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Brother Jonn winced as bio-acid spayed through the trees he sheltered behind, sundered branches raining around him as more Tyranid fire searched for him and his brother scouts.
“I think they know we are here,” Master Sergeant Borrus remarked dryly.
“Perhaps there is somewhere else we ought to be.”
What had initially been intended as a brief foray to gauge the extent of the Tyranid infestation had just turned ugly. The scouts had cautiously advanced to within sight of the Tyranid seeding spore, tracked falling through the atmosphere of Land’s End along with a meteor shower some 12 hours previously. So many had fallen that the chapter had not the resources to respond in force to every impact site, hence Squad Alpha of the
Bushrangers had been missioned to ‘ascertain the threat index’.The marine initiates of the Red Rangers followed Borrus as he tunnelled through the undergrowth on belly and elbows. They dropped into a shallow gully some 200 metres distant and immediately assumed firing positions around its rim.
“I don’t know about you, Master Sergeant, but I am feeling quite threatened,” muttered Brother Zerat, as the lightly armoured scouts listened to the screeching and chitinous scratching as their previous position was shredded by fang and claw.
“Brother Jonn, your situation assessment if you please,” commanded Borrus, overriding Zerat’s wry humour.
“Master Sergeant, I estimate there were two groups of termagaunts numbering about 40 all told. Two, possibly three of the warrior synapse creatures with heavy weapons and a group of rippers consuming the drop spore.”
“Well done Brother. What about the lictor?”Jonn froze. If Borrus said there was a lictor, then there was a lictor. As his eyes systematically scanned his defensive sector, he admitted “I am remiss, Master Sergeant. I observed no lictor. Where is it?”
“200 at 15 to your left. It is following our trail.”Jonn silently cursed. He was a scout. He was a BushRanger of the Red Rangers, seeing what did not want to be seen was his duty. He had failed.
“Redeem yourself Brother Jonn. One shot.”
Jonn adjusted the focus of his rifle scope, and scanned the area Borrus had indicated. He saw only trees. He panned his view along the path their evasion had taken them, and there he saw it. The creature was hard to make out, blending with its background almost perfectly. It could easily be taken down in a hail of gunfire, a clear target being less important than sheer number of shots. However, were they to do so they would be sealing their deaths, as the brood of Tyranids would follow the sound to their position. Jonn watched as the lictor made its way down the trail. He had never seen one in his nine years of service to the Emperor, and wasn’t convinced he saw it now. Subconsciously data filed its way through his mind; the lictor’s enviable camouflage abilities, its lethal claws, teeth and flesh hooks. One
shot to silently kill the xenos with his silenced weapon. One shot to take out the creature that even now was hunting them. One shot to kill it before it could alert the rest of the zenos invaders, and bring a horrible death unto his squad.
Jonn tracked the infiltrator, his patience a tangible thing. The rest of the squad were silent; he could feel their trust. Then suddenly, Jonn saw the creature come into sharp focus as it stepped into a ray of light penetrating the forest canopy. Only for a split second; before the creature again blended with its surroundings. But for Jonn, a Space Marine, it was enough. A whisper of sound, the recoil of the sniper rifle into his shoulder, and the soft thud of the creature toppling onto the mossy ground with a hole blasted through its animalistic skull.
There was no congratulations, no thanks. Brother Jonn had performed his duty. The squad cautiously rose, and followed Borrus’ lead back towards the pickup coordinates.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
“Start from the beginning, Private Croaker. You are being recorded for Imperial review, so try to be concise. Leave nothing out. “
Yesterday my squad was assigned a simple recon and retrieval mission from Outpost Sixteen, about ten klicks to the West of here. There were only six of us left in the squad, but the L.T. felt that we’d be sufficient for the job. Sergeant Bagman was in charge while we were separated from the platoon.
We were about halfway to the destination when Private Carmine began to complain of stomach aches. He didn’t let it slow us down, so we didn’t think he was in much pain. That was our first sign that something was wrong, but we passed it off as breakfast giving him cramps. He always did have a problem with eating too much in the mornings.
When we reached Outpost Sixteen, we found it completely ruined. We were told to expect it to be abandoned, but nothing prepared us for what we found. Bones lay out in the open, bleached from time spent underneath the heat of the star. The walls of the Outpost were stained from what we presumed to be blood. Everyone was affected by the sight, except for Carmine. He simply stared at the sight with a detached look. After a few moments, he strolled towards the Outpost.
“Perhaps an animal attacked the Outpost,” he said. “Nothing we can do about it now. Let’s finish our mission and get out of here.” His confidence was both unnerving and inspiring at the same time. Carmine was never one to give orders. That’s why he never made any rank past Private. On more than one occasion he’s been known to remark that he’d make a horrible leader, more likely to get his men killed than anything else.
We all followed Carmine into the Outpost. The seal lock on the door was broken. Private Duran took point, keeping his flamer ahead of him. He had an itchy trigger finger, but nobody called him on it. We all felt uneasy in the Outpost and weren’t looking forward to any surprises jumping out at us.
Electricity inside the Outpost looked to be on reserve power, as the lights kept flickering on and off. At some points it looked like a strobe light going off inside your head. It was hard to keep my balance while walking down the hallways, and more than once I walked into the wall beside me. I wasn’t the only one. Bagman was having it worse, with his eyes so sensitive to light.
The lights also played tricks on us. I would turn a corner and see a figure standing there, only to have the lights blink out. When they came back up a second later, the figure would be gone. Or doors would be open, then closed. Strange alien symbols on the walls would appear and disappear before your eyes. But what really scared us was the scream.
The scream was definitely a man, and sounded very close to us. It was the kind of scream when you know you’re dying, but it is a long, drawn out death, and you only want it to end so that the suffering will pass. The scream itself sends cold shivers through your spine, willing your legs to take you as far away from the source as humanly possible. We all felt it, and would have ran from that cursed place if it wasn’t for Bagman.
“Hold it together, guys. We need to find him and get him to safety. Perhaps he can tell us what happened here.” Bagman started forward, goading Duran before him. Before we started moving though, Carmine spoke up.
“You won’t find him. He’s been long dead.” There was no quaver in his voice and his eyes shone of determination. That’s when I noticed he wasn’t affected by this place. Either he had the courage of the Emperor himself, or his mind had snapped.
“What are you talking about? I heard him, Bagman heard him, we all heard him!” I said. “You’re telling me that dead men scream now?”
“Yes, in a sense. They’re psychic echoes. The people you see, the noises you hear, they are all echoes. Who, or what, ever attacked this Outpost was a psyker. A strong one, judging by the sheer amount of disturbance here.”
Duran looked to Carmine. “What could have done this, then? All of this?”
Then Carmine spoke two words that will haunt my dreams for the rest of my life.
His eyes shone with an unnatural fire as he spoke them. The voice wasn’t his any longer. It was deep and resonated with a vicious evil that I have only read about in history texts. Waves of heat radiated from his body as he spoke, and I swear he grew larger with each passing second. In the blink of an eye, his hand snapped to his waist and produced a knife from a sheath on his hip. Before anyone would react, Carmine slammed the knife into Duran’s skull, burying it to the hilt in his left eye socket. Duran produced a blood curdling scream and blood streamed down his face. His finger reflexively squeezed the trigger of his flamer and jets of napalm streamed down the corridor. I was shoved to the ground by a large weight that threatened to suffocate me. I remember the waves of fire flowing above me and caressing my skin lightly, but they did not burn me badly.
A few moments after the fires died down, I was able to push the weight off of me. I stood up and looked at what had knocked me over. It was Sergeant Bagman, dead. He had taken the full blast of the flamer to his face and it must have knocked him into me. His body had shielded me from the lethal flames. Duran was also dead, the knife still in his skull. I like to think that he was dead the moment Carmine had stabbed him, and that the scream was reflex. It helps me to think of him like that.
Carmine wasn’t around. Endez and Palmer were standing behind Duran, so had escaped any harm.
“Did either of you see where he went?” I asked the pair. Endez was the first to respond.
“Y-y-yes! He went down that corridor, but faster than any human could have run. What was that? It… it was like he was possessed!” Endez was shaking and his words broke off into almost incoherency. I saw Palmer edging towards the exit.
“Palmer, don’t run. You have the right idea, but we need to leave as a team. But first, we need to get that data pad. The Outpost commander was supposed to have it, so it’s probably still in his office, or on him.”
“Forget that!” Palmer shouted. “Didn’t you see what Carmine did? Didn’t you see all those bodies outside? There were no animal bones. They were all human! I’m getting out of here while I still can!”
“Too late,” whispered a sinister voice from behind him. Carmine’s hands grasped Palmer by the neck and head and twisted. A sickening crunch accompanied the sight of Palmer’s head turning at an unnatural angle. Carmine kept twisting Palmer’s head around, but I couldn’t watch. I reached down and grabbed Duran’s fallen flamer and pointed at Carmine, but he was gone. Palmer’s corpse lay on the ground, headless. Endez was standing to my left, holding the head of Palmer in his hands, blubbering like a fool. Blood pooled underneath him and Palmer.
That’s when I ran. I didn’t look back when I reached the Outpost door, I didn’t slow down when I reached the tree line, and I never once considered going back for Endez. I ran the entire way back here, but I could not out run the laughing. I heard it behind me as I ran, goading me. I knew if I stopped I’d end up like Palmer or Duran.
Croaker sat uncomfortable in his chair, his voice trailing off quietly as he finished his story. Three large overhead lights cast a harsh light over him and prevented him from seeing the person he was addressing, but he knew it was Inquisitor Herakles. A servo skull floated around his head, capturing his entire story on video. Two Imperial Guardsman from the Inquisitor’s private retinue stood impassively at the only door to and from the room.
“Are you sure that’s all? What happened to Endez?” The Inquisitor moved closer to Croaker and softened his voice to show a small amount of compassion.
“I’m not sure. I haven’t seen him since Outpost Sixteen. Nor have I seen Carmine. And I never want to again.” Croaker started shaking visibly, but quickly pulled himself back to together. The Inquisitor turned to the two men standing guard.
“Take two squads and find Endez. Bring him back to me. If you encounter the Host, then do not try to engage it.” The two men nodded their understanding and turned to leave the room. The door was thick and heavy and made a resounding clang that reverberated throughout the small room as it slammed shut behind the men. After they left, the Inquisitor turned back to Croaker and started to draw his power sword. “By the Emperor’s Divine Will, I grant you absolution from your torment.”
“Wait! What? You’re going to kill me? Why?” Croaker struggled to stand up from his chair, but found that he had been bound to it tightly. Croaker was frantic and writhed in his bindings.
“Carmine had turned himself over to the power of Chaos. Chaos is like a cancer. It grows in the hearts of men, turning them twisted and broken. It spreads from Host to Host, and we can’t risk you being infecting anyone.” The Inquisitor’s power sword slipped easily through Croaker’s chest, piercing his heart. Croaker took four final breathes, then slumped forwards in the chair.
Inquisitor Herakles wiped his sword on Croakers coat and sheathed it. Turning to the servo-skull, he flicked off the recording and told it to file the video in his private, encrypted directory.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Brother Grimthor smashed through the small civilian door and stared into the house. Although he could not see anyone, his helmet picked up the presence of two humans. He quickly scanned the room, looking for the small passport that allowed residence on the planet. He had been ordered to kill anyone who failed to display this.
Brother Grimthor’s power armour was signifying superficial damage to the rear of his helmet. He turned carefully around. A small, terrified human male had apparently hit him with a chair. Grimthor stared down at him, a good 3 foot difference in height. He was clutching two broken chair legs. It was obvious to Grimthor that this man had never seen a space marine before. The man’s legs were knocking together, and a panicked look spread across his
face. Grimthor extended his left arm.
“Your passport please.” He boomed. The man said nothing and continued to shake. Grimthor waited about five seconds before the man turned around and began to run. Grimthor raised his bolt pistol. Another fetching immigrant was about to die in the name of the Emperor! He let off a snappy shot, which sailed through the air before colliding with the back of the mans knee. It exploded; cutting the now screaming man’s leg off below where his kneecap once was. He fell hard on his face and let out another cry of pain. Grimthor concluded he had probably broken his nose, or perhaps a jaw. He was now leaking blood from his ears.
A shrill wail came from behind Grimthor. A woman. She whimpered in the corner, apparently equally as distressed as the man had been. Grimthor readied his pistol for another shot. He stared down at her pathetic body. She was young. Grimthor had not seen such a woman for many years. Even with tears streaming down her slender cheeks, she was beautiful. It was almost a shame to have to hurt her. A bolt screamed into her skull and the round destroyed the entire top half of her head, showering the room with blood and chunks of bone and brain. Brother Grimthor laughed. He loved his job.
Turning, he prepared to search the next house. He glanced out at the twitching remains of the broken man, now silent but obviously still alive. Strolling out of the house he stamped his boot on the back of the mans head, spreading more human vital fluids onto the floor. He slammed the door behind him, and a small red object fell to the floor. It was a passport.
The streets ran with the blood of the innocent that day. Sometimes, such losses are to be accepted as part of the Emperors grand scheme. Still, the Dark Angels had done there job. The planet was now immigrant free. In fact, it was almost free of human life altogether.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Shadows of Childhood
Bret ran the back of his hand over his forehead to try and curb the sweat from running into his eyes. The heat in this hive was amazing, like sitting in the furnace of his father’s smithy back on Mill Landing. He had come a long way since he last saw home, and he doubted that he would ever see it again. For the longest time, to continue his father’s business was the height of his ambitions. To do honest work, tolling under the weight of hammer and bellow, the crafting of tools and weapons and to be an important member of the small remote village, which he grew up in.
All of those ideas ended with the draft. Bret remembered the day all too well even though it was ten years ago. It was mid-summer; the village high in the Slipp Valley was at its most beautiful. Its as if when the ancient law was passed they decided on the time of year where it was the most difficult to leave. In winter the valley would be a tundra with the north wind whistling down the pass, and the locals huddling around fires telling far-fetched stories of aliens, travelling among the stars and super-humans. It would be so easy to leave then, to climb down to the lower plains where the wind was not so biting and the snow not so deep.
The town had gathered in the square, Bock and Killian the local carpenters had erected a stage for Mayor Wheatfield to stand on. Bret and his friends had gathered together earlier that day to discuss the possibility that one of them might be forced to leave the existence they had known for their whole life. Fall Pass was required by law to provide ten young men every midsummer to the army. These ten young men were to then serve for twenty years. When done they could return to the lives they had previously enjoyed. Bret in his twenty years had not known or even heard of one of these men ever returning to their families. It was effectively a death sentence, with families morning their sons leaving like a wake, even going as far as to have a symbolic burial.
Silence fell very quickly on the large crowd once the Mayor took the stage. A large man, who had lost one son to the draft fifteen years ago, his eyes moved constantly looking from one face to the next. His mouth was not visible underneath a magnificent moustache which was more white than brown. The mayor threw his arms out wide; he had no need to call for silence as the crowd was already holding their breath
“My friends, we have come to that time of the year again. You know how much it pains me to do this task and many of you share my pain, but it is necessary. We have to do our civic duty, our produce gets good prices, our roads are kept in good repair, and we are well protected. All that our High Lord asks in return is for us to pay the reasonable taxes and to supply ten of our young men to up-hold the honour of our village in the Imperial Army.”
At this the mayor stopped and waited for the cheers for the honour of Fall Pass. The wall of silence was solid and complete; the people had heard this speech the year before and the year before and forever back since anyone could remember. Different mayors may say it different ways, but the message was the same. Mayor Wheatfield, getting no response ploughed on into the part of the proceedings that everyone had gathered for.
“ As per-usual we have placed the names of the all males turning twenty this year into the barrel. I will now draw out the ten names required to do their civic duty.”
Brett remembered shaking, and feeling that the nerves which had been building for the last few weeks, were all in his stomach fighting each other. A memory of looking at his parents before the first name was drawn out, the faces blurred with time but the sun sparkling from his mother’s brooch shining down the years. The mayor reached into the barrel, plucked a piece of paper from the many and read the name. Slowly looking up to the crowd his eyes found Bret.
His mother cried out in shock, his father looked at him with tears in his eyes. Ten years and he could not remember what exactly his father looked like but he knew that at that moment he looked like a broken man. His son, the carrier of his name, taken from him so cruelly, dead to him now even though he stood alongside him in the bright summer sun.
“Bret, come up here and stand with me.”
The mayor’s voice carried a sadness and pain that only someone who has to do a terrible but necessary duty can have. Brett remembered his mother trying to clutch at him, his father holding her back. People’s eyes turned away from the family, each hoping that their beloved sons would not be the next to suffer the same fate. The steps up to the platform seemed like the cliffs above Slipps Pass. Each step a physical pain as each one took him further away from home and everything he knew. The mayor took his hand as he reached him and pulled him into a bear hug.
“Your parents and town are proud of you Brett, very, very proud.”
He stepped back and motioned for Bret to stand to the left and behind him, while he placed his hand into the barrel for another name. Bret could not remember much more of the ceremony, a sea of faces, the sun playing over tanned skin and moist eyes. The occasional scream from a heart-broken mother, the throaty cry from a forsaken father. The stage became more crowded, until eventually the ten places were filled. A few of the nine others Bret knew, none of his good friends had been picked. The mayor’s voice cut into his thoughts.
“Once again the brave people of Mill’s Landing have done what’s asked of them. Never shall it be said that we have not done our duty for the High Lord. I can offer nothing but condolences to those whose sons have been chosen. But in the coming weeks and months take courage from the knowledge that your children are about to defend the Lord himself and represent us with courage and honour.”
Mayor Wheatfield turned to the ten gathered young men. His eyes looked at them but seemed focused on something else. A lonely smile spread over his lips, half hidden by the moustache.
“You have two hours boys, to get your things and say your goodbyes. Come back here where the carriage will be waiting for you.”
He turned and walked slowly off of the stage. Bret looked for his parents, the rest of the crowd had dispersed, happy that they had been spared the heartbreak. Ten sets of parents had gathered close to the stage. Mothers crying in each others arms, fathers standing in silent groups staring at the ground or into the middle distance. Bret reached his father and stood helplessly as he was enveloped in a huge hug that threatened to break his ribs. He remembered feeling numb, the homesickness and heartache, which was omnipresent in the coming months thankfully waiting in the future. When his father released him, his mother took his place. Bret began to feel the first tears running down his cheek and mix with the saliva from his mothers overzealous kisses. The next two hours were the strangest of his life, the constant attention from his parents, the rushed final meal, the gathering of a few personal possessions, all contributed to the feeling of a death sentence, as if he was going to the gallows in a few hours. To his parents he might as well have.
Bret, shook his head, as if to banish the thoughts from his memory. After all those years they were still painful. It seemed like a different life, the simplicity of it, the lack of knowledge about greater and bigger things. He was a trooper in the Imperial Guard now; his duty was no longer just to his village or to the High Lord. His duty was to the whole of humanity. Rubbing a drop of moisture from his cheek, it was difficult to tell if it was sweat or a tear.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Valarias rested his forefinger on the heavy, unmoving trigger of his exitus long rifle. It's weight pressed into his shoulder, a perfect balance allowing him to aim without the slightest quiver. He was comfortable, so comfortable that he could stay that way for days.
He had a feeling that that would be the case.
Valarias was and assassin, one from the Vindicare temple. He had trained in the use of the sniper rifle for his entire life. Part of his training was the ability to sit unmoving for hours, even days. As such Valarias was patient, more so than the majority of the men who made up the Imperium.
It was the 41st millennium, and the Imperium of man stretched to the very edges of the galaxy. Humanity numbered billions of lives amongst billions of worlds. Each planet was usually ruled by a high governor, and corruption usually found its way to this planetary position.
It was Valarias' mission to kill one of these high governors, a certain Lord Herpandes of the planet Xersia. Xersia was ripped apart by endless war, yet it was still in the control of the imperium. A recent crusade from the forces of chaos had forced a new government to control the ruinous planet. If war came, then the Imperium needed to control the small population, to prevent anarchy on a grand scale.
Valarias laughed at the thought. A governor was set to control the planet, yet here Valarias was, ready to kill him. Lord Herpandes had become corrupt, and was taking Imperium tax money for himself. It was corruption augmented to the point of stupidity, Valarias thought. Could Herpandes possibly believe that the Imperium would simply forget its income to focus its effort on the war at hand?
The war scared Valarias, but he knew that he would be all right in the end. War meant he would be sent to kill more figures of high importance, and that meant more risk, more opportunities for his enemies to kill him. Was he willing to risk all this, his life, his training, his existence, to serve one man, the immortal Emperor?
He had known from the beginning of his training what could happen, and though he didn't wish to invite an opportunity to die, he would have to when ordered. To be an assassin was to put one's life in the hands of the Emperor, just as any other loyalist would, but Assassins were the unnamed heroes of the Imperium. Whereas individual guardsmen would be remembered at some point of their sacrifice, assassins were merely forgotten when they were killed.
Valarias had no family, no friends or companions, and nothing in his life that made coming home alive seem worthwhile. To him, coming home meant returning to grueling training, hard work, concentration and patience, until he was called upon again to end someone's life. Valarias had killed three governors in his life, and this was to be his fourth.
Valarias adjusted his sight a few centimeters. He was in the ruined city of the Basilica Deufaux, resting on his stomach atop a building smashed from bombings to the point that it was merely a skeleton; a few walls with windows and supports. Valarias was resting behind a broken wall section with barely enough space to see through. He knew he would be left undisturbed until the time for the assassination.
Through his scope, he could see the opening of the Basilica itself, its roof blown away from some war centuries ago. Here was where the new governor gave his reassuring speeches to the locals. The inhabitants of Xersia were usually conscripts waiting to be called to fight somewhere, though now they were awaiting the upcoming war brought by chaos.
The governor gave speeches every few days. Valarias had spent the past three days determining the best way to line up a shot to kill him. He was almost certain that this would be the best angle for the assassination. Now all he could do was wait until the governor showed his ugly face.
Valarias was prepared to execute the kill with one shot: a .75 caliber round not quite between the center of the eyes; about a centimeter and a half above that. The bullet would rip through the middle of the cerebrum, through the stem of the brain and out through he tip of the spine. Valarias had spent hours finding the perfect spot to get this angle, and the better part of a day adjusting his rifle to perform this shot. In an assassination like this, perfection was crucial. Modern medicines and practices could save someone from most head injuries. As such, Valarias needed to make sure that his target was killed instantly. He had been told of assassinations in which a 3 centimeter hole was blown through a target's eye, and he lived. Without the technology that his medical servants indeed had, he would have been killed.
Valarias intended to do this right. His training perfected his shot in every possible way. Valarias had spent months perfecting the technique to pull the trigger the same way with every shot. He could bend his index finger at the exact right angle needed to fire the gun with no change in the aim whatsoever. If the trigger was simply pulled along its curve, the gun would aim down ever so slightly. If the target was only ten meters away, it would make no difference, but Valarias was well over three hundred meters away from where his target would be. The slightest change of aim could mean the bullet would go two centimeters higher than he wanted. Two centimeters was all the governor needed to stay alive.
In his sight, Valarias could see two servitors carrying what appeared to be some sort of a podium. Valarias' heart skipped a beat; the kill would happen today.
Such was his excitement that he breathed too hard. To an assassin waiting for a kill, this wasn't good. He cursed himself as he realized what he had done: his aim was off. He slowly moved the exitus rifle back to where it was. It wasn't as easy as it sounded: it took him many hours to position his rifle like this, and it would take hours to set it back. It was no easy means of just pointing back to the original direction. He had to open all his fingers one by one and close them around the grip of his rifle. If he wasn't holding it firmly and comfortably, his shot could go off.
A small change in a Vindicare assassin's grip wasn't likely to impair the entire shot, and neither was the way the trigger was pulled, but as Valarias was taught since his late childhood, what could go wrong will go wrong. He had been taught methods to hold the gun and fire with so much precision that the time it took to make one perfect shot almost made the entire operation worthless, but perfect timing on the assassin's part could better the odds.
Valarias had already known what time of day the governor would give his speech, and had planned his position to match with Herpandes' schedule. This one breath could endanger his mission.
Assassins were paranoid, and their training had taught them to be so. This would not only teach them patience to make the perfect kill, but also encouraged the assassins to dislike possible targets: psychers, powerful governors, and lieutenants to name a few. Assassins wouldn't be nearly as effective if they pitied their targets the slightest bit, and the assassin's teacher's worst fear was for the fully trained assassin to become a traitor and come after the teacher.
Valarias was considered a perfect assassin, not because of his skill with an exitus rifle, but because he acted on orders without question, almost enthusiastically taking any mission handed down to him. His faith in the Emperor and unswerving loyalty was the best his superiors could ask for.
After the podium was set down, a small crowd of conscripts and other planet inhabitants began to gather. Valarias had to stem his excitement as the tension began to build. He didn't move at all at this point; he entered a mindless trance. He was ready for the kill at this point. His rifle seemed to melt into his shoulder, becoming a sixth limb. He was aware of the position of his body as a whole, as if he were a breathing statue. It was a wonderful feeling, forgotten due to the harsh training, but instinct told him that this was what all his training led to. Rather than fearing the sensation as a distraction, he welcomed it. It focused his thoughts on the assassination, and the assassination alone.
Then something horrible happened. Amidst his ecstasy, he felt something land on his back. It was so small that he could barely feel it. His trance made it much more difficult for him to realize what it was. When he did, he became almost enraged. Whatever had hit his back was wet, and more of it was landing on him. In his sight, he saw a drop of it land on the very edge of his barrel and splash ever so gently off the sides. It all seemed to be in slow motion. He slowly released his finger from the trigger. It was raining.
If an assassin's treachery was the teacher's worst fear, then rain was the assassin's worst thought. Rain made everything that could go wrong go wrong. More drops, heavier this time, hit his back and rifle. He felt a large drop land on his forehead. A bead of water began to travel down his eye and nose, so slow that he felt pain that would make a normal man scream.
Dealing with harsh environments was part of an assassin's training, but no assassin could really work as well in the rain as he could if there was no water at all.
The water began to drip down the length of his rifle. He couldn't feel it, but he knew nonetheless. He could feel any change in the rifle's position, and he didn't want the aim to go awry from the added weight.
Valarias realized that he had two options at this point. He could try to adjust the aim and carry out the assassination with the rain, or he could stay unmoving until the rain subsided. He very much preferred the first choice, but knew that the kill would go just as well, if not better, if he stayed unmoving. Yes, he could make it a perfect kill, under the miraculous conditions that he didn't move, and that the rain wouldn't last through the entire speech.
Then another thought hit him: the governor might not give his speech if it was raining. Valarias realized how much jeopardy the assassination was in. He took his mind off his rifle for a brief to mutter a prayer to the Emperor.
Almost automatically, the rain ceased. Valarias could not believe his luck. No, it wasn't luck. his faith had prevailed. He entered his trance again, feeling the sensation move through his entire body once again. His hands were dry, and as far as he could tell, there was no water on the end of the barrel to impair the shot. He rested his finger on the trigger once again. It was cold from his hand's absence.
The governor finally approached the podium. He was met by cheers amidst boos from the ensuing crowd. He waved with both beefy arms. He was a big man, but he was exactly as tall as Valarias had been told. Herpandes walked right up behind the podium, exactly where Valarias had counted on him to be. He tapped the ancient microphone, and began.
The cross hairs in Valarias' scope were aligned right where they needed to be. The governor occasionally moved his head, but every five or so seconds, returned where Valarias needed him to be. Valarias began to squeeze the trigger. It was heavy, and he needed to do it very slowly to prevent a misfire.
All thoughts of his killer's trance had left him. He focused on nothing but the area a centimeter-and-a-half above the middle of Herpandes' eyes and the trigger that he was slowly pulling. The feeling of living in slow motion came to him again. He could not hear the individual words of the governor's speech, nor could he feel the water on his back or rifle any more. He forgot his training, acting purely on instinct.
The trigger continued moving as the governor continued speaking. When the moment was right, he would fire.
The governor moved slightly to the left. Valarias stopped pulling the trigger, and waited. The next few seconds seemed to last hours. He stared at the governor's forehead wrinkles. The governor looked down at his written speech, breathed deeply, and looked back up.
The angle, trigger hold, and everything that Valarias had prepared beforehand were now in the perfect position for the kill. A thought occurred. He could choose not to kill the governor. He didn't consider it logical or right at all, but the though still existed. Suddenly, all thoughts of emotion left his head. He squeezed the trigger until it stopped.
For less than a second, he wondered if the gun would fire. Time seemed to have stopped. He issued yet another prayer. As though it were a message from the emperor Himself, a thundering blast issued from the exitus long-rifle.
In his sight, Valarias could see the bullet rocket towards Herpandes' forehead. It entered exactly where Valarias had wanted it, and exploded out the back of the governor's head. For less than a second, Valarias could see through the hole the bullet had tunneled before brain tissue and blood, reacting via gravity, slid down, filling it.
The echoing roar could be heard no less than a second after the governor was already dead. He slumped into the podium, knocking it over, and onto the ground, his days of corruption over. He lay on his back as his bewildered bodyguards approached.
Valarias was already disassembling his exitus rifle. He didn't care about what would happen next. He had just killed the most powerful person living on Xersia, and he didn't care. All he knew was that he had done his job, and that he had done it right.
As he began his journey back to the planet where he was doomed for another year of grueling training, he gave a prayer of thanks to the Emperor.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
"Jana, wake up"
Jana woke up with a start. Her head was throbbing and her left arm was painful to move. Around her, the ground seemed to be scorched and there were people lying on the ground. Several were in unnatural positions, that must be quite painful. Upon examining a few, it became quite obvious that they were dead. Jana moved away from the bodies and sat down in the corner of the room. She put her head down and started to cry.
"We must go" came the voice.
"Go where?" enquired Jana without looking up.
"Away from here."
Jana lifted her head and looked around. "Who are you?", she whispered upon realising that there did not seem to be anyone alive in the room.
"I am your friend."
Jana considered this before asking "Are you Tildus? Pastor told me that you were only in my imagination."
"I am not Tildus"
Jana looked around the room. "Where are you?", she asked.
"I am here with you, I am always with you. And I will always protect you."
Jana considered this for a moment before whispering "I'm scared".
"I have always been, and will always be here for you. You call for me, and so I come and help you, as I have always done. Now, you are in danger and we must go."
The voice was soft and reassuring, and Jana felt very comfortable hearing it. It had been a long time since she had a friend. She had ran away from home a long time ago after witnessing the Arbites kill her family. Surrendering to the memory, she recalled how the officers had broken into their home, screaming demands. She watched as one officer shot her mother as she ran towards Jana. Jana remembered the tortured look in her mother's face, before her eyes closed for the final time. Then the burning pain had come from inside her, a burning that seemed to come from every part of her body at once, and Jana could remember no more.
"Jana, the door."
The voice was persuasive, so Jana ran to the door. Seeing more dead bodies outside, she followed the directions given to her and ran. She ran for what seemed like an eternity, through the streets and alleys of the underhive. Finally, at the bidding of the voice, she ran down a quiet alley and stopped at the end.
"Rest here, precious Jana"
Jana needed no second invitation, and she practically fell on the ground. After a few minutes, she had gathered her strength a little and was breathing normally again.
"Hello?" said Jana.
"I am here, Jana"
"Who are you? What are you?" asked Jana. "I'm scared and I want to go home...... I just want to go home."
"Precious Jana, I am your friend and protector. When you were scared, your fear called to me. And I came and helped you. The soldiers of the Emperor have taken your home from you, I imagine you must hate them for that".
"I... I don't know." replied Jana. "It's not right to question the Emperor, His will be done. I just want my mummy back."
"I know Jana. I can't bring your mother back. But I can keep you safe. You are very precious, for as you get older, we will both grow stronger. Then you will never know fear again. Now rest, for we have a long way to go."
Jana tried to get comfortable, lying on some old bags. It wasn't long before she was asleep, once again dreaming of her mother. Through the dream, she could hear the gentle voice telling her that everything would be fine. The calming voice, removed the fear and allowed Jana the calmest night of sleep she had enjoyed in a long long time.....
"Wake up Jana, we are in danger. Jana, wake up!"
Jana awoke with a start. "What's wrong?", she asked.
"They have found us again. Your mind is a shining light, and I have trouble hiding you."
Jana hid behind some boxes, as a flashlight was beamed down into the area she had been sleeping in. "I'm scared", she said.
"I can feel your fear. Hold onto it, and do exactly what I say. We may yet escape this."
Jana stayed silent, hardly daring to breathe. When the voice said to move, she ran with every ounce of strength she had. Voices were raising all around her, and spotlights were shining everywhere she looked. Yet the voice kept guiding her down empty alleys. She had doubled back on herself more than once, in her attempts to evade her pursuers, yet they always appeared to be close. Shots were ringing out, and anyone not in an Arbites uniform seemed to be the target. While taking a breather, she noticed an old crone standing in a doorway. Her pursuers must also have seen her, as multiple laser shots riddled the area before an explosion removed the crone from the doorway, as well as removing the doorway from the building!
Jana turned and ran, with tears running down her face. Still the voice guided her, but her pursuers were getting closer. Explosions were in the streets, and the shooters seemed to be quite indiscriminate in who they were shooting. Jana ran across a courtyard, when some of the men caught up and started shooting. Jana ducked into an abandoned building as the ping of las-fire bounced off the walls. Sitting down to catch her breathe, her crying intensified.
"Trapped, I cannot be trapped!" hissed the voice. "They mean to kill us, precious Jana. But I can yet save us. I need your help, your strength."
Sobbing, Jana asked what she could do.
"I need your fear, your hate. These are the very men who killed your mother, your father. They murdered them in their blind ignorance, and fear of you. They fear your beauty, your inner shining light."
"But the men who killed my mum were all dead...." sobbed Jana, "I saw them when I woke up. All dead. Like the men who found me yesterday, all dead."
"They are all soldiers of the Imperium, and they serve HIM. They know nothing of you, beyond their orders to kill you. They don't realise how special you are, how beautiful you are. Their commander sends these men after you, just like he did to your mother. I protected you then, but I could not save your mother."
"You..., you killed those men?" stammered Jana. She could hear crashing from the building as window on another side were smashed in.
"Time grow short, my precious Jana. They killed your mother, they killed your father, they will kill us if we let them. I need you Jana, I need your emotions. What do you feel of these soldiers who have stolen your life from you?"
"I, ...., I hate them" stated Jana.
"Feel it Jana, don't hold back."
"I HATE THEM! I HATE THEM ALL!" she screamed. As her head became cloudy, she wasn't sure how. But she knew that the voice was smiling. She felt the burning inside her. She wanted to scream, but her lungs felt on fire. Every part of her body screamed out in pain, as Jana fell into blessed unconsciousness.
"Thank you Jana, I'll take it from here....."
"Sergeant Entrius, move your men to the left. I want your heavy weapons to have a better angle of fire. Sergeant Dervish, is the back of the building secure? Good...."
Arbites Vasilas listened to the Captain bark out orders over his intercom. The renegade psyker had given them a good chase, but now she was trapped in an old building and surrounded. Vasilas was actually quite enjoying things, this was the most fun he'd had in ages. Most of the time, the life of an Arbites was crowd protection or putting down food riots. This was different though. They had full authority to use lethal force, and they had certainly taken advantage of that. All in all, it had been a good day so far.
Vasilas looked around. The Arbites had been reinforced by a detachment from the PDF who were on maneuvers nearby. Close to 200 men, which was a bit of overkill. But it certainly made for an impressive display. Usually the Arbites would never come to this area of the UnderHive, but even the local scum gangs were giving this amount of lawmen a very wide berth.
The Captain was still giving orders. He had just moved a detachment of Arbites to the front door, ready for a frontal assault. The 6 men were at the door, ready to push through. 2 squads were also inside the building, ready to render assitance. The excitement was building for Vasilas, listening to the reports coming in.
Suddenly, the front door of the building exploded, with a portion of the front wall following it. Vasilas wasn't sure what had caused the explosion, but it blew the 6 men Arbites squad in all directions. Behind the door, there was a beaming of light and it was moving. As it came outside, Vasilas squinted to focus on the light through his field-sights. Floating about 6 feet off the ground, he could make out a girl. It was hard to make out, amid the bright light which seemed to eminate from her, but it seemed like she was asleep. The ghostly form was still moving forward, and everyone seemed to be at a loss as to what to do.
Vasilas turned to look at the Captain, who responded with the typical response of the Imperium to anything strange or unexplanable. He shouted "Open Fire" into his vox-caster. Immediately, the courtyard was bathed in bright lights as las-rifles, las-pistols, heavy stubbers and even the las cannons on the PDF tanks all fired on the ghostly form. Vasilas watched the figure in awe as it deftly avoided the heavy rounds coming it's way, the rifle shots seeming to just bounce off the light surrounding it. All the time, it floated slowly forward with lightning of a sort firing out in sharp bursts. Each time the lightning arced out, a soldier of the Imperium died. Quicker and quicker the lightning blasts came, and even the PDF tanks were no defense to it. The amount of shooting was dwindling, and the ghostly monster was still coming forward. As the streaks of lightning shot towards his position, Vasilas jumped for all he was worth. As he tumbled, he looked back to see the Captain and the rest of his squad torn to bits before his eyes. As the last tank exploded, what remained of the Arbites and PDF forces had already broken and were running for their lives. As the ghostly form moved towards the last pockets of soldiers, Vasilas ran to the Captain’s vox-caster and tuned into the home frequency.
“Delta Home, this is is Knife. Acknowledge?” said Vasilas.
The vox-caster crackled into life “Delta Home acknowledges Knife. Sit rep requested.”
“Delta Home, there’s some Emperor-damned ghost floating around killing everything in sight. Captain is dead. PDF forces are dead. Request immediate evac, over.” screamed Vasilas, to make himself heard over the noise of the dead and dying.
“Negative on evac, “ replied the vox-caster, “reinforcements on route. Get your guys to stay out of their way. Delta Home out.”
“Reinforcements?”, thought Vasilas, “Stay out of their way?”. That wasn’t going to be a problem, as he watched the ghostly form take out the last pocket of loyal forces. Vasilas cowered behind the remains of the tank and watched the ghost float around, looking for any more resistance. Suddenly, the light from the ghost seemed to be offset by a grouping of beams of light around it. Just as soon as the beams had appeared, they were gone. In each place there was now a giant armored figure. Each figure was at least 7 feet tall, and encased in a full suit of armor, and he counted 6 in total. Though Vasilas had never actually seen one before, he had no doubt that these were Space Marines. Each Marine carried huge weapons, designed for close combat. From his vantage point, he could make out a mixture of swords and halberds.
As soon as the Marines appeared, they all charged the ghostly figure. He saw the Marines strike the little ghost with blows that should have ripped the girl in half, yet the blows bounced off with the sound of a mighty crash. Vasilas watched as one Marine was lifted fully twenty feet from the ground by a beam of lightning, before being thrown to one side with a sickening crunch.
As the battle raged, another light appeared behind the ghost. When the light disappated, Vasilas saw the largest figure, he had ever seen. If the Marines could be considered large, this new figure was a giant. Fully 9 feet, with hugely bulky armor, Vasilas wondered if even a Leman Russ would make a dent on him. In his left hand, he carried a staff that was longer even than he was tall. As another of the Marines went down, the giant with the staff strode towards the ghost. A beam of lightning arced towards him, which was intercepted by the giant’s staff. While this slowed the giant, it did not stop him and he continued advancing. The beam intensified, getting brighter and brighter as the giant got closer. As he drew up beside the ghostly figure, he seemed to push the tip of the staff forward. But the force of the beam was holding the staff at bay, and he could not push it forward any further.
Jana awoke suddenly. But she instantly felt something was wrong, not least because she was floating in the air. There were huge armored men around her, and the largest was pushing a long pole type object towards her. Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion, and she could not seem to move. But she could hear the voice, but it held little resemblance to the kind voice she had recalled.
“NNNooooooooo.” it hissed, “ Damned Marines. You cannot have her, I shall not be defeated again.”
“Hello”, thought Jana.
“Jana! You are awake! I need you, focus your hate on these Marines. They killed your family, and they will kill us if we let them. Focus!”
The voice sounded pained and desperate. Not at all like the voice she had recalled. She looked at the giant man ahead of her, saw the look of pain in his face. Yet behind him, she could make out something else. It seemed dissolved, like a spectral image. As she examined him, she could see it was a man. While he did not look old, she could see the weight of millenia in his eyes. On closer inspection, she could see that the force behind the giant’s staff was being provided by the spectral man.
“Jana! I need you.” The voice was more insistent now, “Ignore the rotten corpse and help me against the marines. JANA!!!”
The spectral man turned to look at her. As their eyes met, he smiled, and she could see a tear in his eye. She did not fear the man, and she was not afraid of the marines.
“Noooo, Jana. I need the power of your emotions, of your fear and your hate.”
The spectral man held out a hand towards Jana. She couldn’t explain it, but she felt that the spectral man meant her no harm. She reached out to touch his hand, but the hand she saw was wispy and cloudy. Before she could withdraw again, the spectral man took her hand in his. With a gentle tug, he pulled her close to him. As she drew up beside him, she looked back on the scene that was her body. For the first time, she could see herself from without, with a new found sight. As she looked at her body, she could see something within. There was something there. She did not have the words to describe it, but it scared her. She could hear it’s cursing and swearing as it searched her body, calling out for her. She turned to speak to the spectral man, but he touched his finger to her mouth to quiet her and bade her to watch the scene unfold. As she watched, time seemed to move back to it’s normal speed, and the giant’s staff moved forward to touch her former body….
When the staff touched the figure, there was an intense explosion of light which rushed out, lifting Vasilas from his feet. The pressure from the blast had blessedly gifted him with unconciousness before he landed some distance away….
As the explosion disapated, Jana found herself in a place where there was only light. The spectral man was here, but he seemed more real in this place. He was sitting comfortably on nothing, and bade Jana to join him. She felt tired and moved over to him, and moved to a comfortable position beside him as he put his arms around her.
Finding her voice, she asked “Can I stay here with you a while?”.
He looked down at her and nodded, smiling as he did so.
She smiled back and curled into him. Closing her eyes, she fell into a deep sleep. And in the arms of the Emperor, she found the peace she desired….
“…. and then Brother Librarian Malachi engaged the psyker and defeated it. The Apothacariums tended his wounds and it appears he will live. Four of our battle brothers were not so fortunate, their souls are now with the Emperor.”
Vasilas could hear the conversation from somewhere around him. He tried to open his eyes, and found one would not do so. Touching his face, he felt pain all over it.
“No, my Lord. There were no survivors from the Arbites force. Of those that ran, all were killed by the UnderHive gangs. All that faced the daemon died.”
Vasilas managed a low groan.
“Excuse me, my Lord. I will report back in a moment.” Vasilas saw light, as a figure moved some of the debris that was covering him. He took the hand that was offered him, and was pulled clear. When he could focus, he saw the imposing armored figure of a Marine in grey armor hovering over him.
“Are you OK?” asked the Marine.
“I’m a bit sore” replied Vasilas, “but I’m alive, so I won’t complain. Arbites Vasilas at your service”.
The Marine sat him up before asking “Did you see what happened here?”
“Yeah, I saw the whole thing. You marines really are something, you know that!” replied Vasilas.
“Yes we are, but I’m sorry you witnessed it” replied the Marine, as he deftly drew his combat blade across the throat of the injured Vasilas, killing him instantly.
Standing up to his full height again, he keyed on his communicator once more and said “Confirmed, my Lord, there were no survivors…..”
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"
Justicar Aeneas stamped on a rat. The bones crackled. But as he watched and removed his foot the thing flopped and began frantically to gather its pulped body together. He spat. Chaos. The ruinous powers held no fear for him and his squad and he had waited for this moment since becoming a justicar. Justicar... It was a new rank, surprising for one of his years and he felt a tremor of pride. Ashamed, he quashed the impious thought. He was simply a servant of the Emperor doing his duty, and he was ready to die for what he believed in.
Beside Aeneas' squad stood that of Justicar Phyrrus and further to his left were the Space Marines commissioned by the Malleus to wipe the vile demonancy of the so called 'President Evil' From the face of the universe.
He murmured the catechism of righteous anger under his breath and opened the vox, calling for all units to advance slowly and stealthily. As his auto senses clicked into focus, Aeneas began to make out the bloated corrupt behemoths of the Plague Marines. There would be no hiding from them. "All units, prepare to fire." Suddenly a terrible howling burst over the eardrums of the knights and a trio of dead hounds bounded towards Aeneas' squad. He was faced with a dilemma. He could not reach the marines without exposing his squad to heavy fire, but charging the hounds would leave the knights open to a counter charge. As he considered this, the first bolter shells impacted on the Knights' armored bodies, unable to pierce the layers of ceramite. A plasma shot seared over their heads and Aeneas knew they had been lucky. Then, the hounds were upon them but they recoiled from the braziers of holy incense just long enough for Aeneas and his men to ready themselves for the inevitable strike.
Immediately, the air around them was filled with snarling, snapping jaws. The Grey Knights stood firm and hefted their Halberds. They dimly noticed as a mortar shell smashed into a squad but they had no idea whose as the hounds were on them. Behind them, Aeneas screamed hate at the foul beasts, which cowered from the purity of the Grey Knight's psychic outburst even as they were cloven in two.
Nearby, Justicar Phyrrus's squad snapped off rounds at the shambling hordes, the bolter shells tearing the corpses limb from limb and sending their souls howling into the warp. Far to the left, the Ultramarines had lost two of their number to the Mortar shell but their battle brothers had reaped bloody vengeance on the heretics nearby and were surrounded by the twitching corpses of the slain.
Off to their left, the howling began again. Aeneas knew his squad must reach the corrupted marines before they came under more fire and he could see them readying their weapons. Desperate, he thundered forward, his squad at his heels. They crashed into the chosen of nurgle and, although outnumbered, the knights' training came to the fore. He saw brother Ajax, his blow cutting the body of a plague marine in two, and brother Chiron, dragging his man down into the mud and crushing the life out of the bloated cadaver, screaming prayers of hate.
Aeneas turned to see the jaws of a hound reaching for his neck, and rammed his sword down its throght. Thick black gore spattered his face and he twisted, hacking wildly at what he couldn't see. He felt one blow connect and a great snarling weight landed on his chest, knocking him over backwards. He groped in the claggy mud for the beast's skull, found it, crushed it between his palms and staggered to his feet, rubbing his eyes with the back of his sword hand. The battle seemed to be going well for his squad, but further across the killing fields he could see Justicar Phyrrus and his men being overwhelmed by a tide of zombies and hounds.
As brother Marius turned, a massive shape reared up behind him and with a gurgling roar the aspiring champion Choleros rammed his power sword through the armour of the marine. Aeneas saw his brother slide from the blade, his torso consumed by ethereal fire. Choleros was far gone indeed. His skin dripped like molten wax and his armour writhed with tentacles. Aeneas charged, bulling the bigger man over, hacking at him in a frenzy of anguish at the loss of his first battle brother; But the chosen of Nurgle was already pulling himself upright. Gurgling with deranged laughter, he cut towards Aeneas, driving him back, readying him for the killing stroke. And Aeneas was floundering now, barely able to parry, he saw his death rush to meet him and made his peace with the Emperor as Choleros raised his sword high. Suddenly, there was a cry of "I am the hammer!" and the blade of brother Ajax cut Choleros from his head to his midriff. Aeneas grabbed a handful of incense from its burner and thrust it into the wound.
The unearthly shriek that split the air was worse than a soul in torment. It was the sound of a being ages old and close to immortality knowing that it has come to the end of its time. In moments what had once been a marine loyal to the Emperor was a pool of writhing worms.
"Thank you brother Ajax, you made good time" Gasped Aeneas as he was hauled from the mud by his squad.
"Sir, what about Justicar Phyrrus and our brother?" Queried brother Chiron.
"Bring Marius with us. He will be buried on Titan. As to Phyrrus, stick to the plan my brother. If he can make it to the objective then we will be lucky, if not then we will make our stand and wait for reinforcements."
The squad started forward again and before long they were under fire from Traitor guardsmen emplaced in the ruins. However, most of their shots missed and those that hit were easily deflected by the knights' armour. Storm bolter shots ripped through armour and flesh, the vengeance of the Grey Knights swift and brutal. The guard threw themselves at the marines, crazed, fanatical. Aeneas was face to face with a man whose face was covered with scales and beheaded him with a backhand blow from his storm bolter hand whilst impaling another on his sword. Where wounds opened on the guardsmen, worms erupted and consumed the flesh surrounding the injury. In seconds, all that was left of the traitor guardsmen were writhing pools of wormlike tentacles.
Aeneas and his men backed into the chapel of sanctuary, firing off rounds at the hordes closing in on their position. They had reached their objective. Now they had to survive. If more than half the squad died, there would not be enough of a psychic trace to guide the reinforcements and crucially, the Grey Knight terminator squads to the location.
As the justicar and his squad watched, the swaying, gibbering hordes seemed to pause. They seemed to be waiting for something, watching for something. Aeneas heard the shell coming. "Down!" He yelled but even with his super-human reflexes he knew it was too little to late. But even as he dived, brother Chiron was already moving. The marine threw himself onto the shell as it struck, and muted the blast with his body and flesh.
As Aeneas rose, he looked dazedly at his brother's corpse and then at the rapidly advancing dead. There would be vengeance on this day for his brothers, and he and the remnants of his squad would be the agents of that vengeance. The rotting hordes charged, and Aeneas's world contracted into a small sphere of hacking weapons, gunshots and mangled limbs. As they reached the three, a hail of gunfire threw the first rank spasming to the ground, bodies pulped beyond repair. He brought his first man down with a shell to the head and turning, felled a towering mutant with a stroke which cut cleanly through both legs. Then, he poured bolter shells into the vile thing's torso. A mean little brute with blades for arms ducked under his guard and Aeneas felt hot blood run down his armour. Roaring with rage, he brought the dwarf above his head and ripped it in two. A heavenly voice cried "You killed the dwarf! Bonus points!" He met Ajax and Santos and the three fought back to back, staving off the inevitable.
At that moment, a huge object hit the chapel, crushing zombies into the ground. The drop pod disgorged its Terminators right into the middle of the horde and they set about reaping bloody misery on the hapless zombies. Aeneas watched in awe as bodies flew through the air, were smashed into non-existence by the Terminators' sheer power. He saw grand master Prometheus, shattering limbs with his four headed axe, and shooting gouts of flame into the masses. He felt rather than heard the psychic choir of the terminator assault squad as their hatred rose to a crescendo. It was a power that Malleus inquisitors had termed the 'Holocaust' but what it was, was the hatred of the Grey knights made manifest.
"In battle! In peril!" Chanted master Prometheus,
"In striving! In banishment!" Answered the squad,
"In suffering! In glory!"
"Our Emperor deliver us!"
With that, the air burnt white, bodies were consumed utterly in pure holy flames and the very earth was scoured white by the force of Prometheus's hatred. Then as the squad rose and set about purging the remnants of the enemy Aeneas saw a man in a long coat dart into one of the buildings. To any normal man, this man would look just like any other, but the mere sight of him made the Justicar's wards burn red hot on the inside of his armour. He was out of voice range and the vox was a mass of static. He knew suddenly, that this man was not a man, but something far more evil.
Whatever it was, the being had taken shelter in what looked like an abbatoir and as Aeneas wove his way between the gory hooks that had once held sides of meat, he caught the stench for the first time. The odor of rancid incense and burning fat, and he stepped out into the middle of the building as the figure turned with its head bowed.
"Ah, justicar. Right on time. I need a new form and you will do perfectly. Do you not see how great we could be together? Are you blind to my power?" The being raised its head and Aeneas saw that there were pools of purple fire where its eyes should be.
"Daemon." Spat Aeneas. "You shall not have me, nor my flesh which is that you seek." He knew that if the Daemon inhabited his flesh, the wards in his armour would shield it from the psychic awareness of other knights. Whilst his brain was contemplating this morbid observation Aeneas's gun hand was coming up. He fired and the blessed bolts burst in flames around the form of the Daemon Prince.
"Stupid, worthless human!" Rasped the daemon. "I will have your body and your soul will live in torment within me for eternity! I brought the forces of your weakling inquisition to me to give me a passage into the ranks of the Grey Knights, and from there, I will spread Nurgle's rot into all corners of the galaxy, and all will be chaos!"
"Return to hell, warp-spawn." Was the only reply.
The man's body exploded, re-knitting itself into a new form. Mass was added from some insane dimension and Apolyon, favored of Nurgle was revealed for the first time in millennia.
Now, before Aeneas stood a giant, fifteen feet high, covered in waving entrails which spewed acid onto the floor. The prince held a mace, an ugly weapon which drew the eye in a way that caught it in a grasp of steel.
Apolyon strode across the floor, and Aeneas walked to meet him, his bolter cast aside, his sword gripped in both hands. As he watched the ultimate blasphemy take root on one of the worlds of the Emperor, he prayed, and something new awoke in his mind, and his weapon seemed to hum with power. The Daemon stopped, stood in the middle of the floor and laughed. A voice, insidious and sibilant called in Aeneas's mind, called for him to submit, called for him to give up. Ice sharp blades of malice scraped his conciousness. Clasping his head in his hands, Aeneas sank to the floor and prayed. Apolyon snorted in derision and started towards him but suddenly Aeneas was back on his feet.
"I refuse to be the downfall of my race. You who killed my brothers will be destroyed. I will not give in to you hell-spawn. So come on Deamon. If you think you can best me then you are more foolish than your brother Choleros, who lies in the mud, returned to nothing."
For the first time, the daemon showed agitation. It gibbered and its entrails writhed. "You lie." Stated Apolyon, with the voice of an angry god.
"No daemon, that is your race's trait." Murmured Aeneas, and charged.
All around him were entrails, coiling, spitting venom, and he hewed them off even as more wound around his waist. He struck them off, even as Apolyon swung at him with the mace, which shrieked as it came down. But Aeneas was no longer there. He struck at the body of the daemon prince, causing worm-like innards to burst from the wounds which wrapped themselves around his arm, drawing him into the hot, fetid gut of the deamon. As Aeneas watched, tendrils of rot crawled over his armour, and he felt the flesh of his arm slough off the bone. Pausing barely for an instant, he struck off his arm at the elbow, saving his life and inadvertantly freeing himself.
Then Apolyon snatched him and carried him high, crushing armour plates with insane strength. But Aeneas stabbed madly at the prince's fist and as the daemon howled and tossed him backwards like a rag doll, he turned in the air and came down between the beast's shoulder blades. Sword first. Pressure built in the Justicar's skull, and as he remembered the torn bodies of Marius and Chiron his hatred overwhelmed him and was channeled down the blade into the rotting body of Apolyon.
The resulting explosion barely left the abbatoir standing, but in amongst the rubble was the body of a fallen Grey Knight. But, even as the apothecarion bent over him, life flared in Justicar Aeneas, and refused to let the darkness take it.
"It fits like clothes made out of wasps!"