Editor’s Note: The incident on Petronius IV was fought as a tabletop battle at the Historicon 2011 wargame convention in Valley Forge, Pa. Four players fought this narrative-style, half-wargame / half-roleplaying fight—and this is their story. Events recorded here should be considered background material of a military action that occurred one year prior to the campaign’s start in 735.M41.
INQUISITION REPORT: AUTHORIZED EYES ONLY
INCIDENT ON PETRONIUS IV
DEBRIEFING: Lt. Pernium Thule
Commander, Fire Team Alpha
132nd Cadian Regiment
EST 04/741 INQUISITORIA
FILE: Petronius System
CROSS FILE: Arachnid, Xeno Military Threat
INPUT DATE: 6 391 734.M41
INPUT CLEARANCE: Inquisitor Level
AUTHOR: Inquisitor Serillian
TRANSMITTED: Helios IV
TRANSMITTER: Astropath Primus Szar
After receipt of initial transmission concerning the incident on Petronius IV by Lt. Thule, an Inquisition team intercepted Fire Team Alpha’s transport upon its return to the Nguyen Imperial Naval Base, Belliose System. Transcript of initial interrogation of Lt. Thule follows.
“My name is Lt. Pernium Thane, commanding officer of Fire Team Alpha, a special ops unit of the 132nd Cadian Regiment. I’m a graduate of the Cadian Imperial Academy, class of 724.M41. I have three commendations and was awarded the Obsidian Metal of Honor, 2nd Class.”
“I can’t help you with the reasoning behind the mission to Petronius IV. I simply received a message to report to the regimental commander’s HQ on the double, and I didn’t waste time. All he told me was that a Tech Priest had authorization from the admiral to take a ship and a small military attachment to a world in the Petronius System. Contact with a Mechanicus outpost had been lost, and the Tech Priest was going to investigate—and we were his bodyguard.”
“No, I don’t know why the Priest wasn’t taking any skitarii. Maybe it would have taken too long to organize a contingent … I don’t know. We got the job to accompany him. We went.”
“Not an hour later, my team was hustled aboard a shuttle and taken into orbit, where we docked aboard a small transport, the Star of Orion, and we spent six weeks in the Warp making our way to Petronius IV. Not once during the voyage did we see the Tech Priest. I guess we were just beneath his notice. You get that in cog heads sometimes. They think they’re a superior breed of human, and the rest of us are little better than apes.”
“As soon as we dropped out of Warp, he finally made an appearance. Biologis Vorkalth. More machine than man. Two meters tall, mechadendrites hovering in the air behind him like floating snakes. His face buried in the shadows of his hood. You couldn’t create a more ominous figure. Little did I know ….”
“The ship’s voxcaster reported no reply from the planet to our hails, so it was clear we had a mystery on our hands. Sensors reported a dust storm was approaching the outpost, and I advised that we wait until it passed. But Vorkalth wasn’t having any of it. There wasn’t much conversation. He just said, ‘We depart in ten standard minutes.’ Then he walked away.”
“Our shuttle ride down was uneventful. There’s extensive vegetation in the temperate zones of the planet, but, of course, the Tech Priest outpost was in the hottest, most arid desert along the equator. It was a desolate area—just sand and rock. There was nothing moving on the ground, and as we approached the outpost, it was clear nothing was moving there, either.”
“The outpost was fairly large. Some kind of facility had been built into the face of a cliff, with about 100 prefabricated plasteel buildings surrounding the landing pad. I could see earth movers and powerlifters. There should have been dozens of people moving about. But there was no movement. No bodies. No signs of life.”
“We circled a bit, determined there was no identifiable threat, and the ship came down on the landing pad. The ramp dropped. We hustled off and deployed in a classic double line—heavy weapons on the flanks. The Tech Priest came down the ramp and indicated he was in a hurry. Wanted to get to the main facility before the dust storm hit.”
“Well, too bad for him. I had orders to accompany him, but no one said I had to commit suicide doing so. I wasn’t going to rush across the compound without knowing what was in those buildings all around me. I told him he could go on alone, but we were going to advance as if we were in hostile territory.”
“I could never read his reactions to anything I said. But he didn’t object. So we started forward, the squad crossing in a leapfrog advance pattern, one fire team standing still and ready to shoot; the second moving up to deploy 30 meters ahead.”
“It was clear something had happened. The building exteriors showed signs of lasgun fire. What was most worrisome to me was what we found as we searched the buildings. Those prefab buildings were the old ST-3 models—with reinforced plasteel hatches. And those hatches had buckled and been torn free of their hinges. Even a powerlifter would have a hard time making that kind of damage.”
“I can tell you, my squad was getting antsy. It was clear that the cog heads had built barricades behind those hatches using consoles and heavy machinery. It didn’t help. The interiors looked as if they’d been hit by a Warp storm. We found blood stains, a few bits of flesh—but surprisingly little. It was looking like a massacre had occurred, and I started thinking about those rumors about Warp creatures that exist—yet we’re not supposed to talk about.”
“Anyway, we got about halfway across the settlement when the dust storm finally came in. It was a perfectly horizontal wall of swirling dust that rose 200 meters into the sky. He got ourselves inside one of the largest buildings and settled in.”
“Vorkalth didn’t like it. But I told him—with respect, mind you—that were sitting this out. Visibility wasn’t going to be farther than my own hand, and besides the dust making us very vulnerable, I could lose men if they got separated from the squad and wandered out into the desert. I suspect he didn’t argue the point for another reason—our sensors were useless with all the electric interference caused by the storm. I imagine his internal electronics were suffering as well.”
“So we settled in for the night. The Tech Priest found himself some private quarters and closed the door. And that gave me an opportunity to do some snooping. I didn’t like the cog wheel—and I certainly didn’t trust him. As soon as he disappeared, I had Pvt. Zayin tap into the nearest cogitator and draw up some records.”
“As expected, most of the data banks were secured, with automatic intrusion detection systems. But Zayin uploaded a number of personal logs that weren’t so secure, and they gave us a rough picture of what had happened to everyone.”
“Our first clue was an entry made about six months earlier by an acolyte who reported hearing a strange, pulsating high-pitched noise coming from the desert. Another acolyte mentioned the disappearance of a co-worker who had been sent to repair a waste-water facility on the outskirts of the settlement.”
“Later entries indicated that matters degenerated quickly. More disappearances were reported. Then the Magos in charge of the facility ordered zeta-prime security measures, and skatarii were deployed openly in the streets. A curfew was ordered. Then came a series of nighttime attacks. Some logs write of lasgun fire and screams. Rumors of giant insects spread.”
“Then the logs simply end. In all the personal accounts we could access, all entries end on the same day—4 046 734.M41—about three standard months before our arrival.”
Read part 2 of the Inquisition report.
Read part 3 of the Inquisition report.
The Corvus Cluster is a hobby blog that focuses on the wargaming adventures of the Wednesday Night Gamers of Alexandria in the Warhammer 40K universe.
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