Big Game V – Chapter Twenty Eight: Hammer and Anvil

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Piers was almost jarred out of his seat as His Hammer II rocked with impact.

“Where the hell did they come from?” he shouted.

“Sir, they used the ambient dust clouds to mask their energy signature.  I’m reading three capital ships and four escort squadrons.”

Piers suppressed a groan.  “Tell Vigilance and Duty to protect our flanks, and send Sword and Wrath squadrons around the asteroid field to flank them.  We must close as…”

“Sir, two more capital ships are coming out of the dust cloud.  Confirmed enemies.  They’re moving to join the main enemy fleet.”

“Belay my last.” Piers sighed. “Order out ships to fire ordnance in a spread pattern and alter course to one-six-five mark two-oh-seven.”  Piers slammed his fist into his armrest, jarring the screens around him.  “Damn!”

It was not until several hours later that the next impact hit.  Piers bit back another curse.  Though they had a head start, a Battle Barge was too slow to make a run for it.  The Julius system was lost.

“Send word to the fleet.  We make for the EQ 77 system.  Engage warp jump as soon as we are far enough from the system center.”  Piers said as the familiar baritone of the warp engines began to permeate the ship.  “Come to zero-nine-zero mark zero, we will cover the rest of the fleet until they are…”

“Sir!” someone interrupted. “New contacts bearing one-five-nine mark one-one-seven.  A Space Marine Battle Barge and two Strike Cruisers!”

“Is it His Anvil and the rest of the fleet?”

“Sir, no sir!  Ships are broadcasting Imperial transponder codes, but I don’t recognize them.”

“Incoming transmission from the new ships!” someone else shouted.  Piers put it through.  A space marine with shock red hair in a topknot stared back at him.  The marine’s blue-grey armor displayed the heraldry of the legendary Space Wolves, and his face was split with a grin that revealed long canine teeth.

“This is Piers of the Azure Flames battle Barge His Hammer II.  To whom am I speaking?”

“Erik Morkai, of the Space Wolves!  Looks like you could use a hand.”

“Indeed.  We will hold position and prevent the enemy from moving forward, and allow you to outflank them.”

“Hammer to your anvil, eh?” Morkai’s grin turned predatory. “We’ll see you in the middle!” The transmission broke to static.

Piers’s face showed a lopsided smile. “Fortune is fickle today.  Come about to one-eight-zero mark zero.  Take us right at them.  Tell Vigilance and Duty to spread out.  We hold this system.”

His Hammer II and its fleet reversed course and struck out at the enemy ships.  Two enemy capital ships swerved to take the Space Wolves head on and prevent them from flanking.  Ordnance and fighters lit up the space between the closing fleets.  Boarding torpedoes disabled the shield generators aboard the Word of Darkness and it disengaged, leaving a hole in the enemy lines.  The Strike Cruiser Duty charged in, threatening to strike at them from abeam.  The Duty took heavy damage, and was preoccupied with several fires, but provided a perfect distraction for His Hammer II to close with its deadly bombardment cannons.  The Psalm of Hatred lost control of its yaw thrusters and began to stray out of the main line.  The Battle Barge Fang of Glory and Strike Cruiser Eye of the Wolf closed in a Pincer formation around the Damnation Tome and disabled several of its systems.  However, the Pride of Lorgar severely damaged the Strike Cruiser Lunar Howl with a concentrated ordnance spread and lance volley.  With several of their ships unable to fight, the enemy disengaged.  As the Imperial ships brought damage under control, His Hammer II received Morkai’s Thunderhawk. Piers was there to meet him on the hangar deck.  As the two men clasped forearms, and the Space Wolf gave Piers’ shoulder pad a brotherly rap.

“A fine battle, friend!  I knew the Chasma Spica was a place that songs would be written about!”  Behind Morkai, a motely honor guard stepped from the Thunder Hawk, each carrying a large barrel. Behind them followed a somber man whose black armor was covered in runes. His countenance was a contrast to the Wolf Guard, who laughed and bragged about the battle.

“My finest men Master Piers,”  Morkai grinned. “And my finest ale, with compliments to your captains. You fought well today, and tonight, we celebrate!”

Behind Morkai, the marine in black armor coughed audibly.

“Ah,” Morkai said. “And let me introduce my brother, the Wolf Priest Irnst.”

Piers shook Irnst’s hand “Piers, Master of the Fleet and Captain of the 7th Company of the Azure Flames.  It is an honor.”

“The Honor is all mine, Captain.  We bring good tidings.  An Imperial fleet numbering more than a hundred ships is inbound and will arrive in several days.  We left early due to a… miscommunication.  We also have reports that other smaller forces are arriving independently of the main fleet.”

“That is incredibly good news.  We thank you for your assistance, and for your timing.  I have matters that must be seen to, but I will have the both of you escorted to see Brother Voltman, the Inquisitor who called for your aid.”

“Bah!” Erik shouted.  “Stuff the Inquisition, and whatever fool of theirs tries to command us. Come Piers.  Repairs can wait.  Now we toast our victory!  I brought a cask that has been…” Erik trailed off as he saw Piers’ face.

“Excuse me, brother Morkai, but Brother Voltman is an honorary member of our chapter and you will treat him with respect while you are on my ship.”

Erik’s response was cut off by Irnst. “My brother meant no offense, Captain Piers. We are honored to be guests aboard your ship.”

“And we to have you,” Piers said, exhaustion creeping into his voice. “Soon, though, regardless of what business the Inquisition may have with us, we’ll all have to sample this gift of yours together, yes?”

Erik and Irnst both gave a smile to that, and followed Piers into the ship.

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