As the warp storm drew back around the planet, a battle was exploding in the sky. Two dozen ships, at least – Rogue Trader, Eldar, and Dark Eldar – clashed in brutal, take-no-prisoners combat. Initially, Cornelius was prepared to leap into battle, weapons blazing, prepared to chase down Pol – who was apparently on the Agent Blade, protected by at least six Dark Eldar ships – at any cost. With some effort, I managed to talk him down, explaining that our ship was running on its last leg and that if we took much more damage we would be completely out of commission. He begrudgingly agreed to power up our ship’s speed boost and skirt the edge of the battle, to intercept the Argent Blade on the other side.
At first, we had ordered the Vengeful Falcon to get outside of the warp storm, but we chose to have it follow us – skirting the battle would be tricky, and we decided covering fire would be critical.
Close by, Sun Li was on-track to ram an Eldar Ship. In a sort of unspoken agreement, the Rogue Traders were no longer fighting each other. The Eldar were a bigger threat. We had to pass Sun Li’s skirmish on our way, so Inessa shot at the Eldar ship a few times. With fairly little trouble, we got about half the way around.
Suddenly, without warning, Djanko Scourge’s warp drives exploded, shearing a hole in the fabric of spacetime, opening a gash into the warp. Windows slammed down on the starboard side of our vessel, protecting the crew from the horrors, while I screamed directions at whoever was piloting, trying to get us away from the shredded edges of reality. We were on the very edge of the blast radius, and miraculously were able to avoid being sucked into the warp. Sun Li and several others were not so lucky.
Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, as we were chasing them – the Argent Blade, which was also on the outer edge of the blast radius, managed to avoid being sucked in. We curved around the edge of the hole and it came into our line of vision. I could sense immediately that they were preparing for an emergency warp. We had seconds to decide our course of action. There was a mention of t-boning them and shoving them into the warp ahead of us, but since they were already preparing to warp anyway, I had a better plan.
“We follow them into the Warp,” I told the captain. “I can follow them. Following’s easier than plotting a path. Hypothetically.”
“Are you sure?”
“I won’t have any idea where we’ll be going, but I can ensure that we don’t lose them.”
“That’s all I want. Do it.”
There was no further discussion. I began preparing for an emergency warp, while the captain tried to swing us up next to the Argent Blade so that we’d be side by side. The maneuver was not as deft as he had hoped, and we slammed into them broadside. Reaching out with my mind, in a mere few seconds, I managed to get our crew to sync our warp drive with theirs and together, we shot into unreality.
We slammed into the warp storm at full speed. Heart pounding and senses on fire, I instantly plotted the least damaging course and took us through.
Once things had stabilized a bit, we realized that two Eldar ships and the Vendigroth flagship had followed us, as well. The captain hailed Nadya and, without allowing her a chance to speak, essentially said, “We’ve had our difference in the past and I’m willing to work that out but right now we need to deal with the foul xenos. Don’t shoot at the Argent Blade. It’s ours. But if you could take out the ship on our starboard, that would be fantastic.”
He hung up on her without letting her respond. A few minutes later, she fired on the Argent Blade.
Infuriated but unable to do anything, the captain ordered that we take out the one Eldar ship we could – the one on port. Our entire starboard side, unfortunately, was still connected with the Argent’s.
One good hit caused the Eldar ship to bail. Suddenly, Lumi yelled that there was a ship ahead – an Imperial ship with a familiar signature. Shock and confusion rippled through us all. What Imperial ship that we would recognize would be in the warp, coming towards us?
The captain ordered a tricky drift maneuver, trying to push the Argent Blade around so it would hit the other ship first, and take the brunt of the ram. With a little skill and a lot of luck, it worked. We drifted. The other ship appeared out of the warp clouds, twice the size of ours and just as glorious as I remembered it – The Light of Terra. A ripple of shock went through those of us who knew, and then, suddenly, impact.
Nadya veered off, and the other Eldar ship vanished as well, peeling away into the warp. There was a massive, screeching crunch as we turned into a triple-ship sandwich. As a shudder the size of an earthquake rocked the ship, I saw it – a way to pull all three of us out of the warp.
We dropped into normal space as the final shock waves dissipated. A glance out the window proved my worst suspicions – The Light of Terra was falling to pieces, its bruised and battered form finally crumbling. As we watched, incredibly relieved and grateful, shocked that our friend had just been sacrificed for the success of our mission, he hailed us. Cornelius greeted him with jubilation, thanking him, but his voice held that edge. We all knew. The final voyage of The Light of Terra was over.
He didn’t seem bothered. All he had for us was a message: a message from the Rifts of Hekator, where he had apparently found the original great flagship of the Orthesian Dynasty. He told us that the key to clearing the Orthesian family name was out there, with the ship and the Orthesian captain – Cornelius’ great-great-someodd grandfather, who, miraculously, is apparently still alive after two thousand years.
Then again, we keep finding these random two-thousand-year-old men connected to the Orthesian family, so I’m not even sure why I’m surprised anymore.
Oh, god. I hope Cornelius doesn’t live that long.
With that message, his final gift to us, he drifted away – finally at peace.
We immediately boarded the Argent Blade with several boarding crews, ready for a fight. There wasn’t much of one. The crew was skeletal – bare basics required to run. In the bridge, we found the box, but much to our fury, Pol had escaped. We saved his sorry life, and for what? Was he nothing more than a sleeper agent, sent to ruin us? Enraged, I silently vowed vengeance. I will suffer no such betrayals to my fami… my Dynasty.
Within the box, we found a shattered disc. We were disappointed, but with some effort, we will likely be able to reassemble the device and get something off it. Not a lot, but something is better than nothing.
A check of the stars around us told us we were near our mining planet. Fortuitously, this is where we had ordered the Vengeful Falcon to go as we had entered the warp. In all likely hood, they would be here soon, and we could rendezvous. After some discussion, we decided to remain at the planet for a while to make repairs to our ship and allow our crew and ourselves some time to rest and relax. It was determined that it would likely take a year to repair both ships fully, and that was deemed acceptable.
I am ready for a break. We all are.
During this time, I intend to study the book the Eldar Humunculous gave me, and maybe start a lab where I can experiment with these genetic mutation techniques. I am more than ready to face whatever adventures we will embark on next, and at this point, I have finally realized – I was right to leave my family. I could have apologized. I could have mended my ways. But I didn’t, and now I’m here.
And quite frankly, I have never been happier.