Doryin Halsyng stepped into the 'temple', technically part of the hangar with an array of heavy duty catwalks arrayed in levels and an extensive Vox network. Standing at the pedestal, garbed in tar black armor, streaked in rust-red, with a masked psychic hood, the mask being carved from a 'Nid Genestealer skull, the claws of the same hung from his arms, stood the Brother Librarian. He smiled at the imposing figure, as he was currently towering over the dark-skinned man from the 'Serenity' crew. The dark skinned preacher seemed quite calm about seeing the brother.
Brother-Librarian Zecharius smiled at Shepherd Book. The preacher knew his material well, though it lacked a number of details. He seemed to realize that the events of Revelations had already happened, declaring that 'Earth-that-Was' had been destroyed by it. Zecharius corrected him, pointing out that Holy Terra still existed, and that the second coming had not yet left.
Book was puzzled by the Brother Librarian, how he claimed that the living incarnation of the lord was sitting in a golden throne on Earth-that-was apparently having repaired it with his own two hands eleven millennia ago. There were details that were off about that, and he couldn't believe that this massive man could possibly know what he was talking about. The good book said that when the end came, Earth would become the new seat of heaven, but from the looks of this ship, Earth was running Hell.
The two put in more discussion, but never once did the Astartes chaplain-psyker step back, nor did the mere human. They stubbornly dueled, word to word, book to book, until both sat down on the edge of the stage, hard enough to shake it. For a long minute they just stared at the walls before Zecharius concluded with, "The body on the Golden Throne is basically dead already, and the mind has entered the Warp full time now."
"The warp, which is that realm on the other side of reality, where Heaven and Hell exist?"
"Mainly Hell," Doryin stepped up and looked at the two, "Didn't think I'd see any of your crew here this early."
"I had to ensure that my family would not be led down the wrong path, like some have."
"We promise not to lead them down the wrong path. It is our duty as Astartes to lead people on the right path," Zecharius held out his hand, palm in, as an offer of a duty oath.
Book responded by taking his hand and shaking it gently, "Thank you. I shall go get the rest of my family." The preacher stood and started for the lift, only to be stopped by Doryin.
"No need. Brothers Jakyyl and Quartyrmyn will bring them down."
The crew stepped onto the lift, being escorted by the two soldiers who had slept outside the door, supposedly, though they seemed to have never moved from their upright posture. Captain Mal had been eyeing them warily the entire walk, and through the lift ride, all the way to the 'temple', where Jayne looked at the catwalks and at Book standing beside the Brother-Librarian. He held up a hand, and Book replied with a wave before Jayne was forced to grab at the pistol on his hip. His instincts told him something big was happening, and he had no idea what.
The two soldiers escorting them did the same, grips tightening up on the stocks of their rifles. The Librarian-Chaplain hefted a mighty force-blade, drawing it partially and nodding to the Captain as he too drew his Bolter rifle. There was an incoming hail from someone. Doryin twisted on his heels and ran towards the lift shaft, lunging off the wall and firing his Jump pack. He soared up the hollow shaft, ever so glad the lift didn't have a ceiling as he reached the bridge level and sprinted down the hall.
The two Brother-Captains looked at each-other before opening the hail, only to the bridge, "Attention rogue vessel. Identify yourself and your reason for being here, or you will be fired upon." The vessel sending the hail was nearly the same size as the boxy Arcanus Dragunov, though it was a much shinier white color, and seemed to be a series of sky-scrapers, rather than a proper ship.
"This is Brother Captain Halsyng of the Arcanus Dragunov. Our reason for being here is an introduction to the great Imperium of Man, and an offer to join our great Empire," Ryspiten quoted to the vox-caster. The other vessel seemed to be pondering for a moment.
"Stand down, and hand over the fugitives you took onboard. We can see their vessel through your open hangar doors. If you do not turn them over to us immediately, we will fire on you."
Ryspiten pressed the comm-bead in his ear, linking up to every Astartes onboard, "Brothers, we are under attack. Prepare for impacts. Brother Zecharius, I believe Mass will be required to be postponed until a later time. Thunder-Hawks One through Six, load up for void conflict. Brothers Hyde, please remove our guests to a secure location."
The two soldiers waved their guns, "Come along now. We need to get you nine to the fortress. Most secure part of the ship."
The entire ship rattled as massive shells rained down on the void shields, though not very effectively. It took them almost a full minute to tear through the shields to a point where they could hit the thick hull. The shelling began wearing away at the fine layers of space-rust on the skin, and at the hand-etched plates that wreathed the entire skin.
As the first salvo ran dry, and the massive assault lulled for a brief reload session, Doryin hollered into his vox, "FIRE!" The response salvo from the Arcanus Dragunov, enough to maybe scratch a true assault ship's void-shields, tore through the white ship like it was made of wet tissue. Then the promethium warheads went off. The white ship caved rapidly in on itself as the oxygen inside was rapidly consumed to burn with the promethium at a temperature that would turn metals into gasses. The open structure of the other ship became its downfall as burning promethium was splattered from one hull to another as depressurization aerated it and the gravity generation units sucked it lower. The ship returned fire, beating away at the forward hull until it split open, exposing the crew servitors to the void. A bulkhead sealed them in, and the air-breathing servitors perished quickly. The second salvo turned the other vessel into a space-borne camp-fire that inspired Doryin to declare a third salvo. The final shots from the other vessel managed to pierce another bulk-head, cutting off the entire lower port bow cannons and auspexes. In return, the promethium missiles turned it into liquid fire that burnt itself out rapidly in the airless void.
"Thank you for your cooperation, Guests to the bridge please."
The crew of Serenity joined the captains on the bridge a few minutes later, and Ryspiten scowled at them, "Fugitives? From what?"
Captain Mal looked up at him, "The Alliance, Sir. They have been trying to unite the system under their merciless hand for centuries. Recently, there was a small war, one that killed off a lot of my friends. In return, I sorta kidnapped one of their superweapons," Mal pointed at River, who seemed preoccupied with the metal grating at her feet, "And now, they want her back."
"What do you mean, Superweapon?" Ryspiten looked River over, helmet mounted Auspex scanning every inch of her cellular structure. The only thing it showed was that she was a Psyker, and lacking part of her Amygdala. The limiter that kept them from becoming like the Emperor, a mere conduit for the power of the Warp, and she lacked it. Not good, not good at all. He had to get her to the Inquisition, fast, so they could determine if she was a threat.
"She is not a threat to the Imperium. She knows this already. He believes, in error, that she will be his downfall, when she really just wants to be normal," River spoke quietly, in the same haunting voice Psykers used when they were reading minds. Ryspiten grabbed the side of his head. He hadn't even felt the push, like he would have with a normal Psyker. What was she. He willed her to not answer his question unless he asked it out loud, and she nodded at him, silently confirming that she had read his mind.
"Captain Reynolds, I require your full cooperation now. This Alliance is attempting to bring a false Emperor to power, and must be eliminated, as should all Heretics. Will you help me?"
Mal bent his head in thought, trying to decide whether it was worth it to give up everything he had ever known in exchange for the true unity of the system, and the elimination of the Alliance. Was anything worth this?
"He wants to know if this is worth it. She knows that it is not, but it will be done anyway. The Alliance will suffer for their crimes against humanity. Hands cannot stay Blue forever." River was speaking again, and the two captains, from completely different lives, looked into each-other's eyes for the first time, really searching for something.
"You have my crew. We will help you."
"Excellent. Decimus, please take Miss Frye to the engine room, and get her acquainted with the Machine Spirits. Valorius, You shall escort Mister Tam to the medical bay and get him situated. I have the feeling we will need him soon. Jayne and Zoe, you will go with Quartyrmyn and Jakyyl, to the Armory. Book, I believe Brother Zecharius will need your assistance keeping morale up. I believe Inara would serve best as Lexmechanic Artesius's assistant. River, please return to your quarters for the time being. Wash, you will be assisting Brother-Pilot Aerrow in maintaining a stable flight pattern. Captain Reynolds, please join me on the platform," Doryin smiled at them. Wash would become a proper pilot, if they could get him to hold still long enough to do anything while Aerrow was asleep, and the rest of the crew seemed quite well suited to the positions he had assigned them.
Wash was scooped up by another Astartes in White and Rust-red armor, who dragged him off down the hall to the medical wing, where Simon was already going, of his own accord, following Valorius. In the apothecarion's chambers, the two white armored Apothecaries were quick to tie Wash down to the platform, "Do not vorry. Zis vill only hurt a little bit. I zink. I've never done zis to a normal human before." Brother Apothecarion Victyre Franklynstyne was terrifying even on a good day, and more so when he was happy. He stuck a big needle in Wash's abdomen, ignoring Simon telling him not to do that, it wasn't proper procedure, before he flipped the unconscious body face down and started cutting.
By the time Simon managed to break loose of Valorius' grip, Victyre was finished, and had flipped Wash face up again, "What did you do to him!"
"I made him better. Zee, Now he can fly zee Arcanuz Dragunov wiz eez. Zimple az zat."
"You stuck those Things in him!"
Valorius pulled Simon back, "MIU's, they allow him to speak directly to the Machine Spirit, without the interference of controls. It will not harm him, though he may never be able to fly your 'Serenity' ever again."
Wash snapped upright, "What do you mean Never Fly Serenity Again!"
"Not without modifying that primitive piloting couch it contains," Valorius smiled behind his helmet, "I think we've got a few spare couches around here somewhere," the Apothecary smiled and started waving his hands in the general direction of the stockroom.
"Shiiiiny!" Kaylee looked at the immense fusion engine running in the belly of the scouting vessel like she had never seen anything like it before in her life, yet, when Decimus let go of her arm, she ran up to the side of the containment chamber and began whispering to it, sounding like she was apologizing for something. When Decimus arrived at her side, he heard the last little bit, "And then I'll get you a beautiful new paint job, and some nice war spikes maybe. But first we have got to get you cleaned up," she turned to Decimus, who was looking at her with a stunned expression on the half of his face that could still form expressions, and a blank slate on the other half, "Decimus, I'm gonna need some help getting parts from Serenity. I hate to do it, but Serenity would be glad to join Arcie. I bet they'll be best of friends." She started towards the coolant line, which was patched together with blessed bonding fabric. Kaylee simply plucked a sheet of scrap metal off the deck and tugged on Decimus' Flamer dendrite, "Come along now. We have holes to patch."
Decimus looked at the mechanic girl's eyes. She was focused on something, but he couldn't figure out what. Her eyes were clear, and he could see all the way to the nerves in the back. No indication of how she had managed to talk to the Machine Spirit through a solid bulkhead that didn't even have a data-port in it, "Hey, Miss Frye, Stop for a minute. Come over here." He jacked his own link cable into the wall and handed her his vox-coder and helmet, "Talk to the Machine Spirit first, and listen."
She slid the helmet on and started talking rapidly, calling up information over the line that escaped even Decimus' extensive knowledge. Finally, she took off the helmet and concluded a message into the vox, "Talk to you later Arcie. Now then, Brother-Mechanicus Decimus Gellar, we have patches to place. After which, Arcie requested that I not route through your IP. I'll need my own, thanks very much." She grabbed his flamer arm again and dragged him away, yanking the cable out and dragging it along the floor as she reached the spot she needed to weld, "Fire, please?"
Brother-Marine Jakyyle pushed open the door to the 'Armory' which could have, to Jayne, just as easily been called Heaven, based on his reaction to the visuals of thousands of shiny slugthrowers of every shape and size. He crawled across half the deck, followed by Quartyrmyn, who simply tried not to laugh at the human working his way through the multi-story tall gun racks. He stopped at one and started climbing the racks, pulling out a Bolter Rifle as long as he was. He dropped to the deck with a loud thump and cradled the gun like it was a lover, "I think I'm gonna call you Sasha."
Quartyrmyn pulled the gun away from Jayne, "If you fire this, it will rip your shoulders off your spine. Even I have difficulty firing this particular variety without proper bracing."
"Great. Where's the testing range?" Jayne followed the incredulous finger point of the Astartes down to a half-kilometer long corridor, wreathed on both sides by an internal void-shield and five meters of armor plate, with nearly twice that at the very end to stop anything that got through the shields. He took up a firing position, hefting the one hundred kilogram Auto-Bolter like he knew what he was doing. Quartyrmyn looked at him, hand near his head in case he needed to call an Apothecary to put new arms on the gunslinger. Surprisingly, although the kick from the belt-clip forced Jayne off his feet, he seemed alright. He stood up and looked at Quartyrmyn, shouting, "OH MAN! I CAN'T FEEL MY LEGS! MY ARMS FEEL LIKE JELLY!"
Quartyrmyn grabbed the gun and held it away from the mercenary, "YOU BLEW OUT YOUR EARDRUMS! STUPID HUMAN!" He dragged Jayne back to the armory, "I'm taking him to the Apothecarions to fix his STUPID-ASS EARDRUMS! Back in ten."
Jakyyl looked at Zoe, and pointed at the testing range, "Anything you feel like testing?"
She shrugged and hefted a Las-pistol, "What caliber does this baby use?"
"That's tiny. What's it shoot?"
"Lasers. Very high powered lasers."
"That'll never work. I need a real gun."
Jakyyl smiled and guided the dark skinned soldier to a rack of antique bolt-pistols, designed for the Adeptus Sororitas, of which there were at least a dozen onboard right now. He was never really sure, "I'd recommend the Gauss-cannon of Spite. Seventy millimeter shells, single shot, can be equipped with a ten shot clip. No recoil, no noise, no testing indoors."
She picked up the gun and smiled at it as she admired the barrel design, and the delicate carvings on it, "So, how do I turn off the safety?"
Jakyyl took the gun and gently tugged a cork out of the back of the gun before flipping a switch on the side. The gun hummed for a moment before going black, "Needs an external battery-pack to fire, but it loads like this," he pressed a thick cylinder into the back, letting it slide through to the front, where he caught it again, "The round fires as soon as the magnets get it, so don't load until you're ready to fire. And do you have any metal in you?"
"What, like old bullets? A few."
"Yeah, you'll want to have the Apothecaries look those over before you even turn this gun on. It'll suck them all out, and well, probably kill you. Incidentally, you'll be needing armor anyway."
"Captain Reynolds, you know what it is like at the head of such power, am I correct?"
"I do. Why do you ask?"
"You may not be able to become a proper Astartes, but the men here would follow any man I name Commissar like they were me. I can grant you that."
"I would be honored, but I am unfit to lead an army again. That was why we lost the battle of Serenity Valley. That was why we lost the whole war."
"I believe the war has just started, brother. You will be leading from wherever you want, however you want, to take back the land that rightfully belongs to you."
"Thank you Sir," Mal could not refuse. Even if he had wanted to give up the chance to fight back against the Alliance, he couldn't resist the offer, like someone was compelling him to accept it, "River, please get out of my head."
"But he needs help. You can help him get back at the men who hurt her."
"I suppose she accepted on your behalf. Go get suited up. We fight at 1200," Doryin placed a hand against the control panel, switching on the shipwide vox network, "Arcanus Dragunov, battle readiness by 1200. We have a war to end."
Kaylee looked at the tech-servitors hauling bits of Serenity into the engine room, where she began pushing pieces into place, whispering to the panels as she spliced several wires to make a link between Serenity and the Arcanus Dragunov. The box whirred to life as the two Machine Spirits conversed briefly before the entire ship went entirely pitch black, barring the flamer torches of servitors welding plates back together. Kaylee patted the box on the side, "Come on baby, you can do this. It's just a bigger ship…"
The lights flashed back on and the ship began whirring proudly as a small display panel on the Serenity Logic Engine began spewing what looked like gibberish to Decimus. Kaylee seemed to understand it and started spouting orders, almost like she was a mouthpiece for the entire vessel. Decimus grabbed her throat, "Stop ordering my men around. Convert that gibberish into Low Gothic for me, and go see the Apothecarions before you hurt someone."
Kaylee turned and pushed a few buttons before walking, sort of dazed, to where she had seen the Apothecarion's chambers on the map. They greeted her with a pair of frowning masks as Simon smacked Jayne on the back of the head, "Oh, Hi Kaylee. What are you in for?"
"Decimus told me to come up here before I hurt someone down there. I've never been kicked out of an engine room before. What do I do?"
Valorius dropped her on the table and knocked her out quickly before pulling out one of the MIU's the Tech-priests used, "Dammit, I hate when they do this." He made a deft slice across the back of her skull, where he took off a chunk of skull, before packing the MIU in its place, fitting the device snugly around her brain, "There we go. Now she won't be ordering anyone around, hopefully, and she should be able to communicate more easily with the Servitors and Decimus now." He slid a yoke-like collar over the MIU and the back of her neck, "No mecha-dendrites until Decimus says she can have them. This is just a communication suite."
Kaylee sat up and rolled off the table, landing on her butt, "Hey, Simon. My head's all tingly. I can't hear Serenity anymore… Where's Serenity?"
"I don't know. The hangar probably?"
"No, no, that can't be. I took her apart to fix the engines. I can't feel her in my head anymore though."
Valorius held up his bloodied hand, with what appeared to be a piece of brain on it, "Low level telepathy. Non-threatening when controlled, but she wasn't, so I had to remove it."
"That's part of my brain!"
"You've got a better replacement!"
"Then why can't I hear Serenity!"
"Plug the cable in!"
She pulled the cable out of the yoke and stared at it for a long moment before plugging it into the matching outlet in the wall, "Oh, She's back. Do you have a wireless version of this? No, not-shiny. I need to get back downstairs to the engine room!" She unplugged the cable and ran down the corridors, following channels that only a Tech-priest should have been able to find, let alone fit through.
"Wash, welcome back to the bridge. Nice um, sockets?"
"Thanks Cap'n. They're so I can fly this tub. Now where do I sit?"
Doryin pointed at a piloting throne, and a servitor came up to help Wash slot all the plugs into the right sockets, before Wash's eyes rolled back into his head, "Oh, wow. I can see everything! This is so COOL!"
"Yes. Brother-Pilot Aerrow said the same thing when he plugged in for the first time too."
The immense ship began to rotate, bringing the broadside, a small suite of cannons compared to some, but it wasn't truly a warship, just a scouting vessel. The cannons floated into place as Wash dipped into the control system and gently pushed it, helping the centuries older pilot rotate the kilometer long block. Finally the cannons slipped into place, and the Alliance ship seemed to realize just what it was up against.
Gun ports opened up in the sides and several scout fighters popped out of the belly and towers, in an effort to match the raw firepower of the Imperium vessel. Fire poured from both ships, dumping hot lead into space. Torpedo salvoes tore through the shieldless towers as Thunder-hawks strafed the belly, clearing off the fighters. It was a decent challenge for the Dragunov, and for Wash, a very new experience. He could see the black around him, and every time he swung his arms, another missile salvo would appear. He drove a punch up against the representation of the Alliance vessel, and several more missiles, aimed purposefully, tore into it.
Kaylee shouted as the engine room rocked violently. The violence from the Alliance vessel had penetrated parts of the Void Shields, and several compartments had been exposed to the vacuum again. She could feel everything happening all at once, and she heard Wash screaming in pain, though he was nearly half a kilometer away, and nowhere near that loud.
Decimus scowled and grabbed the massive wheel on a bulkhead, wrenching it heavily, to open a channel that would redirect the air from the spaced segment to somewhere that needed it.
Jayne tugged on his space suit over the new ears he had been given, and tried to ignore how much his legs felt like jeely, or how he still couldn't feel his arms. They were moving, and he was able to aim Sasha, pointing it out of an airlock between two missile launchers. Quartyrmyn stood beside him, wielding a gun that made Sasha look tiny, and hefting it like it was weightless, though the grav-plates stretched out this far.
The two began firing off singular shots, bracing against the bulkhead door as they unloaded precision shots into the tiny fighters that continued to harrass the Dragunov.
Everything went completely silent as the Alliance vessel began glowing brightly. The reactor had been hit, and it was going to go up in a giant ball of fire. Jayne dragged Quartyrmyn back through the airlock. Wash yelled in stereo with Aerrow, "Brace for Impact!" Kaylee ran for the only wall not covered in steam-pipes. Zoe dove to the floor of the armory, urging Jakyyl to do the same. Mal wrapped his arms as firmly as he could around the railing before him. River wrapped her entire body around a structural beam.
The explosive wall of fire hit, melting through the already damaged Void Shields, and began eating away at the hull, cutting through bulkheads like they were butter. Jayne and Quartyrmyn scrambled for the Dragunov's spine, only to stop as the heat vanished. The Alliance vessel imploded on itself as it ran out of power, and the two snipers paused, looking out throught he cleanly melted off end of the corridor. It had taken nearly a quarter of the side of the Dragunov off.
Kaylee stared at the wall as it began to cool and the burst stopped leaking. Too much heat too fast, and it had blown out a decent chunk of the ship, almost all the way to the engine-room. Decimus began repairing almost mechanically, not really looking at anything, just following the rituals of repair to get the engine back to full functionality as quickly as possible. He ignored the shocked mechanic, leaving her sitting on the floor, shaking with the exertion of the last ten minutes.
Wash stopped screaming as he was disconnected from the ship, and immediately began feeling his right side, making certain that everything was still attached. He had delved deeper into the ship than he should have, and it had hurt him. Mal and River took his arms and began leading him back to their quarters to recover.
"Take care that he does not suffer any ill effects from that, Commissar Reynolds," Doryin looked at Aerrow, "How bad is it?"
"We've lost half the starboard cannons and torpedo launchers. The starboard lower propulsion unit is out of order, but Decimus has a team on it. Armament is down by half. The explosion grazed the promethium tanks and ignited the starboard armory. Servitors have been deployed to extinguish what remains. Void shield generators aren't responding on starboard or the bow, and if we don't reinforce the snout quickly, the next move I make will tear the hangar completely off."
"Understood. Establish shipwide maintenance procedures, and link Brother-librarian Zecharius to the ship-wide vox. He will have to perform Mass as we work."
The explosion had blown Shepherd Book across the chapel, and he could see Brother-librarian Zecharius laying on his side just a few feet away. He rolled the heavier man over carefully, and with a great deal of sweat, as the soldier-preacher was still in full armor. As soon as Brother Zecharius' face became visible, Book stopped rolling him and reached up, closing the Librarian's thick eye-lids. It was a wonder Book had survived the impact, and from the look of it, the dent in Zecharius' armor, and the way his arms were positioned, it appeared that he had caught Book before acting as a cushion against the wall. The backpack on the armor had been forced forward by an immense pressure, and had severed the soldier's spine, right at the base of the neck. There was no recovering from that.
"Brother, may you rest in peace, and go to the side of the king, now and forever more. I am not you, or of your blood, but I will make things right again. Quitting my career was a mistake, I see that now. Goodbye for now, may we meet again, in greener pastures."
"Damn, Nice shooting Q. Maybe you could teach me how to do that."
Quartyrmyn tapped the side of his helmet, where the armor's machine-spirit helped him aim. Sure he did all the hard work, but the crosshairs in his helmet helped a lot, "You'd need more than just those fancy vox-ears to do that sort of shooting."
Marines and Servitors began entering the medical chamber, carrying the injured, and sometimes dead. Simon stood by the door, staying out of the Apothecarion's way as he documented every dead body, and had them reverently placed off to one side to be given their last rites by Book or Brother Zecharius. The Apothecarions, for their part, moved the wounded through fairly quickly, sealing open wounds and smoothing out ragged tears before documenting a point for those who needed them to get cybernetic replacements. When Book walked in, flanked by two servitors carrying the front of a stretcher that seemed to be made of steel and cargo-netting, he froze. Lying on that webbing was a suit of armor he recognized, though he had seen it only once.
"Dead. Severed spinal cord," Book followed the servitors over to the pile of bodies and carefully assisted the four servitors in unloading the heavy body, positioning it alongside the others, "Brother Zecharius, I do not know if you can still hear me, but if you can, take these poor souls with you. They will still be in need of your guidance."
Book turned to the apothecarions, "Alright then, how can I help?"
Wash sat on his bunk as Zoe returned, shuddering from the impact of the ship being so horribly devestated while he was connected to it, "Hush, honey. It'll all be alright. Remember, all they do, they can't take the skies from us. We're still free, and you're still you."
Wash just leaned into her and started outright weeping, "It was horrible. I could feel my arm vaporizing..."
Alright, next chappie up. Next time: Blue Sun Meets Space Marine.