A middle-aged man pushes his spectacles back up onto the bridge
of his nose and straightens his cassock. "Welcome back,
I trust the afternoon meal was adequate. Hopefully the Emperor
will give us the strength remain alert as our meals try to tug
us down into Morpheus' embrace."
The audience chuckles lightly.
"Our next speaker is Xenomagis Theodus, who will be speaking
on Evidence for an ancient warp-capable culture on XV/428."
The emcee is replaced by a lean weathered man wearing academic
robes, heavy boots, a machete, and a holstered pistol.
"Thank you, brother. I have some exciting news to report
today. I hope you will forgive the lack of a finished presentation,
but things are moving quickly. Instead of pictures, I have brought
the artifacts with me. Now, let me position the camera over this...hmm,
what, I think that's it...no...uh, yes."
An image flashes onto the main monitor, an image of an aged
green rock with white stripes. There are very faint runes carved
into the stone.
"Here, you see a find from a dig in the Chinchare subsector.
Notice the material. I have yet to categorize it, but it is unlike
anything I have found. I have yet to ascertain if it is naturally
occurring or manufactured. Spectral analysis shows a residual
energy signature as if the rock itself was capable of storing
energy. One of our brothers suspects it might be a naturally
occurring battery or perhaps power crystal. It was everything
I could do to prevent the weapons priests from appropriating
"I'll spare you the linguistic details, but the stone has
two clearly translatable phrases. the first of these reads as
Amongst the waste of empire
Amid offal and filth
The keys lie therein
To spill the warp’s wealth
Six of entropy battle six of accord
Six keys tipping the balance of war
Flesh and fury
Hunger and hate
Sacrificial lambs for the portal of fate
Theodus replaces the large stone with a collection of stone
tablet shards, seemingly made from the same stone material.
"With minimal extrapolation, we can see..."
He taps a console and a glowing overlay of light traces out
a pattern that includes faint pictographs in the stones.
"...that a message forms. Given the linguistic theory of
Voxmagis Lado and his xenovoco corollaries, we can conclude one
of two possible scenarios. The first, that this is a recipe for
a very poetic wedding vow and ceremony. The second, that this
describes a technology for controlled webway travel."
Theodus allows for a dramatic pause. A hush falls over the audience,
followed by excited murmuring.
"And if this is true, then we may have discovered a heretofore
unknown race with a technology rivaling that of the Eldar."
The murmuring in the audience intensifies. From somewhere in
the crowd a person blurts out, "Preposterous!"
Theodus smiles as though he is a patient father hearing out
a petulant child.
"Yes, I expected such a reply. Dramatic revelation is often
an emotional experience. However, as you can see, the data does
not lie. Let me explain further."
Theodus cues up hazy images of cylindrical green stones.
"I have acquired images of cylindrical monoliths scattered
about VX/428. It is difficult to make out because of the picture
quality, but the stone material appeared to be identical to that
of the tablets. I mounted an expedition of local freelancers
to investigate more closely."
"My dear colleagues, we managed to find one of these devices."
The audience quiets down once again.
"I don't have adequate time to go into detail, but previous
translations had suggested to me the nature of these monoliths.
They are some sort of energy source or bomb. The culture of these
beings make no distinction in their language, so perhaps their
energy technology was so advanced that their power sources contained
devastating amounts of energy. An interesting discussion with
a colleague of the physical disciplines led to a hypothesis that
their power supplies are essentially one or more perpetual controlled
explosions. But I digress."
"The devices have what I can only guess are fail safe mechanisms
in them. They are protected by a self-generated force field.
Anything short of planetary bombardment will likely bounce off."
"However, they are meant to be handled and relocated as
necessary for power consumption. The pattern etched here is a
biometric pad. A living being can activate the device by touching
this pad. There is a catch though. Without a working command
of the language, a security device is activated that delivers
a very nasty shock which can subdue or kill, depending upon the
health of the would be tender. This is the term the
culture used. They call the devices keys in this context
and I shall use that term for now. Nota bene, the language on
the devices seems to be a more common set of symbols that are
closely related to those used by other webway cultures."
"I had hypothesized that a tender would be protected by
an extension of the field and as this field data shows, that
was the case."
A man from the crowd speaks out, "It looks as if you were
shooting that man with the intention to kill."
"Ah, heh, well of course, it looks that way, but
rest assured the gentleman was in no danger from my weapons.
However, you do remind me of a good point. The field extended
to the tender is not as strong as that around the key. An occasional
stray shot might penetrate the field, especially if the person
in question is armed with the remarkable battlefield technologies
of the Emperor's finest."
"There is another wrinkle. I would caution any of my colleagues
that would follow in my foot steps. There is a powerful site-based
failsafe device. Once the security perimeter is penetrated, a
countdown begins until the site self destructs in a remarkably
controlled explosion that vaporizes the site but leaves anything
beyond the perimeter completely untouched."
"We still had one surprise facing us, one that was not
mentioned in the tablets and one that I had not foreseen. The
force field. of the key greatly disrupts vehicles and starships.
I am sure this alien culture did not have this problem as their
technology was built around these power source, hence the lack
of mention. I am no techpriest, so I cannot explain further,
but I did note that simple machines were fine. I suspect a certain
sophistication of propulsion system or perhaps the machine spirit
within the more complex machines. Alas, I do not know, but be
sure to bring along some sturdy motorbikes or a team of laborers
if you have to move very far with a key."
"And now for the final piece of the puzzle. The portal
of fate. This still remains somewhat of a mystery to me.
As I mentioned earlier, my best guess right now is that it
would be some sort of controllable gateway to the webway. As
any techpriest can tell you, having access to a webway and
using it successfully are two very different things, which
is why webway travel is still generally restricted to the noble
Eldar, the vile Dark Eldar, enigmatic Necrons, and those abominations
known as the Thousand Sons. Would this gate hold the promise
of webway travel for humankind? I cannot say, but I can say
that funding from the military should be much easier to secure."
The audience erupts with mild laughter.
"I am unclear about the operation of the device, but I
am certain that a prerequisite is the assembly of multiple keys
at the portal of fate. These pictographs are only iconic in nature
of course, but the portal is shown with a dome over it. I have
to hypotheses for this. One, that the dome represents a stealth
technology that masks the dome from unwanted spectators. Two,
that the operation of the portal of fate generates a large force
field akin to that generated around the keys. If I can locate
the portal, the question will be easy enough to answer."
"As to the portal, it is probably a stone ring approximately
15 to 20 meters high. If I have interpreted the pictographs correctly,
the portal is composed of a different material which harnessing
energy differently. I can only guess what technology theses beings
possessed to create such materials that appear to act as though
they have operational devices throughout them at the scale of
atoms. The dome should be on the order of 50 meters in radius,
or perhaps diameter. The translation of that has been difficult
and these numbers should be seen as highly uncertain."
"Future work will be focused towards locating a number
of these keys and finding the location of this portal. Those
of you that are interested in this work should contact my assistant,
as the military research council has locked down access to Chinchare
and I am the only researcher granted access at this time."
"So, in summary, we have identified and conducted field
research on artifacts from what appears to be a heretofore unknown
webway-travelling culture. We have identified their power sources
and tales of what may be a webway portal. The power sources,
or keys, contain a devastating amount of energy, are
controlled by biometric devices, and possess a powerful force
field. The force field protects the key and the tender, though
to a lesser extent, and wreaks havoc on complex machines."
The emcee steps up to the podium, "Let's thank our speaker
and then we will entertain questions."
The clapping of the audience is interrupted as the door of the
lecture hall is thrown open violently. the crowd looks back to
the familiar uniform of an Inquisitor, accompanied by two squads
"Esteemed citizen-scientists, I regret to inform you that
you cannot be allowed to roam freely with your information. I
am sure Xenomagis Theodus will help ease your transition as you
join him in his research. Troopers, escort our esteemed guests
to their quarters on the cruiser. The Emperor guides us. Good