The Murder of Crows

A Rude Awakening - The Hunt Begins

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Lord-Captain Elias Cole is awoken by the vox alarm in his personal quarters. It is 05:00 Solar time, and he is badly hungover. This is not a good combination. He rubs the sleep and sweat from his bleary eyes with his biological hand. Not for first time he curses himself that for all his new found wealth, the cheap Amasec still tastes the best. Even if it does turn your brain into a throbbing, existence of pain. Heavy blast shutters cover the gothic-arched windows of the Lord-Captain’s quarters making them thankfully dark.

A naked Midshipman Violetta Cortez curses Cole for not stopping the alarm more quickly, before rolling back to sleep, dragging the last vestiges of the sheets with her.
Rising from the bed, Cole awkwardly hauls his breeches on over his cybernetic leg and pulls his brocaded maroon jacket on, not bothering with a shirt. He tosses his boots into his personal elevator, before irritably slamming his fist onto the vox receive button, to silence the infernal alarm if nothing else.

“Ah, Lord-Captain.. I was beginning to think you might be sobre. I do hope I didn’t wake you”, the mockingly sarcastic tones of the ship’s Factotum, Gabriel Haarlock, did nothing to improve Cole’s mood.

“What the hell do you want?” he growled. Cole didn’t trust the man. His ‘loyalty’ to the Cole Household was being enforced by the barbed hand of the Inquisition. The former Cold-Trader had said as much, and had even gone so far as to admit his future betrayal, “when the price is right”. But, Cole did have to admit, though grudgingly, that the man had his uses.

“By some miracle, ‘my Lord’, The Crone has actually managed to guide us through the Empyrean, without dragging us through any more ‘unforeseen’ stellar phenomenon, which makes a welcome first. We translated into real space an hour ago, and are inbound for Rubycon II. I took the liberty of having Kor’El and Drake set us a course for Port Wander as agreed.”

“Fine. What about Rhett?” Cole asked, attempting to massage some of the throbbing pain from his temples.

“Why Lord-Captain, straight to business? A most refreshing turn of events”

“Spare me the bullshit Haarlock, has he found her or not?”

“There’s fresh blood on the trail, if that’s what you’re wanting to hear, Cole. Apologies, ‘my Lord’. Our enigmatic Enginseer Prime, Serverus, was able to boost the sensitivity of the Ghost’s augur array as requested. He clacked something about re-routing flux converters or some such but there’s only so much of his white noise I can listen to. Anyway, he received a coded Household transmission shortly after the ship translated. I checked the ciphers personally, and can confirm that they’re definitely Rhett’s. Our Master of Whispers delivers once again.

I have called an immediate assembly of our Inner Council and will brief them in full. All this secrecy must be killing that Ordos bitch, hah. We shall await your presence on the bridge as soon as is convenient. I shall have the servitors prepare the vomitorium for your arrival. Out”

“Bastard”, Cole swore under his breath as he crossed the cold floor and entered the elevator, retrieving his boots as he climbed onto the imposing armoured command chair. As the heavy doors sealed shut behind him with the strobe of warning lights, he pulled a crumpled packet of Lho sticks from his pocket. He hadn’t even finished lighting the first one of the day before the elevator lurched violently upwards in a cloud of escaping steam and the clanking of heavy gears as it sped towards the bridge.

The Lord-Captain’s elevator arrives on the bridge. It is a hive of activity, with a swarm of crew and servitors under the watchful eye of the experienced Lord-Lieutenant-Primus Antonius Augustus. Lord-Lieutenant-Secundus Regina D’Stan-Cole stalks the deck like a caged animal, barking orders at the ratings, and administering a tongue lashing when they do not respond quickly enough to her commands. Void Commander Kor’El and Luthor Drake man the helm.

At the foot of the Lord-Captain’s command tower, the Astropath Transcendant Torquemada Deliberato chuckles maniacally to himself at some unspoken message, while the Crone Tabitha van Heppel studies holographic projections of the local star-system.

Haarlock has assembled a number of the ship’s senior officer’s, the Inner Council. This includes the gaunt eldar Commandant Rh’ahv Han’dile and the Ordos Interrogator Elisabeth Xanthe.

Serverus’ leering Servo Skull + Ambivalence IV + startles Cole as it suddenly rears up before him, it’s baleful bionic eye bathing the Lord-Captain in ruddy light as it scans his face. With the voice of a thousand rusted type-writers clacking at once, it deliver’s a vox recording from it’s master.
Serverus’ informs the Lord-Captain that he is too busy re-aligning the ship’s auger array to attend the Cold-Trader’s gathering in person. He has however sent a fitting replacement for such an esteemed council, his Servo Skull. He would observe the meeting via the auspex and vox system’s of his macabre servant. Furthermore, he wishes to attend the Halls of the Mechanicus on Port Wander to further investigate the disappearance of his Thulian contact, Magos Thraun whom was last recorded as heading for the barren death world of False Hope.

The Lord-Captain descends from his command tower and Haarlock begins his briefing, the Cold-Trader rapidly tapping away at a data slate and projecting it’s data holographically as he speaks.

Lord-Captain, esteemed Councillors. I have received word from our Master of Whispers and have compiled a brief report for your consideration.
I must apologise for the secrecy, but following what occurred on Protasia, and the Crow Mother’s escape there is the very real possibility that someone onboard warned her of our impending assault.
However, i am pleased to inform you that we have picked up her trail again.
The assassin scum that you were able to capture was not immediately forthcoming with his former employers whereabouts and heading. But after vigorous questioning by myself and our head arbiter Rosamann (he plays a very convincing, if reluctant, bad cop).
Learnt that the Crow Mother headed for the Koronus Expanse. I’ve taken the liberty of sending Tycho on ahead.
With the Lord-Captain’s consent I had that hag Van Heppel plot a course for Port Wander, the Gateway to the Expanse.
I received a brief, coded transmission from Rhett only an hour ago. His initial operation on Port Wander has confirmed that the Crow Mother was aboard the station not 3 weeks past. Rhett’s initial investigation has determined that she met with a number of individuals, including a Captain of the Ventan Iron Hands and a low level Acquisitioner known as the Baron. However, Rhett’s questions appear to have drawn some notice, and I understand from his message that he has had to resort to lethal means to avoid discovery, though he does not identify his assailants. His message ends stating that he is taking immediate passage through the Maw, but as agreed does not specify his intended destination.
I would recommend we continue to make landfall at Port Wander as soon as possible and undertake our own investigations.

There are also matters closer to home that need to be addressed. Our little operation doesn’t run for free, and House Cole, quite frankly, is in a mess.
Following the attack on the Family’s Spire on Scintilla (by persons unknown), several rival Houses, most notably Fel and Scourge, have taken the opportunity to exploit the Household’s apparent weakness and disruption to production. They’ve poached many of our more lucrative contracts with PDF forces across the Sector. Some have even gone so far as to spread rumour suggesting your own involvement in the attack Lord-Captain. I’ve compiled a list of these slandering bastards so that you may deal with them as you wish.

As I’ve said, our pursuit of the Crow Mother is certainly not without cost. I have reviewed our production revenue from the Household’s current Holdings, and factoring in the cost to repair the family Spire and recruit replacement Household troopers, I estimate approximately 6 months before we’ll be unable to pay the crew (although we could flush some of them into the void to save costs). There’s already talk within the lower decks and gun crews that maybe they’d be better off jumping ship if they’re not going to get paid. You may wish to address the crew in person to allay their fears, or I could have the most vocal dissenters rounded up and shot, it’s your call?

Having reviewed our assets, I’ve identified a number of potential opportunities and endeavours that may serve to increase the Household’s profits. I have ordered Rhett to push our intelligence network deeper into the Expanse, paving the way for our arrival. He has informed me that one of his contacts has sent word from Zayth, a distant war planet in the Heathen Stars. His contact has sent word of a unique pattern of macro-cannon produced on the world’s mobile Hive Fortresses. Currently they are only produced to sustain the near constant warring of the planets Hives, with minor sales being made within the wider system. If we were the first to establish a trade route between Zayth and the murdering bastards of the Calixis Sector we would have exclusive mercantile rights, meaning a healthy cut and a tidy profit.

I also had Waltharius scour the Household inventory for anything remotely profitable. Not including the narco stims he manufactures and sells to the officers. Unfortunately, aside from thirty thousand corpse starch ration packs gathering dust in a manufactorum storehouse on Malfi, his search was fruitless. Until he checked a selection of archived ledgers and discovered a partially corrupted reference to holdings on an obscure system, Svard. It appears that when our good Lord-Captain’s grandfather, Benedictus, went wandering in the Expanse, he discovered and claimed an entire star system all to himself, and then named it after his dog. High intelligence clearly runs strongly in the Cole blood. However, Grandfather Cole did at least pick a system with a high Promethium content, and proceeded to construct a large orbital refinery complex. It appears that for many decades high volumes of refined promethium , and a voidship load of Thrones, flowed from Svard back to Scintilla to fuel the munitions manufacturing plants. However, around 150 years ago, a decade after Benedictus followed the cliché for Rogue Traders and disappeared never to be seen again, the number of shipments from Svard began to decline, until contact appears to have been completely lost with the system 112 years ago. It doesn’t take an Adept to realise that re-establishing contact with the system, and more importantly the refinery, could prove to be very profitable.
Waltharius did discover a numer of non-sensical entries in the more recent ledgers that mentioned Whispers, but what are words when we have guns. Lots of guns.

Received a communiqué via my old cold-trade network from Vladaym Tocora, a senior negotiator for the Kasballica. He wishes to speak with you on Footfall at your earliest convenience. I’ve never met the man but his reputation precedes him. A cold, canny, severe psychopath is what I’ve heard. Not someone to be taken lightly.
However, the man’s a gateway to a vast array of illegal services, hidden information, and dangerous goods, but I understand that the price is always high.
However, his links to the criminal network may provide some lucrative opportunities, but I’d advise caution when dealing with him. Obviously it’s still the likely probability that elements of his organisation played an active part in the murder of your family. He could just be looking to ‘clean house’, so to speak. But is it riskier not to speak with him?

Having met our Lord-Captain, I’m sure that none of you will be too shocked to learn that his grandfather also had a finger in many pies, not all of them entirely above board. His name became rather familiar with those whom were engaged in the ‘distribution’ of xenos artifacts. A subject close to my own heart as you’re obviously well aware. By all accounts I understand he became rather wealthy off the back of it, predominantly from the illegal sale of Yu’vath artefacts from the star systems of the Cineris Malificum. Not that I’d admit this to an Inquisitor, but I still have a number of contacts in the Calixis sector that would pay handsomely for such ‘luxuries’, were we to establish our own Cold Trade network. High reward, but high risk. Look at what it did for me" he says tapping the cranial control implants that the Inquisition had installed surgically against his will.

During the briefing, it is very obvious that there is no love lost between Haarlock and Xanthe owing to her ties to the Inquisition. Serverus also voices his disdain at the fact that untrustworthy xenos are allowed to walk the decks unchecked. Haarlock ‘helpfully’ translates the comment into Eldar for the Commandant, who sends the Servo skull flailing across the bridge with a deft flick of his armoured wrist.

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The Council confer after the briefing, and agree that heading to Port Wander is the best course of action. From there they will be able to investigate the Crow Mother’s movements while on the station, that may give clue clue as to her current whereabouts and intentions. From there they intend to push on through the Maw and on to Svard to re-establish contact with the Cole Family’s promethium refinery of old.

As they approach Port Wander, they observe that a number of interesting vessels are currently docked with the station. Serverus conducts an auger sweep and is able to identify them as the Hazeroth-class privateer Chains of Dusk, the Firestorm-class frigate Fel Hand and the light cruiser Nihontu.

Kor ‘El steers the Ghost expertly into dock and maglocks clamp the ship to the cathedral-like docking arm. Amid the thrall of vox traffic the Lord-Captain receives an import message. It is from the Imperial Navy Commander of Port Wander, Larius Sans. He offers the Lord-Captain the ’Freedom of the Station’. All that he asks in return is that the Lord-Captain attend him at his earliest convenience…………

“Revenge proves its own executioner”
Lord-Lieutenant-Primus Antonius Augustus

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