Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Dark Heresy: 017/11/2013 - Archbishop Halmn: Dead or Alive!

So here we were. The investigation was over. After transmitting our findings to Inquisitor Van Graff and putting forwards a case, it was agreed Archbishop Halmn was at the core of the crime scene. He had broken the Emperor's laws, and by degree of the Ordos and several Imperial organisations we were to bring him to justice.

As the sun began to grow low over the horizon, a lone cutter sped towards the Hive City of Tarsus. Its cargo: An assortment of priests, psychics, police and former soldiers mad and dangerous enough to do the job. Given their previous "investigations" had led to the destruction of whole buildings and killing multiple bystanders, this could only end in blood.

Touching down in the Areodromnicon Necronomicon Areosmith (GM Von Diego has the habit of going a bit too far with his names) the party marched out onto the airstrip only to be met with an armoured transport. Thankfully, this wasn't an excuse for Cromwell to heft his lascannon to bear yet again, with the occupants within on our side.  Several Stormtroopers stepped out with the captain, an oddly stereotypical man by the name of Pedro greeted us. In a voice reminiscent of Alan Davies' Mexican impression, he brought us up to speed on what had happened during our flight.

Having been informed of Halmn's treachery, the local Arch Cardinal had attempted to bring him to heel only for Halmn to go underground. Having realised the Ecclesiarchy was onto him, he had headed towards the undercity with a rabble of followers and fanatics at his command. Each one kept in line by Halmn's sermons, preaching that they were the true believers and such nonsense. 

Unbeknownst to him, the Imperial authorities had actually tracked him to his hiding place and mapped out the area. The reason they had not moved in was simple: While Halmn's followers could likely be brought down by a well disciplined force, they could easily buy time for him to escape. The dilapidated church he was using as his base had fallen into disrepair with multiple routes or his escape. Thankfully this was also to our benefit: With the church having been much larger than it was now, parts had previously been sold off and then abandoned. An easy way for a small elite force to go in and hit them from behind, capturing him before he could escape. Unfortunately we didn't have that, so that just left Guilliman and co.

Giving us a lift down to the general location of the church, we soon parted ways with the Stormtroopers. They were to mount a frontal assault, keeping the mob busy while we went in and did our jobs. First however, we needed to blow a hole in. Despite plan A. being to use the lascannon, the GM promptly stated we had been given several melta charges to so a somewhat quieter explosive entrance. Placing this indeterminate amount of explosives to burn our way in through the rubble and wall, we stood back.

Guilliman: "Tech priest, do the honours!"

Cromwell: "Things which make you go boom!" (hits detonator)

GM: (dispassionately) "Boom."

After a brief roar of heat, the only sound which could be heard was the quiet plink of cooling liquefied brickwork. Well, that and the battle raging out front. Waiting for it to cool just long enough to move in, we step past the melted mess of the wall, we moved quietly inside. With Dwr and Cromwell going in first we advanced forwards, then promptly stopped. Miserably failing in his agility test to calmber inside, the priest toppled back and collapsed part of the wall atop of his head. Dwr promptly did the same with Bardason following them causing a landslide of masonry smashing down atop them. Barely edging past, Guilliman was forced to un-bury half the group before we could get going again.

Thankfully with no one noticing us, Guilliman precoging ahead to check, we were able to advance ahead... for a split second. Having gone unnoticed by the psyker, a door a few meters along from the corridor which had swung open with a guard stepping inside. Trying to give us an edge with everything going to hell, Cromwell pulled out a flash grenade and lobbed it ahead. This would have worked, were it not for him rolling so badly that the grenade bounced down five meters past us and went off, just drawing more attention.

Running forwards to brace the opening door and deal with whoever was on the other side, Guilliman and Dwr prepared with their weapons at the ready, only for Bardason to sprint past. His player promptly informed us of his exact actions:

"I stage dive the room full of hostiles!"

The goon at the door was given a split second's horrific reaction as he saw a man in full Stormtrooper armour rocketing through the air at him, before he was struck so hard he was shunted out the game. No, really, the GM gave the description "you break it across the head of the man on the other side" and he was promptly never mentioned again. This just left Bardason sliding into the room of multiple enemies, storm bolter in hand. The two nearest ones, two shocked men reaching for their guns, were promptly turned into bloody smears in the air as the Guardsman opened up on full auto. It tends to be what happens when you blow open twice the total number of wounds the characters actually have.

As Bardason rolled into cover, the others got involved. Just as Guilliman and Dwr braced against the sides of the door, using what little cover it offered, a third cultist ran screaming at them armed with a pistol. Getting to point blank range against Dwr he pulled the trigger with his autopistol inches from her nose, only to somehow miss. Behind them, Cromwell opened fire with both his las and plasma pistols, only for the cultist to somehow curve around them in the air. He proceeded to straighten upright directly in the path of Guilliman's swing. The force halberd the man carried struck him on the neck releasing a fountain of blood. His rolls doing so much damage we just ended up having him decapitate the man twice over.

Silence fell upon the now blood drenched room of moulding books, but no sounds beyond the battle were heard. By some small miracle, the brief moments of violence had somehow gone unnoticed by the building's other occupants. A few minutes search by a trio of the group ended up finding nothing of worth in their efforts to pilfer something, resulting in us rapidly moving on into more violence. Returning to the corridor, a trio of other doors were seen, with the voices of people inside. It didn't tale long to realise they were more hostiles. As taking on one would ultimately alert the others, so Bardason came up with the obviously stupid plan: Split up and attack them all at once. Frag grenades would be more than enough to take out the average human in the enclosed space, and we had enough between us.

Sneaking forwards into our positions, three of us managed to pass. Unfortunately while the man in full armour, ten ton cyborg and giant woman resembling a small ogre did so without incident, Guilliman's halberd loudly ripped a hole in the ceiling as he moved forwards. Within the space of a breath, a confused man had stepped out of one room and stared at the intruders. 

Reacting quickly Bardason and Cromwell brought up their weapons. Cromwell almost lascannoning the man, before his player realised his slip of the tongue and simply shot him with the pistol. Unfortunately the near miss simply resulting him singing off the man's ear. Bardason meanwhile just lobbed a grenade instead. The man's cry was cut off as the small metal sphere smashed into his mouth, the force sending him stumbling backwards into the room. A brief "HOLY SHI-" followed from someone inside before the explosive went off.

Running inside, Bardason caught sight of a headless corpse which had splattered one wall and ruined a rather nice sauté. Also two very stunned and shocked men, lying prone but obviously alive. This being Dark Heresy, all he needed to do was walk up and quickly perform a coup de grâce to finish the two heretics, likely either just a quick stab or shot to the head. Nothing which really required any challenge. Well, apparently Bardason thought this would be far too easy as his next action was to throw his power axe into the ceiling above them. Sprinting forwards, he leapt up, swung off of it, and landed on one man's neck, snapping it.

Along with this being the birth of El Bardason the Viking Lucador, the GM would later decree the character could take Acrobatics as an Elite Advance. His reasoning being "he clearly already fucking has it!"

Dwr and Cromwell followed up their own rooms with grenades, the arbite disappearing as she strolled inside firing her shotgun repeatedly. We didn't hear much for the next few minutes. Cromwell meanwhile unfortunately fumbled with this grenade as well, hurling it into the group but managing to catch himself on the edge of the blast. Being a power armoured cyborg of death though, this did little more than slightly rock him as he caught a brief glimpse of a table with cards being reduced to flying splinters.

Casting spasm on the trio of fallen card-playing heretics, Guilliman tried to keep them down only to fail and have them draw guns. With Cromwell taking up most of the doorway, two opened fire on him, one bullet putting a fist sized hole in the plasterboard to the priest's right the other letting off a burst which struck him square between the eyes. Only for it to also do no damage thanks to being a power armoured avatar of doom. Releasing a feedback screech in response, Cromwell tried to floor them with a burst of sheer incomprehensible sound. 

Unfortunately just about everyone resisted this, save for Bardason, causing him to fumble in his efforts to finish his other opponent and the man to get back upright. Still concussed from the previous explosion, the heretic went about slapping the armoured Guardsman spasmodically, but proved to still be lucid enough to dodge Bardason's punches in response.

Meanwhile, Guilliman cast spasm once again, this time succeeding against one who was more concerned with covering his ears than anything else. The accidental result of this having him pulling the trigger and blowing his own head off as he fell. Trying to finish the other one, Cromwell fired with his own guns, only to somehow miss and promptly stand aside for Guilliman to finish him off. 

Sprinting through, Guilliman swung his halberd to take the head of another man only for him to somehow block it. Not only that, he somehow threw off the Inquisitorial psychic after a test of strength and opened fire at Guilliman screaming "I HAVE THE SHINIEST MEAT BYCICLE!" but missed with all shots. Cromwell, ignoring Guilliman's orders to stay out of this, promptly opened fire and shot off the heretic's hand. Despite this grievous injury, the man somehow remained standing and fought Guilliman for several more turns before finally falling due to a mixture of bloodloss and attrition.

It's times like this I wish we could recruit certain NPCs.

Back with Bardason, the Guardsman tried to pull out his laspistol and shoot him only for his foe to slap it away. Unfortunately his next action doomed him, leaping back out of close combat range, meaning Bardason just re-aimed and fired again. This time striking the man with such force the beam passed through and set the ruined wall behind him on fire. As Dwr reappeared having killed her foes, Bardason retrieved his axe and the other two searched bodies, the GM checked to see if anyone had heard. Rolling a 91, apparently not a single person had heard the several explosions, gunshots and loud screams emanating throughout one part of the building. Though, it did turn out someone had seen it.

As Bardason was inspecting the room for any sign of clues or perhaps even a map, a very muffled voice from nearby announced "I heard you like arco-flaggelants!" followed by a stream of high gothic terms. At this point the bathroom door to Bardason's left exploded off of its hinges an a screaming drugged up cyborg with whips for hands leaped out.

If you don't know how bad this is, these things had a reputation in Inquisitor for single handedly ripping the infamously overpowered space marines to pieces!

Managing by some miracle to dodge its first attack via sidestepping, Bardason ignited his power axe and swung it at the cyborg's head only for it to dodge as well. Being considerably less deaf than every other occupant in the church, the other three acolytes stormed in to see the two fighting, but the two were too close to shoot the thing down. Pivoting on the spot, the arc-flagellant launched a counter stike landing two hits on Bardason, ripping open his arm and stunning him with its electricity for a second.

As he staggered back, this was enough for Dwr to open fire, blasting away with her shotgun and turning one of the thing's legs into a mangled ruin with her other blast missing. Despite the grievous injury it didn't slow down and if anything seemed more angry than hurt. Shaking off the effects of the taser, Bardason waded into combat with his axe swinging like an enraged madman. Hitting twice with the weapon, the power blade tore holes through the reinforced flesh and nearly killed the cyborg before it could strike back. Cromwell meanwhile decided this was opportune lascannon time and fired with his shot, thankfully missing but burning a massive hole in the bathroom behind them. With the arco-flaggelant focusing upon Bardason and bleeding profusely, Guilliman sprinted into the melee and used his halberd to sever the monster's spine. Finally killing, the thing tried to take the two with them, exploding violently. With Guilliman managing to dodge the blast and Bardason's armour holding, we managed to escape without major injury by some miracle.

With the fire started having spread to most of the room now we needed to finish this quickly before it spread to the whole building. Leaving now might result in Halmn's death, but it might also permit him to escape as we fell back. Fortunately, Halmn's voice had happened to have come from behind a somewhat suspicious door on the opposite side from the bathroom. Reinforced and very much locked, it had clearly been designed to repel everything up to the battering ram. Thankfully it had not been designed to repel the combined slamming of Dwr, Bardason and Cromwell, which tore the door off of its hinges in moments. 

Within was a rather swanky looking bedroom and a trio of figures. One was visibly Halmn, the other two were sword wielding Chantry Guards ready to die for their Archibishop. Before any epic fight could go underway however, a single hallucinogenic grenade sailed over the heads of Dwr and Cromwell, landing square between the three. Emerging from the semi-pink clouds of happy gas moments later, each had a very different reaction. Screaming "You'll never take me alive!" Halmn dived beneath his bed, while one of his guards broke down crying "Everything is huge!" The last one meanwhile ran forwards in an oddly unguarded manner, only to be laid out flat as Cromwell decked him, the man questioning "but... how could you see me!?" as he toppled.

For those wondering what just happened, the results of the drugs ended with Halmn being terrified of everything, one guard thinking himself tiny, and the last one thinking he was invisible. Sometimes it's not about how many you use, but how many which makes it worth the time and effort.

With Dwr going to put the Archbishop in irons, Halmn leapt out from under the bed and ran screaming for the door. Cromwell promptly clotheslined him, then snapped his wrist before he could slash his own throat with a knife. Punching him unconscious, we finished off the two guards and quickly realised the room behind us was now utterly impassable.

Solution: Lascannon.

With a single crimson beam punching through the wall all the way to the exterior, the group clambered through and outside where Pedro and his lot were mopping up the last of the resistance. We'd gone in, got our man, and more importantly managed to bring him back alive.

Just for once, we'd managed a job well done.

The general conclusion was something the GM himself summed up via an e-mail: 

Delivering Halmn to the inquisition; Van Graff himself had left the planet already, but left behind a message of congratulations, and instructions to report back the next day for new orders. 

Halmn's interrogation was short and sweet; for all that he went in proclaiming his innocence, he quickly broke under questioning. His plan, which he maintained was his alone until the end, was to frame Doru for the murders, while at the same time ensuring Takara would be unable to fill the order. He would then step in to mediate, in the process increasing his own influence over the Fanes and granting the commission to his own favored producer. Through this, he hoped to destabilize the Fanes, who would no doubt seek revenge against Doru for damaging their reputations, and to increase his own influence over the Ministorums weapons acquisitions. 

Although he maintained that he acted alone throughout his interrogation, investigation of his rooms and possessions revealed enough to tie him, at the very least, to the Pre-Thorian church; enough to warrant his execution. In the end, he was sentenced to Arco Flagellation, and the process was overseen by Arch Cardinal Ignato himself. This appeared to satisfy the Fanes and the Ecclesiarchy, settling the matter. The bodies from the crime scene were soon returned to their respective sides for burial, and it appeared that Takara will be able to fill the contract after all.

Our brief side mission was over and a major planetary incident had been ended. Next was time for an actual Inquisitorial mission.

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