Previously on Planetfall: Alcmene…
Legio forces under Captain Lycurgus have attempted to liberate the Imperial world of Alcmene from the Archenemy, and to chase down rumours of where the Chaos Warmaster, Tomax Hell is gathering his forces.
While they have routed the Word Bearers and their cultist allies, there are other, hidden powers at work - the mutually antagonistic forces of the renegade Order Encarmine Marine Chapter, and the Night Lords.
The Order Encarmine have captured Sergeant Golgotha and his squad. Golgotha’s Chapter, the Scions of Dorn were responsible for the near-destruction of the Order Encarmine on the instructions of the Inquisition. To dishonour Golgotha and the Scions in the eyes of the Astartes, they inject his squad with ‘Quintessence Daemonica’ to corrupt them into chaos spawn, and release the carefully edited images of him butchering his seemingly helpless brothers. Golgotha is allowed to escape.
Meanwhile, the Legio is ambushed by the Night Lords under Noctus Cain. In a previous encounter Cain severed Lycurgus’ arm and the bionic replacement is not taking, so the Legio Captain is driven, almost reckless in his desire to capture, kill or track Cain back to the Warmaster’s hidden base.
As Cain calls for the Night Lords to break off the attack and melt back into the night, a Legio marine, Croeseus, secretly tags him with a psychically attuned Odysseus bolt.
In a parallel storyline set thirteen hours ahead, Golgotha has been interrogated and tortured by Lycurgus and Croeseus for the murder of his squad. They do not even believe that the Order Encarmine are on the planet, and Golgotha is unwilling to reveal that his squad was corrupted as it would disgrace their memories.
Epistolary Kreutzfeld has been psychically tracking Cain, who has teleported aboard the Order Encarmine Strike Cruiser and killed a marine on the bridge to settle a score. While Lycurgus leaves the interrogation to get an update on Cain, Croeseus finds out the truth about Squad Golgotha, but reveals himself as an impostor and tries to kill Golgotha, who breaks free and fights back…
The next piece is from the Night Lords ambush, where Sergeant Castor and Brother Danvers of the Legio have been attacked by an Obliterator - One of the so-called ‘Brothers Grimm’…
The pain that Brother Danvers felt as the mechadendrite ripped through his thigh and retracted was nothing compared to the searing agony that followed. He had been wounded far worse than this before; on Hellebore he had held his intestines in with both hands. A simple flesh-wound shouldn’t do this. It was as though every inch of his flesh was being flayed.
There was a sound like a wrecking ball demolishing a building, and the combat litany that Sergeant Castor had been reciting was reduced to a shallow bubbling wheeze over the squad com-link.
Through the haze he saw the Obliterator lumbering away towards a large hole in the wall, presumably to finish off Castor. Pain be damned – he was not going to let it stop him doing his duty. Danvers scrambled over to his heavy bolter; the reassuring heft of the weapon felt good, settling his febrile, wracking shakes. He tried to shout out, to attract the monster’s attention away from his sergeant, but all that emerged was the synthetic howl of feedback.
The brief glance back this elicited could have been one of surprise. Danvers looked down to examine the wound to find whole, pink skin under the clotted blood, and the damaged metal of his armour undulating in an unnervingly organic way.
Then it finally dawned on Danvers what the Obliterator had done to him.
It had infected him with some virulent sub-strain of the technovirus. Yet another weapon in its endlessly mutating arsenal; something intended to rapidly incapacitate him while the creature dealt with Castor. He was worse than dead; he was irrevocably tainted.
The heavy bolter stitched a line of bloody craters across the creature’s carapace until the ammo hopper - his last - ran dry, but it did nothing to slow its progress towards the unconscious Sergeant Castor.
Danvers felt the distinction between flesh and steel begin to blur. Fingers lengthed, pushing through armoured gauntlets to merge with the weapon. In return, wires burrowed into his flesh triggering a glut of neural feedback, orders of magnitude more intense than the interactions with his power armour. It was as though he was growing a new limb. The agony of the overheated weapon barrel seared up his new pathways, leaving him sprawling and gagging.
‘What have you done to me?’ Danvers managed to gasp in abject disgust. The Obliterator paused and looked back with something akin to interest. Chilly knowledge slipped into Danvers’s brain. The threat that whatever freak affinity had kept him alive this far would not last. A taunting warning of flesh ripping itself apart and needles of flailing metal swarming into his brainstem.
And the promise that if he submitted the condition could be controlled.
Danvers became aware of a pair of shapes moving carefully through the darkness; his Legio brethren, but his heart fell at the realisation that they were so few. They couldn’t hope to stand against so powerful a force.
He was tainted, cursed and damned, and his life with the Legio was over. There was only one thing left to do, though it appalled him to even consider such abomination.
‘Show me.’ He whispered.
The Obliterator’s porcine face re-arranged itself into a parody of a leer, and it stamped back towards him. It’s back to Castor and his approaching brothers, and attention focused on him.
Once again knowledge slid into his mind; opening doors to reveal the myriad possibilities of his affliction. Pain fell away to a dull ache as the war between flesh and metal became truce, the two working at last in union rather than opposition. Steel softened and reformed, his skeleton shifted into new configurations and biological manufactories set to work converting his very flesh into exotic and explosive materials.
But in doing this he had let something else into his mind. A shadow on his soul, darkening by the second. An Entity that laughed at his folly and stood ready to eclipse him.
Racing the wave of terror and praying that the Emperor would understand and forgive him, Danvers opened his eyes to see the Obliterator looming over him. Out of the corner of his eye his Battle Brothers were close enough to identify - Fautor and Cruentatus - preparing to launch their doomed attack. Just a few more seconds.
Fautor - the Castigator - was a closed-minded bigot who would never understand what he had done. Fautor would rather put a bolt in his own brain than have Danvers save his life like this, and would certainly butcher him when he found out what he had become. His only hope was to warn the Obliterator and melt away into the darkness…
No! These weren’t his thoughts! Danvers – the true Danvers recognized the price he had to pay. He would welcome the killing bolt when it came, as a clean death was eminently preferable to the alternative.
He swung the barrel of his heavy bolter up and activated the trigger mechanism. The Obliterator might be able to summon ammunition directly from the Empyrium, but the only way that Danvers could create them was to leach the raw materials from the ancient plasteel of his armour, and in the end even from the reinforced bones of his skeleton. In extremis it quite literally tore his hearts out and left him a hollow shell.
But it was worth it. The point-blank volley of makeshift projectiles tore most of the Obliterator’s sunken head from its shoulders, and both Danvers and the beast hit the floor simultaneously. Even then Danvers continued to convert his body, partly to create more ammunition to hurl at his tormentor, but more importantly to make sure there was no way for anything else to inhabit his carcass after he was gone.
As his vision began to dim Danvers saw that the thing was still not dead. Blue-steel hued flesh swarmed wildly across the hole where it’s face had been, and split to reveal a crazed, hate-filled eye.
Just before the darkness enfolded, he made out the shapes of his Legio Brothers leaping at the stunned mountain of writhing flesh with the blessed weapons of bolter and chainsword, and he knew that his sacrifice - body and soul - had been enough.
Edited by Aurelius Rex, 24 May 2006 - 08:26 PM.