(Written by Savage Mortician, Edited by Aurelius Rex and Luku)
Round 1, Battle 6:
Commander Bannister of the Guardian Angels
Captain Iniel Bannister sat silently in his Land Raider Crusader. The soft blue glow from his helmet, and those of his men, cast the shapes of their pearl-white armour in sharp relief. He stared at a fixed point, concentrating, meditating, planning the battle ahead, and imagining the ruined hive terrain unfolding before him as it had done so many times before as he studied the holomaps of the Hive structure.
The Land Raider bucked and lurched as it ploughed its way through fallen masonry and ruined structures. A servitor choir built into the thick, armoured interior played inspiring hymns and devotional prayers constantly, to prepare the Marine’s minds for war. Every Marine in the force checked and re-checked their wargear and equipment, treating their weapons as though they were personal gifts from the Emperor himself. Their insertion via Drop-Pod had been quick and efficient, if slightly off course. They had cleared out the rabble of enemy soldiers with minimal loss, before mounting up to move swiftly towards their true objective.
The staccato sound of gunfire could be heard somewhere in the distance.
“8.1.1. This is 8.3.1. Contact, small arms fire, over” Bannister snapped to attention at the message from his Third in Command, Executive officer Korbin Lennox.
“8.1.1, understood. Ascertain the enemy firearm type and quality, over.” A momentary pause, through which the escalating sounds of gunfire could be heard.
“8.3.1, ballistics, small calibre, likely low grade autoweapons, threat nil.”
“Roger, 8.3.1 you are weapons free, I say again, you are weapons free, out.”
Bannister could hear the harsh ripping sound as the storm bolter on Lennox’s Rhino opened fire, chewing the enemy to pieces. They were no threat to them, their Rhinos were more heavily armoured and of a sleeker design that the standard pattern and were proof against all but dedicated anti-tank fire, yet still it was better to cover one’s back.
The sound of storm bolter fire cut out and Bannister knew the enemy were defeated. They were probably anarchists, rebelling against the rule of the Imperium now that Chaos had found Nestir, or perhaps they were in league with the Ruinous Powers themselves. Bannister shuddered as he thought of Chaos. It was not long since the Ragnarokk incident and his mind still bore the scars of facing Hell itself. He pushed the dark thoughts to the back of his mind, but he knew they would never leave him. They would be there in a corner of his mind, eating away at his sanity for as long as he lived. He knew that fighting would keep his mind clear and his thoughts pure. It was all he could do to keep the daemons at bay.
The huge chapel was silent. Where once massive bells chimed and thousands of souls sang praises to the God-Emperor of Mankind there was only grim muteness. The mighty organ was covered in dust and debris, the statue of the Emperor himself was broken and defiled in the ultimate blasphemy. Broken, fractured corpses of the loyal residents of the Hive were strewn about, the pews smashed and splintered. In the centre, on a wrought iron throne conjured by dark powers sat a single figure in black armour.
His handsome, patrician features belied his millennia in age. One hand rested on the armrest of his throne, the other was encased in the oversized gauntlet of a powerfist. In it, he held a steel goblet, the huge weapon dwarfing the cup in an almost comical manner. He sipped at the wine within, holding the goblet gingerly so as not to crush it. The strong liquid tasted good. It had been a long time he had tasted wine, or felt the cold steel of a goblet in his hand. Come to think of it, it had been a long time since he had felt anything. How long since he had last been conscious, a day, a year, a millennium? He could not remember his last battle. He could not remember his own name, except that those who followed him referred to him as Apoc Everkill. The only real memory he had left was the fateful day on his homeworld, the day his legion was split in two and his beautiful home destroyed. What was its name again?
Ah yes, Caliban.
He drained the goblet and refilled it with the last few drops of wine. He picked up his helmet and inspected it. Its ancient surface was scarred and pitted from a thousand battles. He felt the sharpness of the injectors that would pierce his pupils and oesophagus to deliver the powerful concoctions of combat drugs into his system.
He drained the last of his wine and reached for the bottle. Damnation, it was empty! He dropped the goblet, the metal cup clattering away on the stone floor and fell into a deep sleep.
The incoming fire was heavy, but ragged. Solid slugs spattered off armour like steel rain, bolt shells detonated, leaving tiny pockmarks on the sides of the rhinos. He heard a lucky missile strike disable one of the rhinos and heard the disciplined vox-chatter of Chaplain Gaius directing his marine squad. A deafening roar marked Ancient Brother Rehab, one of the few warriors of the chapter to be interred within the revered sarcophagus of a dreadnaught, opening up with his assault cannon to give cover to the disembarked marine squad.
Bannister decided that it was time to face the enemy head on. He ordered all units to disembark, receiving succinct, clipped affirmations from his squad leaders. The hurricane bolters on the Land Raider fired, shredding a knot of enemy cultists as they scurried for cover. The front ramp opened and banister and his squad disembarked. He fired his plasma pistol, incinerating a cultist and raised his chainsword into the air and roared the Chapter’s battlecry: “Capitulus Patria Nostra! For Freedom and Humanity!”
He brought the chainsword down in a vicious arc that bisected a cultist from neck to groin. Even as the cultist fell apart, Bannister aimed his pistol between the two halves and fired at a black-clad marine. The shot was hasty and missed, evaporating a piece of rubble, and was answered with a torrent of bolter fire. Bannister and his squad leapt for cover. One of his marines did not make it, shredded by the volley of bolt shells.
From his cover point behind a chunk of fallen masonry he was afforded a decent view of the battlefield. The smoke and ash from many fires cast a grey hue over the terrain. In the distance he could see the chapel, the last known location of the enemy HQ elements. He would force a wedge through and take the traitor’s head. In his peripheral vision he saw faint shapes cowering in corners and under piles of rubble. He quickly ascertained that they must be civilians that had not made it out of the area in time.
His suspicions were confirmed as a small boy, no older than Bannister had been when he had began his Astartes training, ran out into the middle of the street. He saw one of the sinister black armoured marines walking towards him, bolt pistol drawn. To let the child die would go against everything the Guardian Angels stood for. He ordered his men to provide covering fire before vaulting out of cover, running full tilt towards the enemy marine. The traitor looked up and noticed Bannister sprinting towards him. He covered the child in his bulk as the marine fired, the bolt shell smashing into his shoulder guard. He rocked back with the impact and used his momentum to spring forward into his assailant.
As the two bodies crashed together, Bannister’s squad moved up to support him, covering each other in pairs, one moving whilst the other covered. Bannister recovered from the charge and drove his chainsword down through the traitor’s chest, straight through into the floor. He fired as he extracted the blade, catching another in the arm. He picked up the boy and ran to cover, depositing him behind a pile of rubble and instructing him to stay before hailing his scout squads.
“8.4.1 and 8.5.1, vox check, over.” Both sergeants responded. “I need you to reach higher ground to provide sniper fire. Suggest pattern delta, over.” Again, two replies in the affirmative. He returned his attention to the unfolding battle. The vehicles were hanging back, out of the range of the enemy missile launchers and lascannons, using their heavy weaponry and pintle mounted storm bolters to cover the advancing forces.
The Guardian Angels advanced from cover point to cover point in an efficient and disciplined manner. Their attack was surgical, clinical, like a las-scalpel cutting out a festering tumour.
Disciplined volleys of bolter fire cut the enemy down, well placed shots taking their toll on their ranks, Chaos Marines and cultists alike blasted to bloody ruin under the relentless firepower of the Guardian Angels. Precision fire from the scouts took out the enemy sergeants, leaving them leaderless and breaking their morale before the marines mopped up the remainder with their bolters, using flamers and grenades to root the enemy out of dug-in shelters.
The battle was not completely one-sided. The millennia of fighting experience and the savage fury of the Chaos forces were beginning to tell. Half of Lennox’s squad were dead, cut down by a pack of Raptors that appeared seemingly from nowhere before Lennox managed to marshal his squad into a cohesive unit and drive the enemy back with disciplined bolter fire. Both Gaius and Bannister’s squads had taken casualties, but not as crippling.
Bannister knelt, his plasma pistol red hot from firing. He looked about him, getting a feel for the overall picture of the battle. Brother Obel leaned out of cover beside him and snapped off a shot. The bolt hit an enemy square in the head, almost decapitating him. Banister congratulated the young marine, but his mood was soured as Brother Jalk to his right took a glancing hit from a plasma gun. He crouched over the marine. The damage was not too great, he had lost one of his lungs and his primary heart was badly damaged. He would live to fight again if he was evacuated quickly.
He ordered the medical Rhino forwards to pick up his wounded comrade. He spoke words of encouragement to the marine, assuring him that the Emperor was with him even now, stopping intermittently to fire his plasma pistol. The medical rhino ground to a halt mere feet away from him, and two apothecaries in crisp white power armour hauled Brother Jalk onboard before the rear ramp slammed shut and the Rhino drove to another casualty.
A sudden, bloodcurdling, demented scream cut across the battlefield. The sound sent shivers down Bannister’s spine, bringing back terrible memories of the Ragnarokk incident. He peeked out of cover to see a Chaos Dreadnaught, insane from millennia of torture charging towards him, autocannons spewing shells madly.
The Guardian Angel’s own Dreadnaught, Rehab, stepped forward to confront the monstrosity. His assault cannon whirred into life as its barrels spun. A stream of explosive bullets spat forth. Many missed their mark, shredding enemy troops apart, but enough found the ancient bulky form of the enemy Dreadnaught. The shells tore great holes in its armour, yet it still charged on, heedless of such petty annoyances. Rehab planted his legs firmly to the ground to receive the charge of the Dreadnaught.
The two sarcophagi slammed together, an unstoppable force against an immovable object. The Chaos fiend tore at Rehab with its power claw, tearing great rents in his armoured flank. Rehab roared and pushed his assailant away. He swung his fist, cracking the right side of the chaos Dreadnaught before firing the under slung storm bolter point blank. The dreadnaught reeled, sparks showering from the damage. Two more punches sent the ancient monster staggering, its heavy footsteps shaking the ground, before coming to rest on one knee. Rehab raised its fist for one final strike but was taken off guard as the Chaos monster thrust upwards with its claw, the weapon embedding into Rehab’s assault cannon mount. It heaved, tearing the weapon from its body. Rehab roared with pain and anger as the Chaos Dreadnaught followed up with two further swipes that nearly opened Rehab like a tin can.
Bannister could not just stand back and let the old warrior die. He had fought beside Rehab when he had been but a Battle Brother, so he took aim with his pistol and fired. The blue streak of plasma struck, dealing only a minor superficial wound, but it was enough. Rehab seized the opportunity, smashing his huge fist into the sarcophagus of the enemy Dreadnaught again and again, finally heaving with all of his artificial strength. With a screech of ripping metal, the sarcophagus came open, exposing the atrophied human form within. The pilot had fused with the machine over the millennia of its existence, but Rehab tore the screaming form out, clenching his four stubby fingers to crush every bone it had left. He dropped the corpse to the floor and fired his storm bolter, pulping it to a bloody mess before stamping down on it, just to be sure.
“Rehab, this is 8.1.1, are you okay? Over.”
“I’ve just had my damned arm ripped off, what do you think? But thank you, yes I still function. If it had not been for your help I would surely be so much scrap metal now.”
“Just doing my duty, Brother. I suggest you fall back and seek a Techmarine; we can handle things from here. Out.”
Reluctantly, the old warrior fell back, firing its storm bolter in bursts as it did so.
The temperature had dropped as night fell and snow began to fall once more. It covered everything in a pristine blanket of white. Corpses were frozen solid, their blood freezing to crystals. The covering of snow worked to the advantage of the Guardian Angels, the pearl-white of their armour blending with the snow, whereas the traitor marines made easy targets in their black armour.
The looming chapel was drawing nearer. Their objective was in sight. With one final push, the Guardian Angels surged forward, carving a bloody path through the Chaos forces. Their losses were relatively heavy. Bannister’s own squad was now reduced to half strength as they fought against the ancient Marines.
Running, Bannister reached the massive twin doors. He lowered his shoulder and barged into them, but they would not move. He braced his leg against one and heaved, yet still no movement. He unclipped several krak grenades from his belt and fixed them to the doors. He said a silent prayer of forgiveness for such a blasphemy before pulling the pins and taking cover. The detonation sounded, crisp and clear like a clap of thunder, the thick wooden doors crumpled inwards, showering the inside of the chapel with splinters. The surviving Guardian angels hurried inside, taking cover behind columns and buttresses.
“8.1.1 to all units, hold fire, cover pattern Gamma, this one’s mine. Out.”
Bannister walked boldly up the aisle, disgusted by the blasphemy and sacrilege that had been wrought in this holy place. At first he thought it was deserted, the enemy having long since fled after hearing of their arrival, until he saw a lone figure sat on a black throne where the altar should have been, under a defiled statue of the Emperor. The figure stirred and spoke.
Everkill blinked his eyes clear and shook his head, massaging the bridge of his nose. Where was he again? Home? No, not home, what was the name of this pitiful planet again? Nesty or Nestir or some such. Sharp raps marked the footsteps of a figure moving towards him. He looked at his empty goblet on the floor and again at the approaching figure. It was a marine.
“Did you drink my wine?” he asked.
“What?” replied the Loyalist, momentarily caught off guard by the strange question. Everkill shook his head and spoke again.
“So you are a Marine then? I probably knew your Primarch… Sanguinius was it? No, you’re not the type. Russ maybe? No too sane, plus you’re all wearing your helmets. Too proud to be of that skulking time waster Corax. Guilliman, perhaps or Dorn. You seem belligerent and pig-headed enough.” The marine growled and raised his plasma pistol. “Straight to the point I see,” Everkill sighed “You loyalists always were too quick with your trigger fingers. Very well…”
Everkill rose stiffly, as though he had not moved in a long time. He placed his helmet on his head, taking comfort in the pain as the injectors slip into his pupils, secreting the potent combat drugs into his system. Almost immediately the stimulants took effect and his awkward gait was replaced with a fluid motion. He looked about him, surveying his assailants. How dare they attack him in this private place! Did they not know who he was? Did he know who he was himself? He shook his head to clear it of such futile questions and drew his bolter.
Despite already having his plasma pistol trained on Everkill, the drugs made him fast, supernaturally so. He raised his bolter and fired a salvo of mass reactive shells at the commander. Bannister dove out of the way, but some of the shells hit home, denting and cracking his artificer armour. He gave thanks, for only such a finely crafted suit could have stopped that many bolt shells from penetrating and tearing him apart from the inside.
He stepped out of cover to fire his pistol, but the Marine was able to shrug off the blue bolts of superheated plasma as though they were merely lasgun shots. His black armour smouldered slightly.
The two warriors became locked in a vicious gunfight, trading shots as they leapt from buttress to buttress, their shots damaging the architecture of the chapel. Bannister cursed himself for such acts, whereas Everkill revelled in it. Only in battle was Apoc’s mind clear, free from the fading memories of his past life. Each time Bannister ducked out of cover to train his pistol on the traitor, he would disappear before he had the chance to squeeze the trigger. It enraged Bannister that his enemy would rely on such base cunning instead of natural fighting prowess.
Everkill pirouetted out from behind a statue of an Imperial saint, firing three bolt shells in rapid succession. Each hit home against a different Guardian Angel - three perfect headshots.
Snarling, Bannister leapt from behind a chunk of fallen masonry, smashing bodily into Everkill. The ancient marine stumbled back and managed to bring his powerfist up to block a swinging blow from Bannister’s chainsword. Had he not been under the influence of his drugs, he would surely have been too slow to counter and be eviscerated by the whirring blade.
The energy field of the Power Fist sparked and crackled as it was turned aside by Bannister’s sword. He attacked with quick strokes, scoring deep grooves in the traitor’s armour, but Everkill was unnaturally skilled. He flowed like water, dodging the strikes, turning them aside to spin behind the captain, disorienting him momentarily. Bannister tired of such games and delivered a blow that clearly knocked the wind out of the traitor marine. Everkill, panting from the blow, leapt aside and smashed down the door leading to the belfry. He began climbing, Bannister following.
The two duelled with each other as they ascended the hundreds of steps. Bannister tried to bring his pistol to bear so that he might end the heretic in one blast of superheated plasma, but every attempt was foiled as Everkill batted his pistol arm away with his massive gauntleted fist. The warriors burst into the belfry itself, the massive brass bells now silent. Bannister lashed out, pushing Everkill off balance into one of the bells. He struck the brass surface with a magnificent clang that reverberated throughout the entire section of the hive. Chaos and Loyalist forces alike looked up as the silent instruments chimed again. The huge bells began to sway, ringing an out of tune chorus to the world. The warriors traded more blows, almost deafened by their proximity to the clanging bells, each hoping the other would make a fatal mistake that would cause their end.
Bannister shoved Everkill against a wall and thrust with his chainsword. Everkill, his reflexes boosted tenfold, managed to dodge at the last second, causing the whirring blade to become embedded in the thick stone. He laughed and gripped Bannister’s arm in his powerfist, crushing it completely, the enhanced bones breaking and splintering. Bannister did not howl or cry out. He brought his pistol to bear at point blank range, not caring if the heat from the shot killed him as well.
Even as Bannister squeezed the trigger in his grip, Everkill smashed the arm aside with his free hand, sending the plasma shot whining off to the right, before delivering an uppercut that tore the commander’s helmet off. He gasped, wide eyed and stunned from the powerful blow. Everkill swung him around so that his back was against a stained glass window and, with one mighty swing of his fist, punched Bannister square in the chest, sending him smashing through the window.
The glass shattered into a thousand fragments and Bannister fell, plummeting.
Eventually he came to rest, impaled on a sensor mast. He slid down and with his final breath uttered two words.
Everkill shook his head.
“Marines today…” he muttered to himself.
The Guardian Angels became suspicious of the vox-silence from their commander. After frantic searching they found his final resting place, the image that greeted them gave them pause. The blood from Bannister’s wounds had frozen solid as they bled. From his back protruded two crystalline wings of crimson, his head framed by a halo of frozen blood.
His men did not mourn, did not fear, for they knew that Iniel Bannister was now at the right hand side of the Emperor and would return for the final battle of Mankind.
The Guardian Angels fell back in good order to their emergency extraction point, taking a heavy toll on the enemy forces as they went…
Victory to Apoc Everkill!
Remember the Fallen!
Iniel Bannister of the of the Guardian Angels' 8th Company!
Edited by Luku, 09 March 2008 - 12:11 AM.