The Black Planet, 4182013.M41
External Planetary Monitor Derv was concerned – not a state of mind to which he was accustomed, in all honesty. The job of External Planetary Monitor was not, in general, one that required a great deal of concern, or indeed concentration; by and large, the job did itself, the ancient computers ticking off incoming and outgoing vessels against flight plans and manifests, and displaying alerts on the Monitors’ monitors on the rare occasions when something didn’t tally. Derv would dutifully forward these alerts to the Navy Yeomanry Planetary Defenders, the Black Planet League of Merchant Venturers, and His Imperial Majesty’s Galactic Internal Taxation Subdivision – unread, of course, since the penalty for tampering with taxation records was too fearsome to contemplate – and then go back to occupying his time in some other fashion.
Nevertheless, he was concerned, and said so.
“Moon’s gone a funny colour.”
Derv’s immediate colleague, Torq, emitted a vaguely interested, vaguely dismissive, vaguely responsive grunt, and returned his attention to the screen in front of him.
“You’re not going to look, then?”
Another grunt. This one managed to convey irritation, a mild personal contempt for Derv himself, and a deep-seated wish that Derv would clear off and leave him, Torq, to his vitally important duties.
“Stop playing Dark Millennium and look, you slag.”
Having exhausted the possibilities of grunting, or expended his expressive capabilities in the medium too soon – a peril confronting all early-blooming geniuses – Torq thumped the monitor, called it a brainless son of a fragbunny, did the same to his controls, and then finally turned to look at Derv.
“Well, I’m dead now, and we’ve lost Armageddon. I hope you’re happy. That’s three weeks of dedicated grinding down the tube, thanks to you.”
“Shut up and look at the moon, Torq.”
“Which one? Coalfield?”
“No, the little one.”
“No, the really little one.”
“That’s not a moon, is it? That’s spacejunk. Has to be.”
“Torq, spacejunk is small. Wulfruna is far away. We’ve been through this.”
“Why’s it green?”
Derv sighed, and gently laid his face in his palm. “It isn’t. Usually.”
“Think we should report it?”
“That’s what I was asking!”
“Well, take some initiative and do it and don’t bother me when I’m in the middle of a twenty thousand player kill-fest again, all right? You’ve got no sense of what’s important, that’s your trouble.”
Derv reflected on this as he typed up a brief report, enclosed a series of grainy, poor-quality images, and punched in the commands that would send his message not down the usual sub-aether channels, but directly to Naval Astrotelepathic Regional Command. Torq had said the same thing when they’d been raided by eldar pirates the year before, of course. Not that he’d noticed. He’d been too busy fighting the Battle of Ichar IV on his monitor to notice the war going on outside his window. Not for the first time, Derv contemplated an intervention, before deciding – as usual – that it probably wasn’t worth the months of complaining that were bound to result.
Over the next six months, Derv’s barely-literate description of events, along with some of the worst examples of stellar photography the Imperium had ever seen, was passed like an unwanted takeway through NARC, back to NYPD as a strictly internal matter of no interplanetary interest, briefly through the dark and foetid halls of GITS where it had been sequestered as a cover for tax evasion, back to NYPD to be stamped as clean, back to NARC for transmission as a matter for the Explorator fleets rather than planetary defence, and finally, reluctantly, hurled into the galaxy at large for any passing explorer to wrap their grubby mitts around it.
The Explorator vessel which did eventually pick up the message and make a brief stop above Wulfruna spent a grand total of thirty-two seconds in low orbit before being struck by what its final transmission described as a hissing column of pure black oblivion, attended by an all-frequencies broadcast of indecipherable machine code which the Explorators had initially mistaken for the latest release by the ‘popular’ ‘experimental’ ‘technical noise producers’ Standard Template Deconstruction, and naturally switched off.
A further three months passed as the transmission was assessed, examined, standardised, verified, appended to a heavily-annotated copy of Derv’s report, and finally released to the galactic aether at large as the most bureaucratically correct distress call in recent history. It was at that point that the Hawk Lords Chapter of the Adeptus Astartes got hold of it, and decided to do something useful.
The learned Dr. Shiny is among my longest-serving opponents. Our respective armies – Skaven and Vampire Counts, Eldar and Chaos Space Marines, or Khador and Cryx – have been battering each other with startling ineptitude for something like fifteen years now. In all that time I’ve heard nothing but complaining out of him; his troops are inept, his dice hate him, his rules are outdated and his tactics are largely based on the certainty that everyone’s going to die. However, his ceaseless whinging is at least entertaining, and so I have allowed him to live thus far.
He hasn’t played any sixth edition 40K yet, having been distracted by Bretonnians, and since I was at his end of the country for the New Year festivities I thought it might be high time to rectify the situation. It was going to be a spot of WFB, but play was rained off due to my lack of time or, to be honest, enthusiasm for repainting and restoring a Vampire Counts army I’m not even sure I want to play games with.
We settled on 1200 points – this would give us a game which even we could finish in a few hours, despite the inevitable banter, confusion, rule-checking and general shenanigans. This would also give us a game in which every model was fully painted, and you can’t say fairer than that of a Sunday afternoon. It helps, of course, that we were throwing down in the cavernous and well-equipped gaming paradise of The Giant’s Lair in Plymouth, a superlative venue with a decent shop, quality boards, lots of space and a neat line in fried foodstuffs courtesy of host and legend Swabs. Photographic services were provided by Hark’s shiny new phone, hence the marked improvement in the image quality and the capacity of the photographer to surprise Shiny and actually get him in shot for once.
I’ve been busy.
The long-awaited resurgence of guild RP in my RP guild has led to a renewed interest in WoW, with play taking place every other night. My bad back and lardy belly are demanding some attention, so I’ve resumed stabbing people with overgrown knitting needles in an effort to burn off some of the surplus blubber. Having taken a long, hard review of what I own, what I use, and what I actually give two hoots about these days, I’m liquidating most of my Mercenaries and disposing of my Cataphract Arcuarii – I don’t play enough Warmahordes these days to justify two armies, and I want to unhook the Skorne from dubious tier lists which, hand on heart, I have never actually done all that well with anyway. Anyway, if you want any Cygnar infantry or Mercenary warjacks, here’s the place to go, one third off RRP beat the rush BUY NOW SAVE LATER.
I’ve also gotten around to building the last of the Necrons I picked up second-hand back in October, and spending some birthday loot tokens on a few more long-awaited odds and sods. Would you like to see them? ‘course you would.