WHOEVER BRINGS THE NIGHT
The slender, black ship was silent as it slid through the murky sky on the frontier world.
Ket surveyed the inky surface from her transport. The world was lush and mountainous, and a vile swarm of human parasites had trespassed here, far too close to the Necrid system. They were to vanish in the night, without a whisper. This Ket could do.
But they would not strike at night.
Ket turned to survey her elite contingent one final time before they reached their destination. Ten immortals, all members of Crimson, her pre-reformation brigade, stood silently, awaiting her command. There were more as well- She could not see them, but she heard them.
Chittering. Gibbering madly. Flensing their long claws and twitching back and forth in a mantic frenzy brought on by insanity.
They made the Immortals uneasy, though their behavior made no difference to Ket. They were tools, nothing more. They had been herded into a different compartment for transport, but were unlikely to stay there long if left there.
The transport dropped silently to the ground, and a metallic thunk was heard as the flayed ones were ejected, roaring in confusion and anger, onto the ground below. They would burrow there, and could be relied upon to attack the humans within the next half cycle. That is when Ket would strike.
The transport moved away from the drop point, and Ket noticed the Immortals were slightly more at ease now. She eyed each one of them, and they nodded to her as her gaze passed over them. They were ready.
One of them spoke up. “My Lady, what are the humans armed with?” he asked.
She looked at him. “They are human. They barely rank above amoeboid. They will attack us with whatever primitive weapons they have managed to cobble together from semi-raw materials and unstable explosives.”
The immortal nodded, and brought up a display. “We have noted several different configurations for the human disease however.” He said as he shuffled through images of Space Marines, Inquisitors, Battle Sisters, and Imperial Guardsmen.
She stopped him on an image of a terrified guardsman.
“This is the particular breed of vermin we are tasked with eradicating,” she sneered contemptuously. Even the sight of those simian proto-creatures sent flares of rage through her. That they had managed to survive this long was astounding to her, but she supposed that any species that was in itself composed entirely of filth was capable of surviving in filth.
The immortal looked back at the screen. “Be gentle, my Lady. They look so fragile.”
The other immortals chuckled evilly. Ket stared expressionlessly at the screen, the terrified eyes of the human gazing back at her. In the reflection of his eyes was her face.
Thomas Harandan looked around uneasily. He knew he heard it that time.
“Hey. Get up!” he quietly hissed at his partner, who shared the gun nest with him. The man woke from his stupor and wiped the sweat from his dark skin. “What time is it? Are we relieved?”
“I don’t know how you can sleep out here. Every ten seconds theres a… a noise.”
“There’s always noise out here. Besides, I have you as my five-minute alarm clock,” his compatriot said sarcastically. “Theres no way I’ll miss any random chirp or—“
The ground exploded beneath the two men, hurling Thomas airborne. He landed, screaming, fumbling for his lasgun. He watched as a pair of bloody knives reached through the ground, then another, then another. His friend screamed, and was dragged under the surface, his lasgun firing wildly as he was eviscerated.
He finally found his lasgun and pointed it at the hole, but all that remained was the wrecked autocannon, half-sunk into the cavern, and the most terrifying gibbering noise, accompanied by the wet slap of skin and the crunch of bone.
Thomas looked around. The vox had been in the hole with them, and they were at the perimeter of the camp. Lacking any other recourse, he decided to scream as loudly as he could.
Everything went silent, and Thomas realized his mistake. Whatever had attacked had not known he was there. He had made sure to correct their mistake however.
He watched in horror as a slender, hunched metallic figure clawed its way from the brim of the hole. His eyes widened and his stomach twisted as he recognized the dark skin of his companion- Shredded, diced, and draped across the monster’s horrible form.
It gazed at him, its insane eyes darting over him as it twitched madly. He fired his lasgun blindly as he screamed in horror, but the beast was upon him before he could scream again.
Ket watched the grisly scene, and knew it was the moment that had been waiting for. The rest of the flayed ones, about a dozen or so, clambered out of the hole and were shambling with surprising speed towards the compound.
A siren rang through the air, and Ket knew it was her time to do her part.
She reached deep into her mind, and felt for the device that had been left to her, a blessing left by the now scattered Nightbringer. She felt its presence, and triggered it.
Instantly, the sky filled with a noxious black and green layer of clouds, blotting out the sun. Only the faint light of incinerating lightning in the distance shed any light. It covered the field in brief strobes, each one with the flayed ones drawing nearer the gates. The siren reached a crescendo, and shouts of panic were heard from within the walls of the hastily-erected base, followed by the angry reprimands of their commander.
Trees burst into flame and disintegrated as the ghostly arcs of lightning stabbed from the sky. Ket and her Immortals advanced forward from the Night Scythe that had released them, following the Flayed Ones’ foot prints across the soft dirt. Searchlights snapped to life on the corners of the palisade, swinging side to side wildly to find attackers that weren’t there.
The immortals readied their weapons, and Ket unsheathed the Cleaver of Souls. It would be a glorious butchery today.
One of the searchlights swung wide and located the Flayed Ones. They hissed in defiance, but the ground about them scorched and smoked as lasgun fire peppered the group. They covered their faces, and broke into a run on all fours, their talons clasping the earth, to cover the remaining space between themselves and the gates, but the searchlight maintained its dedicated vigil and kept them squarely in its sights. One of the Flayed ones fell forward and rolled as it was struck in the knee by a lance of light, but it clambered back to its feet.
The Flayed Ones hit the gates to the palisade with a metallic thud, and roared as they attempted to claw through it.
Ket, just behind them, but sure to avoid the beam of light, aimed just to the right of the gate. She leveled her right arm, readied her proton gun, and released the charge.
A brilliant blue flash covered the battlefield as blast of protons erupted from the end of the weapon in a haunting sphere of pure annihilation. The blast collided with the wall, blowing clear through it and sending chunks of flaming wood and plaster backwards.
The Flayed Ones, unconcerned with anything but their next “meal”, abandoned the gate and piled through the hole. Screams were audible inside, but before Ket could enter the hole, the searchlight swiveled suddenly at her, illuminating herself and her squad.
Their cover blown, the Immortals opened fire, brilliant green beams lancing through the night. The searchlight blew apart, and the guardsman handling it was flung backwards, shrieking. Ket returned her attention to the hole. They clambered through the scorched opening, to find the humans within attempting in horror to fend off the voracious Flayed ones, some of which were only concerned with draping corpses over their frames.
A volley of bolter fire drove ket and her squad to cover behind two barracks structures flanking the emplacement. A heavy bolter set up in the center of the base was suppressing anything that came too close. One of the Flayed ones caught sight of the two humans in the foxhole, and with a gurgling roar, hurled itself at them. Ket watched as the bolter rounds blew the Flayed one apart, the fragments sparking and fizzling on the ground. They could go no further as long as it continued to hold them back, and they were aware the Flayed Ones were just a distraction.
“Your orders, my Lady?” one of the immortals calmly asked, bolter fire slamming into the structures they hid behind.
She looked at her proton gun, its primary fire spent. She lowered its output, and decided the secondary function would have to do.
“Distract the fools,” she hissed.
The Immmortal looked at the rest of the squad. “You heard the Lady. Covering fire!”
Five of the immortals jammed their blasters around the corner and released a salvo of fire, as five of them lumbered into the open, lending their fire. The heavy bolter operators fired blindly, diving behind the sandbags to avoid the wailing green death that arced over them.
Ket spun and ran towards the back of the building, on the far side where the gun could not hit her. She appeared behind the emplacement, raised her proton gun, and was instantly knocked forwards.
She registered damage to her back. She spun around, to find a Commissar, reeling back with his power fist to land another blow.
She could hear the heavy machine gun behind her still blaring, and heard one of the immortals collapse, then a second. She had to act quickly.
The Commissar swung, but Ket dodged the cumbersome blow. The Commissar stumbled forward, but whipped around to face her.
Ket had already leveled her proton gun, and unleashed a blast of particulate fury. The Commissar fell backward, scorched by the blue-white flames, and the two guardsmen in the weapon nest were incinerated instantly.
The Flayed Ones were mopping up the remaining guardsmen, their screams of agony and horror piercing the darkness, punctuated occasionally by the ravenous hiss of a Flayed One as it ‘consumed’ a victim.
The charred commissar lay on the ground, his skin blistered and blackened. Ket slowly strode towards him, her massive footsteps thudding loudly. The human feebly reached for his pistol, but Ket stomped the device, the splintered metal shards stabbed into the earth.
She leaned forward, grabbed the commissar by the collar, and hoisted him into the air. “Your every footstep is a malignant, festering lesion on this planet’s surface. Your fetid species has no place here, or anywhere else. Why have you dared to infect this world with your grimy presence?”
The Commissar coughed, and spat in her face. “I will tell you nothing, you monster. Kill me. I die with the Emperor’s name on my lips-“
Ket laughed, a screeching metallic cackle that shattered the night air. “Monster? I am the image of perfection. You… are vermin,” she sneered, narrowing her eyes and tightening her grip. “The only reason you register as anything more important than insects is because my master deems your souls to be appetizing.”
She shook him, her hate and disgust welling up inside her. She roared straight into his face in rage. “I am the shadow of death! I am the one who brings the night! I am the slayer of the pitiful dreams of the vermin who crawl through the murky filth of this galaxy!” She tightened her grip once more, and the commissar grasped feebly at her arms, kicking pathetically against the air. “Die.”
He kicked more furiously, gasping for breath.
He began to sputter, his hands grasping for purchase. His eyes furrowed angrily, and he sneered at her.
The Commissar roared with what remained of his breath, and brought his powerfist back for one final strike, but was too slow. Ket stepped forward and slammed him into the structure with a sickening series of snaps as his rib cage collapsed. She pulled him from the wall, and slammed him backwards again, a second wave of revolting crunches signaling the shattering of his spine. She pulled him back, and slammed him into the wall again, and again, and again, gradually pulping the Commissar.
The immortals looked on in a mixture of fear and awe, and the Flayed Ones, now finished with their gruesome work, watched in anticipation, seeing only meat, but still not stupid or insane enough to try to claim Ket’s prize while she still held it.
When she was finally finished, she briefly examined the face of the macerated Commissar, his head hanging at an unnatural angle. His limbs dangled limply from his shattered torso. She flung the lifeless carcass towards the Flayed Ones, who leapt upon the morsel, feasting ever more jubilantly upon it since it was a gift.
Ket stormed towards the waiting Night Scythe.
“Burn it. Reduce it to molecular ash. Let not even a footprint of these disgusting vermin survive,” she spat at the Immortals.
“And the Flayed Ones?” they asked uneasily.
“They have performed their duty. Ensure they are safely extricated with whatever gruesome spoils they desire to retain. Have them returned to the Crownworld and re-caged,” she said, boarding the craft.
“By your order, my Lady,” they said, and saluted as she rose into the air.
She strode to the computer, and scrolled to the image of the terrified Guardsman. She uploaded an image from her memory to the computer, and within an instant, she was gazing at the charred face of the Commissar, his eyes wide just before he was crushed against the structure.
In his eyes was the reflection of her face.