Holier Than Thou Part 2
Kor’Farrah sat back in his seat, relieved he had gotten off the planet in one piece. He had hoped to bring as many men and supplies with him as possible to join the Primarch Lorgar, but because of that bastard, Sor’Talla, for it could be no one else, he was lucky to get off the planet in one piece.
Ahead of his lander two battleships of the Navy forces under his command waited.
A small monitor in the control panel lit up and the face of Captain August appeared.
‘General Kor’Farrah, in the name of the blessed Primarch Lorgar I greet you and would like to inform you that we received your vox signal and preparations have already been made for your return. If you do not mind I would appreciate it if you would join me on the command deck,’.
The transmission cut before Kor’Farrah could say or do anything.
That insolent bastard of a Captain, thought Kor’Farrah.
It did not truly matter though, it was where Kor’Farrah had originally meant to go anyway.
‘Still alive?’ the Genereal asked his companion.
‘Yes, still alive,’ said the sorcerer.
Captain August did not know where the Word Bearer had gone.
One moment the giant war machine was giving him instructions to be filled out to the letter with the Captain’s soul for forfeit if they were not, then he was gone, disappeared from the well lit and clean command deck.
August had done all he could for now, doing everything the Astartes commanded him to do, never giving voice to any of his questions lest he die a painful death.
The long minutes passed slowly as August and command crew waited for the General. The Astartes had made it painfully clear he would kill the General, something August was not very keen on being around to witness.
But like fighting against a rip tide, he knew trying to get out of it was hopeless.
Sweat beaded August’s forehead and he wiped the sleeve of his jacket across it, blinking away the sweat that had trickled down to his eyes.
‘What is so damn important you must summon me to the deck when you already know I am coming?’ came a loud, arrogant voice.
August closed his eyes.
Dropping from the ceiling Sor’Talla held his combat knife in a two handed grip, ready to stab down on the bastard Kor’Farrah’s head.
In the two seconds before he hit the floor Sor’Talla analyzed Kor’Farrah and his guard.
The Colchis Royal Guardsmen were ill at ease, uneasy after abandoning comrades on a planet with a warp beast prowling and an unfinished ork threat. They were also at the edge of their resolve, having seen that warp creature and what it could do. But for all that they could still fight, they were armed in the traditional way with hellguns and power sabers sheathed across their backs and clad in stone grey carapace armor.
They would be no threat to him.
Then Sor’Talla the hunched over figure of the sorcerer, something he’d forgotten about but quickly remembered.
Sor’Talla knew what this being was capable of, his skills with warp craft almost on par with a novice of the legion. Sor’Talla also knew that while its powers were weak compared to Astartes, it made up for that with a devious mind and would no doubt have something hidden up its sleeve.
Crashing down on the invisible kine shield it projected was not Sor’Talla’s idea of a good start to his vengeance.
Nevertheless, he did.
Hitting the floor on his side Sor’Talla lost the grip on his combat knife but was on his feet in less than a second.
Uttering a word of power the sorcerer waved his arms against Sor’Talla and sent the marine flying across the room, crashing into a technician and the control panel he manned.
Before he rose he heard the rasping voice of the sorcerer as he shouted for the General to escape and make for the other ship, the Damavand.
Sor’Talla didn’t need to look in order to tell the General would take his advice.
Sparring no time the Astartes leapt from the floor and started after the General.
As part of any situation in which a commanding officer must retreat in the face of a lone assassin in order to live it is standard practice for his guard detail to stay behind and kill, or at least stall, the would-be killer. And this is what the Colchis Royal Guard did.
Drawing their power sabers five of the seven men moved to engage the threat to their master at close quarters.
Sor’Talla moved to eliminate them and reached the bastards in three long steps.
The first raised his saber to bring it crashing down on Sor’Talla.
Sor’Talla brushed the blade aside with his plated forearm, careful not to his the edge or the blade would go slicing straight through his arm. Not even power armor could protect against some things.
Shoving the blade aside Sor’Talla struck with his other hand, punching clean through the man’s head.
The second man came, swing is blade at an angle from the side with both hands.
Sor’Talla dived under the blade, feeling the electricity it used and smelling the burnt ozone smell it created.
Somersaulting across the floor Sor’Talla was on his back and brought his legs down on the man and kicked him in the chest, pulverizing his innards.
Jumping back to his feet Sor’Talla rose just in time to meet the next to Royal Guards as they attacked in a pair, swinging their sabers like madmen, using a seldom seen style of attack that originated from Colchis where two men would give their enemy the appearance of madness that hid a deadly cohesion to their moves.
Sor’Talla was surprised two mortals could master it, but it was something he knew instinctively and posed little threat to him.
As the two man both slashed, one from the left and the other from the right, Sor’Talla collapsed on his knees and the blades passed right over him.
The men took two steps too far and he was inside their guard, grabbing the sword arm of one and plunging it into the other before shoving his elbow into the throat of the first, breaking the neck.
The fifth man had seen all of this and held his sword firmly before him, guarding against the eight foot tall war machine.
Sor’Talla saw the weakness in this man’s eyes and advanced on him, staying just out of reach of the panicking soldier’s swipes, allowing him to hit nothing but thin air as he walked backwards, trying to find some way out of this.
There was none.
The crew of the ship stayed at their stations, either too paralyzed by fear to move or smart enough to know getting anywhere close to this melee would be their death.
No matter how smart it was to stay out of the way though, for one crew man time had come.
Grabbing the man by his throat Sor’Talla ripped the technician from his control station and swung him like a club against the Royal Guard.
Slashing with his saber the man cut the human club in two, the waist and legs falling to the ground while Sor’Talla kept the neck and torso.
Sot’Talla brought the now dead man up above his head before bringing it down, clubbing the Royal Guard on his head and beating him to a pulp.
‘Shoot him!’ hissed the sorcerer and the last two Royal Guard opened fire with their hellguns.
Sor’Talla felt the punch and jab of hellfire rounds hitting his warplate and felt no pain.
While stronger than the common lasgun the hellgun was still little compared to Astartes power armor. Nevertheless it could still bring a marine down in time.
The guts of the two Royal Guard who had been firing on him poured out onto the floor as Sor’Talla recalled that fact in his mind.
The sorcerer backed up against the wall and hissed.
‘The General will be gone by now, you are too late to stop his escape to the Damavand,’
‘Then he will die there,’ replied Sor’Talla, turning around to face the command deck.
Unsheathing a short barbed knife the sorcerer leapt at the Astartes.
Twisting around and backhanding the sorcerer across the face Sor’Talla thwarted his delusional attempt at killing him.
‘I know someone who’ll love to get his hands on you,’ Sor’Talla said, and the daemon appeared alongside him.
‘Captain,’ continued Sor’Talla, turning his attention from the sorcerer being dragged down the hall, screaming his hate.
Captain August opened his eyes.
‘Yes sir?’ he asked.
‘Open fire on the Damavand,’
‘At once my lord,’
The sister sips Damavand and Mikasa were constructed in the fleet yards above Mars. Both colossal vessels held starboard and port broadside cannons for void combat along with ranks of support and defense guns to fend off smaller vessel while the main cannons dealt with the main threat.
Both ships once shared a combined fighter complement of sixteen assault craft, but now the Mikasa had gone over to a primarily troop carrying capacity while the Damavand maintained half its original fighter complement.
In exchange for the loss of its fighters the Mikasa had had a torpedo bay installed, which had not been available back in the early days of the Great Crusade, as did the Damavand.
All in all the ships were of equal strength, and it was only by the strength of its crews and the speed of its commanders that a contest between the two would be decided.
Which is what happened.
The duel began when the Mikasa fired on the Damavand, moments after the Lord General Kor’Farrah boarded the battleship.
The Captain of the Damavand, Captain Davir responded by firing a blockade barrage, a volley from the defense guns designed to put as much scrap metal and debris as possible between the two ships in the hope that the next round of fire directed at the Damavand would hit that instead of the hull.
Fire intensified as the Mikasa’s gun crews resumed their duties after weeks of inactivity and remembered long lost skills.
Unprepared for the attack Captain Davir ordered the ship into the warp, without a destination.
‘After them!’ shouted Sor’Talla, on the command deck of the Mikasa.
Turning about like ship leaving port in the forgotten oceans of ancient Earth, the Mikasa turned about before jumping into the warp after the Damavand.
Onboard the command deck of the Mikasa Sor’Talla stood next to the Captain, surveying the crew.
The Astartes had ordered the viewing ports opened after they made the jump into the warp. No one wanting to upset the man who’d killed several elite soldiers of Colchis in the blink of an eye, the ports had been opened and the myriad of colors of the warp were made visible.
Everyone save Sor’Talla averted their eyes, instead focusing on their given tasks.
‘You know where they are going?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘Yes my lord,’ replied Captain August ‘The Damavand is a big ship with a distinct warp profile and won’t be able to hide from us anywhere,’
‘It had better not,’
Silence fell between the two.
For Sor’Talla the passage through the warp boring, on the ships of the legion the Gellar Fields would be discarded in favor of the new comfort unreality brought and purity it left with its passing.
Under normal circumstances Sor’Talla would order the crew to lower the protective barrier against the warp and allow its hands to caress the ship. But this was not a normal passage, the crew, while firmly on the side of Lorgar and the vessel Horus, had not yet been given the privilege of the blessings of the true word and thus could not stand but moments in the warp before falling into insanity.
Sor’Talla could do much, but he could not run the entirety of a battleship by himself.
‘Sir, the Damavand has dropped out of the warp,’ said the helmsman.
‘Let’s join them,’ said Captain August, stepping forward before pausing.
‘My lord,’ he said, to Sor’Talla ‘this is my ship and while I will carry out your orders to the best of my ability, I would appreciate it if you did not interfere,’
Sor’Talla bristled with anger, thinking himself insulted, but reason came to him and he stopped himself before he took things too far.
‘You will have nothing to worry about Captain, as long as you disable that ship you will have nothing to fear from me,’
Captain August turned his head away from the Astartes to hide the fact he sincerely doubted that last part.
‘Yes my lord,’ he said.
The two turned their attention back to the viewing port where the sea of the colorful warp dissipitated into the cold black of real space.
Ahead of them was the Damavand, unmoving in the void and facing them, sitting like duck in pond, but with the power to destroy worlds at its disposal.
Almost immediately the Damavand opened fire on the Mikasa and the command deck went to full alert.
‘Torpedoes incoming sir, port side,’ said a crew member.
‘I see that Mr. Jellen, Mr. Woodesn, fire a scrap shot into their path,’
‘At once sir,’ replied the gunnery officer.
‘And someone close the viewing port, we don’t need a crack in the glass right now, or ever,’ said the Captain.
In the cold darkness of space thirty torpedoes locked in on the Mikasa and soared towards the behemoth, each one more than capable of bypassing the void shields and blowing open the adamantium hull.
Lines of gas propulsion trailed after scrap shots from the Mikasa, exploding and unleashing fields of debris a safe distance from the ship, forming a protective barrier against the torpedoes.
The first of the torpedoes was stopped in its tracks by the debris and exploded in short lived fireball.
Fourteen other torpedoes were stopped in the same way, leaving half to rocket toward the Mikasa unscathed.
‘Close defense fire patterns now!’ shouted Captain August on the deck of the Mikasa.
Rows and rows of short close range guns, designed with fighter and bomber assault craft in mind, opened up and hundreds, then thousands, then millions of tracer rounds were fired in moments in the direction of the torpedoes.
The tracer rounds intercepted and ruptured seven torpedoes which exploded not far away from the hull. Which left eight.
Slamming into the hull the torpedoes tore through seven decks before exploding and tearing an entire section out of the ship, taking two major gun decks on the port side and hundreds of ratings who went screaming silently to their deaths in the vacuum.
‘Close all patches now!’ shouted August.
All along the corridors crewmen scrambled to get to safety and escape the pull of the void. As the patches closed some men lost limbs trying to squeeze through two ton doors as they closed. Some didn’t make it at all.
Warning klaxons wailed at the impact and the lights went to emergency red, giving the whole command deck a bloody appearance.
‘Return fire!’ ordered August and at his command rows of main cannons alongside either side of the Mikasa fired their explosive heavy shots.
The Damavand saw this and fired its engines, moving out of the path of incoming fire.
‘Sir, sensors detect the Damavand is turning about, removing itself from the path of the cannon fire,’ said a crewman.
‘Plot their trajectory and fire a volley where they will be, throw in a lance shot to go with it, see if we can weaken their shields,’ said Captain August.
The Mikasa’s first volley passed the Damavand by by only a couple miles, almost making contact.
The second volley caught it on the prow, almost entirely disintegrating under the inferno that was the lance strike that broke the void shields apart just long enough for the main cannon shot.
The force of the impact shoved the Damavand to starboard, sending it out of its path and unintentionally bringing its port batteries to bear.
‘Ram it,’ said Sor’Talla on the Mikasa’s command deck, breaking his half-hearted promise to the Captain.
‘My lord sensors detect that Damavand’s port batteries are powering up for another volley,’
‘Power to shields,’ said August to his command crew before addressing Sor’Talla, ‘my lord I thought you weren’t going to interfere, if we ram there is a chance we will miss the Damavand entirely and if that happens we will be at their mercy,’
‘I need the traitor’s blood on my hands,’ growled the Astartes.
‘You won’t get it with ramming that ship, there’s no way to board it afterward, I’m sorry my lord but this is not an Astartes strike craft,’
‘Are there any ways to get on board that ship?’ asked Sor’Talla
‘There is the usual way I get you somewhere,’ said the daemon, appearing behind the Astartes.
Some of the crew let out a scream in fright. Sor’Talla ignored them.
‘Honestly, why you didn’t think of me before just baffles me,’ continued the warp being.
‘I feel it changing me, what you said before was true, it is only a matter of time before it ruins me,’
‘Once more won’t kill you, and I thought you wanted the bastard’s head more than anything,’
Sor’Talla was silent, considering his options. The deck shook as the Damavand’s volley slammed into the Mikasa, several crew men were throw from their seats by the force of the impact.
‘Not yet,’ he said.
The battle continued for another two hours, the ponderous order of void warfare making even this minor exchange more costly than the largest of solid ground battles.
Both ships tried constantly to gain the upper hand, but they were too evenly matched. When the Damavand launched its assault wings the spacecraft scored a few hits, but were ripped apart by the close defense guns on the Mikasa.
When the Mikasa fired its lance guns on the Damavand they penetrated the shields and wrecked the starboard engines, but when the Damavand counter-attacked the Mikasa lost two of its main batteries in the explosions that followed.
Eventually the fight ground to a halt, each ship facing each other across thousands of miles in space. Each ship held every working gun at the ready and aimed at the other, ready to unleash everything they had.
‘Hail them,’ said Sor’Talla on the deck of the Mikasa.
One of the crew members tried, but got nothing for his troubles.
‘I’m sorry sir, they know we’re hailing them but they can’t respond right now, we must have knocked out their communications system earlier,’
The vox set in the starboard aft corner buzzed and crackled. It technician raised a hand to her ear and acknowledged it.
‘My lord,’ she said to Sor’Talla, ‘it’s the Lord General, he wishes to speak to you,’
‘Very well,’ said the Astartes before walking over to the station.
‘Leave me,’ he said to the technician. She couldn’t get out of her chair fast enough.
‘What do you want mongrel?’ asked Sor’Talla.
‘I wish to negotiate some form of truce,’ said the General.
‘You are in no position to negotiate,’
‘Neither are you,’
‘All our guns are powered up and trained on the Damavand, you have no hope of escape,’
‘We are in similar positions, the Damavand’s guns, while fewer given our exchange of fire, are all ready and aimed at the Mikasa, it is more than enough to leave you stranded here for eternity, and let’s not forget, you hailed us, you were about to negotiate as well,’
‘Your hubris knows no bounds, I only wished to inform you of the situation,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘You’re a terrible liar Astartes. Anyway, there is more to this situation than you think,’
‘Check your long range sensors,’
Sor’Talla looked to the vacant long range detection station. It was formerly occupied by the man he’d used as a club. He snapped his armored fingers at the Captain and pointed at it.
August went over to the station and checked it.
‘Sir, long range scanners show a ship, a battle barge it looks like, en route to our current position,’
‘Do you see it yet?’ crackled the vox.
‘We see it,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘The question then, is what do we do about it,’
‘You mean what I shall do about it,’ said Sor’Talla, hanging up on Kor’Farrah.
Sor’Talla walked back to the middle of the command deck.
‘My lord, scans show the battle barge is the Star of Macragge, it’s an Ultramarine ship sir,’ said Captain August.
‘Don’t worry about it,’ said Sor’Talla.
‘Don’t worry about it? If they find us it will be more than within their power to destroy us,’
‘It takes months for news to spread, and the legions sent to crush the lord Horus have not yet entered the Isstvan system, I’ll be alright,’
‘You’ll be alright?’
‘Yes, send me over daemon,’
The daemon ally of Sor’Talla appeared next to the Astartes before conjuring a warp hole. The marine entered the screaming portal and disappeared, the daemon going in after him.
‘What do we do sir?’ asked a crewman.
This passage through the warp was much like the last, but Sor’Talla knew it was still only a matter of time before he was changed.
Again the voyage through madness made tangible ended with a slam against a cold hard floor and all eyes of the Damavand’s command crew turned to the intruder in their mist.
‘Where is Farrah?’ Sor’Talla asked.
The General looked at the Astartes in shock, he’d thought he’d escaped when he made it to the Damavand, he’d almost made it until the Mikasa fired on the ship and battle began. Now Sor’Talla, the Astartes who’d caused him so much grief, had returned.
The Lord General drew his power saber out of its sheath and addressed the Captain.
‘Captan, resume fire on the Mikasa, I’ll kill this son of a bitch,’
‘As though you had a hope,’ retorted Sor’Talla.
The General did not reply, instead he yelled his anger and charged Sor’Talla.
The Word Bearer drew his combat knife from its leg sheath one last time and held it ready to deflect the General’s first blow.
The Damavand shook as a volley from the Mikasa slammed home and ripped new holes in the battleship.
The General closed on Sor’Talla and brought his saber up in a two handed grip above his head.
The General brought it down on Sor’Talla’s head, only for it to be deflected by the marine’s knife.
The General punched the Astartes in his face, the force of blow knocking the marine’s head to the side, he was stronger, much stronger, than the average human, yet still no Astartes, and the strength of his punch had taken him by surprise.
‘You didn’t think I’d get this far in life without a few augmetics did you?’ smirked Kor’Farrah.
‘Nice, but still nothing compared to what I have,’ said Sor’Talla, slamming the back of his free fist against Kor’Farrah’s torso.
The General went flying across the deck while at the same time a round of torpedoes penetrated hull, not too far away from the command deck and another violent tremor ran through the ship with the explosion.
Outside the viewing port Sor’Talla could see flames rise from holes torn in the hull before the void killed them. The ship was falling apart, and Sor’Talla knew the Mikasa would be getting as good as it got and had not long to live.
Kor’Farrah rose from where he had fallen, still holding onto his power saber.
‘Why are we fighting Sor’Talla? We serve the same master,’
‘You serve yourself,’ replied the Word Bearer ‘You are no better than the golden bustard back on Terra,’
Kor’Farrah roared his hated again and charged Sor’Talla once more.
When he almost within reach a lance strike brought down the shields around the Damavand and hit the engines, destroying them and ripping away part of the aft section of this ship. The life of the warship was now measured in minutes.
Seizures wracked the hull and cracks appeared in the bulkhead and ceiling. The command crew tried desperately to minimize the damage and hurt the Mikasa as badly as they could.
Sor’Talla was sure they were, but he had his own problems.
The Astartes ducked out of the way of the charging General, wary of his revealed strength now.
The General charged past Sor’Talla before turning and slashing his blade, wich Sor’Talla deflected with his forearm, careful not to touch the edge of the saber.
All around them the ship continued to fall apart, the cracks in the wall were getting wider and Sor’Talla could here explosions on the other side of the door as the Damavand and Mikasa destroyed each other, not holding anything back as both crews knew the end had come.
‘This ends now,’ hissed Sor’Talla and butted his head into Kor’Farrah’s.
The human let out a yell of pain and staggered back.
Taking a step back Sor’Talla raised his foot and kicked the General square in the chest, sending him crashing against the opposite wall.
Kor’Farrah groaned and began to slid down the wall.
Sor’Talla grunted his disgust before throwing his knife into Kor’Farrah’s neck and arresting the General’s descent.
The ship shook again, much more violently this time and Sor’Talla was thrown off his feet and sent crashing to the floor.
The Damavand was hit again and out the viewing ports Sor’Talla could see more sections of the hull ripped apart.
In the distance the Mikasa fared no better, it to was coming apart and had only a little while left.
Just in front of Sor’Talla the floor of the deck exploded outwards as torpedo from the Mikasa found its mark within the belly of the Damavand.
Sor’Talla was sent slamming into the ceiling, and lost his gift of sight, of smell, of hearing, and of feeling as the ship was finally and utterly destroyed by the Mikasa.
When Sor’Talla awoke it was to the blinding light of a medicae station. Around him were blindingly white walls that reflected tenfold the light from the ceiling.
Sor’Tall could hear the movements of servitors around him, but could not see them.
‘Ah good, you are awake,’ came a voice, and Sor’Tala tried to see where it came from out of the corner of his eye.
‘I am Apothecary Crixus, and you are onboard the Star of Macragge, we found you in the wreckage of the Damavand, a ship designated for your Primarch’s exploration fleet, we would very much like to know how what we found came to be,’
‘What of the other ship? The Mikasa?’ asked Sor’Talla, feeling a dry thirst in the back of his mouth.
‘It fired on us the moment we came to investigate, it was already beyond repair, we put it out of its misery,’.
Thinking fast, Sor’Talla let no signs of what he knew show on his face.
‘The traitors in service to Horus infiltrated the fleet, I was lucky enough to guide the Damavand to victory against the Mikasa, which was fleeing our wrath, their motives I know not,’.
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).