The Officers stood in silence for a few dozen seconds to let the image seep into their minds. Was it a trickery of the eyes, could it be the Processional itself, did it bend reality somehow…? So many questions aching to be answered. But the situation demanded a more refined approach. Apparently there were now two Echo Notches and Two Aheron Tiberiuses standing in the same space. The strange new Echo was distrusting and careful and he raised his melta when he saw that Emiel had pulled his gun at them. But luckily the other Echo tried to diffuse the conflict by urging his double to reconsider and asking Emiel politely to lower the weapon first.
The two Echos exchanged a quick succession of binary words, and concluded that one of them is surely a copy, while Aheron could be a clone of himself, grown from a specimen left at any point during his crazy dismemberment adventures and battles. As this was the most logical deduction, they could proceed with deciding what to do next. Echo from the Spiridon turned to the newly acquainted Aheron and asked if he was hungry and thirsty. He got no reply from the feeble crazed man cowering behind the new Echo. His protective explorator said it is a good suggestion and so they proceeded to the mess hall, where all the personnel except for the officers was ordered to leave the room. Servitors brought the food and beverage.
>>> for the purposes of my brain not exploding in the remaining text the newly met Echo and Aheron will be called Echo Prime and Aheron Prime (this is what Echo Prime referred to him by, hence the naming) <<<
Everyone sat down and Echo Prime coerced Aheron Prime to sit. Echo concluded that Aheron Prime was apprehensive and Aheron would have to lead by example and start eating first. But that wasn’t it. Even as Emiel and Aheron started to dine, Aheron Prime was still sort of lost and tried to wave his hands hoping that the other Aheron was just a mirror image. Aheron returned a wave and then gently touched his hand. This was a mistake, for it triggered a response from Aheron Prime, and sooner than all 4 present officers could act – Aheron Prime drew his gun and fired towards Aheron’s forehead. To everyone’s relief, the gun wasn’t even loaded. Echo Prime then suggested they restrain him somehow. He wasn’t going to eat on his own, or interact properly with anyone. They agreed it is the smartest thing to do and took Aheron Prime into a secluded empty room, where they restrained him to a bed and sedated him so he wouldn’t hurt himself when they put him on IV. Then the Echos conversed privately in binary, to conclude that Aheron Prime, as Echo Prime called him, had deteriorated greatly due to the prolonged exposure to life in the ship graveyard, reduced to nothing but pray for the Hollow Men and Wraiths. The once great Rogue Trader was suffering from the lack of food, water, sleep, warmth and social interaction. He had obviously died and regenerated back to life many times, which had left some irreversible damage. Echo Prime insisted that there are ways in which a psyker could use his abilities to help Aheron Prime, lead him back to sanity, make him find his wits again, but they had no such person on Spiridon.
Both Echos agreed the approximate calculation of 160 years in the processional is correct, and Echo noticed many of Echo Prime’s facilities and cogitators were heavily damaged, entire databanks missing and corrupted, bionic parts modified in borderline heretical ways due to sheer survival needs with whatever tech he could find as he scavenged through the ships. It was difficult to observe such a product of ill fate, even for one of as heavily modified as Echo, and though he could not let out a tear for his other self and Aheron Prime, he still felt it – the disturbing reality, the evil that nature itself had brought upon those two.
From what Echo Prime could gather of his fragmented memories, he left the Satyricon with Aheron Prime, somewhere around 50 or 60 years ago. He claimed there were some crew members left at that time but couldn’t remember how many and in what state of mind. He also claimed Wraiths were very common in this place, apparitions, like aethereal beings, echoes of people living or dead. He was distrusting toward Echo and the rest of the crew because 17 years ago a similar meeting with Echo occurred. But instead of a copy or a clone, it was just wraiths which had lured Echo Prime and Aheron Prime into a trap and in the process Aheron Prime was decapitated.
Now the damage to his psyche was even more evident. Echo could only speculate how much pain this must have caused to Echo Prime and Aheron Prime. It was very logical for them to be distrusting, so he decided to give them time and privacy. He said to his double he would do anything in his power to help them, and underlined that they had come into the Processional to save the Satyricon. Echo Prime said this was what he wanted as well, along with repairs and new weapons, since his old melta and storm bolter were very unreliable and out of ammo. The melta was actually converted to use the energy of Echo Prime’s potentia coil to shoot – quite a heretical thing to make. Echo agreed and asked from Kompost to get someone to bring Echo Prime a reliable weapon and ammo for it. Then they locked off an area surrounding the room Aheron Prime was hospitalized in and left them in peace.
They focused on the mission. They devised a plan to scan for the big black ooze thing that chased them before they hid inside the planet Blight. Then if it was not there, they would sneak above the debris ring towards the location of the Satyricon, and send a small flier to board the ship. The mission would rely on a group of tech priests and Echo to get into the enginarium of the Satyricon and power up the gellar fields. While Spiridon would tow the grand cruiser using grav hooks, the tech priests would maintain the Gellar fields with prayer to enable getting out of the processional safely.
To their surprise, when they came close to the Satyricon and scanned it, it was not a dead powered-down uninhabited ship they were expecting. On the contrary – almost all sectors of the ship had power. Vitae systems were operational and they could easily expect a living population on board. The attempts to hail the ship’s crew were unsuccessful, because Satyricon’s auger arrays were destroyed.
Echo, Aheron, Emiel, Kompost, a congregation of techpriests and 4 storm troopers, boarded a guncutter and set off towards Satyricon’s lighter bay. Aheron noticed something peculiar as they departed – there were no stars in the Processional – only black endless void everywhere above and below. The giant glowing black mass in the middle and the ship graveyard spiraling towards it were completely alone for light years. The thought chilled his bones and he just muttered “There are no stars”. Luckily the black creature was nowhere to be found. Alas they would not waste any time, for it could appear at any moment. Echo brought a vox caster so they could let the crew of the Spiridon know when the time was right to start the extraction of the grand cruiser.
As they approached the lighter bay they noticed that it was damaged and depressurized, littered with debris and destroyed crafts, but the pilot succeeded in finding a good place to land the guncutter. Everyone was to stick together because hollow men seemed to prey on lone human subjects. Echo was leading the way. They decided against going into the cargo bay since their destination was the enginarium and then the bridge, so they went up towards the manufactorum.
Echo went first towards the door connecting to the hallway. He hacked the airlock and avoided a decompression accident thanks to his superior tech skills. The others followed. On the other side of the airlock the air smelled normal and the temperature was mild. They scanned for hazardous fumes and, upon seeing the all clear, proceeded towards the enginarium. Suddenly they noticed there were tiny footsteps shuffling down the hall. The small figure started yelling “alert! alert!” and was trying to get into a hole in the wall. Aheron and Echo immediately had the same idea to chase down the thing. But unfortunately as they dashed towards it they trampled each other over and fell onto the floor, allowing Emiel to take one called shot to the creature’s leg, dismembering it instantly. It fell screaming to the ground. To Aheron and Echo’s horror – it was just a child. Echo quickly tightened a girdle around its leg stump to stop the bleeding and administered some sedative. The child finally fell asleep.
Emiel’s eyes were cold and he didn’t say anything to defend himself. He was just staring at the poor thing in Echo’s arms. Seeing this, the Explorator concluded Emiel might need comforting “It could just as easily have been a gretchin. You did nothing wrong.” These words didn’t have much effect on Emiel, so Echo continued “We’ll head straight for the medbay, it’s on our way. I’ll probably be able to reattach its leg there.” The plan sounded legitimate to everyone so they proceeded towards the rear of the ship, where the medbay was.
Unfortunately they soon came upon a dent in the hallway and part of it was flooded with coolant fluid. The delicate ears of Emiel and Aheron proved lifesaving for they heard a faint electrical sound in the distance and deduced there must be a loose cable somewhere further down the hall. Echo sent out his servoskull to scout out the hallway. The skull spotted the wire which was hanging from the ripped open ceiling and touching the water, electrocuting the entire flooding. The servoskull also noticed approaching silhouettes that were speaking a weird dialect of low gothic – as if it was mixed with high gothic in a devolving kind of way. This was hard for Echo to understand but Aheron and Emiel had no such difficulty. Echo quickly hid the servoskull by driving it next to some ornaments on the wall, but unfortunately it made a clanky sound because of the swift movement. The soldiers, wearing old tattered Tiberius uniforms, heard it and one of them approached to search where it came from. He tried to reach the servoskull by holding onto the power line and trying not to step into the water. Echo decided to break the hiding in order not to let the man electrocute himself and he started speaking through the servoskull’s vox caster. They negotiated a peaceful meeting and removed the power cord so that Aheron and the others could join them on the other side of the flooded hallway.
Echo presented himself as the former explorator general of the vessel Satyricon on which they were all standing currently and demanded to speak to their leader. They agreed to take the newcomers to their headquarters to see Astrid, who was apparently the captain up on the bridge. The soldiers were convinced by some charming words from Aheron and Emiel and also they advised against going to the medbay since it was plagued by disease and numerous corpses. They took the most direct corridors to the Bridge. On the way they saw a group of “The Silents” pass by. Everyone held their breath so that the Silents wouldn’t hear them.
Later as they were passing by the melodium, there was an eerie organ melody coming from the loud-hailers on the walls. They stopped for a moment and the Officers murmured something like “Oh not this again” and covered their ears. Everything would have been just fine had the Arch Militant not reacted strangely to this sound and started shooting at the closest man – Aheron. Before anyone could turn around, he had taken of one of Aheron’s arms and horribly wounded the other. Echo quickly ordered the Storm troopers to grab him and jumped to put Aheron’s arms in a vice before he bleeds to death. Luckily the Rogue Trader could feel no pain and it made things really easy and also very weird in the eyes of the officers and tech prests. The next moment Kompost was on the ground with one sotm trooper holding down each of his limbs and he twitched and yelled until he came to. They dismissed it as the effect of the melody and Aheron was quick to forgive his employee, so that they may get on with the mission.
When they were finally brought into the officers’ quarters they saw that they were actually well guarded by people murmuring in the same low/high gothic hybrid. On the bridge, a woman of clean appearance and almost noble stature, except for the old uniform, greeted them. All around were people praying incorrectly to the machine spirit and randomly pressing buttons on the consoles, which caused Echo Notch to cringe a bit.
Astrid spoke in the same hybrid tongue elegantly and asked who the visitors were. Echo explained they come in peace and they wanted to save the ship and take it out of this hell in which it was stranded. Aheron presented himself as the former captain Rogue Trader Aheron Tiberius, commander of this grand cruiser. Astrid was intrigued by the notion but claimed that they were just a mere legend, implying that the people were not even sure this was a ship, but maybe instead it was a planet or something like that. But she spoke of ancient teachings about men that would come, lead by Earon Tibiri who would save them all. She asked if may it be him the one the legends speak of, in her own strange dialect. To that Aheron said yes and asked if they knew how to operate the ship’s bridge. It was obvious from what she replied and from the previous notice of people praying incorrectly that the knowledge of conducting the ship was long diluted and lost to the generations of people who lived and died here in the previous 160 years. Astrid also said that there was doubt that the visitors might be wraiths, here to lead them into a trap or otherwise cause them harm.
Echo decided to take charge and demonstrate his knowledge which no mere wraith could possess. In proving that he was indeed a holy servant of the Omnissiah, sent here through his grace to save this holy vessel, he would win Astrid’s trust. So he demanded that the people stop abusing the consoles and proceeded to pray to the machine spirit himself in a proper way. Afterwards he performed the sacred rite of turning up the lumen globes and illuminating the bridge, after which he turned on the pictviewers to display a layout of the grand cruiser and also opened up the void shutters. He explained that the ship looked like the image on the pictos and that the view outside the windows was a giant ship graveyard which they had to leave as soon as possible in order to survive. Astrid and her underlings were convinced. They had never seen such a display of knowledge and power. So they concluded they had to help the visitors get what they want.
Echo demanded they take them down to the enginarium to power up the gellar fields for the departure, but Astrid argued that the enginarium was occupied by a group called “The Cogs” which didn’t let anyone in there and only occasionally sent expeditions out to repair the vitae systems. Echo assured her he would reach an agreement with this group and asked whether they were tech priests. But Astrid’s “officers” couldn’t answer that question since they had never seen those people properly. Nevertheless they set out on an expedition towards the enginarium.
Upon reaching the massive door brandishing a cog of the machine god they were told to stop by several servoskulls guarding the door and two big storm bolters were pointed at the group. Echo notch demanded an audience with the Cog’s leader and said that he was the former explorator general of this ship. The servo skulls replied just “access denied”. The cogs apparently dismissed the visitors as wraiths, but Echo was determined to prove that he is not one of those. He proclaimed he wouldn’t leave until they believed he was real. Echo said he can prove he’s been inside the enginarium many times and that he is in fact who he claims to be. The servoskulls demanded that he then recite The 8 Mysteries and The 8 Warnings of Deus Mechanicus. He obliged without flinching, reciting them with great pride.
Upon completion of the last word the large cogs started turning and the door swung open. At first they would only permit Echo and the tech priests but Echo explained who the others are and everyone eventually came in. Astrid went back to the bridge with her officers. The visitors were taken through the great hallways of the enginarium, by the plasma drives filling the air with crackling static. At the end there rose a familiar cathedral, the brain of the enginarium, filled with control panels and machinations. Inside was a slender silhouette of a tech priest, a female one. And as she turned around Echo’s mind was overwhelmed with joy – it was Ericaah. Deep down he knew she would survive, he knew she had the mental and physical hardiness to withstand the test of time.
She immediately asked how he survived and is it really him. He decided to be honest but tried to put off the difficult explanations until a later time, urging Ericaah to aid in getting the Satyricon out of the Processional. And Ericaah agreed of course but couldn’t let go of the fact that this Echo obviously had no knowledge of some details the real Echo would definitely know, and she demanded an explanation. They spoke privately, interfacing with each other and she confirmed that he definitely wasn’t Echo Notch. Until then Echo had this ray of hope that maybe the other Echo was the copy, which would explain his machine-like behavior and lack of emotion and semblance to a servitor. But Ericaah had almost quelled that hope, since now he felt first hand that maybe his memories of her could be someone else’s memories. But what had made the other Echo, the real Echo, so damaged? Why he left the Satyricon – was it to try and get some help? Or did the people rebel against Aheron and force them to leave..? Did Aheron go mad upon entering the processional? What misery made the magnificent explorator deteriorate to a robotic automatron. How did he justify letting all his blessed bionics be in such poor maintenance? How did he justify resorting to heretical ways? Was Aheron really more valuable to him than his own calling?
His chain of thought was quick but it still took some time and Ericaah noticed this. He asked her some key information about the ship, what did the Silent Ones guard in the cargo by, what other fractions were there, who were the Dabblers, how did they maintain order and repairs..? He complimented Ericaah on keeping the enginarium pristine and asked where the tech priests, who were all heavily modified, come from. Ericaah said that Echo had done this himself before leaving, he modified every one tech priest and organised them. He left careful instructions and foretold his own return that would save them. Alas the entire population broke down into gangs and the dabblers took the front of the ship, they were most likely unsanctioned psychers. In the cargo hold there was the cryostasis chambers they picked up at the space station in the Unbeholden Reaches. Inside, who knows what was slumbering, but they could observe and try to find out through the pictfeeds that the old Echo (Prime) had rerouted to be able to observe the entire ship from the enginarium.
When Echo mentioned the incident caused by the melodium and how the Arch Militant almost killed their Rogue Tader when he lost control, Ericaah said that the melody is used to case away the wraiths.
She then showed him the stasis pod they had right there in the cathedral – it was Besse. She went to sleep shortly after they ended up in this cursed place, almost 156 years ago. Echo was rejoiced once again and his hands touched the glass, resting his bionic eye on her slender visage for a few moments. Ericaah asked if she should be woken up now, but he replied that he would love nothing more than that, but he wanted nothing that would slow their mission. There would be time after they were safe and out of the Processional. Ericaah agreed. What Echo did not tell her is that he had a more disturbing concern in his mind – he wasn’t sure he had the right to wake her, what if he wasn’t the one she was waiting for? What if she’d see that he was an imposter? These were all very heavy emotional things that had to be done later, when he saw the other Echo and made some kind of proper research on which one is what.
Therefore everything was set in motion. Ericaah would have the tech priests pray when Echo gives her the signal. The gellar fields would hopefully protect both ships. Aheron, Echo and the others joined The Officers on the bridge and closed the shutters, so that the visions of the warp don’t irradiate the people. They made contact with the Spiridon to let them know they could fire the grav hooks and start the tow. Everyone prayed that the horrible black creature doesn’t notice them leaving.
The next few hours went by in prayer and intense hopefulness as everyone was at the edge of their seat. The hulls of the great Satyricon moaned and bent in pain as it moved for the first time in more than a century. Finally, they managed to pull through the warp gate and got back into the Koronus space. Upon seeing all the stars in the sky, Aheron released a comforting sight, for he knew there was real hope now. A huge endeavor had been completed successfully.
What ensued was all around congratulations. They decided to make a hole in a sealed part of the navigator’s tower just above the bridge for easy access to the Satyricon. Everyone except for Echo Notch left the Satyricon. Aheron and Emiel went to converse with Maxwell Kind and his brother, to try and devise the best course of action now that they had the Satyricon, and needed to deal with the savages on board and also repair ship components.