The Coscarla Division

The wise man learns from the deaths of others!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

The acolytes and the surviving member of the Order of Varvera, Brother Jodocus, emerge from the sealed-off shuttle bay and receive assistance. Rollando badly needs medical attention.

The acolytes need to decide who will be in charge of mission on Port Wander, since Xanthia has not yet emerged from her stasis tube; they send by astropath to report the recent events to their master and ask whether to decant their psyker. In the mean time, Aenid and Calpurnia discuss the matter (as Rollando is in the med bay, recovery) and agree that Calpurnia will temporarily wield the Writ of Question.

When the Misericord emerges into realspace, it is discovered that they reached their arrival point only three days after the original astropathic signal asking for assistance was sent from Port Wander – in other words, before they even left.

What is left of the Misericord shuttles ferry personnel to the station, since the chartist vessel is too large to dock. The acolytes go find the Prefecta Mortem, present their identification papers to combat servitors; the servitors get belligerent when Xanthia is unavailable, but Calpurnia intimidates them into letting them pass. The acolytes are directed to an elevator operated by a cherub. The cage drops extremely fast and for a long time; after a couple of minutes it comes to a screeching stop, opening briskly onto a long, dimly lit corridor. As soon as they leave the elevator, the doors slam shut.

Torches light and go out at just enough of a rate to illuminate the acolytes' steps in the featureless corridor, until they reach a single room after several minutes. They pound on the thick metal door, and it opens onto a cluttered chamber. A tall and thin individual in Medicae robes and a red coat greets them with some skepticism on their timing and the absence of Xanthia. Calpurnia invites him to check the particulars with the ship. Ordering them not to touch anything, Medicae Interrogator Sand leaves his visitors to wait for a long time – twelve hours, in fact.

At last, Medicae Sand returns, having verified their particulars. He bids them come closer to the mirrored pane where he can be seen; behind him are medical servo-skulls and a gurney with a body on it. He provides a briefing.

The victim was Saul Arbest, 23 standard years of age, unskilled labourer, who was found dead on the transit system, believed to have died of an obscura drug overdose. Because his sister had reported him missing to the Adeptus Arbites, the Magistratum decided to conduct a post-mortem which revealed anomalies. The victim was not carrying anything when the body was found.

Medicae Interrogator Sand's examination revealed several odd grafts and augmentations, including a fake lung possibly intended to serve as a smuggling cache, but most unusual was a parasite extracted from the nervous system which he believes may have controlled the victim through pain. The creature is kept alive in a jar. The modifications were done about ten days ago without any effort to blunt the pain; the victim's throat was apparently damaged from screaming himself hoarse.

Aenid asks whether others have disappeared recently, but Medicae Sand is unable to ascertain this as the Coscarla Division is lawless. He has provided covers for the team and orders them to keep complete silence on the affair, the forbidden tech, or their affiliation with the Ordo Hereticus: they will go as regulators, ostensibly examining the property in the area for possible purchase.

The Coscarla Division is 70 km square of tenements built in the remains of what was once a Rogue Trader family. Two-thirds are now devastated by fires, unemployment, poverty, and lawlessness. Severe competition and reversals of fortune have brought the formerly prosperous area to devastation.

After providing some equipment, Medicae Interrogator Sand gives the acolytes a week or so to produce results. They examine the records; Calpurnia scrutinizes the vid recordings from the transit system and identifies the thieves who picked dead Saul Arbest's pockets in the car, and Aenid ascertains that Medicae Sand did a competent job of the autopsy.

It takes several hours to travel to the Coscarla Division by transit, but they eventually find themselves getting off a railcar, alone in a devastated area; a single fearful figure hops on board as they disembark. After dispelling some mendicants, they approach the Magistratum building and demand entry (trying to channel Narthax). They are taken to see Warden Locan. They present their fake paperwork from Corblast Assay and ask for information on the area, accompanied by a bribe delicately proffered by Rollando. The place is filthy and reeks of obscura. Warden Locan is very unhelpful and advises them to leave and forget about the area.

Next, they visit the miserable little market, which is about to close since the lights of the station's artificial day will soon be turned off. Throngs of unemployed paupers wave their indenture papers, trying to get hired. The acolytes establish their cover, then make their way over to the Coscarla Hostel where a greasy, shifty innkeeper and his malnourished mutant wife greet them. The place is an absolute rat trap.

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