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Part 1Markus slowly made his way down the clandestine hallway, glancing nervously into the offices, listening to the muttering of the workers and the tapping of fingers on dataslates. Another person eyed him cautiously, but he was too agitated to take much notice of them. Eventually, he reached his office, threw himself into the leather chair and sighing deeply. Grasping a hand to his brow, he carefully wiped away the sweat and glanced through the rimy window that imprisoned him. Catching a glimpse of dull black and sharp red through the glass he swivelled round and pulled the chair to the windowsill. Leaning forwards, he saw the hulking shapes of two armoured vehicles, tank treads, grinding to a halt on the frosty street below.
Before he could register anything in his mind, a bone-crushingly loud thump accompanied by a sweeping explosion tore through the pathetically thin walls to Markus' left and blew out the windows, thousands of multi-faceted shards spilling out into the street with the rippling waves of fire. Hitting the floor hard on his shoulder, Markus screamed out as the bone splintered, but his voice was suddenly drowned out by an all-encompassing silence. Thick dust filled the air and soot covered every surface, roiling flames licking the edges of the gaping hole in the office apartment.
Wildly grabbing at his desk with bloodstained fingers, Markus dragged himself up to face the hellish maw encroaching on the once pure room. Smoke and ash spiralled in the fierce winter winds that blew past his battered body. A noiseless blanket covered everything in Markus' world, only to be replaced by a ringing that gnawed at his nerves. Markus was still staring in mute shock when the Arbite clenched his arm in one gauntlet and waved the barrel of a shotgun warily at the fire-rimmed mouth into the next building before forcefully pulling Markus away.
The two Rhino Personnel Carriers slid to a halt before the architecturally grotesque edifice, neatly blocking the street. Rear doors slammed down hard onto the icy tarmac, shattering it into ebony fragments while grimly black boots crushed the shiny rubble even further into dust. McMann glanced upwards while he stepped out of the Rhino's hold, picking out the crimson laser sight of the sniper far above, scanning the gargoyle encrusted features of the target building opposite for any sign of life. Sliding his hands into warm woollen gloves, McMann unhooked his Medi-Pack from its catches and leaned against the dark shell of the tank.
Team Alpha, a Combat Team, took up positions, on the ground floor of the apartments below the marksman, checking their Bolters. McMann recognised Carter, the team specialist, readying his sacred Plasma Gun.Heh, McMann reflected,no matter what they say about those things, you could always trust one person not to get killed by them. Carter had been employed by the Arbites for several decades, yet his incredible agility and reflexes saved him from the worst effects of a plasma overload. Still, his face was covered with the scars of countless explosions.
McMann turned quickly in time to see his own squad, a Patrol Team designated Team Beta, edge carefully across the street, shotguns aimed at the baroquely decorated oaken door of the target building. Giles was connecting his flamer to the scorched fuel tank hanging from his belt and Proctor Wilhelm energised his Power Maul, the crackling energy field vaporising the snowflakes surrounding it. Signalling with his fingers, Wilhelm sent two Arbites into each adjacent building while the other five remained with him.
A third vehicle pulled up onto the curb, four hulking tyres supporting the medic buggy. A great steel door on the side was pulled back and the driver exited the front compartment to speak with the Judge, while battlefield surgeons jumped from the armoured rear compartment, pulling stretchers to the edge, seemingly preparing for a major disaster. Now hesitant, McMann watched the well organised operation unfold with growing fear. This was a fear which was soon to be realized.
Wilhelm raised three fingers, letting one fall while the other five Arbites snatched smoke grenades from their belt clips. The next fell and they drew back the grenades. The final finger dropped and McMann could feel time slowing down all around him. With unnatural grace, hundreds of ceramic tiles lifted slowly from the roof, flames licking at their underbellies as a roaring explosion punched at the windows, sheer force of air blasting them away.
The storm of glass enveloped Team Beta, the pressure of the explosion hurling them backwards. Smoke grenades exploded in their hands, the compressed gasses heated to a critical level. The sinister doors flew from their hinges, dragging chunks of the wall with them. Rhino Alpha even seemed to be pushed upwards slightly by a surging current of flame and air. The firestorm lashed out at the building, blackening the structure. Within seconds it was over, well-disciplined men straining to keep in their positions. The wounded screamed out in pain. Wilhelm rolled over and even from across the street McMann could see the horrendously burned face.
Under the Judges orders, Alpha rushed from their positions, keeping their weapons levelled at the building before dragging the horribly cauterised bodies of Beta to the safety of the Rhinos. Medical professionals ran forward with stretchers, carefully laying the bodies onto the beds and carrying them back to the armoured jeep. The four Arbites who had entered the two buildings to the side rushed out after a wave of civilians, herding the confused and frightened people away from the target. Some were wounded; one Arbite pulled a badly hurt office worker towards McMann. The man slumped towards the Arbite, who rested him against the side of the Beta Rhino.
'He seems to have something wrong with his shoulder.'
McMann gritted his teeth against the harsh odour of blood and struggled to reply 'do you know exactly what?'
The Arbite gave a short laugh, 'me? Hell no, I'll leave that for you to work out.'
Turning his attention to the groaning man, McMann swung open his Medi-Pack and nodded towards the shelter of the Rhino interior, trying to block out the screams and shrieks, 'if you'd just like to come over here, sir...'
He got to further before the man doubled over and began to vomit, seemingly regurgitating something unnaturally large. Kneeling down to try and help him, McMann was horrified to see a thick, ropey tendril emerge from the horrified man's mouth. Before he could warn the other Arbite, the tentacle lashed out at his feet, snatching them from under him and dropping him on the road. His helmet thudding on the cold, hard ground, in the midst of the tumbling skies, buildings and battle zone he watched as the rapidly mutating victim turned on the Arbite's back, attacking him while he was unaware.
Struggling to his feet, McMann fumbled with the catch on his Laspistol's holster, urgently trying to pull the thing from the grasping leather as the mutant's tentacle, with a mind of its own, wrapped itself tightly around the enforcer, constricting his neck with such force that the man's hands clenched and unclenched rapidly, allowing his shotgun to drop onto the floor. He kicked backwards and with a sickening crack broke the mutant's knee, but still the creature strangled him. Finally, McMann's Laspistol came free and he aimed it squarely at the creature's head, pulling the trigger again and again.
Dropping to its knees, the hideous form released the other Arbite, who choked and gasped as they staggered away to grab their weapon. Unloading several rounds into the quaking mass of morphing flesh seemed to ease his condition and he looked up at McMann, the primal viciousness within him receding, replaced by a sense of duty. Rushing off to help the others, he left McMann staring in shock at the dead body. Blades of bone had erupted from its wrists and its eyes had begun to fuse shut, a singular large eye on his forehead gleaming with Chaotic energies.
If he concentrated, McMann could have sworn that he could see one last cry for help preserved in the man's eyes. Was the destructive force that had corrupted his body unable to change his soul? No...he had a job to do. He wasn't getting paid to stand around being inquisitive like this, there were injured people that needed to be tended to.
Part 2Squad Beta advanced slowly through the rubble, treading through the mass of splinters, glass and chunks of crumbling masonry. Heat was still rising from the building, waves of it leaving the roof and windows in droves, even after the water cannons on the Rhinos had smothered the flames. Whatever it was inside, it definitely wasn't normal. The men alongside Easton were still tense, their nerves shaky after the explosion while they paused at the door. Filing into the large room one by one, they fanned out in a wide arc, Bolters ready to fire at the slightest instant.
Smouldering tapestries adorned the charred walls, depicting various inhumanly shaped creatures destroying and murdering a fleeing crowd. Easton made a mental note to have them inspected by his precinct's Investigation Team and then incinerated at the Imperial temple. As the Arbites approached the centre of the room, they became aware of a shape, cast in metal and bolted onto the floor, now covered in ash and blood. Kicking away the congealing substances with his boot, one of them began to make out the blasphemous shape of an eight pointed star.
Staring upwards into the murky darkness, a tangled mass of barbed chains caught Easton's attention. A face slowly emerged from the inky depths of the shadows above, a silent cry for help embedded on their terrified features. One hand grasped downwards, the other caught in the links of a chain. The cultist was clearly dead, their chest having burst open. The swaying chains dragged him back into the unknown again and Easton let his mind drift back to the room around him.
More bodies were scattered about the room, all seeming to have been trying to run away before they were killed. Running for their lives. If they hadn't been so reprehensibly evil, Easton might just have felt pity for them. Two of his men had congregated around the rough, gore soaked form of an altar. A skeleton lay upon it, a mighty axe barbarically embedded in the skull. Beneath it, another eight pointed star could be seen, etched into the stone. Turning his attention to the disgusting figure of bones again, Easton could see several scraps of flesh by them. The skin seemed to have literally been ripped from the sacrifice's bones.
The clothes that lay, torn, beside them clearly marked them out as a civilian, the cultists all having worn robes to the sick occasion. Easton suppressed the anger welling up inside him. Anger only caused mistakes. They couldn't afford to make mistakes. A whisper turned the heads of him and the others towards a battered, broken body, lying in a puddle of blood. Quietly, a scarred face turned to face them, the deep gashes contorting the person's face. Still, the fear was clear for all to see.
Six lasers sprang up to point between the cultist's eyes while Easton stepped forwards, the Bolt Pistol on his hand barely shaking at all. His face was a mask composed of stony silence and indifference. The only thing that prevented him from blowing the devious brains out of the dying man's head was that he needed a survivor. One person to torture and question until they revealed the information that he needed to know.
'Medic!' he roared, his voice bringing an edgy Arbite that glared agitatedly around at the macabre scene.
Finally noticing the injured cultist, they looked up at Easton, questions forming themselves on his lips. 'Sir, why in the Emperor's name do you want me to help...him?' The final word was spat out with intense hatred.
'Just help him', snapped the inadequate reply, but the medic seemed in no position to argue with Easton and he knelt down to tend to the wounds of the survivor.
A cascade of silvery grey dust fell from a small balcony that overlooked the altar and the symbols, planks creaking menacingly as feet strode to the edge. Leaning lightly on the wooden support, an Arbite called down to the others below, 'Judge! We've got a live one, he looks to be the leader of these scumbags!'
Turning his face upwards, Easton simply uttered two words: 'show me.'
A gaping face was pushed to the edge of the balcony, the dark hood pulled back, revealing the horrified features of the prisoner. Wide eyes, seeking to escape the skull that confined them, met with Easton's unemotional gaze. Suddenly the man cried out, screaming and thrashing at the Arbites that were holding him, shrieking in terror. 'Devils! Devils of the corpse god, all of you! May the man of death strike you down! Devils!'
He was quickly silenced by the crack of a Power Maul against his balding head and he slumped backwards. Swivelling round, Easton carefully placed a Bolt in the head of the first cultist, the medic who was attending to him being thrown backwards, partly by the force of the miniature explosion and partly due to his own shock at how the Judge could do such a thing so easily.
Easton turned his attention back to the Arbite on the balcony, 'Proctor...is there anything...unusual on the premises? Anything out of the ordinary?'
'I'm not too sure what you mean, sir...'
'You know full well what I mean.'
The Proctor sighed deeply. It didn't seem right to him to hide everything from the world's population. If anyone came across a Daemon they'd piss themselves in fear. Then die, if not from the beast, then from their own shock. He opened and shut his mouth several times, considering the words he should use.
'...No. There isn't any creature such as a...as a Daemon...in the building.'
Easton clenched and unclenched his fists while the other Arbites spoke in hushed voices. The Daemon that had escaped into this realm and eluded his grasp would likely leave a trail of carnage and bloodshed behind it.
'Should we mobilise the forces stationed at our precinct, Judge?'
'Hmm? No...no. Have an Investigation Team here as fast as possible. Unfortunately...we must bide our time.'
Easton turned smartly and strode out into the chilling winter, resenting the actions that he had to take. There was no real way to trace the path of a servant of the hideous Gods of Chaos once they had been summoned into this world. The only way you could tell where they had been was the trail of bodies and that was all that he could do. He knew that many people would lose their lives soon. The only consolation, which even he didn't believe in, was that they were giving their lives for a worthy cause.
Part 3A piercing scream resonated around the cold and impersonal metal walls, but it was silenced by the soundproof material, preventing the hellish sounds from penetrating the room's shell. Three figures stood, illuminated by dimly lit lamps in the four corners of the room, around a fourth, who lay on a table marked with many holes which housed barbaric needles, but that was not the way in which they were being caused pain. A series of naked cables ran around the restraints of the fourth person, carrying electricity into and from his body. The torture had gone on for several hours already and Easton had no doubts that it would go on for many more, but the telepathic adept almost had the information that the Judge needed.
Resting his hands on the arms of the metal torturer's table once more and setting his eyes upon those of the cultist's, Easton slowly but sternly asked the shaking prisoner, 'I will ask you only one more time, heretic. We know that you have been kidnapping innocent civilians of His divine Empire. We know that you and your despicable brethren sacrificed one such person not two days ago, by an axe to the head. We have both the axe and his body. We know that you killed him. A snivelling coward such as you would only be able to kill a man if he was bound. What we do not know is where you are keeping the others. If you tell us this, we will kill you straight away and let Him decide your fate.'
The man's charred lips were contorted into a barely perceivable smile. 'The man...he of whom the Gods speak of...the man of death. He will show you the errors of your ways. The crimes you have committed. Your...pathetic god is naught but a corpse god, a god of the dead, you are his cruel servants...you...oppress the poor. Enslave them for the rich...to grow richer by th-'
'Silence!' Easton barked, glaring furiously into the eyes that darted from side to side as he calmed down, 'your words will not taint these hallowed grounds any longer if you persist in denying those who you have captured freedom and those who you have killed justice.'
The Judge looked up at the adept, who nodded her gaunt face. The psychic drain on her from delving into the traitor's mind was dangerous, but now the Arbites knew where to look for the other prisoners. Removing his hands from the table, Easton took one last look at the cultist before walking to the door, the adept disconnecting herself from the psychic aids and leaving with him.
'Sir, what shall the heretic's punishment be?' the Techpriest spoke up, the harsh metal voice turning Easton's head.
Waving a hand dismissively, Easton's reply came quickly, 'shock him at intervals of five minutes until he dies.'
'Yes, noble Judge.'
One final scream echoed around the room before the two figures left, shutting the large, windowless door behind them, as much sealing the room as they were sealing the traitor's fate.
Proctor Howells stared intently at the woman opposite, with so much force of his mind that she almost recoiled and looked away. A notebook flipped around and around in one of his hands, a pen remaining motionless, poised, in the other. Interviewing the survivors of the explosion was proving time consuming and difficult, as many of them remained strangely uncommunicative. He tapped his pencil on the edge of the table, looked swiftly and momentarily up at the Arbites standing either side of the worker. Her clothes had been torn by shrapnel and burned by the fire, but she had been seen to be a medic from the injured squad.
Damnit, this is futile, Howells thought,asking these bloody silent fools questions that they won't answer isn't bringing us any closer to the reasons why six of my brothers almost died. Maybe...just maybe if they told us any shred of useful knowledge then this fruitless task would be important. I wish they'd just open up, for the love of the Emperor...
'So...again...you were in the building adjacent to the explosion, did you notice anything prior to the event? Anything at all? Was anyone acting suspiciously or were there any strange goings on recently?'
Still nothing. Howells swore under his breath and noticed one of the guards sighing and rolling their eyes as the other shuffled his feet and gave a resentful look at the back of the woman's skull. Evidently everyone was tired of these useless people taking up their time. He had a wife to go home to, he didn't want to spend the rest of the week talking to bleeding morons like this. They were all like golems, they might as well have been dirt given life with the way that they worked away in their tidy little offices. Before the attack, though.
'I repeat...did you see anything, or anyone, strange?'
Once more, his questions were met with a sense of nothingness. There didn't seem to be any emotion there, which Howells thought was odd, given how they'd all been screaming and yelling before.
'Alright,' he sighed, 'take her back to her cell...'
The two Arbites moved forwards, but the woman pushed herself upwards, indignant anger burning in her eyes.
'Why are you treating us like criminals?' she demanded, leaning forward menacingly, 'we have done nothing wrong. Nothing against the law. Yet you still hold us in prison cells as if we are the cause of the explosion. Well let me tell you something, we are all perfectly good people-'
'I beg to differ,' and as if in harmony with Howell's words, the roar of gunfire erupted from the holding cells next to the interrogation rooms, accompanied by bestial yells and inhuman hisses. Soon, all fell quiet with the exception of several last bodies thudding as they hit the floor.
'What - what happened - my friends - what's going on?!' she stuttered, her head swinging backwards and forwards between the wall and Howells emotionless face, falling silent while her mouth still opened and closed.
'That was the execution of twenty seven of your co workers, the twenty seven who had been corrupted by the dark taint of Chaos in the aftermath of the explosion. It insinuated itself into your building using one man who had an office directly beside the subject of this investigation. He was later shot and killed as a medic attended to him, while he tried to murder two officers, including the medic. You and thirteen others are the ones who we know are not tainted. We had you psychically scanned, yet you do not seem to have been corrupted. This is why we had select members of the company you work for locked inside cells.'
He stared for a moment as the news sank in, before standing up and repeated his words, 'take her back to her cell,' before walking around the table and out through the door.
Easton slowly pushed open the door to his office, made his way around the table and sat down heavily in his chair, sighing as he did so. Drawing the ornate Bolt pistol from its holster, he laid it carefully on the lacquered table. Staring thoughtfully at it, his eyes travelled over the intricate mechanisms before resting on the Imperial eagle. He knew that the dark priest's words were correct. Not that Chaos would rule and was right, but that the Imperium was barbaric. It murdered anyone that dared to get in its way, he reflected. It ate people up through war and it cared little for them or their suffering. He continued to stare at the eagle, remembering legends of a time when such things were not so.
Part 4Inside the dull interior of the Rhino, Harrison glanced briefly around at the others. Nine quiet faces looked back, hands almost ready to grab their weapons from beside them. So prepared, such a perfect killing machine. He hoped to the Emperor that none of them were the oh-so-holy By-His-Grace-We-Purge-Thee, narrow-minded thugs. He could never buy someone like that a drink. One in particular caught his eye, physically scarred yet he seemed calmer, so different to the others. Beside him hung a Plasma gun, one of the most revered and yet most dangerous and unpredictable weapons of the Arbites' armoury and the reason for the scars became clear.
The greying beard twitched once or twice as the older man mumbled some indiscernible song, tapping the edge of his knees to a rhythm that Harrison could neither recognize nor shake the feeling that he knew it from another place. Suddenly, he stopped singing and stared at Harrison, who blinked and looked away. He glanced back and the man winked, before turning away and resuming his quiet song. With a quick jolt, the tank stopped still, the protective belts sliding back and allowing the Arbites to equip themselves. Within seconds the disciplined squad were standing in two perfect lines, holding their Bolters closely as the rear ramp crashed onto the cold concrete.
The ten men filed out, not a single word spoken between them as the ramp swung back up again, their transport reversing into a side alley as the Proctor began to recount their objectives, 'the enemy lie several hundred metres down this road, they occupy a single storey building that we suspect has a basement or entry to the sewer system. If we find a vent into the sewers, we call in Squad Charlie who will move through the vents beneath the ground to catch any cultists that do escape. Our main objective is simple: free the seven hostages. Kill anyone that gets in our way, understand? Now, we go in quietly at first, if they know we're coming they may kill the prisoners.'
The Arbites nodded and slowly, noiselessly made their way down the desolate street, past shattered windows and a few frightened faces. Battered doors hung loosely from their hinges in the houses of the slum, with rusty cars and an occasional truck here and there lying forlornly, abandoned in the street. Soon the crumbling hut came into view, rubble strewn about the cracked walls. Footsteps in blood came from the broken, splintered door, but as Harrison drew closer, he could see clearly that they had not come from any man. Hoof prints strode into the middle of the road, where a manhole cover lay, rent in two by the strike of some mighty weapon. A trickle of blood ran from the last step into the sewer system and blood was spattered about the hole.
Cautiously making their way over to the manhole, the Arbites kept their eyes fixed on the ruins. Harrison glanced briefly down into its depths, then took a longer look. In the murky waters, a dark shape bobbed up and down.
'Sir?' he nervously called, 'I think I've found our enemy.'
'Hmm?' the aging Proctor replied, a hint of doubt in his voice, 'are you sure, or are you just being optimistic?'
'He's wearing heavy robes and there appears to be a pistol of some sort on the stone ledge there.'
Peering into the darkness, the Proctor sighed deeply, his hold on his Bolt pistol and Power Maul loosening, 'by the Warp, this is not good...'
With this, the bearded Arbite stepped in and interrupted them, tapping Harrison on the shoulder and giving him a sorrowful look, 'what he means, son, is that we're a little late, the reason we can tell that is because it definitely ain't those poor bastards that got kidnapped that murdered this worthless runt.'
Shooting a look at the Plasma gunner and then Harrison, Thompson turned to his radio, 'Howells? You hear me?'
'I hear you.'
'Watch out, there's a non-human creature who we believed has entered the sewers who we believe to be a Daemon, there may also be cultists running from it, though chances are low that any of them survived.'
'We will carry out our mission as planned, they might not have eliminated everyone, though you must keep watch for this creature.'
'I w-by the Emperor, what was that?! Fire on it!'
'Howells, listen to me! If it is what I think it is, run!'
Uncomfortable static was the only answer. Cursing audibly, he kicked at the manhole cover, but managed to regain his senses.
'You five, take the house, search for any signs of life, you four are coming with me-'
His instructions sliced into by an avalanche of sound emanating from the sewer, Thompson clipped his weapons onto his belt and grabbed the ladder clambering down it. A dark figure ran past below, pausing to snap off a few shots at some unseen target, which snarled and growled before yelling in pain, or berserk rage, while the Arbite escaped. Sliding the rest of the way down, Thompson unclipped his Bolt pistol and searched in the direction of the animalistic sounds to an avail. Three figures came stumbling out of a side passage to his left, colliding with him and knocking him backwards before snatching him up again and bringing his face to theirs.
Howells stood nearby, keeping his Combi-Bolter aimed down the passage they had appeared from while one of the others guarded the tunnel behind Thompson, while the third gradually steadied himself and, in between breaths, explained the situation to the Proctor.
'The thing...Daemon came out of nowhere...it looks like it went back into...nowhere too...strange thing is, it never went for us really...it knocked Howells off of his feet-'
'That's how he lost his radio?'
'Yep...and it slammed Myers into a wall...but it never tried to kill us. It had skulls hanging from its belt and a bloodied sword, but it never even used it. It seemed like it was trying to get away, but it still doesn't make sense.'
More of squad Charlie returned, Howells ordering them up the ladder one by one, yet none of them had been injured by the beast. Finally the four remaining climbed upwards, Charlie keeping their weapons trained on the sewer entrance, Alpha on the building, while two bodies coughed and gurgled at their feet, blood dripping from their mouths and a multitude of small cuts all over their bodies.
'These were the only ones we found alive, but the only other was already dead, on an altar, just like the last,' the scarred Arbite informed Thompson, 'looks like we weren't too late for these after all...'
'...Four of them are still missing? Were there any indications of where they went?'
The Arbite sighed before continuing, 'no, nothing, it's like they simply disappeared, but there were one hell of a lot of scum corpses there.'
'That may not be a good thing.'
The crowded market was bustling with people, men, women and children, simply living their lives in the way that they had done for many years, yet a dark presence moved like the whisper of the wind around the energetic place.
A great axe burst through the ground, followed a burly arm, muscles bulging with otherworldly strength and coated with blood. A horrifying creature rose up, grappling with the crumbling ground until it was on the surface, looking at the backs of already running and terrified people. Its dark orbs of eyes scanned the crowds while some people stepped forwards, Laspistols and other weapons grasped in their hands. Laser shots and bullets tore chunks of flesh from the creature's hide, burning away parts of its shaggy, blood-slick mane, but it looked upon them as if they were flies, a mere annoyance.
Staring down near its feet as the guns continued to fire it saw a baby child, wailing and crying for a mother that it would never see again. With one sweep of the blade, the Daemon cut the child in half, adding a new spray of blood to the axe. Its ears picked up new shouts and running feet growing closer, however its attacker was caught in midair by one barbed gauntlet, the metal pole in his hand rolling away harmlessly as his neck was crushed before being severed and thrown into a pouch made of skin and tied with cords of muscle.
Flexing its arms, it began to take in the shocked and terrified faces of the crowd that stood far from it. Throwing back its head, it roared to the heavens, the very sound causing the people to recoil before it leaped forwards, clearing the distance in a single bound and cutting left and right, claiming skulls for its god.
Part 5'So, Judge, might you remind me of the reasons for requesting the aid of my platoon?'
Easton looked over at the PDF officer, shivering slightly as the cold winds whipped up his robe around him. So far, the old man had been nothing but questions, always questions...he was asking things that were beyond his station, what were the Adeptus Arbites doing to alleviate the grim situation, how many were dead, which of the four malign Powers was the Daemonic entity suspected to have been created by? And he spoke with such arrogance, simply because he had fought on this world and defended that shrine on the other. He was merely an ex-Necromundan veteran who would only have been called to action against simple foes such as the war-mongering Orks or the naive Tau, not an enemy who could strike from nowhere.
'The twenty four trained and armed men at my precinct are not enough, I feel, to defend the people against small scale rebellions and traitorous militias, if they gain more aid from the dark Gods and if such an incident were to occur, the other precincts would be too preoccupied with the riots,' Easton replied curtly, the officer nodding casually at every word, before the Judge spoke again with a hint of venom in his voice, 'yet I must also remind you that I did not request your aid, I commanded that you give it.'
The sharp look that Easton threw at him didn't seem to be acknowledged, but the Arbite had other concerns rising within him as a jet black Chimera thundered past and into the precinct's vehicle bay, disrupting the two Hermes MCRs that had to skid to a halt to avoid what seemed like an almost rude entry, if a machine could be capable of such a thing. Easton was shocked by the motif he had seen on the hull of the vehicle, but as he turned to face the officer he was slightly pleased by the fact that the man's face had gone pale and that his mouth was opening and shutting, but no noise was escaping.
'It would seem that the Emperor's most holy Inquisition has taken an interest in our actions,' Easton stated, almost surprised to find himself relishing the uncomfortable atmosphere that began to fall over the once proud and arrogant officer.
Easton and the officer found the door to his office ajar. Pushing it open as he strode in with mostly false confidence, one pair of eyes met his as he stared back at the three figures. One was a man-machine clad in thick and heavy red and white robes, which bore the symbol of the Machine Cult. Its arms ended in hands and fingers that were little more than skin draped lightly over bone and which were connected to wires, which intertwined to form one thick cable that disappeared beneath the robes on its hunched back.
The second was a swordswoman, a thin rapier blade within a crude scabbard adorning her belt which was tied around the tunic of a Flak armour suit. Her hair extended far behind her back, but this was not what intrigued Easton: both of her eyes had been damaged permanently in some way. Her right eye had a cruel scar cutting through it that ran down to her chin; the other had horrible burns of what seemed to be of an acidic nature. Unfortunately, his new companion was less interested in that as he heard a low whistle and clenched his fists, but before he could speak the sword shot out and was on the officer's neck.
'Do. Not. Whistle. At. Me,' she slowly spoke, emphasising every word before giving an almost playful grin as she terrorised the man, who tried to mumble a frightened apology.
'Now, Isabel,' he third figure spoke in a heavy Kreigan accent after a short, almost friendly, laugh while the woman silently withdrew the blade, before directing his next comment in a much colder and more distant way at the Necromundan, 'and who are you?'
'C-captain Garret Provik, s-sir, obedient servant of His will,' the officer stuttered as he hastily removed his peaked cap and bowed nervously to the Kreigan.
'Is that so?' the second question was directed at Easton.
'Leave. These matters to not concern you and indeed you would not understand their importance.'
The man nearly ran out of the room in relief, leaving Easton face to face with the three warriors. The third was dressed in a heavy, black leather trench coat which was featureless other than a hood which shrouded the face of its wearer. Slowly, despite the man's arms being at his side, the hood was drawn back and one side of the coat opened, revealing half of a suit of heavy, unreflective black Carapace Armour, but Easton's eyes were drawn to the array of stakes and torture implements that sat in pockets on the inside of the coat. When he looked back up at the man's face, Easton saw that he had a thick beard and dull grey eyes which nevertheless seemed to contain overwhelming knowledge.
'Could I...ask one...two questions, if you would permit them, venerable Inquisitor?'
'Firstly...I assume that you are a Psyker?'
'That is correct.'
'Ah. Secondly, your accent is Kreigan...yet all that I have learnt of the populace of Kreig is that they wish to atone for their sins in war...'
'What better way is there to atone for my sins than to strike at the heart of impurity?'
'A wise answer.'
'Indeed. I am Dunant, of the Ordo Hereticus. Soon an Inquisitor of the Ordo Malleus will be arriving: we will decide whether the current state of this city and this world warrants the involvement of Inquisitorial forces.'
The whine of Thunderhawk jets grew from a faint sound until it screamed above all other noises and several distinct crunches above the room marked the landing of the aircraft. Soon the deafening noise quietened and the crack of a ramp hitting a metal floor rang into the rooms beneath the landing pad.
'I believe that he is here...'
Part 6'You say that the eight pointed star was found in the original location of the cult?' the bald Inquisitor enquired.
'That is correct, lord Inquisitor.'
'Yet...the Warp entity which massacred the crowds is noted by no less than eighteen people as being distinctly Khornate...that is not their words, but the images we can derive are a one hundred percent match to records of the servants of Khorne. Your men also encountered a creature which they described in similar ways in a sewer near to the secondary location, is it possible that they are one and the same?'
'That might be the answer, lord Inquisitor.'
'Might be? Might? Uncertainty is the tool of evil; it will smother you until you are weak and defenceless. It will reduce you to nothing. Are these creatures one and the same?'
'...Yes, lord Inquisitor.'
'Then it would seem that the initial call for power has drawn Khorne to this world.'
'However,' Dunant cut in, 'the Daemon did in no way attack...Proctor Howells? Or his men in any decisive way, it merely escaped. War would not leave its enemies to attack its back.'
Glaring at Dunant, the second Inquisitor replied, 'war is not blind.'
'Rage is,' Easton added, but shrank as the Inquisitor turned his glare on him.
'We are not dealing with every aspect of the Gods. We are dealing with only one, war. You must also take into account the fact that eight prisoners were taken, eight summonings, eight Daemons, all the sacred number of the god of war. It is a mere coincidence that two were left alive, it is possible that in their haste to escape the wrath of their patron's Daemon they failed to take all of the prisoners. That wrath, might I add, is characteristic of Khorne.'
Dunant stared at the Daemonhunter for a few seconds before turning back to the Judge, 'the two survivors...they say that the heretics were practicing rituals of blood? Have you done all the necessary scans?'
'Yes, lord Inquisitor and they are pure, free from the taint of Chaos. That is exactly what they saw-'
'Once again, more evidence to support the fact that this world may soon be in the grip of Khorne!' the Inquisitor interrupted.
"Might I ask...what action will be taken, venerable Inquisitors?'
The two stared over the table at each other for several seconds and Easton could almost feel the mental war that was taking place. Eventually the silence was lifted.
'I will leave this planet immediately-'
'As will I-'
'-and a small unit of outside forces will be called in to assist in quelling the populace and destroying any cultist cells that remain.'
With this decision, Dunant glanced over his shoulder at his Autosavant.
'What forces are currently operating within this system?'
'Imperial troops, none. Adeptus Sororitas troops, none. Black Ships, none. Adeptus Astartes troops, Sons of Oblivion fleet en route to the rebellion on Kyroth II.'
Turning back to the second Inquisitor, Dunant almost whispered, 'by the Emperor - do you not see? The only forces within the area are-'
'They are the only allies we have who can spare men to aid the Judge.'
Sighing heavily as he rose, Dunant pulled the black hood over his head. Easton glanced at him and the Inquisitor gave him a piece of advice, 'be wary. Be cautious. Pray that they do their duty and leave.'
The second Inquisitor stood as well, saying 'I will request the aid of the Sons of Oblivion. Five men are more than enough; they will arrive in a matter of hours,' before leaving.
'What is it that you find amusing, Isabel?'
'I find it ironic that neither you nor he believe in your decision and that both of you wish to let the situation descend into war to fuel your own needs.'
'His beliefs are foolish. Mine are right. He treads the path to Istvaanianism and heresy; I tread the path to power and purity that will greatly benefit my works.'
Part 7Cursing loudly at the rioters, Howells could barely hear his voice over the heaving, yelling mass of people that was pushing against the suppression shields of his men. Occasionally, one person would break through the wall of shields and be leaped upon and restrained by another Arbite. An Imperial priest was trying to calm the crowds, but his words were lost in the storm of noise.Why can't these bloody fools see that this is only making them more vulnerable to Daemonic attack? Well, they don't even know that Daemons exist, but they damn well know what happened at that market. Stupid blabbermouths had to go and tell everyone what happened, I guess controlling the media is useless after all.
Behind him, the imposing structure of the governor's palace's fortified walls cast a shadow over the dissenters and Howells knew that the very meaning of the palace to the crowds was also spurring them on.But, if they want to change things, attacking people isn't the way to go. Idiots. Another rock bounced off of his helmet, knocking him backwards slightly with the force of it. As he looked up, a broken bottle arced through the air, blown apart by a shotgun blast, however a thin shard still managed to drive its way into his cheek. Pushing two Arbites aside and lunging forward into the crowd, he energised his Power Maul and swung it at the nearest civilians in his rage.
'Son of a grox! You think you have the right to do that?! Huh?! You're damn unfit to rule yourselves you-'
His attack of anger was ended as two Arbites grabbed him, disarmed him and dragged him back behind the line of shields. His actions were still enough to spark new rage within the crowds and some less than innocent rioters, evidently having come prepared, began to throw Molotov cocktails into the Arbites, setting some of them ablaze, but they were quickly doused by the Arbiter Chimera which rumbled forwards, spraying a low pressure stream of water at the flailing men before blasting a high pressure torrent at the crowds.
The situation escalating, the Arbites began to advance as other rioters drew homemade weapons or licensed weapons, lasers and bullets combating the disciplined advance while the Arbites swung at those about them with Power Mauls, stunning the rioters. Some of the black armoured men fell to the ground, clutching at wounds, but slowly and steadily the line made its way forwards as the majority of the confused and scared crowd fled.
The adjutant glanced worryingly at the incoming Thunderhawk, its bony white colour and black skull motif seeming out of place for the noble Space Marines. As the craft drew closer he became even more disturbed by the unnaturally extensive number of weapons it bore and the reinforced armour plating on its hull. When the Heavy Bolter turrets mounted either side of the front hatch began to follow his movements while he backed away from the landing pad he almost ran for the stairwell, but the legends of the wise nature and Imperial faith of the Space Marines kept him on the roof of the precinct while the aircraft turned while it was hovering and eventually landed with a crunch on the landing pad.
The front hatch opened almost as soon as the craft had touched the roof, five Space Marines leaping out of the dark interior and checking their Bolters. One of them removed his helmet and attached it to his belt, surveying the surrounding city with deep sunk eyes, nearly hidden by the shadows of his pallid face. The adjutant couldn't help but see the resemblance between the ebony skulls on their shoulder pads and the grim visage of the soldier. He almost cowered, but he was at the same time filled with amazement at their sheer size and aura of superiority. It was only for a few seconds that he glanced into the hull of the Thunderhawk before the hatch shut itself and the jets lifted it into the air, but he had seen dark figures within the shadows. Weren't there only supposed to be five of them?
His wonder was cut short as the super humans advanced on him. He could barely conceal his fear as they looked accusingly at him, as if he had done them some unknown wrong in the past.
'Please, masters, if you would follow-'
The next word became a short-lived scream as the gaunt figure grasped his neck in one bone-white gauntlet and whipped the struggling adjutant's body once, breaking his neck. The Space Marine threw the limp body aside, where it rolled to a stop, the open eyes of the dead man conveyed both fear and wonder in equal parts.
'Purge the unclean! Purge the impure! Purge the heretic!' the grim figure chanted in a raspy voice, his brethren echoing his words.
'Let us spare no traitor of this despicable place!'
The Space Marines slammed open the doors to the cell wards, their guns felling every Arbite standing in the room with small explosions that tore apart organs and cracked bones. A man standing beside a bed stepped protectively in front of the woman who had been looking sadly at the patient beside her before the bloodshed, but the snarling skeletal Marine thumbed a non-explosive Bolt into his weapon before firing it straight through both of the victim's heads. Within scant seconds, the entire room was devoid of all life except the Marines and the two patients. A younger man tried to push himself away while an older woman merely sat in mute shock.
'What are you doing?!'
'Dispensing the Emperor's justice. You have committed a crime. You will be punished.'
The leader reloaded his Bolter with Inferno rounds before the elderly lady whispered, 'Emperor have mercy...'
'The Emperor's mercy is only bestowed upon those who deserve it!'
The Inferno Bolts were launched and soon the former prisoners were in flames while the Space Marines strode out of the ward, leaving the burning corpses behind them.
Part 8On the roof of the precinct, snow began to gather in mounds and collect in corners as the snow storm intensified and the frigid air swept droves of the white powder around the Krak grenades that were nestled among the communications tower. The time delay device sat beside them, the smooth black shell slowly awaiting the trigger command. Soon it was buried beneath snow, but a small electrical signal made its way to the grenades. The wind continued to scream at the top of its voice while the grenades clicked, a sound drowned out in the blizzard, before they exploded.
Metal was rent apart as the surge of heat and power engulfed the base of the tower, throwing it from its peak and into the unsuspecting streets below. The explosion battered the plascrete roof around it, blasting its way through in a shower of dust and rubble that forced a fleeing adjutant to slide to a halt, stumbling over the chunks of scorched plascrete before tripping and falling down, trapping their leg between two lumps of plascrete. They kicked one away and dragged their injured foot from the settling pile of fine dust and chunks of rock, but their escape was hindered by the Bolt that penetrated their skull and sent them sprawling to the floor.
The Sons of Oblivion Marine stepped over the pile, plascrete grinding away as the force of their muscles and the enhanced armour crushed it. The forbidding, inhuman helmet peered downwards into the wound, sensors in the armour detecting no signs of life. Raising their head again, the soldier moved on, their Bolter howling with the wind as it pumped shot after shot into an Arbite that passed the end of the corridor. The body fell down, half a dozen bullet holes in their armour edged with blood as the explosive Bolts incinerated the woman's insides.
A flash grenade was rolled from a nearby door, a black gauntlet withdrawing hurriedly as the resulting burst of light drove the Marine's sensors insane. First they heard a heavily armoured figure roll out of the door: their Bolter vaguely traced the movement with bullet holes in the wall and floor behind the agile figure. Incoming fire came from two areas at once, a light weapon fired small, innacurate bursts of fire from the office that bounced harmlessly from the thick, resistant Power Armour and strong, single blasts from a trained marksman that left gaping holes in the outer layers of armour, knocking the towering Marine backwards a little with every shot.
The light gradually fading as their vision returned to normal, the Marine first dispatched the attacker in the office, a spray of bullets resulting in a gurgling scream and a series of wild shots that traced a wavering path from the Son of Oblivion upwards, the dying man's final epitaph blasted into the ceiling with an Autopistol. With one final powerful, precise strike at the augmented warrior's eye lens, the second person was gone, leaving behind two dead bodies, the Space Marine collapsing to the floor with a resounding crunch, their face as emotionless as it had been in life.
The corpse behind the blood spattered table began to bleed profusely, unnatural amounts of blood gushing from his wounds while pus and blood seeped through the broken lens of the Marine's helmet as it built up behind the other, finally bursting it with a hideously slimy crack. Blood dripped down the sides of the helmet, soon transformed from a dribble into a cascade. Bony blades burst out of the hands of the human, tearing through his flesh and creating a second set of fingers, deadly ossific knives. Their canines began to elongate and morph until they resembled the fangs of a wolf. Their eyes slowly closed, horrific powers taking his soul as a collar of spines erupted from his neck and plates of chitin grew through his shoulders. Then he lay still, his body twisted by malign forces, awaiting his awakening.
Easton slammed a fresh clip into his Bolt Pistol, leaned back against the desk and glanced around at his companions. Most were huddled and frightened office workers, but two faces he could trust nodded back at him. He knew that Carter and McMann would die to save him, but he couldn't find much comfort in that: whether it was that they would die for him or that the situation was as grim as that, he couldn't tell. A single Marine stood at the other end of the hallway, behind the desk, standing perfectly still as he scanned the ten crouching men and women.
"Show yourselves, heretics!" he called out to them, his voice resembling the rustling of wind through a crypt, "your crimes must be punished!"
Despite the fact that he knew it to be worthless, Easton shouted in reply, "What crimes, revered one?"
"Do you not know of your dsigusting treason against His will? You have harboured heretics who should have been executed where they stood!"
"I have no idea of the people you are talking about!"
"The hostages, heretic! You failed to do your duty and so I and my men had to do it for you!"
"You magnificent scum..."
A series of Bolter rounds shredded the desk around him, barely preventing him from harm, but five of the terrified, cowering workers in front of him were blown apart by the resulting explosions, throwing their bodies backwards like leaves in the wind. One of the otherws screamed and kicked themselves away from the open skull of one of their former coworkers but the other, their mind suffering under the stress, ran to the window, pounding against the reinforced glass with whitened fists and screaming to be let out. The shadowed eyes of the Marine traced their movement, narrowing as their Bolter was levelled once again, this time at the man's head.
"I will be happy to oblige."
McMann darted from his crouch, grabbing the man's waist as he lunged across the room, pulling him away from the glass as a Bolt shattered the window, sending shards out into the road below, which was bustling with confused, milling people. They hit the wall hard, but had escaped the deadly Bolter fire. Carter quickly flicked the safety off on his Plasma gun, but Easton shook his head: he couldn't risk losing him, the Space Marines seemed to be relatively impervious to smaller arms fire which McMann's Laspistol produced and the monstrosity would make short work of himself if he attacked him alone with a Bolt pistol. Turning to his original plan, he began to speak to the Marine again.
"Why did you murder the two hostages?"
"Do you not know, pathetic human? Underyour irresponsibility laws, they are guilty of allowing themselves to be captured by enemy forces..."
"They would have had a trial!"
"A trial which they would have been found guilty in, you foolish weakling!"
Easton gritted his teeth. What made it worse was that the inhuman creature standing out there was right that the two prisoners should have died: completely right. But that was no justification for the butchering of his fellow Arbites. He turned back to Carter again, mouthing a few words to the experienced marksman, but the man simply frowned and shrugged.
I can't move, distract the enemy, he mouthed, adding a few hand motions, making sure that they were discrete. He'd heard reports of how Space Marines had unnumbered sensors built into their helmets and he didn't want to risk exposing his plan.
'Aha, I see.'
Carter drew the Plasma charge from his weapon, the dull hum that had once permeated the room disappearing as the weapon lost its power source. Another charge replaced it, fitting into the slot with a quiet click. Taking a matchbox from an inner pocket behind his armour, he lit one match and pushed it into the recesses of the volatile ammunition.
'I learned this trick when we burned up them bastards with the Warp gate...'
'A Warp gate? On our planet?!'
'Yep, way back when our Easton here was a kid and you weren't born.'
With the makeshift fuse burning down and the footsteps of the Marine drawing closer, Carter grabbed two grenades from his belt and hurled them through the doorway, bouncing them off of the wall and at the Marine, the Plasma charge following them closely. A burst of gunfire resulted in one explosion, then another sent shrapnel flying through the doorway, before a third blazed brightly with a deep red energy which ended with a roar of anger and pain from the Marine, before they charged towards the door. Easton span around as he pushed himself upwards, a Bolt glancing off of his armour, before he put a bullet in the Marine's open face.
Part 9Feet pounding on the plascrete stairs, Harrison descended into the vehicle bay, followed by several PDF soldiers who pushed and jostled in their escape as a helmet clattering on the floor and bouncing to the bottom of the stairway. A Marine appeared at the top of the dark, damp passage and aimed a Hand Flamer down at the fleeing humans, letting a jet of flame illuminate the confined space. The blazing chemicals gnawed at the skin of those who it gifted with its touch, charring them and burning up their bodies as soon as it flickered over them. Harrison felt the hot breath of the weapon pass over him, the flames following closely behind his heels, but he and four of the undisciplined soldiers managed to escape its deadly kiss.
'Alright, you two, help me up here!' one of the men called, pointing to a stack of fuel drums in the corner. One of the PDF soldiers managed to regain his wits and help the first to climb up onto one of the girders that supported the building, before hiding himself in the dark space behind the cylinders.
The two remaining soldiers simply ran as far as they could, one throwing himself into one of the Hermes MCRs as the other made a dash for the exit ramp. They barely made it halfway across the grimy space before a Bolter round burst through their gut, hurling them forwards. Harrison ducked into the open ramp of a Rhino Personnel Carrier, grabbing spare Shotgun rounds from the extra ammo rack near the driver's door. His search was stopped as the door slammed open, clipping his arm and spinning him slightly. An oily Autogun barrel poked through, followed by a wary face, half covered by slim spectacles and a bandana.
'Who the bloody hell are you?!'
'Me? Grizmund, and just who are you?'
Sighing and turning back to the ammo, Harrison waved his hand at the driver, 'telling you who I am is much less important than not getting freaking killed...'
'On the contrary. You won't die here, I won't either. I know how I die. But that's not important. Get in here,' the seemingly mad driver replied as he pulled a staring Harrison into the forward compartment. Through the vision slits, he could see the Hermes heading straight for the Marine, who simply stood in its path. As the vehicle drew nearer, the Marine threw their weapons to their sides, the tracked recon unit increasing in speed with a distinctly louder grunt of the engine. The Marine stood at the base of the stairwell, scarcely any other sound drifting through the room but that of the Hermes.
At the instant that it reached them, the Marine ducked down and thrust one arm beneath the light body of the Hermes, almost scooping it up. Leaning backwards, they allowed the speed of the vehicle to carry it over them, merely scarping the double-headed eagle on their chest plates, before it slammed hard against the plascrete wall far behind the Marine, the metal cockpit crunching into a death trap that shredded the pilot. The Marine calmly grabbed their weapons and continued its advance on the Rhino, screwing a fresh fuel tank onto the Hand Flamer. A scream from the shadows above them caused them to stop once more and from the darkness in the girders dropped the PDF soldier, yelling in fury through the knife held in their teeth.
With a swift punch at the new attacker, the threat to the Marine was removed, their unnatural strength and gravity itself helping its fist to push through the man's chest and erupt from the other side, skewering the man in a brutal show of torture and blood. When the screams of pain finally subsided, the corpse was thrown aside and once again, the Marine resumed its advance. The madman next to Harrison reached up to a pair of fuzzy dice hung over the built in communications bead and carefully removed an aquila rosary, wrapped the beads around his fingers and held it briefly to his chest.
'Poor bastards,' he solemnly uttered, before placing the rosary in its original place and grabbing his Autogun, 'when I say, you flick that switch, it'll open the slits a bit.'
The Marine was almost upon them when the vision slits expanded, allowing Grizmund to thrust his Autogun out of the Rhino at the scratched Power Armour. With a quiet click, the snout of the Autogun shot forth a single bullet, which impacted lightly on the Marine's armour, but time seemed to slow as it struck the hulking figure. A fierce roar screamed in Harrison's ears when the bullet hit and even though he had his hands grasped to his head and his eyes rapidly blinking through the storm of sound, he saw the rippling armour buckle and split from the point where the bullet hit, the Marine thrown backwards as if hit by a Rhino, their power pack screeched as the beast slid across the floor.
Glancing over at his stunned comrade, Grizmund whispered into his ear 'funny thing, faith.'
Without letting the Marine stand on his feet again, Grizmund flicked the switch back again and slammed his foot down on the accelerator, smashing into the Marine with a sickening crunch. He span the heavy tank around, nearly sliding into the unmanned Hermes. When Harrison peered through the slits he could see the battered Marine struggling to stand, but standing nonetheless. He gasped, but soon his attention was upon Grizmund.
'What type of bloody ammo do you use?!'
Grizmund laughed, 'standard ammo. Like I said, faith's a funny thing.'
Harrison tried to take in what he was seeing and hearing, but gave up, 'just never do anything like that again...'
'Beep boop beep boop...'
'I'm not your personal servitor, mate. This reminds me, you should meet the girl.'
'She's an xK1.682 servitor, but we call her Lola.'
'Anyway, back to the task at hand...'
Grizmund was ready to plough his Rhino into the Marine again, but before he could, a cloaked figure dropped from the darkness, on top of the Marine. An emerald Power sword crackled with energy as it was plunged deep into the Marine, striking their head and locking their skull in place as the blade cut through the organs and thickened ribcage and bone shield. The mysterious attacker pushed themselves away from the falling giant, sheathing the sword and letting the Marine collapse. Grizmund slowly drove his Rhino alongside the figure, who was looking speculatively at the Bolter in the Marine's hands. Harrison grabbed his Shotgun and as soon as he was out of the Rhino he aimed it squarely at the swordsman's chest.
'Calm down, I'm not going to kill you,' the stranger spoke, before dragging back the hood to reveal his face.
Harrison frowned as he strained to recognise the face, 'aren't you that Captain? PDF?'
'Call me Garret. This Space Marine...he is from the Sons of Oblivion chapter, am I correct? Yes I am.'
'How long were you hiding up there for and just what the hell is that cloak made from? It keeps shifting colours...'
'Up there? Since this little attack began, boy and this cloak is from one of the Eldar beings. The outcasts or whatever they call them. That Bolter looks nice, I think I might be having me some of that...'
The man stooped the grasp the Bolter, but Harrison planted his foot upon the weapon, 'you coward, you hid while people died!'
Slowly and menacingly rising to meat the glare of Harrison's eyes, Garret pointed to a heap of what seemed to be scrap metal in a corner of the bay, 'you see that? That's another one of these maniacs. Am I still a coward to you?'
'He's telling the truth, Harrison,' Grizmund called through the vision slits.
With that, the old man quickly lunged for the Bolter and grabbed it away from Harrison, but the Arbite turned to Grizmund, 'so just how did you know my name?'
The only reply was a short laugh.
Part 10Proctor Carter hurled a smoke grenade into the crowded shop as the flood of people swept past him, switching his visor to an infra red view as he quietly entered the vast space, the last few civilians draining out of the store through the main doors as his squad pushed their way in. He glanced around: nothing. With the now useless smoke still obscuring normal view, he waited for his squad to catch up. Howells arrived first, scanning the surrounding aisles with his Bolter, carefully examining every possible avenue of attack.That kid's gonna get a promotion some day at the rate he's improving, Carter reflected.
With the squad gathered in the centre of the store, Carter turned back to the task at hand. He quietly sent two Arbites down the aisles on either side, sending another two ahead and keeping two behind to guard their rear. Howells still stood by him as the team slowly moved towards the stairwells at the far wall, keeping their eyes open for any signs of the enemy. Nothing stirred, however he noticed that a large quantity of the shop's wares were gone. He grinned inside his helmet, how natural of people to steal when there was something more important going on.
It was as he reached the counter that gunfire broke out, on his left flank. Ducking behind the sturdy structure, he released the safety on his Bolter and let off several shots in the epicentre of the noise, the Bolts knocking something to the floor with a thud, and a disturbing squelch. Springing upwards, he ran towards the nearest shelves, Howells doing the same when Carter reached them. Firing a single shot at the darkened entry to the basement to deter any cultist scum from sniping him, he peered round the corner, finding two of his men crouching behind a pharmaceutical booth.
The rotting figure on the ground almost made him vomit in disgust. Hair matted with slime and pus sat atop the emaciated face, blood leaking from the corners of the sickening creature's eyes. A shot had pierced and blown apart their left leg and Carter finished the job, putting a bullet between the pathetic cultist's eyes. Whether the diseased man thought it was out of mercy or out of hatred, Carter didn't know. Turning his head to the stairwell, he was about to signal everyone to his position when a bloated, horrific figure pushed its way out. Its head had been flayed, now all that remained was an empty skull, yet still Carter could see it turn with purpose towards the booth.
He was about to blow it apart into chunks of disintegrating flesh but it jumped with an agility unbefitting of its size, the thin walls of the booth crumpling and collapsing before the putrid form of the mutant. One Arbite rolled backwards, the other raised their weapon. Bullets sprayed forth from the mouth of the Bolter, each striking the belly of the pestilent beast, but they all passed into the mutant's body harmlessly, seemingly absorbed by the hellish creature, who reached down and plucked the Arbite's head from his shoulders, cutting the scream short.
It turned to their other, the foul body resisting every bullet that Carter and his men shot into it. Its jaw distended, forming an unnaturally and sickeningly wide portal from which a torrent of flies, locusts and mosquitoes poured, all striving to devour the man kneeling before them. They would never get that chance, as Carter raised his weapon and fired a single short that blew open the Arbite's skull, killing them. Carter's brief prayer to the Emperor felt to him to be on deaf ears. How could the Emperor force him to do such things?
Carter glared at the Marine, then looked sorrowfully upon the Arbite that the superhuman structure had grasped, who was dying as the Marine crushed their neck. Without a word he raised the scope mounted on his Plasma gun to his eye, letting a single ball of plasma loose at the Arbite, praying to the God-Emperor as he did so. The blast killed the Arbite instantly and the Son of Oblivion had little time to react as several more shots fused their armour to their skin, one final, hateful blast of Plasma from Carter ending its life as their head melted into a puddle of ooze. As he stood over the Space Marine Carter felt rage building up within him.
'You scum,' he whispered, 'you forced me to do this.'
With those words said, he simply strolled past McMann and Easton, who parted before him without so much as a single word or an objection to his action.
Part 11The three men stalked silently down the corridor, though it was much less because of their foes and more due to the event they had just witnessed. Carter walked out ahead, barely a hint of caution in his manner as he strode over bodies and around rubble. Easton followed closely behind and had his Bolt pistol held tightly in both hands, trying to conceal his shock. McMann remained behind, keeping guard at their rear. He was still troubled by what he had seen Carter do; the old man had always been amicable and laid back in his own way. Seeing him act with such recklessness and abandon was not only strange, but frightening.
Carter thrust his hand in the air and the three of them paused momentarily while he sniffed the air. McMann could smell it too - the acrid stench of blood.Wait...blood is one thing, just what is this? Following the invisible trail, the three turned a corner, keeping a close watch in all directions, only to stumble across the gargantuan corpse of yet another Space Marine. Blood, or what seemed like blood, had flown in rivulets and then as if it were a river from a gaping wound centred around one of their eye lenses. The other lens had burst, too, though McMann knew that such damage was impossible: the near-tangible aura of death he could feel surrounding the body began to confirm hazy suspicions.
'Well that makes three dead,' Easton quietly remarked and, though Carter still said nothing, McMann knew that a little part of him had been resurrected by this.
Turning back to the others, Easton patted his hand on his radio, before asking 'did you say that communications are down?'
For the first time since the incident earlier, Carter spoke up, 'yeah, still down.'
'They came through the upper entrance from the landing pad?'
'...My guess is they went from there to the wards.'
'Then that's where we're going.'
Lily stood with remorseful and sorrowful eyes over the heavily charred corpse. The telepathic adept had drowned the flames with a fire extinguisher, but the features were still burned beyond recognition. The other was little more than a skeleton with a melted skin. The only thing that she could do was watch over them. All she had done during the attack was hide, however she couldn't tell herself why, she didn't know. She had the capabilities to destroy those puny Space Marines, shred them limb from limb, yet she had cowered while all around her had died. Maybe there was still a battle raging further inside the precinct, but in the ward there was only an overwhelming silence, which seemed to Lily to intensify the feeling of pain, ruthlessness and murder that had filled the once pristine room.
Blood caked the floor around the bodies of the Arbites and drew arcs and lines over the once pure walls. The two beds that had been aflame when she had entered were scorched, as were the blackened walls behind them. A series of windows brought rare rays of winter sunlight into the room, but to her it only seemed to clarify the wounds that had struck down so many people, enunciating the grim features and tortured faces. Reaching one hand to the young man's horribly burnt arm, she felt pity for him as her fingers traced the still warm bone from which a scrap of shrivelled skin hung down to the clenched hand.
In the instant that she did, she felt a blast of Warp energy burst into her soul, tearing through it with ease. She sharply withdrew her hand, stumbling backwards and collapsing as she recoiled, feeling the vision left by the blast violently imprinting itself in her mind. Clenching her hands to her head, she gritted her teeth, her eyes shutting tightly as pain coursed through her body. Soon, though, it left her and she pushed herself onto her knees, wiping away a tear of pain from her cheek.
Voices and footsteps dragged her further back into reality, bringing her to face the door, hands held out in front of her, tiny flashes of Warp light appearing all over them. With the recent psychic attack, she knew that using the malignant power would bring pain, yet even as she struggled to remain conscious she knew that it would be a far worse fate left to her should she be left defenceless.
A black armour figure edged to the edge of the door, but she barely registered this before the forked lightning leaped from her hands, blowing the bottom of the door into jagged pieces as she realised her mistake, straining with psychic power to recall every last shard. However, her powers were too late to prevent a dagger of plasteel stab deep into the figure's thigh. A loud cry of pain rebounded inside her mind, driving her too her knees with visions of death, blood and warfare, before her mind dropped out of the material realm.
She awoke on a rough stone floor, great blocks of interlocking stone forming a small raised surface upon which she sat. Struggling to her feet, she peered over the edge, whimpering at the sights she saw: a great line, a parade of Daemons, was ascending the stepped pyramid, three of them at the forefront bearing banners of destructive symbols. All around her were cries of pain, screams and bloody gurgles, the smell of death filled her nostrils and the tortured victims of Chaos lay on altars all around her, behind her and to each side, blood dripping from them as different forms of torment were carried out.
Stretching her head out over the side again, she looked instead to the ground far below, but she withdrew, nauseous and faint. The temple grew high above the burning remains of some forgotten city. Finally, when she had regained the stomach to look once more, her eyes met with those of a human skull. Screaming and falling backwards, she watched in horror as a blood soaked banner followed, held aloft by an inhuman beast, part human, part ram, part Chaos. By its side followed two others, a foul temptress and a disgusting paragon of disease, both with banners of their own.
The three beings simply ignored her as she scrambled to escape them. They ceased their advance at the final stair, though, slamming the banner poles hard onto the stones. Finally she grasped the hard corners of one of the altars, seemingly the most grand and decorated one. Pulling herself up, she came face to face with the tortured inhabitant of the altar, with a shriek she pulled herself away - surely she wasn't responsible for this? An injury, even a severe one, wouldn't push someone's soul this far into oblivion, it couldn't...trying to prevent herself from fainting, she glanced up at the apex of the temple, above the enormous pillars. Drawing herself back with greater horror, she recoiled from the great eye that resided over the doomed world.
Nine wavering streaks of gold ran from the eye, seemingly mimicking a sun, though such a twisted sun would be hard to find in the real world. The single reptilian, pulsating eye followed her every movement as she crawled and pushed herself further away in fear and revulsion. She took one more look at it and she felt her soul beginning to disappear, almost as if it was being flayed away. The great eye shut, a wall of concealing stone its eyelid. As her skin began to vaporise along with her soul, she raised her arms towards it, screaming in pain as she beckoned it to help her.
With a scream she awoke, writhing and kicking about. As Lily gradually calmed herself, she looked about, but everything was a blur, fading shapes and distorted features. Darkness encroached on everything, almost threatening to engulf her again. Flexing her fingers, she rejoiced in the feeling of reality once more, thankful beyond measure that she hadn't perished in her twisted dream. As she began to move she felt a hand raise her head, gradually pulling her body upright. A pair of dull green eyes emerged from the gradually withdrawing mists of colour as the world slowly became focused.
'You alright? You're not hurt in any way?'
'I don't...I'm not sure...I don't think so,' was her quiet reply as she was preoccupied with the faint screams of another.
'Well good fer you, ya stupid bitch! The Judge's just been freaking...impaled by a spike of metal!' she heard it spoken distinctly with venom, which threw the rest of the scene into a sharp focus. The screams immediately grew louder and the snarling face which had once been veiled appeared before her. The man spat on her robes and put a hand to her neck before another voice chimed in.
'Damnit, Carter! Calm the Warp down, how was she supposed to know who we were? Besides, remember what just...' the second man's eyes darted from 'Carter's' to hers briefly as his voice trailed off.
The bearded face turned to the other person, who was kneeling over the leg of a third, which was bleeding profusely. A few seconds later he turned back, but there was little of the previous anger in him. His eyes were the same dull colour again; his features were as relaxed as the situation allowed and his hands released their choking grip, letting Lily gasp for air. He leaned backwards and his lips framed some words, but they stopped before he could start speaking, uncertainty over appropriate words edging into his mind.
Eventually he decided on 'sorry', tinged with distrust and doubt, before turning back to the injured man, the only one that she recognized, the Judge. Easton. She had caused serious harm to him.
McMann hurriedly rolled Easton onto his side, exposing the wickedly sharp shard of plasteel. It was embedded deep in the Carapace armour, having penetrated it at the centre of a spider's web of faults. Blood began to drip out, staining his hands as he grasped the heavy piece of metal. With the effort of pulling the shard free he gritted his teeth, though he knew that it was also in an attempt to drown out the intertwining screams, from both Easton and that telepath that was always seen around the strange chambers near the cells.Why would she be hanging around there anyway? Just what in the Warp goes on in there if someone as pallid and bloodless as her frequents it? No...concentrate.
Luckily, the fragment was a single spike and came loose easily and, as he constricted the blood flow to the injury, McMann took a moment to look over his shoulder at the woman, who was wracked with some ethereal torment and pain. Her body flung itself around on the floor as she continuously screamed and wailed, the sound rivalling that of the mythical banshees that stalked the swamps beyond the city boundaries. Strange energies ran over her body, flowing around her robes in sparks and whips of lightning, bursts of unnatural light.
However, in a small second, it was gone. She no longer flailed around; there were no further outbursts of light and power. She lay on the floor in a contorted position as if tossed away by a great force that McMann envisioned as a puppeteer throwing down a marionette. Her eyes slowly opened within their deep-sunk pits and her pale hands began to move, showing a peaceful form of life that had not been present as she had been twisting around. Carter knelt down beside her and put a hand behind her head while McMann turned back to Easton, relieved that one of the two screams had been ended.
'Well good fer you, ya stupid bitch!' brought McMann's head sharply around again, staring wide eyed as Carter, who had merely seemed to have taken on a darker side before, reached one hand to the telepath's throat.
The other hand joined it as he spoke again, 'The Judge's just been freaking...impaled by a spike of metal!'
He started to choke her, but McMann quickly called out, 'Damnit, Carter! Calm the Warp down, how was she supposed to know who we were? Besides, remember what just...'
He stopped just short of recounting the frightening events before she had awoken, fearing that she might be more afraid of the news, or perhaps another emotion, which might be even worse. Carter looked over at him, slowly releasing her neck as he returned to himself again. After a short time he apologised almost silently, though McMann could feel that he would never forgive her. He looked back at Easton, who had eventually stopped screaming, as he realized that he still had work to do.