ALATINE STEPANOVA’s cadre disarmed all the Praetorians within the confines of the Imperial residence and then herded them into a large banqueting hall nearby. All the other household troops and any PDF were taken to an enclosed sports arena just outside the palace confines. Hard-faced Kourilian Rangers used clubs and cattle-prods to move them into line. Forced to act as security guards instead of getting themselves combat ready, they were very liberal, and sometimes over-zealous when administering punishment to those who had prevented them from the chance of glory on the field of battle.
Summary and entirely unauthorised executions were carried out on anyone suspected of being tainted or not showing proper reverence towards the Emperor.
The commanders of the local forces were apoplectic at the way they were being treated, but when Explicator Rahajason, the killer with the face of a goddess, ordered them to be marched past the body of their previous Imperial Commander, they became suddenly quiet and withdrawn. The remains of his shattered skull were an obvious warning to anyone who dared challenge the Imperium of Man.
THE SCREEN FLICKERED to life revealing the interior of what looked like a shrine or temple. A tall, slim figure robed in black with grey carapace armour underneath, stood in front of a large Chartdesk with his hands clasped firmly behind his back. Similarly-attired command staff leant over the desk at certain points, sweeping their hands in dramatic curves or stubbing their fingers at particular points. Servitors and Mechanicum Adepts hovered on the periphery. The tallest man, whose sheer presence indicated natural authority, slowly turned around. His long, pale patricians face with its dull grey eyes, betrayed no emotion as he looked back at the intrusion into his domain.
“To whom do I have the pleasure?” He growled in a low and barely audible voice. The rest of the staff that were around him also stood up and stopped what they were doing. Their faces portrayed annoyance at the obvious intrusion.
“Being able to override our security protocols and enter the Precinct Fortress and my briefing Chambers must mean you have some form of authority?” It was a statement of fact and not a question.
Martinez tittered inwardly.
“I am Lord Inquisitor Ferrand de san Martinez of the Emperor’s most Holy Inquisition. You are Marshal Romualdo Perra.” He raised his hand. He did not require any acknowledgement. “I have been reading your communiques and must say that I am very impressed.”
There was an uncomfortably long pause as Martinez studied the man in front of him. Although it was a hololithic projection, the picture was crystal clear and showed every detail. There was no panic here like he had witnessed amongst the military units; no haste or obvious disorder. The control room and the staff were running like a well-oiled machine.
He felt that he could almost like this man under better circumstances.
“This…uprising Marshal. It seems to have taken everyone by surprise.
I am confused. How could this have happened? Such numbers, such obvious anomalies, and yet no one appears to have seen it coming.”
The Marshal’s face remained grim and unmoving. There was not even a flicker of emotion at the obvious slight to his professionalism. But this was a man who had nothing to hide or be ashamed about.
His record spoke for itself.
This was a man who had served the Emperor for over sixty years and never faltered once during his long career.
“We, I, am honoured,” he began slowly and in a considered manner. “… to have your presence here on our planet my Lord. But I am also confused as to why you are here? It is indeed a rare thing when an official of the Ordos reveals him, or herself, to lower servants, nay, menials of our beloved Emperor. Your mission must be of the utmost urgency… “
Martinez laughed inside.
If I did not need him so much, I would have his gizzards for his insolence.
“My mission here is irrelevant. The fact that I am here is all that you need to know. This uprising or rebellion, whatever it is called, has diverted me from my primary mission. Now, I have been forced to delay that mission in order to sort out this sorry mess.”
“We have not been idle.”
“I have detained the sixteen members of the ruling council.” The Marshal paused. “And I am aware that the Imperial Commander is in your custody. Sorry, he was in your custody until his… unfortunate demise. My Arbitrators have or are, rounding up every member of the main political parties including many heads of the Rophus elite. All my Precinct Houses are in Adeptus Arbites control. The Metro station has been cleared and the Administratum District and Hive Spire One-seven are now under our command …”
Martinez raised his hand again.
“Yes, I know. Like I said before, I am very impressed at the way you are handling things and have no need to censure YOU, Marshal. We will have to work together, but we must act most expeditiously. My time here is limited.
Can I, therefore, leave the Hive and its environs in your capable hands for the time being while I deal with other matters?”
“Of Course, … My Lord.”
“Excellent. I need the great and the good to remain under your protection, unharmed but guarded. Seal them off from the outside world and make sure they are all separated from each other.
Feel free to re-institute law and order in any way you deem fit. You have my authority to do this by whatever means necessary. I have this so-called Army of the Claw to deal with so I will not be able to assist you for the time being.”
“I will await your arrival…”
Martinez cut the link and turned to his own staff. He pointed at his intelligence chief Lucas Grevenslag.
“Where is he?”
An officer stepped forward. He was dressed in the long, black coat and tall hat of a Commissar. He gave the sign of the Aquilla and bent down on one knee. Martinez indicated that he should rise.
“Commissar-Captain Órdenes. The PDF senior officers have betrayed their sacred oaths. Every one of them has been found wanting for failing to see this rebellion coming, failing to notice the taint of the mutant amongst their ranks, and finally; for allowing their positions and installations to be overrun too quickly. Their incompetence and shameless corruption have caused me to divert my considerable forces away from their Holy, Emperor-ordained duty.
I trust you have your representatives in every unit?”
“THEN TELL THEM TO DO THEIR DUTY!” Martinez bellowed, causing the Provost Marshall to stagger backwards in a most undignified way.
The command room was now deathly silent. Everyone seemed to have stopped what they were doing as if awaiting a further storm.
“Grevenslag. A general order to ALL units… across this lump of earth called Rophus.
Halt. Fortify. Await further orders.
He who dwells in the shelter of the Emperor will abide in the shadow of the God of Mankind
In every street, station, fox hole or position, the loyal and untainted PDF and the forces of the law went to ground and began digging in.
Buildings were fortified, barricades reinforced and troops mustered. At a thousand points on the map where both forces were in contact, retreating Imperial forces stopped and then turned around. Where mutant forces were advancing, devastating firepower was brought to bear on them and the advances were stopped. Everyone took a deep lungful of air in anticipation.
General Transmission, frequencies override. Authority: FDSM/LI-OH.
General Order 16:
By Order of his Esteemed Majesty Ferrand de san Martinez, Lord Inquisitor of the Ordo Hereticus.
So, shall it be done.
All enemy combatants and prisoners of war, whether untainted or plagued by the abomination of the mutant gene, shall be summarily executed without prejudice and with immediate effect. Any unit, commander or individual who falters in their duty in this respect, shall be deemed Hereticus Abomini and sentenced to death.
It is the duty of all loyal citizens of the Imperium to immediately administer lethal judgement on those who fail to carry out the Emperors Divine retribution.
Et in Nomine Eius
. . .
Burn the Mutant!
HOMAS LE GARRA stared up at the sky with genuine amazement and wonder written all over his lupine face. He had never seen such a display of lights and colours before in all his life. In fact, he had never looked up at the evening sky and truly studied its magnificence and beauty. The long fiery streaks that crisscrossed the darkening sky were truly a wonder as they changed from blue to fierce red and then into streaks of fluffy white clouds.
“Beautiful.” He sighed to himself and then turned to a large group of mutants and non-mutants who made up his command team. “So, what does this all mean?”
A quadruped with an elongated neck shrugged his shoulders.
“We have no idea, but it feels wrong.”
“Feels wrong?” Thomas growled, the first word more a hiss than a word.
“Shall I interrogate one of the prisoners?” The quadruped suggested. “They are surprisingly willing to answer anything that is asked of them. Except, that is, the ones who wear black uniforms, they are truly brainwashed. They never say anything, even when their tongues are being ripped out.”
Thomas turned back and watched a large fireball enter the atmosphere that was quickly followed by several smaller ones.
“Bring me the sly soldier, the one with the scar on his cheek.”
A PDF corporal was pushed forward and a curved-horn Beastman forced him down onto his knees with a jab of a lasgun. The corporal had his hands bound in front of him and the wrists were bloody and raw. Blood also covered his scalp and chest from a wound that looked like a bite mark. He had a long scar from one ear to the corner of his mouth. He looked up at the gathered mutants with abject terror in his eyes.
Thomas pointed towards the sky.
“What is all this? What is going on here?”
The corporal shook his head and seemed like he was about to refuse to answer until a small, squat mutant waddled up beside him and stared at him from a face that consisted of one eye and an open chasm containing row upon row of razor-sharp teeth.
“It is a landing. Those fireballs and streaks are large ships entering the upper atmosphere.” He quietly chuckled. “You did not do your homework did you, if you had you would not have attacked when you did.”
Thomas turned, a faint sneer at the corner of his long snout. The soldiers face turned pale.
“What do you mean by that?”
The corporal stuttered.
“I have said enough already.”
“I am afraid that you have not said enough.” He paused, “I will ask again. What do you mean?”
Deciding that he had nearly crossed the line and that his own self-preservation was more important than military secrets, the corporal decided that he wanted to live his life and…
“Stuff the Emperor…” he said out loud.
The gathered mutants laughed and nodded encouragement.
“Indeed.” Thomas agreed. “Go on.”
“There were two Navy fleets in station in orbit when you attacked us. They were in transit to another war zone. If you had waited just one more day then you might have pulled this off.” He instantly regretted his use of words. “I mean, it would have been easier for you. Yes, that’s what I meant, and of course there are rumours of the Ordos…”
“Ordos?” Thomas cocked his head.
“The Inquisition. The Ordos. They are apparently down here on the planet looking for someone very special.”
The gathered mutants began talking amongst themselves in raised voices intermingled with grunts, hisses and clicks. Thomas held up one of his long hands.
The Inquisition. That added a whole new dynamic to his plan, something that he never envisaged. This could well cause him problems.
“The Inquisition must be here for me. There is no other answer to it.” He nodded at the corporal. “Thank you for being so open an honest with us.”
The corporal grinned back.
In a whir of black fur, teeth and claws, Thomas’s long jaw clamped down onto the corporal’s head. There was a sickening crunch as his long canines penetrated the skull and sank deep into the brain matter below. With a deft twist of his powerful jaw, the corporal’s heads came free of his shoulders and then bounced off across the rockcrete roadway.
Thomas grinned through bloody teeth.
“Prepare for battle. Victory is still ours, but things are going to get a little tricky from here on in.”
. . .
UPPI WAS A good soldier, his father had told him so before the Imperial soldier cut him down. Now Luppi stood in the ranks with his friends and his new family, carrying a brand-new Lasgun in his hands.
He smiled a white-toothed smile and looked to the right and left of him and showed them all his new weapon. He studied it again for the umpteenth time.
Weight: 2.3 kilograms, single shot or automatic. Rate of fire 220 shots per minute.
I could kill over fourteen thousand of the enemy in one hour.
He looked up into the face of his squad leader, Culvellier, the ex-Guardsman with the too-long face and the eye in the back of his head.
“Yes Sir!”. He shouted back.
“Luppi. Pay attention and stop drooling over that Lasgun.”
Luppi cocked his head.
“I cannot help it sir, I drool a lot.”
The ex-Guardsman nodded back. “I know. Your ‘drool’ is melting the pavement at your feet. Concentrated acid tends to do that, boy.”
Luppi smiled back and then stared beyond the ex-Guardsman’s shoulder.
“What is that?”
The sun had not quite gone down and the sky had a dirty yellow and brown hue. In the distance there was the hint of a blue sky above lands far to the east and away from the Hive. Flocks of silky-winged reptiles hurried towards the distant foothills, harried along the way by large predator’s intent on a meal before the night drew in. Cries of carrion birds filled the sky as they heralded the bounty to come. A light wind brought the acrid smell of promethium through the air.
The mutants did not know it yet, but a tsunami was coming, the likes of which Rophus had never seen.
There was a slight quiver in the air and a trembling in the balls of the feet. The gathered horde of The Army of the Claw looked at each and shrugged shoulders or frowned. They were unsure what to make of the phenomena.
Seconds passed and the tiny vibrations became more noticeable and glass window panes began to tinkle and hum in the buildings around them.
Now they could hear a rumble like distant thunder followed by the faint sound of what appeared to be martial music.
Luppi stopped drooling and watched in wonder as the wasteland beyond the Space port began to darken like an encroaching wave of black mud. This was not a natural spectacle, this was a man-made apocalypse and it was heading directly towards them.
The ranks began to shiver as the mutants began to realise what it was.
Suddenly there was a long rip of sound that petered off into individual booms as large calibre guns behind them targeted the encroaching wave.
Seconds later Luppi could see flashes of exploding munitions followed by a crescendo of booms and bangs as the first artillery rounds scored hits on what was now obvious to them all.
They were here. The Imperials were here.
The horizon exploded with bright light as they returned fire with thousands of weapons of every calibre and purpose.
Great gouts of flame, earth and body parts were catapulted into the sky or pushed outwards in all directions. Large swathes of the living were reduced to their constituent parts as the ranks of the Army of the Claw felt the full effects of the arsenal of the Imperial Guard.
The Claw Army broke like a panicked herd of cattle, streaming back into the relative safety of the Spaceport with its tall walls and obvious defences.
Some, those who could, returned fire, but this time the effects were diluted as the Imperial forces spread out, covering the plain with hundreds of vehicles and walkers.
But that was not what caught Luppi’s eye, oh no, he was not looking at the squadrons of Leman Russ tanks, the Hellhounds, Chimera’s or even the massive Baneblades that rumbled forward like huge prehistoric beasts of war, that were in themselves unstoppable and terrifying.
No. He was staring at the behemoth at the centre of the horde; the massive super-heavy tank that dominated the Imperial line and a vehicle that Luppi had never seen listed on any of the vehicle schematics he had read.
At that moment in time he realised just how stupid he was. He thought that this would be a great new adventure; he thought that his life would change for the better; he thought that life would be good and free of prejudice and hate.
He was so, so wrong on every count. Luppi, the aspiring mutant soldier, would soon be dead and forever forgotten.
He dropped his precious Lasgun and ran.
* * *
ord Inquisitor Ferrand de san Martinez was angry, nay he was apoplectic. The Arch-heretic Stroms, had slipped through the net and was now, even as he sat here dealing with the latest crisis, trying to get off the planet and escape his clutches once more. His gauntleted hands dug deep into the arms of his throne causing the metal to bend and buckle.
People will pay for this, oh yes. I will bring down damnation and destruction on them all.
“Where is Cutov, where is the Arch-Magos?” He shouted, his deep, gruff voice loud and clear above the engines of the machines around him.
A blue, holo-screen appeared before him and the multi-tentacled form of his Mechanicum representative appeared, bowing low before giving the sign of the Aquilla.
+ My Lord? +
“Arch-Magos, have you liaised with your compatriot?”
+ I have, my Lord +
+ They will be able to assist but not immediately, they are having… issues with one of the bulk landers +
Martinez threw back his head and to those around him, those who truly understood him, knew that the world was about to feel the uncontrolled power of The Malleus Hereticus.
The golden frame of Felícia Cortes stepped forward, her black hair flowing like silk in the wind and her elfin face a big open smile that could break a man’s heart. She whispered into the Lord Inquisitors ear and his demeanour immediately changed from that of an erupting volcano to the face of a caring father. He nodded towards his scribe and muttered words that only they could hear.
When he spoke again it was in a firm but business-like tone.
“Arch-Magos. Please inform your Mechanicum colleagues that their assistance in this matter should be most expeditious. Do you understand?”
+ Yes, my Lord. It shall be done +
Martinez relaxed ever-so-slightly, though rage still simmered beneath the surface. He swivelled around and faced his entourage. They were all there by his side, except of course the Wolf. His Interrogator was sealing the gap and cutting off the Arch-heretics escape to freedom. He glanced up briefly and imagined he could see the Navy ships manoeuvring and turning into pre-assigned positions and their countless gun batteries swivelling in their mounts and the swarms of fighters spanning out like hounds on the scent. With a smile he could almost feel himself within the tight confines of a boarding torpedo and almost taste their promethium-rich exhaust fumes.
“I think it is time to begin the scouring my friends.”
He flicked a button on his vambrace and the holo-pict ‘blued’ back to life. The figure of a general staff officer stood silently with his hands clasped tightly behind his back.
“General Binçiguerra. You may begin the assault.”
+ As you command, My Lord +
. . .
HE ARMY OF the Claw flowed back into the Spaceport, trampling over the dead and dying in their haste to reach the safety of its high walls. The Imperial artillery bombardment was heavy but had made little impact on their numbers. For every mutant that died, another would appear from the sewerage drains or from hidden passages that lead down deep into the ground. Thomas le Garra was almost at a loss at what to do with such numbers.
Numbers are the key. Even the largest animal can be brought down by the smallest insect, as long as you have the numbers.
He was satisfied.
The reports were flowing in from everywhere including Gord Hive itself. Thomas had overcome the problem of communications by instigating a system of runners and scouts who were physically passing the information on to his officers and leaders. It was working well. Every runner that was shot down was replaced by a dozen more, so his messages always got through.
His troops in the Hive had been halted in some of the districts by the stubborn Adeptus Arbites and their various auxiliaries. But it was easier where the PDF were involved as their ranks had been thoroughly infiltrated by his brothers and sisters, so they had more or less been neutralised. The fanatical enforcers of the Arbites, those bastards could not be turned so easily and where they held, his troops faltered… or went around them.
His mutants, more at home beneath the ground in the dark, polluted tunnels and caverns, skirted the Arbite strongpoints and attacked them from the rear. It was hard, bloody fighting but again, the mutant numbers were beginning to tell. Reports suggested that the Hive was more-or-less in his control, apart from a few die-hard hold outs. Eradication units were already culling the population.
Thomas had decided that the Army of the Claw was no longer there to enlighten the general population, or to release them from the iron fist of oppression, it was there to eliminate their very existence.
There will be a new world order.
He told the runners to tell the Hive generals to take and secure the Hive and then, when they received the signal, they were to join him on the open field.
It would be a glorious day and night of slaughter and death and he would prevail.
He would begin the counter-attack.
* * *
AN IMPERIAL GUARD Leviathan is a super-heavy mobile command centre… on tracks. It is a truly imposing bastion of weaponry and defence systems that is designed to intimidate and frighten the enemy.
Martinez named his own Leviathan Vindicta
, which meant punishment in High Gothic. His monument to military might had been instrumental in the destruction of several cultures and the subjugation of entire worlds.
was a truly terrifying sight to the uninitiated. It was as tall as a Titan and packed enough weaponry to level a small city. A Space Port would not hold it up for long.
It was painted the deepest of black but with its fittings and weaponry in silver. A massive golden Aquilla sat on its prow marking its allegiance for all to see.
It was the standard rectangular shape in design with two rows of churning tracks that could turn armour into flattened sheets. On top of its crenulated roof was a landing pad where a Valkyrie now sat, protected by ranks of heavy-bolters, lascannons and quad-guns. Martinez had retained its massive macro cannon which protruded from the front of the machine like an obscene, tubular mouthpiece. It was said that it was wide enough to house a Leman Russ battle tank.
Above the macro cannon was a large veranda where the great and the good could observe the battle from afar. This is where Martinez had placed his command throne.
Like an King from antiquity, looking down onto the pit-fighters below, he sat on a raised plinth with tiers of seats ranked below him where servitors and members of his staff monitored and intervened on the word of their Lord. A hundred neutered virgins lined the veranda singing hymns of benediction and adoration and their voices boomed out through brass speakers that were the size of small hab blocks. Flocks of mechanical white doves, marvels of engineering from a bygone age, circled above flags and banners of Armies that had proved themselves against the heretical enemies of the Emperor. Servo-skulls darted to-and-fro, their synthesised voices exulting the power of the Emperors armies
But these were mere trifles to a Lord Inquisitor of the Ordos Hereticus, the Witchfinder General of the Uranus Circulum Planetarum.
Marching either side of the Leviathan were two columns, nearly two thousand of Martinez’s white-armoured stormtroopers. They goose-stepped as if they were on parade, stamping their long boots into the ground and kicking up clouds of dirty dust. They sang as they marched, venerating heroes of old and long-forgotten tales of epic battles and bestial enemies.
In front of them was a phalanx of the Order of the Silver Sword, and each Sister was carrying a tall golden pole with an Aquilla affixed to the top. Long streamers of various colours fluttered from their lengths, embroidered with the names of their fallen comrades. Another line of black-armoured Sisters marched slightly apart and behind them. These were witch-seekers carrying massive flamers that were decorated with gold script that named Heretics who had been assigned to oblivion. Unlike the rest, these battle-sisters did not wear helmets. They wore the faces of fanatics who were absolutely certain of their purpose in life.
In the centre, surrounded by a block of weaponised servitors, prowled Brother Zoran Berezovsky. His dark blue power armour was almost hidden amongst the black power armour and red cloaks of the sisters of Battle. The white skull emblem of the Adulators Chapter seemed almost alive and shimmered with internal power.
A great, heaving mass followed in the deep ruts of Vindicta
, emerging from its dust cloud like maddened ghosts. These were the Lord Inquisitors fanatics, and the followers of the Hammer. They were a small army in themselves, of people from all over the sector who wanted to show their devotion and affection to the representative of their God, a demi-God himself, touched by the mind and aura of the leader of the Imperium of Man.
These were people of all races, shapes and sizes. They were young, they were old, infirm or fit. There were well-heeled cardinals walking alongside long-bearded clerics, bishops standing arm-in-arm with shaven-headed monks or painted Yogīs. Naked nymphs danced around groups of grizzled war veterans. People waved devotional statutes or carried huge Aquillas, others shouted sermons, others sang songs.
Most carried some form of weapon of sorts.
But standing out amongst them was a tall, bipedal mechanical combat walker, a Penitent Engine. Its two arms had circulating power saws on their ends which were designed for close-quarter combat, but the pilot swung them clumsily as if unused to their mechanisms. It also walked like a crippled drunk, narrowly missing the devotees around it. Unlike dreadnaughts, where the pilot is enclosed within an armoured sarcophagus, the pilot of a Penitent Engine is exposed for all to see. This pilot was a scrawny-looking male who was hard-wired into the machines systems. He was naked and exposed. The pilot was screaming through a mouth that had had its lips and tongue removed.
Bartollt Júter, Capo Crimini of the Vardaro cartel. How the mighty fall.
He had taken exactly one minute and fifty-three seconds to break under the machinations of the Explicator, Rébecca Rahajason. Less than two minutes to confess his sins and agree to be encased in the mechanical body of the Penitent Machine. It had been pathetically easy.
Now the Penitent non grata would prove his worth to the Emperor and cleanse his soul of his heretical past.
Two kilometres from the Vermis Crassus Comedenti
compound in the Zoo, Martinez’s vanguard halted and went silent.
A single, black bird fluttered above them and squawked in defiance towards the distant walls of the Space Port.
The stocky figure of Ruben Lawry pushed through the front rank of Battle Sisters and positioned himself some distance before the serried ranks behind him. In his golden armour and with his red cloak bellowing like fire behind him, he looked like a hero from ancient Roma.
His cyber-crow floated down to land gently on his left shoulder. The Cardinal held up his silver staff and began to shout out a Litany of destruction.
The Macro cannon fired and it was if the plain had been hit by atomics. First came the flash of an exploding star, then the thunderclap of the gun which punctured eardrums and burst capillaries, and then a split second later, the wave of concussion which levelled Martinez’s religious zealots.
The massive shell struck one of the apron walls of the Star Port and reduced it to a cloud of atoms.
A distinctive red cloud formed after it hit which was somewhat an enigma, until you realised that there were a lot of mutants standing behind that section of wall. Thousands had been reduced to their component parts in an instant.
Then the Imperial forces struck in earnest.
Several kilometres behind Martinez were rank upon rank of artillery pieces of every mark and every calibre, covering the grassy plain like frozen insects, their barrels pointing to the sky like marker poles on graves. When they fired, they fired as one, and every round struck the port, ignoring the force shields that were there to protect it. For every explosion that flared harmlessly against this invisible defence, five rounds bored through, pummelling the buildings and structures with impunity.
Some of the Basilisk’s were from the 33rd Trilia “Contemptables” who had fought the Orks at the Usmade Depression. During that six months siege, they had perfected their art, and pummelled the Orks to destruction. Now they unleased their modified version of napalm rounds onto the heads of the Army of the Claw reducing them to burning mulch. The sheer terror of the screaming ordnance was enough to turn a man insane… accept that most of the mutants were all beyond psychotic.
Now Sentinel walkers began to cautiously enter the Pressison Row District, expecting to be opposed but finding nothing but corpses.
It was a depressing sight.
The great and the good would not be enjoying the rich and luxurious sights today, or for some time into the future. Where the beautiful trees had once stood, there were now ragged stumps and toppled mazes of branches and leaves. The mutants had destroyed every living thing that had stood in their way.
The ponds were filled in and the winding pathways had been dug up. Any statutes were toppled unless they were too big, and then they were defaced or melted. Dead bodies were draped from them as grisly totems.
Nearby, In the Vesalius De Animalibus
, the animals and reptiles that had lived a docile and passive existence, were now dead, their bodies piled up and burnt on a grisly pyre. The trenches and bunkers around the compounds were now filled with the rotting and defiled corpses of those loyal and untainted troops who had tried to make a stand. A line of heads led the way to a row of knocked out Leman Russ battle tanks that were still burning hours after the initial betrayal.
Even ‘Andrea’ was alight and reduced to a blackened mess of twisted metal and burning promethium.
Corporal Sánchez, hung half in and half out of his turret, a twisted, black mummy with his face pulled back into a wide grin. He stared out towards the Hive through empty eye sockets and pointed accusingly with shrunken claws that had melted into a waxy mess of muscle and bone.
THE LEVIATHAN VINDICTA
, ground forward like a prehistoric giant, its massive tracks churning up the lush plain and reducing it to a lunar landscape. A phalanx of Leman Russ’s fanned out in front of the beast with Baneblade super-heavy tanks on their flanks. Behind them were ranks of Rhino’s, Hellhounds, Chimera’s, Salamanda’s and assorted wheeled vehicles, painted either white for the Sisters of battle or the various camouflage schemes of the Newmore warzone.
Rank upon ranks of Guardsmen marched in the Lethiathan’s wake, with their colours flying proudly in the light breeze. Here were the Othea Janissaries with bright red feathers on their helmets, a battle honour bestowed on them at Grimm’s Pass; the Gromia ‘Desperado’s” with their unique halberd close-quarter weapons, marching alongside the veteran, grim-faced Stormtroopers from the Deathworld Tuskonia and the Roughriders from the plains of Esperon.
In front of them and bereft of any fanfare or gilt-lined flags, was a ragged mass of pale-faced wretches in plain field-grey uniforms. Each of them wore a red bandana around his head and carried a large pack on their backs. They carried no visible weapons. Why would they? There would be weapons enough on the field.
These were the dregs of the Guard, those who committed capital crimes and were now being given the chance to redeem themselves. Yes, Lord Inquisitor Ferrand de san Martinez would use every weapon at his disposal to destroy the mutant scourge and a Penal Legion was just such a weapon. He cared not whether they lived or died, just so long as they took the mutant with them.
To the rear of them were black-coated Commissars and behind them a line of weaponised servitors brandishing flamers. A lone officer, encased in custom-built artificer armour, sat on an anti-grav chair surrounded by lobotomised Ogryns with monstrous clubs. He was the Custodian of the Legion who held the power of life and death over all his charges. With a thought, he could detonate the rigged collars around a miscreant’s neck and assign him to oblivion. Today the Custodian would probably lose ninety per cent of his Legion, but it mattered not, the ranks would be refilled within a week.
The Baneblades opened fire on the towers on the curtain wall. Without their protective shields they were destroyed with impunity, toppling into the masses below and killing hundreds. The Space Ports walls were not meant to hold back such an attack, they were designed to stop minor incursions, not full planetary assault. Its defences were not a hindrance to an armoured fist regiment and its support elements.
The penal battalions were released.
They got to within a hundred metres of the wall before they were reduced to a red mud by the defenders on the wall.
The second wave fared better, with a few hardy souls actually reaching the wall and detonating in the breach. But it was folly. The mutants were barely trained, but even a child can pull a trigger on a Lasgun.
Martinez rolled his eyes when the first reports came in. He turned his head to the right slowly and a Guard officer appeared.
“Full assault, I think. Liquidate this abscess, and bring me the head of its leader.”
fired again, but because of its state-of-the-art stabilising systems and buffers, the Inquisitor and his entourage barely noticed it going off. The force shield that protected the command platform also spared them the ear-popping crack of its main gun.
Martinez allowed himself a smile, which looked like a hideous leer to those who did not know him.
I love the Imperium, I thank thee my beloved Emperor for allowing me to use the tools of your wrath
He watched another massive breach appear in the spaceports curtain wall and the involuntarily clapped his hands when a volley of shells rippled across its front, opening up smaller breaches and toppling some towers and gun positions.
Under the cover of the heavy bombardment, Rhino troop transports had reached the walls. They were supported by all sorts of gun platforms that cleared the ruins of troops before hammering anything else that looked like a target. White-helmed battle-sisters formed the vanguard of the infantry attack, sweeping aside anyone, or anything that stood in their way. Inquisitional Stormtroopers took out individual strongpoints while the tanned-skinned desert fighters of the Gromia ‘Desperado’s, raced to be the first of their kind through the breaches to bring back a head for a trophy.
Their halberds were deadly. It was said that the metre-long blades could cut through the hardest metal, and that seemed to be true at first. Hundreds of mutants were eviscerated or hacked into pieces within the first few minutes of the assault, and many more crawled or limped to the rear with missing limbs or flesh hanging off.
But the mutants held.
‘Desperado’s’ began to fall back, their faces and armour turned to liquid mush. Heads fell, halberd blades were shattered and men cried out pitifully as weapons had no effect and they were smashed down or trampled.
The desert fighters were bar-room brawlers compared to the Adeptus Soriatus.
The Sisters of Battle were the pinnacle of fighting perfection. No match for a Space Marine, they were nevertheless, masters in the art of war and scourging the Emperors enemies. They were far too good against this type of enemy.
Their sections and platoons, cut through the mutant throngs as if it was a well-rehearsed ballet. None could match their elegance or dexterity. When they reached the main control tower, their armour was streaked with brown, black and red blood and their red cloaks were riven and torn. The block of Beastmen who guarded the main entrance were pushed to one side as if they were small children. The rest of the building was cleared within minutes.
The Inquisitional Stormtroopers cleared the walls of any mutant that would face them, they then split up and took out individual strongpoints. It was if they were on a training exercise and they whooped and laughed as they finally raised their standard on the highest flag pole.
It was, Martinez thought, a model of perfection.
But the success of the Battle Sisters and the Stormtroopers proved to be a curse. The Army of the Claw, too numerous to comprehend, flowed around them and into the breaches, pushing back the Deperado’s and regaining ground in several places. Captured armoured vehicles appeared via hidden sally-ports and a regular close-range duel broke out between them and the supporting armour.
The Othea Janissaries were surrounded when mutants came out of the ground in their rear. They were now fighting a desperate battle with blind mutants with razor-sharp claws and massive teeth. They could not get near the breach due to the sheer numbers of brawling troops, mutants and burning vehicles. A phalanx of human fire-breathers had also come to the fore, incinerating all, and everyone in their path.
Martinez rose slowly to his feet.
“When you need a job done properly, you have to do it yourself.” He took the offered Warhammer and swung it in a wide arc in front of him.
+ Yes, My Lord +
“I want your Lightnings to get down there and clear a path through that rabble…”
+ My… Lord? +
“I want you to turn that heaving mess into a causeway so that I can walk down there with my troops, and I want us to march down that causeway, twenty men wide. Do you understand?”
There was a long pause from the air force commander.
+ I believe so, My Lord +
“By my authority.”
He rose to his full height and shuffled his shoulders beneath the armour and cloak, as if they weighed nothing at all.
“Palatine Stepanovna,” he nodded towards her companion. “Nunciate Advance Balakhnova. I would like you to join me. We are going hunting.”
* * *