Approx. 1700 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
The Flesh Shapers of Melancholia
written by SJ
From the information Melinda Dion had obtained on Dell about the missing Krootox, it seemed she had closed the time gap on S’hawna Morgan down to around fifteen days. However, once they had landed on Dredge, there were more delays. For one thing, the cargo ship S’hawna had taken had already been unloaded, loaded, and had already made the jump back to Comae Berenices.
It shouldn’t have been hard to find someone at a mining outpost that had seen someone of S’hawna Morgan’s unusual appearance. And even the fact that she was with two Daxzan women and a Krootox, didn’t aid the search.
Dredge was a small, 3175 mile (5144 kilometers) diameter rockball planet, where the vast majority of its mining operations were taken place on its moon, using it much like a space station for planetary and asteroid mining. One part of the moon was made up of mountainous peaks and deep chasms where a small group of Vespids worked, mining rare minerals and Hydrogen-3. It was from them, Dion learned what had happened:
When S’hawna and her group had disembarked from the cargo ship, they stayed inside the transport shuttle, quickly making their way to the Vespid part of the moon. From there, they hitched a ride on one of the Vespid transports to Neubayern-3, to a mountains area where there was a small community of Vespids, who had no problem telling Dion all about the woman, her companions, and where they took them next. As for S’hawna’s strange appearance, they were unfortunately unhelpful.
When Neubayern-3 was first colonized, it began as a desert world not very suitable for Terran life. However, after over a hundred years of terraforming, they made it suitable, even with its major seasonal weather changes because of its overly tilted planetary axis. On average, the weather was 50 degrees in the winter and 130 degrees in the summer, something the inhabitants had gotten used to and had incorporated into their yearly routines.
Neubayern-3's corporate level was very low and its loyal to them even lower. But, they were a very friendly and laid-back people, and when Dion approached the planetary government to find out more about Melan’ye Smith, they were happy to help, especially when they found out it was Chaos related.
On this planet, even though Dion herself preferred following rules and regulations, government agencies, here, were very unofficial organizations. However, she quickly found out everything she needed to know:
Melan’ye Smith had arrived in one of the planet’s urban cities about fifteen days ago where she quickly obtained a small following of men. Next, she purchased a mansion over in a remote country side. In a short time she had legally changed her name to Melancholia, forming a Cult called the Flesh Shapers of Melancholia, all of it located at the mansion. Since then, she’s never bothered anyone, nor, to their knowledge, committed any crimes. The closest city located to the mansion was called, Louvain. If Dion want to know more, she was told she’d would have to go there.
Dion spent the next couple days in Louvain questioning various city and private organizations about the elusive, Melan’ye Smith, wanting to know, specifically, if anyone had seen her, talked to her, or knew anything about what her plans were, whether they were real or imagined. The first thing she learned was that Melan’ye Smith no longer existed; she was Melancholia, now. The next thing she learned was that no one had seen her; all her business transactions had taken place online. Apparently, Melancholia had gotten a good deal on the price of the mansion, primarily because of its remote location and poor exterior condition.
As far as crimes, the only thing S’hawna Morgan had ever been wanted for was the abduction of a Tau lawyer on Terra Aurigae, and he was unable to remember the event, so the charges had to be dropped. As for the three men she was supposedly to have killed, they were found to have died from excess stress caused by an enormous amount of, what they assumed, was sexual excitement, and the only way they figured that could’ve happened was if drugs were used; but in all the cases, no drugs were found. And as for torture, worse cases have been found between consensual adults.
Dion considered the fact that she could call the General and bring in a squad of Federal Marines to search S’hawna’s mansion for Chaos Crystals, even check her and her companions for Chaos Worms. However, as things were now, since S’hawna had to believe she had gotten away clean, Dion had the advantage.
There was the other fact that while she was on Terra Aurigae, she and Rand were looking for a treasure, a treasure that was found to be a portal to the WARP where Tzeentch came along later and procured a Chaos object. Now that she had established herself here as some sort of weird cult, did she know the location of another object? The only way to find out was to watch and wait.
Meanwhile, Melinda wanted to learn as much as she could about Melancholia. All the overwhelming evidence pointed to the fact that this WAS S’hawna Morgan. However, she wanted to talk to someone that had actually met her, especially if that person was a woman who had seen her as she supposedly appears, grotesque. It would also be good to talk to someone that had actually been inside the mansion, seen how it was decorated. But, the only outsiders that have been inside the mansion, so far, were a team of maintenance engineers, called in to get everything inside it up and running; during that time, the mansion was empty, and remained so until they were gone.
As for the men that were now part of Melancholia’s Cult, if, in time, they began taking on the normal Chaos Cult appearance, then that would show Chaos Worms were present, a sign that more affirmative action needed to be taken soon.
Once the mansion became occupied, there were numerous deliveries to it, but those were always dropped off at a private monorail platform just outside the mansion.
Melinda would’ve found the whole investigation frustrating, except for the fact that she knew she had plenty of time. Melancholia and her cult members were not going anywhere simply because this was the HOT season, 130 degree weather. This was the time when everyone spent their days indoors or in underground recreational facilities. In another two months, the temperate season would return, bringing with it 90 degree weather, a time when then the onion farms would begin planting.
Just when Melinda was thinking she would never find anyone that had actually seen the members of Melancholia’s strange cult, she obtained information about a couple doctors that turned out to be experts at doing physical augmentations; they told her that many of Melancholia’s cult members had come to them. However, so far, they were all male. The doctors explained, after they had heard the Cult name, Flesh Shapers of Melancholia, in their opinion, they figured it was some sort of orgy cult. And even though it was rare, they had done this type of thing before. They also mentioned, that, aside from the physical augmentations the men wanted done, they looked quite normal, Melinda relieved the Cult members had not become true Cultists (with Chaos Worms).
Finally, the next step of her investigation HAD to be done, even though she was reluctant to do it: Someone had to knock on the door and ask to speak to Melancholia, or, if nothing else, actually step inside the mansion, see for themselves who was there. She looked at the two male members of her team and figured it would be Koufax that would have the best chance of being accepted, in this case, just to look around. However, if Melancholia was able to exert some sort of Chaos power over him, then the whole investigation could be blown...even though Koufax didn’t want to think that could happened to him.
As she sat thinking, Melinda considered the possibility of what would happen if a WOMAN came to the mansion posing as someone writing a column on the Cult? However, it still would be dangerous. She considered going herself, but, knew the General would not like the team Captain risking herself–-and neither would her team. So the only logical person was Lucynda. If she did nothing more than actually see Melancholia, then she would undoubtably see her as grotesque. This would, at least, prove, without a doubt, she was the S’hawna Morgan they were looking for. And if Lucynda didn’t return, that would give her proof that someone was being held captive inside the mansion against their will, something that would allow her to perform a much more aggressive covert action, maybe even allow the use of some Federal Marines.
Before sending Sergeant de la Vega on her way, Dion wanted to set up a couple surveillance cameras. Everywhere within one kilometer of the mansion was bleak, treeless, hilly, terrain. A little over a kilometer away, to the south, on the top of a hill, was a hotel, abandoned now because of the HOT season; placing a telescopic camera in there would allow Dion to watch as Lucynda went to the door. There was an abandoned private lodge northwest of the mansion as well; the owner was found and soon a camera was placed there as well.
Lucynda put on civilian clothes and some make up, a nice-looking, young, Hispanic, woman. Her team watched as she drove to the mansion in a hovercar, then quickly made her way to the door on a day when it was only 110 degrees. At first, Dion thought Lucynda would be rejected, not a male. But, she was quickly welcomed inside and disappeared.