From the Archives of Archibald Fanning, Vanem Umbrae
Before departing the Solemn Hall on Ichabarr with their newly requisitioned Deathwatch, Inquisitor Promethea and her Throne Agents decided a bit of research on the subject of the planet they were to assault was in order. After all, Exterminatus 88837222020, known as The Big Gray, was mostly a mystery. They knew only that it was one of the first planets to suffer exterminatus since the Calyx Expanse was taken in the Angevin Crusade, and one of the first uses of biological virus-bombing before it became the standard method of exterminatus among the Inquisition.
Magos Attilan’s knowledge of the techniques of virus bombing made it clear why it was considered a “test case”. As one of the largest terrestrial planets ever discovered, its gravity would normally make human life impossible. But the Big Gray is a surprisingly light world, its crust composed of porous low-density materials. This permitted the possibility of high-gravity human habitation, but the sheer size of the world would stress the design parameters of the virus bombs used.
Sister Castita ultimately learned why the planet was purged. When discovered by the Crusaders, they found a vast population of short, squat humans, adapted to the high gravity, living in a fairly primitive state. It became clear to the crusaders, however, that this civilization was compromised in some fashion. It would appear that the porous rock of the planet was suitable for a slime-mold-type fungal infestation that was capable of parasitizing all other animal life. The planet-wide fungus was also, to some degree, sentient and psychic. Rather than permit it to extend its control into space, the decision was made to destroy all life on the planet, an act that caused the world-spanning fungal mind to lash out devastatingly to the orbital ships.
Under the theory that perhaps some of this fungus may still survive deep beneath the surface, Inquisitor Promethea and her agents ensured their armor was sealed against contaminants, and warned their Deathwatch contingent to ensure the same.
Inquisitor Promethea also raised Kayleigh Vandilus, loyal servant and cell leader, to the rank of Interrogator within the Inquisition, charging her with leading her cell aboard the newly-reacquired Cromwell’s Fury to hold back and provide backup to the Inquisitor herself and the Azure Rose in case something should go awry.
After a month in the warp, the two ships arrived at the Big Gray. They avoided the derelict orbital stations and their resident slaugth-infested squatter populations and found once more the continent below which, in tunnels a mile below the surface, vast slaugth energy readings could be detected by Magos Attilan’s custom-built scanners. Trooper Davos combined his superior knowledge of military tactics with Assassin Hiberna’s talent for using shipboard scanners to plot a likely location in the tunnels for teleportarium use. The Inquisitor, her retinue, and two squads of Deathwatch space marines then entered the Logician-built teleportarium and descended to the planet below.
The first thing they noticed was that the tunnel through porous rock was practically dripping with slime mold. It hung in ropy tendrils from the ceiling and slicked the walls and floor. Inquisitor Promethea detected that it was all one superorganism spreading out as far as her percipience could permit, and it was an immense psychic mind, although not, perhaps, notably sentient. It did not appear to immediately note their presence, but the air was filled with its spores.
They moved through the tunnels until they faced a choice. The chamber with the slaugth energy readings was ahead. One path was more direct, leading through a large antechamber first. The other was circuitous, taking far longer, and potentially necessitating the use of the mining equipment Magos Attilan brought, but allowing more effective defense. They opted for the direct route.
The large antechamber, it turned out, was filled with a couple hundred degenerate, squat humanoids, yellowish-green with fungal infestation, some having had parts of their bodies replaced by the blasphemous bio-cybernetics of the slaugth. When the force of arms arrived at the entrance to the chamber, the lights they bore sparked the horde into screaming, gurgling motion.
Two-hundred fungus-infested assailants may well have been the end of the Inquisitor and her entourage if not for the disciplined ranks of the Adeptus Astartes, who cut them down in droves with heavy-flamer, assault cannon, storm bolter, and the pyrokinetic talents of their Salamanders-chapter Librarian. Even so, the Inquisitor’s team acquitted themselves well with fire bombs, flamers, hellgun fire, and the Inquisitor’s own psychic abilities which cowed the derelicts with the Word of the Emperor.
Such combat, however, woke the planet to their presence, and it began to work its way into their minds, seeking to subvert their wills and guide their hands to remove their helmets and thereby be exposed to fungal infection. Magos Attilan’s medical knowledge was sufficient to fight back the fungus pulsing through the veins of the one Space Marine to have his armor penetrated, but the psychic assault on their minds was harder to fight. Inquisitor Promethea called upon her own force of will and assailed the very soul of the planet itself, causing such agony that it recoiled from them, leaving them to continue their mission unmolested.
A few short minutes later, they entered another chamber, this one bathed in a nacreous yellowish light. They had emerged on something of a ledge above the floor, which was one vast seething morass of necrotic maggots. At the other end of the chamber, about 60 meters away, was an immense arch made of bio-mechanical slaugth technology, through which could be seen an entire world covered in a sea of slimy worms. The maggots upon the floor of the chamber, then, were visibly an extrusion into our world from whatever blasphemous realm the slaugth originate from.
Legionairre Corvus rallied his fellows and they advanced down into the well of maggots, seeking carve a path to the archway through force of arms. The mass extruded tentacles of maggots, dripping with necrotic slime, to repulse them. The marine injured from the previous battle was grasped, armor and flesh dissolving into death, but suddenly Sister Castita called upon her powerful faith in the divine god-emperor of mankind and the marine rallied, pulled from the brink of the Emperor’s embrace to fight on. She accompanied the force of arms into peril while Magos Attilan activated the powerful jump pack engines built into his mechanized frame. Trooper Davos leapt upon the Magos who flew through the air of the cavern. Slaugth flying constructs came down from the ceiling, and with Davos’ guns, and Bastion’s maneouverability, they made it to the portal arch where the Magos clamped himself to investigate and hopefully shut it down.
The Inquisitor and the Assassin hung back, seeking advantage in the situation. Some aerial constructs engaged them in battle, doing great harm to Assassin Hiberna before Sister Castita, fleeing her own injury at the oozing mass of maggots that nearly pulled her to her demise, rushed to her medical aid, calling once more upon her faith to speed healing.
The mass of maggots spoke, offering the Inquisitor and her agents knowledge and power if they would serve. Needless to say, nobody listened to such blandishments.
The battle, then, proceeded in three parts. At the portal, Magos Attilan analyzed the slaugth technology with an eye and an expertise that was uncanny. He rapidly determined that although the portal had no conventionally moving parts to sabotage, it could theoretically be poisoned. Wielding a plasma cutter, he rapidly penetrated the skin of the vast device and injected a large quantity of holy machine oil into the pulsing innards of the construct, whereupon it began to tremble and sweat foul fluids. As he worked, Trooper Davos fought off the flying constructs that sought to prevent them in their work, sending their destroyed pieces into the morass of maggots below.
At the entrance to the room, Inquisitor Promethea wielded her sword, robbed of all psychic impact, but deadly nevertheless, to slay hovering constructs while Castita worked to heal Dido. Castita then aided in the defense with her hand flamers.
Upon the floor of the cavern, the Deathwatch carved a vile path through a sea of necrotic maggots until the mucus ran in rivers reaching their thighs. Armor and flesh began to rot but still they fought, holding back the mass, preventing it from spawning slaugth maggot men who would otherwise be free to assail Magos Attilan or the Inquisitor. A techmarine from the Iron Templars chapter was ensnared and nearly liquified before, once more, Sister Castita called upon the Emperor to resurrect him from near certain death. Nevertheless, even stout hearts such as theirs were hard pressed to fight back the slimy sea.
Magos Attilan’s poisoning of the gate, however, had an immediate effect. As he and Davos flew back to rejoin the Inquisitor, the maggots began to pulse and flow back through the portal, desperate to flee our world before the machine ceased function. This alleviated somewhat the pressure on the Deathwatch. The portal did, in fact, explode dramatically, whereupon, robbed of whatever force permitted its presence, the remnants of the slaugth, necrotic mucus and all, evaporated into nothing.
With the oppressive weight of their energies departing, the Inquisitor found she could once again access her psychic abilities. She, alongside Sister Castita, Trooper Davos, and the Deathwatch medic, saw to all wounds. They evacuated the planet in such a way as to ensure quarantine, sterilizing themselves and all equipment of fungal spores in the teleportarium-chamber of their vessel, taking no chances of spreading its foul influence. As they did so, Interrogator Vandilus and her ship shot down the various derelict orbital stations, destroying in the fires of re-entry any remaining agents of the slaugth in the system.
Thus ended the threat of the slaugth and their puppets in the Ixaniad Sector for at least a century. This victory cemented Inquisitor Promethea’s reputation within the Inquisition, and led her to serve a long and storied career. Although she never rose high in the ranks politically, she was accorded a great deal of respect as a field-Inquisitor. She focused much of her attention on establishing more and better schools for psychers, utilizing rigorous discipline and training principles so as to ensure a greater percentage of survival and utility in the graduates.
Assassin Hiberna stayed as one of her most valued agents for much of that career, although she ultimately fell prey to a fate that is sadly not unusual for assassins of the Temple Vanus, that of dissociation.
Trooper Davos married Elizabeth Starling, using his Inquisition influence to ensure that the Starling Dynasty stayed true to their bargains, and also securing his own legacy.
Magos Attilan spent many decades hunting down Hiram Vain, using his Inquisition contacts as well as those of the Adeptus Mechanicus to find the rogue Logician. His success or failure is beyond the scope of my knowledge.
Sister Castita soon after retired back to the service of Cardinal Solaris where she used her extensive social contacts at all levels of society in the Ixaniad sector to be a vital intelligence resource for both the Ecclesiarchy and the Inquisition.
This, then, concludes this chapter of my biography of Inquisitor Promethea and her favored throne agents. I will outline the Inquisitor’s efforts against the Yu’vath in volume II.