This story begins aboard the Ecclesiarchy Transport Ship ‘Flight of Ten Thousand Angels’ in low orbit around the War World Protasia. As thousands of pilgrims, clutching religious fetish’s, survival gear and a huge array of weaponry, board ancient drop ships another, far smaller, group is embarking.
High above the noise and squalor of the main hanger decks, Zachariah, Ghisliane and Atallus, waiting alongside Atallus’ Shuttle, take charge of Agent 6-11-14 from his Arbites minders. Agent 6-11-14 is currently suspended in a drugged stupor but he is expected to quickly rouse from this once the taskforce’s mission is underway. After carefully checking his shuttle and performing blessings to fortify the little ship’s determined machine spirit Atallus, with the taskforce aboard, takes off heading for Protasia’s North Continent Theatre.
After only a short trip, during which time Agent 6-11-14 awoke and ‘introduced’ himself to the rest of the task force, Atallus touched down in the Imperial HQ and was there greeted by Colonel Cortez, who was to be their liason with the Imperial Guard forces, and Lt Xanthia, a mercenary and the fifth member of the task force. The Colonel quickly ushered them to a small suite dedicated to their needs with 5 private rooms, a large, shared conference room and a smaller dedicated intel room including a compact cogitator. Colonel Cortez allowed the team a short while to make themselves at home before giving them a briefing as to their mission;
“Over the last few months a number of specialist Imperial Guard units have gone missing, deserting their posts with no warning or signs of combat. This has occured in three different locations, here in the main barracks, a small landing facility about 50 miles North-East and a forward observation bunker about 10 miles North. You have been tasked with locating these units and uncovering the reasons for their desertion. I should also warn you that the Commissariat team who was previously investigating the missing units went missing about 2 weeks ago. Finally, the Imperial Guard is stretched thin in this theatre and the lack of these specialised units is really hurting the war effort here; any assistence your team could provide would be appreciated.”
After a lengthy question and answer period lasting some hours the taskforce decided to focus on gathering evidence from the three sites that the squads occupied before their dissappearence, hopefully the missing Commissariat team had the same idea and thier whereabouts would be revealed as the investigation got underway. After putting in a request to Colonel Cortez for permission to fly Atallus’ Shuttle out to the landing facility, the barracks was decided upon as a good starting point for the investigation.
After interrogating the watch officers in command of the barracks the taskforce quickly uncovered a few key clues;- The previous watch officers dissappeared along with the units stationed under thier command - Those same officers had been assigned to the barracks only weeks before they dissappeared - The units who went missing did not put up any resistance
Utilizing his Administratum privilidge Zachariah also managed to obtain copies of the survailence equipment footage from the barracks. The taskforce, armed with this information, quickly determined that locating these Rogue Officers was of paramount importance. Unfortunatly there were hours of video footage from dozens of camera’s to trawl through and the personel files for the officers was also not within their security clearence.
In order to get access to the secure personel files Agent 6-11-14 was given carte blanche to gather intel however he could. After using the air filtration and power lines to move about the Imperial HQ unseen he soon realised that the officer’s quarters themselves were too heavily guarded for him to access without resorting to lethal force (which Atallus had forbidden). Instead he found and hacked an out of the way cogitator, using a stolen data-slate to copy the files pertaining to the Rogue Officers and installed a back-door programme that he could utilise at a later date.
With his past career in the Administratum, Zachariah was given the camera footage to assess. He performed his role admirably as, intrigued by the challenge, he worked through the night using a stimulant cocktail mixed by himself. Although his self-medication would take its toll, by morning he had uncovered several facts pertinent to the investigation. As Zachariah slept the rest of the team began to piece together the events in the barracks.
A handful of Imperial Guard units had been stationed in the barracks awaiting deployment when their barrack commanders (the Rogue Officers) gave them new orders. The officers of the stationed units did question their orders, which were given in the early hours of the morning, but were silenced by the arrival of an Imperial Commissar. As the units gathered their gear and headed out the Commissar was approached by a Commissar-Cadet also stationed in the barracks. The two spoke privately and their discussion seems to have become heated before the Cadet backed down and left. The Rogue Officers and Commissar left with the units.
All of the officers were quickly matched up to the files obtained by Agent 6-11-14 with the exception of the Commissar and the Cadet whose personel files were stored seperately. It appears that the Rogue Officers are part of a larger conspiricy as they were not questioned leaving the Imperial HQ and “The Commissar” seems to be in league with them. However, their whereabouts are unknown and, without more evidence, nothing can easily be proved yet.
At this point the taskforce decided to cast a wider net in their search for clues, Agent 6-11-14, Lt. Xanthia and Zachariah decided to locate and interrogate the Commissar-Cadet who spoke to “The Commissar” in the hopes of uncovering more information. Atallus and Ghisliane headed to the Chapel to try and obtain Ecclesiarchy clearance to use Atallus’ Shuttle.
Agent 6-11-14 found his way back to a hidden cogitator to try and obtain the secure files in which were stored the personel details of the Commissariat officers on Protasia, whilst he sucessfully copied the files he noticed that his access had been noticed by the Imperial Intelligenciers. He would have to be far more cautious in the future. With these files in hand Zachariah and Lt. Xanthia worked through the personel details trying to match up the grainy pictures from the Barracks with the descriptions stored on file, trying to cross-reference orders issued within the last few months. Finally, they ascertained that the Cadet was one Commissar-cadet Fawn, attached to the Imperial HQ whilst awaiting deployment with an active combat unit. However, they could not match up the pictures of “The Commissar” with any Commissariat officers, the man must be using the disguise to deceive officers conditioned to obey any orders given by an Imperial Commissar! Putting their hunt for “The Commissar” to one side for now they quickly found Commissar-cadet Fawn’s personal billet, resolving to pay him a visit later that night…
Meanwhile, Atallus and Ghisliane explored some of the less militarised areas of the Imperial HQ, they wandered through the market which, whilst not actually run by the Imperial Guard, was heavily policed. As they walked around they could see dozens of stalls selling everything from second hand flak helmets, las-packs, shoddy grenades to brass plated plasma pistols. As the stalls started selling religious trinkets and icons they found themselves approaching a large section of the station walled off for the Ecclesiarchy‘s use. Inside they found a huge nave capable of seating many hundreds of worshippers echoing with the constant melodies of hymns offered up to the Emperor. As a recognised member of the Ecclesiarchy Atallus was able to peruse some of the esoteric and specialised items stockpiled or seized by the church on Protasia. Whilst he bought nothing he noticed a few things he was interested in. Despite speaking with one of the ranking priests they were, unfortunatly, unable to secure a special dispensation to use Atallus’ Shuttle as the clearence to fly across the North Continent Theatre was tightly controlled by the Imperial Navy. Empty handed, they headed back to thier quarters.
In the early hours of the morning, Zachariah, Agent 6-11-14 and Lt Xanthia headed out to meet Commissar-cadet Fawn. After locating his room Agent 6-11-14 employed his abilities as an infiltrator and contortionist to drop into the locked room via a small ventilation shaft. Once inside he easily unlocked the door from within and allowed the others to gain entrance. Quietly waking Fawn Lt Xanthia, who keenly understood the military mindset, interrogated the terrified cadet about his dealings with “The Commissar”;
“I thought it was strange moving troops in the dead of night and the Commissar with them, he didn’t look quite right, if you catch my meaning m’am. I confronted him and he grew agitated, I was about to raise the alarm when he drew his sidearm. It was an odd weapon, I distinctly remember that I had never seen a weapon like it, it was hard to tell if it was even Imperial in design. Well, he threatened my life and, to my shame, I capitulated and left. I should have raised the alarm but I thought it might be some kind of top secret operation, why else would an Imperial Commissar threaten a Cadet? What was he like? Well…”
After sleeping late to catch up on a few lost nights sleep the Taskforce brought the facts in their possession so far together. Whilst they had a number of possible theories and suspicions they did not yet have any hard evidence so, since they were still unable to fly to the landing pad, they decided to take a troop train north to the imperial Forward Base and investigate there. After speaking to Colonel Cortez they were to take the next train and meet with Deacon Eli, an Ecclesiarchy representative and their contact in the Forward Base.
The train was a heavily modified civilian model with the previous seats and upholstery stripped out to make room for utilitarian metal benches. The taskforce was given a small, private cabin usually reserved for officers or clerics and they settled in. Having been warned by Colonel Cortez they were expecting long delays in an otherwise short journey. The train could travel no faster than about 35kph to allow the rudimentary minesweeping auspex built into it to pick up any traps laid by partisans. Whilst the taskforce discussed their mission the train slowly trundled through the city, stopping three seperate times whilst engineers removed possible bombs as well as repairing support struts. After over 6 hours aboard the train the taskforce finally stretch thier cramped legs and disembark onto a makeshift station. The bulk of the station is set up to receive the new guardsmen and the shouts of the troopers, officers and harried logistical adepts drown out almost all other noise. The troopers are formed into units and march away. The taskforce head through a large, stone archway and into the Forward Base itself.
Greeting the taskforce is the sight of a sprawling tent city, formed of thousands of pilgrims and citizens; here to bring death to the mutant and the traitor. The sounds and smells of thousands of fervous civilians destroys any semblence of order in the camp, groups of pilgrims have formed small enclaves seemingly at random, preachers and confessors stand on boxes and scream exhaltation at passers-by. The smells of incense, mud, sweat and cordite are heavy in the air. Units of guardsmen try to cross the camp whilst being molested by the faithful desperate to touch the troopers for luck, whether that it luck for themselves or for the troopers. Other, more mercenary souls, try to sell ‘blessed’ trinkets to the soldiers heading for the front. The taskforce stand aghast, unsure of where to even start looking for Deacon Eli when the man himself approaches them, shouldering past a mumbling man whose only covering seems to be a huge, matted beard. The deacon has to shout to make himself heard over the noise of the camp;
“Welcome to the most northerly Imperial position! Colonel Cortez sent word you were coming, i’ve set aside a small chamber for you in the Chapel over there. We’re using the chapel as our base until we move on again. Unfortunatly we can’t hold services…as you can see there probably isn’t a single building on the planet that could hold this many of the Emperors faithful!”
As the deacon escorts the taskforce across the camp they are almost immediatly set upon by the crowd, Atallus and Ghisliane in particular are singled out. They are grabbed, touched and both have gaudy and low quality icons and trinkets pushed into their hands. As gently and politly as possible they push through the crowd following behind Lt Xanthia who has considerably less patience for the surrounding crowd, using her armoured shoulders to shove through. Once inside the chapel being used by the Ecclesiarchy the thick walls block out the smell and noise of the chaos outside and the taskforce slump onto flakboard pews with relief. As Deacon Eli hands out water and some food they discuss the situation at the observation bunkers. The bunkers overlook a network of roadways from the top of a low bluff some 25m high with a steep slope facing north. The south side (facing the Imperial lines) is a far more gentle slope. The position itself is comprised of three fortified bunkers, a pair of small gun-pits and an earthwork outer wall. Unfortunatly, following the desertion of the units stationed there a small rebel infiltration team seized the bunkers and were able to move in a few squads of re-enforcements in before the guard could stop them. The bunkers are now held in enemy hands and the taskforce will not be able to investigate there until they have been retaken. After a short break to refresh themselves the taskforce decided to head for the bunkers to assess the situation themselves and see what, if anything, could be done to secure the bunkers.
Here follows the Battle for Hill 216