Only the Astartes could look natural amidst the ghostly shells of buildings that stood, almost in monument, to the fallen city. Like the dogs of war themselves, second and third company of the Steel Nomads filtered through the charred remains of Sy'ri in pairs with an almost ethereal quality. In the rising lunar light the grey of their armour glistened with a deathly quality almost giving them the appearance of spectres of some long forgotten knights of old. Their only material feature, that made them recognisable as Astartes warriors to those unfortunate heretics who found themselves at the end of their bolters, was the unblinking and unyielding stare that the pale blue eyes of their helmets offered. The same stare that was still burning in the minds of Commissar Lurt and the like.
One of the apparitions lifted an armoured hand in a stopping motion, and his partner stopped. Captain Delonius lifted up his second hand, keeping six of his fingers up right.
Six hostiles. Around the corner.
Markus nodded, raising his bolter gently. With fluid motion they both turned the corner, bolters blazing and illuminating their figures into the material world. The six heretics, huddled around the dim light of the camp fire amongst the debris of a scorched out hospital barely had time to look up at their executioners as they exploded in clouds of reddish haze. One of them just about managed to raise his las pistol as he was torn in half by bolter fire, falling in bits over the fire and extinguishing it. Their guns ceased as Delonius and Markus slid back into the embrace of night. Only now the icy blue of their helmets illuminated the miniature massacre that had taken place. Delonius whispered into the vox line.
"Six hostiles down. Area south east of main camp secure."
The vox crackled back, an equally and barely audible whisper.
Delonius paced the eerie room slowly. Scattered about were six beds, improvised out of what looked like busted stretchers. Broken machinery lay dotted around the room. On the wall, a medicae logo that had been graffitied over was barely visible. The room had clearly once been a ward, before the various symbols and blasphemous iconography had been carved into the walls. On the far side of the room, an insulting sight offended both of their eyes. The symbol of Slaneesh had been splattered over the crumbling wall. He turned to check over the bodies (or what remained of them) -- four men and two women. A scratching noise gave him cause to look up. Markus motioned to the smaller room next door, and Delonius proceeded cautiously. Keeping his bolter level with his helmet he turned the door frame, the dark secrets of the room before him revealed through the optics in his helmet.
Both his and Markus' bolters snapped to a cage in the corner of the dark and dank room (which looked to be a supply room of some sort.) The rattling persisted, and evolved into a worried gasp and the sound of dragging. Moving cautiously, Markus and Delonius surrounded the cage.
"Orders, brother?" Markus asked, not making the careless mistake of shooting a side ways glance. His eyes were trained on the patheticly small and thinned girl in the cage. Her gaunt face was streaked with dirt mingled with dryed blood, freshly moist from the silvery trail of tears running down her face. Delonius switched on the torch light on his bolter. The girl hissed in pain at the light and Delonius flicked it back off.
"Photo sensitive. Adolescent. No obvious signs of possession -- probably a slave or pass around. Her mind, and body is damaged beyond repair. It's our duty to deliver her peace."
The form in the cage shook with weeping. Markus doubted she could understand what they were saying, or even quite what they were. He crouched onto his knees, letting one hand go of the bolter and sliding his armoured hand through the iron bars of the cage. The dweller bit at his fingers, but he did nothing as her tooth chipped on the ceramite. His fingers touched the rough and sallow skin that hung tight and almost translucently to her starved figure. The girl, intimidated, sat back and stared at him as his fingers eased around her neck. In one swift movement, he broke her neck clean.
"The Emperor protects." Markus declared, as some form of last rite. Delonius simply nodded as they both turned to one of the broken windows in the building. Bursts of bolter fire littered the otherwise silent ruins of the city. The immediate area around main camp would be clear easily in the next few hours. Their task now, was to hold this position. The pair stood in silent watch, until Markus spoke.
"Is what Tordeus is saying true then, brother? Will it come?"
Delonius simply nodded.
"Yes, brother. Tordeus is sure of it. Tordeus is sure It will not pass up this opportunity. It will want the objective just as much as we do."
"But surely other then It and us, there are others who are aware of the objectives presence
Delonius considered this. As captain of "second company", Delonius was privy to Tordeus' thoughts and plans. He had mentioned a chance of an 'outside presence', but had not outlined what exactly.
"Correct brother, but we cannot be certain. No information as of yet has betrayed such an external presence. All we have to worry about here is the It and It's legions."
The vox line crackled again.
"Baurus and Wagner here. Large concentration of enemy hostiles spotted and they look to be alert. Numbering approximately fourty. A number of prisoners have been spotted as well. Complex is lightly guarded. Permission to open fire, or shall we wait for assistance?"
Delonius, as captain, responded.
"You're more then capable of taking them on yourselves. Open fire."
More bolter fire crackled on in the distance
The temple in the plaza of Sy'ri had been converted into a make shift field hospital, as the wounded poured in and out of it's holy walls. Private Finnigan found himself waking up there, several hours after he had lost consciousness at the Commissars meeting with the Astartes.
He sat up right, wincing as he did. Amongst the numb aching that was rife all over his body, an acute pain broke through the sedation he was under. His arm, lying at an awkward and impossible angle, throbbed as he stared helplessly down it.
He took a look around at the temple hall. At the heart of the city, it had sustained very little damage in the siege. It wasn't as ornate as some of the grander temples on other planets, but there was a quaint modesty about it. Around him, the priests were making their way down the aisles, offering spiritual advice here and a prayer there. The temples candles lit the large and almost cavernous room up in a amber tint. A medicae officer made her way across to him. In the most sympathetic tone a worn and exhausted person can offer, she asked.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Arm's aching like feth. Busted pretty bad. Reckon ye' can....Feth!, Argh, Reckon ye' can patch me up soon?"
The medicae officer's face fell in exhaustion. The facade of sympathetic energy had dropped.
"Our supplies are...limited. All I can offer is an internal plastite cast. It'll be painful, but useable although it won't be strong as a natural mending. But it'll be usable."
Finn looked down, his good hand searching his pockets for a cigarette.
"Anythin'. Just knock me out before 'and."
The medicae officer frowned.
"Sounds like the sedatives have taken more then enough effect on you. You're jaws numbed up. I can't supply you with any more relief, otherwise you will overdose."
"Ahh feth..." Finn simply replied.
The medicae slung a leather bag from over her shoulder, searching inside it and pulling out various syringes and worryingly vicious looking tools. Finn abandoned the the hunt for a cigarette, and concluded that something that day had hated him. The medicae, halfway through her search, looked up at him and frowned.
"That's a nasty wound on your head. It needs to be washed. here..."
Finn hadn't noticed that for the first time in weeks his helmet had been removed from his head. Relieved at the slight delay from his painful operation, he took a moment to look around at the other beds. It seemed he was one of the lucky ones, waking up. The medicae dabbed a wet cloth at his forehead, wiping the layers of dirt and grime that had accumulated over the last few weeks of fighting. After several wipes, she gasped.
"Throne! You're young."
Finn looked a way a little embarasssed. "Seventeen."
"Well, you carry yourself like one of these old and moody fethers." She continued, sticking a syringe in his arm. He winced slightly, and retorted
"That's surprising, y'know, what with the war on - Ah feth!" He cursed.
"You could barely be a full guardsman then. Whiteshield?" She inquired, as she pressed a strange looking instrument into his arm. He yelped again in pain, closing his eyes very tightly.
"I was inducted in early, due to lack of man power." He garbled quickly, trying to focus on anything but the pain. He could feel the strange liquid fill the gap in his arm, settling where the break was. It felt strange, a numbing but throbbing pain like a severe tooth ache in his arm. She smiled as he sat, still wincing tightly as if the worse was yet to come.
"All done. Just give it an hour to settle."
He opened one eye cautiously.
She chuckled, packing her instruments back into her bag and chucking the used syringes in a dish by his bed side (to which, he noticed, where his helmet, flak armour and las gun strewn out neatly). She straightened up to leave, when he garbled.
She turned, a bemused smile on her worn features.
"I'm Finnigan. Finn. What's your name?"
She chuckled again, almost shaking her head.
"I'm Selene. Well Finn Finnigan. It was nice to make your acquaintance." She replied, gracefully making her way off. Finn palmed his fore head with his hand, forgetting about the settling plastite in his arm. He yelped in pain, and blushed yet again when he heard Selene laughing from across the hall. Finn Finnigan? Eurgh...
A gruff voice beside him warned him:
"Wasting yer time lad. Tis only act, help ye' get better."
Finn sought to regain some composure. He'd gone without being talked down to due to his age for three weeks, somewhat thanks to his thin and sprouting facial hair and the layers of dirt and grime he had compiled over his time in the trench. He turned to the source of the voice -- the scruffy and ageing guardsman in the bed next to him.
"Yeah, I know. Just err...humouring the woman." He laughed, half nervously. Seeking to change the topic he continued.
"Still, Emperor be praised about the Astartes turning up. Would probably be dead by now if otherwise."
The old guardsman spat and made the sign of the aquilla.
"Bloody nomads... Throne, don't ye know anythin' boy?"
Finn's cocky smile half faded. Spitting was a Cyrulian tradition for averting evil.
"What do you mean?"
The Guardsman hawked again, much to the distaste of a passing medicae.
"Steel Nomads chapter 'aint nothin' but trouble. Believe you me. Me mammy told me tales as a child. Cursed chapter they be. Wherever they go, they bring only death and destruction' -- and not in the usual and total manner of the Astartes. Entire systems been wiped off the galaxy by them 'ccording to me mammy. Looking for sommat they is...."
Finnigan leaned in from his bed. What the guardsman saying was most probabley the ramblings of a battle pressed mad man. But it was interesting none the less.
"What are they looking for? How do they bring this level of destruction?"
The old man leaned in again, a haunting look on his face. His grimy features were illluminated by the candles in the hall. For a moment, only the foot steps of the medicae and the groans of the wounded could be heard. Finn leaned in closer. The old man's mouth began to open.
"Feth me, I forgot."
Finn sank back into the rough comfort of his makeshift bed. Typical. Anti climatic ramblings of a battle pressed mad man.
As our bodies are armoured with Adamantium, our souls are protected with our loyalty. As our bolters are charged with death for the Emperor's enemies, our thoughts are charged with his wisdom. As our ranks advance, so does our devotion, for are we not Marines? Are we not the chosen of the Emperor, his loyal servants unto death?