Iapetus was standing at the tactical display, a large, hololithic table that showed the planets of the system, the relative location of the XIXth's Fleet, and their target - The Fist of Russ
. His spear was within arm's-reach, leaning against the rim of the table, the tip glinting hungrily.
Footsteps approached behind him, determined, heavy. 'Hail, Captain,' A familiar voice said - One that Iapetus had heard for hundreds, thousands, of years - Lugerev
. 'I have brought the Techmarine Genetor of Adriun's lot on board as well. He has stayed in the Apothecarion for the time being. I will have to rearrange some things. I think Tirgivil feels he owns the King's
'Lugerev,' Iapetus said, cordially. He looked up, at the Chief Apothecary, and arched an eyebrow. Lugerev was staring off, at the bridge's primary view-port - A huge pane of reinforced glass - With widened eyes. 'Is there something amiss?'
The Mad Apothecary raised an arm, pointing. 'Luna,' He said, hesitantly. 'Just look at it. I've never seen so many dead ships,' He lowered his arm, his head snapping away. 'That one, that's the White Feathe
r, one of the Scars'. I was aboard her once. And there, the Unbreakable
... She did so well at Phall. Even in the craters, on the surface, you can see their corpses,' Lugerev shook his head, looking away. 'How could we have lost, brother?'
? Iapetus remembered Luna, flecked with ruined ships. Iapetus had downed many himself, burning their hulls, their crew, their pathetic little lives. He remembered the last battle - The duel with the Imperial Fists cruiser, Redoubtable
, - Where the Seventh Company, bloodied and bruised, had boarded and taken the ship. One last insult
, Iapetus had ordered.
'We lost, brother,' Iapetus said, returning his attentions to the tactical display. 'Because Terra was the ultimate fortress. A palace that spanned continents, her walls manned by the Emperor's finest, against a horde. All waves crash, in the end.'
Lugerev looked at Iapetus, the Shipmaster dimly aware of his friend's gaze. 'That's not Luna, is it?'
'Not at all,' Iapetus smiled, though the question neither wanted, or needed, an answer. 'Loakk is aboard?'
'Loakk is aboard, yes,' Lugerev said, gazing at the tactical display. 'So, what is your plan?’ My role is simple enough, but I need you to get me there,' He pointed a hand at the Fist of Russ
Iapetus pursed his lips. 'A three pronged assault - Wandering King
, Lonesome Queen and the,' He adjusted the tactical display, enhancing the Third's Cruiser. 'Shade Wraith
,' He said the name distastefully. 'Corner the Wolf and snap its legs. Lucian can take the bridge and the armoury - I want to bleed his Company dry - Whilst the Seventh take the enginarium,' A tough fight, indeed, Iapetus knew. 'And the Apothecarion.'
'Yes, our fallen angel friend is more than welcome to take the petty glory of killing the vessel’s commander,' Lugerev said, and began to pace, back and forth, back and forth. Iapetus continued to direct his ships. 'Good. I’m glad to hear we have the important parts. I’m sure getting rights to the Apothecarion wasn't too difficult. It never is.' The Mad Apothecary paused, and then after a moment of pregnant silence, continued. 'Iapetus, Pelegon has yet to inform me why these Wolves are holding Salamander Gene-seed. I suppose I shouldn't think on it too much. Little outside my medical work makes sense to me anymore.'
'And we shall hope, brother, that Lucian will get himself killed,' Iapetus grinned. 'Should the Wolf prevail, I will shed no tears,' He stepped away from the table, walking towards the centre of the bridge. 'It makes little sense. The Wolves are many things - Unwashed barbarians, near-feral, mortal-lovers - But thieves
? That they are not.'
It was Iapetus who paused, now. 'I do not trust Pelegon's judgement. Something is wrong, here. I am certain of it.'
What came next was terribly unsettling. Lugerev descended into madness, his bolter spooling up, his voice raised. Iapetus had seen this before, over the years they had served besides one another, but still felt discomfort; a tingling at the back of his neck. He glanced at his spear - Several feet away - And bit his tongue. Too far, should anything happen.
'Lugerev, brother,' Iapetus said, retreating, towards the tactical display, towards his spear. 'Enough
. Come to your senses, Apothecary,' His voice was calm, almost soothing. 'You cannot act like this, not here. Not on my ship.'
'All I asked is what you are doing!' Lugerev raged, furious. 'That Gene-seed is mine
! You understand me? Mine
, my hands only
'What would I
want with Gene-seed, you fool?' Iapetus bellowed back, face twisted into a snarl. 'Were it a ship you were after, you mad bastard, I would gladly
pilfer it,' He shook his head. 'You
are the flesh-smith.'
Lugerev smiled, looking downwards, brow wrinkled with thought. 'Third Company,' He said, 'Third Company,' He tore his sword free, and laughed. 'You know, an angel can lose its wings and fall into the mud, but unfortunately, that doesn't quite make it a dead
angel, now, does it?'
They locked eyes, and Iapetus laughed, too; the tenseness flowing away. 'Yes, brother! Maybe the Wolves will only take a bite out of him, and he’ll come to me, brother!' Lugerev gripped Iapetus's shoulders and cloak, the metal links shifting beneath his gauntlet. 'Can you imagine? Lucian, the Dark Angel, laying on my surgery slab, waiting for me to fix him up?'
Lugerev let go, turning his attentions towards the tactical display. 'I believe you were about to go into more details about this plan before I interrupted you. So, tell me, tell me more.' He waved his hand, inviting Iapetus to continue.
'Lords,' A voice said. Iapetus turned his head, and saw Lumiana - Uniformed, carrying a wafer of dataslates under her arm - Standing there. 'We are within visual range of the target.'
'Thank you,' Iapetus said. He turned back to the Apothecary. 'Come, follow me,' The Shipwright took up his spear, gathered his cloak about him, and walked into the centre of the bridge. The mortals quietened, in reverence of their lord. 'Open communications with the Lonesome Queen
,' He ordered, coolly. 'Magnify. Show me our quarry.'
The Fist of Russ filled the view-ports. Long and sleek, painted in the icy-blue of the Wolves, her flanks bristling with cannons. 'A fine ship,' Iapetus said, leaning on his spear. 'I present our prey, my brothers,' He smiled darkly. 'Pelegon wants it. Our Legion wants it. I
'Arm our lances,' He continued, the deck trembling beneath him as ancient weapon-systems came online. 'Acquire a target solution on the engines.'
'Target acquired,' His gunnery officer called.
Iapetus turned towards Lugerev. 'It is about time, brother,' He said. 'We show the thin-bloods what true fury is.'
Iapetus smirked. 'Fire.'
Lugerev stepped besides him. 'Its suddenly clear to me that we do the same work, Iapetus, merely on different scales. I believe that little jewel of a ship already belongs to us. Still, I have the same feeling I did on Medrengard. There's something about this one... My gut tells me it likes to slip its leash.'
The Shipwright laughed. 'Ships do not escape me, Apothecary,' He watched, as the cruiser rolled, cored by the lances of Iapetus's ships. Debris, organic and metallic, shoaled around the vessel. 'Your escort awaits, Lugerev,' Iapetus smiled, clasping his brother's wrist. 'Watch yourself, brother. Watch the Third.'
Upon the Lonesome Queen
, Alcibiades and his contingent - Just under two hundred brethren - Enough to conquer a world, to extinguish a culture, knelt around Iapetus's ghost-image. The deck beneath them shook and rumbled, as the battleship fired, piercing the flank of the Wolves' cruiser. Soon, Alcibiades and his Marines would flood aboard her, drown the Fenrisians in blood, and take the ship as their own. Servors whined, weapons hummed. Some of the Marines prayed, others laughed. Most were silent, in contemplation.
'Alcibiades,' Iapetus transmitted, after the Apothecary had left. 'Should Lucian and his Marines transgress,' The Shipwright licked his lips, savouring the notion. 'You are to terminate
'Iron within,' Alcibiades said, nodding. Klaxons began to wail, Marines stood and entered their assault boats and pods. Alcibiades, a veteran of the Crusade, and of the Long War, knew that another boarding force was assembling aboard the Wandering King
; Iapetus himself would lead them.
'Iron without, my brother,' Iapetus returned, and killed the signal.
'Lumiana,' Iapetus said, and his equerry was there. 'Is my Stormbird readied?'
The equerry bowed, shallowly. 'As you ordered, sire.'
The Shipwright grinned, ear-to-ear. 'Then I shall depart, the Fist of Russ
awaits,' He spun, marching towards the bridge's entrance-portcullis, and paused. 'Lumiana.'
She could hear the smile, a wicked, feral smile. 'Prepare the holding bays. Our halls will soon echo with wolf-song.'