Saturday, 31 December 2016

Bastet's Corner - Operation: Smilebringer

Mission Entry: Extraction Rendezvous
Log Entry N°: #03/001

Day 10, Hour 2135

The sky is clear. There's a big, bright, full moon towering above the landscape, giving a peaceful, almost mystical, air to the moment. The snowstorm is now well past, leaving room for a gentle, if cold, breeze. As I glance down the valley, I play with my breath, letting puffs flow, big and small. The remains of the camp down below show no sign of last night's events. Had I been asked, no longer than ten days ago, that this would have been the outcome, I would have laughed my ass off. Boy, what a fool I would have been.

They should be here pretty soon. Better go check on the others and see if they're ok. I guess they'll be more than happy to meet their comrade, and leave all this behind them.

Mission Entry: Investigation
Log Entry N°: #01/001

Day 1, Hour 0925

For once, deployment was amazing, considering the conditions. The storm has hit hard, I can hardly see my paws hands from all the white whirlwinds around me. With all the rocking and rolling during the drop, I thought the pod would miserably fall deep into a crevice, never to be found ever again, or smash against a mountain that wasn't supposed to be there. And yet, here I am, alive and kicking, trying not to get my whiskers cheeks freeze too much, waiting for my contact to show up.
I'm still not sure about why I have agreed to undertake this mission, absurd as it sounds. Blood Angels denouncing the disappearance of classified documents is already perplexing per se, but citing the Smilebringer as the culprit... what were they even thinking? It can't be possible. For one simple reason: the Smilebringer doesn't exist. It's a legend, folklore tale, a jape to make children gasp in awe and behave. Next thing I know, perhaps the Flying Crone was acting as an accomplice, right? Oh, and while we're at it, we're indeed all pawns, moving at the hands of the Giant Unseen, who enjoy determining our fates at the roll of some dice.
But anyway, idiotic as it sounds, the matter should be unraveled, lest the high seats cannot sleep peacefully, so we're looking for a something something wearing red suit who has nothing better to do to go around and steal secret files for something something purpose. Now, red and Blood Angels usually mix well, but of course not, none of them can be guilty of such evil move.

Ah, here they come. I'm amazed they even accepted to meet me and discuss the topic. I'm sure the Tempestus Scions are drowning in people who enjoy prancing around and stealing stuff.

Day 2, hour 1850

My curiosity, I admit, has peaked. The meeting, and subsequent discussion with the Tempestus envoy has added up on the initial intel, and apparently there's indeed someone, or something, that enjoys red to a passion, and doesn't want to get involved with any Brother in a friendly way. Two or three days ago, they report, some red lights were seen not far from their citadel, and a scouting group sent to investigate reported firing some rounds at an unidentified, seemingly hostile, unit with surprisingly high mobility and firepower. While no casualties were reported, the one moron man who got close enough to get actually hit and lightly wounded by friendly fire, mentioned a red suit "flying high and away" at blazing fast speed. When I mentioned the word "Smilebringer", everyone around me started laughing, but I swear I had seen at least one nervous glance.

Log Entry N°: #01/002

Day 3, hour 0235

Something happened. Still not sure about whether we're all victims of a collective hallucination, of some clever scheme, or if something behind our comprehension is indeed happening right around us. Shortly after my last log, an alert got triggered, mentioning a faint red light being visible in the far distance. In spite of the punishing weather conditions, I set off immediately, followed by a small group, to trace it and investigate. Strangely enough, even if the light was always visible, it seemed to never grow brighter or more intense, as if it knew of our position and somehow managed to always keep the same distance. Eventually, we reached a flat surface close to a mountain top, and there was the light, standing still, pulsating rythmically, as if to mock us, or to tempt us to pursuit. Which we would have done...

...had it not been for a dazzling flash of green light blowing out of nowhere, lightening up the whole area, followed shortly after by halfcrazed shouts and a few rounds of ammo being shot here and there. By the time things settled down, and everyone got identified, the red glow was already gone for good, because yes, I guess I would have grown tired of waiting as well. No trace left, of course, not even the smallest one.

Thank you kindly, Adeptus Mechanicus. I hope, at least, the reason for all that was a good one. I admit it, as I parted ways with the Scions and promised them I would return quickly with useful(?) info, I was tempted to go full "take-me-to-your-leader" with the corpseskins, but eventually reason prevailed.

At this point, I want to get to the bottom of this.

Day 3, hour 1500

Third time's a charm, they say. Let's put it to test. The Adeptus, too, was in pursuit of that red glowing light, hoping to shed some (pun intended) on the mystery surrounding it, and check if it's somehow connected to the red suit wreaking havoc around. With a catch. They claim to have had a skirmish with the suit more or less at the same time as the Tempestus... but in a totally different place. Hardly possible, even at blazing fast speed, unless there's more than just one involved? Something's not right, at all. I should return to the Scions.

Day 3, 2330

Luck might have smiled upon us. The Red Glow is around, once again. As I was being escorted to return into Tempestus territory, we spotted a faint light in the distance, in the woods surrounding the Scions facility. We chased it deep into the forest, once again seemingly incapable of closing the gap. At this point, between the snow and the terrain condition, it might be hard for my companions to keep up pace, but a single swift unit might have better luck. As they send a request for backup, making sure to forward it to the Scions, too, I decide to press on. I hope it's going to pay off, risky as it appears.

Mission Entry: Extraction Rendezvous
Log Entry N°: #03/002

Day 10, Hour 2245

They are all fine, albeit restless. I suppose they can feel it's going to be over soon. They are probably aware of what happened, though. There's palpable tension, and sadly I can't do anything to reassure them. But it's not up to me to inform them of their loss, for I'm not their kin. They might not understand, they would not trust. If anything, I'm closer to being their enemy, considering it all. Better if their current leader bring them the sad news.
I kept holding on the headgear all throughout the time. As I pass my fingers on it, it feels so light and yet somehow reassuringly safe. It all feels so bizarre and out of place, in retrospective. How do you kill what doesn't exist?
I see the searchlights, down below the path. Tiny blue dots in the dark. They're coming. And between all those cold, hard lights, I see a different one I've grown familiar with. He recovered, then. Great. I'll see him once more, and then we'll part ways for good. Hurry up, pal. Your family awaits you.

Mission Entry: Investigation
Log Entry N°: #01/004

Day 4, Hour 0045

I think we've come to an end. The glow is indeed getting more intense, as if it had finally stopped. As I move forward, step after step, marching steadily in the snowy path, the sense of breakthrough is starting to build up. It's going to end here, it has to. Even the storm has calmed, as if the world, too, wanted to acknowledge my statement. The tension is palpable... what am I going to find, what lies there, behind those trees? Friend? Foe? One or many? Will this charade finally unravel, will it be a childish prank, a devious plot, or something completely different? What's behind all this?

Just a few more steps. Just a few more. For the Mewmperor.

Day 4, Hour 0430

I have no words. I literally have no words, and am considering not finishing this log, and erasing every previous one, too. I am thankful the Adeptus arrived, for had I been all alone there, nobody would have truly believed me. And even then it took me a good while, even in front of factual, concrete evidence, to advocate my cause. I'm thankful they are less extremist more open in their views, or maybe agnostic enough not to consider it heresy.
As soon as I passed the last few trees, what my eyes saw couldn't just possibly be true. And yet, the creature was real. Alive. Moving. Its eyes met mine, and never glanced down. As if it was acknowledging my existance, accepting it, welcoming it, and expressing it needs. I have seldom seen such lively eyes, capable of communicating even when language can't be an option. It beckoned me to follow, and so I did.
And then, I saw the corpse. Frozen cold, the blood stains now merely a faint presence, under all that snow. And yet, that death, that impossible death, must have happened no longer than a few days ago.

No longer than a few days ago, I muttered to myself, as I knelt down to recompose the body. Stripped almost to nakedness, defenseless, and yet with such an aura of grace and dignity. I glanced back at the creature, merely confirming what it already knew. As its mourning cry teared the silent, calm night, I realized it all was real.

I was staring at the dead body of the Smilebringer.

After the Adeptus reached us, it took me a good while to convince them that my finding was real, but eventually they trusted me enough to comply. The creature, as it turned out, was indeed wounded, and needed assistance. They would have seen to it. And then, there was the matter of taking care of the corpse, in a respectful way. It would be done, too. However, it wasn't over at all. Neither the Smilebringer's well known equipment, nor the rest of the group of companions, were anywhere to be seen.

It was then, that a faint gleaming, coming from the snow not far from where the corpse was lying, caught my eye. As I approached it, uncovering its source from the snow, I could feel my heart pounding faster and faster, only to stop abruptly, as the shape of the item formed clearly in front of my eyes.

They were dogtags. With the Scions mark.

Someone has to answer for all this, or my name isn't Bastet McPaw.

Mission Entry: Interception
Log Entry N°: #02/001

Day 9, Hour 2255

I should finally be on the bastard's right track. I've set post on a high cliff, right above a secluded small valley that serves, apparently, as some kind of base camp. The tracks are sound, and so are the traces of activity. I don't know if this is just temporary, or if this is where he actually meets with whomever his accomplices are, to trade the stolen secrets. All I am sure of is that, by the Mewmperor's will, tonight it will be his last one. Dead or alive, he'll come back with me.

It proved quite easy to expose him. all I had to do was to return with the dogtags to the Scions facility, and with the right questions it turned out that yes, apparently a Garret Hoffman had gone AWOL some days before. The guy who was covering for him said it was "for personal reasons, just a matter of a couple of days, nothing to be worried about, a few drinks on me when I come back to thank you". Well, I'm positive the guy will have plenty of drinks in the camp prison now.

I have no idea whether he planned it all, if it was a one in a million chance happening, or what dark forces have been disturbed to make that happen, but for sure I intend to find out as much as possible. Documents got stolen, as reported, once every two days, after the first one. Today's a good day, and almost everything has been tagged with a tracking device. It's just a matter of luck now scrap it, the device started blinking. Strike one, McPaw. Now, to wait for his return. Powering up the suit. Sniping rifle engaged.

Payback time, and payback's a bitch.

Day 10, Hour 0535

Strike Three.

I'm sad that all the questions I had for the guy will remain unanswered, but at least it won't happen no more. He reached the base camp, and boy what a sight it was. I literally was in awe as I saw it all moving. Smart trick, using the Smilebringer's gear to roam around. Swift, easy to maneuver, and well, I concede it would be pretty difficult for anyone to quickly react to such a sight.

Apparently, we got lucky enough that he still had to send away any of the stolen goods. The Blood Angels will make sure of that: I collected everything I could find at the camp, searching every nook and cranny. Pity I didn't find out who the accomplices were, but that's entirely on me, I acted hastily and alarmed him. But at least he won't play that trick ever again, because while nobody at the citadel was prepared to react, I was. I activated the locking systems right as he was about to land, so when he hastily tried to take off again, all I had to do was to press a button.

Which I did.

Had anyone told me I would be the one shooting the Smilebringer's sleigh down, I would have hit him twice. One for being a moron, for the Smilebringer doesn't exist, another because doing that would be plainly wrong. Sheer evil. Well, here I am. Hit me twice, I guess.

Hoffman is dead, with a nice hole in his chest, but thankfully that was the only casualty. Someone's going to be happy. Or, at least, less sad.

Mission Entry: Extraction Rendezvous
Log Entry N°: #03/003

Day 10, Hour 2355

It's over, at last. I handed over the goods, the Adeptus will forward them back to the Blood Angels. Time to part ways. I approach him silently, never leaving his stare. He looks... relieved, in some way. As tragic the turn of events has been, he doesn't seem to be too depressed. Granted, he knows that justice has been administered, as well as... rightful vengeance, I would frankly say. Still, considering the loss, his grief should be... more apparent? I don't really know.
The hat, right. It's a prized possession, he's the rightful owner. As I presented it, though, an unexpected reaction came up: he refused it, pushing it back at me with a bitter smile, shaking his head. My puzzled look must have been blatant, for then his smile broadened, and then he kneeled down, nodding at me.

And then it struck me, as a lightning in the darkness. The man might be dead, but the symbol must not be. If what Hoffman did was evil, someone else can turn it to good. If anyone, in the end, can be the Smilebringer, then everyone should be, in big ordeals and trivial matters as well. For what he brings, ultimately, is hope. I will take upon his legacy, at least until a true successor is found.

As I placed the hat on my head, it felt warm, and cozy, and full of a good man's wishes. My newfound friend approved, cheerfully snorting at me.

Let's do this, Rodulf.

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