The six flaming shapes roared through the planet's atmosphere, the searing heat being held at bay by the valkyries thermite plating. The ships re-entered with a supersonic boom, the paint work of the Raven insignia marred with scorch marks. The Valkyrie transports would be carrying all the platoon’s men and equipment into the planet’s atmosphere. The equipment boxes had specially modified gravchutes attached to them set to deploy at a predetermined altitude. Hawthorw turned to look as the Valkyrie bay door lowered and the hiss of pressure stabilisation filled the compartment.
Hawthorw stood walked to the door and turned to address the men behind him.
“Listen up guardsmen” he yelled above the roar of the wind and engines “ we are approaching drop altitude, stand and check the equipment of the man in front of you”
“ Sixty seconds!” yelled the pilot’s voice over the intercom
“Move up to the doorway!” yelled Hawthorw
Instantly the ten men in his Valkyrie turned and moved to the door, they all wore Type 5 pressure helmets, first used by the drop troops of Elysia.
Hawthorw turned his face to the door and looked out into the vast nothing beyond the ramp, he had always hated drops since his training with the elite Karskin.
“ten seconds” came the pilots voice again
He turned back to his men “move to the door!, stylus you’re up” he said to first squad’s new sergeant. Stylus nodded in acknowledgement.
The bay’s droplight turned green.
“Go, move up, go, move up, go”, Hawthorw directed each of his new command out of the ship. Watching the last man disappear, Hawthorw whispered a prayer to the emperor for safety as he had preceding every drop, before he leaped out of the bay door into the skies.
Hawthorw gazed out at the land before him; his first real look after the spores and flames, the devastation was horrific. What were once forests had devolved into shapeless masses of sludge, no grassland was to be seen just stone and mountain. The only improvement was that the fire storm had used the spores as fuel, allowing unprotected deployment on the planet.
As he soared down at two hundred mph, Hawthorw suddenly grasped the magnitude of what he saw, these creatures, these monsters had extinguished all other life on Golithia in one month. Everything, animal and plant was dead.
The lieutenant’s helmet displayed Altimeter started beeping to indicate the approaching deployment height. Hawthorw activated his Gravchute, feeling its effect as he rapidly slowed in his descent. As he hit the ground Hawthorw bent his knees and rolled backwards to disperse the impact’s force. Stylus walked over to Hawthorw.
“Still hate them?” Stylus asked
“Still hate them. How is the squad?”
“ Almost one hundred percent, just Carth. He landed funny and I think his finger is broken but that’s all.”
“Heard from the other squads?”
“Squads two, four and five have made contact. No news from three”
“But that’s Fye’s squad”
“I know. We need to find him.”
“We will, just hang in ther...”
Hawthorw was interrupted by the squad’s vox operator
“Sir, we’ve got contact with third squad, but I’ve no idea what the hell is going on” he said with a worried look. Hawthorw ran over to the vox and took the mouth piece
“This is Raven Leader, Raven 3 please response over.”
“Thank emperor, it's bloody good to hear your voice sir” yelled Fye over the crack of gunfire
“Sit rep now”
“ We drop about 5 minuets ago and landed by one of those sludge forests. Then those things just charge out of it, it’s the same alien that got Rios” yelled Fye
“Can you make it to the 13ths position?”
“ No can do sir, we’re being pushed back inside a cave, we might be able to funnel them and hold them off”
“Stay put we’ll be there soon, just hold on, that’s an order”
The vox broke off into static. Hawthorw looked blankly at the vox for several seconds.
“Sir” Stylus prompted, “What are our orders sir”
Fye was a long-time friend and a great soldier but to go after him would be moving away from the mission objective and make him liable for court-martial.
“Sergeant, give me half your shooters, I’ll go after Fye. You take the rest and link up with the other squads” said Hawthorw suddenly”
“You’re in charge Stylus, wait two hours at the 13th’s position if we’re not there by then just proceed with the mission.”
“Sir. Ok listen up first squad” stylus selected four men from his squad “ you’re going with the Lieutenant, the rest of you get it together we move in two”
Stylus turned to look at Hawthorw “ Don’t be long sir, we need you here”
“I won’t, see you in two hours sergeant”
X X X
The command Bridge of the Emperor’s Vindiction was always a foreboding place; there was no lighting besides the illumination of hundreds of information screens lining the different walls. Dozens of servitors and naval officers manned these screens, receiving and inserting massive amounts of information. From the admirals command seat Lord Marshal Cordax watched all the proceedings. Admiral Becker had been dismissed due to his involvement in the original landing operation.
“Lord Marshal sir”
Cordax turned to see Johnathan standing at attention
“ At ease boy, what is it?”
“Thank you sir” replied Johnathan, slackening his posture “ there is a situation that you should know about, in the sanctum”
He had waited a moment before telling him this last bit of information so the Lord Marshal would grasp the meaning of his message because this time, situation meant problem and a problem in the sanctum was very bad
Cordax’s face lost some colour as he asked “ what kind of situation?” Knowing the answer would not be good.
“ I think it best if you come and see for yourself Sir” urged the young officer
The Vindiction’s sanctum was a stone walled shrine used to house the ships complement of psykers when they were not in use. The Vindiction held a large number of psykers; a number close to four hundred lived in the ship’s massive sanctum. As Cordax walked down the corridor he could tell something was wrong, the sanctum’s armed guard had tripled so that twelve high-ranking Grenadiers now stood guard at the door. As Cordax approached the Guards stood to attention and opened the door. Four of the Grenadiers moved into the room at stationed the selves at the walls.
Cordax was almost knocked off his feet by the stench in the room, the stone slab floor was awash with blood, and the bodies of the psykers lay sprawled everywhere with gashes, cuts and Lasholes all over their bodies
“What happened here?” asked Cordax, horrified at what he saw
One of the guards stepped forward, at attention
“ Sir, it was thirty minuets ago. The guard detail at the door heard screaming and yelling from in the sanctum, so they when inside to help and the psykers where going crazy, well crazier. They were clawing at each other, biting, scratching, attacking each other with anything they could lay their hands on”
“What caused this, this madness?”
“I have no idea sir, but as soon as the guards entered the room they were set on by the whole sanctum. Two of my men were killed and another is in a critical state, they just kept running at my men who had to open fire on them to survive.”
“Are there any left alive?” asked Cordax, Hopefully but fearfully
“ I have twenty men searching the catacombs now, if there are any left we’ll find them”
“Good. How could this happen to all of them, there were over four hundred.”
A second Guard stepped forward, his eyes gaunt
“Sir, I was the fourth man on that guard detail. They didn’t all attack us, some just dropped dead with blood coming from their nose and ears. Others were in corners screaming to themselves about a Great Devourer”
“A Great Devourer” mused Cordax “ are you sure?”
“Johnathan get to the bridge and use the short range vox to communicate with the nearest ship” ordered Cordax, reaching a decision
“ And tell them what exactly, sir”
“ Tell them to use their Astropaths to contact the Inquisition by any means possible, I want them to run a reference on Great Devourers.”
“I’ll get right on it sir”
“And clean this place up, for emperor’s sake!”
X X X
The mouth of the cave was littered by half dozen small, limp, tiger-like bodies.
Hawthorw raised his hand and spread his fingers, indicating for the Guardsmen to fan out but the men simply looked at him. Damn, he though, a karskin would have known instantly.
“Fan out” he whispered
The four guardsmen moved to a five-meter spread around the cave entrance. Hawthorw moved around to angle a view down the cave but all beyond the entrance was hidden in shadow
“Lieutenant, I found one.” Yelled a near by guardsman “Well the bits they didn’t like”
Emperor damn, these rookies didn’t know shit. Hawthorw started to realise the quality of the men he had lead up to this point, they knew when to be stealthy and when to go loud and sneaking up on a cave possibly full of hostile aliens was not the time to go loud.
“Soldier, if you don’t stay quiet I will personally silence you” growled Hawthorw as he crept over. “Now quietly, what did you say?”
“I found this” the guardsman whispered as he lifted a dead alien and rolled it over. Underneath the dead xeno was a second corpse, barely recognisable as human.
“The leaper here must have been half way through snack time when it was shot” said the Guardsman callously, gesturing to the alien.
“It has a name now?”
“What, o right, leaper was something the other guys thought up and it kinda just stuck” replied the Guardsman, shrugging his shoulders “they leap at ya so they’re leapers, it fits”
“Whatever, just grab the tags” whispered Hawthorn as he turned away
“Sir” replied the soldier and then as he picked up the tags “hmm, Private Dominic Greaves, nice watch. Don’t mind if I have it do you”
Hawthorw beckoned his men over to the mouth of the cave, he pointed to two of the men.
“I need you two to stay here, guard the cave until we come out. Don’t let anything in, you got it?”
The men nodded in understanding
“So, that leaves you two, you’re with me. Get your torches out and stay right behind me” instructed Hawthorw as he turned to the remaining soldiers.
“Sir, I sort of don’t have my torch” muttered one of the guardsmen timidly
“It got smashed in the drop, doesn’t work sir”
“Stick close to this guy” Hawthorw replied jerking his thumb in the direction of the other man
Hawthorw switched on the torch attached to the barrel of his Hellgun, illuminating ten meters into the cave and started forward.
The two men on guard outside the cave watched as the darkness engulfed the three soldiers.
black Templars Utopa Crusade of about 12000pts
for when you gota shoop da whoop