The pain was blinding, and Vettal grimaced as he tried to pull himself to his feet. Despite his superhuman abilities, and the painkillers flooding his bloodstream, Vettal already knew he couldn’t walk. Suddenly, the figure of Veptus dropped from above, where he had been perched on the wreck of the Thunderhawk. Dropping to a crouch without a word, Vettal allowed himself to slump against the wreckage as the Corpsemaster looked over Vettal’s wound. Watching the medic work, it was almost as if he had been born with a scalpel in his hand, he moved with fluency that few could boast. Two needles pierced Vettal’s skin, pumping yet more drugs into his blood. Vettal watched as Veptus raised his head to address him, although he could barely concentrate on the words.
“This will hurt a lot, and you can scream if you like. But if you let orks swarm us while I’m helping you, I’ll kill you myself.”
Before Vettal could even comprehend what the medic had said, he could only watch as, with one motion, Veptus pulled the jagged shard of metal free from his leg. The pain was white-hot, burning, intense, more than any Vettal had ever experienced. Nearly biting through his own tongue in an attempt to stop himself from screaming, Vettal groaned and nearly fell to the ground. Yet with the determination that only the Emperor’s Finest can show, Vettal steeled himself and stayed on his feet.
In an instant, Vettal’s leg armour was gone, discarded by Veptus as the las-scalpel on his sleeve whirred to life and cut into the Space Marines flesh. By now, the pain was a single ringing note inside Vettal’s head, deafening any kind of thoughts he could have, only trusting entirely in the Corpsemaster’s renowned ability. Vettal clenched his fists as Veptus continued to work on his leg, cutting deep into his flesh, pushing his bones into place once more. Vettal groaned again as a loud crunch rang out, but again stayed on his feet and fought through the pain. Vettal felt the cold touch of medical concrete flowing into his joint, and knew he would have no time to allow his bones to rest.
Veptus rose to his feet, and for a fleeting moment Vettal believed the procedure to be complete, although the searing pain remained. But all thoughts of this were gone as Veptus tore off Vettals’s chest-plate and the laser lit up once more. As the burning pain cut through his skin and muscle, Vettal nearly fell to his knees, but somehow remained on his feet.
Somewhere, seemingly far off in the distance although Vettal knew the voice was coming from right beside him, came the sound of the Chaplain, Jaekal approaching, although he could make out no words of the short exchange between the Chaplain and Corpsemaster though the pain.
As Vettal felt his flesh once more being cut, his conscience retreated into some dark corner of his mind where the pain was gone, and nothing but silence remained. However this perfect isolation was shattered as the roaring voice of Veptus cut through the silence.
“Time to go.”
Coming back to reality with a rush, the looming helmet of Veptus came into his vision.
Nodding slightly, Vettal could only watch as the medic drew his twin weapons and set off at a run away from Vettal.
Despite the still roaring pain from his leg, Vettal knew he had to move and so, with a titanic effort, he pushed himself off the wreck, and slowly, one agonising step after the other, set off after the rapidly disappearing Apocethary. However, thanks to the work of that same Apocethary, the pain slowly dulls to a numb throbbing, and Vettal manages to push himself into a sprint, keeping up with the rest of the First Claw.
After a few metres, Vettal slowed, raising his Autocannon and firing a spray of bullets
into the Ork charging towards his brothers. Satisfied by the screams of pain, Vettal set off again, only to stop again after around twenty metres in order to bring his heavy weapon to bear against a Transport that roared past. The stream of high calibre rounds shredded the Trukks tracks and sent it swerving away from the Frist Claw, despite the protesting roars of the Ork passengers. Vettal turned back to watch as his brothers slammed into the group of Orks like a whirlwind of blades and bolters. Vettal set off at a run, or as close to one as the pain coursing through his body would allow, and followed Veptus and Jaekal as they cut a path through the Orks.
Vettal had almost caught up with the pair when suddenly a figure burst from the smoke and chaos of battle all around him. The Ork roared at the injured Space Marine, but this only gave Vettal time to swing his heavy Autocannon into the Ork’s face, shattering his nose with a crunch and snapping his tusk, silencing the aliens roars. Vettal ducked beneath the Ork’s flailing arms, placed his weapons barrel against the Ork’s chest and shredded the alien, splattering Vettal with crimson spray. Turning as the remains of the Ork fell to the ground in a mangled heap, Vettal had no time to block as another Ork swung his battered axe towards the injured Space Marine. Through some bizarre fluke, the weapon made contact with a seam in the armour and cut through, digging deep into the bone and crunching into the knee that Veptus had worked on just moments before. Unable to bear any more pain, Vettal fell to his knees on the hard ground.
Vettal could only watch as the Ork wrenched it’s axe free and prepared to strike the killing blow, lifting his weapon above its head, it’s eyes red with hatred and bloodlust. Yet as the axe blade fell and Vettal steeled himself for death, the axe was spun aside by a dark blade, etched with Nostraman runes. In a split second, that same blade pushed the axe blade away before driving itself through the Ork’s throat. Vettal didn’t even need to look up to know it was Xandrek himself who stood above him, but the distinctive tones confirmed it.
“Leave the canon Vettal or you get left behind. And yes I know I’m breaking my own orders but you should know I break them all the time.”
Vettal didn’t waste any time in shedding his harness, nearly tearing off the straps as he let his Autocannon fall to the floor, knowing that, although the weapon had served him well through countless engagements, Xandrek did not make empty threats. As the Autocannon came to rest, Vettal watched as Xandrek sheathed his iconic blade, before hoisting Vettal up onto his shoulders. Through the chaos and roar of the battle all around him, Vettal could have sworn he head Xandrek say.
“Today is going to be a long day.”
But before Vettal could be sure, Xandrek set off at a sprint up the hill. Vettal didn’t waste any time, raising his bolt pistol and dropping a pursuing Ork with a round between the eyes.
Var had retreated into what little remained of his mind, when he was pulled back to reality by the heavy ring of boots on metal. Looking around him, Var saw the distinctive figure of Xandrek moving towards the rest of the First Claw. Var moved silently with the rest of the First Claw as they gathered in a semicircle around Xandrek. The Captain looked around the group, before he turned to regard Var himself and finally spoke.
“While you ladies have been seemingly day dreaming from what Sergeant Xhing tells me, we have translated from the warp into the Isstvan system with the rest of the fleet despite earlier warnings from our Librarians telling us that we would be early.”
As Xandrek began pacing back and forth lightly, he continued.
“I have recently just finished a conversation with the First-Captain and all captains and their Command squads are to report to the flagship for briefing. And before any of you ask a certain pointless question: Yes, we are heading over to the Nightfall where I shall meet with our Father and the other captains while the rest of you try to behave yourselves is that understood?”
Xandrek turned to look straight at Var as he said his final statement, and even an idiot, which Var was far from being, could have been able to detect the underlying threat, and warning. Yet before Var could respond Xandrek had turned on his heel and stalked up the ramp into the belly of the Revenant, as the deep voice of Tyberus rang out,
"So Captain it's finally happening? We're finally being called to most glorious war. Woe betides any who stand against the Night Lords in the coming war."
The other members of the First Claw followed Xandrek into the Stormbird, and Var followed closely. As the other Space Marines settled into their restraint harnesses, Var made to move into the transport’s cockpit, only for Xandrek to physically bar his way.
“Techmarine Malak, is our best pilot which you no doubt remember Var, and I have order him that he will pilot us to the Nightfall and then down onto Isstvan so return to your restraint harness.”
Var forced his twisted and mechanical jaw to contort his face into a grimacing smile as he bowed deeply before Xandrek, before turning away and dropping onto a seat. At the sound of Tyberus speaking again, Var raised his eyes and smiled as the Veteran finished. The Vox was a curious thing, and yet it was a strangely simple thing to crossover the “private” vox channels until they really weren’t private at all.
As the Stormbird slowly rose into the air as Var felt Malak engage the engine, Var sank back into his mind. The Night Haunter meant nothing to him, he had never been there when Var had been cut open, and in Var’s mind he was no leader of his. For Var only followed two masters, the great Machine-God, and his own twisted and insane mind, and neither had ever failed him.