Sector 361 Subsector 285 Battle Barge AEGIS OF ULTRAMAR Section 400:: Main Hangar One [DATE REDACTED] 1900 Hours Onboard Standard Time
“…for it falls upon the proud sons to be His first and last line of defence. When next we kneel, let it be deep in the blood of His enemies.”
Chaplain Juartho walked among the thirty battle brothers gathered kneeling in the vast, dimly lit landing hangar of the Aegis of Ultramar. The censer in his hand swayed from left to right, leaving a faint trail of holy incense smoke in its wake. In his other hand, Juartho gripped his Crozius Arcanum, the sacred mace that marked the office of each chaplain. Clad in black armour, he came to a stop before his captain. The skull-faced visage of Juartho’s helmet scanned the kneeling Ultramarines. As he had done many times before, he would bestow upon them his litanies, and uplift the hearts and minds of his brothers. He turned to the captain Ultramarine next to him, who had until now been kneeling as well, his red cape covering the back of his blue armour.
“Rise, Captain Lucan.” The Chaplain began, his voice still strong like steel. “The Litanies of Defence have been said. Your men are ready to be addressed by you.”
Captain Tagras Lucan of the second company rose to his feet. His movements were deliberate, like a stone giant coming to life. He thanked his chaplain with a curt nod, and then stepped forward as his brothers also rose. Thirty space marines, all wearing the proud blue of the Ultramarines, accented by the golden trim of the second company, rose as one. Every single chin was held high, every chest puffed with honour. Even the highest nobles of Terra would have found it hard to match the dignity of these angels of death.
“Sons of Ultramar,” Captain Tagras Lucan spoke. Although it didn’t have the raw passion of the chaplain's, the captain’s voice was strong in its own way. Whereas the chaplain spoke like a burning flame of zeal, the captain was as though a solid mountain, stoic and ageless in wisdom: “It is yet again that we stand upon the precipice of war, and aye, death itself. A countless times war has called out to us, and a countless times we have answered. Our blades have never dulled, and our eagerness to rise up has faltered not. I know the courage among you. There’s no doubt in my mind that any of you would lay his life down for me, and know this: I would do the same for all of you. We are brothers bound by blood. Our strength in that bond is what puts us above the degenerates that have come to our door this day.
“I must ask one thing of you,” Captain Tagras paused for a moment. Every Ultramarine in the room held his breath, waiting for the next word to leave Tagras’s mouth. The anticipation was palpable, and the captain continued with weight in his tone: “I ask you to not give your lives for me, or the brother standing next to you on this fight. If we die here, let it be known that we have made the ultimate sacrifice not for each other, but for the rest of our chapter. We, the Second Company, have been tasked with holding this hangar so that the other companies may stand a fighting chance. This falls upon our shoulders. It is our burden, our purpose, and if we are to die, then it is our destiny. This destiny I am honoured to share with you, proud brethren.
“But, until then,” The Captain’s voice began to rise. “until then, we will hold down this blessed hangar with such stubbornness that a son of Dorn would take notes!”
A few laughs were heard here and there. As it died down, a sudden quake shook the hangar. Emergency sirens began blaring, and the dim lighting shifted to red, masking the hangar in a deep crimson haze. Through the hangar's opposite end, dark landing craft started appearing. Dozens of heretical drop ships swooped in and touched down. Immediately, the Ultramarine Predator tank began unloading shells into them, the sound of its fire shaking the ground around it. It shot down two ships, each of which crashed in a blossom of fire, but the enemy kept coming. Each ship that managed to touch down unloaded hordes of chaos cultists: vile degenerates that shouted obscenities as they charged the Astartes with unholy fanaticism. The lone thunderfire cannon on the loyalist side added its own crescendo to the music of bolterfire. As each artillery shell soared high in the vast hangar, it came crashing down upon the cultists, engulfing them in blasts of fire and shrapnel. What was once a quiet hanger accompanied only by the steady hum of machines had turned into a chaotic battlefield in a split second.
“Give not an inch of land!” The Captain, as if in defiance to the enemy’s attack, was even louder now. So loud, that his words seemed to beat against the chest of each Ultramarine, despite all of the other deafening sounds of the battlefield. His voice, sharp and true, rose among the mess and carnage. His words were loud and clear. “Show them what wrath beats in the hearts of the pure!”
With that, Captain Lucan Tagras raised the tip of his blade into the air, and gave a war cry that was long and thunderous. The Ultramarines joined him in his lion’s roar, mowing down a sea of cultist flesh that came running at them as every loyal Astartes let out his own shout. Among them were Titus, Atarius, and Eihwaz, each of whom would carve his name into history this day.
With the press of a button, a spent magazine dropped out of the bolter’s housing, the tip of the barrel still smoking hot. Before the magazine hit the ground, brother Eihwaz of the second company had already slid a new one into his weapon. As soon as it clicked into place, he squeezed the trigger once again. Like the maw of a fiery dragon, the holy bolter began firing shot after shot in rapid succession.
To say that they faced dozens of cultists would have been a grave understatement. There were hundreds of the mad zealots, shouting the names of the dark gods as they ran into bolterfire, and they all came for the Ultramarines. Numbering in only 30, the Ultramarines were divided into squads of five. Among a line of sandbags and Aegis Defence Lines, the loyal Astartes held their ground against the tsunami of flesh, their valiant stand aided by a Predator tank and a Thunderfire cannon. The cultists had not reached them yet, but their numbers seemed unending. With more and more drop ships arriving through the opposite end of the vast hangar, it was only a matter of time before things were reduced to a bloody melee.
The Golden Stars, a squad led by Sergeant Khayne, were standing with their feet planted firmly against the onslaught. From behind the tangle wire and sandbags, they unleashed a hail of bolterfire against the waves of Chaos hordes that came upon them. Under Sergeant Khayne’s command were Titus, Atarius, Eihwaz, and Goro. Titus was equipped with a combat shield and a power hammer, but was currently using his pistol. Atarius had been given a special attachment for his helmet, whose machine spirit aided him by showing a display of tactical information through its right lens. Eihwaz held a customized bolter, which boasted reduced recoil and increased rate of fire, along with a chain-bayonet attachment. Brother Goro carried a simple flamer, while the sergeant himself had a pistol and chainsword. Together, the five of them had held their position for the past ten minutes, killing what must have been a hundred cultists in that time. The ground five feet ahead of them was clean, but twenty feet further than that was a land of corpses and blood. It looked like a piece of scenery straight out of a nightmare.
“Had they some sense, they would have given up by now!" Brother Eihwaz wondered out loud. He reloaded his bolter again. Were it not for the stockpile of magazines next to him, he would have run out of ammunition a dozen times already.
“Agreed,” Atarius said, his bolter firing continuously into the enemy lines. “But I’m seeing an increase in their numbers!”
“If these vermin are suicidal,” Titus spoke with his pistol drawn out. “then I am happy to oblige them."
“I think this attack is meant only to soften up our defence.” Atarius said, reloading his boltgun as the barrel was smoking. “The main course has not been served yet.”
“I pray that you’re right, brother." Titus said, his pistol barking with each shot.
“Eager to swing that hammer?” Eihwaz chuckled.
“Aye.” Titus nodded, grinning beneath his helmet. It was true, he had not been given an opportunity to use his melee weapon yet.
“Looks like you will get that chance, brother!” Atarius spoke up. He stopped firing and pointed ahead. “Over there, look!”
From within the advancing lines of cultists, a group of grotesque and large men emerged. With thick blobs of flesh bloated around their bodies, they resembled corpses that had been left in the water for too long. These abominations wore tattered robes and metal scraps of armour that was covered in spikes. Unlike the average rank and file cultists, they were undeterred in their advance, even against the tremendous bolterfire. They lumbered forward towards the Ultramarines.
“Mutants!” Sergeant Khayne was quick to point out. “They bring mutants to us! Purge them, brothers!”
With concentrated fire, Eihwaz and Atarius were able to bring down one, their bolters singing in unison. But where the first mutant fell, three more seemed to appear from within the ranks of the cultists. Like a protective wall, the mutants took the front rows while the lesser cultists followed behind them, safe from the bolterfire,
“They’re blocking our line of sight to the human cultists!” Atarius exclaimed. The mutants were getting closer now. Thanks to their resiliance, the cultists had made it further than they ever had thus far. They were just within 15 feet of the sandbags now.
“Brother Goro!” Sergeant Khayne shouted out. “Burn away their filth!”
“Aye Sergeant!” Goro said. He ran in front of the rest of his squad members and crouched, his weapon held ready. With a brilliant inferno, the flamer began pouring out a torrent of intense heat. The blaze burned the skin off of the mutant that came into range, but the hideous creature kept stumbling forward, even with its skin charred off. Eihwaz, his bolter sending rounds straight into the lumbering mutant’s skull, was barely able to bring it down in time. The half-burning pile of flesh lumped down onto the sandbags, and from behind him emerged a sea of cultists. With curses on their lips, they climbed through the tangle wire, some getting caught within the razor sharp metal. Those that didn’t make it were pushed down by their comrades, and the cultists used their fallen brethren as a bridge to get across the wires. Titus holstered his pistol and Atarius pulled out his combat knife. Everyone was switching to their melee weapons.
Brother Goro’s flamer began pouring flames once again, but the cultists were simply too many in numbers. Those that were engulfed in fire fell to the ground, rolling in agony, yet more kept coming from behind them. Within seconds, they had crashed into the Ultramarines like a mighty tsunami.
Atarius, with his combat knife in hand, blocked the swing of a crude melee weapon. With efficiency, he slashed with his blade across one foe then quickly stabbed another. Meanwhile, the chain-bayonet of Eihwaz’s bolter churned viciously against the flesh of his enemy. It crunched through bone and sinew, sending a downpour of blood into the air. With hammer and shield, Titus blocked and swung, caving in a cultist’s ribcage with a loud crack. But, no matter how hard and valiantly the Golden Stars fought, each foe they killed was replaced by more. They were drowning in enemies.
“Brothers,” Titus shouted as he swung once more. “if ever there was a time to stand, there is none better than now!”
Eihwaz’s gauntleted hand closed around the face of a human cultist. He slammed the man’s head into a nearby shipping container, crushing the skull to a pulp beneath his grip. In that same instant, his other arm came up in a swift motion, stabbing another man in the abdomen with is combat knife. Meanwhile, brother Titus, his combat shield covered in blood, knocked a cultist to the ground. His hammer raised high, he brought it down on the heretic’s chest. The jolt of energy from his hammer, combined with the strength of a Space Marine, left the heretic's rib-cage in pieces.
The melee had painted the Ultramarines’ once blue armour into specks of gritty red. With parts of their armour soaked in blood, the only part of their heraldry that was still visible were the stylized U symbols of the Ultramarines Chapter on their left shoulders. It had seemed as though they had been struggling against the onslaught of cultists for an eternity, although in truth only a handful of minutes had passed. The crowd was thinning now, as most of the standing heretics had broken formation out of fear. As the Ultramarines finally had a moment to catch their breath, they surveyed the battlefield ahead of them. Brother Atarius snapped the neck of the last cultist near him and looked out into the hangar.
Among the piles of corpses and rivers of blood, a Chaos Thunderhawk had landed in the distance. Alpha Legion Space Marines had already climbed out and were using the corpses of Cultists as cover. Nearly thirty of them had already stepped out and found defensive positions among the no-man’s-land of the hangar bay. The legions of Chaos began firing as they entered the field, their heretical weapons spitting out unholy flames and lead at the loyalists.
“They distracted us with the cultists!” Atarius spat as he got into cover. A hail of bolterfire was raining down on them. “While we were busy fighting the human heretics in melee, the Chaos Space Marines landed their Thunderhawk!”
“Brother Goro is hurt!” Titus shouted from behind cover. Next to him was brother Goro, the flamer specialist of the squad. The Space Marine was clutching his stomach where his power armour had been smashed in by one of the mutants. Titus was helping him into cover, providing him protection with his shield as he dragged Goro behind a pile of sandbags. Bolter shells plinked off of his combat shield while Titus pulled Goro into cover.
“Atarius!” Sergeant Khayne shouted. “What do you see? How many are they?”
Atarius had a special helmet attachment that allowed him to gather tactical information at a quick pace. The machine-spirit of his helmet was very effective, and it would highlight important elements of the battlefield. In an instant, Atarius poked his head out of cover and then got back down. During that split second, his helmet had helped him gather some useful information.
“There are about thirty of them, Sergeant.” Atarius reported. “One team of Havocs with auto-cannons, a team of Raptors, and one Chaos Dreadnought. The rest are regular Chaos Space Marines armed with bolters. They are using the bodies of the dead cultists as cover.”
“What was the Dreadnought armed with?” Sergeant Khayne asked.
“Assault cannon and power fist, brother sergeant.” Atarius replied.
“Understood.” Khayne said. “I will let the Captain know.”
With that, Khayne pulled out his vox communicator and began relaying information to his captain. Bolter shots whizzed over his head, some missing him by mere inches. Every now and then, brother Eihwaz risked firing a few short bursts into the enemy lines, but whenever he got out of cover, he was forced right back in by the enemy auto cannons. The five Ultramarines stayed down, with the dead cultist corpses all around them. Most of these bodies had been shredded apart by Eihwaz’s chain-bayonet, burnt to a crisp by Goro’s flamer, or smashed to pulp by Titus’ hammer. As for the Ultramarines themselves, their armour was mostly soaked in blood. Eihwaz noticed that there was a trail of intestines draping over his left shoulder. He pulled it off and threw it to the side.
“Golden Stars,” Sergeant Khayne called his squad’s attention over the sound of war. “Our Predator tank and Thunderfire cannon are under attack by the enemy. Captain Lucan has ordered us to assist them.”
“Without our Predator and Thunderfire, we won’t be able to harm the enemy Havoc marines.” Atarius noted.
“That’s right.” Sergeant Khayne said. “We need them to stop the enemy auto cannons.”
“What about the dreadnought?” Asked Eihwaz.
“The Captain’s team is launching an assault.” Khayne spoke as another bolter shot missed him by less than an inch. He ducked his head deeper into cover and kept yelling. “Once we help the Predator and Thunderfire cannon, we will join the Captain’s assault agains the dreadnought. Brother Titus, what is brother Goro’s condition?”
Titus looked at Goro, who nodded back at him. Titus slowly pulled away Goro’s hand to take a look at his wound. Goro’s power armour was ripped open just below the stomach by the lucky hit of an enemy mutant. Inside, there was a mess of bone bits and crushed flesh.
“The right side of his pelvis is broken.” Titus reported. “He’s not in a condition to be very mobile.”
The Sergeant thought for a moment as more bullets whizzed past their heads. Time was not a luxury he had.
“Brother Goro,” Khayne finally said. “I’m sending you to our Devastator squad. Can you make it there by yourself?”
“Aye, Sergeant.” Goro grunted through the pain. “I will crawl there if I have to.”
“The Emperor protects, Brother Goro.” Khayne said his farewell to his squad member. “Everyone else, on me. We’re going to pull back to the Predator and rescue it first. Then the Thunderfire Cannon. Move out, Golden Stars!”
The Ultramarine Predator, named Guardian of Purity, was under heavy attack by Chaos Raptors. With the superior mobility provided by their jump-packs, they had caught up to the Predator and had begun harassing it with their krak grenades. Like hornets buzzing around their target, the Raptors circled the tank, moving back and forth to stick their krak grenades to its surface.
“Golden Stars, open fire!” Sergeant Khayne shouted.
As the Golden Stars had made it to the scene, their arrival was punctuated by the sound of bolterfire. Atarius and Eihwaz unleashed fire from their boltguns, while Khayne and Titus used their bolt pistols. With deadly accuracy, Eihwaz landed a short burst into the jump-pack of a Raptor. The engines of the jump-pack began coughing up smoke, and then went out of control as the Raptor began flying up in spirals. At the peak of the heretic's ascent, Eihwaz landed more shots into the Raptor’s backpack, which caused the engines to explode. The traitor was engulfed in a blossom of fire, and bits and pieces of him rained down as the Ultramarines kept moving forward.
One of the Raptors had his eyes on Titus. With an unholy battlecry, the Raptor raised his chain-axe and flew into the air. He steered towards Titus and slammed down at him with the aid of his jump-pack. Like a comet falling down from the sky, the traitor Space Marine crashed against the combat shield of the Ultramarine. With most of the impact force blocked by the shield, Titus regained his footing and swung his hammer, shouting the Emperor's name as he did.
The hammer was blocked by the chain-axe, but the power field of Titus’s weapon easily tore through the metal. With his chain axe in broken shambles, the Raptor attempted to use his jump-pack to escape, but Titus had already caught him with the back-swing of his hammer. The hit connected with the Raptor’s shoulder and brought the traitor down to the ground. With one finishing blow to the chest, Titus had ended the Chaos Space Marine’s life.
The remaining Raptor was hit with the concentrated fire of Atarius and Sergeant Khayne. Seeing his brothers fall in combat, the heretic began to fall back. Although they landed a few more shots at him, Atarius and Khayne were unable to finish him off. The traitor was too fast in his retreat.
Sergeant Khayne ran at the Predator as its top hatch opened. From inside, an Ultramarine with the mechanicus symbol on his shoulder popped out. A lot of smoke was coming up from within the hatch.
“Brother Vance!” Khayne shouted up at the techmarine driver. “What is the condition of the Predator?”
“We are in critical condition, Sergeant!” Vance reported as more and more smoke began pouring out of the hatch he was in. “The machine spirit of the Guardian of Purity is strong, but she has taken too much damage. Our weapons are destroyed. Our treads are inoperative. The Codex Astartes would recommend that we fall back and begin repairs immediately.”
“How soon can you get the tank up and running?” Khayne asked up at Vance.
“I can fix the treads and replace the heavy bolters in about fifteen minutes if the Omnissiah guides my hand. But I will need much longer to fix the main cannon.”
“Perhaps you can fix just the heavy bolters instead?” Atarius suggested.
The techmarine thought for a moment.
“That could work.” Techmarine Vance said. “But if we take any more damage, we might lose the whole tank.”
“In fifteen minutes, we might lose the whole hangar without the Predator’s help.” Atarius noted.
“True.” The techmarine said. “Very well, brother. I will fix the heavy bolters. May we hope it is enough to win us this battle.”
“And may the Emperor shield you and your blessed Predator, techmarine Vance.” Atarius said.
Sergeant Khayne gathered his squad once again. Heavy fighting was audible in the distance as the Ultramarines and Alpha Legionaries waged war against each other in other battles nearby. The Golden Star’s formed a circle around the Sergeant.
“The Predator Tank Guardian of Purity is safe, for now.” Khayne reported. “Our next mission is to save the Thunderfire cannons. Time is not on our side, let us make haste!”
“Aye, Sergeant!” His squad shouted back in unison. The Golden Stars began moving to their next objective.
The wreckage of the Thunderfire cannon peered over at them as the Golden Stars approached. Sounds of fighting were echoing in from the far end of the hangar, but their immediate vicinity was eerily quiet. Lying on the ground were the corpses of Space Marines. Four of them wearing the heraldry of the Alpha Legion, and the fifth one an Ultramarine.
“We’re too late.” Sergeant Khayne noted as he crouched next to the dead Ultramarine. The Thunderfire gunner, who was a techmarine, was riddled with bullet-holes on his armour. “Looks like he took out four of them.” The Sergeant added, looking at the four dead chaos space marines next to him.
“And where did his killers go? ” Titus asked as Khayne rose to his feet. "If a group of traitors made it this far into our back-lines…”
“I have a bad feeling about this.” Eihwaz said, keeping his bolter up at the ready. He scanned the area, checking the nearby shipping containers and crates for signs of trouble. Nothing was moving.
A soft pop was heard from the ground, followed by the continuous hiss of a grenade emitting smoke. Within seconds, the area around them was covered in a thick cloud.
“Defensive formations!” Khayne shouted. The Astartes had already begun their defensive stance before the words left his mouth, and the explosion of bolter shells lit up the dense fog around them. The smoke grenade had created a thick screen, forcing the Golden Stars to rely on their instincts to find where the enemy was. In their situation, their eyesight was of no use, as enhanced as it was.
Brother Eihwaz felt a mass of steel collide into him. He lost his footing and was brought down to the ground with a massive slam. He felt something heavy on top of him, keeping him pinned down. The crackle of a powersword flashed through the thick smoke, and he could barely make out the tip of the blade as it plunged downwards towards him.
The blurry form of Titus and his combat shield tackled into the chaos marine on top of Eihwaz, knocking him off. As the Chaos Marine rolled onto his feet, Titus had already begun advancing towards him with another attack ready. With a mighty swing, Titus brough his hammer down in an arc, which was met with a nimble dodge from the heretic. The Alpha Legionnaire used the superior speed of his weapon to counterattack against Titus, and the two of them were dragged away into the thickness of the smoke as Eihwaz forced himself up to his feet.
He heard the war shout of an Astartes somewhere to his right. It sounded like Atarius.
With hurried steps, Eihwaz began moving towards the sound. He felt that if any of his brothers could handle himself in a melee, it would have been Titus, and he decided to lend whatever support he could to Atarius and Khayne instead. As he moved forward, he saw the shadowy figure of two Space Marines engaged in melee somewhere up ahead. Their movements were quick, and they were both equipped with combat knives. But the fog was too dense to make out who was who.
He began running towards the two figures, keeping a close eye to their movements as he rushed forward. The closer he got to them, the more imminent it was that he would have to pick his target soon. He still could not make out the colour of their armour, but he could see their movements more clearly.
One of the two combatants had thrusted forward with his knife. The defender side-stepped out of the way. The obvious follow-up manoeuvre would have been to launch a counter-attack performed by pivoting and driving the blade up into the enemy’s arm-pit. Eihwaz looked for it to come as he ran forward, but it didn’t happen. The defender simply stepped out of the way and began circling around his enemy. The attacker stepped forward again, using his left leg to step in, and then stepping forward with his right leg as he cut down with a diagonal attack, just as it had been taught to all Space Marines in the codex. The defender, in this situation, was supposed to step back out of the blade’s reach and launch a counter attack again. But rather than doing that, the defender attempted a risky parry.
There was no time for Eihwaz to second guess.
As soon as the defender went for the risky parry, Eihwaz had closed the distance and thrusted the chain-bayonet of his bolter into the ribs of the defender. The bayonet began revving up and chewing through metal armour with a screech of steel against steel. The defender turned around to look at Eihwaz as the chain-bayonet began crunching up his bones. Taking his que, the attacker stepped in as well with his combat knife. With two Space Marines on one, the defender stood no chance. As soon as he went down, Eihwaz turned around to look at the attacker.
“Not a moment too soon, brother.” The Space Marine spoke. It was Atarius’s voice, and as he stepped closer, the golden aquila on his chest became visible, although just barely.
Thank the Emperor. Eihwaz though to himself. He had made the right choice.
“We stand as one.” Eihwaz replied. “We’re split off from the others. We should regroup.”
“This smoke…” Atarius began as he stepped into formation with Eihwaz. “I’ve never seen anything like it. They must have prepared a master-crafted smoke bomb to pull off such a fog like this. I can hardly see my own hands.”
“The traitors must have been planning this attack for years.” Eihwaz said. The two Space Marines walked side by side with each other. Their bolters swept the area as they moved forward, searching for any sign of the enemy. Somewhere, in the distance, loud collisions of metal against metal echoed in. But it was too far off to tell exactly what it was.
“Brother,” Atarius called in through the vox network instead of speaking directly. “Let us switch to the vox channel. That way the enemy will not hear us speak.”
“Aye.” Eihwaz said. “Think we can reach out to Sergeant Khayne or brother Titus?”
“I have tried. But I received no response.” Atarius noted. “They are either too busy fighting, or the short-range vox channel is being interfered with. Emperor help them.”
Something hit Eihwaz’s boot as he stepped forward. He motioned for Atarius’s attention, and the two Space Marines surveyed the area before inspecting whatever was on the ground. Eihwaz knelt down while Atarius stood with his bolter raised, covering his brother’s back. As he got down to one knee, Eihwaz saw that what was in front of him was a dead Space Marine. When he leaned closer, his heart sank as he saw that it was painted in the blue of the Ultramarines.
“It’s one of us.” Eihwaz said. He was about to take the helmet off when a mark of red caught his eye. It was a symbol of the Omnissiah. With his hand, he lifted the shoulder of the dead marine up a bit, to see that it had the type of power unit designed for techmarines.
“No,” Eihwaz corrected himself. “It’s the fallen techmarine from earlier. The one we found dead with the thunderfire cannon.”
“That techmarine was surrounded by the corpses of dead chaos marines.” Atarius said. “I don’t see any here.”
When Eihwaz looked around, he too noticed that the corpses of the dead Alpha Legionaires were missing. He cursed under his breath.
“It is a mistake that we will have to learn from.” Atarius spoke when he noticed that Eihwaz had also reached the same conclusion as him. “For now, we must regroup with the others.”
“Agreed.” Eihwaz replied.
With an unholy roar, the Chaos Astartes swung his sword in a horizontal arc, only to be met by brother Titus’ shield. The energy field was powerful enough to begin cutting through it, and Titus was able to tilt the shield ever so slightly so that the heretic’s power sword was redirected off.
As the blade left contact from his shield, Titus brought his hammer across towards his foe. With the nimble reflexes of an experienced warrior, the servant of Chaos bounced back just in time to avoid the attack. He thrusted his blade forward as soon as he gained his footing. As the tip of the power sword flung forwards, Titus intercepted it with the bar of his hammer. The two force fields collided with a shock of energy, but both Space Marines held fast. In that split second, Titus swung his shield from the left, catching the heretic in the jaw of his helmet. Disoriented, the Alpha Legionnaire took a step back. It took only a moment for him to recover his senses, and he parried the next blow from Titus’ hammer just in time. As the two weapons were locked again, The Chaos Space Marine brought up his knee to hit Titus’ abdomen. This time, the Ultramarine was forced back a few steps.
“The Dark Gods watch me today.” came the sneer from the Alpha Legionnaire. “They will bear witness to my victory in this fight!”
Titus did not respond. Instead, he stepped forward to get ready for an attack. But, as fast as a Space Marine was, he held a thunder hammer and his foe held a power sword. With the speed advantage against him, Titus was thrown back on the defensive as the heretic began launching a series of blows against him. The power sword began slashing around furiously, coming from all directions. Titus blocked high, then low, then was forced to dodge. Every now and then he managed to get a swing in, but the Chaos Space Marine either parried it at the bar of the hammer, or moved out of the way at the last second.
“What about you?” the servant of the Dark Gods asked with contempt in his voice as he prepared another attack. “What can you say about your so-called god?”
The sword came in again, this time missing Titus by just an inch. The Ultramarine was forced back once again, now backing up into a rubble of metal scraps on the ground. He felt the shift of one of the plates of metal beneath his boot, as if it was unsteady beneath him. With another step back, he risked a quick glance to see just what he was standing on.
“What’s the matter, lapdog?” asked the heretic as he stepped forward again. “Got nothing to say?”
With his quick glance, Titus noticed that the metal plate he was standing on was indeed unstable. It had taken damage from a recent explosion, and was being kept in place by just one metal pipe that stuck out of the ground. He took another step back, which brought him off the unstable metal plate.
“Do they teach you not to speak to strangers in that codex of yours?” mocked the Alpha Legionnaire. He stepped forward after Titus and got ready to attack again. Now the Chaos Space Marine was on the metal plate.
As the blade went up, Titus kicked the pipe that was the only thing keeping the metal plating beneath the heretic stable. As the pipe caved in, the ground beneath the Chaos Space Marine shifted, throwing him off balance. Seizing the opportunity, Titus swung diagonally, the head of his hammer coursing through the air at immense speed. With a massive collision that sent electrical shockwaves across the heretic’s armour, the hammer collided with the Alpha Legionnaire’s shoulder. The traitor immediately fell to the ground from the sheer impact of the blow.
“No,” Titus replied for the first time. “They teach us to keep track of our surroundings in combat…” he took a step forward to his downed foe, avoiding the part of the floor that had caved in. “…So that doesn’t happen.”
The heretic, from his position on the floor, tried to bring up his power sword, but Titus knocked it out of his hand with another swing from his hammer. He lifted his hammer again, preparing for the final blow.
“The galaxy shall burn!” The heretic spat with pure hatred. “Your corpse god will wither! Our forces shall conquer a million worlds! We will cru-”
With a mighty crunch, the force hammer pulverized the Alpha Legionnaire’s helmet and everything inside it. Titus pulled out his weapon from the mess he had created of the heretic’s armour, and held the hammer in front of himself, offering a brief prayer of thanks to its machine spirit.
“This… Atar… Gol… Stars.” A mumbled up radio transmission played in his helmet’s receiver. “Do… read?”
“This is brother Titus of the Golden Stars.” Titus replied, keeping an eye on his surroundings for additional foes.
“Meet… Thund… Cannon”
“Understood.” Titus replied. He wasted no time heading back towards the thunderfire cannon. As he did, he noticed that the fog from the smoke grenade was clearing up.
The sound of gunfire in the distance echoed through the massive hangar, which was now mostly a ruined mess. On the ground were blackened craters, piles upon ungodly piles of dead cultists, and a few Ultramarines and Alpha Legionaires scattered in between, their beaten armour visible through the blood and gore. The battle, which had started out with enough bloodshed to run the rivers dry, was closing in on its end. And yet, defiantly, the two sides kept fighting. In small pockets of conflict, diminished squads of loyalists and heretics met with unyielding ferocity, as if they had not been in constant combat for over thirty minutes. Anything that wasn’t a space marine had already died, and all that was left standing were the Astartes, battling it out against each other on the corpses of the fallen. It was as if this dark hangar had been ripped out of an apocalyptic nightmare. Smoke rose from the ruins of loyalist and heretic machines of war. Some fires kept cackling on, unrelenting to die out. One could not fathom the sheer number of spent bolter casings on the floor, although most of them were buried underneath the flesh and bone of humans.
Near the corner of the hangar were two Ultramarines crouching next to the ruin of a Thunderfire cannon. Brothers Eihwaz and Atarius had held their position after hearing a confirmation from Titus. And, as they had scheduled, Titus appeared from the distance, carrying a battered shield and a thunder hammer.
“Titus!” Eihwaz spoke in relief at the sight of his comrade. “It is good to see you well.”
“And same to you, brothers.” Titus replied as he paced towards the broken down Thunderfire cannon. Next to it, on the ground, was the dead Techmarine.
“What of Sergeant Khayne?” Atarius asked, rising to his feet. His bolter was up, scanning the environment for enemies.
“I’ve lost contact with him.” Titus said. “The last time I saw him was with you, before the smoke appeared.”
“We tried reaching out to him through the vox net.” Atarius reported. “But we received no reply. He may have fallen.”
“Emperor protect our brother sergeant.” Eihwaz held his bolter ready as well, keeping alert of his surroundings.
“If he has fallen,” Titus began, his voice heavy. “…if he has fallen, then we must carry on our mission. Our final objective was to meet Captain Lucan and aid him in destroying the Chaos Dreadnought.”
“Agreed.” Atarius said. “Conducting a search and rescue mission for our Sergeant may take too long. And if we do not help our Captain in his battle now, all of this may have been for nothing. We must finish the mission, no matter the cost.”
Titus nodded, and the three remaining Astartes began to leave the area, heading back towards the centre of the hangar. As his two brothers left, Eihwaz paused for just a moment and looked back over his shoulder.
“Courage and honour, Sergeant Khayne.” He muttered under his breath before hurrying after his brothers.
His red cape fluttered with the explosions all around him. The helmet he bore seemed as though it was illuminated by divine energy. The intricacies of his armour, with all of the beautiful golden patterns and trims, were lined with streaks of blood. A powersword, crackling with pale-blue energy, was held in the iron grip of his arm. With words like steel, he spoke:
“Brothers! Let this be the greatest moment of our lives!”
Captain Tagras Lucan was a sight to behold. The air around him seemed to glow, and from the way he carried himself to the consecrated words he spoke that seemed to echo with holy fervour, it was as though he had stepped out of the legends. All around him were what remained of the 2nd company command squad. The Apothecary was dead. The Chaplain had fallen. The Company Champion had fought his final duel and now laid motionless in his brilliant armour. A lone standard bearer, the flag battered and riddled with holes, and another command squad veteran were all that stood with Captain Lucan on his final stand.
Scores of dead Space Marines, Loyalist and Heretic alike, were laid out on the floors around him. Ahead was his next enemy: A Chaos Dreadnought, monstrous in both sight and stature. Armed with an assault-cannon and a power-fist, the lumbering behemoth marched towards him with hatred in its steps as steam vented from its joints. Far behind the machine, more Chaos Space Marines were rallying together to slay the Ultramarine leader.
It was at this moment that the Golden Stars arrived on the scene. As one they opened fire at the Chaos Space Marines, keeping the Captain and his command squad free to take on the real enemy. The six-barreled assault cannon began to spin, and it spat out unholy rounds at the Captain. The Ultramarine charged through the fire, ducking and weaving to avoid most of the damage, but stray bullets managed to cut down his veteran as the battle brother jumped ahead to shield his leader. In a burst of blood, the assault-cannon’s rounds tore through the Ultramarine veteran, leaving only Captain Lucan and the standard bearer alive.
The captain let out a mighty war cry as he closed into combat with the Chaos machine. The half-dead heretic, trapped in his metal coffin, swung forward at him with the power fist of the dreadnought. Tagras Lucan dodged once again, but the standard bearer was not so lucky. The first slammed into the bearer with tremendous energy, and the massive claws of the power fist wrapped themselves around the Astartes. He was lifted into the air, and crushed along with his standard. The traitor behemoth dropped him to the ground as if he was nothing.
It was only the Captain against the Chaos Dreadnought now.
“We must aid him!” Titus spoke out over the sound of his brothers’ bolters. While the command squad fought the dreadnought, Titus, Atarius, and Eihwaz were keeping the other chaos space marines from reaching the captain. Their bolterfire cut down a squad of three heretics thanks to their defensive position, but more kept coming.
“You go! I’ll hold them off here!” Atarius spoke out as the magazine from his bolter hit the ground. He replaced it with a fresh one with proficiency and ease. As soon as it was in, he began firing again.
“It will take all three of us to take down the dreadnought.” Eihwaz said, his voice solemn. “We must do this together.”
Atarius took cover around a shipping container. He seemed to spare one moment to consider it in the middle of the firefight.
“You’re right.” He said. “Very well, brothers. But let us close the path behind us to slow the heretics down.”
He fired a round at the lock on the shipping container’s door. It shattered, and the shipping container’s doors opened as barrels of oil began to roll out of it onto the ground, blocking the path that the Chaos Space Marines would have to take.
“You think that will slow them down?” Titus asked.
“I pray that it does.” Atarius replied. With that, the three of them turned towards their Captain and began sprinting to the battle.
Upon seeing reinforcements, the Captain was filled with a new wave of energy. He struck with his powersword at the cables and joints of the machine, but even such an attack did not seem to make a dent.
“I shall hold his attention!” Tagras Lucan shouted as he fought. “Place a meltabomb on its back!”
Titus holstered his hammer and shield. He ran around the back of the dreadnought and waited for it to stop moving for just a moment. The captain lured an attack from the dreadnought, and Titus took this opportunity to jump onto its back. He climbed up, using the pipes and cables as steppes. As the giant machine began moving around and striking, he was almost thrown off of it. He reached for his meltabomb, but doing so caused him to drop it as it slipped out of his fingers.
As Titus cursed under his breath, he saw the captain drop his sword and catch the meltabomb with his freed hand. In one swift motion, he threw the bomb up at Titus again, and Titus caught it.
The power fist of the dreadnought crashed into the Captain’s back. In the blink of an eye, he was pulverized and lay motionless on the ground, his decorated armour ruined. Atarius stepped in to distract the Dreadnought in the Captain’s place, but his skill would not be sufficient enough to match the Captain’s work. Meanwhile, Eihwaz climbed on top of a nearby shipping container to get a better shot.
Titus placed the meltabomb onto the dreadnought’s back. All he had to do was arm it now, but the movement of the machine kept throwing him off balance. As the chaos dreadnought lunged forward to swing at Atarius, Titus lost his grip and fell to the ground. The meltabomb he placed on the dreadnought was attached to its back, but it wasn’t armed.
“Eihwaz!” Titus shouted as he got up to his feet. “The meltabomb!”
As Titus and Atarius worked together to distract the rampaging dreadnought, Eihwaz stood on top of a shipping container. His bolter was raised and ready, but it seemed like an impossible shot to make. The dreadnought kept thrashing around, trying to hit Titus and Atarius. It was a moving target, and the meltabomb at this range looked tiny.
A bolter round hit Eihwaz on the side. It plinked off of his armour, but he could feel the sting of the impact beneath his suit. He turned to look at where the shot came from, and saw that the Chaos Space Marines from earlier had finally caught up on them. A team of five traitors were closing in on their position, shooting potshots at Eihwaz.
“Brother!” Atarius yelled as he dodged a powerfist. “We don’t have time! Shoot the meltabomb!”
Eihwaz readied his bolter again. Incoming fire from the enemy traitors whizzed around him, but he did not move, nor did he seek cover. He stood his ground, and steadied his breath, even as one of the bolter rounds hit him in the shoulder. As his heart rate began to calm, he felt his hands becoming steady. Even as more and more bolter rounds began to hit him, he remained completely focused on his task, following the meltabomb with the iron sights of his bolter.
“Oh Emperor, let your son’s final aim be true.” He began to pray quietly. Another enemy shot hit his leg, and he felt this one. But, through a grimace and gritted teeth, he continued. “Let me fire this one last bolt for my company, before I join them in death. Let your hand guide mine that I may avenge my beloved brothers, and then I shall be no more.”
And things began to change. He couldn’t tell if time had slowed, or if his reflexes has quickened. But everything was happening at a different pace. Another bolter round hit his arm, but he didn’t even feel it this time. It was as if his body was no longer a part of him, and he had become nothing more than a spectator in his own mind. He saw the iron sights of his bolter lock on to the meltabomb, following it around with accuracy he knew he did not posess. He felt his finger pull the trigger. The recoil was nonexistant, even though he visibly saw the bolter kick.
As the bolt round flew through the air, Eihwaz watched it sail away from him. He had never noticed what it had looked like before, and the bursts of air left in the bolt’s wake seemed to mesmerize him. He peacefully stared as it glided effortlessly towards the meltabomb.
When the bolt round hit its mark, the trance was over. Everything was back to normal, and the ground shook as a monstrous explosion burst out of the dreadnought. Atarius and Titus were knocked back in the deafening shock-waves, and even the shipping containers all around were tipped over. Eihwaz jumped off of the container he was standing on, but dropped his bolter in the process. When he landed on the ground, he couldn’t see where it had gone.
“All Ultramarines,” A static voice spoke from their vox networks. “This is Sergeant Bruhl from the First Company! Terminator Support is in. You are to meet at our location and evacuate the hangar-bay. Courage and Honor!”
“This is Atarius of the 2nd Company Golden Stars!” Atarius spoke into his vox com. “We are pinned down and about to be overrun by Chaos Space Marines. Need support!”
There was a brief pause as Chaos Traitors began arriving at the area. Atarius shot down one with his bolter, and Eihwaz had switched to his sidearm now. Titus noticed that his thunder hammer was missing, most likely dropped somewhere or knocked off of his holster. Atarius’s helmet had suffered great damage from the the explosion, and the advanced tactical helper on his visor was no longer functioning.
“We are on the way.” The Terminator Sergeant replied. “Stand firm, Golden Stars!”
“I’m out of rounds!” Atarius notified his squad as he also switched to his bolt pistol.
“Come on! We’ve almost made it!” Titus shouted. “They will not take us here!”
Melee broke out once again as the heretics charged into the loyalists. The traitor astartes were upon them, and the hand to hand combat was brutal. Titus felt his arm bend the wrong way, but he used his shield as a weapon instead. Atarius received a blow to his head that was so strong that his vision became blurry and his ears rang. It was impossible for him to focus on anything. A combat knife stabbed into Eihwaz’s stomach. He could feel the cold blade grating against his ribs, then another blade struck his thigh. His leg collapsed from beneath him, and he lost sight of his brothers as the enemy began striking at his armour like a pack of rabid hyenas.
“For the Emperor!” A strong voice bellowed out from beyond the Chaos troops. The sounds of thunder hammers cracking power armour began to fill the area. Through the crowd, the Golden Stars could see blue Terminator armour.
The 1st company washed over them live a blood-stained hurricane, trampling over anything that stood in their path. Within seconds, the terminators had reached the Golden Stars, and three of them used their storm shields to form a wall around Eihwaz, Atarius, and Titus.
“We shall take it from here.” The Terminator with the red helmet spoke. “You must get to the exit. Rendezvous with the other companies on the command bridge.”
“Understood.” Titus said as he snapped his arm back into the joint. He flexed his fingers once to make sure everything was fine with his arm. Satisfied, he turned to his brothers. Atarius seemed to be recovering from the blow to his head, and Eihwaz was clutching his stomach. The bleeding seemed to have stopped.
The three of them looked at each other. No words needed to be spoken. Their new mission was to regroup at the command bridge, and they wasted no time leaving the hangar area as they were told. The path back was covered with blood and dead space marines from both sides, but nothing attacked them. It seemed that the terminators had left nothing but death and destruction in the path leading back to the command bridge. Even now, they were bringing the fight to the enemy.
Wisely, the Golden Stars conserved their energy as they marched forward and left the hangar area. As they stepped into the hallways, they picked up bolters and magazines from their dead brothers, offering simple prayers of thanks in return to their brethren, and to the machine spirits. By the time they reached the Command Bridge, they were fully stocked. Titus’s arm felt completely fine, although he no longer had his shield or thunderhammer. Atarius’s vision and hearing was back to normal, but his helmet was still damaged and the advanced tactical reader within it was malfunctioning. Eihwaz’s stab wounds had clotted, but his bolter with the chain-bayonet was left far behind them in the hangar somewhere.
Their armour was battered. The blood streaks had dried to a dark red, and dark craters were left all over the surface of their suits from all the bolter shots they had taken. The bridge was just up ahead, and behind the door they faced, another battle was waiting for them. They got into tactical positions on both sides of the door, as the breach and clear procedures from the Codex Astartes advised. From the other side, they could hear heavy fighting.
“Three… two…” Eihwaz began to count down. “…one. Go!”