Big Game VI – Chapter Twenty Eight: A Sharp Reply
Remembrance rose and fell once more, smashing into yet another Termagant, tearing the beast apart in a hissing fountain of bubbling green ichor. Voldo Canis’ black armor ran freely with the bilious fluid, which popped and sizzled where it met the human blood that coated it elsewhere. Still they came in a hideous flood, unceasing even as his Command Squad tore them into shreds.
At first, the plan had worked to near perfection. The attack on the cultist leader, Cha Dawn, had been utterly devastating to the enemy. Upon his death, cohesion among the enemy forces at the Engine Control Complex had broken down completely. Canis’ arrival had opened to scenes of carnage as Cultists ran screaming from marauding insectoid goliaths, who waded through them blindly, slaughtering the fleeing humans in confusion and rage. The Cultists had lost their morale and their leadership, but the Tyranid creatures seemed to have truly lost whatever passed as their alien minds. Some were attacking each other, some stood silently as if in contemplation, and many more seemed to have simply fallen dead from the psychic feedback of Cha-Dawn’s annihilation.
At one point in their journey through the Complex, Canis’ detachment had found their path blocked by an enormous Carnifex slamming its own head into the plasteel walls, groaning and burbling. It hadn’t even seemed to notice as the Astartes’ heavy weaponry took it apart, still droning and bobbing to complete its task even as its flesh burned away in Promethium flame.
As similar reports came in from the Azure Flames and Eldar forces that had joined the Angels Sacrosanct in assaulting the Citadel, the ancient Reclusiarch had begun to think of Kalmsan. The Inquisitor was, without a doubt, one of the most pompous, preening, and thoroughly intolerable individuals that Canis had ever come across in his long life. Still, he had to admire the man’s genius. He had undone the most potent of defensive bastions in hours, with a few simple assaults. It was truly stunning.
Everything changed with a scream.
Reports came to him over the vox, as one of the Azure Flames’ assault teams encountered a Hive Tyrant, seemingly dormant as so many of the other Tyranids had been. They signaled their intention to exterminate the creature. Then a raw, monstrous sound had flooded the vox, first as a shivering, chittering buzz, rising to a crescendo of a dry, inhuman screech. The Azure Flames’ own startled reactions were drowned out as every Tyranid in the Citadel suddenly drew breath and answered their Tyrant’s call.
What had triggered the reaction, Canis could not say. He’d had few occasions to face these xenos across a battlefield, but even from those short experiences, he could discern the movement and flow of one mind spread across many bodies. Perhaps the single synapse creature had somehow managed to shake off the effects of psychic backlash, spreading its awareness across the nearest creatures of its brood. Maybe it was a safeguard, and the vile alliance that Canis faced had foreseen this very possibility.
Or, Canis mused, the beast simply knew the face of its foes.
A cry of anger shook the Reclusiarch from his reverie. In his peripheral vision, he saw Brother-Prelate Thamiel reaching for his throat to dislodge the sickle-like claw of a Hormagaunt that had pierced the soft armor beneath his helmet. Blood gushed from the wound in torrents. Two more of the beasts slammed into him from leaping charges, toppling him to the ground. Even as the squad turned their fury towards the monsters that swarmed him, Thamiel’s choked curses fell away to nothing, and he was lost under a tide of alien claws and flesh. Canis said a silent prayer for the Brother-Prelate’s soul as the Angels Sacrosanct avenged him with a fusillade of bolter fire.
Still they came. Each wave met by an equal measure of bolt rounds. Gaunts exploded in mid-air as they leapt over the corpses of their kin. Several of his brothers noted that they had precious few clips remaining. Soon their ammo would be depleted. Canis did not want to consider what they would do when that happened.
The soft chime of a bell sounded as a gold-level vox-channel opened.
“…iarch Canis? Bloody vox static… Canis! Do…” the link crackled out again, then resumed. “…read? This is Captain Leonidas of the Azure Flames 1st Company. What is your position, Canis?”
“Captain.” Canis answered. “We are holding juncture C-5-Delta, northwest of the primary control room.”
Leonidas’ only reply was a harsh bark that trailed off into laughter tinged with predatory anticipation. Despite the dire situation, Canis could not help but raise an eyebrow.
“That explains it!” Leonidas shouted. “This is perfect, Reclusiarch. Your force is the only one within striking distance of the control room. Is your position defensible?”
“For the moment, yes. However, I am not usually amenable to defense, Captain.” Canis said disguising his irritation almost perfectly. In the distance, another wave of Tyranids surged.
“You’ll have to be. Somehow the beasts…” Leonidas was cut off with static briefly. “…out where you are and are coming straight for you, in force.”
“They are already here in force.” Canis replied as he emptied his storm bolter into the advancing wave of chittering gaunts.
“Not like this. We’re right on their heels…” Leonidas continued but Canis could not hear as he swung Remembrance in a glittering arc, crushing two creatures in mid leap. “…attack them from behind.”
“How fitting, son of Vulkan, that you are the hammer to our anvil.”
Leonidas’ predatory chuckle again stuffed Canis’ ears. “I like you, Canis. Hold tight. We are on our way.”
Canis barked a sharp reply. “Hurry.”