Official Journal of Brother Koris, Deathwatch Apothecary, Blood Angels Chapter
Entry Three – Andronicus planetary surface
Moments after launch it is apparent that the serf has cut the power to the shuttle’s engines far too soon, giving us insufficient forward momentum and reducing our planned glide to a steep fall. Brother Zariel tears the shuttle’s fuselage to provide additional lift surfaces, but the planet’s thin atmosphere (mostly comprised of nitrogen and ammonia) offers them too little purchase to make a significant difference. Giving new orders to the serf, we open the shuttle’s hatch and gather round Brother Ramiel – once the shuttle is near the ground, Brother Ramiel uses his jump pack to blast away from the shuttle while the rest of us cling to his limbs. The serf immediately powers up the engines and attempts to return to the frigate. Brother Ramiel’s jump pack, not designed to provide enough lift to support six fully armoured Battle-Brothers, still gives us a little more control over our impact on the planetary surface; the Kill-Team leave a long furrow in the ground, crashing through several rocky outcrops and tearing a long swathe from the sensor-net, but we receive only minor injuries.
Assessing the situation, we find ourselves some twenty miles from the Watch Station with Brother Zariel’s combat servitors and Brother Calibos’ heavy bolter and missile launcher having been left on the shuttle. I tend to the Kill-Team’s wounds (Brother Ramiel has sustained minor damage to his black carapace that will require either extended rest or treatment in a surgical facility) while Brother Zariel checks the Kill-Team’s armour and finds that the fuel supply of Brother Ramiel’s jump pack has been almost exhausted by our landing. Brother Siegmund attempts to contact the Thunder’s Wrath but finds the channel blanketed by heavy white noise interference reminiscent of an active jamming attempt. Once Brother Zariel boosts the signal Brother Siegmund is able to make patchy contact, learning that the decoy shuttle was shot down by the Watch Station’s lance battery while our own shuttle avoided the lance battery’s arc of fire and was able to return to the frigate.
Examining the damaged portion of the sensor net, we ascertain that the cables are arranged in a spiderweb pattern centred on the Watch Station with roughly one hundred yard intervals between them. We decide to circle around the Watch Station to an intact portion of the sensor net and dig down to one of the main arterial spokes so that Brother Zariel can attempt to access it. The planet’s low gravity gives us a choice between travelling with a slow shuffle or a long bouncing lope, thus the profile of our movement is higher than optimum. Once we have moved a couple of miles from our landing site Brother Zariel selects a spot for a trench to be dug and we set to work. We have made a considerable trench by the time a modified Aquila lander is spotted, approaching us from the direction of the Watch Station. The lander has had its bulkheads and most other appurtenances stripped away, leaving only the chassis, engines, two autocannon and a sealed cockpit – rendering it a lightweight scout / gun platform with exceptional speed and manoeuvrability. The lander is conducting a sweep-pattern search from the Watch Station towards our landing site, wide enough to cover our current location. We take cover in the trench we have dug while Brother Zariel’s auspex scan detects a minimal heat signature from within the cockpit, indicating a probable servitor; which probability is confirmed by a vox link to the Watch Station that is communicating in Techna-Lingua. Brother Zariel is able to hack the servitor’s systems via this vox link and convince it to ignore our presence.
As the Aquila moves on the keen eyes of Brother Calibos spot movement near our landing site, but at a slightly greater distance from the Watch Station. Brother Ramiel’s magnoculars reveal a group of five to ten small multilegged Xenos, moving in a purposeful fashion and scouring their local area. The magnoculars are passed around the Kill-Team. Brother-Lexicanium Aemilianus theorises that the Xenos may be a hybrid of Tau humanoids and Tyranid gaunts. The touch of Sanguinius that I first felt during the pre-mission Chapter rites returns to me, and the Xenos appear in my sight as crystalline insectoid creatures with mirrored carapaces that reflect the light in myriad mesmerising colours. Suddenly the vision expands and I see the planet’s entire surface covered in a heaving swarm of these insectoid creatures, rushing forth to cover my feet. I am momentarily overcome with alarm, and while I recover myself and attempt to communicate what I saw of the Xenos to my Battle-Brothers I volunteer to have my mind scanned for external psychic influences by Brother-Lexicanium Aemilianus. After a few seconds of distraction he pronounces me free of influences but seems himself to be strangely affected – during the Kill-Team’s subsequent discussion he substitutes the word “vermilion” for the word “plan” while speaking, appears unaware of having made this substitution, and refuses to believe that he might have done so. Brother Zariel communicates over a private vox channel with myself and Brother Ramiel and we share concerns over this behaviour.
Meanwhile the Xenos have fanned out over our landing site and begin moving over it in a methodical manner. Brother Zariel uses the auspex to more precisely locate the conduit we are looking for, at which point we move our digging and soon uncover our target. Brother Zariel is able to use this physical link to hack into the Watch Station’s systems. What we had taken for Xenos are discovered to be the Watch Station’s heavily modified servitors, all limbs removed from the basic human torso and replaced with a multitude of mechadendrites. Though this is highly unusual, Brother Zariel opines that the procedure appears to be within the bounds of acceptable Adeptus Mechanicus praxis. It is also discovered that the Watch Station is placed on lockdown pending expected orbital assault, as the result of a manual override by verbal order to the cogitator systems. This order was given approximately three weeks ago, which matches the date of the astropathic communication received by Brother-Lexicanium Origen. This manual override has instructed the system to flag all incoming signals as hostile, has classed the Thunder’s Wrath as a hostile vessel, and has overridden all of the standard Deathwatch access codes. The next closest threats registered by the system are some Tau installations two planetary systems over, which were flagged up automatically by the system’s programs.
Brother Zariel persuades the system to log our Kill-Team’s access codes as being those of Watch Station Andronicus personnel, then we cover our access point and start moving closer to the Watch Station. Once we are approximately one mile away we wait for the next Aquila lander to be sent out on patrol, at which point Brother Zariel once again hacks into its vox link and persuades the pilot servitor that the craft is suffering from engine problems. The craft lands near our location, and while the servitor leaves the cockpit to inspect the engines we rush over and climb aboard the chassis. The servitor matches the description obtained from the Watch Station’s cogitator systems, but while the modifications to both the servitor and the Aquila are distinctly non-Codex there do not appear to be any overt indicators of Heretech. With the additional weight of the Kill-Team aboard the Aquila’s lift and handling match the symptoms of the suggested engine fault, so the pilot returns to the hangar bay – midway up the Watch Station’s central tower – with us aboard.