Elorn paid a visit to one of her secret projects: A Slate-Agent, ready to be programmed and deployed for deep-cover work.
The situation with the potentially corrupted crew was brought to a head with Sigmund telling his acolytes that while he feels for these people, and would like to spare them, the Emperor’s path is clear and they must die. With that, he ordered a choke-gas released into the cramped compartment. After a few minutes, with the assistance of his acolytes and the quite upset security crew, they stacked the bodies, alive or not, and set a pyre a-burning. (-1 crew population)
Summoned to the bridge by the Lady-Captain, the various crew found that the Harbinger of Glory was at the edge of detection range from Installation 23. The ships had approached with some stealth, but this was the point of no-return, with their next choices determining what would happen. Arrayed against them were eleven unknown vessels, and the station itself.
The Lady-Captain, swayed by the words of her advisors, allowed them to enact a plan to swing around the station and attempt to scan one of the ships that appeared to be guarding it. The plan started well, a ping of the auspex alerting crew that there was some kind of large vessel within the turbulent gases of Svard Prime. The attempt to conduct a deep scan of an unknown vessel failed, stray energy throwing off the readings.
The ships around the Installation, alerted to a strange presence, started to move – some sluggishly, but others with a swiftness almost unbelievable for vessels that were clocking in at a length of over a kilometre and a mass of 5 megatonnes.
It wasn’t long before the Harbinger of Glory, the Black Hand, and the strange alien ships (for that is what some turned out to be), were engaged in the epic ballet of void combat. Many salvos were exchanged with little effect, but the alien craft scored two key hits – a hole to the area around the HoG’s augur array, leading the Magos to leave the bridge to fix it herself, and later a rupture-cannon munition that sparked a warp-tainted fire amidships, in the Harbinger of Glory’s Gellar Field generator. For the second time that day, Sigmund made a swift decision that put the lives of the many over the lives of the few, and ordered that section vented to space. The bridge was silent for a moment, as the Lady-Captain relayed the orders across the ship. For a moment, the ship teetered on the brink of mutiny – for a crew can only suffer so much before they see their only hope as overthrowing their masters. However, the Lady-Captain took the vox from Elorn, who had been running the Harbinger of Glory vox-service, and gave firm instruction to all crew that while the foe they faced seemed implacable she swore that the crew will not have died in vain.
In vain seemed to be the descriptive, particularly as Installation 23 opened up with defensive macrobatteries and lances at extreme range. However, the tide swiftly flipped, with the Black Hand’s powerful lance melting away a large proportion of one of the alien ships, with the Harbinger of Glory finishing the job with a salvo of macrocannon and shard cannon fire, leaving it a useless of crystal debris. Seeing the battle turning, some long-range fire scared the system ships off, and they began to they head back towards the covering fire of the Installation, one of the ships trailing debris and air from a shot that had holed the life support system.
Throughout this, the Navigator Oleg had not been idle. Navigators, by their training, are taught the basics of starship naval combat and are often able to perceive flickering shadows of possible future events. Oleg, in his spire, spent the battle peering into the streams of time and space and studying the currents and eddies of the warp. Calling down his advice to the bridge crew, the Harbinger of Glory was often fortunately positioned for ideal firing patterns.
The bridge crew of the Harbinger of Glory had their blood up. Despite long range fire from Installation 23, they would not be satisfied until at least one more of these alien craft were destroyed. After a moment of insight, Elorn directed the crew targeting the batteries towards some weaknesses she detected in the crystal ships. A series of shots smashed away its manoeuvrability, while the next one seemed to destroy whatever it used for an auspex array, as return fire ceased.
A parting shot from one of the lances on Installation 23 signalled that it was time to leave – even at such an extreme range it had blasted through many compartments of the Harbinger of Glory.
The Harbinger and the Black Hand pursued the blinded, crippled vessel away from Svard Prime…