Even in Death
by Christian D'Amico
The muffled sound of explosions made its way in through the reverberating construct of the transport. Dull thumps echoed as near-misses glanced from the armoured hull, shaking the vehicle as if a Greater Daemon of Khorne had grabbed it and played with it like a rattle.
‘Sixty seconds,’ blared the vox.
Brother Lascar checked his weaponry, cycling the assault cannon’s barrels at high speed, which created an eerie whining echo as they spun. His other hand clenched and relaxed repeatedly, flexing the fingers of his power-fist.
The mounted storm-bolter powered up, cycling bolts into the firing chamber. He was ready.
Closing his eyes once more, he let the harness hold his body in place as the transport bucked and weaved. Reciting the Litany of Hatred, he prepared himself to face the xenos threat head on. He had done this for longer than he could remember; longer than most could remember.
There was no fear, of course. He was a Space Marine. No worry or trepidation of any kind entered his mind. Thousands of combat insertions on thousands of imperial and alien worlds had seen any kind of anxiety or cautiousness disappear. He was unstoppable; the Emperor’s Will made manifest. His lips moved in a silent pattern, repeating noiselessly the litany as he recited it in his head.
‘Forty seconds,’ said the vox, interrupting the Space Marine’s prayers.
Lascar opened his eyes once more. Checking his targeting reticule, he tested the lock-on system on various parts of the interior, picking out the rivets and bolts in the construction of the vehicle. A slight flicker on the heads-up display caused the lock-on to break. Lascar muttered an Oath of the Machine, recalibrating the system and bringing it back online once more. Rechecking the locks, he tried the same pattern again, this time rewarded with a rock solid, steady lock symbol.
‘Thirty seconds,’ the voice cut in again.
The veteran Space Marine relaxed. Contemplating his previous engagements, he felt a sense of nostalgia, thinking back to the days of being led into battle by his sergeant, infiltrating enemy lines and sowing the seeds of chaos before the main force hit as a Tenth Company scout. Sergeant Glemion had always been a taciturn and blunt leader, and that suited Lascar’s style of battle entirely. He wasn’t made for sneaking around. He preferred the feel of a combat shotgun in his hands, and once he had become a fully-fledged Space Marine, he quickly made inroads towards assault specialist.
‘Twenty seconds,’ chimed the vox, regular as clockwork.
As a member of Assault Squad Invictor, Lascar had made a great impression in Sixth Company, excelling in the use of chainsword and bolt pistol. His sergeant had picked him out within less than two years to become combat squad leader, the sergeant’s second in command.
From here, the Space Marine had continued his path upwards, being given the honour of receiving a plasma pistol from his company captain, before being promoted after several long, grueling campaigns across the breadth and width of the Imperium and beyond.
His sense of pride swelled as Lascar thought back to the moment he was promoted. Captain Antilles had given him a power sword in honour of his tireless, unflinching work against the enemies of mankind. Lascar had never felt so proud; at least, not until his next step on the combat career ladder.
‘Fifteen,’ droned the vox, garbled slightly as another near-miss rocked the transport.
Continuing his retrospective, Lascar thought back to his ascension to the vaunted First Company. Due to his speciality in close combat, he was immediately placed into Vanguard Squad Victrix, one of the most revered and honoured squads of First Company. Having taken the place of Brother Relius, Lascar had been entrusted with the most revered item in the squad’s possession: the Relic Blade of Antilles.
At that moment, Lascar could not help but grin. The unfamiliar expression after so many years of grim, resolute combat caused the skin of his face to split slightly, and he immediately suppressed the muscles, relaxing them once more. This did nothing to diminish his thoughts, and he relived his first moment in battle carrying the blade.
‘Ten seconds. Prepare for deployment,’ the vox buzzed, interference growing stronger as the seconds passed.
Lascar shrugged his shoulders reflexively, remembering how he used to prepare for combat alongside his Vanguard brothers. In response, the massive armour he wore lifted up slightly; the servos struggling to replicate his impulse thoughts.
He thought back to the fight against the daemon M’tchar. That had been his ultimate fight. Marneus Calgar, Lord of Macragge, had led the first company during the invasion, and Lascar had been shoulder-to-shoulder with Sergeant Victrix and Lord Calgar himself, smiting the forces of Chaos with every word, every swing, and every ounce of his being.
‘Five. Commencing dispersion cycle. Stand clear of the doors,’ came the monotone vox.
Lascar winced as he recalled the final moment, reflexively trying to reach down to his stomach as he did so, straining the harness to breaking point. He had been fighting next to Lord Calgar, working their way through to the daemon-lord. Calgar had bellowed a challenge to M’tchar; one that the daemon duly accepted. The two had met in the centre of the field, charging into battle with the same force of a pair of titans looking to rend each other limb from limb.
Lascar had been behind his lord, keeping his flank secure when he had come face-to-face with a trio of Daemonettes of Slaanesh. The ensuing combat saw Lascar mortally wounded as he heroically held the three vile daemons away long enough for Marneus Calgar to banish M’tchar back to the warp. With a final swing, Lascar speared downwards, beheading the last daemonette, before sinking to the floor. His relic blade stood proudly in the dirt, refusing to fall.
Calgar had called his own apothecary over, who had held Lascar back from death, albeit with one difference.
‘One. May the God-Emperor grant you strength.’
The marine braced himself. With an impact that felt like he had just been hit by a titan, the transport stopped. An instant later, the explosive bolts securing the doors blew, and the drop-pod opened like the petals of a Catachan Spiker, the built-in Deathwind launcher mimicking the deathworld plant to the letter.
Lascar pushed power to his legs from the humming power-plant on his back. With a roar of hatred, he stormed down the access ramp, levelling his assault cannon and opening fire on the hordes of genestealers that came rushing at him. ‘For the Emperor!’ bellowed the ancient wonder of the Ultramarines, blue armour shining like a beacon as other drop-pods landed, disgorging the rest of the First Company. Taking not one step backwards, he tore the oncoming xenos apart with bolter and assault cannon. ‘I have come to destroy you.’