The Explorers and the crew of the Harbinger of Glory find themselves at The Battleground, one of the many rest stops between the Calixis Sector and the Koronus Expanse. It was to be several hours until the warp drives spin up again, and much of the crew suffered from warp sickness.
As the ship exited the warp, Lady-Captain Aurora Black was relaxing in her Ready Room, adjacent to the Combat Bridge. Sigmund Severius was ministering to a troubled crewman at a shrine on the gun decks. Magos Bertha was in the Engineerium, ensuring that the warp drives spun down appropriately, while commanding her Engin-seers and Tech-Priests to ensure that the ship was in good order.
Within an hour of safely arriving at The Battleground small diode linked to the vox in the Lady-Captain’s Ready Room began to blink, indicating an incoming message.
“Lady-Captain! We’ve detected a salvation beacon originating from one of the denser debris fields. Your orders?”
“I will join you on the bridge” said Aurora Black, leaping up from her table, which was thick with Astrographic charts.
Rushing out past the guards on duty by the Ready Room, down the corridor past the Trophy Room, and onto the Bridge, Aurora settled into her Captain’s Throne. Soon the Etherics Officer currently on duty-stations at the Augury Array briefed the Lady-Captain. “Hmmm… Send for Magos Bertha”
Soon the Magos arrived on the bridge, where she took up a post at the Damage Control station, reviewing the systems across the ship. Calling to the Lady-Captain that all the vessels systems were in working order after the warp jump, with the exception of the warp drives which required further time to repower, the Magos recommended some caution as they would be unable to make a rapid escape.
The Lady-Captain ordered the ship to make a slow advance towards the source of the salvation beacon, while simultaneously calling across the ship for her Confessor “Lest the crew of the imperiled ship need their souls counseled”.
As the vessel closed on the beacon, the Etherics Officer called out suddenly “Captain, I’m detecting a damaged transport ship, and two Raider-class vessels powered down on the edge of a thick debris field! And something else… maybe it’s a sensor ghost… No, there it is again! A small object… I’m sending the data read-out to the Magos.”
Magos Bertha appeared inscrutable as she wracked her memory for something that could match the readings on her screen. It seemed similar to ancient technology, explosive devices used to drain power from ship systems, but there was something alien about the readings. Nevertheless, she went with her instincts. "Captain, near the transport vessel there appears to be a xeno-tech “leech mine”, which may be worth our while to salvage".
“Aye,” said Severius who had reached the bridge, “and from this report the transport vessel appears to a religious charter. Pious servants of the Emperor must be saved from the dire threat of this alien device”.
Her advisers in rare agreement, the Captain ordered a slow approach, with Magos Bertha preparing a small team for an attempt to approach the xeno-tech mine and disable it. As they got within augury range of the beleaguered transport vessel, the Captain ordered an active scan of the vessel and surrounding area, in case their may be more surprises than just these two vessels in the far debris field.
While the scan confirmed that there were no further active vessels in reasonable range, the scan also alerted the powered down ships that their ruse was no working! A transmission from one of the Raiders beamed to the leech mine, and it’s systems powered up. The leech mine locked onto the Harbinger of Glory, and sped through the void on retro boosters towards it. Despite knowing that even now Magos Bertha, and a team of Tech-Priests, were in transit towards the xeno-tech device, the Captain gave the order to open fire!
Macrocannon shells and the mysterious energy shards flung by the Harbinger of Glory’s xenotech cannons sped through the void between the great craft and the small mine. The target was far too small, but fortunately the gunners did not hit Magos Bertha’s craft! With the void ahead lighting up with the detonation of heavy ordnance, the pilot of the craft was forced to turn back.
The raider craft, powered up, were now approaching at full speed. Lady-Captain Aurora Black, with Confessor Sigmund Severius at her side, commanded that a channel be opened, that they may look upon the commanders of these vessels that approached with such hostility. As commanded, so it was – something which the bridge crew soon regretted as they beheld their counterpart’s visage! A mutant, with a crew of mutants and humans toiling behind him, answered the hail. His face was mishapen, one huge eye on the left side of his head, and a riveted eye patch where his other eye once was.
“I captain this vessel for the Stygian Reavers! Surrender yourselves, and we will let many of you live!”
“MUTANTS!” Sigmund spat. The Etherics Officer quickly switched the viewscreen transmission off to avoid any untoward transmissions reaching the Reavers. “Such abominations will require purging” Sigmund uttered, clutching his flamer.
Deciding against further contact, the Captain ordered full speed towards the stricken transport ship; meanwhile Magos Bertha attempted to make her way to the Engineerium. Full speed… the leech mine was to prevent that. Approaching to within a few thousand kilometres – too far for the Harbinger of Glory’s turrets to engage – the leech mine’s xenotech heart detonated in a blast of energy. Wild fluctuations struck the engineerium, blowing capacitors, fuses and pipes. The great fusion engines stuttered briefly before resuming their holy work, but the vessel was now unable to reach even half of it’s previous speed. Reaching the Engineerium, Magos Bertha quickly organised crews to purge the alien energy from the engines, to restart systems, and to calm the agitated machine spirits.
As the mine detonated, launches were detected from the two Reaver ships. Great macrocannon shells were hurled through the void. As they reached the critical periods of their transit they were joined by flashes of the great prow mounted lasers of the Reaver vessels. The Reavers were not good shots, and the Harbinger of Glory’s void shields absorbed much of the energy that did make contact. The ship’s thick hull protected them from the few laser blasts that penetrated the shields.
Sigmund, incensed at the hideous face of the foe, exhorted the Targeting Officers to do their best to cleanse them with fire – the officers were unable to follow his advice however, and in the heat of battle the vast majority of the shots fired simply lit up the space around one of the Reaver vessels.
Shots were traded back and forth, as the ships void-danced. Finally, the Lady-Captain had had enough. “I will take the fight to them!” she cried, making her way to the ship’s hanger. An astute officer anticipated her wishes, and when she reached the hanger her crack commando squad was already assembled, hastily donning their void suits over the top of their resplendent red flak jackets. They filed on board the ship’s Gun-cutter as Aurora Black made her way to the cockpit to take control of the craft. The Gun-Cutter was a tiny target in the vastness of the void, but the team couldn’t help their nervousness as the craft blasted it’s way to the Reaver vessel. Aurora Black deftly avoided turret fire in order to make a landing near the Reaver’s Sunsear Laser Battery. Cutting through the hull, she led the commando team past swiftly organised defences, taking no casualties, until they blasted their way into the battery’s main targeting array. There a foul mutant dressed in a parody of an Imperial Navy Officer’s uniform leapt to defend the battery equipment and crew. Aurora stepped into the fray, a swift series of strikes with her power sword resulting in the mutant officer impaled upon the logis-targeting-array, disabling the entire battery in spectacular fashion. Their work done, the team returned to the Gun-Cutter and sped back to the ship.
Almost in retaliation for the Captain’s temerity in stepping aboard the vessel, the remaining macro-cannons on the reaver ship scored a succession of devastating blows upon the Harbinger of Glory. Compartments decompressed, ship sections buckled and hundreds of voids-men and women found themselves facing appalling shrapnel and spalling ricocheting around their compartments.
With a boost of their engines, the unharmed Reaver vessel raced towards the Harbinger of Glory. With skill uncharacteristic for mutants and pirates, the raider ship moved in alongside the Harbinger of Glory. Weapons turrets on both ships opened up, though the weight of fire favoured the Rogue Trader ship. Boarding tubes stabbed through the ships armour, disgorging a tide of dishevelled mutants and pirates. Elsewhere, void seals were made on the ships docking hatches and quick use of cutting tools allowed the Reavers ingress.
While the onslaught was sudden and terrible, the crew of the Harbinger of Glory gave little ground, inflicting grievous casualties fir every compartment lost. Sigmund Severius was at the forefront of the defence, cleansing the scum from the ship with his blessed flamer. The mutant horde was cast into disarray when the hideous one eyed captain was charred to a crisp by Sigmund. When Aurora Black left the bridge in order to command the defence in person the mutant tide was well and truly doomed. Even Magos Bertha stormed from the Engineerium to find mutants away, with axe and bolter.
Aurora, accompanied by her commando squad, led a masterfully planned counter boarding action, only to find Sigmund ahead of them, having cut his way across a boarding tube in order to wash the pirate vessel with flame.
With thousands already wounded or dead, morale on the vessel crumbled. Mutants and pirates surrendered at every turn, and a message was passed from the vessels Bridge for the crew to stand down and cease resistance. With the other, damaged, Reaver vessel still circling, the command crew were well aware that they had little time to secure this potential prize. Sending boarding teams to key ship systems, explosives were set and detonated, disabling the vessel’s weapons, drives and void shields. With that accomplished, the armsmen and women of the Harbinger of Glory quit the vessel swiftly. Great news had come through from the Engineerium in the midst of battle – power was restored!
Disengaging from the surrendered, disabled ship, the Harbinger of Glory’s gun crews, supervised by Sigmund, swung their weapons round and unleashed a devastating volley that raked the dorsal spine of the Reaver ship, knocking out the macro cannons, and spreading chaos across the sections of the ship that were still reeling from the earlier commando raid.
Near breathless from her swift movement back and forth around the ships, Aurora Black headed for the hanger bay, accompanied by her tired but mostly unscathed commandos. Once again, they filed on board the ship’s Gun-cutter as Aurora Black made her way to the cockpit to take control of the craft. With detonations blasting apart many of the Reaver’s guns Aurora could perhaps be forgiven for her over-confident flying. However, when many of the ship’s turrets opened fire, still operational despite the pounding the vessel was taking, she was taken completely by surprise. Behind her, in the hallway, a huge blast hole appeared and shrapnel flew into the cockpit, killing the co-pilot, piercing Aurora’s void suit, ripping the her flight harness and sending her tumbling into the front pane of the cockpit with a sickening crack. Detecting the sudden decompression, the flight compartment’s hatch slammed shut, hiding the now unconscious Aurora from the carnage going on in the main compartment of the Gun-Cutter as unharnessed men were flung, helpless, into the void while the lucky ones gripped the edges of their seats and prayed for rescue before their air ran out…
Aboard the Harbinger of Glory, Sigmund Severius, who had been preparing to further chasten the damaged Reaver vessel, which seemed to be manoeuvring to flee, was informed that radio contact with the Gun-Cutter had been lost, and that the small ships salvation beacon had activated. Issuing orders to bring the Harbinger of Glory about to pursue the tumbling Gun-cutter, he voxed down to the Engineerium and ordered the Magos to prepare some kind of salvage operation.
As the Harbinger of Glory moved away from the pirate vessels, the damaged Reaver vessel, with no weapons and it’s companion ship drifting helpless, diverted power to it’s engines and put a huge distance between itself and the Harbinger of Glory. Aboard the damaged mutant vessel, the hideous (and much reduced) crew had been working frantically to repair the engines ever since they were out from the watchful gaze of the Harbinger of Glory’s crew. They were fortunate that the demolitions that had put them out of action were done in haste and with a mind to capturing the vessel, for they were able to reignite the engines and make best speed away before they were all killed.
Unaware of this, Magos Bertha oversaw some hasty, but Mechanicus approved, modifications to the ship’s pair of Aquila Landers. Removing the Heavy Bolters from their mounts, the Magos installed an energy harpoon and tow cable into both landers, mustered the pilots and, with a small crew of tech-priests in each ship to manage the jury-rigged rescue equipment, they set off. After some tense moments, a Lander was able to get in close to the tumbling Gun-Cutter and deploy the tow-rope to partially arrest it’s movement. The two Landers were then able to control the craft and drag it back to the Harbinger of Glory. In the hanger bay, a dozen Medicae staff and Chirugeons were assembled. The the Gun-Cutter was set down on the deck, and the Aeronauticus support staff wrested the hatches open and pried off the cockpit window. Aurora Black was laid out on the deck, tended to by Sigmund Severius and several Medicae. What remained of her commando squad were helped out of the craft; many unharmed other than a bit of light-headedness, but others requiring emergency treatment and cybernetic grafts.
An Emperor-sent miracle – the Lady-Captain both lived, and was not horrendously harmed! After a few doses of opioids, the Lady-Captain was delicately taken to the bridge, where she rested in the Captain’s Throne.
Sigmund Severius, seeing that the pirates had gotten too great a lead to effectively pursue, ordered the ship in closer to the battered transport. Moving in, it could be seen that their were still inhabitants on the craft. Having been ambushed once already this day, Sigmund and Magos Bertha filled the two Aquila Landers to capacity with bodyguards and tech-priests. If anything terrible were to occur on the transport they would be ready.
Finding a promising hatchway, the two ships disgorged the party. From the moment they were aboard it was obvious that a vicious fight had occurred, with dead mutants and humans scattered across the corridors. Much of the ship was inaccessible, the blast doors closed, the compartments beyond open to the void. Eventually, the team made its way to a cargo bay – human figures could be seen through the portals on the door, standing guard. Sigmund stepped out, and they did not open fire.
“identify yourself!” One of the figures cried, clutching an autopistol.
“I am Sigmund Severius, Ship’s Confessor to the Lady Captain Aurora Black of the ship the Harbinger of Glory. Now identify yourselves!”
Breaking into smiles, the man explained that in the cargo hold beyond were the remaining survivors of a pilgrimage, which had chartered this transport ship, “The Penitent Traveller”. They had been attacked by pirates, and taken grevious losses to both the crew and the Pilgrim group. The survivors had fended off a small boarding party, but the pirates had made off with much of the valuable technology and some treasures.
Sigmund, impressed at their dedication to the Emperor, suggested that their would be space enough aboard the Harbinger of Glory for the survivors and their supplies; an offer they were thrilled to take up.
The next several hours were taken up with the complex logistics of ferrying the passengers a dozen at a time to the Harbinger of Glory, where they invited to make camp in an unused compartment.
The Magos returned to the bridge, where she inspected the damage and casualty reports. Muttering to herself about the need for a superior servitor production facility, she reported that there was damage to the hull that would require some space dock time to fix. The nearest dock with the capability to repair the ship was Footfall, which would be hardly a detour at all.
The Captain nodded her approval and a course was laid in for Footfall.