The Kill-Team were at rest on Watch-Station Erioch to begin the story. All of the Space Marines in the group knew of each other by repuatation and some small personal contact but had never worked together. None knew Esmaya.
Watch Captain Scipio of the Ultramarines summoned them to his ready-room, a smallish rectangular room with a single chest-high (to a Marine) table running the length of the room. The table was narrow – only a couple of feet wide – and designed to stand at and as a place to set data-slates or document temporarily. from one end a Hololith projector was showing an ocean world.
The Watch Captain explained that the world being shown was Rheelas, one of the infamous Quarantined Worlds of the Canis Salient. Rheelas was an ocean planet with only two stable land masses, one at each pole. At the North was the primary seat of planetary government, The Crown, and at the South a vast transport hub for the storage and orbital transfer of the planet’s vast mining output. This station is simply known as The Hub.
The rest of the planet is a vast, turbulent ocean. The planet itself suffers terribly from seismic and volcanic instability so the oceans are in a constant state of near-tsunami level turmoil and both the air and seas suffer from a low-level toxicity from volcanic gasses. Entire islands rise to and fall from the surface over a matter of weeks or even on rare occasions days as terrible volcanoes erupt and then the planet’s crust shudders and ters them down again.
The reason the Imperium even bothered to colonise such a hostile world is the mineral deposits this activity constantly creates and deposits on the ocean’s floor. The mining output of Rheelas is an important link in the supply chain for Imperial combatants in the Canis Salient and without the minerials the front line forces would find arms and ammunition is still shorter supply than they are currently.
To gather these minerals, and there are vast amounts of them, gigantic mining platforms, in effect floating cities, have been constructed with sides massive enough to shrug off all but the most terrible waves and hulls thick enough to turn aside most seismic damage. These floating cities are known on Rheelas as The Hives, a reflection of their vast size and overall similarlity to more traditional Imperial Hive Cities. On board the stations tech-savants works in ceaseless shifts to monitor the planet’s activity so these mobile but hugely slow and sluggishly unmaneauverable “ships” can be directed into waters that are relatively calm (and it truly is a relative word) and away from imminent sub-surface eruptions or the most active quakes.
There are twelve Hives constantly moving across Rheelas’ oceans in search of minerals to power the planet’s ailing economy and what comparative safety from the environment they can find. Of the twelve, there is one, Tidevault, which is easily the largest at approximately five times the size of any of the other individual Hives. The next closest is a grouping of three hives known as The Cluster whose Hive Captains have formed a fairly solid alliance and which stay in close proximity to each other at all times – sometimes seperating their vast city-stations by as little as a dozen kilometers.
Once in positions considered safe the Hives lower mining equipment on long pistons and mechanical tentacles to the ocean’s floor and begin the process of mining. This is when a Hive is at its most vulnerable as to retract these mining limbs is the work of hours at best and usually a good day or even two and so should the onboard Enginseers and Tech-savants fail to detect an eruption or quake in time the best a Hive can hope for is damage to this almost irreplacable equipment and the worst is significant damage to the Hive itself.
Although a Quarantined world, Rheelas nonetheless is expected to contribute an Imperial Tithe comprised almost exclusively of the output of its mining endeavours. A very small quantity of goods are traded to Rheelas in return making the planetary economy extremely precarious.
As is the way in the Imperium of Man, this situation would have continued unchanged for an indeterminate time, however a few months ago a message was delivered directly to the attention of an Inquisitor or the Ordo Xenos by the name of Rebekka Wrest. This message alerted the Inquisitor to an interesting anomoly. For no known reason the amount delivered as Rheelas’ Imperial Tithe had increased to 150% of its official level. The Tithe is collected by Warp-capable bulk transporters four times per Terran year and this huge oversupply had occured each of the last three times. Even given the scale of this anomoly, it could easily have taken decades for the fact to come to the attention of anyone in the vast Adeptus Administratum bureaucracy had the Inquisitor’s attention not been drawn specifically to the fact.
Inquisitor Wrest dispatched Throne Agent Julius, an experienced and steady agent who specialised in data analysis and careful investigation of complicated conspiracies, to Rheelas to investigate. Julius’ departed for Rheelas on board the next Imperial Tithe collection vessel and his arrival was confirmed back to the Inquisitor by the ship’s Astropath. Nothing further was heard for two more months and Inquisitor Wrest fears the worst.
The Kill Team is to be joined by one of Inquisitors Wrest’s Interrogators, Esmaya, on their mission to Rheelas. The mission’s objectives are as follows:
Primary – Identify whether the planet remains in Imperial control
Primary – Identify whether the planetary population remains fundamentally loyal
Secondary – Uncover the fate of Throne Agent Julius
Secondary – Uncover the reason for the increase in Tithe level
The Kill Team was allocated 50 requisiton from the Watch Station’s armoury to assist with the execution of their mission and Sword Class Frigate “Defiant Blade” of the Storm Lords Chapter will transport the team to the planet and remain on station to await their return. The Frigate is Captained by a Storm Lords Marine known as Lorgath but crewed entirely by Chapter Serfs.