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Aboard The Freedom From Chaos By The Light Of The Emperor

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The Navigator: 

It was the Rogue Trader's grandfather who found the planet of 'feral Navigators' - a term not said within earshot of the wrong people but an accurate enough description of the survivors of the once-noble house that had crash-landed on a swampy, watery world over a thousand solar years earlier. The survivors of House Hydranus had perhaps degenerated somewhat and had certainly accelerated their cycle of mutation in the harsh conditions of the planet that was now their home, but they had maintained worship of the Emperor and through the descendants of their serfs who still lived on land greeted the Rogue Trader's vessel with jubilation. Finally - the stars were right and the Father had found them again.


(The initial culture clash, when the planet was first taken for a planet of xeno-worshipping cultists, had killed only a few thousand on each side - a minor price to pay for the Rogue Trader's fleet when an alliance with a still recognized Navigator house whose descendants still had the ancient gifts.) 


Aquaria is a member of House Hydranus. She is an affable, even gregarious sort, given to song and dance, and pleasant enough to speak to if you ignore her green skin, large teeth, and preference for water rather than air. When she steers the ship through the Warp, she sings a strange throat-singing song that it is exceedingly unwise to listen to for very long. She is, however, growing bored. Acting as the final punishment for serfs, criminals, and others aboard the Rogue Trader's ship fills her belly and provides her with entertainment but they have little to tell her. She would very much like the chance to hunt the next time they visit a suitable world. 

If she maintains her health and good humor, sings her prayers, and steers ships through the sea of stars, she knows she will be there the day the Father rises from his throne, looks out into the wicked galaxy overrun with daemons, xenos, and other filth - and devours them. 


The Sister of Battle: 


It was all supposed to be for a great and holy cause. When the Sister Superior met clandestinely with the ambitious young Arbite, she told a terrible tale of corruption inside the Ecclesiarchy, one that could only be found out by one willing to sacrifice even their own truth to guard the Emperor's Daughters. So Ashley took the vows and went undercover as a novice among the Adepta Soriritas, cutting her hair and dying it white, all the while trusting that the Sister Superior would ensure her freedom when the time came. When the time came and she rescued her fellow novices from the cunningly-concealed Chaos cultists hidden within the church itself, Sister Chauvina was hailed as a hero by those she had trained among and offered any position she liked. But of course what she wanted was her freedom - 


Until the Sister Superior told her the truth. Her service had earned her a place at the Emperor's side after death and she could indeed have her pick of positions in her new Order - but those vows had been taken for life, hadn't they? Besides, she could hardly go back to her life as a layperson with the knowledge she had of corruption inside the Ecclesiarchy, of how close those Chaos cultists had come to killing so many innocent young sisters. What would people think if they heard such a tale? 


Sister Chauvina, a heroine even before she took her final vows, is on detached duty aboard the Rogue Trader's ship, acting as personal bodyguard to the bright young confessor assigned to the Rogue Trader's territory, whose faith shines like a star with her every sermon. For her part, Sister Chauvina is trying her best to be the person he has to pretend to be even while embodying the way, the truth, and the light.


It is impossible to have a good day in the grim darkness of the far future. 


The Soldier: 


They call him Harrier, because he harried the Archheresy to death with only his entrenching tool. He uses the name when his superiors say it but truthfully calls himself his regimental number in his own head. The Kriegsman does not like to argue with his superiors (at least when they are not ordering a retreat) but he remembers the battle against the Word Bearer somewhat differently that they did. It was his brothers and sisters who kept the abomination off-balance with volley-fire and melee charges; it was his brothers and sisters who planted the mines that hobbled the beast and broke its leg. In the end, when the last explosions went off and all were dead, it was just him, the Chaos Space marine, and his entrenching tool. 


When he awoke in the Officio Medicae's hospital he was horrified - first by the thought that the thing had lived, then by the thought that he had as well. The Commissar who decorated him, the Inquisitor who thanked him for his service in destroying the forces of Chaos (and in saving the Inquisitor himself from the thing that had come to kill him) - they didn't understand. He had literally done all he could and defeated a force greater than any he could have imagined, but he was alive! Alive and  - after a visit from a high-ranking officer in the Death Korps, named! What was he to do with this terrifying freedom? 


He found direction, as he always has had, in duty and in service. Recruited by the Rogue Trader, who had heard of his heroic exploits but was actually willing to hear what had really happened, he found himself on a ship full of weak, soft men and women (generally) who wanted to serve a power greater than themselves but didn't know how. As commander of the mercenary force aboard the Rogue Trader's ship, he'll teach them. After all, he still has the shovel. 


The Enginseer: 


Everyone thinks she killed the Magos. To be fair, they're right. (Nobody liked the Magos very much anyway, so it's fine.) It seems like a simple enough story of ambition. He removed her from her place manning the teleportorium and assigned her to menial tasks; the next time he used the teleportorium the machine spirits inside killed him for his impiety and his lack of intelligence. But then, those are synonyms for members of the Adeptus Mechanicus. 


Given to the Cult Mechanicus as a sick little girl by a powerful, wealthy noble house, she might easily have wound up a servitor if not for a staggeringly generous donation by her parents - and by a group of Magi interested in how a still-growing youth's body might adapt to circuit, iron, and silica. And adapt she did. She designed mechadendrites for herself when she still had organic hands; she described the changes to make to herself when she still spoke with an organic voice. Her mentors were proud of her. 


The Enginseer who was once Eira van Katastroff, being unusually young for one so profoundly transformed, made a fine missionary across the Solar System (she is the only person on the ship who has actually been there - well, now that the Magos is dead, anyway), demonstrating the strength and certainty of steel while recruiting those with the intelligence and the faith to serve the Cult Mechanicus. (The inhabitants of Mars do their work but genes can become - Chaotic if not freshened with new blood.) She and the Magos brought thousands back to Mars to begin their training. It was pleasant enough work, even inspiring - but she wanted to be out among the stars as an explorator, not traveling from planet to planet inside what is a very holy but not particularly interesting system. 


When she was 18, the Magos and his protege took passage privately so that they might finally join one of the explorator fleets she had so long craved to serve on. They were aboard the Rogue Trader's ship when she, bored, overcame the Magos' frankly pedestrian security on his personal cogitator to read up about the successes of the bright young minds she recruited. It was then that she learned that all 2000 of them were now servitors. 


She felt feelings churn in her flesh when she realized the young minds she had met would never think again, and worse that the Magos had lied to her about their purpose for years, for years, shameful animal impulses to violently suppress - until cold machine logic met them going down. The Magos had not just proven himself unreliable. He had sacrificed promising servants and even future Magi to meet his quota of servitors. And he had failed to understand that this would make her angry. His logic was flawed. It was a rare time when animal impulse and machine logic were in agreement. 

When she told him that his logic was flawed, the Magos demoted her. Then he was dead, before he could tell anyone else. 


A shame. How illogical he was, to think that she would not reach out with her own mechadendrites and take what should have been hers. 


Now she is the highest-ranking Adeptus Mechanicus she can see - and on detached duty with the Rogue Trader until they cross this whole sector, has no prospects of having to bow her masked head anytime soon. Perhaps she can work out a deal with the navigator where she can acquire some of Aquaria's less promising victuals. If she's not going to be resupplied anytime soon - well, she needs servitors of her own. For the moment, all she has is the Magos's skull, now converted into the very first servo-skull she prepared with no supervision. He would approve, not that it matters to her very much. 


Even in death, he serves the Omnissiah. 


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  • 2 weeks later...

The Inquisitor's assistant knows a secret. 


This should of course be no surprise to anyone who knows anything about the Inquisition - particularly since the girl is a psyker. She is quiet and obedient, her short white hair in a boyish cut, her yellow eyes (a minor mutation!) downcast as she calmly and efficiently sorts through the mind of anyone her master asks her to break. (She specializes in terrible illusions pulled from the depths of the Warp, the sort to break a man's soul even before she tears into his mind.) When she lights up it's when she's instructing the young, giving them lessons in Terran history and the Emperor that teach them their place in the Imperium. They always listen. They had better, if they know what's good for them. 


The girl knows a secret that she learned when she was even younger than she is today, one that was confirmed for her by the Salamanders that rescued her from her father's ship when it came tumbling out of the Warp just a few years ago. Would you like to hear it? I warn you - outside of certain Space Marines, it's rank heresy. The sort that earns death to the speaker and to those who heard it, just to be safe. 


Are you ready? 



The Emperor was a man. 


Yes, you're sorry you heard it now, aren't you? 


How does the girl know this? 


Very simply - 



Because she met him personally. 


Oh don't look so shocked, you know how long vessels can tumble freely in the Warp if something happens to their Navigator. Long enough that a ship that set out not long after the Unification Wars could tumble freely, so freely, amid terrible things, while a girl slept in a cryopod while unholy things hunted and killed freely all around her. She remembers those things at times, before she slipped into true sleep. Terrible things. 


She dreamed of him as she slept. The shining man, the perfect specimen of psyker too, who her father pledged his loyalty to when the Thunder Warriors came to his kingdom, who guided them to their ship when they departed to carry the word of the new empire of man out to the xenos-infested cosmos. It was he who touched her face and helped her still her nightmares, who smiled when he saw her bear her tattoo so bravely. She remembers his voice and the way he told her "very good, child. very good!" 


She awoke in the empire built in His name when one young Salamander, horrified at the thought of this frozen child amid such uncountable centuries of carnage, rescued her from the bowels of a ship that had been an unholy abattoir since before the Horus Heresy. There was no mark of Chaos on her, a miracle that seemed impossible until you consider that she had personally known the touch of the God-Emperor of Mankind. (Her tattoo is directly over where he touched her.) 


(the tech-priests aboard were happy to take a cryodevice from the early days of the Imperium - even now they study it and keep their secrets, as they do.) 


She is very lucky that Brother Owain, when she confided her story in him, told his commander - and that his commander was among the many Space Marines who knew the Emperor for what he had been in the old days and not what the Ecclesiarchy had made Him over ten thousand years of history. 


Being naturally secretive she accepted the idea that some secrets were best kept, lest the bearer die of telling them. The Inquisition is the best protection for a psyker who is strong enough; safer than the endless dangers of the Army. Her shields are strong, strong enough that even the psykers of the Inquisition were unable to see her as anything more than an amnesiac psyker delivered to them by a Space Marine chapter eager to prove its loyalty to church and state. 


She bore their trials. What was it, to one who when she dreamed remembered the looks on the faces of those who had died before her frozen prison - and the silence, the terrible silence, since? 


So now she serves the Inquisition, quiet and deadly and merciless as a cat. And when she dreams, well. It's a good thing no one else can read those thoughts. 


In the grim darkness of the far future, the most terrible, unholy secret of uncountable ancients of all is


that things don't have to be this way. 


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The cleric: 


Judith Brightstar is here because she betrayed everyone she loved.


When the Inquisition came to purge the mutants below her father's holdings, the confessor-in-training came along for the ride. The fires burned for days, the mutant and abhuman given the Emperor's Peace by any means necessary. 


It was good work, honorable work even if her own role was primarily a note-taker and witness. And witness she was. She noticed that the mutant shantytowns were all clustered around the outlet pipes for her father's factories; she looked at the maps the fire teams had prepared and noted that the corruption seemed to spread outward like so much spilled amasec. And then she realized, with sick horror, what had happened. Her father's factories, supposed to be lovingly managed for the Astra Miltarum's needs - were pumping corruption and poison into the Undercity. 


A stealthy heresy, spreading corruption and inhumanity through sins of sloth, greed, and neglect of the Emperor's people. But isn't that how heresy works so often? Innocence is no excuse. 


When she told the Inquisitor he listened attentively, studied her evidence, and agreed with her conclusions. (The Inquisitor is a man of deep feeling. He invited her parents to leap into the outlet pipe's green, bilish off-flow if it was _not_ a source of corruption, and to their credit they stood true to their principles and did.) His recommendation letter won her a place in the Ecclesiarchy and makes her one of the youngest holders of the title of confessor in the sector. 

Her bodyguard, Sister Chauvina, seems to her a stern figure, albeit one riven by her own inner pains and passions. (Heretics do make an appearance aboard ship from time to time but Chauvina's eerily methodical public and brutal demonstrations of their fate keeps such things rare.) Perhaps one day she'll reach out to her and try to learn her secrets. But Judith has a secret too. Not testifying against her parents, an act of courage that has made her famous in the sector church hierarchy. 


Her secret comes from the moment of her parents' death. A secret that makes her pray for forgiveness. 


Not what she did. But the look they gave her as they leaped, arm-in-arm, from the outflow pipe's edge together. She prays for forgiveness for how that final look makes her feel, alone in the darkness of her quarters. 

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The hunter: 

They met the Aeldari while escaping from a drukhari ship - they met him by dint of him exploding the head of the pirate captain who'd been chasing them with a perfectly aimed bolter shot from across the city-sized cargo bay. Upside down. Inside a pressure suit. 


Some in the crew went for their weapons once they realized who their rescuer actually was but it was, of all people, Harrier who held up his hand. "From the pit. Ja. Gut." And that was all it took. 


(Harrier had been put into a gladiatorial arena aboard the ship. They'd thought it was funny to throw him a non-functioning rifle so instead he'd killed everything in it with his bayonet instead. Well. Most everything.) 


Ril'ey is shorter and stockier than the average Aeldari, meaning he actually can pass for human if you're not particularly familiar with his species. He's quiet, keeps to himself (a good trait for a xeno aboard a ship of the Imperium, even a Rogue Trader's) and tends to disappear when nobody's looking at him. He meditates where he can find the space and maintains an impressive trophy room deep in the bowels of the ship. He applied his brand of sanction himself - and before he was ordered. 


He doesn't talk much about what he's there for but he kills the Rogue Trader's enemies (and indeed those of the other crew) and stories of justice dispensed by riflefire from _somewhere_ keep the ship's crew in line too. 


He kills drukhari in particular but will kill anything you tell him to kill without much of any expression on his dark face. 

There's one particular group of Aeldari he seems to be hunting; a group that wears clothes in similar colors and cut to his. He prefers to deal with them himself and in one particular battle was seen to detonate the spirit stone of the wounded Aeldari leader with a single, well-placed shot, then kill him with the next one. That's a deep, terrible blasphemy among the Aeldari - but perhaps that's why he walks the Path of the Outcast among the mon-keigh. 

It sounded to the Enginseer (who has memorized the languages of all the enemies of Mankind) like he said "Go to Hell."

Which is true enough. 


What he really said was though



"When you see she who thirsts, you tell her who sent you." 


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