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Default Skull Reaper - A Chaos Marine Novel

Skull Reaper


Table of Contents

Chapter I - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V - Part VI

Chapter II - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

Chapter III - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV - Part V

Chapter IV - Part I - Part II - Part III

Chapter V - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV

Chapter VI - Part I - Part II - Part III - Part IV (Part IV Completed 07 Aug 11)

CHAPTER I

For millennia, we have been nothing but scavengers, picking at the rotting husks of both the Imperium and those we once called our allies. We are basking in the shadows of former glories with no legacy to call our own. My Lord, the time has come to act.
- Ezekial, Seer of the Venom Guard




I

Breathe.

The thought came unbidden, unwanted, into his mind. Confusion followed it. He was breathing, quickly and shallowly inhaling into each of his two open lungs. A lateral swipe of his power fist, the claws sheared through the entire body of the guardsman. Red mist spraying…

BLOOD.

More welcome, more wanted; no, not wanted, needed. The coppery smell, the moist sensation, covering his face and his armour. The fountain of blood with chunks of viscera covered his gauntlet and fell like a foul rain to the ground. The joy of the kill, the thrill of the murder. Nothing else mattered as long as the carnage continued. Surrender to it, become lost to it.

Breathe.

Again, stronger this time. Strange, a mixture of feelings, the sensation of falling mingled with the utter euphoria of the slaughter. He shook his bare head and roared a wordless cry of rage and hate. His throat was raw from screaming. A punch with his left fist, holding a bolt pistol, separated the head from the shoulders of another man. The red of the blood, the white of the bone was intoxicating.

Kill time, that was what it was called. The world seemed to slow down; everything moved at a crawling rate. The droplets of blood coming from the severed head, the string of flesh tearing as the velocity and force of the punch propelled the head further, the two vertebrae protruding above the stump that had, a tenth of a second previously, been the neck of a human being. Everything was so… perfect.

SKULLS.

Another gift for the Lord of Rage, a skull for the Skull Throne. The Blood God’s demands were simple, his joys pure, his desires insatiable. Another swing, this time vertical, split the torso of a new victim, homage to the unyielding thirst for blood and death. The blow started low, entering the man at the groin, the energy sheathing his clawed fist parting the flesh and armour easily. A last second flick of a finger severed the neck of the man. The head spiralled down to join those of his comrades on the blood-soaked dust.

The champion spat on the ground, casting his gaze about in search of the next sacrifice to the Blood God, the next skull to be added. None presented themselves, no more humans were visible. The only movements were of his…his…what were they…who was he? Ah, yes, he was a Champion of Khorne. The Skull Reaper. The Vile Butcher. The daemon…NO!

BREATHE.

The warrior gasped, feeling the sensations of consciousness as though for the first time. From a depthless tunnel, his mind struggled to the forefront of his being. The blood dripping down his brow obscured his vision; the moans of dying men and the roars of his brethren rejoicing in the hunt echoed in the valley. He felt the familiar scream as the daemon that shared his body was forced back, pushed down to the recesses of his mind. It was still there, lurking in the darkness, waiting for release.

He shuddered, trying to ignore the aftershock tremors of his mind regaining control. Close this time, very close. Another deep inhalation steadied his dual heartbeat. The red tint in his vision began to fade. Gnashing teeth, gaping jaws and a scream of fathomless rage echoed at the back of his mind. The thrum of energy surrounding his fist abated as he sub-vocalized the command to power the weapon down. He glanced left then right, surreptitiously removing the magnetic lock clasping his helmet to his thigh.

Golden jagged teeth stared the champion in the face as he lifted his helm up. A stylized skull painted and stained gore red, it was the badge of his station. Skull Champion. The name was meaningless to him when he was calm and in control. But during battle, when he succumbed to his darkness, it was everything…

‘Sir.’

The voice cut through his thoughts and he tore his gaze from the hate-filled mask that was both his prison and his release. Release, liberation, exhilaration, shame. His Primarch, praise be to him, had most emphatically impressed upon all of his sons the necessity for discipline.

‘Sir?’

A question now. Question, query, interrogative: necessitates a response. His mind snapped back to the present. ‘Status?’ He felt the tortured flesh in his throat knitting itself together; already the hoarseness of his voice was fading to be replaced by the natural growl.

The warrior addressing him…what was his name? Vorn bowed his head to hide the blood in his eyes, an outward show of shame at his mental and physical abandonment of self-discipline. He, like his master, was cursed and blessed simultaneously.

‘Brother Uzick has lost his hand from lucky power sword swipe, but the flow of blood has slowed,’ he said, unable to hide the slight tremor in his voice while mentioning blood. ‘The rest of the squad is unharmed. Ammunition supplies are at eighty percent, Charritt will be distributing it out evenly.’

The champion nodded thoughtfully. Uzick would be chastised, but not yet. His carelessness and surrender to his rage had been becoming more and more complete. Punishment was in order, but only after the operation was brought to a successful conclusion. The champion lowered his helmet over his head, closing himself off to the outside world.

He engaged the squad vox, ‘Very well. Proceed as planned. Time is of the essence. Redistribute your magazines on the move.’ He removed the half spent magazine from his own bolt pistol and slammed in a fresh one. Engaging the magnetic link on the ancient weapon, he clipped it to his thigh plate.

He sub-vocalized to switch to the command frequency vox, ‘Wrathful, Box Two-Beta-Seven has been cleared. Moving forward towards the objective.’ He received a double click acknowledgement, indicating permission to continue. The Wrathful had been clear in his instructions to keep long range communications to a minimum to decrease the probability of premature detection. Though the company’s encryption codes were superior to the enemy’s, their way had always been discretion. Or, as Ezekial enjoyed to say in his refreshingly blunt manner, Better safe than sorry.

The haze and smoke were beginning to clear. A breeze from the northeast, the direction of their objective, was cleansing the battlefield of the airborne residual. Without his thermal vision engaged, it granted the champion an unfettered view of the carnage enacted. An entire battalion, one thousand Guardsmen, lay dead. No communications had been sent from the slaughtered men. The detachment had struck swiftly, decisively, and without mercy. Brother Tynan had fallen from the sky on burning wings of vengeance, obliterating the command vehicle of the enemy from above with a devastating close-range shot from his melta. The rest of Squad Anderan had followed closely behind, cutting off any hope of retreat for the embattled element.

The champion along with ten of his brothers from Squad Finarius had struck from the south. Finarius and his cold-blooded killers laid down a devastating level of suppressive fire while the champion and his men had swept around to the east, flanking around the enemy. Those souls quickly found themselves facing the western cliffs and the three thousand foot drop to the rocky beaches below, the unrelenting bolter fire from Finarius, ferocious assault from the champion’s men and their axes and blades, or the shrieking killers from Anderan.

The battle had been over in minutes. No brothers lost, though three had entered the long sleep and required immediate extraction. Talium treated the fallen men, having moved them clear of the carnage on the field.

‘Bravvick, your god smiles upon you.’ This transmission from Anderan was over the private vox channel shared by the echelon’s command.

Ah, that was the champion’s name. Bravvick. He had almost forgotten, losing himself to the daemon sharing his mind for the course of the battle. He addressed his fellow champion as Anderan strode to him. ‘Khorne smiles upon only blood. Whether it is mine or the enemy’s matters not. Only that it is spilt.’

‘Aye, this is true, Brother,’ he replied, ‘You would do well to remember that.’

Antonin Bravvick, the Skull Reaper, brother-sergeant, Chaos Marine, begrudgingly allowed himself a tight smile. The plan of the Wrathful, the Underlord of the Venom Guard, was coming to fruition. Ten thousand years of blood, of subversion, of careful manipulation had brought the warband to this moment. Since the death of the Primarch had the warriors of the Legion been waiting for this, biding their time for the last piece to fall into place. This planet will be ours…

Last edited by Boc; 08-08-11 at 04:22 AM.
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II

Unremarkable. That was the word that came to Gadriel Padati’s mind as he gazed over the ramparts. Barren was a close second. Grox-dung came in third. He and the other members of the Larillan Three-Oh-Second Regiment of the Imperial Guard had been stationed on this black hole of a planet for over three years. A promising career with a future of seeing the galaxy and fighting for the Emperor of Mankind shattered in one seemingly endless tour of duty.

Viaticus Secundus. The only world in the Viaticus system with a breathable atmosphere. The only world other than Larilla that Gadriel had ever stepped on. The only world that could be this far from the arse-end of nowhere. The only world that, for all Gadriel cared, was a nine thousand kilometer wide ball of rancid grox pies. Viaticus Secundus and its “supreme tactical import” were a complete waste of men and resources. Nothing. Ever. Happened.
Gadriel sighed, admitting to himself for the thousandth time that at least the garrison itself was not so bad. There were roughly ten thousand Imperial Guardsmen stationed smack in the center of the planet’s temperate zone on the main continent. Latitude fifty three degrees seventeen minutes, longitude one hundred six degrees forty-seven minutes. God-Emperor, I’m bored.

Ten thousand Guardsmen and two thousand women that had somehow managed to tag along for the journey were stuck here. Throw in the assorted dregs that ran distilleries, sold obscura, dealt for the betting tables, and did generally all sorts of under-the-table dealings to prevent the soldiers at Way Station Centrus from killing either themselves or each other, and they had themselves a party. All that and enough excitement to thrill a sea slug. Not too terrible, but certainly far from good.

The fortifications upon which he stood were well-built, fifty meter high rockrete walls and nearly half as thick surrounded the sixty kilometer square “safe zone.” Every one hundred meters a two-man guard position was built into the walls, jutting out from the otherwise flat surface. Gadriel snorted. Safe zone. The entire planet, as far as he could tell, was devoid of any sort of sentient life apart from the Imperial Guard soldiers scattered around in the planet’s sixteen garrisons. Were it not for the ever-encroaching Tau fleets, he doubted that he would ever have been stationed here. The only safe zone he wanted or needed was his bunk safe from the dust. Fek.

He lifted his magnoculars to his eyes, scanning again for the enemy that would never come. Seeing that the system’s small yellow sun was setting, he carefully packed his magnoculars away; You break it, you buy it! and retrieved his thermal night optics.

Darkness had, as usual, fallen before his shift was half over. The planet was irregular in that it had no tilt of the axis, creating an absolute and depressing constancy to the guard rotations. Three years, every day from 1600 until 2400 local time he stood in Tower W-2 staring out at the black sand until even the sky relented to the darkness the earth itself emitted.

A quick glance at his wrist’s illuminated chronometer elicited the usual groan. Four and a half more hours on the rotation, great. He shifted awkwardly on his feet, trying to relieve the ache building up, and lifted his binos to his eyes. He peered through his thermal optics towards the seemingly endless barren wasteland stretched before him, broken only by the towering mountain chain one hundred kilometers to the southwest. Gadriel still was far from sure as to why the Colonel insisted on wearing full combat loads while on sentry duty; his shoulders and back were constantly aching from wearing fifty kilos of carapace armour, lasgun cartridges, frag grenades, flashlights, water…the list went on and on. Fek, that was without the crew-served heavy stubber he had to haul up before each rotation.

Sighing, he sat down on the ‘bench,’ a ten centimeter-wide length of plyboard balanced precariously atop sand bags. That was a bad day. He remembered the third day following his arrival on planet, still freshly cut and full of enthusiasm, until a nameless Captain Fekhead had instructed the Three-Oh-Second that each and every crew would bring their own stubber to and from the shifts. The man had, wisely, ducked into the dark catacombs underneath the compound, losing any Guardsmen who would have – and rightly so! – done him harm.

‘How much longer?’ a cantankerous voice asked from behind him. Gadriel turned, squinting to regain his night vision after staring into the stark white and grays of the thermal scopes. It was an odd habit, still trying to look to identify the same voice that had asked the same question for nearly one thousand straight days. Habits, patterns of life, ritualistic conversation and amasec were the only things that kept Gadriel’s tenuous grip on sanity in check.

‘Same as when you always ask, Kyp.’ What happened next was also a part of the routine. Gadriel closed his eyes in preparation.

‘Dammit, if I have to sit in this fek hole one more day, I’m heading to the Command Post and shoving my foot straight up the Colonel’s arse.’

Wait for it…wait for it. Kyp flipped a switch behind him, causing his eyelids to turn blood red with the sudden light. He slowly opened them to adjust them from the total gloom to the sudden, well, less-than-total gloom. With the interior lights on, the glass of the exterior viewport became reflective, containing the ambience within the tower rather than allowing it to bleed out into the night and becoming, in effect, a mirror. On the exterior, the pane of glass appeared no different than rest of the eight kilometer stretch of wall, a dark black mass of stone sitting atop a flat black mass of sand.

‘Oh shut up.’ Again, the exact same phrase Gadriel had uttered every night for one thousand sixty-three consecutive days.

Gadriel ran his hand over his face, feeling the stubble along his hollowed cheek. He traced his finger down the long vertical scar stretching from his upper lip through to his hairline. Bayonet drill a year back had forever marred his good looks, his noble, and oftentimes arrogant, countenance. I used to have a life. Tall and of aristocratic descent, Gadriel had forfeited a life of leisure and comfort for the chance for an adrenaline rush, giving away his family’s inheritance and leaving a bewildered ex-wife and greedy little brother behind on the estate back on Larilla.

A clatter behind him indicated that Kyp had tossed his helmet into his usual corner. Kyp cleared the dusty phlegm from the back of his throat and hacked it in preparation for his customary rant. Gadriel cut him off before he could begin, ‘If I have to listen to your whining any more, I’ll probably suck start my lasgun.’

I hate this planet.
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III


I love this planet. The endless flats swept by two hundred meters below him, the reckless headlong charge reducing any details of the ground to a black and grey blur. The cool wind rushed along his bare scalp and roared past his ears. He allowed himself a feral grin. Normally he felt hollow, empty. While he preferred to be flying under his own power and not magnetically clinging to the side of a Thunderhawk, this was what he lived for: the thrill of the hunt. Were it not for the stimulation of combat, he doubted he would feel anything.

The Wrathful’s plan called for a full encirclement of the key Guard garrison on the planet. A massive, coordinated attack to crush both the enemy’s ability and will to resist. This was the way of the Venom Guard: to masterfully move each element into place before acting. In a way, their method of battle was akin to the termites of ancient Terra carefully burrowing through the wooden supports of a bridge, until that single and crucial moment that set the whole construction crashing down into inevitable and complete disaster.

‘Zors, distance to target.’ This was not a question. It was neither, in truth, a statement, having been bellowed through external speakers to enable the auspex operator to hear his brother-sergeant over the combined roar of the wind and the Thunderhawk’s engines.

The Raptor glanced at his portable auspex unit, showing icons of his squad, their ship, and the distant Imperial fortress. He carefully unclamped his helmet, placing it over his head. ‘Three hundred kilometers, Lord Zecharias. We will cross Phase Line Hydra within the hour. Insertion into the target at phase line plus five.’ The rush of wind died as the helmet completed the seal with his carapace, eliminating the intoxicating exhilaration of the flight.

A moment passed before Zecharias responded. ‘Very well. We will arrive precisely as the Wrathful has planned. Vox blackout from here on out, battle sign only. Acknowledge in sequence.’ The Thunderhawk began to ascend as each brother clicked his vox in confirmation. There was little need, the Raptors had been waiting for this moment for years. Years of machinations, of plotting and subtle manipulations. Zors howled inside of his helmet, eager to begin the hunt. All of it had come down to this one instant, the pivotal moment in which the future of the Venom Guard would be assured.

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(Due to the short length of Pt III, I'll go ahead and post up Pt IV today)

IV

Another glance at his chronograph drew a sigh of simple and pure exasperation. Three more hours. To say that time was crawling would be a vast understatement. It was already dead and rotting. Gadriel leaned forward on the bench, stretching his lower back as best he could while Kyp maintained his semi-vigilant watch on their sector. Gadriel removed his helmet and shook his head. He heard the droplets of sweat impacting dully on the dust covered floor. ‘Kyp did you turn the air off?’

Kyp looked back over his shoulder and shrugged, barely visible in the gloom. ‘Nah, must’ve gotten clogged again. My light’s in my webbing if you want to grab it.’

‘Well where the hell is your kit?’

Kyp would now have cocked his left eyebrow. ‘Same as always,’ he said.
Gadriel swore under his breath. True night had fallen on the planet, and the absence of any natural satellites minimized any light that may seep in through the windows. He could switch on the overhead again, but despite the security that the reflective windows provided in terms of light discipline, it was, in the words of the good Commissar, ‘Strictly forbidden!’ Fekhead.

He stood up and felt his way in the pitch black confines of the room, hands extended in front of him to remove any possibility of the wall becoming overly acquainted with his nose. Two steps forward... there. His outstretched fingers hit the warm rockcrete wall, luckily without the force to remove any skin in the process. Sidestep four steps… his left boot connected with what was more than likely Kyp’s discarded gear. Gadriel knelt down, fumbling through several pockets before coming across his companion’s head lamp. He wrapped it around his own bare head and turned it on.

The small circle of light illuminated the back of Kyp’s tattooed neck. His friend had claimed that he had been an underhiver before someone else volunteered him to join the Guard, and he certainly looked the part. While not overly muscled like stereotypical slum-trash, the man did seem to have tattoos covering nearly every square centimeter of skin on his body. Having recently been forced to get a haircut that actually conformed with the strict standards emplaced by the Commissar and the Three-Oh-Second, the upper portion of a huge tattoo was now visible.

Gadriel had seen Kyp without a shirt on multiple times and, sadly, knew his backside better than he knew his own. On his back, in a rather dramatic fashion, stood the Emperor of Mankind, resplendent in golden armour and holding high a trident in a pose of triumph. Crushed and torn about his feet were aliens and mutants of indescribable origins. The upper portion of the trident had always been hidden in the past, and Gadriel figured it would be a decent way to at least pass the next two minutes of his shift. He walked up behind his friend and shined the light closer to get a better look at the intricately detailed trident.

Kyp seemed not to notice, evidently lost in his own personal reveries of the gambling he would soon be partaking in or the prostitute with whom he spent many of his lonely nights. Probably both. Gadriel leaned closer, careful not to breathe on Kyp’s neck because, well, that would just be weird. The tips of the trident, he discovered, were not spears at all. Instead of a metallic sheen, they were covered in scales. The point of each was an image of a snake or a mythical dragon and the forks themselves the necks. Three dragon heads? Each head had been subtly blended into the design of the trident so as to be unnoticeable except under close inspection. Weird, he’s probably got a tattoo of a black hole around his arse, too. He snorted.

That was a mistake. ‘What the fek are you doing?’ Kyp spun around in a rage, striking Gadriel in the temple with his palm. The smack caught Gadriel completely off guard, and he stumbled backwards, catching the back of his calves on the bench. He pitched back and toppled over the ply board. His head smacked against the wall in as graceful of a manner as he could muster. Luckily, the head lamp caught the worst of the impact and it shattered. He could vaguely make out Kyp’s outline, standing over his supine form.

‘Throne, man! What was that all about?’ Gadriel rubbed his forehead, feeling his hand come away wet. He had skinned it on the way down.

‘You were up in my personal space, brother.’ Already Kyp seemed to be calming, and he grasped onto Gadriel’s arm and helped him to his feet. ‘You can’t get all up in my business.’ He patted Gadriel’s shoulders, dusting them off. A smile entered his voice, “Your turn on the shooter anyways, off you go.”

Gadriel heard him remove the flask from his pocket and pop the top. True to form, he took three gulps before depositing it back into one of the numerous pouches on his uniform. Gadriel shook his head and stepped forward, pulling out his thermal optics again and peering through them into the nothingness, the cooling unit all but forgotten. He hardly paid attention to the vast blackness on the best of days and could not help but have his mind wander now.

What the fek was that about?


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Well, I'm certainly glad to see the return of this. It is easily one of the better fictions on this forum, perhaps the other Warhammer ones as well! It flows nicely, your action scenes are....Perfection. They are vididly visceral, enough that you can almost feel the blood hit you! I do rather the Marine perspective than your Guard one in this fiction however, not a fan of this Larillan unit!

Plus rep if I can, and get posting more!

Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.

"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"

'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Yes, lord.'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
'No, lord.'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'
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Thank you DA for the kind comment!

And the conclusion of Chapter I


V

Bravvick and his squad were in the back of his rhino, speeding across the barren wasteland towards Way Station Centrus. His vehicle was at the apex of the five rhinos making all due haste towards their objective. He checked his heads-up chronometer. Five minutes. He felt it lurking.

BLOOD AND SKULLS.

‘Not now dammit!’ He cursed. Too soon, this was too soon. It was becoming stronger. Images flashed before his eyes. Piles of skulls, pools of blood, hacking limbs, and laughter. Always the laughter. Not…NOW!

He would not give in again to the beast, he could not. His composure inspired his men, his leadership guided them. If he fell to the thirst, they would succumb as well. The tenets of the Legion must be upheld, the teachings of his Primarch followed. Every time he lost control, he fell from grace in the eyes of his fellows, his desires to be apprenticed to the Champion further extinguished, until it would become unattainable. That will not happen.

Clarity, calm. Finally. Bravvick checked his chronograph again. Soon. The peals of laughter persisted deep in his mind.


VI


Thirty seconds. Prep melta bombs, triple check bolt pistol, pat chain sword. Zors could feel it now. The beast within pushing out, begging to be released. He shrieked, the sound muffled by his helmet and lost in the wind.

Fifteen seconds. Soon, so soon. His double hearts pounded, the pulse beating in his ears overwhelmed by the roar of the engine. His armour started pumping stimulants into his system to prepare him to do all that was required and more for that moment. That single, critical moment.

Five seconds. A warning rune began blinking red in his visor, counting down.

Four. The adrenaline surged through his veins and his breaths came heavy and quick. He could feel it…

Three. He fought to hold on, keeping the beast at bay. So soon now…

Two. The seconds lasted for hours, the hours lasted for years, the years stretched into millennia.

One. Ten millennia passed in an instant. For ten thousand years he had fought. Ten thousand years of murder and plunder against the Corpse-God, all felt, in that critical moment.

Zero. He let go of the Thunderhawk and began another countdown. Ten long seconds of plummeting to the planet below in a free fall. He tore his helmet off and clamped it on his leg. The wind gushed past his face and screamed past his ears, his double hearts furiously pumped, as though they were on the verge of bursting. His jet pack erupted into life, tripling the rate of his plummet. The enormous black fortress below grew nearer by the second.

Contact.


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CHAPTER II


You will know when the time comes and there is nothing left to do but to kill, to destroy. That is when covert action has exhausted its usefulness and ferocity is the only answer.
- Bale, Lord of the Alpha Legion, prior to his invasion of Tartarus (dec.)




I

The awkwardness had, somehow, made time pass even slower. This was an incredible feat in and of itself, as time was already at a veritable standstill at Way Station Centrus. Gadriel checked his chronometer yet again. Less than a minute had passed. Damn.

He risked a glance behind his shoulder at Kyp. While the gloom prevented any real details to be ascertained, Gadriel could tell that Kyp was leaning forward and slowly rocking. He looked…eager, maybe manic. Gadriel could hear him whispering, chanting under his breath. Dismissing it, he leaned down and squinted into the heavy stubber’s mounted light-amplifying sight, a mode enhancing any ambient glow ten thousand times to turn the night into day.

Repeating the scan he conducted on-and-off for hours at a time, he traversed the stubber-mounted optic as far right as it would go to his right limit. Tick tick tick. As it passed each degree marking on the tripod, a metal hasp behind the trigger well caught on the mount…tick. He continued the slow movement to the right, watching for any sort of light or movement on the horizon, focusing on the incredibly annoying tick.

Without warning, the sight’s image flared blindingly. Gadriel pulled back from the scope, squinting his eye shut. The overhead illumination had been turned on, amplified ten thousand fold, and slammed into his open pupil. ‘Kyp, what the fek?’ He spun around with his right eye clenched shut and watering. ‘The fekking lights when I’m looking in the fekking scope?’

Kyp, for once, was wearing his full armour. His eyes blazed with a fire burning deep within him, something Gadriel had never seen in the man before. Gadriel slowly lowered his gaze from Kyp’s madness, down his carapace armour and webbing, and down to his hands, finally noticing the lasgun at his hip that was, incidentally, pointed straight at Gadriel’s chest. ‘Now is when I suppose you would expect me to say that I was sorry. I’m not, and you won’t hear that coming out of me. I don’t, however, want to shoot you.’

Gadriel struggled for words. His mouth had become frozen, his tongue a motionless slug. He could do nothing but stare. He risked a glance down at his own lasgun slung and hanging at his waist. The charge had been removed, and there was no way he would manage to load it before Kyp managed to shoot him.

His mind began racing, possibilities and scenarios flying through his mind. Reload his lasgun, get shot. Charge at Kyp, probably get shot. Go for a knife, get shot. His prospects for not getting shot were bleak at best. Talk to Kyp, maybe not get shot? That one. He turned his focus from the weapon in Kyp’s hand to concentrating on his own mouth. Sensation returned, he managed to lick the back of his teeth.

‘C’mon, Kyp. Let’s not do anything stupid.’ Do anything stupid? Slick line. He raised his hands up in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture. ‘Put the gun down.’

The fire behind Kyp’s eyes intensified. ‘Put the gun down?” He shook his head slowly, deliberately. ‘No no no no. Everything is ready, every piece is in place.’ A chuckle followed by a deep inhalation. Kyp took a slow step forward. ‘The strike is prepared, the die is cast. Nothing can be stopped. Not by you, not by the Golden Throne wasting away on Terra, not by the False Emperor’s dutiful lapdogs.’ A quick movement of his thumb disabled the safety on the lasgun held firmly in his grip. The lasgun that was about to end Gadriel’s life in a spray of fire and blood.

Well…shit. Impulse overcame reason and panic got the best of Gadriel. Years of training and muscle memory took over, quick step forward with the left foot, fall through the step to the knee, tilt head to the right, push shoulder into the hips, left hand smash down on the back of knee, right hand grab ankle, thrust hips forward, lift and twist, slam into the ground and disarm. The moves played themselves out in his mind a split second before he did each step, a textbook Guard unarmed close-quarters takedown.

Kyp, in his apparent madness, never saw it coming. Gadriel lifted him into the air, throwing his full weight into the body hurl. Slam. The power of the move with the additional weight of his shoulder being bodily forced onto Kyp’s stomach completely winded the man and caused the room to rattle. Gadriel struggled to his feet, untangling himself and his gear from Kyp’s prone form as his former comrade gasped for air. He snapped Kyp’s head back with a rapid kick, knocking him out cold.

Leaning forward with his hands on his knees, Gadriel tried to make sense of what had just happened. He had spent over eight hours a day, every day, with this man for the past three years. Nothing made sense. Wait…the room shook? The room was solid rockrete, and it would take a good bit more than simply a man hitting the ground to…

Oh fek. The vox unit. He had to get a hold of the commander, had to report the situation. That was what the drill sergeants had always said, what the lieutenant had further ingrained in his memory. Establish security, control the situation, report to higher. What made the tower shake? What kind of elemental force was required to make thousands of tons of rockrete tremble?

He listened, suddenly picking out a new sound over the sounds of his own heavy breathing and beating heart. In the distance, fire alarms were wailing, a toning pulse that caused a strain behind his eyes.

Gadriel grabbed the handset to the vox, bringing it to his ear. Straining to remain calm, he voxed in, ‘Larilla Command, Larilla Command, this is Tower W-2, come in, over.’ Silence. Static. He increased the volume, and tried again. ‘Larilla Command, this is Tower W-2, I’ve got a fekking situation here, over.’ Wait…the vox had not beeped when he keyed in. It was down. He had no way of communicating with the headquarters. He smelt smoke, and looked to the door. It was wafting from underneath it, accompanied by a dull orange glimmer. Somewhere, Way Station Centrus was burning. Fek.


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II

Target building, southwest quadrant, two structures east and three to the north of the very corner. Three floors, covered in communications equipment. A last second twist coupled with the sudden roar of thrust slowed Zors’ suicidal dive with a torque that would have caused a lesser being to lapse into unconsciousness. A slight additional nudge from his jump pack arrested his downward fall just ten meters above the ground and sent him into a horizontal streak straight at the building.

He carefully took aim with his bolt pistol, letting loose with three precisely aimed shots. Each exploded against the exact spot that had been marked in infrared dye as having been weakened by acid from the inside; the former Legion’s operatives had performed their duties to the letter. With his enhanced vision, Zors made out the spiderweb of hairline fractures now spreading across the massive pane.

A split second later, Zors impacted with the window, shattering it completely.

No longer could he contain the beast within, it must escape, it must hunt and kill. His external vox let loose with an eardrum rupturing shriek, the cry of a predator closing on his prey. He kept his body straight, lest his bulky pack and frame collide with the floor and bring disaster to his mission. Behind him he heard the roar from his brother who followed close behind through the window portal. Zors flew on, smashing through furniture and bewildered Guardsmen alike, ignoring every distraction in an utter focus on his prey. He deftly reached down, flicking the timer on his melta bomb. His retinal targeting display counted down the meters and time slowed.

The primary vox station for the entire compound was closing in, twenty meters, ten meters, five, zero. He threw the melta bomb right as he passed by the array, a dexterous flick of the wrist that simultaneously activated the strong magnetic link on the bottom of the bomb. It hit the station dead on, affixing itself to a cog of the False Omnissiah. He did not look back to confirm that his brother had done the same. If he had failed in any way, he would soon be dead. The other three Raptor teams had hit separate facilities in a similar fashion in a swift strike that would decapitate the enemy, leaving it senseless and without leadership. The Guardsmen would become a crippled prey awaiting the predator, unseen and stalking in the shadows.

Zors continued soaring through the compound, getting ever closer to the opposite wall. His helm display counted down with the melta bomb, less than two seconds to get out or else he would be nothing more than a stain of incinerated organic matter in the wreckage of the building. Again, he took careful aim and shot at the window ahead of him, sending three bolts in rapid succession. Before he had time to blink, he crashed through the armoured glass and was once again outside and in the air. He quickly increased the thrust from his pack and jetted towards the center of the open area, where already two of his brothers were emplacing a beacon, calling out to the strike cruiser above, calling to the Theta and the Serpentis.

Behind him, the command hub and very voice of Way Station Centrus erupted in an earth shaking explosion.


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III


It thirsts. It quakes. It screams. Still the laughter echoed in the recesses of his mind, down to his marrow, to where a normal man might still have a soul. Always the laughter, booming and thunderous, mocked his feeble resistance. The rhino was nearing its objective, still travelling at breakneck speeds without the aid of exterior lighting, blackout. Bravvick looked forward through the troop bay and the vision slits in the front of the vehicle, bracing from the constant rattling of the tracks. The countdown runes in his visor hit zero and a massive shockwave passed over his rhino, rocking it back and forth and threatening to throw him off balance. His helmet’s autosenses deafened the roar of the blast, reducing it to a dull and hollow thump.

Ahead of them, maybe three hundred meters, a huge fireball had burst into life behind a towering black wall. Squad Zecharias had struck the opening blow.

The hunger arose again, the voices behind his eyes, the visions. Corpses bloated with decay covered a vista with blood-soaked soil. A rain of blood fell from above, and still the laughter reverberated. He shook his head in an effort to clear his mind and cast the hellish thoughts away. They persisted, always there, always lurking. He had to focus on the mission, must focus. Knowing that the rhino was almost at its disembarkation point, Bravvick stood and removed his helmet.

He gazed at his brothers as he always did, one at a time, taking the chance to reaffirm his commitment with each before the first drops were spilled, before the slaughter and the madness threatened them all. Vorn, bearing the banner of the Venom Guard in his fist and a chainaxe in the other, gazed back with barely controlled hatred, an infernal fury tempered by an icy control. A froth of spittle and blood leaked out of his mouth. Graff stared intently at his own chainsword, in apparent control, but his eyes were those of a monster awaiting release. Kayzit fidgeted with his bolt pistol, absently wiping it down with a bloodstained rag. Battle-brothers all, with thousands of years of experience at one another’s side.

“My brothers, Sons of The Last, there was a time when we would ride into battle and make oaths to one another. While this practice has fallen out of favour, I will swear to you all on this night, on this planet…” He paused. His gaze had met Charritt’s, the ancient Marine’s black eyes speckled with red. Not speckled anymore, swimming with red, overflowing with crimson, bubbling over with blood. Swirling ruby, depthless obsidian. Rage and bones. Fury and death.

Charritt blinked and Bravvick’s thoughts whirled back into relative focus. Dammit, not now! I am my own! The rhino jerked to a stop and the ramp released, pistons pumping steam and the sounds of combat leaking in. The squad reacted automatically, Kayzit and Charritt in the rear exiting on opposite sides, chainaxes held high and bolt pistols ready, disappearing around the rhino before the ramp even hit the ground. In pairs they charged, Jib and Wermbo bellowing cries of bloodlust, Langshi and Vorn disturbingly silent and moving with pure focus and precision, Graff and Bravvick last.

Bravvick rounded the front of the rhino, searching for a target to slaughter and bathe in a pool of blood and gore engage. To his right, Squad Hektar poured out of their rhino, immediately emplacing their heavy weapons systems. Eight missile launchers aimed at the gate, a twenty meter slab of solid adamantine adorned with the massive bronze aquila of the Corpse Emperor. Bravvick and his men, howling to the air in anticipation, began a slow, leisurely trot towards the gate.

Hektar’s voice was audible over the barking yowls of the charging assault squad. “Take them down!” The Havoc’s unleashed their volley of krak missiles at the four guard posts surrounding the entrance, bursting them open like a mace slamming into a skull before their weapons had a chance to fire. The soft flesh caving in, brain matter and blood spurting out. The scream cut short as the life that fueled it was extinguished…

The center of the immense gate began to glow, softly at first, quickly escalating to an immolating inferno. Molten metal began to ooze down, flowing to the ground like lava. The intense heat and pressure finally grew too great to withstand the onslaught and the gate exploded outwards, peppering the ground for hundreds of meters with shards of twisted metal.

Flickering fire lined the portal, reminiscent of the gaping maw of hell. Five massive figures strode forth, their armour proof against the flames licking at them. Armed to the teeth, radiating menace, the shining emerald of their battle armour glinted in the blaze, both majestic and utterly terrifying at once. The largest of them, massive tusks of bone extending down from his battle helm, hefted his power mace into the air and bellowed, “Hydra Dominatus!”

The Serpentis marched on Viaticus Secundus. Hulking monsters, bringing death to all who dare stand in their way, the Terminator elite of the Wrathful were unleashed on Way Station Centrus. The sight was enough to stir the soul. Such destructive ability, no matter how many times he had witnessed it, was godlike.

Bravvick activated his power fist and charged, feeling the kill maim burn slaughter GIVE IN TO IT adrenaline being pumped into his system. His senses were heightened, reflexes on edge, ready to kill. The Serpentis, the mighty, watched him impassively. He would not disappoint such beasts of fury. He waded through the flames, the heat licking at his boots. It was over in an instant, his reckless charge inside of the compound propelling him past the burning wreckage of the gate.

Lasfire began spattering the ground around him, the surprise and ferocity of the attack fading and the ingrained resolve taking hold in the Guardsmen defenders. Bravvick grinned a feral smile, knowing the futile attempts at retaliation could not harm him. The Guardsmen were unable to harm him, all but the luckiest of shots were completely incapable of piercing his ancient armour. RAGE LET ME OUT GIVE IN. Fading out, feel the blood, feel the gore, satisfying, need to murder have to kill destroy.

Lucky shots blistered the paint from his armour and its spirit screamed in rage. The rage of his armour fuelled him, befouled him. He grew closer to a cluster of men, kneeling and standing, firing frantically. Within, he felt the stirring, the excitement. Blood was to be spilt, gallons and gallons of blood. Let them leak out, their fluids stain the sand. Their offal would litter the courtyard. He just had to get to them, reach them and destroy them. His legs pumped furiously, his armour’s spirit pushed the servos to their very limits. The stench wafted in, subtle at first. The reek of fear, of the knowledge of imminent and unavoidable demise permeated the air. He snorted as he noticed streaks of piss staining the humans’ legs. Fear was a weakness. A weakness must be exterminated. Their fire intensified as he bore down upon them. He was ready to crush them, to rip their fragile bodies apart to bear the mantle of, of…

Skull Champion. That was what Bravvick was, down to his essence, a berserker. The need overtook him and he charged the men. One, two, three steps and he was amidst them. An uncontrolled backhand to the left burst the torso of a man, spattering blood and innards onto the champion’s helm, covering the eye slits. He ripped his helm off and threw it at another mortal, embedding the garish ornamentation into the man’s skull. His falling body was lost in the melee.

Falling, he was falling, deeper down far down into the dark. Arterial spray spattered onto his face, a severed arm fell to the ground twitching, a man screamed as he held his intestines inside of his ruptured stomach, the downwards blow of an axe split a man in two. Odd, the left half of his body instantly collapsed, but the right remained upright as though supported on unseen strings. The man’s heart was still pumping, sending spurts over the already saturated ground.

Rejoice in the slaughter, blood for the Lord of Hate, the Brazen God. He demanded more, always required it. More death, more pain, more suffering. Never ending thirst, never ending agony. Those were his requirements. They must be met; they must be satisfied. An eternal butchering, the galaxy must be submerged in blood and drown in the infinite ocean of gore. Worlds would burn, their populations would be massacred, it was inevitable, it was beautiful.

The laughter, it was overwhelming. Booming and thundering in the forefront of his mind. An endless plain of broken bones, shattered skeletons, pools of blood. GIVE IN TO IT. Bravvick disappeared and the Skull Reaper, Champion of Khorne lost himself to the slaughter. ‘BLOOD FOR THE BLOOD GOD!’
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IV

Gadriel was on the verge of panic. His heart raced at the bottom of his throat, impossible to subdue no matter how many times he swallowed. Sweat poured down his brow as the immensity of the situation dawned on him. He had just been attacked by someone whom he had spent countless hours and days with in close proximity, someone that had clearly turned from the Emperor’s light and given in to the perversions of… something. The initial tremor of the compound had elevated into a constant trembling; explosions sounded from the entire way station. Kyp lay unconscious on the floor, a trickle of blood from his mouth dripping to the dust. The slight wafts of smoke intensified and billowed into the room from beneath the door. The reek of promethium filled his nostrils.

He glanced out the viewport, trying to gain an idea as to what was going on. He could see flashes coming from the southwest, but whatever was happening was too far away to tell specifically. A firefight? Here? Things were making less sense with each passing second. Way Station Centrus was under attack.

The flash reflections he could make out were yellowish in colour. Not the Tau then. Guard indoctrination on the nature of the threat to Viaticus Secundus had extensively covered the Tau and their weapon systems, emphasizing that their shots and blasted tended to be a bright blue or a white rather than the typical yellow and red from Imperial weaponry. The ingrained memories were as much for an understanding of the enemy as for an attempt to minimize friendly fire. The realization that the flashes appeared to be coming from Mechanicus-built firearms was chilling. He was sure his stomach would actually leap out of his throat at any moment. He smirked, the image of a poor bastard running around in the midst of a fight with his bloody stomach dangling from his mouth stuck in his mind for a moment. Another shudder of the facility brought his mind back to the moment, the possibilities of the threat.

Stories of Imperial Guardsmen, sometimes even entire regiments, turning to heresy were some of the commissar’s favourite speeches. Men who threw away their loyalty and faith to the Emperor and threw their lots in with the Ruinous Powers were despicable, the lowest form of humanity. The yellow flashes, the complete insignificance of the planet, and Kyp’s recent madness all pointed towards heresy from within. Still, the thought of it happening on Centrus, on the most monotonous and mind-numbing planet in the Subsector, was mind boggling.

The possibility that this was an attack from off-planet was even more preposterous. The Fleet had relay stations emplaced that would transmit astropathic warnings to the Astropathicae should any non-Imperial systems exit the warp in the system. While Gadriel was certainly not of a high enough rank to be told of such transmissions, he was sure that Colonel Illaren would have at least put an alert out to the towers. No, a planetary assault was impossible; part of the garrison had to have given in to heresy.

Gadriel was at a loss as to how to act. His platoon was located in the billeting at the very southwest corner, the direction from which the explosions were coming. While he did not think of himself as a coward, the thought of blindly running into a firefight with heretic Guardsmen and Throne knew what else was about as appealing as slathering himself up with grox fat and jumping into a pen of nekk dogs. He had no idea who the enemy was or how to differentiate them from those still loyal to the Golden Throne. Direct fire plan: consolidate in company area, report to your first-line supervisor, dammit. He eyed Kyp one more time, smashing the butt of his lasgun into the unconscious man’s temple to ensure he would stay that way, and opened the door to a scene of chaos.

Thick clouds of smoke boiled from the hallway to the left, stinging his eyes and obscuring the end of it from sight. Fek that. He looked right, knowing that there was an exit stairwell cut into the walls a hundred or so meters down. He turned to the stairwell and started to trot in that direction.

A platoon of Guardsmen from Captain Shobel’s company rounded a corner and rushed towards him, all of them armed. There goes that plan. No way in hell would he be able to dodge a platoon, it would be too suspicious and he would certainly wind up in front of the commissar for rehabilitation.

Gadriel paused, studying the other men as they charged towards him. Though they attempted to exude an air of confidence as they had been taught, the eyes that met Gadriel’s were filled with utter terror. They ducked at each distant rumble or blast, on nerve’s edge. Well, at least I’m not the only one. A dark, expanding stain crept down the leg of one of the men.

He recognized the sergeant in charge of the men, leading them from the front in the direction of the fight. ‘Sergeant Grazy! What the fek is going on!’

The grizzled man stopped and the running men behind him followed suit. ‘Entire garrison’s gone to hell. Astartes are assaulting the gate! Get yer shit and fall yer arse in, Pedati!’ Without waiting for a response or confirmation, he took off, running into the haze of the smoke. Gadriel took another longing look to the right, away from the smoke and sounds of battle. Running was out of the question. Wait, fekking Astartes? A horrible situation had just, miraculously, gotten worse. Slowly, painfully, he turned to the left and followed the platoon into the haze, his lasgun at the ready.

Last edited by Boc; 03-11-11 at 11:09 PM.
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