The Skies Over Kor IV
Captain Ralin of the Dragon Slayers second company surveyed the sky below him. Descending through the clouds Mechanicus landing craft were transporting their deadly tech-guard legions to the planet below, Fiora Nine. It was his honor and duty to act as Astartes Liason, leaving his company behind as they rearmed and recruited from the scout company after massive losses in the eleventh Black Crusade.
Through an armored plaxi-glass window on the Promethon-257AD Ralin saw other Mechanicus ships plowing down into the lower atmosphere above him. Doubtless carrying in more weapons and bodies for the war below.
‘Is it proceeding as well as I had calculated?’ said a voice behind him.
‘Very much so, Arch Magos Jerad.’ Replied Ralin. He didn’t bother looking for the Arch Magos. He wouldn’t be there. The leader of the Mechanicus forced had ceased to use a physical body long ago and was now no more than an inhuman mind guiding a biological brain to direct onboard vox boxes to direct his underlings.
‘Everything proceeds that way for me it seems.’
‘No plan survives contact with the enemy Arch Magos, ‘said Ralin.
‘There is no enemy in the sky Astartes. We swatted them out of it weeks ago.’
That was when the Demter-497 went up in flames carrying an entire super-heavy tank company that took centuries to build in the forges of Mars.
‘Bring all guns online, alert all incoming ships and bring us back up into orbit now!’ shouted Ralin.
‘I’m afraid I can’t do that Astartes.’ Said the Arch Magos.
‘Why in the nine hells not?’ asked Ralin.
‘Because the landing instructions are hardwired into the ship’s systems. It’ll take too long to reverse the protocols and the gravity of the world below took over for the engines five minutes and fifty-two seconds ago. It’ll take fifteen minutes and fourteen seconds to bring the engines back online and warm them up.’
‘Dammit.’ Said Ralin. He left the window and started walking to his quarters. ‘Have my equipment ready when I get back to my quarters and ready all infantry units equipped with jetpacks. Send likewise orders to every other ship descending through the lower atmosphere.’
‘I have already begun prepping all onboard techguard units fitting your specifications. But I do not count on seeing enemy vessels attacking the convoy.’
‘You also didn’t count on being under attack during the deployment phase of this operation.’ Said Ralin arriving in his quarters. Mechanical arms sprouting from the ceiling for readying his armor.
Ralin donned his gear. Silently blessing each piece. His jetpack fitted nicely on his back, buckled in tightly to minimize the chances thrashing him about in the air. He lifted his powerspear, Angelos, from it’s resting place. The ancient weapon had been wielded by every captain of the second company since the chapter’s formation during the aftershocks of the Great Betrayal. The powerful weapon incorporated a melta weapon just behind the powered blade, designed for nothing short of ripping through the hulls of enemy tanks. Ralin was counting on it to live up and beyond that.
‘Form ranks. Right and front.’ Said Ralin to the assembled tech guardsmen onboard the Promethon-257AD. Before him one hundred and fifty five men, all armed with hellguns, carapace armor, techguard jetpacks and assorted bionics.
‘I don’t know many of you, and there is an emergency going on outside this hull, so I’ll make this short.’ Barked Ralin.
‘Outside there are enemy gun platforms rising into the sky, it is only a matter of time before they destroy the entire landing force, and with it our chances for an Imperial victory in this war. Check your weapons one last time, because after this a war will be upon our shoulders.’
Ralin turned to a techpreist behind him, ‘Ready the cargo doors. I want them open to the sky in thirty seconds.’ He said.
He turned back to the assembled tech guard. ‘Ready in ten seconds or never. Stand back from the panels.’
As the tech guard fanned out to surround the massive cargo panels in the floor Ralin strode out to the middle of the panels. That was the difference between Astartes and men, men stood around danger and waited for the moment to make their move, Astartes moved and made danger wait for them.
The panels started opening. Sliding into groves in the floor the sky below was laid bare before Ralin’s feet. For the first time he say the enemy gun platforms and gunships with the naked eye.
‘After me!’ shouted Ralin as he jumped down to the sky below.
Freefalling through clouds Ralin felt the wind all around his helmet, he felt the moisture in his clouds condensate all over his armor.
Descending towards the ground three miles below the heretic gun platforms were coming up fast. Warped fighter and bomber aircraft launched from beneath the massive fort-like aircraft like a whore mother giving birth to scores of little daemon harpies and bats.
The heretic gun platform directly below them came up to meet them, trying to get in position to target the Promethon-257 AD. Anti-aircraft guns looked up to greet the Ralin and the descending techguard. The captain of the Silver Dragons second company could just picture the smiling heretics within preparing to shoot them down before his war began.
It would be only a matter of seconds before Ralin and the techguard would be range of those guns.
‘Screen fire over Are Zero Delta Alpha,’ said Ralin. Onboard the Promethon-257AD Arch Magos Jerad aimed towards the designated coordinates and fired the smoke shells, designed to hide large tech guard formations on the ground, it did little to hinder forces augmented with the best visual targeting sensors the forges of Mars could produce.
Although the cloud of gray smoke drew attention, the thermo scanning of the anti-aircraft guns on the outer hull of the heretic gun platform couldn’t pick out targets within the cloud.
Bursting out of the cloud just a few meters above the gun platform Ralin triggered his jetpack. The sudden decrease in his speed made his head snap forward. He blinked twice to clear his eyesight.
He hit the outer hull of the gun platform and engaged the magnetic clamps in his boots. Looking up he saw the techguard slowing down at a higher altitude than he had.
Raising Angelos he fired off a melta burst and melted one of the smaller anti-aircraft guns.
All around him the techguard began landing all around him. They had a harder time with finding a foothold, the hull of the gun platform was curved at some points and jagged and irregular at others, and the techguard lacked the magnetic clamps Ralin employed in this task. A few of them slide over the edge of the hull, Ralin didn’t care. They had jetpacks anyway, and once he brought down this gun platform other Mechanicus landers would be able to maneuver into position to deploy their jet pack armed techguard units.
Twirling Angelos above his head he aimed it down at the hull and fired, slowly bringing it up, carving a hole into the hull.
‘Follow me,’ shouted Ralin as he jumped down the hole into a small corridor barely big enough for him to stand upright.
The techguards dropped through the hull breach into the corridor. Their hellguns came up instantly searching for targets to kill. There were none. Now.
‘This way,’ said Ralin. Raising Angelos he primed the underslung melta gun, ready to turn any heretic into a puddle of molten flesh.
The gun platform was not a small ship. It was about the size of a large scholam in the Imperium. Four decks surrounded by an outer hull were armored and dotted with anti-aircraft guns. Four massive guns, infused with the power of the warp sprouted from the middle dome on the top like the branches of a foul and twisted tree.
It was designed with a holding area for star fighters and bombers. Where the heretics of Kor IV had acquired these weapons was a mystery to the Imperial forces. The gun platform was a weapon. Not a transport craft. It carried little in the way of security. But what it did carry, was filth.
That was what had jumped out at Ralin. Taking the head of the techguard units Ralin led them down through the corridor, occasionally melting through bulkheads with Angelos. The third time he did so was the last. Bursting out of a hollow section of the wall opened by the melta burst a creature of the warp busted out. No daemon was this, it was a lesser thing. It was a creature of filth and decay, something so misshapen and deformed it could not ever have been human. But something about it was.
The eyes. Thought Ralin. While the body of the beast was lopsided with two muscular legs on one side and three puny and weak arms on the other it had trouble standing upright. Spikes protruded from where its stomach supposedly was. One gangly arm was hooked and barbed, fit for stabbing and thrusting through a body. On the other arm a beaked mouth was where the palm was supposed to be and where its mouth should be were four deformed fingers trying to grab the air. But he eyes… the eyes exuded everything that could be wrong with a man. From the murderous stare of a necromundan hiver to the bloodthirstiness of barbarians on backwater worlds and more besides.
Ralin saw all of this just before it struck.
Kicking down the mighty astartes captain with its two legs it leapt for the massed ranks of the techguard. In the cramped and confined hallway, stinking of sewage mixed with rust, with dirty water dripping from the pipes down to the rattling floor the techguard had next to no room. Those who could raise their hellguns and get a target lock fired as fast as they could, their shots doing little except to burn the creature. Those who could not reached for their combat knives and tried to raise them in time to maybe get a good hit on the warp-thing. They didn’t.
Slicing and striking through the techguard the monster howled with delight. The beaked arm stabbed down into one unfortunate techguard and the spiked arm sliced off the legs of another, making him fall down with his finger still on the trigger of his hellgun, shooting two more techguardsmen. The man with the beak embedded within his chest was getting paler and paler by the second. His blood was being drunk.
Getting up off his back Ralin grasped his spear in one hand, sending a voice command to the armor around his hand. The magnets that kept the ancient weapon firmly in his grasp reversed their polarity and sent the spear speeding outward, impaling to the war-beast.
Howling in pain the creature turned around to face the marine. ‘Weapon retrieve,’ said Ralin and the magnetic within his armored glove went back to their original setting and increased in power. The spear burst through the chest of the warp-beast in a fountain of blood. Dodging the speeding spear Ralin let it go halfway past him before grabbing it and twirling it in his hand to face the creature. The ceiling was higher here.
Screeching in pain from the spear and misery from its existence the warp-spawn catapulted forward, beak arm outstretched and thirsting for blood.
Ralin thrust his spear forward and impaled the throat of the beast, the blade entering the beak and penetrating out of where the stomach should be. He pulled his weapon back in disgust.
Behind them the techguard gathered themselves and opened fire on the beast. Individually the shots did next to nothing, but massed as they were, they caused a great deal of damage.
Screeching in madness the beast was coming to realize, in some animalistic way, that it was about to die.
This did nothing to deter it from trying to take a few more lives with it.
Grabbing the haft of Angelos it impaled itself further and trying to bite down on Ralin’s arm. He swatted the beak away with the back of his hand.
Twisting the spear one last time Ralin killed the thing.
‘Keep moving,’ said Ralin, turning away.
The techguard moved past Ralin, hellguns at the ready in case of another attack like the one they just faced.
After the techguard passed him Ralin hefted his spear and took aim at the vile thing. He pulled the trigger, letting a searing blast of heat envelop and dissolve the warp spawn.
The rest of the infiltration went with little incident. Here and there a few heretic weapons operators manned their stations, leaving only when they saw battered and angry Imperials led by a demi-god marching towards them. None were left alive or escaped to spread the message.
When they arrived at the center of the gun platform Ralin pointed with his spear. ‘Place the demo charges on the engine. Put one on the ammunition belt for the cannons as well. Two man team for each demo charge. The rest of you cover them and keep your eyes open for more daemon spawn,’
‘This isn’t right,’ said Ralin, ‘They should be swarming us right now with whatever crew they have,’
‘I’ll settle for the Omnissiah’s favor,’ muttered one the nearby tech guards.
‘And I’ll settle for straightforward fight. Now maintain your silence and focus’.
After several tense minutes the techguards in charge of the demo charges gave the all ready signal.
‘Move out,’ said Ralin, ‘Let’s get the rest,’
As they were moving back through the halls they came in through Ralin held out his hand for the detonator. ‘We’re going to clear the gun platform, then I’ll detonate the dammed thing.
Once they made it to the outer hull Ralin engaged the magnets in his boots. The techguard just held on the best they could.
‘On my signal, scatter over the edge. Try to get on another platform,’
Above them the clear skies were marred by blotches of burning Machanicum landers, on fire and about to fail , but still with enough power keep from plummeting to the ground just yet.
Finished: Too Much Love Will Kill You (working title), an original fiction novel. Working on: Second draft of Too Much Love, and the first draft of A Winter's Tale (working title).