Saturday, July 20, 2013

Introduction to the Heathen Stars

The crew of the Valedictor Imperialis had just intercepted the Winged Jubilation, a Kar Dunash pattern fast clipper that had broken mooring from Footfall and was trying to make a hasty escape.  Just as Zedkiel thought he'd made a mistake, he and his chief of the watch accidentally stumbled across a the bodies of their missing team of tech adepts  that were going through the freighter's communication logs. With the jig up, the Captain turned on Zed in a desperate attempt to throw the Imperial Navy of his smuggling operation.  Zed and his skilled armsmen were able to put down the enemy crew and discover that the true captain was hiding amongst his men trying to look like a rating. 
En route to the Footfall with the captured ship in tow, Commissar Riker was able to conduct a thorough interrogation of the captain.  His summation was that the captain was a cowardly waste of flesh unfit to command a ship, incompetent beyond any ability to develop the connections for black market trade: an easy pawn for someone else’s larger schemes without any discernible links to the mastermind.  Having exhausted what he could of the captain, Riker jettisoned him and half-dozen surviving officers from the Winged Jubilation into the void with their ill-gotten cargo.
Both ships docked at the generically named Pier 27, a small asteroid docking station on the outskirts of the main hub.  Pier 27 is the civilian dock utilized by Passage Watch 27-Est on their transits from Port Wander into the Koronus expanse.  All the hands, security personnel, and administrators work under contract to Battlefleet Calixis, allowing the Imperial Navy to keep its permanent presence at the station discreet.  There are but a handful of true Imperial personnel from the Administratum, Arbites, and Munitorum to ensure the stability and security of operations there.  The presence of an Imperial ship at Pier 27 often draws a crowd from the main settlement of peepers, peddlers, preachers, and prostitutes.
Upon docking, the chief of the watch took the surviving hundred or so crew of the clipper and press-ganged them into service on the gunnery decks and torpedo magazines of the Valedictor to replace the casualties from the infighting that occurred during the trip to Footfall.  The Valedictor’s Techpriest immediately began putting in the orders for repairs to the Jubilation.  Lt. Gaius, the XO, gave the order that Junior officers and NCOs not involved in recovery operations would be authorized a 24 hour pass, restricted to Pier 27. NCOs may give their ratings pass at their discretion. 

The chief Astropath informed Zedkiel that he had received a reply to his notice of capture of the ship and a change of orders.  Zed pulled up the message on a data-slate and it read as follows:
Fleet Communique
Sent: Secondary Astropathic Duct-201.814.M41
To: Lieutenant Commander Zedkiel D'Lyander-Footfall Pier 27
From: Admiral Nathaniel Horne—Metis Fleet Base
Commander Zedkiel, you are to be commended on your capture of the smugglers vessel on your first foray into the Expanse.  It is our duty to remind the Imperial citizens here that they are not exempt from the law nor beyond the watchful eye of the Emperor.  As is custom here in the Expanse, a captain that captures a ship may choose to crew it and use it as he sees fit in the service of the Navy. You may be able to put it to good use in your upcoming assignment.
We've been receiving reports from the governors in the Heathen Stars about an increase in pirate activity.  The pirates have grown bolder from attacking random shipping to conducting daring orbital raids on colony worlds.  You and your crew are to conduct a long range patrol in the Heathen Stars region of the expanse, investigate the pirates, and put a stop to them. Your destroyer should be more than adequate to put the fear of the Emperor them. 
I wish we could have had the opportunity to meet before sending you on to the farthest reaches of the Expanse, but such is our duty. 
Ave Emperator
Communique Ends
With this, Zed decides to go ashore to see what information he can obtain from the locals on the pirate attacks.  Taking Riker, Edwina, the Chief of the Watch, and a small Contingent of Armsmen, he tracks down a freighter on Pier 3a that has just returned from Raakata hauling a sanctioned load of archeotech to the Adeptus Mechanicus on the Forge Worlds of the Lathes in the Golgenna Reach of the Calixis Sector.
The captain, very happy to help the Navy, especially anyone investigating Pirate activity along his routes reports he hasn’t seen any pirates personally, but he knows from fellow captains and dockmasters in the subsector that the pirates are from a Wolfpack led by the charismatic Dread Pirate Yan Marcuson. 
“He’s a ruthless cutthroat that always leaves one survivor to tell the tale of battle.” The captain explains. “He’s gained such a reputation amongst merchants in the area that there’s rumors that captains will sooner abandon ship rather than face him in combat.”
The captain produces a pict slate with the only known image of the man in question. 

“Even those on the ground are not safe.  I’ve heard tales of Marcuson landing in far-flung settlements, procuring supplies, taking concubines for his vast harems, press-ganging every able bodied male into service before leaving the entire place a smoking crater of slag.”
“I know it’s only a matter of time before I meet my fate at his hands like so many other captain’s before me.  I’d certainly find another less-profitable trade route if I could.  But my hands are a bit tied by the cogboys.”  He says as he gestures over his shoulder to a pack of crimson robed tech-priests very interested in the contents of some container being hauled aboard the freighter.
“If you could put a stop to him, Commander, I’d be eternally grateful.”

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