Whispers In The Dark

Trust in your fear!
— Evocation to the Immortal Emperor

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Things have been quiet for the last several weeks and the acolytes have been pursuing their investigations without any major breakthroughs. The ship is expected to break out of the Warp and into the Port Wander system within 24 hours.

Purser Darl shows up with a request that the acolytes dress in their Guild of Starlight uniforms and accompany her. She takes them to meet a man in the undress uniform of the Merciful, Senior Guildmember Hart. He says he has been given to understand that they have certain skills in investigation; an unusual situation has arisen and he needs to try “alternative approaches”.

There has been an incident about 47 hours ago within the forward shuttle bay; they are no longer receiving any signals from the machine spirits or telemetry readings. He has sent three patrols of the Merciful, and only one individual has returned… who has pulled out his own eyes, ears and lips. With only a day to emergence, Hart fears he has to either try a frontal assault or try something unusual. It is possible that a Warp entity has infected the compartment. The successive patrols of two, five, and 25 Merciful only brought one survivor, from the last group.

The acolytes see the disfigured survivor, Ensign Vandegrit who keeps muttering something to himself which they can barely make out as “It wasn't me, it wasn't me…” At Calpurnia's insistence, they examine him for physical evidence; Aenid notices that his flak vest has received multiple lasgun and slugthrower hits. She also remembers that back on Iocanthos they encountered a similar event in Port Suffering, where a man killed his family then plucked out his own eyes, repeating “It wasn't me…”

Rollando tries to get through to poor wretch, but despite being shackled the man lunges for him and tries to bite, vomiting forth syllables that make everyone physically ill. The mere words are making the man's teeth come loose in his mouth and bleed. Aenid presses her Blessed Bolter Shell, a precious relic, against the man's skin; he starts to scream and the skin boils away. Calpurnia pulls everyone out of the cell and slams the door shut behind them. Through the bolt hole, they can see him start to spit his own teeth with the force of a weapon.

Calpurnia orders him cleansed. Hart presses a button which depressurizes the cell, but that hardly slows him down. They order the cell repressurized and fetch flamers, finishing the job themselves; fire seems to do the job, but it takes a lot to kill him. Some of the teeth are now embedded in the doorway. The acolytes think that it is odd that the man had been allowed – or sent – back through the airlock, then waited quietly without showing violence until Rollando interrogated him, almost like a message sent to the only ones who would understand it.

At the acolytes' request, Hart has assembled an Adeptus Mechanicus team with servitors. They send out a servo-skull but lose contact with it as soon as the far door of the airlock closes. Something blurry appears from the edge of the servo-skull's IR feed before it is cut off; careful review suggests a normal-looking arm with blinding speed. A similar fate or malfunction befalls every other servo-skull or probe they send through various conduits.

They meet with Prelate Intellae of the Order of Varvera; he has been informed of the situation and is happy to provide shock troops to cleanse the shuttle bay.

Meanwhile Senior Guildmember Hart also checks on the inventory of slaves from Iocanthos, as requested. After a while, he comes to fetch the acolytes in a hurry, to look at the slave containers: inside one, they have found a few terrified slaves, and a large number of bodies in various stages of desiccation, their spinal fluid drained. The acolytes insist that Sir Samael should be left alone, as this is his property; Aenid assures Hart that the slaves have been used in medical experiments as Medicae Howe tries to find a cure for Phynx Rot.

Another five slaves are missing from the inventory, mostly from the Divine Corporation, and intended for delivery to Sephirus Secundus. Calpurnia fiercely intimidates the remaining slaves into revealing what they know, and learns most of them were taken by visitors about 10 to 12 weeks. They were supervised by a large individual, as much as eight feet tall, wearing red power armour – like the individual Aenid, Atellus and Xanthia met on their first mission.

The acolytes report to one of the Twin Captains. S/he is very concerned, alerts the entire Choir complement to be on duty, and puts the Merciful entirely at the acolytes' disposal. They discuss the possibility of having to destroy they shuttle bay, although Calpurnia is concerned that this might be a trap to force them to do just that – after all, the opponent appears to have access to teleportation.

They raid the armoury, select a heavy flamer for Rollando, heavy stubber for Aenid, mono-sword for Calpurnia. Then they visit the other Inquisitorial team to warn them of the situation and have them ready as backup. They also recruit Baronet Riksdag into coming along, then visit the ship's chapel to pray for the Emperor's guidance.

Thus prepared, they make their way to the airlock and go in. Inside, it's dark except for a distant red glare at the edge of vision. They start moving along the wall, and come across what looks like a mass of arms. But they then realize it's the previous parties of Merciful, fused together in a weeping mass. The acolytes and the Brothers of the Order of St. Varvera keep their wits, but the few Merciful accompanying them start screaming and clawing at their own eyes, howling that they can't see.

A sound seems to be coming over the intercom, a whisper: “it wasn't me, it wasn't me…”

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