In a long-forgotten star system far from the sector’s normal shipping lanes, an escort-sized spacecraft floats silently in the shadow of an unnamed planet. The ship is painted entirely in black, with the exception of a stark white “I” emblazoned on its bow.
Aboard the ship, an astrophathic message is received–and a reply soon is transmitted back across the Warp.
MISSION REPORT BY: Approbator Adonai Drusus
Acolyte to Inquisitor Serillian
FILE: Response to Xeno Raid, Dryilian IV
CROSS FILE: Necron, Xeno Military Threat
INPUT DATE: 6 649 736.M41
INPUT CLEARANCE: Inquisitor Level
SUBMITTED TO: Inquisitor Serillian
As you are aware, the security beacons orbiting the tomb world of Stigmata went silent on 6 801 735.M41. An Imperial Navy gunship was deployed to investigate.
On 6 969 735.M41, the gunship, The Emperor’s Pawn, arrived in the Stigmata system and reported the beacons still orbited the planet. One beacon was examined by the ship’s Tech Priest, who reported that its machine spirit had been contaminated with scrap code and rendered inactive.
A second—and final—report from The Emperor’s Pawn indicated that an unidentified energy source had been detected on the planet surface.
The failure of The Emperor’s Pawn to broadcast followup reports—and its failure to return to the Nguyen Naval Base—strongly suggests that the Imperial gunship was overwhelmed by xeno hostile activity.
As per your command, no rescue effort was permitted, despite the objections of naval authorities. It is to be hoped that any xeno activity on Stigmata will, for now, confine itself to the planet, as we already have a multitude of strategic threats to deal with.
Unfortunately, this hope may be misplaced. On 6 598 736.M41, Imperial Navy Task Force Bellum 978 received a distress call from a scientific outpost in the Dryilian System, approximately 75 light years rimward of Belliose III. [Coordinates attached.] The confused and peremptory information provided by the outpost’s astropathic message was that the outpost was under attack.
The task force, consisting of a light cruiser and three Firestorm-class frigates, took approximately two weeks to reach the Dryilian System. The outpost, orbiting Dryilian IV, appeared undamaged but none of the 1,119 personnel assigned to the installation was found aboard. The outpost’s 20 escape pods and two planetary shuttles were still aboard, and all appeared to be in working order.
There was no evidence of the fate of the outpost’s personnel.
The boarding party that investigated the outpost included a lexmechanic who accessed the outpost’s central cogitator repository in hopes of explanatory data. Two pict-recordings were recovered and broadcast to the Naval Intelligence Service on Belliose III:
- A severely degraded pict-recording of a bipedel, cybernetic lifeform.
- A pict-recording of xeno hieroglyphics displayed on a still-intact xeno device found connected to the outpost’s plasma generators.
Sometime later, the light cruiser, Light Eternal, transmitted a report that a xeno vessel was rapidly approaching, and the task force was moving to engage.
This was the last message transmitted by the task force, despite repeated attempts to restore communications.
Upon receipt of this information, I conducted a quick comparison of the hieroglyphics in the pict-recording to the symbols found on the ruins of Stigmata. They are a match.
As you know, I have been reviewing Inquisition records in search of other incidents involving the xeno species believed to reside on Stigmata. One incident I’ve discovered has disturbing parallels to what happened on Dryilian: An incident in the Yuctan System in 666.M41.
At that time, a small Imperial fleet of seven ships was attacked by a xeno force in the Eastern Fringe. Only one surviving Imperial ship survived to report the battle, and by the time a full Imperial fleet arrived in the system, the xenos had disappeared—and the entire system was devoid of human life. No bodies were found, and the fate of the human population was never determined.
In this instance, only one piece of information links the incident to more recent events: Confiscated from a crewman aboard the surviving fleet vessel was a sketch of a xeno ship. Engraved on two curved wings of the ship were symbols bearing a strong resemblance to those found on Stigmata and Drylian.
(Given the distances involved in void warfare, it seems impossible that the crewman would have seen a xeno vessel close enough to distinguish such detail. But the records offer no indication of a proper interrogation of the crewman, who subsequently was killed in battle in 672.M41.)
Given this data, it appears that all of these incidents are related. According to a Level 3 intelligence report by Inquisitor Dobest [original report attached, original date: 6 329 427.M41], the Eldar witch, Eldorath, warned of the threat of Stigmata and told of a race of xenos, the “Necrons,” that lay in hibernation on a number of “tomb worlds” throughout the galaxy.
While the words of a xeno cannot be trusted, Inquisitor Dobest had reason to take them seriously, which led to the eventual quarantine of Stigmata once the significance of the world’s ruins was determined.
It appears that these Necrons have awakened. As they pose a grave threat to the Imperium, action must be taken. Yet, quite frankly, we are unprepared for a major military action. Thus I offer a suggestion: a small reconnaissance mission to Dryilian IV—and, if appropriate, a subsequent covert incursion to Stigmata.
As you know, Deathwatch Team Cassius is too far away to respond quickly. However, there is a sergeant with the Knights of Altair—a Brother-Sergeant Quintas—who proved useful during last year’s mission on Dar Sai.
I know you dislike involving the Astartes in our work—even the highly trained Deathwatch are a blunt instrument. But we need to know about what’s happening, so I request permission to recruit a squad of Knights, along with various adepts, and follow up on this disturbing chain of events.
— END REPORT — DRUSUS —
RESPONSE: Inquisitor Serillian
FILE: Possible Xeno Raid, Dryilian IV
CROSS FILE: Necron, Xeno Military Threat
INPUT DATE: 6 657 736.M41
INPUT CLEARANCE: Inquisitor Level
SUBMITTED TO: Approbator Adonai Drusus
You are hereby authorized to proceed to Dryilian IV and investigate the loss of outpost personnel and the fate of Task Force Bellum 978.
The acquisition of any electronic records, physical evidence, and—most preferable—witnesses of the incident (human or otherwise) is your primary mission.
You are authorized to recruit a small detachment of Astartes to support your mission. But keep your investigation team small and discrete. Do NOT extend your investigation to Stigmata without prior authorization.
You are authorized to defend yourself from enemy attack—and use violence for the limited purpose of gathering intelligence/prisoners. However, I do not want your mission to result in any escalation of violence (ie. under no circumstances should you request support from Imperial forces that might lead to a large-scale military engagement with xeno forces).
As my father used to say, don’t prod a half-dead ork.
This is a Priority Alpha mission. Work fast, be ruthless, and keep a low profile.
P.S. Drusus, I want to see better results than I did at Mora.
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