Week: #1 - Seizing the Hulk
Game: #1 - “Foothold on the Hulk”
Mission: Survey & Secure
Enemy: Grey Knights
The Tormento Avem had been in system for less than a week when the astropaths reported receiving strike orders from Fleet Captain Acheran. Codicier Shemai finished translating their rantings and rose from the Astropathic Liaison desk to head to the bridge. With the chapters’ fleet-based companies spread throughout the Segmentum Tempestus, their lone Vanguard Class Strike Cruiser had been close enough to the Nephilim Sector to respond to the initial telepathic missive, and the effort of doing so had severely taxed the astropaths.
The malignant psychic stillness radiating from the phenomenon was unlike anything Shemai had ever felt. Its silent deadness was like a buzzing at the base of his skull, a constant distraction - and now, with orders from his chapter’s Librarius, he was to plunge further into it in the hopes of uncovering its warp-twisted secrets. Shemai uttered a litany of calm and made obeisance to the Emperor as he walked.
“Codicier, I had almost forgotten you were aboard,” Veteran Sergeant Thaumiel exclaimed as the Librarian entered the bridge, making the sign of the Aquila. His grin was like a shark sneering.
“Much to my benefit, I should think,” murmured Shemai as he passed the stunted Firstborn. Kasz Thaumiel was infamously the shortest Space Marine ever produced by the chapter’s gene forges. He was further dwarfed by the marines of the all-Primaris 2nd Company. Their Captain, Aol Areche, stood watching the oculus beside the ship’s command throne. He turned and smiled, overhearing.
“Sergeant Thaumiel lacks many of the Emperor’s gifts, Amir, personality chief among them,” Areche said, with a knowing grin. “I’m guessing you have new orders for us?”
“Indeed, Commander,” said the Librarian. “The tacticians would have us deploy a patrol to garrison the beachhead in the wake of the Ultramarine assault.”
“Typical. Nursemaid duty, while the boys in blue champion the Emperor’s will.”
“Enough, Kasz,” said Areche with a sigh. “Amir, have they designated a breach point?”
“They suggest a particular weaknesses in the hull here,” he said, handing over his dataslate. Areche took it and began poring through the technical readouts. It was an unthinkable breach for a chapter Librarian to consciously probe the thoughts of another officer, especially a senior one. But Shemai could not help but feel a sense of cautious wariness that the Commander sought to hide. Pre-battle alertness, he thought. It had been months in the warp since the company went to war. But this was not a particularly thrilling assignment by any means. He wondered what it meant, then suddenly sensed his Captain about to speak.
“Thank you, Codicier. I will review these in my quarters. Sergeant Thaumiel, please inform Lieutenant Harim of our orders and ask him to assemble a patrol. The Emperor protects.” Thaumiel nodded and waited for the Commander to exit the bridge before taking his leave. Shemai watched them go and turned his gaze to the oculus. The Shattered Silence hung there in space like a huge animal, asleep, and no doubt dangerous to provoke.
The ship’s apothecarion stank of basic cleansers and antiseptics. Captain Areche bent and folded his massive frame to avoid hitting the spotless surgical tables as he padded past them in his shipboard uniform. He was certain he’d made no sound, but the door to the apothecary’s cabin opened anyway.
“Come in, Aol,” said a voice from within. The Captain stepped over the sill, grabbing the heavy bulkhead door and closing it behind him. 2nd Company’s Apothecary, Brother Athuro, sat as his desk, reviewing medical reports from the two new aspirants they had collected in the last planetfall.
“We may have an opportunity here, brother.” Athuro looked up from his dataslate.
“Already? I thought we expected it to take weeks before we neared...” The Apothecary’ speech faltered. “…the data.”
“The weak point indicated by Fleet Command extends for nearly a mile forward of the Ultramarine landing area. The Scabrous Intent was heavily damaged before it drifted into the hulk and became fused with it. These scans suggest we can cut into the hull only a few decks above the genecrypt.”
“Captain, I cannot tell you how valuable those files could be. An if there is even a single intact sample of geneseed…”
“I know, I know, my brother. But we are far from the only Imperial force in-system. The data is proscribed, Extremis Diabolus. I shall have to lead the force myself, and hope our unexpected choice of landing site doesn’t raise undue concern.”
“Of course, Captain. I apologize for my eagerness. Duty above all.”
“Duty above all. Perhaps the Emperor will grant us a clue to our mystifying heritage. Either way, his will commands. I must head to the arming chambers.”
“In Absentia Patre, Captain.”
“Absentia Patre,” said Areche, and made the sign of the Aquila.
The boarding crafts had impacted in what had once been the magazine for one of the Chaos cruiser’s port side gun batteries, before it had been enveloped by the Shattered Silence. The chamber was full of filthy, corroded brass that had once prevented sparks from combusting loose gunpowder. From its many hard surfaces echoed the chanting of two score battle brothers, lead in pre-combat prayer by Company Chaplain Erabal. Captain Areche stood by the gangplank of one of the Caestus Assault Rams that had torn its way through the hull. Lieutenant Harim’s zeal for duty was proving admirable, if tiring.
“Sir, this is a minor deployment. I have assembled the patrol as requested - please allow me to lead the operation so you can oversee the larger tactical situation from the bridge.”
“I appreciate your concern for the broader strategic context, Lieutenant, but I am taking command of this patrol effective immediately.”
“Sir.” Brother Tupelon suddenly appeared between the two officers and made the sign of the Aquila. His Infiltrator squad had been assembling a teleport homer and tuning the local comms equipment. “Speak, brother.”
“The vox thief just picked up encrypted communications bearing Inquisitorial signifiers. We’ve no idea what they’re saying, my lord, but the Ram pilots report Imperial boarding craft inbound to our position. No recognized insignia or ident codes.” The Lieutenant’s expression was unreadable through his helmet, but Areche had no doubt he shared the same confused and shocked expression as the Infiltrator. He himself could not truly feel surprised. This particular struthid seemed to have already come home to roost.
“Thank you, Tupelon. Assemble your unit and board the Rams, on the double. Lieutenant Harim will oversee the return trip. No buts, Lieutenant. Get aboard now.” Harim wisely stowed his objections and the landing party formed up to dash back into the Assault Rams. Areche turned and unbuckled the sheath of his power sword, feeling the stimulant drips of his Gravis armour setting fire to his veins in response to his body’s heightened alertness.
He’d scarcely taken a few steps before pulling up short at the outstretched arm of the company Chaplain.
“You cannot be seen to be involved in this, Captain.”
“Involved in what, Janai? We have our orders. I will carry out the Emperor’s will.”
“I heard the Ram pilots’ report as well. Too many boats for a single envoy. The Inquisition seeks to interrogate us, or even sanction us with force. Get out of here, Captain. Our liaison with the fleet cannot be seen to be… pursuing… certain objects. I will handle this.” This time, Areche was truly caught flat-footed. The company’s unknown geneseed was a puzzle only a handful of brothers were aware of. Certainly he had forbidden anything be said to firstborn members of the chapter.
“I’m not sure what you mean, Janai. We must penetrate the outer decks and place and secure-“
“-the comm arrays. The Bene Elohim and I will take care of it. Go, Captain." He paused. "In Absentia Patre.” Areche gritted his teeth against echoing the cryptic phrase. He nodded and strode up the gangplank, voxing the pilots to depart at once.
It pained him to keep secrets, especially from a brother he trusted so dearly. It was almost a relief to hear those words from the lips of his priest - even more so from a firstborn of the chapter. But with an unknown geneseed, a mere hint of taint would doom every marine under his command; not to mention every other Primaris in the chapter. His fist pounded his own armoured thigh with a dull ceramite thud. Why had the genius Cawl so cursed them? He owed Harim no explanation, but surely the Lieutenant would ask after his sudden change of heart. He turned to round the corner and buckled into the nearest empty restraint harness, ignoring the surprised looks of the marines around him. After a moment, he withdrew his rosary from a belt pouch and began to pray.
Erabal watched the departing Caestus just long enough to confirm it had headed back towards the Tormento Avem. He regretted the necessity of revealing what the Apothecary had told him - it would only distract the Captain at the very outset of the campaign. Regardless, duty called.
“Brothers, to me!” he cried, raising his relic Crozius and feeling its reassuring weight, far heavier for its size than the one he’d been issued upon induction into the Reclusiam. The remaining marines formed up into ranks before their spiritual leader. There were the Intercessors of 2nd Squad, the Chayot Schör or Black Angels, in the ancient Aramaic of the chapter’s internal battle-cant. Then, the three Eradicators of 9th Squad under Sergeant Harmas. And finally, Veteran Sergeant Thaumiel and four of his Vanguard Veterans of the revered 7th Squad of 1st Company, the Bene Elohim.
“We are here to establish a network of vox beacons and protect the flank of the Ultramarine assault. This much you know already. The Emperor, blessed be he, has given us a second challenge. We are to be… inspected, by representatives of the holy Inquisition.” He paused for a moment to let that sink in. There was not a single movement, a solitary stiffening of the spine from the ranks before him. He smiled to himself beneath his skull-emblazoned helm. “We will show them our devotion to the Emperor’s will is no mere performance. 2nd Squad, complete the Infiltrators’ work on the aft relay. The Bene Elohim and 9th Squad will join me at the forward one. Once those are locked down, we shall move deeper into the hulk to the next two objective points. Now, join me in reciting the Canticle of Hate, as bend to our work.” A chorus of voices joined his own over the vox. “While vile mutants still draw breath, there can be no peace. While obscene heretics' hearts still beat, there can be no respite. While faithless traitors still live, there can be no forgiveness.”
Minutes later, a series of heavy concussions shook the hull. “The Inquisition’s dogs come to greet us,” said Thaumiel, his voice thick with disgust. Erabal ignored him and opened a patrol-wide vox channel. “Continue your labours, my brothers. We will face this challenge when it presents itself.”
It was several more minutes before the Chaplain began to feel a creeping at the corners of his mind. It was as if tendrils of invisible smoke were winding their way into the massive arming chamber. He turned to Thaumiel and nodded. “Shadowhawks,” the sergeant began. “ATTENTION ON DECK!” Immediately the Vanguard and Eradicator squads formed into a line and stood rigid in parade formation. Erabal could see the Intercessors doing the same on the other side of the vast chamber. At the far bulkhead, pressure doors opened and a thin mist seemed to billow out, obscuring the forms of at least three squads of Space Marines. Their armour was silver-grey and looked to be engraved with gold script and Inquisitorial icons. Besides the Deathwatch, the chaplain had never heard of a chapter entirely dedicated to the Inquisition’s service, but the galaxy was a big place. He enabled his helmet’s loud-hailer and opened all local Imperial frequencies.
“Hail and well met, brothers! We welcome the attentions of the Holy Inquisition. We have nothing to hide.” He waited for a reply, but none came. Silver-armoured marines continued to pour out of the airlocks and began forming up - not into a parade line, but into combat posture.
Suddenly, the psychic probing grew far more intense. All around him, the brothers of 7th Squad twitched and clenched their fists around the hafts of their powered-down weapons. Erabal could see the far-off Intercessors faltering in their formation, their weapons drooping as they shook their heads, trying to clear their minds of the foreign presence.
“I can feel their sickening searches inside my skull,” said Thaumiel. His expression was uglier than Erabal had ever seen it. “They probe our minds with profane magic.” The power field of his double-headed battle-axe spontaneously burst into life, spitting sparks as if it shared its wielder’s hatred and revulsion. It did, for all Erabal knew - it was a thrice-blessed relic, sanctified by Saint Verevya herself.
There was a pregnant pause. Erabal was determined his men not be the first to act. Perhaps if they could just withstand this test… but no. The feeling in the gun hall had changed. Without a word, the entire patrol broke formation and dashed behind cover. In the same moment, mass reactive shells screamed through the air where the marines had been standing, and new rounds began to pepper the thin scaffolding of the cannon riggings they couched behind. What treachery was this?
“Clear to engage, all units. Non-lethal, if you can,” said Erabal over the voxnet. “Let us demonstrate to the holy Ordos the depths of our mercy.” Thaumiel looked to his men and slammed a fist into his own chest. “They want to crack open our skulls and read our thoughts,” he snarled. Spitting landed acid onto the deck, he ignited his jump pack. “I say let them try.” As one, the brothers of 7th squad leapt into the air, their flight unconstrained by the high ceiling of the gun pit’s elevation tracks. Erabal lit his own screaming turbines and soared aloft, his chanted litany going unheard.
The Chaplain watched from the apex of his jump as the Bene Elohim fell upon the mysterious marines like a murder of crows. Brothers Achiel and Phikna smashed chestplates and helms with their thunder hammers, leaving stunned and deafened foes in their wake, clutching their shattered armour with both hands. Brothers Tebar and Yao sliced and skewered with their lightning claws, scoring armour and expertly deactivating power packs, rendering the Inquisitorial marines immobile in their armoured shells. And Thaumiel was a terror. He swung his two-handed axe like a club, its haft nearly the height of the diminutive marine himself. He hurtled the flat of the blades against armour joints, shattering inferior weapons as they came up to parry.
Across the chamber, 2nd Squad was slower to react, struggling against their heavy psycho-conditioning. It was a trial bringing their weapons to bear against fellow space marines, let alone representatives of the holy Inquisition - especially under the pressure of the mental interrogation. The few bolter rounds that barked from their rifles failed to find their mark, their targets cloaked by wisps of warp smoke.
Erabal landed just as Thaumiel brought the head of his axe down on the helm of the Inquisitorial envoy - a Librarian, judging from the books and cerulean blue of his tabard. His psychic hood let off sifting crescents of corposant as the warrior slumped to the ground, insensate. The crushing weight of psychic presence in the Chaplain’s mind suddenly lifted as if it had never been. There was a moment of relief, until a prickling returned at the base of his skull. He heard the pressurized torrent of melta rifles from back near the landing point and lifted off again without a second’s thought. Again, the Vanguards’ centuries of experience strapped to their jetpacks meant they had reacted even quicker. They rode streams of burning plasma in a flat, low trajectory towards the firestorm, barrelling in like superhuman cannonballs.
Sergeant Harmas and his two squadmates had glimpsed the shifting outlines of an inbound teleport before the unit had fully materialized. Harmas swept his hand downwards and the squad fired low, turning the decking beneath the shimmering forms into a puddle of quickly-cooling molten slag. Five hulking Terminator battlesuits coalesced and joined reality, their metallic grey plating matching the rune-inscribed forms of their MkIV-clad brethren. Two of the suits instantly fused to the deck, the warriors within resorting to opening fire with their storm bolters instead of joining their squadmates in a headlong charge towards the three Eradicators.
The Bene Elohim watched helplessly as they hurtled towards the melee, their jet-assisted dash not fast enough. Two of the heavy Gravis suits were brought down, the brothers within encumbered by their heavy rifles and unable to resist the carving attacks of the flashing blades at the end of their foes’ black-hafted spears. Heedless, their Sergeant bent to try and drag twice his weight in fallen brothers to safety. Erabal yelled into his vox, ordering Harmas to fall back. Two marines were already down - there was no sense is losing a third.
It was at that moment that the Vanguards again crashed into their silver-suited attackers. The enemy terminators were walking battle-tanks, their thick ceramite able to shrug off all but the most grevious of blows. But no amount of plating could fully protect flesh from the concussive force of Thunder Hammers. The faces of those weapons, their energy fields vibrating as if alive, impacted like the fists of a wrathful god. A series of sickening cracks and rapidly-dissipating thuds heralded the collapse of the remaining Terminators, the two immobilized suits quickly felled in turn by lightning claws spilling their hydraulic fluids.
After the frenzy of close combat, the vastness of the gun hall seemed almost quiet besides the distant exchanges of bolter fire. Erabal’s fervour was ebbing too soon. The weight of realization, the reality of censure by force was sinking in and chilling his zeal. At least his distraction had not made a meaningful difference; he hadn’t had the chance to land a single blow himself, so quick had the Vanguards been to respond. But there were still threats active and threatening their objective.
“Harmas, see to your men and get the fore-starboard relay active, if you can. Thaumiel’s men and I will handle the mop-up.” The Bene Elohim had, predictably, already ignited their packs once more. Though they were giving a good account of themselves, only five firstborn foes remained, exchanging fire with Sergeant Sostrapal’s Intercessors. The Inquisition’s “interrogation” attempt had failed. All the Revenants had left was their duty; and in the eyes of fleet command, Erabal hoped that would be enough.
Result: Victory, 80-0
Casualties: 2 Eradicators
Edited by Alcyon, 20 February 2021 - 12:33 AM.