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After defeating the Orks on Cthonis, Captain Stefanos Van Alessian is sent to quell a rebellion on the Imperial Hive World of Unbound, where corrupt militia and crazed citizens wage a brutal war of destruction against the Imperium. Van Alessian and a few handpicked Battle Brothers are selected to aid the loyalists in reclaiming Unbound. But unbeknownst to Van Alessian, a deadly plot is about to unfold. A plot aimed solely at the Crimson Fists. And himself.
PART I: Seeds of Rebellion
Three weeks before the Unbound Insurrection...
The blasted plains before him were still riped with corpses of slaughtered foes, and smoking with large pillars of black from destroyed hutts and vehicles. The skies were still darkened by the mere prescense of him and his followers, and the ground still seemed to shake and tremble upon his each step.
On a world unknown to him by name, or even by nearly any other means, the Lord of the Black Legion stood over the carnage before him, gazing across the fields scattered with the results of his doings. Thousands of blackened and torn bodies of Imperial Guardsmen and ordinary folk who had been too foolish not to align themselves with his cause lay everywhere. Smoking and burning hutts dotted the sea of corpses, along with vast, burning craters that had obliterated most of the forests and other flaura around him, replacing them with fowl craters and stone spires that had grown out of the very ground itself as the Dark Powers grasped this world with their iron fist. Sorcerers deovoted to serving the Gods whom the Lord and his followers worshipped enacted rites and rituals that began to transform this planet into a Demon World. An accomplishment that he could be proud of.
Demonic ichor seeped from newly formed cracks in the planets surface, and altars and shrines dedicated to the Dark Gods began to appear, surrounded by cultists and slaves, who were begging for a chance to further serve their masters.
And serve them they would.
"Lord Abaddon." A voice said from behind him.
Abaddon, the Warmaster of Chaos and the absolute leader of the Black Legion, turned to face the visored eyes of an Aspiring Champion, clad in the pitch black power armor of the Black Legion with a menacing red eyed helmet. Abaddon recognized this warrior instantly: Vartius, the warrior who he had chosen to be speartip of this invasion. He had saught to prove himself in the face of his Gods. And proved himself he had, at least in Abaddon's eyes.
"What is it Vartius?" Abaddon asked and turned around, his massive suit of ancient Terminator armor landing every step with a loud thud.
"Forgive the intrusion my Lord," Vartius said. "but they are here."
Abaddon merely walked next to Vartius, his land instinctivey held over the hilt of his sword. "Then let them show themselves."
There were moments of silence, in which nothing moved apart from the dozen Chaos Space Marines who moved behind Abaddon, holding their Bolters firmly in their armored hands, finger still on the trigger. Even Vartius had drawn out his Bolt Pistol from his holster. Abaddon understood their frustration more then they knew perhaps. These warriors whom he was about to meet were no great friends of him, nor of any servant of Chaos, or anyone in particular. But they were mercenaries, they had no allegiance to anyone except themselves. Still, they were useful and skilled warriors, as much as despised secretly to admit it, and could easily cover up his part in the coming battle for as long as needed. While these guns for hire were taking care of their business, his enemies would point the blame at anyone who they knew had a reason to hire mercenaries like this to attack them. True, he too was at the top of that list, but so were thousands of others. They would take little note to him specifically.
But these were no ordinary mercenaries.
Soon, a Thunderhawk gunship bearing the eight pointed Star of Chaos on its side swooped in from the skies, colored in a mixture of grey, purple and gold. The missiles under its great wings were still poised to kill anything that made a single false move against this craft, and the Heavy Bolters and the massive canon mounted on the top were equally capable of doing that as well. As long as everything went as planned, there would be no need to bring those weapons to bear.
The gunship landed, and stood immobile for a few moments before the rear hatch lowered and thudded to the ashy ground with a puff of dust and black dirt. Abaddon felt his lips twist into a smirk as he saw the trio of armored figures step out into view.
They were Astartes, like his warriors around him, and beared on them some icons of their allegiance to the Chaos Gods. Their armor was colored in the same manner as their Thunderhawk, purple and gray plating with golden trimming. Two of them appeared as elite bodyguards, their Halberds held high and their armor in fair condition. They didn't certainly look as much like servants of Chaos as he had perhaps expected, but the icons on their chestplate spoke to itself, and the tall Halberds spoke of immense martial skill and cunning in battle. As fairly impressive as they were, the warrior in the middle was the one who Abaddon was most interrested in.
He wore an ancient suit of Terminator armor, and still wore the helmet as well, masking his face. At his side he had a great Thunder Hammer that hung from a belt on his armor, and although it seemed out of reach perhaps, Abaddon knew that this warrior could easily reach out for it in a split second and raise it to the fight. His armor had been stripped of all its former Imperial insignias and markings such as the golden Aquila on the chestplate, and the Crux Terminatus on the right shoulder, now replaced by the Star of Chaos. The warrior and his Honor Guard marched forward to meet Abaddon, as he and his Black Legionnaires stood still like grim statues, and still appearing ready for combat.
"Lord Abaddon." The warrior in the middle said and came to a halt. "I got your message, although i can still scarcely believe it. What is it that you want?"
Abaddon curled his fist in anger. Even just speaking to these warriors seemed somewhat despicable to him. "Lord Caustos." He said, calming himself, barely. "I have an urgent matter that requires immediate intervention, and you and the Damned Company can ensure that i can intervene with that matter without the Imperium pointing fingers directly at me. To be blunt, i am looking to...hire...you."
It seemed almost ridiculos to say that. Abaddon had never used methods like this to himself, he much more preferred to take care of problems that would prove painful for his plans himself. To think he had razed an entire planet just to get his hands on the means to get these renegades to help him seemed almost incomprehensible. But this was a matter that required a swift response, and Caustos and his Damned Company Astartes were the only ones he felt could get there fast enough and still do it right.
Caustos merely laughed. "You, wish to hire someone? Since when did Abaddon the Despoiler turn to hirelings and mercenaries to do his work for him?"
"Silence!" Abaddon boomed. "I have no time for games Caustos. You may be living your lives as mere hired muscle, but you are still servants of Chaos just as any other!" He took two steps forward, looking deeper into the visored eyes of Caustos. "I need warriors such as yourself to deal with this, and fast. The target i am about to give you is an affront to my plans, and i cannot afford mistakes for what is to come. Also," He continued, lowering his voice and adding to the anticipation. "i know how much you are willing to strike back at the Imperium, and its False Emperor. Have you so soon forgotten what the Inquisition did to your Astartes? Have you forgotten how all others abandoned you, and when the Dark Gods saved you from your plight?"
"I have no immediate desire to risk the lives of my few remaining Astartes to strike a blow at an enemy i can wound any time i please, and i have no relation to the Dark Gods except how they can help my men survive in this hostile galaxy. Now please, Lord Abaddon, i have wasted precious time and ships coming here to see what you want, and i am not reading an contract on your lips. And i expect payment upfront." Caustos replied.
Abaddon felt enfuriated. This man spoke of the Chaos Gods with a mocking tune, used only by those not truly willing to throw in everything they have in favor of the Gods. But Abaddon could hardly be surprised. He already knew how little these Astartes truly cared of worship to Chaos, and that the only reason they worshipped them was because it had at the time been their only hope of survival against the Inquisition. All they truly cared about, was how much money they could make. It seemed even Astartes mercenaries had that same attitude.
"Very well then." Abaddon said and nodded to a Chaos Marine behind him, who immediately turned around to lift a great metal crate into the air. The crate, had been one of the reasons Abaddon had invaded this planet. The Damned Company expected money. So monet they would have. The Chaos Marine threw the crate to the feet of Caustos, and it landed with a metallic clang, and shattered open. Fresh golden coin poured out onto the ground, clinging against the armored boots of Caustos and his Honor Guard. Under his helmet, the massive Astartes Lord raised an eyebrow, and nodded over to the Guard to his right to check the amount of gold.
The Honor Guard bent down to examine the value of the coin, and ran his fingers through the pile of cash below his feet, occasionally picking up a fistfull of coin to take a closer look. Moments later, he stood back up and faced Caustos with a silent nod, and then went back into position. The other Honor Guard began piling the coin back through the crate's shattered top, and Abaddon felt a flush of success run through him as he saw the mercs take into his offer.
"Lord Abaddon, you have my attention, and that of the Damned Company." He took a low, almost irrecognizable bow towards Abaddon. "What is it that you wish us to do?"
"You are travelling to the world of Unbound." Abaddon began without further hesitation. "It is an Imperial Hive World, unstable, not safe, and most certainly susceptible to any form of attack. The population there will be in a full fledged strife within a few weeks, as the Warp travel will become...hazardous...for its supply convoys. Handpick some of your best men, i dont care how many, only that they do their part. Incite rebellion there, uplift riots, overthrow the Loyalist scum. All of these things will attract your ultimate objective. He will be forced to lend his aid."
"What type of resistance should we expect?" Caustos asked. He knew as well as any other that in this galaxy mercs were only hired to kill or destroy something.
"Our misguided brothers. Space Marines loyal to the False Emperor. But these Astartes, they are weak, dying and doomed to be destroyed either way. We will be doing them a favor, and put them out of their misery." Abaddon replied.
"Its still an entire Chapter. They could send anyone."
"Normally perhaps. But i have seen to it that it will not be so."
"Of course." Caustos said. "I still fail to see who it is you wish to get rid of, you mentioned you wanted to have someone slain, am i correct?"
"Yes." Abaddon growled. "Because of this particular loyalist, my plans on this fringe of the galaxy have struck a dead end, and as i cannot salvage the situation fully, i must make ammends my killing this warrior."
"I see." Caustos said. His attitude had suddenly changed the moment millions of golden coin had been thrown before his feet. Even as mighty of a warrior as him appeared to have a part in him that was a regular hireling at heart. "Do you need proof that he is dead?"
"Of course!" Abaddon spat as if it was obvious. "The rebellion you will cause will act as your shield, use it to get to your target. It will take some time until he arrives, but as no one else is close enough fortunately, he will have no choice but to come to you."
"Very well, what is it that you want us to do then?"
"Bring me the head of Stefanos Van Alessian."
PART II: The World In Shambles
Unbound had always been a chaotic world. Even before the insurgency began, the entire world had to be kept in check through the strength of arms of the Imperial Guard, where entire companies, and even tanks, were enforcing the law of the Imperium to the world's denizens. Billions of citizens were to be controlled this way, all crying out for food, water, the chance to begin a new life, and a thousand other things. Sadly enough, many thousands of the people here had arrived on Unbound thinking they could begin anew here. Pure arrogance. If you took a single look at the shape of this world, you would know that the only work you could get would be holding a gun and using it in the name of the Emperor. Every day, every hour, the Guard would repel vast protests and riots, all of which were eventually faced down through gun point and stun batons. And if that had not been enough, the Adeptus Arbites would certainly be. There was a time when they would quell any uprising here simply by arriving on site of insurgents. The site of a fully armed and armored squad of Arbites could be enough to incite terror in any ordinary rebel. But those times were long gone. Long gone indeed.
The insurgents here were not just refugees living in slums, or workers demanding better pay. They were fighters, they were a threat, and a big one. Within merely a month, most of the world's Imperial Guard had mysteriously turned renegade, renouncing their oaths to the Emperor and beginning a war against His Imperium. They had armed the already crazed and desperate citizens of Unbound, trained them to use weapons. Trained them to kill. Those loyal to the Emperor would find themselves fighting a planet-wide war against these traitors.
Now, Unbound burns from the fires of war. A corrupt militia destroying all in its way, traitorous citizens of the Imperium left free to roam, and renegades continuing to incite the rebellion. War without end nor pause.
And yet, unbeknownst to the loyalists, a deadly plan was at the heart of this rebellion...
The Armageddon-class Battle Cruiser Redemption slipped from the Warp into the darkness of space, moving on a straight course towards the planet of Unbound. The small ship beared the symbol of the Crimson Fists proudly on it, and showed its veterancy in combat by the multiple battle wounds across the ship, that the Chapter's Artificers had been careful to repair, but not still fully heal to show that even a ship of this size had served under the banner of the Emperor in battle. The serfs on the ship hastened back and forth across its small hallways, loading ammo into weapons batteries or tending to the ship's systems.
The bridge of the Redeption was a large, candlelit chamber filled with surveyor screens and other stations to control the ship's many areas and weapons. Officers and crew were constantly working and monitoring the void of space around them, filling the bridge with talk and barks of orders. Captain Van Alessian stood over the small crowd of crewmembers and serfs, or as they were referred to in his Chapter: The Chosen, towering over them twice their size in his massive suit of Artificer Armor. Behind him, five more Crimson Fists stood in attention, hands crossed behind their backs and standing so still they almost looked like statues. Occasionally, the Chosen would turn their gaze to the massive warriors, wondering what life would have been like if they had been given the chance to become like them. To become Astartes. Van Alessian released a small grin to himself as he turned to face his brothers, there was a time many centuries ago when he himself had wondered just like them: what would my life be if i were to be a Space Marine? And look where that got him. He was now Captain of the 5th Company, a position of honor that he had never truly expected to have.
He took a few moments to look at his battle brothers. He had hoped to take the full strength of his Company with him, but they were still recovering from their losses on Cthonis, and it would take another few months before they would be at full fighting capacity. Chapter Master Kantor himself had told Van Alessian that it would be for the best of the Chapter if the minimum amount of lives were to be at risk. The Crimson Fists were not in the position to get back into full scale war just yet. Yes, his Company had overthrown an entire Ork invasion, and the other rebuilt Companies were doing just as grand of things as well. But they had to be used carefully nonetheless. Kantor had already ordered all Crimson Fists to stand down until he said otherwise. As soon as all the Companies were done with their current asignments, they would return to Rynn's World and continue the heavy burden of rebuilding their Chapter's lost glories.
Recently however, the Crimson Fists had been called to defend the Imperium on various fronts. Apparently, there had been multiple sightings of Chaos forces within the Loki Sector, who were mysteriously enough, completely avoiding combat with the Orks that resided there. The Fists had been forced to divert every single Company into battle with traitor forces. Worse yet, they also found Orks in their path: armed with Imperial weaponry. Most likely they had been taken from scavenged Imperial Guard armories, but there was simply too much of it for them to have aquired it all from the backwater planets of the Loki Sector. The Chaos forces were arming the Orks, it was the only option. Although strange, it was no surprise that the greenskins were accepting this temporary alliance as long as they were offered weapons. Weapons they would inevitably turn against those who bribed them.
The forces of Chaos were trying to get to the Crimson Fists. But Van Alessian had already sworn to himself that it was a battle they would eventually lose. Just like they would drive the Orks away from the Loki Sector.
"Lysanis, give me status report." Van Alessian ordered.
Gabriel Lysanis was the Techmarine who had been assigned as the "captain" of the ship while Van Alessian was gone on the surface. Lysanis was another Techmarine who had survived the Battle of Rynn's World ten years ago, On his neck, he wore a necklace made out of Ork teeth as a symbol of that survival, and his defiance against the greenskins. Command of the ship however was still technically under that of Lord-Captain Jesper Galtris, who had honorably and without hesitation handed over command of his vessel to the Astartes. Galtris had a fairly impressive combat record, having been one of the few System Defense Force Captain's that escaped the Ork fleet when the hit Rynn's World, he had since that time devoted his life to restoring his homworld, and help the Crimson Fists that resided there.
"We are still seven hours away from Unbound Captain. The crew say that the ship is fully prepared as well, but i will still initiate a few system checks to be sure. Your equipment is waiting for you down in the launch bay inside the Thunderhawk." Lysanis replied.
"Very well. Have we heard anything from Unbound?"
"No sir. We still only know what we were told before we left Rynn's World. The entire planet is in complete chaos by now for certain. Hive Worlds that are cut off supplies and food for as long as Unbound tend to collapse very quickly. Its a shamful possibility that the Imperium has been overthrown while we have been coming here for the past month."
"It has been six weeks since the rebellion?"
"And, no one else has come to aid the planet?"
Lysanis shrugged. "We simply dont know sir. We will find out more when we reach Unbound. I still recommend placing the ship on full combat alert. If this world had a fleet of ships guarding it, its a possibility that at least some of those ships have also turned renegade."
Lord-Captain Galtris stood to attention and saluted. "I'll have all weapons batteries fully charged by the time we get there my Lords."
Van Alessian nodded. "Good. If this rebellion is as bad as we believe it is, we might very soon need heavier firepower."
Galtris bowed, and then marched off to be seated in his command throne and began handing out orders to the crew. Lysanis saluted to Van Alessian with a slam to his chestplate, and then exited the bridge via the twin doors on its end. Van Alessian looked into the the storm cloud grey eyes of Sergeant Starax, an expert Astartes marksman who Van Alessian had promoted to lead Azarath Squad after his actions on Cthonis. Azarath had been wiped out almost to the last man, with Starax being its only survivor. Rebuilding the squad was hard work, but Van Alessian and Starax had together managed to restore it to half strength.
The other four Crimson Fists were newly raised, full-fledged battle brothers who had just stepped into their Mk.VII Aquila Power Armor. Normally perhaps Van Alessian would have taken a squad of more experienced Astartes, but he had confidence in the abilities of these warriors, and they were anything but novices. They were incredibly calm level-headed, even for Crimson Fists, and met their new ranks with a cold stoisicm and professional calamity, not bragging about it to their younger Scout brothers or thirsting for glory like many of their type would.
Brother Nikol was the flamer-specialist of the squad, and although he spoke little, the gouts of promethium from his Flamer spoke well for his stead. Brother Adrianus was kept as the most stern warrior in the squad, even next to its sergeant, and acted as its second in command. The remaining warriors, Brothers Desmundo and Ranoth, had known each other well even before they became Crimson Fists, and brotherhood between them was tighter then most of the other warriors in the Chapter, save perhaps Chapter Master Kantor's friendship with the lost Captain Alessio Cortez.
Van Alessian couldn't have felt more proud to serve alongside finer warriors.
The Redemption's hangar was a wide, open area, filled with servitors and crewmen running tasks and errands. While these men were doing their own duties, the pilots of a squadron of twelve Lighting fighters were finishing calibrating their weapons and checking the systems on their ships. A few servitors were still fitting missiles under their wings, or powering up the Las Canons, but otherwise the small craft were assembled and prepared to vent the fury of their guns into the enemy.
In the middle of the hangar however, was the more impressive sight of a Thunderhawk gunship, donning the dark blue and red of the Crimson Fists. Van Alessian and the rest of Azarath Squad had already entered about ten minutes ago, and were making their final rites and prayers while preparing their gear. The Thunderhawk still seemed hallow, almost lifeless, with seats held for 30 Astartes, and merely six filling them up. It served Van Alessian as a cold reminder that the former glories of the Crimson Fists were not just here yet. It would take time, and many years at that, until the galaxy would know the true power of the Chapter once again.
From the other side of the gunship, Starax walked over the seat next to Van Alessian, who was checking the rounds inside the magazines of his Storm Bolter. The sergeant knelt next to him, calibrating the scope on his own Bolter, which had become somewhat of a symbol of his over his years as a Space Marine.
"The men are ready." He said, half whispering almost. "Although I'm still not completely certain that taking the squad in less then full strength was the best course of action."
Van Alessian looked into Starax's eyes, his own ocean-blue sight meeting the stormcloud grey of his sergeant. Starax could feel, for the slightest moment, fear that he had offended the Captain somehow.
"I understand. But our Chapter does not have the luxury of the numbers to continuosly deploy in large scale battles sergeant. Need i not remind you that we are still just as half strength our selves as a brotherhood? Trust me Starax, by the time we land on Unbound it will be only moments before more Imperials arrive."
"Yes sir. But i ... i cant help but express my concern. I picked out the warriors to serve in Azarath, i trained them, armed them, and much more. Perhaps another squad, such as Ultimus or Koribas..."
"The decision to take a low numbered unit into combat came directly from Lord Kantor himself. Would you have me dissobey orders from an Astartes Chapter Master?"
"Of course not Captain!" Starax hissed. "But i still worry that this could be just a waste of the squad. Sir."
"I wont allow Crimson Fists such as these warriors to die at the hands of rebel-rabble Starax." Van Alessian said back, standing straight from his seat and setting the Storm Bolter on his belt with his sword and grenades.
"And i never had the slightst doubt that you would Captain. I just hope what we have will be enough to at least help quell this insurgency."
Van Alessian crossed his hands, pondering over those exact same words. It was true that this rebellion was far beyong the abilities of half a dozen Astarts to vanquish. But they were all that the Imperium had on this front, and they would have to do for now. He walked up to the middle of the Thunderhawk, not saying a word more, and focused on the battle to come instead.
"Pilot, tactical display." Van Alessian ordered through the ship's inter-com.
Moments later, a bowl-like object detached from the roof plating of the Thunderhawk and lowered before Van Alessian, and displayed a holographic projection of Unbound. The image however, was outdated by as much as three weeks, and much could have changed over that time.
The image of Unbound was, even through the view of a hologram, quite grim. There were parts of the planet that were dotted with red, indicating destroyed or severely damaged population centers. In orbit, there was a trio of blue dots indicating three Imperial Navy ships that had been assigned to Unbound. But this was all that they had so far, and would serve little purpose except to devise a more efficient plan of attack.
"I dont think the planet is in that kind of shape any longer." Starax said. "For all we know, the entire world could have been overthrown or burned while we were coming."
"Then we must be prepared for anything. Check on the squad, make sure all their wargear is ready and then report back here. We will be in Unbound in almost five hours." Van Alessian replied, circling the display.
"Yes sir." Starax said with a salute, and then walked away to the other side of the Thunderhawk.
Van Alessian then bent over the display, and continued pondering through possible strategm's for the coming battle. Emperor only knew, they would need a good one.
Gabriel Lysanis walked through the doors of the Redemption's bridge, once again entering the dim chamber of the massive starship. Immediately, the two guards at both sides of the door snapped their legs together and raised their other hand in a firm salute as the massive Astartes entered. Lysanis merely walked past them and went straight over to Lord-Captain Galtris at his command throne.
"Galtris, status report." He grunted and walked next to the captain.
"Weapons are armed, void shields operational, no breaches in the hull, vox is transmitting, fighter squadrons are standing by. She's good to go my Lord." Galtris returned.
Lysanis nodded in approval. "Good, at the rate we are approaching Unbound, we need to be certain that we are as well prepared as possible. Keep scanning for movement in the area, i dont want anything intervening with Captain Van Alessian's mission."
"Yes my Lord. I already took the precausion of having our surveilance monitors sweep the area. There are no contacts anywhere around here."
"Are you certain?" Lysanis asked. "The enemies of the Imperium have developed methods to cloak their ships from our auspex scanns, the Eldar, or even the Tau, could be lying in wait just before us, and we would never know. Sweep the area again, i need to be certain."
"You fear we will face enemy ships?" Galtris asked.
Lysanis glanced down at the Lord-Captain upon him saying "fear", and Galtris immediately understood why the Astartes was staring down at him like that and instantly got to his feet and bowed low, face red with fear. Galtris had never felt more like a fool then he was now.
"Forgive me my Lord i didn't mean to disrespect you in any..."
"Astartes know no fear, Lord-Captain." Lysanis said, bending over next to the officer. Around them, the rest of the crew could feel their hands tremble as they feared that they had offended the Techmarine somehow. "For we are fear incarnate, the Emperor's Angels of Death, and the bloody fists of Dorn. We are raised as such that war is the only way of life we know, that we will ever know."
Lysanis pulled Galtris to his feet, and their eyes locked together into a cold stare. "There are indeed Astartes who would kill you for saying such a thing to them, consider yourself fortunate i am not among them."
Galtris waited for a few seconds before replying, searching for ample words in his mind. "Of course my Lord."
Lysanis merely nodded again. Galtris was as humble as his record indicated. Good, it always pleased Lysanis to have a trustworthy officer onboard with him.
"Have we heard anything from Unbound?" Lysanis asked, breaking the sudden silence.
"Negative my Lord, but we suspect the worst. Initial reports and pict images already indicate that the entire planet has been thrown into a full state of war. Its a massacre down there."
"The Captain will be outnumbered ten million to one." Lysanis muttered to no one in particular. "The civilians will be our enemies just as anyone else down there. They'll never manage to purge even a single street of this world."
"The Imperium better be sending help." Galtris muttered.
"Indeed." Lysanis said grimly. It was unfortunate enough that Van Alessian had to be the one to travel to Unbound. The 5th Company was still recovering, and even Lysanis understood that a Captain's place was with his own men, especially at their greatest time of need. The only other option left would have been to send the 10th Company, and that would have been utterly unacceptable under the Chapter's current condition. No, perhaps this was the best way to handle this. Lord Kantor was no fool, he knew what he was doing.
"Four more hours to Unbound Lord-Captain." The second-officer of the Redemption, Lieutenant Taribs, reported and continued sliding down reports on his data slate, which he never seemed to quite be able to part away from.
"Very good Mr. Taribs. Bring us to full speed, i want to Unbound as soon as possible, divert power from non essential systems if need be." Galtris ordered, and finally seated himself back to his throne. "And tell those mindless servitors to hurry up on those fighters! I want no gaps in this relief mission!"
The crew immediately set out to work, and began quickly rearanging the ship's systems as power was diverted from a handful of other systems into the engines, slightly boosting the Redemption forward.
And in the cold darkness of space, the lonely Armageddon cruiser continued to move forward.
Three and a half hours later...
"Galtris, report." Van Alessian said through the vox.
"Its a mess down their my Lord. Its as if the whole planet has been burned to a crisp. If it weren't for this mission i wouldn't even bother checking if the place was worth saving." Galtris replied.
"Show me." Van Alessian ordered.
Moments later, the tactical display showed Van Alessian and the other five Crimson Fists around him what Unbound truly looked like, and it didn't look good. In fact, it looked even worse than the image he had viewed just a few hours ago. The entire world was blazing in flames, with entire sections of the planet lit so bright in fire that it could have forced any normal human being to cover his eyes. Smoking debree of destroyed ships was orbitting over the world, and the bare handful that were still there were nothing but floating husks of whatever former glories that ship may have held. Unbound looked on some parts more like a sun then an actual planet. Van Alessian tapped a stud, and the image zoomed into the planet and onto one of the Hives in the world, the one in which the attacks were the most severe to be precise. It felt only best if the area with the largest amount of hostiles in it were to be weakened first, as to open a doorway to more easily sweep in through the others. But the Hive was just as much in chaos as the planet itself, with half of the entire area in flames or in ruins and the other half seemingly filled with rioting civilians kiling each other food and supplies.
"Holy Terra." Adrianus gasped.
Van Alessian was too focused to pay attention to the shock of his battle-brother. The current status of the planet had made a serious dent in his plans. But he had expected nothing less. A Hive World in chaos such as this could change very quickly in two months, even collapse completely. But most of the landing zones he had picked out were gone now probably from the looks of the planet, and he would have to settle for something else now. He eyed the display for a moment, until calling back to Galtris.
"Lord-Captain, can you scan this area here?" Van Alessian asked and highlighted an area on the map, which was one of the few places he could safely land on any longer without damaging the Thunderhawk upon decent. It was an open area, which lookd like the remains of an Imperial Guard airbase. The shape of the "field" suggested it was the runway for fighters and bombers to lift off. According to the auspex, none of them were present. Was this insurgency so severe that even jetts had been called down to deal with it?
"Yes my Lord. One moment." A few minutes passed. "Its a Guard airbase, currently empty of aircraft, but we are picking up chatter down below that is coming from the base itself. Imperial Guard units are still there, and alot of them as well."
"How many?" Van Alessian asked.
"That i cannot say my Lord. But there is alot of chatter coming from down there. I would say there are at least some hundreds of men below."
"Noted. Me and my battle-brothers will land there and help them restore order to this part of the Hive. Emperor willing we can still salvage the situation before its too late." Van Alessian said.
"Yes my Lord. Good hunting, Galtris out."
Van Alessian knew he had joked to himself when he spoke of it being "too late". The whole planet was already out of control, the entire population killing itself or starving to death, and the Imperial government overthrown and likely crushed. But he knew they could help at least, and that was good enough for him.
"I had already thought that all of the Imperial forces on Unbound were destroyed or had deserted. It feels almost absurd to think any of them are still breathing down there." Starax said.
"We will worry about the number of survivors when we get down there. Prepare your wargear brothers, we will depart from the hangar in t-minus five minutes."
Lieutenant Proshan kicked the thrust on his Lighting fighter to max, the engines of the craft turning into bright pillars of flame as he lead his squadron forward towards the ship wrecks ahead of them. He and the rest of Eagle Squadron had been assigned to the Redemption as close support, and for situations such as this where it required more small and agile ships to investigate. There were at least dozens of destroyed ships orbiting over Unbound, with hundreds of bodies also still drifting in space. Most appeared to be transports, as far as he could tell from what was left of the ships, but there were also some warships mixed up in there. Two of the ships were still mostly intact, although they had been severely damaged and were venting atmosphere across their hulls.
The chance of anyone being alive down there was almost non-existant to him, but orders were orders. Maybe someone had crafted some insane contraption to keep himself alive.
Proshan smacked himself in the head immediately upon thinking so. "Emperor be praised if anyone actually survived that."
The two ships had been brutally torn open by Lance batteries and plasma torpedoes, and one of them was even missing its entire bridge. Proshan hadn't seen much combat, but he knew for certain that if he at least would have been in one of those ships, he would be a goner.
"Eagle Squadron, listen up." Proshan ordered, and the rest of Lighting's fell in orderly fashion behind him. "Eagle's four, seven and ten, prepare to disengage from the rest of the squadron and prepare missiles for launch around the first wreck. Eagle's three, six and nine, the same for you around the second wreck. If this is some type of trap, i want every remaining weak point in those...ships destroyed. Are we clear?"
"Eagle four copies."
"Eagle seven copies."
"Eagle ten copies."
"Eagle three copies."
And the "copies" went on and one until at last all six fighters he had assigned to the task had confirmed receiving his commands. Proshan quickly told them to disengage and fall around the wrecks, while he and the rest of the squadron went in for a closer look around the first wreck. Proshan had ordered search lights integrated onto the Lighting's for this.
"Has anyone heard from the Astartes?" A pilot asked through the vox.
Proshan looked outside of his cockpit; a dark blue colored Thunderhawk was decending towards the surface bearing the fist of the Crimson Fists Chapter. Proshan grinned to himself, thinking of how much destruction those six Astartes could dispense on the rebels. He had half a mind to fly down and see the show for himself.
"No need to worry Eagle two. Their right on course."
Little did any of them know what would come next...
The Thunderhawk 'Lance of Retribution' was thirty seconds away from landing on the designated LZ, and inside, Van Alessian and the rest of his Astartes made their final prayers and rites, before turning their eyes forward to the ramp. Van Alessian could almost feel the excitement of the newly raised Battle Brothers, their desire for action and fighting. Yet they chose not to express it, instead remaining silent, and still somehow obviously eager for a fight.
"Pilot, any word from the Imperial Guard forces below?" Van Alessian asked.
"Negative my Lord, they should have picked up our vox by now, even when we were in orbit. That base's vox masts ought to pick up a gunship from low orbit." The pilot, Brother Gregorio, replied. Van Alessian detected a worried tone in his voice.
"Speak up, pilot. You clearly have something to say."
There was a few minutes of silence, as Gregorio digged for words. Van Alessian raised en eyebrow, if such a veteran pilot as himself was worried of something...
"It just seems odd my Lord. I cant describe it, but this whole thing does not fit somehow. Its like whenever i contact the Guard, their just ignoring it.
"We could be walking into a trap..." Adrianus murmured to no one in particular. And worse, was Van Alessian found some manner of merit in his words. If the Imperial Guard had picked up their vox, as Gregorio insisted they must have, then why wouldn't they respond?
"The two of you make an excellent point." Van Alessian said, crossing his hands as he thought of the situation.
"The Guard have been under a lot of pressure, maybe their equipment is just damaged. We cant say for certain until we reach the LZ." Starax said.
"Indeed, sergeant." Van Alessian said, just as the green light flicked on above the ramp, and the Crimson Fists could hear the landing gear of the Thunderhawk detract, and the engines cool down and bring the ship to a halt. Time seemed to stop for some time, as the possibility of an ambush arose to Van Alessian's mind.
"There's only one way this fight will ever be finished any way. Pilot, open the hatch. Brothers, tactical spread outside the Thunderhawk. Nikol, stay close to me." Van Alessian ordered and grasped his Storm Bolter with two hands while the rest of the Astartes cocked their Bolters and Nikol checked the Promethium tanks on his Flamer.
"Understood, opening her up now Captain." Gregorio said.
Moments later, the ramp fell with a metallic clang, and the shambled world of Unbound was revealed before them.
PART III: Knife in the Dark
What happened next had indeed not been part of what Van Alessian had anticipated.
He and the five other Astartes with him exited the Thunderhawk, and formed a crest formation around the ramp, the boots of their Mk. VII armor pounding against the steel plating beneath them like a hammer against a plate wall. The runway was essentially a long metal panel, one large enough to hold several squadrons of fighters and bombers, but it had been converted into a ground base, with the area filled with munition dumps, sand bag walls, crates, vox masts and other essential pieces to support a functional base of operations.
Van Alessian took position directly in the center of his brothers, his gleaming Artificer Armor sticking out of the crowd along with the golden aquila on his power pack and the rest of the decorations on the battle plate.
They found themselves being held at gunpoint by a full platoon of Guardsmen.
The Crimson Fists fittingly responded by raising their own weapons at them. Van Alessian took a few steps forward, his hand held over the hilt of his sword and other grasping his Storm Bolter. The Guardsmen were around ten meters away from the Astartes, far enough so that Nikol had to quickly switch to his sidearm.
"Hold it right there Space Marines!" The sergeant at the front of the platoon barked, holding up one hand into the air and holding a Lasgun with the other.
"We do not answer to you Guardsman! Move aside! And what is this horseplay you intend? We are Crimson Fists, and i expect obediance from you!" Van Alessian roared, his helmet echoing his voice across what seemed like the entire field.
None of the Guardsmen moved aside an inch.
"Captain..." Starax said, aiming his Bolter at the head of the Guard sergeant.
Van Alessian's grip tightened around his weapons. "I...am ordering you...to stand aside!!" He boomed again, this time with more anger added to it.
None of the Guardsmen budged, keeping their weapons raised instead.
"Lower your weapons! This is your final warning!" The Guardsman sergeant yelled.
"I would say the same to you, Guardsman." Van Alessian hissed, raising his Storm Bolter.
There was almost a minute of silence, with both sides standing stoically as statues before each other.
And then, like the break of glass, it all happened.
"Gun them down!" The Guardsman yelled and fired his Lasgun.
The crest of Astartes was showered by a wave of las fire, as the rifles of the treacherous Guardsmen whined and spat hot bolts at the armored warriors. And yet, the shots seemed to have little effect, as none of the Astartes went down, their power armor withstanding all attacks and deflecting all shots off their battle plate. Van Alessian drew most of the fire, but he also withstood it the best in his Artificer plate. Starax pulled the trigger, and the head of the Guardsman sergeant exploded from the force of the shot, throwing viscera and bits of the skull here and there.
The Crimson Fists returned fire, and the results of their weapons was far more efficient. The powerful Bolter shells struck all of their intended targets with almost unmatched accuracy, blowing the bodies of the Guardsmen in half and showering blood and gore across the runway. The weak and frail Flak armor that the Guardsmen wore wasn't designed to protect against Bolter rounds, but against low strenght projetile weapons, and thus was of no use to the renegades as the Fists gunned them down in rapid succession. Some of the Guardsmen leaped from their cover to charge the Astartes, powered bayonets crackling with energy, but were brought down instantly by Bolter fire. The numbers of the platoon began to deteriarate fast, with several of the traitors already lying dead on the ground, torn in half or lying there in pieces from being struck by bursts of Bolter fire.
The remainder of the Guardsmen took cover behind some supply and munition crates nearby, and Van Alessian could hear, even over the bark of gunfire, one of them calling into his vox. More traitors would be coming soon. And if Galtris was right about his intel, then there were hundreds of them down here.
And indeed, across the runway, more Guardsmen closed in, weapons raised and poised to kill the Astartes. There were dozens upon dozens of them, outnumbering the Fists by what seemed a hundred to one. Van Alessian cursed to himself for walking into this trap, he should have known to expect that there would be no one loyal to the Emperor any longer down here! But regrets would have to wait for later.
"Captain! Whats going on out there!" Gregorio barked through the vox.
"We've been tricked!" Van Alessian roared and gunned down a trio of Guardsmen darting for cover. "Everyone on this runway is a renegade!"
He hadn't even finished talking when more shots began falling down on the Astartes from both flanks, this time followed by blue-white bolts from Plasma Guns. The Astartes immediately took notice of this, and ducked behind the landing gear of the Thunderhawk, seeking at least some for of cover from the deadly armor piercing weapons. Van Alessian looked to his left and right, and noticed numerous Guardsmen closing in, moving from cover to cover in tactical formation. It appeared, that they had forgotten all the gifts the Imperium had provided them except for their training. How typical. But he had to remark their combat skill, even if they were traitors.
"Thunderhawk, we have traitor forces closing on our flanks!" Van Alessian yelled. He was utterly unwilling to let this fight drop, even if they were outnumbered like this. The Crimson Fists had braved numbers like this before, and they could easily do it again.
"Understood, bringing weapons online now." Gregorio said.
The front fuselage-mounted Heavy Bolters on the Thunderhawk soon turned to both flanks of the Crimson Fists, the twin-linked barrels of the weapons ready to dispense death in the Emperor's name. It wasn't even a few seconds when the barrels lit up, ad hundreds of oversized explosive rounds shattered the front ranks of the advancing traitor forces. Limbs were torn off and bodies split in half as the runway became a horrific scene for the slaughter of dozens of Guardsmen who continued to advance forward, still refusing to relent even a single bit. The plasma gunners now turned their aim from the Space Marines, to the Heavy Bolters on the Thunderhawk, and soon bolts of superheated plasma began raining down on the pair of twin-linked weapons, with some hitting true but failing to disable the weapon. In return, the Heavy Bolters gunned down the traitors in twin streaks of bolts that sent several more Guardsmen to a bloody, agonizing death.
"Gregorio, i need an assesment on enemy forces!" Van Alessian ordered.
"Considerable Captain, from the auspex scans i would say there's at least a full battalion on this runway." Gregorio responded. "Captain, the enemy outnumbers us severely enough for defeat to be considered a certainty, perhaps we should retreat back to the Redemption and..."
"Unacceptable! We cam here to enforce the Emperor's will on this planet, and that is exactly what we are going to do! Keep the guns firing, and get me some air support from Eagle Squadron as soon as possible!" Van Alessian retorted, and fired a long burst from his Storm Bolter, kicking several Guardsmen off their feet in a rain of fire and death.
Inside the Thunderhawk, Gregorio opened a vox up to the cruiser in orbit, and prayed they too hadn't been lured into a trap like this.
"My lord," Galtris called out from next to the vox officer on the bridge. "we have an incomming vox from your Thunderhawk. Its labled as a distress call."
"Distress?" Lysanis said, slightly surprised that problems had arisen this early in the mission.
"Yes my lord, should i play it?" Galtris asked.
"Of course! Put it through now!" Lysanis barked.
The vox officer pressed a single stud on the console before him, and soon the familiar voice of Brother Gregorio, the pilot of the 'Lance of Retribution', came through. And the news was not good.
"This is Thunderhawk 'Lance of Retribution' requesting air support at its designated landing zone! We are under fire, i repeat, under fire traitor forces and are surrounded on all sides and unable to lift off. Request missile strikes on the entirety of the runway via Lighting fighters!"
Galtris' face paled as he heard the Astartes call for aid, and he could feel his heart skip a beat as he switched his gaze to Lysanis. The Techmarine stared into eyes via his visored helmet.
"What are you waiting for Lord-Captain? Call in the air strike!" He commanded.
"Y-yes my lord." Galtris said and immediately ordered a vox opened to the squadron investigating the ship wrecks in orbit. "Eagle Squadron this is Redemption, come in."
"Go ahead Redemption." The voice of a firm pilot came through.
"A situation has arisen on the surface. The landing zone of the Crimson Fists has been compromised and they are under heavy fire by traitor forces. Divert a part of your squadron to their landing zone and bomb the area with your missiles. I dont care where, as long as it kills traitors."
"Understood sir. Squadron diverting craft to the surface. Eagle-leader out."
Proshan could hardly believe it himself. It hadn't even been half an hour since the Astartes landed and already they needed assistance. But he didn't need orders to go help them, he would be damned if warriors such as the Crimson Fists would be permitted to die on an Empereror forsaken world like Unbound. He opened a vox to the entire squadron.
"Squadron, listen up. The Astartes have requested air support, and we have been ordered to give it. Eagle's two, five, eight and eleven, fall in behind me. Eagle's four, seven and ten, you are now on investigation duty. Eagle three has tactical command until further notice."
"Understood Eagle leader. Kill a few of the bastards for us too." Eagle three replied.
"If only i knew how to extend that courtesy Eagle three. Leader, out." Proshan replied, and turned his course around towards Unbound. He always had had half a mind to fly down there and bring the fight to the traitors. Now it seemed he finally had the chance.
The Thunderhawk's guns fired another deadly volley into the ranks of the traitor Guardsmen, taking down several who attempted to get closer to the Astartes with bayonets or grenade launchers. The Fists themselves added to the deadly effect of the Heavy Bolters with shots of their own, bringing precise death to the renegades. Dismembered and twisted corpses lay all around, swimming in puddles of blood and gore as Van Alessian and Azarath Squad vented their valorous rage into the renegades. Van Alessian fired focused burst after focused burst, bringing renegades down in rich troves. Yet still they came on.
"Captain, Lighting's en-route for air support." Gregorio said through the vox.
"No more than five minutes."
"Understood." Van Alessian acknowledged. "Astartes, aerial strike incomming! Stay behind cover and -"
There was a sudden whistle in the air, followed by a loud wham and burst of fire and shrapnel, and then another, and another, until shots began raining onto the Thunderhawk. Missiles, Van Alessian thought to himself and cursed their luck. They were too far away for any of his men to take out, and those weapons would eventually destroy the Thunderhawk.
The gunship now had half a dozen craters blasted into its front armor, with one missile barely missing the still open hatch into the troops compartment. The hatch would have to be closed, if a missile went in there, the entire gunship could easily be destroyed or crippled beyond flight capabilities. But the Thunderhawk was a sturdy craft, it could handle a few missiles. For now.
"Damage report." Van Alessian ordered.
"Multiple breaches across the hull and minor damage to circuits as well. Were still here though." Gregorio replied.
"Keep the ship that way as long as you can. We'll need a quick exit if this gets too hectic." Van Alessian said.
The missiles were coming from a heavy weapons squad positioned far beyond the reach of the Crimson Fists, and packed six missile launchers. And the gunners appeared to be good too, they had hit with every shot, although it may not have been too difficult given the bulky form of the Thunderhawk. But good or not, those missiles were the largest threat on the field for the Fists currently.
Van Alessian's ears soon caught the familiar sound of heavy, mechanic legs landing on the ground, and looked to the right to see a pair of Sentinel walkers closing in, Missile Launchers loaded and most likely already tracking their target. Van Alessian cursed and quickly turned his aim to one of the walkers and began firing on full auto, aiming at the legs. Adrianus and Ranoth also turned their Bolters on the Sentinel's, and showered them in a hail of explosive bolts, but the shots had little to no effect, and Sentinel's continued to trek towards the Thunderhawk.
Squads of traitor Guardsmen closed around the walkers, Lasgun's blasting at the Astartes and leaving burned markings on the ground. Waves of red light washed over the heads of the Crimson Fists, who were desperately diving for cover and returning fire while at it with sprays of Bolter rounds. Although he and his men were taking a grievous toll and the traitor forces, the odds seemed to be stacked against them, whether the Fists realized it or not.
The Sentinel's came to a halt, and the drivers switched their aim to the Thunderhawk. The weapons loaded into them powerful Krak missiles, specifically designed to penetrate heavy armor, and charged up all four silos on their launchers to unleash these weapons. Against the side armor of an already vulnerable gunship, those missiles would tear through it like butter. Van Alessian rolled over behind a pair of crates, and continued firing at the Sentinel's, but knew already it was too late.
The missiles launched from the Sentinel's, and soo eight of them soared across the air with a deathly whistle, and struck their target head on. The concentrated blasts from the krak missiles hit exactly where they had to, scattering across the entire right side of the Thunderhawk and blasting it open like a tin can. The Crimson Fists under the cover of the gunship scattered from beneath it, seeking new cover wherever it may be found as the missiles tore through the Thunderhawk's armor plating. Even such a mighty craft couldn't withstand such fire, and soon the deadly hits were followed by catastrophic consequences to the ship. The landing gear on the right became damaged, and the whole gunship fell on its right side, denting the runway beneath it and kicking up shrapnel from the ground as it tore a hole in the tough steel. The Heavy Bolters stopped firing, unable to track new targets, and the infrastructure of the Thunderhawk was set aflame on parts across the ship. Even the engines hadn't survived without taking damage, and were now cratered in some parts by shrapnel and puffing clouds of smoke.
Van Alessian felt his primary heart skip a beat, as he watched the 'Lance of Retribution' go down in flames, and their only chance of escape getting cut off right before their eyes. Ranoth had been wounded in the chest by shrapnel, and was now lying on the ground next to Desmundo behind a set of crates, clutching the bleeding wound on his chest with one hand while holding on to his pistol with the other, still taking shots with it.
"Thunderhawk, come in!" Van Alessian yelled into the vox, although he already knew within him that it was too late. "Gregorio, respond!"
"Captain!" Starax barked and ran over to him, firing as he went. "Sir, are you injured?"
"Do i look like I'm bleeding?" Van Alessian snapped. "And what are you doing here, get back to the fight sergeant and make sure Ranoth gets the cover he needs! Were still waiting on Eagle Squadron, so hope yet remains."
Van Alessian kept telling that to himself, thinking even as he did that it was a partial lie.
Eagle Squadron now had visual over the Hive itself, the entire place having been reduced to nothing but a heap of ruins and burning structures. The whole place was so heavily damaged, it was almost impossible to think that this place could have once been thriving with life. Further away, a single massive building with a shattered aquila on it towered over the rest, with sections of it completely torn away by artillery fire. Where the statue of the Emperor had once stood, was now just a stone stump, the piece of art blasted in half by enemy fire. From the size and look of the building, it couldn't be any other than the Lord-Governor's palace. But Proshan and the rest of his pilots suspected that the man had been relieved of his duty by the traitors long before they had arrived.
"Eagle leader, we have the Astartes on our auspex." Eagle two said over the squadron's vox.
"Tell me what you have Eagle two." Proshan ordered calmly.
"Its like they said on the distress call sir, but much worse. Their completely surrounded by hostiles, and they have lost their gunship too sir. I'm also picking up enemy light armor."
"Throne of Terra." Proshan whispered to himself. "All Eagle's, prepare missiles for launch, target aquisition is free."
Proshan switched over from his Las Canon's to the missiles mounted under the wings of the fighter, and already began to aquire his targets. The renegades may have set up this ambush for the Astartes, but he could bet that they were not expecting an air strike from a squadron of fighters.
Just when they were about to fire their missiles, Proshan could hear the wail of even more Lighting's closing in from behind them, even from inside the cockpit. Proshan at first though he may just be overhearing the rest of the squadron, but noticed soon enough that his fellow pilots were just as confused as he was. Indeed, as many as twenty more Lighting's had flown behind them into combat formation. Puzzled, Proshan opened a vox to them.
"Unidentified Lighting flight, this is Eagle Squadron. We are here as the tip for an Imperial relief force of Unbound, and would appreciate any advanced Intel on the situation." He said.
The other Lighting's didn't respond.
"I repeat, we are here as a relief force for this Hive. Do you receive? Report!" He said again, this time with more force.
"Nothing to report." A pilot from the lead fighter behind them said bluntly.
"What do you mean? Are you seeing whats going on down there? Pilot, what is your name, rank and squadron designation."
"I only report to my superior officers." The pilot replied, again with the same careless tone.
The alert began to flash red on his HUD, warning of a weapons lock.
"And you do not fall under that category loyalist."
On the Redemption, Lysanis viewed the reports of the Lighting search teams who had been scouting out the ship wrecks; and as suspected there were no survivors to be found thus far. The damage done to those ships was so extensive that it would be incomprehnsible to even consider that people were still breathing. But human compassion seemed to get the better of them.
"Have we heard anything more from Captain Van Alessian?" Lysanis asked Galtris.
Galtris looked at the vox officer, who shook his head back in dismay and turned back to his station. "Nothing my Lord, I'm sorry."
Lysanis cursed. None of this should have happened, Unbound should have been invaded by at least a full Astartes Company at least if the Imperium really wanted to retake this planet. He would never question Lord Kantor's orders, but he had to wonder was sending merely half a dozen men as reinforcements truly wise, even if those men were as ferocious fighters as the Crimson Fists? Now, the mission hung in the balance, and everything seemed to be at risk.
"Wait a moment... Lord-Captain, you i have something on the auspex!" A crewman at a surveyor screen cried out.
"What is it son?" Galtris asked. Lysanis also walked up behind the crewman.
"Three ships sir, they seem like cruisers, although i cant get a clear signal from them. Their coming from the ship wrecks where our fighters are investigating."
"How are we seeing them just now?" Galtris asked.
"Maybe they were on the other side of the planet sir." The crewman responded.
"No, it would take them hours to get from there to here in the time we have been over orbit." Lysanis said and looked out of the viewport to the ship wrecks. His enhanced Astartes vision did indeed catch the bare glimpse of the hull of a moving ship, although he couldn't make the craft out from here. "Something's not right here..."
Lysanis' worries were further enhanced by the measure in which the ships presented themselves. A barrage of Lance fire from the gun ports of the ships showered the investigating Lighting fighters in the debree, turning all of the small craft into fireballs as they were caught off guard. The entire bridge exploded into chatter and urgent vox transmissions, as the crew assesed the situation at hand. But Lysanis already knew what was going on.
"We just lost Eagle Squadron!" The crewman on the auspex urgently said. "Enemy ships are coming out of the wreckage!"
Moments later, a massive hole was blasted into the middle of the debree, and Lysanis saw what they were truly dealing with as the renegade Battle Barge slipped through the flames, weapons still blazing and spitting fire across the stars. Two more ships followed, again seemingly renegade Astartes ships, and they began to circle around the flanks of the Redemption. Lysanis swore to himself, and barked orders across the bridge to return fire.
But as the Battle Barge turned its massive array of powerful weapons onto the Imperial Navy warship, and menacingly continued its course forward, he knew it was all over.
Van Alessian cleaved a pair of traitors in half with his sword, the crackling blade rending through the armor and flesh of the Guardsmen with ease, and sending them screaming to the ground as blood poured like a river from their corpses. The renegades had gotten bolder since the Thunderhawk had been taken out, and several were trying to overwhelm the Astartes in a massive charge, powered bayonets on their rifles hungry for kills or shotguns barking a loud symphony of death. Already, several traitors were lying dead beneath the feet of the Crimson Fists, as they continued to hold back the advancing tide of renegades.
"Where the hell is that air support!?" Van Alessian barked. He fired with every word he uttered, the targets were so numerous now that you couldn't miss even if you tried.
"They should be here any moment!" Starax said, cocking his Bolter as he slammed a new magazine home.
The vox in his helmet began to crackle, as a static message came through from orbit. Van Alessian ducked to cover to receive the transmission, and tapped his helmet a few times as he tried to clear up the siganl. The voice of Gabriel Lysanis shortly said:
"Captain! Were under attack! Eagle Squadron is gone and ... ustain ... eavy damage! The Forces of..."
The transmission was cut short, and Van Alessian attempted to regain contact, calling out to Lysanis and Galtris one at a time, but never getting an answer. Van Alessian looked up to the skies, and could see, even from the war-torn surface of Unbound, bright dots appearing across the sky, indicating a space battle going on. He cursed to himself, as he watched, yet unable to see it, the Redemption get overwhelmed and torn apart piece by piece. He knew there was a chance of the ship being able to survive, but at this point, with all that had happened, he wouldn't be surprised if the whole planet suddenly decided to explode beneath their feet.
A series of Krak missiles from the Sentinel's and the missile teams exploded around the positions of the Astartes, throwing them off their feet as the concussive force of the explosions threw them off their feet. Las rounds followed soon after, peppering the small unit of Fists ducking behind the wreckage of their Thunderhawk. Van Alessian got to his feet, Lasgun shots deflecting off his Artificer plate, and vented all of his fury and might into a single roar.
"I've had enough of this! Astartes! Make for the edge of the runway to the left, if we can get into the ruins we can still survive this madness!" He roared, and charged into the traitor ranks while doing so.
Van Alessian hacked left and right with his Power Sword, discarding limbs and decapitating foes in an endless flurry of strikes from his blood-soaked blade. Renegades fell in droves around him as he rampaged forward weapons ablaze. He fired with his offhand Storm Bolter, cutting a path forward through the squads of Guardsmen who were desperately trying to intercept the enraged Crimson Fist. Starax ordered the rest of Azarath Squad to follow him, and together, and taking fire from all sides, they launched a mighty charge into the enemy ranks. Bolter fire sweeped aside renegades on all sides, and focused thrusts from Combat Knifes put a swift end to any who dared to get too close, honed by decades of training. The traitors stood no chance against the Crimson Fists, and were swiftly butchered, and many of them panicked and routed from the battle, only to be gunned down by their own officers or killed by a Bolter round in the back.
A sergeant with a crackling Power Fist charged forward at Van Alessian, pistol spitting lasers at his chest and yelling insults at the helmeted face of the Brother-Captain. Van Alessian accepted the feeble challenge offered by the renegade, and marched up through the sea of bodies beneath his feet to meet the man head on. The sergeant grinned, and clenched his Power Fist and let the pistol drop from his other hand as he readied a blow of his own. But the traitor's attempts were in vain. Van Alessian effortlessly swept the air before him and the head of the sergeant fell neatly off his shoulders. The tight clench on the Power Fist loosened, and the headless body fell like a sack of rocks to the steely runway, the stump in place of his head pouring blood like a fountain. Van Alessian unceremoniously stepped over his corpse, and raised his Storm Bolter at a fire team of four Guardsmen, who were hastily trying to mount a Heavy Bolter on its tripod. One of the renegade's paled in fear as he saw Van Alessian close in, and raised a shotgun into the air. The renegade pulled the trigger, and the shell uselessly deflected off the Artificer Armor. Van Alessian returned fire and all four of the Guardsmen were torn to pieces in the hail of explosive bolts.
The pair of Sentinel's that had destroyed the Thunderhawk were still after them, and had by now charged up their missile launchers for another barrage. Van Alessian cursed, and looked around for alternatives to block the walker's lines of sight, but failed to find anything to do so. The drivers of the Sentinel's seemed to care little for the safety of their own fellow soldiers, as they loosed the volley of Krak missiles into the general area before them, hoping to hit at least one of the Crimson Fists. The armor-piercing missiles tore through little more then their own troops, as renegade's were caught in the line of fire and ripped into pieces or thrown aside by the series of blasts that followed. For a moment, Van Alessian and the other Astartes thought they were all clear of the Sentinel's for now, until he looked around, and noticed that Rathon was missing.
"Brother Rathon!" Van Alessian called into the vox. "Rathon come in!"
But it was already too late for the newborn Crimson Fist. He was gone.
"Wait, where is Desmundo?" Starax asked over the vox.
Oh no, Van Alessian thought to himself. He had no desire to lose two men on a charge against frail traitor Guardsmen.
But Van Alessian soon had his hopes lifted, as he heard an angered chain of battle cries sound from somewhere behind him, followed by bursts of Bolter fire. Van Alessian looked behind him, and saw Desmundo standing over the dead body of Rathon, gunning down renegades on all sides who were closing on his position. Van Alessian immediately knew what this was about and rammed through a pair of renegades to get over to Desmundo, supporting him with shots from his own Storm Bolter. Renegades fell as their bodies were brutally torn by the accurate shots from the Crimson Fists, but more still continued to pour from all sides.
"Desmundo, we have to go!" Van Alessian yelled.
"I'm not leaving Rathon's corpse over to these traitors!" Desmundo snapped back. Van Alessian was surprised by his defiance to his orders.
"Desmundo, i know how this must feel. But we can avenge Rathon later! His sacrifice will be meaningless unless we get out of here!"
"I'm not leaving him!"
Emperor have mercy on me, Van Alessian thought to himself. Desmundo's rage was, at the minimum, understandable. He had known Rathon since they were but mere infants, and had been the best of friends for decades. And now, all of that had been taken away from him. So Van Alessian stood his ground with Desmundo, quickly pondering through ideas of how to get Desmundo refocused..and then he had it.
"Nikol, come in." Van Alessian said.
"Here Captain." Nikol replied, although for him there was little need for it since the gouts of bright prometheum that his Flamer launched were well within sight of everyone on the battlefield, as were the dozens of traitors he sent screaming to the ground, trying hopelessly to extinguish the flames on them as they burned though their armor and melted away their flesh.
"Rathon has fallen, and Desmundo is refusing to leave his body be." Van Alessian explained, and glanced over to the Battle Brother next to him. "I need you to divert here and burn Rathon's corpse, at least that way it wont be dececrated by the renegades."
"I am on my way now sir." Nikol replied calmly and without hesitation.
Van Alessian closed the vox, and looked back to Desmundo, who had of course heard the Brother-Captain's orders and was just standing there silently. Van Alessian felt a round of Las bolts strike his left shoulder pad, and quickly spun around to return fire.
"Now can we go!?" He barked at Desmundo.
The now silent warrior looked once more at the body of Rathon, paying his final respects for his lost friend, and the turned back to Van Alessian and merely nodded. Only around ten meters away, Nikol was pacing through the swarming traitors, leaving charred corpses in his wake as he grimly walked through the sea of dead under his feet. The renegades attempted to charge behind him with shotguns or bayonets, or take him on at long range with rifles, but on all occasions he overcame the traitors and left another row of burned bodies behind him. Soon enough, he reached the body of Rathon, and cooked the fallen Astartes in Prometheum.
Van Alessian unclipped a frag grenade from his belt, readying a precise throw into the midst of a wall of sandbags where a renegade heavy weapons team was readying a Heavy Bolter. He launched the grenade forward, and immediately ran forward toward the sandbag wall, knowing it would be out of his way momentarily. The grenade landed right under the feet of the gunner on the Heavy Bolter, and Van Alessian could see him live long enough for his eyes to grow wide with horror before the grenade detonated. Shrapnel showered the entire weapons team, shredding their bodies and blowing away the sandbag wall. The concussive force of the blast even knocked out half a squad of Guardsmen too close the blast.
The Sentinel's fired again, but this time failed to do any damage to the Fists, instead blasting apart formations of their own men. The Guardsmen chasing after the Fists soon began to hesitate who to fire at. A few of the renegades had already fired a few snapshots at the Sentinel's, enraged at their driver's ignorance that they were killing their own men. Over zealous officers or squad leaders put a swift end to this insurrection with pistol rounds in the back.
"Astartes! We are almost out of this mess! Fight on, and we will yet prevail!" Van Alessian yelled over the battlefield, encouraging his men to fight on.
And fought on they did, until at last, they would prevail.
Caustos looked over the burning ruins of Hive Macharius, standing over the destruction like he was the newborn god of this planet, the flames reflecting off his bright battle plate. In his Terminator Armor, Caustos towered over the two bodyguards at his side, and they too had donned an impressive suit of Artificer plate. Together, the three of them stood, thinking only one thing: had this destruction been worth killing one man for?
Caustos shook his head. Such niceties didn't matter. Only the job at hand. He would have to learn to let go of his emotions if he was to prevail in any of them.
The palace of the Lord-Governor had once been a proud and strong symbol of the Imperium, its steel and gold walls shining over the slums and other thriving structures below it like a sun engulfing a shadow upon rising. It had bristled with tall bastions and gun ports, and glorious banners and statues that had been carved out of the finest materials. The armored royal guards of its confines had too been a proud incarnation of the Imperium's pride, patrolling the grounds of the palace in their bright armor and crested helmets and finely polished rifles. Even the simple twin metal doors leading into the palace donned a shining Aquila on them.
Now, it was all a wreck.
The walls had been blasted open and cratered by artillery fire, its bastions torn down, the guns turned against its owners and the banners and other scenery had been torn down and replaced by scattered stone and metal work from the building and hanged corpses of the palace guards. Blood coated every floor, and bullet holes and markings from laser weaponry were littered everywhere, along with craters from grenades and burning silk and cloth from flamers. The dead lay all around, hundreds of them, both Imperials and rebels alike. All of this caused by Caustos himself.
The battle to take the palace had been short, but fierce. He an his honor guard had led an assault against the Imperials from the front, smashing through the front gates and slaughtering the guards in their way under the cover of volley after volley of Basilisk SPG fire and Manticore missiles, while two of his squads deep striked onto the rooftop and boxed the loyalists in, capturing and killing the governor as well, after he had proven reluctant to rally his remaining men to Caustos's side. It had ended there. Nothing more complicated, just getting the job he was hired to do finished.
"Hired," He muttered to himself. "as if Abaddon would ever 'hire' anything."
"My lord." The metallic voice of an armored Astartes said. "Colonel Arishma is on the vox station."
Caustos nodded. "Very good sergeant, return to your squad. I suspect we wont be here very long."
"As you say." The Astartes said.
Caustos stompped through the remains of the Lord-Governor's office, and clicked a stud on the vox station to open a link to the colonel.
"Arishma, this better be good. Did you neutralize the target?" Caustos asked.
There was a pause for a few moments. "Uhh..negatize my lord. The majority of them escaped into the ruins, along with the primary target."
"What!?" Caustos bellowed. "How could you let this happen? You had the element of surprise and the advantage of firepower and numbers! What went wrong?"
"Th-the Astartes my lord, they just...they...they couldn't be brought down. Please understand my lord, we threw everything we had at them. But they just rammed straight through our forces, butchered us like we were nothing. We did manage to get one of them though."
"One of them? And was he the Captain then if you are so pround of this accomplishment of overpowering a single Astartes?" Caustos asked, feeling his anger boiling by the moment.
"No my lord, the Captain escaped with the rest of the the loyalists."
"And how many men did you lose?"
"Close to two hundred my lord."
"Well maybe you truly are nothing then colonel! Tell me where he is so i can see the final stage of this plan through!"
"We have a full company hot on their heels in between checkpoints Tertius and Secundus. The urban battlefield should enable us to - "
"Be slaughtered by the Crimson Fists in close quarters in which they excel and your men dont. Converge your forces on them, and tell them to expect my arrival."
With that, Caustos slammed the vox down with a blow of his fist, crushing the vox station and dimming the lights on it as his blow powered the machine down. He had hoped to prevent losses to his Astartes by having the traitor Guardsmen swarm them, and use their superior numbers to overwhelm the Crimson Fists. Obviously, that was no longer the case. This situation requiered the intervention of the Damned Company.
Caustos pulled his Thunder Hammer from his side, and turned on the energy field with a flick from his thumb, watching as power surged through the pommel and into the tip of the weapon in a bright blue wave. He grabbed his Storm Bolter from his hip, and walked over to where one of his sergeants still stood.
"Tell all of the men to ready up and report to the Thunderhawk. Its time we finished this nonsense."
PART IV: The Damned
Van Alessian and the rest of Azarath Squad rushed through the streets of Hive Macharius, never stopping for a single moment to rest or resupply. Las bolts and autogun rounds peppered the area around them, chipping stone off the buildings in which the Fists sought cover. Dozens upon dozens of Guardsmen closed around the Crimson Fists, breaching every building they may have entered and blocking every point of entry for them. The Crimson Fists responded by slaying any who got within range or their guns or blades. Honed by decades of training, the traitors were of little match to the elite super soldiers.
Van Alessian and the rest of his men were now advancing through a small one story building, which held the remains of a trio of unfortunate civilians who had been caught in the line of fire. The entire building was riddles with las markings and bullet holes, indicating that there had clearly been a firefight here. And these innocent people had been caught in between it.
Adrianus came in the last, laying down covering fire from the rear of the squad while the rest of them advanced forward. Traitors screamed and yelled in pain as accurate Bolter rounds blasted them from their feet. The rest of the squad followed the lead of Nikol, who lead the way through the streets, Flamer held aloft like a bright torch as he burned his way through the traitors. Van Alessian followed close behind, Power Sword glistening with gore and Storm Bolter ready to dispense death. They didn't actually know where they were going, right now they were just trying to loose the renegades on their tail, although that was perhaps a fools errand. There were millions of them, not to mention the crazed gangs of rebels still roaming the streets. Every move that the Astartes made was slowed down by these rebels, and that was something they could not afford, escape should be their first move now.
"Azarath Squad! Hold position!" Van Alessian ordered, and the Fists stopped in their tracks.
"Asume defensive positions, block both of those doorways, and conserve as much ammo as you can. Were holding this position for now until we have a better plan than just running." He continued.
The Fists nodded, and immediately spread out across the small building, blocking both of the doorways as the Captain had ordered. Starax crept over to Van Alessian, keeping his head down as shots showered from the windows and peppered the walls around them.
"Captain, we cannot stay here forever. The traitors will eventually overwhelm us if we do." He said.
"I am well aware of that sergeant!" Van Alessian responded. "But as i said just now, we cannot just aimlessly wonder across the streets of this entire Hive."
"What do you suggest then? The Redemption is presumably destroyed, Eagle Squadron is not responding, and we've already lost a Brother ourselves and have burned through half our ammo. The list of options for us is thinning sir."
"And i realize this!" Van Alessian barked, and thought of the situation for a moment, keeping his head cool and his mind calm. A challenge that not many soldiers could do under this type of situation. "The space port. Every Hive has a space port to receive incomming supply transports, and for ships to take off as well. We can hijack a ship from there and use to at least get as far away from Unbound as possible."
Starax nodded. He had to agree they didn't have much choice at the moment. "Agreed sir. But i dont suppose anyone here has training in the use of an entire supply ship. Give me a Thunderhawk or a Stormraven any day and i will fly us right out. But anything else beyond that - "
"We will have to make due sergeant. Right now our best chance is to find a ship that can get us quickly out of here. We will have to find the space port first though."
"Perhaps if we ask one of these traitors nicely..." Starax said with a small grin.
"Now this is a plan sergeant." Van Alessian said and held his Storm Bolter up. "Lets clear as many of these renegade's out before we take prisoners. With me sergeant."
Van Alessian ordered the rest of the squad to lay down cover fire, and soon bursts of Bolter shells began to rain down on the renegades. The front rows of Guardsmen fell, and once again casualties began to pile up for them, but for every traitor Van Alessian and his men killed, another two took their place. And they didn't seem to be in a mood to relent their assault.
Starax dived over into cover behind a pile of rubble, and unclipped a Frag grenade from his belt. In the tight urban conditions, grenades would be devastating to anyone who was caught in their radius. He launched the grenade towards a squad of Guardsmen, and then instinctively raised his Bolter to follow up the explosion with suppresive fire. The grenade exploded, and half a dozen Guardsmen were tossed aside, bodies torn by shrapnel. The remainder of the squad turned their rifles to Starax, but the veteran super-soldier was already at work, and the heads of two of the Guardsmen disappeared behind a red curtain of blood. The sergeant of the renegade squad barked something into his vox, and moments later, another pair of Guardsmen appeared, except one of them was holding a Meltagun in his hands. Short-ranged perhaps, but even a single shot from that weapon would tear right through his power armor and then kill him most likely.
Starax shifted his aim, ignoring the las-bolts and autogun shots flying around him, and set his crosshairs over the chest of the Guardsman with the Meltagun. The traitor closed in, and just when he was about to duck behind cover, Starax pulled the trigger and sent a bolt flying right at the Guardsman. The shot landed squarely in the middle of his chest, and blasted an entire part of his body away. The renegade dropped the Meltagun from his cold dead fingers and collapsed like a sack of rocks.
Van Alessian in the meanwhile, a little to Starax's right, was exchanging fire with annother squad of renegades. Adrianus suppresed them with concentrated volleys of Bolter fire from the window, keeping the heads of the Guardsmen down while Van Alessian closed in for the kill with his Power Sword. Bullets and laser shots chipped away the cover around him, but his Artificer plate was impervious to all forms of projectile weaponry, even a Bolter. The Guardsmen noticed him getting closer, and began to retreat backwards in organized ranks, firing as they went. The Fists Captain took cover, just a wave of las bolts flew over his head. From a small distance, he could hear Frag grenades going off, followed by more anquished screams from Guardsmen. He took a small moment to look over his cover, and could see several Guardsmen rallying behind their sergeants, guns raised towards Van Alessian's position. Van Alessian took a deep breath, prayed to the Emperor that this charge would succeed, and then tightened his grip around the hilt of his blade, and turned from his cover to meet the enemy head on.
He fired his Storm Bolter, and several Guardsmen toppled to the ground as dozens of explosive shells rained upon them. An officer barked an order, and the rest of the Guardsmen around him rallied into formation, fixing bayonets on their Lasguns and Autoguns. The officer wore a tan trench coat and a ceremonial cap embedded with the number "234", presumably their regiment's ID. He waved a glistening Chainsword and Bolt Pistol around at his men, yelling insults and orders at them as he laid his demands down at their feet. And it was at that moment, that Van Alessian knew he had found his prisoner.
"Azarath Squad! Target prisoner is a renegade Imperial Guard officer in a tan trench coat! Fire only to wound this man, we need him alive!" He ordered via the vox.
"Yes Captain." The squad copied.
The officer now yelled "Fire!", and soon a wave of red bolts crashed down on Van Alessian. He grunted in minor pain as a bolt struck the lightly protected armoring around his waist, but he recovered soon enough, and quickly raised his own weapon to fire. He quickly pulled the trigger three times, and the twin barrel on his weapon spat six more bolts, cutting down two of the closest Guardsmen. More Lasgun shots hammered down on him, but they were useless against his armor and failed to do any damage. Van Alessian fired another burst, cutting through a trio of renegades, until he was finally attacked by a more dangerous opponent: the officer.
The man fired his Bolt Pistol twice into Van Alessian's chest, both shots landing squarely on the golden aquila and shattering the fine work done by the artificers of Rynn's World. Van Alessian swore, as he was more than tempted to take the life of this worthless traitor. But he would rather risk having to make a small bargain with the enemy then risk the lives of the men under his command. Van Alessian received another volley of Lasgun fire, and then saw the officer leap from the ranks of his men and charge forward at the Astartes Captain, Chainsword roaring with a savage hunger for flesh to grind apart. The Guardsmen halted their firing, seeing their superior in danger, and a part of them simply switched targets or departed elsewhere. Van Alessian braced himself, and prepared to receive the first blow from the traiterous officer.
The Chainsword came down in a mighty arc, and Van Alessian raised his blade to meet that of the officer. Sparks flew into the air, and Van Alessian pressed forward and shoved the officer backwards. Van Alessian could almost feel his nerves twitch. He could have easily dispatched this man after that clumsy strike.
"Die loyalist!" The officer barked and cut the air before him as Van Alessian dodged his next blow.
"Keep swinging your blade like that heretic and the only one who will die is you." Van Alessian retorted and swung his Power Sword low towards the officer.
The powered edge of the sword cut through the flesh and bone of the officer's legs, and those were severed in half in an instant. Blood poured from the two stumps left from the legs of the officer, who was now rolling on the ground screaming in pain, grasping one of the halfs of his leg with his arms, blood still gushering through his fingertips. And just like that, the Crimson Fists had their prisoner.
"Van Alessian to Azarath Squad, target is secure, I'm bringing him in. Lay down covering fire."
"Yes sir." The squad acknowledged.
Van Alessian sheathed his Power Sword, and scooped up the officer with one hand and threw him over his shoulder, while holding his Storm Bolter with the other. Guardsmen closed in, but didn't dare fire at Van Alessian as he marched through the battlefield holding the struggling officer. He fired as he went, cutting down renegades at range and gunning down the foolish few who tried to get to him in close combat. He could see Guardsmen sprawling and running circles in flames as Nikol torched them and drove them out of any cover they sought. Nothing seemingly could hide from the gaze of the stoic weapons-specialist. The Promethium burned all in its path, and left charred and burnt bodies in its wake, lying among crisped ruins and buildings. Azarath Squad continued to perform admirably, as swaths of traitors were gunned down at a time. Even from behind cover, they couldn't escape the wrath of the Emperor's Angels of Death.
Starax ran across the blasted ruins towards Van Alessian, followed closeby by Nikol. The veteran sergeant marched next to the Captain, and took a quick glimpse at the officer, who was still struggling against his captors, banging his fists against the power pack on Van Alessian's armor.
"Take the prisoner inside." Van Alessian ordered and tossed him into Starax's outheld arms. "The Guardsmen seem to have lost heart now that we captured their leader. They may yet just fall back."
"And get more reinforcements." Starax warned.
"We will be long gone before that time sergeant."
"Release me you ignorant loyalists, you have no idea who you are dealing with!" The officer bellowed.
"He seems like a handfull." Starax joked. "Lets get our guest inside shall we?"
Lord Caustos stood in the troop compartment of the Thunderhawk gunship, wearing the colors of his Damned Company, and looking around at the twenty seven Astartes with him. Twenty seven warriors, against the small force of Crimson Fists that couldn't number more than half a dozen or so. And yet, those mere six warriors had grinded past a full regiment of Guardsmen, and with what losses to themselves? A single Battle Brother? The Fists would probably weep over even a single death on their side.
In a way, Caustos did understand that. Before, his men had been a proud Chapter serving the Emperor, and now they had been brought low by the very Imperium they had sworn to protect, and were but a shadow of their former glory. As were the Crimson Fists. How unfortunate, he had often considered on their behalf, that they were so misgiuded by the Imperium to serve a corrupt regime such as this. There was still a part of him that felt reluctant to kill these Astartes, even a part that felt sympathetic towards their position as a brotherhood struggling to survive in the hostilities of the galaxy. But, as he knew well, his duties right now demanded that they must die.
"My lord, we are moments away from touching down on the surface." The pilot reported.
"Can you make out anything from whats happening?" Caustos asked.
"The Guardsmen have suffered heavy casualties, and the Crimson Fists are entrenched inside a small building and holding against them for the time. There is also vox chatter about the loyalists having captured a Guard officer."
"Yes my lord. It happened quite fast apparently, the reports describe a leaderly looking Astartes killing everything in his path before the officer was captured."
"Really? Get me a secure channel to any of the Guardsmen still alive. I need to know whats going on fully."
"Of course my lord." The pilot replied, and a moment later, a secure vox was opened to Caustos.
"This is lord Caustos to any Guardsmen in range of this transmission, whoever is in charge down there, i need some answers immediately."
"My lord, this is lieutenant Casian. Forgive us we weren't expecting - "
"Excuses can wait lieutenant. I would like to see results for a change as well. Now whats this nonsense about your commanding officer being taken prisoner?"
We...we had the loyalists surrounded, but one of them just butchered his way across half my platoon and severely wounded Major Grentus and dragged him off to their holdout. We haven't made much progress in recapturing him..."
"I see. Lieutenant, it is imperative that those Space Marines do not escape! If they do, then all of our efforts will have been in vain! Surround the entire building, make sure no one escapes without me knowing, and most importantly, do not return to me in failure, or living through your little career will be the least of your worries!" Caustos explained with force.
"Yes sir, of course sir." Casian replied. Caustos could almost feel his voice shake and his hands tremble even through the vox.
Caustos closed the vox, and marched across the troop compartment towards the hatch, followed closely by his two bodyguards. In almost perfect unison, the rest of the Damned Company lifted themselves from their seats and fell behind Caustos in orderly fashion, weapons held low across their chests. In his massive Terminator armor, Caustos towered over everyone behind him, the two thin eyeslits on his helmet glowing in the dim lighted Thunderhawk like a predator stalking its prey. He grasped his Thunder Hammer and Storm Bolter in his arms, and to his left, his second-in command, Lucius Arktooth, held a humming Plasma Gun. The veteran warrior had fought side by side with Caustos on countless battles, and had well earned his place within the Company, through his own blood, and that of his enemies.
"The Fists will probably break the officer. I dont think any normal human being will last being interrogated by an Astartes." Lucius said.
"If he does then, as we are assuming he will, then we need to make sure they dont get off this planet. Abaddon seems desperate enough to take care of this one quickly enough to send us to deal with him, and the price for his head is the best we've had in a life time."
"But i dont understand my lord. Abaddon tried to use the Orks to take Cthonis' Titans for himself, a clever feat, but one that failed. And now he wants to fix it buy killing one Astares?"
"Those Titans could have ensured his dominance over the entire star system, but just a single Crimson Fist came in and interrupted the whole operation. He's clearly a threat enough for him to pay close attention to him."
"So its just revenge?"
"It certainly seems that way." Caustos said and turned his head slightly over to face Lucius. "But that does not matter to us."
The pilot activated the intercom on the ship. "We are landing in thirty seconds."
The Guardsmen had ceased their assault on Azarath's position, not daring to risk an attack on the life of their commanding officer. Instead, scores of them were camped outside behind ruins and rubble, steadily aiming at the open windows and doorways into the house. Occasionally, some teams tried to move from cover to cover in an attempt to sneak in and break their leader out, only to end up blasted in half by Bolter fire. As long as Azarath Squad kept its aim true, and the officer was held secure, the Fists were relatively free from harm. But Van Alessian had a feeling it would not last. As professional and well trained as these soldiers were, there was bound to be some insane person guiding them forward. Eventually they would be ordered to breach the house and risk the officer's life.
Van Alessian had left the interrogation of the captured Guard officer over to Brother Desmundo. Given that he had just lost a close friend to these traitors, he thought it would be the most...fitting that he handled the interrogation. There had been no debate over the matter, or any objections eather. It had been enough that Van Alessian had given the order. And an order from a Brother-Captain may have just as well have been an order from Emperor himself. Desmundo's methods of extracting Intel were quite brutal, even by Astartes standards. The officer was bleeding from his broken nose and cracked left cheekbone, where harsh slams against the a stone table had broken his bones and shattered parts of his body. Van Alessian just let him go as went, as long as he didn't come too close to killing the bastard.
"Talk scum! Where is the nearest space port!" Desmundo roared, holding the officer by the neck against the wall.
"I...dont...speak - "
"You dont speak do you?" Desmundo interrupted the officer's whimpering. "The sing wretched heretic! Where is the space port!"
Desmundo slammed the officer against the table, who let out a loud scream as the furious Astartes dragged him along the table. The officer's lips trembled, and he spat out blood with every move he made. He had been beaten to a pulp, and was virtually half-dead, and yet still he resisted. They had to give it him, he was pretty tough for your ordianry field officer, even a traitor.
"I wasn't given access to such information. I had just been here for a few weeks before - "
"Before what!? Before you turned your face from the Emperor's light, and thought you could get away with such heresy as yours? I dont know how you lost your way, major, but you will answer for your crimes, one way or another." Adrianus said, raising his armored fist into the air, and ready to strike a blow into the officer's face. A blow from an Astartes in such close range would shatter the man's skull with ease.
"Hold, brother!" Van Alessian said and walked next to Desmundo. The Battle Brother lowered his fist immediately, although perhaps with some hesitation.
"Alright traitor, let me cut you a deal. You tell us where the space port is, and i give you my word. You and your men will be free to leave this area without us firing at your backs." Van Alessian said bluntly.
"Captain! You cannot be serious!" Starax retorted.
"I agree with the sergeant. We cant reason with this renegade sir, better to just find the space port ourselves and kill this worthless scumbag." Desmundo growled.
"No, wait!" The officer yelled, a voice of relief coming from him. "I, i know where the port is."
Van Alessian knelt closer to the officer, both of their eyes meeting each other dead on. "Go on."
"It, it's not too far from here. It's located in Hab Center Pherotas." The officer explained, his voice rushing the words from his mouth. He had seen a chance to live and he had taken it.
"And the ships there?" Van Alessian asked calmly.
"A few small supply ships with Servitor crews still piloting them, they are fueled and ready to go at all times. I can even order my men to withdraw from the area - "
"That will not be nescesary." Van Alessian said and turned his gaze to Adrianus. "Do with him as you wish brother."
The officer's face turned pale with fear. "N-n-no! You gave your word! I told you everything i know!" He yelled in fear.
"I gave you my word. He never said anything about letting you go."
The officer turned his panicked gaze over to Adrianus, who, before the man could even let out a gasp, struck a thunderous blow into the traitor's stomach. The officer screamed, as the ceramite gauntlet ravaged through his guts and tore a murderous wound into him. Blood gushered out from the wound, and Adrianus pulled his fist out of the man's body and let him drop. The body dragged a bloody column onto the wall as it slid down and fell with a wet thud. And then stood completely still.
Adrianus curled his bloodied fist in his hands, and muttered a few curses to the butchered corpse of the officer he had just killed. While the Battle Brother was relishing his kill, Starax stompped over to Van Alessian. The Captain sighed. Even from under his helmet, Van Alessian could tell what was wrong.
"Sir! You cannot be considering taking that heretic's words for granted! He's probably leading us into a trap!" Starax stated.
"It's not like i dont realize this sergeant! But what choice do we have? We are surrounded by the enemy, and must resort to any means nesceary to survive if we are to see our homeworld, or our brothers ever again! I dont enjoy meddling with heretics myself, but this is the only piece of information we have at our disposal that can actually help us!"
"He was a traitor to the Imperium, how can we trust anything he says?"
Van Alessian fell silent. "Fine then, we'll validate his Intel then."
He walked over to the body of the officer, and drew his Combat Knife from its scabbard. Van Alessian felt disgusted of what he was about to do already. He knew he had had the capability to this the whole time they had that renegade in custody, but it was a means to an end he had not wished to use. Not just for his own sake, but for that of the men under his command. But Starax did have a point, there was no way the information of this traitor could be trusted.
So he knelt next to corpse of the officer, held the tip of his knife against his temple, and started drilling.
Caustos marched through the ruins of the Hive towards the position of the Crimson Fists, followed closely by his Damned Company Astartes. They had passed a few stranded Guardsmen on their way, who had not hesitated to bow before them and throw themselves at their mercy. The soldiers had offered themselves to the massive warriors in almost every possible way, if only they got a chance to serve by their side. They begged for a chance to receive the touch of Chaos through them, or for a chance to fight by their side. And bluntly enough, Caustos and his men had simply walked by them. He and his men cared little for what they had to offer.
There was no gunfire whatsoever, so the Guardsmen must still be holding position. He intended to keep it that way. He wouldn't risk some glory-hungry Imperial Guard deserters jeoperdizing his entire plan. But his men, his Astartes, would never do such a thing. They were the very core of efficiency, a model example of the power a true Astartes held in his grasp. And a model example of what an Astartes could accomplish if he was free to roam as he pleased. Caustos and his brothers had raided entire sectors of wealth, accomplished, assaults, defenses and infiltrations that almost all others would have deemed impossible. And all of that, of their own free will, and the will of their contracts, of course.
"My lord, we are approaching the target area." Lucius said.
"Good. Prepare to face heavy resistance." Caustos ordered.
Behind him, the Damned Company cocked their Bolters and charged their Plasma and Meltaguns, and readied for war.
"Sir! Additional targets closing in!" Nikol barked from his window.
"Understood." Van Alessian murmured, kneeling next to the chunk of brain he had just drilled from the officer's skull. And eaten.
The Omophagea implant inside him enabled him to 'learn by eating', and that...skill, had come in handy at this particular moment. After he had biten a chunk out of the soft, crunchy brain of the officer, he had felt a sudden rush go through his mind, as the information in the officer's mind was transported to his as though he was experiencing them himself. The memories were so exact, so precise, that sometimes he could almost forget for the slightest of a nano second that he was a Crimson Fist, not some traiterous Guard major. The amount of information flooding into his mind eventually did tell him what he needed to know: the location of the space port. And the officer had not lied, it was relatively closeby. But as he had thought to himself earlier, he would have avoided this if he had felt it nescesary. Indeed, entire Chapters had been given names after this particular implant, or their over extensive use of it, which would lead them to barbaric bloodlust. The Blood Drinkers, Flesh Tearers, and all others of the sort. Which was exactly why he had hoped never to come to use it. He had hoped he felt he could count on the Intel retrieved by Adrianus' interrogation and his lie of a deal to the renegade officer. But even with his brothers telling him, he realized he could never bring himself to fully trusting the enemy. Not now. Maybe even never.
"Sir!" Starax yelled into Van Alessian's ear. The Captain shook his head, and returned to reality. The process was done, it was all over. Now they could leave. "Captain, can you hear me?"
"My ears are fine Starax!" Van Alessian snapped. "But I'm not sure my blood is.."
"The Apothaceries at Rynn's World can do something about that I'm sure." Starax said. "But we have more pressing matters sir, as Nikol said, more hostiles are closing on our position."
"The Guardsmen probably got tired of waiting and called for reinforcements." Van Alessian said.
"Not quite so sir." Nikol said. Van Alessian was almost surprised to see the Astartes talking. "Their something else."
"Well dont keep me in suspense brother. Who did you see?"
"I saw - "
A volley of Bolter rounds cut Nikol short, as the explosive shots ravaged the building and tore the walls and windows assunder. Glass and stone showered the Astartes, and Van Alessian could even feel a Bolter shell pass right by his head as the rounds continued to fly across the air. A strong explosion followed soon after, taking off one part of the wall they were using as cover, and opening a small breach into their position. Soon, a mighty battlecry echoed, and the sound of armored boots hammering against the ground sounded off, followed by volleys of Lasgun fire from advancing ranks of Imperial Guardsmen. Van Alessian grabbed his helmet from the ground, and snapped it onto his head, and looked up through the torn walls to see the new enemy upon them.
And then, through the dust and smoke of the battlefield, the Caustos lead the Damned Company forward.
PART V: The Flight
"Chaos! Chaos Marines closing in!" Starax yelled and fired off with his Bolter, taking off the head of the nearest Traitor Marine.
"Form up! Dont let any of them through!" Van Alessian ordered.
The renegades had taken them by surprise, but Azarath Squad was already fast at work repelling the new attackers. The traitors were still some distance away from the breach, and would most likely come through that in order to get at the Fists. The traitors wore purple and white armor trimmed with gold, and had no clear insignia anywhere on them beside the Chaos markings on their armor. But Van Alessian recognized the Damned Company when he saw them; lawless Astartes mercenaries who had been struck down by the Inquisition many years before. How pathetic that they had fallen to such desperation to survive as to count on the Dark Powers to "save" them.
Van Alessian fired his Storm Bolter quickly from the hip, showering the advancing ranks of traitors in explosive shells. Guardsmen were sliced in half, and some of the Chaos Marines went down as well, although Van Alessian could see most of them just crawl into cover or be dragged into it by a fellow renegade. He stood his ground before the breach, gun blazing in one hand and sword held firmly in the other, its deadly energy field hungry for kills.
Azarath was caught up in a fierce firefight with the traitors, who were halting here and there to pepper the Space Marines with Bolter and Las-fire, and then advance again in hopes of having weakened them. But the Astartes of the Crimson Fists stood their ground, proving ever more that they would not succumb to the blade of traitors and heretics so easily. Van Alessian fired left and right, taking down Chaos Marines and Guardsmen with almost every shot he made. But still they came on, their limitless numbers pouring onto them. And the Damned Company were far from lazy shots themselves. Several of the rounds they fired came close to killing even Van Alessian himself on numerous occasions, particularly the rounds from the hulking warrior wearing Terminator Armor, who was obviously leading the pack of heretics.
That renegade was like a juggernaut, with every bolt merely scratching the surface of his massive armor. But what more could have been expected? It was Terminator Armor, the toughest form of concealed combat armor ever created by Man. But even with all the advantages it posessed, it still came with its weaknesses. That huge suit would prevent the wearer from moving quickly, and keep him from the benefits of hiding behind cover. In his equally resilient and far more agile Artificer Armor, Van Alessian was certain he could take on the renegade.
As Van Alessian quickly planned a strategy in his mind, two Chaos Marines stepped through the breach, Bolters held before them. They both fired a burst at Van Alessian, but the rounds impacted against his battle plate without doing any damage, and this allowed the veteran Captain to respond with deadly efficiency. He quickly set the sights of his Storm Bolter over the head of the first traitor, pulled the trigger, and sent a pair of bolts flying through the air and straight into the renegade's skull, bursting the head apart. The second fired another pair of shots in Van Alessian's chest, but once again failed to any damage, and paid dearly with his life as Van Alessian's sword cut through his neck and neatly decapitated the traitor Marine. But as Van Alessian looked up from his two new kills and saw the wave of heretics closing in, he knew he would have to act for the better of his men. Their deaths would serve the Chapter little if they died on some backwater Hive World.
"Azarath Squad! Initiate tactical withdrawl! Starax, take point, you know the way to the space port! I'll hold them off!"
"But sir - "
"Don't question my orders now sergeant! Get the men to the space port, get onto a ship, and get back to Rynn's World! If I'm not there in time, leave without me!"
"I won't leave my Captain to die!"
"Then leave him to fight instead! Now follow my damn orders Starax! Get the squad out of here!"
Starax stared stoically into his superior officer for a full five seconds before responding. "Yes sir."
Van Alessian nodded in approval! "Now go! Go, brother!"
"Don't keep us waiting too long sir!"
"I wont! Now go!" Van Alessian ordered.
Starax raised his hand towards the nearest doorway, and stood straight out in the midst of the battle, and barked an order across Azarath's vox channel. Only a few seconds later, Azarath Squad was almost completely out of the firezone, leaving behind only an embattled Captain and a swarm of traitors. Only Nikol remained behind with Van Alessian, burning any who came through his way.
Just then, the front wall burst in pieces, throwing dust, stone and wood in all directions as a hulking form rampaged through the area, hammer swinging wildly in one hand and gun barking in the other. Explosive bolts tore through cover and wrecked the entire place apart, while the hammer cut great crackling arcs across the air. Van Alessian raised his own weapon, and fired a burst, but all of the rounds failed to penetrate the heavy armor of the traitor, who turned his attention to Van Alessian, holding up his Thunder Hammer, and landing a thunderous stomp with each step he made.
"Your meddlings have caused me enough trouble already, Captain Van Alessian!" The massive warrior boomed and struck down at Van Alessian with his Hammer.
Van Alessian jumped aside, dodging the massive blow by mere inches as the Hammer landed to the ground and crushed the floor, sinking the weapon under the stone. But Van Alessian was more concerned as of how he knew his name.
"And I'm not done causing them yet traitor!" Van Alessian roared and cut across the back of the warrior, leaving a wide, black cut on his back. The massive traitor Marine grunted, but swiftly recovered and pulled the Hammer from the ground and swung outwards. Van Alessian brought up his Power Sword and struck straight towards the incoming weapon, deflecting the blow, and staggering him backwards at the same time.
"Then i hope the Emperor finds you at his right side, Captain." The warrior retorted.
At that moment, Van Alessian felt his nerves twitch, and a spark of anger flash at the back of his mind.
"Blasphemor!" He bellowed and cleaved down at the heretic, his blade bouncing off the tip of the Thunder Hammer. Van Alessian fought with re-doubled impetuoisty, not taking a single moment to relent his attack. This traitor had forsaken the Emperor, and now dared to speak His name to him as if granting him a final blessing.
"If only you knew the truth of where my true loyalty lies Van Alessian!" He boomed. "But it seems that will not come to pass - "
As the traitor spoke, Nikol came from behind, having momentarily cleared the way for himself, and washed the massive renegade in flames. Prometheum cooked the surface of the Terminator armor, and ignited the ceramite plating. The Terminator roared in anger, and dropped his Storm Bolter from his hands as he reached out with that hand to extinquish the flames that were proving a threat to him, even in his Tactical Dreadnought Armor. But even a Flamer at that range, and with the time Nikol had, was not enough.
The massive Terminator swung his Hammer, and with that one blow, Nikol went down. The dark blue armored Astartes' chestplate was crushed under the force of the blow, and both of his ribs broken and his bones shattered. Still burning, the Terminator quickly thrust his Hammer at the furious Van Alessian, knocking him to the other side of the room as he tried to land a blow with his Power Sword. Van Alessian felt more like he had been just hit by a Dreadnought then an actual hand-held weapon. He could feel blood coursing up his lungs, and could see blood coming out of a wound in his arm, and the golden aquila shattered on his chest.
Van Alessian lost his Storm Bolter after the blow, but he had still managed to hold onto his sword, which he now grasped in his hands, pulling himself up with every last piece of strength he had left in him. If he was to die, then he would die standing, and facing down his enemies.
Behind the Terminator, more Chaos Marines and traitor Guardsmen rallied, lining up like a firing squad as the massive warrior stommped towards Van Alessian, Hammer dripping blood and crackling with deathly energy.
"Lord Abaddon was right," The Terminator smirked. "you are dangerous."
Van Alessian felt a jolt go up his spine for the slighest of seconds. Abaddon, the Despoiler, the leader of the Black Legion...
It was Nikol's voice. The Astartes was still alive!
And holding a hissing tank of Prometheum from his Flamer.
The eyes of the renegade in Terminator Armor widened.
"No..." He gasped.
And in a massive cloak of holy fire, Nikol burried them all under the rubble.
"Captain!" Desmundo yelled at the collapsing structure.
The remainder of Azarath Squad had just made it outside before the building had collapsed on the heads of the traitors. A great explosion had destroyed the support pillars on the building, causing it to fall apart entirely. The Astartes caught the dying screams of a few traitors, and the roar of the renegade in his massive Terminator Armor before it all fell silent. There were still a handfull of Guardsmen outside, hastily trying to dig their way through the rubble to their fellow soldiers, but at no avail.
"Holy Terra." Starax gasped, and tapped the vox open. "Captain, this is Sergeant Starax, do you read me?"
There was no response. If the Captain had survived, his helmet was probably crushed anyway under all of those tons of stone and rubble. If, he had survived.
"Why won't he respond?" Adrianus hissed.
"Patience, brother." Starax replied. "Captain, come in."
"Sweet Emperor, and Nikol too..." Adrianus continued, shaking his head in dismay.
"We are not giving up on them just yet! They are Crimson Fists, just as us, they can survive a few piles of rubble!" Desmundo snapped.
Adrianus turned his head to Starax, who had tried contacting the Captain again, but again with no reply from him. "Sir, what are your orders?"
Starax sighed. He would have wanted to stay behind and dig up the rubble to see if their gallant leader was still alive. But he knew as well as Van Alessian did, that their lives were more valuable to the Chapter then their corpses. And digging up all of that stone would take too much time, time they didn't have at their disposal. And the Captain had given them a direct order: to get to the space port, and get off the planet. And if Van Alessian had died, it would only be fitting that his final wishes were to be done.
"We head for the space port." He stated, although he could already feel the disdain amog his fellow Crimson Fists. "I know the way there, its in Hab Center Pherotas, we can get there by foot within the hour if we move quickly, and if we move now."
"Yes Sergeant." Desmundo and Adrianus acknowledged.
"Conserve your ammo, i only have this clip left myself. We cant afford to get stuck in a firefight either."
"Understood sir, again."
"Good, now lets move."
As they turned around and started marching away from the area, their Astartes senses heard pieces of stone falling against the ground, and instinctively turned around and raised their Bolters at the rubble, and noticed pieces of it were moving. Starax set his finger on the trigger and set his weapon to semi automatic. Van Alessian could be coming out, but so could any of the Damned Company members under all of that stone. Desmundo and Adrianus took up positions so they could flank any foe who came from under that rubble.
But to all of their joy, they wouldn't need to exhaust any of their bolts on enemy targets. A blue armored hand with a crimson colored fist punched straight through the piles of hard rock, and was followed by the bulky frame of Captain Stefanos Van Alessian. The battered Company Captain pulled himself from the rubble, his Artificer Armor scratched and beaten in every joint and plate. The golden aquila and the ceremonial straps on his front plating were all but destroyed, and the eagle on his left shoulder pad and the Crimson Fists insignia on his right pad were brutally scarred. His helmet had been cracked in half, and he had left it within the rubble. His face had a brutal scar cutting across his entire left cheek, and he had a few other wounds scattered across his face as well, and was drenched in sweat. But he was still here, and still very much alive.
"Captain!" Starax said, relieved more then he had ever been before in his life. "We thought we had lost you there."
"Well it came close to that." Van Alessian said with a small grin.
"And Nikol? Is he still...well, alive?" Starax asked.
Van Alessian shook his head. "No, he detonated a tank of Prometheum and brought the whole place down on our heads. He died almost instantly after that. But we will mourn him later, he bought us time to get out of here, and we should use that time well."
"Agreed sir, and i think you will be needing this." Starax said and held out his Bolter to Van Alessian, who grabbed it with a nod of thanks.
"Azarath Squad, rally on me! It's time we left this rock!"
Second-lieutenant Arathus had been tasked with the security of Port B03, a mission which, as he was told, was of dire importance to the operations of Colonel Arishma on this planet. Although he was inclined to believe that, he often times wondered if he and his men had been posted here merely for the sake of having more troops around the Hive, as he and his garrison barely encountered any hostiles while on duty here. He himself had little else to do except stare at the two Carrack-class transports docked in the hangar. The ships had been stripped of all former Imperial Navy insignia's, and were now being prepared to be refitted with additional weaponry, as per Colonel Arishma's orders. The Colonel strongly believed that the Imperium would return to retake the planet, and the men had to be as well readied as possible for that attack. Arathus wasn't sure why his superior even bothered with refitting simple supply ships for combat, much more why the Imperium would even bother returning to Unbound. The Hive had already been completely overthrown and was well beyond restoration to Imperial rule. But, orders were orders, and he intended to carry those orders out. Although, there had been rumors running around that a small Imperial task force had already arrived on the planet. But those were just rumors. Arathus dealed only with facts. And he still couldn't help but feel the same type of hunger for combat as his men were feeling now. All that they could do, was stand by and hope that maybe some foolhardy group of gangsters came along and picked a fight with them. Gods only knew how much he and his men wanted it.
"Lieutenant, sir!" His second-in command, Sergeant Dulcis, reported with a salute.
"Yes sergeant, what is it?" Arathus asked, not turning his gaze off the pair of ships before him.
"The Tech Priests have reported that they are almost done refitting the first transport. It should be combat ready within two days sir."
"And the Servitor crew on the ship?"
"Still blindly following orders to the letter sir. I don't think we need to even worry about comissioning a crew to use the ship."
"Well were not wasting our few ships on some mindless Servitors, we cant afford to take that risk. Asign a few guards and gunners onto the ship. That should guarentee its efficiency."
"Yes sir. And sir..." Dulcis continued.
"What is it sergeant?" Arathus asked bluntly.
"It's our perimeter defenses on the western gate. We've lost all contact with them, no one is picking up on the vox."
"Was gunfire reported around the area?"
"Negative, they just fell silent sir."
Arathus raised en eyebrow. "Has anyone looked into this?"
"No sir, we heard of it just a few moments ago."
"Well get some men on the job then! If the enemy has some how breached this facility then we need to respond with equal efficiency!" Arathus barked.
Dulcis's hand snapped to his forehead in a salute. "Yes sir, or course sir! I'll lead the investigation myself."
"Contact me once you have something. I'll be in the command center." Arathus ordered and turned around and marched off towards the exit of the docking bay.
"Understood." Dulcis acknowledged and tapped the vox open on his helmet, calling for a squad.
Arathus didn't even notice it at first, but his hand had fallen to the hilt of his Chainsword, and his other hand was already getting ready to grip his Las pistol. Natural combat reflexes, perhaps the only good thing the Imperium had ever given him, or his men. And little did he know how much he would be needing those reflexes.
But before he could do much more then draw his own weapon, the alarm claxons of the facility went off, and red alert lights lit up on every wall and lit every nook with bright red light. Confused, the Guardsmen rushed to defensive positions, and readied their Lasguns. The squad of troopers in the docking bay with Arathus went into cover and fixed their rifles on the two great twin doors leading into the area. On the catwalk in the bay, a team of Guardsmen yanked the bolt of a pintle-mounted Heavy Bolter and aimed it downwards.
And just as Arathus was reaching down for his sidearm, one of the twin doors opened, and Van Alessian put a Bolter round clean through his skull and another round of slaughter began.
It would not be long before the Crimson Fists would at last escape the doomed world of Unbound. Having lost two of the finest warriors he had ever had the privilage of serving with, Van Alessian swore that their names would be remembered in the Necropolis of Rynn's World. He and his Astartes had carved a new, bloody legacy for themselves upon this world, one that neither their brothers nor their enemies would forget easily. Aboard the transport, Van Alessian couldn't help but think over the words that the traitor had said before he was burried under the rubble of that building: "Lord Abaddon was right, you are dangerous."
Abaddon. The absolute warmaster of Chaos, the ruinous powers themselves. He had wanted Van Alessian dead, and was willing to go as far as hiring mercenaries himself to do that. Van Alessian could only ask himself this:
What move might the Despoiler do next only to get rid of a single Astartes?
"So." Abaddon hissed from the top of his throne. "Caustos has failed me."
Nyrol, a Sorceror in service of Abaddon, nodded to the Despoiler. "I'm affraid so my Lord. The signs are obvious. It has now been weeks since he was dispatched to Unbound and even longer since the Crimson Fists arrived there, and no news has come in."
"This is outrageous!" Abaddon boomed, his voice like a thousand dark hammers striking down at the ground. "Nyrol, you had best be sure about this."
The Sorceror nodded lightly. "The vessel we sent to watch Caustos' fleet was quite clear my Lord. They fled the entire system and didn't report to any Black Legion forces."
"Did Caustos survive himself?"
"Unclear at this point. But we have heard news of him still being alive, my Lord."
Abaddon was furious. Not only had Caustos most likely failed his task, but this, Captain Van Alessian, still lived on to further plague his plans and to threaten his gains. He curled his fists, and let out an angered roar and slammed onto the sides of his throne, breaking those parts apart as he vented his rage away.
Nyrol stood still like a statue. "My Lord, what is your next move?"
Abaddon shot a furious glance at Nyrol. "What is my next move, Nyrol?"
He raised to his feet, his hulking form towering over Nyrol twice as much. While standing, Abaddon was virtually a giant, even compared to an Astartes in full Terminator Armor. He stompped over to the Sorceror, as if ready to smash him under his gauntlet, and halted right before him.
"My greatest Black Crusade is about to begin, and these, these...vermin who call themselves warriors stand in my path. The answer is obvious, Nyrol, i will finally put an end to the threat of these pathetic loyalists." Abaddon growled, and marched back to his throne.
"Your word my Lord?" Nyrol humbly asked with a low bow.
"Call upon the Dark Powers Nyrol, send them forth to Rynn's World, tell them to destroy all in their path. Leave none of the loyalists standing in your path."
Nyrol fell to his knees and bowed. "It will as you command my Lord. The Crimson Fists will fall."