Antonius grimaced as the oncoming fragment of the planet fell towards the northern horizon. A blazing star in the sky. If this was the end, then at least it would be a fitting one.
In some sense, Antonius had expected to die here on the surface of the Omega Station since the moment he learned of its existence. It was too big, too much, the weight of coincidence too great. As his father had perished while quenching the flames of the Archenemy’s mad ambition in its last great conflagration, he would make his final stand here. He hoped that it would be enough, for there was no successor to take his place. Atrus’ geneseed would die here, with him.
Then he took a deep breath, and returned to the present.
“Hold! Hold the line!” Antonius shouted, emptying both magazines of his Combi-plasma into the advancing horde of Tyranids that covered the ground in a carpet. They surged and were pushed back again and again, but each time closer, heedless of death. The xenos leapt through gouts of flame, landing among the Azure Flames 4th company, scrabbling and clawing with a ferocity that was beyond even the single-minded, insectoid focus that was their nature. Whatever hive instinct commanded them now was not acting according to any plan or towards an achievable goal. It simply wanted every foe dead. If a Tyranid could ever be said to hate, these ones hated with an all-consuming passion, and what they hated was the Azure Flames.
Antonius cursed as the sound of bolt fire faltered and the wave crashed. With a shout, he threw himself into the rampaging xenos, splitting them with his axe, one after another. Scything talons were turned aside by the ceramite of his armor, only to be replaced with more and more. A wild swing of his axe bisected half a dozen of the creatures. They were replaced in an instant. One hormagaunt crashed itself into Antonius’ chest. He felt repeated blows against his greaves and chest as he struggled to keep the alien's scrabbling claws and loathsome teeth from his face.
Then in a spray of orange gore, the offending gaunt fell away.
Antonius turned to see Lieutenant Talon of the Angels Sacrosanct striking at the horde of chittering xenos with a sword that glowed like a sunrise. Around him, marines in maroon heraldry charged into the fray, relieving the surviving Azure Flames.
“You need to get off this planet!” Antonius barked over the fray.
“Impossible.” Talon replied. “Honor demands an equal sacrifice.”
“Neither of us will survive this unless someone holds this line.”
“Then fall back to the extraction point, if you wish.” Talon said with a grin. Antonius growled in frustration, redoubling his efforts, eliciting a laugh from Talon. “So, you do understand.”
Both men fell silent as the wave of gaunts parted to allow a hulking monstrosity with lengthy talons and crushing claws to the fore. It bellowed as it charged, shaking the ground with its bulk. Antonius and Talon instinctively took a stance to hold.
Something black fell from the sky on wings of incandescent red fire. The charging carnifex was flattened, spraying a wave of brownish ichor with a gut-wrenching crunch. Brother Abraham let loose a gout of bright yellow flame as he stood atop the ruined monster. About his chassis, bright silvery weld lines shone out against the black of his armor.
“Your brother Jelnac knows his craft.” Abraham boomed from speakers still tinny with damage.
“Will no one on this blasted planetoid let me rescue them?” Antonius shouted in exasperation.
“It seems not.” Talon answered. “I am receiving reports from all across the Station. Even the damned Eldar are doing their part. Without them, we would be surrounded by this filth.” The Angel Sacrosanct cocked his head in concentration, then turned to Antonius. “Transport craft are on the way. Everything that can be spared. Less than five minutes.”
Antonius nodded. “Let us not keep them waiting.”
As one, the two Captains ordered their retreat. With an inhuman quickness, lines of Astartes formed, each force covering for the others as they laboriously gave ground. Soon the Tyranid menace had been bisected, two distinct groups assailed the lines, cut in half by the wedge of the surviving Space Marines, as each fought to keep the others alive long enough to make it to their salvation.
Antonius and Talon moved among their men, lending aid and patching holes in the defense lines with their own armor and crackling power weaponry, absorbing the ferocity of the Tyranids and sparing their men. Talon impaled an eight-foot monstrosity, its bright green blood hissing as it ate away at the red of his armor until only dull grey plasteel remained, his gauntlet a melted ruin at his side. Antonius swept desperately through innumerable beasts, his axe’s haft finally snapping in two between a slithering horror’s massive claws, and his combi-weapon blasting through hordes until the plasma coils simply boiled away. Inch by bloody inch, the Space Marines of the Azure Flames and Angels Sacrosanct made their way to the extraction point, when just a few meters from the awaiting aircraft, a weight of white ceramite crashed into Antonius as Apothecary Jorden collapsed backwards, a huge spike of bone talon lancing into his chest plate and back out the other side.
Antonius caught the falling Apothecary by the collar of his power armor and hoisted him up. “There will be no dying today, Jorden,” he said firmly.
“Brother-Captain” Jorden wheezed, bloody phlegm drying on his chin as soon as it burbled forth from his lips. “So many dead... only a few recoverable. I am sorry. I tried.”
“You’ve done all you can, Brother,” Antonius said, bringing his arm around Jorden, holding the man up where his own strength could not. “And you will do more in the future. You’re getting off of this Station. Someone needs to bring this Company back after this war is over.”
Antonius risked a glance around him. A ring of Marines surrounded him, holding off the oncoming Tyranid horde with incredible firepower. One by one, Astartes turned and made a line towards the transports, their brothers selling their own lives dearly to cover their escape, all while the screaming shadow of the planetary fragment blocked out more of the sky. It wouldn’t be long now.
With that, Antonius turned, dragging Jorden to the waiting line of transport craft, which were bathed in a haze of exhaust as many began their hovering ascent away from the Station’s surface. He saw the bulky form of Abraham’s shell being clamped to a gunship’s hull. Beside him, Talon boarded the craft, turning to give Antonius a nod of gratitude as he stepped inside.
Antonius made his way towards a Stormraven bearing the blue-on-blue of the Azure Flames, Jorden staggering beside him, the Apothecary’s weight leaning on his Captain’s shoulder.
“There,” Antonius said. “Let’s get you aboard while there’s still time.”
“What about you, Captain?” Jorden said as they reached the gunship’s side ramp.
“I,” Antonius said grimly, “will see this to the bitter end.“
“This is not what your father would have wanted.” Jorden grunted, shaking his head.
“Perhaps,” Antonius said, “but I will not abandon this Station while a single Flame breathes on its surface.” Antonius ducked into the Stormraven’s doorway, commanding those inside to make room for the Apothecary. His heart sank, seeing how few of the Azure Flames had made it aboard. His moment of hesitation ended as a mesh box filled with small vials sailed by his head, each containing small gobbets of flesh suspended in a pale green liquid.
Antonius reached out and grabbed the box from the air. “Jorden!” he shouted, turning to face the Apothecary. “What are you do—”
A fist wrapped in white ceramite met his jawline. Antonius was lifted from his feet and flew backwards into the Stormraven’s hull, slamming into the wall behind him. His vision blurred and his head swam.
“You will bring this Company back, Captain,” he heard Jorden say. Two loud thumps sounded within the galley, followed by hydraulics and engines coming to life as the door retracted and the Stormraven began to lift off. “There will be other Apothecaries, but there is only one Scion of Atrus.”
Antonius jumped to his feet, slamming his palm against the closing door, but it was too late. Through a viewport, he watched as Apothecary Jorden limped towards the remaining members of the 4th Company, adding his bolt pistol to the fusillade put forth by his brothers as they fought back an endless wave of xenos.
Then a silvery shape touched the northern horizon and pressed into it. Before it, the very fundament rose, and a wave of rock, miles high, towered and approached. Glowing reddish orange cinders blocked out the stars. The engines were inaudible over the din of a planet dying as the Stormraven banked upwards. Finally, the wave overtook the battle, exterminating all life on the surface.
Surrounded by the few remaining Astartes of the 4th Company, Antonius sank into the metal seating of the gunship. Overwhelmed by the enormity of the moment and the loss of his brothers, he bowed his head in thanks and prayer.