House of Glass
Chapter One: Gathering Storms
For three months, nobody had told them where they were going. They were told when to get off, and which ship to get on next, as they wound their way away from Landunder on voidship after voidship. They were treated with respect, deference even, but whenever they asked about their destination, the crew would shut their mouths and shake their heads. Perhaps even they didn't know. "Scintilla" was the answer they finally got, from the steward of the ship that broke from the warp above the sector capital on the last day of their journey.
"Just got the word, this is where you get off." He told them, standing and looking out at the world hanging below. They were in the starboard viewing room, waiting for the ship to recieve orbit priority from the central shipping authority. "They'll have a shuttle up for you in an hour or two. I wouldn't want to keep them waiting, if I were you."
An hour later, one frantic hour spent grabbing their equipment and rushing for the shuttlebays, they were met by a woman in a jet-black flight uniform. The sleeve, where normally there would have been an Imperial Navy patch, or something to signify the ship she belonged to, was blank. She wore fine black gloves and stood ramrod straight, watching as they carried their things over towards her shuttle. This was a sleek black affair, nothing like the clunky Arvus and even a step above the navy Aquila. It bore no markings, and the narrow viewing slit on the front end had barely enough space for the pilot to look out of. From inside, there would be no way for the passengers to see where they were going. Fortunately, they found, the inside was well set out. The seats had been upholstered with actual leather, the metal decking painted, the storage compartments all with working hinges and latches. This was a vehicle that was carefully maintained. When it took off, the engines were a dull roar in the background, the noise dulled by thick armour plating and noice-cancelling technology to the point where, for the first time on a shuttle, they could hear each other speak. The flight was comfortable, and not overly long. Only once did the pilot speak to them over the shuttle's comm system, asking them to check under the seats. Here they found equipment, things that they had ordered but not yet recieved, and an odd little device with the Imperial Aquila on one side, and the sigil of the Inquisition on the other.
Soon, the shuttle had landed, the engines powering down. As they stepped out, they caught a whiff of salty polluted air as the massive gates at the far end of the landing bay rumbled shut with a clang. There were no windows, no stray cables, none of the usual shuffling about of servitors and personnel they had come to associate with landing ports. The floors were marble, the pillars along the walls more reminiscint of a cathedral than a shuttle bay. Yet the cavernous space was filled with shuttles, each apparently stamped from the same unmarked black mould that theirs had come from. It was quiet too, which was odd, only the buzz of the lumen-strips above breaking the silence. The pilot departed without another word, walking quickly away from them towards a door in one wall. They were not left alone, however. A bald adept was approaching, accompanied by a pair of servo skulls. He stopped a short distance away, checked his dataslate, and looked up to smile at them.
"Hello, hello. Glad to see you've all arrived. Don't suppose they told you much about this before you got here? Typical, of course. Please, follow me."
The skulls buzzed at them, one one of the sort that kept notes, its auto-quill clicking away as the adept talked, a roll of paper steadily extending further downwards from its jaw as the text scrolled along. The other was a combat skull, its eye sockets fitted with targetting arrays and the muzzle of a large-calibre pistol protruding from its mouth.
"Bit short notice, all this," the adept told them as they walked. He was leading them through a veritable maze of passages, each with many branching paths or closed doors along its side. The closed doors featured stamped metal numbers, but no other indication of what was behind them. "You're some of the last to get in, we're not expecting too many more. Only three month's notice, there weren't too many who could make it, and Lord Caiden of course declined to attend. The Lady Valle will tell you everything, it's not really my place to explain."
Finally they reached their destination, and the adept ushered them into a small waiting room, filled with chairs and a low table. They were not the only ones there. Three others were in the room. There was a pair of men sitting together, one wearing a heavy flakcloth greatcoat and a wide-brimmed hat, off which hung a number of purity seals. He was smoking a lho stick, the hand he was holding it in covered in a black glove. His other hand was bare, and rested on the butt of a holstered revolver. Many other guns were placed in holsters about his person, their grips facing outwards for easy access. Annie spotted the grip of a small holdout poking out above the top of one heavily reinforced boot. The man he was with wore black Ecclesiarchy robes and carried a whiplike scoriada at his waist. Opposite that was a chainsword, and on the chair next to him was a flamer, its pilot light presently unlit. His hair was grey, his hairline receding, and he wore a pendant of an Inquisitorial I, with a skull halfway up it. An Interrogator. The third person in the room was a woman. Opposite the door they had come in were a set of double doors, made from hardwood and undoubtedly worth a fortune. They were, presently, closed, and the acolytes got the distinct impression that the people already in the room were waiting for them to be opened.