Skydancers- 1097 words, exluding title
Cassander jumped and his world widened. White clouds spread out before him, all around. Gone was the rattling of the Valkyrie, the roar of its engines; now there was only the rush of air as he fell, faster and faster.
The vox-bead in his helmet crackled with lieutenant Sharn's voice: ”Skydancers, report.”
”Victyr, clear”, came the staff-sergeant.
”Barnan, clear”, said the sergeant.
”Askur, clear”, the corporal reported.
”Selwer, clear”, Cassander chimed in. As he held the most junior rank he sounded off last.
”Skydancers all clear, lieutenant”, Victyr said. ”Cloud-break in 37 seconds.”
”Initiate form-up, on my mark.”
Cassander spied downwards. Below him, about one hundred metres according to his visor display, the lieutenant was falling, arms and legs splayed out to the sides.
He blinked up his auspex display. Victyr was to his left, Askur to his right. Barnan, the demolitions expert, was above them, slightly off course as of yet. He dismissed the display again and gripped his chute harness.
Victyr and Askur were the first to move, dipping forwards and activating their grav-chutes. Cassander saw them shoot by on either side, down towards Sharn. As they reached their positions, on either side of him, they killed their chutes and spread their limbs, levelling off their descent.
Barnan whistled over the vox. ”Flying worthy of a medal”, she said. Cassander couldn't help but agree. He'd drilled more hours than he could count, and had still to fully master the finer points of grav manouvring.
Abruptly, the trio below him was swallowed up into the clouds. Moments later his vision was reduced to little more than pale strands whipping past. ”Cloud-break”, Sharn called out. ”Activate strobes.”
Cassander reached down to his chest plate and pulled a cord. ”Strobe on”, he reported as a rune lit up in his display. Below him three lights winked into existence; red, slow pulse for the lieutenant, blue and moderate for Victyr, green and fast for Askur.
Barnan fell past, strobing an angry orange. The demo specialist took her position in between, and some twenty metres above, Victyr and Askur. ”It's all you, greenhorn”, she called.
Cassander swallowed, putting his thumbs on the harness triggers. A fine spiderweb of frost had begun to form on his visor, distoring the light of his squad's strobes. He wiped his armoured thumb across, getting some of it off.
”What's the hold-up Selwer?”
”All good, lieutenant”, he said. ”Initiating manouvre.”
He dipped his head and body forwards, tucking his knees together and elbows to his chest. Then he pressed the triggers.
He felt the jolt throughout his body, the force of the twin nozzles on his backpack propelling him forwards, ever threatening to spiral him out of control. He fought the impulse to let go of the triggers and splay out again to slow himself down; instead hekept his head down, diving straight into the gale with one eye on Barnan's strobe and the other.on his targeter.
Fifty metres, forty metres, thirty metres...
Every muscle in his body tensed as he let go of the triggers and jerked his body up, kicking both feet forward in order to get them beneath him. Then he hit the triggers again, slowing his descent abruptly. Barnan was below him, splayed out like the rest. He gauged her velocity, licked his lips, and let the triggers go again. The air howled all around him, the cold beginning to seep through his armour. He flipped himself forwards once more and extended his arms and legs, assuming the final belly-down, splayed out position.
”Selwer, clear”, he panted into his mic. He'd taken position above them all, just twenty metres from Barnan. Overwatch, best suited to his rookie status.
”Look sharp, Skydancers”, Sharn said, ”we're about to hit biosphere. Auspex shows multiple potential contacts.”
The clouds were different now. The snowy white of the upper troposphere had given way to a sickly yellow. These weren't so much clouds as the fumes of their enemy. And they were dissipating, Cassander realised. He could see the lieutenant clearly now, for the first time since initial cloud-break.
”Steady and calm”, Sharn murmured. ”Call them out as you see them.”
They fell in silence. Gradually Cassander realised he could see the ground, far below, a dark mat of what looked like vegetation covering it.
No, not vegetation, but...
”Harridan at our five”, Askur snapped, ”and gargoyles. At least a hundred by my count.”
”I got gargoyles at our seven, ten and twelve”, Victyr added. ”Two harridans at our eleven . Hell, they're everywhere.”
”They're intercepting from all around us”, Barnan said.
”Stay on target”, Sharn ordered. ”We'll brush by them. Selwer, eyes on your auspex.”
They quickly dropped below the tyranids, though the creatures dove after them, following on their trail. Cassander's auspex filled with red blips above and below, all of them rapidly converging on their position. They were falling through the middle of a swarm.
”Firebird, this is Skydancer”, he heard Sharn say. ”We have gargoyles and harridans converging on our position, nicely lined up for you.”
A large blip on his auspex suddenly vanished. As he craned his neck to look he saw one of the harridans falling to the ground in separate pieces. Gunfire blanketed the area around it, tearing through the packed swarms as a score of Thunderbolts came roaring in.
”Stand by for course correction on my mark”, Sharn barked. ”I'm taking us in.” He flipped and dove away, levelling out thirty metres below Victyr and Askur. Cassander and the rest of the squad jerked themselves upright and pulled their limbs in, assuming a sitting position.
”Twenty degrees to our ten!” Sharn called. ”Mark!”
Grav-chutes roared, one by one, as the Skydancers corrected in a staggered fashion – Sharn first, followed by Victyr and Askur, then Barnan and lastly Cassander.
”Target is the big one to our nine”, the lieutenant said. ”Skydancers, acknowledge!”
”Barnan, I have visual.”
Cassander stared. The surface, which was rapidly rushing up to meet them, was packed with tyranids of varying size. There could be no mistake on which of them the lieutenant had indicated however. It towered over the rest, even its bodyguard of what looked to be carnifexes. A bio-titan, it had to be a bio-titan.
”Follow me in and we'll take it down!” Sharn yelled. ”Course correction, ten degrees to our nine, on my mark! Mark!”