Segmentum Tempestus

Koratis Sector

Estiar Sub-sector

Hive World Megalla


Lord Marshal Zilkar Singh froze in horror as seven missiles homed in on his position, each released from a discrete launch-location from the northern-most of the three small hives surrounding the Megalla Ordinax spaceport, easily discerned against the darkly-fogged twilight sky.

The flicker of las-beams from point-defense stations resulted in the fiery bloom of five mid-air explosions, despite the erratic course of the hunter-killer missiles and a distance of less than ten kilometers.

Uttering a last prayer to the God-Emperor kept his thoughts from being consumed by chaos and vulgarity, and he unconsciously frowned at the svelte figure of Magos Lyssera Minos-Capri, who'd taken three steps forward, before… jumping upwards?

The dual explosions occurred so close to each other he could not distinguish between them, only the protective sound diffusers in the helmet of his Metallica-crafted power armor allowing him to retain his hearing and keeping blood from flooding it from shattered ear-drums.

To his astonishment, the blasts failed to so much as move him, despite the eruption of brightness that polarized his visor. When he could see again, the light from the many projectors in the open portions of the spaceport was occluded by one of the war-walkers he'd heard so much about.

It was inky black in color, with gold sigils whose meaning was presumably comprehensible only to the Mechanicus, besides the golden starburst and silver cog symbol of Vista. The two legs were nearly taller than him and only superficially similar to those of the familiar Sentinel scout-walker, or the more heavily armored and armed combat-variant, he was reasonably certain, and there was a fluidity about its motion and appearance that screamed of a lethal predator.

Admittedly, a lot of that had to do with the ridiculous amount of weaponry sported by the near four-meter tall war machine, and the hazy ripple betraying the active forcefield protecting it. Not that the missiles had reached that far – each had slammed into one of the two huge storm shields held firmly in the grip of a small nest of mechadendrites.

A blinding flare of golden light, and the war-suit was gone, the golden-haired and silver-masked magos walking back to him, seemingly not even slightly disturbed by the incident.

"Lord Marshal, you have yet to communicate if you prefer to start your review with artillery, armor, siege specialists, engineering, heavy infantry, mechanized infantry, a recon or a drop regiment, or our version of the aeronautica? We cannot proceed without a decision," the tone of the remarkably pleasant voice was carefully neutral, but the Marshal wasn't born yesterday, and even without a face to read or discernible body language, the annoyance was almost palpable.

Of course, the damnable Mechanicus bastards were at fault here. Their hold on the starport above was clearly inadequate, or he wouldn't have lost his entire staff to a teleporting party of rebels led by a cursed daemon engine, a third dead and the remainder now ensconced aboard the hospital ship Hippocrates. Their information security was terrible.

It did not occur to him that such leaks might be entirely deliberate.

"We'll start with reconnaissance," his voice was mostly steady, and he mentally thanked the God-Emperor for the recent rejuvenation he'd received prior to the beginning of this odious assignment, from this magos' very superior in fact, specifically so he could 'keep up with the troops'.

With the Tech-Guard from Voltron V being the sole imperial force stemming the tide of this heretical rebellion, most mobile sector forces having been diverted to deal with several large incursions of orks and a group of pirates taking advantage of the diversion of ships and troops, his backup was non-existent.

He'd already figured out that Vista troops did not get six hours of sleep a night under combat conditions, and the Tech-Guard soldiers he's spoken with on the transport were both overly enthusiastic and utterly green outside of their experience inside their admittedly sophisticated simulators. The officers and squad commanders did, however, seem to know what they were about.

This was going to be bloodier than usual, he figured. Opening his mouth to ask his 'guide' what exactly they were waiting for, his teeth clicked shut when the large, ornate and heavily armed speeder landed silently in front of them, its two seats empty.

"This a command-variant Vista-pattern Javelin Attack Speeder, with two seats," the Magos informed him with a hint of pride in her voice. "It has two forward weapon mounts, a plasma cannon and a volkite caliver on this one, another two on the sides with lascannons, a pintle mounted twin-linked heavy bolter, and two missile-hives each with twelve hunter-killers. A standard Tech-Guard recon battalion has ninety-six of these, including twelve command models, as well as six hundred jet-bikes of which sixty are command models. Much like a standard tank regiment, which has ninety-six superheavies and six hundred Sicaran battle tanks of several variants.

"We will be joining the nine-twenty-eighth 'Star Striders' recon regiment in the Osson hive, whose void shields collapsed yesterday morning, with the walls breached three hours ago. It is presently on sabotage and head-hunter duties, and its losses stand at less than four percent. Any questions?"

It is of particular importance for every Imperial Guard commander to realize that despite their appearance and superficial behavior, the Tech-Guard answering to the various Vista-forges is not composed of humans, but of augmented killer-machines similar to traditional Mechanicus Skitarii, but biological in nature.

In some ways, they resemble a lesser version of space-marines, at least in theory – I have never personally had the honor of fighting besides the Angels of Death. Do not be fooled by their seeming conviviality, these creatures are less tolerant of heresy or undutiful behavior than your commissar and can survive direct hits from autocannon fire while in carapace armor, at least in part due to the ubiquity of force shields amongst their ranks.

Their infantry is at least two meters tall and unnaturally tough and strong, further reinforced with an exoskeleton system, while their tank, gunship pilots and artillery servitors are smaller but no less capable. Their equipment invariably cannot be used by most unaugmented humans, with some exceptions possible for men in power armor and ogryns.

For example, their recon regiments use jet-bikes and assault speeders whose speed and maneuverability are such that the human mind is not capable of using more than thirty-percent of their power, never mind also firing the copious weapons attached to them with any degree of accuracy while in violent motion. And no, power armor is of no assistance in such cases.

The tanks are even worse, automated to a ridiculous degree with a single driver-commander-gunner, other than the command versions which possess room for a second person. They cannot be operated without a mind-machine interface.

Strangely, the same is not true for Vista's Chimera-equivalent, which is somewhat larger and is even more cramped than expected, each accommodating two twelve-men infantry squads, in standing and prone positions (strapped and positioned in tightly spaced bunk-beds, insulated from blunt trauma), in addition to a driver. The vehicle's six heavy weapons which are meant to be used by its infantry complement have manual backup triggers, though I found them awkward and difficult to use since I lack an 'internal calculation engine', 'wired reflexes', 'perception filters' and an 'augmented reality interface'.

Power armor would allow one to use their heavy siege guns, as well as the Vista-pattern Hydra anti-air variant which employs lasers rather than shells, their Basilisk variants or the Solar-class self-propelled plasma artillery, since they include manual overrides, but accuracy would be heavily compromised without specific expertise, which I lack the experience to specify. Appended are pict-casts and vid of the relevant instrumentation, as well as a Mechanicus-provided operator's guide.

The infantry weapons employed by the Tech-Guard require power armor or an exoskeleton (which provides the strength increase of power armor, without the attendant protective plates), with very few exceptions, such as the smaller grenades, or some of the lighter pistol-equivalent close-range weapons which can be used by strong guardsmen two-handed.

I was informed that the Vista-forges already have versions of many such weapons, tools and vehicles made for Guard regiments, and it is in fact those used by regiments of loyal worlds trading with Vista-forges which have made the impact resulting in my investigative mission.

… and their heavy infantry 'breacher' squads have turned it into a work of mechanical precision, with their advance auspex and drones somehow pinpointing the location of traitors inside. Melta charges, krak missiles, as well as sonic, plasma or gravitic cannons create passageways where walls stood, photon or sonic grenades disorient for capture or straightforward attack where the traitors lack heavy weapons, or plasma grenades and kill-drones are used directly.

Where the walls are thin and the traitors few, precision shots are made for direct kills through the walls with terrifying efficiency and accuracy I would not have believed possible had I not seen it myself, using specialized bolter-rounds or lascannons and plasma weapons somehow tuned to narrow, penetrating lance-like beams.

… fruits of the famous STC database. It is called the 'Sunblade', a dialable meter to a meter and a half long eruption of volatile plasma held coherent by an energy field of golden hue, emerging from a wrist-long rod hilt of black-gold, an energy-blade that can cut through power armor. Used in close combat by preference even to power weapons among the Tech-Guard troopers, only around a quarter of the combatants are issued this impressive melee weapon, as it is just as dangerous to its wielder and their allies as it is for the enemy.

The magos escorting me was surprised by how adept I proved in its employment, qualifying for its use in a mere twenty-six days of intermittent training. The gifted Sunblade, bearing the Green Crane on White of the Singh clan of Adelterre, is something I am sure my heirs will cherish. Experienced bladesmen should have no trouble qualifying for its use, as we are already aware of how dangerous an unsheathed weapon can be.

Another common-use weapon is the Stinger missile launcher, imparting a hefty acceleration to the large variety of guided rockets in use by the Tech-Guard, available in quantity even to infantry squads due to the hefty carrying capacity of the 'mule' and 'goat' automata.

… impossibly accurate shots made on the move. With the protection of forcefields and active defenses detonating melta charges, krak missiles and grenades before they can reach the hull, in addition to their maneuverability, incredibly heavy armor somehow energized to resist melta-weaponry and the ability to fire on the move with machine-like precision, losses are rare for Tech-Guard tank regiments, which explains the use of a single driver-commander-gunner.

Damage capable of causing injury is considerably less frequent than 'total loss condition' and would require little repair-maintenance, as such damaged tanks are very rarely incapable of keeping up with their peers. Given the medicae expertise of Vista-forges, flesh is usually mended well before metal and bioplas.

While the infantry losses taken while quelling the heretical rebellion were on the order of eighteen percent, the twelve tank regiments took less than two percent losses. Admittedly, given the intense fighting in the hives there were limited opportunities to deploy these regiments, but in my opinion they would only take fewer casualties in open-field battles, the arena for which they are properly optimized.

The tank commanders openly admitted that their vehicles were not best suited to urban or hive-warfare, and regarded their tanks as primitive, explaining that Vista was currently rolling out a line of optimized grav-tanks, and that their machines were obsolete dregs to be phased-out within a few decades.

The capabilities described for these grav-vehicles were more in line with a heavily armored gunship with a ceiling of eight hundred meters than a mere tank, with speed and control approaching that of a jet-bike, with both ordinary 'grav-tanks' and superheavy variants being approximately fifteen percent larger, with correspondingly heavier armor and weapons-load. I do not know if they are void-capable.

… with the very notion of their reliability being laughable. But I was wrong, God-Emperor witness!

Somehow, the whispers I heard it was due to the direct intervention of a Living Saint, the battle-psykers of the Tech-guard are utterly incorruptible and shine with the God-Emperor's brilliant light. When the Mechanicus turns to psyker powers and considers them reliable, I have no words, truly.

It was only after I learned that Vista has two specialties, that things clarified somewhat – most know only of their highly advanced medicae, regeneration and rejuvenation treatments, but few know that they produce the most reliable Gellar Fields and actually sell teleportariums. Psy-tech is an esoteric and mostly forbidden field, and for very good reasons.

For all the numbers, dedication and capabilities of their automata, troops and advanced machines, it was the numerous battle-psykers that allowed for a victory over such a widespread and deeply entrenched heretical rebellion in a mere three years, without the complete collapse of the planetary economy and near depopulation of the entire hive world.

… is quite simply true, if anything it is an understatement. More than a third of my staff was killed in a reckless teleportation assault by heretics and hereteks on the space station, and the survivors were grievously injured. Imagine my surprise when a mere two months later all were not merely restored to full health, but had all of their lost limbs regrown back.

It seems more the realm of witchcraft than a capability of the biologically-inclined portion of the Mechanicus, but I saw it with mine own eyes. Many Tech-Guard troopers also returned to combat after suffering injuries that would have killed a Catachan Jungle Warrior, and I was informed that they have internal medicae suites and a full pharmacopeia, whatever that means.

This is not an accusation that my Vista guide refused to explain the intricacies of these marvels. Quite the opposite, the magos was quite eager to explain everything, for hours on end. Unfortunately, in the best case I understood one word in fifteen, and the context was entirely incomprehensible. It is my earnest advice to never ask a tech-adept or magos from any Vista-forge for an explanation of anything technical, for you will receive considerably more than you asked for, and emerge none the wiser, rather considerably more confused.

… are used for nearly every purpose one can imagine, and this is not something a Guard regiment can imitate without numerous enginseers received from Vista-forges. There is a bewildering variety of these drones, from finger-sized spy-drones to tank-sized kill-bots unleashed on enemy concentrations. The tech-adepts of Vista have an unpleasant fondness for horrific looking spider-limbed automata, which are all too common in use.

There are repair and recovery drones, medicae drones, shield drones, construction drones, surveillance drones, communication-relay drones, all in addition to a large variety of battle and support automata. The 'mules' are of particular note, as the four-legged grox-sized things allow infantry squads to carry more than twenty times the ammunition they would normally be able to, allowing for repeated volleys of missiles and mortars against field fortifications and enemy war-machines, and unmatched battle-endurance. There is also a smaller 'goat' variant, meant for traversing more challenging terrain.

… which is only to be expected. Every single heavy infantry regiment is reinforced by a dozen knights and supported by a dozen gunships. The knights of Vista are in no way connected to any noble house, being manned by experienced tech-adepts, and strangely are all of a single type, a variant produced solely by Vista-forges known as the Knight Slayer. Like every vehicle and soldier serving this Forge World, it is heavily armored, fast and agile, protected by force fields, and its armaments are beyond what even such a large war-walker should be able to support.

Voltron-V did not field any God-Machines, and it is quite possible that it does not possess a titan legion, at least as of yet. Titans being most useful in breaking the initial and outer defenses of hives, their size and terrible weapons resulting in massive destruction and casualties if they are fielded inside the densely-built hives, thus precluding their participation in such operations unless their commanders are indifferent to the lives of Imperial civilians.

Given the heavy batteries of the siege and artillery regiments and the decisive support of the aeronautica, the lack of titans did not impact the course of battles. The aeronautica of Voltron V, notably multiple squadron of Starfires and Darts, as well as numerous heavily armed gunships, were more than sufficient to bring down void shields and the most obdurate fortifications, with the assistance of artillery, siege guns, limited orbital bombardment and sabotage operations performed by Ghost elites.

The artillery…

… with a facility I've not encountered in my experience with siege warfare. The burrower vehicles of the Mechanicus advanced with both speed and disturbing silence, and produced a succession of stable tunnels that allowed for infantry assaults from below, as drop troops struck above and armored columns drove past shattered forts. This combination assault, together with the strikes against command nodes and armories via teleported assault squads, swift-riding recon companies, infiltrated Ghost elites or direct psyker attacks, was something no defensive measures I'm familiar with can withstand.

… are newly introduced, within the last two decades, based on the newly discovered STC templates. Preferring to relegate the Starfires to exo-planetary duties, Vista introduced the Dart air-superiority fighter/bomber. Merely twenty-two meters long, compared to the seventy-two meters of a Starfire X-wing, the aircraft has a central heavy weapon, a titan-killing volcano cannon similar to those used by the Falchion super-heavy tank, four twin-linked heavy bolters and can unleash a full forty-eight missiles and five plasma bombs.

It cannot match the speed or shrouding measures of a Starfire, but its smaller size allows for a very different use-doctrine – not to mention that it is much cheaper and easier to produce, every Tech-Guard division having a full wing attached.

Tech-Guard standard divisions are each formed of a singular armor and drop regiment, two each of reconnaissance, artillery and mechanized infantry regiments, and four heavy infantry regiments. Vista's troop transports are specifically constructed to transport such divisions, which include around eighty-four thousand personnel.

Note that the Tech-Guard does not include regiments purpose built for anti-air operations, as most all regiments have integrated anti-air vehicles and missiles. Artillery and mechanized infantry have laser Hydra vehicles, while heavy infantry regiments use Onager Dunecrawlers, armored regiments have Arcus Strike Tanks, even the recon regiments have missiles for that purpose.

… make their logistics incredibly simple. Double the size of a Baneblade, these vehicles contain a miniature sacred forge that allows the enginseers to make repairs and produce replacement parts for the vast majority of the weapons, armor and vehicles in the order of battle of every Tech-Guard regiment, including its gunships and grav-vehicles. Not merely engines, fusion power-plants, armor plates, grav-plates, lascannon focusing lenses and barrels, but even the production of new bolter ammunition, automata, missiles, artillery shells, mines and grenades is possible.

The combination of 'local resource reclamation and repurposing' with the mule automata attached to the heavy infantry regiments allows for unprecedented independence from extra-system supplies, simplifying logistics to a degree I would not have believed possible. The ability to purify materials demonstrated by their battle-psykers means that resupply from enemy resources is possible under nearly all circumstances.

Excerpts from the report of Marshal Zilkar Singh to Bakka Imperial Guard Segmentum Command, 081M40

Vista VIId


Captain Vladimir Esclan of the Sable Knights

The veteran Astartes captain did not expect much from his meeting with Archmagos Valya Estevar GE-797 Modulus, Arch-Genetor Prime of Vista. In his experience, Mechanicus magi were difficult to deal with and generally unpleasant under the best of circumstances, and the archmagi were more of the same, only much worse. Convinced of their superiority, utterly uninterested in anything except the latest shiny thing to catch their attention, and more than willing to sacrifice anything and anyone to get more of that particular half-broken, rusty cog.

Not much different from one of the Space Wolves smelling anything alcoholic, really. No, that wasn't fair, he revised mentally as the plain grey door slid aside and he entered the spartan chamber. When an archmagos killed someone, it was almost invariably for some sort of purpose, however inane or insane. The same could not be said for a drunken Wolf.

This one did not look to be much different. Hidden underneath cowled red-black robes, twenty four mechadendrites emerging from its back were manipulating the controls of a gigantic opaque amniotic tank, likely containing something that would cause even the cast-iron stomach of an Astartes to roil in disgust.

"Captain, I trust you are satisfied with the awards for your valor," the voice was startlingly human and noticeably that of a female, quite melodious and attractive in fact. His keen metahuman hearing informed him, to his astonishment, that it was not produced by a voice modulator.

"Yes," was his monosyllabic response, still mentally reeling from the surprise.

And he was being entirely truthful. Vista had been more than generous to every chapter involved, even those which contributed less than a company. Repair and requisition rights from Vista forges, supplies of arms, armor and even starships, and a singular select STC template copy to trade with other Mechanicus forges for their needs. The template alone was equivalent to an endless stream of supplies, repairs and support from any number of famous forges.

Losing almost eighty percent of the complement of the four understrength companies his chapter had brought, as well as three ancient dreadnaughts, two strike cruisers and many venerable war machines, this made it all worthwhile. The surviving strike cruiser Stern Crusader and the damaged battle barge Sable Warden were already undergoing repairs in a hidden dock in the asteroid belt.

"Well," the shrouded figure turned to face him, and only his iron will kept his jaw from dropping. The cowl dropped back, and the expected metal-disfigured humanoid was nowhere in sight. Instead, he was facing the single most beautiful woman he had ever seen, with luminous golden hair trailing down beneath her loose robes, snow-white complexion and eyes of almost mirror-like argent.

"We did try to provide the most suitable rewards," he blinked to keep himself from falling under the sway of the almost hypnotic voice. "For descendants of the Blood Angels, we have something more to offer than we do to other chapters."

"Elucidate," he kept his response short and to the point. Something Mechanicus magi generally appreciated, or so his experience and the records suggested.

"We are aware of the two flaw, and it is within our means to correct them," the Archmagos spoke plainly, and somehow there was no response from the ether, nothing threatening or otherwise. At his continued silence, more borne from shock than aught else, she spoke on.

"The blood-thirst is a genetic issue, simply enough to correct. It will simply take some time and effort. The rage is a more complex psychic issue with a deeper cause, and there are several means to mitigate or remove it entirely," the cold, clinical tone almost made his blood boil in fury, but long experience tamped down on the rising black rage.

"And the options are?" the captain inquired.

"A psi-tech device could be made for that purpose, for the simplest and easiest example," a subtle nuance in her tone indicated that this was not her preferred solution. "We prefer a more holistic approach. Theoretically, the restoration of your Primarch would directly solve the issue. It is not within our power to restore him, obviously. But we can clone him, even somewhat improve on the result," she added.

"No, don't," the crazy archmagos raised a hand and captain Vladimir Esclan desisted from shouting, if only just barely.

"Yes, we are aware of how sensitive this issue is, of course," the coldly spoken words carried on, the beauty of her face suddenly more a doll-like machine in his eyes than that of a proper human.

"We will solve both issues, if this is the will of the Blood Angels, as shall be decided in your conclave. As for the cloning, we can bypass a stasis field with some effort, so no desecration will take place. As for the operation itself, both will be completed only with the permission of the Custodes, in the Imperial Palace itself, under the supervision of no more than a dozen apothecaries you shall choose. Sanguinius' twin and successor will receive the Emperor's own protective custody and his guidance. There is no other proper way to do this."

This was… there were no word. The possibilities alone…

Tears of blood leaked from the Space Marine's eyes.

Vista VI


Vimana-class Starfort Omnissiah's Greetings

High Magos Avaereene Voltos Hyphen SRV-007

It was a simple truth that victories were purchased with blood and shattered machine parts, and this incredible triumph was not exceptional in that regard.

The losses of the Imperial Navy, Basilikon Astra and Astartes were considerable, with over fifty battleships destroyed and tens of millions of men, women, skitarii, tech-priests and chapter serfs, as well as thousands of space-marines, gone to meet the Emperor.

Vista's own space-borne losses were of a similar order, mostly due to the fighting in the orbitals of the moons of Vista VII and VIII, as the damage to its mobile assets was mostly restricted to machines, fewer than two and a half million tech-adepts and Tech-Guard lost among the warships, starforts and strike fighters destroyed or damaged in the fierce fighting.

The worst damage was amidst the hives and manufactorums of the moons, and not merely their orbital space assets. The worst of the invaders were the dogs of Angron, as the psi-defenses and inoculations held up well against the initial strikes of the Death-Guard and plague-cultists, who were priority targets for sterilization strikes.

Seventeen months to restore the orbital assets, and estimates were that it would take twice that long to rebuilt and renovate the surface hives and manufactorums, and more importantly, import and train sufficient personnel to man them.

The death toll amidst the fifteen moons was more than half a billion non-combatants and nearly a tenth that many soldiers of Vista, with another eighty or so million casualties of the Imperial Guard. In all, the Guard had lost almost a hundred and forty million combatants in extremely fierce boarding actions, most especially including the assaults on the space hulks, and during the fighting in the space ports.

Clearly, the defensive measures around the moons would have to be reinforced and thickened. The conclusion was soon challenged by the Advocate Think-Group, the message informing her that an attack such as the one Vista survived was unprecedented, and coming out of it with no harm done to the inner planets and the real shipyards would send a frightening message to the rest of the Imperium – that Vista was beyond their reach, entirely impregnable to their might.

It was sure to tweak the Inquisition's nose, that was for sure, and she couldn't really argue with the conclusion. The jealous High Lords of the Senatorum Imperialis would not rest easy, that was for certain.

In any case, Vista's future was up to mother, its Fabricator… who would doubtlessly quintuple the defensive measures of the moons, while hiding as many of the increase in deadly machines and machinations as possible. Given her character, there was no other likely future.

Entering the gambling forum, she put up the bet on the board.

Segmentum Pacificus

Anastasia Sector

Vista System

With the assault on Vista over, the hyenas came barking.

For STC templates, of course. And any and all other Mars-approved technologies, they certainly weren't shy. It was only the overwhelming might I'd made sure to display, considerably less than twenty percent of what Vista actually had defending it, that kept them from growling louder and trying for intimidation tactics.

The only solution was to turn them against the lion, in this case the representative Archmagos of Mars, at least for the Solar Forge Worlds. Surprisingly given the matter at stake, they only required replacement twice before the database was taken away by the arriving Martian fleet, its size beyond our most generous and outrageous estimates.

Otherwise it was an endless series of meetings and negotiations and treaties. For our diplomatic corps, of course, I would only sign the dotted line once the deal was done and complete, and all the Forge Worlds and other parties wanted more, so finalizing anything was near-impossible.

I'd made it deliberately difficult for them to abstain from dribbling saliva on our polished floors, since I'd spread the list of available templates, adding some useful technologies from our own vaults. Several hundred templates were judged too dangerous to distribute, especially where abominable intelligence was concerned, or the likes of vortex weaponry and phosphex, and other warp-related items or Exterminatus-type weapons.

It wasn't only the thousand plus Forge World representatives, which number increased almost daily. There were explorators arriving from Forge Worlds we had no records of, only Martian approval granting them a seat at the ever-larger table.

There was the Imperial Guard, Imperial Navy, Chartist representatives, Adeptus Arbites, Adeptus Astra Telepathica, Inquisitors by the growing number, Navigator clans, even the Ecclesiarchy, the Schola Progenium and the various branches of the Sisters of Battle deigned to approach us poor benighted near-heretics.

The various departments of the Administratum actually managed to outnumber all of the above, and proved particularly obnoxious, becoming actively belligerent once proof came out that the existing Vista forges, mine included, were entirely and eternally exempt from tithing in our pursuit of the Quest for Knowledge, and the new ones would have their tithe assessed by Mars five centuries after their establishment.

They just about frothed at the mouth and uttered all sorts of threats and imprecations, with their leverage taken away before they could use it. Needless to say, they mostly screwed themselves, as our astropaths transmitted their identities and words to their superiors. The Inquisitors arrested them shortly thereafter, and new representatives were on their way.

The Officios Agricultae and Medicae and the Logis Strategos were the only polite ones, and got their deals made fairly swiftly, in just a few weeks of vigorous negotiations. Even the most accommodating Chartist representative required a few months to come around.

Our diplomats were highly adept at securing their prey. They made sure to show impartiality towards female beauties they liked the looks of, who were rarely averse to seduction. Having them submit and agree to something more than they wanted, that was what took the most time, as having them appointed as the primary negotiator and signatory was usually a trivial task.

It helped that we lacked what out interlocutors considered greed. They never truly understood what having my daughters in numbers in positions of power in their own organization would mean in a few centuries, especially as the deals ensured a steady influx of them, and education for the children would be provided at my daughters' discretion.

With the Astartes contributing their star maps, if unknowingly while their vessels were docked under repairs, and the same was true of others as our data predators engaged in the expected info-tech noosphere warfare against Mechanicus explorators and diverse representatives, a growing number of future Vista-forges were settled upon, as were their mining rights and trade rights.

It was only the prospect of the Martian fleet arriving that allowed us to close favorable contracts with so many Forge Worlds, in the end.

The results were utterly spectacular, well beyond my expectations, and it didn't end. Not for centuries…

More Forge World representatives and Magi Explorator came, more agreements were made.

Full and partial STC template-copies were sold, tech-data exchanged, and our knowledge base and resources grew.

In twenty years, our diplomat corps grew by twenty-eight fold by necessity, showing how little foresight I'd had in this particular matter.

Segmentum Ultima

Vespar Sector

Lykian Sub-sector

Hive World Megiddo


Lord Inquisitor Armian 'Steeleye' Retosk of Ordo Malleus was breathing hard, running behind his last remaining pair of stormtroopers, their black heavy carapace armor bearing the barred-I symbol of the Inquisition liberally marked with las-bolt scorches and the grazing strikes of chain-weapons.

Biting his lower lip and marshalling his will and faith in the God-Emperor, he pushed his rebelling limbs to the limit, a sideways glance showing that his last remaining apprentice wasn't even breathing hard, despite the six-hour chase and intermittent running battle against the Cult of the Green Fester.

He wanted to blame her pristine, sleek power armor that shimmered with the light of an active forcefield, different from his own blessed conversion field medallion, inherited from his predecessor. Her defensive energy shield served to deflect physical blows and energy aside rather than convert them.

He knew better, however, than to pin the cause for her ridiculous stamina on the armor. The girl only bothered to take a handful of hours of sleep once or twice a week, and had more than once sparred with the entire now martyred company of stormtroopers who'd followed him for the past decade over the course of an entire day.

If it wasn't for the genuine emotions she displayed and her psyker powers, he'd have no trouble believing that she was a Mechanicus killbot in human form. What did they feed those girls on Vista, by the Emperor's grace?

Six consecutive shots from the hellguns on the wrist of the girl's power armor perforated ambushers, and a seventh died to a shot from her inferno pistol. It made him deeply thankful that his armor was void-sealed, as he did not want to imagine the smell of those scorched, pox-ridden, heretical mutants.

In the end, they were too late.

The cultists had been forced to sacrifice themselves rather than true loyal souls, the captives they'd lost at their hands, rescued at great peril from terrible conditions. The heretical, treacherous fools had somehow managed to summon a greater abomination, God-Emperor protect!

It was a small mountain of filth and ugliness, and one of his last two loyal troopers perished in agony, mutating into slime at a mere look from the greater daemon.

The air suddenly changed, the sense of overwhelming power and inevitable defeat blown away.

His acolyte stepped forward and the black-gold rod in her hand sprouted a crackling golden sword of fire, which cut.

The battle was… it was too fast for him to see. He really was getting too old for this literal shit, using his blessed flamer to purge cut off pieces of the gigantic filth demon.

Duels were supposed to be quick, but this one took over eighteen minutes, by his implant timer. He could not have counted the minutes to save his own soul, only surviving with his single remaining bodyguard by retreating from the grand ritual chamber and the impossible battle taking place there, the very air and ground rumbling in protest.

Golden fire played over her no-longer pristine power armor.

"Does this qualify for graduation?"

Segmentum Tempestus

Petrosia Sector

Arjalla Sub-sector

Death World Akiva

Fortress Monastery Sky Reach


Chapter Master Kullon blinked and shook his head, his stoic façade cracking momentarily to display the puzzlement he felt.

"Explain this to me, Tech-Marines, Forge Master, Stormseers, because I do not understand," the Chapter Master demanded.

"On its face, it is as clear as the sky," Forge Master Radoss shrugged. "We have received a mighty gift that any chapter of our brothers or cousins would fight many crusades and campaigns for. In addition to a thousand new bolters, the vehicles…" he hesitated for a moment.

"There are no impressions left on the machines, for good or ill," a stormseer interjected into the void of silence. "There is no corruption, and a future trail of… eagerness, even the sky not being a limit."

"Ahem, I'm not so certain about that. These are fine and impressively fast grav vehicles, the specifications in the attached data are more a reminder of the ancient wonders of the Dark Age of Technology than what I know the Mechanicus can deliver, and not just the due to the remarkable speed. Not sure how they'll do in the void," a tech-marine responded absent-mindedly, one hand caressing a section of sky-blue armor on the vehicle standing before them.

Even at rest, it was quite the magnificent specimen.

"This is an advanced pattern of the Javelin Attack Speeder, of which we have received a full thousand, with weapons and ammunition stores. Twenty of them are command-vehicles, with room for two Astartes and advanced vox and auspex-suites.

"From what a record-comparison suggests, they have better armor, a remarkable force-field for additional defense, three times the weapons, a far more powerful fusion generator, a direct neural link to a more advanced pattern of power armor than we have, with an adaptor for the older versions we use, and it's supposedly fifty-four percent faster.

"The weapons suite is entirely modular, allowing us to use two heavy weapons in the prow, with the installed default being a volkite caliver and a lascannon or a plasma cannon, a heavy weapon on either side, either a pair of magnum lascannons or plasma cannons, with a pintle mount for a twin-linked weapon, the recommendation featuring heavy bolters, for their anti-air use.

"Not the sort of bolter we use, though. These accelerate their ammunition via gravi-magnetic impellers, and the ammunition is smaller, the standard bolt-round having a micro-melta charge followed by a powerful explosive. The smaller ammunition allows for greater ammunition capacity, and it has much greater range, penetration and explosive power," another tech-marine reported with a reverent voice, nodding in rhythm to his own words. "Ah, there's no recoil whatsoever," he added with a blink.

"Oh, and there are sixty each of sonic and gravitic cannons, as well as twenty-four conversion beamers. Truly exotic heavy weapons. We have yet to properly examine the missiles, each speeder has two hives of twelve," the Forge Master was almost salivating in glee.

"In addition to manuals for use and repair, we have received fabricators required for replacement parts for weapons, ammunition, missiles and the components of the Javelins themselves, with voluminous use-instructions and some cautions. Supposedly, these fabricators have self-repair capabilities and are quite sturdy, but will self-destruct if we try to examine them too deeply," the first tech-marine appended.

"Tracking the trail back leads to a rogue trader using a rented freighter, their identity expertly masked. They handed over the cargo to the master of the Viridian Expanse three years ago, in Ophelia of all places," Captain Rajaak reported.

"We have asked three Inquisitors we are acquainted with to investigate, but only one accepted the charge. One was otherwise engaged, and Inquisitor Serena Volteris responded that 'we should not look a gift horse in the mouth'. The only message attached to this… gift, was:

'This gift does not come from your Father, Sky Walkers'