Hold Your Friends Close

Violence solves everything!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

The acolytes find themselves, in their cover identities, brought aboard the Chartist Vessel Misericord for the trip to Scintilla. The vessel is gigantic and old, and the interior is a wild mish-mash of styles from neo-barbarian to high gothic.

The acolytes are met on the landing deck by a young woman dressed in a blue uniform, wearing a bland, smiling mask. She introduces herself as “Junior Purser Darl, of the Guild of Lords, Siblings, and Officers” and formally welcomes the representatives of the Departmento Munitorum aboard on behalf of the Captains, officers, and crew. She informs them that they will be shortly taken to their quarters, and that their luggage is being seen to. As Beyonders to the Misericord, she wishes to make certain that they understand certain rules of the ship in order that they do not inadvertently cause inconvenience. The rules are:

  1. Beyonders are restricted to the Beyonders Hostelry and the adjoining Gallery of Sin at all times unless otherwise permitted. Special arrangements will be made allowing for review of the pertinent ship’s books during the voyage.
  2. Beyonders may not carry loaded firearms aboard the Misericord except within the Beyonders Hostelry unless instructed and permitted to do so by the Guild of Lords, Siblings, and Officers or a member of the Merciful.
  3. Beyonders may be selected to perform certain duties, both ceremonial and practical, during their stay aboard. These duties are not optional.
  4. Meals will be provided at your quarters as part of the travel arrangements, but any other commodities desired while on board must be purchased.

With that, Junior Purser Darl escorts the party towards the Beyonder's Hostel.

Some things the party sees on the way:

A large crowd (~10,000 or so) being led off the landing deck, escorted by members of the Merciful carrying shock prods and laspistols. Junior Purser Darl explains that these are not passengers, but cargo purchased on Iocanthos.

As they walk through the corridors of the ship they at one point pass a vast feasting hall, dimly lit. Flags and banners slowly moulder along the walls and long trestle tables, which appear to have the capacity to sit hundreds, if not thousands, sit under dust covers. Junior Purser Darl comments that it is the “Hall of Deliverance” which has not been used in a thousand years. She says she doesn't know why.

The group sees an individual in a dark blue uniform approaching, his face painted with stars. Junior Purser Darl quickly moves the party out of the passageway allowing him to go by, which he does without a look. Darl explains that he is of “The Bringers of Silence - a very rare guild. I have never seen one before. It is considered quite lucky!”

Eventually, after what seems like a walk of miles, the acolytes are brought to the Beyonder's Hostelry - a strange nugget of barbarism within the great ship. The accommodations are tents and crude plaster buildings. There are numerous stalls selling a variety of wares, and musicians & acrobats perform for the entertainment of the passengers. The whole Beyonder’s Hostelry is huge, with a capacity for perhaps 5,000 people, and seems to be pretty full.

At the entrance to the Beyonder’s Hostelry Junior Purser Darl turns the party over to a gnomish looking creature in heavy robes, whom she will introduce as one of the Minions of Stewardship, the guild charged with taking care of the needs of Beyonders. She will then take her leave.

The Minion, named LePlar, explains his duties to the acolytes by means of a slate he writes his answers on, and puts himself at the acolytes' service. The group is settled into a whitewashed plaster house, and LePlar asks about their missing member. Soon thereafter the ship breaks orbit and begins heading for the warp jump.

After Commissar Jemadar has inspected their quarters for listening devices, the acolytes have a private conversation about the mission. Jemadar mentions that she may be recognized as a Commissar by Nixius Fang if he gets a good look at her, though he does not know of her assignment with Inquisitor Skane. Hernandez searches the personal effects that were delivered for Aristarchus as part of his cover identity, and retrieves a dataslate.

Jemadar breaks into the encryption — encountering a bitter-sweet funny rejoinder left by Aristarchus to the "kids" for breaking into his things — and finds that as Scrivener Quintos Amed, he has requisitioned three sets of data on behalf of Scrivener Brunell: a list of legal violations of all ship’s personnel and court transcripts going back over the last 10 years; bills of lading indicating the transfer of ghostflower pollen carried from Iocanthos in the last 10 years; and records of religious observances of ship’s personnel for the past 10 years, cross indexed with estimates of ship’s population. Of these, only the Ghostfire pollen information would be expected to fall under the purview of the Departmento Munitorum.

At this point, LePlar returns and informs them that they are invited to dinner, where they will hear an announcement by the Merciful. Once at the large dining hall (similar to the Hall of Deliverance but smaller, though still grandiose), they find an officer of the Merciful, along with Commissar Fang and about 100 Chaliced Stormtroopers, speaking to the guests. As the acolytes take place as far away from the Chaliced Commissariat troops as they can, the officer explains that the group is aboard on a special mission from the sector governor himself. Fang steps forward to address the crowd.

“For the Emperor! I am Nixius Fang. You may address me as Commissar Fang or simply as Commissar! I have been dispatched at the behest of our beloved sector governor Marius Hax, may the Emperor guide his every thought!, to deal with a particular difficulty - a difficulty that the Chaliced Commissariat was created to deal with!

For generations dark rumors have followed this loyal vessel as it has charted its path throughout the stars. It has been whispered that this is a ship of ill-omen. It has been whispered that doom and disaster follow her. It has been whispered that her very presence in a system may bring trouble and woe.

All that is now at an end! This day! This voyage! By my hand, and the hand of the Chaliced Commissariat! Whatever evil, whatever heresy may lurk within this hull, rest assured that we will find it, that we will cleanse it! We will make this vessel worthy once again, and when it arrives over Scintilla it will never more sully the skies above that jewel of a world!”

He then shoots the Merciful officer in the head.

“This man failed in his duty! This man failed to keep his own house clean and pure! For this he has suffered the fate of those who fail the Emperor! Let this serve as a warning to you all! We will be purging this vessel of unworthy elements! We will be purging this vessel of unclean elements! We will purge this vessel of all that is not pleasing in the Emperor’s sight!”

“Loyal citizens, I call upon you to aid us in our holy duty here! Should you detect even the slightest hint of heresy in those around you, report it to the Chaliced Commissariat! If you encounter the heretic, the unclean, the psyker, purge them! Purge them in the name of the Emperor! In His most holy name, we will eradicate any whiff of evil from this vessel, and make it pure once more!”

Fang steps back and an Imperial Preacher comes to the fore, decked out in icons of the Ecclesiarchy and purity seals. He begins exhorting the crowd to loyalty towards the God-Emperor as the Chaliced Commissariat troops head off to begin their purge of Ship’s Security.

“Well, that should make for an interesting voyage,” says a voice in the crowd. The acolytes can easily identify the speaker — a man of indeterminate age. His dress, consisting of a broad-brimmed hat, respirator, and well-worn clothing of eclectic design, marks him as an interstellar rogue, almost comically so. He looks like a character from a bad holovid adventure program. There is nothing comical about the elegant force sword he has sheathed on his belt, however.

“You will forgive my intrusion,” he says in a suave (and faintly amused) voice, “but I see you are from the Departmento Munitorum. I wonder if you could assist me on a personal matter. I am seeking an old compatriot of mine — a freelance data scrivener. It was my understanding that he had recently taken employment with the Departmento Munitorum. I know that your organization is, to say the least, expansive, but I wonder if you might know him. His name is Quintos — Quintos Amed.”

Fraal (in her guise as Scrivener Octia Brunell) cautiously explains that, regrettably, she must give him bad news: Quintos died during their inspection of the Ghostfire pollen reserves on Iocanthos. She assures him that they would be happy to carry on with Quintos' tasks, however, and she invites the man to visit them in their quarters later that evening.

That night, the man does come visit them. He shows his knowledge by giving them Aristarchus's real name and role, and tells them he knows they work for Inquisitor Skane. He introduces himself as Vownus Kaede and says that like Skane, he is an Inquisitor. Despite Commissar Jemadar's warning glares, Fraal and Hernandez readily admit to their mission. When the acolytes confide in him immediately, Kaede chides them gently for being so trusting, but seems more than a little amused by the whole thing, like an indulgent parent watching a child. He explains that Skane and him don't necessarily see eye to eye, although they agree on occasion to cooperate for common interests. He declines to give the specifics of their disagreements, but declares with amusement that she seems to have chosen them well.

He offers to help them with their mission if they will provide him with some help as well. Apparently, an important "resource" is believed to be on board the Misericord, which both he and a rival Inquisitor, Rykehuss, plan to acquire. This Inquisitor is from the Ordo Hereticus, just like Kaede and Skane, but with a very different agenda; Kaede finds himself unable to cooperate with him. Rykehuss is looking for a coven of psykers and obtained Sector Governor Hax's assistance. Kaede means to find the coven first and spirit it away before Rykehuss's purge.

As he leaves, Kaede urges the acolytes to refrain from any more revelations to anyone on board.

Two days later, LePlar informs the acolytes that reservations have been made for them in one of the halls of perusal, and that the records which they require have been released and made available. LePlar escorts the acolytes through several miles of passageways, eventually bringing them to a cold, empty steel room in which several tottering stacks of paper printouts have been placed, leaning precariously. There is no furniture in the room, and other than three blindingly bright spotlights suspended from the ceiling, the room is dim. A single servitor waits patiently in one corner, breathing in the slow, mechanical rhythm of an iron lung and making occasional whirring noises as some internal piece of machinery adjusts itself. LePlar lets the acolytes know that the servitor is programmed to return any records that they are finished with to the archives, and to summon LePlar when the group is done. He cautions them not to leave the room, as they have no permission to travel anywhere else within the vessel. The acolytes request furniture to sit on and are provided with a disparate assortment of chairs and cushions (and nothing for Xanthia).

They split the records among themselves and immerse themselves in data for the next several hours; Jemadar has given them her theory that perhaps Narthax is, in his way, doing them a "favour" by sending them as petty bureaucrats since that is the approach that has paid off for him in his investigations.

Hernandez detects an increase in religious observance over the past 10 years, corresponding to the increase in Sisters of the Void's presence.

Jemadar notes that records of Ghostfire pollen show a number of planet-side purchasers. As one might expect, the pollen is going mainly to processing plants that distribute to the Guard Penal Legions, but there are a few somewhat unexpected buyers such as the Adeptus Mechanicus, the Chaliced Commissariat, and one Rogue Trader, Captain Serren Travis.

Fraal thinks, from the records, that the reported crime rate on board is lower than expected. Are they being under-reported? Is someone systematically hiding crime aboard in order to make the records look good?

Although they still have plenty to go through over the next few days, they file a request for additional data: cargo manifests in order to identify instances of pilferage or mismatches between resources loaded, processed, and sold; and a list of repeat offenders among the ship's company.

That night upon returning to their quarters they are served with an elegant invitation announcing that they have been selected to perform ship's duties and should report two days hence in formal attire. Hernandez protests that he has nothing suitable to wear…

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