-IceMan-

Grim Twilight of the Distant Future: Chapter 4

Oct 27th, 2016
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  1. Grim Twilight of the Distant Future
  2. By IceMan
  3.  
  4. Chapter 4: Heretics
  5.  
  6. >The flyer skims silently over kilometer after kilometer of trenches beneath you, their guns silent despite your rapid advance overhead.
  7. >The Mechanicus’s technosorcery, whatever it may be, seems to have completely masked your approach from the onlooking traitors.
  8. >For most of the journey, you have remained silent, checking and rechecking your chainsword and boltpistol for any conceivable malfunction.
  9. >Abruptly, the Inquisitor comes over to you and gives you a curious glance.
  10. “Inquisitor,” you address her.
  11. >“I have a question for you, Commissar,” she says.
  12. “Ask away.”
  13. >She takes a look at Magos Scintillula, currently in some sort of recharging mode that functioned in some capacity as sleep.
  14. >“Lord Commissar Lustris Armis mentioned that you found certain xenos markings at the first line of enemy trenches.”
  15. “Yes. I and Magos Scintillula did find evidence of a possible Necron site beneath the trenches.”
  16. >Inquisitor Lunis rubs her chin.
  17. >“Why do you think the Adeptus Mechanicus would send a Skitarii Battle Maniple to this planet?”
  18. >You blink.
  19. “I am not certain if I am capable of answering such a question.”
  20. >“Not capable? Or not willing?”
  21. “I’m not certain what you are implying.”
  22. >Lunis frowns.
  23. >“The Mechanicus only sends its Skitarii where its interests lie. What does the Adeptus Mechanicus seek?”
  24. “Inquisitor, I do not think that -”
  25. >“They seek technology. Now tell me: why are they here?”
  26. “They… they want technology on this planet.”
  27. >“Precisely. The Adeptus Mechanicus is known for being particularly protective of new technological finds, and there have been multiple accounts of their agents taking great risks to obtain it.”
  28. “Such as waking Necron tombs?”
  29. >“So you have heard these stories.”
  30. “Of course, but I do not think it appropriate to question the methodology of an Imperial Adeptus.”
  31. >“Nothing is above questioning except the will of the God-Emperor, and there are many within the Inquisition who question how loyally the Adeptus Mechanicus serves his will.”
  32. “The Treaty of Mars -”
  33. >“A ten-thousand year old piece of parchment.”
  34. >The comment renders you silent.
  35. >“I would be wary of Magos Scintillula,” Inquisitor Lunis says. “Whatever the Mechanicus has found here…. Let us hope that they do not do something foolish. As for me, I believe in the ancient adage of ‘keep your friends close, and your enemies closer,’ which is why I brought her with us.”
  36. >The servitor pilot suddenly whirs around in its compartment.
  37. >“Approaching landing coordinates,” it says in its flat mechanical voice. “Please prepare for landing.”
  38. >The landing pylons faintly hiss beneath you, and the craft lands with a heavy thunk.
  39. >Magos Scintillula smoothly rises from her slumber, following you, the Inquisitor, and her retinue as you exit the craft onto the battlements of Fortress 19.
  40. >A multitude of heavy guns stand unmanned at the crenelation - in fact, the entire structure seems deserted from your viewpoint.
  41. >The Inquisitor searches over the fortress for a moment, before turning to the techpriest.
  42. >“Magos, if you were a heretic, where would you place your most vital information?” she asks.
  43. >“In the place my enemies would least expect me to,” the techpriest says. “The chapel.”
  44. >The Inquisitor nods.
  45. >“Logister, do you know the way?” she asks to Saltatora.
  46. >“Of course. Second right, then a 50 meter descent down a flight of stairs. Third left.”
  47. >“Very good.”
  48. >The techpriest extends a mechadendrite into a nearby door panel to unlock it.
  49. >You enter first, boltpistol raised and loaded, your finger hovering over the trigger, but no target comes to meet you as the long buttressed hallway yawns ahead, empty of souls.
  50. >The five of you make your way through the fortress silent as phantoms, but uncontested.
  51. >The door to the chapel is unguarded, but the great aquila on its twin oak doors is brutally marked with a red Chaos star, blood presumably the medium of choice for the new artwork.
  52. >“Curse this blasphemy,” Confessor Stellara says, shoving past you, “To defile a place of the Emperor’s holy light….”
  53. >She reaches into her robe and, pulling out a small hand flamer, immediately sets to work defacing the defacement with holy fire, which conveniently also burns the wooden aperture to a cinder.
  54. “The Emperor protects,” you mutter to the priest, as some form of condolence.
  55. >As you step over the smoldering ashes, you find similar graffiti scrawled over the glasswork and statues of the chapel, in the same iron oxide hue.
  56. >The pews have been smashed to pieces, their prayer books torn page by page.
  57. >Stellara continues her crusade, removing the blight of Chaos with flame, whispering prayers to the Emperor under her breath.
  58. >“Be careful not to burn too much, Confessor,” Lunis says, “We don’t want to destroy something of value.”
  59. >The priest nods, but returns to her task.
  60. >At the altar, where once a Ministorum priest would have given his sermons, instead of the accouterments of faith there was now the trappings of a battle commander’s war tent: a holotable surrounded by several short metal chairs, tactical cogitators ready to begin the calculations of attrition and materiel losses, a large collection of maps and other writings scrawled on well looked over parchment.
  61. >Again, the soldiers themselves were absent.
  62. >Logister Saltatora immediately begins taking down notes with an autoquill and rapidly snapping picts with an eye-mounted recorder, gathering every possible piece of information, useful or otherwise.
  63. >However, you couldn’t shake the hollow sense of dread in your gut.
  64. >Your trigger finger was itchy and your body felt compressed.
  65. >As you gaze around the chapel from your position on the altar, you think about what was making you so uneasy.
  66. >No guards.
  67. >In the least secure part of the structure.
  68. >And with the most valuable information inside.
  69. >It was…
  70. >The thought suddenly was both erased and confirmed by the detonation of an artillery shell on the reinforced glass skylight, showering the chapel in razor-edged shards.
  71. “Inquisitor! It’s a trap!” you shout. “Get down!”
  72. >The second shell lands on the table and sends you flying into the wall, a great mosaic of the Emperor above you, crumbles of rockcrete raining from the ceiling with the force of the blast.
  73. >“They’re trying to bring down the fortress on top of us,” says Scintillula as she picks herself up, “We need to find a more defensive position.”
  74. “Right,” you say. “Inquisitor! We have to move!”
  75. >“No!” she yells back. “There’s still information to be found here.”
  76. “No time.”
  77. >Your eyes search for an escape route, the entryway to the chapel seeming a million kilometers away.
  78. >The third shell isn’t as accurate, exploding on a solid part of the roof, but still shook the structure violently.
  79. >“Logister, have you collected everything?” the Inquisitor asks.
  80. “Yes,” she says, after a brief pause.
  81. >“Good. Then we’re out of here. Now!”
  82. >This wasn’t a full barrage, you realized.
  83. >The fire rate is too low and too inaccurate; any competent commander would have at least dozen guns aimed at the position for a saturation bombardment.
  84. >So, what were they planning?
  85. >You soon figured out, as a small black dot appears through the smoke, rapidly getting larger.
  86. “Drop pod!” you announce.
  87. >In seconds, it crashes directly in the middle of the chapel.
  88. >Three titanic armored figures emerge from it, clad in ebony and gold.
  89. >For a moment, you thought the Emperor’s Angels of Death had come to save you.
  90. >But, first, you saw their armor pattern was unfamiliar to you, somehow warped and alien, covered with spikes.
  91. >Then you saw their sigils.
  92. >A mechanical skull on an eight-pointed star.
  93. >The Iron Warriors.
  94. >Traitors.
  95. >In a voice like an avalanche of stones and metal, one spoke a dreaded war cry.
  96. >“Let the galaxy burn!”
  97. >And, with that, he charged forward, fast as a bullet, and struck the Inquisitor with a power sword as large as your entire body.
  98. >The blade would have cleaved her in two, if she hadn’t disappeared with the characteristic crack of a displacer field.
  99. >You ram a few boltpistol shells towards the assailant, but they merely spark and bounce off his thick ceramite pauldrons.
  100. “Everybody get back!” you shout, not sure what else to say.
  101. >Confessor Stellara quickly steps in front of you with her hand flamer drawn, and unleashes a gout of flame towards the closest Marine.
  102. >He whips toward her, pyres hotter than the promethium igniting behind his helmet.
  103. >Stellara barely manages to dodge a slice from his sword.
  104. >“Go now!” she says, letting forth another burst.
  105. >The altar catches fire, and the Marines hesitate in their advance.
  106. >It gives you just enough time to spot a door leading off from the altar and motion everyone towards it.
  107. >Confessor Stellara follows, providing a shield of fire for cover.
  108. >Once she is inside, you slam the door shut (for what little good that would do against a Space Marine’s strength), your chest heaving and sweat running down your brow.
  109. >Instantly, your mind focusses.
  110. >Fear did not become a leader of men.
  111. >You draw your chainsword and rev the blade, then sprint down an adjoining hallway, your three companions quickly following.
  112. >Finding a room that looks a bit more defensible, you shove open the metal door and rush inside.
  113. >Scintillula locks the door with a bit of technosorcery.
  114. “That won’t hold them for long,” you tell her. “Logister. We need an escape route.”
  115. >Heavy, but rapid footsteps grow closer.
  116. >“Already on it,” Saltatora says flatly.
  117. >Your vox suddenly comes on.
  118. >“Caelitum? Do you read?” Lunis’s voice emanates from the speaker.
  119. “Yes, Inquisitor. Where are you?”
  120. >“It doesn’t matter. Get Saltatora on the line and have the her give me directions so we can rendezvous.”
  121. >“The displacer field placed her in the latrine,” Saltatora says, getting close to you to speak into the vox.
  122. “How do you know that?”
  123. >“She would have just said where she was, otherwise,” the Logister says.
  124. >“I’m not in the latrines. I’m in the garbage disposal chamber,” the Inquisitor says.
  125. >“That’s much more convenient. Right, left, up 50 meters, third right, second left. Understood?”
  126. >“Understood.”
  127. >The line shuts.
  128. “What about us?” you ask.
  129. >“I’ll lead us back to the shuttle,” the Logister says, drawing a pair of laspistols. “Hopefully the heretics will split up to find the Inquisitor. She’s the more important target.”
  130. “We can’t face those Marines. They will destroy us immediately.”
  131. >“Where’s your bravery in the face of death?” the Logister says with wry smile.
  132. “I have but one life to give for the Emperor,” you reply. “Best not to waste it, especially if it means I can defend information that can win us this battle. You did find something, right?”
  133. >The Logister nods.
  134. “Good. Then let’s get it home safe.”
  135. >You look around.
  136. >Confessor Stellara guards the door, but Magos Scintillula is nowhere to be seen.
  137. “Where is the cogpriest?”
  138. >“She went through that door,” the priest says, pointing to it. “For what purpose, I could not say.”
  139. >“At least that’s in the direction of our escape route,” Saltatora says.
  140. >You stomp towards the door, boltpistol and chainsword drawn and ready.
  141. >Rounding the corner, you find the techpriest plugging her mechadendrites into some interface in the wall.
  142. “What are you doing?” you ask, checking around the corners. “The heretics will be here any moment. There’s no time for technosorcery.”
  143. >“Do you want to live or die?” Scintillula asks in response. “Because this might be the last chance we’ve got. I’m hoping that… yes! They haven’t infected the system with scrapcode yet. Onlining the servitor defense grid.”
  144. >A single red light ignites in one of the alcoves, and a titanic Ogryn, laced with wires and tubes, along with an impressive armament of twin shoulder-mounted lascannons, a wrist-mounted stormbolter, and a forearm mounted plasma cannon, lumbers forth.
  145. >“How may I serve?” the behemoth servitor asks in a hollow mechanical tone.
  146. >“Defense Procedure Alpha-Dash-Zero-Zero-Nine-Five,” Scintillula says. “Maintain procedure until further orders.”
  147. >“Affirmative,” he replies, locking his armament into place with a sequence of clunks. “Target acquired.”
  148. >You wheel around to see the Inquisitor, clutching her hat firmly to her head, being chased by two of the traitors.
  149. >“Run, you idiots! Run!” she shouts.
  150. >You do as she commands.
  151. >“Firing,” the servitor says, letting a pair of shots from its lascannons.
  152. >The searing scarlet beams rip through the air with a tremendous crack, followed by a bellow of pain.
  153. >Whipping your head over your shoulder, you see one traitor down on a knee, a blackened circle burned into the gap between his shoulder pauldron and chest.
  154. >The second remains undeterred, continuing his rapid approach with a roaring chainaxe.
  155. >Once she nears you, Lunis suddenly whips around and places her hands in front of her.
  156. “Emperor protect me!” she shouts, before the air itself seems to crumple in front of her, and the traitor shoots back, slamming into the wall with a crash.
  157. >“Firing,” the servitor says, unleashing a hail of bolter fire on the downed Marines, two more lascannon shots, and following those up with a burst from its plasma cannon.
  158. >The gunfire only stops once the two corpses are smoldering.
  159. >The Inquisitor flops against the wall, hyperventilating and her eyes bulging in their sockets.
  160. >“And so the great and powerful Inquisitor Callidia Lunis returns to us once again,” the Logister says flatly.
  161. >She brushes a moldy peeling of some rotten fruit from the Inquisitor's coat.
  162. >“Missed that," Saltatora says.
  163. >“Shut up and get us out of here,” Lunis replies.
  164. >“I was doing that, but then you arrived,” Saltatora says, gesturing down the hallway with one of her laspistols. “This way, everyone.”
  165. >The servitor trudges behind Scintillula as you race down the hallway.
  166. “You didn’t tell me you were a psyker,” you say to Lunis.
  167. >“I haven’t told you many things,” she replies. “Hold it!”
  168. >From the other end, shadows flicker on and cries echo from the walls.
  169. >“So there’s the reinforcements,” Saltatora mutters.
  170. “We can take them,” you say, revving your chainsword. “Sounds like twenty at the most.”
  171. >“We’re going to take on twenty men?” Saltatora says.
  172. “That servitor is worth at least fifty.”
  173. >Lunis smirks.
  174. >“I like your style,” she says.
  175. >A band of traitor soldiers marches down the hallway, autoguns and chainswords bared.
  176. >Muffled behind his gas mask, one shouts, “For the ruinous powers!” and rushes forward.
  177. >You parry his blade with yours and slice his head from his neck, following it up with a boltpistol shot at another attacker that detonates at his shoulder and sends his left arm flying.
  178. >Saltatora bares her twin laspistols and cuts down another pair of heretics with a flurry of red blasts.
  179. >The servitor mows down man after man with a blizzard of bolt shells and plasma bursts, turning blood and bone into a fine red mist.
  180. >Stellara unleashes a jet of flame, setting a whole pack of traitors ablaze in holy promethium.
  181. >Summoning a fury of Warp energy, Lunis drives the remainder back with a blast of psychic energy that sends the walls trembling.
  182. >Scintillula lines up her sights and shoots the last one, frying him with a jolt of electricity from whatever munition powers her rifle.
  183. >“The Emperor is our sword,” Stellara says. “The Emperor protects.”
  184. >You nod as you step over the corpses.
  185. >A few more groups of heretics meet you as you make your escape towards the battlements, but you quickly dispatch them.
  186. >“They’ve underestimated us,” Scintillula says as you make your way up onto the battlements.
  187. “They sent three Traitor Marines to kill us, and they would have, had your servitor not intervened. I doubt that’s underestimation. You can’t predict every move your enemy will make.”
  188. >“They should have sent more,” she says. “And the artillery bombardment was worthless. Whoever is commanding this operation is not intelligent.”
  189. >“Either that or they’re leading us into another trap,” says Lunis.
  190. >You nod.
  191. “Stay on your guard,” you say.
  192. >As if to back up your point, a beat of loud thunks of metal on rockcrete thunders toward you.
  193. >Before the slow-thinking mechanical brute even had time to react, the servitor was slashed by the Traitor Marine’s titanic greatsword, white fluid and sparking wires flying everywhere as the power field ripped through its body.
  194. >Scorch marks still spot his armor where Stellara blasted him.
  195. >Two ten-man squads of heretics round the corner and block your escape route.
  196. >Almost instinctively, the logister, confessor, and Inquisitor begin cutting them down.
  197. >You remain in back, the gargantuan figure looming above you.
  198. >“I don’t suppose you’d take our surrender?” Scintillula asks to the Marine, reaching into her robe for something.
  199. >The Marine only glares at her.
  200. >“I’ll take that as a no.”
  201. >She flings a melta detonates towards the Marine, who bats it aside with his massive plasteel-pated palm.
  202. >A wave of heat rushes over you.
  203. >When you stand, a nearby wall is turned to molten slag, revealing only a shear drop below.
  204. >The Marine’s gauntlet glows red as his eyes.
  205. >He trudges towards Scintillula, blade raised.
  206. >“Die,” he mouths.
  207. “Not today,” you say, dashing in front of her and driving your chainsword into the Marine’s neck armor.
  208. >The monomolecular blades dig in, grinding and sparking against the hardened ceramite.
  209. >Hot blood covers your hands.
  210. >Coughing and spluttering, the Marine grabs hold of you and flings you towards the wall, fortunately the one without a hole in it.
  211. >Smacking into it with a crunch, you collapse on the floor with the wind knocked out of you and your spine aching.
  212. >Scintillula places a mechadendrite-attached pistol to the wounded Marine’s head.
  213. >Through the tears in your eyes, you can barely make out the bronze inlay and detail work: cogs, gears, and skulls covering the body of the weapon.
  214. >An Inferno pistol, you realized.
  215. >Scintillula pulls the trigger.
  216. >The melta energy sears white-hot through the Marine’s helmet, flesh, and skull; out the other side; and even a bit into the floor.
  217. >Somehow, you stumble to your feet and steady yourself.
  218. >A pile of heretic bodies lies in your way.
  219. >“Are you injured, Commissar?” Scintillula asks.
  220. “Maybe. Let’s worry about that once we get out of here. How much farther, Logister?”
  221. >“Not much,” she says. “Just one more right.”
  222. “Good,” you say.
  223. >The traitors still hadn’t found the stealth shuttle.
  224. >Scintillula primes the servitor and engines for takeoff, then brings her medicae mechadendrite over to deal with your wounds.
  225. >Adrenaline had concealed several burns from fire and melta and lacerations from fragments.
  226. >The shuttle smoothly takes off.
  227. >Out a viewport, you can spot a massive artillery barrage levelling Fortress 19.
  228. >“Well, Logister,” the Inquisitor says, taking a seat and removing her hat. “What did you find?”
  229. >The Logister pauses for a moment, and the bit of technosorcery in her head whirs and clicks while it searches through for information.
  230. >“The Chaos infiltration was more devious than we thought, as you suspected. The heretics began by infiltrating the Commissariat, and proceeded from there.”
  231. “That’s impossible,” you say. “The Commissariat is completely loyal. We are trained -”
  232. >“The powers of the Warp are many,” the Inquisitor says. “Even Commissars are not immune from its temptations. That is why I am here.”
  233. “I don’t believe this.”
  234. >The Inquisitor narrows her eyes, then turns her back to you.
  235. >“Tell me, Commissar Caelitum,” she says. “The Great Enemy knew we were coming, and planned a trap for us. A poor trap, but still a trap. Who else knew of our mission?”
  236. “No one that I know of, unless one of us is the traitor, which I doubt. Why put yourself in a trap?”
  237. >“The logic of the servants of Chaos is undeterminable in some cases, but, nonetheless, let us follow yours for now,” Lunis says. “But, I was forced to tell one other person why I had come to take his most prized commissar away. He was quite willing to do it, by the way. Maybe he thought you were too useful. I had to tell him that I was looking for the source of this heresy, and that I was planning a mission, obviously. He probably deduced the rest, unfortunately. Foolish of me. Had I known what we know now, I should have known what he would do.”
  238. >The Inquisitor turns back to you.
  239. >“One other person did know of our mission,” she says. “The Lord Commissar.”
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