A Brief Sojourn in Synfonia

A Brief Sojourn in Synfonia



'An Inquisitor is not dissimilar to a Space Hulk. Both are unstoppable harbingers of doom. Both are figures of awe and fear, beholden to no one. More than that: we collect things. Things and people.'

Bregil and I go back about twenty years I think. It must have been at least that long since the Jjorgian Regulatory incident and it was sometime around that horribly untidy affair that I'd first encountered the old bastard. He would turn out to be a most curious acquisition. I don't think either of us much liked one another to begin with, thrown together as we were in something akin to a marriage of convenience. Time and familiarity ground down our rougher edges to such an extent that, when I received a communique requesting my presence at Interlude Quay, I departed for the Myrean Leagues with all due haste, for I knew he would not have called upon me without good reason.

As the Fate’s Jest broke warp it became immediately evident not only why Bregil had called for me, but also that he might be beyond even my aid, for the augers of the Jest were alight with a troubling number of void vessel signatures, more than a few of which pulsed with idents that illuminated them as being ships of the Adeptus Astartes. I had heard reports that this area of the sector was ‘disputed’ but what I was seeing as we coasted further in system – using the inertia of our emergence into realspace rather than lighting our drives and screaming our presence to all and sundry – suggested that what may have begun as a dispute had escalated into open conflict. I began to wonder just what Bregil had managed to get me embroiled in, and whether either of us would emerge from this alive.

One of the advantages of a warzone is that no matter where in the galaxy it is, or who is fighting who, it’s almost always absolute chaos. I know that the Uplifting Primer and Munitorum Manual would have the common soldiery believe otherwise, but frankly they’re both about as much use as shouting orders to a corpse. In any case, while slipping between the duelling fleets of two Astartes Chapters will never be something I would describe as an enjoyable experience, it was nevertheless easier to do by pretending to be the captain of a harmless trading barque than by flashing my rosette and demanding they cease fire and return to whatever their duties might have been before they began shooting at one another. I have no doubt that a number of my crew would have preferred the latter option; I don’t doubt that they cursed my name and their affiliation with me as we made the rather rough descent to one of the minor spaceports that ringed the city of Synfonia.

We were perhaps two or three miles from setting down on what I hoped might be the relative safety of the ground when my commsman indicated that he had detected the plaintive pulse of a narrowband transmission amongst the angry snarls of military vox traffic that saturated the air about us. Before I could press him for more detail, he elaborated that the signal was simply the repetition of a single word at varying intervals and shunted the audio to my command throne so I could hear it for myself. Even as he did so, I knew it would be one of the many names I have worn over my lifetime of service to the Throne and moments later the brass chased speakers in the headrest behind me proved me right. I had found my old friend, but while getting into this mess was proving to be relatively easy, getting us all out again unscathed was likely to be much more challenging.

[//Argent Heralds demi-squad post-battle ident: Warzone Synfonia+]



As an agent of the Ordos, procuring groundside transportation within the Imperium can be as simple as locating an individual with an appropriate means of locomotion and proffering my Rosette. Here, however, I was keen to keep my presence in the sector as unadvertised as possible, so we were going to have to be rather more circumspect.

While I busied myself with the necessary pantomime to ensure that the Adepts of the Munitorum believed that not only were we who we claimed to be, but that our warrants of trade were up to date, in order and the local levies were correctly paid, I dispatched members of my entourage to make the necessary enquiries. I hoped that the offer of hard currency might secure discretion where an Inquisitorial seal would not. Vexing as it was at the time, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it speaks more to the credit or detriment of our species that the mechanisms of the Munitorum were still functioning at all, given that we were in the middle of what was quickly becoming a warzone – but I suppose that a certain degree of inertia is inevitable, given how doggedly humans stick to rules, regulations and routines, particularly in the midst of a crisis.

While awaiting my comrades’ return, and with the Munitorum now satisfied enough to leave us alone for the remainder of our stay, I re-triangulated the coordinates of Bregil’s transmission. It was incredibly unlikely that they would have changed since we had made the surface, for he would of course have no way of knowing of my arrival. However, if my career has proven anything to me, it’s never to make any assumptions. Alas, fate remained stubbornly disinclined to cooperate on this occasion, and the geo-locator tag of the signal continued to pulse from the heart of what seemed to be a commercia district an hour’s travel by groundcar and at least double that should we be required to proceed on foot.

I was reluctant to walk. My commsman was tracking vox-intercepts, and every moment we spent on the ground increased the likelihood of being caught in what seemed to be rapidly escalating from a series of isolated skirmishes into a full blown warzone. Mercifully, my perturbations over the increasing hostilities were interrupted when Annika and Feshtaj returned at the wheel of a Hensen straight-7 Magnificentia.

Though I have never been much of a gearhead, there is something about the combination of the smooth lines of the carriagework and confident purr of the locomotor that has always endeared the products of the Hensen workshops to me. Should you ever have the opportunity to drive one, I would highly recommend the indulgence. This particular specimen had clearly seen better days, as much of the rhodium plating from the intake baffles and collision dampers had been scraped away, but nevertheless, I commended my compatriots on both their resourcefulness and taste, though as had long become our custom, I refrained from enquiring as to where they sourced such acquisitions – an understanding we had reached shortly after they had joined my employ, for it made life much more amicable for all of us.

With a means to reach Bregil’s location in what I hoped would be a timely fashion now secured, we could be on our way. Having bade the crew of the Jest’s lander to be prepared for what could be a hasty departure, I ushered a disappointed Feshtaj into one of the back seats of the Hensen. Having taken his place, I opened the throttle of the straight-7 and followed Annika’s directions as she guided us out of the spaceport and into Synfonia.



The journey to the Commercia passed without incident, though as we began to near the outskirts of the district, I was becoming concerned by the local vox-traffic reports being relayed to Feshtaj by the shipmistress of the Jest. Fortuitously, it appeared that the Argent Heralds had launched an assault upon a column of Charnel Guard forces around half an hour after we departed the spaceport, which pushed the fighting away from our destination, much to my appreciation. However, based on the most recent intercepts Feshtaj had been apprised of, it now sounded as though what had been on the verge of becoming a breakthrough by the Heralds had been checked by the Charnel Guard. Checked, I could live with. If it was repulsed and countered though, then it was very likely that the rather tenuous situation we were in was going to get rather a lot worse before it got any better.

[//Tactical Squad and Chaplain, Charnel Guard Chapter Astartes. This force was later seconded to Inquisitor Vincenze Prospero [not pictured], in an Extermination campaign of the Red Fish+]

Thankfully, throughout the journey the pulse of Bregil’s beacon had continued to chime strongly and as we closed the distance on the Commercia, Annika was able to more precisely plot the origin of the signal. Using a combination of gestures, instructions, and some rather choice curses when either the locator or I responded too slowly, she was able to indicate to me the directions she required me to point the nose of the Hensen in order for us to reach our destination. I must confess that for a few minutes at least, it was rather enjoyable to test the handling capabilities of our transportation as we wound our way through the increasingly narrowing thoroughfares, despite Feshtaj’s feigned looks of disapproval as he slid across the back seat, which I believe only really resulted from the fact that it wasn’t him putting the groundcar through its paces.

Peeling paint and tarnished plasteel greeted us. Amid the telltale impact damage caused by mass reactive bolts and ceramite-clad warriors, it was clear that the fortunes of the Commercia been in decline even before two chapters of Astartes began to brawl through it. This in itself is not unusual throughout the Imperium at large – the decline or disruption of trade and industry on one planet in a system or sector invariably has a knock-on effect upon those others who are reliant upon them for food, fuel or other resources. It was more unusual on somewhere like Interlude Quay, however: although it lay at the nexus of multiple trade routes, it was to all intents and purposes a satrapy of the Imperial Navy. Even with the rumblings of conflict throughout the Leagues it should have had a greater resistance to such decline.

Roused from my ruminations by Annika indicating we had arrived, I made a mental note to enquire more closely as to the wider goings on within Synfonia once my business here was concluded. At Feshtaj’s insistence that it would save us time later, I swung the Hensen through a hard turn and brought it to a halt pointed back in the direction we’d come outside a boarded up Assay Office. According to the faded sign above the door, it promised to offer the best quality services this side of the Heliopolian Void. I doubted that claim had ever been remotely true, but I couldn’t fault the owner for trying.

As we piled out of the Hensen onto the cracked and pitted paving, each of us conducted the familiar, almost-involuntary check that our weapons and wargear were all properly about our persons. The warm breeze again brought the acrid tang of fyceline and smoke. We heard the distinctive double crump of discharging bolt weapons in the middle distance, providing an unwelcome reminder that time was of the essence if we were to do this as I hoped. While Feshtaj kept a wary eye on our surroundings, Annika leaned in to afford me a clear view of the auspex screen. The pulsing locator rune was tantalisingly close now. Glancing quickly up at me to check I had seen the short range vox frequency that was now detectable from the beacon, she turned and took off towards an alley a few dozen meters up the street. Pausing only to tap Feshtaj on the back to indicate we were moving off, I hurried after her, keying the vox frequency into my microbead and opening a channel. As I rounded the corner and followed Annika into the alley, I took a deep breath and opened the vox link, hoping we weren’t already too late.



I have, as one might suspect given the nature and length of my career in service to the Ordos, seen a great many things both wondrous and terrible, but there are few that I can honestly compare to the sight and sound of two transhuman warriors barrelling through metres-thick ferrocrete only a few feet from my person.
I shall not belabour how fatal such an encounter might have proven, had any of us had the misfortune to have been directly in their path, but suffice to say what followed is an experience I have no wish to repeat.

We had gone further into the sprawl of buildings and found Bregil without incident. Being able to transmit a code pulse over the vox to indicate to him we were inbound went a long way to avoiding any unpleasantness in that regard. Pausing only to take grateful sips of clean water from a plastek canteen that I’d offered once conversational formalities were out of the way, he was in the process of regaling me with the events which had led to his request for my aid. Hensen and Feshtaj had just completed a sweep through the refuse-strewn ground floor of the hab block he had taken shelter in, confirming that it was indeed deserted.

It had been likely any resident would have fled in a hurry at the first signs that battle lines were being drawn through the district – frankly who could blame them – but it never hurts to be sure of such things. As it turned out, this had been doubly fortuitous for Bregil. Not only was there no hue and cry as a result of his surreptitious entry into the hab, but in their haste, the block’s occupants had left behind victuals sufficient to sustain him without needing to venture too far and thus bring unwanted interest to himself.

The easy conversation we had been enjoying as my companions returned from their investigation were brought suddenly and noisily to an end. The Charnel Guard had evidently checked the advance of the Argent Heralds with sufficient force as to drive them back through the Commercia.

Astartes being Astartes though, the Heralds were not giving the ground they had won without resistance.

In pict reels and mnemo-spools, Astartes are noble and heroic – but there was nothing noble about the fight that spilled into the room we were in. For a start, the combatants were so focused upon killing one another that I don’t think either of them realised we were there. For another, what occurred was a literal blur of crimson and gold, as they traded blows faster than our eyes and brains were capable of processing. Even now, I couldn’t tell you exactly what happened because I can recollect only a scattering of numb impressions. The sound of snarling servos within the suits powered armour, the teeth-itching hum of the two warriors’ atomantic powerplants, the crashing blows they traded with whining chainblades that sent shards of ceramite warplate and broken blade teeth whickering about the enclosed space. It was overwhelming.

Thankfully, just as suddenly as we had been interrupted, we found ourselves alone again as the Astartes brawled their way through the much thinner internal wall between this hab and the next. Regaining her wits first, Annika suggested we took our leave of the wrecked hab as quickly as possible. None of us could think of a good reason to argue with that. As we moved back out into the corridor towards the foyer of the block, I threw a glance in the direction our uninvited guests had disappeared, wondering whether one or the other of them might have emerged victorious from their struggle, but I could see no sign of either warrior amid the debris, save for bright red slashes of their hyper-oxygenated blood. Even these days, I have very few moments that might be regarded as idle, but in those I do, I sometimes still find myself wondering whether anyone, even a trans-human could walk away from a fight as ferocious as that.


-V- – Aftermath

Any relief we felt at our survival diminished as we made our way back towards the street where we had left the Hensen, for it became clear we were now in the middle of the battle between the Charnel Guard and Argent Heralds. Pausing momentarily to gather our wits in the cover of a rather foul smelling waste recyc-hopper, I was at pains to explain to all of my compatriots that whatever their personal feelings at this turn of events, our primary concern must be flight not fight, for I wished our presence here to remain anonymous.

Aside from the obvious inconvenience to us personally, an Inquisitor turning up dead always garners the wrong kind of attention.

Naturally, there was some gentle protestation about how unfair it was that we couldn’t shoot back, but these were mostly in jest, for we were all possessed of the wit to know that attracting the attention of the Astartes would have painful and inevitably fatal consequences. The sharp double-bang of bolt rounds being fired in relatively close proximity to our position needlessly underlined this, and we carefully made haste back towards the Assay Office, hoping that our transportation would still be in working order. I did not relish the thought of trying to locate an alternative vehicle, let alone the idea of having to walk back to the spaceport.

Lady Fortune smiled upon us though, for we were able to evade engagement by either force of Astartes, though there were a couple of close calls – far, far closer than any of us would have wished for – as the fighting rolled back and forth through the Commercia. To my amazement the Hensen was exactly where we had left it and even appeared to be no worse for wear than when we had left it.

The same could not be said of the street it was parked in. It looked exactly as one might imagine a street would appear after having twice been subject to the ministrations of the ‘Emperor’s angels’. Despite the violence the street had witnessed, I was struck that there was little evidence that either side had sustained casualties here – though we gave the couple of fallen Astartes we encountered as we worked our way alongside the Magnificentia a very wide berth. I had no desire to find out the hard way that they had merely been incapacitated into healing trances. As we unceremoniously piled into the groundcar, Feshtaj suppressed a small smile when I indicated that he could take the wheel. To this day I remain unsure if this was because of his earlier insistence on how it was parked or because he was thrilled I was letting him drive – though I did later tell him how grateful I was not just for the foresight but also his evasive driving skills.

Thankfully the Hensen started smoothly and quietly, and in moments we were winding our way back through the tangle of streets back towards the main arterial that would deliver us back to the spaceport. Annika, Bregil and I maintained careful watch for any signs of pursuit long after the Commercia began to recede in the rear-view pict screens. There are far too many lulled into the false certainty of a clean escape. Even with the straight-7 engine purring under the Hensen’s hood, I was under no illusions that we could outrun a Land’s Speeder, should pickets of either the Charnel Guard or Argent Heralds have spotted us.

Our luck continued to hold, and there were no indications we were followed. As the safety of the spaceport and the Jest’s shuttle began to beckon, tension nevertheless lingered in the air. Annika and Feshtaj knew better than to say anything – and to his credit, Bregil remained silent until I asked outright what in the hells he had dragged us into.

Now free of the threat of imminent demise, he meticulously elucidated all that he had seen and heard within the Myrean Leagues – and why, after careful reflection, he had risked so much in calling for my aid. We listened in silence, absorbing everything he had to say. When he finished, Annika said what we were all thinking.

Things were so rotten here that there was no way our sojourn in Synfonia was going to remain brief.