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Thread: Ad Imperator Dei -- Victoria Astrii

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    Default Ad Imperator Dei -- Victoria Astrii

    Stardate 49542.7

    The Enterprise has encountered a spatial rift and is currently adrift.

    Captain Jean-Luc stepped out of the turbolift onto the spacious bridge of the Enterprise, the crew struggling to get their bearings.
    "Status, Number One?"
    Riker turned around from the viewscreen. "We have established orbit over a Class M planet, but we still have no idea where we are. Some of the stars look familiar, but there's no Federation signals nor subspace activity we can orient ourselves by."
    "Activity on the planet?"
    "There is widespread agriculture on the planet with concurrent industrial activity. The technology is remarkably advanced, but crudely implemented. Life signs are --" Data reported while examining the data from his station.
    "Ship of approaching from the planet. It does not match any known profile." Worf interrupted.
    "Onscreen, raise shields." Picard ordered. The viewscreen switched to show a small transport leaving the atmosphere of the golden planet. Picard stared at it for a moment before turning to Worf momentarily "Capabilities?"
    "Simple vector thrusters, unknown weapons or shields. We are receiving a signal from the craft -- EM transmission."
    "Radio? No subspace transmissions?" Picard looked to Riker. "A strange blend of technology. Advanced agriculture that the entire planet can be used a giant farm, but they use such simple spacecraft."
    "Are you concerned about breaking the Prime Directive?"
    "We've already been spotted, we should proceed with caution until we learn more. Mr. Data, see if you can modify the communications system to pick up their signal."
    "I have isolated their signal, but there no match to their language in our databanks. The universal translator is determining a basic course of language."
    "The ships has matched orbit with us and is maintaining distance." Worf stated.
    Picard grimaced, "Now we play the waiting game."

    Enforcer Dana Urbank sat back in her chair on the Valkyrie transport as the Imperial Navy pilots brought the craft into orbit over San Leon and matched the strange craft in orbit and speed. Her right hand unconsciously began drumming on the armrest as she grew in anxiety.
    "Auspex readings show a ship of unknown manufacture. It matches no Imperium or known alien ship. The manufacture overall is crude, thin armor and very underpowered weapons. Several engines, one very powerful. There are approximately 1,000 life signs on board, many match human biometric patterns, but there are several that fall outside that baseline."
    "None that match known races, but that would be a reasonable conclusion."
    Dana's hand stopped drumming and tightened into a fist. "Contact them."
    The pilot touched the activation rune of his communication and set it for a broad-spectrum communication, "Unknown craft, this is Imperial transport 'High Justice,' please respond."
    There was a brief pause as the communique was met with silence. "No response, sir."
    "Continue hailing for now. If they take any aggressive action, return fire and be ready to attempt boarding. The Judges want the ship and crew for inspection and interrogation."
    The pilot nodded and repeated his message several times. The ships's intercom crackled to life and voice emanated from the speakers.
    "This is Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation starship Enterprise. We come in peace and ask you identify yourself."
    Dana and the pilot were struck with confusion. The voice sounded human, yet used names unknown to their ears.
    Dana spoke into the air for the internal microphones, "This is Enforcer Dana Urbank of the Imperial Adeptus Arbites. Say again your identification." She then flipped off the intercom and queried the pilot "Federation?"
    The pilot was just as confused as she, "Perhaps humans lost during the Age of Strife?"

    Picard was stunned as he heard the crackling response over the ship's comm. "Imperial? Are we in the universe of the Terran Empire?"
    Data responded, "The Terran Empire is in many ways a parallel of ours. Never before has there been any record of an organization named the Adeptus Arbites, Captain."
    "With no visual communication possible, we're going to be at an impasse if we keep walking on eggshells. I say we beam a representative over and have some face-to-face talking." Riker commented.
    "We know nothing of these people and may very well be in violation of the Prime Directive if we beam onto their ship." Picard retorted.
    "Transport may not be an option, sir. Sensors indicate a fairly dense hull that would make transport a risky proposition." Data reported. "Sir, if I may suggest a compromise, what about allowing them into the shuttlebay?"
    "We can speak to them and keep them from seeing too much. They seem comfortable enough with a ship our size."
    Picard turned to Counselor Troi "Your analysis, Counselor?"
    "The Enforcer seems apprehensive and cautious, but I was not feeling any fear from her, rather a great deal of suspicion and what almost seemed like anger."
    Picard sighed, weighing the options. "Looks like we have no choice, re-open the channel to the High Justice."
    "Channel's open, sir."
    "Enforcer Urbank, this is the starship Enterprise of the United Federation of Planets. We wish to speak face-to-face with you. With your permission we would like to have you enter our shuttlebay."
    "That will be acceptable, Captain. Please re-orient your ship and open your bay doors and we will being docking procedures."
    "As a gesture of goodwill, we ask that we bring you in by tractor beam. It will at least spare you some fuel and would make things easier all around."
    Dana's voice came back reluctantly, "As you wish, Captain, thank you."

    Dana turned to the rear of the transport "Enforcers, ten-hut!"
    Five people immediately rose to their feet and came through the hatch to stand at attention before her.
    "Suit up in carapace armor and await my signal. Use apprehension devices, we want them alive and the ship intact."
    "Yes sir!" was the uniform response as the Enforcers then went back through the hatch. Dana donned a flak vest and secured her bolt pistol to her belt. She then donned a formal uniform shirt over the vest, keeping the bolt pistol visible and drawable. She then turned to the pilot. "Get suited up, you're coming with me."

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    Chapter 2 First Contact

    The High Justice glided effortlessly into the Enterprise's spacious shuttlebay. Compared to the typical small craft of the Federation, the Valkyrie was slightly larger than the warp-capable runabouts, though more space was devoted to the crew. Captain Picard stood behind the airlock to the shuttlebay waiting for the signal that the shuttlebay's outer doors had closed and the bay repressurized. He was flanked by two security personnel, Type II phasers prominent on their belts. Picard's first reaction was to object to the blatent display of weapons, but knew he had to weigh it against the possibility of hostility from their new guest.
    The control panel near the door showed a habitable atmosphere in the shuttlbay after several minutes and the airlock opened. Picard stepped through and was able to see the transport in full lighting. The design looked serviceable, but the implementation seemed crude, with armor applied uncommonly thick and the engines unusually bulky. The High Justice faced to the outer doors and an entryway in the rear was descending.
    Dana stood in front of the descending gangplank, dressed in a formal black Arbites uniform slightly larger than normal to compensate for her flak vest with her bolt pistol in full view. Next to her was the Imperial Navy pilot, his flak armor in full view along with his laspistol. The remaining Enforcers were in carapace armor with shotguns and power mauls at the ready. Three members also had electric bolos and gas grenades. The Enforcers stood to the sides, out of view of the gangplank.
    The gangplank descended and the two finally saw each other at last. Picard was shocked to see his guest standing in a uniform meant for intimidation, completely black with only a two-headed eagle as an identifying mark. An incredibly large pistol was attached to her belt. In striking contrast was a face of long, blond hair and brown eyes with light freckling.
    Dana gazed at the balding, older man in an unfamiliar red and black uniform flanked by two younger men in similarly tailored black and gold uniforms. At least he's human, she thought. She immediately made the sign of the aquila.
    "Emperor's blessings upon you, Captain."
    Picard responded with a look of confusion.
    Dana dropped her hands, "You are unaware of the God Emperor of Man?"
    Picard spoke, "I am unaware of any emperor who claims all mankind as his subjects. I am a representative of the United Federation of Planets, a body of over 150 worlds bound by a common pursuit of exploration and the betterment of all, not by some man who claims to be divine."
    Dana's hand almost pulled her pistol out to kill this heretic where he stood for his blasphemy, but was stayed only by her recall of the orders she was under to bring the senior crew alive for interrogation.
    "150 worlds, Captain? All of them human worlds?"
    "No, there are non-human species who share full benefits of Federation membership."
    "Captain, you have already admitted blasphemy, heresy, and treason to me. Now you admit consorting with xenos in direct defiance of the supremacy of Man. I now insist upon searching this ship and taking it and its crew into custody for interrogation, trial, and almost certain execution."
    "On whose authority? You have no authority on me or my crew." Picard barked at Dana.
    "On the authority of the Emperor and the High Lords of Holy Terra." Dana pulled her bolt pistol from its holster and brought it to bear on Picard. The two security guards with Picard pulled their phasers.
    The Navy pilot almost immediately shot the guard on the right with his laspistol, searing the guard's torso and making vital fluids boil within his body from the intense transfer of energy. The guard screamed as he fell. Dana effortlessly shifted her aim from Picard to the remaining guard, firing the massive grenade round meant for more heavily armored adversaries. The guard's corpse exploded into a red slurry and Picard fell from the concussion of the blast. Dana immediately re-acquired Picard and held the bolt pistol to Picard's head.
    Picard stared at the gun and pondered his options. He could try to hail the bridge, but would he be able to say anything of real importance before he was killed? He could try for his own Type I phaser concealed in his uniform, but would she notice or suspect such a ploy. Picard's thoughts raced until he felt an enormous blow to his body and then creeping numbness as a man in shiny black armor and helmet covering most of his face struck him with some sort of stunning device. The shuttlebay then went dark for Picard and he heard Dana's voice one final time, "Round up the rest."
    The Enforcers exited the shuttlebay through the airlock and began making their way down the hallways. They split into two teams, one of three Enforcers to take Engineering, Dana, the pilot, and the remaining Enforcers to the bridge. Along the way, they either shot or stunned what opposition came from the security personnel. The Arbites were experienced in fighting in teams and their carapace armor was meant to endure more severe weaponry than Federation phasers. Crewmembers were either quickly killed or quickly surrendered as they witnessed their phasers becoming ineffectual against these intruders while the Enforcers' shotguns were able to fire Executioner ammunition capable of following targets and power mauls that left the unarmored crew twitching masses of flesh and bone.
    The crew's first panicked response was to run for more securable locations like Ten Forward or Sickbay. All this bought them was ready-made cells as the Arbites merely sealed the bulkheads by demolishing the door control panels. The first time was an accidental application of a power maul to a wall meant for a crewmember, but the fact that it made doors closed barring manual opening amused the Arbites greatly and found it made the task of apprehending the crew much easier.
    Riker finally received panicked communications from Sickbay about the intruders and had immediately set the ship on Red Alert and shut down the turbolifts in an effort to impede the boarders. Additional security personnel were posted in the bridge and the bridge crew were maintaining their posts. Data continued to monitor the ship's status through Ops.
    "Two hundred crewmen dead or severely injured, five hundred and civilians are in emergency shelters, but have been sealed in by the boarders. Movement is focused towards the bridge and Engineering. Arrival at Engineering in ten minutes given current rate of progress, they will approach the bridge in fifteen." Data gave the latest report.
    Riker gritted his teeth and wondered what he could do to stop this invasion. That a group of seven people could kill two hundred with such ease was an infathomable act for him.
    "What about auto-destruct?"
    "We would require Captain Picard and also need to make our way to Engineering."
    "Then we use Plan B. Riker to Engineering."
    "LaForge here, Commander."
    "Geordi, I want you to set the warp core to breach."
    "Geordi, we have no other choice. The Captain is missing and we are being taken over. We may as well take them with us."
    "I'm afraid that is not going to be possible 'Commander'." A very different voice came over the comm.
    "Who is this?" Riker replied in an angry tone.
    "Enforcer Gnaeus of His Imperial Majesty's Adeptus Arbites. We now have control of this ship and its heretical technology."
    "You still need to take the bridge, first."
    "Oh, that has been taken care of. Breathe deep." The Enforcer chuckled.
    Riker looked over to Data in puzzlement. Data rapidly queried for the relevant data from the computer.
    "Commander, there are traces of an unknown gas in life support. Attempting to adjust the atmospheric filters. We have approximately --"
    Data was interrupted by the sounds of bodies landing on the floor. He turned to find the entire bridge crew unconscious. His emotion chip then began to produce feelings of sorrow and fear as he realized he was alone on the bridge with a dedicated force on its way to take command of the ship.
    Dana figured out how to lock the bridge doors from the Engineering computer terminals and began investigating the ship's system.
    "We can't land the ship and there are no Gellar Fields. We will not be able to take this ship into the Warp. We're stuck here."
    "We can contact the Imperial Navy and see about transport to another world, maybe Bakka." The pilot suggested just a bit too brightly for Dana's tastes.
    "We have no Astropath. We can't contact Bakka directly."
    "Then contact the planetary government to forward the request."
    Dana sighed as she headed back to the High Justice to send news. She patched in to the Arbites headquarters on San Leor and had a proper audio-visual communication over short-range vox. "This is Enforcer Urbank reporting mission accomplished. The ship is ours, but we cannot land nor safely take the ship into Warp. We request Navy transport to Bakka for processing of the crew and ship."
    "Enforcer, this is Judge Davido Fortius. Your orders are to bring the ship to Talasa Prime. A vessel is already enroute to gather the ship. Fortius out."
    Dana blinked at this news, "Talasa Prime, what is there?"
    There was a consensus of ignorance among the Enforcers and their pilot. Dana sighed as she realized they may be here for a while with a ship full of prisoners that would attempt to eject them at all costs. It was then that the slick black ship emerged from the void and brought the Enterprise into its hold. A voice then came over the High Justice's vox, "That will be all Enforcer. Please join me in the briefing room."
    There was a thunk as an umbilical attached itself over the ship near the shuttlebay. A few minutes of navigation brought Dana and the Imperial servants into familiar machines and uniforms. They were promptly escorted to a large office on the port side of the ship for debriefing. Techpriests began the task of dismantling the ship and moving the High Justice from the Enterprise's shuttlebay.

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    Chapter 3 -- The Secret Order

    The door opened and Dana observed a dimly lit boardroom. The only lucifer active in the room showed a single occupant. A man with short brown hair and piercing gray eyes wearing a serene, plastic smile. The only clothing visible to Dana from the man's sitting position was a silver breastplate of carapace armor and a black overcoat that wrapped over that. On the table was a wide-brimmed hat the same color as the coat.
    The man spoke first, "I congratulate you and your Enforcers on an exceptionally successful mission. We shall take the ship to Talasa Prime and conduct a more thorough examination and interrogation."
    Dana started with this arrogant display of superiority from a civilian, "Who are you and on whose authority are you taking my prisoners?"
    "I am Caius Wickersham, and my authority comes from a higher authority than you." Caius brought his left arm around to display the sleeve of his coat. A rosette, bearing the skull and tri-pronged "I" of the Inquisition was clamped onto the coat just above the hemline. Dana fought back the feelings of awe and fear from seeing the seal. The Inquisition is an organization shrouded in mystery, rarely seen and even more rarely mentioned among Imperial citizens. The secret police of the Imperium with command over all of its citizens in the name of the Emperor.
    Caius internally gloated as he felt the emotions of intimidation come from the cowed Enforcer, always finding enjoyment in the revelation of his authority to those servants that would think themselves above him. "Has there been an accounting of the prisoners?"
    Dana's snapped up and recounted the preliminary count, "Two hundred assorted humans and xenos killed during the action, eight hundred, including all senior officers, sealed on the bridge, engineering, and several other locations on the ship. An Iron Man was also on board."
    "Humans and xenos together? And an Iron Man?"
    "Consorting with aliens in mockery of the supremacy of Man and the God Emperor's Divine Will. They willfully constructed and alllowed an Iron Man to operate ship functions."
    Caius nodded, "That will be all, Enforcer. Your ship is ready to take you and your Enforcers back to San Leor. We shall take the ships and its prisoners to Talas Prime for further examination and interrogation."
    Dana snapped to attention and then left the boardroom. Caius leaned back in his chair and willed his consciousness from his body. He perceived the souls of all living things on the ship as points of light in the reddish haze of the Immaterium and focused on one of the brightest lights near the bridge, the ship's Astropath. He sent his mind through the void to her, Send word to Talasa Prime of our find. He went back into his body just in time for the ship's intervox to inform him of the course laid for Talasa Prime and the estimated travel time of a week within the Warp.

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    Default Re: Ad Imperator Dei -- Victoria Astrii

    After a long time of research and thinking about how to proceed, I give you:

    Chapter 4 -- Processing

    Caius stepped off the gangplank from the ship he just spent a week on board. A week of restless boredom as the ship and Warp droned around him in their dual monotony. He quickly flashed his rosette to the security novice and went through the several security checkpoints of the Inquisition fortress on Talasa Prime. Behind him, crews were already processing the heavily sedated prisoners. An airborne skull-servitor hummed up to him with a data-slate containing the preliminary findings of the techpriests.
    "No one touches anything else until Lexmechanic Hongo is briefed and takes over." Caius barked at the floating skull as he used his rosette to lock the order. Caius continued striding through the halls, deflecting the questions of acolytes and overly obsequious servitors, until he finally reached his office and snarled an order of caffeine before shutting the door and activating the void-shield and other jamming equipment.
    For the first time in a week, Caius finally felt that he could relax. This office was a sanctum from the chaos outside. Three sets of footsteps came from another room and Caius finally looked up. The three women assembled were his senior retinue and most trusted friends.
    "I hate long trips." he sighed as he called up a modular table from the floor and brought a great leather chair forward. The three sat at similar chairs and arranged themselves around the table. Caius first looked to a young woman, in her late teens or early twenties. She had short auburn hair worn with ornate beads in the back and brown eyes. A long red cloak hung over her armorsuit.
    "Iria, standard security procedures at the estate and in the office. No one outside normal staff goes about without my clearance. Page me of any guests."
    The next woman looked as young as Iria, but her various cybernetic augmentations made aging more difficult. She had short blond hair and brilliant electric blue eyes. She had pale skin, the side-effects of hive living. Her body and its modifications were covered by a rust-red robe bearing the emblem of the Adeptus Mechanicus. The rest of her face was covered by a rebreather and her hands were covered by electro-grafts.
    "Yui, I want you overseeing the examination of the ship. Give me first view of all your findings before you report to the Mechanicus."
    A rasping sound came from the rebreather and an electric whine came from her throat, "You seek to censor knowledge from us?"
    "No, I just want to see it first so I may produce my report to the Inquisition in a prompt manner. Many eyes are looking at this event and wondering how the Imperium must react. Besides, I don't know how much your Quest for Knowledge would benefit from this ship." Caius slid the data-slate to Yui. She looked it over before taking in more air through her rebreather and speaking again, "These Enginseers are mere amateurs. They need oversight from one more experienced."
    Lastly, Caius turned to a woman who hardly looked young. She was frail and deathly pale. Short white hair framed a head with only hollow sockets. She wore a green robe marking her as an astropath. "Any messages for me, Rei?"
    Rei's voice was just above a whisper, "Just one of any interest. Your find has brought an interested onlooker." She slid a slate of her own across the table to Caius. He looked at it briefly and then stood up and headed out. He relocked his office and took a hot mug of caffeine from a servitor that just arrived.
    Caius was quite unsurprised when the lift doors snapped open and revealed a scowling man much his senior. Thick black hair and dark eyes decorated a head with quite sunken features and the accompanying frame wore a rather formal dark suit. Caius judged him at several hundred years old with juvenat treatments.
    "Inquisitor Eisenhorn! What brings you to this corner of the galaxy?"
    "You and your find, Inquisitor Wickersham. I am here to make sure you are not hiding things."
    Caius stepped into the lift, "Inquisitor, you wound me." The doors snapped shut and the lift descended to the bowels of the fortress. Away from prying eyes, the two men visibly relaxed.
    "So, how are you, Uncle?" Caius flashed his thoughts to Eisenhorn. Gregor hated the familiar reference, knowing that no true relationship existed between them."
    "I am well; yourself?" Eisenhorn sent back.
    "Fine, fine. So this new discovery got you to come out here?"
    "I am making sure your findings see proper attention."
    "I can handle some mono-doms, Uncle. Or is it your fellow Mechari-lovers you're concerned with?"
    "Both! You have had an excellent career on Terra and here, Caius, but you are young still."
    "Your proposition?"
    "Let me in on your research. My name carries more weight."
    "This is mine, Uncle! I am not some interrogator you can swipe prestige from."
    "I am not stealing from you, impudent Thorian! I am trying to save what you find from the dustpile!"
    Caius flashed a look of distaste at this, "Fine. You can handle the vivisections of the xenos. The human crew is mine."
    "Good enough." Eisenhorn responsed, "You are a good Inquisitor, Caius. Titus and I saw to that. But you are in a delicate situation given your philosophy."
    "My philosophy shouldn't matter. I have always put the Divine Emperor and the Imperium first and I have demonstrated such many times."
    "All the same, there are many puritans who will be concerned with a Thorian take on this event."
    Caius sighed mentally at this, "When I finish with them, I will pass the xenos to you. Give my regards to Gideon if you see him again."
    "I will." Eisenhorn replied as the lift came to a halt at the dungeons of Talasa Prime.

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    ((Updating an ancient thread? What madness is this? I've been doing other things and I've felt drawn to coming back to this story. I've also considered the path of the story for the time being. For now, I'm focusing on our Imperial characters while I ponder the crew of the Enterprise. Suggestions welcome.))

    Chapter 5 -- ACCESS ROOT/PRINT *.*/HCF/XPR

    "I am a Lexmechanic. I emulate the cogitator in thought and deed. I read its data-tongues and make them orderly to men. I write in its sacred language that it will do the God Machine's bidding. I fear not the error or the bug that plague the machine spirits abused by their ignorant users. I rectify and repair such cruel acts. That I delve into a tainted machine, I shall fear no evil for the God Machine is with me in His divine Knowledge and His procedures given to me by His Tech-Priests. In all things, I shall pursue His Knowledge and reveal what is true to Man."

    Yui went through her preparations before attempting to access the Enterprise's computer core. She had her leather bound tome of access procedures for Imperial cogitators, data-slates for notes and recovering information, sacred unguents to appease machine spirits, her ward-plaques and purity seals. Finishing her prayers, she traveled through the lift systems to the hangar of the fortress and the ship held by stasis beams within.

    The technical staff had already begun dismantling the Enterprise, removing sections of the hull and those pieces of technology deemed worthy of further study by the senior Enginseers. Most of the mechanics just nodded to Yui as she passed. Like them, she was on the lower end of the heirarchy, a lowly Lexmechanic due as much respect as the Runepriests and Enginseers of the Adeptus Mechanicus. A cog in the great machine of the order.

    Those who recognized her on sight let her pass until she reached the senior Enginseer overseeing the dismantling. His face had been replaced with bionics, rendering his face a mass of metal with bionic eyes glowing under his red hood. Seeing Yui, he asked for her identification. A quick swipe of an electro-graft over a reader confirmed her. The Enginseer led her through the ship.

    "We have found the cogitators to be very segregated in their access of the main banks. The security has been light. The Arbites were swift in their subjugation of the crew, so they laid in few additional wards. However, we still have not persuaded it to reveal all its secrets." The Enginseer hissed to her in Binary, the secret language of the Adeptus Mechanicus.
    "Standard rituals have failed to appease it?"
    "Indeed. It is strange. It is willing to give us broad access, but it will not permit allow us to go deep into itself."
    Yui pondered this for a moment, "Perhaps we can use this to our advantage. Some access must be deep, especially for their tech-priests. Rather than go in directly, maybe we should try going in sideways."
    The Enginseer looked to her, "Sideways?"
    "We bridge an access protocol to one with greater authority. Perhaps we can trick the cogitator into believing the one with senior authority is overseeing the junior."
    The Enginseer pondered that a moment, "Unorthodox, but it might work. We will both need to access the terminals together for that to work."
    "The terminals in their engineering section would be best. It will have the necessary staff protocols in memory."

    The two entered Engineering and took up positions next to each other. Looking over the crew manifests gathered already, Yui used the access of a junior lieutenant while the Enginseer impersonated LaForge. Yui tapped on the screen to link their profiles and attempted to access detailed files on the ship's warp drive. Eventually, the computer asked for LaForge's authorization for the information. At this point, the Enginseer looked to Yui to find a way past this barrier.
    "Wait, here. It seems there is a way to playback voice commands given. Perhaps LaForge used his passcode in the moments before his section was taken."
    Yui tapped the relevant command and the speakers in the room played back the last moments of resistance from the Engineering crew. LaForge barked commands to the crew before saying, "Computer, lock down access from all terminals. Authorization LaForge Sigma 3374."
    If Yui had a mouth, she would have smiled. She manipulated several small dials on her rebreather, pausing as if determining whether something was satisfactory. She spoke again, this time sounding exactly like LaForge. "Computer, ship is secure. Permit all normal access. Authorization LaForge Sigma 3374."
    The Enginseer's terminal flashed to a graphic of the ship's systems. The Enginseer tapped several commands and found he was able to call up the information he wished. He looked over to Yui, "When did the Adeptus decide to bless you with a vox-mimic unit?"
    Yui finished resetting her vox-caster to her normal voice, "When I chose to follow Inquisitor Wickersham. We both saw the need for such a device during sensitive operations."

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    Chapter 6 -- When a Giant Wakes

    Iria walked into the office, reactivating the void shield as the door closed behind her. She let herself drop into a chair at the table and leaned forward to rest her head in her palms. Rei was still seated in her chair, her parchment roll and quill in front of her for receiving messages. She heard Iria sit down and looked up from her meditations. Iria spoke first,
    "Boss been around?"
    "He hasn't returned from the holding cells, yet. You were gone for a while."
    "Took a walk to think. Nothing in this place worth seeing except the dull gray walls, the wasteland outside under overcast skies and the incessant homilies over the loud-voxes. 'All Praise to the Emperor, He protects us all!' It's given me a headache."
    Rei smirked a little at Iria's complaint, "In all this time you have not acquired a love for Him?"
    "Before I entered the Inquisition, I had never heard of the Emperor. I still don't see how someone no one has ever seen can inspire this much reverence." Iria's world was a Developing World that had long been overlooked by the Imperium and the cult was unknown there. It was only when Caius recruited her that she learned of them.
    "No one has seen him, Iria? I have seen the Divine Emperor. In fact, you can say he was the last thing I ever saw."
    Iria chuckled at that. It was her favorite joke, and one common to all astropaths. She had heard of the rites astropaths go through on Terra and that part of it brought them in the presence of the Emperor on the Golden Throne. "I'll attend services when I must and I will admit I've said my share of prayers in tough situations. You may have seen Him, but so many in the Imperium will never see Him in their whole lives. I know Caius says mankind is held together only by its belief in Him, but it makes so many seem almost . . . robotic. Belief should inspire people to greatness, not stifle them."
    "All of us here are inspired to greatness by our faith. I am inspired to keep the lines of Imperial communication open through the galaxy. Yui is inspired to keep our technology functioning. Caius is inspired to search out the enemies of the Imperium and bring them to justice. You were inspired to join us and lend your arm to the struggle."
    "I was inspired by the fabulous pay and the ticket away from those looking to kill me." Iria laughed at that a bit; her own joke. While those were the immediate perks, she did stay out of her fascination of the Imperium and the sort of assignments she could only dream of on her world.
    Rei had joined her in laughter until she was almost doubled over with pain. She sat back up, clutching her head as if it would explode if she didn't keep it together with her hands and breathing heavily. Iria was in shock momentarily. Rei had never reacted that way from receiving a transmission. She was running through all sorts of possible scenarios while urgently asking Rei what was wrong. Rei only clutched for her quill and wrote down a long series of arcane symbols on the parchment, not stopping for ten minutes. She finally let the quill fall and let her body begin to sag in the chair in exhaustion.
    Iria helped her up to her feet and brought her to a room with a cot. Laying her down, Rei started to struggle in her weakened state.
    "Need to . . . translate . . ."
    "Don't worry about that, Rei. I can handle it. What happened to you?"
    "Entire choir . . . forcing themselves into my head. So many . . . urgent."
    Iria was slightly relieved, but also angry. Somehow, an astropathic choir transmitted a message to her directly. That sort of overload ran the real risk of killing an astropath. Typically, choirs sent to choirs who could each take some of the burden and an individual could send to an individual. "Do you need a medicae?"
    "No . . . just . . . need rest."
    Iria made sure she was comfortable and the room was made quiet before heading back to the main office. She found Rei's cipher key and transcribed the message onto a data-slate. Reading it over, she saw why an entire choir was used to send the message. She had read it a third time to be sure she got it right when the door opened and Caius entered the office.
    "Iria, has something happened?"
    "Rei took an entire choir to her head. Either they were severely off aim or they didn't consider the health of the receiver."
    "I will look into it. Is she all right?"
    "Resting for now. I translated the message."
    Caius took the data-slate and read it. "From Holy Terra. They received word of our find and called a Conclave here on Talasa Prime."

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