March 13, 0813 16:51
The hulking knight-like silhouette engaged mag-boots only long enough to get traction for striding leaps along the portside stern. Backlit by the crimson storm that one could confuse with a red giant star, the warrior’s armour was edged with a dim corona and dully reflected the omnipresent void. Like a meek charlatan auctioning off salvation, he hastily susurrated an orison. He hoped – prayed – that carving such glyphs in the vessel’s flesh would have the same effect they would incised on a more common host. It had to work. A thermal flash inside his helm on the imaging visor: the veteran caught a glimpse of of the squad’s cloven strike cruiser breaking further apart.
An emergency escape hatch blew upwards away from the ship just ahead. Three vac-suited forms followed it, rapidly illuminated in flashes of red as they fired las-weapons. He didn’t miss a beat of his odd jumping-sprinting gallop. His targeting system blipped thrice, and after three trills of his arm-mounted storm bolter they floated on limply like a trio of marionettes in a gentle stream. The only sound was three hums of numbing vibration that ran through his power armour.
The hull itself became violent and animated, lashing out at him. Armored plates curling up and tearing at their own edges until they were toothy maws. He tried to stride once more, but after a final step the section snapped shut like an ancient ursine trap. The section in front of him was still smooth and inanimate.
The Grey Knight had lost contact with the scant remains of his squad. If they had not done their part, this certainly wouldn’t work. Reaching out with his mind, he ignited his force spear and gashed the last symbol into the accursed hull. It glowed a brilliant orange for half a moment and then spewed an endless fountain of boiling, burning blood like a geyser into the void. It could be smelled in his sealed armour. An inundation of foul immaterial forces had begun.
The little ship contorted and twisted until it froze, stuck in a warped deformed shape. But a translucent thing of its likeness parted from it and began to morph, violently flailing about. It began to fade and shrink, being drawn to a single point. It reached out with tendrils, seeking purchase and raking micro tears in reality with its talons. This only hastened its return to the empyrean. In a final act of spite, the exorcised daemon stabbed with all its might. Diminished, it swirled back home without a struggle.
The ship’s drive went critical. The flash could be seen all the way at the star systems edge. The now inert plate that still clasped him bore the brunt of the plasma and shrapnel, but not all of it.
His armor compromised, he reflexively held his breath. He could not see, or feel his face. He reached up and his gauntleted fingertips passed through the nauseatingly large gap where the front of his head should have been. They grazed the tender flesh of what he thought was his soft palate. He did not feel his legs, or his second heartbeat either for that matter. And the original was going into cardiac arrest.
Forgive me brothers. We shall not be interred on Titan. None, not even our brethren will know of our victory here today. What did the other Justicars think of as they died? That was the last thought of his fallen brethren that would ever pass through his consciousness as it failed… And then he drifted.
A white hot flash followed by a flowing and cascading multi-color incandescence illuminated the sky like some unholy aurora. The lights were accompanied by screeches that were at once sonic and material, psychic, and incorporeal. These were mortal wailings of the entity that had made its home in Captain Invictus Smauth.
Inquisitor Chrysanthemum slipped away before the battle was over. Her whereabouts and motives are widely unknown, and the inquisitor’s sudden and wordless disappearance was most troublesome to both the Astartes and the Ordos.
Brother Rousht Welkinssen, of the Space Wolves returned to Fenris shortly afterwards, his oath the Deathwatch fulfilled. He took in the scenery that was embraced by the arcked horizon as he stood one of the highest balconies of The Fang. The high winds whipped up his hair. It was hard to imagine that such fresh winter air could be designated a ‘Death World.’ It was good to be home.
Brother Twamp, of the Iron Hands pursued Medea alone at first. Also hot on her heels were a small team of Throne agents of the Ordo Hereticus, and they eventually convinced him that they should work together. He may not have acquiesced were it not for the inordinate amount of cybernetic grafts and implants they each possessed. As they closed in on her, a third Inquisitorial party might as well have plucked her from their grasp. Violence nearly erupted due to the conflict of claiming the capture, and who would question her prior to her trials. A compromise was reached, and Brother Twamp returned to Erioch. He submitted his report, and a request to continue his service to the Deathwatch indefinitely.
Brother Ferrari Cyd, of the Blood Drinkers was put in temporal stasis and taken back to Watch Fortress Erioch. His body was to be prepared for burial and returned to his chapter, but there was a spark of life in him yet. In his own autonomic stasis, most of his organs shut down. The truly vital ones were functioning at imperceivable levels of activity. It would be years before he fully recovered and re-learned how to use his new augmetics.
Brother Dante Kin’Draeden, of the Flesh Tearers attached himself to various Kill-teams throughout the Reach, never officially getting a sanctioned extension for his service. Ever brooding on the malady that afflicted his and his cousin chapters.
As part of the plotted course, the destroyers Caliginous and the gapingly incomplete Consanguinity translated to real space to adjust. Standard procedure to avoid a warp anomaly. Instead they narrowly avoided a barrage of… things. The Caliginous was deftly piloted away from all but one.
“Alpha, listen carefully” Quasar released the comm switch, sat down, and took a deep breath, and adjusted the transmitter’s flexible neck before keying it again. “There is a powerful psychic presence in that boarding spore, likely full to burst with an autonomous brood. Lord included. Broodlord. Singular, if you’re lucky. Kill-team Crux is compromised. You can’t control your men, and all are ill trained and ill equipped for this foe. You are not prepared. Immediately translate to the next-”
Crux Alpha minimized that channel’s volume until it was only a nagging whisper. Grim. Confident. Determined. After glancing at the impact data he stated plainly, “We will blow partitions 15 through 19 on sub-decks 3,4, and 5. Then we-”
“You most certainly will not,” squeaked the nth heiress to a little-known Rogue Trader ‘dynasty.’ “You will make every effort to minimize the damage to my family’s property or we will remove ourselves from your employ.”
“Nonsense. We will lock down the bridge and all hatches from there to here, and defend”. A second Astartes suggested, gesturing to the threshold.
“To the empyrean with that plan! We shall meet them halfway with an ambush from four sides.” Demanded the third black-and-silver clad Space Marine.
“I can’t believe I was assigned to a team of pretty ogryns trying to pass themselves as Astartes. You sound like a gaggle of petty elder matriarchs squabbling over what dish to bring to the Lord Governer’s potluck.” Jabbed the fourth.
“This is madness! Constrain yourselves brothers!” Boomed the fifth.
After five minutes of frustration and terror over the vox net Quasar hears one last transmission.
“My blood. To the last drop. Vile xenos!,” Crux Alpha managed to choke out. After that all vox traffic was silent, besides the five minutes of Quasar almost screaming in an attempt to hail someone… anyone.
Unbidden, the navigator resumed course. He advised his kin on the sister vessel to do the same, and glided his premature baby through the tear in space as powerful energies crackled off its gellar field.
Two stand alone on the sleeping bridge of Inquisitor Adrielle Quist’s, Aka. Quasar’s, personal yet incomplete vessel. Their still solemn faces were dimly underlit by the synchronised, slow pulsing of amber light from the various control consoles. A third, uncountable, stood at ease in the periphery. Unseen, vigilant.
One was… The unmoving, blood-red pinpoint of her ocular augment focused on the jet black Hunter-Destroyer through the thick plasteglass panes. Its gaze seemed to pierce time and space.
The second was clad in aesthetically complimentary feminine power armor. It was dark and dominated by fleurs-de-lis. She was the first to speak.
“Mamzel Adrielle,” her voice reverberated off her rebreather that hung barely undonned, “The repairs are nearly complete. The damage was relatively minor compared to the fate of Her last crew. The majority of the officers are standing by, and the rest will arrive within a fortnight.”
“One of the engineers has gone missing betwixt shifts.” Inquisitor Quist stated coldly.
“They lurk. She is already under quarantine, unbeknownst to the repair teams. I know you will not allow them to live, and neither would I. But still, it is regrettable. I could take care of it Inquisitor…”
“No.” She sharply cut off the Interrogator she had recently and so grudgingly taken on. “The purging of Caliginous can wait until the arrival of Enigma.”
“THAT, is the name you decided on? It feels kind of generic, but mostly corny. I didn’t know a name could be both borderline heretical, and insipidly trite”
A long moment of silence passed.
Adrielle’s demeanor changed dramatically. She arched her back, stretching her arms and popping her knuckles. Through her yawn Constantina heard, “I think I will retire.” and continued with more clarity, “You’re more than welcome to join me. Offer still stands.”
Constantina visibly stiffened and invisibly blushed, feeling the heat on her cheeks. A memory spontaneously returned from a week prior when she had asked “Lady” why Quist kept all-female company. She had only laughed hysterically until her smouldering lho-stick when down her v-neck, and she had continued to do so as she frantically tried to extinguish it.
“But, I know you’ll just go destroy the training mannequins instead.” The inquisitor let out a sigh of disappointment. “Take off that Throne-forsaken armor and leave it off. You haven’t seen combat in a month. Tomorrow you should start breaking in that bodyglove I got for you, and you might actually start to feel like a part of the team. G’night Pyroxy. Come Charade.” The silent guardian obediently fell in behind Adrielle.