There was little light this deep in the underhive. More than 100 meters underground, most of the level’s illumination panels had long ago failed, and it appeared that the area’s environmental controls were in no better shape. A thick mist hung in the air.
Bounty hunter Jason Scarn stood quietly in that mist, alongside a giant water filtration system that was wet with condensation and corroded by rust and mold.
Clearly the level had been long abandoned, Scarn observed. There were no signs that the surrounding equipment was being maintained—and there was no sound of machinery in operation. Just an eerie silence made deeper by the shadows around him.
Despite the semi-darkness, he could vaguely make out the five-level industrial tower that rose about 100 meters in front of him. That’s where his sources said a Runepriest—a very important Runepriest—was being held captive.
Over his vox link, Scarn ordered his men forward. Most were mercenaries, with a few trusted men among them that the bounty hunter knew would keep everyone honest. The majority of these men were hive scum, but as long as they were paid well, they’d do the job.
There was one member of this party that Scarn wasn’t happy about. To his left, he could make out a stout-looking woman shouldering a grenade launcher. Dressed in shabby clothes like most of his men, Noguru was, however, no mercenary. She was an Inquisitorial stormtrooper, a non-too-subtle watchdog sent by the Inquisitor Serillian to keep an eye on him.
Three men followed Noguru, obstensibly under her command. But, while ordered to follow her orders—she was a highly trained soldier—these men also were under instructions to keep an eye on her.
Anyone who worked for that bitch Inquisitor was not to be trusted.
Well, I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself, Scarn thought. I’ve a job to do.
He started forward, keeping to the shadows and using the surrounding industrial pipes, generators, and storage tanks for cover. A half dozen men followed him as they approached a ladder leading to the level above, where a walkway would take them closer to their target.
Not that Scarn gave a damn about the Runepriest he’d been sent to recover. Hundres of meters above, on the surface of the planet Dozaria, several regiments of Imperial Guard battled alongside the famed Blood Angels Space Marine chapter as they defended the hive city from mutants, cultists, and disease-ridden monstrosities that had invaded the world more than a year ago.
There was not much left to fight over. The surface was a disaster. Dozaria was now a plague planet, cursed by disease and war, rapidly crumbling into ruins and madness.
Certainly Scarn didn’t want to be here. There was no bounty large enough to persuade him to land on a plague planet. It was bad enough to have to take on crazed cultists who followed some unfathomable god who apparently inflicted its own followers with disease. And the disease that inflicted this planet—the Kassig Plague—was reason enough to stay away.
But the Inquisition had taken notice of Scarn’s crimes—but also of his skills in tracking down and capturing people difficult to find. He was given a choice: Do a small “favor” for the Lady Serillian, or learn firsthand why all fear the Inquisition.
He pushed away his self-pity and began to pay attention to the fight ahead.
TheGM—From the first turn, this game was frustrating. This was a solo game, where I played Scarn and his men, while the cultists holding the Runepriest responded in pre-arranged ways to events. But, as I advanced my troops, wandering sentries stymied every effort I made to approach the towering, five-level central tower where the prisoner was being held.
I climbed up one three-level industrial unit, hoping to put my sniper on high ground. But at least one cultist sentry was always facing my way, and I was forced to wait in cover for turns, hoping for the dice to position all the sentries in a direction where they wouldn’t see Scarn advance. It never happened.
Finally, on Turn 9, I decided to “go for it” and hope the sentries didn’t spot me. They did.
First shots fired
When he heard the first lasgun fire, Scarn knew that the element of surprise was lost. Raised voices could be heard on the walkways below and above him, in the direction of his target, and he knew he had to act fast if he wasn’t going to find himself caught in a deadly crossfire.
He tapped his vox. “Noguru, are you in position.”
“Negative,” Scarn heard the stormtrooper reply. “I’m one level below you, but I do have a good line of sight. Hostiles are headed in your direction. My team is in position to provide fire support.”
It would be nice if you were a bit closer, the bounty hunter thought. Still, the stormtrooper didn’t seem upset by the fact that a shitstorm was about to descend upon them. Did that mean Noguru was optimistic about their chances? Or was she simply unconcerned whether Scarn survived or not?
He ducked down behind a heavy storage tank as lasgun fire began to pepper his position. “Hey, Adius,” Scarn yelled to his sniper, crawling beside some piping about 10 meters away. You got a line of fire yet?”
“Yep,” the sniper yelled back, pulling himself to a sitting position and resting his sniper rifle atop a pipe. A second later, the powerful rifle sounded with a loud “thump” as it fired a high-caliber, high-velocity round into the shadows.
“One down,” he reported.
TheGM—My frustration with the terrain continued. The cultists had the high ground, and although I had gunman positioned relatively well, and Noguru was having some luck with her grenade launcher, the fact was that I really only had one walkway to charge down to reach the center tower.
And that wasn’t going to happen. There was little cover, and even that was stymied by cultists on higher ground who could fire with an unimpeded view of any of my men that advanced. So I was locked in a basic firefight where good dice might decide the battle.
For a time, I had the upper hand with the dice. Then disaster struck: On Turn 13, my sniper got him, taking out what was supposed to be one of my best advantages. He wasn’t dead, but I’d need to lucky with the die roll to get him back in the fight. Things weren’t looking good.
The Corvus Cluster is a Warhammer 40K blog documenting our gaming adventures in the fantastical sci-fi universe of Games Workshop.