In the grim darkness of the far future, there is only war.
At the very edge of the Imperium of Mankind in the 41st millenium, a small, unremarkable world suffered under the yoke of the Imperium’s uncaring administration. A young leader, calling himself the Teacher, rose up among the simple folk, promising hope in a brighter future. Under his naive and misguided influence, the planet’s population, the people of Palados, rose up against their masters and cast them down, declaring themselves free and independent. Reprisals would follow swiftly.
Having been founded by a revered ancestor in the early days of the now wealthy and influential Gamoran dynasty, Palados had long been a jewel in the crown of Varok Gamoran’s domain. Its rebellion earned him unwelcome and detailed attention from the Ordo Hereticus arm of the Inquisition. While many months passed as the Machiavellian machinery of the Administratum turned, a Warrant of Trade was eventually granted to Tiberius Sinerian with the express purpose of reclaiming Palados for the Emperor.
Tiberius brought the wrath of the Imperium with him, deploying companies of Imperial Guardsmen and ruthless mercenaries across the surface of the misguided world. Their fledgling independence was squashed forthright and the Imperium’s yoke was fixed firmly in place once again, with a notable increase in taxation across the planet. The Teacher was crucified in the center of the capital city, and his decaying body left as a warning to those who would dare to dream of change.
The quick and total fulfillment of the conditions of his Warrant propelled Tiberius to stardom among the ranks of rogue traders, but earned him the ire of Varok Gamoran. Though cleared of heresy by the Inquisition, Gamoran had no official channels to pursue to reclaim Palados.
Despite constant rivalry with the Gamorans, Tiberius continued to meet with success and watched his house grow to include dozens of void ships, which he divided into several smaller fleets commanded by his various relations. After decades of exploration, combat and accumulation of wealth, Tiberius was finally given the opportunity to add two new worlds to his personal dominion, in the name of the Emperor of Mankind. These worlds, recently cleansed of mutants and xenos by the great works of the Imperium, were called Shinfuken and Akna.
A splinter fleet was assembled, with the Holy Entreprise at its head, commanded by Tiberius’ nephew, Mazer Sinerian.
A long time indentured servant in the employ of Tiberius, Phi Rho 81, an explorator with questionable views, was assigned to the Enterprise as chief of the enginarium.
Mazer chose as his seneschal, Lokus, a former Sinerian slave, freed after showing extraordinary courage and loyalty during the Great Betrayal mutiny.
A pardoned stowaway also long in the service of the Sinerian dynasty, Nero was assigned to the Enterprise as its master gunner.
Rescued by Tiberius from a life of slavery on an outlaw world, Alarak was assigned to the Enterprise as ship navigator.
The new fleet was inaugurated with an elaborate banquet hosted in the cathedral-like Festarium building aboard void station Port Wander. The Gothic venue boasted towering stained glass windows overlooking the innumerable void ships coming and going from the frenetic port. The feast was vast and decadent beyond anything that the crew had ever experienced. In attendance were rogue traders, nobility and officials from various Imperial institutions.
Mazer introduced the Enterprise’s crew to each other, as well as to Hundred Eyes, Talon Karrde and Shen Tygan, the ship’s astropath, chief of security and medicae chief respectively.
Lokus flirted shamelessly at the feast, using his invitation to the head table as a pick up line. He also made a special effort to kiss up to Mazer.
Nero and Alarak for their part avoided mingling and small talk, uncomfortable in the social setting.
Phi Rho similarly ignored the guests in favor of studying and cataloguing the astonishing array of technological artifacts on display among the wealthy attendees.
Tiberius interrupted the small talk to give a toast.
“Dear friends, supporters, investors, rivals and bitter enemies,” the last comment was obviously directed at Varok Gamoran, who responded with a humorless smile as the crowd snickered, “welcome to the inauguration feast of the Holy Enterprise. The Administratum has graciously selected the Sinerian house to pioneer the colonization of two new worlds, bringing these darkened spheres into the holy protection of the Emperor’s light. This is a great honor for our house and the perfect opportunity for my nephew, Mazer, to show the Imperium his courage and abilities.”
Mazer stood and answered nervously.
“Thank you, uncle. I look forward to growing the mighty Sinerian legacy!”
He sat down abruptly and the din of side conversations resumed again.
Once the feast wrapped up, the expedition wasted no time getting under way to Shinfuken.
On the journey, Phi Rho carefully studied the ship, blessing components to protect against malfunction. He also researched Imperial records about Shinfuken and Akna technology, discovering that an STC wafer had been recovered on Shinfuken, and that crystals with unique electromagnetic properties were discovered on Akna.
Nero also took the time to inspect the ship, especially the weaponry, mumbling to himself about performance and maintenance.
Lokus spent his time reading iterator-approved headlines, absorbing current events around the Imperium. Finding links between events, current Sinerian assets, Shinfuken and Akna opportunities, he proposed possible deals to Mazer, who made a brief show off reviewing the proposals before refusing. Lokus also maintained his strict regimen of exercise and gun range practice, which was particularly useful for blowing off steam after Mazer’s lack of enthusiasm.
Alarak maintained his usual habit of mapping the perceptible bits of the warp as he traveled through it. He emerged from seclusion only as the ship returned to realspace, awkwardly communing with the rest of the crew.
The warp proved calm and the fleet reached its destination without difficulty. One of the transports landed on the planet, delivering its complement of hive world rejects to the newly compliant world. Leaving behind a pair of support ships to patrol the system, the remainder of the fleet headed on to Akna.
The warp was once again cooperative and the Sinerian splinter fleet arrived in system without delay.
But in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war.
As the Sinerian ships headed to the planet, Phi Rho detected a fleet that had emerged from behind Akna’s moon on an intercept course. The crew looked up to Mazer’s raised command platform as Phi Rho called out a warning. They watched the colour drain from Mazer’s face and hesitated until he finally yelled shakily.
“Red alert! Raise shields!”
The unknown enemy fleet did not broadcast any communications and immediately went on the offensive, bathing the Sinerian fleet with megatons of ordnance and bursts of incalculable energy.
The crew were forced to take initiative and issue orders to the fleet as their commander froze, his woeful lack of real world experience painfully apparent. The senior staff were forced to rely on their competent but unremarkable crew to execute all piloting manoeuvres, resulting in the Sinerian fleet moving slowly and awkwardly in response to the ambush.
The enemy drew first blood and in the first hour of engagement, the Grotesque exploded, leaving no hope of recovering survivors. The Tartarus was directed to continue its course toward Akna and, shielded by the sacrifices made by the rest of the fleet, it reached the surface unscathed. The Cyclops was heavily damaged but bravely fought on, even with its engines barely functioning. Nero directed the Enterprise’s guns and returned fire, carving dozens of decks off both enemy frigates, but not enough to stop their relentless battering.
Alarak finally used the sensors to identify the ships, discovering that they were Gamoran vessels.
The Enterprise was peppered by macrocannon barrages, which were unable to pierce the light cruiser’s heavy armour, but prevented its void shields from recharging. One of the enemy frigates scored with its Sunsear Laser Batteries and the Enterprise was rocked by numerous explosive decompressions. Caught mid-stride, Mazer was thrown head first from the command platform into the servitor pit and instantly knocked unconscious.
Phi Rho quickly sent his servo-skull, Trax, to attend to Mazer’s wounds while Shen Tygan was summoned to the bridge.
Outnumbered, outgunned and out manoeuvred, Lokus was the first to voice the grim reality that everyone was realising. This battle could not be won. The Cyclops was ordered to engage the enemy, effectively condemning its crew to death. Meanwhile, maximum power was redirected to the Enterprise’s engines, giving it enough of an edge in speed to break through the line of Gamoran ships and out of the Akna system, far enough to safely enter the warp and make good their escape. As they fled, the crew of the Enterprise witnessed the Gamoran ships finish off the Cyclops and close in on the planet itself.