The Space Hulk, Edifice of Despair, has reemerged into the material realm following a two-hundred year absence. A distress call rings out from its tiwsted form, one bearing the mark of the Inquisition. Kill-Team Theron will scour the Hulk for the Inquisitor Lord Calum Dorsis, and hopefully return with knowledge that will benefit the Imperium... if they return at all.
Chapter One: A Sirens Song
He had to be hearing things again.
Martin Holland, personal Astropath to Ordo Xenos Inquisitor Jorden Moris, looked over the shoulder of Namius Tabrin, The Red Oddessy's Cheif Navigator, to see the twisted and warped hunk of steel and adamantium that loomed in the Black Ships view screen. He had never in his short life seen anything so gargantuan, so alien, so... sinister. As he stepped out from behind the Navigators throne and looked upon the Hulk, he realized why the called it the Edifice of Despair. He stood motionless, caught in the still chaos that was the hulk, bulkheads twisted this way and that, entire hulls warped and molded into insane shapes and forms. He fought back a queasy feeling and forced himself to look away. He was startled when he heard, or rather, felt something whisper his name. It wasen't unusual for him to hear voices, but rarely did they come in so clear... so... strongly. A firm hand on his shoulder rudely yanked him back to reality as he stifled a small yelp.
"Boy." The Navigator spoke firmly, "Inform the Sector Command that we have a visual on the Hulk, and are awaiting the Inquisitors orders." The Navigator had a taciturn but not overly unkind face, though his ancient and heavily wrinkled features may have had something to do with his sagely appearance. His white main of hair was long but receding at the forehead, and his mustache cascaded down his lavishly robbed body to his waist. His dark brown eyes spoke of great wisdom and nobility. Martin nodded, wondering just how old the Navigator was, but dutifully pushed those thoughts aside as he prepared and sent the message.
The Navigator stared impassively at the hulk, for it was not the first he had seen one, still he felt the aura of evil that permeated each and every one of them. It was always distinct, the dread one felt looking at the mauled and twisted cluster of metal, but it ceased to bother Namius long ago. He didn't take his eyes off it for a second though, not even when one of his attendants presented him with his daily glass of citrus juice. He sipped the tart beverage lightly, enjoying the flavor as it ran down his throat. "Boy." he addressed the young Astropath, "See that the Inquisitor receives this." One of the Navigators attendants passed a dataslate to Martin. "Yes sir." He dutifully bowed and hurried out off the bridge, thankful to be away from the view of the Hulk.
A clash of blades echoed through out the arena. Two figures locked in a struggle of wills and ability, a battle that would never end. One bore the skull and laurles of the Lords Exemplar, while the other was marked with the fanged skull of the Marines Baleful. The other members of the Kill-Team stood at the sidelines, accompanied by one mortal figure.
"They are really at it this time." Murmered Takashi, his bionic eye studying both marines intently. "Aye," Calos responded "I think it has something to do with Specters comment, about the cloak." Takashi smirked, remembering fondly the Marines Baleful's jab at the Lords Exemplars need for flare. His gaze passed over the Watch Captain and the Apothecary, who were likewise captivated by the struggle of egos that took place before them, while the Sniper tended to his wargear for a second time and the Black Shield had found a distant spot to meditate. Then Takashi's gaze was met by another one, cool, green eyes stared back at his own for but a moment before casually breaking off to return to the sparing marines. Takashi briefly studied the owner of those green eyes, he was easily dwarfed by the Space Marines that surrounded him, yet he stood as if he were the largest man in the room. He exuded an aura of dominance, of raw ferocity that was belied by his lithe but muscular form.
Ferdinand Rotter, Acolyte of the Inquisitor, met the Imperial Hounds gaze for only a moment, but that was all he needed. He was hardly interested in the Space Marines that dueled before him, he had seen them spar over trivial egos enough to understand that neither would defeat the other. He was bored, as impossible as it might seem, but he had just formulated a plan to entertain himself. He waited for a lull in the pace of the battle before him, and then let loose a sharp whistle. Edge, the Deathwatch Sniper, twitched slightly, he knew that tone from his own youth in the ruined hives of his homeworld. It was the kind of whistle that heralded a block war between gangs. Though no such war would happen here, its malevolent nature was unmistakable. All eyes fell on the human, now cracking a lopsided grin.
"Now, don't anyone take this the wrong way." He started, spreading his hands innocently and glancing down to avoid the fiery gaze from Nerus' bionic eye. "But, we all know this little pissing contest of yours," he jgesturedto both the Marines, "is goin' nowhere." He confidently, almost arrogantly, swaggered into the arena, stopping just short of the duelists.
"You little-" Nerus started, only to be cut off by the Acolytes raised hand, "Please, lemme finish." Ferdinand spun on his heel to face the rest of the Kill-Team, "I'm just suggesten' we try something new." Specter shouldered his way past Nerus, eyes boring into the back of the humans head, "What do you mean 'something new'?" Ferdinand's bony finger shot out at Takashi, "I'm sayen', you two tag team Beastheart there."
Takashi exchanged startled glances with Calos, both more than a little surprised by the mortals audacity. Nerus was practically shaking with indignation "Listen here, boy!" he practically spat "We are Space Marines! Not your Throne Damned playthi-" Specter cut the Lords Exemplar off, "What do you wager if we win?" "If?!" Nerus snarled. Takashi glared at Nerus, the slight was more than enough to get him interested in the wager.
"I'll polish both your sets of gear for the rest of the month." The Acolyte extended his hand, but right as Nerus reached for it he added, "But if you lose, I get to do what I want to that cloak of yours." Nerus immediately recoiled from the young mans hand like he was a venomous serpent, only to have Specter firmly grasp it in his place. "Deal." Specter gave Takashi a sideways glance, receiving the Imperial Hounds nod as the final agreement.
Takashi took to the arena, it was at this moment that Kris realized he had never seen the Imperial Hound in the sparing ring before. Though he knew well the Imperial Hound was no weak link in hand to hand combat, he had his reservations about his abilities against fellow Space Marines, especially the like of Specter and Nerus.
Takashi gripped the handle of his ceremonial power sword, and stood motionless, still and resolute as a statue. Nerus slowly moved to his left, mirroring Specter as he moved to the right flank of their opponent. Rather than follow his opponents, Takashi kept his gaze locked on the patch of ground not but a few feet in front of him, performing the minute muscle exercises that had been drilled into him since his tenth year. He remembered those days, though vaguely, holding his current stance for hours, even days at a time until every muscle screamed for release. But as he did then, he stood motionless.
Calos had seen this side of Takashi before, when the boisterous humor subsided and he became as cold as steel, two different warriors.
Nerus took the first lunge, left power sword screaming towards Takashi's throat with blinding speed, but they met another blade in a flash of light and motion. Nerus was shocked at the sheer speed at which his opponent moved, and struggled to bring his right blade to bare as the Imperial Hound leapt to the side, spinning and bringing his blade in a wide arc to his opponents midsection. Nerus blocked expertly but was sent reeling when Takashi's right foot came up with blinding speed and crashed against his face. Specter lunged, claws aiming for his targets back, but was halted midair as Takashi's left foot slammed into his chest with a mighty clap.
All those who witnessed this display of sheer skill were stunned, not even Gridar, with his extensive knowledge of each members biology, expected Takashi to be capable of such a feat as keeping both Nerus and Specter at bay, let alone putting them on the defensive.
Nerus redoubled his efforts, shifting to a style reminiscent of the great sword duelists of ancient Terra, blades pointed at his foe as they surged forth. Takashi countered both blades with a sweep of his own, and slammed his shoulder into Nerus, sending him tumbling back. Nerus regained his footing just in time to block a downwards stroke, and brought his free blade up in a savage stabbing motion, looking to flay his target. Takashi lept back, narrowly escaping Nerus' furry. Specter saw his opening, rushing forth with a left handed swing, whole body soaring through the air like a feline predator towards his target. Takashi spun into the blow, knocking his foes strike away with the flat of his blade and bringing his elbow sharply into his face, sending Specter sprawling next to Nerus. The two took a moment to look at one another, quickly, without a word, the two formulated a plan of attack.
Both Space Marines stood, pacing slowly towards their target who had taken the stance of his Chapter, arms slung out before him, blade level at his foes. Nerus and Specter picked up their pace, rapidly closing the gap between them and their foe, weaving in between one another like a pair of serpents as they sprinted. Both lunged at their target simultaneously, Nerus sliding on a knee, bringing his blade to bear at his foes legs, while Specter leapt into the air, claws rushing towards Takashi's throat like a pair of crackling missiles. In one blur of motion, Takashi had Nerus on his knees, his own blade pointed at his throat, and Specter flat on his back, Takashi's own blade pointed at his throat.
There was a stunned silence that filled the arena, save for Ferdinand's content applause. "Nice work there Beastheart! Now Nerus if you don't mind?"
Takashi offered a hand to Specter, who took it. With one motion Takashi hauled up his fellow Space Marine, who gave the Imepiral Hound a good natured pat on the shoulder. Takashi then offered Nerus the same kindness, only to have the Lords Exemplar bat his hand away, making in intelligible snarl as he did so. As Nerus hauled himself up and Ferdinand approached him, hand outstretched. Nerus begrudgingly unclipped the cloak and cast it at the mortal, who caught it, cracking another lopsided grin. Then bell tolled. They had arrived.
"You heard it Theron," Gridar bellowed "to the briefing
The Kill-Team had assembled in the briefing room, standing before them was Jorden Moris, looking stern as usual, accompanied by Sister Superior Isador, who's pale blue eyes regarded the assembled Space Marines with a mixture of reverence and awe, Hector the servo skull, who hovered silently over the Inquisitors shoulder, and Chev, the Inquisitor's faithful Cyber-Mastiff, his tail wagging in a surprisingly friendly way for a lethal killing machine. Jorden nodded to the Kill-Team before powering up the holoprojector, which displayed a massive, twisted mass of long-dead ships, the Space Hulk no doubt.
"As you probably know, the Edifice of Despair an ancient Hulk, dating back to before the Imperium even existed." Jorden said, gesturing towards the holo-projection. "This is the very reason that Calum Dorsis, Lord Inquisitor of the Ordo Xenos, was so interested in it. Two hundred years ago, he boarded the Edifice with an elite team of Inquisitorial operatives and Storm Troopers. None of them returned."
"What was the Inquisitor looking for?" asked Specter, suddenly interested. He had dealt with a Space Hulk once before, the Blood of the Warp. The Marine Baleful still rrememberedthe narrow corridors, the darkened expanses, and most of all, the hordes of Genestealers. He had lost many good battle-brothers in that Hulk.
"A powerful archotech weapon from the Dark Ages, supposedly able to devastate entire cities with it's power." Jorden responded. "The exact specifics are unknown, but Calum was determined to retrieve it before it fell into the wrong hands."
Calos gave an amused chuckle. "And now you want us to retrieve it. Sounds fun, but what sort resistance awaits us?"
Jorden payed the remark no mind, having long gotten used to the Sentinel's sense of humor. "Bio-scans have revealed a colony of Gene-Stealers lurking aboard the Edifice, but that's nothing new. What is troubling is that our Astropath has been detecting strange psychic emanations coming from the hulk, possibly a side effect of the weapon. Either way, be cautious.
"As if we weren't going to be." grunted Nerus, still fuming over his bout with Takashi and the loss of his cloak.
Ignoring the moody Lord Exemplar, Jorden continued. "We received a Inquisitorial distress beacon from deep within the hulk, making your mission thus; find the source of the distress beacon, recover the archotech weapon, and if Lord Inquisitor Calum is alive, then recover him as well."
Kris whistled, a low, sharp sound. "That's quite the tall order Inquisitor."
Jorden almost smiled at the Watch Captain's reply. "If I doubted Kill-Team Theron's abilities, then I wouldn't be sending you."
"Point taken." said the Golem, turning to his team. "Kill-Team Theron, move out!"
Jorden brooded over the Holo-Projector long after the Kill-Team had left the briefing room, staring intently at the projection of the Space Hulk. There was a niggling doubt settling in his gut, something that had been bothering him the entire time. Inquisitor Calum had boarded the Edifice of Despair with more than enough manpower at his back to have taken on an army, let alone a Space Hulk. So why had the Lord Inquisitor disappeared? He still had no answers. The door to the briefing room swung open, revealing the armored form of Damon Glaw.
"Sir." said the Afriel Strain Soldier, giving him a curt salute before handing him a data-slate. Glaw was flanked by Raul Ruiz, a mercenary who had joined Jordens retinue some time ago. He smoked an Iho-Stick as usual, and wore his shaded lenses. His pale skin was almost as colorless as that of the Afriel Strain that stood beside him.
"What's this?" said Jorden, taking the slate and looking over it's contents. His eyes slowly widened with shock as the horrifying significance of the data-slates contents dawned upon him.
"Has Kill-Team Theron departed yet?" he demanded with urgency in his voice.
"Yes sir." said Glaw, who seemed unperturbed by his superior's plight.
"Throne dammit!" swore the Inquisitor. "Get them on the vox, NOW!"
Chapter Two: Serpents
They were waiting.
Theron's boarding pods tore through the thick walls of the Space Hulk, making the continuous groan of steel against steel. Kris stood at the very front of the pod, flanked by Sakael and Gridar, his hand firmly gasping the handhold above him. His vision remained locked forwards, watching the armored door of the pod intently. He always felt uneasy within Space Hulks, they reeked of xenos and chaotic scum, and the walls were twisted and warped by fell forces. Were it his command, he would see this amalgamation of sin and taint blasted to oblivion, its fragments scattered to the stars.
Sakael murmured in prayer, his voice drowned out by the constant and all consuming sound of the pod boring deeper and deeper into the Hulk. He prayed that the Emperor would bless him with the strength to purify the path that lay before him and his brothers, and to grant him a death worthy of their forgiveness.
Gridar checked and rechecked his medical supplies, and monitored the vitals of each of his fellow Marines, his musings were interrupted by Calos and Takashi's idle chatter. "Have you ever even cleared a Hulk before Beastheart?" Takashi ran a quick double check on his Plasma Cannons components, making sure they were in order, it had never malfunctioned on him before and he prayed the Omnimessiah would not abandon him now. "No, but I have taken on more than my fair share of Genestealers." Calos chuckled, "Haven't we all?"
The crack and thrum of power claws grating against themselves brought their attention to Specter, who was running his claws across themselves anxiously, "Whatever you do, don't let them corner you, and take precise shots, you will be out of ammo before you know it."
Nerus snorted at Spectrers advice, his mood doubly insufferable due to the loss of his cloak, "Every Scout worth seeding knows that! I still cannot believe we haven't been outfitted with Terminator armor! It is an outrage!"
"Terminator armor slows you down. Makes you a target. Besides, this is a clear and grab, not a cleansing." Edge said this as he reassembled his rifle for the final time, eyes never leaving the weapon, though everyone on the Team knew he could do the task blindfolded.
The Kill-Teams squad wide vox crackled and sputtered, Jordens scattered voice sounding urgent but they were suffering too much interference from the pods decent.
Kris tuned his superhuman hearing as best he could, picking up a few scattered words, "Theron...On aler-...Hosti-...Legion." The last word only added to Kris' confusion, what legion? Traitor Legion? Kris' grip on his bolt pistol tensed as the thought ran through his mind. Could the minions of Chaos be on the Hulk as well? Seeking the archotech weapon the Lord Inquisitor was after?
His thoughts were put aside as the pod came to an abrupt halt and the massive bay doors slammed open. "Forward Theron!" Kris bellowed, the first to leap out of the pod, his power sword, Stonefang, and bolt pistol at the ready, leveled against the inky darkness. The rest of the Kill-Team filed out, two by two, weapons raised. The chamber before them was cluttered with pipes and steel crates, some kind of cargo bay. At the side adjacent to the Kill-Team there were three, dimly lit, passage ways.
The Kill-Team slowly moved through the room, away from the spotlights of the pod, fanning out to create as wide a fire vector as possible. It was dead silent, and a thick fog blanketed the room up to the Space Marines knees. The Kill-Team continued to advance, the silence only interrupted by their footfalls and the ever present thrum of their power armor.
Edge scanned the room, his superior eyes finding nothing in the darkness. Takashi likewise sniffed the air, though it was mostly on instinct as his suit was vacuum sealed. Then they all heard it. It started low... almost indecipherable from the silence, then it rose, like a carrion bird on the winds of death it rose. A sharp wail, rolling through the Hulk. Calos gripped his Grenade Launcher tightly, swinging it to each of the three entrances to the bay. "Easy Theron." Gridar whispered over the Vox, "This is the work of some warp summoned witch craft, just hold firm." Kris never minded it when the Apothecary gave orders, he was the Watch Captains second after all, and a good leader allowed those under his command to support one another when they were able. The wail had become near defining, and seemed to come from all over the room, as if the very walls were screaming.
Then, suddenly, the wail simply stopped. As silence returned, Calos let loose a nervous chuckle, "Well, at least it wasn't a horde of-"
"GENESTEALERS!" Kris shouted, firing his bolt pistol as a wave of the dreaded xenos flooded out of the central entrance, slathering maws and glinting claws at the ready. The Kill-Team spat death at the xenos, killing scores of them, but their speed and numbers were far to great. Takashi's Plasma Cannon cut down the Genestealers, two and three at a time, while Sakael and Girdar's bolters ran hot. Edge fired his sniper rifle, lining up the near point blank shots so they tore through three Genestealers at a time with each bolt. Calos took potshots at the main body of the horde, using the fragmentation fire on his grenade launcher to minimize the risk of blowing up something volatile on the Hulk. Nerus readied his underslung flamer, letting loose a blast of fire that pushed the Xenos horde back, putting them on the defensive. The Kill-Team pressed the gap made by Nerus' inferno, Specter leading the charge, claws scything the xenos down one by one as they tried to overwhelm him. One leapt at him from the ceiling, rending claws outstreatched, fangs ready to sink into his throat. Specter readied himself for death, when the beast was blown to pieces before him, torn asunder by a volley of fire. Specter shielded himself from the hail as it took him off his feet, one of the shells tearing into his right shoulder plate.
Kris looked over the horde, and saw what the Inquisitor had tryed to prepair them for. In the maw of the right entrance, stood a mountain of cremaite and malice. The tusks hung from the helm of the armor, while its packpack was adorned with the skulls and helms of various warriors. Kris even recognized a Indomitable Golems helmet on its cruel spires. On its arm it bore a massive, double barreled weapon, a Reaper-Autocannon, its barrles formed into one snarling maw. Its other hand was host to a great chainfist that crackled like the thunder-wreathed fist of an angry god. Its pale red eyes bore into the Watch Captain like hateful daggers borne of the purist spite. And its voice boomed like the thunder of a thousand cannons, "FOR THE EMPEROR!" The Chaos Terminator cried in mockery of the loyalists that stood before it, its Reaper-Autocannon spewing death to all beings before it.
Edge fired his rifle, the bolt traveling through two Genestealers before nearing its intended target, but a Cultist lept in the way of the bolt, the munition blowing him apart as it detonated in his chest. The Terminator returned fire, forcing Edge to leap behind a crate for cover. "Get to cover Theron!" Kris bellowed over the bedlam of war, Stonefang cleaving a Genestealers head in twain as he leapt behind a network of thick pipes. Gridar tore his way through the xenos, grabbing the downed Marine Baleful and dragging him behind a crate.
"FORWARD WORMS, DIE FOR THE DARK GODS!" The Chaos Terminator roared to his underlings who piled out of the corridor behind him. The Cultists charged, madness in their eyes and chainswords in their hands. Some held two blades at a time, and they tore into the Genestealers, trying to get to the loyalists. Unfortunantly, for many of them their fanaticism was not enough, and they were butchered with ease by the far stronger and faster Genestealers.
Gridar cursed as he inspected Specter's wounds even in the midst of a firefight. To his relief, the Emperor had been looking after the Marine Baleful, for while the massive shell had torn its way clean through his armor in some places and ripped a chunk out the fanged skull symbol on his right shoulder plate, he was unharmed. Gridar couldn't say the rest of his team would be that way for long. Looking over the crate, the Devout Vanguard beheld a battle that was turning into a meat grinder. A seemingly endless horde of Genestealers was pouring out of the central entrance, met by an equally endless looking horde of cultists that were pouring out of the right entrance, turning the hanger into an orgy of violence and carnage were the two forces collided. Three other Chaos Terminators had joined the battle, the steady rhythm of their autocannons and storm bolters filling the room as they fired as loyalist and xenos alike.
Nerus had drawn his twin power swords and engaged one of the Terminators, who unlike his brethren fought with a fiendishly curved sword that glowed with unholy light, a psyker obviously. Calos and Takashi crouched behind a stack of old pipes, taking potshots at traitors, cultists and genstealers alike, each shot punctuated by explosions and flares of superheated gas. Kris fought off a wave of genestealers that had dropped from the ceiling, relic sword clashing against diamond hard claws. Sakael had unsheathed his Eviserator Chainsword, and was wadding through a sea of cultists with suicidal abandon, the sawing adimantium teeth of his weapon chewing through flesh and bone and sending dismembered limbs and heads flying.
Nerus engaged the sorcerer with all his fury, blades arching high as he leapt from a crate, but the Terminator moved with unnatural speed, and without even looking in his direction, brought its daemon weapon to bare, creating a shock wave as the blades connected. The collision sent the Lords Exemplar flying back, but he rolled on his landing, regaining his footing and renewing his assault, he would not be denied. The sorcerer turned to face the Deathwatch Marine charging him, and causally leveled his Twin-Linked bolter.
A bright red ray of atomic energy hit the Sorcerer's left pauldron, punching a fist-sized hole straight into the Chaos Marine's flesh and throwing his shots wide. Edge, Rifle slung over his back, and his Volkite Serpenta still smoking, vaulted over a storage container, firing off a couple more shots at traitor and xenos alike. A lone genestealer leapt from it's perch on the ceiling at the Equalizer, only to have it's grey matter pierced by Edge's combat knife.
"Theron, fall back!" Kris yelled over the vox, disemboweling yet another cultist even as he waved towards the right entrance to the hanger. Calos, seeing Captain's signal, fired a special grenade into the midst of the Chaos Terminators. The cylinder-shaped projectile landed at the feet of the Sorcerer, who leaped backwards, only to watch as the grenade exploded into a mist of greenish gas rapidly settled on Traitor and Cultist alike, coating both flesh and cerimite in a sickly green color. The genestealers went berserk, tearing their attention away from the Deathwatch and focusing solely on those covered in the mist-substance with a bestial fury, even turning on one another. Taking the initiative, the Kill-Team made for the right exit, running down the narrow corridor and leaving the sounds of screams and shouts of battle behind them.
"What in Terra's name was in that grenade?" demanded Nerus, now even more moody about having to retreat from a heated battle.
"Xenos pheromones." replied Calos, grinning underneath his helmet as he ran. "The little beasties go nuts from just one whiff of it. Shame that was the only pheromone grenade I had."
"Well as much as I hate to admit it, your pyromania may have just saved our asses." said Gridar, who was conducting a diagnostic even as he sprinted down the hallway. Specter's armor was damaged, Nerus was a bit shaken but otherwise okay, and Calos, Edge and Takashi were fine. Gridar had a nasty gash on his right forearm but nothing serious, as it was Sakael that the Apothecary was really worried about. The Black Shield began to stumble, and his vitals were beginning to decline. "Hold!" The Apothacary shouted as he rushed to the Black Shield, who had managed to support himself on a nearby bulkhead. "Take formation Theron." Kris ordered coolly, the din of battle still raged dimly behind them, and before them lay unknown darkness. Gridar monitored Sakael, who was getting worse by the second, looking for any signs of external damage. Upon closer inspection the Apothecary found a puncture wound, caused by the fanged maw of a Genestealer, on Sakaels wrist. 'Venom.' Gridars mind raced, he had heard of Tyranids with venom secreting fangs before, but never anything that caused such sever reactions in Space Marines. Then remembrance flashed across his face, accompanied by dread. "Pishacha." he growled under his breath as he administered the proper anti-venom and pain killers.
Even as Sakael thanked him and his vitals stableized, Gridar found his mind pulled to that day, the day he faced the swarm, the day he fought under the glare of a dying star on a dying world... the day he faced the Onslaught.
Chapter Three: The Vanguard
It would not die.
Gridar Haug stood, watching the Tyranid swarm launch itself at the lines the Devout Vanguard had set up to defend the evacuation of Imperial forces to the bastion at the center of Hive Vand. The horde of black and red hormagauts clashed against a wall of bolterfire as the Devout Vanguards Devastators and Thunderfire cannons fired in a grim staccato of war. "AMMO!" One of the Tactical marines near the northern most edge of the line bellowed, his bolter ablaze, cutting down gaunt after gaunt. Gridar rushed from his perch, grabbing up an ammo box as he did so, his superhuman body making the trip in mere seconds. He quickly tossed out clips to the entire Tactical Squad, taking a moment to admire their battle worn armor that spoke of centuries of pitched battle. The Sergeant nodded, still firing at the Tyranids, "Good work Grenadier, Squad Nihiuls needs ammunition as well." Gridar saluted dutifully, and rushed to Squad Nihiuls' last known location.
The city began to darken, Gridar looked to the skies. They were near the uppermost part of the Hive, the underhives were overrun long before the Devout Vanguard had arrived two months ago, and the siege had only become more dire from there, the xenos were beyond relentless. He saw through the spire tops swarms upon swarms of Sky Slashers, their ranks blotted out the sun with the sheer mass of them, explosions of anti-air fire tore great gashes through the living wave that was the swarm, but like locusts the Sky Slashers descended on whole swaths of the city, and in their numbers, not even power armor could save the Devout Vanguards. Gridar ducked into what was once a high end clothing shop, with various fashionable wears meant for the upper hive elite. The nearly eight foot warrior seemed out of place with the various racks of garments, and the bright decor of the shop had long been tarnished by blood spatter and lasfire. He found the contrast, strange, as alien as the rest of the world was to him.
Gridar had grown up on the ashen fields of Taurus, where the only thing remotely as large as a hive city were the vast mountains that ran the horizons of his native home. He grew up on a harsh world, with harsh standards, living meal by meal alongside his nomadic tribe, fighting against the myriad venomous and large beasts of the ash fields. The extravagance of the upper hives and the vast jungle of rockcrete and steel, it was as alien as the insectoid nature of the Tryanids.
Bolterfire tore him from his musings, he worked his way though the shop, entering a backalley though its rear exit. He hurried as he neared the sounds of battle, Sargent Nihiuls was not as easy on the Grenadiers as other fully fledged Battle Brothers were, and displeasing him could easily doom a Grenadier to rearguard duty, where the chances to prove their mettle to the Chapter were far and few between. Gridar rounded the corner, ammo box under his left arm and combat shotgun in his right hand. He was greeted with the slathering maws of six Hormagaunts, their red and black carapaces and claws slick with blood and viscera. Gridar fired, turning one of the beasts into an unrecognizable explosion of gore and tearing another almost in half. Another lunged forth, its four pairs of talons ready to dig into sturdy Astartes flesh, its slathering, neon green tongue ready to taste blood. It only tasted the hard metal of an ammunition box as Gridar swung the munitions with all his might, connecting with the Tyranids skull with a satisfying crunch. Then a sharp pain leapt up his shotgun arm, he looked down to see a Hormagaunt with its fangs so deep into his arm that they had vanished from sight. The other two remaining Hormaguants launched themselves at the Grenader, who promptly swat them both away with one swing of the ammo box. With the other two stunned, Gridar dropped the now heavily dented ammo box, and began beating the Hormagaunt latched to his arm with all his superhuman strength. But the xeno's jaws only clenched tighter, and it buried its scything talons into the Devout Vanguard's rib cage, spilling bright red Astartes blood. The other Hormagaunts had regained their footing, and were bearing down on the Astartes, their soulless yellow eyes seething with predatory bloodlust. Then heavy bolterfire rang out, and the xenos were reduced to bloody smears in the blink of an eye. Gridar returned his attention to the xenos which had latched to him in a deathgrip, its serrated claws digging ever deeper into his sides. Though Gridar bashed the xenos over and over, he felt his strength waning, and pain coursing through his veins, it felt as if his very blood was on fire. Suddenly a bolt tore into the Hormagaunts skull, blowing a clear hole though the side of its alien skull. Still its claws dug in, and its jaws clenched ever tighter, its muscles spasming in a final, last ditch effort. Gridar doubled over, the pain was excruciating as it rapidly fled up his arm as if it was on fire. A shadow loomed over him, Gridar assumed it was yet another Gaunt, come to finish him off, but then he saw a pair of white gauntlets prying the Hormagaunts jaws open.
"You'd better have a damned good explanation for this situation, young one." Gridar heard as his assailants corpse was pulled from him, through the pain he smiled, "Save the scolding for the Neophytes who need it, old man." Apothecary Bandure responded to the Grenadiers impetulance with a hypodermic needle to the thick of his neck. "Nothing like the steady hands of an experienced Apothecary!" Gridar growled as he rubbed the injection sight, the immuno-booster and pain killer did its work against the Tryanid venom, the pain had subsided almost immediately. Bandure hauled Gridar to his feet, the old Apothecary's battle-scared and wrinkled features a stark contrast to Gridars young, unblemished face. "Next time," the Apothecary chided as he handed the Grenader his shotgun, "try to keep yourself moving." Gridar nodded and snatched his shotgun from the old Space Marines grasp. Behind them, Brother Greer scanned the various other alleyways that led to the small plaza, his heavy bolter ready for the slightest movement. "We'd best get moving," Greer snarled, his throat had been damaged by a Chaos Marines Chainsword centuries ago, long before Gridar was even born, but he refused to have it repaired with bionics, thus his voice always sounded like the guttural snarls of the Ash-Wolves of Taurus and there were some who believed that the ancient Devastator preferred it that way. "That Gaunt pack couldn't be too far from something...bigger." Bandure nodded, and the three began to move to Squad Nihlus' location.
Gridar smelled blood, the city was rife with the sent but as they neared the squads location, and the sound of bolterfire died down, the scent became more and more distinct... it was Astartes blood. Gridar kicked down the last door of the complex they were working their way through, having passed the mangled remains of PDF troopers and civilians who died at their cubicles. What greeted them was something far darker than even that grisly scene, Gridars eyes fell on a bloody Astartes helmet, MK IV, the scar across the eye and the proud grey and gold trim leaving no doubt as to who its owner was. Squad Nihlus had been devastated, the Battle Brothers rended to pieces, scattered throughout the room they had tried to hold, some were hewn in half, while others were dismembered so savagely that it was impossible to tell where one corpse began and the other ended. "By the Emperor!" Bandure cursed as he rushed past the Grenadier, Greer cautiously walked past Gridar, who had leveled his shotgun, scanning the room. "What could have done this?" Gridar whispered under his breath, he had seen some of his fellow Vanguards fall to a swarm of Gaunts or even a Carnifex but here? The Squad were perfectly positioned, the ring of Gaunt corpses assured him of that. "Genestealer probably," Greer gestured to the gapeing hole in the celling directly over the Squads remaines, "The beastie came in through the roof and..." he shrugged, almost nonchalantly, as if he'd seen the like far too many times.
Suddenly a sharp cough took their attention away from the hole, their eyes falling on Bandure stooping over a Space Marines upper torso. "We've got a live one." The Apothecary stated over his shoulder. Scanning the room as he approached, Gridar came to the Apothecary's side, eyes falling upon the wounded Battle Brother. He was hewn in half, his entrails strewn about the area, yet still his scarred and dented helmet turned to meet the young Grenadier. He still clutched a power gladius and bolt pistol in his hands, and even now as the Apothecary injected him with painkillers he leveled his pistol at the hole in the ceilling as if the horror that destroyed his squad would remerge at any moment.
Chapter Four: I am Alpharius
"DAMN THEM ALL!" screamed Locas, his gravely voice transformed into a thunderous rumble by his helmet's vox-speakers. "They escaped!"
Vorval's thin lips twitched in amusement underneath his helmet. The young Alpha Legionnaire had his uses, but was in reality a blunt instrument, suitable only for killing the foe and little else. Looking behind him, he could see Altross, his Sorcerer, and Gavin finishing off what was left of the Genestealers, black gore splattering the blue and green of their terminator armor. The arrival of the loyalists was unexpected, but no matter, the plan would proceed.
"Altross" he commanded, his vox-filtered voice rebounding off the walls and scaring their few remaining cultists. "Do you still have the relic's location?"
The sorcerer stepped forward, his daemonblade glowing softly in the dim lighting of the hanger bay. "No." Altross said flatly, his voice sounding as always like it was echoing up from a deep well. "The arrival of the Xenos has scrambled the signal, and someone... or something has erected a psychic barrier. My sight is blocked."
Vorval scowled. No doubt this is her doing, he thought eyeing the dead genestealers strewn throughout the small space, their black blood pooling around his armored boots. Then eyeing the remaining cultists, Vorval asked; "Altross, can you boost your power?"
Altross regarded the Aspiring Champion for a long moment before saying; "Perhaps, but it would require a sacrifice."
That was all the Alpha Legionnaire had to hear. Selecting a young, skinny cultist, who nervously eyed the walls as if he was afraid more genestealers would materialize from them. With the swiftness of a serpent, Vorval lashed out with his non-activated powerfist. It struck the young cultist from behind with enough strength to pulp flesh and powder bone, which was precisely what it did. The cultist slammed into the wall of the hanger, his spine broken into pieces and shards of his rib cage sticking out of his thin chest. The other cultists cowered in fear at the death of their comrade, but said nothing, knowing that their next sentence might be their last.
Vorval eyed the blood on his deactivated powerfist with a cold satisfaction, the satisfaction of a predator slaughtering helpless prey. "There" he said to the Sorcerer, "use that."
The Aspiring Champion could picture Altross rolling his eyes even as the red lenses of his helmet began to glow with eerie greenish witchlight. "I have a lock on it." said the Sorcerer, his voice thrumming with pent up power.
Vorval activated his powerfist, the blood of the dead cultist evaporating with a hissing noise, signaling the other two Chaos Terminators, Gavin and Locas, to fall in.
"Then lead us to it."
(MORE TO COME)