What do you think?
They had opened the vault and released evil onto the entire planet. They had ignored the signs, thwarted the traps and vices put in place to keep the secret of the vault just that, a secret. However as with all archeologists, they blundered on, paying no more heed to the warnings than one might a mildly annoying fly.
As they had heaved and labored until the door cracked open the presence behind the mighty, runic symbols and once gaudy depictions, long ago given in to the erosions of time and nature awakened for the first time in many millennia.
‘PUT YOUR BACKS into it! We’re nearly there!’ cried Jaycob Holmes, Heaving on the thick rod of iron the team was using to attempt to crack open the wide doors.
‘Damnit Holmes we are! Why don’t your use that heavy arse of yours and move it yourself.’ Yelled Alyxander Praal, between him and Holmes was a grunting and heaving servitor, its bionic and flesh muscles alike straining along side them all. Behind the trio sat three other servitors, laden with tools and a tracked motor cart they had driven down it, its fat floodlights beaming down onto them.
With a loud crack the steel beam fell loose, sending Praal and Holmes sprawling ontop of it, the servitor between them stood silently as always. Praal spat a dirty oath about snapping the beam before Holmes clapped him on the shoulder and drew his attention to the door. The beam hadn’t snapped, the door had given way, if only somewhat.
The duo stood and exchanged exasperated cries of glee, there was much shoulder and back slapping between them. A dull rumble stole the celebratory mood from them as the tunnel began to shiver under their feet.
“The tunnel! It’s giving in!’ Alyxander cried, but that wasn’t the case. The doors began to slither open, recessing into two sides of the tunnel walls with a sound like stones grinding dry bones to powder. The yawning expanse that opened before them was completely devoid of light, despite the bright beams from the floodlights.
The silence that fell upon them was utter, save for the rasping purr and click of the servitors augmented eyes as they attempted to break the darkness. A dull hum started, a little rasping purr that grew and grew into a roar. Suddenly a bone chilling gust of wind blew out of the darkness, catching the team by utter surprise.
Praal and Holmes covered their eyes and mouths and averted their faces from the loud gust, bits of rock and debris thumping off them, the sheaf’s of paper on the carts squared off snout blew loose from one another, swept up into a crazed dance as they were pushed back into the darkness behind them. Just as rapidly as the torrent of wind had come, it died away.
Jaycob cleared his throat and spat the brackish phlegm onto the tunnel floor. ‘What the bloody hell was that?’
Alyxander shrugged and pulled a hand through his matted and greasy mane of dark black hair. ‘Sacrifices maybe.’
'Yes, some cultures were so fanatical about their leaders that they would choose devoted, high members of the culture to be entombed alive with their dead leader.’ Retorted Praal, taking in a breath. ‘ Eventually they would die from lack of oxygen, having used it up themselves. When the tomb is reopened the carbon dioxide locked in for ages rushes out in exchange for clean, fresh air.’
He didn’t feel like mentioning just how many last breaths it would have taken to create such a large gust.
Just as suddenly as the first a larger, harsher burst of air slammed into the archeologists. It brought with it a rank, moist, moist and disgusting scent. Jaycob reeled forward, retching as he was assailed by the scent. Moss began to grow idly around the head of the doorway as if someone was watching a pict screen of hours of elapsed time. To his horror, Holmes watched disgustedly as puss weeping ulcers opened on Jaycobs face and exposed arms as he collapsed, coughing a thick gruel of blood and brackish phlegm.
It was at this point that Holmes tried to run, finding his legs rubbery he fell to the ground, and began to scramble towards the puttering motor card. Feeling numb and cold he continued to drag himself towards the cart. With a shriek his heart seemed to scratch at his ribs and he coiled up on the ground just feet from the cart and died.
Stoic and silent, the trio of servitors looked on as the flesh bits of them began to rot and fall away like decaying meat.
AND SO THE viruses and plagues of millennia were unleashed upon the populace of Almus IIV. Communities were wiped out, fields turned to seas of mold and decay, populated cities became necropolises. Valiant efforts by the planets PDF regiments attempted to turn the tides, but no weapon can fight plague. In a last ditch effort the planetary governor sent out a distress call for immediate help.
That was two weeks ago.
JAGGED AND ROBUST, looking more like a flying cathedral bristling with weapons, the Io slipped stealthily through space, followed by two more similar craft. The three Strike Cruisers wore the livery of The Sons of Medusa chapter of Space Marines. The trio of space faring craft were what was left of the original five that had left the fortress world of Acahti. A ten year battle in the Locusta system had taken its toll, the lose of nearly two hundred battle brothers and two cruisers was no small amount of power gone.
Standing in the centre of his new chamber just off of the main cathedral chamber of the Io’s compliment of space marines and naval personnel, Ezykyel Corta looked around. Even in the grey tunic he wore his frame was massive and built, and he possessed the slightly long face of an Astartes warrior. From his new chamber he always heard the murmur of the Ecclesiarchy choirs. Of course by now he knew them by heart, his new position of Chaplain made sure of that. Three and a half weeks ago, during the final siege on the fortress of Crozus, the leader of the uprising that had claimed the system, Chaplain Marcus, Cortas mentor, had been killed. Being his apprentice, Corta had been the next in line for the rank.
Three weeks now they had been in transit, having made shift from the planet. Corta had been put through the ceremony that accompanied the rank and title the first day after departing. Before having the title of Chaplain, he had simply been a Sergeant, and had simply lead a squad into battle, now he controlled the entire contingent of the force, three companies of marines. With the rank had come an immersion into an entire new way of living. Just as when he had been brought into the world of an initiate, he had again been thrown on his head. The off green and black livery of the Medusas had been replaced with the charcoal and gloss back of the Chaplains order. His own power armor had been stripped of the ranks and honors he had won in the powerful suit and had been placed in the armory, for a new marine to be given.
Standing before him, dormant and dull stood his new armor. He was well accustomed to it, for just as his had been handed down to him and now to another, this armor was granted to him. Magnificent as it was in the black livery of Chaplains colors, the blemishes and marks of fresh ceramite patching along its broad chest and right shoulder pauldron showed the savage damage that had claimed Chaplain Marcus’ life. In the past weeks he had been becoming acquainted with it, all armor had subtle quirks and changes in how they acted. Corta picked the helmet up from its plate clasp. The grimacing skull that glared back at him seemed to accuse him of treachery, to bore into his soul and accusing him of atrocities.
Corta looked away from the helm, placing it back on its perch.
DEEP IN THE belly of the Io, Astropath Illay Mari stirred uncomfortably in her chamber, the others murmured softly around her. Her pale brow furrowed and her mouth twisted into a grimace. Blind eyes wrenched open wide as a howling screech was torn from her throat. She lurched forward and slapped a frail hand at her chairs arm, stabbing for the call button whilst her other clutched her head.
‘Captain! Captain, I’ve received a message, please make ready to jump. We’ve a planet to save.’ The telepathic message ended with a shriek of torture that made the head astropath yowl; to the left of her one of the babbling lesser astropaths head burst open messily, the psychic scream too much for him to bear.
WITHIN AN HOUR Chaplain Corta and most of the senior line-officers and Captain Astarte’s had been gathered together on the Io’s bridge. Captain Varvus Krynsky stood in the center of the raised dais in the middle of the chamber; a squat, mushroom shaped pedestal in the middle gave off a luminous blue light. Krynsky was a slightly portly fellow -if one who’s flesh body had long since began to give way to age, after all the man was closing in on two centuries old, and nearly all of that in the Imperial Navy- could be called anything such.
‘Gentlemen,’ Krynsky started, voice gravely and multi-toned from an implanted voice synthesizer, giving him a serious air even when he didn’t mean to, though the stern constriction of the remaining flesh bits of his face gave proof that he was, indeed, very serious. He shifted and tapped the glowing machine; it whirred momentarily before warming slightly in color, a three-dimensional representation of the immediate local space and systems came into view, floating above the collection of Astarte’s and staff.
The map darted outwards, zooming out of local space and bringing more planets and stars, systems into view. A slow spin began and the machine zoomed back in upon a series of planets, before racing to zoom into one in particular. A series of hashes laid a grid over it; it seemed to unzip and unfold, the whole of the planet being shown at once. To the left and right of the mapped planet data scrolled; population, resource export rates, military assets, all sorts of things moving too fast to be of any use to anyone who really cared to read it.
‘This is Almus IIV; only moments ago we received a distress call.’ His gaze slipped around the faces of the massed men. ‘It is very short, but it gets the point across.’ He tapped another rune on the squat machine and immediately a hissing screech filled the air for a moment before a man began to speak.
‘This is Adept Astropath Nethanial Bernard, acting as Master Astropath for the planetary government of Almus IIV.’ The voice was thin and strained, clearly the stress of making calls this loud were far out of the young astropaths comfort zone, which was extremely deadly to those who freed their minds to the warp in order to transpond.
‘Almus has been laid low, the dead walk and plague encroaches upon every living thing. Our fears are made just, the powers of the warp have been released upon this planet.’ His voice wavered slightly on the last word before he wailed out loudly. His voice returned, bubbly and barely above a whisper. ‘Please, any Imperium forces respond, we will soon be lost without you.’ Krynsky tapped the rune again just as the soul tearing screech of the dying astropaths mind fraying asunder began; everyone, even the fearless Astartes shook.
‘I have already spoken with my fellow Captains, we are making shift to the planet at best speed within the hour. In three days time we will be above the planet. I began sending hails to other forces; regretfully the closest forces are those of the Sabbat Crusade under Warmaster Macaroth. Anything they can give assistance with is at least two to six weeks out at best speed depending upon the warp.’
Chaplain Ezykyel Corta, resplendent in the ancient suit of terminator that was now his made his way onto the dais. Holding the skull shaped helm in the crook of his elbow. He took a deep breath and began attending to some of the questions that the group must be forming.
‘Almus IIV exports some of the finest optics in this sector the Galaxy, these are distributed throughout the Imperial forces, significantly so to Founding regiments in the Sabbat worlds Crusade front. Furthermore, the lumber of the planet is widely used around the Imperium and is worth only slightly less than the Tanith breeds, now that the planet is gone.’ He gestured around to the crowd for a moment. ‘I will lead our speartip in if any sort of hub of the enemies control and command makes itself known.’ He looked at Krynsky. ‘If you will, Captain.’
The Captain moved around beside the Chaplain, nudging a series of runes on the dias. The planet shifted slightly as a manipulator device slithered from his wrist and slipped into a port in the machine. The gridded overlay changed and a red rectangle ensnared a portion of land on the western side of the southern hemisphere.
‘This is the city of Sebeth, the capital of the planet. You will be dropping around the planetary governor’s palace; our utmost priority is to establish contact with the him if he is alive. It is likely we will encounter survivors in the bomb shelters here,’ he gestured to a highlighted space below the surface a few miles from the palace. ‘if they were readily supplied.’
‘Three days.’ Corta started. ‘In three days time we will rain down onto Almus and bring salvation in our every step.’ He looked at the group. ‘Return to your men, ready them. Double calorie intake and cage practice time, I want no surprises we cannot handle.’ Turning to the captain he bowed and clasped a hand to his chest. ‘My thanks, Captain Krynsky, I shall be in the cathedral.’ The captain returned the one handed salute with the sign of the Aquila, crossing his hands over his chest and splaying his bionic fingers.
SAULOMUN TROY BLOCKED the fist that flashed up towards his sternum with an open palm, swinging round and bringing his sword up in time to crack against off the shoulder pauldron of deep onyx. He deflected a thunderous swing of his opponants battle hammer. A wide fist smashed into his green helm from the left and snapped his head up and about so voilent his head slammed into the helmets inner visor and caused him to bite his tongue. Troy tasted copper but recovered and kept his feed before his attacker threw a open fisted punch that hit him on the broad chest plate of his armor, tipping him back. He rocked on his heels a moment as he tried to gain his footing, but an armored boot kicked out and took him in the abdomen, felling him entirely with a cough of lost breath.
Sprawled on the many training cage floors in full battle armor, Chaplain Ezykyel Corta reached down and helped the Captain to his feet. Tossing the practice hammer to the floor he unclasped his helmet and pulled it off his head. Saulomun did the same and smiled, panting softly. 'You are well versed in that armor, Ezykyel, it suits that the late Chaplain deemed it to be yours.'
Corta nodded, walking to the edge of the cage and lifting open the clamshell top with a hydrolic hiss, the bottom half sank away into the floor. 'Aye, though my old plate will be missed deeply. It saved my life many times, I knew it like the back of my hand. I only hope its next bearer and it get along and learn each other.' Corta chuckled to himself and turned back, holding a towel in his armored glove, bringing it up to wipe across his forehead. 'I fought nearly two centuries in that plate, and only once did it give me a scare. Back on one of Ostrocs moons against the Orks, the pins that held the power collectors in place must have been damaged, left me frozen like a statue in amungst a group of forty orks, thank the Emperor it was dark.'
He smiled and watched Troy do the same as he. 'You'll make a good Captain, Second Company is in good hands, this much I know.'
Troy turned and looked at him, taken slightly off guard by the compliment. 'Thank you, sir.' He uttered awkwardly.
'What is it, Saul?' Corta said, looking round at him again.
Troy sighed and looked at the Chaplain. 'I just wonder sir, why?' he spread his arms in wonder. 'Now that your a Chaplain there isnt much further you can go, your Honor Guard material, sir, the best of the best.'
Corta knew what the new Captain meant. 'Saul, I understand what you mean, believe me but I wondered myself. I could not turn down the rank, any more than you could have turned down taking my place at the head of the Second.' He walked over and clapped his hand onto Troy's shoulder. 'I am honoured you have taken my place and see fit to worry.' He chuckled wryly and saw the scars on Saulomuns face twitch as he tried to grin.
'Honour binds us all, aye, sir.'
THE FLIGHT DECK was alive with motion and sound. Deckhands dressed in bright orange shouted and pushed carts, work sentinials labored to and fro with racks of missles for the wing pods on the Thunderhawks that would accompany the drop pods to the planet. The access doors opened and thunder rolled. In files of five wide, one hundred Astartes in off green battle suits marched out onto the deck in perfect sync. Every second row, the Astartes to the far right bore the banner of the Fourth Company.
At the head of the Fourth, towering over the rest of the Astartes, Chaplain Corta stood in full armor, the grimacing skull helm atop his head, its jaw clamped firmly around the life support breather tube the circled back around the skull. Every second step was followed by a harsh tap, the brass foot of the long gripped Crozius Arcanum. The staff depicted the mighty two headed Eagle of the Imperium, wings out stretched, the feathered ends of the wings were sharp as razors.
Even after the campaigns in the Locusta, the sight of one hundred Astartes in full plate stopped the deckhands in their tracks. When the last row of The Sons of Medusa had made it into the bay, the door slid shut. The ranks began to peel away in orderly rows of five, taking up single file lines and turning in to face the center of the bay.
At the center of the bay stood Chaplain Corta, head swiveling slowly from side to side, looking at the tightly drilled ranks of the Fourth. Both of his hearts pounded heavily in his chest although outwardly he looked calm. This was his first time addressing the men he had been equals to a month ago. The Fourth saw him, saw his every action, the Second and Fifth would listen to him via the ship to ship systems.
He could not afford to make a mistake.
With a deep breath, he chinned on the external vox speakers built into his armor and began. 'Men of the Fourth, Fifth and Second; listen well.' He boomed. 'In minutes we begin our decent onto the planet of Almus IIV. In our wake we bring the fury of the God-Emperor and the might of his sons!' Corta began to feel the words come easier as he went on now, pride swelling in his chest. 'We, my brothers, are the son of Ferrus Manus! Be proud of that, be proud of the blood that runs in each end every one of your veins.' He raised his hands and the Arcanum above his head, outspread. The men of the Fourth slapped a gauntlet clad hand against their weapons. He began to make his way towards the gap between the first Astartes and the last.
Corta continued. 'Ferrus may be gone, but his sons live on, his passion lives on. Above all, we follow his belief that flesh is weak, and metal is strong, and honor is the most important thing of all. This is true, but faith and blood are the strongest of all. Bones may break, steel may melt; but blood and faith are eternal!' The Chaplain took his place and turned to face the assembled Astartes and began to remove his right gauntlet. In turn, the men did the same. 'Blood my brothers, blood binds us all!' He held his bare hand up and drew his combat knife across the palm, working his fingers to stave off the clotting effect that was embedded in all Astartes. The other Sons of Medusa did the same. Turning to the Astartes to his left, he slapped his open hand onto his chest. 'My blood for you brother!' In turn, the Astartes turned and slapped his bloody hand onto the chest of battle brother beside him, shouting the same words. This continued until the brother to Cortas right slapped his own palm onto the Chaplains chest.
With the ritual complete, in unison with Corta, every battle brother shouted at the top of their lungs. 'Our blood for the Emperor!' Breaking back into rows and making for the open assault ramps on the Thunderhawks.
Saulomun Troy led the Second through the ritual. He knew the Second well, after all he had fought with the men for a century now; but now he was leading them, he knew how to lead a squad, field command was different. Saul smiled a bit inside his helmet as he realized Corta was going through the same thing now. 'We will both persevere, I know that much.'
The men of the Second were worked up, that much was very clear by the way they had stormed towards the assault pods. The Sons of the Second locked themselves into the gravity harnesses. Saul walked down the line of bays, watching over the group of Mechanicus tech-priests bless each pod, sealing the armored pedals with hydraulic hisses, censors full of incense swinging as they moved from once to the other, evoking the machine spirits to keep the pods safe through the torrent of atmosphere.
Last edited by LandonCollins; 09-24-10 at 09:46 AM.