Dark Heresy

Session 01
A call to arms...

After being singled out and inducted into the service of the Inquisition, things have not quite gone as you had imagined them. Removed from your past life, you have been tested and measured, questioned and interrogated. But aside from a few lectures given in darkened chambers that left you sick to your stomach and a seemingly endless stream of codes and ciphers given you to memorize and destroy, you have been left largely to your own devices.

Lodging under a false name in an anonymous hab-block in Hive Sibellus, on Scintilla, the capitol planet of the Calixis Sector, you have bided your time for weeks waiting for the call from your masters, and perhaps, their verdict. At last that call has come and a blank-eyed courier has delivered to you a note featuring the cipher of the Holy Ordos. The message within was simple and perfunctory, containing a time, a date and a location. The instruction to come prepared and expect company is signed off with a single epithet — “The Emperor Protects”

At the appointed hour, you have made your way through the bustling faceless masses of the Administratum quarter to an unmarked service elevator platform set in the rear of a vast and imposing building covered in bas-reliefs of skulls, half draped urns and other symbols of death, crowned by an immense statue of a weeping saint. It appears that you are expected; the wizened face of the platform’s inbuilt servitor studies you and pronounces “Pass” as you climb on board. As the note implied, you were not the only person called, and you make for an uncomfortable and diverse looking group standing in tense silence as the crowds throng by. The servitor control chimes active as the last one of you boards the platform and the elevator descends as the hatchway closes above you all with a thunderous boom. The platform continues downward for some minutes through maintenance levels, deep into the bowels of the government district.

At the end of the elevator’s slow decent you are deposited at the end of a wide grey corridor, lit by pale lumen globes in the shape of cherubs holding torches. Only the first part of the corridor is lit and the rest trails off into darkness. As you step off the platform more globes illuminate to show you the path and, as you walk forward, more flicker into life before you, while those behind you extinguish. There is but one path, the corridor is featureless and smells faintly of chemical disinfectant.

After about five minutes, the corridor ends in an armoured metal door, which unseals and unlocks with as hiss of pressurised air and opens with a loud grinding of heavy gears. The room inside has a jumble of dusty metal crates (branded with unintelligible symbols) stacked against one wall, while a hospital gurney complete with restraint straps has been left toppled over on one side against the other.

The room’s most striking feature is a wide mirror which fills the upper half of the opposite wall from the entrance. The mirror slowly clears to transparency to reveal a glittering steel chamber beyond. Inside the chamber looking out is a tall, thin-faced figure wearing white medicae robes with (rather incongruously) a red leather coat draped over his shoulders. Behind him, covered by a mottled grey sheet, is what looks like a body on some sort of frame raised upright for inspection. While above them in the air, a pair of white enamelled skulls, encrusted with a variety of brass instruments and long hypo needles, hover expectantly.

Based on your initial observations, you variously surmise the following:

- the man’s leather coat conceals armoured panels in its construction and that the bulge under his arm can only be a gun of some sort.
- the hovering skulls to be medicae servo-skulls of the highest quality; machine-spirit controlled drones, fashioned from preserved human skulls and fitted with sophisticated medical systems whose secrets are restricted to the highest orders of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
- the small, stylised raven and scroll insignia on his robes as belonging to the Hetaireia Lexis, a distinguished and famous order of scholars.

The figure in the chamber beckons you all up to the glass with a gloved hand and after a static rattle, his voice issues from a small grill set into the ceiling:

“Greetings Acolytes, I am Medicae-Interrogator Sand and you are the new blood, are you not? Worthy additions to our holy war? Well we shall see, far be it from me to doubt my betters’ judgement, eh?

“Well to the matter at hand. I represent the Holy Ordos of the Imperial Inquisition that we all serve. Our masters have called you here to assist us in the investigation of a matter of interest that has recently and unexpectedly come to light.

“Oh, yes, for your information, you are now in the depths of the Templum Mori, the house of the dead where the Lords Prefecta Mortem hold court and the fallen and the lost of the great city are named and counted. It will not surprise you then to know you are here to view a corpse, I doubt it will be your first, but it is, shall we say, quite singular!”

Sand causally brushes aside your attempts at questions and carries on with his lecture, pulling aside the grey sheet to reveal the dissected and eviscerated body of an adult human. As he continues to talk, the servo-skulls dip and bob out of sight to reappear with messy looking organic specimens in tests tubes and jars, clutched in their dextrous brass callipers, and display them in turn for your edification:

“Now if you will kindly attend and pay heed, I will take questions afterward.

“The body has been positively identified as that of one Saul Arbest, male, 23 years of age, hive worker, unskilled labourer certified. Formerly of the Tantalus Indenture, registered habitation: chamber 6/23 stack 7-17# Coscarla Division, southern zone, Hive Sibellus.

“Subject found dead on the mid-hive transit rail three days ago as the car returned to the main depot. Preliminary examination at the scene suggested death by drug overdose. Post mortem performed by the biologis forensic, however, revealed certain anomolies that necessitated our involvement.

“The cause of death was in fact total systemic failure brought on by tissue rejection of an implanted synthetic graft organ. Said organ destroyed his central nervous system while attempting to overcome the immune response.

“In short this…”

The servo skull displays a sample jar containing a ten centimetre long whitish cord of waving glassy tendrils, still in motion, obviously still alive.

“…crushed the life out of him from the inside.

“What’s it for? Unknown, but my opinion would be, in a word, ‘control’ — neural and synaptic override, perhaps worse.

“There were other grafts and surgery of a less singular kind also; one lung replaced by a concealed storage cavity, possibly for his use as a courier. Also, one optic nerve removed, skin flayed from his stomach, I’ve no idea why. His system’s awash with alchemic traces, clotting agents, panimmune and the like.

“The surgery was expert, but by the lesions and tissue stresses, I doubt any care was given to whether or not it was painless. In fact, by the damage to his vocal cords, my guess was that he probably screamed as long as he was able to.

“But this little monster is what concerns us. Oh, you don’t need to know the gene-lore or the Omnissian edict, just that this is not only illegal, it is forbidden, it is heresy. Merely tampering with this kind of dark tech is enough to warrant a death sentence from the Holy Ordos, the Arbites or the Mechanicus.

“And I’m sure that you, as well as I, am wondering how such a rare and vile thing ended up wrapped round the spine of some anonymous hab-prole from the dusty end of the stacks. Well, the Inquisition would like you to find out.

“The man has no prior criminal record, he was rendered invalid by indenture — laid off if you will, some sixty days ago now and was reported missing thirty-two days ago by his sister, one Lili Arbest, resident of the same hab-stack. More than enough time to get himself into all sorts of trouble, I’m sure you’ll agree. These grafts are no more than eight or ten days old at most. We have nothing else on him.

“This is to be a shadow investigation, no open official involvement and no notification of the local authorities, and no one knows he’s here either. Coscarla’s down hive, so a covert approach will draw far less attention than a boot through the door, and be far less likely to kill any leads to our heretic.

“Find out why and where if you can, better yet, find out how. Best of all, find out who is responsible. Go with the grace of the God Emperor, oh and additional samples would be a blessing if you can procure them.”

Interrogator Sand gestures to you to open one of the larger packing cases against the wall in the room in which you stand:

“The cover identity that has been provided for you is that of roving agents for the Coblast Assay. Such men and women are known in hive ‘cant’ as regulators – hired guns, couriers, tracers, manhunters, mercenaries and other specialists. Coblast’s less than savoury reputation makes their appearance in Coscarla an ‘easy sell’ to the casual observer, and their cognomen of course will stand up to any official scrutiny.”

Inside the box are the following items:

  • 4 Coscarla Pass Tokens (each about the size of a small thick coin)

“These coded devices, will allow you legal clearance for the Coscarla Division and free passage on the transit rail around the mid-hive area.”

  • 4 Coblast Assay Cognomen (encrypted metal punch cards)

“These are identity markers, there is one tailored for each of you and they include an enforcer code tag allowing you to carry arms for self defence. They signify that you are ‘bonded agents for the Coblast Assay’, a Sibellan mercantile operation of somewhat dubious repute but not inconsiderable power, specialising in tech salvage and ‘manpower services’.”

  • 4 Hand Vox

“These personal communication devices use a private encrypted channel, and are good for a range of a few kilometres in the hive. Thanks to signal interference in the areas of the hive where you are going, vox traffic is almost impossible over any real distance or between levels, except by wire station, but these hand vox will let you keep in touch with each other at least.”

  • 4 Low Hiver’s Overcoats (1 Point Armour, all locations except head)

“These voluminous and somewhat tattered patchwork leather and canvas high-collared overcoats are common low-hiver garb in Sibellus and will easily fit over anything you are wearing. They should help you to blend in, as well as offering an extra degree of protection.”

  • 4 Chem Lamps

“These small portable lamps use a chemical reaction to provide light and will operate continuously while their shutters are open. Such lamps will illuminate an area of about a three metre radius around it or provide a six metre directed beam of whitish light, depending upon your particular needs.”

  • Coded Data-Slate (worn-looking & brass cased)

“This dataslate carries basic copies of the information contained in the verbal briefing that you have already received, a series of maps and data about the Coscarla and (largely empty) files on the Arbasts, including pictures of them and addresses taken from the Administratum register. The slate also has basic short range audio and visual recording and playback functions. The slate features a five key input code 21483 – if it is accessed without this, its core memory will be wiped.”

  • Bio-Sample Kit (satchel containing three small bio-storage tubes, a small bio-auspex and a long-bladed, razor edged mono scalpel – damage 1d5-1+SB, Pen 2).

“I added this as something of a hopeful afterthought. The Bio Auspex is set for human tissue, the indicator will flash red and whine with increasing volume in the proximity of anomalous tissue. As for the scalpel, well I’m not expecting deft surgery, but try not to hack at it like an underdone Grox steak and get it in the jar, eh?”

  • Money Pouch (containing 120 Thrones in loose coin and used notes)

“For sundries and bribes. I’m sure if you need more you can be resourceful"

It’s up to you how you distribute the gear and gelt, and it appears that Interrogator Sand is eager for you to get on your way. Before you leave however, he encourages you to converse with each other, pointing out that your lives may well depend on at least a passing knowledge of each other’s abilities in the field.

“I expect you to co-operate to get their mission accomplished as befits the Inquisition’s chosen, and to defer to the wisest in their own field when needs be. There is no designated cell leader for this mission, but that may change depending upon how well you each perform in the field. Coscarla is no more than a few hours away by transit rail car. I expect your report in a few days, no more. You may leave now."

The vox grate gives a crackling thud, and the mirror returns to it’s reflective state. You hear the seals on the door behind you release, and its heavy bulk swings open, giving you access to the arrival corridor again.

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Session 02
Arrival in Coscarla

The journey to Coscarla takes several hours by transit rail car, during which time you have to change rails repeatedly (into increasing dilapidated and vandalised cars), and your pass tokens and cognomen are repeatedly checked by suspicious Magistratum enforcers, dull-eyed carriage servitors and unctuous looking officials.

As your journey progresses you pass from the relatively open spaces and clean air of the government district, down and across whole hive levels, passed collapsed finery and the fallen architectural splendours of the “good of olden days” and through vast steel sky vaults filled with endless rows of hab-stacks and kilometre after kilometre of thunderous manufactora. The further you go the more depressed, ill-maintained and decayed things become; these are the lower stretches of the mid hive, beyond these no transit rails run. Beyond this outer circle is the underhive where no law holds sway.

Long stretches of the journey are spent in the stale tainted air of the wormhole-like tunnel passageways within the Hive’s thick supporting bones, and in the nameless black voids of deserted spaces between, the car’s lights flicker and fail regularly.

Eventually, in a single car, now deserted but for your group, the rattling carriage breaks into another vast and dilapidated hab-vault and begins to slow. You look out upon a vista of vacant and decayed buildings in a worse state than any that you have seen up until now, stretching beyond sight into a dark horizon beyond.

The rail car shudders to a stop and the doors open onto a wide, raised platform devoid of passengers save for a single huddled figure dressed in rags. The figure quickly bundles themself onboard, flashing a pass to the door mechanism with unseemly haste and takes up a seat as far from your group as possible. A moment later a dull, crackling servitor intones:

“Coscarla Southern Railhead. Passengers to Coscarla to disembark. This conveyance will
depart in…”

The rest is lost in a howl of static.

This is Coscarla and you have arrived.

Coscarla has the feel of a buried and abandoned city, shrouded in darkness beneath a steel sky. It is a cold and empty place, where whole tenements and hab-stacks are blacked by fire, or stare silently with a hundred vacant smashed-window eyes, while ancient and seemingly purposeless columns and arches of black granite soar high into the darkness.

The power supply is poor and the streetlamps along the main thoroughfares flicker and cast a pale twilight, while refuse and debris clogs the alleyways where shapeless and half-hidden forms of dregs (and perhaps worse) haunt. The skyline near the southern portion of the district is criss-crossed by the overhead rail lines of Sibellus’s mass transit network, which clatters and sparks intermittently through the cycles. Far above, in the high shadowed skies, the periodic exhalations and clamour of the hive’s vast air processing network is muted into distant thunder, the action of which materialises later at ground level as squalls of sudden chill wind, and even the occasional curtain of dirty rain lasts too briefly to wash the grime from the streets.

There are people living in Coscarla, thousands of them in fact, but they are so swallowed up by the vast and darkened spaces around them that they seem very few, nor do they linger outdoors, rushing silently to their destinations with their collars turned up and their heads firmly down. They are dishevelled, threadbare and have the look of frightened men and women, determined to get on with life the best they can.

Checking your Dataslate you find that the item does indeed contain a copy of some briefing information, along with a Map of the area of Coscarla in question.

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Meaningless Lives

From the private diary of Prince Casimir.

The sordidness of the common people knows no nadir. I am buried in this forsaken stinking hole of Coscarla, accompanied by the Bearded Lady, Rat Boy, and some sort of robot man with an obsession for phallic imagery. And they’re the ones on my side. Why were weapons of mass destruction invented, if not to bring His Mercy to this place?

We are bivouacked in the Hellhole Hostel, the world-renowned meeting places for fleas, bed-bugs, slime-molds, and their glorious overlord Maxis Draylock. I swear, if we’re woken tonight I’ll strangle him with his own innards and feed him to Rat Boy.

It seems we’re sorting out some of the filthy mundane intrigues of this place. Warden Locan is a doped-up waste of carbon who is being controlled by fear of the remnants of the Tantalus Combine. The combine is represented by Mr Moran who rules from his rotting ivory tower in the Tantalus Alms House. The ever-so-wicked Mr Luntz roles from his high tower in the Workers’ Union, magnanimously dispensing ambrosia to the delight of the thriving proles. May they both rot in their own filth!

Evardzed, no doubt a model of virtue, is alleged to spend his time at the Templum. May I be spared from learning what the attraction of that parody of Paradise may be… interspecies orgies is my best guess. At least the Bearded Lady will feel at home.

First order of business in the morning will be to settle accounts with Draylock, for better or for worse, then a look in at the Templum, followed by little cakes and tea with Mr Moran. God help that slimy bastard Draylock if I don’t get a good night’s sleep.

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Bad Dreams
From the private diary of Prince Casimir

As I feared, Draylock could not be trusted to provide the basic services expected of a hotelier. For a start, not being a complete fucking moron. We were awakened in the middle of the night by a couple of goons trying to break into our rooms. The Bearded Lady very gently inquired as to whether they’d lost their way. I would have asked that question of their corpses, myself. In any case, they weren’t the problem – they were just a couple of thugs Draylock had subcontracted to rob us. We chased them downstairs where we were met by something more somewhat more fearsome.

These were the things the locals call bodysnatchers. I’d assumed bodysnatching was more of a hobby than a state of being, but now I know better. They were some sort of dead man encased in iron bands, a tech heretical zombie I suppose. (In fact, the dead men were the local guardsmen that we’d encoutered earlier.) Cruellus and Rat Boy blasted them fairly badly, astonishingly to little effect, and Cruellus somewhat lost it for a while upon discovering that the massive weapon that he can’t keep his hands off wasn’t as impressive as he’d dreamed. I must say, the things were intimidating, I found my own legs turning to jelly every time I tried to approach them. However both barrels of a shotgun demonstrated that they could indeed be stopped. Cruellus’s grenade was also effective, and we managed to see them off with only a little damage to ourselves.

It’s my hypothesis that these things are the love children of the infamous Mr Moran, with whom we have an appointment in a few hours. They are also exemplars of the tech heresy which we’ve been sent here to root out. Mr Moran will have some explaining to do. I’ve taken some samples of the things to return to Medicae Sand, and also ruined their metal frameworks in case the damnable things decide to get up again. I don’t think Cruellus would cope if that happened, he seems to be somewhat faint-hearted when confronted with tech heresy. At least that shows that his heart his pure and he draws his strength from faith in the doctrine of the Golden Throne.

Oh, how I wish I could sleep! I can’t get out of my mind the thoughts of Rat Boy skulking around in Draylock’s office, no doubt stealing his stash of etchings of naked mutants or some such perversion. His room is next to mine, so I hope he’s quiet about whatever he’s doing. I think I can hear the Bearded Lady snoring. Emperor save me!

Oh yes, Draylock is dead. I’m quite dismayed by that, as I wanted to kill him myself. And the corrupt magistratum officers are dead as well. Won’t there be anyone left for me to work out my frustrations on? Mrs Draylock was a miserable mewling moronic creature, but it won’t be satisfying killing someone who was so barely alive in the first place.

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