Big Game V – Chapter Five: A Bonding

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“Confirmed. Multiple contacts broadcasting Imperial transponder codes. Twenty. Correction, twenty-four.”

“Ordnance detected at –322.488.-70. Life signs within ordnance.”

“Bombardment Cannon fire from friendlies at Pride of Typhon and Killfrenzy. Confirmed hits.”

“Energy signatures detected from enemy ships. Warp distortions forming.”

Kalmsan breathed a sigh of relief. The enemy was outnumbered and outgunned. Only a fool would stay and challenge a fleet of this magnitude.

“Excellent work, Supreme Magos. I’m sure we…”

Kalmsan was cut off as the white lights above went out, replaced by a harsh red glow. New klaxons wailed.

“Power offline. Chaos Space Marines reported in generators.”

“Secondary power to life support, cogitator control, and shields. Life support is failing on decks twenty nine through thirty six.”

“Status report!” shouted Magos Astril. Several servitors began droning about power systems, hull integrity, and artificial gravity. Kalmsan ignored them, and loaded his bolt pistol.

“At the ready!” he snapped. The stormtroopers readied their hellguns. “Riggs, Pickman, cover the door. Tommels, the air duct. Support the Skitari guards. Where are the light-blinded security servitors?”

“Servitor core control is offline. Thirty two percent of combat servitors are functional. The rest are destroyed or in stasis. Correction, twenty-seven percent.” A lowly Magos croaked at him. “The enemy has breached deck five. We will have contact in two minutes thirty three seconds.”

“Sir, we are receiving a transmission from His Hammer II. They are ordering us to drop shields.”

“We cannot do that. We will be defenseless.”

“Imperative: Divert power from shields to life support. Addendum: cancel alarm.” Hacking bellowed.

The klaxons ceased. Gunfire was audible from the hall beyond the blast door. A dull thump against the door echoed throughout the bridge.

“DOWN! NOW!” shouted Kalmsan. The blast door was blown open. Shrapnel shredded two Skitari. Bolter fire streamed in, ripping apart consoles. Cracks filled the air as white-hot lances of energy fired through the door. Kalmsan fired his pistol blindly at the breached door. He dove behind a partition as bolter rounds exploded around him. A strong odor of ozone filled the room

With a deafening snap, five dark blue Space Marine Terminators appeared on the bridge. The roar of their guns was deafening. Slowly, they advanced on the door. Grenades landed at their feet and exploded, but the Terminators did not slow. The first one to reach the door was one armed with a bizarre shield covered with glowing blades.

Kalmsan ran low, behind the cover of the consoles as the Terminators marched, single file, into the hall. One of the wall panels gave way, and a Plague Marine wielding a greasy brown knife rushed the captain with the shield. The Terminator deftly blocked the attack, and with a flourish of his arm, decapitated the bloated traitor. The captain stepped to the side as a Terminator armed with a heavy flamer behind him ignited the corpse with a gout of flame that burned a bright blue. The spray rose up into the wall crack. Three more Plague Marines burst out, wreathed in flame, spraying bolter fire. Kalmsan snapped off a shot that took one below the arm, blowing off the limb, but the abomination continued its advance. The squad let loose with concentrated bolter fire, liquefying it. The Terminators, caught in the narrow hall, had little room to maneuver to avoid the Plaguemarines. One Plague Marine rushed forward and sunk its knife deep into the gap between one Terminator’s shoulder and chest. Putrid gurgles escaped from the Terminator’s mouthpiece as he slumped to the side of the hall. The flamer-armed Terminator rushed forward and caught the Plaguemarine full on with his power fist. The Plaguemarine’s body shattered and smashed to the floor. The last of the diseased traitors, armed with a power weapon, struck out at the captain, slicing a deep gouge into his thick shoulder pad. The captain raised his storm bolter and emptied it into the face of the Plaguemarine, flinging it through the air into the thick plasteel wall. Still alive it raised its bolt pistol to fire again. Pure blue flame washed over the traitor marine for several seconds. All that remained was a charred husk. The Captain turned to the flamer-armed Terminator.

“Cleanse this filth, brother. Make sure not one spot of blood remains unburned.”

Several minutes later, the hallway was blackened and distorted. No trace of the traitors was left besides smoldering ruins of their armor. The Terminators marched back onto the bridge.

“I’m afraid you’ll lose most of your active servitors and Skitari.” the Captain said matter-of-factly. “These blighted traitors have brought disease aboard your ship. I am Captain Perseus, of the Azure Flames first company.” Kalsman raised himself from behind the partition, and found himself face-to-face with the Terminator Captain.

“Well done, captain. I am Inquisitor Kalmsan of the Ordo Malleus. These are my bodyguards. To what do we owe this good fortune? Or is it fortune that brought you here to our rescue?”

“Your questions will be answered on our Battle Barge, His Hammer II. You are cordially invited aboard by chapter master Atrus.”

“Good, I have many questions to be answered.”

“Magos, what is the closest airlock to this location?” Perseus asked.

“Airlock 3. Deck 14 starboard side.”

“Perseus to His Hammer II. Send a Thunderhawk to my location. Exact coordinates will be given en route.”

Awkward silence permeated the corridor as the Inquisitor and his stormtroopers followed the Terminators. Kalmsan gave the one dragging the fallen Terminator a wide berth. They had not burned that body, and there was no telling what kind of disease or poison could bring down a Terminator with a simple stab wound. The flight aboard the Thunderhawk was brief. As the hatch of the Thunderhawk opened, four Space Marines in red robes hemmed in black geartooth patters stood waiting. Servo-arms on their backpacks were neatly folded, hanging to their right.

“Inquisitor, if you will follow us please.” one of them said.

Kalmsan was ushered through the Battle Barge into a huge room. It was an audience chamber, with places to sit, but no central fixture, just a large platform. A set of huge wooden doors dominated the opposite wall. The Techmarines escorting him were silent the entire way. Kalmsan became more and more unsettled as he waited. Nothing made sense. Why would the chapter burden their Techmarines with escorting a guest? Kalmsan heard a loud, rhythmic thud sound, accompanied by heavy footsteps. As the door opposite Kalmsan opened, he was greeted with something he did not expect. Captain Perseus stood in front of a huge Space Marine Dreadnought. But this Dreadnought was like nothing Kalmsan had ever seen. The Dreadnought’s right arm was a giant red crystal. Kalmsan identified it as an Eldar Fire Prism. A large protrusion extended from the top of the sarcophagus, with cables running from it to several places throughout the torso. The front of the Dreadnought was a golden-bordered sarcophagus with a book with a blue flame emblazoned on the front above scrollwork that read “Atrus.” THIS was the Azure Flames’ chapter master? A Dreadnought with stolen xeno technology? This was unheard of!

“Inquisitor Kalmsan. I am Atrus. Chief Librarian and Chapter Master of the Azure Flames. You have met brother Perseus. I can only assume that you have many questions. The Azure Flames cooperate with the Inquisiton willingly and freely. Fear not to speak your mind, or to ask what you will.” Atrus’ voice was tinny and crackled with a bit of static. Kalmsan’s mind reeled. Where to begin?

“First, I must know how your chapter came to this system. All charts show that this is an unstable warp region. How did your entire chapter know to come, and why the entire chapter? Who are you? Why do you have alien technology? What is…” Atrus raised a three pointed claw inscribed with scrolling symbols, shaking it gently as if pleading.

“Please Inquisitor. One question at a time, no need to rush.”

“No need to rush?” Kalmsan shouted. “This is heresy! Librarians cannot be chapter masters! Possession of xeno tech is punishable by death! How do you explain yourself?”

Kalmsan had never heard of a Dreadnought sighing. A shiver ran down his spine.

“I was afraid you would react this way. It was very likely that this would happen, but I wished that it would not come to pass. Perseus, call in Tellus and Kol.”

“Yes, my lord.” Perseus replied. He strode to the door, and retrieved two of the robed Techmarines that had escorted Kalmsan.

“Thank you Perseus. Leave us, please. Inquisitor, please instruct your bodyguards to wait outside.”

“…Sir?” A look of surprise flashed over Perseus’ face.

“Now, Perseus. Tellus, Kol, prepare the rite of the initiated.”

The Techmarines both took a step back. Perseus’ face turned bright red.

“My lord!” Perseus shouted. “Surely you cannot think to show…”

“PERSEUS!” Atrus’ speakers whined with feedback as his shout shook the room. Perseus took a deep breath and composed himself.

“At once, my lord. Tellus, Kol, do it.” The Techmarines nodded. Atrus’ legs lowered his frame One of the Techmarines plugged a cord from his arm into Atrus’ sarcophagus. The other fetched a small tripod pedestal. As the Techmarines worked, Kalmsan nodded to the stormtroopers. They filed out of the room after Perseus. The pedestal was placed before Atrus, and the Techmarine stood upon it to reach an access panel near the top of the sarcophagus, plugging himself into it. The one on the floor spoke.

“Three. Two. One. Mark.” A small hiss of steam escaped from the sarcophagus. The three large locks at the bottom of it moved down slowly, and the sarcophagus began to open. Its lid slid slowly to the floor, as motors whirred. It ended its descent with a dull thud as the edge hit the floor.

“Leave us.” One of the Techmarines looked at the other and nodded. They left quickly. The last one out paused, looked over his shoulder at Atrus, and then at Kalmsan. He shut the door slowly.

“Only two men who were not Azure Flames neophytes have ever borne witness to what you see here, and none who live to this day. One was Eric Boucher, of the Ordo Hereticus. The other was Angmar Kalan.”

Kalmsan’s breath caught. During his training as an Inquisitor he had studied under several inquisitors of several Ordos. Victor Kalan, his first teacher, was among the most influential to his belief structure. But Victor had turned from the Emperor’s light and led a horrible host of Mankind’s enemies to raze several worlds. Victor had died at the hands of his brother, Angmar Kalan, who wielded a sword blessed by the Emperor. Angmar died killing his brother.  Without Victor to bind them, the various enemy forces lost cohesion, and the engagement stalled into a three-year stalemate. That such a holy and powerful Inquisitor as Angmar Kalan had seen this vision and not declared the Azure Flames Excomunicate Traitoris spoke highly of this ritual.

“What is going to happen?” Kalmsan whispered.

“First, you must stand on this pedestal, and second, you must touch my forehead. That is all.”

Kalmsan had been trained to read people and ferret out their emotions. Atrus’ voice carried an undercurrent of fear. Atrus feared him. Kalmsan realized he was unconsciously gripping his bolt pistol under his coat. He pulled his hand away from the grip, and stepped up onto the pedestal. From here, he could see into the sarcophagus. A man with pale white skin like parchment was interred within. Cables and tubes ran into his torso, neck, eyes, and sides.

“Go on.” Atrus said.

Kalmsan steeled himself. He muttered a prayer of protection under his breath, reached in and placed his hand on Atrus’ forehead. Darkness overcame him.

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