Chapter 7: Discussions
‘I want Sixth and Tenth company deployed planet side around the city of Varsha,’ ordered Jacquefre, one of his techpriests spraying Ceramite sealant on the gash across his vambrace as the great lord sat in his captured throne, ‘armies of the heretic’s ground forces besiege the last of the loyalist cities and I want the foe smashed between their walls and our guns.’
‘Lord the Tenth is not yet ready to fight a surface war, they’re training is only half finished. I must protest deploying them in mass’ said Scout-Sergeant Marcroix the jet skin of his face bearing three white scars from the talons of a gene-stealer Patriarch.
‘Those that survive the fires of battle will be proved strong enough,’ replied the Chapter-Master, ‘any that fall in their first fight do not deserve to carry our primarch’s sacred blood.’
‘The boys will die Pierre, they will die and their loss will not meet their worth’ barked Marcroix, fury in his face as he glared at the First Bull in the throne room of the captured Heretic cruiser, ‘we cannot afford to lose their geneseed, especially when we haven’t had word from Douglas for years.’
‘I find your lack of respect disturbing Marcroix; you do not sound like the same man who once trained me. In any event, Douglas and the Crusade companies will return when Leviathan has been vanquished and not before,’ said Jacquefre, ‘we can make do without them until then.’
‘Lords, If I may make a suggestion,’ interrupted Beast Lord Montblanc raising his hands in a conciliatory gesture between the two war leaders, ‘perhaps the 6th and 10th could be reinforced in their landing? Surely the valiant warriors of the 9th company or even the vaunted Terminators could be assigned as well. The scouts would learn well from seeing them in action.’
‘A brilliant request Montblanc but I am afraid I cannot say yes to it,’ replied Jacquefre, inspecting the repaired armor as the Tech-adept moved away, ‘the 9th is needed to continue the purges aboard this captured ship, as are most of our available Librarians. It must be scourged thoroughly before it can be taken into our service. As for the 1st Company, we shall be deploying into Corminhaus.’
‘The rebellion’s capital First Bull? A bold move that is and genius, to cut out the cancer’s heart while its arms still think they can fight us,’ said Montblanc, magnanimously accepting the rejection of his proposal.
‘Yes Montblanc,’ agreed Jacquefre, ‘confusion will ripple through their ranks, throwing their armies into chaos.’
‘I am sure you do not wish to tarnish your victory with an excess of companions Lord,’ the psyker carefully spoke, ‘so the victory will undoubtedly remain yours and yours alone. May I request that I and my herd be allowed to fight with 6th and 10th company, if only so the new recruits may become used to working with adult beasts.’
‘Of course,’ the First Bull said with a dismissive wave of his hand, ‘First and First alone shall carry the day against Corminhaus, your pack is released to play with the children.’
‘Then if I may take my leave lord Jacquefre,’ the Epistolary said with a bow and left the bridge of the captured warship.
Marcroix silently fell in beside Montblanc, the two officers marching down the gore splattered corridor that lead to the landing bay of their thunder hawk. The scout leader unclipped the helm from his belt, a hideous thing overlaid with the jaws and portions of the frontal skull of a juvenile fire beast. Montblanc did not need to employ his talents to know that he should do the same.
‘His megalomania grows worse by the hour,’ said Marcroix securely over their in-built Vox, ‘and it is affecting his tactical sense.’
‘Indeed,’ spoke Montblanc, ‘sending the scouts in as a substitute battle company when our numbers and gene seed are so low is insane. Especially when he keeps 9th company in orbit busy purging this physical embodiment of his greed, all the while risking the corruption of every warrior who treads in it. We barely have the man and Astartes power to keep the Fiend and Maw running, much less to add another white elephant to our fleet. Especially one from a class notorious for being infected by the dark powers and only barely reclaimed from their clutches.’
‘I saw him give the orders to Halot’ replied the scout master, ‘the warp jump was his idea. It could have killed us all, it very nearly did. I pray that the crew of Gladius-5 died swiftly, whatever happened to them.’
‘May the Emperor protect them Marcroix,’ said Montblanc, making the sign of the Aquila across his chest.
The Librarian sighed, ‘His plan to attack the rebellion’s place of origin is idiotic. It is not worthy of a chapter master, even a newly made Battle Brother would recognize that any claims to leadership the original cult possessed evaporated the moment the ‘Emperor’s Children’ arrived. Their leadership was either in orbit or is with their main army.’
‘I do not know what his plan is,’ said Montblanc, ‘but I know it will bring no good upon us.’
‘I pray for the Black’s return,’ Marcroix said openly, ‘if Jacquefre’s madness continues there can be only one alternative…’
‘It is best not to speak of that,’ reproached Montblanc, ‘I am going to consult the Ancients and pray that they may deliver a way out of this to me.’
Tyme slid the rough edge of his file down the edge of his combat spatha for the hundredth time. He had already disassembled, meticulously cleaned and reassembled his blessed bolt pistol, as well as polishing his scout armor to a dull gleam and replacing a cracked carapace plate. The file scrapped as it honed the sword’s already razor like edge a final time. Finishing his sacred maintenance, the neophyte stood and sheathed the spatha at his hip.
Amongst his gear was a small mirror, to be used for looking around corners and examining the straps on the back of his armor. Tyme looked into it now, examining the foreign face that stared back at him. His once skin had lightened almost to the point of albinism, some of the blue veins beneath becoming visible. The reverse had happened to his eyes, the once hazel orbs having darkened to midnight black.
His compatriots, Symon, Gilead, Hexile and Martel had seen their skin and hair turn the color of the void, while their eyes became the fierce red of a fiery furnace. Part of Tyme was disturbed by the increasing physical differences between himself and his brother Neophytes and he was tempted to ask Sergeant Marcroix about it the next time he saw the squad leader.
‘Do you ever wonder Gilead,’ Tyme asked his friend, ‘why the Primarch’s gene seed causes such varying affects amongst us?’
‘Not really,’ said the other neophyte, who was busy polishing his helm, ‘but the memo-machines say that blood of Holy Vulkan burns differently in different men.’
‘Scouts stand too!’ the deep and familiar voice of Marcroix boomed across the bay housing the hundred and twenty odd scouts. The hulking Sergeant strode into the square chamber with its six five man cells embedded in each wall, his charges reverently laying aside the weapons and armor they tended to assemble in front of him.
‘According to the august will of the esteemed First Bull Jacquefre, we shall be going into battle aside 6th company on the planet below in a few hours. Before you sleep each of you shall draw a triple load of ammunition from the armory and speak the litanies of victory and Laments of peace. Tomorrow, we shall act in a strictly supporting role; we will allow the 6th and Beast Lord Montblanc’s beasts to due to heavy hitting. We are to verify enemy positions to the Whirlwinds, infiltrate portions of their fortifications and only engage when necessary. Listen to your sergeants, trust your training and have faith in the Primarch and the Emperor.’
Deep in the bowels of the Loyal Fiend an enormous figure stalked through the blackness. Eyes that could stare into the sun unflinching and pierce the deepest depths of midnight had no need for the auto senses of the helm that hung at his side, nor any glow cast by artificial lights. Crew almost never visited these sections, the empyrean depths between the embarkation bays and the beast kennels was the realm of servitors fitted with high powered lamps and cutting torches to repair severed wiring and power feeds.
The figure paused before a nondescript section of bulkhead, armored hands running over invisible seams in the wall. A door hissed as it withdrew upwards, revealing further darkness within. Without pause the figure entered, a short passage leaving him at the center of an X. Several huge gun servitors stood silent, idly cycling their weapons at the figures in the corners, while a feeding servitor stood slack.
In each corner lay a captured Traitor Astarte, lashed to the wall with Ceramite chains and encased behind a solid foot and a half of solid armourcrys glass which was further covered by a flickering void shield. The fronts of their cages would take a main battle take considerable time to batter down; to the occupants they might as well be invincible.
Null-field generators hummed in front of the cell of a Thousand Son’s sorcerer, the sound almost displacing the ancient mystic’s mutterings. Across from him a World Eater Berserker madly through himself at the barrier, his adamantium chains catching him short each time. Foam dripped from his mouth as he howled inane curses. In another corner a Death Guard plague marine launched projectile vomiting against his cell’s triple shielded and quad-ventilated walls. Finally, a Slaaneshi Emperor’s Child hissed obscene promises of revenge and pleasure into the darkness.
The figure that had breached this place of madness stood silent.
‘Launch in ten,’ said the automated voice of the drop-pod.
‘Do you ever wander who recorded all those things?’ asked Hexile.
‘All of what things?’ Martel asked taciturnly.
‘Those recordings,’ answered Hexile, ‘the ones here and in the thunder hawks and the rhinos and the elevators. Was it just one person? Did the chapter hire him? Do all the chapters share this person’s recordings or does each use their own voice?’
‘No I never wandered that,’ said Martel, ‘because I have better things to do than sit around and wander about recorded voices.’
‘Launch in seven.’
‘Ah? What better things?’ asked the squad’s marksman, Hexile having by far scored the best in the daily marksman drills, ‘Locked in here it’s not exactly like we can go anywhere, nor even move our arms really.’
‘You should recite the Litanies of Battle,’ answered Martel, ‘to prepare your soul and mind for the coming struggle.’
‘You sound like a chaplain Martel,’ said Tyme, breaking up the argument, ‘you’ve been listening to MacCallister too much.’
‘Lord MacCallister is an honored member of the Fire Beasts,’ replied Martel, ‘and you would do well to follow his teachings.’
‘Launch in five’ the voice droned, oblivious to the argument.
‘It’s not that I don’t respect Chaplain MacCallister,’ explained Tyme, ‘but that you’re beginning to sound like him.’
‘And what if I am?’
‘Launch in three’
‘Well shouldn’t you at least wait until you’ve made battle brother before trying to get promoted to Chaplain?’
‘How dare you assert that I wish for Lord MacCallister’s position!’ Martel spoke half jokingly, ‘Were I not strapped in here I’d beat you into the deck for impugning my honor so.’
‘Launch in one.’
‘We can do so after the battle,’ said Tyme, ‘to the death or merely the first broken bone?’
‘Broken bone of course,’ replied Martel, ‘I would not wish to deprive our chapter of an Astartes, even one as pathetic as you. I shall allow you to retain enough bone structure that one day perhaps you can serve to polish the deck in front of me.’
A great rumbling shook the pod as the two squads of Scouts within were fired from the underside of Loyal Fiend. A dozen other pods fell beside them, while thunder hawks zoomed out from the battleship’s hangers carrying sixth company and the heavy vehicles.
‘Woe to you, oh heretic and xeno,’ came Marcroix’ voice over the Vox.
‘For the Emperor sends the Beasts with WRATH!’ the scouts yelled back.
Chapter 8: Varsha
Tyme had decided that MacAllister was insane.
The neophyte came to this conclusion as he had watched the Reclusiarch head butt a Slaaneshi terminator, piercing the armourcrys eye-slits of the ancient helm with the fang like horns that descended from the chaplain’s skull mask. MacAllister vomited fire from one of the horns, burning the face off of the terminator, all the while roaring out psalms.
‘Thus *SNKT* mighty Vulkan smite the heretic, *FZZT* his maul and his *SZZZ* did he smash them upon the *STZS*, with his spear did he *STZZ* their innards, with his fire did he burn them down!’
This sermon came haphazardly from the hulking Chaplain’s vox caster, the grill being half smashed against the unyielding Ceramite helmet of the heretical Emperor’s Child. Tyme did not think this bothered MacCallister, who continued smashing his crozius into the still twitching Terminator as he preached.
‘Get up!’ someone, Gilead maybe, yelled at him, his words interspersed with bolter fire.
At this point, Tyme realized he was lying on the rubble covered ground. His own blood in quantities large enough to be somewhat alarming stained the dark green and red portions of his carapace. The grey ash of the burning city was already sticking to it, forming a disgusting artificial scab across his chest. Fortunately, the flow seemed to have stopped, his newly implanted Larraman’s organ pumping out modified blood platelets to sealing the shrapnel wounds.
He pushed himself up, grabbing his discarded bolter as he rose. Tyme and the rest of the squad were in the cover of a destroyed Centaur APC, providing cover to MacCallister as he continued to beat the pair of Slaaneshi terminators to death. For all the power of their antediluvian armor, the gigantic heathens appeared helpless before the near berserk Chaplain. He’d actually ripped the bolter from one’s gauntlets and smashed it across the other’s heat ravaged face plate.
On the opposite side of the street, increasing numbers Slaaneshi converts were pouring fire from las and autoguns into the melee between the two Astartes. The swiftly falling twilight and omnipresent ash storm was throwing off their aim, but every once in a while a solid round would ping off of MacCallister or his opponents.
‘Glad to see you up Tyme,’ quipped Hexile as he brought up his sniper rifle, aimed and fired in a single motion. The marksman dropped back behind the ruined vehicle as a storm of return fire slammed into its other side. ‘Got a Vox op, couldn’t let you sleep all day.’
‘My dreams were more pleasant,’ replied the other neophyte, checking the load of his bolter’s magazine. ‘Where’s the rest of the company?’
‘I figure about forty others and a squad from the 6th are in those habs behind us, they sound rather tied down’ explained Gilead. Almost as if to clarify his statement, about half of a cultist wearing battered PDF fatigues was hurled from an upper story window to land with a wet plop near the Centaur.
‘Macroix and the rest are somewhere to the south in the main fight. They and the 6th have detonated most of the bridges to funnel the horde into their guns. ’
‘MacCallister needs support up there,’ Martel stated, the power maul crackling to life in his hands. The hulking scout had stowed his shotgun across his back, eager to kill up close with his non-standard weapon. Tyme still had no idea where he had gotten it.
‘He looks like he’s doing fine to me,’ Tyme replied, ‘I’ve never seen anyone rip off a terminator’s arm like that. Or use it to crush a man’s skull. He’s taking on their infantry now, but they don’t seem to be breaking.’
‘They’re meat before our maws,’ Martel snapped back, ‘mortals, lacking in both faith and fire power.’
‘They came from over the bridge and if they’re not breaking that means more of them will probably show up, maybe even ones that can shoot. Or ones with tanks, or even worse some combination of the two,’ Tyme explained, ‘we’ll need to prevent that unless we want our service to end in this mud pile of a city.’
‘Five tanks,’ said Symon, ‘large ones…’
The psyker-scout had sat unmoving for the past several minutes, apparently lost in meditation. Both of his eyes now glowed an unearthly blue and the stench of ozone from him was overwhelming. His hair was standing on end and tiny bolts of miasmic energy were dancing down his drawn spatha.
‘and lots of infantry,’ he finished.
‘Well that settles it we’re leaving,’ said Tyme, ‘is our vox network still down?’
‘Interference didn’t let up while you napped,’ replied Hexile, punctuating his speech with another shot, ‘Lieutenant.’
‘Symon can you..’
‘Alert Sergeant Macroix, Captain Sheireff or Librarian Montblanc to our movement? Yes I did.’
‘That’s about as annoying as it is helpful.’
‘We can get in behind them while they’re focused on the duel,’ agreed Gilead, ‘take out the bridge and cut their reinforcements off. Only question is how we survive to get across the street.’
‘I can solve that,’ Tyme grinned, ‘come here Martel, I need you to break something.’
It had taken a few moments but Martel’s power maul had managed to carve a large enough hole in the asphalt to give the squad entry into the sewer system. Filthy water stained their already sordid greaves and boots as the scout squad pushed forwards. All of the squad had already undergone the surgeries that saw their vision enhancing Occulobes, allowing them to view the wide sewer in all its feces covered glory. Early in the battle scores of civilians had come to hide down here, only to fall victim to infection and starvation. From what remained of their rat-gnawed carcasses, Tyme could tell they had turned on one another before the end.
‘Left at the next tunnel,’ Hexile said, reading the returns from the dim auspex screen. His bulky rifle was strapped to his back, a rubber covering over its mouth. The rectangular auspex and a bolt pistol were clenched in his two fists.
‘There’s no glory down here,’ muttered Martel, both gauntlets clenched around the haft of his maul, ‘unless we have declared war upon the rats.’
‘How much farther?’ asked Tyme of the sniper.
‘Not far now,’ replied Hexile, ‘the bridge should be nearby.’
Tyme was the first one to see the ladder leading to the surface and the first one to climb it. He barely raised the lip of the manhole cover, poking out a thin fiber optic cable to view the surface. What he saw did not inspire confidence.
‘At least a platoon up there,’ he whispered down, ‘PDF traitors from their armor and organization. A lot of light vehicles, some of them look like communication arrays.’
‘Could be the jammers’ the technical minded Hexile opined.
And… shyte, there are tanks coming up the suspension bridge. Big ones. Looks like… Stormswords. Five of them.’
‘I may not be the First Bull,’ Gilead spoke, ‘but that’s enough to wipe out the company.’
‘Well we’re just going to have to make sure they don’t reach the company.’
Chapter 9: Sabotage
Scout-Sergeant Macroix had been born and raised in the muck and poverty of the great Arlian swamps. Although he could not remember it, the hut he had dwelled in for the first nine years of his life had been a tiny single roomed thing with a mud floor and smoke stained walls. But for all its faults, the tiny house was a far healthier environment than the hab he currently battled through. The combination of tiny rooms, cramped hallways, ventilation systems home to dangerous carcinogens, water lines polluted with poisons made it an inevitable death trap to the thousands of impoverished workers that had once lived in it. Currently, the enormous gunfight between a scout company of Fire Beasts and hundreds of Slaaneshi cultists didn’t help it.
Macroix bellowed at his charges as they battled through the narrow hallways and claustrophobic rooms. The scouts were young and none had received all of their organs or reached their adult bulk, but all of them had been superbly trained over the past months. Their weapons and armor was not the equal of a Mature Beasts power armor and bolter, but they were well armed none the less. Moulded plates of carapace in the dark green and red-black of the chapter that could easily stop a bullet covered their torsos and forearms, while flak-weave fatigues protected the rest of their bodies from blade and shrapnel. Some of the initiates used automatic shotguns with fat bellied drum mags to spit 00 shot into the screaming heretics, while others used lighter caliber bolters to messily explode the enemy.
‘Aim low and use cover my young Beasts,’ the Sergeant ordered, ‘use grenades to flush them from their hiding places.’
Alerted by his enhanced senses, Macroix’s blood red eyes flashed to glimpse a squad of infiltrators drop from a vent behind him. In an instant his crow’s beak was gripped in his right hand, the adamantine pick slamming through the chest of the first cultist to land. What was left of the wretch’s filthy silken finery was ruined by the polluted blood spilling from her ruined body. His left fist, the rock hard glove of Ceramite and admantine studded with the shed fangs of an adult Fire Beast slammed into the next to fall, crushing ribs and shredding organs. Brother Hazeem, one of the Devastators detailed to support the Scout Company, fired a burst from his ornate flamer into the ducts. The gout of flame erupted from between the skeletal jaws of a juvenile fire beast mounted over the main barrel, cooking the rest of the infiltrators.
Macroix nodded to Hazeem, before using his body to smash through the dimly painted flakboard walls of a room to clear out a nest of stubbers that had some of his initiates pinned. He pierced with the pick end of the crow’s beak and smashed with its hammer while he drew his bolter with his left hand.
A flicker of something moved through his mind, an image of heavy armor rolling towards his men. For a moment he froze, allowing the enemy to scorch the paint of his armor with their las weapons. He recovered instantly, crushing one’s chest with a ferocious kick.
‘Sergeant Macroix pl*kreeshs* respond,’ came the voice of MacCallister across his vox, interrupted by bursts of static
‘Honored Chaplain I’m here,’ the scout leader replied, his crow’s beak blocking a swing from a chainsword. He riposted instantly, piercing the traitor officer’s helmet and scrambling the man’s chaos polluted brain with the razor sharp tip of his weapon. While the Sergeant’s right arm ripped the pick free from the twitching corpse, his left put a burst of bolter fire into the heavy weapons team desperately rising from their weapon. The traitors and the dingy walls of the hab were ripped apart by the mass reactive shells, their blood mixing with the ashy particles.
‘I’m cl*snkt* an Arbite precinct a*psrh*ss the street,’ the fearsome Chaplain answered, ‘There was a c*arsh*pany strength force here with e*snkst* Astartes support. I think you should k*prsst*ow that from here I can see m*crssh*r enemy reinforcements coming up the Narmenes Bridge S*snkt*eant, regiment strength force at least. They have e*sknet* heavy armor.’
‘I thought something like that might be going on. I can get three missile launchers down there in support, two from the scout squads and a Devastator brother down there in a moment, these buildings are almost cleared,’ Marcroix said, impaling a cultist with the short spike on the end of his pick. Blood that reeked of perfume of all thing vomited from the scum’s mouth as he kicked the traitor off and stove in the skull of another with the butt of his bolter, ‘where are the squad I already gave you? I think Symon tried to contact me.’
‘I lost c*dssst* with them while I was having a t*sdssdt* debate with two Terminators,’ replied MacCallister the crackling hum of his Crozius and a scream interrupting him, ‘this is serious. There are at least four Baneblade v*snkt* coming at us, more than enough to wipe out the scouts. I need Adult Beasts, plus air and armored support here, where is the 6th company? Where is Montblanc?’
‘6th is fully engaged with a war hound and a demi-company of Slaaneshi traitors at the moment. All of our predators and land raiders are with them, as are the thunderhawks. Montblanc went silent somewhere near the northern bridges, near where the last PDF holdouts are supposed to be.’
‘The fleet?’ asked MacCallister, his voice forlorn.
‘Fully engaged with captured defense platforms,’ replied Macroix, ‘I’m sending every missile launcher in the company to you as we speak. It’s all I can do now.’
‘Barring a miracle by the beneficent God-Emperor it would be futile.’
Narmenes bridge was an immense structure, the tips of its support towers reaching five hundred meters above the icy cold waters of the Al’Bry sea. Constructed by the famed arch-magos Tsu’lock two millennia earlier, it was eight lanes of black top wide and stretching more than a kilometer in length. Vast adamantine cables held up the enormous span of road, supporting it against storm and earth quake. House sized aquilas lacquered gold covered the sides of its enormous pillars, which were carved as titanic statues of the Emperor and his Primarchs, looking down at all those who passed with a mix of distaste and pity. All of these gigantic and expensive displays of piety had been painstakingly defaced with the hermaphroditic symbol of Slaanesh, made from the blood of those captives not enslaved or processed into combat drugs. But for all the attempts of the heretics to deface it, the bridge was still a gigantic symbol of Imperial achievement.
And every inch of it shook with rolling armor.
Four three hundred ton Stormlord Super-Heavy tanks took up a solid half of the bridge. They had been captured earlier in the war, their swamp camouflaged pant jobs had been repainted into garish hues of pus gold and vomit purple. Captured civilians and PDF troopers had been crudely bolted to their frames, electrical pulses jolted through them causing them to give off a chorus of groans designed to encourage the heavily armed siege troops housed in the transport bay. Damage from their capture still showed in the form of hastily replaced panels and blackened sections of armor, but the gigantic Vulcan mega-bolters housed in their primary turrets were still lethally functional.
Trojan trailers filled to the brim with heavy shells moved behind the trundling tanks, while on the opposite lanes a full battalion of swifter armor advanced towards the Fire Beasts. There were Leman Russ battle tanks of three different models, tank killing Vanquishers, bunker buster Destroyers and fast moving Conquerors. Flanking them were dozens of hydra flak tanks, their rotating turrets and powerful radars seeking out the Astartes gunships. Behind them came a score of bombard siege guns, ready to pound any resistance to dust. All together this was a force more than large enough to destroy the scout company with its massive fire power and then crush the 6th battle company to pieces against the remaining Titans and Emperors Children in the city.
‘About two minutes till they hit the other end Tyme,’ Gilead voxed in a short burst.
As a way of reply, Tyme blinked twice to trigger a short burst of static from his vox. He dangled high above the churning sea below, hands and knees tightly clenched against the support beams of the bridge. Next to him Hexile hung from a tight cord, his legs gripped tight against the pile. A micromelta was gripped in one hand, the flickering flame sealing a det-charge against a strut.
‘Not much time left,’ Tyme reported, handing the sniper another block of explosives.
'Then we’ll have to move fast then,’ Hexile returned breathlessly, ‘always a good idea with plastic explosives. How many left?’
‘Five,’ said Tyme, counting the charges strapped to his chest, ‘enough for the next strut if we can reach it in time.’
‘Then we’ll just have to won’t we?’ the sniper grinned. He holstered the micro-melta to his belt, and then tugged on the line that held him secure to the bridge. A flick of a switch saw the tough cord lengthen and then Hexile threw himself into the abyss.
Like some great spider he swung to reach the next column of bridge, roughly halfway across the span. The enemy armor was right on top of it, causing it to shake violently. Hexile barely managed to grab hold to the image of the Emperor’s divine knee, giving a short prayer of forgiveness for the coming blasphemy as he attached the line. Across the way Tyme slid down the diagonal slant of rope, his knees popping as he hit the column.
‘Less than a minute left,’ Gilead voxed again, ‘Symon is acting strange, I think he’s seizuring.’
‘We’ll worry about that later,’ Tyme returned, having handed his last det-pack to Hexile, ‘now we’ve got our own problems to deal with.’
Prior to squeezing through the hole in the vent cleaved with Martel’s power maul, the two scouts had left their weapons, save for a combat knife, and dumped their heavy carapace breastplates, grieves and helms. Now Tyme used his serrated blade to cut the laces of his combat boots and remove what remained of his rope harness.
‘Charges set,’ said Hexile, quickly removing what was left of his own gear.
‘How long?’ asked Tyme, sheathing his knife and looking down at the water. From here it looked icily cold.
‘Oh, why tell you and risk ruining the surprise,’