Heretic Hunt

Coded Journal of Alistair Gordon - 2

Welcome aboard the Redeemer of Illumination

Moving on has been difficult. The Comet Shield was my home for the better part of two decades. On it I travelled the stars, fighting xenos, protecting humanity and meeting some of the finest men and women to ever serve the Emperor. No other did I respect more than Captain Zarkhov, who tutored me throughout all those years. Then I got him killed. I don’t think regret even begins to describe what I feel. Even now I have nostalgia for my old office, all those happy memories there, even if most of them were just getting drunk by myself and getting lost in a good book. The night before the transfer was the worst. Kolden and I were packing away my books and getting ready for the transfer. After we had finished we sat for a while, enjoying a fine single malt. There I made the classic mistake of thinking, a dangerous past time to be sure. Zarkhov dead. Transferred away from my comrades. Afforded no respect from my “specialists”. Said “specialists” most likely only keep me around due to my capability in requisitioning rare and exotic equipment. Kolden’s presence here only because of the possibility of promotion that I embody. I don’t think I have ever felt more alone than I did in that moment. I even wondered to myself darkly, just how easy it would be to betray these fools and reap the rewards. I could earn a promotion right then and there. In a Rogue Trader fleet there would always be another challenge, another problem to overcome, another chance to succeed. Eventually, I discarded such thoughts. I might peruse forbidden knowledge, I might be a wretched alcoholic, I might even be a traitor but I’m not a heretic. If those “specialists” really are on to something, that Harlocke really is a heretic, who knows how many souls are at risk. Even if they are a group of distasteful, disrespectful incompetents I have to make sure they succeed, even if I have to bring Harlocke to justice myself.

The whiskey offered no respite from myself so I bid Kolden farewell and retired for the night, hoping that at least in my dreams I might be free of this oppressive atmosphere. I was mistaken. My sleep was haunted by the most horrific images. Horrid, mocking laughter and obscene shapes danced in a nauseating void. Eventually the nightmare culminated when a monster wearing a man’s skin appeared. The man he was wearing had a head of wild, white hair. His skin was marred with extensive scarring. These scars were not a result of honourable combat, these scars were the result of desperate, clawing attempts to stave off a wild animal. His eyes burned red with hatred. This was not a hatred of anything particular, but rather a raw, pure hatred. This thing was a mockery of all that it was to be human.

Worst of all, it wore an Inquistor’s Rosette.

I had hoped this to be a singular event, but each time I sleep he is there. Sometimes it is worse than others. Last night he appeared, now with profane symbols adorning him and his surroundings.

Enough of this wallowing in self-loathing and negativity. Let’s focus on the work.

We transferred ourselves over to the Redeemer of Illumination using our new shuttle, now repainted in the team colours. I would rather it be plain black or blue but whatever keeps up morale. Chaplain Ratcliffe once again managed to make an arse of himself by demanding “the Captain’s chair” before a painted barstool was provided for him, which he accepted. I was tempted to point out that there is a reason why there are safety harnesses but I thought better of it. Only one way he was going to learn.

Arriving on board the Redeemer of Illumination we were met a group of personal assistants who showed us to our quarters and shortly afterwards we the team went to requisition gear and cybernetics. I personally opted for a Memorance Implant. A rather simple piece of cybernetics, I figured having something capable of discreetly recording the investigation would be useful. Not to mention being able record battlefield engagements and analyse them later should prove both fun and a learning experience. The others were less subtle in their choice of cybernetics, apparently gaudy, gilded bionics are in fashion. It was during the installation process that I noticed something odd. The recitation of the Commandments of the Mechanicus was wrong. The one that sticks out in my mind is “Comprehension is the key to attaining perfection”. It should be “Comprehension is the key to all things”. This in connection with just how easy it was to get these implants (especially those gold plated ones) and the clues I found later make me somewhat uneasy about these implants. Something is definitely wrong here. That said my implant has performed well thus far recording the investigation so I’m not going to rip out my own eye just yet but I won’t be getting any more implants any time soon.

After coming out of recovery I made use of what little was left of the day went to the mess. Managed to talk with another ex-Navy officer in an attempt to establish what generally speaking was different. I’m pretty sure my first question was about these Emperor damn carpets, has Ventium lost his mind? No explanation on that front, other than to stay on the carpets because apparently it pisses people off if you don’t walk on them. Broadly speaking the fleet is split between three tasks, depending who is in charge of the fleet. If Lord-Admiral Sabanth Harlocke is in charge, the fleet acts as a mercenary group going where the Imperium needs them. If it’s Lord-Captain Ventium Harlocke is charge the fleet goes off “treasure hunting”. If Navigator Roslind Occellati, it’s an open ended exploration. Another thing of interest was that the Mechanicus on this ship aren’t maintenance specialists but in fact in the retinue of a Explorator. Final note on the cliques on this ship. Unsurprisingly all the officers have their favourites and their favourites get perks. However, unlike on an Imperium vessel this doesn’t result in preferential promotions and there isn’t any of the vicious rivalry that I’ve come to expect from officer cliques.

After that I went to have a chat with Captain Evinco Merus, which didn’t reveal much of note unfortunately so I just kept an eye on the mess for anything interesting while it was still daylight. I didn’t have to wait long before a buffet cart full of powdered drugs arrived. Some officers crowded around, Ventium Harlocke included, to get their fix. Three powders, three effects. I have no idea what is in the blue powder but somehow it can let people tap into the warp, which is terrifying. Pink powder seems a lot more straightforward, given that soon after those who took it were all over each other and pulling each off to what I assume to be their rooms. Tentatively labelling as an aphrodisiac but I don’t know for certain so I won’t make any conclusions yet. Green powder seemed to make everyone who took it very relaxed, some form of sedative?

With daylight waning, I returned to my room and decided to do some data analysis. Administration reports, crew manifest, ship layout. Not much of interest unfortunately. Ship layout is fairly standard except for a couple of oddities. An unmarked room in the officers quarters raises questions and the Techpriest shrine is odd. Can’t put my finger on it but it’s weird. Much to my aggravation I couldn’t find where the drugs were produced, or really any details on them. I would say that the details must be somewhere and I missed it because who would be stupid enough not to keep records for logistical reasons but this is a carpeted battlecruiser so who knows?

Next day, I decided continue questioning People of Interest. Today would be Ventium Harlocke. I heard he had his own personal library, so I decided a book treading the line of forbidden lore would make for good bait. Worked a charm, even managed to get him ignore one of his favourites to talk with me. Got some good biographical details and he invited me to his room. I haven’t seen anything so decadent in my life. The room itself was massive, his library lining one wall and a set of ultra clear monitors lining the other (I doubt Ventium is stupid enough to have a window in his quarters). Also of note was an absolutely massive bed. Perusing the shelves was an adventure, so many classics and great works. Also a book on daemons. Rather a book that is meant to be about a daemon being slain but really focuses more on the fact those monsters exists, a cult forms around one and that they can be summoned. Unfortunately that book and all the other forbidden tomes I saw are not really enough to end this investigation. Still, makes for good evidence. Asking about the forbidden lore seemed at a bad idea, although circumstances may make it possible in the future and without much else to go on I decided to enjoy talking with someone else who actually enjoys reading. Fantasy and adventure books no less! Throne, I haven’t had a chance to read a good adventure in so long! Takes me back to when I was just a bairn and my tutor would reward exceptional performance with an exciting new book. I was always exceptional in my studies of course. I never did hear what happened to her after I left for the Navy, I assume she moved on to greater things or another family at least. I digress, after some time Ventium received a communication and guided me out, after I chose what books to borrow. Turns out he was escorting me to where the specialists were and couldn’t contain his amusement at their current state. The specialists had been on one hell of a bender to the point where even the cogboys were drunk. I wasn’t sure such a thing was possible, I’ll have to remind myself to ask how exactly they did that. The only real option was to get them to a nearby infirmary which is apparently well prepared for just this scenario with it being filled with dialysis machines. Once they were hooked up and I was sure they were well and truly out of it, I decided to check Noctine’s pockets for those I.D cards they showed me earlier. Disappointed but not surprised that he hadn’t stored it somewhere safe. All it would take is one nosy git to rifle around in their pockets and they would be found out. Got the name I was looking for though, Lucius Drake. Afterwards I left for a night of restless sleep.

Next day I awoke with very much the same plan as the previous two. Question People of Interest, observe and record. Last on the list that I personally wanted to talk to, Lord-Admiral Sabanth Harlocke. However after talking with the officers in the mess I became painfully aware that tonight was the ball and I was without the appropriate attire! Thankfully I needn’t have panicked, Johnson soon set me up in the tailors and got to work on a suit. It took some time but it was an easy process. However I wasn’t alone in the tailor and whoever was with me was having a truly awful time from the sounds of it. My suit was finished and I walked to the mirror to admire when none other than Sabanth Harlocke walked (or rather shuffled) out to do the same. Talk about luck, eh? He certainly cut an impressive figure, one shaped by and honed for war. It did however have it’s drawbacks as his bulging musculature was trying to escape his suit, barely contained by whatever sorcerery the tailors used in it’s construction. I made no delay in introducing myself and before long we were deep in conversation. I didn’t get anything of direct use against Ventium but I did hear about the Sliscus and the Dark Eldar. Apparently Sliscus was in trade negotiations with another Rogue Trade fleet when the Harlockes blundered in. The Harlockes sensing opportunity quickly opened fire before any of the ships had a chance to respond. From what I understand it was a massacre and the Harlockes capitalised on their victory, boarding the capital ship intent on seizing it for their own use. Little did they know they would find Sliscus still aboard the Rogue Trader vessel and took him hostage. That certainly explains how they have these Dark Eldar that are even willing to follow orders somewhat. More interestingly however is that Sliscus has not made any attempts of escape in over a year. To me that sounds like he is fulfilled and satisfied, which makes me gravely concerned about what atrocities are currently happening on this ship. The conversation quickly moved back to the discussion of tactics and battles we had fought. Thought I’d try and show off a bit by showing him the scars I earned in the ’Nid incursion on the Comet Shield. He replied in kind, showing the vast array of scars he has earned over the years. Unfortunately this was a stretch too far for the suit and there was an awful tearing noise. The tailors were soon upon him again and, unwilling to leave him alone with these tormentors, accompanied him throughout the process before leaving and waiting for the ball to start.

The ball itself was a fun diversion. It did present an opportunity to talk with Sliscus, very much of a Person of Interest but I would very much like to avoid an insane, emotionally unstable, master swordsman, drug addict who literally lives to cause as much pain and suffering as possible so I instead made some pleasant conversation with the Harlockes. It wasn’t long until the first event of the night was upon as, the dance. The specialists quickly made their way to various Persons of Interests. I was left without a partner until I noticed Sabanth quite deliberately avoiding the dance. That wouldn’t do at all. After all, he could barely move in his suit and I never did take those dancing lessons to heart. We’d be a couple of stiffs incapable of dancing, a perfect match if I don’t say so myself. He agreed, albeit reluctantly and perhaps to the surprise of both of us it was a rather enjoyable experience. That said, the moment of the dance I’ll remember the most is whenever some sadistic bastard got Specialist Mordecai to dance with Sliscus. What was perhaps even more terrifying is that Sliscus seemed to enjoy it. I don’t think I want to know. With that over it came to the draw to see who would take control of the fleet next. I put a very modest bet on Rosalind, I don’t like to bet large amounts on games of chance. However I think we were rather fortunate as Ventium won the draw and quite excitedly declared that we were going on a treasure hunt. I think it will be most enlightening to see how Ventium hunts and what for. After the draw, the night began to wind down and slowly but surely everyone made their goodbyes. I went to buy a round for the Catachans I saw who had bravely suffered through such decadence and pomp when I noticed out the corner of my eye Specialist Verium grabbing a handful of pink powder before dragging Captain Merus away. Certainly pulling hard there, although didn’t I wingman for her trying to pull Kolden? Whatever, none of my business I suppose.

That’s about it, hopefully the Emperor will grant me a peaceful rest for my diligence. Although there’s not much to go on I think it’s a good start. I’m sure the specialists will have plenty to share when I go brief them.

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