Segmentum Pacificus

Anastasia Sector

Trykon System

Hive World Trykon

7.986.057M40

Sector Governor-General Korun Heyvar

The best part of retirement, the former Lord General Militant decided for the umpteenth time, was the incredibly comfortable furniture.

No more hard seats and harder beds. No matter if it was a Chimera or a Baneblade, a camp-stool, a Valkyrie, a regional barracks or a Munitorum troop transport, they all seemed designed with malice aforethought to make you want to be elsewhere, angry enough to shoot first and never ask any questions. Murder on the back and neck, never mind the buttocks when you're idling for hours in a cramped space. He wondered very briefly if that was a requisite part of Inquisition training for its attack dogs.

The plushness and wonder-working tech behind those incredibly comfortable massaging chairs and those perfect beds, it worked positive miracles for his body, spirit and mind, almost as much as the rejuvenation.

Most plebs probably imagined sumptuous feasts as a great attraction of wealth and position, but Governor-General Korun had acquired a real taste for the ramen-flavored rations bars Vista provided the regiments with, with the clam chowder flavor taking second place. The goulash wasn't bad, and then there was teriyaki, hot and sour, and…

His cooks were completely scandalized, and his guests never knew. The jokes from his personal guards never stopped, but he didn't give a damn. Admittedly, three a day were meant for an active guardsman rather than a desk-cooped Governor-General who had considerably too much paperwork and official audiences to handle, and he was starting to get a bit thick around the middle.

There was no time to even think about an exercise regimen, alas.

"Inquisitor, Lord Admiral, Lord General, High Magos," he merely nodded at the SDF and PDF commanding officers who answered directly to him. He preferred not to even think about the Lord Commissar.

"The latest craziness from Vista is completely unexpected and a bit much," he smiled slightly when even the hard-bitten Inquisitor reacted. "We are gathered here to see what Vista needs," he nodded at the magos managing the entirety of the system's industry and infrastructure, including the astropathic relays and shipyards, "and what we can send without exposing the sector. High Magos?"

Every eye turned to the tall silver-masked woman in stylized plate-armor bearing the gold sunburst bursting out of a silver cog on its breasplate, blue-black hair spilling behind her to float just above the lush purple carpet in a faintly-luminous waterfall, two scandalously cute, fat, gem-eyed silver-blue sheened metallic birds replacing the customary servo-skulls hovering above each of her shoulders.

"First in order, there are no predicted threats to the sector for next three years, that's as far as we could see," Milene Tyrosh Sigma-K8 remarked. "We can use most anything you can send, no need to quibble about that. We don't know exactly what is coming, that is veiled, but it's sure to be monstrous. Oh, no artillery, reconnaissance or light regiments, the first would need void-protection to be of use and are of very limited utility on space assets, the latter would be slaughtered for little return."

"That bad?" Lord General Jonas Kline blinked.

"Considering classic Chaos patterns, they open up with swarms of mutants, heretics, infected abominations and broken slaves, followed by traitor-guard units. Light regiments can make their mark there, and mostly only there, as the main combatants are daemon engines and traitor marines, stiffened with dreadnaughts, fallen knights and chaos titans.

"Winnowing the chaff can be left to heavy turrets, war servitors and kill-automata, of which there is a plenitude, and they will not run out of ammunition. The price paid in human lives for such regiments would be… inefficient," Governor-General Korun managed not to snort at the rationalization of basic humanity.

Admittedly, sending heavy-armored troops would not be a problem, given the twelve system-based manufactorums producing six hundred thousand Vista-pattern void-sealed carapace bio-armors every single week without fail. The most impossible part of that armor was its ability to repair itself, just by immersing the damage part in a solution of water, salt and the nutrient bars supplied to guardsmen.

"Thirty-six million heavy and siege infantry," the Lord General said curtly after consulting his data slate.

"The Ferren shipyards will complete the construction of two battle-cruisers, seven cruisers, twelve light cruisers and forty-one escorts within the next year. That much can be safely sent, as an absolute minimum," SDF Admiral Harkken Ernst offered.

"Considering the completion of the last wave of planned monitors last year and the added strike-hangers for the X-wings, I think we can double that or a bit more, depending on what the Navy sends," his deputy raised his own opinion.

"If you do that, I can triple the strike-wings in four years and add ten heavy defense stations," the High Magos nodded sharply. "Even entirely without a mobile fleet, it would make for a formidable defense. Approximately three times what is likely to be needed in the next five centuries."

"The Inquisition conclave for the Anastasia, Ferren and Kursis sectors has very little to send," Inquisitor Tersson admitted with obvious reluctance. "We're at the tail-end of the supply chain, and we've barely managed to build a proper network. A regiment or three of stormtroopers with four Ordo Malleus inquisitors and their retinues, a grand cruiser, three cruisers, eight light cruisers and nineteen escorts."

Went unsaid was the local Inquisition's self-imposed limits, to accept nothing from Vista. Wisely, in his opinion, as the Governor was well aware of how little he could do against those Forge Worlds, and how long he would last if he attempted anything of the sort. Most of his own children were taking lessons in their academies, at the insistence of his wives.

"The squadrons we can send have already been mobilized," Lord Admiral Meynar Gentes declared pompously, with an accompanying wave of his arm. The noble-looking man whose lapel should have sagged under the weight of brightly polished medals could give a speech with his hands alone, and was infamous for accidently killing nine crewman by talking too wildly.

For all that, the Hydraphur-appointed admiral was mostly competent, if a major blow-hard. His tales of boarding actions seemed to grow ever more bloody the more he shared them, and he was never too shy for yet another retelling to spread word of his 'martial valor'.

Seducing the favored daughter of the local Pontifex-Mundi had inflated his ego by an unhealthy degree, and the feud between the Navy and the Ministorum was an ongoing headache. Even the local Arbites were growing weary of jailing shore-parties and congregants of the Imperial Cult, especially during the Sanguinala celebrations or the Saint-day of Reclamation, when everyone went a bit too wild and property damage soared.

"Two battleships, four Overlord-class battle-cruisers, eleven Lunars, eighteen light cruisers and seventy escorts. That's the most that will allow us to keep up patrols, if just barely, and leave one battlegroup centered on my Admiral Katarina," the Emperor-class battleship had recently completed a refit, and its primary weapon, squadrons of Fury Interceptors and Starhawk Bombers, would find little favor with Vista in any case. The High Magos had certainly made her opinion clear on these 'outdated platforms', several times.

The Imperial Navy's contingent might sound like a small affair, but in practice it wasn't. The worlds supported by Vista had outsized SDF forces they could easily maintain with locally trained tech-adepts, while the Navy assigned to his sector had relatively few examples of Vista-produced starships, most having been purchased by distant, more wealthy or heavily-embattled sectors.

It also meant that the patrols were a sop to the Navy's pride rather than a true necessity, with only the heavy-weight battleships necessary to hold back a serious assault. The various SDF did a lot of 'regional training exercises' and were frequently seconded to the Navy.

"Forge Tanelorn will provide the logistical support," the High Magos announced. "Just relay your needs, the sooner the better. Little time remains to us before the battle begins."


Ultima Segmentum

Korolis Sector

Orbit of Hive World Dantriss

Covenant-class Macro-Transport

7.013.058M40

Second Grade Tech Adept Helior Mustrav

From the abominable collection of the moronic slaves of Darkness, the Khornate berserkers were his personal favorites. Just offer them a fight and win it, and there you are, done with that brand of madness. Given the disparity in firepower and the Warp-shattering power of the daughters of light or harnessed blanks, Vista forces rarely had any problems achieving victory.

The Nurglites were disgustingly pathetic and genuinely unpleasant to deal with, and Excess cultists were almost as bad, leaving a lingering bad taste that took a while to fade. Dealing with every last one of them was occasionally difficult, as they tended to scatter in shock once the hammer fell, and a single missed heretic was a seed of corruption that could birth endless trouble.

There was a reason inquisitors had a perfectly justified reputation for excessive murder-violence and planetary annihilation.

It was the schemer-sorcerers that always gave him a headache, since he could never quite understand what they were plotting for. It was a basic issue of cognitive dissonance that he wasn't sorry for, since he didn't really want to get into their heads, but logic simply didn't function well when trying to catch them all.

The local hive world the Ghosts he was supporting worked on served as a good example.

Blood cultists would have tried a straight-forwarded memetic infestation of the Arbites and PDF, followed by a violent uprising. Filth cultists would have infected the laborers and underhivers, forming a horde of contagious and hard-to-kill abominations. The sybarites would have tempted the upper ranks: The nobles, Administratum, Ecclesiarchy and the top ranks of the armed forces, taking overt control.

It was their standard modus operandi, predictable, logical, playing to their strengths, almost as easily countered as the Ultramarines who slaved according to their Sacred Codex.

These Alpha Legion agents, corrupted by the Abomination of Lies had… no, he still didn't really know what their plan was. It involved sorcerous rituals, presumably for mass summoning of Daemons.

But the architecture of the ritual locations made no sense.

The sacrifices and reagents were mixed and faulty.

There were eighty-one internal betrayals that resulted in more cultists killing each other, even a couple of traitor marines falling to krak grenades and melta charges, than Vista's forces had managed to remove.

It was stupid, senseless, contra-logical.

The worst thing about the idiotic, backstabbing schemers was that their failures sometimes rebounded into a twisted success of sorts, killing or corrupting billions. If he had any hair left, he'd have torn it all away in absolute frustration.

The plasma-driller on his fifth mechadendrite melted the servitor-skull that popped up from the service-chute. The sergeant's multi-melta finally disintegrated a sufficiently-sizable passageway through the wall, and he sent in twelve spider drones on each vector – above, on each side and in direct pursuit, skittering on the metallic ground with deliberately-audible clicking noises. Records indicated that psychological attacks were surprisingly successful against schemer-type cultists.

Fourteen cultists and a sorcerer fell to a concentrated barrage of volkite-fire and plasma bursts. Burning heretics and their belongings was the best method to ensure no corruption remained, and doing it in battle saved a lot of follow-up work and removed the chance for 'luck' to work against them.

Battering down the six Alpha Legionnaires was more difficult, since the one closest to them had a ready storm shield. The results weren't pretty, with nine dead Ghosts, cut to pieces by power-weapons backed by space-marine superior strength augmented by the servo-muscles of the warp-tainted and densely-spiked Mark IV Maximus-pattern power armors, and twenty-two wounded, eight having lost limbs.

Ghosts and most tech-adepts were well trained in the art of war, but space-marines were created for that purpose by the Omnissiah himself, many with centuries of experience, so it was a fair enough trade. Besides, the arms and legs would grow back in a few months, and the lessons concerning 'dodge, don't block' where space-marines were concerned might actually sink in this time.

For guardsmen, what does not kill usually cripples, but Vista operatives played by a different set of rules.

Omnissiah's blessing, four of the traitor marines had intact craniums, quickly stored in stasis. The arts of the Progenitor-Heretek would be used once more, and at long last Vista would have the play-book the Alpha Legion used. The loss of ten hives of Dantriss' size and more would be worth that price.

"Status?" came the curt coded demand from Magos Telvaria Asterik-14, slightly distorted due to distance and atmospheric interference.

"Heretic leadership annihilated, the last of the rats are cornered. Estimated time for purification: Zero-six hours, four-eight minutes. Situation below?"

"Pacified. Three hive-spires purified of their heretic-traitor lords, the Lord Coronal and false saint disintegrated, PDF and Arbites alerted and deployed. Three to four months of hunting should be sufficient to clear the taint. ETA of reinforcement from Forge Terrawat is eleven days. Inquisitor Hester should recover wits and some mobility in approximately four days. Navy and SDF report of completely suppressed rebellions. Stealth frigate destroyed, two Thunderhawks captured and ritually melted. Good hunting and report on completion," the twelve-times ciphered burst-communique ended.

Good hunting indeed. He and the remains of the platoon would stay and fortify, guarding those heads in stasis with the ugly blank-underhiver in his augmentive null-armor, skulls full of so many answers.

Khornate cultists, he chuckled to himself.


Segmentum Obscurus

Border of Estravian Sector

Space Station Brass Idol

Docked Instigator-class Battle-cruiser Fist of Iron

7.998.057M40

Pirate Admiral Avriss 'Ironfists' Devayne

The corpse-worshipping nobles had good taste, Lord Ironfists admitted, at least in food.

Intercepting that transport headed to the paradise world of Greenholme had been his best gamble this decade, with the stasis-held luxury food sufficient to provide him with wondrous meals for the next hundred years. It would also be a wonderful performance motivator for all the lazy layabouts, with the way his lieutenants were gobbling the contents of their plates in a distinctly mannerless hunger for the finer things in life.

They were sure to remember this meal, and his announcement that another such celebratory meal would be held after each triumph would shine brightly in their memory.

After a mighty burp, he clapped plasteel-ceramite alloyed fists together, the loud clang shutting down the bickering and posturing pirate captains were so prone to.

"Comrades! We've raided, we've rested, we've celebrated! Now it's time for out next target!"

"Vista! Vista! Vista!" several voices shouted.

"Campor, tell us, is it a good idea to join this 'Black Crusade' for the crumbs they'll let us pick?" his wording was quite telling. Lord Ironfists wouldn't spit on a dying space marine, no matter what god the abomination followed. Their condescension still burned him, even if the loss of his hands no longer did.

The renegade heretek from whom even the most black-hearted pirates kept a distance, his unsavory experiments on human young granting him an infamous reputation even with the worst of the Night Lords, rose from his seat with a creak of metal and the hissing release of noxious orange-purple gas whose flickering effulgence caused two fat pirates to reel back and puke.

After a pair of lasbolts from a ceiling turret incinerated the fools who dirtied his hall's carpet, Campor huffed and responded, "Calculating..."

Two minutes later he was done, and his metallic intonation sent a shiver through Ironfists' spine, the whine and creaks of the cleaning servitors making the cacophony particularly jarring to the ear.

"Prospects are ninety-six percent of utter annihilation, two percent capture and execution, less than one percent successful escape of more than ten percent of us."

"Explain," Captain Marduk 'Fire-eye' demanded.

"Vista defenses are maximal. All raiders and pirates are always used by Astartes as torpedo-soakers and lance-fodder. Surely this is obvious?" the genuine confusion in the renegade tech-priest's voice had Ironfists chuckling.

"Tell me, boys, is he wrong? Do you think those freaks respect you and will give you any scraps if you beg and fawn enough? They think we're weak, useless for anything other than a fire sponge or bait. Remember Helbrook? Festerspit? Connacht? Lostinger? They chose to work with those freaks. I'm sure I don't need to tell you where they are now," he laughed bitterly.

"The question is, can we afford not to go on this wonderfully exciting adventure," Marduk wasn't shy about voicing the real problem. "You know what forces they've already mustered here, and this is just one of corpse-knows how many fleets. That's six battle-barges, the four battleships, I think there's almost sixty cruiser-tonnage and maybe two hundred lesser ships. Nothing any band here can get away from, let alone fight. And they control the station defenses."

"Campor, what's the plan?"

The heretek might be a vile stain even grox wouldn't lick, but his twisted logic and utter ruthlessness had saved this band more than once.

"Probability of success: Seventy-three percent. First we…"


Segmentum Pacificus

Ordana Sector

Ordana System

Hive World Ordana

7.992.057M40

Lady Inquisitor Shyrella Tellis, Ordo Malleus

The Ordana system was unusual in that it contained four hive worlds, a mining world, two agri-worlds and nineteen moons suitable for food production or resource mining.

This made it a natural capital, and in fact it was the administrative capital of the Ordana Star Field, answering directly to Hydraphur. A full nine of the great hives were dedicated to Administratum work, and neighboring systems held three Archive Worlds and two secondary administration hubs.

Even so, an inquisitorial gathering of such size was a rare and unusual occurrence.

Rare and unusual to match the times, Shyrella frowned.

The discovery of a full and undamaged STC database could be an incredible boon to the Imperium, assuming Mars managed to retrieve it unharmed, and actually used its bounty rather than spending six millennia analyzing its contents and basking in its presence, like Feudal-world barbarians circle-dancing around a sun-totem representing the God-Emperor's light and benevolence.

It would be a vexing conundrum, given the existence of the Emperor-blessed Treaty of Olympus, if not for the fact that like the first tech-bounty it found, Vista was free to sell its contents outside Segmentum Solar, to all those not under the sanction of Mars and the Mechanicus.

Other than Stygies VIII, of course.

The Inquisition had purchased many things from Vista, part and parcel of the process of guaranteeing its right to produce Navigators, Astropaths and other trained psykers in undisturbed discretion. It was far from the greatest secret the Inquisition kept up its sleeves, though given the Emperor-touched nature of all its psykers, it came close.

There were many voices opposing the move and shouting for Exterminatus, but they grew fewer and feebler as the agreement proved its worth. The anti-warp gear, the weapons, armor, ships and recruits Vista provided, all were a proven boon of surprising utility and unsurpassed quality.

There was a bit of competition to recruit one of those girls as an acolyte.

Their training made them heavily-equipped and able combatants with varied psyker powers, their purity unquestionable and capable of detecting and burning heretics, and they were notably more adept at tech-dealing than the ordinary Mechanicus-recruited support, not to mention considerably more comprehensible and helpful. They were highly trained medicae to boot, one and all, and possessed deep databases and computation engines of high capability.

Even more admirable were their minds. The convoluted plots they came up with, the ridiculous scenarios… all too often investigating such brought about results. They were more paranoid and less trusting than veteran inquisitors, even the younger ones. Perhaps they should send veteran agents and interrogators to Vista-forges for advanced training, it would also be an opportunity to upgrade their equipment.

In fact, she knew of eleven golden girls, as they were no-longer-contemptuously called, that were promoted to full Inquisitor status in the most recent decade, though all were sent off to Tempestus, to avoid any chance of collusion with Vista – though mostly to alleviate pressure from the rigid, disapproving conservative voices.

Most surprising was the lack of grasping materialism, or any noted attempt to twist the deal or escape the grip of the Inquisition on the Forge Worlds' neck. Quite the opposite, Vista-forges provided more than they were asked for, both in volunteers and tech-systems. It was… uncanny, unsettling, very much out of the ordinary.

Vista didn't even ask for any favors. That at least made sense, as given its resources, there was little the Inquisition could grant it other than legitimacy. Its direct support of the Death Watch against Orks and Eldar was notable, but Vista's abhorrence for both xenos species was old news.

"… nine regiments of Cadian Shocktroopers, the 14th and 129th Sersalla strike regiments of the Tempestus Scions, with the Corinus-class Grand Cruiser Memory in Red and its escorts," the Lord Inquisitor managing the affairs of the Cortissan Sector ended his short speech.

The listing of forces contributed continued for yet another hour, all of them already on their way to the battleground. It was a daunting amount of firepower, an impressive display of the Inquisition's resources.

A loud explosion sounded in the near distance.

"Interrogator Lisette Guyar," the old yet still upright Lord Inquisitor conducting the assemblage cut through the susurrus of voices.

"An air-car packed with frag-grenades and melta-charges, stolen from the armory of the 678th PDF regiment seventeen hours ago," the clear voice was oddly soothing, the woman in heavy-duty power armor clearly from Vista, the golden glow about her form was sufficient to inform even the dimmest acolyte of such.

"The trail allowed us to roll up four cults, including that slippery Pontifex. A hunter-killer missile from redoubt Zed-19 took it out, as the other four watch-posts in that direction are under assault by underhive gangs and a curious mix of noble scions and priests. Gunships have sallied from Koratis air-base to end the heretics, ETA two minute and three seconds. Any questions?" the Vista-born Interrogator raised a brow.

"Can you tell us anything about the defenses prepared in Vista?" she just had to ask.

"Other than them being overkill and heavily layered, knowing how mother works, very little," Lisette frowned. "There are the outer defense, the mid-field and the inner defenses. Expect a great many monitors, starforts, mine fields and most especially starfighters. Mother is inordinately fond of the Starfire X-wing for some reason, and it is admittedly a very formidable ship and starfighter exterminator.

"Sorcerers and daemons are expected, so there will be countermeasures for them and any rituals. The nature of such are beyond me, but they are likely to utilize a high degree of unstable Warp-tech, turning chaos against itself. It works surprisingly well when you're fast and vicious enough," the no-doubt future inquisitor smiled, "since they don't expect it."

The girl was good, but Shyrella was experience enough to know that there was more to it, and this Lisette would not speak of what she knew.

It was all she needed, Emperor's-truth. Overkill was good.