The last of the mutants in the room died in a hail of gunfire. A gentle haze of bolter smoke slowly filled the hallway as Antonius moved past his brothers, signaling them to stand watch for any enemy that might double back to intercept them. Ory-Hara followed close behind, his eyes sweeping everywhere. More fire came from a room beyond the doorway in front of them. This was it. Beyond that door lay their prize.
With a flick of his wrist, Ory-Hara unleashed a dragon made of blue flame that snaked into the room beyond, eliciting horrified screams that cut off leaving only the sickening crackle of burnt flesh. Antonius stepped through the doorway, entering a room blackened with soot. Six charred cultists surrounded a clean circle of polished metal, as if the fire had not touched the center of the room, and in its center sat a sight that, even with his long years fighting in some of the most horrible battles of their age, Antonius was not prepared to see.
A boy no more than four years old sat in a tiny gold-plated throne, adorned with the blasphemous iconography of monstrous beasts. The arms, legs, and back of the chair were of miniatures from all sorts of Tyranid species, climbing each other, while the back was flanked by hideous, mantis-like forms with huge scything talons that joined behind the boy’s head. Other monsters adorned the armrest and great wings sprawled out from the back.
The child stared at him with burning yellow-green eyes. Above this, bony ridges led to a bulbous oversized cranium, crisscrossed with the ridges of a brain and huge blue thrumming veins. The boy’s hands were clasped in prayer, but he had two additional arms with wicked claws that were taut and ready. His feet, clad in red slippers, dangled in the air.
“Cha-Dawn?” Antonius asked. He knew, without a doubt, that what sat before him was a creature of the utmost blasphemy. A xenos-crafted shell, controlling countless cultists, bent towards giving one of the most potent weapons in the Imperium to a mad Lord of Chaos. Still, it was a child, and it showed all the innocence and gentleness of youth. For an instant, he hesitated.
The child’s eyes pulsed with light. He opened his mouth and issued forth a bolt of incandescent energy, catching Antonius off-guard. Even with the superhuman reflexes gifted to him by the most advanced surgeries and gene-manipulation that mankind could offer, Antonius could not dodge in time.
Then Ory-Hara was there, stepping from behind Antonius’s shadow, his arm swatting at the psychic lance with his own shield of pure mental energy. The bolt was defected, barely. Antonius felt the heat of it sear his face as it flew past and exploded into the chamber’s ceiling, punching through and tearing a rift clear through to the adjacent deck. The wound in the plating glowed orange briefly, then faded to a charred black scar.
The boy’s mouth shut mechanically, showing neither frustration nor pleasure. His head cocked sideways, like a marionette. Antonius glared and felt himself steel with resolve. Whatever the creature in front of him was, it was not a child, and had never been a child. Its eyes were hideous pools without soul or emotion.
“Wel-come,” the child said in a horrid, detached monotone. “I-am-Cha-Dawn. I-am-the-doom-of-your-race.”
Antonius nodded to Ory-Hara, who stepped forward, drawing his Force Sword. Sky blue runes danced along its surface as it channeled potent psychic energies. As he did so, the child straightened, and was suddenly surrounded by a deep, glowing darkness that seemed to fill with absolutely nothing - a pulsing void. A tentacle of energy lashed out from Cha-Dawn towards the Librarian.
Ory-Hara lifted his hand, surrounding it in a globe of azure light that intercepted the lash of void energy mid-air. The room trembled with the impact; the air vibrating with the opposed, unimaginable forces. Where they met, the two beams of energy writhed and twisted. The clear and steady blue of Ory-Hara’s psychic lance pushing against the pulsing, shifting column of Cha-Dawn’s alien will. Antonius watched as barbs of dark force split from the nothingness and entwined themselves around Ory-Hara’s beam, spreading rapidly towards the Librarian.
Just before the black energy could reach him, Ory-Hara let forth a glowing blue flame that raced down the length of his beam, splintering the child’s attack, and surrounding Cha-Dawn’s small body. Darkness warred with the bright, clear energy that held the child, and the tremors of psychic force began to quake, seemingly throughout the whole ship. Slowly and deliberately, as if fighting against great winds, Ory-Hara began to step forward towards Cha-Dawn’s throne.
Cha-Dawn reacted to this battle with the impassiveness of a statue. He fixed his gaze upon Antonius. “Your-vic-tor-y-means-lit-tle. I-am-the-voice-of-the-All-Fa-ther. My-pow-er-is-e-ter-nal.”.
“Yes,” Antonius said, stepping around Ory-Hara. “We have heard that no piece of the Hive Mind truly dies. It is reincorporated. Recycled. So, when you are reunited with your ‘Allfather’ you tell him this.” Antonius turned slightly, baring his shoulder plate and the blue flame of his Chapter’s symbol. “When you see a flame of brilliant blue, know that it means this galaxy is protected. Know that we are no easy meat. Know that it will hurt, creature. Send this message to your Allfather: Be afraid.”
“You-and-I-shall-meet-a-gain, As-tar-tes.” the child said, lips peeling back slowly into the alien mockery of a smile.
Antonius answered with a predatory grin of his own. “Until next time.”
With a final step, Ory-Hara reached the throne and rammed his sword through Cha-Dawn’s skull, the blade sinking between its glowing yellow eyes. Somehow, the child still lived, squirming and spasming in its death throes. The dark energy that surrounded him flared out in wicked barbs, then faded away into the blue around them.
Ory-Hara’s eyes shone with bright blue light as a torrent of energy flashed down the cabling that ran along his gauntlet into the sword, making the polished blade shine like a newborn sun. The yellow orbs of Cha Dawn’s eyes were overwhelmed by the blue light, leaving burned out smoking holes. The body of the child slumped, and then began to fade into gray as it crumbled to ash.
Finally, the room was still.
Ory-Hara closed his eyes and let out a long, labored sigh. Turning, he nodded to Antonius and made his way out of the room. Antonius watched him go, then opened a channel on his vox-link.
“Phase one is complete.”