Big Game VI – Chapter Thirty: A Fool’s Wisdom
Intro 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 Epilogue
As Voldo Canis approached the central command room of the Engine Complex, the pops and crunches of dead Tyranid xenoforms underfoot filled the air. Canis glanced to the side to see Leonidas of the Azure Flames striding just behind him. Leonidas’ ornate artificer armour allowed him the freedom to gingerly step around the corpses of the aliens. Canis’ Terminator plate afforded him no such grace.
The door to the command console was shut with an enormous hexagonal pressure door of the purest adamant. Canis held back, allowing Leonidas to access the terminal beside the door. Leonidas produced a device that had been mag-fastened to his belt - an oval of metal, festooned with various greenish lights and pictograms in a language unfit for human tongues. Canis’ stomach lurched at the sight.
“Heresy,” he spat.
Leonidas shrugged. “No doubt,” he said, “but we are short on other options. From what the Inquisitor has said, even your Crozius wouldn’t be able to break through this door in time. I think we can be forgiven for a lack of purity in the name of saving the Throneworld.”
Canis grunted, but did not argue.
Leonidas placed the device’s flattened bottom to the console. It came to life immediately, spitting metallic tendrils and pulsing like a living thing. Within moments, there was a grind of uncoupling seals, and the pressure door split into six triangles that began to retract into the surrounding walls.
“Don’t worry” Leonidas said, a grin on his face, “It can be our little secret. Not even the Emperor has to know.”
The death mask of Canis’ armour disguised his annoyance. The Inquisitor had been brash, but even he carried a measure of piety. This Azure Flame, however, could not even muster that much. He was the most crass, rude, and undisciplined person Canis had ever met. How he had risen to the Captain of a Chapter’s veteran company was beyond reckoning.
The door opened in full, and immediately from within las rounds saturated the air with thick red beams. Angels and Flames pressed themselves to the wall for cover and answered with precision. Each bolt found its mark, eliciting a scream or a sickening wet explosion. Finally, the air was still.
Leonidas plucked the Necron device from the console and made his way inside the control room. Cultists were strewn about the room, some twitching in death throes. The degenerate flesh of half-human monstrosities mixed with the crisp, bold uniforms of those who had served as the Station’s guardians before showing their true colors. Canis growled his contempt for both the mutant and the traitor that had worked to cause so much destruction.
A groan sounded from across the room. Canis turned his head to see one trying to crawl away with what remained of his limbs. His Storm Bolter barked twice, reducing the mutant to a cloud of purple mist. Leonidas nodded in approval and attached the Virus Node to the main console and began working furiously.
“Should we not have a Techmarine perform this task?” Canis asked.
“You know,” Leonidas said, “You’re right.” The Azure Flames Captain placed his hand to his brow and surveyed the room in an exaggerated gesture. “Oh, pity. None to be found. Suppose I’ll just have to use my own talents.” Leonidas pressed a final rune dramatically and the displays came to life showing the World Engines that propelled the Omega Station. With a few keystrokes, runes of activation showed on the screen, bathing the room in a red light.
“Leonidas to Zhuang.” He said into the vox. “The mission is complete. Cut the Hardline.”
“Have you finished?” Canis asked.
“Good,” Canis said, and brought Remembrance down upon the Necron device, its reality-altering field bringing it clean through the console below with a wrenching shriek of metal. The Reclusiarch glanced at his own Command Squad, who immediately understood their Master’s unspoken command, and filed out of the room. Leonidas motioned to his own men, who left with more reluctance.
“Something is on your mind, Brother?” Leonidas asked.
“You,” Canis growled, glaring at Leonidas with undisguised contempt. “My brothers are dying. Our brothers. The life of both our Chapters bleeds out here, and we may still perish as failures.”
With another sweep of his Crozius Arcanum, Canis shattered a cluster of glowing monitors, leaving a hazy trail of smoke in the wake of his swing.
“The Master,” Canis said, “Of my Chapter. My sovereign Lord. My friend. He has offered himself up for sacrifice, as a distraction. But for his own orders, I would stand with him, fight with him, die with him.”
With a final heave, Canis’ fist slammed through a data-stack just inches from Leonidas’ head. Faces just inches apart, The Azure Flame and Angel Sacrosanct stared at each other for a long moment.
“No,” Canis drawled, “Instead I am sent here, to wade through the faceless flesh of the alien, the mutant and the heretic, alongside a man who cannot see this moment for what it is. A man who prances and makes merry while his men die around him. I am disgusted, Captain, that I must be accompanied during this critical moment by a fool.”
Canis once again began to vent his anger on the control mechanisms until the room was filled with nothing more than smoke, ruin, and a man he now hated with unquenchable fury.
Then, Leonidas laughed.
Canis immediately turned towards the Captain, eyes narrowed in disbelief. The laugh rang loud and clear in the shattered room, a hearty sound without a hint of malice.
“That’s the spirit,” Leonidas said.
Canis stared at the Captain of the Azure Flames’ 1st Company.
“My Brothers have fought and died in the bloody conflicts throughout this Segmentum. First against Victor Kalan, then his successors. I lost the Master of my Chapter, one of the best men I have ever known. Entire companies of my Brothers have fallen in these wars. And you know what?”
Canis stood as a statue.
“I'm still here. I'll never give up. Every fallen Brother, every lost friend, each one is another reason to keep going. Another reason to stand against whatever might dim the light of the Emperor that guides me.” Leonidas gestured to the ruined console. “Venting that rage is good, Canis. Once it cools, what you have left is pure. Refined. I've seen what happens to those who would keep that fury on the inside. It rots them. Drives them to despair. After that, all it takes is one little push. You’ve seen it, probably more than I. That’s how men fall, Reclusiarch.”
Canis' stance became less rigid, and his features softened with introspection. He thought of those brothers lost to the endless depths of the Rage. Friends he could never save. “Indeed.”
A smile broke out across Leonidas’ face, but this time, the weariness showed. The years of loss, and the long struggle of a soul that fought against an encroaching darkness. “They can kill my friends and take scores of worlds. But they’ll never have me. Not without a damned good fight. Don’t let them have you, Reclusiarch. You’re a good man, and the galaxy needs good men.”
The sudden sound of shouts and the booming sound of bolter fire echoed from outside the room, and both men’s comm-links went live with chatter. A horde of Tyranids charged into the Astartes that waited just beyond the door. The battle was on once again.
Leonidas clapped the Reclusiach’s shoulder once, then turned and ran out to meet the oncoming swarm, his madman’s laugh echoing throughout the hall. This time, Canis could not help but smile. With a shout of defiance, Reclusiarch Voldo Canis made his way into the fray.