All is dust.
Captain Carbon Dask stared into the void and let out a long sigh.
“Captain, are you well?”
He angled his head slightly, never taking his eyes off the darkness of infinity.
“Yes, Commander Elthin, I am functioning at maximum efficiency,” he paused. “For someone who has served the Emperor for the best part of a century that is.”
His subordinate squinted and shrugged his shoulders, daring to glance back at the assembled command crew behind him. The Tin Man, the crew’s unofficial nickname for their Captain, did not seem to be himself today. He seemed to be out of cinque, to be elsewhere, to not be… himself.
Dask would probably have recognised this but waved the lassitude away as the results of an overly long stretch in the warp or the fact that he had not slept properly in days.
That it should come to me here and at this place.
He had been a solid servant of the Imperium since time in memorial, and he had never been as proud as he was now, as the Captain of the Space Marine Battlebarge the Nocturnus Venandi
. He was honoured to have fought in hundreds of battles with The Emperor’s Vengeance Chapter and had carved his name with pride, assigning billions of the Emperor’s enemies to oblivion.
They had only been beaten once and that was technically not a defeat he assured himself.
He ran his good hand over the left side of his face and felt the cold metal there. He then held up his left hand and opened and closed the augmentic replacement.
They called him The Tin Man behind his back. The name could probably be justified, but he was a little annoyed that the tin was in fact the finest Mars platinum, forged at the Mondus Gamma Forge Temple no less. He had been rendered into his mien courtesy of bio acid from an exploding Tyrannid living torpedo.
It had been at Psi Luminar 3 in the Outeria System.
An almost identical system as this, Dask mused.
“Helm, two points Starboard if you please.”
“Two points Starboard, Aye Captain.”
The ship made the course adjustment and then suddenly it was there in view, the Agri-world of Sumesh.
They sleep in ignorant oblivion.
The luminous green sphere was haloed in the first orange light of a new dawn. Its sun would soon rise and the monotonous existence of plough and reap would begin for its sixty million inhabitants.
Plough and reap, collect the tithes and do your duty to the Emperor; except that today the machines would remain still and silent and the agri-workers will stare up into the heavens and witness the Gods at war.
A glint caught Dasks eye which was soon followed by more and more as the distance sun’s rays cut out above the planet.
Dask could not fail to be impressed. The reflections came from the assembled fleets that were at anchor above Sumesh, two hundred vessels of every size and shape that had rallied to the call, to rally and save the inhabitants of this tiny, insignificant planet.
“It is not enough.”
“Courage Captain.” The voice was low and menacing with an accent that Dask knew well. He turned slowly, straightening up to his full height and menace.
“Chaplain Jacobsen. I was unaware that you were on the bridge…”
“I assumed you would be administering the rites of battle to your warriors.”
“I am not the only Chaplain in the Fleets, besides; it is also my duty to provide succour to the Chapters Auxiliaries.”
“Comfort?” Dask managed to grin. “I struggle with that notion Chaplain, knowing you as I do.”
The Space Marine joined his side and they both looked back out to the planet below. If it was not for the seriousness of the situation unfolding, one would wonder at the sight of these two men standing together. The tall, muscular ship’s captain in his purple Vengeance Auxiliary frock coat covered in medals and gold braid. His face half hidden in burnished metal and the towering form of the Space marine Chaplain with his silver-skull helmet and gun metal cloak and vestiges. Both were completely different in every way, but beneath the surface, there was mutual respect brought about in the hard crucible of battle. No other mortal could talk to Chaplain Jacobsen in such an informal manner.
After what seemed like an eternity the Chaplain slammed down the shaft on his Crozious with the force of an exploding Rhino.
“Clear the Command deck.”
The gathered officers dispersed immediately and without hesitation. Years of training and indoctrination meant that orders were obeyed without question.
The Chaplain turned and faced Dask and then with slow reverence he unclipped his helmet and revealed his own true face.
Dask gasped. He had never seen the marine uncloaked and unveiled. It took his breath away.
Jacobsen’s own face was a mass of scar tissue and grafts. His own eyes had been replaced with bionics and where his nose should have been was a gaping hole, his mouth a swollen red hole devoid of teeth.
“I never knew…” Dask began. Jacobsen held up his hand.
“Nor would you. My face is for my eyes alone and although some would be delighted in such disfigurement, I would prefer to keep it hidden.”
“I am sorry.”
“Sorry for what?”
Dask lowered his head.
“I am sorry.” He raised his head again. “I am struggling,” he stuttered. “To maintain my faith. I have my doubts.”
“Of final victory? Even if we fail here today Captain, others will pick up our mantle and carry on the fight. The Imperium of man will prevail.”
“But against such an abomination Chaplain? This entity we face today is but a finger, a mere slither of the greater organism that follows. I fear that everything will not be enough to slow it down even for a moment.” He swept his hand towards the planet below. “I fear that all of them down there and all of us up here, will be food for their ever-expanding stomachs. They will consume us and then move on, ever on. Our stance here is futile.”
Jacobsen placed a hand on his shoulder.
“Have faith Captain. The Emperor will protect us all.”
The Vox-comm came to life and the voice of a lobotomised servitor grated out.
“They are coming Captain, three Hive ships in total.”
Dask turned to the Chaplain his good eye glinting.
“Gunmaster. Prepare the broadsides. Master-at-arms, you may beat to quarters."