Chapter 2 - Preperations
Emile was happier then he had been in years, the last half-decade had been a monotonous series of repeated patrols and duties that should be beyond him now, and it had been exactly seven Terran years and nine months since he had killed an enemy of the Emperor, since he had come to Malbede. But that was all about to change very soon, the Tau were coming and Emile would relish every moment of it, even dying could be glorious at the moment, fighting to hold the line against unrelenting aliens without the right to set foot on mankind's soil. At the moment Emile would have been fine with dying from a stray shot, as long as it meant he got to kill some aliens at long last. Calxius had ordered him and Brothers Castiel, Ajax and Aegidius to the prime gunnery station to ready the mass-reactor turrets while he sent out an astropathic distress signal, hopefully Ultramar would get it in time. Otherwise the odds of victory for the Castigators of Iax were marginal, at their best.
Ajax was working at the consoles to activate the gun-emplacements, they had not been active for some time and the machine-spirits required rousing, Emile was no expert on that matter but Ajax knew enough, word was once this duty was over he was to be shipped to Mars to undergo training as a Techmarine. Emile envied that, he himself had been interested in pursuing training as an Apothecary but as long as he was stuck on Malbede that wasn't going to happen, and Ajax had a guaranteed place at Mars, whereas Emile hadn't received anything yet. The station's resident Enginseer is with him, a slight man with a balding head and sockets placed in the back of his skull, aside from those and the mechanical implant that replaced his right eye most would not assume he was a member of the Mechanicus.
'The machine-spirits are appeased, this sudden awakening isn't good for them' the tech-priest explained, his voice was tinny even without a vocabulator.
'I don't care if its good for them or not, just make sure they can fire or we'll all be dead very soon!' Castiel barked, his temper was short and the xenos invasion had destroyed whatever patience he may have shown on any other day.
'We're nearly done Castiel, keep calm or you'll be doing the Tau's work for them' Ajax quipped without looking at Castiel who snarled.
'Ill kill more of these alien bastards then you just for that remark brother!' he boasted. Ajax smirked, these arguments were common between the short-tempered Castiel and the infinitely-patient Ajax, it was their way. Emile looked across the bridge overlooked by the gun-turrets, these two in particular were positioned so that if enemies attempted to cross the bridge they would be cut down for their boldness. But they had been designed to destroy tanks, troopers could evade their shots and invade the base, unless the Ultramarines made their stand at the bridge. The shield generator would keep orbital bombardment from destroying them, and force the Tau to meet them on their terms.
As the gun turrets raised themselves and the sounds of charging lascannons filled the air Ajax laughed, praising the Machine-God for its aid, while Castiel and Aegidius kept their vigil on the skies. The Tau fleet was being delayed by the asteroid field, but once they crossed it there was nothing stopping them from making their unclean presence felt on Malbede. Emile cursed them and activated his vox-bead.
'Sergeant Calxius, the turrets are active. Your orders?' he questioned. The reply was quick and curt.
'Well done Brother Emile. Ive sent a message out to Ultramar, our astropath assures me that it was received by a fleet in one of the neighbouring systems. We can't know how long but help from the chapter will definitely be on its way.'
'Do we have an estimate on the reinforcement's strength?'
'No, Resel is certain that a chapter ship picked up our signal but he can't tell what kind of ship. A single strike cruiser would be enough though' Emile could detect the hope in the sergeant's voice when he spoke, Emile was hopeful too, a strike cruiser could carry an entire company, that would be able to decimate the Tau. Perhaps it was the Third Company, coming to the aid of its own brethren, but that was a long-shot, the last Emile had heard the Third Company was engaged against the Ork hordes on Tamakala about four systems away. He looked to the skies once more, knowing that soon war would be upon them.
Sergeant Calxius was the ideal Iaxian, his skin lightly coloured from the warm suns, his hair dark and well-cut drawing more attention to his face, almost etched from marble in its perfect features. Even the darkness of Malbede couldn't damage his countenance. Emile himself was somewhat lesser in the perfection of appearance, his hair was a light brown and much longer, stretching down to his shoulder blades and was wild and untamed. His skin was the same lightly coloured tone as his sergeant's, his facial features however were much friendlier, more personal and less like a statue's then Calxius, it had helped in the garrison duty since many came to him for his friendly face.
The full squad had gathered to meet and discuss the coming threat, everyone had removed their helmets and had reviewed the defences of the base. The shield would hold Ajax had assured them and the gun-turrets were ready to bring down any troop-landers or attack craft that tried to pass through the protective barrier. Now all that remained was to meet the enemy and dispense the Emperor's justice with bolter and blade.
'Ultramarines, Sons of Guilliman, the hour is dark' Calxius intoned, the irony of his last words electing a chuckle from Ajax, quickly silenced by a look from the sergeant.
'Xenos encroach on our holdings, they outnumber us by at least fifty to one and we number but ten souls.. but we are Ultramarines, we are man. And we will not bow before the tyranny of alien scum!' the sergeant's words were inspiring, infectious even.
'We will meet their meagre forces, their weak weapons and pitiful attempts at warfare. With the Codex Astartes guiding our path we will destroy them before they may befoul this base.'
'With Courage and Honour!, we shall smite our foes!' he emphasized the last words and shouted them, the echo carrying across the walls and through a better part of this section. The squad echoed his words and cheered, it had been too long since any of them had done the Emperor's work, the real work of the Emperor, not pushing files or observing dead areas of space but killing the Emperor's foes, protecting His holdings and His Imperium. Emile smiled as he replaced his helmet, it had been far too long.
Meanwhile in orbit the asteroid field had been reduced to dust, the heavy pulse weaponry of the Tau cruisers pulverizing the weak rock with single precise shots. The fleet had cleared the field, and as the first warship took position above the dark world of Malbede, the very first troop-lander emerged from its hangar and descended to the planet below.