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For Death Is Always Near

Word Count: 1098

Captain Raidon Tadeshi of the White Scars First Company blinked into existence in the midst of the demonic forge world Century XVI. The hundred or so veterans and terminators of the company flashed into being within the twisted spires and archaic manufactorums behind him. Bolters disintegrated hundreds instantly, but the fallen Mechanicum soldiers swarmed them undeterred. The Astartes of the Imperium made their stand on the obsidian bridges that kept the world above an ocean of volcanic sulfur and lava. Lascannons and missiles criss--crossed through the charred skies to intercept swooping Heldrakes and felled the largest Maulerfiends that emerged from the dark alleys.

Raidon stood at the fore of his men, the plasma gun cradled in his grip punched through the mouth of the Forgefiend the very moment it unleashed the power of the Hades Cannon. Takamura vanished in the super nova that swallowed him and Attila had lost an arm in the explosion. He fired again, leaving a molten hull through the chest of the fusion of flesh and machine. Yet the creation stumbled onward, charging into the mass of Astartes, firing directly into the clustered First Company. The Standard Bearer and half the command squad was obliterated in the span of an eye blink. Three of the Sternguard became crushed under massive pistons and machinery—feet.

Las-cannons sheared through the heavy plating of the beast. One by one, the legs became useless and Raidon found himself scurrying toward the enemy with one fourth of his men, trapped bewteen the wrecked machine and the advancing enemy. The Chaos Marines of the Armenian Circle were gathered on the high battlements and walls surrounding Manufactorum Beta. Hundreds cheered and jeered at the loyalists, Raidon and his chosen killed a score with relentless fire. Yet the traitors of the Imperium kept their weapons lowered, preferring silence until the White Scars figured something was wrong.

Death for an Adeptus Astartes is often a split second decision. When the moment comes that the lives of your men are at risk, the timeframe for an efficient action is fleeting at best. The Captain must make the decision everytime and make the right one or risk failure. Astartes never fail, do they? Raidon knew he had come to a crossroads when Actaeon the Hellbrute crushed its way through the throng of rabble on massive piston legs. The damned champion had claimed half a company’s ranks with his own sacred band alone.

Hundreds of red stained Chaos Marines marched in formation behind the Hellbrute, whirring the teeth of their chain axes and swords. The First Company could oppose them, destroy a couple ranks maybe, but they would be overwhelmed in the end. The White Scars would gladly die to the last marine instead of relenting, but Raidon could not let them make the decision themselves, not today. There was only one way to win the struggle now.

Raidon lifted his plasma gun in one hand and his other fell to the pommel of his force weapon. “Oda, Matsuo, Usagi with me!”

The rest of the Company became painfully aware of Raidon’s command. Roaring their battle cries, the three marines broke ranks in a charge toward the enemy lines. The men left behind cheered them on, to either victory or honorable death. The three Sternguard and their captain crossed the no man’s ground before Actaeon bellowed a grated, mechanical laugh and called three of his own subjects. The Hellbrute and his retinue counter charged at the last moment, the air filling with hundreds of cheers as the eight Astartes collided into each other.

Searing sapphire energy punched through one of the whip—like coils on Actaeon’s right arm. The thing fell limp, useless, but the others drew toward him like thrown spears, lunging into the ground around his feet as he weaved left and right. He heard Usagi smash into the helm of a Marked of Khorne with enough momentum to pulp the brain in one blow. Oda attempted to pary his opponent’s strike of two chain axes formed in an ‘x’, but his strength had failed him. He died on his knees with a coup de grace that sent the Armenian Circle into fanatical screaming. Matsuo was trading even blows with his own opponent, isolating himself further and further from the dominating presence of the Hellbrute.

Actaeon’s twin-linked Melta unleashed its inferno again and again, but only managing to scorch the quicker Raidon’s ceramite armor. The White Scars Captain rolled under a cumbersome piston-leg, threw his plasma gun under the ponderous step, and then drew his force sword in one continous movement. The ancient plasma weapon exploded with a thunderous crack, the noise of melted gears and hissing electronics music to Raidon’s ears.

The Hellbrute was swifter than he looked, sweeping his horned visor around to take in the sight of Usagi and Raidon. Usagi charged in from the left, Raidon came in from the right. The Melta gun fired again, gouging black steel and iron in its snake like pattern toward the Astartes Captain. Raidon twisted and sprinted toward the Bezerker that had slain Oda and parried an axe with a downward strike and the other with a raised pommel.

The traitor tried to dodge the incoming blast of atomizing heat, but found his split second roll one second too short. The meat of the Chaos marine’s legs peeled away like wet cloth as he collapsed in an undignified rage. Raidon flipped his blade and brought it down on the spinal chord, separating the head from the shoulders. In the background, Acteon sputtered and faltered, a power axe buried nearly to the hilt into the ceremonial visor piece.

The whip—coils on his arm flailed around in a storm of metallic tentacles, like a Kraken shrunk into a weapon for the Gods’ mere amusement. Usagi’s waist came free in a spray of crimson liquid as Raidon charged into the whirlwind of blades. Matsuo and his opponent lay entangled among the numerous dead, lifeless.

It was a strange notion that had become familiar to him, that only a fraction of movement and thought was what separated one man and his enemy from certain death. The metal whips smashed and tore into his pauldrons, sliced into his flesh and pulverized bone. It did not matter, the dice had struck in his favor, and made death certain for Acteon.

Usagi’s axe came free, revealing an ancient face mired in wire. Raidon buried the axe and blade to the hilt for good measure.

Another Champion fallen, another death postponed.
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