I. Testimony of the Fallen
0900/3194811.M41 – Hive Bara, Carminas V
Acolytes Solaria, Abel and Eli report for a briefing somewhere in the Administratum district. Interrogator Sand, speaking to them via vidlink, informs them they are now a cell on active service, charged with investigating the source of forbidden bio-mods found during the postmortem of a citizen reported missing from the Odestra district – one Paul Garrick.
Garrick’s body was found in an upper-middle hive transit station only hours before. The acolytes are to pose as employees of Blackcoast. They will pretend to have been commissioned to collect outstanding debts from various citizens in Odestra, and are provided with gear appropriate to their cover. It is stressed by Sand that the matter at hand is time critical and that secrecy is a priority – for the Inquisition fears whoever is responsible for this heresy may be on high alert after the loss of one of their test subjects.
Interrogator Sand also notes a most curious irregularity: that while Garrick has been missing, according to Registratum records, for over 1 month, a Securitat report was only logged three days ago – at the same time as the reports of six other individuals from the same district – all listed as having gone missing at various times over the past month. Attempts to contact the reporting officer, Warden Dorn Tosca, are continuing but have so far failed.
The acolytes travel by transrail to Odestra. Just prior to arriving their railcar is forced to stop because the track up ahead has been registered as unsafe by local authorities. The acolytes are dubious, but quickly decide to attempt to convince the driver to release the doors; through a mixture of charm and intimidation they succeed. They walk through the dark along the tracks the last few klicks to the station. (Shortly after this the transrail comes to life again, a metallic voice in the dark announcing a system fault is now repaired.)
II. The Twilight City
Arriving at the station, the acolytes are questioned by a private security contractor from Threat Solutions deputized to the local Securitat. The acolytes explain their cover story, flash their IDs and stress that some people owe their clients a lot of money. The T-Sol gun apparently buys it, waving them on.
The acolytes are immediately struck by the low light levels, presumably a result of the district’s recent economic misfortunes. The group quickly scan the city square through the gloom in which they find themselves, noting the ancient statue at its centre, the ramshackle tent-market spilling from between hab-blocks in the southeast corner, the grim Securitat watch-house in the northwest corner, and the Alms House in the southwest. Some quick enquiries yield the location of the nearest (and apparently only) accommodation available for a price in the district, and so the cell immediately moves to hire a room in the Odestra Comfort Hostel: a dismal-looking establishment fronting the southern edge of the square in which they stand. During this time the keen eyes of Eli spot six T-Sol personnel stationed strategically and unobtrusively around the public square, all well armed and alert.
Inside the hostel the acolytes meet Jan Drayelock, the ageing proprietor, who shows them up to the best room in the house. Surprisingly well appointed and with a decent view of the square, the acolytes accept. Before allowing him to leave, however, Solaria engages the old man in conversation. The upshot is that while Drayelock’s equilibrium is perhaps disturbed (Sol makes it clear she knows he’s an obscura addict – and that he’s clearly in need of a hit), he ends up two thrones wealthier and the Acolytes have a name: Gil Parks, the crime boss who heads Parky’s Boys, and the man who’s sure to know what’s what in this part of the hive.
The group head to the Alms-House only to find that, although a number of desperates linger in the shadows of its butresses, it is closed for the cycle,
They then head toward habstack 7-17 (Paul Garrick’s registered residence) via the tent market, where they encounter the techpriest reclaimator Magos S1k3s and his cybersim Panathas. In conversation, S1k3s observes that Eli’s dialect of Low Gothic marks him as hailing from the feudal world of Lyon – a long way from Carminas – and openly wonders how it is that such a man now collects debts for Blackcoast on the edge of the Barrian underhive. The group ask S1k3s whether he has noticed ‘anything strange’ recently, to which he responds cryptically: ‘I fear there are many debts to be collected in Odestra – but who owes what to whom? And how will they pay?’
Arriving at stack 7-17, the group is accosted by two men working for Gil Parks. A short confrontation follows, though at the sight of Eli’s sword one drops his gun and runs while the other tries to run but trips. Gil emerges from the Workers’ Union Bar opposite with a number of his lads and a relatively civilised chat follows. Gil wants to know what Blackcoast personnel are doing in his territory. He seems to buy the cover story, though he claims Garrick is dead because he somehow ‘crossed’ Gil. The acolytes decide to show Gil the list of individuals in which they are interested. Though he tries to hide it, Gil’s face betrays his surprise. He immediately demands to know who the acolytes really work for. They begin to repeat their cover story, but Sol is mid-sentence when Gil turns on his heel, ordering his men to follow.
Left in the street, the acolytes briefly consider following Parks; ultimately, however, they decide to return to Paul Garrick’s hab stack. In the foyer they encounter young Lilya Garrick, who is preparing to flee the district. The acolytes question her, ‘revealing’ that they are in fact Adeptus Arbites agents investigating her brother’s disappearance and death. The ‘truth’ seems to reassure her somewhat, and eventually Lili calms down enough to talk.
The acolytes discover that, at least in Lili’s view, there is no way her brother would have become mixed up with Parks or anything to do with him. They also discover that Lili doesn’t understand why her report took so long to be officially logged – though she admits to having waited a short time before reporting the matter to Warden Tosca, it could only have been two or three days at most.
Finally, the player characters discover that Warden Tosca was once close to Myrian Garrick, Lili’s and Paul’s late mother, and that Lili and Paul were both reasonably fond of the man, though they were not blind to his failings (in particular his obscura habit and his willingness to ignore the activities of Parks and his gang).
The acolytes decide to attempt to return to their lodgings, only to realise the night cycle has begun and that virtually all lights across the Odestra district are now off. Lili becomes near-hysterical, letting slip that ‘things come out at night’, panic and fear etched on her face. The characters decide to stay in Paul’s old flat for the night, and take the terrified girl with them.
The light returns. After an uneventful night the acolytes set about examining the damage to Paul and Lili’s flats. Both have been ransacked recently – Paul’s about ten days ago, Lili’s only yesterday. In both the sturdy metal doors have been torn off their hinges and the windows smashed in. (Sol notes that this poses an interesting puzzle – for the flats are 12 and 17 stories respectively above base level, with no balcony or fire escape outside.) The acolytes question Lili a little further and the girl explains that she intends to leave the Odestra and head to an aunt’s place uphive, where she hopes her ability to read and write will let her find work as a clerk. The acolytes offer to escort her to the rail terminal, but she seems to think she’ll attract less attention on her own. The acolytes reluctantly agree that she may be right. During this time Eli and Sol add Warden Tosca’s details to their data-slate’s ‘debt-collection’ list.
The sounds of industry are noticeably louder and the streets become busier as the acolytes make their way out of the hab-block, a few minutes after watching Lili move off in the direction of the station. They themselves head towards the main square, thinking to find out what they can at the address of Warden Dorn Tosca. The hab-block in which the Warden resided fronts onto the main square itself. Entry to the main foyer is however blocked by a Threat Solutions security guard. The acolytes attempt to get past the guard, initially by appealing to his shared sense of ‘needing to get a job done’ (the acolytes are after all presenting as private security personnel) and then, when the Cobalt gun is unmoved, resorting to threats (‘Do you know the sort of people who we collect for?’). The man remains impassive, however, stating simply that ‘This is Securitat business, citizens. You need to move on.’ Channelling the warp, Sol attempts to instil fear in the fellow – to her shock, the man’s only reaction is to raise his weapon, speak softly into his commlink, and reiterate his previous statement.
Seconds later three more Cobalt Assay personnel arrive, two from the square and one from inside the building. From inside the building Sub-Warden Alexei Cole also appears, wearing the dark blue carapace armour of the Securitat. The Assay guards all have weapons drawn and Warden Cole gives no order that they be lowered. Cole questions the acolytes on their business in his district, and with this building. The acolytes explain their cover story, and though there is no indication he disbelieves them it is hard to tell – his face, except for his mouth, is concealed by his visored helmet. The acolytes explain their presence at this particular address by showing Cole the list of names from whom they are meant to be collecting debts, specifically pointing out Dorn Tosca’s entry.
The Sub-Warden examines the list and then seems lost in thought a moment. Appearing to make up his mind about something, Cole orders his men to lower their weapons. He smiles at the acolytes and apologises, indicating that they should follow him. He leads them up a single flight of stairs and into a small, well kept apartment. The apartment shows no signs of damage – indeed, it is all incredibly domestic – clean dishes are even stacked in a tray to one side of the sink. Cole gestures expansively – ‘look around’ he says – ‘Dorn Tosca’s hab, but no Dorn Tosca.’ The acolytes ask where he is. Cole smiles. ‘If I knew that I wouldn’t be here. Let’s just say I don’t think he’ll be paying any debts any time soon.’ He waits a few moments before asking if there’s anything else he can help them with. The acolytes ask what they’re supposed to tell their superiors. Cole’s smile fades a little. ‘Tell them it’s Securitat business. To which I need to return. Good day. And good luck with the rest of your list.’ The T-Sol guards see the group out.
The acolytes return to their quarters at the Odestra Comfort Hostel. Their host, Mr. Drayelock, is nowhere to be seen. Their room appears undisturbed, however, and they take some time to discuss what they have encountered so far. Gil Parks seems of particular interest. Sol suggests he may be selling people to whoever is performing the surgery – it would explain his reaction to their list, possibly? Eli agrees that seems plausible – perhaps he is even a slaver of some kind? The techpriest S1k3s is mentioned – he seems very knowing, and there is perhaps something a little odd about him – although, then again, he is a Martian…
In the end the acolytes decide that – with no especially strong lead at present – their best bet is probably checking the residences of the other people on their list, and resolve to do just that right after lunch. They then grab the meal tokens left by their host and head down to the Alms House.
The acolytes arrive at the Alms house. Citizens are entering in a steady trickle. Handing their tokens to a rather disinterested functionary, they’re provided with a protein-based stew, which they eat at a table of their own in the huge dining hall. Just as they finish, a commotion is heard from close to the main entrance. A large man is remonstrating with a smaller figure. All of a sudden the larger of the two is lifted into the air and placed to one side – an act that reveals the lifter to be Magos S1k3s. His metallic voice can be heard apologizing to his surprised interlocutor as he continues towards the acolytes, his little cybersim running ahead under between chair legs and over tables.
S1k3s greets the acolytes warmly, but stifles any discussion by emphasizing that he has something to show them, something he is sure will interest them – something that may even assist in their present endeavor. His insistence is unsettling, and the acolytes quickly surmise that the Martian priest has seen through their cover story.
The group follows S1k3s out of the Alms House and across the square towards his tent in the market. Upon arrival, he ushers them through a flap at the back and into a series of rooms and corridors that seem to constitute his workshop. Without pause, he leads them through doors and down stairs, never pausing to answer their questions except to mutter quietly in what sounds like exasperated binary, or to occasionally repeat that ‘what I have found is a catalyst, I fear – or its precipitate.’ The group continues to follow the priest, though they draw weapons. S1k3s notices, saying they are very wise. However, when Abel moves to guard the rear of the procession S1k3s tells him that it is not necessary – that ‘Panathas is there – he is sufficient to that task’. Book-ended thus by the technomage and his companion, the group descend level after dark, dilapidated level – until Sol realises they are in fact passing into the uppermost reaches of the underhive. S1k3s doesn’t deny it, but explains that ‘it is not much farther.’ Sure enough, some minutes later, the group can discern light up ahead.
The group emerge from the passage they are in into a hall of some kind. The roof of the hall is missing, and indeed, if they look up, some couple of hundred metres above them, the dim lights of the Odestra can be seen, shining down into this dank, forgotten world. The light pools in the centre of the hall, leaving the edges in shadow. In the centre of the pool of light lies a body encased in dark blue armour. ‘Dorn Tosca’ pronounces S1k3s. ‘The old Warden. I found him here this morning. I fear he is irreparably damaged.’
Before the group have a chance to move down into the hall, however, a number of scrawny, furtive figures detach themselves from the darkness. Two of them move towards the body, while two more, each holding what look like weapons, peer into the shadows around them. The magos speaks in a whisper. ‘Scavs. And there are more in the shadows.’
A one-sided battle ensues. Sol barely has time to focus her psyche before Eli slays one with his sword, cleaving the poor creature in half at the waist. Abel kills another with a single shot. S1k3s is hit by a crossbow bolt, though it appears not to hinder him. In response he fires some kind of automatic weapon into the air, and with his artificially enhanced voice bellows at the creatures to be gone from this place and leave that which is not theirs. Sol backs him up, her unnatural abilities making her appear as a wild banshee clad in fear.
The scavengers break and run.
Examination of the body yields the following facts:
- Dorn Tosca is in full uniform, except his personal sidearm is missing.
- He was killed by a weapon using the same sort of ammunition as his personal sidearm, and probably (in S1k3s’ opinion) by the same sort of gun.
- He was shot in the back of the head, at very close range.
- The body is otherwise undamaged, though S1k3s guesses that it has been lying here for more than a day at least (it is hard to tell, however – the temperature in this part of the hive is very low, and he is not a Magos Biologis).
After examining the body and discussing what it might mean the group demand to know what S1k3s knows. He explains that he felt it ‘highly improbable’ that they were who they said they were from the very beginning. He also explains that he is in the Odestra district on the trail of a dangerous individual known to the Adeptus Mechanicus as ‘The Chirugeos’. She is a former techpriest, a Magos Biologis of formidable proficiency, and steeped in technoheresy. Though S1k3s is clearly not aware of most of the events that have led the acolytes to the present moment, he is able to confirm that what they speak of – forbidden bio-science and forced organ modification – are hallmark traits of the one he seeks, as is the habit of disappearing as soon as any investigation gets close…