“That station? Just another cogboy den. Emperor knows that they do out here in Ruby’s Clouds; everyone knows the real action is on the other side of the Maw.”
–Rogue Trader Karlotinna Gint
Beyond the fringes of the Drusus Marches lies an unremarkable pair of stars, the larger of which, Rubycon II, hosts a small series of ordinary planets. Nothing within the system itself would make it stand out from the innumerable thousands of others across the Calixis Sector, except for its proximity to one of the most important natural phenomena in the region: the Koronus Passage, also known as the Maw. This unnaturally stable access way offers relatively safe travel through devastating Warp storms into a vast, uncharted region known as the Koronus Expanse. Because of this passage, the system has grown from a backwater monitoring post to a vital hub of commerce and combat. Organizations across the Sector struggle for dominance over Port Wander itself, knowing it is the key to controlling the Maw. The Mechanicum are amongst them, though its interests focus in other areas than mere trade. For while others concentrate on using the Passage to gain access to new territories and new profit sources, the Cult Mechanicus is more interested in secrets of the Maw itself and what it has wrought on neighboring space. For this, it has stations throughout the system, the most important being on the frozen planet of Skiri orbiting far on the edges of Rubycon II’s dim red light alongside its twins Kaiki and Apeli. Here lies the Adeptus Mechanicus research station of Altar-Templum-Calixis-Est-3, quietly watching the Maw and everything that passes through it.
The Lost PlanetEdit
The Mechanicum targeted this world not for what it is, but for where it is. Early in their investigations into the Koronus Passage, they detected vast amounts of void-strewn flotsam and jetsam near the Maw. Most seemed to move towards Rubycon II, drawn towards the closest gravity well. Amidst the Imperial detritus were many fragments of xenos vessels, as well as many ships that were clearly of Mankind but not of the Imperium. These discoveries, as well as the mysterious nature of the Passage itself, were avenues of research much more likely to lead to knowledge than continued squabbling on the Port. The Mechanicus could carry on such research far out in the void, away from prying eyes. Skiri was ideal, and soon became the major hub for hidden operations within the system. The Machine Cult continued its presence within the Port, and indeed maintains this location as the major Explorator fleet nexus for travel into the Expanse. Shrouded in the outer darkness on Skiri and elsewhere in the cometary clouds, more secretive investigation takes place.
Station Altar-Templum-Calixis-Est-3 dominates the world with many kilometres of augury arrays, enough to guide entire fleets across the void. Here, the Mechanicum watches the Passage, seeking any signs of instability or fluctuations which might aid or harm vessels travelling through it. They also scan for debris exiting the Maw, sending out tiny retrieval vessels to acquire anything of interest. A carefully hidden secret is that Skiri itself contains such relics, most buried under tonnes of frozen atmosphere. Ancient tunneling machines, once used for war, burrow across the planet searching for such treasures.
These xenos remains and archeotech treasures fill huge vaults underneath the frozen surface, and much more has made its way back to the Lathes for further study. Those items deemed of lesser value make their way to Port Wander, where a grey faction of Maleteks are allowed to operate a Cold Trade establishment using these finds, all removed from any official Mechanicus involvement. That these apostates, trading in only the leftover scraps of the Maw’s offerings, are slowing becoming a major player in the Calixis Cold Trade, threatening the hegemony of the Quintet who control the trade, indicates the true wealth of these finds.
Mysteries in the CloudsEdit
The station is just one of many in the area. Footfall, the dark reflection of Port Wander within the Expanse, hosts station Altar-Templum-Calixis-Est-17 to monitor the other side of the Koronus Passage. Their names suggest many more stations, but all attempts to gather more information have been met with silence. Most assume they are scattered elsewhere in the cometary cloud or even on the Port itself, hidden in its labyrinthian depths. Few know the truth: most have been destroyed through means unknown, and the Mechanicus grows concerned that one day Est-3 might meet a similar fate. Something else is out there in the dark reaches of Ruby’s Clouds, and it appears hungry.
Tech-Priests operating on Skiri and some of the outer comets have tuned and layered their augmentations to withstand the intense cold, becoming as one with their surroundings. These Cryon Tech-Priests are now so accustomed to these temperatures that few can exist outside of them, their cybernetics unable to function in anything but the bitterest of cold.
Cryons stride the frozen wastelands of Skiri with ease, ignoring the unimaginable cold. Their systems do not require normal amounts of oxygen, so few carry large breathing tanks, preferring instead to simply scoop up the frozen gas and ladle it into consumption hoppers. The Lathes have adopted this augmentation-pattern for other regions, and it is now a not uncommon site to witness these outwardly unprotected Tech- Priests wading through frozen methane slurries or sliding across sheets of iced nitrogen. On Skiri, though, they serve to monitor the Passage, and it is likely that should anything threatening the Calixis Sector emerge, they will see it first.