The Yellow Line Killings
HiveVolg.jpg

The lot of courage is to be sacrificed on the altar of battle!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

Sanctus Machina wants to gain access to the Library of All Knowing in the hopes of learning more about the Logicians' activity in the sector. He needs to obtain permission from the subsector (and planetary) governor, Pas Palacious, which will involve a lot of bureaucracy. Calpurnia accompanies him in order to look into the history of Akelia Hive and the powers behind it before its fall 97 years ago.

Meanwhile, Rollando and Aenid decide to visit the ruins of Akelia Hive for themselves – at substantial cost. The shuttle pilot warns them that if they are not back in 24 hours, he will leave without them. They start descending down a shaft and the doors slam shut behind them! They are greeted by a mechanical voice who asks them to identify themselves and state their intent. When they say they are here to interview survivors of Hive Akelia, they are allowed to take an elevator down hundreds of meters below the surface. At the bottom, they are let into a space that reminds Aenid of an interrogation room.

They are interviewed by a vague silhouette wrapped in voluminous robes, which they suspect may be a mutant. He asks them how rich and important they are and seems to consider kidnapping them for ransom, but eventually decides to enlist their help to reach the subsector governor instead. He explains that before its fall, Hive Akelia was in competition with Hives Magnagorsk, Nova Castilla, and Volg, but Volg started falling behind. Magnagorsk and Nova Castilla orchestrated the fall of Hive Akelia – and tried to so the same to Volg, but for some reason the latter survives for the moment. The mysterious speaker says the survivors of Hive Akelia have been acting as mercenaries for the other hives for a hundred generation since the fall, but now he wants to speak to the subsector governor to warn him that Hive Volg faces the same fate. The Akelians keep Rollando and Aenid around as “guests” for a couple of days, during which the acolytes realize that the inhabitants age rapidly, living their entire life within a standard year.

Meanwhile, Calpurnia and Sanctus Machina concoct a cover story for the governor's benefit, claiming to be here to do background research on behalf of Elsirgi Krin, as commanded by their master (Rollando's cover identity) while he's on Fenksworld. They meet with Governor Palacious but discover he detests Krin and refuses to open the Library. Calpurnia decides to change tack and show him the Inquisitorial rosette; he's even less happy and continues to refuse Library access. He says his grandfather was killed by the Inquisition after cutting off access to the Library. Although the Adeptus Mechanicus still has access, he balks at Sanctus Machina's ties with the Inquisition. At last he says he will reconsider if they prove useful; he tells them to go ask the local authorities about the Yellow Line Killings, and use their investigative abilities.

After the team regroups, they go meet the local Proctor of the Arbites in Hive Volg. Proctor Blando is a plainspoken no-nonsense kind of guy who clearly gets too much amisec and losticks but looks honest. He is surprised at their visit, says he doesn't hear from Governor Palacious very often. The Arbites have not been able to solve the case; Proctor Blando mentions occult influences. He agrees to show them the file but says he wants to be kept in the loop. He takes them to a dusty archive and brings out a couple of boxes, listing of all 127 Yellow Line Killings over a period of ten years.

The deaths are widely space over both time and area; the bodies are always hidden and occult symbols drawn on bodies. The Arbites cannot recognize the symbols. A yellow line is always found recently painted on the floor somewhere nearby. Sometimes the bodies have not been not found for months or even years, but they are always wrapped (in tarp, ropes, blankets, etc.), and found all over the Hive. Proctor Blando says they may not have found all the bodies. The latest was found four days ago and was a couple of weeks old, one of the fresher bodies found. Many victims have been identified, they run the social gamut. The symbols generally repeat from one body to the next, but are written by at least half a dozen different people. All died by violence but in different ways. The yellow line is generally hastily painted, about same length, around 10 feet, straight but in different positions with respect to bodies though generally facing (i.e., parallel to) a wall, five to ten feet back.

On several pictures, Calpurnia notices a small hole in wall at eye level near the centre of the line, and after some investigation, declares the paint to be standard-issue Imperial Guard marker paint. With some research, Sanctus Machina identifies the symbols as those used by Witch Kin on Tranch. The acolytes review summary notes about the Tranch situation; the planet is known for its lingering Chaos cults, but is valuable enough to reclaim so no extreme sanctions have been taken yet. It orbits a very bright sun, and eye protection is needed on Tranch.

Proctor Blando escorts them to latest site, and points to pile of crates where body was found by a rag-picker. The small hole is there in the wall, it looks like a nail hole and goes all the way through the wall. There is no sign of activity on the far side, however; it looks like just a nail hole. Rollando suddenly remembers from the Imperial Guard manual that in times of conscription, when chapels are in short supply, inductors represent the Imperial altar with a yellow line and hang an aquila on a wall during mass raising of regiments.

Proctor Blando finds this very disturbing as hundreds of regiments have been raised from Fenksworld and sent to Tranch, and more than average from Hive Volg. After some more research, they find that only one returned ten years ago right before the murders started, 212 strong at the time – the 212th Volg Volunteers. Some 76 survive, including two officers (Lt. Yancio and Captain Kastler), and of the ones who died, most succumbed to some form of skin cancer (thanks to the harsh Tranch sun). A few of the survivors have criminal records, mostly minor. Half a dozen have simply disappeared, but this is not unusual in a place like this. None of the Yellow Line victims were Tranch veterans. The 212th Volg Volunteers were in fact rapidly inducted 15 years ago when the uprising flared up again, and the summary ceremony is the form they went through.


The picture is actually a digital painting by Jordan Nieuwland. Go see his wonderful art full-size on his site. Used without permission, no copyright challenge intended.

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