Rogue Trader: Into the Dark Void

Accession

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Tech-Priest, since you are the trusted friend of my son and also because you saved his life, I shall do you the favor of warning you to never speak of what you saw again. Am I clear?

— Lord Gral Vorgen to Explorator Fabian Grax

After the nearly fatal incident in Magos Ordinatus Helion’s dining hall, the Explorers returned to their ship and waited out whatever it was the Genetors and their allies were doing. It wasn’t long before scores of Tech-Priests and Skiitari aligned with Magos Helion were in custody and things began to be set right in The Lathes. Work began at once on refitting The Emperor’s Bounty, Fabian Grax met with the Genetors to indoctrinate himself in their wisdom, and Lucius Vorgen contracted The Lathes’ finest weaponsmiths to improve his power sword. Lucius noted that many of the Tech-Priests operating on both his ship and his weapon would abruptly disappear. However, Lucius, even if he were inclined to care after Helion’s cabal betrayed him, could do nothing about it.

As for Fabian, he emerged from his indoctrination vastly changed, both physically and mentally. Within his mind lay much of the Genetors’ knowledge of various Xenos species, though there was still much to learn. His muscles, as Fabian discovered as he flexed them, were incredibly strong and hard as steel cables. Even his cybernetic arm now had organic muscles delicately intertwined with its mechanisms, and both servo and flesh supported and reinforced one another perfectly. The Genetors had also freed him from the distractions of pain and agony which vex normal men. The most horrific tortures ever conceived would merely be a mild buzz to Fabian, though he worried, perhaps too late, that this new freedom from pain could lead to him unwittingly injuring himself. Regardless of his doubts, he was amazed at his new body, seeing it as proof that the Genetors are right in believing that organic lifeforms are also machines to be respected.

Lucius soon had his newly re-crafted sword in hand, and perhaps taking some small amount of pity on the few remaining craftsmen, he praised their work and made sure their overseers knew of his approval. Perhaps that would be enough to stay the executioner’s axe.

Work on the Emperor’s Bounty proceeded as planned, and it took several weeks for the ship to be refitted with its Zaythian Macrocannon Batteries. Once the refit had been completed, Lucius Vorgen invited many of the most senior Magi aboard his vessel to observe the test-firing. While this was quite a joyous event for them, Fabian had grown distrustful of his own kind and watched them carefully as they conversed amongst one another on the bridge of the Emperor’s Bounty.

The crew hit a snag at the firing range immediately—the guns refused to fire, and the gunnery crews were confused because the indicator lights were green. Fabian politely excused himself from the bridge, traveled down the gun decks, and growled at the crews, “What the $%#@ is going on here?” Such coarse language was, of course, unfitting for a Tech-Priest, but Fabian wanted to get across just how serious the situation was and how many eyes were on them. The crews nervously explained that they simply don’t understand what went wrong, and, with a weary sigh, Fabian told them to step aside as he communed with the mighty weapon’s machine spirit to determine why it would not unleash its wrath.

The safety was on.

Feeling like the Machine God had played a joke on him, Fabian released the safeties, and the indicator lights switched to red, which is apparently the true color for readiness. He reported the problem to Captain Vorgen and his guests after he returned to the bridge, and they enjoyed a chuckle and praised the machine spirits of the batteries for their wisdom and prudence. The batteries fired the same ammunition as ordinary Macrocannons, so the damage done to the targets was the same though the range is somewhat greater. Of more interest to the Magi, however, was the reloading mechanisms, and they were permitted to observe them courtesy of a live video feed relayed to the bridge. Much praising of the Omnissiah followed, and the Emperor’s Bounty returned its guests to The Lathes, leaving them quite pleased with this new discovery.

Now that his ship’s refit was complete, Lucius Vorgen and his crew departed from The Lathes. Before he returned to the Expanse, however, Lucius Vorgen returned to his family’s homeworld, and there had a joyous reunion with his father and sisters. To Fabian’s dismay, Lucius insisted on introducing him to them, and the Explorator clumsily exchanged pleasantries with them. While Fabian would rather have been on the ship looking after it, his time with the Vorgen family was not unpleasant, save for an incident where Fabian came upon Zoe resting on a couch. She did not hear him enter, and the Explorator noticed that something was amiss—a book was floating in the air before Zoe, and the pages seemed to turn before her as if on their own. Fabian was quite shocked by that, quietly leaving. He felt obligated to tell someone, and so went to Lord Gral Vorgen with this strange discovery. The look Lord Vorgen gave him, however, sent a chill down his spine. After a stern warning from the Lord, Fabian left his presence, realizing that, much like Magi, one must be careful about what one says to nobility.

Lucius Vorgen could not stay with his family forever, and so, bidding his family farewell, he returned to his vessel and set course for the Koronus Expanse. Their first stop was Port Wander, of course, and when they arrived they saw that a great many ships were docked there. Upon further investigation, they found that many of the ships were in the service of Joanquin Saul, a Rogue Trader despised by some of his peers because he preferred legitimate trade to the vastly more risky business of smuggling illegal alien artifacts and the like. The Saul and Vorgen families had enjoyed friendly relations before, and so Lucius Vorgen invited Saul to dine with him on his ship.

To Lucius’s surprise, and especially to the surprise of his peers, Jonquin Saul met with Lucius Vorgen on his ship unescorted, either believing in the honor of his host or that Lucius Vorgen wouldn’t dare harm him—or perhaps both. Jonquin Saul told them both that he knew them well, though this hardly soothed Fabian, who believed that this meant that Jonquin was well aware of his troubled past. The Explorator picked at his food awkwardly for the remainder of the dinner, and even accidentally crushed a glass in his hands due to his new strength, but thankfully, no one seemed to notice. Still, the meeting went well enough at first, but as the dinner progressed Jonquin Saul brought up a rather serious matter. It seems that Lucius Vorgen hadn’t simply broken the rules of Footfall by slaughtering Krawkin Feckward, but also certain unwritten rules between Rogue Traders. Vorgen’s peers had apparently come to believe that Vorgen had not simply killed Feckward in self-defense or even that he had tried to avoid a violent confrontation by purchasing the slaves, but that Lucius was spiteful of his rival, and in an act of petty cowardice, directed his lackey to gun him down without mercy.

This story nearly sent Lucius into a rage, who passionately denied it. Jonquin Saul had no reason to doubt him, and tried to calmly explain that Lucius had crossed a line and that he may suffer dire consequences for doing so. Lucius fervently argued his case, however, demanding to know if he ought to have stood aside while thousands of innocent people were sold as slaves to Emperor knows who or for what. Jonquin tried to re-explain the situation Lucius was in, but Lucius would not hear it and insisted he did the right thing. They went back and forth in what seemed like a heated exchange to Fabian, who grew concerned that Jonquin Saul might take offense, and so he tried to divert the conversation to other topics, but without success. Fortunately, Jonquin was not offended, and wished Lucius good fortune before he departed the ship. When he was gone, Fabian begged Lucius to listen to what Jonquin tried to tell him, but Lucius only seemed to grow angry with him, repeating many of the same points he had made to Jonquin.

Fabian felt resigned as they undocked from Port Wander. Thus far Lucius Vorgen has survived everything a cruel galaxy has thrown at him, but he wondered if the proud Rogue Trader could be saved from himself?

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Betrayal At The Lathes

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“Beautiful, isn’t it? A perfect organism, adapted for one specific goal.”

“Yes—killing us!”

— Magos Pykon and Explorator Fabian Grax, respectively

Fabian Grax had encountered many terrors in the Koronus Expanse, and yet, in spite of that, he felt anxious to leave that domain for he knew that when he returned to Port Wander he would have to answer to his direct superior, Magos Toronos, the same man who forced him to steal an extremely dangerous Xenos artifact from Lucius Vorgen. Still, he had a wealth of accomplishments to boast of so he felt fairly certain that he would be received more warmly this time. On top of that, even if that wasn’t the case, Grax had a plan for getting revenge on the troublesome Magos…

Regardless, while Vorgen restocked, re-crewed, and resupplied his ship, Grax met with Toronos, telling him of many of the things he discovered: The macrocannons at Zayth, the impending refit of the Emperor’s Bounty with said macrocannons, the presence of renegade Tech-Priests on Zayth, the discovery of an ancient AI-controlled probe, the reclamation of an Imperial Battleship, and many other things. Toronos seemed pleased by the report, though Grax feared that Toronos would demand that he try to steal an Eldar sword that Lucius Vorgen took as a trophy from the Black Pearl. Had he done that, that would have been the last straw, but even though Grax would be in the right to act against the Magos he would still likely be condemned by his peers in the Mechanicus.

After the debriefing was over, Toronos instructed Fabian to meet with Magos Ordinatus Helion once they arrived at The Lathes, which seemed reasonable enough. However, little did Toronos know that Fabian’s servo-skull had secretly installed a slicer program into the cogitator banks used by the Mechanicus, designed to search for certain words in their databanks, pluck out the sentence that the word is in, and secretly tack that information onto the end of electronic messages being sent out of the Magos’s office. In so doing, Grax hoped, he would be able to expose Toronos as the corrupt man that he believed him to be. And yet, he felt uncertain. He had not based his program on any approved knowledge of the Adeptus Mechanicus, but on the experiences he learned combating a bizarre corruption of the cogitators on the Emperor’s Bounty. Had he committed the crime of invention? Was he a Heretek? No—surely not. Indeed, would not the greater sin lie in failing to stop the casual corruption of Magi such as Toronos? And had not the Machine God spared his life so that he may serve as an instrument of its will? Yes, he would proceed with his plan until the Omnissiah gave him a sign that he has erred.

That taken care of, Fabian returned to his duties on the ship. Soon after, the Emperor’s Bounty undocked once more, en route to The Lathes, an odd trio of three moons tidally locked to one another, drifting through space as if they were one planetary body. The unique gravitational conditions there made it possible for the creation of materials and structures that are possible nowhere else.

When they arrived, Fabian Grax immediately requested an appointment to meet with Magos Ordinatus Helion, and such a meeting was arranged for the following day. While he waited, Fabian Grax decided to investigate the Order of Genetors, knowing that they had a presence at The Lathes. When he arrived at their domain, he saw many alien samples on display, frozen in stasis, including, to his alarm, a Tyranid Warrior, poised to attack. When his rational mind reasserted itself and he realized that the creature was already dead and in stasis besides, a voice spoke to him, seeming to praise the creature.

Grax turned around, seeing a woman clad in the robes of a Magos, but who appeared to be almost fully human, which perplexed him because he knew that the highest ranking Tech-Priests are also the most heavily augmented. This, as the woman herself soon explained, was Magos Pykon of the Genetors. They conversed for a while, with Grax explaining that his experiences on other worlds, particularly one where a gigantic insect-like creature destroyed a Gun-Cutter, have led him to question the notion that mechanical life is inherently superior to organic life. Grax also revealed his desire to join the Genetors and thereafter try to destroy the Tyranids, or contribute to their downfall in some way. The woman’s responses were odd to him, seeming to often conflict with accepted Mechanicus dogma to the point that he almost had trouble understanding her. In particular, he struggled to explain to her how Lucius Vorgen could have fought a Genestealer Broodlord—a creature infamous for slaughtering even veterans of the Space Marines—to a brief standstill, until he finally gave up and offered a conclusion that he found absurd: that Lucius was simply lucky. To his surprise, Magos Pykon agreed with that. Leading the young Explorator deeper into their facility, Pykon asked him a series of more questions, many of which were quite baffling to him, but he put his intellect to work at formulating his best replies. Eventually they departed and Fabian Grax agreed to meet with her again later, leaving the Genetors with a gift of various Xenos samples he had gathered.

The next day Grax gathered up several individuals to have dinner with Magos Helion, including Captain Lucius Vorgen, Lorayne Thornhallow, and four Tech-Adepts from the Emperor’s Bounty, who were quite delighted and honored to be meeting with such a prestigious individual. Grax objected to the presence of Lorayne, thinking that her terrifying skill in battle would not be necessary for a simple dinner. They were in the middle of true civilization, after all, not the den of some pirate who fancies himself a Lord! However, Vorgen insisted on having her come with them, and Grax sighed to himself at what he believed was just another of the Captain’s bouts of paranoia.

They arrived at the dinner, with Magos Helion arriving sometime soon after with an entourage. Grax noted that Helion also appeared to be almost completely human, leading him to wonder whether or not the man was also a Genetor, but he had little time to ponder it. As the meals were served, Helion asked about the renegade tech-priests operating on Zayth. He, in particular, asked if Grax had told anyone outside of Vorgen, Toronos, and anyone else in the room of his discoveries. When Grax said no, that is when Helion sprung his trap. Grax and the others found themselves surrounded by combat Servitors and Skitarii as Helion revealed that he was behind the plot on Zayth and desired revenge on the ones who thwarted him. Grax was frozen in shock at what was happening even as the battle began. Fortunately he was not defenseless, nor where his companions. Grax had a hellgun concealed in his cybernetic arm, Lucius had his sword, and Lorayne possessed a Crux Beam Gun, which, to his amazement, she unfolded from a very small object to a roughly rifle-sized one. Even his Tech-Adepts produced Laspistols which they never expected they’d have to use!

They flipped the dinner table over for cover just in time as the gun servitors sprayed a hail of lead at them, fortunately not hitting anything. However, the Skitaari enjoyed more success, ruthlessly cutting down two of the Tech-Adepts. Lucius had his hands full with a cybernetic brute with twin powerfists, but managed to bring him down. Grax, meanwhile, hoping that killing Helion would force the others to give in, opened fire on him with his hellgun, hitting him twice. Lorayne followed suit, blasting him twice with the fell energies of the Crux Beam gun, and the Magos toppled over. Grax was satisfied with that—surely not even a Magos could survive so much damage?

Things quickly became desperate, however. Lorayne caught a hail of fire from the gun Servitors and was badly injured, they had three more Skitaari to deal with, and all of his Tech-Adepts were injured or dead. Grax fired off a smoke grenade to blind the gun Servitors briefly, and Lucius demanded the Skitaari surrender, but they hesitated to do so. Fortunately, fate intervened on his behalf, and a squad of fearsome Gland Warriors, genetically modified super-warriors, burst into the room, followed by Magos Pykon herself. The Skitaari quickly surrendered and the Servitors were deactivated. But there was one last surprise for them, as the cybernetic brute thought defeated earlier rose up once again to try and smash Vorgen with his powerfists. Vorgen, quick to react, parried his attacks and split him down the middle with his sword.

Grax wanted an explanation, but Pykon told the explorers that they had to leave immediately, as it was not yet safe for them. Ominously enough, the body of Magos Helion was no longer present, much to Grax’s dismay—the treacherous Magos’s absence was marked only by a bloodstain. And so, collecting their dead and wounded, the explorers returned to their ship and waited out whatever the Genetors were going to do. Grax was conflicted. Thus far, all of the so-called “traditional” Magi he had met—that is, ones with purely mechanical augmentations—were either incredibly embittered or they were irredeemably corrupt. And yet, here were the Genetors, supposedly, according to some of his peers, teetering on the brink of being branded Hereteks for their love of the organic, but they followed the teachings of the Omnissiah more faithfully than anyone else! It was then that Grax realized he had made the right choice. Clearly the Machine God had led him to meet with Magos Pykon and realize his true destiny as a Genetor. He knew that today he had made powerful enemies by defeating Helion, but felt confident in the strength of his new friends—and the full backing of the Machine God himself. Even so, he felt immense regret at doubting his Captain and especially at the loss of two Tech-Adepts, blaming himself for their deaths.

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Shore Leave

Footfall on arrival by columbussage d47itmb

“Just where do you think you are, Rogue Trader? This is MY domain- and if you utter another word in my presence I swear to the Emperor that you will not make it from this deck alive! I care not what you thought of Mr. Feckward- but unlike you, at least he had the care to conduct his business in a civilized fashion. Therefore I decree that you shall have 15 minutes to leave this place, and I warn you, sir… never return to Footfall again.”
-Tanthus Moross, Liege of Footfall

Upon arrival at Damaris the crew Explorers quickly set to the task of repairing and resupplying the Emperor’s Bounty. In Damaris they found a world well-suited to the task, with both plentiful resources and equipment as well an impressive orbital station (the Bulwark) with facilities more than adequate to tend to the wounded ship. Explorator Grax was able to secure a repair contract with Senior Tech-Priest Hadron Shard, an ancient and irritable member of the Order who showed extreme impatience at Grax’s attempts to engage in casual conversation.

Meanwhile, the Explorers soon learned that another Rogue Trader was present at Damaris, the Lady Elizabeth Orleans of the frigate Starweaver. Lady Orleans offered her greetings to her fellow Rogue Trader Lucius Vorgen, and then invited him and any guests he saw fit to a private dinner aboard the Starweaver.

Lucius attended with the following guests in his retinue:
Explorator Fabian Grax
Nathin Tsanthos
Colonel Emil Rook of the Zaythian Regiment
Lorayne Thornhallow

Also in attendance were two of the Bounty’s junior officers who had distinguished themselves during the search for the Dread Pearl.

The dinner began on a somewhat tense note, as the crew of the Starweaver viewed the crew of the Emperor’s Bounty with some suspicion. However, as he spoke with Orleans, Vorgen realized that with all the success his House had been having lately, Orleans was probably just worried that he was trying to muscle in on her holdings at Damaris. Once those concerns were put to rest, Vorgen recognized a kindred spirit in Orleans, who expressed her belief that a Rogue Trader’s first duty should be to humanity as a whole, not just personal profit. Vorgen also learned another reason for Orleans’ intial wariness: Hadarak Fel and Krawkin Feckward had both passed through Damaris just days before the Bounty arrived. Needless to say, Orleans had found both individuals to be unsavory to the extreme. Feckward had even gone so far as to try and sell off several hundred slaves in his possession, but he had been curtly seen off by Orleans.

The rest of the evening went off without incident, except that Vorgen had so much amasec that he had to lean on Lorayne’s shoulder all the way back to his quarters.

The Emperor’s Bounty spent a full 3 weeks at Damaris. The crew was able to get in some much-needed shore leave. There were two other notable events. First was the acquisition of 1,000 surplus Damaris PDF lasguns; standard-issue, but still new in the box. This significantly upgraded the quality of the 1st Zaythian aboard the Bounty. Second was an extremely terse message received from Magos Toronus addressed to Explorator Grax.

Vorgen had already been considereing heading back through the Maw to purchase some high-quality equipment at the Lathes in The Calixis Sector, so the message from the Magos sealed the matter. The first leg of the journey through the Maw would be Footfall, and Navigator Tenebra set a course. The journey went off without a hitch until the last leg, when, unbeknownst to the crew, a hostile warp entity possessed one of the lower-deck crewmen. After several murders Vorgen and Grax were able to corner the possessed crewman inside his quarters, but only after the loss of an entire team of armsmen. When Vorgen, Grax, and Lorayne finally faced the crewman, they were horrified as the possession took hold and the daemon revealed itself. A full blast of plasma rifle fire from Grax seemed to have no effect, while Vorgen’s power sword seemed unable to find any flesh to cleave in to. Virtually all the other armsmen in attendance either ran away screaming or doubled-over in shock and terror and vomit; even Lorayne could only stand petrified with her eyes as large as saucers. The foul daemon slashed at Grax, its blow miraculously blocked by Grax’s refractor field. His voice a clarion shout above the utter chaos, Vorgen exhorted his men to redouble their efforts to slay the monster. At first it seemed that no one paid him any heed, but someone did. As the daemon raised its claw for another strike, four bolter rounds impacted on the daemon’s head and torso, rending it utterly as Lorayne screamed in righteous anger. Yet before the daemon died, it looked upon Grax with its one remaining eye and swore that when they met again, it would devour Grax’s soul…

Finally, the Emperor’s Bounty arrived at Footfall. After the unpleasantness of their last stay, Vorgen intended to stay here only long enough to unload the Eldar artefacts seized at the Dread Pearl. Yet when he heard that Feckward was currently docked at the station- and was in the processing of selling several hundred “pure examples of human gene-stock from the lost Dread Pearl,” it rose his ire. When Feckward rejected and mocked Vorgen’s offer to purchase his entire stock (to repatriate them with the remainder of their people on Quppa-Psi-12) he was infuriated.

In a brash display, Vorgen led a company of armsmen straight into the slave quarter where Feckward was conducting business. Vorgen found Feckward leaning back in a plush chair with his feet jauntily resting on a piece of furniture while human lives traded hands. Vorgen demanded that Feckward cease his actions; Feckward declared astonishment at Vorgen’s display of force, and stated that Vorgen had no right to make demands of him in any case. What happened next is not entirely clear, but most of the witnesses agree that a shot rang out, and Vorgen and Feckward both drew their both pistols, both fired, and both were able to dodge the shots of the other. However, Feckward could not dodge Vorgen’s trusty companion Lorayne, who once again found her target, reducing Feckward to a bloody lower torso and little else.

Shortly afterwards a large group of Footfall armsmen arrived to secure the scene. After frowning in disapproval at the carnage, the Liege of Footfall himself, Tanthus Moross, confronted Vorgen. Moross chided Vorgen for his lack of discretion and demanded that he leave immediately and never return again. Vorgen and his crew had but a few scant minutes to lead all the rescued slaves back to the Emperor’s Bounty and leave port. Even as they were undocking, several of the other ships present started to circle the Bounty like sharks, their captains transmitting taunts over the vox. Fortunately, Explorator Grax was able to coax the machine-spirit of the Bounty to engage a silent running pattern. This enabled the ship to get clear of Footfall before any of the opposition got up the nerve to attack. Once the ship was safely away Vorgen approached Lorayne and presented her a gift he had acquired on Footfall from a xeno-trader: a Crux Beam Gun. Lorayne thanked him for the magnificent present.

The Emperor’s Bounty was now headed into the Maw proper, and a course was plotted to one of the known Stations of Passage, The Hermitage. In a pique of curiousity Vorgen decided to investigate the station, finding it much to his liking. After meeting with Brother Cornelius, Vorgen is now evaluating the Hermitage as an alternative to Footfall for ships traveling through the Maw. Of course, Vorgen will have to secure the station from other Rogue Traders who are accustomed to using it as a neutral meeting place for their own illicit dealings… such men and women may take umbrage at having to pay for something they previously enjoyed for free.

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Lure of the Expanse

Warp travel by the first magelord

After months of searching through some of the most hostile and horrific sites in the Expanse, the battered Emperor’s Bounty finally discovered the legendary Dread Pearl. Alas, the treacherous Eldar were loathe to let mere humans despoil their world. Rather than let the Dread Pearl fall they chose to enclose it within the impassable warp-storms once again. The officers of the Emperor’s Bounty escaped through a webway gate and found themselves once more on the uninhabited jungle world of Quppa-Psi-12.

In typical fashion the Explorers began to assess the world’s potential for profit. As long as the more voracious insectoid lifeforms were regularly purged, it appeared to be an ideal new home for the few thousand surviving Sanctarchs. A preliminary survey of the nearby mountains revealed possible deposits of precious metals.

Within a week the Emperor’s Bounty arrived over Quppa-Psi-12 with the Nihontu. Lady Sun Lee thanked Lucius Vorgen for his assistance and took her leave. Meanwhile, the Emperor’s Bounty left a small detachment to guard the new colony before heading back into the void. First on the order of business was finding a friendly port where the Bounty could settle in for some extended repairs… and the crew for some well-deserved rest.

After considering his options, Vorgen ordered a course to the nearby world of Damaris. While not officially a world of the Imperium, Damaris is almost unique within the Expanse: a prosperous and secure Imperial-aligned colony.

While the Dread Pearl is lost forever, the Vorgen Dynasty nontheless amassed incredible profit contacting new worlds, opening new trade routes and recovering valuable artefacts. Once their ship is repaired the Explorers will have much opportunity to take advantage of their Dynasty’s new-found wealth… if they can defend what they have earned.

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