Navigator Maturinus and Arch-Militant Caine had managed to fight off the robed attacker that had come for them and Astropath Soloket, but their fight had not gone un-observed, and three had broken off from the group to approach them. Retreating further into the building, they boarded themselves in a room to make a stand against their attackers, who advanced under the cover of a smokescreen. One of them managed to heavily wound Astropath Soloket before being dispatched by Maturinus, while Caine handily disposed of his attacker. There was no sign of the third, but rather than waiting for more attackers, Caine blasted out the back of the house and the trio made their escape into the mazes of Footfall, hoping to escape their attacker.
Captain Hos and Astropath Eckhart in the meantime managed to reach the Black Brotherhood stronghold, but apart from the vox-scrambling field in effect the power to most of the facilities of Footfall had been disabled. Calcus had planned to lead his people into the caves of Footfall that he was familiar with, and invited the Captain and his Honour Guard to join him, but insisted that once they had found a secure spot to fortify, they would be attacking anyone that approached them so this would be a one-time deal. Unwilling to sit this out, the group also decided to make their way from their location to the docking bay to attempt to escape.
Outside of Footfall, cut off from everyone, Explorator Felicis was making his way to the bridge of the In Purgatio Lumen, being briefed on the situation by Lieutenant Nichols. Moments before his arrival, the void defenses around Footfall had activated, and a broadcast had gone out ordering all vessels to withdraw from immediate orbit, and any attempt to enter or escape would be met with lethal force. One free captain Frigate had attempted to breach this cordon, and had been torn apart by the defenses.
Felicis pretended that the Captain had the situation in hand, which was useful when Lady Sun Lee contacted him from the bridge of the Nihontu, requesting the Captain’s aide in stabilizing the situation, and preventing any potential culprits from escaping during the confusion of the situation. This was a plan that the Explorator would eagerly go along with, and he exerted his full diplomatic authority in the name of the Captain to tie the groups together, and prevent anyone from fleeing before this crisis was over.
Thanks to a fortunate turn of fate, the two groups on Footfall managed to reunite, and intended to head to the docking bay to try and escape – unaware of the potential danger in doing so. Fortunately for the group, the only person capable of navigating the back passages of Footfall was Navigator Maturinus, and he refused to leave without more information, and “accidentally” led the group to the Renowned Blessing, the Rogue Trader bar that Captain Hos had visited long ago. Emerging onto the more prosperous streets of Footfall, they found dozens of people lying dead in the streets – a few of the robed cultists and Fel’s guards among them, but the majority appeared to be civilians of Footfall, cut down by the blades of the cultists.
The Renowned Blessing had either been attacked or looted, but at least it was reasonably defensible and not filled with people shooting at them. There was a sealed room in the rear compartment that Eckhart mentally confirmed had survivors in it, but they were unwilling to open the door for the group, and the Explorers decided not to push it for the moment. With the situation somewhat confirmed, both Astropath Eckhart and Soloket opened their mind to the warp, and attempted to establish contact with Astropath Poe on the Lumen to retrieve intelligence – despite the latter having apparently never sent to the Hos Dynasty before.
Fortunately for the group, the distance the Cruiser had put from Footfall was no problem at all to an Astropath, and the message reached Poe without problem. Felicis informed the people on Footfall of what had happened in the intervening time – himself, Lady Sun Lee, Abel Garret, Maximus Caughran and Captain Persyn of the Fist of Dorn all committed their vessels into maintaining order, and discouraging anyone from attempting to flee. Relaying through Poe the situation, he informed the group that fleeing Footfall would be unlikely, but transit between asteroids would be much harder to target. He suggested the group attempt to infiltrate the Adeptus Mechanicus shrines to regain control of the system’s defenses, and that he would lead his Combat Engineseers in one of the Dark Eldar transports which would hopefully baffle Footfall’s sensors.
The Explorers waited for Felicis to finish his plan, during which another announcement came over the vox, presumably from the attackers, saying that if the people of Footfall killed and filled the gems carried by each cultist with enough people’s blood, they would be ignored during this sweep. After a few minutes, while on watch Caine detected one such person murdering another and attempting to fill the blood into one of the gems. Caine easily stealthed up on the lightly armed man and captured him. He appeared to just be a random terrified citizen who was otherwise a servant of Jonquin Saul, but the true information from his capture was that the gem was not any sort of warp technology, but perhaps some sort of technology. Setting out to the docking bay to seize an Aquila, and were ambushed along the way by a number of these cultists, whose sword work was no less deadly, but much less effective in the face of the organised ranged weapons fighting against them.
In the meantime, compiling the practice of the Death Bastards with Dark Eldar gear, and his own brilliant leaps of logic, had worked out the basics of how to fly a Dark Eldar lander – in that he could point and make it go – and he proceeded to the AdMech shrine. He did manage to land bypassing the exterior defenses, but was quickly picked up by the automatic spirits inside. His lander was quickly torn apart by built-in heavy bolters, and only by directing the Engineseers to provide cover fire was he able to reach a control panel and shut down the defenses – just in time for the rest of the Dynasty to arrive and secure the shrine. The Inner Council was now reunited, and it was time to solve the mystery.
The Adeptus Mechanicus shrine was oddly empty, but in the “heart” of the Shrine lay the temple to the Omnissiah, from which came a regular binary chanting that the Explorator identified as standard praises to the Machine-God. The shrine would not open for them, but a vox servitor conveyed the words of Tech-Priest Raythus from within. Using his influence and familiarity with the Mechanicus, the Explorator convinced the workers to reveal their part in the plan, which the Tech-Priest was more than happy to do. He informed the group that the Adeptus Mechanicus were contacted by an unknown party, and in exchange for their cooperation in this endeavour to assassinate the Liege of Footfall, would be granted a great trove of Archeotech.
After securing a pledge from Explorator Felicis that the Adeptus Mechanicus would not suffer from revealing all information, they presented the Dynasty with a transponder that would allow them to ignore Footfall’s defenses, as well as schematics for a fearsome robotic assassin that had been dispatched to Liege’s Court to assassinate Tanthus Moross. The party that had hatched this plot was still unknown, and the Explorers were torn between blaming Hadarak Fel, Vladayam Tocara, or possibly both. They headed back to the Lumen, and after leaving Rogue Trader Hos to further coordinate the Rogue Traders’ response, the rest of the Explorers loaded up with heavy weapons, and set off to rescue the Liege.
The court itself was under lockdown, but hailing and submitting to scans, they were permitted to dock. The docking bays and surrounding corridors were littered with bodies of cultists and Liege’s Court guards. Further along they met a security checkpoint, and Eckhart used his personal connection with the Liege to be granted an audience, but they were not permitted to enter with enough weapons to decimate a small area, only the Explorers themselves entered while the rest of their troops were fortifying key areas into the Liege’s personal fortress.
The Liege himself was unconcerned about the potential assassination, saying that it was not the first attempt on his life. He was gracious towards their help, and offered his quarters to the Dynasty while they waited for this so-called assassin. Navigator Maturinus was offended by Moross’s attitude, and set off to find Captain Sylvia Locke, who had been stationed in the underbelly of Liege’s Court. The Captain herself had been aware of the situation, but merely waited in her quarters to review her paperwork, and was pleased to see the Navigator. Her conversation reaffirmed what they had previously suspected – her assignment was punishment for her actions in Damaris, something that the Captain did not regret, and saw this as a chance to force the Battlefleet to reconcile their actions with abandoning the people of the Expanse. Maturinus convinced the Captain to hand over her files regarding the Cold Trade to him, so that the captain could use his influence to thwart the Cold Trade, and perhaps make her job easier. A proposition to which Captain Locke agreed.
While the Navigator was away, the peace and forced tranquility of the Liege’s headquarters was shattered by the robotic assassin bursting through the roof, and tearing apart a nearby servant. The door to the chamber had seized up during the attack, and Astropath Eckhart was horrified to realise that the assassin had a daemon engine inside of it, making it leagues more dangerous than what they were anticipating. Felicis attempted to use the shutdown code given to him, while Eckhart and Caine engaged it in combat. The robotic assassin was slowly whittled down by the pair, but it still managed to break through and attack Tanthus Moross – who promptly vanished from his dais. Badly damaged, the thing attempted to flee, until Felicis managed to issue a forced shutdown to the thing, which did shut down its mechanical components leaving it helpless. The daemon within forced the machine back into operation, but that brief break was all Eckhart and Caine needed to deliver one final volley that banished the spirit back into the warp.
The ruined and dead hulk of the machine crashed into the ground, and although the threat was over, Moross was still missing from the room, and there were now more questions raised as to who had forged this unholy engine…