Pink clouds screamed past the drop pod. An energetic impurity in the atmosphere flared in the pod’s wake, bisecting the sky in a line of fire. This same impurity had driven the people of this world to construct a vast floating hive, where the resulting wealth had fostered impurities in their souls.
The drop pod punched through the upper tiers of the hive, smashing through layers of penthouse and pleasure dome. These noble heights had eschewed defense for luxury. So spoiled by wealth, so secure in their remote location, the lords of these heavenly spires had thought themselves above the need for war. But now war had fallen upon them.
Space marines exploded from the pod, cobalt blue through the rubbled grey of impact clouds, the thunder of bolt pistols cleansing anything foolish enough to bear weapons in their presence. The civilian population had already fled the city. Now the defending garrison shattered under the sledgehammer assault.
Sergeant Auctorem smashed through a defensive checkpoint barely worthy of the designation, lip curled in distaste behind his vox-grille as troops tumbled and scattered around him. These traitors were incapable of even the most elementary defense. Clearly non-locals, new to the hive and utterly ignorant of the defensive potential of confined urban assault, but that didn’t excuse their abysmal aim. Throne, they didn’t even use cover! They seemed to be ice-worlders, white armor more concerned with concealing the wearer than protecting them, so flimsy that an explosive bolt ending one soldier would wound two comrades.
He emptied his bolt pistol into an arriving squad – they charged through doors single file! – while checking the blinking auspex in his left hand. He indicated the gore-painted door.
The door disappeared in a flash of melta, power-armored figures pouring into the central cryo-facility before the smoke could collapse against clouds of freezing vapor. The chamber was a stark industrial coliseum. Two figures dueled on a ring around a central pit, but broke off to face the marines, power swords raised. Auctorem’s bolt pistol locked at the larger.
“In the name of the Emperor, you will submit!”
Face hidden behind a blasphemous insectoid mask, the black-clad figure spoke in a voice buzzing with the bass of mechanical augmentation.
“So, he suspects. Then the Emperor shall fall sooner than planned.”
“Blasphemy!” swore Auctorem, his fire held only by duty to their greater mission. “Submit to His Will!”
The smaller figure screamed as he charged.
“I’ll never submit!”
Bolts cracked the air but incredibly, impossibly, the youth advanced, power sword humming against the storm of death. Auctorem’s tactical mind targeted and analyzed the new threat factor.
Theoretical: blocking shots with a power sword would be a useful ability if you could persuade your opponent to fire only one shot at a time.
Practical: any defense dependent on your foe not doing their best to kill you is suicidal.
Marine Procursus proved the practical by add his own bolt fire. For an insane instant the youth still advanced, sword a blue blur, an impossible shield, before sheer weight of fire punched past. Even as one bolt was blocked a second exploded through the waif to fling his body backwards into the pit.
Insect-mask collapsed to his knees.
Auctorem switched aim but still held fire. He needed answers.
“The prisoner. Where is your —”
The scream of tearing metal as his right arm flung out to the side against the will of wearer and machine spirit, bolt pistol flung from his grip. His multilung slammed against the inside of his fused ribcage, desperately expanding to tear air through a suddenly constricting throat. His secondary heart boomed, double-pulse cannonading through his skull, but his mind thundered with only one word even as the other marines were punched backwards.
“WITCHERY!” Pure fury burst Auctorem’s last breath through the unnatural obstruction to curse the abominations inflicted on the Emperor’s galaxy. The pressure on his throat redoubled, crushing his larynx, an invisible vice ignoring his armored gorget to crush the life from his flesh.
Theoretical: an ability to bypass armor is a significant tactical advantage.
Practical: an ability dependent on your enemy patiently waiting to choke is flawed.
The floor shook under the thunder of his steps, or maybe it was his own heartbeats, both smashing in a relentless assault against an impossible force. His lungs were collapsing with unnatural swiftness, and it felt like that his head must surely be torn off, held in place only by his helm.
The red helm of an Ultramarines sergeant. Neither cease nor pause were possible.
The kneeling figure’s dark helmet exploded under Auctorem’s armored gauntlet. Plastek? Did these madmen care nothing for survival? A sucking hiss did for a curse as he considered the lack of prisoners, scanning the room for the most likely route. There. A cargo passage leading to the landing pads. He gestured forwards.
The city was in flames, survivors of the defending garrison in total rout. Ships screamed away from every launch pad. Auctorem shouldered through the doors to the target gantry (was nothing on this cursed world capable of defense?) where a ship shaped like a death-worlder’s tribal mask was already lifting off..
Procursus dropped to one knee, shouldering a rocket launcher and spitting death in the same smooth motion. The contrail speared the rising craft, exploding into flaming wreckage which rattled back to the pad. Auctorem strode into the inferno. Ruby eyes gazed into the burning death. There.
He dropped to one knee, palming the block of carbonite. Unscathed. He signaled the Thunderhawk to come collect their prize. They would return it to the Censura.
There the rogue would share his secret route to the heretics on Kessel.
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