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    Iris from Deck B

    Posts : 28
    Join date : 2015-08-04

    Character Sheet
    Character Name: Iris from Deck B
    Wounds:
    12/12  (12/12)
    Fate:
    4/4  (4/4)

    Watchful Guardians

    Post by Iris from Deck B on Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:54 am

    “Sleep peacefully, my starlight, for his Eye is ever watchful, and his radiant warriors protect your rest.”

    “Yes, momma,” Iris murmured, her vision already dimming as she stared into the metal grating above her. The Void beyond was completely devoid of sensation, and by comparison even the steel hallways of Gilgamesh felt positively alive. Oxygen recyclers whistled and clunked occasionally, the soft hum of white fluorescent lights broken only by the occasional flickering. Small clouds of rust flecks kicked up in her mother’s wake, suspended temporarily in the low gravity, giving her an almost ghostlike stride.

    The long metal corridors of the Pira Dormir’s B Deck had been her home for twelve years and behind every intricately adorned wall panel and dingy bulkhead hid memories of secret childhood pacts, jealously guarded salvage piles, and forbidden journeys into the desolate passages of the Dark Beyond.

    For as long as any living human aboard could remember, the ship had drifted through the Void unpropelled, the dark expanses beyond the viewports littered with stars frequently giving way to bright, impossible spectrums of color that made one sick to look at for too long, before finally returning to the same empty backdrop with a gentle shuddering and a soft pop. The adults would frequently worry over the appearance of large objects or fast moving starships after a Shift, while others fussed over the ancient, inscrutable machinery that sprung to life during each extraplanar journey, but most believed them benign and that those who dwelled in the light of the Emperor’s Eye would be protected from harm.

    The Sigil of the Watchful Eye was everywhere; incorporated into or overtop of the already gorgeous craftsmanship that ornamented various surfaces on the Dormir. Visible from anywhere in space, its glow intense even against the surging tides of the Warp, the enormous anomaly was regarded at least as a mindful observer if not an active guard against the terrors of deep space, and many a diverted disaster was attributed to the care of its benevolent gaze. Further still, it had sent the Radiant Guardians to defend them against the denizens of the Dark Beyond, whose enormous, blazing effigies decorated miles of the ship’s plating.

    Believed to be the ghosts of the vessel’s original inhabitants, the Guardians were respected and revered, for the few known sightings of them in the past hundred years or so had been associated with grave danger to either the Dormir or its inhabitants. Ix from Deck C swore up and down that he had seen one staring longingly out of the viewport at the southernmost end of the ship, and even though he was a reputed liar (and drunk), all who passed that wing in the coming weeks allowed their conversations to ebb into a reverent silence.

    Iris’s eyelids had almost completely closed when her mother reached the door and turned back to face her; her slight frame silhouetted against the light beyond.  Her face now a putrescent mass of scorched skin and melted fat, a dry croak pushed past her blackened, shriveled lips:
    “But even they cannot stop what hunts you.”

    *****

    “Hey, baby, get up. Cutter’s on the vox; he’s got another job.”

    Iris stiffened, then groaned and wiped sleep from her eyes. The smells of the condemned hab block assaulted her, the smothering dank of mildew growing on the walls, and the pungent sourness of the dingy, decaying mattress on which she slept.  She wrinkled her nose and brushed ash from the pile of Lho stubs she had rolled over in her sleep from her face.
    Beside her, Dreg rolled off of the mattress and shuffled across the room to dig through a grubby backpack.  Without turning around, he threw a pair of pants at Iris’s head before bending to put on his own. The network of welts, scars, and protruding ribs that had intrigued her last night in the hazy din of the club now made him look sickly, and she suppressed a shudder as she dressed, unable to recall what about him had ensconced her so as they’d fucked in that disgusting hovel.

    Dreg was the third man in as many months that she’d allowed to bring to bring her home and effectively move in with. Lying down at night in the arms of a near stranger made her uneasy at first, but still afforded her more relative comfort and safety than anyone trying to find shelter on the street.  Dreg, at the very least, she had known for more than a few hours before following him home. The two of them had been members of the Third Ward Assassins for as long as it had held that name, and even before it was changed to reflect the new leader’s rise to power via a knife in the back. Dreg might last another two or three weeks before he started asking her whether she wanted recaff in the morning, or started telling her she looked pretty. Then Iris would gather her things and slink off the next morning before he woke up.

    Space Cutter,” spat Iris, clumsily substituting the popular vernacular for her people’s slang for blasting someone out the airlock.
    “That last job he sent us on was an absolute bust. Place was empty by the time we got there. Probably had been for months.”

    Dreg raised an eyebrow but chose to ignore her lapse into Void speech.
    “Anybody can get bad information; this time it’s legit. Two IG troopers with gas masks and really nice gear standing guard. None of this Arbites or PDF groxshit, neither; these guys are the real deal.”

    That caught Iris’s attention.  Arbites patrolling a location could mean anything, and usually meant that reinforcements were on standby. The PDF never showed up for anything that wasn’t a combat drill or a parade, but if actual Guardsmen were there, it was outside Arbites jurisdiction. Two soldiers, no organized backup…they would be easy prey for the hungry Assassins.

    “…why would there only be two of them?”
    “Who CARES, Iris? Gawd Emprah. We outnumber them 4 to one, we’re gonna be fine.”

    In another time, under wiser leadership, the Assassins would been more cautious and sent reconnaissance to investigate, but the past 5 years had not been kind to them, and a job with this little security to overcome was now non-negotiable.
    Hours later, after a brief meeting to discuss teams and tactics for the assault, Iris climbed into the salvaged freight truck containing 15 other Gangers. While everyone else loaded spare magazines and trash-talked over which one of them would pussy out if things got messy, Dreg pulled her aside and whispered in her ear,
    “I didn’t tell Cutter what happened to Sig. I don’t know what kind of wytchy groxshit you claim to know; you don’t know what you’re doing and it freaks me the hell out.”

    Iris bristled and shoved Dreg away.
    “Sig would have been fine if he’d just fucking held still. How am I supposed to direct the energy if he’s thrashing all over the place?”
    “You fused his laspistol to his HAND.”  Dreg hissed.
    “Better than him losing the whole fucking arm!”
    “I’m not going to argue with you about this, Iris. We need this job. Those mutant-lovers from the Fourth Ward are starting to get really bold, and if we don’t have something to trade our supplier, we’re not going to have the firepower we need to keep them out.”

    Iris bit her tongue, holding back that Dreg was a closed-minded idiot who was afraid of anything that worked differently than he could explain, that it was incredibly suspicious that they hadn’t even met the supplier who’d given them those pristine military-grade weapons, and countless more scraps of vitriol that threatened to spew from her lips.  

    “Fine,” Iris sneered through gritted teeth. “It’s a simple job, right? It’s not like I’ll need to anyway.”
    Dreg’s shoulders relaxed as he realized he’d won.

    “Don’t take it personally, girl. I believe you, you know, about where you say you’re from. But Cutter’s not going to care about the ship or the Eye or any of that; he’s gonna think you’re a liability and put one between your eyes. I’m just trying to keep us all safe.”

    Defeated, Iris sighed and met Dreg’s worried stare.
    “I know. Thanks. Be careful out there. May the Guardians keep you.”

    ****

    The Dormir’s emergences from the Warp had become increasingly turbulent, and more and more often a welcoming party of battleships would amass to meet the craft before it made its next jump. Worse still, a dismembered corpse had been discovered near the outskirts of C Deck, limbs severed in a manner that suggested they had been bitten off. The victim’s blood trails lead away from an uncharted passage into the Dark Beyond.  The poor man had likely been attempting to scout a new passage for salvage runs, as the current safe routes had begun to offer diminishing returns. Before his death, the man had painstakingly smeared the Sigil of the Eye over the bulkhead in his own blood, acting as both warning to those on this side of it and ward against whatever lay on the other.

    A watch had been established. Given the relative impermeability of the bulkhead, it was determined that anyone nearby would have ample time to run and raise the alarm should whatever took the victim’s limbs come looking for the rest of its meal. All ship dwellers over the age of ten would spend 10 hour shifts standing guard over the doorway and report any disturbances to the Elders. The watch was observed judiciously for six months, but after not so much as a peep from the Dark Beyond, those appointed became lax in their duties.

    Iris, on the other hand, enjoyed her shifts at the watch. That particular corridor of the ship was incredibly peaceful (once the blood had been scrubbed away), and she would often volunteer to take the watch shifts from reluctant friends in order to have the time alone. While there, she would begin an exercise that she had discovered several years ago, but had precious little privacy to undergo regularly. Closing her eyes, she would extend her mind out, past the confines of the ship, into the dark reaches of the Void, hoping to brush against some other drifting consciousness.

    Iris had tried to explain the ticklish, puzzling sensation that her rare instances of contact gave her, but her friends would simply frown, confused, and patronize her. She began to look forward to her sessions at the watch more than anything, her mind adrift not unlike the ship in the deepness of space. The other consciousnesses that Iris had touched in her trances had been in some cases, extreme. There was anger, joy, sorrow, worry, confusion, hope, and several other emotions too alien for words. She had once attempted to extend her mind while the ship moved through the Warp, but was quickly overwhelmed by the vast ocean of thoughts and emotions within, and decided that the realm of the Eye was best not examined so thoroughly, and that to meet Its gaze directly may even harm her.

    It was on one of her watch sessions, deep in trance, that she felt a pull at the corner of her mind. A small dark spot sat stubbornly at the edge of her vision, refusing to be probed. Turning her attention away from the broad expanses of space, she focused directly on the spot and began to push harder at it. She didn’t know how long she stood there, face scrunched contorted with effort, thinking hard as she worked her thoughts deeper into the persistent emptiness, until finally, with the sensation of an airlock depressurizing, she was propelled into a consciousness that dwarfed her own.

    Giddy with excitement, she extended a small greeting in her thoughts:
    “…hello?”
    “FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDD UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS,” came the deafening reply.
    This mind was infinitely vast, and comprised of what seemed like millions of voices howling a single thought: “I HUNGER.”

    Trembling, Iris cut the connection with the presence before it could swallow her whole.  She staggered away from the bulkhead vomiting up the warm, grey slurry of Corpse Starch.

    “I need to warn them,” she’d thought, the words repeating over and over in her mind, spurring her to move as far away from the cursed doorway as possible.

    She’d moved maybe thirty meters before she heard the metallic BANG of metal being impacted. Eyes wide with terror, she turned to see rust particles disturbed by the impact drifting like snow from the ceiling. There was a pregnant pause, and then another BANG, this one accompanied by the scream of distressed metal and a frustrated growl from beyond the door.

    ****

    “See, Iris? Told you this would be easy.”

    Dreg checked his pistol’s power pack and listened carefully for the telltale whine of the weapon charging up. He had been right; their assault was nearly flawless, a distraction luring the first guardsman to a death by slit throat from the shadows and the overwhelming number of charging gangers quickly overrunning the second. Despite the superior quality of the dead man’s gear, he had only managed to squeeze off two shots before a shotgun blast reduced his kneecap to paste, and was then set upon by a group of well-muscled gangers carrying both blades and crude bludgeons. The remaining bulk of the force quickly set about opening the warehouse doors for the cargo trucks and hastily constructing cover to defend from in the event that they were interrupted.

    Iris and her team were prying open storage crates. A large number of them contained mostly useless materials like written records and a few pieces of farming equipment, but as they investigated further they discovered a few curious objects whose use could only be guessed at. Large blocks of red and white crystal were stacked neatly within one set of crates, while another held pieces of strongly geometric stone covered with inscrutable carvings. They finally reached the center of the warehouse, where a steel crate wrapped in chains sat suspended a few feet off the ground.    

    “Oh, yeah, that’s definitely the most valuable thing in the room. Frey, Havok, get on that crane and lower it down, would ya? I wanna make sure it’s something we can sell.”

    Iris was only mildly interested in the crate. Something about this whole op felt off. This stuff looked like curios that a merchant guild would have purchased from some weird planet, certainly nothing that warranted the attention of the Imperial Guard.  She rummaged through the supplies, looking for anything that might identify exactly who they were stealing from. She startled for a short moment when she overturned the lid of a box to discover what she could have sworn was the Sigil of the Eye, but turned out to just be some strange circular seal with a giant letter in the middle.
    The sound of a lascutter cycling down and the clank of heavy chains interrupted her search. She turned to see Dreg throwing the door to the container wide open, then staring in with a frown on his face.

    “What’s in there, Dreg?”

    “I don’t know. Never seen anything like. It.” He motioned for her to join him.

    Inside the crate was a diamond shaped pillar about waist high. It was adorned with the same geometric carvings as some of the other debris, but was comprised of interwoven veins of the red and white crystals.
    “What do you think it is?”
    “No idea. Some Nobleman’s new centerpiece, probably. Just in case, help me move it; I don’t want to break anything.”

    Iris took a moment to admire the object’s beautiful craftsmanship before positioning herself to the rear of the crate to push.  Setting her weight, she grasped the corners of the pillar to begin pushing it out. Immediately, she gasped and released it, stunned.
    “Iris. What’s up? You step on something?”

    “No, it’s…it’s just like when I was back on the ship. It touched me.”
    “What? The hell you on about? Help me move this thing; somebody probably heard the gunfire.”
    “It touched my mind, Dreg! This thing is alive!”
    “Fucking Throne, Iris, I told you, no wytchy groxshi-”

    Iris’s hands had already clamped down onto the pillar again. Her eyes rolled back in her skull as the object’s memories spilled forth.
    “Decima…Southern Continent…Ternati…”

    “FEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDDDDD UUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS,”

    With a shriek, Iris tried desperately to break the connection with the device, but its hold on her mind was too strong; it continued pouring information into her, forcing itself to be known.

    Somewhere in the background, Dreg was screaming. Tears flowed down Iris’s face, her body twisting in pain with each new revelation from the pillar. A hellish purple glow began to fill the container, pulsating with each spasm her body endured, becoming unbearably bright. There was the sharp report of a las round, and then the connection was lost. Iris was dimly aware of an explosion carrying her through the steel wall of the crate and through the air. She was unconscious before she hit the ground.

    ****

    There was pandemonium aboard the Pira Dormir. For what may have been the first time in Imperial history, a warning of coming danger was responded to promptly and with an appropriate amount of panic. The weapons salvaged from the vessel were ancient and in poor condition, but were unmistakably of very high quality, and most had still worked the last time someone had bothered to test them. Immense, and clearly meant for use by someone nearly twice the size of the average man, the weapons of the Guardians were instead mounted reverently onto mobile platforms, where the wheels could be locked when firing.

    There was obviously something behind the bulkhead now. Chittering screams and the roars of something in pain mixed with heavy impacts of metal-on-metal and a roaring fwooosh noise that could be heard every few seconds. The colonists held their position for several hours listening to the turmoil from the Beyond, when it suddenly stopped. The corridor was as silent as the Void beyond for several minutes, when the sound of heavy footfalls resumed on the other side.  There was a low hiss as the door locks disengaged, and everyone held their breath as their hands shook on the weapons.

    The door slid back, and from the shadows emerged a towering figure, clad in silver armor. Easily eight feet tall, it filled the doorway, completely obscuring the passage beyond. Its eyes blazed bright blue beneath the mailed helm, and an enormous device with a small flame burning at its tip was mounted to its arm. The other held the crushed remains of some reptilian, spidery creature, and splatters of its blood had slicked the breastplate of the otherwise immaculate armor.

    The colonists gasped and lowered their weapons.  Several fell to their knees and made the sign of the Aquilla.
    “He is ever watchful; Guardians be praised!”
    “His gaze has not forsaken us!”
    “Imperator Occulus!”

    The figure paused, then raised a hand to its ear.
    “HUMAN SURVIVORS ENCOUNTERED. ORDERS?”
    The booming, vox-augmented voice startled them. There were no known stories of hearing a Guardian speak.
    After a brief pause, “UNDERSTOOD. RENDEVOUZ ON MY COORDINATES.” The figure raised its arm mounted weapon towards the colonists.

    “FOR THE HERESY OF XENOS CORRUPTION, AND TO PROTECT THE PURITY OF HIS IMPERIUM, I PURGE THEE IN THE NAME OF THE EMPEROR.”

    Great gouts of crimson flame burst forth from the weapon with a roar and crackle, instantly immolating the prostrate worshipers. The others turned and fled, terrified as the blood-chilling screams of their loved ones echoed off the metal walls.  

    It was an absolute massacre. The Guardian’s flames scoured the hallways, breaching doors where families had huddled for safety, licking at ventilation ducts darted into as a means to escape. The air boiled with the stench of roasting flesh. Iris had watched her mother burn.  Desperate to save her and her brother, she had forced open an access panel concealing another entrance to the Dark Beyond. She had only enough time to kiss them each on the forehead and replace the panel and before it was bathed in flame. Iris watched through a small gap in the imperfect seal as her hair curled and broke in the heat, her eyes boiled from their skull. Her brother collapsed on the spot, unable to tear himself away from the grisly image. After trying desperately to pull him along, Iris left him behind, turning a corner just in time to feel the heat from another blast of the Guardian’s weapons behind her.

    She didn’t remember how far she ran through the Dark Beyond. Even in her explorations of its more well-charted depths, Iris had never had a great sense of direction. Every gleaming bit of metal in the starlight was the approach of the False Guardians, fueling her terror and spurring her onward. She was finally brought to a halt by a loose floor panel, which sent her sprawling across floor. Weeping, she curled her skinned knees to her chest and resigned herself to death.

    Moments later, she felt the touch of a hand on her shoulder. Surprised to find another human this far into the Dark Beyond, she wiped her eyes and scrambled to her feet. The woman standing before her wore strange clothing, form-fitting and obviously meant for stealth over combat. She carried a thin, curved blade in one hand and held what appeared to be a miniature Guardian’s pistol in the other. She regarded Iris with a cold, analytical stare for a moment before holstering the sidearm.

    “Child. Are you hurt?”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “Good. What is your name?”
    “Iris, from Deck B.”
    “Iris, I am Vevrain. If you wish to live, you will follow me.”

    The woman extended her hand to Iris. The authority of command in her voice left no room for doubt; Iris would follow her wherever she led her, and she would survive.
    “Where are we going?” Iris asked.
    “My extraction shuttle. It’s maybe three clicks from here; down the eastern ridge of the Hulk. We should hurry; I don’t know what the Grey Knights are doing here, but I doubt that-“

    A sudden impact on the wall behind her knocked both of them sprawling. An enormous glowing fist was visible through a hole in the wall large enough to push a freight cart through. Several more impacts widened it until the armored behemoth stepped forward and lowered its weapon.

    “I AM NOT SURPRISED TO SEE A MEMBER OF THE ORDO XENOS IN THESE HALLS. THEY ARE OFTEN FOUND MEDDLING BEYOND THEIR JURISDICTION.”

    “You overzealous Malleus lapdogs take far more liberties with your own.”
    “I AM THE EMPEROR’S WILL. MY JURISDICTION SPANS HIS GALAXY. STAND ASIDE.”
    Vevrain looked incredulously at the warrior, then to Iris, and then back.
    “You can’t be serious. She’s a human child; for what crime have you ordered her execution?”
    “SHE HAS BEEN FOUND ABOARD A VESSEL RIFE WITH XENOS AND HERESY. IT IS PRUDENT, AND OUR DUTY, TO ENSURE IT DOES NOT LEAVE THIS ROCK. AGAIN, STAND ASIDE, OR BE PURGED ALONG WITH HER.”


    The fist that had punched through the wall began to crackle with energy, and Vevrain glanced about nervously for any escape routes. Iris stood frozen to the floor, trembling.

    “You were supposed to protect us!” She shrieked, her eyes blazing. “His Eye watches, his Guardains protect; why are you killing us!”
    “Run, you idiot!” Vevrain snarled.

    The silver clad warrior said nothing, only reared back with his glowing fist and prepared to deliver the final blow.
    It never connected. A hulking figure in black armor ablaze with ethereal fire had appeared between the Grey Knight and the two humans. The silvered warrior took a step back and raised its flamethrower.

    “DAEMON.” it spat.
    “FRATRICIDE.” the Guardian answered.

    Vevrain took advantage of the Guardian’s sudden appearance. Grabbing Iris’s hand, she barreled through the dim corridors away from the bellowed oaths and scorching combat.
    “Almost there, Iris. Keep moving.”

    The ship began to shudder, gently at first, then quickly increasing until the floor pitched violently, tossing the fleeing women against the wall and breaking Vevrain’s hold on Iris.
    “It’s happening…” Iris murmured.
    “What’s happening?”  
    “We’re going to jump. Back into the Warp.”
    “Iris, get up! We need to get to my ship; this part of the Hulk doesn’t have a Gellar Field-“

    Gleeful expression on her face, Iris exclaimed,
    “The Guardians are real! They saved me-”
    “By the Emperor, get up and MOVE!”

    Just as the shaking on the Hulk had peaked in intensity, Vevrain lunged for Iris’s hand. Her fingers closed on empty air. The quake abruptly stopped, but Iris had vanished.

    ****

    Iris awoke to klaxons sounding. Her mind on fire, she sat up and looked around. The center of the warehouse was a smoldering crater; the remnants of the crate perforated by millions of holes. Her entire body was caked with gore; strings of viscera dripped from her hair. She frantically pawed at herself, trying desperately and failing not to think of what clung to her skin as liquefied Dreg.

    A large number of red crystals protruded from her flak armor. Iris quietly blessed the Eye for protecting her once more. Ever since she had been teleported from the Dormir to this planet, her faith had never been stronger, and she had graffitid its sigil onto everything she wore.  

    The rhythmic thud of boots drew her attention. Troops dressed similarly to the two Guardsmen were pouring into the warehouse from every entrance, and these bore the same seal as the crate she had inspected before the explosion. She scrambled to her feet to make an escape, and felt a hard tap on the back of her skull followed by a click.
    “Stand down,” a familiar voice cautioned.

    Iris raised her hands and held as still as possible. The hustling troops finally reached her, and twenty or so lasguns were trained on her head and chest as they assumed firing formation.

    The owner of the voice behind Iris moved into position between her and the firing squad. She was older, the passage of time readable in the hard lines of her face, and the fading remnants of what had once been nasty scars decorated her. If she recognized Iris, she gave no sign, and kept the bolt pistol pointed squarely at her forehead. Iris could only stand and gape.

    “Your petty gang’s failed robbery has disrupted an operation that has taken me months to build. Were the lot of you not dead, I would see to executing you all personally. However, it would seem that you are the only one still breathing. I do not know how you survived contact with that artifact, but I intend to find out. Your cooperation is appreciated, but far from necessary.”
    “I am-”

    “Vevrain.” Iris interjected. “I will follow you. I wish to live.”

    She could not be sure, but Iris could swear that the ghost of a smile had crept to the corners of Vevrain’s mouth.
    “Very well. Stormtroopers, take this woman into custody.”

    Just before the butt of the lasgun connected with her head, Iris heard the Vevrain softly mutter
    “It’s good to see you again, Iris.”

      Current date/time is Mon Dec 11, 2017 8:19 pm