In the first part of our Dark Heresy adventure, Inquisitor Farael Badus tasked Steve’s veteran Imperial Guardsman Icarus Toughman with unraveling the mystery of a planetary governor’s missing pet. Accompanied by Adeptus Arbites dominatrix Animae Fabuloso, Icarus found hedonism reigning in the upper hive and an imposter of the pet left behind. The governor’s aide, Comptroller Clavius, sent them down into the library archives, where they were ambushed by a gang of mutants who turned out not to be mutants. We left them right after the battle, with Icarus demanding answers from their lone surviving attacker.
Steve: Yeah, I remember those mutants in the library made me puke in front of the hot lady and they will receive no mercy.
Zack: You had some questions for the lone survivor.
Steve: Right. Why did they burn the book? Who sent them down here? Why are they wearing gross mutant skins as masks?
Zack: “Won’t talk to you, offworld scum,” says the man.
Steve: Look, mate, you know you are doomed. We’re with the Inquisition. If you don’t talk to me you’re going to talk to some horrible robot made of knives up on our spaceship.
Zack: Animae struts over and cracks her whip. In her space Eastern European accent she says, “I make him talk.”
Steve: It seems like it might be fun with her, but it won’t be fun with her either, trust me.
Zack: “Some up-hiver. Didn’t give us a name. We took her money. Told us to burn a book and waste a couple offworlders poking where they shouldn’t be.”
Steve: Her? Are you sure it wasn’t a powdered wig and makeup that made him look like a woman? Gender is a performance, after all.
Zack: “No,” he croaks. “You’re born one of the genders and you stay that way. It’s a bio… bio… truth…”
Zack: Blood runs out of his nose and mouth as he finally succumbs to his injuries.
Steve: No doubting this was a badguy. So a woman paid these guys to come down here and torch the book. That leaves us with no book and a lead that’s not pointing us at the person I was already beginning to suspect.
Zack: “You suspect Comptroller Clavius? I also suspect this man. I get truth.” She cracks her whip again.
Steve: You can stop it with the whip any time.
Zack: “You ask Animae Fabuloso to come, you get whipcrack. Not Fabuloso’s problem if it makes soldier boy tummy hurt.”
Steve: I want to search the guys that she didn’t torch. They seem like hive gangers, so maybe they have some sort of tattoo or something that identifies their gang.
Zack: The ones that weren’t turned into charcoal have multiple crude and lewd tattoos, but they all have one tattoo in common:
Steve: The cool S! That’s a mysterious and powerful symbol.
Zack: “We talk to Arbites. They know gangs in hive.” She takes out a knife and cuts the tattoo off the dead man’s arm.
Steve: Well, I guess he wasn’t using it. Right, let’s go talk to the cops.
Zack: The nearest Arbites precinct-fortress is located a few levels up. The lower hives are spilling onto the wide plazas of the middle levels. Huge crowds are chanting about food and clean water shortages, but it’s more than that. There’s a real sense of fear. “SOMETHING IS COMING” read some of the placards.
Steve: Yeah, the Tyranids.
Zack: “Something always coming,” says Animae. “This is 41st Millennium. If it is not Tyranids it is orks. Or maybe those skeletons who live in pyramids. Those are scary, definitely not silly.”
Steve: I’ve fought them all in the jungles. In my head, I’m still fighting them. But they’re not winning. Not as long as I’m alive.
Zack: Riot cannons and concussion bombs drive back the mobs of protesters and stop them just short of a riot. You and Animae fight your way through to the arbites line. Animae flashes her inquisitorial rosette and says, “We speak to Arbites Marshal about important matter.” You are soon aboard a Rhino armored carrier belonging to the Arbites and rumbling towards the Arbites precinct-fortress.
Steve: The urban jungle. I’ll take the swamps of Catachan over these mean streets every time. At least the bug monsters there make a clicking sound you can hear right before they strike. There’s no warning when you’re in the hive. The hammer just falls on you.
Zack: Is Icarus saying this stuff aloud?
Steve: Staring off and brooding his internal monologue.
Zack: You are driven through the golden walls of the precinct-fortress and into the motor pool. You are taken up to the huge imperial eagle atop the building to the office of the Arbites Marshal. A stern looking woman walks out in full regalia of eagles, skulls, scrolls, etc. She looks disdainfully at Animae and more neutrally at you.
Zack: “I am Marshal Mathers,” says the woman “I have unrest building throughout the precinct and intruders from the underhive. My time is short for an arbitrator who abandoned her post and some scrappy guardsman. What does the Inquisition want with my precinct?”
Steve: Hold up the bloody baggie with the tattoo. “We found this on some scum in the underhive that tried to kill us. We need any information you might have about this gang. Who is their leader? Where is their hideout? Are they associated with any of the noble houses?”
Zack: She glances around her outer office and quickly ushers you into her inner sanctum. A golden eagle head projects the images for a holographic map of the hive.
Zack:“The Cool S Gang. They’re more than just underhive sump scum. Their leader is connected with Pompulous.”
Steve: The governor?
Zack: “No. I am referring to Victrola Pompulous, his youngest daughter. She spends unseemly amounts of time in the underhive and I refuse to play governess to her behavior. I believe she is… involved… with Skwix Slawtongue, leader of the Cool S Gang.”
Steve: Sounds like we need to have a talk with the governor’s daughter. Does Marshal Mathers know where we can find her?
Zack: “Have you checked her quarters in the upper spire? If she is not with her family, then she is with Slawtongue. The Cool S Gang bases their operations out of a scrap bar called The Burning Squats. It is located near the smog exchangers in the underhive. Awful place full of rotten customers. I wouldn’t go down there with a platoon of arbitrators.”
Steve: We don’t need a platoon of arbitrators. “Do you have a picture of this girl?”
Zack: Marshal Mathers calls up a rotating 3D image of a young woman dressed as a hive ganger with crazy hair and a painted face. Think Harley Quinn. “These picts were captured when she was apprehended burning a hydroponic garden on the middle tiers with the Cool S Gang. She was released once we identified her geneprint. I will put her records on a data slate for you.”
Steve: I’m tempted to use the inquisitor badge to make this woman hand over a bunch of cops to raid the Burning Squats.
Zack: “I’m not helping you go down there,” she reiterates.
Steve: Fine. It’s probably easier to go creeping down there with me and Animae. We’re going to need some disguises.
Zack: “We have an extensive selection for undercover work. I will grant the two of you access to our Costumarium.”
Steve: Sweet. I am going to dress up as a honky tonk Dracula. Animae should be a zombie bride.
Zack: “Nyet. I will be mutant cheerleader.” She puts on a cheerleader costume for the Toxic Bilge Sector Lurks. The logo is sort of like an octopus crossed with a praying mantis. ‘The Slurpin’ Lurks!’ She completes her costume with some prosthetics that make her face look like it’s half melted. “Is good, yes? Almost as ugly as you.”
Steve: I have my giant hair, Elvis glasses, and patched-together leather jacket made from something that probably had a surname. I’ll scale down my gear to a few hand grenades and a bolt pistol. Maybe like some crude metal armor or something. And I’ll sharpen up my giant knife.
Zack: “I take heavy flamer,” says Animae and she hoists a double-barreled flamer with a backpack promethium tank. “And whip.”
Steve: “Let’s incinerate some answers out of these scuzz-chumps!”
Zack: Marshal Mathers provides you with an escort to the freight elevators that descend into the lower hives. The rumbling Rhinos use their dozer blades to push a path through the protests. The armored arbitrators bid you and Animae farewell as you board one of the bulk elevators and depart from the relative sanity of the mid-levels. You are bound for the madness of the deep underhive.
Steve: Just another form of jungle, under the jungle. A sort of sub-jungle.
Zack: It’s more like a sewer underneath a factory the size of New Jersey.
Steve: A sub-Jersey.
Zack: The elevator disgorges you into an area your map calls “The Dismal Slough.” There are churning lagoons of toxic chemicals, heaps of rusty metals, piles of rotting refuse, skeletons, burned-out vehicles, and semi-human mutoids scavenging through the debris for sustenance and salvage. Rat-sized insects scuttle between immense cairns of filth. Spotlights are mounted more than a mile above, on the ceiling of the cavernous space, and these send fuzzy circles of light sweeping back and forth over the entire miserable vista.
Steve: It’s like I went to sleep inside a nightmare and had a nightmare.
Zack: “Is like home,” says Animae. “We go to bar. Have whiskey.” Only she pronounces it “Vix-key.”
Steve: We’ll make our way through the Slough in search of the smog exchangers.
Zack: You are guessing they are the two huge structures in the distance that look like small mountains made out of churches that are burning from the steeples and constantly releasing smog.
Steve: Heading towards those things. I have my Catachan jungle sense fully activated, at one with my swampy environs, not tripping over any roots or having my head eaten by some sort of worm creature.
Zack: There is a creepy feeling that you are being followed, but you never see who or what it is. Your finally honed jungle senses also help you avoid a few jump-scares as mutoids pop out of filthy pits and hidey holes going, “BLAAAH! Give me some nutripaste, chummer!”
Steve: Wrong game!
Zack: Chummer could have arisen completely independently in one of the hives of Warhammer.
Steve: Do I have any nutripaste to give them?
Zack: “Here is nutripaste,” says Animae and she incinerates several mutoids with her heavy flamer. As the fire dies down you hear someone in the distance yell, “WOOO! GO LURKS!”
Steve: I’m guessing there are no more problems with mutoids?
Zack: Right. You make your way through the Slough and arrive at an area that might have once been some sort of junk collection and recycling center. Several rotting worker habs are now the home to mutants with fewer deformities than those in the Slough. They look at you with hostility. A small cluster of rusty shacks and machinery buildings constitute a sort of downtown area and you see a glowing neon sign for the Burning Squat. You hear laughter and shouting from inside. A hive ganger is passed out in the muck just outside. His guns and knives, along with his cybernetic arm, are being taken by several mutant kids.
Steve: “Hey there, kids.”
Zack: “Piss off, ye fookin’ cunt!” shrieks one of them. Another one bites your leg and another tries to climb up your back and gouge out your eyes.
Steve: I’ll dropkick the one trying to gouge my eyes.
Zack: You punt him into the wall of the bar. The rest of them scatter when they see you aren’t another pitiful mutoid come in from the Slough.
Steve: Heading inside like I own the place.
Zack: All the laughter and shouting stops. Several dozen hive gangers all turn and look at you and Animae walking in through the door. Something that looks like the Toxic Avenger stops playing an organ made out of sewage pipes. A prostitute with five eyes and a leech mouth fans herself nervously.
Steve: Do I see Victrola?
Zack: In fact, you do. She is seated at a booth near the back of the bar with several hive gangers. She’s actually sitting on the lap of a huge ganger sporting a red mohawk and wearing a respirator mask that covers most of his face. That must be Skwix Slawtongue. Almost everyone in the place seems armed, but the bunch around Victrola seems very well armed.
Steve: Going to walk right up to them, making no other sudden movements.
Zack: Animae hangs back by the entrance so she can hose the whole place down with her heavy flamer if things go south.
Steve: “Well, well, well, if it isn’t the governor’s daughter.” Pull my shades down. “Recognize me? You sent a bunch of ganger scum balls dressed up like mutants to kill me and my (whispering) girlfriend.”
Zack: “You don’t understand!” She jumps out of the ganger’s lap. “My father loved Gary so much. When I fed him choco and he died, I had to do something.”
Steve: “You killed the lizard by feeding it chocolate?”
Zack: “It eats convincted criminals and whole slabs of grox meat. How was I supposed to know Zorthian stalking lizards are allergic to choco. I only gave him a little piece!” She seems near tears.
Steve: A lot of people have died over this missing lizard. Where did you get the imposter?
Zack: She gets all sad and shy. “I sold one of daddy’s zepployachts and used the money to buy a Zorthian lizard from an offworld poacher. I didn’t know there were sleeping versions of Zorthian lizards. I painted it up, but all it does is sleep. Then you guys showed up and I knew if daddy found out he would take away my inheritance. Clavius would be sure of it! Please… just blame it on the dead gang members or something. I’m good. I promise!”
Steve: I mean, we are being pretty hard on her. It was just an accident.
Zack: “She hires gang scum to kill us,” points out Animae.
Steve: Yeah, right. What about that? You tried to have us killed!
Zack: “That was before I knewwww you. You guys seem pretty cool. Actually, I’m sort of sweet on you.”
Zack: “Do not buy this ‘sweet on’ ploy,” says Animae.
Steve: Ladies, ladies. There is enough of me to go around. Maybe we could come up with some sort of sharing arrangement, like Animae gets the weekends and Victrola can have the weekdays. Sound fair?
Zack: Before Victrola can answer you by laughing, you hear a loud-hailer from outside the bar. “Come out and surrender! You can make this easy or very hard!”
Zack: Animae backs away from the entrance of the Burning Squat. Slawtongue looks out a shuttered window. “It’s the damn PDF!” Sure enough, there are a half dozen Chimera armored carriers and at least a platoon of PDF troopers and several heavy weapon teams, all arrayed to blast the Burning Squat to bits. In the turret of the lead Chimera, you see Comptroller Clavius. “Come out, Victrola! I’ll take you home to daddy and we can deal with your punishment.”
Steve: How many armed gangers are there in the bar?
Zack: Everyone is armed in here, but maybe 15 who aren’t dead drunk.
Steve: Not good enough. I’m going to peek out the window. I want to look for anything that might even the odds.
Zack: You see some of those kids sneaking up and stealing things off the Chimeras like repair kits and spare sections of tracks. A few guardsmen are being used as a rear guard to protect against curious hordes of mutoids coming out of the Slough.
Steve: Can we communicate with Inquisitor Badus?
Zack: You would need to access the intra-hive communications network. There isn’t much of that down here in the Slough, but there seems like a building in the recycling facility that might be an old administration building. If it hasn’t been wrecked, there might be equipment there to link up with the Santana in orbit.
Steve: How far is that building?
Zack: A couple miles out of the back door of the bar.
Steve: Dang. Way too far. Time for some bravado. I’ll take out my the Inquisitorial seal and walk out the front door.
Zack: You are greeted by several heavy weapons and a few dozen lasguns aiming in your direction. One of the PDF sergeants shouts, “Put your weapons down, underhive scum!”
Steve: “I am not from the underhive. I am Veteran Sergeant Icarus Toughman of the 9th Catachan Jungle Fighters and I am an agent of the Inquisition.” Holding up the badge real high.
Zack: There is a moment of silence and confusion. A murmur goes through the PDF. Finally, Clavius comes back on the loud hailer.
Zack: “Our quarrel is not with you and your fellow agent. You are free to leave. I am here to take that treacherous bitch into custody.”
Steve: “Agents of the PDF! I am assuming command of your unit as an agent of the Inquisition. Lower your weapons and return to your vehicles. This is no longer a matter for local authorities.”
Zack: “Does the inquisition sign your paychecks? The Planetary Governor demands your obedience!”
Steve: Taking a shot at Clavius with my bolt pistol.
Zack: Your bolter booms in your grasp and the shot is aimed true at his powdered face. Unfortunately, he drops down into the turret and the shot goes wide. Still on the loud hailer, he screams, “Kill them all!”
Steve: Uhoh. Looking for cover!
Zack: The first thing that happens is a wave of shots from lasguns and autocannons rake the front of the bar, smashing through the shutters and blowing away the door. A second later, a much smaller group of true believers opens fire within the PDF ranks. Troopers shoot each other, believing they are on the right side, but the ones who rallied to your side are badly outnumbered and quickly killed. One Chimera is a smoking wreck, one heavy weapons team knocked out, and maybe eight troopers killed.
Steve: Animae and the Cool S Gang better not be sitting around in the bar.
Zack: Oh, they’re not. A massive gun battle erupts, punctuated by huge blasts of the heavy flamer and the occasional grenade thrown in either direction. Although it’s a real battle and not a massacre, it’s pretty clear the gangers are going to lose unless you do something.
Steve: What cover did I find?
Zack: The wreck of one of those goofy dreadnoughts that was phased out soon after Rogue Trader. It’s protecting you from incoming fire so well that most of the PDF seems to have forgotten about you.
Steve: Could I flank around the side of their force and attack Clavius? Like drop a grenade into his Chimera. I don’t really want to kill a bunch of PDF.
Zack: You could sneak around to the back, but you’re going to have to deal with at least one or two PDF rear guards.
Steve: I can handle that. I’m going full jungle stealth mode, creeping around behind them and knifing them in the back all, “Shhhhhhh.”
Zack: You kill one guardsman. His buddy sees you dropping the corpse and you get plastered in the chest with a couple las shots. Not fatal, but a pretty serious injury.
Steve: Going to throw my knife. I know thrown weapons still get a strength bonus for damage and I am strong as hell.
Zack: Alright, your blade hatchets this poor guy right in the forehead and he drops. Amid all the chaos of battle, only these two guys noticed your approach. All of the other fire is aimed at the Burning Squat.
Steve: Getting my knife back and then I am climbing up onto the back of Clavius’s Chimera and dropping all of my grenades into the hatch.
Zack: He stands up right as you climb onto the turret. “You!” he shouts and he fires a laspistol at you that falls out of his hand with the first shot.
Steve: Heaving the grenades in and dropping off the side. Running for cover.
Zack: The Chimera explodes in a mess of weird Rogue Trader grenade types. Ensnaring wires shoot in every direction, gravity sucks in half the Chimera, another big chunk is pulled into a vortex, and two of the crewmen run out screaming about bugs and tearing at their faces. Clavius, on fire, staggers out and succumbs to weaponized groxpox. All the shooting stops as everyone just sort of watches this happen.
Steve: “I AM IN CHARGE NOW!” holding up the badge. “PDF forces are to withdraw from the underhive!”
Zack: The remnants of the PDF withdraw grudgingly. Slawtongue, Victrola, Animae, and a few surviving gangers stagger out of the burning Burning Squat.
Steve: Everybody okay?
Zack: There is a guy with his arms blown off.
Steve: Everybody important.
Zack: “AWww now that’s a shitter,” says the armless guy, shaking his head.
Zack: Slawtongue shouts, “All me mates is nutripaste! You fookin’ got me whole squad deadoed!”
Steve: We need to get Victrola back to her father to stand trial for her crimes against the planetary governor. Her fake lizard caper cannot go unpunished.
Zack: “Da,” agrees Animae. “Also this caper where she is hiring gang to kill inquisitor’s agents.”
Steve: We’re taking her back to the top before tyranids overrun this planet.
Zack: “Tyranids?!” cries Victrola.
Zack: “Mate, I heard o’ them! You got to take us out of here!” Slawtongue grabs your patchwork Elvis jacket. “We’ll join the inquisition! We’ll become inquisitors!”
Steve: Well, Scum is a career path. I think these two qualify. What do you say, Animae?
Zack: “Only flames will cure these two.”
Steve: Nowwwww hold on. Let’s take them back to the ship, see what the inquisitor wants to do with them.
Zack: Animae shrugs. “Okay, you boss this time.”
Steve: We’re bouncin’.
Zack: You’re leaving Cystobleak V?
Steve: I’ll write a letter to the governor about what happened with his lizard creature, just so he knows.
Zack: You launch into the heavens with Victrola and Slawtongue aboard your shuttle. The hive recedes beneath you into another black scar on the rancid boil of Cystobleak V. The black shape of Righteous Fury of Santana appears silhouetted by one of Cystobleak’s moons.
Steve: Going straight to Inquisitor Badus with the information we gleaned. Governor’s daughter was a hive ganger, she accidentally killed the lizard beast and bought the counterfeit replacement. Oh, and Claudius was part of some sort of coverup I still don’t quite understand.
Zack: “Claudius hated daughter,” interjects Animae. “Wanted her fortune to stay with ‘good’ siblings.”
Steve: I don’t remember that part. Oh, well, I also we blew up some PDF guys, but, you know, cost of doing business.
Zack: Inquisitor Badus rises slowly from his command throne on the bridge, his many golden “I” symbols and eagles clanking and his book opened to a page about ultimate redemption.
Zack: “Very well. You have done the task I commanded. These hive scum you have brought to my ship may become fodder for the Emperor’s Holy Inquisition. As for the rest…” He glances down at his book. “Eh, I order Exterminatus.” He pushes the big, red, well-worn Exterminatus button on his throne.
Steve: Because of the missing lizard?
Zack: “Sure, let’s go with that.” There’s a cash register “CHA-CHING” sound and a little slip of paper pops up from his chair. “Ah, the Blood Dumpers Chapter will be arriving within the hour to commence virus bombardment.”
Steve: It never feels good to condemn billions of souls to their doom.
Zack: “Right. I feel soooooo bad. While I’m having a cry, why don’t you go back to your merciless training regimen before I decide to arco-flagellate these two dirtbags.”
Steve: Animae, do you think that between the two of us there might be something more than war?
Zack: “Nyet. War only.”
Steve: Sigh. Time to go take out my frustrations by practicing stabbing things.
Zack: Is that what you call it?
Zack: See you next time, folks! Thanks for supporting our Patreon so we can keep doing really stupid things like this adventure. If you are waiting on a reward, feel free to email Steve at wtfdndsteve at gmail dot com and he will get you sorted.