Into that Vast Expanse
The Ignum Malevolis was one of the Inquisition’s Black Ships, a fleet of frigates whose sole responsibility is to collect tithes of psykers from Imperial worlds and deliver them to Holy Terra so that they might be offered before the Golden Throne. This particular ship was assigned to the Koronus Expanse when it was taken over by its psyker inmates in a rebellion. The distress call was intercepted by Jemidar Archis aboard New Radius. Lord-Captain Satrius Na-Rami deemed that rescue of the ship would be too risky and ordered it destroyed.
Like all Black Ships, the Ignum has a particular scheduled route. It is responsible for collecting tithes from the more remote settled worlds in the Koronus Expanse whose population is one million or lower. The route through the expanse takes several decades before the ship returns to Holy Terra, so few crew live to see more than one complete circuit.
Due to the isolated nature of the Expanse and the low levels of development and luxury of the planets the ship visits, assignment to the Ignum is treated as a form of disciplinary exile within the Inquisition. The ship operates with a skeleton crew of low-level Inquisitors and unlucky Imperial guards. Most of the cells are not regularly guarded by human eyes, trusting servitors to manage the psychic warding and alert the crew if attention is needed. A disaster like the psyker mutiny that befell the ship was bound to happen eventually.
On the journey from homeworld to Terra, inmates have little to do beyond contemplate their miserable existence within their confined cells. They are fed once a day and receive little to no human interaction. Those with telepathic psychic abilities can try to communicate with each other, but the cells’ warding make this a taxing and difficult endeavor.
Once cell in Starboard Block 3A was fabricated with a flaw in its interior bulkhead. The psyker assigned to this cell on the previous circuit was fortunate enough to have smuggled a crude tool aboard the ship. Over his decades of imprisonment, he exploited this flaw and managed to create a weakness in the cell’s door. Unfortunately he was not able to complete his work before the ship reached Terra and he was removed, but the flaw remained and was not detected during the lax inspection the ship received from its disaffected crew.
The next inmate in that cell, Edric Dantis, immediately realized the significance of this structural flaw. Lacking tools, he continued his predecessor’s work by literally wearing his fingers to the bone to erode the weakened metal. Twenty years of this monotonous persistence took their toll on Dantis’ mind as well as his body, and by the time he worked his way free he had little room in his thoughts for anything but escape.
When Dantis broke his door’s hinges and escaped he was almost immediately detected. The guard servitors pursued him down the cell block corridor and into an airlock—where he overrode the controls and opened the external seal.
The ship was undergoing warp travel at the time, so Dantis was immediately exposed to the Warp. He was protected by the Ignum ‘s gellar field, but his trajectory away from the ship quickly carried him to its perimeter. This was the chance that the forces of Chaos had been waiting for. While Dantis’ body was still half within the field’s protection and half fully exposed to the Warp, a daemon entered possession of his body and reversed trajectory. It was an incursion of one.
Once the daemon had fully breached the gellar barrier, it devoted its attention to destroying the ship. It tore out huge chunks of the hull and vented several compartments into space, and in this process a few more psykers were freed. These psykers began to open other inmates’ cells, and soon a full-scale prison break was in place.
The ship’s Navigator made an immediate translation from the Warp once the daemon was detected, and the gellar field remained stable and did not allow any further incursion. But the Inqusitors and guardsmen aboard the ship were forced to concentrate their attention on banishing the daemon, and by the time they cast it back to the Sea of Souls over 60% of the inmates had escaped. The crew made a fighting retreat and barricaded themselves in the most defensible position aboard the ship, one of the unused cell blocks.
Among the escaped inmates, factions began to develop among those lucid enough to comprehend more than their immediate freedom. Leadership of these factions fell to a group of six cultists apprehended and loaded aboard the Ignum at the planet Miscordia several stops earlier. Although the cultists were originally unified in their goals, at the time of the mutiny some wanted to take control of the ship’s Warp drive and make a calculated escape to a nearby planet, while those who had utterly devoted themselves to Chaos wanted to fully enter the Immaterium and offer the ship as a prize to the Ruinous Powers.
Very few of the inmates had ever served aboard a starship, and none were members of the Mechanus cult, so they were not able to get the ship moving or operate its weapons. The pro-escape faction’s goals rested on being able to capture and torture the crew into performing the necessary tech-rituals for travel.
When New Radius arrived in the pocket of dead space where the Ignum had exited Warp, Na-Rami came to the conclusion that the ship was unsalvageable. Its cargo of psykers were surely too tainted to be brought before the Golden Throne, and its crew deserved court-martial and execution for allowing themselves to be overpowered. Even rescuing the ship itself might not prove a profitable exercise, as the Inquisition could not be trusted to compensate him fully for his efforts.
Thus, the decision was made to scuttle the ship.
Na-Rami first ordered that the life-support system be destroyed with a macro-laser battery, but it was too well-distributed among the ship to target. Na-Rami then turned his attention against the Ignum ‘s power core. With no opposition from the ship’s weapon systems, the gunnery officer aboard New Radius made short work of the engines and power systems.
As the warp drives burst in a flash of warp energy, the astropathic choir detected several secondary Warp traces aboard the ship. Choirmaster Jemidar Archis sent out a signal of telepathic interference to prevent further deamonic summoning, but two entities had already been summoned. The crew and psykers were dead or dying, but now the daemons had to be stopped.
Flight leaderpersonally led a squadron of fliers to perform bombing runs on the Ignum as New Radius ‘s single laser battery continued firing. As a final salvo, one crewman attended a suicide mission to deliver a payload of melta-bombs to the ship’s bridge where the daemonic presence was strongest.
Explosions rippled the ship and set free the crackling Warp energy that had been contained within the warded hull. Na-Rami ordered an emergency beacon be erected to warn future travelers of the site of the incursion, then had Vesper Nemo bring the ship into Warp and away from the wave of destruction emanating from the ruined ship.