The characters made their way to the unknown system and it was distrust and paranoia all the way, as they had decided not to leave the hangar and stay inside the Arvus lighter. They even checked those menials that brought them fresh supplies and tried to check the supplies, too. To make everything run a little more smoothly, I declared that their captive, Magus Biologis Merinus Eluvis, brought himself into a state of hybernation, both as a form of “passive protest” and to make all of this easier for himself.
Sister Silica had done everything she could (without acting against or endangering her mission priorities) to comfort the Magus. She acquired a vial of sacred unguents to anoint the Magus regularly while she spend time in meditative prayers with him to the Omnissiah… or at least, she did so “aloud” in the hope that the Magus would be joining in silence. During their whole short journey, the voidship “Duldsam” puzzled them. The troopers they had seen did not sported any identification and the robes of the one Tech-Adept they had met during their stay (as he brought the requested unguent and performed some minor services for the shuttle) had a “pattern” in his robes that Silicia had never seen before or had ever heard of.. and she had traveled the major routes of this region. To them, the ship whose name and type (viper scout slope) they did not know, was a disquieting mystery that only fueled their suspicions.
Besides being paranoid about everyone else but their cell mates, the three acolytes spend their time mainly by themselves. The Arbitrator cleared his guns, mentally went through tactical scenarios regarding a skirmish inside this very hangar and read in a small book containing Imperial Law. The Sister of Battle (Valentina) and the Mechanica (Silicia) did likewise with their own gear and respective (religious) text when not guarding the captive.
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In hint side, this is a display of social dysfunction and personal isolation I will try to capture in the next scenic descriptions. All of them act like lone islands in situations like this (and in game, have been doing so for weeks by now). The PLAYERS might not even be aware of it, as they just try to fill some off-time with -something-. I will make sure to emphasize it in a narrative the next time they act like that.
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As planned, they departed from the “Duldsam” after it reached their destination. The description of seemingly dead solar system with a large, red sun at its center and a lot of planetoids and asteroids large and small only added to their wariness. One of my players even checked back with me if it could be possible that their planet of destination would have been destroyed (!). After assuring the player that this would not be the case, I went on with the narrative of their journey in space, how they navigated with the red sun as the “focal point” of their written instructions and how that lead them to a planetoid (brown in color) with a cratered surface and to one certain crater with step sidewalls in which their crafts sensors made out half a dozen landers, cutters and shuttles and a large structure akin to a tower that was build into the side of the crater. By this time, they were hailed from the tower with a demand to identify themselves with then next 10 seconds (which they did with the codes they had learned before). In the same code, they were answered to land their craft and come to the tower by foot. During their landing they noted that all of the other crafts were in different states of dismantlement and that a small crew of half a dozen servitors were currently working on one of the crafts. Once again, they wondered aloud if this was just a trap and if they were not the first to be come here, only to be killed and being processed later, like the shuttles they see. But consensus on the table was that they had no choice but landing. They were in the middle of nowhere right, and alone.
Upon entering the tower through a large airlock, which I described as 10 or 13 stories high and with a base the size of a small supermarket, they met two of the armed guards (which I described as deliberately not raising guns or acting hasty), H-4 and I-3, both clad in black carapace with the symbol of the Inquisition on their left shoulders. They welcomed the characters “in the name of the Master of the tower, Jaspar” to “Inquisitor Ragin´s prison tower”. All of the characters recognized that H-4 was the man they knew as “Hypthan” and quickly came to the conclusion that he must have been mind-wiped before being put into his current position, for he did not seem to recognize them at all. Still, the players (and the characters) were convinced that they could relax now. In fact, things came close to an escalation as they reached the first staircase of the tower and I-3 wanted to follow as the last person while H-4 move up first. It came to a kind of “stand off” where the acolytes were really close to pull their weapons. H-4 tried to settle things and to make them follow “the security procedures of the tower”, underlining that they were all servants of Inquistor Ragin, that they had been reacting to the code… but did all this with a firm voice and a strict attitude, so he moved deliberately slowly while crossing his hand in front of his chest. I-3 kept his hands at his weapon, as did the all of the others. Silicia, the Prima inter Paris for the mission demanded that -their- security procedures would be followed until the captive was officially handed over. “And what would be needed to have the captive being handed over officially?” was the retort of H-4. “A servant of our Inquisitor identifying himself via a code not used yet” was the reply, and in fact, the whole time since they had met the “Duldsam”, the characters and players had been very specific about paying attention to the codes, which were used and in what way so that they could tell if anything was fishy.
I played along and even plaid the scene up, making I-3 step two steps back while H-4 opened a vox channel to “Master Jaspar” and asking for his appearance in a way that could as well have been a signal for an attack. And my players where as tense as it would be an incoming attack, especially as I described the sounds coming from far above the shaft, as security clamps unlatched and the over-sized mechandrite started to bring the kyborg upper body of Master Jaspar down to them. It was all sooo close to the characters drawing guns and opening fire.
Note: I really-really hope that the players were tense, too. The situation was made to be tense. “It all REEKS of a trap but we need to get in and we CANNOT draw first”. I hoped to achieve the suspense scene one knows from horror movies: where the audience knows that terror is coming round the corner…but that knowledges only making it worse, especially when mixed with a lack of any idea abouth WHAT that terror will be. And I guess, it kinda did the trick….
Meeting Jaspar, who was -linked- with the tower and being little more than an upper body with arms and head that way kybernetically “enhanced” to be the Master of the tower while actually being a part of it, was ending the tense situation but was only creating a new one. The characters quickly started to dislike and both distrust him, and the verbal exchange between Silicia and him was punctuated with mutual exchange of not-so-sublime taunts. Jaspars unwillingness to answer any detailed questions was not easing things, too but one thing really “marked” this NPC of mine for my players. A sentence I had prepared. The player of the SoB usually asks for where the chapel is and offers to lead people in prayer (I let her play a SoB that way as it gives her, a non-40k-person, something to focus her understanding of her character on). Not only did the Master Jaspar refused her offer “as I serve the Emperor best by spending as much time on my work as possible, only praying on my own in between interrogations”, but the way he explained the location of the shrine left all of the characters alert.
“The shrine is were it is most proper for this holy place to be, in the upper most accessible level of the prison tower. Right beneath my gondola”.
Even the Mechanica was outraged by this statement, taking it as a clear hubris close to blasphemy. Master Jaspar reacted sternly to this “You misinterpreted my statement. The fact that my gondola is higher has purely functional reasons, as this is the only way to allow me access to -all- places of the tower. Besides, keep in mind that it was not -me- who devised this prison tower and that it was not me who decided to become part of it”.
We played a few more exchanges here, but one of my players had become sick during the course of the evening and so we ended about two hour earlier the usually. I will sum up the rest of the session together with a report of the next session, as this post is already getting quiet long.
But this time most of the things went according to plan:
# the characters are uncomfortable with the place
# they have a taste of being in the hand of somebody else
# they like none of it and are already expecting Jaspar to be a problem.
Let´s see what happens if we add a little bit of pressure to this mix…