The Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine, desperate to break the deadlock on the agri-hiveworld of Veltan, sent out his militant advisor Commissar Serkin to find Astartes willing to aid him in his “vital military campaign”. Serkin found no chapters willing or able to send immediate aid to his lord so turned his attention to the Deathwatch at Watchfortress Mnemonm. Four (possibly five) battle brothers were chosen to aid Serkin and, in turn, Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine. Aboard the Hounds Class destroyer Decimator squad Claudius accompanied the Commissar to the Veltani Theater of Operations (known colloquailly as Fortress Voltani). Transition to realspace incurred no incident.
Once in-system, the battle brothers learned that Veltan was beset by suspected seditionists who were waging a guerilla war from inside some of the planet’s hive-domes and that Orkish pirates were harassing what few shipments managed to come from the remaining loyalist hives. One Admiral Jonias Mirth, aboard his flagship Lord Beauchanon was tasked with defeating the Orkish threat, although by Commissar Serkin’s own admission he was “capable, but woefully ill-equipped to handle the threat given the Lord Militant’s support priorities.” In chambers with the Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine the battle brothers found that the efforts planet-side suffered mostly from poor leadership and little initiative. Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine’s methods relied heavily on strong arm bullying and micromanagement of his subordinates. They also learned of the presence of a Sisters of the Argent Shroud Hospitallier and a small, but fanatical cadre of Sororitas Noviates with whom both the Lord Militant and especially Commissar Serkin entrusted to “save the day”.
Promises of eventual aid from the Sororitas stationed on the ocean world of Gabrielle or more readily from the Diannan Crusade based in the nearby Teme Impolshu Sector, have made most of the Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine’s command staff suspicious of the Adeptus Astartes’ motivations. The fact that Eclessiarchal representatives in the form of half a dozen beautiful and deadly young women have been seeding rumors of the Space Marines’ “impurity” seems to readily suggest the Adepta Sororita is letting its religious fanaticism get in the way of military unity.
The Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine rails at Squad Claudius, proclaiming, “What the hell am I supposed to do with FOUR Space Marines?!?” After berating a Field Commander in front of everyone in his command staff (likely done intentionally as a show of his “power”), the Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine confronts Brother Calistarius with a young girl in a dirty smock who turns out to be a psychic null. Obviously Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine feels he is in control and “orders” the guy he yelled at to brief the marines, although not before one of the Noviates curses the gathered Deathwatch for being less-than-Human, spitting on the floor to anunciate her disgust.
Field Commander Alexander Brachendael leads them into an officer’s lounge off the command bridge. Everyone else in there vacates when they see the Astartes enter, except for a heavily augmented surgeon and a mangled Commissar named Lysander. Commander Brachendael tells the marines that he has been sieging a particular dome for quite a few months, but that the battle brothers have likely been sent to break that siege. It is pointed out to the Commander that the dome he is “waiting out” is an agricultural production facility – a giant, self-sufficient farm. Brachendael doesn’t see the point. The squad is promised transport to the planet and they learn on the trip down, which is delayed a few hours for reasons most likely concerning the Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine’s ego, that Commissar Lysander – who himself looks like he got into a fight with a meat grinder and lost – was named after the Astartes “Saint” of the same name – his world was liberated by Imperial Fists. They also see the hive spire clearly as they come in, noting one of the many domes looks like an empty desert and another is obscured by swirling black smoke. The spire itself resembles a massive metal tree with glass domes for canopy. Just beneath these domes a calm purple mist marks the limit of Veltan’s atmosphere. The entire system is bathed in soft, blue light from its immense azure star.
Once docked with hive spire Rygor by way of an exposed-to-vacuum docking station teeming with Imperial transports, bulky servitors, and military personnel & cargo pallets, they pass into the hive column proper to get their Mission orders. Inside they see an entire Imperial Guard Regiment bivouaced. Quonset huts sit next to and under ductwork, support beams, and bulkhead walls. Although the cieling looms high overhead, it still looks like a campground inside a trainstation. Passing though this canvas village they come upon a wide metal deck covered in row after row of Leman Russ tanks and Chimera transports. They sit facing an immense pressure door, itself closed and likely locked. Enginseers shuffle amongst the amored beasts, chanting in low voices and anointing the idle warmachines with ungents and incense. Servitors scurry from tank to tank, performing menial maintenance and visual inspections of every exterior component.
Commissar Lysander leads Squad Claudius to the Commander’s tent. Although the command tent contains sand tables and tactical maps, it is ostentatious and sumptuous. It appears more like a Nobleman’s study than a military planning center. Here, at least, the Commander feels at home, but he leaves the briefing to his subordinates. The marines are told they must infiltrate the sieged dome by means of an access tunnel flooded with both a volatile liquid and an abrasive gas separated by less than a foot of clean air; then they must open the massive doors; they must also locate and rescue a missing Inquisitor by the name of Horred Ryjand who has been inside the dome since before this seige began. The squad is introduced to Enginseer Asun, a female Adeptus Mechanicus who walks around inside a massive, red carpet tread. She speaks in a lilting monotone (much like the computer from Portal). Her face is a metal mask and her chin moves up and down like a puppet when she speaks. She gives the battle brothers a device she calls a “key” that’s supposed to unlock the door from the inside. She also explains to the marines that the whole hive world is made of heretekal Turhkoni metals and construction and that she walks on the red carpet so that she need not tread on unholy ground.
Through various sources they discover that one of the other domes was accidentally compromised and that it vented into the void, killing everyone inside. Another dome was currently quarrantined because everything in it was on fire. If the marines could avoid either of those outcomes, it would be much appreciated.
The substances inside the flooded tunnel, they are told, will explode cataclysmically if they touch, so the marines maglock themselves to the tunnel’s ceiling and crouch walk the one and a half kilometers into the dome upside down. They emerge into the watery half-light of evening. On this side they find a ruined processing station and rail line that runs parallel to the dome’s inner wall. They also spook a local kid who runs towards the nearest, mostly wooden town. Scanning their surroundings they note that they cannot see the edges of the dome from where they stand and that the dome overhead itself resembles a wide, blue sky. The smell of sweet grass carries on the artificial wind. They see a massive turbine in the hazy distance, partially obscured by lazy, rolling hills of ripe wheat and tall grass. Ignoring the child, the Marines gather their adrenaline and Burst of Speed their way towards the main door.
As they come upon the door they see that dozens of teams of mostly relaxed militia are in the process of contructing a layered and fortified defensive line centered around a railway terminus that faces the massive door. It’s night when they arrive and they make short work of the few sentries. While Brother Matthias the Assault Marine and Apothecary Claudius distract the militia by killing them, Librarian Calistarius races to the door to Logic out how to place the “Key”. Meanwhile Tactical Marine Yusuf scans their rear approach and spots a train leaving the settlement they first passed headed in their direction at top speed. A second glance at it reveals spindly limbs crawling across its surfaces. Yusuf shoots the tracks which derails the train, spilling dozens of Genestealers. “Contact rear!” shouts Yusuf as he begins pouring firepower into the onrushing Xenos beasts.
The “key” begins to work its magic and Calistarius joins the fray. Four marines against more than a hundred militia and dozens of genestealers. And they win. But not before being badly mangled by the Xeno onslaught. With the opening of the door comes the deafening roar of the Leman Russ’ guns, routing the militia just as the marines slay the last of the purestrain ’stealers.
They return to Commander Brachendael with the body of a genestealer and try to press home the nature of the threat they are dealing with. The Commander is less than able to understand, seemingly more worried about his career than about the severity of the infestation. They decide to take matters into their own hands and go above Brachendael’s head, calling on Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine hinself and relaying the intelligence. He withers under their verbal onslaught and eventually makes up some sort of excuse to cut the transmission, but not before “ordering” the Deathwatch marines to root out the heart of this newly discovered threat. They spy a tiny servitor trying to sample the genestealer’s corpse and grab it. They interrogate it and find that he is only in the service of his “mistress Asun”.
They storm out of Brachendael’s tent and go find Asun. She tells them that she works closely with the Biologis of Ceel and that they have been trying to discern a weakness in the tyranid multi-organism. She also tells them that if they will swear oaths to complete a few tasks for her she will reveal what intelligence she has on the tyranid threat. She wants archeotech and a living specimen of the genestealers. The marines promptly refuse, thanking her for her “offer”. They say, “We will be fine without your so-called ‘intelligence data’. Your tasks go against our oaths to the Watchfortress and to the God-Emperor of Mankind.” Lysander meets them soon after their encounter with Asun and they convince him to whip the regiment into readiness. They ask for a transport and Lysander generously commandeers Brachendael’s private Salamander Command Tank. Poor trooper William is now their unwitting chaffuer.
They drive towards the heart of the dome. Comms traffic informs them that a Heralds Space Marine – Brother Captain Persius – has requested all Astartes operating within the Fortress Voltani warfront identify themselves on his secure channel. They learn that Imperial Guard ground elements have been joined by a few units of Nova Marines in Rhinos and that Devastators of the Knights Amethyst on enroute. Short range scanners on the Salamander pick up life signs ahead and they slow to disembark. They see ahead a human figure standing before a ruined shack flanked by genestealers. As they approach more of the beasts spring from the ruin and charge them. Brother Matthias surprises a broodlord when he lands in the midst of another ruin. There’s a quick fight and it’s determined the figure is Inquisitor Ryjand, dominated by the hive mind.
(I want to note that while they conversed with Brachendael and Lord Militant Admiral Agish Augustine that they urged the redeployment of all flame units to this dome to thwart the threat of infection. Both generals refused – one for logistics reasons, demanding that other invasion forces needed them and that if they burned all the crops millions would starve; the other refused because to go against his higher commanding officer would probably mean the end of his career.)
Making short work of the Tyranid threat with the help of William and the Salamander’s autocannon (with some timely encouragement from Apothecary Claudius), the marines witness the Inquisitor slip into the ruin, apparently under his own will. Calistarius detects a psychic pulse and when they enter the ruin they find Horred Ryjand unconscious surrounded by a cluster of dead genestealers. They use the opportunity to examine Ryjand and find him to be tainted by the Genestealer’s Kiss. When they revive him they question him. They discover that he was tracking an individual called Pskov and that the last Ryjand remembers he was headed towards a city at the center of the dome know as the Hub to meet with this individual. He won’t reveal the specifics of his investigation except to say that Pskov is a noble familial name of Dario that was expunged by Inquisitorial order some 250 years ago. While under observation, Ryjand attempts to erase his portable data-storage-box (i.e. His laptop). The marines are not impressed by his shenanigans and inform the Inquisitor that he has been tainted. They give him the option of taking the honorable way out, but he demands that he is immune to such judgement as a lord of the Holy Inquisition. They thank him for the reminder, but true to their oaths they cannot allow him to live. So they shoot him in the head.
They strip his body, search his apparent encampment, and take his stuff into custody. They find a data disk in a subdermal pouch on the Inquisitor’s back just before they burn his corpse to prevent the spread of infection.
Moving on, they head towards the dome’s main city and reach the out skirts by night fall of their second day on Veltan. More reports from Brother-captain Persius inform them that the Knights Amethyst have arrived and that a flotilla of Black Wasps are now lurking at the edge of the system. They learn very little from the limited database they have at their disposal, but between William’s handy on-the spot-ery with local tactical maps and the promise of intervention from the Knights Amethyst they formulate a plan to infiltrate the city via abandoned rail tracks.
They make their way into the city’s industrial suburbs and encounter their first hybrid horde. It is increasingly clear that the genestealer infestation has totally taken over this dome. Everyone is in thrall to the overmind of the Patriarch. They advance into the city and begin hearing the ministrations of the Knights Amethyst in the far districts. William radios them and tells them five Space Marines in purple and gold armor had materialized alongside his salamander a few minutes ago. One died as soon as he arrived and another remained fused to a bulkhead. William blathers that there is nothing he can do for the Astartes except stay with him until he dies.
They encounter sporadic resistance as they move towards the heart of the city, suspecting they will find the Magos there. At a choke point they encounter another horde – this one aided by massive grox-genestealer hybrids and equipped with industrial strength glue guns. They are warned of the danger by two refugees cowering in the ruins. After winning the day again, they confront the refugees and discover they are psychic nulls. A brother and sister who have so far escaped notice of the brood mind. Calistarius directs them back towards William’s position and the squad advances to an abandoned rail yard opposite the city’s Cathedral. The Nulls tell them that a spot near a statue in the center of this rail yard offers the best vantage point for when the Magos exits the cathedral to address his flock everyday, but that they need to hurry to get there in time. Off they rush.
Once there, it becomes almost impossible to find the statue until Matthias makes a leap of faith and smashes headlong into an ancient equestrian statue that none of them could see until he hits it. The inscription at the base of the statue says it was commissioned by Pskov. Yusuf lines up his shot and, at the limit of his alternate pattern bolter’s range, bores a hole in the Magos’ skull just as he begins to descend the cathedral’s stairs. They watch the crowd of hybrids scatter and radio their success to Brother-captain Persius. He “okays” their plan to hunt down the Patriarch, after warning them that the first tendrils of a hive fleet were entering the system and that, rather unexpectedly, the Black Wasps were engaging this force alone.
Matthias rushes into the Cathedral proper and spots the beast. They get off a few scattered shots at the Patriarch before it darts into a side passage. Matthias follows the thing and engages it in hand to hand when it encounters a door that doesn’t want to open right away. Apothecary Claudius reaches Matthias just in time to revitalize him, hitting him with a dose of “miraculous apothecary juice”. They beat the beast senseless until it finally manages to break the door down. Matthias shoots for the first time in the campaign and his pistol jams (even with a Fate point re-roll). Yusuf showers it in bolter shells, getting the killing blow.
They pull back from the city and link up with the Knights Amethyst veteran Devastators and William. The Knights are cold and indifferent to their losses. Almost inhuman. As they withdraw they link up with Imperial tank columns, tactical Nova Marines, and Knights Amethyst Lanspeeder Tornados. Returning successfully, they meet with Brother-captain Persius and he warns them to be aware that the Sororita Hospitallier is “displeased with their performance”. He also tells them that tensions in general are high – the Knights Amethyst fired upon civilian transports because they bore the mark of Turhko and not the blessings of the Omnissiah. They meet with a few Imperial representatives for their debrief and notice that Brachendael is being lead away in cuffs by agents of the Commissariat. Lysander explains that he has been releaved of command. They also note another regiment has been posted here – the Xtarkan 416th Promethean Cult – who are renowned for their belief in the manifestation of the Divine Emperor in fire alone. Dozens of Hellhounds’ engines growl like impatient animals at the gate. They see the encampment turned into a hospital as Sororitas Noviates and Imperial Field Surgeons go about their messy work.
In chambers they meet with the Lord Militant’s Adjutant – Mystros Vendigrath – and the Adepta Sororita Hospitallier Sister Vyanice. They have words with Sister Vyanice who is suspicious of why they never recovered Inquisitor Horred Ryjand and then she flies out of control when they tell her they killed him because he was tainted. She informs them that they are not to leave the system pending a formal inquiry. They tell her in no uncertain terms that they answer to the Watchfortress and not to any authority she seems to believe she has. It is during this encounter that Calistarius receives a direct Astropathic message from the Black Wasps – a set of coordinates, a name, and a promise.