The Choral City
"Children of the Emperor!" Came the cry once more from Tiberius' already hoarse throat. "Death to His foes!" Came the response from his ragged retinue of the the 2nd Squad. The fighting had been nothing short of vicious this whole time and in the space of hours they had already lost three of their number to the Isstvanians. They had left them where they fell, their corpses sealed to be picked at by the Apothecaries later as if they were carrion birds. It was a poor way to view those to whom the future of the legion was entrusted, but everything in this moment was death. Tiberius and his squad had accompanied Ancient Rylanor for the best part of an hour and under his shadow they had not faultered. Even now Tiberius could feel his shots being neater and more perfect as the bisected and blew apart human bodies with their mass reactive shells. Still, for all the skill with which his squad his squad was displaying, they had been stuck in the marble archways of this banquet hall for too long and they were falling behind the 13th company. For each Isstvanian they killed, more took their place behind the makeshift barricade. This had to end and it had to end now.
Tiberius emptied his bolter at the rebels, felling a score more of the traitors before the dry clip fell to the floor. He slammed another one home, ready for when he would need it again, and at that he mag-locked it to his side. He drew his Phoenix Spear, a symbol of his office and of Imperial Authority. He pointed to the nearest five members of the 2nd squad. "Bolt pistols and chainswords, on me." Tiberius voxed. "Ancient Rylanor, 2nd squad, some covering fire if you please."
"Acknowledged Decurion Loculus" The revered dreadnought rasped in his metallic voice back as the remainder of 2nd squad acknowledged also. Tiberius smiled underneath his helmet. It was a small thing, being acknowledged by Ancient Rylanor, but an honour none the less. Although that meant his next manoeuvre had to be flawless.
And it was. Like clockwork, the Isstvanians sheltered under the combined fire of Ancient Rylanor's Kheres Assault Cannon and the rest of the 2nd squad's bolters. As they did so, Tiberius and the other five men he had borrowed, now armed more like some of Horus' Reavers, flanked the cowering traitors. As the fire dwindled and the Isstvanians went to return fire, Tiberius and his men were amongst them. For his part, his mighty Phoenix Spear cleaved through Palace Guard armour as if it did not exist. He swapped repeatedly from one-handed to two-handed grips and back again and every strike meant death for some unfortunate soul. More Isstvanians came from the corridor and might have overwhelmed some of Angron's butchers or Russ' dogs, but Ancient Rylanor and the rest of 2nd squad had already been moving up to join Tiberius. Even as the last blade stroke fell, Sergeant Lepedius and the other members of 2nd squad vaulted the barricade and fired into the incoming backup force. Moments later the steady whine of the Kheres approached and to combined weight of fire turned the corridor into a charnel house.
"I'd say that was a perfect execution Sir." Lepedius said as Tiberius switched effortlessly between his spear and his bolter again.
"If it was perfect, the Thirteenth wouldn't already be in the Throne Room would they Lepedius?" Tiberius retorted, only half serious in his displeasure at their pace. "But, that was one of the best exicutions of that I have seen in a while." He could see the chest of each member of the 2nd squad swell with pride. They were some of the best men under his command and so he was normally extremely critical of them. That made his compliment even more meaningful. Tiberius smiled under his Phonecian helm. Praise and critism in the right measure, he had found, worked wonders to motivate and drive his men closer to perfection. A request for help from one of his other squad crackled in his vox. "Ancient Rylanor, can you assist the Seventh squad? They are in the west quadrant of the Palace."
"As you wish Decurion. Children of the Emperor!" His metallic voice boomed as his feet crushed marble to powder as he moved to assist.
"Death to His foes!" They answered the ancient.
"Second Squad, double time on me" Tiberius said and broke into a run with his squad in tow, eager to reach the throne room before all the fighting was done.
Sadly it was not to be. Tiberius and the 2nd squad encountered and annihilated another relief force, making it's way to the throne room. The fight aided the wider battle, but the cry of Captain Lucius' victory echoed through the vox before they reached their destination. Tiberius frowned under his helmet. They had been sent way off course and to have made it so close with such a handicap was impressive. To another legion, impressive might have been enough but the IIIrd legion strived for perfection and it was certainly not that. "Decurion..." The voice of Sergeant Anthony, a grizzed Terran who commanded the 7th squad, came through the vox. "...the Captain is here." Tiberius furrowed his brow.
"I thought he wasn't part of the initial drop? Have reinforcements arrived already?"
"No Sir, is seems that..." Anthony paused.
"Spit it out." Tiberius barked.
"...Sir you won't believe this. Captain Tarvitz says we are betayed. A biological attack is incoming."
Tiberius paused for a moment. Betrayed? What did that mean? Had an element of their fleet been in cohoots with the Isstvanians? Or had they snuck on-board and hyjacked a ship? But how? Questions fired off in his mind as fast as his bolter had been moments ago. He needed to speak to the Captain and find out the meaning of this. "Is the Captain with you?"
"No Sir, he left to warn the World Eaters." It took Tiberius less than a second to decide his course of action.
"Then we go to him." He turned back to the 2nd squad "Grab whatever supplies you can and head to the nearest sealed area. There's an incoming biological attack."
"The Isstvanians? I thought they didn't have the capabilities." Tiberius had no answers for Lepedius. He had no answers for himself.
"Get to shelter and take anyone else you find. Tell them the same and use my authority. For the legion."
"For the legion." His squad saluted crisply and went to enact his orders, as he would expect.
Tiberius broke into a run. "Anthony, meet me with your squad at the Palace gates." A confirmation sounded through the vox, but he paid it no mind. He sprinted through the broken and battered passageways that him and his subordinates had already cleared. He didn't want to be caught in a fight with such an important objective to achieve. Anthony met him as expected, as well at the rest of the 7th squad, a couple of other 10th company squads and his counterpart, Decurion Sebastian. They ran with all their might, sprinting across the demolished plazas and over-run barricades to reach their commander. Tiberius' gaze flitted between the sky and the ground he was running on. They had gotten maybe halfway through a cluster of bunkers when they heard the distant sound of missiles exploding. Tiberius looked up. The trails of viral gas were already forming in the sky, but their contours were not ones of surface-to-surface missiles. These were orbit-to-surface missiles. What did that mean? "Everybody, get to cover now!" Tiberius shouted, darting from the nearest bunker. He didn't think about what the trajectory of the missiles meant. There was no time.
Tiberius reached the bunker first and closed the door after Sebastian and another marine he knew only by name, Darius. He daren't keep it open for longer and, much as it pained him, the rest of the Children out there would have to find other shelter. Moments later their death screams echoed through the vox. It was a sound Tiberius was certain he would remember until he died. No creature should make that noise, especially not Astartes. Such a noise was riddles with fear and pain, two things that were supposed to be expunged from an Astartes' mind. One by one the voices of his dying men and friends faded. For a moment, Tiberius thought it was all over, some horrific attack from an unseen enemy fleet to kill those invading the palace. Then the bunker was rocked by an almighty shock wave and the temperature gauge on his armour started to rapidly climb. If anyone outside had survived whatever pathogen that was, they were certainly dead. His temperature gauge started to decline and Tiberius tentatively opened the door to whatever would great them. It was a sight he had seen only once in his service to the Emperor and Fulgrim, and even then it was from orbit. Husks of armour bleed smoldering soup that had once been Space Marines. In the sky, a great fireball was consuming the atmosphere. The sky rained ash and smoldering shards of building and armour and men, throw up in the shock wave of the orbital strike.
In the midst of it all, Darius fell to his knees, his fingers caressing the ashes that might well contain his brothers. Sebastian let a pained laugh escape his lips, his thoughts clearly elsewhere. Or perhaps the madness of the situation had overtaken him. Tiberius simply took in the view. It was staggering, the level of destruction visited in a single instance. In an odd way, it was beautiful, that human hands could wrought such perfect destruction as the Life Eater virus. Tiberius named it because now he knew what it was and what his Captian had meant that they were betrayed. Except it wasn't perfect. They were still alive and so whatever madness that was driving the Warmaster, for who else could order such and attack, and his conspirators had not reached its fruition. They were alive and they would have answers. That they, mere Astartes, had thwarted the plans of at least one crazed Primarch gave Tiberius some solace at least. Darius asked for orders and Sebastian gave some perfectly adequate ones. Their objective was unchanged. They still had to find captain Tarvitz. With that, the vox crackled back into life. Tiberius tried to raise captain Tarvitz, but to no avail. His brothers began to move, and he followed, still capable of only observing.
It took them walking in through the ash for it to feel real to him. The soft crunch of it underfoot was what it took for Tiberius to realise the enormity of what had happened. Their kin had sent them to die, for crimes he did not know had not been told. This was unprecidented in all of human history, for Astartes to turn on Astartes. Had some terrible madness seized the fleet above them, or was this calculated? What possible reason did they have for turning on their brothers so violently? What was the point of it all? Why butcher thousands of Astartes on some backwater planet where they were already putting down an insurection? Tiberius could not imagine what reason those in orbit had to hate those on the surface, but he was certain they would get their answers soon enough.
The feelings of desolation, abandonment and rejection uncoiled in his gut like a virus, spreading through his limbs and infecting his thoughts until he could not contain it anymore. After several long moments of walking and silence, he utter the same unconquerable truth that captain Tarvitz had brought to them. "Brothers, we are betrayed." Tiberius' voice was low and pained, heavy with pent up sorrow and rage. He kept trying to establish contact with his captain, to ask for orders, for clarification, for some reason why they had been condemned to die. He even tried to reach the Andronius, but to no avail. Suddenly the vox crackled into life, but not with the rich tones of someone born into the IIIrd Legion. It was a harsh, unkind voice that spoke to them, and Tiberius suspected it was one of Horus' Cthonian hoard. "Emperor's Children, be you friend or foe?" Tiberius' reply was a soft whisper in High Gothic, it's regal tones trying to mask the underlying pain and anger of the man who spoke them.
"I am Decurion Tiberius Loculus of the IIIrd Legion, loyal son of the Emperor and Fulgrim. I have fought at the front of the Great Crusade for one hundred and eighty years with unflinching loyalty and resolve to the Imperial Truth. I am a champion of Katar, Murder, and a hundred other worlds. I was betrayed by those I called brother and I was sent here to die. Tell me, does that make me friend or foe?"...
Last edited by Deus Mortis; 07-28-14 at 06:13 PM.