble blew through the air as the large gunship of the Grand Magos made its landing, hydraulics puffing clouds of pressurized gas as the various suspensions and machineries of his starship landed. The ramp extended, and out of the dark hull came Regulus Stradivaria himself, this time weapons as well as biosensors and probing needles mounted on his machine frame. Behind him the skitarii and tech priests rushed out, followed closely by a swarm of servo-skulls already starting to collect data on the dead bodies covering the surface.
"You have done good here Captain Amos. My Adepts will take it from here." Stradivaria said to the Captain and his squad, ready in the streets of the smoking village. "We have only accomplished our mission here, tell me if our assistance is needed again." Amos answered before signaling his company to board the dropships. The Magos started instructing his probes and servants, but his action was cut short by the landing of another ship. The black vessel of the Inquisitor swooped in for a landing, the Inquisitor entering the scene, taking the attention of everyone around. "Inquisitor" exclaimed the surprised Regulus as the tall Inquisitor exited his ship, closely followed by a guard of well trained praetorians. "You come unannounced." He continued. "Do I need to warn you Magos?" He answered before starting his own examination of the rubble and corpses of slaughtered civilians that laid in the wake of the Astartes onslaught. Already, the Skitarii and other personnel started pulling the remaining survivors out of their crumbling homes, rounding them up in the town square.
"Inquisitor, what action should we take regarding these survivors?" Stradivaria asked the Inquisitor whilst they stood atop a pile of rubble, looking down on the square as the civilians were concentrated and surrounded. "Do as you wish, purge the Xenos." The Inquisitor answered before turning and swiftly returning to his ship. "Harvest the human children. Their genetic material is most likely to be uncontaminated and without mutation. We will match their gene-seed with our own and see if we are truly the same. We have no use for the adults. Purge the Xenos amongst them." Stradivaria called out, his voice greatly amplified to be heard by all servants, and he watched as his servants began to work, separating humans from aliens and children from their families. "The Omnissiah is with us."
Once again the darkness of night was lit up by lasfire as the Skitarii and other servants of the Mechanicum opened fire on the surviving Xenos, the crackling of the firearms heard across the plains and forests.
Chapter Four: War of the Stars
The Cruiser stood in orbit around the moon of the red world, preserving its energy as most of its systems were offline. Some parts of the ship, however, was as awake as ever. The apothecarium was one of these areas. The Magos Biologis were hard at work, probing all and any material the team on-surface had brought back. The robed figures were covered both in machine oils and blood as they worked tirelessly to dissect and extract information from the human children brought back. Many of the children were held in large stowage holds, were some had been put to sleep, whilst others were still screaming from the shock of being abducted by the Magos servants.
The rest of the ship took this opportunity of calm to gather in the great cathedral under the bridge. The light coming through the windows a pale blue, reflected of the lunar surface of the moon of which they laid in orbit. "Once again we gather in prayer." The Ecclesiarch spoke to the crowd as they eagerly listened to his preaching. "Remember, that we are all children of him upon the throne. And that we are chosen by him to do his bidding this far away from our home! We are his holy servants! We are the vanguard of faith in this blasphemous region of the cosmos. Billions will follow the path we pave!" The Ecclesiarch's words were powerful, and he spoke with great enthusiasm. The energy he put into his speech empowered the crowd, and even the Astartes who lined the sides of the great hall, heads bowed, seemed reminded of the great honor they had been given. "We are the Emperors finest, and we will build a home for humanity here. Like the great crusade of old, we will conquer this galaxy, in his name. May he bless us with his vigilance! May the Emperor protect us." He finished, the crowd aroused and rallied.
On the bridge of the cruiser, the Inquisitor and Stradivaria conversed over the topic of how best to bring the human worlds of this new galaxy to compliance. The crew of the bridge were in close coordination with the Sensorium, looking eagerly for the next planet or sector they were to engage. Suddenly, the sensors pinged as it had discovered other vessels not far away. "Give me the coordinates and data." Stradivaria asked his the adepts as he was informed of the situation. "It seems like to xenos voidcraft have engaged in combat, my lord" One of them answered, as he frantically searched his cogitator receiving device for any more details that might satisfy his lords hunger for information. "Where is the engagement taking place." Regulus followed, already planning ahead using his advanced cognition systems to simulate the situation. "The northern side of the planet. They are fighting in orbit." As the adept spoke, Stradivaria had already connected to the radio data-stream, downloading diagnostics and data straight from the sensorium. "If the energy readings are correct, it seems that their weapons are of a low caliber, and the output even when calculating the loss of through thermal radiation, should not be able to damage our craft significantly. I recommend that we too engage now, when we have the element of surprise. Do you agree to this as our course of action, Inquisitor?" Stradivaria asked, and waited as the Inquisitor thought. "Agreed. All men to battlestations!"
Like a lightning, the purple spargs started appearing in the void between the fighting ships, an overwhelming light spreading and blinding the struggling voidcraft. But the warp-lightning only grew in ferocity until it became a full-blown storm, consuming parts of the void until it had formed a gate, from which Stradivarias cruiser emerged, all guns ready and charged for combat. For a moment there was silence, as the combat seized, both both parts confused over the arrival of this new, Alien threat. "Wait until they engage! Let us study for as long as we can!" The Inquisitor ordered, his voice ringing out over the bridge.
Stradivarias flagship drifted further in between the three starships. One had a rounded organic shape, and did not look like its original purpose had been for void-combat. However the other two ships were the strict opposite. They had an aggressive triangular shape, fittet all around with large cannons that were now reaiming at the emerging threat. Then, the cannons on lead triangular craft fired, a rain of green plasma falling towards the Imperial cruiser, but just like rain, it scattered and disappeared as it came in contact with the many layers of Stradivarias powerful void shields. "They have brought this upon themselves." The Inquisitor spoke to himself in a low voice before turning towards his crew. "These blasphemers have engaged us! Let them see who we are! We are the Emperors finest! Let us be rid of the Heretics. Destroy them!"
The moment the Imperial cruiser retaliated the battle turned into a slaughter, as the enormous cannons and energy lances broke all defenses the enemy could muster. The macro-cannons shattered the first xenos vessel like a piece of ice, the space around the impact glowing from the millions of atomized pieces. Stradivarias flagship gave both enemy fleets a double broadside, firing at both flanks in a storm of fury. The Inquisitor watched the spectacle from the bridge command, desperately suppressing the feeling of enormous power, as he watched the blasphemers burning at all sides, debris from the battle already pulled in by the planetary orbit, entire hull sections burning through the atmosphere.
An enemy frigate turned from the battle, powering its engines to the breaking-point in a desperate attempt to escape, but just before it could enter lightspeed, it was swiftly cut in half by a beam of what seemed like solid light, a ray like that of what seemed to be the condensed energy of a star melting through its hull, leaving nothing but two pieces of floating metal slag, the last of the pulsing engines dying as they stopped receiving energy from the severed reactor.
"Deploy the interceptors to destroy any survivors." The Inquisitor ordered staff on-bridge. "Repair any damage to the hull." He followed, waiting for response from the adepts. "My lord, it seems some of them escaped to the world surface by escape pod." One of them answered. "That will be of no concern. Maybe they can spread the word of our arrival."
Proudly, the Voidcraft cruised the field of battle, it's enormous ram shoving what was left of the scattered remnants of the twin fleets out of the way.