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A sudden burst of lighting erupts in the orbit of an unnamed planet in the Ishtar fringe of the Segmentum Ultima. The mighty prows of the Mechanicus Cruisers Bronze Expanse and Steel of Invention bursts out of the warp. Seconds later the rest of it's supporting fleet with the escorts in a spherical formation around the vulnerable transports burst out from the warp. An aging Archmagos of Mjorn would rise from his command chair his massive amount of bionics assisting the aging man along with a cane being held by what remains of his right arm. He addressees the bridge crew "We have arrived at the coordinates indicated by the rumors. If there is some truth to these words upon this lowly rock will be a vault of artifacts dating back to possibly even before the Dark age of technology and a map leading to an undamaged STC. By the Omnissiah's will we shall find this vault and crush anything that dares to stand our way on this most holy of quests!" He looks to one of the communications officers "Instruct the escorts to break formation and to begin mapping out the surface of the planet and instruct the transports to ready drop-ships to land on the surface and begin to send out survey teams." "Yes lord!" The communications officer salutes and instructs the vox operators to send the orders to the ships. The transports of the fleet each ready a Devourer dropship for landing equipping them with long range scanning equipment and loading building supplies into them so permanent outposts can be made after the initial landing. The majority of their passengers are aspiring Tech priests that volunteered to take part in the expedition though some Skitarii Rangers and battle servitors are also being sent down to protect the outposts and the would be explorers during their expeditions into the alien wilds. The inquisitorial representative and his routine are also being sent down at their own request. The personnel being sent down have been assembled in the main bay of the transport for a quick briefing before launch. The ship's captain would walk up to a raised platform in front of the assembled passengers. "Your dropship has been assigned to land near a large purple gash in the north west side of the planet. Orbital imaging has suggested this is some kind of sea though the reason to it's strange coloration is currently unknown." An image would be brought up on a large screen that was moved there for the briefing. "To be precise the landing point will be here in the large plain that separates this sea from the planet's North Pole. Our main objective will be to track down the whereabouts of the vault containing the artifacts through any means necessary. If studying either the North Pole or the sea could lead to finding the vault you may do so and remember any and all Xenos must be catalogued but you have full authorization to exterminate anything if they pose a threat to the operation. Are there any questions before you are sent off?" "Initial scans and orbital imaging have found several signs of large flora and fauna but have found no signs of advanced civilization either they are underground or life on this planet hasn't evolved to that point. As always caution is advised even the most simple of creatures can kill a man and if scans are correct this planet is in no short supply of beasts. Are there any other questions?" The Inquisitor revealed his presence among the mass of Mechanicus acolytes having transferred over for this briefing. He quickly asked a questions about the survey teams and how they plan to be transported around when landed. The captain was somewhat startled by the inquisitor revealing himself. He had been told the inquisitor would be sent down from his ship but he had net seen him until now. "Ye.. Yes lord the survey teams will be sent out upon landing and be given a modified Taurus that has had the weapon and ammo stores replaced with seats for passengers. The fleet will be on stand by and continually scan the planet and anything with in it's orbit like it's two moons." A communications officer would walk up to the Captain and whisper something to him and run back to the bridge. "Very well I have just been informed that you must be sent down immediately. Please proceed to the boarding ramps leading to the top floor of the dropship the servitors will be loaded into the vehicle bay." With that the rows of assorted soldiers and tech priests move into the dropship which filled relatively quickly do to it being mostly filled with building materials and supplies rather than troops like it would normally be under other circumstances. Maneuvering thrusters lift the ship up and out of the bay and past an enormous air lock and into the void through the few view ports the planet took up the entirety of the view. The intercom would spark to life "Prepare for atmospheric entry." The safety bars on the seats and the mag locks in the cargo bay would activate holding everything and everyone down. The view ports were quickly covered by a protective blast panel that came down from above it. From the outside it looked as if the ship was spewing flames from it's fins as the shear force of friction blackened the belly of the ship. The planet's atmosphere was thicker than expected this made maneuvering difficult for the lumbering ship as it seemingly plummeted towards the ground. Until the pilots activated it's thrusters slowing it down almost immediately if it weren't for the safety bars every single passenger would have been thrown from their seats. Using their new means of control the pilots steered the beast of a dropship towards where the plains meet the purple sea. With a final blast from their forward facing maneuvering thrusters they where able to stop their forward momentum and ease the ship into a large clearing now devoid of wild life as they were scared off due to the amount of noise coming from the ship. With the push of a button the landing gear unfold from their shielded compartments and touch the alien red soil. Once it was confirmed the landing gear had made contact the pilots cut the engines and released the shaft bars and mag locks. The intercom sparked up again "Landing successful you may get up and walk around, once comfortable head outside and group up with your assigned survey team or guard patrol. Before anyone asks yes the air is breathable readings show the atmosphere actually has a high oxygen percentage and gravity is slightly lower than Terran gravity but it is not really noticeable unless your bionics are overly sensitive. Good hunting and Omnissiah watch over you." The crimson courier shuttle touched down in the immediate proximity of the makeshift landing field springing up almost organically around the dropships. The loading ramp descended with a muted hiss of hydraulics. A quartet of crimson robed Tech Guard marched down the ramp fist. Their brass skull masks denoting them as Martian Protectors, the noble Forge Guards of Mars. They swiftly proved the area secure to a satisfactory standard. The whirring of servos heralded the descent of their illustrious charge. A Magos-Errant scuttled down the ramp on his brass-gilded stilt legs like a predatory arachnid. His optics scanned the noosphere in the area and locked on the to the signatures of the rest of the team. They were already boarding transports, to his immediate displeasure. [Command: Follow] The Magos-Errant spat in a hasty binaric burst. His guards followed their impatient master in earnest, barely managing to keep up with his fevered pace. The salamander transports were already starting up, their combustion engines revving up to speed. All were full save the last transport in line, which had but one occupant. The fact that he would have to share a transport with a servant did not improve his mood. None the less, he scuttled inside and found a place to secure himself. He activated the mag-locks in his stilt-legs to secure him to the transport deck plates. The Magos-Errant paid no mind, as it was barely above a servitor in sentience as it was. Instead he reached out through the noosphere to his intended contact. Opening a heavily encrypted channel, he extended a greeting to the Magos-Explorator. [Acknowledgement: Greetings my Lady Magos. I am the Magos-Errant of this expedition. You no doubt received the data package from my superiors, and as such know why I am here. My Masters hold the Archmagos in high regard. He has done much to further our cause. Let us hope you live up to his expectations] His cant was formal, but with an undercurrent of expected skepticism. Wright was untested. She no doubt understood that the Magos-Errant was as much a useful asset, as he was insurance. Much hinged on their success. The leaders of the Xenarite Cults expected much from this expedition, if their sources were indeed correct about the supposed Vault. The presence of the Inquisition complicated this however. No doubt they were aware of the Magos-Errant' presence. The Ordo Machinum were ever vigilant in that regard. No matter. They had no evidence to doubt his loyalties, but there would be suspicions. There always were. If Adam Clarke or any of his Inquisitorial lackeys obstructed his objectives, they would be removed . . .
There was no noise from the raider's party as the sounds of Imperial artillery fire whistled overhead of the warehouse, the survivors of the failed assault had grouped together at the rendezvous point, it was a pre prepared position that had been kept secure thanks in part to its obscure location as well as relative ease to defend plus its viability as a potential staging area. It was an old warehouse stationed on the edge of a river with a roof that had mechanical systems in place so that it could open itself up for transports to carry goods and materials across the city, the interior of the warehouse was filled with empty metal containers many of which still held an assortment of supplies and materials that the defenders could use to better hold this position The planet was a civilized world, a planet that was in the process of being converted into a hive world due to its growing population but became the interest of the Dark Eldar's Kabal for its viability as a rich source of human slaves in contrast to its average strength PDF. A substantial amount of support for the raid had been garnered by the Archon to undertake this raid including a detachment of the slave force line infantry an initiative started up by the concept of a unit capable of fighting a war of attrition with minimal loss of Eldar life. Acting on this information the Archon of the Dark Eldar's Kabal conducting the raid on this planet had expended the slaves with little more than an after-thought using them to take the brunt of the PDFs attention while the actual Drukhari raiding party attempted to destroy key military positions. However the commander of this PDF had displayed above average intelligence in terms of precognition in this assault and had fortified vital areas of his defense forcing the Kabal to fight in a protracted engagement the sounds of which can still be heard in the distance. Gathering together in the warehouse were both veterans and raw recruits of the raid including actual Drukhari that had volunteered to be part of the raid squads. The Drukhari drillmasters and beast tamers had managed to broaden their spectrum of recruits and have picked only the finest of individuals to become cannon fodder for their armies. The sounds of battle could still be heard in the distance and the mood inside the warehouse was grim, a breakaway force of troops had retreated from the conflict to consolidate here in an abandoned storage building by the river running through the city. The warehouse was situated next to a bridge that forded the river of which additional troops were streaming through but it was unclear if even these would be enough to turn the tide of battle. Inside the warehouse the consolidating forces were arranging metal containers to fortify their position and were taking stock of their available equipment and vehicles but the command structure responsible for maintaining discipline was stretched thin. All the troops gathered in the warehouse were of a typical raider fare. Some were mercenaries and other might be slaves. All of which were having their own ideas on what to do next now that they have consolidated. The raid had made short work of the established defenses of the PDF but the resolve of the Imperial defenders had been more resolute than previously anticipated and had managed to recover from the initial attack with remarkable speed. The mere fact that the PDF had artillery support plus a solid defensive line around the planetary governors palace and even have forces left over to engage the raiders proved that there was some element within the local forces that was far more competent than the average PDF commanders capabilities. A number of squads were leaving the warehouse striking out on their own after the failed assault to follow their own agendas and scattering across the planetary capital, no bid was made to stop them as those that stayed rallied around a central mustering point readying for a counterattack. Those that left were an assortment of individuals, some were deserting the field of battle, others were keen to start looting the area for personal profit and some of the more predatory like the Dark Eldar themselves were setting off to start preying on the citizenry forsaking their charges. Those that stayed had their hands full maintaining discipline but would be setting off to rejoin the battle soon but in the process would likely become more fodder sent to further whittle down the numbers of the PDF. Towards the south was the battlefield that the raiders had just left, a significant Imperial force was engaging other raiders and were seeking to break through to reach the cities military quarter to the north. Although the battle was being held in place for the time being by the remaining Kabal forces still fighting should the Imperial forces break through they could join up with PDF forces in the military quarter and pose a serious threat to Kabal operations. Beyond the battlefield was the Planetary governors palace a stronghold built to withstand air assault and very possibly crawling with the governor's most loyal troops, the Drukhari had wished to not attack this location for now. To the north there was the cities military quarter and the location of the planets tithing station, shortly after the raid started a force of the Kabal had struck at this zone in particular wiping out communications and senior leadership in the area leaving the PDF in disarray and unable to support other elements of defense in the city. Although details of what happened after this initial attack is unclear to the Band of Exiles it is certain that the bulk of the Kabal forces are yet still engaging military targets here to contain the still considerable number of PDF troopers. Deep in the militarized zone stands the tithing station itself which is in fact a space elevator stretching up into the planet exosphere to an orbital harbor, the primary route for planetary tithes to be dispatched off world. Back towards the east across the bridge was the residential district, a large sprawling area which took up the majority of its side of the river and before the raid started was in the process of being converted into a series of hab blocks to replace the smaller civilized world apartment buildings. The Kabal is presently rounding up captives from this location in particular to be transported back to Commoragh and effectively have this part of the city under their control, but issues are arising from confrontations with the planets feral Ork population that had been attracted to the fighting in ever greater numbers. A few pockets of PDF also still yet fight in this area and the local preachers of the Adeptus Ministorum are actively encouraging the Imperial citizenry to take up arms against the Kabal. Towards the west was the cities industrial district a location that had collapsed into anarchy as soon as the attack started, when the communications were shut down the gangers here took matters into their own hands developing into several significant factions that just as readily fight each other as well as any Kabalite or associate forces of the Kabal. In amongst the carnage are also several smaller initiatives started by the Adeptus Mechanicus seeking to protect the machinery of the manufactorums, although poorly equipped to handle combat scenarios they manage to hold onto several critical industrial areas which they among themselves deem logical to defend. To add to the warzone developing in this district the feral Orks have also started to establish themselves here looting from the manufactorums and becoming stronger with each passing moment. Underneath the city was also a well developed network of foundations maintenance tunnels and sewers that had been built to accommodate the cities conversion to a hive city, these passageways stretch all across the city and have been filled with all manner of the basic machinery needed to manage the cities water, motive force and ground cable communications. However in a concerning development just after the raid started all underground communications were suddenly cut by an unknown force although Kabal exploratory forces report nothing but brightly lit empty tunnels. Malaskia Vileblade looked out over the confusion of another hellish battle-scape and sighed. It wasn't that the suffering of so many wasn't invigorating in its own way. She felt the thrill in her empty excuse for a soul. The delights of a real-space raid were as good as they ever were. But ... The Hekatrix sighed. She idly flicked the tail of her agoniser so that it tapped on the nearest wall, leaving a trail of coruscating energy. Malaskia Vileblade was not good with the finer emotions. She had no training in them and was likely to stab anyone that tried to explain them if she even recognized what they were talking about. But a few things were clear. Frank Draken was going to follow her about and try to protect her. Frank was honestly all right with that idea. He was not really equipped to do so in the hostile world of Commorraghan politics, and he was hopelessly loyal. And somehow the thought of him dying made her sad. It shouldn't have mattered, but Malaskia Vileblade knew that she felt sad when she thought about him dying. This made her angry, and if several of her would-be suitors had felt the ... dubious benefits? been the lucky recipients? of her attempts to make the feeling go away in a tide of hedonism, well, they hadn't complained and no-one had been killed. At least not permanently. Like that chap with the boomerang. Malaskia Vileblade couldn't remember his name just now, but he'd certainly been agile. But none of it had worked. Eventually, through some of her more dubious Pirate acquaintances, she's learned of some places they sometimes used as free ports - places to sell whatever they'd raided and get repairs while in realspace. Still not very safe. But, on a still more select few, there were occasional contacts from what the Humans called Rogue Traders. Those were a bit safer, because the Humans liked these people to have somewhere to go. He had been on this job forever. He was hired to find someone special, someone who had baggage, who could be convinced to work for the man who gave him this contract. He had the leverage but he hadn't been ready to go back to his employer. This job had benefits plus, he kinda liked her but, he could not stall any longer and she liked him enough that if he carefully chose his words and asked her to come with him, she would likely follow. Now was the time to get paid and maybe change his profession. He wondered if his employer would accept him as an official permanent hire...he would mention it, only if she was convinced to do the same.