Segmentum Pacificus

Anastasia Sector

Tanelorn System

Planet Tanelorn IV


Captain Nasser Goshin, 991st Ghost Detachment

Every army, every PDF, almost every formation of every sort and type of armed forces had its elites. For the Tech-Guard of Vista, that elite force was the Ghosts. Every single member of the Ghosts was one rank above what an equivalent formation of Tech-Guard would be, and accordingly Captain Nasser commanded a platoon-sized force of seventy-two men rather than a company of more than twelve times that number.

The most manly, manliest men outside of Catachan.

Vista Forge Worlds did not have prostitution. There were no family beds. Unless you reached a high enough rank to allow for the purchase of some personal space resources, ordinarily allocated only to First Grade Tech-Adepts and above, sleeping was done in a small cubicle that was excellent for its purpose (even compared with high-class accommodations, the mattress and pillow were amazing, molding to your body shape and shaping themselves to ensure healthy and restful sleep), and also allowed you to connect to the Noosphere via neural relay or helmet (for the unfortunates who weren't worthy of more than the very minimal enhancement).

For sexual activity, there were purpose-built rooms – for a small number of people desiring intimacy (up to six), to be booked ahead of time for a minor outlay of credits, or always open orgy rooms if you just wanted (or needed) some release and had the time and energy to spare. The ones he'd checked out in the Basilikon Astra answering to Vista were almost always full to near-capacity.

Procreation, of course, was something completely different and heavily regulated. Since it wasn't something he cared about, it was completely outside his purview.

The captain had been so busy for the entirety of the last seven months, rebuilding his platoon after a misencounter with a nest of dragon-spiders during the exploration of a certain soon-to-be-classified-as-a-Death World, that his sleep deficit could be counted in weeks. His most recent fifteen minute masturbation session took place eight days ago, Omnissiah have mercy!

How and why in the Omnissiah's name were most female magos on every Vista Forge World all near-perfect beauties? Rather tall ones too, this one's head could probably reach his chin. It just wasn't fair to his aching balls. Not that his countenance betrayed anything of the sort.

"Understood, Magos. We have infiltrated deep inside a hostile forge, and are facing its master in her lair. Ah, just one question. Is the magos in question aware that she is supposed to use non-lethal force?"

It was a very pertinent query, since the answer was occasionally 'No'.

Everyone who survived Ghost training was a proven elite, but not everyone did.

His blood always chilled when he remembered the beautiful smile on the face of the mesmerizing female magos who welcomed the volunteers, when he was younger and much dumber and one of those, explaining how useful fatal training accidents were in removing sources of bad luck, laziness and incompetence.

This sort of exercise was invariably a graduation one, for the survivors.

"Good question, captain," the woman smiled at him with such warmth that his spine stiffened to hide a very different stiffening.

Ghost trainers were the nastiest magos dominus Vista could scare up. Any one of them could kill his entire platoon in a few minutes if not seconds, even naked – since they could invariably teleport their war-walkers or advanced power armors to them (if there was no room for their war-walker), or were psykers of at least Delta-grade. Or both, of course.

"Unfortunately, I genuinely don't know. The exercise order came directly from the Fabricator's Lexico-Arcanus for the Inner Defense Sphere of Tanelorn, with no appended notes. I'm sure that if you try really hard, you won't be decimated," the magos nodded enthusiastically. "Really, the chances of that are truly very low. Calculation, not divination, I'm afraid," she added.

Captain Nasser was not born yesterday. The disclaimer was unpleasantly specific, and even he could figure out that the chances of losing precisely ten percent of his force of seventy-two men (himself included) were so infinitesimally low as to be non-existent.

He managed to avoid any display of nerves, but his balls shrank and his libido had frozen, crystalized and shattered into countless pieces.

The captain instantly fortified his spirit with the knowledge of just how capable his men were. Every Ghost had the highest physical and mental boosts available, minimum physicals equal to the so-called champion-squads of the heavy regiments who like to boast about their power armor (endlessly…), and minimal mental ones equivalent to gunship and starfighter pilots.

Which is to say hardened bones, denser muscles, increased regeneration, notably increased size (most infantry warriors reached two meters in height), subdermal armor, wired reflexes, enhanced senses, highly efficient digestion to mitigate the increased need for sustenance, sense-blockers (against overstimulation, of limited use against light, sound and scent-based weapons), an internal pharmacopeia, a full nanite suite that laughed at poison and disease and provided a filtering skin-layer that also served as armor equivalent to half a centimeter of plasteel, a high class computation and processing brain-augmentation suite with at least two databases, suicide charge (the standing orders were never to be captured by Dark Eldar or Chaos, with visceral vomit and nightmare-inducing explanations and vidcasts of why), stasis trigger (up to a thousand years, void-capable), a neural link, a laser-com, and lots and lots of training.

Admittedly, none of the training related to maintaining or increasing their physique. The initial enhancements and boot-training took care of optimizing their body, and the nanites maintained it, even restoring it after any injury that required regeneration, entirely removing any rehabilitation-related downtime.

The training even included the not-terribly-pleasant experience of resisting telepathic intrusions from battle-psykers. Three of his men had actually managed to resist Eta-ranks for more than a minute, which was properly impressive. He'd personally lasted an eternal sixteen second.

One of the reasons he'd never tried Amasec was the description of the follow-up headache to indulging in that particular drink as being possibly worse than the aftermath of that bit of fun, no matter how much the Guard soldiers mocked him as a pussy. The advisory that his nanite-detoxing suite should be able to save his life from spoiled or improperly brewed drink, common with home-made stills used by creative Guard regiments, didn't help.

The equipment Ghosts received was top-notch as well, though it did not include power armor.

Exoskeleton-reinforced void-sealed regenerating energized layered carapace bio-armor (currently on Mark XXVIII), with an ion shield, a conversion field and a silenced jet-pack, powered by a compact backpack fusion reactor which also powered their energy weapons.

Cameleoline coating was the least of their stealth measures, and their vox-systems and auspexes were top-line. Pinpointing enemies through walls by their heartbeats, by some arcane tech-secrets he could not imagine, was just one of the wonders they could accomplish.

It was commonly known amongst the Ghosts, a high point of pride, that the Fabricator of Vista had spent more than a decade supporting an Astartes Chapter of the Raven's blood which followed his combat doctrine, and their tactics and strategies had made a large impact on her views of war-making.

The Ghost elites were not there for raw, heavy combat power. The God-machines, Ordinatus, super-heavy tanks, knights and magi-domini served perfectly well for that purpose, as did heavy artillery, gunships, the Starfire X-wings, the Legio Cybernetica and even those vainglorious champion-squads.

Ghosts were the infiltrators, saboteurs, pin-point killers of Ork Warbosses and enemy commanders, exploding ammunition warehouses and sabotaging heavy vehicles and command centers, when they weren't simply wired to blow. The very best of them bordered on true infocytes, but all were skilled in cyber-warfare and data-predation.

The Long War against the xenos, mutants, heretics and traitors, it had been explained to them, was not merely fought out in battlefields and crusades. Much of it, sometimes even the more vital portions, was the shadow war beneath the surface. Ghosts were created to counter the likes of the traitorous, serpentine Alpha Legion, to end the corrupt and fallen who schemed and plotted everywhere with masks of purity, to make the light shine brighter in contrast to the shadows they lurked in.

They were also unfortunately useful for explorator missions, as they'd recently found out to their detriment. In fact, their expertise made them very similar to Astartes in some ways, small numbers sneaking in and wreaking havoc.

He'd even heard that Rogue Traders related to Vista made use of his comrades in more commercial enterprises. Some of his comrades didn't like that, but the simple truth was that resources needed to flow in, to provide the assets required for the furious production rates of the countless forges.

The main difference between the Space Marines and Ghosts was that the latter preferred to leave undiscovered, letting the melta charges and plasma bombs do the talking from many kilometers away, and that they never deployed in small numbers. Vista could afford to spend more to earn more victories, it was explained to them, and it sure as Holy Terra sounded reasonable to him.

There was also the fact that Astartes were considerably more prone to blasting their way in, rather than sneaking or employing overmuch deceit. Given their history of Legions engaged in campaign of galactic conquest, that the doctrine wasn't upturned was understandable, though not forgivable.

"Ahhh…," his deputy sighed as they stared down the mouth of the tunnel leading down. "So…?"

There were two basic options in such cases. Infiltration, slow, careful, methodical and quiet, or the blitz. Under the circumstances, alas, only the latter was possible.

"We blitz," the captain nodded sagaciously, silently praising his own willpower and self-restraint. No sighs, moans or whining, unlike his idiot subordinates.

And blitz they did.

It went well, the spear-tip piercing automated defenses with speed and the occasional explosion, splitting and merging squads and fighting trios back into running formations as the tunnels and chambers allowed. Ordinary Tech-Guard troopers could maintain a speed of twenty-five KPH on the field indefinitely, Ghosts on the run could keep nearly twice that for several hours.

Those exoskeletons worked true wonders, and not merely in strength-enhancement. In combat, speed was life. It was one of the mantras they were taught that never quite went away. That Minato fellow, whoever he might be, was indubitably a wise and experienced master of battle.

The spider-drones were a particular menace, but their shields mostly held. Twice they simply skirted slow-moving but near-impervious killer automata, and several wounded were left behind where some nasty turrets could not be bypassed or disabled swiftly enough to maintain momentum.

The command squad reached the final redoubt in less than two hours. Muscles spasming and mind blanking, he had no idea how they'd been defeated.

Segmentum Pacificus

Hydraphur Sector

Hydraphur System

Imperial Navy Starfort Resolute Faith


Lord High Admiral Seth Borealis

"The Anastasia Sector," the hololithic display was large and sharp, and the Lord High Admiral ignored the snickers of his idiotic subordinates. The mocking got so bad his granddaughter was now commanding a battle-group in eastern Tempestus, where no one had ever heard of the Kursis Crusade and her role in it.

"This fine mess has landed in our backyard, grox piss on it. It's going to be huge," Lord Admiral Yriel Temarchos was inordinately proud of his supposedly 'common' background compared to his mostly aristocratic brethren, and his speech was always peppered with such lovely words of wisdom.

Seth had no idea why some commissar or superior had failed to wash his mouth with grox piss, to show him the error of his ways.

For all that, he wasn't wrong.

"Yes, yes, it's a very big mess. We need to win it, too, this is a prize never-before seen. With a tenth of it, hell, even one percent, the strength and prestige of the Navy would climb to incredible heights. Trying to ignore it would get us shot," Admiral Naismith responded with a sniff, "and rightly so."

"So let's get to it. What do we have that can get there in time? Naismith?" Seth asked, and the display shifted as data-stacks were fed in, showing the nearest battle-groups and battlefleets.

"We can't move the 917th, that would collapse three fucking sectors," Yriel frowned at the light.

"Six battlefleets, fourteen battle-groups," Seth declared. "There, there, there and there," he pointed out the logical solution. "Analysis?" he asked the Logis present.

"83% of the forces should get there in time," the metal-masked red-robe responded after several seconds of silence. "Blessings of the Omnissiah, the STC database will be protected. A fleet is mustering in Blessed Mars, they may have already departed. Communication request from the Fabricator. Communication request from Lord Commander Militant of the Segmentum. Patching connection… done."

Two faces appeared on the hololith, replacing the array of star systems and warp-conduits, and the two naturally started talking all over each other immediately, before he could offer greetings or even look them over. After a couple of halts and restarts, the high representative of the Imperial Guard took the lead.

"Not to worry, Fabricator, I have little to contribute," the white-haired and badly-wrinkled old man in his grand uniform, Star of Terra shining bright gold on his lapel, chuckled. "Quite simply, there's little the Guard can do to assist. The worlds and moons of Vista are airless.

"We can send some void siege specialist regiments to assist in holding the starforts, space stations and even aboard Navy ships, to assist against boarding or perform boarding actions. Some tunnel-fighters, too, if Vista has need.

"For all that, a mass mobilization of armies would be of little use here. Fighting in the void just isn't in the Guard's job description. Tell me what you need, and I can probably send them easily enough, unless you prefer skitarii in their stead."

Every admiral grimaced, almost in synchronized unison.

The Imperial Navy had its armsmen to defend its ships and board their foes, but refusing this sort of offer might well doom hundreds of warships against what was coming. The operational command was his, and damn the old rivalry, as Naismith said, a victory here was absolutely necessary.

"Admiral Voltyrn, you will provide the number of men and appropriate gear needed to reinforce counter-boarding and boarding parties on all the vessels we are sending to Vista. You have sixteen hours to send the list to the Guard. Err on the side of more guns," his tone turned the slightest bit threatening. "Fabricator, your turn."

The wheezing sound of the augmetics was never pleasant, and Seth grimaced at the metallic, inhuman voice.

"Sixty-two exploratory fleets have already acknowledged their orders. Fourteen fleets will assemble on Forge Worlds within reach. The ether is thundering with responses and inquiries, only Stygies VIII being conspicuously silent. Phaeton, Gryphonne IV and dozens of far-off forges are offering cants, and perhaps additional reinforcements may be found. Only three titan legions are available.

"Everything that can be done will be done. We will not disappoint the Omnissiah or prove ourselves unworthy of his favor. The muster has already begun to mobilize. It is too soon to provide numbers. Any support you require will be provided."

The Fabricator looked away for a second, his posture changing in what was quite possibly a display of annoyance.

"My presence is required elsewhere. Do not hesitate to contact us for anything," were his final words.

"Ha," the old general offered a brief chuckle. "Never thought I'd hear of a blank check offered by the cogboys, that's for certain. Let me know if you need forces mobilized, though given the reaction speed of the Munitorum, don't expect a response-time like that of the Mechanicus.

"Those three border sectors have contributed well-trained and equipped regiments, gaining some reputation. Since they work closely with Vista, I'll send then an open authorization to do what they can. Let me know if more can be done. Emperor protect!" he signed off.

"Well, this is certainly exciting. We're living in interesting times, hopefully providential ones. See what you can do to expedite fleet movements and bring in more warships and supplies," Seth commanded. "We cannot be found wanting. Coordinate with the chartists, money is no issue here for us too. This is a prize even the Great Crusade fell short of. This is the chance for a monumental victory."

"Yes, yes, we'll do what we can, those ork-fuckers aren't going to win this one," Lord Admiral Yriel said, his eyes and attention on a data-slate handed to him by an aide.

"Vista has already restored the supply of the Apocalypse-class battleship with its discoveries, and we need to investigate the tech-bounty they recovered before the Kursis Crusade. Whispers are it was quite the find, and reports on the performance of their starships and starfighters are not entirely believable.

"Local commands reported that the ships Vista sold them were like shining gold from the God-Emperor's hands, with more power, incredible automation and damage control, tougher, with better augurs and warp capabilities than anything they'd ever seen. We need plenty more of them," Admiral Naismith remarked.

"Very well, you're now in charge of buying one of each model they offer for the main fleet, we need to test if they're half as good as their reputation, and then decide how to proceed," the High Admiral banged a fist against the ancient wooden table, startling a number of aides and messengers.

"Now go, make it work. If there's no Vista we don't get better ships and more victories."

Segmentum Sol

Sol System

Approaching the Mandeville Point

Ark Mechanicus Wellspring of Knowledge


Explorator Primus Gyrron Metrall Xynis XNR-0101

He could already hear the far-off screams of the Senatorum Imperialis, as the greatest fleet Mars had mustered in millennia, possibly ever, was nearly ready to translate into the Warp, on the path to the greatest discovery of the Quest for Knowledge in living memory and databank history records.

Vista had already provided a ridiculous and near-impossible bounty, so recently too. Energized armor, anti-matter power, he wasn't certain even the Golden Age of Technology had those gifts of the Omnissiah. Not that he was foolish enough to give voice to such possibly heretekal sentiments.

And now this, a true and complete STC database. Twelve thousand templates.

Without corroborative confirmation from psyker oracles, he would have had serious doubts, but this really seemed to be true. His very soul exulted at the thought of seeing and touching this holy machine, this blessed and unmatched repository of tech-lore.

Twenty-four Arks Mechanicus, thirty-six battleships, ninety-one battle-cruisers and heavy cruisers, one hundred and eighty-four cruisers and over nine hundred lesser ships, it was an armada without equal.

It also left Blessed Mars dangerously exposed, and many of the hulls completing their building trials in the next years would reinforce the Martian defense fleet rather than go to their planned and contracted destination. This was unprecedented, but given the circumstances, every contracted party would understand and be compensated.

Or never deal with the Mechanicus again.

Vista's terms had been immediately accepted, contingent on the STCs arriving safely to Olympus Mons. Raising three Forge Worlds in their name in each Segmentum other than Sol every single year, for five hundred and seventy-six years, it was a small price indeed for seeing the light at the end of the Quest.

The remaining demands were minor things by comparison, and even the staunchest conservative of the Martian Parliament had not balked, though more than a few of the crazier ones voted in the negatory.

The twelve Rogue Trader writs demanded every twelve years, divided equally among the four Segmentum, for a period identical to that required by raising the new Forge Worlds wasn't a problem, but rather an opportunity in his eyes. Vista used these ordinarily unreliable coin-grubbers to vastly increase it inflow of resources and menials, evidently, and received much more for its production than forges ordinarily did.

Success should be imitated, he mused, and resolved to raise the issue with the Fabricator General. Reliable mercantile contacts who depended on the Mechanicus could make things notably more efficient. It was a novel but surprisingly feasible and simple idea.

Making a note of it, he could not help but listen to the machine-spirits and pleasingly-rhythmic binary cants. Even here, on the bridge of this Ark Mechanicus so far from the heart of Sol, the Noosphere was surging and boiling with fervent discussions, prayer-cants and songs of triumph. It was hope, something he'd nearly forgotten.

"Explorator-Primus, the navigators report readiness," Magos Trialka Omnis-14 reported.

"Commence translation. Omnissiah speed us to triumph!"

Segmentum Sol

Sol System

Holy Terra

Imperial Palace


Inquisitor Representative Lady Inquisitor Elise Diamant

Herding cats.

That's what her predecessor in this seat called dealing with the High Twelve, or rather the eleven other than the occupant of their seat.

The Lord High Admiral and the Masters of the Assassinorum and the Administratum were castigating the Fabricator General for leaving the Sol System exposed, with the departure of such a large portion of its defensive fleet.

A bit over six percent, truly, and counting as such only if you accounted for the might of the Arks Mechanicus, counting them each as worth two battleships.

The Fabricator General was calm and serene when he spoke of their regard influencing their access to the restored glory of humanity's technological heritage, which naturally ignited yet another explosive 'debate' filled with profanity. The Ecclesiarch looked on with silent amusement, the fat sanctimonious fool not far from the point even the best rejuvenation treatments, flesh-sculpting techniques and expert medicae could not give him more time.

"Enough!" called out the Lord Commander Militant of the Imperial Guard, Paul Rennard. "The Mechanicus will see to Vista's protection and the return of the STC database. We need to discuss reinforcing Cadia. If they wish to break through, they must attempt to do it through the Cadian Gate, and there's no knowing how much time we have."

"Prognostication indicates anywhere between yesterday and six years from today," the blind master of the Adepta Astra Telepathica contributed.

"We must also strengthen fleet nodes between Cadia and north-most Pacificus," Elise commented with a sharp voice. "The trail they must pass is obvious enough, we should lay some caltrops and land mines."

"Agreed," the Mistress of the Astronomicon and the Speaker for the Chartists said nearly as one.

This is going to be a long one, the Lady Inquisitor bit her lower lip to keep a sigh from escaping her mouth.

Segmentum Obscurus

Cadia Sector

Cadia System

Cadia Prime

Kasr Grem


Governor Primus Elkar Strum

"Wonderful news, yes," the governor's smile was more of a grimace. "A great discovery, and likely an imminent Black Crusade, how… yes."

An alarm rang, and the tech-priest having brought him the news communed with the hololith in the strategium. The outer reaches of the system, near the Mandeville point. Five large… no, very large ships indeed, their shape indicating Mass Conveyors of prodigious size rather than warships. Near them, eclipsed almost entirely, were twelve cruiser-sized vessels.

"What do we have there, Magos? Nothing inimical, I presume?" the Governor inquired.

"Establishing communications, connection parsing," the hololith flickered with the face of a dark-haired, pale young woman of such beauty as to make him blink, to ensure that he wasn't seeing things. On Cadia, that was typically a very bad sign.

"I am High Magos Victoria Nexus Delta-16, and I come bearing gifts of the pointed sort. The Fabricator of Vista was well aware of what she held in her hands, and the likely results of its unveiling. Accordingly, the transports have brought five hundred fire-ships of a particularly deadly variety to bear the brunt of any assault. Since they have high grade stealth fields, they are very likely to manage to get close and deliver their greetings. In addition are twelve minelayers to add secondary mine fields in strategic positions. Mine fields of nova-grade mines."

That smile, those perfect white teeth and icy-staring eyes, startled him for all his fortitude and experience, and if it weren't for the study back of his chair and its heavy weight, Elkar would have likely retreated a step or three.

"Excellent," he managed a reply after drawing a breath. "Please coordinate with Navy command as to positioning. Just what are these… special fire-ships?"

"Coordination with the Navy is ongoing on a different channel," her nod was just barely perceptible. "As for the fire-ships, we call them Assassin-class corvettes. Somewhat flimsy, but with high quality stealth, fast firing torpedo banks that are meant to be fired just the once at burnout high acceleration, and a full bank of fast-firing burnout macro-cannons. All that, and they're both fast and maneuverable, for a final strike they can ram and/or explode for considerably more damage and area of affect than an Apocalypse-class' nova blast.

"Of course, they have a minimal crew, but a boarding isn't wise even for traitor marines. They're chock full of particularly nasty killer automata, awakened only at need. The sort of automata we never use anywhere near friendly forces, you understand. They cannot identify friendly forces and are a trifle too efficient."

"Ah, yes," the governor decided that he did not want to understand. "What does 'burnout' mean?"

"Overpowered to such an extent that they destroy themselves. Since they're meant for a single use, might as well get the most out of them," that chill smile made another appearance. "Much like a guardsman lifting a toppled Chimera to rescue a trapped fellow, fighting on for minutes more, than simply collapsing, his body spent."

Not something he'd personally encountered, but that sounded familiar, though he could not quite recollect the origin of that report or tale.

"And the crews?" he asked. Given that this was Cadia, he did not want to have such a deadly weapon turning against the Imperial Navy.

"True believers, not to worry. The ships aren't Warp-capable, but quite exceptionally, these ones do have top-grade Gellar fields. Warp-tech is Vista's specialty, and each ship has a strong blank with an empowering null-tech field. We've received data from Agrippina, so the proper preparations were made," her confident tone didn't quite serve to persuade him this wasn't a possible disaster in the making, but Elkar could acknowledge that they'd taken what precautions they reasonably could.

"Governor, there's a plague outbreak in…," a young officer interrupted.

"Omnissiah protect," the High Magos offered, before her projection faded away.

Segmentum Pacificus

Anastasia Sector

Vista System

612,144 kilometers outside the Heliosphere

Starfort Columbine


Virtual Intelligence Interdictor 99186-Epsilon

Eleventh-grade Tech-adept Asteria Natalis woke up groggily, blinking into focus with impossible immediacy as her internal pharmacopeia injected the appropriate drugs into her bloodstream once the stasis faded. It took nearly a minute to digest the information provided via Noosphere connection, but that was to be expected.

Asteria knew that she was stupid, it was a simple fact, but it didn't mean that she could not contribute. Knowing that the price paid for attending the academy in the underhive for those who could not pay in Throne-Gelts was to bear children thrice, she volunteered for nine more times.

It really wasn't a problem, since the triplets were teleported out rather than being removed in an invasive or painful manner, and she knew those children, those beautiful baby girls, were important, unlike Asteria Natalis.

It took her eighteen years of constant struggle to rise from Twelth-grade to Eleventh, when the second-slowest graduate on record required five years and ninety-two days.

She was not talented in combat, her tech-repair skills would require twelve of her to equal a single repair servitor, and her skills at teaching were sub-par. That last was a generous description. The minimum rank that allowed one to contribute effectively was Ninth-grade, and even Enginseers seconded to Imperial Guards regiments were Seventh-grade.

In desperation, she spent what few credits she had for a placement-consultation with a true magos. Admittedly via Noosphere connection rather than in person, but a magos had better things to do than waste their time on a failure like Asteria.

The magos was cold and blunt, and provided a wonderful solution.

There were many dangerous duties that could not be trusted to automated systems. Assassin-class corvettes were an example provided.

Still, her lack of combat instinct and slowness of thought, the near-crippling self-doubt that only disappeared under medication, it all meant that she was not suited even to most such duties, where willingness to sacrifice in the Emperor-Omnissiah's name was the main requirement.

So she was astonished to receive such a grand posting, such an important one.

As a Gate-watcher over the only Webway-entrance that allowed passage to Vista, an ever-present danger given the hostility of the Eldar-xenos scum. The time delay inherent in starship speeds and the relevant distances meant that even her below average strategic abilities would be sufficient to advise the VI in command of the well-hidden Starfort.

Virtual Intelligence Interdictor 99186-Epsilon awakened its watchers, but failed to receive any input. When the Webway-gate dialed closed and the Dark Eldar fleet was nearly assembled in full formation, it triggered the mines.

Fourteen minutes, nineteen second and seven hundred and eleven microseconds later its augurs reported that there was no need for activating any other pre-programmed contingecy.

There was no silence amidst the undying electromagnetic storms outside Vista's heliosphere, but no voices were raised.

Approximately sixteen hours later, after a relaxing bath, three meals, a review of the news, and a good session of sleep, Eleventh-grade Tech-adept Asteria Natalis returned to stasis. As did eleven other lesser Tech-adepts.