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The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Non-Case Free Play (Freeform Writing Only).

Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:27 am

+++4.677.988.M41+++
+++Havarth, Subsector Ossibus, Sector Askellon, Segmentus Obscurus+++
+++Hive Norgian - Gullen's Inn+++


Gullen's Inn was situated on the edge of the middle hive, in between the first of a few dozen massive chimneys from manufactoria from the lower hive and the broad 20-line freeway connecting those to the lowest cargoport of Hive Norgian. It wasn't a great place for an inn with the noise of the cargo trucks on the freeway and the deep humming sound of the manufactoria echoing through the chimneys, invading every corner of the little locale. But for the cult, it meant that there were hardly any witnesses and that overhearing their discussions wouldn't be easy. The owner, a woman called Raezoli - who had nothing to do with Gullen Lars had learned - happily saw them coming as a meeting of the cult meant at least triple income that day.

When Lars entered, he had expected to be greeted by at least a dozen men and women. He was still in control of a circle himself and he had spun off four others, that had seemed to be capable of holding their own. Instead, he could see Raezoli, who gave him a curt nod, but none of her regulars, nor any of his men. At the bar, which had been built out of old promethium drums, sat just one guy, although he might have counted for two. The barstool was already bent in a dangerous angle, and as the man turned around, the thing nearly gave in to the weight.

Lars' expression must have been one of surprise, because the man started laughing.

"What is it Christian? Did you think we would never meet again after we last spoke?"

Ulahn Preston's mouth was half full with whatever Raezoli served as food and large chunks of it fell out of Preston's open mouth. Lars sat on the barstool next to him and ordered an ale. It probably was the safest substance to consume in the shady bar.

"I'm sorry if I startled you, Christian. I sent your men away."
"No problem," Lars answered evenly, although the reappearance of Preston meant a lot of questions. "We can go too if you like? It's not like this is the hottest place in the hive. We only use it because it's so far out of the way of almost everybody."

Preston grabbed a greasy, saucage-like piece of food and swallowed it whole.

"No man. The food's good. Just about as good as the company."

Lars looked around the deserted inn. Raezoli kept to herself at the far end of the bar, trying hard to be ignored. Preston would have made quite the entrance and he would definitely have shown that he meant business. The folk Lars had recruited didn't step down from a fight, nor were they easy to intimidate.

"So, let's talk then." Lars said, "I can't imagine you came down here for noll, right?"

Preston shoved the filthy dish away from him, and finding himself without napkins, used his pants to clean his hands.

"I'm here with a lot of our fellows to meet with the chief. I'm here to pick you up. We'll meet later tonight."

Lars didn't try to keep the excitement out of his voice. It seemed he finally would have a breakthrough, and his alias should also enjoy seeing some results for a change.

"Finally make. I've been running this show here for more than a year."
"Yeah, you did well Christian. You did very well. That's why I'm here. But you gotta know. Some of our fellows have been doing this for over a decade. They weren't all as talented as you, so perhaps they could have had more success over the years, but if you think you had it bad, think again."

Again, Lars felt surprised. The fact that this operation was running for more than a decade was utterly disturbing. Most of the criminals he had met, had a time horizon of a couple of months. The more talented, a year. But an op running for over ten years?

"Frak make. A decade," he wondered, "That's a lot of time. How many are there of us?"
"I've got a better view than you, but that's not a question I can answer. But as you have come to realize, there are lots of people who want to shake things up, right? There is a lot of anger and contept for the Imperium going around. I'm glad we will be able to change that."

Preston threw a couple of coppers on the bar and gave Raezoli a wave. "Time to go, Christian. Perhaps our chief can enlighten us."
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
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Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:03 am

+++4.677.988.M41+++
+++Havarth, Subsector Ossibus, Sector Askellon, Segmentus Obscurus+++
+++Hive Norgian - Underhive Water Treatment Plant Sigma-4+++


Preston had a groundcar parked outside - an old, battered Mitsunda - and without further ado they had started driving downwards. After an hour of driving through mostly industrial grounds, most of them abandoned, they came to the ruins of an ancient water treatment plant. Preston stopped in front of the main building, although he didn't have much choice since the whole area was littered with wrecks and trash. He flashed his headlights twice, waited for half a minute and repeated the gesture. Nothing seemed to happen and Lars started to wonder whether they were at the right place. But a minute later the light of two stab lights could be seen from behind the broken windows of the plant.

Preston stepped out of the car and beckoned Lars to follow him. Without lights of their own, they could only rely on the residual lighting from above, which, at this level of the hive, was next to nothing. Stumbling over empty cans and other mess, they reached the figures with the stab lights.

"Code?" a female voice called out.

Blinded by the stab lights, Lars couldn't really make out with how many they were, but the clicking sound of a safety lever being switched off, wasn't really reassuring. Luckily, Preston spoke up immediately.

"Revolt"
"Alright. Follow us."

Lars paid close attention to their guards, because it was clear that although they were now accepted, they still seemed a bit wary. They didn't holster their guns, which were mostly standard issue lasguns and laspistols. And they didn't start to chit chat, not with Preston or himself, nor among themselves. When they entered the building, Lars could see that the ruins were but a cover. Only 50 metres inside, the grime had been swept away and in some places, the walls had been reinforced. A solid, metal door stood at the end of the corridor and Lars was sure that he could see sensor arrays built in the ceiling. Next to the door hung a pictcapter in a reinforced cage and somebody must have been keeping an eye on them because just as they approached the door, it split and slid open.

Beyond lay a large hall with hundreds of copper and plasteel pipes coming together in large cylindrical vats. Almost everywhere, Lars could see signs of heavy corrosion, but at certain points - ladders and platforms, doors and even some of the old vats - they had been renewed. Their guards didn't break their stride and took Preston and Lars down to the bottom floor of the large hall. There, they indicated a heavy door in one of the renewed tanks. It stood open and the artificial lighting of industrial floodlights shone out of it. Preston stepped forwards and lead the way, leaving Lars no other option than to follow.

Inside of the tank, which, at the bottom, was large enough to fit a few Rhino's, three lines of folding chairs had been set up. Before that, someone had set up an old laboratorium table with a flag of the dragon cult symbol draped over it. The flood lights stood at either side of the table, lighting up the area before it. Lars quickly counted the chairs and matched it with the number of people in the tank. At least twenty men and women were already present, which meant that a third of the group still had to arrive, if the number of chairs was anything to go by of course. Lars took a seat on the last row, next to a skinny, white haired man in a uniform of a Navy NCO. Lars saw how Preston took a place against the wall of the tank at the back, obviously not trusting the quality of the folding chairs. Something Lars thought was wise of him.

Lars looked around the room. The large majority seemed to have come here alone and only a handful of those present were engaged in conversation. The rest sat or stood in the little room, waiting until whatever was going to happen, would begin. Over the next twenty minutes, Lars saw another dozen men and women arrive, the last of which was lady Kuntich herself. Lars didn't wave, but the old hag had spotted him immediately, giving him a look of recognition and distaste at the same time. After she entered, one of the guards, closed the heavy door and the room fell quiet. A lot of his companions were looking around with confusion, but still no one dared to speak up. Lars threw a questioning look at Preston and he could see how Kuntich was doing the same. For once Ulahn Preston seemed to be out of his depth himself, for he ignored the questioning looks completely and remained focused on the scene.

Just before the people started asking questions, a voice came from the dark side of the room.

"My fellow followers of the Dragon."

The voice had a strange quality to it, but Lars couldn't exactly put his finger on the problem.

"I am glad we finally meet. We are after all, working together to reach our destination."

It wasn't just the local dialect of low gothic, nor was the voice artificial like those of the servants of the Mechanicus.

"Tonight, we will look forward together. We will prepare ourselves for the Change."

The timbre of the man's voice, who had now stepped into the light behind the improvised altar, was the problem. It was a deep voice, but somehow, some words came out with a high tone, sounding double, as if they had been spoken by a second person. The rest of the group didn't seem bothered by this and one look at Preston learned him that he too was enthralled by the message of the man before them. Just like a clergyman of the Ecclesiarchy, the man had somehow started preaching, using several anekdotes and little stories to solidify this so-called Change. Lars couldn't help but think of the words of lord Kasparin.

'A great wave is coming for this sector. A wave that will flood the Imperium. Only the strong will remain standing. Only those worthy of the cult will survive.'

Instead of listening to what the man had to say, Lars studied him some more. The voice still bothered him, even more so now he saw that multiple people in the room were softly swinging from left to right, sometimes even bobbing up, on the rythm of the man's words. He could only describe them as mesmerized. Apart from his voice, there was something else wrong with him. His eyes were a bit too close to each other, and although his bald skull wasn't a clue per se, the fact that he seemed to have no body hair at all, was. Lars could see how the man's brows were painted upon his scalp. At some point though, the man crossed eyes with Lars and the arbite knew he had to cut it out and start behaving like the rest of the crowd. A bit uneasy, he started swaying gently from left to right. The preacher directed his attention elsewhere and Lars let out a long soft sigh of relief.

After another thirty minutes of the same lulling speech, the man behind the altar wrapped it up. Next he stepped out from behind the altar and walked towards the group. From one of his pockets, he produced a number of golden coins and handed them out to several members of the group. Lars didn't get one but he could see how the symbol of the dragon was stamped on them. He didn't dare to look around too ostentaticiously, because he still had the feeling that the preacher kept a close eye on him, but still he noticed how Preston was given a coin as well. After that the man stepped back to the fore and held out his own dragon amulet before him.

"For progress of the Change! United we stand!"

The whole room repeated after him, Lars included. In fact, he yelled it at the top of his lungs to make sure he gave an enthusiastic impression. After that, the guards opened the doors once more and beckoned them out. They were all handed a scrap of paper on which a timecode and a new password were written. Lars was about to make his way to the stairs out of the cavernous room when he saw how Preston was taken out of the crowd. In fact, all of the cultists that had received a golden coin, where asked to step out of the file. Lars regretted not having been given one but couldn't do anything else but follow the rest of the group that was ushered out.

Once outside, Lars walked to the Mitsunda and sat on the hood of the dinged car. The rest of the cultists dispersed and took to groundcars of their own, or just left on foot, probably to another mode of transportation. Lars couldn't imagine any one of those staying on this level, or going back on foot to the middle hive, a trip that would easily take the best part of a day. After a good ten minutes the parking lot was deserted once more. As far as Lars had been able to make out, the guards had retreated into the fortified part of the old plant. Lars knew he could try to hijack the car, but he was sure Preston wouldn't appreciate that. Still, the air on this level made his throat prickle and Lars wanted to get out. However, he was pretty sure that returning to the entrance and asking politely for a stay for the night, wouldn't be met with a positive answer.

Lars eyes started to become accustomed to the darkness and he started wandering around slowly, circling the main building and trying to find out whether the other entrances were equally reinforced. After half an hour of skulking around in the deep shadows, Lars hadn't been able to check on any fortifications, but the fact that all other exits were blocked off with crude flakboard panels, didn't give him a lot of hope. He had, however, come across a large bridge, supporting an enormous pipe and lots of smaller ones, descending from the upper levels and heading into the plant. Without any sign of Preston, or any of the other cult members for that matter, Lars started climbing the corroded metal pillar that served as the bridge's support. Once on top of the bridge, Lars wriggled through the gap between two industrial sized pipes and found a service walkway. Although the thick layer of rust crisped under his boots, the walkway seemed to support his weight and Lars sent a little prayer up to the Omnissiah, thanking Him for the sturdiness of his standard patterns.

Coming to the wall of the main building, Lars looked for a service hatch in the dim light. Logically it should be at the end of the walkway, but the energy the Mechanicus had invested in sturdiness, they sure hadn't in logic. Lars found a few, utterly broken, pressure meters but nothing else. Backtracking his steps, he found a little ladder, leading to a service hatch. Coming to the top of the ladder, Lars cursed. The door was in iron as well and had been afflicted by corrosion to an extent that Lars deemed it impossible to pull it open. Ready to give up, he turned around and banged his fist against one of the smaller pipes in frustration. With a cloud of rustbrown powder and an awful squeeking noise, the pipe snapped in two. Lars ducked and checked his surroundings. So far, he hadn't seen any patrols, nor heard any other sounds that indicated the presence of other people, but it wouldn't hurt to play safe at this point. After five minutes he concluded that the surroundings of the plant were still as deserted as before. He turned back to the broken pipe. The diameter of the tube was about 40 centimetres, just enough for Lars to crawl through, although if the thing got any narrower down the line, he wouldn't be able to move forwards and wurming his way backwards, would go at an agonizing low speed. For once, Lars praised himself lucky for not wearing his standard enforcer carapace.

"You'll probably miss that armour even more than your pistol, Akira. Assuming you manage not to get stuck down there.'

Further pondering the decision wouldn't get him any more boons, so without further hesitation, Lars started crawling forwards, into the darkness.
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
Goodwyn Boltgun 12/12 & Scrambler 12/12
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Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Fri Dec 23, 2016 9:23 am

Lars had only moved forward about ten metres when the residual light from the outside was cut off by a sharp turn to the right. Without a stablight or photocontacts, Lars was now effectively blind. All he had were his hands that felt the way forward. On the bottom of the pipe, there was a thin layer of dirt, sediment, now the only sign that once these pipes had been filled with water. As he crawled further in, Lars praised himself lucky that the pipe showed no signs of becoming more narrow. Which didn't mean that he was comfortable. He had to stay on his kneels and elbows. There wasn't enough room to crawl on his hands and knees, which made his progress only slower. After a while his back started to ache and Lars hoped he would find an exit pretty soon, or at least a place where he could stretch.

After a quarter of an hour, Lars wishes hadn't come true, although there was a change to his environment. Before, the only sound penetrating the silence had been the soft rustling noise of his clothes that swept against the metal pipe. Now, he also heard a faint bass tone, reverberating through the pipe. Although he could distinguish a repeating rhythm, he was pretty sure that it wasn't coming from one of the installations inside the plant. The rhythm sometimes sped up and afterwards it calmed down once more. It was more like... music. Without other ways to observe what was happening, Lars pushed onwards, still trying to find an exit.

The pipe went on and on however, and although Lars had tried to keep track of the distance he had travelled - he had counted the pieces of pipe he had crawled through - the pipe had twisted and turned and he had lost his count. The music had become louder, but Lars still had no idea whether the source of the sound was nearby or far away. What he did notice was that the angle of the pipe had slowly dropped and that for the last ten minutes he had been steadily descending. The arbite didn't know if that was a good sign, or that he had now left the facility again and was crawling towards the underhive, but five minutes later his progress came to a full stop. Before him, Lars' hands felt nothing but thin air. The pipe hadn't stopped but had taken another sharp turn, although this time, instead of going to the left or right, it went straight down. He turned on his back to feel at the ceiling of the pipe and sure enough, he found the opening of another one, right above the drop his pipe led to. He was at a T junction and could now only go up or down.

After a moment of self pity, Lars decided he would go further down. That way, if he would fall, the distance to the bottom would at least be shorter than if he started climbing up. With a grunt he managed to pull himself forwards so his shoulders were now hanging over the gap. Next he pulled himself up, making himself as wide as possible so his shoulders were jammed to either side of the pipe. Now, he could start clambering downwards, alternating between his legs and back to put pressure against the sides of the pipe. All seemed to be going well. After a while though, Lars' legs started to cramp up and still there was no sign of the pipe levelling out. For a moment he wanted to pause, but that would only make things worse, he realized. Grunting in the darkness, he continued. After another few metres, his hand slipped. His left shoulder scraped against the pipe. Cursing, he restored his grip, but only half a minute later his right leg gave out. Now his right side was slumped against the pipe. Lars felt desperation taking over, but he couldn't allow himself to panic. Instead, he started praying out loud. His limbs trembled, but sure enough, after another two metres, he felt the pipe leveling out.

After sitting down for five minutes at the bottom of the drop, breathing heavily in and out, he started to move again. He had praised the Emperor abundantly but Lars felt that he would need all the help he could get. At this level, the bass rhythm was sounding louder than ever and he could also distinguish higher notes. The echoes in the pipes were still distorting the sound, but it sounded like... chanting. With a sense of trepidation, Lars crouched and went onwards, the ache in his back hardly soothed by the short pause, but at least the horizontal pipe allowed him to move faster.

After another five minutes, Lars came to an opening once more. Luckily, he could still feel the bottom and he guessed he was in some sort of reservoir. Not sure where to go next, he cautiously felt to the left and right. Before he knew it, he felt something rubbery in his hand and he nearly cried out in surprise. But apart from the music, which had gotten a disturbing atonal quality, he couldn't hear anything else in the reservoir. He stretched out his hand and found the foreign object once more. He explored it with both his hands, but couldn't identify it. A rubbery line, connected to some sort of metal box. On the ground he found yet more of the rubbery tubes and something which felt like plasteel tracks. It was only when his left thumb was sticking through an eye socket, and his right hand was around the rest of a skull, Lars realized that he was feeling up a servitor. Probably a unit responsible for cleaning the pipeworks. Lars relaxed. And then he felt a bit of joy. If this unit was in some sort of holding station, it would make sense that there was an access to this room where the Mechanicus would be able to service the thing. Lars felt new energy and started crawling through the space, looking for anything that looked like a service panel or hatch. After pushing over the remains of the servitor, Lars found such a hatch and he praised the Emperor once more when the locking mechanism was a simple bolt which he could open from the inside.

Half a minute later he was standing on a grated plasteel plate, overlooking a cavernous hall with dozens of tanks. Beneath him, the room was lit by hundreds of lanterns, concentrated around the central copper tank that was being used as a stage. On the circular top of the tank a few dozen men and women were standing in a thick pack. At the left of the mass, Lars could see a group of musicians that used improvised instruments to create the strange atonal music Lars had heard echoing through the pipeworks. The mass were chanting and singing, each their own song. Together with the music, it created the atonal harmony that made the hair in Lars' neck stand up straight. As he observed the spectacle, Lars could see the strange bobbing and swinging of the men and women on the stage. It reminded him of what he had seen earlier that night, only, it felt like this time, the mass was even further submerged in the trance.

Lars wasn't really sure what to do next. He could get to the floor of the hall and find his way to the central tank easy enough, but what good would it do? He was without weapons or backup. As he pondered the situation, his eye felt on a figure approaching the central tank below him. The man was shrouded in a long white cape, but Lars could see that he was a tall man as he towered over the guards that accompanied him. But apart from his length, there was something else about him. Again, Lars couldn't really put his finger on it, apart from noticing that the man waggled a bit from left to right as he moved forwards. But there had to be something about him, because when he reached the top of the stairs that were slung around the copper tank, the mass immediately turned their attention to him, all in one moment, as if an electric shock had gone through them. The music stopped for a moment and the crowd stepped back to make room for the robed man. Lars wished he had a pair of magnoculars with him, because he could only see the major movements of the mass, not their expressions. Several of the cultists fell to their knees though when the man passed, but they were careful enough not to touch the figure.

Once the man came to the middle of the tank, he threw back the hood that had concealed his face. Lars gasped. Instead of the face of a charismatic leader, an utterly misformed head came from under the white cloth. Its skull was far longer than that of a regular human and Lars noticed how the thing had an extra pair of eyes on its weird shaped temples. The crowd however didn't seem shocked, nor freightened. Lars however, had to do everything to not crawl back into the pipehouse he had left minutes ago. The mutant raised a small metalic object into the air and Lars could see how his gesture was being followed by a number of cultists. One of those was undoubtably Preston Ulahn as no one else in the group was anywhere near as fat as the man. Those that mimicked the gesture slowly made their way through the mass until they could kneel in front of the leader. Lars wished to look away, but he couldn't avert his eyes. The man in the white robe bent forward and then kissed the first of the cultists on the mouth. Even from this distance Lars could see a glob of slimy saliva drop to the floor as the leader pulled back his face. The cultist gingerly returned the coin and laid down on his belly, seemingly submitting themselves to the creature. So it went on and on, until all the chosen cultists were laying face first against the floor. The choir went crescendo as their leader spread out his arms, revealing his hands. Or at least, one hand, because the other was twisted into some sort of four pronged claw. At that point, the cultists started shuddering and trembling, and one after another they stood up, rejoining the rest of the ranks, adding their voices to the atonal melody until the music echoed through the entire hall.

Lars had seen enough, but didn't know what to do. It surpassed his worst fears. This went far beyond high end smugglers or cartel business. This wasn't just another criminal organisation trying to recruit or start playing on a sector level.

'This is heresy, Akira.Absolut heresy.'

And he hadn't got a clue what to do about it.
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
Goodwyn Boltgun 12/12 & Scrambler 12/12
Garm Boltpistol 8/8
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Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Thu Jan 12, 2017 9:48 am

Lars still sat on the little platform an hour later. The leader had retreated from the stage, the crowd had dispersed and Lars was utterly alone in the large hall. The lanterns and candles were failing one after another and soon enough he would be shrouded in darkness once more. But Lars didn't notice. He was still too shocked from the unholy and alien ceremony to come into action. And although he had been in situations far more dangerous than this one, the magnitude of the challenge was unprecedented. He could easily slip away and leave the whole mess behind without a problem, but to succeed at his mission... Lars felt like he was up against the entire galaxy. And in a way, he was. For all he knew, Belloran and his staff were out of the picture and he himself was stuck with a number of fake identities that all had enough dirt on them to judge him in an instant. So, although he had been thinking about a plan or strategy to shut down the entire cult, he had gotten stuck each and every time.

'All your plans and schemes are worthless, Akira. You need to get back to basics.'

He needed more intel. He needed to know more about the mutant leader. He needed to get a picture of their resources here on Havarth. And in the sector as a whole.

'And you're in luck Akira. You're in the middle of the enemy base, all that information ripe for the taking.'

Although he still hadn't a plan to succeed at his mission, the regulator now at least had a motivation and an immediate objective. With that, he felt better already. In the last of the faint light, he grabbed hold of the steel ladder leading to the floor of the hall. Coming at its foot, he decided to head for the corridor the leader had disappeared in. Lars wasn't aiming for a direct confrontation, but he suspected that any sensitive data would be stored close by its residence. It was easy to find its trail. At this level, the facility had been in an even worse state than on top and the cultists had taken efforts to clear certain paths from debris and even reinforce certain sections with new, standard issue support pillars. Lars assumed that they would stay in these areas rather than the areas where the floor tiles were ruined, the rockcrete ceiling had started rotting or where the lumenstrips were hanging out of their sockets.

Without his armour or any other equipment, Lars felt vulnerable, but, on the plus side, he was lighter on his feet. And he had every intention to play this advantage to the fullest. Remaining unnoticed by the cultist guards seemed to be a top priority, although obtaining a weapon wasn't far below on the list of objectives. Lars seemed to be in luck, because only five minutes into the inner centre of the cultist base, he stumbled upon a make shift lockerroom. The light of the sparsely distributed lumenstrips in the corridor only shed a little light in the 5 by 4 metre room, but it was enough to make out the form of a Berserk-pattern heavy lasrifle. Lars wasn't very familiar with lasguns - he preferred the rapport and recoil of solid projectile weapons - but it would do for now. The Berserk rifle only had semi-auto and full-auto firing options, so thinking to get an accurate shot out of it, was vane hope from the start. Lars checked the clip and could see that the charge had depleted to about half capacity, but still, it was better than nothing. He could always use it as a heavy club when it ran out of juice.

Continuing his way through the base, Lars noticed that there were hardly any patrols, or in fact, any living souls at all on the lower level of the water plant. He'd only come across a duo of guards, sitting in a provisoral refectorium that stank of old recaf, talking in hushed voices. Lars had waited for a minute or two, trying to discern the subject of their conversation, but the distance had been to great. He stumbled over something far more interesting only minutes later. Alerted by a soft buzzing sound, Lars had left the main path for a smaller, service corridor. At the end of the narrow hallway, a metal fence had been used to replace the missing door. Through the mesh, Lars saw at least five large data columns and an ancient cogitator station that was crudely connected to the datalooms with industrial cabling. It all smelt of improvisation and Lars realized that in all his time with the Dragon Cult, he had rarely, if ever seen a tech priest.

'Perhaps the Mechanicus is impervious for their arguments, Akira. Perhaps they might be your ally in this?'

Lars tried to open the fence, but it was locked. A sturdy and brandnew security lock made sure that the fence wouldn't be opened without the proper key. For a moment, Lars considered using the lasrifle to force way in, but that would also make sure that every guard in the vicinity would be put on alarm. Lars felt at the fence and found out that although the lock was of high quality, the mesh itself was hanging on with thin metal wires. Although Lars' strength was nothing to write home about, he managed to break the door in such a way that he could crawl through.

Immediately, he activated the old cogitator. It had an endured rubber coating to avoid water getting into its systems, so it probably was a unit the cultists found at the water plant itself. The black screen lit up with orange letters and before he could click open any control menu's, an old memo popped up.

"To praise the Omnissiah, is to offer Holy ointments regularly to his servants!"

Without the necessary oils at hand, Lars clicked away the message and started browsing through the menu's to get a good view on whatever information was stored in the datalooms. Soon he found that there were hundreds of folders, but looking at the metadata the ancient machine spirit reluctantly provided him with, he could filter a lot out. After half an hour of dividing his attention between the grainy orange letters and the fence door behind him, he had compiled a specific folder with interesting intelligence: Names of notable members of the cult, locations of safe houses and a large number of accounts with all sorts of moneylenders and traffickers. Obviously there wasn't a datanet, so Lars looked for a datacard, but it seemed the cultists really had very little tech resources. Lars pondered the problem for a moment when his eye fell on the five old datacolumns. The datalooms inside were his only option. There was way too much information to start noting it down, so Lars isolated one of the columns and searched for an empty stack. He was amazed at what the machine spirit let him do, especially in this unorthodox configuration. Silently, he thanked his colleague Vishna for the few lessons in cogitator handling he had received on their way to the judge. This whole setup and procedure was right up the former tech adept's alley and without the pointers she had given him, he would have been stuck.

With the data handling complete, Lars carefully took of the cover of the data column that housed his compilation. He counted the stacks until he found the one that contained his folder. The metal was hot under his fingers and as he pulled the stack out of the column, the little red lights that had been flickering on its surface, fading out. Lars found a few pieces of cloth in a toolbox under the table with the cogitator and wrapped them around the fragile dataloom.

'Now let's hope these bastards don't check their equipment too much, Akira. If they never find out you've been here, perhaps you can come back better prepared for clearing out this bunch.'

It had become obvious that this theft of information needed to remain hidden from the cult. If they would find out, they would go to ground and most of Lars' intel would be rendered useless. So the regulator carefully placed back the cover of the datacolumn and restored the cogitator station to its original configuration. With his precious package tucked firmly behind his belt, he crawled back through the fence and tried to close the gap he had made. If they would examine the door closely, bringing a strong enough lumen globe, they would still notice the damage, but when you looked at it with only the light of the corridor behind him, there was no way that someone would stumble over it.

Lars noticed how his steps had become more secure, more confident. For the first time in over a year, he felt back like an arbite. Once more he had a purpose. Finally he had obtained a way to hit back. It meant he had something to live and fight for instead of being stuck in a cover with no prospects of doing any good. It also meant that he had something to lose. So he doubled his efforts to remain unnoticed and started looking for a way back up.
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
Goodwyn Boltgun 12/12 & Scrambler 12/12
Garm Boltpistol 8/8
Pugnatis Autopistol 18/18
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Librarian Astelan
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Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:49 am

++4.678.988.M41+++
+++Havarth, Subsector Ossibus, Sector Askellon, Segmentus Obscurus+++
+++Hive Norgian - Underhive Water Treatment Plant Sigma-4+++


Lars lay flat on his belly on another service platform. From his vantage point he could see the exit of the facility and the corridor leading up to it. Four guards were present by the reinforced steel door that gave access to the parking lot outside of the old water treatment plant. Two of them held standard issue lasguns and were smoking lho sticks right next to the heavy switch that would open the door. A third one set at a little table with an apparantly brandnew cogitator station, flipping through the different pict feeds from the outside. The last one sat on the floor with a chair before him, laying out Imperial tarot cards before him on the seat. The hallway was only ten feet wide, the little table with the cogitator blocking almost half of it. There was no way he would be able to sneak past. And even if he would use the Berserk-pattern lasrifle on the guards and would take them all out, his objective of leaving the facility unnoticed would definitely be a bust. Lars was hoping that a change in the guard would give him an opportunity, but after three hours of waiting, Lars was beginning to wonder whether they would actually get relieved.

Suddenly, Lars heard voices coming from under him. He peeked through a gape in the metal platform and spotted three figures with glowglobes, mounting the stairs leading to the checkpoint.

"So, how did this batch go? Another success?"
"Yeah, most of them anyway. Just one that didn't take."
"What did they do?"
"He wasn't too far gone, so they tranqued him and put him in one of the cells. We'll see if he comes to his senses in the next few days."
"Glad I'm not on that detail."
"Yeah. It's spooking as warp to guard those fraks. It's Scodders that pulled the short straw."
"Hahaha, classic Scodders. Always in for the worst crap."


The trio passed under him and Lars could see how they were welcomed by the other group. A few handshakes were exchanged and the man at the cogitator seemed to be briefing the guy that had known about the results and poor Scodders. Although Lars was disappointed that the changing of the guard wouldn't provide him with a chance to get away after all - even with a man less, it was impossible to sneak by them unnoticed - he didn't feel his spirits falter. The little conversation had contained all the info needed to create some sort of diversion. Especially if there was only one man, and not the most competent at that, so it seemed, that would be able to stop him.

Lars waited patiently until the first four disappeared into the bowels of the water plant and then started to crawl back. As soon as he thought there was enough distance between him and the detail, he started jogging back down. By now it was obvious that the security detail on this base was limited at best and even though they were conscient enough, routine had settled in. Lars avoided the main corridors and started looking for the cells, and more specificly the one Scodders was standing guard by.

Half an hour later, he had found what he was looking for. Before him lay a long corridor with a lot of small offices left and right. Back in the days, it were probably the desks of the lowest ranks of the Mechanicus. At the end of the hall stood a floodlight and beneath it Lars could see the figure of a scrawny man, sitting on a few bricks, with two bottles at his feet. Lars slowly walked forward, doing his best to avoid the rubble that lay on the floor and that would give him away immediately if he stepped, or worse, slipped on it. As he closed the distance, Lars could hear the man humming to the tones of a popular Imperial march. Oblivious of Lars' presence, he grabbed one of the bottles and took a hefty swig. Lars pretended to be swiping away some dirt from his forehead, thereby covering his face and yelled at the man with a heavy voice.

"Scodders! What the frak do you think you're doing?!"

The man choked on his drink and scrambled to hide the bottles behind the bricks he sat on. Lars quickly closed the distance and yelled some more at him, preventing the man to find his balance.

"Think you're doing a good job guarding the sick frak?!"

The man had now put down the bottle in his hand and had given a shove against the other one so that the glass container rolled out of the circle of light on the ground. His attention was now on the lasgun standing next to him against the wall. No doubt, the cultist thought he was being inspected and would be found wanting if his gun was out of his hands. But Scodders didn't even get the chance to stand to attention as Lars broke into a sprint to cross the final metres and violently punched the man on the temple, just as he was getting back up. Scodders went down and didn't stand back up. Still, Lars could see his eyelids fluttering and the regulator gave the downed man another kick in the teeth for good measure. Scodders made a pityful sound before losing conscience completely. Lars frisked him quickly and found a keyring. There weren't much possibilities for it to use as most of the doors were open, showing the modifications made to the former offices. All the furniture had been removed and the doors had been reinforced. Only two doors were closed, both of them near the floodlight. Lars ran through the keys and unlocked the first door. Instead of a person, he saw a dozen crates with locally brewed rotgut. Lars wasn't surprised the cultists kept this reserve behind a lock as the possibilities for diversion at the base were next to none existant. The second door contained what he was looking for. On the ground lay a man, breathing in and out heavily. The floodlight revealed the cold sweat on his brow and as Lars kneeled down next to him and examined him a bit closer he could see how tiny red pubes had formed all over his skin. His eyes were closed and the man didn't seem to react at all at Lars' presence.

The regulator stood back up and prodded the man with the tip of his shoe. Lars had hoped that this guy would be frantic or violent. At least enough of a distraction for the guards to abandon their routine, but it seemed he was going to be disappointed. Lars had already turned his back on the man, thinking how to deal with the knocked out Scodders, when suddenly he heard a fearsome growl behind him. Instinctively, Lars ducked behind the wall and he felt how grasping fingers scratched over his back, but a loud stomp indicated that his assailant had missed and had crashed into the wall. Lars turned around and held out his lasrifle before him, ready to fend off the man, using the weapon as an improvised club. But the man had turned his attention elsewhere and before Lars could react, he was all over Scodders. It was a blessing that the man was unconscious. The other cultist tore open Scodders' dirty flightsuit and with the ferocity of a wild beast, bit into Scodders' neck, snatching out his jugular in a single violent motion.

'Time to go Akira. I'm sure this thing will prove enough of a distraction.'

Lars started running, no longer paying attention to stealth. At least not until he had put enough distance between himself and the raging cultist. He had reached a flight of stairs at the end of the corridor, when the creature - it was no longer an ordinary man - cried out in anger. Lars risked a short look over his shoulder, but apart from a bloody mess under the floodlight, the only thing he could see was a shadow moving towards him with great speed. Lars started climbing the stairs, taking them two at the time. The thing clearly wasn't satiated with Scodders alone and it didn't seem like it would be stopped easily.

"FRAAAK!!! IT ESCAAAPED!!! GET IT! GET IT!" Lars cried out. This wasn't exactly going like he had expected, but he needed to use this opportunity to the fullest, drawing as much attention as possible to the crazed cultist as possible. He passed a lone and surprised guard in one of the side corridors and Lars praised himself lucky. The creature was gaining on him and he could use some extra time. The wet sound of blood being spilled behind him, only seconds later, was enough motivation for Lars to keep running up the stairs. On the next floor, Lars left the staircase and stormed off through the corridor that would lead him back to the hall where he had left the pipeworks. It was probably still abandoned and it had enough opportunities to break line of sight with the creature if it would still be following him.

Another minute later, he was hiding behind some waterdrums, trying to steady his breathing to avoid detection should the crazed cultist turn up. After half a minute, nobody appeared and everything remained quiet. Lars was just considering retracing his steps when the telltale crack of a lasgun echoed through the corridor, followed by more screaming.

'Looks like someone is occupied with it, Akira. Time to get out. Quickly."

The great hall he found himself in, had numerous exits and although he still lacked a good understanding of the layout of the base, Lars was reasonably sure that the corridor he picked would lead him to the top level without crossing the more frequently used rooms and hallways. Coming at the service platform he had been laying on earlier, Lars was happy to see that only a single guard remained. From his place in the shadows he could see that it was a young woman, no more than twenty years old. She was pale and Lars could see the lasgun in her hands trembling. She flinched when another cry came from deeper within the facility and kept staring intently at the staircase at the end of the corridor. The sounds of weaponry being employed multiplied and Lars knew that he was running out of time.

"Hey! Get over here! Cover us!" Lars yelled from his hiding place. The girl was startled again and took a cautious step towards the staircase. "Yeah, you! Get over here now. We need you to cover us! Quickly!" Lars repeated. Now she started running. Just as she passed under him and saw that no one was on the stairs, Lars swung down from the platform, planting both his feet in the back of the woman, sending her falling down the stairs. Lars hurried down after her, but even before he reached the cultist, the unnatural angle in which her back was twisted, was insurance enough that she wouldn't talk no more. The sound of lasfire from below suddenly stopped and Lars could hear someone bellowing to cease fire.

'Time's up, Akira.'

But Lars escape route lay wide open now and all that was left was finding his way back to the middle hive. But after that, an his biggest challenge awaited. Finding someone to deal with this mess.
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
Goodwyn Boltgun 12/12 & Scrambler 12/12
Garm Boltpistol 8/8
Pugnatis Autopistol 18/18
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Re: The Akira Prelude Chapter 5: Friend and Enemy

Postby Librarian Astelan » Mon Jan 23, 2017 4:12 pm

+++5.977.988.M41+++
+++Terminus Prime, Subsector Ossibus, Sector Askellon, Segmentus Obscurus+++
+++Orbital Defense station Sigma 5 - Command Bunker A3+++


In the days and weeks after his escape from the Dragon Cult base on Havarth, Lars had been busy tying up loose ends - such as removing Christian Haraldson from the game - and trying to think of a way to get back in contact with Arthur. The former had been far more easy than the latter. Hive Norgian's underbelly contained enough roughneck gangs with enough means to lay their hands on a corpse and pin an alternate identity on it. To get back in touch with the office of judge Belloran, Lars had decided that he would have the biggest chance heading for Juno. As the sector capital, Juno housed the headquarters of the Adeptus Arbites of the Askellon sector. Frank Horrigan had told Lars that the judge liked his freedom and mostly operated in full autonomy, but in the end, he still fell under the authority of the Supreme Judge Sectoris.

Getting access to the fortress had been challenging - in the end, Lars had used the procedures of witness protection to get in - but even more challenging had been to convince the other arbites of his legal status. He'd gone through a seemingly endless number of interviews and tests and although they had dug up a file of him, which even included biometric data, his case had ended on the desk of the chief of the counterintelligence department. At some points during the process, Lars had felt that he was about to be detained and at one particular moment it had seemed like he would sooner be put on trial than be restored in his former office. Lars could still remember the final talk with judge primaris Cadiz, a woman in her sixties with a flat nose, obviously from getting it broken time and again, who had been put on his case.

"Regulator Akira." she had begun.
"Your honor." Lars had suppresed a smile.
"I can see that you have deducted already what the council has decided on your case, regulator. However, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much."
The use of his rank had been a give-away, but then Lars had shuffled on his chair. Clearly there had been strings attached. He had remained silent though, as well he should in the presence of his superior, and especially this woman who had been as hard and unforgiven as a Mechanicus adamantium anvil.
"You are to be restored in your rank... But you shan't be restored in your former position."
Lars had let the judge before him continue. Even if he would have protested, he hadn't been under any illusions that he had had any say in the matter.
"There are two reasons for this, regulator. One is practical, the other is... Let's say the other is a precaution."
Even as she had been giving him the news, Cadiz had been keeping him under close scrutiny, ready to detect, even then, anything suspicious.
"The first reason is that we are currently unaware of the location, or status, of judge Belloran."
Lars hadn't been worried hearing the news. Belloran had often told him stories about falling of the map and having no one else but yourself to count on. It was what the judge had told him afterwards that had shocked him.
"The Unwanting Revenge has been destroyed. It was made to look like an accident, but we added a verispex team to the Mechanicus salvage operation. Even though there were no survivors, we've been able to learn that someone injected an unstable mixture of promethium in the secundary engines. We've also been able to ascertain that the judge wasn't aboard at the time. However, his mission team had been destroyed on the ground. We haven't been able to identify all the bodies, so there's still a chance he's missing, but whether he is Abiit in Actionem or Occidit in Actionem, our command has given up on him."
Cadiz had seen that this news had been wrecking to Lars and with her next words, she fell out of her role. Lars only noticed it later and would use it to his advantage.
"Regulator! Both you and I know, we are talking of judge Arthur Belloran. We have seen more surprising things of him in the past."
Lars had righted his shoulders and nodded. It was enough for Cadiz to take back on the role of a judge primaris in a debrief with a suspect officer.
"You see how we are unable to restore you to your former position. Also, the Adeptus doesn't quite know what to make of your story. Any officer that has gone under cover for such an extended period of time as you..."
The woman had seemed to change her mind about something and continued in a flat, matter-of-fact tone.
"The Adeptus has decided that you will be added to the staff of another judge. You will receive mission orders and a travel pass. We expect you to continue to fulfill your duty to the Emperor. Ave Imperator!"
And that had been the end of it.

At least, the end of his official communications with the Adeptus Arbites. Afterwards he had recollected his thoughts at one of the many space ports of the sector capital and Lars had decided that it just wouldn't do. He had delivered his information, but at this point he wasn't even sure the Arbites would act on it. Apart from that, he still couldn't accept the decision of the Adeptus Arbites on the fate of Arthur Belloran. Lars had searched refuge in one of the hundreds of shady bars at the edge of the space port and after a few drinks he had been ready to come to terms with his realization. Just like Walther Willis he had then been seriously contemplating disloyalty to the Arbites. From his point of view, the situation had been completely different, but he could imagine that judge primaris Cadiz and her peers wouldn't exactly agree with his assessment. Still, after another amasec of dubious quality, regulator Lars Akira had decided that he would put his loyalty to Arthur above his duty to the Arbites. He had realized that when he had told himself that he also had a duty to judge Belloran, he had been lying to himself, but after the decision had been made, Lars had never second guessed it.

His next step was boarding a low end commercial liner to Phlegethon. He had desperately needed back-up and he had only knew one place to get it. And he hadn't been disappointed. Lady Niala had immediately offered him her hospitality and had put the considerable means of House Mobatu at his disposal, including her spy master Pumbo and his network. Once more, Lars had been blown away with Pumbo's efficiency in digging up information on about anything Lars pointed his finger at. Only a few weeks later they had had a rough idea of what had happened, based on Arbite reports, trader's gossip and some key informants tied into diverse smuggling operations. Of course it had helped that Lars had been able to identify the Kerviel Cartel as a suspect, but still, not even in Lars' wildest dreams would he have found the judge only two months after his discussion with Cadiz. But with Pumbo's help, he had found him in a small medicae facility, ran by the order of Saint Ezeran. It had been a hospital at the edge of Spirus Blanca, mostly for the low life that travelled into the wastes to scavenge. Once more Lars had been stricken with the feeling that it were the small folk that stayed true to the Emperor's laws and edicts. The fraters that operated the facility, with limited resources at best, had welcomed him but only after they had made sure, in their way, that Lars was to be trusted. Lars hadn't had a lot of confidence in the process - to him, the amount of incense or the quality of the holy scripture, weren't guarantees towards safety - but he had respected them for trying to keep the judge safe.

Arthur Belloran had only been a shadow of the man he had once been. His cheeks had been hollow and a dirty veil had lain over his eyes. He had been hooked to a simple and old rebreather which in turn had been coupled to a derelict medicae servitor. But when Lars had entered the room, a flash of recognition had appeared on the judge's face, although there was no joy that had went with it. This conversation too, Lars could clearly remember.

"Judge Belloran. Regulator Akira reporting." Lars had said, giving the man a formal salute. It had been over two years when the two men had last spoken. And both Lars and Arthur had seen a lot of misery.
"Ah... My boy..."[/b] Arthur uttered, his voice made dry and barren by the rebreather mask, while he tried to rise up painstackingly slow.
Lars had rushed in to support the man, but the judge had weakly gestured to leave him be.
"Arthur... My boy... Arthur..." Then, Belloran had smiled.
"Arthur. I'm glad to find you alive. The Adeptus had... sort of... given up on you."
"And a good thing... at that... my friend... It appears... we have... a mole."

Lars' heart had sunken when he realized that the judge knew nothing of Willis' actions. And the next hour, Lars had talked to the judge, explaining what he could, drawing connections between his experiences and the fate of the man on the bed. When he was done, Arthur had remained silent, his eyes closed. For a moment Lars had thought that the listening to his story had been to taxing for the man and that he had fallen asleep. However, half a minute later, Arthur had looked him straight into the eyes.
"It is... good... that we now know... what happened... We can... recover now... and prepare... for our next... fight."
Lars could see that a look of grim determination had taken root on Belloran's face. "But... this Dragon cult... It must be... adressed... now... We cannot wait... until I have... recovered... I fear... it is... far worse... than you could... imagine... Even in... the best of... times... we would... struggle... to deal with... it... You... must take your... intel... and deliver it... to one of my... contacts... As soon... as possible... This is... a job... for our lords... and masters..."

Lars hadn't immediately understood what the judge had implied, but later, when Arthur had given him the details of his next assignment, the bell had rung true. And here he was, no longer undercover and again with full authority, but still filled with trepidation. He had only once encountered agents of the Inquisition before. It was a vivid memory, mostly because he had been filled with anger and had had to do everything he could, not to show it. This time, he had all sorts of feelings, but anger wasn't one of them. Primarily he had hope, hope that these men and women would be able to stop that what was brewing under the surface. He hadn't been able to persuade Arthur to share much. In fact, the judge had only offered him a one word explanation: Xenos. It was warning enough, because Lars had no idea of how to fight it. There were only rumours, but if they were anything to go by, Lars hoped that he would never, absolutely never, come into contact with them.

'Or better, not to come into contact with them ever again, Akira. Now focus!'

Lars followed the movements of the different ships arriving and departing at Terminus Prime. Lars checked his chrono and right on the fifth hour of the shift, a small freighter, the Master's Delight, asked for permission to leave orbit and head out into deep space to the translation point. At that moment, Lars stepped up to the command throne of the officer of the watch.

"Deny permission and prepare a boarding party."

The woman in the uniform of a lieutenant only acknowledged his command and kept focused on her other duties. Lars was the ranking officer in the command bunker and with new papers from Belloran, no one in the Terminus Prime SDF had doubted Lars' authority.

"Make sure they stay in a standard orbital flight pattern. If they should alter course, call it in immediately."

But Lars knew that the captain of the freighter wouldn't. The whole charade had only one objective: getting the datacard with Lars' information to the ship's first officer. After that Lars would return to Nixus Secund and start the work to get the Judge back on his feet. Tracking down Frank Horrigan would be their first objective, securing their operations a close second. After that, the judge had promised Lars, they would go after the Cartel. And this time, they would know what they were up against.
WS: 25 | BS: 42 | S: 25 | T: 40 | Ag: 35 | Int: 35 | Per: 38 | WP: 30 | Fel: 40 | Ifl: 43

Wounds 13/13 | Fate 0/4
Goodwyn Boltgun 12/12 & Scrambler 12/12
Garm Boltpistol 8/8
Pugnatis Autopistol 18/18
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