Rogue 9 wrote:
With the sole exception of Njal Stormcaller (for some reason) Terminators never carry bolt pistols. But well written all the same.
It's a ritualistic weapon of execution. Sure the everyday terminator wouldn't carry it, but a Chaplain with murder on his mind may make an exception.
Here's the first part of a story I've written as a followup. Tell me what you think.
________________________________________________________________________________Hell. To an unprotected human, the surface of Halverus IV is an agony-filled, living hell. At least, it is for sixty eight seconds. After that, it remains just as hellish, but said unlucky human will be in no position to notice. Heat-blackened and sand-scourged corpses aren’t the most observant bunch.
To Brother-Sergeant Titus, Halverus IV was an inconvenience. The constant shifting sands made any information obtained visually unreliable at best. Even with his multiple views, Titus was having a hard time getting a clear picture of the area around him. As he cycled through his optics, he saw in turn saw swirling black sand across the dry plain in visible light, heat blooms and exhaust vents in infrared, and little to nothing in ultraviolet. With a frustrated grunt, Titus cycled back to visible light, scanning the area around him one more time.
To his right and left, he could barely pick out the nearest members of his squad on each side, Gabel and Sigiel. The bone white sections of their armor were dirtied and blackened by the sand, leaving them dark specters in the swirling dust. In his audio pickups, he could hear the hissing scratch of the black sand running across his and their armor, the snap of purity seals twisting in the wind, and the clicks of the auto-loader of Gabel’s assault cannon as it checked and prepared shells. Actuators in his armor’s joints hissed as he shifted position. The low thumps of the Terminators’ footsteps as they checked the perimeter added a slow, steady beat to the low murmur. Underneath those sounds lay the hum of activated power weapons, punctuated by the crackle of occasional electrical discharge between Sigiel’s lightning claws.
Titus could hear those sounds and many other sounds coming from the area surrounding him. However, it was what Titus could not hear that was the problem. There had been no communication from Zedekiah, the Brother-Sergeant leading the Blades of Persecution squadron deployed to the surface three weeks ago. Squad Zedekiah had been scheduled to meet Squad Titus at the coordinates underneath his feet 5 minutes ago, but there had not been a word from the Persecution squad. Titus found that troubling.
Titus opened a vox-channel to the Strike Cruiser in orbit around Halverus IV. “Lion’s Claw
, this is Blade. No contact from Talon detachment. Advise as to current location.” Static and feedback crackled in the channel for a second, and then was broken by the terse voice of the ship’s captain, Ship Master Vidinian. Titus could barely pick hear him.
“Location of Talon unknown, Blade. Be advised, we are receiving heavy jamming from unknown source on surface, due northeast of your position, heading 323 degrees, roughly 5 kilometers. Last signal from Talon re-” Titus could not hear the rest, as the white noise on the vox-channel had finally claimed the Ship Master’s message.
“Understood, Lion’s Claw
. Blade moving to investigate.” Titus doubted Vidinian had received the message. He switched to the squad-level vox.
“Squad Titus, Lion’s Claw
is suffering jamming from an unknown source due 323 degrees of our position. We are moving to investigate. Sigiel, I want you on point, followed by Hadiel, then Gabel and Turiel. I will bring up the rear. Report any contact or anomalies.”
Over the vox came a chorus of acknowledgements as Squad Titus mobilized itself to move across the plain they had deployed onto. Sigiel moved ahead out of Titus’ view as he assumed point, a position best suited for his lightning claws. When selected for service in the Angels of Vengeance 1st Company, he had already served for 140 years, many of those as an assault squad sergeant. He had retained his aggressive and tenacious nature in his promotion, seeking to meet the enemy face to face. Recognizing this, his superiors had equipped him twin lightning claws, allowing him to thrive in the tight quarters of close combat. Combined with the strength and durability of his terminator armor and his natural talent for the frenzy of melee, the claws meant certain death for any opponent who found themselves in his way.
Behind him was Hadiel, carrying his storm bolter in his right fist. The storm bolter had been passed to Turiel by his former sergeant upon his departure to the Angels of Retribution. Its blocky form was inscribed with litanies of hatred and righteous fury preaching against the evils of those who sought knowledge denied to them. As the most zealous of Squad Titus, the storm bolter fit him, and he took special pleasure in using it to slay the enemies of the Unforgiven and the Emperor. His left fist was sheathed in a power fist with which he could lay low any enemy in one blow. It was marked with the sword of the Deathwing, the only symbol of his original chapter to mark his armor. In addition to his weapons, Hadiel carried a larger set of sensors and an incorporated auspex. With his equipment, he greatly increased the squad’s situational awareness.
Following Hadiel were Gabel and Turiel, shoulder to shoulder. The carriers of the squad’s heavy weapons, the two were as alike in temperament as they were in armament, which is to say not at all. Gabel carried his prized assault cannon on his right arm, its casing painstakingly cared for and adorned with purity seals. Attached to his back was a large ammo hopper connected to the assault cannon, no less adorned. Eschewing the traditional power fist for his left hand, Gabel had instead decided to carry a storm shield. Protected by the shield and armed as he was, Gabel personified the Unforgiven’s belief in superior firepower and intractable defense. Once he had chosen his killing field, Gabel was quite difficult to remove and unlikely to abandon it for such lesser concerns as overwhelming numbers or personal danger. His stubborn nature could have lead to his death many years prior, but he exhibited skill in equal or greater measure to his hardheadedness.
Turiel, on the other hand, carried on his shoulders a Cyclone missile launcher and in his hands a storm bolter and power fist. His preferred fight was a moving, shifting battle where he could apply his storm bolter and missile launcher in equal quantities. Although as dangerous as any in close quarters, he largely stayed unengaged so as to better support the squad and engage heavier targets at longer ranges. He had a quick mind and a good eye for the flow of battle, able to identify threats and efficiently prioritize them in order of danger. Titus rarely found himself having to do more than give Turiel general instructions, needing only to give the slightest guidelines for Turiel to grasp his intent and implement it. This ability for tactical comprehension was not a surprise to Titus. Turiel had served as a Sergeant in the Angels of Absolution 1st Company for many years prior to his service with the Angels of Retribution. Titus often found himself turning to Turiel for advice, such was his ability.
When Titus honestly considered it, he wondered why he and not Turiel had been selected for the sergeant position. While his own accomplishments were hardly modest, Turiel had a good deal more experience in the position and Titus occasionally found himself uncertain of his decisions. Despite this, he had never heard anything less than full support from Turiel, which helped to erase any doubt he had.
Hadiel’s voice crackled over the vox when they had traveled little more than a kilometer, “Brother-Sergeant, I am receiving a response on the general chapter frequency. It seems to be an automated broadcast. My suit is identifying the origin as 700 meters to our left. Do we change course?”
Titus frowned. He tuned into the chapter frequency and listened for a short while to the measured beeps being broadcast. There were not many situations in which the chapter frequency would be used, as it was reserved for theater-wide commands and emergency broadcasts. Seeing as how there were no senior members of the chapter present on Halverus IV as far as Titus knew, that seemed to eliminate the first possibility. As contact had still yet to be made with Talon, the likely reason for the broadcast was not one he wanted to hold true. However, the signal was not any code he recognized. No matter the reason, it was a lead.
“Sigiel, adjust your course to lead us to the transmission’s origin. Maintain current deployment, squad.”
His order was met with vox clicks of recognition. As he turned to follow the others, he took in as much of the landscape ahead as he could. Obscured as it was by the sands, the scene ahead of him was hard to resolve into coherent shapes. Past the backs of his squad, he could see a rise in elevation and jagged cliffs. The ground was broken and large masses of rock were scattered about. Beyond that, he could not identify any detail. There was no sign of what was transmitting the automated beeps. Ahead, Sigiel had entered the rougher terrain and the squad had spread out slightly to cover more ground as they approached the area of the transmitter.
“Sir, I have identified signs of passage consistent with Astartes bikes.” This was Turiel, good-eyed as always. Gabel snorted.
“How could you identify any tracks? Surely this sandstorm would have erased any tracks in a matter of seconds.”
“In the sand, yes. However, I am examining mid-size rocks small enough to be disturbed by a bike passing over them but large enough to not succumb to the wind.”
“Squad, halt.” Titus walked over to Turiel’s position. Turiel indicated the path he was examining in response to Titus’ unspoken question. Sure enough, Titus could see where the rocks had been disturbed by the bike’s rough passage over them. The trail led away from the plains and deeper into what Titus had identified as foothills.
“A bike passed through this area, sir. I can identify passage marks consistent with more bikes in the area as well,” Turiel informed him. Titus considered the information.
“We have yet to make contact with our brothers in Talon. This trail may lead us to them. However, the signal takes precedence for now, and we are quite close to it. We will inspect it then return here to regain the trail. I will now take point. Turiel, guard our rear.”
The squad moved forward into a small ravine, cramped and winding. The walls were tight enough to force them to assume a single file. They followed the path of the ravine for a short distance before it opened up into a wider area between two large hills. Scattered across the floor of the small valley were large boulders, limiting visibility and paths across the valley. However, this was compensated for by the lessening of the sandstorm in the valley. Titus glanced at his HUD. The transmitter was just a short distance into the valley. Knowing his brothers would be scanning and searching for any sign of ambush, he led them into maze of boulders. His auto-targeter continually scanned ahead as he moved past boulders and opened new areas to his line of sight.
Finally rounding the last boulder between him and the transmitter, Titus finally saw the source of the signal. It was an Astartes bike, looking to be of Talon. Twisted and blackened by flames, the bike frame was riddled with bullet impacts which had dented the armor. The tactical display on the bike’s handlebars was smashed and broken, along with the rest of the handlebars. The front cowling had been bent in some great impact, misaligning the bolters on it as well as dislodging their ammo hoppers. Scattered around the frame were the debris of elements of the bike less resilient. Lengths of exhaust tubing lay scattered in the area, as well as pieces of the driver’s seat and sections of tire. In short, the bike was demolished. Of the marine who had ridden the bike, there was no sign.
Sigiel came up behind Titus. He took in the scene before him and turned to the Brother-Sergeant. “What biker would take his bike into this terrain? It is difficult enough on foot. I cannot imagine it being considered for traversal by bike.”
Hadiel spoke, “More importantly, what is transmitting the signal? The tactical display is trashed, taking the bike’s vox with it.”
Titus bent down and retrieved an item wedged underneath the rear of the bike. “I believe this is our answer. This teleport homer has been modified to transmit the signal instead of the regular homing beacon. This site was visited after the initial battle.” He switched off the transmitter with a flick of his thumb.
“Also, to answer Sigiel, this is not where the bike originally was destroyed. That occurred up the slope of the hill to our right.” Gabel raised his arm to point out the area of the hill he was referring to. The path of descent of the bike was clear once pointed out. It had taken the initial fire up the hill, been disabled, and half rolled/slid down the hill to its current location.
As Titus’ gaze followed Gabel’s pointing finger, he heard a loud metal on ceramite impact and saw Gabel’s shoulder twist slightly; a large caliber shell had just smacked against his shoulder armor. More shells slammed into the squad, ricocheting off their armor and leaving small scars in the ceramite. Immediately, Titus’ helmet identified the source of the fire as a small ridge about 200 meters up the hill. Visible above the ridge were the forms of multiple fire teams, the exhaust vents and bulky helmets of their protective suits distinct against the dark sky. Titus identified the barrels of two autocannons and numerous autoguns.
“Contact. Gabel, get suppressing fire on that ridge. Sigiel, with me; we are moving up onto the ridge to engage. Hadiel, Turiel, watch our flanks and rear. This could easily be a distraction for a larger attack.”
The high-pitched whine of rotating barrels suddenly filled the valley as Gabel’s assault cannon spun up to speed. The whine was accompanied by the clack of his auto-loader prepping the rounds for fire. With a pull of the trigger, Gabel began feeding shells into the barrels. A throaty roar ripped up the hill as high velocity shells began pounding the edge of the ridge into dust. The noise would have deafened any unprotected human ears at such range, but the Terminators’ auto senses filtered it into the background.
For the attackers above, ear damage was the least of their worries. Shot at an enormous rate, the assault cannon rounds chewed into the edge of the ridge, sending rock chips flying as they shattered the cover the enemy was hunkering behind. Titus smiled as he heard screams of pain from those hit by the stone shrapnel. Though his firing angle was bad, Gabel had turned the very cover the enemy felt protected them into a weapon. The incoming fire drastically slackened off as the torrent of shells drove the men into cover.
As he ran, Titus heard tight bursts of fire pass him on his left and right as Gabel continued to give him covering fire. Ahead, those caught out of cover, whether attempting to return fire or run, were cut down by the shots. Titus’ HUD tracked these targets as they presented themselves, though many were almost immediately removed from the targeting display in quick death delivered via assault cannon. Those few that Gabel did not have an angle to were left to Titus. He tracked the fleeing form of a man and fired. The man jerked upon the impact of the bolter round, then ceased to exist in a cohesive entity from the mid-torso up as the mass-reactive charge detonated. Changing targets, Titus dropped another man who was running and dispatched the gunner of one of the autocannons who had been trying to bring the gun to bear on the charging forms of Titus and Sigiel. Firing as he ran, Titus reached the ridge in a matter of seconds, moments after Sigiel.
Clearing the ridge before Titus, Sigiel plunged his right claw into the first enemy he met. As the dead body fell away, he slashed with his left, flaying open two soldiers turning towards him. The hiss of their suits losing pressure and the sizzle of exposed flesh accompanied their screams. The two men fell writhing, their bodies already blackening out due to the extreme heat. Stepping over their bodies, Sigiel beheaded the next enemy with a flick of his claws. Terrified men tried to scramble away from the embodiment of death that had just entered their lines. The bulk of their suits slowed their movements to a fatal crawl. A few made it far enough to get cut down by Gabel, most did not. Sigiel was a hurricane of destruction, every move of his body a death-dealing one. His claws disemboweled enemies while his feet crushed the wounded or stunned beneath his heavy tread. The crackle of his claws was joined by the short screams of the damned and the pops of bones breaking under ceramite boots. Above it all was the low laughter of Sigiel, transmitted through his helmet speakers as he reveled in the opportunity to deliver the Emperor’s Justice to those challenging his servants. In a matter of short seconds, the skirmish was over. Those who had not been dispatched by Sigiel were either dead to the fire of Gabel of the sword and storm bolter of Titus, who had moved over the ridge in support.
“Enemy dispatched, Sergeant. The Lion’s work is done.” Sigiel reported as he casually slashed his claws through the autocannons used against the squad moments prior.
“I can see that Sigiel. Well done. Hadiel, Turiel; report.”
Down in the valley, Turiel performed one more sweep. “No hostiles detected, Sergeant.” Hadiel, however, was not so sure. “Sergeant, I am getting slight vox readings in the area. I am unable to identify any specific transmissions. It is either a ghost read in my detection gear, or the enemy is using line of sight transmissions only.”
Turiel considered this. “It seems that this first group was just the beginning. Squad, redeploy onto this ridge. Hadiel, I want you to try and identify the content of those transmissions.” Hadiel and Titus both began their advance up the hill, while Gabel covered them. As soon as they were deployed, Gabel moved up himself, walking backwards up the hill to continually have the valley covered.
After a few seconds, Hadiel signaled Titus. “Sir, I have identified the content of the transmissions. There is enough backscatter off the heavy sands for me to discern content. They are coordinates, specifically our location, as well as orders of battle communicated in battle cant. By my estimation, there are at least 17 contacts. They are approaching our position.”
Titus grinned. “The enemy has done us the favor of doing all the walking. How considerate of them. This valley is tight enough to benefit us. Gabel, I want you anchoring our left flank on this ridge. Find a position where you have good coverage of the hill in front of us. Turiel, in our center. Apply firepower as need. Hadiel, keep monitoring their transmissions and watch our right. Sigiel, you and I will attack them in close, pushing any weaknesses. Hadiel, if you would lead us in a litany.”
As Hadiel’s strong voice led the squad in the Litany of Execution, Titus scanned the valley in front of him. Though quiet now, it would soon thunder with the sound of battle. The enemies of the Lion had delivered themselves up for judgment, and Titus and his men would be their executioners.
Their litany concluded, the men of Squad Titus moved to their positions with assurance. Although they were heavily outnumbered, they knew that none could stand before the might of the Unforgiven in such close quarters. As Titus surveyed the site of the coming battle, Hadiel’s terse voice broke over the vox.
“High velocity incom-“
Hadiel’s voice was cut off by an insistent alarm as his suit picked up the same contacts Hadiel’s had detected. Warning runes and heading data flashed across his lenses. Already moving due to Hadiel’s warning, Titus dove over the edge of the ridge, rolling unceremoniously to the base of the hill and into the crowded boulder field. Turiel and Hadiel had joined Titus in his maneuver. As he hurriedly moved towards the boulders, Titus glanced up the hill to Gabel. Typical of his nature, he had deigned to move for cover in the few seconds after Hadiel’s warning. Instead he brought his shield above his head and lowered his stance, crouching for impact. With his enhanced vision, Titus could see the actuators in Gabel’s arm twitch and adjust as the suit reacted to sensor data.
A bright flash entered at the top of Titus’ vision and flashed across his sight. Just before impact with the ridge, the shell detonated with impressive force. The burst of the high explosive round rocked the floor of the valley, and even among the boulders Sigiel, Titus, Hadiel, and Turiel were buffeted by the explosion. On the ridge itself, the damage was much more drastic. Stone buckled with the force of the shell. Gabel was blasted with shrapnel and heat, though his shield’s field took the brunt of the blast.
The shell was only the first of many, however. Following the first shell was a barrage of dozens, scattered across the ridge and valley floor. Boulders and crests were pulverized by the rain of destruction, losing shape in the overlapping explosions. Titus and his men were bucked about by the sustained barrage, battered and stunned by the concussions. In the chaos, Titus lost sight of Gabel as his sensors shut off to protect themselves from overload.
As the artillery fire finally cut off, Titus shook his head to clear his vision. His HUD flickered back to life, overlaid with status reports on both his own suit and those of his men. As he struggled to his feet, he quickly absorbed the data. Multiple small failures registered across his systems. Most worrying were the seized actuators in his leg, preventing his knee from fully extending. His suit was not the worst damaged of his squad however. His squad members rose around him and he checked their status. Hadiel’s sensors had been devastated by the extreme force and his storm bolter was completely inoperable. The firing circuits and missile prepping systems in the right half of Turiel’s Cyclone missile launcer were disabled, preventing any missiles from being fired across the entire weapon. The power sources on Sigiel’s claws were damaged and only intermittent discharged flashed along his claws. The paint and details applied to the men's suits had been destroyed by the intense barrage, replaced with patches of exposed ceramite and blackened metal. Shredded fabric and parchment were all that remained of the purity seals and tabards the men had worn.
Of Gabel, there was no sign. His vitals were blank on Titus’s HUD. Titus turned towards the ridge, intent on searching for his battle brother’s remains. Before he could begin his climb, his sensors pinged with contacts. Their enemy had used the artillery barrage to close the distance with his squad, and as he looked across the now relatively flat valley, he saw the forms of enemy soldiers move into position. Unprepared and damaged, his squad had little chance to stop their advance. However, it was not the Unforgiven’s way to be defeated so easily. Despite their state, his men would give a good accounting. Titus glanced down at his stormbolter as he drew his sword. He had work to do.
Part 2 coming up, sometime.
Thanks for reading. Cheers!