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Offline Sheepz

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Project Artemis
« on: July 18, 2012, 01:57:17 PM »
Hello,

I've taken a break from writing No Good Deed due to writers block and it becoming overtly political. Instead, I've had an idea bouncing around in my head for some time, so I've written the first chapter. I've also written the ending, but obviously you won't get to see that just yet. The story is coming out a lot bigger than I'd originally imagined it, as is always the case, so please stick at it. Here is part one of Project Artemis.

Project Artemis references some characters from Best Intentions, although none appear directly. It also references Imperial Cruiser Pride of Harfex, from Wives Tales.

Synopsis.
Leading a mixed delegation of investigators, Prime Magos Solomon arrives at Forlorn Research Facility to conduct an inquiry into the conduct of Magos Biologis Quail. Although suspected of techno-heresy, Quail's research offers remarkable breakthroughs in Tyranid behaviour prediction and control and could prove of great benefit to the Imperium of Man. Provided, that is, that nothing goes wrong.


Project Artemis

One - Arrival

The carrier’s landing thrusters tore up loose detritus from the landing platform, scattering them in a maelstrom of dust and debris. The downdraft tore at Magos Biologis Quail’s heavy robes, threatening to uproot the lithe figure, but the geneticist remained stone still. A little way behind him, a gaggle of various support personnel and guards hunched together in the howling gale.

The engines powered down with a whine, metal popping as it cooled. The rear access ramp descended with a hiss of hydraulics and depressurisation. Skitarii in crimson tabards and black vac-suits and grey fatigues disembarked first, combat visors down and heavily augmented weaponry held ready. Behind them, a large hooded figure watched their progress, eyes glowing beneath the cowl.

“Prime Magos Solomon,” greeted Quail tonelessly, “It is an honour to receive you.”

The other man descended the platform, footsteps ringing off the steel. Over his shoulders hovered an array of mechandrites. Tubes and wires looped his broad shoulders and disappeared into the fabric of his robes.

“Permit us to dispense with the pleasantries, Biologis.” Replied the other, “They are best reserved for those untroubled by the matters of our ministry.”

“As the Omnissiah wills,” responded Quail. More figures had begun to leave the rear of the shuttle.

“This is not all of your staff,” stated Solomon, the glowing orange pits in the darkness of the hood seemed to narrow. “The manifest for Forlorn listed twenty-one personnel, including serfs and guards. Discounting assisting organic servitor units. There are only fifteen souls assembled. Explain.”

“Techmagi Tvastar and Biologis Crane are within the facility. The blessed equipment requires our constant ministrations,” said the other with a stiff bow.

“Biologis Kramer is not present.”

“Biologis Kramer has left to conduct personal research at Abbey Fern, six-hundred and thirty-seven kilometres north of this location. Bio-adepts Grimer, Saquil and Nexus have accompanied her. My lord, if I may…”

“You may not. Why was Biologis Kramer’s departure not mentioned in your reports?”

“My reports included detailed analysis of the work we are conducting here,” protested Quail. “Including methodology and evolution of the hypothesis. Biologis Kramer was disruptive to the holy task. She was possessed of a flippant attitude and demonstrated distain for our research. I did not reason her departure to be of considerable note in light of the breakthroughs we have been making. Mea culpa, Prime Magos.”

“Any further correspondence will include all details relevant to the work undertaken here and any information pertinent to the running of Forlorn. Be sure it is not merely self-gratifying postulations.”

Quail tensed.

“I will shut down this facility if I am given reason to suspect techno-heresy,” continued Solomon. “Grave allegations have been made regarding the conduct of personnel here and the nature of the experimentation.”

“I desire to hear these allegations,” replied the Biologis.

At that point, a short, balding man in heavy purple robes pushed his way to the front whilst attempting to look dignified.

“Auditors from the Adeptus Administratum working on behalf of the Governor visited Forlorn on the date 0.729.165.M41 as part of an annual review into the facility’s undertakings as agreed with the Adeputs Mechanicus under article seven, section sixteen of the Inter-Departmental Cooperation and Disclosure Act, local to all worlds within system.”

Prime Mago’s Solomon inclined his head too view the newcomer while somehow managing to inject wordless contempt into the action.

“Their report stated that Magos Biologis Quail was obtrusive and uncooperative, that certain areas of the facility were restricted, and that members of the Skitarii security detail forcibly removed them from the installation before the audit was completed. Further to that, they summarised that Magos Biologis Quail and his entourage were in violation of the IDCD, and that the work conducted at Forlorn possibly involved Xenos technology or specimens. This would put you in violation of the Xenos Contact and Artefacts Proclamation issued from the Segmentum Capital and enforced by the Governor in the name of the Emperor.”

“The Adeptus Mechanicus is not bound by Proclamation Six,” replied a monotone Quail. “May I have your name?”

The chubby hairless man looked flustered by the scientist’s non-pulsed response.

“I am Band-Clerk Helmstaad Borsch from the Departmento Munitorium, here on behalf of the Administratium at the Governor’s behest.”

“I am Magos Biologis Quail, Mr. Borsch. The incident to which you refer did not transpire in that manner. Furthermore, the Adeptus Mechanicus is not legally bound to follow the dictates of the Administratum or the Governor, and these include several decrees and proclamations previously mentioned in correspondence with your department.”

“Forlorn is a Planetary Defence Installation leased to the Adeptus Mechanicus,” protested Borsch, “And as such the terms of the contract explicitly state that…”

“We shall continue this inside.” Interjected the Prime Magos. “We’ve come down from the Pride of Harfex several hours ago. The group travelled via Solace to collect the delegation, and I believe the journey may be fatiguing for some members. Quail, you may dismiss your staff.”

The Biologis waved his hand and the group behind him turned and dissolved into the gaping maw of the facility’s hanger bay.

“Captain Fraiser, please escort Band-Clerk Borsch and the Archivist inside. I would appreciate it if Confessor Delaine and Brigadier Marlowe were to accompany you. Magos Biologis, please have your team find billeting for thirty persons.”

“Thirty.” Repeated Quail. “You have brought an army, Prime Magos.”

Solomon did not smile. Solomon never smiled. It was not becoming of an Adeptus Mechanicus Prime Magos.

”I find your attitude flippant, Quail,” He replied venomously. “Make no mistake. This is a mess. We are no strangers to controversy, but we do not endeavour to provoke it.”

“My apologies, lord.”

“Your apologies may not be sufficient. We have a delegation here from four external agencies. This is very serious.”

“Four?” asked the Biologis.

“Have you gone senile?” Hissed Solomon, “You betray yourself. You are too human, Quail.”

“The flesh is weak.”

“Four,” repeated the Prime Magos, “Band-Clerk Borsch is here on behalf of the Departmento Munitiorium. Archivist Quinn is his scrivener, and will be recording this inquiry for the Administratum. Brigadier Marlowe is here representing the Planetary Defence Force, and she is not pleased at the apparent misappropriation of this facility. She speaks with the Governor’s authority.”

“The Governor has taken a personal interest in our work at Forlorn?”

“The Governor has taken a personal interest in a great many things recently,” replied Solomon. “You are aware that the Tyranids have invaded the Titus System. Now he has xenos on his doorstep. Captain Fraiser represents the Imperial Guard. He has traveled with me from Titus VI to assess the defences of Shelter and prepare them against incursion.”

“Then my work is only more relevant!” Countered Quail enthusiastically.

“Relevant or not. The political situation here is tense and we can ill afford anymore problems.”

“Is such an incursion likely?” asked the Biologis.

“Negative.” Replied Solomon, “All threat data indicates the Tyranids will progress to the galactic northwest. There is nothing on a world like Shelter to entice them.”

The shuttle engines began to scream to life as the last few members of Prime Magos Solomon’s party entered the hanger bay. He turned, and Quail fell in beside him.

“And the fourth delegation?”

“That would be Confessor Delaine,” said the other, “The Confessor is here to assist me in matters of faith when determining your standing in regards to alleged techno-heresy.”

“The Ecclesiarchy has no authority over the Adeptus Mechanicus,” contended Quail as they entered the base. “They do not recognise the divine nature of the Omnissiah. This is an outrage.”

“I did not come to argue theology,” replied Solomon, “The divergence between God-Emperor and the Divine Omnissiah is a ecumenical matter. It does not concern you. The Confessor has joined me for diplomatic reasons. You are still to be judged by the Priesthood.”

The shuttle left the rockcrete pad and roared into the greying sky above Forlorn, leaving the two alone in the half-lit hanger bay.

“Make no mistake, Biologis Quail. You are in a lot of trouble.”
« Last Edit: January 14, 2013, 09:21:22 PM by Sheepz »

Offline GreaterGoodIreland

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2012, 01:19:44 PM »
This is pretty cool, looking forward to the investigation :P

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2012, 02:10:29 PM »
I like it so far. Good characterisation, evocative scene setting and, most importantly, a really good story.
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Offline Sheepz

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #3 on: January 9, 2013, 08:49:20 PM »
Sorry it took so long. Everything after about chapter 5 is written, it was just a case of filling in the blanks. Remember, thanks to the new auto-post-merge, this is the only time I can legitimately beg for comments to allow me to post more story. Also, feedback is genuinely welcome. Cheers!

Two – Inquiry

The meeting began early the next morning in a spacious yet sparse conference center. The participants were seated in ornate, high backed chairs at an oval table, cut in dark wood with a gloss finish so brilliant it reflected the quartz lights that bathed everything in a surreal white glare.

At the head of the table sat Prime Magos Solomon, his cowl now removed. Both eyes were glowing bionic implants, whirling and clicking almost inaudibly as they refocused. Sunk into the back of his bald head were numerous pipes and wires, each linked to a different support system. The metal fingers of his right hand drilled on the polished wood. His mechandrites hovered absently overhead, while one delicately reached down over his shoulder to input the start-up command of the data recorder.

Across the long table from him sat Quail, his starched white robes pristine. The young biologis had his head held high and his short dark hair immaculately combed. Only one of Quail’s eyes was bionic, and multiple magnification lenses for detailed surgical work spiralled off the metal anchor that held it to his face.

Down one length sat local planetary delegates, Borsch, Archivist Quinn and Brigadier Marlowe. Borsch’s heavy purple robes somehow managed to look dusty and ill-fitting, lending an air of ancient absurdity to the self-important clerk. Sweat caused by the lamps glistened through a wispy comb-over. He had a hungry, anticipatory look in his eyes, the one that comes when a bureaucratic jobsworth is about to extract a particularly petty revenge over some misfiled paperwork.  Quinn, his associate, was dressed a simple grey suit and cheap tie. A pair of spectacles perched on the end of his hooked nose by means unknown, and his own data recorder lay on the table before him. It was smaller than Solomon’s bulky wheeled unit, less ornate and more functional. It was still the Imperium, but not everything was about skulls and candles. Everything about Quinn was unremarkable.

Brigadier Marlowe of the Planetary Defence Force delicately removed a pair of black leather gloves and smoothed the creases in her grey tunic. Appearing in her late forties, she had sharp, attentive eyes set into a face that seemed to radiate a casual, non-committal indifference. She was the only person in the room aside from the guards who was obviously armed, a ceremonial pistol resting in buffed holster of sparkling brown leather. Frowning, she licked her thumb and used it to polish one of the gleaming skull buttons that clasped her tunic.

Next to Marlowe sat a stranger in a loose blue coat tied with a purple and gold sash. It was anyone’s guess if she was wearing anything else under it given the generous amount of décolleté on display, but the outfit at least included stockings and knee high boots. Her deep brown hair fell in unkempt clumps across her face and shoulders, and the pale skin and slightly unfocused eyes marked her as the base’s resident psyker for anyone who missed the unbuckled astra-telepathica clasp on the neck of her jacket.
 
Across the opposite side from the locals sat the offworlders.

Captain Fraiser was a middle aged Imperial Guard officer, square jawed with cropped hair, greying at the temples. He was in dress uniform rather than combat fatigues, which consisted of a deep blue tunic in the style of Marlowe’s but with a more defined cut and heavier ornamentation. He had left off the medals, being uncomfortable with over ostentatious displays of grandeur, but the gold epaulets and crimson braids marked him as an important man non-the-less. A scar from Tyranid bio-acid traced the left side of his face, which he would rub at absently.

To Fraiser’s left sat Centurion Markus, a heavily augmented Skitari. Markus’ face was an entirely smooth metal mask in dull bronze. He was leader of Solomon’s bodyguards, and had remained stock still since taking his seat and kept his opinions to himself. To the Captain’s right sat Confessor Delaine, an older man with grey hair and a short grey beard, and eyes that bordered on watery. He was not conventionally fat, but the priest had the shape of someone who definitely received more than spiritual nourishment.

“Interview begins,” intoned the Prime Magos after everyone had been formally introduced for the benefit of the data-recorders. He gazed levelly down the length of the table at Quail.

“You are Magos Biologis Erasmus Quail, leader of the Adeptus Mechanicus expedition to Shelter, and Head of Research at facility CDVII, known locally as ‘Forlorn’.”

“That is correct,” replied the scientist.

“The purpose of this investigation is to examine a number of serious issues arising from research conducted by you and personnel under your direction, with a view to ascertaining whether a charge of techno-heresy may be brought against you. Further issues will also be discussed over the course of this meeting, for which you will provide answers. You are also required to address the concerns of the Governor of Shelter. On behalf of the Governor and the Administratum, Band-Clerk Borsch will open the questioning.”

Borsch seized the opportunity with relish.

“Biologis Quail, please account for your actions on the date of 0.729.165.M41, pertaining to your efforts to block auditors from parts of the facility, and their subsequent forced removal.”

Quail remained silent for a brief moment. He levelled his gaze at the Band-Clerk and spoke confidently.

“The men of whom you speak were being disruptive to the Holy Work, and as leader of the Adeputs Mechanicus expedition to Shelter, I believed their presence to be a trivial distraction. Our undertaking requires certain security measures to prevent contamination of sterile areas and ensure no release of hazardous material. I have included this all in my report to your department.”

He paused, allowing the implied accusation to sink in.

“Since no acceptable compromise could be reached, I instructed a Skitari detail to escort them back to the lander and deny further access. I will draw your attention to several documents” – a gloved hand pushed some official-looking paper in the direction of Borsch – “stating my authority to remove unauthorised personnel from this facility and my responsibility to the Governor of Shelter in ensuring the most stringent security measures are enforced by his will.”

Quinn typed away on his scrivener, echoing the scratching quill of Solomon’s own auto-recorder.

Borsch looked like he’d eaten something that disagreed with him. More than disagreed with him. Vehemently opposed him and was currently trying to strangle the Band-Clerk from the inside. In his limited understanding, people were supposed to deny everything, get caught out on a technicality, and then explode with rage at being caught – thus incriminating themselves further. That’s how it worked in his department. You didn’t become a Bank-Clerk by freely admitting a course of action you were being questioned about.

“I see,” he said sullenly. “And if I told you that the adminstratum suspected you of harbouring xenomorphic lifeforms, what would you say to that?”

“I would say that I am not at liberty to discuss the nature of our work at this time.” Replied Quail, coolly. But Borsch was back on form – this was his favourite game.

“My superiors have sent me to conduct a full audit of Forlorn to ascertain the nature of your work, Biologis Quail, and to put to rest any further inclination regarding the existence of such… …creatures.”

“That will not –“ began the Biologis.

“The Adeptus Mechanicus is pleased to assist in your investigation," Interjected the Prime Magos smoothly,  "and will offer a full disclosure in the interest of settling the matter to a satisfactory standard.”

Borsch looked smug, while Quail began to look nervous under the steady gaze of his superior.

“After,” continued Solomon, “I am satisfied that there is not a case for techno-heresy, and that Biologis Quail and his team have conducted themselves according to the correct rites and ordinances of the Priesthood of Mars.”

There was a grunt of acceptance from Borsch, who sat down heavily. Quinn continued to tap away, lost in his own world.
After glancing at his notes - for theatrical benefit, since Solomon did not make mistakes - the Prime Magos continued.

“Brigadier Marlowe, would you care to comment on the function of this installation from the perspective of Shelter’s Planetary Defence Force?”

Marlowe did not stand. Her importance did not need to be stated by such a trivial thing as height.

“The PDF would not be happy with the presence of alien life on Shelter,” said the officer. “However, if the Adeptus Mechanicus demonstrate due consideration for security and disposal, we are willing to let the matter rest until recent developments in the Titus system have been resolved.”

The Prime Magos nodded sagely.

“We thank you for your understanding,” he said. It was beginning to look a lot like a script. Quail concealed a visible sigh of relief.

“Now, with local matters resolved to everyone’s –“ and with this he seemed to glare at Borsch “- satisfaction, we will being a proper inquiry into the allegations of techno-heresy. Biologis Quail, would you please clarify the nature of your research here. Concisely, if you please, for the benefit of the uninitiated.”

Everyone turned back to regard the Biologis apart from Centurion Markus, who had yet to move at all, and the base’s astropath, Rachel, who stared at the ceiling and giggled a bit.
“The work that myself and other members of the delegation pertains to the study and prediction of Tyranid behavioural patterns and their response to chemical stimuli.”

Solomon nodded again, recalling the lengthy correspondence he periodically received from Shelter. Brigadier Marlowe and Fraiser looked nonplussed, while Bank-Clerk Borsch had taken to examine his fingernails now his witchhunt had been put on hold. Confessor Delaine cleared his throat, causing his jowls to wobble.

“Forgive me Magos, could you be more specific?”

“We are conducting research on the behaviour of Tyranid organisms with a view to manipulating their movements,” replied the Biologis. “We know - thanks in part due to harsh experience and in part due to the Kyrptmann Doctrine - that they act according to an over-arching will - they seek out worlds providing an abundant amount of biomass for consumption. This is the control of the Hive Mind, which is a layered control structure constantly being fed information from peripheral members, absorbing and analysing this information, and relating it back through various levels of leader-beasts to achieve the desired strategic outcome – be it the course of the hivefleet or a particular action during a conflict.”

He took  a sip of water.

“We also know that the individual xenomorphs behave like animals once separated from their central command structure. Like all…” he corrected himself “…Almost all creatures, they consume biomass to convert to energy, that they seek shelter from the elements, they sleep. They will form groups with other Tyranid organisms, although this is purely for survival rather than propagation purposes, as most xenomorphs lack the capacity for reproduction, but instead rely on special creatures to spawn other Tyranids.”

“Summarised, the nature of the research at Forlorn seeks to ascertain the level and limits of instinctive behaviour, and the capacity for adaptation and learning new behaviours.”

“This sounds very much like you have Tyranids here,” muttered Borsch. Quail ignored him.

“It sounds very interesting,” said the cleric, “And very dangerous. Is it not true that Saint Jardin warned against such practices when he said ‘The alien mind is both incomprehensible and utterly corrupt?’”

“That is an interpretation,” replied Quail. It was not the same as ‘It is true.’

“Are there creatures within this facility?” asked the Imperial Guard Captain, echoing Borsch.

“There are specimens,” admitted Quail. “The work would be impossible without something against which to test our hypothesis.”

The Band-Clerk smiled maliciously, although it was obvious at this point no one particularly cared that there were Tyranids within the walls of Forlorn.

“I am uncertain,” admitted the Confessor with a shake of his head, “I would need to see more of this ‘research’ before I could estimate it’s worth, or indeed, gauge the potential for heresy.”

Quail did not look happy at that. He stared down the length of the table at Prime Magos Solomon.

“I would dearly like to see your work myself, Magos Biologis,” replied Solomon unhelpfully. “Perhaps you would be so kind as to lead the delegation to the laboratory area, provided there are no further objections?”

« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 08:26:05 PM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2013, 07:23:20 AM »
If I am honest Sheepz the 2nd chapter isn't as gripping as the first. The second chapter finishes well but somehow it hasn't the intensity of the first. It's just my opinion but I think that the 7 paragraphs at the start that describe the characters should have been spread out and maybe dealt with as the characters spoke. Again I still like your scene descriptions and once past the character introductions the story becomes interesting again and I look forward to chapter 3.
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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2013, 10:50:34 AM »
Thats a very consise way of putting it, cheers!

I wasn't too happy with the 2nd Chapter myself. Seems dull, jerky and spun out. I might re-edit it with your suggestion - splitting the bios as they speak, or just tone it down to avoid excessive length. I do want to crack on with the main story first, though, just to get the damn thing written!

Thanks again.

Three – The Cage

Quail lead the way from the conference center to the control room. He was followed by Prime Magos Solomon with Centurion Markus in tow. Captain Fraiser came next, talking military matters with Brigadier Marlow. Confessor Delaine was deep in thought, barely noticing the erratic wobbling of the Sanctioned Psyker behind him. Finally, there was Borsch, looking sullen and downtrodden but grimly determined. Quinn brought up the rear of the procession, obsessively typing. The Biologis palmed the door controls and they entered the operations center.

Awash with computer terminals, piping and loose wires Control was a hive of concentrated, purposeful activity. Monitors shone, lights blinked and the hum of cooling fans filled the air. There were appeared to be only one person in the cavernous room. He rose from his chair by a stack of processing towers and bowed enthusiastically.

“Magos Biologis Crane,” said Quail to the off-worlders. He needed no introduction to the Prime Magos.

Crane looked young, in his mid-thirties although Solomon knew that at fifty-seven, he was one year older than his superior, Biologis Quail. He had swept back black hair and shining green eyes set into a slender, but not gaunt, frame. The Prime Magos did not understand the younger priests’ obsession with juveant treatments. There was no conclusive proof that they prolonged life the earlier one started to take them, although about sixty was considered acceptable before the mortal tissues sustained too much wear. Vanity, he concluded, must be the case for Quail and Crane’s eternal youth. Solomon himself did not share their mindset.

Although he took juveant treatments himself, the Prime Magos preferred to replace the bits of him that were failing with machinery – a purer, more reliable method. He knew Crane had limited augmentation, and was almost entirely made of meat. The bits Crane had improved were unnoticeable, and had been undertaken more to ease his progression within the Priesthood than out of a proper desire to be closer to the Omnissiah. He was a bit too Biologis and a not enough Mechanicus by Solomon’s standards. And Solomon had the correct standards – he was a Prime Magos.

“Prime Magos, this is an honour,” said the Biologis. Solomon acknowledged him with a slight incline of the head.

“Biologis Crane.”

“And greetings to you all,” said the geneticist, bowing again and spreading his arms wide. “Welcome to Forlorn. We do not get many visitors.”

A bundle of wires erupted across the control room in a shower of sparks. A mechandrite with drill attachment rose out of the carnage like the arm of a drowning man, followed moments later by a giant clad in gunmetal armour and ragged crimson robes which entirely concealed his face. Mechandrites spiralled off him like extra limbs, and servos in his legs whined at he straightened up.

Techpriest Engiseer Tvastar, recalled the Prime Magos. The Techpriest had fully embraced the Machine Cult, encasing his body in adamantium and adding and improving as necessary – or sometimes just out of pure devotion. He oversaw all technical issues at Forlorn, ensuring that laboratories and security systems functioned according to the whims of the two Biologis. Tvastar had no interest in biology at all, and Solomon considered this to be a very positive trait. He performed all the correct rites and rituals, and was a devoted servant of the Omnissiah. The reason he had received such a poor, backwater posting was his unfortunate inability to recognise authority or circumstance.

This was immediately demonstrated when the Techpriest greeted Centurion Markus in binary, drawing puzzled looks from the others. Proper protocol insisted that Tvastar recognise his superior – the Prime Magos – first, and address him in High Gothic in the presence of the uninitiated. Prime Magos Solomon did not like people, but he did respect some of them, and despite this breach of protocol, he had ample respect for Tvastar and his understandings of the intricacies of the machine.

“Techmagi Tvastar,” said Quail with a slight tone of admonishment. “We have honoured guests.”

“My humble apologies, Magos,” he replied with a slight metallic ring, “I am honoured, Prime Magos. And I greet you all warmly in the name of the Omnissiah. May I offer you some light refreshment?”

There was a recaf machine mounted on the wall, surrounded by a pile of crushed and perforated cups like an altar of slain. Tvastar didn’t use it at all, but he understood from frequent maintenance reports that Quail and Crane in particular gave it a good hammering. Borsch made himself a cup silently, followed by Fraiser who was a solider through and through. If it had been possible, he would have liberated it for the regiment. Marlowe did not make a move, her position being too dignified to accept recaf from a wall dispenser. Quinn passed as well, as his hands were full with his data-recorder. Rachel moved to have one, but was shot by a ‘remember last time’ glare from Quail. Solomon and Markus, of course, did not ingest that particular fluid as it risked chemically unbalancing their mortal husks.

“Magos Biologis Quail is to demonstrate the learning you are undertaking at this facility,” said Solomon, “We are en-route to the laboratory, will you be joining us?”

“It would be an honour, Prime Magos,” replied Crane with a warm smile. He left his desk, smoothing the creases in his lab-coat as he crossed the room.

“I shall remain here,” said Tvastar as he began to sink back behind the row of terminals. “I am monitoring the course and build-up of a large electrical storm which is heading this way.”

Noticing a few worried expressions, he paused.

“We are in no danger,” he assured them. “We will ride out the storm from here. We may lose some communication and data feeds, but the integrity of this divine facility will remain uncompromised.”

Then he was gone. Quail plastered a forced smile on his face and swept an arm towards the far door.

“This way, please.”

*   *   *

Behind a pane of reinforced armourglass lounged seven large creatres. Their distinguishing scything blades had been removed from their forearms, but the elongated snouts and dark, glistening exoskeletons were still familiar. Captain Fraiser recognised them as Hormagaunts immediately.

“Gaunt-genus,” said Quail proudly. “Captured on Dusk by a Kill Team. They have been de-clawed for security reasons.”

Borsch paled considerably and stared at the specimens with a morbid fixation. Large patches of the holding cell were covered in faecal matter or other associated slime, but apart from that it was bare, besides the xenomorphs. One struggled to drag itself upright with a lazy indifference, before approaching within a few feet of the glass. Usually hunched while moving, the bipedal creature stood fully upright, tall as a man, tail sweeping the floor. It threw back its head and yawned, revealing row on row of serrated teeth.

 “Emperor’s mercy,” exclaimed the Band-Clerk, “They’ve got teeth.”

“We understand that they use them for eating,” said Quail, earning a snigger from Crane. The others held them with a grim fascination, and didn’t find the spectacle in the least bit funny.

“They’re not trying to escape,” said Fraiser, leaning in closer. The Gaunt looked at him coolly and without much interest. It was not intimidated by the nine pairs of eyes that stared intently. The Captain shuddered. His experience of Tyranids was greater than the rest, save perhaps Markus, and he had a healthy respect for them. He’d had a few close calls with gaunts of various genuses in the past.

“Usually they’re coming right at you, all teeth and claws.”

“Learned behaviour,” replied the Magos Biologis. “They have adapted quickly to their environment. They know that they cannot escape. Amazing mental capacity, comparable to that of creatures of advanced intelligence. After a week we had to mix up their feeding schedules. They remembered things. There was… …an incident.”

“They ate Huwell.” Giggled the Psyker. “I didn’t see it but I felt it. He was very scared. But not for long, you see?”

She chuckled like it was hilarious.

“Crane said we should have fed them the auditors.”

Rachel stared at the Biologis with a serene smile, as if this had somehow boosted his credibility and deserved some sort of reward. Doctor Crane cleared his throat.

“I was joking, of course.”

“Most humourous,” replied Solomon, not taking his eyes off the gaunts. Borsch had a wild panic in his eyes. Quinn made a note on his data-recorder.

“They ate a member of your team?” asked Brigadier Marlowe, incredulous.

“It was regrettable,” answered Quail with a shake of his head. “Prime Magos, I must insist that you do not do that!”

Prime Magos Solomon was tapping on the reinforced glass in various places with one of his mechandrites. The others were getting to their feet, while the one stood up inclined his head to follow every stroke.

“You insist?” He said, without turning.

“I politely request that you do not agitate them. They do not react well.”

Prime Magos Solomon ceased his tapping and turned away from the viewport.

“Confessor? You have not spoken.”

Delaine was rubbing rosary beads absently between his fingers, his eyes fixed on the creatures before him.

“They are abominations.” He said finally, “Their mere existence is blasphemy.”

Biologis Quail had expected this, and since techno-heresy guaranteed a very painful death, he was quick with his answer.

“The Priesthood agrees entirely with your assessment, Father,” he said earnestly. “They are a blight upon His Holy Realm. And that… …that is why such work is necessary. Did not the great missionary, Cardinal Tatyana, say that ‘after Faith, Knowledge is our greatest protector and fiercest weapon. A shield against the folly of ignorance, and a righteous blade to the heart of deceit’?”

“Aye,” replied the Confessor, dabbing at his eyes. “She spoke with His voice.”

“She was torn apart by genestealers, if memory serves.” Said Fraiser. “Maybe she should have studied more.”

“Thank-you Captain,” Quail snapped, “And I’m sure –“

There was a tremendous bang as something hit the glass. Everyone flinched. Snarling and screeching, the biggest of the Hormagaunts was pressed against the window. Saliva dribbled down the armourglass and its teeth squeaked like nails on a blackboard. Hot, angry breath clouded their view.

“Throne above!” Yelled Borsch, almost leaping out of his skin. Marlowe, Fraiser and Delaine backed away quickly, the brigadier moving for her weapon.

“You are quite safe,” Biologis Quail assured them. “Quite safe.”

“Indeed,” said Crane. “Reinforced armourglass with a ceramite shutter that can seal in less than a second should any cracking appear.”

“Remind me why you keep such monsters?” said Delaine, his hands trembling.

“A demonstration is in order,” said Solomon. The gaunt appeared to have frozen in mid attack, and the Prime Magos leaned forward until his face was level with the creature, separated by three inches of reinforced armourglass. A mechandrite tapped on the window, and the Hormagaunt’s eyes rolled up to search for the sound.

“Do we have a specimen in the maze?” Asked Quail to Crane.

“Indeed,” the other replied. “Number nine.”

“Ah, number nine!” said the geneticist, rubbing his palms together. “I do so like number nine. So bright!”

Quail wheeled round, indicating a door on the opposite wall.

“This way please, ladies and gentlemen. We have prepared a demonstration.”

As the others began to file out, Band-Clerk Borsch remained fixed on the Hormagaunt that was pressed against the glass. Cold, alien eyes stared back, full of malice even as the creature began to relax. His brain was playing catch up and the cup of recaf in his hand was dancing to the tremble in his limbs.

“Why so clever?” he mumbled to himself.

“Why so clever?” Borsch called. “Magos? Gentlemen? What’s so special about that one?”

Last to leave, the telepath shuffled past. Rachel turned and leaned in close, hair failing in mad heaps across her eyes. If Borsch had been more together, the lecherous part of him would have risked a glance down her loosely-fastened coat. Instead, his terrified eyes stared mutely into her insane, mismatched ones.

“Number nine killed Huwell,” she whispered conspiratorially. Then, by the Emperor, she winked.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2013, 07:06:19 AM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2013, 11:48:11 AM »
That's more like it Sheepz. Fast paced and intriguing. Sorry to go on about it but, for me, once again the stand out part of your writing is the way you describe the world in which your characters live. Really drives the story. On a slight down note when reading the 3 chapters as a whole it appears to me that somehow Solomon's character wavers a bit in the 2nd. Unlike chapters 1 & 3 he doesn't seem his normal brusque and erudite self in the 2nd. Especially the bit where he struggles for a word. 
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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2013, 08:20:40 PM »
Hey man, thanks for the continued helpful feedback. I know what you mean about Chapter two. I'm hoping the characters don't change too much across the chapters but I can see what you mean about Solomon. I've pretty much wrote it from 6 onwards so I sometimes refer back to that, hoping that they don't turn into different people halfway through. I also know what you mean about it losing pace, definately something for the editing process. I'm going to re-edit the entire thing when it's finished, it particular attention to Chapter 2, but your comment with Solomon struggling for a word struck such a chord I've gone back and changed that line right now to make him more sure of himself. I was aiming for the whole 'emotionless, not understanding manners/polite conversation ect', but it didn't work out, especially in the wider context of the chapter, which is probably the one I would say was the poorest.

I just hope you're not the only reader :P, although your feedback means a lot. Cheers!

This is definately a long one, and I'm hoping it keeps pace. Like I said, I'll edit it once the whole thing is written to improve pacing and continuity of character.

EDIT: It is so long that it exceeds the character limit. Attempting to post the rest of the story causes an auto merge, which tells me changes cannot be saved because I exceed the character limit. HULK SMASH. Anyway, here is the first 3/4 of the chapter.

Four – Research

They descended two levels into the heart of the mountain fortress.

‘The Maze’ was exactly that. Viewed from above, it was a cluster of twisting corridors and dead ends, leading to a containment cage at its centre. Various obstacles dotted the pathways, and boxy pict-casters and recording equipment hung from the ceiling.

The ceiling itself was actually a floor for the laboratory above, allowing the delegation standing on top of it to view the entirety of the course, and follow the struggles and journeys of its protagonist, as they desired. The dark, one-way glass was jet black when viewed from below, as not to influence the specimen’s behaviour. Fine wires and cables criss-crossed the panes delicately before terminating in grey cubes covered in tiny bulbs. From these light boxes, holograms and maps projected up into the room in shimmering greens and blues, giving it a ghostly quality and providing the only source of illumination.

“The Maze,” said Quail in a hushed and reverential tone. Borsch gawped and blinked at the shifting, multi-coloured beams, but Captain Fraiser and Brigadier Marlowe played it cool, showing polite interest but concealing wonder. Confessor Delaine walked across the glowing floor, his robes looking ethereal in the distorted light. The old priest reached out a weathered hand and let it pass through one of the illusions, twisting and turning it like a man grasping at mist.

“Remarkable,” he whispered.

Technology was nothing new to any of the members of the delegation, but the sheer scale and ethereal beauty of it captivated them. Even the humming terminals seemed to lend an air of music to the otherworldly room. Fragrant incense from censers drifted down, dispersing before it touched the shining floor.

“This is a sacred place,” acknowledged the Prime Magos sternly. “We do not usually permit visitors into such hallowed sanctuaries of knowledge, but given the nature of the present situation the Priesthood believe it is appropriate to allow limited access to the uninitiated. In return, the we demand the upmost respect for the contents of the laboratory.”

Marlowe, Fraiser and Quinn made acknowledgements, but Borsch and Delaine were still awestruck by the huge room with its twisting lights and heavy air.

“This is a temple,” whispered the Confessor. “I feel the presence of the Emperor in this space.”

He turned to face the trio of Mechanicus Priests.

“The Spirit of the Omnissiah resides here,” said Prime Magos Solomon gravely. Magos Biologis Quail and Magos Biologis Crane have diligently maintained the appropriate libations.”

The Confessor smiled, his face softening from the grim, sceptical look he had reserved for Quail since first meeting him.

“By His Will,” said the Priest.

“In His Name,” replied the Biologis.

The Magos turned with a slight flare of his white coat and approached a terminal. He spoke softly in the secret language of the machine-cult, and tapped a few buttons. There was movement in the room below. A giant ceramite holding cage glided in on runners. It connected snugly with a corner of the maze and stopped. As one, the delegation walked softly forward until they were almost above it.

“Specimen Nine,” whispered Biologis Quail. “He… …it, is very intelligent. We have to keep re-arranging the layout of the course in order to test his limits and confirm our hypothesis.”

“What is your hypothesis?” asked Marlowe.

“That Tyranids are very clever,” said Crane. As soon as he said it, the scientist realised he looked stupid.

“Fascinating,” she replied, unimpressed.

“His record for completion is two standard Terran minutes and seventeen-seconds.” Said Quail, oblivious. His eyes, reflected in the holographic glow, had taken on a slightly unhinged property. “Observe.”

The cage door slid up, and with a hiss of pneumatics, concealed doors in the maze parted. For a second, nothing happened, then Nine padded into view. The Hormagaunt straightened up to his full height, glancing left and right into the corridors. Then, seeming to pick one at random, it set off.

*   *   *

“Three minutes, six seconds.” Announced Quail. “This is the first run.”

The xeno was waiting patiently in the centre of the maze, staring at a recessed access port. It had taken a number of wrong turns and retraced its steps several times until it found the room in the middle. Sometimes it would be confused by a dead end and glance around suspiciously.

“What is it doing?” asked Captain Fraiser. He ran his fingers through his hair. It was a sense of nervousness, concluded Solomon.

“That is an access duct used for rewarding the specimen,” said Crane. “Irregularly, we dispense food to encourage the learning process.”

Instead, a giant clawed mechandrite slid across the room like the pincer in a catch-the-prize arcade game, and grabbed the creature as it tried to evade. The Hormagaunt thrashed and screamed, uselessly smashing its tail against the metal captor. With tedious inevitability, the claw carried the protesting xeno across the top of the Maze and deposited back into the holding cage. The shutter slammed down, and the alien wailed mournfully.

“I still can’t divine the purpose of such experimentation beyond light entertainment,” said Delaine with a sigh of frustration.

“It will take several demonstrations,” replied Quail confidently. The cage opened again and the creature shot out like an arrow. There were less frequent mistakes, and the Tyranid spent less time pondering the ones it made. It moved with definite purpose. It once again gained the centre, and padded around the room, head towards the reward-duct.

“Two minutes fifty-six,” said Biologis Solomon. “Five less mistakes.”

The claw shot out again, and the experiment repeated. This time, the Hormagaunt made no mistakes, moving with absolute certainty down the twisting corridors. The tension above was palpable. It made it into the central chamber, and was rewarded with a slab of indistinguishable meat which it seized before it hit the ground.

“Two minutes, twenty-seven,” said Quail. Crane nodded.

“This demonstrates high learning capacity,” he continued, “But we are just getting started.”

The Magos tapped a few more buttons with a whispered prayer, and a small tracked servitor unit began to traverse the maze, occasionally spraying the air with a slight concentration of clear fluid. It continued into the centre, before being extracted by claw.

“What was that?” asked Marlowe.

“Questions later, please.” Said Prime Magos Solomon, forestalling any reply. “Quail, begin the experiment.”

His subordinate nodded, and released Nine.

The Hormagaunt charged out like a bullet and immediately stopped short. It raised its snout and sniffed the air, nostrils bulging. Then, with one glance back at the usual route, it set off in completely the wrong direction.

Cautiously, the guant crept through the maze, stopping to smell the air. A tongue licked out, every now and then, as if testing something. Then with grim determination, it set off again. Eventually, it reached the centre of the maze via a different route to normal.

“What just happened?” asked Fraiser. “I thought it knew what it was doing?”

“I’m sure you have many questions,” said Quail triumphantly. “Prime Magos?”

Solomon stared down through the floor.

“No,” he said quietly. “I have read the reports. We will discuss this later.”

Biologis Quail nodded, then turned to the Imperial Guard Captain.

“We secreted pheromones.” He said simply. “The creature instinctively follows the pheromone trail to find prey. It over-rides both learned behaviour and instinctive behaviour. It is testament to the control the Hive Mind has over these beasts.”

“You tricked it?” asked Confessor Delaine.

“In a manner of speaking,” replied the geneticist. “We manipulated its behaviour according to our wishes.”

He tapped the panel again. A monitor slid up noiselessly from near the wall. The delegation approached with trepidation.

A live pict-broadcast displayed the holding pen they had visited earlier. The seven gaunts inside were all stood up, gazing in the same direction with rapt attention. They were looking down and slightly to the left. Their heads bobbed up and down, and tails swept the floor with anticipation. In the maze below, Nine was removed and the entire area sprayed with chemical cleanser. The Hormagaunts in the cage didn’t so much as blink.

“What are they doing?” asked Captain Fraiser. Occasionally, the beasts would re-arrange themselves in order, always in a line, always facing the same way, like runners at a starting block.

“They are listening,” said Rachel. She had previously been lost in the shadows of the laboratory, her deep blue coat merging with the gloom. Now she stepped forward into the thin, pale green glow of a terminal. For a moment, her eyes flared amber and her hair blew in a breeze that didn’t exist.

“Brood telepathy,” said Crane, taking over. “Astro-telepathica Rachel has been most helpful in enhancing our understanding the organisms. We summarized from her testimony and our own experiments that even bereft of centralised control from the Hive, these creatures can still perform limited telepathic communication over short distances. Amongst other things, it allows vanguard creatures to relay information regarding prey, and tactical and strategic level information back to the brood, and to the wider Hive Mind. On a base level, it affords them greater synergy when behaving as a pack.”

“Brood,” said Solomon. “As a brood. Packs are hierarchical.”

Crane bowed his head respectfully. Quail tapped a few more buttons, and an unsuspecting creature was grabbed from the maze and dragged, protesting, out of the frame. The other gaunts gave a curiosity glance back, but remained rigidly in formation, heads bobbing up and down while their tails moved slowly from side to side. One of them hissed.

“Observe, the behaviour of the next specimen,” said Biologis Quail as a new cage slid into view below them. “The laboratory has been cleansed entirely of the pheromone trail, and the creature has not yet encountered this particular arrangement of the course.”

The Hormagaunt – Specimen Seven, was released. It completed the course in two minutes and forty seconds, following the exact trail that Specimen Nine followed when the pheromones were present.

“It knew?” Asked Fraiser.

“Oh yes,” said Quail with almost smug satisfaction. “Number Nine relayed the information.”

“Fascinating,” said Prime Magos Solomon, gliding over to Quail’s terminal. “You have correctional and deterrent devices on this grid.” It was not a question.

“Certainly, Prime Magos,” said Biologis Quail, bowing and moving aside. A mechandrite from Solomon’s back slid from between the folds in his robes, and interfaced directly with the machine. The Prime Magos’ eyes glowed fiery orange, and light spilt from a mouth opened in silent scream. Slowly, his dry lips moved, intoning a prayer.

Without any further button pressing, the maze began to change. It tore apart and reformed, blocks rotating and lining up to form a new pattern. There was the rumble of heavy machinery. Sections rose on steel cables and seemed to drift across the room below. In a matter of minutes, the maze had changed to a new layout. Wordlessly, Solomon closed his eyes and took a single, deep breath. Incense burners ignited in the gloom with a crackle. Below, in the maze, the pheromone trailer reappeared, spraying a trail. As it passed various sections, barriers of dancing blue lightning sprang up behind it.

“Prime Magos?” asked Quail cautiously. “May I enquire as to your purpose?”

“You may not,” replied the laboratory through the wall-mounted vox system, causing everyone except the members of Cult Mechanicus to flinch in surprise. Solomon’s mouth did not move.

The cage slid into place, and Specimen Nine was released. The Hormagaunt bounded down the corridor, and ran straight into one of the glowing barriers. There was a bang, a flash and a shower of sparks. The creature fell back, stunned.

“Prime Magos?” Quail tried again. There was no reply. Solomon’s eyes were fixed rigidly on the creature. Slowly, painfully, it rose back to its feet, shook it’s head, and approached the crackling lightning. It seemed to stare through the barrier, into the space beyond. Once again, it sniffed the air and cocked its head to one side.

Then it leapt.

In a second blinding flash, the creature fell back with a scream and a spasm in its limbs. Quail started forward towards the terminal, but the gaunt was back up again. It lunged again, then again, and with a final, piteous struggle, dragged useless multi-segmented legs into a crouch before hurling itself once again at the crackling electricity. There was another bang, and it flew backwards like a broken puppet. The withered husk slammed into the floor, smoking gently.

“You killed it!” Squeezed Quail in an unbecoming voice.

Still interfaced with the computer, Solomon’s head swivelled very slowly to gaze at his subordinate. Bowing in apology, Quail backed away, joining Biologis Crane at something that approximated minimum safe distance.

Some fences flashed on and off, while others repositioned slightly as Solomon created a path through to the centre. Nine’s smouldering, cracked carcass was hauled away by the claw, and Seven was unleashed. This time, it moved much more cautiously than its dead broodmate. It approached the glowing barrier and stared through to the other side. The head stooped to sniff the ground where the dead Tyranid had landed. There was a low, wordless hiss.

The Hormagaunt paced backward and forward in front of the fence for some time, unsure of its self. Then, with a final stare at the cruel blue lightning, it turned and set off in another direction, always managing to keep its head inclined, ever so slightly, towards the direction of the pheromone trail. It descended down a side corridor as Solomon withdrew from the interface. Without an explanation, the Prime Magos crossed the laboratory and opened a service hatch with a hiss of pneumatics. The interior lighting lit up red, bathing everyone in crimson.

“Prime Magos Solomon!” called Crane when it became apparent that Quail was not about to act, “You are entering an area containing a live xenomorphic creature!”

Solomon did not answer, he did not even look up. Descending a ladder, he disappeared into the maze below, leaving the hatch open.

“Shouldn’t we close that?” asked Borsch nervously. The two techmagi hovered indecisively. Quail looked worried but Crane’s face was a plain mask of horror.

“What on earth is he doing?” whispered Marlowe. Fraiser shrugged empathically.

In the maze, the Hormagaunt was edging its way closer and closer to the centre. It occasionally picked up the pheromone trailed, followed it as far as an obstruction, and then attempted to circumnavigate it. Bypassing several barriers thusly, it was confronted with a choice. Down one corridor lay the trail, but as the creature turned, a dull tapping echoed up through the hatch.

Prime Magos Solomon was in the other corridor. A mechandrite rapped insistently on the stonework, demanding its attention.

The gaunt wavered. It looked longingly at the path laid out in pheromones, and back at the Magos, and then back down the corridor. The tail wagged slowly, and cloudy breath hissed from its nostrils. In the cage, the line of gaunts went rigid with rapt attention. Everyone above held their breath.

The attack was silent.

The gaunt wheeled in a single fluid movement, and in less than a second had covered five metres, halving the distance between him and the prey. Prime Magos Solomon remained rooted to the spot. Above, Marlowe drew her pistol while Borsch tried to put as much distance between him and the open hatch as possible stumbling over his own feet as he fled. The others were fixed in horror as the gaunt leapt with a shriek.

« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 08:28:54 PM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2013, 10:14:15 AM »
Hey man, thanks for the continued helpful feedback. I know what you mean about Chapter two. I'm hoping the characters don't change too much across the chapters but I can see what you mean about Solomon. I've pretty much wrote it from 6 onwards so I sometimes refer back to that, hoping that they don't turn into different people halfway through. I also know what you mean about it losing pace,

I just hope you're not the only reader :P, although your feedback means a lot. Cheers!

EDIT: It is so long that it exceeds the character limit. Attempting to post the rest of the story causes an auto merge, which tells me changes cannot be saved because I exceed the character limit. HULK SMASH. Anyway, here is the first 3/4 of the chapter.

I haven't read chapter 4 yet but I thought I would post so that you could upload the rest of the chapter.
I have to admit I generally don't like giving feedback on a persons writing as I consider it to be quite a talent and it is not something I can do myself. If I write anything that you disagree with please don't hesitate to tell me as it your property. I also hope that I am not the only one that is reading this  :)
« Last Edit: January 23, 2013, 10:18:17 AM by Alienscar »
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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2013, 08:21:25 PM »
Hey man, thanks for the comment.

I enjoy your feedback, highlights some important technical stuff. Like I said, I'm going to edit it all when I'm finished so I hope you don't feel I'm fobbing you off a bit there, but you were quite right about Solomon in chapter 2 (still not happy with that one) so I've gone back and changed it. Don't want  you to be unhappy in your posting but I do like your feedback and hope it continues. Its always great to get an outside perspective as it's easy to have a clear picture in your head when writing and the convey it in a way that leaves other mystified.

EDIT: Said I would change it last night. Forgot, sorry. The sentance has now been changed and some of the following sentances have been re-worded.

Cheers! Here's the second half of the chapter. *Grumble* Automerge *Grumble*




And in a blur, it died.

In a flash, the top half of the Hormagaunt’s head was sheared off by a white hot blast. The Tech Magos stepped nimbly to one side. Its leap uninterrupted, the body continued to glide through the air before crashing down into the corridor in a heap of tangled, broken limbs. Without explanation, Solomon turned and headed back to the access ladder, climbing through the floor and back into the laboratory above. Stunned silence reigned as he replaced the hatch, and the crimson warning lamps went black.

“In answer to your original statement, Magos Biologis Quail, your assumption is both logical and accurate. My actions did, indeed, result in the termination of those specimens.”

“We had great difficulty acquiring those creatures,” said a rather stunned Quail blankly.

“Then you shall have some more. You seem unreasonably shaken by the termination of the test-subjects.”

“Forgive me, my lord.” Said Biologis Quail, rallying a little, “I do not divine a logical purpose for your actions and have failed to comprehend why such measures were undertaken, cumulating in the loss of very valuable specimens.”
 
“Knowledge! Science!” Said Solomon, “Learning! Of course, Magos Biologis, why else would we continue this exercise?”

Quail hesitated. He had a feeling he was being mocked, but sarcasm wasn’t just uncharted territory for members of the Mechanicus, it was dangerous to presume or attempt it. He was completely off the map and here be dragons.

“I just do not see what practical application your experiment had beyond killing the test subjects.” He countered nervously.

“Killing the test subject was the end in itself,” replied the Prime Magos. “Need I remind you that this is the Year of Our Emperor, forty-one thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-seven?”

“My lord?”

“We are a universe at war, Magos Quail! Confessor Delaine wished to see a practical application of your work, and I wished to indulge my curiosity. Obviously we need to run more tests and increase the sample size to further develop my hypothesis. We must also account for differentials in environment and temperament. In spite of these theoretical matters, we have all benefitted from this exercise and the two initial tests I have performed.”

“We have.” Said Quail, slowly, as if he was piecing a jigsaw together and trying to make the comment that he wanted to use fit into the space he had left. It wasn’t lining up.

“The creature, in the first instance, blindly followed the pheromone trail into an electrified web. Presented with no alternative choice, it continued to assail the barrier until it died. The instinctive desire to avoid pain did not give pause for thought. It continued, without regard to its own safety. A blind, single-mindedness in a demonstrably intelligent creature.”

He paused. In the green-glow, the Confessor’s face hovered between aghast and impressed.

“In the second test, the creature did not attempt the barrier. I can speculate this is not only due to brood telepathy informing specimen seven that the barrier was unbreachable, but also the fact that specimen nine died in the attempt. I would be interested in running the scenario with a fresh brood to determine – at a voltage only intended to injure – how long the creatures would throw themselves at an electrified gauntlet in pursuit of the trail.”

“We can hypothesise thusly: That in pursuit of a pheromone trail, Tyranid organisms are willing to expend resources in order to test strength, assess threat and gain information, even if this does not translate into direct advantage in the short term. We also know that the trail will be reluctantly abandoned if it is regarded as too challenging to follow, if it cumulates in unacceptable loss, or if a target of opportunity presents itself.”

“We can trick them,” said Captain Fraiser. His military mind lent itself a certain basic cunning. He was a solider through and through, and while technology either frustrated or bored him to death, the strategic part of his brain was ahead of the field. Quail and Crane looked at Tyranid behaviour as something interesting and worth studying for the sake of understanding alone. Where they had detacted, analytical minds, the more pragmatic Captain was already running scenarios through his brain.

“Minefields, laser-wire, artillery ranges. We can manipulate the flow of their forces into advantageous situations.”

“That is a theory,” replied Prime Magos Solomon, “This is an early stage, further research must be conducted.” He turned to face the two geneticists.

“You have done well, Magi Biologis Quail, Magi Biologis Crane. The Omnissiah bless and keep you.”

“Knowledge is its own reward,” they replied devotionally, chests swollen with pride.

“You mentioned that in earlier tests, different chemical compounds were producing different reactions to the stimuli. Have you managed to narrow the formulae down to a specific cause-effect?”

“We are making progress by His Will,” replied Quail. “We have identified a range of chemical compounds being secreted by Specimen Three.”

“Specimen Three,” replied Prime Magos Solomon, giving the others the impression they were now thoroughly uninvolved in the conversation, “Please, reveal him for the benefit of our guests.”

Quail looked nervously at Crane, then back at the Prime Magos.

“As my lord wills.”

He pressed a combination of buttons on a nearby terminal. With a gasp a recessed panel in one of the dark walls popped out and slid away. Cold mist rolled across the floor, coiling around the feet of the delegation. Instinctively, the humans moved together. Quail eyed Crane again, and the other man sucked in his lips nervously. The fog began to dissipate.

It revealed a lurking horror.

Marlow drew her gun reflexively. Captain Fraiser’s own hand flew to his belt to find himself weapon less. Even Quinn’s data-recorder was silent, hanging from limp fingers.

“Throne Preserve Us!” Borsch screamed in terror.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 04:41:20 PM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2013, 10:48:46 AM »
Not much I can offer as feedback on chapter 4 Sheepz as you nailed it. Genuinely gripping in parts. The only comments I have might come across as nitpicking rather than feedback so I'll apologise now. From a readers point view I found it slightly odd that it was Frasier that figured out the result of Solomon's experiment rather than Quail or Crane. Mainly I think it is because he didn't speak until chapter 3 and it just seems, to me, that it would have been more fitting for one of the more established characters to have beaten Frasier to the conclusion. Also I'm wondering about the "culminates in unacceptable loss" line. I don't know much about Tyranids but from what I do know I'm not sure this result fits with their background. Lastly back to chapter 2. If/when you reedit it can I suggest you remove the line were Solomon checks his notes. Having read the whole thing a few times now that line somehow spoils the rhythm of the piece and, for me, is still slightly out of character.
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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2013, 06:00:41 PM »
Hey Alienscar,

First, sorry. Moved house to a place with no internet so I have to do this on the sly at work. Second, you make some fine points yet again and I will let you know my own and change some things shortly. But right now it's late and I'm due a bus home, I'm also concerned about the word count so here is the next chapter. Once again I'm over word count, so I need a reply to post the second half of the chapter.


Five – Specimen Zero

The creature was in a large glass tank, suspended in green amniotic fluid. It must have been ten to twelve feet tall. Wires and tubes floated lazily in the murk, and a long, oval head bobbed up and down against the glass. Trailing off from the elongated snout, translucent feeder tentacles drifted weightlessly.

It was curled up like a sleeping pup. A tail cumulating in a vicious spike wrapped protectively around the torso. Arms with diamond hard claws floated in front of its reinforced exoskeleton. Further back in the brackish waters, two enormous scything talons hovered. Even sedated, the creature radiated malice.

“This is Specimen Three,” said Quail, easing himself between the startled humans. “It has been instrumental in our quest to map the structure of Tyranid pheromones.”

“It’s a lictor,” said Captain Fraiser, glancing around. None of the others had ever seen live Tyranids before today, and their reaction was a mixture of natural horror and blind curiosity. Fraiser was more intimately familiar with the Hive Mind, and wasted no time in vocalising his disagreement.

“That,” he said pointing, “Is an Emperor-Damned Tyranid vanguard organism.”

“Correct,” replied Quail, glancing at Crane as if for confirmation.

“Captured on Dusk,” said the other Biologis in a conversational tone. “Kill team brought it in. Very efficient work.”

“Are you completely insane?” asked the Captain incredulously, looking around for support, but the rest of the delegation were staring at the shrouded mass of terror before them. Borcsh’s eyes were like saucers.

“It is sedated…” Crane began.

“It’s still armed!” He raged, “It’s a bio-engineered killing machine. What is it even doing here? I’ve met some disturbed cogboys in my time but – “

“Enough.” Said Solomon flatly.

Silence reigned for a few moments. The Prime Magos stared rigidly at the monster in the tank. He was impressed. It would yield much knowledge.

“Why does it still have those blades?” asked Marlowe, her brain finally catching up. She reluctantly pocketed the sidearm. Her mind was reeling, despite knowing that there were Tyranids in Forlorn, seeing them up-close was spreading seeds of doubt. Fraiser was right, the entire thing was a deadly weapon. She couldn’t even begin to fathom how it could be less dangerous without claws, but it would be a start.

“Previous specimens did not react well to losing their appendages,” said Quail. “They refused food and nourishment, became inattentive and sluggish. They knew they were powerless, and they just seemed to shut down. We did not find that with the, ah, undamaged one.”

“Undamaged?” said Fraiser. “It’s missing an eye!”

“Bolt-round,” said Crane, who appeared to be the resident expert on the creature’s background. “The wound was inflicted by the Kill-Team during capture.”

The Imperial Guard Captain said nothing, although deconstructing Biologis Crane’s cheery tone read thus: The monster had been shot in the face with an explosive projectile capable of blowing a man in half. This constituted to a superficial injury.

“Is it absolutely necessary to keep such a… such a heinous, blasphemous miscreation alive on this world?” Asked Confessor Delaine, once-again making the sign of the Aquila and invoking divine protection.

“I assure you, Confessor, if there were another path to enlightenment, the Priesthood would rejoice to undertake it.” Said Quail, solemnly, “Unfortunately, there is not, and we must endure this unholy burden for His glory.”

The Ecclesiarch played nervously with his rosary beads and muttered a prayer under his breath. Their fear retreating to curiosity, the delegation moved closer. Quinn’s tapping resumed.

“Numerically,” said Fraiser, his analytical mind reaching a horrifying conclusion, “If this is Specimen Three, where are the other two?”

“I’m sorry?” Asked Quail, stalling for time. There was nothing wrong with his enhanced hearing.

“Specimen’s One and Two,” replied the Guardsman. “What happened to them? I assume they are catalogued in numerical order.”

“Ah,” muttered the Biologis, “Yes, there were problems with the other two.”

“Did they start eating people too?” Captain Fraiser asked, his eyes narrow with suspicion. He rubbed the acid scar on his cheek.

“No!” Said Quail, holding his hands up, palms out like a shield. He laughed nervously as the delegation stared at him with one mind. “No. Specimen One was DOA. He… …it, had been handled too roughly during capture and died in transit. Specimen Two never arrived.”

And that was it. It was the truth.

It was not the entire truth. Specimen Two had not arrived because the cargo-hauler on which it was stored – Demeter – had broken warp on the edge of the system, drifting without power and running dark. The Mechanicus Recovery Vessel, X-000100011 had met it half-way between there and the arranged drop off. An away-team of Skitari discovered the ship to be a charnel house. The entire crew and their families, over one-hundred souls, were dead or missing.

The navigator had sealed his pod and had expired during the trip. Huge lacerations had gouged the metal bulkhead without success. X-000100011 took no chances, destroying Demeter with concentrated fire from the lance batteries before the boarding team had even returned to their assault boat. Their loss was acceptable, the risk of contamination was deemed too high.

“No,” he repeated after supressing a shudder at the brief internal recollection. “Nothing untoward, I assure you.”

Marlowe looked at him accusingly, but said nothing.

“We can go over the security measures in place over the evening meal, after the tour has concluded,” Biologis Quail continued, smoothing his coat. “We have the most stringent procedures and observe all sacred rites as a matter of course.”

“Excellent,” said Solomon, taking charge once again. “And now I believe it is time for our guests to receive their mid-day nourishment.”

*   *   *

Borsch was a noisy eater. Every time he moved there was a scrape, a slurp, or a squelch. Marlowe pushed her food around with a glimmering silver fork. It was the behaviour of someone with a lot on her mind, Fraiser concluded. They had returned to the conference centre and found a light buffet had been laid out. The menu was not typically inspiring, but the Mechanicus had tried hard to accommodate their guests.

“Your honour guard have already eaten,” said Crane, who was the more affable of the two clearly-insane scientists. “They were put through some drills by the Sergeant this morning,”

“That sounds like Thorn,” said the Captain.

Sergeant Thorn had arrived with the delegation from Shelter, leading Captain Fraiser’s Honour Guard whilst on official business. They were skilled and motivated grenadiers from the Captain’s own company, and he had hand-picked them carefully. Whilst not anticipating trouble, Fraiser was aware that the Emperor tended to protect those who had five dependable armed men better than those who did not. They were currently residing in the living quarters next to their mark, rather than the barracks reserved for Mechanicus soldiery. Thorn had filled the time with drills and briefings on the Tyranid threat they were facing in the Titus system. The irony was not lost of Fraiser.

“We are aware you have quite a reputation for demonstrating concern for the rank and file.”
 
“Many thanks,” said the Guardsman. The platitude was barely out of his mouth when the thinly veiled tension in the room snapped with a ringing of cutlery.

“These xenos are abominable!” shouted Confesser Delaine, throwing down his fork. “In his treatise on warpcraft and the arcane, Father Gerrund wrote that ‘It is not for man to know the will of man, nor stare into the abyss, or wander the dark and terrible void of inhuman minds.’”

The room went silent, and the meal was abruptly abandoned.

“Faith shields us and knowledge arms us,” replied Quail, quoting a passage The Catechism of Enlightenment, a popular book in the more devout wing of the Priesthood.  “While utterly abhorrent, understanding them brings forth its own fruit.”

Delaine looked at Prime Magos Solomon. As head of the Mechanicus delegation, Solomon would be instrumental in bringing a charge of techno-heresy, was there a case to answer.

“In matters of spiritual attainment,” the Prime Magos said, “Magos Biologis Quail is quite correct. The proper liturgies have been conducted. The rites of the Omnissiah have been upheld. Theologically, Magos Quail is acting according to the divine guidance of the Machine-God, and has performed no wrongs. Conducted thusly, the study of the xenomorphic creatures, while repulsive, is a necessary evil performed for the Holy Work and the benefit of all Mankind.”

“This does not satisfy the Church.” Said Delaine, flatly.

“This is unfortunate,” replied Solomon. “Perhaps when you have seen more of our learning, the Emperor may speak to you and soothe these concerns.”

The priest’s face said ‘not likely’, but to utter something like that would be unthinkable.

“It is Him I serve,” he sighed.

“Indeed. As do we all.”

There was an awkward silence. With the greatest of stealth, Borsch reached for his discarded fork.

“Ooooh,” said Rachel excitedly. She had been following the group all morning to no discernible purpose and up till now had been content spreading a hot sauce across sweet cakes in an effort to breathe fire.

“Show him the one in the basement!”

That was it. With those simple words, all activity stopped completely. Quail sighed, and ran a palm down his face.

“Specimen Zero,” he said to Solomon.

“Ah yes,” the Prime Magos acknowledged reluctantly.

“There’s more?” asked Fraiser, politely covering his mouth with his hand while he swallowed. “More Tyranids?”

“Just one,” said Quail quickly. “We keep it in the strictest security, of course. I did not wish to… …overwork the delegation, or burden you with unnecessary concerns.”

 “Then we had best see it!” declared the Confessor, leaping to his feet with fire burning in his eyes. He smelt the beginnings of a conspiracy. Where facts were withheld, there were untruths. And where there were untruths, there was heresy.

Borcsh wobbled to his feet, dabbing an enormous chin with a greasy napkin. Taken as a sign of a vote, Quinn, Marlowe and Fraiser made ready to depart too. Reluctantly, the Mechanicus delegation rose as a single entity.

“At this time,” began Quail, “I do not think it is appropriate to –“

“Lead us,” said Solomon. It was not a request.

“Prime Magos, with respect…” began Quail.

“If respect is your intention Biologis then do not presume to counter me,” replied Solomon curtly. “The Confessor and the Band Clerk shall accompany us as delegates of this tribunal. The scrivinor and my Honour Guard shall remain behind.”

Quinn did not seem perturbed at his exclusion. He didn’t really seem much of anything. The best word to describe Archivist Quinn was ‘grey’. He seemed to exist only to perform his function, as and when required, and had no strong feelings beyond that. When not needed, it was assumed that Quinn folded himself into a box.

Biologis Quail bowed his head, concealing a face swathed in anger and frustration.

“As you wish, my Lord.”

*   *   *

The final level, in the deepest part of Forlorn, was accessible only by cargo elevator. It was in the very heart of the mountain. Fraiser felt his comm bead tickle in his hear as it lost signal. The platform was big enough to accommodate a battle-tank, and the vast darkness that loomed overhead was unsettling. Finally, it came to a halt outside a large pair of reinforced doors. A glowing bio-port was visible on both sides. As one, Quail and Crane took up positions, simultaneously chanting and inputting data. After a moment, the terminals beeped in harmony and the doors began to grind open.

“What is Specimen Zero?” asked Borsh nervously. He received no answer, but Rachel giggled disconcertingly.

They entered the room. Ceiling mounted assault cannons tracked their progress across the laboratory. It appeared to be empty, save for vast banks of glowing computers taking up the opposite wall. It had only one entrance, Fraiser noticed. On closer inspection, the wall to the right was not made of adamantium and ferrocrete like the other three, but made of tough, reinforced glass which reflected the brilliant quartz lights. Without prompting, the delegation lined up in front of the glass expectantly.

“I warn you,” hissed Confessor Delaine, “Damnation awaits those whose minds wander in dark places.”

He turned to the others.

“Steel yourself against this horror. Do not let curiosity, which comes from the Adversary, cloud your thinking. Harden your heart, and think only of Him.”

“By His Grace,” responded the faithful.

Quail glanced at Crane. The Biologis shrugged.

Fraiser rotated his shoulders, trying to relax his muscles. He wasn't nervous, but there was certainly a contagious tension in the air. Marlowe’s face was like stone.  Band Clerk Borsch had gone white, and the cup of recaff he’d picked up was trembling in his hand. Rachel just rubbed one arm and glanced around, looking confused.

“Open it,” intoned Solomon. “Show us Specimen Zero.”

“As my Lord wills,” replied Magos Quail.

With a hiss and a grinding of gears, the great heavy shutters that covered the glass internally began to slide upwards, revealing a second pair sliding sideways. The delegation strained for a view as drifting incense and escaped steam clouded their vision. Then they saw it, it was barely a creature at all.

Speimen Zero was restrained by heavy clamps. They gripped the beast around the waist and at the wrists. The entirety of its legs were encased in adamantium. Scything talons were held in place by shackles that flashed with barely concealed power. It had no head, only a curious, oval-shaped helmet of shining metal and jet-black glass. Pipes and tubes looped from behind, fitting snugly into the unusual headgear. Feeder tendrils dangled from under the lip.

“Well that was underwhelming.” Said Marlowe, flatly. Fraiser agreed. He was not sure what he had expected but the beast couldn’t have been any bigger than the lictor upstairs, was sixty percent encased in machinery and wearing a rather fetching hat that covered up the worst part – it’s face. Borsch stopped trembling and even Delaine looked fairly surprised.

“We take security very seriously at Forlorn,” said Biologis Quail solemnly.

“I can see that,” said the Confessor, perplexed. “What in His name is it?”

The two scientists looked at each other. Solomon’s eyes flared, very briefly.

“It is a Broodlord.” Said Magos Quail. “A fascinating creature.”

“A Broodlord?” said Captain Fraiser in utter disbelief. "You have a Broodlord in the cellar!?”

“It is hardly a cellar, Captain,” said Quail reproachfully.

“Captured on Dusk,” added Crane enthusiastically.

“By a Kill Team, no doubt?”

“The very same!”

Fraiser stared back at the monster behind the glass.

“You know they’re psychic?”

“Of course!” replied Quail as if the question was offensive. “It is in a Null Room. Also known as a Psychic Void. We are completely shielded from any adverse effects. And we have auto-turrets, motion sensors, reinforced blast shielding, tracking…”

“Why is it wearing a hat?”

“Excuse me, Captain?”

“A hat,” pressed Fraiser. “Why is it wearing a hat? A helmet? An Emperor-damned scrumball mask?!?”

“Ah,” said Crane. “A hat.”

“It is not a hat.” Replied Quail. “It is a Psi-Shroud. It performs many functions and allows us to monitor brain activity. It also covers the eyes.”

“The eyes!” hissed Rachel. She glanced around in a panic.

“Indeed,” said the Prime Magos. “We understand the hypnotic, suggestive qualities of the Genestealer Genus and its ability to propagate. We have taken precautions to ensure that it does not… …unduly influence any visitors.”

“I’m sorry,” said Borsch, “but what exactly is a Broodlord?” The absurd little clerk strode almost up to the glass and took a theatrical gulp of coffee.

“Scientifically speaking, a Tyranid Broodlord, known by the Higher Name of Tyrann…

« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 04:50:31 PM by Sheepz »

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2013, 06:29:41 PM »
Replying so you can post second half, also so I can see updates to this, for 'tis pretty ace
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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #13 on: February 21, 2013, 09:50:01 AM »
Cheers guys. Second half of chapter five. Comments will be at the bottom, edited in once I finish my work.

“It’s a big Genestealer.” Said Captain Fraiser. “A leader, often the beta of the brood, supporting the Patriarch. The muscle to its brains. Obviously, such an idea is redundant given the level of psychic control exerted. The Patriach's leadership is never challenged. Commonly found in insidious cults that can enslave entire worlds and form a beacon to attract passing Hive Fleets. That is correct, isn’t it?”

He looked accusingly at Quail.

“In essence,” he replied. “The Priesthood have taken particularly special measures with security. I take it you have more than a passing familiarity with Tyranids, Captain Fraiser?”

“I have a professional interest as a solider of the Emperor,” said Fraiser. Unbidden memories floated to the surface. He fought to supress them, feeling sick.

“Indeed,” said Solomon, “Tell me Captain, where is it you are from?”

“Brimstone,” said Fraiser, locking eyes with the Prime Magos. “Fourteenth Brimstone Dragoons.”

He saw a dead sky. It was sickly purple.

He maintained eye contact. Silence reigned.

“Forgive me,” said the Prime Magos, “I believed you were from Lieithar.

“Lieithar is gone, Prime Magos.” He replied.

“Emperor rest their souls,” Delaine muttered, making the sign of the Aquilla.

There was a nervous silence.

“Well,” said Borsch with a sigh, “Is it dangerous?”

“No,” said the Priesthood.

“Extremely,” said Fraiser simultaneously. He looked at Marlowe, but the other officer was busy tapping away on a handheld dataslate. She appeared to have lost interest.

“So long as it is contained, it is completely harmless.” Quail countered with every confidence.

“Is it sedated?” asked the drone, moving closer to the glass.

“No,” the Magos answered. Borsch halted abruptly.

“It just doesn’t move a great deal.”

“Have you managed to divine why the creature chooses to remain inert?” asked Solomon.

“Negative, my lord. We hypothesise that it is due to the lack of psychic ability, it has undergone some sort of mental trauma and withdrawn into itself.”

“Curious,” said the Prime Magos, “Can such an understanding be tested?”

“Not without jeopardising the facility, Prime Magos,” said Quail nervously. “Perhaps under different circumstances...”

“I understand.”

It had been building for some time, but as a result of this final exchange, the boiling pit of rage that was Confessor Delaine exploded once more into a vehement attack.

“So they are dangerous!” Exclaimed Delaine, “First they are safe. Then they are for science. Now you tell us that they are dangerous, that your research cannot continue without endangering His holy realm. Oh how the worm turns!”

“I don’t think I actually…” began Quail, his arms outstretched to placate the Ecclesiarch.

“Prime Magos,” the Confessor continued, brushing him off, “The blasphemies of your so-called Priests are clear. In pursuit of knowledge – yes, knowledge! – they have wandered from the path of righteousness and become entangled in the thickets of sin. To harbour the alien is a crime against all of man. It is an abomination to the Divine Emperor! I intend to make an immediate report to my superiors, and I demand that Magos Biologis Quail and Magos Biologis Crane stand trial for techno-heresy!”

Solomon stared blankly at the fat little man who was waving his arms and deactivated his audio-implant. For a moment, he entertained thoughts of tearing the confessor’s head off with one of his clamp attachments. Yes, that would be appealing, and easy. But no, he must not! He was Prime Magos, and they had honoured witnesses. No! Incorrect. They had honoured guests. Furthermore, he was hardly likely to curry favour with the Ecclesiarchy if he threw one of its adherents down a garbage disposal compactor. Reluctantly, he tuned his audio-implant back in.

“… hold your forked tongue!” Delaine spat a globule of phlegm at Crane, who was trying to flank him with an appeasing smile. Quail had never looked so utterly incapable in all of his life. The rest of the delegation looked on in horror and amusement.

“I will hear no crooked words from a man who fornicates with monsters!”

“I don’t so much forn…”

“Silence.” Said Solomon, quietly. When Prime Magos Solomon spoke, he did not need to raise his voice.

“Forgive me,” said the priest, casting a venomous look at the two Magi. “We shall do this properly. There must be a trial.”

“We shall discuss this in the fullness of time,” said Solomon. “Perhaps we should retire for a little quiet contemplation. You have seen a great many mysteries revealed today, and I do not wish to tax the fortitude of our honoured guests.”

“It has been a long day,” said Marlowe soothingly. “It would be best if we…”

“It moved!” Yelled the Confessor in alarm.

The Broodlord had jerked for a fraction of a second, he swore. He saw it twitch. Borsch span to get away from the glass – his face a mask of horror – and tripped on his own robes. Recaff spiralled gracefully from his hands and landed all over a nearby terminal. By some miracle, the Band-Clerk directed his fall into a pirouette, ending up safely behind the military bulk of Captain Fraiser. The Broodlord was motionless, and the computer terminal crackled slightly.

“Oh Emperor, I’m sorry!” he wailed.

Quail moved forward to inspect the terminal.

“Don’t worry,” said Crane reassuringly. “The machine spirit is more resilient than to succumb to a bit of coffee.”

The Band-Clerk, full of good intentions, pushed past Quail and began to dab at the console with the hem of his robe.

“Sorry sorry sorry.” He repeated.

Then there was a bang, a flash, and he was hurtled back through the air. He slammed into an unsuspecting Brigadier Marlowe, almost flooring her.

“Emperor’s teeth!” she yelled.

“Is he dead?” asked Delaine.

“The Omnissiah is gracious,” said Crane, checking for a pulse. Realizing what he just said, he clarified.

“I mean, no. He’s still alive.”

Borsch’s eyes flickered.

“Sorry, I’m sorry.” He mumbled.

“Nothing went wrong,” soothed Crane. Then, because the universe is a cruel and horrible place, the lights went out and the crimson emergency lighting cut in. Warning claxons sounded.

“Out!” screamed Quail. “Everyone out!”

At that exact moment, Rachel chose to collapse, foaming at the mouth and screaming. Her eyes flickered open and shut, light spilling from them like a semaphore lamp. Spitting profanity, Fraiser was on her in a second, holding her down and cradling the spasming psyker’s head in his lap. Marlowe raced for the door, Borsch stumbled after her, followed by Crane. The Magos Biologis just made it through as they slammed shut, tearing his trailing white robe.

Behind the glass, the Broodlord screamed. Emergency shutters moved to slam into place, but jammed halfway down, framing the protesting monster as it tore at its restraints. More sparks burst from the damaged terminal.

“Prime Magos, the auto-turrets! They’ll kill us all!” warned Quail. Delaine hammered futilely at the door. Answering thuds came from the other side, as well as strangely distant voices.

Solomon moved like lightening. His mechandrites reached the ceiling and tore away the defence guns as they roared to life, barrels spinning to warm up. Magos Quail darted to a console and one of his own mechandrites burst from the back of his robe. He interfaced with the machine.

“Tvastar,” he croacked in a dry, grating voice. “Shut it down!”

Another computer erupted from the other side of the room. Prime Magos Solomon moved to grab a fire suppressor. Delaine span, his back to the doors, eyes wild in terror. The Broodlord was shrieking, slamming its head against the restraints again and again. Blood mixed with saliva flew from Rachel’s mouth as she earnestly repeated the same catechism.

”In nomine Imperator! Liberate tutemet ex inferis!

She screamed, vomited, and started over, repeating it over and over. Her cold, thin hands clawed at Fraiser as eyes rolled in her sockets.

“Seven hells!” roared the Captain to Delaine, “Do something!”

The Confessor made the sign of the Aquilla and raised his hands in prayer. Solomon’s robe caught fire at the bottom, and the Prime Magos span, bringing the suppressor down on it in an attempt to douse the flames.

“Tvastar…” whispered Quail hoarsely. “Help us!”

The Broodlord gave a final primal scream and slammed its head into the side of the frame. The psy-shroud broke in two, and its terrible face was revealed to everyone. Glowing black eyes seemed the bore through the glass, reflecting the emptiness of eternity. Rachel gave a final spasm and went still. With a supreme effort of will, Captain Fraiser tore his gaze away and screwed his eyes tightly shut.

“Don’t look at it!” he called. “Don’t look at its eyes!”

Quail gave a cough and a gasp. His mind raced through circuits and systems, desperately shutting them down and re-routing power. Everywhere his consciousness turned, more vital systems flickered and waned. He was inside the machine, and he was losing. He had to break the link. He gave a scream and fell to his kness, smoke rising gently from his body.

Abruptly, the shutters slammed into place, drowning out the bestial roars. Around the room, terminals shut down, their lights blinking and fading. Fire supressors mounted on the ceiling burst into action, spraying the room with dense vapour. The doors released, and Crane and Marlowe rushed in. An ethereal voice cut through the confusion. It was Tech Magos Tvastar.

“Systems locked, fire supressors engaged. The psychic shield is back in place. Containment has not been breached. Forgive my inaction, if I had shut it down remotely while Biologis Quail was still interfaced, it would have killed him.”

“The Omnissiah bless you, Tech Magos.” replied Solomon.

Marlowe grabbed Fraiser roughly by the shoulder.

“On your feet,” commanded the Brigadier, hauling the Guardsman up. “It’s over.”

“How’s Rachel?” he asked weakly.

Crane was tending to Quail, dragging him upright and throwing supporting arms around him. Solomon moved to take the other side. The Magos Biologis’ feet trailed along the floor as they pulled his limp frame to the elevator. Soot blackened, Quail looked at Fraiser with tired, glassy eyes.

“She’s unconscious,” said Marlowe, scooping to pick up the inert Psyker. “We need to take her to med-lab.”

Fraiser nodded dumbly and ran a sweat soaked palm through his hair. He turned to Delaine.

“You alright?”

The Confessor was staring ridgingly forward, his hands still raised in prayer.

“Confessor?”

Delaine turned slowly and smiled. For a moment, his eyes looked slightly unfocused.

“I am fine, Captain. The Emperor protects.”
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 04:59:55 PM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2013, 06:41:44 AM »
Bit of waffle first to put my comments into context. I guess as I writer you also read and I hope you will agree that the best writing draws the reader in and makes them believe in the characters and their habitats. You have done this successfully up to now and I have actually commented a couple of times on how I really like your character and scene descriptions. But in Chapter 5 your use of the NPC example threw me out of your world and back into the here and now and for me it spoils the world you had created up to this point and it took me awhile to get back into the story.
Your use of Captain Frasier makes more sense now so I really hope you consider the point I made earlier about his character in Chapter 4. I can't quite put my finger on it but the bit where he buries his head in Rachel's chest and the bit where he is sweating seems at odds with a person that can "lock eyes" with the Solomon. It might be deliberate on your part as it makes Frasier seem a bit volatile but for me, at this point in the story, he seems a confused character.
To finish on a high your writing of Rachel is brilliant. What a character you have created. Edgy, dangerous(?), endearing, crazy...marvellous stuff.
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Honestly Alienscar, we get it... you dont like painting!

Offline Sheepz

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #15 on: February 27, 2013, 04:35:37 PM »
Hello again Alienscar,

Thanks for the continued feedback. I'm struggling with the story due to not having internet access at home and having to wait between posting split chapters. I'm also having a bit of writers block over chapter six - Storm. I have the story complete from about chapter 8 onwards but it's squeezing the necessary parts into the between spaces. I don't always write chronologically, and that's why some chapters (like 2) struggle, because I think, "Oh, then this happens, thats cool!" and write far ahead or something. It's good to have people like you read it in the order it's presented so that you can tell me what parts are weak and where there are contradictions or it doesn't read smoothly.

Bit of waffle first to put my comments into context. I guess as I writer you also read and I hope you will agree that the best writing draws the reader in and makes them believe in the characters and their habitats. You have done this successfully up to now and I have actually commented a couple of times on how I really like your character and scene descriptions. But in Chapter 5 your use of the NPC example threw me out of your world and back into the here and now and for me it spoils the world you had created up to this point and it took me awhile to get back into the story.

It was more a bit of humour for my 40K friends IRL, but I can see it does not gel with the story. It's good to take a step back and have someone say, "hang on a minute". It has been removed.


Quote
Your use of Captain Frasier makes more sense now so I really hope you consider the point I made earlier about his character in Chapter 4.

I have/will. Chapter One will be rewritten to give him a speaking role where I can briefly allude to his appearance, and chapter two will feature him in it in a proper capacity since he is an important character. Chapter 4 will still feature him reaching the conclusion faster than the scientists (because they're in it FOR SCIENCE! in that specific detatched way), but will feature an explaination as to his military mind. He was always supposed to be thinking more along the lines of "How does this help me kill stuff as per my job description" rather than "Oh wow, that's cool" which is how the scientists think. But I'll give it some elaboration. I hope that satisfies your idea of the characters, but let me know!

EDIT: From This

“We can trap them,” said Captain Fraiser, catching up faster than the rest of the delegation. “Minefields, laser-wire, artillery ranges. We can manipulate the flow of their forces into advantageous situations.”

To This:

“We can trick them,” said Captain Fraiser. His military mind lent itself a certain basic cunning. He was a solider through and through, and while technology either frustrated or bored him to death, the strategic part of his brain was ahead of the field. Quail and Crane looked at Tyranid behaviour as something interesting and worth studying for the sake of understanding alone. Where they had detacted, analytical minds, the more pragmatic Captain was already running scenarios through his brain.

“Minefields, laser-wire, artillery ranges. We can manipulate the flow of their forces into advantageous situations.”


Hope that reads better. Don't hesitate to bring it up again if it's still an issue. I value your feedback.

Quote
I can't quite put my finger on it but the bit where he buries his head in Rachel's chest and the bit where he is sweating seems at odds with a person that can "lock eyes" with the Solomon. It might be deliberate on your part as it makes Frasier seem a bit volatile but for me, at this point in the story, he seems a confused character.
To finish on a high your writing of Rachel is brilliant. What a character you have created. Edgy, dangerous(?), endearing, crazy...marvellous stuff.

The burying the head part will become important later. He doesn't want to look at the Genestealer, for all the reasons stated in the chapter. However, I might change it to him screwing his eyes up instead. The sweating will be removed. I think the thing about Fraiser is I like him as a character, but he's also an Imperial Guard officer. So I tend to write bits where he is very in control, but then bits where he's having a moment of characterisation or reacting to a situation the way I would (because I like him, as I've said). You're right though, it is an inconsistency in his character that I have gotten away with in the past due to writing more 'normal' characters - line infantry, Necromunda gangers ect - but doesn't really work with a heroic Imperial Guard Officer.

Edit: I've not read the whole chapter through, which I probably should have done. Much more so the whole story, but I'm pressed for time. I changed the 'sweating' from this:

Fraiser didn’t want to admit it, but his palms were sweating. Band Clerk Borsch had gone white, and the cup of recaff he’d picked up was trembling in his hand. Marlowe’s face was like stone. Rachel just rubbed one arm and glanced around, looking confused.

To this:

Fraiser rotated his shoulders, trying to relax his muscles. He wasn't nervous, but there was certainly a contagious tension in the air. Marlowe’s face was like stone.  Band Clerk Borsch had gone white, and the cup of recaff he’d picked up was trembling in his hand. Rachel just rubbed one arm and glanced around, looking confused.

I have rewritten the hiding his head to looking away. Hope that flows better, let me know.

I also changed it from Fraiser yelling "It moved!" in alarm to Confessor Delaine yelling "It moved!". It just seemed to fit better, I don't know if you agree.

And thanks about Rachel. I enjoy writing her but need to use her sparingly. She can be a bit of a plot device at times, and comic relief at other points, but she's an important, if minor, character throughout. I can say that since I have it all laid out in front of me ;).

Cheers for the feedback. I'll do some minor edits now at work while I have the benefit of the computer. I have done the bits above but Chapter Two needs a complete overhaul and Chapter One could do with an extra paragraph or two to introudce the primary characters a bit better, or at least flesh them out. Borsch is done, but there is nothing really to do with Marlowe, Fraiser, or Delaine in there at all.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2013, 05:02:45 PM by Sheepz »

Offline Myen'Tal

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #16 on: March 3, 2013, 07:57:44 PM »
This is hands down one of the best stories I believe I've ever read on this forums(and I've been here for a couple of years). Awesome, lovable characters, very well written, and obviously a very intriguing-interesting story is where I'll leave that at  ;D.

I've read Best Intentions when you were posting that before, but I vaguely remember Quail and friends. Guess that just adds to the suspense  ;).
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Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #17 on: March 5, 2013, 02:49:39 PM »
I'm struggling with the story due to not having internet access at home and having to wait between posting split chapters. I'm also having a bit of writers block over chapter six - Storm. I have the story complete from about chapter 8 onwards but it's squeezing the necessary parts into the between spaces. I don't always write chronologically, and that's why some chapters (like 2) struggle, because I think, "Oh, then this happens, thats cool!" and write far ahead or something. It's good to have people like you read it in the order it's presented so that you can tell me what parts are weak and where there are contradictions or it doesn't read smoothly.

Sorry to hear that you are suffering from writers block but seeing as you are moving house I can't say that I am surprised. Moving house used to be one of the top 3 stressful things that we do in life so I can't see it being conducive to creative writing. All I can say is please don't give up on this story.
Thanks for the insight into how you write I don't know about anyone else reading this but I find it interesting.

I have/will. Chapter One will be rewritten to give him a speaking role where I can briefly allude to his appearance, and chapter two will feature him in it in a proper capacity since he is an important character. Chapter 4 will still feature him reaching the conclusion faster than the scientists (because they're in it FOR SCIENCE! in that specific detached way), but will feature an explanation as to his military mind. He was always supposed to be thinking more along the lines of "How does this help me kill stuff as per my job description" rather than "Oh wow, that's cool" which is how the scientists think. But I'll give it some elaboration. I hope that satisfies your idea of the characters, but let me know!

It is a sign of how good your writing is Sheepz that I had already grasped that Frasier was looking at the practical application of any knowledge. So just by adding Frasier to Chapters 1 & 2 will solve the problem I had with him in Chapter 4.
 
EDIT: From This
“We can trap them,” said Captain Fraiser, catching up faster than the rest of the delegation. “Minefields, laser-wire, artillery ranges. We can manipulate the flow of their forces into advantageous situations.”
To This:
“We can trick them,” said Captain Fraiser. His military mind lent itself a certain basic cunning. He was a solider through and through, and while technology either frustrated or bored him to death, the strategic part of his brain was ahead of the field. Quail and Crane looked at Tyranid behaviour as something interesting and worth studying for the sake of understanding alone. Where they had detacted, analytical minds, the more pragmatic Captain was already running scenarios through his brain.
“Minefields, laser-wire, artillery ranges. We can manipulate the flow of their forces into advantageous situations.”

Hope that reads better. Don't hesitate to bring it up again if it's still an issue. I value your feedback.

I didn't see a problem with the way you had originally written this but I have to say I like your rewritten version more.

Edit: I've not read the whole chapter through, which I probably should have done. Much more so the whole story, but I'm pressed for time. I changed the 'sweating' from this:
Fraiser didn't want to admit it, but his palms were sweating. Band Clerk Borsch had gone white, and the cup of recaff he'd picked up was trembling in his hand. Marlowe’s face was like stone. Rachel just rubbed one arm and glanced around, looking confused.
To this:
Fraiser rotated his shoulders, trying to relax his muscles. He wasn't nervous, but there was certainly a contagious tension in the air. Marlowe’s face was like stone.  Band Clerk Borsch had gone white, and the cup of recaff he'd picked up was trembling in his hand. Rachel just rubbed one arm and glanced around, looking confused.
I have rewritten the hiding his head to looking away. Hope that flows better, let me know.
I also changed it from Fraiser yelling "It moved!" in alarm to Confessor Delaine yelling "It moved!". It just seemed to fit better, I don't know if you agree.

Totally agree with you Sheepz. Removing the sweating, head burying & yelling and making the changes that you have definitely gives Frasier a more heroic feel. Looking back now I think it was the “it moved” that caused the most harm. Coupled with the sweating and head burying it gave the impression that Frasier was on the verge of panic which didn't gel well with the rest of the Chapter.
 
I have done the bits above but Chapter Two needs a complete overhaul and Chapter One could do with an extra paragraph or two to introduce the primary characters a bit better, or at least flesh them out. Borsch is done, but there is nothing really to do with Marlowe, Fraiser, or Delaine in there at all.

It's your story but please be careful with Chapter one. At the moment it is nigh on perfect. The combination of pacing, characterisation and story all come together and it just seems right. Any addition to it might just ruin the balance that it has at the moment.
« Last Edit: March 6, 2013, 09:29:41 AM by Alienscar »
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Offline Sheepz

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2013, 09:48:03 AM »
Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback. Sorry this has been a few days in coming. I'm not entirely happy with this, or with the next chapter I've written, but they're basically just filling in all the blanks between the last chapter and the rest of the story that I've pretty much written. I think this one in particular suffers a bit from chapter two syndrome. There is a lot of boring talk, and the pacing doesn't seem right. Chapter seven seems a bit of a mess too, jumping all over the place. But we shall see...

Six – Security

They ate in silence.

Even Borsch’s continuous audio assault on other people’s appetites had managed to fade into the background. The delegation had changed their clothes and washed, but the memories lingered.

“I hope today has been enlightening,” said Tvastar conversationally. He had become very formal in the presence of his superior. For the benefit of the uninitiated, he was eating his lumpy gruel with a spoon instead of an induction port.

“Very,” said Marlowe. She ate little and played with her food a lot.

The silence endured, flowing back into the wake of the conversation. The Tech Magos recognised his responsibility to provide polite small-talk if none was forth coming. None was.

“You are feeling better, Magos Biologis?” asked Tvastar.

“I am well,” replied a shaken Biologis Quail. “Thank you.”

“Forgive my tardiness. I was monitoring the path of the electrical storm,” he said, “By the time I observed the situation clearly, you had interfaced with the machine spirit. I did not wish to harm you.”

“You acted appropriately. Interfacing with a damaged system was a rash decision, and you have my thanks,” said the geneticist. “Any meteorological developments?”

 “The storm will break within the hour, should last until tomorrow afternoon,”
said Tvastar, “I have closed the shutters.”

Quail nodded, and silence reigned again.

Servitors moved through the dining area. They were not heavy combat servitors, but a more technical kind. More human, were it not for empty eyes and grey skin. They brought gold platters laden with various dishes to the table with utter silence and mechanical precision. They creeped Fraiser out. A people’s man, normally he would attempt a conversation or slip a few creds into the waiter’s pocket. The Captain did not believe in betters. Save Him on Earth alone, of course.

“How is Rachel?” he asked during a lull in shovelling food into his mouth. A solider through and through, once he’d had an hour’s sleep, a shower and a new uniform, he was back in action. And he was starving.

“She is sleeping,” said Crane. “She was unconscious when we got her to the infirmary. No physical trauma, but I am concerned about her mental ability.”

“I am concerned about any witch’s mental ability,” muttered Marlowe.

Delaine poked at a piece of meat.

“Perhaps we should reassure our guests,” said Solomon as plates were cleared and fresh recaf and wine brought. Borsch took the wine with indecent haste. He looked at the recaf jug in fear, staring at the steaming dark liquid as if it were a daemon of Chaos.

“Tech Magos, would you like to go through our undoubtedly stringent security processes?”

Tvastar nodded.

“It would be an honour, my lord.”

“Let us hear it,” said the Confessor. Fraiser thought it was a superhuman effort that the priest kept his voice free from sarcasm.

The Engineer began.

“In the external defence of Forlorn, the mountain itself if our strongest bastion. Access is only available via lander. The original defence facility contained an elevator all the way down to the valley bottom, but under agreement with the Planetary Defence Force and the Governor of Shelter, access was blocked from anywhere below Sub-Basement Five, which houses Specimen Zero. Using explosives, the Priesthood collapsed the shaft all the way down, effectively isolating the facility from the rest of the world.”

He paused.

“In addition, you will be aware that Forlorn is a Class B Orbital Defence Facility. In terms of firepower, the installation is protected from assault by four Icarus lascannon batteries and twelve autocannon-pattern Sabre defence batteries. These defences are fully automated and controlled by Forlorn’s logic engine. Furthermore…”

“Wait,” said the Confessor, “Logic engine?”

“The Machine Spirit of Forlorn,” said Tvastar reverently, “A facility of this size operated by the Cult Mechancius has a logic engine as part of the course. The engine oversees all vital systems and monitoring, allowing us to run such a vast temple with the minimum of input. It is also a failsafe. Without daily ministrations from a member of the Order, the logic engine will engage steps to ensure the safety of the facility is not compromised.”

“What steps?” asked Captain Fraiser. The Techmagi looked at his superior. Solomon inclined his head to the Guardsman.

“That, I am afraid, is classified information. Be thankful that it is not necessary. Suffice to say, the logic engine will take over in a complete breakdown of order.” The Prime Magos stated.

“By special agreement, there are counter-measures in place to ensure the safety of this world,” said Marlowe. She nodded to Solomon, but did not elaborate.
 
“I understand,” said Fraiser. He did not, but none of his guesses had a happy ending. “Please continue.”

“Furthermore,” said Tvastar as if there had been no divergence, “Site B contains the silo housing the pre-requisite ship-breaker macro cannon, as well as two concentrated lance batteries. We do not use Site B at all, since it forms part of the orbital defence network. It is maintained by Forlorn’s logic engine and servitors, but would offer a degree of protection against enemies from the void.”

The assembled heads nodded. Even Borsch was managing to keep up. In his administratum brief-case, he held the blueprints and relevant information to every aspect of Forlorn, and had taken due care to ensure he knew everything about the facility before arriving. He was a Band-Clerk, such details were his job.

 “Following today’s events,” said Delaine carefully, “It is not the external security that concerns me. Perhaps you would elaborate on what measures you have in place to prevent... ...incidents.”

“Certainly,” said the Tech Magos without a trace of shame.

“Internal security is managed from Control. All doors as standard have gene-readers and combination security locks. I have already programmed the system to allow the delegation access to most of the facility, although of course I cannot allow you unrestricted admittance to certain places, like containment, hazardous storage or any of our most holy sanctums. Such areas are the domain of the Priesthood alone. We are happy to accompany you to locations under supervision of a member of the Order, but Mechanicus Law does not permit free reign to the uninitiated. I hope you understand.”

“I shall respect your laws,” said the Confessor gruffly, “But I will not have things hidden from me.”

“We shall be accommodating,” said Solomon. Tvastar nodded.

“The base is also protected by automated turrets, like those you saw earlier. These can be remotely operated from Control, but are generally programmed to be operated automatically by the logic engine. All areas have surveillance pict-casters, which are photon and flash insulated. They can operate on standard mode, heat, infra-red, low-light and night-vision in the event of a blackout. We also have motion sensors throughout the facility monitoring all movements. They can be fine-tuned to detect the faintest heartbeats, although we do not tend to operate such programming as it can quickly cloud the display. They register anything of standard human size, as this provides the adequate level of monitoring. Otherwise we’d be tracking rats, insects, automated units and even down to falling dust.”

The technical specifications were beginning to lose the delegation. Fraiser struck out for solid ground.

“What about guards?” he asked, “Armaments, patrols, that sort of thing?”

“Forlorn has ten Skitari Infantry,” replied Tvastar, “As well as three Paetorian gun-servitors and five loading servitors that can be used for melee. The Prime Magos has brought a retinue of a further twenty soldiers. All Mechanicus troops are well drilled and armed. Since I can monitor the entire facility from one room, we do not hold patrols. Sensitive areas have guards posted.”

“Makes sense,” said the Captain.

“All areas within Containment are guarded and closely monitored. In the event of an escape of hazardous material, Forlorn’s logic engine will initiate lockdown, and seal off the facility to isolate the problem. Obviously, we take great care to ensure such a scenario never arises.”
“What about systems failure?” asked Delaine.

Tvastar looked at him curiously.

“The machine spirits are well ministered to,” he said.

“But if there were a catastrophic event, for example a power-outage...”

“I would fix it,” said the Techpriest, “I perform all rites and activations, offer the appropriate libations and offer prayers to the Omnissiah. As a fellow priest, I am sure you would agree that so long as our faith is resolute, we are beyond the reach of harm.”

“Yes,” agreed the Confessor, “Of course. But some things are sent to test us.”

“All systems operate off a single generator, which is constantly monitored and precisely maintained. Should that fail, essential systems would continue to operate on a back-up generator, or in the most severe case – stored energy in the plasma batteries. I have left a wide margin, Confessor. We are perfectly safe.”

“And what about the psychic dampner surrounding the Broodlord?” he pressed. “That failed this very afternoon.”

“And I fixed it,” said Tvastar, managing to sound irritated, “The psychic dampner is an essential system, perhaps the most essential. If I receive notification of error, I act immediately. As was the case.”

The Confessor slumped back into his chair, eyes wandering in thought. He sipped at some recaf absently.

“Well,” said Prime Magos Solomon, rising from the table, “I’m sure if you have any further questions or concerns, we can address them in the fullness of time. However, it is fast approaching the hour for my devotions. I wish you all a good evening, and trust you will sleep soundly.”

To a chorus of polite thanks, the Prime Magos rose.

“We are conducting scheduled research tomorrow morning,” said Quail. “Pheromone extraction and stimuli response on Specimen Three. It should prove most interesting for our guests.”

“Indeed,” said Solomon. He looked at the delegation.

“Tomorrow morning, ten o’clock. We shall be in Control. Please join us, I feel it would help to underpin the importance of Magos Biologis Quail’s research.”

His subordinate offered a weary smile. The day had not been kind on Quail. It had started with an inquiry and gotten progressively worse, and so long as Delaine remained unconvinced there was always the threat of techno-heresy. 

The Mechanicus Lord bowed stiffly and politely before exiting the room.

“I am going to pray,” said Delaine. “Today has been troubling, and I need guidance.”

Silently, he followed in Solomon’s wake.

Quail yawned. There was a quietness beginning to settle over the room as the occupants digested their food along with the day’s events. It was certainly less tense without Solomon and Delaine.

“Excuse me,” said Brigadier Marlowe, rising from the table and straightening her uniform, “I am going for a walk before I start on the reports. I will see you all tomorrow.”

She spoke to the group, but watched Quail carefully.

“Goodnight,” he responded, reaching for the recaff without looking up.

“Quinn and myself will turn in also,” said Borsch, “My assistant has a lot of data to correlate and I have some reports to the departmento to finalise.”

Not well versed on social nicety, Borsch left without a further word with a bottle of wine discreetly tucked under one arm. Quinn followed in his wake.  The three Mechancius staff remained along with Fraiser, who was picking at the various dishes left in tureens. Captain Fraiser was a solider, and since it wasn’t the most frequently promised thing in the universe, he took his hospitality seriously. He chewed a boiled-egg thoughtfully.

“So Captain,” said Quail, “What do you think of our undertaking?”

The three cyborgs regarded him with intense stares and fixed smiles. It was rather chilling.

“It is interesting,” he said tactfully, “Honestly, I’m not well versed in genetics and all that science stuff, but if it helps us fight those bastards better, I’m all for it.”

The heads bobbed. His answer was approved.

“And,” said the Magos Biologis, clearing his throat. “May I ask why my lord would believe you were from Lieithar?”

Quail felt he was on unsteady ground.

“It’s just that Prime Magos Solomon is not a man prone to confusion or inaccuracy.”

Fraiser’s hand stopped half way to his mouth. His face hardened. Carefully, he put down the fork.

“I am from Brimstone, Magos Quail,” he said, his voice level. “Prime Magos Solomon may believe as he wishes. He is only human.”

Fraiser rose from the table.

“I will take my leave. Thank you for the meal. Goodnight gentlemen.”

And then he left.

“Oh dear,” said Crane, shaking his head. “That didn’t go well at all.”

“I am confused, Lord Quail,” said Tvastar. “The logs clearly show Captain Fraiser is from Lieithar, and yet he will not admit it.”

“I have no explanation for you, Tvastar,” said Quail.

“Forgive me,” said the Techpriest, “I have been unclear. I do not wish to know the motivations behind Captain Fraiser’s denial. That is his prerogative and I should seek answers from him. However, his birth record is quite clear. Why would you desire to question him about it?”

“I desired to test his reactions and analyse his response in relation to better ascertaining where he stands in relation to our work. Things can influence a man’s thinking, Techpriest.” Said the Magos with a regretful sigh. “Particularly traumatic things.”

*   *   *

Fraiser entered his quarters, shoulders bent under an invisible load. Tiredness was creeping back up on him. He was a solider, and he wanted his enemies in front of him and weapons in his hand. He wasn’t made to wander laboratories looking at them through glass or poking them with a stick. And he was certainly not one for politics, and by the Emperor, what a lot of politics. Marlowe was constantly uneasy around him, and they were supposed to be colleagues working together to defend the system, nothing more taxing than that. Quail and his gaggle of cogboys were poking space-monsters for fun. It was a mess.

Delaine was out for blood, that was certain, and that weasel Borsch had it in for Quail too. At least the Confessor had faith and principle. The Band-Clerk was just a jilted, petty man with a grudge. The emotionless Prime Magos was playing host so politely it was most definitely straight out of a book of etiquette. Solomon didn’t want them here, that was clear. And he didn’t want to be here either.

He was aware that his honour guard had risen hastily to attention. There were cards on the table and a few badly concealed bottles of beer.

“As you were,” he sighed.

Sergeant Thorn emerged from the bathroom, wiping shaving cream off his face.

“You heard the Captain!” he bellowed. “As you were!”

The soldiers sat back down cautiously.

“A little down-time, Sah,” said Thorn, saluting smartly. “As per your instructions.”

“Thank-you, Sergeant,” he replied. “Make sure they don’t get drunk.”

“No sah.” He said, “Keeping my eye on them, sah.”

“Good man.”

“Bad day, sah?” he enquired, reading the Officer's thoughtful expression.

“Captain is fine,” said Fraiser. Sergeant Thorn was a model solider, and they had been in a fair few scrapes together. He was loyal, fair, professional, and above all, practical and resourceful. Fraiser had seen too many soldiers who didn’t match enough of the criteria. But there was something about the way he said “sir” that could be quite grating.

“Bad day, Captain?”

“Just tired Sergeant,” said Fraiser, slapping him on the shoulder. “I think I’ll go to bed. Make sure the lads are fed and watered, and don’t let them play up too late. This whole thing is as messy as that night we got drunk on Thrace.”

“Yes, Captain. Good night in the end, though, sah.”

“It was for the barmaid, so I’m told.”
« Last Edit: March 12, 2013, 10:07:04 AM by Sheepz »

Offline Alienscar

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Re: Project Artemis
« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2013, 07:55:03 AM »
Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback. Sorry this has been a few days in coming. I'm not entirely happy with this, or with the next chapter I've written, but they're basically just filling in all the blanks between the last chapter and the rest of the story that I've pretty much written. I think this one in particular suffers a bit from chapter two syndrome. There is a lot of boring talk, and the pacing doesn't seem right. Chapter seven seems a bit of a mess too, jumping all over the place.

I disagree Sheepz whilst there is a lot of chat none of it is boring. The pace is also spot on and in some way this chapter is the perfect counter point to the intensity and suspense of the previous chapters. The ending is more than a bit cliched and maybe slightly diminishes the overall effect and there is something bugging me about your use of "part of the course" that I can't quite pin down. These are minor, and probably just my own, problems in a chapter that is equally one of the best.
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