Author's Note:This is a sequel to Measure of a Man
. Reviews are welcomed.
On a side note does anyone know how to edit this post so it goes under the Warhammer 40,000 classification? I clicked too quickly and did't get a chance to properly put this in it's right place.
I am Varion Nicanor.
Child of Orpheus. Son of Guilliman
Now I come to Gallat. A world two weeks away by warp travel from Yaltoi. Scarcely hours after the victory-pyres at that world the Third Company received a message from the Mechanicus at Gallat. The world was is a manufactorum world, it's not a true forge world but a world that boasted several Mechanicus bases on the surface. The world was engulfed by rebellion. Dozens of cults had erupted all over the world and the Arbites struggled to contain the cults along with the PDF and the agents of the Ordo Hereticus. Regiments of Vostroyan Imperial Guard had also been brought into restore order. It seemed to be going well.
That was until a symbol had been discovered.
It had been a small thing, discovered on a single body after the Arbites stormed an underground cult-base. A single green tattoo, found on the body of a high-ranking cultist leader. The tattoo was that of a multi-headed hydra.
The Alpha Legion.
If the XX Legion was truly present on this world then the Praetors of Guilliman were required to deal with them. The Mechanicus were unsettled by news of Traitor Legion activity and made appeals to the Chapter. We are close allies of the Mechanicus. A relationship we do not bother to disguise. Some of our brother Astartes disdain us for it, but I care little. We embrace the technologies of humanity as a boon, not superstition.
If the misbegotten sons of Alpharius are here on this world then I relish the chance to fight them. All of the Praetors know of the treachery. We know of how Guilliman generously tried to give aid to his brother, and yet was denied in Alpharius's arrogance. That same pride led Alpharius to cast his lot with the gods of Chaos.
His sons are a stain upon the honor of the Astartes. We will rectify that mistake.
However when we land on this world we find no Traitors. Or perhaps it would be better to say we find no traitor Astartes, for treacherous souls are found aplenty here. We land, purging centers of cult activity, redeploying and striking at the cultists as they launch assaults on the mag-rails and factories.
But no Alpha Legion.
Now Captain Atreus had received word from Mechanicus research base Beta-6. They have been detecting cult activity in the Varnus townships and there is reports of sedation among their serf-workers. Magos Carnus requests that we come and put the fear of the Emperor into the rebels. Atreus briefs my squad, knowing we are still understrength, and gives us this mission. It is an easy one and I know it. On one level I feel almost insulted at killing deluded cultists while my lord hunts for the enemy Astartes. But I know of my chapter's commitment to the Mechanicus.
The Blade of Orpheus
screamed through the howling snowstorm, thrusters burning as it centered in on it's destination. Deep in the heart of the vehicle Varion Nicanor sat, his power pack removed. Coming straight from the Thunderhawk where cables snaking into his power armor.
It felt lighter without his power pack. It was not an unpleasant feeling, merely a strange one. He had experienced it many times before when traveling by Thunderhawk, but each time it felt new and unfamiliar despite that.
Around him the rest of his squad was silently preparing their weapons or talking quietly amongst themselves. Their helmets were off, showing the bare features of each Astartes to the world. Lukias's classically handsome features were still as he polished his combat knife. Ceranus's broad, scarred features were creased deep in thought as he added another purity seal. Daecus's face was hawkish and predatory, his white teeth showing as he joked quietly with Apion's youthful smile. Morovian's scalp was completely shaved, with a omega tattoo on his forehead. Severus's features were tight and emotionless, while Dakias finished field-stripping his bolter once more.
However there was one occupant whose' face was still obscured.
Chaplain Iapetos sat, his face masked by the white skull-helm he wore. His armor was black and polished. One shoulder and arm was painted white and blue. Attached to his shoulder guards were purity scripts fixed by red wax seals. Passages from the Codex Astartes were carved into his chestplate. The Chaplain's war-plate was ancient, truly ancient. Others before him had worn it for millenia, all the way back to the days of the Horus Heresy. It was ornate and beautifully forged. Impressive and fearsome at the same time.
His crozius was at his side. At the haft was the name of the weapon. Purgator.
The weapon was as much a chapter relic as a tool of war. It had been wielded by the earliest Chaplain of the Ultramarines Legion against the Word Bearers on Calth and by the Praetors when they had first been formed in the aftermath of the Scouring. It felt good to have the Chaplain here. Nicanor knew Iapetos well. He had fought alongside the Chaplain before and trusted his squad under the faith and leadership of his brother. He had little worried about the mission coming up.
Up ahead, in the cockpit was Techmarine Aeton. As the Second Squad had been sent to Beta-8 having one of the chapter's tech-adepts come along had been a natural choice to accompany them when they met the Mechanicus.
Something came over the vox-com
''Brother-Sergeant, Brother-Chaplain, there is something strange up ahead that the Thunderhawk's sensors have detected.'' the voice of Aeton is controlled, emotionless.
Nicanor presses a rune, disconnecting his power cables. His power pack slides in and connects. Instantly the false-muscles of his suit tighten up and link with him. Beside him, Chaplain Iapetos did the same action.
''Something wrong Brother-Sergeant?'' Ceranus asks.
''We'll see.'' Nicanor nodded and followed the Chaplain to the main cockpit.
The Thunderhawk's cockpit swiftly becomes crowded as Nicanor and Iapetos take their place next to Techmarine Aeton and pilot Menos. The cockpit is a confusing mess of sensors, data-screen, runes and controls. Aeton did not have his servo-harness on, looking curiously incomplete without it.
Aeton turns to him, his crimson helmet nodding as he points to the sensors. Nicanor nodded and read the lines of sensory data as a set of schematics were brought up.
''A Rhino.'' Iapetos said, his voice deep and cold, like the snowstorm outside.
''It's broken down, our sensors indicate weapons damage.'' Aeton says. His voice is cold and mechanical, but in a different way. There is no warmth, but no biting edge like with Iapetos. Only an utter absence of feeling.
''What is a Rhino doing out here?'' Nicanor asked.
''It must be the Magos's Rhino, only the Magos possesses a Rhino at Beta-8. The rest of the base utilizes local trucks or Chimeras.'' Aeton answered.
''If it is out here then something is wrong at the base, when have we last contacted the base?'' Iapetos asked.
''Eleven hours ago, we departed three hours ago, I was about to contact them when we detected the Rhino.'' Aeton answered.
''Then we should not, something is wrong, terribly wrong, do we detect any life forms?'' Nicanor asked.
''One,'' Aeton indicated the screen. ''Just one.''
Nicanor studied it for movement before turning to Menos. The pilot was not clad in power armor, but a flight-suit with cables connecting into the Thunderhawk paneling itself. His right eye was a bionic replacement.
''Take us down.'' he commanded.
Nicanor stepped outside, his helmet on. Although he did not need it in the cold. His gene-boosted Astartes body could handle the cold without any real trouble. But it paid to take precautions regardless. Next to him came the form of Aeton, servo-harness on once more. Next to him was Lukias, also fully clad in armor. The Thunderhawk had set down twenty meters from the Rhino. With his visor and gene-boosted vision Nicanor could see the symbol of the Cult Mechanicus on one side. Even through the coat of snow Nicanor could detect the abrasion and marks of weapons damage.
''It looks bad Brother-Sergant,'' Lukias siad. ''You must hate this sight eh Aeton?'' he commented.
''You are correct.'' Aeton replied curtly.
''As expected,'' Lukias muttered, looking over the Rhino. ''What do you think sir?''
''Lasguns?'' Nicanor offered.
''Lasguns, definitely, along with a grenade or two, someone was running away from soldiers.'' Lukias summarized. ''The question is.....who
''We are about to find out.''
Aeton arrived there first as he inspected the Rhino briefly. Quickly he tried to side doors, only to find them locked. Then Lukias inspected the rear landing ramp. It was also locked. Aeton mentioned them back. Muttering a prayer of forgiveness to the machine spirit, Aeton's servo arms tore off the locked door with two swift twists. Nicanor stepped in, bolt pistol at ready. The familiar troop bay was empty with no signs of life. Nicanor crossed to the driving compartment and opened up the door.
Something stared at him, shivering in the cold. It was a female face within a red hood. A pistol pointed at him briefly, shaking so much that Nicanor doubted that she would be able to hit him at all. He stepped inside.
He paused for a moment, unsure what to say. Finally, after a few seconds he spoke, his vox-assisted voice resounding in the innards of the Rhino.
''I am Nicanor, Son of Guilliman, come with me.''
Valeria sat within the Praetor's Thunderhawk, hugging the heater close to her, her breath coming out as white mist in front of her. She was in some sort of briefing area in the Thunderhawk. In front of her three armored giants stood. She recognized their heraldry of course. The starburst shield on their should guards were known to every Mechanicus Adept in this sector. The legacy of the Praetors of Orpheus was a long one and well appreciated by the Mechanicus.
It was an almost a cruel joke to see these Astartes after what she had experienced. But she was glad to see them. She had heard that the Praetors were on Gallat from Magos Carnus, but she had never expected to see them in person. When she had driven that Rhino to escape from the cultists she had expected to die in the snowstorm, Not to be intercepted by the Praetors. It was intimidating to say the least. She knew the Praetors were sworn allies of the Mechanicus and had worked closely with them in the past, but she had never met an Astartes before. She was human enough to feel intimidated. However one was a Techmarine, and thus was a fellow initiate of the Machine God, his presence comforted her more.
''Hello.'' she started hesitantly, rather unsure how to happen.
''What is your name?'' the one in white armor asked her.
''Cas Valeria'' she answered. She was not one of the more advanced tech-priests. She had just started on her holy augmentations. Unlike her master who was far more blessed than she with the gaze of the Omnissiah. Thus she had emotions. Right now she felt a sudden rude shock at the Praetor's bluntness.
''I am a Tech-Adept to Magos Rael Carnus of the Beta-8 Research base.'' he continued. She looked up at them.
''Please, you have to come and retake the base'' she choked out, hugging the heating unit closer. She still felt cold to her bones. Her own thermal robe was unprepared for the particularly freezing snowstorm out there.
''Retake?' the skull-helmed Astartes said. ''What do you mean?'' he continued. The Astartes sounded almost......surprised.
''The cultists, six hours ago they came, infiltrating through the lower ducts, taking the Skitarii off guard. They were led by Chaos Astartes. Omnisaiah help me, green giants with snakes on their shoulder guards. It was the XX Legion. They slaughtered everything'' she explained, his voice choked with pain.
She saw the skull-helmed giant glance at the other two briefly.
''Continue'' he said in a cold clipped tone.
''We had thought that the cultist activity was confined to the Varnus districts. We had never expected them to be so bold as to strike at us directly. But then again we never thought they had Chaos Marines leading them.'' she chuckled bitterly.
She took a breath again. ''Magos Carnus told me to get escape, to get help, the cultists had jammed the communications somehow. He gave me the codes to his Rhino and sent me off. They came for him, I know it.'' she continued, remembering what had so recently happened.
''The Magos?'' asked the white and blue armored one.
''My master..........my master calculated a ninety-six point eight chance they were here for the logic engines. They continued encrypted information, protected by firewalls.'' she took another deep breath. ''My master was the only one who knew the codes, they would have had to extract the information from him in order to get past the logic engine firewalls.''
''So they are still there?'' the central marine asked.
''Yes.........He's he's-'' her voice broke. ''We have to rescue him, and kill the heretics.'' she said, her voice hard.
She heard a series of almost silent clicking sounds as the Astartes opened up private vox-channels, conversing with themselves. Finally the central one stepped forward.
''What is the strength of the enemy?'' he asked.
''We detected five Astartes and over a hundred cultists.'' she said, trying to recall the information from the brief, panicked instructions her Master sent her on. The Astartes were silent, absorbing this information.
Then the skull-helmed one spoke up. ''If what you say is true then we face five Astartes and over a hundred cultists. Judging from combat assessments of the Legion's followers, they will be highly trained and well-armed. In addition we have the base defenses-''
''I can disable them!'' she interrupted eagerly. She then quailed as she realized what she just did. ''I mean I know the cods to disable the targeting servitors, you come come in unmolested.'' he said the last part almost quiet;y, afraid that the skull-helmed one would do something.
But he did nothing as the white one stepped forward. ''We don't have the luxury of time them, we must move as fast as possible, we will send a message to our Captain to bring reinforcements but we must move and assault the place, you will be responsible for bringing us in while we confront the bastard sons of Alpharius.'' hatred filled his vox as he spoke those last words.
''I will.'' she said with relish. Anything for a chance at vengeance. Then she realized something.
''What are your names?''
''You are coming with me.'' Nicanor told Valeria.
After introducing themselves to the young Tech-Adept he had contacted Atreus. The Captain was satisfied that the Alpha Legion had been found and was preparing his owns force's Thunderhawks. However he ordered them into an immediate assault.
''The Magos's information,'' he had said. ''Must not fall into enemy hands, regardless of the cost.''
And so Nicanor had prepared his squad for the assault. Lukias led his brothers with their weapons preparations while Iapetos read outloud passages from the Liber Orpheus
, chronicling the battles of their Primarch, Roboute Guilliman.
As for the girl he had taken her aside and made his concerns known.
''You are coming with me.'' he said bluntly. He figured he might as well get the information out soon.
''Excuse me?'' she asked in a surprised tone. Nicanor was not exactly skilled at reading human emotion. But even he could see she was annoyed.
''Did you not hear me correctly?'' he asked her again, calmly.
''No, no. I heard you correctly, I just don't see why. I am not a fighter. I just have this hellpistol for defense.'' she showed him the weapon. It was a Kantrael MK8hellpistol, ornately detailed with High Gothic inscriptions.
''Where did you get that?'' he asked.
''I took it from the Armory before I left. My master's personal bodyguards wielded weapons like these'' Valeria explained. Nicanor studied the weapon and nodded.
''Good, at least you will be armed then when we depart-'' he started again.
''Why do I have to go?'' she asked in an almost....... panicked
tone. She clearly did not want to leave the Thunderhawk. It was a sentiment Nicanor was unable to identify with. Why would anyone not want to bring death to the faithless traitors of mankind?
''I mean I've already provided the codes to shut down the anti-air defense, you don't need me anymore.'' she continued.
''Wrong,'' he rumbled. ''You know the base's layout. We need a guide to figure out where the Magos is being held captive.'' he leaned forward, almost bending over as his faceplate stared at her.
She gave a short yelp and stumbled back on the floor. Nicanor reached out with one great white gauntlet.
''My apologies. My intention was not to frighten you.'' he stated calmly.
''Oh no,'' Valeria huffed, grasping the gauntlet and pulling herself up. Nicanor barely felt the woman tugging up. ''It's just the first time I have ever meant an Astartes. I've heard so much about you.'' she looked up at him.
'I suppose I'm nervous then, a weakness of the flesh my Master would say.'' she commented.
''Surprise is not a weakness.'' Nicanor responded.
''I suppose your right, you must try new things right?'' Valeria chuckled a bit.
Nicanor had no answer for that.
After a few moments of awkward silence passed Valeria spoke again.
''You will protect me right? You and your brothers?'' she asked hopefully.
Nicanor came to the main deck of the Thunderhawk, all of his squad brothers had their heads bowed to Chaplain Iapetos. Aeton was still in the cockpit piloting the course and entering the codes to turn aside the base's aerial defenses.
Lukias looked up at him. ''We are ready for our oaths sir.'' he said.
''Such a small thing they brought in.'' said Daecus to Ceranus.
''Hardly our most worthy ally, I suspect her age to be less than thirty.'' he replied.
''Too young or too early for the more advanced bionics?'' Daecus asked.
''Too early,'' Ceranus agreed. '' I don't mean to sound petulant, but it's annoying to escort such a mouse.''
''She is the first off-world tech-adept I have met'' Apion commented softly. ''I don't think so badly of her''
''Yes, you are the one to speak with your great knowledge of the Mechanicus.'' snorted Daecus sarcasticly.
''Enough,'' Nicanor said. ''We will take your oaths.''
Iapetos rose and took out a small vial of oils from his belt. Unscrewing the top he started the Oaths.
''I, Chaplain of the Emperor ask you, who are you?'' he began, his skull mask frozen in a rictus grin.
''We are the Sons of Orpheus.'' Squad Nicanor responded, their voices powerful and deep.
''Who is your father?'' The Chaplain asked, anointing the forehead of each Marine with the holy oils.
''Roboute Guilliman is our father.'' they intoned together.
''What teaches us?''
''The Codex Astartes.''
''Who guides us?''
''Guilliman and his father.''
''Who do we fight for?'' Iapetos boomed.
''The Emperor on Terra.''
''Who do we serve?'' Iapetos intoned.
the squad responded.
The Oaths continued on for another three minutes as the Thunderhawk howled through the air. Oaths of loyalty were sworn and renewed along with oaths and promises of vengeance against the vile traitor-kin of the Praetors.
Valeria ran out of the Thunderhawk after the Astartes as the ramp dropped into the snow. Up ahead, the Astartes called Lukias and Dakias took point and fanned out, bolters tracking back and forth as they searched the area for threats.
There was none.
Nearby she moved up to the Astartes named Morovian. Nicanor had essentially told her to stick to the hulking Astartes brother for her own safety. Morovian barely spoke except to tell her simply to stay behind him. The Chaplain was there too, clutching his crozius, as well as the Techmarine, in full war-harness and wielding a cog-toothed power axe.
They had landed in front of one of the rear access points that Valeria had identified. Nicanor had elected against landing on the landing pads, in case of a booby trap of some sort. Here he reasoned it would be safer.
The building in front of here was just as she remembered it, rising up dozens of feet into the air. It was a collection of insulated domes and buildings in as high valley that overlooked the Vardus communes below. It was like some sort of castle lording it over the peasants below. She shivered as the freezing winds bit into her bones even through her thick insulated red cloak. She glanced around, the Astartes appeared to not even notice the cold. In front of her, half-obscured by snow, was a pair of blast doors marked by the cog-skull symbol of the Mechanicus and a series of warnings in Low Gothic. Aeton moved quickly to the doors, his armor creating a series of soft whining noises and clicks.
Two servo arms extended from his back and a data-thief jutted out. Aeton removed the side panel and plunged in the data-thief, inter-linking with the door's machine spirit. Aeton briefly shuddered as his neural implants linked him in.
After a few moments the doors opened and the Techmarine withdrew the data-thief. He stepped to the side as Apion and Dakias moved past, taking point at a short clipped order from Nicanor, the rest of the squad filed in.
''This is where it begins, stay close to me.'' Morovian said to her, turning his grill-mouthed helm towards her briefly. She nodded quickly and clutched her hellpistol in one shivering hand as she hurried in with the Astartes into the warmth of the base.
The doors closed inches behind her, barely missing the hem of her red robe. Ahead of her the Astartes moved quickly and with a ground eating stride that forced Valeria to virtually run in order to properly keep up.
They encountered the first cultists a few moments later.
The central data chamber was a wide circular platform, hosted above dozens of feet of data stacks and plasma regulators. A system of pillars and stairs criss-crossed and connected the central platform to the exit hallways. In the center Magos Carnus lay strapped and bound to the observation chair, his combat implants and servo arms ripped out. The hood of his red robe was thrown back, exposing his gleaming chrome skull and augmetic face.
Zerathras of the Alpha Legion watched in disappointment as Brother Malathrax extended writhing silver data-plugs from his gauntlets and into the rear neural links of the Magos, linking his mind with the Mechanicus priest's own.
''He is fighting, this is the fifth time.'' Malathrax said, his voice low and buzzing like a broken servitor. The Alpha Legionary was a former Techmarine infected with some sort of variant of the Obliterator virus, his unusual abilities made him invaluable for this mission.
Zerathras had led his warrior-brethren to his world ten years ago and spent a long time fostering the local Chaos cults into a force to be reckoned with. After ten years of planning all his work was about to pay off. Zerathras was a tall Chaos Marine, clad in blue-green scale-like power armor. One shoulder guard bore the multi-headed hydra of the Alpha Legion, the rest of his armor was bare of insginia. His helm was off, exposing his shaved tanned features and cold calculating eyes.
Malathraz was clad in blue armor with a silver sheen. Snake-like cables ran across his form, writhing and pulsing as if they were alive. His helm was finished into a gleaming blank faceplate with a multitude of circuitry in the back of his skull. Nearby, Borc, the swordsman, paced back and forth, his skull-trophies jangling across his broad power-armored chest. His horned helm swung back and forth as he made his impatience known. Taes, clad in his skull-faced helm, held his plasma gun reverently. Finally the daemonancer Raetirn was kneeling, keeping to himself, his blue-green armor covered in writhing Chaos runes.
One of the doors opened and a man clad in heavy flak armor entered. It was Tomas, the closest thing that the cultists had to a leader. The Alpha Legion encouraged flexible structure in their warriors, allowing their full abilities of innovation and adaptability to come into play. But Tomas was the closet to a permanent leader.
''Speak.'' Zerathras said.
''Sir, we have been breached, a team of loyalist Astartes had moved in and obliterated sentry team four.'' Tomas said.
Zerathras's interest was peaked. ''How so?''
''We've spotted the female tech-priest that managed to escape, I thought her damaged Rhino would get stranded in the storm and she would die.'' Tomas said, sucking in his breath.
''Evidently she did not, can you identify the chapter?'' Zerathas asked.
''Yes sir, it is the Praetors of Orpheus, Second Founding according to our files.'' Tomas said.
''The lapdogs of Guilliman.''the Alpha Legionary mused. Millennia past Zerathras had witnessed the acts that drove the Alpha Legion from the Imperium. He had always held a dislike for the blindly indoctrinated followers of Guilliman. Now he would get a chance to slay their descendents
''Sir, it was my incompetence that allowed the female tech-priest to escape.'' Tomas said, bowing his head.
If Zerathras was a Word Bearer he would have slain the cultist outright for his failure. But he was a more intelligent sort of Astartes. In the Alpha Legion failures were to be studied and remedied. That was the way of Alpharius.
''We will ruminate on your failure later Tomas, prepare the rest of your teams and launch an ambush,'' Zerathras turned his head to Raetirn. ''Brother prepare your charges, we have a surprise for the Praetors.'' he said, pulling on his serpent helm as he did so.
Nicanor's power sword was wet with the blood of the Alpha Legion dupes. A las-blast scorched his chestplate, but did little harm. Beside him Lukias fired off a burst from his bolter, blowing the cultist apart. For the most part the cultists were not screaming fanatics, but professional looking soldiers clad in flak armor and wielding lasguns. Looking them over they were trained to the highest Guard standards and well-led.
The Praetors went brought them like a knife through hot butter.
''They are cowards,'' Ceranus sneered. ''For sending their dupes to fight instead of themselves. Alpha Legion scum.'' he snarled.
''They don't deserve to call themselves Astartes.'' added Dakias. The Praetor spotted the form of a cultist fleeing around the corner.
''Anyone want that?'' he asked.
''I'm on it.'' Daecus said, running around the corner. A moment later three shots signaled the end of resistance in that corridor.
Nearby chaplain Iapetos stalked the corridors, crozius wet with the blood of cultists.
''Alpha trash! Come and Face me!''
he shouted, turning his vox-signal up to maximum.
Suddenly something ripped through a nearby wall. Nicanor's lenses polarized the blast even as he identified it as a melta blast. Quickly he realized a meltagun-armed cultist must have been hiding behind one of the walls. Clever.
But not clever enough.
Energy fields crackled around Iapetos as he clutched at his Rosarius. His skull-helm glared as the surprised cultist standing behind the melted wreck of the wall. The Chaplain leveled his plasma pistol and vaporized him as he turned to run.
''Hmp, that's it?'' he muttered.
Nearby Aeton withdrew his data-thief from a terminal. Nicanor turned to look at him.
''What did you get?'' he asked.
''The place is infested with some sort of daemonic virus.'' surprisingly Nicanor detected a hint of revulsion in the Tech-Priest's normally ice cold voice. ''The data-corruption centers on the main observation center.'' he indicated.
Nicanor turned to Valeria, who was hiding behind behind the bulk of Morovian. He could practically see her terror and nervousness.
''Do you know where that is?'' he asked.
Scared she could only nod hesitantly. She had not even fired her hellpistol yet. Nicanor felt almost disappointed in her for some strange reason.
''Brother-Sergeant,'' Lukias's voice came over his vox. ''Servitors.''
Nicanor whipped his head around. Coming down the hallways were dozens upon dozens of servitors, their metallic arms waving a variety of maintenance tools and improvised weaponry. They walked with a almost feral jerking gait.
''Feral,'' Valeria whispered. ''The heretics have done something... something to servitor's programs.''
Nicanor looked upon this new foe dispassionately.
''It matters not, were are they coming from?'' he asked Valeria.
''The servitor bay, that way.'' she pointed..
Nicanor nodded. ''Then we will cut off that source there and proceed on, Chaplain Iapetos, Apion, would you do the honors?'' he asked.
''With pleasure brother.'' Apion aimed his flamer and aimed a great burst of promethium that tore through the corridor. Flesh was engulfed in blazing promethium and metal limbs fused together in the great blaze.
''Praetors of Orpheus, move out.'' Nicanor commanded
They reached the servitor bay three minutes later.
Nicanor's sword was once more caked with blood, this time the flat blood and machine oils of the servitors. Every step the Praetors fought their seemed to be an endless tide of servitor slaves. They were very poorly armed and attacked with little skill. It was more of a chore really than an actual fight. Behind them Valeria cowered behind Morovian's bulk.
At last they came to the servitor-chamber.
It was a massive room, thirty meters wide and many more long. Ranks of servitors were being unloaded from their holding crates and down where they marched jerkily out to the doors. Hundreds more were laying inactive in more crates. Nicanor nodded to Apion and he let his flamer lose on the dormant servitors, roasting countless inactive cybernetic serfs. Chaplain Iapetos strode forward, crozius flashing as he tore into the servitors in front of him. Aeton and Nicanor followed with their own weapons.
It was almost an insult, Nicanor thought. These servitors are mindless automatons. They feel no pain or fear, but fight with no skill or strength. He cut them down like a farmer harvesting argi-wheat. He hardly had to work.
Then he heard words. Foul words.
Several servitors at the end of the crates began to write and moan. Looking closer with his gene-boosted vision Nicanor saw these servitors covered in strange markings, like hastily applied tattoos. Blood and oils burst as the servitors simply began to explode. Within the puddles of gore shapes began to form.
He saw skins of shadows and eyes of blood. Smoky, black things appeared. Daemons.
''Alpha Legion!'' Apion roared as Nicanor spotted the figure. It was an Astartes, but some sort of twisted parody of the Praetors. It's power armor was a blue-green and covered with twisting snake-like runes. It's helm was horned and from an archaic mark. The Alpha Legionnaire held an old, but well maintained bolter in his hands.
Bolters rounds knocked Nicanor back, the rounds blowing out chunks of ceramite. Aeton's bolter came up, spitting rounds, but the Alpha Legionary was already moving away, behind the crates of servitors unloading. Iapetos raced after him, plasma pistol spiting rounds at the Alpha Legionary. But the Chaos Astartes was fast, as each of the superheated plasma bolts missed him by only a few feet, only scorching his armor barely. Instead each shot incinerated stacks of flesh-units.
Finally Ceranus made the shot. The finest shot in Second Squad placed a bolter round on the right leg joint of the Chaos Marine, practically blowing the leg off. The Alpha Legionary stumbled and Iapetos took the opportunity to vaporize him with his plasma pistol. The Chaplain's roar of triumph was cut short as a daemon tackled him. Iapetos ripped the daemon off but several more winged daemons advanced through the hail of bolter fire being directed at them.
Winged daemons flew up and tore their claws into the reserve power units, igniting a chain reaction that sent entire rows of flesh-units falling down, igniting promethium reserve tanks. Immediately a field of fire cut off the Second Squad from Iapetos.
''Chaplain!'' Nicanor activated his vox signal. Nearby Valeria was crying in horror at the sight of the daemons.
''I am alive Brother-Sergeant.'' Iapetos composed voice came over the line.
''We will dig you out Brother-Chaplain-'' Nicanor began.
''No!'' Iapetos voice came over the vox. ''Continue with the mission! That is a direct order.'' he commanded.
''Do not argue! Go, we have no time.'' With that Iapetos cut the connection.
Nicanor looked ahead. He could not make out the form of Iapetos beneath the wall of burning flesh-units and scrap metal. The insane cackles of daemons filled the air, along with a series of quotations from the Liber Orpheus
''Squad Nicanor, move up on my command, we have work to do.''
In the middle of the flames Chaplain Barcus Iapetos raised Purgator
and his plasma pistol. Black winged shapes came out shrieking through the inferno and dead hands reached for him. He crushed the limbs with great blows from his crozius.
''I am Barcus Iapetos! Son of Orpheus! Warrior of the Emperor
! Perish you mongrel stains on human existence!'' the Chaplain roared as he closed in for one final time.
Valeria was quiet. She was not sure quite what she had seen. Those strange, evil shapes that had appeared among the flames chilled her to her very soul. She had thought herself a calm, capable person, but those things.
Those things were utterly wrong and unnatural, just thinking about them made her want to vomit in horror and disgust. She began to retch up uncontrollably. A bit of vomit came on the floor, flecking Morovian's boot as she wrenched over.
She heard one of the Astartes give a snort of disgust as Morovian hauled her up.
''Are you fine milady?'' Morovian asked. Valeria was shocked out of her warp-induced horror by the very idea that some someone like her would be a ''lady''.
''No, not fine,'' she choked out. ''Those things-''
''Such weakness this is what we protect?'' said Ceranus disdainfully.
''Those things will die.'' said Nicanor, turning to Ceranus. ''I can tell that you all are disquieted over Brother-Chaplain Iapetos's death, do not be. This is our fate, we are born to make war and we are born to die. We will avenge Iapetos.'' he sighed.
He then looked at Valeria, lifting her chin up gently as he could. ''I apologize my lady, but I do not have much time to speak with you, we must move quickly, and you must be brave, you must not get in the way of my brothers. Nod if you understand.'' he said, his voice distorted by his vox-grille.
Hesitantly, she nodded.
''Good.'' Nicanor straightened back up,. ''Ceranus, Apion, Aeton, you take point.''
It was in a large control room he encountered the traitors.
Apion led the way, flamer blazing as his autosenses picked up movement, a gout of promethium filled the entrance to the chamber as the young Astartes scanned about for threats. There was a set of human screams, and then silence. Then for a moment, as Ceranus and Aeton entered, they realized that the corpses that Apion had roasted were normal sized humans, albeit blackened and burnt into an almost unrecognizable crisp. Indeed, the only Alpha Legionary was a Chaos Marine standing at the far side of the chamber.
It was a silver-armored Marine, who was inserting strange metallic feelers into the skull of a bound Magos at the far side of the chamber. It paid the Praetors no heed as it continued it's work. Nicanor felt his anger rise at the ignorance. He raised his bolter, then something charged through a set of limb-replacement vats. It was an Alpha Legionary armed with a plasma gun, his faceplate carved to resembled some sort of daemonic skull Even as Nicanor's bolter was trained in on him, the Praetor was forced to admit that it was clever finding a way to hide Astartes bulk behind the lab equipment.
He barely squeezed the trigger when a bright burst of plasma flared into existence. Aeton was struck by it. The upper half of the Techmarine was simply vaporized in the heat of a small sun as the form of Ceranus was obscured by light and tossed in the lower decks. Behind metallic panels burst the forms of more Astartes. They moved swiftly, firing off brief bursts of bolter fire. Severus's helm exploded from a headshot, his body falling to the ground, his bolter slipping from his nerveless fingers.
Two of Squad Nicanor were down in so few moments. It was shocking. But Nicanor had their vengeance. Lukias's bolter blew back the plasma gunner with several shots, blowing away chunks of ceramite from his armor.
An Alpha Legionary, wearing a serpent-like helm, dropped from above, his power sword blazing as he cut Dakias from shoulder to hip, the two halves of the Marine fell to the ground smoking. The Champion's next sword stroke tore open Daecus's breastplate, carving a massive wound across his torso. Another Alpha Marine with a chainsword hammered his blade into the chestplate of Apion as he brought his flamer up and was shoulder charged by Morovian who fired off a quick burst first. The Alpha Legionary spun around and sliced the bolter in half with one swift, snake-like lunge.
Meanwhile Lukias noticed the plasma gunner recovering and he cursed as he found his bolter empty. He ran forwards, drawing his combat knife and tackled the Alpha Legionary, wrestling the plasma gun out of his grip and sending it spinning across the floor.
The Alpha Champion raised his sword for the killing stroke and then leapt to the side as Nicanor's shots went off mark. The Alpha Marine dove forward, blade slicing Nicanor's bolter at the grip as the Praetor drew his own blade and blocked the next swing.
The Chaos Champion brought the snake-like helm in, the fanged grille sneering.
''For the Emperor.'' the Champion shouted triumphantly as Nicanor snarled in hatred at the blatant mockery. He kicked the Alpha Legionary away but the enemy fighter recovered and launched into a blistering counterattack.
Valeria stood paralyzed with shock. The research chamber she knew from her days before was transformed into a battlefield, covered by blackened corpses and bloody bodies. Astartes in white and green wrestled and dueled across the area in a brutal close quarter fight. In the rear the blank-faced monster still stood motionless, ignoring the carnage around him, he was too far away to be affected by any of the fighting as he pushed his feelers deeper into Carnus's skull. The Magos groaned in pain. Valeria gasped with shock and horror. A sick feeling began to grow inside her.
She looked at her hands.
She knew what she must do.
The Alpha Legionary was unlike any other swordsman save perhaps Captain Atreus and the Chapter Master. Nicanor knew he was good, very good, but compared to this Chaos Marine he was barely holding his own. The Alpha Legionary's sword had a hilt that looked like it was forged from human bone and it flickered with crimson fire. His style was excellent, favoring attack over defense.
The power sword scorched his shoulder guard, burning through the tactical symbol as Nicanor blocked another blow. He brought his fist around, punching the Alpha Legionary in the face, but the warrior leapt back and attacked again. His next attack brought Nicanor down back as he raised his sword to defend against another attack, his power sword went spinning to the ground, deactivating in a haze of blue flames as the Alpha Legionary brought his sword about.
''For the Emperor.'' the Alpha Legionary repeated.
Then their was a las-shot and the Alpha Legionary's head snapped around. Standing several feet away was Valeria, holding her hellpistol with one hand. The Magos's arms slumped in his restraints as his head rolled back. The silver-faced Techmarine, Malathrax, screeched in pain and shock, holding his head as his connection was broken. He staggered back, holding his skull. Distracted for a moment by the loss of their asset, Zerathras was left vulnerable as Nicanor kicked him the stomach, kicking him to the ground.
Leaping on Zerathras, Nicanor knocked the sword from the Alpha Legionary's hands and attempted to strangle him, the serpent helm was knocked from his head and the two struggled across the ground, writhing and rolling. The Chaos's marine's bare face was visible to Nicanor, his tanned, deep features snarling at Nicanor. Quickly he spat at the Praetor, his acid saliva messing up the Praetor's visor. Nicanor threw off the Alpha Legionary and tore off his helmet.
Zerathras recovered quickly on the ground, keeping his eye on Nicanor and he grasped around for his power sword, his hands found the hilt and he smiled in triumph. He started to press the activation rune when he heard the familiar snap-hiss of a power sword being activated.
''Goodbye.'' a voice said as he turned around. Something blue flashed and his head rolled to the ground.
Nicanor got up, staring at the battered form of Ceranus. His left arm was a blackened stump from elbow down and his armor was burnt and warped. In one hand he clutched Nicanor's discarded power sword.
''Brother.'' Nicanor breathed out.
''In the flesh sir.'' Ceranus nodded.
They were distracted then by a feminine scream. The silver-faced Chaos marine recovered and leapt at Valeria, ignoring the hellbolts fired at him. Quickly Nicanor grabbed the power sword from Ceranus and leapt forward. The blade flashed and the twin halves of the corrupted chaos marine crashed to the floor in front of Valeria. Nearby Lukias got up, combat knife wet with the black blood of the Alpha Legionary. He turned around to see the chainsword-wielding Alpha Legionary throw Morovian to his feet while a badly wounded Apion reeled back.
The Chaos Marine stood, breathing heavily, chainsword caked with Apion's blood as the Praetors began to surround him. His horned helmet darted back and forth as his battered armor wheezed in protest.
''Come on you whoresons-'' he began.
A plasma gun fired, vaporizing the upper half of the Chaos Marine as Lukias threw away the fallen Alpha Legionary's gun.
''My apologies Brother-Sergeant, for using a tainted weapon of the enemy, I will report to the Apothecary for the purity checks.'' Lukias nodded.
''Noted Lukias,'' Nicanor breathed, walking over to a trembling Valeria. The Tech-Adept dropped her hellpistol and grabbed Nicanor's gauntlet, crying as she did so.
''It was the only way, he was dying'' she sobbed.
Unsure of how to handle it, Nicanor simply stood and let her cry on his gauntlet.
We wait for two hours after finshing off the last of the Alpha Legionaries.
The rest of Third Company came, led by Captain Atreus himself. They purge the last remaining cultists and daemons from the complex and then begin purging operations into the surrounding Varnus townships. Atreus assures me it will not take long.
Aeton, Severus and Dakias are slain. Death is to be expected in the life of an Astartes, but their losses are still shocking. The Captain offered to carve the names in the Hall of Heroes himself, but I disagree. It will be my burden.
Iapetos remains alive, as does Daecus. The Chaplain was found by Apothecary Kyros, barely alive and buried among the wreckage. Even now his condition is critical. Kyros does not know if he can make it. Daecus's diagnosis looks more promising. Ceranus has lost an arm and is being rushed to the Apothecarion for a replacement. He is none too happy about it's lost, having to work through his aim again. But he will cope. I know he will.
Atreus thanks me, but assigns my squad fleet duties for the duration of the campaign. Part of me wishes to be on the front lines.....but another part simply wants to mourn. It's a very odd feeling, one that I am not comfortable with. We will receive new squad replacements in time, he assures me.
As for the the Tech-Priest Valeria, she was taken by a Mechanicus shuttle later in the day. I did not speak to her as she left. I don't think it was needed. I cannot offer her any consolation. I am not trained for it. That is the work of the Tech-Priests to fix and heal her.
As for now, I concentrate on another healing. That of my squad.