Echoes of Immortality
Word Count: 1095
Sister Superior Lyra peered into the shrouded depths of the Undercity from kilometers high above. From the highest spires of the Cathedral of Martyrs, endless miles of the Hive City Aurelian stretched out before her as if the brushwork of some elaborate artist. Yet one glance into the teeming streets, the surging crowds writhing below as if nothing more than a massive fortress of vermin, reminded her just how real everything was. Dilapidated ruins and slums arose from millennia of ancient gothic architecture, plagued with polluted atmosphere and deteriorated living conditions.
“Squad Angeliki,” Lyra whispered into her comm. link. She could almost feel the relentless gale of the storm caress her raven hair. Fresh rain slipped into the cracks of her power armor and made her bronze skin beneath her black carapace almost cool to the touch.
“Squad Angeliki,” Lyra repeated. “Are we ready?”
Aretha breathed into the channel. “Superior, I am ready.”
Aedon sighed, Lyra noted her anxious tone. “All vital and weapon signs green, Superior.”
Lyra caught Letha’s shadow writhing across the ceramite floor of the pulpit as she physically prepared herself. “In the Emperor’s Light, let him find none of us wanting.”
Beroe chuckled in that quiet way she did. “I am ready to execute his will.”
Celandine raised Angeliki’s banner into the nexus of lightning and thunder above. “The banner shall never fall so long as I draw breath. Even if death silence my holy voice, Him On Terra shall see my broken corpse, but will boast with pride of the untarnished banner billowing over it.”
Echo joined the pleasant choir of laughter. “I am ever at your side, Superior. Let us see Him On Terra’s will carried out over this blighted sea of heresy.”
“Grapples!” Lyra called. She marched over to the edge of the pulpit and snapped a grappling hook in place over the railing. She looked down again into the abyss that she would soon be dropping into. She watched Angeliki go about their work in silence as they installed grappling hooks for each member.
Lyra snatched up the thickened rope coil and flung one leg over the railing until her feet were planted on the other side of it. She ignored the hundred foot drop beneath her and signaled for Angeliki to fall into position.
“Rappel!” Lyra commanded. In one moment her eyes were shut, then the next the entire world spun around her in a rapid descent. The blurred outlines of her Sisters cut through the heavy pollution in the air as they dived deeper into the depths.
The seconds seemed like long minutes, and the minutes passed as if the earth was frozen in time. The Cathedral of Martyrs faded into the night sky and was replaced by the irreverent destruction of war. Lyra felt her rapid descent taper off and her armored boots gently scrap against long abandoned ground. She detached from her scaling device and her hands immediately wrapped around her bolter.
Beroe made to stand beside her. “Enemies from every direction! We’re already surrounded!”
“Angeliki, engage!” Lyra squeezed off several rounds into the hundreds of undead corpses creeping out of the mist. Two of the rounds detonated, causing a plague zombie’s intestines to blossom from its torso in a flower of blood and vaporizing another’s cranium. The third embedded itself in the crooked leg of another one, but failed to combust.
Angeliki thundered in unison. “Remissionem Per Ignem, Veniam Per Mortem!(Absolution through fire, forgiveness through death!"
“Aedon, suppressing fire!” Lyra fell onto one knee and cut down several figures limping toward her.
“Clear the way!” Aedon said as she pressed the trigger on her heavy bolter. Angeliki scattered away from her kill zone as the heavy weapon rattled violently in her grip. The endless tide of moans on the air was drowned beneath a tide of death that pulped corpse after corpse.
“Advance on the objective!” Lyra shouted.
Echo’s chainsword arced through the air, severed offending limbs and heads that came too close to gnashing her armor. Mass-driven rounds burst from her bolt pistol and further widened the trail of death left by Beroe’s fire.
Angeliki advanced into the seething horde even as it closed around them on all sides. Lyra made encouraging shouts as the combat degraded into closer and closer quarters. She loosed a round into another zombie and watched it detonate the foe’s spinal cord in a gory mess. Another charged her on her left flank, which she neglected, and dragged her down to her knees. Echo’s blade roared as it sliced through brain matter and bone and toppled her assailant.
Aretha’s flamer sent up a roiling wave of flames that consumed everything it touched. The decaying flesh of the living dead simply evaporated wherever she aimed her pilot light. In the chaos, Lyra found the smile on her face amusing at the banner billowing over their heads.
“Target sighted, Superior.” Beroe pointed through the ashen fog toward a remnant of the ruinous powers.
“Welcome, daughters of the Emperor, preachers of the purity of mankind and the instrument of Him On Terra’s everlasting retribution. O how my abode must be such an eyesore to you righteous souls. It is nothing more than a reflection of mankind in-and-of-itself, no? Washed in the filth of squalor, born in the ruins of devastation, and plagued with blindness…”
Lyra grimaced. “What heresy is this? Sisters, I want that Astartes killed!”
Bolter fire echoed across the ruins and stitched death with reckless abandon. The Thousand Son in the midst of the undead horde unleashed a salvo of ignited rounds toward the sisters. Each round streaked past Lyra, but the abrupt explosion of flames, gore, and debris temporarily robbed her of her senses. When her eyes finally snapped open, she realized that she lied in the midst of a smoldering crater. Aretha’s remains.
Angeliki picked themselves up and redoubled their fight against the undead, but the shadow of the Sorcerer receded into the fog until it vanished.
“Remember this: the festering wound shall always fell the warrior, no matter how strong. The darkness in the immortal soul shall consume until all light has been driven away. There is no stopping this.”
Lyra hawked and spat, even as she favored her lower ribcage. “Go ahead and flee, Sorcerer. There are places that not even your Dark Gods can reach. If the mere presence of his voice alone is enough to make them tremble in undisguised fear, then woe onto your false gods, heretic. Soon they shall choke on their own blood for once.”