Every step was a burn of muscles and a grind of teeth. Elias was strong, stronger than most, and fit - But he was tired, cold and soaked red. Jaques was a mewling, ragged form; pale and shaking. Ahead, disappearing into the darkness, eagerness and concern driving him onwards, was Tobias. He was a lean shadow, a promise of death, his rifle scanning the corners, the kill-points, the empty rooms and broad windows. Elias pitied whatever poor soul run into Tobias - They would, surely, find a new hole bored through their skull.
'No one's here,' His brother called out. Shut up, Elias thought. Shut up, keep your discipline.
'Because it looks like no one is here,' Elias's voice was a sterner echo to his brother's. He could hear himself straining, hear the ragged panting, see the misting of breath before him. 'That doesn't mean it's true.'
They were illuminated. Orange light, flickering and alive, filled their visors. Elias's HUD compensated, dimming and adjusting. An explosion, he wondered. The oncoming storm, he feared.
'Maybe there just weren’t,' Tobias hesitated. His jaw worked tightly. 'Many people here. I would have thought Prolial Prime would be all hands on deck, though.’
Elias had read. Entire systems fled before the Greenskins, when their hordes were sighted. Planets were depopulated, poisoned and abandoned - Starving the Orks of their sport, of their barbarity. Prolial Prime was different - Her people were standing, they were fighting and they were dying. How many thousands were now shackled, chained and forced into slavery? How many were slaughtered, cut down by crude cleaver and bullets? Untold and unending amounts, Elias knew. The men and women of Prolial would stand and die - That much was true. It seemed pointless, however, to sacrifice good Elysian lives, and those of the Black Templars. Elias had been harbouring these thoughts since translation in-system.
'People run, people hide, people die,' He said, spitting. Tobias was rattling a door handle, and then, frustratedly, kicked it.
It remained firm.
His brother's face turned back towards him. Even helmed and shadowed, Tobias was handsome. ‘Think he’ll live if you set him down for a moment?’
Jaques was, truthfully, in the Emperor's hands. Elias's medical training was rudimentary at best - Tobias's, he knew, was even worse.
'Perhaps,' He said, sadly. 'Perhaps not. We have to get through, either way.'
Gently, slowly, Elias propped Jaques against the wall.
'Pale as the clouds,' Tobias muttered. Their grandfather had said it often, freely, faithfully. He had been a religious man, a drinking man, a killing man. As boys, they had worshipped him - As men, they had carried his coffin.
In unison, the Lengens struck the door with their boots. It groaned, it bent inwards and struck the ground with a loud, echoing clang. They swept inwards, Elias shouldering his rifle, finger hovering over his trigger - Eyes dancing.
'Clear,' He said, to himself. He was already retreating backwards, hunched and fierce, towards Jaques. 'Not all clouds are pale,' He called to Tobias, as he picked their wounded squadmate back up. His gloves were still slippery. Droplets were falling from them, red and malign in the half-light. 'But the grass is always greener.'
‘No matter where he goes, I imagine it will better,' Tobias said. That would earn him a cuff around the ear - For disrespect, for speaking unfairly, when Elias wasn't lumbering a half-corpse.
He grinned at the hypocrisy of his thoughts, and lowered Jaques onto a table. Already, Tobias was ransacking the cupboards, throwing jars and vials onto the floor. Glass shattered and metal twanged.
Elias joined him, splintering a wooden cabinet with the butt of his rifle. He found bandages - Though, not enough. Tobias found gauze, Elias already having exhausted his meagre supply.
With their combat knives, they cut through Jaques webbing. Elias took half of his ammunition - Tossing the rest over to Tobias. He unclipped Jaques' pistol and handed it to his stricken friend - If the Orks found them, he wouldn't deny Jaques the chance of mercy. Elias and Tobias would have no such time to administer it - Dying, for their Emperor and a shit-hole of a world.
He felt like a grave-robber, peeling away Jaques funerary robes. His shirt was a wet rag, one that went onto the floor carelessly.
Tobias moved away, and Elias went to work. He soaked Jaques stomach with gauze, quietly telling him a story - Of bright skies, of unsetting suns and beautiful women. He described it all lewdly, bandaging his friend's gut. He was grinning, despite their predicament, as he imagined Theodora. He hoped she still lived - He prayed that she would return.
His brother's cry took him by surprise. ‘Damn it, Elias! Main fugging door!'
His rifle was shouldered, Jaques forgotten about.
A door burst inwards, and a scrum of figures came in. They were shouting, they were trembling and they were scared.
'Lower your guns,' Elias was bellowing, rounding the table. He joined Tobias, feet planted firmly. 'Ave Imperator, don't be fools - We are friendlies!'
That was when the windows burst inwards, when Elias struck the ground, helmet bouncing off the floor.
'Ave Imperator,' He called, one last time, as he awaited the xenos to gut him.
Nyctophobia- Fear of the Dark Angel.
"No one ever spoke about of those two absent brothers. Their separate tragedies had seemed like aberrations. Had they, in fact, been warnings that no one had heeded?"
'Killing a man is like fucking, boy, only instead of giving life you take it. You experience the ecstasy of penetration as your warhead enters the enemy's belly and the shaft follows. You see the whites of his eyes roll inside the sockets of his helmet. You feel his knees give way beneath him and the weight of his faltering flesh draw down the point of your spear. Are you picturing this?'
'Is your dick hard yet?'
''What? You've got your spear in a man's guts and your dog isn't stiff? What are you, a woman?'