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Main => Art & Fiction => Topic started by: Sheepz on July 18, 2012, 01:57:17 PM

Title: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on July 18, 2012, 01:57:17 PM

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 (http://www.40konline.com/index.php?topic=184561.0#msg2258669), although none appear directly. It also references Imperial Cruiser Pride of Harfex, from Wives Tales (http://www.40konline.com/index.php?topic=194485.0).

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.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: GreaterGoodIreland on November 16, 2012, 01:19:44 PM
This is pretty cool, looking forward to the investigation :P
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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?”

Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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. 
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.

Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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  :)
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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…

Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Chuckles, The Space Marine Clown 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
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.


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

“I am fine, Captain. The Emperor protects.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.

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.

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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Myen'Tal 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  ;).
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz 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.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar 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.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on March 16, 2013, 02:08:52 PM
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.

Hey Alienscar,

I'm gonna stick with the ending for now, as it felt like it fleshed the characters out - even just a little - and was easier for me than rounding off the chapter with some random warblings. In hindsight, I may end the chapter with Quail and Tvastar's exchange, and move Fraiser's thoughts on the delegation to another chapter. I agree with part of the course. It doesn't fit the dialogue or the Mechanicus very well and was just lazy writing on my part. I'll have a think about it and change it.

Not sure how I like these next two chapters. They're a bit jumpy and contain a lot of it was stuff I never envisaged being in it, so it seems a bit shoehorned and the rest of the story - reading through - doesn't really suffer for large parts of it being missing. It seems to be words for the sake of words. But anyway, I'll post it up now for completion and then when I edit the full version we'll see how it sticks. It also - since the entire story is a bit of a cheesy homage to various films I enjoy - contains at least one blatantly stolen line as a nod to one of the all time greats. I'll see if you can spot it. Ten points if you can read it without cringing.

Automerge is preventing last bit of chapter getting posted.


Seven – Dead Lieithar

Prime Magos Solomon had said it the moment the delegation arrived. Forlorn had twenty-one personnel. The Tech Lord had been informed of bio-adept Huwell’s premature departure from mortality. He was not included in the count. Of the remaining staff on the manifest, Kramer and three of her underlings had parted ways. That left seventeen.

Ten were the Skitari security detail, a full squad of Mechanicus Infantry. Then there was Quail and his assistant Crane, Tech Magos Tvastar who kept the machinery running, and the facilities resident psyker – Rachel. The last three were the remaining bio-adepts. Biologis in training, each specialising in a different field of research and medical science.

Bio-adepts Lowell, Drecker, and Mikkael were sat in the empty, dimly lit conference room, picking at the remains of the meal.

“They say the old man is up for techno-heresy,” said Orderly Mikkael. He was in his late twenties and the wearing plain white scrubs of an intern. He was a young man, and had a young man’s arrogance.

“Lord Quail,” said Lowell, not looking up from his books. He automatically reached for his cup and took a sip of recaf, eyes never leaving the page. Lowell was in his early forties and was soon to undergo final examinations before ritual augmentation. After that, he would be worthy of the title Biologis.

“Lord Quail,” scoffed Mikkael, drinking some wine from the bottle. “The Lord Quail and his faithful companion.”

Drinking was not strictly against Mechanicus principles. Since the flesh was weak and worthless anyway, poisoning it in small doses wasn’t frowned upon unless it led to idle behaviour and inattentiveness.

“Have some respect, Mikkael,” said Drecker. She shuffled a stack of papers and adjusted a lens over one eye. “Lord Quail has been good enough to take us on with this project.”

Drecker was in her thirties and also studying for her final examination. She had risen through the priesthood faster than Lowell on the simple basis that Drecker was more intelligent, quicker to grasp concepts and less prone to worrying. Another key feature of Orderly Drecker was that she did not tolerate bullamphetamine parrot.

“Sure,” said Mikkael. “The generous Lord Quail. Mucking out lizards and fetching stool samples and bringing him recaf. I bet Huwell was thanking him all the way through being eaten.”

“That’s enough,” said Drecker, looking up sharply. “Bio-adept Lowell and myself are trying to concentrate. If you were any kind of student, you would be doing the same, instead of pickling yourself in wine.”

“You think they’ll make you a Magos?” he sneered. “Science, its man’s work.”

“Biologis Kramer is a Magos,” she replied, glancing at her notes.

“Biologis Kramer is a be-atch,” he retorted.

Drecker gave him a cold stare.

“Whatever,” he said. “I’m going to bed. You two can clear up.”

*   *   *

The figure paced in an empty hallway.

It was so clear, the Voice! It had made so much sense, if only they could remember what had been said. Such wisdom and guidance! And such ambition! If only it would speak again. To hear it was to understand.

But how? There was a way, but it was fraught with peril and almost abhorrent in method, but there seemed no alternative.

Someone was coming.

Mind racing, the figure ducked inside a room. Their room, proffered by those blind priests and their clockwork god. They groped for understanding like men in darkness. They were blind. They did not hear the Father’s Voice.

An idea came. A brilliant idea. It fixed itself inside the mind, solid, shining and pure.

A drawer was opened quietly. Inside, there was a gun.

*   *   *

Mikkael grumbled to himself, leaning one arm on the wall for support. His head swam uncertainly as he looked at the bottle in his hand. It was empty, and so he must have drunk it. He should have been more attentive. But his mind was on that be-atch Drecker and bookworm Lowell. They never did any real work anyway. He busted a gut for the Cult Mechanicus, but no. It was the two of them who got assignments, favoured treatment. Them! Of all the pointless...

There was a figure in front of him.

“Oh,” said Mikkael straightening up. Forced sobriety hit him like a tonne of bricks.

“Forgive me, my lord. I did not see you.”

The Other smiled.

“Surely you are not Bio-Adept Mikkael?” it asked, “This is a most fortuitous meeting!”

*   *   *

“Contact!” screamed the pointman.

He could not remember his name.

Lieutenant Fraiser, Lieithar Planetary Defence Force, braced himself against a wall, pistol gripped in white knuckles. It was his first command.

Gunfire erupted front and back as the column came under attack. Men crashed into each other in the tight corridors. His tactical read-out had overlapping signatures.

“All squads go loud!” he said, fighting to keep his voice level. “Mission has been compromised. Converge on primary objective.”

There was a string of acknowledgements. One of the rearguard screamed as multi-segmented limbs burst through a prefabricated wall and pulled him through into the darkness.

“Move!” said Fraiser, snapping off shots from his pistol.

“Enemies front!”called the vanguard.

It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes since their cover was blown, but already scattered reports from the surface indicated that Lieithar was in turmoil. The Planetary Chief of Staff had been assassinated. A bomb had detonated at a nearby airfield. There was confused, contradictory information flooding the tac-comm with updates of widespread, calculated public disorder.

“Cut through them!” he called, “We are out of time!”

*   *   *

“The Prime Magos had much to say about you,” the figure said congenially as they walked through the corridors. “He praised your dedication, your commitment.”

“Prime Magos Solomon?” asked Mikkael, his head still swimming, “Prime Magos Solomon mentioned me?”

“Yes,” replied the other. “He is not a man taken to emotion, as you may know, but he reminded Magos Quail of the importance of correctly valuing your contribution to the Holy Mission and appreciating the hard work you have undertaken.”

The Bio-Adept felt a surge of pride.

"He did?"

"Absolutely. I am taken to understand that he is concerned that Magos Quail may fail to recognise your true worth."

Mikkael was beaming. He knew it! Quail was passing him over because he was jealous of his natural, innate brilliance.

“Did he say anything else? About the others?”

Lying was easier than expected. Bio-adept Mikkael was one of nature’s fools.

“In good time,” his companion, pausing at a door as if their feet had carried them to it by accident. “This is the generatorium, am I correct?”

“Yes,” said Mikkael. “Would my lord like to spend some time in the presence of the hallowed machines?”

The figure beamed, full of false surprise.

“Indeed, I would be honoured to see such a shrine.”

“I would have to accompany you, of course,” said the Bio-Adept, “Since you are not one of the priesthood.”

“That would be most kind,” the Other replied, “In fact, I would not have it any other way.”

*   *   *

“It’s in there!” yelled a trooper braced against the doorframe. “Whole room is crawling with ‘em.”

“Bring up the dem-charges!” Shouted Fraiser. Combat engineers moved to the front, squeaking and grating in their full-plate carapace. He gestured with hand signals.

“Covering fire!”

The engineers stormed into the room, as things moved and snarled in the darkness. Wild lasgun shots bounced around the interior. For just a fraction of a second, Fraiser caught sight of something monstrous moving in the shadows. Something ancient and alien. Dark eyes reflected in the ruby strobes of gunfire. Things flooded his mind, alien and terrible. It was like being kicked in the head.

The Lieutenant clutched his temples. Inside the room, the engineers staggered, screaming, struggling to tear off their claustrophobic helemets. The swarm was on them at once. Fraiser gritted his teeth and recited the catechism of command. The solider next to him continued to fire blindly into the cavernous room.

“Sit-rep?” asked Sergeant Thorn, heading a squad of reinforcements.

“Lieutentant is out of it,” replied the other over bestial screams and the din of gunfire. “Target Ultima is inside the room… gods… it’s clawing at my mind.”

Thorn risked a glance inside, but saw nothing. He knelt next to Fraiser.

“Lieutenant?” he yelled, “Sergeant Thorn, Sah. Pleased to meet you at last. We’re waiting on your orders, sah. If you are able.”

Fraiser looked up from the floor, his mind reeling and vision swimming. He felt sick and retched, shaking his head.

“Bring up the launchers!” Thorn called.

*   *   *

“And this?” said the figure, pointing at a large, rectangular box of dull grey metal.

“The relay,” said Mikkael. “And those are the plasma batteries,” he explained, pointing a series of glowing blue-purple coils. He had used his gene-card and keycode to access the sprawling generatorium. Lights blinked off and on in the darkness, and the air was filled with the scent of incense and the gentle hum of machinery. His companion had not show the appropriate deference, he thought. That, and the endless questioning was beginning to make him annoyed.

“And this?” the Other continued, almost ignoring the answers. “What is this?”

“Tracking Systems Master,” replied the Bio-Adept. “My lord, I feel we have lingered long enough in the Sanctum. If I may, I ask you to accompany me back outside.”

The figure knelt and began to wrestle with the cover.

“Don’t do that!” shouted the Bio-Adept, his polite resolve cracking. “By His Name! This is a Shrine.”

Mikkael stalked forward, and the Other turned swiftly. There was something in their hand.

“Oh,” said the Bio-Adept, shocked into silence.

It did not matter what aspect of science a person undertook in the Cult of the Machine. Everyone understood the basic principle of a gun.

*   *   *

There was a whoosh of displaced air followed by the rumble of multiple detonations. Bricks and plaster came tumbling through the doorway on a cloud of dust as the missile teams retreated.

“Reload!” called Thorn underarming a few grenades into the room, “Keep up the suppression.”

The PDF moved to comply. Fresh rockets were inserted and the AT teams moved up again. Another barrage of explosions drowned out the continuous shrieks and cracking of gunfire. More debris flamed out into the hall, then there was an ominous silence.

“Mission complete,” he said to Fraiser, who rose unsteadily to his feet.

“We have to check,” the Lieutenant whispered hoarsely. “We have to be sure.”

The Sergeant nodded.

“Incinerators front and centre,” he bellowed. “Squad form on me, spread out to secure the area. If you find enemies, burn them.”

Fraiser refused his arm of assistance with a shake of his head. The soldiers piled in. A few random las-shots rang out as the troopers fanned out, executing the wounded and stepping gingerly over the bodies of comrades and hybrids alike. To their horror, some were one and the same. A chunky, visceral mess was plastered across most of the far wall. But there was enough left to be recognisable.

“Charlie One to Control,” said the Lieutenant, “Threat eliminated. Repeat, the Patriarch is down. Threat eliminated.”

“Affirmative Charlie One.” Came the drawling response. “Ah, standby. We’ve got a lot on our hands up here. Situation topside is fluid. Secure location and await further orders.”

“Received,” Replied Fraiser.

From the far corner, there was an intermittent thudding, getting louder and louder. It was interspersed with quicker, lighter tapping, as well as scrapes and clicking. The noises began to echo down side corridors, and dust drifted from the ceiling.

Thorn had just enough time to shout a warning as the far wall collapsed under the charge of a hulking monster. Twisted figures poured through after it, weapons clutched in extra limbs. Behind them were purestrain genestealers.

*   *   *

The words and symbols were completely meaningless, and yet so meaningful.

The Other had never known the secret language of the Machine Cult. It was revealed in increments only to those who served the Clockwork God. The figure gazed at the blinking lights and buttons on the panel. They remembered, but the memories they held were not their own. Carefully, it unscrewed the faceplate – revealing the innards of the machine. Wires and circuitry were laid bare, and the magic and holiness of the Omnissiah was stripped away when left so ashamedly exposed.

“What… what are you doing?” whimpered the Bio-Adept in the corner.

The Other withdrew a shock maul from the recesses of their clothes. Ignoring him, it pressed the tip of the baton against some circuitry under one of the symbols. For a second, the mace flared. Sparks flew from the machine, which growled in protest.

“No!” called the adept, “Stop! You’re hurting it!”

The mace glided horizontally, skipping boards and wires at random until it found the next target. It repeated the trick. More sparks flew from the terminal, and a pair of lights flickered and died.

Methodically, the Other replaced the face-plate.

Now, the Voice!

The figure crossed the room, casting long, frightful shadows up the wall in the flickering candle-light. It moved behind a stack of computers. The outlines blurred and danced as a monitor was engaged. The sound of rhythmic tapping echoed through the generatorium.

With the final press of a button in confirmation, one light amongst thousands dimmed and was extinguished. The grid was secure, there would be no notification. The Other smiled, closing his eyes and exhaling deeply. Memories flooded in, carrying images of stars and of worlds. Feelings of unconditional, unquestioning love. Adoration. There was no competition, no petty squabbles. No selfishness carried by evil men. There was only love, belonging. Still more memories came. They brought ambition, truth and understanding.

The Other could not tarry here. The accursed false-priests would be aware of what was transpiring. Haste was needed.

“Come, Adept Mikkael,” the figure instructed. “I have somewhere else I need to be.”

Trembling, Mikkael rose obediently.

Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on March 17, 2013, 03:52:27 PM
Might be a bit redundant now but I thought I'd post in case you were waiting to post the rest of the chapter. I hope someone else finds the film reference you mentioned as I don't watch a lot of films so probably won't find it. As a bit of an aside and on a related point I am reading Revenge of the Dwarves at the moment and Markus Heitz uses the phrase "my precious". I hope your reference isn't as cringe worthy as that. Damn near made me throw the book away.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on March 18, 2013, 05:41:47 PM

Yeah, needed a post for the rest of the chapter, it's only a bit. I'm concerned the Chapter jumps too much, and I'm not sure the flashback scenes were entirely necessary but I wanted to break up the activity going on elsewhere and flesh out Fraiser a little. It's something to think of for the editing later. Of all the Chapters (2 aside, since it's a mess), this, the previous and the following one are all the ones I really didn't enjoy writing and am concerned about. I think they're weak in the scheme of things. But hey ho, we'll see.

*   *   *

In seconds, half of his remaining men were dead. Gunned down or torn apart by monsters.

Berserk with rage, the Broodlord screamed and charged through the melee, smashing aside soldiers and crushing its own beasts under grinding hooves. It tore through man and alien alike, howling in bloodlust.

“Charlie – One to Control,” cried the Vox operator next to Fraiser. “We are under attack at location Ultima, taking heavy casualties. Request immediate extraction!”

More stealers and hybrids began to pour out of the side corridors. Planetary Defence Force troops fell all around the Lieutenant as his brain raced to catch up. The gunfire was deafening as the soldiers gave it everything they had.

“Withdraw!” bellowed Thorn, once again taking command. “Fall back by Squads and lay down a suppressive fire from the flamers!”

He grabbed Fraiser in an iron-tight grip.

“Come along now, Sah,” he whispered.

Fraiser snapped back into action, squeezing the trigger of his pistol. A purestrain went down inches from one of his men. It was no use, a second and third tore the unfortunate trooper to pieces.

“Fall back!” he called, “Move your arses!”

The PDF tried to reorganise, but they were in tatters. Anyone could see it was about to become a rout. So Fraiser stepped toward the enemy, grabbing fleeing men as he did so. Rallying them with the voice of command and the force of his will.

“About face, solider. Lay down supressing fire!” He roared. He had never been so utterly terrified and yet utterly alive. He was in full command, Sergeant Thorn at his back. For a moment, it looked like they would rally and fight their way clear.

A genestealer leapt with amazing speed, only to be impaled on the Sergeant’s chainsword. Still, the alien’s death-relex gutted the man next to the Lieutenant, and sprayed Fraiser with acidic blood. It splashed his face and he screamed in agony.

“Come on,” yelled Thorn, snatching up a fallen incinerator and sending out a non-stop jet of flame before him. “Enough of the heroics, sah.”

The Broodlord turned.

It dropped the limp body of the vox operator, snapping off his head with a twist of the neck. Twice the size of a man, it bellowed at the soldiers as they fell back, Thorn half-carrying the injured officer, spraying promethium as he went.

Then it charged.

Captain Fraiser, Fourteenth Brimstone Dragoons, awoke with a start. In response to his movements, dim lighting rose from the edges of the room. He reached out and took a glass of water from the bedside table. The shutters clattered and shook as the electrical storm began to gather pace.

Lieithar. He hadn’t thought about Lieithar in years.

Thorn had saved him that day. By some miracle, they’d gotten clear. Few had.

He was transferred to an orbital hospital ship - Mercy’s Folly. It contained only the best medical facilities, and he was the nephew of the Governor of Lieithar himself – It was without saying that he would be aboard. At his personal request, Sergeant Thorn had joined him. The bio-acid scar would stay with him forever.

Within days the ground based insurrection had been put down, and Imperial Order had been restored. His actions, and the sacrifices of his men had saved Lieithar, they told him. Him. He had beheaded the cult. He had saved the world.

Two weeks later they were fleeing. Mercy’s Folly was lightly armed, but it had been no consolation to the private traders and other space-faring vessels he had watched burn from the viewports as their panicked gunnery crews opened fire. The planet had erupted into insurrection once again. His father had been killed on the first day of the uprising, along with the Governor. Even as Fraiser and Thorn had clattered down the corridors seeking a shuttle home, the Shadow had fallen.

And when the Shadow fell on Lieithar, it never lifted. Mercy’s Folly fled in terror and in shame, abandoning his world to its fate. They had killed the Patriarch, but that was not enough. They had been careless. They had not made sure. And Lieithar had paid the ultimate price.

Dead Lieithar.


It was Thorn. He stood in the doorway, polite concern etched onto his weathered face.

“Are you alright?”

“Yes, Sergeant.” He said with a confidence he didn’t feel.

“Just bad dreams.”

And outside, the storm raged.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on March 20, 2013, 05:58:14 PM
Gonna see if it lets me double post since some time has elapsed. This is chapter eight. I'm not particularly much more struck on it than the previous two, but the story ups the ante considerable in Chapter Nine. A lot of it is written from 9 onwards and even if it is a bit pulpy in places I did enjoy writing it. Anyway, here you go.

Eight – Storm

“That is odd.”

“What?” enquired Quail tiredly. He and the Techmagi were in a half-dark Control, preparing for the coming experiment.

“Surveillance and motions sensors have just gone down on level one,” said Tvastar blankly. His eyes refocused with a hum while fingers flew across a keyboard.

“Could it be the storm?” Asked Quail.

“It shouldn’t be,” replied the Enginseer sliding his chair to another terminal. As it crossed the floor, it crushed reams of discarded reports and printouts. The Techpriest tapped another keyboard. The overhead monitors were blank.

“Shall I send for the Prime Magos?” asked the Engineer.

“Absolutely not,” hissed Quail. “His reverence is making devotions, and his honoured guests are sleeping. Today has been traumatic enough without telling him that we are losing systems. Print out some reports and get working on it. Is Containment Security still online? That is our primary concern.”


“Monitor it, and get those systems working again. We have an experiment in nine hours and I do not want to start the day explaining that some of our most vital security spirits are malfunctioning. I will go to check the Generatorium and make sure the blessed equipment is working.”

“Understood,” replied the Techpriest, frowning. Lightning crashed and the lights flickered.

“Could just be the storm,” said Quail as he reached the door.

“Could be,” replied the Tech Magos, hammering on a keyboard. The orange pits of his eyes narrowed in a squint.

The Magos Biologis opened the door to the control room. Warm, amber light flooded in reassuringly. He took a step forward and hesitated before turning. Quail crossed over to a nearby desk and unlocked the drawer.

He removed a bolt pistol, checked the magazine, and left.

*   *   *

The lights flickered, and the howling of the gale cut through even the adamantine walls of Forlorn, moaning in the cracks like the spirits of the dead. The shutters rattled and clanged like an unholy orchestra.

“There is nothing in here,” stammered Mikkael as he opened the door. “It’s just a storage room. No one ever…”

He stepped through the doorway and turned. Horrible realization dawned.

“Please, I don’t know what you…”

The stub-pistol had a heavy suppressor. It gave two, three, four muffled coughs. The Bio-Adept crashed to the floor.

The Other stepped inside. The only light came from the lamps in the corridor. Without a pause, two more bullets slammed into Orderly Mikkael’s skull.

Then it softly closed the door and waited in darkness for the Voice.

*   *   *

Quail reached the door to the Generatorium. A glowing cardport blinked back at him.

He was gripping a firearm, he thought. In his own facility. This was ridiculous.

He carefully deposited the pistol into his robes, and accessed the room. The candles still burned brightly, and the smell of incense filled the air. In the half darkness, he walked the hallowed spaces between machinery, chanting softly as he did so. The Bioglosis approached the Tracking Systems Master terminal and removed the faceplate. A puff of acrid black smoke drifted out, and the air smelled like melted plastic.

“Tech Magos,” he whispered, “Looks like a burnout.”

“Shall I attend?” asked Tvastar.

“Negative,” said Quail irritably. “You have been keeping up with the required rites of maintenance?”

“Affirmative,” replied the other in monotone.

“I sincerely hope so,” replied the Biologis as mechandrites slid from under his robe. Tech Magos Tvastar might be Forlorn’s engineer, but Quail was versed enough in the machine to replace some wires and circuitry. “You will be sure to investigate this in the morning. I do not want it to happen again.”

“Yes my Lord.”

The flatness of Tvastar’s tone irritated him. As a Magos, he strove to cast off the weakness of the flesh, and the illogical churning responses of emotion. But the other man was serene. There was no fight, no spluttering denial. He was not wounded by his superior’s rebuke, he simply accepted it.

Quail sighed and bent to his task.

*   *   *

The storm raged.

The figure was battered by hurricane winds and soaked by the rain. Lightening tore the sky asunder, and the rumble of its voice was almost deafening. Clinging to the rails and almost crawling on all fours, it reached the summit of Forlorn. Overhead, giant communication towers groaned and swayed in the gale. The black silhouette of the great satellite uplink dish stood as a bulwark against the night. Rain cascaded down the concave structure, falling like a waterfall from the lowest part of the lip.

The Voice urged him on.

*   *   *

“It is done.”

“Affirmative, pict-feeds are back online. Motion Sensors are cycling, filtering out pollution.”

Quail straightened up, intoned a silent prayer and replaced the faceplate. Everything else in the Holy Sanctum seemed untroubled. A thousand twinkling lights gave silent praise to the Omnissiah, and the works of His Faithful. Satisfied, he left.

The Biologis did not know what dragged his steps away from Control. He wandered aimlessly, lost in thought. Burnouts were not uncommon, but Tech Magi Tvastar was the most diligent of all the Engiseers he had ever worked with. The components were regularly checked for wear and blessed with holy urgents and anointed with sacred oils. The Techpriest seemed to know every circuit, conduit, and drive. Every wire and tiny light belonged to him.

His feet stopped outside the external door. It was shut, but the floor was wet.

“Techmagi, has anyone recently exited the facility via southern roof access?”

“Unknown,” replied Tvastar. “Motion Sensor and surveillance logs have not been active for the last ten-point-four-six minutes.”

Quail hovered indecisively for a moment. Then he opened the door.

*   *   *

The Other crouched in the shadow of the uplink dish, the rain forming a barrier between him and the bastion of Forlorn. Warm amber flooded out from the open door. Silhouetted against the welcoming light was Magos Biologis Quail. Damp, numb fingers sipped as they struggled to insert bullets into the stub pistol. A stray shell clattered onto the metal catwalk. The sound was lost in the howling gale and the crash of thunder.

The False-Prophet! He must not discover what is being done!

Kill him.

The Other was not sure if the thought was their own, or belonged to the Voice.

A stub pistol was steadied against a horizontal girder. Rain dripped from the end of the suppressor.

*   *   *

Quail was battered by the wind. Gingerly, he took a step out onto the metal catwalk. Rain lashed him, and the sky was split by a deafening crack of thunder. Lenses slid down to protect his eyes. He scanned the roof slowly.

In front and to the left groaned the relay towers as they took the worst of the battering. A hundred feet above the mountain fastness, their aviation warning-lamps blinked red in the darkness. The giant uplink dish squatted between them, a deeper patch of black against the turbulent sky. Nothing looked out of place. He moved to take another step.

A blast of icy wind hit the Biologis, carrying with it rain which soaked into his already damp robes and trickled freely down his face, running into his eyes. He cursed and wiped them with the back of his hand.

This was madness. No one would be stupid enough to be out in this. It felt like the sky itself was trying to tear down the mountain. Lightning cut through the inky black, followed by another crash that was almost lost amongst the non-stop howling of the maelstrom.

Quail turned and headed inside.

*   *   *

The Other exhaled deeply. The False-Prophet was gone, and now it was time to follow the Voice’s divine instruction. Pipes and cables were laid open, and hands formerly unused to technology deftly rewired them, following with memories that were not their own. The work took many minutes in the freezing, driving rain, but soon the transformer was completely changed, dangerously circumventing failsafes, fuses and earthing and hooking directly into the grid. A jury rigged cable ran from the transformer box to the nearest communications tower.

The towers were frequently struck by lightning, but their conductors safely made sure the surging power was directed into the ground. Such safety features had been removed, and instead the lightning rod terminated a couple of feet above the rock. Copper cables linked it to the transformer, exposing delicate circuits to the mercy of the elements. It guided the power of nature into the very soul of Forlorn’s electrical systems.
Even then, a little blast of raw electricity would not damage the grid. It would be shut out by various intricate systems devised by the cunning priests to protect their Clockwork God. Even bypassing these safety features, a the most powerful strike might cause nothing more than the lights to flicker, a few terminals to go offline. For the spirits that powered Forlorn to take damage, it would take a blast of raw energy delivered at a time when the generator was already stretched to capacity. A powerful discharge at a crucial moment.

Lightning blasted through the sky.

Now the Other must return and wait. If this truly was His Divine Plan, the elements themselves would do the rest.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Myen'Tal on March 21, 2013, 09:04:53 PM
I wonder who that is mucking around out there ;D!? Nice update, I think your chapter two and three are well done, I like the action in between the weird guy's scenes, definitely gives some insight into how the guard function :).
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on March 25, 2013, 07:55:20 AM
This is chapter eight. I'm not particularly much more struck on it than the previous two, but the story ups the ante considerable in Chapter Nine.

I only agree with part of your concerns here Sheepz. Whilst I agree that chapters 7 & 8 may have a few issues it is my opinion that there is nothing wrong (apart from the cliched ending) with chapter 6.

I'm concerned the Chapter jumps too much, and I'm not sure the flashback scenes were entirely necessary but I wanted to break up the activity going on elsewhere and flesh out Fraiser a little. It's something to think of for the editing later.

The flashback scenes are well written and paced and really add an insight to Frasier's character. Due to the way you have written the previous chapters I believe the flashback scenes should be considered an essential part of the overall story and you have written it that well I think it could be a chapter on its own.
It's something to think of for the editing later. Of all the Chapters (2 aside, since it's a mess), this, the previous and the following one are all the ones I really didn't enjoy writing and am concerned about. I think they're weak in the scheme of things. But hey ho, we'll see.

Not sure how I like these next two chapters. They're a bit jumpy and contain a lot of it was stuff I never envisaged being in it, so it seems a bit shoehorned and the rest of the story - reading through - doesn't really suffer for large parts of it being missing. It seems to be words for the sake of words.

I'm sorry Sheepz but I agree with your sentiment here.  For me the first “shock” is the introduction of new characters this late in the story. For a moment it was very much like reading a different story. The slightly different pacing and the new characters add to the whole jumpy experience you speak of. Chapter 7 really suffers from the old Star Trek “red shirt” problem.  As soon as Mikkael is introduced the reader realises that he is a dead man. I hope you don't mind this feedback Sheepz but the biggest problem with chapters 7 & 8 is your perspective. In trying to keep one of the characters a secret you have presented yourself with a grammatical challenge. Chapter 7 is slightly better in this respect than 8 as the use of “other” just about works. But in one part you move to the 3rd person “their” after using the 1st person for most of the chapter and it just throws the reader off somehow.  The narrative voice is also, in my opinion, the only problem with chapter 8. The 3rd person “it” doesn't work when applied to a person I feel and if you could fix this you would have a brilliant addition to your story. If you are of a mind to I think you would be better off writing chapters 7 & 8 using the mysterious figure as the 1st person voice so as to remove your problem of referring to his/her gender.
I hate to add this after so much negativity but the word be-atch has such modern connotations that it doesn't seem to fit your story. Old fashioned be-atch would work just as well. 
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on March 25, 2013, 06:34:10 PM
Hey Alienscar,

Lets hit it off right. I value your feedback, it's critical and honest and it is a great help to me. If I disagree with something you say, I will say so. I'm really greatful you give it, and its all good stuff, rather than 'NEEDS MOAR GUNS'. So thanks.

The flashback scenes are well written and paced and really add an insight to Frasier's character. Due to the way you have written the previous chapters I believe the flashback scenes should be considered an essential part of the overall story and you have written it that well I think it could be a chapter on its own.

I was concerned the flashback scenes were lazy and a bit too pulpy. They were inserted to broaden Fraiser's character while breaking up the interactions of the Other.

I'm sorry Sheepz but I agree with your sentiment here.  For me the first “shock” is the introduction of new characters this late in the story. For a moment it was very much like reading a different story. The slightly different pacing and the new characters add to the whole jumpy experience you speak of. Chapter 7 really suffers from the old Star Trek “red shirt” problem.  As soon as Mikkael is introduced the reader realises that he is a dead man.

Don't be sorry! Especially not for agreeing with me. It does suffer from late induction and redshirt syndrome. The two other orderlies appear later on so I wanted to tie them in, but they're probably better being named extras rather than having portions of a chapter dedicated to them. 'The Other' could get about quite easily without them, so I think on the proper edit they will be completely removed. However, as that entails re-writing pretty much these two chapters I will leave it for now. But yes, thanks. I agree completely.

I hope you don't mind this feedback Sheepz but the biggest problem with chapters 7 & 8 is your perspective. In trying to keep one of the characters a secret you have presented yourself with a grammatical challenge. Chapter 7 is slightly better in this respect than 8 as the use of “other” just about works. But in one part you move to the 3rd person “their” after using the 1st person for most of the chapter and it just throws the reader off somehow.  The narrative voice is also, in my opinion, the only problem with chapter 8. The 3rd person “it” doesn't work when applied to a person I feel and if you could fix this you would have a brilliant addition to your story. If you are of a mind to I think you would be better off writing chapters 7 & 8 using the mysterious figure as the 1st person voice so as to remove your problem of referring to his/her gender.

It's brilliantly obvious now you put it like that. I was a little bit concerned the change of voice might not work out but I'm happy to give it a shot now. It will be changed with the removal of the adepts later.

I hate to add this after so much negativity but the word be-atch has such modern connotations that it doesn't seem to fit your story. Old fashioned “be-atch” would work just as well.

I think that's your swear filter. Or mine. Or both. I wrote the old fashioned term, the other is too gangsta ;). Check to see the other swearing in Chapter 7, and see if that registers as something that isn't about anphtamine parrots, or whatever the filter reccomends.

Cheers alienscar! All very helpful and very valueable. I'll be having a good look at them.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: GreaterGoodIreland on March 29, 2013, 09:47:14 AM
The flashbacks should have been their own chapter, possibly before the introduction of the bastard lurking around sabotaging things to ratchet up the tension a little.

The introduction of some Mechanicus grunts is good, despite their "late" introduction, though that is relative to how long the story is actually going to be.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on April 1, 2013, 10:53:41 AM
Thanks for the continuing feedback guys. I promise I will edit the entire document once it is finished. As it goes now, it's just a slog to get through. This is Chapter Nine. It is not the whole chapter on account of the wordcount and such. It was the second chapter to be written (the first being the Epilogue) but has been edited a bit since then for continuity.


Nine – Specimen Three

The heavy lead shutters rattled as gale-force winds howled slammed the mountainside. The breakfast table was more sparsely populated than before, with Rachel in a coma and Delaine, Borsch and Quinn absent. Marlowe had apparently overcome her earlier reservations and was digging into some scrambled eggs. It was Fraiser’s turn to push the food aimlessly around his golden plate while staring off into the middle-distance. The previous night’s dream had vaguely unsettled him. He mumbled a few names under his breath, testing them to see if they fit against the faded images of his former comrades.

“I trust you both slept well?” Enquired Prime Magos Solomon. He was not eating, but sat at the head of the table, as if chairing the breakfast somehow. Fraiser and Marlowe nodded and made appropriate thankful noises.

“Unfortunately, it seems the Confessor and our representatives from the administratum could not be in attendance,” he continued. The lack emotion or any kind of voice tone made it seem like he was leading a requiem. “I do hope they will be joining us for the experiment. It promises to be most fascinating.”

“Remind me again what we will be witnessing,” said Fraiser. “Just for clarification.”

The Captain had risen early and gone over the day’s itinerary with Sergeant Thorn, but the technical side still didn’t make a lot of sense. Solomon inclined his head to Quail, who barely stifled a yawn.

“Last night, myself and Techmagi Tvastar – assisted by the Bio-Adepts – moved Specimen Three from Level Two Containment in the laboratories to the main workspace visible from Control...”

It was not entirely true. Bio-Adept Mikkael was not present to assist, and a rudimentary search had failed to turn him up. Quail was not interested. Mikkael displayed neither promise nor devotion. His absence would be reprimanded severely once he came out from whichever rock he was hiding under.

“…Currently, the creature is sedated while we finalise our preparations and ensure all appropriate rights and libations have been made. When we are satisfied that we have the Omnissiah’s blessing and protection, we will begin the process to revive it from slumber. Once awakened, the Specimen will be subject to a number of external stimuli to test reactions and response, as well as monitor brain activity and cognition. The purpose of this is two-fold. Firstly, this will provide the Priesthood with a better understanding of the creature’s psychological make-up and resilience. Secondly, during the experiment, we will be paying particular attention to the type of pheromones the Specimen exudes, and comparing their chemical make-up with ones previously harvested. We will also be recording which pheromones are produced in relation to which stimuli, and recording new chemical compounds with a view to forming a complete pheromone map.”

He paused, allowing Fraiser and Marlowe to catch up. Their glassy expressions softened after several seconds of concentration.

“Such a map would greatly increase our understanding of Tyranid behavioural patterns. The results, of course, will be artificially reproduced and their effects tested on the lesser-beasts you saw in The Cage yesterday with particular attention to behaviour prediction and manipulation.”

“Sounds good,” said the Captain. Marlowe nodded before dabbing her chin with a silk napkin. A new voice cut in over the comm system.

“Honoured Lord Solomon, Lord Quail. Magos Biologis Crane and I have finished preparing the Specimen for treatment. With your permission, I will begin the revival process. It should take approximately twenty minutes before the Specimen is fully alert.”

“Proceed, Techpriest.” Replied Solomon into the thin air. “By His Will.”

“In His Name,” replied the echo.

Solomon and Quail rose as one. The Head of Research looked at his superior with a solemn expression. The Prime Magos clicked in binary, and Quail responded with a nod and a few more tapped syllables.

“If you have finished eating, we are eager to begin.” Said the Mechanicus overlord. The air was charged with mystery and a palpable anticipation which hungered at the promise of knowledge.

Captain Fraiser and Brigadier Marlowe brushed themselves off and made ready to leave.

*   *   *

They gathered in Control. The air was thick with incense, and light from dozens of candles danced around the room. An entire wall seemed to have moved to reveal huge armourglass panels. Fifty-feet below the windows, a gleaming laboratory was laid out.

In the centre stood a huge metal X frame, with an additional horizontal bolt to accommodate the lictor’s extra arms. The creature itself was held in place by adamantium restraining clasps that crackled with barely supressed energy. The giant upper forearms were kept restrained above the creature, their scything talons hovering menacingly overhead. A pair of limbs terminating in rending claws were pinned to the horizontal beam, exposing the thorax, while the legs were spread between two lower pillars. Finally, the creatures razor-tipped tail was pinned to the floor. The entire scene looked like a weird crucifixion.

It hung limply from its restraints, breathing shallowly, barely moving. Every now and again a feeder tendril flickered from its mouth, testing the air. The great bulbous head rolled from side to side drunkenly. Specimen Three looked almost pitiful.

“I estimate the creature will have regained full cognition and awareness within the next five minutes,” said Tvastar. He was tapping away at one of the many computer terminals that littered the room. Read-outs whirred happily from a nearby printer, updating every few seconds. Solomon paced slowly in front of the viewing window. A few feet away in the shadows, the ever silent Centurion Markus watched his Lord unblinkly, face impassive behind a bronze mask.

“You have done well,” said the Prime Magos finally.

The three bowed in acknowledgement. Quail slid onto a nearby chair and booted up his own terminal. Crane was monitoring a tall display unit monitoring the creature. He was reading bio-signs and occasionally tweaking the dials according to a dataslate in his free hand. Some servo skulls circled the room, relaying information and recording the experiment on their pict-casters.

The door opened and Borsch entered, followed by Quinn. The Band-Clerk was muttering apologies before he’d even got through the entrance. Fraiser knew that face. He’d seen it on many of his soldiers following a conflict. It was the face of a man who had consumed too much wine in celebration of still living, before waking up to realise he had battles left to fight. And also a headache.

“A thousand apologies,” said Borsch. “I was up late, attending to some documents.”

“You are a guest of the Cult Mechanicus,” replied Solomon smoothly, “No apologies are necessary. We seek to accommodate.”

Borsch nodded and put down his briefcase on an abandoned desk. Papers and documents tumbled onto the desk. With a little care, he managed to herd them into a rough pile.

“We are ready to commence.” Said Tvastar. The Techpriest had not left his chair, but was managing to glide it between banks of computers with the aide of a mechandrite.

“There is no one down there,” enquired Borsch, whose understanding of science required the experiment be performed by men in white coats who prodded things with a stick.

“No,” said Quail without looking up. “The laboratory below contains an unstable xenomorphic lifeform. Experimentation is conducted from this room. We maintain the highest standards of safety in this facility.”

The Band-Clerk nodded mutely.

“It is a shame the Confessor is not present,” continued the Biologis.

“I am sure he is merely making devotions,” replied Solomon. “Matters of Faith cannot be rushed. We shall demonstrate the fruit of our labours to him at his convenience.”

Fraiser knew that the Magi were probably relieved that Confessor Delaine was not present. That way he couldn’t tax anyone’s patience with his zealous rage. The Captain looked down at the monster below him. The Priest was not wrong, it was an abomination. A born killer, counted amongst the most dangerous organisms in the universe. It was awake now, waving its feeder tendrils futilely, shrieking like a screech-owl and thrashing against the restraints.

Solomon appeared next to him. The huge frame of the Mechanicus overlord leaned forward, staring through the glass with glowing orange eyes.

“Commence the experiment.”

*   *   *

Outside, the storm raged, slamming into the cliff-top fortress with the force of an angry god. Hurricane winds battered the groaning communications masts, which swayed in protest. Lightning tore across the sky, east to west and west to east, like the heavens themselves were duelling.

A clap of thunder rumbled through the complex, even down into the hermetically sealed control room.

“Fascinating,” said Solomon as the lictor screamed in agony. Electricity danced across it.

“Can you increase the voltage?”

Quail tapped away on his console and looked over to where Crane was monitoring the bio-signs. The other geneticist nodded.

The electricity stopped for a second, and the lictor fell back heavily onto the X frame. The creature had defecated onto the floor, and its thorax rose in heavy, desperate gasps. Fraiser was not entirely convinced this was scientific. It looked more like torture.

The electricity restarted a nano-second before the screams.

“What is the current psychological state of the Specimen?” asked the Prime Magos.

“Agitated,” replied Biologis Crane, “Receptors registering fear, pain, aggression are all showing high returns.”

Science, thought the Captain.Bloody marvellous.

“The secreted pheromones could be used to deter – rather than lead – lesser broods. Perhaps to keep them away from sensitive areas?”

“That would be my hypothesis,” said Quail. “We shall test it using the samples in the cage.”

“You have already found the chemical make-up for prey.” Stated Solomon over the shrieking lictor. “Later, I will be analysing your progress on the pheromone map.”

“As my Lord wills.”

Borsch was watching with horrified fascination. The blue lightning danced on the reflections of his eyes. Marlowe was deadpan, but there was a tiny flicker, Fraiser realised. He couldn’t tell if it were revulsion or satisfaction.

“Increase the voltage once more,” instructed the Prime Magos. “The Specimen must be tested to the brink. If the chemical secretions are incorrectly identified, I would theorise that the following broods could react in a volatile, unpredictable way.”

“Indeed,” replied Quail from his terminal, tapping away constantly. “If we merely isolated the response for anger and understated the chemical compounds for danger, we could increase aggression in the lesser-beasts. It would have precisely the opposite impact, drawing in peripheral members and making them frenzied.”

“It can take it,” said Crane, confidently. “The beasts’ distributed nervous system allows for higher pain tolerance, although the muscles are showing signs of involuntary convulsion and spasming.”

All looked to Tvastar. He glanced up.

“My Lords,” he said, “The machine spirit is already functioning to a high capacity. I am concerned that further power-drainage would jeopardize the grid.”

“Tech Magos,” said Quail levelly, “Prime Magos Solomon wishes to increase the voltage.”

“I understand,” replied the Techpriest, “But the machine-spirits are currently running thousands of individual processes, consuming enormous levels of…”

Markus took a step out of the shadows toward the beleaguered Magos. His eyes glowed fiery crimson behind his mask. Solomon raised a hand.

“I know you, Tech Magi Tvastar,” said Solomon quietly. “You have left a margin. You are conscientious in your devotions. You will increase the power.”

The giant Techpriest wavered for a moment. The deep shadows of his hood concealed his face entirely, but a small light flickered briefly where his eyes would be.
“As my Lord wills.”

The lighting in the room began to dim, and the noise from cooling fans almost drowned out the roars of the terrified alien.

“We are experiencing some power-shortage.” He said. “Nothing essential.”

“This is acceptable.” Said Solomon. He turned to Quail. “Again, Magos,”

The creature screamed.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on April 10, 2013, 07:18:54 AM
I been dithering about whether or not to leave feedback on this chapter for a few days now. I've read this chapter and some of the others about 5 times now just to see if I change my mind. Even as I write I don't know whether I'll click the post button. So far I've managed to not offend and I really hope the following continues that trend.
For me the chapter gets off to a jumpy start as the first sentence seems to either have a redundant word or words missing. That is, "....howled slammed" doesn't read smoothly. It's like you wrote the sentence and then changed your mind and forgot to delete some of the original sentence. I've done this myself when writing emails at work so know how easily it can happen. This jumpy start is for me reinforced by the sentence "Some servo skulls..". When I say it out loud it doesn't sound right and it might be better off as "A few". That might just be me though.
Something else that spoils the rhythm of the chapter is the sentence "The air was charged with mystery and a palpable...". The lines "who barely stifled a yawn", "Their glassy expressions..", "Sounds good", don't add up to the supposed mystery and leaves this reader a bit perplexed.
I don't want to pile on the misery but I also feel that in the first half of the chapter Solomon's character seems to have changed a bit and he seems a bit soft.
To finish on an upbeat tone I have to say everything after "Frasier knew that the Magi..." is brilliant. Gripping, disturbing and just really well written.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on April 13, 2013, 07:56:51 AM
Hey Alienscar,

Again, don't worry about the feedback. It's good to have it. I agree with your point about the skulls, and will look again at the mystery thing. I'll do some changes today inbetween shifts at work. The howled slammed bit is exactly what you said happened. I changed the sentence and didn't take enough out.

I do have to disagree with you a bit on Solomon's character. I'll look at it again to see if I can improve the tone, but I'm not entirely sure about how he's coming across as softer. I think I intentionally wrote him a bit more polite as the delegation had a rough day previously. Maybe I should try and make that clearer. I'll make the relevant changes to the other stuff today and have a good read through of what's going on.

In other news, my lack of posting is just down to an extensive holiday in Ireland without my datastick. So yeah, I haven't vanished.

Cheers for the input, don't hesitate to stick at it. You make some great critical points and it's good to hear from you. Here's the second part of chapter 9. The bit from "Somethings wrong!" was the second or third thing I ever wrote for this story (after the epilogue), so keep an eye out for wild personality changes.

*   *   *

Lightning crashed against the peak, hurling chunks of semi-molten rock high into the air to tumble the thousands of metres onto the plains below. It lanced out again and again, drawn by the magnetism of the metal communications array.

*   *   *

“Once more.” Instructed the Prime Magos.

He paced in front of the glass, occasionally glancing at nearby terminals. Information was being updated every second. The read-outs worked on overtime, and a thousand lights blinked off and on. Terminals hummed and cooling fans worked, creating tiny vortexes of loose paper and dust.

“Tvastar, increase the power.” Said Quail.

“The creature is close to exhaustion,” Crane confirmed, “Another one should do it. Heart rate is elevated to upper limit. I do not advise we continue after this.”

“Understood,” replied Solomon, “We shall have what we need.”

The delegation clustered closer to the glass, Borsch almost rubbing his nose against it. Marlowe checked her chronometer, glanced up, and then checked it again. Quinn tapped away on his dataslate, recording the experiment in minutes.

Tvastar stared at his read-out. The generator was dangerously stretched. He compensated by shutting down some lesser functions on the uninhabited levels. They could be restored later. It gave him a margin, albeit a small one. Fingers flying across the keyboard, he re-routed the energy back into the grid and whispered a prayer to the Omnissiah under his breath.

“It is done,” he said.

“Again, Biologis Quail!” said Solomon, his firey orange eyes burning bright. “We almost have it!”

Quail input the command.

*   *   *

It was inevitable.

The lightning smashed through the ruined sky, striking the top of the southern tower. Power surged down its length, throwing up sparks. The metal screamed and buckled in places, but the mast remained firm. Raw energy coursed it’s length, tearing downward in the blink of an eye.

In a normal situation, it would have come to the unyielding rock of the bastion and stopped. On another day, it would have been safely grounded in the earth. But the Other had done their work well. The copper cables danced and convulsed, directing the fury of the storm into the power grid.

In a spectacular blast of heat and light, the transformer box exploded. Burning metal flew in all directions, gouging rents in the communications uplink dish and severing aerials and cables. Unhindered, the energy continued down as fast as light, right into the heart of Forlorn.

*   *   *

Ruby red warning lights cut through Control, carrying a wave of terror with them.
 “Something’s wrong!” called Crane as the warning lights continued to flash. An alarm sounded nearby.

“There is a surge!” reported Tvastar tapping frantically at his console. “Exceeding capacity.”

There was a bang, just a regular, solid bang, like a firework exploding, and the entire room plunged into half darkness. Some terminals continued to operate, while some shut down with a heavy sigh halfway through processing. The red-emergency lights continued to illuminate Control.

“What happened?” demanded Fraiser.

”Surge”, replied Quail without looking up, furiously imputing commands into the terminal in front of him. “Something overloaded the grid. We’re completely dead.”

“What about security?” pressed the Guard Captain. “Can that thing escape?”

”Negative,” replied Tvastar, “vital systems are still operating on the backup generator, including containment for all Specimens.”

He glanced at his terminal, and his eyes refocused in confusion.

“Error 5149 - Surveillance Failure, all levels. Error 5150 - Motion Sensor Failure, all levels. Error 5151 - Auto-Turret Failure, all levels. Error 1003 - Communications Uplink Offline. Error 1007 - Communications Transponder Offline. Lights… heating… air-recyclers… everything has failed. By the Omnissiah, the machine spirits are angered.”

“Appease them,” growled Solomon.

“There’s no power!” replied the  Techpriest. “Primary generator has failed. The back-up generator is operating at full capacity just on containment and essential systems.”

He tapped some more.

“Maintenance is offline. It is a total grid failure. Essential systems remain uncompromised.”

“Throne preserve us,” whispered Marlowe, looking down through the armour glass into the laboratory. The others followed her gaze.

The lictor was still held by the giant machine, anchored in place by crackling restraints, but it no longer seemed aggressive or violent. Instead, the beast was completely motionless. Standing before it, tiny by comparison, was Confessor Delaine.

“What is he doing in there?” asked Borsch, confused.

”Delaine,” said Quail into a microphone. “You are in a dangerous, restricted area. Evacuate immediately.”

“How did he get in there?” questioned Crane, “It was sealed.”

“Surveillance is offline,” replied Tvastar. “I cannot access the logs. I am unable to discern the Confessor’s movements at this time.”

Prime Magos Solomon leaned forward for a better view. His hulking frame obscured an entire section of the armourglass.

”Centurion Markus, take two teams and secure the laboratory.”

The Skitari acknowledged with a clicking of binary.

Delaine stood stock still for several moments, staring straight at the lictor. It stared back calmly.

”Confessor,” tried Quail again. “You are in violation of sacred Mechanicus laws. The area contains an unstable xenomorph creature. Please withdraw until the situation is under control.”

The ecclesiarch stared vacantly up at the armourglass panels. Small, distant figures waved futilely at him. He moved to a control lectern nearby.

”Emperor’s Mercy,” shouted Crane to Tvastar, “Stop him! Lock him out.”

“I cannot comply,” replied the Techpriest. ”System has overloaded. The machine spirit has sustained damage.”

”This could be catastrophic,” said Solomon calmly.

“What’s going on!” asked Fraiser. “Talk to me Quail!”

“Confessor Delaine is manually overriding the containment field,” replied the Biologis without looking up. “He is attempting to free Specimen Three.”

“He can do that?” asked Band-Clerk Borsch incredulously. “How can he do that? Only a Tech Magi…”

“I assume at this juncture that Confessor Delaine is being influenced by forces outside of his knowledge and beyond our control,” assessed Solomon.

There was a blast on the hazardous warning alarm. Quinn tapped away on his dataslate, recording everything meticulously. The Tech-Adepts battled in vain.

“Emperor save us,” whispered Marlowe as the restraining clamps retracted.

*   *   *

Confessor Delaine stared blankly at the creature before him. For a moment, he could hardly reason that such a being was a servant of the Divine Emperor’s Will. It was hunched, broken and exhausted. The creature stank of sweat and rotten meat, mixed with an aura of rage and hate. It was a boiling, bubbling sensation that stung the back of the Ecclesiarch’s throat. It had an oily texture. It was repulsive.

All of this hit him in a single wave.

Then he remembered the words of the Voice. That the only way humanity could put an end to strife and overcome the multitude of its own tribulations was to become a single entity. One consciousness, united under the all-knowing God-Emperor of mankind. The Tyranids were merely his Holy Tool, unwitting pawns to His Divine Will.

Once they had consumed Holy Terra, the Emperor’s godlike power would break free and usurp the control of the Hive Mind. All humans that had been consumed by the Tyranids would live on in their evolving genetic legacy. Mankind would have transcended individual burdens and become united as one, free from the woes of the mortal flesh. Under the benevolent gaze of the Hive-Emperor, a single human consciousness would rule the galaxy as was intended. An end to the isolation of human individuality. The prison of confusion and fear that autonomy wore would be smashed. Humanity would truly be one. One with one another, and one with Him on Earth. How could he have not seen it earlier? It was so perfect.

Delaine barely screamed as the lictor tore him to shreds.

*   *   *

Borsch stumbled away from the viewing deck and pirouetted like a drunken ballerina, spraying chunky yellow vomit as he did so. Unable to tear her eyes away from the carnage, Brigadier Marlowe flinched in sympathy as the man was ripped apart. The Band-Clerk crashed to the floor, his jowls wobbling as he was wracked by enormous sobs, before being interrupted as a second round of stomach-lining sallied from his nose and mouth. Quinn had stopped writing and held the data-slate limply in his hands.

”It’s eating him,” said Fraiser in horror. Biologis Crane had gone pale.

Even as the room watched the visceral drama unfolding below them, the lictor’s skin began to shift, greasy black becoming mottled greys and blues as the chameleon blended to its surroundings.

”That’s interesting,” commented the Prime Magos with academic dispassion.   
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Myen'Tal on April 16, 2013, 08:49:02 PM
Well, I suppose we all knew this was going to happen at some point ;D. Solomon seems fine in this chapter, to me at least, I think he's at his best when he's pushing the demanding experiments.

Wonder what will happen next!?
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on April 25, 2013, 01:47:25 PM
And now for some good old fashioned fighting. I'll make the changes I promised later on this shift, but I thought I'd get this up first. It's a bit trashy and a bit pulpy, but I was watching classic action/horror films whilst drunk when I wrote it originally. So there you go. The story was always going to be a bit of a tongue in cheek homage to two of my favourite films/books - Jurassic Park (the novel) and Aliens (the film). Hope it gels well and isn't too jarring.


Ten – Lockdown

“The chamber is sealed,” reported Centurion Markus through the vox link. Overhead, a cluster of ceiling-mounted monitors displayed a rolling feed from twenty personal pict-recorders, each one overlaid with the vital signs of the Skitari to which it belonged.

Confessor Delaine had killed the two guards outside the doors, entered the laboratory and sealed himself in. Somewhere inside, standing stock still, was Specimen Three. It had completely faded from view, blending perfectly with the white walls and silver-grey machinery. Blue-grey smoke from the fried computer banks drifted lazily across the floor, adding to the confusion. Overloaded by the surge, the observation recorders were down, denying those in Control the ability to see remotely or with a variety of visual aids, such as heat sensitive infra-red.

Tvastar had managed to get one of the operational terminals to print out a damage report while he worked to bring some of the more crucial systems back online. It had been running for five minutes, churning out a seemingly endless list of offline or damaged processes. The Tech-Magi was not happy. The lingering smell of dried vomit hung in the air.

“Biologis Crane,” said the Prime Magos, “Would you be so kind as to escort Band-Clerk Borsch and the Archivist to their quarters? Our esteemed colleague from the administratium looks unwell.”

As ever with the Mechanicus executive, it was a statement phrased as a question. Crane nodded.

“As my Lord wills.”

Gently, he lifted Borsch to his feet and let him to the door, trailing Quinn behind them like a lost child. The exit slid shut behind them, and the remainder turned back to the pict-casters.

“Breach the entry and initiate combat spread omega five,” Instructed Solomon. “Remove hotshot packs and engage with light armament. No fire from the heavy bolters. Creature is to be recaptured alive and placed in secure containment.”   

In addition to the twenty Skitari, a pair of heavy-duty combat servitors had joined them, eight feet tall and built for melee. Finally, a Sentinel power-lifter moved up, dragging a large flatbed on caterpillar tracks. Lashed to the cargo-hauler was a huge box made of metal and reinforced ceramite. It looked like a giant humane mousetrap.

“You cannot be serious,” said Captain Fraiser. “They’ll be torn apart.”

The Mechanicus executive ignored him.

“Be advised, situation is fluid. Location of xenomorph unknown, but suspected to be still in the vicinity. That is all.”

He had said suspected, but what he meant was ‘definitely still inside the room, unless it can turn ethereal and walk through walls.’ The Prime Magos realised his mouth was very dry and found this to be disconcerting. His mouth was never dry, but maintained at optimum moisture by some internal processor. ‘This is irrational’, he mused, ‘I am exhibiting signs of nervousness’. The flesh was indeed weak.

“Understood,” replied the distant voice of Centurion Markus. The Skitari moved to follow Solomon’s orders, removing their hotshot attachments and tweaking their hellguns. A pair sporting suspensor mounted heavy bolters moved to the back, unfastening their bulky ammo belts as they did so. The two with flamers moved forward, ignition torches glowing blue.

Overhead, twenty monitors focused on the door, bobbing slightly as the cyborgs they were attached to repositioned. There was a blinding flash as the melta-charge went off, temporarily knocking out all the screens in a wall of white light. From the top of the viewing deck, the Prime Magos watched as the lab doors flowed apart like candle wax and the Skitari pointmen entered the room.

“Negative contact,” reported one, standing in the doorway and scanning the room with his hand held device. “Auspex read-out normal.”

“Nothing on thermals,” said one of the pointmen, a ruby lens slid down over his left eye.

“Spread out and secure,” replied the Centurion as he strode through the door. He stepped over the bloody rags that marked Delaine’s final resting place. There was nothing left of the Confessor but his shredded robes, a few scattered rosary beads on a snapped chain, and a single shoe, still with a foot in it.

 “Switch to thermal imaging. Check your spacing. Harassing fire only.”

More and more Skitari moved in. Above them, the Imperial Guard captain leaned closer and closer to the glass, straining to see anything. A flicker of movement, a displaced shadow, a falling drop of saliva. There was nothing. Tense seconds ticked by as the Skitari glided between machinery, hellguns against shoulders.

“Clear,” reported one.

“Impossible,” spat Solomon, “It’s in there. What about the auspex?”

“Negative, my lord,” replied one of the soldiers. “Too much interference. There is EMP charge still present from the surge. Multiple overlapping bio-signs.”

“Prime Magos,” Interrupted another, “I believe I have found an exit point.”

All the heads in the control room moved to focus on the Skitari’s shoulder camera. It was pointed directly at a ventilation grate, six feet off the floor. The wire mesh had been torn open. The Mechanicus soldier moved forward and shone the beam of his flashlight down the length of the shaft. The sickly finger of light waned in the long darkness. There was nowhere else it could have gone.

“If it has gotten in there, it could be anywhere by now,” muttered Marlowe, straightening her PDF uniform and fidgeting with the holster of her pistol.

“It is the only place…” began Fraiser. He was wrong.

With a scream of protesting metal, one of the med-labs huge hanging light fixtures tore loose from the ceiling and plummeted to the ground. Before anyone could react, it landed with a sickening crunch on two of the Mechanicus infantry, crushing them to paste and ringing like a cathedral bell. In the enclosed space, the noise was deafening. One of the unfortunate troopers held the squad’s incinerator, and the weight of the debris ruptured the unit’s promethium canister and sent clear sticky gel splattering in all directions. The fuel ignited instantly, bathing the laboratory in fire and sending another man stumbling drunkenly as the flames enveloped him.

Two of the overhead monitors went black, the bio-readings signifying life-flat lining immediately. What had previously been a flashing zig-zag representing a pulse had became a horizontal line, ominously still. Another camera was enveloped entirely in fire, the howls of the immolated soldier ringing down the vox link. Distorted by the channel, the screams seemed otherworldly, running like ice down the spine. His own biosigns raced in terror for a few seconds, before going silent.

“Contact!” Called the Centurion, “Roof level.”

The remaining Skitari began to move with a purpose, spreading out and aiming skyward. In the control room, Captain Fraiser contorted his body, straining for a view of the lab ceiling. For a second, he thought he saw something move impossibly fast, shadowing one of the emergency lights.

“I don’t see it!” Called another trooper, “Confirm position?”

At that moment, the crushed soldier’s reserve promethium canisters ignited in a fireball that shook the ground and threw furniture across the lab. One Skitari was pinned beneath an upturned metal table, struggling to free himself. A second was crushed against the wall by a toppling computer stack without even enough time to scream. Bright blood sprayed almost artistically across the grey concrete. Two more were caught in the backwash, one badly, the hungry flames consuming him even as his squadmate managed to put himself out.

Overhead, more monitors went dark. The rest of the pict recordings danced crazily as the soldiers reacted to the situation, the images were grainy, clouded by acrid black smoke and crackling blue electricity. Nervous and confused faces swept past, scanning the ceiling. Everything was bathed in a hellish orange glow. The view down from Control was chaotic, most of the room obscured by soot and billowing plumes. Men struggled to douse out their burning squadmate. Solomon knew it would be in vain. The man’s weak flesh had absorbed too much damage. It was chaos.

“Damn it all!” shouted Quail, swiping a microphone, “In the Omnissiah’s name, fire control! There is valuable data in that room.”

“Markus, comply,” said Solomon, his mechandrites flexing like a nervous twitch. Unquestioningly, the Centurion allocated three nearby soldiers to sling their weapons and grab fire suppression units. Across the room, chemicals touched off in the heat in a secondary explosion that showered glass in all directions and bounced off the walls like razorhail. No one was seriously injured, but everyone flinched.

From the top, the room was almost entirely concealed in thick black clouds, with only the sinister glow of flames and the blinking of the Skitari suit-lamps indicating the carnage unfolding below. The tension was palpable.

”Four,” said the Prime Magos dispassionately, looking at the blacked out viewing screens. “Five,” he corrected, as the previously flaming one expired on the floor in considerable agony.

”They’re getting slaughtered,” said Marlowe angrily. “Pull them out!”

Quail looked at Solomon nervously, his hands still clutching the thin microphone. The Prime Magos ignored her comments, his face impassive.

The entire debacle could not have lasted more than ten seconds. Eight point six, if you were Prime Magos Solomon.

A huge shadow skittered across the window, causing Fraiser to leap back with a cry.

”Contact, left!” someone called. Ruby laserfire pierced the smog. It was disciplined but dancing wildly in all directions, as if firing at something incomprehensibly fast. Lost in the smoke, the Centurion bellowed orders at his squad. There was a scream, and another of the overheads went black. The monitor next to it registered a blur of darkness and movement, before that too went offline.

“Seven,” said Quail, his hands trembling.

As swiftly as it had come, the creature disappeared again.

“There’s too much heat,” someone complained, “I’m blind.”

“Switch to normal mode,” said Markus calmly, lenses sliding away from his eyes and swapping out with others. “Servitors on me.”

The eight-foot combat behemoths shambled into the carnage. Silence reigned for a few moments.

The next strike was silent and completely unexpected. An isolated Skitari providing overwatch was impaled on a two-meter talon. Immediately following the first, another erupted from his chest and in the blink of an eye the soldier was torn in half before he realized what was happening. Then entire attack lasted less than a second and was captured on Markus’ pict-transmitter. Lasfire followed the beast as it leapt back into the smoke. From somewhere in the shifting, cloying shadows, the monster screeched in defiance of its hunters. A primordial chill ran down Fraiser’s back.

“Live fire,” said Solomon with a heavy sigh. “Engage and destroy.”

The Skitari were only too happy to comply, strapping their hotshot packs into place. The heavy bolters re-attached their ammunition belts.

“Regroup” instructed Markus. “Line formation. Watch your spacing. Keep an eye on the ceiling.”

While the soldiers reformed, the servitors shambled forward into the gloomy laboratory to try and flush the creature out. The flames were dying down, casting long shadows up the walls. In the red glow of the emergency lighting, the room looked strange and the light played havoc on the eyes. Pockets of smoke still clouded most of the interior. There was something about the far wall that drew the Guard Captain’s attention. The way the shadows fell just didn’t look right. Something moved.

”Contact right!” he warned, a fraction of a second too late. The Lictor burst from behind a stack of crates and equipment, scattering boxes into the Mechanicus soldiery as they tried to react. As it bounded across an open space, long sinuous cords whipped out, wrapping around the Centurion and hauling him off his feet. The man writhed as the fleshhooks bit into his armour, bionics and skin. He was dragged across the floor with considerable speed, firing his hellgun in defiance as he ploughed toward oblivion. The Skitari leader disappeared behind a row of terminals. There was the sound of tearing metal and a wet squelch. A single shrill cry rose in anguish before being abruptly cut off. Markus’ monitor turned black.

“Opening fire!” reported one of the specialist troopers. Heavy bolter rounds tore through the laboratory, shattering the terminals. A heartbeat later, the second heavy bolter opened up, laying down a wall of suppressive fire.

“Who’s firing!” called the Biologis into his microphone, “Three-Twenty-Six, that is expensive, nigh irreplaceable technology. Cease fire immediately!”

The panicked Skitari ignored him. On the overhead monitors, intersecting lines of fire roared amber in the pict casters.

“Where’s Markus?” Shouted one to another, taking him by the shoulder and seeming to yell directly into the video feed. “Where’s the Centurion?”

In the background, the heavy bolters paused briefly, tracking for a target. A trooper on the right screamed in horror as he was wrenched off his feet and into the swirling smoke. His monitor recorded a mass of alien horror before cutting out.

“Ten! Emperor on Earth!”

Biologis Quail looked anxiously at the Prime Magos. Solomon’s eyes narrowed in anger.

“Withdraw,” He said finally. The remaining Skitari closed formation and backed up towards the door, stepping through the breach. The heavies came next, fingers tightly on the trigger, pulverizing anything in view. The Servitors stomped after them, ducking to bring their massive frames under the top of the ring of molten metal left by the melta-charge.

“Powerlifter,” he voxed. “Use the cage to steal that breach.”

The Sentinel moved to comply, Skitari stepping out of the way as it hauled the giant ceramite and metal contraption to cover the doors. A welding torch fired up, and the remaining monitors were bathed in flickering blue.

“We are in lockdown?” He asked Tvastar.

“Correct,” replied the Tech-Magos without looking up from his terminal. Sparks flew from a socket on the wall as the devotee of the Machine Cult struggled to repair damaged systems. “Lockdown initiates automatically in event of a power-failure.”

“So it can’t get far,” concluded Solomon, seeming a little more appeased. He did not seem concerned by the loss of so many soldiers.

“What about the ducts?” asked Marlowe, managing to keep an edge of panic out of her voice.

“All ventilation shafts, access tunnels and waste conduits seal during lockdown,” said Tvastar, “To prevent the transferral of any airborne hazardous material should a leak occur. It has limited movement, restricted to level one. The negative side is that we only have enough oxygen for twelve hours.”

“We’re sealed in? With that… …that thing?” the brigadier said in stark disbelief.

“Correct,” replied the Tech Magos. “Forlorn is compartmentalised for security. A lockdown seals each cluster and each level to prevent transference of hazardous materials. I am working to rectify the problem now. Until I have brought our generator and backup systems online, we shall have limited or restricted access to most of the facility. As will Specimen Three.”

”Twelve hours will be sufficient to recapture the creature,” said Quail earnestly, a glimmer of hope working its way into his voice. Prime Magos Solomon inclined his head in agreement.

“I thought you were going to destroy it?” said Fraiser, tearing himself away from the viewing window.

“That remains to be seen,” replied Solomon, “It would be preferable if such a valuable creature could be taken alive. Destroying it would end our work here until a replacement could be found.”

”Can we access the hanger?” Asked Marlowe, “Evacuate the wounded and civilians?”

“Negative,” replied Tvastar. “The hanger bay is sealed off to us.”

The brigadier erupted in anger. As she raged and the Mechanicus staff argued back or attempted to placate her, Fraiser let out a heavy sigh and glanced back at the viewing platform.

The lictor was hanging upside down from the ceiling. Its face was pressed against the window, and its sole eye burned with inhuman malevolence. It was starting directly at the Captain. Feeder tendrils slapped against the glass, leaving slippery trails of saliva.

It hung there for just a fraction of a second, before disappearing.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on April 30, 2013, 11:13:26 AM
I do have to disagree with you a bit on Solomon's character. I'll look at it again to see if I can improve the tone, but I'm not entirely sure about how he's coming across as softer. I think I intentionally wrote him a bit more polite as the delegation had a rough day previously. Maybe I should try and make that clearer.

I thought you might disagree Sheepz as I am fairly sure that most people reading this will have different idea's regarding Solomon's character. I haven't got a lot of time spare at the moment but here is a quick bit of background for why I think Solomon appears softer than he should.

Quote from: Artemis
Permit us to dispense with the pleasantries, Biologis.” Replied the other,”
"There are only fifteen souls assembled. Explain.”
Solomon did not smile. Solomon never smiled. It was not becoming of an Adeptus Mechanicus Prime Magos.
"You are too human, Quail.”
"That's interesting,” commented the Prime Magos with academic dispassion.

It's not everything and obviously everybody’s interpretation of a character will be different but from the examples above I hope you can see why I think Solomon seems a bit softer in the first half of chapter 9. My feeling, derived from your description of Solomon so far, is of a person that wouldn’t make allowances for someone suffering from a hangover. His apologetic nature just doesn’t seem right to me. So long as you are happy with the way you have written it that is all that counts really.

I’ve been a bit slack with my feedback of late Sheepz so now I have a bit more time I thought I would catch up.
The second half of chapter nine and all of 10 is brilliant. Your characterisation, world building & story telling is just excellent. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again your writing is at its best when you are describing the world of Forlorn and when you are writing actions scenes or moving the plot forward and these chapters really pile on the suspense and drama. I have to say Sheepz that I am reading Revenge Of The Dwarves, A Clash Of Kings & The Walking Dead trade paperbacks at the moment and a lot of the time your story is my second favourite reading matter.
Watt’s in a word? Plainly I should have written “what’s” in the first sentence but I just want to make a point. The words a writer uses are just as important as the way in which they are used. Words are more than just the letters that they are made of. So, even though “watt’s” sounds the same as the word I should have used some people will think about electricity and some will think about the name James when they read it whilst other people might not even notice. For those that do notice the use of the wrong word whatever I was trying to say will have lost a bit of impact because the readers mind has wandered. This kind of mistake is a malapropism or catachresis (not sure which to be honest). For me malapropisms are worse than spelling mistakes because as long as all the correct letters have been used most spelling mistakes are easily ignored when reading but the use of the wrong word can drastically alter the pace, feel and meaning of a sentence and just generally disrupt the whole immersive aspect that a good story induces. My point? Whilst you haven’t made many spelling mistakes I’ve noticed over 20 occurrences of instances where the wrong word has been used and if/when you edit the story you change these it will really make a difference to the flow of the story. There are also instances of missing words or additional unnecessary words that interrupt the reader’s concentration.
I don’t know what you, or anybody else who is reading this for that matter, thinks but I think a writer should stick to one measuring system when referring to heights or weights. It is only a small matter but you change between metric and imperial measurements quite a bit and I personally find it a bit disconcerting. On the subject of weights the expression “like a ton of bricks” has been around a lot longer than metrification and I personally don’t think it should be written as “a tonne of bricks”. That may just be my personal preference though so it would be nice to know what other people think.
I know you have said that you have been inspired by Alien and Jurassic Park but I must say that as I was reading chapters 9 & 10 I thought that it was very reminiscent of The Thing and I can’t help thinking that your story will have a very similar ending. That is, everybody must die to stop the danger spreading to a wider environment. This is not a criticism though Sheepz as The Thing has got to be one of the finest thrillers ever written.
I was thinking of making a point about the use of mixed metaphors but have decided not to as I think I have probably said more than enough already.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on July 29, 2013, 11:11:09 AM

I now work 4 jobs and have a plethora of other responsibilities, so I got dragged screaming into the void. I'm trying to get back on track, although I'm not totally down with Chapter 11 it feels good to have something written. The story is at least half-way now, and turned out a lot bigger than I expected.

Now you highlight it and I have a bit of time. I agree about Solomon. I'll toughen him up a bit in an edit sometime. I hope he hasn't lost his edge here, either.

'I’ve noticed over 20 occurrences of instances where the wrong word has been used and if/when you edit the story you change these it will really make a difference to the flow of the story. There are also instances of missing words or additional unnecessary words that interrupt the reader’s concentration.'

I apologise. I'll have a look myself, but if you have any time or energy to dig them up, I'll look at them again. In future, I really don't mind if you drag up things as they go. They might seem like little quibbles to you that you don't want to mention, but as I've said in the past, it's great having another pair of eyes and some substative feedback. I really value your contributions and I'm sorry I haven't looked at this for so long.

"I don’t know what you, or anybody else who is reading this for that matter, thinks but I think a writer should stick to one measuring system when referring to heights or weights"

I agree. In future I shall endeavour to use one system. Until the grand ole massive re-edit stage, there may be still a bit of fluxuation, but I'll try to stick to metric. I use metric a lot of scenarios but Imperial in the pub (pints, halfs ect) and Imperial at GW or when measuring rooms and stuff (feet, inches) so I have a really weird mixed up system. I'll try and straighten it out to metric because it seems more precise and 40Kish than feet, inches and tons. The ton/tonne of bricks thing was more a coloquialism. But it is one that isn't necessary and can be substituted.

The Thing! Yes, I get that actually. Maybe it's a subconcious acknowledgement. Some of the scenes - labs, containment - were inspired by Jurassic Park - book, not film, I guess - whereas the fight scene was a lot more Aliens vs Colonial Marines. Especially the cheeky 'Where's the Sarge?!' reference that might be a bit too OOT.

Anyway, enough blather. As mentioned, comments, criticism and questions are welcome and appreciated. As well as clarifications if I get my science in a mess. And also just post anyway, because of the way the double posting mechanic works.

Eleven – Emergency Protocol

It had been one-hour, seventeen standard Shelter minutes since containment was breached and lockdown initiated.

“Mea Culpa, Prime Magos.” Said Quail, bowing low.

“With respect, My Lord,” added Tvastar as he ran through the endless damage reports, “This is a major systems malfunction. I do not know how Confessor Delaine managed to achieve such a catastrophic result.”

Solomon’s eyes flared.

It had been a bad day for Prime Magos Solomon. The final butcher’s bill from the laboratory was ten terminated and another six wounded. They were mainly chemical burns, light shrapnel injuries, and a failure by one solider to account for residual EMP charge that had damaged his circuitry. Then there was a dead Ecclesiarchal priest which was bound to cause awkward questions.

Half the facility was completely offline, and the other half was battling to keep it operational. The Logic Engine had initiated lockdown, sealing off entire sections of Forlorn and would being ‘Emergency Protocol’ if power was not restored within twelve hours. Containment was breached and there was now the very real possibility of a highly intelligent and aggressive Tyranid vanguard organism on the loose.

To compound this, the catalogue of failures by his subordinates had humiliated the Priesthood and called the Divine Mission into question. Just as Magos Biologis Quail’s research had developed promise, as soon as the Prime Magos had taken a direct interest, it had all come crashing down.

“Your apologies do not annul your responsibility, Magos Biologis. This difficult situation has been brought upon us as judgement for your complacency. Save your pleas for the Omnissiah.”

“Prime Magos!” Breathed Quail nervously, “If I could…”

“You cannot. You have proven that already. I have no use for your protestations, Quail. You will do what must be done.”

“My Lords,” said Tvastar, daring to enter the conversation, “With the generator offline, we have limited power. I cannot begin to repair the damage.”

“We will accommodate you, Enginseer,” replied Solomon, his fiery eyes never leaving Quail, “The Magos Biologis will provide a solution.”

Quail nodded. Fraiser and Marlowe watched on from the shadows, completely adrift in an alien sea of terrible possibilities horrifying consequences. The door hissed open and Crane returned silently from his errand. It did not take a psychologist to assess the current atmosphere in Control. He crossed the room and sat in a chair, staring at a blank monitor with his fingers steepled.

Biologis Quail took a deep breath. He turned to Tvastar.

“Correlate damage reports and advise necessary prerequisites to restoring key systems, re-capturing Specimen Three and lifting lockdown.”

“My lord,” the Tech Magi replied, “It is a total grid failure. Without the primary generator, I cannot undo the damage we have sustained. We must manually restart the generator.”

The words hung heavy in the air.

“But,” he continued, “Such a task means leaving Control.”

There was an unspoken implication.

“Failure to act could have catastrophic consequences.”

“The creature,” said Fraiser, “It can’t leave the laboratory…”

“Right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if it had escaped, travelled all the way to Lothis and was masquerading as the Bishop of Haalm,” cursed Marlowe. Watching Specimen Three take apart two squads of elite Mechanicus infantry had left her doubting the viability of any of Tvastar’s security protocols.

“That is unlikely,” said the Prime Magos without a trace of humour, “But the sentiment is not inaccurate. We must ascertain the location of Specimen Three before we proceed.”

The lictor had faded into the grey and white laboratory like a chameleon. Even if it were still in the wreckage, it was not moving and ergo completely invisible to most conventional detection means currently at the disposal of Forlorn’s remaining staff.

“Pict-casters are offline.” Said Tvastar, not afraid to state the obvious.

“Indeed, and without power they cannot be restored,” replied his superior.

“Sounds like a no-win situation,” Offered Marlowe sourly.

“Not entirely,” Solomon continued, “There is a way the pict-casters can be brought online temporarily in a specific local cluster. A single camera does not require vast quantities of power to operate. Were we to isolate a recorder from the rest of the surveillance network, it is possible that we could power it from this room.”

He paused.

“Biologis Quail, you will interface with the Surveillance Directory for this laboratory, isolate a feed and power it up using your internal processor. You will determine the presence of the Specimen in the room below.”

“My Lord,” whispered Crane, “It is dangerous to interface with damaged spirits, more so to power them from one’s own processor. To share a heart with an injured machine? The mere connection with the damaged technology almost killed Lord Quail yesterday.”

The Prime Magos gave him a cold, emotionless stare.

“Then let us hope he is better prepared this time,”

All eyes turned to Quail, but there was no room to argue. This was his responsibility, and to his Lord Solomon, it was also his penance. With heavy footsteps, Quail approached the terminal. Its carapace was dark, with not a single neon glow to signify life. He whispered a prayer to the Omnissiah, feeling their eyes on his back. Then he interfaced.

*   *   *

For a moment, everything around him was dark. The console was completely dead, and it gave the impression that he was standing in a giant, empty void. No roof, no floor, no walls, but an eternity of night stretching in all directions. To power the console, he would have to share some of his own energy. The internal processor that maintained the rhythm of his body and powered his augmetics would give life to the pict-caster’s Machine Spirit. Reluctantly, he began to re-rout power, first from his limbs, then from his vital organs. He felt his heart rate elevate slightly as fear surged through him. His internal processor attempted to correct it, with limited success.

There was a blinding flash of white light as the machine powered up. It focused the world into a single tunnel. At the very centre, he hazily glimpsed the ruined laboratory, as if through a crystal ball.

Instantly, the world around him changed to amber and red. Feeds from the data streams filled the void with numbers and letters, reeling off damage reports. The Machine Spirit was in agony, and Quail’s disembodied soul heard himself scream in pain. It was otherworldly and distant. Here, inside the Surveillance Directory, was ten thousand times ten thousand miles away from his body.

His consciousness was surrounded by glowing circuitry, crimson stabs of pain lancing into his mind as the Machine struggled to cope with the lack of power. The terrified feeling of separation from its core processor. He sensed its hurt, fear, and anger. The injured rage of the God within the Machine.

*   *   *

“He is losing,” said Tvastar.

Quail’s body shuddered. Light spilt from his eyes and mouth.

“Do something!” said Marlowe aghast. “Techpriest, you have to help him.”

“He is beyond my reach,” said the Magi in monotone. Tvastar had a good heart. A great heart, in fact, one of the best currently available to Initiates of his rank. He felt sorry for Quail, he just couldn’t articulate it. Deep in his electric soul, the Techpriest mourned.

“Lord Quail is capable,” said Biologis Crane with a certainty he did not feel. “We must trust his ability and plead the grace of the Omnissiah.”

*   *   *

Quail’s consciousness battled toward the end of the tunnel. Every second brought nausea and pain. The distance was immeasurable, and the end seemed a lifetime away. Greedy systems grasped at him, throwing numbers at his ethereal consciousness, attempting to steal away the precious life that powered his mortal body. Databanks spilled their contents, threatening to drive him mad as the information poured into his mind at the speed of light. Maddened security procedures tried to restrain him, and every one he shut down with the force of his will. Grimly, Quail pressed on.

*   *   *

Above his protesting frame, a single monitor blinked on and shut down repeatedly as the Biologis forced his way towards the pict-caster’s unblinking lens. Finally, it powered up, quivering and flickering. Every eye in the Control room watched the only visible sign of Quail’s spiritual struggle. Words appeared on the screen.




A tense minute passed. The shuddering body of Quail went still, before slumping forward. The overhead monitor flatlined and went dark. There was a stunned silence.

“He is dead then?” asked Fraiser finally.

Solomon remained motionless. Biologis Crane rose slowly to approach the body. He passed Marlowe, whose eyes never left Quail. Her face was made of stone.

“Disconnect him, Tvastar,” said Crane as he grasped Quail’s limp shoulders. “It’s over.”

“Patience.” Instructed the Prime Magos. His eyes were fixed on the prone form of his subordinate.

“Do not touch him.”

The monitor flickered back to life. It filled with random numbers and letters against a blue screen, scrolling for what seemed like an age.

“Magos Biologis Quail,” said Solomon. “Focus. We are waiting.”

A moment passed.

“I apologise, my Lord.” replied the vox system.

Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on July 29, 2013, 04:08:38 PM
Welcome back Sheepz. I haven't read the new chapter yet but thought I would reply in case you had any more of the story to post.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on July 29, 2013, 04:15:11 PM
Hey! You're still around. Cheers! Here's the rest of the chapter.

*   *   *

“Now Infra-red.”

The overhead monitor changed to overlapping colours, ranging from yellow-white where small fires still glowed, to dark blues and blacks showing the cold metal workstations and ceramite walls.

Fraiser squinted at the screen.

“Aren’t they cold blooded?” He asked.

“Not always,” replied Crane. “Specimen Three appears to be biologically adaptive.”

“It’s just, you know…”

“Because they have a somewhat reptilian visage?”

“I guess,” shrugged the Captain. “I’ve never really thought about it. I just assumed…”

His voice trailed off.

“Thermobiology is - as far as we are aware - environmentally dependent. The Tyranid cadavers recovered from Pandora indicate that they thrived in an environment incremental to most life due to the close proximity of the system’s binary stars. In fact, the level of thermoregulation far exceeded that of even naturally evolving indigenous species. Conversely, the reports from Gracia stated that up to fifty-five percent of the initial invasion force died from exposure within one axial cycle.”

“Gracia being an ice-world.” Mused the Captain. “Meaning they are cold blooded?”

“No,” said the Biologis with a hint of frustration. “Meaning they do not always adapt. These creatures are bio-engineered lifeforms. They are a miracle of evolution. We cannot even begin to replicate that level of genetic perfection. On Statius, which is tidally-locked, the Tyranids were able to thrive in both the hot-zone and frozen environments without any degree of impedance.”

He paused.

“Look at Genestealers, for example. They can survive for limited periods in vacuum. Broad horizons of heat and cold. They can willingly enter torpor for extended periods of time. Tyranid physiology is a marvel. And that is why we study them.”

“So Gracia was an anomaly?” asked the Captain, who was unwilling to let a good point go so easily.

“Yes and no.” Replied Crane. “Tyranids have been found succumbing to extremes of temperature in various conflicts. It is not a frequent occurrence, but it is not without precedent. Sometimes nature makes mistakes.”

At that moment, the Prime Magos - who was not following the interesting scientific divergence - interrupted.

“Quail. Grid 4 by 5.5. Magnify seventy-five percent.”

The camera moved to refocus on a corner of the laboratory, five feet up the wall. The picture was mottled blues and blacks, but there was something unnatural about the way the colours fell.

“I believe this to be Specimen Three.” Said Quail’s disembodied voice.

“It could be,” admitted Crane.

“Shouldn’t it be yellow, then?” Asked Fraiser, barrelling back into a conversation which was already out of his depth.

“Specimen Three has degrees of control over thermobiology, adaptive camouflage and cardiac rhythm,” replied Crane. “In layman’s terms, it can exert control over its core temperature, skin texture and colour, and heartbeat. An invisible predator.”

“I concur with Magos Biologis Quail. I am sixty-nine percent certain that is the Specimen,” continued Solomon as if no discussion had taken place. He was actually 68.777  - reoccurring - sure that the lictor was in the room. He had rounded up for Captain Fraiser’s benefit. Fraiser, on the other hand, treated words like ‘certain’ as black and white. Something was either definite or unknown.

“Can’t we check for a heartbeat?” Asked the Guardsman.

“That subroutine is slaved to the motion-sensor, not the pict-recorder.” Said Tvastar. “It would need to interface with a member of the Priesthood to become operational, in the manner in which Lord Quail has demonstrated.”

“Magos Biologis Crane,” said Solomon. “You will interface with the motion sensor and assuage the Captain’s fears.”

Crane’s eyes bulged in terror. He looked at the Motion Sensor terminal as if it were the anthropomorphic representation of Death.

“That won’t be necessary,” interrupted Captain Fraiser earnestly. “I defer to your judgement, Prime Magos. I would not wish to burden Doctor Crane.”

“Magos Biologis Crane, Captain.”

“Magos Biolgois Crane, my apologies.”

Satisfied, Solomon turned his attention to Quail’s inert form.

“Magos Biologis Quail. Return to us.”

The monitor blinked and died. A second or two later, the Biologis on the floor let out a low groan. His uplink mechandrite withdrew from the terminal.

“Do not trouble yourself with movement until the internal processor has stabilised your body. There will be some disorientation.”

Quail coughed twice and rolled onto his back. His eyes were glassy and unfocused. Jerkily, hands moved to caress his temples.

“All that remains now is to re-activate the Primary Generator,” continued Solomon with a blatant disregard for Quail’s well-being. “A member of the Order will have to go to the generatorium and restart it manually.”

“That thing could be out there,” said Marlowe, moving closer to Fraiser to back him up.

“Hypothetically,” countered Solomon, turning his bulk towards the two uninitiated. How they taxed his patience with their false caution and palpable ignorance!

Both of them would touch a wall marked with ‘wet paint’ signs, just out of curiosity. Conversely, they would follow suicidal orders to the letter if issued by a superior officer. Humans, he mused, were a curious mix of wilful ignorance and blind obedience. Present them with a statistical probability based off centuries of accumulated knowledge granted to them freely by one of the finest minds in the entire universe, and they counter and question! Human nature was a terrible and unpredictable impediment to progress.
 “However, I do not believe it statistically probable. It is most likely that Magos Biologis Quail is correct in his analysis that the distribution of heat patterns indicate the presence of Specimen Three.”

They looked unconvinced. He could ill afford any more of their negative opinions.

“I’ll go,” said Fraiser. “I’ll start the generator.”

“I cannot let you do that, Captain. The generatorium is one of our most holy sanctums. Even were you to gain access, the intricacies of the machine would be lost on you. It must be a member of the Order.”

Tech Magos Tvastar rose, his monotone voice echoing around the room.

“I shall go, Prime Magos.”

“Omnissiah Bless and Keep You, Techpriest,” replied Solomon. “I cannot accede to that request either. Without your ministrations, the damage could be irreparable.”

And just like that, there was only one remaining candidate. Magos Biologis Crane rose wordlessly.

“I would be honoured, Prime Magos,” he said wearily.

“It is decided.” Said Solomon, “Biologis Crane will egress to the generatorium and restart the fuel pump, bringing the primary power generator online.” He turned to Crane.

“Be sure to perform all the rites and ordinances as appropriate. The Omnissiah has suffered a great defilement this day. More blasphemy would be intolerable.”

The geneticist nodded mutely.

“You will take one Fire-Team of Skitari in escort, and will use the stairwell on access route D. This is the path of least resistance. The stairwell should permit the greatest travel distance before you encounter any sealed doors.”

Tech Magi Tvastar took over.

“Regrettably, you will have to take breaching equipment. The Logic Engine will not broker any attempts to over-ride the locking mechanisms. Such an attempt may trigger the Emergency Protocol. I cannot perform any actions from this room that will aid you, but I shall instruct you further once you have reached the generatorium.”

“This ‘Emergency Protocol’ you are so fond of…” asked Fraiser, “what exactly is it? It seems pertinent now.”

There was an awkward silence.

“Given that we have limited time,” groaned Quail from under a desk, “I believe the Captain should be enlightened.”

Solomon nodded reluctantly.

“It is a final failsafe.” Said Tvastar. “If I cannot restore power and lift lockdown in the remaining ten hours and twelve minutes, the Logic Engine will flood the facility with a special type of gas. It is has a highly corrosive reaction to organic and synthetic substances. It will burn through skin and armour in seconds. It is highly efficient, terribly painful and entirely fatal.”

He’d suspected as much.

“Well,” said the Captain., “We have work to do.”

“Indeed,” replied the Prime Magos. A mechandrite reached from his back and began to rummage in a drawer behind him. It produced Quail’s bolt pistol. Holding it gingerly by the grip, as if the gun was some dirty thing, it leaned over Solomon’s shoulder and proffered itself to Biologis Crane.

“Mea Culpa, Magos. I don’t know how to use it,” Crane said, embarrassed by the confession.

“That is unfortunate,” replied Solomon. “The Cult of the Omnissiah holds that knowledge is power, Biologis Crane. You would do well to remember this tenant for the remainder of whatever life you are blessed with, lest you find yourself in another unenviable situation.”

“By His Will,” replied the Biologis meekly.

“In His Name,” echoed Solomon. “Now go, the Skitari will meet you enroute.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on July 30, 2013, 09:22:50 AM
They might seem like little quibbles to you that you don't want to mention, but as I've said in the past, it's great having another pair of eyes and some substative feedback. I really value your contributions and I'm sorry I haven't looked at this for so long.

There's a couple of reasons I haven't mentioned the missing/misused words before Sheepz. One is mr_mich's rules for fluff that puts the onus on the writer to get the simpler things correct. The other is that I was foolishly trying to generate a bit of activity in the Fiction board. In my mind it must be quite difficult writing creative fiction and I'm guessing just a bit disheartening if you don't get any feedback. So understanding that not everyone wants to give feedback on someone else's writing I thought I would point out little things like the weights and measures and malapropisms in the hope that some of the other viewers of this thread might join in.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on August 6, 2013, 11:53:27 AM
Hey Alienscar,

Yes, you're quite right about the onus on the writer. Hopefully when I do my edits this will be alleviated somewhat. At the moment I'm just hammering it out and posting it with little to no proof-reading on a chapter by chapter basis. Not the best way to write, I guess, but consider it a draft. I don't finish enough stories so I'm keen to get this one done.

Cheers for the input!

More still to post. But here is the first bit of Chapter Twelve.

Twelve – Crane

It had been two-hours, twenty-eight standard Shelter minutes since containment was breached and lockdown initiated.

Crane leaned against the stair-rail and tried to control his breathing.

The bolt pistol in his hands was heavy, unfamiliar. As a biological scientist, he wasn’t entirely sure how to use it but he’d taken it anyway. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but a mass-reactive diamantine-tipped .75 calibre bolt shell fired from a hand held rocket launcher could take an arm off with a glancing hit, which was a phenomena Crane had yet to encounter in office stationary.

“Biologis Crane, report your position.” It was Solomon.

“Honoured Lord,” he gasped, “I am on the stairwell, level three.”

“The Skitari detail is waiting for you. Do not test their patience. Or mine.”

“By His Will,” replied Crane, gritting his teeth.

“In His Name.” Echoed the Prime Magos. The comm link went dead.

Crane descended the last flight of stairs, boots ringing on the steel. He turned a corner, heading down one of the service corridors, littered with access doors to various smaller shrines, swtich-rooms, storage areas, libraries and chemical deposits. Each entry was marked with a genereader or cardport. The terminals which previously glowed were blank. Unlike the heavy ceramite blast-doors that compartmentalised the base, these flimsy internal structures could be prized open by a couple of strong men, their mag-locks useless without power.

The blood red glow of the emergency lighting flickered and died, plunging the world into darkness. Biologis Crane froze in terror.

“Tech Magi?” he whispered into his inbuilt comms unit. “Emergency lighting down, level three, access route E.”

“Forgive me, Magos,” replied the distant engiseer, “Bio Adepts Lowell and Drecker are sealed in The Cage. I have had to re-route power from the emergency lights to bring the air-recyclers online. Without them, they will suffocate in thirteen minutes.”

Crane muttered some profanity under his breath.

“Magos Quail’s hallowed pistol has a torch attachment,” continued the Techpriest “Just under the barrel.”

The Biologis fumbled in the darkness. With a dull click, a deathly pale finger of light shot down the corridor, dissipating into the inky black.

“Proceed with haste, Magos,” urged Solomon.

Hundreds of meters away, deep in the bowels of the fortress, Crane set off gingerly. Clinging to the walls, he moved down the corridor. The torch bobbed up and down, occasionally glinting off some polished metal. Keeping one hand on the wall, he pressed on until without warning, his boots slid across the floor. Biologis Crane fell heavily into a shut door with an echoing thump. He looked down, moving his feet in horror.

“Blood.” He whispered.

“Repeat statement.” Instructed Solomon from afar.

“There’s blood on the floor,” said Crane, quickly stepping out of the half-congealed pool and directing the pistol to the door. “Storage room Seventeen, Level Three.”


Against his better judgement, Crane leaned against the panel. It didn’t move. His free hand repeatedly palmed the genecode reader for no effect. He tried to slide it, but it did not budge.

“I cannot access the room. Honoured Lord, what is happening?”

He heard whispered voices down the commlink. One was Tvastar’s rumbling monotone.

“Biologis Crane,” instructed Solomon, “We cannot access the surveillance logs. Continue on course, the Skitari are moving to your position.”

“My Lord,” said Crane, panic edging its way into his voice, “Has the Specimen escaped? Is everyone accounted for?”

“Your objective has changed. Continue to rendezvous with Fire Team Alpha and proceed to The Cage. Secure Bio-Adepts Lowell and Drecker and egress to Generatorium post-haste.”

The biologis swallowed hard. He backed away from the door, turning sharply to view the darkness all around him. In the endless night, things scratched and clicked.

“Prime Magos?”

“Focus, Magos Biologis. You have your instructions.”

Crane set off.

*   *   *

The Medical Bay was sealed, but the doors still worked. Aside from Control, it was the only compartmentalised area of Forlorn that would operate normally under lockdown. The Cult Mechanicus at least had the foresight to not include procedures that would cut them off from emergency treatment during a catastrophic breakdown.

“Astra-Telepathica Rachel is in Medical, along with the warriors injured in the laboratory earlier. It is hermetically sealed and all vital medicae equipment is functioning on the back-up generator,” intoned Tvastar. He tapped away on his keyboard, eyes refocusing in the darkness of his cowl. “In view of their itinerary, Orderlies Drecker and Lowell are trapped in The Cage. Adept Mikkael is still missing?”

“Drecker and Lowell will be in The Cage,” sighed Quail, running his fingers through his short dark hair. “They observe proper timekeeping. Adept Mikkael was not present when moving the Specimen, and when I spoke to Drecker prior to the experiment he was still absent.”

Tvastar said nothing, but continued to type. Captain Fraiser rubbed his bio-acid scar. Everyone stayed quiet, but a glance at Marlowe confirmed she shared his thoughts. Mikkael was probably dead.

“How many operational combat resources are available?” asked the Prime Magos.

“All organic servitor units are still functional,” replied the Magi. “We have six Skitari lightly wounded in Medical, and the remaining four are standing guard. Of our warriors, ten were terminated in the laboratory along with two guards outside. Five are escorting Biologis Crane, and the remaining three are sealed in the Hanger Bay. All thirty souls accounted for.”

Eighteen, thought Fraiser grimly. Eighteen souls. Twelve are dead.

“Where are Borsch and Quinn?” said Marlowe.

“The Band-Clark and Archivist are in the Living Quarters. Along with Captain Fraiser’s honour-guard.”

“At your request,” muttered the Captain bitterly.

“It was not a request.” answered Solomon tactlessly. “It was an instruction, Captain. Magos Biologis Quail is Head of this Facility, and I am his superior. The Priesthood does not need more uninitiated running amok during this delicate time,”

There was an uncomfortable silence. Fraiser knew arguing was useless. He was an outsider in a facility run by unpredictable cogboys. It was easier to defer to the Prime Magos at this point, although as completely separate organisations, neither had jurisdiction over the other.

“Are they unsecured?” Asked the Brigadier, returning to the topic.

“Affirmative,” said the Techpriest. “Everything is offline, including mag-locks, gene and card readers.” He did not voice any further thoughts.

“They are safe,” intoned Prime Magos Solomon, “Biologis Quail has identified the presence of Specimen Three in the laboratory below.”

“I think they should be brought back to Control until Biologis Crane has restored the power.”

“Your thoughts have been noted, Brigadier,” replied Solomon. “However I do not intend to repatriate the civilians to this Command Centre until the damage has been addressed. They will remain where they are.”

Fraiser thought Marlowe might have something to say about that, but the PDF Officer did not challenge Solomon’s decision.

“In which case, I think I shall join them. Keep me informed as the situation develops.”

She turned to the Guardsman.

“Captain, there are matters we should discuss.”

Fraiser nodded.

“I will take my leave,” he said following Marlowe’s smart march to the door. He stopped off at the desk where Borsch’s paperwork lay scattered, gathering it up and tucking the files under his arm. While shuffling the documents, he mentally noted a few interesting pages to look at later. Fraiser reached the door and turned, offering a friendly parting.

“May the Emperor Guide your steps.”

The Mechanicus staff ignored him.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on August 9, 2013, 10:52:14 AM
*   *   *

“Biologis Crane.”

The Skitari emerged from the gloom, glowing like an ethereal being. Augmentics gleamed, reflecting the light from their eyes, suitlamps, laser sights and torchbeams. Each heavily augmented warrior was lambent in the darkness. Their vac suits creaked with a reassuringly solid quality, and their heavily modified weaponry clicked and hummed as it was fed a steady stream of combat data from circuits hardwired into the user’s brain. Biologis Crane began to relax, exhaling with relief.

“What is your directive?” He intoned formally. Now wasn’t really the time for reciting catechisms, but Prime Magos Solomon thought his devotion was lax, so he observed the ritual.

“We guard the Secrets of the Machine, vanquish the foes of the Omnissiah, and protect the Keepers of His Knowledge.”

“By His Will.”

“In His Name.”

“This way, Lord,” said the Fire-Team leader, identified as Seven-Two-One. The cyborg solider gestured toward another Skitari, who was apparently pointman. Crane positioned himself in the middle of his entourage and set off, still gripping his adopted weapon.

*   *   *

”I will be with you shortly,” said Fraiser, looking in through the door.

Borsch was pale and trembling. The snivelling Band-Clark had been seated at a table in the Captain’s room with a tall glass of the officer’s personal amasec before him. Quinn sat next to him, fingers steepled and eyes wandering in thought. Marlowe was snapping off instructions to Sergeant Thorn, who had an impassive look on his face. Former PDF himself, the Sergeant fully understood the Brigadier’s authority, but behind his nonplussed face Fraiser knew what he was thinking. The Sergeant’s eyes betrayed it.

They’d both been in the Brimstone Dragoons for too long. The Guard’s view of PDF soldiers was dim at best and it had taken a lot of time and hard work for the two outsiders to gain the trust and respect of their new brother’s in arms. The superiority complex was infectious and difficult to fight. Compared to the soldier’s of the Imperial Guard, Marlowe was just a civvy in a fancy jacket. Still, he seemed to be humouring her. The rest of the honour-guard were suited and booted, their reinforced carapace armour on, combat visors down and weaponry – both standard and non-standard – held ready and alert. It was reassuring.

“Do you require assistance, Captain?” asked Thorn over Marlowe’s shoulder, taking the opportunity to ignorantly bellow directly into her face. He was playing the ‘dumb solider ‘card, thought Fraiser. It wouldn’t work on Marlowe, though, she was a solider herself.

“Negative, Sergeant,” He replied. “I am just returning Mr. Borsch’s papers to his room.”

The Band-Clerk smiled weakly.

”Thank-you, Captain. That is most kind.”

Fraiser smiled but said nothing. As soon as he was out of sight, he began to rummage through the documents. Most were contractual decrees, codes of conduct, technical specifications and copies of the Mechanicus’ alleged breach of trust. He opened the last folder and struck gold, carefully depositing a few bits of paper inside his tunic. The rest he left on Borsch’s desk.

*   *   *

With a grunt, the pair of Skitari forced the door open. There was a blast of electricity and a shouted challenge.

In the darkness - illuminated by the electric glow of a ten-thousand volt shock-prod – was Orderly Drecker. Lowell was sat dejected on the floor behind her, sweat rolling down his face.

“Biologis Crane? My Lord, forgive me!”

“Orderly Drecker.” Crane said walking into the room, “Orderly Lowell, stand.”

The serf hurried to his feet.

”My lord,” he breathed.

The Skitari filed in, dragging the metal bulkhead shut behind them.

They were in the observation and control area for Specimen’s Four – Eleven. The blast shutters had lowered to cover the glass. Containment was still in place, otherwise Drecker and Lowell would be dead. It was strange to think he had stood in this very room with the delegation not one axial cycle before. It seemed a million years ago. Suddenly Crane felt very tired.

“Are you both in good health?” he asked.

The two adepts nodded slowly.

“Lord Crane,” asked Drecker, “We were in the middle of feeding and routine medical examination when we lost all power and went into lockdown. Then the emergency lighting failed. Has something happened?”

“You have not been in contact with Control?”

“Negative, my lord,” she replied. “We have both tried, but Lord Tvastar and Honoured Lord Solomon will not commune with us. Lord Quail told us nothing more than to remain here. His implant was deactivated shortly after. Is he injured?”

Tvastar and Solomon’s silence was not unusual. The Techpriest had been reprimanded by Quail over his inability to recognise heirachy or professional boundaries. The Head of Research had felt that Tvastar was too friendly with the lower orders, and imparted knowledge too freely. Quail had banned him from making further communication to any other members of the facility besides the two Biologis.

Solomon would not answer them. He did not even recognise their existence. To Solomon, serfs were worse than servitors, due to an annoying necessity to eat, sleep and defecate. Their contribution was minimal. No, a Prime Magos would have nothing to do with them.

Quail probably just had a lot on his mind.

“Why did you not contact me?” he asked, immediately feeling a pang of guilt that he had not tried to contact the adepts himself.

Drecker looked awkward for the first time in her entire career at Forlorn.

“We are locked out of your audio implant, Lord Crane. I did not presume to question your motive.”

Solomon! That bastard had changed the security settings, no doubt so that Crane would be in sole contact with him and Tvastar.

”So you are,” he replied as he reversed the Prime Magos’ interference. “An oversight, my apologies. There has been an… …incident… …involving Specimen Three in the Control core labs. Containment has been breached and lockdown was initiated.”

“Omnissiah preserve us!” the adepts gasped in unison.

“Indeed,” said the Biologis. “The Specimen remains trapped within the core laboratory, although we have not been able to effect a capture on limited power.”

“Is anyone hurt?” asked Drecker. Crane knew she thought very highly of Forlorn’s Mechanicus staff.

“There have been fatalities,” he admitted. “We are en-route to the generatorium. You will accompany us.”

There was a dull thump from the shutters.

“It’s starting again,” said Lowell, looking nervous. The thumping increased in intensity, rising into violent drumming. The ceramite shutters began to rock, but held firm. With a thrill of horror, Crane realised what was happening. The remaining six Hormagaunts were taking turns to headbutt the glass. The banging was rhythmic, co-ordinated, and seemed to echo from the centre. They were trying to escape.

“They have exhibited this behaviour before?” he bellowed.

“Yes my lord,” replied Drecker, also shouting. “When you and the team passed this location previously.”

Crane went cold. The Bio-Adept sensed his unease.

“Roughly ten standard minutes ago.” She offered, as if hoping to jog Crane’s memory. “There was someone in the corridor. We heard movement beyond the door.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on August 12, 2013, 07:31:27 AM
I'll have a look myself, but if you have any time or energy to dig them up, I'll look at them again.

Yes, you're quite right about the onus on the writer. Hopefully when I do my edits this will be alleviated somewhat. At the moment I'm just hammering it out and posting it with little to no proof-reading on a chapter by chapter basis. Not the best way to write, I guess, but consider it a draft.

I will get around to leaving feedback on chapters 11 & 12 Sheepz but due to the time between posts I'm going to read the story from the start again to make sure I'm not seeing things that don't exist. In the meantime, seeing as you asked, I will list the words I think are wrong/missing. I'm hoping the fact that you asked directly means that I am not breaking mr_mich’s rules.

Chapter 1, paragraph 11: distain should be disdain
Chapter 1, paragraph 17: Adeputs should be Adeptus
Chapter 1, paragraph 21: non-pulsed should be non-plussed
Chapter 1, paragraph 26: hanger should be hangar
Chapter 1, paragraph 43: hanger should be hangar
Chapter 1, paragraph 48: hanger should be hangar
Chapter 2, paragraph 4: "was dressed a" should read "was dressed in a"
Chapter 2, paragraph 17: "this all in my" should maybe read "this in my" or "all this in my"
Chapter 2, paragraph 24: inclination should be intimation
Chapter 2, paragraph 35: being should be begin
Chapter 2, paragraph 36: "members of the delegation pertains to the study". Due to the sentence construction this reads as an incomplete sentence and should maybe read "delegation are engaged in pertains to the study"
Chapter 3, paragraph 2: "There were appeared to be" should be There appeared to be
Chapter 3, paragraph 9: "whined at" should be whined as
Chapter 3, paragraph 15: "like an altar of slain" is an incomplete sentence. The past participle "slain" should be used with a subject
Chapter 3, paragraph 39: "the one stood up" should be the one standing
Chapter 3, paragraph 65: failing should be falling
Chapter 4, paragraph 3: "as not" should be "so as not"
Chapter 4, paragraph 7: "In return, the we". Remove the word the
Chapter 4, paragraph 24: "sense" should be sign
Chapter 4, paragraph 51: Add the word "of" to "understanding the organisms"
Chapter 4, paragraph 53: curiosity should be curious
Chapter 4, paragraph 87: cumulating should be culminating
Chapter 4, paragraph 98: cumulates should be culminates
Chapter 5, paragraph 2: cumulating should be culminating
Chapter 5, paragraph 37: "of Frasier" should be on Frasier
Chapter 5, paragraph 43: "was there" should be "were there"
Chapter 5, paragraph 79: Speimen should be Specimen
Chapter 5, paragraph 157: lightening should be lightning
Chapter 5, paragraph 158: croacked should be croaked
Chapter 5, paragraph 159: "erupted from" should be erupted on
Chapter 5, paragraph 165: "the bore" should be to bore
Chapter 5, paragraph 178: "ridgingly" should be rigidly
Chapter 6, paragraph 51: dampner should be dampener
Chapter 6, paragraph 52: dampner should be dampener
Chapter 6, paragraph 87: jilted should be jaded
Chapter 7, paragraph 4: Remove the word the from “and the wearing plain”
Chapter 7, paragraph 21: proffered should maybe be preferred. Not sure about this whole sentence to be honest.
Chapter 7, paragraph 59: helemets should be helmets
Chapter 7, paragraph 67: “pointing a series” should be pointing to a series
Chapter 7, paragraph 67: show should be shown
Chapter 7, paragraph 112: death-relex should be death-reflex
Chapter 8 paragraph 34: Lightening should be lightning
Chapter 8, paragraph 40: “urgents and anointed” should be unguents and anointed
Chapter 8, paragraph 45: sipped should be slipped
Chapter 8, paragraph 57: Remove the letter “a” from “a the most powerful”
Chapter 9, paragraph 69: vortexes should maybe be vortices. Both are correct I prefer the original.
Chapter 9, paragraph 23: "Some servo skulls" should be a few servo skulls
Chapter 10, paragraph 49: “Then entire” should be The entire
Chapter 10, paragraph 75: hanger should be hangar
Chapter 10, paragraph 76: hanger should be hangar
Chapter 10, paragraph 78: starting should be staring
Chapter 11, paragraph 6: "being" should be begin
Chapter 11, paragraph 68: "incremental" should be detrimental
Chapter 12, paragraph 37: "Hanger" should be Hangar
Chapter 13, paragraph 5: Tagi should be Tech
Chapter 13, paragragh 26: Add "for" to "was searching was"
Chapter 14, paragraph 16: Add "that" before you in "I advise you"
Chapter 14, paragraph 39: Dreker should be Drecker.
Chapter 14, paragraph 46: who's should be whose.
Chapter 14, paragraph 55: scared should be sacred.
Lines in red are more a matter of opinion than hard fact.

30/08/2013: Updated list
02/09/2013: Updated list
10/01/2014: Updated list
14/02/2014: Updated list
Congratulations Sheepz chapters 11 and 12 are brilliant. The mix of action and chat is really well balanced and the chapters move at a really good pace that holds the reader’s attention all the way to the end. When I first read chapter 11 I thought it felt a bit flat and off pace but reading the whole thing from the beginning again and it’s not as bad as I first thought. Reading it as part of the whole story chapter 11 works fine and I came to the conclusion that my initial problem was caused by the Mea culpa line and a few misspelt/wrong words ruining the continuity. When read in isolation the Mea culpa line just seemed a bit flat compared to the remembered excitement of the previous chapters. Personally I think the chapter should start with Solomon demanding some action/explanation.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on December 25, 2013, 06:33:28 PM
Hello Alienscar!

First off, thanks for that. That's great, honestly a big help. I will hopefully be going through in the next few days making those changes. Some of them a duh obvious now I look - a lot were missed by the spell checker on account of being variant words, and some I skimmed over because any 40K story with made-up words generates a lot of red underlines. Some are just me being daft. Whatever the cause, much appreciated.

When read in isolation the Mea culpa line just seemed a bit flat compared to the remembered excitement of the previous chapters. Personally I think the chapter should start with Solomon demanding some action/explanation.

I agree and it is a point well made. I will work Solomon into the beginning when I edit it in a few days. I'll put a notice up when I've done it.

Where have I been for three and a half months? Basically, I finally secured meaningful employment. Unfortunately it was too meaningful, and after signing a EU Time-Directive opt-out, I've been doing 6-7 day weeks for up to 60 hours. Factor in housework, sleeping, and time traveling to work and I've had very little time to work on the story. I'd like to say I have more time now - as my seasonal work decreases at one of my three jobs, but unfortunately due to suspensions and sicknesses I've been bumped from part-time to full time to cover other staff absences, making the situation even worse. Christmas day has been my first full day off in about three weeks. Hopefully January should calm down as people are due to return and one of my jobs will come to an end for three months.

Anyway, I will make the changes, I promise. And I much appreciate your continued input. But until then, here is chapter 13. It posted as one, which is a happy change.

Thirteen – Rearguard

The sound of thudding followed them as they left the Cage. It was a dull, rhythmic beat that echoed down dark corridors and drifted through empty rooms. Crane chewed his bottom lip, caught himself, and straightened up from his protective hunch. His palms were sweating under his gloves. The crimson emergency lights flickered as they attempted to re-ignite. There was a dull bang and a motorized splutter.

“Tech Magi Tvastar is attempting to restore the power,” whispered the Magi to his two serfs. He was trying to reassure them. Drecker was accepting, phlegmatic. Lowell looked on the brink of breakdown.

Biologis Crane had always been better with people than other members of the Order. It was a matter of faith, or at least, of belief. They believed that the more augments undertaken, the closer they became to the Divine. When a person stops believing in their own mortality and associated weaknesses and flaws, and instead moves closer to perceived perfection, the temptation is to see themselves as more than human. Transhuman, even post-human. They made peace with sacrificing their flesh by believing it made them better than they were before. Biologis Crane hadn’t lost touch with his humanity. And that was why he was whispering.

He was terrified.

“We are egressing to the Generatorium where you will assist with the Litanies of Activation. Once we have primed the fuel pump, we will invoke the blessing of the Omnissiah and revive the primary generator. With power restored, Tech Magi Tvastar will be able to bring the situation under control.”

“It is not under control, honoured Lord?” asked Lowell fearfully. Drecker shot him a harsh look. Crane cursed to himself.

“It is fluid,” replied the Biologis, raising his voice slightly to demonstrate a confidence he did not feel. Fluid was a good word. Changing. Flux. Not dangerous. Although even that was a ecumenical issue, he mused. Some believed that any state of uncertainty was blasphemy. Did clockwork operate uncertainly? What glory was there in the cold precision of the Divine if it changed on a whim?

Barring a few notable incidents, contamination leaks, and at least one accidental core-destabilisation of an M-Class planet resulting in nine billion deaths, the potentially mutable nature of the Machine God seemed a lot safer than the multi-segmented limbs that had dismembered ten augmented soldiers. He wondered this would be his view in a little under ten hours, once the Emergency Protocol activated.

“Magos.” The robotic, deadpan voice of the Fire Team leader pulled him from his reverie. They had reached the first compartmentalised section, heavy blast doors denying access to the labs and the stairwell beyond. Torch beams and suitlamps illuminated biohazard signs. Crane wondered why everyone was staring at him, before realising he was ranking Techmagister.  Only he could sanction the destruction of technology. There were rituals that must be observed.

”Blessed Omnissiah, we invoke thee,” he intoned, spreading his arms across the doors, “Technolord and Primeautomaton, God Within the Machine. Heed our prayers and search our souls for pure intention. Forgive our trespass and sacrilege, for the need is dire. We commend this machine’s spirit to your care and beg your clemency for our sin. In Nomine Machina Deus.”

He turned to the fire team.

“It is done. May He forgive us.”

The Skitari nodded gravely and turned to his second.

“Blow the door.”

*   *   *

“Lord Crane is at the first obstruction,” said Tvastar. “The Fire Team are preparing to initiate entry. The Machine’s Spirit will be injured.”

“We pray forgiveness for his blasphemy,” replied Solomon, not taking his eyes off the laboratory. He had been looking directly ahead for the past twenty-seven minutes, engaged in a bizarre staring contest with an invisible predator. He had not moved, nor blinked. When the creature broke – as it would certainly do so – he would see it.

“The door is breached.” Continued the Techpriest. “They are moving to the stairwell.”

*   *   *

Crane ducked through the gap and stepped over the molten ruins of the blast doors, feeling the heat of the still flowing ferro-concrete on his robes. He waved away an arm of assistance from one of the Skitari pointmen and gripped his adopted pistol in both hands. Behind him, there was a glowing circle five feet in diameter where the melta charge had done its work.

Wordlessly, they set off into the half-light of the laboratories, passing sealed rooms and observation platforms. Where previously there had been the hum of dozens of terminals and brilliant quartz lighting, now was just silence and darkness. Workstations glittered dimly in the crimson glow and a low mist from the incense burners covered the floor below the knees. Not one axial cycle earlier, he had stood with the delegation in this very room, receiving the praise of his superior and basking in the awe of the uninitiated. Two of those men – Centurion Markus and Confessor Delaine were now dead.

He passed the gaping hole that previously housed the anatomic chamber for Specimen Three. The giant tank had been removed to transport the specimen to the core labs, leaving behind a mess of pipes and wires where the wall had birthed a monster. Crane shivered.

They reached the other side of the laboratory before Crane realised something was wrong. He upped his audio-implant to full, hearing the surruss of augmented lungs and the whine of tiny servo motors beneath the Skitari’s leather gloves as they adjusted their grip on gently humming rifles.

“Hold,” he whispered in sotto.

“Lord Crane,” mouthed Drecker, “What is the problem?”

Her voice was barely above a whisper, but still the words were like a gunshot. In the stillness, Crane listened.

He heard the hum of active consoles in the distance, the hiss of gently cooling blast doors. He heard the groans of the wind rattling at the shutters, and listened to the thousand tiny noises that were constantly in the background of Forlorn. He even fancied he heard the whispers of the scientists that had gone before him, residual conversations echoing back and forth down the ages. The click of ancient keys, and the clacking grind of retired machines. Beyond that, at the very edge of his imagination, he heard the beating heart of the God Within the Machine.

Even silence had a quality, a texture – restful and constant. What Crane was searching for was not silence. It was the absence of sound.

The thudding had stopped. Satisfied, he turned the audio-sensitivity back down.

“The Specimen’s are no longer attacking the Cage.” He summarized. To confirm, the audio implant in his ear tickled. Ice ran down his spine.

“Techpriest,” he sub-vocalised.

“Magos Biologis,” replied Tvastar, “You must make haste. Operational containment systems are registering a catastrophic breakdown in the Cage.”


“There is a breach.” Replied the Tech Magi, then the link went dead.

Crane shot a glance at the Fire Team Leader, who inclined his head in acknowledgement. He spoke quickly in binary, rattling off orders. A Skitari broke from the group and took cover behind a clinical table covered in scalpels. Another moved to the front, switching his augmented weapon to secondary fire mode. An ignition torch glowed blue.

“We move.” He said in Gothic. Crane nodded.

*   *   *

“The armourglass is three inches thick,” said Quail defensively. He was waving his hands in front of him, as if hoping to ward off the stare of Prime Magos Solomon. “There is a reinforced ceramite blast shutter in place. There must be some mistake!”

Tvastar stared mutely at one of the few active control lecterns. The red light blinked incessantly, refusing to go away no matter how hard he wished it.

“There is no mistake,” replied Solomon. “The Machine is infallible. Systems fail, people fail, faith fails. The Omnissiah does not.”

“Perhaps the Machine’s Spirit has sustained some residual damage from the overload?” the Biologis continued valiantly. “There is no way those creatures could escape the Cage under their own power.”

”The system is fine.” Said the Techmagi, still looking at the little light. “It was created for such a purpose.”

“Prime Magos,” implored the embattled scientist, “They couldn’t have breached the Cage. The Specimens have tried to escape in the past. They failed. We ran diagnostics, various scenarios. Unaided they could not exert the force necessary to…”

He stopped dead.

First Quail, then Solomon, and then finally Tvastar turned to face the ruined examination lab. Somewhere inside, Specimen Three was hiding.

At least that was one hypothesis. Solomon grunted.

“Perhaps you have made other – more grievous - incorrect assumptions, Biologis Quail. It is becoming a theme, I fear. Let us hope your faith is more plentiful than your competence.”

*   *   *

Skitari Two Four Six remained frozen in a hunter’s crouch behind the surgical table. Beyond it, the laboratory stretched off into darkness, lit by intermittent emergency lighting. The backup generator was already struggling to cope with the demands that were placed upon it. Lord Crane must progress with due swiftness, before the Machine God’s insatiable hunger consumed the remaining energy reserves.

His vision was overlaid with multiple read-outs. His bio-signs, personal locator and ammunition counter filled the left of his vision. Along the bottom ran his comm. channels, combat orientation pointer, and internal processing capacity. An auto-targetting system floated lazily across the centre of his vision. It was translucent now, and years of acclimatisation had all but erased it from his vision. In an engagement it would flare solid white, assess threats, track targets and align his rifle faster than his hated flesh. He was not a solider. Men were soldiers.

Two Four Six was a weapon.

His audio implant detected the chittering and clicking long before the Guants came into view. His bio-booster pumped combat stimulants and adrenaline into his weak husk, fortifying it for the coming fight. Muscles tensed, ready to react with whiplike speed.

The first Gaunt emerged through the blast door, hopping nimbly over the ring of scorched ceramite. The auto-targetter shone white.

It died.

*   *   *

Gunfire echoed down the corridor. Lowell cried out and froze in terror, and Drecker grabbed him solidly on the upper arm, bundling him onward, in her other hand she held the shock-prod. Before her went the pointman and his assist, blasting bursts of fire into the darkness, sending the shadows dancing crazily. The Fire Team Leader was clicking in binary, and receiving a neural response from his subordinates mind-link



 The combi-flamer spat another lance of flame before them. There was another burst of gunfire. Crane gripped the pistol and tried to shove Lowell from behind, pushing him forward. Bringing up the rear, the two remaining Skitari backed after them.

Illuminated briefly, the signage on the wall indicated they were approaching the stairwell. The Biologis pushed forward.

*   *   *

His vision was awash with data.

“Contact: Six

Range: Twenty-Five Metres. Closing.

Fatalities: Two.

Operationals Remaining: Four.

Ammunition: 567.”

Two Four Six’s auto-targetter swung as the remaining Gaunts piled into the laboratory, crushing their dead underfoot. They immediately spread out and sought cover. His arms moved to compensate, before the screen flashed red.

“Hazard: Operational Machinary // Violation: Directive Four.”

Directive Four!

No Damage May Be Inflicted On the Realm of the Omnissiah Without Due Authorization From Constituted Member of the Priesthood of Mars

The Hellgun jammed. It would not fire so long as he risked hitting the terminals and processors that littered the laboratory. He unplugged it from his suit and laid it on the surgical table before rising to his full height.

The Gaunts moved like wraiths through the rolling clouds of incense. Even without their scything talons, they were dangerous. The claws and spurs on their feet clicked across the glass, echoing round the room. One uttered a low, sibilant hiss as it darted between machinery. Saliva drooled from yellowing teeth, besmirching the floor of His most Hallowed Shirne. Their mere presence in this sanctum was a foul violation of his sacred duty.

Range: Fourteen Metres – Closing.

They swam like alligators through the mist, heads bobbing and tails swinging behind them. Two Four Six boosted his combat drugs. A blade slid from his left wrist, while the fingers of his right hand spread impossibly wide, turning it into a great augmetic shovel. He was not unarmed.

He was Skitari.

Range: Eight Metres – Closing.

He was a weapon.

The first leapt with a screech and was impaled on the mono-serrated combat blade. The force of the creature’s impact almost bowled him over, but servo motors in his legs compensated. The second was knocked flying by an augmented blow from his right hand, scattering the table and falling into a stunned heap.

The third landed on his back.

The fourth knocked him to the floor.

 *   *   *

They reached the stairwell when the mind impulse link cut out. The remaining Skitari said nothing. A trooper wordlessly moved to rearguard and they descended into darkness.

No sooner had boots rang on the steel steps and the light faded almost from view did an inhuman scream echo through the empty passages. The party froze, the soldiers uncertain and the civilians huddled in primordial terror.

“Quail… Magos Biologis…” Whispered Crane. “Specimen Three is confirmed in the Control Labs, copy?”

The silence endured for torturous heartbeats. Then there was another scream.

It was closer. It drowned out the first part of Biologis Quail’s response.

“… attempting to ascertain.”

“Say again?” said Crane, shifting his grip on the pistol.


The link went dead.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: GreaterGoodIreland on January 2, 2014, 01:15:38 AM
This is still going? Excellent.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on January 6, 2014, 05:31:22 AM
Hi Sheepz, glad to see you are still posting, best Christmas present I had this Year. I was beginning to worry that I would never get to see the end of this story.

I have said it more than once already but your character writing is brilliant. In the few short sentences about Two Four Six you have created a really credible character. I sincerely hope that you haven’t killed him off and that the cut-out of the mind link is just ruse.

Due to time constraints I haven’t read the story from the start again so this feedback will be about Chapter 13 in its own right. Sorry if that does it an injustice.

For me the Chapter is split into two halves. The first 8 paragraphs seem a bit stilted and off pace almost as if you are warming up before you get into the story again. As is usual for me I put this pacing issue down to sentence construction, missing words and the like. I don’t want to get into the use of verbs, subjects, objects and related items so I will just offer some thoughts and you can tell me if I am wrong.

"The thudding followed..." would read better as “The thudding sound followed...” or “The sound of thudding followed...” Two verbs (thudding and followed) don’t work without a noun.

The plural “lights” shouldn’t be used with the singular “it”.

Also I think the chapter is slowed down by some of the words that you have used. For me the words "egressing", "ecumenical" and “mused” really slow the pace of the chapter and I feel the chapter might benefit from the use of livelier words.

Everything after the 8th paragraph is brilliant. Tense, exciting & well written.

PS: please don't kill off 246 just yet.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on February 3, 2014, 07:46:46 PM
Hey everyone/anyone,

First off, sorry - over a month and no new posting. That's fairly bad especially considering the next part was already written.

Thanks for all your kind words and encouragement.

For me the Chapter is split into two halves. The first 8 paragraphs seem a bit stilted and off pace almost as if you are warming up before you get into the story again.

The most likely case.

"The thudding followed..." would read better as “The thudding sound followed...” or “The sound of thudding followed...” Two verbs (thudding and followed) don’t work without a noun.

I agree. I have changed it

The plural “lights” shouldn’t be used with the singular “it”.

D'oh, how'd I miss that?

Also I think the chapter is slowed down by some of the words that you have used. For me the words "egressing", "ecumenical" and “mused” really slow the pace of the chapter and I feel the chapter might benefit from the use of livelier words.

Quite possibly. I'll have a think about it certainly for the second draft. At the moment I believe I was attempting to capture the more grandiose wording of the Cult Mechanicus, but you're probably right, you have a good eye for it.

I've also scanned the document with find and replaced all words for 'hanger' with 'hangar', another embarrassment on my part. I've also put in the two corrections you spotted in chapter thirteen.

Fourteen – Generatorium

The voice was angry and demanding. Tuned out of individual channels, it echoed round the control room, circumventing the lockout and projecting noisily from the speakers. Captain Fraiser was nothing if not resourceful.

“What's going on Quail?”

“I assure you, Captain,” replied the Biologis calmly, “Everything is fully under control.”

“Bullamphetamine parrot,” spat Fraiser into his commbead, “That was gunfire.”

The Brigadier paced behind him, pistol out. The Honour Guard were on their feet, visors down and guns ready. Borsch and Quinn huddled together, the fat man managing to huddle enough for the both of them.

“The Skitari are engaging hostile elements. It is nothing that cannot…”

“I’m coming to Control,” Marlowe cut in.


“This room is not secure, Magos Biologis,” she countered with a voice that could cut steel. “I am moving the civilian’s to Control for their security.”

There was a pause.

”Move to medical, it is secure. There are soldiers.”

“If you think you can lock me in a med-bay with a handful of grunts and a warp-tapped stripper, then you are mad. We are enroute, Marlowe out.”

She cut the link. She would not be relegated to a hospital, she would be in the thick of it, like a Brigadier should be. Who did Quail think he was?

Borsch cleared his throat.

“I don’t think she’s actually a…”

“Under the circumstances, Bank-Clerk, I advise you consider your position very carefully.”

The bureaucratic part of Borsch’s brain did a swift risk assessment, and his mouth lapsed into silence. The PDF Officer turned to Fraiser.


He glanced up from some blueprints that Thorn and the men were gathered round and cleared his throat diplomatically.

“A sound judgement, Brigadier. We shall join you presently.”

*   *   *

Crane suppressed a flinch as another bestial screech echoed down the passage.

“Egress to Generatorium,” instructed the Fire Team Leader to the pointman. “What is your Primary Operational Directive?”

“Protect the Magos.” Replied the other.

“We shall provide rearguard,” continued his commander, turning to Crane and indicating the Skitari beside him. “Make haste.”

As fast as caution allowed, the party began to move again. They advanced at what could be best described as a quick shuffle, which is a recognised military tactic when you group uncertain people together in a confined space and a hostile environment. They had just reached ground level when there was an almighty crash, some sporadic gunfire, and predictably, a bloodcurdling scream. Against his better judgement, Crane risked a glance up the twisting stairwell and into the shifting, strobing darkness.

The Fire Team Leader – alone now – was double timing it backwards down the stairs. He raised his augmented hellgun and fired sporadically in the direction from whence he came. As he bounded down the stairs, Crane glimpsed shapes moving after him. There were shadows of monsters on the wall.

As he rounded the second to last set of stairs, the Fire Team Leader briefly caught sight of the Magos, staring wide eyed at the bottom. He said nothing, but instead angled his rifle directly upward toward the ceiling. There was a whump as it released a rocket-propelled grenade that shrieked up into the darkness and detonated with a roar. The biologis took in the shapes moving down the stairs, and thought the direction of fire to be very strange indeed. It was certainly inaccurate, and even that was being generous.

The Tyranids didn’t move so much as flowed. They travelled as if things that were in the way were merely another type of terrain. He’d seen the pict-casts from Herculaneum, specifically General Varn’s Last Stand at Coal Creek. The Guardsmen had tried to ‘circle the wagons’ with their tanks, but the swarm had just gone over them, climbing over the armour as if it wasn’t there. They scrambled up the hulls, ignoring the bolter shells that tore into them at point blank range before leaping into the nest of horrified troopers behind. On the pict record he had watched his interest had been dispassionate and academic. In real life it was terrifying.

Right now they were flowing down the stairs, as much as it was possible to flow with just three of them. Nevertheless, the effect was somewhat hypnotic. Drecker tugged at his arm, but she was still propping up Lowell and Crane barely noticed. One of the two remaining Skitari hurried back to assist. The Fire Team Leader rounded the corner and was on the last set of descending stairs. He waved at Crane to run, clicking in binary. There was no time to articulate in Imperial Gothic. It was his second language.

One gaunt cleared the railings and landed in front of the squad leader as the other two rounded the corner behind him. He blasted it with his hellgun, taking it apart. The second leapt, landing on his back and the two went crashing down the remaining stairs. Snapped from his trance, Crane darted back as the tangle of limbs and augmentics struggled on the floor. The Skitari somehow came out on top and managed to get a combat knife into the creature’s stomach as the amputated stumps of it’s arms battered him pointlessly. In defiance, it screamed and bit deep into his shoulder, writhing as he jerked the knife around it it’s innards.

No sooner had it gone still than the last one flew down the stairs, knocking him face down and biting an importantly large chunk out of the back of his head. Circuitry fizzled and the light in his eyes died. The speckled markings on the creature’s crest indicated it was Specimen Six. In the Cage it was docile, but in the open, it was so fast. So powerful.

Crane blinked, and then it was on him.

He raised the pistol sluggishly.

*   *   *

Marlowe crashed into Control, pistol in one hand and dragging Borsch with the other.

“Emperor – damn it! What the Hell is going on down there?!”

“Three of the Skitari are terminated,” sighed Quail. “We don’t know what else. It’s a mess.”

The vox link was a confused nightmare of screaming, shouting and gunfire. There was the roar of a bolt pistol being fired with some degree of enthusiasm.

“Biologis Crane report,” said Solomon for the fifth time. “Magos, update!”

*   *   *

Fire blasted backward down the corridor, illuminating the near frantic face of Three Zero Five. The Skitari squeezed the ignition again. The man next to him was firing controlled bursts from his hellgun into the darkness. The flickering onrush of light and the cloying, consuming darkness played havoc with the eyes. Dreker was on point with a shock-prod, Lowell and Crane following, not daring to glance back.

Behind them was a monster.

He’d killed the guant, tore it to pieces in a mad spray of bolter shells, the casings littering the corridor behind them. Then he’d seen it, three floors up. A shadow. An immense shadow with a barbed tail that moved faster than anything that big had any right to.

Emperor’s mercy, it wasn’t even on the stairs.

It was crawling down the wall

*   *   *

“It’s not in the Lab!” Wailed Crane.

”Say again Biologis?” asked Solomon with what he thought to be great patience. Everyone was clustered around the tiny transmitter that Tvastar had put on the desk. That meant that by extension they were clustered around the Prime Magos. The intrusion was most unwelcome. Solomon did not hold with the concept of personal space, but was a firm believer in ‘utter solitude’.

“Specimen Three is coming down the corridor!” screamed a man who’s voice promised at best a sore throat, and at worst a mental breakdown.

“You are positive?” asked Quail.


*   *   *

“Hold it off!” Yelled the Biologis as they reached the Generatorium door.

He grabbed the recessed handle and tugged frantically. It didn’t budge. Drecker wordlessly thrust the shock-prod into Lowell’s unresisting arms and grabbed hold with Crane. They inched it open. The hellgun armed Skitari – Seven Two Two – joined the struggle and the door began to slide.

Back in the corridor Three Zero Five was firing the hellgun part of his combi-weapon  down the passage. The flamer tank was running dangerously low. His target lock was dancing wildly between all four available surfaces – walls, ceiling and floor. Every burst illumined the creature’s progress as it bounded toward them. The proximity warning for five meters cut in, and he squeezed the ignition for his flamer.

There was a brief impression of a terrible monster before him, screaming in pain as the flames consumed it. The beast knocked his legs out from under him, and Three Zero Five toppled sideways, holding down the trigger. The proximity meter read ten, then fifteen meters as it retreated. He tried to haul himself up, only to notice that he had been cut in half at the waist, entrails and biomechanical organs spilling from his ruined abdomen. Blood mixed with oil on the floor.

As the door rolled open, Crane saw the stricken trooper lying in bits in the corridor. Drecker pushed him inside, dragging Lowell with them. Seven Two Two followed suit, and together they slammed the door back into place. There was barely any time to breathe.

“Adept Lowell, the candles,” said the Magos, shaking the man out of his stupor, “And the Litanies of Activation. Be quick!”

Drecker was halfway down the lab, next to the auxiliary generator. She was frantically pumping the ignition primer handle to generate the charge necessary for reactivation. Lowell sped round lighting the scared oils and candles and making devotions.

”Fifty percent primed,” grunted Drecker as she heaved the lever back and forth, her voice carrying over the babbling of Lowell, who had run out of things to set fire to and now looked worried and confused. There was a thump on the door. The remaining Skitari backed away, hellgun raised. Crane grabbed the discarded shock prod. He had – foolishly and with limited success – fired the entire magazine from the bolt pistol, which was now deposited in his robes.

“Be wary, my Lord, I have enhanced the voltage.”

Crane eyed the shock-prod suspiciously as he backed towards the generator. Drecker, should she not be horribly dismembered in the next few seconds, would definitely make a fine Magi.

The door shook again, then again as the beast hammered on it. There was a dull thump and a splutter of machinery coming to life.

“Seventy Five Percent.”

“Lowell, start the activation.” Called the Magos, “Now, if you please!”

“Report situation?” asked Solomon. Crane ignored him.

“Charged.” Yelled Drecker, hurrying to join Lowell at a set of switches.

The door had gone silent. The last Skitari shifted his gun slightly in his grip, leather gloves creaking. Without looking, Crane fumbled behind him for a row of fuses, flicking them up as he murmured the appropriate devotions under his breath. He stumbled through a few verses, and hoped the Omnissiah would settle for the gist of it.

The door caved inwards, impaled on two giant scything talons. Crane’s hand flew down to the activation button and hammered it. The Skitari opened fire as the metal was peeled apart like a tin can.

There was a whir, a crackle and then a thump. It was the grandest orchestral piece Crane had ever heard. With a crack, the lights came on one by one, following the surge of energy. Terminals burst into action and the entire facility groaned as it clawed back it’s precious lifeforce.

The ruined metal door was flung aside. Specimen Three, revealed in its true horror in the recently resurrected quartz light, screamed a primal challenge. It was crouched to fit under the eight foot doorway, which now resembled a portal to Hell.

Crane swallowed hard.

Then came the explosion. Seven Two Two was thrown off his feet. The beast screamed, turned and vanished down the corridor. Secondary gunfire zipped past the opening. The sound of boots moving at double time echoed into the room. A familiar face backed up by five heavily armed grenadiers rounded the doorframe.

“Captain Fraiser!” breathed the Biologis, simply failing to care how or why this had transpired.

“Biologis,” replied the Guardsman as his men took up positions in the intersection.

“What was happened? What was that?”

“Krak grenade from the launcher. Not standard kit for an Honour Guard, but still…”

By ‘standard kit’, Captain Fraiser actually meant ‘accepted uniform’. It took him exactly one command before he discovered that ‘standard kit’ was woefully inadequate and should be replaced with ‘whatever gets the job done’. Thorn himself had insisted on this particular arrangement, because a man portable anti-tank rifle can solve problems that a smart uniform cannot.

He trailed off, glancing at Crane’s shock prod.

“Nice stick.”
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Alienscar on February 7, 2014, 10:42:48 AM
Wow, just wow. I'm lost for words really Sheepz that Chapter has left me breathless. The pace and mood were relentless right from the start and you didn't let up or miss a character nuance all the way through. The ending especially is just brilliantly fitting to what has gone before. Whilst I might have some minor quibbles this time I'm ignoring them.

PS: Don't forget about 246.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: GreaterGoodIreland on February 8, 2014, 01:55:21 AM
Yes, very nice fast pace action.
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Fasor'ith on July 22, 2014, 10:51:18 PM
Oh man oh man.

I realize I'm a little late to the party but this is excellent, even more so as I tend to be quite anti-emperor in every way. The most recent chapters in particular have been gripping and I can't wait to read more, if there is more that is.

I'm hoping to see a little more of our lovely 'warp-tapped stripper', she was genuinely my favorite despite having played only a minor role thus far.

Well done
Title: Re: Project Artemis
Post by: Sheepz on August 5, 2014, 07:58:54 AM
First off, sorry for the lack of updates.

I've been absolutely swamped at work and sorting the house out, and while I have found time to do some writing, I'm not too happy with the chapter I'm hammering out as it has to drop the pace quite a lot in favour of some more talking. I'm working on it, and will probably post it up soon, but it has me scratching my head so maybe when it's up some blunt and honest feedback will give me a better angle of attack.

Second, thanks for all your encouragement. I've been writing this for the best part of three years now which is far too long. I've had a lot of stuff to deal with and have been writing other things, but I'm sorry about the wait. A lot of the later chapters are written and now it's a case of making the two halves of the story link up.

Thanks again. Check back in a week or so.